Monday, May 19, 2008

A Day in the Life

Karl Bastian has done it again over at Toybox Tales! TbT's came from Karl's imagination and a little help from a video camera and computer. Oh and did I mention the action figures? I guess that is a perfect way to reuse all the old figures that have been laying around our bedrooms that our parents have collected and stored for our "kids?" Or so my guy friends tell me. The tales are a wonderful collection of presenting key scriptural, discipleship and theology to children and adults in a way that keeps their attention and makes it resonate in the world where they live. Celebrating his 100th TbT, Karl created one that speaks to the heart of anyone who ministers - yet especially those who minister to children.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunday Reflection - 525,600 minutes

525,600 minutes,
525,000 moments so dear.
525,600 minutes - how do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee.
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.
In 525,600 minutes - how do you measure a year in the life?

How about love?
Measure in love. Seasons of love.

525,600 minutes!
525,000 journeys to plan.
525,600 minutes - how can you measure the life of a woman or man?

In truths that she learned, or in times that he cried.
In bridges he burned, or the way that she died.
It’s time now to sing out,
tho the story never ends
let's celebrate remember a year in the life of friends.

Remember the love! Measure in love. Seasons of love.

This past Thursday marked the one year point back in the Bay Area. It really has been a fresh start in many ways. I find myself on a regular basis using all the discoveries that I've made over the past in my daily life. I knew several years ago it was time to invite God into some of the more deeper areas of my life experience and seek some real, permanant healing. I didn't know at the onset how deep some of the wounds were. Never connected some of the quirks that I had developed with the reason they originated in the first place. Then, once I made the discovery it was learning how to become aware of when/how my buttons were pushed. And boundaries - lots of boundary work. It has been the quintessential "Romans 7" experience of recovery.

I share that because this year has been such a refreshing year. The year that things are beginning to make sense - where I can see the benefit of having gone through all the muck to have moments like I am now. So how do I measure the year in my life?

*In new vision, renewed purpose/passion
*In being stretched and discovering I won't break
*In learning that it is good to ask for help
*In quiet moments, cups of coffee and reflection
*In the gift of long time friendships, and the promise of new ones *In realizing that it isn't "all about me"
*In not buying into the lies of my past
*In seeing God take a vision and start laying the foundation
*In the sense of calm and contentment
*In discovering that God continually is giving me all I need
*In stronger boundaries
*In learning when to speak and when to be quiet
*In understanding the power of speaking blessings

Yesterday I had an opportunity to not revert back to my former actions. I'm a perfectionist at heart, and don't like when things go wrong that are outside of my ability to "fix". When a situation with a vendor rose up a few weeks ago, I began to obsess about it, and realized that it was hitting on one of those old beliefs - that I don't like disappointing people. I let it eat at me for half an hour and then looked at the situation, the options and did what I could to rectify things on my end, communicating to the person where my limits were. In response the person sent me an email this morning telling me how much they appreciated me.

Had I allowed myself to get worked up about the situation to the extent that I have in the past, I would have missed out on the lessons learned this week. Instead, I had a chance to see the positives that have happened in ministry this year, recognize what I have done that is blessing others. See the relationships that have begun, and the ministry relationships that I am developing - and the new friendships that God has blessed me with. And at the end of the day I realize that it is really all about relationships, all about love and all about God working in us in ways we'd never conceive once give permission to move the furniture.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

A Prayer for Myanmar

This beautiful, litany is found on "Monastic Mumblings" (see under "blogs I read" - let us hold up this devastated country in their tragic loss of life, property and infrastructure asking that God may make a way for humanitarian aid and assistance to come to Burma/Myanmar.

Litany for Myanmar

Almighty and gracious God, we come to You with our hearts full of prayers both spoken and those that cannot be put into words. As the ancient psalmist wrote You are our refuge and strength, the light in the darkness, and so with confidence we offer our prayers to You for Myanmar, striken by violent powerful winds, rain and terrifying, destructive ocean surges. Gather them and us under Your wings, calm all our fears and keep our faith strong.

Lord hear our prayers.

At a time like this we stand in awe of the power of nature - the wind and the sea - with its terrible capacity to destroy as well as to save and we are reminded of our vulnerability as human creatures who inhabit this vast earth. We bring to You in prayer our questions, our humility and also our trust in this hour of need.

Lord hear our prayers.

