GO DEEP.

GO DEEP.

MATTHEW 5: 1-11

(Sermon delivered at Epiphany Lutheran Church on Sunday, February 10th, 2019.)

This text is about many things:  it’s about the start of Jesus’ ministry and crowds beginning to gather to hear “the word of God”, it’s a fishing tale, it’s a fishing tale for people, it’s a fishing tale FOR Jesus’ first disciples.  But mostly, it’s a fishing tale about GOING DEEP.

Go Deep Jesus says.  A carpenter telling a professional fisherman –  Go deep!  And what happens?  It’s a net-breaking catch! So much so that the boat is about to sink and aid is called in! And when the help arrives, then two boats are about to sink!  What’s going on here?  What’s God up to? What’s God doing?

It’s all about going deep.

In the game of football “going deep” means to run deep down the field as the quarterback throws up – OFTEN AND IRONICALLY – a “hail Mary” of sorts in hopes that that the ball will be caught for a touchdown.  It means to go further and farther. It means taking a risk for a greater outcome.  Going deep means doing something more  – greater – than you’ve ever done before.

Go deep Jesus says.

Which is exactly what Simon Peter does as the master tells him to go deep  – to go back to the place they had spent the last evening fishing to no avail. Try it again – go deeper. While Simon goes under some protest, he ultimately obeys the master, and what happens –  fish galore! And what then does Simon do in response to this amazing catch of fish? He falls to his knees not only realizing his lack of faith and trust, but mostly his sinful self, crying out for Jesus to leave him for he is not worthy.

Are you struck by the results? When it didn’t seem possible, here is an enormous catch of fish!  What’s Jesus up to here?  To prove he’s a better fishermen?

Here’s what I think:   Jesus is going deep!  You see, He takes this sinful, humble in faith human, Simon Peter, who in spite of his lack of trust, obeys the master, and then this Jesus picks him up FROM THE DEPTHS and says to him – “don’t be afraid – don’t be afraid of my power, don’t be afraid that you are not worthy, don’t be afraid to go deep. DON’T BE AFRAID TO RISK.  For I choose you to go deep in my name for the sake of others. “

To go deep means to give up self gain or self doubt for the sake of sharing the good news with another.  It means to take a risk.

AND IT STARTS HERE. WHEN WE GO DEEP- DEEP IN THE WORD, WE MEET JESUS. AND ITS HERE THAT JESUS CHALLENGES US TO BE THE CHURCH THAT LOVES RADICALLY AND ACTS RADICALLY IN THE NAME OF JESUS.

COMING HERE ON A SUNDAY MORNING ISN’T SO MUCH ABOUT YOU – IT’S ABOUT THE WORD STRIRRING IN YOU, IT’S ABOUT ACCEPTING THIS MANTLE OF RADICAL LOVE , GETTING OUT OF THIS BOAT, SO THAT WE CAN cast our nets AND GO DEEP – NOT FOR YOU OR ME BUT FOR THE SAKE OF THE WORLD – SO THAT OTHERS MIGHT KNOW THIS AMAZING LOVE. AND THAT’S RISKY.  Pulitzer prize winning author, Annie Dillard, writes about THIS encounter with God.  ‘When we go to church we should wear crash helmets, receive life preserves and be latched to the pews in case God shows up!”

You know why?  Because when we encounter God, when we go deep, we should expect that God will show up and show up in magnitude!  AND WHEN GOD SHOWS UP –  God CALLS us to plunge into the WORLD, NEAR AND FAR – to go deep into the lives of those around us, in a way that brings OTHERS WHO MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE HEARD THE GOOD NEWS  to an encounter with God.  And I’m sure when we go deep, we will be amazed and may need to hold on to our fishing poles when we see what happens when God shows up!  Go deep Jesus says.

