In the Sanctuary at 8:30AM and 11AM -
a blended service of traditional and contemporary elements with communion

In the hall at 9:45AM
scripture, prayer, and creative response with communion

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

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We have moved the service that was tentatively planned for this Friday July 13th to Friday, September 21st 7PM-8:30PM in commemoration of th...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Meditation on This Week's Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

The lessons for Sunday, August 2, 2009:

First Reading: Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15

First Reading (Semi-cont.): 2 Samuel 11:26--12:13a

Psalm: Psalm 78:23-29

Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 51:1-12

Second Reading: Ephesians 4:1-16

Gospel: John 6:24-35

Welcome to bread month! Over the next four weeks, the Gospel lessons will return again and again to this common New Testament symbol. We will be offered many opportunities to think about the meaning of this symbol.

I often tell my literature students that they can tell when something in a story might be a symbol because it shows up again and again, taking on an unusual significance. Our lectionary creators want to make sure we understand the importance of bread in the ministry of Jesus.

You might say that you already know. You take communion every week. You've heard that story of the loaves and fishes multiplying. Maybe you even pay attention to the bread that you buy each week as you choose the most nourishing loaves. Maybe you savor some bread and wine with your cheese on any given week-end, and you contemplate the life-giving properties of your snack. Despite all the recent attacks against carbs, most of us know that some variation of grain has kept most of human civilization alive more reliably than any other foodstuff.

The Gospel this week, however, reminds us that there is much more to life than sustaining our all-too-human bodies. We hunger and thirst and we crave anything which might guarantee that we'll never hunger or thirst again. Jesus reminds us that it's natural for humans to want bread, but he tells us that we sacrifice so much if we stop with physical bread. Jesus reminds us of our larger purpose, which is communion with God.

In verse 27, Jesus says, "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you." I suspect that many of us are like me, laboring so hard for our daily bread that we don't have much time for spiritual food. When we're feeling overstretched and burdened by our calendars, it's easy to want to sacrifice some of our tasks. We might find ourselves saying, "It's summer. If I don't go to church, people will assume I've gone on vacation. No one will miss me. I can get my grocery shopping done and be that much further ahead." We might say, "I don't have time to pray! I have all this ironing to do!!!" We might grumble, "Who can read the Bible in such a dirty house? I'll just run the vacuum, and then I'll settle down for some Scripture reading."

In the language of economics, we need to pay ourselves first. In Oprah's language, we need to practice self-care. In the language of nutrition, we need to nourish ourselves.

We can't possibly do the work that God calls us to do if we're starving for spiritual bread. It's hard to do the work that our bosses pay us to do when we're so spiritually malnourished. How hard can it be to remember to pray? I'd suggest that we use meal time as a trigger (say grace, say thank you, check in with God while you gulp down your sandwich)--but so many of us seem to be forgoing meals these days.

Somehow, create some connections so that you can develop spiritual habits to go with your other habits. Pray while you're brushing your teeth. Listen to the Bible (via CD, tape, or download) as you drive to work. Have some spiritual sustenance delivered to your e-mail inbox every day. When you call your mom, check in with God when you hang up the phone. When you update your Facebook status, remember that God wants some facetime with you too.

We are created for so much more than our earthly eyes can see, so much more than our cramped brains can comprehend. Spiritual habits and disciplines start to crack open our vistas so that we can enlarge our possibilities.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Digital Projector Needed for Sunday
We have some cool stuff we want to show from the National Youth Gathering on a laptop, but need to borrow a digital projector to do it - anyone get a hold of one we can borrow for Sunday?
Let Pastor Keith know.

National Youth Gathering
Photos are being added
to Trinity's Facebook page.
If you are on Facebook,
why not become a "fan"
of "Trinity Lutheran Pembroke Pines"
and see them?

Monday, July 27, 2009




Trinity Youth were part of a team
that helped get a school ready
for its mid-August opening
by hauling boxes,
setting up classrooms,
painting, hammering nails,
setting up a library,
pulling out staples,
and much more.