We pray for those who grieve the loss of family, friends and neighbors, for those who are injured, those separated and searching for family, for those who have been traumatized.
we ask for Your continued healing presence in their lives and we commend to Your care all those who have died.

Lord hear our prayers.

We give to Your loving care all those who are involved in rescuing people and those caring for the injured in hospitals and clinics. Be especially with all the churches and people as they minister in Your name to the people. May they be the Christ Who serves with wounded hands,and stretch out their hands to serve. Sustain them through this time of tremendous loss and stress.

Lord hear our prayers.

We commend to Your care all those are working in debris removal and cleaning up. We especially pray for those burdened by unimaginable losses and who have found themselves like refugees in their own country. May shelter and clean water and food and medicines and comfort be supplied as quickly as possible.

Lord hear our prayers

We pray for those - especially the poor, who live along the coast and delta and whose livelihoods have been lost or impacted by this disaster and ask that You would raise them up and bless them. We pray for those whose workplaces have become unsafe and who face an uncertain future and ask that they may find the assistance they need

Lord hear our prayers.

We pray for those communities that have been devastated that they may live and learn and support one another and have joy in their lives once again. May this disaster bring people together to rebuild their cities, and to fill their lives with justice, their plates with food and their streets with music,. Bring them peace and healing from all evil.

Lord hear our prayers.
We pray for those traveling, who feel homesick and far away from loved ones and their homes at this time; those who are trying to get in contact with family and who are worried and frustrated and who long to embrace their families. Comfort families across the distance.

Lord hear our prayers.

We give thanks to God for the blessings in our lives, especially the gifts we so often take for granted until they are in danger of being taken away from us - the gift of family, friends, a home, our possessions. Most of all we praise God for the gift of life itself.

Lord hear our prayers.

We also pray for all people of the human family all around the world affected by other natural disasters. O God, Great Shepherd of the sheep, gather us all in Your arms and lead us safely within the one fold of Your love.

Sermon - Mark Chapter 5

I was scheduled to preach during this Markan series on the 18th with Mark 6 as my chapter, about a week and a half ago, I was asked to switch with another Pastor and got the plumb chapter - Chapter 5 which was a somewhat less daunting than chapter 6 was.

The sermon prep went well up until the editing - I had the beginning and end and most of the middle was in good shape, I struggled with transition and application in light of the fact that this was the sermon immediately following the "BIG MEETING" we had last Sunday night to finally air out every minute aspect of what had happened over the past year or two. There would be people who I sure would hope that the meeting would be addressed (my response - "sorry, to disappoint but the meeting said it all and it is done and I pray everything is put to rest finally."); but it was a good experience in the fine balance between preaching with the authority given one is given to proclaim the gospel while maintaining the boundary that you are not speaking as the Senior Pastor either.

Then there was the challenge of distilling an entire chapter into a sermon - I could have picked a piece but in studying this past week it really felt to me that to single out on scene would really dillute the impact of what was happening in the entire chapter. Then there was the fact that I had never preached (outside of a liturgical setting that is) on a "Communion Sunday" - thankfully I was able to ask to have the communion done by intinction which really added to the congregational response dimension.

After 5 or so edits on Saturday night, still not totally happy with what was happening, I finally just let it go as you have it here. It's been a long time since being anxious about preaching, but for whatever reason (see the above listed) I was definately aware that I of it. Thankfully once I got into the sermon the anxiety disappeared. (Thank you God for all those acting classes!) So here's the sermon below - if you're interested in an .mp3 email me and as soon as they are ready to go I'll send one to you.

This coming Sunday I'm delivering a combo "Mother's Day/Pentecost" children's sermon in the service - I think I've figured out how to merge the afraid. Be very afraid!

P.S. - the endnotes are not fully cited here, I'm still learning how to use endnote and didn't do it correctly - sorry.

A mission to Awaken – Awaken to Mission
Mark 5
May 4, 2008

How many of you had the opportunity to go to the Progressive Dinner last week? One of the things I enjoyed was playing ‘Human Bingo.” Who knew we had so much talent at SRPC? I discovered we have experienced globe trotters, people who have graced the covers of magazines, and one who can say she is good friends with Shamu-I’m going to let you in on my little factoid I thought was too quirky to list. I love to hang out at airports. It’s the perfect place to people watch. I think it all started in high school when my youth group decided to hang out at the Fresno Airport. There were no great goals of evangelizing passengers but because we were confined to living in Fresno. Living in Fresno as a teen you have to come up with some really creative things to do on a Friday or Saturday night. After all, how many times can you go to Bob’s Big Boy, cruise Belmont Avenue or TP your youth pastor’s home? We’d develop characters, accents, and act out departure or arrival scenes. We’d manage a couple a night depending on how many people we had in our group or until the airport personnel would ask us to take the drama team somewhere else. While our welcome committees were anything but genuine; I’ve noticed something over my years of people watching at airports-I’ve never seen anyone met with jeers rather than cheers.

