Monday, March 19, 2018

Expecting Resurrection

Last week, I wrote about Abram and Sarai (renamed Abraham and Sarah) who laughed when the angel told them they would have a son and be the beginning of a multitude.  

In his study, Harnish says that when the women went to the tomb to care for Jesus' body, they didn't expect to find a resurrection. They never thought to see a risen Christ. They only worried about the stone, and how to roll it away.

Again, we are on this side of the story, and we know what happened, so our surprise when (in Mark 16) they see a man in a white robe sitting on a rock, and no corpse in site, is dulled.  We aren't surprised.  We aren't shocked.  They are, but we miss it, because God isn't surprising us.

Has our lack of anticipation dulled us to the presence of God in lives? Where is God working? Do we see it? We we believe we will ever see it? Is it something reserved only for the women who come to the tomb? Or do we ever open our eyes to the possibility of resurrection in our every day lives?

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Friday, March 16, 2018

Perspectives: Drive Home

Usually, my perspectives pictures are ones I really like, or that are unusual, or that make me think of something I hadn't thought of before.  Not today. 

Today's image is of my drive home on Tuesday of this week.  Unexpected snow. 

I post it because it reminds me that we are yearning for spring. I think that's why I like St. Patrick's Day so much.  It's green, and close to spring, and hopeful.

We yearn for spring. We ache for God. Both bringing life and hope and beauty.

May your St. Patrick's Day be filled with hope and life and beauty - and some green, too.

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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Call to Worship

Call to Worship
(inspired by Psalm 107:1-3)

L: People of God, give thanks to the Lord.
P: God is good and God's love is here
L: God's steadfast love endures forever.
P: God is good and God's love is here, among us.
L: Children of God, say so!
P: God has lifted us from trouble; saved us from ourselves.
L: God has gathered us here today.
P: From every corner of the land we come.
All: Together let us worship our God.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Impossible to Believe

In Harnish's Easter Earthquake study, he quotes Frederick Buechner's interpretation of Genesis 17 - when an angel tells Abram and Sarai (99 and 91 years old) that they will be the parents of a child.  Remember the scripture? They laugh.

Buechner paints this wonderful image of the couple laughing at the unbelievability of the whole thing.  And then the Buechner quote says, "They are laughing because the angel not only seems to believe it but seems to expect them to believe it too."

Of course, we have the benefit of standing on this side of history - we know the end of the story - so we take it for granted that what the angels says does come true, but can't we imagine how difficult it would have been for Abram and Sarai to believe what the angel was telling them? And how hilarious it would have been for the angel to EXPECT them to believe it?

And then God does what we would consider to be impossible, and the barren, elderly couple has a son, who they name Isaac, which means "laughter."

What is it that someone would tell you that would be so impossible for you to believe that you would laugh at them? What is it that God is trying to tell you that you think is so hilarious that belief is unbelievable? What is God trying to do in your life or through your life that is so unexpected that you can't believe it?

What would happen if you believed?

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Broad Place

Last week, I wrote about James Harnish's explanation and examination of the word merhab. It means both broad place and salvation.

He talked about how, when he grew up, salvation was defined as the moment at the altar when a person gave his or her life to God while "Just as I am" was being sung.  It was a moment.  A particular time of yes.

I can relate to that, even though that hasn't been part of how salvation has been described to me in my faith development. Even so, especially on my Walk To Emmaus experiences, I have heard people describe that Moment of Decision - the Moment of Salvation.

And I haven't experienced that. My experience has been ongoing, with a variety of steps and decisions to follow Christ.  And I think that is just as valid as the Moment.

Harnish says:
Salvation is an ongoing work of grace through which I am being released from the suffocating smallness of life turned in on itself to live in the spacious greatness of God's boundless life and love.
Right there - that is the connection beween broad places and salvation. Salvation is the experience of broadness in life.  Salvation is the broad place in life.

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Friday, March 09, 2018

Perspectives: Troll Rock

What do you see? A rock? It really only is a rock, but I see a troll.

Reality doesn't always dictate what we see.


Thursday, March 08, 2018


James Harnish, in the Lenten study I'm working through, talks about the word Hebrew word merhab. It means "vast expanse or broad place." Interestingly, it can also mean salvation:
  • Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me in a  broad place. (Psalm 118:5)
  • He brought me out into a broad place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me. (Psalm 18:16)
  • and have not delivered me into he hand of th enemy; you have set my feet in a  broad place. (Psalm 31:8)
  • He brought me out into a broad place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me. (2 Samuel 22:20)
Look at each of those and consider how two definitions, that to me seem vastly different (broad place and salvation) become almost interchangable.

More on this next Monday....

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Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Where Christ has Led

Two people
on the sidewalk.
One, in his suit,
with his polished shoes,
and laptop bag.
One, in clothes not his own,
with marks on his arm,
and pain in his eyes.

And the man thought,
Go we now where Christ had led.

One reached out to other.
One touched the other,
relieving pain,
opening souls,
bringing light.

And the other man thought,
Go we now where Christ has led.



Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Our High Priest

Have you ever encountered someone in authority who had no sympathy - no empathy - for the difficulty of the work you are doing? Have you ever had a teacher who seemed to have no understanding of the difficulty of the topic presented?

