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Showing posts from 2010

Zachariah's silence, invitation or punishment?

I have been pondering the silence given to Zachariah as a result of his unbelief. At first, I thought of it as a punishment but perhaps it is not a punishment but the kind of consequence that is packed with invitation. Perhaps Zachariah was given silence as an opportunity to connect with God at a deeper level.

I know that in our frenetic, fast-paced world it is filled with noise and activity. I am sure in Zachariah's world, the pace was slower and there was less media input. But even in his day, perhaps the ability to speak meant that one could engage freely, controlling one's own silence or lack of silence.

Maybe, just maybe the imposed silence was a good thing for Zachariah's spiritual life. Zachariah couldn't really talk about it with the other men of the village. There was no way to brag about the coming child or the divine way the child would come. He had to keep silent. There was nothing really in it for him... no immediate affirmations or kudos. He could…

Advent Thoughts

Matthew Chapter 1 reveals an amazing, miraculous plan to rescue the world. It begins with an amazing adoption in which Joseph, a man with Davidic lineage, adopts the son of Mary. Ironically through this son, anyone uniting with Christ is adopted by God.

The story reveals a scandalous act leaving Joseph and Mary's community to wonder... "why Joseph would continue his relationship with a suspicious woman and how it could be that Mary's child was begotten by the Holy Spirit." It all seemed so curious, suspicious. In an honor/shame culture, such a scandal dishonored not only their own reputations but those of their family. What courage it took to participate with God at the expense of reputation and social stigma. The young couple separated to God... boldly following God and participating with him in bringing life to the world--even though it may have cost them a great deal of social respect.

This story reveals an amazing conception in which God joins with humanity unit…

True Self/False Self

This week I have been reading David Benner's book, The Gift of Being Yourself and while I have read this book before for a class in seminary, it is touching me again. The tempation is ever present to find myself struggling to secure myself in the good opinion of others, in what I do and in what I have. That struggle if filled with anxiety and self-defensiveness.

I have been wondering often about how serving where one's joy is and serving the world connects. Serving in joy seems so self-centered because it is about one's own joy. But Benner connects the dots for me in that serving in my joy is how I am uniquely wired to face the world with the face of God. So the vocation and the joy go together.

All of that has implications. I also viewed "fun theory" a cute little video going around on facebook and noted that people are more apt to do what is good for them if it is fun. And the authors create a stairway that plays music like a piano to encourage people to take the…

What is grief

When I was in high school there was a buzz about why students needed to take a class on death and dying. Honestly the one thing I remember learning in this class has served me well in so many situations. It is the 5 stages of grief by Elizabeth Kubler Ross. While these stages appear linear, I think that individuals process grief very differently.

My life has also taught me that grief is for more than the death of a loved one. Grief surfaces over any kind of loss--such as the death of a dream, loss of love, loss of a friend. Grief is a word that describes the feelings associated with any kind of loss in life.

The first stage is denial: In denial that first thought is, "this can't be happening to me," or "nothing is wrong," "I am fine." It is a defense against the initial pain one feels at loss.

The second stage is anger, "why me", "whose to blame." At times, those of us who are in grief direct our anger outward toward others, …


This morning I attended a Women's prayer summit. I expected something very different that what I experienced. I was worried that a woman's prayer summit would be sort of fluffy and filled with genderized Christianity that defined women with children, love and home. But what I experienced with a group of might women who are concerned about women who have been abused, mis-treated and battered as well as concerns about domestic violence and violence in the home. I was, frankly impressed with the social conscience and genuine concern for all manner of injustices related to relations between men and women and in the home.

Jesus, The Center Pivot of our faith

Rural Minnesota is scattered with irrigation pivots. My Step-dad was a dealer in irrigation pivots and installed them all over his farm. The center of the pivot is the well that supplies water to the pivot arm which showers water in a full circle around the field. From the air the sphere fed by the water from the center pivot is green and flourishing even in times of drought. The arm is connected to the Pivot and without the pivot there is no water supply for the crop.

Jesus is the center pivot of our faith. In the bible, the gospel of John (John 15) reveals a similar analogy. Jesus calls himself the vine and we are the branches. And when the vine remains attached to the branch, the branch flourishs and bears fruit.

Growing up evangelical we always thought about fruit as saving souls. Perhaps in some way it is about effectivness in ministry but it is also about a way of life characterized by the goodness of God. Paul in his book to the Galatians (5) writes about the fruit of…

Love Until the Fear is Gone

I've been thinking about some of my own fears and the fears that drive our hate and fears that create barriers between people. I have been thinking about the fear in our political climate... fear of immigrants, fear of Muslims, fear of socialists or fear of whatever. And I wonder what would happen if we decided to love and respect others.

