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.

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