Monday, March 31, 2014

Lent Day 23: WIGIAT? Opening Day

Each day during Lent, I am updating my blog using the theme of WIGIAT? or Where is God in all this?

Today is Opening Day! The start of the Major League Baseball season. Even though the Twins have been really, really, really bad the last two years, and aren't expected to be good this year, there is still a tiny amount of hope that they'll at least be competitive this year. There's just something about the start of a new season that inspires one to think that maybe mediocre pitchers and fielders will all have career years and an incredible string of good luck and at the same time cast all reason aside. Some may call this hope, but it's really delusion...or usually is.

Apart from our delusion, the thing that makes Opening Day great is that it is a sure sign that Spring has crept a little further along and the warmth of Summer will soon be here. Even as a few wet snow flakes fell today, seeing sunny ballparks in other parts of the country was a wonderful vision.

Our lives of faith are like opening day, we have hope, (beyond delusion) and we have this hope even when things in our lives aren't quite as sunny as we'd like. Our hope comes in the fact that regardless of our abilities, we're called to go out and play the game of love, peace, and justice for all people, and God has confidence, not delusion that we can do this. And, in our days that would seem like a proverbial rainout, God comes to us in the joy of others who have been called to play the game with us, not because of their abilities, but because of God's love.

GO TWINS!! You never know what could happen!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sermon for the 4th Sunday in Lent: Seeing the Palestinians

Gospel: John 9:1–41
 As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth.  2His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"  3Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him.  4We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.  5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world."  6When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man's eyes,  7saying to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.  8The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, "Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?"  9Some were saying, "It is he." Others were saying, "No, but it is someone like him." He kept saying, "I am the man."  10But they kept asking him, "Then how were your eyes opened?"  11He answered, "The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, 'Go to Siloam and wash.' Then I went and washed and received my sight."  12They said to him, "Where is he?" He said, "I do not know."
             13They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind.  14Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes.  15Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, "He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see."  16Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath." But others said, "How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?" And they were divided.  17So they said again to the blind man, "What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened." He said, "He is a prophet."
             18The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight  19and asked them, "Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?"  20His parents answered, "We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind;  21but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself."  22His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue.  23Therefore his parents said, "He is of age; ask him."
             24So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, "Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner."  25He answered, "I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see."  26They said to him, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?"  27He answered them, "I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?"  28Then they reviled him, saying, "You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses.  29We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from."  30The man answered, "Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes.  31We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will.  32Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind.  33If this man were not from God, he could do nothing."  34They answered him, "You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?" And they drove him out.
             35Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?"  36He answered, "And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him."  37Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he."  38He said, "Lord, I believe." And he worshiped him.  39Jesus said, "I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind."  40Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, "Surely we are not blind, are we?"  41Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, 'We see,' your sin remains.

Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ,

Quite some time ago now, the movie, “Men in Black” came out. In this movie, about a special unit of a human police force dealing with aliens, there is a scene that stands out. In this scene, Will Smith, the star of the show has been brought in to a special center to take a test to see if he could become one of these special officers.

As a part of this test, the group who has been brought in to take this test is confronted with a street scene from the city where they have to use their weapons and take out all the bad guys. When the test starts, the group, apart from Will Smith, begins unloading their weapons on all the strange looking aliens. When the smoke clears, Will Smith, who’s been calm the entire time, sets his sights not on the aliens, but on the little girl who is holding a calculus text-book. He explains himself by saying that what is unusual about the scene is not the aliens, but the supposedly young girl, who’s not scared, and who’s reading a calculus text.

I was reminded of this scene as we hear today’s Gospel from John. When we hear about the blind man receiving sight, we can get caught-up in seeing this story as primarily about that healing. But when it comes to Jesus, this is pretty normal fare.  

This story is really about our own human sin, and the power it has over us, blinding us to the presence of God, and the renewing work God is doing, right in our midst. What’s really odd about this story, is not the miracle that Jesus performs, but the reactions of the various groups to this healing.

This story should get us thinking: What is wrong with these people, including the seeing man’s parents, that they react with fear, suspicion, scorn and violence to this miracle. Why are these people reacting so negatively to someone like Jesus who is doing works that show that he must come from God.

What is wrong with these people is sin, and this sin comes in the form of their blind prejudice. Their lives have been built on this prejudice. This is the prejudice that causes the Men in Black recruits to just start shooting at the aliens that look different, and not take into account the whole scene. This is the kind of prejudice that would say someone is born blind because of sin. This prejudice, helps those in control, maintain that control by saying that their place in society has been the result of their own merits, and those who are disadvantaged are in this place because of sin. Not surprisingly, when these prejudices are challenged, indeed when they are shown to be not the truth at all, the reaction is not acceptance of the truth, but an oppressive backlash meant to keep the system in place, and people in line.

The Good News is that today, 2000 years later, by the grace of God, the truth has not faltered, but has even opened our eyes in some regards. Today, we are learning to receive and share in the gifts of many who are differently abled, rather than cast them off. Today, we are even learning that our minds work differently, and are starting to do away with labels like lazy, stupid, crazy, or aloof. And by growing in the way we understand and treat all people, we are able to celebrate the grace God pours out in vessels of all shapes, sizes, colors and capacities.

Yet, sin still blinds us, and our prejudices still cause us to cast off entire groups of people, including a group who is living in the same place where Jesus was literally making the blind to see. These people are the Palestinians, a people who were living in this land long before Jesus was there, and a people that has lived under the rule and authority of occupiers through their long history.

Today, when a person says Palestine, or Palestinian; for many people, images of terror and religious extremism comes to mind. Or an idea of someone who is a threat to the people of Israel, and also the United States. And, there are even those who would judge that a Palestinian means an enemy. There is indeed conflict in this area of the Holy Land, and with this conflict is a great deal of blind fear and prejudice.

