Friday, February 16, 2018

Valentines and Broken Hearts

12 Yet even now, says the Lord,
   return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
13   rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Return to the Lord, your God,
   for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,
   and relents from punishing.
14 Who knows whether he will not turn and relent,
   and leave a blessing behind him,
a grain-offering and a drink-offering
   for the Lord, your God? 

Joel 2:12-14

Broken Hearts seemed an appropriate theme for Valentine’s Day. How many of us have been broken hearted on Valentine’s Day?  Lots of people!  I saw a tweet yesterday that read, “I’m giving up Valentines for Lent!”

Perhaps Valentine’s Day presents such problems for us, because the advertising industry has convinced us what the day should include--candy, cards, flowers and jewelry!  With such a romantic ideal, of course broken hearts will result!

In the passage from Joel, God is encouraging the people to “return to me with all your heart…. rend your hearts and not your clothing.” Rending is about our hearts being broken so that God can enter into them.

Several years ago I went on a Walk to Emmaus retreat. Over the first twenty-four hours, I was having a hard time listening and really opening myself to the movement of God. Then, I got a phone call.. You know it has to be an emergency if they let you take a phone call as a pilgrim at Emmaus!  My husband, Ron, was calling to tell me that one of my co-workers had been killed in an auto accident. She was a young woman, with young children and a husband. She was someone whom I had loved.  My heart was broken.

Because of my grief, my heart was broken wide open, and I let God in. God’s love and mercy and grace flooded in because my heart was broken.

Our hearts get broken in a myriad of ways from a bad break up in a relationship to the death of someone we love. When our hearts our broken, sometimes it makes a way for God to come in.  However, the opposite can happen as well.  When our hearts our broken open, we can allow them to fill with anger and resentment. Rending our hearts is about allowing God in instead of allowing our hearts to harden with bitterness.

Whatever the brokenness in our lives, God wants to redeem it. God invites us to rend our hearts and return to the God who loves us.

So, I invite you to a Holy Lent—a time of heart-rending and a time to allow God to break open our hearts that we might know the movement of God’s Spirit in our lives!

How is your heart today?
Is it hardened?
Or Is it being broken open so that God’s Spirit can enter in new ways?
Prayer: Gracious God of broken hearted souls, move in my heart this day that I may feel Your Spirit drawing me ever closer to you. Amen. .

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Promises and Broken Hearts

Have you noticed the strange way that the Lenten Season begins and ends this year?

Although Christmas is always Dec 25. Easter falls on a different date every year which is usually somewhere at the end of March or beginning of April.  Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the first day of Spring!  We then count back 40 days (NOT including Sundays) to the beginning of Lent to establish the date for Ash Wednesday.
This year those dates seem just a bit odd!  Ash Wednesday begins Lent on Valentine’s Day and Easter ends the season on April Fool’s Day!  Maybe it’s not that they are odd—but somehow strangely ironic and maybe appropriate. Isn’t it the greatest April Fool’s joke played on Death that the tomb was empty?  Surprise!  Jesus is alive!!
But, what about Ash Wednesday on Valentine’s Day?  How many persons have been broken hearted on Valentine’s Day?  There are all kinds of events for single persons who have no significant other because Valentines can just accentuate the fact that they are alone.  On Ash Wednesday, we remember how we have broken God’s heart.  We recall that too often we have failed to live up to the promises we have made.  Maybe it is somehow appropriate that Ash Wednesday falls on “Heart Day” – a day filled with so many broken hearts.
The sermon series during Lent is called “Promises, Promises.”  What are those promises that we have made to God and broken? What are the eternal promises that God has made to us? Pleasant Grove UMC offers two opportunities to begin a Holy Lent on Ash Wednesday, February 14 at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. What is the promise you will make to God this Lent?

Pastor Rachel 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Loving Beyond Principle

I was going through some old files and found this-- written a few years ago now....I may have used it in a sermon... 

