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."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Blow Where You Will

During Lent one of my favorite movies to watch is, Chocolat.  One of the main characters in this movie is not a person, but the wind. At the beginning of the movie, a sly north wind blows Vianne a chocolatier into a small French village.
Once upon a time, there was a quiet little village in the French countryside, whose people believed in Tranquilité - So through good times and bad, famine and feast, the villagers held fast to their traditions. Until, one winter day, a sly wind blew in from the North...
The wind blows Vianne and her daughter from town to town as it has blown her mother’s family from place to place back through the centuries. Her people are the wanderers, people who moved from village to village dispensing ancient remedies and never settling down. This wind has guided her life to the people and places she is supposed to bring both chocolate and healing. She is fated to travel with the north wind. Throughout the movie when the wind blows something happens or something will be changing. At the darkest point in the film, when Vianne’s new love had been burned out of town, her closest friend has died, and the town priest has blamed her for the death in the Eulogy; Vianne feels the wind and decides to listen and move onto the next town. I was struck this time by this character the wind. As Easter dawns, we enter the season leading up to Pentecost a time when the Spirit once again comes with a rush to send us out into the world. In the Gospel of John, we read
The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. John 3:8
In this story Nicodemus, a Pharisee, questions Jesus about the signs he has performed. And Jesus speaks about the Spirit, the Wind of God, and what it means to be part of the kingdom of God by having to be born from above through baptism by water and Spirit. But what if we were to read this text against the grain and focus on the discipleship component. This raises a number of interesting possibilities for our life of faith. If the Spirit blows where it wills, that means that we can never be sure when the Spirit is present in the people we encounter and the situations we find ourselves in. We would need to start opening ourselves up to an awareness of how God may be acting in the people we are encountering. If God is present what would we then be called to say and do as followers of Jesus? Would we act differently, speak differently, because we knew that God is at work in the situation?

What if during this month of May when the spring winds blow: you were to take a day, an afternoon, an hour and allow the wind to blow you? What if you asked God to use you this day, to guide you to a person who needs a word of hope, who needs a sympathetic ear, who needs to be confronted with truth? Would your life be changed by the movement of the Spirit as your guide?
But still the clever north wind was not satisfied. The wind spoke to Vianne of towns yet to be visited, friends in need yet to be discovered, battles yet to be fought... By someone else, next time… And so it was that the north wind grew weary and went on its way and when summer came a new breeze from the south, blew soft and warm…
May God’s Spirit blow through you calling and stirring you to new places and people,
Spirit of God in the clear running water
Blowing to greatness the trees on the hill.
Spirit of God in the finger of morning:
Fill the earth, bring it to birth,
And blow where you will.
Blow, blow, blow till I be

But the breath of the Spirit blowing in me.
Down in the meadow the willows are moaning
Sheep in the pastureland cannot lie still.
Spirit of God, creation is groaning:
Fill the earth, bring it to birth,
And blow where you will.
Blow, blow, blow till I be

But the breath of the Spirit blowing in me.
I saw the scar of a year that lay dying
Heard the lament of a lone whippoorwill.
Spirit of God, see that cloud crying:
Fill the earth, bring it to birth,
And blow where you will.
Blow, blow, blow till I be

But the breath of the Spirit blowing in me.
Spirit of God every man's heart is lonely
Watching and waiting and hungry until
Spirit of God, man longs that you only
Fulfill the earth, bring it to birth,
And blow where you will.
Blow, blow, blow till I be
But the breath of the Spirit blowing in me.
                              Miriam Therese

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Maundy Thursday, The Love Command

Have you ever wondered why we call today Maundy Thursday?   "Maundy," comes from a word meaning mandate or commandment. So we have to ask ourselves what command or mandate did Jesus give to us.  Jesus commanded us to love.  When we learn this commandment we often learn the version found in the synoptic gospels “Love the Lord you God with all your heart, mind, and soul and love your neighbor as yourself. On Maundy Thursday we use the commandment found in John 13

34 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
This version of the commandment has a shift. Instead of beginning with our actions toward God, ourselves and our neighbors we are reminded that Jesus loves us and we are to love in the way we have experienced love from Jesus. Before this command is given, Jesus has dropped to his knees and washed their feet. He has expressed loved by showing love. He then asked the disciples to follow this example. So on Maundy Thursday we remember the love we have experienced from God and are encouraged no matter how dark the night gets and it will be getting very dark for those disciples, that we will experience the love of God and will show that love with each other and those we encounter.

Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love,
show us how to serve
the neighbors we have from you.

Kneels at the feet of his friends,
silently washes their feet,
master who acts as a slave to them. Refrain

Neighbors are rich and poor,
varied in color and race,
neighbors are near and far away. Refrain

These are the ones we should serve,
these are the ones we should love;
all these are neighbors to us and you. Refrain

Loving puts us on our knees,
serving as though we are slaves;
this is the way we should live with you. Refrain

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Day of Betrayal

14Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15and said, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.

17On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?” 18He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” 19So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal. 20When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; 21and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?” 23He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” 25Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He replied, “You have said so.” Matthew 26:14-25
The day of betrayal. How do we talk about this day? I have had interesting conversations about Judas and betrayal over the last couple of weeks. The conversations both involved Judas being the most important person in the story of Jesus’ death, and that Jesus knew that this was going to happen and that he was ok with this, Judas was only doing what he was supposed to. Judas was the hero of the story and needed. In the story of Matthew, Jesus speaks of knowing that one of them will betray him. He warns the betrayer not to. Judas takes the money and betrays Jesus with a kiss. Then when Judas sees Jesus condemned he is filled with remorse and kills himself.

I am uncomfortable with the idea that Jesus knew who and he was accepting of this. I don’t want Jesus the Pascal lamb. I want Jesus to be hurt and angry. I want Jesus to feel about betrayal the way we all feel about betrayal. It is often a devastating experience in our lives. Anyone who has had a spouse or a partner betray them does not feel calm and accepting; they are raw and hurt. Any religious person who has worked in the church and had someone turn on them doesn’t feel dispassionate no matter how much of a calm nonanxious presence they are. When they go home with family they are hurt and sometimes hurt so badly they wonder if they should stay in ministry, if God really called them to this. Maybe Jesus did know who it would be; maybe Judas was the one who picked him up at the airport on his first visit to town. The advise giving to pastors in starting a new ministry is beware of the those who come pick you up at the airport more often than not they end up being the greatest antagonists to your ministry. So Judas was that one, the one who meets you with all the help and concern, the hope and promise of a new start. He comes to you when you are starting over in a new place wanting a fresh start and seems to be a trustworthy companion on the journey and yet the betrayal comes. So maybe the lesson to learn from the betrayal is how to respond. When someone close cuts you to the quick, how will you deal with them. Will you remain calm? Will you listen to your faithful companions on the journey? Will you seek help to cope and express the emotions and pain with someone safe? And then will you take the next right step on the journey? And if you take the wrong step will your forgive yourself and forgive the betrayal.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Glenn Carter as Jesus, Frederick B Owens as Caiaphas. From 'Jesus Christ Superstar' the London Revival by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Time Rice. 

As I am preparing to preach tomorrow and I have to admit this is the song stuck in my head as I work on my sermon. I am wondering what it looks like to preach using the lines from the song
Won't you smile at me
You're all right by me
Won't you fight for me
Won't you die for me
These four images give us different expectations from the crowd.  Those who are just enjoying the party.  Those who are seeking healing.  Those who want Jesus, the military leader, to come and fight the system.  Those who believe Jesus is the sacrificial lamb.  As we sing Hosanna, as we ask the one who comes in the name of the Lord to save us, where are we in the crowd?

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Passion of Jesus

When Reed was little, 5 or 6, he was attending Sunday school at the church where I was an intern. During Lent, they told Reed that Jesus had died because of him. They proceeded to list the sins of 5-7 year olds: not listening to your parents, lying, being mean to others, etc. Reed was really upset by this. As we started driving home, he asked me if he had killed Jesus. So we had a talk about how Jesus came to be killed on the cross. Reed and I talked about what would make Jesus so dangerous that people would want him dead. So I asked Reed to tell me what he knew about Jesus’ life and he told me all he could remember about Jesus and I told him some more stories. We then talked about how when Jesus was with people he was asking them to live in a way that was different from how the king wanted them to live. He was encouraging people to challenge the way things were and the king didn’t like that. What made Jesus so dangerous -- was the passion of his life.

