Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A clumsy exit...

In my head we said our good-byes, tied up loose ends, had a tidy packed car and drove gracefully into the sunset.

The reality is that the good-byes are really really hard.  The loose ends may never be tied.  The car will  be full to over flowing and I'm nervous about the drive.

These few weeks between school getting out and leaving are awkward because childcare is a little messy (and expensive!) and the princess is being shipped here, there and everywhere.  Meanwhile, I'm trying to cram in final meetings and packing, then preaching and packing, then having some fun(!) and packing.  There is nothing graceful about it.  To top it off I found out I have mono (again!) -- this is the third time for me! I'm relieved to have some answers as to why I have felt so awful for the last month.  However, I seem to be getting worse, not better.  Anything more than an hour on my feet has me serious Sunday morning church was taxing: spiritually, emotionally and physically.

So, we're clumsily exiting Oregon (for now). The princess is feeling the good-bye, especially saying goodbye to her friends and the youth from church.  I so wish I could guard her from the pain of good-bye, but it will be a reality for the rest of her life, so she's getting the practice of doing it well.  Saying good-bye to the people here is much harder than I imagined it would be.  In the last week alone I've spent time at a little league game, birthday party, gone out to dinner and coffee dates, walked with my walking buddy and endured a Relay for Life event... and all these little moments make me feel like we've really become a party of the community here! Why do we have to leave when its just getting so good? I keep having to remind Micaela (and myself!)  that for every good-bye, there is a hello.  And we have many wonderful hellos to say! Its taken a long season of doubt and unknowns and now I feel a real sense of peace and purpose.  Purpose for what? Well, I don't know that yet...but I will, some day.

Here is hoping for health and wholeness and a paged turn.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Keep Showing Up.

FUMC & Zion
Mark 4:35-41
Job 38:1-11

There is a source of suffering that has been with the human race since our beginning. An epidemic of sorts that inspires all forms of art; poetry, painting, music, the great novels of our time. I truly believe that this epidemic is on the rise – what with the rapid fire connectedness we are supposed to be experiencing through facebook and twitter, blogs and email, texts and the good 'ole rumor mill. We human beings, made in God's image, made for the glory of God, will forever be chasing after a cure for this epidemic – the epidemic of loneliness.

Loneliness: the fear and anxiety that we are alone in this world. I am not sure which is worse the loneliness that stems from being isolated – when life circumstances leaves you truly alone and without regular interaction with another human. Or the loneliness that comes when you find yourself smack in the middle of a room full of people and realize that you still feel utterly alone.

Loneliness is perhaps better defined by the words of Mother Teresa, “The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.” And that kind of loneliness can strike when we are isolated and alone, or when we find ourselves trying to navigate a storm of troubled relationships or a seas of familiar faces that still seem distant to us.

There are a bunch of people struggling through different sorts of loneliness in the Bible, and in today's reading we heard from a few of them. Do you know the story of Job? Did you know that he was afflicted with great suffering and loss? His children, his workers, his livestock and property all taken from him and when that was not enough his health was taken and he suffered, and when that was not enough his so called “friends” came over to offer their support and advice and try to relieve his suffering a bit. Job's friends are infamously judgmental, preaching that childish theology that says bad things happen to bad people, so we deserve the evil we suffer. These friends blame Job for his own suffering and hand him hundreds of “if you had onlys...”. All that Job wants to be surrounded with is stolen away from him, and all that he is left with is a body wrought with pain and the company of friends who do not know him at all.

And in all this, Job is able to make a powerful statement of faith, Job says, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth, and after my skin has been thus destroyed, and then in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side.” Even though Job is drowning in isolation and suffering and loneliness – he still believes that God lives and that God will be on Job's side. Isn't that what we all want...and the end of the day, someone to just be on our side. Job is not just the poster-boy of suffering in the Bible, Job is also one who speaks honestly and openly about what he needs as a human and what it is like to have a very real and intimate relationship with God, his Creator, his Rock, his Redeemer.

And finally, after 38 chapters of suffering and and bad friends...God shows up. That's where our reading came from today was the opening words of God in the book of Job, not until chapter 38! And God responds to Job out of the whirlwind – in the middle of a storm, God's voice falls on Job and anyone who is around to listen.

