Sunday, March 31, 2019

Welcome to race week.

One of my 19 for 2019 is to PR in the marathon, to break my best pace in the marathon.  

That being said, one of the ways I'm working towards that goal is another of my 19 for 2019: Hire a coach.  In January, I began working with a coach.  My longer term running goals is to be a healthy & fit runner for the rest of my life.  That means training well, eating well (still a work in progress) and recovering/resting well.  

It's been a fantastic experience working with a coach.  I love that I open up my training calendar and have a week's worth of workouts all prepped for me.  All I have to do is run.  Well, really, I have to run and eat, stretch, foam roll, and hydrate, but the planning is out of my hands.  

There have been challenging speed workouts, fun recovery runs and days when the distance felt perfect.  
The plan for the marathon is to run the Rehoboth Marathon in December.  In the meantime, my coach recommended signing up for a spring half marathon.  So this Saturday I'll run the Garden Spot 1/2 Marathon.  I'm looking forward to it and am also a bit nervous about it.  

I've run half marathons before, but this will be the first one that I will have run coached.  

The toughest part for me during race week is taking it easy.  I won't put in much distance as I run this week yet I still need to rest and hydrate well.  With lots of sickness going around lately, I'll also enjoy daily doses of vitamin C.  I'm also looking forward to some tasty home cooked meals high in protein and veggies with healthy whole grains.  I'll probably take some time to watch my favorite pre-race movie, Run, Fat Boy, Run

It'll be a good week.  
It'll end with a race.  
I'll reflect on the race next week.  

In the meantime, I'll embrace the taper and get ready for race day in the middle of the 4th week in Lent.  
Bring it. 
Until the next post...

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Clinging to God, held in God's hands.

March 27, 2019
Well Homily

Please pray with me,
Gracious God, as you led the Israelites through the wilderness, as you were with Joseph and Mary as they journeyed to Bethlehem, and as you journeyed with Jesus to the cross….you are with us now.  Guide our hearts, minds and bodies on this Lenten journey.  Continue to turn us toward you, creating within us clean hearts, marking us with the cross, lighting our paths and guiding us every step of the way.  In Jesus’ name we pray amen.

Psalm 63, our appointed psalm for this past Sunday, calls us into a prayer of hope and thanksgiving with God. 

It’s a psalm that lifts up the amazing vastness of God’s love and grace for the entire world, yet at the same time shows the intimacy God has with each and every one of us. 

I don’t know about you, but while the vastness of God’s mercy, grace and love is ah-may-zing…I need that intimate relationship with God.  In fact, I long for it. 

O God, you are my God, I seek you….

This Lent I’ve been journeying each day with Julian of Norwich, I think I may have mentioned this already, but my daily devotions have some of her writings, a small passage of scripture, some questions to ponder, a passage from a psalm and more questions to reflect upon before a closing prayer. 

I used this devotional for Lent 6 years ago.  So, while I’m coming back to it again, it’s brand new this Lent.  What I have noticed this time, is that the first few weeks of Lent I was deeply focusing on Julian’s writings and the questions that followed. 

What I’ve found more recently is that I’ve used the journaling time and space for conversations with God through written prayers.  It seems this Lent, I’ve been drawn into a more intimate relationship with God that I have been nurturing through mediation and my own prayer life. 

With the regularity of a set time and place for these daily devotions, my heart and mind are ready to open up to conversations with God during this time. 

Like the psalmist writes, my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 

Yet this longing for God’s presence is more than just being parched, or needing my thirst quenched.  It’s seeing the love and grace of God in my midst each and every day. 

There are times when I pray that I do cry out to God in lament over the imperfections in my life and my relationships with others.  I cry out for God’s presence to mend broken relationships, melt hardened hearts, and to allow enough time and space for healing. 

In the midst of the troubling times, I do seek God in this place, for solace, compassion, grace and forgiveness. 

As the psalmist writes, I know that God has been my help…and will be my help, but I still cry out.  I still voice my worries, concerns, cares and joys to God in my own personal prayers as well as in the communal prayers and worship within the context of this faith community, in this sanctuary. 

Because this place, this sacred space is often where I am visually and physically reminded of how God’s hand upholds me. 

I’m reminded of this as I see you all, all of us, come together week after week to a place of prayer, communion and fellowship. 

I’m reminded of it as I see the hand prints on this parament from our Sunday School kiddos.  

