Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Indescribable Gift

The Christmas ads have been running for some time now.  You’ve seen them.  You’ve heard them.  You’re already tired of them.  How does that happen?  How does something as exciting as Christmas - and take that on whatever level you want to take it: cultural, religious, theological, family, ritual and tradition, deep meaning and wondrous beauty, lump in the throat producing, tear in the eye provoking, whatever - but how does something as exciting as Christmas become boring?  Become tedious?  Become “not again!”?

I’ll tell you. Because all that stuff, all those ads aren’t really about Christmas.  They’re about gifts and about giving.  Which is good stuff!  Don’t get me wrong.  I love gifts.  Getting them, certainly (anyone who wants my list, I’ll give it to you!).  But mostly giving them.  I love finding, buying, procuring, making gifts to give to people I love.  I just do. And who could get tired of that?  The giving and receiving of gifts, signs of love and acceptance and being claimed and welcomed.  You don’t have to spend a lot of money to give gifts.  But for them to really do the task intended you have to spend a lot of love.

But, the question for this bible study is this: Have I ever given an indescribable gift?  Or received one?  Now, let’s define terms here.  There have been those occasions when the gift I have given my wife, for example, elicit a raised eyebrow or a puzzled demeanor; a sound of uncertainty or expression of incredulity.  As in “what in the world were you thinking?”  Let’s be clear, it wasn’t indescribable in the strictest sense.  Because this expression was quickly followed by a string of description.  Which, come to think about it, might have been more about the giver than the gift.  But still, hardly indescribable.

What is an indescribable gift?  Why bring it up?  Why set the bar so high that we can’t ever achieve it?  Because that is what it sounds like is going on.  Who in the world trades in indescribable gifts?  Well, Paul says God does.

2 Corinthians 9:6-15  The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  7 Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  8 And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.  9 As it is written, "He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever."  10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.  11 You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us;  12 for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God.  13 Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others,  14 while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you.  15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! 

The point is this.  Trust Paul to get to the point.  And then trust him to circle around and around it, turn it into a series of metaphors and images, make allusions and then find likes and opposites, and finally throw up his hands and sing a song about it, a song that turns out to be a song of praise to God.  Cause, you know, that how he deals with stuff.  Important stuff.  Faith centering stuff.  Like God and Faith and Law and Grace and Eternity and Obedience and Money.  Wait, what?  Money?  A Faith centering item?  Well, yes, Paul thought so.  And was quite serious about it.  He talks about giving in these verses.  (In case you aren’t from the Aldersgate Camp, we are concluding our brief stewardship drive with a pledge Sunday here on Thanksgiving week.)  He talks about giving abundantly, sacrificially, giving in a way that we notice it.  And he talks about our attitude while giving.  Give with willingness, give with joy, give - he even seems to imply - with laughter.  I know, a bit odd that Paul.  But still, it sounds exciting, it sounds powerful.  It sounds like something we just might want to be a part of.
Especially when he points out the receipts.  Yeah, this is not giving for nothing.  This is about investment and expecting a return.  “You will be enriched in every way.”  Well, we think, really?  In every way?  Surely he meant in good ways.  Surely he meant you will be enriched in every way that matters.  Some sort of proviso, some sort of escape clause.  Otherwise we fall into the hands of those guys who turn God into a divine slot machine, put a little in and bells and lights go off and we get a lot out.  And if the payoff didn’t come this time, put in a little bit more and then do an attitude check.  Payoff is coming.  Surely he didn’t mean that, we think.

And we’d be right.  He didn’t mean that.  But we don’t need to change the words to fit us better.  Instead we change ourselves to fit the words.  Which is always the case, by the way.  We want to shape God’s words to fit us where we are, but our real goal is to shape our lives to fit the Word.  We become givers, we become generous, we learn about sacrifice when God takes over our lives and we walk by the Word, we live by the Spirit, and then we know we are rich.  Because we have received all that our hearts desire.  All.  All that our hearts desire.  We are enriched.  What could be more that all?  All that our hearts desire?  What could that be?  That all, that gift?  That indescribable all?