What would you like after 38 chapters of immense suffering? A little coddling and encouragement perhaps? God answers and is sarcastic, authoritative, patronizing and maybe even a little rude. God gives a “who do you think you are – where were you when I was busy creating heaven and earth” lecture. We heard just a few verses today, but it goes on and on as God lays out just how intimately the Divine hand is present and still working all through creation – in the animals, the systems, the storms, the sea – it is God and God alone who has authority to move the powers of creation.

How does that sound after 38 chapters of suffering? A little insensitive perhaps? Or is it liberating? Is there a sigh of relief to be heard that we do not control creation nor do we control the suffering and strife that so afflicts us? Is it reassuring to hear that our all powerful and creator God takes responsibility for the creation? Is it humbling to know that this all powerful and creator God comes close enough to us to catch our tears and hear our cries and be present with us in the storm?

God's voice comes to Job in the whirlwind – when the power of creation can be felt, when the storm that surrounding Job leaves him hurting all the more and lost besides...God shows up. God loves Job and has been with him through the suffering. God has caught all of Job's tears and heard all the cries and confusion...and so, God shows up.

But that is not the only storm we heard of today, that is not the only scene wrought with loneliness and fear and isolation and the unknown. It strikes in the Gospel reading, too.

The storm is maybe more obvious here, the men on the fishing boat out in the open seas where all you see are the crashing waves before you and the crashing waves behind you the seas are raging and rocking and death is certain. The loneliness that must have hit at knowing that there you are one among many in a boat, and a boat among boats out there in the middle of a terrible storm – the loneliness and helpless feeling of crashing around, for you are a plaything in the hands of creation.

And the Jesus shows up. There is the middle of the boat is Jesus – he is not helping to steer the boat, nor is he offering any sort of pastoral comfort and help...Jesus is sleeping through the storm, a picture of peace and solace. He is slow to act, the disciples have to panic and fret first – they even have to wake Jesus up. And Jesus shows up, speaking “peace”. Peace that is so strong and so sure that even the sea obeys – even the wind is still, even the creation comes to rest at his word.

Then Jesus' reaction turns on the men: he yells at them. Why are you afraid? Where is your faith? Those did not need to feel alone, that was their fear and anxiety taking hold, they never were really alone. The One who knows their faith, knows their fear, the One who knows their deepest need as human beings was right there all along. He was not on the shore, he was not in the stillness, Jesus was there in the middle of the storm responding to their fear and panic, Jesus was in the middle of the storm speaking peace.

I saw another storm yesterday. In the morning I stood in the middle of cold and harsh rains that poured down on a group of people fighting cancer. Cancer: a word that can invoke just isolation, just fear, such loneliness. But hundreds stood around the track for the Rely for Life event and has the cancer survivors lines up for their opening...the heavens opened. It was difficult, it was unpleasant, it was wet and cold and windy, but there they went...walking together to testify to the gift of life they had been given. (Rosengrens, Bill and Norm) It was stormy, it was kind of miserable...but I saw God show up. In the camaraderie of the survivors, in the support of the Relay for Life teams, in the words of the chair person who said “Cancer never stops, cancer doesn't care if it raining...So, we don't care if its raining and storming and we will never stop”. God showed up in the power of creation, in the middle of people who were joined by a common life experience of pain and suffering...God showed up yesterday on the Wahtonka track.

The storms of our life come in so many ways – maybe you've had a season of suffering like Job, maybe you've endured the storm in the boat, maybe you've faced the harsh reality of cancer or other diseases. Whatever your storm – you can be sure that loneliness, the great human epidemic was present. And whatever your storm – you can be sure that fear and anxiety was right there with you. Its painful and horrible to not be able to see over the raging seas surrounding you, and its devastating to feel as though you might be weathering the storm all by yourself.

Loneliness is the human epidemic and present in all our lives. So, hear the good news...the good news for Job, the good news for the fishermen and the good news for every single one of us is that God shows up. And not all of the sudden, but God has always been there, listening to you cries and catching your tears. God shows up sometimes sarcastic and authoritative, putting us in our place. God shows up to defend us in our time of suffering, when others pick and throw their anger around – God shows up to protect, love, guide, correct and gift us with grace and a relationship that is so real it is honest and present throughout every single season of suffering in our lives.