As we enter Holy week, we begin to think about the passion of Christ? What is the passion of Christ? Passion, according to the dictionary, is an intense or powerful emotion; an eager outreach of the mind toward some special object; an abandoned display of emotion; or the suffering of Christ, especially his agony of the garden and on the cross; a narrative, musical setting, or pictorial representation of Jesus' sufferings. What made Jesus so dangerous was his passion. Jesus lived a life that brought the least, the last, and the lost back into community. “Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds he had compassion for them because they were harassed and helpless” (Matthew 9:35-36). Matthew provides us with these summary paragraphs between which we experience Jesus teaching, proclaiming, and healing. Jesus’ passion is to share with others a piece of God’s Kingdom here and now.

Jesus’ passion is to be our passion. When people come to our congregation, do they experience Jesus’ passion? I believe that our ministry provides a place for Jesus’ passion to be experienced. We are the place where the hungry come regularly; those beaten down by life seek a word of comfort, the gifts of energy assistance, and financial help and encouragement from Side by Side. The little children are welcome in our daycare, our Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, and in our worship. We share the beauty of music in our worship and in the choir that meets here. We bring comfort with the prayer shawls we give. Our passion for ministry to Lake Geneva provides a glimpse of God’s Kingdom here on Earth.

Join us as we celebrate the passion of Jesus this Holy Week.

Monday, April 11, 2011

For Yours is the Kingdom

Lent with the Lord's Prayer

When you pray the Lord’s Prayer do you sometimes get the lost in the middle, forgetting the words or lose your place but then you hear or say: “For yours is the kingdom,” and you know where you are, you are coming to the end, you are coming home. For yours is the kingdom signals the rhythm that heads us for home.

There is a rhythm to this prayer. We begin with God, our father, our mother, our parent, holy is your name, your community, your family, your beautiful creation, may this home be as you want it, dream it, create it. Then we move into the new rhythm of asking for what is needed to live life fully. Give us, the family of God, this meal and every meal. Forgive us what we owe to others and forgive those we owe. Forgive and be forgiven. Bring us not to trial and temptation and keep us from suffering. The circles come around, come back around to God. Having shared our heart, we turn again to God.

For yours is the kingdom,
the power, and the glory,
forever. Amen

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Do not lead us into temptation - everyday we are faced with choices: choices that draw us closer to God, choices that draw us farther away from God, choices that challenge our desire to follow Jesus, choices that affect our discipleship. We make big choices that change where we are, what we do for a living, who we marry. But we also face little choices, unimportant choices, choices that impact our spiritual life. The prayer that follows from the Iona community asks us to sit with these choices.
When the advertisements offer us everything, if only we have the money; and you offer everything if only we do without, Lord, help us to say “no”; help us to say “yes.”

When the easier way to succeed means we lose our integrity, but the harder way, means we lose our pride, Lord, help us to say “no”; help us to say “yes.”

When the church wants us to conform and be nice, and you want us to rebel and be real, Lord, help us to say “no”; help us to say “yes.”

When our friends don’t respect what we count as important and we feel like giving in, just to save face, Lord, help us to say “no”; help us to say “yes.”

When we feel you have let us down and we want to leave you, but we know we left you behind before we ever started, Lord, help us to say “no”; help us to say “yes.”

When we have come to a crossroads and we don’t know where to turn, but we know that to stand still is the greater danger, Lord, help us to say “no”; help us to say “yes.”

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who has been preached among you is not one who is “yes” and “no.” On the contrary, he is God’s “yes”; for it is he who is the “yes” to all God’s promises.
Iona Community, Wild Goose Worship Group,
Stages on the Way, Lord, help us to say no, pp. 33-35

Friday, April 8, 2011

What are your Temptations?

