WORSHIP WITH US ON EASTER SUNDAY
Join Us Sunday April 1st at 6:30AM in the Garden or 11AM in the Sanctuary for Easter Worship at Trinity Lutheran!

At Easter Sunrise we will be blest with music provided by Eileen Soler and Piper Spencer, light the new fire of the day and affirm our baptismal promises.

At 11AM our worship centers on baptism as well, but we will be blest to celebrate the baptism of Michael Cristian Estrella, son of Cristian Estrella and Kaitlyn Frey.

Both services include communion.

Easter Breakfast including juices, rolls, bagels and pastries, a yogurt parfait station, a Belgian Waffle Station, plenty of Entenmann's goodies and more will be available in the hall form 7:30AM until 1PM with donations graciously accepted.

The annual Easter Egg Hunt will take place at 10AM behind the hall.

Location:
7150 Pines Blvd
Pembroke Pines, FL 33024
The SE corner of Pines Blvd and 72nd Ave
Across the street from Broward college South Campus lake
(954)668-6077
tlcppines@gmail.com



Worship each Sunday @ 8:30AM, 9:45AM, and 11AM

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Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel: Jesus the Shepherd

The readings for Sunday, April 22, 2018: First Reading: Acts 4:5-12 Psalm: Psalm 23 Second Reading: 1 John 3:16-24 Gospel: John 10:11-18 In ...

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel: Jesus the Shepherd

The readings for Sunday, April 22, 2018:

First Reading: Acts 4:5-12

Psalm: Psalm 23

Second Reading: 1 John 3:16-24

Gospel: John 10:11-18

In this week's Gospel, we see one of the most persistent metaphors for Jesus: Jesus as shepherd. Even in these non-agricultural days, we understand this image, probably because it has been so widely used during 2000 years of Christianity.

It's interesting to think about the other side of this metaphor. If Jesus is the shepherd, who are the sheep? We are, of course. Those of us who haven't grown up around sheep probably think of them as delightful, fuzzy creatures. But they're not. They're big and smelly and not especially bright--that's why they need a shepherd. On my bleak days, calling humans sheep seems like an apt metaphor. We tend not to act in our self-interest. We tend to stand in place with a blank look on our faces. If no one comes along to guide us, we'll just stand there, blinking. If we get knocked over, we need someone to pick us up. I could go on and on like this, but I'll let you Google the word sheep and consider all the poetic possibilities.

What I found most interesting about this passage which is so familiar is verse 16: "I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd."

I'm of two minds about this passage. I read it with the knowledge of all that has happened in the last two thousand years, and all the ways that this kind of Biblical language has been used coercively and hurtfully to imply that only Christians are the ones with the Truth. I'm aware of the disastrous actions that can follow that kind of belief.

But this larger vision of Jesus does interest me. It interests me because it's in the Gospel of John, which was the last Gospel written. Earlier Gospels don't have this same kind of expansive vision, this vision of Jesus as the shepherd of all people. Is it there because of the spread of Christianity that the writer who composed the Gospel of John had seen? I'm fascinated by the differences in the Gospels.

As a poet, I'm also interested in the power of this metaphor. Here we are in a world where few of us have seen a sheep, and yet, this metaphor still speaks to us. Most of us are likely moved by the idea of a shepherd who would sacrifice all to save one sheep. You find a similar narrative in many romantic love stories--how desperately we want to believe that someone can love us that completely.

That's the Good News of the Gospels: we are loved that completely. Someone believes that we're worthy of that effort. We will not be sacrificed for the good of the flock. The Good Shepherd will sacrifice all for the individual sheep. We can rest secure in that knowledge.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, April 15, 2018:

First Reading: Acts 3:12-19

Psalm: Psalm 4

Second Reading: 1 John 3:1-7

Gospel: Luke 24:36b-48

In this week's Gospel, we have another appearance story, and what an odd story it is. In the post-Resurrection stories, Jesus has taken on supernatural capacities that, with the exception of some of his accomplishments with his miracles, he didn't really demonstrate before his crucifixion. Here, he suddenly appears; a few verses earlier, he has vanished after eating.

The disciples, rooted in the rational world, can't make sense of what they're seeing and hearing. Those of us who spend our secular lives surrounded by people who are disdainful of the mystical might find ourselves more sympathetic to their plight.

I find myself coming back to verse 41, the disciples who “disbelieved for joy.” In Eugene Peterson’s words, it seems too good to be true (The Message version of the Bible).

