Category Archives: Communion

Expiration Date

This is from a few weeks ago. Fortunately the scene we witnessed at the run had a happy ending.

 

Last time I was here I talked about how I hadn’t been paying much attention to god and what he was up to, and I prayed that I’d do better. As you know, you have to be careful what you wish for.

A few weeks ago I was participating in a cancer walk with and for my dad who is fighting pancreatic cancer. Prior to the walk there were some speakers, notably a woman whose husband had recently died. She talked about the way her husband lived prior to his death. He made plans, he spent time with his kids, he did the things he thought were important. His widow said that he was not defined by his expiration date, that is, the life expectancy he was given by his doctor, an expiration that he out-lived by a couple years.

Then during the race, my family, and the rest of those at the race, were reminded in a horrible and tragic way that all of us, not just those with cancer, have an expiration date, and that none of us know when that date is. Any of us could go at any time. Now as Christians, we have prepared for what will happen to us after we die. But where I think we drop the ball is in how we live in the meantime.

Jesus talked about a new heaven and new earth. But he also talked a lot about this earth and our role in it. In the prayer many of us have memorized, he prayed “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” I think he’s counting on us for that. Jesus said that we, the hands and feet of Jesus, will do greater things than he did. To know what that means, I think we can look at the the life of Jesus. He loved his enemies, told the story of the Samaritan who did that, and then instructed us to love our enemies. He spent time with the poor and outcast, and he told the story of those who received their inheritance because they welcomed the stranger, fed the hungry, and visited the prisoner.

The woman at the cancer walk spoke about living boldly and wildly in spite of our expiration date. Who better to do this than folks who shouldn’t be worried about our expiration date in the first place.

So as we sit quietly together for a bit to remember the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, let’s not just remember him, let’s be inspired to do something.

We will all expire. In the meantime, we have been called by the creator of the universe to participate in bringing reconciliation and redemption and renewal to the world. We have not been called to bury our talent and wait for the master to return. But instead to bring our gifts to the world, to our neighbors and neighborhoods, to the lost and alone, and to strangers and enemies. We are not called to live a life of fear, but of reckless love, to work to fulfill the prayer of Jesus, to bring about god’s kingdom on earth.

Amen.

To Dust You Will Return

From last week. Happy Lent everyone.

 

Good morning. Here we are a couple weeks into Lent. This year Lent kind of snuck up on me. Sort of literally. A week and a half ago I was at an ice cream parlor with some students after a tour of the capital. Yes, Central Dairy. And a woman walked in with a scruffy looking swastika tattoo on her forehead. “Bad life choice much?” I thought, or something equally snarky. Then I noticed that her young son had one as well. Good grief! Now I really got judgey. “White power parent of the year. Dip into your meth fund for that little beauty?” As my mind prepared the next zinger, it came to me that it was Ash Wednesday. Oh. Right. And I sat there quietly eating my ice cream and feeling small.

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.

Ash Wednesday is the first day of lent and is observed by a brief service where ashes are, usually in the sign of the cross, smeared onto the forehead, a reminder of where we come from and where we are headed. Then 40 days of preparation for Easter, generally associated with Jesus’s 40 days in the desert. I also learned in my bit of research that it’s not just the Catholics and Episcopalians any more, but many denominations, even baptists, smearing ashes. And not just in church, but on street corners, subway stations, and in cars at intersections waiting for stop lights. And, Ash Wednesday is a service that the Catholic Church makes available to everyone–Protestant, Islam, Hindu, atheist, even those excommunicated from the church, are welcome at Ash Wednesday.

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.

I’ve talked about lent before and the importance of self examination and self denial and remembering Jesus’s time of temptation. But not Ash Wednesday. And while the Ash Wednesday service is one of my favorites and I’m sorry I missed it this year, I’m not sure what it is that appeals to me. What does it mean? And why is it that this ancient ritual about our mortality is gaining popularity, not just in the church, but on the street corner?

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.

