Thursday, March 23, 2017

Chaos has Descended.

Today was a rough day. It was the one year anniversary of the suicide of a resident in my CCRC. One of my flock. I spent a good chunk of the day with this persons widow, as well as the couple that witnessed the events unfold. 
In light of Lent, My heart yearns for the resurrection, and my heart is continually broken for God's people. But we are Easter people; and Easter is coming! 

Below is what I shared with my team that week last year:

I walked my people through a trauma this week. And they walked me through it. So in light of Good Friday, this is what I shared with them:
"It has been a rough week. Chaos has descended.(Oh, yeah, yeah it’s Holy Week.) Death’s sting has stung. Death is a Liar. It’s Friday! BUT that IS the good news; cause Sunday is coming!
Nothing, NOTHING is outside the redemptive reach of God. We ARE Easter people.
See you at the empty tomb!
Rev. Sal"

Monday, March 20, 2017

Come to the Well

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”“I have no husband,” she replied.Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”-John 4:15-18 NIV

             How many of us have every done a Google search on our computers or smart phones? If you have, you may know that each time you open your browser, that browser keeps a record of you searches and the websites you may have looked at. In tech talk this is your browser history, or just your history.  And security experts say you should routinely erase or clean out your “history.” But, guess what, we all have a history. And not just a google history. And every now and then we are reminded of or look at that history. And sometimes, like if our computers get hacked, people find out our histories. 
             To be found out or discovered without being known can leave us dry and desolate. It leaves us thirsty and dehydrated, thirsty and longing for something different, something more, but always returning to the same well hoping be quenched. We all have a well in our life that we keep returning to. For some of us, like the Samaritan woman who mets Jesus at the well, it is the well of marriage. Guilty. For some people, it is the well of perfectionism. Some go to the well of hiding and isolation. Others drink for the well of control or power. For many, there is the well of addiction. Or the well of busyness, denial and anxiety. 
            Jesus invites us to be "found out." He invites the Samaritan woman drink from the well that is eternal, life giving recognition. He knows us, he knows our past and he yet accepts us, internet histories and all. He doesn't care about your past, only your future, a future that involves being filled with the living water that is the presence of Christ. And we should want to offer that well to others. 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Get lost! With Jesus.

So we are in Lent. Where has this year gone? I feel like I just finished digesting Thanksgiving dinner. But we are in Lent. We are journeying together to Easter. The joy and celebration of Easter.  But first we have to go through Lent. A season for Christians, whether it is a new found practice or one of liturgical tradition, it is the most beautiful season of the Christian year.
Our reading for today I think is a great for the beginning of lent. I, like countless preachers around the country, even the world, are preaching on it if they follow the Lectionary. Which is a cycle of Scripture that allows us to preach and listen through the bible for the year. (If you follow it through the 3 year cycle you will have read 80% of the bible.) The past few weeks or months the lectionary has been leading us through Matthew but will switch to John for the remainder of Lent. I think the choice to use Matthew 4 for the beginning of lent is  a wise and beautiful one. 
What does the 40 days wandering imagery bring to mind? What does it invoke in you? Typically scholars speak of how Jesus’ temptation in the desert connects him to the Old testament. The Israelites too, where led into the wilderness. Through out scripture it acted as place for people to be tested and God to be found and encountered. And Matthew emphasizes that Jesus like the Israelites, was called out to the wilderness to be tested and he passed that test. 
In Matthew, Jesus had to exit society, to leave people and go to dessert to experience the divine. He often does that if you know the gospel story. The desert, as you might know, is not a pleasant place, and might be a place where one might face their demons. And literally, it is an unforgiving, dangerous and inhospitable place. Think scorpions, snakes, etc. 
The important lesson that I glean from Jesus’ wilderness experience, that I think is important for the next few weeks of Lent is this. That like Jesus, God is calling us into the wilderness. Into those inhospitable places in our lives and inner being to be tested. IF God is calling you to something, you will be tested. It may be as Martin Luther said, I’m paraphrasing, that the devil will show up and “throw you sins in your face and tell you that you deserve hell and death. And you can respond: what of it, I have Jesus Christ on my side, who won my satisfaction.” 

