Thursday, March 31, 2016

April Newsletter Submission (such as it is)

Could you live in 600 square feet?

That is the premise of the Tiny House movement, as shown on shows like “Tiny House Hunters” (and many of those houses are much smaller than 600 square feet). The premise of the show is a family looking to buy and live in one of these houses. The movement sells itself as a low-cost housing solution.

It is an interesting idea. It would push one to be VERY selective about what one keeps and what one can do without. And that is where I think it has the most merit.

Most families could not live in such a small space and remain healthy. Particularly in a climate where you spend a lot of time indoors. I suspect most of us would be at each other's throats in a relatively short time. And indeed I have seen at least one article that suggests many families end up not using their tiny house as a primary residence. But the question of how much stuff we have remains.

Over the last few decades average house sizes have continued to increase, even while average family size has decreased. By current standards the 6 of us living in a 1200 square foot (plus finished basement) 3 bedroom house are cramped. We have different assumptions about how much space we need to live than earlier generations did. We also have more stuff and larger furniture (think overstuffed couches and queen or king sized beds). Indeed many people find that the amount of stuff they accumulate expands to fill the available space.

I wonder what we would do if we had to move in to a house half that size.... Have a big yard sale? Donate a couple truckloads to Goodwill? Then again that may not be the worst idea (the purging and culling – not the moving into a tiny house).

I am remembering that Jesus challenged his followers not to worry about possessions, or even to worry about where their next meal was coming from. Jesus sent his followers out into the world with instructions to carry pretty much nothing.

Where do we find the middle ground between living wholly on faith and trust and relying on the kindness of strangers versus accumulating stuff and ensuring we have at least 3 days worth of basic supplies in an emergency kit (ironically most of us, even with all our stuff, don't have that emergency kit)?

I am not sure. But I do think our faith challenges us to do so. Our faith challenges us to rethink how big our houses need to be and how much stuff we have in part as an exercise in determining priorities. But the big reason our faith challenges us on our possessions is as an exercise in stewardship.

What do we do with the gifts God/life/circumstance have given us? How many of us have so much stuff that we could not possibly use all of it (how many of us have stuff we forget we even have because it has been in storage for so long)? I know we do. We can barely use our basement as living/playing space. Yes, in our case much of it is gifts given to the girls and/or inherited things and hand-me-downs. But still I have to wonder if this is a model of good stewardship.

I encourage all of us to consider what we have in our lives that we could cull down and/or do without.

And as it happens... the garage sale is coming up. Maybe our culling and thinning can end up providing more treasures for someone else to bring into their lives.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Monday, March 21, 2016

Looking Ahead to March 25, 2016 -- Good Friday

The Scripture for this service will be:
  • Mark 15:1-39
  • Mark 15:40-47
The Meditation is titled The King Enthroned

Early Thoughts: Is this a coronation? Or is it a parody of a coronation?

"King of the Jews".  That is the accusation brought before Pilate. This is the crime for which Jesus is executed--for claiming to be a king not authorized by Rome.

Is this his coronation?


Given that the Kingdom of which Jesus speaks is not like the Kingdoms of the earth, given that in this Kingdom the last will be first and the first last, given that you enter the Kingdom by denying yourself and following the one who hangs on the cross then maybe this is a throne.

SO as we gather beside the throne do we jeer and ridicule like the crowds do? Or are we alert to what is really happening, like the centurion is? Or do we watch and wait from a distance, trying to decide what to do next?


Looking Forward to March 24, 2016 -- Maundy Thursday

This Thursday we will have a combined potluck-worship service at 6:00 in the Small/West Basement.  Communion will be included as a part of this service.

The Scripture Readings we will hear are:
  • John 13:3-17, 34-35
  • Exodus 12:1-14
  • Mark 14:22-42
There will be two Reflections, one after the Exodus passage and one after the Mark passage.

Early Thoughts: A meal of memory.  Or rather 2 meals of memory form our scripture reflection.

First we have the central meal of Jewish faith. The meal of freedom. The meal that reminds people of what God has done but also that God is still working for freedom and liberation.

Then we have another meal.  A meal that launches from the meal of liberation but takes on a whole new life and understanding without losing all of the old.  From that meal we head deeper into the story. The clouds grow darker and the tone more somber.

AS we prepare for the darkest part of our faith story, can we watch and wait and pray?

Looking Ahead to March 27, 2016 -- Easter Sunday

This year we will read the Easter story as told in Mark 16:1-8

The Sermon title is Now What?

