Friday, February 29, 2008

What I Did Today

  • Wrote a sermon about the Blind Man in John 9:1-41. The title was a given: A Visionary Man. I am still not satisfied with the ending
  • Got the church ready for a wedding this afternoon: plugged in and turned on mikes; copied Scripture lesson for reader; got lapel mikes ready for co-officiants; turned on lights; unlocked changing rooms for bridesmaids and groomsmen; put out worship books, etc. etc. etc.
  • Called communion assistants and readers about church Sunday.
  • Scheduled a one to one first communion session with one of our students and his mom
  • Co-officiated at a Leap Day Wedding this afternoon. All week I told myself, "the wedding is Friday, the wedding is Friday", so I wouldn't forget. I didn't forget.
  • Kicked icicles off the front of my car; they make my car look like it has a beard
  • Picked up Chinese food for supper (Bourbon chicken and Lemon chicken)
  • Visited a dying woman in the hospital. We said Psalms 23 and 121. I made the sign of the cross on her forehead.
  • Tried desperately to upload a video of the song "I am Rich" by Neal and Leandra. Couldn't make it happen. So, now I am getting smarter, and as you can see, I chose another route. Enjoy.
  • Searched through basement books for one called Amazing Grace, by Steve Turner. Finally found it.

I certainly hope you had a nice day.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


In a conversation about people from rural South Dakota, where I used to serve:

Woman #1: They aren't ready for a woman president there.
Woman #2: They aren't ready for a black president either.
Woman #1: I hear he's Muslim, but he's not active in his faith.
Me: (Interjecting) He's not Muslim. His father is Kenyan, but he's not Muslim.
Woman #1: Well, he's not active.
Me: (Interjecting) Actually, he goes to the same church as Oprah Winfrey. He's a Christian.

Conversation with Brilliant Stepson #1, over birthday dinner:

Me: Let's ask Stepson. He's a young person.
Husband: What?
Me: We've been talking about Barack Obama. What do you think of him?
Stepson #1: I think he's going to be the next president of the United States.


There's a lot of information, misinformation and general conversation going on out there about Barack Obama. (also, there are websites devoted to conversations about whether or not he is the Antichrist. I kid you not.) He has a fascinating story, which I think many people know: mother from Kansas and father from Kenya, he lived for a few years as a child in Indonesia. He was born and grew up mostly in Hawaii. He was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review.

For me, the most interesting part of his biography is the fact that he spent several years in Chicago as a community organizer. He trained with Gamaliel, a church-based community organizing group headquartered in Chicago, and worked under its founder Greg Galluzzo, a former Jesuit priest.

An interesting article in a book published by The Nation magazine calls him "The Agitator", and names Saul Alinsky (author of Rules for Radicals) as one of his "mentors", although they never met. (Alinsky would have been dead by then.) Church-based community organizing is called "church-based" because organizers recognize that in many poor communities, the church is one of the only places left where people gather. Community organizing is devoted to empowering communities of people for social change.

I was trained by Gamaliel organizers back in the fall of 2000. Even eight years later, I'm processing and learning from the experience. This is part of why I'm fascinated by Obama's story. Community organizing is deeply democratic. Listening is one of the valued skills. Developing people as leaders is also valued. (So is something called "agitation", which can be as scarey as it sounds. But, as organizers say and I have to keep reminding myself, nothing moves without friction.) I wonder if this is part of why he says, "We are the change we are waiting for." In community organizing, that is true. No one does it alone.

So, what do you think? I have to admit, that when I first heard about Saul Alinsky, I felt a little uneasy. He said things like "we should work within the system", and called himself a radical. It's hard to figure out what his final goal for society was. What kind of a system was he aiming for? (According to the essay above, he is was a "nonsocialist.") On the other hand, a fascinating article by Walter Wink called Jesus and Saul Alinsky, got me thinking about Jesus himself as a radical. And I heard that in 1969, Alinsky was awarded the Pacem in Terra Award, for his social justice work. (I wonder what he thought of that?)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

....but now we're back

This morning we got up for a good breakfast (I had granola with strawberries) and one hour massages. The masseuse and I ended up talking about our dogs for the whole hour. She has an elderly husky who used to run like Scout still does.

Then we drove down to Colvill Park, where we counted at least 25 eagles sitting on the bare trees right over the river, little specks of brown and white. When I got out of the car to get a closer look, one of them decided to take a diving glide across the river. I wished I had binoculars or even a camera with a good zoom lens. We vowed to come back in the spring, and take time to drive down to Wabasha to the National Eagle Center there.

As we headed out of town, we made a stop at Pottery Place Antiques, where the collection of multi-colored glassware on the second floor is eye-catching. When we stopped on Sunday afternoon, I found a little treasure: a very old book, "Forglemmegei," which it turned out, means "Forget-me-Not" in Norwegian. There was a Bible verse for every day of the year (in Norwegian, of course), and 12 color pictures of flowers with Bible verses. It was lovely, bound in leather, and I had to have it.

We drove straight to Scout's dogsitter, where we discovered that she had not quite been a model dog: she ate a whole package of butterscotch chips that had been sitting on the counter. They seemed to take it in stride, though ("I guess we weren't supposed to make those cookies"). And she had been sick afterwards, ("but that's understandable, after eating all that sugar.") I like these people. If only I could roll with the punches like they do, I think I'd be a happier person.

Tonight I had an appointment to get a pedicure. I know, it's the middle of the winter here, but I've decided I need to take better care of my feet. The pedicurist showed me pictures of her dog (I had forgotten that we agreed to do that) and asked me questions about churches and whether I thought the end of the world was near. I said that no one knows whether the end of the world is near or not.

And I thought, if it is the end of the world, at least I saw the eagles.

Monday, February 25, 2008

A Lenten Break

Yesterday after all the church services, after a scheduled conversation with a member of my congregation, and after dropping Scout off at a new dog sitter's house, we headed off for a little retreat at one of our favorite scenic small town destinations: Red Wing, Minnesota. After a lot of vacillating back and forth, we finally decided to again stay at the St. James Hotel, an historic inn that is, in some ways, like a bed and breakfast. Last year we stayed at the St. James for two quiet days while a snowstorm raged outside. It was a wonderful, quiet time. The only dark spot was coming home and shoveling a foot of snow out of out driveway.

