Sunday, September 25, 2011

Turn, turn, turn

Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32

Sing along if you know it, “To everything, turn turn turn. There is a season, turn turn turn. And a time to every purpose under heaven.” The Byrds had it right, turn, turn, turn. Under heaven, we are given room to turn, to stretch our tighten muscles, to soften our harden hearts. Under heaven, we are given freedom to move, to turn and even twirl!

God said, “turn then, and live!” Because, if we cannot turn, if we become stuck and immovable...we die. To turn, is to live.

Tonia loves her husband, they have been married for nine years and have had two children along the way. Their life style is typical, common even. Most days are hurried and routine. Children get to school on time, dinner is made, paychecks rolls in...yes, most days Tonia loves her husband. Then, those other days of the week when tempers flair, one too many drinks is taken and his fists fly at her. The children are hidden, dinner in thrown across the room and yet, even on those days, she loves her husband.

This life is constricted, impossible to move in. In the craziness of trying to maintain peace and protect the family, it has become difficult to look around, it has become impossible to move. Tonia cannot turn around, she in entangled so deeply in abuse, anxiety and a tortured sense of commitment, she cannot turn around.

[For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live.]

Max works diligently at his job, the pressures are heavy, yet the paycheck makes it worth it. Bosses take notice, promotions consistently are awarded, most days Max works diligently at his job. Then, those others days during the week, the pressure mounts to an unbearable degree and Max turns to his whiskey and coke as a way of numbing the pain and emptiness. Each week, after too much money is wasted, relationships are neglected and recovery takes days away from his diligent work, Max swears next weekend will be different. The cycle will be broken.

This life is a cycle, difficult to break. The attraction to the bottle is great, yet the effects have made this life nearly impossible to sustain. Max cannot turn around, he is slave to the disease inherited from his mother and grandfather, there is no room to breathe or move under the pressure of the addicted life. There is no room for others, for healthy relationships. He cannot turn around.

[For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live.]

The people Ezekiel is speaking to are stuck. These children of God are wandering in exile, they have watched their nation-status disintegrate, their temple destroyed, their rights and safety stolen away. Left to their own devices they are struggling with the nagging question of “how long will the sins of our ancestors plague our lives?”. Instead of striving after God, they rely on what is familiar and safe, turning to idols and each other in all out rebellion.

This life is chaotic, faith seems like a vague idea of their grandparents. The state of their future is unknown and the faster they run after their future, the more convoluted and confused it becomes. With this mass of people, all living according to their own desires and wills, the ability to turn seems hopeless, there is no freedom of movement. The people of God cannot turn around.

[For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live.]

We all live with entrapment. The realities that constrict us come is so many different forms; some are inherited, the burdens of our parents seeping upon us. Some of the constraints are physical, suffering under illness or pain. Some entrapment are self-inflicted, and the shame, guilt and regret of it all becomes are own personal ball and chain. Other times we are constrained by the behaviors, people, ego or desires that we put between us and actual road block that stops movement, barricades free movement, hinders the ability to turn.

And we look at one another and did you get so trapped? Because the chains of others are so much easier to see and identify. How could she go back to him, isn't she thinking about the children? Why does he keep drinking, he'll lose his job for sure. Yes, I would much rather spend my time and prayer life attending to the chains of others, its much easier than dwelling on my own. And yet, we have heard it said, [For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live.]

In exile and chaos the invitation comes, “turn, then and live.” After generations after generations of mistakes and rebellion, abuse and scandal the invitation comes, “Turn then, and live.” The invitation comes to each one of us, as individuals and as a whole community...

How can we turn to you, Lord?
If our lives feel so constrained, so heavy, if we are so chained to other gods. How can we turn to you?

Under heaven, we are able to turn, over and over again we are invited by the God of freedom, the God of movement and the God of second chances. We are invited to turn towards life and away from certain death. We are given the option of turning because our God is always turned towards life and our God turned towards us first.

God turned towards us during the creation of the world God gave the invitation and said “create with me! Make life, sustain life and love life like I do!”

God turned towards us again after the Noah built the ark and God flooded the earth, God promised that life would continue forever and then invited Noah to Go! Make life, sustain life and love life like I do!”

