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It’s one of those words that makes middle-schoolers giggle, especially when it’s said in church. It’s one we tend to go past quickly in polite company. But, right now, it feels like we need something deeper than polite conversation, so we’re going to risk naming it and talking about it freely. The word? Naked.
This Sunday, in the first chapter of Job, we’ll hear about a man who has lost almost everything. He loses his possessions, his home, and his children. His loss and grief are beyond what many of us can fathom. And in his grief, Job cries out to the Lord, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there” (1:21). He has plummeted to the depths of the human experience. He is exposed, raw, and knows his ultimate vulnerability before God. This is the place from which Job’s journey through suffering begins.
What extraordinary wisdom.
I wonder, if for too long, we have covered up what needs to be exposed. We cover our fear of others by surrounding ourselves with people who will help us remain comfortable. We cover our feelings of powerlessness to meet the needs of those suffering around us by blaming the sufferer, claiming to be without responsibility for the sufferer, or avoiding them altogether. We cover our own suffering with facades of strength and cheerfulness.
What if we joined Job in his nakedness? What if we spoke of our fears, our powerlessness and our own suffering? What if God moved us to this raw, vulnerable, exposed place with others we trust? Could we begin to love ourselves and love one another from that place of vulnerability? Where might God take our relationship with God and one another if we risked it together?
See you Sunday…
They are everywhere. On the window screens. In the light fixtures. I knelt down to smell a beautiful yellow flower and one was hiding in the petals. It tried to enter my nose.
I reached my limit a couple of nights ago. I got up to use the restroom and a flock of moths were clustered over the nightlight. To my half-awake brain, that moth bundle sure looked like something sinister out of Knockturn Alley (Confused? Call a Harry Potter-fan friend!). I was determined to get them out of my house.
The next day, I studied which windows were welcoming moth gatherings and declared those windows off-limits. I bullied my family into sprinting through the open garage door and used my flip-flop to swat out moth stragglers. In a final twist of moth-inspired insanity, I considered taking an axe to every plant in our yard, determined to keep the moths from raising a family on “my” property. We’re all a little stressed these days, right?
But then, mercifully, 1 Corinthians hit me. Moths weren’t the Corinthians’ problem, but they were definitely trying to get rid of something. They wanted to seal up the cracks of their house of worship and not let anyone in who wasn’t “doing it right.” Only the enlightened few who really knew how to follow Jesus were allowed in. Of course, determining who the enlightened few were, and who had the power to decide, was causing all sorts of damage.
As it turns out, the moths don’t bite. They aren’t plotting my demise. They just want to find some shelter and live.
Maybe if I figure out how to live alongside the moths, God’s creatures, I can love my human neighbor a little better.
Care to join me?
See you Sunday…
I’m amazed, every week, how the Spirit serves up the perfect reading for our community of faith. As we gather each Sunday around the Word of God we hear from beautiful, confrontational, healing, provocative, grace-filled children of God whose witness today is just as powerful as it was millennia ago. I pray each week that God would give me the words God would have me say to inspire all of us with God’s love and grace. God always shows up. A sermon happens. The Spirit works with it. Thanks be to God!
This week, as we encounter the first breaths of the Christian church at Corinth in Acts 18 and 1 Corinthians, I have no doubt that God will show up and give us the grace we need for the journey. But, if I’m honest, my first response to the readings this week was, well… Envy. Yep, one of those deadly sins. It may sound odd, if you know about the church at Corinth. The Corinthians were infamous for having all sorts of “issues.” But here’s the thing: they got to work through their stuff together. They could be side-by-side, across the table, sitting next to one another, crammed in the living room, standing toe-to-toe, smelling each other’s coffee breath. Right now, that smell would be heavenly.
The long and short of it is, wonderful people of God, I MISS YOU! When you get together you are a force for good! I know you’re bringing it wherever you’re stuck right now, but I miss seeing it! I miss hearing about it! I miss laughing at our failures together and reassuring one another, over some Costco cake, that God will get us through it!
In short: Wish You Were Here!
“See” you Sunday…
How would you rate your physical activity level right now? It can go either way: the gym’s closed and the weather is beautiful; the refrigerator is easily accessible at all times and the mountains are just a few steps away; elastic waist bands are all the rage and sweatpants at least hint at exercise. If you need a little movement in your life, look no further than the book of Acts.
This week, we are given the story of the first healing afterJesus’ ascension. Jesus is no longer walking alongside the disciples, but God’s work for resurrected life is just getting started. God promised the Holy Spirit would ignite the disciples to continue Jesus’ work and – here we go! Acts 3:1-10 narrates the healing of a man unable to use his legs. Peter and John, oblivious to what is about to happen, are strolling up to the Temple for prayer. The miraculous healing unfolds in much the same way healings do in Jesus’ life and ministry with one beautiful exception: the healed man LEAPS for joy! Not only that, he leaps while he’s praising God (3:8)! Can you imagine it? When was the last time you saw someone leaping around, praising God at worship?
