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New Fridge, New Life.

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fridgeI’ve been told, “Miracles happen every day.”  I think that’s true.  However, more often than not I miss them.  Not today.

This Sunday, we’ll hear God ask the prophet Ezekiel if dried up bones can live.  Ezekiel answers, “O Lord, only you know.”  Only God knows if a miracle will take place.  Only God knows when new life will spring forth.  This week, we’re blessed to see it springing forth in our church kitchen.

Today a commercial refrigerator was delivered to St. Tim’s.  Our congregation didn’t pay for it, Lutheran Family Services did.  LFS had a crazy beautiful idea.  They asked us if we would partner with them in using our kitchen to train newly arrived refugees on how to use a commercial kitchen.  Learning that skill will lead to employment and opportunity.  Maybe somewhere down the road, LFS speculates, we could run a food truck out of the St. Tim’s kitchen specializing in world cuisine.  From St. Tim’s, refugees could share their gift of cooking food from “home:” Iraqi food, Afghani food, Congolese food; and, in the process, feed their own families and pay their own rent.  Imagine that – new life springing forth from a fridge.  Miraculous.

I imagine the new fridge will hold birthday cakes for St. Tim’s members, treats for AA and NA meetings, gallons of milk for Family Promise kids, and salad dressings for Advent and Lenten soup suppers.  All of that will sit right next to fresh-made hummus, qabili palau and poulet moambe.  Miraculous.

God does some pretty spectacular things.  God lifts up the lowly and fills the hungry with good things.  God heals, forgives, and reconciles.  And God gives new life everyday where we least expect it.  Even in the church kitchen.

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,

Pr. Rachael

 

Thanks be to God!

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thankfulIt hasn’t been the easiest year. War in our world, vitriol in our political culture, and violence in our nation are just a few of the causes. But, it’s Thanksgiving this week and we’re reminded of our call to gratitude. How could these two realities mix?

It’s striking to hear the voice of the prophets ringing out in this moment.

In November we’ve heard God’s Word through Elijah, Amos, Isaiah and now Jeremiah. All of these prophets proclaimed God’s Word in the context of violence and upheaval. All spoke harsh words to a people needing the truth. And all confess the same radical reality: God is the defining agent in the world.

Walter Brueggemann, a great Old Testament theologian, speaks of this foundational prophetic confession. He says it over and over again. Sometimes it feels like he’s just repeating himself. Every now and again I think, “O.K. Brueggemann, I think we’ve got it!” But, do we? I routinely DON’T got it!

Speaking for myself, at times it’s nearly impossible to believe God is the defining agent in the world. How could God be THE defining agent in a world that’s such a mess? How could God be THE defining agent in my life when I have such a gift for screwing it up? But that’s just the point, isn’t it?! The of God came when things were completely chaotic and even without hope! It’s Jeremiah’s soaring words that speak GOD’S DEFINING AGENCY in this moment: For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope (29:11).

God is present and active, abounding in steadfast love! God gives us a future with hope! THANKS BE TO GOD!! AMEN?!

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,
Pr. Rachael

Help us, Jesus.

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help usThe prophet Amos doesn’t pull punches. God’s upset. God’s frustrated. God has had it with those who worship with their mouths but neglect their neighbors.

When I read Amos my first thought is, “You tell ‘em, God! You get ‘em!” It’s also a fleeting thought, of course, because a split-second later I find myself crumbling under the weight of that Word.

You see, I’m in my climate-controlled, spacious office. The church’s fridge holds my packed, healthy lunch. My comfy car sits in the parking lot. I’ll drive home later to my nice little house with my wonderful husband and beautiful little boy. We’re able to buy the basics we need each week. That’s my life. My comfortable life.

However, across the hall tonight at the church, families will be eating a meal provided for them and sleeping in our basement because they don’t have a home to return to after a hard day of work. They don’t have a stocked fridge to provide for their beautiful children. I’ll drive by others who are addicted, mentally ill, and passed out on the sidewalk. The news will report about genocide, another mass shooting in the U.S., and the millions of refugees displaced by hatred and violence.

This Sunday we can’t escape the jarring truth of injustice in us and the world. But we also cannot escape God’s promise, “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).

We, all of us, cry out for justice. Help us, Jesus! Help us swim in your waters of abundance! Give us boldness to love ALL your people, to be who we say we are in you! Bring your healing, hope, and provision even through us! And, if I may be so bold, do it NOW, please.

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,
Pr. Rachael

For God So Loved the World

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102617For God So Loved the World Perhaps you’ve heard the old joke, “How many Lutherans does it take to change a lightbulb?  Two.  One to change the bulb and one to start a new church so they can change it the right way.”  I have yet to hear that joke without wincing.

“Everyone’s a package deal,” my Dad always says.  And that couldn’t be more accurate when it comes to the Lutheran Church.  We have this glorious history of standing on the gift of faith, of seeking direction from God’s Word above all else, of pointing to the life, death, and resurrection of Christ as our defining reality.  Thanks be to God and Hallelujah for that history!

