Thank you…

Thank youAfter 23, yes 23, weeks in the Gospel of Luke, we’re moving on. For the next few weeks, we’ll find ourselves in the book of Acts. As one of my favorite theologians, Justo Gonzalez, says of this book, “It’s not the ‘Acts of the Apostles,’ it’s the ‘Acts of the Holy Spirit!’” How true.

I’m incredibly blessed to serve alongside a group of courageous, Holy Spirit-filled children of God. I’m constantly amazed at their willingness to take risks to follow Christ where the Holy Spirit is calling them to go. They feed the hungry, house the homeless, welcome the stranger, and give themselves away without fear. They love recklessly. I don’t say it often enough: Thank you, people of St. Tim’s! “The church” will never be perfect but I love our imperfect, beautiful community of faith.

If I take a step back and look around our city, state, and throughout this beautiful planet, I’m struck by how many children of God are living out the calling in Holy Baptism to follow the example of Jesus and work for justice and peace in all the earth. We’re doing this daily at work, school, home, in places of suffering, and of joy. We gather with “the Church” near and far, daring to love in Christ’s name and to discern the Holy Spirit’s work among us. Thank you, Church, for your beautiful courage to live the love of God where you are!

Still, Justo Gonzalez is spot on. While courage and daring in the life of the church need to be recognized, the ultimate thanks always rests with the one who gives life and breath to all. Even when we are fearful and far-from-perfect, God is faithful.

Thank you, God, for the Spirit! Please come and ACT in us! Amen?!

In Christ,
Pr. Rachael

It can.

god-canHas the word “hope” ever mocked you? You have come to the point where you are certain that it’s not going to get any better.

  • The grief will swallow you up.
  • The darkness of depression will overtake you.
  • You simply cannot survive a single day more with the regret and shame you feel.

If you’re able to relate to any of this, you have to hear our Reformation Sunday passage: 1 Kings 17.

A woman goes out to collect sticks. There’s a drought in the land. The woman is a widow and responsible for the care of her son. There’s no grain anywhere. The sticks she collects will be used for a fire over which she’ll bake the last of her food. She and her son will eat it. Then, they will die. She’s certain of it. Until…

If you’ve encountered the Word of God, you may guess what comes next. This is the moment God proves the woman wrong and, without a doubt, there’s never been a time she’s been so happy to be wrong! God gives her a way out. God gives her a miracle. She is certain it cannot get any better but, in God’s abundant love, it can.

This Reformation Sunday, we don’t celebrate one Christian denomination over another. We don’t fly the flag of one theologian over another. We give thanks and glory to God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, who always, at all times, in all places, for all people, can re-form us! HALLELUJAH! God can make us new. God can make a way. God can deliver, restore, empower, forgive, redeem, provide, and breathe life into what was lifeless.

This Sunday, come and celebrate with me: God can!

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,
Pr. Rachael

Why don’t you do something?!

frustratedI didn’t make it through the entire second presidential debate. In fact, I had to leave the room a couple of times. I could feel a strange energy building in me. It’s still difficult for me to put my finger on it, but I believe it was a combination of disbelief, frustration, sadness, anxiety, and not a small amount of anger. When it was all over, I couldn’t shake that feeling. I couldn’t let it go. I’m still trying. I keep hearing this voice in my head, “Why don’t you do something about this?” As a child of God, called to live out my baptismal identity of working for justice and peace in all the earth, I feel my insides screaming out to act! I will vote. I will do what I can to promote civility in political discourse. But it just doesn’t seem like enough.

I couldn’t figure out what do until God grabbed me and pointed me in the direction of a very, very wise woman: Hannah.

This Sunday we hear Hannah’s story in 1 Samuel 1 & 2. She, too, experiences the energy of frustration and sadness, but her energy comes from the desperation of wanting a child. However, instead of pacing or lashing out in some way, she does something astounding: she prays. She demonstrates unending courage and tenacity in her prayers. She prays so fervently at the temple that the priest believes she is drunk! She is doing something radical and faithful. O.K., God. I get it!

If you felt anything similar to what I felt after the debate on Sunday, or if you don’t know how to respond to the frustrations and sadness in your life, I invite you to join me. Let us pray!

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,
Pr. Rachael

Again and again…

retainersWhen I was about 12, I got a retainer. I had a “crossbite” and my jaw needed to be realigned. I went from a permanently affixed retainer to one I took out when I ate. The first thing the orthodontist said was, “NEVER wrap your retainer in a napkin. You’ll forget about it and throw it away.”

