July 02, 2015
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Recorded & Archived Sermons
Scripture Lessons for Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
June 03, 2015
Dear friends and family of St. Luke's,
As we come to the end of our time at St. Luke's, it is with much joy and fondness that I remember you all. I will take with me the best gift--that of having gotten to know you all and share life with you these last 12 years. That is all I will say for now. I will have just one more note in next month's Angelus. But for now I defer to Lenoir, who wishes to share her thoughts, and she says well what I also feel--and expresses it better!
Blessings, Love and Hope for a bright future,
To our church family,
I want to say a few words of appreciation to you, as individuals and as a parish, about what I have experienced here at St. Luke's.
These twelve years went entirely too fast. I am finally retired and ready for Terry to retire. However, I am finding it difficult to leave you, our church family. You have supported us during the natural occurrences of life: illness, surgery, loss of family members, preparing for retirement and moving to a retirement community to name a few. I have gotten to know you over chili cook offs, church picnics, prayer shawl ministry, annual bazaar, Celtic dinner, creative Capital Campaign dinner, and other parish events. I will remember your welcoming presence whenever I would come to those things. I also remember meals in your homes, personal conversations during coffee hour, your open hand helping me up the steps to the communion altar. Children not yet in school when we came have grown and gone to college or other careers. Long time members have passed away. Dear church friends have moved away. Families have grown and so has our Children's Program. I am grateful to see young life and new faces in the congregation. I am in awe of the creativeness and energy of the Sunday School staff, the music ministry, the Christmas decoration crew, the Altar guild and those who serve on the altar. I am also grateful to have known the other members of St. Luke's; those with unsteady handshakes and wrinkled smiles (I'm allowed to say that - I have them too) across the pews during passing of the peace or after the postlude. My mother used to say "cast your bread upon the waters and it will come back buttered." I used to add "apple buttered." My prayer is that your love for us, your commitment, your desires and vision will be returned to you pressed down and doubled in the coming years. All this to say, very simply, THANK YOU for all I have said and missed saying. You are precious to us.
May 06, 2015
On April 26 we had a great time celebrating Celtic spirituality and hospitality. Elements of the Celtic tradition were included in the readings and the music during the service. As always it was a blessing to have Lydia share her talent playing flute solos and accompaniments. A big "Thank You" to all who helped make the dinner a success. As co-chairs of the Church Growth and Development Committee, Jason and Soon very ably planned and coordinated the dinner. They were there Saturday afternoon and evening setting up and cooking with me (Jason staying late and making shepherd's pies and deserts). We could not have done the dinner without all our helpers. In the kitchen we had Rob and Rose, Pete (our Bangers griller) and Nancy slicing and dicing vegetables and meat. The ladies of the ECW provided great deserts and soda bread. On Sunday morning Cory helped get the food upstairs from the kitchen and served stew with me. Gosh! There were so many folks who helped make the day a success, it truly was a "St. Luke's community" event. I can't help but think I missed others who helped out. But you know who you are, and to ALL I say a heartfelt Thank You for making this, my last Celtic Celebration at St. Luke's a successful day. Though I won't be here to cook for the next one, I know you are in good hands--each other's hands.
Easter season Blessings to all,
December 23, 2014
Peace and Joy in God-With-Us,
December 3, 2014
In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4 He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. 5 O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord! Isaiah 2;1-5 . . . On that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and glory of the survivors of Israel. 3Whoever is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem, 4once the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgement and by a spirit of burning. 5Then the Lord will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over its places of assembly a cloud by day and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night. Indeed, over all the glory there will be a canopy. 6It will serve as a pavilion, a shade by day from the heat, and a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain. Isaiah 4:2-6
We are now entering a new Church year, Advent, starting November 30. Advent is a quietly reflective season that reminds us that we live in the space between the first coming of Jesus in Bethlehem and the second coming of the Christ in majesty. In this spiritual and historical interim, we try to catch signs or previews of the coming year of the Messiah. The readings in Advent (see your Book of Common Prayer for the Daily Readings) capture insights into that future time for which we wait and pray during this season. The above reading from Isaiah points to the unity of all people.
