Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Half & Half

I am entering the six month of my internship. This means internship is nearly half over...this is unbelievable to me! Many days I feel positive and humbled by how well this year has been going. Each Sunday is life-giving (and exhausting) and full of meaningful connections with the saints of God. We are having important conversations about the future of the church, discerning where the vision and identity of the church might go, digging into the Word and praying together.

And then there are those days when I think, “I only have six months and the church has not been completely revitalized! There is so much to do! I need to do more! I, I, I, I....” and I get overwhelmed and go running to find a project I can conquer easily (like cleaning out satisfying!). The conflicts, the confusion, the lack of resources, the illness, the begins to weigh on my shoulders and feels very heavy.

And then I remember that I am not God. God will be with this church long after I am gone, just as God has been here long before I arrived.

4For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night.”
Psalm 90

And with the turn from the first-half to the second-half of internship, my thoughts and energy begins to shift to what will happen after internship. I cannot get too far into this train of thought without feeling very nervous, and the anxiety of what will be begins to pile up. I dread the question from parishioners, pastors, family and friends, “What's next?” and I fret, fret, fret.

Packing & Panic

And then I remember that I am not God. God will be with us in this transition, just as God has been with us with every single transition (there have been A LOT) that has already happened.

So, for right now, I will try to be present. Present to the current ministry opportunities before me, present to my current relationships, present to all that God has laid out before me and trust that what will be will be. And what will be will be with God.

16 Let your work be manifest to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. 17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands— O prosper the work of our hands!” Psalm 90

Sunday, November 13, 2011

 “There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” I Cor. 12  

We are the gifted by the Holy Spirit and today we named that! It was powerful and relieving for us all to remember that the call of God comes with help, guidance and empowerment!

If you are a child, one who has faith so pure that the rest of us are to be just like you, will you please stand in body or in spirit.

If you attend a committee meeting of any kind in regards to the life of this church, will you please stand in body or in spirit.

If you have come to this building and offered time, your physical resources, your skills and handiwork in or around the building, will you please stand in body or in spirit.

If you gather in this place on many Sundays to worship, to be fed, to feed and nourish others, will you please stand in body or in spirit.

There is an old saying that says, “God does not call the equipped. God equips those who God calls.” God has called you, therefore God has send the Holy Spirit to empower you.

People of God, I ask you:
Will you support one another, honor the gifts God gives,
and will you share in the mutual ministry that Christ has given?
We will, and we ask God to help us. Pastor, will you support us honor the gifts God gives, and will you share in the mutual ministry that Christ has given?
I will, and I ask God to help me.

Let us pray...Almighty God, your Holy Spirit equips the church with a rich variety of gifts. Grant that we may use them to bear witness to Christ in lives that are built on faith and love. Make us ready to live the gospel and eager to do your will, so that we may share with all your church in the joys of eternal life; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Right here waiting for you.

[sermon from Sunday, this gets a little long...but maybe the end is worth the wait!] :)

When I was growing up, I became very good at waiting. From the time I was nine, my father raised my brothers and I by himself and so was always running here to there, and rarely on time. So, after school, after ballet class, after piano lessons, after confirmation...I waited. I could almost guarantee that I would be the last kid to be picked up after whatever activity I was, I waited. I never got terribly nervous, we lived in a small size town and if it really came down to it, I could probably have walked home from wherever I was. Thankfully, it never came to that.

I have a brother, Matthew, who is five years younger than I am, and for whatever reason, his demeanor as child was very sensitive and quite on edge. He never trusted that his adults would be there, he always expected the worst, if Dad was five minutes late that meant he was never going to show up and my poor brother would be left wherever he was at. Even if I was with him, Matthew would usually end up in tears as we waiting for our Dad, I'm sure I was the compassionate, patient older sister who told him to “knock it off!”, and yet, he would be in hysterics by the time our car finally pulled up.

We wait. We wait for a friend to meet us for coffee. We wait for test results. We wait in lines to renew this or that. We wait for a season to pass, or a difficult day to finally come to an end. We wait for war to end. We wait for hunger to be eradicated. We wait for God to move. We wait for Christ to come.

There is very little that is certain in life, but the chance to do some waiting is inevitable. We wait.

Our Gospel lesson today tells us a story about a master, some employees and what separates the good employees from the bad. This could be a story about just land keeping, it could be a story about how to be a good employee and follow direction. If we are not careful we cast this story quickly – God is the master, we are the employees...some are good, some are bad. However, I think we should be careful, because this story is unique. This story is even scary. We need to be mindful of where this story is found – Jesus goes on for a good long about the end of the world, this is often referred to as the eschatological discourse. A long sermon about the end of the age. So, that changes the story about the master and the employees and it changes how we hear is not so much about just land keeping or masters and good employees. This is a story about waiting. The master said he was leaving, and the master promises to return. This story is about what we do in the mean time.

