Is it over already?

timefly.jpgHave you ever had such a great time doing something that when it ended you couldn’t believe it was already over? For example: attending a brilliant concert, spending a weekend with friends, or working hard for an entire career? I’ve been having that feeling lately:

  • We’re grieving the loss of people we love. Members and friends of St. Tim’s are resting in the peace of Christ, thanks be to God, but it seems impossible that their earthly journey is over.
  • Graduation is almost here. Three young people who mean a lot to us as a community of faith will be celebrating the end of high school and moving on to college.
  • I’m saying goodbye to my 30s. Can I really be entering my fifth decade? Why couldn’t junior high have gone as fast as the last ten years?

Into this reality, 1 Corinthians 13 comes to us on Sunday. It’s an often-quoted passage about love. Love is patient and kind. Love hopes and endures all things. But what means everything right now is verse 8, “Love never ends.”

There are no limits to God’s gift of love. God’s love in Christ, poured out for us and the world, is a love that will not quit. God’s love claims us and never lets us go.

It is this never-ending love that flows from Christ, to us, and out to the world.

Because the love we give away originates in Christ, no matter where or when we give it, it keeps going. No matter what kind of barrier may separate us, the love we share lives on. Our loved ones rest, graduates go on to the next step, and we get another year older, all in Christ’s never-failing love.

Time flies, but God’s love soars…forever.

See you Sunday…
God’s Peace,
Pr. Rachael

There’s No Resurrection without Death

life and deathIn the last few years, God has opened my eyes to the reality that death is an essential part of a living faith. I know what you’re thinking: “You’re a pastor, shouldn’t you have known that before?!” It’s a valid question. But for a while, it felt safer to ignore it.

You see, given the choice, I’d rather not die. Maybe it’s my innate survival instinct or maybe just good, Midwestern stubbornness. But, I wouldn’t choose death. I had no idea what a killer (pun intended) that is for a life of faith!

What I believed I’d prefer was to get better. I’d appreciate God’s help in making me a better person. That sounded nice and manageable. But when it came right down to it, becoming a “better person” still left me broken. It simply led to a version of myself that was a little less selfish, a little more kind, a little more O.K. with a muffin-top. The bottom line: I need a whole lot more than to get better. I NEED TO BE MADE NEW. The Apostle Paul is incredibly helpful:

For if we have been united with [Christ] in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (Romans 6:5)

This Holy Week, God lays out the beautiful news that the cross of Christ doesn’t make us a little better, it makes us brand-spankin’-new! We get to wake up Easter morning as a new creation, rising, WITH CHRIST, to newness of life!

So come! Come and wave palms; receive forgiveness in Christ’s meal; sing your way through the grief and pain of Good Friday; experience the empty tomb and God’s gift of new life!

Because with Christ, resurrection always comes after death, amen?!

God’s Peace,
Pr. Rachael

Heads up!

heads upSomething wonderful happens in Albuquerque at the end of February: UNM Lobos baseball begins. There’s nothing like sitting in the sun, cheering on the home team, with the Sandia Mountains in the background.

With all of that sun and relaxation, however, there’s a risk: somewhere between the fifth and seventh innings it’s pretty hard to stay focused. In a major-league ballpark, this wouldn’t matter so much, but at Lobo Field it’s really important. It’s a modest stadium. Last year, fans were thrilled that real bathrooms replaced the port-a-potties. Needless to say, if a foul ball comes screaming over the dugout, you’d better be alert.

Thankfully, baseball fans have each other’s backs. It’s an unwritten rule that everyone who has resisted a siesta is ready to shout, “Heads up!” These two words have saved many a trip to the E.R. They’re a gift of grace for fans like me. Lent can be quite similar…

We’ve reached the midpoint of Lent, and now is the time you may notice your attention waning. I can relate. The burst of energy at the beginning, along with the resolve to observe the season with gusto, may be giving way to fatigue.

This Sunday, Jesus aims to wake us up! We’ll hear him, in Mark 12:28-44, proclaim the greatest commandments. He begins the wake-up call with the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:5-6), the cornerstone faith statement of God’s people. It thunders with the pronouncement, “Hear, O Israel!” If Jesus were to state this today, he might begin, “Heads up!” Lent isn’t over, and neither is the Good News God has for us in Jesus Christ.

So this Sunday, have your coffee and come ready for Jesus! Dozing off may not put you in the E.R., but trust me, you don’t want to miss this…

See you Sunday!

God’s Peace,
Pr. Rachael

Loving Lent

lent“Loving Lent” may sound like a cheap hook to get you interested in loving something you really don’t. Maybe it hits you like those “Go Grey Gloriously” ads hit me. No, I won’t, “go grey gloriously” and your commercial can’t make me.

