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Who’s in it with you?

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I don’t like it in the wilderness. I’m not talking about the beautiful wilderness of New Mexico; I’m talking the biblical wilderness. We’re in Exodus this week in worship, as God’s people are beginning their long trek through a hostile environment. It feels like we’ve been maneuvering a hostile environment for ages, doesn’t it? But I’ve come to appreciate, once again this week, that it makes all the difference in the world who’s in it with you. In the last three days:

  • Anthony put the spare on my car, in the Walgreen’s parking lot, after my tire blew
  • Marie got the malware off of my computer
  • Michele supervised the installation of a touch-free bottle-filling station here at church to save water and keep our community safer
  • Debby brainstormed how we can help meet basic needs for our refugee neighbors
  • Beth encouraged us to stay strong in our Reconciling In Christ work
  • Elaine shared pictures of her family (four generations!) enjoying the faith activity boxes put together by Sharon
  • Rob filled snack bags for our neighbors in need of food and caring community
  • COAST connected us with a woman needing to get back to family in order to nurture her sobriety – St. Tim’s paid her bus fare
  • Raul practiced a Chopin piece in the sanctuary filling my office with beautiful music
  • Countless words of encouragement and support poured into my inbox and flowed through my phone

If I haven’t said it lately, thank you! Thanks be to God for this community and for the opportunity to love one another through this wilderness time. If you’re struggling and need some love, support and care call me: 505-255-8001. God’s given us the gift of each other so you don’t have to go it alone!

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,

Pr. Rachael

Looking forward to confirmation?

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30 years ago, my confirmation class was something to endure. I would go once a week with about a dozen other middle-schoolers to meet with the pastor and work, quietly and seriously, through a standard curriculum. My pastor was a very kind gentleman who would lead us through our workbooks and assignments. We endured this together for two years. I celebrated my confirmation day with cake and a sense of relief.

So, imagine my overwhelming delight and gratitude, when our confirmands at St. Tim’s this year asked if we could have a confirmation retreat. God is good!

While many factors contributed to this “ask” by our confirmands, I think Ephesians 2:11-22 points to one very important one: joy. Joy was simply not on my radar at confirmation. This faith thing was serious business. But, in our reading this Sunday, the writer of Ephesians is overjoyed at what God has done for the world in Christ Jesus. God in Christ has broken down every dividing wall between human beings and has shown us that everyone is loved by God. Everyone is welcome in the household of God! Hallelujah!

I am so grateful to be a part of a congregation that welcomes and encourages joy. We celebrate together what God has done in Christ not because we are naïve to the sufferings of the world, but because we know all suffering will finally come to an end in Jesus! Confirmation, then, is an investigation into what a life of joy means. How do we love and support one another? How do we participate in God’s vision for the world where every barrier between human beings is removed and God’s love is poured out abundantly for all?

Now you wanna come to confirmation, too, don’t you?

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,

Pr. Rachael

God’s Great Faithfulness.

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I’ve been pondering something a friend said recently: “You know, as far as global pandemics go, this one was really short.” Short? Really?

We’re aware, of course, that the pandemic is not over. Variants continue to spring up all over the globe, and many countries do not and will not have widespread access to a vaccine for months or even years. We are witnessing injustice from a privileged position.

At the same time, I understand my friend’s assessment. For those who have been fortunate to receive the vaccine, the news keeps getting better. The vaccine has lasting effects and has proven up-to-the-challenge in neutralizing many of the variants. Cases are dramatically reduced. This Sunday, we’re heading back into the sanctuary for worship.

But it’s felt a lot longer than 18 months. Lost loved ones, jobs, homes, opportunities, and celebrations combined with intense loneliness, isolation and fear have made this time feel like years.

Just imagine if you were God’s people enduring the slow demise of their nation and homeland over decades.

This Sunday, we conclude our six-week stay in the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah covers roughly 40 years of history. Throughout that time, those who listened to God’s word knew the worst was coming. They lived with the daily anxiety of knowing their homes would be destroyed and they’d be taken away in exile. Yet, as Sunday’s readings remind us, some remained faithful and even hopeful in the promises of God to make all things new.

I haven’t been the model of constant faithfulness and hope during these past 18 months. Many times, I’ve given in to anger, negativity, fear and selfishness. Thanks be to God, God’s promises to love, carry, and provide for us don’t depend upon our constant faithfulness. And, thank you, Jeremiah, for a little perspective.

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,

Pr. Rachael

All at once.

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Jeremiah had a whole lot going on. He experienced the depths of despair as God’s prophet. He communicated and lived radical hope. The hope he demonstrated was the kind we’ve all been given – a hope in God’s promise to create life no matter how bleak the circumstances. He felt incredibly isolated and yet enjoyed profoundly loyal friendships. The prophet Jeremiah lived it all.

