Thursday, December 31, 2015

Post marathon and 2015 reflections.

I feel like this post has been a long time coming...well at least since the beginning of the month.
On Dec. 5 I ran the Rehoboth Beach Marathon.  After 17 weeks of training...the big day came.

I finished in 4:22:08.  My goal was 4 some point in the race I knew I wouldn't make 4 hours and at that point, I relaxed, didn't worry about my pace and I even took a selfie and a picture of the beautiful Cape Henlopen State Park.  I was ecstatic to have my family in many different spots along the course...they kept me running.

The cool thing about this race is that I beat the PR I set 17 years ago.  I got to spend the day with my family walking around Rehoboth.  It was sunny and beautiful.  It was a great day.

I'm pumped that I set a new PR.  I'm also pumped that when I finished I thought, yeah, I can do this again.  (Not anytime too soon, of course!)

The last month has been a little rough.  I had forgotten how much time my body really needed to recover.  Combine that with Advent and now Christmas and December (even without marathon training) has kicked my butt.  I've gone on a few short runs this past week and it feels good to get out there again and kind of nice to just run how ever far I want to that day.

Looking back at 2015 in was pretty great.
I PR-ed a 5K, a 10K, a 1/2 marathon and a full marathon.  The shorter distances were in the spring and the longer ones in the fall.
I also struggled through a hot and humid 1/2 in June and was hit hard by some of the distance training for the marathon.
I ran with my sister.  I ran with Lisa and Kaylee.  I ran a 5K with some awesome kiddos from the youth running club I helped out with this summer/fall.
I got to corral sweaty cross country runners at the finish line of a few home meets.
I volunteered at a local 5K and got to cheer for all the runners and was super excited to cheer for the ones I knew.

I found a new love for running this year.
I enjoy longer distances and serious training plans that push me to see how strong I am.
I love running with kiddos and teaching them about the joy of running.
I love small town races and traveling to see new places.

Who knows what 2016 will bring....but there will be miles of running.  :)

Some goals...
Run a marathon.
Volunteer at at least two races.
Go to a race as a spectator.
Help coach the youth summer running club.
Run a race (any race) with my sister...from start to finish.

Until next year...

Monday, November 30, 2015

Advent 1 - apocalypse now.

November 29, 2015
First Sunday of Advent

Jeremiah 33:14-16
Psalm 25:1-10
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Luke 21:25-36

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. 

“There have been many losses,” writes Janice Jean Springer, reflecting on the days following her diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. Among these losses, she counts the erosion of her “self-image as a strong and vibrant woman … ” By contrast, the struggle to keep her balance, to not fall, seems unpleasantly familiar.
She has lost other things as well, but perhaps the most painful loss of all she shares is this, “I’ve lost my illusions. I’ve lost the illusion that I am exempt from the losses and limits that besiege other people.”

She writes that each of us will be confronted by losses that make us wrestle with the question, “[How] can I be faithful in my new circumstances?”

How can I be faithful in my new circumstances? 

A few years back I was visiting with someone whose life had dramatically changed.  They wondered what the future would bring and how to move forward with family and loved ones dealing with a new health concern.  We talked about how to adjust to a “new normal.”  In essence, we were asking the same question, How can I or how can my family and I be faithful in our new circumstances? 
It’s not just a new normal anymore, is it? Our lives our constantly changing and as soon as we think we’ve got things under control, something shifts, and we have to adjust and continue on. 

This is something that Luke touches upon in our Gospel lesson for today. 
Luke lived with the fact that Jerusalem had fallen, but ten or fifteen years later, the Son of Man had not come. He held to the faith that it would happen. There would be a rescue. That is Luke's great insight and hope. When the signs are clear, don't be afraid. They are good news!  "When these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." Be alert!

John Petty writes, “The apocalypse is not some future event, but a present one.  Everyone lives in a situation of impending doom—apocalypse—all the time.  …  At one time or another, for every person on earth, everything that used to feel solid and sure will start to come apart.  Paul Tillich called this "the shaking of the foundations." Jesus said to expect it:  "For it will come upon all the ones dwelling on the face of all the earth."