Jesus has already been to the wilderness, he’s already faced death and hell for our sakes. When he calls us do the same, his spirit empowers us. We just have to face some scary stuff. Cause really, self reflection is scary. But we are being called to be better, more empathetic Christ followers. So will you join me in the wilderness? 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Love is as deep as the tears in our hearts that no one sees

Joel 2:13
Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.

Rend your hearts and not your garments. Well what the heck does that even mean!? Well good thing I went to seminary and barely survived, I mean studied Hebrew! Well the Hebrew word qara (kaw-rah) actually means to  tear, so Joel here is telling us to tear our hearts, and not clothes. Um, no, that would hurt! 
        But the prophet Joel is talking here in the 2nd chapter about coming to the Lord with fasting, mourning and weeping and to tear your heart and not your clothing. In ancient Israel, tearing your clothing was an act of symbolism, it expressed grief and morning. So Joel is telling the people to come to God when in grief not ripping your clothes in an outward expression of sorrow, but in a inward looking, self reflective, self aware act of submission and mourning. 
         So we are entering the Lenten season. Christian’s worldwide mark the beginning of this season with Ash Wednesday. A day we make a visible mark on our foreheads with ashes, to remind ourselves of our mortality and need for repentance and look forward to the redemptive work of the cross. It is a beautiful and meaningful day.
I have had the privileged to spend Ash Wednesday the last few years in the health care centers dispensing ashes as part of my work as a health care chaplain.I always feel the Holy Spirit moving on Ash Wednesday. I always find by the end of the day that God is still moving, still speaking to me. I have had some amazingly intimate and divine moments on the past few Ash Wednesdays.      
Today was no different. In between the rounding and walking areas of the building with ashes and worship services, I made a visit to a certain resident of my community. This person lost their husband last year during Holy Week to a suicide. Needless to say we have had some deep grief and pain filled pastoral counseling sessions in the months since, and will again as the anniversary comes closer. Today was no different. I impose ashes, and as we hold hands to pray, both with tears in our eyes, she whispered "you are so good at what you do." I was blessed to enter into this woman's grief with her, and together we rended, we tore open our hearts to God. This is the deeply profound and deeply exhausting work of a chaplain.       
I was then called, after coming home to debrief and eat dinner, called back to the community to be at the bedside with a family as their father passes. In laying of hands and praying over him, I was able to bless him with Ashes. The meaning of the day came full circle.I rest in and was reminded of the power of Paul's letter to the Romans; where sin increased, Grace abounded more; and nothing in life; NOTHING can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
      What I appreciate the most about Ash Wednesday is it calls us to reflect on our shared frailty and brokenness. We come together and confess our sins, as a community, and visibly display our recognition that we are mere carbon based beings that return to that dirty red clay. (That's a Genesis reference) 
        Jesus tells us that when we pray or fast, to do it in private, unlike the hypocrites who put their piety on display. It is true, we are making a public, visible mark that we are beginning a time of penitence. Aren’t we kind of like, well the hypocrites? I hope not. But that is a question you must ask yourself as we begin this Lenten journey. Am I personally, in my heart seeking truly to turn to God in prayer and repentance, tearing open my heart to Jesus? Am I looking to the road to the cross and living to be a better person? Are we trying to be a better follower of Jesus? Because if we are to follow Jesus; we must follow the road to the Cross. And that takes a deep, inward reflection on ourselves. And it takes deep inward commitment to others.  And we mark ourselves, collectively as individuals, together yet separately, journeying towards Christ knowing full well that we return to the very dust that God breathed life into. 
But that is the great thing. We follow a gracious God. A God that took on our brokenness on the Cross of Jesus. And it's the road to that cross, and the resurrection story that we begin to reflect and pray about on Ash Wednesday.  We take the time to reflect on the sacrifice and the service of our savior Jesus Christ and to attempt, however much we fail, to live a life that models his grace and love.

Romans 5:20

But where sin increased, Grace abounded all the more.