Friday, April 30, 2010

Something Interesting

I am finding it interesting having the backward clock.  The thought was that it would make reading the clock easier when looking in the mirror since the mind would not have to flip it around to make sense of it.  But just the opposite is happening; it seems to be more confusing.  I think it has to do with 45 years of learning about mirrors:  Things in mirrors are not what they seem.  So the mind has to flip all the other things in the reflection but does not have to flip the clock.  This is cognitively jarring.

Nick has noticed it too.  I originally thought that it would make reading the clock easire, but I am not so sure now. 

I wonder if eventually we will habituate to it.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Backward Clock

I wanted a clock that I could read while getting ready in the morning.  So, when looking in the mirror, it is possible to read the clock correctly.  I learned how to make the clock run backwards on YouTube.  (You can learn AMAZING thing on YouTube!)  Then made the clock face.  First one so it was a learning project.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Three Meme

Stolen from Ur-Spo and

Movies I love:

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
The Fifth Element

TV shows I love:

Star Trek
RuPaul's Drag Race

Books I love:

The Great Gatsby
Stages of Faith
Why God Won't Go Away

Authors I love:

Janet Evanovich 
Tom Robbins
Anne Rice

Comic book characters I love:

The Mighty Thor

Songs I love:

Light and Day (Polyphonic Spree)
Whenever I Call You Friend (Kenny Loggins and Stevie Nicks)
Vienna (Ultravox)

Musical artists I love:

Kate Bush
Laurie Anderson

Musical groups/bands I love:

The Beatles

Spandeau Ballet

Musicals I love:

Guys and Dolls
Jesus Christ Superstar

Types of music I love:

New Wave/New Romantic

80′s Pop
Christmas Music (especially of the New Age variety)

Outdoor physical activities I love to engage in:


Sports I love to participate in:


Bedroom Wrestling

Board games I love to play:

Trivial Pursuit

Hobbies I love to indulge in:

Stained Glass
Collecting Nativities

Things I suck at but love to do:

The Sunday New York Times Crossword
Throw Darts 

Foods I love:

Taco Bell Gorditos
Beef Stroganoff (The way my mom makes it!)
My mom's cinnamon rolls

Drinks I love:

Bell's Oberon
Coffee (Although I am NOT a coffee-snob!)

Desserts I love:

White cake with white frosting

Vegetables I love:

Corn on the Cob (Especially from Fincel's!)

Restaurants I love:

"Beer and Burger" Joints

Chinese Buffets

Artists I love:
Tiffany (The glass guy)
Kozar (A Midwest photo realist artist.  I own this in a signed. numbered edition.)

Places I love:

New Orleans

Anywhere Nick is!

Items I love that I own:

Claudia the Neurotic Cat
My Kozar print (see above)

Things I am trying to get better at doing:

Being more aware of the condition of the apartment, and then doing something about it.
Not overly worrying about others' opinions of what I am doing.
Being proactive, not reactive.

Things I would not want to live without:

Nick (even though he is not a thing!)
Beauty (I know that is four, but deal with it!)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

8 Months

Gettin' Into The Spirit!

Two-Thirds of the Weekend Gone

Well, it is early Sunday morning. Nick is still asleep but I am awake. Oh well.

So far, this has been an interesting weekend. It started Friday with the FUNERAL!  I have to say that it didn't go too bad.  I also have to say that the former priest was pretty good.  I had suggested she do the readings in the funeral, but when we got to the planning part, the widower wanted his daughters-in-law to do the readings.  So I asked the priest to do the prayers of the people.  And she agreed.  I also suggested to the widower during the luncheon that he have her do the blessings to which she agreed.

The meal went fine until the priest decided to give me "one little suggestion."  She suggested that I might want to announce which books the readings and songs are in "because in the Lutheran Church, they are all in one book, but now there are two."  I did forget to tell people which book, but after the first "oops!" moment, I did not do it again.  But she needed to bring it to my attention.  Maybe I am reading too much into the situation, but what I heard was, "You are not one of us and don't you forget it."

But that is over, and for what it is worth, it won't happen again!

Then Nick and I were off to my former Lutheran congregation for an ordination on Saturday.  Mike, the pastor being ordained, was a friend and member of the congregation when I was there.  He was also supportive of me in the process of leaving the congregation and the ELCA.