I WANT US TO GO DEEP.  WHEN YOU INTERVIEWED ME, YOU ASKED ME HOW I WAS GOING TO GROW THE CHURCH – HOW WAS I GOING TO CATCH FISH.  AND MY RESPONSE WAS, FIRST – I DON’T GROW THE CHURCH, BUT THE HS GROWS THE CHURCH.  BUT REALLY – WHAT DO WE MEAN WHEN WE SAY “GROW THE CHURCH?”  – MORE BUTTS IN THE PEWS? MORE MONEY TO FUND OUR BUDGET? WHAT I SAID TO YOU WAS THAT MY DESIRE WAS THAT WE GROW DEEP IN OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD, ONE ANOTHER AND THE WORLD, AND IN SO DOING – GO WIDE – TO SPREAD GOD’S LOVE IN THE WORLD FOR THE SAKE OF THE WORLD.

Last week I attended an ELCA CONFERENCE ON VITALITY TRAINING in Las Vegas – WAS ASKED BY the Rocky Mountain SYNOD TO BE ON A TEAM THAT ADDRESSES THE VITALITY OF OUR CHURCHES IN OUR SYNOD.  AND HERE’S WHAT I HEARD: ELCA CHOOSES NO LONGER TO MEASURE OUR “SUCCESS” OR IMPACT IN THE WORLD BY NUMBERS IN THE PEW OR BUDGETS WITH HIGH % OF BENEVOLENCE.  OUR CHURCH NO LONGER WANT US TO KEEP DOING WHAT WE’VE ALWAYS DONE BEFORE, OUR CHURCH WANTS US TO TAKE A RISK.  TO GO DEEP. TO

Do Church differently… NOT FOR THE SAKE OF BEING DIFFERENT – BUT FOR THE SAKE OF A WORLD THAT NEEDS TO HEAR THE SAME MESSAGE OF GRACE IN A NEW AND LIFEGIVING WAY.  20 YEARS AGO WHEN I GOT INTO THE MINSITRY IT WAS BECAUSE OF THE CALL TO BE AND DO JESUS DIFFERENTLY.  I CANNOT BE COMPLACENT.

WHY AREN’T PEOPLE COMING TO PLACES OF FAITH?  BECAUSE MORE TIMES THAN NOT, WHAT HAPPENS THERE, THE PEOPLE THEY ENCOUNTER, THE MESSAGE THAT THEY HEAR, IS NOT AN EMBRACING WORD – NOT ONE THAT IS RELEVANT. THE CHURCH DOES NOT OFTEN SPEAK TO THEIR LIVES.  IT DOES NOT SPEAK TO THE ISSUES TO WHICH THEY ENCOUNTER IN A WORLD THAT SPREADS HATE AND BROKENESS. THE CHURCH DOESN’T HELP NAVIGATE THE CHOPPY WATERS. INSTEAD OF CASTING NETS OF INCLUSIVITY AND ACCEPTANCE, THE CHURCH CASTS NETS OF JUDGEMENT.

DO WE DARE TO GO DEEP AND WIDE? DO WE DARE TO DO CHURCH DIFFERENTLY. DO WE DARE TO BE RELEVANT?  I say – what do we have to lose?

OUR CHURCH BODY IS DOING AMAZING THINGS.  AS OUR WORLD BECOMES MORE DIFFICULT TO NAVIGATE, MANY OF OUR POPULATION ARE FINDING THEMSELVES HOMELESS.  THE ELCA IS RESPONDING.  I MET SEVERAL PASTORS WORKING WITH THE HOMELESS: ONE WHO HAS BEEN SHOWING UP AT THE FLYING J WITH MEMBERS OF HIS CONGREGATION AND LISTENING TO THE FOLKS HE MEETS THERE.  THAT HAS LED THEM TO LOOK FOR LAND TO BUILD TINY HOUSES AND CREATE A COMMUNITY, A SECOND -THIRD- FOURTH CHANCE FOR THOSE WHO HAVE NO PLACE TO GO.

I MET A PASTOR WHO HAS A “LAUNDRAMAT CHURCH,” POSTING AND GETTING THE WORD OUT EACH WEEK WHERE SHE’LL BE AND OFFERS FREE LAUNDRY SERVICES.  WHILE THERE THEY ENGAGE IN WORSIP.

I KNOW OF A CHURCH IN OUR SYNOD THAT BOUGHT A VAN TO DRIVE DIABETES PATIENTS ACROSS THE STATE FOR DIALYSIS TREATMENTS ONCE A WEEK.