Early Thoughts: It seems to be missing something, that story from Mark.  No appearance of the Risen Christ. No joy. No promise that the story will even be told to anyone.  Instead we have fear and amazement and flight an silence. And it appears that this indeed may have been the original ending of the Gospel:
“They said nothing to nobody -- they were afraid, you see.”
That’s a fairly literal, inelegant English rendering of Mark 16:8. Could the evangelist have ended his Gospel like this? What kind of victor is vindicated from death, yet no one gets to see it? You might as well ask, what kind of Messiah dies crucified (15:16-39)?
Although various manuscripts add endings to Mark (including 16:9-20, best known from the KJV), there’s no question that our earliest texts of this Gospel end at 16:8. Did the author continue beyond 16:8 with an ending that was lost? Did he intend something beyond 16:8 but was prevented from writing it? Neither alternative is impossible, but both are speculative: they lack any biblical or traditional basis for verification. Is it preposterous that Mark deliberately ended his Gospel at 16:8? Some think so. I think not. (from the folks at Narrative

Now what happens????

In some ways it is the question that has been hanging in the air every since Jesus was arrested in the Garden.  The One we have followed, the One we have believed would change the world has been arrested. Now what do we do?

The One we thought was God's Chosen One has been convicted and crucified. Are we next? Now what?

The tomb is empty?!?!? Where could the body be? What do we do with the rest of our lives?

What better question to ask on Easter?

What difference does it make in our lives to know that life wins, that God's yes outdoes the loudest NO the world can muster, that the Kingdom is born here among us?  "Now What" indeed.

But you see the story doesn't end there, with fear and amazement and flight and silence. One might say it only begins there.  Because now we start to live out the "now what".

The world has been changed. Easter is one of those things after which nothing will ever be the same again. Eyes that have seen the resurrection can not see the same again, the lenses have been changed. Hearts that have felt the power of resurrection can not feel the same way about the world ever again.

So I guess the answer to the question is in large part up to us.  How will we live now that we have met the reality of Easter? How will we share the Good News of this day, of this new reality, of the Kingdom?  How will we move past fear and amazement and flight and silence?

Now what.....

Monday, March 14, 2016

Looking Forward to March 20, 2016 -- Palm Sunday

Our service this week will begin with the annual Palm Parade.  Gather in the Narthex if you want to be a part of the parade

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Mark 11:1-11
  • Mark 14:1-9
The Sermon title is Counting the Cost

Early Thoughts: A parade and a rather strange story about costly perfume. Is this how we start on the road to the cross?

Yes.  At least in part.

We come in triumph but suddenly we hear about a plot and betrayal. Then we watch as Jesus' feet are anointed in preparation for his burial. And we are challenged to consider the cost.

What are the costs of following Jesus? What are the costs of sharing his passion? When sharing his passion leads to a conflict of what the best use of resources are how do we respond?

A large part of me sides with the crowd in this story.  It seems like a terrible waste to use all this expensive ointment in such a way. But sometimes we make other choices.  Tomorrow we can go back to supporting the least among us (Jesus never says this is a bad idea) but today we choose to celebrate the one who is among us, if only for a short period of time.

Because we know that the feet of doom are coming. The plot is underway. But the Kingdom is also coming. That plot has yet to reach its conclusion--even 2000 years later.

What are the costs? What are we willing to pay?

Monday, March 7, 2016

Looking Forward to March 13, 2016 -- Lent 5, Mark's Apocalypse

This week we will be celebrating the Sacrament of Communion.

The Scripture Reading is Mark 13:1-8, 24-37. (Though I do encourage folks to read the whole chapter instead of just the beginning and ending verses)

The Sermon Title is The End is Near!

Photo Credit

Early Thoughts: Is that the image those words bring to mind?  The annoying street preacher telling passers-by to repent, to "turn or burn"?


And yet this week we stand within sight of the end. The end of Lent. The end of the walk to Jerusalem. The end of the earthly ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. With Mark 14:1 (the verse immediately following our reading for this week) the series of events leading to betrayal and trial and execution begins.  Indeed the end is near.

But also the end of an age, the end of "how things are". And that can be a terrifying thing to face.

Jesus warns his friends that changes are coming, changes that will shake the earth, that will bring destruction and so they should be ready. (It sort of reminds me of the end of every episode of the Dead Dog Cafe Comedy Hour where we were told to "Stay calm! Be brave! Wait for the signs!".) The end is coming.  Might be imminent, might be near, might be a few years off.  But it is coming, so be ready -- keep awake.

But it isn't really the end. Or at least not only the end. It is also a beginning.

One age ends so that a new age, the age of the Kingdom, can begin. Some things need to end so that God's promise and hope can be fulfilled. Which is not necessarily any less frightening....

In just a few weeks we will stand and proclaim that Christ has been raised. We will sing alleluias and announce the beginning of the new age. But in order for that to happen there also has to be an end. The path to New Life is through death and turmoil. What needs to end so that God's beginnings can take root?