Sunday, May 27, 2012

Pentecost and economics

I know I've blogged before on the sermons of Lutheran pastor, The Rev. Dr. Barbara K. Lundblad who teaches at Union Theological Seminary in New York. I'm very, very impressed with her. Here's an excerpt from one of her Pentecost sermons:
Pentecost often ends too soon. The first part of the story is thrilling. The sound of a mighty wind. The tongues of fire. People from all over the Roman Empire hearing their own languages spoken by ordinary Galileans. The promise of the Spirit poured out on young and old, including slaves, both women and men. Pentecost means all of that. As the story goes on, Peter stands up to preach, and he preaches such a powerful sermon that over 3,000 people are baptized. Pentecost means all of that too. But Pentecost ends too soon if it has nothing to do with possessions, with wealth and poverty, with what we call economics. Economics is from the Greek word oikos, which means household. How do we live together in God's household? Well, I know economics is a subject so complicated that our eyes glaze over at the mention of the word. But God is very interested in economics, about what we do with our possessions and portfolios.

* A Pentecost church will reach out to people of every language and tongue.

* A Pentecost church will call young and old, women and men to prophesy.

* A Pentecost church will preach and baptize, but the story always ends too soon if a Pentecost church isn't concerned about economics.

A few years ago I talked with a friend of mine who's a pastor in New England. "How's your building program going?" I asked. "Oh, we ran out of money before we got to the worship space," she said. I thought to myself, "What could be more important than the worship space?" But I kept my thoughts to myself. "We renovated the basement," she said. "You know, we have a shelter there for homeless men. We put in new showers and renovated the old kitchen. The basement was so drab, and the showers-well, there was only one shower and it was lousy. On the Sunday before the shelter opened, the worship service began as usual in the sanctuary. When it came time for communion, the people carried the bread and the cup downstairs to the basement. The whole congregation gathered around the empty beds. They passed the bread and the cup around the circle. The body of Christ given for you. That night the shelter beds were full, and the worship space still needed a lot of work." The church calendar still said it was the first Sunday of Advent. But people in that congregation knew that Pentecost wasn't over. Pentecost shaped their life together, and it had everything to do with economics.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Something for Ascension Sunday

As  you can tell from the tree in the background, this particular video recording was intended for Christmas, however, "Thou are gone up on high" is often considered appropriate for Ascension. Please do listen. This is a glorious voice and a masterful performance.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Ascension of Our Lord


From an article by a Presbyterian pastor:
In his most striking commentary on the Ascension Calvin says: "Since (Christ) entered heaven in our flesh, as if in our name, it follows, as the apostle says, that in a sense we already sit with God in the heavenly places in him (Christ). At the Ascension, our humanity, our "flesh," has been "taken" (Acts 1:11) by God's Beloved One into the very heart of God. This is profound good news for us as Christians and for our whole world. It means that we are more deeply valued, loved and held by God than we may have known before.
This ascension of Jesus Christ is good news for us as Christians, and through us, for our world. It means that God loves, values, holds, and will transform our fragile and broken humanity in Christ. It means that, at the Ascension, Jesus took all of human life, which he cared for so deeply, and brought it "into the heavenly places," into the very heart of God. This includes the suffering refugee, the abused child or spouse, the victim of war or terror, the lonely one in the nursing home, the one who struggles with depression or a lost sense of worth and value, those who are sick, all who are in difficult transitions in life.

This, truly, is divine encouragement.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Something about receiving

A book has just come to my attention called The Power of Receiving: A Revolutionary Approach to Giving Yourself the Life You Want and Deserve by Amanda Owen. (Mind you, I'm not very fond of the subtitle but the excerpt I read just now is quite wonderful.)

Yes, I know Jesus said that it is more blessed to give than to receive and he is certainly right, of course, with regard to our responsibility for and to the poor and brokenhearted.  But just think about the following:
"Receiving is much harder than giving. It can be emotionally risky; it requires opening up to a possibility or desire that may not be fulfilled. Giving is easy. Not only do you get to showcase your more saintly qualities, but also your ego enjoys the reward — the payoff of giving....  Have you experienced the pleasure of giving to a grateful recipient? Isn't it obvious in that moment that receiving and giving are flip sides of the same coin? ...  All of the help, information and abundance in the universe cannot get through to you if you have a negative belief about receiving. Nothing can get through that distortion. That energy is strong! It is like an energy wave that pushes away the very thing that is trying to assist! Perhaps you know people who reject again and again offers of assistance, of love, of connection. Perhaps this is you."
Yes, I do know people like this. And it can be very discouraging, even painful, when such a person rejects a gift.
UPDATE:  I just found the following over on the Amazon page for this book:
"I've been one to give until I'm depleted, yet feel embarrassed when someone gives to me; my energy and resources were painfully out of balance." 
I would definitely say that people in this category truly need to become acquainted with the skill and virtue of receiving.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The laughter of God

Artist: Scott Kiche

The following is by Teresa of Avila. To me, the idea of laughter coming from bricks is a truly marvelous one!
Just these two words He spoke changed my life, "Enjoy Me."
What a burden I thought I was to carry - a crucifix, as did He.
Love once said to me, "I know a song, would you like to hear it?"
And laughter came from every brick in the street and from every pore in the sky.
After a night of prayer, He changed my life when He sang, "Enjoy Me."