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CHRISTMAS EVE AT TRINITY!

 Christmas Eve Worship at Trinity Lutheran 11 AM Service of Candles and Carols with help from our choir and musicians 5:30PM Service o...

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Come and See

In the coming weeks, we will see the ministry of Jesus in action.  Jesus begins with a low pressure invitation to come and see.

Note what is left out of the Gospels that tell about the early days of Christ's ministry. I assume that many people declined Christ's invitation, for all the standard reasons: no time, conflict of interest, kids have after school activities, guests in town for the week, laundry and grocery shopping to do, too much work to do before quitting time; we are people with responsibilities; we can't just abandon them to follow some guy around the countryside. Experts tell us that it takes 4-8 invitations before a friend will come with you to church. Imagine what Jesus faced as he offered invitations to total strangers.

And notice that Jesus carries on. Jesus doesn't go off in a huff. Jesus doesn't spend time complaining about how he'd rather have a different sort of ministry. Jesus doesn't whine to God that God promised him something different, one of those mega-churches perhaps. Jesus walks from town to town, issuing a simple invitation: Come and see. The ones who respond to the invitation offer the same invitation to their friends. Come and see.

There are several powerful messages for us here. We, too, have been offered this invitation. Come and see. And what are we to make of what we see? How do we respond? Do we tell others? Do our lives change? Can other people tell that we've been changed?

One of the tasks that God calls us to do is to transform the world we live in, to make the Kingdom of God manifest here on earth. No small task. But God has given us an example of how to do this: Christ's experiences on earth show us the way.

For those of us who are members of small churches or small ministries, we should take heart in this example. Jesus doesn't start with a huge group. Jesus doesn't start with a huge budget. Jesus doesn't even have a building to call his own. Jesus shows us what we can accomplish with a small group of dedicated people.

Perhaps this doesn't sound like good news to you right now. Maybe you're tired and not feeling so dedicated. Maybe you find yourself waking up at 2 in the morning with doubts consuming you and eating away your stomach lining. Pay attention to the Gospel lessons in the coming weeks. God can work with that kind of disciple too.

In the meantime, listen for God. On a daily basis, an hourly basis, God constantly calls us to come and see. God always calls us to transform the world and God promises that transformation is possible, even probable. We are Resurrection People: life blooms even in the middle of death, even in the deep midwinter.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Meditation on the Baptism of Christ

This Sunday at Trinity, This Sunday marks the baptism of Christ. I can't help but think of all the years that are missing in this cycle--what would Christ have been like, as an adolescent, as a young carpenter?

I love the words of God in this baptism: "Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased." Note that God says this at the beginning of Christ's ministry, before Jesus has actually done much. In fact, in this Gospel of Mark, the baptism scene is our first introduction to Jesus. Mark doesn't give us a nativity story.

Here's the best news of all: God feels the same way about you.

God feels the same way about you: you are God's chosen ones; God is well pleased with each and every one of you.

For those of us who might have grown up with the idea of an angry God, a punishing parent, this message can be quite powerful. God loves you, regardless of what you've done, in spite of what you've done. God's love has nothing to do with what you've accomplished. Certainly God has ideas of how we can live our best lives, in much the way a friend wants what's best for a friend, a parent wants a child to make choices that will lead the child to fulfillment. But regardless of what we've done or not done, regardless of the roads we've taken, regardless of how well we're living our mission to be the light of Christ in the world, God loves us.

This is a powerful message as we start the new year. For some of us, a new year is a chance to beat ourselves up over how much we haven't accomplished. We think of all the past resolutions we haven't been able to keep. We think of all the ways we haven't been our best selves. We think of all the people we've disappointed. We can quickly spiral into a vicious circle of self-hatred and depression.

God knows all the ways we might not deserve it, but God loves us anyway. Again, that's the great thing about being a Lutheran and believing in grace--God knows us completely, and God loves us thoroughly. We don't have to do anything to earn this love. Indeed, we can't.

Look at the great lengths God has gone to to let us know of that love. Think of the Christmas and Epiphany stories. God becomes a little baby, born in a stable--and why? To let us know of God's love. God becomes a refugee because of Herod's jealousy. God loves us so much--the Bible is full of stories that show God going to great lengths to show humanity this love. An observant person might say that God still goes to great lengths to get our attention.

