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Pick me!

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For some, it’s a painful memory. For others, a triumph: Selection time during PE class. It’s still a thing, picking teams for PE. Whether it’s badminton or basketball, two kids are the captains and they select, one by one, who they want. For the super-sporty kids, it’s another day at the office. For those not so athletically inclined, it can be excruciating. So, when Jesus declares that in the kingdom of God, “many who are first will be last, and the last will be first,” (Mark 10:31) it feels just. Those who know what it feels like not to be wanted will be the first to receive God’s embrace.

This week we begin together the season of Lent, a season of reflection, renewal and returning to God. We’ll prepare together to receive or affirm the gift of Holy Baptism through which we know who we are as God’s beloved children. It strikes me, hearing Jesus’ words, that knowing who we are as beloved children of God means we already know we’ve been “picked.” We don’t have to wait those excruciating moments, or a lifetime, to find out if we’re loved or wanted.  God’s already told us! But, every day, we all walk alongside beloved children of God who don’t even know God’s already picked them. That they are made in God’s image and called by God to receive all of God’s love, grace and mercy. So many in God’s beloved creation live with the false conclusion that they are not wanted. We can do something about this, amen?!

This Lent, what if we spread the word, far and wide, that no one is unwanted in God’s kingdom? That nothing can separate us from the love of God… period! Are you in?

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,

Pr. Rachael

A Reminder.

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Don’t you just love it when you keep doing the same wrong thing over and over again? Yeah, I don’t. What’s even worse? When the same person points it out every time: A parent asks, “Why is your room always such a mess;” A spouse declares, “You know, you lose your keys a lot;” Or your boss drops this one, “You realize, you’ve forgotten that report every month for the last quarter.”  There’s a special combination of embarrassment, frustration, and hurt that strikes hard and fast.

Because I’ve been there, I can’t help but feel for the Pharisees in Mark 7:1-23. As scripture experts, they know all too well what they’ve gotten wrong throughout the generations. Time and again, God gets frustrated with the people because they can’t remember that God’s number one priority is caring for the vulnerable. They pride themselves on getting worship ‘right’ but forget their commitment to love and serve the orphan, the widow, and the stranger. But in Mark 7, here comes this upstart Jesus, once again throwing the prophet Isaiah in their face. He points out to them the same old thing: “You’re not loving God and loving your neighbor again, guys.” I can just imagine how much they seethed. I would, too.

I can’t count how many times I’ve operated with my own set of priorities and have forgotten entirely God’s priorities – how many times I live out my own idea of faithfulness and forget the simple yet confoundingly difficult call to love God and love my neighbor.

This Sunday, Jesus will say it again. Love God and love your neighbor. It might sting a little, but consider the source. Alongside the call are forgiveness, love and life everlasting. Let’s hear him out. Amen?

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,

Pr. Rachael

An everyday power.

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Not everyone’s a hugger. I respect that. All sorts of experiences make that move undesirable. Some of us have compromised immune systems and can’t risk it. Some of us have been on the receiving end of human closeness that violates our sense of safety or our ability to choose.

And…

In Mark 5:25-34 we hear of a woman who was kept from touching others for 12 years. For 12 years she suffered hemorrhages that made her ritually unclean. For 12 years, were she to touch another she would share her stain. For 12 years.

Can you imagine it? I can’t. But for many, it’s all too familiar. As a hospital chaplain intern years ago, I was amazed at how many people asked to see the chaplain out of loneliness. Nobody else knew they were in the hospital. There was no one to inform. Some were alone due to family brokenness and some didn’t have any family or friends to contact. We would talk together. We would pray. And almost everyone asked if we could hold hands as we shared time with God. It was human contact without a medical or disciplinary purpose. It was human contact rooted in Christ.

When the woman in Mark 5 was healed from her 12-year ordeal, she wasn’t just physically renewed. Jesus named her a “daughter of Israel.” Jesus’ first celebration with her was not her physical well-being but her restoration to community. I imagine, from that day on, she gave the best hugs in town.

God has given us an extraordinary power in human touch. We have, without a doubt, abused this power. And yet, the grace-filled power of the gift remains. With humility, discernment, permission and great care, how will you use it?

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,

Pr. Rachael

Shhhhh. Or not.