I’m off to another funeral today.  There seems to have been a run on weekend funerals, and all of them have taken a little bit of me with them.  First was Gaynell Shady, we had her funeral on Friday the 7th.  I remember saying in the service that Gaynell was one of those we never thought would die.  She was just always here, a fixture to the structure of Aldersgate.  Even when she wasn’t able to attend much, she was a presence for so many people.  We were shocked by her death, even given her age and general health.  

Then last week was Claude.  Claude Sparks and we were shocked and surprised by a relatively young and vital man of faith, who managed to turn his life around and be an example of what is meant to walk with Jesus in every aspect - every aspect - of his life.  He was a stalwart supporter of the Genesis service and change and growth at his church, even when it wasn’t something he longed for.  He was behind us and then stepped up to help lead us, by serving, by giving, by loving and supporting.  He was one of my best friends and supporters of my ministry here and I miss him desperately.

This weekend is Linda Terrel, who most of you reading this won’t know.  Linda was a long time participant of the Choir School community that I have been a part of for almost twenty years.  But she was there long before me.  Linda was the one for whom the word irascible was invented.  She could fly off the handle at what seemed to many a slight provocation.  She was sometimes hard to be around, a bit bristly, some might even say grumpy.  But if you stuck it out, what you’d find was an immense talent and a passion for her art that is unrivaled these days. A passion that drove her to rub people the wrong way, but it was always because she cared so doggone much.  She was diagnosed with cancer of various kinds only a couple of months ago.  She was a member of the Choir School Board and made it to the retreat I helped lead last month.  She was frail and shaky and weary, but was still irrepressibly Linda.  And what she was was a gift, an indescribable gift to the communities in which she was a part.  

We are all so blessed by people in our lives who are gifts beyond description.  When Paul concludes his message on giving, he says that no matter what is in our hearts to give, we’ve already been given more.  We can’t out give God.  Because God has given us so much, so many, resources, yes, but more than that love.  People who love us whether we are worthy of it or not.  People who challenge us, who stretch us, and who shape us sometimes against our will, into what are yet becoming.  

This week at Aldersgate we will bring our pledges to the table, being proud to be able to give, I hope, but also humble enough to know whatever we intend to give in 2015, it does not repay what has been given to us.  And to even describe what we’ve been given escapes us.  Our lives are full of indescribable gifts.  Thanks be to God.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Complete Joy

An unusual thing is happening this weekend.  I’m not preaching.  I know that that is not that unusual.  Is that too many thats?  And it’s not Pastor Chris, my associate pastor who is the one preaching tomorrow.  That would different, but not unusual.

No, we began some time ago by looking at some Stewardship Campaign materials.  While we didn’t use the materials we read, we stole one idea.  It was suggested that maybe folks need to hear a different voice call them to be good stewards.  So, I asked some of the leadership whether they thought a guest preacher would be a good idea.  They jumped at it.  A little too eagerly, to be brutally honest.  But I’m not wounded by it, honest.  Much.  

Anyway the next question was did they have any suggestions as to who we might ask to be that guest speaker?  They didn’t hesitate a second before someone said “Let’s ask Brian.” There was general agreement and enthusiasm for that idea. So I asked and he said yes.  So a guest speaker tomorrow and who knows what he will say?

Brian, for those who might not know, is the Rev. Dr. Brian J. Witwer, the previous Lead Pastor here at Aldersgate.  So, you could wonder whether he qualifies as a “guest” speaker, but I’m not splitting hairs.  I know the congregation that he led for 23 years will enjoy hearing him again.  

So, I asked him to speak on stewardship, in anticipation of our pledge Sunday next week.  And I let him choose his text.  And this is what he chose.

