Glimpses of Grace: Day 30

Dot
– Picture of Andrew, Sarah, and Dot: December 2011

+ Acts 20:7 On the first day of the week we came together to break bread…

The call came during our festival worship- sweet Dot was fading fast at the hospital. It was time to say goodbye. I jumped in my car as another minister proclaimed the benediction, and I drove out to the hospital to say goodbye. When I arrived, Dot’s husband sat at her side, holding her hand, whispering a prayer. Dot’s Children and Grandchildren filled the room. Friends began to gather in the hallway. Dot influenced so many people through her ministry and her compassion- and all the people she touched wanted to honor her and say goodbye.

An Elder from our church suggested that I serve communion to Dot’s family and friends as we gathered in her hospital room. So, we broke bread together. I remembered that Christ gathered with those he loved the day before he died to celebrate this farewell feast we call “The Last Supper.” The disciples ate and drank together to honor the life Christ lived, and with each bite of bread, and each sip from the cup, the disciples pledged to remember him. There we were, a group of Christ’s followers, gathered in a hospital room on a rainy Sunday… participating in this same feast. We broke bread to honor the life Dot lived. With each bite of bread, and with each sip from the cup, we all remembered Dot, who lived a life modeled after Christ. It was a beautiful Last Supper.

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Glimpses of Grace: Day 29

+Acts 19:32 The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there.

In Acts 19, an outrageous scene unfolds in Ephesus. A riot breaks out between Jews and Greeks. Some began shouting ‘Great is Artemis’ while others preached about the Holy Spirit and the ministry of Jesus. The spirit of this discussion came out of the desire for two communities to be understood in their religious differences. I believe in the importance of theological debate and inter-faith dialogue. In my opinion, we know too little about the beliefs of other religious communities. Because of our lack of knowledge, we often make generalizations or stereotypes about people of other faiths. And so, I support efforts to dialogue between religious communities.

But this scene in Acts 19 has nothing to do with theological dialogue. This riot reveals far more about our treatment of one another and our tendency to riot, fight, and debate without always understanding why we are so worked up.

Acts 19:32 could describe so many contemporary scenes: people fighting with other people, expressing anger, frustration, division, shouting, griping, and attacking… but not because of their convictions… instead, simply because we inadvertently tolerate bad behavior, and poor treatment of one another.

Perhaps we can all afford to tone it down, release our fists, open our ears first (and close our mouths)… avoiding riots and welcoming dialogue with those who are different than us. Who knows, we might even learn something…

Glimpses of Grace: Day 28

equality

+ Acts 18:9-11 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.

This past week, many of my friends expressed their support of gay marriage as discussions about the legalization of gay marriage began in the Supreme Court. I stayed out of this public rally. I remained quiet as my colleagues and mentors and even my spouse showed their alliance to our brave brothers and sisters who fight for the right to marry. In my devotion time today- I read about God’s call to Paul: be brave, speak up, do not be silent… and I realized that I too, need that encouragement.

I see so much hardening in this world- too many wars, too much violence, too many hateful words said and attacks made. I think we all thirst for more images of love and tenderness, more expressions of commitment and faithfulness, and more gestures of compassion and grace. Marriage is hard. Two willing hearts must make promises to be present, loyal, gentle, and kind to one another for as long as they both shall live. I think every person on earth should take these vows- and mean it. In my community, I know so many people who love each other- and who try every single day to live in to love as a verb, as a daily commitment, as a spiritual discipline. The people I see bearing witness to love are men, women, straight, gay, young, old, mothers, fathers… and Children of God- every single one…

I stand on the side of love, wherever it springs up. I fully support every brave soul who longs to make a promise to God and another person to cherish and adore their spouse in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, until they are parted by death. To me, the more we make these promises to one another, the more light we shine in the world. My prayer is that every person on earth has the chance to enter into this covenant. May it be so…

Glimpses of Grace: Day 27

Hymnals

+ Acts 17:22-28 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

First Christian Church in Owensboro, KY burned to the ground this Lenten season. Two friends of mine pastor the church there. When I heard the news of this tragedy- I felt devastated for them. The fire destroyed their beautiful, historic sanctuary. Fire fighters crushed the stunning stone facade to put out the flames. Every pew burned. Every hymnal became a pile of ash. How on earth would First Christian Church in Owensboro move on from this? How would they survive the devastation?

Could they celebrate Easter without their sanctuary, their pew Bibles, and their particular communion table? This scripture reading from Acts came at a perfect time in my devotion as I reflected on First Christian Church in Owensboro this Holy Week. “… The Lord of Heaven and Earth does not live in temples built by human hands…”

Over the past few days, I witnessed the courageous leaders of First Christian Church live into the Hope that they proclaim. They have taught us all through their endurance. They boldly proclaim: we will go on, we will continue to be The Church, and God remains with us- no matter when or where we gather.