Things like this can be difficult for me and tend to dig up a lot of things involving dreams and dreams that never occurred.  But it also was not so bad because things were happening in my life.  I am back in the pulpit and back in the congregation.  There was a feeling of justification in being able to say, "See, God still calls me and can use me even though you have rejected me."  In so many words, I said this to the Lutheran Assistant to the Bishop.  She asked if I had thought of coming back.  I said, in so many words, that when the ELCA rejected me, the Episcopal Church took me in.  I have to respect their willingness to reach out and offer acceptance when it would have been easier to just turn away.

What I wasn't ready for was Nick's feelings.  I am not going to go into it here, that is his story to tell.  But what he has said that being in the church that had rejected me made him feel on edge.

But we made it though.  I had a chance to reconnect with some folks that I hadn't seen in years.  I had a chance to introduce Nick to some former congregants.  In all, we were graciously accepted.  If felt odd to be participating in the service but to still be an outsider.

I also realized how big of a weenie the senior pastor really is!  I am glad I am not there anymore!

Friday, April 23, 2010

LANDSLIDE! Easter 4 Year C

Easter 4            April 25, 2010                      John 10:22-30                      The Rev. Benton QuestL

It seems that every year we hear the stories coming out of California.  We hear the horrible stories about people losing their houses in landslides and forest fires.  We hear about these multi-million dollar homes sliding down the sides of the mountains or getting burned to the ground.
Now, in the news reports, we are supposed to feel sorry for these people.  We are supposed to have a soft spot in our hearts for the loss of possessions and mementos. These reports to supposed to jerk at our heartstrings.  And for some of the people in these situations, I do truly feel sorry.
But then there are others, who seem to be the majority, who I have a little more difficulty showing sympathy.  These people are the ones who lose their homes because they want the view.  These are the people who build their homes on the edge of a cliff, even when to do so is obviously foolhardy.  I am sorry if this sounds unchristian, but I have trouble feeling any kind of sympathy for these people.  They know that the rains will fall but they take no precautions, or minimal precautions.  They know that the fires will come near, but they do not cut back the underbrush.  They know that the likelihood of disaster is near,  but when disaster occurs, they begin to cry.
I am sure these people have seen what can happen if you build with most of the house hanging off the edge, but they choose to ignore what they saw.  They have heard the stories of houses being burned to the ground but prefer to think that this will never happen to them.  However, when it does happen, they are act totally surprised.  The people are told that the rains are coming or that the flames approach.  They have seen the destruction that has occurred before them.  They have heard the stories.  Yet, with all of this information, they still choose to build their houses in the danger zone.
Why would people do that?  Why would they choose to place their houses where they will be in danger?  Especially after all they have seen and heard?  Part of the reason is that while the weather is nice, the view is wonderful!   However, when things turn bad, when the rains pour down and the hillsides give way, they are seeking help.  However, this is not a new problem.  This is a problem that has been around for eons.  In fact, it is the same problem that Jesus faces in today’s gospel.
In the gospel from John, Jesus is presented with a question: The people want to know if he is the messiah or not.  And if he is, they want to see it plainly.
I can just hear Jesus answer to the people.  He would roll his eyes and with just a hint of exasperation say, “I have told you but you don’t believe.  I have shown you but you will not see.” 
What Jesus trying to say to the people is, “I have shown you that I am the messiah but you just don’t get it!  You don’t want to get it.  If you got it, you would not need to ask.  You would live in the truth and follow my example.  But you have chosen to look elsewhere and cannot see the truth because it is not there.  You have chosen the pretty view over the real view.  The view is nice for a while, but you need to see the land around you.”
These people in the gospel are like those who build on the mountainside.  They are shown the truth but they do not see it.  They have heard the truth but do not want to believe it.  They are not seeing the truth because are not looking for it.  And because they are not aware of the truth, they will not be prepared and will be swept away by whatever comes along.
Quite often we are like the Jews in the gospel and like those people in California.  We see the truth all around us but do not think it pertains to us.  We do not want to believe what we hear and what we see.  Our shepherd is in front of us but we do not hear his voice.  We get so enthralled with the view of the world that we forget that we are in danger.  We like what we have so much that we forget where it came from. We do not want to see.
Jesus has done so much for us.  Jesus has shown himself to be the messiah in so many ways.  He has died for our sins; he was raised from the dead to give us eternal life.  He gave his body for us in the Eucharist to strengthen us and called us to the eternal reign of God in our baptism.  All these things we have seen with our eyes, felt in our lives, heard from those who have come before us.  All of these things point to the way of Christ as the way of life and the way of redemption.  All of these things point to the gift of Grace poured upon us.
But so often we don’t look to Jesus for life and truth.  So often we look to the world.  The world is not there to take care of us.  The world is not there to love us.  Unfortunately, the world is there to take advantage of us.  The world is there to use us and then discard us.
Think I am being overly melodramatic?  Maybe so, but what is going on out there?  Advertisements are designed to make us feel like we are not adequate.  We are told that as long as we do not have the product that is for sale, we will be lacking, in some cases we are told that we may be totally ostracized. Let’s face it, for the longest time I lived in mortal fear of being found with ring-around-the-collar.  According to the ads, that would be the end of life as I know it.  I can go on; we need to drive a Lexus, wear Levi’s, own a Playstation, ride a Harley, and mow our lawns with a John Deere.  If we don’t do these things, the world tells us that we are lacking.  If we don’t follow the rules of the world, we are nothing.
So we go out and we try all of these things, hoping that they will bring us peace and satisfaction.  But when we finally meet all the requirements of the world, we find that the requirements have changed.  At one point, we just needed a Cadillac, now we need that Lexis.  Once we just needed a cell phone, now we need to have an iPhone.  Once we live up to the expectations of the world, the world NEEDS to change the expectations.  We do not find the redemption we had hoped, all we find is another set of requirements.  Suddenly the flood of life comes along and we are swept away.  We were not looking in the right place to see the truth. It is not that it is bad to have these things, just like having a view off the side of a mountain is not bad.  It is when we loose sight of what is important that things become serious.
Why is it so hard for us to accept Christ’s truth?  Why do we find it so difficult to follow Jesus?  In some ways I think it is because Christ’s ways seem too hard.  They are too hard in many ways.  Let’s face it, “love your enemy” pushes us, and love all people as Christ has loved us is pretty well impossible.  To do this would mean that we have to be willing to go out of our way to help the nasty people in our lives.  We have to be willing to help those whom we would rather avoid.  This is not fun!  We are not just supposed to be kind to the people who are kind to us, we have to be kind to the people that hurt us!  But if we are to follow Christ, this is what we are to do.
And if it were to end here, it would be too hard.  We cannot do this on our own.  We cannot be this good, all the time, to all people.  BUT this is where the gift of grace comes in.  We don’t have to do it on our own.  Christ has won our redemption for us so our redemption is not based on how “good” we are.  Our redemption has already been won.  We don’t need a Lexus, or Levi’s, or a Harley, or a John Deere.  All we need we already have.  Our place in the reign of God is secure.  We will be part of the multitudes crying in a loud voice and singing the Lord’s praise!
(Commercial for the Choir: Since you are going to be spending eternity singing the praises of God, you should join choir and start to get some practice!)
We have been given the gift of the Bible to show us the way.  We have been given the gift of the faithful to tell us the stories.  We are not in suspense; we have seen the messiah!  We don’t need to go looking around; we know the truth!  We will not get washed away in the landslides of life!  We have the anchor of Christ to hold us strong!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pissed off rant