The juxtaposition of Epiphany and the Baptism of Christ also gives us an opportunity to see how differently people respond to this gift of grace and love. Herod is so threatened that he slaughters every child in Bethlehem and the surrounding region. John, on the other hand, tells everyone about the coming arrival of Jesus.

How will you respond to God's great gift of love?

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

A Meditation on Epiphany

This Sunday, Trinity Lutheran Church will celebrate Epiphany, the last day of the Christmas season. This day is the one where we celebrate the visit of the Magi, the Wise Men who come to visit the Baby Jesus.  The Magi don’t miss the message of the star. They show up to do the work. They’re not lazing about hoping that something reveals itself. They are present and receptive to the message of the skies. They participate in the discovery of the message.

We might prefer the blaze of angel light, the night sky disrupted, the message plain and clear.  We might wish that we didn't have to rely on a lonely star, beaming its speck of light from such a great distance.  The wise men remind us of the Advent message, the value of watching and waiting and staying alert.

Too often, with both our Christmas story and our Epiphany story, we stay with the happy elements:  we focus on the baby in the manger, the arrival of the wise men, the happy crowd, all assembled.  We forget what happened next.  The journey of the Magi plunges the family into chaos, into flight, into refugee status.  These stories are not all sweetness and light.  Herod feels so threatened that he slaughters every boy in Bethlehem who is under the age of 2.  Forewarned, Mary and Joseph take their baby and flee for their lives.

Today is a good day to ponder the shadow side of this story, which is Herod, who stews over this vision that the wise men have given him. We might think about all the ways we turn good news into bad, of the ways that we stew over our thoughts and turn them into poisonous actions. We might make an Epiphany resolution to watch our thoughts carefully and to track our actions even more carefully.  We might resolve to help refugees who are still being plunged into chaos by the actions of despots.

Today is also a good day to think about wisdom, about gifts, about staying alert and watchful.  Let us not forget these important Advent and Christmas messages.  Most of us have already bid good-bye to Christmas and returned to our every day lives. Today is a good day to take one last Christmas moment, to recover our capacity for wonder, to delight in the miraculous, to look for the unexpected, and to rejoice in the amazing Good News of a God who loves us so much that the Divine One comes to live with us.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

New Year's Eve Meditation

The readings for Sunday, December 31, 2017, from the Revised Common Lectionary:

Isaiah 61:10—62:3
Psalm 148
The splendor of the LORD is over earth and heaven. (Ps. 148:13)
Galatians 4:4-7
Luke 2:22-40

By now, you may be feeling that familiar post-holiday let down, even if you have great plans for New Year's Eve. Many of us spend the first weeks in the new year feeling bereft: our favorite set of holidays is over, our friends and families have left us and maybe left us feeling let down, and we have to deal with all the ways our holidays weren't what we wanted. Maybe we have whiney children to entertain. Maybe we're missing a loved one who won't ever return to us. We miss the lights and the sense of anticipation, the parties and the expectations. What's left to look forward to? Our New Year's resolutions? Presidents’ Day? No wonder so many of us go into a funk.

It's important to remember this feeling when we hear about the life of Jesus in the weeks to come. From a distance of 2000 years, it's difficult to understand why so many people were resistant to Jesus' message. But many of Jesus' contemporaries had a post-Christmas feeling when they saw Jesus in action: "This guy is our Messiah??? For how many years did we wait??? And this is what we get???" Keep in mind that the Jews of Jesus' time wanted a Messiah who would defeat the Romans and return their holy places to them. What did they get? A guy who spoke of love, a guy who offered them spiritual liberation, which was not the kind of liberation for which they yearned.

But throughout Jesus' life, there were some people who recognized him. Today we hear about Simeon. In later weeks, we'll hear about the first disciples, who left their careers and family to follow Jesus. We'll also hear about people who didn't believe, people who would eventually demand the death of Jesus.

