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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Eve Meditation


The light of lights has come, on this silent and holy night.

The light shines in the darkness, and not just any 'ole darkness, but our darkness, the darkness of our souls, the darkness of our homes, the darkness of our church, our town, our nation, our world. The light of light has come...to us tonight.

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. Yet the darkness is still there, enfolding us, blinding our sight, confusing our movements, darkening our very beings. It is good, that on a night as silent and holy as this one that we acknowledge the darkness. Do not sit content in the darkness tonight, but name the darkness which enfolds, and blinds and confuses.

Because if we do not know the darkness...how will we ever see the light?  

The light of lights has come, on this silent and holy night. This light shines in the darkness, and not just any 'ole darkness, but the light of lights is shining here and now in our darkness...

shining powerfully to cast out the darkness, shining clearing to heal our blindness, shining with healing and loving light to guide our movements and illuminate our very beings.

The light you hold tonight is the light of the Christ child, born in our world to heal the darkness of our world. This is the good news of great, great joy.

May the light shine within you.
May the joy of the good news be born in your hearts.
May the peace of Christ be yours tonight and always.

For, the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. This is the birth of Christmas, this is the birth of us all. Amen.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Although its been said many times, many ways...

Merry Christmas to you!
With Love & Peace, Micaela and Elizabeth

“You say good-bye and I say hello!”

2011 has been a year of good-byes and hellos and so many transitions. Although never easy, these transitions make me aware and deeply thankful for the faithfulness of God present in every step. Studying, reading and hearing the Christmas story this Advent has reminded me how scary and life-altering this following God can be! Just like Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds and others we are all called out of our comfort places to step forward, trusting that God will be there to guide our shaking foot. This is very much what this past year has felt like for both Micaela and me, stepping forward with trembling limbs and then feeling the security and reassurance of landing on solid ground.

The angel said to her,
The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. Then Mary said,
            ‘Here am I,
             the servant of the Lord;
                   let it be with me according to your word.
Then the angel departed from her.” Luke 1:36,38

Good-bye 20's! I entered a new decade, but did it with my dear friend, Scanders and a great party!
Good-bye Luther Seminary! I finished up my academic work and Micaela graduated from WeeCare!
Good-bye Minnesota! We miss the people back home every single day, it really is hard to be so far away. Yet, the Minnesota humidity and deep freezes we're doing just fine with out!

Hello Holden! Two amazing weeks working and playing at Holden Village. Making music, playing with friends, hiking and relaxing. We also said hello to our dear Chaplain (John) here, in the Cascade Mountains, and that hello continues to be so sweet and fun.

Hello West Coast! Learning, learning, learning. Every day of ministry is full of new opportunities to learn and grow, which can be exhausting! Preaching, pastoral care and confirmation are very life-giving and exciting! The call to ordained ministry has been affirmed during our time here and I'm looking forward to the second half!

Hello Kindergarten! Learning, learning, learning. Micaela really is thriving and growing in her little Catholic school. She has lots of fun playing “horses” and spying on the boys during recess (uh-oh!). She is also taking ballet classes this year and is loving Sunday School at church. We still spend lots of time reading and baking together (its nice to know some things aren't changing!)

You may be wondering what “hellos” we'll be saying next? We are too! I will be entering the approval/assignment process to receive a first call. However, nothing will happen very quickly so we're being patient and hoping to find a place to work and attend 1st grade for next year. So, wherever we go there will plenty of hellos and good-byes and many terrified steps will be taken.

May we all be called out of our comfortable places and may we be given the faith of Mary, Joseph and the Shepherds to answer the call. Christmas blessings to you all! 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Isaiah 61: Then, here and now.


Is there anything more important, more compelling, more profound that we are called to do? More than bringing good news to the poor, proclaiming release and healing, to let the oppressed go free to proclaim God's work and favor here and now. Is there anything more important, more compelling, more profound?