Going back to our reading for today, we hear the disciples ask Jesus about whose sin it was that made the man blind, was it his or his parents. It seems to me, that in the western world, when we comment or talk about the ongoing conflict in the place where the Prince of Peace was born, we are quick to place this same perspective on the Palestinians. From a western point of view, we blame the Palestinian people for the losses of land they continue to suffer, the walls that go up which isolate, surround and cut them off from each other and the rest of the world, and for the humiliating check-points that people like a classmate I had in seminary, must endure to move about. From our point of view, the actions of some Palestinians would justify the oppression of all. We have generalized to the point where Palestinian and terrorist are used by some interchangeably, sort of like blind and sin in Jesus’ day.

This past week, I had the opportunity to see our fellow Lutheran, Pastor Mitri Raheb, in Hartford, and hear him talk about his people, the Palestinians. He talked about how the world has become blind to the fact that his ancestors have lived in the land we today call Israel, for thousands of years.  He asked us to take into account that these people we read about in the Bible, like Jesus, aren’t sworn enemies of the Palestinians, but instead share a heritage with them.

Indeed, the Palestinian people have a story that continues to this day, but that much of this world is blind to. It is a story tied directly to the land and people who we read about in the Bible, and a story that testifies to the creative work of God. In other words, Dr. Raheb told us, that the Palestinians, regardless of their religious affiliation, have a story, like the blind man had a story. A story tied directly to the land and people who we read about in our Bible.  A story that isn’t defined by sinfulness, but by God’s mercy and love as shown to us by Jesus.

And Jesus, is still active and alive in these people, in their suffering, in their hopes for peace, and in their calls for justice. And Jesus is with these people like he was with the man born blind, he is with them for us, as a symbol of the renewing work that God is doing. Jesus is with them, so that our eyes may be opened and prejudices disbanded, Jesus is with them so that we can learn to see those who sin calls us to cast away from our presence.

And Jesus is also with us. In the waters of Baptism, Jesus has given us his life, his very vision, so that we may see with his eyes, eyes that see the entire picture. Eyes that do not see according to sinful prejudices and unjust systems, or with condemnation and punishment, but eyes that see with a view of peace, justice, and love for all people.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Lent Day 22: WIGIAT? Forward Leadership Community

Each day during Lent I am updating my blog with using the theme of WIGIAT? Where is God in all this?

Today, I had the chance to go to a seminar for something called the Forward Leadership Community, which is a something our congregation is participating in. We heard some great things and have gotten to participate in some exercises that have caused us to think and grow.

The absolute best part about the whole program, is the chance to get to work as a team with three other people from Christ the King. We all have different strengths and interests, yet we certainly share a common calling to grow and be active leaders in sharing God's grace at CtK and beyond. What's great, is that we don't spend our time trying to prove each other wrong or come up with the best idea, instead we appreciate the different gifts and stories that we each offer through the giving of ourselves. What's more, is that we get to hear from leaders and congregations from around the synod, and be a part of an even bigger team.

When we are doing the work of God, it is never alone, and it is never a matter of importance. It's only a matter of joining together, sharing our lives, and letting grace do the rest.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Lent Day 21: WIGIAT? Woodpeckers

Each day during Lent, I am updating my blog, focusing on WIGIAT? or Where is God in all this?

This morning, I took Raven for a walk, and I couldn't help but notice the sound of the birds. The sound just seemed to penetrate the air. But the sound that I heard wasn't the normal tweets of song birds, but the loud drumming of at least two woodpeckers.

While the drumming was certainly different, it was music to my ears. It reminded me of how unique the woodpecker is, and though I couldn't see the ones making so much noise, it was the sound of life springing forth. The early morning drumming above all else seemed like a call to life, a call to get up and at em', a call to go and make your own joyful noise, even if it's a little different.

This is where God is, not in the sameness of all things, but in the great diversity that is creation. Yet in all this diversity, the song of life springs forth and fills our senses in the song of life. God has given us this song in the majesty of creation, and just as importantly given us ears to hear.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Lent Day 20: WIGIAT? Norma Cortez

Each day during Lent I am updating my blog around the theme of WIGIAT? Where is God in All this?

We often think of faith as believing so much in the unbelievable, that miracles happen. This is why we have charlatans posing as "faith healers" who con people into thinking that if they just believe enough, miraculous healing will happen. If the healing happens, it's because of the person's faith, if the healing doesn't happen, it's because of the person's lack of faith. Either way, it seems to work out for the person lining their pockets from the whole venture.

But today, I read about faith and miracles, and it reinforced not my own belief, but my own lack of belief. You see, I read the linked article, and was blown away, as I have been before, at the lengths that love and faith for others will drive people. I read this article and saw people doing such amazing things, day after day after day, for the good of their loved ones, and the works that these people do for love is far beyond anything I could imagine, or even want to do.

So, please read the article, and see the mountains that the faith of our neighbors to the south move so that they can give love and hope to those who they are closest to. Everyday, these people work and provide for their loved ones in ways that make me cringe, and instead of holding these saints up, we who don't know what work is, marginalize and label them. Norma Cortez is not an "alien commuter" she is my hero, and she shows me a God who would give his life in love, no matter the cost.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Lent Day 19:Words of hope

Each day during Lent I will be updating my blog, focusing on WIGIAT? or Where is God in all this? 

Today, God was in the insight of someone at a discussion we were having at the church on traditional ways of education, especially Lutheran education. Our little group was discussing that we were all trained to memorize Luther's Small Catechism. As I was poking a little fun at this method of learning, especially in light of the fact that none of us could remember what we had memorized, this person brought up that this type of memory work was how the faith was taught to so many people that didn't know how to read. 

For myself, that comment dissolved some of my own snark, in new appreciation for the faith that had been handed down this way, not only in ancient times, but up until the very recent past as well. What a treasure the words of grace and faith must have meant to people throughout time that didn't have all the resources that we have today to really explore what those words mean, but only hold fast to them and trust in the grace they offered on their own merits. The Small Catechism, and in larger part many of the words of scripture, have not come to us today simply by chance, but by the desire and work of many people to long for and grasp a word of hope that they could not come up with themselves. 

