Thursday, May 29, 2014

DI Fundraiser

The Cause
When Brett's Destination Imagination team advanced to Global Finals, he became overwhelmed. It was expensive for the team to go. Brett needed to raise money - at least $1500 and as much as $5000. So, he and the parents of his team got to work. They planned a trivia night with a few silent auction items. I happened to be practicing some tatted jewelry, so I offered three sets for silent auction. They didn't sell for much, yet every little bit helped.

Set 1

The earrings are the "Lacy Treasure Pendant" from Tatted Jewelry by Marilee Rockley. I made them in size 20 Lizbeth #126 and #633 with seed beads. This simple design was fun to make.
The necklace is the "Compass Pendant" pattern from Tatted Jewelry, using the same thread as the earrings and has a Swarovski bicone bead in the center. For what looks like a small, simple pattern, I found this one to be deceptively difficult. I kept on forgetting which shuttle was which.

Set 2

The earrings are "Carnival Earrings" from Tatted Jewelry. I used size 20 Lizbeth #633 thread, seed beads, a Swarovski bicone bead, and a silver bead. I loved making these!

I found this pattern on Pinterest: I used the same thread and beads as the earrings. I loved making this one. I used split rings to get between each of the five motifs, making it complicated enough to keep my interest but simple enough to be made quickly. This also was the first time that I used beads on the shuttle thread instead of the ball thread. Fun!

Set 3

The earrings and the pendant are the same pattern, made with size 20 Lizbeth #633 and a free sample of size 20 Lizbeth thread (that came with my first Handy Hands catalog!). The pattern is from Pinterest: I really enjoyed this pattern. To the untrained eye, it might be unclear which rings are made together. I like the mystery of it.

The necklace is the same as the earrings with a silver bead in the center.

With these pieces, it was the first time that I sewed the ends in instead of glueing them. It also was the first time that I blocked the pieces instead of stiffening them. They look so much better because of it.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Our God is not Unknown

Acts 17:22-31, Easter 6 A, May 25, 2014

Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

For the past few months, I have enjoyed watching Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. Every Sunday evening, Neil DeGrasse Tyson astounds me as he shows us the beautiful complexity and integrity of science. From the vast expanse of the universe to the minute composition of atoms, I see the world in a new light. As I look at the billions of years of the “Cosmic Calendar,” I can’t help but feel small.

As Neil DeGrasse Tyson describes all of this, I can hear the wonder and excitement in his voice. Tyson is an atheist, yet it sounds like he has made science his god. As Tyson is groping for something more in this world, he finds fulfillment in science. I don’t see it that way. Viewing the complex, organized, majesty of the universe, I see God’s hand there. I can’t imagine all of the laws of science falling into alignment without the guidance of a benevolent creator - our benevolent creator. 

Throughout time and space, there have been those who believe in the one true God, and those who do not. Some use science or philosophy to deny the existence of God. Others can’t experience a relationship with God and therefore do not believe. Yet even these people still look for more in this world. I can’t help but wonder, for those who do not believe, aren’t they groping in the dark for what we know to be the light? 

This is what Paul presents to the Athenians. The people of Athens had an ignorant view of the cosmos. They had no way of knowing how magnificently old the universe is, nor could they understand that the laws of science governed the world, so they believed in a pantheon of gods. As Paul walked around Athens, he saw many altars and shrines dedicated to certain gods of the pagan tradition. Each altar was dedicated to a certain deity who they believed had control over specific aspects of nature and humanity. 

Yet among all of those shrines, Paul found one dedicated “To an unknown god.” For as much as the Athenians thought they knew about the heavens, they kept the possibility open that there was something more. Paul declares that the one true God is the one they are looking for. This God is the creator and savior of our world. The one God cannot be contained in an altar or shrine, nor does the one God need anything from us. Our God set the world in motion and continues to interact with us.