So many things get in our way of believing in good news: despair, fear of hurt, joy, our commitment to what our senses tell us. Even as the disciples see Jesus standing in front of them, even as they touch him, even as they share a meal together, they can’t believe how lucky they are. They literally will not believe.

How much we are like the disciples, buffeted by bad news, unable to see the Divine standing right there in front of us. How nice it would be to have Jesus there to help us understand all these mysteries: “Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures” (Luke 24: 45). So many weeks we have minds that have snapped shut. I find myself envious of these disciples who are there at the beginning, with open minds and joyful hearts and a soul that finally understands.

I remind myself that I have an advantage that these disciples didn’t have. I know that this Good News will be spread far and wide. I know how the world has received it at various times. I have seen regular humans who are able to transform their corners of the world with an ability that seems almost superhuman—but it is a power that comes from Christ.

I want to be part of that community. I want to be a resurrection human, one of those lights who doesn’t let the drumbeat of bad news drown out the Good News of Jesus.

Jesus is still here, reminding us of his scars and of the capacity to overcome those things that scar us. Jesus is still here, waiting to share a meal with us. Jesus is still here, reminding us that we are witnesses and co-creators of the Kingdom, that we are called to a far greater destiny than our tiny imaginations can envision.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

SUNDAY APRIL 8th !

We continue our celebration of Easter with our Easter Cantata tomorrow at 11AM. One service only. With Holy Communion, of course. And Waffle-A-Palooza from 9:30AM until 11AM in the hall with brown sugar and cracked black pepper bacon. Until the bacon runs out. Which it always does. So arrive early. For bacon.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

He Is Risen--What Now?

This Sunday, Trinity Lutheran Church will present the Easter cantata.  We will spend the next several Sundays hearing about the life of Jesus in the days before he leaves again.

I think of these post-Easter, pre-Ascension stories as second chance stories (or tenth or thirtieth or forty-seventh chances, depending on how you're counting). Notice that Jesus appears to the disciples and offers peace. He doesn't show up to castigate them for how they behaved badly during his hours of need. He doesn't say to Peter, "See, I told you that you would betray me." He doesn't say, "You big bunch of cowards, running away from the Romans." He breathes on them to give them the Holy Spirit--and if you read the Bible from the beginning, you'll be noticing a theme here; God breathes creation into existence, and much of the power of God is described throughout Scripture in terms of breath and/or wind.

Jesus offers forgiveness and peace again and again. Thomas has come under fire through the centuries for his doubt--but really, who can blame him? The miracles that involve healing don't stretch us in the way that resurrection from the dead does. Our rational brains just can't wrap themselves around a mystery of this magnitude.

Thomas, too, gets second chances. Just because he wasn't in the locked room when Jesus appeared, that doesn't mean he's doomed to doubt forever. He gets to touch the wounds of Jesus.

Notice how physical these descriptions are: Jesus breathes on them, and death hasn't healed his mortal wounds. He's recognizable. And he seems to carry on with his life's work, at least for a little bit more time: the last verses of today's Gospel refer to many more signs, but the writer John won't burden us with them all. We get a select few to help us believe.

And then Jesus is gone. But we've been left with a mission. We're to spread the good news. We are not to remain in our locked rooms, keeping company only with each other as we eat the last of the bunny cake. We're to go out and be the light of the world. We are entrusted with the mission of helping to create the Kingdom where peace reigns, where death doesn't have the last word, where everyone has enough to keep their bodies alive and their souls fed.

Evaluate your daily life with that vision of your call always before you. See what you can do to move towards that vision. Each day, every day.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

EASTER SERVICES!


Join Us!
Sunday April 1st at 6:30AM in the Garden or 11AM in the Sanctuary for Easter Worship at Trinity Lutheran! 

At Easter Sunrise we will be blest with music provided by Eileen Soler and Piper Spencer, light the new fire of the day and affirm our baptismal promises. 

At 11AM our worship centers on baptism as well, but we will be blest to celebrate the baptism of Michael Cristian Estrella, son of Cristian Estrella and Kaitlyn Frey. 

Both services include communion. 

Easter Breakfast including juices, rolls, bagels and pastries, a yogurt parfait station, a Belgian Waffle Station, plenty of Entenmann's goodies and more will be available in the hall form 7:30AM until 1PM with donations graciously accepted. 

The annual Easter Egg Hunt will take place at 10AM behind the hall. 


