About Me

My Photo
My heart beats for love. I want to be different. I want to be who I am called to be. WORTHY and LOVED!

Follow by Email

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Words that Divide

It never ceases to amaze me how careless we can all before time to time with our words. The lack of thought that goes into what we say can often cause division, even if we mean our words to unite.

Recently I was at a conference where people self-identified with titles such as "Conservative", "Progressive", "Liberal", "Fundamentalist". While these words were meant to rally like minded people, all I could wonder was what happened to the more basic levels of unity such as "human" or the in the case of this conference "Christian"?

We truly need to start thinking in terms of what unites us instead of what divides us, because honestly, there is a lot more in the first category than the later.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

I Am Not a Flight Attendant

    Prior to my current appointment, it seemed like I was flying everywhere. At one point I saw more of airports than my house. But it has been a while since I've been on a plane, and as I stepped on one to travel to a conference recently, I was struck by how people were treating the flight attendants - as if she was their employee and personal problem solver. Most were a bit rude at best. Very few told her thank you. They just took for grant it that it was her job to give them whatever they want and take whatever complaint they may have, while forgetting that she was their more for their safety than comfort.
   All too often as a pastor people treat me like I am a flight attendant - there to make their lives easier and complain when they don't see me living into their expectations. They forget about all the other people on the plane, and its just about them and what they want. But I am not called to be a flight attendant, I am called to be a pastor. One who leads. One who gives direction. One who provides safety, which is often at odds with comfort. How can we bring about a paradigm shift in the perception of the role of the pastor?

