Friday, December 31, 2010

a late night resolution

With the little time left before 2011 arrives, I find myself thoughtfully making lists. Lists of the many things that need to get done next week before my seminary applications are due (yikes!). Lists of things I should have done in the past year, or just sometime before today. Lists of things I hope to do before the end of next year. Of all these, I'm having the most trouble coming up with my list of resolutions. Typically, resolution making is something I enjoy- picturing how my life will be better in the year to come if I live by a new set of "rules." But this year is different.

I'm usually a fan of the "eat less, exercise more, save money..." type of resolutions. And, although those are all things I probably should do, I'm finding them a little hollow this year. Maybe it's because I'm riding an incredibly powerful advent wave that helped me keep focused on the spiritual side of this season. Or maybe I'm just ready to add some depth to my vision of a "better life." Either way, I'm feeling challenged to (in the next few minutes) make some God-centered resolutions.

This Sunday, as we celebrate Epiphany, we'll look at the story of the wise men, and their gifts to a newborn Christ. The new year will soon rush in, and with it come countless new opportunities for us to offer ourselves, and our own gifts to God. I pray that through resolution making, we may each seek to deepen our faith, and offer what we can to God in 2011. May we find new joy and strength in doing so.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holiday Dessert Exchange

Holiday baking is definitely a tradition in my family. And, like others this time of year, we end up giving a lot of those cookies and treats away as gifts. We also end up receiving a bunch, which means we always have more sweets and treats that we can possibly (or really should) eat ourselves. If you have extra, lovingly-made treats you can't bear to throw out, pack them up and bring them with you to worship this coming Sunday, 12/26. Just after worship, we'll share in a time of good fellowship and festive desserts. Let's put those extra cookies to good use, and spread a little more Christmas joy with our Water's Edge family. What could be better?! :)

Monday, December 06, 2010


Here are are in the midst of Advent; for a season that's supposedly (at least in our churchy circles) about waiting, I feel like things are flying by.Which is, maybe, why I'm still hungry for Advent this year. I want to pause from busyness and take time to focus on the things I'm really hungry for: justice for all people, hope for situations that seem impossible like immigration reform, our financial systems, local schools.

This Advent, we've been making a holy icon out of your junk mail advertising from the holiday season. I like the simple subversion embodied in taking time to dismantle the mail, find useful bits inside, and paste them into something beautiful. I can't wait to post it as it comes together...

I hope you'll join us in worship as we do all this. I believe it's important. Holy, event.

See you Sunday?


p.s. This advent poem from the Iona Community in Scotland has been a favorite of mine for the past several years--maybe you'll find it helpful, too.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Deep (Water) Thoughts

After hearing an incredible message from Rev. Bob Edgar last week, I've been doing lots of "deep" thinking. (Not quite as deep as the "Deep Thoughts, by Jack Handy," but you get the idea.) If you missed it, Rev. Edgar delivered his sermon in three sentences: 1) Lord, help me to notice the stains when others get spilled on. 2) We are the leaders we've been waiting for. And 3) I love you, and there's nothing you can do about it. I've been considering more what these phrases look like when we put them on, and breathe life into them.

The first statement is really powerful for me because the entire focus is on the stains– on the consequences or reaction to some event. It doesn't say, "Lord help me to discern who is to blame, and find who is responsible for cleaning this up." It merely reminds us to be mindful that people are hurting. Our planet is hurting. It's not about who's at fault. It's about recognizing a need, and addressing it with compassion.

His second statement caught me off guard, and even now I feel a little anxiety in thinking it. We generally like that the expectations on us are pretty low. No one (that I know of) is expecting me to change the world, and I kinda like it that way. But, I heard a song on the radio the other day that said, "What you have is freedom of choice. What you want is freedom from choice." As Christians, it is our responsibility to choose. To choose truth in the face of lies, love in the midst of hatred. To be the lone guy (or girl) standing even if everyone else is sitting down.

