Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Good Reminder...

Here's a letter I received a few weeks ago. It serves, for me, as a good reminder of why the hard times of blending life and ministry within the church and a community coffee house is worth the effort.

Dear Tim & Bree,

Rarely do I find myself at a loss for words, but after a recent visit to your Coffee House I was totally dumbstruck.

As a father it is difficult at best to "give wings" to a daughter (even a capable, fiercely independent & overachieving one). Balancing that with a protective instinct from 3,000 miles away has proven to be difficult for me.

Weekly conversations with my daughter contained countless references to time she was spending at a coffee house studying and interacting with the couple who ran it. I assumed it to be a commercial establishment and was always curious about how they would allow someone to spend hours at a time taking up space reading or studying. It did not compute with me but I was happy that she had found an oasis so far from home. My wife and I would like to thank you for the kindness and consideration you have extended to our daughter.

Suffice it to say, the Mosaic Community Coffee House bears little similarity to coffee houses I experienced during my college years.

I will never be mistaken for a religious person but I am thankful to the "Power" that directed my daughter to your community center. Your ministry has reinforced my faith in the goodness of people.


This letter truly takes the form of a letter of encouragement. Through the hardships that come with a business model ministry, the stories of surprise and thanksgiving continue to bring life to the daily functions.

It is from letters like this – right or not – that remind me the hard work is worth it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Joy 12.6

Isaiah 61

Here we are in the second Sunday of Advent and we’re reading from Isaiah. Our Advent candle today is Joy. Perhaps as we start you’d like to ask yourself these questions… so why are we reading this text? What does it have to say to us in regards to Joy? What might it be saying to us within this season we find ourselves in? What does it say to you?

During this time of Advent when Christians celebrate the coming of the Christ child I think it is very easy for us to see the attributes named here, in Isaiah, as taken on by Christ. We see Christ take these on when the Spirit of God rested on him at his baptism. We see the tasks of Isa 61:1-3 become part of his new salvation. These are the hopes and dreams and expectations the Israelites carried with them for their messiah – their king!

We respond this season to what God has promised us. We celebrate the coming of the incarnate.
We rejoice in the coming of our heavenly king. We respond this season to what God has promised us. However while we are no longer required to rebuild the devastated temple in Jerusalem, we are required to build the Kingdom of God. We are required to build relationships. We are expected to take care of what we have. We are to nurture, to cherish, and to love.
Isaiah reminds us of the Lord’s character to love justice and hate robbery and wrong. And so we are challenged to think and reflect upon what this means for our time and our mission.

It is easy for us to attribute this passage to Jesus. We read in Luke 4 about the time when Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. As he stood up to read, the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

It is easy for us to hear this passage from Isaiah and think of Jesus. It’s easy because we are used to hearing it in light of Luke 4. Jesus then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. Everyone’s eyes in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. Wow! Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Wow, this is Jesus. This is what he was sent to do. This is why he came, during this season. He came to proclaim freedom. He came to restore sight. He came as a babe, born in a manger to speak on behalf reconciliation. He came to renew, restore, sanctify and set free. He came as our propitiation. He stands as our counselor.

This is who Jesus is. This is who my Jesus is. This is who my king is. He is the one who came in the form of a baby, pronouncing freedom to the captive and sight to the blind.
We come here today, in this season of Joy, expecting.

We expect great things from our God. Because our God is great! We expect great things of our families. We expect great things from this season… good food, gifts, friends. We come in this season of Joy expecting. We are expecting to celebrate the birth of Jesus. We are expecting… And what a day of rejoicing that will be.

Rejoicing. It makes me think of redo. There’s something about the “Re” at the beginning of a word. I can still hear coaches saying “No, that’s not right, you have to redo it.” “Redo it”. “Renew it”. Rejoice. Continue to rejoice.

We have something to rejoice about don’t we. Jesus is coming. The birth of our savior is imminent. The coming of Jesus, our redeemer, Jesus the freedom ringer, Jesus the Messiah, Jesus the anointed, Jesus the proclaimer, Jesus the sent, Jesus the son, Jesus the powerful, Jesus the comforter, Jesus our friend… Jesus, our Jesus. We have something to rejoice in. We have someone to rejoice in, and that someone is Jesus.

Did you know in the time of Isaiah, debt, more than hard crime, was the most common reason for imprisonment? It’s no wonder why they needed to hear someone had come to "proclaim release to the captives"! Today, in our society, how many feel trapped by debt, are "upside-down" in mortgages and carry huge credit card balances. You know and I know, they would love to be set free. Perhaps some of current debt is from our own frivolous spending; nevertheless, there are plenty who have burdensome debt from schooling, health bills, the costs of raising children, food and housing. Many of us hear talk of jubilee – the canceling of debt and the reversal of fortune, as good news. But actually we can find this good news also extends to the shared life of the world. Ancient Jerusalem after the exile, damaged and in ruins, in need of being rebuilt, is a powerful symbol of our cities today. It speaks of the world beyond our borders, where nations are held captive by enormous debt that keeps them from making progress toward a better life for their people.

I believe this is what Isaiah is talking about. I believe this is what Jesus came to do, be a part of,
impact. Our tiny little baby Jesus, all innocent and fragile in the wooden stable crib has come to flip the world on its head. He has come to bring hope. He’s come to bring joy, and peace and he’s come to bring love.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor…”

What would you say if this happened? Is it possible? What would we do if in this season, this year, the brokenhearted and the captive were released and found freedom. Wouldn't that be good news, a source of joy, something to shout about? Wouldn't it be something to remember!

Let's look at this from another angle. Perhaps we can look at this chapter from Isaiah from another perspective. As Christians we often automatically assume Isaiah 61 refers to a person… ie Jesus. But in actuality for the Jews it was as much about the expectations of the coming messiah as it was a metaphor for their nation, their community. The personal reference to the "servant" is both an individual and a "community" and this ambiguity is intentional.
So while we can read this passage and immediately hear Jesus in it… perhaps we should also hear it in regards to ourselves.

As Christ’s ambassadors, as his hands and feet, I believe it is through us that this scripture is fulfilled today! We, in full confidence can proclaim this passage from Isaiah as our own. Christ came to give us life, that we may have it more abundantly. Jesus called us to step out of the boat and walk with him through the dusty streets and the uncharted waters – offering his love and peace.

I believe we can proudly proclaim both individually and as the community this passage from Isaiah. I believe you should be able to hear me say it, and I should be able to hear you. “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me, and you, to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent us to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor…”

This is who we are, this is what we’re to do. As the very ones who call ourselves followers of Christ, we must proclaim, we must release. We must be people about reconciliation, freedom, hope, joy, peace and love.

At the end of Matthew, Jesus came to his disciples and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
We’re not alone! Jesus is with us. Jesus is empowering us. When we are anointed by the Spirit, sanctified by his blood, we are called to step out. We are called to walk as he walks, love as he loves, support, encourage, give, and restore. The Spirit of the Lord is here, ready to anoint. Are you ready to proclaim good news to the poor? Are you ready to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and restore sight to the blind? Are you willing to set the oppressed free? Are you excited to proclaim this the year of the Lord's favor?

I believe this is what we are being asked to do. In this season of Advent, as we prepare for the celebration of the birth of our Lord, let us be filled with Joy. Let’s be filled with joy as we embark upon the road less traveled. As we journey through the sometimes confusing path of the upside down kingdom, let’s speak joy into this season and into our community. With its hurts and pains of loneliness and despair we must instill the joy of the Lord.

May the words of our Lord be true. In Luke Jesus says: this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. May we be anointed by the Spirit of the Lord. May we proclaim good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoners, and restore sight to the blinded. May this year, this season, be one where we engage in God’s kingdom.

In this advent season, my hope is that we recognize our role in the building of God’s kingdom. As we celebrate the coming of our Lord, may we remember he is with us. As news reports carry on about the hardships of our economy, may we never forget who we are, where we come from, and what it means to be a follower of Jesus the Nazarene!

As you go, be anointed by the spirit, and active in your faith… go and Love!

Thursday, November 12, 2009


"An ironic thing about churches like Lawndale is that because they have chosen to pour their limited resources back into the local community, many outside of that community have never heard of them." (Jim and Casper Go To Church, pg 72)

I often, about once a year, wrestle with the desire for public recognition. Growing up in the church I wanted to be a youth pastor who was passionate about youth ministry who stuck with it over the years. I hoped to be the one who broke the mold and was in the public (church) eye for that.

I find myself in a small urban neighborhood church plugging away daily in an unknown ministry. Well, I should say unknown denominationally and nationally. Which is where most of us live. However, there are times I just want a little bit of recognition. To be noticed for the work we've put in to making our neighborhood reflect a little bit of the Kingdom.

As I read the quote listed above, it rang true for me. After attending Nazarene denominational conferences this summer and fall, I've realized those who are in the main light are there because they've placed themselves there. They are there because of a desire to network and travel. Not to negate what they are doing for the Kingdom, I realized where I am and what I'm doing is being true to my calling. My call is to have my hands dirty in the mess of the daily function of the church.

It's Ironic that the churches possibly doing the most in and for the community are the ones least known for their good works. But, as Jesus says - the kingdom is upside down.

Deuteronomy 11.1

Growing up I often heard the story of a pastor who planned for weeks to prepare his first sermon for his new congregation. He worked diligently on it. He practiced it, reworked it, and felt it was conveying everything he had hoped. And so, the day came. He spoke boldly and proclaimed the message of the Lord.

