Monday, April 28, 2008

looking up

This week's passage from Acts is a challenge to fit into my way of seeing the world; it tells of Jesus' ascension after his post-resurrection days on earth. Having continued to show people the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit and of Resurrection, he leaves our reality to be with God. Acts describes this as happening by his ascending into heaven.

Now, my picture of the universe complicates this. I have trouble imagining Jesus ascending to God when I know that ascending from earth would mean being transported through light-years worth of ever-expanding space. I imagine it, it's kind of exciting to imagine the implications this reminder of how vast our world is, and, then, how much more incredibly big God and God's love must be!

I have a favorite image of the relative size of space, from a film the Ray and Charles Eames made for IBM in the 1950's. Hopefully, you can see it by following this link or below.

God, who is God of the whole universe, is larger than I can wrap my mind around. And, yet, invites us to live in unity--with God and with one another. This is incredible.

John's gospel contains this prayer from Jesus, offered as he drew near to his own earthly death: that we would be one. As members together in the body of Christ, on a little round planet, swirling a smallish star in an arm of a spiraled galaxy in a cosmos beyond our measure.

May it be so.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Hey, friends,

I just wanted to give you a little update on what's happening in the next few weeks.

I ask for your prayers: I'm gonna be away for 2 weeks, first visiting my husband before he deploys to Iraq, then at our United Methodist General Conference in Fort Worth. I'm really thrilled that Rev. Karen and then Rev. Elbert are going to be with you, preaching and leading worship. Some of y'all are helping lead, too. (Thanks!)

It's pretty exciting to get to participate in our General Conference, in worship, prayer, conversation and decision-making that will help shape our United Methodist Church at its worldwide level. I hope you will join in praying for the Holy Spirit's guidance as we gather together. Karen will be there for part of the time, too, as part of a seminary class. They'll observe, join in worship, and work at monitoring our discussions to see how well we do at including people of diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds and of both genders. It's pretty intense to imagine how nearly 1,000 people from all over the world could interact in a constructive way to make decisions for the church.

I think it's pretty cool that it's happening against the backdrop of our scripture passages for these next few weeks!

We're continuing to read in Acts, which contains the story of the early church as it began to figure out what it might look like to live as the church--as the body of Christ in the world. Read this week's story to hear one piece of those intense early days.

We're also reading in John's gospel, pieces of the final teaching Jesus offered to his disciples before his death. They are words of comfort, of instruction and of challenge.

I hope you'll come join in worship at Water's Edge, as we imagine what these scriptures have to say to us today, and as we taste again reminders of God's love and salvation for every one of us.

Monday, April 14, 2008

abundant life

I didn't get around to posting last week--I apologize.  Things just got away from me.  

But, I'm gonna try to make it up to you by blogging AFTER I preach.  I figure: what the heck.  Maybe you're still thinking about these things.

I got caught this last week on the images from John's gospel, John 10:1-10.  Our passage ends with a line I treasure deeply: I come that you might have life, and have it abundantly.  This idea resonates so well with my experience of God's life--it is life-giving abundance, not just for me but for the world.

I struggle, though, with fitting this generous spirit together with Jesus' earlier descriptions of himself in the passage: he is the gatekeeper, and no one gets in but through him.  My experience has not been that God calls us to be a select few, secluded away.  Plus, I'm troubled by descriptions of salvation that flatten it into simply what happens in the afterlife--salvation is all the stuff of the abundant life that we get to experience now and forever.  So what's Jesus saying?

My contention (and you are welcome to help me out here) is that Jesus meant that he's the gatekeeper in the sense that, if we're going to be a part of his salvation, we're really going to have to be like him.  That Jesus being the gate--Jesus who is our Christ who makes us all a part of his body--means that we have to do the things he did in order to be a part of this new reality.  Which is both seclusion (on occasion) and a sending into the world (Jesus says he'll be with us for going out as for entering in).

So, then, Jesus is inviting us to an abundance that comes when we live like him--when we become little Christs in the world.  (Which, as I understand it, is just what "Christian" means.)

I shared a poem, too, and thought I'd give you a link in case you want to read it more carefully...  It's by Wendell Berry, and you can find it at the bottom of this speech.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

broken things

I had a lot of fun making this mosaic with you on Easter Sunday--it felt good to break the old plates, breaking open and apart our old ways of seeing the world.  Then, to begin to put together this image of the cross...well, that was pretty cool.

I wondered how it would all come together--if the design would be clear.  And, really feel good about it: I especially like how the cross is all broken apart.  As if the power of the cross--an instrument of torture and death--is shattered in resurrection.  A bit like swords becoming plowshares.

This week, we get another story about breaking. This time, Jesus appears to two disciples in his resurrection. They don't get that it's him, though--at least, not until he breaks bread with them. In that moment--in the breaking of bread, they know it's him. And as soon as he's recognized, he vanishes.

I wonder how we know Jesus' presence in our own community. And, even more, how we share it. Are we revealing ourselves as Christ's body in ways that make it as unavoidably clear as it was in that moment for the disciples? And, what would it take for us to do so?

It wasn't eloquence or carefully reasoned explanations that gave away Jesus identity--those disciples didn't see it was him through all of that.  But in breaking bread, it was clear.

There's something really powerful about sharing food together, and about holy communion.

I hope you might think about who you could invite to share in this sacrament that is a taste of God's living presence in our worship.  And that, together, we might dream about what it would look like to break bread with others, out in the world.

See you Sunday...