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."

Friday, December 30, 2016

We have hope. Rebellions are built on hope!

“We have hope. Rebellions are built on hope!” Jyn Erso

Reed and I made our after Christmas pilgrimage to the movies. For a while it was Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. But this year the movie was Star Wars. I went without having read anything about the movie or the outcome because Star Wars movies were an important part of my childhood and important part of Reed’s childhood. These movies are built around the idea of Hope. Most of us didn’t realize this quite so overtly, because us older folk thought the name of the first movie was Star Wars; we didn’t realize it had a subtitle till years later when new movies were made and old movies were rereleased. But these movies gave us hope. Hope for stories set in far away places, hope that rebellions could succeed, hope that empires could be taken down, hope that unlikely heroes and misfits could form bonds of trust and community, hope that bad guys could be redeemed.
Rogue One has the main character speaking of hope when others are set to give up and let the empire win. Jyn Erso (echoing another character) says “We have hope. Rebellions are built on hope!” Rebellions are built upon hope. We don’t normally think about Jesus and his followers as rebels, as the start of a rebellion and yet…
When Jesus began his ministry in the gospels, he challenged the religious and political assumptions of his day. He called out people for excluding others, for making tradition more important than compassion. Jesus moved through Galilee sharing the love of God with all those he encountered. If you needed healing he was there with a Band-Aid, if you needed to be set free from evil he would breaks the yoke of oppression, if you were hungry he would find food, he welcomed the powerful and the lowly, he partied with the sinners and the elites, he taught about a God of love and the kingdom. Rebellions are built upon hope.
In Matthew 5-7, Jesus teaches us about hope. He shares with us in the Sermon on the Mount what it means to live in the kingdom of God. Jesus teaches us to love our enemies, to forgive unconditionally, to let go of anger, not to judge others, to speak the truth in love, he shares with about lust and divorce, revenge and charity, prayer and fasting. This text is rich with teaching us how to live together the way God intends. As I planned our next series of sermons I was struck by the hope found in those first 12 verses known as the Beatitudes. These are when Jesus tells us what it means to be blessed. He blesses what most of us would not. Blessed Are You When – You’re at the End of Your Rope, You’ve Lost What’s Most Dear to You, You’re Content with Who You Are, You have an Appetite for God, You are Full of Caring, Your Inside World Put Right, You Practice Cooperation not Competition, You Disrupted the Comfortable. These words are hope personified in those places where we are most vulnerable. This hope where causes seem lost, where life seems scary, lonely, dark. Yet Jesus invites us to see these times and people differently. Jesus gives us Hope.
The movie ends with Princess Leia saying one word – hope. She is asked what is in her hand, she says – hope.  Hope what fuels rebellions, what sees us through tragedy, what makes us courageous in the face of oppression. May your hand hold hope.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Creating a Community this New Year

It Happened on Fifth Avenue (intro)

The scene begins with a man, a homeless man, with his dog making their way through an affluent neighborhood. This is winter and people need a place to get out of the cold. McKeever has a system for living. He knows that this rich family heads south for the winter so he takes up residence in an empty house while they are in their other home.  Normally, McGeever leads a solitary life – just his dog and him. But this year he meets a veteran who has just been kicked out of his apartment. McKeever invites him home. This invitation leads to more veterans and their families coming to stay in the mansion. Soon the house is full of people from old to young. There is life in this house that usually only has the divorced second richest man in the nation. His wife is gone, his daughter has run away and he has a house that even when occupied by its owner is very empty and lonely.
But now the house is full of life. The daughter who has run away actually is invited to stay. The rich man who finds the squatters and his daughters is invited. Eventually even his divorced wife comes to stay. In what had been an empty house there is fullness and life. Laundry is done together, meals are shared, laughter and singing becomes part of the routine. There is someone to watch the young while the parents work. McKeever is worried that all of the noise and life will mean an end to his winter squat. Being a movie, it all turns out happily ever after. The veterans find jobs that allow them to provide for their families. The daughter falls in love with the single veteran, and the divorced get back together.
What struck me this year as I watched “It Happened on 5th Avenue,” was the way in which we create communities, families, even in the hardest of times. When we come together, we can all bring enough of what is needed to the table that everyone can have what they need not just to survive but to thrive. As we enter the new year, I hope that we can begin to experience how Jesus invites us into a new community where traits that alone can lead us to despair when part of a community can be healed and provide the place where God works in and through you. As we walk through the Beatitudes this new year, the Blessings we see mourning, meekness, poverty, hunger, mercy, peacemaking, persecution become a vehicle to a new community as followers of Jesus that show the world a new way to live fully, completely, in the love of God.
 “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. …  “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. …Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God” Matthew 5: 13-16
Jesus invites us to bring out the God flavors, to bring out the God colors, to so shine before all people that they want to join in this new community. “Love and joy come to you,…”And God bless you, and send you A Happy New Year, And God send you a Happy New Year.”