John 15:1-11  "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower.  2 He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.  3 You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you.  4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.  5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.  6 Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.  7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.  9 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.  10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.  11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. 

Not your usual “widow’s mite” or “Sell all you have and give to the poor.”  Not the prophetic “bring the full tithe into the storehouse ... and see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down an overflowing blessing.”  

Instead we get a vine and branches, we get pruning and withering, we get abiding and fruit producing.  And we get joy.  Keep my commands, Jesus tells us, that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.  Now that we could use, eh?  Who couldn’t embrace a little more joy?  Who would pass up an attempt to be complete?  And what is complete joy anyway?  

I don’t know.  Not for sure.  Oh, there are moments when I think that maybe I’m close to it.  When you feel so filled up, when laughter bubbles up from who knows where, when contentment just comes and sits in your soul and you know that all is right, for the moment if not longer.  But a moment is pretty good.  Something to celebrate.  Complete joy, maybe it is sitting in the presence of someone with whom words don’t matter all that much.  Sitting in silence isn’t awkward, but instead is full of life and love and hope.  Complete joy.

You can’t buy it.  Despite advertisers tell you that you can.  Despite the empty promise that this item or that practice or the other vacation spot will give you complete joy.  Because they don’t.  We’ve tried, haven’t we?  Over and over we’ve tried.  Maybe this time, we fool ourselves into thinking.  But it doesn’t, and we aren’t surprised really.  But we just don’t know what will give us that sense of complete joy.  

Jesus does.  He knows, and he tells us.  Stay connected. You can’t bear fruit, he says, unless you stay connected.  Just like a branch can’t produce anything if it is lying on the ground, so you can’t produce fruit all on your own.  You need the resourcing, you need the empowering, you need the support and vision and compassion and the love of the one who helps you produce fruit.  So, that’s how it’s done.  Stay connected.

“Wait a minute, you pulled a fast one on us there,” you are thinking.  “You were talking about complete joy and then did a little sleight of hand and started talking about producing fruit.  Now those aren’t the same thing.  Everyone knows that!”  Are they?  Well of course not.  No, producing fruit is about effort, about service, about touching lives and making a difference, producing fruit is about living a life that matters and not just for you but for those around you, producing fruit is about making the world a better place, more light, more salt, more hope.  Whereas complete joy is ... about ... all those things too.  Don’t you think?

A phrase like that, like complete joy, sometimes sounds internal, like a state of mind or condition of heart.  It sounds like it doesn’t have anything to do with doing, its all about being.  Except our being is defined by doing.  Our sense of self and our inner contentment can rarely be defined in isolation from the community that shapes us and the interactions that occur between us.  

So yeah, producing fruit and complete joy are of the same essence, partners, dance partners let’s say.  When we are connected to the vine that is our Lord, then we dance, with service and with hope, with action and with joy.  We dance with one another and with the One who brought us and bought us, the one who loves us and rejoices in us and with us.  Dance partners, producing fruit and complete joy.

But what about stewardship?  What does all this have to do with stewardship?  Well, I don’t know for sure.  I’m anxious to hear what Brian does with it.  But I do know this when we live in right relationship with our Lord, then we are in right relationship with everything in our lives.  The people, certainly, but also the stuff, the resources and the goods.  None of it is about keeping, but about sharing.  None of it is about me, it is about us.  It is about investing not just in our future, but the future of those who aren’t even born yet and will stand where we now stand and worship as we now worship.  It is about legacy and loving. 

Stewardship is about tending to what we’ve been given.  About giving back.  About building up the body, the body of Christ, the community of faith.  It is about saying thanks for what we’ve been blessed to receive by giving to the church that helps us grow.  Which means that it is about joy.  Always about joy.  We give to our joys because of our joy and we give joyfully.  Complete joy.

