Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Sunday's Sermon

June 8, 2017
The Holy Trinity
Genesis 1:1-2:4a
Psalm 8
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Matthew 28:16-20

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. 

It’s Holy Trinity Sunday, a day when we think about and are challenged by the idea of Trinity….of God…three in one…Father, Son and Holy Spirit….and what role that plays in our faith journey and our day to day lives. 

There is a story about a gentleman who rarely went to church on Easter Sunday, but always went on Trinity Sunday.  Why, you may ask.  It was because he knew that most preachers could do a passable job of the Resurrection, but always wanted to see how the preacher could explain the totally un-explainable (or incomprehensible) doctrine of the Trinity. 

However explainable or un-explainable it is….there are ways that we can see God at work in the world as God the Father, as God the Son and as God the Holy Spirit….and that may be the best way for us, this day, to see the Holy Trinity in our midst. 

So what does this text say to us today? 
As soon as we hear this command, we think…time to get going!  Time to move!  There’s no time to sit still.  You see in most translations, the main verb in the Great Commission is GO!  But in the original Greek text, the verb is translated in the participle, which means going…The main active verb in the Greek is “make disciples” or literally translated “discipline.”  Yet that doesn’t make as much sense in the English to us. 

Perhaps the most literal translation of this text comes from a contemporary translation of the New Testament called God’s Word: Today’s Bible Translation that Says What it Means It reads, “So, wherever you go, make disciples of all nations: Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Teach them to do everything I have commanded you.” 

There is also an interesting translation in Clarence Jordan’s Cotton Patch Bible, “As you travel, then, make students of all races and initiate them into the family of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Teach them to live by all that I outlined for you.”

In both of these translations, the action isn’t go or going, it’s baptizing and teaching. 

It’s fair to say that we are in the same boat as the eleven who heard this command directly from Jesus.  We, too, gather.  We, too, come some with belief and some with doubt.  And, whether we think we are prepared, knowledgeable, equipped and prepared….we are still sent. 

That’s the call.  That’s the great commission.  To be one of Jesus’ disciples and to continue to baptize, teach, invite, love and serve. 

Is this the best plan of action for the church?  I talked about what was the best plan last week, and sometimes makes you wonder, doesn’t it.  Yet after 2,000 years the church is still going, in spite of us. 

So here’s the call….the commission…the challenge….to share this belief…this faith…this seeing God at work in our own lives and seeing God at work in the world.

We understand this from our own experience. We too are called to "go" to where Jesus will meet us. We too are called to worship. We are directed to the place where we will meet the living Christ, yet one wonders why anyone would listen.

Because here’s the thing….if we don't believe what we believe strong enough to invite others into it, then I wonder how strongly we really believe it. While certainly belief in Christ is part of that, but also belief in our congregations and in our congregational ministries and activities.

Do we really believe all that we say and do? 

Think about what we believe…about what you believe.  When we say the creed, it begins with I believe…

Even Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman, would agree, she says, “It's about what you believe.  And I believe in love.  Only love will truly save the world.”

Without any spoilers for those who have not seen Wonder Woman, there is this force, this drive that pushes Diana to live her life in care for others.  That drive for her is love.

That’s what she believes will save the world.  Her actions, both the words she speaks and the way she lives her life shows that love is at the root of her calling. 

That, too, is at the root of our calling.  The calling we received when we were baptized.  The calling we will celebrate with Eli as he is welcomed into the Body of Christ through the celebration of Holy Baptism this weekend. 

We are called to love…to care for and serve others.  To make disciples of all nations…because of what we believe.  That love will save the world. 

The great love that God has for this world, shown to us as God sent Jesus to live among us, to teach us, lead us and to die for us so that we may love others, serve others, speak out for others and share this love of God with others. 

So what does that mean, then, for us to make disciples of all nations?  To baptize, yes, but also to live our lives and show others the love God has for the whole world. 

Seeing the people that gather in this place week after week, I believe that we feel God’s transforming love in our lives.  Here we are, a group of people who under other circumstances wouldn’t probably be spending time together each week.  Yet, through the power of the Spirit, we are drawn together into one family of God. 

We gather in this place to be fed, nourished, encouraged, loved, hugged, cried with, supported …all for the sole purpose of going back into the world to tell others about how amazing this is. 

We leave this place, to live lives that show and tell others about God at work in the world. 