God's love for us is complete and unfailing. We are really lucky there isn't anything we can do to change or alter His love, because inevitably we would do it. As Christmas approaches, a time of joy and love, I hope that we'll remember to see the needs of others without judgement, to lead when called, and to share His amazing love with everyone we encounter.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Guest Appearance

I'm learning quickly that the good people of the Water's Edge are folks who embrace the phrase, "Go with the flow." Luckily for us, the "flow" has brought us the opportunity to have an exciting guest preacher this week– one you may not want to miss.

Rev. Bob Edgar is the president and CEO of Common Cause, a national nonpartisan, non-profit "citizens" lobby working to make government at all levels more honest, open and accountable. He has also served as the General Secretary of the National Council of the Churches of Christ, the President of Claremont School of Theology, and served six terms as the Representative of the 7th District of Pennsylvania in the House of Representatives. He is the author of Middle Church, a call to progressive people of faith to take back the moral high ground from the extremists and make America a better and less divided country.

Rev. Edgar will be preaching about "Deep Water Courage," referencing the "deep water" to which Jesus sends the fishermen in the gospel of Luke. I am excited for the ways in which we might, as a community, be encouraged and challenged by his message this Sunday, and hope you will join me in welcoming him to the Water's Edge.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

breaking the mold

Originally uploaded by Empirically Grounded
This Sunday, we finish our 3-week journey through the core mission of our worship. We welcome everyone. We share Christ. And we change--ourselves and the world.

As I have been getting ready for Sunday, I've been moved by Martin Luther King, Jr's sermon on one of the scripture passages we're using this week, Romans 12:1-8. In "Transformed Nonconformist" (which, incidentally, is available here on Google Books, as chapter 3 of a sermon collection), MLK calls us to live lives intentionally out-of-step with the majority in our world, and in-step with the amazing work of God's kingdom, which is coming into our world.

Jesus was always doing that kind of thing--catching people off-guard with his new way of life. Fighting against expectations and powers, he carves out a new way of living. And dying.

Which means this "change" we're called to is also a kind of challenge--a challenge against to status quo and for a new way of living.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

What we're about

I'm really looking forward to the next three weeks: we're going to spend them thinking about what we're all about.

I've been thinking and praying on this for much of the summer--I have the sense that something special is happening at the Water's Edge, and that we're called to grow in new ways. But, before we can talk about any external changes, we've gotta get clear on what we're about.

So, in reflection and in talking with some of you, I've come up with three things that are at the heart of our mission: welcoming everyone, sharing Christ and changing (ourselves and the world). Each week, over the next three weeks, we'll think about one of those ideas in worship. Afterwards, at 11, we'll have some extra time to reflect and dream on these ideas together, too. I hope you'll come, and that you'll stay for the discussion at 11, too.

This week, we're talking about welcoming. And I don't mean that lame kind of welcome that's like: anyone is welcome to come as long as they want to do things our way. I mean the kind of prodigal hospitality that might make us rearrange our plans. I mean the kind of welcome that leaves no one in the corner, wondering if they belong.

This week, we're reading from Matthew's gospel, about Jesus' answer to the disciples query about how to be the greatest. He surprises them, I suppose, with instruction to be like children. Humble. Invisible, even.

Then, we're also reading from Romans--some of my favorite verses in that book, with a tough list of expectations for those of us who want to follow Christ. It turns out that as soon as we find ourselves welcomed into God's salvation, we're expected to live differently, daringly in the world. This is good stuff.

So, I hope to see you Sunday!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

walking on water

According to YouTube, "walking on water" has been replaced by "liquid mountaineering." (It's worth a click...) And if we believe what we see there, under the right conditions, it could be possible for any of us.

I do have to say, though, that I think this whole thing misses the point. As, of course, does the comedic version of King Herod in Jesus Christ Superstar, who asks Jesus to walk across his swimming pool to prove he's special.

When Jesus walked on water, it was never about showing off his savior cred. It had more to do, I suspect, with his habit of going to the places where there's deep water, lots of wind, fear and uncertainty. There, where things get deep, he reminds the disciples to let go of their fear. And he gets in the boat with them. What an assuring image: Jesus, with us in the midst of deep stuff.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Queen Esther saves the day

This morning, in my Bible study at the Rescue Mission, we read all the way through the the Book of Esther. Usually, we share responsibility for reading; today, I claimed it all. Esther's story is too full of riotous details that we risk missing if we read it in standard serious, biblical tones. It's a wild story, and deserves verbal inflection. That way, it can't help but elicit cries, cheers and booing from its audience.