Is there some comfort to be taken in that? When we’re sad and discouraged and tired. We are all of us in the same boat. Catholics and Protestants; Muslims and atheists; people on the street and people in the pew; mothers who take their kids to church and then out for ice cream, and judgmental school teachers. We are all here for a brief time, and then we’re gone. And that’s the way it’s always been.

This morning as we prepare for communion, in this time of lent, of preparation for Easter Sunday, let us not hurry past the fact that we worship a god who for a time dwelt among us, who was at times sad and discouraged and tired, and who, like all those who came before and after him, died. And let’s not race to resurrection Sunday, but instead take some time and sit with what it means to follow a god who is not just waiting for us at the end of our journey, but a god who is with us when we’re weary, when we’re lost, when we’re in church and when we swear we’ll never go back, when we’re at our best and our worst, a god who loves us all the same, regardless of who or where we are.

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.

Amen.

Why did Jesus come?

Here’s my communion from last week. I didn’t realize until I was finished delivering it Sunday that I didn’t say anything about communion at all.

 

Merry Advent everyone.

Advent, as you know, is the time before Christmas.  It is the time of waiting and preparing for the arrival of Christ. (Just 19 more days.)

As the nights grow longer, and the darkness seems to grow darker, we wait for god’s light to come to us. We wait for the hope, peace, joy, and love that Christ brings to the world.

And the recent days have been dark. The news reminds us that we respond to fear with fear, hate with hate, violence with violence, murder and destruction with more and more of the same.  And the commercials remind us that often our first response to the darkness of the world is to look for solace in all the shiny things we can buy, the latest and greatest replacements for things we don’t need to replace, and all those cool gadgets to fill the empty places in our lives in this dark and scary time.

It’s easy to forget that it’s Jesus we are waiting and preparing for.

I want to look for a minute, as the darkness seems to be closing in, at why Jesus came, and what it is we are preparing for.

In Luke’s gospel several people speak to why Jesus is coming, to what we are waiting for.  Let me paint a little collage for you. Hopefully there is an image here that speaks to you.

Jesus’s mother says this about god in anticipation of the birth of her son:

He has brought down rulers from their thrones

   and raised up the humble.

He has filled the hungry with good things

   and sent the rich away with nothing.

The angels says this to the shepherds:

“Give glory to God in heaven,

   and on earth let there be peace among the people who please God.”

His cousin John said, when asked how we should prepare for his coming:

“If you have two shirts, share with the person who does not have one. If you have food, share that also.”

About himself, at the beginning of his ministry, Jesus said this,

“The Lord has put his Spirit in me,

   because he appointed me to tell the Good News to the poor.

He has sent me to tell the captives they are free

   and to tell the blind that they can see again.

God sent me to free those who have been treated unfairly

 and to announce the time when the Lord will show his kindness.”

There’s encouragement there, I think, that the darkness won’t last.

That’s why Jesus is coming–to bring hope, and peace, and joy, and love to our dark world.

So let’s prepare for that baby who becomes the man who is our light.

Let’s not prepare for Christ by dwelling on the darkness and our fear and our hate.

And let’s not prepare for Christ by focusing on our own selfish desires.

While we wait, Let us prepare the kingdom for our king.

Let us fill the hungry.

Let us share from our abondance what we have, with those who don’t.

Let us free the captive, help the blind see, and bring justice to those treated unfairly.

Let us be the light of Jesus in a dark and scary and selfish world.

And the hope, and the peace, and the joy, and the love.

That is why he came.

 

Amen.

Bible Times

Here are a couple of paragraphs that got cut from the communion message I posted last week.  At one point I thought I was going to write about the Prodigal Son, a story that our pastor has been preaching on for the last few weeks. Early on in the writing I changed direction, which resulted in these two paragraphs being cut.  I’d like to revisit this bible-times version of myself sometime. I’ve always wanted a wife who carries water on her head. (My mental image of bible-times will always be the Sunday school felt-board people and their accouterments.)

 

The gospels are full of stories that Jesus told in an attempt to explain what god is like, and what the kingdom of god is like, and even I think, how we are supposed to be.  Some of these stories, like the one Matthew’s been preaching about, we love.  They are our favorite parts of the bible. We get them. They’re the ones that if someone said, “What’s so great about Jesus?” we could answer by retelling one of these stories.

