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."

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Spend the Year with Matthew

At the end of the year and the beginning of a new year, we take time to stop and reflect on where we have been and where we are going. In the church calendar, we enter a season of Epiphany: a time where we reflect on the light of the world stepping down into the darkness. Jesus moves from being a child to being a man who experiences God’s touch in baptism, takes time away in retreat (temptation in the wilderness) in order to get ready for ministry. When he has dealt with all of the challenges to following God, Jesus begins his ministry by saying, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand (Matthew 4:17).” At that point, Jesus begins collecting people, he invites the first disciples to follow him and begins to experience crowds who want teaching and healing from him. Epiphany is when we take time to be inspired yet again to walk with Jesus into the light of the Kingdom of Heaven.
This year when we turn to a gospel, our church follows the Gospel of Matthew. We use Matthew as the guide for how we tell Jesus’ story. In Matthew’s Gospel, we are assured from beginning to end that Jesus is Emmanuel – God-with-us. Why not make 2011 a year spent with the Gospel of Matthew. Take an afternoon and sit down and read the gospel from chapter 1 the origins of Jesus, the son of David, the son of Abraham to chapter 28 where Jesus promises to be with us forever and asks us to go and make disciples. And in between those points Jesus teaches and heals, is rejected by opponents, heads toward Jerusalem, gives his final teachings in the temple, and is tried, executed, and begins life anew. The story shows us how to live as disciples.
After you have read it through and have a feel for the story, take a chapter a week to spend time with the Jesus. Begin to read Matthew prayerfully and slowly, and Matthew will begin to speak to you this year. So when you are making your New Year’s resolution, commit to listening to the Gospel of Matthew and waiting for God to lead us on a journey of change, renewal, and growth.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pray with Boldness

29 And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus." 31 When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness. 32 Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. 33 With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. 35 They laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need (Acts 4: 29-35). 
The disciples have been called to task before the Jerusalem leadership. What are you doing? In your grief what are you saying? Do you truly want to do this to your people? We are asking you to stop. give up this nonsense. This isn't what religion in about.  So faced with the displeasure of the religious leaders what would you do?  Would you cave and continue to practice religion as it has always been?  Would you cave and just start steaming inside, becoming resentful and angry?  Would you leave and never say another word about faith? 

or

Would you stop before entering and pray to God to speak boldly?  Then after being reamed by the elders would you again pray to God to allow you to speak the word boldly.  Would you then share a meal, share your resources, and live together knowing the kingdom of God is near and you will be a living part of the Kingdom now. 

Would you have the courage to start praying boldly.  As part of the church would you be willing to hear God speaking boldly calling us as a community and as individuals to be bold.  I ask you to pray for boldness,  Boldness to allow you to be open to the movement of the spirit in our midst and allow God to use you to speak the Gospel with boldness to those you don;t know yet.  This may be a bit scary, and its ok to feel nervous.  "Be bold.  Be Strong.  For the Lour Our God is With Us." 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Prayer

Every Christmas I pull out old much loved movies and be moved by them once again. One of my favorites is The Bishop’s Wife. In this movie, one of the main characters Bishop Henry is leading a very busy stressful life. He is trying to build a magnificent cathedral to glorify God. Trying to build this temple is causing all sorts of trouble, for the woman who has promised to donate a large sum of money wants a temple to her late husband who she didn’t love in life and is trying to make up for after his death. So Henry is at the end of his rope with her demands and cries out to God,


O God what am I to do: can’t you help me, can’t you tell me. God please help me.

Henry says this prayer and right a way we hear a door open, but no one is there. Henry turns around and there is Dudley an answer to the prayer.

Henry’s answer was on the way even before the prayer was spoken. For Dudley had been walking through town helping people in need – a blind man crossing the street, a baby about to be killed. He is meeting all those in Henry’s life who can restore the happiness he once knew. The answer to Henry’s prayer was already on the way even before the prayer had been spoken. The answer to the prayer isn’t what is expected or even what Henry thought he wanted. The prayer was a groaning of his spirit calling to God in words too deep to be spoken. The answer was what he needed and not what he wanted. For part of the prayer, was spoken by Julia, Henry’s wife, that life could be as it was before when, “We used to be happy and make other people happy.”

