Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Resurrection Reactions

Resurrection Reactions 032716

There’s a Monty Python skit which says, Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!  Well, nobody expects the resurrection either.  Not really.  Not in any transformative way.   We expect music and lilies and colored eggs, but resurrection?  Really?
 Society, and even the church, have domesticated lots of sacred stuff, notably hospitality and resurrection.    We’ve made hospitality a social grace and resurrection a public holiday.
What makes resurrection hard to believe?  (answers varied from ‘can’t see it’ to ‘breaks laws of nature’)
I suspect, frankly that nobody, truth be told, much wants resurrection either…I mean, if you can’t count on the dead staying dead, what can you count on? (got this line from sermon resource, probably David Lose)   It would just leave taxes.  And since people who believe in resurrection change their whole life paradigm, well,  that’s just downright ridiculous, so we should keep the old ways of thinking, thank you.  At least we know what to count on.
And it’s a Good Friday world.   Terrorism evokes all the worst in us, and fearmongering seems to be the current American paradigm. 
So we cower behind our own stones of disbelief, doubt, or skepticism, unaware that God has already blasted them away and we haven’t noticed.   Blinded by our privileges, and by our prejudices about such a mystery, we cannot see the possibilities, and go through life assuming we’re our own saviors.
So its not surprising there are all those same different resurrection reactions in Luke’s version of the story.   I wonder where you find your spiritual life in this story:
First, the women are perplexed.  That’s putting it mildly.  Their expectations have been blasted into space.   Then they’re frightened by an apparition of some kind….no kidding, it would scare me too if I came here this morning expecting one thing and a couple of guys appeared out of nowhere  like they were advertising Oxyclean! 
But seriously, it is frightening to be confronted with things outside our control that we just don’t understand.
But then they were challenged…..challenged to remember….remember what you’ve heard and experienced before this day….remember when you had hope, remember where you have known resurrection and transformation and new life. Even just think daffodils!
So then they shared what they’d seen, only to hear laughter as the men’s reaction. Gender prejudice was alive and well then, just as now, if a certain California tennis executive is anything to go by.
Then there’s the reaction of skepticism, but unlike many of us they don’t get stuck there. No, they decide to explore it for themselves.  Doubt and uncertainty are an essential, real part of a faith life, let me assure you!  And it’s exploring that moves us forward.
What an image for our spiritual lives…..perplexed by some things, challenged by others, willing to share but often laughed at.   Or we do the laughing in our skeptical fear of new ways of looking at things.
You see, resurrection does happen.  There IS a new paradigm being offered by God through this inexplicable experience.
Life is more powerful than death, and love is more enduring than tragedy.
Imagine what would happen if we lived as if we believed that.
Powers of prejudice would be blasted open and revealed and revealed for what they are
Stones of fear would be named and boom, new possibilities open up
The entrenched ways of doing politics and church and family and religion would be up for grabs, and boom, the rejected are accepted, the low lifted up, the useless given meaning….because life and love, not hatred and prejudice, have the last word.
When those women turned their back on the old empty tomb and faced towards a new possibility, boom, hope took hold.
I can’t explain it; I don’t understand it, but I don’t need to.  I see it.
Life is more powerful than death, and love is more enduring than tragedy.
I see it when people begin to understand the hearts of others, especially the enemy
I see it when we turn our backs on retaliation and move forward with alternatives
I see it at gravesides when tears and laughter flow together because of the trust that life is eternal as well as temporal
I see it in a millennial who begins to question the consumer paradigm of social media, and seeks the possibility to do good it offers….
I saw it this week in Ann, who told me her own resurrection story……..
Inexplicable.   I don’t understand it; I can’t explain it, but it’s real.  It’s true.  It’s powerful.
And it’s high time you, and I and the church stopped cowering and started acting as if we believed that
Life is more powerful than death, and love is more enduring than tragedy.
May each of us know it, live it, and share this resurrection in our own Good Friday worlds. 
Go, and release life.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

teach and admonish in all wisdom

Now it gets uncomfortable, this Colossian Challenge of ours!  The community members are expected to teach one another, admonish one another, which sounds more authoritative than most church members like (unless they're willing to "teach" Sunday School, and even then very self-deprecatingly).  But it's what makes a community a community, that we can share our knowledge as well as our ignorance with one another.   And it has to be done "in all wisdom".   We humbly pretend to be so unwilling to share our wisdom, while acting arrogantly in all sorts of other life areas.  Yet god has gifted every one of us for building up one another in our community.   What's your gift for teaching, admonishing, or wisdom?  and how are you using it, wisely?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Word of Christ

if it's not the spoken words of Jesus, could this mean the Word (of God) that IS Christ?  If Jesus was the spoken Word of the divine, then what word is God speaking to me?  and what does it mean to have it living in me?   not visiting occasionally, but indwelling me.?

