God has place this wonderful creation in our hands. As U2 sings, "It's a beautiful day, don't let it slip away." We have this one life to live on this beautiful planet so enjoy these reflections on God, faith, life, and music. "After the flood all of the colors came out. It's a beautiful day."

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Crumbs From Your Table

“Where you live should not decide / Whether you live or whether you die.” My heart cracks open a bit every time I hear these words as Bono sings them in “Crumbs from Your Table.” I have been singing them in my head as I watch the few images from Pakistan. “You speak of signs and wonders / I need something other / I would believe if I was able / But I'm waiting on the crumbs from your table.”

More than 17 million Pakistanis - about the population of the Netherlands - have been affected by the monsoon floods that began a month ago. In the past few days, at least 1 million people have been displaced in Pakistan's Sindh province, the United Nations said.   Contributions from the international community for that relief effort pail in comparison to those given toward Haiti's earthquake relief efforts. One-fifth of Pakistan is under water, but international aid has been slow in coming. The sluggish response has underscored how difficult it is to mobilize international relief for slow-building natural disasters that, unlike tsunamis or earthquakes, don't instantly kill tens of thousands of people. As I have watched the coverage or lack of coverage about Pakistan I wonder is there is both a problem of publicity meaning people just have not seen enough heart rending pictures because it is hard to help people who are instantly killed but are going to be daily killed because of water borne illness and living in tent cities without sanitation in the same space as livestock. The cases of malaria will rise because off all the standing water left behind as the flood waters recede.   Is it compassion fatigue, to many disaster at once? Is it the economy being in bad shape? Is it our fear of terrorism and Muslims? Do we fear these people who are so other from us and have been linked with the terrorists we are really afraid of? “Would you deny for others / What you demand for yourself? You speak of signs and wonders / I need something other / I would believe if I was able / But I'm waiting on the crumbs from your table.”

You Can Help Now
1. Pray for the people of Pakistan, their leaders, and all emergency response workers.
2. Please help the people of Pakistan by sending gifts payable to your congregation marked for "Pakistan Flood Relief" with the request they be sent through your Conference office on to Wider Church Ministries. OR Send gifts, made out to Wider Church Ministries and marked in the memo portion "Pakistan Flood Relief" to Wider Church Ministries; 700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Let's Cross Over

   So far, though, my favorite thing to say in Italian is a simple, common word: 
   It means, “Let’s cross over.” Friends say it to each other constantly when they’re walking down the sidewalk and have decided it’s time to switch to the other side of the street. Which is to say, this is literally a pedestrian word. Nothing special about it. Still, for some reason, it goes right through me. The first time Giovanni said it to me, we were walking near the Coliseum. I suddenly heard him speak that beautiful word, and I stopped dead, demanding, “What does this mean? What did you just say?”
  He couldn’t understand why I liked it so much. Let’s cross the street? But to my ear, it’s the perfect combination of Italian sounds. The wistful ah of introduction, the rolling trill, the soothing s, that lingering “ee-ah-moh” combo at the end. I love this word. I say it all the time now. I invent any excuse to say it. It’s making Sofie nuts. Let’s cross over! Let’s cross over! I’m constantly dragging her back and forth across the crazy traffic of Rome. I’m going to get us both killed with this word.
Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love, pp. 71-72.

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side.” Mark 4:35

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Mark 5:21

And he left them, and getting into the boat again, he went across to the other side. Mark 8:13

When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. Mark 6:53
Jesus is Mark’s Gospel also likes the phrase “let us cross over.” Jesus makes six sea voyages (4:35, 6:47, 5:21, and 8:13 and the return 6:32, 8:10). The common destination of the crossing is to the other side – the passage to gentile territory, the journey to the unknown, the crossing to the other side of humanity. The first two crossings are fraught with danger. The disciples are in peril from wicked storms which Jesus stills, but wonders “do you have faith?” These crossings show how for those who follow Jesus the journey can be scary and difficult, but the reward is bringing the stranger into community. The disciples are scared by this prospect. To invite the stranger in is going to necessitate change and we aren’t always comfortable with change. Each crossing that Jesus makes ends with a feeding. Jesus opens the table first to the Jewish community and then to the hungry gentiles crowds. This task of forging the new community is dangerous but there is enough bread for the journey (Myers, Binding the Strongman, pp. 194-197).

