Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday Five

Today's Friday Five is from Cindi Knox!
Hi! I’m Cindi Knox, and I regularly write for The Pastoral Is Political. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to have a guest spot on the Friday Five today!
mhvoSaIIn the USA, April 15 is the day that income tax filings are due. The forms are somewhat complicated, and can be quite frustrating at times. Every year, many Americans work on their returns on the very last day, hoping to get them into the mail on time to avoid penalties.
Now that the deadline is past, I’d like to think about the budgets in our own lives – not so much for money, but for time, energy, nourishment, fun, etc. How do we seek balance between the demands on us and the self-care we need?
With that in mind, I offer a tax-inspired Friday Five for our spiritual, emotional, physical, and social budgets:
1. Taxes: What events do you find “taxing” – taking energy, time, or otherwise being a bit of a drain? Maybe Christmas or Easter takes a lot out of you. Maybe it’s the annual meeting. Maybe it’s gearing up for confirmation. Or maybe it’s something that’s not church-related at all – maybe it’s doing laundry, or taking the car to the shop.

House Cleaning

Social Media

Web site Building

Lice Removal

2. Withholding: Aside from money, what do you put aside for when you need it? Do you save up vacation time for a needed rest? Or perhaps stash a little chocolate away for a needed binge? How do you prepare for those times when you just don’t seem to have enough?
Vacations Time & Diet Coke

3. Exemptions: What things do you do to take some time off or to get a break from the demands on your time and energy? Do you always rest on the Sundays after Christmas and Easter? Do you have a regular time to rest each week except for “dire emergencies”?

I try to take Fridays off (although I'm at the office now, so guess it doesn't always work!) The Monday after Easter the office is closed, same goes for the Monday after Christmas. I usually take the week after Christmas off to visit my family or my husband's family (both of which also include clergymembers, so post any holiday is when we celebrate)

4. Deductions: What things in your life help you get through trying times? Maybe you have a particular tea that helps you relax, or a pet that cuddles with you when things get rough. When you can’t “exempt” yourself, what lessens the burden?


I call my clergymom! She is a huge help to me and I'm not 100% sure what I would/will do without her, but luckily I don't have to stress about it just yet!

5. Refunds: How do you realize the benefits of what you do all year? What makes you feel “it’s all worth it”? Does your congregation celebrate a “Pastor Appreciation Day”? Do you feel the benefit when someone sends a note from college or their new home far away, telling you how much they miss worship with you?

The church celebrates my anniversary as Pastor, and gifts me during the Christmas Holiday. I have a folder full of cards of encouragement and thanks that I have received and often pull them out when I am feeling less than appreciated. I love getting messages from clergy friends, and former church attendees who just want to say hi and check in.

Please join in the fun! You can be as serious or silly as you want with the answers. If you play on your blog, please remember to post a link in the comments section below.
Rainy Day / Bills image courtesy Steve Woods

Friday, April 10, 2015

Random Friday Five

Today's Friday Five brought to us by revkarla

Playing Friday Five was my entree into the World of RevGals. I remember the first time I played, I felt so welcomed by everyone’s comments. That was in 2007. And even though most of my blogging is through writing prayers for the RGBP blog, I can’t imagine my life or my ministry without this community. I am so, so, so grateful.

So, since I am all weepy and happy thinking about this organization, I offer you this Random Friday Five:

1. What are you wearing right now? (a question from my first FF play.)
my "uniform" Jeans, stretchy knit top and a pair of Toms

2. What are you having for lunch (or dinner)? (another question from my first FF play.)

3. Share an experience of community that was transformative or precious to you.
Easter Sunday, I baptized an infant. I've been serving here almost two years, I've had 10 funerals, 1 wedding and FINALLY a baptism! 

