Thursday, September 5, 2019

Reaching the Beach...again!

Hey all,
I'm very excited to be participating in Reach the Beach again this year. 
Can you tell from the picture?  
No really, I took this selfie last year just before my nighttime 9 mile run.  I was a bit nervous, but I have to say it was the most holy run ever.  The sky was clear and was full of stars and the road contained the blinking lights of vests of runners who ran in front of me.  It was quiet, serene and amazing.  
Reach the Beach is an over 200 mile relay race in scenic (aka - hilly) New Hampshire.  The experience was amazing last year and I’m looking forward to another memorably experience this year and another opportunity to raise money for the campership fund for Camp Calumet Lutheran. 
For me, camp has been and continues to be a place where I can truly be myself.  It’s a place where I learned about the love of God, the value of honest friendships and gained leadership skills that have transformed and shaped the way I do ministry today.  
Another big thing for me, especially when it comes to overnight camp, is the important place it has in the lives of youth and young adults.  We are connected to one another so often through social media and screens more than we see each other face-to-face, which works for some things, but hinders others.  
When you go to camp, you get to live with people you may not choose to live with.  You may be in a cabin or a tent with campers or a co-counselor that are much different than you are.  During your week, two-weeks or entire summer together, you learn to live with others.  You learn that your personal behaviors and actions impact those in closest proximity to you.  In a day and age when we are more ready to speak rather than to listen, living with others at camp forces us (in a good way) to live in the context with care and concern for those around us.  
As I enter into the last week leading up to Reach the Beach, I hope you can help in one or more of the following ways.  
1)  Please check out my fundraising page.  See the video of me in my staff shirt from the 1990s and learn more about why I’m running this year.  
2)  Share my fundraising page with people you know love camp and want to help more kids experience camp.
3)  Pray for the group of runners, drivers, chaplains and luggers (they help get mattresses and sleeping stuff situated for our runners & drivers) who will be participating in Reach the Beach on September 13 & 14.
4)  Make a donation of any size on my fundraising page. (Options to donate offline are there, too.  If you are local to me, you can hand me a donation in person.) 
Last year as I trained and ran, I helped raise funds for the campership fund for Camp Calumet Lutheran (the camp that shaped my faith and life as a kid and young adult.) Last year our runners, chaplains, drivers and luggers helped raise enough money that Calumet was able to lower the cost of camp by $100 for every camper. Imagine that!?!  If you can help in any way, it is deeply appreciated.  
Thanks for reading. 
Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for your support. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Let mutual love continue

September 1, 2019
12th Sunday after Pentecost
Proverbs 25:6-7
Psalm 112
Hebrews 13:1-8
Luke 14:1, 7-14

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, our rock, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen.

Humility is the understanding or will to accept yourself and to not be egotistical or arrogant, not to mention being accepting. 
Humiliation is the act of being humiliated by something or someone, so in a sense, it's embarrassment or self-loathing. 
The two are easily confused, but they are vastly different.

Here’s an example of humiliation and humility. 
The scene comes from the movie Billy Madison.   Billy Madison is a lazy adult who in order to inherit his father’s hotel empire must repeat Kindergarten through 12th grade and pass them all.  When he enters the third grade, he is making fun of other students in his class and the teacher asks him to keep quiet or he will not pass.  Later, this class attends a field trip and the following happens. 

<<<For those of you reading for the first time, know that the following clip is longer than the one I shared in worship.  I cut the clip just as the teacher gets on the bus.  Be ready, if you're watching now, that this clip then becomes a bit, well, not worship appropriate.  Just so you know. ;) >>>

We can see how Billy Madison helped shift the entire class dynamic by humbling himself so that Ernie is not embarrassed by the class. 

In a completely different example, Abby Wambach, two-time Olympic god medalist, FIFA World Cup champion andthe highest all-time international goal scorer for male and female soccer players, used to always do the following after scoring a goal.  

After the ball went into the net, she would point. 
First, she would point to the teammate who assisted.
Then she would point to the defender who protected them.
Then she would point to the midfielder who ran tirelessly.
Then she would point to the coach who dreamed up that play.  
Then she would point to the bench player who willed this moment into existence.  

She would always honor and thank the people who made that goal possible.  
(Abby shares this experience and many others in her most recent book, Wolfpack)

Today’s lessons are all about pride and humility. 
Proverbs says, do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great; For it is better to be told, “Come up here,” than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.