Following the service, as was typical in their church, the new pastor stood in the back and greeted the people as they left. They were all smiling, full of joy. They were very pleased with their selection of their new pastor and his ability to speak the word of God clearly. As they each passed by their pastor, they all complimented him on the well crafted sermon.

The next Sunday came, and the pastor spoke boldly, proclaiming the abundant grace of God. The people enjoyed the message, but many commented to one another how it was simply the message from the week before. Although a fantastic message they thought it was odd, yet they complimented their pastor on the way out none the same.

The pastors third Sunday with his new congregation came, and once again, he spoke boldly proclaiming God’s good news. He was passionate as he spoke and the people understood what he was saying; partly because it was the same message as the previous two Sundays. After the benediction when the pastor was standing in the back, it took a few minutes for people to come to shake his hand. They were all talking amongst themselves. They conspired and had the board chairman approach the pastor and ask what was going on since he had spoken the exact same message three Sundays in a row.

The pastor stood there, not surprised by their concern. Yet he looked at the board member, then to the rest of the congregation standing behind him and responding in love said, “Well, once you get this one and start living it, we’ll move on to the next.”

Deuteronomy is much like this story… Moses is reiterating to the people what they’ve already heard. He’s reminding them of their journey out of Egypt, and their wandering. He’s reminding them of their covenant with God. He’s reminding them of his journey up the mountain, my favorite part. It’s when he went up on the mountain and spoke to God who was in the form of a burning bush. And how, he had fasted for 40 days not eating or drinking anything. He comes down from the Mountain, and the people had built a golden calf… appalled Moses throws down the tablets, they break, and he goes back up the mountain, not eating or drinking for 40 more days. He’s like remember that! Ya, remember all this.

In some ways we can look at Deuteronomy as a conclusion. It’s the last of the 5 books we refer to as the Pentateuch and it does a fantastic job of summing up all the key things which took place in the previous books. Yet Deuteronomy isn’t a conclusion as we know it today. When we read a story or write a paper the conclusion never has a new thought or new idea. We don’t add new stuff in a conclusion but we reiterate what’s been said… which Moses has done.

Let’s look at a few of the points he gave emphasis: one place of worship, other gods, clean and unclean food, tithing, canceling debts, the Passover, the festivals, how to support the priests, and what to do when someone is murdered. The list goes on and on.
We even hear Moses specifically go over some, what I think are odd things in this book. Check out chapter 22. 4 If you see someone's donkey or ox fallen on the road, do not ignore it. Help the owner get it to its feet. 5 A woman must not wear men's clothing, nor a man wear women's clothing, 8 When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof.” He’s just telling them to put up a railing. Again in verse 11 he reminds them not to wear clothes made of wool and linen woven together, and that they need tassels on the four corners of their cloak.

Why? You know, I always wonder about this. Why is Moses so concerned with these things? I honestly don’t know. I don’t have a good answer. Perhaps it’s because he was so wrapped up in the laws and the codes that it was all he could hear or see. Perhaps he cared so deeply for the people that he wanted to ensure the people, even after he was gone, would continued to follow God.

What’s interesting about Deuteronomy is that in all of the book, with Moses saying what not and how to do things, with his lists and redundancies, in chapter 6 he has a short paragraph which is possibly one of the most well known passages of the old (and I’d even say, the new) testaments.

We find in Chapter 6 of Deuteronomy the Shema. The Shema is a foundation for who the Jews are and how they live. It is a prayer the Jews historically recite twice a day, once as they get up and once when they lay down. Over the years and centuries, the Shema, found in Deuteronomy has shaped the thinking and actions of people worldwide.

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. [a] 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

"Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" "The most important one is this: 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." (Mark 12)

Which is the most important commandment? Of all the commandments in the Bible, of all the commandments from God, we’re told the most important one is this one found right here in Deuteronomy chapter 6. Of all the commandments, the 10 commandments, the directions given throughout Leviticus, Numbers and all of Deuteronomy – Jesus pinpoints Chapter 6 as the most important. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
So here it is, Jesus tells us this is the most important thing. This right here. So, we should focus on it right? Jesus goes on to tell us the second most important commandment. And what’s second? Love your neighbor as yourself. So, what’s foundational here? What’s the theme? What runs through the veins of the most important commandments? Revenge? Equality? Redemption? It’s Love.

The greatest commandment is to Love… Love God, then love neighbor. And as we read through Deuteronomy, at first glance you don’t always see a lot of love. For example, someone stand up and read Deuteronomy 19:21. (Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.)

What do we do with this verse in light of Chapter 6? Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments are to be on your hearts…

How does “Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” connect with Love?

Ya, I don’t think it does.

If the commandment to Love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength is to be on our hearts, how do we do it? How do we implant this Love on our hearts? How do we impress it on our children as Moses tells us to do? This is a good question – you know, I’m a new dad… so I need to know. How do we impress this? How do we do it?

Think back to your childhood, how many of you can tell me a joke your parents told you over and over again as a child. How about a story they read to you? That’s what the story of the pastor I told at the beginning is. It’s one of those jokes my dad told so many times when I was a boy I will never forget it. I believe this is what it means for us to impress these commandments on our hearts, and on our children.

If we’re not daily thinking about loving God with all of who we are, each day, from time to time throughout the day, we’re not cutting it. We’re not doing it. We’re falling short.

So, In Deuteronomy 6 we have the Shema… and it starts with Hear O Israel. That’s like Moses yelling out “Timothy Charles!” It gets my attention, and I know I need to stop what I’m doing and listen up. When I hear it, I know something’s up. I’m either in big big trouble or what’s about to be told to me is really important.

Hear O Israel! Listen up! Here’s what you’ve got to do, Love the Lord your God with all that you are. In everything you do, in your waking up and lying down, love him. Talk about him. Think about him, share about him. Pokemon… ya, he’s nothing. It’s God.
You know what? Hey guess what? Hey church can I tell you something? It’s all about love.
I think it’s really interesting that out of all the texts Jesus could have quoted to the teachers of the Law he picked out one whose focus is not on piety, or separation, or position - but on love. I think it’s really interesting as over the years I’ve grown to desire to follow Christ. And as we desire to be Christ followers and live as he lived and value what he valued… we can help but be caught in Love.

So, we have two references today don’t we. We have the Old Testament Deuteronomy text alongside the New Testament Mark text. Both speak to God’s Oneness. Both call us to love God with all we are. The seemingly only difference is Jesus calls us to step out even further by broadening our understanding of what it means to love God – by also loving our neighbor.

I think love is foundational to our Christian faith. I believe it carries the weight of the commandments and rules. Without love we are only a resounding gong. We are annoying, bible thumping bull horn guys across the street from Dick’s at 1 in the morning.

We are known as followers of Christ by our love; our love of God and our love for neighbor. Each day we are blessed with the opportunity to feely choose. We can choose to Love God. We can choose to focus our attention on him. We can choose to focus our resources towards him. We can choose to love one another.

Social Justice is a hot topic right now. Helping the poor, serving the under privileged. All denominations across the board are looking at it, discussing it, and participating in it. But what is it, if it has not love?

Paul says: If we have faith that can move mountains but don’t have love – we are nothing. If we give everything we have to the poor, but don’t have love – we gain nothing.

We must have faith. We must give to the poor. We must support the homeless, the downtrodden, the disenfranchised. It’s who we are, it’s in our DNA, it’s how we were made. We must love. We are commanded to love.

Hear, O Church: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. [a] 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home, when you walk around your neighborhood and when you drive along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

"The most important commandment is this: 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

Jesus demonstrated the truth of these words as he broke bread and shared the cup. And so it is that we today will also remember Christ’s love for us as we share at his open table – a table designed and poured out in love.

Hear O’ Church, The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Go and Love

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Old Testament Series.

I'm speaking on Deuteronomy this Sunday. Yep. the whole book... in 20 min.

We've started a new series where we will go through the whole Old Testament book by book... each week moving on to the next book. We will take a break during Advent and Lent as well as a few other individual Sundays. But for the most part, we'll look at a book each week.

This week I'm looking at Deuteronomy.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

U ministry

Today I participated in the 3rd annual Church Fair at Seattle Pacific University. It's my duty, it's what I do, part of my job as the University & Coffee House Pastor. So, it makes since for me to go to SPU today and stand at a both and share about SFC and our wonderful coffee house.

Yet, I felt very out of place. I've stood at the booth before and today I even saw familiar faces and was even recognized by some, yet something stirred inside me. I didn't feel as though I belonged.

I've spent much of the afternoon thinking about this trip to SPU today. As I've reflected on it, I can't help but be drawn back to my study and post from August about the Smyrna church in Revelation. In that post I spoke to the spirit of consumerism within the church of Smyrna.

As I stood in a row of tables promoting our church, much like going to Macy's and buying cologne, I felt awkward as the realization of marketing came to mind. I was marketing our kingdom guided church to 18/19 year olds. We all were standing there with brochures and fliers (many with candy and swag in hand) hoping to share the goods of our congregations. Hoping these students, based on this experience, would come and visit our churches.

