Friday, April 6, 2018

Through Stained Glass: A Mid-Week Reflection-song sing



O sing to God a new song; sing to the Holy One all the earth.”

This is the opening line of this morning’s psalm.

As I write this post in the hallowed halls of Eden Theological Seminary, I can hear birds chirping outside the window. The daffodils down here in St. Louis are in full bloom, and with their faces turned toward the rising sun, their radiance sings of spring’s beauty. The lawn in the courtyard on campus is nearly all green, becoming lush with each warming minute. Creation is singing God’s praises.

Resurrection is happening. Sunday we met Mary and the disciples in the garden where the tomb was empty. A ‘glowing’ young man told us in Mark that Jesus was raised and he wasn’t there. In John, Jesus calls Mary by name, and who she thought was the gardener was in fact, her Christ. Both give the command to go and announce the good news of Jesus being raised.

That is a new lyric in the aged old song of God’s love for us and creation.

Then Jesus says to Mary, let go of me—don’t cling to me because I have not ascended to the Father/Creator. In letting go and not clinging to the risen Christ, Jesus’ ascent and return to God enables the disciples to share fully in Christ’s relationship with God.

How about that, am I right?

We share in Christ’s union with God. What is true with Christ’s relationship with God is now true for us, God’s children!

Like Phil Collins, I can’t sing. However, knowing I am in God and God is in me inspires within me to sing a song, or write a poem, or do a dance, or weep tears, or do something that offers my thanksgiving for God’s gift of love!

Friends, how will sing a new song to God? What words will you use? Perhaps write a haiku?

Another question, what might you need to let go of to receive the good news that Christ is risen? The new life offered to us in the resurrection?

In birdsong, I heard God’s presence. In the creativity and compassion of my colleagues as we discuss wisdom and beauty, I saw the face of Christ. In your prayers, the Spirit warms my heart.

On this beautiful Friday with the new song in my ear, I leave you with a question from Luke’s resurrection story. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here but has risen. 6Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again."

Well, why do you?

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Through Stained Glass: A Mid-Week Reflection-Wait for It...

There’s not much to say today.

Though we know what is coming, they didn’t.

Though we know after the egg hunts are over and bellies are filled with grandma’s delicious breakfast, good news will be announced to the women, they didn’t.

All they knew was that their friend,

Their teacher,

Their brother,

Mary’s son,

Was crucified.

For the first time in months or years, they didn’t Jesus wasn’t with them.

So, they found themselves in a place where we find ourselves the most:

The in-between.

Where we wait and wonder and worry about what happens next.

Yes, we know death.
            Death of loved ones.
                        Death of dreams.
                                    Death of the world around us.

But we very much so know the gift of resurrection’ life.
            Life of a new child, grandchild, or godchild.
                        Life in the rejuvenating creation springing up around us.
                                    Life in the relationships of those we love, or when plans come together.

But most of the time, our days, like Fr. James Martin notes, aren’t filled with the unbearable pain of a Good Friday. Nor are they suffused with the incredible joy of an Easter. But most days are filled with waiting.

And waiting takes on many forms, right?

“The wait of despair, the wait of dull passivity.”

Then there is the wait they did, and we do: Hope.

Which is why my favorite part of the Triduum, or, the Paschal Mystery, is Holy Saturday. It is the most relatable, it’s the most tangible. It is the day which is most real—amidst the darkness and uncertainty, the transition of the world and in our personal lives, God is doing something. What exactly? Most days I don’t know.

What I do know is that throughout the story of salvation, when it looks like death, or pharaoh, or the flood, or the exile, will have the last say –

God

Does

Something

Unpredictable

And

Life-giving.

Today is Saturday, the first day the disciples were alone when it seemed as if this kingdom of God thing had been silenced. For us, we are on the verge of one leaving one month and entering into a new one. Oh, and it is a full moon. Today is a strange day for us, too.

