Monday, November 30, 2015

quotes from yesterday's sermon

“Patience is a hard discipline.  It is not just waiting until something happens over which we have no control: the arrival of the bus, the end of the rain, the return of a friend, the resolution of a conflict.  Patience is not waiting passively until someone else does something. Patience asks us to live the moment to the fullest, to be completely present to the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where we are. When we are impatient we try to get away from where we are. We behave as if the real thing will happen tomorrow, later and somewhere else. Let’s be patient and trust that the treasure we look for is hidden in the ground on which we stand.”
Henri J.M. Nouwen, Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Journey to Bethlehem 1

Journey to Bethlehem 1
Introduce ‘hope’ movement
what do you hope for this Advent? ……….
Doing sermon prep:   got a beginning and an end, nothing in between. 
Like advent for many of us: starts with decorating and ends with Christmas and there’s not much substance in between.
But the inbetween matters.  A lot.  The journey itself matters.
Journeys and advent-ures can be exciting, scary, boring, uncertain, weather dependent, you name it.   And as metaphor for the spiritual life and the Jesus-following life, they all apply!   It’s an ancient image: in our scriptures today, we had the words “way, paths, ways” several times
It’s the journey itself that signifies who we are as God’s people, not the destination.   As we head to Bethlehem this advent, focusing as we do on the destination of Christmas,  we are also journeying towards the Christ, seeking God not as end result but as present reality. 
One of our simplest vision statements was out on the hall way stand for several weeks: why are we here?  To seek God, to learn to love neighbor, to find opportunities to serve the world.   These are not future hopes, but present expectations.  Hope, the theme of this first week of Advent, is an active verb.
Hope for, and hope in, are not the same things, anymore than our two body movements today are the same….
Hope is a word that gives us the strength for the journey…when the way is unclear, hope offers patience (Nouwen quote will be posted separately)
…..when the way is unknown, hope offers trust in the God we heard from with the Jeremiah reading, who says I WILL keep my promise of a savior who WILL do what is just, and the people WILL live in safety
…..when the way is lonely, hope reminds us we are ‘together on the journey’ (bulletin), for God gives us a community to work with, to walk with
…when the way is fearful, hope reminds us that on the journey we will also find peace, and joy, and love – if we just open our eyes, our ears, our minds, our hearts.
I started out by asking you what you hoped for….see the screen: hope is in your hands.  How you live the inbetween of advent is up to you.
But I promise you it will be richer and deeper if you pay attention to the other words that occurred several times in our texts: guide, lead, led…all of them referring to God.   The Divine guides and leads those who can let go their own control.
(Merton quote posted separately  -  note ‘hope’)
May this be the year when your advent matters…may your journey deepen your faith, not tax your wallet……enrich your trust, not heighten your fear… your mind, not close your heart.
And may we all know the leading of the God who comes, over and over and over again to all who have eyes to see.   in a frightened and frightening world: we dare to hope.  Amen.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

new eyes on giving

New eyes for giving 11081
Its that time of year again, when we look at our finances as a congregation and plan for the future; this year is particularly challenging, but we have a plan in place to move forward creatively until we find out what God wants this church to be.
And that’s where this text comes in.  Ah, I hear you say, it’s that focus-on-giving-our-money text…how we wealthy folk give out of our left over abundance and this poor woman gives her all.  Well yes, but no. 
If I were to share thoughts on this text going in that direction, I’d flip it around….the rich people give out of a scarcity mindset (there’s never enough so I’ll hold back), whereas the woman gives out of an abundance mindset (trusting God, I can give generously).  That in itself is enough of a challenge to my soul as I face next week’s dedication of our pledges of sharing, for I recognize myself in that scarcity thinking.
But I don’t think that’s all this text is about.
New, new, new, said Chris last week.   Making things new is all over scripture.  In Jesus the old reality is given up for a new reality, new ways of looking at life….so maybe we need new eyes for looking at giving, for example.
What did Jesus see that day at the temple?  Remember that in Mark’s gospel, this is a day or so before his arrest.  Two days before, he had created a scene in the temple area, upturning the tables of money changers and offering sellers, decrying what the temple had become.   So he’s hardly likely to be affirming support of that same institution two days later. I think he does indeed see beyond our actions to our mindsets, and he’s right about mine for sure, but there is a bigger issue here.
In putting together in one sentence abundance and poverty, Jesus highlights what is still wrong with our social and religious institutions today, including our churches.   We too have lost sight of our original call  of worshipping God, loving neighbor, caring for the world, and perpetuate a system that keeps a huge gap between abundance and poverty.
Jesus comes to connect human need with divine provision, says biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann, and with his new eyes he sees that the connection has been broken.   Human abundance has failed to act as God’s provision for human need. Those with status give to maintain an institution, and don’t even notice the poor who struggle to offer God something.  The temple, and maybe the church today, has become its own point.   Ouch.
Our leadership is trying hard to get beyond that, to see with new eyes. (airport story: visibility unlimited)   We need money to keep going yes, but we must be clear that it is not for self-perpetuation, but for ministry…..and not for self-serving ministry, but for ministry beyond these walls, and not just for ministry beyond these walls, but work that challenges the very systems that continue to separate abundance and poverty.  You’re tired of hearing me say we need to do church differently, but this is a big part of that difference.
It is time to make that connection new again….the connection between human need and God’s provision, to regain an abundant trust mindset, so we can use God’s abundance (for it’s not really ours) to meet our own needs and see it overflow with new giving of time, energy vision, and above all, Love….divine Love that permeates the universe, that is the only thing that can make that connection new.   We need to know that Love ourselves, bathe in it, and let it overflow abundantly, generously, so we become new see’ers, new givers, new livers.
Mechtild of Magdeburg, in the 13th  century wrote this, helping me realise there is more than enough to go around, more than enough money                                     more than enough time                                                                                                         more than enough energy                                                                                                    more than enough love                                                                                                         more than enough provision:
Divine love is so immensely great!                                                                                                                             Great is its overflow, for divine love is never still.                                                                                                          Always ceaselessly tirelessly                                                                                                                                                          it pours itself out so that the small vessel that is ourselves                                                                                               might be filled to the brim                                                                                                                                                       and might also overflow.
May we be filled with that love, overflow with that grace, live with that generosity, close the gaps in our hearts and minds and society,  and make the connection new.   Amen.