Wednesday, June 29, 2011

practicing what i preach

So, if you read/heard this week's sermon, you were set with two challenges this week.

1) To look for and be active in moments of sharing God's grace with others.  Taking the opportunity to be the presence of Christ for someone else this week. 

2) (this one was a bit harder) To look for and let other's around you bless you with a grace moment.  To take the opportunity to let others use the gifts that God has given to them to be Christ in your life. 

I had an opportunity that I almost passed up yesterday. After I joined a small group gathering for lunch and Bible study, one of the people in attendance offered to go to the hospital for me.  I said yes...for two reasons.  One, this person receives joy when doing visits.  And was an opportunity to let that person be Christ to someone else.  It was the opportunity for ministry to happen, for relationships to deepen, for prayers to be said, and for the Body of Christ to be active in our world.

It was also a realization for me and what part of my ministry is in this place.  It is the nurture, support and lifting up of disciples within the congregation here at Trinity.  We are all given gifts to use and share with the community and the world, and sometimes the hard part is seeing someone else do it.   But there are blessings in sharing the minstry that we are all called to be a part of.  The more we support, love and share the outreach from this place, the more hearts and lives will be touched by the grace of God and that is the most important thing. 

Keep looking for ways to both give and receive God's grace this week. 

Where has God been present with you this week?

+God's peace

Monday, June 27, 2011

giving and receiving...

June 26, 2011

Jeremiah 28:5-9
Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18
Romans 6:12-23
Matthew 10:40-42

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

40“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

I can’t help but think about this text as I look around this place.  It is easy for us to hear this text and think about how we welcome people into this space, into this building and into the community of Christ.  We think about welcoming others in…and how we may be welcoming Christ into our midst as we do that.  And while it is important for us to continue to welcome people while we are in this space…think about all the time during the week that you are not in this space.  We are the Body of Christ in our homes, in our community, at our places of work and anywhere else that we go. 

We hear, throughout Matthew’s gospel that the emphasis is on the disciples being good hosts – caring for the least of Jesus’ family.  Which is true for us, as well, that we are to be alert and caring for the least of those around us, the hungry, the sick, the abused, the hurt, those who are excluded. 

But in our text today, that is turned around.  It is the missionaries who are the ones that are being cared for by others.  We, who go out, into the mission field, the world around us, are the ones being cared for by others.  We need to be gracious guests.  We need to learn to accept help from others.

It is often true that the most caring people can be the ones who are least likely to accept any help for themselves.  Just as my mom, the nurse, she is not the best patient. 

As followers of Christ, we are called to be both care-givers – the ones who share the love and grace of God - and care-receivers – the ones who receive from others, allowing them to use their gifts.  I know, it’s not always easy, but it’s part of who we are called to be as disciples in the world. 

I’ll give you an example…
Thursday afternoon I was on my way to a visit and to my pleasant surprise parked next to a car with a Trinity sticker on the back.  I thought to myself, oh, we should have a prize patrol or something…some sort of reward for being caught evangelizing to the world about our congregation. 

As I walked into the facility, the person I was there to visit was out at an appointment…but I did end up seeing the driver of the Trinity car.  I was greeted with a big hug…I was introduced to her co-workers.  We talked and laughed.  We hugged again, and I was on my way. 

Better off, I might add, than when I walked in. 

You see, I was there to give care and share the good news with someone, but instead, I was received as a welcomed guest, given the love of Christ through smiles and conversation and empowered to share that good news with others. 
I was blessed to be the recipient of love and grace myself. 

Sometimes it’s hard to just receive that love and grace.  Yet we are called, each of us, to allow others to use their gifts to help us and others.  

When others welcome us….as Jesus’ messengers…..there is salvation in that moment.  It doesn’t mean that they save us…or we save them…but by our words and deeds, we bring Christ’s presence to them.  Just as that woman brought a moment of salvation and grace to me….we do that for so many others that surround us. 

It is in both the giving and the receiving that God’s grace is known and shared. 

When we are out there…going to school, playing sports, going to work, running errands, you name it….we don’t just represent ourselves, but the church we serve and the God we serve.  Lots of people have talked with me about just knowing that as a pastor I bring Christ’s presence with me wherever I go.  And yes, there have been times and places where my presence has affected the words and behaviors of those around me…when folks find out I’m a pastor they immediately rethink what they have just said and curb their language. 

