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We had a great summer vacation! We indulged in Wisconsin cheese curds, Sheboygan brats, and Indiana sweetcorn. While eating our way through the Midwest, we enjoyed blessed time with family and friends, and lingered in beautiful fields of green. We’re chock full of great memories.
In Psalm 84 this Sunday, we’ll hear someone else recalling a blessed “vacation.” Yet, it’s quickly revealed this isn’t just one memory among many. The Psalmist describes a journey that is transcendent, glorious, and defining: A trip to the holy temple in Jerusalem.
His awe and joy pour out. The travel to and from Jerusalem is arduous, but his strength never fails. The smallest detail is brilliantly vivid – a sparrow finds a home in God’s great dwelling place. Summing up he declares, “For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere” (v. 10). For this pilgrim, a day in the Lord’s temple is everything. It’s the best day ever.
As people of faith, we confess God is everywhere. God is in everyone, everything, and every moment. God is with us always. AND, we have been given the extraordinary gift of setting aside one day, one Sabbath each week, to rest in the grace of God’s loving presence. On that day we gather, intentionally, to worship and receive the fullness of God’s gift of life in Christ. Truth be told, for me, it’s the best day ever.
As you arrive for worship this Sunday, whether it’s in a storefront or ancient cathedral, take a moment and remember GOD IS THERE. Breathe in God’s mercy, hope, forgiveness, and healing. Listen to the stories of your struggling, celebrating, and faith-filled brothers and sisters. Pray with passion. Sing boldly.
It may just be the best day ever.
See you Sunday…
“Be nice!” How many times have you said that? How many times have people said that to you? Growing up in the Midwest, I learned “being nice” was not just a good idea it was a way of life. If someone was 30 minutes late for a lunch meeting I may be seething inside, but the proper, nice response was always, “That’s O.K. Don’t worry about it.” Of course, my response would necessarily be accompanied by a reassuring smile. Thanks be to God the Psalm writers didn’t master that way of life!
Consider the author of Psalm 13, the Psalm we’ll hear in worship this Sunday. The Psalmist is done being nice. Sure, God is the creator of all. Yes, God became human and endured unspeakable suffering for all humanity. Absolutely, God is with us. AND, sometimes knowing all of that just…doesn’t…help. Sometimes life is so hard, and suffering is so great, that ‘nice’ is not only inappropriate but soul-destroying. Sometimes, you’ve gotta cry out to God, tell the painful truth, and let the chips fall where they may. That’s Psalm 13.
While genuine kindness is a life-giving way to interact with God’s creation most of the time (especially nowadays!), God’s call goes much deeper. God calls us to love, build up, proclaim Christ, and tell it like it is. God wants all of us – not just the nice stuff. God knows the depth of suffering in the world, and God is big enough to handle ours. God invites our honesty and calls upon us to lay everything before God.
So, let it out! God knows you want to…
See you Sunday!
I’d like to think I’m strong. I try to be. I was raised to keep a stiff upper lip, to stand on my own two feet, to develop strength of character and will. Still, in my now (gulp) 41 years of life I’ve discovered something: The call to be a strong disciple has nothing to do with stiff lips. The writer of Ephesians exhorts us this week to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power” (6:10). There’s talk of armor, swords, arrows and the forces of evil. Clearly, standing on my own two feet will not be enough. Will I ever be strong enough to save myself and others from such devastating threats? Perhaps God is calling me to sign up for a boot-camp-style fitness regimen (Lord, help me). Or, maybe I just need to read through verse 20.
With all of the talk of battle in this passage, it’s fascinating and quite Kingdom-of-God-like to recognize where we end up in Ephesians 6:10-20. We’re not left with a victorious disciple, waving the flag of God’s vengeance on a battlefield strewn with fallen warriors. In the last three verses, we’re told to do one thing over and over again: PRAY. “Pray, pray, pray” God’s Word exclaims (Ephesians 6:18, 19, 20)! Pray in the Spirit, pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ, and pray that we can keep on praying come what may!
What we hear this week is incredibly counter-intuitive and exceedingly Christ-like: When we feel the need to be strong, God calls us to fall to our knees.
A timely Word, don’t you think? Might we, as beloved, flawed and forgiven children of God, be called to a demonstration of strength in the Lord right about now?
See you Sunday…
When was the last time you came unhinged, I mean, really lost it? Why did you get mad? Was it something you looked back on later and thought, “What a waste of energy!”? Or, as you looked back, did you think the emotional, physical, and psychological expenditure was worth it? I think I know what Paul would say about his angry tirade at the people of Galatia we hear this Sunday.
In Galatians 3:1 Paul begins, “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” At first hearing, I raise my eyebrows, take a step back, and think, “Whoa, what’s gotten into him?” But then I hear what’s gotten into him: absolute frustration and sadness as the people he loves are convinced by other preachers that Jesus’ love for them, in and through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, isn’t enough. I might get a little irked, too.
