Welcome to our blog! This is a place to share ideas, thoughts, concerns and joys of our faith journey. I'll be posting sporadically, but hope you will feel free to comment and join in the discussions.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Easterly Observations

I am in a hurry to get to Easter. Not because Easter is so hallowed to me, although it is. And not because we finally get to say Alleluia again, although that’s fun too!  Nope. I’m in a hurry to get to get to Easter because my son who lives in California is coming home for a few days. His girlfriend isn’t coming East with him this time, and although I really like her a lot and respect their relationship, it means I get to “have” him all to myself—well my husband and daughter and myself.

I got thinking about this, though, after writing and expressing this. Easter has changed in our household. My family no longer shares that joyful, early morning “dress up fest” that we used to do each Easter. I have myriads of pictures from our Easter Sundays but only until they were in high school. Then no more. Because as they got older, I gave them the choice of attending services and it just didn't speak to them any more. Because they are their own individuals now, I do not have the right to “drag them” to services.  The children have their own houses/spaces/agenda.  Christmas is a tradition in which they indulge their mother with the obligatory visitation to the sanctuary. But Easter doesn’t seem to have the same pull.  And I wonder why that is. The two biggest celebrations of the church year and only one is considered worthy of shuffling down the aisle and finding a seat amongst the crowded masses who in their own way have shuffled down the aisle as well.

Easter is an exuberant celebration in the church! We sing Alleluia, we raise our voices in heartfelt hymns, we smile with the knowledge that Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Why aren’t we as ecstatic as we are in that cold, evening in bleak mid-winter?  Spring is breaking forth! It’s lighter in the morning when you rise…well, assuming you rise in the morning.  

I don't have any answers here. I am excited about Easter because I believe God is reminding us that he is with us as we break out from or woolen mittens and knitted hats and don Easter bonnets and flowery dresses and brightly colored suits. And yes, I'm excited because our son is coming home. They are two uplifting and happy events intertwined. And chocolate is once again on the menu. Alleluia!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Let Me Tell You a Story

I went to a workshop today. I haven't been to a workshop in quite a while. It was given by a group of the church who are working to help develop leaders in congregations. But it was helpful for those of us who needed a new perspective as well. We were reminded that we all have a story, we have a view of our life and how it is lived out. But to talk to others about our faith, we need to share the stories of the Bible because how else will people come to understand what we are professing on Sunday morning.

Stories are essential to faith. Before people could even read, the stories of how things came to be were passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth. You sat down around the fire at the end of the day and told stories of how things came to be, how they are supposed to be and how we can still shape them to be. Stories of bravery and heroism, sure. But tales of mistakes and misunderstandings, too. Because the story of people isn't perfect, because people aren't. I think we've forgotten how to tell a story. Ours or the Bible's. I think we know these biblical stories (some of them anyway) so well, that we forget the reason for telling them. To get the point. To understand the ideas and truths behind the story. We forget that telling a story fixes it in your mind so much better than just bashing you over the head with rhetoric and platitudes.

So let's return to telling stories, both our own and the ones found in the Bible. They are full of passion, hope and the best thing of all:  God's love.

In the beginning...

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

To Ash or Not to Ash, That is a Question

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. We had a church service tonight and during the service, as per usual, we were invited to come forward and receive ashes on our forehead. We've been doing this for a while (a while, meaning years!) and yet I've never actually been comfortable receiving them. Not because I don't believe that I am from dust and to dust I will return (which is what the Pastor says while marking your forehead). But because the reading from the gospel text seems to deter me from doing it. You see the gospel is the story of Jesus telling people not to flaunt their religious practices for all and sundry to see. And it felt like I was showing off, when I had this black mark on my head. Jesus reminds us that taking care of the sick, elderly, marginalized and the "other"is what our faith is to be about. It isn't the fasting, or the beating of the chest or the loud murmurings (or the ashes on the head) that really show what we believe. It's the passing the hug or the smile to anyone who looks like they might need it. It's helping someone get up when they are down. It's being there for others, and not for the recognition, but for the sheer unmitigated joy of giving without worrying about receiving. I'm not always good at this. I would suspect many of us aren't. But Lent--these 40 days, gives us an opportunity to see what it means to be a follower and --well--follow the example. Do the good deed. Not because it gets you anything, but because it feels good to do it and it is what we are called to do as Christians. Pastor pointed out in his sermon that this receiving of ashes isn't to show anyone how pious we are, it's to remind us whose we are. A symbol for US.

So I went up and got ashes because as the Pastor reminded me, it imprints the idea that I am a follower of Jesus, not to show off--after all the day is done and I'm home in front of the computer--who's gonna see? So it felt right this time. Thanks, Pastor Jay for the encouragement.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Grappling With the Gospel

Grapple is a good word. We don't use it that often anymore. I don't know why. There are lots of words that have gone "out of use" so to speak until someone resurrects them. Grapple means to wrestle, struggle, come to grips with, usually with a problem that doesn't seem to have an easy answer. We grapple with things that are tangled and convoluted and hard to figure out on the first pass.

Recently, the Gospel lessons from Matthew have been "grapple-worthy". The seem contradictory and somewhat judgmental. They don't sound like something we think Jesus would have said and we ask ourselves, why would he say this? Why would he point these things out. And in our discussions we have come up with a few answers--at least they sound like feasible reasons to us! One of the things I read this week, said something along the lines of, laws set down in Jesus' time for the Jewish people were stringent, yes. But there is "stuff" under and around the law that needs attention as well. It is not easy to be a follower of the One True God. And frequently, we don't understand how we can possibly love our neighbor as our self or how we can turn the other cheek to someone who so obviously likes the sound of a slap on the cheek.

Because God loves us and all of creation, we don't get to choose what is lovable. We don't get to decide if that person is worthy or unworthy of love. Those judgments are for the Almighty to decide and we probably don't have all the facts anyway. We don't have to LOVE everyone, we have to love everyone as a creation of God. I may not like what you do or even what you say, but someone, somewhere loves you and it's not up to me to tell the world what a despicable character you are when you might in fact be an all right person to other people, just not to me. I'm frequently confused by this and want to make sure everyone knows what a bad guy that guy was to me. I want to feel justified in my self-righteousness. But the Gospel doesn't let us get away with that. And so, I have to get down on my knees again and ask forgiveness for being a jerk. And happily, being a Lutheran, I know that God has forgiven me and will give me yet another chance to be the person he thinks I am.

So we continue to grapple with the Good News. And struggle to understand what Jesus said and did and why it was important. And we keep coming back for forgiveness, because we need it and God knows it and loves us anyway. So like Jacob, we or at least I, will keep wrestling away. Come and join us as we question, talk and well, yes, grapple with the Gospel Wednesday nights or Sunday mornings during our Adult Sunday School class. We might need you to "tag" in while we sit out and ponder some more.