Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Lenten Journey ... Ash Wednesday

March 1, 2017                         Ash Wednesday

Psalm 51:1-17
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

“The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit.”
Psalm 51:17

“O, Thou that doth all things devise
And fashon fer the best,
He’p us who sees with mortul eyes
To overlook the rest.

They’s times, of course, we grope in doubt,
And in afflictions sore;
So knock the louder, Lord, without
And we’ll unlock the door.

Make us to feel, when times looks bad
And tears in pitty melts,
Thou wast the only he’p we had
When they was nothin’ else.”1

Knowing when and how to be vulnerable is an invaluable skill.  

Our social media images are so carefully crafted.   Projections of something we wish to be rather than who we actually are.  It is in prayer with our Lord that we can show our broken spirit.
When we sacrifice the teflon image of our homemade public projection, we invite God to work with the brokenness that too often haunts us.  
Then we are blessed, as our friend Mr. Riley writes, to feel God is the “he’p” we have.  

Prayer:  Dear Lord, On Ash Wednesday, we mark ourselves with the dust of this world out of desire to reveal to our humble hope for God’s love and mercy.  May your Holy Spirit gently renew and restore all that is broken within us so that we can sing your praises anew.
~ Dr. James R. Brooks, 
Lead Minister

1  “A Hymb of Faith”, by James Whitcomb Riley, Neghborly Poems

The Bowen-Merrill Co, Indianapolis, IN, 1891.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

What is Christian Worship? A Reflection . . .

by Dr. James R. Brooks January 18, 2016

Our college students have returned to school.  Do you remember the experience of those students coming home for the holidays?  Maybe you were a military personnel on leave visiting your parents?  Maybe you were out of town relatives visiting the old homestead.  

For many, that experience includes a growing pile of dirty laundry.  Laundry brought home already dirty and expecting to be washed.  

For many, that experience includes a shrinking pantry.  Young people and their appetites!    Especially for the treats parents will buy that they may not purchase for themselves.  

For many, that experience includes chaos.  Empty nest routines tossed asunder.  Boundless energy and late nights.  

For many, that experience of exhaustion is redeemed by the profound love, deep stress-free slumber, and renewal of relationships.

Sound familiar?  

Christian Worship is similar.

We are invited to bring all our dirty laundry to the table of the Lord and leave it.  We are expected to leave our laundry to be washed by our Lord as he washed his disciples feet that precious night.

We are invited to bring our appetite and to eat all the food God provides.  It is a feast!  In worship our soul is sustained by experiencing God’s Spirit.

We are invited to bring our chaos.  We bring our hangries and hopes, dreams and dreads, celebrations and concerns.  In worship, we can meet Jesus who calmed the waves that rocked the boat.  Jesus who made wine for the wedding at Cana.

Worshipping Jesus is to bring our praise and thanksgiving as we seek his presence in our lives.  Worship can be an experience of bring redeemed by profound love, deep stress-free praise, and renewal of relationship.

No need to RSVP … walk-ins welcome to the open table of the Lord.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Home and Hearth

These words are part of the vocabulary of Christmas.  “Home” is that place of welcome, grace and mercy.  “Hearth” is that place of permanence, steady, constant.  

However, “Christmas” is about all things change.  
Christmas is full of change, transformation, restoration.

Christmas is about a specific change.

The shepherds were driven from the field by dramatic visions cast by angels.  These shepherds returned to their fields proclaiming faith in God in a new and surprising way.  What a dramatic change for very earthy shepherds.

The wise men followed a star, chatted with a political leader, and knelt at a crib.  If only we could read their reflection.  As does the star, their journey appears to have started one way and concluded another.

As you prepare for Christ’s birth, what change has accrued?  More reflective upon your relation with you needy neighbor?  More aware of your own need?  More excited about God’s work in your life, relationships, worship?

Change does not equal quilt or shame.  Let us be clear on this account.  We need change in our relationship with Jesus Christ.   Best to focus upon the positive outcome of that relationship.  To focus on the negative is to drown all hope.

Jesus was born among us because Jesus had hope.  God will make perfect our relationship with God and others.  Because of the change caused by God, we can celebrate the change we seek in our own lives.  

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Dr. Brooks

Friday, December 02, 2016

Why Christmas Cards?  Baker’s Dozen Reasons!

  1. Perfect activity while listening to Christmas music if you have not listened to enough at the mall

2.  Perfect way to witness to your faith by purchasing the Madonna and child stamps, and keep your friendly postal worker employed by purchasing the Madonna and child stamps.

3.  Perfect way to brag about your kid(s) in a pre-social media sort of way.  Christmas is about tradition, yes?

4.  Perfect reason to review the year’s worth of digital pictures to create a Christmas letter.  Talk about counting blessings!  Never had so many when I had to pay somebody to develop film!

5.  Perfect reason to practice signing your name, since we no longer write checks or pen a letter.

6.  Perfect time to remember those who would be receiving a card but have gone on to Heaven.   Sad, but what joyous memories we have of these most beautiful people!

7.  Perfect time to re-learn how to make your printer place addresses on odd sized envelopes because who is going to actually hand write all those addresses?

8.  Perfect time to show off your crafty side with hand-made cards.  Sorry to disppoint.  I will not be showing off this year.

