“Like a Rat in a Maze, the Path Before Me Lies” – Simon and Garfunkel:​ A Sermon on Mark 2

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As another school year winds down, I am reminded we all need a certain amount of open time in the summer to allow space to plant new seeds in the fields of our life. Sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves is to sit back and watch the grass grow, taking a hike, walking along the river, going fishing, knitting. These little “sabbaths” are needed to replenish our bodies, and minds, and spirit.

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The full moon earlier in the week took me back to my childhood days when I was reminded how I could spend the entire day and night outside playing. Our work, when we are children, is to play. A healthy childhood involves play for the sake of play. One of our issues in our modern society is that we have lengthened the school day and shortened the number of time children has to play. When was the last time you saw children playing in the streets? Maybe you remember a time when children were free range, and as long as they were safe, life was good. Nowadays, children have to be protected and with what little free time they have, it is the usually structured activity which leaves little if any free time to discover a personal freedom and playing for the sake of playing.

This happens in part because of the parents and adults. Yes, we know the influence adults have on children. And our society has become so consumed with work and running a rat race, that we have almost entirely forsaken our own need to play. It’s sad really, we are teaching our youth to value work and being busy more than just being. We weren’t created to work all day, every day. Even God rested after created humans on the six-day, so why do we think we are smarter than the Creator? It’s just foolishness.

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Have you ever met anyone who has won the rat race? If the answer is no, then why do we feel like we must compete in an unwinnable race? Seems as if your human inclination is to consume more and more and we get sucked into a vicious cycle of the rat race to keep up the pace so that we feel good about ourselves, our existence, and purpose. Some people are motivated by their own need to feel like my people, so they run the rat race to buy beautiful clothes and fancy automobiles and toys. Fact is, there is no end. It’s an empty hole that is hard to dig your way out of. Only when you look back in self-examination, do you discover your motivation and purpose has been wrong? Heck, some people never examine themselves, and as a result, they become miserable because they are tired of running the rat race.

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See, the scriptures tell us there is a dichotomy between God’s order and order of this world which produces a strain on Christians. We all know that to live and buy stuff, you have to work, but the problem comes when all we know how to do is work and forget about the living part. Now I know there are worker justice issues and the real wages in this country have been stagnating for several decades, and the living wage is far higher than actual salaries paid. It’s a real issue for many people working three part-time jobs. The thing is, the system we find ourselves in is unsustainable. At some point, it will collapse. So, why put more effort into a system that only pays off in the short run? There has got to be a better way, right?

Actually, there is, it’s called a Sabbath. And the good news is that God commands us to take it. Hear these words of Jesus: “The Sabbath was made for humans., and not humans for the Sabbath.”

Some of us are better at taking sabbaths than others. We can all learn something for people who make the time for self-care and leisure. Who in your life is good at this? Talk to them and learn from them. I bet they are probably in pretty good mental, spiritual, and even physical health. They are more self-aware than the rest of us because they take time to care for themselves. Learn something from them, they have something to teach you and us.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, a great Jewish thinker, writes: “The Sabbath as a day of rest is not to recover one’s lost strength and becoming fit for the forthcoming labor. The Sabbath is a day for the sake of life.” If we are taking a sabbath rest, it should disrupt our lives in a right way. Setting aside time from busy daily life and allowing ourselves to just be alive, it gives us something to look forward too and can make us feel good about ourselves and our daily labors. If God can take a day of rest, you can too. Everyone can. Jobs, families, lovers, employers, and friends can exist one day a week without anyone of us, none of us are that important and if your ego permits you to admit, actually they could exist eternally in our absence.

I am always amazed at the energy I discover in my zeal for ministry when I set aside the time to take care of my own needs and step aside and remove myself from my vocation. It’s not that I’m trying to get out of my service, but it refreshes me to step out of the rat race of life, and let my mind wander into something new. It’s way refreshing and energizes me for newness and change. If we don’t step outside ourselves, we become dull. Our world becomes small, and we lose that sense of wonder for life.

Sisters and brothers, don’t lose your zeal for life. Take the time to care for yourselves. It’s not only good, but it’s also a commandment! Your soul and spirit will become energized by the time you take away. Your soul is on a different timetable than your body. It doesn’t like to be rushed, so it is of utmost importance to remove yourself from the daily task for moments of contemplation and the dimension of our spiritual realities.  You will be a happier person because of it. Amen.

