curiosity.

“What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel?” 1 Samuel 17:26

I’ve been thinking about David and Goliath. In 1 Samuel 17 we hear the beginning of the story that we know best, when this small young shepherd boy uses his sling shot to kill the bully Goliath and save the Israelites from the Philistines. This story is always an attention-getter with children. It’s comforting to know that bullies don’t always have the last word.

But there’s one thing as least that I don’t remember about David in this story. And that’s his curiosity. It’s his curiosity that drove him to find out what was going on. His father had sent him to take food and supplies to his older brothers who were fighting in the battle, mostly because his father wanted David to find out if they were ok. David was not supposed to stay. But when he heard the challenge from Goliath he began to ask questions wanting to know what would happen to the one who would defeat the Philistines.

Perhaps I don’t ask enough questions. Perhaps I’m not curious enough about the mission and purpose that God has called me too. Perhaps if I was more curious, I would be more invested in the mission. I know that God will use me even when I fail to notice, but how much more use can I be for the kingdom when I ask! May my curiosity get the best of me today…for the sake of the world.

Be well. Be safe. Be Hope. prL

no assumptions.

“…for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16: 1-23

The Lord is about to choose young David to become the next King for Israel. So the Lord tells Samuel not to make assumptions about what defines greatness. Don’t look for the biggest best most handsome young strapping man, God says, because that’s not what God’s looking for. Instead, God chooses the one whose heart is right with God. That’s greatness.

I believe that in large part, our divisiveness – what divides us – is our assumptions of each other, primarily made without the benefit of getting to know each other. Instead, our assumptions are often based on what has been told to us; the ideologies that were formulated that dictated systems and behaviors long before my existence and no one, including me, has stopped to challenge them.

Sounds like Samuel was in the same boat. But here God is challenging Samuel to stop the cycle. God is asking Samuel to see through the eyes of God into the heart of another. Today, I hear that same challenge from God: to look with God’s eyes into a world that is broken and find God’s love in another’s heart. And then…. without assumptions, love right back. Now that’s greatness.

Be well. Be safe. Be hope. prL

vengeance.

“May there be no one to do him a kindness, nor anyone to pity his orphaned children.” Psalm 109: 12

If ever you need words to express the vengeance that’s welling up within you, turn to Psalm 109. Being beaten, knocked down and dragged out, the psalmist cries out for God’s help. Not only to be rescued from the enemy, but the psalmist cries out for the perpetrator to be punished and condemned, casting the perpetrator off to nil existence.

When I read the psalms, it’s most often from the first person perspective. So that in Psalm 109 I’m asking for God to get in front of me and punish those who do me wrong. But not tonite.

Today was the third day of my synod’s fall theological conference. For me, this experience has been gut-wrenching, exhaustive, humbling, awakening, confronting, and transforming as we have embraced our role as mainly white individuals and communities of faith in the work of anti-racism. Today was also the day of the announcement that there would not be any charges of the police officers on Breonna Taylor’s death. More pain. More sorrow. More injustice.

So tonite, in this acute yet lingering moment of grief, I confess that it is me who is the perpetrator. I have inflicted pain and suffering on my black and brown siblings as I continue to perpetuate the systems that were created and maintained by white ideologies of racism. But I can’t put all the blame on systems, as I have committed my own acts of racism known and unknown. Vengeance I deserve. Forgiveness I seek.

But if I keep reading to the end of the psalm, it is there where I find hope. Hope, I believe, for the oppressed and for the oppressor: “For (the Lord) stands at the right hand of the needy, to save them from those who would condemn them to death.” Amen. Amen.

Be well. Be safe. Be hope. prL

200K. we need nothing short of a miracle.

(the steward called the bridegroom and said), “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” John 2: 10

There are times when things happen in life that I can only explain as a miracle, sighting God’s presence. However, it seems that the pattern in my life is that when all else has failed, I need a miracle and I need it now. But even in these circumstances, it feels like I’m testing God and not really expecting that a miracle will happen. In the end, I brace myself for the inevitable. I brace myself for disappointment.

In today’s story of Jesus turning water into wine, I’m reminded of a couple of things. First, it’s ok to ask for a miracle. Jesus will do what Jesus is going to do, but asking implicates my faith and trust that God’s got this. Second, the BEST is saved for last. It’s God’s timing. And it’s always better than we can even imagine.

