Tuesday, November 25, 2014

not sure yet...

I've spent the day in prayer, in scripture, in the news and (probably most importantly) in community. 

I tried to wrap my mind around the news from Ferguson as I headed to the gym first thing this morning.  It was hard to clear my mind for yoga, but when I was finally able to, I was thankful for a moment of peace and focus. 

Because then I hit the elliptical and kept seeing headlines and images splattered across the TV screens.  With no volume I was thankful to chat with folks around me about other things.  The images of riots brought tears to my eyes.  They frighten me.  I am scared when people act out of anger and fear in ways that do harm to people or places.

The community of people I know at the gym were a light in the darkness this morning. 

As I ran simple errands, I gave thanks to God that stores were open, that I felt safe in my community and that I could have a long conversation with the woman who lives on the farm where I buy my produce spring through fall.  We talked about Thanksgiving plans with our families and potential travels.  The farm stand closes up tomorrow...and I will drive by through the winter...eagerly awaiting the reopening in the spring. 

The woman at the farm, her family and their livelihood was a light in the darkness this morning. 

As I did some reading and preparation the sermon this weekend, I was thankful that we are entering into the season of Advent.  A time when we acknowledge the darkness, yet await the coming of the light that breaks into the darkness knowing that the darkness cannot comprehend it.  Yet in the midst of the waiting, we also look for the glimpses of light we see in our homes, in our lives, in our communities and in our world this and every day. 

The joys of preaching bring with it the proclamation of good news. 

The challenges of preaching bring with it how we as a people of faith live our lives in a broken, hurting world, fighting injustices, giving a voice to the voiceless, and loving our neighbor (and our enemy) as ourselves. 

How do we as people of faith watch and wait? 

How do we as a people of faith respond to injustice?  Violence? Pain?  Hatred?  Fear? 

May the light of Christ shine in your midst this day. 

Gracious God,
You hold us in the palm of your hand.
Don't drop us.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Christ the King Sermon

Before you get into this week's sermon, you should know that a parishioner sent me this picture last week...

I couldn't get the song out of my head. 
I downloaded it from iTunes.  
I played with some of the lyrics and sent it to some clergy friends for insight and suggestions.  (My thanks and possible apologies to Meghan Trainor for inspiration.) 

November 23, 2014
Christ the King
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
Psalm 95:1-7a
Ephesians 1:15-23
Matthew 25:31-46

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. 

Here we are, on Christ the King Sunday.  We recognize Christ as our king, our sovereign, the one who has claim on our lives…and we wonder, does this king, have specific criteria that earn his favor? 

It seems like this passage from Matthew lays out specific things we can do….and when they are done, we enter into eternal life.  It’s a passage that makes us wonder…what can I do…what can we do, to gain eternal life. 

And…in this passage, Jesus suggests six things: 
How we treat the hungry...
How we treat the thirsty…
How we welcome the stranger…
How we clothe the needy…
How we take care of the sick…
And how we visit the prisoner….

Well, tackle those six thing and you should be good to go. 

Not so much, right? 

Because here’s the thing, we don’t understand eternal life and God’s grace as something we can earn by doing things.  God’s grace…eternal life in the kingdom is something that is given to us by God…and there is nothing NOTHING we can or can’t do to earn that grace. 

Are you with me here?  God’s grace is not something we can earn.  We can't   get closer to the kingdom through doing good works.   God’s love and grace is a gift, a free gift that comes down to us. 

But it’s not about climbing the ladder…it’s more the fact that the ladder isn't even there.  Are you getting this?  It’s not about climbing closer to heaven based on the good works we do…it’s really all about God coming down to us.

So it may be simple to hear this passage and think…follow those six steps and we will just climb up that ladder to the kingdom.   But really…it’s not about the ladder…

You see,
It’s all about dat grace, bout dat grace, no ladders.
It’s all about dat grace, bout dat grace, no ladders.
It’s all about dat grace, bout dat grace, no ladders.
It’s all about dat grace, bout dat grace, grace, grace grace…

Yeah it’s pretty clear, what we’re supposed to do                                
But we can’t make it, make it                   
Left up to what we do        
See God has that room room for all of God’s people
With all of our faults and all of our failures
I hear what Jesus says, talkin about sheep and goats
We know we try our best                         
Sometimes we miss the boat        
We are all sinner saints, don’t try to hide it,
cause God knows we are imperfect
from the bottom to the top

Yeah, the gospel it tells me to think about what I do
It says, to care about others and not just about you
Yet try as I might, it is hard to always do right
So I’m thankful for God’s love and grace that keeps me alive…

(you sing it…)
It’s all about dat grace, bout dat grace, no ladders.
It’s all about dat grace, bout dat grace, no ladders.
It’s all about dat grace, bout dat grace, no ladders.
It’s all about dat grace, bout dat grace, grace, grace grace…

So hopefully it’s clear…that it’s all about God’s grace…so what about those good works?  Well we don’t have to do them to earn God’s grace, but it sure does make a difference to how we live together in community, doesn’t it? 