Congregational Positioning for Ministry with Seniors – Powerpoint Presentation May 20th, 2018 Zion Lutheran Church

As part of my congregation’s visioning process, I created a powerpoint presentation about some of the implications of an aging population in the U.S. and the implications on congregational life.

On Sunday, May 20th, I  shared a vibrant conversation about ways older adults contribute to the life of the congregation. The focus of the discussion was about what spiritual needs exist in the lives of older adults and discovering the value of ministry with the older adults in the congregation.

I included slides from my powerpoint presentation in this post. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to link the embedded videos into the slideshow.

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Welcoming Vicar Liz Koerner

 

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I am excited to work with my third pastoral intern who starts with our congregation in July 2018.

Vicar Liz Koerner, from New Britain, Connecticut, is a seminary student at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.  Liz is a graduate of Thiel College ( a Lutheran College) in Greenville, Pennsylvania. She shares she is excited about her journey toward ordained ministry in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and looking forward to her year-long internship in Muscatine.

She loves to craft, read, hanging out with her friends, and LOVES tie-dyed and rainbow and the combination of the two!

 

Know When to Hold Em, When to Fold Em, and When to Just Walk Away- John 15

[Jesus said:] 1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. 2He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
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Tools to prune branches.

I didn’t think that the yard work I did last Monday would turn into the subject of a sermon, but it fits perfectly with Jesus metaphor of vines and branches. My lilac shrub and this vine plant that I can barely stand needed to a cut, so with the beautiful weather, I didn’t want to miss my chance to trim a little of the plants. Here is a piece of the branch that I cut.

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What Jesus is talking about as fruit is faith. We can be confident he is talking about faith because he gives a clue. He says that those who are not bringing forth fruit will have to be pruned and thrown away. This is because they apparently are not drawing their life from Christ who is the Vine. They are cut off from Christ. Consequently, they are cut off from life. Their lives are fruitless and dead. They must be pruned and taken away and ultimately thrown into the fire. On the other hand, Jesus says to his disciples, “You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you.” This is to say that Jesus has already cleansed, pruned, and trimmed his disciples that they might be able to yield the proper fruit. This is an essential point in the text…. They did not cleanse themselves. They did not make themselves fit branches for bearing fruit. Jesus himself furnished them with the righteousness to produce their fruit acceptable to the Divine Vinedresser.

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The point of all this pruning work is so that we “abide” in God. Really, the heart of John’s gospel message is to abide in Christ love.

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So, this week, I want us to think about the fruits of our faith. Jesus says it like this, a good tree bears good fruit. And in our text, Jesus is the vine. God is the vine grower. We are the branches and expected to bear fruit. We cannot do so unless we abide in the vine.

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Like the shrubs I trimmed, God removes branches that don’t bear fruit. God prunes those that do. God is glorified when we become disciples and bear fruit. And what this fruit is not spelled out.

But, we might take a cue from Paul, who wrote about bearing fruit long before John wrote his gospel: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…”(Galatians 5:22) If we consider this interpretation of fruit, love, peace, joy and such as the fruit, then John is saying we find these by dwelling in Christ.

Here’s this morning’s take away – the branches (disciples) cannot bear fruit (good works) apart from the vine. Our good deeds come from God. And if the branch tries to bear fruit apart from the vine, it will wither. Focus in abiding in Christ first, and the branch will eventually bear fruit.

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Being connected to Christ is the only way we can honestly know we are connected to the source which provides life.

It seems to me that in every parish I have served, there are a some who worked their fingers to the bone trying to do good at some point they flamed out. They weren’t connected to the vine. It’s our only source of energy, and we need reminding that we have to stay connected to Christ, the source of life. Some of us, rather than discerning God’s direction, operate frantically. Worship and prayer were secondary to some. I’m all for helping people, but without the spiritual food and drink, we will all eventually run out of gas.

Our spiritual lives are the food we need for a life of ministry, a life of walking the way of the cross. We can’t get there on our own. We need the energy from the vine to keep up going. So many of us take on too much and eventually we wither, like the seed that fell in rocky soil and then was withered by the sun because it didn’t have the depth of root. Even though some folks meant well, they got crispy from not receiving nourishment and fade away.  

