Thursday, August 31, 2023

I Wonder--August 31

 While getting ready for worship this weekend, I came across a story that I want to share with you from the Desert Fathers. It is a story about attending to the needs of another person in our community and church. 

The story goes like this. . . Some older men go to see Abba Poeman, and they ask him what should they do if they see a brother fall asleep during divine worship. "Shall we wake him up?" they inquire. The Abba smiles at them and offers his brothers this response: 

"As for me, when I see a brother who is falling asleep during the Office (during worship), I lay his head on my knee and let him rest."

This is a story about attentiveness and our willingness to care for those who need just a quiet place or moment. Attentiveness stretches out toward care--deep care. I don't know a single Christian who has not told me that they are worn down by the burdens of life and faith. Yet what are we called to do?

As the Body of Christ we are full of love; full of the revelation of it. We are full of the experience of being loved by Jesus in such a way that the hustle and bustle of the day meets the warmth of God. As Jesus taught us by his very presence, ministry stop, ministry holds, attends to all the fatigue and struggle. This the place where God is found. 

So as you get ready for worship this weekend, and as you finish another week, perhaps take a second and notice who needs your attentiveness? Who needs your care? 

Thursday, August 24, 2023

I Wonder--August 24

In a world that gives so little space, how do we find room to forgive? 

It seems that the slightest offense sets off a chain reaction or rebuke, rebuttal, and eventual punishment. The preferred punishment of the day is exorcism from communion and relationship. Step out of line, and social fabric of relationship is destroyed--often completely. 

And if you think I am being hyperbolic. . . just look on social media or read your news feed. The proof is written all over the place.  

Society is quick to cut off all ties and lines of communication when someone sins against them--real or imaginary even in the slightest way. And so this week I have been wondering about how we recover that relationship? I wonder how we forgive? 

H.R. Mackintosh spent a great deal of time writing and thinking about forgiveness as he taught in Scotland. The title of his book, The Christian Experience of Forgiveness, offers us a hint at what he believed and taught. He said:

"The real truth is that man's forgiveness, at its noblest, is no more than a faint echo or imitation of that eternal and transcendent Divine pardon made ours by Jesus, with which everything began."

If forgiveness on our part is an imitation of the forgiveness that takes place in Jesus at the moment of atonement, then perhaps the weight of Mackintosh's statement can help us offer grace and forgiveness to those who have wounded us? 

Maybe today spend a little time thinking about the implication of Mackintosh's words in your life? Does the weight of those words call you to change your thinking and living? 

Monday, August 21, 2023

I Wonder--August 21

I am a lectionary preacher; it is how I was taught in seminary. I read the daily lectionary often and I use it for devotions in some of the meetings in which I lead. I find its rhythms and cycle help carry me through the scriptures in a specific way. 

But I am not the only person of faith to have a 'lectionary' that they follow. This year, on October 7, members of the Jewish faith will gather together for Simchat Torah. 

This is the day when the cycle of Torah readings come to its end, and the new cycle, for the new year, begins again. On that day, the scrolls of the Torah will be paraded around the perimeter of the worship space to cheers and singing and even. . . dancing. Seven times this will take place. And then, as quickly and passionately as the celebrating started, the celebration will end. 

The scroll will be placed back where it belongs before the congregation. Folks will return to their seats--usually winded and place their prayer shawls back into place. Then the worship service will continue in its normal flow. 

Once, at the close of the dancing and singing, a rabbi stepped forward at the end of the parade I just described. He adjusted the microphone and said to the church:

"You know, sometimes those of us who are here every week get so used to things that we forget how important they are."

I wonder, what spiritual practice, what act of devotion, do you engage in and yet you can forget how important they are? How transformational they are? How needed they are in your life? 

Perhaps take a moment today and notice . . . and as you notice, maybe try a little singing to the Lord. . .  