Filled with the many spirits that have gone before
and united with the One Spirit
whose Holy Nature
covers all in love

In life, they disagreed
they took votes
and squabbled over carpet colors
and building bonds

but now, united in God's Love
no room is left to disagree
for all the fissures and divisions
are filled in with love--
Love: the cement that binds
and fills the cracks

What if we lived that way here?
Whenever there is dissension or disagreement,
what if we chose love?
What if we chose the value of loving our neighbor
over the choice to see our outside differences?

What if love could fill all the cracks of our broken relationships?

What if we choose people over principles?

When I was young, I often said,
“It's the principle of it.”

Now, I want to say,
“It is for the sake of Christ
that I will love 'beyond principle'
I will love beyond reason.”

Holy God, Fill us
drench us in love

Wednesday, March 01, 2017


“Blind Spots”          

Have you ever been driving and gone to change lanes, only to discover that a car is in the lane beside you which you didn’t realize was there. The car was in your blind spot—that place that you have difficulty seeing without the aid of mirrors. Those side-view and rear- view mirrors are there to help us see those spots.

Last summer, we had a rental car which had those great little warning signs on the side view mirrors that lit up to let you know if there is a car in your blind spot. They were fantastic! We need those aids to see blind spots while in the car. In fact, they are called BLIND spots for a reason! We just can’t see them—we are BLIND to them.  

Actually, we all have blind spots in our field of vision. Each of our eyes has a place where the optical nerve meets the retina where we have no vision. We just can’t see. But, because we have two eyes, they compensate and our brain “fills in” that spot. We need both of our eyes to be able to do this. Each eye gives of a view of what the other eye is “missing.” One eye does not have the complete picture what is in front of us. But even with two eyes, we can’t see everything around us. We don’t see things in the ultra violet range of color. There are just things we can’t see without some assistance.

Our spiritual lives are like that as well. There are things about ourselves that are difficult,
if not impossible to see and know about ourselves.  How often have we known someone
who is upset about a behavior they see in someone else and yet, we can plainly see that very same behavior in the complaining person?!  The complaining person seems unable to see this behavior in themselves!  We might use the word “hypocrite” for them.  They do the thing about which they complain!

Jesus calls the Pharisees to account by calling them hypocrites in the sixth chapter of Matthew. The Religious Leaders acted holy on the outside, but were hollow on the inside. They were hypocrites who could not see their own blind spots!

As I have been thinking about what to give up this year for Lent, I have wondered about working on my blind spots—on trying to see those flaws that everyone else sees, but I have been blind to recognizing in myself.  I know I have them; we all do. I will never forget the first time that someone called my attention to the whining tone of my voice. I didn’t realize that I was doing that.

We can’t change things that we can’t see. We need “aids” to see these things. But, just like we need two eyes to complete our field of vision, we need aids to help us see our spiritual blind spots.  Just like we need mirrors to help us see blind spots when we drive, we need tools that enable us to reflect on our spiritual lives.

Lent is a time for us to take up mirrors and hold them in front of ourselves—in front of our souls.  During this season, we take time to look deeper into our spiritual lives and at our relationship with God. The mirrors we hold up are the spiritual disciplines that we take up during this holy season. The Spiritual Disciplines help us to examine ourselves and perhaps just catch a glimpse, however fleeting, of the blind spots in our lives that need addressed…

What mirrors will you hold up this Lent to see those blind spots? Here are just a few suggestions of disciplines you might consider.
  • Pray: spend more time in prayer
  • Fast:
    • Skip a meal each week and donate the cost to a worthy cause
    • Fast from the radio and pray while driving
    • Fast from social media and spend that time calling friends with whom you haven’t spoken in a while
  • Read:  
    • spend 10 minutes more a day reading the Bible
    • find an inspirational writer and read one of their books
  • Give
    • more of your time
    • more of your money
  • Worship: don’t miss a Sunday at church
  • Journal:  spend 10 minutes a day reflecting on your faith by writing about it.