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What are the things in my life that God calls me to Hold, Fold or Grow in my walk with Christ? Maybe I need to think about rearranging some of the priorities and values I profess to have??? Perhaps I need to do something more?  Possibly I need to cut back???   Pray about it and remember through your baptism your connection to the source of life.

And this week I want you to consider what you immerse yourself. What would it be like to immerse yourself in love? Specifically, what would it be like to immerse yourself in the love of Christ – to love as Christ loved?

Let us pray…. Amen.

Life Interrupted: A Bad Thing?

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         Mystic Meister Eckhard once said, “To Grasp God in all things – this is the sign of your new birth.” Being in love with the ordinary and the sameness is the challenge to see God present in each and every moment. Each morning in the same place watching the rising of the son from the same house, hearing the same birds awaken, and to realize how inexhaustibly rich and different each moment is. That is the challenge that Eckhard speaks of; the problem to see God in the most ordinary moments, not in the moments of the magnitude of emotions.

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Martin Luther in his theology of vocation, to points at encountering the divine through our labors and occupations. Where we are called to serve and earn our living is the place where God meets us. It is our duty and delight..” so says the Eucharistic liturgy we seek to glorify God through both our household duties, work in the fields, and the humming of a song in our head. When we invite God into our labor, we begin to see how the most ordinary of job or task is actually serving others. Farmers in the combine all day are not just collect a check or harvesting corn when we grasp to understand this, we realize we are helping our neighbors by providing food and substance to a hungry world.

But we must recognize what we are doing at the moment. Otherwise, we will have faith to see God at work in all things. It’s so easy for us to miss as we are all distracted and unencouraged to look for God at work. But God is there.

That is the holy disruption that faced the disciples as they were trying to make sense of what happened to their teacher and Lord. The Living Lord disrupts them as they were huddled in fear and doubt to transform the moment. “Touch and See,” Jesus invites them to make this moment real. They want validation of what God has done and is doing through Jesus in spite of the world’s attempt to crush the power of the divine.

Lutheran Theologian and pastor in Nazi Germany, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, writes in his seminal novel, “Life Together”[1]

“We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.

God will constantly be crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions. We may pass themby, preoccupied with our more important tasks. . . . It is a strange fact that Christians and even ministers frequently consider their work so important and urgent that they will allow nothing to disturb them.

They think they are doing God a service in this, but actually, they are disdaining God’s “crooked yet straight path.”

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And in the gospel, as the disciples stood in wonder at the Holy Disruption of Jesus dwelling and dining with them, that that is when they started to make sense of it. Jesus sets them straight on the law of Moses and the understanding of scripture and makes them the witness of God.

Isn’t it just like God to show up an unknown time and only after reflecting on the scriptures and the Word of God then we realize, like the disciples how God was working in our life? Discernment is a practice of discovery and it’s a practice that is done by having spiritual conversations with other people. Wondering what God’s call for my life is? Ask someone and share a conversation with them about what you believe you are being called into and then prepare for Jesus to be present in the conversation just like he was with the disciples following that first Easter.

We are a distracted people. If we are not thinking about God at work in the world, in our busy-ness, we will surely miss the moving of the Holy Spirit among us. But let me pose this question to you this morning.  What if, instead, of our spiritual lives becoming what amounts to just another thing we should do, what if what we learned to experience as a disruption is actually the Holy Spirit trying to grab our attention? Rather than viewing all outside interruption as the enemy of productivity and creativity, what if we considered our lives as expansive containers for the sake of the other? If we open ourselves to holy interruption, we may usher in newness, revelation, enlightenment, and story to inform our work and life in ways that otherwise would just not be possible.

Interruption Is God’s Invitation | Desiring God, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/interruption-is-god-s-invitation (accessed April 16, 2018).

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What if we learned to understand that when God wants to break through and speak to our lives, but we are too busy, we acknowledge the moments of spiritual interruption and take the time to deepen our relationship. What I am suggesting is those holy interruptions are God’s invitation. God is inviting us to see him all around us, in the lives of others, in our conversations, in our serving those in need. Interruption is not merely a matter of our heart developing patience; it’s about experiencing real life. It is one of God’s ways of waking us up to what’s around us to see there’s more to be done than our self-appointed tasks for the day, as important as they may seem.

