Monday, May 9, 2011

for all the faithful women...

Yesterday was a wonderful day in worship, as we gathered around the waters of baptism as we welcomed Natalie Rose into God's family.  As we gathered around God's word we were reminded that Jesus comes to us....just where we are...even if we are trying to just find some space away.  As we gathered around the Lord's Table, Jesus was revealed to us in the breaking of the bread.  We remembered, too, in our prayers allt he mothers that have gone before us...throughout scripture and in our own histories and lives. 

So many women have nurtured me in life and in faith...I am truly thankful. 
I can think of my pastor when I was in high school, Pastor Wendy Waugh.  She was the one who said, "Hey Jen, have you ever thought of becoming a pastor?"
I think of a teacher Miss Fitzpatrick (Miss Fitz, we called her.) Who lifted up my leadership skills in high school and continued to encourage me to try new things. 
I think of all the 'moms' I have back in my home congregation in Connecticut who have prayed for me, and sent cards and letters of support throughout my life. 
I think of Grandma Tessie...who made THE. BEST. BURGERS. (ever)
I think of Omi...who liked that I spoke clearly and loudly enough when I was preaching in worship. 

And of course, I think of my mom, Helen. A great woman, who continues to love and support me...who has given me space to grow, but had her arms wide open if I ever came back home with a problem, in order to give me some good advice and send me back out again!  I'm thankful for the amazing and open relationship we have with each other.  And truly excited that I get to run with her as she does her first 1/2 Marathon in October.  :)  (Love you, mom!)

Thanks, God, for moms everywhere...and the women who love us, nurture us, strengthen us, teach us and are just there for us! 


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Now let us sing!

"Children sing your amen.
Christ the Lord is risen.
He will come to us again,
Oh, Children sing your amen."

That's the chorus that I've been singing over and over to myself from a song called Children Sing.  I put in the CD yesterday.  It's a recording of a youth choir at Camp Calumet from the summer of 1997.  I was a counselor at camp at that time, and it think it was the first time I was every officially recorded.  The other times I was involved with that singing group as a camper, my parents would bring in a small boom box and record it.  :)  So I have recordings from earlier...but this one is far more official.  The choir is made up of campers age 8-16 gathered for a week to learn songs, rehearse and perform at the end of the week. 

Anyway, I had put in this CD yesterday as some music while I worked.  The way the evening panned out, I was also able to attend the Conrad Weiser West "Spring into Song" Spring Concert.  It was amazing! 

My mom had warned me ahead of time to be ready for the squeaks of the clarinets during the band portion...but I had not anticipated the Concerto for Pots and Pans.  The percussion section did a wonderful job on that piece!  From the band, to the show choir, to the were different groups of youth coming together for something that is bigger than just each of them.  They practice parts on their own so that the whole group can come together to share a piece with the audience. 

What a wonderful thing it is to see the young ones thinking outside of themselves.  What a wonderful lesson that is learned through the gift of music and group performance.  I especially loved when the chorus sang a song about Children of the World.  Singing about some who live in war and some who live in peace, some who live with tears and some who live with laughter.  How appporpriate for our world this week.  For the young people in our community to think about the different lives of youth all around the world.  For a moment in our lives last night, the group in the gym was embraced by songs of unity, joy, silliness and serious messages.  All brought to us through the hearts, voices and instruments of young ones. 

I'm thankful that God has given me the voice to sing, the ability to play the trumpet...and many times and places to share those gifts with others...especially coming together to play with a brass section on Easter morning or to sing weekly with the choir.  Let us all raise our voices in song in this resurrection season as we see and hear the living Christ in out midst! 

"Praise to the Lord the Almighty! in wonder my spirit is soaring!
All that has life and breath, come now with praises outpouring.
Let the amen sound from God's people again,
gladly forever adoring!"
(Praise to the Lord, the Almighty vs. 4)


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

looking at death in light of the resurrection...what are we celebrating?

So thankful I had the chance to go for a run yesterday morning, because I had a long day ahead of me and needed some time and space because I had a lot on my mind. 

I'm still breathing, praying and reacting to the global events of the few days...