Last week in our walk through Mark we saw Jesus in two very different ways – we encountered him as one teaching with authority. Jesus would teach as though directly presenting truth rather than recounting what someone else had written. Yet there was another part of Mark 4 that we didn’t cover which leads into today’s chapter. The part took place after the teaching time. Jesus directs the apostles to head in the boat to the other side. In the midst of the travel a storm arose causing all aboard (except Jesus) to panic and fear for their safety. At their insistence and begging, Jesus rose from his sleep and rebuked the winds, causing the storm to cease about them. I’m sure that the 12 began to wonder just exactly who the person in that boat really was.

But another eye opener was waiting for them upon their arrival. The group had barely stepped on dry land when they are greeted by the “welcome committee” from Hell – literally. Their welcome came in the form of a man who had inhabited the nearby graveyard. A person controlled by powers outside of himself; this force has given him the ability to overthrow any attempts to be restrained. Unkempt, unwelcomed, this man is the depiction of the walking dead, just waiting for the actual event to catch up with him.

Jesus has not just traveled into another city – in this trip Jesus had crossed over to the land of the Gentiles. He invaded pagan territory. And the spiritual forces holding onto that area were not pleased. When Jesus arrived into this graveyard, Hell was put on notice. AS the man bows before Jesus and begs him not to torment him we’re presented with an interesting picture – this abnormally strong many prostrating himself before one who has just recently commanded the winds and the waves to be still. Rather than immediately taking on the ungodly presence Jesus does something unusual. He asks the walking dead man his name – Legion, or Mob, is his reply. Jesus knew that to name the demon is to strip it of any authority and gain power over it. In the next few moments, Jesus sends the mob that produces frenzy wherever it runs into a herd of swine, which meets its end as it plunges off the cliffs into the water below. I promise, I won’t make any jokes about flying pigs at this point but from a Jewish perspective, the scene is a joke; unclean spirits and unclean animals are both wiped out in one fell swoop, and a human being is cleansed. (Garland, 1996) Again, people are left wondering just who it is that they are dealing with for they now see in front of them a man who is no longer controlled by mob rule. Who no longer is in such inner pain that the howling has ceased. Who does not need to be restrained but rather now sits at the feet of Jesus clothed and in his right mind. This dead man walking knows he has been restored to life. He is no longer dead and is told by Jesus to go and tell others in the Gentile regions his story and the story of Jesus. The townspeople however, experience the event differently. Rather than continue the journey with Jesus as the disciples would do, the townspeople beg Jesus to leave their city - fearful of what next may happen in this pagan territory.

You’d think that would be enough for Mark to share in this chapter but he continues to describe the further adventures with Jesus. Back into the boat they go – and find themselves back in familiar territory. It’s there that Jesus encounters Jairus. Let’s take a look at verses 21-24:

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the s synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at this feet and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and life.” He went with him.

Have you ever noticed that Jairus is the only one in this chapter who is named? Jairus held a position of prestige in the area – he was a leader of the synagogue, which can also be translated “president of the synagogue” (Sacra Pagina, 173) All we know is that his daughter is dying and he has come to bow at Jesus’ feet begging for the life of his child. That’s not the usual position for the religious folk when they encounter Jesus is it? The Greek describes the death as being immanent – time was of the essence. The only thing that was on Jairus’ mind was getting Jesus to his home to save his precious child.

