Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas 2013

I have moved to a new appointment here in Montrose and this will be my first Christmas with the community here. I have been reflecting on what it means to give and receive. I notice I am overwhelmed with all the celebrations and activities that are available at this time of year. So I often feel burdened by the choices, by the extra giving that goes on this time of year. I wonder if perhaps the season in which we celebrate what we have been given by the grace of God, has been replaced with a season of giving and receiving. Maybe we have not paid enough attention to what it means to receive a gift from God, and the profound importance of this gift for our lives. I am struggling to articulate what it means to receive, but I wonder if we really could receive, we would find we do not have expect to get as much as we are accustomed to. What if instead of filling the season with so many gifts,we just gave one thing? I know the retailers would hate us for spreading such ideas. But I wonder if we need to remember something more than what to get for someone, or what we expect to get from another. I wonder I have become addicted to the notion that I need to have certain things or else I will feel neglected, uncared for, completely forgetting that God so values us Jesus was born on earth.
Don't get me wrong, I love getting gifts, I love how folks express joy through the music and celebrations of the season.I love wearing my christmas themed ties. But I always get worn out, usually develop a cold at this time of year. I wonder if that is a symptom of our society's celebration expectations? I wonder what you think?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Today I realized I have not written at all about Lent! It is easy for me to lose track of time and let tasks slip by until I have a huge pile of undone phone calls, visits, paperwork, emails to tackle. I know I am busy and I don't procrastinate on all my work, but it is a time like this that I feel overwhelmed and confused about where to start. So what to do? I am more and more aware that I often do not ask for help, do not delegate enough, do not say no to things like invitations to special events. I have a hard time narrowing down what is a priority and what would be nice. Even sitting down and thinking about what I should do is not something I do on a regular basis. But, if I take five minutes of my busy time and settle down into connecting with God, then my path becomes clearer. It does not really matter if I chant, or breath, or sing, a centering prayer, just that I do. Of course the universe of chaos tries to interrupt that five minutes, the phone rings, sirens sound, my wife needs to talk to me in that precise moment. But, it is okay, if I need to I can come back and try again.
How about you what interrupts your centering exercises? What causes you to get off kilter? For me writing helps, and asking for help from the universe helps, these are two practices which I am still getting the hang of, even now, even after years of experience. Let me know what works for you cause I need all the help I can get! Blessings, Pastor Steve

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Sermon for 12-30-12

December 30, 2012
Luke 2:41-52, 26

As we wind down the calendar year, I have been reflecting back on this year, and much happened, how much went undone, how much I had hoped to accomplish, how those plans have changed, and what I would like to happen in 2013.
I am drawn to the image so often used at this time of year, of the year looking old and frail, and the New Year looking like a baby, bright and beautiful, full of life and vigor.
In many ways I feel weary from the year, from all the tasks left undone,  
Projects still incomplete, relationships that need attention, prayers unsaid. I am burdened by those goals I had hoped to accomplish, but feel now as we conclude the year, how I wish I had a little more time, a little more energy, a little more imagination to get a few last items checked off the to do list. Is this your experience of this moment in time? 
I wonder how much of that regret and longing for our lives to be a little more fulfilled, a little more content, a little more at peace, enters into the equation as we think about our new year resolutions? 
I was asked by one of my face book friends, what is my New Year’s resolution for 2013, and usually I brush this off, oh, I want to lose a few more pounds, and I want to be sure to exercise and eat well, pray more, trust God more. But these are not well thought out resolutions; more like those things I recycle every year. 
But since we do have this opportunity to think about what we hope for in the New Year, as we say goodbye to the old, I wonder are we motivated to be open to the opportunity of a new year? And if we are what could we promise one another as a community of faith?
As I read the scripture for today, I see guidance for us, as we remember how Jesus lived not only his adult life, but also right from the start was a faithful Jew.  I would propose we can learn from this story a calling to practice our faith with greater intentionality and with greater depth, so in this coming year, whatever we may encounter, whatever may happen, whatever the to do list, we will find ourselves more rooted in our faith, and more fulfilled as human beings. In short, together we can make this the best year of our lives.

