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!