Monday, September 24, 2012

External and internal motivations

As someone has said, "Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings." Striving to be number one can be healthy as long as we are able to keep it into perspective.  Winning isn't everything.  Being the best isn't everything, neither is it the only thing.  The disciples apparently quickly realized that they were misdirected in their notions.  But notice that Jesus didn't scold the disciples for wanting to be great. What he tried to do was help them put it into perspective.  He tells them to redirect it.  He points to discipleship.  He points to the Christian life of servanthood and the role it plays in our own priorities.  (From Pastor Randy's Sermon) 

From Pamela:  Years ago I knew a young person who, to my exasperation, would not respond to either reward or punishment.  It was during those years when discipline seemed my responsibility -- if he "succeeded" I wanted to affirm him, and if he was irresponsible I felt that some sort of consequence needed to be applied.  One day (again, to my consternation) he said calmly:  "Nothing you can give or take away will make any difference.  I am internally motivated."  
Wow!  I learned quickly that internal motivation is powerful. Whatever (or whomever) you have at the core of your heart exerts huge influence over your choices.  Think about the way young love often eclipses all other relationships.  Or how prejudice excludes any possibility of connection with a stranger.  
Jesus taught that the love of others unleashes our capacity to do the "best" or be the "best" in whatever role we have.  Of course it is our responsibility to care for whatever skill or position we have -- but not primarily for what it will "get" us.  As Pastor Randy said, we don't accumulate Brownie points by doing things Jesus teaches.  And we are not punished when we don't comply.  Rather, through Christ, the love of God is imprinted upon our heart -- and we become empowered from within to serve others in ways we had never imagined.   
Love for God and for others is the root of Christian Discipleship.  As we listen to Christ, words of direction are spoken that activate our gifts and abilities in miraculous ways.  

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Preparing for this weekend

Here are the readings for this weekend.   From Pastor Randy: Who is the greatest?  That is what the disciples are arguing about.... How do we strive to be great, have ambition but seek to be in discipleship?

From Pamela:    I am wondering how our self image affects our discipleship.  Do you perceive yourself as a leader or a follower?  How does the gospel meets leaders and followers?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Why do we come to church?  People have been coming to this congregation since 1973; people have been coming to this particular sanctuary for over 20 years.  Why did they and why do they come?  People probably come to this church for a lot of the same reasons they come to any church at any place.  Maybe we come out of guilt; maybe we come because our parents, our spouses, are dragging us here.  Maybe we come because we are afraid; maybe we come because we are hoping that we can get on God’s good side again.  Maybe we come because we want to be entertained; maybe we come because we like the music; maybe we come because it helps our reputation; maybe we come because something in our life is about to break and we are out of options.  
From Pastor Randy's Sermon 

From Pamela: I think it can be sensitive to ask the question "why" do we come to church.  I have asked that question of many and they do pretty well at responding until I press them and say:  Ok, now step away from "we" and focus upon yourself.  How do you complete the statement:   I come to church because..... 
This isn't an inquisition.  But it may be a challenge.   Why do YOU come to church?  Who shows up in the YOU that crosses the threshold from the parking lot into the gathering space and finally shows up in the pew.  Next time you come to church see if you can answer that question honestly:  Why am I here?  How am I right now?  
The reason those questions are important is because worship is a "come as you are" party.   Christ welcomes you how you are, God cares for you lavishly how you ARE -- not how you think you should be or wish you could be. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Prepare your mind for this Sunday

Read the Gospel lesson for this week.  

Ponder these questions:  Who do we say Christ is in what we do?  How do we set our minds on human things and not God things?  (Even when we come to worship). 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

From Pastor Randy's Sermon:  

Very often we look to see God in our lives when we need something done, need to be mended in certain ways and we turn to Christ, like many who turned to Jesus in his life, to hopefully find words and actions of healing.  This is an important dimension for us as Christians, to know that Christ is always there for us, always present for us.  However, keeping only this view of God, lends us to live our lives in relationship to God only when we need something.  The call of our discipleship, however, is to see God alive in our hearts, and to give witness to the grace of God to those we encounter. 

From Pamela:  
One of the terms used in spiritual direction is "consolation".  The term refers to the experience of God's presence.  It is the moment when we notice that something is going on that compels us to look at what is happening with an understanding that more is happening than what first meets the eye.  This moment may be surprising -- it may even be miraculous.  Suddenly the ordinary life seems extraordinary.  We pause in awe or in a tenderness of the heart's awakening to love, comfort, peace or clarity.  

These moments are given.  We can't choreograph them or create them ourselves.  However, what we can do, and sadly often do, is fixate upon what we deem important.  We make decisions and choices that divert our attention from the promise that Christ is always with us.  God's Holy Spirit meanders through our days inviting us to look at everything with compassion and gratitude.  With that attitude, then, we set aside our tendency to judge situations and people.  Judgement and critique can limit our capacity to be open to all that is happening.  

Consolation softens our hearts.  Consolation opens our minds.  Our eyes see and our ears hear the miraculous inbreaking of God in Christ saying:  Peace, I am here!

Where can YOU look to see Christ today?  Where or with whom are you approaching a point where YOU are seeing the limit of what YOU think is possible?  How might you pray to be open to seeing or experiencing "more"?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Prepare for this week's proclamation

Read the Gospel for this weekend.  

Jesus was trying to suppress those who were coming to him just for the miraculous.  Where do we look to see Christ in our lives?  Just for miracles and signs?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

What, another transition?

Jesus is still giving us the same challenges today. Christ will always be an up-setter of the status quo because Christ is always calling us to new ground.  Christ is always doing a new thing in our lives because he is continually helping us see new realities. (From Pastor Randy's September 2 Sermon) 

From Pamela:  Wow, isn't that the truth.  The more closely we follow Jesus, and the more fervently we pray for God's guidance, the more possibilities we see.  It really is an adventure into unknown territory.  
It seems that the more we step out into the unknown, the more dependent we become upon Christ to calm our fears, and empower our discipleship.  Then, as we become comfortable with the way thing are, Jesus approaches and we begin to notice the "more" that might happen.  We are most dependent upon Christ, I think, when we are challenging ourselves and one another to stretch beyond what is totally familiar.  If the "new" plan falls flat, perhaps it wasn't God's will -- but God uses our failures to gather us closer together in the hope for new life, new vision, and strengthened relationships in Christ.  If the "new" plan is a homerun, we can celebrate with praise and thanksgiving, knowing that before too long God will call us again to yet another "new thing."  
Remember that prayer we prayed for months during our transition process?  
"Oh God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown.  Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord."  Amen.  
Perhaps the truth is that we are always in transition -- it's just that we only notice it from time to time! 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

From Pastor Randy's Sermon: 
We all get into our routines. There's nothing wrong with that.  It simplifies life somewhat and it makes us feel more comfortable.  The trouble arises when we begin to attach not only meaning, but also great significance to that habit or ritual, when we begin to tell others that it must be done this way only.

From Pamela:   It seems to me that it might be helpful to look at routines and ask the question:  What is the purpose of this routine?  What does it offer me?  If somebody else is present and I share the routine with them, what happens if they never want to do it again? If I can't implement the routine, do I suffer?  Am I open to looking at what can happen when the routine can't be followed?  How much is invested in the routine? 


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Pastoral Ponderings prior to proclamation

The religious authorities are upset at Jesus for letting his disciples eat with defiled hands.  Jesus says they are missing the point about what truly defiles.  How do we set up rituals &  practices that can end up being a roadblock to what is Gospel?   What seems sacred but is in reality nothing more than our preference?

Here's the Gospel for this week.