We have a large, elegantly appointed room, which also includes all of the modern conveniences, and two plush white robes for us to lounge around in. The hallways are wide, and the stairwells are decorated with historic photos, quilts and other odds and ends. Last night we walked down to a Caribou Coffee housed in a historic building, and then collapsed and fell asleep pretty early. Today we made appointments for massages (tomorrow), decided when to go swimming later today, and walked along the historic district for a little while. Since the temperatures are hovering around freezing, it's a pleasant walk.

We took a little drive across the Mississippi River and down to Lake Pepin, on the Wisconsin side, and stopped to look at a large eagle's nest lodged in a great tree. It was foggy, but I took a picture anyway. We could see one of the eagles out on a limb, looking like a black shadow against the gray distant sky. According to the expert I consulted, the eagles are pretty lazy; they don't move much, except to swoop down and pick up something small. Their nests are huge, though. Now that I have seen one, I'll be on the lookout.

Now I'm planning to spend some time reading A Three Dog Life, a memoir by Abigail Thomas. We hope to have a quiet dinner and evening, and another meditative day tomorrow before the short drive back tomorrow afternoon. Then we'll be thrown right back into the busy season on Wednesday morning.

On the one hand, I needed this little break. On the other, I almost felt that I couldn't afford it, with all of the things that need to get done. There is a wedding on Leap Day, that I am co-officiating (yes, they wanted to get married on Leap Day). On Saturday, I will be spending time with our 8th grade confirmation students. On Sunday, I preach all services. And Holy Week looms, a week of great promise and depth, but also sometimes of sheer exhaustion.

In the meantime, I long to see more eagles, who spend their time watching the river, who know better than I do where their life comes from.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Heavenly Friday Five

Singing Owl from Revgalblogpals gives us this Friday Five:

I am in Seattle assisting with family stuff and preparing to attend a memorial service (Saturday) for my sister who died of complications of early-onset Alzheimer's disease.
I am not grieving much, since the shock and tears and goodbyes and losses have been many and have occurred for a long time now. I am mostly relieved that my wonderful sister and best friend is free from pain and confusion, and I am thinking of eternity. That sounds somber, but I don't mean it to be. I decided to have a little fun with the idea. So how about we share five "heavenly" things? These can me serious or funny or a combination of the two.
What is your idea of a heavenly (i.e. wonderful and perfect):

1. Family get-together
Well, in my family get-together EVERYONE would be together, which hardly ever happens since my sister moved to another state. I think the last time we were all together in the same place was when everyone came to South Dakota and we drove to the Black Hills together. The last time my whole extended family was together was at my college graduation. I have a really fuzzy picture somewhere (polaroid) of all of the grandchildren, sitting at a picnic table. In my heavenly family get-together my Pentecostal relatives would agree that the Lutherans really were saved, and vice versa. And of course there would be good food (lots) and music: my sister and my husband would play guitar, my brother-in-law and neice would bring their violins, and my nephew's band would play.

2. Song or musical piece
I don't think there could ever be one. I love music, all kinds: in high school I used to lay on the floor of my bedroom and listen to Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. I also like Faure's Requiem, and Thomas Tallis' song, "If You Love Me, Keep My Commandments". Michael W. Smith's "Lord, Have Mercy" moves me, too (if that's a heavenly sign).

3. Gift
Books. I have too many, and I don't know where to put them, but they are still my favorite gift. also: gift cards to bookstores.

4. You choose whatever you like-food, pair of shoes, vacation, house, or something else. Just tell us what it is and what a heavenly version of it would be.
A heavenly vacation....would be a world tour! I'd love to go around the world, with the time and the money to see all the high points (Scandinavia being among them).

5. And for a serious moment, or what would you like your entrance into the next life to be like? What, from your vantage point now, would make Heaven "heavenly?"
As in #1 above, EVERYONE would be there, God's whole family would be re-united, even and especially the animals. There would be music and food; I'd play the piano, and I'd be better at it. And of course there would be a wonderful feast, with all kinds of food from all over the world, and I'm tempted to say, No one would have to clean up, except for this story.....

After the death of a 99-year-old woman in my first congregation, her daughters were reminiscing about their mother. One daughter remembered this exchange:
"Mom, will I have to do dishes in heaven?"
"Yes...... but you'll like it!"

Scout also played here

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Shameless Self-Promotion

I'm really tired this evening. I had the matins service at 8:00 this morning, and preached at 12:15, 5:30 and 7:00 for the Wednesday Lenten services. After preaching on Sunday as well, tonight I feel a little preached-out.

However, this evening after the service a member of our congregation approached me. They used to be Missouri Synod Lutherans. They had family visiting this last Sunday. They are still Missouri Synod Lutherans. This man explained that his brother still has problems getting used to a woman pastor.

But you know, he said, She had a really good sermon.

He asked for a copy.

I know, it doesn't quite seem right to be proud. This being Lent and all.

P.S. drawing saved from a bulletin doodled on by a young person in our congregation.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Kind of A Prayer

It's supposed to be 30 to 35 below zero here tonight. My car said it was still a couple of degrees above zero. Who knows where it will be in the morning?

I'm tired of the cold. I thought maybe it was just me, or that it was just because I'm getting old. But I've been hearing it from younger and stronger people than I am. Everyone is tired of the cold.

And it's Lent. The following is not quite a prayer, but somehow it seemed fitting for Lent. I found it in the introduction to an old book by Gail Ramshaw, called Letters for God's name.

It is the night of Passover. A peasant is rushing to finish his work in the fields so he can atttend the holy service. But, alas, the sun drops and it is darkness when no travel is permitted. Next day the rabbi spots him and asks him where he's been. "Oh, Rabbi, it was terrible -- I was stuck in my fields after dark and had to spend the night there." "Well," says the rabbi, "I suppose you at least recited your prayers." "That's the worst of it, Rabbi, I couldn't remember a single prayer." "Then how did you spend the holy evening?" says the rabbi. "I could only recite the alphabet and pray that God would rearrange the letters."

The peace of God,

which surpasses all understanding,
keep our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Feel Good Picture of the Day

Doesn't this look cozy? One of the benefits of being a pastor is getting pictures of your parishoner's "kids."

When we first adopted Scout, this woman was so excited! They had an elderly dog, and just adored and doted on him. When their dog died, they adopted the golden retriever and the kitty.

