Sunday, July 31, 2011

By Faith

Genesis 12 - The Call of Abram

The Lord tells Abram "pack up your stuff and go. I am going to bless you and bless everyone else who blesses you, as well."  Abram believes God and goes.  Packs up everything and takes off into the wilderness to follow wherever God will send him.  He's not concerned where.  He just goes.  I've often thought about this story when I've heard Pastor's say they can only answer a call if it is near good schools; if there will be jobs available that will enhance their spouses careers; if it's not too hot; or too cold.  I've also known Pastors who have packed up everything or sold it all and with their families went off to live and serve in mission fields in areas that many others would never even consider worth visiting. 

God told Abram to move and he did.  He simply trusted God. 

But, this story also contains one of my pet peeves.  Who remembers hearing, as a child, that Abram had his wife Sarai pretend she was his sister to protect his own backside?  Abram had faith, but he was not perfect in his actions.  My pet peeve hasn't anything to do with Abram, but in how we sometimes tell the story of Abram and many other "heroes" of the Bible.  I submit that many of our children through the generations until today never hear the whole story and they are inadvertently taught that the "heroes" from the Bible are really good people - that they never make mistakes - that they are pretty sinless.  Do we teach them that characters like Abraham, David, or Solomon are good people and therefore they were blessed?  And, after confirmation they begin to start sliding as they explore their increased freedom to make individual choices. I mean, our children will mess up.  We did. We still do.

The point is: who can hope to live up to the stories from the Bible in the way that they are often presented to our children?  We have lifted up all these "perfect" heroes from the Bible who were blessed by God.  We neglect to tell the stories of their very real and vulnerable and sinful selves.  What have we taught them?  Most likely, as Lutherans, we've reminded them that we are saved by faith - but then we tell the stories in a manner that reinforces the idea that blessings will follow their good works.  We use examples of good works that our children can never live up to and then wonder why they do not believe that God would bless them just as they are.

As Education Director at Zion, this is one of the things I look for when looking for study materials:  does it lift up the goodness - the good works - of man, of this or any generation preceding us, or does it lift up and glorify God?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Noah's descendents

Genesis 10 - 11

Trying to catch up now that I have internet again.

I know that many of you would just as soon skip any and all geneologies found in the Bible.  They're boring I'm told.  I know most of us can't remember these lists of family members - but - there is some good stuff to be found in them.

As my husband and friends left to go fishing at 4:30 a.m. the other morning (a little early for me to go fishing) I was thinking about the lists of people in the old testament, particularly in building the temple and couldn't remember any notable fishermen being mention in the O.T. Couldn't remember any place that listed someone as:  ......., the son of ......., a fisherman.  Jesus called fishermen.  But, what about the old testament?  Here we have just read the story of Noah, out there floating in an endless sea, but I didn't remember anything about fishing - course they didn't eat fish until after the flood.  As soon as I finished reading a couple chapters in Genesis, I was going to see if I could find the first mention of fishermen in the Bible.    So I opened my Bible to the next chapter and there it was in chapter 10 of Genesis.  The sons of Javan, the son of Japeth, the son of Noah were maritime people.

Not much time for babbling this morning - so I will leave you as you work through the geneology from Noah to Abraham and figuring out all those different places that the people were dispersed to after leaving Babel.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Covering Nakedness

Genesis 9

I wonder why in both of the stories of the first created couple and of the first people after the flood, nakedness is an issue.  What is that all about? 

I am largely of Finnish ancestry.  Growing up, not everyone had indoor plumbing; maybe water in the kitchen, but neither of my grandparents (who I spent a lot of time with) had indoor facilities.  Outhouses were common and we bathed on Saturday nights in the sauna – together.  Nakedness was not something that needed to be hidden – in fact – it is pretty necessary to be made thoroughly clean.

Now, I want you to consider nakedness as a metaphor for the revealing or unveiling of our sin.

Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened when they ate the fruit.  All of a sudden they felt the need to cover themselves; so they tried to hide their nakedness by making garments out of fig leaves.  But, God sees beyond the fig leaves and knows the sin that they are covering up.  

Now Noah plants a vineyard and overindulges on the fruits of the harvest.  He gets drunk and sounds like he passed out naked in his tent.  His son, Ham, goes and in and sees him and then goes out and tells….  The other brothers go in and without looking, they cover up their father.

Let’s not worry about Noah so much.  Let’s consider the way these brothers responded to their father’s nakedness – considering that after the fall being seen naked apparently was not looked upon as a good thing.  One son, instead of covering up his father, goes and tells – one gossips about their father – stripping his father of his dignity as he lays bare the activities of his father.  One points out the father’s perceived sin and not to his father, but to others.  The other two, cover for their father (try to keep his dignity intact) by covering him up. 

