Monday, August 29, 2011

moments of grace

In the midst of Hurricane Irene this past weekend, God moments continued to creep the most surprising places.  Well, maybe not the most surprising, but I felt God's embrace during two particular moments in worship. 

First was during both services when we paused to pray just before our final hymn.  Attendance was low, due to the weather, but those gathered stopped and prayed.  We knelt and prayed for those impacted by the storm, for those providing help to those in need, for those still awaiting the impact from the storm and for those who were not worshipping with us.  We are community, the Body of Christ, we are united in the waters of baptism, we are strengthened and supported by the relationship we have with God through Christ and through the relationships we have with one another.  Our small group gathered yesterday took time to pray for our brothers and sisters who could not be with us.  We missed their presence.  We were not complete without them.  We prayed for their safety.  It was a blessing to stop and pray about those who were not with us, because we were reminded that our community, the Body of Christ, the church in the world is bigger than just me.  That prayer time humbled me yesterday...I was able to let go of my little issues and worries...and see the bigger picture and the people who are part of that bigger picture in my life and in the world. 

Okay, the next awesome God moment was during the 9:30 service as the congregation and I chanted the Great the beginning of Communion.  Maybe I was moved by the prayer at the early service, but I took my eyes off the book and looked into the eyes of those who surrounded me.  I could feel God's presence among us as we gathered, as we sang and as we gave thanks for the meal of bread and wine we were about to share with one another.  I've only been here 7 months, but this is where I'm called to be.  The feelings of welcome, support and nurture continue day after day...but there are some wonderful moments, where I can feel the love of God emanating from the congregation as we worship together.  I continue to pray that worship in this place provides others those moments as well. 

Okay, so maybe there were more than just two...
As we finish communion, we pray a post communion prayer, giving thanks to God for this meal that strengthens us and sends us out in humble service to others.  In the midst of that prayer at the later service, a beeper went off, and a local firefighter was called out on a storm related emergency.  That to me is what worship is all about...being fed and nourished through the Word and through the Lord's Supper that we are sent from this place to love and serve others. So I am thankful for that moment...and for all who have provided rescue assistance in the past and who continue to do so in the future. 

One more great moment...
An impromptu lunch.  Fun conversation, great food, many laughs.  That is all :) 

But I could keep going...enjoying a meal last evening with the folks at Trinity who give of their time to serve as pilots (small group leaders) for Fundocy...the ministry they provide for our youth is amazing.  They rock!


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Stay-cation reflection.

So, truth be told, I was a bit worried about attempting a 'stay-cation' living right next to the church and all...but it worked out really well. 
I am happy to report that I only spent a minor fraction of it cleaning the house.  It needed it though, after I had been busy with VBS, away at camp and then to the beach.  Things at Trinity slow down, when?  (Just kidding.)  Ministry, just like life, keeps on happening.  God is continually at work in the world. 
I received glimpses of that this past week. 
It was great to be able to catch up on sleep AND have time during the day for good workouts.  I have officially begun training to run the Hartford 1/2 Marathon with my mom in October.  I had time to map out my training schedule and get that started this week without having to get up too early!  The true test will be getting the workouts in before a day in the life of Trinity.  It is possible to do that....I know this, it will just be different post-staycation.  Keeping active through exercising helps to keep my heart, mind, body and soul refreshed for being present for others.  It was a pleasant surprise to run into some Trinity folk on the trail this past week and share some time and conversation as we ran. 

I also had time this week just to sit on my porch and read and pray. 
When I was in the call process here, it was Advent and I was honoring the tradition of praying the hours.  I would take breaks in my day for Matins (morning prayer), noon time prayer, vespers (evening prayer) and Compline (prayer at the close of the day).  It was very helpful for me, throughout Advent to take time to pray each day as the future of my life and call was uncertain.  I also took time each day to pray for specific individuals or groups to remind me of the connection we all have in through baptism.  I've taken time this past week to enter into the practice of praying the hours this past week.  While I feel much more certain about my sense of call and my future than I did back in Advent, I still feel that it is important to take that time for daily prayer, to think, reflect and thank God for where I am at, and help for the future.  I use the book The Divine Hours as my guide.  I also add the upcoming Sunday's scripture readings as I pray.