I slowed down, though, when I got to the passage we're sharing this Sunday. If I were making a movie of the book, this section would provide contrast, with a restrained color scheme, silence in the background, and slow careful speech. It's a big moment:

Mordecai is setting before Esther the challenge of her life: to put her own life on the line for the sake of (possibly) saving her people.

See, she's in a special position--her wild and unlikely life has brought her to a place where she's the only person who can do this thing she's being asked to do. It's as if all her life previous was preparing her for this big moment.

Which is, from time to time, a feeling we all have, I think: at least a sense that, while we'd have never guessed it, some previous challenge in life has given us a set of skills or an insight that's suddenly exactly what's needed.

I love that God offers calls like this to all of us, all the time: a call to use all the particularities of who we are for some beautiful work that, really, only we are in a place to do.

It's not like our inaction at this moment is going to mean the downfall of everything good and godly--but we are called, each one of us, to do something that works because of who we are. That uses our connections, our quirks and our scars to create new possibilities for our people.

May it be so.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

heroes in a least expected way

I don't follow sports much (as you can tell by the fact that I'm about to talk baseball just as the World Cup draws global attention). Now and then, though, even sports stories move me. Like the story of Armando Galarraga, who pitched a perfect game, except for a bad call by the umpire. My favorite bit is the last paragraph in the story from the NYTimes:

Galarraga told reporters that Joyce apologized to him after the game, adding that he had no instinct to argue the call. “He probably felt more bad than me," Galarraga said. Smiling, he added, “Nobody’s perfect.”

There's something beautifully heroic about a humble player, willing to accept the imperfections that cost him a heroic record. I confess that I much prefer these heroes to the big, powerful, always-winning ones.

Our hero story this week is a story of one who was certainly not the poster child for super-heroes: a (nameless to us) gentile widow from Zarephath. At Elijah's word, she gives up her last bits of food to feed Elijah, and finds that she continues to have enough to save her and her son from starvation through the rest of the drought.

I like heroes like this: not the ones that look like the robust football champion or the perfect captain of the cheerleading squad, but the ones that are human, vulnerable. And, even more beautifully, give what they have.

May it be so.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

You Gotta Have Faith

On Sunday, we heard the familiar story of David and Goliath, and I have to admit that usually, what I remember about this story is the triumph of the little guy.  Like Rev. Elbert said, we love stories of the underdog.  We root for the Cubbies.  We watch The Karate Kid.  We read Harry Potter.  We love Glee.  We cheer the Jamaican bobsled team.  

But that's not really the point of the story of David.  David didn't overcome a giant because of any special skill, and he didn't get lucky.  David had a great degree of faith that God would provide for the security of God's people.  David said, "battles are not won with spears or swords...  The battle is the Lord's."

David knew that we ourselves don't have the kind of power it takes to defeat the kind of looming obstacle that Goliath represented.  We have to rely on the greater power that God provides--and God is bigger--so, so much bigger--than anything that this world can throw at us.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

A Promise to Noah

This summer, we're focusing on some of the heroes of our scriptural tradition. First up: Noah.

I have to admit, though, that I don't totally love his story (especially the whole "God destroys everything" aspect of it)--and I have a few issues with his "heroism" (since we don't get any signs that he protested against the destruction of everyone else).

What's it all about, then?

Here, in the first book of our Bible, we get a story in which God changes. In a move that is startlingly human, God wishes to start over--to wipe the slate clean and be rid of all the mess. Noah, who we're told was the lone righteous person, gets to be saved, but also has to take up responsibility for saving all the other creatures. After a year and ten days aboard what must have been a noisy, smelly ark, Noah and his family get to set foot on dry ground. And God makes a promise: this will never happen again. Noah may be a hero, but God is the one we're to believe is most changed by the flood.

As God tells Noah that all creation will live in a new covenant relationship with God, a rainbow appears in the clouds as a sign of that promise. Whenever it appears, it will be a reminder of the everlasting covenant between God and all creations: a promise that God will not destroy everything again.

