Thursday, September 20, 2012

feeling disappointed?

I had the opportunity to preach at Crossfire (our contemporary worship service) last night. 

Here's the sermon....and then a few thoughts that I have had since....

16th Sunday after Pentecost
Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm 116:1-9
James 3:1-12
Mark 8:27-38

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. 

There is just something about Peter, isn’t there?  It often seems to me that he is the disciple that I most often connect with.  Maybe it’s his humanity…or his ability in one moment to see Jesus clearly for who he is….the Messiah….and in the next moment, try to make that Messiah fit his mold. 

Because try as I might, I can see God at work in our world, I can show others where God is working, but in the same breath, I can wonder why God is doing what God is doing, or should I say, be disappointed in the way in which God is at work. 

It’s easy to have expectations of God, isn’t it?  Just like Peter did.  Yes we know of God’s all-embracing love and grace for the world, but we want it according to our specifications, our expectations, our needs.  Yes, just like Peter, we have a hard time coming to terms with the Jesus we want and the Jesus we need. 

You see, we can connect with Peter’s strong reaction to Jesus’ prediction of his fate: He simple cannot imagine that the Messiah will suffer, let alone be killed.  His shock is so great, that he can’t even hear the part about rising on the third day…all Peter can hear is the word….that the Messiah…the one who has come to save us….will be killed, so he protests and is rebuked. 

Who’s to say that we don’t feel that way, too?  When we voice our disappointments with God?  We think that it’s wrong to doubt God….and that we are wrong when we do doubt God.  Some of us may have even been taught that it is wrong to voice those disappointments or those frustrations. 

Peter’s reaction is a natural one.  When faced with the idea and hearing the words, that the Messiah would be put to death, he did not want to hear it.  He wanted it not to be true….and he tells Jesus this.

Would we, or could we have acted any differently?  To hear about the God of heaven and earth, who was sent to save Israel and the world by dying on a cross?  No way!  Can’t be true.  God wouldn’t do that. 

We don’t want a God, a Messiah, a savior who will rise from the dead.  We want one that doesn’t die in the first place.   

We still, as sinful human beings, crave and want a God to be alive and active in our lives that fits into our needs and definitions.  We still, to this day, struggle with understanding a God who comes to us in the weakest and murkiest of places….and one whose power is seen in dying on a cross. 

It is a struggle we face every day….especially when things aren’t going the way we think they should.  When we learn that a brother of Christ takes ill in Alaska and he and his wife are so far away from friends and family, it is okay to ask God why this is happening….when we experience breakdowns in families that sometimes end in broken homes….when we lose a job….when a career takes us far from those whom we love….when a child is harmed on the sports field….or any other number of disappointments.  When things don’t meet our expectations, there will be disappointment.  In life, with people around us….and with God.   And that’s okay. 

What I’d like us to do now is take a moment to wrestle, if you will, with those disappointments.  Take a slip of paper and write down a time when you’ve been disappointed with God….upset with God….maybe even let down by God. 

We will not be sharing these aloud…and there is no need to feel ashamed or embarrassed….it’s okay to express your disappointment. 

So take a few minutes to think about that time and to jot it down…..

(If you're reading this online....I invite you to pause and think of a disappointment and write it down.)
As you think about that time, remember that God can hear and can take your disappointment.  And remember, too, that God has promised to meet you in those disappointments and stay with you until you and all of us….until we come out onto the other side of disappointment to resurrected faith. 

Some days we’re walking in the light and promise of the resurrection….and other days that promise seems beyond our grasp.  So until that day, when we all walk in that resurrection light, let me say this, that the pastoral staff here will be praying for you, supporting you….and giving thanks for you in our prayers. 

Because that’s who we are as the Body of Christ….we are community.  So often when disappointment sets in, we alienate ourselves….we remove ourselves from community and turn in on ourselves.  Yet it is through this community that God is at work.  It is in this community of faith that we are loved, encouraged, supported, held up, and not ever let go. 

So as we wrap up this time in our service….I invite you to fold up your paper, write your name on it and come forward, place it in the basket, and we will circle around the basket in prayer together.  

At the end of the service, if you wish to take your slip of paper home with you,  you may….if you wish you may leave them in the basket and the Vicar and myself will lift up your disappointments in our prayers this week.  Anything shared with us will remain confidential.   

Come, let’s pray. 


That was the end of the sermon as we circled around the basket and we prayed about our disappointments and other concerns in our hearts that night. 