At the request of the pastoral staff at First Christian Church, I quietly took 2 red Chalice Hymnals from the Lindenwood pews and placed them in a FedEx box addressed to Owensboro, KY. We joined with dozens of other disciples churches in sending worship supplies to this community as they prepared for Easter. We participated in resurrection for First Christian Church. Now, tomorrow morning, this church will have Chalice hymnals of all different colors, marked with various inscriptions from Churches throughout our denomination. First Christian Church reminds me of the truth of Acts chapter 17- God is already nearer than our breath. We do not need our sanctuaries or our communion tables or our pew Bibles to prove that we are God’s people. Wherever we go, whatever we do, God is present among us.

Weekend Glimpses of Grace: Day 25-26

+ Acts 16:13-15 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.

This story of Lydia’s conversion touches my heart. Not because she overheard the disciples praying and converted. Not because she and several other women were baptized after hearing Paul’s message. But I love this scripture- because Lydia responds to her new found faith by opening up her home to other disciples. At Lindenwood, we are exploring our future vision. How can we continue to strengthen our faith and our community? Should we increase the time of our Sunday School hour? Should we add in a fellowship meal after worship? We try to come up with new ideas for enhancing our Sunday experience- but our new interim minister continues to remind us: We do not have to cram all our Christianity into Sunday morning. We shouldn’t focus entirely on the Sunday experience at Church. Instead, we need to shift our attention to Christianity as a way of life. Like Lydia, we should open our homes to one another- inviting each other in to our most personal and sacred spaces. We need to learn to act out our faith every day- not just on Sunday mornings. I am anxious to see what God can do in our community Monday through Saturday- if we are willing to make our faith a way of life. May we all find the renewed enthusiasm of Lydia in this faith journey.

Glimpses of Grace: Day 24

+ Acts 15:6-9 The apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.

The elders and apostles met to consider a question… this opening line from scripture reminds me of the recent meetings to elect the next pope.

Today white smoke billowed from the chimney of the Vatican.

Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio emerged in a white robe. He greeted thousands of cheering people as Pope Francis I.

Some groaned at Jorge’s appointment. He upholds conservative views that many hoped would pass away with a new leader. Others imagined another European Cardinal would follow in the footsteps of generations of papal tradition.

But millions of people rejoiced today. The first American (yes, South American) pope emerged today after 2000 years of waiting. Cardinal Jorge brings a pastoral presence, a gentle spirit, and the potential to bring more justice to the poor and freedom to the captives.

I am sure Pope Francis I will disappoint some of us in his role. No religious leader on earth will lead without human flaws and limitations. But today I choose to find the good. I will catch glimpses of grace in this new pope. My prayer for brother Francis is that he remains tethered to the Holy Spirit who will guide him in humble service. I pray that he seeks collaboration and inspiration from ecumenical and interfaith leaders around the world. I hope he seeks peace over power, love over division, and may he avoid discrimination and always purify his heart through faith.

A Wedding Homily (Glimpses of Grace: Day 23)

White Wedding

+ 1 Corinthians 13:4, 13 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant… And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Today, we are all preparing to spring forward.

At 2am, after the last piece of wedding cake has been swallowed…

After the last click of the photo booth has been clicked…

After Shawna and Jeff say: Goodnight Husband, Goodnight wife… we will all spring forward by one hour. It is daylight savings time.
Infants will lose their routines. Church goers will groan as the alarm rings tomorrow, spring-breakers will lament that this week- of all weeks- will have one less hour. Today, we prepare to spring forward.

For over 100 years, we have officially adjusted our schedules and our clocks once in the spring, and once in the fall.

Before we get lost in our griping and worry over this practice, we must remember why we will all adjust our clocks at 2am.
We do this for one reason only: To grasp more light.

Starting tomorrow, we will each be blessed with more sunshine throughout the afternoon.

Starting tomorrow, we will all receive a brighter evening commute. We will soak in more warmth through our windows as the day goes on.

Since the beginning of time- people around the world have engaged in a quest for more light. In ancient cultures, before we wore watches or listened to the chimes of grandfather clocks– people would build their days around the pursuit of more light. In Babylon and Egypt and ancient Rome- as civilizations began to measure time through sundials and water clocks in the 16th century BC– these first time-measuring instruments had different scales for different months of the year.

We humans have always searched for more light, and we have also searched for love. In fact, I believe, at the very core of the human soul- we are all wired with the desire for more light, and more love. Our scripture reading for today captures the essence of that which we long for: love is patient, love is kind… Jeff and Shawna chose a familiar scripture about love to mark this beautiful occasion. Deep down, we all know this scripture: Love is patient, love is kind… love is playful, love is sweet, love is courageous.

We didn’t read it that way-but starting today, this is what will be written. We have all come together in this chapel to celebrate Jeff and Shawna as they continue to write the story of love. Love is patient, love is kind… love is baking a pecan pie the first time you meet the parents…

Last night, Shawna’s mother pulled me aside and said: ‘Jeff baked me a pie, you know.’ Jeff and Shawna shared a Thanksgiving meal with her parents in the early stages of their courtship, and on that day- they continued to write this story: love is baking a pecan pie for Thanksgiving.

