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God’s Up to Something…

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By now, we know every square inch of our homes – intimately. We’ve seen every imaginable movie and television show, played every board game and completed every puzzle. We’ve cleaned cupboards, painted walls, and weeded yards. We don’t know what day it is most of the time because the days all feel the same.

But today, God roared in to St. Tim’s with a beautiful reminder: God is always up to something!

At about 9:30 this morning, someone came into the building (a rarity in itself). I was on the phone and couldn’t see who it was, but soon my office began to fill with the most delicious aroma – basil. There’s no smell quite like it. It’s earthy, sharp and decadent all at the same time. It cries out to be sprinkled on rustic bread with tomatoes, olive oil and fresh mozzarella.  I digress…

The fresh smell of basil was a gift in itself but God’s just getting started. Soon the building will have two more people in it: a Lutheran Family Services staff member and a skilled cook who happens to be a refugee. They’ll take this precious herb and turn it into vegan pesto. It will be sold at the co-op down the street. This project creates jobs, generates income for refugee families, and uses God’s gifts from the earth.

It strikes me, God had all of this in mind as the basil was slowly growing, as the farm workers were diligently weeding, and as shelf space was opening up at the co-op. God took all of these elements: fruit of the earth, willing hands, imagination, skill, and hard work and brought them together for new life.

I wonder what else God’s up to right now? Amen?!

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,

Pr. Rachael

Let’s Talk Politics.

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Still with me? We’re in dangerous territory. Should politics be a topic of conversation introduced by the pastor? It’s a valid question, but I can’t help it.

You see, in our reading for this Sunday from Luke 11, we hear three words I just can’t shake: Your kingdom come. The “Your” in this statement is none other than the creator God, Source of all life. Each week when we gather for worship we pray and ask that God’s kingdom comes. It’s a bold ask, a daring ask, and one to which God invites us. The question that chases me: Do I trust in God’s kingdom more than any other?

Just a few days separate us from the political conventions. Both parties cast a vision for what the country would be under their “power.” Both claimed we’d be more prosperous and safer under their authority. Each also described terrifying realities that would come to pass if the opposing party clawed their way into power. As one headline stated, “[Nominees] Tussle Over Whose America is Dangerous” (ABC News, August 29, 2020). ‘Trust me’ and ‘Be afraid’ were shared mantras.

But, the Lord’s Prayer in Luke 11 says two things boldly: Trust God. Do not be afraid.

God’s kingdom is here in Christ and on the way in the Spirit. It is marked by the power of the crucified and resurrected Messiah, power made known in Christ’s self-giving love. God is at work in us and in the world to feed the hungry, lift up the lowly and set the captive free. God’s kingdom comes. That is our hope!

So, beloved children of God, research your options, get out there and vote. AND Trust God. Do not be afraid. God’s kingdom come! Amen?!

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,

Pr. Rachael

What God Can Do.

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Hours of school at the kitchen table, alone. Separation from grandparents, friends, church community and other loved ones so they’re not at greater risk. Oppressive systems exposed. The impoverished enduring the most hardship…again.

There is some solace in knowing we’re not the only ones to endure sadness and powerlessness, and witness disproportionate suffering for the vulnerable. History has documented these human experiences since history began. As the saying goes, misery loves company. However, frustration can’t help but follow this fact as time and again we can’t seem to come together when catastrophe strikes. Some profit by devastation while many others lose and lose big. It’s enough to get you down so you stay down.

And yet, something quite different arises when we stand alongside the Biblical witness to these facts of human existence. As we make our way through the book of 2 Corinthians, we hear the testimony of people who have been beaten, persecuted, rejected, and have despaired of life itself. They know the pain of separation and the power of unjust human systems. AND, in these sufferings, they also know the power in the love of God.

It is in catastrophes that God’s presence, God’s love, God’s persistence to create and sustain pour forth from the Source of all life. Ask the Israelites crossing the Red Sea, Hannah at Samuel’s birth or Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones. Paul and Timothy write, “since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart (2 Cor 4:1)… God who rescued us from so deadly a peril will continue to rescue us; on God we have set our hope (1:10).”

Don’t give up! Hold on to hope! God’s powerful love is here! Amen?!

See you Sunday…

In Christ,

Pr. Rachael

Love and a Lawn Chair.

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Is it possible that the world has gotten more accessible and less accessible all at the same time? It may just be my slowly unraveling rope, but that’s the way I feel. As a globe, we’re closer than ever, facing both an illness and deeply entrenched systemic racism that know no boundaries. At the same time, I’ve seen A LOT of my house, neighborhood park, and office. The world ‘out there’ is big, wild, and completely out of my reach.

