Click here to listen:
“Those who would follow Jesus are taught that we have time to care for one another through small acts of mercy because God’s mercy is without limits. Abundance, not scarcity, is the mark of God’s kingdom. But that abundance must be made manifest through the lives of a people who have discovered that they can trust God and one another. Such trust is not an irrational gesture against the chaos of life, but rather a witness to the very character of God’s care of creation. So, it is no wonder that Jesus directs our attention to birds and lilies to help us see how it is possible to live in joyful recognition that God has given us more than we need.” –Stanley Hauerwas
Fear is rooted in the belief that there isn’t enough: not enough time, not enough resources, not enough people who love me. Who is in charge of how you see the world? Is fear in charge? Is worry in charge? Let us let go of our fears and worries so that God, through Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit defines our context and our reality. . .
Here are a few quotes from Sunday:
- Moltmann quote—“The opposite of love is not wrath, but indifference. Indifference toward justice and injustice would be a retreat on the part of God from the covenant. But his wrath is an expression of his abiding interest in man. Anger and love do not therefore keep a balance. His wrath lasts for the twinkling of an eye, and as the Jonah story shows, God takes back his anger for the sake of his love in reaction to human repentance. As injured love, the wrath of God is not something inflicted, but a divine suffering of evil. It is a sorrow which goes through God’s opened heart” (Moltmann, The Crucified God, 272).
- “The Cross is a symbol of God’s Justifying Grace, calling us to love God and love each other through overacceptance for the sake of redemption.” (Matt Rawle)
If you enjoyed listening, please join us in person on Thursday evenings from 6:00-7:00 pm at The Well. Child care provided: http://www.thewellumc.com
”A picture is worth a thousand words,” the saying goes; although it’s a bit of a misnomer. Words themselves, are pictures. For example, if I say the word, “duck,” what do you see? Are you running to get under your office desk or are you getting bread to feed a mallard? Here’s another example. What does the following say–”Godisnowhere.” Are you a hopeful optimist understanding that “God is now here?” Maybe you’re going through a dark time, and you can only see “God is nowhere.” The dark squiggles on the white background are certainly important, but equally important is the “negative space” in-between making sense of the letters. ”The importance of negative space” is another sermon for another time. I say this because reading scripture is never boring, especially when we try to make sense of words written thousands of years ago in a different culture and different language.
So, the church has found a powerful shortcut, if you will: symbols. Instead of saying, “The Triune God; Father, Son and Spirit, in mutual and shared adoration,” we draw a Triangle. Instead of saying, “The sacrifice of Jesus Christ, incarnate Word of the living God,” we draw a Cross. Instead of openly asking a friend if he or she is a member of an outlawed group of Christians, those in the early church would draw a fish in dirt.
Symbols surround us each and every day: the golden arches, the hidden FedEx arrow, the blue Facebook f, the green, yellow, and red of a traffic signals. The list goes on, and when you think of it, it’s maddening.
What are the symbols of the Christian faith? Some are easy–the cross, the dove, the chalice, but what about a King Cake or a fleur-de-lis or a Pelican? Many of our favorite cultural symbols have roots in the church.
What symbol speaks to you? When you think of God, what do you see? Is God an old man with a white beard sitting in the clouds? Maybe God defies symbolic description, at least, that was part of the point behind the commandment to have no graven images–nothing made on earth can quite capture the divine. Maybe your picture of God is like picturing “justice,” or “freedom” or “love.” In other words, you really can’t define God; rather God must be experienced.
May you experience the abundant life of God in each and every day.
Most of the message from Sunday can be found in part in The Book of Resolutions 2004 in the document titled, “This Holy Mystery,” which details the United Methodist understanding of how Christ is present around the Table. You can also find “This Holy Mystery” on the official United Methodist Church website: http://www.umc.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=lwL4KnN1LtH&b=4951419&ct=11623561
Sorry there’s no manuscript this week, but here’s what we talked about when we gathered around the table:
Holy Communion is:
Thanksgiving—We gather to give thanks to God. “Redemption is where suffering and beauty meet.”