I wish I had some deep insight...because I struggle with the jubilation that surrounds the death of someone.  I know that Bin Laden's actions and activities caused harm and death and loss and grief for so many people...that is what needed to come to an end, not his life.  I can't celebrate the death of anyone.

I was talking about this with the 5th & 6th graders in our after school program.  Some were happy because they knew he was a bad man...and knew of all the people who died on 9-11.  Others just thought is was sad that more people had to die.  It was moving to see the range of responses from this group of young people...and all while we were making paper beads.  

I think at this point I'm just sad.  Sad that many ways human beings react to violence and being hurt is to turn around and hurt others.  It sad to see in our communities in the case of abuse in a home or in our towns and nation...but when it begins to span the globe it becomes down right scary.  Because it seems to me that as the playing field gets bigger and bigger more and more people enter in...some level headed and others not...not a good thing.

And here we the beginning of the Easter season.  Meeting up with Jesus as he made those first appearances to Mary and the disciples...a week ago, heck, even this past Sunday, I felt the reminder and the promise of new life, of a fresh start as we remembered/remember God's victory over death.  And now it feels as if there is much rejoicing over death.

At this time, I'm truly thankful for my faith community. While we will have different opinions and different reactions...I continue to pray that our words, responses and actions will stem from our call to live our lives as God calls us to.  That in the midst of a world in pain....the light of Christ will continue to shine through the darkness to illuminate the world.  I am thankful for the moments of laughter and joy, of fellowship and prayer that I shared with many different people of all ages the past few days.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sunday's Sermon

May 1, 2011
Second Sunday of Easter
Acts 2:14a-22-32
Psalm 16
1 Peter 1:3-9
John 20:19-31

Please pray with me,
May the word of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O God, our rock and our Redeemer.  Amen.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!  (He is risen indeed!)
Happy Easter!   I love that the season of Easter is 50 days!  We celebrate and walk in the glow of the empty tomb and promise of new life given to us through the resurrection of Jesus for a whole 50 days!  
And today, we see and hear about those first appearances that Jesus made after he was raised from the dead.  We hear about actual appearances that he made to his disciples in those first weeks following that first Easter day. 
Every year, the week after Easter, we hear this text.  Poor Thomas, talk about getting a bad rap… so often when we think of Thomas, we think of Doubting Thomas. 
This is probably Thomas’s most well-known moment.  That he must see the marks on Jesus’ hands and put his hands in the hole in his side.  Poor Thomas, seen as a doubter, one who is not so sure that Jesus is risen from the dead until he sees living proof. 
Yet, is he asking for more than the other disciples?  Yes, they were present when Jesus visited with them…saying peace be with you.  Yet, they were in hiding.  So how did they receive the news from Mary?  She had seen the risen Lord and told others about it, but they still hid.  They seemed to not believe either, until they saw the risen Christ. 
Poor Thomas…given a bad rap, and often his deep words of insight that we heard just three weeks ago have faded from our memories.  Do you remember the story of how Jesus went to raise Lazarus from the dead?  When Jesus talks about going to Judea where Lazarus is dead, Thomas says, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
Poor Thomas…he knows what is coming, he knows what the future holds for Jesus, yet he is willing to go with him, into Judea, into the place where people wish him harm, knowing that is where Jesus is called to be. 
So, if Thomas knew what was coming…if he had an idea of what was to come...when Jesus first came to see the disciples, where was Thomas?  Some theologians have said that perhaps he was out looking for Jesus.  That would definitely make sense, right?  That Thomas’ actions were driven by this knowledge or this desire to seek out the risen Lord.  So maybe is truly out there seeking proof of the risen Lord, but perhaps it is because he already knows that Jesus has been raised from the dead. 
How often are we taken captive by our faith…and driven to look for the resurrected Christ in our midst? 
I read this week that, ‘Faith is not really about what we believe, but what difference it makes in our lives that we believe.’  (Brian Stoffregen)
‘Faith is not really about what we believe, but what difference it makes in our lives that we believe.’