Our passage from Hebrews talks about hospitality, loving relationships and not letting things get in the way of God’s relationship with us…

Are you sensing a theme here?  We are not to puff ourselves up so much, or get so caught up all that all we focus on is what we are doing…not why we are doing it. 

In our gospel lesson we are called to take on the ability of being humble…not to expect to be the best or attempt to be the best, but to humble ourselves…and the Lord will exalt us. 

In response to this week's texts, The Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe writes,

“The key to it all is a healthy humility.  Not a humility that negates or devalues anyone. Instead, a humility that recognizes all as equals before God.  A humility that values all human life and tries to see Christ in all.  How many of us would dare to invite those who are neglected and marginalized to dine with us and celebrate with us?  Mutual love combined with humility challenges the divisions society insists on creating.  What can we do as church to live in God’s love?” (To read the rest of her reflection on this week's texts, please check out her post here: RevGalBlogPals)

I like that phrase ‘healthy humility.’  It’s okay and good and healthy, even to accept ourselves for who we are and to not be arrogant or egotistical.  This humility that Jesus shows us in our gospel lesson today is not one of making fun of others or putting others down, but he lifts up the truth that there is room for everyone at the table of the heavenly banquet.  Humility to me shows the importance of lifting others up instead of putting them down. 

The reality is that in our places of work, our classrooms, our communities, our social media feeds and society in general seems to have taken a shift from humility to humiliation.  That is easier to put someone down rather than lift someone up.  We too often shame one another for their faults or differences rather than see and honor the diversity around us. 

It’s gotten brutal out there folks.  But the church has an important voice here and now. 

We are called to preach a gospel of unconditional love.  We are called to live lives that present humility to the world around us.  We are called to tell others and invite others to this table and a meal that welcomes EVERY human being…no matter who they are, no matter what their lifestyle, no matter what challenges and struggles they have faced. 

I think that, in itself, is humbling…that no matter who we are…God loves us.
No matter what we have done…God loves us.
No matter what sins we have committed, or will commit in the future…God loves us.

Only we ourselves, and God truly knows what is in our hearts and on our minds. 
And even knowing all about us…our faults, our failures, our inadequacies, loves us anyway! 

That is truly humbling…and all we can do about it, is put one foot in front of the other and come forward to this railing, to this table…and taste and see the unconditional love that God has for us. 

And this table…this sanctuary…this church…all of this is God’s presence in our world…God’s invitation is here for everyone all of the time. 

Knowing we are welcomed at this table, knowing we are far from perfect, we are still called, charged, tasked to invite as many as we can to this place. 
We are called to lift others up, we are called to be the living breathing body of Christ in the world around us. 

What does that look like in your everyday life? 
It may be different for each and everyone of us.

Our reading from Hebrews offers some guidelines…
Let mutual love continue.
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers.
Let your marriage be held in honor.
Remember those who are in prison.
Keep your lives free from the love of money.
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have.

These are some reminders of how we are called to turn from ourselves and live lives in community with others as the body of Christ in the world around us. 

What does it look like for you? 

For me, it is the simple process of getting to know my neighbors.  Strange, right? But I barely know the folks who live up and down this street.  So, for me it means spending more time on the front porch greeting others as they walk by on these beautiful fall evenings.  It means engaging in conversations with the families and folks who live across the street from me.  It is simple, but it builds community and connects us all. 
Some days I’m getting it just right and other days, I’d rather just keep to myself. 
But even on those days, I’m welcome in this place, with a word of forgiveness and grace to go back out and try again. 

“We are to choose God’s holy ways – every day and every moment.  And when we fail, there is forgiveness and grace enough to begin again.” (Another beautiful insight from The Rev. Dr. Rachel Keefe)

There is forgiveness and grace enough to begin again. 
Receiving that forgiveness and grace frees us to begin loving, serving and caring for our neighbors again and again and again. 

Knowing that you are loved and forgiven and welcomed at this table, how will you let mutual love continue?  In your heart, your home, your community and in God’s world? 

It’s a simple call, but not always easy.
Thanks be to God for this community that loves and accepts us for who we are and strengthens us to share that love and forgiveness in the world around 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. 

PS. By the time I preached this sermon for third time I was worried that the take home messages would be, it's cool to pee your pants and go point at people.  But hopefully, the images and illustrations help us all to be reminded that it isn't about us, but it our ability to humble ourselves, lift others up and share the love of God while when we do.