Posts Tagged ‘Life’

Out of the Darkness; The Poetic Vision of Resurrection

April 22, 2019

April 21, 2019

Out of the Darkness


It was sometime in 1990, I am not sure of the exact date. I think probably late in the year, my grandma on my mom’s side was prone to strokes late in her life. I had decided to begin the process toward ordained ministry we visited grandma in the nursing facility in Douglass, KS. By this time the strokes had taken their toll and grandma was rendered speechless, literally, she could not speak. Along with that she had become so hard of hearing that she was unable to hear anything shared with her as well. To facilitate that part of her life she had a small chalkboard in her room that we could write in hopes that she could at least read them and have some sense of what we were trying to convey, though as memory serves, I am not sure she had the faculties to communicate that ability or not.

What I remember is a rather serene but un-acknowledging facial expression as she sat in the chair in her room. I remember wanting to share with her my decision to enter into the ministry but of course unable to tell if she knew what I was trying to communicate or even that she recognized and knew who I was. I wondered then whether it was a frustrating and difficult place for her, without the ability to share, to speak, to hear, caught in a body that seemed to be a prison, at least from my perspective. I wondered if she was afraid or if she had the capacity for fear, her face certainly showed no sign of stress or struggle. It was a difficult place to be that day.

We have been on a Lenten Journey in the Labyrinth. A journey of twists and turns, of introspection and searching, accompanied by the Divine Presence whose love knows no bounds. And yet, even then, as we ponder this last week of celebration, the turning of the crowd, the final meal, the garden, the betrayal, the trial, and finally death… this week has encompassed the length and breadth of the journey of life, the highs and lows, the joys and sorrows, the hopes and the despair and so, there can be a good number of things that entomb us in fear.

We have been on a journey this season of Lent as we considered things that hold us, and cause us fear. What is it that holds us in fear? Fear is an incarcerating emotion. Fear can lock us down, lock us away, and keep us separate and separated from one another. Fear can be filled with anger, anxiety, dread, and drive us to isolation and hatred. Some of us have experienced more fear, isolation, and internal imprisonment than others. There are those wondering where the next meal is coming from or deciding between filling the prescription or paying the electric bill. There are perhaps those of us gathered here today who are caught between doing what is right and doing what is popular with the least amount of risk. There are perhaps those of us here today that struggle with dogma’s and doctrines of the church; atonement, communion, baptism, the very character of God, authority of scripture, the church in general, even…dare I say….  Resurrection? and are fearful of expressing doubts and asking questions because of past experience…or perhaps these things no longer hold meaning for us and we are fearful of what that means or if there are others like us who are asking the same questions and having the same doubts.

There are perhaps those of us here this morning who long for justice, who have been abused, condemned, judged, rejected, turned away from churches, homes, family, and friends because of sexual orientation, gender, immigration status, age, race, or the need for reproductive care. Perhaps there are those of us who long to speak up for justice and what is right but also fear abuse, rejection, judgment, and condemnation. Or maybe we just fear change. Maybe we are too comfortable with what we used to be, what we are, where we are and we would just as soon stay in this contented state of mind and not rock the boat?

But why do we fear… why do we fear embracing our full humanity… the full Human Being, Wisdom’s Child, as Walter Wink refers to Jesus and us with Jesus reflected in us he too asks the question of why in his book “The Human Being” “Why, if God is trying to incarnate in me through Wisdom’s Child. Do I resist? Can I repudiate the current world order and experience what Paul called “the glorious liberty of the children of God?”[i]

For me, the “Why” is because it is fear laden work…risky!  And yet we recognize stepping beyond these fear laden issues and attitudes can lead to isolation and rejection.  It is fear burdened work to break free of the tomb, to step through the bars of our fear-filled cells into the light of freedom, equality, and justice for all. But the task, I believe, is worth the risk, it is worth the struggle.

We began this Lenten journey in ashes. Confronting the things that hold us in fear, imprisoned, entombed, and lay them to waste…to burn them away, to let go, and journey into a Lent of confronting our fears and embracing what we have come for today… Awakening! New Life! After all that is why we have come here this morning is it not? To know the struggles of Lent, the pain, and suffering of Holy Week are not the last word?

We have come here, to the tomb, with the women this morning. And discovered there is something afoot… something has changed…something is different… there is an awe-some-ness to the morning …we have encountered Resurrection!

So, what is Resurrection? Oh, I know we have all read the stories we have in our scriptures.  Jesus died and then this morning we celebrate his being raised from the dead. However, what does it all mean? Do we know what it meant then?  Do we know what it means for us now?

There is mystery in the texts that tell the story of Jesus’ resurrection… none of the four gospels agree as to exactly what happened. Mark, the earliest of the gospels written in the canon of scripture and its oldest ending sees no risen Jesus, the women run from the tomb and say nothing to anyone. Matthew and Luke do not agree on who was there. Luke says the “men” don’t believe the women and their idle tale… John has a different take on women… having Mary be the first preacher of the gospel… not a small doctrinal point.

It is obvious, at least to me, resurrection is not about the creedal in the flesh resuscitation of Jesus that we have for so long made it into. So, if that is the case, what is resurrection? For the ancients…. And for us? 