On the other hand, there are those stories that make us make that face and shrug. Sometimes I read the bible like I’m there where the action is going on, and then my mind wanders and begins to fill in the blanks.  And I find myself walking into my little adobe type bible house, made of mud or something with the ceiling beams sticking out the front and back, and my bible wife, in a robe of course, with maybe a big jug of water on her head, says, “What did Jesus talk about today, hon?” And I shrug and say, “I don’t know, something about if you know you’re going to be fired, you should give away all your boss’s stuff or something.” I pause to pop a couple olives in my mouth. “It was no Prodigal Son story, I can tell you that.”

The Lord’s Table

The communion message I shared last week.

If you come to Adrian Christian Church on a regular basis, you’ve maybe noticed that the person up here talking about communion will say something about open communion, and I think that probably means something different to each of us. But mostly we say it because we want to put our guests at ease and let you know that you’re welcome to join us. At another church I used to attend, to let everyone know they were welcome, the officiant would say, “It’s the Lord’s table, not ours.” You may have noticed that I’ve borrowed that.

I wanted to talk a bit about what that means, “It’s the Lord’s table, not ours.” What kind of person is this lord? What kind of table does he keep? Who eats there?

We know about who is at the Lord’s table by who Jesus actually ate and drank with. He was famous, or infamous I guess, for the company he kept. He ate and drank with those you weren’t to spend time with–notorious sinners and tax collectors the bible says. Imagine someone who sins so much or so well that they are known as a notorious sinner. People called him a drunk and a glutton for spending time with these people. He sat out at the well drinking water with a woman so bad, besides being a Samaritan, that when his disciples showed up, they asked him what in the world he was doing. And one point his family goes to fetch him from someone’s house because he’s become such an embarrassment.

Even when he was just sitting down with his disciples, who was welcome at his table then? At least one tax collector, a bunch of fishermen, maybe one man who spent some time working for violent overthrow of Rome, and we don’t know what the rest did. No one here from the upper crust. And on the last night he spent time with them, here’s what he didn’t say. “Peter, you’re going to deny me three times, so we’re not friends anymore.” And after telling Judas that he knows that he will betray Jesus, he passes the bread and wine to all of them and says, “Eat, drink, all of you.” He doesn’t say, “Not you Judas, you’re not part of this any more.”

He wasn’t choosy about who he spent time with. Or perhaps he was. We don’t have any stories, I don’t think, of him telling the powerful and respected that he would be “coming to their house today.”

So, when I say, it’s not our table, but the lord’s, I just want to be clear, I don’t mean, go clean your life up, learn some bible, try to be respectable, and then come back. I mean, whatever kind of sinner or outcast or low-class embarrassment you might be; whatever rotten things you’ve said, or thought, or done to Jesus or those like him; as long as you’re willing to sit down with the rest of us, broken and messed up as we are, there is a place for you.

Amen

We are Asian lion dogs

As you may know, I took an amazing trip this summer. My family got the opportunity to visit Vietnam, a place we hadn’t been to since 2002 when we adopted Maly. So as part of communion I’ve prepared a slideshow of our over 600 photos . . . Just kidding.

We did have a great trip and we did get to see and do a lot. And we learned a lot–I think sometimes the kids felt like they were learning too much, and they wanted the tour guides to put a cork in it so they could just wander around a bit. And rather than show you 600 photos, I want to share just one story that I learned that I thought was pretty cool.

s-l1000

This is a pair of Asian lion dogs. They are mythical creatures that one might keep in one’s home for protection. They come in pairs so they don’t get lonely. One has its foot on a jar, representing the protection of your possessions. One has his foot on a cub, representing the protection of your children. We got a couple, not necessarily for protection, but because I like the story, and because they remind me of the church, which is why I’m sharing this part of my trip now, at communion time.

While Jesus was waiting to be arrested and crucified, he went off to pray. He said, “What I’m about to ask for, I do not ask on behalf of my current followers, but for those also who will believe in Me through their word, (I think that would include us); that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” A bit later he prays that they (we) may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that god sent Jesus.

