WORSHIP WITH US!
8:30AM, 9:45AM in the hall, or 11AM

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) 989-1903
tlcppines@gmail.com


Join Us For Worship!

Join Us For Worship!
Sundays at 8:30AM, 9:45AM, and 11AM

Featured Post

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 no...

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

MEMORIAL STONES AND THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN








Folks have asked over the past months about the grey carved rock memorial stones that fill our butterfly gardens. From an aesthetic point of view, all stones are ordered from the same company: The Shady Garden. their website may be found at http://www.theshadygarden.com/.







Individuals desiring to purchase stones for inclusion in the garden are asked to let SAM in the office know that they are ordering a stone. Stones are ordered by individuals and families directly through the company, not through the church. When the stone arrives please contact the office to discuss the logistics of placement. All reasonable efforts are made to accommodate the garden placement requests of those ordering stones, but the church reserves the right for final determination. We do our best to maintain the landscaping in the gardens throughout the year, however the rainy and dry seasons each present their challenges as does available manpower. These gardens are meant to be natural butterfly gardens as they are part of our certified wildlife habitat. Please keep this in mind. There will always a certain natural "wildness" to them. A donation to the Butterfly Garden Memorial Fund at the time of placement will help to provide plants to enhance the landscaping around the stone.


Please note that donations or memorial contributions designated for the butterfly gardens are always welcome in order for the gardens to be replenished and expanded. As well, volunteers are always appreciated to help weed, mulch and maintain these gardens. Check in with Pastor Keith if you have any questions on what needs to be done.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Pastor Keith and Piper's Christmas Letter
Dear Friends,
It has been far too many years since we last sent out a Christmas letter. I am writing this the day after Christmas, which for pastors is a day of serious rest. So I am not going to sweat this. Nice and easy. Relaxed. A stress-free letter. Let’s see… (sound of computer keyboard keys clicking)

Hello! Blessing upon Blessing be upon you this most JOYOUS season!

Yes, those are our children in the photo to the left. They are older now than when some of you likely last saw them. Time flies and all that. So where have we been and what have we been up to in the interim?
I could suggest that we have been travelling the world or that we are America’s secret first space family, but what could be cooler than the truth: we’ve just busy raising a family and serving the church.

Christian will be 17 in June and is a high school junior who just happens to be taller than his father and is now learning to drive. Still playing the vibraphone and bells in the high school band and dabbling with piano on the side, Christian still reserves most of his creative energy for his drawing. Under the tutelage of a retired Disney artist his passion for cartooning continues to grow. That’s one of Christian’s creations to the right. We’ve visited four colleges so far with a few more trips still planned.

Thomas will be 14 in April and is an 8th grader much into his computer and taking care of Yuki, his somewhat prickly albino hedgehog. Tom plays the baritone horn in the band and like to pluck out tunes by ear on the piano. Tom’s our scientist and we don’t blink an eye when he starts pulling ingredients out of the pantry or hands us some blue print off the internet and begins to give us a shopping list.

Luke will be 10 about the time you get this and is enjoying 4th grade. Our resident Wii expert, Luke can beat Dad in everything but Wii bowling. This year Luke traded soccer for fencing, added glasses, said good bye to one hamster and welcomed another and discovered “Guitar Hero.” He reads voraciously (all our kids do even in this electronic age) and is counting the days until he gets to learn to drive.

Piper began the year as a middle school world history teacher and moved on to the open spot as the 7th grade science teacher (yes, she is still grinning at that). She’s had her students dissecting chicken wings and so forth. I’m told her Roman and Greek Day was the hit of the year for many students. So much science, so little time….Well, between grading tests and projects and planning the next cool lab, helping the boys with their home work, making lunches, checking book bags, balancing the checkbook, leading the church's hand chime choir, and trying to keep up with her running, Piper has found time for both continuing her bass playing with the Broward Symphony Orchestra and taking ballroom dance lessons with me. She bought special ballroom dance shoes, so you know that she takes this seriously.

For our summer sabbatical sojourn she mapped out a several thousand mile trip from Florida to Boston and back with too many stops in between to mention. We rode the subways in New York and Boston, visiting colleges in Virginia and Georgia and generally had a blast.

