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:

Merciful God,
we confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart.
We have failed to be an obedient church.
We have not done your will,
we have broken your law,
we have rebelled against your love,
we have not loved our neighbors,
and we have not heard the cry of the needy.
Forgive us, we pray.
Free us for joyful obedience,
      through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And every week, many of us sit in the pews knowing we did not do all of these things. Some of these things you didn’t do during the week. Some of them I didn’t do. But it isn’t really about you or me. Our confession not my confession. It is our confession. As a church, as a community, WE have not loved God with our whole heart, we have failed to be an obedient church. We not done God’s will, we have broken God’s law, we have rebelled against the love that God offers, we have not loved our neighbors, or heard the cry of the needy. I may not have done all of those things, but WE most certainly have.

In the same way, WE as a nation need to confess our sins. Neither of us, not you, not me, nor the people we know, picked up a gun and killed 50 breathing, living, beautiful human beings in a nightclub. But WE did. We need to confess our sins as a nation; we need to ask for forgiveness.

Because as long as it is “them,” “those people,”…as long as it is not me, or you, or our family, or our friends, as long as it is not us, nothing we will change. This is our community, our nation, our responsibility.

It is time we claim it as ours.

We, the people of these United States,

We confess that we have not formed a perfect union.
We have failed to establish justice and domestic tranquility
We have not trusted in the abundant freedom we are given,
we have denied the general welfare of our fellow citizens,
we have taken advantage of and abused the blessings of liberty,
we have concerned ourselves with our own prosperity 
and we have not heard the cry of the needy in our midst.
Forgive us, for failing to leave for our children the country and the world they deserve.
Free us to be a country that knows we have failed and give us the strength to secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.

You are Blessed

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. Spending time with them, learning about their faith was powerful for me. I had the opportunity to share a Sabbath meal with them, to worship with them, to learn from them. I am lucky they are really good teachers and I ask a lot of questions: About their faith, their religion, and how it shapes the Jewish people, about what they thought about Christ and Christianity. One day, I asked about Jesus being the Messiah. Their answer was clear, and to the point. Jesus is could not be the Jewish Messiah because he did not bring 1,000 years of peace.

It was with that simple statement that I understood. I understood the disciple’s consistent confusion over who Jesus was, why they argued over who would sit at his right and who at his left; why they reached for the sword when the romans came to arrest him.

They were expecting a warrior king. They believed that God would send them a king, a Messiah from the line of David. The anointed one would overthrow the Roman rule and save them from oppression. He would usher in a time of peace. There was a list of things they expected of the Messiah, and Jesus seemed to have a hard time convincing them that it was not going to go as they had planned.



The first thing we hear about Simeon, he was righteous and devout. Simeon knew he would get to see the Messiah, the one that would bring restoration to Israel. Simeon was probably keeping his eye out for a warrior King. Instead, God nudged him towards a baby. A little one, probably a little over a month old. And something happened when Simeon took the baby from Mary and held him in his arms.

Have you ever had a moment of clarity? A moment where the world drops away, all distractions vanish, and you see something you have not seen before? Something that had been there the entire time, you just couldn’t see it?

In the touch of the Christ child, Simeon saw for the first time. The Messiah was not a warrior but a baby. And he overflows with joy overflowing and praise, he had hoped for Israel’s salvation but now he says… “I have seen your salvation; I have seen your salvation for all nations.” It was there the whole time. And finally. Simeon saw, and he was at peace.

Salvation not just for Israel but for all. David Watson talks about universal hope in his book, God does not Foreclose. “the appropriate attitude for Christians must be one of universal hope. Although we can in no way predetermine the final outcome of Christ’s saving work, or in any way tell God what to do, we can surely hope that God will manage to bring together the human family in its entirety to celebrate the heavenly feast.

We can find hope in the promise that God desires that every human know that they are beloved children. We should hope that all people would know that there is a table set for all of humanity and that they know they have a place reserved for them, and that they might accept God’s invitation of Love and Grace and take their place and feast at the heavenly banquet.



Overflowing with joy, seeing how much greater God’s plans were than his, Simeon hands the Christ child back to his parents. But he has something more to say, he looks at them and tells them that “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.”

One of you shared a video on your Facebook wall. It’s a video from the boys and girls club, maybe you’ve seen it. A voice off camera asks a child sitting in a room a question. “What are you hoping to get this year for Christmas.” They show a variety of kids giving a variety of answers: Xbox 360, a really big Barbie house, a laptop computer. They want big, extravagant gifts! Then the voice asked them another question: “What do you think your mom or dad would want for Christmas?” And their answers are just as big and extravagant: Jewelry, a flat screen T.V. , a new dress.