I hate getting into those "no win" situations!!!!

One of the people that I mentioned before that was in Hospice has died.  It really was a blessing that she passed and she was surrounded by her husband and her family.

Now, this is where the "no win" situation comes in.  The widower asked me if it was possible for the former pastor to be involved in the service.  My first response was "no!"  This was not because I am an ego maniac or anything, I just do not feel that it is appropriate to have the former pastor involved in the service.  She is not the spiritual leader of the community any more and should not be expected to be part of the service; especially this soon after leaving. But if I say "no," than I look like the big, bad, meanie.

So I said "yes" hoping that the former pastor would know that the appropriate response would be to thank the widower for asking her, but to tell him that it would not be appropriate for her to be a part of the service.  She could be at the service, but to be an active part would not help the transition of the congregation to the new pastor.

Well, you guessed it:  She does not have good boundaries.  She first started by telling me how to put together the service.  I informed her that I was familiar with the service and had, in fact, just performed a funeral.  Then she said that she was planning on just showing up at the meeting I was having with the widower to plan the service.  Then she was wondering if she could assist with the Eucharist. 

I explained that she would not be vesting for this; she could do the readings or some other part.  Then she went off about that is not what the Bishop said last November.  Then there was a comment about how if I was not secure in my position and that I was "new to this..."  She said she knew I was the priest...  (yadda, yadda, yadda...)  But really didn't give me any sign that she believe I was the priest.

I hate this.  I would say "no" but then I look like a bad guy.  I say "yes" and she goes to show that I should have said "no!"  Aaarrrrggg!!!

Oh well, this will just be a one time thing.  I will not be having a lot to do with this woman.  I guess I am learning why she was asked to leave the congregation.

