Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Sermon for August 12, 2007

In my attempt to catch up on Blogging, here is my sermon from two Sundays ago.

“Now Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

I speak with you this day in the name of God the adventurer, Christ the faithful one, and the ever present Holy Spirit. Amen!

Two Sundays ago I left for a week of continuing education in the Black Hills of South Dakota. My wife and I had the pleasure of working as small group facilitators for a peer ministry camp of high school students. I love working camps because you usually get to work with some the most dedicated and talented people on the planet. This week was no exception. I would like to tell you about a few of these amazingly faithful people.

First, there is Lyle Griner. Lyle is the National Peer Ministry Coordinator for the Youth and Family Institute. But those fancy titles don’t really tell you that much about Lyle. It is more descriptive to say that Lyle is a person of deep long lasting faith. A man who has given himself not only to believing in an unseen God, not only to following the guidance and nudging of the Holy Spirit, but also to passing on the faith the generations that follow. He is passionate about stories, especially stories of faith, which has given him a keen sense that the stories we share with each other are the ones that form us. Consequently, his life’s work is to give tools and skills to youth and adults to share our faith, to tell the shaping stories of our lives that in turn shape those around us.

Next there is Dick Borrud. Dick and his wife Cynthia privately own and operate Lee Valley ranch the camp where we were staying. Dick is a 75-year-old semi-retired Lutheran pastor. As the saying goes, “he has been there and done that.” He’s been a campus chaplain, a children’s television host, pastor, and preacher. At 75, he led us on a hike one day up some steep large hills in that thin mountain air. I swear to you, none of the youth or the adults could keep up. He had to keep stopping and telling stories so that we could all catch our breath.

It was during one of these story times that he told us the story of his mother. She was a cheerleader who married her college running back hero when she was 18. At 19, she gave birth to her one and only child. At this point, with a 75-year-old catch in his voice, Dick tells of his mother’s death from complications of bringing him into the world. He looks us straight in the eye and tells us that he wishes to live a life worth dying for; he wishes each and every day that his actions are worthy of the sacrifice his mother made. Maintaining that unwavering gaze, he reminds us that Christ died too so that we might live. In memory of the sacrifices of both his mother and Christ, Dick challenged us to live a life worth dying for.

Finally, I want to tell you about Joel and Aimee’ Pakan. They are the husband and wife team that make up the band Tangled Blue. Joel plays guitar and Aimee’ assorted percussion. They both sing and take turns driving the 2001 Volkswagen Euro van, which has been their home for over 270,000 miles. These self-professed church geeks, travel across the country singing, working with youth, and proclaiming the grace of God by their lives and music. Now, don’t think for a second that they are a couple of deadbeat musicians living in a van down by the river, that they don’t work for a living. You do not survive 270,000 miles in a van with another person, especially your spouse, without hard work and dedication. You do not become the virtuoso musicians and songwriters that they are without logging hours upon hours of practice.

What is more important then their work ethic and commitment, however, is their faith. They intrinsically understand our Gospel message today. Where your treasure is, where you put your physical and material resources, is where your heart will be. They have placed their faith in an unseen God. They are assured of things hoped for in the conviction of things unseen because they seek the Kingdom first trusting that all the things, the house, the car, the clothes, the food, will be added unto them in God’s time. Indeed the assurance of their faith is enshrined in the words of one of my favorite songs of theirs entitled No Matter What. It goes:

No matter what,
No matter what may come
No matter what may come, I will not let you go!
Seed blown by the wind, buried in winter and frozen.
Remember the water that graced your head, rain in the
spring that brings life from the dead.
This season will pass but My promise will remain.
No matter what,
No matter what may come,
No matter what may come,
I will not let you go!

Joel and Aimee’, Dick and Cynthia, Lyle: these are the people I want to be like when and if I ever grow up.

Now, I do not highlight these old and new friends of mine simply to brag about how cool my friends are…well maybe a little, but that’s not the whole reason. The writer of Hebrews writes today of Abraham’s faith in hopes of inspiring the newly faithful to discipleship, to living a life in response to the gracious life, death, and Resurrection of Christ. We all need examples of faith to follow; what the writer of Hebrews in another passage calls the great cloud of witnesses, what we here at 9302 Blondo call All Saints.

Here’s the skinny though, we need these examples of faith to inspire us to stay the course, run the whole race, remind us of the joy of a life lived for Christ, and keep us mindful of our areas of where we need to grow. We, also, are called to be examples of faith, to be that great cloud of witnesses. [Tomorrow] we will baptize Karen Kalilangwe into the body Christ. This is not a private action. We do it in the middle of our services, in the middle of the community to highlight our responsibility. It is our responsibility to support her in faith, to be that great cloud of witnesses that forms her in the life of Christ.
Our responsibility does not stop with the members of All Saints, however. It continues to all in our neighborhood, our city, our state, nation, and world. We cannot sit here and claim to love God with all our hearts, minds, and souls and our neighbors as ourselves as long as there are empty pews in our church and violence in our streets. We cannot and should not be comfortable, to think the work is done and we have earned a rest. As the passionate witness, St. Francis of Assisi said:

• Where there is hatred, we must sow love;
• where there is injury, we must pardon;
• where there is doubt, we must share our faith;
• where there is despair, we must be a beacon of hope;
• where there is darkness, we must shine our light;
• and where there is sadness, we must bring joy.

My Brothers and Sisters, it is my hope that you and I will go the way of saints before us, living lives of worthy response to the gospel. It is my hope that we let it be known that this building does not belong to us; rather it is a house of God. Let it be know in all the world that at this table none are turned away. Here at God’s altar all are fed not with the temporal food of this world that will leave us hungry again, but with the righteous, life giving food of the Body and Blood of Christ broken and poured out for us so that we may never hunger as we are the body and blood of Christ in the world. Amen!