So, what if we tried to make the overwhelming global struggles a little smaller and our daily experience of the world a little bigger? We’ve been making our way through Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians and, in a small way, I think that’s what he was trying to do. The letter is written to one specific church, the church at Corinth. However, Paul opens by including “all the saints throughout Achaia” (2 Cor 1:1). Achaia isn’t the whole world but it’s certainly more of the world than some Corinthians would ever experience. By the power of the Spirit, Paul calls the small church at Corinth, and all Achaia, to one act: decide in favor of loving one another (2:8).

On Thursday, August 27th at 6:00 p.m., you are invited to try an experiment answering that same call by sitting out on the east lawn at St. Tim’s. Bring your lawn chair! We’ll talk some theology, invite prayer requests, and trust our masks won’t cover our desire to share God’s love for all. If you’re in an at-risk group, no problem! Set up a lawn chair in your own front yard and pray for your neighbors! We’ll see if our world gets a little more loving in the name of Christ Jesus!

See you Sunday…

In Christ,

Pr. Rachael 

All Aboard!

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If it were completely safe to fly, cruise, or take the train right now, where would you go? To see family or friends? Halfway around the world for a glorious change of scenery? So many of us have uttered the words, “We had planned to go…” followed by a tale of cancellation and disappointment. For the people of St. Tim’s Portugal, Italy, Israel, Australia and that Alaskan cruise are now on hold indefinitely. Fortunately, we can live vicariously through Job.

You’ve earned it, people of God! You’ve been through 38 chapters of the book of Job with all of Job’s suffering, his fickle friends, and his angry, accusatory wife. It’s time to take a deep breath and dive into the beauty of all that remains.

As God shows up in Job 38, mercifully responding to Job’s demands, we discover God has a plan for Job. To draw Job out of his anger and intense focus on what he has endured, God takes Job on a guided tour of God’s beloved, expansive Creation. God introduces Job to storehouses of snow, a lion on the prowl, calving deer, eagles, horses and the wild ox. Job glimpses mountain ranges, steppes and the flapping wings of an ostrich. God is quite the tour guide! But instead of a tip, God’s desire from this whirlwind adventure with Job is a renewed relationship. God wills that Job would re-enter his life with hope, with purpose and with a clear understanding of his beloved creatureliness in God’s wild world.

As you feel the sadness descend from your latest cancellation, grab the book of Job. Read chapters 38-41 with gusto! Imagine YOU are on that whirlwind trip with God. Might God be calling you to renewed relationship as well?

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,

Pr. Rachael

אֲיַחֵ֑ל

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What are you waiting for right now? A job interview? The opportunity to see your grandkids? The final verdict on APS’ fall plan? Of course, there’s also the small stuff: Going to a movie at the theatre,to Popejoy for a show, or to play skee-ball at Hinkle Family Fun Center.

It’s hard to wait. But Job gives us some help.

Job has suffered so much by the 14th chapter of the book that bears his name. It’s almost unimaginable. Yet this week, he turns a corner and a signal for this turning is one Hebrew word: אֲיַחֵ֑ל.

In English, it sounds like “ayahel” and appears three times in Job – 6:11; 13:15; and in a verse we will hear this week, 14:14. After Job wonders aloud if he could wait out his suffering in Sheol, the place of the dead, he says, “All the days of my service I would ‘ayahel’ until my release should come” (14:14). The NRSV Bible team has determined this should be translated ‘wait.’ But the same word, when it appears in 6:11 and 13:15, is translated as… wait for it… HOPE! Fascinating, isn’t it? In Hebrew, one word can mean both wait and hope. What wisdom! The way I hear it, to use this Hebrew word is to suggest one cannot wait without hoping and or hope without waiting.  The two must come together!

I’ll be the first to admit, not all of my waiting has been overly hopeful. You? And yet, if there was ever a time for hope, it’s right now in the midst of our waiting! God is at work! The Spirit is alive! Christ has risen!

If God can give hope to Job, there’s got to be hope for you and me!  Amen?!

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,

Pr. Rachael

Naked.

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person kneeling with head on the ground and palms up

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…

God’s Peace,

Pr. Rachael

Moth Wisdom.

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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…

God’s Peace,

Pr. Rachael

Wish You Were Here.

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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…

God’s Peace,

Pr. Rachael

Get up!

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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…

God’s Peace,

Pr. Rachael