He tells us these things in order that his joy - His joy - might help make our joy complete.  May the joy of Christ dwell in you.  Completely.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

If We Live

 Charge Conference.  Two words that send chills down the spine of clergy and laity alike within the tribe called United Methodist.  This Annual General Meeting.  Think end of year reports.  Think justify your existence to an institution who only remembers you exist when it comes to whether you are paying your fair share or not.  Charge Conference.

I know, I’m being a bit melodramatic.  (A bit?, some say with a soupcon of incredulity.)   It is that uniquely United Methodist institutional dance that defines us as ... weird?  No.  I’m sure other denominations engage in the same sort of fol-de-rol.  But this is ours.  And actually what happens during the official Charge Conference is, for me at least, less important than the concept behind it.  Like so many things, we have taken Charge Conference and turned it into something that services the institution rather than the Kingdom of God.  We continue to hope that the churches behind the Charge Conference hoop jumping exercise are focused on the Kingdom, but we won’t know that - usually - from Charge Conference.

But behind it is something significant, I believe.  First of all “Charge” is the official designation of the basic unit of United Methodism.  Usually “Charge” equals “Church.”  But sometimes more than one church comes to make up a charge.  Thus we have things like a “two-point charge” - meaning two churches come together to make one charge.  So, for all intents and purposes, the most important and official meeting of the year is when the local church comes together to declare that they exist and are keeping faith with the larger body and are staying true to the charter, the discipline of the United Methodist Church.  It ought to be a celebration.  It ought to be a party, but we’ve turned it into a business meeting.  Sigh.  OK, I understand a need to get business done.  I understand dotting i’s and crossing t’s - though a more than casual reader of these weekly shouts into the darkness would have cause to wonder about my attention to grammatical detail.  Still, the point is, I know that we are an institution that there are certain things we have to do to maintain that institution.  But the focus should be elsewhere.  Institutional maintenance should be done behind closed doors, not to hide it, but to minimize it.  What is significant is the body, the community, the family that we are to become. And are becoming.  Let’s celebrate that.  How?  Well, by conferencing.

A Charge Conference is when the Charge (church) come together to Conference.  Conference has become synonymous with meeting.  With power point boredom and vision casting into our five year plan for strategizing our mission and purpose statement. With droning reports on the minutia of daily responsibilities.  But that isn’t what Wesley had in mind when he drew up the structures of the Methodist movement within the church of England.  The movement was to revitalize the church, to bring life back into what had become in many places a shell of outward observance with no heart or soul or purpose for individuals or the community.  He wouldn’t have done that by layering more institutional rigamarole on top of an already top heavy church that was drifting farther and farther from the people in the parish, living often literally at the door step of the church building.

So, Wesley came up with the idea of conferencing.  Conferencing is more about the people than it is about the system.  It is more about the state of souls than it is about the state of the church.  If there are numbers reported it is numbers of contacts, numbers of souls won, numbers of sermons preached and numbers of times communion was served and received.  It was about the life blood of the community.  And the conference structure was written around a series of questions designed to get people to engage.  To participate.  To feel a part of the body.  To know that this is a group of people who have your back.  And care about your journey.  And want you to deepen your faith.  And  be led by the Spirit.  That’s not the kind of thing that normally comes out of Charge Conference these days, but I believe it was what was intended.  
Kind of like what Paul described in these few verses from Galatians.

Galatians 5:25 - 6:2  If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.  26 Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another. NRS Galatians 6:1 My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted.  2 Bear one another's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 

The first thing to remember is that Paul didn’t put numbers in the text of his letters.  Those were added much later by guys who weren’t always paying attention, or so it seems to me.  These verses are in two different chapters as you can see.  And every other bible scholar puts them in different texts.  But I see a flow here that connects them.  And it is the flow of the community as it lives the life of the Spirit.  

These are the verses that immediately follow the listing of the fruit of the Spirit.  The text with which we at Aldersgate have become almost too familiar.  But even though we notice that the different aspect of the fruit of the Spirit are relational, we still tend to think of them as individual.  In other words we view the call to display these dimensions of love - as in love that is joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled - as something for each of us.  And I don’t want to dispute that.  But I would suggest that perhaps Paul was suggesting that we display this multi-dimensional love as a community as well.  That gives us scope to focus on areas of strength and giftedness.  

