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, September 30, 2016

Apple Cider Donuts and the Kingdom of God



25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?....33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:25-34
With the world seeming to spin out of control – refugees flooding out of war torn countries; aid convoys delayed or bombs; black people shot for reading a book, having car trouble, holding a bb gun, being in a car accident; bomb plots from white supremacists and Muslim extremists; and then to top it off we are in the midst of a presidential election that truly has to be a joke. Every time you open Facebook, watch the news, listen to the radio or read the paper, you can’t help but wonder when will this end.  Where do we go when the world seems to have taken a turn that is in completely the wrong direction, in Matthew 6 Jesus speaks to us about worries. He tells us to look around at the beauty of the world around us and the care God has taken off those simple beauties of birds and flowers. Jesus knows that sometimes there is trouble enough today and tomorrow, but the worry about the trouble doesn’t change it.
So I am going to suggest that during this time, where we could let the news weigh us down, to take some time to not worry. During the fall one of my favorite ways to enjoy life is to visit an apple orchard. There is nothing like wandering through the trees to find your favorite apple whether it is tart or sweet, crunchy or soft. To walk among the trees finding the apple you can’t wait to eat or to make into the perfect pie. And then when you go in to pay for those apples you have picked there is that smell. The apple cider that is warm and soothing and the donuts. There is nothing like biting into the sugar covered sweet apple goodness. Eating apple cider donuts and walking through an orchard always remind me to stop and just let my senses explore and taste the wonders of this world. Those moments of pure simple pleasure allow my worries to fade away. The sweetness of that joy allows me to refuel and refresh myself.
We need to stop and get off the bad news cycle not to forget or ignore what is going on but to enjoy the beauty of a fall day and hot apple cider donuts in order to replenish our souls for what is a troubling time. For we need those moments of joy to sustain us so we can continue the struggle Jesus laid before us of seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness.
 The simplest pleasures are the sweetest— Farquahr
 “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”Psalm 16:11

https://www.flickr.com/photos/superdupermanda/

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Favoritism, Jealousy and the Dream of God

4But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him. 
 5Once Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. 
 8His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Are you indeed to have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more because of his dreams and his words. 
 11So his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.                                                                                                        Genesis 37:1-11
When my son was younger he came home from his dad's house and there was one thing that just gnawed at his insides more than all the others. He had a hard time letting it go. He told me about his brother and sister and usually when he was speaking of them he was all about the love. He would tell me of how they played together and what they did. He would share the stories he read to them or the movie he introduced them to or the addiction to Avatar (the tv show) he started. His brother and sister are much younger than him. But that summer his sister was going through the phase where you test your parents about how much whining will get what you want. So my son was out with siblings and stepmom and his sister started whining about needing ice cream. She was relentless and cried, wailed, begged, pleaded, and refused to cooperate. So stepmom went and bought ice cream for her son and daughter but said my son was old enough that he didn't need any. He thought this was so unjust, so unfair, so wrong that he had a hard time letting it go. It was  like the last straw, all of those little slights where they got to do thing he was never allowed to do had finally reached the tipping point for my son. It was one thing to get more tv, have to do fewer chores but when you are denied your favorite food because you are too old he just thought enough is enough.

Jacob had eleven sons. But the one he loved the most, the one that was his favorite was Joseph. 
3Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves.Genesis 37
 I wonder if the coat was the last straw for those brother's the finally push that said it will never get better, he will always be loved more, given more. For his 10 older brother's we are told they hated him four times in eleven verses. His brother's saw Jacob give to Jospeh a symbol of all that was wrong in their family dynamic. For Joseph was one of his last child. A child that he didn't think would ever come. For his first wife had given him sons but his beloved wife. He worked year to win Rachel and then Rachel could not have children. And so a contest occurred between Rachel and her older sister Leah. Rachel gave her maid to Jacob to give her sons. So Leah gave her maid to Jacob and had sons. Then Leah conceived more sons and a daughter. And finally God open Rachel's womb and gave her Joseph. So this is a family with first wives and second wives, beloved wives, and wives just for breeding. There are sons and more sons with different mother's and different relationships to the father. And the father loved one of these son's the most. The son who he never thought possible. The son of his beloved. This son he gave him a robe, a robe that was fit for a king and his other 10 sons saw this love and hated Joseph.

There are many families who can relate to this dynamic. Where one child is loved more by a parent. The children always know this. This is especially hard in families that have gone through a divorce and there is remarriage and there are children with different parents. When the second family is formed and the first family is discarded or ignored. The children know they are treated differently and how they respond depends. Some of those children strike out at the step parents and blame them for the special treatment, recognizing that they are not loved or cared for int he same way as their own children. Some children become resentful of their step-siblings; they may lash out at them because they are easier to resent than a parent who is supposed to love you unconditionally.

Genesis tries to show us how deeply flawed humans can be and yet God can be their in the midst of that family drama. Genesis shows us that the people God has chosen to bring his dream into the world are not always sympathetic, but can be deeply flawed characters or come from a family so messed up they make your family look like saints. Into this family drama God places a dream. But people are given the dream and don't understand what it means. Joseph who has grown up knowing he was loved and feeling loved by his father, experiences this dream as a statement that the hatred of his brother's will not be the last word. Maybe Joseph shared his dream with his brother's because it was the last straw that day for his brother's never spoke peacefully to him. That day. when Joseph shared his dream
“Listen to this dream that I dreamed. 7There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright; then your sheaves gathered around it, and bowed down to my sheaf.”  Genesis 37:6-7
Joseph saw this dream as taking that pain, those words that hurt him from his brothers were  not going to be the last word. That someday he would experience his brother's bowing down to him. With more hatred directed at him. Joseph dream's again.
9He had another dream, and told it to his brothers, saying, “Look, I have had another dream: the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” Genesis 37
Joseph again experiences a dream where he sees his family bowing to him. His brother are not just full of hatred now they are also jealous. After all they have heard the story of how their father had stolen the blessing of his father from his brother. They had heard the story of how their father had tricked his brother into giving up his birthright. His own sons know that their is a real possibility that their father will give Joseph their inheritance, will show his love to Joseph by taking from them. So the brother's are jealous.

God has given these dreams to Joseph, but does not yet know the meaning and hope God has placed on this dreamer. But maybe God need Joseph to know that what was coming next was not going to be the last word. That slavery, sexual harassment, prison would not be the end of the dream. The dream was just begining and God was moving Joseph into the place where God's people could be saved.

 While most of us won't be given a dream such as Joseph, he gives all of us hope that we can move through the worst that the world has to offer us  and know that God is there with us even in the midst of drama. trauma, hurt and pain. God is there with us and will help us to experience the dream God has for us and in us.

Bloom, Bloom

Variation of a sermon preached on September 4, 2016 at St. Paul's UCC Hinckley, IL.