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What a blessed mess.

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No one would accuse me of being a neat freak.  My car is filled with old gas station receipts, a random assortment of books, and melted crayons.  My office isn’t much better.  I try to keep things relatively under control at home out of respect for my husband.  But he’d tell you, I’m infamous for my stacks of who-knows-what on the dining room table.  I could make the excuse that I’m “just too busy” to keep up with it all.  But the truth is, there are so many other things I’d rather do than get organized, I’m OK with the mess.  In fact, I thrive in messy conditions.  I wonder if that’s why I love the Psalms so much.

The Psalm-writers aren’t nervous about being messy.  They seem to honor the messiness in human life.  They name their fears, anger, desire for revenge, despair, loneliness and confusion.  They blame God.  They call God out when they feel God has not lived up to God’s promises.

This Sunday, we’ll experience one of the quintessentially messy Psalms – Psalm 69.  Bible scholars call this a Psalm of lament or a cry for deliverance.  I’d say it’s a Psalm of real life.  If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed, abandoned, humiliated, targeted, disappointed in God, or at the end of your rope, the child of God who wrote Psalm 69 understands you perfectly.  It’s messy.  It’s real.  It’s faithful.  This messy Psalm reminds us that God is big enough to take whatever mess we create, suffer from, or endure.  And, even more, God is with us in it.

Worship this Sunday will be a bit messy.  If you’re a blessed mess, come on in!  God will be here, too, just as God has promised. 

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,

Pr. Rachael

Can you feel it?

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The giving of the Spirit at Pentecost never fails to blow my mind.  How could the same Spirit that was alive in Jesus be poured out on EVERYONE?  It’s tough to grasp.  But some days, the Spirit that “amazed and astonished” all who were present at Pentecost, saturates my life to the extent that I can actually feel it.  This Tuesday, it happened.

At 9:20 Ed arrived to pack lunches for asylum-seekers.  He realized he was early (start time was 10:30), so he headed to the store to buy apples to add to the lunches.  I might’ve waited, checking headlines on my phone.  Not Ed.  Around 10 Michele arrived, our fearless organizer.  Then Sherri, Bert and Barbara, Vivian and James, Mary Beth and Don, Sebastian, Ron.  The kitchen was at capacity.  85 lunches were assembled.  We prayed for God’s blessing.  The Spirit energy was palpable.

Around 11:00, music floated down the hall.  Beth, an LFS ESL teacher, was responsible.  She was leading newly-arrived refugees in a rousing rendition of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.”  The Spirit energy grew.

At 11:30 Clara came to gather volunteers to help address the wonderful problem of inadequate seating for the choir members from St. Paul and St. Luke who would be joining us this Sunday.  I was reaching Spirit saturation.

Around 1:00, I put up a display of the prayers for healing and gratitude that the Sunday school families had made at camp the weekend before.  I was full up.

Then I saw all the water bottles given for Pride festivities and the sign-up sheets for Family Promise, as I headed to the sacristy to get supplies for the baptism this Sunday.  I was about to EXPLODE!!!

The Spirit is alive!  Can you feel it?!

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,

Pr. Rachael

In it together.

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It can get lonely in the church.  I’m not talking about feeling alone in the crowd on Sunday morning, although that certainly happens.  I’m talking about feeling alone as a people called to be about God’s purposes for life in the world.  With the mess we often see outside our doors it’s easy to feel as if we’re all alone in trying to fill the hungry with good things (Luke 1:53).  I admit, sometimes I feel that weight and begin asking irrational questions like, “How can we possibly serve everyone?” and “How can we provide all that our neighbors need?”  Two recent events expanded my vision in oh so necessary ways:

First, I attended our annual “synod assembly” where some 450 people from New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and Texas gathered to pray that God would show us how to love God and our neighbors.  While already in awe of God’s presence in that place, a friend and colleague, Pastor Joene from Christ Lutheran in Santa Fe, sat down next to me.  She said, “I heard your congregation is serving folks who are being released from the border.  We really want to help.  How can we partner with you?”  Yeah, the Holy Spirit has a knack for showing up at just the right time.  Thanks, all you amazing people at Christ Lutheran, for revealing God to me that day!

Second, this Sunday we’ll begin hearing Paul’s letter to the Romans.  Paul’s never been to Rome, but the faithfulness of God’s people, hundreds of miles away, is cause for his celebration:

I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed throughout the world. (1:8)

God’s will for life is EVERYWHERE!  Where have you seen God lately?

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,

Pr. Rachael

Not sorry for the interruption.

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We can take the Bible too seriously.  Don’t get me wrong, scripture holds THE revelation of God as the One who is steadfast in love and faithfulness to all of God’s creation, and the One who takes the initiative to save, redeem, and make all things new!  AND… we can take it too seriously.

Over the next couple of weeks, we will experience together two FANTASTIC passages from the book of Acts: 10:1-17, 34-48; and 13:1-3, 14:8-18.  The Holy Spirit has been let loose in creation and God’s love is taking the world by storm.  Humanity has A LOT to learn about this inclusive, barrier-destroying, radical love of God – especially the disciples.  Following Jesus, alive with the Holy Spirit, the disciples are placed in all sorts of uncomfortable situations.  Opportunities for humor abound.  Ever imagined God belly-laughing?  You might after hearing these passages!