Isaiah draws a picture of all people invited into the glory of the Lord. It is Isaiah’s way of describing the purpose of Creation. To the extent that we bring people together and seek reconciliation, we are fulfilling what the world was originally planned to be. To the extent that we divide people and feed hatred, animosity and bigotry, we bring further dysfunction into creation. Isaiah paints a powerfully vivid picture of this unity as we see people of every race and social/economic standing streaming to the “Mountain of the Lord.” Isaiah saw this focal point as the temple in Jerusalem. We see it as Jesus the Christ. It will be a time of peace when the energies of aggression will be transformed into making and preserving Peace. It is a vision of the end and purpose of our world.
Deep within every human being is a capacity for faith, a love of peace and a desire for God. However we might suppress, hide or deface that instinct, it remains embedded within us as a quiet yearning for Peace on Earth. It is evidence of God’s original plan that shows up with extraordinary force at Christmas.
Thus Advent reminds us that Isaiah’s vision of unity is not one man’s dream but a search that occupies all people. If we can come to express some of that unity, however partial it may be, then Christmas will become more a faith experience than just a popular holiday.
October 31, 2014
As I write this it’s 6:00 AM on “moving day.” It has finally arrived. I said to Lenoir last night that I feel like I have been cleaning out, packing, and tired forever. She agreed. It brought to mind the passage of the gospel that was used for Eucharist at clergy retreat last week. It was the parable of the rich farmer who had such a great crop that he was going to tear down his barns and build bigger ones. The ending, of course is that he will die and never get to use all that wealth. The conclusion is, “so it is for those who are not rich toward God.”
I never thought of myself as a “barn builder.” We tithe and then give beyond that. But these last few weeks of packing have caused me to realize just how dangerously close to that farmer I--and many of us--come. We keep moving to bigger houses, amassing more “stuff” until it gets overwhelming. We can end up being controlled by, and lose our soul, to our things. This is a wake up call for us--and let it be for you. Don’t let the things of life take over until you lose your soul, or at least get lost in the clutter!
Let us all be better stewards of what God has given us. Use what we need and be generous with others to provide what they need. Let’s be faithful stewards of all of life. So, how much are we wasting on “barn building” when the Church needs our support? Think about that as you prepare your pledge card. Are we being “rich toward God,” or are we using our resources in such a way that one day we will look at it and say, “What was I thinking?” Where will our resources do the most good? How much do we love God and other children of God? Think about it. Then mark your pledge card.
October 8, 2014
The Feast of St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) is observed on October 4. Here are some thoughts on this great saint:
St. Francis inspires us by his love of peace and his kinship with all creatures. St. Francis embraced this prayer before a crucifix in a little church called San Damiano: "Most high, glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart. Instill in me a correct faith, a certain hope and a perfect love; a sense and a knowledge, Lord, so that I may do your holy and true command."
Francis’ words are often in the form of direct "conversation" with God, a conversation that includes all creation. His Canticle of the Creatures proclaims: "Most High, all-powerful, good Lord, all praise, glory, honor and blessing are yours...All praise to you, Oh Lord, for Brother Sun, Sister Moon,” all these brother and sister creatures. His themes spring from sacred scripture, e.g. Psalms ("The orb of the Sun, resplendent at its rising; what a wonderful work of the Most High!") and St. Matthew’s Gospel ("Look at the birds in the sky...Learn from the way the wild flowers grow").
A Franciscan Blessing of Pets – a popular custom in remembrance of St. Francis’ love for all creatures – usually goes like this: "Blessed are you, Lord God, maker of all living creatures. You called forth fish in the sea, birds in the air and animals on the land. You inspired St. Francis to call all of them his brothers and sisters. We ask you to bless this pet. By the power of your love, enable it to live according to your plan. May we always praise you for all your beauty in creation. Blessed are you, Lord our God, in all your creatures! Amen."
Francis never dreamed of the word, "Franciscan." As he hinted in thoughts on "Perfect Joy" -- which his early companion Leo wrote down -- following in the footsteps of Christ takes humility and sometimes suffering. Francis’ thorough trust in God’s provision led him to marry "Lady Poverty", rejecting the rich inheritance he would have received from his father’s textile business. Francis and his band of followers, the Friars Minor, chose instead to wear peasant’s tunics, serve the needs of lepers, restore ruined churches, and sing God’s praises, letting the whole world be their cloister.