Monday, April 19, 2010

What's Been Happening

I have to wonder if there is something in the water or what?!?!

In my former congregation, yes, there were older people, but they were pretty healthy. Here, I have something like three people in hospice, and one just died last week. I already had my first funeral on Saturday. Previous to this, the last funeral I did was in 2008, so I was a little rusty.

(Before this next part, I want to say that I know that a funeral is not all about me. But this is my blog so I am going to be a bit self-absorbed.) I really am not a fan of funerals, especially when I don't know the deceased. It becomes an exercise in creative writing and then the fear that I got the whole thing wrong. That is quite a bit of stress! I want to do a good job for the family, but there is also the real fear that I am going to make some proclamation about the deceased and have everyone say something like, "WHO?"

But even though it has been busy, it really is nice to be back in the church. For all the ups and downs, I think this is going to be a good place.  The people have been through some things and are a bit scared, but we have all been through scary times.  It is just helping these folks to see that this is not the end of the world.  We will make it through this and emerge stronger.  We just can't lock ourselves into a room and be afraid.

Seems to me I have heard something about this in a gospel reading or two, lately.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Easter 3 Year C "Feed My Sheep!"

Last week I was asked why it seemed that, in the Bible, everyone who encountered the risen Christ didn’t recognize him? And I have to admit, all the people in the Bible seem a little dense about the whole Christ thing. Here again today, in our gospel reading, we have another example of the disciples not recognizing Christ.

Now, my usual answer to the question is that the disciples were not expecting to see a dead man walking around, so it took an encounter or two for them to recognize that it was Jesus. Let’s face it; we normally don’t expect the dead to be showing up at dinner, so why would we expect the disciples to be any different? I usually say that they are not recognizing Christ because they are not expecting to see him. And, in all honesty, this answer works for most of the situations, but it doesn’t work for today’s gospel reading. For the disciples in today’s gospel reading, this is the third encounter they have had with the living Christ, having Christ pop up at unexpected times should almost be old hat!

But again we have the pattern: Initially, the disciples don’t recognize Christ on the beach. They are going about their lives, doing the things they would normally do. And in the midst of all of this, Christ appears. And they don’t recognize him until something happens that opens their eyes to his presence. Then once something happens, they all recognize that it was Christ that was there all along.

We have a pattern that is starting to emerge here: First, the disciples are going about their life, doing whatever they are doing. Second, Christ appears in their midst and awakens their senses to the possibilities that are spread before them. And finally he commissions the disciples, sends them, out into the world. Now, not only do we have this three-part pattern of restoration and commissioning, but we have this three-part pattern enacted three times. I am guessing we are supposed to be paying attention to all of this!

Now one of the things that can help us to understand what is happening here is an understanding of what numbers represent in the Bible. The number we are dealing with here, is the number three. In the Bible, the number three can be just something simple like the amount that is more than two but less then four. It can be that simple. But it can also have some deeper, symbolic, meaning. The usual symbolic meaning of the number three is that of “wholeness” or “completeness.” When something appears in the Bible in a series of three, we need to think of a totality.

So we have a three-part pattern of restoration happening three times. I think we are supposed to be getting message here!

And if this were not enough to catch our attention, we have Peter’s encounter with Christ. In this encounter the pattern of three is most obvious. If we think back, Peter had denied knowing Jesus three times. If we use the symbolism of three, we can say that Peter had denied Jesus in the fullest way possible. But Christ does not leave Peter in wallowing in his guilt, sadness, and separation. Christ draws Peter to him, feeds him, forgives him, and sends him out into the world. And this is not just a “go out and do something” kind of sending. Christ has a specific purpose; Christ sends Peter out to care for the people of the world. Not once, not twice, but three times Christ tells Peter to go out and feed His sheep.

This three-fold call is not just for Peter, this call is to all of us. And it is not just a call to some kind of abstract feeding. This is a call to real, actual, action. This is a call to be out among the flocks and bringing the food to them. Some of us were actively involved in bring food to Christ’s flock last week through providing soup and sandwiches at Crossroads, and that was a wonderful thing! But that is only the beginning! Christ tells Peter three times to feed his sheep. He tells Peter that in totality Peter is to be about feeding the flocks.

As Christians, we are not sent into the world as an afterthought. Our primary reason for being is to spread Christ’s love to those who need to feel it. Christ has called us in our baptism and feeds us and strengthens us through the Holy Eucharist and through this community of faith. This is why we are here. We are here to be the hands, the voice, the heart of Christ in the world. Then after we are gathered together, we are sent out to feed Christ’s sheep!