The principle itself is great. I love the idea of sharing a little bit about our church. I love spending time with college students. I enjoy engaging in a conversation with students. But what was weird was the commercials, the propaganda, and the gimmicks used to lure students to one church over another. Our commercials weren't based on theological or doctrinal principles. It appeared the students were more concerned with how cool the booth looked or if the local church offers rides on Sunday mornings.

I honestly felt like I was participating in a one stop church shop. It was as though we were saying "Come, take a quick taste test for a community of faith." As I stood there at this one stop church shop I actually heard a student describe his coming weeks - as he goes around "church shopping" each week throughout the semester.

Don't get me wrong, I love University students. I love University ministry. I love the church. But I do not love the church fair. I don't like the shopping mentality - feeling awkward as I stand there with brochures watching students pass by my booth to go to the next church who has candy available. I don't believe students, young adults for that matter, are needing to be spoon feed. The very nature of college places them in a place of growing and stretching. They don't simply need a place to sit and be told, but a place to engage, be loved, and love.

Perhaps a simple lesson one could learn from the church fair is: use candy during the Eucharist. Perhaps more students would come to our service if we had twix... "gimmie a break, gimmie a break, break me off a piece of that Jes-us leg." Alright, not really. I don't think students are that immature, and as I stood there this afternoon I wanted some of the candy the other churches brought. But I do struggle with the very structure we have set before our students... our neighbors... our world... with our consumeristic mentality.

This experience reminds me of a past experience where a lady told me students don't need to be stretched. They don't need to be involved in ministry. What they need is a place to come and belong... they need to be babysat. Perhaps I should change my philosophy of ministry... then maybe I might be a general superintendent one day.

Hmm... no, I'll stay where I am, building relationships one neighbor at a time.

Friday, September 4, 2009


Yes, I am writing this on Friday night. And yes, like most people, it is the close of a long work week. However, I find myself on this Friday night, not just tired from the workweek... but the summer as a whole.

Back in June we had a small fire in our church building which caused major smoke damage throughout. As a result, we have been able to repaint and refloor most of the building. But, construction projects, even when you're not having to do ALL the work are VERY tiring.

To be honest, I'm kind of burnt out. I'm burnt out on pulling carpet, pulling tack strips, carying lumber, running to the Depot, and walking around to see the progress! Hopefully in the next two weeks we'll be done.

The light is on at the end of the tunnel. Carpet will be laid soon, and I CAN'T WAIT!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Spirit of Consumerism 8.23

Smyrna & the Spirit of Consumerism

About a week or so ago, Bree and I watched a cute film. It was well done. But for the first several scenes, I was pretty frustrated with the main character, and not sure if I was going to be able to finish the film.

You see, the main character, She has an addiction to shopping. She loves to shop. It’s her curse. She can pretty much think of nothing else; the smells, the new cloth, the adrenaline of a new purchase. She is upside down in credit, and doesn’t know where to go, what to do, or how to get out of the habits she’s in. The film starts with her in route to a job interview, seeing a new green scarf in a store front window, rationalizing the need to buy it and wear it, to ensure her ability to get the new job. She decides she needs the scarf so badly that she pays for part of it in cash, and part of it on 3 different credit cards – because they’re all nearly maxed out!

Our text this morning from Revelation 2:8-11 is written to the church in Smyrna. We are looking at it in light of a Spirit of Consumerism. It might not be relevant right off that the church in Smyrna is caught in a spirit of consumerism, but as we look at their situation, we can’t help but wonder, how are we - here in Seattle, wherever we are, in our own lives - caught in a spirit of consumerism.

To give a little background, the city of Smyrna was located adjacent to a deep gulf which made it a desirable location for nearly every major political power. The city was in constant turmoil, destruction and rebuilding. Author/Pastor Scott Daniels says Rome takes most of the credit for Smyrna’s resurrection.

In the minds of the first-century citizens of Smyrna, it was because of their allegiance to Roma and the gods of the empire that their life as a major city had been restored. Even the buildings that surrounded the city during this time were symbolic of the gods’ favor. As one approached the city by boat, the great buildings looked like a crown or garland adorning the cliffs; it’s said, to encourage poets to speak of the spectacular skyline of the city as ‘the crown of Smyrna.”

The city was in a place of prestige with the Roman Empire. However the church was not. The church in Smyrna faced threats from two directions. The first was Rome, with the people becoming increasingly willing to worship the great empire. It became the practice of the people, like their patriotism, to once a year go to the alter and burn a pinch of incense, doing so gave the citizens a certificate that verified they had participated in their civic duty. The second and more challenging came from the Jewish community of Smyrna, who had developed a co-operative understanding with the Romans to worship their God freely as long as they were willing to participate in various civic aspects of the city’s life. Although many of the Christians in Smyrna were certainly Jewish, gentiles were also converting to the Christian faith. So, as new believers sought affiliation with the Jewish faith, hoping for the ability to no longer participate in the cultic worship practices of the empire, they were openly rejected by the Jewish citizens of Smyrna, leaving them outside the umbrella of protection afforded the Jewish population and thus vulnerable to persecution.

This brings us to the poverty of the Smyrna church. It is probable that this poverty is a literal material poverty and not a spiritual poverty. The economic welfare of the believers, we may assume was not due alone to their normal economic condition but to confiscation of property, looting, and the difficulty of earning a living in a hostile environment.

From the perspective of earth, the city of Smyrna is rich and powerful. The city wears the crown bestowed on it by the empire. From the perspective of earth, the Christians of Smyrna are not only poor and foolish, but also suspicious outsiders who refuse to participate in the systems of power that make the city great. From the perspective of heaven, however, the city of Smyrna is poor because it has placed its hope and trust in powers that cannot survive “the second death”.

It’s interesting that of the seven churches spoken of in Revelation, the church of Smyrna, with its empirical poverty, is the only one to still exist. It remains a vibrant center of Eastern Orthodox worship and education.

I was watching this film “Confessions of a Shopaholic” with Bree the other day, and here I am, discussing the Spirit of Consumerism. The girl in the film, had a spirit of consuming about her. She wouldn’t think to look in the closet for an outfit to wear to a special occasion; the mall was the only place to look.

This is pretty common of our society isn’t it! We have a spirit of consumerism. I do it, and I know you do too. I did it this week. Perhaps this is my “confessions of a consumerist.” Anyway, Bree and I went to the bookstore on Thursday and a book popped out to us. As I flipped through it, it made me laugh and I bought it.

The book I bought is titled: Little-Known FACTS about Well-Known PLACES – Disneyland.
Here let me highlight a few of my favorite random facts about Disneyland.
Did you know: There is a regulation-size half-court on which employees can play basketball inside the Matterhorn?
Did you know: The most popular food item at Disneyland is ice cream. Main Street’s Gibson Girl Parlor alone sells enough yearly to build a life-size replica of the Matterhorn.
Did you know: The gold decorating the exterior of It’s A Small World isn’t paint but, in fact, 22-karat gold leaf.
Did you know: The ground at the entrance to the park is red to simulate a red carpet, and to make every guest feel like a V.I.P.; and on entering Main Street, the pavement becomes black, because black gets hot and “hot” keeps crowds moving – not just into the park, but directly into Main Street shops.
Did you know: To encourage guests to buy sweatshirts and warm clothing, the Disney Clothiers, Ltd store is kept several degrees cooler than the other shops on Main Street.

What does all this say to us? What does it say about us? Several of these little known facts about Disneyland speak to the amount of consuming we do as a people. It talks about our empires structure to encourage us to spend, buy, take, and consume.

Every year, when I was growing up, when we would have Nazarene Night at Disneyland, I had to have a new hat. I had quite the collection of Mickey baseball caps. I never ate ice cream, I didn’t buy sweatshirts, or t-shirts, but you better believe I came home with a hat!

Doesn’t it seem like our culture encourages us to consume. We are encouraged to upgrade our tv to digital. We’re encouraged to switch out our DVD player for a BlueRay. We’re encouraged to take advantage of the Cash for Clunkers while there’s still money available. Get rid of the old, upgrade, renew, and buy the new! There is always this desire for more, to have, to posses. Our culture spurs it on. Our North American culture actually thrives on it. It thrives on our spending. Remember the $600 bucks we got from the government to spend last year!

Even our popular television shows sometimes poke fun at our consumerism, while at the same time encouraging us to continue to spend. Take the show Chuck for example. Chuck works for the BuyMore, which is next to Large Mart. When we watch shows, sports, anything on the ol’ tube, (and now even the internet) we’re inundated with commercials seeking to lure us into supporting the shoe, food, car, and dotcom industries.

But what do we do with this as Christians? How do we balance our understanding of Christ’s call on our lives with the empirical message to consume?

That’s a hard question because we have our own tendencies and forms of consumerism in the Church don’t we? We always hear the term “Church Shoppers.” There are people out looking for the church which meets their stylistic, emotional, personality, and esthetic needs/tastes/ and flavors, just as they would a new car, shirt, or restaurant.

We live in a pluralistic religious society, much like that of the city of Smyrna, where there are many faiths to choose from. We have Buddhist, Mormon, Hindu, New Age, Jewish, & Christian – which contains how many denominations? Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, Episcopal, UCC, Baptist, Methodist, Congregational, Brethren, Nazarene, Wesleyan, Presbyterian… The list goes on and on. We have choices, doctrines to choose from and ways we have structured even the Church to fall into the trap of consumerism.

