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Everything in its place.

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griefMy office is a mess.  I have piles of papers and books covering most surfaces.  I like to say I have a sophisticated piling system.  Still, there is a place for everything and everything in my office is not in its assigned place.  Sometimes it even drives me crazy and I have to clean it all up.  As comfortable as I can be with clutter, there’s a limit.  I wonder how often this happens in church.

In faith community we get comfortable with some clutter.  We welcome noise clutter in worship: kid noise, laughter, applause, etc.  We take in the joy of a cluttered altar where the leftovers from Holy Communion rest.  We thrive in the clutter of food, diapers, shoes, coats, etc. filling the entrance when we collect needed items for our mission partners.  We can and do embrace some clutter.

However, as “Church,” we can get anxious about the clutter of sadness, loss, grief and pain.  Sometimes we find too much emotion “out of place” in worship or even in community.  Do you feel comfortable expressing times of deep despair in church?  How does it feel to imagine it?  Have we left out a place for lament in our life together?

This week we begin our walk through the book of Ruth.  It’s ultimately a story of great love and faithfulness, but it doesn’t begin that way.  We hear the depth of human suffering from a woman who has lost everything – husband, sons, and hope.  Ruth’s mother-in-law is bitter, angry and despairing.  Would her words be out of place in our life together?

How may we leave open a place for deep lament?  It’s never out of place in our relationship with God, thanks be to God!

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,
Pr. Rachael

Christ in us.

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Christ in meEvery time this blog deadline approaches I wonder, what does God want me to say?  I want to be engaging and interesting for those who take the time to skim my musings about God, the bible, or the world.  But today, having returned from weeks away and reading our bible passage for this Sunday, I’m struck by the simplest yet most powerful Word:  Christ is in us.   

Maybe you’ve heard that before.  Maybe you’re sick of hearing it.  Maybe these words sound hollow with all of the suffering you’re going through or you see in the world.  If so, I don’t blame you.  I get it.  I’ve been there, too.  AND, 1 John 4:4 insists, even in our refusals, to proclaim:

 “…the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

Anger, fear, and anxiety abound.  Talk of death is pervasive: death of democracy, death of idealism, death of the institutional church.  All of that may or may not be true.  AND, thanks be to God, our hope is not found in any of them.  God, in all of God’s grace, love and mercy, decided not to be confined in our institutions or our ideals.  God in Christ took matters into God’s own hands and overcame, yes, OVERCAME, the power of death.

The small community that gathered to hear the Word from 1 John was threatened on all sides.  They were at death’s door.  We don’t know the rest of their story but we know the power of Christ in them would not die.  That power will NEVER die.

Christ’s power of love and life are IN YOU.  Who knows what may come, but Christ is alive in you.  So, let’s get livin’.  Amen?!

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,

Pr. Rachael

The flesh and blood of Jesus

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became flesh.pngPeople can be frustrating.  People can be cruel, thoughtless, self-centered, violent, manipulative, and destructive.  Truth be told I, too, can be all of these things.  And sometimes, on my worst days, I wonder if we’re a lost cause.  As it turns out, I’m not the first person to wonder in that direction.

The book of 1 John (which we’ll begin together this Sunday), was written to a community that confessed boldly Jesus was Lord of all, the very God, but swept Jesus’ humanity under the rug.  They weren’t very comfortable with a God who became human, perhaps for all of the reasons I mentioned above.  So, they just ignored it.  They celebrated God’s work in Jesus and that was plenty.

But as the author of 1 John reveals, when push comes to shove, Jesus’ humanity is exactly what we need.

On more than one occasion, I have wanted to punt on humanity, myself included!  Why can’t we just LOVE as God calls us?  Why can’t we treat one another with the grace, encouragement, support, and mercy God gives us?  But the flesh and blood gift of Jesus reveals again and again that God created humanity in God’s image!  We aren’t a mistake!  And no matter how many times we fail, God’s love in Jesus Christ will never fail us!

In these flesh and blood bodies, good gifts of God’s love and grace, we are not a lost cause!  Christ lives in us and with us!  As 1 John proclaims:

Little children, you are from God…for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (v. 4)

Thanks be to God for the flesh and blood Jesus who is at work in OUR flesh and blood!

God’s Peace,
Pr. Rachael

Marrying up.

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I failWhen I was little, and my Dad introduced my Mom to someone, he would always say, “This is my wife.  As you can see, I married up!”  For the longest time I had no idea what that meant.  She wasn’t taller than him.  When I got older, I finally asked him about it.  He said it was a way of indicating someone had married above their social class.  In other words, he was complimenting her as a woman of great stature while also understanding himself to be exceedingly fortunate she agreed to marry him.  In looking at Exodus 20:3-11, it appears humanity has found itself in a similar position.

This Sunday we’ll look closely at the “first table” of the commandments – those that speak about our relationship with God.  God invites us into a grace-filled relationship and calls us to hold God above all else.  God’s love for us is perfect and will not fail.  Now, my dad is never short on confidence, so his “unequal status” in marriage was a source of great happiness.  However, without a deep sense of self-worth, that inequality can be suffocating.