Francis is revered as a role model and exemplar of peace by those of every nation and creed. In 1986 Pope John Paul II designated Assisi as the site of a multi-faith prayer gathering: "Day of Prayer for World Peace." In 1993 the Pope invited leaders of Christian churches as well as those from Judaism and Islam to attend "Assisi, on the Road to Peace" to pray for Europe and the Balkans, at that time engaged in conflict. Again in 2002 John Paul II invited more than 200 spiritual leaders to Assisi for prayer. The choice of Assisi for these gatherings and the response to the Pope's invitations are eloquent testimony to the power of St. Francis’ peacemaking.
With thanks to Fr. Kevin E. Mackin, O.F.M., President of Mount St. Mary College.
On a personal Note: As the scripture says, “The best laid schemes of Mice and Men oft go awry,” OK, it was actually Robert Burns who said that. My plan was to work on the house on my August vacation, have a cottage at Luther Acres to move into late this year, sell the house about the same time, or early next year and move during my sabbatical. Of course plans get messed up by reality. So we are getting the keys to our cottage on October 21 and moving very quickly thereafter. The closing date on our house is November 5. Our house sold in one day--something we never expected. So all the work I planned to do when I will be off, now gets moved up into October, along with the regular church work. I guess what I am trying to say is, I ask for your patience and prayers as I try to do justice to both the church and the moving process. If I get distracted and forget something--or someone--don’t be afraid to remind me. I will appreciate it.
A word of thanks to the Church Growth and Development Committee, the ECW, and to everyone who helped make “Back to Church Sunday” a resounding success. Running out of bulletins and out of seats at the reception are inconveniences, but the best kind of problems to have. THANK YOU to everyone for your enthusiasm and support, and a big “Thank You” to Mother Daphne and Fr. Ed Messersmith for joining us for the day and renewing old friendships. God bless you on your journey!.
September 3, 2014
Its hard to believe that summer is quickly coming to an end. In a few weeks we will have our Church School kickoff, the choirs will be rehearsing, and the lineup of meetings will be in full swing.
I think it is good to hear again some words concerning church growth. We all say we want to see the church grow. But sometimes that is where it ends--we want to see the church grow, not be an active part of that growth. There has been much discussion of late on the Bakery (Diocese of Bethlehem email site) about church growth and particularly “radical hospitality.” Some things I look at and think, “This is not radical hospitality, its basic hospitality.”
So let us be reminded that new folks who come through our doors are seekers and “guests,” not just visitors. Many are seeking a church home. They are not looking for a pew to warm and then leave. They are looking for a people that is involved in the needs of the world, and for lasting relationships. I say again what I’ve said many times before--invite guests to coffee hour. Sit with them learn to know them. No one should ever be sitting alone at coffee hour. Some young families who came are no longer here because they were ignored, sitting alone time after time at coffee hour--a time that should be used to increase our circle of friendships and get to know folks we don’t know so well.
There is a lot of talk about what makes a parish successful. Good liturgy? Great music? Good preaching? Yes, all of those are important factors. But most important is, do new people not only feel welcome, but included, loved, needed as friends. I know I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again--don’t just be friendly on a Sunday morning, build friendships and lasting relationships. A parish grows when its people grow in love for one another, for the guest and newcomer and when it grows in service to the world.
July 2, 2014
Here is a "God Moment" I have to share with you: We lost a member of our household this month. Duncan, our old Jack Russell died at the age of (as Lenoir counts it) 17 years, 3 months and 5 days. He was with us almost as long as a teenage child who goes off to college.
May God bless you with a restful and refreshing summer.
June 24, 2012
In our reading group we have just finished Richard Rohr's book, The Naked Now, after about two years of study. In one of the last chapters Rohr talks about the Principle of Likeness. I thought some of it is worth sharing with you.
"We mend and renew the world by strengthening inside ourselves what we seek outside ourselves, and not by demanding it of others or trying to force it on others. ...
