Sermon: Let Your Face Shine

“Let Your Face Shine”

(November 27, 2011 – First Sunday of Advent) Like people throughout history, we find ourselves living in days that are growing darker and colder, and like those before us, we hope for a little warmth and light. As we bear witness to the promise that Christ is the light of salvation and grace that is coming into the world, we also hear the call to be bearers of that light. How do we at Trinity help bear and share the light of grace? (Isaiah 64:1-9; Psalm 80: 1-7, 17-19)

This is the first sermon in a four-part Advent series, “Light Bearers,” where we explore how we can bear the Light of Christ– the lights of grace, love, justice, and joy– to the world.

This our hymn of grateful praise

My family and I have much to be thankful for this holiday.

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite time of year, perhaps even more so now that it is one of the only holidays that doesn’t fall on a weekend and a major church work day. It’s a time for family and good food, and reflecting on all the blessings of life.

This year, there’s health and happiness, there’s a loving community (and a friendly street– never again to be taken for granted!), and there is new life– one nephew born almost a month ago and one niece or nephew making his or her way into the world right now.

May you celebrate all that you have to be thankful for, and see the blessings great and small all around you.

Sermon: Stretched to Healing

“Stretched to Healing”

(November 20, 2011) Part of growing is stretching and challenging ourselves so that we can find greater strength, healing, and maturity in whatever we are practicing. This is true in our spiritual journey no less than any other practice. Our giving of time, talents, and treasure is another way we can challenge and stretch ourselves to grow in faith. How is God challenging you? (Matthew 6:19-34 [The Message], 1 Timothy 6:6-19)

This is the second of a three part series called “Navigate Your Giving,” focusing on how and why we practice stewardship of our gifts through Giving thanks, Prioritizing, and Stretching in our faith.

Martial Art and Spiritual Discipline

In honor of my belt test this evening, I’m reflecting on why I enjoy my new-found sport of Taekwondo. I started over the summer because, after months of watching Arianna do it, I thought it looked like fun. I’ve found it’s so much more than that.

I took dance lessons as a child and young woman, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It was a great source of confidence and poise, and great exercise. At the same time, the world of dancing can be difficult for a young woman who is not exactly built like a ballerina. I loved it, but hated the competition aspects of it, and often felt entirely too tall, heavy, and curvy for the rest of the group.

Taekwondo is wonderfully inclusive of all body types and skill levels, and although there are opportunities for competition, one’s greatest competition is with oneself. Like dance, it is great exercise and promotes poise and confidence. Like dance it celebrates both the beauty and power of the human body.

But I’ve found a greater gift from Taekwondo. I’ve found spiritual disciplines.

Recieving my yellow stripeIn the context of Taekwondo, I also practice patience (never easy for me!), humility (have you met me? then you’ll know this is a challenge for me!), physical and mental discipline, times of silence and meditation, and a respect for my instructors and those with higher ranks that almost borders on– dare I say it– obedience. If you told me a year ago that I would bow to a person whenever I entered the gym, I’d have laughed at you. Now I happily do so out of respect for Masters Choi and Winters’ expertise and willingness to teach.

These concepts– patience, humility, discipline, meditation, and obedience– are also central to my faith as important spiritual practices, and yet, they have never come easily for me (not that they should). In fact, I’ve never felt that I made good progress in any of them, despite knowing their importance for me as both Christian and pastor. But in the practice of the Martial Art form, I have also found a spiritual element that strengthens my own personal spiritual journey and makes me, I believe, a better spiritual leader and spiritual person overall.

Sermon: Pick Your Priority

“Pick Your Priority”

(Nov. 13, 2011) Placing God as the most important thing in our lives has a curious way of making all else fall into place. We find ourselves less worried about the future and more in touch with the things that really matter. How are you being invited to free yourself from the “rat race” and make God your ultimate concern? (Deuteronomy 14:22-29; Luke 12:22-34).

This is the second of a three part series called “Navigate Your Giving,” focusing on how and why we practice stewardship of our gifts through Giving thanks, Prioritizing, and Stretching in our faith.

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it’s either a fun date, or prisoner 1 has escaped and the Doctor is trying to alert the jailors.

On Veteran’s Day

Police on the scene of the shooting, image from wcax.com

Yesterday afternoon, a 35-year-old veteran died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the middle of the Occupy Burlington encampment in City Park (read/view the stories from the local news and the AP).

