Monday, July 30, 2012

Why don't we know him?

Our office devotional today was based on selected passages from Mark 6.  It's a jam-packed chapter, with the rejection of Jesus in Nazareth, the sending out of the Disciples 2x2, the death of John the Baptist, the Feeding of the 5000, Jesus walking on water, and a healing story.  Througout the passages, Jesus is alternatively accepted and rejected.

Those who think they know him best -- the members of his home town -- reject him.  The disciples, as he walks on water, don't know him.  There is a message in that for us.

What else is there?  Does it also say to us that our expectations -- our preconceptions -- can become a barrier to knowing the truth?  Are there times when we won't except what is most obvious because it is not what we expected?  Planned?  Hoped for?

Are we willing to drop our expectations when we are desperate?  In need of healing?

Or could it be that when we need Christ the most, we are the most willing to be hopeful?  The most desperate for hope?

The clipart in today's post is from Hermanoleon.  Great source for images.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Feeding 5000

The lectionary reading read today in worship was the Feeding of the 5000 from John 6. There are a few things I always notice about that passage:

1. Andrew brings the young boy and his 5 loaves and 2 fish, even though he knows without a doubt that it is not enough to feed everyone. Andrew, though, is the bringer. He brings people to Jesus. Are we bringers, bringing what we have to God? Do we have enough trust in God to bring what we know is not enough?

2. Jesus gives thanks for 5 loaves and two fish. He knows it is not enough, in and of itself, and yet he is grateful for it. Are we grateful for everything we have?

3. Jesus has the disciples collect the leftovers. I've always wondered if he does that so that they will see the abundance. Did their trust in Christ grow when they saw the 12 baskets that were leftover?


Friday, July 27, 2012

A small stitch

This week I read a blog post by the Yarn Harlot (hang with me;  this post is not about knitting).  She is preparing for a bike ride in support of people living with HIV/AIDS.  She commented that knitters have been her biggest donors, because knitters understand that small actions can make a big difference.  Each small stitch adds up, and a sweater is created.

Do we, as Christians, understand that?  Do we get that small actions can have transformative consequences?  A small kindness can change a life.  God can take our weak offerings and change them to exactly what is needed.

One small stitch, one act of love, one act of grace -- all add up to transformation


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Weighty vs Light

I'm reading Seeds of Heaven:  Sermons on the Gospel of Matthew by Barbara Brown Taylor.  The first sermon in the book is called "Exceeding Righteousness."

She talks about the idea that Jesus did not intend to break away from Judaism. He wasn't trying to start a new religion -- "he meant for his followers to become the most righteous Jews the world had ever seen."

Jesus applied a "hermeneutical principle of 'light and heavy' to biblical commands."  She explains the "weightier matters of the law were justice and mercy and faith."  He did not call his followers to ignore the other laws, but when a lighter law got in the way of following a heavier law, then his call was to follow the "heavier" law.  Observe the Sabbath?  Yes.  What if observing the Sabbath meant that one did not heal a person?  In healing the person, in dealing with the matter of mercy, one did the will of God. 

Who decides?  Jesus decided, and that is what got him "in trouble."  It was a question of authority.

What does that mean for us today?  There are still arguments in our faith as to what is weighty and what is light.  How do we decide?  For me, as I think about it, sometimes the deciding factor is comparing the one scripture to the entirety of scripture.  It means comparing one verse to the wholeness of God as taught by Jesus.  It means remembering that all of scripture was written for a certain group of people in a certain time.  We hear the word of God in it -- God speaks through it, but we are not the original audience.  For me it means that when someone makes an argument for a particular point of view, and supports it with one particular verse of scripture, there is a danger -- that we will not hear the whole of the Word because the one word is barring the way.

She closes her sermon by saying, "...righteousness has never been a matter of following rules but of honoring relationships....When we honor our neighbors -- when we love them as ourselves -- then, and only then, are we ready to discover what the law, the prophets, and the gospel are all about."

And to me, that sounds like whole Word.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Rise up and move

The theme of the NEJ Conference this past week was Rise Up!  Encounter God; Engage the World.  At the last business session, the Wimberly's led Bible study.  As she was closing their portion of the program, Mrs. Wimberly used the phrase "Rise up and move" as her theme. 

I thought about what she said as well as the phrase, and I agree with her that God often tells us to Rise up and move!

When we see injustice and oppression, we are called to rise up and move -- to do something about it.

When we hear tears and pain, we are called to rise up and move -- to comfort and to empathize.

