Monthly Archives: April 2020

alignment.

“Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.” 1 John 3:21-22

When I read this text all by itself, isolated on this page, I don’t know about you, but it just doesn’t measure up with reality.  At least my reality.  There’s just some perceived falsehoods here: receiving whatever we ask for is one.  And is that conditional? – If I obey the commandments…. then I get what I ask for…?  And what’s “IF our hearts don’t condemn us….”?  To be truthful, when I read this from the Moravian Daily Texts this morning, my response was – “I’m going to pick my own verse. This is just too hard. Too unbelievable. Too conditional. Too… nope – not gonna dwell on it.” But of course, God stepped in and opened my Bible to the spot of 1 John 3. And of course, you know what’s next.  It’s the “Love One Another” text: Because God loves us, we love one another. Verse 16: “We know love by this, that Jesus laid down his life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.”

The writer goes on to talk about how God is greater than our hearts – which by themselves condemn us  – but instead, we have boldness before God and because of God, and therefore, we are able to follow the ways of God – so we love.

In short, it’s all about alignment.  Alignment with God. When we walk in the ways of God, both our prayers and our actions reflect the goodness of God. And yes, we do receive a reward!  But not the kind that willy nilly – I want this so I get this!  But when our hearts are aligned with God, our prayers and our actions will be of God.  What God desires for us will be what we desire for us. And God will be pleased. My prayer today: Align my heart, O God, to yours. 

Be Well. Be Safe. Be Hope. prL

ardent.

“Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.” Romans 12:11

In today’s reading, this text is one of 10 exhortations in Paul’s letter to the Romans.  Each one identifies a virtue known as the “Marks of a Christian” followed by an action. Zeal is defined as energy – passion – enthusiasm… to be argent in Spirit, is to be passionate or enthusiastic, or energetic for, with, in God.

Now some might equate that to high level performing.  But passion to me, is feeling deeply about something, making it a priority, focusing on it.  It’s what at the end of the day pacifies me, and it’s what gets me moving the next morning. It’s what I live for.

But I must admit, during these days – I am noticing in myself a bit of a sluggish feeling.  Even with a full schedule on my plate each day… zooms… emails…. phone calls….. worship planning… worship recording… meal planning and online grocery ordering… washing…. sanitizing… walking… quiet time, I find myself waking up in the morning and hearing this small voice already forced to cheer me on saying, “Ok, here we go again…you can do this shelter-in-place thing another day…” 

I think for me, in these continued uncertain days, to be “ardent in Spirit,” may simply mean that all I can do is rest in God’s grace.  Let God do the heavy lifting, and rely on God to give me the strength and the passion – the Zeal to do so.  So today, one day at a time – my prayer is to be passionate for, with, in God. To be ardent in the Spirit….  I do like that word – ardent.

Be Well.  Be Safe.  Be Hope. prL

chosen.

“For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption.” Romans 8: 15 NRSV

When we were kids and we all lined up to play kickball and two kids (usually self-appointed!) would be the captains and they would alternately pick who was going to be on their team. Usually, we tried to make it fair – you know…. each team had to have a girl…. 😐  You wanted to be picked early, because being picked last had implications – like nobody wanted you. When ever I was picked last -that was a double wammy – a girl AND last….  I’d run out on the field, feeling like I had something to prove.

Adoption is about choosing. Parents choose kids, families choose pets, organizations choose highways to clean up. Love is always part of the equation – a love to have children as part of your family, a love for God’s good earth, a love for all God’s creatures – especially the four-legged furry ones.

But when God adopts – God’s kind of unconditional love has no boundaries, no limitations, and no pre-conditions or expectations.  God simply chooses me and you.  God chooses to call us God’s children, adopting us into God’s family of ultimate love and compassion. And guess what – there’s no going back.  God’s love never stops pouring out, no matter what.  We can run as far and fast as we try, kick as hard as we can, but God’s gonna be there when we stop, out of breath and exhausted.  Why? cuz when God chose us, that’s what God promised.  So today, let yourself be received in the spirit of adoption.  Be free and be loved.  For just who you are.

Be Well.  Be Safe. Be Hope. prL

 

Relationship may fail us – but your love never will.

on the road.

At Home Sermon. Easter 3. April 26.2020.    Luke 24: 13-25

This story has always been so vivid in my sacred imagination.  Maybe it’s because I like to take walks. We walk every day, together more now that we’ve been “at-home.”