And one by one you see their eyes grow huge as their gifts are brought into the room. The gift that they most desired…and the extravagant gift their parents would love.

Then the voice off camera informs them, they have to choose. You can have what you were expecting, or you can give to your loved one. They are being asked to sacrifice what they desire for their loved ones… You can see the struggle on their faces. Their hearts are revealed in this difficult choice.

In his book, The Great Divorce, CS Lewis tells a tale of a bus that brings people from hell to heaven. The bus is available for anyone to board. Most don’t. Those that do find themselves uncomfortable in heaven. For a variety of reasons…because they refuse to be there with people they don’t think belong…because they can’t see beyond their own certainty… because they won’t sacrifice what they hold close… most choose to get back on the bus and return to their sorrow.

The Christ child will grow up to challenge his people, to challenge us to sacrifice. He will tell the rich man to sell everything he has and give to the poor. He will teach abundant, extravagant forgiveness; he will teach that whoever tries to keep their life will lose it.

If we were given the choice these kids were given: If we were given the choice between what we most desire and what God most desires, would we choose the Hope of God’s salvation? If we could see as clearly as Simeon, what would our hearts reveal?



Simeon was not done yet. He had one more thing to say before disappearing into history…

I was flipping through books as I prepared this sermon. Looking for images and stories that fit, that would draw you in, explain what I am saying a bit better than I could. One of the books I picked up is a book by David Platt. I don’t remember where I got the book, I’ve never read it, but it was on my book shelf, judging by the outlines and notes in that I am not the first owner of this book. As I looked through it, I ran across a really sad story. A women died at the hands of her parents for converting to Christianity. In the margin next to this story is a note, a question: “Then what will God protect us from?”

And I wonder if the person that wrote that note had ever read Simeon’s final words. If they had seen Simeon look at this baby and his mother and heard him tell her, “he will pierce your soul.”

Last week we heard Elizabeth pour down words of praise and blessing upon her. Mary, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you bear!” Mary, the one who sings praises, “from now on all generations will call me blessed.” Mary, “he will pierce your soul.”

Which was it? Was Mary, the mother of the Messiah, blessed or would she suffer?……… Of course we know, being blessed does not mean we will not suffer. It does not mean we will not have to sacrifice.

Simeon walks away. Leaving the family to their future. He leaves, full of joy, for God’s gift was so much more than he thought it would be, and he understood, that it would cause the rising and falling of many, that hearts would be revealed through him, that souls would be pierced

The kids, sitting in front of two gifts had to choose. The video shows each one choosing the gift for their parents. When asked why, child after child tells of the great things their parents give to them. One child said this: “Because Legos don’t matter…your family matters. Not Legos, not toys. Your family. So, it’s either family or Legos and I choose family.”

What a blessing…

Favored – Luke 2:1-20

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 Princes Diana a beautiful engagement ring. A 12-karat sapphire surrounded by 14 diamonds. When she died in 1997, her son Prince Harry got the ring. Him and his brother, Prince William agreed that whomever married first would get the ring. So, twelve years after his mother’s death, prince William asked his brother for the ring back. He also approached the queen, as required by law, and ask for her blessing on the engagement. When all of that was done, Prince William flew Kate Middleton to Kenya, borrowed a helicopter and flew her to a remote, private spot on a lake nestled at the base of Mount Kenya, and asked her to marry him. As you know, the wedding was spectacular.

To see picture of them together, laughing, smiling, joking…it is a fairy tale romance, fit for a king.
What a very different story we tell tonight. Mary and Joseph…we are not even sure if they were married when Jesus was born. If they were, they’re newly married, traveling, not to a beautiful location like Kenya, but eighty miles to his home town. Their wedding, not even worth mentioning.

What kind of King would be born into this story?

Prince George, the first-born son of Prince William and Kate Middleton, was born in the Lindo Wing of St. Mary’s Hospital. This is a hospital that offers advanced care, state of the art facilities…This prince was born surrounded by a team of doctors, nurses, and midwives. “Special” patients that check into this hospital receive extra care…they stay in an extra-large, comfortable, room…new parents can send their little one to the nursery while they enjoy a full 4 coarse meal created by a private chef…it is an upscale sort of place. No expense was spared at the birth of this future king. The power of this child evident even in his birth story.

It is the story you would expect to hear at the birth of any king.

What a very different story we tell tonight. The birth of a King. Born not in an upscale hospital…this king was born in the left over space…after every bed in town was taken. No room for them in the inn, this king was born in a space fit only for the animals, I can’t image the smell. No comfortable hospital basinet for him, his crib a manger.

