Saturday, May 31, 2014

Did i survive? Nope, I thrived.

So, the number one question after last week's annual youth retreat to the Poconos was.... "Did you survive?!?"

At first my answer was...of course!  Here I am.  It was amazing and fun and life giving and filled with all sorts of great adventures and moments.  But as I've had the week to regroup and settle back in to life in Robesonia, my answer has changed.

Part of what changed my answer as a guided devotion at a meeting I attended on Tuesday evening.  The two questions that opened our time together were as follows.
1) What is life giving for you right now?
2) What is life draining for you right now?

As I reflected upon those two questions the big life giver for me in that moment was the Pocono Retreat.  It was a weekend filled with laughter until our sides ached, food until our bellies expanded and relationships deepening with God and with one another.  Talk about a mountaintop experience.
As we freaked out as a mouse ran through the dining hall during our Saturday evening communion service, we also reflected on how we had been FED that day.

After a harsh, snow filled winter, we were fed by God through the gift of a beautiful sunny day where we explored boulder field, and back at camp we played Frisbee, wiffle ball and giant jenga.  We were fed around the table as we ate and talked about our favorite super heroes, how we eat cupcake and whether we'd rather be able to use the force or have light saber fingernails.
We were fed as we learned yoga poses we could incorporate into our prayer lives.
We were fed when we talked about issues and concerns at school and what we could take back to the hallways from this retreat.
We were fed as we played games that encouraged teamwork and helps us get to know each other just a little bit better.
We were fed as the boys met and talked about life and so did the girls and we realized that no matter what we are going through there are others around us going through the same thing...and that there is a core group of youth and adults at church that are here for us no matter what.
We were fed by the amazing beauty of a starry night, only lit by a campfire.
We were fed as a giant luna moth swooped in on our gathering.
We were fed each time someone said the word 'uranus' and we all giggled.

I guess you could say that we survived another retreat.
But I'd rather say that we thrived another retreat.

We thrived in God's beautiful creation, surrounded by the sounds of laughter and conversation.
We thrived being fed by the body of Christ as we gathered together as a worshipping community.
We thrived getting away from the daily grind of school or work to take a weekend to reconnect with God and one another.

We thrived.
We were fed.

We thrived.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Sunday's Sermon

May 11, 2014

Fourth Sunday of Easter


Acts 2:42-47

Psalm 23

1Peter 2:19-25

John 10:1-10


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 ancient romans started it when they coined the phrase ‘carpe diem’….sieze the day!  


The phrase made a comeback in 1989 when Robin Williams re-introduced it to his students in the film Dead Poet’s Society.  As the Dead Poets Society gathered at their meetings, they began with a reading from Henry David Thoreau,


“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately.  To live deep and to suck all the marrow out of life.  to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”  


Maybe you’re a part of the boomer generation…and have your own ‘bucket list.’  You know, things you want to do before you kick the bucket.  


When the musical Rent appeared on the scene in the 2005, we shifted to say, “No day but today.”  And now, if you think about seizing the day….the four letter word of YOLO is the one that is most commonly used.  You only live once.  


And this phrase is commonly used with …. FOMO.  Anyone?  Anyone?  Fear of Missing Out.  


I heard the comedian Aziz Ansari a week ago in Boston, and he talked about how things today are different than they were back in the day.  


Back in the day, you’d pick up the phone, call your friend and say, hey, let’s hang out tonight at 8.  I’ll meet you at the park.  You’d say great.  See you there.  


And if your friend didn’t show up….it’s because they died.  There was no other reason.  


Today…you get a text about meeting up and going to the zoo with a friend…and you are hesitant.  You don’t want to miss out on what could be the next best opportunity….you want to keep all avenues open.  You hesitate to make plans, because something better might come up.  


Picture this, you decide to go the zoo when you get a text from a another friend who says… I’ve been trying to call!  I have free passes to ride on the next space shuttle launch and I want you to come.  We leave in 5 minutes…where are you?  You respondsadly….I’m at the sloth exhibit.  


It seems there is so much out there that we want to do everything that is the most awesome and amazing experience, but that means missing out on some other opportunities….we want to seize the day.  


Have you ever seized the day?  

Have you ever lived like there was not tomorrow?  

Have you ever done something, simply because you only live once?  


You probably have, because no matter what our age, we are trying to add meaning to or wring the most out of every day.  When you’re young, it’s pub-crawls and taking selfies, when you’re older it’s skydiving in Hawaii, writing a book and finding ways to incorporate more fiber into your diet!  You only love once!


Here’s the thing.  In our gospel lesson today, Jesus affirms our desire to lead a full life.  

I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”


In contrast to all that would rob us of life -- the thieves and bandits he mentions -- Jesus comes to give, not just life, but life in abundance. Not just survival, that is, but flourishing; not just getting by, but thriving; not just existence, but joy. Jesus offersmore life than most of us imagine possible.


It’s a promise that we are longing to hear…in a life and world where we crave excitement, freedom and fullness….Jesus promises it to us.  


This is the abundant life we hear about in 1 Peter.  “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”


We are not to be afraid of this freedom given to us through Jesus Christ.  It’s a holy gift.  Free from sin and death, we are able to live lives of service and love for others.  That’s seizing the day!  That’s something worth putting on your bucket list.  


It’s living a life to its fullest…NOT worrying about missing out on something better, but seizing each day to be the unique, amazing person that God created you and continues to call you to be.  


Bill Copeland wrote, “How strange to use “You only live once” as an excuse to throw it all away.”  In this freedom in Christ we are giving an AMAZING opportunity:  to see God at work in our world every day and to be a living breathing part of God’s work in the world here and now.  


In my former parish in Indiana, there was a man who truly struggled with God’s grace being a free gift.  He kept saying, okay, so if it really is free….we don’t have to do anything.  


I struggled to come up with analogies or ways to say, I guess that’s one response to God’s grace….but it’s not a very life giving one.  How can we, just sit on this amazing gift.  One that gives us hope in the midst of hopelessness, one that gives us strength when we feel weak.  One that reveals joy in times of sorrow.  How is this a message that we can just keep to ourselves?  


Think about living out this abundant life….and what it looks like in our world today.  For someone struggling with their job, it may be support and understanding from friends.  For someone questioning their faith, it could be friends and family sharing stories of God at work in their own lives.  For the hungry and homeless it’s the opportunity to be fed through the food pantry and community meals.  For those lost and alone, it is our voiceswho speak to their recovery and spirit.  


This abundant life that Jesus gives will look different for each and everyone of us.  To live life to it’s fullest, we don’t all have to jump out of an airplane shouting YOLO!  But we may have the opportunity to do things that do stretch us out of our comfort zones to see God at work in new in different places.  


It may be volunteering to spend a Friday night with several hundred youth at a 5th quarter.  

It may be preparing and sharing a shelter meal.

It may be volunteering to teach Sunday school.  


Living this live to its fullest…seizing it each and  every day is an opportunity to see God at work in our midst and allow ourselves to be a part of what God is up to in this world.  “No one says on his or her deathbed, ‘You know, I probably should have been more boring.’”


Following Jesus satisfies our sense of, and thirst for adventure.  We have the opportunity to listen for the call of God and to lay it out there for this cause.  God invites us to get up, gear up and get out into the world….to make a difference, to make God’s world known in this world.  


It’s something we have the opportunity to do every day.  And God has given each of us the gifts and skills to do this.  So go….


Sieze the day!  Live out this gift of abundant life!  


And may the peace, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say amen.