Kind of gives me hope, somehow. "The lion shall lie down with the lamb...."

by the way, the picture is cross-posted over at Scout's, as well.

UPDATE: Please pray for this dog, who is having surgery today. Thank you.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The "Woman" or the "African American"

I remember a conversation I had several years ago with a fellow seminary student. Actually, she had graduated and was awaiting a call. She had her name given to one nearby congregation. She told me that they declined to interview her because, as she related it, "they had a woman once and it didn't work out, so we aren't interested in interviewing another woman."

If you think that's a justifiable statement, consider this one: "We had a male pastor once, and it didn't work out, so I guess we won't have a male pastor again."

I remember visiting with an older woman in the neighborhood when I first moved here. She was tangentially connected with our congregation (which is to say, not very). She started talking about the changes in the community in the past few years, particularly with regard to race and ethnic background, and not in a positive way. She must have sensed some dismay on my part, because she noted: "I didn't used to be prejudiced, but I got my purse snatched by a black man once, and now I don't trust them."

I sympathized with her situation, understood exactly how she felt, until I applied the same rule as above, and changed the sentence to: "I got my purse stolen by a white man once, and now I don't trust them." Hmmmm. Doesn't quite work the same, does it?

Fairly or unfairly, women and minorities are often looked upon as representatives of their gender or their race, at least in certain areas. So, Hillary Clinton is "the woman" candidate, and Barack Obama is "the African American" candidate. In some areas, there is the expectation that people will vote for them or WON'T vote for them simply on the basis of their gender or their race, as if their policies or their personal story or their particular strengths or particular weaknesses don't matter.

This is the politics of identity, and if it sometimes seems to be a good card to play (You have to support the woman candidate, or you have to support the African-American), it is a double-edged sword. While I celebrate how far women of accomplishment have come, I don't have to agree with the policies of every woman in public service.

There is the possibility that in November of 2008, we will make history. Perhaps we will elect the first woman president; perhaps we will elect the first African American President.

As for me, I'm waiting for the day when we will all be judged by the content of our character (however imperfect or flawed), when I won't be the "lady preacher" but simply the pastor, when my failures won't reflect on every other woman who attempts to come after me, when "my purse was stolen by a black man and now I don't trust them" will be seen for the absurdity it is.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Sunday Sermon: A Curious Man

I recently saw a picture of the meeting between Jesus and Nicodemus on a stained glass window. There they were, sitting in the dark, leaning in close to one another and talking about the mysteries of faith. They look like they are sitting outside in the dark, perhaps in a garden. Jesus is looking straight at Nicodemus, but Nicodemus has his eyes turned downward. Nicodemus is older, of course – but you can also tell which one is Jesus because he has a halo, a light circling his head. It reminded me of the verse at the beginning of John’s gospel: "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

Nicodemus and Jesus meet at night. That’s a little detail from this story, but it’s important. Why do they meet at night, and not during the day? I have heard somewhere that rabbis often got together in the evening to have theological discussions. Maybe that’s what is happening. Jesus and Nicodemus are both busy men, after all; in the evening they have some time to get together and discuss some finer points of theology. Nicodemus is treating Jesus with respect by meeting with him at night. That’s one possible explanation for their meeting in the dark. But I think there might be more to it than that.

Think about it. Nicodemus is a man in the dark. We don’t know very much about him. Contrast him with the woman at the well, who we’ll meet next week. We learn a lot about her, some of it not so flattering! She’s out in the open, in more ways than one. But all we know about Nicodemus is that he is a Pharisee, a leader, and that he comes to Jesus by night. He is curious; we know that. We know he has some respect for Jesus. He begins by telling him, ""Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God." So, he’s curious, he’s attracted to Jesus, and he has some questions – but we don’t know much else about him. We’re in the dark about him. And because we don’t know much about him, we’re free to imagine that he might be like us, in one way or another – that it might be you or me, coming to Jesus in the night and whispering our questions. Because – aren’t we curious sometimes, too? Don’t we have questions that we wish we could ask Jesus?

I remember when I was little, I shared a room with my sister. And it was often that after we said our prayers and turned out the lights, that we would begin to talk to each other and to share with each other, and to ask each other questions. "What do you think about this or that?" we would whisper in the dark, things we would never ask during the day. I’m not exactly sure why it is, but there is something that happens when the lights go out, and we can begin to talk to each other and ask questions and say things that we might never say during the day. That’s a little a little like what it might have been like for Jesus and Nicodemus, in the darkness. And maybe if we close our eyes right now, we can imagine Jesus sitting next to us, and think about what questions we would ask him. ....questions about the world, and why evil things happen, like the school shooting, questions about our lives, and why life might be hard for us right now, questions about our future, the future of our world. Close your eyes, for just a moment and think about a question you would have for Jesus if he were sitting next to you, like Nicodemus is sitting next to Jesus. (Pause.) Now you can open them.

Nicodemus is a man of darkness. We don’t know much about him. But he’s also a man of darkness because he doesn’t seem to get it, he doesn’t seem to understand about Jesus. Jesus makes an extraordinary statement to him, "No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above," and Nicodemus doesn’t understand this statement. "What?" He asks. "How can a person who is old go back into his mother’s womb?" That’s obviously a ridiculous statement. No one can LITERALLY be born a second time. How can a wise person like Nicodemus so misunderstand Jesus’ statement? He’s in the dark, in more ways than one. He’s in the dark because he doesn’t quite understand what Jesus is telling him: about life and death, about blindness and seeing. What does it mean, to be "born from above?" And perhaps sometimes we feel the same way. This phrase, "Born from above," or "born again", in some translations, is unsettling to us. We might not know exactly what it means.

I have a birth certificate. I could say that this document proves that I was born – but that’s not exactly true. The birth certificate is really proof of who I am, what my name is. I’m alive, standing in front of you – and that’s the real proof that I was born. In the evangelical community, the term "born again" is used to refer to a specific conversion experience, and is somewhat like having a birth certificate. But it’s not the experience that counts, really. Just like it’s not the birth certificate that counts. It’s being alive that counts. To be "born from above" is to be alive to God. And like being born, it’s not something we can do, but something that God does for us. That’s why we associate it with baptism. Because in baptism, God claims us and makes us God’s children, and gives us God’s own life. The point is not having the baptismal certificate, though; the point is being alive to God, trusting the life God gives us. There’s something both attractive and frightening about that. It’s frightening because, like the wind, it’s not something we can ever totally understand or control. God's life in us is like the wind -- and we can't control it over even predict it.