While many have been quick to rush to judgements and political statements about the occupy movement, my colleague Mark reminds us not to demonize and to instead journey together, and lifts some powerful statistics and questions to ponder.

I’ve never been accused of being overly patriotic or wrapping myself in the flag. My position as a pacifist has in fact drawn criticism that I “don’t support troops” or am unpatriotic. The fact of the matter is that I don’t support wars, in part (albeit a small part in comparison to my overall objection to war because the purpose is to kill people) because we don’t take care of the people who fight in them. Both of my grandfathers were World War II veterans, and neither of them was known to talk about his experience. And that was a different war, in a different world in many ways. Veterans of Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and Iraq and Afghanistan (the latter being where this individual had been deployed) find a far different reception to their service both at home and wherever they are stationed: crumbling hospitals and underfunded services, insufficient de-programming time and follow up mental health care, physical and mental illnesses that are often untreated or undiagnosed. Our veterans make up a significant portion of the population without housing (the shooting victim also being part of that demographic), and there is a very high rate of suicide among veterans.

Today, we remember and honor our veterans. I know because I sent my daughter (center, waving) to school in red, white, and blue so she could be in the town’s parade. But I feel that we have utterly failed to honor or remember our veterans, when so many are without housing, without mental health services, without support and care in the community, without jobs, without security, when one appears to have taken his own life in the midst of a conversation about the haves and the have nots, and he is only one of thousands of veterans who will fall victim to–let alone contemplate– this tragedy this year.

And so, prayers. Prayers of brokenness and confession and feeling we have failed one another. Prayers for healing and hope and justice. Prayers for the victim and his family and his community. Prayers for our veterans– the ones we celebrate and the ones we fail. Prayers for us all, with repentance, with thanksgiving, with hope.

Prayers.

(edited to add: news coverage after this posting have raised questions as to the victim’s military status and whether or not he was deployed in combat. Rather than changing my initial words, I just add here that the man may not have been a military veteran. I think the reflection about how we fail our veterans is valid, whether or not this particular man serves as an example.)

Life happens

Bless me, blogosphere, for I have sinned.

Great, gulping sins of omission. I have been a negligent blogger, and have failed to write about a great many wonderful and interesting things.

On the flip side, I’ve been a very good mommie (and new auntie as well!). And now I’m a mommie who has a kid in school and a kid who is (finally!) in daycare three days a week, and I can begin to build a working and workable routine again.

It’s my goal to upload my sermons by the end of the day the Monday after they are preached (Tuesday at the latest), and to post at least one non-sermon reflection at some point during the week.

Topics on my mind, to which you can look forward in the days and weeks ahead, include:

- my thoughts, belatedly, on the occupy movement and religious responses thereto

- my experience as a delegate preparing to attend her first United Methodist General Conference, and various and sundry reflections on the process, the legislation, and the mass amounts of spam mail

- as a sub-topic, I may very belatedly join the conversation about the UMC Call to Action report, although others have been pretty thorough

- why I signed and standby a statement saying that I am prepared to marry any couple (regardless of the genders of the parties) who comes to me seeking a Christian marriage and determined to be ready through our meetings together, and why I see this as an act not of ecclesial disobedience, but of spiritual and covenantal obedience

- my new-found love of the Martial Art of Taekwondo, and why it has become for me a spiritual practice

And then, you know, there’s some holiday or other on the horizon, and I’m sure life will continue to happen. So much better than the alternative.

Be richly and beautifully blessed, and take note of it especially in this season of giving thanks!

Sermon: Gratitude Ahead

“Gratitude Ahead”

(November 6, 2011) Sometimes, no matter how wonderful a gift the present moment seems, we have difficulty staying in it with thanksgiving and joy. Rather, we worry about the future or regret the past, or simply fear that what is good can be lost. Perhaps that’s why only on out of ten of the people healed by Jesus turns back to thank him, but in so doing he is truly healed. How can we give thanks for the glorious gifts we have received? (Luke 17:11-19)

I kept part of my invitation to communion following the sermon, because it was relevant.

This is the first of a three part series called “Navigate Your Giving,” focusing on how and why we practice stewardship of our gifts through Giving thanks, Prioritizing, and Stretching in our faith.

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