4. Describe your favorite mug or glass.
It is a tie between a coffe mug that says believe, and a YCWP tumbler.

5. Give a shout out to a friend or colleague!
Terri @ has helped me a ton through my struggles at my first call and blog issues raised then. She is a light of encouragement to me and many others!
Thanks for playing, and let us know that you played in the comments with a link to your blog!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Easter Sunrise Sermon

April 5, 2015
Mark 16:1-8
Mark’s Gospel is usually my favorite gospel. I like the way that Mark paints the picture clearly, without too much fuss, and leaves the reader to draw a lot of their own connections.
That being said, with this the last chapter of Mark, I wish the author had been a bit more wordy.
Darkness has again fallen on the followers of Jesus. They have suffered through the betrayal and trial and death of Jesus only to gather together for the least celebratory Sabbath they had ever experienced. They grieved, they mourned, and they cried, wailed and feared. What will happen to us now? Who will we follow? How can we go on living?
At some point during the observation of Sabbath three women gathered together and formed a plan, a plan to honor their Lord as he should have been honored.
It is immediately after the Sabbath, which would be Saturday night, that these three women, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went out to the market place to buy spices for the anointing of Christ’s body. Things had happened in such a rush that the customs had not been followed. Jesus’ body had not be properly cared for and they wanted to remedy that as soon as possible.
As the dawn breaks they approach the tomb wondering who they will get to roll away the stone. With all of their prepping and planning they had not thought about this particular need. Perhaps they could find someone willing nearby. Perhaps the three of them working together could shift its weight. Perhaps one of them should go back to get one or two of the men to help.
As they looked up from their discussion they see that the stone has been moved already. They say nothing to each other but instead rush into the open tomb, no doubt to make sure that the body of their lord had not been disturbed. But what they saw their disturbed them quite a bit!
Inside they saw a young man, according to Mark, dressed in white. They are more than a little upset; in fact they are alarmed or shocked. Of course, you would be too, wouldn’t you?
This young man tells them not to fear, that Christ has risen and will meet his brothers in Galilee. He tells them to spread the good news to Peter and the disciples.
And filled with terror and amazement they flee from the tomb. They flee from the tomb and tell no one what they have seen.
This is how the oldest copies of Mark that we have end, with frightened women running away. They were scared that someone might have taken Christ’s body, perhaps even the young man they met at the tomb. But perhaps they were even more afraid that no one had taken him, that he had indeed risen. What would that mean?
And it makes me wonder, how often do we turn away now from the possibility of resurrection? How often do I let my fear keep me silent?
When a loved one is facing the darkness of depression, sure that the path they are on leads only to destruction, do we run in fear, or do we dare speak words of resurrection?
When we hear the words cancer, terminal, untreatable, do we turn in fear, or do we dare to speak words of resurrection?
When we hear of vicious murders of 147 people at Kenyan University do we shake our heads in disbelief, or do we dare speak words of resurrection?
When we learn about the hundreds of women and girls who are victims of sex trafficking on own very own Highway 20 and Highway 72 do we sign at the unfairness, or do we dare to speak words of resurrection?
When we look into the dark places, do we pull our purses tight and lock our doors, or do we dare to speak words of resurrection?
The king of glory came in the form of a man, and all the dark places, all of the Hades all of our personal hells were lighted up! There is no darkness we can know that Jesus has not already known. Death had no gate strong enough to keep him in and darkness was powerless at the coming of the light!
Darkness is powerless over the light of Christ! Speak words of resurrection into the darkest of nights, knowing that you cannot be anywhere Christ is not waiting on you to arrive.
Do not turn in fear from the challenges of resurrection friends; speak the words of truth, the words of resurrection into every dark place, knowing that his light wins, every time.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

Easter is coming quick!