Did you hear that?  The apocalypse is not some future event….but a present one.  I concur that everyone lives in a situation of impending doom – an apocalypse all the time. 

Okay, it may not be as apocalyptic as zombies surrounding our community and taking over the world or some other horror movie situation.  But we do all live our lives with situations that change our lives and bring in a sense of fear or foreboding, or a wonder as to what the future will be like and how we will live our lives in this constantly new and changing world. 

I am a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer – the TV series that was on in the 90s.  For those who don’t know Buffy was the chosen one, a high school sophomore sent to Sunnydale, California to fight off demons and vampires and all sorts of nasty creatures, but no one was to know that she was the slayer, least of all her mother. 

Well, one night, she knows she needs to go out and fight the forces of evil to prevent an apocalypse, but her mother is worried about her grades and her behavior, so Buffy is grounded.  Buffy says, mom, I need to go out!  Her mom replies, no you don’t, it’s not the end of the world!  (Little does her mom know that it actually could be the end of the world.) 

So maybe we’re not Buffy and we don’t need to fight off evil to prevent an apocalypse, but we do need to get up every day and live in a world that is sometimes frightening and is constantly changing.  And we do so walking in the light of Christ. 

Each week in this season of Advent, the lights will get brighter and brighter as we light more candles on the Advent wreath. 

Each week, we will listen to scripture about how hope Christ continues to carry us and hold us through the dark times that surround us. 

Each week we are continually reminded that even though there will be signs of changes to come we are called to raise our heads up, to see Christ already in our midst and to prepare to celebrate his birth among us. 

The texts that we hear during the season of Advent kind of remind me of a choose your own adventure book.  Did any of you ever read one of those? You would read a story and as you got into it, you got to decide how the story went.  If you want to enter the castle and fight the dragon, turn to page 52.  If you would rather wait outside for back up, turn to page 45. 

Advent seems to present us with texts that may challenge or frighten us and that gives us an opportunity to respond.  As I talked about last week, we have the opportunity to respond out of love or out of fear. 

When we respond out of love, the light of Christ in the world shines brighter and brighter. 

Take a moment to watch this: Good Life Anthem

I know it’s a commercial, but given the fear and danger in the world, we are still called to live our lives.  As we celebrate a baptism at the late service this weekend, we will hear the words, Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven. 

Living our lives….for good…is letting that light shine. 
Living our lives…for good….is walking with others as they mourn and grieve. 
Living our lives…for good….is listening to someone when they need to share how they are feeling.
Living our lives…for good…is seeing beyond our own needs and giving our time, our talents and our treasure in a way that benefits the community and world around us. 

The world is a dangerous place. 
But we will continue to live our lives each and every day, knowing that we walk in the light of Christ, and that light will shine into the darkness and light a path for all of God’s children. 

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. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Christ the King Sermon

November 22, 2015

Christ the King Sunday
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
Psalm 93

Revelation 1:4b-8
John 18:33-37

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. 

What does it mean to act out of love or act out of fear? 

Think about it, what does it mean to act out of love?  And what does it mean to act out of fear? 

In our Gospel lesson today, we have clear examples of each.  As we hear the dialogue between Pilate and Jesus just before his crucifixion, we see the actions of both of these men.  I think that one acts out of fear and the other out of love. 

Pilate acts or reacts out of fear of Jesus and his teachings and actions.  He may also be acting out of fear as to how the crowds will react if he does not get rid of this so called King of the Jews. 

You see, he’s in a tricky, political situation.  Do you listen to the man standing in front of you?  Or do you listen to the crowds shouting outside of the windows?  Whatever happens with Jesus will greatly impact Pilates’ leadership and future. 

Even though he and Jesus are talking to one another, they seem to be talking on two different levels.  This is nothing new in the gospel of John.  We remember the misunderstanding between Nicodemus and Jesus when Nicodemus talks about being born again and Jesus talks about being born from above. 

