Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Shine the Light

by Dr. Brooks

Matthew 5:14-16 (NRSV)
14 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

I want to thank everyone who made our Easter celebration such a meaningful morning of worship and praise.  I am so thankful for the ways that God walked with us as we journeyed through Lent and Holy Week.  Even more am I thankful and humbled by God’s love for us as we know it through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Many thanks to you who provided worship leadership, flowers, music, and other service to our worshipping communities.  What a glorious morning of baptisms and communion shared well.  The sounds of our praise from our chancel choir and band and soloist and congregation were uplifting.  

Jesus calls us to let our light shine so that other may give glory to God.  Every word we share, every song we sing, each time we set the table of the Lord, each bulletin we hand out, and so much more is an opportunity for us to let our light shine.   Our brothers and sisters of faith, our guests are encouraged when you share the light of your love for Jesus.

Living in the light is healthy for us.  In the light we benefit from the vitamin D from the sun.  In the light we find reconciliation for the brokenness experienced in the dark.  In the light we see more clearly how God loves those with whom we share ministry.  

As we journey from Easter into the summer months, let us be resolved to shine our light.  The bushel basket of brokenness need not dim the brightness of our community.  Though our formal, corporate confession in worship ceased with Lent, let us each continue to be humble in our prayers in the hope that we will be pleasing to God and a hope for others.


Be alert and aware for among us are many lights to illumine the way forward.  Thanks be to God for gracing us with mercy and justice.  Thanks be to God for the love we know best through Jesus Christ.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Maundy Thursday: Loving You

For me to love you, it has to be about more than political correctness or being morally right.  I am too weak and whinny, too selfish and shallow to love you.   I need something more.

Growing up in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), I cherish communion.   I am shaped by worship that weekly revolves around the Lord’s Table.  A table of such radical love as to be open to everyone who is curious about Jesus regardless.   The reconciliation and renewal of the bread and wine are of grace, mercy and justice enough as to be for all God’s creation.

Maundy Thursday is a high holy day of sorts in my tradition.  A celebration of that time when Jesus shared the meal with his followers.  Reading the words of institution from the sacred texts.

This year, we read from the gospel of John 13:1-17, 34b-35.   
And there I read the “more” I need to love you.

Jesus washes the feet of the disciples … master serves the servant in a way the servant can never serve self.  Jesus foreshadows the making clean only the Risen Savior can provide.  Jesus then tells the followers to love each other as Jesus loves them.

I love you because Jesus told me to love you.  That would be enough for the faithful.  Yet there is more in this glimpse of heaven.

Jesus shows us love that is more than hopes and dreams.  By washing the feet of his followers, Jesus demonstrates an active love.  It is the thought that counts yet we are called never to settle for so little for our brothers and sisters.  We are called to demonstrate such a love for each other that the world will know who we follow.

The “more” I needed to love you is the thankful life of response.  When I love you, I am responding with thanksgiving to the table of the Lord set for us before our enemies.  When I love you, I am responding with thanksgiving to Jesus’ washing our feet.  

Living my life in response to Jesus saves me from my shallow and selfish, weak and whinny way.  Though no promise this will be easy, loving you makes me a better person, with a more joyful experience of life.  


Am I ready for the Risen Lord on Easter if I love you?  If I live in thankful response to Jesus found at the Lord’s Supper and at the washing of feet?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Points to Ponder
Minister’s Musing on Ministry & Misc.
by Dr. Brooks

What is the winning strategy in your business?  

I once read a management book based on the practices of Genghis Khan.  I was fascinated!  His brutality was matched by his organizational skill.  The accomplishments of Khan are historic.  However, I would struggle to call them a winning strategy.

The 4-way test of Rotary International (of which I am a member) is a good critique of those who practice a style as ruthless as Khan.  The 4-way test asks … Is it the Truth?  Is it Fair to all concerned?  Will it build Goodwill and Better Friendships?  Will it be Beneficial to all concerned?  This reads more as a winning strategy.

Recently, I was confronted with a thorny business problem.   I wondered what the Christ-like way would be to handle the issue?  Admittedly, my emotional response to the problem had not encouraged me to think first of the Lord in my life.  My emotional reaction to the Christ-like solution was very affirming.

