Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Good news?

In last week's gospel lesson we receive profound good news:   God's mercy and love are so unconditional that there is absolutely nothing we can do to increase or secure God's assurance of eternal life.   Jesus accomplished it all for us.  

But we also received challenging news -- especially when we remember that most of us are wealthy.  Not many of us go to sleep hungry or wonder where we can sleep safely.  Here's the challenge, as Pastor Randy said -- Personal wealth is NOT a sign of God's favor.  

If we look to God to affirm our life, Jesus will expose all the nooks and crannies of our assumptions.  It gets back to the reasons why you worship God or confess or pray.  It can't spring a hope to complete some list of spiritual tasks that will mark us as "faithful".  We also will be exposed in any assumption that we are entitled to our wealth and to its ultimate security.  

Ask yourself the question:  What is your preference:   fat bank account and a thin relationship with Christ and other


simple, humble means and lavish, abundant love for and from Christ -- for and from others.  

Most of us can speak quickly about our preference -- and yet I can think of few who would be cheerful if told "go:  sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and follow Christ".  

Something to think about.  Something to pray about.  Something to be truthful about.  Something to remember -- 

Christ meets us in the poverty and hunger of our lives, lavishing us with the abundance of God's love and mercy. 

The man approaches Jesus on the basis of two false religious assumptions that were common in those days. First, you could keep the commandments to earn yourself eternal life. And second, personal wealth is a sign of God's favor. The reality, as Jesus saw very clearly, was that the man was not looking for suggestions on how he might change his life, but rather was looking for the assurance that he is okay, just the way he is. He is simply asking Jesus to affirm his life. He is totally unprepared for Jesus to challenge his basic assumptions. Yet that is precisely what Jesus does.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

When Human Bonds are Broken

The frustration, anger, struggle and questioning is not limited to a marriage, and divorce does not have the corner of the market when it comes to a fracture of relationship.  It is more about brokenness.  We are all broken.  We are a broken people.  The challenge becomes what do we do with the realities of these situations, how do we respond?  Are we going to react with Law of Moses or with Gospel Jesus Christ?  What do we think God wants our response to be? ....
Most of us have seen fine crystal.  For many it is beautiful to look at.  However, if you drop it, it shatters into a thousand pieces, making it impossible to put back together again.  Sometimes we know that human beings are like leaded crystal.  We are lovely until we make a mistake.  Then life seems to shatter us into a thousand pieces and it seems we can never be put back together just right.  And for some relationships it will be like trying to put the glass back together again in order to restore the connection, it just doesn’t seem realistic.  However, that does not mean we have to keep throwing shards of glass at one another.  Instead we work to at least see each other as children of God, and live in that community.

(From Pastor Randy's Sermon) 

Reflection:  Think of a relationship with a family member, friend, coworker or church member with whom you have experienced brokenness.  Recall as many details as you can about the cause of the rift. 
Oddly enough, rifts can be perpetuated long beyond the time when the break first appeared.  It is not unusual for people to tolerate the pain of a broken relationship rather than do what it takes to reconcile.  The longer the rift exists the harder the heart becomes.  As time passes, many relationships that were once quite intimate lapse into a phase that is distant or detached, if not completely estranged.  

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


I am not much into sweets.  I can do without pastries and yes even chocolate -- never have them.  Never miss them. 

Oh my... but then there is salt!  I don't oversalt.... (at least not habitually).  I taste food before I salt it.  But in almost all cases, a few grains of wonderful sea salt will "pop" the taste of fresh vegetables or an omelet in ways that your every day table salt can't accomplish. 

We are told that we should welcome whatever serves to "salt" us.  We are to pay attention to phases of life or attitude that threaten to deplete our "saltiness".  Without it we are bland and without the spunk that makes life lively!  If we lose our "salt" we also lose our capacity to add flavor to the lives of others.  Just as salt enhances qualities in food (as well as preserving food against spoilage) we can be the salt added to relationships that are mediocre or deteriorating. 

Not too much... we aren't to overpower the distinct characteristics of others in our midst.  We are to offer the "pop" they might not otherwise experience. 

Blessing of Salt and Fire
And so, in this season,
may we give ourselves
to the fire
that shows us
what is elemental
and sacramental,
that reveals what remains
after all that does not have
substance or savor
falls away.
May we turn
our eyes
our ears
our hands
to the beauty
for which we were formed
and bear with grace
the patterns
that blossom upon us
who live salted
and singed.
by Jan Richardson
All images and text © Jan Richardson.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Echoes that invigorate faith/discipleship

One of the reasons Sunday Worship has such value is that words are spoken, chords are struck, and lyrics are sung that can echo throughout the week.

If you can comprehend the rationale behind advertisers' use of "jingles" you can see how discipleship is stimulated each Sunday.  A jingle is a simple to remember set of words (often set to a catchy rhythm) that are attached to a product or service.  Years ago, a jingle had much the same function as a "pop up" on today's computer screen -- a few words or tones could make the entire jingle come to mind. 

Some of you over fifty might be able to complete the following:

"You can trust your car to the man who wears the star:  the big bright _______ star!"

"_________, a little dab'll do ya!"

"You'll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with _________"

or, what does "Plop, plop fizz fizz oh what a relief it is" refer to?

For me, this week, the last stanza from the Sending Song has echoed in myriad ways.  It has come to me during a couple of meetings.  It has lilted through my early morning prayers.

"I fear in the dark and the doubt of my journey, but courage will come with the sound of your steps by my side.  And with all of the family you saved by your love, we'll sing to your dawn at the end of our journey."

What prayers or phrases or encounters have echoed for you this week?