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

I don’t get it.

Our family loves jokes. No one can survive in our family without a sense of humor! Sometimes, however, the jokes fall flat. Truth be told, they fall flat because I can be slow on the uptake. My exceedingly kind husband never makes me feel bad about missing a punch line. He always says, “It’s not a good joke if you have to explain it.” Yeah, it’s the joke’s fault. What a great guy!

I admit, sometimes I feel the same way when it comes to the Bible. I’ll read a passage and after much thought I’m left with those four awful words, “I don’t get it.” Of course, those words feel awful because I have this completely false notion that I’m supposed to get it all! When the initial sting subsides, the Holy Spirit wakes me up and reminds me: God gave us each other!

At St. Tim’s, we’ve started a six week immersion in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. When it comes to Paul, I just don’t get it all. His letters contain run-on sentences galore, assumed information about community events, and he’s forever coming across as having all the answers. So, here’s my question: What do YOU hear God saying through Paul in 2 Corinthians?

It’s an extraordinary gift, isn’t it, exploring God’s Word together? And, perhaps, that’s the biggest takeaway for me from Paul’s work. I’m reminded that admitting, “I don’t get it,” is not a failure of my faith but a triumph of the Holy Spirit at work in me! This beautiful gift of God’s Word is not given to us in a vacuum it’s given to us in COMMUNITY! So, help me out, people of God! What’s God’s word saying to you?

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

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