Keith (that would be me) got a bit older this year with a trip to the emergency room during my 3 month sabbatical that was the beginning of the end for my gall bladder. An ultrasound, nuclear stress test, upper endoscopy and some outpatient surgery later and I was a few pounds (and one stuffed with gallstones gall bladder) lighter and much more pain free than I had been in quite a while. On the bright side I did get my thesis approved and graduate with a Doctor of Ministry degree from Columbia Theological Seminary in May. How quickly four years came and went!





Piper and I took a romantic trip up to St Augustine (above), staying at a bed and breakfast that was simply out of this world.
I got to baptize my little niece Olivia in New York in June (Seen below with the boys).

I still bake bread, mess around with the Irish whistle, do the odd crossword or jigsaw puzzle and enjoy writing the annual church Christmas program. As always, this year was a gift.

A blessed Christmas Season to All!
With Love,
Keith, Piper, Christian, Thomas and Luke!






Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Blessed and Joyous Christmas!

Our 11PM Service: The largest Cantata Choir Ever!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

CHRISTMAS MESSAGE
As a kid the one thing that I looked forward to most was the arrival of the Sears Wish Book each fall. This was the Christmas Toy catalogue bar none. Page after page of GI Joes and Lava Lamps and racing car sets and games. Dutifully I would write down each item and page number on a yellow legal pad. This was before sticky notes were invented or the internet and its electronic wish lists. Back then we had to do it all by hand. And we did. I know that I was not the only one keeping a list of what toys I wanted. It was a happy time, anticipating a happy Christmas.

My parents still have home movies of those early Christmases. We weren’t allowed out of our beds until dad had the movie camera set up to record the expressions on our faces. Stockings were left at the foot of our beds full of things to keep us busy from the time that we woke up until a decent hour, say 6AM, perhaps 6:30. When we were little, my older sister was always the first to awaken and she would let the rest of us know that Santa had come and then we would compare stockings and check on mom and dad. Sleeping or pretending to sleep, who knew? My parents seemed less happy at first, during those initial moments of having three very awake kids bouncing on their bed, then they would perk up, usually after dad had a cup of coffee or two.

Do you remember when Christmas was all about being happy?
About shredding wrapping paper and the wonder of gifts or perhaps filming gleeful children or having your family altogether for breakfast or a special dinner? Maybe you completed the scene like we sometimes did by turning the television to one of the TV channels that was broadcasting the Yule log – a picture of a fireplace that never needed tending, where a flame merrily burned while Christmas music played on and on for 24 hours straight. Add a cup of hot coco and I’m not sure we could be happier.

Happy, they say, means pleased or glad.
Maybe Christmas still is about being happy, though tougher this year for many. Trying to keep up with a tougher economy, more stress, more pressure. The things that kids want seemed much more complicated and expensive. More families must share Christmas, the impact of divorce turns Christmas into a negotiation with someone always coming out the loser. The displays in our neighborhood came out early this year, but in general are less than less year. People are cutting back. It’s tougher to keep up with the things that make us happy. And we want to be happy.

I will admit that I had my own father dig the model trains out of the attic so that for the first time I could set them up under our own tree, bringing back a memory from childhood when my Father and I would set up these humongous Lionels, the engine would puff real smoke, as we raced it around the track. I also ditched the fake tree, we call them artificial I suppose, it sounds nicer, doesn’t it? And instead got a real one. No need to spray fake pine scent this year. And even though its shape isn’t as perfect as an artificial tree and I have to vacuum up needles and add water twice a day, it makes me happy. A beautiful sight to behold.