We do not believe that a host of deities control the sun, the rain, fertility, and war, yet we too can be ignorant about the world that we live in. Our God is so wonderfully beyond our comprehension that we can’t help but be ignorant of God, too. All too often our words and images of God fall far short of the truth. Because of this, we often have a warped view of who God is and what God does for us. 

Like Neil DeGrasse Tyson talking about science, when Rob Bell talks about God, he has an equal amount of wonder and excitement. In his video Rhythm, Rob Bell describes two stories that he recently heard. A person drove into a parking lot right when a space opened up closest to the front door of the building. That person took it as a sign that God was with him. Another person told Rob Bell of a trip to a store. That person found what she really wanted, and it happened to be deeply discounted. That person proclaimed that sale showed her “how good God is.”

It is possible that God opened that parking space or created that sale. More likely, though, is that those were mere coincidences. Sometimes, God creates these events for our benefit. More often, though, a coincidence is just happenstance. Those people groped for God in their daily lives, but they only found shallow reflections of God. 

God is involved in our world striving to end the struggles that we create. God is present with those who suffer from war, famine, and poverty. God helps the sick, the lonely, and the bereaved. God works in our lives in much deeper, intimate ways compared to parking spaces and sales. When we are in our deepest need, God is there.

In Corinne Chilstrom’s book, Andrew, You Died Too Soon, she describes in vivid detail her grieving experience after her teenage son committed suicide. Corinne was a pastor at the time, and her husband Herbert was the bishop of the Minnesota Synod of the LCA. He would later become the first presiding bishop of the ELCA. Just weeks after going to college, their youngest son Andrew came home only to take his life while they were away.

These pastors who had proclaimed the resurrection so many times, on Sundays, at funerals, and throughout their careers, began to shake in their faith. Just hours after they found Andrew’s body, Herb and Corinne were alone consoling each other in a tight embrace when Herb cried out, “Oh, God, is there any resurrection?” (p. 24) Herb and Corinne listened in the silence for the still, small voice of the Lord. Finding Christ there with them in the silence, Herb said, “God, receive Andrew safe into your everlasting arms.”

After the funeral and everyone had gone home, Corinne felt like she was “a timid, fearful child, waiting at God’s door.” (p. 77) She was groping in the darkness for God’s light and comfort. When she had no words of her own to share in prayer with God, she turned to the psalms and the hymnal. They expressed her terrible grief and sorrow. Corinne experienced how the church helped her grieve. In this time when others might have turned away from God, Corinne clung to her savior. 

Our Lord who loves us deeply cannot be contained in manmade objects. Our Lord is grander than science yet intimately cares for us when we weep. Our Lord is found when we are in deepest need, not in mere coincidences. When you find yourself groping in the dark, searching for God in your life, I pray that you experience God’s light. I pray that you do not worship what is unknown but find our benevolent Creator right here, present among us.

Our Lord is not unknown to us, yet we will never be able to fully comprehend who God is. Our Lord is beyond our comprehension and yet is right here. Our Lord is Jesus Christ, yet our Lord is also Creator and Spirit. Our Lord is our Beautiful Savior. Amen.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Strange names in a strange world

1 Peter 2:2-10, Easter 5 A, May 18, 2014

Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
What is in a name? How does your name impact you? 

Sometimes, we are named after our relatives. For example, my middle name is Clair, after my grandmother. In a way, my grandmother’s legacy continues with me - and my other cousins who also are named after her.

Sometimes, people are given odd names that nobody knows how to pronounce. For example, my great friend and mentor is Thais Hudson, but we call her Ti. She is named after a French opera character. In this opera, a Christian monk decided that it was his duty to convert Thais, a pagan courtesan. He fell in love with her even as she became Christian. 

Sometimes, names come with too much baggage or expectation. For example, Brett tells me that there are students with names like Messiah or Princess who seem to always find their way to detention.

We see some pretty odd names in our scriptures too. The Lord often asked the prophets to do weird things for the sake of their ministry, including naming their children with theological statements. The Lord told Isaiah to name his son Maher-shalal-hash-baz, meaning, “The spoil speeds, the prey hastens.” Can you imagine having a name like Maher-shalal-hash-baz? Hosea’s kids weren’t any luckier.