Hiking is a favorite – especially when I’m not sure where the trail will go – but that’s mostly because I rely on Dr. Mark to lead the way!  I love to be surprised along the way –

a breath-taking view,                                                                                                                           a beautiful meadow,                                                                                                                         a a rock structure, or                                                                                                                                a grove of aspens….

Today’s text is also a story about surprises along the way.

Travelers are walking along the road.

Words of lament are spoken in between the silences of two people who witness the same earth-shattering event and are trying to make sense of it all.

Hearts are broken,                                                                                                                        heads are hanging low,                                                                                                                  bodies are weary and                                                                                                                        feet are heavy as though carrying the weight of the world, and                                                  eyes are kept from seeing and recognizing the truth…                                                             for a moment.

There is a stranger on the journey whose presence interrupts the silence of grief and reminds of the prophets in scripture – and a fulfilled promise.

An invitation to stay and gather at the table is extended.

And as the blessing is shared,                                                                                                              eyes and hearts are now opened in the breaking of the bread to see and recognize this Resurrection hope.

This is a story of the Risen Christ showing up in the midst of lament.

Sound familiar?  Here we are – perhaps with a faith that is suspended between (what a professor of mine calls)

“Resurrection hope and lamenting restlessness.”

When and how can we move forward toward hope while in the midst of lamenting the fear of uncertainty and loss we face today?

Perhaps it’s on the journey itself.

Known or unknown…                                                                                                                      Jesus is present on the journey.                                                                                                  Jesus walks alongside each tentative, heavy step.                                                                      Jesus waits silently and listens to the laments and confusion.                                                    Jesus patiently explains and reminds of the                                                                            promise given.                                                                                                                                Jesus stays.

This is Resurrection hope.

Lament – though it can take it’s time and may very well be the journey in and of itself, is not the end of the road.

Because here’s the thing: Jesus is present and walking along the journey too,          interrupting lament with promises and                                                                                  blessing and revealing God’s ultimate love in the breaking of the bread.

So it is here, on this journey that we recognize Resurrection Hope.

My friends – in these days where we are suspended in uncertainty and yearning for normalcy, let Jesus interrupt you – surprise you – and walk alongside of you.

Let Jesus remind you of the promise fulfilled and open your eyes to a new normal – one filled with Resurrection hope.

Because in the Resurrection – nothing is the same. And I thank God for that!

Be Well. Be Safe. Be Hope. prL

trailblazing.

“You show me the path of life.
    In your presence there is fullness of joy;
    in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16: 11

I spent the first week in March on a silent retreat.  I yearned to bring balance back into my life.  God’s voice was distant; clutter filled my thoughts that seeped into my heart.  I needed time with God.  I needed not to be distracted by self- prescribed noise in my life.  It was a beautiful week in so many ways as I was renewed in body soul and mind.  I took long walks each day – first it was like I was looking and listening for God.  By the middle of the week I was running to catch up with God as God kept pulling me, wooing me.  By the end of the week, we were arm in arm on the path, step by step.  On one of the days, I asked God to place upon my heart a scripture that I could turn to each day, especially when I wandered, that would bring me to this place of utter union.  Psalm 16:11… You show me the path of life…

I know that there are many paths in life.  And each day, throughout the day, whether I am aware of it or not, I choose different paths; some I trail-blaze all on my own (which in hindsight, proves disastrous)!  But the path OF life, God’s path, is the one that gives life. It’s the one that brings fullness of joy, and pleasures forevermore.  Now, I don’t pretend that if I follow this path that all of life will be like a bed of roses and void of pain and suffering.  But the promise I do hold on to, is that when I strive to be in-step with Jesus, there’s this inner peace – joy, if you will – that takes over because God’s doing the trail-blazing. Through the rocks and uphill climbs and soil corrosion, as well as smooth and firm ground underfoot, God trail-blazes the path of life for me.   

Be Well. Be Safe. Be Hope. prL

formed.

“I formed you, you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me.” Isaiah 44:21

Yesterday I joined our synod’s weekly zoom gathering where three individuals walked us through the emotional wellbeing of these times.  One gave us her frontline vantage point as a hospital chaplain, sharing the hard work of being present for those who are separated from loved ones.  Another shared his own journey living through Katrina and Harvey and the mountain of emotions that accompany this time when you feel like you can’t do enough but are actually doing far more than you should be expected.  The third person is a counselor who walked us through what the stages of grief look like in this pandemic time.

