Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter Sunday, come and gone, now what?

What a blessing it was NOT to have an alarm wake me up yesterday morning.  Holy Week, from the Seder Meal, to celebrating first Communion on Maundy Thursday, to the living drama on Good Friday.  All were experiences that helped me along through the Passion story of Jesus. 

I do have to admit, Easter Day was a whirlwind...no doubt fueled by the Holy Spirit. 
4 services...back to back took me away!  After the first service and breakfast, there was no slowing down.  I'm so happy that I dug out my trumpet to play with other brass folks at the later services.  And singing with the choir, is always fun!  I felt a joy and an energy that carried me through the morning.  I hope those who came to worship...felt that joy, that surprise, that excitement of the empty tomb.  I hope that people left looking for and seeing the Living Christ within their midst...that folks have the opportunity to celebrate the 50 days of the Easter Season.  That new life is seen and celebrated everyday...as we die to sin thanks to God's amazing gift to us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

I hope, too, that worship is a place where people feel compelled to return to.  Being present in worship year round, I can see the ebb and flow of worship attendance.  And when the sanctuary is filled to the gills on Easter I celebrate that...am I frustrated that people don't attend more regularly...well....I don't think frustrated is the word, I think sad is more the feeling.  I love worship, hearing God's word, being reminded through the confession and forgiveness that God loves me and forgives me...and I celebrate the meal at the Lord's Table as yet another reminder of God's unconditional love and grace and the promise that there is room for everyone.  I think what saddens me is that not everyone feels that joy or feels the draw to be strengthened and nourished in body, mind and spirit each week. 

I don't know where I would be without my faith community.  They celebrate the good times and help carry me through the tough times, all because that is who God calls us to be. 

I was talking with my friend a few weeks ago about being strong.  She said, "You are strong...remember, you just moved 1/2 way across the country to a new home, a new congregation a new beginning....and you did it on your own!"  That's true, to an extent, that it was just me and the cat who moved, yet it was the faith community at Trinity that was carrying me and transporting me to this new place.  There were 1,400 people praying for me, preparing the way for me, and some of them even came out to Indiana to get me.  There was and is a faith community in place...and I felt it from the first card I received in Indiana...and the first facebook friend request.  I knew God was calling me here...because people here were extending the love and grace of God to me by the way I was and am continued to be welcomed in this place. 

I pray that those who were gathered for worship together throughout this past week have the opportunity to gather again and again and again.  I pray that the community in Christ we feel in this place is what drives us out to tell others about the new life in Christ.  I pray that this community continues to reach out and welcome all to hear the good news that Christ is Risen!  He is risen indeed! Alleluia!


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

holy and humbling moments.

This past Sunday seemed to offer a mix of very holy and very humbling moments. 

There was something about the 10:45 service...a full sanctuary (which means several hundred people) and lots of palms.  During the Great Thanksgiving as we chanted back and forth I felt embraced by the Body of Christ, that there was this gentle back and forth that we were gathered together by the Holy Spirit and we were able to just be. 

As I spoke the words of institution, I saw individual faces...I didn't see a room full of hundreds of people, it was an intimate gathering among those who know one another, care for one another and are called to serve one another.  The tears well up in my eyes as I remember how beautiful that moment felt, but also the reality that the moment would be just that...we would move on together to share in the Lord's Supper and then be sent on our way.  Talk about the triumph and the tragedy of Holy Week.  The joyous, celebratory moments are the ones you love to live in and hold on to...yet we were all sent from that place on Sunday...back into the community, back to our lives, back to continue to tell the story that we journey through this week, knowing that the joy on this coming Sunday comes after a last meal with Jesus, a reminder of his service to others, and to see him die on the cross for you and for me....it is after all that that we arrive at the empty tomb....but until that early morning...until we see the stone rolled away, we experience Jesus in our everyday lives here and now. 

And that is what happened to me on Sunday afternoon. 
With a free afternoon, I pulled out the mountain bike for a trail ride.  I veered off my regular path and realized that I am much more of a rails to trails biker than a mountain biker.  You see, I had to walk up the first hill....it was both steep and gravel.  (2 non-favorites rolled into one)  I biked out for a while and did better as it turned to more of a gentle, dirt path.  On my return trip, I had to come back down that first hill.  I thought it would be better to ride on the side (dirt/grass) rather than chance wiping out on the gravel.  So I went down slowly....I worry about going downhill too quickly.  Apparently one can also go too slowly....you see as I crawled down the hill, I got stuck in a divot and just fell over.  Still on the bike.  I got myself up, moved over to the gravel and continued on down. (fall free)  But as I sat there, on my bike, in the grass I thought, ugh.  This is not my forte, give me my road bike and all the hills in the world, that I can do...but this...not so much.  I guess I had thought that being on my bike everyday this month had magically turned me into a biker who could handle anything...not the case. 