Love is dancing on the altar at your wedding rehearsal and in the middle of your living room when the Peanuts theme song comes on… in fact love is dancing every chance you get. If you watch these two carefully- it won’t be long before you see them break into dancing- at a concert, a party, or on the altar as they rehearse their wedding vows- Jeff and Shawna continue to write this story: love is spontaneous joyful dancing.

Love is enduring a kayak float together- even if kayaks invoke fears from the past. There once was a very tall man named Jeff who tried to kayak down the river with his friends. He fell, he flipped, he crashed, he rolled, he cursed, he fell, he flipped he crashed… That is the story of one of the worst days of Jeff’s life… and a few weeks later- he fell in love with an avid kayaker. Even after surviving one of the worst float trips of all time, Jeff jumped into a kayak again with Shawna as they continued to write this story: love is having the courage to kayak again.

Love is saying yes to this journey ahead, even if you’ve been hurt before. We are not witnessing the marriage of two foolish kids- unaware of what commitment means, unprepared for this sacred covenant. No, instead, we are all bearing witness to a courageous leap for two people who know what lies ahead. Jeff and Shawna both have encountered love before, they have endured loss. Today, they have said yes to one another- with eyes wide open. Jeff and Shawna are continuing the story of love. And We are all honored to witness their launch today.

As Jeff and Shawna began their story, we saw so many other stories unfolding around the world. Hurricane Irene battered the coast in the days before Jeff and Shawna connected. News channels reported tales of costly destruction and devastation. It was a dark time.

As Jeff and Shawna continued their courtship- stories of famine and draught political tensions swept through our communities. These reports cast a shadow on our daily broadcasts. We cannot open the newspaper or turn on the Television without hearing more about these dim stories.

So today, we must cling tightly to what we are witnessing here at Lindenwood Christian Church- because we watching new hope spring up between Jeff and Shawna. These two bright, motivated, passionate people are joining forces and their commitment will mark our community.

Together, Jeff and Shawna will work for justice and mercy.

Together, Jeff and Shawna will bring more compassion to their surroundings.

Together, Jeff and Shawna will remind us all that the world is still filled with joy and laughter and romance.

Love is patient, love is kind, Love is Jeff and Shawna on March 9th, vowing to love one another and stand by one anther from now until their last days.
If you have eyes to see, then you know that today is a blessing for all of us here. This is not just a wedding. This is not just a party with a fun photo booth waiting…
Today we have all received the gift of more light.

Jeff and Shawna- you are a light to this family, this church, this community and this world. Through your continuing story of love, you will teach us all that love wins, hope prevails, and the darkness will never overcome the light. All of us here, your cloud of witnesses, will spring forward with you today- rejoicing together in your love. Amen.

Glimpses of Grace: Day 22

+Acts 14:4a The people of the city were divided…

International Women’s Day: today we celebrate the bold voices of women around the world. We honor the strong spirits of our mothers, our sisters, our daughters, and our friends.

Ideally we remember to draw near to each other and find strength through our connections to one another.

But today in my devotion time, this phrase stood out to me: the people of the city were divided…

Sometimes it seems like women are divided. In our social circles, we tend to compete, or judge, or scorn other women. As we grow up- sometimes we’re taught to seek the attention of men- not the company of other women. Women today can spend more time saying bad things about one another than offering accolades.

My prayer on international women’s day this year is that all women take a moment to remember…

May we remember our courageous ancestors and their fight for the right to vote, the right to work, and the right to be independent.

May we remember to pray for the generations of women to come- that they will know a day when domestic violence will cease… When rape will only be a nightmare from long ago, and when freedom will be promised to women all around the world.

And finally- may we remember to offer grace to one another. Perhaps one day we will bind together in community, never to be divided again.

Glimpses of Grace: day 21

+ Acts 13:42-43 As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. When the congregation was dismissed, many of them followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.

I spent a few sacred moments at a pastoral call today- sitting at the bedside of someone I love. He’s just heard the news that he will need a feeding tube directly into his stomach for the rest of his life. He described his sense of loss. He would never linger over the taste of pasta sauce again. The hot spices of his favorite stir fry would only exist in his memory from now on. He grasped for small pieces of hope to cling to. He told me that when he finally went home from the hospital, he might try to gently swirl hot coffee around the frame of his lips once in a while- just to catch a taste of this comforting drink one more time.

His words pierced my heart.

This Sunday, we will sing ‘Joyful, Joyful’ in worship. One of the verses says:

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love;

Thou Creator, Christ our Brother,
All who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other,
Lift us to the joy divine.

We sing about living in love- building community with one another to mimic Christ.
But do we forget the painful journeys our loved ones take through the wilderness– ike losing the ability to taste food… or take communion… or sip delicious coffee?

We worship together. We share signs of peace with one another each week- but how do bear with one another in love? How do we walk with each other through piercing, painful seasons of aging and struggle?

The disciples of the early church found a way to take their faith from the synagogues to the streets. Paul and Barnabus continued in the grace of God beyond the prayers of the synagogues. May we all learn to extend this same grace… reaching for one another-lifting each other up in times that pierce our hearts… God in your mercy, hear our prayers.

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