If Moses Prayed Today

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RCL – Year A – Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost – Reformation Sunday – October 26, 2014
Deuteronomy 34:1-12 with Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17
Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18 with Psalm 1 and
1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
Matthew 22:34-46

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Hearing the Name of God

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The God who just is.
If it were only that simple . . .

Once upon a time, it was.
Time and tradition have convoluted
the simplicity of a straight forward revelation.

Over the generations vowels have been lost
leaving us to guess at the pronunciation
not to mention the nature of the One who really Is.
An effort at piety and respect of the Holy taken to extreme
distanced the people from God to the point
where Another was sent to claim the title.
Jesus embodied the I Am fully:

light of the world
the One before Abraham even existed
the gate to salvation
the good shepherd who lays down his life
the resurrection and the life
the way, the truth, and the life
the true vine apart from which there is no life
the One before whom even soldiers fall

Let us not bury this One who is, who was, and is to come
in unnecessary pious traditions lest we forget
how to speak the Holy Name

This poem is published in Barefoot Theology on pages 176-77.

RCL – Year A – Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost – October 19, 2014
Exodus 33:12-23 with Psalm 99 or
Isaiah 45:1-7 with Psalm 96:1-9, (10-13)
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Matthew 22:15-22

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Between Idolatry and Rejoicing There is Gratitude

2014-10-08 16.13.59Something odd happened this morning. Odd in a good way. I had prepared a group activity for my usual Wednesday morning group called, “Building Hope.” It turned into more than a simple activity for my patients. It actually went far deeper than I would have ever guessed. The exercise  is a simple activity in which I had a tree without leaves painted on a poster board. I handed out apple cutouts and ask the patients to write down whatever they feel grateful for. We had a good conversation about gratitude and how it shifts one’s focus to positive things even while it doesn’t change the negatives. Then we stuck the apples on the tree.

Next, I handed out leaf cutouts and asked them to write on the leaves anything they wanted to let go off, let fall off like the autumn leaves. We talked about these things as we stuck them on the ground around the bottom of the tree. And then the hard part of the discussion. What keeps you from letting go? What prevents you from feeling grateful for what you do have and are able to do? They named a few things like illness, envy, frustration, and habit.

This little exercise made me think about the ancient Israelites and the early Christians in Philippi. My patients weren’t exactly creating idols or rejoicing in the Lord, but the underlying issues are rather similar. Gratitude came easy for them. They could name many things they were grateful for from the beautiful fall weather to family and friends who love them. Recognizing what they needed to let go of was also easy. They did not hesitate to write down guilt, anger, shame, illness. But, ultimately, they could not see gratitude as a way of letting go. It’s hard. Sometimes too hard is what they said.

I think of those Israelites who had so much to be grateful for, so much to rejoice in. But they had forgotten the parting of the sea, the manna from heaven, the water from stone, and the smoky lightning and thunder that accompanied Moses giving them the ten commandments. They could only see the wilderness around them and they were desperate for a god they could see and touch.

I suspect that those folks in Philippi were having trouble remembering all that God had done for them as well. They were probably only seeing the arguments over how to live as a proper follower of Jesus, the persecution of believers, and the difficulty of going a new way. Otherwise, why would the advice have been to rejoice in the Lord always? I’d bet there was some yearning for a god they could see and touch, too.

And, honestly, I’m right there with them. I want answers to the evils of ISIS, global warming, ebola, and war. There are days when I can only see wilderness for miles. It’s lonely and scary. I’m not about to build a golden calf to help me let go and make room for gratitude and joy, but I will admit that I’ve worshipped lesser gods with flimsy altars. They sneak in without needing much of an invitation. They take over quickly with their illusions of satisfying the deep hunger and the ever-present yearning for a peace that will last.

These little gods that create the illusion of happiness are a poor substitute for the God who saves and truly does offer peace and joy. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s all about gratitude. If the Israelites had focused on all that God had blessed them with and given thanks right there in the middle of the wilderness instead of seeing only their fears, they would have had no need of a golden calf. If the Philippians had remembered all that Jesus had done for them instead of focusing on whatever issue was dividing them, they would not have needed a reminder to rejoice in the Lord. If I remember God’s deep and abiding love for me, then I have no need of the little gods that populate my life. Like my patients realized this morning, gratitude doesn’t change the bad stuff, but it helps to make us less afraid to let go enough to make room for change in us.2014-09-17 11.13.15-1

I’m still thinking about this need to remember and be grateful in an active kind of way. There would be so much more room for joy and gentleness if worry didn’t take up so much room. These things won’t fix the problems in the world immediately, but what if everyone followed the advice given to the Philippians so long ago?