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Meditation on Holy Week and Easter

The readings for Sunday, April 1, 2018:

First Reading: Acts 10:34-43

First Reading (Alt.): Isaiah 25:6-9

Psalm: Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Second Reading (Alt.): Acts 10:34-43

Gospel: Mark 16:1-8

Gospel (Alt.): John 20:1-18

Finally we move through Holy Week to Easter Sunday. At last, our Lenten pilgrimage draws to a close.  It's strange to write about Easter when we have yet to move through all of Holy Week.  But the Christian life invites us to live in this strangeness, the coming of God existing in various planes of time:  the past, the present, and the not yet.

Perhaps that state explains the disjointedness in which many of us find ourselves as the liturgical year rumbles on.  Perhaps you still linger back at As  h Wednesday. Perhaps you find the Good Friday texts more evocative than the Easter texts. Maybe you're in a state of joy, back with the shepherds hearing the angel choir.  Maybe, like Mary, you prefer silence and pondering the mystery.It's interesting how our emotional lives aren't always in sync with the liturgical seasons or the Lectionary.

 Maybe this year we can approach the Holy Week stories differently.   Maundy Thursday gives us a view of how to love each other.  Notice that it's about what we do:  we eat together, we wash each other's feet, we anoint with oil.  It's not about an emotion--it's about an action.  It's not a theory of love, but a concrete way of being loving.

We are called to break bread together, to drink wine together. We are called to invite the outcast to supper with us. We are called to care for each other's bodies--not to sexualize them or mock them or brutalize them, but to wash them tenderly. Thus fortified, we are called to announce that the Kingdom of God is breaking out among us in the world in which we live, and we are called to demand justice for the oppressed.

Perhaps we find ourselves more like the disciples who would transform the loving act of anointing with oil into a way to help the poor by selling that oil and giving the money to the poor.  It seems a good way to show love.  Jesus rebukes this way of thinking.  We will always have the poor; we won't always have the ones we love.  This year, a year when so many mourn such severe losses, those words speak to me.

Good Friday gives us a way to think about betrayal and how we can respond.  The Good Friday message is that we will all betray God.  But some of us will try again, while others will give up in abject despair.  Some of us will apologize and try to do better, while others will choose death.

I also find myself thinking about the tree that must wish for a great destiny, but is transformed into the cross,  an instrument of torture.  Likewise, Jesus, who has been in some amount of control of his own actions, but finds himself handed over to others.  In these past years when I've watched so many friends and colleagues battle cancer--handed over to the medical-industrial complex--the idea of the Passion takes on an excruciating hue.

Easter promises us that our efforts will not be in vain. In Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, N. T. Wright says forcefully, " . . . what you do in the Lord is not in vain. You are not oiling the wheels of a machine that's about to roll over a cliff" (208). We may not understand how God will transform the world. We may not be able to believe that bleakness will be defeated. But Easter shows us God's promise that death is not the final answer.

Spring reminds us that nature commits to resurrection. Easter reminds us of God's promise of resurrection. Now is the time for us to rekindle our resurrection selves.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Pastor Keith and Piper are Leading a Trip to the Holy Land!

Piper and I had such an amazing trip to the Holy Land through Good Shepherd Travel in January of 2018 that we are going back in June of 2019 as trip leaders and want you to join us for this opportunity of a lifetime! So many people we went with last January spoke about this trip as much more than site-seeing, it was both deeply moving and deeply personal, yet also a shared spiritual experience. In the planning of this trip we have worked closely with Good Shepherd Travel to strongly support the Holy Land's dwindling Palestinian Christian population in our choices of guides, hotels, and other services as well as taking the time to meet with people and learn more deeply about the complex challenges that continue to divide the land and people. Below is the link for the trip with the itinerary, costs, and other information. Please feel free to share this with those who may be interested (all are welcome!) and message us with any questions. Blessings! with love, Keith & Piper

https://store.tourtheholylands.com/collections/all/products/10-life-changing-days-to-the-holy-land-from-miami-fl-june-23-july-03-2019-pr-keith-and-piper-spencer


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Palms and Passion

The reading for Sunday, March 25, 2018:



Gospel: Mark 14:1--15:47



Palm Sunday has become a busy Sunday. Somewhere in the past twenty years, we've gone from hearing just the story of Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem to hearing the whole Passion story--on Palm Sunday many Christians leave the church with Jesus dead and buried. If we return to church for the rest of Holy Week, we hear the same stories on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. It makes for a long, Sunday Gospel reading--and reinforces one of the paradoxes of the Passion story: how can people shout acclaim for Jesus in one day, and within the week demand his Crucifixion? Maybe it's good to hear the whole sad story in one long sitting, good to be reminded of the fickleness of the crowd.

