When God 'Doesn't Care'


When the pink slip comes, the spouse announces an exit, the kids get slammed with an illness that we can’t do anything about – our first reaction, conscious or unconscious, is often anger against the Almighty. It may drive us away from prayer, from church, from God. Most of us have been there.

As time passes we might stay in that dark, distant place. Or we might soften. We might begin to see that God is not the one causing these things - that these things just happen – and that our anger against God is not helpful.

This Sunday we will hear a familiar story about Jesus sleeping in a boat when a storm comes along. We will hear the passengers’ first reaction as one of anger, as they awaken him with the words, ‘Don’t you care God?’ Jesus’ reaction is to calm the storm – and then to remind these onlookers that God not only cares, but comes to the rescue.

For whatever reason the way God rescues us is usually very different than the way we envision being rescued. How has that been true for you? When things bigger than ourselves hit us our knee jerk reaction is to blame. However, we’re better off when our blame is aimed in the right direction. 


Friends, God is on our side. Pause when tempted to blame. Sit tight. Avoid the hasty reaction – for we know in our hearts that we weren’t created to be tormented. Take heart, stand firm, carry on – we all want to avoid taking a swipe at the hand extended to help.
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Reading
All the Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr
Mark - Morna Hoker

Why God Picked You


Imagine being one of the 12 disciples who agreed to follow Jesus.

“He was probably impressed with my organizational skills,” thought Andrew the fisherman.  “No doubt he needed some accounting help,” surmised Matthew the former tax collector. “I’m sure he wanted to tap into my managerial expertise,” thought Peter, the former small business owner.

We may think that God calls us because he is interested in the skill set we’ve honed – that God is in need of certain abilities and we bring them to the table – orator, writer, teacher, etc. – and so God calls us because of what we have on offer.

However, were that the case, Jesus would’ve gone to 100 other places of commerce, business schools, and centers of power before he would have plucked up a dozen subsistence-level laborers and miscreants to form his inner circle. It is clear that:

We are not chosen for what we see in us, we are chosen for what God sees in us.

God is up to something big and when we sign on to participate we lose the right to tell God what to do (as if that ever got us very far anyway…).

God chooses us because God sees in us things we don’t. We often fail to access our skills, and the skills of others properly - routinely underestimating our abilities and over-estimating the abilities of others. Even the things we’re best at are not void of epic fails and head-hanging regrets.

Accepting the call of Christ, then, is not about commending God for his great taste, it’s more about opening ourselves up to a wider vision - understanding that there is order, reason, purpose, and incredible value in who we are and what we do.


And while we may be tempted to live as if everything was random, nothing mattered, and that life would be perfect if only I could reach my goals, it’s as if God is saying, ‘It all matters. It’s all important – because I have goals more vast and beautiful than you’ll ever know. Trust in me. Aim higher. Know that you’re watched and cared for. Don’t be afraid of mistakes.‘

Why God Likes You


Ever wondered why God would be interested in you?

Of course, you’re smart, witty, and well known for dependable companionship at cocktail parties – but God is not simply interested in you as a friend. God is interested in you as someone much more – business partner, co-pilot, disciple is the Bible word.

“But I’m such a _______” Now fill in the blank with a litany of adjectives on why you are incapable, ill-suited, and otherwise a really bad choice for this role. And when you do this you will join the legions of Moses’, King Davids’, St. Peters', and essentially every other human being who has ever signed up for this

The point is that you’ve been called to follow because of something God sees in you. Most of the time you will not see this. In fact, you will argue against it. “Why not choose someone more pious, more devoted, or who can at least find John 3:16?” But God doesn’t work that way. God does not call the equipped, God equips the called.

So go ahead and get over yourself. Quit complaining about what a bad judge of character God is. And let’s get on with the work we’re called to do. God is interested in you – much more than you’ll ever know.

Reading
All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr
The Juvenilization of American Religion – Thomas Bergler

Alexander Hamilton – Ron Chernow

Jesus Didn’t Have a White Board



Jesus didn’t have a white board.

He didn’t have a smart phone.

He didn’t carry a calendar.

At New Year’s, our pinnacle time of resolutions, new leafs, goal-setting, and high-hoping we can’t help but be reminded that Jesus was never described as one for whom planning was a huge priority. Jesus wasn’t known as a plotter. He wasn’t a schemer nor did he seem to hold marathon strategy sessions.  In fact, the most extended time of preparation we find him engaging in was in the Garden of Gethsemane when he pulled an all-nighter… praying.

For Jesus, to plan was to pray.

It was to put aside his program in order to ask and accept God’s program.

Most of the people I know spend more time planning than praying.  Maybe it’s our insecurity – our need to feel more in control. Maybe it’s laziness Maybe it’s because we might be scared of what we’ll hear.

This New Year’s I’m hoping to take time to pray. I hope to lay my calendar before God’s feet and ask him to fill it in.


What would more praying and less planning look like for you?

Messages from Angels


If an angel appeared with a message from God just for you - what might it be? Here are some possibilities:

Dream bigger.
Push limits.
Press on.
Let go.
Relax.
It’s going to be alright.
Forgive yourself.
Don’t demand perfection.
Dance with your fear.
Think about the poor.
Obsess over others.
Ask yourself how well you’re living.

Don’t wait for an angel to hear from God. Listen to your heart. God’s got a message there.

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Reading
Pistis Sophia - GRS Mead
Mark - Morna Hooker
Sermons - Peter Gomes

Out of the Wilderness


When the dictionary defines wilderness as an, ‘inhospitable, uncivilized, and uncultivated region’ I can’t help but think about life in the 21st century. Inhospitable in the way we routinely lock doors and view strangers with suspicion. Uncivilized regarding the ways capital punishment, genocide, aggression, and violence are condoned. And uncultivated in the way all ranks of immaturity in entertainment, economics, and morality are promulgated.

So when John the Baptist declares his identity as, ‘the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,’ I can relate – I’m crying out in this wilderness too. 

And my cry is like yours - we long for a world that’s more hospitable, civil, and that lovingly cultivates the gifts that surround us. We sorely desire a safer, more welcoming, more peaceful world that celebrates the diversity of our gifts and supports the creativity with which we’ve been blessed.


Call us out of that wilderness, O Lord. Take us to that place of hospitality, civility, and maturity. Help us figure out what’s gotten between your voice and our ear. Re-instill a holy longing. Stir up our Spirits. And don’t just call us out of the wilderness help us transform it, so that everyone else who’s stuck in here with us might see what you’re really up to.

How to Get Rich


The road to riches begins when we want something we don’t have. If we stay focused and work hard we find we get it. But sooner or later our happiness wanes because we quickly become accustomed to what we’ve just acquired. Eventually we become bored so we seek something new to get or to do. Once more, we stay focused and work hard, and find it’s ours. Soon after, the boredom returns and the quest is renewed.

We do this again and again.


Making matters worse, we can find it harder to slow down and enjoy what we have because we’ve become too busy running after the next thing even though we will admit that we have more possessions and experiences than a lifetime of savoring can do justice to. This is how wealth becomes poverty. And yes, everybody does it.

The way to get rich and stay rich, then, is not about endless acquisition but regular savoring. Taking delight in the things we have, counting our blessings, appreciating, and taking real pleasure in the good fortune we’ve enjoyed – that’s where true wealth is found.

Which brings us to Advent.

This is the season that invites us to do this - to regular contemplation of the beauty and wealth that surrounds us. So take a moment. Breathe deep. Think of one thing in your life that absolutely delights you – not something you want, but something you already have. Sooner or later we discover how rich we already are.
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Reading
The One Thing – Gary Keller
Alexander Hamilton – Ron Chernow
Mark – Morna Hooker

The Anosognosia of Racism


I have a friend who suffers from a rare nerve disease that causes him to act quite peculiar in public.

He incessantly fidgets. He constantly twitches. He can’t get comfortable in a chair. Yes, it is life-shortening and those who know and love him have studied up on the disease, taken classes, and continually come around his wife and family. What makes matters worse is that my friend won’t admit there’s anything wrong with him. He’s convinced that his is a borderline case, and he’s on the other side of the border.  Doctors have diagnosed him with anosognosia – or a lack of awareness of one’s own condition. While his nerve disease may be uncommon, anosognosia is not – at least the idea of it.

Ferguson, Missouri has lifted a veil to reveal the anosognosia of racism in America – a lack of awareness of our own condition.

We can no longer feign its existence much less its enormity. Too many for too long have found contentment in the misguided notion that racial inequalities faded with the Civil Rights era, that a new generation would harbor new attitudes, and that a system upheld by laws would change once the laws did.

But Ferguson has forced us to see that none of this is true. The fact is that too many people are not familiar, nor sympathetic to the plight of blacks and other racial minorities in this country. Too many people take the quick road of condemnation and judgment over the slow road of conversation, understanding, compassion, and bridge-building. Too many Christians buy into the worldly philosophy of Ben Franklin – God helps those who help themselves – instead of the Gospel mandate – God helps those who need help.

And Ferguson has revealed that we all need help. I have never met anyone who admits they are a racist. Yet Ferguson has shown us how deep racism runs – which makes us wonder if no one is racist, how can there be racism?

This first Sunday of Advent we will hear St. Mark’s timely reminder to ‘stay alert’ to the things that are happening around us.  This means the things being stirred up in Ferguson. For we must assume that God wants to stir up something in each one of us as well.  This is a hinge moment of reflection on a problem for which everyone will admit exists but few will take responsibility.

To help us do this, the Episcopal Church, years ago, published a short document I have found helpful in getting my mind around this issue – I urge you to read it and reflect upon it. We’ll have copies of it available Sunday and you can read and download it yourself here:


http://www.dioceselongisland.org/cmsAdmin/uploads/awakening_pastoralletter.pdf

So, let us ‘stay alert and’ do our part - to prepare the way for the coming King.

Balancing Act


If the Christian life is a balancing act, is Jesus trying to steady us or tip us over?

He’s trying to do both.

Steady us because the storms are bad and frequent. Topple us over because there’s no way to grow without disruption.

And he is trying to do both of these at the same time – bumping us into discomfort zones – then gently pulling us back in due time.

Both are done out of love. Both are part of a bigger plan.

The life of faith calls us to make peace with this – and to ask these questions: What is our discomfort today? How are we being pushed off balance? What are we learning in that space? And how is God pulling us back?

Answering these questions not only helps us make sense of the randomness of life,
but it helps us see that we’re never alone on the wire – we walk with another who catches and tips - because that’s what love does.

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Reading
Luke – Morna Hooker
Fail – JR Briggs
Church Marketing 101 – Richard Reising
Alexander Hamilton – Ron Chernow

Permission Slip


Who said you couldn’t do it?
You weren’t smart enough, cool enough, talented enough?
Probably voices that we either shouldn’t be listening to or we’re giving way too much credence.

Following Jesus is a permission slip.
It’s authorization to grab hold of the one and only life we’ll ever know.
Not letting this day, hour, or moment slip by without some awareness that we are the one person no one else can be.

It’s permission to go out and be someone.
Be someone who is unabashedly authentic.
Be someone who dances with fear - without denial or retreat.
Be someone who understands that God not only walks with us, but magically works through us.

Sunday’s gospel is a trumpet in a phone booth.
It’s announcing divine authorization to take a charge at life, to seize it, celebrate it, conquer it – to understand that we’ve got the permission to be that person.
Out with the malaise. Pitch the lackluster enthusiasm. Get off the couch. Take a run for the stars.


What’s that mean? Identifying our talents is easier than listing the things that keep us from developing them. What are the roadblocks that are keeping you and me from taking the risks before us? What are the hard things we’re avoiding? BTW – don’t view this as condemnation. Dump the guilt - it’s another roadblock. Don’t worry about forgiveness when you’ve got permission.


Reading
Being Christian - Rowan Williams
Church Marketing 101 - Richard Reising
Fail - J.R. Briggs