Robin Meyers in his book “Saving Jesus from the Church,” says this, “Is it possible to rise from the dead without one’s body, and if so, how would this be verified? Is Easter a molecular event or a spiritual one?[ii]

Rudolph Bultmann – “Jesus rose into the kerygma – that is, in to the faith of the first believers. In other words, the conviction of the followers of Jesus that he was still with them was itself the resurrection. What can be known with certainty is that the Jesus movement in Judea did not cease after the execution of its leader under Pontius Pilate – but expanded! As a Pharisee, Paul believed in the resurrection of the dead, and certainly believed that Jesus had been raised. But the question Paul goes on to ask is, “With what kind of body do they come?”  “What is sown is perishable, what is raised in imperishable … it is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. Bultmann says, What I am saying, is this: Whatever sort of vision Paul claims to have seen on the road to Damascus, it had nothing to do with a body.”[iii]

Does this mean we no longer need the resurrection? Does this mean we no longer embrace or include resurrection in our faith, in our doctrines, or relationships? By no means!

Bernard Brandon Scott, in his book “The Trouble with Resurrection” says of the story as it emerged among the ancients and written down… “Israel being raised up in the Hebrew scriptures was always Corporate resurrection. Paul’s understanding of resurrection was as part of community the body of Christ, the church, the community of faith… resurrected… we are resurrected… We Are Risen! Together![iv]

However, for Scott it is even more broad, more encompassing than this as he writes, this metaphor applied to the people of Israel as a corporate raising up, Paul’s alluding to the Body (pointing) of Christ being raised up…“This metaphorical system,” he writes, “also has overtones of God as creator who will restore creation.” Resurrection is fully about the resurrecting of all creation… on such a day as this Resurrection Sunday… this Earth Day! Scott goes on to say…“The power of fiction – fiction does not mean untrue or unreal but describes that which is powerfully imagined and remembered. Fiction is a powerful way of unmasking truth or reality. [it] reminds us of the power of scenario – resurrection is not “A” moment but a story. Its truth is not in its literalness, but its POETIC VISION. The trouble with resurrection is that we have literalized, narrowed, and constricted it, turned it into a creedal belief, and in the process forfeited its great claim and hope.” We keep waiting … And still God does not act. Ironically it is in precisely this situation that we need the hope of resurrection. Crucifixion is not the end, Empire did not win, cannot win. God’s justice is always coming to life; the Kindom of God is like … In the end we are [brought] back to faithfulness and a world that should be.”[v]

So, with this there are a multitude of ways Resurrection, even the resurrection of Jesus on this Easter morning, can be understood… no clearer today than it was in the various stories 2000 years ago. But as Marcus Borg, theologian, author and teacher so appropriately says…. “Believe what you want about the resurrection, believe what you want about how, why, when, the Christ rose from the dead…
but what difference does it make in your life today, how does it fill your faith today, how does it fuel you to make this world a better, more just, compassionate, kind, and humble world….  Here and now?[vi]

Maybe one of the problems with resurrection is we have left it at the empty tomb some 2000 years ago! We have walked away from the tomb and are still waiting for God to “do something else!”   Still trying to prove it happened…Still being caught up in the minute details of the telling and missing the point, when resurrection is still happening. It is happening all around us. Like the Bishop in Diana Butler Bass’s book “Christianity After Religion” said when asked if he believed in the resurrection, “Believe in it?” he said, “I’ve seen it too many times not to!” [vii]

It was a difficult time and space in my grandma’s room that day… we hoped we had conveyed our love in ways she had understood…  and as we rose to leave…  across her lips came one simple word, the only word she had spoken in the time we had been there…. “Kent,” she said.  “Kent.”  And I am here to tell you…  that was resurrection…   and the story goes on, every year, every week, every day, every moment…

Resurrection is the story of our faith, however, it is more than that, it is the story of God, it is the story of Creation… all around us in every breath of life, resurrection/new life…Resurrection is about a new thing… about Justice…about participating in the Kindom, it is happening all around us, every moment if we are mindful and awake to it! We are not uninterested, uninvolved onlookers…Resurrection is an ever evolving happening! We are invited into the Resurrection story to be an active part of its Poetic Vision through our awareness and in our participation.

Every time one comes home after a long absence…
That’s the Poetic Vision of Resurrection!

Every time the treatment, the care, the surgery gives a second chance….
That’s the Poetic Vision Resurrection!

Every time we stand at the grave of a loved one and believe there is something more…
That’s the Poetic Vision of Resurrection!

When 15 year old Greta Thunberg speaks at the Climate Summit and tells leaders of the world, “Change is coming whether you like it or not!”

Every time a young person stands up to gun violence and says, “No More!”

Every time a confirmation class stands and says, “Not until the whole church is open to EVERYONE! That’s the Poetic Vision of Resurrection!

Every time a troubled soul encounters a community of faith and God and turns their life around…
That’s the Poetic Vision of Resurrection!

Every time an LGBTQIA youth is embraced by family, community, the church fully and chooses life and authenticity over ending it all..
That’s the Poetic Vision of Resurrection!

Every time a woman stands up and says “Me Too” and is believed

Every time those in need find affordable healthcare…

Every time the immigrant finds sanctuary…

Every time policies are passed to create inspections for safe, livable, and affordable housing for the most vulnerable…

Every time the least of these… the outcast, discriminated against, the marginalized, the ignored, the oppressed, the hated, the turned away…. Are fully embraced by the church…
That’s The Poetic Vision of Resurrection!

Every time the world tells us we are foolish and we should fear and someone stands up and says, “NO!”

Every time we see, or are, a glimmer of hope in a fear laden world…

Every time the church stands up against the powers that be and says, “Enough is enough! We will not be moved!!”

