Latest Event Updates
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,
It’s everywhere. Every post, publication and podcast: Coronavirus. A Google search at 1:00 p.m. on March 10th elicited 6,210,000,000 results. At 1:20 it was 6,570,000,000. It’s sent the market into a frenzy and the travel industry into freefall. We’re stockpiling hand sanitizer, bleach and toilet paper. So many questions arise: Will schools close? Will those we love get sick? Will church be cancelled on Sunday?
I can answer the last one: If it’s Sunday, St. Tim’s will be open. I’ll be here and we’ll celebrate the resurrection with whomever feels comfortable showing up. I’m afraid the rest is a mystery.
It’s into this anxious space that Jesus speaks in bold, confrontational terms. On Sunday, we’ll hear the parable in Mark 12:1-12 that prompted the religious leaders to seek Jesus’ arrest. It’s meant to shake us up, to move us, to provoke us to ask uncomfortable questions about how we choose to live our lives. In all honesty, it startled me to read it not because I was so shaken by what the parable said, but by just how slight my reaction was.
The Coronavirus has me changing my behaviors. I wash my hands more, try with all of my might not to touch my face, and ask those I know well if it’s alright to shake their hand in greeting. BUT, how much will Jesus’ convicting words change my behavior? Will I be more aware of the words I choose to speak, the care I take with loved ones and strangers, the commitment I have to following Jesus and his call to servant, self-giving love? Will it move me to ask for forgiveness and renew my conviction to love God with everything I’ve got and love my neighbor, too?
What about you?
See you Sunday…
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…
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…
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.
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…
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…
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…
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…