This incredible piece of Scripture was first spoken by Isaiah – he spoke these words to a people in exile, cast out of their very land and homes, their identity ripped from them, their holy place – the Temple, destroyed. The people, Israel, tried to recover, but found themselves only standing in ruins, in devastation, trying to pull themselves up from their bootstraps they found themselves lost and alone and no where closer to wherever it was they were trying to get. This incredible piece of Scripture was made important and compelling and profound because of who was making the promises – God and because of who was hearing them – people hurting and lost and alone. So, with the promises of this God and the hurt of this people...Isaiah spoke from his anointing,

He has anointed me
     to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
   and recovery of sight to the blind,
     to let the oppressed go free, 
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ 

Is there anything more important, more compelling, more profound that we are called to do? Then to speak these promises of God to the hurt of people... to the hurt of the world.

These words are spoken a second time, by Jesus. A now grown man he returns to his childhood synagogue and is handed a scroll to read. These words of Isaiah are now spoken by our Savior and he speaks from his anointing and he speaks the promises of God. And the people are stunned and they turn and stare at this man who seems to be doing more than just repeating after Isaiah, he is doing more than just taking his turn reading Scripture in worship...and Jesus fills in the blank and he says,...Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’

The people who lost their homes, their identity, their holy place of worship have finally heard the good news, that their hope, their longing, their very souls will be fulfilled and have been fulfilled. Not the way they were expecting, not Israel becoming more Israel, not safety and security of a peaceful land, not a new Temple...but their hope, their longing, their very souls are fulfilled in this Savior, in Jesus.

Is there anything more important, more compelling, more profound that we are called to do? Then to speak the fulfillment of what God has promised?

Again and again and again this Scripture has been read, in worship spaces and places all around the world and in all kinds of settings and worship styles and languages these words first spoken by Isaiah and then spoken and fulfilled in Jesus are heard by people of faith, or people of not so much faith, or people wandering, or people homeless, or people lonely, or people trying to pull themselves up by their bootstraps...people all around the world who are not so different than the people who heard these words for the very first time.

So the promises of God, the coming of Jesus and the hurt of the world, the hurt of our homes, the hurt of our souls is what makes these promises so important, so compelling and so profound.

Is there anything more important, more compelling, more profound that we are called to do? More than bringing good news to the poor, proclaiming release and healing, to let the oppressed go free to proclaim God's work and favor here and now. The coming of Jesus to our world, the grace, truth and glory of our Savior...there is nothing more important, more compelling, more profound then this message, and this moment and our hearing of these words...

He has anointed me
     to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
   and recovery of sight to the blind,
     to let the oppressed go free, 
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ 
3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
   to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
   the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
   the planting of the 
Lord, to display his glory. 4 They shall build up the ancient ruins,
   they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
   the devastations of many generations. 
Isaiah 61:1-4




Saturday, December 3, 2011

Cry out!


Our reading from Isaiah is a classic Advent text. It begins with surprisingly sweet, intimate words of “Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God, speak tenderly to Jerusalem” and then we hear the original “Prepare ye the way!” The battle cry of advent! “Prepare ye the way!” This time leading up to Christmas, this Advent we prepare, prepare, prepare. Now, we are used to preparing for family gatherings, travel plans, menu planing, shopping, Christmas recitals and programs. But Isaiah gives us a different way to prepare during advent, when Isaiah says “Prepare ye the way!” we promptly asked, “How? How do we prepare for Christ?” This seems an impossible battle cry to answer with any enthusiasm.
And then the reading continues, and we hear this dialogue...

A voice says, “Cry out!”
and I said, “What shall I cry?”
All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flowers fades...but the Word of our God will stand forever.

video
                           (this video was not in the sermon, just a bonus!)

Cry out!” another battle cry of advent! And what should we cry? 50% off? Wrap faster? Get on the plane? Fix the Christmas tree? Sing louder? Is that what we should be crying? This seems to be the cry of my advent! And Isaiah responds to our, “what shall I cry?” Isaiah responds with a reality check, a response that puts our earthly preparations and our self-centered battle cries to shame.

