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."

Sunday, January 29, 2017

I Am Lost

I was in the movie theater the other day, watching Lion. There is a scene in the movie where a man who got lost from his family as a child of five. He ends up in an orphanage where the children are locked in. He is probably sold although it doesn’t say it, to a family in Australia. So he is now 26, and he is away at school where he meets people who are India. At a dinner party where they are talking about growing up India. He says he grew up Australian. But this conversation around the table makes him remember. He starts think about his mother and brother. The memories of his young life come back. One of them suggested have you heard about this new thing Google Earth. Saroo can’t let the memories go and begins the search. This scene has these powerful words where his girlfriend goes to find him and he is hunched over in pain. And he says, “I am lost.”
I was struck by those words. I am lost. He literally was lost to his family. But how many of us and those around us are lost. Whether we have a family member who is lost in a world of addiction and the ripples this created in all the people around them. We may have a friend who has lost their purpose when the job they have always done has disappeared. We may know a neighbor who is struggle with trying to raise their grandkids while taking care of their parents as their dreams for a peaceful and fun retirement evaporate. We have a friend who don’t know how they will make it through this illness when their health insurance leaves them with the 20% bill that means they may lose their house and they don’t what to do. We may have a child, a grandchild who haven’t found their purpose, dream, bliss, who seem to be losing that spark we loved in them as a child. I am lost. We feel like the country we love, the people we thought we knew, have created a world that seems straight out of a dystopian novel.
The lost matter to God.  
And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Luke 15.6
“When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Luke 15.9
“But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’” Luke 15.32
“For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” Luke 19.10
“I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice. Ezekiel 34.16
We are invited to seek out, to search high and low for those who are lost. We are called to find the lost, to bring back the strayed, strengthen the weak, bind up the wounded. Saroo gets lost in the search for his birth family. He loses his job, his degree, his girlfriend, and pushes his family away. He looks ragged and haggard. His search seems hopeless. Yet in that moment he goes outside his search parameters and finds the landscape he remembers and with Google Earth is able to find his village. The lost is found.   

Thursday, January 26, 2017

How Do You Measure a Year - In Miles

Five hundred twenty-five thousand / Six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand / Moments so dear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand / Six hundred minutes
How do you measure - measure a year?
In daylights - in sunsets / In midnights - in cups of coffee
In inches - in miles / In laughter - in strife
In - five hundred twenty-five thousand / Six hundred minutes
How do you measure / A year in the life
How about love? How about love? How about love? Measure in love
Seasons of Love - Rent
3,336 miles.
When I look back over the year I was struck by this number. That is how many miles I drove last year on church related business.
3336 miles – miles where I met with families experiencing the death of a loved one and walked beside them as we said goodbye and grieved.
3336 miles – miles where I brought communion to those who are unable to come to church anymore. Those miles to those at home, in nursing homes, in assisted living, represent conversations where life stories were shared, where prayers were shared and the sacraments were given. Those miles have countless memories of laughter and tears, prayers and fears, food and wine.
3336 miles – miles where I met with other pastors and laity whether to support each other, learn from each other, gather together to remember we are connected to one another. These miles include trips to places where clergy prayed together and were refreshed. These miles include meetings of the larger church where I met people I see three times of year who share their hopes and worries for their church. These miles led me to learn new ideas for ministry and to be inspired by the work of others. These miles include Association Meetings, Conference Meetings, Boundary Training, Local Clergy Cluster, Committee on Ministry, Clergy Day Out.
3336 miles – miles that included opportunities to serve others, where I had the privilege to help make life better if only for a moment for those who have less than we do. Those miles allowed me to help with Feed My Starving Children, Crop Walk, Beloved Community Dinner.
3336 miles – miles where I went out to eat with members of congregation. Where over food we shared our stories pieces of ourselves.
3336 miles – miles that include community events and worship services. Where I am part of the local and larger community.
3336 miles – miles that don’t include the trips I have taken to be inspired and refreshed by the beauty of God’s creation, the creativity of God’s people in art, film, and music. Those miles help to inspire me, to inform my preaching and thoughts, to allow me to pray and breathe deeply.
3336 miles – this doesn’t include the footsteps that lead me to worship, dinners, confirmation, potlucks, movies. These steps I take to our church include times where we gather weekly to be inspired and challenged, where we gather to rest in the presence of God and experience the love of God poured out for us. These steps include times where I volunteer for HAFP putting away food or giving food to those in need. These steps have led me into deep conversations and also times of laughter. These steps led me to times when I provide comfort and times when I listen to you and for God.
3336 miles – How many mile and steps have you taken this year to share God’s love?  The early followers of Jesus were called people of the way. The way – Jesus taught them to use their steps, their days to follow his teachings, to reach out to the hurting, the lost, the least. Jesus invited his followers into a life of service to others. We too are called to be people of the Way. Will you uses your steps, your miles to follow the example of Jesus: Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people (Matthew 4:23).
Pastor's Annual Report for St. Paul's United Church of Christ, Hinckley.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Why I March