The good news is that Jesus shows up for us, Jesus asks us to get in the boat and cross to the other side and then Jesus stays with us, never, ever, ever leaving us alone. Jesus shows up in our lives and speaks Peace – strong and sure enough to calm the powers of darkness in us, strong and sure enough to help our faith grow and believe in the presence and power of this loving Redeemer.

The good news of Job, for the fishermen, for cancer survivors, for the sick, depressed, for the confused and lost, for the angry and hurt, for the grieving and poor, for the malnourished and war-torn places: the good news is that our all powerful and creator God who moves the creation and knows every creature and system and sea and storm is the same God who knows your every fear and fault...know you and love you with all the power that God can hold.

May God of the crashing waves show up in your lives – bringing chaos that creates, peace that restores and relationships so grounding you will know the “peace” Jesus speaks and you will feel the promise of an all powerful and all loving God that you will never be alone. Amen.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Splish, splash!

We celebrated the princess' half birthday (since we don't do a party at Christmas time) with many friends from kindergarten and church.  It was a scorching 95 degrees out, which was perfect for a backyard water party! It was also a nice way to say good-bye to her school buddies and fun for me to see her running around with so much confidence and having fun with her friends.  We never did conquer separation-anxiety this school year (in fact, in got worse as we neared the end of the year!)...but I know that once I was out of sight she enjoyed every day with these special kids.  We decided this would be a no-gift party, so Micaela instead asked her guests for a small donation to her Relay for Life team.  She said it would be better to kick cancer's butt than get presents...I agree!
She wanted to make her own pinata!
So, with A LOT of help from her babysitter, they made this wacky, beautiful bird.
It was so hot we were really encouraging the kids to soak each other!
Micaela destroying her pinata.

I told her to blow out her candles to see how many boyfriends she  has, this really embarrassed all the girls!
Out for a special dinner!

Another last day of school pic.  She has overcome a lot this year and it all the better for it (minus 5 teeth).
I am overcome with pride for this sweet, incredible blessing.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Schools out for summer!

(this post is dedicated to cousin Katie, who told me she just likes the Micaela posts!) :) 

She did it.  The princess excelled through her kindergarten year and is reading and writing very well.  However, what she LOVES is math.  She certainly did not inherit that from me, but has already finished her summer math packets and is working on a math workbook I got her just for fun (such a nerd!).  We are loving the more relaxed mornings, I'm still working but at least we're not having to do the school-morning hussle anymore.   Now, if I could just teach her how to sleep in...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together.

The word "empowerment" is ringing in my ears as I prepare to leave this congregation.  This sermon is born out of a desire to instill a great sense of empowerment for the people that so faithfully serve the church and its mission to "make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world".  This sermon is also a repsonse of sorts to my many, many peers (mostly Christian) who spend more time critiquing the institution of the church and Christianity than loving it.  The church is far from perfect, and that's what makes it holy -- the church is meant to truly be a place that welcomes saints and sinners alike.  And, after this year, I have seen a broken and near-death church come to life again.  I think thats what Jesus is all about, anyways. 

Psalm 130

This week I would like to do something a little different, I'm not going to preach off of the lectionary, although I have certainly been inspired by the psalm that the lectionary assigned to this day. This sermon is more based out of a need to articulate something, voice something that is not being said in the church and certainly not outside the church.

I am a part of Generation Y, the generation that is coming of age in a time when the church is set in steady, and all too rapid decline. This probably is not new news to you. However, what terrifies me is that the next generation is the generation that could see more church closings than any other, the coming generation could be coming of age as the church is in its final stages of existence as we know it. Now, I have no desire to be a gloom and doom preacher this morning. Yet – I am not sure that we have named as boldly as needed that the church is changing. And if not changing, then dead. Not just this church, but churches all over the country are having conversations just like we've been having, revitalization, mission redevelopment, collaboration, visioning processes...we've been doing it all, and we haven't been doing it alone.

But the thing I would like to voice today is not what we've been doing here in this church, but why we've been doing it at all. Have you ever, honestly, wondered that? Have you ever stopped to think about why you put in all this time and emotion, all the money and energy? Well, all of our answers would be different of course, so I claim these only as my own.