Sunday, April 5, 2015

“Renegade Gospel: Resurrection” 1 Cor 15: 12-14

When I was a sophomore in college I spent my first Easter away from my family. That year I traveled with a small group of students with our campus missionaries to Vladimir, Russia. Russia is a country that didn’t allow the gospel to be proclaimed for years. Bibles had to be smuggled in. Missionaries were shipped out. Yet, even in the midst of this country that legislated what faith should look like, the church grew. And years later, when I traveled with my small group, I was able to see the vibrant Wesleyan faith of young adults as part of a church that met upstairs over a Christian seminary. 
The gospel message transformed lives in the face of persecution. The gospel message caused people to come to know Jesus Christ in a personal way even when the government didn’t want it to happen. The gospel message caused resurrection even when people tried to wipe it out. That brothers and sisters is the power of the gospel message. The power of the gospel that Paul is trying to share with the church in Corinth today. 
The Corinthians were struggling with this idea of a bodily resurrection. It seemed un-natural. Un-thinkable. Illogical. So some amongst them tried to water the good news message down, talking instead of a metaphorical resurrection or trying to devise ways around the problems that resurrection can cause in the mind, by making false claims, such as Jesus didn’t really die on the cross. 
But the truth is that the disciples, from the women who found the empty tomb to the first apostles and Paul and all that would listen to them and came to believe, proclaimed that Jesus rose from the grave. That Jesus was dead. Beaten to the point where he was almost unrecognizable dead. Pierced in the side dead. Breathed his last breath dead. And yet, even after facing such death, he rose from the grave. He had a physical resurrection. He spoke with the disciples. Met with them. Talked with them. Ate with them. While we are celebrating Easter Sunday today, Eastertide is the forty day season that starts today and celebrates the forty days Jesus was alive on earth and met with his disciples until he ascended into heaven. Jesus rose from the dead. 
Christianity is the only world religion to make the claim that the one that we follow as disciples was resurrected. In fact, we not only claim it, we make it central to our faith since the very beginning of this renegade movement. It was such a truth for the early Church that those early followers did some of the most rebellious and counter-cultural things possible at that time. They defied Caesar, proclaiming that they had another King whose Kingdom was more powerful that Rome, Jesus. 
Needless to say, this statement caused tension with the government, but it didn’t matter. They didn’t care what bodily harm the government may cause them, their hope didn’t lie with the rulers of this world. Their hope rested the resurrected Christ. The same resurrected Christ that Paul was preaching in Corinth. The same one who if he did not raise, would make the Corinthians faith, and our faith, useless. 
As Christians today we seemed to have lost something about the spark and power of the resurrection. We preach the cross, Christ crucified, which is important. But it is the resurrection that makes Christ’s sacrifice have eternal consequences. Its Christ’s resurrection that makes our lives change here and now. 
When we say yes to Christ’s resurrection, it doesn’t just become something we sort of believe, it defines who we are entirely. In fact, we bet our very lives on it. Even if some of us are a bit more hesitant than the early Christians to risk bodily harm over our beliefs, there are still people around the world today that do. Why? Because Christ’s resurrection makes their faith alive, vital, and vibrant. They believe that their lives matter on this earth because it can connect other people to the power of the Gospel message. And they believe that this life is not the final world, that death will not deal the final blow, because there is an eternity waiting for them to be with the one who died and rose again. 
Hear me, now. I believe in the power of the resurrection. So much so that I followed God’s call to proclaim the gospel message each and every day. To make it my vocation. To do it even when I don’t want to and even when things get hard. But I still struggle with doubts. Most Christians do. Its hard in a world that tells you that you need to prove every little thing to realize that faith and doubt co-mingle. 
Today at Roseville we are going to confirm some young adults in the faith. They are going to stand up and say that they believe the vows made at their baptism. That they now want to make their faith their own. That they want to become members of the Church and be sold out for Christ. But during confirmation classes we also had one whole day when we talked about whether we could prove that God exists. Proving God exists is a little like trying to prove love. Its hard. Because we can’t see God, but we can see God’s hand at work. We cannot taste God, but we can savor the communion elements and remember the story. We cannot touch God, but we can hold the hand of one who is going through a tough time. We cannot smell God, but we can smell the scent of a newborn baby, created by God. We cannot hear God, but we can hear our brothers and sisters around the world proclaim the universal nature of our faith. 
Faith and doubt go hand in hand. In the words of Pastor Mike Slaughter, “Struggle with the battle between heart and mind”. Jesus’ own disciples doubted his resurrection. That’s why we call one of the disciples ‘doubting Thomas’. Even saints of the Church, such as Mother Theresa of Calcutta, had doubts. But the question I asked the confirmation students is the same one I ask you now, even if you have doubts, do they win out over your faith? Or do you have faith the size of a mustard seed. The smallest little grain that takes root and can blossom into faith? Can you trust Jesus enough to cry out, “I believe, now help my unbelief”.
The truth is abundance of faith is neither necessary nor the point. Its about what you do with that small little grain of faith. Its about not letting doubts have the final word. In the words of Pastor Slaughter, “It’s not about how much faith you have, but how much of what you have that you commit to action.”
Brothers and sisters, the early believers trusted so much in the resurrection of Christ that they changed the world. Mother Theresa set aside her doubts and claimed faith, and lives were touched. Believers around the world today are proclaiming that the gospel message marks their lives more than allegiance to family or country. That is the power of a little grain of faith. 
When we take that small step of faith to believe the power of the resurrection, we start to die to our old ways of thinking. The impossible now seems possible. We don’t need to have everything proven or worked out in order to believe. In fact, things that were impossible without God now become possible through God alone. 
By all accounts, it should have been impossible for the Christian church to come to exist in a vibrant way in Russia. Even when I went on my second mission trip there, we were not allowed to mention God or Christ when we were interviewed by a local TV station. Yet, the impossible became possible with God. The resurrection leads us to accept the irrational, because that’s faith. Faith is taking a risk and walking into the face of the impossible, all because of our little grain of faith. And its those situations brothers and sisters, that allow us to shine forth the glory of God. 

The resurrection changes us. It changes the way we think and act. It changes the way we see faith and doubt. It changes the way we see other people - enemies becomes brothers and strangers become sisters. Think of the people over the last two thousand years who claim that their lives were changed because of Jesus Christ! Is yours one of them? My hope and prayer for you this day is that you are changed by the resurrection story. Changed by the hope that was birthed by the empty tomb. And that you take whatever faith you have and go and share it with the world, setting aside your fears and doubts, in order to proclaim the power of the resurrection because that is the hope that is found in this day that we stake our lives on. Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen indeed!

