Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Thy Will, Not Mine... but give me a hint, eh?

Dear Water's Edge Worshippers,

Have you ever been absolutely convinced -- to your core, no doubts -- that you were destined to do something in particular, connect with someone, do something radically different but all you? So powerful it was, that you could feel it in your bones? I have.

I was a TV reporter for 17 years and knew from the moment I walked into the student-run TV station at American University that I was "hard wired" for the craft. But that was then; what about now? Is God calling me to serve? I'm sure He is... or surely I hope He is?

Either way, Why? is it sometimes so difficult to discern God's will for our lives? That's the subject we'll be tackling this week at Water's Edge. This is week #3 of the Adam Hamilton-based, churchwide Why? study. So far, parts 1 & 2 have elicited a lot of thought-provoking discussion in the groups I've attended.The best part about it is that we can all express our thoughts in safety, without fear of rebuke or shunning (unless of course you're rolling your eyes AFTER I leave the room).

This week's scriptures will take us into a discussion of predestiny versus free will. What do you believe? Does God have a set plan for your life, already laid out with twists and turns, good and bad? Or does He have a purposeful plan, with an ending in mind, that allows you the opportunity to make choices (free will) and veer this way and that? If it's the latter, then, does He step in to always help you get back on His track? Or, could you change your entire destiny if you don't follow the plan... such as Marty McFly almost did in Back to the Future? Remember? Marty -- who had time traveled back to his parent's high school days -- ended up having to get his dad to kiss his mom by midnight or it was going to be all over! Goodbye McFly! (The photo above shows his brother disappearing -- his sister is next -- to indicate that time is running out!)

Be sure to appear for this Sunday's discussion!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Is Garth Brooks Right? Do We Need to Thank God for Unanswered Prayers?

Do you remember the last time one of your prayers went (or seemed to go) unanswered? Can we ever really know that a prayer has definitively gone unanswered? Maybe we just didn't recognize the answer. Maybe the answer was given, but not on our time-table. There are so many variables and we're going to take a serious crack at them this Sunday.

Why are we doing this? Glad you asked! Last Sunday, January 22, we began our church-wide study of the Adam Hamilton book "Why? Making Sense of God's Will."

- Week #1 concentrated on explaining (or prompting us to think and talk about) why good people suffer, the different kinds of suffering in this world, such as natural disasters, and God's role in suffering.

- Week #2 will cover God and prayer... and what happens when he doesn't answer.

Take a look at this week's scripture readings; two very different takes on prayer in the Bible:

- In the Psalm, the psalmist is in great distress over his sense of abandonment. But then he takes heart remembering that God saved those who walked before him (the psalmist); those who suffered http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifthe slings and arrows in previous situations turned out alright.

There's a movie trailer playing in theaters now promoting a British dramedy. A bunch of British seniors have 'retired' to a resort in India, site unseen, based only on pictures in a beautiful brochure. Upon arrival, they realize the magnificent facilities they saw in pictures don't really exist. One woman demands her money back and a young boy answers, "We have a saying: It will be alright in the end. And if it's not alright, it's not the end."

Ha! I love that! Could be a new approach to prayer... speaking of prayer, back to our subject:

- Check out our second scripture, this time, from Luke. How about that one?! Jesus, on his knees, praying, "... remove this cup from me..." Wow! That's not how any of the stories of his life went in my Sunday school. My classes always focused on the Son listening to his Father and doing what he was told. And I can remember first reading this Luke passage and thinking, "Jesus gets it! He is the Son of God with human understanding through and through!"

Jesus did not want to have to go through with what was coming next. How many of us know that feeling too? Something really heavy and important weighing on your shoulders, something only you can deal with; you know you have to take care of business but still, you go through all sorts of mental gymnastics trying to figure out how to get out of it and let the 'cup' pass from you.

Well, this Sunday, you will not bear the cup alone. We will lift our concerns and prayers together. Better buckle up! We're getting ready for some heavy lifting!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I Have Called You by Name, You Are Mine

Water's Edge will be bubbling at the brim with worshipers this Sunday as we will be joined by this year's class of candidates for confirmation and their fans! Please come early, grab a seat, and prepare to ponder plenty.

One of our confirmands is also going to baptized so this provides another opportunity for anyone within Water's Edge to renew their baptism. At about the mid-point in the service, our confirmands will dip some locally harvested, leafy branches into our baptismal bowls and sprinkle our collective heads. I can imagine this could feel kinda wild and look like a party, but in preparation for our sprinkling, we will be reflecting on our own journey with God.

Most of the folks in our Water's Edge planning group had clear recollections of confirmation: one former Catholic remembers choosing his new confirmation name and meeting the bishop; another remembered trying to memorize all the books of the Bible, and really knocking a home run with the books of the prophets; and I remembered that the new, very cute boy who had just come to our church/town from Texas, and who wore REAL cowboy boots ALL THE TIME, was in my class and held my hand during group prayers.

Clearly there are many potential ways to remember your confirmation, so, what is our message tohttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif the incoming class? "Slow down and pay attention." It all goes by so quickly. Take just a minute or two to really think about what this day holds for you and try to remember it. Yeah, yeah. We all have had adults tell us that "time flies." And we all have rolled our eyes and g-fawed as soon as the adult left room. But here, years later, we find they were right. And I do wish I could remember more. It surprised me to realize that I just don't remember!

But, then, Randy (youth minister) reminded us that each of the confirmands receives a cross inscribed with Isaiah 43:1, "I have called you by name, you are mine." That passage provided the comfort I needed. We don't need to recall all of the details surrounding our confirmation. We simply need to remember that we were called and we said "Yes."

See you Sunday!

(The black and white photo above is from a confirmation class at Emmaus Lutheran, just over one hundred years ago... Class of 1911. I started to poke fun of their crazy hair bows and then I remember what my picture would have looked like, with the awful shoulder pads and big earrings we wore in the '80s! I am humbled.)

Friday, January 06, 2012

Baptism and The Beginning

This Sunday is a special Sunday in Christian tradition; we celebrate the baptism of Jesus. And, we have an opportunity to re-dedicate ourselves, renew our baptismal vows. Also, if you have never been baptized, we ALWAYS welcome that gesture, anytime of year at Water's Edge.

This week's scriptures relate to baptism in distinct ways -- Rev. Molly will explain that more fully on Sunday -- but, join me in taking a look at the first scripture, Genesis. This brings us the very first words written in the Bible: "In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters."

See? Water is an integral part of our experience on earth... it has been since "the beginning."

- Our bodies are 60% water
- 70% of the fresh water on earth feeds our agriculture
- Oceans make up 71% of the earth's surface.
John the baptist spoke of water v. spirit baptism, and we often see images related to cleansing as well.

One of my favorite depictions of baptism comes from a rather unorthodox source, the movie "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" The haunting voice of Alison Krauss, along with choir voices in the background, and the abundance of the river... it gives me chills just thinking about it. As corny as the characters are in the movie, the look on the face of the one baptized is so real, so good, so- joy-filled (pops up at 2:06), I feel as though I'm standing on the river bank waiting too...

So, as we gather this Sunday, be ready to share those images that come to mind for you in baptism... of the spirit, the beautiful... the light from dark.