It was estimated by local volunteer
authorities that in three days
the 37,000 youth and chaperones
of the ELCA did three years'
worth of work
for the city of New Orleans.

Over $125,000 was raised in the
"Change for Change" Offering
to help fight world hunger.

during worship for our
"Tales from NEW ORLEANS"

(Yup...it rocked!)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Meditation on This Week's Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

The readings for Sunday, July 26, 2009:

First Reading: 2 Kings 4:42-44

First Reading (Semi-cont.): 2 Samuel 11:1-15

Psalm: Psalm 145:10-19 (Psalm 145:10-18 NRSV)

Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 14

Second Reading: Ephesians 3:14-21

Gospel: John 6:1-21

It's sobering to realize that even in a land of abundance like ours, hunger is a real problem. Even in times when unemployment is at near record low levels (unlike the past 6 months), hunger is a real and pressing problem. It's easy to understand why the people who had just been fed from 5 loaves and 2 fishes would want to make Jesus king. Most of us, even if we haven't experienced food scarcity ourselves, are only a generation or two removed from it.

And even if we haven't experienced food scarcity, we've experienced that scarcity consciousness. Most of us don't operate out of a place of abundance. We have our little piece, and we clench onto it. We're not open to the grace of God's expansive love. Unlike that little boy who shared his lunch, we hold tight to whatever little shares of the good life we've claimed for ourselves.

Or worse, maybe we're like the disciples, who are so focused on the numbers that they aren't very open to the possibilities Jesus offers. I'm often like that. I get so focused on the way that I would solve a problem that I'm not open to other solutions. Worse, I get so focused on the way the world would solve problems that I forget that I'm worshipping a revolutionary God that doesn't need to be tied down by the ways we've always done things, by the accountant's ledger.

Sometimes, when we've heard a text so often, it's hard to hear it again. Reading the lectionary for this week, I was struck by how we have not one, but 2 miracles. Jesus makes the food stretch--everyone has enough AND there are leftovers. Like the people who were there, I find myself thinking, "Now there's a God I want to get to know." Then, we have the miracle of Jesus walking on the water.

I was also struck by verse 15: "Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.” I can't remember ever hearing that as part of the story before, although, of course, I have. This passage shows up in the lectionary at least every three years. But this year, it leapt out at me.

It's another reminder that Jesus isn't interested in this kind of worldly power. Jesus came to model for us the Kingdom of God, starting here, starting now--not some distant time after we're dead, or some distant time when God comes again into the world. Here and now. What would that world look like, if we could fully realize the transformation? Jesus points the way.

So, what does this passage tell us about Kingdom living? It's not about power. We're not preaching, teaching, healing, feeding, and gathering together so that we can consolidate power and win elections and do whatever we want. Again and again, Jesus rejects that model. The Gospel reminds us of what Jesus can do--but first we must be open. We can't be hamstrung in our imaginations. We have to remember that we've thrown in our lot with a God that wants to transform the world so that everybody has enough and that there's enough for the next day.

The first step towards that reality is to share. When we share, we're less clenched about our possessions, and it's easier for God to do the transforming work for which we all yearn. When we share, we short-circuit our imaginations, which are busy envisioning the worst (we'll be poor, we'll have to eat grass, we'll run out of money before the end of the month, our children will have to wear clothes that we find in the dump--on and on our gerbil minds whirl around).

No, God has promised that we will be provided for. Again and again, God tells us that there will be enough. We can rely on God. We can share our lunches, confident in the knowledge that there will be more, there will be plenty, there will be leftovers. We can share our lunches, knowing that we live in a world of abundance, not scarcity.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Jesus, Justice, and Jazz!

Keep us in your Prayers as we head off to New Orleans for the ELCA National Youth Gathering's Jesus, Justice, and Jazz!

Pastor Keith, Piper, Ron McCoy, Maya McCoy, Dinesh McCoy, Joanna Vega, and Marc Vega.
And thank you to all for your blessed and joyous support in our fundraising this past year!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

"Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while."

