Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Giving thanks.

It's that time of year, when we specifically think about giving thanks. 
In less than a week, we will be (if we aren't already) surrounded by Christmas carols, store sales and the hustle and bustle of the approaching Christmas season.  Yet, in this week, before the season of Advent begins, we have time to pause and give thanks. 

I am so thankful for a wonderful weekend.  My parents came down from Connecticut to surprise my sister as she ran the Philadelphia marathon.  They arrived on Friday evening and we enjoyed making dinner in the new kitchen, talking and just catching up. 

Saturday I ran a little with my mom, and she and dad ran a bit on their own. (At that point I was struggling with a cold, and if the daily meds couldn't get rid of it I was hoping to run it out of my system! Alas, that did not work.)

Saturday afternoon I had the pleasure of swapping ornaments and enjoying a late afternoon tea with some of the ladies at Trinity.  Such wonderful fellowship as we gathered around the table to talk and to laugh. 

Saturday evening I was able to worship with my family.  Billy, mom, dad and I worshiped together and enjoyed some fellowship at church before heading home for a family dinner. 

We were up super early on Sunday to make it into Philadelphia before they closed the roads around the race route at 6am.  We made it to the race start to meet up with my sister pre-race.  I also ran into Darrell and his kids before the start.  Isn't that a wild thing?  Thousands of runners and spectators and I run into folks from Trinity!  Crazy, but wonderful.  I was able to look for and spot Allison a few times during the race.  Fun times! 

Post-race....the whole family went to a funky Irish restaurant in Philadelphia for dinner.  As we gathered around that tiny table, we were together....celebrating family and marathon runners...giving thanks for that opportunity to all be together for that brief moment in time.  Who knows when we will gather together again.  Mom and dad hope to come down for Christmas, but my sister will be with her husband's family up in New Hampshire.  And that's the way family works.  There are times and places that we are blessed to be together and other times when we are apart.  But for those times we are together, I give thanks to God, for safe travels, for the opportunity for each of us to have time off, for the gift of time to be together. 

As this Thanksgiving draws near, I am thankful to God for so many things.  For safe travels throughout the year.  For my family at Trinity who has welcomed me in and continues to support and nurture me. For the opportunity for my family to see my joy and happiness. For the opportunity to run 13.1 miles with my mom.  For the opportunity to meet someone special and share many fun times together.  For the opportunity to be apart of the ministry that God is so busy with at Trinity.  For the opportunities for new and wonderful things in the coming year.

For what do you give thanks?

Take time to pause this Thanksgiving...around the table....with friends and family...to give thanks to God for all the blessings that have been bestowed upon you.  They are bountiful.  They are wonderful.  May we all continue to be blessed by God in the coming years....


Monday, November 7, 2011

Remembering all the saints...then and now.

November 6, 2011
All Saints Sunday

Revelation 7:9-17
Psalm 34:1-10, 22
1 John 3:1-3
Matthew 5:1-12

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. 

1 What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we're called children of God! That's who we really are. But that's also why the world doesn't recognize us or take us seriously, because it has no idea who he is or what he's up to.
 2-3But friends, that's exactly who we are: children of God. And that's only the beginning. Who knows how we'll end up! What we know is that when Christ is openly revealed, we'll see him—and in seeing him, become like him. All of us who look forward to his Coming stay ready, with the glistening purity of Jesus' life as a model for our own.
That’s it really.  We are children of God!  God love us!  God saves us!  We go on to live and love others in that glory.  Amen.

Just kidding…In a nut shell, it is that simple.  That in this passage, we hear that we are God’s children.  That God loves and saves us.  That God loves us so much, that before we were here, God sent Jesus into the world, to live with us, to teach us and to die for us. 

Pastor Bill often says in confirmation (and perhaps even first communion) that your parents are the only ones in your life who will take a bullet for you.  Maybe I didn’t get the quote just right, but you get the idea, that a parent’s love for a child is like no other. 

A parent’s love for a child has nothing to do with how the child acts or how the child behaves.  That love is there…it is constant…it is never-ending….no matter what.  It is the love that naturally flows out of a parent’s heart. 

I would be na├»ve if that meant that all experiences between parents and their children were happy and smooth and easy and involved no arguments or fights.  If you are a parent or a child, you know that the relationship isn’t perfect.  In reality, we are human, we do our best to be the best that we can, but we mess up, we make mistakes, we fall short of being the amazing people that God calls us to be. 

But that’s the amazing thing about being children of God, God loves us for who we are, for who God created us to be….even if were aren’t acting up to our full potential.  Do you get that?  That God’s love is all encompassing and all embracing…so that at our best moments and at our worst, God continues to love us and save us no matter what. 
It’s not about how many good deeds we can do so we ‘qualify’ for God’s love.  But it’s about opening ourselves up to receive the love that God gives…which then flows out of us. 
We are a fallen humanity.  We are sinful beings.  We confess that at the beginning of worship together….only to be graced with the unconditional love of God as we step up to this table.  Just like children being called in from playtime outside to the dinner table, we are called together, to this table. 

Remember with me, if you will….back in the day.  Long, warm summer days.  Playing outside in the yard or the neighborhood with your friends.  You’d all be outside playing ball, tag, riding bikes, or jumping rope…perhaps even drawing creations on the sidewalk and driveway with chalk.  And then you hear your name….mom or dad is calling you in for dinner.  You hear similar shouts throughout the neighborhood…the names of your friends being called in…from a time of play, to a time to share a meal around the table with family.  And no doubt you said….Coming! 

Because who around here, in Berks county especially, would not answer positively when called to a meal?  When called, we respond. 

That’s exactly what happens in this place and at this table. 
Just as you have been called in to the table by mom or dad or grandma or grandpa as you grew up….God still calls us to this table.  To this meal of bread and wine.  A simple meal that strengthens us and nourishes us for service and love in the world around us. 

It is God who invited us to this table through the waters of baptism…and it is God who calls us this day to this place….It is God’s words calling…let us give thanks to the Lord our God and you all say “Coming!!! As you respond with it is right to give our thanks and praise.”  It is you who reply…with the whole company of heaven and with all the saints who have gone before us. 

As we gather together to celebrate All Saints Day.  We remember those who have gone before us.  Who are already at the heavenly banquet….they answer God’s call, and sing with us too….this is the time when our voices unite who those who have sung with us on earth…we sing together with all the saints…with all who have gone before us…with…
We also remember, this All Saints Day, that we, too are called as Saints…to this table.  To celebrate this Holy Meal with those who surround us now, and those who have gone before us. 

As you come forward for communion this day, you are invited to take space around you at the railing…to allow space for those saints who have gone before us to join us at this feast.  Take time at the railing to remember the meals you shared with them…at this table and at others.  May our time at this table today, remind us of all who have gone before us in the faith, all the Children of God who are in God’s heavenly home. 

And  as you depart from this table…I invite you see the saints around you in this place…those who live and journey with us now.  Those who are not yet in this space who have yet to hear of God’s love and grace…of those who have yet to join us at the Lord’s Table…or those who have not graced God’s table in a month, a few months a year or more…take time this week to pray for, to call and to invite those saints back into our midst.

At this table is a place for you. 
At this table is forgiveness, grace and love, for you. 
And there is room at this table, for all. 

Until that day, when we are all united with all the saints who have gone before us, let us celebrate this meal, this foretaste of the great feast to come. 
May it strengthen those who are weak. 
May it comfort those who mourn.
May it offer forgiveness to all.
And may it strengthen in us, our call to invite others to this table, to share that same love and grace that God has bestowed upon us. 

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.