9.  Perfect time to cull your list of people who don’t make the “Christmas Card List” which is way easier than dealing with my friend list on facebook.

10.  Perfect way to discover who really thinks you are worth a stamp … uh or the time and the cost of cards, envelopes, letter, etc. 

11.  Perfect way to keep yourself in the WILL of long lost relatives with big bucks!

12.  Perfect way to prove that trees are a renewable resource, and so is glitter!

13.  Perfect way to spread Christmas cheer to make Santa’s sleigh fly, because we all want gifts! 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Baggage Sermon Series Summary

  (Luke 10:1-24)
by Dr. James R. Brooks, Lead Minister
[reflection on our 3 week sermon series that concluded last Sunday]
We all have too much baggage!  We want a fix more fine than simply set it aside and leave it all behind.  Jesus’ hopes and dreams for you are that you travel light and live free!
Jesus sends out the 70 followers with instructions to leave behind the baggage we might want.  Rather, they are to take the very best of their relationship with Jesus … sharing the peace and experiencing “the kingdom of God coming near to you” with those they share life.
They return with stories of joy!  Jesus then reminds them to rejoice more that they are remembered in heaven than that they have accomplished much on earth.
The more we pack our bag with the best of our relationship with Jesus, the more joy we find on our journey in this world.
The more wisely we chose with whom to unpack our baggage, especially our painful broken luggage, the easier to experience the Kingdom of God come near us.
The more we trust in Jesus’ teaching and care, the less “other” baggage we will need on our journey.

Our birth and death are frames for our life on earth.  What beautiful pictures of journey will be held by these frames?  Even more, cherish the pictures that image the Kingdom of God come near to you today.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Why Your Presidential Election Does Not Matter

Rev. Dr. James R. Brooks

When I accepted my call to ministry, I did not at that time believe it  was a call to serve the St Louis Metro area.  A child of Indiana and a student of Australia and Kentucky, I am surprised that I have been called to 20 years of my ministry in the St Louis area.

In that time, I have become a defender of St Louis.  Early in my ministry, I officiated a wedding in the club where Lindberg negotiated the financing of his flight over the Atlantic.  Now I mourn St Louis place it the world.  

I note the change in governance from elected officials to corporate boards.

“Like the losses of McDonnell Douglas, Trans World Airlines, Anheuser-Busch and Ralston Purina, the Monsanto deal eliminates yet another headquarters for a market leader that gave the St. Louis region recognition across the world.”
By Jacob Barker St. Louis Post-Dispatch

St Louis was the gateway to the west, symbolized by the Arch.  Now it is a bellwether to the world of a change.

Once upon a time, the church was the queen of the sciences and the leader of peoples.  The church has undergone the change wrought by the Enlightenment and now by the Post-Modern movement.

The church gave way to the “Nation State” as the leader of peoples.  From empires like Great Britain to democracies like the USA, nation states ruled the land after 1500 AD.

Five hundred years later, we witness the ascendancy of global corporations as the leaders of people.  I thank the late Phylis Tickle for the timeline.

- To be among the wealthiest of people implies global economic prowess.
- Local unions buckle beneath the weight of global corporations with a constantly shifting and cheap workforce.
- Global corporations that are “too big to fail” within a singular nation state.
  • Global corporations that pit the tax laws of one nation state against those of another.

It is too late to fear the change already among us.  For the faithful Christian, the question becomes how we can be “the Kingdom of God has come near you today” as stated in Luke 10.  Or how can we fulfill the Great Commission and Great Commandment from the Gospels in the contemporary context.

It is too late to hit the brakes or to shift the car in reverse.

It is time, as it was in the book of Jeremiah, to ask how to be faithful in the current context.  The more quickly we engage that question, the more quickly we can share the Good New of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Reflections on 49

5 weeks old, 1967
It was a Friday, the day of my birth.  What a way to start a weekend for my parents.  

I have some reflections as I prepare to celebrate my 49th birthday.  

In general, I have not treated people as special as I have felt treated throughout my life.  If I were to ponder why I would name a degree of being shy, stretched, and selfish.  I am thankful and blessed to be treated as I have been by my family and friends and the faith communities I have served.  Even more, I am blessed by how much I am loved by God. 

I laugh more than I cry, and I love to see other people laugh.  Maybe because I know when what I did is now a joke, I’ve been forgiven.  Maybe because you all look so much better when you laugh.  Regardless, I count this as a blessing and I contribute it to my family, my church and God.  
first birthday, 1968

It turns out the “ugly duckling” story is true.  Pretty much felt like one of those not so handsome ducks in language arts throughout public school.  Though not a grammar guru, I have found a love for language.  Can you guess I thank my family, church and God for this?  Now for the image in the mirror. . . .

Hope is real.  I’ve always been encouraged to reach out and to grow.  Sometimes I fell.  In both my success and my failure, I experienced the reality of hope.  It is so much more than optimism.  Guess who gave me that gift.

me and Dutchess, Aug 1969
As I near the mid-point of my life, I am thankful for so very much.  Even more, I am inspired by what lies ahead.  It is going to be amazing!  That you and I are invited to participate in the future is one of our most cherished opportunities given by God.  I am especially excited about sharing the future with my son as I watch him become a man.

I’ll turn 50 on a Friday.  I’m guessing that will be a fun weekend.