At the same time, we have a clear history of intolerance, divisive rhetoric, personal attacks, and theological arrogance.  To this we must say, Father, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.

This Sunday we celebrate Reformation Sunday not because the Reformation of 500 years ago, associated with the writing of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, was without blemish or spot.  We celebrate because it is God in Christ who makes us new.  It is God in Christ who re-forms us again and again, generation after generation, day after day to be people of life, hope, healing, restoration, faith, forgiveness, mercy, and LOVE.  It is God in Christ who never gives up on us but instead gives us unending, grace-filled faithfulness- that even when we tear each other apart God will not accept our work as final.

Children of God, let’s do something radical this Reformation Sunday:  Let’s ask to be re-formed TOGETHER!  Let’s ask that God’s kingdom come to us and TO ALL.  Let’s ask and trust that God’s will be done EVERYWHERE.  Amen?!

See you Sunday…
God’s Peace,Pr. Rachael

God’s calling AGAIN!

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god-callingSometimes God is like a love-struck adolescent. God pursues and pursues God’s beloved and just won’t quit. God tries to pass notes in class and gets the eye-roll. God even runs after the beloved as they run the other way!

The metaphor may be a bit of a stretch but when it comes to fickle, unfaithful, often disinterested, always imperfect, beloved humanity, God pursues us without wearying. And to push the metaphor a little further, it is safe to say in these next four weeks we encounter a God who will not stop calling. God leaves voice mail after voice mail but is far too impatient with overflowing love to wait for a response. God will just keep calling until SOMEONE picks up! Thanks be to God some do.

This Sunday we enter the continuing adventure of God’s pursuing us with the call of Samuel in 1 Samuel 3. God calls again and again until Samuel answers. God has work that needs to be done and refuses to wait around for humanity to get our act together. New life must happen. Love must be given out. God will settle for nothing less. Now is the time.

It is stunning to hear this text and the ones in the weeks to come at this particular moment. For many of us, NOW is the perfect time for new life to happen and love to be poured out. God will not settle for anything less. Could it be God is calling and calling and calling US, YOU AND ME, in these upcoming weeks? Could it be NOW is the time for God’s love to overflow in our classrooms, offices, homes, grocery stores, streets, parking lots, and churches?

SOMEONE’s gotta pick up! Will it be you?

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,
Pr. Rachael

Is it what it is?

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IMG_9289In a recent poll, internet news readers were asked “What word or phrase do you find MOST annoying?” Second only to “like” was the ubiquitous, “It is what it is.”

As annoying as that phrase may be, I get it. So many structures and systems in the world seem so clearly beyond our ability to change. We can’t make world leaders care about the people they lead. We can’t cure every illness and disease. I can’t even figure out how to use my cell phone voice mail! It is what it is. Except when it isn’t.

At the beginning of the book of Exodus, God’s people are enslaved. They are viciously oppressed by a fearful Pharaoh who believes the Israelites might, sometime soon, find their strength in numbers and threaten Pharaoh’s power. Perhaps some of the Israelites despaired of their oppression and concluded of their circumstances, ‘It is what it is.’ But many didn’t.

In Exodus 2, the people cry out to God. Somehow, in all their suffering, they find the strength to lift their heads and imagine another way. Maybe it doesn’t have to be the way it is. Maybe new life is possible. And, upon hearing their cries, God comes. God shows up. God makes a way through Pharaoh’s hardened heart and a great sea into a land of promise.

Perhaps life for you right now is what it is. Perhaps you can’t imagine breaking free from the despair and powerlessness you feel in this moment. Perhaps you don’t even have the strength to lift your head. Whatever life is for you right now, God’s work in Exodus 2 is for you. God sees you. God hears you. God knows you. God will show up.

See you Sunday…
God’s Peace,
Pr. Rachael

God gives and…

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god givesThe reading this week is tough. In Genesis 22 God tells Abraham to offer his son, Isaac, as a burnt offering. I’d rather that story not appear in the bible, but there it is. It brings to mind the confident sufferer, Job, at the very beginning of his sufferings, when he says, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). He’s not singing that tune later.

Maybe I need to get my heart right with God to understand this whole, “God gives and God takes away” business. But after being in ministry for over 13 years I don’t so quickly buy the notion that God is responsible for taking away what is dear to us. God doesn’t take away children through disease or catastrophe so God can have another angel in heaven. God doesn’t take away property or lives in natural disasters to prove a point about sinfulness. God doesn’t take away my mental health to get my attention. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that God gives and gives and gives. End of story.

God gives a beautiful, “good” creation. God gives life and breath. God gives us one another in relationship. God gives Godself as Lord, Savior, Redeemer, and Friend. God gives hope. God gives restoration. God gives forgiveness. God gives life everlasting. God gives love without condition or restriction.

Many people – faith-filled Bible commentators, colleagues, seminary professors, and friends, have offered me their perspectives on why Isaac needed to go through what he did. I’ve never been satisfied with the answers.

I guess I need to keep praying about it. What about you?

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,
Pr. Rachael