Nicodemus is a man in the dark. And there’s one more reason, as well. Nicodemus is curious, but he’s also cautious. We get the impresssion at the end of the conversation that he just kind of fades away; he doesn’t decide yet to trust Jesus, to believe in him. He’s not quite a disciple, although as we move along through the Gospel of John we find out that Nicodemus does not quite go away. He’s on the sidelines, he’s still around, watching, and doing little things so that we can see that he’s sympathetic. He defends Jesus in John, chapter 7, against the other Pharisees. And in John 19, he is with Joseph of Arimathea when Jesus comes down from the cross. But here in this story – he’s still in the dark, still wondering. And yet.... "the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

Dr. Rachel Remen, tells a story in her book Kitchen Table Wisdom, about a young man. This young man has survived after being stranded out in the snow for several days. He has hung on to life, and yet he has suffered severe frostbite. He begins to get better, but then there is a turn. One of his feet isn’t healing. It becomes clear that they will have to amputate this foot. But he is really stubborn and he is clear that he is going to keep his foot. He will not let them amputate no matter what. People plead with him, they reason with him, they argue with him, but to no avail. He is determined to keep his foot even though it might kill him. He’s stubborn. Finally, his fiancee becomes angry. She takes off the engagement ring that he has given her and he puts it on his little toe, the toe that is dead and needs to be amputated. She tells him angrily, "Marry your foot, if you love it so much!" And she storms out of the room. And when he sees the glittering diamond, shining on his dead toe, he sees something for the first time. He sees life – real life – and he sees love, real love. He sees love and life right there, shining in the darkness, and he decides to live.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, so that whoever believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life." That’s the light shining in the darkness. It is God’s love for us, shown in the face of Jesus, who is so patient with our questions, who sits next to us and looks right at us, even when we are in the darkness. It is God’s love for us, shown in the face of Jesus, who meets us in the darkness of our fear, and who gives us courage to trust him, and to follow him into the world. It is God’s love for us, shown in the face of Jesus, who meets us in the darkness of death and of loneliness and despair, and who gives us the light of life.

Close your eyes again, for a moment, and imagine that Jesus is sitting with you, looking at you, and knows what you are afraid of, knows what your questions are, knows what you struggle with . Close your eyes and imagine that Jesus is sitting next to you, the light of the world, a glittering diamond, telling you: "God so loved .... (your name)....that he gave the Son that whoever trusts him may not perish but have life, eternal and abundant." Then open your eyes and look at the cross. Look at the place where God was abandoned, but where God did not abandon us. Look at the glittering diamond of God’s love – hidden in that cross of torture. Look at the world’s evil, and God’s love, the light of the world.

Look at the cross – and live.

The Light Shines in the Darkness

I'm working on a sermon today, on Jesus and Nicodemus, the curious man. I found this stained glass window fascinating, and am meditating on it as I prepare.

I'd love your thoughts, today.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Friday Five: Water and Word

Rev HRod over at Revgals writes:

In this Sunday's gospel Nicodemus asks Jesus, "How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?" Poor old Nicodemus! He was so confused about the whole "water and Spirit" business of baptism.
For today's five, tell us about your baptismal experiences.

1. When and where were you baptized? Do you remember it? Know any interesting tidbits?
I was baptized on May 19, 1957, at what was then called First Augustana Lutheran Church in downtown Minneapolis, also shouting distance from Swedish Hospital (which is now part of the Hennepin County Medical Center Complex). My aunt and uncle and my dad's best friend were my godparents. I was about one month old, so I don't remember it, but I've seen pictures. I'm so fascinated by the current practice in some quarters of videotaping the baptism. In fact, my nephew's baptism was videotaped. After the baptism, the water kind of dripped down his forehead, and he stuck out his tongue to drink it! You can hear the choir laughing in the distance.

2. What's the most unexpected thing you've ever witnessed at a baptism?
It's a toss-up between the time when the five-year-old boy yelled out, "This is fun! I like baptizing!" and when the dying woman roused herself to say, "That was great!" She died an hour later. There's also the time I baptized the two (older) children of a divorced couple, and they hugged each other after the cermony.

3. Does your congregation have any special traditions surrounding baptisms?
No, but at my last congregation we had a big banner that could be changed for every baptism so that it read: "____________, I have called you by name. You are mine." We started using it for funerals, too. (That was my idea.)

4. Are you a godparent or baptismal sponsor? Have a story to tell?
I am godparent for my nephew and for one of my neices. I got to fly to neice's state during internship year for her baptism.

5. Do you have a favorite baptismal song or hymn?
Well, as a sentimental Lutheran, I like Children Of the Heavenly Father. It isn't strictly a baptism hymn, but it has often been used at baptisms. We also have a newer baptismal hymn, set to the tune of Morning Is Broken

Baptized in water, sealed by the Spirit,
cleansed by the blood of Christ our king:
heirs of salvation, trusting his promise,
faithfully now God's praise we sing.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

As a young woman (early 20s) I used to buy Valentine Cards for no one in particular. Well, actually, I was buying Valentine Cards for My Dream Man, who wasn't making an appearance. But I thought, he must be right around the corner. I remember one of the cards I bought said on the front: 'You're not perfect.' and on the inside it said, "... but you're perfect for me." That's what I thought I was looking for: not for the perfect mate, but just perfect "for me."

I had a couple of other cards, too, that I bought, just because I thought they were so clever, even though I didn't have anyone to send them to. But I don't remember the clever sentiments of those any more. Just "....perfect for you."

So, what makes my husband Not Perfect... but perfect for me?

...a love of creativity, I suppose, and music. We both love words, and care about the church. Neither of us is good at dancing, but we both like to swim. He has a pretty good sense of humor, too. He wants me to write, and keeps saying, 'You should put that in your blog." Not perfect, but then neither am I.

