Monday, June 19, 2017

A gift and reminder as we start a new week

Guide Me into an Unclenched Moment   by Ted Loder

Gentle me,
Holy One,
into an unclenched moment,
     a deep breath,
        a letting go
           of heavy expectancies,
              of shriveling anxieties,
                  of dead certainties,
that, softened by the silence,
     surrounded by the light,
        and open to the mystery,
I may be found by wholeness,
     upheld by the unfathomable,
        entranced by the simple,  
           and filled with the joy
               that is you.

May you find a moment of peace, a time of stillness, a taste of joy today.

Guerrillas of Grace: Prayers for the Battle  by Ted Loder, p. 23

Monday, June 12, 2017

Fragile faith

Image result for brokenA prayer to start your day from Ted Loder

O God, I am so fragile;
     my dreams get broken,
     my relationships get broken,
     my heart gets broken,
     my body gets broken.

What can I believe,
     except that you will not despise a broken heart,
     that old and broken people shall yet
           dream dreams,
     and that the lame shall leap for joy,
        the blind see,
           the deaf hear.

What can I believe,
     except what Jesus taught;
     that only what is first broken, like bread,
        can be shared;
     that only what is broken
        is open to your entry;
     that old wineskins must be ripped open and replaced
        if the wine of new life is to expand.

an excerpt from the prayer What can I Believe ,  Guerrillas of Grace: Prayers for the Battle, Loder.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Water sports

Image result for people splashingWhen the dog days of August hit (although, living in Syracuse right now, I can;t even imagine dog days....I am having trouble imagining days with the sun out and the ground dry!)..........there is nothing like running into the refreshing water of lake or beach or stream.  Shocked by the coolness of the water at first, we can feel the sweat being washed away and the heat exiting our body like commuters leaving the morning subway train.  Our cranky, overheated self is replaced by a refreshed and even giddy self as we find a burst of new life, new energy, new attitude. We are transformed.

A splash of water will do that.  When the pressure and heat of this world bear down on us, a splash of water will renew, refresh and re-enliven us.  Sort of like baptism, hmmmm.  Can this image help you to claim the transformation that God is bringing to our lives through that baptismal water?

In mid-January, when I wake to temperatures in the teens, and need to put on a coat, boots, mittens and possibly a hat just to navigate the 50 feet of driveway to retrieve my is unimaginable to me that there will be a day, probably only 6 months ahead, where I will step out into searing heat, barefoot and in shorts and a tank top to do exactly the same job.

In the same way, on those days when the world is bearing down with relentless demands or crushing crises, it is unimaginable that there will be a day, probably not too far down the road, when I will be lifted up and experience the sweet nectar of life, the joy of being and the blessing of family, job and community.  On those days when I only feel failure, it is unimaginable that there will be a day when I will feel love, acceptance, forgiveness, grace and possibly even shalom.

Well, my friends, that is the Spirit - God's Spirit of Love which is, in fact, LIFE ITSELF, moving among us and within us, calling us into Jesus' presence, reminding us of God's love, renewing the gift of life within us, splashing us with the water of new birth, making us into God's holy people.

Furthermore, on the dog days, on the crushing and relentless days, on the failure days, it is the promise of that gift of Spirit and Life and Love that enable me to hold on.  It is the Spirit who 'calls, gathers, enlightens and sustains us.'  Thank you Lord.

Called, gathered, enlightened and sustained

Image result for people playingIt's the season of family reunions.  All those relatives, many who live at great distances, some whose names are lost in memory, gather in one spot to drink coffee (and most times beer) and to eat 4 kinds of potato salad and try to catch up.  "My Lord how the children have grown!"  is a favorite refrain to each greeting.

It's all a bit awkward at the beginning....there are new in-laws to introduce and that search for a safe topic of mutual interest.  There's a lot of talk about sports teams and children's graduations, the weather and golf games, and if you happen to be related to me, Tim Hortons.  But if the stars align just right, and God smiles on your gathering, you will begin to share family stories....the buried treasure of every family.

There is the story about mom chasing the kids with water pistols on the first really hot day of the the house!  Then there is dad's love for anything plaid.  Great-grandma's sour cherry pie and Uncle Carl's crankiness.  There will be the detailed re-telling of someone's birth, and the sadness ladden story of where each one was when they heard of Great Grandpa's death. There are happy stories, funny stories, scary stories, and of course, sad stories as well.

It takes about 4 hours to get comfortable enough with one another to begin to tell the sad stories, and just possibly if everyone hangs in there long enough, you can get to those stories of conflict and crisis. If you get that far, you will have managed what many never do - to speak the truth about your lives together, your shared history, and have gained some insight into how meaning has been formed in you.

You might just take a moment, quietly, off to yourself, to realize that managing this life is beyond challenging; that the road is twisted and rocky and often dangerous; that having someone else know your story gives you strength and resilience; and in the end, there is so much for which to be grateful.

My daughter is taking the lead to plan our family's small reunion this summer.  I doubt that she has given a moment's thought to Martin Luther's explanation to the work of the Holy Spirit in his Small Catechism who 'calls, gathers, enlightens and sustains' the church.