Where are you in these stories in the weeks to come? Are you Simeon, who has been faithful, for decades longer than most of us could have been? Are you Anna, the prophetess who has been watching for a very long time? Are you Mary and Joseph, parents to a very special child? Are you the disciples, willing to risk it all, if it means a closer relationship with Christ?

Or are you a Pharisee, disappointed with what God offers you? How can you move away from being wrecked by your emotions, in order to see the great gifts offered to you?

Maybe, instead of adopting the standard resolutions (losing those 10 pounds, getting a raise, exercising more often), you could snap out of your post-Christmas blues by thinking about resolutions that would enrich you spiritually. Could you read your Bible more? Could you start and end your day in prayer? Could you move towards tithing? Could this be the year you take a retreat?

God reaches out to you, going so far as to take on human form. What are you willing to do in return?

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Poinsettia Dedications

POINSETTIAS DEDICATIONS 2017

(Please notify the church office if any corrections are needed )
In MEMORY of Robert by Edwin Richardson
In MEMORY of my mother by Pearl Williams
In MEMORY of Grandparents by Dottie Cerrone
In MEMORY of Evans Small by Grace Small
In MEMORY of Olive and glen Ruth by Patricia Messmer
In HONOR of the Messmer and Mannon Family by Patricia Messmer
To the GLORY of God by Claire Kulenic
In MEMORY of Daddy and Grandparents by Debbie, Donna, Diane, and Aimee
In HONOR of mom by Debbie, Donna, Diane, and Aimee
In Memory of Virginia Ehrmen and Raginhild Bengtson by Janise Bengtson
To the Glory of God by Omar Pagan and Glorisol Hernandez and Family
In MEMORY of Hilda E. Parrilla by Omar and Glorisol Pagan and Family
In MEMORY of Judith Vasquez by Jairo Bosch and Clementina Ferrari
In MEMORY of Andrew James Roiniotis by Daisie Roiniotis
In MEMORY of all our loves ones passed by Dany and Vince Vega
In HONOR of our Trinity Family by Dany and Vince Vega
To the GLORY of God by Patricia and Pawan, Jonathan, Megan, and Natalia
In MEMORY of Bonford Talbert II, Bonford Talbert Sr., Genevieve Talbert, and Howard & Elizabeth Richards by Beverly Talbert
In HONOR of Reed Talbert Family by Beverly Talbert
To the GLORY OF GOD by Beverly Talbert
In MEMORY of Evans Small by Grace Small
In MEMORY of Shirley Walker by John Walker
In MEMORY of Felicity Amanda Plata (Grandma) by Perla Dube
In MEMORY of our Loved Ones by the Baumal Family

In HONOR of Dany Vega and Barbara Gilson by Pastor Keith and Piper

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Meditation on Christmas Eve

Many of us have had a tough year; we may feel the emptiness of the mangers of our lives, as we have come to see the vulnerabilities of our health, our jobs, our relationships, our larger pictures.






But even as we perceive emptiness, God is hard at work, ready to redeem all the frayed fabrics:



We may see only shreds and strips, but God sees a beautiful new creation, just waiting to be brought forward.



Our great teachers remind us that shreds and strips take on new strength once they are woven together.




And all of creation reminds us of the creator who forms our very center:


The manger may seem empty, but it won't be for long:

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Advent Meditation on Joseph

The reading for Sunday, December 17, 2017:

Matthew 1:18-25

This Sunday we read about an angel appearing to Joseph in a dream. We've now spent several weeks with people who hear amazing news about God's plan for them and the world.

Joseph has spent some time thinking about how to handle Mary's pregnancy.  He thinks of quietly unweaving himself from Mary. This behavior is our first indication of his character. Under ancient law, he could have had Mary stoned to death, but he takes a gentler path.

And then, his life takes an even more surprising turn. He follows the instructions of the angel who tells him of God's plan. He could have turned away. He could have said, "I did not sign up for this!" He could have said, "No, thanks. I want a normal wife and a regular life."

Instead, he turned toward Mary and accepted God's vision. He's there when the family needs to flee to Egypt. He's there when the older Jesus is lost and found in the temple. We assume that he has died by the time Christ is crucified, since he's not at the cross.

