Bread for Our Journey-Weekly Devotions

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Some devotions, sermons, and essays to feed you on your spiritual pilgrimage.  You can receive a weekly Bread for the Journey devotion, written by one of the pastors at Luther Memorial by sending a request to luther@lmlc.org.

Traveler or Tourist?

Are you more a traveler or a tourist?  In a recent issue of The Christian Century Peter Marty discusses the historical difference in the two.  In previous centuries travelers were people who were interested in expanding their horizons and taking risks to do so.  They ate local food, ventured off the beaten path, and expected to be challenged and disoriented by strange experiences.  They actively engaged the places they went, trying to meet new people and see the world from their perspective.

Today tourists are much more common.  Tourists want to be insulated from the places to which they venture.  They go sightseeing, but end the day in a hotel which serves familiar dishes.  They collect pictures but few new ideas or perspectives.  Their goal is be in a place without dealing with its smells, language, or customs. They have little interest in being changed by new experiences.  They are much more likely to remember the day the air conditioning on the tour bus failed than amazing tapas from a street vendor.

I suspect there is a little traveler and tourist in all of us.  I am much bolder in exploring new ideas than in venturing into the hinterlands of distant country.  Our risk tolerance varies from one context to another.  Still, the biblical preference is clearly for folks to be travelers rather than tourists when it comes to the journey of faith.

The life of faith calls us to bring what we know into conversation with what is unfamiliar.  It invites us to ask how seeing a new way might change our understanding of God.  Being a faithful Christian traveler means taking seriously a new context and trying to find language which speaks in fresh ways.

Some years ago I was at a conference in Phoenix.  A colleague who served in the area and I were standing on a mesa looking out over miles of cookie cutter homes.  “You know,” he said, “most of those folks have absolutely no interest in what this area has to offer.  All they want is to create a bubble of Wisconsin in a warm place.”  I wonder if the church is too often like that, more eager to create a bubble of familiar holiness than to be changed and invigorated by new challenges.

Traveling always carries a certain risk, but doesn’t anything which gives life?

 

BK

 

Luther’s Lunch at 12:05 p.m.

In nine days LMLC will launch a ministry of hospitality that will feed anyone who stops by  the Campus Center between 12 & 1:30 p.m. on a Friday;  Luther’s Lunch at 12:05 p.m.  The Campus Ministry Committee has enlisted the help of students, church members, and campus administrators.  We have targeted food insecure students and their families.  However, anyone can drop in for food and a warm welcome.  

As we planned we discovered that the menu was the hardest detail.  What can be served to people of various ethnic backgrounds and food allergies?   In order to honor the limitations canned soup will be served so ingredients can be readily shared, bread, fruit or vegetables, and water will be served.  A flurry of considerations followed; safe food handling, where to purchase items, signage and so forth.  You get the idea. 

During the last few weeks this ministry has soundlessly incubated in the hearts of designing servants in the church.  Now it is time for the fluffy seed pod to take flight.  It is time to share the information with people in the community who can help advertise. There is something powerful about releasing information.  Once the word gets out we can’t control the outcome.

That is a little scary.  What if we unlock the door, prepare the food, set the table and no one comes?  What if we unlock the door and find 50 people waiting to be served?   What if, what if? 

I would invite you to volunteer.  Come see what happens on Friday. The time commitment is manageable.    In addition I would invite prayers of support.   May God work through us so we may serve those in need. 

 

JCMS

 

Joy in Ministry

Last Sunday afternoon a group of our members saw a performance of Clybourne Park at Virginia Tech; then we gathered at my home for refreshments and conversation about this provocative play.  As we sat around someone expressed appreciation to Gail and me for hosting the event. I heard myself say, “This brought together three things I love—drama, good food and beverages, and stimulating conversation with good people—it was no burden at all.”

Later that evening I started reflecting on that statement.  It was absolutely true.  Though one might have seen the organizing and hosting as part of my job, it did not feel that way.  It felt like a wonderful moment when something important—reflecting on the roots of prejudice and the difficulty of adapting to change—intersected with other things which give me great joy.