Lent with the Lord's Prayer 

As the weekend begins, what are your temptations? What is it that causes you to move from the person you want to be? What is it that causes you to turn away from God or to push God to the back burner? Take a moment to figure this out by looking at what you spend your free time doing? What’s on your list? Of these items, what draws you closer to your family, your friends, and God. Which of these items recharges your batteries? These items you can mark off your temptations. What is left? Are these things you do by yourself but you don’t feel better after having done them? Are there ways that you could do them less? Is there something you could replace them with that would draw you closer to God, your family or revive you?
Lord Jesus Christ, we pray to you because you were tempted like us, in all things, yet did not submit; because you have promised to come to the help of those who in every age, are put to the test; and because we are not exempt from the subtle attraction of what is wrong and what is evil, therefore we pray to you.

… Lord have mercy

We call to you to where, in our lives, we exploit our abilities purely for personal gain, and let the human gifts, which were meant to illuminate the world, light up no more than our own vanity.

… Lord have mercy

We call you to where, in our lives, we have made a show of our religion and made faith a means of attracting to us, at the cost of distracting from you.
… Lord have mercy

We call you to where, in our lives, another god, more to our liking, is the object of our fawning, the recipient of our time, of our attention, of our worship.

… Lord have mercy

For it is in these places in our lives that we threaten to desert you, the one who has chosen us and who, in the wilderness, at the Temple, and on the mountaintop showed there was a better way.  So we turn from our seeking after selfish comfort, we turn from inclination to false piety, we turn from our preference for petty loyalties.  From these we avert our gaze, turning our faces towards you, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
(Iona Community, Wild Goose Worship Group, Stages on the Way, pp.31-32

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mahalia Jackson - The Lord's Prayer

Lent with the Lord's Prayer

Is there a version of the Lord's prayer being sung that just makes you stop and say yes this it it. My cousin John sings this song at my home church in Connecticut.  Every time he sings it the space fills with the sound and the words make your spirit sing.  Mahalia Jackson has that same effect.
The Lord's Prayer sung by Mahalia Jackson

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Rescue us from the Evil One

 Lent With the Lord's Prayer

And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. NRSV

Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You're in charge! You can do anything you want! You're ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes. The Message  Matthew 6:13
As you know I have been struggling with this section of the prayer. I thought I would try looking at alternate translations to see if that would help. While I like that Petersen believes that prayer is asking God to keep us safe rather than leading us, I know the translation does not reflect the intent. So I thought I would turn to John Dominic Crossen, in his new book, The Greatest Prayer, to see if he could help me out. He says that Evil One is a correct translation of satan, a Hebrew word meaning adversary. He then makes this leap to say that the main action of the adversary biblically is to “lure us into the escalatory violence required to obtain the power and glory of all the kingdoms of the earth” (p. 174). This is the last temptation offered Jesus in his wilderness temptation, power. He argues what we are asking is not to be led into the temptation of violence done in the name of God. I don’t know if I buy his argument. Although I like shifting the focus to the violence we are led to in the name of religion. This explanation requires a lot of extrapolation.

I have always had trouble believing in a devil, a satan. I know that there is evil and great evil that humans commit against each others. We see it in the news every day, from the local murders, the discovery of serial killers, to the government violence in the Ivory Coast, to the riots in Afghanistan, but I don’t think it is right to say this is the evil one acting. That takes away human responsibility for atrocious acts. As I don’t believe God made these happen, I don’t believe an evil one cause the reverse bad to happen.

How can we turn this line into a prayer practice this lent. Today try this prayer by Wayne Muller:
Deliver us from the temptation to feel crushed under the weight of what we have been given. Deliver us from the complete disbelief in anything good, whole, or sacred. Deliver us from that time when, at the end of the day, we can no longer pray.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. Mt 6:13

