This is not the character development I wanted.

Dear God,

How many people in the Bible said no to you? Jacob, the actual heel, Noah who didn’t want to get mocked, Moses who had a speech impediment

As I sit in the car as a part of my daily 3hr drop off and pick up run to avoid the bus and do what I can to limit exposure…emphasis on what I can….I am thinking that this is not the character development I wanted.

I did not, after an agonizingly and traumatically lonely Middle School experience and a long and tough climb into adulthood starting with 9/11 and then peaking with job hunting at the height of a recession, want to go in for more. I feel like I’ve done enough character development. Thanks for asking God.

I remember my Grandmother who helped every single person she met and also could not throw anything away if her life depended on it. I don’t think I realized those went together for her as a child of the depression, until now.

What am I learning right now God?!? And why oh why haven’t I learnt it already?

Probably the real question is what is it we have to learn and why haven’t we learned it yet?

God, I know we are living in the space of a grace note. I know you have already won and are going to win. And every second we have to learn is gravy

But gravy is messy! Grace is messy! And I really didn’t count on spending hours in the car and at home and on zoom relearning you’re grace.

Teach us what we need to learn about your grace, we pray.

Amen

Feel free to use/adapt with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta.

Enough for Grace

Holy Spirit, as I live and breathe I consider my requirements and hold them up against your grace.

How is it I am enough for you? On the one hand I am never enough. I have this drive to achieve and perfect. But though this drive is a part of being human, I know this is by no means your requirement.

For who is perfect but you, God?

Sometimes, when I imagine heaven, I know I get it all wrong. Picturing it like a Hall of Fame of acheivements or a place of perfection.

When, instead, you promise it to be the feast where everyone gets fed, and no one is too late to join.

Instead, you promise it to be a place where participation is valued, not perfection.

What a balm, to remember that you want each of us to participate.

There is no such thing as perfect communion. If you required perfection for communion, it would unravel–becoming a practice of the singular being a Christ.

Instead, you invite us to come, in all of our messy, fumbling, clumsy ways of love. Instead you encourage any and all to participate in whatever way we can. Jesus stands at the table with open arms, tearing the bread apart with his own hands, his eyes twinkling.

And then, God you make communion: miraculously happen, by being present!

You are there when the lips of the ill or frail touch the elements. You are there when the cup of grace is overfilled and drips and spills over. You cross the great expanses of screens and bring us into communion with one another and you even over the internet. The miracle of your promised presence each and every time we practice communion is perfection itself.

Communion is perfect.

And we are it’s participants, not its perfecters.

Lord, help us to remember you value true and honest participation over any attempt at perfection. You are perfect so we don’t have to be. You created communion so we can be a part of perfection, a part of you, together.

Only you, O God, would see perfection as something to partake in, rather than something to strive for.

In this way communion is truly a foretaste of the kingdom meal. And for that I give you thanks and praise.

Amen.

This Prayer can be used/adapted with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta 

More Mundane Prayers: for surviving the Day to Day

Here is the Link for Pandemic Prayers and Resources: Top Posts are “In an Abundance of Caution” “The Lord is My Shepherd: What kind of Sheep are You” and “Masks: A Prayer”

Looking to Heaven: Eastertide

Jesus went to heaven, and the disciples would have liked to have stayed there.

Looking at the heavens.

Just like the transfiguration.

Let’s move in, we are ready for heaven.

Or at least we can spend all the time with the pure ones, the disciples, the ones in the know.

And Jesus said, don’t worry I’m going to send you to the ends of the earth, don’t worry I’m going to give you a million Easters, 2,000 years to learn; 2,000 years of grace.

Talk about a grace period for one’s debts.

Many weeks and Sunday for Easter to unfold into your hearts, and your children’s hearts and your children’s children’s children’s house.

I’m going to give you time to learn how to be community.

I’m going to leave you with my one commandment, love one another.

Stop looking at heaven, the answer isn’ there.

Look to earth, to the relationships.

Good Friday: Denial and Grace in Crises

Before this night is over Peter, you will deny me three times,

In fact each and every one of you will deny me before the end.

Not me Lord, I would never deny you.

The absolute horror of what was going to happen could not be fathomed by the disciples. It was too a deep a hole for them to see. Death, betrayal, denial and damnation were unthinkable. After all they had faith, and they had Jesus. What else would they need?