Our ministry in the world should not be just picking the low hanging fruit, doing only the things which we find fun.  But neither should it feel like drudgery.  When it does something is wrong.  I wonder if one reason we sometimes lack joy in our identity as disciples is that too often we are doing tasks simply because we think we ought to do them, rather than because we have gifts and passion for the work.

If you are like me, each day your mailbox is filled with solicitations from very worthy causes and groups.  Yet only one or two really speak to your heart and, therefore, get your contribution.  Faithful, joyful discipleship involves paying attention to what deeply engages our heart, finding that particular place where we have gifts and passion which others may not have at that moment.

As Christians we share a single calling:  to love God and our neighbor.  But that calling is best expressed when we bring our unique interests and gifts to the task.  What are your joys, abilities, and passions telling you about where God needs you this day?  What is the work you might take up which would feel like more like a lark than a duty?

BK

 

 

 

Soon Be Over

It will soon be over. As the vitriol in our political climate grows, perhaps you, like me, have been taking some consolation in the thought that it will all be over on November 8. Except, of course, it won’t. There will be winners and losers. The winners will claim an out-sized mandate and the losers will mount a rear guard action to keep anything substantive from happening. Some will gloat and others will be reinforced in their belief that the country is going to the dogs. Though the campaign is over the reasons for the acrimony remain.

 

Long after the yard signs come down, the issues which divide us continue to stand. We have been treating ourselves to a bender of bitterness, throwing down shots of scorn for those with whom we disagree, but we will awaken on November 9 with a political hangover and the awareness that all that bile has not gotten us any closer to solutions. We will still have to decide how to both ensure our security and be people of compassion. Manufacturing jobs will not magically reappear. Like it or not the demographics of our country are changing and we have to find a way to live together as one people—or admit that the American claim to weaving one culture from many strands is just a fiction.

We like to think that things will work out. But that is just the point, things don’t work out. People work things out by hard effort. We start to make progress by admitting that the problem is not out there, but fundamentally within ourselves. We say we want civility, but rage at the guy who cuts us off in the parking lot. We expect our leaders to give us solutions to complex problems, but can’t be bothered to listen, really listen, to those who do not see the world as we do. We would rather silence than acknowledge the pain of another.

Christians do not have policy answers which nobody else possesses, but we do have a mandate to be people of peace, people who are more concerned about building understanding than winning arguments. That is the contribution which followers of Jesus can offer. Whether we are liberal or conservative our call is to be persons who strive for reconciliation when division is at its worst.

To the church at Thessalonica Paul wrote, “Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the faint-hearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all.” [I Thess. 5:13-15] Some words are timeless; perhaps these are ones for this political season.

 

Faith for All

Sunday was the first meeting of the Faith Five formation group targeting youngsters in K-6th grades and their parents.  I was thankful to see four of our youngsters and their parents.  We had a variety of activities planned: some that were passive and some active.  In addition to conversation about prayer, the group put together hygiene kits for homeless women.  This new model will use on-line prompts that can be used in between meetings.  About every three days I’ll be sending out an e-mail to families that will reinforce what was learned on Sunday and offer a preview of what is to come.  (If you would like to receive them too, let me know. jstallings@lmlc.org)

This Sunday we had the help of three church members and the students from confirmation class.  It was a peek into intergenerational ministry.  Expertise was offered in creating lessons and teaching, various support roles, and the presence of the middle schoolers modeling faith.  Everyone seemed engaged.  There are some tweaks to be made between now and the next meeting, but from my perspective it’s a beginning.  We are building a scaffold that will communicate five basic faith practices to parents and youngsters: share, read, talk, pray, and bless.  It’s about living out our baptismal covenant.  It is about creating intentional conversation about God. 

