Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Lenten Midweek Reflection on Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16

I do my best to dwell in the care of my God
to take shelter in the shadow of the almighty
from the spiritual desert sun
I do everything I can to take refuge in the Lord
and to allow the most high to abide with me
when eventide falls, and every other time of day as well

and yet, I don't feel borne up
I don't experience the elation of being held in God's arms
I don't see evidence of angels standing guard

to trust in God,
it seems from some psalms
and from some tv preachers
to trust in God, it seems,
is to know no hardship
to know no pain, no struggle

and yet, euphoria … nirvana … heavenly bliss
seems so fleeting
my struggles are all around me
before and behind, above and below
they will not let me go

And then I turn around
recognizing that when I abide in God
though I may experience pain
my joy is greater
although I may know hardship and struggle,
as I give my life over to the divine
I begin more and more to know
that I will still struggle
and that in my struggle
in my pain, in my despair
God does not abandon me
but is always near

God, who's divine body knows our pain and our struggle
our despair and our death

the psalmist is right:

They will call me, says God
and I will answer them
I will be with them in their trouble.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Spring Bicycle Adventure

If you took a look at this blog about a year ago, you might remember that I participated in a 400 mile bike ride. It was a remarkable experience, and I'm looking forward to doing it again this year.

Now, if you weren't reading this blog a year ago (I suppose there may be some, since one of my readers mentioned that I might have more than seven readers … maybe even as many as ten), you may remember me writing a little about that experience.

I got to spend six days riding my bike, one day putting a new roof on someone's home, and the whole time meeting and interacting with great people in every single place we found ourselves.

And, perhaps more significantly, I got to be part of the work of the Fuller Center for Housing, to give people who wouldn't have it otherwise, the opportunity to have a safe, comfortable, and affordable home to live in.

What's great about the work they do is that they do is that it's tremendously financially responsible. Every dollar that comes in to the Fuller Center goes back into supporting the mission of providing housing for people.

Some of their financing comes from the generosity of people like you (see below). But you should know, also, that the homes aren't given away. Every family that moves into a Fuller Center home is expected to work … actually work … on building their home.

Further, every family that moves into a Fuller Center home pays for the home … it's not a handout. The family takes out a zero-interest loan, sets up an affordable payment schedule, and repays the cost of the home.

There are no huge corporations or fat cats making exorbitant profits from Fuller Center homes, families are able to build their credit rating, and all of the money paid on the mortgage goes into building other homes in the future.

I did last year's ride with my dad, who's riding again this year ~ and what's pretty great is that my daughter is also coming along this year.

I feel honored to be able to participate in the Spring Bicycle Adventure, and to support the work of the Fuller Center. I want to invite you, my 7 10 readers, to also support the work they're doing.

Since we all have to raise a certain amount of money for the Fuller Center, I'll provide a link to my fundraising page.  And you may support my daughter's fundraising efforts here.

Thanks for reading, and for helping people have safe and affordable places to live.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday Homiletical Reflections

Bearing in mind the truth that sermons are spoken events, a holy interaction between preacher and congregation that is mitigated by Holy Spirit, I post the text that I used for the Ash Wednesday homily at the congregation I serve. 

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God, and from our Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen

Remember, you are dust
these are the words we’ll hear in a little bit
when ashes are traced on our forehead

these ashes are a reminder for us who are healthy that life doesn’t last forever
a reminder to the old and the ill that death may be approaching very soon
a reminder for the youngest in our midst
that though there are many years to look forward to,
the vitality of life now is not guaranteed forever

so we trace ashes on our forehead
a reminder of our mortality
a reminder that life is fragile, tenuous
to be blown away, scattered as in the wind, as dry and dusty ashes from a campfire

remember, you are dust
my friend* has pointed out that dust is everywhere
that it does a fine job of settling on stationary things,
collecting in rarely ventured places
making its presence known only when a film develops
but, he points out,
did you ever notice how when the light streams through the window just the right way
endless particles of dust are made visible?
Always we are walking, breathing, living in the dust.
he concludes with a reminder that God does some pretty cool stuff with dust

Remember, you are dust
and when the light shines in the right way,
when the light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it
there is beauty even in dust

In the beginning, God fashioned and shaped the dust
breathed into the dust’s lungs
and created life,
life, in which God continues to take delight

God takes delight in life
which, as we are reminded today, will end
but which, as we are reminded in the waters of our baptism
is made new every day by our God, the author and giver of all life

this ash that we receive on our foreheads in just a moment
it’s not simply ash
there is oil mixed in it
(though I must issue the disclaimer that some pastors don’t mix oil in the ash they use)
I do, though … and this oil, mixed in the ash
will be traced onto the same place as the oil used in baptism …
traced in the same place where the cross was traced, perhaps in oil,
when we were sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever.

The oil helps the ash to stick better to our faces
a more long-lasting reminder that we are dust, and we will return to dust
and at the same time, a reminder that underlying the truth of our mortality
is the bigger truth that in God we are given life,
and only by God’s grace and mercy
we have received the gift of new life

Remember, you are dust
mortal, fragile, temporary
remember, you are dust,
and to dust you shall return

remember, we are dust
filled with breath, spirit, life
by our God, who from lifeless dust
creates beauty, and eternally creates new life
remember, we are dust,
and to Christ we shall return.

* the person I refer to is the Rev. Christian Nisonger, whose Facebook posting I used as a template for the thought and language of this section of the sermon text.