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Know anyone who just can’t whisper? I never considered it might be a challenge for anyone until my son was born. He never slept. Never. Eight months into his life, I thought I might lose it from lack of sleep. So, when he finally started putting some hours of shut-eye together, I moved heaven and earth to keep the house quiet.

At the time, we had the tremendous blessing of living near family. On one memorable occasion, my parents planned a visit to see us (the baby) but were running late. Of course, they arrived shortly after naptime began. I saw them pull into the driveway and sprang into action, terrified that the doorbell would wake him. My wonderful parents arrived carrying flowers and food, two of my favorite things, and with the stealth of a secret agent I opened the door. In the faintest whisper, I explained the situation. They both nodded and smiled. 

But not a second later my dad let out an, “It’s great to see you,” at volume 11! I pleaded with him to whisper and he said, at 3,000 decibels, “I am!” I was baffled. He thought he was whispering but his voice sounded like it did in a packed restaurant. My mother laughed hysterically, silently, that my dad had never been able to whisper. He just couldn’t do it.

If I didn’t know better, I’d think my dad was in the Gospel of Mark. Over and over again, Jesus asks that his identity be kept a secret. Over and over again, nobody can seem to whisper. The message and miracle of Jesus, the Holy one of God, echoes throughout the Gospel.

Thanks be to God, the whisper-challenged couldn’t keep quiet about Jesus. What about you?

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,

Pr. Rachael

Post Office Jesus.

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It’s a chaotic spot this time of year, the post office.  This week, I had no choice but to brave it.  I got pumped up with a dose of Nat King Cole Christmas music and a travel mug of coffee.  As expected, the line extended past the maze of plastic barriers.  It was go time.

As I secured my place in line, I was optimistic as I saw three people behind the counter.  Within five minutes, however, one was called away to help sort boxes and another took her break.  I tried to keep a positive attitude.

But the minutes ticked by and the line felt like it was moving backward.  20 minutes. 30.  My travel mug was empty.  Nat’s pipes were a memory.  I could feel myself starting to lose it. 

Then it happened.  Two young men, recently-arrived refugees from Africa, approached the counter.  They had a box that wasn’t taped shut.  Big no-no.  But the kind man behind the counter provided tape and showed them how to seal it.  The address wasn’t legible.  With some work, they figured out together the package was going to Oklahoma.  In how many days would they like the package to arrive?  The postal worker slowly gave them their options.  It took some time and effort but this package was getting where it needed to go.  And no one in line complained.

The two young men fist-bumped on their way out.  I wondered if this was their first successful trip to the post office.  I thanked God for this moment of kindness and love.

God came in the human form of Jesus.  And Jesus remains with us through the power of the Spirit in the human forms around us.  Where have you seen Jesus lately?  Amen?!

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,

Pr. Rachael

Thanksgiving.

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Leaning on the back of the velour sofa.  Watching out the bay window, waiting for the cars full of grandmas and grandpas to arrive.  Grandpas dressed in polyester blend suits and big ties.  Grandmas protecting their perfectly-set permanents with plastic covers.  So excited for the day, I’d be up since 4.  I wasn’t lonely, mom was up too, putting the turkey in the oven and peeling potatoes.  Soon the house would be full of people who loved me.  God’s love filled every corner.  Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday all year.

I didn’t know the significance of it at the time, but my parents and grandparents all had dramatically different political views.  They had very different confessions of faith.  They didn’t share the same socioeconomic status.  My uncles (dad’s foster brothers) had different skin colors than mine or each other’s.

How incredible that I remember nothing but their love for me and each other; their laughter together before dinner, at the table, and after dinner; and how sad it was for all of us when we had to call it a night.  Through those extraordinary people, God’s love filled me up every single year.

Perhaps I’ve idealized those Thanksgiving celebrations.  I suppose it’s possible.  Still, whatever the reality, I wish everyone’s memories of Thanksgiving were as filled with love.  I’m absolutely certain that’s not the case. 

But we can do something about that now.

Wherever you go and whomever you’re with this Thanksgiving, as much as it depends upon you, will you decide to fill that place with God’s love?  Will you choose to set aside every possible barrier and do what you can to love those around you?

I’ll pray for you to have the strength, will you pray for me, too?

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,

Pr. Rachael

Healing.

