Sunday, May 20, 2018

May 20 Reflections

Sunday-May 20 Ps. 104 is a hymn on creation. God the sustainer is evoked well in vv.27-28 as an open handed, open-hearted god. It sees life as having breath or spirit, all life. Does faith inform your view of our environment?

Monday-After firmly holding the cups of our lives and lifting them up as signs of hope for others, we have to drink them. Drinking our cups means fully appropriating and interiorizing what each of us has acknowledged as our life, with all its unique sorrows and joys.How do we drink our cups? We drink them as we listen in silence to the truth of our lives, as we speak in trust with friends about ways we want to grow, and as we act in deeds of service. Drinking our cups is following freely and courageously God's call and staying faithfully on the path that is ours. Thus our life cups become the cups of salvation. When we have emptied them to the bottom, God will fill them with "water" for eternal life.Nowen

Tuesday- Music helps us to overcome any division we experience between body and soul, because the purpose of music is to the heavenly and earthly, the invisible and visible closer together." -- Christine Valters Paintner, PhD

wednesday-It is never the brothers right next to us, but the brothers in the abstract that are easy to love.Source: Escape Routes

Thursday-"We are each called to have [an] inner discerning presence that knows what or who to let into the fold and what or who to keep out. We each have times when this boundary becomes weaker and we say yes to too many things, experiences, or meeting other people’s needs. We all have experienced trying to avoid the wisdom of our inner gatekeeper and let in commitments that steal our energy, that lead us to become strangers to our deepest passions, until one day we may realize we don't even recognize our lives anymore." -- Christine Valters Paintner, PhD

Friday-Forgiveness is a door to peace and happiness. Forgiving is not ignoring wrongdoing, but overcoming the evil inside us and in our world with love. To forgive is not just a command of Christ but the key to reconciling all that is broken in our lives and relationships. We get rid of an enemy by getting rid of enmity.Source: Why Forgive?


Saturday-Friends cannot replace God. They have limitations and weaknesses like we limitations they can be signposts on our journey towards the unlimited have. Their love is never faultless, never complete. But in their and unconditional love of God. Let's enjoy the friends whom God has sent on our way.Nouwen

Pentecost column


All over the country, churches will try to infuse a bit of Pentecost energy into services today. Many will wear red as a symbol of Pentecost fire; some may have different languages heard; some may launch balloons or have recorded tornado sound blast through speakers, and cupcakes may celebrate the “birthday of the church.”  We will sing some hymns of the spirit that will be opened again next year. It can be a dispiriting experience.

Other more charismatically-oriented churches will hear speaking in tongues and see and experience being slain the spirit in religious ecstasy. Envious of the energy in Pentecostal services, some churches attempt to infuse services with a non-stop flow of energetic activity and words for a spiritual high. The Spirit gives purpose and energy. Look what frames Pentecost in the book of Acts: the selection of a new apostle and the work of the church in worship and teaching. The spirit is the center of ordinary life in the church.

In baptism we claim the Gift of the Spirit of Isaiah 11, ones of inspired decision. Pentecost has the capacity to harvest the fruit of the Sprit (Gal. 5:22). The life envisioned by God has these virtues, these powers, th4ese elements of the good life.

Creation-One of our readings is part of Ps. 104 today. In all likelihood it reflects other creation prayers. For me it helps to provide a biblical approach to creation. It gives religious meaning to the environment. In its way it sees entropy as the standard unless god renews the face of the earth, unless the Sprit is there to animate creation. Teilhard de Chardin wrote: “the day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire. “

Every week we pray for the illumination of the spirit when we read the Scripture. Otherwise, they are merely words on a page. The Spirit continues to reveal God’s work in the word as it unfolds in our history. The light of the Spirit allows us to perceive Christ in ourselves and others. In John 16 the spirit of truth is one of continuing processive revelation as we move into the scope and depth of God’s way in the world. That selfsame Spirit is our attorney, our advocate and counselor, our helper, the one who speaks for us when we are unable to defend ourselves. The Spirit helps us to see the dual nature of Jesus Christ.

New life-Another reading today is Ezekiel 37, the famous valley of the dry bones that is captured in the old song. He has a vision of a battlefield of bones, not even a cemetery. The dry bones become reanimated. The spirit gives life to them. In other words, only god can bring new life out of death. What we see as relic can be raw material in the breath of the spirit.

The God of new life hates dullness, the dreary sense of trying to get through life in a rut in a dismal gray sameness. Pentecost has a sense of a spring cleaning, of shaking out the obstacles to the fruit of the spirit/It exorcises the dull drab spirit of complacency and routine and makes room for the spirit “who seizes hold of us but cannot be seized…who gives but cannot be owned (Hans Kung).” The ancient prayer Come Holy Spirit asks the sprit to warm what is cold, to bend what is rigid, to water what is barren, to heal what is wounded, and to give direction when going astray.


