Good Samaritan preaching…

5 07 2010

I’m preaching this Sunday, and the text is Luke 10:25-37… or, as many of us know it, “The Parable of the Good Samaritan”. As I’m thinking about the text, the message–or many messages–and the potential directions for preaching, I came across this interesting piece. Apparently it’s by a Barbara Johnson, though in my initial research I couldn’t figure out who this Barbara Johnson is… but apparently it was printed in “Ecunet, Homiletics”.. not sure if that means Homiletics magazine, or what.. but, here it is.. clever. Good. Interesting. If any of you have seen this, and know who Barbara Johnson is, feel free to let me know.

A man fell into a pit and couldn’t get himself out.

A subjective person came along and said, “I feel for you down there.”

An objective person came along and said, “It’s logical that someone would fall down there.”

A Pharisee said, “Only bad people fall into a pit.”

A mathematician calculated how he fell into the pit.

A news reporter wanted an exclusive story on his pit.

A fundamentalist said, “You deserve your pit.”

An IRS man asked if he was paying taxes on the pit.

A self-pitying person said, “You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen my pit.”

A charismatic said, “Just confess that you’re not in a pit.”

An optimist said, “Things could be worse.”

A pessimist said, “Things will get worse.”

Jesus, seeing the man, took him by the hand and lifted him out of the pit!

And then I found this great image of artwork, called “Portrait of You as the Good Samaritan”. You may need to scroll to the right to get the full image. It’s also good, interesting, and makes me think.

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Messy Lent.

9 03 2010

Lent is the messiest liturgical season for me. There are the obvious reasons, like mixing ashes for Ash Wednesday, getting ashes on my fingers and forehead, (the fingers is because of putting ashes on others), washing rocks in our yard, and getting lily pollen stains on Easter clothes. Those are the obvious messes that result from Lent. But Lent is the messiest season because if I let it do its work, it changes me. That may not sound messy to you, but trust me: it is. It’s messy because I expect change from Lent… I expect that God’s going to do great work in me, God’s child… along with all the other children God’s going to do great work in. The “wow, changing that one simple thing solved so many of life’s problems” kind of work. Nope, that doesn’t happen. At least not to me. Instead, God works in me a little change at a time.

Lent is messy because little changes tease me. I think I’ve changed in a specific area, and then bam! Oops.. not so fast.

Mon., March 8th.. Messy, mixed colors while painting...

Turns out, I only thought I had changed. Really, I’m right back where I was the day before Lent started. That would be Shrove/Fat Tuesday, when I was eating fattening stuff. Which, by the way, I’m still doing. No, little changes don’t ease life as much as one might hope. They make me pay more attention to God’s work in and around me…. not the giant neon sign works, but the garbage by the side of the road type of noticing, the oops, I shouldn’t have said that noticing, and the yep, now let’s change that instead of just realizing that we shouldn’t do that. The little changes that make me reflect more on Sunday’s scriptures even when I’m not preaching. And that takes time which means the rest of my life stays messier–the house, the organization efforts, the unpacking.

Lent is messy because it inspires creativity in me. Which sounds great until you start trying to blog everyday, or wash rocks, or find a good oil to anoint with for an upcoming worship service. And it’s still great, because in spite of these minor hurdles I love the creativity Lent inspires, and I love who God made me to be when I feel creative. And part of a creative team. Lent is messy because I think that I’m going to be better at reading my Bible and praying–both the talking and the listening part of praying…. but I end up playing Hide and Seek, and finding Waldo for the fifth time in 2 hours, and cleaning up messy paint projects, and picking up puzzle pieces and Hotwheels and stray crayons… and then I’m so tired, I just don’t want to do any of the spiritual stuff. So then I feel guilty, which can get messy.

It’s messy. And sometimes it’s pretty hard. But this year, this season, I’m able to enjoy the messy Lent… so far. Stay tuned.





for three years

3 03 2010

Three years is a lot of time. In more ways than one. A long time to have the chance to grow, a lot of chances, and second chances…

Wed., March 3rd.

A lot of time for us to give and receive grace. we would be given a lot of grace. A lot of time. A lot of chances, and second chances… for all of us. Not just the ones we’d like to put in this category, but all of us. Three years.. is a long time, in more ways than one.

In Luke 13:1-9, Jesus talks about the parable of the fig tree. A fig tree owner was frustrated at checking back for three years, and not finding any figs. The gardener asked for another year–and this time he would fertilize the tree this time. And this time, if there were no figs, then the owner could chop it down.

