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Dead Enough

As the entire world is impacted by the COVID 19 pandemic, practicing social distancing and isolating, we are consumed with concern for the increasing confirmed cases and those deceased. Our scriptures are also consumed with the concept of death.

Ezekiel has a vision of dry bones within a valley, which I envision to be a remote desert similar to familiar spots in Arizona. These dry bones are the most extreme depiction of death, and yet God orders Ezekiel to prophesy that these may become covered in flesh again. But, something is missing.

In our gospel, Jesus receives word that a friend, named Lazarus, is ill. Jesus, however, waits several days until after Lazarus’ death before returning to Bethany, which is on the out-skirts of Jerusalem. Upon Jesus’ arrival he is moved, disturbed in spirit, and weeps in grief before ordering Lazarus, who had been dead for four days, to rise and come out. Lazarus does, but he is still bound.

As I pondered these scriptures, in light of these times, I recalled a segment from True Terror with Robert Englund. It shares historical reports and accounts of strange events, this particular story occurred in New Orleans in 1875 during the small pox epidemic.

A young man was declared dead, but he was alive and aware of his surroundings although unable to communicate. He was placed in a wooden coffin, loaded into a wagon, and it was departing for the local cemetery. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2020 in Sermons, Uncategorized

 

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Burn It Down! Arise!

While pondering Ash Wednesday, our Lenten journey, and the Resurrection at Easter, I am captivated by the imagery of fire and flames, the ashes left behind, and the mythical Phoenix.

We are temporary.
Ash Wednesday echoes to each person ‘remember that you are ash and to ash you shall return’. It reminds us that our physical bodies, minds, and lives are temporary, for in the grand scheme of time our existence is a mere blink of the eye.

Despite this brief existence, we are tempted to extended it through becoming legends and lifting ourselves onto a delusional pedestal built of pride, ego, and presumed (self) righteousness.

Burn it Down!
Lent is a journey of burning that delusional pedestal down to nothing but ashes.

Lent is a journey forged with vulnerability and honest self-reflection seeking to destroy that pedestal and additional barriers distracting from, challenging, and hindering our relationship with God, neighbor, and self. These barriers include, but are not limited to: Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Vulnerable Authenticity (Ash Wed)

WELCOME to my most beloved church season… Lent.

It is not beloved because of its sober tone or the gloom and doom, but despite it. It is beloved because of its authenticity.

Generation X and younger have especially demanded that those identifying as Christin, their faith communities and denominations, as well as the church universal be authentic and transparent. Their participation or lack thereof is often rooted in these demands.

It is not about ever-changing, energy-charged, entertaining worship.
It is not about the music, sound system, or multi-media.
It is not about coffee bars or accommodations.

Again, it is about authenticity.
But, it is challenging because it requires vulnerability and self-reflection.

Thus, Lent is our annual emphasis on removing the masks that hide our self-centeredness, insecurities, flaws, failures, and less than Christ-like thoughts, words, and deeds which harm our relationship with God, neighbor, and self.

This focus includes NOT practicing our piety and presumed righteousness before others. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2020 in Sermons, Uncategorized

 

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Quote

In the United States of America we associate July with our declaration of independence and the freedom it symbolizes from the British across the pond in 1776. We celebrate each year with family, friends, cook outs, and of course fireworks.

Although Martin Luther was a German monk in 16th century Germany, his teachings and example can guide our faithful freedom and witness in 21st century America.

Martin Luther, rooted in scripture similar to our recent Galatians texts, taught about the freedom of a Christian. Luther argued that we have been released from the chains of sin and the shackles of obligation under the law, in order to boldly live into and live out our baptismal promises.

Luther taught that since we are released from said chains and shackles by God’s pure grace, we are enabled and empowered to respond to said grace by:

  • proclaiming Christ in word and deed,
  • seeking justice,
  • acting with compassion and mercy,
  • loving and serving all people but especially the vulnerable and the ‘least of these’.

Luther taught that we have duel citizenship in the Two Kingdoms:
Civil Kingdom and Kingdom of God.