All people are grass, the grass withers, the flowers fades...

This Advent the preparation and battle cries turn to our mortality. Isaiah reminds us of our place in the cosmos lest all the distractions of Christmas preparations and the weight of this season drown out what our cry should be.

As Isaiah says,...The Word of our God will stand forever.

There it is, the hope, the assurance, the authority of Advent. The Word of our God will stand forever. So, church...what shall we cry? We shall cry out, speak out, act out of the Word of God alone. During Advent we speak so much about waiting and hopeful expectation, but as we wait and as we hope we must also name who it is we are waiting and hoping for! Otherwise our actions, our words, our message as a church is lost, empty, a lot of busywork.

So, for what do you wait? For what do you hope? Can you articulate it? Could you share with your family this Christmas your hope? What shall we cry? Is an honest, authentic, advent question...what shall we cry as we prepare for the coming Messiah?

The Word of God has come to you and to me, not just in the reading today. But the Word also comes in the form of our neighbor, in the form of love and kindness embodied in another person. The Word comes to us as we hear and practice forgiveness, as we pray and listen to the Word speaking to us in our silence. You will receive the Word incarnate as you come to this table and hear the words “The body and blood of Christ...for you.” For you, the Word made flesh, is here for you to receive, to encounter, to save you and set you free.

The Word of God has come to you and to me, as an active, moving, messy, life-changing, healing, saving Word. Yet, if you leave it at the door of the church when you leave, no worse, if you leave it in your pew, then you have not heard the Word, you have not received the message. You have received Christ, but you have not heard what Christ has to say.

If you take this Word into your heart, if you take this Word into your marriage, into your relationship with your children, into your spending habits, into your work place, into your time management, into your struggles, into your mental-emotional and physical illness, if you take this Word of God into your lives...there is encounter, there is life-giving freedom, here and now...for you.

How do we answer the battle cry of Advent? Open your Bibles this week and read Isaiah 40, consider how God will have you crying out. Spend time praying or writing...and sit silently with God. Begin talking, begin by articulating to at least yourself what it is you are hoping for.

If you are anything like me, you may need a visual, an example of what it would look like to answer the battle cry of Advent.

Many of your are probably familiar with Handel's Messiah. An oratorio written by Handel in 1741, a musician commentary on the person of Jesus. We often hear performances of the Messiah around this time of year (performance in the Dalles) and around Easter. The most famous piece of the Messiah is, of course, the Hallelujah chorus. I have sung in a few performances of the Messiah and most often think of it as done in holy and beautiful places, black ties, choir robes and anything else formal and hoity-toity that goes along with it. Yet, that is hardly the story of the Messiah, is it?

If we are serious and engaging the Word made flesh, the Messiah and taking it into all places and people of our lives, there is nothing formal and hoity-toity about it! And what we know of Jesus' life; being born in a barn to an unwed teenager, coming as King in the form of a human, an infant even, spending his ministry with uneducated handymen for disciples, the man who spent time with the lepers, the prostitutes, the tax collectors and you and me. The man, the Messiah, who died in the most crude and cruel way on the cross and came back to new life, and came back to new life so that we all would have new life. This is the story of the Messiah, this is the Word made flesh, this is the King of the Kingdom that will have no end.

I would like to show you a video that may seem a little absurd, much like the story of our Messiah. It is perhaps a most profound performance of Handel's Messiah that I have seen. Strangers, coming together around a mission and a vision, then going out, into the world, into a common, crowded place to raise their voices. This is perhaps a better picture of what the church could and should be, this is the Word made flesh. This is the cry of Advent, talking the Word wherever we go, and speaking it in all places and spaces of our lives.

And we will now hear sung, in a most unusual way the hope of Advent. “The Kingdom of this world, is the Kingdom of our Lord. And He shall reign forever and ever.”