I was a responsible kid. I never lost my mittens or my Trapper Keeper like some of my friends. One day my Grandma took me out for ice cream. Guess what happened? Yep. I wrapped that retainer in a napkin and promptly threw it away. A few hours later, my Grandma joined me in a thorough inspection of the dumpster behind the ice cream shop. After going through hundreds of sticky, putrid, balled-up napkins, I accepted defeat.

What comes next is something of a blur. I remember standing before my parents, heart racing, to tell them what I’d done. But the next thing I remember is my Mom hugging me. What?! A hug?! But I did the very thing I wasn’t supposed to do. I blew it!

Last week, in Genesis 3, we heard humanity blew it. God said, “Don’t eat from that tree,” and we ate. We disobeyed. We didn’t trust God. But what comes next is something of a blur. We’ll make it all the way to Genesis 15 this Sunday, and what comes in between is one promise after the next. God promises Noah a new beginning for the earth. God promises through Abram all the families of the earth will be blessed. What?!

Already, by Genesis 15, we see what God’s all about. NEW BEGINNINGS! And not just one more chance. We get new beginning after new beginning after new beginning….for all humanity. For me. For you. Amen?!

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,
Pr. Rachael

Go, Team!

olympicsI’m a sucker for the Olympics. The athletes’ stories of personal triumph and beating unbeatable odds get me every time. However, the Olympics also shine a light on human frailty. This year, the issue of “cheating” with the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) has touched every imaginable sport. The U.S. is no exception.

I don’t follow Track & Field much outside of the Olympics, so I was completely confused when U.S. sprinter Justin Gatlin was booed after being introduced for the 100 meter sprint final. NBC commentators quickly informed me that Gatlin had been guilty of taking PEDs in the past and had served two suspensions. I don’t know what is best when it comes to athletes competing after suspensions like Gatlin’s, but that chorus of boos made me think about the times I have done something wrong. The many times I deserved boos from family, friends, and, without a doubt, God. Yet, in that moment it struck me: Jesus hasn’t booed me yet.

This Sunday we’ll hear Psalm 103, an absolute gem, overflowing with God’s grace and mercy. Verse 10 speaks volumes, “[The Lord] does not deal with us according to our sins…” Hallelujah! When “dealing with us,” God removes (103:12) all that deserves condemnation within us. In fact, 103:11 reveals, “For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is [the Lord’s] steadfast love…” Love triumphs over all!

You and I may never win Olympic gold, but when we step onto the stage of everyday life, filled with God’s Spirit, the heavens cheer! You are God’s beautiful creation! The “boos” of the fickle crowd will never sway God’s steadfast love for you!

So get out there, Spirit-filled brothers and sisters! Get out there, children of God! The Lord’s cheering you on!

See you Sunday…

God’s Peace,
Pr. Rachael

“Eat your veggies!”

eat your veggiesI eat veggies because I have to. Every evening I eat a salad whether I want to or not. Given the choice, brussel sprouts, lima beans and zucchini would NEVER make it on my plate. Come on, have you ever heard someone say, “I have the best lima bean recipe!” or “I’m having one more serving of brussel sprouts because I deserve it!”?

When it comes to the smorgasbord of the Bible, the all-you-can-eat-enchilada-buffet of goodness in God’s Word, the book of Job just might be the lima beans. I know, Leviticus and Numbers are close competitors, but the 42 chapters about Job’s suffering are pretty hard to swallow. So, how would you feel if we did a six week study of Job in worship? Yep, that’s what we’re starting this Sunday. Who’s with me?! Can I get an “Amen?!” …No? It sounds dangerously close to six weeks of veggies, doesn’t it? Stay with me for just a few moments more before you decide to skip this salad bar altogether (alright, enough veggie talk).

I’m going out on a limb here to say we actually get to have a little fun with Job. Don’t get me wrong, Job’s absolutely not all fun and games. But as we experience Job 1 together this Sunday, we get to be God and faith myth-busters! We’ll take a look at one of the best “set-ups” in all of scripture and identify what the author of this book may have intended, not what’s been used to hurt and silence those who suffer. We’ll be challenged, no doubt, but we may just be liberated from some faith nonsense and be renewed in our relationship with God! Who’s with me?!

Now, if only I could be liberated from zucchini…

See you Sunday!

God’s Peace,
Pr. Rachael

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