Denial is very human. It’s how we handle some of the world, it’s one way to fend off PTSD.

What are you in denial about right now? Here, in the middle of a pandemic, what is too much for you to take in?

Remember that even the disciples had trouble processing it all. Remember that only Christ and God can hold the enormity of the tragedy that is taking place. And Jesus requested the presence of these fumbling disciples in Gethsemane to pray. And after they messed up not once, not twice, but three times, but Jesus did not send them away.

We will not be sent away, and our presence is necessary.

Give yourself the grace you need to pray, be in denial and present in whatever strange combination exists within your soul, and remember you do in good company.

More Pandemic Prayers and Resources

Abundance of #Grace : Seeds of #Prayer for #Lent March 17

Laborers in the Vineyard

Abundance of Grace

Matthew 20:1-16 and Psalm 16:5-8

Call to Worship:

Lord it is good when we come to you at the beginning of the day

Whether we come at the beginning, the middle or the end you will be there. 

Lord it is good when we find you at the beginning of the week

But what a blessing when we find God, instead at the end, for still God’s hand will hold us fast.

Help us to find you, Lord!

Help us to find you today, so that we might give you praise.

Call to Worship:

Come let us worship the Lord

God shows us the path of life and invites us to join in the work of the day.

Come let us work together

So we can all share in the fruit of our labors together, with all the saints who participate, come let us do some of that work today!

https://www.strofiliawines.gr/en/wine-in-art/red-vineyard-arles

Prayer of Confession: Lord, I confess that you are my Lord,  I have no good apart from you. So I turn to you to confess my failings, so that you can fill me with your grace and love, so that you can be with me and teach me. Show me the path of life I pray.

Prayer of Confession: Lord I confess aha some days I worry if there is not enough grace for me and my sins. I so often feel so full of holes, that I do not count myself as holy enough for you. Yet, you are ever with me, with your presence there is a fullness of joy, there is enough. Remind me that there is enough, I pray.

Assurance of Pardon: Lord you are the path of life, fullness of joy and pleasure forevermore, so we can be confident of the truth: In Jesus Christ we are forgiven. 

Assurance of Pardon: Lord, it doesn’t matter if we come to you in the beginning, the middle or the end, we are assured of your grace. In Jesus Christ we are forgiven. 

Hymns: Amazing Grace

On Eagles Wings

Jesus, Priceless Treasure

Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me

There is a Wideness in God’s Mercy

Lord I wanna be a Christian in My Heart

 

Full List of Lenten Resources (Of course some prayers may be appropriate for other weeks)

Sacrifice of Isaac

This is a tough passage. This is the passage where, I don’t know how I feel about God, when the story begins “Take your son, your only son and sacrifice him.”

I want to say that we should never have to sacrifice our children, but then I think about the fact that its 4th of July, and that wars exist, and people have been asked to sacrifice their children for many reasons.

So I don’t know how I feel about God at the beginning of this story, but I do know how to feel about Abraham. As a pastor, I definitely understand him. He is trying to be there and  be responsible and hold fast to all of his commitments. When God calls him, Abraham says “Here I am” when Isaac calls on him, he says “Here I am”

“Here I am” for God and my family. I definitely feel that stretch. It makes me think of last Friday when I couldn’t make an out of town meeting and I was working and conniving to figure out how to get childcare for my special needs child to get there. How can I be both places at once?

And I feel for Abraham when he answers Isaac “God will provide the lamb” even as he has already promised to sacrifice his son. He is hoping, somehow for everything to work out.

And then part of me sees the humor in the ram that is caught in the thicket. I am, personally, very suspicious that the ram was there the whole time, but Abraham was so focused on trying to get through the horrible act of sacrificing his son, that he can’t see any other way out.

But isn’t that grace? Finding the path you didn’t see was there before? Ever have a solution presented to you that in retrospect was super-obvious, but your were so focused on getting through it, that you missed it?

This is why we need outsiders, and others perspectives. They help us to find the grace, the other path we might have missed.

So, I signed in to my meeting last Friday, remotely, feelings sad that I couldn’t be there in person, when my youngest, Ashburn, threw up. And I went and cleaned the mess and realized, I wouldn’t have been able to make the meeting in person anyway, and the online attendance was way better than trying to be there, because if I hadn’t been online I wouldn’t have been able to make it even with a babysitter, because Ash was sick. Grace is funny like that sometimes.