Fellowship— Communion is not something you can do alone. All are welcome to the table, regardless of where you sat in the lunch room. Christ invites to the table all who love him . . .
Remembrance—We gather to remember, but it’s not just an action of the head. Identity is our memory, and salvation is God’s memory of us. The theif on the cross was right—“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42)
Sacrifice—We gather to make a sacrifice as we remember, honor, and experience Christ’s. “By the power of the Holy Spirit, in the act of receiving, we experience the real presence of Christ.” It is not a memorial nor is it just a symbol!
Epiclesis— (Water cooler word) The Holy Spirit empowers us to receive.
Eschatology— (Another water cooler word). This is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet and by the power of the spirit, we dine with the saints.
Dear Albany High School,
By Grace, God invites us into the divine heart. Through water and the Spirit we are connected to the body of Christ–redeemed and forgiven, hearing the words, “You are my beloved child. I am pleased with you!” As children of God we are invited to gather around the Lord’s Table to receive the real and true presence of Christ.
When I gather for communion, I always remember Rita Rawle’s, funeral. My grandmother, Rita, used to talk about how we “commune with the saints,” which at first I thought was a football reference because she lived on the “best bank,” of the river. At my grandmother’s funeral, when the priest broke the bread and poured out the wine, he too talked about communing with the saints. He then said that our faith teaches that when we share the bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ, we share it with the saints, those who have gone before us–those who live in heaven–live in the heart of God. Then he seemed to look right at me to say, “When we gather around this table, we still have the blessing of sharing a meal with Rita.” I will never forget that.
Over the weekend, Albany High School received terrible and tragic news–Two students lost their life. To those I’ve spoken with, I refuse to lie. Truth is . . . it sucks. It hurts. It hurts today and it will hurt tomorrow. It’s a senseless suffering which leaves confusion, anger, and pain in its wake. When I hear of the pain friends experience, I am reminded of the sobbing Psalmist who wrote, “My tears have been food day and night while people say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’” (Psalm 42:3). The Psalms invite us to shake our fist to the heavens and scream, “I don’t understand!”
What do we do in the midst of suffering? Job lost his family, his property, his health, and eventually I would argue–he began to lose himself. The advice he received is as awful as it is familiar–”You obviously did something wrong, Job. Search your heart Job. You must have offended God. Curse God and die.”
Job shook his fist at the heavens and essentially said, “I’m done!” God then appeared “out of the whirlwind.” What an appropriate image of suffering–a whirlwind. In the midst of suffering, sometimes we don’t know up from down, left from right, blessing from curse. God appeared out of the whirlwind and said, “Gird up your loins, for I have a question for you.” What happens next is both remarkable and an offering for how we should respond to tragedy. God surrounded Job with beauty. God took Job on a tour of the universe–things no other human had ever seen. God showed him the depths of the ocean and the burning heart of stars. In other words, God met suffering with beauty.
Here is the mystery. God meets suffering with beauty because when suffering meets beauty we find redemption. Suffering can lead to despair. Suffering can break us. The guy who came up with “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” or “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is a liar as far as I’m concerned. The former is a mockery of grace and the latter runs counter to the Kingdom for which Jesus died. Yes, the Holy Spirit is a refining fire and sometimes when we meet God face to face we leave with a limp (ask Jacob), but scripture reminds us that when Job was finally broken, God offered him the most beautiful things God could muster–because when suffering meets beauty, we find redemption. It is the story of Good Friday and Easter Sunday.http://jantielens.wordpress.com/2008/08/
For those whose eyes cannot stop crying. For those whose anger consumes their thoughts. For those whose daydreams are nightmares. Surround yourself with something beautiful. Maybe you find beauty in your spouse? Maybe you find beauty in your church family? Maybe you find beauty with paint and canvas? Maybe you find beauty on the court? Maybe you find beauty with a guitar and a blank journal. For me, I find beauty in the broken bread and the wine outpoured because I know that Jesus . . . and Rita, are there.
Surround yourself with beauty, for beauty is God’s redemptive answer to suffering.