In the book Shaped by God’s Heart, Minatrea says “Research reveals that we prefer engaging in experiences rather than passively receiving goods or services. The more immersed and actively involved one is in an experience, the more memorable that experience is. Should church be any different?

Most people would agree that many worship services do not actively engage people. Worshipers sit in pews watching those on the stage. From this perspective, what many call ‘worship’ appears more entertainment than involvement. Authentic worship invites participants, not spectators. Worship is not learning about God; it is encountering God. It is not hearing about him, but hearing him. Worship is not standing some distance away and looking on; it is entering his presence. Worship is experiential and participative. It is active. The experience of worship changes us.”

This quote makes me wonder what the difference, if there is one, is between consuming and participating. We are asked to participate in the Kingdom of God. We are asked to pick up our cross. We are asked to step out of the norm, out of the empire, and into the kingdom.

So, what does participation look like? How do we, as the people of God, participate in his plan of redemption for his people? How are we stepping out to serve the hurting, the broken, the disenfranchised? How are we engaging all of our senses in worship? How are we looking to the graces of yesterday and enabling them to ignite the smoldering embers of our faith to burn boldly into tomorrow!

How are we mimicking the first century church, the church of Acts 2, in stepping out of the consuming norm of the empirical standards? The end of Acts chapter 2 says: 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold their stuff, they gave to anyone, male female – I believe believer or not, who had need. They began living in God’s Upside Down Kingdom.

God’s Kingdom is not one where we buy and buy and buy, having, needing and wanting the latest trend. God’s kingdom is one where we give and give and give, loving those who are entrapped in the deteriorating system which falls at the second death.

You see, we are called to something much greater than the consumption of material goods. If we are to consume, we are to seek the cup from which we will never thirst again. If we are to consume, we are to break from the living bread which sustains. If we are to consume, we are to soak up the words of our loving father that we may perpetuate their truth to this dry and thirsty land.

It is not in our consumption that we are defined as followers of Christ, but rather by our giving. We are called to give. We are to give love when love is not found. We are to offer peace when hostilities abound.

The consuming nature of the empire found in Smyrna did not define the church. And the consumption of our state must not define us. We are called to be people, like the church of Acts 2, who look out for one another. We are to support the unwed 15 year old mother. We are to come around her and offer her love and encouragement. We are to be Christ where hurt and sorrow foster. We are to give in light of the societal call to consume and toss away.

This is why we offer Mosaic in terms unfamiliar to the empirical structure. Rome cannot define who we are and how we live. We will provide a place for all to come together. We will provide a place where God’s Upside Down kingdom is displayed. As God’s people we will not be defined by the consumeristic empirical spirit of this broken world. We will be a Spirit filled, loving community, open to the wonders of God’s work. We will embrace those who wander; seeking to help the disenfranchised find hope in the community of God’s love.

You see, we are called to something much greater than the consumption of material goods. If we are to consume, we are to soak up the words of our loving father that we may perpetuate their truth to this dry and thirsty land. If we are to consume, we are to seek the cup from which we will never thirst again, we are to break from the living bread which sustains.

As we come to the table today in remembrance of the sacrifice of the body and blood of our Lord, consume that which was freely given to you in love so you too may love as God loves.

As you go, go not with a spirit of consumption but rather of giving.
Go and Love.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

apathetic faith 8.2

This week as we gather together we are looking at the Church of Sardis in Revelation chapter 3. Throughout these summer Sundays we have been looking at the churches of Revelation and seeking to understand who they were and what they have to say to us. And so it is today that we look at the church of Sardis.

One of the things I’ve found interesting lately is facebook. You know about facebook right? Let me tell you something about facebook, you are either on it or you have an immediate relative who is. Facebook is the number one social networking group worldwide. What is interesting about facebook is that it can connect you with people in your neighborhood, your city, your school, whatever group, or location. It is a way to connect. One of its most prolific tools of connecting is with friends from the past. Just this week I was able to connect with three friends from high school who I haven’t talked to in over 10 years. It’s been fun to talk with them, find out what’s going on in their lives, and laugh about the past. When we connect with old friends we’re able to laugh at the stupid and silly things we did, while also remembering the times where we came around one another and supported each other through the tough times.

The past is vital to us. It helps define who we are doesn’t it? The past gives us mile markers, events to point to, times where change happened. It points to times where the unexpected took place and surprised us. Joy, tears, sorrow, and bliss all scatter the pages of our past.

We all have interesting stories from our pasts. We, as a church, have an interesting story. We started over 100 years ago, in a small church building down town. We’ve gone through 3, or more, fires. We have seen some amazing God things happen.

And this is what I want to do, I want us to share some of these amazing things God has done to us and through us. Cuz they are there!

So, turn to your neighbor, and share something God has done to you or through you.
Ok, who wants to share what God has done in your life to all of us?

You know, the Sardis church is interesting. It’s said that the city of Sardis had never been taken captive by direct assault. But twice in its history, in both 549 and 195 BC, the city was conquered by its enemies. You see, Sardis sat atop a great cliff with only one access route, so it was easy to defend its gates. Yet, each time Sardis was attacked and taken over it was by enemies who during nightfall scaled their way up the sides of the cliffs to find a small access hole in the wall of the city. The history of Sardis demonstrated the need to be aware of enemies who come “like a thief in the night.”

To the church of Sardis, chapter 3 says “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.” Like so many churches, the church in Sardis had learned to coast on its past glories and achievements. It became a picture of a church that is proud, bored, and living off its memory – and not moving forward. It was stagnant. It wasn’t going anywhere.

One writer says the church of Sardis was a church of apathetic faith. It was a pathetic faith, one where nothing took place. It was dead, dormant, bored. It was one which was a sleep – filled with slumber.

It’s easy to understand how this can happen isn’t it? We all like to look back on the past. We often have shiny well painted pictures of the way things were, the way things have happened, and the way things should be. And so it was with the church in Sardis.

Alright, so, I’ve got a question for you. Who here knows what happened on March 31, 2007?

That’s the day we opened our coffee house. That’s the day we set aside space for our community to use. That’s the start of our mission to allow friends to come together, neighbors to know one another, relationships to be forged and renewed. March 31st is the day we began, on a regular basis, to feed homeless people and give them a place to be loved. It’s a day we chose to step forward in faith. Through Mosaic we have hosted great events, we have made amazing friendships, and we have shared God’s love with Wallingford.

And I dare say, we’re not done there! Amen? We’re not done with Mosaic. Mosaic is not history. It has made history, but it is not history. But we cannot rest in the good times of the grand opening of Mosaic. We cannot rest in the memory of the great flood of 2006 which enabled God’s grace to transform an old basement. We can not!

We cannot rest there! For when we begin to rest, we begin to fall into the pattern set before us by the church of Sardis. We must not become complacent in the success of yesterday. No, yesterday must function as a motivation for us to continue forward. It must allow us to look out into the future and see new possibilities. We have an active God who is always loving, always engaging, and always speaking new life into dry and dying bones.

So, what’s next? What do we do? Where are we to go? Who are we to meet, to love, to introduce to the grace of the kingdom of God? Who, what, where, when, and how?

We all have events in our past, glory days, days we look back on with fondness. The church of Sardis sparks the question: how do we remember these past triumphs, these good times and be impassioned for today?

What’s next? What is God calling us, his church, to? What is God calling you to? What does he want you to do for him? What does he want to do through you? Is God speaking to you? Can you hear him?

God is not sleeping. God is awake, he is speaking. He is always doing, always engaging. It’s his M.O. It’s how he rolls. It’s what he does. He engages with his people. He loves the interaction of the relationship.

If we’re not hearing from God… I don’t think it’s cuz he’s not speaking. I don’t think its cuz he’s asleep. Perhaps it’s because we are.

In his book on Revelation Scott Daniels writes: The church in Sardis is called to, ‘Remembr what you received and heard’ (3:3). The remembering that Sardis needed to do was a special kind of remembering. The kind of memory it had been keeping was a glorification of the past. Living solely in the past often causes the church to become stagnant as it dwells on all that has gone on before. The kind of remembering Sardis needed to do was the recalling of the presence of God that enlivened and gave power in the challenges of the past so that they could have faith to move forward into God’s future.”

I love that last line. The kind of remembering Sardis needed to do was the recalling of the presence of God that enlivened and gave power in the challenges of the past so that they could have faith to move forward into God’s future. Can we substitute Sardis for Seattle First?

Here, listen to this: The kind of remembering Seattle First Church needs to do is the recalling of the presence of God that enlivens and gives power in the challenges of the past so we can have faith to move forward into God’s future. God’s kingdom future.

Wow, Yes! That is what we need isn’t it! That’s why the past is so important. The past helps us to have faith, faith in the future. The past helps us to have hope, hope in the future. The past helps us to put movement behind our desire to follow God into his kingdom future. The past is vital. But we cannot get stuck only looking at the past. When we do that, its death. The past has to be a lens to look into the future.

We, the church, have to begin, continue, always be asking how we can transform the community, how can we hit the streets with the gospel. The church of Sardis had a tendency to believe that if we simply ‘build it, they will come.’ We often are lulled into believing the practices of the past worked for us and so they should continue to work for others regardless of their culture and background. But we know this is not true. We know we must continue to engage with our culture, engage with our neighbors and be willing to step out in faith to be Christ – here and now!

