Tuesday, June 30, 2009

For Sunday, July 5th, 2009

Not-so-great Expectations?

Mark 6:1-13

Hello, all.

This is Peyton.
Stephen has given me the opportunity to take a crack at the sermon blog for the next couple of weeks --whether or not that was a good decision remains to be seen--.

This next Sunday’s passage is a particularly interesting account of a confrontation in Jesus’ own home town. Some of us who have moved away from home for school, work, or just other life opportunities can be challenged by the ghosts of our past when we return: Where have you been all this time? And, What have you done with yourself? Or the dreaded, I remember when you were just a little bitty baby!

Jesus encounters some of that here, and more. You see, when he began to teach in the synagogue he not only challenged the perceptions that his friends and family had of him but also the perceptions they had about God.

We know those perceptions well. Perhaps they even are our own.

God would never use that person to do His work…. Why, I remember when she was just a little girl. Not well-behaved at all… I’ve seen him do things I’d never do. How could God ever use him! …and the list goes on.

The sad thing is that until we accept that God can and will chose whomever He wants to do His work we are stuck on the sidelines watching amazing things happen to someone else.

“And he could do no might work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled at their unbelief.” -v.5-6

It scares me to think what I may be missing because I have yet to take God at His word when it comes to His agenda.

But wait! It doesn’t end there. Jesus goes on and sends those who are willing to take him at his word out to do amazing things in his name. Not only are the twelve not what I’d consider apostle material, but they don’t even get to take along the sort of stuff any good camping expert would recommend. But look at what they do! Casting out many daemons and healing sick people is no small task by human standards. I wonder what their families would have said if they could have seen those twelve about their master’s work.

What can we do when we take Jesus at his word and throw off our limited ideas about who he is? Do we take the time to even hear what he says about himself?

May the grace and peace of our Lord cover us, and may we see him for who he is and have the faith to go out completely dependant on him.

See you all Sunday.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Reaching For God

This week's scriptures are Psalm 30 and Mark 5:21-43.

My youngest grandbaby, Chey, is almost a year and a half. I spent a couple of wonderful days with her last weekend. She even says "Pappa," which is a magnificent word. And she reaches out when she wants to be picked up or held. (Mostly for her Mommy, but sometimes for Pappa too).

She can't jump into our arms; and we wouldn't expect her to. But reaching is important.

The people in our Markian passage were reaching. One on her own behalf and another on behalf of his daughter. It would be possible, and in once sense, correct, to say that there was nothing either of these two people could do. The woman who had been bleeding for twelve years had, in fact, tried everything there was to try. But they could reach...and reach they did.

Reaching for God is the hunger in our hearts crying out. Reaching is the prayer of "I don't know if you're there, God, but if you are, please...help me."

So much of the behavior we see, in others and in ourselves, that creates problems can be looked at as a reaching. Reaching for healing from pain, for connection to others, for an end to loneliness. All of these are, ultimately I believe, a reaching for God. But our response as the Body of Christ is to also help with the here-and-now issues involved in that reaching.

Would we respond differently if we could see these problems as the arms of a child reaching up to be held against the fears of life? Would we as the Body of Christ be more willing to respond by embracing, soothing, caring for the hurting, wounded fellow children of our Heavenly Parent (or even better, Grandparent)?

My grandbaby reaches for me and I am reminded of my own reaching for God. She stretches further and I am reminded of those around us reaching, stretching, straining to touch the One who brings solice. The world it reaching...what will we do?

Hope to see you Sunday.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Father's Day Blog

I'm not going to be preaching this week. I'll be leaving this evening for Cape Cod where Carole and I will spend a wonderful weekend with my three grown children and my two marvelous grandbabies. This will be the first time that I've had all three of my kids in the same place for a while.

Father's Day and Mother's Day always stir in me issues about "God Language," the metaphors and images that we use to talk about God's relationship to us and ours to God. It's a very touchy subject for many; especially those who were abused or neglected by parents...to refer to God as Father or Mother can stir up old pains and memories and make it difficult to engage meaningfully with the God who reaches out to us in love.

But we can't escape language...it's all we've got to (well not totally, but for the most part) to express and share with one another how God has touched our lives. And scripture uses the language of relationship to talk about us and God.

God isn't just referred to as "Father" but as a 'nursing mother,' a 'mother giving birth,' and a 'mother teaching her child to walk'....to name a few of the feminine metaphors for God. God is presented in scripture as the one who nurtures and cares and guides and loves.

But the other truth is that many of us didn't have adequate parents. Some didn't even have loving parents. Some had abusive parents who sought their children's destruction at the worst; or used them for their own emotional, sexual, ego gratification at best.