First, the Lord told Hosea to marry a prostitute, so he took a woman named Gomer as his wife. When their first son was born, the Lord told Hosea to name his child Jezreel, meaning “God sows.” This is an odd name, but not necessarily a terrible one. Then, Hosea had a daughter, whom the Lord named Lo-Ruhamah which means, “Not pitied.” Just like her name, the Lord would no longer show pity to the people of Israel. 

If that name wasn’t bad enough, the Lord told Hosea to name his third child, Lo-Ammi, meaning, “Not my people.” With the birth of this child, the Lord no longer claimed the Israelites as his own.
These poor, innocent children were given ominous names that they bore for their entire lives. 
Wherever they went, they were signs of how the Lord turned away from Israel. These children, Jezreel, Lo-Ruhamah, and Lo-Ammi, were used as theological statements.

But it gets better! The Lord also uses these children for good. The Lord speaks in Hosea of a time when the Lord will sow Jezreel in the land. The Lord will have pity on Lo-Ruhamah, and the Lord will claim Lo-Ammi as His people. Lo-Ammi will reply, “You are my God.”

So, essentially, God will sow the one named, “God sows.” God will have pity on the one named, “Not pitied.” God will claim as His people the one named, “Not my people.” Our good Lord will turn everything on its head and use for good Hosea’s kids with those unusual names. 

This, this is what Peter references in the second lesson. He quotes Hosea, “Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” In a way, Peter is saying that time is now. Now that Christ has lived, died, and been resurrected, all of humanity is included in God’s people. Even the Gentiles, like us. Once we were not the chosen people, but now we are God’s people. Back then we had not received God’s mercy, but now we do. 

This is good news for us. We are God’s people. God does love us and forgive us of our sin. We are now chosen as children of God to do God’s work in the world. Through our work, we may proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord. 

We are not individuals going out alone into the dark world. We are a united congregation gifted with the light of Christ. We work together to fulfill Christ’s mission. And beyond our congregation we join forces with our synod, all Lutherans, and all Christians to be the people God has called us to be. 

Alone, we might not be able to do much, but together we can be amazing. Together, we can change the world. Together, our living stones stack on top of Christ our cornerstone to create a spiritual house. Our building and our property are not the church. We are the church of Christ. 

Christ is our cornerstone, our capstone, our foundation. Christ is the beginning, the middle, and the end. We are nourished by the spiritual milk of scripture, and in communion we have tasted that the Lord is good. In our baptism, we have been marked with the cross of Christ forever. The Lord claims us as His own and sends us out to be little Christs in the world. 

God has given some really odd names over the years to the faithful. Unsuspecting children grew up with names that they could barely pronounce. From Maher-shalal-hash-baz to Lo-Ammi, God used these children’s names to share his message. In this spiritual house, God gives us a new name: Christian. This is not just a name, because it also proclaims our identity as children of God. Through Christ, God calls us to beautiful ministries to serve God, our neighbors, and each other. We are children of God, and we are doing God’s work. Amen.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Painting as a Faith Practice

Luke 24:13-35, Easter 3A, May 4, 2014 

Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

Earlier this week, at the first call spring retreat, Pastor Gloria Dovre from SEIA Synod simultaneously caused the greatest dread for some and the greatest joy for others - she asked us to be creative. More specifically, she expected us each to create a piece of visual art. 

During our break, Gloria transformed our meeting room into a craft room. There were tarps on the floor and plastic cloths on the tables. One long table was covered with materials to make mosaics. There were sheets of stained glass, stone, and mirrors. There were wooden trays that were blank canvases for the adventurous. 

There were literal blank canvases too. The second table was set up for painting with lots of acrylics and a menagerie of paint brushes. The third table was full of paper supplies, including graph paper, tracing paper, and notecards. Each blank paper was just waiting to become something new. There were special pencils, crayons, and more. There was something for everyone - for those who are boldly innovative and for others who are shyly intuitive. 

