Wonder, Renewal & Compassion

canoe webFriday, July 17, 2015

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

Just when the apostles thought they would get a little breather, there was more work to be done. Sound familiar? The needs of the world pressed in upon Jesus. The word was out about the work Jesus was doing - the compassion that was sufficient to meet real human need; food for the hungry, healing for the sick and rest for the weary. The compassion of Jesus was defined by the way Jesus took notice and how he refused to look past the hurt - fully present with real hope.

Our youth canoe trip through Wilderness Canoe Base at the end of the Gunflint Trail was a renewing event. This kind of adventure is a time to be away, set apart from the usual routines and demands. While days are filled with a variety of activities, all requiring a good amount of exertion, it is all still very much restful.

This particular trip had its own pace. It had all the weather and conditions you would expect for June in the BWCAW: rain, high water, mosquitoes, muddy portages, ample sunshine, cool nights, and an occasional passing thunderstorm. We had great campsites along the way that gave us perfect space for tents, cooking and taking in the views of wilderness. One of them had an especially nice swimming beach and we took full advantage of it.

Swimming in cool and crystal clear waters is rejuvenating. It soothes tired muscles, takes away the itch from bug bites, and lifts your spirits. Swimming came at a perfect time, caring for the needs at hand and making us all glad to share in the adventure. On a deeper level the week provided a special way to nurture the gift of faith and foster gratitude for the many gifts freely given. Outdoor ministries of the church have known for a long time how the human need for wonder and hope are met when we find a good rest in the quiet places.

So as we share in worship and service in these summer days are we open to the compassion of Jesus who continues to come alongside of us? Are we ready to live into such compassion so we too may take notice of the needs around us for the sake of hope? Do we hear the call to the quiet places each day wherever they may be so we can be renewed in wonder and grace?

Pastor Randy

Sticking Your Neck Out

Strobel bautista web

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Mark 6:14-29

This week I searched the internet for images depicting the beheading of John the Baptist. Many focused on little Herodias, holding John’s head on the platter. Often the executioner and elder Herodias were also in the frame. In a few, King Herod made an appearance. But hardly any include the crowd.

And then I came across the image above, “Feast of Herod with the Beheading of John the Baptist” by Bartholomeus Strobel the Younger.

Mark tells us that the scene takes place during a royal banquet given for Herod’s “courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee.” Everyone who was anyone was there, and this painting reflects that aspect of the story. The painter felt it was incredibly important that the viewer be aware of the presence of the crowd. In fact, the crowd is so large that the canvas stretches almost 33 feet to include the many characters.

The way we imagine a scene shapes our interpretation of it. It influences the meaning we make of it. And furthermore, the lessons we take from it. Strobel’s painting exposes the way many selectively focus in on Herodias (both daughter and mother) and yet ignore the crowd.

Yet, the crowd mattered to Herod. Their opinions and their support were important to the King. It is their presence that tempts him to make boastful oaths. It is out of regard for the guests that Herod feels compelled to go through with the execution.

So much power the crowd had. Did they know? Did they care?

We hear no reaction from the crowd in Mark. What if just one person had spoken up? Would it have changed the story?

What if you were in the crowd? Would you have done anything?

Strobel chose to include actual people from his day and age in his painting. He filled the enormous canvas with numerous powerful people who played a role in a devastating war that had been ravaging his country for years. As you can see, the painter depicts them as carefree in their revelry, completely oblivious to the suffering that is happening in their midst.

Pastor Sarah Trone Garriott

To Travel Lightly

country church painting webThursday, July 2, 2015

Mark 6:1-13

The twelve were sent out by Jesus to do the work of ministry. And they were to bring nothing on the journey except a staff. Why so little? They would need to depend on the hospitality of others to get their work done. There would be mutuality, interdependence and even vulnerability to such an approach. We can imagine what that going forth must have felt like. Most of us would prefer a little more control and comfort. Hospitality seems like a good idea when we are the ones extending it but to trust in the hospitality of others puts us in an entirely different position.

But there had to be much wisdom in the way Jesus sent out the twelve. Perhaps the best kind of service is grounded in the willingness to receive from others. In this way our work is not simply our own. We realize that love comes to us so we may share it. Genuine love is greater than our mere determination, initiative, best efforts and projects.

To travel lightly in this world is to make room for relationships and community, wonder and gratitude. It’s worth pondering. What does it mean for us individually and as a congregation to follow in such a way? Does the gospel daily move to the forefront so our true priorities can shine forth in our hearts and lives?

