Clegg Gardens with my Sunday dog-walking buddies. Millie is happy. Dogs pant and wag, "Life is good! Yeah!"
Too much for just one sermon snippet:
Acts 2:1-21 for Pentecost
"...The fire teaches us that some things must be turned to ash
for new things to rise up.
The fire teaches us that some ideas and traditions are
best used as fuel for creating what comes next.
The fire teaches us that tiny green buds will find a way
through thick, dry ash after every forest fire.
The fire of Pentecost frightens us out of worrying and wondering
what we do now that Jesus has gone away.
The fire of Pentecost puts words in our mouths
before we’ve considered if they’re divine or drunk.
The fire of Pentecost reminds us that what is most
powerful and passionate within us is the same
mysterious spark of creativity that can spin our lives out of control.
We are infinitely complex creatures, and what is our up-building can
next be our un-doing.
Our convictions that give us purpose and focus
can grow into elitism that gets in the way of our
listening to and learning from others.
Our single-mindedness that helps us get things done
can rage into obsessions that keep us from
building relationships or trusting others.
We need fire – we need the spark, the heat, the power.
We need passion and conviction and focus.
And we can have too much of any good thing.
The ones who speak in tongues at 9am due to mental or chemical illness
remind us that the line between passion and obsession is thin,
and it can shift..."
Psalm 1, Norman Fischer's Zen Translation
For this one is like a tree planted near a stream
That gives forth strong fruit in season
And whose leaf doesn't wither
And whose branches spread wide.
"...perhaps the Psalmist gazed at an olive grove while writing this passage or snacked on dates from the evergreen palm plant.
But we live through Indiana winters and our trees know that withering leaves are actually a smart survival strategy, not an expression of distress or ill health.
I’m not splitting hairs for kicks, I think the metaphors we use matter. They shape us and our values.
Believing we must be like an evergreen tree, constantly vibrant, might set us up for failure.
Seeing ourselves in the maple or oak honors the reality, the inevitability,
that we have seasons of depression or insecurity or doubt or failure.
And like the bare branches of a winter tree,
these seasons of our lives can be necessary for our own survival,
and our return to flourishing when spring comes again.
Our dry times, our seasons of sorrow, our winter weariness or periods of drought or doubt
can all bring us greater compassion, deeper wisdom, clearer priorities, and a tried, true, robust faith..."
"We four-season Hoosiers can see the gifts of winter and leaf-dropping
because we know how our fields need to be fallow,
our trees need to conserve energy,
and all bodies need to rest.
May we be
trees planted near a stream
That give forth strong fruit in season
And whose leaves wither as needed
And whose branches spread wide.
May we feel God’s presence and God’s blessings
when our branches are heavy with fruit,
and when they are bare and resting.
May we feel God’s presence and God’s blessings
when we’re ripe with charity, joy, peace and patience
and when we’re hurting and withdrawn and needy and upset..."
Visiting my parents in April I was blown away by the beauty of Joyfield Farm, their 30-year life partner. I tested a fun feature on my phone's camera and came up with this impressive (yes, crooked, those lines are actually a swing) panorama.
Years of climbing these branches and swinging in this swing mean my love lives in all seasons here. But spring - after yet another winter in Minnesota - set my heart soaring even before I lifted my feet and pumped my legs.
Then I went back to visit a month later and met heaven again. Suddenly April seemed bare in comparison. And yet April was enough. April fed my body and soul. May is icing on a satisfying cake.
Oh that I may cherish April and celebrate May and even rejoice in January in the seasons of my heart - saying goodbyes, saying hellos - not just the seasons of the year. The seasons of relationships, projects, jobs, habits. To celebrate the more and cherish the meager. To reach for better and rejoice in good enough. To love now, and now, and now.
1 Samuel 1, for Mother's Day
"...Year after year Hannah prays for a child. Years of waiting, years without signs, years without words of hope, do not dissuade her from praying, year after year, because Hannah’s desire for a child is so deep.