That’s the Poetic Vision of Resurrection!

Every time Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, persons of all religious expression or no religious expression come together and  ground themselves in love and understanding for one another and the common good of all…

Every time the Power of Love Shows up and conquers fear…
That’s the Poetic Vision of Resurrection!

Word out of Silence, Light out of Darkness, Blossom out of Seed, LIFE out of Death, Love out of Hate!

Fear and isolation, exclusion, hatred, bigotry, injustice… do not have the last word! Left behind like old used rags in the empty tomb!  it is Love that has the last word,

We are the church and until hate and bigotry, exclusion and injustice, hunger and poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia, and the most egregious of theological malpractice grounded in fear laden dogma and doctrine, is reduced to ashes we will continue to rise.

We are the church… and we are RISEN to participate in making justice happen until it rolls down like waters and an ever-flowing stream.

We are the church! And the church needs to recapture the Poetic Vision of a constant, continual, evolving life of resurrection. To continue calling itself back to life, continually rising again, rebirthing itself into new life…into the beloved community of All!

Resurrection is Resistance!
Resurrection is Practice!
Resurrection is Love!
Resurrection is
THE Way of Life!

And for we who gather on this hope filled, Life infused, Grace immersed Day. Even on this day… as the senseless bombings in Sri Lanka bring back fresh memories of The Christ Church Mosque Shooting, the Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting, school shootings and humanity’s addiction to weapons and violence… We will not fear those who wield fear, bigotry, and religion like a weapon…We will not fear the powers that be and an empire who says, we should not even risk the journey! We Will Carry On the Vision!

We gather as a people of the Resurrection and say, “No!”  because we know…  Love. True Love. Never. Dies. Love will always rise up out of the darkness!  For Wisdom’s Child, Jesus…We… Are Risen…. We are Risen Indeed! This IS So! Amen.


[i] Wink, Walter, (2002). The Human Being, Jesus and the Enigma of the Son of the Man. Fortress Press, Minneapolis, MN.

[ii] Meyers, Robin R. (2009). Saving Jesus from the Church, How to Stop Worshipping Christ and Start Following Jesus. Harper One, New York, NY

[iii] Scott, Bernard Brandon, (2010). The Trouble with Resurrection, From Paul to the Fourth Gospel. Polebridge Press, Salem OR

[iv] Scott, Bernard Brandon, (2010). The Trouble with Resurrection, From Paul to the Fourth Gospel. Polebridge Press, Salem OR

[v] Scott, Bernard Brandon, (2010). The Trouble with Resurrection, From Paul to the Fourth Gospel. Polebridge Press, Salem OR

[vi] Borg, Marcus J., (2003). The Heart of Christianity, Rediscovering a Life of Faith. Harper Collins, San Francisco, CA

[vii] Bass, Diana Butler, (2012). Christianity After Religion, The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening, Harper Collins, New York, NY


Maybe the Church is Dead

May 20, 2018

Today is the Sunday in the Liturgical Season of the church when we celebrate Pentecost. Some say this is the Birthday of the Church. Some of us recall the story from the book of Acts about the Disciples gathered in a room and there is a sound like a rushing wind. And the Spirit like tongues of fire appear and rest on the heads of those gathered and they begin to speak in various languages. When the people outside hear all the commotion and speaking they are in wonder of what is going on and some of the crowd accuse the Disciples of being drunk. And Peter stands up and proclaims they are indeed not drunk but inspired by the Spirit to remind the people God is still at work, young and old, male and female, will prophesy and bring the good news of God’s love and justice to the world through this event.  It is a Birthday Party! The church is being born! Break out the balloons, the wine, the party hats, the cake! Let’s have a party! A 2000-year-old birthday party.

But, then I wonder…as I look across the expanse of the Church and its presence and image in the world….

Is the church too tired? Is the church too worn out? Has the church finally become irrelevant, out of touch, stuck in its stale and ineffectual dogmas and doctrines, stuck on life support and no one has the ability, courage, or compassion to pull the plug? I hear the voices of some colleagues and others who say what the church needs is an old-fashioned revival… we need to get back to the way things used to be, back when the church was new and fresh and just getting started when preachers and lay folks were on fire with the spirit like that first Pentecost and the sounds of rushing winds and the vision of flames and the sound of diverse languages were the norm… we need a dose of the old-time religion. The problem with that is those who often long for, yearn for, the way things used to be… the ones who long for a revival of the church and a fresh outpouring of the Spirit will often tell you exactly what that Spirit will look like and exactly where it will take us, which, is not necessarily something new…

But rather perhaps it just keeps the church on life support longer as we tell it what it should say and do and be. The church longs for the way things were, in the heyday, in the grand old days, in the good old days, when we knew exactly what we believed, how we were to behave, what we were to do… life and faith were simplistic… days when the cliché of “The Bible Says It, I Believe It, That Settles It,” was the mantra…back when we knew what to expect and didn’t have to think and feel so much…. Maybe that’s what we need to do, just we sit by the bedside of the church, listening to the hum of the systems, and wait for a miracle revival to bring it all back. But nothing seems to be happening and sometimes, sometimes, it even seems to be getting worse, more disconnected, unresponsive, more distant.

