2.18.2010

First Sunday in Lent, Year C

Deuteronomy 26:1-11
Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16
Romans 10:8b-13
Luke 4:1-13

Lent is a season of introspection and preparation - preparation for a new way of being, a new life, a revised view of how the World can Be, preparation for God's Kingdom here among us. For many, it is a time of examining their lives, their faith and their actions and choices to see how they all fit together. Are they living what they Believe? Are they moving their life and presumably the lives of those around them Toward something new? That is hard work. It's really easy to sort of swim around in ideas about right and wrong ways of being but it is really hard to live out good choices in every life circumstance. And God's got grace close at hand, and that is a huge Gift.

The readings this week reminded us of how important this time of preparation can be. The writers lay out some very basic premises of faith and commitment - rules and guidelines and understandings that we can use as a compass. Given the KC community's consideration of veils that cover our seeing during this season, we can look at these guidelines and patterns and ask ourselves, "What veils keep us from seeing the Way Toward these ideals?"

Throughout Deuteronomy, Moses is instructing the Israelites about how they are to live in the Promised Land. It's sort of a rule book and it will be important later in our readings to understand that the Jewish people knew these instructions well. The message in this passage is that the Israelites should return to God who delivered them to this land flowing with milk and honey the very first fruits of their labor and harvest in that land. The message here is the basis for many people's understanding of tithing today - You have not received these things by your doing - God has bestowed these gifts upon you and in exchange, you return to God offerings of the very best products of that life. For the Israelites agricultural society, that meant the best and earliest of their harvest. Now we garden...and it is hard to imagine giving away that first tomato when it starts to turn pink on the vine. But really, it never was "our" tomato. And so we hope to be aware of that and give it away.

The psalmist is praising Yahweh's power and protection - a recent theme in the selected Psalms. The psalmist is also providing us with a better understanding of who God is and what God does. But this specific Psalm is also an historical backdrop for the Luke passage that follows in this week's reading.

In Luke, Jesus has been "anointed" during his baptism by John and has been driven into the wilderness where he is tempted for 40 days and nights by Satan. What a wild and crazy stretch of life, eh? (For the record, 40 days is biblical code for "a really long time.") Satan taunts Jesus, offering him relief, authority and power over harm and with each taunt, Jesus responds with words from Deuteronomy that clearly guide his understanding of who God is and what God does. Satan even quotes Psalm 91, citing God's protection. Jesus understands that Satan is seeking to test God, but as a good Jewish teacher, Jesus knows that there is a difference between testing a relationship and Trusting a relationship.

Finally, Paul's letter to the church in Rome reminds us that Jesus' ministry was not just for the Jews. And it was not just against the Roman Empire. It was teaching for all, and our following Jesus should not separate us but rather unite us. Every now and then, we need that reminder. How about you?

God, I am trying to be grateful for what I have
right here
right now
today.
It is easy for me to yearn after
more....
more things,
more money,
more love,
more power...
more things.
However, I am trying to be grateful for what I have
right here
right now
today.
Amen.

© matt & laura norvell 2010 www.settingourstones.org
we want to share this with you and hope you'll share with the world; we simply ask that you let people know where you found these words. May Grace & Peace be with you.

2.11.2010

Transfiguration Sunday, Year C

Exodus 34.29-35
Psalm 99
2 Corinthians 3.12-4.2
Luke 9.28-43


What does it take to get your attention?

What has to happen to really shake you our of your normal way of seeing or hearing or living to where you view a person or event or the world with a new or different understanding?

Can you think of a time where this has happened to you? Remember the circumstances that led up to it and surrounded that particular moment.

Now, what did you do with that particular new insight? Did it change the way you interacted with the world? Did it change your ability or intention as you interact with others? Did it make you more gentle or more aggressive as you interact with yourself?

Seeing something in a different way is important. However, even more important are the ways we integrate those new perspectives in to our lives.

In the scriptures this week we get some different stories of New Perspectives.

First we see Moses coming down from Mount Sinai. He would climb up to his special spot and be in the presence of God, talk with God, or maybe receive messages from God--any way you look at it, when he came down from his sessions on Sinai, he shone. He had some sort of visible manifestation of having been in the presence of God. Now, we don't know exactly what happened up there or what Moses saw or experienced. However, we can guess that something big happened that got his attention. And then, a second version wave in this particular story is how Moses brought the presence of God along with him to the Israelites. The shining face of Moses Got Their Attention and caused them to know there was something special about the relationship between Moses and God.

The Psalmist gives us a good historical retrospective about a few epiphanic moments in the history of Israel with great praise for God's mighty Attention-Getting. These psalms are indicators of what the Jewish community held dear, revisited and praised. They acknowledged the importance of Paying Attention in their praise.

In Paul's second letter to the followers of Jesus in Corinth, he is doing some comparing and contrasting (and even a little challenging) about what it takes to Get Their Attention and change the ways they are relating to God. He is comparing the experience of Moses with God and then with the Israelites to his current experience with Jesus. He is encouraging them to understand that while Moses was an intermediary between the Israelites and God, the birth and life and death and resurrection of Jesus changed that system and made it where there is no need for an intermediary between the individual believer and God. Paul is encouraging them toward a new epiphany....he is sort of leading them toward it logically to help them understand what it is they have available to them through Christ.

