I am not sure exactly where we are as I write this. My Google Map app is telling me that my location cannot be determined. I know we have 40 minutes left in the flight. Continue reading Israel Trip – Day 1
Preached at Fountain UMC December 2015. Continue reading Prepare!
We live amongst some of the most beautiful valleys in the world!
I grew up a couple of hours west of here, in Buena Vista, in the Upper Arkansas Valley. I still travel that way on occasion. There is a moment at the very end of the journey…after a few mountain passes, some long flat valley’s, a handful (or two) of tiny towns…almost at the end of the trip, you turn this corner and there it is…God’s creation…all the valley’s beauty lying before the majestic mountains. God’s artwork in full view. I feel God’s presence so clearly; it’s like I can touch the sacredness of the moment. Continue reading Rise!
One of the things we do when we gather in the community of faith every Sunday is to confess our sins. Every week we confess that we are broken and fall short: Continue reading We
Years ago as I started taking those first few baby steps into Christianity, I felt myself drawn to Judaism, to this deep, deep history. To the people that were Jesus’ people, to the rituals that shaped and formed him, to the stories that formed the culture in which he lived.
My family was friends with a Jewish family. S Continue reading You are Blessed
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Thirty-four years ago Prince Charles gave Princess Diana a beautiful engagement ring. A 12-karat sapphire surrounded by 14 diamonds. Continue reading Favored – Luke 2:1-20
“When people look for sympathy, it feels like a no-win situation. On the one hand they are telling us that they have it worse than anyone and no one can understand, but on the other hand they are looking for our validation” (Brene’ Brown, I Thought it was Just Me (But it isn’t), Page 52).
I listened to a sermon recently. The preacher began with the Crucifixion of Christ. She pointed out how “bloody, grotesque, brutal…beyond our imaginations” that scene was. She wanted us to understand the brutality of Good Friday by telling us there was no way we could ever imagine it. Sympathy…”Your telling us that no one can understand, yet you’re asking us to understand” (page 54).
Preacher…what do you want from us? Do you want us to get it? Or is that day, as you say, beyond our imagination?
For the rest of the sermon, that is where I stayed….
On the outside…
Unable to imagine….
I define empathy as the skill or ability to tap into our own experiences in order to connect with an experience someone is relating to us (page 33).
What if she set the scene at a place we could imagine? The bloody violence we see on the news every night. The fear that haunts us as we drop our kids off at school during those days and weeks after a school shootings… What if she reminded us of the tears that flow and the anger that burns for the nine people gunned down during a church bible study. Brutal. Bloody. Terrifying. A fear, a tragedy, a hopelessness we do understand.
Because we can tap into our experiences and imagine a day like Good Friday. We just need to turn on the T.V., watch the news, look back though our lives at the horror we have experienced…maybe its not exactly the same…but it is closer than “beyond my imagination.”
What if, as preachers, we invite people into empathy in our preaching. Come, see with me. Experience with me. Be uncomfortable with me. Feel fear with me. When we are together, then we can redirect our gaze towards the Love and Grace that God pours into the moment.
A few years ago, a week or two before Thanksgiving my husband went to Wal-Mart to buy his lunches for the week. While he was there he purchased a couple of turkeys, and left them with Care and Share as he left. I wasn’t there when he returned to work, but according to him, one of his coworkers response to his act of generosity was “Why in the world would you do something like that?”
I don’t think most people’s response to giving is so…well…ungenerous! But I do believe there is a culture of scarcity that drives people to accumulate more and downplays the importance of giving. When it comes to the church in particular, I hear comments like, “If the church isn’t here to give [to me], then what is it here for?”….”Why in the world would people give money to the church, it doesn’t need their money.”…”I think it’s crazy that people give to the church first, they should give what they have left over at the end of the month.”
And I have to admit, tithing is a very odd behavior indeed! It is directly contradictory to the wider culture of “more, more, more.” It never did make any sense to me why my grandmother went without food for one day every month to give the money she would have spent on food to the church, and that she would give money to the church while she herself was in need, was a continuous source of family tension.
That we give as an act of worship, acknowledging that God has already given us all we need; That we give because it changes our hearts, growing us into generous, giving, grateful people; That we give because we know that what we invest in grows and we want to Kingdom of God to grow…that we give to the church because it is who we are…took me a long time to understand.
So, in a staff meeting we were talking about wording for upcoming fundraisers and Kent suggested that we just say, “Suggested donation $5.” It is for church fundraising, and I believe the people who will read that will get it, in fact because we are talking about fundraising within a church, I am sure that many will give more than suggested, because they want to support this particular church program. But what about my demographic? The people who didn’t grow up in or around church? Although, I am sure they would give the suggested donation for a product that they are purchasing, isn’t this an opportunity to tell people why we give? So, on the invitations for our event Stories @ The Edge, I put, “We believe what we invest in grows, so we believe in investing in good things. And we believe this is a good thing, so please consider paying for your meal.” It of course is not a huge thing, just reading this isn’t going to make the unchurched tithe, but hopefully, it does start to plant tiny seeds (maybe the size of mustard seeds?) to get people, both churched and unchurched, to think about why we give.
One of my favorite things about working at First United Methodist Church in Colorado Springs are my conversations with the boss, Rev. Kent Ingram. The place he calls church is the traditional downtown congregation. And he leads us well: pastoring from the pulpit, [attempting] to manage staff (get us laughing and we quickly become a very unmanageable group!), and he spends his time “putting stuff back in the box.” On the other hand, I can’t define the place I call church as easily. The place I call church is on the edges of church and culture and in the people I meet there, in the magnificent mountains, and in the new community that FUMC is helping me build. I am creative, innovative, and [often unintentionally!] taking stuff out of boxes.
As different as we are, we are both deeply theological and reflective. We don’t just do what we do, we spend a lot of time understanding why we do what we do. And I love the conversations that we have. They are food for my soul. Sometimes it isn’t conversations we have, Kent just asks a question that makes me think. Other times he says something, he doesn’t know it, but I agree (or disagree as the case may be), and I wish we could pause life for a moment and talk about it.
Well, I love these conversations and thought that maybe others would like to eavesdrop into these conversations and maybe even join in. And Kent thought it was a cool idea too. So, I am going to invite you in to our conversation hopefully we all learn a little about the church and about one another. I hope to post something weekly starting next week!