After briefly describing what was available to us and how to use them, Gloria set us loose. I immediately gravitated toward the acrylic paint. I had a project in mind that I had never taken the time to do. I grabbed a brush and some water, squirted some brightly colored paint onto a paper plate, and chose a canvas. I picked a repurposed 9 x 12 canvas that had been covered in Gesso. The back of the canvas shows hints of what might be underneath.

While I painted a deep red cross on a bright yellow background with orange sunbeams streaming, I reflected on what I had learned during the retreat. I considered how the theme of stewardship transcends how we use our money, time, and talents. I thought about all that God has entrusted to me. Money, yes, and time, too. God also has entrusted to me the ministry of this church. Through my ordination, God and the church have given me the authority to interpret scripture and administer the sacraments. These are huge responsibilities. 

As I painted, I thought back to my ordination. Bishop Wayne Miller asked me some vast questions that day, including: “Will you give faithful witness in the world, that God’s love may be known in all that you do?” To that question, and to all the others, I answered, “I will, and I ask God to help me.” I will, and I ask God to help me. 

These are powerful words that remind me all of God’s gifts that I am entrusted to steward - the word of God, the creeds, the Lutheran confessions, the holy sacraments, and you as well. The severe importance of all that I do can weigh heavy on me at times. In those moments, I almost begin to chant, “I will, and I ask God to help me. I will, and I ask God to help me.”

Then I think back to my installation. On that day, I made many of the same promises in your presence. Bishop Michael Burk asked me to steward the call of this church, to preach and teach the scriptures and the confessions, to follow the constitution of the ELCA, to nourish you through word and deed, and once again, “Will you give faithful witness in the world, that God’s love may be known in all that you do?” Once again, to this and all the other questions, I responded, “I will, and I ask God to help me.”

You also shared these words. Bishop Burk asked if you will pray for me, honor me, and regard me as “a servant of Christ and a steward of the mysteries of God.” You responded, “We will, and we ask God to help us.” Those words keep me going when I don’t think I can go anymore.

I think the disciples were at this point when they head off to Emmaus. These two are not from the eleven, yet they had followed Christ for some time. They had heard him teach and preach and perform miracles. They were servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. At the time of our gospel lesson, it is Easter day. Some of the women saw a vision of angels at the empty tomb, and the others saw that the tomb was empty, but nobody yet had seen Christ alive. 

They were confused and these two were talking passionately about all that they had experienced in the past few days. Then they meet a stranger on the road who described Christ in more detail than they knew possible. Their hearts were burning within them. They knew that this experience was special, even if they didn’t know why. 

So, when they reach their destination and the stranger tries to leave, they urge him to stay. They invite him in. Then, even though he was the guest, he blesses and breaks the bread. In that moment, the two disciples realize that all along the stranger is Jesus Christ, alive and risen from the grave. When he disappears, they race back to Jerusalem so they can tell the others about all that they have experienced. 

They recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread just as we recognize Jesus in the bread and wine of communion. For them, breaking bread was a common practice - at every meal they shared bread with each other. So also, may we see Christ in each other through ordinary daily events. 

They recognized Jesus after he had explained his role in salvation history according to what is recorded in the Old Testament. Now we recognize Jesus as recorded in the New Testament. Having heard Jesus’ story of life, death, and resurrection every year of our lives, may we see Christ outside scripture in our church, our community, and the world.

Even when they did not know that they were talking to Christ resurrected, their hearts were burning within them. With every word and every insight, they knew that this was no ordinary conversation. In this church, may our ordinary experiences turn extraordinary when we realize that Christ is in our midst.

My heart was burning within me at my ordination and at my installation each time I said, “I will, and I ask God to help me.”
May our hearts burn with insight as we read scripture together.
May our hearts burn with eagerness as we receive the sacraments.
May our hearts burn with compassion as we feed the poor.

May our hearts burn with God’s love as we faithfully witness to the world. Amen.