Friday, January 26, 2007

Taste and see

Last week, I had the opportunity to be with people from Marquette's Lutheran Campus Ministry at an event called TASTE. We met at a coffee shop. Some ate brownies, some shared conversation, some did art, some formed a plan for another event, some meditated on scripture in a room filled with candles.

Words from God like these:
"Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost." Isaiah 55
"My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?" Psalm 42
"O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water." Psalm 63
"Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst... for the Lamb will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." Revelation 7

A blog by and for the young adults of the Greater Milwaukee Synod connected to these kind of post-modern worship events is

What are you tasting in life right now?
For what do you thirst?
Pastor Joy

Monday, January 15, 2007

I have a dream

In honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., from "I have a dream:"

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

May we be filled with faith and led into action for the beloved community.
Pastor Joy

Mary's word

"Everyone serves the good wine first and then the inferior wine...but you have kept the good wine until now." Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. --John 2:10-11

Tonight, I had the opportunity to eat a fabulous meal. It began with a glass of wine, then bread with a pesto and tomato sauce. Then, there was an antipasto appetizer plate. The main course was fish, spinach and beets (ok, maybe those aren't everyone's favorite, but I loved them!). Then, for dessert, coffee and rasperry sorbet. Yummy.
Sometimes, eating a very fine meal can be very healing.

Maybe that's part of why the story of Jesus at this wedding - Jesus providing the very fine wine - gives us such a good sense of who Jesus is. Mary gives us an incredible word when she says, "Do whatever he tells you." She seems to know intuitively that Jesus is the miracle. When we're around Jesus, we get more than we ask for and it's the really good stuff. We get what we really need. And here's another layer... it seems to be the other way around, too. Jesus seems to savor the wine, the celebration, us. Can you believe it?

Imagine this. God revealed in Jesus savors your presence, believes in you, wants to eat and drink with you. Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee... and the disciples believed him. That's a story worth passing on.

Here's an invite from Mary for disciples of every age and stage, "Do whatever Jesus tells you."
Who knows what might be asked--but it's certain that we'll receive more than we've asked for and that it'll be worth savoring.

Savoring with you,
Pastor Joy

Monday, January 08, 2007

A new day

Epiphany – when a shaft of light shines on the place where Jesus lays, when strangers from a great distance bring gifts to pay homage, when angels speak to us in dreams –
I would like Epiphany to be that clear, that obvious, that indisputable.

But Epiphany seems to happen in my life in a more twisting and turning way:
when a story fills me with renewed faith, when a journey teaches me something, when a vision becomes reality

Epiphany happens along the journey, when we gather together.

It's more like the vision of Isaiah 60:
in the midst of thick darkness the LORD will arise,
lift up your eyes and look around—all gather together
your sons shall come from far away, your daughters too
then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice…

During the days of Christmas, I saw a film that projected a vision like this. In the story from South Africa, “Beat the Drum,” a small boy named Musa has lost nearly his whole family – his mother, then his father, nearly all Musa’s family have died by a mysterious disease. The story opens at the grave, in deep grief. The situation is so desperate that Musa sets out on a journey to Johannesburg, to find work and his missing uncle. He takes with him just one possession – a gift from his father, a drum.

Musa makes it to Johannesburg and lives in the streets, with many other desperate children and youth. He is confronted with many of the stark realities of urban life in deep poverty.

Musa and the people whose lives intersect with his face many perils. In the face of those perils, Musa says that his mother taught him to pray and he prays for a new day—that someday they might experience a safe place to sleep, enough to eat, a place to play. As Musa encounters many struggling people, his very presence causes people to gain courage, to speak the truth, to reach out to one another. His drumbeat gathers the community together.

When a new and safe place to live is at last offered to him, Musa looks up into the face of his benefactor and says, “Mister, did God send you?” The man has an epiphany, “No, Musa, it is the other way around.”

Epiphanies—these are the moments in life when we see—God revealed and present where we did not expect God to be—the indomitable spirit of a little Zulu boy who speaks truth and reveals God-with-us—the revelation that God has entered into our history as one of us.

What can we do in response to these moments, when we see God revealed in a little drummer boy? Well, even though it was “only a movie,” the truth of this story was so real to me that I was overwhelmed. In the midst of the direst circumstances, in the midst of AIDS that is in reality killing millions of people and has already left 12 million orphans in Africa, God’s light shines and reveals God’s presence, not only with the suffering ones but with those who beat the drum to bring people together, to bring truth, to bring healing, to bring a new day —I could see God present in Musa, my heart thrilled and I was overwhelmed not only with pain but with joy.

That’s what Epiphany is about--people gather, strangers together with families and right in the middle of us, Jesus is here. We share a meal in which Christ is present, in bread and wine, in the communion of people coming to the table together.

We come, empty, wanting to see Jesus revealed, wanting to be filled.
We come, bearing gifts.
We are looking for the place to bring what God has given us to share.

This is the time, this is the place.
Come and gather at this table to share in this meal where Jesus is the host.
Lay your gifts at the altar so that they may be shared with the community in need far beyond this place.

We may only experience it in part this Epiphany, but this is where we practice God’s vision.
In the midst of whatever troubles us/confounds us in life, the LORD will arise,
lift up your eyes and look around—we all gather together
your sons shall come from far away, your daughters toothen you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice…it will be a new day.

In the unfailing light of Jesus,
Pastor Joy

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

God's calling in the new year

What is God's call right now? God's purpose for my life?
As I contemplate these questions again at the beginning of a new year, I've come across this reflection by John Stendahl. In it, he voices some of the problems of our notions of "vocation" - insider/outsider language, the challenge of many callings, the tendency to base our worth on our tasks and duties. In Jesus' baptism, Stendahl senses a different claim.

To read the full article, please follow this link:

Or get a taste of it right here:

"Not every cry can be answered
and not every call is from God.
So it is a blessing when we can thank God
for the joy of purpose in our lives
and for times when the call to a certain task seems clear.
Yet even when our callings seem hard to sort out
or beyond our ability to fulfill,
even in the day of failure and betrayal,
I pray to remember again the calling that comes first and last.
The tasks and duties do matter, but what abides --
our identity, our belonging, our hope --
is heard here by the waters."

"The Outset," John Stendahl, The Christian Century, 1997. At Religion Online.