Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Coming back.

So, last week I was sick.  I made it through work, but took a hiatus from the gym. 

I was nervous about returning after being gone for a week.  I was even practicing telling people that I was sick, which was true.  I guess I felt guilty about being away from my workout community.  I realized as I've been back twice now this week, that the reason for my absence didn't really matter.  People were just happy to see me. 

I wonder if that's how it is with church, too.  When we've been away a while, even with a myriad of different reasons why, we tend to get nervous upon our return.  We may practice what we will say, especially if we see church people outside of church like at the grocery store or the bank. 

Truth is, I think I felt guilt because I missed being at the gym and I know that a regular workout routine is good for me (mind, body and spirit). 

Truth is, maybe we feel guild when we're away from church because we miss it, too.  Maybe we know that reconnecting with our family of faith, sharing in a meal (of bread and wine) and praying together is something that is good for us. 

Because of a trip to see family in New England, I was away from Trinity this past weekend. 

I reconnected with many folks at our ABO Luncheon on Monday.  Someone said, "It just wasn't church without you."  My knee jerk reaction to that was...but it's not about me.  Church is still church, even if one of your pastors isn't there. 

But then I thought about it some more. 

In a way it is about me (and you).  It's about all of us who make up the body of Christ.  It may not feel like church when fellow sisters and brothers are not there to meet and greet us, to share the peace and to share in the Lord's Supper together.  It may not feel the same, but it is still church.  And who we are, as members of the Body of Christ, is to be the church no matter where we are. 

So be the church wherever you are, but know this:  When you are not worshipping with the congregation that you connect with and call your family of faith, they miss you.  There is something a little off when those we love, care for and wish to see are not with us. 

So if you have been away, I take this time to welcome you back to your family of faith (wherever it may be) and know that they have missed you and will be happy to see you again. 

You don't have to practice the reasons why you have been away....most likely folks will just say, "I'm happy to see you." or "We've missed you." or "We're glad you're here." 

Just come.  Worship.  Pray.  Eat.  Be with one another.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Go in peace, keep your shirts on.

Yesterday's sermon, although it was slightly different at each service.  :)
August 11, 2013
12th Sunday after Pentecost
Genesis 15:1-6
Psalm 33:12-22
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
Luke 12:32-40

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, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen. 

The Message translation of Luke 12:32-40.

Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself.

"Be generous. Give to the poor. Get yourselves a bank that can’t go bankrupt, a bank in heaven far from bank robbers, safe from embezzlers, a bank you can bank on.  It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.

"Keep your shirts on; keep the lights on!  Be like house servants waiting for their master to come back from his honeymoon, awake and ready to open the door when he arrives and knocks.  Lucky the servants whom the master finds on watch! He’ll put on an apron, sit them at the table, and serve them a meal, sharing his wedding feast with them.  It doesn’t matter what time of the night he arrives; they’re awake-and so blessed!  "You know that if the house owner had known what night the burglar was coming, he wouldn’t have stayed out late and left the place unlocked.  So don’t you be slovenly and careless. Just when you don’t expect him, the Son of Man will show up."

I love this version of our text for this week, and okay, this text has lots for us to think about and wrestle with, but I love the verse on the cover of our bulletin.  Be dressed for action!  And in the passage I just read from Eugene Peterson’s translation called The Message, keep your shirts on! 
But what does that mean really? 

What does it mean to be dressed for action?  It’s hard to think about what that means for ourselves.  When we think about being dressed for action, we probably think of this guy, right? 

Clark Kent, aka Superman, dressed and ready for action at any given moment.

We may not think of these guys, Chas, Ari and Uzi Tenenbaum. 
Chas, the father was a child prodigy who was wearing 3 piece suits at the age of 7.  That is no longer his outfit of choice.  You see, in the film, The Royal Tenenbaums, Chas’ wife died in a plane crash, where he and his boys miraculously survived.  He and his boys now don matching red gyms suits so at any given moment they can run and escape danger!

And then there’s this guy. 
You may know Vector from the first Despicably me movie, in his “warm up suit”. 