And representing Christ isn’t a bad thing, as long as it doesn’t go to our heads.  I hope that when I walk into a hospital room, that the presence of Christ I represent brings some comfort to the sick and dying. I hope that as preacher and presider, the words and actions are more than just my own, but somehow are the words and actions that Christ would say and do within the community.

How does the community here…look different because we are givers and receivers of God’s grace?  What does it mean to us to go out and treat others as if they were Christ themselves?  And for that matter, what does it mean to us to be received as Christ was received? 

So what does that mean to all of us?  As members of the Body of Christ, we all bring the presence of Christ with us no matter where we go.  How does who we are as a community of Christ and the ministry we are a part of change if we take seriously the understanding that we – you and me = are Christ’s presence in the world? 

I challenge you this week…to keep your eyes open for a few things…
Firstly, look at ways that God has blessed you to be the presence of Christ to someone else…either through prayer, or a hug, or even just a listening ear…and be present in those moments. 

Secondly, look for ways that others have opportunities to bless you…to give you a moment of grace, to touch your life or your heart just when it needs it. 

As the Body of Christ we are welcomed and called to give and receive…not because of any special reward, but it comes from that love and joy and grace we have already received from God. 

So go and share the wealth and abundance grace God has bestowed on us all.  And may the peace, which passes all understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, amen. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

in a nutshell...

This week I have been living and breathing Godspell. 
Don't get me wrong, the performances this weekend will be the meantime, it is impacting many of my waking and perhaps sleeping hours, too.  I've been working on preparing for the high school beach retreat this coming week...but it's been tough, I mean, just look at my desk:

A work of art? No?  I can see several containers to promote hydrating and caffeinating along side of multiple planning and study books.  I guess I'm truly passionate about what I do here :) 

But, not to worry...also today, I put 3 weeks of vacation on my calendar and the church calendar.  While the past few weeks have been busy ones (resulting in the desk above) I do look forward to some time to breathe, bike, catch my breath and just be.  The funny thing is, is that in the midst of the business, the full schedule and the back to back activities...I am still seeing God in everyday moments.  In the grace of a thank you note, in the word of love spoken by a parent to their at the confirmation service, in the times of transition and change, and as we gather as community around the Lord's table. 

I am continually thankful that we share in the Lord's Supper every week.  What a reminder of grace and love from God who created us, calls us to be who we were created to be and live out our lives in the world around us, sharing that grace and love in the midst of our every day lives. 

May God continue to bless us and strengthen one another as the desks get fuller....and provide us breathing space, as well...that we may be ready for God's ongoing mission in the world around us. 


Monday, June 13, 2011


An attempt at yesterday's sermon...although you'll need to have your own visual aid. 
First, get a balloon, then read. :)

Day of Pentecost

Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
1 Corinthians 12:3b-13
John 20:19-23

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. 

Happy Pentecost!  Or should I say, Happy Birthday!  Maybe we should have added the church to the birthday list this week.  Pentecost is sometimes described at the birthday of the church.  It is the day we hear the story of how the apostles were gathered together and the sound of a loud, rushing, violent wind swept in and filled the entire house.  Then tongues of fire rested on each of their heads and they were filled with the Holy Spirit. 

I love this image:  mighty, powerful, rushing wind.  It reminds us of the wind and movement that swept over the waters at creation.  We think of new beginnings, we think of fresh starts, we think of God’s presence in and among us. 

We celebrate that Pentecost day when following the sound of the rushing wind, all those gathered there…Jews from every nation…we able to speak to one another in different languages, yet they were able to understand one another.  They were proclaiming God’s deeds and power to one another in different languages, yet they could understand one another.  I would imagine that those gathered were amazed, enlightened and confused.  The many different languages, yet the ability to understand one another…amazing, powerful, grace-filled. 

I think it’s a day to remember the Spirit’s movement in our lives and in the church.  When we talk about the movement of the Holy Spirit, many people I know like to think of it a cool refreshing breeze.  Like when you’re sitting at the beach and the wind moves just gently enough to keep you cool in the sun.  Or it’s  summer evening on the porch, and the breeze does just enough to keep the mosquitos from gathering around you. 