AND I HEARD OF BREW PUBS AND COFFEE HOUSES LIKE WHERE I SERVED PRECIOUSLY WHO ENGAGE IN REALTIONSHIP BUILDING AND FAITH-FILLED TALK – BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY, THE CHURCH GOES TO WHERE THE PEOPLE ARE.

I SAW A BIN OF “MATTHEW KITS,”  LARGE ZIPLOC BAGS FILLED WITH ESSENTIALS FOR THOSE LIVING ON THE STREETS, PUT TOGETHER BY THE YOUTH OF THE CONGREGATION AND TAKEN OUT TO THOSE IN NEED.  OVER 2000 WERE PASSED OUT IN THE PREVIOUS CALENDAR YEAR.

I TALKED TO A PASTOR WHO TOOK A NEW CALL WHERE THERE WAS A LARGE MAGNIFICENT FULL KITCHEN (NOT UNLIKE OURS) THAT WAS BASICALLY UNUSED.  FOR SOME DAYS HE STOOD IN THE MIDDLE OF THE KITCHEN AND PRAYED ABOUT HOW GOD MIGHT USE THIS SPEACE FOR  KINGDOM WORK.  A WEEK LATER LUTHERAN SENIOR SERVICES CALLED WITH A NEED TO FIND A PLACE THAT COULD FEED LUNCH TO SENIOR CITIZENS.  THEY SERVICE OVER 1000 LUNCHES A MONTH.

FOLKS – I WANT US TO BE THE CHURCH THAT RISKS FOR THE SAKE OF THE GOSPEL. IT’S NO LONGER AN OPTION FOR US TO BE WARM AND COZY, HAPPY IN OUR PEWS. BECAUSE THE LIFE OF THE WORLD IS AT STAKE. AND THE WORLD IS AS CLOSE AS RIGHT OUTSIDE OUR FRONT DOOR.

I WANT US TO BE THE CHURCH THAT PULLS OUT ALL THE STOPS AND ISN’T AFRAID TO LET GO OF SOME OF IT’S OLD CONSTUCTS TO BE RELEVANT IN THE WORLD TODAY.  I WANT US TO GO DEEP. I WANT US TO LOOK AROUND AT WHO’S NOT HERE AND GO TO WHERE THEY ARE.  I WANT US TO NOT BE AFRAID TO EMBRACE INNOVATION WHEN IT COMES TO DOING CHURCH DIFFERENTLY, WHILE AT THE SAME TIME HOLD ON TO THAT TRADITION THAT MAKES US WHO WE ARE – A PEOPLE with a message OF GRACE for the world.

WE PLAY IT SAFE – WE STAY ON THE SURFACE OF THE WATER – WHEN WE STAY INSIDE THESE FOUR WALLS.  SO WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE FOR US TO GO DEEP?  I WANT US TO RALLY AROUND THE QUESTION OF WHAT GOD IS CALLING US TO BE AND DO IN THE WOLRD FOR THE SAKE OF THE WORLD.  AND I WANT US TO WRESTLE WITH HOW DEEP GOD IS CALLING US AND I WANT US TO EMBRACE THE RISKYNESS, THE SCARYNESS, THE UNPREDICTABILITY, THE UNCOMFORTABILITY,THE UNKNOWN.  BECAUSE I AM CONVINCED THAT GOD DIDN’T CALL US TO WADE IN THE WATERS.  GOD CALLS US TO GO DEEP.

But listen to this: when Jesus says “Go deep” he also says “Don’t be afraid!”

You see, in the depths of life, God is in control.  In the depths of life God is in control AND WILL PROVIDE… in the depths of life, God is in control and will provide in ABUNDANCE.  For there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  God’s love is endless  AND BOUNDLESS –

WE CANNOT GO TOO DEEP FOR GOD.

WE CANNOT GO TOO DEEP FROM GOD.

 

MY FRIENDS, LET’S Go deep TOGETHER.  Amen.

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Yes, We Love Everybody!