But something was still missing. Being happy takes a lot of work. And then I got to thinking maybe I needed to focus on peacefulness. I got the trains and the tree and even bought paper to write the Christmas letters that may make it out before the seasons of Lent begins (hey, I bought the paper!), but perhaps I needed to put on some Christmas music and light a few nice smelling candles and just sink into a comfy chair and enjoy some peace. Let it wash over me. Carry me away like Calgon (or whatever you add to your own bathwater) to some other place. But that didn’t work either. Which makes sense since as much as we talk about this peaceful Christmas and sing about a peaceful Christmas, I can’t imagine anything less peaceful then giving birth to a child, which is what we are celebrating. The birth of a child, Jesus, the Savior of the world. Mary and Joseph are stuck, probably in a cave, which served as stables back then. Not so sanitary. Her water breaks. Contractions begin and then come closer together. No epidurals. No Demerol. No doctor or nurse or Lamaze coach. We don’t even know if there was a midwife to help out. Just this carpenter named Joseph who was probably good with tools, but who knows if he knew what to do when a head popped out or an umbilical cord or after birth. You see we skip to this peaceful scene of Mary with baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes in her arms or lying in the most sanitary and comfortable feeding trough that the world has ever seen. A manger is just a fancy word for feeding trough. The animals are all there and the humans all seem to have bright glowing halos of light over their heads and the shepherd are in awe, silent for the moment, and we even stick the wise men there even though in the story they don’t show up for weeks or months later. It is one peaceful scene. The pain and screaming and sweating and pushing and fear and hard work of the birthing process is skipped over. Mary’s valiant work missed. Men obviously wrote this part. Giving birth is not a peaceful process. What do we think that one moment Mary is there as her water breaks and then next she is holding Jesus without a strand of hair out of place?

So maybe the peaceful thing with quiet and candles and music and even Calgon isn’t the way to Christmas happiness.

Happiness takes a whole lot of work, but Joy, that’s something else altogether. We don’t produce it - it come from outside, from others, and it come to us as a gift. A true gift.
Amazing!

We read: In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see — I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.

Good news of great joy.
While happiness is about being pleased or glad, joy is about the prospect of possessing that which one desires. We desire it, but can’t get it on our own. We settle for the struggle for happiness instead. Joy comes from the outside, as gift.

This came home to me the other night at rehearsal for our Christmas Eve program. At some point I looked around and saw children that are growing up here in this faith family. I saw shepherds and dancing wind and Joseph and Mary and I heard the voices of the prophets of old all telling the story: The good news of great joy that is Christ our Lord. When we are a part of something so much greater than ourselves - like we are as we tell and share about Jesus - Joy comes to us, breaks upon us, washes over us and comes to live in our hearts. Receiving the Joy that comes from God in and through Christ Jesus, allowing our hearts to be open for it, to give room for such joy, how can the exhausting pursuit of happiness compare? And that joy is here for us now. Here in its fullness and with its hope and with its promise. Will you make room for such joy in your hearts tonight? Will Joy be birthed in your heart this evening: The true joy that is Christ Jesus?
Amen!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Still Time to Sign Up for ZUMBA
and keep that New Year's Resolution
(that you know that you are going to make!)
Ditch the workout, join the party...Zumba is a latin inspired dance aerobics class. Participants will get a cardio workout and learn basic dance moves while moving to great latin music. Zumba is energizing and more importantly FUN. All you need to bring is yourself, a pair of sneakers, a bottle of water, and a towel. Zumba will get you moving and can help you meet your fitness goals. All fitness levels welcome. Sign up on your worship slip or leave a message with SAM at the office via phone or email. The class is at eleven participants and growing!
Led by our own Basi Perkins, a certified Zumba instructor.
Class will be held in our fellowship hall Thursday nights beginning JAN 8th.
COST IS FREE!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Luke 1:26-38 Advent 4 December 21, 2008
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" The angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God." Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.


This past week I was invited to speak at a middle school Christian group after school. It was their Christmas party. Forty, maybe fifty kids were there, excited and boisterous. Only a few more days left until Christmas Break. The student leader tried to get things to come to order and it was tough. I mean, they were seriously excited. She tried a couple of things, none of which worked particularly well.

We Lutherans know what it takes to silence a room.
Five simple words.
The Lord be with you!
(And also with you).

That response is practically encoded on our DNA isn’t it? And we know that when we hear those words, what follows that briefest of exchanges, will be something that we need to hear. We anticipate it. We grow silent. We pay attention.