Some eastern religions have called this karma, the correspondence between who you are and what you can make happen. But this truth is not found only in the East. Jesus said the same, almost exactly: "Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Grant pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give and there will be gifts for you. The amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.--Luke 6:36-38" (Rohr, pp. 161, 162).
These are some profound words that are food for thought as we take some time to meditate on what we really want and where we really want to go.
May 20, 2012
I want to say thank you to so many for cards, condolences, and prayers at the death of my father last month. It is a comfort to know of the support of so many good friends. God bless you!
On my last visit to see Dad at the Martinsburg, WVA VA Hospital, he talked about love of gardening and orchards. He mentioned how Mom would get impatient with him when he was out working with fruit trees so much. At one point he said emphatically, "I know trees!" And so he did. Growing up on our half acre plot we had all kinds of fruit trees. To the casual eye they were just trees. But not when dad was through with them. He grafted the trees to be much more than they would be if left on their own. I am told his last apple tree in Bedford had 10 kinds of apples on it. A peach tree might have two or three kinds of peaches. Some trees had a combination of different fruit such as apricots and red plums on one tree, or green gauge plums and nectarines on another. He was always making combinations of fruit on a single tree. From one trunk, one root system came a variety of fruit made possible by a knowledgeable grafter.
I think of all that as Pentecost--the day and the season--is upon us. What dad did with trees, God does with people. The Master Grafter took the trunk of Christ, and grafted in not only Jews, but people from every nationality, race,and society in that world. The result was a Church with a rich diversity of spiritual fruit. A Christianity that is diverse and colorful and interesting came forth on that day. Why do we think we can have only one kind of apple on a tree, or why only only apricots? More importantly, why would we expect only one kind of fruit on the tree of Christianity? Meaning those who agree with our view of God, of course. The Coptic Church and the Celtic Church, the Serbian Church and the Sudanese Church, The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Free, high church and low church, liturgical and free style, the Church in every nation and culture--all are part of the wonderful Spirit Fruit branches engrafted into Christ by Abba--Daddy.
So this Day of Pentecost, and throughout the season, be thankful that we were grafted into the Tree of Christ. But also be thankful and joyful for all the other branches that are bearing a wide diversity of fruit of the Spirit. In God's infinite Wisdom, all are unique, yet all are part of one Body. So let's appreciate each branch for its unique qualities, nuances of faith, and gifts--fruit--that each offers to the Church and the world. As we open ourselves up to taste the fruit of all branches, we will come to appreciate how wonderful, unique and valuable each part of the Tree of Christ is. We truly can understand our place on that tree only when we get a vision of its great diversity and richness. This Pentecost enjoy ALL the fruit!
February 22, 2012
The following article is one written by Deborah Arca is the Managing Editor of the Progressive Christian Portal and Book Club. I found it a refreshing look at the season and disciplines of Lent. I hope you do, too. Father Terry
“There is a time and season for everything,” as the wisdom teacher of Ecclesiastes proclaims, and Lent typically has been the time of fasting, rending garments, long faces, abstention, and sobriety. Surely there is plenty of reason to be reflective in recognition of the realities of life on both the micro and macro levels. On the macro level, we must repent our mistreatment of the earth, our addiction to fossil fuels and consumerism, and our temptation to seek vengeance rather than reconciliation. We don’t need televangelists, Mayan calendars, and apocalyptic doomsayers to tell us that our planet is in trouble: we see it in threatened species, erratic weather patterns, and melting glaciers. On the macro, we need to repent of scorched earth politics, religious and culture wars, and the growing gap between the rich and poor/middle class.
On the micro level, we struggle with our own feelings of uncertainty, fear, scarcity, and alienation, and we need a new heart and a transformed mind. We don’t need the guilt trips of Psalm 51 – “I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me” – to recognize that we need to turn around and change course in our lives. Yes, we are “dust” but we are also “star dust,” the energy of the big bang, filled with great potential despite self-and-community imposed limitations.