I'm interested in Joseph this year because he has a role in the supporting cast, not a part where he is the star.  Let us today praise the people in the background, the people who step back to allow others to shine. Let us praise the people who do the drudgery work that makes it possible for others to succeed.

Many of us grow up internalizing the message that if we're not changing the world in some sort of spectacular way, we're failures. Those of us who are Christians may have those early disciples as our role models, those hard-core believers who brought the good news to the ancient world by going out in pairs and travelling long distances and staying faithful through jail and shipwreck and hostile crowds.

But Joseph shows us a different reality. It's quite enough to be a good parent. It's quite enough to have an ordinary job. It's quite enough to show up, day after day, dealing with both the crises and the opportunities.

Joseph reminds us that even the ones born into the spotlight need people in the background who are tending to the details. When we think about those early disciples and apostles, we often forget that they stayed in people's houses, people who fed them and arranged speaking opportunities for them, people who gave them encouragement when their task seemed too huge.

I imagine Joseph doing much the same thing as he helped Jesus become a man. I imagine the life lessons that Joseph administered as he gave Jesus carpentry lessons. I imagine that he helped Jesus understand human nature, in all the ways that parents have helped their offspring understand human nature throughout history.

Let us not be so quick to discount this kind of work. Let us praise the support teams who make the way possible for the people who will change the world.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The reading for Sunday, December 17, 2016:

Luke 1: 39-26

This Sunday, Trinity will hear the story of Mary's reunion with her cousin Elizabeth.  You may remember that both women are pregnant, and both women should not be pregnant:  Mary because she is unmarried, and Elizabeth because she is barren.  I have always assumed she is barren because she is older.  One version of Luke (earlier in chapter one) notes that Elizabeth and her husband are "very old."

Some years, it's Mary's part of the story that speaks to me:  a young woman, inexperienced, still under control of her elders, with something strange happening.

This year, I confess it's Elizabeth.  I think of all the ways that one's body changes not only with adolescence, but with old age.  I think of my own 52 year old feet, not swollen with pregnancy, but with arthritis.  I cannot imagine pregnancy right now.  And Elizabeth was older than I am.

I spent my younger years declaring that biology isn't destiny:  we can do whatever we want, no matter what bodies we inhabit. 

My middle-aged self is willing to admit that biology is often destiny, in ways we can't imagine when we're young. I'm seeing too many people at the mercy of bodies that they have increasingly less control over.  I've seen far too many people ravaged by the cancer cells that take over.

But the Mary and Elizabeth story reminds us of the body's miraculous capacity.  This year, I'm focused on life springing from improbable places.  I'm thinking of these pregnancies as metaphors, and it's Elizabeth's pregnancy that speaks to me this year.

In a culture like ours that worships youth and beauty, it is good to remember that God doesn't discard us when we might think we've outlived our usefulness.  We may look at our past decades and sigh over what we have not achieved.  God looks at us and sees so much potential.

Let us be like Mary and say yes to God.  Let us be like Elizabeth, ready for a new life, even if we're not sure exactly where it will take us.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The reading for Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017:

Luke 1:26-38


Can we relate to Mary? Two thousand years of Church tradition tend to paint her in terms that serve whatever purpose society needed at the time. So in some decades we see Mary a perfect woman, sinless and blameless, the kind of woman who transcends humanity and gives birth to the Lord. Some decades write Mary out of the picture once the work in the stable is done, while other decades depict her as an interfering mother—the first helicopter parent!

We’ve heard the story of Mary so many times that we forget how remarkable it really is. We forget how bizarre the story told by the angel Gabriel must seem. A young girl growing God in her womb? A post-menopausal woman conceiving? It’s all too much to fathom.

I always wonder if there were women who sent Gabriel away: "I'm going to be the mother of who? It will happen how? Go away. I don't have time for this nonsense. If God wants to perform a miracle, let God teach my children not to track so much dirt into this house."

We won't ever hear about those women, because they decided that they didn't want to be part of God's glorious vision.

It’s important, too, to notice that God’s glorious vision doesn’t always match the way we would expect God to act. We see a history of God choosing the lowly, the meek, the outcast. Moses the stutterer, David the cheater, Peter the doubter. What business school would endorse this approach to brand building?