Like a child throwing up.

Or a Ram with its horns caught in the thicket.

Offering another perspective, another path, another way.

And that is why we gather and talk about who God is in our lives, so we don’t miss the other path, so we don’t miss out on the grace.

Esp. when its so obvious it makes us laugh. (And I just realized, this story does not require the sacrifice of laughter i.e. Isaac but instead welcomes/prompts it)

I’m not sure how I feel about God at the beginning of this story, but I know how I feel at the end, Our God is the God of Hope, the God of new paths, the God of laughter, the God of Grace.

 

God, Stooping, Kneeling and Praise Ps 113 Narrative Lectionary

One of the most common themes in the Bible is the proclamation that EVERY knee shall bow to Jesus Christ. I like this because I feel it contains within it the POSSIBILITY for universal salvation. This is a tricky thing, because if Jesus is our only salvation, then its difficult then to go and state that Every knee shall bow to God. However, this is my faith in God’s everlasting love and salvation, and what is great about this proclaimation is that its EVERYWHERE in the bible from Isaiah 45:23 to Romans 14:11 to Phil 2:10-11

5Let the same mind be in you that was* in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
7 but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
8   he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.


9 Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

During my oral examination for ordination, I got asked about this phrase in my statement of faith, for I stated that I whole heartedly believed that someday every knee shall bow to Christ, every tongue confess him Lord.

I got asked if I was a universalist (that means that everyone will be saved no matter what which makes religion and even the need to do good irrelevant to some people), and I cheekily answered that the Bible says this to be true in both the New and Old Testament. I had no clue as to how God will put this mighty and impossible work into being, but I believed that the Bible was telling the truth, and if you viewed that verse to be universalist than Jesus and the prophets must have been universalists. This got me a laugh.

So, when I was looking at Psalm 113, a Psalm that names God and praises God as the one who stoops, a thought occurred to me….

When if at the end of the world, every knee shall bow, because that is the position Christ will be in? Christ who emptied himself, Christ who humbled (knelt/stooped) to be on earth

What if Christ comes, as always, to serve the world the actual physical position of servanthood, stooping and crouching to serve, and what if we all get on our knees to serve with her?

Maybe that is why it is couched with all the words about NOT judging each other in the New Testament, something that would definitely would have been better understood after Christ’s physical incarnation than before…..

Is it so hard to believe that Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess to Christ not because of the mighty thunder and lightening of the end of the world, but because God is serving and listens to what it is we have to say and invites us to assume the same position? We are conquered by God’s graciousness and are finally able to embody it…

Psalm 113


1 Praise the Lord!
Praise, O servants of the Lord;
praise the name of the Lord.


2 Blessed be the name of the Lord
from this time on and for evermore.
3 From the rising of the sun to its setting
the name of the Lord is to be praised.
4 The Lord is high above all nations,
and his glory above the heavens.


5 Who is like the Lord our God,
who is seated on high,
6 who stoops to look
on the heavens and the earth?
7 He raises the poor from the dust,
and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
8 to make them sit with princes,
with the princes of his people.
9 He gives the barren woman a home,
making her the joyous mother of children.
Praise the Lord!

Preach Sister #queer #love #theology #Jesus

Play Video5:53

My Sister preaches, preach sister

she is the 1 in purple. Feel free to skip to min 4

https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=722264261177435

She also said on fb ““also says A reminder that that is NOT what christianity usually means. Christianity is about love and grace, about finding and defining yourself and the world in relation to God and their love. Christianity does not have to mean hatred, exclusivity, or fear of retribution. In fact, the people for whom that is what Christianity means are generally the fringe minority.
Please do not judge this religion on its extremists.”

A Parenting Parable: A Fig Tree

“Hurry UP!”

Sometimes I can be a tad impatient with my children, especially my “almost” 5 year old. For example last Friday we were late to school because every single thing I asked him to do he said he would and then didn’t. Making me repeat myself over and over again.

Last week I was trying to nap during my children’s nap/quiet time (quiet time for the older boys for 1hr, nap time for the baby and perhaps my 3 year old depending how good a job we did of wearing him out). My mistake was to try to nap upstairs (my window get a nice piece of sunlight to sleep in midday: I’m part plant you know). Every couple of minutes it was “mmmooooo—ooomm–maaaa….how do I spell….” followed by some word that was somehow related to Dr. Suess–which is our current obsession. My problem was I was so tired I couldn’t follow through on my threats so I kept saying “this is the last time” spell it and inevitably he would return….