Would we not paint our family reunions with a different color if we saw the Spirit moving among and through us to bring others to abundant the midst of joy and sorrow and evil and anger.........this Spirit works to sustain this frail collection of flawed human beings.......where we can practice being life for one another?

It is in the back yard, eating hamburgers and cole slaw, playing horseshoes or corn hole and waiting for the fireworks to start that the Spirit is working to call and gather God's holy people into one Jesus' name, out of love, for the sake of each one.

Perhaps I need to re-think my approach to this year's hot dog extravaganza; it's a lot more holy than I realized.

Monday, June 5, 2017

A Prayer to start our Week

Listen to the Longing.........Ted Loder

an excerpt

Lord, we have only human words
     to address you lest we be
        entirely dumb before you.

So, listen now, beneath our words,
     to the longing that reaches toward you
        and the gratitude that beats in our hearts
            and fills us with joy for everything
               that is just and true, good and human,
        all the gritty, muddy, bony, bloody, hairy,
            sweaty, smelly, beautiful, tough, tender,
                 possibility-laced, throbbing living-ness of it.

Forgive us for taking it all for granted,
     for acting as though it is not a gift but ours by right,
        as though there is not enough for everyone..................

My Heart in My Mouth: Prayers for our Lives, Ted Loder

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Boxes....a word from an old soul

Image result for boxes

"We are meant to get messy, make mistakes, 
and not be judged to death because of them. 
Boxes are for hiding this away........."**

pretending that we are perfect, wonderful, gracious, kind.....pile up all the positive adjectives you can imagine and they only begin the scratch the surface of the hard shell we put around ourselves.....

the words that pretend that we are not who we are
you know, the people who 'get messy, make mistakes....'

and because we are so busy protecting ourselves from our own truth, 
we build boxes.....with labels.....that reject and demean and ridicule others.

Because if I keep you busy judging others, you'll have little time to judge me.

This would all go away if we learned two things
    first, to accept ourselves
    second, that all the others are wonderfully flawed just as we are.

If we learn to love ourselves, we have a chance to love all the give them space to figure things out, to learn, to grow, to make mistakes, to seek and give engage this challenging life just like every other human being.  Just like we are, messy and mistake prone; somedays even a bit nasty and jealous.  

Yet we have this word from the Divine:  you have been made in the image of God; fearfully and wonderfully made.  You are loved.  These are words you can trust like no others.

***Thank you Kathleen, an old soul at 17, for these words of wisdom and a heart filled with compassion.  How blessed we are to call you friend.

[apologies for the strange print this morning.  blogpost is having a difficult morning.]

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Reformation Tuesday: priesthood of all believers, part 2

I thought we might better stick with this subject for two days with the hope that we will be able to bring it to some kind of conclusion.
Image result for martin luther
If Luther's thoughts about the sacraments led to pastors replacing priests, the why would Luther develop an idea of a priesthood who is not ordained, is not presiding at Communion or baptizing?  How could Luther call all believers 'priests'?

It begins in baptism (as almost all things do with Luther).  In baptism, every believer begins a new life which is formed and found in the risen Lord Jesus.  We live because He lives; our lives are now transformed by His life.  This baptismal calling is a lifelong journey of faith, not just the increase of personal faith, but also the living out of the Divine Plan through word and deed.

Remember how in your baptism and confirmation promises were made to live among God's faithful people, to be present at communion and study scripture, to practice prayer and almsgiving.......and to work for peace and justice for all people throughout the world?   These promises define what a baptismal life looks like (some days we do better, some days worse).

We are called into a life of faith which is manifest in both word and deed.  We are called to be 'little Christs' to one another: to care for others as Christ cares for us; to forgive others as Christ forgives us; to welcome others as Christ welcomes us. So in each of these actions, we are to be the face of Jesus to others.  We are to be the conduit for the presence of the Holy Jesus in those moments with those people.  When we do so, we function as priests.

Luther was not elevating another class of people, but reminding and reiterating the response that is expected of a person who calls on the name of the Lord for salvation.  Baptized persons are expected to live holy lives, to be the presence of the holy in this world and to bring the word of salvation through Jesus to others.  These tasks belong to all of us.

We can be the conduits of God's presence in actions as simple as a hosting a meal, or caring for a neighbor or visiting the sick.  As important as the sacraments of baptism and holy communion are for our continued spiritual strength and growth, these other actions are likewise sacred moments when the love of Jesus flows through us to those around us.

Luther's priesthood of all believers does not eliminate the role and function of persons set aside specifically for ministry.  Pastors have dedicated their lives to learning, teaching, proclaiming and bringing the Word of Love in Jesus to all, and to equipping their flock to do this same work in the world.  It is a joy and wonder to live out our baptism in this way.

However, in the middle of the night, or in the ER, or even when you want your child to begin the baptismal life, there are pastors (and priests) standing by, ready to remind you of God's saving word of grace.....and to remind you that God's word of grace is for you.