As I listened, I began to listen to me…  and there was this sudden inner-acknowledgement that I’m overwhelmed with the self-imposed expectations I have to hold it all together, especially with the faith community I am blessed to serve – to keep us connected to God, to each other and to the community. I fear for their safety and for this building weariness that invades even the most optimistic (like me!) that causes us to fade away from efforts to stay connected.  As I sat listening, I wondered if I’m over-producing just to keep it together. Instead, I am again reminded that what I should really be doing is trusting that God’s got this; and instead of leading the charge, I need to follow God’s lead.

This verse reminds me that God formed me to be who I am. Yes – Over-producing, energetic, “I-got-this” Libbie.  But God didn’t just create me and then wind me up and set me down to take off in any direction.  God formed me, yes, to be exactly who I am, but God didn’t forget me. Instead, God wants to be a part of who I am. Perhaps I’m the one who has forgotten that God wants to journey right along side of me, in me, and through me – Guiding, comforting, slowing down, feeding, listening, challenging, and resting with me… Yeah.  I want that too.

Be Well. Be Safe. Be Hope. prL

promise keeper.

“I pledged myself to you and entered into a covenant with you,” says the Lord God, “and you became mine.” Ezekiel 16:8

During my quiet time this morning, meditating on this text, I’m listening to Michael W. Smith’s You Tube special “Worship Around the World #5.”  I haven’t listened to the previous 4 (yet), but this collection of songs in profound for these times.  Reminding us of the promise that God has made to Be.Our.God.

You fight our battles… You’re a miracle worker… A Promise Keeper… Light in the darkness… You never stop workin…Even when I don’t see that you’re working…you never stop… My God, that is who you are. …

Grab on to the promise today, dear friends.  Because no matter what, we are God’s forever. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Because that’s who God is.

Be Well. Be Safe. Be Hope. prL

by grace.

“Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13

Pirate ToysDo you remember these toys?  I used to play with them when I was growing up.  I loved how they would collapse when I pushed the button and then stick straight up when released.  I’d push the button over and over again.  When I read this text this morning, I was reminded of these toys… maybe cause that’s how I’m feeling today.  I want to be courageous and strong in faith, but in a moment, my faith can feel like it’s collapsing around me and that I have no strength to stand up firm in faith.

Well, this is true, I suppose.  Because I don’t, by my own strength, have what it takes to stand up straight and carry on.  But by the grace of God, I do.  God is the source and provider who helps me stand firm in faith.

So today I pray for the one who denies the existence of this all powerful God.  For the one who feels all alone in this world – afraid, beaten by the cruelty of this world, lost in identity, and lacking companionship. Can this all powerful God, full of compassion, break through these barriers, these walls, and bring healing?  Can this God release her from her burdens and bring her to a stand, firm in faith, and be her courage and strength?  By the grace of God, I choose to believe the answer is “Yes.”  So I pray.. Come Lord Jesus, Come.

Be Well. Be safe. Be hope. prL

Jesus shows up.

At Home. Easter 2. Sermon. 4.19.2020          John 20: 19-31

We want to make this story about the doubting faith of Thomas.  We assume he wouldn’t believe until he could see Jesus and touch his wounds.

I suppose it’s a story that we all can relate to on some level.  Whether we admit it or not, we all live with doubt. When things are too good to be true – we say they’re “beyond belief” – could God really make this happen?  And when a pandemic invades our world, causing massive death and loss socially, economically, or emotionally – we ask, is there even a God?  Because if there is, this wouldn’t be happening….  Our faith, it seems is rocked to its very core…   Just as the disciples were holed up in fear, and grieving massive loss over the death of their beloved friend, Jesus, so too are we in many ways holed up in fear, practicing social distancing, set apart from our loved ones, and grieving the loss of our world as we have known it.

But I don’t think today’s story – or lesson – is about doubt or the lack of faith or how to have more faith.  Instead, I think it’s about the affirmation of our relationship with Jesus – how we relate to Jesus and how Jesus comes to us – and claiming the promise of the Resurrection that God never abandons us. It’s not about doubt, it’s about hope!

Let me back up just a bit: In the book of John – after J’s Resurrection, John records Jesus appearing 4 times: 1st  to Mary, when Jesus called her by name.  Second, in today’s text, to the disciples when he appeared to them that evening.  The third appearance was one week later to Thomas.  And lastly, on the beach when Jesus was frying fish for the followers.