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Public impeachment hearings have begun.  Whatever your position, you can bet they’ll generate vitriolic rhetoric and opportunities for deeper divisions.  I’m weary of the divisions.  You?  But an experience this week has shifted my focus.  It’s renewed my energy to work for healing other divisions among a people who need healing desperately: The Church.

A dear friend, child of God, and leader in the Catholic church here in Albuquerque is dying.  She has given her life to serving people of all ages around the world.  I had the privilege and blessing to spend a couple of hours with her, and three times she was brought to tears.  At first, I thought it was caused by the painful, growing tumors she bravely endures.  Not so.  What has pained her most these last days, is the division she knows and has experienced in the Body of Christ.  She exclaimed: “I don’t know who said it, Rachael.  But some wise person said, ‘There’s no Catholic way to love or Lutheran way to love or Methodist way to love.  It’s just love!  And it all comes from God!’”

Of course, she’s right.  But while the divisions in our nation cause me daily frustration, how often do I think about the deep divisions among children of God?  Rarely.  And how many people from different faith traditions have fed my faith?  Many.

So, a challenge:  Consider who inspires you in your faith.  If they’re still living, will you contact them and affirm them for the love of Christ they have shown you?  I’ll be contacting Catholics, Quakers, Mennonites, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Pentecostals and probably some others.  Maybe if we can begin to see the light of Christ in one another, we can participate in healing divisions that existed long before impeachment hearings.

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,

Pr. Rachael 

The spaces in between.

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I can’t stand flossing my teeth.  I do it, begrudgingly.  At my recent dental visit, I was reminded of how vital flossing is for my overall health.  Who knew gum disease might contribute to heart disease?!  As it turns out, it’s just as important to care for the spaces between my teeth as it is to care for my pearly whites.  I feel a metaphor coming on…

The meetings I schedule each day are a big deal to me.  I’ve made a commitment to set aside time to connect with individuals or groups of people, and I greatly respect that time.  I prepare, make sure I have adequate travel time, take the appropriate materials with me, etc.  But what about the spaces in between?  Truth be told, I haven’t had a fraction of the intentionality for the in-between times than I’ve had for the meetings. 

I’ve been back from sabbatical about a month now, and one Holy Spirit-learning for which I am incredibly grateful is this: The spaces in between mean everything.  Reading from a beautiful Jewish prayer book takes just a few minutes.  Sending a “checking-in” email to a friend who’s struggling can be done in no time.  A stroll through the peaceful courtyard at St. Tim’s is just a 15 seconds’ walk down the hall.  Most Chopin Nocturnes on YouTube are seven minutes long or less.  God is in the planned commitments each day AND all those spaces in between.

What about your in-between spaces?  Are you intentional with them?  Where might God want to meet you in them?  Where is God seeking you out through prayer, friends, music, movement or anything else that brings you joy?

Oh, and I guess you could floss, too.  Just sayin’.

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,

Pr. Rachael

I just got schooled.

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It was early when I opened the door for a group of high school students from the Media Arts School down the street.  They were coming to St. Tim’s for, what I feel is, a rather unpleasant undertaking – spending the whole morning taking the PSAT (one of those awful, standardized tests).  It wasn’t quite 8:30 a.m. when about 50 students arrived.

Because it was so early, and their reason for being here so difficult, I assumed the students’ moods would be rather glum.  At least, that’s the way I would have felt.  I decided to offer a smile and a somewhat reserved, “Good Morning,” as I held the door.  But what happened next was astonishing:  Almost every student who walked past me smiled and thanked me for holding the door!  They were alert, incredibly kind, and offered their gratitude without hesitation or prompting.  A couple of students even commented about the weather!  Seriously?!  Wow.

Upon reflection, this event revealed two facts:

  1. My assumptions about people need to go.  Why did I assume the students would be grumpy?  Just because I’m difficult to be around when I’m doing something I don’t want to do doesn’t mean anyone else will be!  Without a second to pause I made a decision about people I’d never met.
  2. Whoever out there is still down on the “next generation” needs to actually spend time with them.  I’m constantly amazed at the kindness I am given and respect I am shown by my 11-year-old’s friends.  God’s got me, you, AND the young people of this world.  Period.

Thanks be to God for the gift of these student-neighbors and all they gave me today.  Who might surprise you with some grace-filled kindness today?

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,

Pr. Rachael

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