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Anti-Authority for a Cause

As I read the scriptures earlier this week and while listening again to Luke’s account of Jesus’ final week, days, and minutes, I was reminded of its anti-empire and anti-authority tone.

This tone is not intended to paint Jesus, Luke, or his community as anti-authority punks or rebel without a cause.

The cause was shared in the opening pages of Luke’s Gospel.
The cause is central and foundational throughout the whole.
The cause is the Grand Reversal.

You may recall the Magnificat that Mary sung, which proclaimed it.
You may recall Jesus reading Isaiah in his hometown synagogue, which proclaimed it.
You may recall Jesus’ teaching of the blessings and the woes, which proclaimed it.

But, the Grand Reversal is not a simplistic inverting of the entire field. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2019 in Sermons

 

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Stewardship of Creation

This Lenten season, we are focusing on Holistic Stewardship, which is:
the good management of financial/material resources and our time, energy, and talents to care for, love, and serve our neighbors, all people, and the entire creation for the sake of God’s realm that is here, near, and not yet fulfilled (see 1 Corinthians 4:1-2).

Temple Talk (Sunday, April 7)
We conclude our “Temple Talks” on Holistic Stewardship this morning.
Again, Holistic Stewardship is the management of our financial resources, time, energy, and talents for the sake of all people, the creation, and God’s name.

We conclude with the first gift humankind was given and called to steward: the Creation.

Recently, I was speaking with a young niece who told me that they had learned about the planets at school. I asked her, “what planet is your favorite”.

She thought a moment before answering “earth”.

The reality is that our galaxy, our solar system, and our planet are quite spectacular. These are amazing gifts. The earth with its plants, animals, and resource are the responsibility of humankind to care for, to protect, to love, and to serve. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2019 in Sermons

 

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New Creations & Perfume

I have been called a unicorn, a mythic creature that does not exist.

But, if I am a mythical creature, I do not want to be a unicorn.
I would rather be a Phoenix.

You can blame it on me raised in the Phoenix valley, but that is not the whole of it

The Phoenix, according to legend, self-combusts into flames but is re-created from the ashes stronger, better, more powerful than it was before.

THAT is the purpose of Lent and it is a theme throughout our scriptures this morning.

Our scriptures are about change with the old being undone and cast aside in order for new birth and a new creation.

Be honest, change can be intimidating especially as we grow older and become comfortable in our lives, our sense of security, and aware of expectations.

But, our scriptures tell us ‘toss it away because something new is happening’. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2019 in Sermons

 

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Holistic Stewardship

The word ‘stewardship’ has inherited the baggage of ‘financial campaign’ and has become a dreaded and dirty word amongst communities of faith.

Stewardship seems to invoke the image of church leadership shaking its members for additional funds until they are financial exhausted. This image is disconcerting for those in the pews, church leadership, and the pastor alike.

But, ‘stewardship’ is broader. It encompasses the whole of our lives.

  •  Stewardship is the task of managing and caring for ‘something’.
  •  Stewards are people tasked to manage and care for ‘something’, including:
    finances and property, but also supplies, order at social events, and people themselves.

We, as Christians, are taught that God created all matter and appointed humankind as its stewards. But, what does this mean?

We are called to manage our finances, time, and talents well while striving towards God’s Will by

  • proclaiming Christ in word and deeds;
  • seeking justice;
  • acting with compassion and mercy; and
  • loving and serving all people.

Stewards of Financial Means
Our household and congregational budgets are to be well managed reflecting that baptismal calling.

Scripture and tradition teaches the offering of a tithe (or 1/10th) of all material possessions to be given for the glory of God and to the service of God, which provided for the Levities (priests), the Temple, and God’s mission to care for the poor, the orphan, and the widow.

Stewards of Time, Energy, and Talents
Similar to our finances, we must budget our time, energy, and talents to reflect that baptismal calling.

We cannot permit ourselves to either be self-indulgent hoarding our time, energy, and talents for selfish purposes or becoming emotionally, mentally, physically, or spiritually exhausted.

Stewards of Humanity
The management of our finances, time, energy, and talents are for the stewardship and care of humanity ensuring that none are in any need (including clothes, food, and shelter) and are able to thrive. It includes family, loved ones, friends, neighbors, and strangers near and far.

Stewards of Creation
The management of our finances, time, energy, and talents are also for the stewardship and care of creation as our home. We should tend to, protect, and clean it in order that it may thrive.

Conclusion
I invite you to ponder this holistic stewardship of your finances, time, energy, and talents for the sake of humankind and the creation as a spiritual practice to embrace moving forward.