I'm still working away on the two sermons for tomorrow morning.
In the meanwhile, Here are the two I preached last year:
John 20: 1-18
Have you ever watched the sunrise? This may sound like an odd question to ask at an” Easter Sunrise Service.” Have you ever REALLY watched a sunrise? I’ll be honest with y’all; I’ve never really watched the sun rise in East Tennessee. Perhaps I’ve still not adjusted to the Eastern Time zone, or perhaps I’ve just not taken the time. But in Texas I watched a lot of sunrises and sunsets. There was one particular place that I loved to watch the sunrise, Palo Duro Canyon. Palo Duro is a beautiful canyon near Amarillo, Texas sunk deep in the middle of the flattest land you can imagine. We used to camp there a lot, Steve and I even camped there on our honeymoon. There was just something so special about watching the sunrise. The sky would be pitch black and slowly it would turn navy. Then shades of green and orange would begin to streak the sky. Slowly a round red orange sun would climb over the edge of the canyon. I remember looking at the sunrise stretch across the horizon and being in awe. What was so amazing to me was thinking about the people who had yet to see the sunrise, people to the west who had no idea the wondrous sights God’ had in store for them that morning.
Mary, our scripture tells us, went to the tomb in the darkness of the morning, before the sunrise. She could not know what she would find when she arrived. She went in the darkness expecting to find the tomb and inside the tomb the body of her Lord. We do not know why she came, or even how many times she had come before in the past three days. She was full of grief, sadness, mourning, and she came to the tomb to grieve some more.
But when she arrived in those pre-dawn moments she was amazed. What she found was not what she was expecting to find. Instead of a sealed tomb with a body inside, she found that the stone had been rolled away and the Lord was missing! In the darkness she panics, in the darkness she fears. In the darkness she runs off to the disciples to seek help and guidance. In the darkness she seeks out anything that will calm her confusion. She found Peter and another disciple and tells them that the Lord is gone. His body has been taken. Peter and the other disciple run back to the tomb to see for themselves. And when they arrive they find the tomb as she has said, stone rolled back and empty, and they believed.
They believed, not the words of the Christ himself who said that he must die and be raised. No, they believed Mary, that the body had been taken. And so they, in the pre-morning hours return home, in their darkness. In their darkness of doubt, in their darkness of fear, in their darkness of grief.
We all have had times of darkness haven’t we? Some of us sit here this morning covered in that darkness. We have suffered loss, the loss of a mother, brother, child, friend. For some of us our grief is fresh, like Mary’s was that morning. Others have lived with the grief so long that it’s just a part of who we are now. Some of us are covered in other kinds of darkness, the darkness of poor health, addictions, divorce, unhealthy work environments. But what ever the case, we have all spent time in the dark, the dark that wraps so tightly that it threatens to suffocate.
I think that is where Mary was when she was left by herself at the Tomb just as the dawn was beginning to break. She sits there sobbing when she looks again into the tomb. And when she does yet another surprise awaits her. Two angles sitting in the tomb where Jesus had laid! They ask her “Woman, why are you crying?” And Mary’s grief is so deep, her darkness so encompassing that she doesn’t ask “Who are you?” or “What are you doing hear?” She doesn’t seem to register the angels at all. She replies only “They have taken my Lord and I don’t know where they have put him!” The she gets up and turns from the tomb.
In the midst of our darkness it’s hard to see where God is working. Two angles stand before Mary and she can only ask where Jesus’ body has been taken. When we are at our lowest and darkest we too can miss God at work.
When Mary turns from the tomb she sees Jesus, only she does not recognize him! She mistakes him for the gardener. And while she’s trying to process he speaks to her. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" And as the sun peaks over the horizon she replies in desperation, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." It is her last effort and understanding what is going on in human terms. It’s her last effort to find an answer that makes sense. In her darkest moment she even accuses this man of stealing Jesus’ body. Blaming Jesus for his own disappearance. Blaming God for being distant when he’s right there with her.
Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni!" which means teacher. And in that moment the sun rose in Mary’s life. In that moment the darkness was shattered by the full light of day! In that moment Mary realized that Jesus did not abandon her, he did not leave her alone, but rather he had conquered death!
In the same way we, in our darkness don’t always see the Lord, but he’s there. He’s there whispering our names, revealing himself to be the living risen One. Braking through the darkness and bringing with Him the full light and glory of God. He is here for us just as he was there in the garden for Mary. Offering us hope, love, and the promise of a new and better life. Do you see him? Can you hear him calling your name?
Mary did, and it turned her world around. She rushed to him, held him, and then she was given a job. “Go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Mary was told not to keep Jesus to herself, but to be the apostle to the apostles. She was told to bring the light into the darkened lives of the other followers of Jesus. She was to share the good news, that Christ is Risen, He is Risen indeed!
And once we have heard his voice, once we have stepped out of the darkness and into the dawn we too are given this charge. Mary cried out “I have seen the Lord.” And boldly proclaimed his resurrection. So we are to go out into the world with shouts of thanksgiving and praise, sharing the good news. Helping to break people out of the dark nights of their souls. Praise be to the risen Lord. Christ is Risen, He is Risen indeed!