She goes to the temple, even though, as a woman, she must stay on the edge. She does not allow this statement of her inferiority to silence her strong voice, but instead acts boldly on her own behalf. Hannah is audacious enough to make a bargain with God – “give me a son and I will give him back to you.” As Hannah speaks to God – mouthing her words because they are only intended for God – the priest Eli decides she must be drunk. But Hannah, we know, is a bold soul, and is not intimidated. She tenaciously responds, “Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety!”
Hannah will not be silenced.
Hannah’s story offers us a chance to reflect on the limits of our power, and the power of our hope. Humans, especially those with wealth and privilege, live on this earth with immense power over our lives and our surroundings. We can travel throughout the cosmos. We can clone life. We can kill a whole country at once. We have God-like power over life and death. When those of us with money have fertility challenges, we can spend tens of thousands of dollars on hormone treatment, in vitro fertilization – even find a surrogate mother. What would we need prayer – or God - for?
But our power is limited. Many with or without money still do not have longed-for children, or other loving, intimate relationships. Children, or other satisfying, purposeful engagement with this world through work or art. We still can’t buy health or comfort or love. No amount of wealth and privilege can ensure a life without struggle and loss. In fact, the more we accumulate, the more precarious our lives feel because we are living so dangerously far from the simple, solid ground....."
People call Lafayette "Lay Flat" but I'm now biking the biggest hill of my life. Seriously. Heading up 18th St, two blocks from my home, is the biggest hill I've ever biked. Who'd have thought the Wabash River Valley would best the Mississippi River Valley? Maybe you've taken Franklin across the Mississippi into St. Paul. That hill kinda kicks my butt. Well, I used to think that. This Lay Flat hill kicks my butt for real.
Wanna know the best part? This hill is on my way to work. At the church. The biggest hill of my life is my route to work at the Lafayette Church of the Brethren. There's a sermon in that, but I hope the metaphor isn't going to bear much fruit.
But even if this hill is a sign of things to come, I' ve got a plan. 75% of the way up my first time I thought "either I can swallow my pride and walk this *%$# bike, or I can rejoice in two weeks when the hill is clearly easier." So I'm gonna keep biking this hill with faith in the already and not yet. Now there's a sermon.
Oh, and riding back down is fantastic.
Fences and walls diminish freedom, right?
The porch of my new home (see top left) was unbounded and paradoxically it didn't feel free - it felt undefined. So I created a fence of plants, and, with my landlady's blessing, planted flowers. Boundaries, expectations, limitations can create the possibility of freedom. Having every option available can be more overwhelm than opportunity. Now the porch has purpose, and the milk crates are an infinite source of conversation with the constant passersby on this busy street.
Luke 1:8-15 and the rest of the Christmas story from Matthew and Luke
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace and goodwill to all. Yes, it’s May, but come to Bethlehem and see, Christ whose birth the angels sing. As we launch into a year of interim life together, it seems right to start with Christmas, as if the calendar year – not just our interim year – was beginning. And the Christmas story is familiar and beloved, and in the midst of huge changes, we find comfort in what is familiar and beloved."
"...just like the angels, we bring messages to one another – we might not relate to the angelic concept of perfection or purity, but that’s not what these Christmas angels are about either. These angels offer cautionary words that the magi and Mary and Joseph need to hear. We can do that with each other, too. “I’ve been down that road before, and believe me, you don’t want to go there,” we can say. Perhaps the road is revenge or addiction or believing mainstream culture’s manipulations about who we are to be and how we are to live.
And sometimes we heed the angel message, but other times we have to try the road for ourselves, and then we can be angels of comfort for one another.
Just like Gabriel, we bring essential messages to one another – sharing wisdom from our own life stories, from divine communication, from intuitive leadings. The search committee is actively discerning, and they need us to do the same! What do you hear in your prayers? Your dreams? Does the church show up in your mind and heart through the week as you journal, walk the dog, wash the dishes? Listen for God’s nudging and share your message, angels!
Just like the heavenly host, bring glad tidings of great joy. Where is dawn breaking forth in your life this spring? Where are you finding rejuvenation, mystery or freedom? We need one another’s awe and good news...."