God came to me in the light of this insight I received. And through this light, God came to me even more in thinking about all who have simply trusted in the words of faith handed down to them, not as a way to fulfill a duty, but as a gift of hope, that was given to them in a way they could pass on to others.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Lent Day 18: WIGIAT? Time and Space

I am updating my blog each day during the 40 days of Lent, focusing on WIGIAT? or Where is God in all this?

Recently, there has been some really cool and amazing advancements in the world of Science. Actually, they're more like validations. Validations of the Higgs-Boson particle and also the discovery of light rays that validate theories about the Big Bang theory. All of these things are beyond my own understanding, but I still find them fascinating.

What is so interesting is thinking about something like time, having an origin, or thinking about how matter can be broken down into things that are so incredibly small, we don't even have a concept of it. It makes my mind start to wonder if we as humans and planets and stars aren't just building blocks to some much bigger organism, and other types of wonderments. At the same time, there are so many things that we do know, that then lead to theories and discoveries that drastically blow our own perspectives way, way out of proportion.

God is in this whole thing in what we take into these discoveries. We aren't called to know everything, and more importantly we aren't called to think we know everything and bury our heads in the sand. Instead, God is with us as we go forward into the unknown, calling us to the same lives of love, generosity, peace, and justice that bring God's grace through time and space.


Here's the video referenced in my post below. From The Project album, Martyrs Prayers. Check it out, the whole thing is beautiful, sorrowful, and life-giving.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Lent Day 17: WIGIAT? Bishop Oscar Romero

Each day during Lent, I am updating my blog using the theme of WIGIAT? or Where is God in all this?

Today, March 24, 2014, marks the 34th anniversary of the martyrdom of Bishop Oscar Romero, the archbishop of El Salvador. Bishop Romero was killed by a single bullet while officiating at a mass at a local hospital chapel.

In the person of Romero, we are shown an image of Christ, an image of a person who spoke of love, justice, and peace. We also see the extent that sin can lie and deceive us as human beings, and why we confess of the many things that sin has caused us to leave undone.

The people of El Salvador, and across the world continue to suffer to this day, because of systems, based on economic greed, that are not only unfair, but oppressive and murderous. As the people of Central America tried to unify to do things like feed their children from the farms they were working on, they were given the label of socialist, as an excuse to torture, rape, and murder them. When I was a child, we had refugees from El Salvador and Guatemala, who were escaping death squads. These normal, everyday people, including children, were fleeing to Canada, and not staying in our country, who supported the repressive governments.

One person who was murdered was the Rev. David Fernandez, a Lutheran pastor in El Salvador. You can read about his story, which was first relayed to me by his sister in Mexico City, here:

God is in the remembrance of those who have died living out the radical love that is our faith, and God is in the hope and promise that these deaths are not in vain, but are the seeds of a Kingdom of peace, justice, and love. As his death seemed more and more imminent, Bishop Romero said the following:

“I need to say that as a Christian I do not believe in death without resurrection. If they kill me, I will rise again in the people of El Salvador….If they manage to carry out their threats, as of now, I offer my blood for the redemption and resurrection of El Salvador. If God accepts the sacrifice of my life, then may my blood be the seed of liberty and the sign that hope will soon become a reality. May my death, if it is accepted by God, be for the liberation of my people, as a witness of hope in what is to come. You can tell them that if they succeed in killing me, I pardon and bless those who do it. A bishop may die, but the Church of God, which is in the people, will never die.”

The Project, has a beautiful song using Romero's words on their recent album, Martyrs Prayers. The song is called "Romero" Here's the link, for the youtube video which I can't seem to embed.

The 3rd Sunday in Lent: Living water to drink and share

Sermon for 3/23/2014 from Pr. Mark T. Peterson at Christ the King Lutheran Church, Holliston, MA. Sundays aren't counted as part of the 40 days of Lent, so if you missed your yoga exercises yesterday, don't feel bad! 

Gospel: John 4:5–42
5So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.  6Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
             7A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink."  8(His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.)  9The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)  10Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water."  11The woman said to him, "Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?  12Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?"  13Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,  14but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life."  15The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water."
             16Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come back."  17The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband';  18for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!"  19The woman said to him, "Sir, I see that you are a prophet.  20Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem."  21Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  22You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.  23But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.  24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."  25The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us."  26Jesus said to her, "I am he, the one who is speaking to you."
             27Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, "What do you want?" or, "Why are you speaking with her?"  28Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people,  29Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?  30They left the city and were on their way to him.
             31Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, "Rabbi, eat something."  32But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you do not know about."  33So the disciples said to one another, "Surely no one has brought him something to eat?"  34Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.  35Do you not say, 'Four months more, then comes the harvest'? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting.  36The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.  37For here the saying holds true, 'One sows and another reaps.'  38I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor."
             39Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I have ever done."  40So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days.  41And many more believed because of his word.  42They said to the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world."

Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ,

This morning, two women encounter Jesus.
One, has nothing but an empty water jar, a long-list of exes, and that’s about it. She’s a Samaritan, or someone who a Jewish person like Jesus would perceive as perpetually unclean and impure at the time. As it was, this woman was of very little value to her society.
The other, isn’t really a woman but instead a little girl. She doesn’t carry water jars, but instead bottles or sippy cups, and as far as I know, she has no exes. And, unlike the Samaritan woman, this little girl is one of our greatest treasures, and we are amazed by her.
Today, Jesus will encounter this little girl, Lexi, in the waters of Baptism. In those loving waters, Jesus will value Lexi so much that he will give her his life. We as Lexi’s family and community will be witnesses to this loving act, and we will be called to promise to nurture Lexi in the life and love that Jesus gives her. And, while we give thanks for this gift, and rejoice in it, we’re also not all that surprised by it in this time and place, because of how much we love our children.
Indeed, because of how much we love our children, it’s pretty natural for us to understand why Jesus would give them such a gift as baptism. And, it’s very normal for us to see this little person who Jesus loves, and make promises to love and care for her just as Jesus does.
What’s harder for us to understand, or normalize, is Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman, at least in today’s context. Because of sin, we look at many people and place little value on them, just as the ancient world placed little value on this Samaritan woman.
While it’s easy for us to love and care for a beautiful baby girl, how do we feel about the 30 year old woman who has been walking the streets since she was 16? How do we feel about this woman who puts up with the beatings and enslavement of a cruel john, because she has nowhere else to go? How we feel about her is pretty well summed up by the way we put up a barrier between her and us with a word like prostitute.
Or how do we feel about the woman who has two children and lives with the man who is not their father. What value do we give her, apart from our skepticism, shame and judgment? We might command her to get us an iced coffee or a large fries, but we don’t value her enough, or care for her enough to give her a living wage, much less living water.
As we begin to understand Jesus’ encounter with this Samaritan woman in terms of our world today, we can understand a little more just how radical and life changing God’s grace is. This grace is the living water that Jesus gives to this woman, a water that springs and gushes and gives her life not just for one day, but for all of her days. This living water gives the life that comes when the type of person who can tell you all about your life, like a prophet or a messiah, doesn’t condemn you, but offers you his life instead.
This is the living water that will be given to Lexi today. It is the water of Jesus’ life, the water that will say that she will be God’s favorite for all of her days, along with all of us, no matter what.
And we remember, as Lexi is given Jesus’ eternal life in these waters, that she has already encountered Jesus’ love in the love of her parents, and family, and so many others. She has encountered Jesus in the life that these people, and even our community of CtK, has passed on to her. We remember that as Lexi receives this grace filled living water, this eternal life of Jesus Christ, she will be called to share it with all people just as it has been shared with her. And she will be called to share this life just because grace filled sharing, as we know from our story of the woman at the well, is simply the nature of this life.
For Lexi, as she receives this baptized life, we pray and promise that we as a community will nurture in it, so that she can learn to trust in it, grow in it, and return to the life that it offers. And we also pray and that we will nurture her in this life by showing her our trust in it. We pray that we will show her how Christ, through each of us, is breaking down the sinful barriers that we put up between ourselves and those our society marginalizes. We pray that as God gives Lexi this living water, God will renew it in us, so that we may tell all people about the source of this water, through our love, concern, and care for them. We pray that we can tell others about the source of this living water by showing them the value that God places not only upon Lexi and all of us, but upon all people, and all of creation.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Lent Day 16: WIGIAT? In the losses.

This post continues my daily, Lenten updates of my blog, focusing on WIGIAT? or Where is God in all this?

This week, the NCAA wrestling championships have been on, and I've been watching closely. One of the most significant things to ever happen in the history of this tournament, is when the great Dan Gable finished his previously undefeated collegiate career with a loss. This loss was devastating for Gable, and he has relayed that for the first time, when it came to wrestling, he just couldn't figure out what had happened. He felt very lost in the one thing in his life that he'd always had control over. 

In the wake of the loss, while he was busy feeling sorry for himself, his mother drove down to see him, and in a very ungentle way, sent a message to him to quit feeling sorry for himself, and get back to work. And Dan Gable did get to work, preparing himself for the 1972 Olympics, where he won the gold and did not allow an opponent to score a point on him throughout the tournament. From there, Gable went on to become the greatest college wrestling coach of all time, leading the University of Iowa to 17 national championships during his 22 year coaching career. 

Who knows what would have happened if Gable hadn't lost, but that loss certainly helped propel him to become the dominating Olympian and coach that he was. But it also took the love of his mother, the love that didn't just accept Dan as he was, and leave him wallowing, but instead helped him remember who he was and what he valued. 

In life, we go through set-backs all the time, and even the things that we have always felt control of, will eventually be taken away. But God has given us our time and abilities and values so that we can accomplish this or that, we have been given these things so that we can live lives of meaning and purpose rooted in what's important. In our lives of faith, this purpose is rooted in the love and hope of Christ, who calls us not to dwell in our sin and self-pity, but instead to return to the life that is found in someone who has turned the biggest loss of all, death on a cross, into the world's greatest victory. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Lent Day 15: WIGIAT? God is not CNN.

This post continues my daily, Lenten updates of my blog, focusing on WIGIAT? or Where is God in all this?

Today, I was stuck at the Toyota dealership as the standard maintenance on our car turned into a brake job. While there, the tv's in the waiting area were on CNN, where it was non-stop coverage of the airplane that went missing after it took off from Malaysia.

What happened to this airplane is certainly a mystery, and the stress and strain on the families and those who are close to the passengers is something I can't begin to imagine, but CNN spent hours not reporting any news, but speculating on it. In fact, their coverage seemed like it was cut out of the recent movie, Anchorman 2...and that was a ridiculous and very funny comedy. At one point, there was a camera shot of a bunch of reporters, and the CNN reporter described it as "remarkable". The other low-light was the continual coverage of the lithium batteries that were on board, which have apparently caused fires on other flights. The host of whatever show was asking someone about whether or not that could be why the flight had disappeared. While the guest said that is theoretically possible, all the logic points to that not being the case. The guest's logic didn't fit the speculation though, so the host quickly poo pooed it.

So, Where is God in all this? To many people, talk about religion and God is like the speculation that goes on in our 24 hour news cycles. People spend valuable time, and energy arguing and speculating on God and the things of God. Mostly, they're trying to tell everyone how right they are, and stand firm upon their complete fantasies that they parrot around as the "Gospel Truth". And, while yelling about how totally awesome their God is, these folks are usually yelling about how totally awful someone they don't like is. And, who can argue, because opinion is fact when you have the "Gospel Truth" of speculation.

