The Stewardship of Mercy and Grace
What a wonder of a day was last Sunday. I have heard from so many of us of the sense of spiritual renewal and inspiration we found through the work of the Spirit during worship and through our new friend, Kyle Matthews. To be about the work of the Lord, we need times of renewal and communion. Thank you for your prayers and presence. Being together in Christ inspires and paints a picture of heaven’s joy realized on earth.
What an adventure these remaining Sundays of October promise. In the churches of my growing up, stewardship time seemed disconnected from the meaning of ministry, mission and person-to-person service in Jesus’ name. Thankfully, I have been blessed by congregations who held closely the importance of stewardship of financial resources, not as an end to itself, but as an important structure undergirding our ministry, mission and service in Jesus’ name. Our Stewardship Team has made fine plans to help us think about ministry, mission and service and how we, together, can contribute financially and with the whole of our lives. I hope you will make every effort to think and pray through the broader theology of what it means for God to entrust human beings to find ways to make ministry happen. For my part, I am working on four sermons I pray will lead toward an embrace of our partnership with God in life and ministry. Pray with me, won’t you, that the Spirit will help us grow in new ways to be more like Jesus. [Sermons:]
The Expectations of Grace / Matthew 20:1-16 / October 8
The Church of Our Best Ideals / Acts 4:32-37 / October 15
Life Is a Sacred Journey / Colossians 1:1-14 / October 22
The Peace of Christ and the Pain of the World / John 14:18-27 / October 29
What terrible news to wake up to on Monday. And, what can we do in response to the evil that took so many lives, brought suffering to thousands in Las Vegas, and shocks the soul? In the immediacy of today, I find my soul needs to be honest and grieve deeply over what has happened and what is happening around the world through the actions of violent people. For now, I am praying for those wounded and grieving, and for the first responders and the medical professionals who work valiantly to save life. I know they, too, will need help healing from the traumatic realities they have witnessed. I am praying for people of faith to be fearless in caring for others and not to be afraid to be “salt and light” for Christ serving this broken world with abandon.
In facing times like this, I often return to a small book written by Ann Weems, Presbyterian poet laureate and liturgist. The book, Psalms of Lament, is a powerful collection of poems Ann wrote as she grieved the tragic death of her son on his 21st birthday. She had entered a darkness where, for a while she could not find God. Later, she shared the collection with her friend, Walter Brueggemann, who encouraged her to share it with others. And so, this honest, helpful book was born. At the beginning, she writes these words:
In the quiet times this image comes to me: Jesus weeping.
and in his weeping,
he joined himself forever
to those who mourn.
He stands now throughout all time,
this Jesus weeping,
with his arms about the weeping ones:
“Blessed are those who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.”
He stands with the mourners,
for his name is God-with-us.
“Blessed are those who weep, for they shall be comforted.” Someday. Someday God will wipe the tears from Rachel's eyes.
In the godforsaken, obscene quicksand of life,
there is a deafening alleluia
rising from the souls
of those who weep,
and of those who weep with those who weep.
If you watch, you will see
the hand of God
putting the stars back in their skies
one by one.
In seasons of grief and in times when chaos and darkness have seemed to have the upper hand, this image of God-with-us has power for me, too. Times will come to all when the best we can do is try to stay near one another and, as we are ready, allow ourselves to be loved by those who can see, humbly, the stars of God a bit clearer, and who can love us with compassion rooted deeply in the heart of God.
In the immediacy of right now, for the church, there may be no more important part we can play in tragedies small and large than to love the world in and through its pain and be present as Christ was present to the world. In doing so, we may find God coming near and learn what our ancient brother Paul was trying to say when he wrote to the church in Corinth that “The greatest of these is love.”