I’m reminded of this as I see and experience the love of God lived out through the actions of others. 

I’m reminded of this as God presents moments of pure love and grace through the bodies of you all…the people gathered to worship in this space. 

Last week after Holden Evening Prayer, two young girls came up and knelt at the railing. They were followed closely by an even younger girl, who comes to worship regularly with her mom and dad. 

I knelt down and asked if the first one wanted a prayer…yes, she said, and pray for my mom.  So I laid hands on her head, said a prayer and blessed her.   

I moved over and asked the second girl if she wanted a prayer, too.  Yes, she said, and pray for my grandfather.  So I laid hands on her head, said a prayer and blessed her.  

And then there was the little one…up at the altar rail like she is every week for communion.  I said a prayer, gave her a blessing and at the end she said, “amen.” 

And she walked away. 

I couldn’t get up right away…I wanted to hold on to that sacred moment. 

Where two young girls led another one up…and they all knew that this place…is a place for prayers, blessings and that it is safe.   We were all held in God's hands in that moment.  

You all make this happen. 

The fact that I was part of this holy moment was one of those kingdom moments, where God breaks in…and just says, I’m holding you, you all, in my hand. 
Cling to me, God says, I’ve got you. 

Dr. Timothy Wengert, the professor of Lutheran Confessions, when I was at Philly seminary started a prayer one day in class like this,

Dear God,
You hold us in the palm of your hand…

And then he lost his train of thought and paused.

Then he said,
Don’t drop us.  Amen. 

May that be our prayer this night, confident that God holds us as we cling to God’s love, grace and mercy. 

Let us pray,
Repeat after me,
Dear God,
You hold us
in the palm of your hand.
Don’t drop us.

Monday, March 25, 2019

God's word shines like the sun.

March 24, 2019
3rd Sunday in Lent

Isaiah 55:1-9
Psalm 63:1-8
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Luke 13:1-9

Please pray with me,
Gracious God, as you led the Israelites through the wilderness, as you were with Joseph and Mary as they journeyed to Bethlehem, and as you journeyed with Jesus to the cross….you are with us now.  Guide our hearts, minds and bodies on this Lenten journey.  Continue to turn us toward you, creating within us clean hearts, marking us with the cross, lighting our paths and guiding us every step of the way.  In Jesus’ name we pray amen.

On August 15, 1917, Oscar Romero was born.  At the age of one, he was baptized into the Catholic church.  With a full house with 5 brothers and sisters, as a young boy, Oscar was often found at the local church during his free time.  At age 13 he entered minor seminary and was then promoted to the national seminary in San Salvador; and completed his studies at the Gregorian University in Rome and was ordained in Rome on April 4, 1942. 

He served as a parish priest for over 20 years.  In 1977 he was appointed Archbishop of El Salvador.   He was appointed, some believe, because he would follow suit of his predecessors.  You see, on the one hand, some were afraid that his conservative reputation would negatively affect liberation theology’s commitment to the poor.  But on the other hand, those who appointed him did so in hopes that he would keep the status quo of the church agreeing with the rules and regulations of the state. 

These rules gave no hope or help to the poor in El Salvador.  The church seemed to support the government which stood up for and helped the rich, ignoring the vast growing number of poor people throughout the country. 

Shortly after his appointment, Romero presided at a friend’s funeral.  A priest who had been killed assassinated.  It was in that moment that Romero had a change of heart.

From that point forward, he was a voice for the poor.  He felt that the call of the gospel was to give a voice to the voiceless.  He spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations and torture, issues that swarmed through El Salvador in the mist of the civil war they faced through the 1970s and 80s. 

Romero preached out in worship and through radio addresses.  He said, “I have frequently been threatened with death.  I must say that, as a Christian, I do not believe in death but in the resurrection.  If they kill me, I shall rise again in the Salvadoran people.  Martyrdom is a great gift from God that I do not believe I have earned.  But if God accepts the sacrifice of my life, then my blood will be like the seed of liberty, and a sign of the hope that will soon become a reality.”

It was this day, March 24 in 1980 as he presided at a communion service in a small chapel that he was assassinated.  His voice and image lives on in the Salvadoran people and throughout the country itself. 

I found this quotation this week from him that I had not yet heard:

The word of God is like the light of the sun, it illuminates beautiful things
But also things which we would rather not see. 

