Monday, February 28, 2011

don't really....don't worry.

This weekend's sermon.  For those who heard it in person, depending on the worship service time got some extra illustrations - maybe your bulletin was upside down...or maybe there were multiple typos in the hymn of the day....not done on purpose, but turned out to be great God moments. 

February 27, 2011
Epiphany 8A

Isaiah 49:8-16a
Psalm 131
1 Corinthians 4:1-5
Matthew 6:24-34

Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock and our redeemer.  Amen. 
What a comforting passage from the gospel today, right?  Do not spend time worrying…those little details are being taken care of.  Do not worry about tomorrow…
Don’t worry…or as Bobby McFarrin sang in the 80’s Don’t Worry, Be Happy. 
In every life we have some trouble, but when you worry, you make it double, so don’t worry, be happy. 
Ain’t got no cash, ain’t got no style, ain’t got a girl to make you smile…but don’t worry, be happy. 
Don’t worry…be happy…but as soon as we hear this passage…we begin to worry.  Isn’t that the case?  That as soon as you’re told not to think about something….bam! You can’t seem to get it out of your mind. 
Yet, Jesus encourages us, tells us, not to worry.  Wouldn’t you like to live a life with no worries…a life with no stress, easy days, everything you need is right there for you…it almost seems as if this worry free life is some place removed from life as we know it.  That it is unrealistic. 
 Unrealistic….that’s how it is for one familiar character who tries to live a worry-free life.  Perhaps some of you have seen the movie The Lion King?  The future King, Simba, faces a tragedy in the loss of his father and pretty much runs away from life as he knows it, where he bumps into two new friends…Timon & Pumba who teach him their motto: Hakuna Matata.  Which means, no worries.  They tell Simba to forget his worries and troubles, to just enjoy the carefree life that they live and love. 
So that’s what Simba does, he leaves the life that he knew, for this care-free, easy living with his new best friends.  No worries…what a great life to live, right? 
But for Simba, he lives this life because he chooses to leave the past behind him.  He chooses to walk away from his responsibility as King of the jungle.  He doesn’t want to worry about how others will see him and what they will think of what he has done…so he pretty much begins a new life. 
Now here’s the thing, I think we, too, have that tendency to be like Simba…we long for a life with no worries, anxieties and stresses.  And from time to time we have the opportunity to get away….to vacation, to be away from work, school, and sometimes we get away from family and loved ones, just to be able to breathe and find ourselves.  Which can be a good thing, but not a permanent thing. 
That’s probably the biggest challenge in hearing Jesus telling us not to worry…we’re human, we’re like come on Jesus, are you serious?  How can that be…in the world in which we live.  Don’t worry…be happy….that can sound shallow, frivolous and unrealistic.  How are we to live lives that are worry free?  
It seems like an impossible task.   
But Jesus knows us….and Jesus reminds us that living lives of faith does not mean a simple care-free life…like the one that Simba ran away to.  Living lives of faith, free of worry does not take the issues, concerns and challenges out of our lives.   
We still face setbacks, delays, failures, frustrations as well as joys, triumphs, victories and accomplishments.   
The point Jesus is making is that when our lives are focused on God’s call for each of us, then we have no room for worry.  Because it is all in God’s hands….and we are assured that we can handle whatever may happen to us…because God is in control and God’s faithful people belong to one another.  We are not alone. 
In God’s community, people look out for each other and share what they have; people take what they need and leave some for others.  In God’s community we think about each other…we think about our neighbors, their needs, worries and anxieties.   
God’s community is here and now. 
Few of us are exempt from worry and anxiety.  Most live with chronic anxiety, and we are scared of everything…of losing our homes, our jobs, not having enough for retirement, caring for our children until they reach adulthood, and sometimes helping to support them after that, avoiding danger and fear of terror attacks.  Those who have little, fret over having adequate shelter, food and water; finding a decent job; taking care of their families; having enough money to survive.  All of us – rich and poor – privileged and exploited – have legitimate reasons to fret and worry, even though we know such actions do not change the realities we face. 
Jesus understands this; his call to worry-free living is not based on unrealistic views of the world.  His words are for those who understand that God will not leave us without resources or support.  We can face life with all its uncertainties and contingencies with the assurance that we are not alone – that God hears, sees, and cares about us and our situations.  “Don’t worry, be happy,” because God is in control. 
And now may the peace, which passes all understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, and let all God’s people say, amen. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

I've got that joy, joy, joy, joy.....down in my heart!