When I was growing up, I really, really, really didn’t love the season of Lent. The church was mostly bare: no banners proclaimed the joy of life in Christ; no hallelujahs rang out from the choir; an already dark and cold late winter in Wisconsin got darker and colder. I finally accepted that to get through Lent I needed to keep my head down and soldier on. But then…

I recently learned that in the early centuries of the church, Lent was the season in which newcomers prepared to be received into Christian community through Holy Baptism. It was a season of building anticipation as communities of faith prepared one another for the sacrament that gave them their identity as children of God, and the whole community’s call to discipleship was renewed. Lent was a time of deepened relationship, growing awareness of the Spirit’s work, and delving intensely into God’s Word.

I’m sure a church history buff could tell me the reasons why that changed in many congregations, but I cannot tell you what a gift it has been to rediscover this season of renewal and hope! If Lent has scared you off in years past, don’t let it keep you away!

This Thursday and Sunday at St. Tim’s, we will continue our journey through a glorious season that prepares us, once again, to live as beloved children of God. If you could use some love, mercy, hope and renewal in your life, NOW is the time to worship!

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,
Pr. Rachael

Never let ‘em see you sweat…yeah, right.

poisePoise. I’ve never been good at it. If I nail a half-court shot while playing basketball with my son, I’ll jump up and down screaming. If my favorite character on Homeland gets killed off, I’ll throw something at the television. But that’s nothing compared to the highs and lows of my faith. Out of the depths I’ll cry to the Lord one day, and the next I’ll sing God a new song. Sometimes I wonder: shouldn’t a follower of Jesus have more poise? Shouldn’t I have an unwavering faith that is solid, consistent and steadfast? But just when I think all hope is lost, I hear something like this Sunday’s Gospel, Mark 8:27-9:8.

In Mark, we experience the disciple Peter losing all control. Jesus tells Peter that Christ’s path requires suffering and death. But Peter can’t stand the thought of it. He grabs Jesus and pulls him aside. Can you imagine? Peter pulls Jesus aside?! Then, Jesus leads Peter up a mountain and is transfigured before him, Jesus’ robes gleaming white as he appears with Moses and Elijah. Not knowing what to say, Peter starts babbling about a building project. Where’s your composure, Peter? Where’s your poise?

I love it. There’s nothing solid, consistent or steadfast about Peter. He’s desperately trying to keep up. I know the feeling; do you?

This Sunday, we hear incredible words of grace. If we lose our cool trying to keep up with Jesus, it’s O.K. We’re in very good company. But even better than that: as we waver in our faith, Christ’s love for us is solid and steadfast! Christ lived, died and rose again for all – even Peter, you, and me! Feel free to jump up and down as much as you’d like…

See you Sunday!

God’s Peace,
Pr. Rachael

Leave no trace, unless…

Leave no traceAlbuquerque is a great place to explore God’s beautiful creation. If I ever feel discouraged I just step outside and look up – the mountains remind me that God is so much bigger than I could ever imagine. Hiking the Sandia Crest, biking the foothills, and wandering the Tree Spring Trail can restore any frazzled city-dweller. Throughout these gorgeous landscapes, signs are posted to remind all adventurers of one important thing: leave no trace. Pick up your garbage, respect all plants and animals, and, “There’s No Poop Fairy” (our 8-year-old LOVES those signs). That’s exactly as it should be when we are exploring the great outdoors.

But in the Gospel this week, we are brought to our knees with gratitude that Jesus, our Savior and Lord, leaves a trace wherever he goes.

In Mark 5:21-43 we experience Jesus ushering in the Kingdom of God. His appearance by the sea causes quite a stir, but it doesn’t take long for us to know what Kingdom priorities are. While Jesus may have planned to teach the crowd and preach the Good News, he is approached by a man whose daughter is dying. Immediately, Jesus follows him. Jesus follows so that he may heal her. On his way, a woman daringly touches Jesus’ prayer shawl, trusting that even his garments have healing power. She, too, is restored. Everywhere he goes, he leaves a trace of the Kingdom. He leaves a trace of God’s love, restoration, and grace – for you, for me, and for the world. Hallelujah!

I’m challenged by this text: “Will I leave a trace?” Will God’s love and restoration flow from me? Will others see the in-breaking of the Kingdom where I have been? Will I leave a ‘grace trace?’

Will you?

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,
Pr. Rachael

I can’t. But he can.

cant canAbout this time every year I reach my limit. The 12 Days of Christmas are over and the New Year celebrations are done. I can’t eat another thing slathered in gravy. I can’t address another envelope or wrap another package. I’m done.

In one way, it’s a really liberating time of year. All the guests have returned home, so the toothpaste on the bathroom floor can stay there, breakfast cereal can be an entrée, and dust bunnies can grow and thrive.

Still, there’s something defeating about this January fatigue. I want to be able to do everything imaginable to celebrate the coming of Jesus, the Savior of the world. I want to sing, laugh, pray, dance, eat, host, gift and love to the fullest. And I want to keep this up the whole year through! Every day is a celebration of Christ’s coming, Amen?! But inevitably, I reach my limit. I can’t do it all.