The Lord be with you....the world just stops...something important is about to be prayed or said or maybe the food is ready, who knows? But the expectation rises. We know that whatever follows needs to be heard. Must be heard.

The Lord be with you. (And also with you)……………. We wait. And we wait.

Excruciating, isn’t it? The waiting? The expectation.
Now imagine if nothing follows. Nothing. “The Lord be with you and the reply comes “And also with you and then…nothing. Silence. Deafening silence. How long would we wait? How long until the excruciating silence frees our lips to begin talking again. False alarm we tell ourselves. First the murmurs and then the volumes rises until we’ve forgotten that something important was about to happen.

And the truth is that important words were just spoken. Very important words. And we’ve missed it. We were expecting something else and we just plain missed it.

The truth is…The Lord is with us.
Five words, none longer than a single syllable, and you and I, we’ve received the transforming power of the Gospel.

Listen again to the Gospel:
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’

Like Mary we, too, are favored by God.
Like Mary the Lord is also with us.
True, we are not going to become pregnant virgins and give birth to Jesus.
(Sorry if that disappoints some of you.)
The Immaculate Conception is for Mary, the Mother of our Lord alone.
But we are favored all the same.

The Lord is with us!
These words are not just bread crust.
Not just curled parsley on top of the steak of our life.
They are not Styrofoam packaging.

The words wash over us in waves of profound truth. Of hope realized. Of Joy confirmed. The Lord is with us.

Scriptures tells us that before we were born, while we were still in our Mother’s womb, the Lord knew us. Knew us then, knows us now, and will know us forever.

At Christmas we celebrate the incarnation, God made flesh in Christ Jesus. God did not come down because God was bored, or because God could, or because God was curious. Scriptures tell us that God came down and became incarnate from the virgin Mary because as we read in John 3:16 God so loved the world.
God favored us. God loved us. Loved us enough not to leave us to our own futile existence, stuck in our own sin. Broken, lost and wandering in an unfulfilled search for truth.

No. God favored us. Not because we deserved it, but because God loved us. Loved us enough to die for us, to die upon the cross so that the sin that separates us from God could be atoned for, our debt of sin paid in full, its power destroyed.
That baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in the manger is our Emmanuel.
Our "God with us."
Imagine that!
One of the very names for our Lord and Savior Jesus is "God with us."
Emmanuel.

Mary can hardly believe that give the circumstances of her life (she is just a young women betrothed to the local carpenter) that the Lord would find favor with her. That the Lord is with her. Why should the Lord care about her?

And given the circumstances of our life, we might believe the same. Maybe it is something that we have done. Maybe it is our faith which we may find wanting at times, weak at times. Perhaps it is because we believe ourselves to be nobody special.

The Lord be with you!
What a tremendous blessing to be spoken.
The Lord…be…with… you
The Lord who saves, who loves, who gives who strengthens, that Lord , the Lord, be with you.
And the only thing we can do when such a blessing is bestowed upon us is to share it “And also with you,” we say. Because what else can we give in the face of such a blessing except that same blessing back?
The Lord be with you!
What did you just hear?
Just now as you received those words of blessing what does your heart say to you?
In your joy and your frustration, in your stress and relief, as you look into the eyes of your children and grand children, your wife, your husband, as you look at yourself - the Lord is with you. God favors you. Emmanuel is with you. Always!

A baby cries out in Bethlehem like the cry that will later pierce the afternoon at Golgotha.
God in and through Christ Jesus declares us favored, worthy, and righteousness.
It is a truth, a declaration, a promise that we need to hear again and again and again until our very heart sings at its utterance.
The Lord Be With You!
(And also with you!) Amen!
HIGHLIGHTS FROM PASTOR KEITH’S ANNUAL REPORT 2008

• Over 20% of worshippers on a typical Sunday morning since September 1st are under the age of 18.
• Over 43 adults and children were received in to membership during 2008.
• The percentage of new members under the age of 18 was 26%
• We had seven baptisms in 2008

