Skin

skin

+ Psalm 25:1-3
In you, LORD my God,
I put my trust.
I trust in you;
do not let me be put to shame,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.
No one who hopes in you
will ever be put to shame…

“You need thicker skin.” One of my mentors said this to me during a recent coaching session. And it’s true. This has always been true.

One summer, my family traveled to Florida on vacation. We stayed at a hotel with a piano in the lobby. In the evenings, a man played old show tunes and pretty folk songs for the guests. I recently completed my second year of basic piano lessons. So one night, I tapped on the shoulder of this lobby pianist and bragged: “I know how to play piano, too.” He smiled at me, slid off the piano bench and invited me to play what I learned.
As I sat down, I realized that my two years of piano really meant that I knew how to play through scales and major chords… but I didn’t know a single song. I played one Major C chord, and then I quickly left the piano bench, head held high.

But, my ‘thin skin’ tattled on me immediately. My cheeks turned deep shades of pink and crimson- showing the world that I was affected and embarrassed by my Major C chord.

I needed thicker skin then, and still– I could use a few more layers.

I like to present a strong, confident front. I enjoy polishing my words and calculating my actions. I do this, because I love to receive positive feedback and I sometimes feel a pinch with constructive criticism.

In a world where we are all encouraged to protect our image and shape our appearance to ‘fit-in”- skin often betrays us. Whether it’s blushing cheeks, or we break out in hives that reveal our stress, or we find a pimple the morning of our wedding, or we develop wrinkles that show our wear-and-tear through this life… skin can expose us.

Tonight, I’m reflecting on SKIN as a spiritual roadblock and also a spiritual vessel. Jesus spent energy and ministry on those whose skin betrayed them.

Christ’s entire ministry touched those who were broken. The recipients of Christ’s healing faced a variety of challenges. But I always remember his interactions with the Lepers- those who were cast to the margins specifically because their skin ‘tattled on them’.

Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease that results in painful lesions on the arms and legs and face… this particular form of brokenness could be seen, observed, and scorned- because it was a disease present in the skin.

On more than one occasion- Jesus heals Lepers. In healing their skin, Jesus offers them a new purpose, a renewed opportunity to be confident, whole, and accepted.

Through faith in Christ, even lepers found strength to overcome the tender vulnerability of skin that reveals hurt and insecurity.

As I continue to pray through the psalms this summer, I’m lingering in Psalm 25- words that promise God’s strength and protection to our spirits. Casting aside blushing cheeks and bruised pride- God empowers us. We will never be put to shame, or insecurity, or vulnerability that cannot be overcome- because God gives us strength.

Christ carried out this promise among those with the thinnest, most damaged skin of all.

And so- for all of us who could use healing and power through thicker skin and deeper faith, we turn the gospel, and to the empowering words of Psalm 25… let us repeat these prophetic words: In You, Lord, my God, I put my trust…

Advertisements

Royal Thirst: A Few Thoughts on Ministry

BRITAIN-ROYALS-BABY

I admit it. I watched the countdown to the Royal Birth. I wondered when Kate and William would welcome their child. I guessed it would be a girl- and I took interest when it wasn’t.

I clicked through pictures of the Duchess and Duke holding the little prince.

I did this because other people were doing it. And others were doing it because we were all fed this one, singular image through the news. Around the world: work-days were interrupted, vacations paused, TV and radio programming stopped to focus our attention on the royal family. AND- we took the bait.

But here’s the truth: I don’t care about this royal baby. I don’t think many of us really do. But, I think we watched it because we thirst for something to bring us together.

We long for something to give us collective hope.

We cling to the coverage of the royal baby because we can’t quite access the source of our thirst for community and solidarity.

In this context- what is the role of the church? What is possible? How can we be first responders to this thirst?

Today, people turn to the news or join a cause to quench this thirst. Popular and controversial issues sweep through our Facebook newsfeeds and media sound bites every day. Little, temporary communities pop up in agreement on human rights issues, gun control, marriage debates and public trials in the justice system.

We thirst for connection- and the ‘Royal Baby Watch’ offered another (shallow) way to connect.

I understand why many of us chose to invest our energy in the ‘Royal Baby Watch’ this week. Consider the alternatives: live coverage of a gruesome Whitey Bulger trial in Boston… a haunting image of a teenage bomber on the cover of Rolling Stone… a new song about drugs sung by the former Hannah Montana… the constant stream of bad news from Egypt…

We are thirsty for something to draw us together in hope.

And if this is true- what is the role of the church in this draught?