So, I have a list for you – a top 5 of sorts. Before I dive into my list, I think I need to tell you what my list is up against. The voices out there in the world that get under my skin and make me want to voice to you today, why I do church at all. About a year ago I stumbled across an article written by a UCC minister from Illinois and she quickly and humorously summarizes so much of why I am in the church – its so I'm not lost in the sunset! I'll let her explain...Pastor Lillian writes the following,

On airplanes, I dread the conversation with the person who finds out I am a minister and wants to use the flight time to explain to me that he is "spiritual but not religious." Such a person will always share this as if it is some kind of daring insight, unique to him, bold in its rebellion against the religious status quo.

Next thing you know, he's telling me that he finds God in the sunsets. These people always find God in the sunsets. And in walks on the beach. Sometimes I think these people never leave the beach or the mountains, what with all the communing with God they do on hilltops, hiking trails and . . . did I mention the beach at sunset yet?

Like people who go to church don't see God in the sunset! Like we are these monastic little hermits who never leave the church building. How lucky we are to have these geniuses inform us that God is in nature. As if we don’t hear that in the psalms, the creation stories and throughout our deep tradition.

Being privately spiritual but not religious just doesn't interest me. There is nothing challenging about having deep thoughts all by oneself. What is interesting is doing this work in community, where other people might call you on stuff, or heaven forbid, disagree with you. Where life with God gets rich and provocative is when you dig deeply into a tradition that you did not invent all for yourself.

Thank you for sharing, spiritual but not religious sunset person. You are now comfortably in the norm for self-centered American culture, right smack in the bland majority of people who find ancient religions dull but find themselves uniquely fascinating. Can I switch seats now and sit next to someone who has been shaped by a mighty cloud of witnesses instead? Can I spend my time talking to someone brave enough to encounter God in a real human community?  Because when this flight gets choppy, that's who I want by my side, holding my hand, saying a prayer and simply putting up with me, just like we try to do in church.

Pastor Lillian gives the voices in the world a persona – man on plane. And she summarizes so much of what is happening outside the church – individualized, self-motivated spirituality. I can see the allure, I can see why staying in bed on a Sunday morning is appealing (trust me!), I can see why encounter God only in the ways that are convenient and cozy is a path that many choose to take. I can see the church has become so quiet, so muted by the growing spirituality movement that we have lost our voice in this conversation. We, maybe like Pastor Lillian, nod politely on the plane and listen to the voices that say why every other option, other than church, is better.

I, not so politely, disagree. Christ gave us the church, Christ built the legacy of faith on this church and we must, must find our voice again. So, I give to you – in David Letterman fashion – my top five of “Why Church”.


  1. Real community. In church communities we gather with people we like and people we do not like all the same. We gather in God's love and stand before the mission God gave us and work together. Kind of like siblings, kind of like co-workers, but really something totally other. In church we have these holy moments where we take off the masks we wear and get real. In church, every week, we name the brokenness of the world and of ourselves and we ask for forgiveness – we ask if of God and of one another. It does not get more real than that.

And when we cannot gather with one another...when the arguments, histories, personalities all get to be too much...we gather anyways, pulled in by God's grace alone (don't fool yourselves, we don't get ourselves here) and our presence says “Ok, I'm in this for something or someone other than here I am”. And the community welcomes and changes and hopefully, inspires us to grow closer to God and close to one another. I do church because I have experienced real community in churches. For the first time when I showed up at a church as a teenager and was asked to play piano, I learned about community when that church family loved me deeply all through my college years. I learned again about church when the office ladies at a church I worked at taught me how to be a mother to my fussy, sick infant. I learned again about community here, seeing you all, letting your long histories intertwine, witnessing the struggle to be and stay a church community amidst great diversity and struggle. I do church because church does community better than anywhere else I know.

4. Based on forgiveness. I do church because church is based on forgiveness and that is so unlike the world. The world says prove yourself first, show me you are worthy. The world says no second chances, you mess it up and you're out. The world functions on an if-than clause...if you good/decent/talented/rich/normal/health....then, you are in the in crowd.

Church has it exactly backward. The church follows God's lead and says forgiveness first, welcome first. God loved us first and that is what makes us worthy. So, we love each other first and know that the holiness of what happens in love and forgiveness is what makes us worthy. We follow God's teaching on justice and mercy – and this often means getting taken for granted and giving it all away. I do church because church is based on forgiveness and that is so, refreshingly unlike the world.

