Monday, October 13, 2014

As for me and my house...

This song sung by singer/songwriter, Christopher Williams, is one by Bob Dylan (I just like this version better).  It is the song that came to mind for me as I prepared for yesterday's sermon based on Joshua 24:1-15.  This chapter has the most well-known verse from Joshua that finds its way onto many a plaque "As for me and my household. we will serve the Lord" and connected to it "choose this day who you will serve".

We live in a culture that prides itself on independence and "pulling our selves up by our bootstraps".  We often focus on taking care of me and my own; we have a commercial industry that tells us again and again that its all about "me".

But as Bob Dylan reminds us in this song "it might be the devil; it might be the Lord, but you're gonna have to serve somebody".  And as Joshua calls us to choose who will be serve - we are all serving somebody or something.

We may be serving our calendars, our jobs, our checkbooks, our pride, success, fear....

The choices that we make indicate who or what we are serving.  What guides your choices?  What has first place in your  life?  What/who is it that you just can't say "no" to?  Who or what are you serving?

"As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord"

In many ways, its not about making God first in  your life as opposed to second, third, fourth, but rather in choosing to serve the Lord, this choice infuses the rest of our life and our other choices. Choosing to serve God is reflected in how we spend our money or our time, how we use our gifts and talents, how we live in relationship with one another.  God does not want to be a separate part of our lives, but in all of our  lives.

"Choose this day who you will serve".

What might change for you  if all your choices and decisions were made with God in mind, with God as the guide for your life?  How might that change your life?

How will you finish this sentence: "As for my and my house, we will serve...."

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I believe, help my unbelief...

For the month of August, we are looking at the CREEDS (primarily, the Apostle's Creed).  As Lutherans, this is something that we use regularly - whether its just a part of our normal worship service or in a baptism or as one of our young people and/or a new member affirms their faith.  We join them as a congregation to profess our faith using theses very familiar words
       I believe in God the Father...
               I believe in God the Son...
                      I believe in God the Holy Spirit.

While much could be said alongside the volumes that have  been written about the inner workings of the Trinity (One God revealed in three ways), I will leave that complicated discussion for another time.

The Creeds were originally developed in response to other counter beliefs (Gnosticism and Arianism, in particular).  These statements of faith were over and against what people were NOT supposed to believe. Bishops in Constantine's time (circa 325 AD for the Council of Nicea) were required to "sign on the dotted line" as their own profession of belief in these carefully chosen words.

While we don't require this same kind of signature today, the words of the Creeds have become ingrained within us.  Over the years, I have taken them for granted (much like the Lord's Prayer).  Do you too find yourself repeating them without really thinking about what it is you are saying?  Have they become so routine that we have failed to explore the depths of what they reveal about  God?

In our Affirmation (confirmation) Theme events, we explore them in greater depth, taking them apart piece by piece.  We seek to lift up how they show us the ways that God has chosen to reveal himself to us.  We seek to share how God continues still to be revealed to us today.

Over the next few weeks, we will explore these various aspects of God - as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  But we won't stop there...  For the Creeds are more than statements about God, but as we profess our faith, they are proclamations about what it means for us to speak and to live them.

In Marcus Borg's book, The Heart of Christianity, he lifts up the Latin roots of the word "creed" which means to literally "to give my heart to" (to find out more about this topic, attend the class being offered on Sunday mornings by Michael Boyd).

The heart in Hebrew understanding is not so much about how I feel about someone or something, but rather the heart is the seat of our will or decision-making.  When we give our heart to something or someone, we are committing our whole selves to that person, purpose or perspective.  We are then called to be guided by our beliefs in the ways that we choose to live our lives daily.

As our young people prepare to affirm their faith, we ask them to write their own statements of faith.  They share a few sentences about what they believe about God.

What might your own statement of faith look like?  

How would you finish one of the following sentence:
     I believe God...  
     I give my heart to....

Instead of reciting the Apostle's Creed for the remainder of August, we are asking people to write their own statements of faith and if they would be willing to share them during worship.  If you are willing to do so, please let me know.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Thousand Marbles

Each week, I try to read a few other blogs - most of the time, they are ones that I "accidently" discover through someone else's post.  I just finished reading, A Thousand Marbles by Jeffrey Davis (through the Patheos site) which offers a simple story with a profound message and reminder.  Go ahead and read it now - then come back here.  I'll wait.....

In this life and world when one day seems to blend into another, seasons pass in a blur and we can't even remember what we had for lunch yesterday, this blog reminds us to take the time each week to honor our relationships with one another.  It is more than just counting our blessings.  It is honoring the blessing of the relationships in our lives.

Earlier this week, our newly (re)formed Stewardship committee met and we got talking about the stewardship and care of our relationships.  We often take each other for granted or we  promise ourselves we will spend more time with that friend, grandparent, spouse, child - when we get the chance.  We talked about the gift of our church community and the relationships that have blessed our lives here.

God has entrusted us to each other; we were created to live in community and in relationship with one another.  These relationships are God's greatest gift to us.  How are you being a good steward of the people God has placed in your life?  How are you being called to care and love for these gifts?

We might have more or less marbles than the described thousand available to us - no one really knows the exact amount - but what matters is how we "spend" and use those marbles in our lives.  In the gift of this moment, how will you choose to honor the people in your life?  How will you live those 1000 (or more) marbles?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Everyone has a story

The title of this blog was a phrase that was recently shared with me.  It points to the need for us to consider that we don't know what's going on in someone else's life.  It calls us away from our tendency to judge first and find out more information later.

When that person cuts you off in traffic, you don't know if they are rushing to the hospital to welcome a new baby or get to work on time so that aren't fired.  Their actions might affect you, but we still don't know their story.

Knowing my own complicated family history, I learned early on to give others the "benefit of a doubt", that we didn't know what else was going on in their day or their lives.  There is much that we don't know about one another and much that can be difficult to share.

Everyone has a story.

And in the midst of our own stories is God's story.  From our first breath, we draw in the gift of life that was breathed into the beginnings of creation.  From the moment we open our eyes, we see God at work in our lives - from the rising of the sun, the blooming of a flower to the relationships that are entrusted to each of us. 

Its not so much that God enters into our story, but rather we are in God's story.

Yes, I know there are many who do not believe, who wear their atheism on their sleeve.  This is one of the ways that people seek to make sense of their own life story - hence the variety of faiths and religions that make up our world.  These various belief systems  only enhance and give greater depth to that phrase that "everyone has a story".

As I look back over my own story - the ups and downs, joys and sorrows and even the mundane day to day routines - I see more than just memories or particular snapshots in time.  I see that which has given shape to who I am today (good and bad). 

More importantly, along my life's journey thus far, I see God.  I see those people who God shared in my life who supported me during the rough parts when I couldn't do it myself.  I see the moments of unequivocal joy that celebrated the goodness God has placed among us.  I can peruse my own story and in all of it, there is God.

What is your story?

How has God been a part of that story?