We see it when Jesus talks with the woman at the well…she is offering him a drink of water and he wants her to have living water.  

It happens over and over again. Jesus tries to talk to people about who he is in the world and how his teaching, life and death will change the world, and people just don’t get it. 

It’s explained at the very beginning of the gospel of John, in one of my favorite Bible verses, John 1:5, The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it. 

The King James version is this, The light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not. 

You see, Jesus came into the world as the light of the world.  And the darkness of our world cannot comprehend that. 

We cannot wrap our minds around this great love that God has for all of God’s children that Jesus showed us by reaching out and touching the untouchable, the outcast, the sick and the poor. 

We cannot wrap our minds around an all-encompassing grace that comes to us in the form of a man who will conquer sin and death by dying himself.  It’s unfathomable.  And so we, like Pilate, try to comprehend, try to understand what Jesus is up to in our own terms. 

And when thinking about the political future, Pilate reacts out of fear as to what could happen if Jesus were recognized as king.

Jesus, on the other hand, acts out of love. 

He has nothing to prove.  Well, I guess he is going to prove that death can be defeated, and God has the upper hand in all of this, but he will not physically fight the system to prove it.  He will continue on a journey that will take him to his death because he knows that his death is not the end. 

Jesus acts out of love. 

He has no one to fight for prestige or posterity.

Jesus acts out of love. 

Where do we put our energy and our passion and our action in the world? 

Do we act out of fear or do we act out of love? 

We probably ebb from end to end of this spectrum. 

But I’m here to tell you: love wins. 

Love of God through Jesus Christ conquers sin and death and sets us free to love our neighbors and our enemies. 

That’s tough stuff, but that’s love at work in our lives and our world. 

And that’s the tough stuff that we try to wrap our minds around on this day as we remember Christ the King Sunday. 

We try to wrap our minds around Christ as king.  I don’t know about you, but when I think of a king I think of power, riches, castles and big fancy parties and a little lion cub singing, “I just can’t wait to be king!”  Maybe I watch too many Disney movies.  But you can probably see where I’m coming from. 

Yet Jesus as king is the complete opposite.  His kingdom and ruling comes through actions of love and grace, words and touch of healing and compassion.  His kingship is shown as he wraps a towel around his waist and he washes his disciples feet.  He is a servant leader.  He is one who leads by example of going to places least likely, touching people who are deemed ‘untouchable’ and by inviting tax collectors and sinners to dine with him. 

He’s not the king the people of his time were expecting. 

And in a way, he still may not be the king that we are expecting. 

We live in a world dominated by the view that the only answer to violence is more violence.  And the end result of that view is death.  (Lose)

So what does that mean for us as we watch the news and our hearts stir for refuges?

What does that mean for us as we watch the news and our hearts break for cities and nations impacted by violence? 

What does that mean as we see more and more commercials for gifts we ‘need’ to give this Christmas knowing that our local and global neighbors are hungry? 

What does that mean for us as we gather with family and friends this week to share in a meal that gives us a day and some time to give thanks? 

Sorry for all the questions, but I think that’s the challenge with today’s gospel text. 

We can see Pilate and Jesus in this interaction…and we know that love will win and what the final outcome will be. 

But in our own world….we do not know what tomorrow will bring. 

We do not know what the next big news story will be that will change our hearts and our world. 

But in the midst of it all, God is with us.

In the midst of it all, God continues to love us through Jesus Christ. 

God continues to be with us,

To give us strength and grace to witness to Jesus Christ, our Lord and our King. 

I pray that we are able to witness to Jesus who demonstrated power through weakness, who manifested strength through vulnerability, who established justice through mercy, who build the kingdom of God by embracing a confused, chaotic and violent world taking its pain into his own body, dying the death it sough and rising again to remind us that light is stronger than darkness, love is stronger than hate and that with God, all good things are possible.  (Lose)

Let us go from this place,

Strengthened by God’s love and grace,

Empowered by the Holy Spirit,

And fed with the body and blood of Jesus to share God’s love with the 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. 

Monday, September 7, 2015

16 perspective.