There is so much we can learn from this story! We see that Christ calls the disciples over to where the fire is prepared. Christ has already started to cook fish. Christ has begun to prepare food but asks the disciples to bring their fish too! We will be fed, but we are also asked to add our contribution. Christ will feed us but also asks that we put forth our gifts and talent into the feast. The disciples are given the gift of the catch (153 fish! I always wonder who stopped to count them!?!) and then asked them to give a part of that catch to the meal that Christ was preparing.

And after they had eaten, it was then that he questioned Peter. And it was in the process of this questioning that Christ forgives Peter, restores Peter, and sends him out into the world. And with the words, “Follow me,” the risen Christ commissions not only Peter but us all.

So, where are we supposed to be following Jesus? Where are the sheep we are supposed to feed? That is a tough question. Now there may be a few sheep that need to be fed sitting in this building, but I would probably guess that the majority of the sheep we are supposed to feed are outside of our building. The lambs we are to tend are those who may be sitting next to you, but they are also those who are driving by. The sheep we are sent to may never turn into our parking lot and may never set foot into our building, but these are the people that Christ tells Peter, and us, three times, to care for.

If we take this seriously, if we believe that we are sent to feed and care for Christ’s sheep in the world, how would that change our lives? How would that change us as a congregation? How would that change us as individuals? What things are we doing right and what things will we have to change?

Another question to think about is what are we doing that is NOT feeding Christ’s sheep? What are we doing that may be sending sheep away hungry?

One thing that I like about being new to a congregation is that I can ask questions like this and not be accused of having an agenda. I really am not sure of all the things that are happening here nor am I aware of the things that are not happening. So I can ask these questions as a way of sparking interest and conversation. The things that we are doing well, we need to keep on doing them, but so often with most congregations, there are a lot of things we could be doing that we aren’t. It is at these places, places where we see that there is more we can do, that we have to ask ourselves if we are willing to add our fish to the fire that Christ has prepared and are we willing to go out and feed Christ’s sheep?

I believe we see the risen Lord in the world, but do we recognize him? Do we see him in the eyes of the homeless? Do we see him in the face of the single-mother? Do we see Christ in the tattooed and pierced teen who has dropped out of school? Do we see Christ’s sheep in the executive who is just too busy for that God stuff? Do we see Christ’s sheep in the gay or lesbian who has been driven out of their childhood church and is now bitter to anything even remotely smacking of religion? Do we see Christ’s sheep in the person who feels as if their sins are just too great for ANYONE to forgive?

We know the story for the risen Christ. We claim to believe that Christ has risen from the dead. Are we willing to have Christ question us?

Christ looks at us and asks: “Do you love me?"

If we answer, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you," then be prepared for the next line! Christ himself will look us in the eye and say, “Feed my sheep!”

Monday, April 12, 2010


I just realized I missed my Blogaversary!

Wow!  I have been doing this for  four years!

You would think I would have become better at it!!

Thanks to all of you who have stuck around since the beginning and those of you who have joined the ride.  I hope you continue to stick around as I question this thing called life.

Theological Dillemmas

I find personal theologies to be interesting. So often, I just want to ask people, "Why do you believe that?" But asking that of a parishioner would probably not be a good thing!

Last weekend seemed to be filled with head-scratching moments.

I was talking to a parishioner and we were talking about making changes in the standard operating procedure of the church. He mentioned how many people just default to the "that is the way we have always done things" mode and will never move from that. Then about five sentences later, the guy was complaining how the "young kids" in the congregation don't wear shoes in the sanctuary, especially during the summer. "You know, we are supposed to wear shoes in church." I don't think he caught the irony of the comment.

Then I had a woman ask me what happens when no one shows up for a church service. (We had only one person show up for the 8:30 am service on Sunday. She decided she would come back for the later service.) The woman asked, "Aren't you supposed to do the service up to the communion part?" I said, "No, when there are no people, we just don't do the service."

WHY WOULD WE DO A SERVICE IF NO ONE WAS THERE? Liturgy means "work of the people," if there are no people, there is no liturgy! I just had to wonder if the woman thought that the worship service was something that we did for God?  Didn't she see that worship is something that is given FOR US?

Then there was the "I was gone and no one called me..." (as in "I stopped coming to church because I was mad at you and I wanted you to call and beg for forgiveness.)  Isn't part of being a Christian supposed to be living a life of humility and service?  The whole "no one called me" thing just strikes me of self-importance.