Over the next six weeks, we’ll be walking through the book of Jeremiah. I can’t imagine a timelier read.

Not long ago, I celebrated my return to engaging in public life by taking in the beautiful Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera exhibit at the Albuquerque Museum. It was a glorious 90 minutes spent surrounded by beauty. It was also the most time I’d spent inside with people I didn’t know for over a year. I had that luxury. I left invigorated by the art and with a splitting tension headache. I didn’t even know I was nervous. But there it was, all at once.

All at once we may feel overwhelmed with gratitude to hug a loved one for the first time in over a year, travel out of the county, sit at a coffee shop, or tearfully celebrate a friend getting vaccinated and be overcome by grief at the death of a loved one, by fear at entering a grocery store where others are without masks, or by regret over what celebrations have been lost.

As you find yourself in these “all at once” moments, remember Jeremiah. He was often overcome by sadness, and he clung to the promise of life in God. He ended his life in exile and invested in the future of life in the Promised Land.

God’s got us. We’ve got each other. All at once.

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,

Pr. Rachael

Isn’t this your project?

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My Dad loved to “work on wood.” He’d find trees everywhere that needed to be cut for firewood. A saw just like the one he used, and still uses, is in the local historical society museum. He’d cut wood for hours and loved every minute. And he was just giddy when we would join him. When my sister and I were little, he’d set the wood on the sawhorse and ask us to sit on it and stabilize it for him. We all loved it.

However, as I got older, sitting on a log didn’t strike me as the best way to spend my Saturday afternoon. I remember quite clearly one such afternoon when I was in seventh grade. Dad came into the family room and said, “Hey, Rach! Do you want to work on some wood with me?” I’ll never forget my response, “Isn’t that your project, Dad?” I remember it because I never said things like that to my parents. I waited for the “consequence” but it never came. To my very adolescent “your project” response, Dad just said, “Yep, I guess it is.”

In Galatians 3, God speaks through the Apostle Paul to tell us what God loves: Loving us. It’s God’s project. God doesn’t need us to do it. God will do it gladly, joyfully, giddily, all on God’s own. But in this passage, God asks us to be a part of it. God will love the world. God will love all people and all of creation. And, God just loves to do that loving with us.

I wish I could go back and get my adolescent self off of the couch and help my Dad. Now, my Father in heaven’s asking for my help. Anyone want to join me?

See you Sunday,

Pr. Rachael

Gift Socks.

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It was inevitable. Every year on my birthday, my grandparents would give me socks. Not fun socks with neat designs or cute animals. Nope. Sweat socks.

I’d smile and say thank you. There would be consequences if I didn’t. But truth be told, I didn’t feel much gratitude. They were socks: a necessity in cold Wisconsin winters and blister prevention from my Fisher Price roller skates. I’d have preferred any number of other gifts – a jump rope, scratch ‘n sniff stickers, slime. But, no, I got socks.

It’s only as I grew older that I realized the socks were as much for my parents as for me. Gift socks gave my parents a financial break and saved them another trip to Shopko. They honored my parents’ good work in keeping me fed, sheltered, and provided for. They showed my grandparents’ love for me and my parents. Our whole family benefited.

In Acts 15, the just-getting-started community of Jesus-followers, the “church,” received a gift from God. It was nothing more and nothing less than a completely open door. God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, gave the church a call to welcome everyone into community in Christ’s name. No exceptions.

Some people weren’t too excited about this gift. They may have smiled and said ‘thank you’ to God, but the thanks were not that heartfelt. They would have preferred any number of other gifts – health, wisdom, maybe even slime. But this gift was not just for them. It was an affirmation that all people are created in the image of God; a call to work for justice and peace among all people; and a declaration that God’s love is for all the earth.

How excited are we now about God’s gift? Are we, here at St. Tim’s, sharing it?

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,

Pr. Rachael

The Spirit’s gig.

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The desire for control is always something I’ve fought. Now, it’s even worse. I used to joke that although there was so much beyond my control, at least I could choose the type of toothpaste I used. I can’t even do that anymore. Sure, I can go to the store with the intent to buy it, but that doesn’t mean it will be on the shelf. Last week I went looking for ground turkey. No dice. I asked the grocer about it and she said, “These days, I just don’t know what will be on the truck from week to week.” So much for the taco plan.

As we head into the book of Acts, we encounter a group of Jesus-followers struggling with the same thing. No, they’re not overly concerned with their toothpaste, but they are discovering that this “church” thing is not a comfy place for control freaks. They want to control who gets into the community and who’s out. They want to set the agenda. They want to implement a mission plan. God says “Nope.” to all of it. It’s God’s Holy Spirit who gathered these control-grasping sinners and saints together in the first place, and it’s God’s Holy Spirit who will somehow work through them to share God’s love with and for all people. That’s the Spirit who fills us and the Spirit we need now.

