Friday, January 27, 2012

I have days in my life when I can only say thank you, Lord.

Part of my role is to facilitate the ministry of others. When I began I think I saw myself as the minister and the people were paying for me to do ministry. Now I recognize that we are all on this journey together and that we are all called to this amazing life of love and service to one another.

So yesterday was a wonderful day in so many ways. Because I was doing ministry and watching ministry here at Karl Road.
I meet every Thursday with Kumba, who is a single mother from Sierra Leone who I am mentoring in ministry. She has started a program here on Thursday evenings of mentoring children and yesterday we met for the 4th time. More about that later.

When she and I meet we talk alot about life and relationships as I hear about how she is someone that people are drawn to and she prays for them. She is bringing people into our church - usually single mothers with many children and it is already changing our Sunday worship experience. It is exciting and challenging at the same time.

We had a healing team meeting yesterday afternoon - a time of prayer and sharing.
It is so nice to have an hour of just being open to God's spirit and being able to share with others our need of healing. Here is the wonderful prayer that I shared yesterday -

A Prayer for Healing - Joyce Rupp

Healing God,
Come to my hidden corners,
Open the doors to my soul rooms
That are tightly locked

Awaken in me,
Bring to life all my deadness.
Enthuse the depressed emotions.
Reenergize my inner weariness.
Bathe the grime of my ego-centeredness.
Clarify my confusions.
Fire my neglected love.
Brush off my dusty dreams.
Nurture my spiritual hungers.
Ease my sore relationships.
Deepen my sense of self-esteem.
Stir up my connection with the world.

Tenderly gather in your arms
All that still needs healing,
All that remains wounded and wanting.
May I grow each day into greater wholeness
With a stronger, purer inner freedom.

As I left the church that day, I glanced into Nicki's office (christian ed) and saw her helping Mrs. Torres work on her resume. While I went home to rest the foundations kids came and filled the church for their tutoring.

Then I came back with Chuck at 6 for our mentoring program. Last week we had 12 kids and I took the youngest three into the nursery and watched them. This week we had 24. Kumba keeps bringing more people. They all came late - which is part of our challenge in bringing different cultures together. Janet and Jean Marie prepared sandwiches for the kids and Chuck made french fries. Four of the kids who came were muslim so we left the ham out of their sandwiches. Then we divided up - this time I had 6 kids in the nursery and the muslim mom. At one point she left to pray and her 1 year old started crying and several of us tried to comfort her. As I sat there kids were playing with the kitchen and bringing me "food" to eat. It all took me back. Later I talked with the mom who came here 4 years ago from Somalia to join her husband. She brought her child and has had two more since. Her husband has now left her for another woman.

At the end of the program I got all the kids and adults into a circle and we sang - "If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands" And it was fun.

Then one of the boys threw his hat up and it was caught in the sconce(?) so that Chuck had to get a ladder and retrieve it. Watching him joke with these little boys was just so endearing to me. He was the only man present that night and I thought how important it is to have a man around for these kids and moms.

It was a good day.....a day of ministry

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Blessings at Bible Study

I am home from Bible study and feel better than I did all day. There must be something healing about this time that we spend together.

We always start it with each person sharing a blessing. And Kerry had a great one and gave me permission to share.

She went to Cincinnati to be with her family and she planned to actually skip church on Sunday because she didn't want to push her family and make them feel like they had to go to church. Especially her younger sister, Billie, was resistant to the whole church thing.

Which was why it was so surprising that Billie asked her where they were going to go to church on Sunday. So Kerry thought - yes - they were going! Her sister complained about having to dress up for church - and Kerry said - they could wear blue jeans and find a church where people were pearing blue jeans. Her sister also said that she wanted to go for the music and not for the when the music was over - she wanted to leave. The family got into a bit of discussion about this, but Kerry told everyone to leave her alone and it was enough that she would be going to church with them.

So....Sunday morning came and they wore their blue jeans and found a church that people were going into wearing blue jeans. And they had great praise music for about an hour. And Kerry and her sister loved it! Kerry looked over and saw her wiping a tear from her eye. She was touched.

And then - the minister said that her husband was sick and she was not going to preach and that surely they felt the spirit at work in the music this morning. was perfect
a church where she could wear blue jeans
and hear great music
and no preaching
God is good, all the time.

That is what we say every Sunday evening and we certainly said it tonight as we heard Kerry relay this blessing in her life.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Prayer on the Phone

I pray on the phone more now than ever.

This morning I prayed with three people on the phone.
The first was Addie, my granddaughter. Marnie called to talk to check up on me
(I have a bad cold again!) and then said that Addie was home sick. And would I pray with her. Which I did and afterward prompted the Amen from her. It was very sweet.