I suspect this sounds like a report. I want to share, but I also  want is to spike your curiosity regarding your own faith development.  I hope that each member in our congregation is engaging in some kind of faith feeding; on Sunday, in one of the small groups that meet throughout the week, the Thursday morning gathering, the college or the youth group.  There are plenty of options.  Which one interests you? Or I invite you to name an unmet need.

JCMS

 

 

Sometimes moving is more than furniture…

Last week big changes occurred for my Mother. She left the assisted living facility that she has called home for eight or nine years to move to a nursing home. The staff has cared, befriended, and loved her. 

On Monday morning the movers arrived.  They carefully wrapped the furniture that would go to my house and the pieces that would be delivered to my daughter in South Carolina.  These two African American men worked systematically without a break until the van was loaded.  Earlier in the day I had lamented that there were eleven boxes that needed to be taken to the Y Store.  The men volunteered to drop them. It was an especially nice favor.

At lunch time my tiny car led the way with the van following.  Just as everything was going smoothly we approached the uphill climb out of Warm Hearth the engine of the truck failed.  Anthony the lead man remained calm, apologized and said that the dispatcher had knowingly sent them out with a quirky van that seldom had problems.    He put out the road hazard signs and waited to proceed.

We made it to the Y Store where the engine quit again; this time for good.  Again Antony remained calm and apologetic. He said I should go to my apartment and wait.  The company was sending another van.  Once they moved all the furniture into the new van they would come and unload.   They arrived at 6:30 p.m. They had waited all afternoon in the heat with our furniture. They didn’t make it home to their families until late on Monday. They didn’t make it to South Carolina until Tuesday.

Why am I telling you about this?  These men work according to the jobs accepted by their company. They told me that they don’t work every day although summer is “moving season”.   They do back breaking and essential labor.  They seem to work for a company that doesn’t appear to respect them enough to send them out with a reliable vehicle.

 It got me thinking; the only way these men (black or white) would be invited into a white person’s home is to do manual labor. I don’t know anything about their world yet they know plenty about mine.  They are asked to wait in the heat caring for someone else’s stuff. They are asked to sacrifice their backs for a family piece of furniture that doesn’t belong to them. In this instance, I suspect that they work for a company that values the income generated, but sees them as a means to an end. 

This encounter helped me realize that I am naïve. Not intentionally indifferent, but unaware. Anthony and his helper should be treated with the same respect as my mother.  This experience has made the sharp divide stand out to me.  The divide is what the Gospel invites us to reconsider.  It is a point of transformation where the awareness alters our behavior.  I offer this reflection for your consideration.

 

JCMS 

 

The Bread was prepared for you this week by Pastor Stallings.

O my soul, bless God.

   From head to toe, I’ll bless his holy name!

O my soul, bless God, don’t forget a single blessing!

   He forgives your sins—every  one.

   He heals your diseases—every  one.

   He redeems you from hell—saves your life!

   He crowns you with love and mercy—a paradise crown.

   He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal.

                                         --Psalm 105:1-5a  The Message

This psalm is a part of the upcoming readings for this week.  It recalls the many ways God has blessed human beings.  Throughout the whole psalm it talks about God’s relationship with his people.

Human beings are the only ones that want to remember; history, journals, lists, memoirs each recall a time and place for a nation or an individual.  Part of what makes us human is to remember. Have you ever thought about that?  A whale doesn’t really care.  A blue crab is never going to write a memoir, but humans we want to know where we have been, what we have done, and who we have met.

I’ve been doing a little packing at my Mother’s apartment.  I found a bird caller that belonged to my step-father Hal.  It is a little red wooden cylinder with an aluminum stopper.  When the stopper is twisted it produces a generic bird call or the sound of an angry squirrel.  This item was a great find. It made me remember his love for bird watching; the hours he would spend sitting in a field for the Christmas bird count, the foreign places he would go to bird watch, and all the adventures he had in the wild.  It was a pleasant to remember him. We like tactile things and the written word to help us remember where we have been, what is happening now, and where we might go from here.