The word “Lent” comes from the “lengthening of days,” the hint of spring that is in the air and the promise of new growth in the realm of plants and animals. While growth requires pruning, the growing season that lies ahead should be reason for joy as well as repentance. The penitence of Lent is not an end unto itself; it is a preparation to celebrate resurrection, new and abundant life springing forth amid life’s greatest challenges and defeats.
As Jesus suggests (Matthew 6:5-6), Lent is not about long faces, but about an inner transformation that leads to transformed behaviors and commitments. The pruning of Lent is, as a farmer once told me, the way we let the sun shine in and the blossoms grow into fruit. The mortality we recognize during Lent is not intended to burden us with fear, but to invite us to see life as precious and focus on what’s truly important. It is a call to treasure each day, and not mess around with the unworthy or unimportant.
Rabbi Harold Kushner once noted that on a person’s death bed, they seldom regret missing a meeting! While some meetings can be pivotal in our lives, Kushner’s point is that the fragility and brevity of life are a call to put first things first – to discover our calling, to love our families, to rejoice in each day, and to bring beauty to the earth. The “giving up” of Lent is not meant to deny the pleasures of the earth, the joy of good food, or the wonders of love, but to enable us to experience what’s truly important about our life here on earth. Divine omnipresence is an affirmation that God is present here in the mundane and passing just as God is present in everlasting life. We don’t have to go anywhere to be in heaven – heaven is right where we are. This is surely one of the messages of Jesus’ prayer, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Lent is about bringing heavenly values to earth. If heaven is anything, it is a place of joyful abundance, where everyone experiences loving relationships and bounty enough to share. It is the place of Shalom in which sounds of laughter, love, and celebration characterize everyday life.
Lent calls us to reflection, change, and celebration. Let us embody a spirituality of Lent, characterized by the following daily practices:
Yes, Lent can be joyful. Our mortal lives can participate in God’s everlasting vision. In pruning our lives of consumerism, violence, injustice, and scarcity thinking, we can awaken to God’s abundance that brings joy and beauty to every moment and encounter. May you have a joyful Lent!
January 22, 2012
This Christmas season has not been a pleasant one for me, as many of you know. Between my physical illness and other concerns, personal and parish-related, I found myself in a depressed state. I admit that I left my spiritual disciplines slide. So much of the time it was so hard to concentrate. So recently I returned to contemplative discipline to get myself better grounded. I picked up Lenoir's lap labyrinth (available at relax4life.com) and spent time with it in meditation. In case you are not familiar with it, a labyrinth is not a maze. A maze may have false turns and dead ends. But a labyrinth has only one path to follow. But it twists and turns back on itself. Ultimately it reaches the goal--the Center. It is amazing how such disciplines can bring peace and focus.
I prefer to use the labyrinth with my eyes closed. Somehow that speaks to me of our journey to the Center--to Home. A labyrinth can be meditatively walked if it is a large one. But this one you hold on your lap, and lightly run your finger along the indented path in the wood. With eyes closed, I feel the texture, the imperfections in the finish, the grain of the wood. As I run my finger along the path, I don't know where it will take me next. One thing is for certain, it is not a straight path to the Center. But it WILL arrive at the center.
Our lives are like that, are they not? Rarely do we set out on a path and it is straight and smooth. Rarely are there no twists and turns. But like the labyrinth there is a goal to life--reaching the Center of being in God. The spiritual disciplines help us focus on that goal, and remind us that the path is sure--Christ Jesus. We just don't know where all the turns are and by what route we will arrive. But we WILL arrive. That is the promise of God.
Before the next newsletter comes out, we will be in Lent. During Lent we will once again have Wednesday night soup/salad supers followed by short meditations. This can be part of our journey to the center, as well. Join us for simple food and fellowship, quiet mediation, and sharing the journey through the labyrinth that is life. Share the Journey together.
November 27, 2011
I want to begin by saying thank you to all who made the Bazaar such a success. To Yolanda and the ECW, the folks who set up the auditorium, to all those who made crafts and baked goodies. to those who staffed the tables, to Wiley and his kitchen staff, to those who braved the cold to hand out free hot chocolate at the parade, to Bill--I'm sure I'm missing someone--THANK YOU for all your hard work and giving of your time and talent to make the day a success.