And then a woman I didn't know called the church seeking prayer. I talked to her for quite a while about her situation - 5 children, no job, no food, waiting for an appointment with social security, her father died three weeks ago. It was very hard and sad. I asked where she lived and it was near Eastland. So, I offered food to her, but she had no transportation to come this far. And encouraged her to find a church because "life is too hard to not have help." (that is me quoting myself - something I usually say to people who call our church for financial help - if only they knew how much a church will help people who are part of the community!)
Anyway, we also had a prayer as I prayed for strength and guidance for her.

And then I just got off the phone with Muriel who called from Detroit. Her sister just passed away this morning and she was up visiting her every day and knowing that the end was near. We too talked about how she was feeling and then I prayed a prayer of gratitude and blessing on Muriel and her sister and her whole family during this time.

I never knew when I started out in ministry just how important prayer is. It is a lifeline when you are feeling alone and a source of healing and power for all of us.
And it really doesn't matter whether you are in person or on the phone - it really helps to know that someone cares about you and is praying with and for you.

So, if you are reading this I do request prayers for this cold. You don't have to call - just pray! I am tired of being tired and coughing.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Speak for your Servant is Listening

Speak for your Servant is Listening

This is a quote from the text on which I am preaching Sunday. 1 Samual 3: 1-20.

It is always interesting to me (actually more than interesting - awesome) the serendipity of timing. Tomorrow I will be leading a workshop on listening. I planned for this two months ago and did not know that Sunday I was also preaching a sermon on how we are called to listen for God.

So, my week is a week of pondering the whole understanding that listening is a key to everything. It is certainly the key to relationships. I keep learning that most of us are hungry to be listened to. I know I am. At the same time I am always on the alert for the fact that most people do not really listen. One of the quotes from the workshop tomorrow is
"Listening si so basic that we take it for granted. Unfortunately most of us think of ourselves as better listeners than we really are."

It is very hard not to be listened to in those relationships that we count on for understanding. When we are not listened to - we get shut up in the solitude of our own hearts and in the sometimes craziness of our own minds.

What I know is that so many people are lonely - and we are lonely in the midst of living with lots of people. The loneliness comes because we so often do not feel heard by another person.

I feel blessed because I have a spiritual director, friends, daughters and two groups that serve to be places where I can be heard and known. And I know that many people do not have any of these.

And then there is my relationship with God. But I also know that I have the potential to live compulsively so that I think I am listening, but I am actually too distracted and supposedly busy - to really listen for God's voice or look for God's presence.

So, as I start to write this sermon I recognize that it is very easy to SAY - speak, for your servant is listening. It is a lot harder to do it.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

People of the Book - Simeon

This was my first sermon of 2012. I am going to be looking at people in the Bible. With the understanding that everyone has something to teach us.
Sometimes we find inspiration in them And sometimes we find warning. So - with that introduction - let us look at Simeon - the old man and the baby.

25Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him.
26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.
27Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
29“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; 30for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
33And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him.
34Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” 3

Simeon is a wisdom figure in the Bible -
He is not a wisdom figure because he is old - but he is because he is faithful.
There are three descriptors of him in the Bible
1. He is righteous and devout
Greek - righteous - care well toward people - compassionate
Devout - signifies careful about religious - faithful to God’s temple
2. It tells us that he is looking forward to the consolation of Israel - looking for the messiah that is to come. - when you are old it becomes tempting to look back -
One of chuck’s gifts this year - was candy from the forties (do you remember candy cigarettes, buble gum cigars, smith brothers licorice cough drops?) - -
There are industries devoted to looking back - to saying "those were the days my friend"
And the temptation is to think that the best days are behind you, the glory days, and what is ahead is all downhill!
But for Simeon - he looks forward to what God is going to do YET - bring in the Messiah
3. And it tells us that he is guided by the Holy Spirit -
. The text tells us that the Holy Spirit rested on him.
He knew the history of Israel; he knew Hebrew scripture.
Because of his unwavering faith and knowledge of the Word of God, his eyes were certain of God's doing.
It was a sight for certain eyes.

And his life is a model to us of the faith of the elderly -
When I grew up - I thought that there were stages of life - baby, toddler, child, adolescent and then adult.
And that was it. It has only been in the last 20-30 years that there has been study of the stages OF ADULTHOOD - Erik Erikson has been a forefather of that work
And he says that there is young adulthood, middle adulthood, late adulthood. And every stage has tasks and learnings in it - and actually choices
In middle adulthood - choice - between generativity and self absorption or stagnation
In late adulthood - choice between integrity vs. Despair.
Simeon - a man of generativity and integrity - In the second half of his life.
First half of life is about building the building - the tower - of your life -and some people never get past that...the acquisition, the ego, the power...Donald Trump comes to mind
And then the second half of life, the wisdom choice....moves from success to significance. From building my own tower, to seeking to help others...Bill Gates may be an example
And we have a choice - always - because there is an opposite to generative - it is stagnated
There is an opposite to integrity - it is despair

And what the gift of Simeon is - is an example of one who chooses life - every day - chooses to be compassionate, devout, looking forward, and seeking the HOLY
And I see Simeon here - in so many people who keep choosing to look forward - to look ahead - to seek what God has for them in the new day and the new year What this means is - choices that we have as we age - whether we are going to care about the next generation and future or whether we our life is going to keep getting smaller.
So that we come to care about OUR health, OUR money, OUR family.