It seems to fit with our gospel lesson this day as well as the general theme of Lent as a time of repentance.

We talk a lot about repentance.  The word for repentance in Greek, metanoia  means “to change one’s mind.” When we think about Lent as a time of repentance and returning back to God, it’s more than giving up chocolate or trying not to swear as much…its deeper than that.  It’s bigger than just us and our individual lives.  Not that giving up chocolate and not swearing are bad ideas, it’s just that the act of repentance is so much more than that. 

When we change or minds, or rather, have our minds changed by God, we are open to seeing the world around us in a brand-new way. 

When we hear God’s word, it lights up the world…we see all the beautiful things around us, but we also see things that have been hidden in the dark.  The call in the gospel of Luke to repentance is to see the world as Jesus sees the world..all lit up by God's word.  

And how does Jesus see the world in the gospel of Luke?  Luke’s teachings on discipleship emphasizes the preference for the poor. 

Jesus first public reading of scripture in the temple as a boy, he reads “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.” 

The refrain comes up again in the beatitudes, “woe to you who are rich.”

We hear the story about a very rich man and a very poor man, Lazarus, begging at his gates.  We are called to see the vast differences between the rich and the poor. 

We hear the story of Zacchaeus.  We see how we can change our ways to reach out to treat others fairly and support others in need. 
Not to mention, the story of the Good Samaritan, the tale where we learn to open our eyes and see those in our midst, in our community, our road who have been hurt and are in need of compassion, mercy and care. 

Because isn’t that our continued call to repentance this Lent and every day of our lives? 

We are continually called to turn away from selfish ways and actions to see our neighbors, our friends, our enemies and reach out in mercy, compassion, generosity and care. 

We are called to bear good fruit and to do it constantly. 

When we turn from our own selfish ways, when we change our minds, to see God’s world around us, we see it in a new way. 

We will see things that we have always seen…maybe for you it is the beauty of creation, the joy found in this community, the love found in families and friends. 

But, big BUT here, BUT, we will also see things that we’d rather not see. 
The harm inflicted on people of other faiths because they do not believe what we do. 
The pain families experience through divorce, illness and death.
The impact we have on this earth (God’s creation) through our buildings, roads and vehicles. 

The truth behind all the happy posts on social media that our lives are far from perfect. 
And the treatment of anyone because they look different, move differently, sound different, love different, smell different, or act differently than we do….

All of these truths exist each and every day of our lives.  God’s word shines a light on all of this.  

But here's the thing, something holy happens when God's light shines on these truths.

You see, God’s word is a word of promise and hope, so it shines in the midst of violence, and calls voices to rise up praying for peace and working toward solutions.

God’s word comforts the pain of brokenness, death and loss we feel in our families by surrounding us with a family of faith that surrounds and upholds us in times of need. 

God’s word calls us to see the beauty of the earth and to raise hands to care for all God has made as we work to protect it for generations to come. 

God’s word sheds light on our imperfections reminding each and everyone of us that we do not need to compare ourselves to anyone because we are created in God’s image, loved beyond all measure and perfect in the eyes of God. 

And these are the things that we may not want to see, but when we do, we live into the fullness of who God created us and calls us to be every day of our lives. 

And that, my friends, is when the kingdom breaks in…again, and again, and again. 

So live in that light, serve in that light, love in that light. 

And let all God’s people say, amen.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Lord, in your mercy...hear our lament.

March 17, 2019
2nd Sunday in Lent
Psalm 27                                                                                                                        
Philippians 3:17-4:1
Luke 13:31-35

Please pray with me,
Gracious God, as you led the Israelites through the wilderness, as you were with Joseph and Mary as they journeyed to Bethlehem, and as you journeyed with Jesus to the cross….you are with us now.  Guide our hearts, minds and bodies on this Lenten journey.  Continue to turn us toward you, creating within us clean hearts, marking us with the cross, lighting our paths and guiding us every step of the way.  In Jesus’ name we pray amen.

As we enter into our Old Testament reading today, Abram is awaiting the promise of offspring.  Maybe you remember back to chapter 12 in Genesis where God makes a covenant with Abram that he will bless him and make his name great so that he will be a blessing.  Yet, Abram and Sarai have been waiting for the fulfillment of this covenant.  And in the midst of waiting, Abram cries out in laments to the Lord.  He cries out in lament to make his problem God’s problem.