When will we be able to sing together again? When will Zoom Bible study be a thing of the past? When will the plexiglass barriers be unnecessary? No control. And, no matter the circumstances, this is the Spirit’s gig. And God will work through the church, and through each of us, to keep on sharing God’s love and light! Amen?!

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,

Pr. Rachael

Man, Do We Need Easter!

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There I was, face down in the parking lot. Hole in the knee of my pants and the elbow of my shirt, the Albuquerque spring winds blowing my sermon sketches all over the parking lot. Falling as a grown-up is traumatic. It’s also humbling. But this fall, on the Tuesday of Holy Week, brought home just how hard this year has been for so many of us.

I was running to my car because I was going to be late getting home. My wonderful husband needed to get to work and was waiting for me to do the parenting hand-off. I hadn’t been able to connect with as many people as I had hoped that day. We’ve lost so many beloved siblings in Christ this year, and I couldn’t even support their loved ones with a phone call. Never enough time, so much sadness, worn out – I bit the dust.

But as I sat up to assess the damage, a gigantic pick-up truck pulled up beside me. The driver exuded kindness. With one look, she said, “I know you’re hurt and embarrassed, but I’m here.” She asked if I was alright and offered to help me gather my things. She waited for me to hobble to my car and, only after I pulled out, went on her way. That act of kindness and love was an absolute God-send.

This Holy Week, we continue to struggle. We all have fallen, in one way or another this year. We’re all dealing with our own sadness and weariness. AND Easter is coming! On Easter we celebrate the God who is with us as we’re face-down on the pavement, and the one whose love lifts us up. Even more, Christ’s resurrection has revealed what the forces of destruction and death cannot do. They will not prevail! Love has triumphed, it’s unstoppable, and will always pick us up and give us a new beginning.

May God’s unending, perfect love be yours this Easter and always!

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,

Pr. Rachael

Hi there, neighbor.

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We never had a “quick trip to the store.” Some folks run in and out of spots like grocery stores, gas stations, and post offices. But not my family. Not my Dad.

When I was little, we’d go for a walk and my Dad would wave to every car that passed. Almost without exception, the driver and/or passenger would wave back. I’d ask him, “Who was that, Dad?” He’d say, “A neighbor.” People would light up in the hardware store when they saw my Dad come in. He was certainly a good customer, but they wouldn’t just talk about the merchandise. They’d share what was going on with their families, their business, and their opinions about politics. When we left, I’d ask, “Who was that, Dad?” He’d say, “A neighbor.” I came to see that Dad encountered neighbors absolutely everywhere. Church, school, work, sporting events, even taking the garbage out to the curb, my Dad would meet neighbors along the way. I couldn’t help but think of him when I heard Luke 18:31-19:10.

Since Luke 9, Jesus has been on his way to Jerusalem. That’s a pretty long walk. And all along the way, Jesus greets and takes time with people. In our reading for this Sunday, the divine equivalent to a friendly wave from Jesus is his gift of miraculous healing and a life restored. Each and every person Jesus greets is a neighbor.

We started this Lenten season with a reminder that we were called to love God and love our neighbor. Jesus has been showing us what that looks like throughout his life and ministry. And in this season of new life it seems all the more necessary that we remember Jesus considers each of us his neighbor, too.

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,

Pr. Rachael

It’s party time!

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It’s Lent. During a pandemic. Could it get any harder? The season of Lent calls for fasting, sacrificial giving, and repentance. The restrictions from the pandemic call for no travel, no nights out with friends, no leisurely afternoons in a movie theater. Seriously, must we squeeze every last drop of joy out of life? Jesus says no.

In our extended reading from Luke 15 this week, we hear three parables. Each begins with something we all understand: loss. A shepherd loses a sheep. A woman loses a coin. A father loses a son. Yet, we are not left there. In each story, one after the other, the lost is found, mourning turns to laughter, and sadness gives way to joy! What happens to create this glorious change? Jesus happens.

A sheep is lost until Jesus seeks it out. A coin is lost until Jesus lights the way. A son is lost until a father’s heart is opened wide with Jesus’s unconditional love. And when all of that seeking, lighting and loving lets loose, a party is not far behind!

I can’t wait to swing the doors of the church wide open again. Sit in the sanctuary again. Have coffee in the Community Room again. It will happen! But until that time, Jesus proclaims that the source of the party is always with us! Jesus’s power and will to seek us out, light our path, and love us completely will never be taken from us!

This Sunday, wherever you are – do it! Celebrate! Call a friend, Face Time with a relative, hang some streamers or make a cake. Whatever you do, celebrate Jesus the Christ – the source of life, love, hope, and joy – who will never let you go!

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,

Pr. Rachael