And there are many ways God might interrupt our lives. God might disrupt our life when we are called to share a portion of our time and resources with Christ’s church, or showing up to worship Christ in his church. Not for necessarily my own sake, but maybe my presence in worship will bring someone joy. God might interrupt our life by speaking up for what we believe and offering up testimony by how we live life and what values we hold. There are so many ways that God interrupts life and tries to capture our attention. Unfortunately, often times, so many brushes off the interruption and move along.

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Interruption is God’s enhancement of our craft and our work, and his tender way of encouraging his creatures to be a part of the kingdom come. Welcome the One who stood among the disciples and invited peace to be among them and be a witness for God interruption. Disciple our trying to tune out the call, God will keep interrupting each of our lives. What might God be trying to tell you?

Amen.  

[1]Dietrich Bonhoeffer and John W Doberstein, Life together: the classic exploration of Christian community, 2009.P. 23.

Vision of Glory… ​The Image​ of the Cross – A sermon for Transfiguration

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Imagine you were Peter, James or John and Jesus pulls you aside and tells you he wants to show you something on a hike up a mountain. Not wanting to disappoint him, you’re like, “Sure, Jesus. I’ll meet you early tomorrow morning for this hike to see a different perspective, or whatever it is you want to share with me.”

The next morning rolls around, you awake and meet the other two and set out on a journey of not knowing what is in store, but that you are led with curiosity about Jesus is up to. So, you head out with the other two and spend the day climbing up the side of a mountain with your spiritual teacher. You reach the top, and it is a holy moment. The feeling that you’re close to the Creator. It’s a God moment as you look down on the rest of the world and see other people like ants. Then your focus is redirected to the leader who is not who you thought he was. Your sight of him is altered. Things are starting to get weirded out when you not only see Jesus as the Bible says “dazzling white” but also Elijah and Moses talking with Jesus.

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So, Peter is the first speak up, and all he can think about is hanging out with the prophets. Let’s stay forever in this glorious moment. It’s perfect. Let’s dwell with you here.

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The Bible says that Peter was frightened and didn’t know what to say. We can relate to that feeling, right? Those moments we are terrified and the words we want to say to express what we are thinking? So, whatever we word we come up with are the best at the moment, only to remember to ourselves later, “What was I thinking? Asking Jesus, Moses, and Elijah to dwell with me here on the mountaintop.” At the moment, it seems like that the right thing to do. Who wouldn’t want to dwell in glory forever? We all want to be blessed by God and God’s beauty to shine forth.

Then reality hits. The voice of reason and logic settles into our thoughts. In the biblical text, it’s the voice of the Father speaking: “This is my Son, the beloved; listen to him!” Sisters and brothers – the last time we heard the Father speak these words was when Jesus was baptized. The voice of the Father came and uttered to Jesus “You are my Son, the beloved, with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11).  This time, though, God is speaking to the three companions – the Father is speaking to the humans. “Listen to him.” In other words, “follow him.” The word for “listen” Mark uses is also the same Greek word as “obey.”  Obey Jesus. Abide in Jesus. Don’t feel the need to speak, be quiet and just listen to Jesus. This is the promise we need to make it to the other mountaintop experience on the other side of Lent where the real glory of God was shown through the cross on which this Jesus was hung.

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We are reaching the pinnacle of Epiphany with the mountaintop transfiguration story, and the thing that hit me in this gospel is that the vision of glory that Peter, James, and John saw an image, but the real message God is sharing with the disciples is that of abiding with Jesus. Not working for Jesus, but resting, remaining. Heck, not even serving others with Jesus, nor practicing good works. Just being present and aware of who Jesus is right here, right now.

Then the vision disappears and what is left is the reality of the moment, and the words of the Father, sight and the subsequent image from view become irrelevant. Fact is returning. Now, what comes next? How are we to make sense of this moment? Then it is back to reality. All that remains is the hope of a God of glory. Of course, this vision of fame is what will be, and they sustain us in a future hope for what will be. But this idea is not and cannot be the reality. Sure, we all want a God of glory, but what we get is a fuller revelation of who God is a cross on which hung the savior of the world.

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And therein lies the rub. We all want the glory of God, but that is not the full reality. Even Moses and Elijah in our text bear witness that Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah, and it was revealed that Jesus is the Messiah, but the Gospel doesn’t end here. Moses came off the mountain with the Law for the people, but Jesus comes off the mountain with the grace of God.