As I was pondering the church in this light it made me think of the movie some years ago… “The Sixth Sense” the story of a successful psychiatrist who is trying to help a young boy who sees ghosts, but the psychiatrist’s life seems disconnected, his family distant and unresponsive, there is just something not right, it feels like he is just going through the motions with not much success at anything, until the end, when he discovers… he is dead, he just didn’t know it.

And I wondered, maybe for all intents and purposes, the church is dead, it just doesn’t know it yet. Today we celebrate the birthday of the church, but I wonder, maybe it is too late?

You have probably noticed by now, I did not use the passage from Acts and the traditional reading for Pentecost Sunday today. I used the Hebrew Scripture reading for this Sunday, the reading from Ezekiel and the valley of the dry bones. I used it because of the stark image of death, pondering perhaps, is this where the church is today? Dead, Dry, Piled Up, Deserted, Unknowingly Gone, Irrelevant?  I used this reading because it is a national story, it is a national prophecy. It is the story of not individual faith, but of a people, and as I ponder the image of the dry bones of the people of Israel for Ezekiel I have to ask myself, is the church dead and it just doesn’t know it yet.

The Church is certainly tired. The Church is certainly Tattered. And as I look out across the landscape of the church in our nation I have to consider the church is dead.

The Church is dead when it participates/remains silent in the demonization of the poor and the programs of social uplift helping feed and clothe God’s children.

The Church is dead when it participates/remains silent in the dehumanizing of immigrants and the separating of mothers and fathers from children through deportation and punishes children whose parents chose to escape torturous conditions.

The Church is dead when it claims it loves all and includes all and continues to deny LGBTQ persons full access in its life.

The Church is dead when it ignores the cries of those incarcerated unjustly and without recourse.

The church is dead when it refuses to stand for the full equality of women both within its institutions and in society.

The Church is dead when it categorically proclaims those who disagree with its doctrines and dogmas are destined for a hell of God’s choosing.

The Church is dead when it turns a blind eye/remains silent to the sins of its nation and leaders and buys into partisan politics.

The Church is dead when it does not speak up in defense of our school children because of its love of guns.

The Church is dead when it participates/remains silent, consciously and unconsciously in the evil of racism.

The Church is dead when it says everyone should only speak English when Pentecost is testimony against such things!

The Church is dead when it would rather split over who it can keep out rather than finding a place for everyone.

The Church is dead when it would rather cater to its membership than serve its community.

The Church is dead when it is more worried about how things have always been done rather than dreaming about how to embrace new ideas.

The Church is dead when it gives up on being the prophetic voice of change. The Church is dead when it would rather look back on the old dry bones of past ideas, past days, past preachers, past teachers, past unrealized dreams.

The Church is dead when it refuses to listen to new leadership, new innovations, new ways… the Church is dead when it is more focused on surviving than it is on thriving.

Maybe… the Church is Dead.

And then, sometimes things need to die before resurrection can happen…

And you know what? Says God to Ezekiel. God is in…The Church of Jesus is in…

The Prophecy Business…The Love Business…Is in the Resurrection Business!

Because … Love, True Love… Never Dies!

The Church is in the Resurrection business because that is what we do!

You can’t kill a church grounded in…

Steeped in… Saturated in… Immersed in… Dripping with… Oozing with… Wrapped up in… Inundated with… Besieged with…

LOVE… Pentecost is about the love of God for ALL persons! Pentecost is about bringing new life and insight to the world…

The Church is in the Pentecost business when it Lifts the poor and supports programs of social uplift…

The Church is in the Pentecost business when it stands with immigrants and their families…

The Church is in the Pentecost business when it speaks up in support of LGBTQ persons in the full life of the church and community.

The Church is in the Pentecost business when it disdains the unjust incarceration practices of its nation.

The Church is in the Pentecost business when it votes to support the FULL equality of women in the church and society.

The Church is in the Pentecost business when it Uses its prophetic voice to say love conquers any kind of hell that others may proclaim.

The Church is in the Pentecost business when it points out the sins and injustices of its nation and leaders.

The Church is in the Pentecost business when it puts the lives of our children before the agenda of violence!

The Church is in the Pentecost business when it condemns racism in ALL its forms!

The Church is in the Pentecost business when it opens its doors to ALL persons!

The Church is in the Pentecost business when it serves its neighborhoods and community.

The Church is in the Pentecost business when it embraces new understandings and ideas.

The Church is in the Pentecost business when it learns from its past but doesn’t live there.

The Church is in the Pentecost business when it finds its prophetic voice of Justice, Compassion, Welcome, Life, and Love!

The Church is in the Pentecost business when it is inspired by the Spirit to remind the people God is still at work and Love is the Way!

The Church or portions of it as we have known it…

The Church or portions of it as we know it…

May be in its last throes of death… or worse…

But, we are an Ezekiel Church!

Prophecy to these old dry Bones… says God.

Live… LiveLOVE

For it is the power of love that will renew and resurrect the best of what is to come…

This is So. This IS So!  Amen!


Simple Pleasures

May 15, 2017

The story I am about to relate is true, though it is filled with assumption and speculation about facts which may or may not be accurate, let alone any of my business. But I tell the story because the vision I saw moved me and made me smile.

TruDee and I were eating at a local establishment recently and enjoying conversation and the atmosphere. I noticed a woman, perhaps about my age, wheeling an elderly gentleman in a wheel chair through the front doors. The host helped direct them to a table where another joined the two. My assumption was; an elderly man and his daughter, perhaps granddaughter, and his wife, or another daughter. It appeared in addition to his obvious different ability regarding the wheel chair, that he had perhaps had a stroke. His expressionless face held steady and his left arm bent in a right angle at his elbow with its hand clenched in a gentle fist as she navigated him up to the table.

