Categories
Advent Ministry Peace Presbyterian

Psalm 147:15

You can find the whole text for today here.

[God] sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly. Ps 147:15

I love the imagery of this Psalm.

In particular, for today, I love the imagery of God’s word running swiftly on the earth.

A few weeks ago, as we finished the 22 Sunday sermon series from the book of Acts, we read about Paul’s journey to Rome to stand before the Emperor in Acts 28. As he neared Rome, farther than it seemed he had been yet in the world–outside of his missions to Asia and Macedonia and Greece–he was greeted and cared for by people who already had become followers of Jesus.

God’s word had run more swiftly than Paul had.

In reflecting on that truth, and the rest of Acts, I said this: “The good news [God’s word] is carried in an outward direction still. It is unhindered by our flawed attempts to live faithfully and share it. It is unhindered by our lack of understanding and inability to grasp how wide and how deep and how great is God’s love. It will not be contained in the boxes we have created and behind the lines we have drawn to keep others away from it. It will cross every line. It will break every barrier. The good news will not wait for us to get there first. When we decide to go that far, we will see that God is already there, changing lives, upending plans, rearranging hearts.”

In my experience, God’s word is often running more swiftly than I am able to run, and more swiftly than even the whole church can manage.

Two thousand years into this, we are still finding that God’s word is bigger, wider, and faster than we could have imagined and it seems like we are catching up only to find that it has already been everywhere we determine to go (or not go). While we were drawing our lines or making our lists of who was in and who was out, God’s word was running swiftly to be with people we were trying to exclude and keep out. When we finally decide to venture out and find people to declare loved by God, we find that God has loved them all along.

I suppose if I could catch up, if I were able to run swiftly enough to keep pace with God’s word, I might begin to suspect that what I am chasing is not God’s word at all, but my own slow ideals and words.

And so I keep training and running a little bit farther and faster all the time.

(I kind of love that my word for today is “word,” and that when God’s word is mentioned in scripture, our default is to think about scripture itself, but we also know the mysterious reality is that God’s word is Jesus Christ. When we allow God to call us farther into our understanding of what this means, we will once again be stunned by the swiftness of God’s word.)

Categories
Advent Ministry Peace Presbyterian

Psalm 122

I was glad when they said to me,
   â€˜Let us go to the house of the Lord!
’ Psalm 122:1

(Read all of Psalm 122 here.)

As a child, when we went to church, I was often reminded that we were going to the “House of the Lord.” I learned to speak of the church as the place where God dwelled and lived. There were things we wouldn’t do in the Lord’s house–ways we wouldn’t talk or think or act, because they are particularly disrespectful to do in the House of the Lord.

As an adult who works in faith formation, I try to not use that language in that particular way. It’s not that I don’t think church is a special place where we meet God; it’s not that I don’t think God dwells at church.

It’s that I believe that God is not bound to the church building; that God can hear the words we use and the thoughts we think even when we aren’t at church; that God dwells in our very selves (hearts?).

All my pastoring life, I have tried to find the theological phrasing/living that acknowledges the church building as a special, sacred place, but not the only special, sacred place. To keep the building from seeming like or becoming an idol of sorts. To help people understand what it means that God is with us not just at church, but at work, at play, at the bar, at the shelter.

Yes, this building is the house of the Lord, but so are you.

And then came 2020.

And I suppose we have all had to examine and consider what we believe it means to go to the house of the Lord.

Yesterday, at Peace, we worshiped in the parking lot at 9:00 a.m. We used our new FM transmitter and sound booth. I had a window to look out and see all the cars, filled with the faithful, gathered for worship. I miss the pulpit and pews, but I am so grateful for people who are willing to worship differently to keep the most vulnerable among us safe and included. I received many kind words after that service–gratitude from people who had been able to come to the house of the Lord.

We worshiped on Zoom at 11:00 a.m. We’ve been doing this since March 22, every Sunday at 11:00. Last week after the service, I reflected on how much better we’ve gotten at Zoom Worship since we began, as we have learned to mute and un-mute and read off the slides on the screen. And then yesterday was kind of a mess, at least for the beginning of the service, as some slides had become out of order and a reader forgot to print her script for the candle lighting. But when it was over, people believed they had been to the house of the Lord and were grateful for their time together in worship.

