Sunday, June 8, 2014
The Day of Pentecost Year A June 8, 2014 A letter to Dominick Cabral upon the occasion of his baptism. Dear Dominick, Today is a wonderful day to be baptized! It is the Day of Pentecost, the day that we celebrate God’s gift of the Holy Spirit to all believers and through that gift, the birth of the church. In baptism, it is said that you are remembering who you already are. And on this day of Pentecost, the church shifts our awareness to remember who we already are, remembering what we proclaim and the source of that proclamation. In baptism, you are remembering that God has already created you good. God has claimed you as God’s beloved and marked you belonging to God through Jesus Christ forever. In baptism, you are saying “yes” to the truth that God has already claimed you. You are accepting this grace which cannot be earned but only given by God; grace which must be accepted by you in order to fully be received. In baptism, you are promising to follow the way of Jesus Christ, follow the way of hope, reconciliation, forgiveness, healing; and the way of death to self and resurrection to new life in Jesus Christ. In baptism, you are becoming a part of the body of Christ that is the church—both this particular church and the universal Christian church. You are accepting your own unique ministry among us, and you promise to join with us in proclaiming the good news of Jesus in your words, in your actions, in your very life. On this day in the life of the church, together we remember our story. We remember how God creates all things and all people good, but how we turn away from God to follow our own faithless hearts and desires. We remember how God calls us again and again to return to God, to put our trust in God, to have relationship with God and to once again be God’s people. And when that doesn’t work, God sends Jesus to walk beside us, with us, as one of us; to lead us along the way of being fully human and in perfect relationship with God. But we still don’t like that. We don’t like giving up our own way, and so we put him to death on the cross thinking that would be the end of him. We desert him, we who were his closest friends and followers, and we despair at what we have done. But God shows us! Because on the third day, Jesus rises from the grave and shows us that God’s love is stronger than our own wills; God’s love is stronger than our own faithless hearts; God’s love is stronger than sickness and pain and adversity; God’s love is stronger than anything, even death. And Jesus walks among us for a little longer, until he is taken up to heaven; but before he leaves, he promises that he will not leave us comfortless. He will send us the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Advocate to continue to teach us and to keep us connected to God and to Jesus in a new way. And that is what we remember and celebrate today--Jesus’s gift and the fulfillment of his promise--that he does not leave us comfortless; we are not left alone again to our own devices. And so we, the church, remember today who we already are, what we proclaim, and the source of that proclamation. We proclaim the hope of the resurrection through our words and deeds and very presence. We proclaim God’s promise of comfort to the broken hearted, even when we, ourselves, are suffering with sighs to deep for words. We proclaim the continued presence of the risen Christ among his people and in our hearts and minds and bodies. We proclaim a home for all in Christ Jesus, a place where all are welcome and where all are already claimed as God’s beloved and marked as Christ own forever. We proclaim a ministry of proclaiming the gospel for all—even the littlest of children--every person a disciple—called to tell and to live the story of hope in a way that is authentic and unique to your own unique gifts and lives. We proclaim and remember this day that the Holy Spirit is even now already at work within us, helping us in our weakness, inspiring us to pray, allowing us to be known intimately by God. We proclaim and remember this day that we are all given a variety of gifts but they are all rooted in the same spirit of God. We proclaim and remember that none of us walks this way alone. We all need each other to be whole and complete and holy. And finally we proclaim and remember this day the truth of that first Pentecost: that the church is those who are “called out.” We are not content to sit within our beautiful four walls, focusing on our own inner lives and our own individual relationships with God. We do come here to find rest and peace, to get reconnected with the source of our hope, and we are fed and loved and nurtured and comforted and reminded that we are God’s beloved. And then we are filled to the brim with the Holy Spirit and sent out into the world to share the good news of God’s presence-- of comfort and hope, grace and home, belovedness and belonging-- to a needy and hungry world. Dominick, we welcome you into the family of God; we promise to walk this way with you; and we give thanks for your presence among us. Your sister in Christ, Melanie+
Sunday, June 1, 2014