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2019 in Newsletter Articles

 

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Feminine Trouble (pt. 3): Hysterectomy and Beyond

Disclaimer:
This is an honest reflection of my eight year journey with “Feminine Trouble” of the reproductive system, therefore it requires the terminology of human anatomy, bodily functions, and medical conditions and procedures.

Due to the extensive nature of this journey, with endometriosis, pelvic congestion, pelvic floor dysfunction, polycystic ovation syndrome (PCOS), and a uterine fibroid tumor it is a multiple post series.

  • “What the Hell?” was an overview of the diagnoses, briefly the associated pain, and the medical treatments/procedures endured.
  • “Disruptive, Destructive Norm” was about how these medical conditions, treatments, and procedures affected my physical and mental wellbeing.
  • “Hysterectomy and Beyond” is about the decision to have a hysterectomy and how it has and continues to affect my physical, mental, and relational well-being.

Before the Hysterectomy 
I was never the young girl who dreamed of the day that I would be a mother, but at age 15 I begin to accept the reality that pregnancy, carrying to term, and giving birth to a child may be difficult or eventually not even an option.

While laying in a hospital bed after the third surgery (age 17), I was listening to the doctor share her discoveries (report) as truthfully optimistic as possible.

The “Report”:
The uterus is a hard muscle, therefore if a surgical instrument is laid against the uterus it will hold its shape. BUT, when a surgical instrument was laid against my uterus it dented in and then returned to its normal shape once it was removed.

The doctor remained optimistic that I would eventually be able to conceive, to carry to term, and give birth to a child. I, however, was logically realistic but not prepared to face the truth that I would never have the option of “traditional” motherhood.

While in my early twenties, I expelled a blue-purple, hard mass. Although the OB/GYN office suggested it was merely a “blood clot”, it did not resemble those previous experienced. I honestly wondered (and further believe) it was an extremely early term miscarriage prior to knowledge of said pregnancy. 

As I shared in the previous posts, the chronic pain had negatively effected me physically, emotionally, and mentally. Thus, I returned to the pelvic pain specialist when the chronic pain returned after the fourth surgery.

He was determined that the pain was a re-development of pelvic congestion, which he had developed an in-office procedure as treatment.

I, however, disagreed arguing that the pain was caused by the uterine fibroid, or non-cancerous tumor. It was located within the muscle of my uterus and thus could not be removed without a hysterectomy. However, he was convinced that it was “too small” for me to feel or to cause the pain I was reporting.

The doctor and I made a deal:
If a MRI with contrast showed pelvic congestion, then the in-office procedure.
If a MRI with contrast was normal, then the hysterectomy.

The MRI was “normal”, therefore I requested to be transferred for surgery scheduling.
On December 22, 2009 (age 23), I had the hysterectomy.

After the Hysterectomy
After nearly a decade, the hysterectomy remains the GREATEST Christmas gift.
Yet, I would be remiss if I suggested that it has been without struggle.

I struggle with persons who are not mentally, emotionally, or financially ‘fit’ for parenthood, but who have several children.

I struggle with persons who randomly question if I am pregnant, but my response is:
“Nope. I just love my carbs.”

I struggled with my hysterectomy as either a contributing factor or a convenient ‘excuse’ for my divorce. Let me explain:

In May 2010, I met a man (John) who I told about my hysterectomy prior to our first date. He expressed that adoption and/or a surrogate were viable options.

In January 2011, John and I were married prior to his deployment to Iraq.
(Yes, it was quick and I should have listened to my gut).

In June 2012, John and I were able to finally live together as husband and wife.
But, it quickly became clear that he struggled with my infertility.

For example:
John was speaking on the phone with a female friend who was pregnant with an unplanned child and was not in a relationship with the father at that time. I heard him say “well at least YOU can have a baby”. 

John decided that he needed a biological son to carry on his name and legacy,
but a surrogate was too expensive.

John also decided that adoption (for a daughter) was too delayed and too expensive.

In August 2014, John and I decided to divorce.

BUT, despite these struggles I would not trade my decision for a hysterectomy
for the sake of my own physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual health. 

 

 

 

 
 

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Stewardship of Humanity

This Lenten season, we are focusing on Holistic Stewardship, which is:
the good management of financial/material resources and our time, energy, and talents to care for, love, and serve our neighbors, all people, and the entire creation for the sake of God’s realm that is here, near, and not yet fulfilled (see 1 Corinthians 4:1-2).

Temple Talk (Sunday, March 31):
We have been discussing Holistic Stewardship which is the management of our financial means, time, energy, and talents for our stewardship of humankind and creation.

The idea of stewarding people may seem odd, especially if you do not supervise others in your paid or volunteered vocations.