As we pass by the 200K marker of deaths in this country alone from the coronavirus, it’s completely unfathomable that this is actually happening; that friends, loved ones, strangers, essential workers, grandmothers, and children are dying each moment that we breathe. Each day that we wake is another day we feel defeated by this silent enemy. We need nothing short of a miracle. I cannot pretend to understand the ways of God, but perhaps the miracle for me is to be able to trust that God is here, weeping with all of creation. And in the end, the BEST is the miracle of new life that comes from death. …but honestly, even that doesn’t seem like enough for me right now…… I’m still pondering….. Come Lord Jesus Come. Just turn water into wine.

Be well Be safe. Be hope. prL

come and see.

“(Andrew) first found his brother Simon and said to him, We have found the Messiah.” John 1: 41

Today, I am acutely aware of destructive forces that are spreading like wildfire around the globe giving me a sense of hopelessness. In these days when the earth is suffering from great destruction, devastation and death, be it from the heat of fire, a global health pandemic, or social pandemic, I am wondering where hope resides. So I text a friend this morning lamenting that we need something to cheer us up. Perhaps, I’ve forgotten about the power of God’s love that can spread like wildfire.

A few verses later, Jesus finds Philip and invites him to follow Jesus also, who then says to Nathanael, “We have found him” speaking about Jesus, the one they have concluded that Moses and the prophets wrote about. God’s love is spreading like wildfire.

First from a God who comes in human form and lives among us, inviting us to follow him. And then a sibling tells a sibling and a friend tells a friend to “Come and see.” Come and see this God who comes to save. Come and see this God who weeps when we weep. Come and see this God who walks the journey with us, reminding us to stay close, to abide, to follow. Come and find love.

Together, may we proclaim to our siblings, our friends, and even strangers, “We have found the Messiah!” And then, still together, let us “Come and See” what this great God has done and continues to do!

Be well. Be safe. Be hope. prL

there’s enough.

Sermon. September 20th. Based on Exodus 16: 2-15 (The Promise of Quail and Manna) and Matthew 20: 1-16 (Parable of the Vineyard Landowner)

The world’s farmers produce enough food to feed one and a half times the world’s population. Yet in 2018, it was calculated that 795 million people went to bed hungry every night. The number continues to grow, becoming increasingly greater with the current global pandemic and natural disasters.  It is said that 30-40% of food produced by global farmers goes wasted. Unequal distribution of the world’s resources, be it globally, nation to nation, within one country or community or family, causes food scarcity zones, some in our backyards. And even moreso, the change in climate is changing the agricultural landscape, which will decrease what the land can yield.

Now here we have a story about the landowner who apparently had a lot of land to till.  And we also learn that there were a lot of people who were unemployed and in need of work as all day long workers kept showing up and the farmer kept employing them. 

Like Jesus’ other parables, when he tells this story, Jesus first wants the hearers to be able to grasp what he is teaching them by first relating to their specific time and culture, and economic and social status. In Jesus’ time, the people experienced unequal distribution of wealth – where the rich grew richer and the poor poorer. Landowners kept buying up the family farms causing the small landowners to be out of work and in need of income. The landowner gained more land and paid less for it to be taken care of. The result was a global economy where the rich get richer and the poor poorer. 

But that’s not all we hear in the parable as Jesus begins to teach them about God’s generosity; the way life can be, not the way it was, where God’s economy is about generosity that brings transformation. 

You see, this parable is also about a God whose kingdom is vast, where there is enough for everyone, and no one is left out.  A kingdom where if you are committed and always play by the rules or you come to the party late, you are treated the same.  A kingdom where God’s economy makes sure that all are welcome, all are included, and all are deserving of God’s generosity.  God’s economy ensures that there is enough for everyone.

The Hebrews were whiny just like the committed daily workers in Jesus’ parable.  They could not understand why God would have told Moses to lead them away from slavery when at least there they had food and nourishment. Now they were tired and hungry crying out, “Did you bring us out of Egypt to have us starve to death in the desert?”  And God heard them and consequently provided food for them but instructing them to only consume what they needed.  And is so doing, God also promised that they would all have enough. 

Now, as the Hebrews wandered the wilderness, they faced a new way of relating to God, having to trust in God’s generosity and not to hoard what God gave them. No matter how much or little they gathered, God declared that each would have enough.

What is perhaps interesting in this God-event, is that God uses creation to care for them.  First God sends Quail at night – little guinea fowl-like birds – that settle down in great flocks each night to rest.  And in the morning God sent Manna (the Hebrew word is man hu, which means “what is it?”) which is known to be a substance that is secreted each morning by tamarisk trees. 