Thinking theologically about the glory of God is not enough as it will always fall short. It diminishes the powerful effects of sin that grip our lives. This vision of fame is right to hold, but it falls short because it will never point out the gaps between our sin and self-centered living.

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If this is the case, then God’s glory and suffering cannot be separated. Of course, no wants to suffer. The avoidance of pain is one thing; the complete intolerance, or renunciation of it, is another. I want you to think back to a time when someone to you a compelling story of pain, loss, and suffering. Perhaps, you, yourself have a story to testify about grief and loss, or plight.  But I want you to think about how people talk about something that is painful. And by painful, I want you to think about where God is at in pain. It’s hard to see the glory of God isn’t it when we hear a story that pains us.

If someone has just undergone an ugly divorce, for example, he might be dismissive of the situation by belittling the other person- “I won’t miss her anyway  Then there is the kind of reasoning that justifies a painful situation by trying to minimize the impact of the loss. “Well, at least I learned a lesson from this horrible experience.”

This kind of reasoning tries to make something bad sound like it is good. It is a coping strategy to avoid looking pain and grief directly in the face, to avoid acknowledging that we wish life were different but are powerless to change it. So, we try to turn a bad situation into something that allows us to avoid the hard work of internal processing and dealing with any negative emotion of anger or sadness for the loss. It is merely a way to minimize the damage caused by sin.

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Martin Luther coined the term the theologian of glory as this approach to life. This kind of theology and practice of the Christian life tries to minimize or remove difficult and painful things or to move past them rather than looking them square in the face and accepting them.

As Luther puts it, the theologian of glory “does not know God hidden in suffering. Therefore, he prefers works to suffering, glory to the cross, strength to weakness, wisdom to folly, and, in general, good to evil.[1] The theology of glory is the natural default setting for human beings addicted to control and measurement. This perspective puts us squarely in the driver’s seat, after all.

Despite the glory of the moment, the three disciples returned with Jesus from the mountain, apart from the rest of reality. It was time to move from the sacred toward the profane where the world is. The world that God loves and where we dwell. The world where we are invited to embrace our own vision of glory through the cross of Jesus.

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Catholic sister and author Joan Chittister shares a parable about our ability to block out Jesus when we return from the glory of the mountaintop to the valley below.  The fable Sister Chittister shares go as follows:

“Where shall I look for Enlightenment?” the disciple asked.

 “Here,” the elder said. “It is happening right now?” the elder answered.

         “Then why don’t I experience it?” the disciple persisted.

         “Because you do not look,” the elder said.

          “But what should I look for?” the disciple continued.

            “Nothing. Just look.” The elder said.

                  “But, look at what?” the disciple asked again.

“At anything your eyes alight upon,” the elder answered.

“But must I look in a special kind of way?” the disciple went on.

“No. The ordinary way will do,” the elder said.

“But don’t I always look the ordinary way?” the disciple said.

“No, you don’t,” the elder said.

“But why ever not?” the disciple asked.

         “Because to look you must be here. You’re mostly somewhere else,” the elder said. [2]

            We need this promise of glory to journey through Lent towards the cross. The hope of glory is what will sustain. Hope where “neither death nor life… nor anything else in all of creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38-39).

Abide always in this hope of glory wherever Life finds you. Amen. 

[1] Timothy F. Lull, Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, ed. William R. Russell, 3rd edition (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2012). P. 157.

[2] Joan Chittister and John August Swanson, There Is a Season, First Edition edition (Maryknoll, N.Y: Orbis Books, 1995). P. 23.

God’s Great Reversal – Matthew 20:1-16

I’m going to share a truth that we know is true, but for some reason, it’s easier for us to deny it.  The truth I’m speaking of is that sometimes life just isn’t fair.  It’s a reality that sooner or later we’re all going to face.  It’s best that we are learning this fact while you are in your first half of life than waiting until old age to discover this truth.  In fact, you can learn this truth in nursery school – Sometimes lives deals us lemons.