You deserve a break. Take a rest and breathe deep. Oh yeah, Christmas is coming. But before Christmas is Advent, a time to reflect, and gather our thoughts as we consider what is truly of value in life.
As we prepare for Christmas, our thoughts turn toward gifts. United Methodist minister and author Mike Slaughter has written a new book called Christmas Is Not Your Birthday. That's a good thing for us to remember as we are tempted to get caught up in the frenzy of getting more things. We act as though it is our birthday instead of Jesus' birthday. Since when do we buy ourselves a gift when it is someone else's birthday? If we put this in perspective,maybe our mad rush to get more things would be transformed into truly giving a gift instead.
May I suggest this Christmas we adopt this attitude: This is Jesus' birthday, so let's give Jesus a gift instead of ourselves. But how do we do that? First of all the gift of yourself is the greatest gift to give to God. Your love, your interest in the things of God, your desire to be more like the God-life we see in Jesus.
Then as you look at others--especially the needy, the jobless, the depressed, the lonely, the sick or infirm--see them as Jesus, and give THEM a gift as you would give to Jesus. After all just a few weeks ago we heard Jesus say that when we have fed the hundgy, clothed the naked, helped the sick, etc, we have done that to HIM. So it is not really hard to give a gift to Jesus. Look around you and see the face of Jesus in those in need. Then give them the gift that youi know would please Jesus. That means we won't be spending money on more "stuff" for ourselves. DO we REALLY need another video game, more stuff to set around, more clothing or jewelry, or more--whatever?
This Christmas, let's give to the one whose birthday we are celebrating--Jesus! Not us!
Think about it
Quiet blessings of the Advent season to you,
September 25, 2011
I recently read an article in the latest issue of The Christian Century on friendship. It reminded me that I have often said that St Luke’s needs to move beyond being a “friendly” parish to become a “friendship” parish. The first and greatest friendship we need to cultivate is one with Jesus. He has taken the step towards us, now we should respond to his offer of being a “friend of God.” I found the article by Paul J. Wadell, professor of religious studies at St. Norbert College in De Pere, WI, speaks not only to our friendship with God, but with others as well. He says:
Post 9/11 thoughts:
In his book Everything Must Change Brian McClaren writes "If, as Dominic Crossan says, the Roman (government in Jesus' day) motto is peace through victory, or peace through the destruction of enemies, or peace through domination ... then for Jesus the motto is peace through nonviolent justice, peace through the forgiveness of enemies, peace through reconciliation, peace through embrace and grace. ... in the (worldview) of the kingdom of God, blessed are the meek, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, blessed are the peacemakers, and blessed are those who are willing to suffer for doing good. ...To be a follower of Jesus in this light is a far different affair than many of us were taught: it means to join Jesus' peace insurgency, to see through every regime that promises peace through violence, peace through domination, peace through genocide, peace through exclusion and intimidation. Following Jesus instead means forming communities that seek peace through justice, generosity, and mutual concern, and a willingness to suffer persecution but a refusal to inflict it on others. To follow Jesus is to become an atheist in regard to all bloodthirsty, tribal warrior gods, and to become a believer in the living God of grace and peace who, in Christ, sheds God's own blood in a manifestation of amnesty and reconciliation.
To repent, to believe, to follow . . .together, these mean nothing less than defecting from Caesar's campaign of violence to join Jesus' divine peace insurgency."
Which worldview do we embrace, not just by our words, but by our attitudes and actions?
September 10, 2011
A Collect for 9/11
March 27, 2011
The words "wilderness" and "desert" are not unfamiliar to the season of Lent. We begin on Lent 1 with Jesus spending forty days in the wilderness, being tempted before he begins his ministry. Then on Lent 3 we see the "bitterness" of the people and "testing" of God in the wilderness as they complain that God has led them there only to kill them with thirst.
When we think of the wilderness and the desert we think waterless, desolate, without vegetation, lacking life. Who wants to go there? Not us. Why would Jesus--or anyone--go there? Yet that is what he did. And not only Jesus, but many of the prophets, the last being John the Baptist.
