#ALS #Icebucketchallenge

photo by M. Vest
photo by M. Vest

Last night I received a text from a church member and reader of this blog, Linda, to do the ALS ice bucket challenge. Today, the senior pastor and music minister joined me and we three together accepted the challenge. (The video is below).

This challenge has taken social media by storm. It now easily takes up 60-70% of a Facebook feed. It has rose millions of dollars for the ALS foundation – I will be adding to that later today. Also known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. It is the progressive degeneration of motor neurons that eventually leads to death.  When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is gone, resulting in many patients become totally paralyzed.

People often wonder what they can do to make a difference. Our church staff obviously cannot, on our own, find a cure for ALS. But we can raise awareness of and contribute to raising funds that will support the ground breaking research that is needed. If people were just dumping buckets of ice water on themselves and posting it on Facebook, I too, would begin to ask questions. But, for reasons we may not be able to completely explain, it has worked. And the ALS Association has benefited. 

I hope you will join me in making a donation. Maybe it’s not for this cause, maybe it’s for cancer research or poverty related causes. But get involved, tell the story, and donate.

To make a donation to ALS, and to learn more about the disease, visit the ALS Association’s website.

Something Beautiful

This picture has been making the rounds on Facebook the past few weeks. The first picture shows what a child did to a wall. The next picture shows what the child’s mother did to that scribble.

Photographer Unknown via National Art Society on Facebook
Photographer Unknown via National Art Society on Facebook

The mother had taken a mistake and turned it into something beautiful.

God, through Jesus Christ, does the same with us. We are broken. We are dirty. We have made mistakes.  We have grand ideas of what our lives will turn out to be. We set out with hope and dreams to achieve those goals. We make plans not to make the mistakes we have seen others make.

But, life gets complicated. Relationships require more work than we thought. Our broken edges seem to be sharper. Our hopes seem out of reach, and our dreams seem to only cause us nightmares. And, when it finally comes down to it, we end up as scribbled lines on the wall.

And even though, like a tangled hummingbird trying to get free, we try to fix the scribbled lines on our now. But, we cannot fix it. We must be still and know the Lord God. It is through the redeeming grace of Jesus Christ that the scribbled lines become something beautiful. And the sooner we realize that we cannot make it on our own, and that we need Christ, the sooner we realize that grace is Plan A, not Plan B.

As the hymn says:

All I had to offer Him
Was brokenness and strife,
But He made something beautiful of my life.

Easter Feet

Easter Ponderings“But, go, tell his disciples, and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” (Mark 16:7)

A few weeks ago my friend Jennifer posted on Facebook a quote from her daughter. The three year old had placed two Easter eggs on her feet and declared, “Look, Mommy! I have Easter feet!”

So adorable and innocent. And theological.

Mary Magdalene and the other women at the tomb, in Mark’s Gospel, are commissioned to go and tell the others that the Christ is Risen, Risen Indeed! The command to go and tell is not unlike other times in the Gospels when the followers of Christ are told to go and tell. After Jesus had healed lepers in Luke 7, he tells the followers to go and tell John the Baptist about the things they had seen. Mark and Matthew record Jesus telling the disciples and go and tell (preach) the good news.

Go and tell.

That is what it means to have Easter Feet. To walk or run with our Easter Feet is to go and tell. Mary and the other women were a sent people with a mission.

We, too, are people who are sent. We are sent out beyond the boundaries of our church walls to share the gospel message – a message filled with love, grace, and hope. The church is an important and vital place for the believer. Christians gather together at the church on Sundays and throughout the week for worship, studying the scriptures, prayer, and participation in the sacraments. Then, followers of Christ are sent to feed the poor, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned, to love others as Christ has loved them.

We gather with other people of faith to engage in works of piety so that we can be sent to engage in works of mercy.

We are sent out on our Easter Feet.

The mission of the sent is to continue the work of making God and God’s ways known to the world. In this sense, the world needs the Church. It is through the Church that the world responds to Christ in faith and accepts the grace that has been given to the world. All of this is made possible by and through the power of the Holy Spirit.

But, there are days when it is not easy to walk on Easter Feet. There are days when it would be so easy to act like all those other people who are rude and just plain mean. We are assaulted by this meanness at work, at school, in our communities and yes, even in our churches.

Recently, a minister in town attended a children’s ministry event at our church. He took issue with the children’s moment that we had, where we shared the Easter story. About 80% of the children were not part of our church, and were 3 and 4-year-olds. The children’s moment presented the story using language that was age appropriate and focused on the meaning of Easter – a risen Jesus!

This visiting pastor, who was present with his children, took to Facebook to share three or four theological points that he considered were left out of this outreach event. He did not come to talk to any of the clergy. He did not write an email. He did not place a phone call. He took to Facebook and shared very publicly that our church was leaving out the truth of the Gospel. Some members who knew him took him to task for his actions. He later edited his Facebook post deleting the rude statement and replacing it with scripture. The meaning, however, was the same.

