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."

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Dancing With Sinners

     It’s a Friday morning during rush hour at L’Enfant Plaza metro stop in Washington, DC when a street performer arrives.  He opens his case.  Puts in some seed money and begins playing his violin.  Of the 1097 people who heard him play how many do you think stopped and listened or paused and donated money?  100, 200, 300?
     The Washington Post wanted to conduct and experiment and see if beauty could break through at an inconvenient time in an inconvenient place.  So they asked one of the premier violinists, Joshua Bell if he would help them with the experiment.  He would play for 45 minutes some of the most beautiful music created for the violin in the middle of rush hour. 
     At three minute you see the first reaction, a middle-age man pauses notices the music and continues on.  At four minutes, Bell gets his first donation, but she too continues on to the train.   It never gets much better.  Bell receives a $32 from 27 people, and 7 people stopped to listen. 1070 did not respond to the music.  The demographic of who responded or didn’t was noticeable different except for one group.                                                                                                       
      A couple minutes into his performance a mother is trying to rush her child to the train and off to daycare.  The little boy can be seen trying to get her to stop.  He is craning his neck trying to hear the music and see who is playing.  Every single time a child heard the music they wanted to stop and watch.  Every single time their adults would keep them moving. 
Let anyone with ears listen! "But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, "We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.'For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, "He has a demon';the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, "Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds."

We played the flute and you did not dance.  What made the children want to dance?  As you watch the video of Bell playing, speed it up to fast motion you can see people scurrying to get to where they need to go while his violin seems to calming play on.  There is calm and beauty in the midst of this activity but very few heard. 
      In the scripture, from Matthew, Jesus asks what is it, we want.  When John came and practiced an ascetic life, calling people to go into the desert, to repent and be baptized, you complained he was to pure. 
      I, Jesus, came calling you to turn back to God for the Kingdom is drawing near.  I called you where you were and saw who you were.I came to meet you at dinner and on the street.  We ate and laughed together and still it wasn’t enough.  I danced and you would not dance with me. 
     Jesus didn’t play it safe.  He broke the rules to reach you with God’s love.  He ate with people who were rejected, tax collectors, sinner, poor fisherman.  He drank water with loose women.  He worked on the Sabbath, picking grain to feed his traveling band, healing a withered hand.  Because he saw what was needed. 
     He did a lot of risky things.  He touched people who were sick and made them well, he healed lepers, when to the bedside of the ill, and touched dead people.  He met people and their needs where they were and he spoke to them of a God who wants you to come back, to be healed and blessed. 
     The people didn’t like this.  They wanted a prophet, a messiah who would run the Romans ought with military might.  They wanted a prophet who condemned the things they condemned and then left them to their own devices.  The people wanted Jesus to Dance when they danced, and to wail when they wailed. 
     But it doesn’t work like that.  Jesus was hearing the drum beat of God and was trying to dance and sing that message with us.  He wanted us to join in the song and hear the good news that God loves us and wants us in return to love.   He wants to east with the tax collectors and sinners.  He wants the world too look at us and say foolishness, while we continue loving a hurting world.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Come and See

I waited patiently for the Beloved,
who heard my cry and
came to me.
Love raised me from the pits of
out of confusion and fear,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
There is a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to the Beloved.
Many may see and rejoice, may they
put their trust in Love.

Blessed are those who make Love
their home,
who do not turn to the proud,
to those who follow false idols!
O Beloved, how wondrous are your gifts
to us; your thoughts are
beyond our imagination.
                             Psalm 40 Nan C. Merrill, Psalms for Praying
       29The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’31I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.”32And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’34And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” 35The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”
        37The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. 40One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). 42He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).  John 1 :29-42, NRSV
I was going through one of those transitional times of life when something unexpected, unwanted had happened.  So I was in the process of rebuilding and rethinking and renewing myself.  I was making decisions about where to live and what to do for work.  I was also getting into shape.  As part of this I started going to weight watchers every week.  It was usually the same core group of women who came.  I usually sat by this nice grandmotherly lady and we started talking and sharing more than our weight loss issues.  Well one day after the class ended we started talking and she invited me to join her at a Coffee Break Bible Study.  Now I got a little nervous because I don't do evangelical Christianity.  I don't want to be saved.  I've all ready got Jesus.  So I had those thoughts but then God must have nudged me and her and so I agreed to meet her at the Coffee Break.  So I admit I showed up a little leery and had given myslef permission to leave if they tried to save me.  Well I sat down for the opening worship and they played upbeat music, the Acts scripture for the day was read and we prayed.  Then everyone broke into small groups.  That group came to mean so much to me.  We checked in with each other, sharing our sorrows and joys, our worries, and hopes, are tragedies and laughter.  Then we prayed with each other.  We prayed for each other.  Then we may or may not have studied Acts.  But I did learn more about Acts during that study then I had previously.  These prayers touched and helped me.  That grandmotherly women said to me come and see.  She shared with me a place where she had found the light.
Our scriptures for today are Epiphany Scriptures designed to reveal to us the Good news, the Light of the World coming to life.  These scriptures share with us an epiphany moment, a time when God's presence comes alive.  For John the Baptist, he saw the Spirit descend on Jesus and so he shares his testimony that this is the son of God who takes away the sins of the world.  Andrew hears this and follows Jesus where he is invited to a new ministry.  And for the psalmist has been in the pits but God brought him a song, brought his steadfast love and mercy.  
As a pastor we are privileged to hear these stories of encountering God.  We hear the stories of people who while sitting with a dying love one or journey through an illness experience the comforting presence of God.  We hear the testimonies of people who while outside in the  midst of loneliness of feeling lost, experience a sense of the vastness of the universe and the presence of God.  We hear the stories of people who while feeding the poor, tutoring a child, building a house experience the movement of God using them to reveal the kingdom.  We hear the stories of people who young and full of doubt have rejected the faith of their childhood, and learn to accept the doubts because of a sense of God's acceptance.  
The first step  in evangelism is learning to share our stories.  John shares his testimony reminding us that God takes away the doubts, the fear, the grief.   Andrew shares his epiphany of finding his purpose following God's call.  The psalmist shares the pain of being in the pit and experience the promise of God.  What story do you have to share of God touching your life?
The next step is found in section of John with Jesus where he beholds Andrew.  Jesus sees Andrew, he perceives Andrew.  He beholds his heart and soul and then asks:  What are you seeking?  What are you searching for? This is the part where we share our experiences as UCC, of being part of a community of faith that invites a person's questions and doubts.  We invite people to search and seek and say we where we have found a place to explore those questions.  And that is when Jesus says Come and See.  We invite people to come and see.  Come to a place where we have experience the light of God.  Come with me to the place where I find hope and possibility.  Come with me to a community where we pray for each other, welcome each other, comfort each other.  Come and See.