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

RCL – Year A – Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost – October 12, 2014
Exodus 32:1-14 with Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23 or
Isaiah 25:1-9 with Psalm 23
Philippians 4:1-9
Matthew 22:1-14

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More About the Bread

I am committed to having communion bread that is free of common allergens so all may partake of the one bread. This recipe does contain eggs. I’m still working on one without eggs. In the meantime…

Grain, Gluten, Corn, Dairy, Soy, Nut, and Yeast Free Communion Bread

¼ c tapioca flour

¼ c coconut flour

2 tbls garbanzo bean flour

or ½ c plus 2 tbsp of flour blend of your choice or just coconut flour

2 tbsp ground flax seed (option, gives a texture of whole grain bread)

1 tsp baking soda2014-10-04 19.14.39

1 tsp of guar gum (optional)

½ tsp salt

6 eggs, separated

¼ c coconut oil or coconut spread

1/2 cup coconut milk (I used So Delicious coconut creamer)

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1/2 to 1 tbsp honey (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line pan with parchment or coat with oil

Stir together dry ingredients. Add the egg yolks to the dry mixture and set aside the whites. Melt the coconut oil or spread and add it with the coconut milk and vinegar. Beat on medium until well mixed. Set aside and beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the other mixture. Poor into pan. Bake 30-35 min. Cool in pan 5 min and then cool on rack.

I doubled this recipe to make 2 small loaves and 2 regular loaves. Cubing the 2 regular loaves yields enough for communion bread for 200.

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Praying the Ten Commandments

Voice 1:          Then God spoke all these words:  I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
Voice 2:          Your people yearn for your voice! The ancient stories fade from our memories along with a sense of your nearness. It is so easy to worship gods of our making and believe that they will strengthen us.
All:                  Forgive us for the shallowness of our faith. Forgive us when we worship our small gods of money, success, power, drugs, sex, self-hatred or whatever turns our hearts from you. Remind us that you are the God who saves, who strengthens, who loves us without end.

Voice 1:          You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
Voice 2:          May your name be praised at the rising of the sun and it’s setting! How easily words tumble from our lips with so little attention given them. We have forgotten that words have power to hurt or to heal, and that some words are have sacred meaning.
All:                   Forgive us for letting the power of your name be forgotten. Forgive us for using words to bring pain to you, to our neighbors, and to ourselves. Remind us that you are the Word who lived among us that we might have life abundantly.

Voice 1:          Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. For six days you shall labor and do all your work.
Voice 2:          In your wisdom, you made the sabbath for us. You knew that we would forget to rest, to take time to be still with you. How foolish we are to try to live without time to rest in you.
All:                  Forgive us for our foolish ways. We work too hard. Over-schedule ourselves and can barely take an hour to worship you. Remind us of the rest and renewal that comes from time spent being still and knowing that you are God.

Voice 1:          Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
Voice 2:          We give you thanks for those who can honor their parents without hesitation. At the same time we pray for those who have difficult relationships with their parents, for those children who are lost in the world of addiction or illness and cannot honor their parents, and for those children who have no parents.
All:                Forgive us when we fail to honor our elders. Forgive us when we fail to reach beyond our own families and into the community to extend care, compassion, and love to those fathers and mothers who are alone in the world. Remind us that you created us to be in relationship to one another and to care for those in need.

Voice 1:          You shall not murder.
Voice 2:         All people of the earth are created in your image and you have called us to love one another. While murder may seem far from our daily living, there are those among us whose loved ones have been murdered, and those whose loved ones have committed murder. Yet we often remain silent in the face of violence in our world, in our country, in our community, in our homes.
All:                 Forgive us when we fail to see you in the face of another. Forgive us when we choose what is over what could be. Remind us that you are the one who gives peace, peace that brings hope, healing, and life for all your people.

Voice 1:          You shall not commit adultery.
Voice 2:          You shaped us and breathed life into us. You desire for us to live in loving relationships and for some this is celebrated in marriage. Society makes it easy for us to believe that marriage and other relationships are not sacred and that we may do as we desire.
All:                  Forgive us when we fail to see you in our relationships, when we do not treat one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. Forgive us also for those times when we make harsh judgements about those whose failures become public. Remind us that you call us to love our neighbors as ourselves, to live lives of respect, compassion, forgiveness, and kindness.

Voice 1:          You shall not steal.
Voice 2:          You know us more deeply than we know ourselves, knowing our needs and our wants. Sometimes the world seems so unfair and we entertain the impulse to take what is now ours. Others feel they have no choice but to steal in order to survive.
All:                  Forgive us for those moments when we take what we do not need. Forgive us for not feeding those who are hungry, leaving them little choice but to steal in order to feed themselves or their children. Remind us that those you have blessed with more are the ones whom you have asked to bless others.

Voice 1:          You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Voice 2:          Your wisdom displays our foolishness so clearly! We are ruled by our emotions so very often, letting petty differences ruin relationships. From the time of Eve we have struggled with taking responsibility rather than placing blame.
All:                  Forgive us for those moments when our neighbor seems to be our enemy. Forgive us for those times when we let fear or anger determine our actions, causing pain to another. Remind us that you have given us a spirit of self-control and a call to live in love.

Voice 1:          You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Voice 2:          How well you know the human heart! You know how difficult it can be for us to be content with what we have and how easy it is for us to believe that what others have is far better than what we have.
All:                  Forgive us for all the times we want what others have and fail to give you thanks for what we do have. Remind us that our value is in who we are, whose we are, and not in what we possess.

