January 30, 2015

God’s Waiting Room

God’s Waiting Room
Waiting room pictureThis week, I traveled to Arizona for a two-pronged trip to Phoenix, AZ. The first leg of the trip was to visit my dad and step-mom. It was long overdue, my parents are not getting any younger and sometimes they worry me with their growing list of infirmities and details of their “parts” wearing out. My dad calls Sun City, “God’s waiting room” and it was during this trip that I could understand this title more clearly.

John and I landed around 8:00 a.m. last Sunday, it gave us time enough to worship with the good people of Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Sun city West at their 10:30 service. I had found them doing a Google search and when I found that they indeed had a website and a female pastor who looked like she could be my friend, I decided that this church would be a great place to worship. As we entered the parking lot we noticed it was very full, a good omen we thought. John and I were proudly wearing our Colt’s attire, thinking that we might find some new friends who could help us pray for a Colts win. As we were walking toward the entrance of the church building, we noticed that we were severely under dressed. The culture of dress in this Lutheran Church, unlike Roots of Life in Noblesville, was men in suits or sport coats, women in skirts and dresses. Everyone had on their Sunday best. We stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb. Should we stay or should we just skip worship? We decided to stay and hope that we were not shunned.

Happily I can report that this worshipping community could indeed be labeled “God’s waiting room. We were welcomed heartily by many people. We were given a prime seat on an aisle for John and near the front for me (just the way we like it.) The sanctuary was buzzing with excitement and you could feel the sense of community in this place. What is interesting about this feeling is that there were so many visitors, first timers in a sea of old timers (literally). Admittedly, the crowd was 90 percent white haired and grey haired over 70. But if you closed your eyes, you would never care about the ages of the good people of Lord of Life, they are just plain people who love God and community.

On this particular Sunday, Lord of Life of Sun City AZ, was having a Gospel Service and the robed choir along with brass, and clarinet and other instruments belted out such favorites as “Give me that Old Time Religion,” “I Saw the Light,” and “Soon and Very Soon.” Yes, these people believed what they sang, and they sang with gusto.

Admittedly, I missed my multigenerational congregation, with young children at my feet, the middlers and young parent’s expectant faces, and the oldies but goodies. It occurs to me that my own worshipping space could also be known as “God’s waiting room.” We believe the songs we sing, at least most of the time, we welcome strangers through the door and hopefully, they feel like family once they hit the threshold. We have conversations about life, death and resurrection. We chat about the kingdom now and the kingdom eternal. Just because we are in the waiting room does not mean we are dead. We are going to make the most of it! We still welcome, we still grow, we still connect with one another and we still serve one another. There is so much to learn in God’s waiting room!

January 27, 2015

Sacramental Living: Life Giving and Death Dealing  

jan16 If I were not Lutheran, I would consider being a Quaker. This might seem like a big leap for anyone. The worship styles are very different. In my denomination, we love the emphasis of the sacraments of communion and baptism during worship each week.  It is what draws us closer into community with Jesus and into community. These two sacraments are reminders of life, death and resurrection. It is a physical and spiritual, full body experience for me and for many people to come to the table, eat bread, and drink wine, and to splash water on our foreheads in remembrance of our new life found only in Christ. This is but one difference on how Lutherans and some other churches worship. I know that Catholics and Episcopal also rely on the sacraments for the understanding of their faith story and theology.

But to be Quaker, is another way of life that is very attractive to me. I remember being an intern at Servants of Christ, in Fishers, and the Quaker friend I made while serving this community of sacramental believers. He was the organist’s husband. He never came to the table, he never splashed water on his head, and on Ash Wednesday he did not get ash deposited on his forehead. He always just sat, in the back pew, near his wife, smiled and nodded at everyone. His eyes sparked with mischief, and always had a kind word for everyone. One day, I asked him about communion, and why did he not come forward. Was he Catholic? Did he not believe? Did he not feel welcome? His answer surprised me. “I am Quaker, I do not think of the sacraments like you do.” I told him that I would love to commune with him. He said, “Teri, I am always communing with you. When I see you, or hear you, I am with you.” And then he said, “Don’t you feel the same way about me?”  Everything is sacred. Everything is holy. Where God is, it is sacred ground. And God is everywhere.

One of my favorite authors, and theologians is Parker Palmer, a Quaker, lover of God and life. He is the real deal. I recommend anything he writes. One of his quotes is something like, “every moment of our day is either ‘life giving’, or ‘death dealing.’  When we think of our days like this, I believe we enter into sacramental and holy living. It takes intention and care. Remember, God is always with you.

January 27, 2015

Scared or Not

jan8

Ever since I began writing the Joy in the Journey column for the Times, I have received just a couple of letters questioning my theology, or pointing out a flaw in my reasoning regarding my idea of who God is, and giving me the “correct” answer to my unasked opinion. Most of the time, I try to respond with an apology for my offense, or I try to give my reasons for my belief using scripture. However, I do have one particular “anti-fan” who will write me letters, send me tracts, give me advise on my impending doom, but this person does not leave a way to communicate, no name, no address, no e-mail nothing.  I do wish I could engage this person in a conversation over a cuppa something. It appears that this person is a good person; we just differ on how we view God. With this in mind, I am sure that this week’s opinion will undoubtedly ruffle the feathers.

What if I said, “Jesus, is not sacred.”  Whaaaa? Some of you are saying right now! “Heretic!” Give me a moment to explain my thinking. What is the definition of sacred? According to Dictionary.com, sacred means, “secured against violation, infringement, etc., as by reverence or sense of right: or properly immune from violence, interference, etc., as a person or office.”

When we think about Jesus in this way, we can see that he was not secured against violation or infringement, and Jesus was not immune from violence or interference. As a matter of fact Jesus, whole mission was to come and be as human as possible, and to show how sacrificing oneself we can come to know God and truly love others.

There are some religions that make their heroes immune from pain, sorrow and even death. But we have God, in Jesus, who not only embraces pain and sorrow but also looks for the people and the places that are experiencing these things, so that he can bring them life. Jesus goes to the places where fear and darkness, disease and disappointment are the order of the day.

If you have read this far, I have a confession to make. Yes, I believe that Jesus is sacred, just not too sacred. I mean Jesus redefines what sacred is. Jesus goes to those places where we do not want to go and shows us how holy and sacred all life is. Jesus asks us to follow him, not protect him. He asks us to be like him in ways that can be considered sacred. A sacred life means a life of sacrifice, loving the unlovable, praying unceasingly, being generous when it is difficult, standing up for justice, feeding the hungry, taking care of those who have nothing. Jesus invites us to be sacred and join him in the redefining of what sacred is.

 

 This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear. My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love.       John 3:16-18 The Message Bible