It's one of the central questions of Christian life: how can we celebrate Palm Sunday, knowing the goriness of Good Friday to come? How can we celebrate Easter with the taste of ashes still in our mouth?

Palm Sunday reminds us of the cyclical nature of the world we live in. The palms we wave this morning traditionally would be burned to make the ashes that will be smudged on our foreheads in 10 months for Ash Wednesday. The baby that brings joy at Christmas will suffer the most horrible death--and then rise from the dead. The sadnesses we suffer will be mitigated by tomorrow's joy. Tomorrow's joy will lead to future sadness. That's the truth of the broken world we live in. Depending on where we are in the cycle, we may find that knowledge either a comfort or fear inducing.

Palm Sunday offers us some serious reminders. If we put our faith in the world, we're doomed. If we get our glory from the acclaim of the secular world, we'll find ourselves rejected sooner, rather than later.

Right now, we live in a larger culture that prefers crucifixion to redemption.  For some of us, we see a brutal world that embraces crucifixion:  no second chances, perhaps no first chances.

It's at times like these where the scriptures offer comforts that the world cannot. Look at the message from Isaiah: "The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him that is weary. . . . For the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been confounded; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near" (Isaiah 50, first part of verse 4, verse 7, and first part of verse 8).

God promises resurrection. We don't just hope for resurrection. God promises resurrection.

God calls us to live like the redeemed people that we are. Set your sights on resurrection.  We are already redeemed--it's up to us to fold the grave clothes of our lives and leave the tomb.   Turn away from the cultures of evil and death that surround us.

Now more than ever, it's important that people of faith commit to redemption and new life. From the ashes, let us build the community that God wants for us.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Last Day of the Last Week

This Sunday, as we consider the last week of Christ's life, we arrive at Friday.

Last night, instead of writing this meditation on Good Friday, I went out to dinner with a friend.  We had planned to go see A Wrinkle in Time, then it looked like she had to cancel completely because of home inspectors coming, then she suggested dinner.  We hadn't seen each other since summer, so we had lots to catch up on, and much of it was tinged with sadness:  hurricane repairs, the school shooting a month ago, the state of the larger world.

In times like these, the Good Friday part of Holy Week shimmers with additional meaning.  There are some Christians out there who would tell us that if we just pray hard enough, we can avoid the sadness that's out there:  our illnesses will go away, wealth will fall into our laps, prosperity of all kinds await us if we just trust in God enough.

The Good Friday story tells a different tale.  Even God must suffer in the most horrible ways.  God comes to earth to show us a better way of living our human lives, and in return, the most powerful earthly empire crucifies him.

As if that wasn't bad enough, Jesus suffers several betrayals by his closest friends.  Good Friday gives us a way to think about betrayal and how we can respond.  The Good Friday message is that we will all betray God.  But some of us will try again, while others will give up in abject despair.

I also find myself thinking about the tree that must wish for a great destiny, but is transformed into an instrument of torture.  Likewise, Jesus, who has been in some amount of control of his own actions, but finds himself handed over to others.  In this past several years when I've watched so many friends and colleagues battle cancer--handed over to the medical-industrial complex--the idea of the Passion takes on an excruciating hue.

Easter promises us that our efforts will not be in vain. In Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, N. T. Wright says forcefully, " . . . what you do in the Lord is not in vain. You are not oiling the wheels of a machine that's about to roll over a cliff" (208).

We may not understand how God will transform the world. We may not be able to believe that bleakness will be defeated. But Easter shows us God's promise that death is not the final answer.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Candles Needed

FOR GOOD FRIDAY
Do you have any candles sitting around the house that you would be willing to donate for our Trinity Good Friday Tenebrae Service that takes place at Noon and 7PM March 30th We are working on how we will decorate the Chancel/Altar and candles will be needed. Please bring in this Sunday and Thank You in Advance!

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

The Empire Strikes Back

This Sunday at Trinity, we'll look at Mark 14:  12-72, Thursday of Jesus' last week.  We'll hear about the last supper and then of all the trials that lead to crucifixion.

