Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Gather Up the Fragments... So More May Eat

This Sunday launches FUMCSD's financial campaign, "Beyond Our Wildest Dreams." It's a financial update as well as a reminder of our collective power, our collective faith that God will always provide.

Our scripture, John 6:1-14, highlights the Feeding of the 5,000... one of the best known stories in the Bible. Rev. Elbert is creating a message that will stimulate conversation, and, provide some relief... perhaps even prompt a couple "Amens!"

But the key idea I'm dwelling on is this, as Elbert explained: When Jesus gathered the 5,000 together and said to His disciples "What do we have to feed them?," they immediately resorted to typical human reactions: calculating cost and impossibiliites of the situation. Meanwhile, Jesus knew God would provide. The disciples saw scarcity; Jesus saw an opportunity for generosity...

I've learned, time and again, that if I stop and think of God first, before reacting to a situation, I will be provided for, the situation will resolve peacefully, and there will be no time wasted in worry. They key is remember to STOP my human reaction and go for my faith... see the opportunity for generosity.

Hope to see you Sunday!

Also, a reminder that this is our last week hosting the Saint John's Bible series in Trotter Chapel. Please go! I've been more than once and get something different every time. And, if you haven't already seen it, here's last week's appearance of the Saint John's creator/art director, on the Today Show.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Are You on the Barren Path? Or in the Rocks? Thorns? Good Soil?

Our scripture study for this week is based on one of the many parables Jesus told in his teachings, one you likely know well... which we will read three times at Water's Edge (more on that later).

The scripture is the parable of the sower, again, paired with the corresponding illumination in the Saint John's Bible. The picture shows a modern Savior, a Jesus in Jeans, sowing seeds across four variations of land: a path, rocky, thorny, and good soil.

Rev. Molly is out of town so Rev. Richard Smith will be preaching, or, as he put it, "Lead Listener." Why "listener?" Because we are going to employ some of the tools from "lectio and visio divina" to explore and understand the text and the illumination.

"It's a process," explains Richard. "Listen to the text with new ears. See the illuminated text with new eyes. And open a prayerful dialogue with God through scripture."

Consider this: back in the day, most early Christians could not read, so they had to "get" the word through aural delivery. They had to hear it and digest it to interpret it for themselves. That is one step in our three step process. We will read. We will listen. We will look.

As you look at the Sower illumination (click here for a more indepth analysis), consider this:

- What grabs you the most?
- After relating to the illumination or text, what would your prayers be?
- What is this scripture asking of you?

Rev. Richard will explain in more detail on Sunday, but it will be a nice time for personal reflection within a community in communication with God...

We will also be handing out bibles to the kids who have reached that age and will wrap up with a visit from our missionaries. A busy Sunday!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

THE LAW: Limitation? Chaos? Freedom? What Do You See?

For some this may be a week of "heavy" scriptures. At least that's how I felt when we first read Exodus 20. That's the great and iconic scripture when God delivers the 10 Commandments to the "slaves" He has brought out of Egypt. This is the serious stuff. This is where we get our marching orders, right?

Yes. But it doesn't have to be "heavy" or restricting. In fact, perhaps it's freeing. In our Wednesday night discussion with Dr. Standiford, one attendee opined that this 10-item "to do" list freed and liberated God's people. No more multiple gods. Just one. The great I AM. And no more worrying about what's required in sacrifice. It's laid out. 10 Steps to Salvation. Done. Not easy. But simple.

The artist's interpretation (seen here, top) is also an interesting take. There are four panels dipicting acts of God, overlaid with God's word to the Israelites... But, as you'll notice, the words of the 10 commandments begin to fall apart, or become kind of chaotic, in the middle. What's that about? We'll tawk. On Sunday. You will definitely want to hear Rev. Molly's interpretation. Trust me. She nailed it.

Here's a hint: Remember that the gold lettering, or any trace of gold in the Saint John's Bible, indicates God's presence. The illumination begins with HERE I AM. I AM THE GOD OF YOUR FATHER. I AM THE LORD YOUR GOD. And it ends with similar wording. Perhaps another nod toward simplicity?

In the sanctuary, Dr. Standiford will also be discussing the second image (bottom image) of Paul as we read from Romans 3. Paul is holding a dome (St. Paul's Basillica in Rome) in his hand... and it's broken. What was broken in Paul's time? What about later in church history? What part did Paul's writings play in the great Reformation? Ahhhh. Yes, these questions will be pondered and perhaps answered on Sunday.

If you haven't yet seen the illuminations from the Saint John's Bible, please do. I'm absolutely obsessed with the interpretations. That doesn't mean I agree or even like all of them. Some I absolutely LOVE... but, most importantly, it has us talking about SCRIPTURE!!! Real dialogue about what the Bible means to each of us, individually and collectively. Exciting, promising and uplifting.

Take a listen here to the interview Tom Fudge of KPBS (his parents are members at First Church) conducted with one of the Saint John's experts in Minnesota. And thanks again to our dear Liz Cogdill for arranging another great interview.

See you Sunday!

Monday, October 03, 2011

Feelin' Like a "Bag O' Bones?" Join Us!

The dark illumination to the left is from the Saint John's Bible.

Look at it.

No. Really look at it.

There is a CAR in this Bible! (Two, in fact. You just can't see the other here). This is not your long-gone Granny's Bible. This Bible is for You.

This is a contemporary take on a classic story. The committee and artist who crafted the Saint John's Bible have provided their "take," and we'll share that below, but first, let's find out what this says to you.

Hearing and seeing what God is saying to you is one of the key hopes of the creators of the Saint John's exhibit. What does the Bible say to each individual through the illuminations?

This week, the entire church is moving into week #2 of the Saint John's Bible tribute. At Water's Edge, Rev. Molly says she will be concentrating on the Ezekiel passage. Here's what it says to her: "This passage emphasizes that, even when hope feels as far away from you as a pile of dried up bones is from a vibrant life, God comes into that hopelessness and pieces us/it back together again."

Union Tribune religion reporter, Karla Peterson, wrote an article regarding the month-long display in Trotter Chapel. Karla describes the Ezekiel piece as a "stunning print featuring both a dark tangle of bones, skulls and wrecked cars and a brilliant blur of rainbows and golden menorahs."

And in the article, Rev. Elbert explained what the illumination says to him. “In the midst of tragedy, there is hope and light here before us. This is the message we preach, that there is hope in the world. This is what I just love.”

So, look again. Any thoughts? Feelings?

I see the bones and mangled mess we humans are apt to make of life. And I have had moments when I feel as far from God and hope as a bunch of dried up ol' bones. But, His word always brings me back. And as He told Ezekiel, surely He tells us: "I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live." And again, "I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live." In this illumination, that spirit, for me, is shown in the rainbow explosion at the top of the illumination.

What about you? Please visit the Saint John's Bible exhibit! I promise you will not be disappointed. Saturday's from 10 am - 4pm and Sundays 10 - 2m to 2pm, or weekdays by appointment. Call 619-475-6628.

View. Take in. Experience. Ponder your interpretation of the illuminations. As the director of the project told the Union Trib reporter, "Don’t worry about having someone tell you what it means. Make it mean something for yourself.”

P.S. If you still want to know what the "official" Saint John's word is on the Valley of Dry Bones illumination, check this out. Author Susan Sink explains in the viewer's guidebook.