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 July 19, 2009
So Jesus has just sent the disciples out two by two into neighboring cities and towns to preach and teach and heal and when they get back and tell the wonderful stories of how the Holy Spirit used them in bold and amazing ways, Jesus takes a good hard look at them and tells them that they need some time to rest. To re-charge. To eat. To just be, rather than doing all of the time. In fact, he makes them get in a boat and head off to a deserted place just to make sure that they take his advice.

My ministry, and in actuality, my life, has been a constant struggle to do those vey things – how about you? To find time in our busy lives to rest, to re-charge, sometimes even just to eat; to be, rather than just doing all of the time. Our struggle to slow down, rest and re-charge, to just be, can become an interesting journey, can’t it? It leads us to try new things, to shake up our ridiculously over-stressed schedule and re-orient our lives. Some might begin a morning walk or try yoga or watch the sunrise at the beach. Some might begin their day with coffee and prayer rather than letting the morning news fill them with a full jolt of dread and anxiety at what is happening in the world. Some might warm to Scripture before charging into their email and never ending to-do lists. A couple of years ago, my struggles to slow down, rest, re-charge and just be led me on a quest to find a good recipe for Sunday sauce. I told you that everyone’s journey is unique!

For those not versed in the ways of Italian cooking, Sunday sauce or Sunday gravy is typically a six hour labor of love in which one carefully coaxes from tomatoes, chesses, meats and herbs and foods with names like braciole, a gastronomic delight that bubbles merrily for half the day, filling the house with smells that no Yankee candle could come close to imitating. Throw in some succulent meatballs, sweet Italian sausage and a couple of pork chops to sweeten the sauce, and you have a work of art that you can and should, eat with profound gusto!

So what does good Italian cooking have to do with Jesus’ desire for his disciples, (including us!) to slow down, rest, re-charge, and just be? For me, making Sunday sauce provided a much needed slow down. It had to be tended and stirred and seasoned and watched with a careful eye. It helped me in my struggle against the temptation to jump on the computer and start diving back into work on my day off. If I allowed myself to become distracted or focus on other things, like work or more work, or just plain work, the sauce would likely burn on the bottom of the pot. Once that happened, the sauce would be ruined. It was the best anti-multi-tasking medicine that I could come up with and it sure didn’t taste like medicine! I could feel the stress ebbing away with each pinch of sweet basil.

Now folks like to opine how wonderful serving the Lord is – how blessed and joyous. They use words like “awesome,” “grace-filled,” and “holy” that work is. I’ve used those words, too. And it most certainly is. But God gave all of us gifts and in the living out of our baptismal call to employ those gifts for the sake of the Kingdom, we can get worn out. Tired. Dare I say grumpy and even irritable. I don’t know about you, but I have been in my share of churches in my life and met more than one or two people on the edge – folks for whom playing Grumpy the Dwarf would not require one lick of acting. Folks for whom the stress of life has infected both the water that they drink and the air that they breathe. Living and giving our all for Jesus in the building up of the Kingdom, by word and deed can be stressful. Just ask Moses – he got so burnt out serving the Lord that his Father in Law had to intervene with some humbling advice. When he finally gets away from the people of Israel for some time alone with God – time to rest, renew, re-charge, to just be with the Lord (and receive the Ten Commandments), the people are busy back down the mountain inventing a new god and throwing quite the party in his honor.

The disciples go out two by two and heal and preach and teach and upon their return Jesus knows as surely as he knows his own name that they need some time apart. Serving the Lord can be tiring work – you give and serve and give and serve until joy can turn into drudgery. Unless. Unless you face the stress and take action to allow for some renewal. Mother Teresa is purported to have once said: I know that the Lord won’t give me more than I can handle – I just wish that the Lord didn’t have such a high opinion of me. If that is how Mother Teresa felt – where does that leave us?

Stress can be deadly – not only to our faith, but to our bodies. The American Institute of Stress (yes, there is such a thing) recently returned to Time Magazine's June 6, 1983 cover story that called stress "The Epidemic of the Eighties" and referred to it as our leading health problem. So what do you think – have things gotten better or worse for stress since then? Let’s face it – with the added pressure of the economy and all that it impacts there our stress-o-meters likely are pegged rather high these days. According to the AIS, it has been estimated that 75 - 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress related problems. Job Stress is far and away the leading source of stress for adults but stress levels have also escalated in children, teenagers, college students and the elderly for other reasons, including: increased crime, violence and other threats to personal safety; pernicious peer pressures that lead to substance abuse and other unhealthy life style habits; social isolation and loneliness; and more.