Week 5 of marathon training ended with some weeping and gnashing of teeth.
I wasn't even 1/2 way into my 16 miler on Saturday and I was spent.  I was nowhere near the pace I had planned on for that run which made me that much more frustrated.
With 5 miles to go, my husband showed up on the bike and received a sweaty hug and many tears. With some fresh water we kept going, albeit slowly....with much walking...but we kept going.

When I got home I didn't even want to look at the results.  Usually I upload the latest workout from my Garmin and look through the splits and the incline and try to remember when and where I felt strong and if that shows in the stats.

I don't think I uploaded Saturday's run until this morning.  I didn't want to see it.  I was constantly reliving it in my head wondering why I just couldn't keep going.

These are the times I wonder why I run.  In the middle of a run that is taxing and heartbreaking I begin to doubt that I can complete a marathon.  I fight my heart and my head to keep moving.  It's down right hard.

I did post my less than stellar run on Facebook and received a ton of comments and mounds of support from runners and non-runners.

A huge shout out to: Laura, Caitlin, Christoph, Cheryl, Anne, Carol/Glenn, Makayla, Kate, Jocelyn, Kathy, Vicki, Bridget and Sarah for your feedback on food, training, good and bad runs and the encouragement to keep on keeping on.

Thanks, too, to the folks at church who embraced me with hugs and words of support on Sunday morning.  And to Darrell, for the packets of fuel for me to try out on my next distance run.

I have gone back to the drawing board....for fuel and nutrition.  I realized that for the longest time I was logging food and exercise with the goal of losing weight.  At this point, I need to eat for fuel and extra energy.  I've increased my daily caloric intake and continue to work on good hydration.

In other areas of training, looking back at this past week, I napped on both Friday and Sunday....I need to work on getting to bed earlier, so my body gets ample rest and recovery time when I sleep.

With all that to think about, I began week 6 of training today.  It's a recovery week, so a few 8 milers and 12 miles at the end of the week (capped off with time with my sister!!)

This morning began with 8 miles with 10X100m sprints and it felt great.  The break in the heat and humidity definitely made a difference.  I tried, too, as much as I could to shake of Saturday's run and think of today as a new day.  I know I will remember the 16miler for a while...and it's good to have challenging, hard and humbling run, when it begins to get in the way of moving forward, I need to just let it go.

So here's to new weeks of training....the reminder from friends and family that while I cover many miles alone, I am not alone in the highs and lows of training and life.

See you out there!

Monday, June 8, 2015

#askingforafriend (this week's sermon)

June 7, 2015
2nd Sunday after Pentecost
Genesis 3:8-15
Psalm 130
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
Mark 3:20-35

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. 
My guess is, that as long as people have been around and have wondered about things, they’ve been asking questions.  Now here’s the thing, I can take a guess that there are more than just a handful of us who have wanted to know the answer to something, but may have been embarrassed to ask for ourselves.  So at some point in time, we started phrasing questions with, I have a friend who….or a friend of mine was wondering…

Does this sound familiar? 
For example, many of you know I like to exercise and that I have a weakness for ice cream.  So I may say something like, a friend of mine wants to know if a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream counts as one serving.  You know, it’s an embarrassing question, and if I’m asking, you can better believe that I have already eaten a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream in one sitting…but if I ask in reference to a friend, then it turns the attention away from me. 

Although, truth be told, whenever we start a question like that, we pretty much know that people will think we are talking about ourselves anyway. 
With the popularity of social media, the hashtag askingforafriend has become quite popular. 
Here are some questions that you are asking…not for yourself of course but for a friend. 

If no one actually sees you eat an entire bag of Twizzlers do the calories count? 
Just it "acceptable" to fall asleep in the dentist chair?
If one intended to make chocolate cake and ended up with brownies, is that considered a fail or a win?
How do you move on with life after Parks and Rec?
Is it wrong to want to be engaged just so that I can go to cake tastings? 
How many cats are too many cats? 
Hypothetically. How many calories do you burn if you sit on the treadmill WHILE eating a piece of red velvet cake?
Say you’re sitting alone in a coffee shop.....even the owner is away in a back room. "YMCA" comes on the sound system.  Do you make the motions? 