My friend and mentor, Reverend Johnny Wray, shared this on Monday as I hit ‘refresh’ on the Royal Baby watch site every few minutes:

Sitting at my desk on a rainy Monday afternoon catching up on some Week of Compassion post General Assembly – news is on the background – and am thinking I wished we lived in a world where the news media gave as much coverage and attention to the forgotten children of this world who are born to poverty, hunger, violence, neglect . . . as it gives to a child born to royalty, wealth and celebrity.

I agree. Too often we ignore the hungry, naked, and sick ‘least of these’ in favor of the glitzy, sparkling rich celebrities we consume through our American way of instantaneous voyeurism, greed, and envy. The church must address this temptation.

But to me, the ‘Royal Baby Watch’ had less to do with choosing a royal baby over a starving orphan, and more to do with our aimless thirst for a taste of solidarity rooted in hope. This is the source of our Royal Thirst.

I believe it is this longing that calls us to the church. At our best, the church can be a place where we receive assurance that we are a part of the important, eternal story of the human spirit. The church can be a place where we find unity. The church can offer collective hope. And then-as one Body- we can go out and serve the forgotten children, those facing poverty, violence or neglect.

The next time I find myself clicking ‘refresh’ on a shallow story trending in my facebook feed, I hope I will take time to pause and to consider this: how could the churches we serve begin to quench this sweeping thirst in our communities? How could the church speak a good word to those chasing after a little image of hope and new life?

I pray that the Holy Spirit whispers some answers through these questions as we cast a vision for the Church.

A Birthday Wish

Hello Faithful readers,

At midnight- I become 31. My wish this birthday is that we build a new home for a Memphis family in need- or at least- we would start.

If you wanted to get me a card- save the $3 and buy a few shingles and nails for a Habitat House. If you hoped we’d go out for a meal or a coffee or a glass of wine to celebrate- instead- consider buying a window for our fall build.

Even if we wouldn’t normally celebrate together- consider buying a piece of a Habitat house for someone you love this summer-it’s a gift that will make a lasting difference.

All contributions should be made out to Lindenwood Christian Church with ‘Habitat for Humanity’ in the memo line.

Thank you for considering this request.

Love
Sarah

Items we need:

8,000 Nails: $.50 each
700 Shingles: $1.00 each
20 Plants & Shrubs: $5.00 each
10 Pallets of Sod: $10.00 each
20 Gallons of Paint: $10.00 each
15 Light Fixtures: $15.00 each
2 Toilets: $20.00 each
2 Bathroom Sinks: $20.00 each
10 Interior Doors: $25.00 each
30 Pallets of Lumber: $30.00 each
Kitchen Sink: $35.00
Kitchen Counter Top: $40.00
2 Bathroom Cabinets: $40.00 each
6 Windows: $50.00 each
3 Exterior Doors: $50.00 each
Pallets of Sheet Rock: $60.00 each
2 Bath Tubs: $75.00 each
10 Pallets of Siding: $75.00 each
Refrigerator: $100.00
Washer: $100.00
Dryer: $100.00
Stove: $100.00
Kitchen Cabinets: $150.00
Vinyl Flooring: $200.00
Carpet: $250.00
HVAC: $500.00

Memorial for Sarah Catherine Wender

Wender

Homily for Sarah Catherine Wender, preached July 9th, 2013

+ Matthew 5:1-12
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Sarah dreamed big dreams.

On Sunday afternoon, I spent time with her family to plan this service. We thumbed through one of Sarah’s sacred journals. This treasure was a sketchbook of Sarah’s hopes and future plans.

She clipped images of bright rooms and blooming gardens. She collected pictures of abundant dinner tables and cozy living rooms.

Sarah dreamed big dreams.

In the front cover of her sketchbook, she wrote:

I want to write, to sew, to crochet, learn to create handmade dolls, learn how to make jelly and jams, canned fruit and veggies. I want a little garden with butterflies and birds. I want comfortable couches, rocking chairs, rugs, lots of hanging plants. I want to cook a lot for my family, my husband. I want to read everything- keep learning- growing, putting God and others before me.

Sarah dreamed bid dreams. She could picture a place where life would be simple, where her basic needs would be met and filled through the humble joys of snuggly places to read, homemade food straight from the earth, and familiar, loving people surrounding her.

Sarah cast a vision for her future and for her life. She longed for this peaceful, beautiful life where she could finally rest.

Sarah wrote a list of dreams in the cover of this sketchbook too. This was her list:

-I live clean and free
-I am good to the ones I love
-I forgive and I am forgiven
-I am a great social worker
-I have financial stability
-I own a car
-I have a career
– I have an adorable home to share with a man I love
-I make mamma proud

Sarah dreamed big dreams. Because of her imaginative spirit and her creative soul, it makes sense that Sarah would love the scripture reading from the Beatitudes, because this text is a text of dreams.