I had a chemistry professor in college who had no idea how difficult chemistry can be for a student who didn't understand it. He was snotty about it.  Arrogant. And that didn't make it easy to ask questions or to seek guidance.

Read this:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  (Hebrews 4:15-16)
Life is hard. Temptation is even harder. And yet... we have a Christ who has faced tempatation and understands it. A Christ who walks with us.

A Christ who makes it possible to approach God with boldness. It's not boldness that grows from our own self worth, but from Christ.

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Monday, March 05, 2018

Wild Beasts

I'm participating in an e-course called Easter Earthquake: How Resurrection Shakes Our World. It's based on a book written by James A. Harnish and is led by him online. 

Today's meditation was entitled "Wrestling Wild Beasts with Jesus." One of the scriptures to read for the day was Mark 1:12-13:

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan  and he was with wild beast;and the angles waited on him.  

The time Jesus spends in the wilderness is also described in Matthew and Luke, but in those gospels, the specific temptations Jesus faced are described. I've never noticed before that in Mark, they aren't.  

He is tempted by Satan - the Greek verb used is peirazo - and it is used later to describe the action of Jesus' opponents in Jerusalem ("The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him." Mark 8:11 and then again in Mark 12:13-17).  I find that very interesting.

But what about the wild beasts? My study bible says this reference is unclear.  Harnish compares it to the wild beasts we face every day.

I like that image. What are the wild beasts of temptations you face every day? What wild beasts stalk you in the wilderness? When Mark doesn't name them, we are able to name them ourselves. I think it helps us to remember that Jesus faced temptation in the wilderness, and that he walks with us in our own wilderness, whatever the wild beasts might be.

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Friday, March 02, 2018

Perspectives: Salvation

"Perhaps one of the most indisious tempations we face is to beliee that salvation is all about us, that the poupose of God's amazing work of grace and death and resurerection of Jeuss is only for indiviudal human souls.In fact, God's svaing purpose encompasses the whole creation, and we are called to particpiate in that salvation."

James Harnish

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Thursday, March 01, 2018

An Appalachian Psalm

Inspired by Psalm 29

All creatures, everyone, everywhere,
Speak of God's power and glory.
Sing of God's strength.
Call on the name of God with reverence.
Worship the Lord.

God speaks over the rivers.
God thunders in the rush of the Kanawha 
and in the mightiness of the Ohio.
God careens in Blackwater,
and pummels the rocks in the Gauley.
The Lord is in the water.
The water belongs to the Lord.

In the trees that rise above Elkins
and in the pines that stand on Spruce Knob,
The power of the Lord rises to heaven.
In the cows that roam the hillside
on the farms in Wood County,
and in the goats on the side of the hills
near Spencer,
the Lord dances.

The voice of the Lord flashes in the fire
that licks the forests.
God echoes across the high places
in Terra Alta.
and shakes the wilderness in Huntington.
God moves the lawmakers in Charleston,
and roams along the West Side.
God echoes in the steel mills of Weirton,
and in the coal mines of Mingo.
God is there.

When the wind bends the oak trees
to the ground, the Lord is there.
When the leaves are gone,
and the trees are bare,
the Lord is there.
Every part of Appalachia says, "Glory!"

The Lord is more powerful than the flood,
more lasting than the destruction,
more sustaining to God's people
than anything else.

May the Lord give strength to the people,

May the Lord bring peace.

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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Two Things to Compare

Two things to compare:

On Sunday a couple of weeks ago, the Bishop pointed out in our worship service that when Jacob responded to God, he said, "If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father's house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God,..."  (Genesis 28:20b-21)

What she wanted us to see was the If.  The sentence begins with If. It is a sign of doubt.  Jacob is stepping out in faith. "A faith that begins with if is looking for God - expects an encounter with God."

Compare it to this, which I read on Facebook on the way home:

A friend wrote a beautiful post about the presence of God in Florida during the shooting. Someone replied that it "is difficult to believe in a diety..." and then went on to discuss how the faithful can be hypocritical. Someone else replied and told him (the commenter) that he needed to be baptized and then all would become clear.  The commenter asked how the man knew that he hadn't been and did go to church.  The reply: "By your comments and wavering faith! Those how have been saved and truly believe do not waiver in their faith in god above!"

I have to say that the Bishop's words ring more true to me that the words of the man who answered the commenter.

Doubts and questions are only a sign of growth. Without them we are stagnant, assuming we know everything (we don't) and that God is only as we believe God to be (God isn't). 

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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Sacred Place

I mentioned yesterday that the Bishop came to our church to preach. She did so because we were rededicating our building after a serious renovation. 

I think in such a time it is important to realize that the building is not what is important. Even though it looks so much nicer, and it welcoming and wonderful - it is not the church.

She said something I'll remember for a while. She was preaching about the Jacob's ladder story. The place Jacob stopped had no name, and after he encountered God, Jacob named the place Bethel (House of God.). 

Our building isn't sacred because we say so - not even because the bishop says so. Our building is a sacred place because it is a place where people have and will encounter God. If that isn't happening, then it's just another building, like any other. 

"The no name place becomes crucial.  It's is a place of encounter - and that makes it holy."

May it be so.