We need the writings in scripture to remember the beginnings of our relationship with God. We need to remember how we are cherished and loved by God.  The ways we are called to be disciples who share Gods love with others.  The nourishing word and sacrament shape us and our understanding of God.  How can we know God unless we read, talk about it and practice faith? How can we recognize God if we don’t live in community?  

We need to remember who we are.  How can we know if we do not remind each other or teach each our children the stories of God?  How will we know who God intends us to be unless we engage in the living word of God?  The “buzz words” shared by the psalmist connect us with a powerful God.  May the steadfast love of God come alive in us all. 

JCMS

Something Rotten
What do a Broadway show and Rudy Giuliani have in common? Stay with me for a minute. I recently saw Something Rotten; that’s not a judgment, it’s the title of a musical playing in New York City. Set in Shakespearean England, the play’s premise is that an aspiring young playwright is searching for the next big thing. He consults a soothsayer, who tells him the next big thing will be something called “a musical,” a theatrical experience where the dialogue suddenly stops and characters break into song. The young man is incredulous, and becomes increasingly so when the soothsayer starts talking about dance breaks and production numbers. Of course, its one big inside joke, a musical about all the tropes of musicals. The serious point (if there is one) is that there was a time before musicals. This art form which we take for granted, and many love, was once strange and brand new.

 

The day after I saw Something Rotten former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani was in the news, roundly condemning all Arabs and Muslims as a danger to America. I wondered what he would say to someone asserting that all Italians are filthy criminals, that they refuse to learn English and are a dishonest, violent people who harbor Mafioso thugs, that their immigration to American threatens to water down the pure Anglo-Saxon bloodlines, that they are a political danger because they owe allegiance to a foreign sovereign (the Pope)…Wait, actually that’s exactly what Nativists said when waves of Italian immigrants hit Ellis Island in the late 19th Century. The irony of a Guiliani in New York City spouting such vitriol would be hilarious if the blindness were not so sad and the potential consequences so dire. I guess all it takes to get your xenophobe card is a few generations of assimilation, the decades needed to move from feeling like an outsider to joining those who revile “them.”

Something Rotten and Rudy Giuliani, in their own ways, remind us how hard it is to envision and accept change to what we take to be the constants of our lives. We instinctively react to changes with disbelief, resistance, fear, and anger. But that is finally a losing proposition. The world does change, with or without our consent, and our task is not to stand like guards at the fortress of the past but to be scouts which discern new possibilities on the horizon. The world is too dangerous, the challenges too complex for us to think scapegoating is an effective strategy. More than that, it is antithetical to the gospel, assuming we care about that…

 

Baking Bread and Living Presence 

Last week I was making communion bread for a memorial service.  I haven’t done this in quite some time. I had forgotten how comforting it was to think about who would attend the service, the feel of warm dough under my fingertips as several ingredients were held together with oil, molasses, and honey.  I savored the time to think about my friend as well as the loved one she had lost.  I enjoyed recalling the various times I have celebrated this sacred meal with colleagues, family, and church members.  The holy presence of God always shows up for dinner whether it is a grand cathedral, a sick room, a windy beach or a frosty hilltop.

All these thoughts prompt me to appreciate the call to live in community.  Community is essential. Most people have a network of individuals that will respond if they lift a hand and ask.  These people gather when someone is sick, when a child needs another loving adult, or when someone is dying.  The same ones join in the celebrations of life. God made us for community, to be in relationship with God, and to care for creation.  It makes me think of the passage from Acts where it says the “apostles devoted themselves to teaching, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers.”      -The Message, Acts 2:42. 

Our landscape becomes unbearable when we cut ourselves off from God and each other. Wendell Berry writes in The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays:  “People use drugs, legal and illegal, because their lives are intolerably painful or dull. They hate their work and find no rest in their leisure. They are estranged from their families and their neighbors. It should tell us something that in healthy societies drug use is celebrative, convivial, and occasional, whereas among us it is lonely, shameful, and addictive. We need drugs, apparently, because we have lost each other.” 