I recently received a letter in the mail from an individual condemning our church’s acceptance of all people and challenging my Christianity. After reading it, I threw it in the recycle bin, but then took it back out. Too many times, maybe because we feel disgusted when we receive opposing and criticizing words from others -whether we know them or not – we discard them, not wanting to give them the time of day.  But maybe because its a new year and we challenge ourselves to do new things, I decided my – our voice needed to be heard.  So, instead of responding individually, I chose to speak up and out, on behalf of the church I represent, and the people who grace our presence and make us the body of Christ together.  It is my fervent hope that we can bring together, that which divides us.  Here is my response:

Dear Sir –

I recently received your letter on behalf of Epiphany Lutheran Church, addressing your beliefs regarding the “LGBTQ” community and specifically opposing our “LGBTQ” affirmation, and I might add “IA.” You are correct that we love all people.  This is our welcoming statement in our bulletin each week and on our website:

We Are A Reconciling In Christ Congregation. Epiphany Lutheran Church recognizes the wonderful diversity of God’s creation and the way that diversity enriches and challenges our lives as members of the body of Christ. We also recognize that actions and attitudes throughout the Church may have inhibited or prevented access to Word and Sacrament and therefore we invite people of all ages, races, socioeconomic or marital status, physical or mental capacities, sexual orientation, nationalities and citizenship to join us in worship and/or membership.

The people of Epiphany are humbly trying to follow Jesus’ profound example to love all our neighbors. Nothing more, and nothing less is expected of us.  I pray that in this time of great division, we might be bold to publicly heed Jesus’ call  to overcome division and show our love for all God’s people, for no one is unworthy of God’s amazing grace.

My hope and prayer is that you also know God’s unfailing love for you.

In Peace, Pastor Libbie

ryb.always

Jesus said, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Luke 12:15

I live a privileged life.  Plain and simple.  And my tendency when I read texts like this is to justify the “stuff” I have.  That I don’t have that much.  That the stuff I have is necessary.  That I don’t over-indulge….. that much.  The truth is I like nice things.  I like a kept home, and I like decorating it. I like conveniences  and efficiency, things that aren’t broken or run down.  I like new clothes and I like giving others nice and meaningful things.  I like going places and eating good food and experiencing new and different things. And I guess you could say, I have an abundance of possessions.  Yes, I have more than most of the world’s population.

And there are times in my life, sometimes daily, that I think that I am defined by these things. Case in point: I drive a Subaru – I’m part of the Subaru “LOVE” family – I do cool things, I’m adventurous, I must be cool. But the truth is, that my stuff doesn’t define who I am and certainly not WHOSE I am (which is why I think Jesus tells us to “Take Care!” Be aware! of our greed for all kinds of things).  On the contrary, I have been splashed with the waters of Baptism and am daily reminded that I am a child of God – I might be known as other things; a wife, mother, daughter, sister, a Subaru driver (!) – but I am only those things by the grace of God who entered into my life and loves me for who I am.

Growing up my parents used to say to my brother and me often, “Remember your Baptism.” Now I was baptized as an infant, so when I was young I thought that was a bit odd – how was I supposed to remember when I was 2 weeks old?  But as I grew and they continued to tell me to remember my baptism, I realized that what they meant was that I needed tok remember that I was a child of God.  It didn’t matter what I was wearing, who I was hanging with, the “stuff” that I possessed; rather, what mattered and matters is where my heart dwells as a child of God.  Martin Luther says that where your treasure is, there also will be your heart.  God wants my life; God wants to inhabit my heart, and not let other “stuff” become my treasure. So daily, I am called to RYB, remember my baptism.  Remember that even though I like nice things (and that’s ok, btw), God is my true  treasure, giving me new life each day – a day I’m privileged to share my stuff with others and give God glory for the many blessings that I have.

To God be the glory!  Join me today and RYB. peace. prL

early in the morning…

IMG_4584

Early in the morning, Moses rose and built an altar at the foot of the mountain… Exodus 24: 4.