The passage we find in Luke is the Classic Transfiguration Passage. You know the story. Jesus takes Peter and John and James up on a mountain to pray. While they were praying, Moses and Elijah appeared and started talking with Jesus, and then the voice of God came from the cloud that surrounded them saying "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him." As would be true with most of this, this Got Their Attention. And look at the next story that happens the next day when they come down from the mountain. A man met them whose son was possessed with a spirit that made him hurt himself, the man had asked the disciples at the bottom of the mountain to help him, and they could not. Jesus offers some slightly terse words to those present, and then he heals the boy. And this scene (like so many Jesus was a part of) Got Their Attention.

Now we know the follow up to some of these stories. We know that some of their lives were different from these moments forward. We also know that some of them were not. And so we return to the initial questions:

What does it take to get your attention?

What has to happen to really shake you our of your normal way of seeing or hearing or living to where you view a person or event or the world with a new or different understanding?

Can you think of a time where this has happened to you? Remember the circumstances that led up to it and surrounded that particular moment.

Now, what did you do with that particular new insight? Did it change the way you interacted with the world? Did it change your ability or intention as you interact with others? Did it make you more gentle or more aggressive as you interact with yourself?

Seeing something in a different way is important. However, even more important are the ways we integrate those new perspectives in to our lives.

God,
How many times
have I looked away
when You were
standing beside me
trying desperately
to Capture my Attention?
Help me to pay Attention,
to be Alert,
to Watch
for You
and to be Aware
of what that means
to your Kingdom.
Amen.

2.05.2010

5th Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C

Isaiah 6.1-8
Psalm 138
1 Corinthians 15.1-11
Luke 5.1-11


Are there Bigger and Smaller Calls? Are some Calls More Important than others?

Hmmmm.

Of course, we need to spend a moment thinking about what it means to Be Called. For us, in its simplest form, a Call is a nudge or pull by God toward some specific work that in some way shares Love or creates Light in the world. Well, maybe that is not so simple.

We think it is important for all of us to broaden our idea of call a bit. In the churches we grew up in, we mainly heard about people being "Called to the Ministry" or "Called to the Mission Field" or "Called to Work With the Poor", etc. Being Called by God meant huge things...big changes...grand sacrifices, etc.

But are all Calls huge?

When we look at the stories found in scripture we see all sorts of Calls. We see all sorts of people that are Called to do all sorts of things to share the Love and Light of God with the world.

In this week's scriptures we see a wide variety Calls being experienced and lived out. Let's look at some.

In Isaiah we see an unusual scene being played out. Isaiah is having a vision and in this vision he is Called by God to deliver a difficult message. Isaiah's initial response is one to which we can relate. Isaiah protests that he is unclean and he is among those unclean. We have experienced times (and we suspect you have, too) when we don't feel adequate or skilled or good enough for what is placed before us. But Isaiah is assured he can do this - in fact, he is called out as one to address those around him. Have you ever had that sense of call that you were to do something pretty bold amidst a whole group that you counted as friends and peers? Perhaps felt called to speak a truth among close friends? This passage ends with words that have become familiar to us in a popular hymn, "Here I am, Lord...is it I?" Isaiah moves past his doubt to say, ok, here I am. Send me. Do we feel called to that same response? Is there a choice?

In Psalm 138 the tables are turned a bit. We see a Psalmist who appears to be completely committed to a life of worshiping God, and in his confidence he calls on God when he is in a difficult space. And when God reaches out and answers him, that further increases his confidence in (and commitment to) God. We were reminded when reading this of the things we'd often like to ask of God when facing a tough spot.

In Paul's letter to the followers of Jesus in Corinth, we find Paul living out his Call. The message of this particular passage is important because it is another example of him telling his own story of how he got to where he is and what he is doing. But while he is doing that, he is living out his Call...which is to share the message of Jesus with others.

In Luke we can see a wide variety of Calls in one short passage. Jesus is living out his Call by going to the lake to look for disciples. These soon-to-be disciples are actually living out their Call by being fishermen (this can be understood as a Call because it provides others with food). And then, as the scene plays out we see Jesus Calling these fishermen to a different life. And they dropped their nets and followed. What bravery. What bravery? Have you felt called specifically to shift gears like that at any point?

There are many calls - to be a good parent, to feed the hungry, to speak to a co-worker who seems overwhelmed, to build homes for the homeless, to tutor, to sit with a dying friend, to bake brownies for the new family down the block, to pick up trash along the road, to fight for just systems. It makes us a little dizzy. How about you?

Yahweh,
Place your hands on our lives
and use our skills, our gifts and even our deficits
to shed light and hope and faith
in dark and lonely places
in warm and sensitive places
in overcrowded, undernourished places -
places that confront us
daily
sometimes without our awareness
or understanding.
Amen.

© matt & laura norvell 2010 www.settingourstones.org
we want to share this with you and hope you'll share with the world; we simply ask that you let people know where you found these words. May Grace & Peace be with you.