Monday, June 27, 2016

WMTRBW 46: Spirit of Service

For this week's reflection on what it means to be led by God's Spirit in a way of downward mobility, to take on the place of a servant, I want to offer up a piece of art that has captured me ever since I first saw it a few years back: Lars Justinen’s 2007 painting Servant to the World.

Pictured here is Jesus washing the feet of some of the major world leaders 10 years ago:  Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, President George W. Bush, and Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh. I wasn't sure at first who the man on the far right is, but thanks to Nancy, who has since informed me it is Xi Jinpin, then-President of China.

It's a compelling image. What captures me about it is that bin Laden and Bush are sitting next to each other, with bin Laden next in the sequence to be washed. At this particular point in history, it might be equally surprising to see the leaders of Germany and Britain sitting together. What captures you about this? How does it challenge you to think about the story of Jesus washing the disciples' feet and what it means to be a servant? Who might appear in this image today, and who might it be surprising to see seated beside each other...or pictured here at all?

Also: give this week's chapter a read, even if you've fallen off of the bandwagon. It's one of the best so far in my opinion. What Brian McLaren says about what will happen to us if we listen to the Spirit is going to challenge me all week and beyond.

Monday, June 20, 2016

WMTRBW 45: Spirit of Unity and Diversity

I am still savoring yesterday's service, and the chance to hear so many of you share about your favorite hymns and why they are meaningful to you. Since so many were traveling, I thought I would put a list here just so you can see the breadth of ways music speaks to us. It was amazing to hear our voices united around these songs. As you read about the God who is Unity and Diversity in our chapter this week, take time to look up and listen to the songs you may not know!

Let There Be Peace on Earth (Nicole)
Plenty Good Room (Yvonne)
O God Our Help in Ages Past (Leigh Ann)
We Are the Light of the World (Heather)
Just Be Held (Krisztina)
Like a River Glorious (Margie)
How Great Thou Art (Wayne)
This is My Father's World (Dave)
Great is Thy Faithfulness (Tina, Abby)
Jesus Loves Me (Libby)
His Eye is on the Sparrow (Valerie)
Blest Be the Tie that Binds (Nancy)
Things we sing in choir, such as O Love That Will Not Let Me Go (Paul)
I Surrender All (Karen)
Go Tell It on the Mountain (Tracy)
Amazing Grace (James)
In the Bulb There is a Flower (Joann)
Heavenly Sunlight (Eloise)

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

WMTRBW 42: Loving God

So, this week  I don't necessarily agree with what Brian McLaren says. Throughout his chapter on what Jesus meant when he called us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, he makes the case that loving God is "not so different than loving another human being." In the purest sense, if we were to actually love one another by the biblical definition of love--deep commitment and loyalty and devotion to the well-being of the other--I suppose I wouldn't dispute this too strongly. But I feel like our notions of love are largely so distorted that to think of loving God as similar to loving humans could be misleading--is God someone we fall in and out of love with, feeling passionate towards for a time but then seeing the embers (and the relationship) fade?

Jesus is calling us towards something deeper--a devotion that lasts, a commitment of the whole self. So, for your continued reflection this week, I want to re-post the meditation I led us through at the end of worship on Sunday, considering our call to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Reflect on these as you continue to think this week about love for God as something deep that roots us, that becomes the center of our lives.

Love the Lord Your God with all of your heart…
If your heart is what makes you unique, “what makes you tick,” then what is different or special about your personality? How might these things be used to love God?

If the heart is where you form your thoughts and recall important things, then how might you show commitment to God with what you choose to think about or remember?

If the heart is where our actions and choices stem from, where we decide what we will do, how might you show commitment to God with a decision before you this week?  

Love the Lord Your God with all of your soul…
The Hebrew word for sou literally means “the one who breathes.” It goes back to Genesis 2:7, where “the Lord God formed the human from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the human became a living being, or soul.” To love God with all our soul is to love God with everything that gives us life. Breathe in and out several times—slowly, deeply. What would it mean to love God with every breath that fills your lungs? How can something as simple as breathing remind you of your commitment to God?