I was also thankful for the opportunity to explore some of the attractions that Berks County and beyond have to offer. 

I am also thankful for the opportunity to worship this morning.  I headed into Reading and was nourished by the Word, prayer, song and fellowship at Christ Lutheran Glenside.  I had the opportunity to connect with the pastor and the people there while I was on internship.  It was great to worship, connect with colleagues and be reminded, again, how God is at work in the world.  They just finished 8 weeks as a host site for a summer day camp program.  They have been doing this for 19 years!  
Yet at the same time, they are a group of people who celebrate joys, who share burdens, struggles and worries with one another.  They are just like us at Trinity. The location may be different, but we are all connected through the waters of baptism, reminded of our own humanity and sinfulness and welcomed matter who we matter what we have been through....God continues to reach out and invite in the lost, the sick, the hurting, the tired, the busy...all are welcome at the table.

I'm thankful for the time away, but thankful to be back this week.  To reconnect with the young and the old (and all those in between!) and to hear stories about where God has been active in your life and your community this summer. 

I'm ready for a week with Music Camp, ABO, evening meetings and whatever else God has in store for the people of Trinity and our community this week. 

I pray that as our community at Trinity has had the opportunity to travel this summer, we have all had the opportunity to see God at work in the world, and to bring back those stories and experiences to share them with others and allow them to empower the ministry that we do here.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

This week's sermon.

I had a blast at Family Beach Camp, but was blessed to come home to Robesonia...for worship, fellowship and remembering that God is with us wherever we go.