We leave this place to see the amazing things that god is up to in the world right now.  And we leave this place to tell others that while God is at work in the world, this is a place we can gather to talk about these experiences and support one another. 

We have been gathered in this place solely to be sent.  Back into the world to see God at work, to point out to others that God IS busy at work in the world and to tell others about it. 

As you go about your life this week, look for the answer to this question:
Where have you seen God at work in your life? 

Take time to answer this question, and to share your answer with someone, maybe with family around the dinner table, maybe with friends as you meet to grab a cup of coffee or go for a walk, maybe it’s shared with your neighbor across the street. 

See God at work.  Tell others about it. 

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, June 6, 2017


There have been ups and downs over the past few weeks.
I have not been blogging my weight on a weekly basis, but I have stuck to the weekly weigh-ins.

The day after Easter, Billy and I started the South Beach diet.  It is one that has worked well for both of us in the past.  We both saw a drop in weight the first two weeks, which is the strictest phase of the diet.  As we have transitioned into phase 2, we have been a little more lenient.  Hence both ups and downs with the weight.

Here are a few things we have tried to hold true:
1) Fewer carbs - in general.  Instead of carbing up three times a day, we try to have whole grain carbs once a day, if that.  I did notice that during the carb-free phase, my running felt different.  I was definitely eating enough to sustain my running and other cardio, but it just felt different.
Usually my carbs come at breakfast with oatmeal.  That carries me through a run or a bike ride with no tummy troubles.

2) Fewer sweet treats....well, except for the pie and shortcake last week thanks to in season and freshly picked strawberries.  If we are craving a snack in the afternoon or evening, we go for nuts or a piece of fruit instead of cookies, chips or pretzels.

3) Daily exercise.  Billy walks on his lunch break at work.  I am riding, running or cross-training 5-6 times a week.  And, come next week, triathlon training begins. That will kick up my fitness level a bit, in a good way.

4) More protein, veggies and whole grains (when we grain it up!) We are happy it's summer and local produce is abundantly available.  It makes varying up the egg scrambles in the morning simple and fun.  I try to have a salad with both lunch and dinner (thanks for teaching me that, mom.)

5) We log our food.  Yes, this takes time.  Yes, sometimes it can be tedious.  For me, though, it helps me stay accountable.  It helps me see the difference between actually being hungry and just wanting to eat something.  There is a difference.  If I see I have completed my caloric intake for the day, then I have a cup of herbal tea.  If I have some wiggle room, then it's nuts or popcorn or  a piece of dark chocolate.

6)...I almost forgot...we've been eating out far less.  Cooking meals at home means we know exactly what is in it.  No additives or extra preservatives.  In that way, we've been trying to not have processed foods as a go to.  It's not always the case, but I'd much prefer something I made with 5 ingredients rather than the pre-packaged item with 20+ ingredients.

We haven't mastered this yet.  But having a partner going through it, too, makes it easier.

I'll keep you posted on the next weigh-in.  My goal is to get below 150.  I've been there before and I know it's a healthy weight for me to maintain.

Thanks for reading.

Until the next post...

Monday, June 5, 2017

Pentecost Sermon - from Angels to Blitz!

June 4, 2017
Day of Pentecost
Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
1 Corinthians 12:3b-13
John 20:19-23

Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable and suitable in your sight, O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen. 

Kelly Fryer, has written many books and Bible Studies about what it means to be church in the world around us today.  She is a little shorter than me, and a little rounder than I am…but we have the same spunky personality.  She and I both like to tell stories when we share our faith journeys. 

One of my favorite stories that Kelly shares is an experience she had back in November 2001, when she was flying to Washington, D.C.  As you can imagine, things in the airport in the months following 9-11 were a bit stressful due to heightened security.
While Kelly arrives at the airport three hours early, she is still the last one on the plane, shuffled to the back by the bathroom as she carried her little suitcase, a guitar and a briefcase….

After squishing into her tiny back row seat, one of the flight attendants starts chatting her up, asking about the guitar, why she’s traveling to Washington, you know the normal flight attendant chit-chat.  Then he goes off to do something else…

As the plane is backing up, preparing for take-off, Kelly is in her seat, eyes closed, and trying to relax for the flight. When she hears, “Kelly.” She slowly opens up her eyes and sees the attendant crouched down next to her.