And yet another story – the story of one who was revealed, so that our sins might be covered, covered by his precious blood…  “When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining.  This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. ‘Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. ‘Let’s decide by lot who will get it.’” John 19:23-24 (NIV)

Naked, lifted high upon the cross for the world to see, whose sins were exposed?   Did he not bear our sins upon that cross?  And were they not covered by his blood?  

Just a reminder in case you need it today:  In your nakedness before God, you have been made thoroughly clean, by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Additional Note:  Keep on reading the Bible…  This is just a blog – I write on what stands out most to me at the moment – it make not make any sense to you or me.  There is so much more in each of these chapters, verses, etc…  I would also like our members to note that in the beginning God did not give mankind permission to eat meat, they were vegetarians.  Permission to eat meat came after the flood.  After all, if they could’ve eaten meat how many animals would have survived the ride in the ark J

And by the way, sorry, I’ve missed a couple days.  No internet, no cell phone connections at Fairport Harbor.  Good couple of days, but now it’s time to catch up.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Exile on Water

Genesis 6-8

After a Bible study on John, a couple of visits, and a wedding rehearsal, I am leaving the shores of Lake Superior to go fishing on Lake Michigan today.  I'm not sure why I would leave one beautiful place in search of another.  But, I do.  Living in the wilderness near the water is one of the most precious gifts God has given me in these later years.  Rarely a day goes by when I don't thank God for this little piece of land and the water...

Years ago, I spent about 80 days kayaking the shores of Lake Superior - mostly alone - a self-imposed exile.  It was beautiful.  But, I also found that while I was out there floating around in a little boat that I was quite alone, except for God.  I didn't pray much while I was on land as I had planned.  But, out there floating, away from people, away from the land, I prayed a lot, not because I was afraid, simply because there was not much to do except paddle and I needed someone to talk to. The only someone who was available was God.  Exile is like that.  When we are not in our familiar and comfortable surroundings, all of a sudden we realize that being in relationship with God is a good thing.

There's a whole lot of things we can gleen from the story of Noah and usually do, but this morning, I realize as Noah is floating around in a big box with animals and birds of every kind it is yet another story of exile - of being sent away from the land.  Being sent away from the things he knows, from the land, from his home, his brothers and sisters, his neighbors, only to return to begin a new life in a creation that has been washed - cleansed - by the flood waters.  The old life is washed away and Noah must start anew.

In Baptism, we too have been washed by water and the Word, cleansed for a new life.  As you may already know; although, humankind had a fresh start through the flood, it didn't take us long to start falling away again.  As Genesis 8:21 (NRSV) says, "...for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth."  And then what happens?  God is merciful and we are sent as wanderers - exiles :) so that we might turn back to the Lord again. 

Remember the waters that you have been washed with, giving thanks to God for bringing you through the flood waters, through the wilderness, through exile to a new and renewed life in God's presence. 

Forgive me the unorganized random thoughts - much to do before I can pack up the camper.  If you don't hear from me tomorrow morning, you will know that this fishing trip might end up being an exile from internet access :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Random Thoughts on Relief

Genesis, Chapter 5.

The naming of Noah...  Noah, according to the geneology found in Chapter 5, is the tenth generation to live (if I've counted right).  When he is born, his father Lamech names him Noah, saying "Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the toil of our hands." (NRSV)

Did he now?  Looking ahead (I'm assuming everyone reading this has heard the story of Noah - if not read ahead a few chapters) we see how the Lord brought relief.  God destroyed every living being on the face of the earth, except for those in the ark.  Usually when we read this story, especially as we tell it to the children, it is a picture of hope.  But, for those who were destroyed - not such a nice picture.

Relief comes in many forms, sometimes it comes in the form of renewed life.  I had a friend who once told me that her life had been so chaotic she begged God for a brief reprieve.  According to her - God gave her 3 days of immediate reprieve - of relief.  She was most grateful.  Sometimes relief comes only in death.  I think that maybe new and renewed life insists upon death of the old life.  I have been witnessing an upswing lately in sickness:  physical, spiritual, emotional and mental illnesses.  It is not such a nice picture for those who are suffering.  Where can they seek relief?  Who will help them?        

We know the rest of the story.  By reading ahead in the story of Noah we find relief of God's creation came by the washing - the drowning - by water in the flood.  I can think, this morning, of no better way to find relief than to remember our baptisms, to remember that we have already been drowned in the waters, and brought forth for new life in the kindom.  Through the washing and the Word we have been made children of God.  The old man drowned - the new man lives.  (please note - when I refer to man - I usually mean humankind - a habit I don't feel the need to break)

Through Noah, there was indeed relief, but there was a cost.  Through Jesus Christ, we too have found relief.  But, there is indeed a cost.  Jesus had to die that we might live.  And as D. Bonhoeffer wrote (one of my favorite quotes): "when Jesus calls a man, he bids him come and die."  In order to live, we must die to self.  It may be painful to give up those things that we like to do so much, things of this world, but when we begin to walk with God (as Enoch and Noah did) we will find relief.