And we do that by living our lives out of our baptismal call.

We are called…

To live among God’s faithful people,
To hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s Supper,
To proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed,
To serve all people following the example of Jesus,
and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth. 

We are to live out the justice that God intends…serving each needy person who is Christ-for-us…

Matthew’s emphasis on obedience can be forbidding.

If we get hung up on our baptismal call as something we MUST do to earn God’s grace, then we have failed.  We know even as we try our best that we will not be able to always think about others and not about ourselves. 

If this passage makes you worry or makes you wonder whether you’re a sheep or a goat…it’s because we hear the judgment that we have not always lived out our baptismal calling.  But the reality is that we will miss opportunities to live out our baptismal call. 

In my previous congregation there was a woman who worried about missing opportunities to serve God.  At the end of the day she would wonder about what more she could have done throughout the day to serve others.  It’s almost as if she lost sight of why she was serving others and was now focused on how much she was doing each day. 

You will miss opportunities…but more will be revealed.

Because God is at work in the world and continues to call us each and every day. 

So here’s the thing…

It’s Christ the King Sunday…it’s the last Sunday of the church year. 

Next week, we begin a new year, with the season of Advent.  The season of preparation. 

Maybe as we enter this new year together we are able to renew our baptismal promises. 

Think about this coming year….especially with the busyness that enters our lives and our homes between Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve.  What are the ways that you see new areas, places or ways that God is calling you to respond in love and grace? 

Our passage from Matthew serves as a guide to the ways we can reach out through love and service.  And my guess is that if you've been listening to the news this past week you would have heard examples of some of the following…
How we treat the hungry…
How we treat the thirsty…
How we welcome the stranger…
How we clothe the needy…
How we take care of the sick…
And how we visit the prisoner….

This isn’t the time and place to get hung up in politics, but our baptismal call gives us a guide to prayerfully think and act about things happening in our community and world every day. 

How are the hungry, thirsty, sick, and imprisoned around you each and every day? 

How are you empowered by God’s love, forgiveness and grace to respond to the need that surrounds us? 

As you see new ways and think about new ways to be alive and at work in the world around you remember that all that you do…all that we do….is out of the love and grace and forgiveness that God has already given to us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

Let us pray,

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, may give us a spirit of wisdom and revelation as we come to know God in our world around us, 18so that, with the eyes of our hearts enlightened, we may know what is the hope to which God has called us to.  May we see where God is calling us to live and love and serve and may we be empowered with grace, love and forgiveness to respond to the needs of our world.  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. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

On the 9th day, she ran.

It's been a solid fall of training....culminating with the race month of October.  From the Hartford Half, to the Dash for the Splash 5K (with a PR!) to the Stoudt's Brewing Distance Classic 12K.

Who knew this month would be a race month?  After the 12K, though, my body declared that I was done.  The day after the run a cold came in and took over.

Thankful that I didn't have any races in the near future, I took a week off from working out.  Yup.  A whole week.  No easy yoga, no elliptical, certainly no running.  (Even with a few days in the 60s.)  I slept in, I went to bed early.  I drank lots of water and tried to cure the common cold with double stuf oreos.  (This cure is still in need of more research.)  I watched my calories add up on My Fitness Pal...with a big zero each day next to calories burned.  But it didn't matter.  My body was done.  It needed love and naps, hydration and more naps.

My weekly email came from Daily Mile....."your friends miss your training...."  I know.  I also know that rest is a healthy part of training and staying in shape.  Without any big races in my immediate future, on a day I'm on the sleepier side, I'll rest.  I wish you could log in rest days on daily mile, because it is such an important part of taking care of your body.

I'm not a big fan of taking an entire week away from working out.  My daily workouts clear my head and help to keep my mind clear and focused.  I felt a little off last week...but that was probably a combination of the cold and the not working out.

I feel a bit better this week.  Still a little stuffy, but well rested and ready to ease my way back into some fitness.

Yesterday's easy 5K on the treadmill was the perfect beginning.  I forced myself to start off slow.  It felt great to see my gym buddies yesterday and today.  It's good to be back.

I'll definitely be ready for a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving and some other silly runs throughout the winter.  I should add, too, that I do have rest days built into my workout schedule.  I like those days.  But after along fall, my body wanted some true rest.

I can't speak for anyone else when it comes to working out and caring for yourself....but I know that rest days are a good thing.  And listening to your body is a very good thing.  I know that I probably could have squeezed in a workout last week...but I took the rest route instead, which has made for a great beginning to this week.

Until the next post...

PS.  This post was written under a napping cat.  She clearly understands the importance of rest.