Jesus preached from the mountaintop to a group of people just like us, who were brokenhearted, thirsty, hungry, weeping, mourning, questioning and crying out.

Jesus preached images that resembled a beautiful dream. He said: picture this, all of you- the poor in spirit are blessed, theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus said: Dream this, all of you, those who mourn are blessed, they will be comforted.

Jesus said: Vision this, everyone: blessed are the meek, they will inherit the earth.

These days, when we look around and see this aching world and all of the problems around us, when we turn on the news and hear about more dead ends, more failed plans, more hurting souls- we all realize that we would have to be DREAMING to believe in Christ’s message in the Beatitudes.

In fact, it would take the strength, and the imagination, and the bold faith of a true dreamer to read these words from the Sermon on the Mount and know they were true.

And yet, Sarah cherished the promises and hopes and dreams that Jesus proclaims in the Beatitudes. She carried around Emmet Fox’s book “The Sermon on the Mount” and she read and re-read its pages.

She rubbed the corners of each page and dog-eared each chapter and highlighted long sections of this book because Sarah had eyes to see God’s promise, God’s faithfulness, and Christ’s truth in the Beatitudes.

Today, we gather to celebrate Sarah Wender, one of the greatest dreamers we will ever know.

Every day that she lived, Sarah clung to these sweet words of Christ that promise us all: Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.

We are here to honor Sarah by learning from her example. Let us all leave this place today and carry on what Sarah taught us. Let us dog-ear the pages and highlight these holy words from scripture.

May we all study these words… pray these words… internalize these words of hope until the pages of our bibles are worn thin- just as Sarah taught us.

But most of all, may these words whisper comfort to our aching hearts. May we all receive the good news from the all loving, all knowing God:

‘Blessed is Sarah, even in the moments she was poor in spirit, for hers is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed is Sarah, even in the days she felt meek, for she will inherit glory.
‘Blessed is Sarah who hungered for knowledge, who thirsted for peace, she will be filled.
‘Blessed is Merciful Sarah, for today, she will receive mercy.
‘Blessed is Sarah, pure in heart, for today, she will see God.
‘Blessed is Sarah, peacemaker and friend, she has been called child of God.
‘Blessed are all of us who mourn today and in the days ahead, for we will be comforted. Amen.

Doors Open. Doors Close.

doorway

 

+ Matthew 7:7-9 ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 8For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 9Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone?’

 

Doors open. Doors close. Will we ever fully have peace in this rhythm?

The door opened onto a cobblestone street with mopeds and voluptuous women selling bright textiles, chatty students learning Spanish and rich tourists admiring the brightly painted buildings. Two weeks ago, 25 of us opened this bed-and-breakfast door over and over again in Antigua, Guatemala on our Lindenwood Mission Trip. More than the door to our lodging- this was a doorway to our calling, our work, our service, our ministry.

The door closed between my Nana and this world while I was in Guatemala. That door that once revealed a compassionate, bright, generous, comforting woman closed slowly through years of dementia, constant disorientation and fear. Even though this door crept slowly to a close, when it latched, I cried.

For the first time in their whole lives- a door will open and close, open and close- for four Guatemalan families who received new cinderblock houses on that mission trip. Hanging, torn sheets that they used to call ‘doors’ are now folded inside these humble, quaint homes we built among the piles of trash and treasure in Guatemala. More than a door that locks- these families received the gift of security and the promise of shelter.

Doors open. Doors close. Isn’t this the truth of our lives? Our stories?

On the fourth of July, my family gathered to celebrate a huge, beautiful, bright door opening for my brother and his sweetheart. After plotting, planning and praying- my brother knelt down on one knee to fling open the doors of commitment, faithfulness and partnership with his love. She said yes.

Just as we all gathered to embrace my brother and his beautiful bride-to-be, I received word that a bold, courageous, young, hopeful woman in my congregation slipped away in her sleep. This news felt like a huge, angry door slamming shut and shattering our hearts and our faith and our dreams for this young woman. Tomorrow, we will gather to memorialize her, and even now- I struggle to write sufficient words to comfort her family in the service.

Doors open…  doors close… when we make decisions, when we say goodbyes, when we lean in, when we step out, when life surprises us, when we surprise ourselves…

Tonight- my spirit is full with the weight, the blessing, and the privilege of this life, this ministry, and these doorways I continue to encounter. I’m mumbling my own serenity prayer:

God, grant all of us the serenity to accept the doors that must be closed,
The courage to explore the doors that are waiting to swing open,
And peace in knowing that You hold the ultimate set of keys… Amen.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: