God is Speaking!

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Last Saturday, Brandon and I cuddled up on our gigantic couch in the family room, turned on Netflix, and proceeded to binge watch an entire season of a new show.
There was no waiting to see what would happen next… the episode played automatically.
There were no spoilers, because the series, Altered Carbon, had just come out and there wasn’t any buzz about it yet.
We just curled up, stuffed our faces with popcorn, and had the opportunity to experience the entire wild ride.

That is very different from how we used to watch television.
I can still remember in seminary how obsessed I was with Grey’s Anatomy. On Fridays, a girlfriend and I would meet for coffee and we would recap the previous nights episode. There had been one particularly harrowing cliff-hanger and to spend an entire week waiting to see what would come next felt brutal. We spent most of our time debating whether or not we wanted to go online and glimpse at the spoilers on the fan sites to get a clue as to how the situation might turn out.
In the end, we decided we wouldn’t be able to concentrate on our class work if we didn’t know if the character lived or died… We were invested in the story, in the people… as ridiculous as it sounds, we needed some kind of hope, some glimpse that things were going to be okay. So we sought out every single spoiler alert we could find.

Over these past few weeks, we have ever so briefly followed the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. In reality, we’ve only scratched the surface, living mainly in the first chapter of Mark’s gospel. And already, we’ve encountered God, watched ordinary people become disciples, and have witnessed any number of miracles of healing.
The gospel of Mark moves so quickly from one moment to the next… just like those episodes on Netflix play automatically and keep you engaged for just one more…. In fact – I bet if you went home after worship today and opened your bible you’d find that reading through Mark is a breeze and it would be over before you realized it.
We find out Jesus has the power to not only cast out demons and heal, but to calm the waters and miraculously produce food out of crumbs. Like any great season of television, the energy is building towards triumph and freedom and release over the first eight chapters of Mark’s gospel.

And then we get to chapter 8.
As we reach the very end, Jesus begins to teach the disciples that the path towards victory and life and God’s salvation for all people was a journey through death.
He began to warn them about the suffering and rejection and brutal punishment that awaited.
And it was not an easy message to swallow. Peter even had the audacity to scold Jesus for saying such things.
Yet, this was the path before them.

Imagine, for just a moment, that you are in the very last episode of the season and THIS was the dialogue that was taking place.
You begin to realize that the next part of this story was going to look very different than the first. What was full of joy and celebration and miracles is going to be darker and more dangerous.
You are now invested in this journey, you’ve left everything you have to follow Jesus and now the path looks so different…
How are you going to make it through to the next season?
How are you going to manage the wait and the anxiety and the unknowing?

And so before this part of the story ends, Jesus shares with a few of the disciples a gigantic spoiler alert.
He takes them up the mountain and as they reach the summit, Jesus moves a few paces ahead and then turns around to face them.
And as he does – he changes before their eyes!
His whole body seems to radiate with an inexplicable glory and even his clothes shine brighter than the sun.
Just as the three disciples begin to adjust their eyes to this brilliance they see two figures appear beside their Master… two figures who could only be Moses and Elijah.
As Peter and James and John cower in fear and trembling before this amazing visage – the three figures have a conversation.
Now, if I’m Peter, if I have been learning at the feet of Jesus for a few months, if I have been a part miracles that have taken place, and if I’m led up to the top of a mountain where my teacher suddenly begins to glow and radiate glory… and if I am terrified to face a path of suffering and rejection… then I might grab a hold of this moment and think that THIS was what they had been preparing for.
He interrupts them, offers to build shrines and temples, essentially trying to re-direct the entire journey and turn season two of this story into a show on top of the mountain.

But that is NOT why they are there.
A cloud overshadowed the trio of disciples like a fog rolling in. The glory of Jesus, Moses and Elijah was concealed by the dense cloud and in a rumble of thunderous glory the voice of God spoke to their hearts: This is my Son, This is my Beloved! Listen to him!
Just as quickly as the cloud moved it, it dissipated, and the three bewildered and terrified disciples opened their eyes to find their teacher Jesus, standing before them alone. With hardly a word, apart from telling them not to talk about what they had seen until after the resurrection, Jesus leads them back down the mountain.

I can vividly remember pouring over still images on websites with my friend, trying to guess what was going to happen next in our favorite show based on a few glimpses. We would speculate based on the characters or where they were standing or what else was present in the background and try to make meaning out of the signs so we had something to hold on to.