Mark 16: 1-8 - Sunrise

The Sabbath is over. The day of rest. But Mary couldn’t rest her mind during the day. All she could think of was the body of her Lord, the one she had followed for so long. She knew that his body was safe, but she wanted to care for it properly. To anoint it with spices and re-wrap it with linen. 
Proper. None of this seems proper. He was dead. Jesus was dead. She could barely bring herself to say it out loud. She had watched just a week earlier as he had road the colt through Jerusalem. Now. Now they had killed him. The same crowds that had welcomed him had cried for him to be crucified. The disciples had fled. All except John. 
The other Mary was with her - Jesus’ mother - this morning. What was running through her mind? Was she thinking about when Jesus was born in a stable? Or about him growing up and her accidentally leaving him behind in the temple? Or was she thinking of just a few days ago, watching her son die such a needlessly brutal death and just before his final breath her son entrusting her into the care of John. 
No one spoke as they walked through the darkness of day, carrying their spices. Going to anoint the body of their friend, their son, their teacher who had died too young. As they got closer to the tomb someone raised their voice, breaking the silence, “Who is going to roll the stone away?” 
Oh the stone. The stone that the Roman guards had placed over the entrance so that no one would steal Christ’s body. Did they really think they would do that? That Christ’s disciples who didn’t even have the courage to watch him die would steal his body? Didn’t they know Jewish custom? That touching a dead body would make them impure? No touching the body was women’s work, and the women certainly weren’t going to steal his body. Now that foolish stone was blocking them from what they had set out to do. 
No one answered. The question just hung in the air. Then as they reached the tomb, it became a non-issue. The stone was rolled away. A stone that would have taken several men to move was rolled away. The women bravely top another step forward, entering the tomb, where they saw a young man in a white robe.
What was he doing there? Who is this one who they had never met? He spoke those words that haunted Mary the mother of Jesus and James, “Don’t be afraid.” The same words of the angel Gabrielle. The words that seemed to echo that if they should be anything they should be afraid, for their lives were about to be turned upside down. 
And sure enough as he continued their worlds were altered - Jesus is risen! Jesus’ body was no longer there. There was no ritual cleansing and anointing to perform. For he had risen. Just like Lazarus! And they were to go tell Peter and the other disciples this news - news they could hardly believe. Oh Lord, help their unbelief. 

So the women went forth from the tomb, first in a daze then in a panic followed by a rush of excitement. They went forth as the first evangelists to proclaim the good news - Jesus, Jesus was not dead. He was risen. How could this be? He is risen! What does this mean? He is risen! How will we react when we go forth from this place? Will we too proclaim that he is risen? 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