Still wondering where God is? God is not in speculation, or the unknown, God is in the known. God of course is well beyond our understanding, but God has given us the means to understand and know, and even taste and see and feel who God is. God has done this in the human flesh that Jesus took on, and God has given us the truth of this flesh in the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist. Baptism tells us who is beloved and why, everyone because God made them. Eucharist tells us what we can do to mess up that love, nothing, because God would even die for us because of this unending love. Through the sacraments, our God  gives us the life of Jesus, and calls us to share the God who has been given to us in this certain way, with all of creation.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Lent Day 14: WIGIAT?

During Lent, I will be updating my blog during each of the 40 days, focusing on WIGIAT? or Where is God in all this?

Today, God was present in the chance to sip some coffee, read the texts for Sunday, and reflect upon them, on what God was saying to me through them, and on what I would say in my sermon on Sunday. 

What was interesting, was that when I got to the local coffee shop, got my coffee and my egg sandwich, whe place was bustling and there was a ton of background noise. Over the next minutes, the place started to clear out, and pretty soon, it was me, someone else working on their computer, and the staff. The silence suddenly became very loud, and the conversation they were having, though they weren't close to me, became louder and kept penetrating my own little thought bubble. 

We hear God in many different ways. Sometimes, when the noise around us dies down, God's still small voice, like that of the staff, suddenly seems very loud. But the truth is that God's volume stays the same, but our ears have now become more open. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Lent Day 13: WIGIAT? Will you play with me?

Today, I saw God in the question my son has begun asking, "Will you play with me?" Playing includes playing with his trains, pushing trucks along the floor (or pretending the fly because you're not quite as close to the floor as him), or just chasing each other around the house while holding a little Batman or Robin. Whatever the game though, Charlie usually has a much more vivid picture of what we actually are playing than me.

At some point in the whole growing-up stage I'm going to be completing someday, asking, or being asked, "will you play with me?" went out of style. The thing is, I never really missed it until hearing my son start to ask me that same question. When I hear it now, I hear such innocent hope and desire for companionship and sharing in what Charlie is doing. It really is touching, and it is a blessing to getting to be a child's playmate.

God is in in this child everyday, and while I would like to have him take his time growing-up, I know that God will be in him when he stops asking me to play with him. In Charlie, and in all of us, is the living word of God. It is the word of hope and promise and love that comes to us in unique perspectives, and grows and changes along with us through all parts of our lives. In life, it's pretty obvious that we aren't called to stay the same. What's great is that we can depend on God's love to remain the abundantly in us, always ready to be shared and enjoyed.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Lent Day 12: WIGIAT? Living Memories

Today, I saw God in the memories of a person who I never met, but whose privilege I had the honor of officiating at this morning. Before putting together the service, some family memories had sent me some reflections on the man who had died, and the portrait they painted, of a rugged stonemason and caring person who was always leading the charge in helping wherever it was needed warmed my heart.

Recently, my Grandmother died, and I received a list of memories from my cousins and aunt and uncle. I really enjoyed reading these memories of Grandma, and also sharing many memories at her funeral. The love that she gave to everyone lives on in us, and it lives on in the stories and memories we share. So, just a few memories of Jean Peterson:
-She took me out for my first piece of pie, I'm barely old enough to remember, but we went to St. Charles and I had banana cream. It was really good.
-Grandma helped us out a lot when my mom was sick and after she died. When Grandma was around though, it was always equal parts work and play, with the work happening first so then we could play. And Grandma outworked us all.
-Grandma always kept us informed on our other family members, and was always up to date on what everyone was doing.
-Grandma didn't like it when her grandsons and Grandpa would give each other a hard time. She really didn't like the time we were playing euchre for quarters, especially because it was the day before Easter.
-One phrase Grandma always said was, "what's the difference." She said this because having a good time with children was much better than making sure that nothing ever got used or broken.
-Grandma's bible was well-used, and she sent "Our Daily Bread" devotionals to us. I don't know how many other grandparents did this, but it's one thing my wife and I held in common when we first met. (Her grandmother sent them out too.)
-Grandma took a bunch of us on a trip to the Grand Canyon, we had a wonderful time and shared many laughs. We stopped in Las Vegas for a couple of nights and the cousins spent a day at a great water park. Grandma spent the rest of the trip begging us to tell others about all the other places we'd been besides Vegas.
-In Las Vegas, the grandkids were trying to get Grandma to put a quarter in the slot machine, and she refused. She told us that in her younger days, she was in a casino at a slot machine, and it dawned upon her that if Jesus walked in she might not be able to stop and talk to him, so that's why she stopped.
-It was pretty standard to come home from school to find Grandma and Grandpa at our house on a Thursday or Friday once football and wrestling season started. They did only live 5 hours away.
-Grandma worked hard to learn how to use email when it came out, and we got many, many emails.
-Grandma cared deeply for everyone, wanted everyone to get along, and was a testament to the love that God has for all people, and through the lives she has touched with this love, still is.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Lent Day 11: WIGIAT? Vincent.

For Lent, I have decided to update my blog for each of the 40 days. The subject of my updates is answering the question, WIGIAT?, or Where is God in all this?

I see God a lot in music and art. Now, as a person who spends a lot of time doing things regarding God and religion, one may assume I listen to a lot of religious themed music. I don't. But, I do find a great deal of truth expressed in the music I do listen to, which crosses all genres.

Lately, I've been thinking about the song Vincent, by Don McLean. This song is about Vincent Van Gogh, and it was a song I remember listening to in elementary school as part of an art appreciation class taught by a friend's mother. (as far as growing up in Eyota was concerned, this probably wasn't on your normal playlist) Anyway, whenever I see a Van Gogh painting, my mind immediately starts humming, "starry starry night."

But it's really amazing how much Don McLean takes Van Gogh's work and life, and articulates it in song. The opening lines, "Starry, starry night; paint your palette blue and gray. Look out on a summer's day, with eyes that know the darkness in my soul." Hearing these words, and knowing now how much Van Gogh suffered from mental illness, it's easier to see how Van Gogh may have found such vividness in the world around him, because of the darkness that kept rearing its head in his own life. While this darkness caused so much pain in his own life, it allowed Van Gogh to express a world of light that both he, and so many who suffer from mental illness long for. 