So there you have it...a day of holy and humbling moments...and me at the end of it thanking God for creating me just as I am....and loving me for being that person. 


Monday, April 11, 2011

what helps us grow?

I can't stop thinking about the altar at the 10:45 worship service yesterday.  Here we are in the middle of Lent, which is often a time when congregations refrain from the weekly flowers on the altar as we think of a time that is pensive and less fancy.  Yet yesterday, the altar was full! 

Here is what it looked like: 

Now for some explanation....because this sight was only seen at the late service on Sunday. 

Saturday evening, there were arrangements in front of the altar from that day's funeral service. 

Sunday morning, during the Lenten Fair, the Sunday School youth decorated flower pedals that were transformed into flowers....which are beautiful...which were added to the altar for the 10:45 service. 

During that service, the children came forward for the children's message and blessed over 100 school kits for Lutheran World Relief.  :)  They are at the base of the altar. 

As you look at all the color, the flowers, the bags....what an abundance of life!  For me, I see the Sunday School flowers sprouting from the funeral arrangements.  How true is it that the all the saints who have gone before us continue to help us grow and bloom.  And the bags that surround all the flowers, show that we here at Trinity, not only grow up in our faith, but also share that faith and abundance with youth all around the world. 

What a blessing worship was yesterday...surrounded by abundance, being unbound by each other...freed to live and serve.  Amen.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

new life...new beginnings...

So there is a styrofoam cup sitting on the windowsill in my office.  It has a smiley face on it...and the other day I noticed 3 blades of grass sprouting out. 

I love spring...new beginnings, fresh starts and all the new growth.  Everything seems to come out of its winter hibernation.  Trees begin to bud, daffodils are blooming...all sorts of other spring flowers are bringing colors to walkways, gardens and yards. 

As we continue this Lenten journey to the cross, to the death of Jesus and eagerly await his resurrection, we are moving through a winter time ourselves...we know what is coming.  We know that Christ has been raised from the dead, we know that God conquered death to free us from our sins and to bring us to everlasting life, yet in the midst of waiting...we struggle with here and now. 

We face natural disasters impacting Japan more than once...earthquakes around the globe, and close to home, we have said goodbye to people within our own community.  We live in the promise of the resurrection, we walk in the hope and promise of Jesus, knowing that God did not send Jesus into the world to make it smooth sailing for us, but so that we may know that God is with us through thick and thin.  It is easy to become overwhelmed by all that is going on in our lives and our world.  When we feel like we have hit rock bottom, God is still present with us. 

One of my seminary professors said it best as he shared the story of the loss of his wife to cancer.  He truly struggled to pick up the pieces.  His friends said to him, it's okay if you don't believe right now, we will believe for you. 

That community, the community in the body of Christ, in the communion of saints, helps sustain us and nurture us when we feel weak and overwhelmed.  The presence of God through the company of one another is God at work in our world, here and now.  As you see others hurting, aching, grieving...just being near them is a comfort. 

As we continue this journey together, be present with one another, around meals at your dinner table, gathered in the auditorium or bleachers, and gathered in the presence of one another around the Lord's Table...sharing the peace, singing hymns and praying together.  Make your presence known to others...it may be the smile, touch or simple presence that lifts them up this day. 


Monday, April 4, 2011


This past weekend's sermon....again, probably not word for word what you heard if you were with us this weekend...but the message is the same.

I believe the message was inhanced by the skit during the children's sermon, so I give great thanks to the four youth who acted out the withholding and the sharing of God's love.  (woo hoo!)

April 3, 2011
4th Sunday in Lent

1 Samuel 16:1-13
Psalm 23
Ephesians 5:8-14
John 9:1-41

Please pray with me,
 As you led the Israelites through the wilderness, as you were with Joseph and Mary as they journeyed to Bethlehem, and as you journeyed with Jesus to the cross….you journey with us now.  Guide our hearts, minds and bodies on this Lenten journey.  Continue to turn us toward you, our light and our path, guiding us every step of the way.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

As our Lenten journey continues, we are invited into another encounter with Jesus.  Another one on one interaction with the Messiah.  Last week it was at the well with the Samaritan woman, this week it is a man who has been blind since birth. 

It was brought to my attention this week at our weekly clergy Bible study that these encounters are a little bit different than our expectation of Lenten passages.  We enter this season, a season of repentance, of turning – away from sin, away from ourselves…and back to God…and God’s mission in our lives.  These passages, however, these intimate and personal encounters shape us in a different way this Lent, don’t they?