Happy National Sticky Bun Day, everyone!  I'm celebrating with a piece of cake...oh well, that's what was available in the church kitchen.  :) 

It has been a whirlwind of a day...and it's only 2:45.  Such is a Monday....with breakfast bible study, staff meeting, lunch with the ABO group and now getting ready for the kiddos who join us after school at overtime.  Monday is not a 'get stuff done at the desk day' it's a people day!  Monday is all about beginning the day immersed in scripture (and breakfast) followed by connecting with the staff...and the bonus today was the ABO lunch.  I had the opportunity to be the post-lunch entertainment :)  It was a blessing to tell my story....highlights of my youth, all my years at camp, my call to ministry, and my call to serve here at Trinity.  And the opportunity to sing, flap our arms, smile and have tears of joy stream down our faces.  You know God has called you to the right place when a room of new people will sing My Bonnie lies over the Ocean and laugh their way through it.  I keep thanking God for calling me to this place...a place to share my faith and see it deepen as we as a faith community grow together.  We will laugh until we cry and probably cry until we laugh as we go through life together. 

Being a new person to Berks County and to the fine Borough of Robesonia brings to my mind the following tale:  Two men moved to a new town at about the same time.  The first one needed to fix up his new residence, so he stopped in at the hardware store for some equipment.  Curious about his new environment he asked the clerk (a life long resident of the town and shop owner) "So, what are the people like in this town?"  The clerk responded, "How were the people in your old town?"   The fellow said, "Not very friendly and they kept to themselves."  The clerk said, "You'll find them the same way here."  "Huh," the man replied and walked out. 

A little while later the other man new to town made his way to the hardware store.  He was also curious about his new place of residence and he asked the clerk, "So, what are the people like in this town?"  The clerk responded, "How were the people in your old town?"   The fellow said, "Friendly and welcoming."  The clerk said, "You'll find them the same way here."

In a way, I guess it's all about perspective...but in a way, I think it is all about how you and I live in community.  It is about how we live in community together.  It seems the best in the community is brought out when grace abound.  The community is strengthened and grows and blooms when we are thinking about and living for each other, when we realize that every action we take and word we speak impacts those around us.  It's been a joy relocating and meeting new people and new neighbors and new, well, everything! 
I know that there is a joy exuding from me...and I know that it is coming from God.  I'm so overjoyed to be jump into the ministry and mission happening in this place!  I know there is joy here....I feel it embracing me, encouraging me to laugh and smile and enjoy life.  Don't get me wrong, I know life isn't always smiles and laughter, but I do know relationships in the grace and joy of God makes those rough spots much more bearable. 

As God's grace abounds...may the joy surround us, embrace us and send us forth with smiles on our faces into the community that God calls us to be!

Pastor Jen

Monday, February 14, 2011

oh what a beautiful morning!

My Lord, what a morning.
My Lord, what a morning.
My Lord, what a morning,
when the stars begin to fall.

(My Lord, What a Morning ELW #438)

I awoke this morning and through my windows I saw a pinkish, orange made me smile as soon as I saw it.  I struggle to get out of bed most mornings, but I made it up, got into my walking gear and headed outside to greet the new day.  It was NOT freezing (bonus) and the sun was on the rise. 

As I hit the top of Patterson this is what I saw:

A new day, dawning right in front of my eyes. 
It was wonderful to see...and to add to that joy was the number of people on Facebook who also reported seeing this beautiful sight.  The joy seen in this moment was captured by so many people. 

Valentine's Day is hit or miss for folks...some people are ready for a day of love, hugs, and joy...others greeted the day with grumbles, dressed in black.  I'll be the first to admit, I've celebrated Valentine's Day both ways...and I definitely prefer the one with smiles and joy :) 

This sunrise seemed to take me beyond the hallmark cards and the flower the love that God has for each of us.  It's the biggest valentine gift I've ever received.  The promise of a new day and new life through Christ...the promise that through and beyond the muck and darkness that we experience, God's light will continue to shine for us and through us...guiding us along the way. 

May the light of Christ shine in your hearts this day and always. 
May the love of God surround you.
And may the presence of the Holy Spirit comfort, support and uplift you.

Pastor Jen

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

light and salt...this past weekend's sermon.

February 6, 2011

Isaiah 58:1-9a (9b-12)
Psalm 112:1-9(10)
1 Corinthians 2:1-12(13-16)
Matthew 5:13-20

Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock and our redeemer.  Amen. 

I love to cook…mostly meals and savory dishes, not so much sweets, except for the occasional cookies or on a special occasion: a cake.  What always surprises me, when making sweets is the addition of salt.  I mean, if I’m making something sweet, why would I add salt….a tart flavor saved for chips, popcorn or French fries. 

Yet as I watched more and more cooking shows on the food network, I saw it more and more often.  Many of you may know the reasoning behind it.  It brings out the flavors of the other ingredients.  You don’t add the salt to taste the salt itself, you add the salt to draw out the flavors of the other ingredients…like the chocolate, mocha, vanilla or caramel. 

Now that I understand that, I even add a pinch to my oatmeal when it’s bubbling away on the stove, to help bring out the flavor of the oats, apples and cinnamon. 