Like them, we are left waiting and hoping, looking for the signs of new life appearing right around the corner.  Like them, we look around and think, "Where in the world is God in all of this pain, sadness, and violence?" Like them, we too wait for something new to happen.

Which is why we wait and listen, watch and pray. Instead, because God is the God of life, we trust the process, embracing the change happening, believing renewal is always waiting, and hope is never dead.

We wait. Tell the story of salvation. And remember how Jesus said, "I'll be with you always."

What else do we need to say?


Friday, March 30, 2018

Through Stained Glass: A Mid-Week Reflection-Skip the Sadness


It isn’t my favorite part of the story.

I wish we could skip past it.

I can handle the verse that says “when he breathed his last…”

And I can handle the part where Jesus tells John to care for Mary.

The part that gets me is the mocking, the name-calling, the crowd who just Sunday cheered for their ‘messiah’ now are bullies. They call him a liar. They spit on him. They chose Barabbas because they can’t think about abandoning their party line and allegiance with Caesar. They chose to hate. They chose the familiar path of complacency instead of the long, laborious work of love. 

So they blamed him because he wasn’t violent. They berated him because he was more interested in making sure all had a place at the table instead of saving space for his friends. They put a crown of thorns on his head because he pledged his life to the One who sent him, and not to the crown of Rome. They called him a traitor because he trusted in God and not in Caesar. They beat him because he beat them with kindness and compassion. They killed him because he was a friend to the widow and to the poor, the eunuchs and the sick, the lady who sat alone in pain and the prisoner in her cell. They killed him because when they wanted him to play the game...
  
Yes, Christ was crucified because he ate with the outcast and despised.

Yes, Christ was crucified because he protested the use of swords and defended the children.

Yes, Christ was crucified because the world lost its imagination.

Yes, Christ was crucified because the world turned its back on each other.

Yes, Christ was crucified because his reign was one where the last was the first, the least was celebrated as the greatest, and those who were lifted up were the ones who emptied themselves out for the sake of others.

This is hard, isn’t it?

Reading these words. Can’t we fast forward to Friday? Do we have to talk about these things? Must we discuss the poor? Must we think about the persecuted? Must we talk about the evils of our lives, in our community, and in the world? Must we talk about politics? Must we talk about religious institutions? Must we do the hard work of naming the ways we continue to crucify Christ in our midst?

Can’t
            We
                        Just
                                    Go
                                                To
                                                            The
                                                                        Empty
                                                                                    Tomb
                                                                                                Already?

I mean, I guess you can. But what’s the point of resurrection then? If we aren’t willing to die to self, then why celebrate the death of God? Good Friday is everything but good. It’s all that’s bad in the world, in us.

Despite the darkness around the death of Jesus, it gives us a chance to choose once more:

Death

Or

Life?

Hate

Or

Love?

Donkeys

Or

Elephants

Or

The Crucified Lamb?

Perhaps that’s why we need today.

So that we may open ourselves up to the mystery of what is to come, open ourselves up for the rescuing of all people, allowing our bodies, our stories to be broken and our blood, our spirits to be poured, discovering…

As one pastor has said…

Our Eucharistic life.

And I’ll say…

Our resurrected self.

Sure, Sunday is coming.

But right now, it is Friday.


And today, this moment, the hour when Jesus says, “It is finished,” is not my favorite part of the story.

A church that doesn't provoke any crises,
a gospel that doesn't unsettle,
a word of God that doesn't get under anyone's skin,
a word of God that doesn't touch the real sin of the
society in which it is being proclaimed--what gospel is that?
...
The gospel is courageous;
it's good news
of him who came to take away the world's sins."
~Archbishop Oscar Romero, April 16, 1978

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Through Stained Glass: A Mid-Week Reflection-The Very End of Love

I find myself reading this story over

And over

And over

And over.

Letting the words run over me the way the water washed over the disciples’ feet, I rest in the good news of verse 1 of chapter 13:

“Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”

These words open the floodgate of tears for me. Yes, I love the Lord’s Supper. In fact, I’m an advocate of celebrating communion every Sunday, the way Jesus instructs and Calvin encourages. I love the telling of that story and the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Bread broken, wine poured out, for us and for the forgiveness of sin.