In this new age where the world is interconnected we are in contact with individuals and communities, who dress, speak, think, and act differently. Sometimes we find the differences appealing and are enriched by the encounter. Other times we are scared by the encounter with differences because we have made assumptions about those who are different and hold people at arm’s length (Myers, Say to this Mountain, pp. 93-94). Jesus says to us in those times, “let us cross over.” When Jesus says, let us cross over where do you see him inviting you to go? Where is Jesus asking us to cross to the other side in Lake Geneva? What do you think the journey will look like? Will we remember there everyone will be fed? May we have the courage to say yes when we are asked, let us cross over.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Speaking the Prayer of Your Heart

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, on Earth, as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we forgive out debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
When I began seminary at McCormick in Chicago I would attend the chapel service on Wednesday, I would have this weird experience of the Lord’s Prayer. At first the practice really annoyed me. They would invite us to say the Lord’s Prayer in the language of our birth. So there you are worshiping and the person next to you is saying sins, trespasses, debts so you would have to pause at that point. But it went farther. There were people saying the Lord’s Prayer in an African Language, Korean, Spanish, Hindi, etc. There were so many languages spoken and the first few times I experienced this it felt awkward and messy. I was easily distracted and couldn’t decide what do I wanted to say debts and debtors. I would wonder where the people speaking another language were. So I was distracted the whole time and didn’t know what the moment was supposed to be.

하늘에 계신 우리 아버지

아버지의 이름이 거룩히 빛나시며

아버지의 나라가 오시며

아버지의 뜻이 하늘에서와 같이 땅에서도 이루어지소서.

오늘 저희에게 일용할 양식을 주시고

저희에게 잘못한 이를 저희가 용서하오니

저희 죄를 용서하시고

저희를 유혹에 빠지지 않게 하시고

악에서 구하소서.

(주님께 나라와 권능과 영광이 영원히 있나이다.)


One of things I had to learn while becoming a pastor was to accept and learn to celebrate the diversity and messiness of living in community with people who are very different from me. So during that time were exposed to and expected to learn how to live with diversity. We attended this seminar for a couple of days on diversity. During which they intentionally placed us in groups where we would be with people from different classes, races, and nationalities. Eric Law a Chinese American Episcopal priest was invited to teach us how to interact with and respect these cultural differences. He helped us learn to be quiet if we tended to jump in with an answer, how to hear what someone else was trying to say and really listened to them. During this workshop he shared with us the Pentecost story of the spirit coming down and the disciples speaking of Jesus in different languages and argued that this is a story about listening. That this was a miracle of the ear because those different cultures could for the first time hear each other. I learned a lot during that week that Eric Law was with us. I learned to appreciate the messiness and disorder of the Lord’s Prayer because for me it became the act that represented the coming of the Holy Spirit into every worship service. When each person spoke this prayer from their heart in the language of their heart I could see the Pentecost spirit moving through us opening pathways of welcome. I learned to appreciate the pause I had to leave so that others could say their words and we could finish together.

Padre nuestro que estás en los cielos, Santificado sea Tu Nombre. Venga Tu reino. Hágase Tu voluntad así en la tierra como en el cielo. Danos hoy nuestro pan de cada día. Perdona nuestras ofensas, así como también nosotros perdonamos a los que nos ofenden. No nos dejes caer en la tentación y líbranos del mal. Tuyos son el reino, el poder y la gloria por los siglos de los siglos. Amen.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Miracle Drug or Stranger's Eyes

Freedom has a scent Like the top of a new born baby's head

My Zune has been stuck on the U2 song Miracle Drug. Each time I set out for my walk this week the song would play. It was the song you remember from the set your heard. It has been stuck in my head all week. I would wake up singing a phrase. My brain was hearing something is this song that I needed to look at. So I have to admit I couldn’t figure out why I was singing this song, because I wasn’t sure I understood what was being said. I am not the kind of person who looked for a drug to change anything. I hate being out of control and leery about the promise of any drug. So searching for a miracle drug wouldn’t be something I did. But when I was hearing this I wasn’t thinking about God or Jesus being my drug of choice. I always thought that was kind of hokey. The songs are in your eyes / I see them when you smile / I've had enough of romantic love / I'd give it up, yeah, I'd give it up / For a miracle, a miracle drug, a miracle drug.

So what was this song about? One of the stories Bono tells about the song is about someone in their school when they were growing up who had a disease that left him unable to move or communicate. He had a mother who wouldn’t give up on him and he had a drug that was invented and helped him. While he didn’t become cured his life changed and he became a poet through the use of technology and hard work. He inspired Bono and he knew he wanted to speak about this drug. So Bono sang about I want to trip inside your head / Spend the day there... / To hear the things you haven't said / And see what you might see

But the song is so much more. You don’t know this story. So I went where I am often drawn in a U2 song where is God. God I need your help tonight / Beneath the noise / Below the din / I hear your voice / It's whispering / In science and in medicine / ‘I was a stranger You took me in.’ I was hearing these words in the song. When looking into the eyes of another was I able to see and experience the presence of God? Can you imagine what the world would be like if we truly believed that Jesus was going to meet us in the strangers we encounter.  Would you actually speak and interact with the bagger at the grocery store?  Would you see the person alone on the street?  Would you wonder each day when you get up who will Jesus be today?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mountains sing

For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial,
for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off. Isaiah 55:12-13

Have you ever heard the mountains sing? Sing of eternity, sing of solidness, sing of abundant life, sing of boundless wealth, sing of beauty, and sing of stillness?