What about you? What makes your mate..."perfect for you?" Or if you are single, what are you looking for?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Marriage Meme

My friend Wyrdbyrd tagged me for this one, just in time for Valentine's Day:

1. Where / how did you meet?
At church. He was the new director of the church choir. I was a second soprano and prospective seminary student.
2. How long have you known each other?
hmmm... that would be 1988, I think?
3. How long after you met did you start dating?
Not officially until 1998, ten years later. It's a long story.
4. How long did you date before you were engaged?
Just six months, I think.
5. How long was your engagement?
Again, about six months.
6. How long have you been married?
Eight and a half years
7. When is your anniversary?
July 31st
8. How many people came to your wedding reception?
The church one? Oh, dear, I didn't count. 200 or 250?
9. What kind of cake did you serve?
Sheet cake and a Norwegian wedding cake, too.
10. Where was your wedding?
At the church where I serve. We invited everyone to a cake reception in the fellowship hall. Some people came.

11. What did you serve for the meal?
No meal at the church, just cake. Later on we had a "family only" dinner at a nearby hotel. I honestly don't remember what we served. But one of my husband's musician friends played piano all through the dinner.
12. How many people were in your bridal party?
Husband's older son was best man, and younger son read a lesson. My sister was matron of honor. My nephew was an usher, and my two neices were flowers girls.
13. Are you still friends with them all?
Yes, we are family, after all. I think his sons still like me.
14. Did your spouse cry during the ceremony?
No. I didn't either, but we were both very nervous.
15. Most special moment of your wedding day?
The recessional hymn was a song written by my husband, to Psalm 118. Called "O Give Thanks". My mom and dad got us a suite in the hotel where our reception was for our wedding night. That was special, too.
16. Any funny moments?
My two neices did not get along so well on that day. There's a picture of them both, with their arms crossed in front of them. It's funny now; probably not then. They were both cute, though.
17. Any big disasters?
I can't remember any. No, those came later.
18. Where did you go on your honeymoon?
To Disney world with my husband's sons! Later on, we took a little trip by ourselves to Door County. We stayed in a bed and breakfast, and made sure we had fish boils.
19. How long were you gone?
Only 5 days. The Door County Trip was even shorter.
20. If you were to do your wedding over, what would you change?
Hmmm. It was incredibly hot the day before the wedding, but it cooled down some for the day. If I could have, I also would have taken a longer honeymoon.

21. What side of the bed do you sleep on?
Right side.
22. What size is your bed?
23. Greatest strength as a couple?
We have a lot of common interests: music, crossword puzzles, church, reading.
24. Greatest challenge as a couple?
We have a lot of common neuroses, and neither of us has a lot of money.
25. Who literally pays the bills?
Both of us. We divide things up.
26. What is your song?
We don't have one; I like all the songs he writes, although they are mostly church songs.
27. What did you dance your first dance to?
Don't remember.
28. Describe your wedding dress.
White, sleeveless, long, and simple.
29. What kind of flowers did you have at your wedding?
Not very many flowers, mostly what I carried, and what the flower girls carried. I actually don't remember a lot.
30. Are your wedding bands engraved?
No. But my rings are specially made by a local man we got to know because he also made the rings for a friend of mine.

Okay, now you've made me want to go through my wedding album. You may regret this

And I tag: Barb, Marie, and Katherine E.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Book Meme

This one comes from Zorra, Jiff and Gartenfische. Overkill, you say? At three, I couldn't avoid it any more.

Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. (No cheating!)

The book on the top of the pile on the coffee table is The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, about a snooty china rabbit who gets thrown overboard and well, the rest is history.

Find Page 123.
Chapter 17 of Edward's journey, slung over the shoulder of a boy named Bryce.

Post the next three sentences.
...talking about his sister, Sarah Ruth. "She had her a baby doll made out of china. She loved that baby doll. But he broke it.

Tag five people
I don't know who has done this and who hasn't. In my ignorance, I tag? Dust Bunny, Barb, CJ, David, and whoever else reads this.

Jazz Preaching

At my church, we have a 8:00 A.M. Matins Service every Wednesday morning. This service is primarily prayer and song, but it does include a short sermon.

When I first came to this church, I wrote out short manuscripts for delivery every time I led the Wednesday service. After a few months, though, I started to do something a little different. I would choose texts and a theme, and get an idea or a story that I wanted to talk about. Once in awhile I would jot down a few notes; sometimes I wouldn't write anything down at all. Every once in awhile it would even come to me to do something entirely different in the midst of the service on Wednesday morning.

I was talking about this to another staff member recently. I explained it this way: instead of preparing a manuscript, I decide on a text and a theme, and then I "riff" on the text and the theme for a few minutes. "Oh, Jazz Preaching," she responded.

The Wednesday morning crowd doesn't seem to mind my Biblical/theological improvisations. In fact, it seems that they like them BETTER than my Sunday sermons, which I research and craft with as much care and precision as I can muster. Perhaps it's the spontaneity they are responding to; perhaps the simplicity that is inevitable (at least for me) when I preach "note-less". I'm perhaps a tad more passionate on Wednesday, too.

I'd like to bring a little bit of Wednesday's Jazz into Sunday's more formal preaching. But I've yet to feel (even after 14 years) that I can quite let go in front of the larger crowds.

Part of it has to do with writing. Once I have finished a manuscript I grow attached to certain words and phrases and don't want to risk losing them. Another part is time. These Wednesday morning sermons are short. On Sunday, I would need to remember and improvise for a longer time. But not too long. I can't afford to improvise for too long, either. (we have three services on Sunday.)

What do you think? What would be a good way to begin bringing the passion and spontaneity of "Jazz Preaching" into Sunday mornings?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Strangely Hopeful

It was 18 below zero this morning. I've been talking about being tired a lot lately. It appears that I am not the only one around here. A lot of people are confessing to being tired lately, and are blaming the weather for their condition.

Attendence at all the services was underwhelming. Attendence at the meeting I led was even more underwhelming. I'm sure the weather played some part in that. There were probably other issues as well.

And yet, I am strangely hopeful.

1) Some of the people who co-led the meeting with me had never led a meeting before. They did a great job.

2) I now have the start of a new Contemporary Worship Planning Team.

3) There were two really good ideas offered -- one by a high school girl.

4) At least two people said that they wanted to continue to develop relationships with others in our congregation.