• Over 30 children, youth and adults are participating in the 2008 Christmas Eve Worship Program.
• Over 15 Advent Wreaths were made during recent IGSS Advent Workshop.
• Over 35 volunteers from Trinity turned out to assist in serving the hungry at First Lutheran on November 19th and many more donated food.
• We set a Trinity record for number of Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes filled
• We set a Trinity record for total VBS donation to the ELCA VBS Mission Project
• We passed the 350 mark in number of prayer shawls made and delivered during 2008.
• Over $750 was given away through Trinity’s new Helping Hands Ministry this fall
• We created two prayer labyrinths and put them in use. The larger of the two spans over 60 feet in diameter, making it one of the largest in all of Florida.
• For the first time Trinity will participate in the triennial National Youth Gathering during the summer of 2009 with 6 youth and three adults registered.
• Over 50 families were served by Trinity’s Food Pantry this year.
• We began our participation in the ELCA’s Book of Faith Initiative with a four Bible study. Over 25 participants covenanted to read the Bible for 15 minutes a day through Easter Sunday.
• During this summer’s parsonage renovations, Trinity essentially gutted and replaced or erformed major repairs and upgrades to: one bedroom, two bathrooms, the living room, storage room, kitchen and roof.
• Over 100 preschoolers visited the Pumpkin Patch with their classes this year. The Patch raised over $2800 for our Christian Education and Youth ministries.
• In one of the most difficult years for the economy since the Great Depression, Trinity reduced its proposed 2008 budget deficit of approximately $30,000 to an estimated actual deficit of $3,000 by year’s end.
• In 2008 Trinity began a year round stewardship model that will ask folks to increase their egular weekly giving by 10% in 2009.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

ADVENT 3 DEC 14 2008
Some have called it the most revolutionary document in the world.
A bombshell.
And what document are these quotes referring to?
Some Terrorist manifesto? No.
The DaVinci Code? No.
The South Beach Diet or Chocolate Cookie Diet or each whaever you want and still lose weight diet or whatever diet Oprah is on these days? No.
Perhaps, the U.S. Declaration of Independence...actually, No.

I want you to listen to the words as they are sung…
The first verse of Canticle of the Turning echoes in the sanctuary

This hymn, the Canticle of the Turning is based upon our text for the 1st Lesson today from the Gospel of Luke: The Magnificat, Mary’s song of praise. It is this text, the Magnificat of Mary that has earned the label as the most revolutionary document in the world.
Let’s read it again. Slowly and Carefully.
Let’s read it together:
And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.’

So what’s so revolutionary here? Where’s the bombshell?
Listen:
A voice sings verse two of Canticle of the Turning.

Well, we learn that...the expectations of the world have been measured and found wanting.Mary suggests that God in Christ Jesus is about to turn the world upside down. To discomfort the secure. The comfortable. To turn God’s thoughts, God’s attention and God’s power to give the power to the powerless, the marginalized, the broken, the hungry, the poor. To raise them up. To declare that the human-made boundaries that separate poor and rich are not of God’s doing, not of God’s making, not of God’s Kingdom.

I was talking the other day with a church-goer from across town about ministry . “Around Thanksgiving,” he said, we hand out box lunches to the hungry. It makes us feel wonderful. Like we are doing something.” “That’s great,” I said. And I meant it. But I went on, “Have you folks ever thought about inviting them in to eat with you? To serve them a meal and engage them in conversation.?” He looked at me a little blankly. To hear what they have to say. About their life. Their struggles. Their dreams. Their burdens.

Let me ask you, what is more revolutionary, to hand the hungry food, which they need, of course and is a good and blessed ministry in and of itself, or to treat them as equals and at the same time more than equals, as guests at dinner?
Which is more revolutionary?

A voice sings verse three of Canticle of the Turning

The hungry people of this world need their food and we and countless other congregations and organizations and individual people give them food from our hearts and they are thankful for that. Their cupboards are barren, their children cry out and hunger rages. That food matters a great deal. But what is revolutionary, the bombshell as some call it, exploding into a world of us and them, what makes this text so dangerous is it’s proclamation that justice matters to God. That justice is valued by God. That the in-breaking Kingdom of God in and through the incarnation, Christ Jesus come into the world, demands it. And that treating one another as all equally part of the family of God is an act of justice.