But our Scriptures remind us again and again that God works in mystical ways that our rational brains can’t always comprehend. If God can accomplish great things by means of a young woman, a woman beyond child-bearing years, a variety of wandering preachers and prophets, tax collectors and fisherman, just think what God might accomplish with all of our gifts and resources.

Of course, first we have to hear that message, that invitation from God. It’s hard for this message to make its way through all the fear-based messages beamed to us from our culture. The angel tells Mary not to be afraid, and that is a message we need to hear. Don't dance with your dread. Don't keep company with your fears, your worst case scenarios.

 We have much to fear, but we’re not that different from past cultures.   Our culture gives us stories of terrorists and a planet's climate near collapse and refugees who can find no shelter. Our Scriptures tell us those same stories.  But those Scriptures also tell us of a God that breaks into our normal lives to remind us that God is redeeming creation even if we aren’t aware of that process. Our prophets remind us that ruin doesn’t have to last forever. Gabriel gives the promise that nothing is impossible with God.

Now, that is Good News indeed.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The Gospel for Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017:

John 1:  1-14

When I was younger, the Gospel of John confounded me. What kind of nativity story did John give us? Does he not know the power of narrative, the importance of a hook in the beginning?

Look at verse 14, which may be familiar: "And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father." As a child, I'd have screamed, "What does that mean? How does word become flesh?"

And then I became a writer, and I learned how the word becomes flesh. I invented characters who took on lives of their own, who woke me up early in the morning because I wanted to see what happened to them. Yes, I know, I was the God of their universe. But as anyone who has had children will know, you make these creations, and they have their own opinions, and they live their lives in ways you couldn't have known they would.

But lately, I've begun to see this first chapter of John in a less-writerly way. Words become flesh every day. We begin to shape our reality by talking about it. We shape our relationships through our words which then might lead to deeds, which is another way of talking about flesh.

Think about your primary relationships. Perhaps this coming year could be the year when we all treat the primary people in our lives with extra care and kindness. If we treat people with patience and care, if we say please and thank you more, we will shape the flesh of our relationships into something different. Alternately, if we're rude and nasty to people, they will respond with rudeness and cruelty--we've shaped the flesh of the world into a place where we don't want to live.

Our words become flesh in other ways, of course. It's not enough to profess we're Christians. Our words should shape our actions. The world is watching, and the world is tired of people who say one thing and act another way.

How can we enflesh our Christian beliefs incarnate in our own lives? That's the question with which we wrestle year after year. It's easy to say we believe things, but it's much harder to make our actions match our words, to live an authentic life.

The good news: it gets easier. You must practice. Our spiritual ancestors would tell us that daily and weekly practices help to align our words to our actions.

I have an atheist friend who says she envies me my ability to believe. I tell her that there's not a class of people who just have faith. We come to it by our actions. We pray, we pay attention, we meet in church, we study, we read the Bible, we help the poor and outcast, we pray some more--and years later, we realize that we are living a life consistent with our values.

Soon, we will think about the New Year, and some of us will make resolutions. What can you do to make your words and beliefs take flesh?

Saturday, November 18, 2017

CHRISTMAS EVE AT TRINITY!


 Christmas Eve Worship at Trinity Lutheran
11AM Service of Candles and Carols with help from our choir and musicians
5:30PM Service of Candles and Carols featuring our Ukuleles and friends
7:30PM Service of Carols and Candles with help from our choir and musicians
11PM "Midnight Mass" Christmas Eve Service of Carols and Candles

*All services include  Holy Communion

Trinity Lutheran embraces radical hospitality for a radical gospel of Good News for all!

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, November 19, 2017:

First Reading: Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18

First Reading (Semi-cont.): Judges 4:1-7

Psalm: Psalm 90:1-8 [9-11] 12

Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 123

Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Gospel: Matthew 25:14-30

This week's Gospel gives us the parable of the talents. One servant turns his 5 talents into 10, one turns his 2 talents into 4, and the servant who buries his one talent in the yard doesn't create any new capital. It's easy when reading this Gospel to focus on the word "talent." It's natural to think of our own talents, to wonder how we're investing them, and how we're wasting them by burying them in the yard.