Here is this week's sermon.
August 6, 2011

1 Kings 19:9-18
Romans 10:5-15
Matthew 14:22-33

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, our rock and our redeemer.  Amen. 
The first time I went to camp, I was eight.  I cried almost every night.  I was super homesick.  I wasn’t sure if I’d ever go back. 
Well, I went back, for a total of eight summers as a camper.  I took a summer off after that, and while dropping off my sister for her week at camp, I got to visit camp.  Well, can you believe when I got home, I was camp sick?  True story.  I was pining to go back to camp.  I was jealous that friends of mine got to spend their whole summer there! 
I decided then and there that I would apply for a job as a counselor the next summer.  Well, that was the beginning of 10 summers on staff at Camp Calumet Lutheran.  I laughed there and I cried there…friendships, my confidence and my faith grew summer after summer.  My parents eagerly awaited my return home, because they saw me grow and change year after year.  A huge part of who I am today was nurtured, empowered and developed as I spent time at camp. 
I have to admit, though, even with all those years at camp, I was nervous about spending the week at Camp Nawakwa this summer.  Yup, even in my late 30s, it was a new place, and I only knew one person. 
I wondered if I’d be homesick.  That was not the case in the least!  Even in a new location, surrounded by new faces and songs and a new daily schedule I felt at home.    There’s just something about camp. 
The opportunity to be goofy, energetic and ridiculous sandwiched between moments of prayer, deep thoughts, worries and anxieties. 
The best way to capture that is through an experience I had at one of my Bible studies at Nawakwa the other week. 
It was Tuesday morning so these kids have been together for about 1 ½ - 2 days.  As we talked about the lesson for the day and Jesus’ words, “Peace be still.” We talked about how Jesus calmed the sea, the wind and the storm.  We then talked about storms in our own lives.  The campers were in groups of 3  to talk about the storms in our own lives.  I walked up to three boys (probably 8 or 9 years old) and I said, “What storms did you come up with?” 
One boy spoke up and said, “Hurricanes, tornadoes and thunderstorms.” 
Okay, I said and paused….trying to think of a way to help them shift their way of thinking…I said, what about tough times in your life? 
One boy said, “Things are tough, because my parents are going through a divorce.”
The next boy said, “Yeah, my parent’s are divorced and sometimes it’s still hard.”
The third boy in the group (who was teary the first few nights due to homesickness) said, “It’s hard to come to camp, because I miss my family.” 
These guys know about life’s storms already. 
These young boys, a facing challenging, tough, life-changing experiences already.  And in that fleeting moment of that Bible study, they were reminded that they are not alone and that others have experienced similar things, and that in the midst of life’s storms, Jesus is with them.
How often do we forget, that Jesus is with us? 
How often are we caught in rough waters, in the midst of life’s storms and we forget that God is with us?  It probably happens more than we would like to admit. 
I had a bit of that fear as I drove to camp two weeks ago…that I would miss home, that I wouldn’t know anybody, that I was so tired from VBS that a slow week at home would be better than a busy week at camp. 
Yet our gospel lesson speaks to these periods in our life when our faith is wavering and we have feelings of doubt. 
The disciples are on the boat just after the feeding of over 5000 people with just five loaves and two fish.  They are away from the land, as the wind and waves have kept the boat away….they are alone…and when they first see Jesus, they are terrified!  Who or what is coming toward us….walking on the sea? 
Jesus speaks to them, but Peter isn’t truly certain…is his faith lacking?  Is he in a time of doubt?  Whatever the case, he wants Jesus to call him to come to him on the water.  In he midst of his water walk, Peter takes his eyes off of Jesus, and begins to sink…Jesus reaches out to him – you of little faith, why did you doubt? 
Sometimes I feel like I’m in the boat, right next to Peter, wondering if Jesus is truly coming to me in the midst of the storms and trails of my life.  I wonder…why or when will Jesus help me with this burden.  Is that really you Jesus?  Have you come to be with me in the midst of a broken marriage?  Have you come to me to be with me as I struggle with my sense of call and think about a new job?  Have you come to me as I learn my place in a new congregation and a new community? 
Where do these doubts come from? 
We all face them….Jesus are you really coming to me when my loved one is diagnosed with cancer?  Jesus are you really coming to me when money is tight and I worry about having enough for my family?  Jesus are you really coming to me when I start at a new school or new sport and don’t know anyone in my class or on my team? 
We all face the same question, just at different times and places: 
“Jesus, are you really coming to be with me?”
I think the challenge for us, me included, is to be reminded that Jesus is already with us. 
I read this week that “Faith is not being able to walk on the water – only God can do that.  But, faith is daring to believe, in the face of all the evidence, that God is with us in the boat, made real in the community of faith as it makes its way through the storm, battered by waves.”
Let me say that again, “Faith is not being able to walk on the water – only God can do that.  But, faith is daring to believe, in the face of all the evidence, that God is with us in the boat, made real in the community of faith as it makes its way through the storm, battered by waves.”
I won’t ask you to share the storms in your lives today…but I think you know where they are…I think the better question for us all to think about is how does Jesus come to us in the midst of those storms?  Where does Jesus come to you in your life right now? 
In this place alone, Jesus is with us as we hear God’s word, as we sing and pray together and as we come forward for this abundant meal….in this bread and wine, Christ is with us, in abundance, in love, in grace, in comfort and love and support. 
As you come up for this meal today, take a moment to think about God coming to you through this bread and wine.  As you head back to your seats, see the presence of God in the rest of the people gathered here in this place.  These are folks who are with you in the midst of the storms and struggles.  Some may have shared the same experiences while others may offer a listening ear, smile or a hug. 
Let us pray,
Gracious God, in the midst of life’s storms, we look for you.  Help us to see that you are always with us.  We especially pray for the three boys at the Bible study, as they face the storms of loss and change, may they inspire us to share our struggles along the way and be ever reminded that you are with us, in the bread and wine, the Word of God and the community of faith that surrounds us.  And may the peace which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, amen. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Kingdom moment.

So, just a quick post...but a very cool ministry moment. 

I was walking home from a meeting at church and there were some kids hanging out at the church.  A few of them were down near the preschool entrance, so I asked if everything was okay.  They said, one of them was upset, so he was walking away.  I said, yeah, that's a good thing.  I said, just making sure everything is okay.  As I walked away I could hear them echoing me saying 'okay'.  Then one of them said, "That's Pastor Jen."

One of the kids comes to Overtime, where relationships are being built, where community is strengthened, where we begin to see others, and we begin to see how our neighbors are a part of our lives and how we are called to care for one another.

I heard the kingdom breaking in as that boy told his friends who I was.  He helped bridge the gap between the community and the church.  God's name be praised.