We are moved away from thinking about the traditional Lenten disciplines…of prayer, fasting (which I think is nearly impossible at Berks county, let alone at Trinity) and giving of alms.  Instead, this Lent, we are being turned and shaped by ways that Jesus interacts not only with people throughout scripture, but also looking at ways Jesus meets us here and now. 

Both last week and this week, we have these individuals encountering Jesus.  Neither one of these people were seeking Jesus…Jesus came to each of them.  Jesus came to the woman at the well.  Jesus sought out this Blind Man, well, now formerly blind man not just once…but twice. 

Jesus comes to the blind man, puts mud on his eyes and sends him away….to wash and that’s when his sight is recovered. 

After this miracle this man begins to share this story…because people see a difference in him…now he can see!  But some people don’t believe that he used to be blind…they say this guy just looks like the blind man.  Neighbors, people in the community, even the Pharisees want to know who did this to him.  Well, really people, how is he to know who did this…he was blind…and had not seen Jesus. 

How quickly the doubts and the questions and the disbelief overpower the miracle. 

Yet each time this formerly blind man is asked about the healing…how it happened does not change, but the description of who did it, does change.  We see change and growth in the way that the blind man comes to know and describe Jesus. 

It is through his telling of the story, that he learns more about who Jesus is … and what the good news is that Jesus brings.   

I think some of the frustration that may come from this story is that this man…recently healed…tells this story over and over to disbelieving crowds.  It’s as if the miracle is too great to believe.  Who could do such a thing?  How can someone who does work on the Sabbath actually do such a thing?  The people who hear this story, who see a man who had been blind all of his life, seem to keep the blinders on themselves from being able to see Jesus for who he is, the Son of God, the Messiah. 

Hearing this story, here and now, we may be tempted to say, how could you ignore such a miracle, how could you not believe?  But if we saw such a miracle today, how many of us would be in disbelief? 

I think the Pharisees capture our thoughts exactly when they ask, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 

Surely, we are not blind, are we? 

Why is it so hard for the others in our passage this day to see…to really see Jesus for who he is, for the message he brings, through the acts he does? 

Surely, we are not blind, are we? 

The Pharisees are blinded by their adherence to the rules and the laws.  The Sabbath was for them a day of rest.  No work was to be done on that day…even a healing miracle.  They probably thought, well, this man has been blind from birth, what difference would one more day make.  Since the healing was done on the Sabbath, it must be a sinner who has done this, because he has not honored the Sabbath. 
They are unable to see Jesus for who he is…for the message he brings…and for the grace of God that he extends to the world. 

Surely, we are not blind, are we?

What keeps us from seeing God in the world around us?  What keeps us from seeing miracles every day?  What keeps us from feeling that wonderful feeling that the Samaritan woman had at the well?  What keeps us from having our eyes opened like the man in our text today? 

Okay, maybe that’s one question too many…but seriously…so often we are blind to the grace of God in our lives.  It’s as if we go through our lives with blinders on…focused on living our lives, just trying to get by day to day…hoping and praying that God will enter into our world…with a moment of grace, love and hope.  Yet we are blind to the ways that God breaks into our hearts and our lives every single day. 

I truly hope that you are taking advantage of the Lenten Devotional.  Each day, someone shares an example of how God has broken into their hearts and their lives.  Each devotion is a distinct “kingdom moment”: an example of a time and place where God has extended grace, mercy and presence to different people within the congregation. 

In each of these devotions…Jesus comes to us here and now…as we share in this kingdom moment. 

And while some of these readings may speak to you, and others may not, the writers have been changed through the sharing of their stories…these seemingly simple, yet profound and precious moments continue to shape each person who experienced it. 

We may be blind to all the wonderful things that God is doing in our world and in our lives just because we are looking in the wrong place, or because we are looking for something huge and spectacular like a blind person receiving sight. 

Surely, we are not blind, are we? 

In seeing the simple moments around us, and in sharing them, we are transformed.  Our lives are changed…our faith grows as it is shared with others. 

Look at how the formerly blind man’s faith changes as he continually tells others how he was given the gift of sight.  His final words in this passage are, “Lord, I believe.” 

He has been given sight in more ways than one…he can now see the world around him, and also see who Jesus is, the Messiah. 

As we continue our journey, may we share in these God moments.  Take time to look for where God is at work in your life, in your job, in your family and community.  Then take a moment to share that with someone…post it on the church facebook page, tell a friend about it, share it with someone at work, or someone at the gym…not only are more seeds planted when we do that…but we are changed, too.  Our eyes are opened…our faith is deepened and the community in which we worship and live grows as well. 

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.