In the old testament alone, in certain translations, there are more than 20 instances when something was going on early in the morning. Now, if you know me at all, early in the morning is rarely a part of my routine.  While I have always wished that I could rise early in the day to “make the most of my day,” I am, what some call, a night owl.  It is not uncommon to receive an email from me at 1 or 2 in the morning,  Now, I guess that is technically early in the morning, but for me, that’s the end of my day.

But things have recently changed in the Reinking household.  We have a new golden retriever puppy…. who rises early in the morning. My husband and I have been at this two weeks, trying to figure out a schedule that accommodates everyone. He exercises early in the morning, so I have decided that I will rise early in the morning and tend to the pup so he can keep his early in the morning routine.  In theory, I thought that this would be a good way to jump start my return to this blog. In theory.

But here I sit, early in the morning, and all I can think of is that it’s early in the morning!

But I’m not alone.  God is indeed at work early in the morning (early one morning… on the third day..).  Scripture tells us that early in the morning the Lord draws people into worship and calls people into action in the name of the Lord.  Listening for God’s voice early in the morning, gives us the opportunity to rise up and follow God’s call in our hearts as a guide into the day.  Yet in my case, the flesh is often weak.  So on this morning, one morning at a time, with God’s help, I choose to rise early, build an altar at the foot of the mountains, and call upon the name of the Lord, for strength, for focus, and for the willingness to see God at work in my life, and in the world around me.  And I ask God to simply use me as a instrument of God’s peace, one early morning at a time.

P.S. after a several of hours of puppy frolicking, I am now ready to post this!

 

God’s grip.

The Parable of the Mustard Seed

31 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” Matthew 13: 31-32

Mustard seed was a weed in Jesus’ world – dreaded by farmers like crabgrass or bindweed today. Starts out small, but before long it takes over your field.

You see, the weed has this way of spreading beyond anything we could even imagine – even infiltrating every nook and cranny of the system – and eventually taking over as host.

Why does Jesus compare the kingdom of God to a weed? Maybe it’s not about the weed at all. Maybe it’s about God’s in-breaking reign and reality in our lives – far more potent than we can even fathom and ready to spread into every corner of our lives?

What if we thought about God’s reign in our lives with this kind of hold on us every time we encounter God? Not only in our everyday lives, but all the corners of our lives, even in the routine faith elements of our lives like coming to worship, studying the bible, prayer – I mean do we really expect God to show up, much less surprise us with this kind of magnitude?

Here we have this seed – this ever so tiny of a seed, that is buried deep. But it has this incredible root system that spreads through the rich soil to the very inner depths of the earth. It fingers its way through the earth, and because of its tight grip, it begins to grow up through the soil reaching the surface. And there, even though the surprise – the transformation – may start well below the surface – in the heart of the earth – its surprising strength is manifested in glorious grandeur – spreading its wealth and richness across the landscape.

Does God have a grip on your life like this? Where the seeds of faith are rooted deep within your heart? And do you believe God’s reign can push through the hard and soft surfaces of your heart to reveal to you and the world this amazing love and grace that spreads across the landscape of life?

I believe in a God who is much bigger than I can even fathom or put words to. And so there’s this mystery of this God that I hang on to – believing that even and especially in the midst of earthquakes and life-taking storms and hurricanes, in the tragedies of life and loss of life, in illness and in health, in the midst of nuclear threats, in broken relationships, and threatened deportations, in love and new life – I believe that if this God DOES NOT permeate the very depths of my being, and spread to the four corners of the world, then there is no pathway to hope.

But only by God’s grace, I believe. I believe in the cross and the resurrection and the life. I believe in the promise that spreads beyond anything I can even imagine. I have HOPE.

I believe in this God’s power to overcome the greatest of this life’s challenges and to bring the greatest of blessings – from even the smallest seeds of hope. Do you have HOPE?

May God’s reign grip our lives and continue to surprise us – take our breath away! – at the beauty and depth of God’s promises – not only for our sake but indeed for the sake of the world. Amen?

with the seed in it.

“The earth brought forth vegetation; plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it.” Genesis 1: 13

Why haven’t I every seen that before?  Don’t just bear fruit, but bear fruit WITH THE SEED IN IT!