But it is this part of the story that got me today:
“Jesus…got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.”

In this act of humility, we as the church gain a new vision and a new commandment:  to love one another. Our calling as God’s children is to love one another—to love the whole world finally, I suppose—as Jesus loved us. To do that, we need an infusion of a kind of love that does not arise naturally from the context of the world as we know it. Jesus says it’s by our love, and not by our church attendance, the world will know we belong to God.

Side note: Here’s the thing about this ‘new commandment.’ It isn’t new. Instead, it is part of the new life to which the disciples are invited. A life of one who follows God via the Jesus way involves loving others.

Which is why this story is one I have read over and over and over.

Why today in my study tears finally fall. For me, this is the good news of it all:

            Up until
                        The very end
                                             Christ loved his own.

"Christ's own." That's us. We belong to Christ. We are in God and God is in us. In this love is where we discover, preserve, and create community--the reign of God.

On the night Jesus shared his last meal with his friends, just before Judas would leave to betray him, he gifted them…gifted us…with a new commandment: that we love one another. In bread and wine, basin and towel, Jesus gifts us with God’s vision for humanity—a vision of goodness and compassion for each person and all things.

On the night before he was handed over to the authorities, Jesus gave the commandment of love—a message of gentleness and tenderness, nonviolence and forgiveness.

"By believing against all odds and loving against all odds, that is how we are to let Jesus show in the world and to transform the world."

Yet, for this to happen, it begins with Jesus washing my feet.

Which is why the tears fell.

Why they fall now…

Friday, March 23, 2018

Through Stained Glass: A Mid-Week Reflection-Life and Death

a tree gives glory to God by being a tree. a dog, in this case, Silas,
gives the Creator glory by being a dog. So, too, we give glory
to God by being, you guessed it, ourselves.
this photo is taken during a recent hike at the
Campbell Creekside Outdoor Center for Environmental Education at LC.


Friend, you are loved.

Strong or weak…
            Wise or foolish…
                        Faithful or floundering…
                                    Young or ol…seasoned…
                                                Doubtful or certain…

No matter what, you are loved. No judgment. No condemnation. No expectations.

So much so, God in Christ came to offer you

                                                us

The gift of
                                                life
                                                &
love

Here is something else we must remember.

Paul mentions it,
Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 35Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36As it is written,
‘For your sake we are being killed all day long;
   we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’
37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God loves you.

Let go of whatever it is that prevents you from believing this simple truth.

Name whatever season you are in or whatever part of this journey called life or faith or salvation, and know that Christ is present with you.

Take hold of the good news illuminated by the Spirit or ‘Spark of Universe’ that dwells inside you, and live freely as yourself.

It’s why God created you.
            It’s why Jesus rescued you.
                        It’s how the Spirit reveals the Triune God in your life.

God is big enough to handle the entirety of who you are…

                                    Who we are…

                                                            It’s the reason why you are

Enough.


Join us Sunday. There’ll be a parade, palm branches, and proclamations of God’s presence in our lives…even with the cross of Good Friday in the distance.

Until then, rest in the assurance that in life and in death, we belong entirely to God. 

Friday, March 16, 2018

Through Stained Glass: A Mid-Week Reflection-Devastating Destruction

I took this photo last night, somewhere between
Petersburg and Lincoln--a town right in the middle.


1In those days when there was again a great crowd without anything to eat, he called his disciples and said to them, 2"I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. 3If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way - and some of them have come from a great distance."

Destruction.

Ugh.

This word feels as devastating to enunciate as its meaning.