[READ Matthew 25:14-30]

We have the good employees...they did just what their master told them and brought in the money! In the absence of the master they were obedient, hard working and reaped a great reward. In they end, they were invited into joy! This is perhaps the most beautiful detail of the story...that at the end of the wait, after all the hard work was over, after their good work and obedience had been acknowledged...the good employees were invited into joy!

And then we have the bad employee...who, in the absence of the master he panicked, terrified left running to bury his treasure and wait with idle hands. He even spoke back to the master, pointing out that the master isn't exactly all honest and good either! In the end, this employee was not invited into, this employee was cast out into the outter darkness.

Waiting, employees, land, end does it all fit together?

Believe it or not, this could be the very picture of our life of faith! Christ came to earth, took on human flesh, and while he was on earth he preached the gospel, healed the sick, fed the poor, comforted the weary, rebuked the wicked, and spoke of the kingdom of God on earth and in heaven. And then, Christ died, three days later Christ rose again, and then made promises. The resurrected Christ spoke to his disciples saying things like, “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” The resurrected Christ also said, I will come again...though,It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.” Christ will come again, and until he does, he has promised to remain with us, in a non-physical way. Every time we celebrate communion we proclaim what we call the mystery of faith, “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.” So, here we are in that space between “Christ is risen” and “Christ will come again”...we are waiting.

Are we waiting like the good employees? Often we think of waiting as sitting still and quiet, like waiting at the doctor's office. Yet the waiting that the good employees model for us is active! They jump right to work, follow the orders given by the master and carry the technique that the master has shown them. What does that mean for us? How does that translate into a person of faith, waiting for the master's return? Our waiting is active too. First, Jesus give us are jobs to do – Go! Make disciples, baptize them, teach them. And we know to do as Jesus did while he was on earth – we are to feed the hungry, cure the sick, comfort the grieving. Our waiting is active because Jesus' whole life was active! No sitting in the waiting room here.

But Jesus does not just give us jobs to do. So often we stop there, and think ok...I got my laundry list of good deeds from the preacher this week, better get after it. Jesus does not just give us jobs to do, Jesus also gives us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us tools, skills, understanding, hearts that are tuned in such a way that we can work for the Kingdom of God in our own, beautiful, unique and holy way. Do not leave here thinking you just got a laundry list..leave here remembering that you have been given the Holy Spirit. And with the Holy Spirit we have faith we can say, “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.” Christ will come again.

Are we waiting like the bad employee? Of course we have to stop and reflect on that question, because that person is in the story, and that person is a part of our story too. No one is great at waiting all the time, and the Church throughout the ages has been waiting for over 2000 years! Not only that, but when horrible things happen all over our world I find myself want to shout, NOW JESUS, THIS WOULD BE THE TIME TO GET BACK HERE! I am not always a great waiter. Our faith gets shaken, we despair and waiting seems like a cruel joke. Proclaiming the truth of “Christ has died. Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” could end with a question mark, instead of a period. Of course, these are matters of faith and dynamics that exists between us and God. God can handle our question marks, are shaky faith and our despair.

Where it really turns ugly, is when our actions resemble the actions of the bad employee. We panic and we run around with clenched fists, so scared and so unable to see the vision at the end of all this waiting that we bury our heads and clench our fists, just hoping the waiting is over soon.

When we lose the vision, we become cranky and cruel.
When we forget who gave us this job we become territorial and possessive of all the wrong things.
When the fear takes over, when our hope is lost..this is when we hurt one another, we clench our fists, close our doors and harden our hearts.

Even in these, our ugliest moments of faith, even then...the mystery of our faith is even more important and powerfully true. “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.” And good employee, bad employee, patient and faithful or panicked and are disciples of Christ. You have been given a job to do for the Kingdom of God is at hand. You have been given the Holy Spirit to guide, give you faith and empower you for this active and busy waiting. And over all, Christ has gives us the promise that he will come again. Waiting is certain and so is Christ's glorious return.

Wait with faith, wait with courage, wait with kindness, wait with busy hands and feet. You do not wait in vain, your Savior will return. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. Amen.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thankful Tree!

In preparation for my favorite holiday, the Princess and I got busy making this Thankful tree! She was home sick (again!) from school today, so we tried to make the best of it and do this low-key activity.  
I found a branch from our backyard, we made a ton of leaves and started thinking of what we are thankful for.  Our list came quickly as there are so many blessings to count! We still have lots of leaves to write on, so I hope in the coming two weeks we will fill the tree and count the blessings of God!  