This is a good reminder for me, this week. It feels like so much is precarious and falling apart. Photos of the continuous fountain of oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico, stories and allegations of deep wrongs committed between Israel and Palestinians (and Turks), posturing and fear of violence between North and South Korea--it all feels like we're barely hanging on. It'd be nice to have a few more rainbow-like signs of promise.

strange beauty 2
Originally uploaded by dmixo6

Rev. Elbert reminds me that rainbows are not material realities, but simple refractions of light on water--the very same water, perhaps, that caused the flood of destruction. Which makes me hold on to the hope that somewhere, amid the very present struggles of our time, possibilities for hope are tucked inside.

I pray that we'll be ready to undertake the hard work it may take to live out those hopes, making them real in our work for justice, peace and the integrity of creation.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Trinity Sunday

This Sunday, we celebrate Trinity Sunday--an occasion for remembering and honoring our God who exists in relationship from the beginning.

Holy Trinity
Originally uploaded by Lawrence OP

We'll read from Proverbs 8, in which we hear the voice of holy Wisdom, calling out to us in the middle of the city. She beautifully describes how she was the first thing birthed from God, and how she was at his side as the whole creation was crafted. And, the best part: she and God delighted in creation, together.

It's so much better to share things with others than to keep them to ourselves, isn't it?

Many interpret this character--holy Wisdom--as being the same that the Gospel of John describes with the name "Word." With God from the beginning, God's Word becomes flesh in Jesus Christ.

We give thanks for a God who's always been in relationship--who's being is interrelationship in the holy trinity.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Picnic: May 30

1950's Gulf Coast Picnic
Originally uploaded by Patrick Q
We hope you'll join us for a Memorial Day weekend Water's Edge Potluck Picnic!

At the Old Trolley Barn Park, just up the hill from the church in University Heights.
Directly after worship on Sunday, May 30.

It's a potluck, so bring something to share, and chairs or a blanket to sit on.
(We'll bring some drinks and plates and things--though if you're really cool, you'll bring your own washable plates and utensils...)
Oh, and bring some games to share, too--a frisbee, croquet, Apples to Apples, whatever.

Everyone's welcome--it'll be a great chance to get to know each other better and enjoy a beautiful day in San Diego.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

left behind

First off, an apology: this dear blog has been too often left behind in our worship preparations lately. I'm sorry.

But, it's been a fine time at the Water's Edge in this Season of Easter, as we follow stories of the earliest church through the acts of the apostles (in the book of Acts, appropriately enough) and as we listen to the Revelation of John. Each has told wild stories: healings, conversions, end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it kind of stuff.

The lion came to take it's throne, and turned out to be a lamb, undoing our whole system of expectations and challenging the idea of what's powerful in our world (and beyond).

Agnus Dei
Originally uploaded by tracX

We have one more week of this wild stuff. And it's a perfect time to pray and discern about a vision for our own time and place. As we dream of what God is calling us to, as a congregation together in this place and time, I trust that something remarkable will become possible, and ask you to be in prayer and discernment with me.

I believe that something special is happen at the Water's Edge--our community is rich, with a diversity of people who seek to follow the world-changing, life-transforming way of Jesus Christ. We have something to offer this world in need.

I encourage you to pray about what God is inviting us to next--how we're called to change or grow or strengthen ourselves as we seek to be faithful, together.

And then join in conversation--comment here, talk to each other, talk to me, talk to our planning team... We'll be blessed by your participation!

This week, Rev. Elbert is preaching, and we'll get all the way to the end of Revelation. We trust it'll be good. ;)

See you Sunday.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Mighty powerful

Originally uploaded by E.n.d.e.r
In this season of Easter, we're going to be reading texts from Acts and from Revelation--following the stories of the apostles as they formed the early church (Acts) and watching as John's wild and divine vision uncovers something true and powerful about what is and has been and will be (Revelation).

This week, we jump into Revelation near the beginning, as the author starts off this telling of his mystical vision by naming God. And John uses a special word: Pantocrator. In English, this word is ofted translated into "Almighty," but has nuance that we're tempted to miss if we just slip into familiar words for God.

