Thursday, March 12, 2020

Perspectives: Flexible?


Why is the tree bent over? Did it fall? Did it stretch? Was it flexible enough for what it needed to do? Or was it brittle and unbending?

When has God last changed your mind?

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Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Doubt


Still thinking about Terry's sermon (I posted about it yesterday)....

I wonder if Nicodemus understood Jesus during their nighttime conversation that was reflected in John 3?  Does bringing the spices to the tomb after the crucifixion reflect the possibility that his faith was not changed?  Or that he had questions about what Jesus had told him?

It's important to remember that part of the reason for the converstion in John 3 was to allow John the place for us to hear the questions Nicodemus had - and that we, as readers, might have.  And to hear Jesus' answer for them.

And then we have Nicodemus, coming with Barnabas to the tomb, bringing spices to prepare the body after death.  A body that we know - from this side of the Bible - won't be there.  Should Nicodemus have known that?

And what does it matter?  

My thoughts around this question dance with the idea that it doesn't matter.  Nicodemus went to the tomb.  Whether he completely believed or understood Jesus or not, he went to the tomb.

Whether we understand or not - whether we fully believe or not - the action of coming to Jesus is what is important. The truth is that we will never fully understand God - if you think you do, you are kidding yourself.  The truth is that doubt is OK. Prevenient grace was made for doubt, don't you think? 

 Doubt should never be a barrier to God.  

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Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Changing our Minds

In worship last Sunday, Terry asked us what God had changed our mind about.  The sermon was based on John 3:1-17. - Nicodemus meets with Jesus at night to ask questions.  Terry's assumption had always been that Nicodemus' mind had been changed by the conversation, but a source she read in preparation for the sermon suggested that we don't know that for certain.

Nicodemus goes to prepare Jesus' body after the crucifixion with many spices and plans.  The writer of the source said that if Nicodemus' mind had been changed by his conversation with Jesus, maybe he wouldn't have taken the spices to the tomb.

Interesting thought.

But what interested me more was the idea and possibilities of allowing God to change our minds. We talk often about God changing our hearts, but do we ever open our minds enough to allow God to change them?  

Or are out minds made up, no matter what - even concerning matters of faith.  It seems to me that allow God to change our minds about those things is often the hardest - and yet God would be the authority, right?

When has God last changed your mind?

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Monday, March 09, 2020

Tricky


I've been thinking about the post from last week called Stop.  Just stop.  The premise of the poem was that our ability to stop seeing  people with whom we disagree as people - but instead as objects to ridicule is a barrier other people (and to ourselves if we are honest) in seeing God.

I read yesterday that meanness (or a similar word) is never a fruit of the spirit.

But, although I believe all of that to be true, what I didn't mean to assert was that we shouldn't struggle with what we disagree about.  I think we should engage our brothers and sisters - we should stand up for what we believe is right.

It's just that I think we should stand up with open minds and loving hearts, knowing that the person with whom we disagree is a child of God.

I believe that God wants the church to be inclusive.  Of all.  Of everyone.  And I think efforts to bring that about should be pursued.

The problem is that everyone means everyone - all of the children of God - even those with whom I vehemently disagree.

I believe we should love everyone - all of the children of God - even those with whom I vehemently disagree.

Faith is a tricky thing, don't you think?

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Tuesday, March 03, 2020

One Minute Message: Salt and Light


Notes from a One Minute Message I did at church a few weeks ago.  These are targeted to children in the congregation, but we deliver them to the whole congregation.

Part of today’s gospel according to me:  You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?  You are the light of the world.  Do people light a lamp and put it under a basket? Or do they set it on stand so that it gives light to the whole house?  (From Matthew 5)

I need a volunteer.  Will someone help me? You don’t need to sing or dance, just eat a cracker? (ask person to taste a salt-less saltine)

Does the cracker taste OK? Or is it missing something? It’s a saltine but it is missing salt.  It doesn’t really live up to its name, does it?

Steve’s grandmother always said that all recipes need salt.  Without salt, any food is going to taste flat.

So, now, look around the room.  When the sun is out and it shines through our windows, they are beautiful.  When it is gloomy or dark outside, the windows lose their beauty.

I think salt and light are analogies for love.  We are love in the world. We sang a few weeks ago that the world will know we are Christians by our love.

But when we fail to be salt, and when we fail to shine, we don’t live up to our name.
Just like in the old Wendy’s commercial where the older woman would say, “Where’s the beef!” when we don’t live up to our name, the world will say “Where is the love?”

Because we are it.  Where will you be salty today? Where will you shine?

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Monday, March 02, 2020

Stop. Just stop.


Listen.  Listen to what I am saying.
You are my sisters and brothers in Christ.
We are family because of what Christ has done.
But we don't act like it.