The mountains are continually bursting with their song. Singing joyfully of what the Holy One has done. There is great beauty in this passage. The entire created order sings, rejoices, and changes because we humans have changed. We are guided by joy as we leave behind empire. As we leave behind the old ways of separation, exploitation, alienation. With the step out of the old, joy is present and boundless in our lives.
With the step we are led back to the peace that is our when we are in harmony with all that is around us. When we know we are part of a great and glorious whole. When we know that we are and have always been precious to the Holy One. God has never forgotten us, will never forget us. God’s promises are eternal like the mountains we can now hear singing. What was once the weed, the stumbling block is now transformed into the symbol of health and prosperity.

O God, continue to provide us with times when we hear the music of creation and join all the earth in praise to your eternal promises. Amen.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Making Room: Living the Hospitality of God

"Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much." Then Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost." Luke 19:8-10

There is a book that I have on the Gospel of Luke called The Hospitality of God by Brendan Byrne. The theme of this book has stuck with me for a long time. The story from Luke’s perspective is a story of hospitality, of making room at the table and welcoming the stranger. Luke’s Jesus wants to teach us what it means to be hospitable in a world where hospitality sometimes seems like a distant dream. The poet Dante gave Luke the title “scriba mansuetudinis Christi” narrator of the winning gentleness of Christ. The Gospel of Luke tells the story of Jesus moving through his life gently, sharing the love and grace of God with all those he touched. In Luke’s gospel, it amazing how many of the important events of the story take place over a meal or at a house where Jesus has been invited. It reminds us that Jesus came to earth as a visitor from God and we read this gospel story seeing who welcomes and receives Jesus as a guest. When people do welcome Jesus as a guest those people find that they have now entered the hospitality of God and have now gone from serving to being served. But not everyone welcomes Jesus. Luke wrestles with the human response to Jesus. Why do some people welcome and invite God in and why do some people grumble and question and reject the coming of salvation? As Byrne says, “the Gospel‘s essential purpose is to bring home to people a sense of the extravagance of God’s love in their regard.” We are invited to the banquet of life, are we willing to accept the invitation?

We are going to learn more about Jesus invitation to practice hospitality and learn how to become a people that welcome God in and by welcoming God welcome in God’s kingdom. Making Room: Living the Hospitality of God begins on August 8 with Luke 7: 36-51 this is the story of Jesus being invited to dinner by a Pharisee and while there a woman washes Jesus’ feet. We are going to look at the practice of hospitality of listening. Without the woman even saying a word Jesus knows what she needs. He heard what she needed and filled her need. On August 15 with Luke 8:1-3, which shows the hospitality of Serving in this passage we learn that the woman who followed Jesus provided for his need. On August 22 with Luke 13:10-17, we will explore what it means to be a Companion through the Hurt. In this story, Jesus meets a woman who has been bent over for eighteen years and yet until Jesus who was with her through the pain? We will explore what it means for the church to be a companion to a hurting world. On August 29 with Luke 9:46-48 we will explore what it means to Welcome the Other. On September 5 with Luke 14:15-24 where Jesus tells of the great banquest and how we should go out into the streets to invite the lost to the Table. The sermon series will end on Loyalty Sunday September 12 with Luke 19:1-10 where Jesus’ extravagant transforming love changes the life of Zacchaeus for Jesus came to seek out and save the lost. My hope is that this series will help us begin a conversation about making room in our church by learning to practice the hospitality.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Light and Dark

 The God of creation is a God of motion who takes the stuff of creation and orders it.  God shapes what was into something new.  God speaks and the new comes into being. This is a text that can be used for good or bad.   For light and dark have been associated with people and places rather than oppression and freedom, control and being, separation and connection, order and complexity.  We want to gravitate to a word that is ordered, that has been separated out from what is dark and dangerous.  The problem is when we place ourselves in the position of orderer and separator; God's words may be and are very different from the order we seek.  All of what God has created is good; why than do we attempt to label it as bad and keep the bad in a tight confined box.  But a box that is waiting to break out.  The moving God of creation help us to hear your word of goodness.  To know that all that you made is good, that all that you made has  a purpose even if we cannot see it.
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. Genesis 1:1-5