Friday, August 19, 2016

This Is Why

This week, I was with a family as their husband/father/grandfather's service in the Army was honored with interment at Arlington National Cemetery. While we waited in the Admin Building before the procession in our cars began, I had an opportunity to talk with the ten year old grandson. As he told me about the cookies he had made for the lunch to follow this ceremony, his is mom said how much they had all enjoyed their participation in our June Falls Church Feeds the World event. I said we have another one coming up on September 11. She asked her son if he would like to do it again. Quite seriously, and definitely, he said he does want to do it.

This is a big part of the "why" behind all the work we put into FCFTW. Not only are we helping to feed the world, we are also helping young people make a difference in the world around them. Maybe they won't be a part of KIDZone, and maybe their folks won't be a part of worship, but they get to be a part doing something to feed others who are hungry, and that makes Jesus dance with joy. And who knows, they might find some of that Jesus joy entering their life too.

So when Nina or someone asks you how you want to volunteer for FCFTW, sign up. It takes all, ALL, ALL, ALL, of us to do such an outrageously big do. Even better, sign up here.  You are needed!

Get the word out to everyone in your neighborhood: we are going to pack over 30,000 meals on September 11!

Matthew 25:37-40

‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

Friday, August 12, 2016

Being Grace In the World

In the past week I have been treated to the hospitality of some of our younger Jesus' followers in their homes. Watching how their parents encourage them to engage with their guests while also reminding them of appropriate polite boundaries is a reminder of how we learn by doing. 

We have been working on learning not only how to welcome guests into our "home" space but also into the space that exists between us and others we encounter in the world. More rapidly than many of us are able to comprehend, what was familiar and therefore comfortable has become alien and discomfiting. Tried and true methods have become hit or miss, and honestly mostly miss. The old truism--build it and they will come--afflicts the church as much or more than many of our social institutions. And yet, the message of God's overwhelming grace is needed even more today than when we relied on having a certain place of respect in our culture. More than anything else the awareness of this need is what is driving Christ Crossman to reach out into the community.

Elaine Heath, in her book God Unbound: Wisdom from Galatians for the Anxious Church, confirms the desire and wisdom of our teams as she writes about living as Jesus' followers in this world where everything is changing so rapidly:

Emergence Christians, as a rule, desire to practice hospitality and humility toward their neighbors as primary forms of Christian witness, eschewing any form of exploitative or gimmicky evangelism. They tend toward a kingdom of God orientation based on Luke 10 and other texts, working to discover God’s activity in the neighborhood and to join in. While they believe that they are bringing Jesus to the neighborhood, they are also meeting Jesus in the neighborhood. This posture differs from the insider/ outsider mind-set that is common in the inherited church. And while they welcome people into their gatherings, they do not believe that the goal of loving neighbor is to colonize them culturally. They take seriously the simple words of Jesus about God loving both the just and the unjust and sending rain on both the just and the unjust. They choose to give up all forms of control, manipulation, and colonization in the name of evangelism and mission.[i]

So the question for each of us, and for all of us together, is where can I (we) be God’s grace in the midst of people who face anxious days and nights?

Galatians 3:27-28
Your baptism in Christ was not just washing you up for a fresh start. It also involved dressing you in an adult faith wardrobe—Christ's life, the fulfillment of God's original promise.
In Christ's family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ.

[i] Heath, Elaine. God Unbound: Wisdom from Galatians for the Anxious Church (Kindle Locations 548-555). Upper Room Books. Kindle Edition.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Just the Facts?

"Just the facts, ma'am. Just the facts," Sergeant Jack Webb would say to a witness at a potential crime scene. 

Well, there are facts, and then, there are facts. We often have a tendency to think that just the facts reveal the truth, but sometimes facts can be used or arranged in such a way as to create a different perception of reality, maybe even a lie. Even how we see what we see is managed by our a priori assumptions. We cannot see what we cannot imagine seeing. We cannot hear what we are not prepared to hear. Or maybe a better way of saying that is that we cannot understand or organize what we see and hear if we have no categories or criteria for it.