The parable makes it clear what will happen to people who bury their talents. Now, I know that many of us are blessed with a multitude of talents. We do have to make judicious choices about which talents are worth cultivating. I hope that we won't be the servant cast into worthless darkness because we pay attention to one set of skills over another.

But let's look at that parable again. Let's look at that word, "talent," again--in the time of Jesus, it was an economic term, not a personal development term. Read the parable substituting the word gold blocks for talent.

It's worth noting that a quantity of 5 talents, according to my Bible footnote (and my Bible is published by Oxford University Press, so I trust the footnote), is worth 15 years of wages of this laborer. In an article from The Christian Century, James Howell, a Methodist minister, points out that the servant who got just one talent would be receiving more money than most of us get in a lifetime of work: "This amount would stagger any recipient and send him into utterly uncharted territory. A Mediterranean laborer wouldn't have any more of a clue about how to invest five talent than the guy who bags my groceries would about $74 million (even if I and all my friends tried to advise him)."

As I read this week's Gospel again, I forced myself to think about the fact that this parable really is about money. It's not instructing me to return to the piano keyboard at the expense of the computer keyboard. And it's an unusually Capitalist message from Christ. I'm used to the Jesus who tells us to give our money away. I'm not used to the savior who encourages us to make wise investments of our money.

I'm not used to thinking of money management as a talent. But this parable makes clear that it is. Jesus makes clear that money is one of the gifts we're given, and the verses that follow (31-46, ones that aren't part of this week's Gospel) show that Christ is not straying from his essential message. The verses that follow talk about treating the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the prisoner as if those people are Christ incarnate. God has a vision for how we'll use that gift of money.

The servant who was cast into out darkness was cast out because the talent went to waste buried in the ground. How would he have been treated if he had given the money away to the poor, the sick, the stranger? I suspect he would NOT have been cast into outer darkness.

Our collapsing Capitalist paradigm often doesn't take community into account. Not making enough money in America, where workers have unreasonable demands like a living wage and safe working conditions? Just move your industry to a country that has less oversight. Sure, you rip apart the social fabric, but at least you're making money.

God calls us to a different vision. Our God is always obsessed with the poor and dispossessed. And we're called to be part of that obsession.

Unfortunately, the times we're living in mean that we'll find many opportunities for this aspect of Kingdom Living. With the holidays approaching, we might think about our customs. Maybe, instead of giving people who have lots of stuff even more stuff, we could donate to a charity in their name. In my family, the adults decided that instead of exchanging presents with each other, we would choose a different charity each year and donate to that charity. Maybe, instead of an endless whirl of parties, we might give some time to our local food pantries or soup kitchens. As we buy a book or two for our favorite children, we could buy a book or two for local reading programs or donate to RIF (Reading is Fundamental, the nation's largest child literacy organization).

The ways to help heal the world are endless, and God invites us to join in this creation project. We can donate money, time, skills, prayers, optimism, hope. Doing so is one of our most basic Christian tasks.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, November 12, 2017:

  • First reading and Psalm
    • Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25
    • Psalm 78:1-7
  • Alternate First reading and Psalm
    • Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-16 or Amos 5:18-24
    • Wisdom of Solomon 6:17-20 or Psalm 70
  • Second reading
    • 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
  • Gospel
    • Matthew 25:1-13

  • How mystifying, this parable of the wise bridesmaids with more than enough oil and the foolish, unprepared bridesmaids!  I would have expected Jesus to make a different point, one about those with abundant resources sharing with those who have a lack.

    But once again, Jesus is full of surprises.  It's not a parable about sharing.  And if you reread it again, you may realize, as I did this morning, that it's not a parable about staying awake either--all of the bridesmaids get drowsy and sleep.

    Through his parables and more importantly, through his life, Jesus shows us that we're allowed to have down time.  We're allowed to sleep.  Jesus retreated periodically to recharge, and we should do.