So much of the time, we don't want to get into the pain and suffering in people's lives. It's easier, or seems to be, if we just spend our time in the superficial things like weather and other people. This is why we need art, like music, and painting, or music about painters, that helps us explore the darkness of our own souls with beautiful companions. In finding such companions, we are joined in our own journeys by people whose compassion continues to speak to us; as Don McLean sings, "Colors changing hue, morning fields of amber grain, weathered faces lined in pain, are soothed beneath the artist's loving hand." 

In other words, Don McLean helps me to understand Van Gogh, who helps me to understand Jesus, when he says in Matthew 6, "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these."

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Lent Day 10: 6 month old birthday cake

For Lent, I have decided to update my blog for each of the 40 days. The subject of my updates is answering the question, WIGIAT?, or Where is God in all this?

Today, I saw God in what I have. This isn't to say that everything I have is some sort of blessing from God that I've been given in return for fulfilling faithful duties.

What I am trying to say, is that there is an awful lot that I have zero control over. There are people and situations that I minister with on a normal basis that I can really do little for. There are problems everywhere one looks, and as much as I'd like to solve them all, I just can't.

But, when Jesus was about to feed the thousands of people, he didn't say to the disciples what do you need to feed them, he asked them what they had already. And though the portions they could muster were more than meager before so many people, God created an abundance out of a couple of fish and five loaves.

So what do I have today. I have myself, and genuine concern, and hope for people who are at the end of theirs. I have love to give to my family, and I have a neighbor who I haven't seen since last fall, who has informed me that he is now 6, that he is one of the tallest kids in his class, and that the piece of birthday cake he had at my son's birthday party in October, was delicious.

There's a lot I can't control, and the needs of the world and even the community and the people around me are too overwhelming to think about solving. But I do have a lot of people that make me smile and see the beauty that is in the world. That is enough.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Lent Day 9: WIGIAT? a Tie

For Lent, I have decided to update my blog for each of the 40 days. The subject of my updates is answering the question, WIGIAT?, or Where is God in all this?

Today, God was in a tie. To clarify, the high school hockey championship in Ohio last week ended in a tie, after the student-athletes had played and played, and after 7 overtimes, a tie was declared. The players were a little upset and the coaches were a little disappointed, but in the end both sides decided that for the health of the players, enough was enough.

So why is God in this tie? For some reason, I was thinking about this today, and wondered why winning has taken such a prevalent place in our lives. Don't get me wrong, if I was playing, I'd have been very upset with the tie, maybe even more upset than losing. There's just something so unsettling, so incomplete in our lives without a winner. In fact, much of our lives aren't based on what we are actually doing, like playing hockey, they're based on this result of winning.

What winning is really all about, is comparing ourselves to others, knowing where we stand in regards to other human beings. But here's the thing, the end result doesn't matter. However much you win, eventually, no one is going to remember years from now, or even weeks.

This obsession with winning, isn't just a sports thing, but affects every part of our lives. We're constantly told what success and winning is, so much so that we can sacrifice our enjoyment of life, and important relationships, so that we can get a little more stature, however fleeting it is. And, what's really crazy, is that we not only try to win in this life, but try to leave a winning legacy that will remain long after we die.

What would happen, if instead of looking for winners, we constantly sought to make everything a tie, if instead of individual success, the goal was to create as many "winners" as possible. What if our efforts were not in seeing how great we could make ourselves, but in putting all our efforts into realizing the greatness that God has created all things with. Maybe this is what is meant when Jesus says that the "first shall be last and the last shall be first."

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Lent Day 8:A tale of two Lutherans.

One place I often see God, is in the humor of every day life. Not only does a little humor make everyone laugh, it also gives a little perspective on how absurd our own preconceptions and arguments can be.

Last night, we some of us at Christ the King held the first of our discussions centered around the book Baptized We Live: Lutheranism as a Way of Life, by Daniel Erlander. This is a short book, with a lot of illustrations and different fonts and yet it offers one of the best summations I've ever seen of not only what it means to be Lutheran, but what it means to be follower of Christ. Rather than try to define Lutheranism, the book talks about what and how Lutherans hear, see, teach, and follow.

To intro the discussion, I showed this clip from Cheers, which unfortunately has represented how Lutherans and Christians sometimes treat each other. And, it's really funny. So remember that God probably hasn't given you the answer to all of life's problems, but has given you something to laugh about.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Lent Day 7: WIGIAT? Even in the stumbling blocks.

For Lent, I have decided to update my blog for each of the 40 days. The subject of my updates is answering the question, WIGIAT?, or Where is God in all this?

Today, I saw God in children. Children who joyfully come forward during the children's sermon, and eagerly put money into the pickle jar, to help out those who are in a pickle. In under a year, these children have helped people buy prescriptions, recover after a house fire, and keep the electricity on. Yes, the children are given the money by their parents, but they never hide it, or cry when putting it in the jar; they go looking for the jar. These children gladly take what is given to them, and even more gladly put it to great use.

And, I saw God in the people who have come to me for help. It's not in my ability to help, I wish I could do more...and know in my heart of hearts I could, but it is in my chance to take the gifts the children have brought, and pass it on to people who don't receive a hand-out, but simply a little grace to give them hope, and get them to tomorrow.

This is the same way that God comes through me to a group of people in simple bread and wine, despite my own significant, numerous, and continual failures. I've done nothing to give the gifts of children or God to people, but still I have been given the precious opportunity to be a participant in these grace-filled moments.

And I also see God in the people who deride those who need assistance, the ones who say that people on food stamps are lazy or should get a job. I see God break into this world and offer the gifts of repentance, transformation, and new life; even as they put their stumbling blocks before others.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Lent Day 6 :WIGIAT? A Spring Day

Today, and this past week, God has been present in the SLOW changing of the seasons. God has been there in the warmth of the sun, even when it's only 45 degrees out, and in melting the snow that has gone from pretty in December to a dirty, nuisance in March. God is there, of course in the new life springing forth and the assurance that the grass will soon be green and there will be leaves on bare trees.