Thursday, May 10, 2018

May 6 Sermon Notes

May 6 Acts 10:44 Many churches struggle with  identity and boundaries. How do we decide who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’? The PCUSA has paid a price for including gays more fully into our ordained ministry. It is also an opportunity to reach out to a group of folks who were and are thrust to the margins of social life. In an effort to keep out those with whom we disagree, or those who are different than we are. The question each church and denomination must answer is, will we have the courage, like Peter, to reject traditional distinctions made on the basis of religion or culture in favor of welcoming everyone into God’s family?, Barreto writes, "ethnicity is a projection of our own anxieties and hopes, an inclusive impulse to identify who we are but also an exclusive effort to distinguish between 'us' and 'them.'

I John 5:1,  love to the emphasis on belief, it is clear that love of God is inseparable from love of one's Christian sisters and brothers. Does it extend further as in the Good Samaritan story or the story of Acts? At the end of the previous chapter (4:20-21), the author argued that one could identify love for God by whether or not there was love for the brother or sister. One loves God's children by loving God and keeping God's commandments.  Love for God and love for God's children are integrally connected...one love cannot exist without the other.

John 15:9-friends the interaction of abiding-the vine can only be understood in light of its definition as an abiding in love, and the fruitfulness of this love, as described in John 15:16 only makes sense in light of the vine.natural image of life(and love)no longer slaves but friends, not on the basis of anything that they have done for him but on the basis of what he has done for them. He has made known to them everything that he has heard from the Father. In John, love (the belovedness of friendship, the depth of comrades, of a military unit/buddies,a team as in that championship Season)) “Don’t walk in front of me… I may not follow-Don’t walk behind me… I may not lead-Walk beside me… just be my friend” ― Albert Camus“Why did you do all this for me?' he asked. 'I don't deserve it. I've never done anything for you.' 'You have been my friend,' replied Charlotte. 'That in itself is a tremendous thing.” ― E.B. White, Charlotte's Web mutual knowledge, like love and commandment-keeping, go hand in hand.Perfect on a sunday when we are giving scholarship to students on the cusp of adulthood.
Jesus’ initiative is underscored in John 15:16. He does the choosing, against American creed of choice. We have been singled out as friends of Christ.. And for those of us who wish to abide in his love, this is surely good news, that we do not carve out a position as Jesus’ branch-friend and that our abundance does not depend on us; we might not even be able to imagine precisely what it will look like since we aren’t the ones doing the pruning and can only see our part of the vine. We merely choose to abide in the love that has drawn us in, and then we blossom.Stamper

The music you will hear this morning during the anthem  will not only be the carefully considered work of Greg and the choir but this particular piece has an interplay that gives us good insight into the image through the ear with its interlocking intertwining music and vocals.

Monday, April 9, 2018

MLK/ RFK column


In the April spring of 1968, I was on the cusp of graduating, well being freed,  from Catholic elementary school. It appeared that we would not be able to afford  a distant Catholic high school, and I had trepidation about facing a public junior high. I was against the war in Vietnam at that tender age, in part, because I was an altar boy at too many funerals for young soldiers. I was for McCarthy, so I resented RFK. I was pleased the MLK had turned against the war.

I remember a real sense of loss when the news reported the assassination of Rev. King. I don’t recall the first time I heard of RFK’s speech in Indianapolis that awful night, but I have visited the site as an adult. It can be heard and seen , that five minute extemporaneous marvel on you tube. Looking back, I am struck by the respect RFK showed the crowd that night. Twice he quoted the ancient Greeks. For a moment his grief over his brothers melted into that public loss: “in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”  It had a touch of the prophetic, both in the sense of looking into the future but also speaking the truth about a situation. He saw us at a crossroads: increased polarization and bitterness or a path toward replacing violence with compassion and love to deal with the “stain of bloodshed.” Indianapolis did not have the riots of other cities that night. Kennedy would not live into the summer, so he could not help “tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.” We graduated 8th grade that day.

I am convinced that King had a premonition of his death that night of his last speech in Memphis. The speech  has the feel of a valedictory, as he recounts milestones in the struggle for civil rights. King spends time recalling a life-threatening stabbing in New York about 10 years before the speech. He also goes into sermonic mode. I had forgotten that he does an extended extension of the parable of the Good Samaritan. He used it to speak of a “dangerous unselfishness.” King derived an interesting lesson why the two religious figures passed by the stricken man: Maybe it was due to important religious rules and work; maybe it was due to their desire to focus on large issues, the causal root of trouble and not a victim, they were afraid. they also wondered what would happen to them, if they stopped to help, King responds that our question should be what would happen to the person hurt if we do not act. One has the sense that King was addressing his own fear that night.