Three years seems like long enough for the fig tree to waste the fig tree owner’s soil, and resources, as the owner was probably paying the gardener. I hope he was. Three years is a long time for stuff to not produce fruit. A lot of wasted resources, a lot of wasted time, a lot of waste. Seemingly. Yet a lot can happen in the growth area, too.

How often have we been given another chance? Another chance to grow, to make our lives reflect the fact that we’re actually following Christ.

How has God been growing us, lately?





adaptation

2 03 2010

That’s what I’ve done–adapted. Adapted to the way things are in our new home. Not completely. I’m still eager to finish unpacking, organizing,

Monday, March 1st

de-cluttering, etc. There’s a lot to do. But it’s also become easy to adapt to the way things have settled. These pictures on the mantle, for instance. They drove me crazy seven weeks ago. But now, they look pretty good to me.

If they don’t to you, just stare at the picture everyday for seven weeks, then let me know what you think. The arrangement might grow on you. You just might adapt to the temporary arrangement of pictures that are eventually going to be up on walls. They ended up on the mantle just so we could have something to look at while deciding where pictures should go. I never intended to leave them here. But I’ve now adapated, and actually like them. At least tonight I do.

Lent reminds me of how quickly we adapt to the way things are. Even when they’re not supposed to be this way/that way. Especially our habits that distract us from following God. Not necessarily the obvious habits or actions that would make us all think twice. But I’m talking about the hard-to-notice, temporary, “just this once”, habits that we adapt to. They’re not super bad–they might even look good, arranged that way in our lives, if we live with them for seven weeks or more… or less. But they aren’t exactly helpful to our journeys of faith, they aren’t what the bigger picture needs to be.

What habits have we adapted to that we need to revisit? rearrange? revise? get rid of completely? How have our daily lives contributed to this adaptation?





the people

27 02 2010

I know–“What people?” you might ask, when looking at today’s photo.

My response?: “all the people.” The people who built this church literally… the people who built this church spiritually… the people who sit in these pews, including the balcony… the people who walk through those doors… the people who walk through other doors of this church… the people who don’t walk through these doors and sit in these pews and yet they might if there is something in their lives that makes them think about life and death and faith… the people who come alone…. the ones who feel lost… the ones who have lost…the people who built and designed that gorgeous stained glass window… the people who took the old glass from the original building and used it to make ornaments and candle holders for the people…the people who take minutes… the ones who shovel and plow…. the ones who make sure the heat is working…. the ones who stock the cupboards…

Saturday, Feb. 27th

The people who work behind the sound board up in the corner, and keep trying to make our microphones work effectively…the people who dust the pews and vacuum the carpets… the people who light the candles and turn the lights on and off…. the people who sit in the offices downstairs and upstairs…the people who offer encouragement to the struggling, and to the leaders–paid and unpaid… the people who trained the paid and the unpaid… the people who believed in the call of those who pastor… and the ones who modeled Christian faith by their examples… the person who fields all the phone calls, requests, manages the calendars, checks the mail, and does more stuff than we can even imagine… the person who teaches the children about music and lyrics and who helps the rest of us try and make good music…

the people who play instruments that provide worship music… the people who attend to the website and the technological details that the rest of can’t handle… the ones who sing.. the ones who can’t… the ones who can’t attend worship… the ones who teach –behind the scenes, and in front… the ones who help the pastors out at the last minute… the ones who remind us to head back to pray before the worship service begins…the people who buy the wine, grape juice, bread, coffee, napkins, etc… the people who do the dishes… the people who pour the coffee… the people who fold chairs and tables and tablecloths… the people who come and sit and think they offer nothing and yet they pray for the rest of the people… the ones who knit….. the people who babysit during worship… the people who do the odd jobs like check the roof leaks and paint offices and fix up the parsonage and put out signs…. the ones who guide visitors to where they need to be…the ones who greet newcomers… the ones who invite others… the ones who have never been through the door of this church, but will hopefully come someday…the ones who drive by and sometimes wonder what this place is like but have never come in… the people who patiently play with the very active two-and-a-half year old so her parents can focus on other people and events…. the people who provide rides and hospitality… the people who struggle with why they might show up for worship when their faith might hurt right now… the countless people I probably forgot, but want to include here–because everyone is included…  the ones who believe… believe in this church, believe in God, believe in the journey, as hard as it might be.. and the people who believe that together–and with God’s help– we can be the people God intended us to be. Not only believe in this, but work towards becoming the people.

So on this Saturday before the Second Sunday in Lent, I am thankful for the people represented in this photo… and their part in the Lenten journey.