My friend Mindy is a nurse at an elementary school.  This week in her office a 7 year old child said to an autistic 7 year old, "Are you autistic, because my cousin is and you act just like him."
Mindy and the other adult in the room, felt horrified for a second, "oh no...what do we say?"
With no hesitation the autistic child responded, "You mean like THIS?!" She proceeded to do a wild, happy dance in the nursing office. 
Instead of feeling embarrassed, she owned that moment and made it positive.
‘Faith is not really about what we believe, but what difference it makes in our lives that we believe.’

Think about it…how we live our lives, the words that we speak, the actions we take, they all begin with our belief in God and that we know God raised Christ from the dead.  And that makes all the difference!  Think about waking up every day, knowing that you have died to sin each day, you are born again and again and again through the waters of baptism.  In essence, you have nothing to worry about.  God has got this…really and truly! 
But then we have our own doubts, just like Mindy and her friend did, worrying about how to react in a situation, or what to say to a child when they ask a question.  Sometimes, it’s bigger than that, it could be that something happens in our daily lives, the loss of a job or the loss of a loved one, the reality of life threatening diseases that hit far too close to home, the impact of a changing economy, failing an exam that you felt prepared for, a friend getting injured in the midst of a sporting event, you name it…something happens that makes us wonder about the true presence of the risen Christ in our lives and in our world. 
We, like Thomas, are eager to see that presence…we look for the risen Christ within our midst, we want to believe…and sometimes we want to see Christ in our midst here and now.  We desire that reminder and that promise of new life in the midst of this hostile and sometimes crappy life. 
It is in the midst of the muck and the mire that God is revealed to us through the risen Christ.  It is in the midst of struggles, challenges, loss and grief that God comes to us.  We know God’s love for us because God sent Jesus to die for us! 
Mindy and her friend saw the dancing, resurrected Christ in the presence of that autistic child.  Their doubt was washed away, as they saw the joy and love in that child. 

Alleluia! Christ is risen!  (He is risen indeed!)
Easter is not just one day...Easter is not just coming to a wonderful, inspiring worship service, picking up your flowers and being on your merry way.  Easter is coming into worship, being immersed in God’s word, joining in the fellowship at the Lord’s table, sharing in this holy meal, only to be sent back into the hostile world, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to bear witness to the identity of God as revealed in Jesus and given the experience of Mary and her witness and the disciples and their witness to Thomas, we could expect that people will not believe us. 
And that’s the challenge, isn’t it…sharing the joy in this place, looking around and seeing that people who squished into pews with us last week, aren’t here this week.  Seeing that those who celebrated that joy of the empty tomb last week have gone back to their everyday lives missing the joy and the strength and the support that is felt in this place week after week after week. 
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!
And while I hold this in prayer, it is that old camp song that goes…and they’ll know we are Christians by our love…not just our prayers…and I would say not just our love but our actions in our day to day lives. 
How you live your life, do your job, are active on a sports team or musical group….that shows the world around you your faith and God’s love active in the world. 
How you show your family, co-workers and community members that Christ has indeed been raised from the dead is the message that the world is longing to hear. 
In Bishop Mark Hanson’s Easter message he states, “The world aches to hear the message we have to tell.” 
What we hear and the meal we share in this place…strengthens us for the rest of our lives.  We know we can handle the roughest of days because death has been conquered.  And it is in that knowledge, that we long for others to hear this good news, to know of God’s amazing grace, and to be surrounded by the amazing community that is gathered in this space week after week. 
We know this amazing news as we will sing/just sang in one of my favorite Easter hymns…
Christ is Risen! Earth and heaven nevermore shall be the same.
Bread the bread of new creation where the world is still in pain. 
Tell its grim demonic chorus: “Christ is risen! Get you gone!”
God the First and Last is with us.  Sing Hosanna everyone! 
We are here, breaking the bread of the new creation…where, yes, the world is still in pain, but we are able to do so because God has conquered death.
How wonderful is that news?!?! 
It’s the news that Mary rushed to tell the disciples.
It’s the news that the disciples eagerly told Thomas. 
It’s the news that we are called to share outside the walls of this place to a world that is still in pain….and longs to hear this joyful message of forgiveness, love and amazing grace. 

Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed!
So go…and tell…and may the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, Amen!