When National Geographic weighs in, you know that we need to sit up and pay attention. It reminds us “that in the beginning [stress] saved our lives. It's what made us run from predators and enabled us to take down prey. Today, humans are turning on that same life-saving stress response to cope with 30-year mortgages, four-dollar-a-gallon gas, difficult bosses and traffic jams — and we can't seem to turn it off. As a result, we are constantly marinating in corrosive hormones triggered by the stress response. Years of ground-breaking research by multiple scientists are revealing surprising facts about the impact of stress: It can shrink our brains, add fat to our bellies, even unravel our chromosomes.”

So stress can leave us coming up empty when we joyfully desire to serve the Lord with gladness and it can shrink our brains. Folks, this is serious stuff. But there is hope!
There’s hope for us because according to the Lutheran Magazine, Canadian researchers found that strong religious convictions can lower stress and enhance the performance of basic tasks. Researchers measured 28 students’ levels of religious observance and stress caused by making mistakes on a test. “The more religious they were, the less brain activity they showed in response to their own errors.” “They’re calmer when they make errors.” So our faith helps us cope!

We know this because you and I are 23rd Psalm kind of people, aren’t we?
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.

Can I get an “amen!” to that – because I am sure that that is what we believe.
The green pastures, the still waters, the restoration of our souls, the overflowing cup, our heads anointed, dwelling in the house of the Lord our whole life long. The ultimate anti-stress psalm – we counter stress with a faith that completely and humbly trusts in the Lord.
Amen to that!

But here is my confession: I got a pantry full of canned tomatoes and a drawer full of cheeses and a freezer full of frozen meats and a garden and cabinet full of herbs for the next batch of Sunday sauce that I keep forgetting to make. The Lord says to me and to you, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while." For me that place might be my kitchen or my garden – it may be something quite different for you. But essentially, I tell the Lord to stuff it – that I am too busy to rest. I have too much important work to do to rest. I’ll come away when things are done. When I get a break. Tomorrow. Next Week, next month. Next year. “Lord,” we say, “We have too much important stuff to do (for you, if you are paying attention, Lord) – way too much to do to actually listen to your advice and do what you tell us to do. We’ll rest, re-charge, relax and just be some other time. We’re too busy building your Kingdom right now. Come away with me and rest a while, the Lord says.
But we’re too busy to pay him any heed.

I guess we believe that shrinking brains and splitting chromosomes and a few too many extra pounds are a small price to pay for the stress of living our lives for the Lord but not exactly with the Lord.

Next time you see me after the Youth Trip to New Orleans ask me about my Sunday sauce, and I’ll ask you what quiet waters the Lord is leading you by to rest and restore your soul

Friday, July 17, 2009

A summer of Scripture, Prayer and Fellowship!

What is an Affinity Group?
Just follow the “Rule of Three PLUS ONE!”
· An Affinity Group is a group of three or more people that share a similar interest led by a convener – someone who provides leadership for the group. For example: a group might want to read a book together or visit parks or the beach or gather as a group of singles or seniors or parents of teens or moms with babies. It could be a group that wants to work out together or walk together or who likes fishing or creative writing or walking labyrinths or knitting prayer shawls or Bible study or intercessory prayer or cooking a meal together. It is limited by your imagination and interests.
· The group agrees to meet a minimum of three times during the three month period (JULY-SEPTEMBER)
· They covenant that when they meet they will include these three things: Scripture, prayer and fellowship in their time together.
· They covenant that during the three months they will seek to include at least ONE person not currently associated with Trinity into their Affinity Group.
***IT’S THAT EASY! Just remember: THREE + ONE***
Where you meet, when you meet, and how often you meet is up to you!
***Just remember to include the SPF factor in your time together***
SPF = (Scripture + Prayer+- Fellowship)