He says to her, in a soft voice, “You see that man two rows in front of you? If he does anything suspicious, let us know.” And he stands up and walks away. 

Kelly’s mind starts spinning….woah, this attendant is hyper-alert…and then woah…what if this guy actually does something suspicious!?!?!

Well, she pulls out her laptop, because it’s the heaviest thing she’s got with her, (and I guess easier to wield than a guitar) and settles in for the flight, keeping a solid eye on the guy, two rows up. 

The plane lands and she is the last one off, following this guy, where as they enter the terminal is surrounded by a huddle of D.C. police officers and FBI and hauled off in handcuffs. 

And Kelly thought to herself, “Are you kidding me? You must be kidding….I’m the best plan you’ve got??” 

And yet in that moment, she was called…and chosen to be the best plan in that situation. 

How often do we wonder if we are the best ones for the job?  We, like those apostles who were nearly knocked over the by the wind, breath and fire of the Holy Spirit are flawed, smug and confused…yet we are the very people to whom God sends the Spirit.  Because see, God just like that Pentecost, God still breaks in to do the work God is prepared to do.  And we will accomplish that work, powered by the Holy Spirit. 

And why does God do all this? 
Well, because God is not kidding. 
We are the best that God has to work with…

Sometimes I think we let ourselves get in the way of the movement of the spirit.  When the spirit blows we can have a sense of doubt or concern or uneasiness when thinking about letting go and letting God.  It’s almost as if when the Spirit blows, we hold our breath.  We hold our breath, hoping the Spirit will blow right by and we can continue on our own path. 

Yet this celebration of Pentecost calls us to keep breathing.  It challenges us to keep ourselves open to the Spirit who seeks us. 

The Spirit that, in the beginning, brooded over the chaos and brought forth creation; the Spirit that drenched the community with fire and breath on the day of Pentecost: this same Spirit desires to dwell within us and among us.
Amidst the brokenness and chaos and pain that sometimes come with being in community, the Spirit searches for places to breathe in us, to transform us, to knit us together more deeply and wholly as the body of Christ, and to send us forth into the world.

The Spirit moved through the Pocono retreat last weekend.  Laughter and stories were shared, relationships were build and strengthened, songs were sung, prayers were prayed, scripture was lived out and food was eaten…lots of food was eaten.  And while there were so many moments when the Spirit was at work…here are two that I want to share. 

In the rec hall, we gathered for games and ice breakers.  The volume in that hall was overwhelming with laughter, shouting, running, laughing and singing.  But after finishing the games and the goofiness, with a verse or two of the song Sanctuary, we moved as a group of 60 people from chaos to quiet study and prayer.  We dove into a passage from Romans and shared what it meant to each of us that we cannot ever be separated from the love of God.  Those responses are on this cross.  The Spirit blew in our midst, in our living space and in our hearts to share the love God has for us. 

On Sunday morning, the spirit moved in a completely different direction…with a little music, our breakfast was rockin’.  Yes, we started of slowly…with a favorite tune…(Angel of the Morning)  and ended with this…. Ballroom Blitz 
The whole dining hall was chanting, tossing a stuffed teddy bear around the room and laughing.  The energy in that place…was amazing.  

And that was our prelude to worship.  Good times, right?

But here’s the thing…again, through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, we were united in silliness and shenanigans and enjoying the moment.  We were united as a community who was ready to laugh and have fun together.  We were also united as a community ready to worship, ready to praise God and ready to pray.   

The Ballroom Blitz moment was the presence of the Holy Spirit. 

The Holy Spirit is not to be confused with a gentle spring breeze, it’s a full force gale! 

The Spirit will blow as God wishes and we are to go along for the ride, out of these pews and into the community, to serve the poor and needy, to share the good news of Jesus Christ, to proclaim the good news about a God that loves us unconditionally. 

The Spirit will move us and shake us.  It will comfort us when we are scared or frightened, as it did when Jesus breathed on his disciples in that locked room. 

When we are situated and comfortable, the Spirit will move and shake us into areas outside our comfort zone. 

The Spirit will comfort the terrified, and terrify the comforted. 

As the Spirit moves and shakes us, we give thanks to God that we are always being moved in ways for our faith to grow and for Jesus’ good news to be shared with all. 

So with the wind of the Spirit at our backs, may we be strengthened at this meal, and blown out of here to serve God within our community. 

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.