As worship continued, there were times of smiles and times of tears, times of joyous singing and times of silence.  The sanctuary was a holy place last night. 

I was reminded of that holiness this morning as I sat at my desk and opened my day in prayer as I opened the folded pieces of paper in the basket.  As I lift up those names in prayer this week, I pray for others in our community as well, for the struggles and disappointments that people are facing each day.  May each of us be reminded that it's okay to be disappointed and that God is in the midst of the disappointment all the time....

If you have disappointments you wish to share in a prayerful way, please leave me a message, email me at church, or leave a note in my office. 

Holding you in prayer....

Monday, September 17, 2012

highs and lows...

Yesterday, at the end of the Sunday School hour, I had the opportunity to sit in with the 7-12th grade class.  I arrived just in time for the sharing of highs and lows.  As we went around the room (filled with 19 youth!) we heard about life, about school, about joys and struggles that we had experienced within the last week. 

When it got to me, I was ready for my low:  My root canal.  It was easy to come up with it, because it is still so fresh in my mind...although, I have to admit, the roughest part was waiting for the Novocaine.  (I'm such a wimp!)  As several days have since passed, my mouth feels just fine.  (phew) 

The high that I shared was from Saturday, when I was blessed to spend the day with Rosalie...we crafted, decorated, made pizza, ice cream floats and rice crispie treats.  A stellar day....which was topped with the discovery that drinking a float with 2 straws is much better than just one! 

I realized, in hindsight, that I had many other experiences that I could have shared with the group. 
Last Thursday I had one of those all encompassing ministry afternoons. 

I was preparing myself for a meeting with Paige to hear about her senior project which was a reflection on her trip to the National Youth Gathering in New Orleans this past summer.  (It was just July, but it feels like it happened a year ago.)  As I sat listening to her reflection on the experience I was moved to tears.  This trip was truly a life-changing experience for her.  She shared experiences and words from the speakers that have touched her heart and are calling her to let Christ's light make a difference in the world.  She is an amazing young woman with so many gifts to share with her community and the world....and this past summer she had the opportunity to hear that she is a child of God and is called to be a living part of God's world.  (How amazingly awesome is that?!?!) 

As Paige left I had the opportunity to talk with a parishioner who is currently in Alaska.  Her husband has taken ill and is in the hospital.  As we talked and prayed...I tried to offer comfort and hope to her over the phone as she sits on the other side of the country.  It is so hard to face challenges on our own...even with strong family ties and strong ties to their family of faith here at Trinity, sometimes we still feel alone.  I continue to pray that they feel and see God's presence in their lives in the midst of the challenges they are facing right now.  As I hung up the phone I was in tears....I wanted to reach through the phone lines and just hug her and be with her. 

These are those moments...full of joy or full of struggle, that I not only face in ministry, but that all of us face in life.  Maybe they aren't literally back to back, but each of us sees and experiences highs and lows....and moments where God's presence is crystal clear in the moment....and other times when we are led to ask why things happen the way they do....and why there isn't something I can do or God can do to make it all better right away. 

Whatever those moments may be....and whenever they happen to you....may you know of God's presence in your life....and be reminded that you are not alone. 

***I should also add that after the Sunday School class shared highs and lows, they prayed together. If you have the opportunity to share highs and lows with your family or friends, I encourage you to end that time in prayer for one share those joys and struggles with one another and with God. 


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sunday's sermon

14th Sunday after Pentecost
September 2, 2012

Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9
Psalm 15
James 1:17-27
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

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. 

There’s an old story, from the days before eHarmony and Christian Mingle, of a man and a woman who meet and fall in love by mail. 

After months of correspondence, the two of them agree to a rendezvous; he will travel to her city, and they will meet for the first time at a train station.  Because they’ve never exchanged photographs, each of them has no idea what the other looks like.  So, they agree on a simple visual code:  She will wear a green scarf, a green hat and a green carnation. 

As the man gets off the train, he begins looking for the one he loves.  Eagerly scanning the crowd,  his eye lights upon a woman with a green hat, green scarf and green carnation. 

In the instant of recognition, the man’s heart sinks: for this is truly one of the most homely, unattractive women he’s ever laid eyes on.  He very nearly walks off without speaking a word – but, he has come this fair, and she is expecting him, so he introduces himself.