But where God really is, in this changing weather, is in the activity that has suddenly sprung forth on the streets of Holliston. It's such a joy to see people outside of their homes and enjoying the freedom of actually being outside and enjoying it. It's refreshing to actually take a moment and chat with people you meet up with while walking your dog, instead of simply trying to get around the block in record time. Standing on Spring's doorstep, people seem ready to take on what's next. (And I'm already working on my mental golf swing.)

Now, whether you are a fan of cold, or warm weather, there is no denying that there is a much greater freedom when the snow is melted and the cold air is blown away. In our relationships, anger, fear, and envy can do the same thing as winter. They can restrict our movements, and make any interaction a frigid affair. God's salvation is about bringing warmth to the things that gunk up our human relationships, and melting away the sin with love. This warmth is given to us in grace, and so may we bask in God's grace, put our heavy winter coats away, and join in sharing our lives with each other.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Lent Day 5: WIGIAT? Shawshank and fitness.

During Lent, I'm going to be answering WIGIAT? Where Is God In All This? So, here goes 40 days worth of telling you where God has shown up in my life. 

This morning, I went to my local anytime fitness, and got a little workout in. 

There's a part of me, that hates the whole thing. Exercising for the sake of exercising, moving on machines created for the sake of moving, and picking up heavy things that were made to be picked up. It all seems very unnatural for me. 

Yet, it's the most natural thing we can do. Moving. Our bodies, were not made to be stagnant, they were made to move and adapt and keep doing stuff. In today's world, we have made many aspects of life very convenient on our bodies, but this doesn't mean easy. The opposite is true, generally, the easier we take it on our bodies, the harder it is on them. The harder it is for our bodies to actually do what they were made to do, and that is move. 

Often, we view grace as a gift that means we don't have to do anything. The reality is that the gift is in doing something. Our bodies are a gift to us, but they were given to us, as is the whole of our lives, so that we can use them, to explore and discover and to enjoy the people and creation that God has given us. This cannot be done by "doing nothing." You can't do nothing, as Andy Dufresne (played by Tim Robbins) said in the Shawshank Redemption, "You can get busy living, or get busy dying." 

God is in our ability to grow and live no matter our circumstance, but because of our attitude. Do we get busy living the life that is always still ours, or do we get busy waiting for it to be over. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sermon for 3/9/2014 and Lent day 4 3/4: WIGIAT? Drugs.

Sermon for 3/9/2014 from Pr. Mark T. Peterson at Christ the King Lutheran Church, Holliston, MA. Sundays aren't counted as part of the 40 days of Lent, so go ahead, have that chocolate!

Gospel: Matthew 4:1–11
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  2He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.  3The tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread."  4But he answered, "It is written,
            'One does not live by bread alone,
            but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"
  5Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple,  6saying to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,
            'He will command his angels concerning you,'
            and 'On their hands they will bear you up,
            so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'"
  7Jesus said to him, "Again it is written, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"
             8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor;  9and he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me."  10Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! for it is written,
            'Worship the Lord your God,
            and serve only him.'"
  11Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ,

When I was in college, there was a sweeping trend among Christians; the W.W.J.D. bracelet. W.W.J.D. standing for, What Would Jesus Do?

The point of these bracelets, was that by wearing one, you would have a constant reminder of your faith, and you would consistently make choices in life based on What Jesus would do. Or, to put it another way, you were supposed to wear these bracelets, so that whenever you were tempted to do something bad, you could look at this bracelet, remember Jesus, and say no to the temptation.

And here we are in the first week of Lent, hearing about Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, and how he just says no to it.

Thinking about wearing those bracelets, and the season of Lent, I’m reminded of something else, which started during my childhood. The “Just Say No” campaign. “Just say no to drugs.” is what we were told again and again during cartoons, sit-coms, and of course, the “after-school special”.

Just Say No. It often seems that this is how our faith is summed up by many people.

What does it mean to be a Christian? It means being very good and just saying NO to sin!..just like Jesus did.

Unfortunately, we human beings cannot Just Say No to sin…which is really the story of our faith. It infects every part of our lives, and it’s not just in the temptations that lead us to making poor choices in life. The truth of the matter, is that sin really thrives in places of our lives we don’t think about saying no to, like in our attitudes of judgment and superiority towards those who don’t just say no.

In recent years, the problems of people who have not been able to “say no” to drugs have increased dramatically, and drug abuse has reached epidemic status according to some.
Yet, in recent decades, instead of prioritizing treating people, it’s been much easier to find money for more jails and police officers than it has for addiction treatment centers, as our nation has fought a war on drugs.

The underlying message of this war, and general public percepction, is that we can eradicate drug related issues through will-power, and by punishing those who don’t seem to have it. Yet for all the lives, money, and years in prison that have gone into this crusade, drugs are still causing hearts to break in families and communities regardless of who the people are or where they live.

I suppose I could stand-up and say that because of my faith and a W.W.J.D? bracelet, I’ve made all the right choices when it comes to drugs. But the reality in my life is that I feel very lucky that I’ve never even had to make the choice to say “no to drugs” because I haven’t really been exposed to them. This is just how things have worked out.

But, even though I’ve been lucky in this regard, I know something. I know that after I eat lunch or dinner, I go looking for something chocolate, and if we have something I never stop at one cookie or piece of chocolate. The only thing that really keeps me from indulging is if we don’t have anything in our house. But a strange thing happens when I go to the grocery store, the cravings come back to me, and while I know that not buying sweets would keep me from eating them, they often find their way into my cart anyway.

I’m fairly positive, and old enough to now realize, that if I ever tried something that had the power over people’s brains that drugs do, I couldn’t just say no. And I know that I’d be ashamed of this, and hide it, and my shame and cravings would work together to send me further into a downward spiral.  The power that drugs can have over people, is really scary.