Here’s the warning though: none of those things will be as meaningful if you are not reflective. If we do not spend time THINKING about our spiritual life--about who we are –
and how we act in the world--it won’t make much of a difference. THAT is what the season of Lent is about—a time of REFLECTION

In a mirror, we see our reflection and during Lent, we spend time really looking at our
SPIRITUAL reflection. Who are we as a spiritual being? Who are we as a child of God?  How do we reflect God’s love?  Where are the places that we are neglecting to fully reflect God’s love? Where are our blind spots?

Joel tells us to rend our hearts and not our clothing and to return to the Lord with all of our heart.  How will you return to God? What will you do to turn your life toward God, and allow God to hold that mirror before you so that you can see those blind spots?


Holy God, as we enter into this Holy season, we ask that you would help us to see those places in our lives where we are not reflective of your love—show us the spots where we are not gracious and loving and merciful. As we begin this Lent, come and show us how to be more faithful. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen. 

 Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 and Joel 2:1-2, 12-17

Friday, May 27, 2016

Band Aids or Surgery?

Keeping people from being hungry was a part of my job for fourteen years. At Society of St. Andrew, I was a broker of sorts as I found food that would otherwise go to waste and connected it to people who would otherwise go hungry. Sweet potatoes, green beans, blueberries and peaches gleaned from fields and orchards were put on the plates of people who might not have known from where their next meal would come.  However, the more I did the work of feeding the hungry, the less satisfied I was with the fact that people were hungry at all!  I began to wonder if what I was doing was making a difference for the long term. I provided food, but that didn’t change the situation.  I wasn’t addressing a “root cause” of hunger.
          Visiting Rev. Curry at the Pennsylvania Ave. Baptist Church was inspiring as I realized that he was looking for the root causes of poverty and other issues within his community. One of the areas of concern which he described was the high number of people who were receiving dialysis within the community. Rather than stopping with that issue and looking for ways to support people while they receive dialysis, Rev. Curry went behind this issue to see why so many folks needed dialysis.  As he worked his way back from dialysis to kidney disease to diabetes to poor diets, he recognized the root causes. Chief among these was diet.
          Poor diet is a many faceted issue that includes such things as the abundance of fast food and the lack of fresh vegetables at affordable grocery stores. I was encouraged by the Rev. Curry’s vision of what the community could become through the ministries of the church.  Rev. Curry recognizes the need to feed bodies as well as souls with healthy food and sees that addressing a health issue such as the large number of people on dialysis involves looking at the entire life of the community.
          Giving people fresh fruits and vegetables gleaned from farms is important because it keeps people from going hungry but it is also only applying a band-aid to a gaping wound whose causes are far beyond just having enough food. Community redevelopment with the whole person in mind is more like surgery, it takes time and money and energy, but in the end, the wound might actually heal.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

July 2015 Newsletter Pastor's Article

 In the past few weeks, many events have taken place in our country that have brought a mix of emotions to people. I do not think that it is my place to ever use my position to expound my personal feelings about political issues. But, on June 28th, I shared the follow during our prayer time.

     The Supreme Court is charged with interpreting the US Constitution and not the Bible. Adam Hamilton put it this way in a blog post this week: “ The Court is not asked to discern God’s will, or what constitutes ethical or moral behavior for Christians. Likewise, Christians do not determine their morals from public opinion polls. The Supreme Court ruling does not directly address how pastors, churches, and individual Christians must or should view the issue of same-sex marriage.”

     Currently, the official position of the United Methodist church is that gay and lesbian couples cannot enter into the covenant of marriage. Methodist clergy are not allowed to bless the marriage of same sex couples and such marriage ceremonies may not be held in United Methodist Churches. On Saturday, June 27th, all clergy in our conference received an email from our Bishop reminding of this, but also encouraging all pastors “to continue to reach out to all persons, within and outside of the church, whatever their sexual orientation or beliefs about marriage.... I pray that we will be known as people who show one another great patience and love even as we deal with our differences. May we love each other as Christ loves us (John 13:34-35).”