Brothers and sisters,
we don't always have to have the same opinion.
In fact, we won't.
We were created to be different,
and yet, 
we were saved to be family.
Family that has the same purpose.
Family that has the same mission.

In ancient times, Chloe told Paul of arguements.
Divisions.
We don't need anyone else to point out
how much we disagree.
How much we argue.
How much we stop seeing the sister
The brother.
The child of God.
And see the object of hate.

If we are the church,
members of the body of Christ,
is there not a way to love each other
even if we disagree?
To stop calling each other names?
To stop spreading hate-filled lies?
To stop.  Just stop.

How can we be the light
if all we do is walk in darkness?
And if we, who are called to be the light,
share only darkness with each other,
then how will others come to know?
To see?
To love?

Inspired by 1 Corinthians 1:10-11

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Thursday, February 20, 2020

Perspectives: Sky Light


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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

I waited


Loosely inspired by Psalm 40

I waited patiently for the Lord.
Well, sort of.  Kind of.
I waited for the Lord because I had no other choice.
Thankfully, the Lord noticed, and listened to me.

God lifted me up.
It wasn't easy.
The mud clung to my feet.
I was stuck, but God
lifted me up,
God stood me on solid ground.
Secure ground.

I confess, my words were not grace-filled.
God put a new song in my mouth.
And I praised God..

The taste of my words were much more pleasing
to both of us.
I pray others will hear this song
and learn to trust in God.

With God's new song,
With my feet on a firm foundation
My heart has changed.
I want to do the work God has given me.
I want to follow God's leading.
It is joy to hear my call.

Now I tell those around me the Good News
News of deliverance and grace.
News of salvation.
Now it's hard for me to stop talking
when before my words were dust.

I pray those who hear me,
those who see me,
will see my new heart,
and know God has changed me.
and know God has done this,
and know God brings salvation
for me and for them.

Thank you, God, for your mercy,
for your steadfast love,
for you faithfulness.
Forever.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Homework


The posts this week have been based on part of a Sunday school lesson I taught from  the first chapter of the book, "Light of the World: the Meaning of Memory" by Amy-Jill Levine.  At the end of the lesson, I gave the class homework with the goal of trying to help them to create a space to hear the voice of God.  Here are the options I gave them altered a little to expand them beyond Advent.  Is there one that you might try?
  • If you want to know about what it means that John was to be the new Elijah (which we didn’t  discuss at all), read Malachi 4:5-6 and compare it to Luke 1:16-17.  This one is very specific to the lesson and to Advent, but it leads us to the idea that understanding scripture requires homework.  It's not understanding through simple osmosis (or only attending Sunday school).
  • Consider ways to re-hear the gospel.  Reread either the Magnificat (Mary’s song) or the  Benedictus (Zechariah’s song).  Rewrite them in your own words.
  • Use your phone’s timer and sit in a quiet place for 2 minutes.  What does 2 minutes of silence  feel like? Can you be silent for 5 minutes? 10 minutes?
  • Choose a book and read it during Advent – a little at a time so that you can savor it.  And it doesn't have to be only during Advent.  
  • Start today and read one chapter of Luke a day.  After 24 days, you will have read the whole  book.

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Monday, February 17, 2020

Book Review: The Luminous Web


Information about the book
Title: The Luminous Web: Essays on Science and Religion
Author: Barbara Brown Taylor
Publisher: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers
Copywrite date: 2000

Summary
On the back cover: "In these essays on the dialogue between science and Christian faith, Barbara Brown Taylor describes her journey as a preacher learning what the insights of quantum physics, the new biology and chaos theory can teach a person of faith."

Taylor's purpose in this book isn't to meld science and theology.  She also isn't willing to allow each of them to stand alone, separate from each other.  She doesn't lesson either one - each stands on its own, but she does bring them along side by side so that we can see how they complement each other.  

Impressions
I chose this book for two reasons.  I have read a book of sermons by Barbara Brown Taylor and was SO IMPRESSED by her writing.  Secondly, my background is in science and my career in is faith.  I'm often thinking about how the two are related and not in opposition.

I often measure a book by the number of "ah ha" moments.  This had many.  Taylor quotes scientists and theologians - both bring revelation to the party.  She doesn't try to mesh the two, or try to use science to explain religion (or religion to refute science).  Instead, she describes her journey as a person of faith into the land of science.  I think too often, in a quest to protect God, we trash science.  God doesn't need our protection, and if we think we have everything figured out because we've read the Bible, we are very much mistaken.

I enjoyed the book, and it opened my mind to a field of study I haven't ventured into before - quantum physics and chaos theory - and how these speak to my faith.

I recommend the book.  I haven't written any posts about it yet - I hope to do so.  Much of my copy of the book is highlighted!  

(To find future posts once they are written, search for Taylor Web in the search bar of my blog).


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Thursday, January 30, 2020

Perspectives: Look up


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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Luke 1:10-20 - Doubt


I taught a Sunday school lesson during the first week of Advent that I based on the first chapter of the book, "Light of the World: the Meaning of Memory" by Amy-Jill Levine.  I'm going to use parts of that lesson for my next three blog posts.  This is based on Luke 1:10-20.  

Doubt.  Zechariah expressed doubt when Gabriel finished his announcement.  “How will I know  that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.”  The angel replied “I am  Gabriel.  I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you  this good news. But now, because you did not believe my word, which will be fulfilled in their  time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.”

What do you think about this passage?  Is Zechariah being punished for doubt? 

Is doubt a sin?  

Think about when the angel announced to Mary that she would bear the son of God.  Mary asked almost the same  question, and she wasn't struck mute.

Levine writes, “I imagine that at this point, words failed Zechariah.  He was terrified and  traumatized.  Everything for which he had prayed will come to pass, but he is stuck between  belief and doubt.  What at this point can he say?

What is the role of silence in our relationship with God?

Are there times when you allow for silence intentionally?

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Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Luke 1:10-20 - Place


I taught a Sunday school lesson during the first week of Advent that I based on the first chapter of the book, "Light of the World: the Meaning of Memory" by Amy-Jill Levine.  I'm going to use parts of that lesson for my next three blog posts.  This is based on Luke 1:10-20. 

Think about the place where this story about Zechariah happened.  This announcement took place in the temple.  Why do you think it happened in the  Temple?  Could it be that this where Zechariah would have been listening more closely?

William Barclay when looking at this question, he quoted a part of the play Saint Joan by George  Bernard Shaw.  (about Joan of Arc).  Joan hears voices, and it annoys the heir to the French  throne, who says, “Oh, your voices, your voices…Why don’t the voices come to me I am king.   Not you.”  Joan replies, “They do come to you, but you do not hear them.  You have not sat in  the field in the evening listening for them.  When the angelus rings you cross yourself and have  done with it; but if you prayed from your heart, and listened to the thrilling of the bells in the air  after they stop ringing, you would hear the voices as well as I do,

Where do you give yourself the chance to hear the voices?

How does setting enhance or detract from receiving God’s word?

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Monday, January 27, 2020

Luke 1:10-20 - Pattern


I taught a Sunday school lesson during the first week of Advent that I based on the first chapter of the book, "Light of the World: the Meaning of Memory" by Amy-Jill Levine.  I'm going to use parts of that lesson for my next three blog posts.  This is based on Luke 1:10-20.  I'll post the passage here (but not on the next few posts:
Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside.  Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense.  When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him.  But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John.  You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth,  for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit.  He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.  With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”  Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.”  The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.”
There are many times in the Bible when we see pattern.  The fact that the author is  writing the story to a particular pattern communicates something to us. For example, when a  woman is at a well in the Bible, a pattern starts.    Do you see a familiar pattern in this announcement and what has led up to it?   It is a pattern of a barren woman, childless, promised children to come.  Where else do you see it in the Bible?  You may recognize it from the Abraham and Sarah story, the Rebekah and Isaac story, the story of Samson’s parents, and the story Samuel’s mother Hannah.

What are the components of the announcement pattern?
  • Barren couple without hope for children
  • There is an announcement of a coming child – promise of God
  • What about the child who is born?  Isaac, Jacob and Esau, Samson, Samuel – all part of  God’s story and work to come.

So, Luke is saying, “here we go again – another great one is about to be born.  See it? You  recognize it.

Compare this to the Annunciation – the announcement to Mary of the birth of Jesus.  How is it  different?  Mary is not barren; she is unmarried.  What does it say about the child to come that “the Holy Spirit  will come upon you, and he power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the  child to be born will be hold; he will be called Son of God.”

Luke is telling us using the same pattern that a great one is to be born, but this one (because of the different  we see in the pattern, we can recognize it) – this one will be even greater.

3. Doubt.  Zechariah expressed doubt when Gabriel finished his announcement.  “How will I know  that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.”  The angel replied “I am  Gabriel.  I stand in the presence of God, and I have bene sent to speak to you and to bring you  this good news. But now, because you did not believe my word, which will be fulfilled in their  time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.”
Question:  what do you think about this passage?
Is Zechariah being punished for doubt? Is doubt a sin?  Note that Mary asked almost the same  question.
Levine writes, “I imagine that at this point, words failed Zechariah.  He was terrified and  traumatized.  Everything for which he had prayed will come to pass, but he is stuck between  belief and doubt.  What at this point can he say?
Question:  What is the role of silence in our relationship with God?
Question:  Are there times when you allow for silence intentionally?

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