It’s easier, perhaps to think of the Spirit as something calm and lilting…we’ll sing at the end of the service, Spirit of Gentleness…but when we get there, listen to the words we sing…yes there is comfort and gentleness with the Spirit, but there is also the strength of a mighty, rushing wind….calling from tomorrow, breaking ancient schemes…from the bondage of sorrow, all the captives dream dreams.  Our women see visions, our men clear their eyes, with bold new decisions your people arise. 

The day of Pentecost  we remember this day is one where the wind and the flames swept through, lifting up voices, pushing and pulling people in new directions, reminding them of their past and sweeping them into the future. 

I’m glad today is a birthday celebration, because I brought a balloon. 
A "dead balloon” or a deflated one -- has no life. It continues to lie wherever you put it. It doesn't move. It has no power.
But if you take a "dead balloon" and do what Jesus did, what happens?
Yes, it’s full of air; but it is still dead, going nowhere.
The trick is, to release the power. 

But, if I release the balloon where will it land?  Any guesses? 

Maybe someone guessed right, but if I stood here again, and blew up the balloon again, and let it go from the exact spot, it could land somewhere completely different.

Under the "spirit's/breath's/wind's" power, the balloon can move. It goes out. However, when the wind power within the balloon is released, you don't know where the balloon is going to go; but you know it's going somewhere. (We don't know where the wind comes from or is going.)

Jesus did not give the disciples the Spirit's power so that they could stay behind locked doors in fear. It is given as a power to move people out into the world -- even if we don't always know exactly where we will end up.

What happens to the balloon after it has "spent" its power? It seems dead again. All out of power. It's flat. There's no more "spirit/breath" within it. On one hand we are not like that balloon. Jesus promises that the Spirit will be with us forever. We will never run out of the Spirit's power. The Spirit given to you in baptism remains forever.

On the other hand, over and over again in Acts, we read that certain disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit. Their filling didn't just happen once, but over and over again. So we also need to be refilled. Weekly we return to church as a refilling station. To receive Jesus again in the hearing of the word and in the sharing of sacrament and through the fellowship of the saints.

What happens to a filled balloon that doesn't use the power within? Over time, the power leaves. The balloon, without doing anything, will go flat. The same is true with muscles. Muscles that aren't used, become useless through atrophy.

Can the same happen with faith -- or the gift of the Spirit?

How is the gift of the Spirit, given to you in baptism alive in your life today?  
How is the Spirit gently guiding, or down right pushing or pulling you into new and different areas of the church, the community and the world? 

How is that mighty rushing wind moving you this day?  How are you responding?

Are you holding on to that power, and taking control of it…or letting go and letting it guide your heart and mind and body….? 

This afternoon, the 8th graders will gather with their families and Affirm their Baptism, they will remember the promises God made with each of them in baptism, and how they promise to continue what God has begun in them.  As that celebration happens, we are all reminded of our baptisms, and how we promise to continue what God has begun in us…continually filled by the Holy spirit for God’s mission in the world. 

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. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

prayer and prayers.

Sunday's Sermon manuscript. 
(It's funny how when it's time to proclaim the message, it comes out differently at each service.)

June 5, 2011
7th Sunday of Easter

Acts 1:6-14
Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35
1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11
John 17:1-11

Please pray with me,
We do not often know what to expect in our world, Holy God, and we are painfully aware that we are not in control.  Wars begin or continue despite our efforts for peace.  The poor are still poor despite our efforts to proclaim good news.  Friends, colleagues, and family members still fall ill despite our efforts for healing.  We still face death despite our faith in your resurrection hope.  So we thank you that in our struggle to live and serve you, you do not leave us alone.  You bring us together in this community called the church.  Deepen our trust in one another, so that in our living and in our serving, we may support each other as one community.  In Jesus’ name we pray, amen. 

As I read this prayer in preparation for worship this weekend, it sort of grabbed a hold of me.  It caught me right where I was, right where I am, and reminded me that in the midst of all that I go through, it is this community, through Christ, that strengthens and supports me along the way.  I even posted it in my blog earlier this week. 

There is something about prayer, isn’t there…I’ve heard so many stories from people about the power of prayer.  People attest to feeling the love and support of others through prayer. 

I was talking with a good friend of mine recently.  I we talked about life changes, about moving about new jobs and settings and congregations…she continued to lift up how strong I was for moving half way across the country all by myself to start a new call in Robesonia.  But I truly couldn’t take all the credit myself.  You see, there were people here, you all, praying fervently for me in the midst of my transition.  As I said goodbye and packed things up in Indiana, as I traveled in my truck with a crying cat for 12 hours and how I unpacked and continued to get settled in my new home.  I knew I could do it, because 1,400 people were wrapping me in prayer.  I knew that God would give me the strength to make this transition. 