    But those foolish maidens aren't going on a women's retreat at a nearby church camp.  No, they have come to their task unprepared.  It's not like the task was unknown.  I assume that one of the basic job requirements of being a bridesmaid is to have oil for the lamps.

    Or maybe it's not one of the basic tasks.  Note that the bridegroom is delayed.  Maybe the foolish bridesmaids assumed the wedding party would come by the time it was dark.  Maybe their fault lies in not anticipating the unforeseen.

    So, what does this parable tell us for modern life?  For those of us who are waiting and watching, what does it mean?

    I love this quote from this post by Matthew L. Skinner: "Faithful readiness must be active readiness. It means saying that even though the wedding banquet hasn’t yet begun, together we will act as if it has. To live otherwise is to be exposed as unaware, perhaps revealing our estrangement from the bridegroom, from Jesus himself."

    Too many people will read this text and see the wedding party as a metaphor for Heaven.  Perhaps it is, although I imagine Jesus would have had a very different idea of Heaven than that of 21st century folks.  Too many people will focus on the possibility of a second coming in our lifetime, and that's why they keep the lamps ready.

    But God did not create this planet just to wreck it out of displeasure.  Absolutely not.  The Good News that Jesus gives us again and again is that the redemption of creation breaks through into our daily lives.

    If we wait for a distant Heaven, we've missed the point.  The Good News is that we don't have to wait.  It's happening right now, in all sorts of ways.

    But many of us will miss it, because we're not looking or we're not used to seeing God in our daily lives.  Perhaps instead of keeping a gratitude journal or instead of asking how our days have been, perhaps a better question would be, "Where have you seen God today?"

    In this way we'll keep our oil replenished and our lamps ready.  We will know the bridegroom, because we will have gotten in the habit of seeing him.

    Wednesday, November 01, 2017

    Meditation on the Feast of All Saints

    I am writing this meditation on this Sunday's Gospel on Nov. 1, which is the actual Feast of All Saints.  Many churches will celebrate some aspect of this festival on Sunday, Nov. 6, with these readings:


    First Reading: Isaiah 25:6-9

    First Reading (Alt.): Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9

    Psalm: Psalm 24

    Second Reading: Revelation 21:1-6a

    Gospel: John 11:32-44


    For many of us, it's been a difficult autumn.  We've had severe storms, and for some of us, those storms have reminded us that everything we build is more precarious than we thought.  We've had another horrifying terrorist event yesterday.  And then there are all of our individual losses.

     Even in years when we aren’t surrounded by constant examples of how short our time here can be, All Saints Day comes around to remind us. We don’t have long on this side of the grave. It’s a good festival to take some time to think about what we’d like to get done while we’re still here.

    The Feast of All Saints is a high festival day that celebrates the saints that have come before us. Alas, in many Lutheran churches, we don't celebrate the long line of saints that Catholics do; most Protestants who observe All Saints Day mark the lives of those gone in the past year. Perhaps as we continue to reform the church, we should move back to a broader understanding of saints as the entire community of Christians.

    It’s a good time to think about those who have gone before us. You might spend some time on this feast day thinking about the great saints who have helped to form Christianity through the centuries. How can we be more like them? For what would we like to be remembered in future centuries?

    If you have relatives and friends who have served as models of a life well lived, this would be a good time to write a note. We won’t be here forever. Write to them now, while they’re still here and you still remember. On a future All Saints Sunday, you might light a candle in their memory. But in the meantime, you can tell them how much they have meant to you.

    In many cultures, this feast day becomes a family time. Think of the Mexican tradition of taking picnics to the graveyard. Now would be a good time to record your family memories. Write them down while you still remember. Make a video. Assemble those records.

    But we should also use this All Saints Day to look forward. For many people, this day is bittersweet. We’re reminded of our losses. It’s hard to think of transformation.

    But dream a little on this All Saints Sunday. If you could create a new life out of the threads that you have, what would you weave? Or would you start again, with different yarns and textures? What is your dream of a renewed life?

    Jesus invites us to be part of a Resurrection Culture. We may not always understand how that will work. Some years the taste of ash and salt water seem so pervasive that we may despair of ever tending fruitful gardens of our lives again. But Jesus promises that death will not have the final word.