It’s not easy to live in a relationship with someone who’s perfect!  God is ALWAYS faithful.  I’m not.  God’s love NEVER fails.  Mine does.  With all of my shortcomings in this relationship it’s easy to fall into self-loathing and despair!  How could God possibly continue to love me when I can’t even come close to being an equal partner?

As we dwell in these commands, it is so important we remember the foundation upon which they are constructed.  Before God speaks a word of command God proclaims, unilaterally and unequivocally, “I am the Lord your God” (Exodus 20:2).

Does that mean humanity married up?  Hallelujah!

See you Sunday…

Gods’ Peace,
Pr. Rachael

Come one, come all!

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Come one come allIf you have plans that would take you away from worship Sunday morning, cancel them!  It’s Pentecost Sunday this weekend and EVERYONE is invited!  Certainly, everyone is invited every Sunday to worship the Lord of all, but this Sunday has YOUR name written all over it!

How can I know FOR CERTAIN you are invited?  Because the impact of the Holy Spirit, given on the occasion of Pentecost, reaches every corner of the globe (Acts 2:1-11).  God insists upon it.  What God has given the world in Jesus Christ: love, mercy, hope, healing, life, wholeness, and on and on, is proclaimed to the entire world in a way everyone can understand.  Even and ESPECIALLY YOU!

If you’re speaking the language of gratitude, the Spirit will be reaching for you.  If you’re speaking the language of loss, the Spirit will be reaching for you.  If you’re speaking the language of purpose, fear, anger, joy, regret, anticipation, confusion, and/or faithfulness, the Spirit will be reaching FOR YOU!  God’s sights are focused on you and the Good News of God’s unconditional love in Jesus Christ is FOR YOU!

Does that sound outlandish?  Does it sound naïve?  Or maybe, downright ridiculous?  That the Lord, God of all creation who made heaven and earth, would be so focused on you or even meYep, I agree, it’s preposterous.  And yet, that’s the promise God gives!

You could scoff.  You could dismiss it as the ramblings of a drunken fool (BTW, it’s 1:30 in the afternoon and I haven’t had a drop), that’s been done before (see Acts 2:13).  But it won’t stop the Spirit from comin’ to ya.

C’mon!  Add your voice, your questions, your hope, your longings, your praise to the borderless chorus!

See YOU Sunday…

In Christ,
Pr. Rachael

Thank you, Jesus!

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Thank you jesus.jpgGet up on the wrong side of the bed?  Have a bee in your bonnet?  Aren’t you a sourpuss?  I just love the phrases we can access to describe the state of grumpiness.  Perhaps no one in scripture is more in tune to this state of mind than the Apostle Paul.  He gets grumpy about nearly everyone (those darn Corinthians) and everything (that pesky spirit in Philippi calling him and Silas out).  Yet that is not the side of Paul we experience this week.

On Sunday we’ll begin a brisk tour of the book of Philippians.  Paul writes to the Christian community at Philippi and, for once, he doesn’t seem the least bit ornery.  In fact, he begins with overflowing gratitude:

I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.  Philippians 1:3-5

Paul’s words are profoundly touching.  He knows that with the people of Philippi, God has given him something really, really good.

I admit it, I can get grumpy.  I can be short with the people I love and find reasons to be irritated in all kinds of situations.  But I hear Paul this week and I’m inspired.  I know, in so many ways, God has given me something really, really good.

To the people of St. Tim’s:

I thank my God every time I think of you.  I pray with joy for all of you because of your sharing in the Gospel from the first day until now!  Thank you, Jesus!

I’m just getting started.  I have so many people to thank!

Who causes you overflowing gratitude?  Will you tell them?

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,
Pr. Rachael

Stirring things up.

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stir the potSome folks love a good fight.  I’m not one of them.  I rather enjoy a spirited debate but I’m not looking for conflict.  The Apostle Paul, on the other hand, loved to get his conflict on.  He was an “in-your-face” follower of Jesus and never apologized for it.  But it’s a fight he didn’t choose that confronts us this Sunday.

In Acts 16, Paul and his companion Silas encounter a young slave-girl held captive by a spirit.  Paul, in Christ’s name, casts out the spirit and by doing so liberates the slave-girl from her spiritual captivity.  However, Paul also removes a source of income for her “handlers” and, as a result, he and Silas are viciously beaten.  Paul’s not looking to pick a fight (not THIS time).  Yet, a fight is what he gets, and he and Silas suffer tremendously.

In his commentary on this passage, theologian Justo Gonzalez states, “We somehow imagine that the Church can be faithful without being controversial.”[1]  Ain’t that the truth?  As a member of a Reconciling in Christ congregation who welcomes refugees, some of them Muslim, distributes food to the hungry and addicted in our neighborhood, and strives to welcome all people in Christ’s name, I’ve been called every name in the book, threatened, and condemned.  I don’t enjoy that.  I wish I didn’t have to go through that.  But I am empowered in Christ’s name to stand alongside the people of St. Tim’s and be a part of God’s mission to love and bless the world.  We’re not picking a fight but, clearly, we’re stirring things up.

Stay strong, brothers and sisters in Christ!  Keep the faith!

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,
Pr. Rachael

[1] Gonzalez, Justo L. Acts: The Gospel of the Spirit. New York: Orbis Books, 2001; p. 193.