I know Jesus said, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemes they utter, but what about whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit?
Let’s hear that one again, I know Jesus said, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemes they utter, but what about whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit?
Because really, that’s the question of today’s gospel reading, isn’t it? 
While there are many different questions that may arise as we read through today’s passage, verse 29 seems to grab our attention, when Jesus says, “but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of eternal sin.”
This is the verse that seems to make us wonder.  This is the verse that even allows us to forget about the verse that came just before it. 
Just before Jesus speaks these words he says, “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter.” 
That’s the good news, my friends.  That is the message to take away today, that people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter.  Period.  End of sentence.  Full stop. 

But, our own human sinfulness leads us to wonder….or to want to ask for a friend….what about that one unforgivable sin….what if I (or rather) what if a friend of mine commits that unforgivable sin, what about them? 
Well, friends, I’m here to tell you that there is a slim to none chance of us ever committing that sin.  Because really, blaspheming the Holy Spirit?  That’s more than using the Lord’s name in vain.  That’s more than saying God I’m mad at your or shouting God, I hate you!  It’s truly coming to the point in your life and your faith that God is no longer a God of love, but all that you’ve reached the point in your life that you see God and all the work that God has done in this world and the gift that God has given us in Jesus is evil.  That’s pretty extreme. 
I pray that even if you are struggling through life and faith, you are still able to see God and the gift’s God has given to you through Jesus and this community of faith of love and support, that you see God at work in your life through love.  
Because here’s the thing, we all fall short. 

We are all in need of God’s grace. 
Heck, we’re reminded of it in our first lesson today.  It’s from Genesis where Adam and Eve had already eaten of the fruit, realized they were naked and they had hidden from God.
If there were social media back in the time of the Old Testament, I bet this would’ve popped up in your feed.
Do you think it is okay to eat this fruit that God commanded us not to eat? 
Okay, maybe not…
But the reality of original sin is here…the reality is…that each of us is imperfect. 

We all fall short. 
We are all in need of God’s grace. 
Sure it’s easy like Adam and like Eve to place the blame on someone else, but we all know that we are not perfect.  We all know and we all carry with us some form of self-hate. 
There is something, within all of us, that we are ashamed of, that we hide from others and try, too, to hid from God. 
No one is immune. 
Look at me….since I’ve been here, I’ve lost 20 pounds and am at a healthy weight…but it is still a struggle for me.  A daily struggle to look in a mirror, to step on a scale and to know what the good and healthy habits are that I should have….but the reality is, I don’t follow them. 

My self-hate is that I don’t like the relationship that I have with food and exercise. 
Maybe your self-hate is that you don’t like the relationship you have with your parents. 
Maybe your self-hate is that you don’t like the way you treat tour children.
Maybe it’s that you don’t like the way you depend on alcohol or cigarettes.
Maybe it’s that you don’t like the way you interact with your spouse.
Maybe you don’t like the way you see yourself in the mirror.
Maybe you don’t like the way you disrespect others.
Maybe you don’t like the way your take out your anger.
Maybe you don’t like the way you spend your money.
You name it…we all come before God…just like Adam and Eve….knowing that we do things that we are ashamed of, that we try to hide from others and from ourselves….and from God.  
So where does that leave us? 

I would say it’s like that show, Naked and Afraid, but it’s not. 
You see, even though we come before God knowing what we’ve done wrong, God has wrapped us in a new baptismal garment, and wraps us in his loving arms time and time again.
We are forgiven. 
We are loved.
We are most certainly NOT alone, because through the waters of baptism we are called into the community of Christ and the family of God.  
And because of this love and this grace, we are freed from trying to be perfect, freed from the sins and self-hatred that try to tear us apart, and we are freed to love and serve others. 
This may be a better question:
Freed from sin through the waters of baptism, how can that love be shared with others?
How would you answer that question for a friend? 
How can this love and grace that we receive be shared with others?
Though our words and actions…in the work of this place…as we love and support our graduates as they enter new phases of their lives…as we reach out to feed our neighbors at Opportunity House and City Light Minstries….as we pray for and support the 13 youth of trinity being confirmed this weekend…as we speak out against injustice in our community and nation…as we feed the hungry…shelter the homeless…heal the sick….comfort the sad and lonely….the opportunities are endless. 