Voice 1:          When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.”
Voice 2:          Long ago you gave these commandments to your people because you knew the challenges they would face. You also knew their desire was to love and serve you even when they fell short. Not much has changed in human nature in the thousands of years since.
All:                  Forgive us when we think we can get through life on our own, having no need of you. Forgive us when we forget that you desire only good things for us and our own choices often get in the way of that goodness. Remind us of your power and presence, your loving-kindness, and your steadfast love which endures forever. Amen.

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RCL – Year A – Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost – October 5, 2014
Psalm 19 or
Isaiah 5:1-7 with Psalm 80:7-15
Philippians 3:4b-14
Matthew 21:33-46

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The Authority Question

2014-08-30 17.16.26Here’s the thing:  I’m stuck on this question the high priests asked Jesus, “By what authority are you doing these things…?” I’ve tried not to focus on it because the texts this week are full of other images and ideas that would be so much more fun to explore. Yet, no matter which direction I head in, I am confronted with this authority question.

When the high priests asked Jesus about his authority to do what he was doing, I think they asked out of fear and anxiety rather than any real need for Jesus to answer. Well, that, and they really wanted to be able to charge him with blasphemy. I’d like to think I wouldn’t be standing with priests whose own power and position were threatened by Jesus, but I don’t really know. Jesus was doing some pretty spectacular things – healing the sick, curing the lame, breaking religious law. It would be scary to observe, especially if you were unable to see that Jesus was acting with divine authority. Even if you did recognize God in Jesus, it would still be frightening to witness his actions. The priests were pretty certain they knew who God was and how God acted in the world. Then along comes Jesus and turns everything they’d been taught upside down. I don’t know, but I can see how it would be possible to be blinded by fear and anxiety and really want to keep things the same.

However, the priests’ motivation for asking the question isn’t where the crux of the matter is for me. It’s the question of authority, more specifically, divine authority. Those of us who make up the Body of Christ, the Church, need to take this question seriously. We claim the power and presence of Christ. We assume that God has given us the authority to act in Christ’s place, on Christ’s behalf. That’s a big deal and we don’t pay enough attention to it.

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Several years ago I took a youth ministry class with Kenda Creasy Dean. At one point she said, “If you call yourself a Christian, then you are the closest thing to Jesus Christ anyone will encounter.” This has stuck with me. It’s a pretty intense way to think about whose authority we carry in this world. I wish we would all think about it more. Not necessarly for the good works we do, but for the works we leave undone.

Think about it this way:  By whose authority do we walk by the homeless person on the corner? By whose authority do we turn away from those who suffer without proper healthcare or mental health care? By whose authority do we exclude LGBT people? By whose authority do we ignore or condone violence? By whose authority do we pretend racial injustice doesn’t exist? By whose authority do we continue to overlook the pain of our neighbors?

On the other hand, I would bet that it’s been a really long time since anyone has been so discomforted by a congregation standing for justice that he or she has asked, “By what authority do you do these things?”

It all comes down to the authority we have been given and what we do with it. Are we, the people of God, moving closer to the Promised Land or are we stuck in the desert moaning and groaning about what used to be? Are we working for justice or being content with what we have in our little corner of the world? Are we loving our neighbors as well as ourselves or harboring anger and hatred? Are we doing what Christ would have us do or taking a more comfortable route?

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…

RCL – Year A – Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost – September 28, 2014
Exodus 17:1-7 with Psalm 78:1-4,
12-16 orEzekiel 18:1-4, 25-32 with Psalm 25:1-9
Philippians 2:1-13
Matthew 21:23-32

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Wandering in the Desert

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Having spent a week in the Arizona desert surrounded by memories of other times and places, I have greater sympathy for those ancient Israelites. The heat of the sun and the strange, twisted nostalgia that loss brings conspire to make the past much better than it was. Looking around at the dusty landscape makes one question how any life thrives there, let alone human life.

There is something else that lives in the desert, though. If it’s possible to stop and take a deep breath, there is an austere beauty. The mountains in the distance whisper of mysteries long forgotten. The spirit of this place—ancient, simmering, hidden—points toward a holiness. It is impossible to hide from God in desert places, but it is very easy to forget God’s presence, God’s abundance, and clamor for more than what is.

The mistake is in thinking that water will quench the thirst that seems constant or that a bit of manna will quench the hunger. It is only in the moments of quiet stillness that a soul can be satisfied. What if all those on that ancient journey took a moment to look around, to appreciate their freedom, to recognize God’s presence with them, to imagine the good things God had in store for them. To do all these things and give thanks instead of crying out for more, and more, and more. What if we all did the same?

I’m not a fan of the desert, but I do appreciate it’s beauty and the tenacity of life that grows there. I also think everyone should wander through a desert at least once just to realize how precious and fragile her or his life really is… and to get a sense of God’s abiding presence in the barren places.

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RCL – Year A – Fifteen Sunday after Pentecost – September 21, 2014
Exodus 16:2-15 with Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45 or
Jonah 3:10-4:11 with Psalm 145:1-8
Philippians 1:21-30
Matthew 20:1-16

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