See Vector explain his outfit here. :)

Apparently, some folks confuse the warm up suit for pajamas.  In any case, Vector wants to be ready to action. 

So what does it mean for us to be dressed for action? 

Hearing Jesus telling his disciples to be dressed for action we wonder what that means for us here and now.   

As a baptized child of God, what are we wearing every day? 

The Greek of verse 35 reads: "the loins having been girded," but this phrase means nothing to us non-loin wearing people. Originally it meant tying up around the waist the lower parts of one's robe so as to be ready to run. How do we express this phrase in English so that it is faithful to the original and makes sense to 21st century Americans?  That's a problem that translators face.  Some translations read: "be dressed for action;" "be dressed ready for service;" "Be ready." and  "Keep your shirts on." These are all ways of understanding and "translating" into understandable English the phrase: "girding one's loins."  However it is paraphrased, it means to be prepared for action.

Often times when we think about being prepared, it calls us to think about an actual time when Jesus will return.  But I’ve got something to tell you friends; Jesus is here among us every single day of our lives.  We are called and challenged to live in this world here and now and to see God at work in our lives through the love of the gift of Jesus on the cross. 
Being ready for Jesus’ second coming is less about any actual time and place and more about imagining Jesus’ activity in the world, when and where you least expect it or imagine seeing it.

( I preached this sermon Saturday night, I looked out to see a man in the back row with his hands by his head making silly faces.  He was doing so to a baby in the pew in front of him.  As it made me smile, it was also an example of the least likely place to see Jesus at work in the world, but that's exactly what it was.) 

In other words, waiting around, waiting for instructions, is not going to cut it. Fear, treasure, and being prepared is the pattern for discipleship. Being without fear, knowing the source of your treasure -- that is, your identity, your worth -- makes it possible to be prepared for and an actual participant in God’s kingdom. – (Lewis)
We are ready for action….in whatever we are wearing…we are active participants in God’s kingdom here and now. 

If you’re still wondering what to wear, here are a few options. 

Last summer over 27,000 Lutheran Youth wore these shirts around New Orleans as part of the National Youth Gathering. 

They wore them as they served the people through clean up, painting, working with kids and engaging in conversations and building relationships.  As we moved and worked, we saw our faith as a living thing.  We were active participants in God’s kingdom here and now. 
It’s fun to see these shirts at different youth gatherings and camps across Pennsylvania, knowing that each of us served together, bringing God’s love and work through our hands to the people and city of New Orleans. 

While these shirts were just for that one event, here’s a shirt you may want for yourself. 

God's work. Our hands Sunday is an opportunity to celebrate our 25th anniversary as the Evangelical Lutheran church in America - one church, freed in Christ to serve and love our neighbor. 
We are a church that rolls up our sleeves and gets to work. On Sept., 8, 2013, let's join together as 4 million members, nearly 10,000 congregations, 65 synods and the churchwide expression for a dedicated day of service.

Let's clean up neighborhoods, deliver meals, collect supplies for refugees overseas, visit our neighbors or help a child learn to read.

We work every day to welcome our neighbors and make our community a better place. Now we will do it together as one body, using our hands to do God's work of restoring and reconciling communities in Jesus Christ’s name throughout the world.

We have the opportunity on September 8, to join with other churches in the ELCA to serve our communities…to be active participants in God’s kingdom here and now.  We will be talking with organizations in town to see where our hands and hearts can be put to work to serve our neighbors.  So save that date for that Sunday afternoon…and get ready to roll up your sleeves.  We are participants in God’s kingdom. 

We will be prepared.  We will keep our shirts on! 
We will respond to God’s abundant love and grace in our lives through service to our neighbors and community.  People of all ages will come together in works of service toward others. 

In the meantime, God’s kingdom is still an active place.   Keep your eyes open for places of experiencing God at work in the most unexpected places.  Look for ways for you to be an active participant in God’s kingdom today and everyday. 
Share those experiences with others and talk about the amazing things happening in God’s world with others around you. 

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.