In the book of acts we see one of the ways that the early church worked toward this unity of believers. –“And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.” (‭Acts‬ ‭4‬:‭32-35‬ NASB)

So that’s why I brought home a pair of lion dogs. Because they remind me of the church that Jesus prayed for, of the church that Jesus died for, of what the church, us included, is supposed to be.

God gives us each other so that we don’t get lonely, so that we can take care of each other, and so that we may be all in one. Like they did in the book of acts, this means seeing that our brothers and sisters (and our neighbors and our enemies, if I understand Jesus correctly) have what we need and some of the things we want. And it means seeing that our kids and our families are cared for. We are to do this together and for each other.

And I’ll be honest, I think this church, and this community, do an amazing job of this. But it doesn’t hurt to be reminded. Especially by a couple of sweet Asian mythical creatures.

So as we take the body and blood of Jesus this morning, and as we remember his life, death, and resurrection, let’s remember especially that Jesus prayed for us to be one, to take care of each other, not just for our own sake, but for the sake of the world. And maybe we can thank god for all that we receive from each other. And then take those blessings out into the world.

Amen

What does the kingdom of god look like?

One thing that brother Matt and I have in common is that we like movies. It’s nice when you have something in common with your pastor. It’s a way know that they’re alright, because they’re like you, you know what I’m saying? The difference is that Matthew is DVD guy, and I watch most of mine on Netflix. So I still worry about him a bit.

But I’ve watched several documentaries recently that have been kind of depressing because of the way that people tend to treat each other, some believers, some not. If you don’t watch documentaries, maybe you watch the new.  Similar vibe. And it made me ask, what should our role be in all of this treating each other badly that goes on in the world. What are supposed to be doing about it?

Paul writes in 2nd Corinthians, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us.”

We are called to be ambassadors for Christ, to do this work of reconciliation of all things, to help put people back into a right relationship with Christ and each other and creation. To help grow the kingdom of god.

So I’m watching these movies, and I admit that I hold Christians to a bit of a higher standard, and I’m thinking, this is not what I imagine the kingdom of god looks like. So I said to myself, self, what does the kingdom of god look like? When the master comes back, will he be impressed with they way I, with they way we, have used our talents as ambassadors of Christ?

In the kingdom of god, are fingers pointed and bricks thrown, or are hands held and bread broken?

In the kingdom of god, is it important to be right or gracious? To be comfortable or challenged? To be served or to serve?

In the kingdom of god, do enemies shout each other down, pray for each other’s destruction, and physically attack and kill each other. Or is there discussion, forgiveness, and reconciliation?

These aren’t hard questions,at least not sitting here. It’s easy to think and say the right answers. But doing them. Arrrrrrr.

So as we remember Christ’s life, death and resurrection this morning, and we think about the state of the world, let’s be encouraged that we have been called to be his ambassadors, to participate in reconciling the world to Christ. And let’s go build some kingdom of god.

from Book of Common Prayer

Sometimes, for whatever reason, I don’t want to write anything. When that happens I usually pull from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer.  I like the familiarity; it gives me comfort.  And sometimes I have us all say the Lord’s Prayer together.

 

Holy and gracious Father: In your infinite love you made us
for yourself, and, when we had fallen into sin and become
subject to evil and death, you, in your mercy, sent Jesus
Christ, your only and eternal Son, to share our human
nature, to live and die as one of us, to reconcile us to you, the
God and Father of all.

He stretched out his arms upon the cross, and offered himself,
in obedience to your will, a perfect sacrifice for the whole
world.

On the night he was handed over to suffering and death, our
Lord Jesus Christ took bread; and when he had given thanks
to you, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take,
eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the
remembrance of me.”

After supper he took the cup of wine; and when he had given
thanks, he gave it to them, and said, “Drink this, all of you:
This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you
and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink
it, do this for the remembrance of me.”

Therefore we proclaim the mystery of faith:

Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.

We celebrate the memorial of our redemption, O Father, in
this sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Recalling his death,
resurrection, and ascension, we offer you these gifts.