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Princess and the Church

Last Sunday we had a marathon-ministry day. I attended one hour of Bible Study, Lutheran Worship and Methodist worship while the Princess attended one hour of Lutheran Sunday school, Methodist Sunday school and Methodist worship. Our Methodist musician was in the hospital, so on a moment's notice I became preside-preacher-musician for our communion-All Saints Sunday. That's a lot of church lingo, and church business and we were tired by noon! But the day wore on and we also did a service at a nursing home and attended youth group. Somewhere in the middle of all this I HAD to squeeze in some grocery shopping. About half way through the trip the Princess was getting antsy and crabby (to be honest, so was I) so she said, “I wanna call the Chaplain!”

You don't have to tell me twice, we dialed his number and she chatted away while I tried to power-shop and get us out of there pronto. The funny thing is as she tried to be heard over the noise of the store the Princess was chatting away AT THE TOP OF HER LUNGS! She was going on and on about Lutheran Sunday school, Methodist church, lighting candles, All Saints Day, inviting others to Sunday School and the children's game Cootie (no, that doesn't have anything to do with church). Our fellow shoppers and the lady at the check out got an ear full about all this churchy lingo and business...and I realized how much this Princess is taking in. She really is getting a full dose of “church” the good, the bad and the gospel.

The funny thing is, five days a week she is at the Catholic school for kindergarten! So, we're crossing ourselves before prayer and she is tolerating (I say that because it really is hard for her) Monday mass (which I play for).

I figure I'm either preparing her for a life of protestant ministry, OR a real serious rebellion during her teen-age years. Either way, for now, I love that she sees the church for what it is – a glorious, holy, messy, diverse place. The senior citizens, the wiggling children, the gracious women, the old and confused, the sick and dying, the sinner and saint all gathering around the table to receive Jesus.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

For all the saints...

a cutting from an All Saints Sermon...
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.  Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” 

These words also are for the living, because we are not only commemorating the saints of heaven, but we celebrate, honor and name the saints here on earth. The meek, those who feel actual hunger pangs for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart...these are the saints on earth. We do not often claim and name our sainthood, that sounds awfully haughty and self-righteous, doesn't it? We are holy, because our God is holy and because of the power of the Holy Spirit and because of the love and grace of Christ on the cross, we are made holy—we are made saints of God.

Yet, while we remain on earth we are not just saints – we are sinners and we are saints all the same glorious time. Most often we trudge with the weight of sin around our legs, we work to forget and let go of the sins of our lives and our poor attitudes – yes, our sinfulness can certainly be the more predominant state of our existence. But today, we gather with the whole church – the church on earth and the church in heaven and say WE HAVE BEEN MADE HOLY by the Holy Spirit. WE HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN by the cross of Christ, and, so, WE ARE SAINTS OF GOD! This is not for our own promotion or glory, our declaration is a declaration on the who God is. We believe in a God who so desires to be in relationship with us that God has chosen us to be God's children, we believe in a God who so protects life that he sent us a Savior to lift the weight of our sin so that we could live freely and love boldly. We believe in a God who is holy and who is love, and so through Christ, we are made holy and we are made for love too.

Today, when we remember the saints, we do not only remember those who have died, but we remember and honor and claim the sainthood of the living. Because God has made it so.

Fredrich Buechner is one of the saints of our time, a Presbyterian minister, celebrated theologian and incredible writer...I would like to share with you these words he give us for All Saints Day.

At the Altar Table the awkward pastor is doing something or other with the bread and with the wine. In the pews, the congregation sits more or less patiently waiting to get into the act. The church is quiet. Outside, a bird starts singing. It’s nothing special, only a handful of notes angling out in different directions. Then a pause. Then a trill or two. A chirp. It is just warming up for the business of the day, but it is enough.
The pastor and the usual scattering of senior citizens, parents, teenagers are not alone in whatever they think they’re doing. Maybe that is what the bird is there to remind them. In its own slapdash way the bird has a part in it too. Not to mention “Angels and Archangels and all the company of heaven” if the prayer book is to be believed. Maybe we should believe it. Angels and Archangels. Cherubim and seraphim. They are all in the act together. It must look a little like the great jeu de son et lumière at Versailles when all the fountains are turned on at once and the night is ablaze with fireworks. It must sound a little like the last movement of Beethoven’s Choral Symphony or the Atlantic in a gale.  
And “all the company of heaven” means everybody we ever loved and lost, including the ones we didn’t know we loved until we lost them or didn’t love at all. It means people we never heard of. It means everybody who ever did – or at some unimaginable time in the future ever will – come together at something like this table in search of something like what is offered at it.
Whatever other reasons we have for coming to such a place, if we come also to give each other our love and to give God our love, then together with Gabriel and Michael, and the awkward pastor, and Sebastian pierced with arrows, and the old lady whose teeth don’t fit, and Teresa in her ecstasy, we are the communion of saints’. – Frederick Buechner
Jesus' words of blessing and promise are for the living, and around this table we come to remember life and death, saints on earth and saints in heaven...and more than anything we come to participate in this dying in Christ and rising again to new life. Saints and sinners now, saints then, forever, with God. Amen.