Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Blindspots

“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?


Prayer

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!
Alleluia!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Prayer for the Broken Hearted


O God,
who is the healer of all things,
you know our heart break
when life is not what we want or expect.

You, who walked among us 
and knew our emotions as even one of us,
you know the pain that is only felt inside our hearts--
when it feels like our very being is being split apart.

Lord, when hope seems hard to grasp,
Help me to know a bit of Your Grace--
even just a glimpse of your love for me.
Help me to know that when all others abandon me,
you do not.

Walk with me and bind up my broken heart
that I might love once again.


not sure when i wrote this but it has been awhile.. just sitting here in my drafts... thought I would share. 

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Sometimes the Most Horrible Thing Can Become the Most Grace-filled!

This is adapted from my Easter Sermon.

John 20:1-18  Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. (more)


Through the season of Lent, my sermons focused on various persons who Encountered Jesus and how their lives were changed because of him.

During Holy Week, we looked two of the disciples, Peter and Judas. What I found so interesting was how much alike and yet how different the stories of Peter and Judas are.

Both Peter and Judas "fail" Jesus in some way. Peter denied even knowing Jesus while Judas betrayed Jesus. Both needed Jesus' forgiveness, but only Peter received it.

Once Judas was filled with remorse over his betrayal, he saw things as so broken that they couldn't be fixed. He was overwhelmed by his despair and he took his own life.

Judas must have underestimated the power and mercy of God to transform the brokenness of his life- to redeem the mess he had made of it. If only he had stuck around until that first Easter morning, he would have seen the great power of God to bring wholeness out of brokenness, hope out of despair, and life out of death!

For many of us, there are things in our life that seem to be broken beyond repair: hopes, careers, families, marriages. There are places in our lives that feel barren and beyond God's help. For some of us this is about the grief we feel over the loss of a loved one. For others of us, it's about the loss of our dreams. For others, it's the loss of health or wealth, or the loss of a relationship.

Hear the Good News:

God has brought wholeness out of brokenness
that which seemed lost has been restored to new life.

That part of our lives that is filled with the most pain and hurt can be transformed by God's grace and given new life.

Sometimes with God, the thing that is the most horrible can also be the most grace-filled!!

The Cross was probably the most horrible thing that we could imagine and yet, God used the Cross to redeem the world.

There are many things in our lives that are painful.  We suffer for a variety of reasons, and the truth is that suffering is just a part of our lives.

How  much easier our lives would be if there was no pain--no suffering.  Many of us attempt to live our lives without the pain--we wall parts of ourselves off,
we shut ourselves up,so that we can try to stop the pain.

Hear the Good News:
No pain is greater than God's love!!
God's grace is greater than any pain that we can experience.

God didn't make Good Friday and the pain of the crucifixion "go away,"but by God's Grace Jesus endured the cross. We have to go through the pain of Good Friday, in order to truly experience the JOY of Easter.

God does not remove pain and suffering from our lives. Rather, our pain can become redemptive if we allow God's grace to be at work in our hearts and in our lives.

When God's grace is at work redeeming us:
The most horrible thing 
can become the most grace-filled  part of our lives.

Henri Nouwen is one of my favorite teachers. 
His book, With Burning Hearts is a book that has meant a great deal in my spiritual life. I read that book not too long after my mother died about 20 years ago. In it, Nouwen talks about how we can meet the losses in our lives. we can meet them in one of two ways: Either with resentment

OR with gratitude.

We have a choice.

We can wall ourselves off and avoid the pain.
We can resent the events that have brought us pain.
We can be angry at God and nurse our hurt feelings that life has somehow been unfair to us.
We can make that choice

OR

We can choose to be grateful for God's grace.
For God's grace is at work even in the worst of circumstances.
We can walk through the valley knowing that God's grace can TRANSFORM us as we can learn to TRUST God.

We have a choice.

Roberta Bondi is another one of my favorite Christian writers and teachers. In her book  Memories of Godshe writes about the power and meaning of the Cross and some conclusions she reaches.  She lists three things the Cross is about:

1. restoring the image of God
2. destroying the power of death
      ( and therefore our FEAR of suffering)
3. teaching us again the way to love

When I first read Bondi's book, I was struggling greatly with my grief over my mother's death. I knew that this tremendous grief had changed me. I was not the same person after she died. And for about 3- 4 years following her death, I kept praying that God would help me to get my old self back. I wanted to be the happy person I had always been

Yet, what I came to understand was that what I needed
was not about  getting  "my old self" back.  I did NOT need to be restored to who I was before.  I wanted to be "the me" who existed before the grief, before the suffering. BUT, this is NOT what God wanted for me.

I don't believe that this is what God wants for any of us.
God's grace doesn't "put it back like it was," but,
through the power of the Resurrection, God's grace transforms us.

When Mary went to the Garden on that first Easter morning, she was looking for the Jesus she once knew
the man whose face she surely would recognize in any crowd. And yet, here he was standing in front of her
and she did not recognize the Resurrected Christ!

The good news of Good Friday and Easter  is this:
We do not get "our old selves" back!
Our pain is NOT taken away!
RATHER
Our pain, our grief, our sufferings can be transformed because of the Grace that comes to us through the power of the Resurrection

The most horrible thing
can be the most grace-filled

God doesn't remove pain from our lives. Pain and suffering are a part of life. Jesus didn't come down off the cross. Rather his suffering on the cross is transformed by his resurrection!

Our lives:our pain, our grief, our sufferings
can be transformed by the power of the Resurrection!

We can be made NEW CREATURES in Christ.
And just as Christ still bore his wounds, we too, may be scarred by the sufferings we have endured. But, God's grace will carry us through the pain and grief and suffering. And just as Jesus called Mary by Name,
God calls each of us by name.

And God grants to us New Life--not our "old selves!
God continually refines us by the power of the crucifixion and resurrection.

God's Grace can make the most horrible thing
the most grace-filled thing.

Praise be to God who has given us the Victory in Jesus Christ.

If God could raise Jesus from the dead, what do we suffer through  that is beyond  God's redemption?

NOTHING!!

When we share in the Eucharist together, we are reminded of Christ's suffering and we share in Christ's brokenness. We share in his body and blood which were laid down for each of us.

My prayer is that this Easter Season, you may know yourself laying down your own sufferings, your griefs, and your pain. 

My you come to an attitude of gratitude knowing that you are not alone. Everyone has sadness, pain and suffering.
And through through the Power of the Resurrected Christ, your sufferings may be redeemed!

The most horrible thing
can be the more grace-filled!

Praise be to God!

Christ is Risen!
Alleluia!