The twelve must have felt both the gift and the responsibility that went with being sent. To go forth with a message of hope and healing would not be easy but clearly they were not going alone. The One who sent them would be the One to sustain them, lift them up and love them. And so it is with us, we are the church together called into service, and always held in the love of Jesus.

God of the covenant, in our baptism you call us to proclaim the coming of your kingdom. Give us the courage you gave the apostles, that we may faithfully witness to your love and peace in every circumstance of life, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. - ELW

Pastor Randy

The Interruption

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Mark 5:21-43

We all know what it is like to be on our way to do one thing, and get interrupted by another.

Jesus is in just this predicament as he heads off to heal Jairus’ daughter, and suddenly feels someone touch his cloak.

The crowd is pressing in. All attention is focused on Jairus and seeing what will happen next. The woman, an outcast because of her condition, is trying everything she can do not to be noticed. Her hand only lingers for a brief moment. Her touch is timid, almost imperceptible.

Anyone else would not have even noticed it. No one else did.

But Jesus stops in his tracks and asks for all to hear, “who touched me?”

As I studied these words with a colleague earlier this week, I waxed poetically of ministry being all about the interruptions. When I returned to the office and I sat down to settle in for an afternoon of sermon writing—I would not be scrambling at the last minute this week!

Then the phone rang.

God has a way of making sure I get ample opportunity to practice what I preach.

Suffering is always reaching out, seeking God’s healing. And, when Jesus stops and pays attention to the one in need…well, so do the rest of us who happen to be following him.

And what do we see here?

The urgency of the other situation calls them to keep going, the crowd is eager to move on, the disciples dismiss his question. It would have been possible to ignore the moment, to ignore her, to keep walking. But he does not. Jesus makes an effort to look, to see her.

The woman falls at his feet, words falling fast from her lips. While other men in the crowd would shrink back from her in disgust, Jesus stays put and listens. He is not ashamed to let everyone that she has touched him. He is not afraid to be seen speaking with her.

Jesus calls her daughter, and she is no longer a stranger groveling on the ground. He claims her as part of his family.

He proclaims her healing to all. Now, for the first time in years, she will be able to return to the community that held her at a distance. And everyone within earshot, is put on notice of that fact. It is not just the individual that has been healed.

Followers of Jesus: when those interruptions come along, may we all stop for a moment and at the least, try to pay attention to what Jesus is doing.

Pastor Sarah

Getting Somewhere

Dark SkiesFriday, June 19, 2015

Mark 4:35-41

A few years back I visited the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN. Walking through the exhibits something became clear to me---something so incredibly obvious, and yet, something that I had never realized until that very moment.

As I walked slowly through the museum, I saw hundreds of photos and relics of the protests, marches, sit-ins, boycotts, and rallies. I read the stories of people who devoted, even gave their lives to the effort.

I also saw evidence of the backlash. Lynchings. Pamphlets full of fear and lies. Klan rallies. Fire hoses. Dogs. And finally, blood stains on the balcony of the hotel.

It finally became clear to me that the civil rights victories of the 1960’s and 70’s—the voting rights act, the end of legal segregation, school integration—none of this just happened.

Things did not just eventually get better.

Every positive change was hard won.

Each advance took planning and coordination.

It all took risk and sacrifice.

Change required the commitment of many people, from all different walks of life.

And there was resistance every step of the way.

It took so much to finally get somewhere.

And as a white American, I had no idea until the evidence was staring me in the face.

I cannot ignore the evidence of the last few days, past months, last few years. As a nation we have not arrived at racial equality. As a church we are not there yet. Not even close. And while we stand still, the forces of sin are still hard at work, pushing us all in the wrong direction.

Jesus calls his disciples to get into the boat and head on to the “other side.” They have already covered so much ground in the first four chapters of Mark. I imagine they are tired. They might feel really good about being right where they are. And yet he asks them to keep moving, to keep going.

In our faith lives, in our relationships, in our quest for justice, in seeking the kingdom of God---we need to keep moving or we lose ground. Often, it is directly into the storm that Jesus calls us. Our scripture for Sunday reminds us that Jesus will be right there with us, in the roughest of passages. And that is good news, because Jesus is calling all of his followers to get a move on.

It’s time to get somewhere on the issue of race.

Pastor Sarah