Thursday, August 17, 2023

I Wonder--August 17

I am freshly back from a week in Black Mountain, NC. Jennifer, JonMark, Emma, and I spent the weekend away celebrating our 24th anniversary. It was a wonderful time of family and friendship as we shopped, ate, and enjoyed ice cream together. 

I look this picture one afternoon as I sat out front of the house while reading my book. This tree strikes me as symbolic of the struggle that we face as the church and as individual Christians living and working in this world. 

Our host told us that about this tree when I asked. But before I tell you what he said, take a moment and examine the tree for yourself. . . What do you see? What has happened to the tree? . . . (I will wait.)

I was told that this tree was assaulted by one of the local black bears who frequent the area. This bear enjoys the berries that live on the trees all over the mountainside. I learned that this particular bear came up to the tree and, well, broke it half while searching for more berries to enjoy. Now what is left of the tree blows in the wind and sits before you as it sat before me that day. 

And I wonder if you feel like that tree? Assaulted by life? Broken? You were going about your day and suddenly something as sharp and painful as a bear breaking a tree came in your life and split you nearly in half. . . 

As I sat there thinking about this tree and enjoying the cool afternoon breeze, I began to wonder about what steps I should take when I feel as broken by life as this tree? The tree looks like I feel sometimes--and I bet it looks like you feel at times also. 

If that is the case then maybe take some time, right now, to talk to God about it. Be honest about feeling broken and wounded by something life as painful as a bear attack. 

God will listen. In fact, I think that God enjoys listening to us share our hearts. Perhaps that might be away to move away from the wound and toward healing in Christ? 

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

I Wonder--August 9

For the last couple of day I have been thinking and reflecting on something that I read from G.K. Chesterton. He said:

"The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.

That is a very strong statement and it is a very true statement. Take a moment and read it again. . . and by the way, it never gets easier to consider. I have read it every day this week and still feel the weight of the words on my heart. I have held up the work that I do in the name of the Lord to this quote and find myself burdened by the implications of it. 

We often say that being a Christian is hard (and it does take work to be faithful). Serving our community and practicing evangelism with our neighbors can be a challenge, but hold Chesterton's words up against those feelings right now and notice the shift that takes place in your heart. "It has been found difficult and left untried." 

As you look out into your community, and into the work that God calls you to, I wonder where are the places where you have left the faith 'untried?' Where are the places, and who are the people who need you to press in a little longer? 

I wonder how your witness and service to the Lord might shift as you consider the strong words of G.K. Chesterton? 

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

I Wonder--August 2

It has been one week since Jennifer and I made the trip to Slippery Rock to pick up JonMark. We drove to Pennsylvania on a Sunday afternoon, loaded to trailer on Monday morning, and returned to York on that same Monday evening. . . It has now been a week since he has been here. 

Part of that week has involved running around the area with him to help him get settled. We made 3 trips to the DMV to get his license transferred (the camera was broke. Never seen that happen. . .). We ran here and there buying groceries, a side table for his printer, and getting his mail transferred home. 

For this last week I have sat either in the passenger's seat or backseat of his Jeep--he loves driving. And as I sat there I did something that I don't often get the chance to do because I normally drive. I looked out the window at my neighbors and community. 

I noticed a lot-- far too much to comment on in this medium. But when I compare what I saw out the window with the food distribution program that Bethesda is leading, I remembered the words of Kate Bowler. There is so much need in this community.  

In a recent article, Kate, who teaches at Duke Divinity school, wrote this statement which has stayed with me. She said: 

"Bless you, you who are so worth caring for.
You are worth having your needs met.
Your pain does not disqualify you from love."

I wonder today if know what Kate is talking about? I wonder if you can feel the emotion of those words in your soul? Whom do you know who fits into these words because I can think of people who I saw this week as I rode with JonMark or sat with him in an office. . . Their pain, their need, does not disqualify them from your love and from your care? 

Take a moment today and notice them. . . What is God saying to you? 

I Wonder--November 29

I wonder if you would pray with me for someone you have not met?  Today I had my yearly physical with my doctor and it went very well. Heart...