Wednesday, February 13, 2013

O God, You have called us...

" ventures which we cannot see the end, by path never yet taken, through perils unknown.  Give us good courage not knowing where we go, but only that Your hand is leading us and Your love supporting us, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen."
(Martin Luther's evening prayer, affectionately referred 
to as the Holden Prayer of Good Courage in the village)

This year, February 13th  is unlike the others that have preceded it for the past twenty-two years. Generally this is a day of dread and memories for me as it marks the twenty-second year since my mother's death, she died on Ash Wednesday and of course, this year Ash Wednesday falls on February 13th yet again.

But today February 13th also marks a day of new life and new adventures – today Holden Village has extended to me a call to Word and sacrament ministry and asked that I would serve this community as associate pastor! The road from “am I really going to seminary?” to today has been thrilling and challenging, confusing and sacrificial – but today I feel the redemption and Holy Spirit pulling on me to continue on this road. I pray the road I am traveling glorifies God and honors the memory and spirit of my mom.

The call to pastoral ministry is (for now) one year. It will be Micaela's 2nd grade year and the village will transition from “normal” village living to major construction season while the Holden mine undergoes remediation. This ministry will look different than any other setting I have ever served in, as I have heard ministry described up here, “Its like offering pastoral care at a bus stop”. So, I know I have much to learn in that regard and am very thankful that a major portion of my job will remain focused on music and worship (the area I feel much more at ease with!).

All day I have been thinking of and praying for the many, many faith communities I have lived in or worked in and have struggled and laughed and grown in. That whole “it takes a village” phrase has become some cliché, but the life of faith is not meant to be lived out alone and the call to ordained ministry is certainly not something one can do on their own. So, I thank God for...

Calvary Lutheran, Grand Forks, ND – where my mother was serving when she died, where I was confirmed, and where I worked as music director and discerned the call to ordained ministry!

Peace Lutheran, Fargo, ND – where I crossed the bridge from music performer to encountering music in the worship setting. A place that patiently watched a rookie church musician learn and grow.

Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, WA – worship training boot camp. Six or seven different worship services every week, the support to try new things, the push to get the job done, the grace to stand by a shaking twenty something spread her wings.

University Place Presbyterian Church, WA – big worship, big job, big fun.

Bethlehem Lutheran, Tacoma, WA – a brief stint, but pastors that were so intentional and supportive I still remain in touch with them and count them as mentors.

Mt. Zion Lutheran – Minneapolis, MN – a nice place to spend our Sunday mornings throughout the seminary years.

Luther Seminary -- St. Paul, MN -- working in the Pastor's office was a challenge and opportunity for growth, the same can be send for the phenomenal classes and community! 

Christus Rex – Grand Forks, ND – heart felt worship and wide open college students.

First United Methodist and Zion Lutheran -- The Dalles, OR -- my internship site who felt the labor pains of birthing a pastor.

What a blessed ride!

Micaela and I are still trying to get our heads and hearts around all this. Saying “YES” to Holden has meant saying “NO” to opportunities that would have brought us closer to loved ones in the midwest. This decision was not made lightly and we deeply hope that our longer stay in the mountains will draw some loved ones our way.

Ordination will happen back in Minnesota in, stay tuned!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Glow in the Dark Jesus?

Exodus 34:29-35
Psalm 99
2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2
Luke 9:28-43

Today's Scripture readings give us two scenes of bright, brilliant light. Two scenes of God's glory being shown to mere mortals. Two scenes of mountain top experiences filled with prayer, awe, contentment. Really these scenes from Exodus and the gospel of Luke seem like they were written for those of us here at Holden Village. Each story begins with a hike up the mountain – something many of us can not only think about but you can count your mileage, feel your sore muscles and gaze at your worn hiking boots. Once upon the mountain the men of our Scripture stories enter a time of prayer, maybe like our Friday night worship of song and stillness. Simple, yet powerful pleas poured out to God and the silence which makes room for listening to the movement of the Spirit. Then the light comes, more brilliantly than the sun hitting our glittering snow across the village, more powerfully than the blinding light of Rio Tinto at the end of main street during construction season. The light of the glory of God is shining, stunning and mysteriously offered on to stumbling disciples who love their time of prayer and retreat. Not so difference than the common Holdenite.