Later on, I took Scout to playtime. Unfortunately, she is starting to exhibit some of her old "possessive" behavior again, mostly with dogs. She got a soft squeaky toy and started running around the gym with it. She would run away from me as well, but if I caught her, she let me take it. But at one point she got into a little altercation with another dog (Scout was, I am afraid to say, the aggressor), and all of the squeaky toys went back in the box. The trainer let me know that I should work on this issue. (sigh) She doesn't know the half of it. I could write a book about working on Scout's issues. Cute, charming, happy Scout. Part-time ferocious resource guarder.

And yet, I am strangely hopeful.

Saturday, February 9, 2008


It's four below zero here, and I'll bet the windchill is somewhat lower. We spent about 30 seconds outside just now, and I'll bet there is a significant windchill.

I realize that it's much colder in Canada. So I should stop my whining and complaining. Everybody I know says that the cold weather makes them feel tired, and gray days make them feel -- well, gray.

Today I spent part of a day getting ready for a meeting at the church tomorrow. It's something I care a lot about; it's something I believe is really important for the future of our congregation and the development of our mission and vision. We know what we have been in the past. Who are we going to be in the future? What does God want from us? What are we passionate about as a congregation, and what are we gifted in? These are questions we want to answer. But, it will be so cold tomorrow, and I pray that just a few passionate people will warm up the meeting.

In the meantime, I also went to the hospital today. It's one of my regular visitation days. I went to visit three people at the Nearest Hospital To The Church. One of our members was released back to his nursing home. Another woman had a major stroke. The third was a woman I have been visiting ever since her husband died, in 1999.

I remember because it was also the year I got married. M was the second wife, just like I am. She was younger and married a man with teenaged children, just like me. We had wonderful conversations over coffee; she asked me questions about life, and death, and forgiveness. I asked her about her life with H, and what she did at stressful times. Then we had communion.

Often in the wintertime, she would tell me not to come, because she had a steep driveway, and she was worried about people slipping in the cold and snowy weather. Sometimes I would park on the street and walk up the hill.

She was a great lady, really down to earth, with a good sense of humor. She wasn't really "shut in" technically, but she didn't drive, which limited her ability to get out.

When I went to her room, I found out that she had been moved to another room on another floor. The nurse asked me if I was family. "No," I said. "I'm one of her pastors." "oh," the nurse said quietly. "She'll need you."

When I got up to her room and walked in the door, I discovered that she had just died.

Did I mention that it is 4 below zero? And the wind is howling, too.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Friday Five: What are you Doing for Lent?

Mother Laura from over at Revgals says: Ready or not, Lent is upon us! And asks us to consider these questions:

1. Did you celebrate Mardi Gras and/or Ash Wednesday this week? How?
We did not do "Mardi Gras" on Tuesday, but our church held our annual "Mardi Gras" brunch on Sunday. We have egg bake, cake walk, face painting and silent auction for a variety of homemade theme baskets. All of the proceeds go toward our congregation's participation in community organizing for social justice.

On Ash Wednesday, we had three services here at church: 12:15, 5:30 and 7:00, with imposition of Ashes and Communion; also our first soup supper. It's a busy time.

2. What was your most memorable Mardi Gras/Ash Wednesday/Lent?
One year our campus pastor at Gustavus read T.S. Eliot's poem Ash Wednesday. That was memorable. And the first time I participated in the imposition of ashes, as an intern, was memorable for me, as I reflected here.

3. Did you/your church/your family celebrate Lent as a child? If not, when and how did you discover it?
Although we were a church-going family, I don't remember us doing much for Lent. Sometimes we had a cardboard bank on our kitchen table, for "almsgiving", although I don't think we called it that. Probably it was for World Hunger. We always went to Good Friday services, though. We had 7:30 Tenebrae, and it was very sad and solemn.

4. Are you more in the give-up camp, or the take-on camp, or somewhere in between?
I think I fall into more the "take on" camp, although sometimes you have to "give up" something to take on something else! At least, that's my take on it. Anything, whether it be "giving up" or "taking on" that helps us to realize what is Most Important -- is a good discipline.

5. How do you plan to keep Lent this year?
Well, for one thing, I am going to read the daily selections from Bread and Wine. I hope also to read from Emilie Griffin's new book, Small Surrenders. I think that preaching all of the midweek and Sunday services will keep me pretty busy, so I'm thinking that I need to "give up" something to accomplish those things.

Hmmm. Maybe I should give up self-defeating attitudes for Lent.

It's Not Friday, it's Wyldday!

Welcome home, Wyld. From Your friends Scout and Diane at Faith in Community.

We love you, and we are glad that you are back in the U.S.
I wish you:

More pedicures and TLC!
A good date!
State of the art medical attention that you deserve!
Great reunions and meetings with friends as you make your way across the U.S.
Scout wishes you:

She would like to lick your toes! (oh, I know that's gross, sorry, but she's a dog.)

Greetings also from: Fran, Jan, MoreCows, Politits, DistributorCap, My Saturday Evening Post, When Will I Use This?, FriedaBee, Aunt Dahlia, and Mock Paper Scissors. Some of them have posted their greetings, and others will be later!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Leafy Greens for Lent

One year as a young adult, I decided I was going to give up one meal a day for Lent. It seemed right and pious to me at the time, to eat a little less for the sake of the greater glory of God. I wasn't that experienced in Lenten fasting. I didn't grow up with the tradition of self-denial, although some years there was a cardboard church on our dinner table during Lent: our almsgiving. To be truthful, I'm not sure what I expected to gain by losing my one meal a day, either: I don't remember thinking that I would set aside the savings, and give to a particular cause.

I was visiting a friend in Chicago during my "fast," and mentioned to her what I was doing. Her only comment was: "I hope you are getting enough leafy greens!" She wasn't impressed at all.

I still have trouble figuring out what to give up for Lent. I figure it should not be something too easy to do without. I don't drink much soda; I like chocolate but I'm not addicted to it; Potato chips would probably be a greater temptation. One of my friends gave up gourmet coffee for Lent one year. She had a cup every morning, and I think she really missed it, so that worked for her.

One year I gave up buying books for Lent. Not reading, like Lauren Winner did one year. Just buying books. That was actually the tougher temptation to resist, tougher actually than reading. I think that has been my best idea so far.

If giving up something for Lent makes me feel as if I am making a Small Improvement in my life, then it is a mistake. If giving up something for Lent makes me feel as if I am moving along in this life of faith, then it is a misbegotten endeavor. If giving up something for Lent only makes me feel healthier, slimmer, or more in control, then it feeds an illusion.