7th Sunday after Easter-Year A June 1, 2014 We have been doing much waiting, much anticipating in the Lemburg household of late. Every day, we have been counting the number of days left in school. (Only one and half more, in case anyone needs help counting it). We have two June birthdays to which we are counting down, and we also are just about close enough that we can begin counting down the days to our summer trip to Hawaii. For me, I have always enjoyed the anticipation of the event, the preparation, the expectation that comes along with the waiting. So I am struck today by the waiting that takes place in the Acts story for today. We find ourselves in this weird sort of in between time liturgically, where Jesus has ascended to heaven (which we celebrated this past Thursday) and the church (and the disciples) are left waiting. We have been promised by Jesus that he will send his gift of the Holy Spirit to comfort and guide us after he has gone. And we look forward to this. We will celebrate it at Pentecost next Sunday with red balloons and birthday cake and a baptism. We wait with expectation of what is to come. “So when they had come together, [the disciples] asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ [Jesus] replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…’” Even after all that has happened, the disciples are still waiting for their certain expectations to be fulfilled. They are counting down the days until Jesus will restore the kingdom to Israel. But Jesus blows those expectations wide open, just before he is physically taken up to heaven. And all of a sudden, the disciples are left there, looking up to heaven with their mouths hanging open. They are left there waiting without their expectations. So the question for us this morning, the invitation for us is—what is it like to wait without expectation? What is it like to wait without the countdown to something bigger and better? What is it like to wait without watching the clock? What is it like to wait without expectation? Because this is the kind of waiting we are called to in these final days of the Easter season and beyond? I’ve just begun reading a book called Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by a man named Parker Palmer. Palmer is a Quaker, and in this book, he writes about how we are all called in vocation—how vocation is not a goal that each of us pursues but rather the voice that calls us in and through our life. Vocation is our life telling each of us who we are. At the beginning of this lovely little book, Palmer quotes a poem by William Stafford titled “Ask Me” which begins to hint at what it means to wait without expectation. Some time when the river is ice ask me mistakes I have made. Ask me whether what I have done is my life. Others have come in their slow way into my thought, and some have tried to help or to hurt: ask me what difference their strongest love or hate has made. I will listen to what you say. You and I can turn and look at the silent river and wait. We know the current is there, hidden; and there are comings and going from miles away that hold the stillness exactly before us. What the river says, that is what I say. In some ways, waiting without expectation is like a frozen river: “We know/the current is there, hidden; and there/are comings and going from miles away/that hold the stillness exactly before us.” But how on earth do we do this? How do we wait without counting down the days? How do we keep moving through life and time (which we are all bound to do, no matter how much we might want to stop it) while holding the stillness exactly before us? The disciples’ response to this waiting without expectation is to stay together and to constantly devote themselves to prayer. Palmer’s response to this is that we must listen to our life; that we have deep within us, the truth of who we already are that has been covered up by the goals that we think we need to pursue and the ways that we try to fit in. I think we are called to do both (because really, they are both forms of prayer-of knowing God and knowing ourselves.) How might we do this? Palmer writes about this lyrically and with humor: “How we are to listen to our lives is a question worth exploring. In our culture, we tend to gather information in ways that do not work very well when the source is the human soul: the soul is not responsive to subpoenas or cross-examinations. At best it will stand in the dock only long enough to plead the Fifth Amendment. At worst it will jump bail and never be heard from again. The soul speaks its truth only under quiet, inviting, and trustworthy conditions. The soul is like a wild animal-tough, resilient, savvy, self-sufficient, and yet exceedingly shy. If we want to see a wild animal, the last thing we should do is to go crashing through the woods, shouting for the creature to come out. But if we are willing to walk quietly into the woods and sit silently for an hour or two at the base of a tree, the creature we are waiting for may well emerge, and out of the corner of an eye we will catch a glimpse of the precious wildness we seek. That is why the poem at the head of this chapter [that I just shared with you] ends in silence…” We break bread together. And we spend time alone in silence and in prayer. This summer, I hope to spend time with Palmer’s lovely little book and to spend time in silence, listening to how my life speaks. I hope you will join me in doing this in your own life, and when we meet again in August, we will have much to share with each other. Some time when the river is ice ask me mistakes I have made. Ask me whether what I have done is my life. Others have come in their slow way into my thought, and some have tried to help or to hurt: ask me what difference their strongest love or hate has made. I will listen to what you say. You and I can turn and look at the silent river and wait. We know the current is there, hidden; and there are comings and going from miles away that hold the stillness exactly before us. What the river says, that is what I say.