God made this promise and so, Abram and Sarai went and then journeyed to the land. They waited for a child -- a child who would become the first of their many descendants, who would in turn become a great nation, blessed to be a blessing.
Time passes. They go to Egypt. They come back. No child.
They became prosperous, even wealthy. No child.
Their nephew Lot separates from them. Lot is captured. Lot is rescued.
You know the refrain, and still no child.  
And then, finally, the Lord breaks the silence.  In today's passage God responds to Abram.  R. Jacobson

Just as Abram and Sarai wait, so do we. 

We are awaiting the coming of Christ, the promise of a peaceful world, the end of illness, sickness and pain, the end of sin breaking into to our lives…and in the middle of waiting – in darkness – we cry out in lament….we make our problem, God’s problem.

We come into this space…ready to pray, to sing, to be fed, to be with others…this space is sacred, holy….
On Friday, in Christchurch, New Zealand, our Muslim brothers and sisters entered into their space, ready to pray, to worship, to be fed, to be with others…

On Friday, in the United States our Muslim brothers and sisters awoke to this fear filled, tragic news.  Some wondered if they would be safe to worship that day, on Friday, their holy day.  Some have been living with this fear for years.

Just like Abram and Sarai, we are waiting….
Waiting for the end of violent shootings, and hate-filled actions. 
Waiting for the day when doctors won’t say the word cancer, because it will be no more. 
Waiting for the day when we are able to live freely with one another despite our differences. 
Waiting for the day when wrongs are forgiven, friendships and relationships are mended, and when we can share a hug or a kiss of peace without worrying about what others may say or do. 

We wait, as Abram and Sarai waited.  In response to Abram’s lament, God reaffirms the promise and Abram responds in trust and in righteousness and then….God expands the promise! 

No one but your very own issue shall be your heir.’ 
He brought him outside and said, 
‘Look towards heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ 
Then he said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’

As many descendants as there are stars, as if Abram could even count all the stars in the heavens.  Abram had been looking inward, inside himself, to his own ability to produce offspring.  And God, the Creator of all things, says, NO!  Look up!  Look outside of yourself, see all those stars?  That, is how numerous your descendants will be.  

Too often, we ourselves turn in upon our selves.  That’s really what sin is, right?  When we gaze at our bellybuttons only worried about ourselves, not thinking or caring about others.  Just like Abram seems to have done in this situation.  But God calls upon Abram to look up!  To see beyond himself …to see the vastness of creation beyond him and to see the renewed promise God has made to him. 

When we are struggling, searching for meaning, dealing with the troubles of this world, in whatever shape they may take for you, we too, turn in on ourselves.  Yet God calls us to look up, to look out. 
When we do that, we realize that we are not alone; we are able to see beyond ourselves and cry out to God in lament. 

When we cry out in lament, we make our problems God’s problems, and God hears our cries, God reaches out to us, reaches into our hearts and says I have marked you with the cross of Christ, you are my child, my beloved, attend to me, I am enough for you. 

And so we cry out to God to end the hate-filled acts of violence in our world.  Lord, in your mercy, (hear our prayer)
And so we cry out to God to break the bonds of sin that keep us from truly seeing and loving our neighbors, Lord, in your mercy, (hear our prayer)
And so we cry out to God for an end to sickness, illness, depression, loneliness and feelings of being forgotten.  Lord in your mercy, (Hear our prayer)
And so we cry out to God help us to see you, to know that you are here, to know that our voices are heard.  Lord, in your mercy… (hear our prayer)

And so we cry out…

Yes, we cry, because some times that is all we can do.  That's all I could do in response to the tragic news from New Zealand on Friday morning.  All we can do is cry out in lament.  God, hear our pain, feel our pain, know our pain and make it yours. 

And when we cry out, (just like we did responding with hear our prayer) we hear the cries of others and we respond in care, compassion, justice and generosity. 

Our prayers in this place are those cries.  When we lift up the prayers of the people here in worship, we are crying out to God…we lift up names and places near and dear to our hearts that we want God to know about, care about and be present with. 

When it comes to the prayers this day, you will be invited (as you are every week) to lift up names aloud as we pray.  I encourage you to say the names in your heart and mind aloud. 

Listen to the many voices in this place raising their concerns, cares and worries to God. 

We lift up these names in this place, and in our own prayers outside of this place confident that God hears our prayers, our problems, our worries and our concerns and makes them God’s problems, too. 

