Tuesday, September 27, 2016

This weekend's sermon.

September 25, 2016
Amos 6:1a, 4-7
Psalm 146
1 Timothy 6:6-19
Luke 16:19-31

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, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen. 

Today’s readings overflow with a central theme: recognizing that all we have is a gift from God and what we do with it is an expression of our faith in God – lies at the center of a life of discipleship. St. Augustine in his writings differentiated between the terms “use” and “enjoy.” God gives us the things of this world to use for our benefit and the benefit of our neighbors, not to enjoy as ends in themselves.

The only true object of our enjoyment, in this ultimate sense, is our relationship with God. Both Amos 6 and 1 Timothy 6 illustrate Augustine’s point that it is to our detriment that we fall to the temptation to view wealth and possessions as ends rather than as means to the greater end of living as God’s agents of blessing to those around us.

Surely that is the great tragedy of the unnamed rich man in Jesus’ story. He has been so blinded – we could even say, intoxicated – by the abundance of his material possessions that he fails to notice the proximity of one of God’s creatures in need. This story is perhaps the most prime example of the great reversal of fortunes that is a central theme of Luke’s gospel. We hear about this reversal from the very beginning of the Gospel, when Mary sings her song that the lowly shall be lifted up, the rich sent away empty….We know from that point that Luke’s gospel will have a theme that God will turn the world upside down.  (the world turned upside down….)

The rich man had a life. No doubt he had the benefits of religious instruction. He heard the part about his abundance being a sign of God’s blessing. He missed, however, the lesson about those blessings having a purpose. As a result he never got to experience the greatest joy that wealth and possessions bring; namely, the joy of using these things for the sake of others, especially those in need of a tangible reminder of God’s never-failing love.

It seems to me that part of what is at stake in Jesus' parable is the link between our wellbeing and that of others. If we cannot feel compassion for others we have lost something that is deeply and genuinely human. In time, the wealth that has numbed us to the need of our neighbor deludes us into imagining that we ourselves have no need, are sufficient unto ourselves, and can easily substitute hard work and a little luck for grace and mercy. At that point, we are, indeed, lost.

But I think the reverse is also true – that as we become more responsive to the hurts, hopes, and needs of others we become more acutely aware of our own humanity, of our own longings and insufficiency and thereby can appreciate God's offer of manifest grace in Christ, the one who took on our need, our humanity, our lot and our life, all in order to show us God's profound love for each and all of us.

We, too, have the law and the prophets to direct us to care for the needs of our neighbor. Yet deep down I suspect that when confronted by the One who was put to death for our sins and raised for our justification we might just be cajoled from our numbness and drawn back into relationship with both God and each other. At least I hope so. Or, maybe I should say, I trust God to make it so.

What does it take…to see the transforming love of the resurrection in our lives?  In our world?  How are we called to proclaim a word love love…a word of grace…a word of forgiveness to a divided nation and a hurting world? 

The good news is that God has given us all the gifts we need…God has provided us with all that we need…God is taking care of us by giving to us the means, the time, the talents and the treasures to continue on God’s mission in the world around us.   

Here’s a story that you may have heard before….but in a way it echoes our gospel lesson for today. 

The rains had begun and a flood warning was in effect.  The police were driving through the neighborhood evacuating people from their homes before the waters began to rise.  They knocked on a door…and the man who answered it said, oh, don’t worry about me.  God will take care of me.  They urged him to leave his house, but firm in his faith, the man remained at home. 

Several hours later the man was on his porch and a boat came by, rallying the last of the people still in their homes.  They urged the man to get in the boat, but he said, nope.  I have a strong faith, and God always takes care of God’s people, God will keep me safe, God has saved people in worse situations, God will save me.  Try as they might, the rescuers could not get the man to get in the boat.  So they motored away. 

In the evening, the waters had nearly covered all the houses in the neighborhood.  Yet before nightfall, a helicopter was flying around to make sure everyone had been evacuated.  They flew over the man’s house and shouted down to him, as he was now on the roof, and said…hey, climb up the ladder, we’ll save you…the waters are expected to rise through the night, you MUST come with us!  The man was still insistent that God would save him and he refused to climb into the helicopter. 
Well, the waters did rise through the night, and the man remained with his house, and drowned. 