With a handful of people First Lutheran in Fort Lauderdale has invited the hungry people of their city to come dine with them. To worship with them. To bless them with their conversation. Wednesday we join with others in serving as a part of this radical proclamation of the Kingdom of God. To not only feed their hunger for food, but for dignity, for personhood, for conversation and acceptance.

In choosing Mary, I ask you, is God making a statement? Is God speaking to justice? To what God and thus we should value? Should strive for?
The Magnificat is testimony to the answer to that question. A witness.

But are we ready to be revolutionaries of the heart? Revolutionaries In thought, mind, and especially in action? To not only feed the lowly, but lift them up as God has lifted them up before God’s throne? The day of the Lord is coming, Scripture and we proclaim, shall we not embody it with our very lives?

Think of all the ways in which we keep the poor and economically challenged at a distance. Instead of lifting them up, we tune them out, not wanting to add any more challenge to our lives. The time has come for us to turn.
The hymn refrain echoes.
The time to turn is here.
Amen.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

NEW TRINITY WEBSITE LAUNCHED
www.trinitylutheranpembrokepines.org

It is a work in progress - but what a wonderful work it is!

Thanks goes out to Kristin and Carl Berkey-Abbott, webmasters and to the Talbert family and Richard Mandat for their work on our earlier site.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Second Sunday in Advent
Mark 1:1–8
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, "See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'" John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, "The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
+++
My mother, without much provocation, will gladly tell people that as a child I was known to walk into parked cars. Not stopped cars, mind you. Parked ones. Our neighbors cars. Oldsmobiles and Buicks and Fords. With shiny metal bumpers. With my mind deeply focused on the deep thoughts and childhood imaginings and chin slightly elevated to the sky with a far off dreamy look, I never saw them coming. Wham! I would find myself crumbled on the ground brushing pebbles off various body parts.

If I only had turned around.
Even at the last minute.
Pulled my head out of the clouds or dreams or thoughts or wherever it was.
It would have saved several pairs of jeans over the years and more than a shred of...let's say dignity. Much less embarrassment perhaps.
If I had only turned around and gone off in another direction, preferably one not blocked by a large domestic automobile.
How different those years might have been.

Is it surprising to learn that turning around - that changing direction is an important biblical concept. To repent is to literally turn around go in another direction - instead of going your way, go God's way.

We folks have a hard time going God's way. And we have for a long time.
Look at Genesis. We are going God's way - listening, serving, loving God.
god tells Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil then Bam! The serpent tempts Eve and through Eve, Adam, to disobey God. To go in another direction. To march to the beat of a different drummer.
They don't start off repenting either. Instead they play the blame game.

From Genesis 3:9-13
But the Lord GOD called to the man, and said to him, "Where are you?" He said, "I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself." He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" The man said, "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate." Then the Lord GOD said to the woman, "What is this that you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent tricked me, and I ate."

In fact, they never do explicitly repent and their story fades from view with the birth of Seth, after the death of Abel.

John the Baptizer proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins and we read that people from the whole Judean countryside came to him in the river Jordan confessing their sins.

The Lord is coming he says. One so great that he was not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal - the job of the lowly slave. Prepare his way. Repent. Change direction.

There was a woman who I met while I was still in training to be a pastor who had an adult son whom she loved dearly. She raised him and brought him to church as a child and taught him right from wrong, but it appeared all for naught. As he moved into adulthood he fell into deep addictions, moved back home, stayed out late at night, hid drugs in the house and so on. It was every mother's nightmare. Would he come home tonight? Was that a police siren? How long would he stay clean this time? Her prayers grew desperate, difficult, and more and more earnest until one day she prayed to God that her son would die. Then she prayed, she would never have to worry and suffer each night. Just take him God, she prayed.
And he didn't come home that night.

In the morning she saw his body slumped over in the driver's seat of their car out in the street in front of the house.
For a moment we could imagine what went through her mind.
Had God listened to her?