In each one of these appearances, to particular people at a particular time, Jesus affirms his relationship by revealing his identity in specific and personal ways.  To Mary, she heard Jesus’ voice and responded in faith when she heard her name. For the Disciples their fears were calmed by the presence and peace of Jesus. The Risen Christ came to Thomas by sight and inviting Thomas to touch his wounds.  And when Jesus’ followers were on the beach: Jesus became known to them as they eat breakfast.

When the word became flesh and dwelt among us, God established a relationship with all of humanity, with you and me.  Here now, in the resurrection, Jesus shows up – not only re-affirming that he will never abandon us, but he meets us where we are at.

Where and how does the Risen Christ show up to  you? Where does God meet you?

Now we don’t know where Thomas was when Jesus appeared to the disciples  on the evening following Jesus’ resurrection.  Perhaps, because of his curiosity of always asking questions, Thomas was out looking for Jesus – not holed up in fear behind locked doors as the others are.  He had heard that Jesus is alive, and now he wants to see Jesus too!  After Jesus appears to the disciples, Thomas wants what the others already have – the very presence of Jesus.  And so he summons Jesus to show up and patiently waits for his own encounter with the Risen Christ.

When have you summoned Jesus to show up?

Summoning – demanding – that the Risen Christ show up, I believe, comes from a profound hope.  A profound yearning for what has already been promised.

A week later Jesus shows up ..again. Alive, in the flesh, bringing peace.

We might say Thomas was waiting for proof before he would believe. But I don’t believe Thomas was looking for proof of the Resurrection – Thomas was looking for the word made flesh. He was claiming the promise of the word made flesh for himself.  You see, it’s Jesus’ healed wounds – his scars -that assures Thomas and you and me that Jesus suffered in his very humanity . And if Jesus suffered in a human way,  then I know that Jesus knows my suffering, and the suffering of the world. But it doesn’t end there and Thomas knew that.  That’s what Thomas hoped for. You see, these scars reveal a fully human God who also conquered suffering and death on a cross, rising from the dead.. So Jesus comes to Thomas, affirms his love for him and says – “ for you…See and touch the scars of my wounds.” Perhaps as if to say, “I know your suffering, and healing is on the way.” Hope is ignited.

It is only then, in the very presence of Jesus – in Thomas’ own encounter with the Risen Christ – that he would and could definitively proclaim this Jesus to be “My Lord and my God”– to be the one he knew fulfilled the promise of healing and new life.

This is the same Risen Christ who shows up for us, bringing hope and breaking through the barriers that have held us up in confinement, bringing new life.  Bringing peace.

So grab on to this hope, my friends. Especially in these days of pandemic and the uncertainty, grief, and fear and just plan weariness that surround us.  Don’t be afraid.  Instead, like Thomas, courageously summon – demand – to see Jesus, demand to be reminded of the wounds he bore and the victory he claimed over them, so that  together we can cry out and claim that Jesus is “My Lord and My God!”

wise and clever.

“Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.” Isaiah 5:21 NIV

I don’t know why, but when I read this text, my initial response was to laugh! O wise and clever me! Perhaps my laughter comes from knowing myself to well.  When I try to be wise or clever, it always backfires on me, to the point of being humorous, laughable. 

IMG_1992

So let’s press the pause button today and laugh and love a little at our wise and clever selves and life itself.

When I think about my wise and clever self, I immediately think about this picture sent to me by a parishioner – it’s seriously me.  EVERY morning I look in the mirror and I am one drawer away from taking out the scissors and cutting my own hair!  O wise and clever self…. that would be dumb.

Last week I ordered food from Amazon Fresh/Whole Foods 3 times trying to get milk to no avail.  I got a bunch of other stuff, but no milk in stock.  SO that last time I ordered I ordered 2 gallons of two different milks (we only consume 1/2 gal at a time), hoping I’d get one… well, you guessed it, I got them both – 4 X as much milk as we need.  Fortunately, 5 minutes after posting on our neighborhood FB page, it was gone from the doorstep!  O wise and cleaver me….

So what about you?  What wise and clever thing have you done or at least thought about doing with so much +at home+ time?  Post it in the comment section!  I look forward to hearing from you!

In the meantime, I think what Issy’s saying is that we need to leave it up to God to figure out.  God’s got this and we need to step aside.

Be Well. Be Safe. Be Hope. prL