Go from this place, freed from sin and death to love and serve others. 
And may the peace, which passes all understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, amen. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Prayer & healing homily and then some

So I preached at tonight's prayer and healing service.  I talked about how Jesus is not just found in the unexpected places but that Jesus purposely goes to those unexpected places to meet those who are hurting, sick, alone, broken or just down in the dumps. 

I used an image of a young boy holding up a little trash can saying, "He's hiding in there."
"Who?" Mom asks.  
"Jesus." the place least likely.  In the trash.  Boom. There he is.  

Jesus purposely travels to be with tax collectors and prostitues, to those who are outcast, untouchable or just plain forgotten. 

I talked about how Jesus has been present for me and many others in the unexpected place of Converse sneakers. I talked about how we are all connected through the waters of baptism to Sarah, to her family and to each other.  And no matter what we brought to worship tonight in our own little trash cans that Jesus would be there. Especially in the places we would rather hide from others and Jesus.  

But he continues to come to us, in those moments, and that's the key...where we are is where Jesus comes to us. 

And we are not in this alone.  We walk this journey together and we love and pray for and care for one another in the midst of it all. 

And then we sang the hymn, We come to you for healing, Lord. (ELW 617)

And it was verse three that got me. (I picked the lessons and hymns last week.). 

"You touch is through physicians' skills,
Through nurses' gifts of care,
And through the love of faithful friends
Who lift our lives in prayer."

You touch us through the love of faithful friends who lift our lives in prayer.  

We took time for laying on of hands (which is a staple in this service) we prayed together, we passed the peace, we shared in communion together.  

At the close of the service after many hugs and smiles. One woman came up and hugged me and said that she didn't know how I had the strong faith that I did. (praphrased) 

I told her that I am just like everyone else...and it's only by being lifted by others, by this community of faith and by her that I can believe.  

Thanks be to God that we are not in this alone, that we are nurtured and cared for by others.  By friends and family near and far, by brothers and sisters in Christ in our communities and around the world.  

As mom saw many comments of love and support on my Facebook page after sharing Sarah's death she posted The following comment, "All these supportive comments are the manifestation of our love and concern for each other in times of extreme sadness and loss.  You are all people who care about life and each other.  That is the gospel in action in the world.  You all matter."  Preach it, Helen. 

That is all. 

Continuing as best as I can this night...thankfully knowing that others are caring for Sarah's family and friends and for me.  

Thanks and peace. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Last Wednesday's Reflection

March 4, 2015

Holden Evening Prayer
Lenten Reflection

Gathered in Grace…Forgiveness
Luke 15:11-32

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.  

At the Lenten Fair on Sunday, our Sunday school kids were learning our mission statement.

Called by Christ, Gathered in Grace, Joyfully Serving. 

Sitting in with the 5th & 6th grade class, they asked, what is grace? 
Good question.  At first I tried to define it….and if asked again, I would say, it is forgiveness in the place you least expect it. 