  • We are called to be involved in our civil, social world but not necessarily to conform to it.
  • We are called to be involved in the political process for the sake of the gospel.
  • We are called to hold governments and their leadership accountable.
  • We are called to usher in the Kingdom of God in the here and now, through boldly living into and living out our baptismal promises.
  • We are called to embody the mercy, compassion, grace, and presence of God to all people, but especially the most vulnerable and the ‘least of these’.

Luther, however, did not simply teach and preach these principles.
He embodied these in his life.

Luther served on the town council. He had a reputation of standing firm for the vulnerable.

  • The town council, with the influence of Luther, established the first joint government-church operated community chest to provide resources to the most vulnerable.
  • On another occasion, Luther feared a town council decision did not benefit the most vulnerable. He applied pressure for the council to reconsider and overturn the decision by resigning. Due to Luther’s popularity and influence, the council reversed their decision and Luther resumed his position.

During 1527, the plague swept through Wittenberg and Luther was questioned regarding who had the freedom to flee and who had the responsibility to remain caring for the ill. Luther argued that all Christians should accept the responsibility to care for the ill, but that government leaders, clergy, and those with medical knowledge had an obligation to care for the ill. Thus, Martin Luther and his wife, Katharina Von Bora, remained in Wittenberg providing medical and pastoral care to the ill in their home.

May we, freed from the chains of sin and the shackles of the law, boldly live into and live out our baptismal promises in the Two Kingdoms, for the sake of the gospel. Amen.

Christian Freedom in the Two Kingdoms

 

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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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Grand Reversal: Blessings and Woes

Our Gospel narrative this morning is recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, but with significant and striking differences. These differences tell us about their perspectives on Jesus and his mission (or ministry).

Matthew’s account is more infamous as the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount.

Luke’s account is the Blessings and the Woes from the Sermon on the Plain (“level place“), which is significant. In his account, we experience three primary emphasizes that are the foundation of Luke’s imagine of God and his mission/ministry.

But, before we dive more deeply into it, I want to caution us about a trap:
The desire to envision everything as dualistic, thus everything as “either or”:

  • Black or White
  • Good or Bad/Evil
  • Right or Wrong
  • Blessed or Cursed/Woeful

Scripture, Jesus’ teachings, and our life experiences teach us that this simplistic, dualistic viewpoint is not reflective of our reality. It does allow the extreme voices to be heard while ignoring and silencing the infinite shades of gray that exists in-between.

Lutheran teaching, however, embraces this grey scale with our teachings of the ‘paradoxes’ or the ‘both and’:

  • We are both sinner and saint.
  • We need both the law and gospel.
  • We live both in the civil realm and the divine realm (well, glimpses of it).
  • We are both blessed and cursed/woeful.

Thus, let us avoid the dualistic trap and I will explain further in a moment. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Elizabeth & Mary: Their Stories Shared

During Advent, we have been waiting for this moment…
We have been waiting for the moment when we are not talking about the end times OR some wild man yelling at us, calling us “brood of vipers” and asking “who warned you to flee from the wrath of God to come”.

This morning, we hear about the Jesus we long to receive…
the baby, who will be born in the manger.

We also hear of another important figure in our faith, John the Baptist, whose acknowledgement of Christ while in the womb made a way for the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth, the mother of John, was overcome with the Holy Spirit proclaiming she knows Mary is with child and that her child will be our Savior. Elizabeth’s proclamation led to the Holy Spirit overcoming Mary and giving her voice for the Magnificat.

Elizabeth and Mary are from a long line of woman who have experiences with the Holy Spirit, which enabled God to break into their lives and our world, particularly through the birth of their children.

This year, we have borne witness throughout our world about the need to hear the stories of women more fully. Therefore, although the focus is often on Jesus and John the Baptist, I will be lifting up the stories of Elizabeth and Mary that most people do not know. Their stories are recorded within the Bible, extra-Biblical writings, and church tradition.

I will begin with Elizabeth’s story. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2019 in Uncategorized