Keep digging into this chapter - there really is a lot there - think a little about Enoch of the 7th generation and his walk with God - but - these are my brief and random thoughts for this morning - my schedule calls.  May God grant you relief from the trials of this world, as you walk in His presence this and every day.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Exiled East of Eden

Genesis, Chapter 4

Not long ago, I was walking in the the woods near the house with my granddaughter.  As we stopped to turn around, we noticed, in a nearby tree, one of those little pearls that make walking in the wilderness such a joy: A pilliated woodpecker (who isn't fascinated with Woody Woodpecker?).  I ran quickly back to the house to get my camera, but when I returned it was gone.  I have not seen it since, but I will be more watchful for it in the future.

Reading the Bible can be like a walk in the wilderness.  There's always a new little pearl to be found that will pique your interest and provide you with one of the "ah ha" moments as you rejoice in the discovery.      

The reading of Chapter 4 this morning was one of those "ah ha" moments.  I don't know if it was because of the way I learned the creation story as a child, by hearing it told as a story by others who had not actually read the story for themselves, but my mind just has not been able to completely grasp the words that are actually in the written story.  There is a difference in the way that the creation story is often told and what is actually written in the Holy Bible.

For whatever reason, until today these two things were always synonomous in my mind:  "garden of Eden" and "Eden."  Yesterday we read how the man (Adam and Eve?) was exiled -  kicked out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken.  Cherubim and a flaming sword were placed on the east side of the garden of Eden to guard the way to the tree of life.  Today we hear as part of the consequence for killing his brother, Cain is made a fugitive and wanderer on the earth.  He is exiled from Eden, leaves the presence of God, and settles in the land of Nod (which essentially means Wandering), east of Eden.

Is it an important distinction that Adam (humankind?) was exiled from the Garden of Eden and Cain was exiled from Eden?  Is there a certain progression to this that we might pay attention to and follow as we read through the rest of scripture? I don't know, but for me this morning, it is as if I have found a small pearl and I rejoice over this discovery.

As we venture forth, another little gem that you might want to note in the stories throughout scripture is first found in this one.  The favoritism shown (for no apparent reason) toward the younger child over the firstborn. 

And... don't forget to watch for more wilderness wandering, more exiles, as you join me in a journey through the Holy Scriptures, which in itself can be a type of wilderness. Remember some of these themes, search for some of these little pearls as you venture through the Holy Scriptures and what may seem like a daunting task will make your journey through the wilderness an amazing adventure.     

May God help us in our journey through the written word found in Holy Scripture that we might have a greater understanding and appreciation for the word which directs us to the Living Word.  Open our eyes Lord, help us to see.  

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Tree of Life

Genesis 3

I often think of the story of Adam and Eve's expulsion from the garden as I am leading Worship.  God tells Adam and Eve that they can eat from any tree in the garden, but one.  They eat of the one they're told not to and the tree of life - the tree that would be so very good for them - goes untouched.  For whatever reason the fruit they should not have was more appealing than the fruit that God would give them freely.  Part of the consequences of eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil is that they are kicked out of paradise.   

On Sunday mornings, on this morning, you are invited to eat and to drink that which gives life and salvation.  You are invited to the Lord's table where you will hear:  Take and eat, this is my body given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me... Take and drink of it, all of you.  This cup is the New Testament in my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.  Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.  Jesus has given his body and his blood for you - that you might live.  Upon his death, the temple curtain was torn in two.  Upon his death, the gate to the kingdom of God was flung wide open for all who believe.  Upon his death, we all have gained access, once again, to the Tree of Life, Jesus Christ.

Will you be eating that good fruit this morning - fruit that will reconcile you to God, our Father and our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Or will, you like Adam and Eve, be tempted by a fruit that will not give you eternal life, a fruit that leads only to pain and sorrow, even to death?   

May God grant that you should be filled with a desire to receive the gift of life that God so freely gives to you, in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

In the beginning

Genesis 1-2  The beginning - Genesis, Chapters 1 and 2 - seems to be an appropriate place to begin a blog, a journey through scripture, for anyone who would like to join me.

It is also appropriate to begin here, because this afternoon I will officiate at a wedding at Pt. Abbeye in Aura.  The uniting of two people - two becoming one.  This is indeed a great and marvelous mystery - one too amazing to fully comprehend.   

We celebrate this union today even as we gather in one of the most beautiful (and remote) places of God's creation that I know in the Upper Peninsula.  We gather at land's end in Lake Superior waves crashing against the rocks, strong winds swaying the trees, reminding us all of the "Spirit of God hovering over the waters" in the beginning and that the Spirit of God is with us even now.   

We celebrate today, the beginning of a marriage - the union of two of God's children - in the beauty of God's creation.  We gather in the name of and in the presence of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.