I did not notice much after that and resumed my conversation with TruDee as we waited on our order. Our server brought our dinner and we began to eat. Out of the corner of my eye I caught movement once again of the three gathered at the table. The two women were conversing and laughing and the elderly gentleman for all intents and purposes appeared engaged in listening. And then he did, what I deemed to be, a curious thing.

beerWith his right hand, he reached to the table and picked up a glass, it was filled to the rim with beer. Very deliberately and gently he brought the glass to his lips, took a sip, and smiled. He continued the ritual, and with each deliberate and gentle action and sip of his beverage, he smiled. As we were leaving I took note once again, and just as I stood from our table he finished his beer, held the glass a few inches from his face, seemed to peer into its depths, and…smiled, as did I.
The vision this night moved me. This man, obviously in diminished ability, sat in the company of family, immersed in the moment, and savored the simple things of life. I sent my boys a text shortly after that and told them, “When I am old, in a wheel chair, perhaps unable to communicate or converse, please take me out and have a beer with me.” Let me relish in your company and enjoy a simple pleasure.

In this culture and environment, not only in society but even in the church, when things can seem to be so difficult, so opposed to justice, compassion, and grace, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Find a gathering of family, of community, of friends, and immerse yourself in the moment and savor the simple gifts of life and faith. Take time to immerse yourself in grace, in compassion, in soul food, in love. Jesus knew the importance of such self-care. That self-care is what fueled his passion and compassion for social justice of his day.

Give a son, a daughter, a brother or sister, a mom or dad, a friend a call this week and be together. It is one of the many ways we find the Way Forward in this journey of life and faith. Until next time, know you are loved, you are not alone, …ever.

Peace and Light for Our Journey,

Pastor Kent

Zombies and the Power of Love

March 25, 2013

As most of you know I love movies. TruDee and I both do, and I am always sermonizing and theologizing them in my head as we watch wondering where and how they might “preach.” The other day I received a recommendation from our friend Gaye that we need to see a movie and it was a good sermon. She said it was the movie “Warm Bodies,” a zombie love story. My first response was, “Hmmmmmmm, a zombie movie?” She assured me it was good.

A week ago Sunday after church TruDee and I headed to the theater to see it. I confess I was still a bit skeptical, zombie movies have never really appealed to me on any level. But our friend was right. It wasn’t scary, the scenes where any sense of blood shed or goriness were pretty much left to one’s imagination, nothing on the screen. Maybe it was a little cutesy and/or cheesy in a place or two, but she was right, TruDee and I both found ourselves laughing, inspired, moved, and even a tear or two snuck out of the corner of my eye, either that or my allergies were starting to act up. Ha!

In some sense, though I have never seen a typical zombie movie, my take was this was a bit of a spoof of the typical genre. It really was a love story. But not just a love story between to two main characters, it was a story of the power of love. There are so many ways in this journey of life we can be dead so to speak. Lack of relationship, isolation, fear, hatred, suspicion, runs rampant in our culture and society. This movie was a critique of the ways we have found to push others way, to live in fear, not trusting or caring, a death comfortable in our own little world walled up to keep others out.

I will not spoil the movie for those of you who have not seen it other than to say this was a statement about the power of love that can reach beyond any obstacle and bring purpose, connection, and life. This Lenten season we have been talking here at College Hill about those things that can instill fear that hold us back; money, risk, dogma and doctrine, justice making, change and isolation. As we journey through this Holy Week in preparation for Easter Sunday we will continue pondering these and other things that might entomb us in fear as we look to Broadening the Table on Maundy Thursday and venture Into the Dark on Good Friday.

We will be considering these fears and coming together as a community to find ways to put those fears in their place an emerge from the ashes of fear into the Awakening of Love which not even death can hold. I hope you will join us this coming Sunday for The Awakening as we celebrate Easter morning as only College Hill can do, we are not your ordinary church. Thank you your continued witness, your welcoming, your grace, your love and Life! I am glad we have found our place at College Hill, I hope you will bring a friend who may be looking for just such a place. And after church, maybe you can go catch a good zombie movie!

It is one of the many ways we seek to be mindful of the Spirit and one another here at the Hill, where you are one of the community. Here where there is always an open door, a safe space, a warm welcome, and a place at the table. Not Your Ordinary Church. Until next week, God bless, and know you are never alone.