“The Way of the Cross” Luke 9:23-25 Phil 2: 5-8

We are more than half way through our Lenten journey. For many of us the dust of the ash that marked our foreheads on Ash Wednesday seems like a distant memory. But we are beckoned to remember that ash through the entirety of the season of Lent - because we cannot truly choose to follow Jesus unless we remember those words “from dust you were created and to dust you will return.”
Each of our lives is short in the scheme of things. Fifty or seventy or a hundred years to live into who we were created to be by God and to play a part in the mission of Christ. For however many years we are on this earth, we need to make a decision - if we are going to pick up our cross and follow Christ or if we are going to live our own way.
Jesus has been telling his disciples for months now what is about to happen - that he is going to be arrested and killed for the sake of the world. To conquer evil. But they haven’t been listening. Or perhaps simply haven’t been believing. Today’s gospel lesson is found in Luke shortly after Jesus asks his followers who the crowds are saying that he is. He then takes it one step further and asks who they think he is, personally, to which Peter replied “the Christ.” The Messiah. The one who would redeem Israel. Jesus responded to Peter’s proclamation by once again telling his disciples what was going to happen to them and issuing them a challenge and a choice - will they pick up their own crosses and follow him daily. 
Remember that crosses in the age of the disciples were a sign of punishment and suffering beyond compare. They were meant for people found guilty by Roman law - people who rebelled against the government. When Jesus is asking his disciples to take up their cross - he was asking them to shoulder the burden of punishment, to suffer, and to ultimately follow him above all else, not the law of the land. He is asking the disciples what their faith was worth to them and reminding them of the cost.
That same question echoes through our day and age today. Will you deny yourself? Will you put the mission of Christ first? Will you set aside your own comfort for the calling of Christ? Will you take up your cross? Will you willingly take on suffering and rejection? All to follow Jesus?
I read a story this week told by Mark Batterson, a pastor in Washington, DC. Mark primarily pastors young adults and he is constantly encourage them to listen to the call of God in their lives. One young woman took him very seriously, and found that God was calling her to go overseas to work as a missionary, working with young women and children being trafficked. She risked her life every day to free others from bondage. Along the way, her parents and friends begged her to come back home or to follow Jesus in a safer way. But she couldn’t. This was her calling. This was what it looked like for her to deny herself, pick up her cross, and follow Christ.
For each of us, that calling is going to look different, because God has created us for a unique purpose. I have friends who deny themselves by teaching special needs children in public schools. Others who are missionaries overseas. Still others that serve the local church as Sunday School teachers and youth group leaders. But each of us will have a call and will have a choice to make - will we deny ourselves and follow Christ.
And all of our calls will be costly - demanding our whole heart and life. The way of the cross is narrow and difficult. And if we answer the call of Christ by saying “yes” we will meet even more questions - Will you remain faithful to Jesus when it isn’t fun? Isn’t easy? When it costs you that which you consider most precious? Will you give Christ your all? Even when it involves rejection? Is time consuming? And inconvenient?
Paul reminds us in his letter to the Philippians that Christ is not asking us to do anything or go anywhere that he has not gone. If anyone has a claim to glory instead of suffering it would be Christ. Instead of thinking how we don’t deserve suffering or have earned a convenient faith and life, we are to have the same mindset, the same heartbeat as Christ Jesus, who humbled himself to the point of dying for us, for the world, so that people could come to know the love of God. He was God’s very son, yet he did not claim that as an out or to make his life easy. Instead, he set aside all of his glory to be a servant of God, who died a painful death, so the Kingdom of God may reign. 
Life isn’t fair. Or easy. Or without suffering. And being a Christian doesn’t make life any easier. In fact, it may just be harder. Because we choose not to follow our own way and will amidst a thousand distractions in this world. We choose to live as Christ live in order to further the Kingdom of God. And that way of living life is hard. It is going to bring about thousands of tears cried for people in this community who don’t know Christ. It is going to mean pouring our resources not into what we want, but into what Christ wants. It is going to mean that our treasures are Christ’s. Our calendar is Christ’s. It is all about Christ’s will be done, not ours.
Those are nice, comforting words that we pray each Sunday “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done” until we sit down and consider the cost.  The truth is that not everyone who says that they are a follower of Christ, actually is. Because being a follower requires sacrifice. And just saying that we follow Christ doesn’t make it a fact reflected by our lives.
Right now some students from our parish are part of confirmation. On day one I told them that at the end of our time together as this class they each have to make a decision - it will be their own decision, not their parents, or friends, or families, about whether they will join the church. Whether they want to give their lives to being a disciple. The same is true for each of us here today, we need to make a decision as well. One that no one else can make for us. 
Lent seems like the perfect time to make that decision. Or to reflect on the decision we’ve made. Or re-dedicate our life to following Christ with all that we have and all that we are. Lent is known as a season of fasting - setting aside something that distracts us from God in order to be more fully present to the movement of the Spirit. Maybe some of you have given something up for Lent - social media, chocolate, or shopping for pleasure. Even if you have given something up, I want to invite all of us this coming week to give up one thing that distracts us from God, even for one day to be more fully present to God and reflect on whether we are following the way of the cross with all we have and all we are or if in the words of Pastor Mike Slaughter we are 
“professing a cross without the cost”. Reflect on whether we are living like a people marked by the ashes that began Lent with the words “from dust you were created and to dust you will return.” 