Yesterday afternoon (and between the services in the morning), about 30 families drove through the parking lot to pick up their Advent boxes filled with supplies to lead them in prayer activities and supplies for upcoming worship services. They would drive up and I would bring out their box. We’d chat about how things are going. Some brought their dogs for me to gush about. Some gave me updates about loved ones or particular situations. Some asked if we could pray together. This, too, was coming to the house of the Lord.

And when they open their boxes at home and take out the first activity, and consider scripture and pray and do something that helps them connect to others from church (even if it’s just that they are participating in the same activity), this too will be a visit to the house of the Lord.

Maybe this is the year we begin to understand what it means that God is with us and the house of the Lord is where we are seeking God.

I was glad when they said to me,
   â€˜Let us go to the house of the Lord!
’ Psalm 122:1

Categories
Advent Ministry Peace Presbyterian

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

13But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. 15For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. 16For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. 18Therefore encourage one another with these words.

This is a beautiful, hopeful passage full of wonder and the imagination of God. But the word I am reflecting on is encourage.

Paul is inviting his congregation in Thessalonica to remind one another of the truth that Jesus is coming again as a way to encourage one another.

Not to scare one another. Not as “you better watch out, you better not pout…” Not to issue a cautionary tale for the ones who have yet to get their lives together. Not as a weapon or a warning.

Encourage one another with these words.” Share these words and find hope in them! Rejoice in them! Remember these words on the dark days when it seems like this is all for nothing or grief is overwhelming.

What are the ways you can share God’s word and hope in what God is doing with someone who needs encouragement?

Categories
Advent Ministry Peace Presbyterian

Isaiah 2:2-4

2In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. 3Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. Isaiah 2:2-4

My word: Instruction

Here’s something I wrote in 2018 as part of my Advent word-a-day exercise:

Do you know what I never read? The instructions. I loathe reading instructions when it’s time to put something together or get a new electronic device going. I usually just dive in and figure it out and most of the time, I can do it without reading.

One exception to my no instructions rule: board games.

I read all the instructions for board games.

I want to know how to play the game correctly, ya know? And I will fight you if you try to lead us in the wrong direction because you didn’t read the instructions and you don’t know what you are talking about.

Regardless of whether I like them or not, the instructions are available for a reason. Very often, taking the time to read them makes assembly, set-up, or play of game easier, faster, and less frustrating.

The Word of God, as it comes to us in scripture, is different than board game instructions, of course. It’s a little more nuanced, requires a bit more interpretation, was written in ancient languages, has a complicated and important context, often has layers of meaning, and hopefully is inspired in a way that board game directions usually are not.

And yet, as we read the words of scripture, noticing what they say and don’t say, interpreting their meaning well, learning how we might apply them to our current context and lives, we very often find gracious guidance and inspired instruction for living and loving.

Categories
Advent Ministry Peace Presbyterian

Luke 20:9-18

The scripture for today can be found here.

He began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, and leased it to tenants, and went to another country for a long time. Luke 20:9

Today, the word I chose is “owner.”

To be honest, this is a tough passage. I’m thinking about what it means for someone to plant a vineyard and lease it to tenants to tend it and care for it, only to have those occupants reject all who represent the planter and owner of the property.

And I’m thinking about what it means for Jesus to entrust us with the good news of his reconciliation and love, to leave us with it to tend it and care for it and share it in the way he meant for us to do so…only to have us reject the very ones he sends to us, because we’d rather not share the goodness and love with the ones he sends, but keep it and manage it for ourselves.

We will reject the One who planted the Vineyard if that’s what he’s going to expect from us.

But as it turns out, the tenants aren’t the owners.

And neither do we own the gospel or the church.

Categories
Ministry Peace Presbyterian Sermons

Sermons in a time of Covid-19

This is my sixth Sunday leading worship while seated on my couch. I haven’t been updating this site, but figure I should go ahead and share some of the sermons I’ve preached while sitting up straight in my living room.