But in the moment I shared this story...
Last month during a sermon I was preaching on healing, the congregation was invited to come up for the laying on of hands and a prayer of healing and peace.  As I went around to different individuals at the altar railing, I said their name as part of the prayer.  Towards the end of a line of people, I placed my hands on Chris' head, blessed her and went on to the next person. 
It wasn't until I got back to my office, well after worship, that I realized it wasn't Chris, it was Sue.  I felt horrible.  I sent her a note that week apologizing for my mistake and how I had hoped that by getting her name wrong that I had not made the experience unpleasant for her. 
When I saw her in worship the next Sunday, I said, "I am so sorry!"  She said, "You are amazing." 
She said, "You were going down the line and saying everyone's names and getting them all right, and I thought to myself, she's getting them all right, she's perfect.  And then you messed up my name and I thought, phew, she's human." 
What is grace?  Forgiveness in the place you least expect it. 
Maybe you've seen it in this place, too.  During communion, sometimes little ones come up with their parents or grandparents and the kiddos are grumpy, they may have tears on their faces and you can see the unhappiness at the communion railing…yet all the while, those children of God, too, receive the blessing, the meal, the love of God…..whether we or mom or dad think they deserve it in that moment or not….it is given. 
What is grace?  Forgiveness in the place you least expect it. 
In the story of the prodigal son….
It is when the father rushes and runs out to meet the son, wraps him in a warm embrace and treats him as royalty. 
We don’t always understand who is forgiven and why….maybe that makes us more like the older brother on some days…being disgruntled about why this reckless younger brother has been welcomed home with open arms. 

But then that leads us right back to this railing…where all are welcome.  All are loved and all are forgiven.  And isn’t that the challenging piece for us…that called by Christ, gathered in grace, we are called to forgive as we have been (and continue to be) forgiven. 

That’s what makes this place different than the real world…not that we are special, non-sinners who are perfect in God’s eyes and will never, ever do anything wrong, and that we are better than those people who squander their families riches and come running back with their tail between their legs….no, we are just like the younger brother…we have squandered things, made mistakes and sought forgiveness….and so we too, are called to forgive those who have wronged us, who have hurt us and with those whom we disagree. 

That’s not to say there won’t be consequences for our actions or the actions of others, but we are called to forgive, not to ignore, or exclude, but to forgive with the power of God’s grace and love. 

Think about a time when you did not expect to be forgiven….how did that grace moment feel? 

Think about how a word or action from you could be the same feeling for someone else. 

This is an amazing gift that we have been given by God. 

My prayers continue that we are able to receive the grace of God….and gathered in that grace, that we are free to forgive others as God continues to forgive 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.  

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Sunday's Sermon-ish

Here is the basis of what was preached this weekend. 
The stories took on a different form at each service.  Thanks to people who were in worship who were willing to be examples of God in our midst here and now. 

February 15, 2015

Transfiguration B
1 Kings 2:1-12
Psalm 50:1-6
2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Mark 9:2-9
Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O God, our rock and our redeemer.  Amen. 
This morning we find ourselves on a mountain top and not just the mountain that overlooks Robesonia, but a mountaintop with Jesus, Peter, James and John. 
I don’t know about you, but because of my camp experience and travel experiences I’ve seen many mountains.  My native area of New England is home to many hills and mountains.  My summers at camp were up in New Hampshire, in an area called the White Mountain region…we went hiking often. 
Yet all those ranges throughout New England cannot even compare to the mountains I have seen in Alaska.  Wow…that’s all I can say.  They say everything is bigger in Alaska…and there is some truth to that.  The city of Anchorage is surrounded by a beautiful mountain range.  It’s a wonder to see the buildings of the city against the backdrop of the majestic mountains. 
While up in Alaska several summers ago, I had the opportunity to hike Mount Marathon.  Many people run up this mountain each year as part of a’s a tricky course, not well groomed or marked, but people run it for a medal and bragging rights that they have run up and down a mountain.  Well, a few of us thought we would try it out. 
At the base of the mountain, the following notices were posted:

But we went for it, anyway!  Needless to say, we gave it our best shot to get up that mountain.  It was pretty treacherous and tricky…there was lots of slipping and sliding, but once we made it to the top….wow. 

Seriously, the view from the top was amazing…the view was spectacular.  We saw the whole town of Seward and were surrounded by even higher snow capped mountains. 