So, again I ask, what’s next? What do you want to see God do in your life? What do you want to see God do next in your community? What do you hope to see happen in the coming days for the glory of the lord? And how will you step out to ensure it happens?
Turn to your neighbor, right now, and share some things you want to see God do next. I want us to share some of these amazing things we hope to see God do through us. What’s next?
Ok, who wants to share your hopes and dreams of what God might do next?

We cannot become like the Church of Sardis – asleep fostering an apathetic faith. We must, continue in passion, proclaiming the good news. Living our lives, our Holy, Sanctified lives, that the kingdom of God might be here on earth as it is in heaven.

You know, there are many churches in North America that are in danger of becoming a vacant reminder of better days. Let’s never become one of them. Let’s use the past to spur one another on toward love and good deeds. For us, the people of God, the best days are always ahead, not because of who we are, but because of who God is, calling us into his future.

Jesus asked us to remember didn’t he? He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and giving it to his disciples he said, "This is my body broken and given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

We participate in communion, not because it’s a ritual, but because it reminds us of the past and spurs us on to the future. As we eat the bread and drink from the cup we remember what was done for us. We remember the pain that was suffered, the grace that was given, the power that was wrought. And in so remembering, we are empowered to live today on into tomorrow.

May we not slumber in apathy, holding tightly to things that were, but remember the graces of yesterday and enable them to ignite the smoldering embers of our faith to burn boldly into tomorrow! May we always be people of action, looking for ways to engage love to this hurting world. May we always be ready to move when tomorrow comes calling us to hope.

God is not sleeping. God is always awake, he is always speaking. He is always doing. He is always engaging. It’s his M.O., his mode of operation. It’s how he rolls. It’s what he does. He engages with his people. He loves the interaction of the relationship.

If we’re not hearing from God… I don’t think it’s cuz he’s not speaking. I don’t think its cuz he’s asleep. It might be because we are.

May we not slumber in apathy, holding tightly to things that were, but remember the graces of yesterday and enable them to ignite the smoldering embers of our faith to burn boldly into tomorrow!

As you go, look upon the past as to empower your faith for tomorrow.
Go and Love.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

One Year.

It has been one year to the day - yesterday - that Mark and I were accosted by our drunken neighbor. Thinking back to a year ago, resting wasn't really an option. Bree and I grabbed some belongings, I remember specifically getting our wedding album, and got in the car and drove up to my in-laws house to sleep that first night. Mark and Christa left and went to a hotel with their kids. We did not feel safe in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our church building.

A year later, the uncertainty has left, the feeling of safety has returned.

Although our neighbor was arrested on Thursday night, and rearrested the following Sunday no charges were followed through with from the physical altercation. Although, he does still know where we live, he could possibly still be dealing with multiple personalities, we no longer walk up and down 1st Ave with a fear David-Michael-Scott might turn up and cause further pain.

Living in the city is an interesting thing. Through our coffee house, we try and build community. We try and wrap our neighbors with the ability to know one another, look out for one another, and love one another. Living in the city, in the neighborhood, provides the opportunity for greatness to be achieved in the relationships of those you come in contact with. But with this greatness does come great responsibility. Our actions one year ago, speak to the kind of people we want to be - people of Christ, people of love, people of peace.

It has been one year since I was for the first time faced with the need to protect - my family, my friends, my home, my church, and even my neighborhood.

Monday, July 13, 2009


Last week we got home from our church's General Assembly. It happens every four years. Over the course of my life I've gone to almost all of them that I could.

Well this year was an interesting one. We elected our first non-white, non-North American as one of our 6 General Superintendents. This was great news for our little denomination. Since we consider ourselves a global church, it is a good step following our 100 year anniversary, to have global leadership.

We elected 3 new generals at this assembly, and one I was ecstatic about, one indifferent, and one disappointed. The one I was disappointed with - isn't so much that I'm disappointed with him as a leader, but where he is coming from. David Graves has been pastoring the Olathe College Church in Olathe Kansas. What bothers me is that the last 3 pastors who have pastored that church have gone on to be General Superintendents. This bothers me that one church can have so much power within our denomination. I don't think it's right, and to be honest, it makes me sick to think about.

Monday, June 15, 2009

friend in need

On June 6th our church had a small fire. The fire trucks came out (something like 9 engines), the news reporter showed up (camera and story ready) and we were told we'd be on the 10:00 news.

Truth be told we weren't.

Another church was however. Their congregation had a larger story, with someone breaking in their building having jumped through the glass door. As he jumped he cut himself began bleeding and left his blood all over the church contaminating everything.

The news report the first night didn't really show much, it simply gave the basics... the address, the closure for services the next day, and so forth. The details were limited. To be honest, I was a little sad and disappointed we didn't make the news with our fire.

A week later the story of the church break in was still getting press. Saturday afternoon I heard who caused the damage, breaking the door and shedding blood.

Obviously troubled, the accused was arrested and is now locked up awaiting a trial.
The man who jumped through the glass door and cut himself and contaminated the facility was a friend - a frequent guest of Mosaic.

As I heard of the ongoings of his life over the past 2 weeks, I can't help but wonder about him. I wonder how he is, how he got to where he is, and how God's people can continue to wrap their loving arms around him. My heart and prayers go out to him.

I wonder in light of our call to love - how did we love Daniel?
I wonder in response to our to be for the disenfranchised - how did we support Daniel?
I wonder how can we - as the church - love and support the Daniels living in our neighborhoods.

Daniel is our friend, a friend in need, and my thoughts and prayers go out for him!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


I got an email which entailed a section from the book The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier. One quote in particular stood out to me. "The hope of emergents, their ministry, their message is, more than anything, a call for a reinvigoration of Christian theology—not in the ivy towers, not even in pulpits and pews, but on the street. ... "

In the general church and in the Church of the Nazarene there is much debate about the emergent church. I've heard name calling, seen pointing of fingers, and even heard words like heretic used.

I don't align myself with the emergent movement... however, I don't dis-associate myself either. In actuality, I'm weary of those against and for the movements. Yet, the quote above taken from Tony Jones book draws me to wonder how any thoughtful, heartfelt follower of Christ can turn their back on a movement and a people striving to invigorate Christian Theology.

Christian Theology for a lot of people, in their minds and in their daily lives, is dead. Yet Jones draws the connection that all of life is based on our Christian Theology. He stresses the message of the church is to reinvigorate the people with the passion of following Christ. And to this, I resonate.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

a Dedication Service letter

Dear Phineas Lee,

We were excited to hear we were having a boy and took special care in choosing your name. Yes, you do share your first name with the founder of the Church of the Nazarene, but it is also the name of a zealous follower of God in the Old Testament, who was the son of Eleazar and the grandson of Aaron the priest.

Like Phinehas of the Old Testament, you too are from a line of priests – pastors. God made a covenant of peace with Phinehas of the Old Testament and our hope and prayer is that your life will also be a covenant of peace. May you be a leader in all you do and an instrument of peace to all whom you come in contact with; regardless of their status or relationship.

Your middle name, Lee, stems from a family name on both sides. Grandma Smith and Great-Grandpa McPherson both share this name with you. We chose your middle name because of the faith and commitment of these great people. Both of their lives speak to their faith and commitment to God and family. Their legacy of love carries on to you, and our hope is that you will exhibit these same qualities throughout your life’s journey.

Your Christian heritage is rich and long standing. We love you and pray you will have a long lasting home of peace in the Christian faith of your family. As your mother and father, we pray for you, thank God for his mercies, and commit to raise you in the love of God, the Everlasting Father.

1 Samuel 1:27-28 reads: “I prayed for this child and the Lord has given me what I asked of him. So now I'm giving him to the Lord. As long as he lives he'll be given to the Lord."

On this special day of dedication in the life of our family, we want to express to you how much we love you. We love you more than we can ever express and we thank God for the blessing of your life.

We love you,
Mom and Dad

Monday, May 4, 2009

good shepherd 5.3

In our Gospel text this morning, Jesus tells us: I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. In 1 John we’re reminded that 16We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.” John goes on to tell us we are to love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

They will know us by our love for one another.

On Tuesday, Mark and I were driving in the big yellow truck toward Harry’s place. On 45th street as we approached the freeway bridge, we saw a few of our homeless neighbors. One of which we know by name. We commented to one another that we don’t see him as often as we used to.

As we waited for the stop light, I told Mark I was struggling with this week’s passages. I was struggling with it on several levels, but the point that stood out at that moment was the second verse of our text from 1 John. “17How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?”

The passages for this week were weighing heavy on me as we drove up and down 45th and we saw our neighbors and friends in need. It was good though, because as we drove and talked… I was reminded of the changes of our city and our society. I was reminded of the changes between our lives and those of the First Century Christians. Mark pointed out to me that a lot of the people of the scriptures lived within a small portion of land… their towns and cities were not crowded in the same ways. The poor being helped were the same poor seen day after day… at the wells and in their towns.

This week I was frustrated and confused on what to talk about in regards to these texts. I was hearing us being called to lay down our lives – as the good shepherd does, but wondering how to do it. I heard the reminder of our need to love our neighbors, which I think we do. I heard the directive to love – not with affectionate words, but by actions of truth.

So, I was hearing all of this, and I was trying to figure it all out. How do we, with our limited resources… do any of this? How do we give to everyone in need? There are so many! There are so many here in Wallingford. There are so many in Seattle. There are so many!

