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.