The famous end of the speech, of course, draws for the story of Moses receiving a glimpse of the Promised Land. He draws on 3,000 years of Biblical history to make a heartbreaking peek into the future.

Instead of treating our fellow citizens with respect for their intelligence, we have descended to a sorry spectacle of aiming at the lowest parts of our nature, from oratory to rants on twitter. 

We have made great strides in our country. criminal violence escalated for years, but for a quarter-century, its rate declined. State-enforced segregation is lost in a misty past. So many have been integrated into educational and political attainments. Poverty’s persistence continues to dog too many of our fellow citizens. The environment is so much cleaner. the Promised Land beckons, but it dawns closer for us all.

April 8 Sermon Notes Acts 4 I John 1, John 20:19-31

Easter doesn't have the  lull that Christmas leaves many of us.

Acts 4 Easter life has worship life look like public life-new Eden in the midst-live like you have forever to live-My guess is that Luke is already looking to the past as a golden age.

I John 1 light, life, darkness sin and walking the talk are all mixed together in the first chapter.
Just like the gospel of John the physical and spiritual are bound together, even if at different levels. So this is a direct assault against some socially acceptable rhetorical ploys of our time. You don't have to go to church and be christian-Ok but that doesn't mean that one may consistently avoid church and claim the name either. Christians are hypocritical-Ok-so what i else is new, but here it makes it plain that doctrine and a way of life are conjoined twins, if you will. I am so tired of the division we have permitted between head and heart when it comes to religion.   Jesus did not save one element of life alone. Jesus saves us entirely, body and soul and mind together so that we can follow the great commandment of loving god and neighbor.
1 John's Black- importance of genuine fellowship (koinonia) "with us" and "with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ" (...Easter is God's refusal to leave the world in the lurch, . West WP-at stake is whether our actions testify to the truths we confess, whether our lives line up with our beliefs. In the view of 1 John, the truth is something we think or believe and it is something we do.  And the "doing" includes confession of sin. It opens our lives up to the "cleansing" of our actions, to new ways of being and doing.The bottom line for 1 John is embodiment and incarnation. How do we know we walk in the light? The evidence is in our embodied relationships, that is, in our fellowship with and our love for one another (cf. 3:18). If we are doing the truth, then the community becomes a kind of incarnational evidence. If we sin, that, too, is manifested in community. What happens in the body matters, whether in the koinonia-body or in individual bodies (1:7). What happens in how we think through the faith matters. Yes, what happens in the heart matters, but it is not the test. That Is especially true when people have the gall to speak of worship as what it does for them emotionally but not asking if the worship is proper toward God.
John 20,-Pres. outlook-John has a focus on Thomas because he is the prime demonstration for the basic mistake in the gospel: a relentless focus on the physical alone without making a spiritual step. Notice the sensory emphasis see, touch. Jesus gives him what he desires, but please notice that it is when they are all together that his eyes see and his eyes are opened. We're all hovering between Easter and ordinary life, having glimpsed resurrection but still wondering if it is too good to be true. We're all waffling between forgiveness and resentment, confession and covering up our sin, sharing and hoarding. But living, breathing, took-on-our-sin, defeated-death, Jesus walks into all of those in between spaces, even when we padlocked the door. Easter life starts with forgiveness according to John. Forgiveness gives new life to relationships that have died or are on the brink. It is the first gift of new life Jesus brings to his disciples. After all, most of them had fled and all were in self-imposed house arrest. His act forgave them as it led them into Easter life themselves.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Week of April 8 Devotional Pts.

Sunday- Ps. 133 is a brief prayer. Think of the oil as a sign of celebration of a gathering. What are signs of a good celebration? I notice women wear tiaras for birthday parties lately. When should worship feel celebratory?
Monday-In the tumultuous ocean of time and toil there are islands of stillness where when we enter their harbors we reclaim our dignity. Abraham Heschel
Tuesday-Biola Devotions-Meditate means to reflect, mull over, ponder, ruminate or chew over (i.e., like a cow chewing its cud). Meditate is from the Latin meditatus, past participle of meditari, which means “to think” or “reflect upon”. Meditate is also related to mederi which means, “to heal,” “to cure,” or “to remedy.” In other words, meditating on God’s Word and finding JESU, heals, cures, and remedies our lost state, bringing life to our souls.