What a sight to see.  We didn’t want to leave…

Part of the reason we wanted to stay was because we knew the trip down would probably more difficult than the way up.  Part of that was because we didn’t want to leave the beautiful view. 
Who am I kidding?  We were worried about going back down. 
But we couldn’t stay on the top.  While the top of the mountain is a wonderful place to be, it’s not where we are meant to stay. 
While Peter, James and John are up on the mountain, they too see a marvelous sight.  Jesus is transfigured in front of them.  His appearance becomes one of dazzling white.  He is in the presence of Elijah and Moses. 
Upon seeing this sight, Peter is not sure what to do about it. 
He’s in shock…but he knows this is an amazing thing, so he wishes to capture the moment. 
In his confusion and fear, Peter wants somehow to preserve this moment.  As challenging as it is to understand, he wishes to hold onto this moment and never let it go.  He prefers not to leave the mountaintop.  He wishes to treasure this moment. 
I wonder what Peter’s selfie would look like from that mountaintop experience? 
How often do we find ourselves in this situation...where what is happening to us at a certain moment is so wonderful that we wish to preserve it.  We wish that it will not end.  In a way, we wish to keep it to ourselves. 
I was at a concert last year.  It was They Might be Giants.  Billy and I went with John and Tara Clauss.  As the show began, they said, we see some of you recording this show.  We don't mind you recording it...but think of the person behind you and all they can see is your hand holding the smart phone.  Don't be that jerk.  (But they didn't use the word jerk.) But they said...don't be that person...because for one, you block the view of the person behind you.  And two, you pretty much miss the whole experience because you are worried about the quality of the recording.  And I'll add three, when you go to watch the video you will only be able to see what is within the confines of the screen.  You'll miss the 'whole' experience. 
One of the highlights of our honeymoon in New Orleans was the evening we spent at Preservation Hall.  It's the home to a deep history of jazz musicians and concerts.  We waited in line for nearly an hour for a 45 minute show.  As we entered the hall, we got to sit on the last two cushions on the floor right in front of the band.  (The trombone slide nearly hit us during the show.) 
Before the band came in, we were welcomed to this little piece of jazz history.  We were asked to put away our phones and recording devices and were invited to be immersed in the music and experience for the next 45 minutes.  Everybody did.  It's 45 minutes of amazing music, laughter, and applause that isn't repeatable. 
Thankfully we captured the moment in our hearts. 
How many of you wish you could capture a moment like that?  That you were so blown away by the experience that you felt like Peter and wanted to build a tent and dwell there and never leave? 
I pray that that happens in this place week after week. 
That we see Jesus transfigured before us through the bread and the wine of communion and through the words of confession and forgiveness. 
It also happened last week in this space. As Neil and Julieann P. were serving as ushers during communion, SarahAnne was not pleased.  Nicole D. tried her best to soothe the tears, but SarahAnne would not be calmed.  And then, from across the sanctuary, Amy S. walked over and scooped up SarahAnne and just held her in the side of the sanctuary and she was at peace.  It happened....just the midst of communion...Jesus being transfigured as the Body of Christ came together to love and support one another. 
It also happened at Ozgoods on Thursday.  As Pastor Bill, Vicar Tommy and I were out to lunch we saw Alyssa and her kids enjoying lunch. 
Well, they popped out of the booth to wave and smile at us as we ate and when we left, we stopped in to say goodbye.  As we went to leave, Sammie asked mom to get something to give to Pastor was the valentine she had made at story time at the library that morning.  I asked if I could give her a hug and she said yes! 
Not to be outdone, Josie stood up and said I want to give Pastor Bill a kiss! 
(Now, what you need to know is that we were saying goodbye as they were eating dessert.  Ice cream sundaes, no less.) 
Pastor Bill got a bit of chocolate syrup, ice cream and whipped cream with his kiss.  I got a little too.  And just then in those moments, God broke into Ozgoods...into the bodies of two 4 year olds sharing valentines and hugs and kisses.
Can you see it happening?  Where are you seeing Jesus transfigured in your midst?  How are you capturing that moment?  And how are you sharing it with others? 
We are called to see and experience God in this world.  
Gracious God give us the eyes to see, the bodies to feel and the voices to share this amazing news with everyone we meet. 

And now my the peace which passes all understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all god's people say, amen.