Lent with the Lord's Prayer

I have been having trouble blogging this week because our subject is temptation or trials and evil or the evil one. Growing up UCC, I have to admit I missed the whole sin thing and didn't learn about a devil.  So here I am with Matthew's version of the Lord's Prayer where God is bringing us to the time of trial.  Why would God brings us to a time of trial or temptation?  Why would God put us in a place where we would be tested or alternatively persecuted.  I have to admit it doesn't mesh with my understanding of God.  If God is love, why would God lead us into something that could be harmful.  Yeah. Yeah free will.  But the passage doesn't say it is my choice to choose trial or temptation and make poor decisions.  The passage asks God not to bring us to trial. In seminary at McCormick, I even took a class of Job to get a handle on this and probably came out with even fewer answer than when I began.  In Job, we see God as the actor leading Job into a time of trial with no reason.  Job was a good man, and yet God caused his family to die, his wealth to disappear, and sickness to strike.  God does this to Job.  Job's wife tells him to curse God and move on.  Job refuses.  His friends say he must have done something that led to this.  But Job is blameless.  Job just wants to hear from God why?  Why did you curse me?  Why did you do this?  And then God speaks, and the answer is even more confusing.  For God says can you understand why I do what I do?  Look where I go and who I see.  I am so beyond your understanding.  While stunned by this speech, Job still doesn't receive his answer.  Yes, God restores his wealth and gives him replacement children, but he doesn't know why?  And maybe that is the point.  We can't know why suffering, trial, temptation come to us.  There is no easy explanation.  There isn't an easy solution.  So what can we do? 

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh
— my adversaries and foes— they shall stumble and fall.
3 Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear;
 though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident.
4 One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.
5 For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble;
 he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock.
6 Now my head is lifted up above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
7 Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me!
8 "Come," my heart says, "seek his face!" 
Your face, Lord, do I seek.
9 Do not hide your face from me.
Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help.
 Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation!
10 If my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up.
11 Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies.
12 Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries,
for false witnesses have risen against me, and they are breathing out violence.
13 I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!
Psalm 27
Wait for the Lord; be strong, take heart.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Pray, Fast and Act

Lent with the Lord's Prayer

This month I joined the fast sponsored by Jim Wallis and Sojourners, David Beckman of Bread for the world and other national religious leaders are joining Ambassador Tony Hall, director of the Alliance to End Hunger.  This month I will fast, prayer, and act to to help reshape the priorities of nation to reflect God's dream for a world where the hunger are fed, the poor are helped, the sick receive healing...

Commit to Pray, Fast, and Take Action

Reflect on scripture, commit to praying for Congress, and humbly search my own heart for areas of repentance.

Then all the Israelites, the whole army, went back to Bethel and wept, sitting there before the Lord; they fasted that day until evening. Then they offered burnt-offerings and sacrifices of well-being before the Lord. Judges 20:26

They mourned and wept, and fasted until evening for Saul and for his son Jonathan, and for the army of the Lord and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword. 2 Samuel 1:12

21Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might deny ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our possessions. 22 For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and cavalry to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king that the hand of our God is gracious to all who seek him, but his power and his wrath are against all who forsake him. 23 So we fasted and petitioned our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.  Ezra 8:21-23

At the evening sacrifice I got up from my fasting, with my garments and my mantle torn, and fell on my knees, spread out my hands to the Lord my God. Ezra 9:5

When I heard these words I sat down and wept, and mourned for days, fasting and praying before the God of heaven. Nehemiah 1:4

15Then Esther said in reply to Mordecai, 16'Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do. After that I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.' 17Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.  Esther 4:15-17

When I humbled my soul with fasting, they insulted me for doing so. Psalm 69:10

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6).

Fast for one day a week, one meal a day, a food that you won’t eat for the month, a fast from shopping, tv, texting, facebooking, video games. This fast is a—fast unto God—to seek God’s guidance and God’s power.

Take Action
To take action that will express your hope for changing the minds of our political leaders. If you go to Bread for the World or Sourjourners site you can sign up for ways to take action on poverty and budget priorities.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Can you Laugh During Lent?

Lent with the Lord's Prayer

So it’s the middle of lent. As people greeted me Wednesday night after our Lenten service they said, it’s nice to hear a message of hope during lent.  The power of our message as Christians is hope.  So why is Lent a time when the church gets depressed. Today, a day we often play jokes on each other, can you spend time in hope and laughter.

1 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.
2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations, "The Lord has done great things for them."
3 The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.
4 Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses in the Negeb.
5 May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.
6 Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves. Psalm 126:1-6

"Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Luke 6:21

St. Francis of Assisi advised many years ago: "Leave sadness to the devil. The devil has reason to be sad." And G.K. Chesterton wrote: "Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly!” So, let's fly around with the angels for a moment laughing.