Be more fully present so you can choose if you want to follow the way of the Cross, knowing that it will cost more than you can ever imagine. Amen

Sunday, March 15, 2015

“Renegade Gospel: Seeing Jesus Today” Matthew 7:7-8 John 12:21

“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” A seemingly simple statement, but with so much packed into it for us today. Do we, individually, as this local church, and as the Church Universal, seek to see Jesus? What does it mean that we would want to see Jesus? 
The reality is that too many Christians say that they want to see Jesus, say that they want to know Jesus’ will, yet don’t take any steps to make this happen. In order to see Jesus, in a day and age when he is not in front of us in the flesh, we need to be in the Word. Especially the gospels which show who Jesus is as well as what he said when he walked this earth. Let me just bluntly ask, how many of us are intentionally reading the gospels every day? It doesn’t need to be a long piece, but at least a verse from the gospels for devotions? I am not saying that the rest of the Bible does not hold significance, because it certainly does, but we need to be in the word in other parts of scripture and the Gospels daily. Get yourself one of the pocket bibles and carry it with you - one that has the Gospels, Psalms, and Proverbs. Use it to seek out Jesus so you can come to know who Jesus is, both in the past and the present.
In order to see Jesus, we also need to be in daily prayer. Notice I said “also” not “or”. In order to seek out and see Jesus, we need to be in the Word and in daily prayer. Prayer helps open up our eyes to see how Jesus is moving in the present, here and now, in our lives and the lives of others. 
A few months ago we handed out Wesley Covenant prayer cards. What would it look like if every morning, as soon as you get up, the first words to pass your lips were: “I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what you will….” How could that help you see things differently throughout your day? And what if you take time, either after that prayer, or some time during the course of your day - maybe over lunch, maybe before bed - to read a passage of scripture from Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John and another piece of scripture? How could that help you see Christ more clearly?
The real question is what priority we are going to place on seeking Jesus throughout the day? Right now I am reading a book about prayer that makes a starling point - there will never be time to pray, we have to make time. The same goes for seeking out Jesus, we need to make time to seek out the Lord, daily, in our lives. For some of us that means a structure - setting aside the same time every day to be in prayer and the Word. For others it may mean putting it on our calendar or setting a reminder on our phone. Whatever you need to do to make time to seek out Christ a priority, I urge you to do so. 
The request to Philip from men to see Jesus was found at what could be described as a chaotic time. This passage of scripture is found right after Jesus enters Jerusalem for the passover - the event that we traditionally celebrate on Palm Sunday. Then Philip told Andrew and the two of them went to find Jesus. They went to go tell Jesus that men wanted to see him, but instead they heard the prophesy, straight from their Lord’s lips, about his death and resurrection. They didn’t get what they went for, but they surely saw Jesus that day in a whole new light.
Sometimes when we seek out the Lord, we aren’t going to get what we expect, because we can’t see what we aren’t looking for. Have you ever lost something, lets say your keys or a book, and you swear up and down that you know where it is, only to find it in an unexpected and different spot hours or days later? Why didn’t you look there in the first place? Because you were so sure it was in another. So it is sometimes with our relationship with Christ as well. We go to Christ seeking something so certain, that we miss the blessing that Jesus wants to bestow upon us - one that we didn’t even think to ask for and one we many not recognize because we do not yet have eyes to see it.
Another reason that we sometimes don’t see Jesus is because we’ve become spiritually lazy. We expect someone else to seek out Jesus for us. Or we think that if we come to church on Sunday that will be enough seeking for the week. How many of you have a husband or wife? Child? Best friend? What would life be like if you spoke to that person you love dearly only once a week? Your relationship would suffer. Jesus wants to be in relationship with us, yet we must make it a priority.
Even when we make our time with Christ a priority, sometimes it is entrenched the poor and unbiblical theology that say “the world is a mess, we will just wait for Jesus to come back and take us home”. No! Jesus calls us to live our lives in a manner of active and expectant waiting until Jesus’ return. We are to be the light shining forth Christ’s message - a light that we can only shine forth if we are both connected to the source - Jesus - and out in the world, not hiding ourselves away in waiting.
Sometimes we don’t see Jesus because we’ve misread or misunderstood today’s passage from the gospel of Matthew. We read the words ask, search, and knock and we believe that as long as we ask Jesus for something once that we have to receive it, because that is what the Bible says. But in original Greek, this passage is in the present tense. Ask and keep asking, search and keep searching, knock and keep knocking. In the words of Pastor Mike Slaughter, “Expectation needs to be constant and ongoing - a daily, intentional, whole-life priority of seeking the presence of Christ today, of actively listening for Christ’s voice in the present”.
Matthew is telling us to seek out the best things - the Jesus-hearted things. But when we seek out Jesus, our lives will be turned upside down. We may not get what we want, but we will get the best that God offers. We may not find the answer we came seeking, but we may just meet the one who is the author of all life. We may not find the Jesus we expect, but we will come face to face with our risen savior. And that is worth all of the time we have in this world. 
Slaughter writes, “We’ve made Jesus wimpy rather than revolutionary; tolerant rather than loving; good rather than God”. Where do we find Jesus today? The places he was in the Gospels. The unexpected places. The places that we try to avoid because they are unholy. Perhaps we aren’t seeing Jesus today because we aren’t looking in the right places. We have to seek and actively listen for the voice of Christ in our lives in order to respond to the promptings of Jesus.