I think that the best Lenten fasts are the ones that leave a hole, a hunger and a thirst. The best Lenten fasts are the ones that make me realize the holes in my life, that I have been trying to fill with potato chips, leafy greens, books, or blogging, even. The best Lenten fasts make me realize that only God can fill the hole, quench my thirst, give me bread. Only God.

Small Surrenders

Lent is our chance for a fresh start, a new page. We consciously let down our defenses against the grace of God. We admit to ourselves our need for improvement. We notice how hopeless we are. We tell God we're doing our best but we wish we could do better. We put ourselves in God''s hands.

From Small Surrenders: A Lenten Journey, by Emilie Griffin

More suggestions for reading for Lent to come.....

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ash Wednesday

I wrote this a long time ago, while I was studying at Seminary, and also working at a Domestic Violence Center.

"Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

We laughed that morning because she had a bruise on her forehead where the ashes should be. How convenient! On any other day her injury would be more conspicuous. Today it would appear pious. Today she could even skip church, and no one would be the wiser, thinking her already marked. Already marked.

A garish cross I painted on each forehead with my finger. From the very young to old stooped-over ones, I drew them all: some cockeyed, askew: not straight. I drew with my finger, saying: "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." It was the first year that I had actually participated in an Ash Wednesday service as a worship leader, and it seemed strange, rubbing those ashen crosses on foreheads young and smooth, old and wrinkled, pious eyes downturned, young curious eyes upturned. I marked them all with the mark of ashes: the mark of mortality, the mark of sin? I marked them all without thinking, without wondering: are the word, and the sign, judging or comforting? Are they liberating or confining? Or both? What does it mean to mark someone, and what does it mean to be marked?

This year she does not need a cross, for she is already marked: on her forehead bruised, on her forearm numbered, on her breast pocket stitched a star of David. This year there are red marks on her arms and bruises on her legs, and her heart, having heard threats, is dust and ashes. This year she knows all too well that she is dust, and she doubts that she can rise from those ashes.

Trace gently, then, the cross upon her bruised forehead, and speak gently the fierce words to that ashen soul. Do not bear down on her, but bear down on all that beats her ashen soul into the dust. Do not kill what has already died, but bring to life the new and liberated one. (Does that cross hide or expose the evil done to her?) Expose it. Expose the truth of dust and ashes and bruises. Lift high the cross, and do not hide behind it.

A bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice." --Isaiah 42:3

Monday, February 4, 2008

Super Tuesday

My state is one of the states that participates in Super Tuesday. But we don't have a primary tomorrow. Instead, we have precinct caucuses, as do several other states.

Strange as it may seem, I have never been to a caucus before. But as far as I can tell, there are no church meetings scheduled for tomorrow night. For the first time ever, I might caucus. I know, it sounds radical. I have several other things I could do, including taxes and playing with the dog. I could attend several of the movies we haven't seen yet, or vacuum the living room or finish doing the laundry. I could finish reading God's Echo or The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane on this rare meeting-less night. But, I'm going to caucus. I think it's important. Also, I'm curious.

What about you? Do you have super Tuesday plans? If so, are you a first-timer or a regular?
Update: I went to our precinct caucuses tonight. As perhaps all of you know, there were record turn-outs, and long lines all over my state. Many people voted and left; others stayed for the caucus process, which involved making resolutions and voting for delegates. I didn't stay for all of the caucus, since I have three Ash Wednesday services weighing heavily on my mind.

Three out of four resolutions offered in my precinct had to do with education. I always knew that this was a passion in my community, but it was good to be a part of that conversation on another level. I saw a few members of my church; I walked in with one woman, and gave another woman a ride home because she couldn't find her car! Also I heard a plea for delegates for a state convention on March 8th. I briefly flirted with the idea of going, but then realized that I have a first communion class on that day.

We still don't have final election results for our state, but it's exciting to see so many people turn out, on all sides of the aisle, and feel that they really have a voice. There has been a lot of cynicism lately, and I would be happy to see that change.

The woman in charge of our caucus meeting said something funny: she said that some people like smaller turn-outs because they are easier to control. But then she smiled and said, "But we've never been that big on control."

Around the Web

It's getting to Lent, and I have quite a few posts simmering around in my head, but they aren't quite done yet. So, in the meantime, I'd like to direct you to some people and places I have found fascinating lately:

I keep coming back to Gartenfische's recent post on Thomas Merton and the desert. Is it because I just came from the desert or because Wednesday is Ash Wednesday? Maybe a little of both.

I really enjoyed this story/joke over at Katherine's Meaning and Authenticity. I know it's been awhile ago! It took me this long to get around to linking!

I have been enjoying both the serious posts and the laughter over at Paul's place lately. Check out his insightful post on his "emergent" theology (or is it simply classical Christianity, believing in a living God?) Plus, he thinks my dog is beautiful.

My friend Eric (who, by the way, lives in one of my favorite towns) has started an Evangelism blog.

I love Crimson Rambler's way with words, and her descriptions of the cold where she lives. (Ah, somewhere colder than where I live.) P. S. She has posted a great poem by Marie Howe today.

Lindy has a great picture of Rowan sleeping over at her place.

Grendel's mom wrote a sonnet about him recently! I'm so impressed! I can't believe I got through all that English Literature and I never attempted to write a sonnet! Could it be that I'm chicken? Or just untalented?

And occasional reader Nancy pointed me to her friend in Japan Tanya, who has lived there for thirty years. If you are longing for some cultural exchange (or, like me, nostalgic for memories from my youth), check out this post. (I have eaten squid, but never never never cooked it.)

Happy reading!
and yes, I know that I used this photo before, but I couldn't resist!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Yes We Can - Barack Obama Music Video

I saw this at Songbird's place, and also at Paul's. I would like to link to them, but I'm posting from Youtube, and don't know how to do that yet. But I want to give them credit.

Also, this theme, "Yes we can" or "Si Si Puede" was our theme a few years ago in our church-based organizing work.

Yes, WE CAN.