Wednesday-“Why do I smell burnt coffee?” I ponder aloud. “AA is setting up,” the teen tells me. “AA?!” What are they doing he. . .  oh . . . it’s Sunday night.” And it hits me. Soon 27 children will arrive to get ready for the bathrobe drama and 250 people will start streaming into the sanctuary. AA? Tonight?... Not possible. I walk over to the people setting up chairs and setting out pamphlets. “I’m so sorry, You can’t meet here tonight. It’s Christmas Eve. I mean, there will be children down here running around and lots of people upstairs and the parking lots full and” . . . and I see their faces, strained and stunned. And I stop. And I start again. “And it will all be fine. You’ll be down here and we’ll be upstairs and it will be fine.” And it was. Angels and shepherds and donkeys and drunks. All thrown together one Christmas Eve. In a place of God.

Thursday--Jer. 15 In his affliction, Jeremiah finds solace in the God who, in contrast to the faithless and forgetful people, understands, cares, and remembers: “Lord, you understand; remember me and care for me.”  We, too, who are called by God, who know the delight of his word, and who, perhaps, even know the pain of holding fast to it when it may incite derision, even hatred, are invited to pray the prayer of Jeremiah. From Biola

Friday-I still doubt that anger makes a reliable engine of motivation for justice. Anger clouds our minds and in extremity does result in a kind of madness. Even (maybe especially) righteous anger tends to narrow our vision, thwart our moral imaginations, and divide humanity into simplistic categories beyond just right and wrong: Good person/Evil person. Victim/Victimizer. Godly/Ungodly.Anger allows us to praise some and damn others with impunity and without remorse. Anger tends to calcify into hatred. And however much anger may motivate us to get up and march, hatred will inevitably lead us to march in the wrong directions; and to march, sometimes, with a single-minded compulsion and obsession, disregarding and treading underfoot anyone who gets in our way. Michael Jinkins

Saturday-"My soul desires are not motivated by scarcity. The soul holds expectations loosely and is not attached to the outcome. The soul takes her time, embraces the slow ripening of things, and savors what is to be learned from the process. I can take a deep breath and feel a sense of spaciousness around my soul desires."-- Christine Valters Paintner, PhD

Monday, April 2, 2018

Easter Column 2018


Easter is one of the days when the most experienced pastor steps into the pulpit with a desert for a mouth. Its gravity is too much. At the same time, I can handle all of the Easter gimmicks. Most of them center on new life, after all. I do object to them showing up before Easter, but that is another cultural clash between the calendar and the church progression of days. I do have some concern that putting up Easter symbols before Easter serves to downplay the terrible events of Holy Week. “Jesus no longer belongs to the past but lives in the present and is projected toward the future; Jesus is the everlasting "today" of God.” Pope Francis

I do agree with the objection that the Easter symbols lack the gravity of the season. Easter is not an expected turn of the page, like the spring. It is a most profoundly anti-natural     event. Nature slides into entropy and death. Tombs are not the wombs of new life. Death comes to all, not new life.  for that reason, I have grown to cherish the Easter reading of Mark 16:1-8. (As a spiritual exercise, go through the initial gospel accounts of Easter morning and look at how the narrative blossoms with details.) “Easter was when Hope in person surprised the whole world by coming forward from the future into the present.” (NT Wright)

I knew a Catholic priest how got into a bit of trouble for giving a heart welcome to the alumni on Easter. It seems right that this is one Sunday that draws people to worship. In many churches we read two ancient affirmations of faith, the Nicene Creed (325) and the Apostles’ Creed (a more flexible document whose present form is from the 800s perhaps). That creed speaks of the resurrection of the body. In other words the tradition about the empty tomb and later appearance accounts emphasize that it is Jesus who is raised. Paul speaks of a spiritual body (I Cor. 15) to try to speak of the transformed post-resurrection. It does not speak the way we do about a soul, a spiritual element, leaving the body, sometimes castigated as a mere shell, to find its proper place. (It is intriguing that those who pound on a bodily view of resurrection seem so cavalier about its meaning for everyone else).

The appearance accounts do give a sense of a transformed body, especially John. They all point to the continuing identity of one recognized as Jesus of Nazareth. I struggle with this and think of resurrection for all as the maintenance of one’s lived identity, the one that is bound up body and soul, mind and hear together. Crossan has a new book on resurrection and point strongly to a neglected facet of the faith-Easter points toward a general. Here’s another spiritual exercise. If you can’t get the book from a library, go to Google images and look at harrowing of hell. There you will find Jesus, the Victor leading people out of the grasp of death’s domain. In some, he has Adam by the hand, and in at least one, he grasps the hand of Eve. In some Eastern Orthodox depictions, Jesus is carrying the sick into the afterlife. Usually, Jesus has a cross. After all, the Healing One is the Crucified One, is the Risen One.

If Easter candy can remind us of the sweet savor of life, even with all of its troubles, then I can live with its weak symbolism. If bunnies help us with the fecundity and viridity of God’s creation, then I am fine. I would merely ask that we take some time to reflect on the enormity of the message of this day.