The Bible teaches that perfect love casts out fear. (1John 4:17.) I have always thought about that verse from a self centered point of view in that if I am afraid, then what I need is more love. But today it dawned on me that perhaps there is more to this verse or at least another side to it. When we make the choice to love then the barrier of fear comes down and we see one another differently from God's point of view.

1John tells about a community that is struggling with how to discern who are the people of God? And John simply tells them that love comes from God and all who say they know God live as God does and love others the way God lov…

Luke and Kingdom

We have been dwelling in Luke and examining what Luke might have to say to the community who is reading his gospel. Luke tells about the call of Jesus in chapter 4:18:

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord's favor has come. "

Then later in chapter 7, Luke writes about the disciples of John who are sent by John to question Jesus about his calling. They ask: "Are you the one we've been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?"

Jesus answers: "Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard--the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor."

I am attracted to the idea that we are invited to tell what of the kingdom we have seen and heard. Where are we seeing th…

Press Conference Hate Speech toward Muslims in Bridgeport

Friday I attended a press conference held at the Capital in Hartford concerning the hate speech that occured in Bridgeport, CT. I was particularly disturbed that the name of Jesus was used in conjunction with the word "hates" toward Muslim worshippers. I know that those protesting the Islamic Center in New York wish to further deeper relationships with Jesus Christ but I do not believe this was effective.

The name of Jesus is sacred and carries the reputation of goodness and sacrifice and healing. And to see it used to hurt was grating on my heart. More painful was hearing that this was said in the presence of small children, families and persons who were sincerely at worship in a country that offers freedom of religion to everyone.

This nation is not a theocracy it is a democratic republic. And while we may hold fast to the Christian faith we can live in generosity toward those who believe differently. We actually become more attractive if we show that generosity and respect.…

vision so far

I envision:

1. a faith community rooted and united in Christ as imaged by the Eurcharist and Baptism but lived out in our daily lives.
2. a discerning community able to seek the Spirit's wisdom, notice God and follow as best we can, the Spirit's lead.
3. a faith community engaged thoughtfully and humbly with scripture.
4. a faith community that is safe for explorers of faith, respecting questions and giving explorers space to examine what is means to know and follow Jesus.
5. a faith community committed to doing the good in the home, neighborhood and world.
6. a relational faith community engaged in regular, on-going hospitality
7. a worshipping community expressing thanks to God though the arts--dance, canvass, drama; the spoken, written and sung word; and through daily living in devotion to God and his heart for humanity.
8. a community being transformed into the image of Christ through a new relation with Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Article from Gary Walters President of the Covenant Church

Above is a link to an article written by our President Gary Walters on Evangelism. In this article he says this:

"Our challenge for now is this: help those who are far from God hear from God, "I know you, I love you, you were meant for this relationship.""

This is our focus as we reform into the kind of community that helps people make vital and life-giving connections with God. We will do that primarily through building relationships, acts of hospitality, communicating creatively in a variety of forms in a worship gathering, serving others in ways that bring the goodness of God into their world, inviting others into communities safe for exploring faith and through serious prayer.

Notice that a worship gathering is only one form of creating avenues for connection.

What will it take to create an ethos in our community that is connectional and invitational.

vision for faith exploration

This morning I have been praying and thinking a lot about vision and something that has surfaced is a longing for spiritual seekers to have a safe place to explore their faith. I think we live in a time when there is significant anxiety that Christians will shove faith choices in the faces of those curious about faith. Earned or not, the fear is really there. It is there for me come to think of it.

Sometimes what I hear in my faith world are words that suggest the Bible is absolute truth and we must absolutely believe it. That language feels sort of like a hammer or a coercion mechanism--such words feel almost violent, militant. I love the Bible but God never meant it to be a controlling forceful book. I believe God meant the Bible to engage us and invite us into a story about God and his engagement with humanity. In it we find God's desires for humanity to live in relation with himself and how much God has done to draw us to himself. It is a book filled with wisdom for living. It …

Dwelling in Luke; Luke 1:1-7

In Luke 1:1-7 our story begins with the writer Luke, letting the reader know that he has carefully examined the story of Jesus and the new community gathered around Jesus and is now passing that story on to the community of readers gathered to hear the story.

Accounts were sometimes written to one person or to a community. But often they were passed around or read in a gathered community of curious Christ followers or investigators of the Jesus way.