But, we are continually called to care for, love, and serve all people by using our resources, time, energy, and talents to do so in word and deed, big and small. It might be donating food, clothing, or items for those in need. It might be feeding hungry people or seeking shelter for the homeless.

But, do we use our resources, time, energy, and talent to do so?

I was pondering a song, which speaks of helping our fellow humans when we have more time. One concluding line is “Funny how I think this sitting in my Lazy Boy”.

How can we manage our resources, time, energy, and talents for the sake of all people?

Mid-Week Service (Wednesday, April 3):
Holistic stewardship, again, is not limited to managing our financial means, time, energy, and talents for our own sake but for the sake of all humankind and creation.

The Torah is often translated as ‘law’, although more accurately ‘teaching’.
It is the first 5 books in the Hebrew Bible and the Old Testament, which are:
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

As the years, decades, and centuries have continued to march forth, religious leadership had and continue to build a defensive ‘fence’ around the Torah to protect it from becoming profane, ordinary, or vandalized by our transgressions (or sins).

In essence, they did not want God’s precious teachings to be vulnerable to human error, misuse, and abuse. Additionally, the defense would permit a buffer zone between human imperfection and the teaching and enable those who honored the fence to be “blameless” before God and neighbor.

It sounds reasonable, secure, and perhaps wise.
But, such defensive measures only separate us from the Torah, God, and neighbor a like.

We all build defenses to protect our most vulnerable self, but we all know a person or several who seem to effortlessly tear down those defenses.

For example, I have an old flame with that innate ability while I am attempting to further fortify my defenses. As I shared this with another friend, she asked if it would be such a ‘bad’ thing for those defenses to come tumbling down. My reply was yes and no.

Yes. Who wants to be vulnerable? Who wants to be exposed for potential heartbreak?
No. The defenses only serve the purpose to separate and divide.

Similarly, the defense of the Torah protects and separates.

Jesus and his rebel friends were often accused of ‘breaking the law’, but the truth is that they were intentionally demolishing the defensive system that separated all people, the “blameless” and the sinner, from the Torah, from God, and from one another as neighbors.

It was for the sake of humankind, but particularly those Jesus refers to as the ‘least of these’ in our Matthew text. Jesus is warning us that we are expected to see, to bear witness to, to love, and to serve ALL people because Christ is within ALL people despite: their need for food, clothing, shelter, and companionship, but also their race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, gender identity, sexuality, politics, socio-economic status, religion, creed, their past, or etc.

This teaching was and remains quite offensive to many persons, but especially those who understand themselves as the “keepers of the law” or the “blameless” who accept the demonization of the ‘least of these’ and the lie these can ‘contaminate’ them.
Another example of this teaching is the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

The ‘law-abiding’ religious were fearful that such association would jeopardize their relationship with the other ‘law-abiding religious’ and God.
BUT at the moment of Jesus’ death upon the cross, the curtain in the Temple which separated the Holy of Holies (where God resided) and the people (or world) was torn in two. Thus, the defensive barrier between God and people was no more.

Our Romans text, however, reminds us of one defense system that continues to exist within and around the Torah… Love.

“Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law”.

So, let us be honest. It can be a challenge to use our finances, time, energy, and talents to tear down the defensive walls. And in the words of Garth Brooks (Thicker than Blood):

Why can’t we see the walls we can’t see through?

May our eyes be open to the walls we cannot see and cannot see through.
May we tear down said walls.
May we see Christ in ALL people.
May we reach out in love to ALL people, especially the “least of those”.
May we serve ALL people, again especially the “least of those”.
May we reflect Christ and God’s love to ALL through word and deed, big and small.
Amen.

Scriptures were Matthew 25: 34-40 and Romans 13: 7-10.
 
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Posted by on April 4, 2019 in Sermon Summaries

 

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Brave or Foolish?

I have often been described as stoic, which is essentially a pleasant term for one who has successfully created walls to safe-guard against their vulnerabilities. However, I will be pulling back the veil and permitting a quick peek behind the curtain.

While on vacation to Arizona, I re-connected with a friend and old flame who noted his pride in my bravery and determination. It is not a foreign sentiment, but rather one echoed by family, loved ones, and friends during the last decade who have described me as courageous, admirable, and determined. Although I will grant ‘determined’ as a personal trait because it sounds better than ‘stubborn’, I often question the courageous and the admirable.

On Facebook, I recently read a quote that echoes in my mind and heart as I continually discern my situation, my vocation, and my life in light of these descriptions. Unfortunately the exact image and language seems loss to the void that is social media, but the sentiment is simple:

Brave and foolish are similar, which is what makes life hard.

Perhaps this decade has been foolish, or stupid, not courageous and admirable. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2019 in Discernment