Christ as "Pantocrator" implies that Christ is, now, in power, doing everything. It's less about naming what God could do (as in, watch your step, 'cause God could strike you down if you mess up), and more about naming a present reality: Christ is at work in all things. This power is about sustaining and giving life.

Which is exactly what was happening in the midst of the life of the early apostles. They were doing wild things, in Christ's name. Sometimes, it got them into trouble; always, it came from a deep grounding in a new reality.

During this season of Easter, we get to do the same thing those apostles were doing: figure out how to live in this life, in the midst of resurrection power.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Holy Week

We've made it to a big week in the life of the church; this past Sunday, we celebrated Jesus' king-like entrance into Jerusalem, and then journeyed with him to the cross.

There are many ways to share more deeply in the holy week journey this week--on Maundy Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the sanctuary, on Good Friday at 12:10 p.m. in the sanctuary.

And, in Easter Eve, come join us for the great Easter Vigil--one of the oldest traditions of the Christian faith. We'll mark the vigil with a prayer pilgrimage, encountering stories of salvation since creation, and celebrating resurrection with song and sacrament. Several of you from our worship community have helped design the experience, and it promises to be rich. The "journey" starts any time between 7:30 & 9 p.m., at the firepit on the church plaza.
Then, of course, we come to Easter Sunday--a celebration of resurrection. Of love overcoming everything. Of getting our joy back.

The story begins with Mary doing what she were supposed to: taking care of the body of a friend and teacher who'd been executed by the Roman state. But she didn't find what she expected at the tomb that morning.

Responding first with concern--as if Jesus' body had been stolen--she finally came to realized that something wildly different was happening when Jesus himself appeared, calling her by name.

I love to imagine what that moment must have been like--that "aha" moment when Mary was jolted out of her grief and awakened to the reality of Christ risen. (Usually, I don't like to be proven wrong; I suspect that, in this instance, it would be so worth it...)

Where she expected to find death, she found life--and the living Christ called her by name. My sense is that everything was different on the other side, having been named and known by one whose power transcended death. As if walking from a black-and-white world into Technicolor reality, Mary came face to face--made contact--with a whole new reality.

May it be the same for us this Easter.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

stepping in

This Sunday will be special: we are baptizing two beautiful babies into the family of the church.

Feet + Surf
Originally uploaded by mattsabo17

It's a special joy to get to welcome new people into the family that is the church. We welcome them not only into this congregation, but into the Body of Christ--the church in very time and place.

One of the wildest things about Christianity is its insistence that we are all called and empowered to be like Jesus--that we become Christ's presence in the world, together.

This Sunday's scripture passage is a story in which one of the disciples--Peter--finds himself doing what Jesus does: walking on water. But, then, the reality of the moment overcomes him. He begins to sink.

Jesus accuses him of having little faith--but the wild thing is, he'd never lost faith in Jesus. Peter lost faith in himself--in his own ability to do something that looked crazy and impossible.

This week, as we welcome Honor and Orson in baptism, we remind ourselves that we are called, everyday, to do the crazy and impossible things that Jesus did. To dare to feed hungry people, heal those who are sick and broken, and live as people unafraid of even death.

May it be so.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

breaking barriers

This Sunday's gospel lesson is a story about people who refused to see barriers: friends who broke a hole in the roof to make sure a paralyzed man could get to Jesus.

Originally uploaded by bryanecho

Several years ago, I went to a conference in Seattle, organized by Mustard Seed Associates, called "The Church has Left the Building." A playful reminder of something really important: church isn't about what happens in our building, on our campus, or during regularly scheduled events. Church is what we do every time we go into the world with daring acts of love.

Today, I ran across an artist and activist in England who's planted little gardens inside potholes--seeing in damaged streets an invitation to new life. I think our life of faith is a little like that: an invitation to see ways of cultivating and embodying hope everywhere we turn. And showing the world a little selfless beauty.