Sunday Sermon "Until the Morning Star Rises in Our Hearts"

Transfiguration Year A
Matthew 17:1-9/2 Peter 1:16-21

Long ago, a wise old rabbi lay on his deathbed. So he called for his disciples and said to them, "I have acted as intermediary for you, and now when I am going you must do this for yourselves. You know the place in the forest where I call to God? Stand there in the place and do the same. Light a fire as you have been instructed to do, and say the prayer as you have learned. Do all these and God will come." Shortly afterward, the rabbi died. The first generation of followers did exactly as he had said, and sure enough, God came as always. After this generation passed, the second generation had forgotten how to light the fire the way the rabbi had instructed. Nevertheless, they faithfully made the pilgrimage to the special place in the forest and said the prayer they had been instructed to pray. And sure enough, God showed up. A third generation came along, who had forgotten how to light the fire and no longer remembered the place in the forest where they should stand. But they said the prayer as the rabbi had instructed. And again God showed up.

God showed up.... that’s what happened in the story we have today, the story of the transfiguration. God showed up in Jesus in such a way that his presence was unmistakable to the three disciples who witnessed the event. God showed up and gave them a glimpse of the truth – the truth about who their friend Jesus really was. God showed up in blinding light and in thundering words. And it was a glimpse of glory that they would carry with them in the dark days to come – and a story they would tell for generations to come. For years and for generations they would tell the story about the blinding light and Moses and Elijah. They would tell the story about poor Peter and those dwellings he wanted to build. They would tell the story about the cloud and the voice that they heard, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased. Listen to him." They would tell the story of the mountain where they went with Jesus, not suspecting what they would see and hear there.

It’s true, they probably forgot some things, as well: where was the mountain, exactly, where they saw the dazzling light? And what were Moses and Elijah talking about on the mountain? How long were they there? A moment? A long time? And how can they make something like that happen again? Is there a special prayer they can say that might bring the glory back? If there were, they are long forgotten. But they continue to tell the story, these eyewitnesses, because just telling it brings a kind of light of its own. And as they tell the story, God shows up... "like a lamp shining in a dark place..." as the author of 2 Peter puts it.

‘You will do well to be attentive to this,’ the apostle advises us today, ‘until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.’ It’s like a lamp shining in a dark place, he tells us. The author is remembering the brightness of that day, the transfiguration so long ago – the blinding light – and recognizing that he doesn’t have that kind of a bright, blinding light any more. That was a momentary vision they had, and they saw that God showed up on the mountain, and in their lives. But he’s also recognizing that even though they don’t have the vision any more, they need something, they need some kind of light, because the world is a dark place, and they something to walk by, something to follow by, so that they can know the truth. And it seems to me that we need a lamp just as much as the people who are reading the this letter need it. Because the world is still a dark place, where we long for God to show up. There is war and starvation in the Sudan, and there is unrest in many parts of the world, including Kenya and Afghanistan and Iraq and Iran. There are hungry people even near to us. There are people losing their homes, and people who are cold. When I meet with people one to one and have the privilege of hearing some of their stories, I’m often touched by the things that people will share with me: personal tragedies that people have dealt with in their lives: the death of a child or a parent, a chronic illness, a time of deep doubt, an abusive parent. And I’m often amazed as well at how some people continue to persevere and even to overcome – to believe that God shows up in their lives, and that God works through them to bless the world. I’m amazed at people see the darkness of injustice, or grief, and who band together to overcome it. It’s not a blinding light. But more like a lamp shining in a dark place. Like the disciples of the rabbi, they continue faithfully to say the prayer, to worship God with their lives, and God continues to show up. And that is what is most important.

So, the apostle advises us today, "You will do well to be attentive to this, like a lamp shining in a dark place?" But just what is it that he would like us to be attentive to? The blinding light and the cloud? The appearance of Moses and Elijah? Peter’s misguided attempt to build three dwellings and preserve the experience? What is it that we need to be attentive to, the lamp shining in the dark place?

A long time ago my uncle told me of an experience he had as a young man. I call him sometimes a "born again Lutheran" just because he loves being a Lutheran so much. He told me once that if he had to name a moment in his life when he "got it", he would name a session of his confirmation class, when they were studying the Apostles Creed, and they got to the second article. When he read and heard this, "I believe that Jesus Christ – true Son of the Father from eternity, and true man, born of the Virgin Mary – is my Lord" he said, "aha! Yes. I get it now." Anyway, as a young man he worked in a warehouse alongside another young man, who was from a different faith tradition. And this man kept asking my uncle if he was saved. My uncle said, "Yes," but this wasn’t enough for his friend. He kept asking and asking, "but how do you KNOW you are saved? How do you know?" And of course, he was thinking my uncle didn’t have a particular time when he prayed, or a particular emotional experience, so he wouldn’t know he was saved. But finally, the young man asked, "How do you know that you’re saved?" and my uncle turned around and said, in a Loud Voice, "Because Christ Said So."

As the Voice from the cloud said, "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him." "Listen to him." Because he is the lamp shining in the dark place, and his word help us to see that, even when there is no vision, and even when there is no blinding light, God shows up. Until the day dawns and the morning star rises in our hearts.

"This is my Beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased. Listen to him." We do well to be attentive to these words, as we leave the season of Epiphany and enter the season of Lent, and as we look at a face that is no longer shining in glory, but is darkened by pain and suffering. We do well to be attentive to these words from the cloud, as we follow him on his path to the cross. We do well to be attentive to these words, as we see him now, standing up for, and staying with the poor and the lonely and the outcast. This is my beloved son – the one who fed the hungry, the one who healed lepers, the one who befriended the outcast, the one who forgave sins – the one who was crucified. This is God’s son. Listen to him. Trust him. Follow him.

Every Sunday we come here to hear a story. It begins, "On the night when he was betrayed, our Lord Jesus took bread, and gave thanks...." Every Sunday we come here with open hearts and hands, to remember the story of his love, and to share his body and blood with one another. And he shows up. Not in brightness and glory, but in bread and wine, and in words of forgiveness. And he shows up in us, too. Not because we have remembered so perfectly the prayer and the place, not because we are such shining examples of his love. He shows up in us because he promised to, and as we pay attention to his words – words of mercy and justice and healing – we too become lights shining in a dark place.

Someday he will show up in brightness and glory, and there will be no more weeping and no more dying, no more hunger and no more darkness. Until that day we trust his word, "Do this for the remembrance of me" and we trust that he shows up – here and in our lives so that we can go out to follow him into the world, bringing light and hope, bringing justice and peace until the day dawns and the morning star rises in our hearts.