Granted, it is important to appreciate people, but to leave a church because "no one called" seems childish.  It is almost as if there is some kind of test being placed before the pastor.  Problem is, the pastor is not even aware that the test is being given.  The psych person in me says, "Let people be adults and ask if they need help or are having problems."  But others see this is "not caring."  Kind of crazy-making.

No, this is not a problem here, now, but it occurs in churches quite often.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

I Doubt It

The gospel story for this Sunday always seems to leave me with an uneasy feeling.  I guess part of the reason is that I have often been in Thomas’s place.  I have been the one left feeling unsure when all those around me have been so sure about what was happening.  Now if you have never felt that sense of being left out, then you are truly blessed and you can go get a cup of coffee or something.  But I think most of us have been in Thomas’s place at least once or twice.
I guess what bothers me the most is the way Thomas is commonly portrayed in society.  The phrase “Doubting Thomas” is a byword of our language.  We hear the words “Doubting Thomas” used in such a way as to make it seem as if there is something wrong with having doubts.  Some theologians would have us believe that Christ was angry with Thomas for his lack of faith and that part of today’s gospel story is Jesus rebuking Thomas for his lack of faith.  Maybe that is what bothers me: the concept that any feeling of doubt we may have is wrong and is shameful.
Are we bad Christians if we have doubts?  I guess some would say “yes.”  Some people would have us believe that doubt is a sign of sin in our lives.  Some would say that if we had true, strong, faith, then we would have no reason to doubt.  Some would say that doubt is a glaring flare marking our moral shortfalls.  So I guess by that standard, then I have been a bad Christian; I have had doubts about Christ’s presence in my life.  Like Thomas, I have questioned Christ’s presence among the living.  At times I have doubted all the stories and promises I have heard from others.
The problem with thinking of Jesus as rebuking Thomas is that it doesn’t make the situation any better.  The interpretation of Thomas as a “bad Christian” does not help the situation in any manner.  We all have problems in our life.  We feel troubled about the problems in our lives.  We want to bring these troubles to Christ but feel we can’t.  And why can’t we?  Because we feel that in the midst of our problems we will be told that we are not good enough Christians.  Because we doubt Christ’s presence, we are not good enough to bring our troubles to Christ.
When we hear these judgments and feel the pressure to be stoic in our suffering, it only heaps more trouble onto us.  Not only is life difficult, but it is now our own fault that we are suffering.  It almost feels like we have to have all of our problems solved before we can bring our problems to Jesus.
When we stop to think, having to solve our problems before we can bring them to Christ is pretty silly.  If we could solve our problems ourselves, we wouldn’t need to bring the problems to Jesus.  If Thomas could believe, he wouldn’t need to see.  Thomas was in need.  We are in need.  Jesus does not come to rebuke us for our needs; Jesus comes to help us in our need.
That is the major point we are to take from this reading: Jesus comes to us in our need to help us.  Jesus does not rebuke our need.  Jesus does not punish our need.  Jesus fills our need.  Jesus showed his hands and his side to the other disciples so they could believe; Jesus also shows these wounds to Thomas so he may come to believe.  Just as the other disciples needed to see to believe, (remember, Mary had told them about seeing the risen Christ and the disciples did not believe), so too Thomas needed to see to believe. 
But what about that comment Jesus makes about seeing and believing and those who believe without seeing.  Isn’t that kind of a slap in Thomas’s face?  I guess we could look at it that way.  However, we could also see these words as a truism.  It would be better to believe and not see, but usually we don’t work that way.  We usually need to see before we believe.  So even though it would be better if we could believe without seeing, Jesus still comes to us and gives us what we need to be able to believe.  So instead of a rebuke, Christ’s words are actually the loving words of a concerned teacher.
I stick with this interpretation because it works.  I have found the Bible to be very psychologically sound.  Jesus is very good at bringing out the best in people; we find this throughout the gospels.  Now we know that to attack someone when they are down is no way to help bring out the best in someone.  Wouldn’t our creator know the same thing?  Wouldn’t our creator know that we need support in our times of fear and doubt, not rebuke and reprimand?  So the story of Thomas has noting to do with how “bad” Thomas was and has everything to do with how good God is.
So how does God come to us when we are doubtful?  Christ is no longer here for us to probe his hands and side.  How then are we to see and believe?
This is a tough thing.  This is the world we exist in.  Jesus has not physically walked the earth in over two thousand years.  How is the world supposed to pace their finger in the wounds in Jesus’ hands?  How is the world supposed to place their hand in Jesus’ side?  In our situation now, how is the world to see and know?
This is the situation of the second reading for today.  The most of the people John was writing to, in his epistle, had not seen Jesus, risen or otherwise.  So, because they had not seen Jesus, John was telling them the story.  John was sharing with them the truth as he knew it so that the message of the risen Christ could be shared; even with those who have not had first hand experience.  In sharing the message, John is making Christ real to those who are around him. 
We too bring Christ to the world when we share the message.  When we tell others of the life we have found in Christ.  When we share the blessings we have found in life.  It is when we share with the world that the world experiences Christ.  It is when we share that the world gets to touch Christ’s wounds.  It is when we extend love and forgiveness that the world feels love and forgiveness.
Often our personal experience of Christ is like Thomas’s; we are lost and we want proof that Christ is near.  However, if we think that our feeling of being lost is bad, we will not seek out that which can help us.  Christ still gives us what we need, but that gift is found in the gathered congregation.  It is when we are together, when we are a “y’all”, that we can reach out and touch Christ and have Christ reach out and touch us.
The sad thing is that quite often when the world hears the word “Christian,” they think of anger and judgment.  I have friends who cannot see how I can call myself a Christian when all they see are people who are much more concerned about hatred than about love.
This hurts me and it should hurt us as a community.  I truly believe that the world wants to see Jesus and to touch Jesus.  But what they are seeing and what is being presented to them is something that is wrong.  What the world keeps presenting is a Jesus that would have nothing to do with Thomas.  What the world seems to keep presenting is a Jesus that would only allow Thomas to see him after Thomas had finally become good enough.
For many people, the only Jesus they see is the Jesus of judgment that is presented on television.  But I hope we know that Jesus was so much more.  The Jesus we know is the Jesus who would die for us.  Who was raised for us.  And who would present his wounded hands to us to we may believe. 
Our call is to present the Jesus of love to the world.  Our call is to give to the world what it so desperately needs, the true message of love and understanding that we ourselves receive through Christ.  Our call is to live out our baptismal call and share a living love to a world in need.
It would be nice of we all could believe without seeing, but we are people and we have our doubts.  And Thomas was not bad because he doubted.  Jesus came to address not only Thomas in his doubt, but all of the disciples and their doubts.  We have the Bible to help address our doubts.  But sometimes, we may be the only Bible some people will ever read.  And if we don’t bring the message of Christ love to the world, there are plenty of others who will continue to spread message of judgment and hate.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Brief Updates