How might the story Luke is telling shape the community of followers and Jesus investigators?

Luke wrote both Luke and Acts and in Luke the author gives the background of how the church was being formed around the life of Jesus. He tells who Jesus is, where he came from and the people through whom he came. the story of Zacharias and Elizabeth and John tell of a barren people awaiting the Messiah. Suddenly this barren couple, righteous people of God find themselves pregnant by a miracle of the Holy Spirit. The child they bear will prepare the …

Matthew 28 the great commission

Yesterday in church we reflected on the great commission in our service. Ascension Sunday is a time for us to reflect on the ascension of Christ and his words of commissioning to the disciples. I noticed the way mountains are imaged in Matthew. On the mountain one gains the kind of perspective that is transforming... hence the great sermon on the mount... the transfiguration on the mount. Mountains are place we ascend to gain a larger perspective.

I noticed in our text that it was on the mountain that the disciples were transfromed from disciples to apostles... from learners to the ones being sent out to make disciples of all nations. I believe in the church today, it is important to move up to the mountain and be transformed from learners, hearers of the word and doers of the word to those who will go out and make disciples. We have a great and holy task to bring the gospel and the healing power of Jesus to others.

We need that in our church today. Often we see within a view from the g…

Initial thoughts on John 14

Today I have been looking at John 14 which speaks about the relationship between love and keeping the commandments. In my NLT and NIV, the scripture reads, if you love me, obey my commands and he will give you another advocate who will never leave you. One commentary challenged the translation of the word obey, asserting that it more likely had the meaning of keep... who ever keeps my words loves me. Keeping involved being faithful to, loving the Word, seeking to live it out in every way. While obedience is a good translation, "keep" leads me to some different understandings.

"Keeping" is actually more consistent with the Old Testament Psalm 119, one of the longest Psalms in the Bible. Psalm 119 says things like, "I have hidden your word in my heart, "I have rejoiced in your laws", "I will study your commandments", "You reivive me by your words," "I have chosen to be faithful; I have determined to live by your instructions.&qu…

environmental faith foundations

This week Wilton is having a Green Festival... Wilton Go Green. The clergy association decided to host a table together showing support for the communal effort to care for the earth. In respect for the diversity of our group, I put together a brochure examining common faith foundations taken from the teachings of Judaism, Islam and Christianity. I was pleasantlysurprised that we share some common views about our role in relation to earth care.

Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater wrote in the Jewish Journal that we have misinterpreted the meaning of dominion as mastery over. Instead, we should understand our responsibility as unique creatures who are able to reason as the ones who will make moral choices about the earth. Our responsibility is serious... we can either protect the planet or destroy it. The Rabbi also cautioned that it is dangerous to consider ourselves above nature or superior to nature or we venture into idolatry. We must consider ourselves as a part of nature responsibl…

thoughts on Revelations 7

This morning I took a very story approach to Revelations chapter 7... It wasn't real apocalyptic or particularily prophetic. What I noticed was that in the midst of incredible suffering and persecution, God gave the Apostle John a glimpse of the day when the church from around the world would gather in a victory celebration.

Gathered were the ones who had gone through the great tribulation, the ones who had followed Jesus in living the mission on earth, through death and out the other side to resurrection. They were in joyful worship having experienced the victory of God for themselves. How amazing to be in the midst of pain and suffering and for a brief moment see the day when all things are made right.

I thought about the image of God wiping away our tears. To me it is more than a sentimental picture of a God who gives you a little hug and then gets out the kleenex box to wipe away my tears. I think this is about a picture of God who sets the world to rights, brings wholeness and …


I've been thinking a lot about sacrifice and what that really means. We can sacrifice for a lot of things... for a career, for a family member, for a cause, for some noble vision.

Some of our sacrifice is pathological in that we give ourselves away to please a person or because we feel we must or are obligated to do some thing that someone we honor considers worthy. Or we even sacrifice to get one of our emotional needs met--or to keep someone we love or want tethered to us. But what does it mean to give ourselves to Christ and sacrifice our lives for him and the vision of shalom born of Christ's heart?

That is harder to answer. Various religiousknowers will use the idea of sacrifice to manipulate followers to give for their cause or for their particular interpretation of the cause of Christ. Often it is interpreted as a political cause or a church cause. This is where discernment kicks in and we need to examine to what and for why we are sacrificing ourselves.