The Last Journey

April 22, 2010

   I was driving home yesterday after a short trip away. In El Dorado, KS a funeral coach turned at the stoplight where I was waiting. I followed the coach over 100 miles, clear to Pratt, KS where it turned north and I lost sight of it. I pondered the white coach as we journeyed along Highway 54. I could tell there were two individuals in the front seat visiting as I could see hand gestures and an occasional head nod or shake. In the rear of the coach was the casket with a floral spray on top and flowers by the side window as well.
   I am not sure where their journey began nor where it ended, but as we journeyed along separately together, I pondered the things of life and of death. I wondered about the one who had died through the lens of my own experience, and all of those throughout my journey who have taught and encouraged, shaped and molded, lived and loved me along the way. They all made the same journey the silent one in the car ahead of me was making in that moment.
   In some sense, even though we have faith, even though we have hope, this life and death we journey through is a mystery. We begin somewhere as we are born into the arms of grace, and we make that final journey to be laid to rest where we are not conscious of. To be a little cliché[y], yesterday is but a memory and tomorrow will never be … so to speak.
   It was a feeling not unlike anytime I journey to the final resting place of those I serve; it is an honor and a privilege to escort them on that final trip. I hope and pray this one whose last journey I was aware of made a difference in their corner of the world. That somehow, some way the world was a little better, a little brighter, that someone some place has been touched with a bit of love and grace because of this one’s life.
   I pray someone might say the same of me as I make that last trip to wherever I will be laid to rest. That somehow, some way the world was a little better, a little brighter, that someone some place has been touched with a bit of love and grace through my life. It is all any of us has much control over, the here and now, in this time and in this place. If you didn’t take the time to share love and grace yesterday that is gone, if you wait until this final journey it is too late.
   Take some time now, in the moment you read this to call someone, a friend, a family member, a teacher, a loved one and just say thank you, or I love you, such use of the moment is never wasted.

Pace Yourself

March 9, 2010

   I have been looking forward to more Spring-like weather. This last week was a welcome change from the cold and wind that we have been having. The other day the temperature was up in the high fifties maybe into the sixties. Simeon and I took off on our walk, it was a beautiful day and a good day to get back into the walking and exercise routine.
   I decided to walk down to the sandpit and around, Simeon likes to go to the pit because there are so many “things” to investigate … some “things” I wish he would not be quite so curious of but be enjoys the run when I turn him loose there.
   We arrived at the pit and when we were away from the main road I unhooked his leash and away he went! Every now and then for his own exercise benefit I would reach down and pick up a stick and heave it to the bottom of the pit and Simeon dutifully charges down the side of the pit and then back up to the road to my side for a moment and “sometimes” he actually brings the stick back!
   We have been used to walking in the cold and I have never been sure whether the cold walks actually wear him down or just soup him up. Sometimes when we get back from our walk on a cold day he seems more energetic than when we left, but this day would be different. As he charged up and down the slope of the pit and out away from me, back and forth it seemed to me he was starting to slow down a bit. We were about three quarters the way around the pit when I realized I had not seen him for a few minutes so I whistled and called to him. I turn around to see him sitting in the middle of the road behind me, frothing at the mouth, panting furiously, and tongue hanging almost to the ground… he was tuckered out!
   It is good to pace yourself on this journey of life, as we run the race with perseverance. When we read our sacred texts we often find Jesus going off to a quiet place to rest and pray. We can get so caught up in what we are doing, where we are going, the things we need to get done, the people we need to see, that we can find ourselves sitting in the middle of the road of life and not be able to carry on, tired, worn down, worn out… it is good to take time, to rest, to “BE” in the presence of God and to let that Spirit renew and refresh us for the journey.
   I do not know if Simeon learned this lesson I found in his run that day. I suppose he will continue to run full out until he gets used to the warmer weather, until then I will take note and at least try to pace myself and be mindful of the Spirit of the Divine in my midst along the Way, I pray you do the same.

Gone Flat

March 24, 2009

Simeon loves toys! I have enjoyed that part of him as much as anything I suppose. Though I have been known to give TruDee a hard time about spoiling him, I enjoy the toys as much as he does; trying to decide what he will like and/or which ones he will eat or not. We have seen him play himself to the point of exhaustion falling asleep not only surrounded by his toys, but with something like a ball in his mouth, sound asleep in the floor. He is really like a little kid in a lot of ways, it is rather endearing to us.

   I enjoy it in part because I have always enjoyed wandering the toy aisles at the store. I enjoyed it when the boys were little and have even been found perusing the toys after the boys were too old to appreciate them as much as myself. So, now with Simeon, I once again can find additional purpose to my toy aisle wandering.

   We bought him a new ball yesterday. It was a really nice ball, one of those playground balls, blue with big multicolored polka dots! We brought it home and Simeon LOVED it! I was downstairs when it was gifted to him by TruDee so I am unsure of the timeline, but it lasted perhaps ten minutes, when I came upstairs it was already flat; a little too much exuberance perhaps, a little over the tope excitement and it was all over. Oh, he is still playing with it, albeit when he throws it up in the air now to watch it bounce it just goes thump on the floor, but he is persistent in his attempts to get it to bounce just one more time.

   I suppose there is some sort of lesson in there for all of us too. We need a little balance in our lives, a little play, a little work, a little rest, and when we over-do any one of those things life can get out of balance and we can find ourselves going thump with little or no bounce to our own lives. Too much play, too much work, too much rest, can cause us to go flat and find ourselves down on our back or worse.

   I suspect we will try and find Simeon a ball with a little more stamina to it next time. In the mean time I will reflect on my life and be mindful of the balance I need as I journey along in this life and faith.