Some of us had wonderful parents. Parents who, though not perfect, were "good enough" and honestly tried to give us the nurture and care we need. who show'd us that the world was a possible place for us; that we were valued; and whose love sustained us in both success and failure.

Some of our experiences; many of them I imagine, feel somewhere in between.

But Sunday is Father's Day. And as a pastor I want to say to every father who reads this: our responsibility is to live our life with our children in such a way that the idea of "God the Father" isn't a barrier to relationship to God, but a bridge. We need to remember that our children's first picture of God is on our face.

We fail so often to do this adequately-but we can try, and pray, and remember that we as fathers, as mothers, (even as papa).....have this sacred responsability. We are the first expressions of God's love that our children know. Let us represent that love well.

Happy Father's Day and I'll see you next week.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Of Seeds and Young Sheperds and New Things Growing

This week's scriptures are I Samuel 15:34-16:13 and Mark 4:26-34.

We read the story from I Samuel looking back through thousands of years worth of positive thinking about David. David the Great Poet. David Slayer of Goliath. David King of Israel. But if we look at him in this story through the eyes of his father and brothers, we might get a different view.

Scripture is kind and says that the boy David was "handsome with ruddy cheeks and bright eyes" when Samuel first saw him. But remember, Jesse had paraded all his sons in front of Samuel...except for David. When asked if he had other sons, Jesse's reply had been a sort of, 'well yeah, there's David, but he's out with the sheep, don't worry bout him.'

If you had walked into Jesse's home and said, "your son, David, will be King" the answer would most likely have been "you've got to be kidding." David's family would have probably had trouble seeing their youngest son, or their little brother as the next King of Israel.

Jesus' comments about the Kingdom being like a seed growing...unseen and unnoticed...may speak to some of this. So much of what God is doing happens 'underground'...away from the expectations that we may have developed about the very people that God may be using to bring in the Kingdom.

At this time of graduation from high school or college can we look at our graduates with new eyes and perhaps see them as people God will use to bring in the Kingdom? Or will we, like Jesse, make the mistake of not seeing them as possible candidates for that role?

More that this, can we believe that the Kingdom is growing even when we can't see it? Can we trust that even in times of turmoil equal to the radical change Samuel was seeing with the replacing of King Saul with the newly annointed David God is on the move? When the Holocaust Museum is a sight for a terrorist attack and doctors are murdered by abortion opponents...do we still trust that the Kingdom is growing?

God's word to Samuel and Jesus' parable of seeds all call us to trust that God is moving. The power of God is lose in the world...sometimes in people and places where we have difficulty seeing it. Living in trust and belief that the seeds of the Kingdom are growing 'under our feet' is one of the great challenges of our faith. Another is to believe that we, and those we know, may well be the very seeds that God has planted.

Hope to see you Sunday.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Flinging Ourselves Into The Arms of Love

This week's scriptures are John 3:1-17 and Mark 2:23-3:6.

My wife forwarded me a set of email pictures today. They were all beautiful; but there was one that reached out and grabbed me by the heart. It's in an airport. The mother in the picture is in her military fatigues and backpack. She has scooted to her knees and has her arms around a little girl who is about three. The little girl has her arms around her mother's neck and her head buried in her shoulder. The mother has the tearful look of one who is back, holding the dream that kept her going while she was away.

Take that picture. Hold it in the eye of your heart and mind.


Let me say it again...


I have to confess that sometimes I lose track of this. In the midst of everything else, I can forget what is foundational. That it isn't right thought; or right action; or right worship; or right ANYTHING. Those are things I control...and this isn't about me.

Everytime I make it about me, I fall short and am afraid. Cause if it's about me, there is no hope. I'll never be good enough. I'll never understand enough. Jesus makes the point, though, in both Mark and the John passages that God is less concerned with 'rules' (pick your set, they're not that important) than with relationship. And that we can't do it for ourselves.

John 3:3 has an interesting word that can be translated "born again" or "born from above." Nicodemus makes the same mistake you and I do. He hears it as "born again" and wonders how we can manage it. When we hear it "born from above" we get the truth that being "born from above" is something that is done FOR us. It is a gift.

As I think about all this today, there are three phrases that keep running through my head (all from different places):

The first is my favorite paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 5:19, "God was in Christ hugging the world back to Himself."

The second is the one sentence summation of the 12 Steps of AA "I can't, God can, I'll let'em"

And the third is the answer theologian Karl Barth gave when asked the most important theological truth he had learned in his years of study. He replied, "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so."

It is a simple and as profound as an embrace. God loves you. And that (not the hokey pokey) is what it's all about.

See you Sunday.