Yesterday, I went to the church and practiced in the pulpit. I need to do that a little more often, because it felt weird and I do hope, one day, to be back at the church for worship.

This morning, I’m preaching on the Walk to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32).

Last Sunday, April 19, I preached from John 20:19-31.

And here is my Palm Sunday Sermon, preached on April 5, based on Matthew 21:1-11

On Easter, we did something different and I had some friends help me out. Being online allows for some long-distance participation!

There are challenges to this new way of doing and being church, but I believe it will make us all better pastors, leaders, and worshipers!

May God bless and keep you today!

Categories
Ministry Peace Presbyterian Sermons

Sermon: It’s Transfiguration Sunday (year A)!

Matthew 17:1-9

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” 6When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” 8And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. 9As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” 

Categories
Advent Peace Presbyterian

greetings

Today’s Word: Luke 1:26-38

26In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”29But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

I say it ever year, but I’ll never get tired of this story.

How God chose this specific young woman to bear his Word made flesh to the world.

How an angel appeared–the most unexpected visitor with the most unexpected greeting for the most unexpected, unsuspecting woman.

How Mary, though perplexed (who wouldn’t be?), was willing and able to yield to God’s choosing.

38Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

May I receive each of God’s surprises with as much willingness to say “let it be with me according to your word.”

Categories
Advent Church Ministry Peace Presbyterian

singing

Today’s Word: Zephaniah 3:14-20

17 The Lord, your God, is in your midst,
   a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
   he will renew you in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zeph 3:17)

The image of a loudly singing God has always been a favorite of mine. When I first started reading and studying the Bible, I imagined God standing over me like a parent stands over a child and sings at bedtime. For awhile that was a comforting, inspiring image to me.

But of course, the “you” is actually “y’all.” God is not rejoicing over me, but over “us,” and in this case, the first “us” were the wayward people of Judah before they were exiled. Zephaniah is ending his book with a reminder that God’s judgement against them will not result in a nullification of the covenant God made with their ancestors long ago, and that God would bring them back, rejoicing, renewing, and singing.

We can do a lot of theological damage when we insist on making scripture (and church and faith and etc.) about God and me, rather than about God and all of us (through the ages and in all the places). God didn’t start by calling me. God started long before that, calling people to him and back to him, and now I’m included in this calling, kneeling with saints and gleaning the knowledge of the wise who have studied God’s word longer than I’ve lived.

The hymnal in my hand is “the red one.” (That’s what we call it in the biz. “What hymnal does your church use?” “The blue one” or “the new one” or “we still have the red one.” For those wondering, Peace has both red and blue.)

My favorite hymn in the red hymnal is a Christmas hymn. Since I was a little girl at the First Presbyterian Church of Merrillville, Indiana, I have loved singing “And the star rains its fire while the beautiful sing; for the manger at Bethlehem cradles a king!” It was in that church I first learned to love to sing, and learned how to turn the pages of the hymnal (we had the red hymnal when I was little; the blue hymnal when I was older). It was there I first heard the stories of our faith, told to children with red punch mustaches by sage Sunday School teachers. I did not come to this faith or this place on my own and I do not stand here alone.

We are in this together. Us.

And as we find our way together, may we find renewing in God’s love and may we join God in the loud singing as we all make our way home.

Categories
Advent Church Ministry Peace Presbyterian

compassion

Today’s word: Psalm 145:1-9

My compassion has limits.

There, I said it. As much as I try to have compassion and grace and mercy, I often do not have enough, running out as situations become more complicated, as relationships become much harder, as I become hungry or sleepy or weary of doing good.

I hope I am growing in this. Both in having compassion that endures, and in being wise about how to best approach a complicated situation or relationship.

What astounds and amazes me is the vastness of God’s compassion, mercy, love, patience, and goodness. When I want to set limits and ask God to be reasonable, I’m reminded that God is not limited or reasonable.

3Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable.

4One generation shall laud your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.

5On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.

6The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed, and I will declare your greatness.

7They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness, and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

8The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

9The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.

The photo above was taken in the sanctuary at Peace Presbyterian Church. Yesterday, we collected the hygiene kits (wrapped in bath towels) made by members of the church for folks in our community who may need them.