She banged on the window and he stirred.
He had been not dead, but asleep.
I had been another harrowing night and he was done with it.
That very night , that awful night, he had made up his mind.
He repented. Changed direction. Sought a different road not his own.
His own having only led to pain and heartache and self destruction.

She told me this story without emotion.
Her voice only began to crack when she spoke of his life after that long night. How he straightened out and cared for her. Made something out of his life and now as hers was nearing its end he was there always to be counted on, full of love and strength as her own strength waned.

A ship changes direction with a rudder and we cannot change direction of our own power, our own strength, our own wisdom. It's when we think that we know what is best for ourselves that our ship runs aground. We're back in the garden again listening to the serpent's voice:

He said to the woman, "Did God say, "You shall not eat from any tree in the garden'?" The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, "You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.'" But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.

And those voices are always out there, urging us to seek a direction to call our own. And our path always leads to self-destruction

The good news is that we do not have to change our own direction on our own. Help comes.

We know how hard it is, at least for men, to go back the way that we came and try a different route when driving, even when we know that the road that we have taken is the wrong road.
Inertia kicks in and pride and stubbornness and our own desire to fix the problem that we created by continuing in the same direction until we are no longer lost. I mean after we drive past China we know that we are heading back to where we started, eventually, right?

On our own, we don't stand chance to repent.
Powerful help is there for us. Poured out for us and into us in our baptism. We have been baptized with the fire that John promised would come in and through Christ Jesus for our sakes.
And it will not forsake us. It is close at hand. We know that even if the decisions that we may make in life cause us to forget for awhile. Blind us to the possibility. The first step that we take in repentance is guided by the Holy Spirit, inviting continued formative change in our life, reshaping us into the image of Christ. One has come and is coming. One more powerful than I or you. We aren't worthy to untie the thong of his sandals either, but he takes us by the hand and leads us onward in a new direction. Thanks be to God! Amen!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Gingerbread Men in the Making!
(Or is that baking?)






Let the Baking Begin!
See you Saturday at 6PM for potluck and gingerbread man (and woman and other things) decorating! Please bring a dish to share and a can or tub of icing and a decorating element (sprinkles, hard candy and so forth).
Chef Keith



Monday, December 01, 2008

GINGERBREAD COOKIE RECIPE
It is baking week in the parsonage as dozens upon dozens of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies fly out of the oven bound for our college students who are preparing for their finals and then even more dozens of 10 inch gingerbread men for this Saturday's Annual "Gingerbread Decorating Night."

This is the recipe that I use for a nice smelling and hard (easier to decorate) cookie.
(It comes courtesy of King Arthur Flour)
If you want to make these cookies int a tree ornament, use a straw to poke a hole in the top of the cookie before baking to add a hanging loop later on.

Ingredients:
5 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons ginger
2 teaspoons ground cloves.
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup molasses (or light or dark corn syrup)
2 eggs

In a large bowl stir together the flour, salt, cinnamon,ginger, cloves and baking soda. Set the mixture aside.

In a small saucepan, melt the shortening, then stir in the sugar and molasses. pour the tepid shortening mixture over the flour mixture and begin beating till everything is thoroughly combined. Divide the dough in half and refrigerate it for at least 2 hours (or overnight)., to mellow. The dough is easier to work with if given a long rest. Don't forget to pull the dough out of the fridge a few hours before you want to work with it if refrigerating overnight to allow it to warm up and soften a bit.

Sprinkle a work surface with flour and roll the dough to approx. 1/8 to 1/4 in ch thick. Use cutters to cut as many cookies as you can, then gather the scraps together and re-roll them, and cut out more cookies till the dough is gone. Transfer cookies to a lightly greased or parchment lined baking sheet. (Try to cut out as many cookies as possible each time you roll the dough because each time you-re-roll it it will get tougher and harder to work with.)

Bake the cookies in a pre-heated 350degree oven for 15 minutes or so or until they're just barely starting to darken around the edges and you can still leave an impression in the top of a cookie if you press down with a finger. The larger the pieces the longer it will take to bake. (If you are making them to serve as ornaments bake them until they are good and hard).

Remove the cookies from the oven and cool them completely on a wire rack before storing an in an air-tight container.