God's Peace,

Monday, August 20, 2007

Black hills part 5

3 Aug 2007

It is the last day. Lyle has already left. I told him as he left that I no longer say good-bye to people I meet in the church. The church is so small you usually run into them again some day.
Anyway last night was really great! We only did one session which was on faith sharing. It want off stupendously. I think a lot of my crew had never shared their faith nor had someone listen to their story. They learned a lot about each other and themselves.
I am usually not very confident about my small group skills, but I think I made progress this week. It was fun to have a group of all girls. It is a little easier for them to share feelings (according to the girls in the group.) I grew a lot this week because of their willingness to share.
Also, something mended in me last night. For years I had an emotional faith; recently, I have had primarily an intellectual faith, and ne'er the twain shall meet--as it were. This week I think those two things were drawn together. It is a nice feeling to have them work together for the growth of the kingdom.

God's Peace,

Black Hills Part 4

2 August 2007

Yesterday was pretty cool, both in temperature and sessions. We worked with a decision making model, which I think my group was able to grasp. I think it is one of the hardest parts of this training. Usually, I like or hope to draw the learning out of them, let them think of things and then highlight points for them. With the decision making model, however, it was more like spoon feeding. I think it was helpful though because it gave us a chance to think through a host of questions that we could at each part of the model. Some of them in the group even took notes by their own accord. That was cool! Also, since I was sharing, and one of the kids was helping me think through my decision, she prayed for me. The prayer was AWESOME! She prayed for God to be with my wife and I as we talk about having kids. She didn't make the decision for us, she just prayed that we would know that God was with us no matter what we decided.
I rarely have people praying for out loud for me, with me there. It is usually the other way around! So this was a well needed spiritual thirst quencher!!!
Last night we went to Rushmore. I'm still sorting out my feelings about it, though it did not fill me patriotic fervor which is what I think they wanted. The crazy horse monument is better, even though it isn't complete yet.

God's Peace,

Black Hills Part 3

1 August 2007

Last night we had a really cool session. Lyle had encouraged us to challenge our groups to go a little deeper with their sharing by sharing a heartfelt concern. After modeling this myself I laid the challenge before my group. I was a little concerned because they did not seem nervous about this at all. But they did great, and they enjoyed having someone listen to them. After that I did a group check-in where they had to mark our progress towards becoming an "us,our" group instead of an "I, me" group. I was shocked that they had us so close to being an "us, our" group. I asked how we had come so far so fast. They replied because we are all girls. Except for me and pastor K. who are adults, all the teens in the group are girls. After this we had a wonderful conversation about group dynamics in regards to gender. It was one of these moments that you wait for in ministry where people in a group just start talking and all you have to do is just highlight cool points. Near the end I asked about their church groups and how they can move their groups toward being "us, our" Several of them took real ownership and said similar things about it being up to us--the teens--to do it because the other youth will listen to us more than to the adults. It was a beautiful moment.

Lord, help me to continue to lead this group by making space for you and them to meet and mingle. Amen!

God's Peace,

Black Hills Part 2

31 July 2007

Yesterday we did three Peer Ministry sessions, which is a lot. However it gave my group a chance to begin bonding. I always struggle, or at least I feel like I do, with getting people to open up in a group. For most of yesterday my "small" group felt like a "large" group. I am always challenged in these situations because my instincts are to preach! Being a preacher is a large majority of my ministerial identity; therefore Peer Ministry Facilitating is good for me because it pushes me to function in different rolls. Left to my own devices I would just preach and not develop other skills. However, I feel God nudging me o do more, to get off my posterior, our of the pulpit and office, and do more ministry.

Lord, help me to do your will!
Lord, help me to do!
Lord, help me!
Lord, help!!!!

God's Peace,

Black Hills Part 1

The next few posts are journal entries from my time in Black Hill work as a small group facilitator for The Youth and Family Institute. They are a little back dated, but I hope you enjoy them.

July 30, 2007

I, Well Jodie and I, have come to Lee Valley Ranch near Custer, SD in the Black Hills of southwest SD. To say that it is beautiful here is kinda like saying Mozart wrote music. It is amazing that:

  • We drove 9 hours yesterday but I'm not tired.
  • We had an hour Long Camp fire led by Tangle Blue and Dick Borrud and I was neither bored nor sleepy.
  • We saw lots and lots of bikers. The Sturgis Rally begins next week.
  • We saw lots of pine trees. Seriously, I had not seen so many since I lived next door to a paper mill in Tennessee. We shut off the a/c in the car rolled down the windows and could literally smell the pine.
  • I am here to lead a peer ministry training, but I always wind up being trained myself.
  • I fee God us pushing me to become better at more ministry skills then just preaching.

It looks to be a great week.

God's Peace,

Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday Five

From revgalsblogpals.blogspot.com

This one is patterned off an old Friday Five written by Songbird, our Friday Five Creator Emerita:

Below you will find five words. Tell us the first thing you think of on reading each one. Your response might be simply another word, or it might be a sentence, a poem or a story.My play is in read.

1. vineyard vine

2. root cause

3. rescue Me. (the song not the show)

4. perseverance Needed

5. divided we fall.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

I was rooting for Neville Longbottom, but...

I'm not sure what this means, but hey it's just for fun.

God's Peace,

You scored as Ginny Weasley, You definitely share your mother's (Molly Weasley) fiery resolve and slowly but surely people are learning to respect you because of it.

Ginny Weasley


Ron Weasley


Remus Lupin


Albus Dumbledore


Hermione Granger


Severus Snape


Harry Potter


Sirius Black


Draco Malfoy


Lord Voldemort


Your Harry Potter Alter Ego Is...?
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