I have to share one gem from Acts 10.  Peter finds himself needing to reevaluate all he has known about Gentiles.  He’s thrown off his game.  He is invited to preach, which he does with gusto, but there’s a problem.  In his nervousness, he’s a little long-winded.  After listening for quite a while, God decides enough is enough.  The Holy Spirit breaks in: “While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word” (Acts 10:44).  I wish I could have seen Peter’s face!  He probably wasn’t used to being interrupted.  But the Spirit had heard enough, and God was done waiting.  I wonder how many times the other disciples gave Peter a hard time about that.  “Hey, Peter, even God thinks you talk too much!”

So, come and worship!  God knows we could all use a little laughter… Amen?!

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,

Pr. Rachael

It’s all about Jesus!

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This week, Holy Week, is the busiest week of the year for many Christian churches around the world.  Millions of Jesus-followers will gather Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday to remember the events of Jesus’ last days leading up to his death and resurrection.  It’s a week all about Jesus, thanks be to God!  I am so grateful for the people of St. Tim’s, who do so much to keep it that way!

The ever-present temptation to make anything and everything about “me” doesn’t go away in Holy Week.  For some of us, the temptation gets stronger.  With so much focus on the church, faith communities feel the tug to out-perform one another.  Who will have the best music, the most beautifully-decorated sanctuary, the spiffiest-looking congregants?  It may sound ridiculous, but if you’ve ever been in a position of leadership in a congregation, you know this tug.  God help me, I’ve spent many-a-Holy Week trying to put together the best sermon I’ve ever written. 

Thank God for you, St. Tim’s, and the church all over the world who resists this temptation!  Sure, we’ll have lilies and beautiful music.  Some will dig out that great egg casserole recipe for Easter brunch.  Some will unearth the one tie they own to look their best on resurrection morning.  But if we sing off-key, the lilies don’t open, the tie’s been eaten by moths, we only have a bag of potato chips for brunch, and the pastor lays an egg… Jesus lives!  We’ll all still gather and shout, “Alleluia!  Christ is risen!”  Because, after all, it is all about Jesus!

May the One who overcame death and the grave fill you with love, light, hope and peace!  Let’s have some Pringles and celebrate!

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,

Pr. Rachael

Beautiful Lent.

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flowersIt’s incredibly beautiful outside.  The daffodils are standing at attention.  Buds are appearing on every tree.  Sun-starved legs are liberated from the confines of trousers.  Car windows are rolled down.  It’s too glorious to be Lent!  Isn’t it?  This is a season of repentance, self-examination, fasting, and anticipation of Christ’s death.  It’s far too sunny outside.  How could the grape hyacinths dare to be so blue?

I just love it when Lent begins this late in the year.  Some years we’re waving palms by mid-March.  But not this year.  Right now, we’re in the thick of Jesus’ lasts: his last days, last teachings, last meals.  He’s on the road to death on a cross while the crocuses can’t stop smiling.  It strikes me, this experience is the Gospel story happening all at once!

Throughout the Bible we hear the same story over and over and over again:  death and resurrection.  God creates out of nothing.  God breathes life into dry bones.  God fills the wombs of women who have been unable to conceive:  Sarah, Hannah, Elizabeth.  God comes in the flesh, born of a human mother, to dwell with us.  Even as we accompany the Messiah, God with us, to the cross, we see evidence of new life all around us.

As we continue on this Lenten walk together God reaches out to us with burning questions:  What, in each of us, needs to be made new?  How is our awareness of the new life around us exposing our great need for God to make ALL THINGS NEW?  What in our world needs God’s creative power right now?  Do we dare to hope God will do for us what God has done for the daffodil, the grape hyacinth, and the crocus?

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,

Pr. Rachael

Get Ready!

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clockWe’re a stone’s throw from the season of Lent.  A season that challenges us to confront our mortality without fear, to fix our attention on Jesus, and remember it is GOD who makes all things new!  Amen?!  This Sunday, we’ll prepare for Lent with awe as we experience the story of Jesus’ transfiguration in Matthew 17 and God’s affirmation of Jesus as the beloved son.

That sense of awe is particularly important this year as we prepare for Lent in the Gospel of Matthew.  The final chapters in Matthew’s Gospel, before Jesus’ trial and crucifixion, are not for the squeamish.  They are not bedtime stories.  Jesus throws out an unrelenting barrage of parables that are provocative in the extreme.  Lavish generosity is rejected, messengers of good news are killed, and condemnation hovers around every corner.  Jesus teaches with an urgency that means to grab us, shake us awake, and set us firmly on our feet prepared for the essential Kingdom work Christ has for us.  If this makes you a bit nervous, I’m with you!

However, as we know from experience, when Jesus’ words are toughest, when his teachings are most difficult to hear, the depth of God’s grace is never far away.  In fact, it’s when Christ’s words are most provocative that his grace is most abundant.  We know where Jesus’ life leads – to the cross.  The Kingdom he ushers in is opposed on every side, but it will not fail!  God’s will for life, love, healing, forgiveness, hope and reconciliation cannot be stopped!

So, get ready, people of God!  Jesus is coming to shake things up!  God’s Kingdom comes!  I wonder what Kingdom work God has in mind for you!  Amen?!

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,

Pr. Rachael