When we are in the midst of suffering ourselves, God wraps us in his arms, surrounds us with love, and whispers, "Rise up and move; you are not alone."

Rise up and move.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Surprised by Grace

I mentioned yesterday that I was one of the coordinators of volunteers for the recent NEJ Conference. We provided radical hospitality.  I think those who attended were surprised by the extent of what we did. 

We had people assigned to both venues and the street during times of transition.  Most of the time I wasn't serving in those roles, but a few times I filled in for volunteers.  At the beginning of the week I noticed that the people were surprised by the grace.  As we continued through the week, they became used to us being around -- the surprise was gone. 

Are we like that in life?  Are we surprised by grace when we first encounter it, and as time goes on, do we become used to it?  Do we appreciate it less?  Do we take God for granted?


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Red Caps

I'm still here! For the past week, I have been one of the coordinator of local volunteers for the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference.

It was a great experience.  I was able to sit in on a few interviews of episcopal candidates, worship, business session, and the announcement of the assignment of Bishops to episcopal areas.

The vision of the Chairperson of the Local Arrangements Committee is that wherever a delegate looked, he or she would see a hospitality volunteer.  We were able to make that vision a reality.

We had volunteers station at the hotel, the Civic Center and on the street when the delegates moved from one venue to the other.  The volunteers started at 6:30 AM and we didn't stop until 10:30PM, each day. 

I've worked lots of Emmaus Walks, providing agape care for pilgrims, and this experience felt much like that.  As I worked, what I thought would be "overkill" became an expression of the love of Christ.  I hope the delegates realized that as well.

The Red Caps (we all wore red caps) were a visible representation of radical hospitality.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Hidden Characteristics

We're back from vacation.   Have you ever noticed that when you go on vacation and come back that it feels as if the vacation were a dream?  Just something vague and enjoyable that is separated from what you normally do? 

I didn't do much posting while I was gone, but I did put up some pictures.  I have not been posting many images, so I thought a visual week might be different.

We were golfing at a miniature golf course while we were gone.  All throughout the course, there was a plant that grew along the edges of the course.  It looked a little like bamboo, with long, green leaves.  If you looked closer, you would find small blue flowers, hiding among the leaves. 

Sometimes the best parts of a person are like those little flowers. We expect to only see the normal green leaves, and it is only when we look more closely and carefully that we find the blue flower -- that unique and wonderful characteristic of a person.

People, unlike plants, deserve our time and attention to find what makes the person special.  God calls us to look for it.

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Thursday, July 12, 2012


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Wednesday, July 11, 2012


My three guys after breakfast

Flowers outside of the Captain's House

Yes, there was a mermaid in our pool.


Monday, July 09, 2012

A stormy evening

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Friday, July 06, 2012



Wednesday, July 04, 2012


What are five things you love about summer (question from RevGalBlogPals):
  1. Vacation. 
  2. No worry about snow
  3. Sandles
  4. No arguments about homework
  5. The relaxed feel of summertime.


Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Standing on the Inside

Worship on Sunday was focused on the Call to Worship -- it's role in liturgy and in life.  The call requires the person leading the call and the person responding.  Both are required for the call to be heard and answered.

Joe postulated that the call to worship begins when we stand up.  By standing, we, the worshipers, are stating our intention to answer the call. 

When we answer the call, there are times when we in turn, become the one who is calling. For instance, when we join the United Methodist Church, we are answering a call, and we are promising, among other things, to give of our witness -- calling others to faith.

Joe told us -- and I love this image -- that there are those in the world who are already standing inside, waiting for the call to worship.  They have stated their intention to respond, but they are waiting to be called.

Will we call?

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Sunday, July 01, 2012

Sanctuary in a storm

On Friday evening, a powerful storm spead through our state, with high winds that did a lot of damage to the power distribution grid.  Over half of the power customers in the state have been without power at some point in the last few days.  Add to that we've had a 100 degree heat wave. 

We are personally lucky that our power came back on Saturday, and that we didn't have any damage.  (Sorry for the lack of posts -- I just don't have any thoughts when it is 100 degrees.). 

What has impressed me is how churches in communities in West Virginia have opened their doors to serve as "cooling stations."  They have served meals, ice cream, and places for people to seek relief from the heat. 

That's part of what we do as a church -- we offer relief in times of suffering.  I'm grateful churches have been a refuge in the storm.   It's who we are supposed to be.

I've watched as people have reported on Facebook that their power is back on.  "So if you need a cool place, come on over.  Our doors are open."