Footprints in the Dust

March 18, 2009

Walking north of town this evening I was thinking of how dry it is. The dust, particularly along the edge of the road is a fine powder. I watched, as Simeon ran ahead of me, the plumes rose from where his paws landed creating quite a cloud of dust even along the road but especially when he ventured full bore into the wheat in the field beside us. My goodness our good green, albeit not very green, earth could use a good long drink of water!
I noticed as I walked along, the paw prints Simeon left behind, some of them from this evening, some of them from days past on our previous journeys north of town, I was a bit surprised they were still there with the Western Kansas wind and all. Alongside his paw prints were other prints from other animals that had obviously walked our path at some time previous to us. And in the midst of all those prints were human prints, shoe prints left by myself from days before. All of them pressed into the dust. As we walked along it was a bit like we were writing a story in the dust in the midst of a story that had been told days before, prints of journeys past along with new ones in the present.
I am reflective today as I walk. I am reflecting on dust… we are told in our sacred texts it is the stuff from which we are created, it is the stuff to which we will all one day return … ashes to ashes and dust to dust we hear at our final resting place. It is dust … sacred dust … dust that tells a story … dust that tells our story.
I am reflective of the footprints left behind by myself, by my companion on the way, and by the ones I have not seen but know of their presence because of the mark they have left behind. I suppose, in part, I am reflective because of current happenings in my life and the life of our church, I am reflective of the footprints of life that have been left on my heart and soul of those who have gone on before me; those who have made me, for better or worse, who as well as whose I am. I am reflective of my own footprints, my own life, and wonder about the impressions I have made on those who I have helped make who and whose they are.
In all this life reflection I am drawn to a song by a Christian singer who died some years back. He sang a song about the baptism of a baby and in the chorus to that song he spoke of “footsteps” in our lives and his hope that in “every footprint that you leave, there’d be a drop of grace.” I like that, it is good medicine on a reflective walk this evening.
As I watch the dust cloud known as Simeon bolt down the road in front of me I give thanks for the company, for the dust, for the footprints on and of my life, mostly though, I give thanks for grace and pray within the footprints of my life there would be at least one drop.

The “Stuff” of Life

February 24, 2009

            I spent this past week with my son, sister, and step-sister going through my dad and step-mom’s house and shed. We have gone through a lot of stuff. Stuff was the operative word for the week and lots of questions as to “Why?” did they keep this? A common answer was, “Just add it to the list of questions.” When one is faced with such a task care needs to be taken that things are not discarded that hold value, be it material value or sentimental family value. In order to make sure that does not happen we had to wander our way through every box, drawer, book, pocket, hutch, etc.

            The task that lay before us last week and in the weeks to come did and does seem time consuming and at times overwhelming. Sorting, organizing, boxing, labeling, searching, sifting, cleaning as we went, the days seemed to drag on and at the same time we found ourselves at the end of the day and feeling less than accomplished.

            I think some of the things we went through and encountered along the way; clothes, crafty items, Christmas decorations, books, tools, etc., we found things that caused us to wonder, things that caused us to stop and ponder earlier days, things that caused us to laugh, and those things of memory and meaning that catch our breath away and bring a tear to the eye.

            I think of these things now some three days since being there in the house and ponder the deeper things of life and love and faith. Even though there were chuckles and queries as to why and what, the things we sorted through were the stuff of life … the stuff of the lives of two we were connected to, bound to in the cords of family and love.

            I sat on Saturday and visited with an aunt and uncle and we were talking about the task we were set on. My aunt spoke of cleaning out one of her family’s homes and said much of the same things we have pondered and then she said something that caused me pause. When asking the “why” question it was obvious at some point this/these things meant something to them. The items, be they simple material goods or sentimental to us had meant something to my dad and my step-mom at some point along their journey and so they kept it.

            Some of the things we handled that week we knew why they were still in the house. We knew the story behind them or at least a portion of the story and in that those things held meaning for us as well because we were part of the story they told. Some of the things we held and passed through our hands we had no idea what the story was or the why’s, how’s, when’s, or what’s of them, to us it was just stuff … or was it?

            As I muse over the past week , even in my questions, chuckles, laughter, wonderings, and tears … there was something sacred at the core of what we were about there in that house. There was something holy about the ground on which we stood. There was Presence in our midst as we sorted through the very lives of a dad and a mom, it was the stuff of life I believe, right down to the dust that filled our nostrils and coated our faces. We held in our hands the stories of our families, our own stories so to speak, part of who we are is contained in those clothes, books, Christmas decorations, and tools, part of why we are is contained in those things.

            As we passed this sacred stuff through our hands and washed it off at the sink we told the story to one another, we remembered, we shared, we told of new understandings, and old hurts, of laughter and of tears. The old house breathed of the stuff of life, of good times and struggles, of joys and heartaches, of life.

            These are the things that make up our lives. Our lives would be flat and bland if the days were only filled with sunshine and would be too much to bear if only filled with cloudy and stormy days.

            So today, these are the things I ponder about a week of sorting through the lives of my dad and step-mom. These are the things I ponder as I consider the stuff of life that passed through my hands that has had some effect, consciously or unconsciously, on who and why I am… in the midst of that … I am confident as I return to continue to task another day … maybe just for a few moments I will remove my shoes as I cross the threshold and stop and give thanks … for life, love, and faith … and family.





Pondering Hospitals, Life, and the Depths of Love

February 11, 2009

          Over the past couple of weeks we have spent considerable time in two different hospitals with my wife’s dad; worrying, stewing, encouraging, teasing, laughing, crying, sitting, and walking as they have tried to figure out what to do, when to do it, where to do it. A hospital is an interesting, wearying, exhausting place to be whether one is a patient, visitor, hospital worker, and or family. Waiting is a draining task.

          I have tended to deal with the drain through exercise in the form of walking, walking the halls. I have walked in the midst of patient rooms, a variety of intensive care units, waiting rooms, family rooms, administrative offices, chaplain offices, lobbies, and cafeterias. I have navigated around nurses, doctors, office workers, patients, family, visitors, and people I, for many obvious reasons, have no clue who they were, and medical equipment. I have seen tears, smiles, and the seriousness of sober thought. I have heard the sounds of sickness, laughter, screaming, and uncontrollable sobbing. A hospital is a place of the highs of the mountaintop and the dreaded lows in the deepest of valleys.