There is an important distinction between the two scenes that we should take note of. When Moses descended the mountain he veils his face to cover the glory of the Lord shining radiantly off his own being. Why the veil? To protect the Israelites from glory they could not handle? To be sure the commandments Moses was giving from God to the Israelites were heard and obeyed? To covet the glory of God and not fully disclose all he had experienced with God up on the mountain top? The veil is mysterious and it certainly establishes one thing – distance. There is distance between God and the people as they stay low on the mountain and Moses hikes alone. There is distance as they can only hear from God through an intermediary. There is distance in that the message that comes down from the mountain with Moses is law, commandments, duties for the people of God to live out. In the Exodus scene the glory of God is revealed to the Israelite in an indirect way at best.

In the scene from Luke the glory of God is revealed to the disciples first hand, up close and personal. Jesus' trip up the mountain is done with his disciples by his side. They hike together to pray and the change in Jesus' face and clothes is evident to everyone there. Even with Moses and Elijah joining the gang, Peter, John and James are allowed to take in every jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring moment. They were able to see God's glory in the shining face of Jesus as clearly and as brightly as you or I can see the sun illuminating the snow. The distance is gone, there are no veils, no sunglasses, no one left alone at the bottom of the mountain. The distance is gone as God's voice speaks from the clouds and everyone hears. And the final bit of distance is covered as God speaks directly to them – no tablets, no intermediary, no messenger, God speaks to this disciples when he says, “This is my Son, the Chosen, listen to him.”

With Moses on the mountaintop, there was much that stood between the people of God and God. With Jesus on the mountain, all the distance is swept away and the sleepy disciples are witness to the glory of God – full access, nothing hidden, all is revealed in the brilliant face of Jesus.

What do we do with this glow in the dark Jesus? Really, he is so different than the Jesus I typically like to wax-poetic about. I prefer the Jesus who is breaking the rules, upsetting the status quo, irritating religious leaders, standing in solidarity with the poor, homeless and marginalized. I can try to understand and relate to the Jesus who is among the people, teaching, feeding, healing, changing the world. Jesus is glorified and the disciples are seeing his glory...yet glory is not typically a word you will hear much celebrated in our Lutheran tradition, we strive for a theology of the cross rather than a theology of glory.

That's probably enough whining though – because here we are on Transfiguration Sunday looking back on Christmas, Epiphany, Jesus' Baptism and first miracle and teachings and we look forward to the coming of Lent and the cross of Christ before us all. Transfiguration is the bridge that extends between Christ's entry into the world and his physical exit. As Lady Gaga sings, “We're on the edge of glory and we're hanging on a moment of truth” It just difficult to get a handle on it when that bridge is flashing brighter that the New Year's Ball in Time Square.

Well, Paul tells us that we are like the disciples on the mountaintop with Jesus – we see the glory of God with unveiled faces. That is not an easy word to rest in when I feel like my walk of faith is so often a stumble and I struggle with questions about God and community and our world, is this the unveiled face? It sure feel like we, as a people, are lost under veils of injustice, regret, anger, so many veils. Paul also tells us that it is not our doing that will take the veils away, it is not up to us to reveal the glory of God on this earth – thank God for that. Paul tells us that this unveiled reality comes from the Lord, the Spirit so we should not lose heart.

And when the Spirit lifts the veil – we are transformed, from one degree of glory to another. In Jesus, the protective veils we put over our hearts are lifted. In Jesus, the arrogant or doubting veils we put over our minds are pushed aside. In Jesus, the fearful or shame-filled veils that lay over our relationships with one another are thrown out. By the Spirit we see God and one another with unveiled faces and we are changed.