In many ways, this brief moment on the mountaintop was that kind of spoiler alert, giving the disciples something to hang on to.
The voice of God rang out, shaking them to their very core, and reminded them that God’s power and purpose was present in their teacher, Jesus.
The presence of Moses and Elijah, affirmed that the law and the prophets were being fulfilled in the ministry of the Son of God. Everything they had been taught and believed about the restoration of Israel… of all creation… would come to pass.
And, it was a reminder that even though the next part of this story would look different, they had a glimpse of the light and the glory that would give them hope on dark days.
In Mark’s gospel, Jesus has now set his face towards Jerusalem. They were leaving behind the healing and the teaching and were heading straight towards the seat of power… not to be a force that would overthrow it violently, but through a display of righteous love.
They didn’t quite understand what the resurrection meant… but they saw a glimpse, a spoiler, of the things to come, that they could hold on to when the going got tough.

We were never called to build tents and tabernacles to enshrine these moments forever.
This story is not yet finished.
We have to keep working.
We have to keep seeing what changes need to be made.
We have to keep hearing the voice of God speaking into our lives.
And that means coming down from the mountain, rolling up our sleeves, and getting to work.

After all, that is what Jesus did.
The light of glory revealed on the mountaintop was meant for the world.
And Jesus knew that for that light to dwell within each of us, he was going to have to shine even in the darkest places of the world.
He was going to have to confront evil powers.
He was going to have to withstand betrayal and abuse.
He was going to have to carry his cross and enter the grave of death.
But he did it all so that the light of the knowledge of the glory of God could shine on us.

Unlike the disciples, we know how this next part of the story ends. We’ve seen our way through Jerusalem, through the cross, and have watched countless generations listen to God’s call to let their light shine.
What we sometimes forget is that we can’t stay on the mountaintop either.
This is not simply a story we curl up on our couches to experience.
Our season, our part of this journey is still being written.
And God is still speaking and still calling us to follow Jesus.

So as we enter the season of Lent, we, too, will set our faces towards Jerusalem.
This Wednesday, we will remember our mortality and our own journey through death with a cross of ashes on our foreheads.
We will once again have the opportunity to redefine ourselves in the light of the one who came to save us.
Over these coming weeks, we’ll explore what it means for Christ to be our hero and our savior and perhaps we will discover all over again what it means to be a disciple.
Friends, let us come down from the mountain where we have tried to wrap up our faith with a neat and tidy bow. A whole new season is beginning and this time you are ones God is calling to let your light shine.

An ideal Saturday in the making

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1) sleep in

2) eat a late breakfast/lunch

3) work out (because I promised myself I couldn’t do #5 until I did)

4) surf the web / blog / facebook

5) play skyrim

6) cook an awesome dinner

7) chill, preferably in front of the tv (tonight it will be the ISU bball game)

8) SLEEEEEEEEEEEEP (because Sunday mornings come early)

Did you notice what isn’t on there?

Yeah, writing sermons.

Because days off should be days off!

a day in the life…

7:00am – alarm goes off

8:10am – start thinking about getting out of bed

8:30am – phone conversation with Trustee chairperson about the new shingles for the parsonage roof

8:50am – arrive at church, small talk with folks gathering for the Tuesday morning small group.

9:05am – phone call with Memorial chair about some checks that came in

9:10am – check emails, put checks into envelopes to pay some church bills

9:30am – Tuesday morning small group: food, devotions, prayer, conversation

11:00am – check in with some members of our co-missioned coordinating team to plan event on October 1
11:15am – scripture reading and exploring commentaries to get ready for Sunday
12:00pm – time spent thinking about hymns for Sunday interspersed with facebook (seeing what is going on in colleagues and members lives)
12:15pm – phone call with congregation member about an upcoming wedding
12:50pm – head home for lunch, heat up leftovers and watch an episode or two of Dr. Who
3:30pm – back to church to meet up with a youth… visit with a member and help transport some items being donated to Women at the Well (prison congregation)
4:45pm – conversation on the side of the road to coordinate a visit with some church folk

5:00pm – back home to make dinner: chicken, sauteed musrooms, wild rice

6:45pm – back to church for Lay Leadership meeting

7:10pm – start our meeting with devotions, discuss calling all who serve and changes in our organizational structure

8:10pm – head home. pajamas. computer.

9:30pm – movie with the husband

11:45pm – bed

Why I’m not blogging right now…

A)  Life at the church hit the ground running in mid September and hasn’t stopped since then.

B)  When I’m not at church, I’m desperately trying to spend more time with my husband and family.  Sometimes with little success, but I’m trying.

C)  T.V. shows are back on… and I have some crocheting projects that occupy my time while I watch said shows.  It helps me to feel like I’m not completely wasting my time.  As does my ongoing commentary about where God shows up on television shows (see the link on the menu bar “God and TV”).  These crocheting projects will be gifts for my neice and nephews this Christmas.  Some of you have seen me working on these projects at various conferences this year…. little by little, I’ll get there!
This green blanket is for my nephew who just turned one.  It is made from 64 little tiny squares.  I have finished with over 40 of them already and I have started stitching them together.  As you can seek, Tiki likes to help out.
This blanket will be for my nephew who just turned nine.  He is getting to be SO big.  After doing the other two blankets in pieces, I knew I wanted a project that I could crochet without having to put together.  This was the perfect pattern for something simple!
This last blanket is the first one I have finished.  It is for my neice who is in kindergarten.  She loves pink and purple!  This blanket was made in strips that were then stitched together.