What amazes me about this all is that my children’s behavior and its significance for me, the fact of whether they are having a good or a bad day is ultimately reflective of the kind of day I’m having.

Jesus tells a parable of the Fig Tree…In it a fig tree that has been growing for 3 years. It grows, its green, it looks healthy, and yet does not produce fruit. The Master declares it should be cut down, but the caretaker (Christ anyone?) says that he will trim it, give it better soil, and to please let it grow another year and see what then happens. The Master agrees….–Luke 13:6-9

…and that’s it…the story ends, not with whether or not the tree behaves better but the two “parents” of the tree, the caretaker and the master, Jesus and God, agreeing to give it better care. Deciding it wasn’t (entirely) the tree’s fault, and that it probably could produce it just needed more time and space to grow, and more nurturing, and trimming of its bad parts….

If I’m having a good day, the hiccups of a 1, 3 and almost 5yr old are minor and workable. If I’m having a bad day every infraction feels like a personal insult.

https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRG9g5f4tujtVpidSbLAT4Vgmwit9cw7H8qta5FVswcf7r91o3BpgIf I have the wherewithall to take a step back on the bad days then I at least don’t lash out but unfortunately, I am only human. My mom said she used to be really moody/dramatic (Re: my side of the family tends to be) and if one thing went wrong her entire day was ruined. Post-Children, if only a few things went wrong, she knew it had been a “good” day.

So there it is…the promise is that God will follow through on cutting down the bad trees (you know the importance of boundary setting and holding to consequences in parenting), but at the same time, practicing Grace….If my children aren’t bearing fruit that day, maybe I need to look at the care I’m able to give them that day (after all children tend to notice when we are stressed and respond in kind) The focus is not on the consequence but on the gift…let our parenting be the same….not only on my good days, but also on my bad ones

On the other hand on really hard days–where it isn’t about me or the children, but about the world (Newtown and Boston of course spring to mind)–then the misbehavior of small children are put into perspective, and I begin to feel blessed–blessed to be safe, blessed to have children to love, bless to have children who misbehave and are imperfect.

Abundent Grace: A Parenting Parable

John 21:1-19 is about Jesus’s Abudent Grace–You might think that its about Peter’s need to be forgiven 3 times, but I see it as ever so much bigger.

Jesus is abundent, so much so, he equals and exceeds our need for forgiveness…this is where love gets scary folks, because God know every single sin, and is equal and greater than those sins–God loves us so that all our empty spots–all our places of sin are filled in–so much so that they in fact overflow with God’s Love

Brennan Manning says it like this….

Parenting says this: My three boys take one bath (there’s a trinity joke somewhere in there, but really its just easier to run one bath). They are all in preschool and can all still fit, and mostly they love it. One day my eldest, Franklin, was scooping all of the toys to him–telling me he wanted to play with all of them. I then pointed out that he can’t play with the toys, because he is hanging on too tightly, and his hands are too full, and that he must share the toys to be able to play with them (this was a moment of parenting brilliance).

That’s how God’s love is–think about the fact that the disciples caught 153 fish (ps great scholarly debates exist about this number, until a scholar drily observed that maybe its says 153 because there was an eyewitness who actually saw the fish, and that is the actual–as opposed to being a symbolic–number)

Anyway, they catch all these fish and what are they to do? They can’t eat them all before they rot (pre-fridge and pre-salt), so they have to share the wealth…just like the manna, just like the toys…that is the abundance of Christ’s love–it is so abundent it fills even the most ordinary corners of our lives (fishing is a daily thing in Galilee). Although we may be like the disciples and be unable to see Jesus from the boat (or the bathtub), he will keep appearing, and keep loving us, inviting us to be nourished and then to “feed my sheep” or Share the toys so we can be in relationship with and nourish one another….

How’s that for use or lose it parable of the talents?

PS: Note the nets did not break this time (which is a whole other sermon) I think this is because the disciples have a little more where-with-all to catch some of Christ’s love, it doesn’t all pass through this time, some of it gets caught, harvested and used.

 

John 21:1-19

 

21After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 4Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6He 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. 7That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 8But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. 9When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

15When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19(He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”