In addition to managing my emotions by attempting to channel Jesus’ call upon my life, the more I considered the end game of the problem, the more I found a Christ-like response to be a winning strategy.  It is tempting to avoid a Christ-like strategy because we think it too soft or too weak.  If we are honest, this temptation is born from greed, selfishness, or other brokenness.  

Keeping Jesus as the priority in my life helps me keep the puzzles of daily life in proper perspective.  My engagement is more creative and confident.  My fear of failure is lessened because I am working to please Jesus who loves me unconditionally.  As well my goal of “winning” in the problem is redefined.

Though naive in places, a Christian classic “In His Steps” by Charles Sheldon is worth a read.  It is a feel good book.  Inspiring for the faithful.


Winning strategies in business (and life generally) thrive with discipline and consistency.  Might I recommend the life-giving strategy of taking Jesus to work with you every day?  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Relationships: Best Gift Ever

Relationships include gift giving, from remembering others on holidays to the time and presence we offer one another.  What is the best gift you have received?  given?

My Grandma and I shared the same birthday.  One year, when I was a child and we celebrated at her house, she took me to town.  She and my Grandpa lived on a small farm.  Our trip to town was to obtain groceries for dinner.  Well that was the reason when we left the house.

Once in the car, my Grandma explained that we would be purchasing my birthday gift, and I would be able to select the gift.  However, I had to act surprised when it came time to open gifts.  Receiving a toy gun was not why this is among the best gifts ever. 

I remember the anticipation as we drove to town to select the gift.  In the store, I struggled to wield well the power of selection, something I wanted but I did not want to ask for something too expensive or extreme.  As we opened gifts, feeling worry that I would not be convincing in my feigned surprise.   I recall the sense of sharing something special and unique with my Grandma.  I remember my Grandma’s smile and bright eyes.

The criterion for best gift ever was something beyond the material.  My Grandma, like all my amazing grandparents, excelled at making me feel special.  This included the memory of something shared, something uniqued.  Love made real.

Tomorrow we start Lent.  For Christians, it is a period of preparation for Easter.  Some of the faithful will give up something, make a sacrifice, to discipline the soul.  Others will take up a new spiritual practice.  

What if each day of Lent, you remembered the “best gift” you have received from a person important to you?  I pray Easter arrives before you have named one person per day.  If Easter has yet to come or if you name a person lacking that “best gift” moment … create the moment.  Give them the moment or make the plan to do so.  

Love made real …. daily … till Easter … when God makes it real for you in an eternal way.

Imagine … how will the remainder of 2015 transpire if now you name 40 important individuals and the “best gift” moment over 40 days?  


God’s smile and bright eyes upon you be forever.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Thanksgiving?

How do you offer thanksgiving?

Polite manners beseech us to say “please” and “thank you.”  Refined is our nature when we pen a note to say “thank you” for this kindness or that remembrance.  These social niceties are, well, nice.

What of when the thanksgiving is rooted in a more profound place, phenomenon, or person?

How you offer thanksgiving when so motivated?

In the gospel of Mark, chapter 1, verse 31 we see such a thanksgiving.  The text reads (NRSV)  “1He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.”  Jesus heals Peter’s mother-n-law who then serves Jesus and the others.

Did Peter’s mother-n-law serve them because she was told to do so by the one who healed her?  The text does not imply such an explanation.  

Did Peter’s mother-n-law serve them because she was set free of the fever / sick bed and chose to return to her gifted participation in the community as hostess?  Very likely and the thought of my sermon on February 8, 2015.

Did Peter’s mother-n-law serve them because she was offering her thanksgiving?  A complimentary thought to the one just previously offered.  Having been healed by the touch of God’s son, Jesus, the natural response is to offer thanksgiving.  This woman offered thanksgiving by serving them.  

How do you offer thanksgiving?

Were you to be set free of obstacles, restored to community, healed of illness, etc . . .
How do you offer thanksgiving?  It is your choice . . .

If you wonder what God would prefer you do offer as thanksgiving, let me share a quote from Frederick Buechner: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”


I invite you to ponder Buechner’s words and the cause of your thanksgiving.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Recommended Read: The Reason

My ideas of love were only shadows compared to this painfully bright, shining, true love that fell all around me.”  This is one of a multitude of inspiring lines from Lacey Sturm’s book, The Reason: how I discovered a life worth living.  A book that I passionately recommend you read.