That's because they knew something we miss. That the desert is not lifeless, just difficult--a place to prepare for what God has in store for us. If you spend time in the desert, you will see that there is animal life present. There are plants, sparse though they may be. But if you stay long enough you may discover that the desert can actually bloom. People flock to the deserts of the Southwest US after rains to see the desert bloom. The children of God complained while standing on top of the water that God was providing for them. But they did not know it. So it is with us.
We can go through emotional and spiritual deserts as well. That period of time may seem lifeless--and life sapping--to us. At its worst you can feel anything but ‘closer’ to God. The overwhelming feeling may be one of rejection, that you are unwanted, unloved, and uncared for; that God brought you to this place just to let you die. And you never realize the water of life just waiting to bubble up from beneath your feet. But the water of the Spirit will come. The renewing rains of God's presence will fall.
As you come through that time, you come to know in a new way about how much God loves you, loves each of us, you now know in your heart and spirit the absolute certainty of God’s immense love for each and every one of us. It is a different way of knowing. It is an immeasurably closer feeling. Thus the desert experience can actually bloom into a beautiful new way of knowing God and our place in God's realm.
God can, and does, use the bad things that happen to us and bring good from them. I wouldn’t recommend the desert as our main way of growing; but I think the English Prayer Book contains the sentiment in this Collect for The First Sunday of Lent. We can grow closer to God in the desert, just as Jesus did.
A thought from Lent 2A Genesis reading:
Hebrew Bible professor Dr. Richard Lowery observes, "it is also worth noting that Abraham, with God's guidance, is migrating away from the center of economic, political, and military power in the ancient world to settle in the hinterland. Ironically, the blessing of the whole earth will begin not from the center of power and influence, but at the distant margins" (2011 Disciples of Christ Lenten Bible Studies).
E. A. Speiser says it best: "Abraham's journey to the Promised Land was thus no routine expedition of several hundred miles. Instead, it was the start of an epic voyage in search of spiritual truths, a quest that was to constitute the central theme of all biblical history" (Genesis, The Anchor Bible).
What does this journey tell us about the human struggle? This journey tells us of redemption, resurrection, for those labeled as barren one(s), from alienation to action, to witness. The way to reach God comes from within, and from those who did not believe in their own potential for any response or reaction. Walter Brueggemann points out, "What did not exist and now does exist is Israel, a people formed by God's word to bear his promise and do his purposes. In the time of Abraham, in the time of Paul, and in our own time, the world fears that word. In its fear, the world settles for silence, ideology, or propaganda. In its doubt, the world listens for less powerful words. But, says our text, God's word breaks all these resistances" (Genesis: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching).
Februry 29, 2011
This past week we had some beautiful warm days with temperatures pushing 70 degrees. It was a wonderful break from the seemingly relentless cold of this winter. Then came Saturday morning, with plunging temperatures and winds upwards of 55 mph. The cold returned. That morning I walked out to pick up the paper and heard the sound of Snow Geese overhead. it is not unusual to see a small V of geese around our area. But this was no small group. It was huge, and they just kept coming minute after minute. And they were all heading North, into the wind. It seemed none of them could get a formation, the wind was just too strong. One small group managed, but they made no more headway than the others. But they all kept going-North! Into the wind. There must have been a thousand of them.
After the doldrums of winter and my depression from persistent pain, it was a welcome sight. I just said, "Thanks, God." (From my evangelical days, my prayers aren't always liturgically polished)
These creatures weren't acting on the way things looked. They were moving north into the cold wind because of a greater, inner prompting that knew more than the circumstances of the moment revealed to them.
We are entering into Lent. A season of introspection and self examination. This can seem like the cold north wind blowing in our face. It seems like the storms of life are too great for us to move at all, let alone into the storm. There is an inner prompting in our spirits as well, telling us that what we see in the present is not all there is. So we prepare for more. We Fast, we meditate, we listen to the Spirit within. Because that is where the strength comes from to fly into the wind, into the cold, knowing that there is someting greater ahead. Easter will come, the warmth will return, Resurrection will come. It is the Way of Life. It is the Way of God.
So this season, take the opportunity to turn inward, to ponder, to wrestle with the winds of life and change, and find there a Spirit Present that goes beyond the present moment, and sets our wings for eternity.