Jesus would not be the first to be killed for standing up to empire, nor would he be the last.  In March and April, my thoughts turn to twentieth century martyrs for the faith, Archbishop Oscar Romero, killed March 24, 1980 in El Salvador and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, killed April 9, 1945, killed in the last days of the Nazi empire.  Both men could have turned away from the suffering of the poor and oppressed.  Both men could have chosen not to speak up about the government forces doing that oppressing.  They could have lived comfortable lives.

But they chose to speak up for the plight of the people whom others were ignoring.  And for this unceasing call to be better, the empires which ruled the land killed them.

It's important when thinking about Jesus that we not get so focused on his humility that we forget the ways he was not humble.  In his book Tell It Slant: A Conversation on the Language of Jesus in His Stories and Prayers, Eugene H. Peterson reminds us, "Nothing is more rudely dismissive of Jesus than to treat him as a Sunday school teacher who shows up on Sundays to teach us about God and how to stay out of trouble. If that is the role we assign to Jesus, we will badly misunderstand who he is and what he is about" (page 135).

Jesus showed us the fullness of a life lived in love.  The love he showed went far beyond washing feet and healing the sick.  Jesus called for a change to the very structure of society, a society that was a brutal and dehumanizing experience for all but the ones at the very top.

Jesus spent part of the time leading up to his crucifixion, after all, by pointing out the oppressive power structures that surrounded him and by criticizing those who had made themselves very cozy with the ruling Roman empire.  Think, for example, of Jesus throwing the sellers and moneychangers out of the temple.  The Roman empire put him to death and rather swiftly.

But the Easter story reminds us that God can use even the most abject situations, the times of deepest evil, to move the world towards redemption and resurrection.  At times it may seem that evil has the final word, but the Passion story shows us that even the violence wrought by unjust earthly systems can be changed into a force for redemption and resurrection.  Humans may not be able to force that change--but God can.

I'm also thinking of an even older story of God overcoming oppression.  Soon it will be Passover.  Soon many of us in a multitude of traditions will hear the story of the Jews led out of Egypt.  We will hear about a different kind of love--which is in so many ways, the exact same kind of love.

These stories across ages remind us that the systems of earthly empire will resist change violently.  But other stories show us that even the violence wrought by unjust earthly systems can be changed into a force for redemption and resurrection.  Humans may not be able to force that change--but God can.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Would You Let Jesus Clean Your Bathroom?

This week, we'll be reading about the woman who anoints Jesus with costly oil, which leads to an argument amongst the disciples about the best use of money and costly oil.  If you want to read ahead, it's Mark 14:  1-11.

For those of us looking ahead to Holy Week, this scene might make us think of foot washing.  For those of us keeping up with the news, we might think of all the stories of abuse and harassment and wonder about these scenes that are so intimate and yet non-sexual.

We might think about how we live in a culture where it's hard to achieve that kind of physical intimacies with our bodies. 

A few years ago, I thought about foot washing and non-sexual intimacy with both our bodies and the bodies of others.  I wrote a poem, "Drained," after a Maundy Thursday service. I was thinking about the woman who anoints Jesus with costly oil and I remembered (wrongly, it turns out) her wiping his feet with her hair.  I was thinking about how shocked the disciples were that Jesus should wash their feet. I was wondering what a similar act would be today: what would be both invasive and intimate. I thought about how many of my friends refuse to let people see the true state of their houses. I thought about how the state of my bathroom often embarrasses me. And voila, a poem was born.

This poem first appeared in Chiron Review.  It's a poem with the power to shock and offend people, so I apologize in advance.  My purpose, of course, is not to offend--it's to make us think of these old stories in new ways.

Drained


Jesus showed up on my doorstep, demanding
to clean my bathroom.
I refused.
I mean, it’s one thing for him to face
Crucifixion for my sake.
It’s quite another for him to see
how I really live.

His face—so sad.
He talked about searching
for feet to wash, but modern feet are so clean.
It’s no sacrifice to touch people’s feet.
In this world of pedicures
and solid shoes, a foot washing doesn’t convey
the same care it once did. That’s how he came
to develop his crazy cleaning scheme.

I offered to let him scour my oven,
but he said it wasn’t the same,
and besides, it’s self-cleaning.
He really wanted to deal
with the detritus of my life.

What can I say? Jesus is persuasive.
He organized my jumble of cosmetics and healed
my slow drains. He cleaned
my toilet with his hair.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

God at Our Core

Throughout the season of Lent, Jesus gives us fairly stark examples about what it means to be a Christian, and it's worth thinking about, in our world where Christianity has become so distorted and used to justify so many questionable activities.

