This past fall we, as a church, been learning more about ACEs, Adverse Childhood Experiences, as we continue working on our goal to support stressed out parents and kids. And as we’ve learned about trauma, we’ve also been learning more about resilience— that remarkable thing that makes it possible for people to find healing, hope, and a future even though they’ve been through extremely difficult things in life. In Physics, the definition of resilience is the ability of a material to absorb energy and then release that same energy, springing back to its original shape— you might think of a rubber band, for example, after it has been shot across a room— it still comes back to its original shape. (1)
This is true of the little things that happen to us in life— we get a flat tire, or we catch strep throat, or some of life’s annoyances get us down, but our life goes back to some kind of normal afterwards. When trauma happens in our lives (someone close to us dies; someone we love and count on has an addiction; someone abuses us either emotionally or physically) particularly if it happens while we are a child, our life doesn’t go back to what it was like before. There is no going back, even when the world around us pretends that all we need to do is go back; even when we ourselves talk ourselves into thinking that’s what “should” happen. Read More
Courageous, gutsy, honest... these are words we often associate with prophets, and Jeremiah is no different. Called from a young age by God, Jeremiah spends forty years sharing with his people what God is calling them to— telling them things they really don’t want to hear. Jeremiah’s nation is at war, and within his lifetime they will lose everything. So God sends Jeremiah to teach the people how to worship again; how to be faithful; how to live as a people in exile away from their home. He was definitely brave, a patient listener, a man who did not escape suffering, a servant who chose to follow God.
But that’s only part of the story. Jeremiah is also known as the weeping prophet. He gets whiny. He complains a lot. He doesn’t always see God in his life and he gets angry with God that God has left him alone, especially since God specifically told him he wouldn’t have to be alone. Jeremiah questions if what he is doing is really what God wants him to do— not just once, but time and time again. Read More
Just a couple of weeks ago we were reading about two mothers— Elizabeth who was unexpectedly pregnant with John, and Mary, who was unexpectedly pregnant with Jesus. When Elizabeth saw Mary, John jumped in her womb, and Elizabeth commented on how he knew he was greeting his Lord. And if Mary or Elizabeth had written the Gospels, I’m sure that we would’ve gotten at least a few cute stories of them growing up. But in the Bible infants spring into adulthood. There are no cute kids stories. We go straight from infant to mature, radical adult in just a few verses! Here we are, just a chapter after the birth of Jesus, and John is an adult, out telling people to repent and paving the way for Jesus to begin his ministry. There’s this great big build up in Luke, with John telling everyone he isn’t the Messiah and then describing what it is the Messiah will do. John describes Jesus as the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit; the one who will bring fire; the one who will come with his winnowing fork— the pitch fork that separates the wheat, the part that’s good for eating, from the chaff, the part that isn’t any good. And then John tells us that the wheat will be gathered together but the chaff will be burned with unquenchable fire. Read More
A couple of years ago when we went to visit my sister-in-law in New Zealand, she and my brother-in-law also took vacation and traveled with us. They showed us the sights of the South Island, and I remember saying to her that I couldn’t believe she lived in such a beautiful place. Her response, however, made me laugh. She agreed with me, but then said, “Oh we hardly ever come to the South Island— we only come here when we have people to show around.” And I started thinking about how often that is true. When I think of the restaurants we like to go to, more often than not, we have found them because people were visiting. Or we have explored St. John’s or the Quarry or Munsinger Gardens or other beautiful places around here mainly when we ourselves were brand new to the area or because we were showing someone else around. So often we get stuck in our own routines that we forget the amazing places we live or the wonderful things we pass by on a daily basis.
The same is sometimes true of our faith. We may have grown up with Christianity or we may have come to it later in life, but at some point we chose this faith— we chose to respond to this God of love who revealed God’s self in Jesus Christ— and so here we are this morning. But how often we can get in a regular routine of doing the things of our faith and forget about the joy that comes in showing someone else around; or in seeing things through others’ eyes; sometimes we forget in our own religion about the wonders and the opportunities that are right in front of us. We neglect to see what God is doing right here. Read More