Is it rea…


I've been thinking about grace again especailly as it relates to community and environment. My husband grows flowers in a greenhouse and as the grower, he seeks to create an optimum climate for growth to occur. He carefully augments the soil so the seedling can receive the proper nutrients. He gives the plant water in doses that allow the plant to develop a good root system and remain hydrated. As a good grower, he also sets the temperature for maximum flourishing--not to warm--not to cold. The grower creates optimum conditions for the flourishing of a plant.

I think that God has done that for us with his grace. He has created a loving space for people to grow and filled it with grace. Grace is more than a soap dispenser that is dispensed when we sin. Grace is a space in which we are completely loved and accepted by God--and we will not lose that grace and love and acceptance. It is the optimum climate for growing as people.

While grace offers us a beautiful space of warmt…

Thoughts about Gospel and Gender Roles

I learned last night that a certain Christian group in the US had elevated their definition of biblical roles for men and women to the confessional level--to the level of gospel.

And I grieved.

I see Jesus doing a lot of things in the New Testament related to healing, hearing the marginalized, feeding the hungry, restoring people to community but I don't see him defining particular roles for men and women. The society already had defined roles--some which were oppressive.

I don't for the life of me see how roles can be elevated to the level of Gospel. And I don't see how such narrowly defined ways of thinking about womanhood and manhood can really be good news. And I don't see how we can make one group's assumptions about roles the test for true believers as they have done.

I see Paul addressing the existing social roles in his community and I see him seeking to bring more wholeness in relationships between husbands and wives. I see the church struggling with how to ap…

Initial thoughts about John 21

The lectionary text is from John 21, the story about Peter's restoration and call. I can relate with Peter in his journey from foolishness to wisdom. I love Peter, bravely stepping out onto the water to walk on water, I love Peter's vocal processing and the way he blurts out questions. Peter is so human in his pride. I think that like anyone who chooses to follow God, we dream big dreams and try big things and maybe have loads of improper motives. On the way, we are tried and tested and at times even broken.

I love how Jesus not only calls Peter to shepherd the sheep but how he as the good shepherd restores Peter to wholeness and to the community.

I wonder what Peter would have been like had he not gone through brokenness? Would he have been a arrogant or hurtful shepherd? Jesus first heals and feeds his own and then sends them out in his name to feed the others.

I've been broken... and learned much. I am a different person today... I've been through disillusio…

April 10th more thoughts on Thomas

I have been thinking a lot about Thomas this week. I think Thomas is a model for us as we seek to move from a received faith to a faith that is truly our own.

As children we attend church often because our parents make us attend or because it is simply the thing to do and we benefit. We learn much, encounter God and are exposed to faith. But at some point in the spiritual journey each person comes to a sense of owning their own faith. For some owning faith may come through choosing a church or worship pattern that differs from that of their parents but for others owning faith is a deep, questioning spiritual journey involving facing one's own doubts.

Some of us do this around the time we go off to college. Others, like myself, take this journey in adulthood. And it often happens more than once, especially if one has been deeply disillusioned by faith and by church systems. One begins to question, seek, express doubts, quest. Such journeyers often find that such spiritual q…

Thinking about Thomas... the doubter

I have been thinking about the struggle for faith. We as humans struggle to have faith in God first. It is always easier to trust in what is known, in what we see, in what is tangible. It is much harder to trust in what is not seen.

A futher struggle of faith is to believe that one is worthy and capable especially when one has received--and by received i mean taken into to ones processing filters--messages that say other wise from family of origin and other influential people.

But know all of that helps me make choices with my faith... whether it is little or great. In the struggle to trust in God, i can hear the stories of others and their experiences with God and learn that he is good and faithful and for me. Then in the struggle for faith in myself, i can choose to believe that the messages I received about being unworthy or incapable may not really be true.

This week's lectionary is about Thomas, the one who doubts. I am encouraged by his struggle for faith and to believe.…

Easter Thoughts

What does it matter that Christ has risen? When we think about the resurrection as Christians, we often debate it's reality--whether it actually happened. But what does it mean in practical living? Apart from all manner of theological discussions, I think the resurrection has much to do with being in relation with the God who lives.

How do we notice this God?

The author of Luke recounts a story about a couple of disciples on the road to Emmaus. In the journey, two disciples find that they are walking with the risen Christ. Humans once walked with God in the garden of Eden. Walking is an anthropomorphism used of God being present in the community. Now two disciples are walking with Jesus again. This suggests that we meet a risen Jesus in the journey.

We also meet the risen Lord in the scriptures. In the story Luke is telling, Jesus reminds them of what was foretold in the scriptures about what the Messiah would suffer. As he talked, their hearts burned.

We meet Jesus in the Euchari…