This weekend, Elbert is going to be preaching; while you worship on Sunday, I'll be finishing up a meeting with our General Board of Church and Society in Washington, DC. But, really, we're all a part of the same thing: trying to orient our lives around a God of love, and to find ways of making sure that love becomes real in our care for all of creation. So, enjoy worship together, and our work together in the Church.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

like water for a thirsty soul

Fountain at Spili
Originally uploaded by macropoulos
This past October, while traveling in Greece, my friend and I found Spili, a charming mountain town in the south of Crete. In the center of town is a fountain, fed by natural springs, that's given water to the community for generations--at least since the Venetians ruled Crete. And, even before the fountain, the springs certainly provided water to thirsty people.

The water was delicious: cool and refreshing.

When we imagine telling others about our faith, do we imagine that we're offering something so life-giving and refreshing?

One of our scripture passages this week tells a story of Jesus that is set at a well where generations have found the water they need for life, and where a woman has come to draw water at noon, in the heat of the day. We get a clear sense that she's feeling thirst: both for the water, and for acceptance. Jesus' conversation with her is itself a life-giving one: letting her know that she is both known (including all the bits she might rather hide) and loved.

Both the quality of the conversation and its content are like water for her thirsty soul.

And yet, somehow, when I think about talking to people about my faith, I worry about being oppressive--of being experienced as judgmental, self-righteous, overly pious or hypocritical. The idea of "introducing someone to Christ" gives me the knots in my stomach that come from experiences where others judged me as being in need of their way of believing.

And yet...

I have experienced Christ as life-giving and liberating, as like a tall drink of cool water on a hot and dry day. And so, this week, I've been praying that I would be able to introduce others to that Christ--with the ease that I might introduce friends at a party. That I'd be able to embody--in the quality of my conversation as well as its content--a grace that is free of ignorance and full of love.

May we share access to that fountain freely.

This Sunday in worship, we're going to hear another story of one of our members: Marian. I hope you'll be there to hear of her journey in faith, and to give thanks to God life-giving water.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

come together

The old Cathedral in Coventry England, destroyed by bombing in 1940, is a poignant reminder of the scars of human violece; in the shell of the old cathedral, the stonemason found two charred timbers from the medieval roof forming a cross. They were installed on the altar, and the words "Father Forgive" with inscribed on the wall behind.

Our own relationships bear similar scars. The scripture passage we'll read on Sunday--of a moment where Joseph reveals himself to the brothers who'd sold him into slavery many years previously--is filled with reminders of the pain of brokenness we live with. And the destruction it causes in lives far beyond our own.

But Joseph and his brothers are also a story of hope--of reconciliation and restoration. Of integrating this that had seemed to have disintegrated.

They're an invitation to us to find ways of connecting our lives back together--to God and to our communities.

May it be so.


[I'm sorry to have been away from the blog so long--it's good to be back! We're enjoying Unbinding Your Heart this Lent, and hope you'll read, pray and join in a small group along with us.]

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

road blocks

road blocks
Originally uploaded by s myers
An in-car GPS really shines when you hit a roadblock, especially when you're somewhere unfamiliar. With its guidance, it becomes possible to take any turn, knowing that it will help you find a new way to wherever you were going. Suddenly (assuming your GPS has accurate information) you fall back on a whole network of knowledge that will get you through the present crisis.

Our spiritual lives are that way, too, I think: when we find ourselves stuck at an unforeseen obstacle and it blocks the one path we'd had figured out, God offers new possibilities. Connected to and present in everything in all creation, God can work through anything that comes up in our lives to keep us on the path toward the justice, hope and love God desires for the world. Sometimes, in our detours, we find things we hadn't even known to look for.

This week, we'll read the story of Jesus turning water into wine: when a wedding party hit a roadblock (running out of wine only 3 days into the celebration), Jesus saves the party and begins to show something important about his mystery and power.

We'll also read from the prophet Isaiah, of God's promise of restored hope. With God's assurance, we will no longer be known by our desolation, but by our forward-looking hope.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

A GPS for New Life

Check it out: this January, we're starting the new year with direction for new life. Using the metaphor of a GPS, we'll imagine how to negotiate spiritual journeys that are filled with salvation. Hope you'll join us for the rest of the journey!

See more here.