Church, there are far too many people who identify as Christians today who aren’t seeking after Jesus. Who only want to see them on their own terms. People who are sleeping in their faith. Its time to wake up. Its time to stop wallowing. Its time to seek out Jesus with all that we have and all that we are. Its time to affirm our dependance upon God. It is time. Are you seeking and seeing? Amen. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

“Journeying into the Light” John 8: 12-20

And Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” 
Imagine that you are in the pitch black of night. You can’t see anything at all. You give it a moment for your eyes to adjust before you decide that light is needed. You flip on the beam of your flash light and a single beam makes it possible for you to take one step at a time in the right direction without stumbling. 
For several years, a flashlight was my constant companion while at church camp as a counselor. Especially when I worked with elementary aged children. At the particular camp I volunteered at - the bath house was located a bit of a distance away from cabins, so several times during the night, myself or another one of the counselors, picked up our trusty flashlight and walked with our students down to the bathroom.
There is a big difference however, between the light emitted from a flashlight, and that which comes from a light bulb. Flip a switch with a light bulb and a whole room lights up, even in the darkest of nights, while a flashlight’s beam will only light, one, maybe two steps ahead of you at a time. 
When Jesus proclaims that he is the light of the world and that we will never walk in darkness, I think a lot of us wish Jesus acts as a light bulb, lighting up a room in such a way that we can see everything in front of us. But I’m not sure that is what Jesus is talking about when he  proclaims to be the light of life. Maybe, just maybe, Jesus’s light is a bit more like that flashlight, making it so we can only see one or two steps in front of us - making us take one step forward in faith, knowing that Jesus walks with us, so we can take the next step.
Another thing that you learn from a flashlight, is that everyone pretty much needs their own. Sometimes, one person can share the light from their flashlight and two people can walk forward, but it does not work very well to have one flashlight trying to lead a group - a lesson quickly learned by counselors of elementary students who don’t want to carry their flashlights. 
When we don’t have our own connection to the Light and try to rely solely off of the faith of others, we stumble along the path. The Pharisees were struggling with this type of stumbling in today’s passage. They don’t understand what Jesus is talking about, cannot see the truth in his words, so they accuse him of bearing false witness. Jesus says that his testimony is valid, and goes on to explain that one cannot know God, one cannot come into the light of Truth, simply by relying on the law. They needed more then that to step forward in faith.
Back to camp. This past year, I worked with high school students, and we did an exercise I never experienced before. Under the pitch blackness of night, the campers grabbed a hold of a rope, were blind folded, and did a trust walk in darkness. It was painful at times, to watch them stumble their way along the path. Everyone walked with caution. A few students were frightened. And it took us quite a while to get to the “trust” part of the trust walk. 
I think we all go through dark times in our life. Times when it is hard to trust God and we feel like we are stumbling along the path. For me, such times come when I feel disconnected from the light of Christ. When I can’t bring myself to pray. Times when I forget to switch on the flashlight, letting Jesus lead my way step by step. Times when I ignore the flashlight beam, because what I really want is the light bulb to shine brightly. 

May we, along this Lenten journey, not neglect walking in the light of Christ. May we trust him, to guide us each step of the journey, one step at a time. May we trust that the words he testifies to are true. Amen.