I was becoming overwhelmed. It was as though there was just so much to do, it’d be better to do nothing, to just quit. Perhaps it would be easier to quit driving up the street. Maybe it’d be simpler to quit going up 45th, quit walking over the bridge, quit going everywhere so we don’t have to see those in need. We often don’t know how to help, do we? We don’t always have the answers… we don’t have everything figured out, and it’s hard!

When we’re honest, and we take an honest look at our society, it’s pretty messed up right now. Beyond the norms of living in the city, with sky rises, condo’s and the hustle and bustle, the cities are crowded, have gangs, pollution and homelessness. In the cities there are a lot of people hurting. Here in Wallingford, in our neighborhood, we have friends who have been out of work for months. We have neighbors who are losing their homes to foreclosure.

Recently we’ve heard the social services – the shelters and food banks – might lose government funding. Many of the shelters are struggling to stay open as giving is down across the board. The economy is dropping… and here we are, with this call to lay down our lives and live out our love in actions. And it’s hard. It is hard. It’s hard to talk about this on Sunday when I called the cops on a guy Friday cuz he was passed out with his pants down exposing himself behind the dumpster. It is hard!

So, what do we do? What do we do to live out Jesus’ call? What do we do to make a difference in our city, our neighborhood, and our homes?

I think of two things when I think of these questions; the first is a book I’m reading and the second - my high school basketball coach.

Bree is in a book club with a group of friends…and they’ve read all sorts of books. They’ve invited me several times, but it’s never been books I’ve wanted to read. But the next book on their list is “A year of living biblically” which I got for Christmas, and have been excited to read. So, I’ll be part of the book club this next month as we talk about “The Year of Living Biblically.”
I’ve been slowly reading the book for a few weeks now, and so far, it has been pretty interesting. I’m not done, so if I share a little bit, I don’t think I’ll ruin it for anyone. But I want to tell you a bit about it.

It is written by A.J. Jacobs who at the beginning of the book basically describes himself as a purely secular individual. Religion has not been a part of his life, at any time. But as his young son begins to grow, he wonders about the people of faith and their Bible and what it is they’re doing, wondering if there is truth to their lives, actions and beliefs. So, he decides he would take on an adventure of living a year prescribed by the rules of the Old & New Testament scriptures.
As the author learns the rules and rituals of the Old Testament, he begins practicing them, living them. The first thing he does is start to grow out his beard. It’s pretty awesome. He does these things to understand their purpose and meaning. He and his wife are trying to have a second child in the midst of this year, and as he dives into scripture he begins to wrestle with the “be fruitful and multiply” passage.

Throughout the year he does some silly things which he doesn’t fully understand. But, as he is journeying through the year, he begins to find meaning, compassion, and understanding of the people and practices of the Bible. Prayer which at the beginning of the book was forced and awkward slowly becomes meaningful. He slowly relates to the scriptures, longs for the times of prayer, and identifies with others practicing their faith.

We hear from Jesus our call to lay down our lives for others – as he; the good shepherd did for us. We hear the Apostle John encourage us to love our neighbors – not with words, but with actions of truth. But how do we do it? How do we do all of this here in this city in this country? How do we do it in 2009 with our seemingly limited resources?

As I thought about these passages calling us to Love – I was also drawn to the passage from Numbers 25 where God makes a covenant of peace with Phineas, the grandson of Aaron the priest. As I thought about these scriptures, last week’s text came to mind as we heard Jesus on the Road to Emmaus. Several times in text we can hear Jesus says: “Peace be with you.”
There seems to be a connection between Loving and Peace. I guess the 60’s taught us that too… something about Peace and Love. Well, we know God is Love. We know Jesus came from God, Jesus is God, and that Jesus is love. And of all the things we hear Jesus say, we continually hear him say – Peace. Peace be with you. Love, be people of love. Be people of peace. Be peacemakers… be lovers of the unloved. Be people who create peace in the lives of the hurting, the broken, and the disenfranchised. Jesus says we will be known as his disciples by our love for one another.

In the book I’m reading, the author seems to be slowly becoming, if nothing else, tolerable of those in the faith community. As he is intentionally immersing himself in the Jewish lifestyle – his eyes, ears and, I’d argue, his heart are opening to the story of God’s people.

I believe this is part of my story too… This is my heritage, my testimony. This is how I came to know the Lord. This is how I was immersed in the Spirit of God. Like our son Phineas Lee Smith was dedicated this morning, I too was dedicated. I too was brought up in the house of the Lord. I too was plunged into the life of the church, others, and faith.

As I mentioned earlier, the second thing these passages have made me think of is my high school basketball coach. He had a saying: practice doesn’t make perfect… practice makes permanent.
We heard this quote all the time… Practice makes permanent. He would always encourage us to practice the correct rhythms and movements. Practice the correct techniques. He wanted us to practice running, practice dribbling, practice our shots, our defense. His full quote was: practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent. Perfect practice makes perfect permanent.” This is what he wanted from us. He wanted perfect practice so we would have perfect permanent. He was insistent that we practice the right way, so at the right time, when the pressure was on, the right technique with the right movements were used. He taught us that practice makes permanent.

It seems as though my basketball coach’s words ring true for us in regards to our life in God. It seems as though we must practice our love of God and of others. We must practice our peacemaking. We must practice our faith…

I see these two illustrations (the book, and basketball) as a symbol of our loving lives in Christ. To me they symbolizes how when we delve into the life of our lord, when we are focused daily, our attention is drawn to him. As we daily align ourselves around God’s love for us and his call for us to love others… we slowly begin to be absorbed into his mindset, the mindset of God.
The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. He lays down his life for those he cares about, for those he loves. And we, like him, are to lay down our lives – perhaps this is figurative, I don’t know. But we are to lay down our life, we are to know his voice, hear him calling, and follow his leading. Love leads peace in the midst of darkness.

Practice makes permanent. When loving seems hard, practice. When being people of peace seems difficult, practice. When grace seems impractical, practice grace; when you’re tired, burnt out, wanting to wander… practice that discipline of self sacrifice to the Lord. Practice your faith, practice your love. Let your love be one of action. The apostle John tells us to love, but not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

Love in truth and action! Let God make a covenant of Peace with you. Let him make a covenant of love with you. When loving is not on the agenda, remember your covenant, and practice the peace of God. When an obstacle is before you remember your covenant, and practice the love of God! Allow God to love through your actions of truth and love. Allow your actions of love to be God’s hands and feet to this broken world.

Our series right now is titled Resurrection to Reality… Let the resurrection of our Lord and Savior become reality. Practice your faith of love, lay down your agenda, lay down your plans, and support someone else. Support one another. Love in ways that surprise even you. Let God’s resurrection, become reality. Let it become a reality in your life and the life of those around you. Let God’s resurrection, the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, become reality as you practice the love he so generously bestows upon each of us.

"We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. We are to love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. Love in truth and in action."

Go forth in God’s care, taking love everywhere you go. Go forth in God’s name, taking Christ everywhere you go. Go forth in God’s grace, sharing mercy with everyone you meet.
As you go, love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. Go and Love.

Monday, April 20, 2009

back to work

Phineas was born two weeks ago and I've gone back to work.
It wasn't as hard to go back to work as I thought it might have been.

To be honest, it was kind of nice to be back in the grind of the coffee house. I was surprised to have missed so many of the people who frequent mosaic.

Friday, April 17, 2009

life ever-changing

I have entered life ever-changing. Our baby boy, Phineas Lee Smith, was born April 6th 2009. He weighed 10lbs 2oz and was 22 inches long. So, to some degree, he takes after me. And as such, he eats a lot... and can sleep really well.
In reference to eating a lot. We have to change him al ot. Which reminds me just how much our lives from here on out have changed.
We are constantly in a life ever-changing. With our without children. Our world changes, we change, adapt, and move on. And so it is with Phin... life ever-changing.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Phineas Lee Smith

Phineas was born on 4/6/2009 at 7:25pm.
He weighed 10lbs 2oz.

Phineas is doing well. He is growing, sleeping, and eating as he should.

We're all tired and adjusting to the new norm.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

the waiting game.

It's kind of like the wedding game. Only completely different. OK, so I have no idea what the wedding game is. However the waiting game currently consists of Bree and myself waiting for the baby boy warming in Bree's belly to decide he's ready to come out and meet us face to face.

Her due date is April 10, 2009. Good Friday!

It would be pretty cool - as Bree pointed out today - if he came tomorrow. Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, a day we celebrate Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem. It would be appropriate to meet our new baby on such a day. And of course, appropriate for Good Friday, and without note - Easter.

So, here we are. Waiting. We have had a good lesson in patience.

I made a list of things I'd like to accomplish around the house a few weeks ago. It included things like: patch up nail holes in walls, sand the holes, repaint the holes and touch up other spots, clean the bathroom, dust the house, vacuum, mow the lawn, hang a mosaic at Mosaic, and "finish the basement." As of this afternoon... all of the above stated goals have been accomplished. So, if the little booger was waiting for me to accomplish my list of to-do's... I've done it!

And now, we just have to wait... _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Patiently.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


In the midst of Lent I find myself with mixed emotions. Joy & Sadness. Life & Death.

My wife and I are anticipating the birth of our son. Exciting times, as I sit here and watch her deep breathe through contractions.