To say, for example, that I can demonstrate the gentle love of the Spirit more effectively than I can the joyful love, is to talk about spiritual gifts and not just personality traits.  The ability to work in the life of the church in certain dimensions and with certain emphases is a part of giftedness.  And we want to follow those gifts, we want to live out that presence.  So, Paul claims, if we want to live by the Spirit, let us be guided by the Spirit.  Let the Spirit choose how we will function as a community and as individuals.  Let’s not assume, for example, that we all have to do the same thing, have the same demeanor as we go about fulfilling the same task which is making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  

We are in this together, says Paul.  We are on the same side.  All this fighting about who has it right, about which method of baptism or communion is more biblically correct, about what style of worship we engage in, is all about conceit, about envy, about competition.  But, aren’t we in competition with the church down the road?  Well, no, not really.  There are more than enough folks who haven’t yet been convinced of the value of belonging to a community of faith that we don’t need to do a better show than the church on the other corner.  

OK, so how do we do that?  How do we impact the lives of those who don’t think they should bother?  There are two important ideas in the first two verses of chapter six that seem to answer that question.  They say in essence that we ought to stand for something, and that we ought to be a place of acceptance and support.  

But, aren’t those mutually exclusive?  If we take a hard line then we can’t accept those who disagree, right?  Or if we want to be accepting of everyone then we can’t take positions, can we?  It’s a false divide, I believe.  Paul talks about restoration in a spirit of gentleness.  That should be our mode as a community of faith.  Restoration means investment in the other.  It means that we don’t wash our hands of those who fall.  It also means that we don’t turn up our noses at the sin that caused them to fall.  We bear those burdens as though we were Christ Himself.  When Jesus said he came to fulfill the law, he meant that he was willing to give his life, he was willing to sacrifice himself for the world he came to save out of love.  So we give of ourselves to any and to all who need us.

If we live by the Spirit, we will love like Jesus.  We conference, we the church, the charge engage the world and love like Jesus.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Rejoice and Be Glad

I’m back.  I know most of you didn’t realize I was gone.  And I’m not just referring to those of you who aren’t a part of the Aldersgate Community, because I know that there are those who are active at my church who didn’t realize I had left.  I was there last Sunday and will be there this Sunday, so therefore, I wasn’t gone.  You know, I only work one day a week anyway.  At least for many folks in the life of the church.

But, my wife knows I was gone, she had to walk the dogs every day.  My office staff knows I was gone, there were questions others had to answer.  The participants in the bible studies I teach knew I was gone, one didn’t meet and the other did without me.   Others knew, many didn’t.  But I was gone for almost a whole week.  Working.

Yeah, I know.  But I was.  Relaxing and working.  Praying and listening.  Planning and dreaming.  This was my annual planning retreat to set the themes and texts for worship in the next year.  So I read and thought, and I walked and I asked God what was the Word for God’s people in 2015.  Which means it was my priest retreat.

Don’t panic, I’m not converting.  I’m just claiming one of the roles that is given to anyone in the position that I have.  We talk a lot about the pastoral role of my job.  It is often the most obvious, the caring for people, the meeting them in their moment of need - both crisis and joy.  I preside over weddings and funerals, I spend time in hospitals and darkened rooms with machinery counting down final seconds or rooms of welcoming new life and new hope.  I walk with people through decisions and choices, successes and failures, healing and brokenness.  The pastoral role is a humbling one to say the least.