Sanctify them by your Holy Spirit to be for your people the
Body and Blood of your Son, the holy food and drink of new
and unending life in him. Sanctify us also that we may faithfully
receive this holy Sacrament, and serve you in unity, constancy,
and peace; and at the last day bring us with all your saints
into the joy of your eternal kingdom.

All this we ask through your Son Jesus Christ: By him, and
with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit all honor
and glory is yours, Almighty Father, now and for ever. AMEN.

And now, as our Savior
Christ has taught us,
we are bold to say,

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those
who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.

Good Friday – God’s Joke

This one I wrote for today actually.  Happy Palm Sunday.  Ha ha.

 

When I was a kid, this Sunday meant cutting some green construction paper into Palm fronds, lining up, and waving them at each other as we took turns walking past our classmates, pretending to be Jesus. “Hail King Jesus'” I can still hear us saying. (I may or may not have construction paper and scissors waiting upstairs for my middle school kids.)

Palm Sunday, I think, is one of the pieces of evidence that god has a sense of humor, or at least a sense of irony. His son enters Jerusalem, hailed as king, a dangerous thing for someone to do in the Roman Empire where no one was king but Ceasar.  Dangerous as well for those waving branches and laying down cloaks. This is it, the people must have thought. The messiah is here, he will restore god’s chosen people to our proper place in the world, and I can’t wait to see the looks on the faces of those centurions when god’s hammer comes down! Hosanna, hosanna!

Five days later, Jesus is dead. Ok, so it’s not laugh out loud funny.

But this is one of my favorite things about our faith. Who else but a god worthy of worship gives us a king whose great act of authority is not to bring the hammer down, crush his enemies, and replace one Caesar with another, ours instead of theirs. Anyone can do that. People do it all the time; have done for centuries. Instead, god’s ultimate reveal is to show himself as a dead prophet, a man who not only preached love and forgiveness for friends and enemies, for saints and sinners, mostly sinners, he lived it. He died standing up to the strong on behalf of the weak. He died praying forgiveness for his killers and speaking kingdom invitations for sinners. That’s the god we’re called to follow. A god that says follow me and then dies. A god that it doesn’t make any sense to follow. What chance does love have in the face of hate? What kind of life can I have if I give it up for others?

And even knowing what happens next Sunday doesn’t change who god is on Good Friday. It just gives us hope that maybe it’s not crazy to follow Jesus, to love unconditionally, to forgive generously, to die to ourselves, and to participate with god in the redemption and reconciliation of the world.

Amen.

Living for Others

This one is so short and ends a bit abruptly, so I’m not sure if it’s complete.  But it seems close.
Last week we had our church involvement fair.   If you weren’t able to attend, let Hannah know how you’d like to help and we’ll get you connected. It’s important that you contribute, that you take part, that you touch some lives.  That’s what I’m going to talk about today.

I’ve been going through old files from 17 years of teaching at Adrian.  I have a few years left, god willing, but I’m needing to make some space.  I found a file folder full of art and mementos of the last 17 years.  I’ve been blessed folks. And some of you have been involved in that.  Here’s some of what I found.

20150103_140819_HDRhappyphoto 2(18)awkwardmiss ya mucheshearts1

What this collection doesn’t include is all the notes that would have read, you didn’t listen to me when I needed you to, you made a joke when I was trying to be serious, you tended to yourself instead of me.  People don’t make coloring pages for those thing.  But they do remember them.
I’m fortunate.  My job involves living for others. When I do it right that’s what happens.  But it’s really a what were all supposed to do.

I’ve probably told the story about the woman that spoke to me at the grocery store checkout one day.  I didn’t recognize her. She asked me if I’d been there before.  I said yes.  She said she thought so, and that I had said “hi” to her once when she was having a bad day, and that it had really helped her.  So much so that she remembered it enough to tell me thanks weeks later.

Every Sunday is really a celebration of resurrection Sunday.  But our weekly communion also reminds us of what came before the resurrection. Christ died.  Christ died as he lived, doing for other people. Paul wrote that if we want to really live, we need to die to ourselves, and we need to live for others.

Amen.