This morning I went with Mark, the other pastor I work with, to visit an elderly member of our congregation at the hospital, which was difficult. And, we have another friend, who has been battling terminal cancer for 3 years... not knowing if her time is coming to a close... even now as I write.

This season of Lent, where we remember the suffering Christ experienced, his death, and then glorious resurrection, is tugging at my heart. It is very real during this season that life and death are intermixed. Both are here. Both take place, even at the same time. We can celebrate and mourn. We are the church, in Death and New Life - One season - one church.

Joy, heartache, uncertainty, new hope - here we are, in the season of Lent.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

what do we know 3.15

Lent 3B
Exodus 20:1-17, Psalm 19, 1 Corinthians 1: 18-25, John 2:13-22

1. This week we’re talking about What do we Know?
Over the last two weeks we’ve talked about what is our hope and what is our promise. This week our texts take us to the question what do we know.

What do we know? If nothing else we know two things… we have a hope and we have a promise! Our promise is that we are not alone, God is with us. Our hope is found in Christ… in his blood which washes us clean.

So we at least know these two things right. But, how do we know them? How do we know we’re not alone? How do we know his blood washes us clean? How do we know all this stuff?

In the Protestant church we have two sacraments, Baptism and the Eucharist (which we often call communion or the Lord’s Table). The sacraments have been described as: "a rite in which God is uniquely active”, “a visible sign of an invisible reality” and “an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible Grace.”

In our church we practice an open communion. You don’t have to be a member of our church; you don’t have to have gone through a confirmation class. What we do ask, is that you be open to hearing from God. Be open to God’s invitation to come and eat.

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread while they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and giving it to his disciples, he said, "Take and eat; this is my body." Then he took a cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood, the covenant, which is poured out for the forgiveness of sins.

As you partake of the elements this morning, slow down and experience this process. Let it speak to you. Allow God, at his table, to engage with you where you are on your journey of life.

Partake in the Lord’s Supper

(Payer of Thanksgiving)
Almighty God, we are thankful that you have met us here today. We are thankful that you meet us each day, where we are, in whatever we are going through. Thank you for providing as you have, and will continue. Strengthen us, Support us, and Love us, as we strive to be your faithful light of love, now and forever. Amen.

(Pass The Peace)

2. Two weeks ago Mark was talking to us about hope and he referenced Noah and our baptism. He mentioned that we have a baptismal font in the back that we can dip our hands in and remember our baptism. We can remember the washing of the Spirit.

Last week when we were taking communion, when I broke the bread I watched a crumb fall. After I dipped the bread in the cup Mark and I both watched a drip of juice run down my fingers and finally rest in the palm of my hand.

What struck me two weeks ago when I dipped my hand into the baptismal font was that when I held my hands outside, letting them air dry, I could feel the air circling around them. I could feel the coolness of the air and it reminded me of the Spirit. The cool air on my wet hands reminded me of the nearness, of the infilling, of the life of Jesus Christ, his brokenness, his death, his resurrection. It reminded me of my own baptism. It reminded me of being washed with the spirit. It reminded me of allowing the old self with its desires and passions to be put to death.

As we take communion and I grab a hold of the bread and pull it apart. As the bread rests in my hand, I love that I can hold it, that its tangible and I can feel it. I love the different textures of the different breads we’ve used – from the Matzah bread, the Challah, grandma’s recipe, to the little wafers. I love the different textures. I love all the different breads. I love when I dip the bread into the cup… when a bit of the juice runs down my finger. I love when I can feel the trickle… like the trickle of blood Christ shed for me.

What is it about these sacraments that have lasted throughout the ages?

I believe it’s their connectedness with our senses. Dating back to Aristotle our traditional five senses are sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste.

I believe we know God by these amazing attributes which he’s given us to understand what is going on around us. I believe we see God in movement. I believe we smell because God loves the aromas of praise to him. I believe when we touch things, feel their texture - experience their fullness, we begin to understand the Creator. When we hear songs of praise, the chatter of friends, and the cry of new life - they all speak of God’s interconnectedness with his people!
I believe we know God because of our senses. I believe our senses – tell us intimate details of God’s love for us. We are able to touch, smell, taste hear, and see God’s love for us.

Part of our senses and the way we know God’s love is by our interactions with one another. Jesus tells us that we are known as his by our love. We are seen as his disciples by our love for one another. He tells us that when we have seen him, we have seen the Father.

When we see one another – we have seen Jesus.

When we take flowers around town to some of our seniors – we see Jesus. When we take our home grown fruits and vegetables to our neighbors, we see God! When the pains of the world are even slightly alleviated, in Africa, in Asia, and even in Wallingford – we see God.

God is with us. Jesus is with us. The Holy Spirit, the Ruach, is with us. We know God because we know one another. We know God because of our interactions with his people. The Scriptures tell us – all are made in his image. We all have bits and pieces, if not whole chunks, which are of God.
I believe everyone has God in them, everyone! Even the annoying people, they have God in them. Even those who at times seem to be just pure evil, they have God in them. The people we don’t like, the people we do… God creates, God sustains, and God never leaves! God is with us.

What we need to do is focus our eyes, and tune our ears, teach our senses to be aware of God, experience God! This is what we know! This how we know; it is through our senses, it is through our relationships. We know God, when we know one another. We know God, when we love one another… because knowing God, loving God, is knowing one another and loving one another.
Jesus says if you love me you will do as I command. Jesus bent down, and lived among us. Jesus stooped down and embraced us. Jesus stepped out, and served us in love.

As Jesus stepped out, so I am going to ask you, right now, to step out. Stand up, get out of the pew, get out of your place of comfort and embrace one another. What I’d like for you to do is to take a few minutes, right now during this service, to walk around and be in relationship with one another and with God. Because this is what we do, this is how we see God, touch God, know God. As we walk, talk, see, smell, touch, and hear… experience the presence of God. Stand up and greet one another with the peace of our Lord!

(Pass the Peace)

3. I was talking with a friend of mine this week. We met sometime last year when he began bringing his two sons to Mosaic and hang out in Demitasse. The first time he came in he was fascinated with our structure and we immediately began talking. Turns out he’s a Rabbi over in the U District. We try to get together every once in a while. I joke that he’s my Rabbi.

This week when we were spending time together, he asked me what I’ve been speaking on lately… so I mentioned this current series and went on to give a brief description of it. As I was talking about last week’s Promise message, he paused and listened. As we sat, he began reflecting on the Hebrew word promise, and was trying to remember its original use. He shared with me that one of its aspects is this: to know.

What do we know? We know we have a hope. We know we have a promise… Our promise is that we are not alone, God is with us. Our hope is found in Christ… in his blood which washes us clean.
God is with us. We see him… in our interactions with one another. We see him in our interactions with the community, in our interactions with the world we are in. We see him in the way our world interacts with us and in how our community interacts with us. We see God in and through the love and lives of those we come in contact with.

I believe whole heartedly that God is still with us. God is still speaking, dreaming, and moving us to great things. God still longs for us to love in great ways! We have heard it said that Jesus did not call us to love him because of his love for us… but rather to love others, as we have been loved!

We know because of our senses. We know because of our relationships. We experience God on a daily basis, when we open our eyes, our ears, our senses to the movement of the Spirit. We know God when we open our hearts to the warmth of those around us; when we love those who are unlovable, when we allow our spirits to be loved – even by our enemies.

Our text today says the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength. In our egocentric worldly mindset God’s upside down kingdom of love is foolishness, its weak. In our power hungry world, love is not what we want to hear about, it’s often not what we want.

The cross is one of the most gruesome forms of torture our world has ever known. On its own it is not a beautiful picture. It is not a good symbol. To be honest the cross as a picture or symbol is one of the worst forms of excruciating pain and fear known to man.

But in God’s upside down kingdom – God’s foolishness to love, God’s perceived weakness to love – brings beauty to the cross. Jesus’ willingness to be nailed to the cross speaks to God’s weakness to love. God’s ability to allow his son to die for the people, displays God’s foolishness to love.

During Lent we are reminded of God’s pain in the sacrifice of Jesus. During this season we are reminded of Jesus’ hurt, pain, and loneliness. We are reminded that Jesus died, but not in vain. He took on the sins of the world – experienced the torture of the nails to his hands and the thorn on his brow, as his senses were stretched to max – that we might have life, and have it abundantly.

Jesus says if you love me you will do as I command. Take up your cross and follow me.

What do we know? We know we have hope! We know we have a promise! We know we are to love! We know we’re to follow Christ. We know we are not alone. We know God is for us. We know God through our senses. We know God through our relationships. We know God is with us. We know God has not left us. We know God, we experience God. We know God, and we know we are to love.

The beauty of this season is that we celebrate the Resurrection even in the midst of darkness and despair. Because there is hope. Because there is a promise that God is with us. We know this by the way we are loved. We know this by our own capacity to love beyond ourselves. We know this… because we know God!

Closing prayer

As you go, know God and let others experience God through you. Go and Love.

Monday, March 9, 2009

what is our promise 3.8

Texts: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16, Psalm 22:23-31, Romans 4:13-25, Mark 8:31-38

What is our promise? What comes to mind when you think of this question?

Last week’s text (which Mark spoke on) from 1Peter 3 mentioned Noah. I’m sure we all are somewhat familiar with the story of Noah. But I’d like to remind you of a few things: Noah was an old guy – Genesis says he was over 500. Do you realize how old that is? I googled “oldest guy living”… and it took me to Wikipedia which gave me this great listing of record holding old people. The one who astounded me was a lady named Jeanne Calment. She died in 1997. Does anyone know how old she was when she died?