In God’s economy, God uses the world that God has created to provide.  In essence, God intends for God’s world to be a hospitable home for all, where we all gather only what we need and work to distribute the world’s goods so that all may have enough.  May we practice God’s economy of generosity, where there is enough for everyone.

who are you.

“Then they said to him, ” Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” John 1: 22

Often when a leader rose among the people in biblical times, the question was often asked, “Who are you?” Prophets and kings such as when David and Saul were anointed kings to guide the people, or when John the Baptist began to proclaim the good news that the Messiah was near, the people got nervous. Who are you? Who made you king? Who are you to tell us the Messiah is coming? Who sent you? You’re just a carpenter’s son.

It’s hard to know the truth sometimes. And it’s especially hard to discern this truth in others and trust that God may have sent someone into your life as God’s mouthpiece or as someone to walk the journey with you and help guide you. Kind-of like God’s sherpa.

We try so hard to go it on our own – that we can handle whatever comes our way. But sometimes I wonder if we unintentionally set up blinders that ultimately prevent us from seeing and reaching out to God’s sherpas for guidance and support. We’re not alone. We never have been alone.

Namaste, friends. “The Divine in me bows to the Divine in you.” Let’s walk together.

Be well. Be safe. Be hope. prL

only faith.

“The Canaanite woman came and knelt before Jesus, saying, “Lord, help me.” Matthew 15:25

We have all experienced those times in our lives when out of nothing else but sheer desperation, we fall down before the Lord our maker and plead for help. It’s that gut wrenching feeling that we are losing control and we don’t know what else to do. So we give it up to God when we’ve exhausted all other self imposed possibilities. That’s part of our human nature for sure, and God, who loves us from the start, hears our plead and acts.

But in this text, I think something else is happening. The Canaanite woman was an extraordinary woman. Not from the in-crowd (as Jesus made that quite clear when he referred to her as a “dog” and said he was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel before he rewarded her faith) she knew exactly what she was doing. More so, she knew exactly who this Jesus was. Hence, she fell down on her knees in adoration of the King, believing without a doubt, that he was the Messiah who brings healing and wholeness and had come to save all creation, including even her and her offspring. A moment of desperation? Perhaps for her daughter who suffered from demons. But her heart? Convicted beyond a doubt that God brings healing. God provides. May I have the faith and actions of the Canaanite woman, that you, O Lord, are worthy of my praise, not out of desperation, but out of faith. Only faith.

Be well. Be safe. Be hope. prL

what if.

“God said, “I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” Genesis 9:13 

Rainbows never disappoint us. Whenever we see one we feel the urge to tell someone about it, point it out, or take a picture of it on our cell phone and send it to someone. Rainbows often take our breathe away and certainly give us pause to marvel at their beauty.

They often come as an exclamation point to a bad storm or inclement weather when the sun refuses to disappear. And often, though we kind of know when to expect them, we’re still surprised when they show up.

Hmmm…. how would my life be different if I responded to God’s ever presence in my life? For starters, what if I intentionally looked for God and expected God to show up as I move through the storms of my life and the storms of our world? What if I couldn’t wait to tell someone or show someone how God has been present in my life? What if I never anticipate being disappointed by God’s activity, but am always awed by the beauty of God’s love for me and all the world? What if instead of taking God for granted or better yet, putting God to the test, I am simply grateful for the profound promise between God, me and all the earth? Because the truth is, this God refuses to disappear and will never abandon what God has created. Let me marvel today.

Be well. Be safe. Be hope. prL

rainbow | National Geographic Society

strengthened by grace.

“Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings; for it is well for the heart to be strengthened by grace.” Hebrews 13:9

In the context of what’s going on in our world today, we might hear these words that refer to “strange teachings” in a very particular way. Political arenas and an election year always seem to bring out stranger ideas especially when they are spoken by an opponent about an opponent. But these words are not talking about political rhetoric. These words about not being carried away by strange teachings are couched in words that teach new Christians how to live a life that is well- pleasing to God; a life of grace that promotes self sacrifice and service for our neighbor. The author encourages the recipients of this letter to act according to what builds community and not on what tears it down. And the author knows that this is difficult without God’s help when we are daily bombarded with opposing messages. May we lead with a heart strengthened by God’s grace for the sake of the world in such a time as this.

Be well. Be safe. Be hope. prL