My favorite image of forgiveness did not exactly happen in a church, but it happened because of a church. One year during my college choir tour, we found ourselves at a church in Helena, Montana. Before each concert the church gave us a room or two to put all of our belongings while we sang. The night in Helena some very opportunistic pick pockets made a haul rifling through 60 backpacks and jackets, taking as much per Diem money and other cash that they could find. While we were upstairs singing, we were being robbed. Once we realized it, the college drama began and many of my peers were crying and lashing out on this injustice. I looked over and saw my friend, Ben, sitting near his backpack which had been completely emptied. He looked calm, serene even and after a few minutes he finally said, “I hope they really needed it.” Ben is a man of great faith, raised and shaped by the church community and the love of God – Ben saw a bigger picture, Ben felt the hope that maybe what seemed like gross injustice, was a chance to be a blessing and was given a generous heart that night. I will never forget his humble forgiveness and the effect it had to calm an entire room of scared college kids.

3. Based on formation. I do church because church is based on formation. That's right. I desire, deeply desire to be shaped by something or someone other than myself. Again, it is so unlike the world. Even though I often act like it, I do not wish to be my own god, I do not wish to be my own mentor or guide. I pray that God will shape me into a more faithful person. I pray that God will love me enough to not be finished with me and that in my shaping and forming that something beautiful and holy will emerge. I know this formation does not happen only while I sit on the beach enjoying sunsets, but this formation comes from being a disciple of Jesus and being a disciple alongside a community.

Growing up I loved my family (I still do!) and I thought being a Damico was a good as it got – having a teacher Dad and two brothers who could sing like angles and run like the wind I was a proud daughter and sister. I was formed by being raised in that house. Then I met and was formed by my college girlfriends and learned about friendship deeper than I had every experienced. Then I become a mother and formation doesn't even seem to do the experience justice. Transformation, dying and being born again – motherhood has done all of that and then some. Now I'm a pastor and again I learn a whole different like of leadership born out of serving and formation.

Yet, it all pales to the formation I have experienced in being a child of God. This formation has strengthened me to be all those other things, had busted me out of my self-serving box into relationships and a life that is about giving away and not hording up. This is only, only by the grace and will of God to be with me and that is why I do church – because it is all about formation.

2. Its not all about me. I do church because it is not all about me. Most everything else in life will point us toward ourselves, the rest of our time and money and energy so often go to ourselves, but church is the one place that challenges me to be about something else. I do church because it is not about me at all, and I find sweet liberation in that.

1. Jesus. The number one reason why I do church is Jesus. Because I have fallen in a love with a Savior who knows me and because I have fallen in love with a community that knows this Savior. I do church because Jesus loves me, this I know. And, Jesus loves you, too.

I pray that each and every one of you, and you as a church body, will be able to articulate why you do church at all. I pray you will love the church so much that change will flow from you naturally, I pray that when Christ casts a vision of mission and discipleship before that you will not hesitate, you will not grumble, but you will faithfully answer, “Here I am Lord, send me.”


Friday, June 8, 2012

On Sunday I got to wade in the Columbia river with four exceptional young women.  They all wanted to be baptized together in a big way, so we did it! The most Spirit-filled moments for me were actually when we met before baptism day (over Italian sodas) to talk about baptism and God's promises to us.  These young women could articulate the presence of God and the dying and rising of baptism better than I've ever heard.

  And the best part of the actual baptism was seeing so many of the church family came down to the river after our morning worship to support and stand by them.  A powerful, inspiring (and cold!) morning for all!

This is also probably the oddest clerical outfit I could have put together, but it worked! 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

As I went down to the river to pray...

Isaiah 6:1-8
Romans 8:12-17

Did you hear how Isaiah, a regular 'ole man of faith walked into the sanctuary (maybe not so unlike this one) and saw God – God! Seated high and holy on his throne, God was so vast, so huge that just the hem of the robe filled the room...just the hem, that little bit at the end of your sleeve – filled the entire room.

And then there were these strange, sci-fi sort of creatures (maybe something out of Harry Potter?) flying around and they were screaming words that we sing all the time “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory”but as they flew around the room they were covering themselves – their feet were covered, their hands were covered and their faces. So, these creatures were flying blind, flying by faith, perhaps?