Monday, March 14, 2016

Colossian Challenge: let the word of Christ dwell in you richly

There's that little permissive word, "let" again....
If I wonder about what "word of Christ" i might need in me, it might go back several weeks to the Peace of Christ....yet that might be a feel-good cop-out.  When I hear Jesus say a word, it's usually more challenging than peaceful, shattering my deeply cherished perceptions...perhaps a word like, "You give them something to eat", when I am bemoaning social inequity......or "do not worry" when there is such anxiety around us.....or"the gate is narrow and the road hard that leads to life" when I have worked hard to have an 'easy' life.
what word of Christ resonates or challenges you?

Something smells good, or What's that smell?

What’s that smell?  031316
(Light incense at Children’s time)
Story:  what’s that smell OR  Something smells good
what smells evoke what memories?   Coffee, bread baking, soup in the pot, Friday BTw, Sunday dinner, oils after a massage—the aroma can permeate the place, but more than that, the memories evoked speak of deep, good experiences usually…as much about the experience as the aroma, 
Bread baking smell really means my grandfather’s love, for example
In some churches, incense  
Our gospel story today has this phrase “The fragrance filled the house”
The fragrance of what, filled the house?
Unlike other gospel writers, John has this story of Jesus getting a foot washing and much more, a massage, a sign of deep respect, care and hospitality, by his friend Mary……other stories have different settings and characters.  So obviously, what fills the house is the smell of the ointment from Jesus’ footrub.
But really, as with our aroma memories, it’s more about the experience, and Jesus moves the critics from the obvious to the Real:
of love given,                                                                                                                                                               suffering acknowledged                                                                                                                                                             but life affirmed.
It’s Mary’s motivation in the act that causes something to fill the available space.  She went beyond the simple expectation of hospitality’s foot washing in that dusty climate, and anointed him.   Yes, it’s about his upcoming death, he says, but as a woman and friend I also know its about his presence, then and there—her delight in him, her love for him,  offers not only comfort  but also points to beauty and the very human need for tender loving touch.  And the house could become either a place of critical complainers or of extravagant generosity.   Awkwardly embarrassing, financially extravagant, smelly it may be.  But Jesus affirms it, and that’s what permeates the whole house
This incense too fills our church space with more than an aroma:  it smells of babies being baptized, love being celebrated, tender touch at funerals.   The aroma of praise wafts through our songs and anthems, our tears and laughter, and the fragrance fills the house…
 love given,                                                                                                             suffering acknowledged                                                                                                                                                             but life affirmed
And what about what we do beyond this particular space?  What do we do that points to the beauty of divine love, God’s extravagance, that offers tender loving touch?
Nursery huggers and ss teachers, Sunday dinner preparers for the community, hands held in small groups as we pray together, are they given extravagantly and lovingly?   So the fragrance fills the house?
love given,                                                                                                                                         suffering acknowledged                                                                                                                                                             but life affirmed
And beyond these walls?   Brows wiped at Advent House, hands held in prayer at Francis Center, food for the body and soul at Sanctuary house, ashes marked on foreheads in our parking lot……and the fragrance of divine love and extravagance fills the available space.
 love given,                                                                                                                                                                suffering suffering acknowledged                                                                                                     but life affirmed
And what about in our families and personal relationships and work places?  Do our actions speak
love given,                                                                                                                    suffering acknowledged                                                                                                                                                             but life affirmed.
Does the fragrance of our friendship with Jesus fill the spaces we occupy?
Mary’s love for Jesus gave her an open heart, and caused her to spend extravagantly, act outrageously, endure embarrassment calmly….and the fragrance of her behavior filled the house.  Does yours? does mine?  Does ours? 
Long after the incense is gone, will the memory evoked be enough to keep our hearts and homes, our church and community,  a fragrant house of generosity, or will we forget and go back to being  dank homes of critical complainers?
May the house of each of our hearts, and this house of God, be filled with the fragrance of
love given,                                                                                                                                                               suffering acknowledged                                                                                                                                                             but life affirmed.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

be thankful ??

what does it mean to BE thankful, as a disposition of the heart, when things aren't going well?  After we pondered this at our Simple Supper this week, it occurred to me that we really have to slow down to BE anything.....
today a friend shared that once she gave herself permission "to STOP and pay attention", life began to be quite different.  I hope we can all learn to take BEing time, regularly, or else we will roll through life DOing with little reflection on who we truly are and are called to be.

be thankful

colossian challenge continued...be thankful......another small BIG word: be. We're such do-ers in our society that we often don't take the time to reflect on be-ing...being human, being a child of God, being Jesus' people, being who we are called to be (though that one probably should be be-coming, not being!). Can you say who you are, your identity, without referring to 'doing', like your work, for example? 
Is thankful one of our be-ing characteristics?

Saturday, March 05, 2016

the importance of one word

"let" implies a choice.   It is an intentional act on our part to allow, let, permit, open to, the peace of Christ be the primary rule, authority, measurement, of our lives.  God does not force anything upon us, no matter what the bad theology of suffering might say, or what the individualistic self-sufficency of our culture may suggest.  We get to choose whether or not to permit a higher authority into our lives.