Boy do we I have a lot of crap!  We started moving last week with the "Big Move" happening on Saturday.  Well, we are still moving stuff.  It will get here, but I just hate doing all of this.  Wouldn't it be nice to just leave and have new stuff delivered to the new place?

I finally have my "new-to-me" car!  All the pieces fell into place and I was able to finally get it.  I think I am going to name it "Garsh Darn" because it is a Focus.  (Faux Cuss, get it?  That was Nick's suggestion.)

I am getting used to my new place but have been hitting the pavement running with hospital visits, nursing home visits and pre-planning on a funeral.  And if we could figure out the phone system, life would be great!

Well, gotta drive to Lansing and load some more.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Move Update

This is coming to you from the media center at the new Quest Labs!

We moved the major chunk of stuff today.  And thankfully, everything and everyone made it here safely.  I am a bit sore in the neck and shoulders, but not too bad.

What I feel bad about is that there is one of my folks who is very nice, he would do anything for you.  Problem is, he is a know-it-all.  No matter what happens, he has the ultimate say on it; no one know anything and he knows it all.  I tried to look beyond, but he has to insert himself into every situation.  I drives me nuts.  But then I feel bad about feeling nuts over someone who is trying to be helpful.  Kind of a no win situation.

Oh well....

We are here, we have some moving to do still, but the major stuff has been moved.

Happy Easter to all!

Easter Sermon

(Pastor runs down the center aisle wearing an obnoxious shirt, dancing the samba, throwing leis and yelling “He’s Alive!”)