Group leaders to be Commissioned this Sunday, July 19th, during Worship.
(If there are group co-leaders please inform Pastor Keith ASAP)
Walking Group – Lisa Montalchi
Faith and Writing – Ron McCoy
Looming - Liz Lombardo
Prayer Group - Verel Joly
Marlins Baseball - Forest Fritz
Building A Successful Butterfly Garden – Pastor Keith

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Join Bubba and the Bubbette's....
For Trinity's First Annual
Chili Cook-Off
and Bluegrass Concert

A Trinity Outreach Ministry Event

Who makes the best Chili??? Everyone gets to judge!
12 Entries so far...are you ready to throw down with your secret family recipe?

Family Fun - bag races, horse shoes, etc

Special Guest: The Pursel Family Bluegrass Band

Date: AUG 1st at 2:00pm

Donation: $5 adults
$2.50 children under 12
free for children under 3

Chili, hot dogs, chips, cornbread, watermelon, "white lightning" and Hot Tamales.
The long awaited Chinese Auction will be here on JULY 19th following the service!!!
First… we will have lunch for a $5 donation: mini egg rolls, meat balls, fried rice, cake, soda, and fruit followed by the Chinese Auction.

Envelopes with numbers will be $3 per envelope. You buy as many envelopes as you like and put your "numbers" into the cup in front of the item you want. At the end, a number will be selected from each cup and that number will be the winner. For example, you can buy number 5, 13, and 28. These numbers are your numbers to put into the cups.

The proceeds will go to the youth trip to New Orleans for the ELCA National Youth Gathering
6 Youth, 3 chaperones from Trinity,
gathering with 37,000 Lutheran Youth from across the country...in New Orleans.
It will be the largest event in New Orleans Post-Katrina.
This Sunday we will be commissioning our intrepid team, blessing them and the banner they carry all the way to the Superdome!
There will be a collection of loose change this Sunday at Worship for the team to bring to New Orleans as our offering for Mission from Trinity.
Time to look under the car mats and shake the piggy banks!
Following worship, the Chinese Auction will makes its triumphant return.
All proceeds will go to support to defray the costs of this important trip.
(You want to make sure the kids eat, right?!)
We will try our best to post to the BLOG as often as possible to keep you updated throughout the week.
Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

The readings for Sunday, July 19, 2009:First Reading: Jeremiah 23:1-6

First Reading (Semi-cont.): 2 Samuel 7:1-14a

Psalm: Psalm 23

Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 89:20-37

Second Reading: Ephesians 2:11-22

Gospel: Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

Whenever I see a chunk of text missing from the lectionary selection, I go back to read the whole thing. I understand that most church services don't lend themselves to such long Gospel readings from the pulpit, but in the privacy of my study, it doesn't take much time.

The missing text is the feeding of the crowd with loaves and fish, a story we'll return to in a few weeks.

In the meantime, let's consider the actions of Jesus in this Gospel. First of all, Jesus retreats. He invites his disciples, home from their evangelical journeys, to come away to a lonely place. Or at least, that's their plan. They end up with a crowd to feed, and Jesus teaches and feeds them.

In the middle of the omitted portion, Jesus once again withdraws to pray. His disciples try to make their way in the boat without him, but a storm overtakes them. Jesus walks to them across the water, calms the disciples, calms the storm, and leaves the disciples freaked out: he multiplies food, he calms the waters--who is this guy???

And then, once again, it's back to the mission: healing and making people well.

This Gospel has lessons for us. One of the most important lessons that it has for busy 21st century people is that even Jesus needs some down time. Jesus routinely goes on retreat. Jesus routinely withdraws to pray.

I hear the howls of protest even now. "Jesus wasn't a parent. He didn't have all these activities that his children had to get to--and who is going to drive them there? Me, that's who. And don't tell me that they don't have to do so many activities, because that just shows that you don't know how tough it is for kids to get into a good school." "Jesus didn't have this jerk of a boss who times his bathroom breaks. It was easy for him to take a time out to pray." "Jesus didn't have a house that was falling apart." On and on we could go, offering excuses for why we allow ourselves to get into a frazzled state.