This week is the 2nd week of our Creation Series in worship at Epiphany Lutheran Church where I serve here in Denver.  We will be celebrating the Land and the Soil, and all that comes from it.  As I was pondering the creation story according to the first chapter of Genesis, I was struck by these words “bear fruit with the seed in it.”  Now maybe that’s not very significant to you, but I realize in this text that it’s not enough to bear fruit, but that fruit must have seeds to produce more fruit.

Crimson-Sweet-WatermelonNow I don’t know how many times I’ve gone to the store and when I’m buying fruit, I look for the seedless version; you know, like watermelon and “seedless grapes,”  because seeds can just be an annoyance!  When you’re cutting up a watermelon it just takes too much time to “seed” the watermelon. And grapes?  Where do you put the tiny little seeds from each and EVERY grape?  Not to mention how strategically you need to eat them! You get my point.

But what’s also true, is that seedless watermelon, at least, just doesn’t have that sweet sugary taste quite like that of watermelons with seeds.  (do your own experiment the next time you’re at the market! It’s true!)

So not only will fruit without seed not produce more fruit, but it also isn’t as flavorful!

Indeed God desires that we be fruit with the seed in it.  So just as the seeds of a watermelon produce a more flavorful sugary, watery watermelon, so we are called to bear juicy fruit…WITH THE SEED, exploding flavor in the world – seeds of God’s love planted in our communities, neighborhoods, families, workplaces – where ever God has planted us.

Today, be the seed that bears fruit that bears more seeds.

 

go deep.

“Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”  Luke 5: 4b

school of fish

When Jesus called his first disciples, he didn’t just say, “Come wade in the water,” but “Go deep!”  Don’t just dangle your toes in the water, but plunge right in to the depths of life! Jesus also says, “Don’t be afraid – don’t be afraid of my power in you, don’t be afraid that you are not worthy, don’t be afraid to go deep.  For I choose you to go deep in my name for the sake of others.”  When we go deep, giving up self gain and self doubt for the sake of sharing God’s love, we might just need to hold on to our fishing poles as the blessings overflow!  Why? Because Jesus went deep for us first.

My prayer for all of us today is that we would heed God’s call to go deep – into our own hearts, and into the world – sharing God’s love and hope with a deeply broken world.

peace. prL

it’s a dog’s life.

 What a wildly wonderful world, God!
    You made it all, with Wisdom at your side,
    made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.
Oh, look—the deep, wide sea,
    brimming with fish past counting,
    sardines and sharks and salmon.
Ships plow those waters,
    and Leviathan, your pet dragon, romps in them.
All the creatures look expectantly to you
    to give them their meals on time.

You come, and they gather around;
    you open your hand and they eat from it.  Psalm 104: 24-27a (27b-30)

This psalm just makes me want to do the dance of joy!  Especially these verses when I’m reminded of the Creator God who loves all that God has made and calls it GOOD.  And I marvel at the master plan – how the creatures of the sea, the birds of the air, the mountains and valleys and deserts, and us humans – are are part of this marvelous plan.

IMG_3477I have this Grandpuppy – Sierra – that my daughter claims that I love more than her.  Well that’s true only part of the time…. 🙂  Dogs, though, are amazing creatures to have around; Sierra loves me unconditionally, when she stays with us, she is always waiting for me to come home with the biggest wag of a tail that says, “I MISSED YOU!”, she listens and obeys (well most of the time), frolics with delight, smells creation likes it’s a wonder to behold each and every time she walks out the door,  and she sleeps without a care in the world.  It’s a dog’s life. Beautiful.  A life that knows that all is well with her world- that she will be cared for and loved, beyond worry.

Sometimes it’s just plain good to know that I don’t have to worry about life.  But it’s not easy to get to that place – so I need to be reminded that all comes from God. (You come, and they gather… you open your hand and they eat from it.. verse 27) It’s kind of like when my puppygirl Sierra sits and waits expectantly for treats from my hand, so does God provide for me.  It’s all there for the taking. If only I waited with such enthusiasm and trust.

Today I’ll take some love lessons from this four legged furry creature that God has blessed me with to be a part of my life.  Bless you Sier.  And bless your mommy for sharing you with us.

just like Job.