I first encountered Lacey’s voice in her role as the lead singer of the Christian band, Flyleaf.   Though I never saw her perform live with the band (I was able to see the band start their first tour without her), I have enjoyed their music and her voice for years.  Their music videos are amazing.

Picking up her first book, I wondered if she would write as well as she sang, could she author a book as well as she penned a lyric.  Within a few pages, her talent was obvious.  Her writing style is very balanced and mature in her dealing with subject matter that is quite profound.  This book read as if she were talking to me over a cup of coffee or glass of wine.

You should read this book for its message and model.  I do not agree with every theological statement Lacey makes.  I share deeply her love for God and God’s people.  I am inspired by Lacey’s ability to be vulnerable about her life and passionate about God’s love.   As she shared how God has worked in her life, I readily recalled moments when I feel close to God and craved more.  

You will be blessed if you read this book. 

(quote from page 112)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Chef's Keys to a Savory Life

You are a spice.  Without you, the world is bland.


As a high schooler, I made a two layer cake to surprise my family.  The layers were fantastic.  They looked perfect.  As I mixed the icing, it was very gritty.  Knowing something was amiss, I called my Mamaw for advice.  Turns out, I used regular sugar when I should have used powdered sugar.  My Mamaw, trying to help her a grandson do his best without negating his effort thus far, suggested I add powdered sugar and maybe it would smooth out.  

The icing did not smooth out but it did become even more sweet.  Bless my family for each trying a piece of that cake before we tossed it into the trash.  

When the wrong ingredients are in the play, the result is rarely pleasing to the palate.  

From these two thoughts, I reflect the importance of your presence / participation in the right place at the right time so that your world is not bland.  You were meant for more than bland relationships.

How do we know the right place and right time to make relationships profound?

Trial and Error is a time tested method of learning most anything.  Trial and error is an effective teacher said the man with two fingers, both burnt.  There are more effective path ways to learning place and time.

Try the rule of three … know your God, know your neighbor, know yourself.

At home, if you know God’s desire for your family (neighbor) and you know your family and you know yourself … then how beautiful a parent / spouse / child will you be do you imagine?  God created you and your family (neighbor).  God said that what God created is good.  God made eternal life possible for you and your family (neighbor).  God wants you to experience life as flavor that dances on your tongue and satisfies your deepest midnight cravings.

Knowing the three (God, neighbor, self) is most possible for those who participate in a church community (especially worship), read the Bible on their own and in study groups, engage in mission ministries to serve the needy, pray daily to God, and give sacrificially of their time, talent, and treasure.  This is not rocket science but a lifestyle proven rewarding by countless of our ancestors of faith.

Knowing is 49% of success.  Knowing your God, your neighbor, yourself is all of 49% of a successful, meaningful life.  Jesus said it best what was necessary for the other 51%.

Take up your cross and follow Jesus … that is 51% of a successful, meaningful life.  Spice adds flavor to the dish only when present … mixed, boiled, simmered, marinated, baked into the dish.  At some point, we need to be present to others.  We need to be incarnate to our community.  

Those who savor the spiritual essence of their faith community, worship, service, study, etc… they find life to be more colorful, flavorful, meaningful, amazing, awe-inspiring.  God created you to be spice.  God created you to be an amazing flavor in the right dish at the right time.  God trusts you to show up, be present, when called.

Is your world bland?  Is your world too sweet like the cake I baked?

The remedy is first to know God, neighbor, self.  Then be present and participating.

RECIPE:

  1. What relationship did you previously enjoy that has become stale?  Are you thinking of an individual, team, group, etc?   What is the name(s) that come to mind?

2.  Assuming you want more than that blandness, be mindful of that relationship over the rest of this week.  Roast that relationship over the burner of knowing (God, neighbor, self) as you would peppers or garlic before adding to the sauce.

3.  By mid-week, pray about the presentation and consumption of the relationship.  Ask God how you can serve up yourself into the relationship so that it arrives at the table as a master piece akin to God’s desire.

4.  By week’s end, do something.  A word, touch, hug, hold door open, mail a card, invite to church, shared smile, etc.  This thing you do is you being the spice God intended you to be to make this dish (relationship) gourmet.


[For inspiring this reflection, my thanks to Libby the best front of the house manager and my friend; and to “Its a Wonderful Life” the movie.]