The Christmas story is the story of prayers and longing: the longing for a savior, a messiah who will come and lead the people out of darkness. One of the prayers spoken is by Mary knowing that she will be the mother of an incredible child, a child meant to save Israel.

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for You have looked with favor on the lowliness of your servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is your name.
Your mercy is for those who fear you from generation to generation. You have shown strength with your arm; You have scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
You have brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
You have filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
You have helped your servant Israel, in remembrance of your mercy.

Mary must have been scared when she prayed this prayer, for she stays at her cousin’s house for three more months. Yes, she knows that God has a plan, but that plan seems to have wrecked havoc on her life. And, yet, everyone she meets speaks of the wonder that will come with this child.

May God guide your feet this Christmas and may you pray the prayer of your soul knowing the answer is coming in unexpected ways.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Lights

This advent season I have been thinking a lot about what it means to experience the light of God.  How do we in a world that seems to be full of darkness find the light of God?  You watch the news and see a world that seems out of control, lost in the darkness.

Here are just the current headlines on my local news:
  • Milwaukee Hospital Does CT Scan On Hungarian Mummy
  • Suspect In Credit Union Kidnapping Has Died
  • Search For Missing Mich. Boys Hits Home
  • Flags To Fly At Half-Staff Thursday For Wisconsin Soldier
  • Police: Man Killed Over Stolen Cigarettes
  • Mourners Remember Crash Victim At Visitation
The National news isn't much better.
  • Even One Puff Can Kill You
  • Authorities Set fire to Explosive-Laden CA House
  • Unhappy Democrats Say Tax Bill Likely to Pass
  • Protests, Cyber-Skirmishes Rage over WikiLeaks
  • FBI: Md. Bomb Plot Suspect Knew About Oregon Sting
  • Police:  Man Claims He's a Vampire, Burns V on Teen
  • SOcial Worker:  Dad Blamed Devil in Tot's Death
  • Parrot Echoed Pleas Of Dying Mother
  • Authorities: Mont. Man Staged Own Kidnap Hoax
  • Paris Slowly Returning To Normal After Snow
  • Ritzy Boutiques Cater To Ultra-Spoiled Pets
 "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined."  Isaiah in chapter 9, is speaking of a people lost in the dark, a people who have been conquered and find their cities in rubble.  Into that rubble, God sends Isaiah to spread the light, to spread the news that there is more, God is there with them. God will not leave them alone.  God will shine a light into those places where there is hurt, hunger, homelessness.  When we think the world is dark God gives us that spark, that glimpse of the light to make even the darkest night bright.  

As I was searching for what to write in my sermon this week I came upon this Coldplay son "Christmas Lights."   
 

May the Christmas Lights, the Light of God, light up your street so that the darkness is a little bit brighter.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Remembering World AIDs Day

O God, to day I remember:
I remember that every 9 1/2 minutes someone in the US in newly infected with AIDs;
I remember the 33.3 million people infected with AIDs;
I remember those who didn't receive life saving medicine today because they are poor;
I remember those who are unable to say no and practice safe sex;
I remember the high school student  who was so passionate about AIDs that I was able to help her bring AIDs awareness and activism to our town.
I remember my fellow seminarian who had been living with AIDs for years and taught me so much and brought home that AIDs affects so many people including Black Women.
I remember the men of the AIDs caravan who made their way across the country, who taught me hospitality and hope as they shared awareness as education about AIDs.
I remember the AIDs coordinator who shared her passion with all of us.
I remember all my friends in Casper, WY who lost loved ones to AIDs.
I remember Africa today,
We remember God that tears are cleanse us as well as hurt us;
We remember, Holy One, because telling and sharing our stories renews our hope;
We remember, Gracious One, because in holding one another we help quilt the world with Your stitches of sacred joy;
We remember now, this moment all who died of AIDs

Holy One, be with us as we remember so that we never forget.  Amen.