10 Am service
John 20: 19-31
Ten men were sitting together in a house. Each one looked around at the others not knowing what to say. They were more than friends, more than brothers, yet they could not quite trust one another anymore. They had locked the doors because they couldn’t trust anyone else either.
This is where we find the disciples as our scripture lesson for this morning begins. They are in a room gathered together in the evening. They are waiting, even though they are not sure of what they are waiting for. John and Peter have both seen the empty tomb with their own eyes. No doubt they had many questions about what that empty tomb meant. Mary had rushed to tell them that she had seen the risen Christ. He had spoken to her! Did they really want to believe her? What would it mean if Jesus was, dare they think it, alive? No doubt this is one of the reasons they had locked themselves in that room.
They were afraid of what would happen if the Jews found them. After all Christ had been crucified, could they expect less? They were afraid of what a risen Christ might say to them. They had all abandoned him in his hour of need. No doubt this is one of the reasons they had locked themselves in that room they felt guilt at betraying him. Guilt and Fear.
How often have we found ourselves hiding? Hiding from God, from family, from ourselves. How often have we locked ourselves up in our own rooms hoping against hope that nothing bad would find us, that we could hide away our shames? “I’ve done so many bad things.” We say to ourselves, “I’ve lied, I’ve cheated. I made a mistake. My marriage failed. My finances are horrible. I am a failure. I can’t do anything right.” We lock ourselves up and we cower in the darkness. We, like the disciples feel abandoned and alone. We, like the disciples have heard the whisperings that something amazing has happened. But, like the disciples we don’t really believe it so we sit in the dark alone and afraid filled with our anxiety.
While the disciples were sitting in this locked silent tomb of a room a voice called out, “Peace be with you.” They looked up and saw the Christ standing before them. Jesus had entered their locked room. No doubt some eyes darted to the door to see if it had been opened but the locks were firmly in place. The disciples looked around at one another hoping that the others would confirm this vision. Jesus had entered the room and offered them the one thing their hearts desired, peace. They must have wondered whether this moment was real or just a group hallucination. Maybe some of them thought it was a hoax. And before they could think to ask him, Jesus showed them his wounds and all doubt was removed. Then the disciples rejoiced in his presence!
Think of it, Jesus appearing in a locked up room. A self made tomb of sorts. Jesus doesn’t wait to be invited, He invades! He doesn’t wait for the disciples to crack the door; he won’t let a silly think like a lock stop him. He barges in to offer new life to the disciples and to us.
While we sit in self imposed exile Jesus invades! While we try to hide our failures and mistakes, our missteps and misfortunes Jesus slips past our defenses and into our tombs. There is no hiding place good enough, no corner too dark for our Lord and Savior. Jesus has faced death, death on a cross; it doesn’t get any darker than that! Jesus seeks us out offering us the one thing we crave most. He calls to us saying “Peace, peace be with you!” No words of condemnation, no I-told-you-so, no how dare you! His words are simple and loving “Peace be with you.”
Jesus not only offers peace to the disciples, and to us, he issues a mission. “Peace I give you, but you also have a job to do. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Jesus gives the disciples a commission. It is not the great commission from Matthew; it is somehow even more than that. As the Father has sent me, so I send you. The disciples are to be Christ’s representatives on earth, his ambassadors. They are to continue his mission on earth, to heal, to pray, to stand up for the oppressed, to care for the widows and orphans, to love as Christ dared to love. They are to be new creations. In a scene reminiscent of the creation of Adam, Jesus breaths his spirit, the Holy Spirit, upon the disciples filling them with new life. He tells them to receive the Holy Spirit. Receive, take it in, breath it in, claim the Holy Spirit all of you!