There is power, there is love, there is support in prayer.  I think that’s why our gospel lesson for today speaks so loudly to me.  You see, Jesus is praying to God, for the future of the faith community.  As Jesus departure discourse continues, he lifts up those who follow him, those who believe, those who will make up the future of the church into God’s hands, for protection, love and empowerment. 

In Jesus’ prayer, we are reminded that Jesus is praying for us, as a faith community.  That’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?  Think about being lifted up in prayer, by Jesus, the Son of God, as he talks with his father about his future and the future of the church in the world…now that’s a powerful feeling. 

Jesus entrusts the future of the faith community to God. 
Let me say that again, because I feel like it’s important for us to hear.
Jesus entrusts the future of the faith community to God. 

The church’s life rests in and depends on God’s care.  The future of the church does not rest in the church, but in God.  When we hear Jesus’ words, we think about the greater faith community, the church around the world, I think we can also put it in terms of who we are as the body of Christ here at Trinity. 

Think about it, we at Trinity need to understand that our life rests in and depends on God’s care.  The future of Trinity does not rest in Trinity, but in God. 

Those are powerful words, aren’t they.  On some levels, it is a scary thing to hear.  Because when we say that, when we come to understand that really and truly God is in control…and sometimes that can have a calming, comforting effect, but other times it may shake us up a little.  Because we are reminded that we are NOT in control. 

And who here doesn’t like to give up control…or give up being in charge…no doubt that is many or most of us.  Okay, so maybe not all of us want to be in charge of everything…but we do like to have a good handle on the things we face in our lives every day.  We so quickly and so often fall into the trap of sin, that I am in control, I can handle everything that life has to offer.  We fall into sin…and putting ourselves first.  We find ourselves turning away from God and turning in on ourselves.  (How does Trinity spell sin?)  Exactly, the focus is on me, myself and I!

And then life happens.  National disasters sweep through the country destroying homes, communities and families.  Loved ones within the congregation die.  Wars continue around us.  Those whom we love get sick.  And so often in the midst of it, we struggle, because we can’t control the world, we can’t fix the problems, we can’t stop bad things from happening. 

Yet in the midst of all of this, what does it mean to us…to know that we are a community for whom Jesus prays?  In the midst of troubles and turmoil, in the midst of the world sometimes being flipped upside down around us…what does it mean to each of us, that this…this faith community is one for which Jesus prays? 

There is comfort in that.  There is hope in that. 

And, dare I say, a little bit of worry in that. 

There is comfort, because we are assured that Jesus' prays for us. Because we can't do it by ourselves. That’s the painful truth.  We can’t do it on our own. 

But, the comfort comes from knowing that we are guaranteed help from God.

That’s good news, right?  I would say yes, but we may not always want God's help that Jesus has asked for. Sometimes it’s easier to say, I’ve got this, I can do this…even if it’s wrong, rather than to let God lead us somewhere that we do not want to go. 

That’s the mixed blessing that comes from this prayer from Jesus. 

The comfort that we are never alone and are surrounded in prayer by Jesus and by one another…yet, at the same time, that prayer may call us out of our comfort zones, into areas of our community and the world that we’d rather not see or know about.  We may want to fit in with society rather than raise up injustices that we see. 

It’s a challenging hopeful place to be as the community for which Jesus prays. 
We are reminded of our sinfulness and our humanity….and our desire to be in control.  It is also a chance for us to listen carefully to what Jesus has requested of God….and to be ready for answers we may not want to hear. 

Knowing that the future of the church, of our faith community is in the hands of God…is a scary and exciting place to be, we may not be sure of the future, but God is.  And through Jesus, God has brought us together to be on this journey together, so hold on tight, here we go…and thanks be to God for this community who continues to pray together and do God’s work together with our hands.   

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.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

all in a day's work

What a great day today has been!

Bittersweet tears as the 'Bad Girls' met for our last class this morning.  We talked about ideas for books to study in the future...and even though we were silent when the questions were asked, there was laughter, tears, and some time for seriousness.  I thank God that this class has come together over the past few months.  While we sometimes go off track, we end up in the midst of true life situations relating to family, children, relationships, our community and our world.  I hope that the women in this class have been as blessed as I have in the conversations and prayers that we have shared. 