She was 122 years old. One hundred twenty two! Can you believe it. 122!

Well, back to Noah, he was married, had 3 sons and they all had wives – and together they built an Ark.

At the time of Noah, God was saddened at the wickedness of mankind, and decided to wipe the earth clean. So he spoke to Noah, and asked him to build an ark – a big ‘ol boat which would hold his family and 2 of every animal.

Remember that lady who lived to be 122? On wikipedia they had a picture of her that was taken at her 121st birthday… She looked old. I can’t imagine someone 4 times older than her – building a giant boat. But, that’s what Noah did. And once the ark was done, God sent the first rain the earth had seen in a long time. And Genesis says the rain quickly became a flood. The flood we’re talking about isn’t in inches or feet… It was nothing compared to what Mark and Christa experienced in their basement. It was nothing like what we saw take place down in Mosaic in May of ’06, it was worse than the damage of Katrina. The flood covered. Remember, it covered everything… It killed, it wiped out, it cleaned up. And Noah and his family along with a ton of animals… lived on. God told Noah “I will establish my covenant with you…”

This week our text talks to us about Abraham. Paul is reminding us that God told Abraham that his offspring would be as numerous as the stars. What we should do is go outside, but not here in Wallingford or near the city… we should think about this text this summer when we’re out at Camp Camrec… after the home run derby… out in the field looking up at the stars at night. Wow. The stars in the Sky, the sands on the beach, that’s how many children Abraham was promised.

Abraham was 86 yrs old when Ishmael was born and 100 when Isaac was born. Abraham is interesting isn’t he. There’s fourteen years between the births of his two sons. He first heard God’s promise to him about having a son when was like 76… Ten years later – Sarah, his wife, tells him to sleep with her maid servant, and fourteen years later Sarah gives birth in her old age.

What is interesting is that Abraham was credited as faithful… as righteous… You know he is seen as righteous even though he took things into his own hands. Even though he tried to force God’s promise to come true. Even though he slept with his maidservant, even though he lied to pharaoh about who his wife Sarah was. Even though… Even though. Even though all these things can be said of him… he was seen as righteous. Even though all these things can be said of him, God still came through on his promise to Abraham. In the hard times of feeling left and abandoned, God came through. Even though he was 100 years old - he had a son. Abraham is the father of nations. Abraham is righteous! God upholds his covenant and his promises.

But, what does this text have to do with us today? What does this text have to do with our journey through Lent, in this season, to the foot of the cross? What does this text have to say about our promise?

Last week Noah was mentioned and we talked about our HOPE. This week Abraham is mentioned and we’re talking about our Promise.

What is our Promise?

I believe our promise is found in the last sentence of the last chapter in Matthew. Jesus says: “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” One translation puts it this way: “I will be with you, day after day, till the end of the age.”

He says, I will be with you, day after day, always – forever! There’s something beautiful about that. There’s something comforting about that. There’s something hopeful about that, because he will be with us good day after good day, bad day after bad day, good day after bad day, and bad day after good day. He will always be with us.

This makes me think of that Footprints poem. You know the one I’m talking about. We’ve all seen it. It’s pretty cheesy, but its message is powerful. If it wasn’t so over commercialized it might have more meaning for us… But its words seem to ring true with this promise.

God is with us. Jesus is with us. The Holy Spirit is with us.

Jesus says: I will be with you, day after day, always – forever!

When I got home from service last week I opened up my computer and had an email from a Wallingford neighbor. His name is Mike, and he’s the one who coordinates the Wallingford walks, and a few months ago set up a walk around Wallingford to all the church buildings.
Well, last Sunday I got an email he sent out to those who he referenced as the “caring community” about our current Economic Woes. In it he referred to a conversation he had with a friend of his who while at church last Sunday morning in his small group of 8 men, 5 of them had been laid off. Five of eight, in a small group – had been laid off.

We are in a weird position aren’t we? We hear of friends and neighbors in need of jobs… being laid off. We hear of thousands of people applying for a handful of jobs. Over qualified, under-qualified, friends are willing to take anything they can get. I have one friend, an accomplished architect, now digging holes and trenches to make ends meet.

I believe our promise is found in Jesus’ words to his disciples. Day after day, I will be with you. Through the hard times and the good ones, I will always be here. I believe this promise has as much to say to us today as it did for the disciples.

We speak of Hope. We hear of the power hope has on a country, in family, and for an individual… and we have this promise, that Jesus Christ is with us.

What more hope do we need?

Noah found hope in the promise God gave him. Abraham found hope in the promise God gave to him. These were not men who were out on a limb by themselves. Noah wasn’t out on a boat floating atop the waters with his family alone. God was with them! Abraham waited 10 years, tired something on his own, and then 14 years later, at the age of 100 saw the promise fulfilled. God was with him.

These aren’t just stories found in the Old Testament. God was with Noah. God was with Abraham. God was with Isaac, and Jacob. He was with David and Saul, and Solomon. God was with them all.

God wasn’t just with the people of the Old Testament. He was with those in the New Testament! He was with Peter… remember when he walked on water. He was with Paul… remember when he was blinded. He was with the disciples… when they were alone, scarred, freaked out cuz their messiah had just been crucified. He was with the women. He was with the children. He was with those who had no rights. He was with those who had no possessions. God was with them!

God isn’t just bound in a book; limited to the Old Testament and the New. We often read the bible and want to see it as a great narrative, a great work of writing…which it is, but it is more than that… It is living. It is breathing. It has life!

How so? God is with us. God is not bound within the Bible! These words found in this book have meaning. Ya, they have meaning in the lives of those who read them. These words find life, new life, daily – as people engaged in a relationship with the Creator God live out his love. Live out his story! We are the wind. We are the movement of the Spirit. Like the patriarchs of the Old Testament; like the disciples of the New – God is with us! God is with us, you and me, here today, in this room. He is with our families; he is with our nation, our world, in 2009! God is with us!

What is our promise? Our promise is that we are not alone.

We have a living, mighty God who does not leave us nor forsake us. We have a mighty God who infuses his love in us, that we may love others. We have a mighty God who allows us to make mistakes. He wiped the slate clean once, brought a flood which washed the earth of its filth… and we, his creation, continue to mess it up. But he, in his wondrous way, has not abandoned us. God is still with us. We see it daily. We see it don’t we!

We see it in the way a community gathers together to find a way to support those losing their jobs. We see it in the way a group of people come together to save a dying congregation. We see it in the way boys and girls are cared for, through educational programs, sports activities, and gentle hugs. God is still with us! God is always with us. God is still speaking, he is still loving, and he is still engaged in our lives!

Our lives are God’s. The interactions we have with one another, our love and support, they bring God’s iridescent light to this world.

I was talking with a friend of mine this week about Love. We were talking about how to love and be loved. It’s a hard thing isn’t it? It’s a hard thing to love our enemies; perhaps even harder still is to be loved by them. But here we are, called to Love.

There’s something about Love which brings hope. There’s something about the flood narrative, with Noah and his family on the boat… and God’s Love for his people. There’s something about Abraham, with his faith in God, knowing he will come through. There’s something about Isaac, and his willingness to walk up the mountain with a load full of wood on his back to offer a sacrifice, be tied up, and trusting in his father and their God! There’s something about Hope. There's something about Love!

I think what it is is that there’s hope wrapped up in Love. There’s hope that things will change. There’s hope for the future. There’s hope in the promise that Jesus will be with us – Day after Day. There’s love in that promise. Out of the Flood, came a covenant of love. Out of the sacrifice of Abraham – there came a covenant of love.

This week I was reminded of friends and neighbors who are without work. I was reminded of a local congregation praying for help to simply continue in God’s work. This week I’ve been thinking about this morning’s scripture – and wondering “what’s our promise?”

In all of this, I keep being drawn to the end of Matthew, the Great Commission. Jesus said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." I am with you, day after day, always… in all things… I am with you.

This is our promise. This is our hope! This is what we know! God is with us. God is for us and God Loves us! In John, Jesus tells us if we love him, we will do as he commands. And we hear him this morning, during this Lenten season – saying pick up your cross and follow him. It’s an act of Love. It’s an act of self giving. It’s an act of receiving… It’s our call, we are to love.

Our promise is found in the assurance of the scriptures, in the love of our friends, and our relationships founded in Jesus Christ our Lord!

In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul says “these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” It comes from God above. It is offered to us today! It’s founded in the promise of the Great Commission. It’s rooted in his love. Allow your love (for your family, your friends, your neighbor… your enemies) to be your witness to the faith, hope, and love found in Christ! He is with us. He is walking with us, strengthening us, empowering us, and loving us – as he encourages, stretches, and enables us to Love beyond our broken self centered selves.

This is our Promise! God is with us!

God is with you on the good and the bad days. God is walking with you as you approach things beyond your capability. God is with you, loves you, and cares for you. God is not out off in the distance. God did not step out of our lives, God is with us.

During this Lenten journey, as we remember Christ’s death on the Cross – we must remember, he did not stay there. He did not stay in the tomb. He rose. And he lives… and he has promised us, that he will be with us, day after day, always and forever! Amen!

As you go, go with God - day after day, always, forever…Go and Love!