On the other hand there is great wisdom with age - that comes from an openness to life and an openness to God

And so Simeon is a gift to us for his life - which is why he is the one who sees and then says - he is the prophet who tells the young Mary about this child
And it is a hard word
And I would imagine that this is not what Mary wanted to hear
Probably she wanted to hear -
• that he is going to be a loving and faithful son to you
• He is going to follow in Joseph’s footsteps and everyone will love him and
• he will be a comfort to you in your old age
But Simeon - with his wisdom and truth - told her this child is destined to be a sign that we be rejected - and that many will fall and rise because of him - and that her heart will be pierece
Destined for the falling and rising of many
Maybe this means he is going to be a stumbling block - certainly many people stumbled over the teachings, the actions, and the life of Jesus.
Because there are a lot of people that trip over Jesus - in the Bible - it is the saducees and the Pharisees, and Herod and Pontius Pilate - and the rich young ruler,
Yes - it is also the disciples
Jesus can be a stumbling block
The way of Jesus that loves each of us and invites us into a kingdom where the poor are not rejected but preferred
The way Jesus calls us to forgive our enemy ...actually love our enemy
The way Jesus shows us a life - not of power over others but of servanthood and compassion
We Read our bible and watch the disciples trip over this
Who want to have a ranking, who want to burn their enemies, who want to avoid the suffering of the cross
They trip over the new way of living that Jesus comes to show us
But this phrase - destined for the falling AND THE RISING of many
We stumble over the teachings of Jesus, they force us to fall on our knees even
That falling - that losing pride in our own spiritual achievement, that emptying our self of self - life of humility and service
Fall on your knees in front of the HOLY
And then - we rise

Richard Rohr has written a wonderful book called - Falling Upward - which completely captures this image -
The subtitle is - the spirituality for the two halves of life
And the upside world of the gospel reveals - that the falling leads to the rising
The failure leads to the grace
The mistakes lead to the understanding of the need of God
Some call this a spirituality of imperfection or "the way of the wound"
So - to go back to the understanding of second half of life faith - why is it different than first half of life faith
Because we have lived long enough to fail -
When you are young - you think that mistakes, failures, tragedies are an aberration (playing tennis - missing a shot)
When you become older you learn that mistakes, failures, tragedies are the stuff of life - a part of life - not all of life - but part of life
I can remember when this came to me in a big way - in my late twenties when I was driving my car in Lebanon Ohio - with toddler Audrey in the front seat (yes - kids were in the front seat then!)
And I drove through a stop sign and hit a car - could have killed someone - didn’t - but could have
Led me into a great big depression and what I would now call the dark night of the soul
And it is the part that makes you realize that you are not in control, that you are not self sufficient, that you need help
It is the part that makes you realize that you need God and then you start to see that God is there - in the midst of it all
Strengthening, healing, forgiving - God is there - But more than this
God is calling us to be people who are righteous and devout - compassionate and faithful, looking forward and not backward, and filled with the Holy Spirit
And it is in the falling - that we find Jesus and then there is the rising to answer his call upon our lives.

Jesus- the son of God is destined for the falling and rising of people
The words of Simeon are so true
His gift to us is his life and his words and his song.
It is called the nunc dimities
Nunc dimittis[1] /nʊŋk dɪˈmɪtɪs/ is a canticle named after its first words in Latin, meaning 'Now dismiss...'.[2]
It is a song of gratitude - appreciation
Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; 30for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
He can see God’s salvation which is intended for more than him alone - which means that now near the end of his life there is this deep satisfaction - not just for his dream realized
But that God is at work in the world and bringing Jesus who comes to save us. I can die happy, I can die in peace. And so as we face a new year - the old man’s life and words and song are a gift to us
For what God has done throughout his life - not only for him for for the world

Today is new year's day and I really cannot preach it without talking about New Year's resolutions. This is the day that people make them. And often they are about "first half of life" concerns - our appearance, our finances, our stuff.

And I want to suggest a few resolutions that come from time spent with Simeon
1. I Resolve to be more compassionate this year.
2. I Resolve to devote ymyself to something every day that may remind me of God’s presence
3. I Resolve to look ahead with hope and at the same time appreciate the gift of this moment
4. I resolve to ask for the Spirit to guide and empower
5. I resolve to make life choices that will glorify God

So that as my years add up - I can - like Simeon - have the eyes to see what God is giving to me and to us.