But the ministry of Jesus has much to teach us, and one of the most important lessons is that we can't take care of others when we're not taking care of ourselves. Jesus prays, Jesus takes retreats, Jesus shares meals with friends--these are the activities that leave him ready to care for the masses.

Our mission is the same as Christ's. Like Jesus, we're surrounded by hordes of hungry people. Broken people need us (and perhaps you feel pursued by them).

Yet we will not be able to complete our mission if we don't practice basic self-care. The message of today's Gospel is that it's O.K. to take time to pray. It's O.K. to retreat. It's O.K. to eat a slow meal with friends.

Not only is it O.K., it's essential. Christ, the incarnation of God on earth, needed to take a break. What makes you think that you are any different?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

First Glance at
Pastor Keith's
Sunday Sermon
Mark 6:14-29
July 12th 2009
So Herod marries his brother’s wife, essentially spitting on the law of God handed down from Moses that prohibited such things. For Herodias this is perhaps a step up. An even more important husband, more powerful, richer - who knows for certain? What we do know, according to scripture, is that she takes great offense at the condemnation from John the Baptist. She has a grudge against him and John finds himself arrested and thrown into prison.

No charges filed as far as we know. No lawyer involved. No judge. No trial. No sentence. Just prison with a very uncertain future. Not knowing what would happen next.

So what does he choose to do standing around in that cell?
Blame God?
Rail against God?
Curse God?
Forget God?
Learn to boost cars, pick locks and forge checks?

John takes the time given to him and talks with Herod about the things that he knows.
This, of course, is not his only option.
God doesn’t make him talk to Herod. John the Baptist chooses to.
He could have just as easily chosen to sleep 23 hours a day or compose sonnets or scratch cave art on the prison walls.
He chooses to talk with Herod about God and we presume that these discussions included passionate conversation about the Messiah, the Son of God, the One whose sandals he is unworthy to untie. The long expected One. The One who will baptize with fire and the Holy Spirit while John had only baptized with water. The One for whom the heavens had ripped open and the very Spirit of God had descended as a dove.

So let me ask you a question: In his choosing to chat with Herod, is John the Baptist serving the will of God? How do we know? And does it really matter?

Our lives are full of choices, aren’t they?

Fifteen years ago I served as the Friday overnight DJ for a local church-owned radio station in our town. Before I applied for the volunteer position, I had read a story about the church, a large independent Christian church that had been around for perhaps 20 years. In the paper one week, the founding pastor told a story about the defining moment of the congregation, which he had named Open Door Chapel, a not uncommon name for like-minded churches around the country. He told about a letter that he had received from a couple in prison. They were both due to be released and were looking for a church home. They explained that they had been imprisoned in connection with the death of their child.

The pastor spoke with the Board of Elders at the church and explained that Open Door Chapel would allow this couple to join them. He reminded the Board of Elders that their name was “Open Door Chapel” and that they would be living a lie to turn these people away.

I do not know if he anticipated the uproar that this decision would cause.
When the dust settled half of the congregation had left to form a new church.
So let me ask you a question: In his choosing to allow that couple to join his congregation that ultimately led to the split of the congregation, was that pastor serving the will of God? How do we know? And does it really matter?

That it matters is perhaps the easiest of the three questions to answer since Jesus, himself, wrestled with doing the will of God. There in dark Gethsemane Jesus struggles on: his will desiring to let the cup of suffering and death pass from his lips and life and the will of God calling him to give up that life for the sake of the world. His will or God’s will? Our very lives hung in the balance that night. Serving one’s own will or God’s will mattered that night and always matters. It mattered for Jesus and it matters for you and me and for all who have taken up the cross to follow Jesus. It always matters.

The harder question to answer - The one that each of us must answer for ourselves with every choice - is simply this: “In the choice that I am making, am I serving the will of God or am I merely choosing to serve my own will?”