Sometimes winter is destructive. The season can annihilate hope, rupture our peace, and darken our joy. The darkness causes pause, which we sometimes fill we unhealthy habits. Despite all the frustrations that may accompany winter, it is a remarkable season. Environmentally speaking, winter eliminates many damaging insects and germs. Also, this is the time of year when plants (and even some animals) go into a type of hibernation where they build up all the good energy needed for new growth. As much as we may not like the winter and seek refuge in warmer parts of the country, it provides the necessary cycles of death that eventually lead to life.

Sounds familiar, yea?

In many ways, this happens to us, too. In worship, we have been letting go of our baggage and expectations that may prevent us from experiencing and embracing God’s love for us. We are dying to self so that we may live, which is what Lent is all about.

For the last five weeks or so we have been reading about the presence of God in the person of Jesus. We have learned how Jesus was the heart and face of God. The incarnation of God, the glory of God, was and is good news for us. Especially those of us who have had a hard, long winter. All this talk about death and 'dying to sin' has left us wanting the death-defying gift of resurrection.

I’m here to tell you it is coming. The Light of Christ will soon emerge on the other side of evil, and offers, though it hasn’t ever gone away, the gift of life.

But we must be patient. We must honor the seasons and trust the slow, often unnoticed work of restoration happening within and around us.

Our faith is the same way: we must trust the patient, often hidden work of God happening within and around us.

As we inch closer to Easter, let us continue to allow Lent to do its thing. Let us stay in our disciplines of fasting and prayer as we follow Christ into the wilderness. Let us continue to accompany Jesus though it might mean we confront our brokenness. Let us keep on our journey towards embodying the same love gifted to us by God.

We are nearing the homestretch, friends.

We might be tired. We might ache a little. Chances are, we are becoming restless and irritable. All of which is okay.

Just remember, like the crowds who were hungry and tired from following Jesus throughout his ministry, Jesus sees us. And he’ll do the same for us as he did for them in their exhaustion: when Jesus could have sent them away and back home, he had compassion on them and gave them food for their journey, rest for their souls, and hope for their hearts.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Through Stained Glass: A Mid-Week Reflection-Divine Dreams, Lent's Life

Hey, how is it going?

'It' being your Lenten journey.

Are you feeling the withdrawal yet from giving up caffeine? Are you battling the urge to watch just five minutes of Fox News? How is the prayer/meditation time going?

Is the wilderness as bad as you imagined it would be?

Hey, you're not alone in this journey. In taking up our crosses, we do so together. When I wander from mine, it is my prayer you will lead me back and help me pick it up. When I begin to set my sights on being more relevant than reverent before God, I want you to remind me to get behind Jesus, not in front.

Remember, Lent is not only about us becoming more aware of our brokenness. It is also a time when we must emphasize the love and acceptance God still has for us, despite how many times we fail to pick up our crosses and follow Jesus. It is true, Jesus sees our suffering. And it is also true, Jesus sees us in our moments when we are adversarial like Peter, preoccupied with our interests and possessed with our ideals. Christ listens when we do our best to create him in our image and force him into our likeness. Jesus, however, took on our humanity, just as it is, with all its bitterness and fearfulness, and gave it back to us just as his humanity is, transfigured by the beauty of his living, filled full of his joy. In Lent, we recall how we are first a people of the resurrection, going on always, always giving back to Christ's life to the world.

Though we may walk through the valley of the shadow of death, arriving there by our own doing or not, God is with us-meeting us with the whole power of the love that has overcome all death's valleys.

Hey, you're doing great. The work, and yes, it is work, you're putting in is transforming your heart. Trust the process of Lent, this time of renewal and grace. God is moving towards you. You don't have to resist or earn this gift. Let God clothe you with goodness and mercy; allow Christ to touch the wounds of your heart; and receive the Spirit's gentle caress, one that is as gentle as the daffodils springing forth outside your window.

Jesus told Peter to trust him. To do so, Peter needed to turn his attention to divine things. When we listen to Christ's command, it is then we will see Christ's compassionate and healing presence in our midst.

We are on our way, friends. The wilderness is getting more wild with each step, but each step brings us closer to the heart of Christ and one another.