I march because when I was 22, I moved to Connecticut to go to grad school studying political science. I moved in with my grandmother. She was in her seventies and was beginning to pass on her knowledge, the things she wanted us to know. She would tell the stories that have meaning for her, so that we her legacy could continue her work. One set of stories she told me happened every time she wrote a check for Planned Parenthood. First she would talk about how when she had her last baby, she argued with the doctor and told him he needed to make it so she had no more babies. She felt seven was more than enough. She had to fight with the medical community to get a hysterectomy, because options were very limited in the forties for preventing pregnancy. They didn't have a lot of money running a small farm,  she worked as a nurse to keep things going. So the last baby was enough for her. Being in Connecticut options for birth control were very limited, meaning actually illegal because this was before Griswald vs Connecticut (1965). The law in Connecticut criminalized the encouragement or use of birth control. In Griswald, the Supreme Court ruled that a state's ban on the use of contraceptives violated the right to marital privacy. So even if you wanted to use birth control it was illegal. My grandmother  would continue her story as she stuffed the envelop with her check. When your uncle first got married and was living upstairs, I took his wife into New York to get birth control.
I drove her so she could have the choices and make decisions that I couldn't. She told me those stories over and over. I learned about my family history and I learned about resistance, about fighting for what is important to you. So when there was a woman's march during this time in the early 90s I went to DC to protect the rights that my grandmother and my aunts didn't have. I marched in Washington to say no to the roll backs and threat to going back. I marched then and I march now to say that we have the right to make decisions for ourselves about how many children we will have and having affordable  good healthcare.                                        

I march because when I was in my early twenties and was a student I didn't have a lot of money and when I needed birth control, I went to planned parenthood and was able to afford birth control because it was on a sliding scale so you paid what you were able. I had family and friends who made tough decisions and needed their services.
With our congress threatening to remove all funding to Planned Parenthood, so many women will be hurt by these decisions. Planned Parenthood may be the only place close by to receive healthcare. To leave women with few or no choices not just for birth control but for cancer screenings , std treatment, breast health and education. I march so people can make informed choices about their reproductive lives. 1 in 5 women in her lifetime has visited a planned parenthood, I marched to make sure that that the 1 will have that option.

I march because 18 years ago I gave my life to follow Jesus, who calls me to enter into places where people or lost, last, least and be on their side. I am to find the lost, serve the least, and remember that my role isn't to be first but last. In John's gospel, there are two stories about woman that help inform my thoughts. In John 8, we have a story of Jesus who is confronted with a moral dilemma and how to deal with it.
2Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. 3The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, 4they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. 5Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”
Jesus was teaching in the temple when the religious leaders wanted to test him, challenge him, make him conform to their morality and reading of God's will. So here is a woman - she was caught in adultery. We don't know what this means. But the rule no matter the reason required her to be punished. They wanted Jesus to choose the law over a person. They wanted to see her as their words - whore, slut, pussy, bitch. They kept speaking to him, questioning him. Jesus final said. "If you are without sin, throw the first stone." One by one everyone left. Jesus than told her he didn't see her by their terms, he didn't judge her. He then said she should go on her way and not sin again,, don't miss the mark, remember to turn back toward God. Jesus invited us to think about our place with people we are judging and to remember he didn't judge instead he invited her to turn back to God and begin again. I march because judgement isn't my call, love is.