The noise they were making, was it terror? Was is worship? Whatever it was was enough to shake the whole house (maybe like what happened here during SHEBANG?) and smoke was everywhere.

This is Isaiah's vision...but I wonder how much of a vision could this have been? The room was filled with smoke and the hem of God's robe was flowing everywhere and the noise was deafening...what can a person see when entering that scene?

Whatever Isaiah was seeing or hearing or feeling terrified him. His words are “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips...yet I am here, before the King, the God of hosts” The scene was meant to cast Isaiah into the holiness of God, and just like Moses, Jacob, Samuel and so many others before him, it sent him to his knees. Isaiah echos the others who have experienced God up close and personal and said, “I am not worthy, I do not deserve to be so close to God.”

Have you ever experienced this humbling? A holy moment or a moment of such obscene grace that you tremble and know you do not deserve to be there. This scene from Isaiah makes me think of the day when my two sister-in-laws met for the first time; the girlfriend of my younger brother meeting the wife of my older brother. My younger brother was on his way back to Minnesota to introduce his, then girlfriend – now wife – to to the family. While they were still en route my other sister-in-law went into labor and was about to give birth to my precious nephew. So, we were all gathered at the hospital in Fargo when the girlfriend arrived. My family is pretty inviting and open, so of course the girlfriend was invited into the hospital room and we were all sitting and laughing and enjoying the holy moment of knowing that very soon a new life would be among us! Many times the girlfriend, Anna, kept trying to excuse herself saying “I really shouldn't be here, I'm happy to wait out in the waiting area” but the poor girl was trapped by my family and the gracious welcome of the laboring woman who was so interested to hear about Anna and learn more about her.

The laboring was put on hold of a few moments to welcome and include this new face among us.

Well, had we added the smoke and holy seraphs flying around the hospital room perhaps Anna would have found her self on her knees yelling “Woe is me, I am lost, I am not worthy!” who knows? That kind of love and grace can be so uncomfortable...its embarrassing really.

But that is the kind of God we worship. A God who is so great and so vast and so busy creating life and newness all around us – yet that God pauses and brings us into the holiest of places, places we do not deserve to be in, places that feel uncomfortable, places that shine the light on all that makes us unworthy, undeserving, ashamed of our unclean lips and painfully aware of how out of place we really are in God's presence.

Do not worry – just as God did for Isaiah, and just as our family finally did for Anna, God relieves the tension, God saves us from our own uncomfortable squirms. And how does God do that? Well, this is the amazing, holy, incredible greatness of our God – we are not sent away, we are not just dismissed from the pain, we are not left alone to squirm eternally in our unworthiness – God makes us holy too. God yields all the power of heaven and earth and approaches us – purifies us, cleans us, makes us complete right there in the holy place.

The seraph said to Isaiah, “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” Now Isaiah was free to live in the presence of a most Holy God, and free to answer the call with “Here I am Lord, send me” when God asked who would go.

Just like the laboring woman who took a break from the important and miraculous birthing process to welcome and nervous newcomer, so is our God who does not only sit on a high and holy throne, but bends down to our nervous and scared lives and welcomes us in to the life and love of God.

When and where have you felt close to God? Has there been a moment in your life that you and sensed the Divine? Has there been a person that has brought you into God's presence? Has there been an experience in your life that you can look back on and recognize that God was with you every step of the way? Have you ever felt the grace and mercy of God that was so good, you were embarrassed to receive it? I imagine that whatever your up-close-and-personal story is...there is that uncomfortable and yet reassuring sense that Isaiah had standing before the holy of holies.

God promises to be with us always. But there are times when that promise becomes a bit more tangible – something we can really feel, or see, or hear, or touch or taste. In the church, we call them sacraments. Sacraments are the experiences we have when we encounter something really normal and ordinary – like bread, and it is paired with a promise from God that we hear of in the Bible. So, with bread we come up to the table and eat the bread and hear Jesus' words that promise us something – that his body was given us, for you and for me. God took something so ordinary like bread and made it holy with a promise – a sacrament. Just before we take communion today we'll sing the hymn of the seraphs from Isaiah, “holy, holy, holy Lord. Lord God of power and might heaven and earth are full of your glory!” we sing the hymn of humility before God, we are not worthy to step up and receive Jesus...but God makes us worthy with a promise.