Into the midst of this scene we find yet another person seeking out Jesus. In a bold move, a woman approaches Jesus and grabs onto his clothing. This was a gutsy move on so many levels. Not only is this woman touching a man; this woman has been hemorrhaging for twelve years making her unclean. She shouldn’t have been amongst the crow and she certainly should never have touched a man or spiritual leader. Mark gives us several clues about his woman – she speaks of spending all of her money on doctors – more than likely she was at one time well off – her “money has poured forth from her just as her blood has, yet for all that she has spent, she is worse, not better (O’Day, 247). She chose to seize the moment that has been presented, and found that her action has brought healing to her. Her nightmare was over. Possibly, she thought she could just take this healing and leave unnoticed; yet she was not the only individual who knew that something had happened. In an instant Jesus turned around and addressed those around him, demanding to know who had touched him. She could have chosen to leave, never admitting to her actions, She had w hat she came for. Yet Mark says she did something very curious. She tells “the whole truth “to Jesus. Gail O’Day, Associate Professor of Preaching at Emory University reflects on this odd action

“What does the whole truth have to do with a twelve year flow of blood? One would expect the woman to say to Jesus, “I am the one who touched you,” or “I am the one you seek,” but the woman does not hide behind such partial truths. By telling Jesus the whole truth, she yields her whole self to Jesus and holds nothing back.” (O’Day, 248)

Only in the honesty of whole truth is healing possible. (O’Day, 249) Jesus will not allow her to slip away and remain anonymous. He forces the issue so that when she leaves healed, she will leave knowing that the one who healed her knows her and cares for her. She is a person who is worth taking time with and addressing.

Now don’t forget – when did this whole encounter take place? During Jesus’ escort by Jairus to his home. By the time Jesus is through with his woman, Jairus’ servants have come to him, letting him know that his precious child had died. If I were Jairus – I’d be livid – on a triage scale – dying child trumps woman bleeding 12 years am I not right? Here he is a man of significance, a man of presence and his daughter now lies dead because Jesus too time out for a person of no means. His daughter is dead, and all that Jesus tells him is,”Don’t be afraid’ just believe [i.e., keep on believing].” He had shown faith in coming to Jesus in the first place, now he must continue. But how can faith endure in the face of death, particularly when it hovers over one’s cherished child? Both the woman and Jairus reveal that faith is something that trusts in the midst of hopelessness.

For Jairus, it must have been a challenge to cling onto the words of someone who is telling you your daughter will be well when the mourners are assembled at your home. These friends scoff at the words of Jesus not knowing that He has already raised up a walking dead man, and healed a woman cut off and isolated from community and soon with the words “little girl arise” brought Jairus’ daughter back from the dead.

I’ve marveled at the common thread woven throughout these experiences. All three of these people had experienced a type of death. Bound and tormented the demoniac begged for real death to rescue him from his painful existence; the woman had spent all her money, emotion and hope on cures that never produced healing; a father unable to protect his child from literal death. Each discovered how challenging it is to place one’s entire trust in another – yet each were willing to do just this, placing their literal lives in the hands of Jesus.

It’s no different for each of us. To trust one’s life to Jesus is to trust oneself to the risky possibilities offered by God. In offering our pain to God rather than denying it, we affirm the reality of the cross. The cross isn’t just a symbol of our faith – it is the absolute anchor upon which we fasten ourselves. (O’Day, 250) When we find ourselves found by attitudes, beliefs and actions we can’t seem to break free or for find relief from – we bind ourselves to the cross. If we’re surrounded by dying and broken relationships – we bind ourselves to the cross. The cross reminds us that the gift of life, of resurrection cannot happen unless we place our faith and our lives in the hands of a loving God – knowing that only in God can new life be given. (O’Day, 250)

Just as God through Jesus gave new life to the people we encountered this morning, God is faithful to us. God doesn’t leave us at the cross but restores us, renews us and resurrects us, sending us out to proclaim to others what God has done for us.

(BEAT: Walk to Communion Table)

I love this Table. What a powerful reminder that Jesus right now, is present among us. We come not only as individuals to the Table, we come as a community. A family that has been through much. This morning we have a holy moment to receive and extend life to our brothers and sisters in this room.

What happens at the Table is a mystery to me – God simultaneously reaching both individuals and this entire family with God’s presence and power. As we prepare to move into Communion this morning et us remember that Jesus is present to heal, to restore, and to resurrect. Just as the three people we encountered this morning, we can choose to let go of the things that have bound us, haunted us or are slowly killing our spirits when we come to the Table. It’s only by God’s amazing grace that we are made free.


Garland, “Original Meaning” In NIV Application Commentary, New Testament: Mark. 202-218. Grand Rapids:MI Zondervan © 1996.
“Sacra Pagina” Mark 173
O’Day, 247
O’Day 248
O’Day, 250