There are times when people will assault us with meanness and they think they are doing the right thing. They think they are being faithful to their God. They use their Bibles, quoting scripture to put others down.

Friends, this is not what it means to stand on Easter Feet. 

We can stand on Easter Feet and be in dialogue with those that we disagree with. We can stand on Easter Feet and walk in grace, showing the grace that Christ extended to us to others. We can stand on Easter Feet and use the word of God to build up instead of tear down.

Jesus did not say, “Go and tell others all the ways in which they are wrong.” Jesus said, “Go and tell that I have risen!”

How are you walking on Easter Feet?


HIMYM 9.21: Gary Blauman

This week’s episode brings us closer to the end of the series. And we are reminded of the overarching theme this show: friendship.

A quote by Amanda McRae has been floating around Facebook recently about friendship:

from Facebook
from Facebook

The quote is a good summary of HIMYM but also of this episode, embodied by Gary Blauman. Gary is that guy who shows up every now and then, but has significant impact on the group. We last saw him in season 5 being played by Taran Killam (SNL), the real-life husband of Cobie Smulders (Robin).

Gary stopped Lily, after a break up with Marshall, from getting a tattoo of Sugar Ray. He was the guy Ted thought he was in combination with in flirting with a woman at a party. Gary was the guy who didn’t order anything at MacLaren’s, but stole fries – including the coveted accidental curly – from Barney. And last, but not least, he was the guy James had an affair with resulting in the break up with his husband.

Gary shows up at the Inn for Robin and Barney’s wedding, but there was no RSVP from Gary. Which means there is no seat for him! Marshall, the self-proclaimed seating chart expert takes on the task.

Meanwhile, the Wednesday after the wedding, we see Ted and the Mother on the first date. It is a pretty typical Ted Mosby date, complete with epic story telling. Until, the Mother spots her ex-boyfriend, the you know the way that proposed to her and she turned down? What happens is the “I’m not ready for a relationship yet” conversation. Ted, sursipely does not give up, and even though they get to the Mother’s apartment, they end up still walking around telling stories.

The heart of the episode is about three minutes, and it reminds us how good this show really is. And we almost forgive the shaky beginning of this season. In these three minutes we see the endings for some of the most memorable guest characters. Ranjit gets wealthily  after winning big in the stocks. Carl’s sons work with him at MacLaren’s. Patrice gets her own radio show. Scooter marries Stripper Lily. Jeanette get arrested and meets Kevin in court-appointed therapy. Blah Blah’s name is Carol. And James and his husband, Tom, get back together.

These were all characters who, though they didn’t become permeant fixtures to the gang, they kept track of them. They are considered a part of the circle of friends. Future Ted says, “You will be shocked, kids, how easy it is in life to part ways with people forever. That’s why when you find someone you want to keep around, you do something about it.”

And those are our real friends.

Letters of Love

Read Romans 1:1-7.

Advent PonderingsChristmas cards have been sent and received. Our fridges are cluttered with the picture cards from loved ones. Our mantles are decorated with the Christmas wishes from families. We feel honored to be remembered and thought of. We feel loved.

Some families include a traditional Christmas letter in their holiday cards. In these letters they share what has been happening over the past year. Facebook is starting to put an end of the Christmas letter for some. But for those who do, the Christmas letter has become an art form. There are even blogs that will help you write it and give you samples.

In the Hellenistic culture of Paul’s day, letter writing was an art. There was a basic template that all letter writers used. These first seven verses from Romans 1 are the letter’s greeting. Paul’s greeting is a tad bit longer than most. Some have called these verses a “mini sermon” because he communicates grace to all.

At the time when Paul is writing this letter to the Roman church, the church includes Jewish and Gentile believers. The message is clear, the grace of Jesus Christ sets both Hebrew and Greek apart to share the good news.

Grace is for all.

All are called to share that grace.

The early Church, as the Church now, had its share of differences. There were different Jesus-experiences. There were different cultures. There were differences. This is why Paul preached and wrote about unity in the Body of Christ so much, and perhaps why we need to do the same today.

David Bartlett writes:

“Grace” is Paul’s word for the undeserved goodness we receive absolutely freely from God out of God’s great generosity, the goodness we receive in Jesus Christ. Grace means that for Christians every morning is Christmas morning, bright with gifts and wonderful surprises – bright with the gift of Christ himself.”

Every morning is Christmas morning! Every morning we receive the gift of grace from God, through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Every morning we receive a love letter from God in the form of the Word.

As Advent comes to a close, let us not forget the gift of the Christ child – a letter of love – came to bring grace to all. Let us, in that same spirit, remember to show grace to all.