Over the last 50 or so years of the 20th century, many people came to see Christianity as just one more way to self-enlightenment or self-improvement. Many people combined Christian practices with Eastern practices, and most of them showed that they had precious little knowledge of either.

Or worse, people seemed to see Christianity as a path to riches. We see this in countless stories of pastors who took money from parishioners and, instead of building housing for homeless people, built mansions for themselves. We see this in the megachurch which is held up as an optimum model, the yardstick by which we smaller churches are measured and come up lacking. The bestseller lists are full of books which promise a Christian way to self-fulfillment or riches, while books of sturdy theology will never be known by most readers.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of a multitude of theologians who warns us against this kind of thinking, of what Christianity can do for us. He calls it cheap grace, this salvation that doesn't require us to change our comfortable lives (or worse, tells us to expect more comfort). He says, "Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a person must knock" (A Testament to Freedom 308).

Jesus reminds us again and again that Christians are to strive NOT to put themselves at the center of their lives. Taking our Christian lives seriously is sure to put us on a collision course with the larger world. Christ warns us that we may even lose our lives. I suspect that he means this on several different levels, yet it is worth reminding ourselves of how many martyrs there have been, even in the late-twentieth century, people who were murdered because they dared to take Christianity seriously and called on corrupt governments to change their practices or went to places where the rest of us are afraid to go to help the poor of the world.

If we don't put ourselves at the center of our lives (and what a countercultural idea that is!), then who should be there? Many of us deny ourselves for the good of our children, for our charity work, for our bosses. Yet that's not the right answer either.

God requires that we put God at the center of our lives. Frankly, many of us are much better at putting our children first or our students or our friends--but God? Many of us are mystified at how we even begin to do that.

Maybe it is time to return to that practice that surfaces periodically.  Years ago, people wore bands around their wrists that had these letters:  WWJD.  What would Jesus do?  It's a good question to ask as we move through our days. 

Imagine it this way:  if Jesus moved into your extra bedroom, how would your life change?  Would you watch the same TV shows?  Would you load up the family and go to church each week?  Would you have a family meal where you talked about where you saw God today?

Once God is at the center of our lives, then we are more well-equipped to care for the world. When we spend every spare minute watching broadcasters scream at each other in what passes for news shows, we are not emotionally equipped to deal with the cares of the world. But with God at our core, we can be God's hands to do God's work in the world.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, February 18, 2018:

First Reading: Genesis 9:8-17

Psalm: Psalm 25:1-9 (Psalm 25:1-10 NRSV)

Second Reading: 1 Peter 3:18-22

Gospel: Mark 1:9-15

We begin Lent back in the country of baptism. Once again, we hear the story of the baptism of Christ. Didn't we just cover this material a few weeks ago?Indeed we did, and it should remind us of the importance of this sacrament. It gives us a chance to notice what we might not have noticed before.

We see that baptism doesn't protect Jesus from the trials and tribulations that will come.  In fact, he is driven into the wilderness, tempted by Satan, and I assume that the time with the wild beasts was not easy either.  For those of us who think that if we just pray properly, God will give us what we need, we should reread this passage again.  Who is this Spirit driving Jesus into the wilderness?  Is this Job's God making an appearance again?

This Gospel is not one that you would hand to non-believers to convince them that they'll have an easier life as a Christian.  Look at the end of the Gospel lesson: John the Baptist has been arrested. We can't say we haven't been warned about what might happen to us when we do God's work in the world.

But we're not excused from doing it. The Gospel ends with Jesus continuing his mission, preaching the gospel of God.

Lent is at hand. Many people think of Lent as Spring Training Camp (or Boot Camp) for Christians-these images aren't mine, but I've seen so many people use them.  Lent is a great time for us to get serious (again) about our faith journey. Lent is a great time to spend some contemplative time to consider the ways that we're living out our Christian faith and the ways that we could improve. Many people will give up something for Lent, like chocolate or alcohol or meat. Many people will add something, like more Bible reading, more prayer, more devotional reading, more charitable work.

The season of Lent begins by reminding us that we are dust, and all too soon, we'll return to dust. You can call yourself a creature made out of the ruins of stars (true!), but you're dust all the same.  The lessons of Lent reinforce this message.

We're not here for very long, and most of us have already used up at least half the time we have in this life. We just do not have time for most of the self-defeating and self-destructive behaviors in which we engage. Now is the time to take our eyes away from our screens and to focus on something more important. Now is the time to give up our self-loathing and to focus on our God, who is well-pleased with us.