Let’s be honest, our will and God’s will may sometimes lead to the same choice, but that never makes them one and the same. And just in case there is some lingering question about what we mean by choices – we are not talking about paint color for the living room or what to watch on the TV tonight or cornflakes versus raisin bran here. We are talking about to love or not to love; to listen or not to listen; to help or not to help; to serve or not to serve; to share or keep; to go or to stay; to forgive, to do justice, to walk the second mile with someone.

Our will is not God’s will and in the choices that we make we must die to ourselves in order to live for Christ.
We must die to our selves, to our wants, to our selfishness, to our willfulness, so that we may live for Christ.

The problem is that our will and God’s will are not only not the same thing but often are in direct conflict with one another. If we take a quick trip back to Genesis we see this at work:
God says: Adam and Eve you may eat of anything that you want in this wonderful garden except the fruit of that one tree right there. Eat it and you shall surely die.
God’s will here is that Adam and Eve live in the garden in pure joy. And as long as they eat anything BUT the fruit of that one tree they will live.
But they have a choice, don’t they.
The wily serpent tempts Eve to eat the one fruit which is out of bounds and Eve and then Adam eat it.
Their will bought the words of the serpent hook, line and sinker - that if they ate that fruit that they would be exactly like God.

Now one example could be a mere coincidence, but the Bible is full of example: Take the people of Israel fleeing Egypt where they had been slaves: God’s will is to give them a land flowing with milk and honey for their very own and their will is instant gratification. Moses goes up the mountain to go talk with God and their will has Aaron making a golden calf. Moses? We don’t know anything about that Moses and his God. Make us a calf to worship!

Or we could turn once more to today’s Gospel.
Herodias’ daughter apparently is one fine dancer. And after the entertainment and perhaps one too many glasses of wine, Herod is prepared to give her anything up to half of his entire kingdom. So she runs to her mother who just so happens to have it in for John the Baptist and asks dear old mom what she should ask for. Anything, up to half the kingdom was in play. So Herodias suggests the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Apparently the daughter asks for exactly that – no hesitation – no questions – no problem. And next thing you know – there it is. One head on one platter.

No one is running around telling John’s disciples that John’s rather bizarre death is God’s will.
Herodias had a choice. Herod had a choice. But Herodias was bent on silencing John’s criticism and Herod was more concerned with looking good in front of his guests by fulfilling his promise to his step daughter. In that selfishness and evil where was there room for the will of God?

What about you and me?
How do we go about making our own choices?
Is it always about what is in our best interest? The best interest of our family? Is it about our prosperity; our comfort; even our safety?

Where in our decision-making do we intentionally allow room for discerning the will of God?

In order to discern the will of God we first must be open to it -
Our hearts must be fully open to God’s power and presence in our lives.

With our hearts open, we must be willing, with humble hearts, to prayerfully seek it –
To actively pursue the will of God to guide us in the choices that we face.

And that seeking should be grounded in both God’s word and God’s community.
It is in both God’s word and God’s community where our discernment is questioned, tested, nurtured, and affirmed.

Finally, as the Holy Spirit reveals God’s will, we must choose to act or not act as the case may be.

Let’s consider again:
In order to discern the will of God we first must be open to it -
Our hearts must be fully open to God’s power and presence in our lives.

With our hearts open, we must be willing, with humble hearts, to prayerfully seek it –
To actively pursue the will of God to guide us in the choices that we face.

And that seeking should be grounded in both God’s word and God’s community.
It is in both God’s word and God’s community where our discernment is questioned, tested, nurtured, and affirmed.

Finally, as the Holy Spirit reveals God’s will, we must choose to act or not act as the case may be.
Choices, friends. We face them every day.
The choices that we make can reflect our will or God's will.
Whose will would you be willing to trust you life with?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Meditation on This Week's Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

The readings for Sunday, July 12, 2009:

First Reading: Amos 7:7-15

First Reading (Semi-cont.): 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19

Psalm: Psalm 85:8-13

Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 24

Second Reading: Ephesians 1:3-14

Gospel: Mark 6:14-29

I've always been fascinated by the people who see God as a sort of cosmic Santa Claus. I had one friend who claimed that if she prayed to God for a parking space, one would open up. She believed that if your life wasn't working out, it was a sign that you needed to pray harder. I heard a colleague declare that he wasn't worried about economic downturns because "The Psalms tell us that the righteous will never beg for bread on the streets" (ironically, he was fired a year after he said this). I wonder what these two people would tell John the Baptist.