Ashes, ashes… we all fall down

25 02 2009

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Some years I embrace Lent, because I’m feeling solemn enough and ready for the rest of the world to engage such solemness.. (not the purpose of Lent, I realize.) And I like ashes on my forehead. I like to reflect on how Christ is challenging me to change. To follow him. And some years I am so not ready for Lent, because I feel “Lented” out. Lent has not felt like a liturgical season in my life as much as a pattern for many years. Somber, sadness, darkness, dust to dust, ashes… enough. I’m ready for a year of Easters. Of rejoicing because of Good News.

This year it’s a bit of both. I’m embracing Lent, ready for its challenge. I want to realign my priorities, and Lent seems to be a natural place to make time for that process. I’m excited and feeling spiritually challenged by the Photo Group this Lent. We are reflecting–through photography–on the Gospel lessons from the lectionary each week. (So starting today through Saturday, my photos will be my photographic reflections of the Ash Wednesday text. Then starting Sunday, the text for the first week in Lent.) I like the Lent Prayer site I found a couple of years ago, and am eager to visit it everyday. There are many reasons I embrace this season this year.

But I’m also feeling a bit Lented out. I feel as though we have all fallen down so much lately, that we are merely ashes, and we are stuck on the ground. Ashes, ashes, we all fall down… that familiar phrase from “Ring around the rosy” runs through my head each Lent.  And this year, though I have much to celebrate (i.e. Kajsa!), I’m wrestling with  much as well: the friend/parishioner who is still in ICU after a skating accident; others who are sick; the loss of some dreams this year; God’s purposes/plan for my infertile/single/job-frustrated friends, and some broken relationships.

I’m Lented out. I’ve lived it enough. Or so I feel and think. My loved ones have lived it enough. Enough, God, enough! How long? And yet, I have to remind myself that Lent isn’t about me–at least not in that way. Lent is about traveling to the cross with Jesus… and Christ’s sacrifice for us.

I used the “Ring around the rosy” phrase several years ago in an Ash Wednesday sermon. One of the things that stuck with me (and my own sermons do not always stick with me!) was that we tend to get back up… Ashes, ashes, we all fall down! But then as children playing this game, we get back up and start again. That’s what I’m hoping to do this Lent. Get back up and start again. Start up my efforts at being more faithful to God. The God I don’t always understand. The God I cry out to in anger. The God I lean on when I need strength. Get back up when I feel down, like dust-with-no-theological purpose…. and work again at realigning my priorities. Get back up and try to be faithful to the God who does provide me with countless blessings, even in the most dark Lenten seasons.

I’m looking forward to tonight’s ashes. I need that reminder of who I am. And I love reflecting on that in the context of a worship service with beautiful music and visual elements. But tomorrow I need to get back up, as a reminder of who God has called me to be.

Blessed Ash Wednesday…. and all of Lent.





Midwinter, and answered prayers

9 02 2009

dsc_0055Last week we were at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Chicago, for our annual “Midwinter Conference”. Those who are non-pastors think this conference sounds boring: 1000 (give or take) clergy, staff,e tc.. gathered in one hotel for several days of meetings, worship, workshops, and lots of hanging out with colleauges, new and old. Though I have become a bit more introverted in recent years, I still love this conference, and it is one of the highlights of my year. This year Kajsa was with us… dsc_0244Loads of fun. I’ll post more pix later, perhaps on flickr… It turns out Kajsa is probably more extroverted than even Jim and Cathy!In the first of these photos, Kajsa is helping Marge with registrations….  The second photo shows how Kajsa loves to get all her “gear” on when we’re heading out the door. And, by the way, to parents and other caregivers out there… hotels, especially this one, are a GREAT playground for toddlers to run and fall, on plush carpet, etc..

Besides Kajsa loving Midwinter, and her constant audiences to smile at her, take her pictures, play with her baseball cards (AND HOCKEY cards, Sue!!:) … it was an indescribable feeling for us, to be able to share this answer to prayer that is now part of our life: Kajsa. It’s been a long journey. The answer to prayer is wonderful. My heart still aches for those who are still waiting for answers to their prayers for children, spouses, etc. And certainly there are still some prayers in our lives that aren’t answered. But it had been so long since we had some good news to share with Midwinter colleagues in the Covenant.. Thank you, God. Thank you, all who prayed. Thank you, those of you who stuck with me in my constant angst and etc. Thank you to those who create the Midwinter Conference and participate in making it a place I look forward to each year.

I know each denomination has its challenges, and I am certainly not blindly looking past those for mine.. but I do love the Covenant.