It is a sacred place filled with all the human emotions of feeling and struggle possible. It is a sacred place filled with the laughter, tears, struggle, suffering, joy, and heartache of God. This place of healing of mind, body, and spirit … healing though not just in the physical sense but perhaps healing of the senses… healing of the spirit … a healing of God, so to speak, or at least a healing of the image of God. I wonder … in the context of my wanderings in the “halls of medicine,” I see the image of God in whom we are created … the image of a hurting, suffering, laughing, crying, chuckling, weeping, and surprising God … a God of vulnerability, a vulnerable God if you will.

Where else in our lives can we be so vulnerable as we find ourselves in the hospital bed or in the chair waiting on the one in the bed. Whether we are wrapped in one of those open backed hospital gowns, bare butt mooning the world or sitting in a chair beside a bed yearning for good news, yearning for any news , caught between unyielding hope and crushing loss.

We don’t do vulnerable well, we humans, but I have to wonder in the midst of that if such highs and lows and all that is in the middle is what it means to be fully human … vulnerable … and in the midst of that I wonder if we don’t always do God so well either.

 I am reminded of that as I sit in the room next to my father-in-law’s bed. He is of that generation. You know the one, the Greatest Generation, the one on which Tom Brokaw wrote his bestselling book. I haven’t read the book, perhaps one day I will, perhaps because of my place here in this chair beside the bed of one who lived it, perhaps I will now.

Sometimes, one looking from the outside in, his manner and matter of fact, no nonsense speaking can be seen and heard as gruff, harsh, and uncaring. But sitting here beside his bed I have had a revelation of sorts, though I suspect it is something I have known all along. I understand now, at least I have convinced myself without confiding in him, it is about life experience and how our lives shape and mold us. It is a revelation of a generation, yes; I suppose even the greatest of them. I suspect I would be much the same as he, perhaps even, suspect I would hope to be the same as he, of course with the exception of needing open heart surgery!

Here is this guy, this WWII vet laying in a hospital bed learning each day of something else, some reason they couldn’t do this procedure but could this one, only to learn the next day they could not do that one, but maybe a different one. I watched this one I know as stubborn and hard headed take the decisions in stride, disappointed yes, but open and willing to do what needed to be done. His matter of fact attitude and willingness to “do what needed to be done” is exemplary of his generation, of him.

Joining the Navy when he was really too young to do so, this man has seen and heard and experienced things I cannot begin to imagine and really do not have a lot of interest in trying to imagine in my mind’s eye. He is a practical and matter of fact kind of guy. He wants honest pay for an honest day’s work, he is generous to a fault, constantly telling us stories of helping someone out when they needed a hand. Stories not to brag about it, but simply as a statement of his life, a statement that simply says, “This is the way things ought to be, it’s the right thing to do!”

I suspect it is just those experiences that have shaped his disdain for nonsense and wasted time. He just doesn’t seem to have time for such things. I suspect his experiences have taught him to live in this moment, to not waste time with silly political, religious, or other platitudes and arguments, they are a waste of time and we don’t have much time on this good green earth. I suspect, for one who has seen and heard the things he has seen and heard, nonsense and the like are a waste of the gift of life. I suspect those experiences and his life have shaped his sharp wit and sense of humor as well. He always has a comeback or an unexpected comment that brings a smile, chuckle, or an unabashed belly laugh, his timing is incredible, which is simply another witness to his appreciation of life in its fullness, in the “now-ness” of it all.

He is stubborn, but in a good independent way, a way that says he doesn’t want anyone worrying about or over him, although he takes exception to that when he chooses to worry about others, I guess at 83 he has that right, more power to him! I have watched over the past couple of weeks that tough exterior melt away in glimpses of that tremendous soft heart he has. It has periodically bubbled up and over flowed with a word caught in his throat followed by a tear or two. That stubbornness is borne out of his hard working life that simply wants to provide for his family and himself, and on  be his own as long has he can.

          That stubbornness is matched, no it is exceeded, only by his fierce love of his family, his four girls and his grandkids, I suspect even his son in laws though I would never ask him to confirm that out loud. But that love is evident in his calm spirit and concern and those moments that are only shared between a father and his daughter[s]. It is sacred time; it is the essence of love, borne of a willingness to lay one’s life down for something larger and more important than self.

          I see that in my dad in law, that self sacrificing nature of that Greatest of generations. Shortly after his admission to the hospital one of his doctors noted he is a Vet and then proceeded to thank him for his [Dad’s] service and his [the doctor’s freedom], it was a moment in the truest sense of the word.

          So here I am sitting in the waiting room at the hospital while the doctors have that heart, that huge heart, literally in their hands and am thankful. That that guy has put up with me for 30 some years now, thankful for a guy who participated in one of the most difficult times of our country, who has, not unlike these halls I walk now, seen the extremes of life, the mountaintop of joy and the valleys of heartache, and everything in the middle, thankful for a vet whose work and service provides me with the opportunity to sit and write as I please, thankful for the stalwart, yet vulnerable, resolve of the one who help raise my wife into the loving person she is, thankful for this man, this Vet, this father, this Dad. I think I will read the book, I am sure it is worthwhile, … though, I think now, I may already know what it says.