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Job 38: 4 (view larger text)

Creation has certainly taken it’s beating these past few weeks.  Hardly in the aftermath of Harvey, Irma takes a turn at creating devastating destruction, not falling short of the loss of life.  And let us not forget that in the midst of destroying winds and rain, an earthquake takes the lives of many others.

It makes one wonder with Job, who’s very physical and spiritual body took a devastating beating, “How much more can we take, O Lord? Do you really know what’s going on?  Where are you?” And then God reminds Job (and all of us) that it is God who is the author of all life – who formed us and created us and all the world not leaving one detail out; that it is this God who laid the very foundation of the earth.  Wow…

I spent time with our confirmands this past weekend, working on putting words to our faith, preparing “faith statements” for Confirmation Sunday in October when they will publicly declare who they believe that God is. As I was checking in with them (hi’s and lows!) one of them raised the question about whether all this devastation is God’s response to all the bad stuff that humans are doing in our world today.  “Maybe God’s punishing us,” one of them said.  “If you read certain portions of scripture, it can be easy to come to that conclusion,” I told them as there are indeed examples of God’s judgment on a wayward people. Just take Noah’s story as an apropos example!

But I continued: “Here’s what I believe – I believe in a God who is so much bigger than I can even imagine or put words to. I simply don’t have the capacity to understand the fullness of this God.  But what I do know is in my heart, and that is that God made each of us and all creation to be in relationship with God.  That God loves God’s creation, and weeps for God’s creation when it suffers.  So when bad stuff happens in our lives and in our world as the result of sin – not God’s punishment, God never abandons us. But God indeed walks the journey with us, showing us the way.”  Then one of them responded, “I’m good at “falling” (screwing up).  But I know that when I’m going through some really hard times, I can also learn from them and God helps me through it.”

I must say, I love those “good confirmation answers.”  But I also know that we have to remind ourselves of those words all the time.  Whether it’s a hurricane, and earthquake, devastating illness or any kind of loss in our lives, it’s hard not to lash out at God and say, “You could have stopped this!”

We will each come to our own understanding of who God is. For me, I don’t have the answers to pain and suffering in this world, other than to say that, in the midst of suffering, I believe and trust that God is there.  This God who reminds us that God is the author of all things living – having been in this cosmos, this universe, laying the foundations of the earth before it even came into being.  Somehow, then, though I cannot comprehend all that God is, my faith informs me of one thing: this God is love and calls me into a relationship – to lean on, cry to, shake my fist at, and ultimately, fall down and worship ….just like Job.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

one in heaven and one on earth.

For as the heavens are high above the earth,
   so great is his steadfast love towards those who fear him;  Psalm 103: 11

I’ve been thinking a lot about the nearness of heaven these days.  We celebrated the remembrance of Resurrection Day for my father, Darrell, yesterday. It has been 6 years since the angels sang such sweet melodies in his heart and called him home after 12 years of living with Alzheimer’s disease.

Meanwhile, my precious mother, Aileen, has been waiting patiently to hear those same melodies.  In the days following his death, I remember her saying that she would be next in “not too long of a time from now – a year at best,” to join him in heaven.

And I remember being angry with her for talking that way.  Well, here we are 6 years later; 5 of those years spent with her own deepening dementia to the point that she does not comprehend much of this earthly life anymore. So she waits. And we wait, for that glorious reunion to take place.

I know that the author of this text above perhaps thought little about life and death and those in heaven and those on earth while writing this psalm, but for me on this day, I  can only thank and praise this God of steadfast love who binds these two together – one in heaven and one on earth.

Deep in my mother’s heart, though she not remember the events that surround her in Chronos time (earthly time), she, I believe, lives in perpetual Kairos time (God’s time). So that though her days on earth run on, our God who lives both in heaven and on earth, surrounds her with a steadfast love so great, that nothing separates her from God’s love, not even a fading memory.  So perhaps she is not waiting at all for the fulfillment of the promise, but lives perpetually in that promise.  May we all abide in that kind of steadfast love, God’s love that binds heaven and earth together.