At the 10:45 service, we welcomed twins into the Body of Christ through baptism.  :)  The children got to lay hands on our high school graduates and pray for them as they begin the next phase of their lives, and we shared bread and wine around the Lord's Table.

After worship, I missed Sundaes on Sunday because I was out to lunch (literally) with a group of 8th grade confirmands.  We laughed, ate, and laughed some more.  What an awesome group of young women.  Spending time with them brings a smile to my face as I see relationships that are strengthened by their faith and connections at church. 

After lunch, I made it to the tail end of Godspell rehearsal.  Singing and more laughter with an incredibly talented group of folks within the congregation.

Now some time working on thank you notes....perhaps a nap....and the chance to breathe before the ministry (that never stops) at Trinity continues. 

Exhausted, but so happy. :)


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Where has May gone?

I was gently reminded this past week that I had not posted in a while...oops.  I guess life was happening. 
While I won't recap the whole month, I will share some amazing highlights.

As I was preparing for worship this weekend, I came across this prayer:
We do not often know what to expect in our world, Holy God, and we are painfully aware that we are not in control.  Wars begin or continue despite our efforts for peace.  The poor are still poor despite our efforts to proclaim good news.  Friends, colleagues, and family members still fall ill, despite our efforts for healing.  We still face death despite our faith in your resurrection hope.  So we thank you that in our struggle to live and to serve, you do not leave us alone.  You bring us together in this community called the church. Deepen our trust in one another, so that in our living and in our serving, we may support each other as one community.  Amen. 

This prayer has captured me this day.  In the midst of all that goes on in our daily lives, we are still together in community.  No doubt, we could try to handle each day on our own, but we would probably end up frustrated and angered about what we had to face.  Instead of feeling alone, we can turn to the community we have in Christ that surrounds us.  We are not alone.  We are surrounded, loved and supported by so many.  We talked about this at the Poconos Retreat this past weekend.  That in the midst of whatever darkness we face, God is there...and is with us through family and friends along this journey. 

I had an amazing time at the Poconos.  We laughed, we sang, we danced, we shed tears of sadness and joy.  We were surrounded by mosquitoes, storms, chipmunks, frogs, squirrels and birds.  
We filled our bellies with sticky buns, fresh fruit, lasagna, garlic bread (with a kick!), pancakes, pretzels, sweet street desserts and marshmallows that were larger than life!
We jumped into the lake, into scripture, into our lives, our feelings, our struggles, our joys and our own faith journeys. 
We slept on hard floors, to the sounds of thunder and snores.  We were reminded of the light of Christ, in the midst of darkness, and how we are called to let that light shine before others.
It was a great group of 42 youth and 20+ volunteers that made this experience happen. 
This weekend left me truly thankful for my call to Trinity...especially the focus on youth ministry.  The joys and the struggles, the real life that is happening right now...and recognizing God's place in it.  Thanks be to God for the weekend and the experiences that are to come. 

And while all God's critters have a place in the choir, they do NOT have a place in my bedroom!  This morning before coming into the office, I caught sight of something flying in my bedroom.  A butterfly perhaps?  No wait, a bird?  Oh no!  A BAT!  Yup, no bats in the belfry, just in the bedroom.  Marley, my cat, was less than helpful in capturing the little critter.  She was only interested in it when it was flying across the room...when it was stationary, she walked away.  I eventually gingerly wrapped it in two towels and carried it outside.  It was squeaking quite a bit at that point.  I left it uncovered on the front porch while I washed my hands.  When I came back out it was gone.  Hopefully it doesn't find its way back into the house.  This evening, no doubt will be filled with loads and loads of laundry from my bedding to my formerly clean clothes that were a cushion for the bat during the chase.  Ick.

I wonder if I should put up a bat it can take up residence outside my living quarters? 

I also had a most wonderful time at my installation service back on May 22nd. 
The assembly gathered together that day included family from Connecticut and New Hampshire, there were folks from my home congregation in Connecticut, friends and classmates from seminary, and colleagues from my time in the area on internship.  It was a blessing to have my sense of call to Trinity reaffirmed in the presence of all who were there.  I continue to thank God for the energy, passion, love and support that comes from my family here at Trinity.  May God continue to bless us as as we journey together into the future. 

Until the next post...