            Probably not quite what you were expecting on an Easter Sunday morning, huh? Most of the time when we come to church we expect a calm, quiet, sedate service.  On Easter especially, we expect a very “nice” reverent service.  As I was thinking about the whole Easter thing, I began to feel uncomfortable with the concept of the “nice” service.  I was bothered.  “Why should a ‘nice’ service be a problem?  Certainly we are entitled to a nice service.  After all, this is Easter and we are celebrating the most holy holiday of the church year.”
        “Yes,” I thought.  “We should have a nice, reverent Easter service; something people will enjoy and be happy with.”
        So I started to prepare a nice, reverent, Easter service.  But still something kept bothering me.  As I continued to study the scriptures and to think about the meaning of Easter, it struck me. 
        Easter has nothing to do with being nice.  Easter has nothing to do with being reverent.  Easter has nothing to do with being happy.  Let’s think about it; Easter is about the dead coming back to life!  Easter is about a total change in time as we know it.  Easter is about a total change in life as we know it!
        How should we be acting if the dead came back to life?  Should we be “nice”?  Should we be ”reverent”?  Should we be “happy”?  By no means!  Think about it, if my cat was to die and came back to life, I would be running up and down the street, telling everyone I know!  If a person were to come back to life, I would be more than nice, reverent, and happy!  I would be jumping up and down, shouting at the top of my lungs!  I would be ecstatic beyond belief!  I would not be nice, reverent, and happy.
        Nice, reverent, and happy are for people who do not quite get it.  Well, people who don’t get it or for people who think this raising from the dead doesn’t apply to them. 
I can see Mary, the mother of Jesus, at a cocktail party eating those little meatballs and talking to Ethel, the wife of Simon the potter.
        Mary says, “Ethel, do you know my son Jesus?”
        Ethel says, “Oh yes, he was such a nice boy.  Sorry to hear about the cross situation."
        Mary says, “Yes, that was a terrible tragedy.  But I have some good news.  He has been risen from the dead.  Isn’t that nice?”
        Ethel replies, “Oh yes!  Very nice!  You must be so happy.”
        No, I think the responses would be much more intense.  Mary would be either excited or stunned.  She would be overcome with some emotion but she certainly would not be indifferent.  The same would apply to Ethel.  Ethel would either be terribly excited or terribly worried about the mental health of Mary, but Ethel, too, would not be indifferent.  Jesus returning from the dead would have a very real impact on their lives.  Because of this impact they could not be indifferent.
        I see in our “nice”, “reverent”, and “happy” services an indifference to the fact that Jesus has risen from the dead. I see a lack of understanding how this effects our lives, today! We shout “Christ is risen, indeed!” but the immensity of what we say fails to move us. 
        Folks, because Christ has died and is risen, HE NOW IS ALIVE!  This is something that is for the present, the here and now.  This is not something that just happened in the past.  And because Christ has broken the bonds of death, WE TOO WILL HAVE ETERNAL LIFE!  This is the gift we are given!
        We do not have to earn this gift.  If you have to earn a gift it isn’t really a gift is it?  No, this gift is freely given to us.  CHRIST HAS BROKEN THE BONDS OF SIN AND DEATH!  THROUGH CHRIST WE TOO HAVE ETERNAL LIFE!  Just let that sink in for a moment.  We do not have to do anything to earn salvation, Christ did it for us.  We do not have to live up to the standards of the world; these standards have no power.  We do not have to have the right car, the right clothes, or the right job.  We do not have to follow what the advertisers tell us, we are lovable and special because Christ gave his life for us.
         In our second reading Paul tells the Corinthian congregation and us that Christ’s death and resurrection is redemptive to us all.  Through the sin of Adam, sin and death came into the world.  Through the sin of Adam we too are sinners.  But through the death and resurrection of Christ, we have all been redeemed.  It is through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross that our sins have been forgiven.
        The early Christians were confused about this whole death and resurrection thing, they heard the prophecies but it was almost too incredible to believe.  When they first encounter the risen Christ, they didn’t know what to do.  But when Christ came and ate with them, they began to understand. 
Finally, at Pentecost the Holy Spirit came to them.  It is at this time that they couldn’t control themselves.  At risk to their own lives they went our to tell the world about the wondrous resurrection of Christ.  And it was through their passionate telling of the Good News that many came to faith.
        I am here to tell you that the resurrection is not something that happened in the past and has no effect on us today.  The resurrection is here, today!  The resurrection is for you!  The resurrection is for me!  The resurrection is now!  Christ is risen and because of this the bonds of death have been broken, forever!  We are freed to be about the work of God in the world!  We are free to love not only our friends and family but also our enemies because Christ has loved us, and them, first!
        Christ died on the cross!  Christ suffered the ultimate separation, separation from God, so that we wouldn’t have to.  And Christ has broken the ultimate bonds, the bonds of death!  Christ is ALIVE!  That is something to be excited about!  That is something to cheer about!  That is something to shout to the whole world!  So if it means we dance in the aisle, SO BE IT!  Christ has died and conquered death!  We have eternal life!  THAT IS COOL!