So, here it is, your cardio faith challenge: Spend a few minutes, each day this week, leaping around your house, apartment, patio, yard, open space or hiking trail, and praise God for all God has done in your life. If your leaping days are behind you, shouting words of praise can elevate your heart rate plenty! C’mon… you already have your sweatpants on! If your neighbors laugh, thanks be to God! Imagine the joy you’ll bring to your neighborhood, to your own heart and to God!
See you Sunday…
My sister and I were less than two years apart. Our grandmother loved to buy us matching holiday outfits for the rare occasions we would venture to church with her. Easter was the best. Matching gloves? Check. Hat with a fancy ribbon? You bet. Shiny shoes? Without a doubt. My sister and I would get dolled up and do our best to stay wrinkle-free through Easter worship.
On Monday, this Prendergast painting from my daily desk calendar brought it all back:
That’s the way I remember Easter.
These days I don’t have a single fancy glove, ribboned hat, or shiny pair of shoes. But I do love to see them arrive at worship on Easter morning. The fancy get-ups fit right in with the brass, the flowers, and the post-worship brunch. But not this year. It’s still Easter, but without the dress.
The reading for Easter 2020 could not be more appropriate. We hear the story of Easter morning from the king of brevity, the Gospel of Mark. In Mark 16:1-8 there’s no garden, no resurrected Jesus, not a sliver of excitement. Terror, amazement and silence round out the Easter message. We’re left in anticipation of what is to come. What will God do now?
As we travel through our most Holy Week this year, many of us will make the journey in pajamas, yoga pants and sweatshirts. And yet, Jesus still overcomes the grave. Jesus triumphs over betrayal, violence and yes, even fear-filled silence. We stand before the empty tomb in anticipation of what the Spirit will do next. And trust me, the Spirit doesn’t care if you’re wearing your Easter dress or your Easter fluffy slippers. God’s will be done this week and always! Amen?
See you Thursday, Friday and Sunday…
Misinformation abounds. FEMA added a page to its website entitled, “Coronavirus Rumor Control,” because so much inaccurate information was spreading. We’ve been trying to discern who or what can be trusted for years now, in this age of information inundation. So, what about all that Jesus has to say?
This week we hear the “little apocalypse” from Mark 13. Jesus speaks of the end times and his imminent death. In the middle of this unsettling passage he declares, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (13:31). Interesting. He didn’t say my power or my miracles will not pass away. He said my words will not pass away. Miracles we can see, but words? They require trust.
In Mark 13, the disciples had to be rattled. Jesus says they’ll be persecuted, hated, even killed because of their discipleship. But they’ve also heard Jesus say, “with God all things are possible” (10:27), “the time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God has come near” (1:15), and “do not fear, only believe” (5:36). In the face of their certain suffering, could Jesus’ words of hope and love be trusted?
Right now, many of us are rattled. We’re just beginning to experience the depth of the suffering around us. Fear threatens to consume us. Yet, so many of Jesus’ words push against fear. John 10:27-28 comes to mind: “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.”
Now is the time to encourage one another to trust. Jesus’ words will not pass away. He will rise on the third day and fulfill the triumph of God’s love!
Who needs your encouragement today?
March 13, 2020
To the Wonderful Community of St. Timothy’s Lutheran Church,
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. . . “Be still, and know that I am God!”
Psalm 46:1, 10
After a conference call with city of Albuquerque officials and faith community leaders today, receiving a recommendation from Rocky Mountain Synod Bishop Jim Gonia that all ELCA churches in our synod suspend church activities through April 1, and the guidance of the St. Timothy’s Congregational Council we have decided to suspend worship and other church activities effective immediately.
At the same time, we continue to be Christ’s church in our neighborhood and we will do that as faithfully as we can. As a result, this Sunday, March 15th from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. I will be in the St. Tim’s courtyard, by the main Jefferson St. entrance, to offer drive-up communion (I will use wafers, serve with gloves, and offer individual cups of grape juice) for any and all who wish to receive it. I will also offer prayers for and with anyone who desires.
Please be checking our website, Facebook page and email communications as we plan creatively and faithfully to offer safe ways of gathering on-line and in other ways as God leads us.
The St. Tim’s congregational council will be meeting this Sunday at 11:00 a.m. to consider prayerfully more ways we may continue to be in relationship with one another to offer care, emotional support and the love of God in Jesus Christ.
May God guide us all in this time of uncertainty in our city and in our world. God is truly our refuge and strength, and we shall not fear! Amen?
A worker with you in God’s kingdom,