It is, however, a human sized humility.  Whereas the priestly function is another order all together.  Another level.  The priest is the go-between, the intermediary.  The priest stands between God and the people and attempts to get them to communicate, to know each other more deeply.  There is an element of the coach in the priestly function, the encourager, you can do it, you can embrace God, you can know God, let me show you just how real God is, just how present.  The tour guide, the docent, I want to point out where God has impacted God’s people throughout history, but also where God is still at work among us.  Let me show you the light that surrounds you.  Let me show you the Spirit that embraces you, the love that enfolds you.  What drives me, haunts me, compels me is the desire to bring God to the people in my care.  No, that’s not right.  I don’t, can’t bring God.  God is already there.  Already at work, already present.  My job is to point out God to people too busy to stop and look, too distracted to pay attention, too full to recognize any sense of emptiness, too wounded to raise their vision, too afraid to encounter God who has been misrepresented to them for years, too skeptical to let belief take root within them and change everything they think about themselves and the world around them.

And if that wasn’t enough, I also am audacious enough to want to bring this people before God.  Not because hasn’t been paying attention.  Not because God needs to be woken up to our particular needs or joys or hurts.  Not because God needs to be convinced we are worthy of the divine attention.  No, I desire to bring the people to God because I know God wants them to come.  Because I know that God will receive them with joy and will soothe their hurts and wipe away every tear, God will laugh with them and celebrate with them.  God will bless them if I can bring them.  You.  God will bless you if I can bring you.  

So, week by week that is what I hope to do.  I try tell my stories and weave my words in such a way that you might be enabled to wake up to God’s presence in your life.  To usher you into the loving, transforming presence.  Not that you can’t do it on your own, because you can.  But sometimes we need someone to take our hand and walk with us, even to a familiar place.
To do that, I need to know you.  To know your heart, to know your dreams, to know your wounds and scars, your successes and failures.  Which isn’t easy. Luckily I my knowledge of you isn’t reliant on just my own observations, but it also comes from the one who knows you best.  Knows you and calls you blessed.

Matthew 5:1-12  When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him.  2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:  3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  5 "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.  6 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.  7 "Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.  8 "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.  9 "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.  10 "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  11 "Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 

Have you ever heard a song and thought that songwriter knows me too well?  Or watched a movie and thought they were reading from the script of your life? Or read a book and felt that strange sense of deja vu?  Like you were looking in the mirror?

When you look at the mirror called the beatitudes do you see yourself?  Maybe not in all of them, but in some of them?  Maybe in one of them, the one that defines your whole existence right now.  The one that defines you in ways that surprise you.  This is you.  This is us.

There are some of us, or all of us some times, who need the gospel desperately.  We need to hear the good news, that there is comfort in the midst of pain and sorrow, that there is fulfillment for those who are so empty they echo in their souls.  And the promise is yes!  Yes there is hope, yes there is comfort, yes there is home and room for you.  Yes.  That’s the word for those who live in a seemingly endless No.  Yes, says the God who loves you more than life itself.  Loves you into eternity.

Then there are those of us who are already claiming the yes for ourselves and are now looking for ways to share it with others.  Those whose gentleness causes them to pour themselves out for others, those who seek to end injustice, to right the wrongs that we have become accustomed to, who offer forgiveness and grace like cold cups of water on hot days (or steaming cups of chocolate on cold days - when did winter get here?).  There are those whose lives are a beacon of light and without even seeming to lead they are leading us, without even seeming to correct they transform us into more than we thought we could be.  There are those who work to heal what was broken, to mend the fences and build the bridges.  The word for all of these is Yes!  Your efforts are not in vain, your labors are not unnoticed.  Yes, you are working alongside the one who claims you, who knows you, who welcomes you into the divine presence.

I’m back from spending time thinking about this thing we do week after week.  From thinking about the words to say to give us a sense of the Word and the Presence, the love and the life abundant.  I’m back from standing on a high mountain to see if I could into the promised land, or at least a little bit the journey that might take us there.

I’m back and ready to go.  To burst forth in worship and song.  Rejoice and be glad, not because everything is the way we want it, but because we are on the way to wholeness, we are on the way to redemption, we are on the way home.  

Rejoice and be glad.