This Sunday we come together in various stages of reaching our limits. Life is full-steam ahead even when we can’t muster any steam. But what we’ll hear about Jesus in Mark 2:1-22 is glorious: While we can’t to do it all in Jesus’ name, Jesus does it all for us!

This Sunday we’ll experience Jesus together as he forgives sins, heals, confronts earthly power and crosses boundaries. Jesus will do it! Jesus’ love does not depend upon our energy, enthusiasm or readiness.

We can’t do it all – Jesus does!

If you’re tired and out of steam; If you’ve reached your limit; If you’re done; the Good News this Sunday is for you. Jesus is here, now, for you. Just sit back. Breathe in his grace. Receive his love without limits.

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,
Pr. Rachael

Why can’t I get it right?

Dcant get it righto you ever go through periods of time when you seem to get everything wrong? Of course I’m asking because I’m in one.

I want so much to get it right, to live every day with God’s love at work in me. I know God loves me, loves the world so much that God came in the flesh and poured out that love for us all. Yet, I still mess things up with great regularity. I excel at it.

In the midst of my hand-wringing over my can’t-get-it-rightness, I give thanks to God that if I have to go through this, at least it’s in Advent. If there was any “good” time to lament my own failings, Advent is probably the best. Advent reminds me that fulfillment has yet to come.

God in Christ ushers in a new kingdom where God’s love, grace, peace, mercy and forgiveness abound. We’re living in it, thanks be to God! But you don’t need me to tell you that the kingdom has yet to be fulfilled. What the world needs now is (still!) love. Peace is elusive. Forgiveness is not a mainstream concept. And I can’t seem to remember to love my neighbor.

God’s people feel something similar in our reading from Ezra (1:1-4; 3:1-4, 10-13) this Sunday. The people are given a restoration, but it’s not complete. Much more needs to be done. God’s people rejoice in what is and wait in hope for what has yet to be reconciled. Maybe they’re on to something. Maybe that’s Advent worship.

So for all those can’t-get-it-right-ers out there, join me this Sunday and rejoice in what God has done! We are loved! Then pray with me for all that is yet to be fulfilled. Christ’s comin’!

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,

Waiting Like a 2nd Grader

waiting in lineThe school “line-up spot” for 2nd-graders is incredible. It’s a lot different from the lines I wait in. Lines at the bank and the post office, where I often wait, are relatively controlled affairs. Some of us text, some nap, and some occasionally dare small talk. But waiting in line for elementary school to start is a whole other adventure.

With two minutes to go the warning bell rings. Kids race from all over the school grounds to line up. Some have already managed grass stains on their knees. Some are so excited to see their friends they nearly tackle one another. The last two minutes in line are loosely-controlled chaos. The lines are amazingly structured but in constant motion. Kids jump, dance, laugh, wave and shout. They’re doing what they’re told, they’re waiting. But they can barely contain themselves. I wonder if God has something like that in mind for Advent.

On Sunday we begin the Advent season. Advent is from the Latin “ad-venire” or “to come to.” In other words, during Advent we wait together for something, someone to come to us. We await the coming of God made flesh, Jesus the Christ child. At the same time, we await the day Christ will come again and peace finally reigns.

This Advent I’m moved to ask, does my waiting look more like a 2nd grader in line for school or standing in line at the bank? Am I so excited for what is to come, all that God is doing and will do, that I can barely contain myself? Or am I content to make small talk? Will I jump, dance, laugh, wave and shout knowing Christ is coming? Or will I nap?

What will you do?

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,
Pr. Rachael

All Saints “Day?”

All Saints DayThis Sunday is the day we set aside to give thanks for Saints. It’s a wonderful, Spirit-filled, bittersweet, thanks-be-to-God kind of day. But today I was reminded: one day is not nearly enough.

First, the doorbell rang. I opened the door to a man who told me he needed help. He’d heard St. Tim’s offered food bags and asked if he might have one. We talked and I told him about COAST . He left to seek them out, food bags in hand. But before he did he looked me in the eye and said, “May God bless you.”

Then the phone rang. It was a detective with the APD going above and beyond to follow up on a domestic violence report. By God’s grace we have been able to help a number of people fleeing domestic violence through our partnership with COAST. One young woman I met was so overwhelmed by her welcome at St. Tim’s that she prayed for God’s blessings on the people here.

In a Holy Spirit moment, I recognized that these men and women – the man in need of food, the St. Tim’s folks who supplied food, the APD detective, the COAST team, the woman fleeing violence in her home – are ALL saints. The very Spirit of God is alive and at work in ALL OF THEM!

As we gather this Sunday, I invite you to give thanks for all the saints in your life – those who reveal God’s love to you. But I also invite you to recognize the many saints God places in your life daily. I miss them all too often. Will you?

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,
Pr. Rachael