Sometimes that’s the way things happen, isn’t it?  Sometimes life isn’t fair.  So we learn to deal with the unfairness.  So, let me tie this life reality in with the Gospel text today.  It’s a crucial point that I don’t want you to miss in the text.  Saying life isn’t fair is not the same as saying that God isn’t fair for two reasons.  First, of all, because God doesn’t owe you and me anything at all.  Like Luther said on his deathbed, “It’s true.  We’re all beggars.”  And second, God’s justice doesn’t work the way the world’s justice works.

Saying life is not fair is not the same as saying God isn’t fair because God doesn’t owe us anything at all.  In fact, if we are honest with ourselves, the very opposite is correct.  We owe God everything:  our time, our talents, and our treasures.  The very life that lives inside each of us has been gifted to us; even the breaths that you take, the clothes on your back, the food that is prepared for you, even your health to some extent is a gift from God.   The simple fact is:  God doesn’t owe us anything.

As active disciples of Christ, we commit our lives to God.  We resist the urge not to show up or to sleep in on our Sunday morning to worship God.  We spend our hard-earned money and resources to support the work and ministry of our congregation.  We spend time in prayer and the study of Scripture when we could be golfing or some recreation.  Our confirmation students could do something with their one hour on Wednesday nights other than talking about faith formation.  You see, as active Christians, we follow Jesus, the landowner into the vineyard, where we are called to do the work of God.

For us, active disciples of Christ, things may not always seem the way we would like.  It doesn’t seem fair to us that some deserve God’s grace when they don’t even show up or participate.  We are the ones, after all, who’ve done most of the work, we tell ourselves.  The laborers in the parable that began picking the first hour of the day picked more grapes than those who started picking the last moment.  If that were to happen today, there would be an uproar; labor strikes and unions would lash out. It is only right that the reward for our work should be consistent with the time we put into our efforts.

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But this parable has nothing to do with economics, at least in the sense that we understand the economy.  It is not a description of how employers should treat workers.  It is, after all, a description of how God works in the kingdom of heaven.  God’s goodness may or may not be entirely understandable.  We don’t fully understand the grace of God.  And based on this parable, we may indeed think that God doesn’t operate fairly.

God’s not fair, according to our limited human reasoning.  In fact, if we put ourselves in the place of the laborers who started at sunrise or midmorning or even early afternoon, we have missed the point of the parable.  Jesus is the one who works from sunup to sundown.  Jesus is the one who has borne the burden of the day and heat.  Only Jesus has earned us salvation.  The grace is that God still calls us towards God’s self and gives us the full wage.   God offers you the promise of salvation, not because you have worked hard enough but because Jesus has done it for you.

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God gives us more than we can ever earn.  The Bible teaches that the wages of sin are death, but it is God who gives life.  The laborers in the vineyard all received a full day’s pay regardless of the hours they worked.  We have all been given salvation, irrespective of the sins we’ve been under.

And perhaps even more remarkable is that God has entrusted us to do God’s work.  In baptism, we’ve been given the work of a lifetime, and at the table, God renews us and then sends us out as labors to plant the seeds of God’s word, to speak to those who have never heard and to proclaim the word anew to those who have fallen away.

ripe-47423__480.jpgRemember that the kingdom of heaven is a gift, and in a way, we’re all latecomers, aren’t we? In Christ, it’s never too late to come home to the mercy of God. Thanks, be to God.  Amen.

 

 

A Survey of World Christianity

Mark Noll begins in his book, The New Shape of World Christianity, with the following observations:

  • This past Sunday more Christian believers attended worship in China than in all of Europe.
  • This past Sunday more Anglicans attended church in Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda than did Anglicans in Britain and Canada and Episcopalians in the United States combined.
  • This past Sunday there were more members of Brazil’s Pentecostal Assemblies of God at worship than the combined number in the two largest U.S. Pentecostal denominations.
  • This past Sunday the churches with the largest attendance in England and France had mostly back congregations, and half of the churchgoers in London were African or African-Caribbean.
  • This past Sunday the largest congregation in Europe was in Kiev pastored by a Nigerian Pentecostal.
  • This past Sunday there were more Roman Catholics at worship in the Philippines than in any single country in Europe.

From: Mark A. Noll, The Shape of World Christianity, pp. 20-21

Experiencing the “Wild Goose Festival” July 13-16, 2017 |Hot Springs, North Carolina

After my family returned from our time in Mexico, we hopped in the car for the nine-hour drive down to North Carolina to experience the “Wild Goose Festival” located in a small mountain town of Hot Springs.