It might seem easier if we all perceived things in the same way, and made judgments on the same criteria. Then "just the facts" would be the way of all the world, but think of the nuances that would be lost. Think of the shadings in a sunset sky that would be lost if we just saw it all as red. My camera is not able to catch the subtle differences in intensities and hues as is my eye. What pulls at my heart strings with beauty would be lost.

The same is true with all of our human differences. Each of us brings our own experiences and abilities to the table and we are better for them all. I am richer for each of you in my life. I may be annoyed sometimes that someone cannot see as I see, or easily get what I am saying, but when I have the opportunity to explore with you, greater beauty and possibility blossoms because it is so much more than what I can conceive just by myself.

This is the Creation as I see it with wonderful, mysterious layers each suffused with the deepest grace of our triune God. I invite you, and myself, this week to experience the depth possible with one person with whom we do not always see to eye, and give thanks to God in the midst of it all that here is beauty.

John 21:5-6
Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Young Adults Fledging

I have entered a new stage in life--an empty nest. What I learned from watching the eaglets grow this spring is that branching comes before fledging. Over the past few years, I have seen my eaglets begin to branch, first just at the edge of the nest, and then further up. They tested their wings, and took a few hopping flights until they swooped away, maybe without intending to, but they found that their wings would bear them even to the branch of another tree. 

I have also learned, though not so much from the eaglets, that after the first few flights off the nest, young adults are meant to fly off establishing their own life, staying in touch but not hovering like baby eagles who cannot provide for themselves. Step by step, they are to begin their hunt for their own life. My responsibility now is to help them remember that they are stronger than they think they are.

With joy, I celebrate their flight and pray that they will continue to grow to be the awesome young men they are. Now is my turn to practice a new flight pattern.

Isaiah 40:31
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don't get tired,

they walk and don't lag behind.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

All Shall Be Well, and yet...

“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” Julian of Norwich’s statement is so true, and yet so distant from so many people’s lives.

In the span of a few hours, I have witnessed that distance. I had a young man sit with me—eyes filled with tears—because a friend had overdosed, a young woman whom he had briefly dated in the past. He will go to see her body tomorrow. Currently he sees no hope.

A young woman is suffused with anxiety. Her parents neglected to take care of the financial forms needed for school. She might have to sit out a semester.

A friend on the way home from celebrating a wedding with his wife and friends were involved in an accident where he witnessed both graciousness from police of one jurisdiction and terrible racism and belligerence from officers of another jurisdiction. He stood as witness and called it out.

It is one thing to say that in the end God’s will of grace and love will be done, will be accomplished in this world and all creation, and quite another to sit with people in the midst of what seems hopeless.

I truly believe Julian’s affirmation of faith. It is mine as well. And yet it is not helpful to apply it in a slaphappy manner, like a band-aid on a boo-boo. There are times when we simply have to offer our presence—holding that solid affirmation silently within—speaking little.

I know in the end all shall be well, but that does not mean everything in everyone’s life will be well now. There are people who will die because of drugs, because of violence. There are people whose parents are neglectful.

So, Lord, tonight, I pray mercy. I have no more words. I cannot apply a simple salve and make everything okay. I cannot even protect the sons I loved from pain, heartache, or despair. Mercy, Lord, mercy.

Romans 8:26

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Lonely

I resonated when a friend wrote on Facebook yesterday that she was lonely, and a bit worried about an upcoming test. She knew it wasn’t the biggest thing in the world but saying it out loud makes it more manageable.

I resonated because I was a bit on the low side as well. As I sat in a funk, I tried to parse out what was making up my blue mood. Yes, I was tired. Yes, the candidate I really wanted to be elected as a bishop was not elected. I could limn it out but it was not helping me shake it off. I wanted to talk to someone, but as soon as I thought about talking to certain persons, I knew I would start to cry. I did not want to have to explain, or really I did not want them to feel that I was asking them to make it all better. I ended up asking Max to go out to dinner somewhere we could walk. He knew I was feeling down but that was not the subject of our conversation. It helped me to own what I felt, and not isolate myself.

Just now in writing this, I see the connection with my sermon from last Sunday, where loneliness can come from feeling like an outsider, or it can make me feel like one. After all, who would want to listen to me? I can see that what I outlined in my sermon is what Max did. It helped.  
Take time – Sit with – Listen to – Open your heart to

Romans 12:15
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.