Monthly Archives: August 2017

feeling a little Jeremiah-ish.

15 O Lord, you know; remember me and visit me, and bring down retribution for me on my persecutors. In your forbearance do not take me away; know that on your account I suffer insult. 16 Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts. 17 I did not sit in the company of merrymakers, nor did I rejoice; under the weight of your hand I sat alone, for you had filled me with indignation. 18 Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Truly, you are to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail. 19 Therefore thus says the Lord: If you turn back, I will take you back, and you shall stand before me. If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall serve as my mouth. It is they who will turn to you, not you who will turn to them. 20 And I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail over you, for I am with you to save you and deliver you, says the Lord. 21 I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked, and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless. Jeremiah 15: 15-21

My silence for the past days has been self imposed.  Pondering the events of our world, most pointedly Charlottesville and it’s aftermath, Las Rambles, a total eclipse, and Hurricane Harvey in the past few weeks, my heart and head have been struggling to keep up.  But mostly, it’s my voice that has needed the boost.

Frankly, I’m feeling a little “Jeremiah-ish.”  The Jeremiah who said in response to the Lord’s calling him to be the Lord’s mouthpiece, “Who me? But I’m just a small child.”

In time, Jeremiah caught on – stood strong in the face of a wayward people – and proclaimed the word of the Lord.  The thing is, it wasn’t always a Word of peaches and cream.  Jere was known to deliver the tough stuff and then face the consequences.  Often abandoned and persecuted, he also felt abandoned from the presence of God, as noted above, naming God as a “deceitful brook, like waters that fail.”

In the climate of our world today where we face destruction, brokenness, loss, evil and hate, it is with great conviction that I hear God’s call to proclaim a prophetic Word that challenges all of us to speak and act out the Gospel in the face of what God calls “wickedness.” And I, like Jere, simply want to crawl up in a ball sometimes and respond, “Who me? For I am but a child.”

Yet God has been faithful, and has given me the Words “to eat” as Jeremiah says, and I have shared them – with boldness and humbleness, fear and confidence – because in my heart and in my head, I believe that these are the Words of the Lord.  Not mine, for I am humbly called to be a mouthpiece of the Lord.

How about you? Are you able to step out of the boat like Peter, or speak up and speak out for the marginalized, as the Canaanite woman did?  How will you answer Jesus’ question to the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” in the midst of our world today?

Only with God’s help, can any of us follow the footsteps of Jeremiah.  For remember the Lord’s promise in response to the small child Jeremiah: “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” Jeremiah 1:8

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keep drinking.

imageJesus said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” John 7:37–38 (NIV)

I need that living water flowing through me. These have been some difficult days in our world and in my heart and I feel parched. Feeling like I can’t drink enough of the goodness of God, of living water that drowns out evil.

So I keep drinking. Come Lord Jesus come.  Fill our hearts, fill our lives, fill our world with love and compassion and all that is good, to overflowing heights and depths. To you alone do I give glory. Amen.

God’s rescue mission.

Psalm 97: 1-6

The Glory of God’s Reign

The Lord is king! Let the earth rejoice;
    let the many coastlands be glad!
Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
    righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Fire goes before him,
    and consumes his adversaries on every side.
His lightnings light up the world;
    the earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
    before the Lord of all the earth.

The heavens proclaim his righteousness;
    and all the peoples behold his glory.

Fear. …. (My cursor has been blinking in this space for 5 minutes now.  Literally, “Fear has stopped me in my tracks.”)

This past week has certainly given us pause and cause for worry and fear; both in the global and local arenas of our lives.  In my sermon yesterday I began by listing the top stressors in our lives that cause fear, according to an article I had read earlier..  Things like fear of failure or fear of success (!)  Fear of public speaking, and fear of spiders. Fear of heights or small spaces, and fear of dying.  But what didn’t make the list, was fear of nuclear war, or fear of a hatred and bigotry so intense that it causes violence, anger, destruction, and even death.  Or fear of hunger, or a whole country’s economic collapse. Fear of natural disasters such as earthquakes, or fear for the life of a infant born with severe physical and mental problems.  Or the fear of another friends’ unknown medical test results. And those are just the fears from this past week..  Indeed, the world is in need of rescue.

In the gospel text for yesterday we witnessed the disciple’s fear in the boat, all alone, on the raging seas, and then we hear the voice of One familiar who calls out, “Don’t be afraid. In fact, come to me.”  And then one brave enough, trusting enough – at least for a moment – steps out of the boat, until this one too is in need of rescuing.

If this walking on water text indicates one thing besides the questionable, wobbly, unsteady faith of a disciple, it reminds us even more, that because of our wobbly insecure faith, that we aren’t in charge of our own rescue mission.  That Jesus is the One who rescues.  And to that, I say AMEN.  For the many many times that I sink in fear, there is Jesus, each and every time, stretching out a hand for me to grab a hold of.