     The official position of the United Methodist church can only be determined by the General Conference which will meet in May of 2016. I expect that at that time, there will be much debate about this issue. Within the United Methodist Church, faithful Christians disagree about how the scriptures should be interpreted concerning this issue and I am certain that within our congregation there is a variety of opinions concerning this topic.

     However, I have brought this up to encourage us all to be in prayer about how we can faithfully respond to one another – particularly to those with whom we disagree. Our witness is greatest in how we treat one another. Whatever the issue is--whether it is about same sex marriage or what flag flies at a state capital--our witness is most faithful when we show grace and love to others even in the face of their disdain.

     So, my prayer request is that we will seek God. We will seek to be people of grace. We will seek to show love to all even when that same love is not offered to us. 

As the Bishop wrote, May we love each other as Christ loves us.

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’  John 13:34-35

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Who Will Roll the Stone Away?

   When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, 'Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?' When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, 'Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.' 
Mark 16:1-7 (NRSV)

We can only imagine the depth of grief that the women were feeling as they walked to the tomb to anoint Jesus' body with spices. What enormous grief they must have felt and yet they were compelled to perform this duty for Jesus much like the many other care-taking duties they had performed when he was living. The women had most likely been the ones who had cooked and cared for the daily needs of the disciples and perhaps focusing on a “task” would help their grieving.

Mark tells us that they have started out very early as the sun was just rising. And as they walk, they are wondering about the large stone placed in front of the tomb. How will they get the tomb open?

Who Will Roll the Stone Away?

This was a HUGE heavy stone that took a few men to move. My question is if they knew the stone was there, why didn't they bring someone with them?  Why didn't they bring any help?

 Yet, when they arrive, the stone was already rolled away! The obstacle that they thought would keep them from reaching Jesus has already been removed.

Who will roll the stone away?

That question didn't even need to be asked because it had already been accomplished. As I was reflecting on that question Who will roll the stone away? I realized how many other questions we ask that don't matter. How many things do we worry about that aren't really worries at all? My father would say, “Don't borrow trouble.” By that, he meant, “don't worry needlessly.”

The women were worrying about a situation about which in the end they didn't need to worry.  However, in this case, it was a practical concern and they had no way of knowing what they would find when they reached the tomb. It was a legitimate concern....

Who will roll the stone away?

But, what if... 
what if that concern had kept them away from the tomb?What if their worry over not being able to move the stone had kept them from even going?

Sometimes the worries and concerns in our lives seem overwhelming and sometimes there are practical questions that nag at us and worry us. There are stones in our own lives that need to be rolled away.  But, if we allow ourselves to be controlled by the worry, we might miss the opportunity for joy.

Today-this celebration of Easter is about Hope! The Resurrection of Jesus is about Hope not worry!  It’s about Joy, not fear!

As fearful and worried as those women were, they went to the tomb anyway. They went knowing their grief might only be deepened by what they would find there
They went to the Tomb-- a place that certainly would hold great sadness and instead, they found hope.

Easter is about Hope not fear!

When I think of the situations that bring us grief or which induce fear in us, I wonder, if we are borrowing trouble? Where are the stones in your life that need to be rolled away? Where are the places of sadness and grief that make you want to stick your head in the sand? Where have you let fear control your life?

What stone needs rolled away?

The women wouldn't have been able to roll the stone. It would have taken a few men to do this! But, God had already done it. The passive voice is used : the stone was rolled away. That means that “someone” had performed the action of “rolling it away." 

Who had done that? God had! 
Just as God had raised Jesus from the dead!

The stone was a barrier into the tomb but, when it was removed, Hope was made real and new life was gained by all! Resurrection happened!

On this Easter Morning, as we celebrate Resurrection and new Life and Hope, what stone needs rolled away in your life?

I invited you to offer whatever that stone is in your life to God. Might you know that it is through Christ that all the stones in our lives are rolled away and that all the fears and worries as overwhelming as they seem, can be rolled away by the One who raised Jesus to new life and offers that same new life and hope to us.

May you choose to live out of that hope rather than fear.

Who will roll the stone away?
God has already done it!

Praise be to God!

Christ is Risen!