Love the Lord Your God with all of your mind…
Consider the mind as the seat of our intentionality and resolve – our combined mental and emotional energy. On what do you expend the most energy? How can your energy be directed to demonstrate love of God?

Love the Lord Your God with all your strength…
If “strength” often refers to one’s possessions, whatever resources one has at one’s disposal, how are you showing love for God with how you use your resources?

When this word shows up in the Bible, “strength” can also be translated “muchness” or “abundance.” It means something is not just okay or average, but the best and greatest possible. What do you think it could mean to love God not just with your leftover time or energy, but with the best of what you have to give?  

Monday, May 23, 2016

WMTRBW 41: Moving with the Spirit

In worship yesterday, we reflected on two scripture passages about bearing fruit that grows from the presence of the Holy Spirit--John 15:1-8 and Galatians 5:13-26 (with an emphasis on verses 22 and 23). We talked about how bearing fruit takes a long time--it's a slow process, requiring us to mature and develop.

First, I love the art created by Denise Cotter that was on the front of our bulletin this week, that brings these two scriptures together:


Second, here is the poem I read at the end of worship yesterday. I would highly recommend, as you reflect on what it means for you to move and grow in God's Spirit this week, printing it off and posting it somewhere. Read it often. 



Monday, May 16, 2016

WMTRBW 40: The Spirit is Moving!

Our Pentecost blog is going to be a picture blog, with images of our kite flying at our Pentecost Picnic yesterday afternoon. Everyone was entranced watching these kites dance and twist and soar in the wind. What if we were that open and attentive to the Spirit's movement?

Enjoy these--the ones of all the kids sitting on the wall watching the kite way up high are my favorite! See if you can spot the kite waaaaaay up there.










Monday, May 9, 2016

WMTRBW 39: Whatever the Hardship, Keep Rising Up!

This morning, Nancy Lively sent me an email that made me realize something I've never thought about before: the word "Pentecost"--the day we will celebrate this coming Sunday, the day the Holy Spirit is poured out on all people and the Church is born--has the word "cost" in it. Yesterday, we talked a great deal about the cost of following Jesus--the hardships we will inevitably face if we walk in The Way of Jesus. So, as we move toward Pentecost this week, it seemed right to read this prayer/poem that Nancy sent this morning, by Maren Tirabassi (https://giftsinopenhands.wordpress.com):

God, I understand part about fifty days,
but it’s the “cost”
hidden in the holiday
that worries me on Pentecost.

It costs my anonymity as a Christian,
all my pet preconceptions
of who belongs,
the loan of my mouth,
my reputation for sobriety,
towels for the baptisms of strangers.

And for all of these,
I come away with something
oddly sweet –
bright feathers and shook foil.


This seemed a good prayer/poem to hold in hand and heart and mind this week as we read the We Make the Road chapter on hardships this week, and as we continue reflecting on these very challenging questions, slightly adapted from the ones with which we finished worship yesterday:

What has following Jesus cost you in the past?

What is following Jesus costing you in the present?

What cost are you willing to pay to follow Jesus in the future?


Monday, May 2, 2016

WMTRBW 38: The Uprising of Stewardship

This week, in our scripture reading from 2 Corinthians 8:1-15, we hear the Apostle Paul talk about his desire for churches to share from their abundance so others will not have to be in need, so "that there may be a fair balance. As it is written,‘The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.'" Imagine it--a world where the one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little! And Paul--like Jesus before him--saw Christians as able to help make this happen by the way they cared for one another and shared freely of what they had.

These words are of particular challenge for us as Christians in this time when there seems to be so little fair balance in our society or our world in terms of opportunity and resources. As you are reading Brian McLaren's thoughts on stewardship from We Make the Road by Walking this week, check out some of these infographics that share a picture of the economic inequality that plagues our immediate area, our nation, and our world. What do you think our proper response and action should be as Christians to help there be fair balance?