The ways in which we lose each other accumulate like grass clippings when we listen to the morning news.  Each day we learn about callous grabs for power, heartless greed, and carnage. As humans we can’t seem to push away from the tasteless table of misery.  How can we continue? What will heal us?

I think that it comes down to trust.  Somehow healing can’t be a solitary endeavor.  We have to believe that the table is set with the “body and blood of Christ given for all”.  Healing is about hospitality and the gathered community.   It is about coming together to celebrate life, to mourn, to dance, and to feast so that we do not lose each other—it’s about our relationship with God, God’s word, and God’s life giving presence in the sacraments.    JCMS 

 

Sidewalk Courtesy and Trash

I meet him most mornings as I take my daily walk around the neighborhood. I’m trying to keep lungs and knees in some sort of working order; he is exercising his two dogs. Because one of the dogs is both big and skittish we often do a little sidewalk tango, one of us yielding to the other. Sometimes he pauses at an intersection until I pass; if there is no traffic I give him the sidewalk and walk on the far side of the street. We have talked very little, but I have always thought he is the kind of guy I would like to know better.

 

This morning I saw him in a different place. I was driving down Main St. and he was walking in to work (I assume). I was caught behind a bus at a traffic light, so I could observe him for a minute or so. He was walking with a friend but twice in thirty seconds he stooped down and picked up some trash off the sidewalk.

Perhaps you are wondering where all this is going. Sidewalk courtesy and picking up trash are not earthshaking events. That’s just my point. If you are like me you spend a lot of time feeling overwhelmed by events you can not control or even mitigate to any great extent: devastating floods, interminable wars, chronic poverty, a rising tide of poisonous prejudice—and the list goes on and on. We can, however, control how we live in the blandly ordinary moments of life. We can make our corner of the kingdom a little less ugly and vicious.

I am sure my dog walking friend has no idea I saw him this morning. But I want to thank him for that small action along the street. I would guess that he will not even remember it; most of the time people who brighten the world do so less out of intention than because that is who they are. We can and should put our shoulders to the work of dealing with the “big” issues of our day. That work begins in basic courtesy and anonymous acts of kindness and service.

 

Values and Fear

I had already written this week’s Bread for the Journey—then Orlando. As I write this 49 persons are confirmed dead with others in critical condition following the shooting at a gay nightclub. The politicians have mounted their respective ramparts, using the incident to emphasize positions long in place: We need gun control; everyone needs to be armed. Secure the borders against Muslims; stop anti-GLBTQ violence. We are at war with an international conspiracy; the greater danger is home grown intolerance. Each will tend to favor one position or the other, but parsing the politics is not the point of this Bread. Rather, I invite you to think about a more fundamental issue.

 

Writing in the aftermath of this tragedy Karen Tumulty observes, “It has always been true that the toughest issues pit our values against our fears.” Our values are supposed to be the gyroscope which keeps us balanced when the world is spinning; they are the North Star by which we steer when we feel lost and disoriented. That’s why we call them values; they are what we hold dear, the convictions we will not sacrifice to expediency. It is precisely at the moment when we are most afraid that we must reflect on what values we will not compromise. Nothing is easier than affirming unfettered free speech when hateful rhetoric presents no real danger or glibly calling for greater security when we believe we will not feel the burden of irrational prejudice. We prove we hold our values precious when they drive our actions at inconvenient times.

My goal this day is not so much to tell you what you should value as to invite you to seriously reflect on what you do in fact hold dearest. Just as important, think about what is making you fearful this day. Fear is most powerful when we do not acknowledge it, for then it steers us without our conscious consent. When we name our fear we can better assess its reality and the cost of letting it drive our lives.