When I read the Psalm text above for today, I must admit that at first all I could see was a powerful, violent God, even if this God is on “my side!”  I literally run from uncertainties with fear.  And I run even faster away from violence.  When the earth trembles and the mountains melt, we are talking some significant power force to be reckoned with. It makes me want to run and hide.

But then I stepped back for a moment (maybe back into the boat?), and as I read,  the Hebrew for these translated words reminded me of this somewhat poet use of the word ‘fear’ in this context.  ‘Fear of God’ in Hebrew,  is not being afraid of a destructive God, but rather being in AWE of this majestic God who has come to rescue you and me and all the world. Not tear it down or destroy it, but rather bring the earth and the seas and the mountains and you and me  – all of creation – to our knees in AWE and glory and honor.

There is clouds and darkness and destruction that surrounds our lives and casts a shadow over the world – you bet. But in the midst of that darkness, is the Light able to shine so so brilliantly and brightly. My response can only be one of AWE, affording me the opportunity to see the light  – in you and me, and in the voices that refuse to let evil and darkness have the last say.  God is rescuing us each and every day and calls us out of the boat to follow God on God’s rescue mission – yes, even with our wobbly legs.  To God be the glory!

nothing more precious than that.

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.  So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  2 Corinthians 5: 17- 21

When anything is entrusted to me, I get a little nervous.  Am I capable?  Can I take care of it?  Will I break it?  Will I ruin it? Will I lose it?  The word “entrusted” by itself causes me to be anxious.  Like something precious is being handed over to me – for whatever reason – and now I’m responsible for it. Now I get to hold on to it, whether I want it or not.

When I think about what has been entrusted to me, I can think of material things that have been handed over to me, either temporarily or for a lifetime to be passed down through the generations.  But I also think about people who have been entrusted to me. Together, Mark and I have been entrusted with our two children, Jason and Sarah, precious precious gifts from God.  And as the generations grow old, when I was once entrusted to my parents, my mother is now entrusted to me.  To hold, to love, to care for, by the grace of God.

In the text today, Paul talks about being entrusted in another way.  Instead of focusing on any thing or person that we are being entrusted with, God entrusts us with God’s self. God is entrusting us to bring God’s message of reconciliation into our lives, and into the world.  The message of the cross.  The message of love. The message that God sent God’s Son to reconcile us to God – to wipe away our sin – and make us a new creation!

There is nothing more precious than this.  And the thing is, I can’t break it or lose it or ruin it. But I also can’t hold on to it.  For it has been entrusted to me so that I might share this Good News – give it away –  so that the world might share in the reconciling of Christ.     Just as an ambassador is an official envoy, especially a highest ranking diplomat who represents a state, so are we called to be God’s official, highest ranking children of God, representing this God who has already reconciled us to God’s self – entrusted and called to bear this message of reconciliation for all the world. Yes, there’s nothing is more precious than that.

sweet. sweet. goodness.

O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him. Psalm 34:8

After a rest-filled, family-filled, “stay-cation” of sorts, I’m back to the routine I have grown accustomed to.  I am grateful for the time to step out of routine, to rediscover some lost passions, to try some new things, and to reconnect – not only with friends and family, but with myself and the One who created me. But I am also grateful to be able to step back into the routine – for it gives me a renewed sense of purpose and passion.

Psalm 34, of David, was written from anything but routine. David was seeking deliverance from the trouble he had encountered, and his feigned madness in front of Abimelech was the “rescue routine” that gave him cause to be praiseworthy of God’s deliverance.  Perhaps the only thing routine in this psalm is David’s self-identifying with fear and God’s deliverance from that fear. It’s a pattern:

Name the fear. Cry out for deliverance from the fear. Embrace the Divine rescue mission.  Take refuge. Give praise to the One who delivered.

I wonder just how difficult it was for David to even just name the fear and in so doing, embrace the fear.  I’m pretty sure that I spend a good portion of my time suppressing my fears.  Oh – it’ll go away, I tell myself.  It’s no big deal… That can’t really be true, I tell myself.  When we look out into the hurt and brokenness of this world, it is often the practice of humanity that if we are not directly affected by a glo-cal event, it’s easy to walk away from it and not worry about it or be afraid of it.

Nuclear bombs aimed to cause destruction of human lives. Famine, sickness and death caused by unjust caretakers of peoples rights. Unsheltered, hungry mouths and dis-eased minds on the banks of Cherry Creek.  Do we or can we let ourselves be vulnerable to these hurts and evils of the world?  Or is the fear of being overcome by its brokenness cause us to remain motionless to the cries for help from these injustices?

Fear is a game changer I think.  I read an article the other day that suggested that instead of perceiving fear as the opposite of faith, what if we let our fear inform our faith, or our faith inform our fear? That together, fear and faith can propel us into action, to stand up bold and challenge the injustices and evils of the world.

I think that’s what the psalmist is talking about when he says, “taste and see that the Lord is good,” and that happiness is indeed found in the refuge of the Lord.  Let us each embrace and taste the sweet sweet goodness of the Lord through acts of courage and compassion to face our fears and yet to stand firm as we wait on the refuge of the Lord.

Peace. peace. prL