“Am I glad to see you!” the women responds.  “Can you tell me what this whole thing is about?  That woman over there gave me twenty dollars to wear these things.” And there, on a bench, sits the most beautiful woman the man has ever seen.  Later, she explains that, all her life, men have fallen over themselves to get to her, only to become tongue-tied in her presence – and all because of her looks.  “I want someone to love me not for my outward appearance,” she confesses, “but because I’m beautiful inside.” 

So there we were, sitting on the floor in a circle in Assembly Hall at camp Nawakwa this summer.  I was in the middle of Bible Study with a group of 16 girls in fourth through sixth grades.  As we sat in the circle, we went around the group sharing something that all of us had in common.  We went through the basics, we’re all girls, we’re all at camp, we’re all in Assembly Hall, and then we made it to Audrey, who without even skipping a beat said, “We’re all beautiful.” 

In that moment, sitting on a dusty floor, the gospel was preached. 

Through the words of a 12 year old, we were each reminded who God created us to be…and that our beauty shines through when the message of a loving God is shared with others through words and through our actions. 

In our reading from James this day, seems to call all of its hearers to task.  The verse that jumps out and is printed on the front of our bulletin is, “Be doers of the word.”  But what does that mean for us here and now? 

This is where James can sometimes get tricky.  Martin Luther had concern over the connections that the writer of James made between good works and the grace of God.  For us as Lutherans, we understand grace as a gift, a free gift (no strings attached) from God.  There is nothing that we can do….no amount of ‘good and righteous’ works that will cause God’s grace to flow upon us. 

God’s free gift of grace was given to us in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

So what does that mean for us?  Knowing that we are loved….knowing that we are saved by grace alone…..what then? 

Do we just sit on our laurels in thanks and praise to God and hope that the rest of the world hears this message as well? 

We are encouraged, not just to hear the word…but to be doers of the word…

How are we different people because of this great gift from God? 

How do people see that we are marked and claimed and sent by what we do and say each and every day? 

What does it mean to be doers of the word? 

Is it like the cover of our bulletin, that shows children reading the Bible?   

Here are other pictures that would easily show people being doers of the word. 

It can happen at camp, like it did for many thousands of youth this summer.   

Or the city of New Orleans……as it did in July. 

Martin Luther said, “Our faith is a living, busy, active, mighty thing."

I began the sermon with stories about being beautiful.  In the first, the woman was worried that her outer beauty would keep someone from seeing her inner beauty.  In the second, we don’t know if she was talking about inner or outer beauty…..but she saw us all as beautiful.  
You see, it's not about our outer beauty....letting the Word of God fall upon us and just rest upon us.  It's about letting people see us as beings that God created us to be....changed through the gift of God's grace in Jesus Christ....

I think that’s part of who God calls us to be in this world.  To see outside of ourselves….to not be concerned with how we look, or what we are wearing or about our size and shape….but to be able to see beyond ourselves.  Being able to put up a mirror in front of ourselves with the opportunity to see those who are around us, our neighbors, the people in our community and in our world who are hungry, homeless, sick or hurting.  To be able to see those around us to whom we can share God’s love and God’s grace with our own hands and feet and words. 

It’s safe to say that we have all had those moments, when someone has spoken to us, or done something for us and we have seen God at work in that person.  Because the action wasn’t about that man or woman, but it was about loving and serving their neighbor. 

Our faith is a living, busy, active, mighty thing…..we are doers of the word. 

In what way do you show others your faith? 

In what way do others know of a caring and loving God because of ways that you are able to see beyond yourself? 

Take time this week to see beyond yourself….to look into a mirror….to see the one who Jesus loves….and to see how and where God calls you to be at work and at play living and breathing your faith to those around you. 

May all of our words and actions make even just the slightest ripple in our community and our world this week 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, September 3, 2012

Fall is here?

I received my October copy of Every Day with Rachael Ray this weekend.  Yeah, October....early, right?  The good news with it coming now is that it has many, many suggestions for pumpkin usage....both as food and as decorations!  I do enjoy fall....the cool days and even cooler evenings. 
There are at least 5 new recipes I'm ready to try....I'm hoping with a month's jump start on October that I'll actually get some seasonal decorations up and seasonal eats in my belly :)   


Sunday, September 2, 2012


So yesterday was International Bacon Day!  Yay for bacon!

Last night my fiancee and I made bacon brownies and bacon oatmeal breakfast cookies with maple glaze.  We ate one of each last night....and truth be told.  I'm having one of these for breakfast:

They have oatmeal.....and bacon!  That makes breakfast, right?
Maybe I should have a glass of milk, too.

A good morning to everyone!