Surely John the Baptist is a righteous man. It's hard to imagine such a grisly end to such a powerful prophet is justified.

Of course, it's not justified. There's nothing just about what happens to John the Baptist. He's killed on a whim, to please Herod's lover. It's not like he had a trial and was found guilty and therefore had to be beheaded.

I hate to have to say this, but it's not an unusual outcome for the prophets. It's not an unusual outcome for Christians throughout the centuries. We are not promised riches and fame if we follow God. On the contrary, the Scriptures (both the Old Testament and the New Testament) are quite clear that we may face great suffering.

I see a theme in our recent Gospel readings. Last week, Jesus isn't accepted by his hometown. Recently we saw the disciples sent out two by two, sent out with nothing but what they wear, and they're told to expect rejection. If we follow Jesus, we can't say that we haven't been warned.

Church growth people must be banging their heads against the wall. These promises and warnings are not the kinds of things that entice the unchurched. No wonder we see the recent explosions of Prosperity Gospel books and telecasts.

So, why follow the risen Christ? What's in it for us, besides suffering and martyrdom?

The rest of the Scriptures remind us of the promises and rewards. The world would tell us that we should look for wealth or fame or power, but those aren't the kinds of rewards the Scriptures promise the faithful. However recent news stories (the Michael Jackson coverage, the recent scandal of the South Carolina governor and the Alaska governor) might offer a cautionary tale about how empty a reward fame and riches and power can be.

Jesus offers us a life of fellowship: fellowship with each other, fellowship with God. Psychologists would tell us that humans long for fellowship and that feeling that love and acceptance can be what keeps us healthy and whole (much more than money or fame or power can ever do).

Jesus offers us a chance to be part of the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom where everyone has enough and everyone feels that love. Of course, the catch is that the Kingdom isn't here yet. We have to help build it. We've caught glimpses of it breaking through. It's both now and not yet, this elusive Kingdom. But when we feel/glimpse/experience/live it, we know that it's worth whatever we must endure for the sake of it.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Meditation on This Week's Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

The readings for Sunday, July 5, 2009:

First Reading: Ezekiel 2:1-5

First Reading (Semi-cont.): 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10

Psalm: Psalm 123

Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 48

Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 12:2-10

Gospel: Mark 6:1-13

What an intriguing Gospel reading for this Sunday: Jesus rejected by people who had known him since he was little and who knew his family. Perhaps you can relate.

The first part of this Gospel gives us a clear warning about the risks we face when we have expectations of God that might be a bit too firm. We're not really open to God or God's hopes and plans for us when we think we know what God should be up to in the world. The society of Jesus' time had very definite expectations of what the Messiah would look like and what he would do--and Jesus was not that person. How many people ignored God, right there in their midst, because they were looking for someone or something else?

This Gospel also warns us about fame and acclaim, something that might seem very relevant in these days of celebrity deaths. If you've been alive any length of time, you know that the world grants fame to an interesting variety of people. But once again, if we expect God to act like a star, we're setting ourselves up for disappointment.

And the end of the Gospel has a warning for us, as well. If we become believers because we think we'll be famous or we'll make lots of money or we'll have political influence--well, we're likely to be disappointed. The Gospel of Jesus is not about those things that the world considers important--no matter what those Prosperity Gospel folks would have you believe.

Jesus sends out his disciples two by two, with no possessions and not much of a plan. Notice what he does not do--he doesn't make them create a mission statement or a business plan. He doesn't have them raise money for buildings and programs. And he doesn't expect them to work fruitlessly--they are allowed to shake the dust off of their feet and move on.

What would our lives look like, if we followed this model? What would our lives look like if we trusted God more than our retirement plans? Where are we stuck, needing to shake dust off of our feet and move on? Where might God lead us, if we can just learn to trust and learn to move?