When Jesus seeks us out in our deepest darkest hiding places he offers us new life. He looks at all of our brokenness, all of our fear, guilt, disloyalty, and still offers peace. Jesus whispers to us “I know you have made mistakes, I felt them. I know you have done wrong, I suffered for it. I know that you have sinned; I carried them with me upon that cross. But they have died with me and remained dead. I have something for you, new life.” Jesus, the one who has invaded our hiding place breaths out upon us. He gives the gift of the Holy Spirit to us freely. He tells us to receive this gift, to make it a part of ourselves, to accept it as new life. And for this, we like the disciples should rejoice!
With the new life given to us and the disciples comes a new way of living. Jesus gives one guiding principle of it after telling them to receive the Holy Spirit. He tells the disciples “If you forgive sins of any; they are forgiven them. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” What amazing words of comfort these must have been. This group of men had abandoned Christ, each one of them for their own reasons. They had sat in this room wondering if they would ever be able to forgive themselves or one another. Perhaps they felt trust had already been broken. And here, Jesus tells them to forgive one another. If they forgive one another, trust can be restored, relationships can be made right. It is not too late! If they forgive one another they can be God’ messengers to the world. But if they do not forgive, if they retain or hold on to one another’s sins they will never be lose of them. If John were to always hang over Peter Peter’s betrayal they will never be able to love one another and work with one another. Forgiveness is the gift they can offer each other to restore relationship. Forgiveness is the gift Christ offers the disciples to bring them to new life!
These same words of Jesus apply to us today. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Jesus, who has invaded our tombs and offered new life, also offers forgiveness. He remembers our sins and shortcomings no more because we are new creations! If we forgive one another then we are free to more on from hurts and pains. We are free to live the new life to which we are called. But sometimes forgiving others is not our difficulty. Our difficulty often lies in forgiving ourselves. Again and again we beat ourselves up for poor decisions we’ve made. Again and again we tear at ourselves for failing. Again and again we hide away our shame over our sins. But I ask, how can we expect to experience new life when we cling to the old? How can we ask God to do a new thing if we won’t accept that the old has been washed away? What are we really telling God when we say “Take all of me!” and then proceed to take things back day by day? How can we trust God to forgive, when we won’t begin to forgive ourselves? Hear the Good News! Jesus Christ is Risen, He is Risen indeed! Through his resurrection we have been given new life! A life filled with his Holy Spirit and with a commission to live as ambassadors of God on earth. It is a commission that through the acceptance of the Holy Spirit we can accomplish. How do I know that? Look at the rest of the disciples’ tale.
One week after this event they all gathered together again, this time in hope and anticipation. But who was that over in the corner? Why it was Thomas. Thomas was not there when Christ first appeared to the disciples. Perhaps he was too afraid of his own guilt. Perhaps he was spooked by the stories of a living Christ. But at some point during the week these disciples have reached out to Thomas. They have forgiven him for his abandonment; they have forgiven him his fear. They have shared the good news with Thomas that Christ is risen. They have invited him to fellowship with them. They have restored him to community. So hear Thomas sits, as the disciples sat the week before. He was afraid, he was nervous, but he had a glimmer of hope because the disciples had shared the good news. And Jesus did not disappoint. Into the locked room he intruded yet again. He showed his wounds and even offered to let Thomas touch them. Thomas did not touch them. He did not need to. The Lord had appeared to him, the Lord had invaded his life and Thomas’ response was true praise “My Lord and My God!”
Restoration is possible, resurrection is possible. New life is offered, and the Holy Spirit is given. The gift does not stop with you or me any more than it stopped with the disciples. What good does this new life do if we live it in a locked room? The disciples went out into the world telling those they knew and later those they did not know about the good news! They forgave one another and themselves. They lived the life God called them to. So we too should forgive. We too have been offered new life. Claim it! Live it! Trusting that the God who invaded the life of the disciples still invades our lives today. To God be the Glory, Amen!  