God knows we can’t solve the problems of the world on our own, so we give them to God.  Confident that God hears us, knows us and walks with us in the midst of all that we go through. 
Let me say that again, we cry out in lament, because we are confident that God hears us, knows us and walks with us in the midst of our troubles. 

So as we cry out, for whatever it is that weighs on our hearts, know that as you do, as we do, God does hear us.  God takes on our fears, worries, angers, frustrations, laments and makes them God’s own. 

Thanks be to God that we do not go through life on our own.
Thanks be to God for the gift of this community that offers strength, experience, love, compassion and support when we are in a time of need. 
Thanks be to God for the voices we have to speak out against violence and hatred in our world as we work towards a peaceful future for all God’s children. 

And thanks be to God, for the gift of Jesus, the way we know and are connected to God…for his living, his teaching, his dying and his resurrection….for that is how we know we are named and claimed by God, marked with the cross and called forth from this place to love and serve others. 

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, March 14, 2019

Blazing through Lent.

March 13, 2019

Please pray with me,

Gracious God, as you led the Israelites through the wilderness, as you were with Joseph and Mary as they journeyed to Bethlehem, and as you journeyed with Jesus to the cross….you are with us now.  Guide our hearts, minds and bodies on this Lenten journey.  Continue to turn us toward you, creating within us clean hearts, marking us with the cross, lighting our paths and guiding us every step of the way.  In Jesus’ name we pray amen. 

I stumbled upon this illustration while preparing the homily tonight.  It came from a reflection from Adam Hearlson:
In North America and elsewhere, the outdoor trails of our parks and forests are marked with blazes. Blazes are small directional signs that assure the traveler that she is on the right path. The hike requires following the blazes.
But the blaze is not the destination, just the marker. Hikers are bound to leave the approaching blaze in the past. The marker is a reminder that you are on the right trail and that while you might not see another marker for a while, it will show up.
Indeed, if you travel far and don’t see a marker, it is time to backtrack and remember where the last time you saw a marker.

The trail marker is not just reassurance that you are on the right path, it is also a reminder that the trail is bigger than any one person. It’s not just there for you…it’s there for anyone who hikes this trail.  And the goal of the marker is to keep all hikers safe and on the right path.  (

For me, the season of Lent is like the blazes on a hiking trail, a reminder during the year, to turn to God, to stay on the right path, to be guided by God in my everyday life.  I’m a pastor (you knew that already) but the struggle for me is real when it comes to devotions and meditation time.  As I shared in breakfast Bible study on Monday, my current devotional after some short readings offers a time for meditation.  I have to tell you, at this point I’m good for about 5 minutes…and when I say good, as long as I inhale and say ‘God within’ and exhale and say, ‘God without’ I can focus. 

When I try just breathing, my mind wanders or I’m distracted by the cat tapping me on the shoulder or I’m drawn to take a sip of coffee or tea.  
But one of the things that Lent offers to me is the time to try this meditation and devotional practice…and that’s what it is, a practice.  And through this practice I’m drawn into a holy time and a holy space with God.  The table in my kitchen is transformed into sacred space as I read, breathe, sit in silence, pray and write. 

This daily devotional time is a blaze that sets me on a path towards God, towards Jesus’ journey toward the cross and ultimately toward the empty tomb on Easter. 

How does or can this season of Lent be a blaze in your life?  How does this season draw you closer to God in a time of prayer, worship or service?  How do the words we pray and sing in this place remind you that God’s guidance and presence is always with you? 

Because God is always present: calling us, marking us with the cross, guiding us and loving us. 

So, while we journey this path through the season of Lent and though this journey that we call life, we do so in the certain hope of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We know that God is with us on this journey giving us blazes and signs to light up the path and point us in the right direction. 

And for that, we give God praise, just as our psalmist does this day.  Praise for God’s goodness in the world and God’s greatness seen throughout all of creation. 
We praise God in this place in song and prayer with others. 
We praise God in our devotions, meditations and prayer life outside of this building. 

May the closing verses of tonight’s Psalm be that reminder of God’s presence in this season and in our lives. 

I invite you to close your eyes, take a deep breath, and listen again to these words…

Our soul waits for the Lord;
   he is our help and shield.
Our heart is glad in him,
   because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
   even as we hope in you.
Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
   even as we hope in you.

And let all God’s people say, amen.