What kind of King would be born into this story?

I am thankful that Jesus was born into this story that kings aren’t usually born into. I am thankful that he does not hold before us a picture of perfection, I am thankful that our lives…bumpy, imperfect, real…beautiful are known to our king.

When I was 13 years old, one of the middle school staff walked into my classroom…looked at me, and said, “it’s time.” Being the very snotty 13-year-old I was, (sorry mom!) I looked at her like she was crazy. “Time for what?” It only took me a short breath or two to connect the dots…it’s time. My parents were waiting for me in the car. And we drove the 30 minutes from Buena Vista to the area’s hospital in Salida. Where, after a bit of monitoring, they decided it was not time, and the doctors sent us home.
It was only a few minutes after we got home when my mom walked into my room and said again…it’s time. This time, it really was time! My dad drove as fast as he could, while still being safe (sort of!). I think we only got stuck behind one car on the ride back to Salida…but that car was going extra slow, my dad flashing his lights, using words that I probably should not repeat from the pulpit, until we finally got around it and made our way to the hospital for the second time that day…My mom, the calm one in the whole thing, explained to the E.R. attendants that the wheel chair they brought her, would not work. They would need to bring her a gurney. Just a few minutes after getting her into the ER my baby brother was born. My happy, healthy, baby brother.

It’s not the story of the birth of a king.

He was not surrounded by doctors, we did not have a cozy room, or a personal chef. But it is our story, it is my brothers story…imperfect, bumpy, real…beautiful.

I wonder how often Jesus heard the story of his birth growing up? Did he know about the manger, and the shepherds? As a child did he understand that he was the kind of King that lived the imperfect, bumpy, real…beautiful parts of life?

In 2012 Ward Miles was born three-and-a-half months premature. He weighed less than a-pound-and-a-half, and it was hard to see him through the tubes, and wires, and tape holding it all on. His mom Lyndsey, with the help of a nurse, slowly picked him up for the first time…he was four days old. With the wires tubes and all, she holds him to her chest and then slowly, very slowly, the nurses holding the wires out of her way, sits in the chair behind her. Lyndsey’s husband is taking a video of the moment and she suddenly looks up at the camera and smiles. The smile of a frightened, young mother holding her baby for the very first time. The nurses tuck his little arms and legs under him, cover him with a tiny blanket, and her smile slowly turns to weeping as she leans her face into his tiny body. Pondering all that had happened, the joy of touching her baby’s skin, the relief that comes with finally holding him.

I wonder how often Mary held her child as he grew. How often time stopped and she simply pondered all that he was, all that she had heard about him, all that was promised. As a child did he experience those moments with his mom? Did he know he was the kind of King that was loved so deeply, so fully by his mother, picture perfect life…or not?

On July 22, 2013 there was a simple, formal customary bulletin announcing Prince Georges birth. Of course, there were also a press release, and many 21 gun salutes around the world in Bermuda, the UK, New Zealand, and Canada…Bells in churches rang across the word including the Westminster Abbey, buildings were lit up that evening…in blue to let the world know it was a boy.

A birth announcement heard ‘round the world. An announcement fit for a king.

What a very different story we tell tonight. In a dark field, not far from Bethlehem the skies opened up to angels and their music. The light breaking into the darkness. The birth of this king was not announced to the people in power, or the rulers of that day. The birth of this king was announced to shepherd’s living in a field; to outcasts; to some of the most despised people of their day.

What kind of king would be born into this story?

Carlos Whittaker, a singer and songwriter, along with his sound crew and his video crew, began to film a music video in a park in Atlanta. It was a cold, windy day, but it needed to be done. So, Carlos sat on a chair, picked up his guitar and started singing God of Second Chances. It was not long before a man wandered up to them. A stranger. He looked like he might be homeless, an outcast of our society. This man removes his hat, knees next to Carlos and begins weeping. As Carlos continues singing his song… “You’re the God of all the ages, who are we that you should save us, we’re in awe before you now, and our hearts are bowing down, and our hearts are crying out” As Carlos sings, another voice suddenly enters the song, the voice of the outcast, singing praises to God…one God, one Creator, yes and one father…

It was an imperfect, bumpy, real…beautiful moment. A moment that gives Glory to God. A moment that announces the presence of a king…

What kind of king would be born into this story?



Sympathy Preaching

“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.

Suggested Donation

Suggested Donation….

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.

conversations with the boss

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!



Tell us about: Sacraments in Ministry

¶324.9.p:  Explain the role and significance of the sacraments in the ministry to which you have been called.

Continue reading Tell us about: Sacraments in Ministry