And the other sacrament includes water. God takes something so ordinary as water and sticks a promise in it, a promise that we heard in the reading from Romans...

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. ... we are children of God, 17and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” (Ro 6 & 8)

In this promise we become children of God, adopted into God's family and marked with the cross of Christ forever. God takes something so ordinary as us, simple humans with unclean lips in the earth...and makes us extraordinary in the waters of baptism – children of God, joint heirs with Christ, heirs that receive life instead of death and light instead of darkness.

We're going to get up close and personal today with God – we're going to dive into the waters of creation and speak God's promise onto four ordinary (and still very special) but ordinary young woman. And God, and God alone, will bring holiness, greatness, love and grace that is so undeserved. How dare we step so boldly into the Columbia River? We do so because God has made a way – we do not deserve to be children of God, but God made a away.

It might be a scene as odd and crazy as the scene from Isaiah today – there will be noise and distractions all around, the river will fill and swirl around us just like the hem of God's robe. And just as the seraphs sang their songs of faith, we'll raise our voices to join them! And just as Isaiah was humbled, terrified and unsure of what being in God's presence meant...we'll have some fear and trepidation ourselves.

And God will ask the same thing us each one of you that God asked that day before Isaiah, “Who will go for us? Whom shall we send?” and because of all the promises God makes to you today, because of the gift of faith and the Holy Spirit – you will be able to say – boldly and without fear, “God, send me, I will go for you.”

Today in the waters of baptism, God will take the ordinary and make something holy. And church, the questions will stand before you today, “Whom shall we send” and you will be challenged to remember the promise and power given to you in your faith alone may you also answer, “God, send me, I will go for you.” Because being baptized is not only about entering God's family – which these girls do today. Being batpized is also about being God's family – present, supporting, loving one another. Because in God's family we try to replicate that welcome and love of God that is so extravagant that we make one another squirm in welcome and grace.

One of my favorite bands, Mumford and Sons, articulates all that happens in the moments of the sacraments – bread and water and promise and all that happens here in the life of God's family...they write...

Roll away your stone, and I’ll roll away mine; together we can see what we can find.
Don’t leave me alone at this time, for I am afraid of what I will discover inside.
It seems as if all my bridges have been burned, but you say that’s exactly how this grace thing works.
It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart but the welcome I receive at every start.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Never could say good-bye

First United Methodist Church, The Dalles, OR
This month's newsletter article...
Last April I received an email that told me I would be serving my internship in this unknown land “The Dalles”. As Micaela and I poured over the atlas, feelings of newness, nerves and the unknown immediately hit as I prepared to move across the country with my daughter and try out my new ministry legs. In a short eleven months I have come to know this once unknown land “The Dalles”. And now I do not simply know -- I have come to love this land, the people and the spirit of God that is so rich here. My internship is near its ending, and as sure as the change of the seasons, I am hit with feelings of newness, nerves and the unknown and am again preparing to move to an unknown place with my daughter and try out these ministry legs – they are not so new anymore, they are not so wobbly…and that is because of all of you.

People of First United Methodist Church, young and old, you are remarkable teachers. Thank you for trusting me, for supporting me, thank you for making room for this green intern and her daughter in your church family. The work we have done in the church this year has not been easy – yet, so many of you have come on board (with a giant leap of faith!) to discover the will of God and the call of this church. We have become stronger disciples together and for your willingness to be so daring and open I say a humble and awe-filled “thank you.” This year has been so full of learning and growing and love that I find myself at a loss for words.

I would like to thank the Methodist members of the internship committee... The internship committee has been a great support, offering faithful feedback and lots of encouragement along the way. Also, thank you to Pastor Chris for hours of reflection and for stepping back to allow abundant opportunities to teach, preach, preside and observe and for helping me grow into the identity of Pastor.

I leave you with these words written by Paul to his beloved church in Corinth, they speak the desires of my heart as I leave, hoping these words will be true for you as children of God and as the body of Christ in this land “The Dalles”.

“I give THANKS to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind...God will also strengthen you to the end and is FAITHFUL, by God you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:4-9)

For all that has been – thank you. For all that will be – yes!

God's peace to you all, Intern-Pastor Elizabeth & Micaela