To prime your pump I offer two quotations, a prudential observation attributed to Benjamin Franklin and a timeless promise from our Lord:
• “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
• “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)

 

Be Bold

               Ten days ago I was in Lower Manhattan with seven other women. Over the years we have shared many adventures; training for triathlons, bike trips, the conquests and calamities of parenting, shopping, and dining experiences. This was by far the most interesting venture.  We were in NYC for what they claim is the world’s largest charitable bike ride. After walking over the Brooklyn Bridge from our hotel to pick up the ride packets, strolling through an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, exploring Chinatown, and Little Italy we were languishing on the sidewalk looking for a cab. 

               An Uber driver with an SUV came to our rescue.  We piled in and began to make small talk with the dapper man whose name we couldn’t say or spell.  “Have you lived in NYC all your life”?  He smiled and launched into a heartfelt story.  He had arrived with his parents and multiple siblings from Corsica over 50 years ago.  All they had was a $1.  Almost immediately he began to work on the docks where he lost half of his hand and little finger when it was crushed by a pipe. He married and had two children who completed high school and graduated from college. He proudly told us that his daughter was an accountant and his son was a fire fighter in the city.  He said this is “the greatest country.  My family is living proof that you can come from poverty and become someone.  I am proud to live in this country-your country saved my life”.

               Over dinner we discussed the events of the day.  We agreed that more people needed to hear the earnest story of our Uber driver.  We talked on about the  city papas enjoying the playground with their young children or meeting an Orthodox Jew holding the hands of his children—asking everyone who shared the sidewalk if they were Jewish-then saying "Pesach" for “Happy Passover” or “may God bless you” if they were not. He was an amazing witness for his faith tradition as well as demonstrating respectful acceptance for non-Jews, just as the driver was a witness of hope.

               These experiences made me think.  How can “shy Lutherans” or introverted Christians become enthusiastic about faith and hope so that we unabashedly share it?  It’s a challenge for many so I’m throwing it out there.  We often get caught up in sharing how we have been mistreated and don’t remember to tell stories of hope. Frequently we are reluctant to share our faith-how can we courageously share our roots—the central identity of our being with joy and passion?

               The season of travel will arrive soon when many more of us will have the opportunity to be among strangers.  It might be easier to tell stories of faith and hope as an out of towner.  After some practice sharing we could bring it home and boldly share with others the joy we find in Christ.  (Believe me it will be as big a challenge for me as you!)

JCMS

 

                

 

Strangley Warmed

“Don't worry about gathering a crowd. Get on fire. They'll come to watch you burn." --John Wesley

This quote from John Wesley was not familiar to me until Sunday evening after we had finished a congregational planning meeting.  During the afternoon many church leaders assembled to uncover the strengths and passions of the congregation.  A couple of ideas surfaced—as we continue to process the discoveries of the day new directions will emerge.

The Wesley quote caught my eye for several reasons.  The Holy Spirit is what sets us on fire. The Holy Spirit has to be present to move us forward.   If the “fire” is not there the embers smolder and burn out. The quote invites us to ponder what we do.  In our life together, are we doing anything that needs to burn out?  Some activities or programs that are repeated can lose relevance and they need to die.  In the same way ideas may be glowing and need to be fanned into full flame.  This is our opportunity to think critically about subtracting or adding initiatives.

The quote reminds me of something that our presenter asked us to consider as we cast a vision; is it doable, is it fun, and most importantly is it faithful?  Do we have the gifts and resources to do it? Will the initiative engage the congregation from younger to older?  Will whatever we do help us to faithfully live the Gospel?  If we implement an activity--will it add to our faith?

This quote inspires all of these thoughts and seems very appropriate to me as LMLC moves forward with prayer, passion, and a new vision.  Come be strangely warmed by the fire of the Holy Spirit that burns within.  Join the excitement and add your ideas as we imagine the future of LMLC. 