While yelling and name-calling is something most parents instruct their toddlers not to do (come on, Paul, step your game up), I think it’s rather beautiful how upset Paul is by what’s gone down among the churches in Galatia. I often feel like Paul is in love with his own arguments, his own conclusions, and, well, himself. But in Galatians 3 what we hear is that Paul loves the people of Galatia. He cares so deeply for them that he doesn’t want them to waste a moment of their lives under the oppressive lie that Jesus’ love isn’t enough.
So, people of God, hear Paul’s rant for you – Jesus’ love is enough. Jesus’ love forgives, restores, heals, resurrects, and will never run out. It’s for you. No matter what anyone else might say. You are loved. Completely. Right now. Forever.
See you Sunday…
Ever lost something you were sure you wouldn’t find again – your keys, wallet, or sanity? In the book of Acts, after our reading for this Sunday from chapter 15, we lose Peter.
Peter’s kind of a big deal. By grace, Jesus and Peter’s bond is unbreakable. Peter becomes THE leader in the early church. He’s “the man” in God’s Jerusalem church plan. Then, in Acts 10, it’s through Peter that the introduction of Gentiles into the people of God is sanctioned by the Holy Spirit. But after Acts 15, he’s gone. In John 21, it is suggested Peter is martyred. But what happened to Peter between Acts 15 and his execution? God only knows. And in the book of Acts, that’s enough.
This is kind of a big deal for us. Although Acts tells us of great leaders in the early church, the point is made abundantly clear: the church IS NOT dependent upon any one person’s charismatic proclamation, administrative skills, or visionary prowess. The ONLY constant in the church is God’s presence in and through the Holy Spirit, in order that Christ’s ministry continues on the earth. That’s good news, indeed!
Sometimes, we feel that if we don’t save the world, no one else will. We assume that it’s only through our exhaustion that the Kingdom of God comes. Without our work on church projects, at the food pantry, and in our neighborhood, we imagine faith will fizzle out. Yet, while my work for God’s Kingdom is important and given to God’s glory, Acts reassures us that God’s kingdom comes because God wills it.
Faithful child of God, do what God has empowered you to do! Love, serve, and explore your relationship with God. Then, let it go. God only knows what’s next, hallelujah!
See you Sunday…
After 23, yes 23, weeks in the Gospel of Luke, we’re moving on. For the next few weeks, we’ll find ourselves in the book of Acts. As one of my favorite theologians, Justo Gonzalez, says of this book, “It’s not the ‘Acts of the Apostles,’ it’s the ‘Acts of the Holy Spirit!’” How true.
I’m incredibly blessed to serve alongside a group of courageous, Holy Spirit-filled children of God. I’m constantly amazed at their willingness to take risks to follow Christ where the Holy Spirit is calling them to go. They feed the hungry, house the homeless, welcome the stranger, and give themselves away without fear. They love recklessly. I don’t say it often enough: Thank you, people of St. Tim’s! “The church” will never be perfect but I love our imperfect, beautiful community of faith.
If I take a step back and look around our city, state, and throughout this beautiful planet, I’m struck by how many children of God are living out the calling in Holy Baptism to follow the example of Jesus and work for justice and peace in all the earth. We’re doing this daily at work, school, home, in places of suffering, and of joy. We gather with “the Church” near and far, daring to love in Christ’s name and to discern the Holy Spirit’s work among us. Thank you, Church, for your beautiful courage to live the love of God where you are!
Still, Justo Gonzalez is spot on. While courage and daring in the life of the church need to be recognized, the ultimate thanks always rests with the one who gives life and breath to all. Even when we are fearful and far-from-perfect, God is faithful.
Thank you, God, for the Spirit! Please come and ACT in us! Amen?!
Of all the Easter stories, the Gospel of Luke has to be my favorite. There are great one-liners from divine messengers, and God’s promises through Jesus are fulfilled. But even more compelling for me, is that on Easter morning, Jesus is nowhere to be found.
The women who have been serving Jesus since Luke 8 go to the tomb to prepare his body. When they arrive, the stone has been rolled away and there is no sign of Jesus. They are reminded by two sharply-dressed, heavenly messengers that Jesus said he would rise from the dead. When they leave the tomb to return to the gathering of Jesus’ followers, we’re not certain how they feel. What we do know is they tell the others what they’ve seen and the vast majority doesn’t believe a word of it. All signs point to a miracle, but…
Jesus doesn’t give a speech. He doesn’t offer instructions. He doesn’t call anyone by name. He’s vanished.
On that Easter morning in Luke’s Gospel, everything is very unclear. It’s murky. That suits me just fine.
All too often, we hold the perception that Easter morning must be filled with joy…nothing else. Don’t get me wrong, I celebrate Christ’s resurrection with all I’ve got, much of the time. But I may or may not be able to sing “Alleluia” on the day the church has set aside to celebrate Easter. According to Luke, whatever you’re feeling, you fit right in.
This Easter morning you may be filled with the joy of the resurrection. If so, come and sing, “Alleluia!” at the top of your lungs! If not, come anyway. Confusion and disbelief are a part of the story, too.
Just be ready. All signs point to a miracle!
See you Sunday…