Jesus and his family are faithful in their Jewish faith. 
Luke tells us: “When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. Jesus comes with his family to the great Temple, the holy mountain, and the place where his ancestors have come for generations, the place where King David reigned, the place considered where God resides. So they make a pilgrimage to this holy place for Jesus’ Bar Mitzvah. 
Second, we learn that Jesus not only reads from the Torah, he goes beyond the reading to ask penetrating questions, that engage learned rabbis in dialogue for days. We can read between the lines to see that Jesus has been instructed in the Torah, as he grew. Even Jesus needed to take classes, to study, to pray, to engage in dialogue about what God was revealing to him about his life and his ministry to come. Even Jesus went through a time of learning, and developing his sense of purpose in the world. I also noticed that the holy family was like many of us when it comes to family issues. Who has not chastised our a family member, a child, a spouse, a partner, when they stay out too late, or don’t tell us where they are and we become worried? (Home Alone?)
Luke says of the family, “When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom, and the favor of God was upon him.”
Jesus became strong through following the practices of the Jewish faith, God did not somehow magically endow him with all the wisdom he would ever need at birth.
Thirdly, Jesus was obedient to his parents: vs. 51 “Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them”.  
To me this says that the life of Jesus growing up is far more normal than we give him credit for. In my imagination, the human Jesus the one growing into his Messiah ship scrapes his knees and hurts, is misunderstood by his friends, who helps with the chores around the household, and perhaps plays hooky from school to go play in the pastures.
My eldest child, Amber has now moved into the home she and her finance’ have bought here in Rowland Heights. Our families spent Christmas Day there, the boxes were cleared away, candles lit, the fireplace warming as we gathered to celebrate their first Christmas in their new home. 
For both our families, the eldest child moving out to a new life has been an emotional one. I was unprepared for the emotions of this event. I am both proud and happy that Amber has accomplished this new chapter in her life, to spread her wings and boldly take on the responsibilities of a job and committed relationship. I also experience the loss this change has brought. No more listening for her to come in at night, or to make her coffee before she shuttles off to work.  
I believe God goes with her, and comforts us, the Spirit guiding our footsteps as we take these new roads of life. And I believe that God knows what it feels like, what we are experiencing, because through Jesus I have a sense of who God is in the life of Jesus, one who calls us to be obedient, and also teaches us all life long.
So as I prepare myself for the New Year, 2013, I commit myself to once again be a life-long learner, to remember that God is not done with me yet. I believe God is still at work, in my life, so I can continue to deepen my relationship to Creation, to grow in wisdom even now.
As we were unwrapping presents, someone tossed a piece of tissue paper too close to the candles and in an instant there was a fire in the middle of the living room, thanks to quick actions the paper was whisked out the door, resulting in a small burn, but given the amount of paper and the people nearby, we felt fortunate not more damage to person or home was done. 
After our hearts returned to a normal rhythm and all of us settled down, we could laugh and reflect that this incident will now become part of the folklore of that first Christmas in Amber’s and River’s home.
We have all had those near brushes with danger, the times when we felt panic and uncertainty, times when we wondered if we could just make it one more hour, one more day, one more week without being consumed by the fire of crisis.
As we move into 2013, I want us to bring all those moments, the moments of celebration, the moments of crisis, the moments of happiness and sadness, and be ready for a new birth of belief, a birth of deeper relationship with God, and with the world, with all of creation.
The scripture suggests that even Jesus developed good habits in his life, of studying of practicing the faith he was born into. So maybe we too can learn to develop healthy habits that will nourish us in 2013

First, Ruben Job reminds us in the book that we have been studying, 
“We can remember who God is, who we are as individuals, and who we are together as part of God’s entire family”. I sometimes have a hard time remembering my car keys, or my cell phone or my wallet, so I know I need constant reminders of who God is. Sometimes the problems seem so enormous, I forget that God is greater than any problem, any situation, and I need to remember this God. 

Second,  “We know we cannot do everything to change the world, but we can, by God’s grace, each do our part.”

Third, “Everyday that we live as Jesus lived, we change the world”

We are called to be life long learners, to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world, to continue the quest wherever it may lead, we cannot do this alone, that is why we go together, brothers and sisters, in the Lord, who never leaves us, who understands and guides us whenever we need wisdom.