God turned towards us again, and came to earth, and lived among us. Jesus came into our world and healed the sick – the abused, the addicted, the stuck, the lost, the betrayed. Jesus turned towards us, and in doing so opened his arms and emptied himself on the cross. Jesus turned toward us so that we might live, so that we might make life, sustain life and love like Jesus did.

We all live in entrapment. But we live with hope. We live with the hope of Christ and the promise of life that we are given. We live with the invitation of God, who welcomes us with every turn we make. There is no entrapment that the cross of Jesus has not overcome. So the belief that we are stuck, the dread of being unable to move is no longer true, the truth of our life, yours, mine and that we are freed to move, to stretch our tightened muscles, to soften our hardened hearts. We are free to turns towards God, which is always the direction of life in Christ and life together.

For Tonia, Max, the Israelites and all of us...this turning business can be scary and overwhelming, to look within and without and acknowledge our entrapment we live in. Yet, we do not do this alone. We stand together and acknowledge our sin in the the presence of God and of one another. We prayer shoulder to shoulder with this body of Christ. And the One who offers the invitation to turn will never leave you...though failure will certainly come and wandering in the wilderness feels inevitable...God, who desires for you to love life and live it abundantly will never, ever leave you.

So, people of God...Sing along if you know it; to everything turn, turn, turn, there is a season turn, turn, turn and a time to every purpose under heaven.
Turn, then, and live. Amen.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Breaking Bread

our dinner hours look nothing like this!
When I was growing up my father noticed that the craziness of three active kiddos, work and all other obligations were encroaching on a very important family ritual. So, a new rule was made: dinner is served at 5:30pm, all members of the family are to be present. I am so thankful that this important and formational tradition was instilled in me. Because of it, I have continued the tradition with my daughter. Phone is silenced, TV is off and for anywhere between 10-60 minutes we still around our little table – it is not all “Leave it to Beaver” perfect, there are arguments and whining and bad cooking abounds...but we're trying! Because of this tradition the princess has pretty wicked conversational skills, is aware of (although does not always utilize) table manners and has a pretty sophisticated palate (because we can talk about food, instead of food being shoved in front of her with no explanation or introduction)!

It is so important! When in your day is quality time protected? How often do you and your family have eye-ball to eye-ball style conversation? I realize this may be a little preachy, but I give all props to my father! Here is a great article explaining in much more depth the positive pay offs of breaking bread together.,9171,1200760,00.html

Here a few other tables we've gathered around this month:

Communion: the Lutheran and Methodists came together to break bread and install the intern-pastor! It was a beautiful service set in a park with picnickers, walkers and disc golf players everywhere. Seeing the whole community together at the table was inspiring.

Community Meal: we joined with four church members to feed about 40 homeless and hungry people. That kitchen time may be just as powerful as the table time, it was a great time of service and conversation. The princess was very proud to be handing out the dinner rolls, she brought a smile to many faces!

Confirmation: 15 loud, loud confirmations students inhale their food and share openly with one another. It was great to just sit back and watch.

Let us break bread together...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

School Blessings

It begins today. My baby will begin her academic career, the same year I am (finally) ending mine. Supplies have been bought, outfit has been picked out, teacher has been introduced, school has been toured. Even with some nerves I think we can say, "We are ready!"

On Sunday our visiting preacher preached on Matthew 5: 14 “You are the light of the world...”

So, for the children's time I asked the 12 children in worship to look around the worship space and name all the sources of light that they could find. After the more obvious places had been picked out, I pointed out the “lights” that were sitting in the pews and the light that is inside each of them! The people are the light of Christ to the world! Then all of those “lights” extended a hand of blessing and I spoke this prayer over the students:

God of light, as your children begin to do the very important work of being students, bless them with:
eagerness to learn, that their world may grow large;
respect for teachers and students, that they may form healthy relationships;
happiness when learning is easy and stick-to-it-iveness when it is hard;
faith in Jesus as their best teacher and closest friend.
Help them to remember these lights that shine on them on, and to trust that your light is within them to guide and help whenever they feel afraid. We ask that you would protect them. Watch over them and keep them safe. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

It was very powerful to see the hands of the adults blessing the children 
(no, I didn't make it through without tears)! 

 May you be LIGHT in all the places and to all the people God has called you to.