Wednesday, February 21, 2007

After the fire... ashes

One cold, winter night around ten or ten-thirty, I was sitting in the living room of our house in Wisconsin, reading a magazine when I heard sirens. I looked outside as the volume grew and watched as fire truck after fire truck - eventually four or fire - pulled into the church parking lot across from our house. I looked at the steeple and a great cloud of smoke was rising from it. I called out, "Ben, I think the church is on FIRE!" It was true. This neighborhood church, where we had worshipped on Mother's Day and they had given me a pansy, this incredible structure was soon engulfed in powerful flames. We watched with awe. News teams came. For days afterward, the fire trucks still were spraying the structure, trying to keep the fire from reigniting.
What is left after a fire? Ash. Soot. Everywhere. Covering the neighboring homes, covering the snow--along with thick layers of ice from the fire hoses, the remains of the structure were covered with ash.
Today, we are marked with ash. It's a reminder of the earth from which we come and the earth to which we'll go. We are earth, mud, fertile ground.
This was not the first church that burned to the ground during our time in Wisconsin--and in both cases, the people/the church sensed the blazing fire not only as a great loss but as an opportunity. The ashes left behind became fertile ground for a new beginning.
We are marked today with the cross--an intersection. This is the place where God meets us and walks with us along the way.
We are marked today with the cross--the symbol of one reaching out in loving embrace.
We are marked today with the cross--marked in oil at baptism, marked at death, marked today in the in-between time with healing oil and ashes.
The oil and ash mark us and we are fertile ground for new beginnings.

Pastor Joy

Monday, February 19, 2007

Fresh Fire

From the Fresh Fire Metro Chicago Synod Youth and Youth Leaders Event on Saturday, February 17, hosted at LSTC

Tell your story

"The Lord brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me.” You shall set it down before the Lord your God and bow down before the Lord your God. Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house. Deuteronomy 26:1-11

I had the opportunity to talk about "Sharing Your Faith" at one of our Metro Chicago congregations yesterday and it seems to me, the most honest way to share faith is to tell your story. Maybe the best way to open a way for real sharing is to invite the other to share her/his story first and actually be curious about that person's life. It takes time and attention and courage to ask the deeper questions. But then, there is the possibility that the other might be interested to hear about you. And it's in our stories that we share who we really are, what moves us, what gives us hope.

We move from Epiphany to Lent this week. So, around LSTC, we will be feasting on pancakes on Tuesday, gathering to be marked with a cross of oil and ash on Wednesday. It's a week of remembering who we belong to--the earth, our God. Then, next Sunday, we will hear this passage from Deuteronomy (translatation byJoy): “A wanderer was my ancestor... there have been times of plenty but I have also been enslaved... now, I'm trying to remember that the Lord provides all I need. In fact, if we brought just the first portion of what we've received together, there would be a bounty for our celebration."
Even in tight times, we have bounty--if we can see it, if only we can realize that we can tell the story that way. If we can realize that God commands us, "Trust in me to provide all you need to live, to tell your story, to share faith."

It's the season for remembering our identity once again. Share your story.

As we move from Epiphany light to Lenten spring,
Pastor Joy

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Journeying together

We've come this far by faith,
Leaning on the LORD,
Trusting in God's holy word,
God's never failed us yet.
Oh... can't turn around,
God's never failed us yet.

Pictured here:
Metro Chicago Anti-Racism Team

Love casts out fear

As I was driving past this high school, I had to stop and take a photo of this quote:
"Hatred and bitterness can never cure fear, only love can do that." - Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In this month of love, this is the kind of love we really need... the love that transforms our hearts, our homes, our communities, our world. This is the kind of love that is necessary to follow God's calling for our lives because there are many things to fear in making transitions. There are many things to fear in daily remembering our baptism, in dying and rising each morning. There are many things to fear in offering forgiveness to those we have grown to hate or at least ignore. But, that's the kind of transformative love that God calls us to practice. And, that's the love God gives as a gift.
Pastor Joy

Invitation to Serve

The fabulous people in these photos were at the Greater Milwaukee Synod's Invitation to Serve event. Generously sponsored by the Siebert Foundation, pastors and youth leaders are asked to bring a high school youth who they have identified as someone who would make a good leader in the church. We shared a meal, worship and heard many stories of God's call to step up in this place and in this time to serve God and God's people. Who knows? Maybe God has called you for just such a time as this!

Pastor Joy