When he got to heaven, as we all do, saved by God’s grace and all, he said, hey…I had firm faith.  I knew that you would save me…I waited and waited and waited…and you never came to get me. 

God said to him, I sent a police car, a boat and a helicopter…what more did you want? 

Similar to the parable….we hear that God has sent prophets to teach and preach to us about the abundance in our lives and how we are called to share that with others. 

It’s not just about having faith….it’s about trusting in that faith that we are able to think about others…to open our hearts and minds to the needs of others in our community and world.   And when our hearts and minds and eyes are opened…we will be transformed.  We will know the healing power and saving grace of a God full of love and compassion.  We will be moved to share that love and grace in our world, so that others may know it…feel it….and see it around them. 

Having faith is one thing…but we don’t just hope and pray that it will keep us from trouble and harm’s way.  We have the faith and the gifts from God to continue God’s mission in this community through this congregation. 

We are called to use what we have, what we have been given by God, to continue to share God’s grace and love with others.  We cannot just hope and pray that the time, talents and treasures will come from somewhere…we have all that we need…how will we respond out of this abundance? 

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, September 22, 2016

A trip, a fall and a break.

Last Saturday, on my long run of what should have been 15 miles, I tripped.  

Just over 14 miles in...back in town (thankfully) I met with some uneven sidewalk and went down.  
Luckily I could get right back up.  It was probably a combination of the shock and the desire to just be done that got me across the street and allowed me to jog the few blocks home.  

I was a sight to see.  Both knees scraped, my left elbow and palm scraped, and a scrape on my right forearm.  I am thankful that neither my face nor head hit cement.  

The day after the fall my upper arms were achy.  

I tried some elliptical on Tuesday and it was okay, but not great.  

I have not run since Saturday.  I'm getting antsy.  

But while I recover from the fall, I'm also very aware that my body needs time to heal.  

The bruising is beginning to show on my left knee and the scrape on my right knee is in need of more healing.  So I'll wait to run.  

And while I wait, I have some things to think about.  

Truth 1: I've been struggling a lot this training plan.  
Not as much physically as mentally.  I'm running the training runs in the times I should be, I just don't feel the joy that I have in the past.  And that's the biggest struggle....when it's not a joy to go out for a run, then I have to work that much harder to make it feel good.  When I feel like I'm working harder then I am not able to let my thoughts and prayers fly freely to clear my head and my heart.  What used to be a time of freedom and joy feels more like a chore.  

Don't get me wrong, I know that training for a marathon is work.  I know that it can be grueling.  I know that it will take its toll mentally and physically.  But this is more than finding myself in a rut.  It seems that this feeling has been with me since the first week of training.  

Truth 2: There is a bit of joy.  The joy I do feel is when I am in the middle of a speed workout.  When it's me and the track and a stop watch.  I can push and push and laugh and feel great.  

Truth 3:  I absolutely LOVED the triathlon training and my first tri this summer.  It was a new set of workouts.  It got me out of old training routines.  It was great for my body.  The tri itself was an amazing experience and a joy filled day.  

Truth 4: Last year I PR-ed 5K, 10K, 1/2 marathon and full marathon.  (It was a pretty great year for me, race-wise.)  I know that I am not at that caliber right now.  That is part of the nagging feeling I have right now....that I'm not as fit as I was last year.  The other side to this is my weight.  The numbers on the scale have gone up this past year and I'm feeling that in my training and seeing it in some not great eating habits.  

I've always thought to myself, if it's not fun, why do it? 

I will say, up until this fall running has provided joy, a time for prayer and reflection and some time during my day for solitude and mental rest, not to mention great exercise and endorphins!  

Where does that leave me?  I'm not sure.  

I share this because I feel that my running and general fitness is a part of who I am in the community and at Trinity. I want to be honest with people, especially people who continue to encourage and support me in all that I do.  I share this because it's a tough time for me right now and I feel that I have some discerning to do about upcoming races and training.  I have had these thoughts over the past months but the recent injury and recent conversations with friends has helped me put my thoughts into words.  

I guess I share this, too, to be real that sometimes feelings change and our own reactions to things we have done with joy in the past may change...and when that happens, it's okay to think about it, pray about it and talk with friends about it as you figure out what happens next.  

Thanks for listening....

I'll keep you posted.