Of course, the gospel reading does not end on the mountain top. No, there is one more scene to consider and this scene also gives full access to the glory of God revealed in Jesus. The next day, after coming down the mountain Jesus is stopped by a large crowd and in that crowd is a panicked father. His son is sick, possessed by a dark and evil spirit and even though the father has asked the disciples they could not heal the boy. When Jesus steps closer to the boy the spirit throws the boy to the ground and Jesus quickly sends the spirit out and heals the boy. Do you remember just a few moments back on the mountain when God says “This is my Son, listen to him!” Well, here is what Jesus is saying, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.”

As harsh and as frustrating as it may sound, this too is a glimpse into God's glory. God's glory is given to Jesus not just to be a bright light on the mountain, but also to encounter the sick and heal them, to teach disciples in the way of living by faith and participating in these healings to the glory of God. The life of a disciple is not just to take in the brilliant light, but to share in the ministry of Jesus – to glorify God with our lives, our bold steps of faith, with words and actions that heal, with bringing light to the darkest places.
Shane Claiborne is a modern day author, prophet, follower of Jesus and he says something important about resurrection that I think we could apply to our consideration of glory. He writes, For even if the whole world believed in resurrection, little would change until we began to practice it. We can believe in CPR, but people will remain dead until someone breathes new life into them. And we can tell the world that there is life after death, but the world really seems to be wondering if there is life before death.” The glory of God revealed in Jesus is not something to be left alone on the mountaintop, but to be prayed for, pursued and participating in.

Paul tells us that in Christ all veils, all distance is set aside and we are allowed an intimate and full audience with our Almighty Creator God of glory. Because of Jesus' cross of shame and death and because of Jesus' resurrection of glory and life – we are changed, from one degree of glory to another and we are given the unthinkable gift of sharing in this glory so that we too can hear God's voice naming us...claiming us...healing us...challenging us to see the glory of Jesus, shining more brilliantly than the sun. God's voice is calling to us – the named and claimed to be a person and a community that not only shared in the glory of Jesus but who boldly and unabashedly glorify God's name with our lives.

May we see the glory of the transfigured Christ in one another and all over the earth.
May we share God's healing with those who need it most.
May we glorify God together in our singing, in our prayer, in our sacrifice, in our living.

Glory be to God the Creator, to Jesus the Christ and to the Holy Spirit who moves us along the way. Amen.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

thoughts on forgiveness

written for the village Lenten Devotional: 
...and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10Jesus straightened up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ 11She said, ‘No one, sir.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” John 8:9-11

A shrug of the shoulders, the trite mummer of “Oh, its ok.” – these embarrassed and passing gestures are so often what accompany our practice of forgiveness. With these socially acceptable words and movements we confine the gift of forgiveness into a controllable exchange, nothing more than a polite handshake. However, the forgiveness of the cross comes from a darker, more powerful and more hopeful place than a shoulder shrug.

After two years of living in an environment of anger (his), shame (mine), violence and fear – I prepared to leave a darkened corner of my world. It took two more years before I was ready to share and as I poured my heartbreak out to a trusted pastor I heard him say, “Of course it hurts, forgiveness so often does.” I was stunned by his statement and disturbed by how true it felt in my very core. Had I shrugged by shoulder at every offense I would still be in that former place, leaving was a form of forgiveness. Leaving was a way of saying that there was something more life-giving for us all, a healthier way of being. It was in leaving that I finally experienced that new life God promises and extends to every person – even the angry, even the shameful.

When we simply shrug our shoulders we are saying that whatever brokenness that exists is ok, whatever hurt that has scarred us (or others) is ok and that ok-ness will stay with us. The forgiveness extended to us by God is so different from the shoulder shrug, for when God forgives us there is a swift and powerful movement away from what as been. A movement just as Jesus said to the women “Go...away from the sin”. God washes us (not always on the gentle cycle) and transforms us so that we can move forward in a different way. Forgiveness is not a passive, gentle force in our relationship with God and one another – rather, forgiveness is a bull dozer that clears the way for newness of life and healthier ways of being human!