You see, salt isn’t the showstopper here.  It isn’t the flavor you want to taste, it isn’t what you want your diners to taste like, but without it, the rest of the flavors would not be highlighted. 

There once was a king who had three daughters.  He wondered how much they loved him.  The one said that she loved him more than all the gold in the world.  The king was impressed.  The second daughter said she loved her father more than all the silver in the world.  That pleased him, too.  The youngest said, "I love you more than salt."  He was disappointed.  The castle cook overheard the conversation and decided to do something in defense of the youngest girl.  The next day she left out all the salt in the king's food.  The food was tasteless.  Then he knew what his daughter was saying to him.  She loved him so much that without him, like salt in food, nothing was good.

Salt is good…in moderation.  For if you add too much salt to a sweet or a savory dish, all you will taste is salt.  Yuck!

You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

As Jesus’ message to his disciples continues on from the beatitudes, which we heard last week, he speaks to them and he speaks to us...about the call to live in the world around us.  He uses images of salt and light, two things with which we cannot live without. 
Yet these are things that help, not to highlight our good deeds and actions.  But they help us to show others God’s presence in the world around us. 
Christ’s presence in the world is an example of God’s amazing love for us. 
Jesus was born a human being and lived with us, healed us and taught us how to share this message with others. 

As salt and light in the world around us, we are not here to point out our good deeds and to save all of humanity.  Jesus was sent into this world to save us.  Jesus calls and empowers us to let Christ’s light shine through us…that we may light the path for others…that we may let the light of Christ shine through others around us.  

Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven.  We hear those words at a baptism…a reminder that as we were brought into the body of Christ through the waters of baptism, that is when we received our call to live our lives to the glory of God. 

What we do in our homes, schools, jobs and in the world is not to puff up our egos, or show others how awesome we are, but all that we do is to the glory of God. 

How are you called to let your light so shine…that is glorifies God?

How are you salting the earth, the world and the community through the gifts that God has given to you? 

One of the things that stood out to me the first time I worshipped here, or should I say slightly scared and definitely surprised me happened at the end of worship. 

The worship leader says, go in peace, serve the Lord!

And I am used to people saying, thanks be to God!  But then you all add…WE WILL! 

You are reminding me and each other, that what we have heard, seen and done in this place strengthens us for ministry in the world around us.  It empowers us to share our gifts with friends, family and strangers.  It invites us into ministry in new and exciting places.  It encourages us to light the way for others to see Christ.  It allows us to use the gifts that God has given to us for the glory of God and for the good of our neighbors, our community and our world. 

I had the opportunity to hear the presiding bishop of the ELCA, Mark Hanson, speak at the Indiana-Kentucky Synod Assembly last June.  He commented that when he was in parish ministry at the beginning of worship, he would invite the congregation to ask one another how they served the Lord during the previous week.  At the end of worship, we are accepting a call to serve the Lord, why not share with others how we have done that when we gather together? 

Being salt of the earth is so simple we may not even realize we are doing it…anything we do to the glory of God is salting the earth. 

It may be lifting your voice in song in the choir.
It may be tutoring a child in our Overtime program. 
It may be sharing a smile or kind words to someone waiting in line for the Food Pantry. 
It may be in volunteering at a youth or community event. 
I think often salting the earth is seen in our offering that doesn’t fit in the plate. 

Think of all the ways God empowers us to be a light and a presence to others…the possibilities are endless. 

So go from this place…thinking about the places where you have helped light the way for someone…or a way you have helped season the community….and continue doing that and more all for the glory of God. 

And now may the peace which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, Amen. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

slick steps...

So I have to admit that, even with the sketchy weather, I have been out and about checking out the local scenery.  I was definitely inspired by many pictures posted by friends.  I just use my cell phone for pictures, so sometimes they amaze me and other times, they are alright.  Since the trains are becoming a regular sound in my daily life, I thought I would catch a shot of the silent tracks. 

And their warning...

I had the chance to chat with many shovelers...some who warned me about walking in the street...some who were pleased with their shoveling and some who were swearing their way through the driveway...(grumble, grumble) All in all yesterday was a pleasant day...only interrupted by crunching and falling ice.  After a few chunks of ice fell of a wire near me, I think I flinched for the rest of the walk and avoided walking under the wires when I could :) 

I am thankful that I didn't loose power during this storm, but was reminded of times in the past when I have...times when the house has been colder than normal, and missing hot water....I was reminded to lift up those in prayer for whom this winter and these recent storms have been burdensome, life-threatening or hazardous.  I'm also thankful for organizations that can come to the aid of those in need. 

You can imagine my joy this morning when I captured this sight.  A new day.  A new beginning. 
A fresh start...and the warmth of the sun...a whole new beginning...thanks be to God.