I march for women who have been seen as not right, as not fully human, as disqualified and unwanted. There is a story in John 4 about Jesus encountering a woman at a well. Jesus was traveling through territory where people were considered the neighbors but not liked neighbors. These were neighbors who practiced their religion differently, because of where they believed God was to be worshiped. This woman that Jesus spoke to is a woman rejected by others, called names by others, treated poorly by others. I march because we live in a time when we do not have to segregate into a camps based on religion, class, ethnicity, race. I march to say that we are meant to be in relationship with each other, speak to each other, share a drink together, and talk about the big things in life. I march to say that we are called to be more than what was presented in this past year as a time to separate into our own tribes where we don't talk to each other. I march because you are beloved,  human, my sister and brother. We are shown by Jesus that we can talk to each other across lines, we can learn from each other and be changed by these encounters. I march for this country that has become a place where it is possible to be rainbow community of ethnicity, class, sexuality, race, immigration status. I march to say we have had setbacks, we haven't always listened as well as we should, we haven't fought hard enough for your rights and protection, but I will do better. I will learn from you.

I march because I can't keep quiet.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

If You Choose, You Can Make Me Well

If you choose you can make me well.”

This passage of scripture has been on my heart a lot since the election. I feel as if you  elected leaders in congress and presidency are choosing to let my family and I and the 20+ million people who have been helped by Obamacare become sick. I like many people work as a contract employee who is not offered benefits. When I began my career as a pastor there were full time jobs with benefits but those have been slowly eroding. So like many American’s I have been forced into lower wages with fewer and fewer benefits. When Obamacare went into effect, those subsidies allowed me to purchase insurance for my family. I was able to pay for insurance that went beyond the prayer I always prayed please don’t let me get sick. I have been lucky so far and have not had an illness that would have bankrupted me. But I am deeply concerned about your actions.

To repeal a law that has allowed 20+ million people to receive healthcare - We have been able to get vaccinations, medication for chronic diseases, care for those illnesses that debilitate and drain you. To learn more about the impact on middle class families I invite you to read this report from the Department of Health and Human Services.. ASPE ISSUE BRIEF: A ffordable C are A ct Has Led to Historic, Widespread Increase in Health Insurance Coverage

 If you choose you can continue to make us well. If there is no plan to help us who are able to afford health insurance, why are you repealing it. If there is no plan to continue to expand coverage so those who make just a little more than I but have to spend “1000” a month of their income on insurance can also be helped should be the goal. To make sure that every American can see a doctor if they are sick or been hurt should be a goal of our country. How can we have life, liberty, and happiness if we are constantly worried about the next shoe dropping that will leave my family and I unable to afford care and unable to seek care. To be happy, to have a life, to live in freedom we need a health care plan that allows all of us not just those with benefit paying jobs (like yours), those who have the means to not need insurance to afford care. If we believe so strongly that we are and should be the shining light, the example to the rest of the world of what is possible how can you choose to take away my healthcare and those like me. To repeal and not replace, to repeal and delay, to repeal is to cause harm, maybe irreparable harm. Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and congressional Republicans I implore you to think about those who will be hurt by your actions. We all need to know that if we get sick we will not be financially ruined. We all need to know that if we get sick we can receive care and treatment. We all need to know that we will not die because of an action you could have taken.

If you choose, you can make me well. Jesus’ response to this man seeking healing is I do choose. Will you respond in the same way? Will you choose to make all of us who have not been as fortunate as you to be made well, to receive life giving treatment, life saving medications, and hope that we are not alone.