February 6, 2011
Meditation on the Gospel: "You are the salt of the earth. . .You are the Light of the world..."
C.S. Lewis said, "It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if ever, only in a nightmare...there are no ordinary people. You have never met a mere mortal. ...But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit. ...Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses." The Christ tells us to see in our neighbors beings of inherent worth and dignity.
"You are the Light of the world..."
Mathmatical Cosmologist Brian Swimme says in The Power of the Universe, "The tenth and last cosomological power is Radiance. Radiance is the power referred to most directly by the second law of thermodynamics. In simplest terms, this law explains that any being with energy will disperse that energy. To radiate is the law of the universe. This is true of everything we examine. Even the coldest group of the tiniest hydrogen atoms in the darkest night of intergalactic space are happily giving birth to, and releasing, photons of light instant after instant."
"In my view, the power of radiance is an expression of the mysterious way in which the universe cannot contain the magnificence it houses. Instead, it is compelled to express itself in ten million different ways."
So if, as Jesus says, YOU are the Light (Radiance) or the world, then. . .
February 3, 2011
So often we see God as the transcendent, hard-to-reach, Judge who is to be feared. But there is another way of looking at the Presence—very close, very intimate. Here are a few thoughts that build on that view. I encourage you to spend some time with it, and let its alternate Reality of God’s Presence speak to your heart:
My deepest me is God
Mysticism begins when the totally transcendent image of God starts to recede; and there's a deepening sense of God as immanent, present, here, now, within me. Augustine's line was "God is more intimate to me than I am to myself" or "more me than I am myself." St. Catherine of Genoa shouted it in the streets, "My deepest me is God!"
So you must overcome the gap to know—and then Someone Else is doing the knowing through you. God is no longer "out there." At this point, it's not like one has a new relationship with God; it's like one has a whole new God! "God himself is my counselor, and at night my innermost being instructs me," says the Psalmist (16:7).The mystics are those who are let in on this secret mystery of God's love affair with all souls, and recognize the simultaneous love affair with the individual soul—as if it were the only one God loves. It's absolutely our unique affair, and that sets the whole thing on a different and deeper ground than mere organized religion can ever achieve by itself. (Adapted from Following the Mystics Through the Narrow Gate by Richard Rohr)
January 17, 2010
I came across this reading from Madeleine L'Engle in And It Was Good (pp 19-20), and thought it seems fitting for our national and world conditions today:
"We live in a world which has become too complex to unravel; there is nothing we can do about it, we little people who don't have big government posts or positions of importance. But I believe that the Kingdom is built on the little things that all of us do. I remember my grandmother was fond of reciting:
Little drops of water,
Little grains of sand
Make the mighty ocean
And the pleasant land.
A single drop can't make even a puddle, but together, all our little drops and God's planning can make not only a mighty ocean but a mighty differnece. Alone, there's not much we can do , but when Peter healed a cripple it was made very clear that it was not by his own power, but by the power of Christ, the creating Word, that the healing was accomplished.
This power is available to all of us, for we do nothing in isolation. As the Physicists who study the microcosm are discovering, nothing happens in isolation; nothing exists in isolation. Quanta, the tiny subatomic particles being studied in quantum mechanics, cannot exist alone; there cannot be a quantum, for quanta exist only in relationship to each other. And they can never be studied objectively, because even to observe them is to change them. And, like the stars, they appear to be able to communicate with each other without sound or speech; there is neither speech nor language; but their voices are heard among them, sings the psalmist."
What you may not be aware of is that the Fresch's are the parents of Jeanne Nagle, the wife of Bill Nagle. Bill is the construction worker who remodeled My Father's House (formerly the sexton's residence; see article below). Bill and Jeanne have attended St. Luke's on occasion with their good friends Bernie and Kathy Yohn. Please keep the Nagle family in your thoughts and prayers at this time of tragic loss.
UPDATE: the Community Action Partnership is expecting to have the furnishings and curtains completed shortly, and anticipate having a family in My Father's House before the end of January. If you have any items you would like to donate, please let CAP or Todd know ASAP.