Thursday, September 24, 2015

Saint & Sinner

In the reports that I have heard this week of the visit of Pope Francis, one of the commentators mentioned a well-known quote from Oscar Wilde:  Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future. To my mind, this gets at the entry point for authentic conversation. In developing a series of classes for the month of October, I tried to set the stage for multiple entry points for authentic conversation for our Sunday Faith Formation Forum.  I would like to encourage you to review the topics below and begin to consider the questions raised and take some time to formulate questions of your own.  I'm looking forward to our time together in the weeks ahead for listening, learning, and growing as authentic disciples of Jesus.

Faith Formation Forum

Topics for October 2015
Sundays @ 8:45 AM

October 4
Identity & Mission
Who am I? What am I to do?
We'll hear about who God says we are alongside many other descriptions from society, self, and tradition. Ultimately, our sense of calling and vocation in light of our identity will be discussed .

October 11
Power & Weakness
When we are weak, we tend to protest and look the other way in order to avoid a hard truth about who we are. Often a lifetime is spent in denial of limitations and conditions we rarely consider God-given and necessary. 
Where is the true power in your life?

Lucas Cranach the Younger, 
detail from "Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery" 
(after 1532), oil on copperplate, 
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg. 

October 18
Self & Others
It's a delicate balance! How is it working out in your life? 
Has self-will run its course yet? Are others really worthy of our attention, service and love? Where do we meet Jesus?

October 25
Fear & Faith
We walk by fear and not by faith!  Is that how it goes?
Be afraid, be very afraid!  Really?  Who says?
Whatever happened to the Freedom of a Christian?
What force molds and shapes your life?  How about our life together?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Spiritual Compost

(At yesterday's healing service I reflected on this passage from Colossians 3:1-3.  
I tried, as best as I can, to reconstruct the homily in writing to share with you here.)

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:1-3)
 + Grace and Peace to you.

The Apostle Paul, writing to the young church in Colossia, is encouraging the community of faith to recognize and embrace not only the good news of the resurrection, but also the impact that this good news has on their lives in the faith. Things have changed. God has acted in Christ.  

When we are baptized, we participated in the only death that really matters.  We have already died, we have been put to death, we have been joined to the death of Christ in the waters of baptism.  And we have been raised with Christ in the resurrection.

Therefore, Paul can say:  So, if you have been raised (up) with Christ (and you have!) seek (or keep seeking) the things that are above...

This is all well and good.  We hear these words of encouragement that exhort us to look up and seek things above. But how are we doing with this, say, when we are walking the aisles of the grocery store and we have to concentrate on whether to buy Cheerios or Grape Nuts?  We live our lives in the midst of the here and now, the nuts and bolts, the down and dirty of earthly life. How can we go around seeking the things that are above?

When we were baptized, God took the initiative to give us a new identity, an identity that will outlive our diagnoses and prognoses.  We are children of God.  We have been clothed with Christ’s righteousness, we have put on Christ, our lives are hidden with Christ in God.

The thing is, our lives have become cluttered. It’s sometimes difficult to recognize these blessings of God in our lives because there is so much stuff in the way.

Consider for a moment the image of an overgrown backyard.  Without weekly and regular tending, trimming, and uneventful maintenance, things quickly become complicated and confused.  Our soul is a lot like that backyard. It is out of sight for most of us and most everyone looking in at us.  Yet we know that we need a bit of care (to put it mildly).  It seems so overwhelming. Where do we begin?

Probably the most effective and efficient way to proceed is to compost.  Just start gathering all the debris, detritus, and trash in the yard together. Pile it high and turn it over.  Allow it to ferment, breakdown. Permit the rain, the Sun, and the clock to turn this pile of waste into something beautiful. Compost.  It can eventually be used to feed and nourish, to bring and encourage life where only death and decay seem to prevail.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  Don’t waste this life on trash and clutter that brings you down and makes a stink of things.  De-clutter, take out the trash, pile it up high, turn it over and let God... 

Meanwhile, clothe yourself in God’s garments of righteousness, light and life, in Christ.
In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Seeing Together

Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.  (Isaiah 40:4-5)
What kind of future do you think the prophet Isaiah was pointing towards with these words? Prophets were never so much about predicting the future as they were about addressing present behavior with God's will in mind.

For example, if I continue to play with matches, eventually I will get burned.
If I stop that behavior -- if I refrain from playing with matches -- I stand a better chance of not getting burned. Maybe this is too simplistic. The point is, Isaiah's point is to point to God and the will of God for the people of God and all of creation. Oh that we would behave accordingly!

For those determined to interpret scripture only literally, this passage from the fortieth chapter of Isaiah is rather unsatisfying. Do we really want to live in such a topography? Sure, we would love for the glory of the LORD to be revealed, but what about that part of all people seeing it together. Shouldn't we get special privileges? What about a preview, all-access VIP passes, or reserved box seats?

I took a brief detour the other day to see the local spectacle pictured above. South of Chambersburg, just to the east of Marion is this beautiful field of sunflowers. From one perspective, it's some spectacular show (quite the departure from familiar corn or soybeans). Looking at the acreage from another perspective reveals the orderliness of the rows, and the way in which the flowers are all oriented in the same direction. Such discipline from organic and innocent vegetation! They look like a mass of little conspiring satellite dishes.

When God envisions unity, I believe uniformity is not the intention. Indeed, we are all one in Christ Jesus. Yet we are not the same. There are a variety of gifts, but the same Lord.

More about this on Sunday. . . . looking forward to our time together!