JCMS 

 

Oak Tree

Some years ago I read an article by a church consultant entitled something like “Get Rid of the Oak Tree.”  His topic was not landscaping but better meetings.  He told of a congregational council which had “oak tree” on its monthly agenda for a year.  A very old tree stood in the front of the church yard and there was much debate concerning what to do about it.  Some said it had been there for years and had caused no problems, so, they said, leave it alone.  Others lobbied to cut it down before it fell on the church, reasoning that was just a matter of time before it caused a problem.  Still others suggested that it be trimmed, but that option prompted further discussion about whether trimming should be done by the property committee or a professional team.  Round and round they went, taking up valuable time every month—and never reaching a decision.

The author said that every church has an oak tree and it is important to identify the things which suck energy from the group, act thoughtfully on them, and then move on to what is most important.  In my experience that author was right on; most groups do tend to get sidetracked by niggling issues which take up way more time and energy than they deserve.

The insight applies to more than church meetings.  Think about your daily mental agenda.  Is there a conversation you really need to have with someone, but you keep putting off because it is likely to be awkward or unpleasant?  There it sits in the back of your mind, taking up space on your agenda but getting no closer to resolution.  Unresolved problems in relationships are emotionally draining; more than that they block us from more constructive ways of spending our time.  Like a car stuck in the mud, we just churn our mental wheels without getting anywhere.

Better to forthrightly seek reconciliation.  Paul offers some good counsel, “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger [Ephesians 4:26].”  Note, he does not say we should pretend that everything is okay when it is not.  Rather, we admit our anger, but then move toward reconciliation as quickly as possible.

What is the oak tree you need to check off your agenda?

 

BK

 

My mind is swirling this week.  I bet you are too.  When I can’t figure out a good reflection to share I turn to the poet Mary Oliver.  She always provides some calming words before I rush into the world. 

-JCMS

Why I Wake Early

Hello, sun in my face.                                                                                                                                                           

Hello, you who make the morning

and spread it over the fields

and into the faces of the tulips

and the nodding morning glories,

and into the windows of, even, the

miserable and the crotchety---

 

best preacher that ever was,

dear star, that just happens

to be where you are in the universe

to keep us from ever-darkness,

to ease us with warm touching,

to hold us in the great hands of light---

good morning, good morning, good morning.

 

Watch, now, how I start the day

in happiness, in kindness.

Marked with the Cross of Christ 

Yesterday around the dinner table the college students were excited; class rings for the 2017 graduates had arrived.  There were more than a few satisfied students with new sparkles adorning their hands.  It was fun to look at the rings and have students explain the various symbols.  This led to conversation about the upcoming Ring Dance; dresses, suits, shenanigans for mentors and mentees in the CORP of Cadets.  Clearly class rings are an important part of the Hokie identity for students heading into their last year of study.

It would seem that our community never lacks for an opportunity to celebrate!  The Holy Week, the Easter Vigil, and Easter Sunday services gave us plenty of opportunity to reflect and rejoice.  At the Vigil on Saturday Claire and Xavier reaffirmed their Baptism stating what they believe about God coupled with the invitation to continue to live as God’s people sharing their gifts with the community of faith.   For all who attended the Vigil was an opportunity to remember our own baptism, a pivotal point in our Christian identity. 

I’ve been thinking about that evening of celebration and how the baptized  will respond.  Do we wear the identity of Christ and live it in our daily lives with as much fervor as a class ring? 

Several years ago the then Presiding Bishop of the ELCA Mark Hanson wondered how our living faith would manifest itself if each Christian had a small cross tattooed on the right hand between the thumb and forefinger. The mark of the cross would be visible when shaking hands, handling money, or reaching for items.  What do you think?  If your dominate hand was marked with a small cross would it change anything? 

I’m not suggesting that anyone rush out and do this; I am inviting reflection and action. The cross of Christ is a symbol of our identity and our Risen Christ.  It is something to celebrate and share.   As a congregation we still have the responsibility to guide our young friends like Xavier and Claire. As a community of faith we need the encouragement ourselves.

How will the “spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord, the spirit of joy in God’s presence” be kindled in you?

JCMS