And contrary to common perceptions, the people who suffer from drug abuse aren’t evil or weak, they’re people just like us. And the issue of drugs isn’t about morality, it’s about grief and sadness over the years of joy that drugs and other addictions take from people.

As we experience this epidemic of despair all around us, and even among us, I wonder, we wonder, what can we do?

It seems to me, that asking What Would Jesus Do? might be worthwhile. Not in the sense of making sure that everyone has a bracelet so that it can be some sort of magical shield against temptation. Trust me, that doesn’t work. I mean really asking What would Jesus Do? and finding out what he has done.

Jesus didn’t come into this world of despair in order to tell us to just say no to sin. Rather, Jesus came to take away our sin, through the giving of his life.

In the story of Jesus’ temptation, he takes away our sin not just by saying no to temptations, but by saying no to the devil’s empty promises. The same empty promises that drugs offer as a response to the sinful junk that gets poured into our beings from every direction imaginable. The empty promises that don’t lead to freedom and salvation from a sinful, abusive, and deadly world, but only further bondage into it. The same empty promises that trick us mortals every time and have since the Garden of Eden. This is what Jesus says no to.

But Jesus doesn’t just take away the sin of the world by saying no. Jesus says yes, to trusting in the God who isn’t about just fixing life, but creating it. And Jesus, as the one sent from God, as the one who is God, trusted in this creative power, said yes to it, not only in the wilderness, but also as he was being crucified by our sinful actions. And through Jesus’ trust, through his yes, came new and resurrected life.  Jesus said no to the fixer, and yes to the Creator.

And Jesus has said yes to us, each of us, by giving us this new, resurrected, eternal life in the waters of baptism. This is what Jesus has done, and as we struggle in the grips of sin, it is this life that we are called to return to, to cling to, to depend upon, and to share in together. We aren’t called to just say no to sin, or try to conquer it, because we can’t. We’re called to return to the love that is given to us in the midst of our sin, because in that love, is new life.
And having been given this life without end, may we give this same life to individuals, families, and communities whose lives are being ripped apart by drugs and other addictions. May we have the courage to walk with them in their suffering. May we hear with patience and concern their stories, their hardships, and their despair seeking to understand and learn, and not judge. And may we bear the hope of Christ for the hopeless, offer them God’s love, proclaim through our compassionate love that God’s promise is real, and God’s triumph over the devil and all his empty promises was not just for some, but for all. No matter what.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Lent Day 4: WIGIAT? Memorable quotes

Martin Luther stated that "surely the word of God is working while I drink my Wittenberg beer." So, on a day of attending Dr. Seuss's birthday party at the library, doing puzzles, going for walks, and hearing the words, "Daddy, my shoes are really muddy!". I rejoice that I am not responsible for the world's salvation.

Just as God is present in our "productivity", God is there in our recreation, our rest, and our reflection...perhaps even more so than our production. So rest up and set your clocks ahead, and know that tomorrow will bring a day full of God's grace.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Lent Day 3: WIGIAT? Social Media and the Wrestling Mat

During Lent, I'm going to be answering WIGIAT? Where Is God In All This? So, here goes 40 days worth of telling you where God has shown up in my life.

Today, I checked my facebook page, and saw this story linked:

It is a heartbreaking, yet wonderful story of compassion and care, and it comes from the wrestling mat, so it has all the required elements. And, it shows the character that so many young people that I come into contact with possess. In my opinion, the kids these days are really wonderful.

So, thank you Malik Stewart for being an image of God for me in your compassionate embrace of Mr. McKee.

And thank you to Facebook, and other social media outlets, who certainly have their flaws, but also give us the ability to share the fruit of our lives as well. 

Romans 10:14 says: How are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?

 Today, Facebook helped make a proclamation. Have a happy Friday!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Lent Day 2: WIGIAT? Remember you're a duck!

During Lent, I'm going to be answering WIGIAT? Where Is God In All This? So, here goes 40 days worth of telling you where God has shown up in my life.

This morning, as I was walking my dog Raven, what must have been 20 or 30 ducks landed in the little canal by our house. I stopped to check them out, because I like ducks (there were no blue ducks so I still haven't seen one of those). What I noticed was the ducks sort of dipping themselves in the water, I think to get themselves wet.

Of course, there's a baptism connection here, and the water and getting to see the beautiful ducks reminded me of the lens God gives us in our baptism. In that water, God gives to us cross shaped glasses, and with these glasses, God gives us the grace to see the world with the same love that Jesus saw it with. A good thing.

But to be honest, in the moment of watching those ducks, I wondered if the frigid water bothered them, and I thought it was the last place I'd want to be. In a way, the baptized life can be viewed like that too. Do I really want to be a follower of the guy who says sell everything you have and give the money to the poor, and turn the other cheek? Do I want to follow someone who will lead me to the cross? Do I want to follow someone whose first generation of followers ended up getting killed on his behalf? (11/12 that is.) I want to do that about as much as I wanted to be a duck and jump in the freezing water this morning.

Thankfully, God hasn't left that up to me. Through the Church, God called my parents to bring me for the gift of baptism, and through them and the community of faith, formed me in that gift. This hasn't made me desire a horrible death anymore, but it has slowly formed me to see that the way of the Cross, the way of following Jesus isn't really the way to death, but the way to life.

I'm not sure if those ducks like the cold water, but I'm guessing they probably can't live without it, and after the initial shock their bodies must get used to it. We humans are like ducks that won't go in the water, because we're too afraid of the cold to experience the life it gives. It's a good thing then, that God doesn't leave the decision up to us. God gives us the gift of grace, which by the power of the Holy Spirit brings us to that water, whether it is through parents, friends, or a community of love.

Yesterday, we remembered that we are dust. Today, I remember that I am a duck...who doesn't like water, but God has bathed me in it anyway!