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Maundy Thursday Prayer Stations

So, I'm sure most people have there Maundy Thursday stuff all sewn up, but I wanted to share what we are doing tonight!
Most of these were inspired by others, and I will link to their pages.

#1. Bringing People Together
Think about the places in the world where there is war or disagreement between people. Maybe you know people who are arguing, or maybe you are at odds with someone yourself.
Unzip the zippers to show how people can easily let differences come between them.

Read Matthew 5: 23-24
 23 So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister[i] has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister,[j] and then come and offer your gift.

Pray that God would bring the two sides together so that they may live in peace.
As you pray, do up the zipper as a sign of your prayer.

#2. Bearing Burdens

Psalm 55:22 (NRSV)
22 Cast your burden[a] on the Lord,
    and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
    the righteous to be moved.

1 Peter 5:7 (NRSV)

Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.

If we believe these scriptures why do we doubt God’s will in our lives? If God has promised to sustain us, why do we worry?

Take a moment and look at the card before you.
It reads “Not my will, but yours be done.” What situation, decision or issue do you need to give over to God? Where do you need to ask for God’s will to be done in your life?

On the back of the card write down what you need to leave at the cross of Jesus. Pray to God, asking for God’s will to be done.

Tape the sign to the cross with the words “Not my will, but yours be done” showing.

Leave your burden behind.

(From crosspointing )

#3. Prayerful Words
Sometimes it can be difficult to find the words to pray.
We feel they are not enough, not holy enough, not biblical enough, not good enough. Rest assured that it is not the quantity or even quality of the words you use. God hears all of our prayers.

Psalm 54:2 (NRSV)

Hear my prayer, O God;
    give ear to the words of my mouth.

Take a look at the words in front of you.
Select them and place them on the tray to make your own prayer to God. If you need an additional word there are some blank pieces that you may write your word on with the dry erase markers provided.

Pray your prayer to God.

You may choose to leave your prayer or remove it.

#4. Bible Blackout
Select one of the passages of scripture provided for you.

Psalm 22
John 6:35-59

Read through this passage slowly, looking at each word. Sometimes when we read scripture or hear it certain words stand out to us.

Re-read this passage. Draw a square around the words that stand out to you with a fine point sharpie. Then use the chisel point to black out the other words. In essence you are creating your own prayer from this scripture, or your own view of what is speaking to you today.

Read over what you have created.

Thank God for the opportunity to engage with scripture in this way and offer up anything else that may be on your heart.

(From pomomusings )

#5 Worry Not
In Jesus’ teachings, the subject of worry comes up and He asks, “And which of you, by worrying, can add a single day to your life?” The answer is obviously no one!

He then looks around the hillside where everyone is sitting and sees the birds and flowers and tells everyone that if God takes care of these things, how much more God wants to take care of us. (Luke 12:22-29)

Take a tablet of Alka-Seltzer in your hand and think of the things you are worried about right now.

Drop the tablet into the bowl of water. Watch the bubbles rise to the top as the tablet dissolves, as you let your worries dissolve.

As you watch, pray to God, giving up those worries one by one.

When finished, ask God to help you to trust in him.

(From creativeprayer )

# 6. Foot Washing
For this station I will wash the first person's feet and then ask them to wash the next person's feet. There will also be the option of washing their hands instead of feet if they are uncomfortable.

We have had foot washing before, but never invited others to participate as washers

#7  Communion
 I will provide communion to all who wish to participate.

There is no set order for these stations. I will ask them to take communion last as they leave for the evening.

Then we will begin our rapid quick change of the sanctuary for Good Friday services!