If you haven’t experienced the festival, you should.

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What is the Wild Goose?  Simply put – the Wild Goose is a Celtic image for the Holy Spirit.  The metaphor of a wild goose is one which evokes the image of an active, beautiful and utterly unpredictable pattern of flight.   The wild goose is about adventure and surprise with a new variable direction.  The flight of the goose is one that is taking in a community.  Geese share a common direction, and they honk together in a manner that supports the other geese.

The festival is committed to being an inclusive community rooted in the Christian tradition of radical hospitality (welcoming all people – of faith, or no faith), non-violence, always evolving, and relationships between people matter.   Conversations are bold, and questions are most important.

The Wild Goose festival is perhaps best described as a gathering for the arts, music, spirituality, community, social justice and for those who are seeking a common humanity by breaking down stereotypes and the social imagination of North America culture.

 

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Participating in the conversation, “The Spiritual Parenting Revolution” with Lynyetta Willis

 

I attended a few workshops during my time at the Goose, although there are over 200 such workshops that attendees can pick from what is of interest to them.  On Saturday morning I attended a workshop entitled, “Conservatives are from Mars and Progressives are from Venus:  Finding Our Way in Another World.” The speaker, Jennifer Ould, invited us to think about what it might look like to invite and welcome those who are against us, and to include those who would like to exclude us.

If we want any sort of meaningful change in the world, we have to practice new ways of engaging each other and recognize in our own selves our anxieties and defenses that diffuse our ability to remain open to dialogue and to meet our fears with loving nonviolence.

I enjoyed participating in “Jams and Juice” with my family.  “Jams and Juice” is like karaoke for kids, or Beer and Hymns and hymns (minus the beer).

 

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My daughter, Linnea, along with others singing at “Jams and Juice.”

 

Another great session was one on personal relationships entitled, “The Value of Burning Bridges” hosted by the speaker, Melissa Greene.  Melissa spoke about the importance of burning bridges when, at times, it is necessary to move on from a relationship that is no longer healthy and life giving to allow a stronger, sturdier bridge to be built in place of the unhealthy ones.

 

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Melissa Greene discussing the value of burning bridges

 

I really enjoyed Beer and Hymns held each night at eleven.  It’s a beautiful thing when people sing together.  For many, this is a spiritual practice.  “Beer and Hymns” is the event that is just what the name indicates.  Local musicians including guitar, mandolin, according, banjos, djembe drums, washboards, play ‘spirit’ lead hymns that are played faster and louder than normal.

 

Nuestros eventos en San Miguel de Allende y el estado de Guanajuato

We continue to have a great deal of fun in  the state of Guanajuato (click on the link) visiting museums, cultural sites, learning Spanish and meeting new friends.

The state is considered the epicenter of the Mexican Independence of 1810 and especially around San Miguel de Allende, Irapuato, Guanajuato City, and Dolores Hildago.

We enjoyed watching the La Fiesta de Los Locos in honor of San Antonio de Paduca.   The literal translation is the “party of the crazies.”  The festival takes place in San Miguel de Allende every year in the middle of June.  The exact origins of this festival are lost in the mists of time, but locals recall a time when the local farmers and gardeners would venerate the saint for a good growing season and harvest. Their celebrations came to include creative dances and dress, and the festival has only grown since then.

 

We traveled to Ciudad Guanajuato with our friends from Iowa to visit the beautiful mountain town.  This colonial town is absolutely gorgeous.   It’s tunnels carved through the mountains are fascinating and the beauty of the city amazed us.

One stop in Guanajuato was at the Mummy Museum.  More information about the Mummies of Guanajuato is here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mummies_of_Guanajuato

 

We visited the Christo Rey monument about 20 kilometers outside Ciudad Guanajuato.  The monument is place in what is believed to be the geographic center of Mexico.

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The Mexican state of Guanajuato is know for growing frescas (strawberries).  The city of Irapuato is the center of production for the state.   We enjoyed our visit with friends to the strawberry fields where we picked our own berries.   Locals are quick to mention the berries are the sweetest in the world.  The soil creates the perfect growing conditions for the sweetest berries.   Local law prohibits using any pesticides and the berries are totally organic.  They are not like the strawberries in the United States.  They are smaller and way tastier!