Payne Family Christmas

I don’t normally watch “the House of Payne.”  It isn’t something that crosses my radar and when I see it in the guide, I never think to stop and watch.  In fact, I never just flip through the channels, I look at the guide on our dish and chose my television shows accordingly.

But this particular episode caught my eye.  It was the House of Payne retelling of the Christmas Story – and this I HAD to see.
What I thought was really interesting is that the whole family was gathered around the living room and were trying to tell the Christmas story to the youngest girl.  And as the story began to be told, each person was transported to Israel and took on various characters in the story.  One was the innkeeper, there was Mary and Jospeh, and shepherds and wise men.  And as one person finished telling the story, the next would jump in and say… that’s not what happened and they would retell the story from the perspective of their character. 
Now, some of these accounts were more humerous than anything… in one Joseph was ready to karate chop the innkeeper for not letting them have a place to sleep…  but there is something to the idea that each person who witnesses the birth of Christ has a story to tell.  Our own accounts of Christmas are more myth than fact – we often have the shepherds and the wise men all showing up at the same time, when there probably would have been at least a year between their visits. 

When it comes down to it, the Christmas story is something that we are invited to live in and experience for ourselves.  And whether we feel like shepherds who are outcast and dirty and smelly and we get to come to the manger and witness the miracle… or if we feel more like the privledged who humble ourselves before the manger… we are all invited to come and we all have a story to tell.

There is a really neat moment in the episode where the matriarch of the family (I wish I knew it well enough to know her name) really puts everyone in their place and reminds them that this story isn’t something to be made fun of… because we are talking about one of the most important events in human history – this is the birth of our Savior…. if you head over to tbs you can watch the full episode – I think it’s worth it!

television favorites

I just got to watch the first episode of a new season of Bones. And it just makes me happy! There is something about this unlikely match between Bones and Booth, the scientist/rationalist and the person of faith/instinct that really resonates with the way I view myself and my husband. Only we are opposite the pairing =) I’m the person who goes with her gut and trusts in things I can’t see. And half the time my husband and I can’t understand one another – and yet it works!

That and then you thrown in the mystery of the crime and the little things that make me laugh and the slight element of danger… it’s a great show =)

I’m also looking forward to Fringe – which is next on my “to watch” list. I know I said I’m not the scientist, but really I’m not the rationalist. I love the para-scientific elements of the show. I like the mystery involved in what might be possible. I love Walter and his slightly off view of the world and Olivia and her quest for something stable and her super inquisitive drive.

And then there is Grey’s. Which begins next week. I have high hopes tempered by disappointment from two… maybe two and a half seasons… of slight disappointment. I’m really upset that George is dead. And I’m not digging the fact that there are so many story lines going right now that I get to see about 5 minutes of each one in each episode. I’m hoping for a more cohesive focused direction this season. With humor, wit, love, angst and all of that good stuff thrown in. I want something that will match the caliber of the bomb episodes… and the normal everyday conversations about breakfast and the SUBTLE background about feminism and can we have it all and sex and relationships… not all the in your face let’s make a big deal and have a whole episode about it type of thing. My fingers are crossed – but I’m holding my breath.

t.v. is taking over my life!

So, I will be the first to admit that I love television. I’m a sucker for an hour long episode (well, 42 minutes). I like to just relax in front of our t.v. and slip away to another world for a while.

The beauty of a television show – especially those “hour long” epi’s is that you slowly, chunk by chunk make your way through a story. Yet they are short enough that when my ADD (self-diagnosed) gets the better of my I can hop away and mow the lawn or wash dishes.

This summer, my husband and I have made our way through seasons 1 & 2 of Dexter – a showtime series about a serial killer who only kills murderers and works forensics for the police department. In some ways, it’s just an escape, but as a theologian and as a philospher, I also see so many themes that we need to deal with in our everyday lives: redemption, good and evil, morality and sin, what it means to be human.

Our instant play for Dexter isn’t available for season 3 so we are waiting for it to be released. And instead, we began to watch Lost.

Now, in the whole time that Lost was on the air, I maybe watched one episode. I didn’t want to get into the hype. But now that I have been watching it for a solid week (we just started season 3) I’m hooked. There is so much symbolism and many of the same themes that came through in Dexter – good and evil, redemption, and others – our purpose/destiny/fate, what it means to be family/community, questions of whether there is a God.

For the past few days now I’ve been thinking about blogging through the series and taking some notes – kind of a gospel according to lost type of thing. As far as I can tell, no one has really done it yet – aside from an article published by the Christian Research Institute. We’ll see if I have time to go back through some episdoes and really do it or not.