Regardless whether or not people are free, most people don’t feel free. We don’t feel it. We live in fear that our freedom is threatened, that we are threatened, that our way of life is threatened. It’s important to note here, we won’t be talking about American freedom today, but our cultural understanding of freedom heavily influences our Biblical understanding of freedom, and we need to be acutely aware of that.
The Israelites had a pattern of “sin, judgement, repentance and rescue.” Over and over again. They wandered away from, they ended up oppressed under a foreign ruler, and then they would repent and God would rescue them, and then they’d fall right back into the same pattern as before.
Last Sunday was supposed to be a day of celebration for our community. We received a piano in memory of a member, and it would have been her 100th birthday. Her entire family came for the celebration, and I had the service all planned. I wrote the sermon early in the week. The cake was ordered. The decorations were hung.
And then two black men were killed by police officers.
And then five police officers were killed.
God isn’t confined to a geographical place. God is the creator of the world. God is everywhere. God is even where you are. And God is pursuing you, wherever you’ve wandered, and drawing you back. God is working to reconcile you. God is moving you towards his plan.
When I walk through my grandma’s front door, I take an inhale and the smell immediately triggers a flood of memories. I see the blocks I played with as a child on the coffee table, my grandpa’s guitar waiting to be played in the corner, and the family table where I've spent nearly every holiday and special occasion for thirty years. I'm conditioned to look for those things.
Of course, no one was surprised last week when Donald Trump said that his favorite Bible verse was “an eye for an eye”. It’s the perfect example of how little people understand Jesus. Last night someone told me that Christianity feels a lot like playing follow the leader, and no one actually knows what they’re following. It’s really felt like that a lot lately, hasn’t it?
I'm a female pastor and people often ask how that plays out in our home. Jeff and I do not live into traditional gender roles. I worked hard to earn a master’s degree and pursue a full time career/vocation, while Jeff has made many sacrifices to be the full time caregiver of our four children. Trading and sharing and mixing our gender roles isn’t always easy for other people to understand, nor is it always easy for us to navigate.
One week ago, we woke up to the news that terrorists had attacked Brussels, killing and injuring people just beginning their vacation, on the subway to work, just going about their every day lives. We can’t escape bad news.
It’s the last week of Jesus’ life, and when you’re reading through the book of Matthew, you can sense the weight. The urgency. The clarity. He tells his disciples, “you are either a sheep or you are a goat.” It’s as simple as that, isn’t it?
Except, it's not.
Who is a sheep and who is a goat?
Reyes. Inkwell. Nashville.
I love to capture the ordinary moments in life, and enhance their beauty with an artsy Instagram filter. The filters are good at hiding the blemishes of everyday moments and softens the wrinkles of the mundane. They blur the lines in just the right way so that everything glows and everyone who views it will be envious.
The way our economy works today, it’s much easier to be a minimalist. I don’t have to hang on to things, because everything is replaceable. There’s no sense in paying for a repairperson, no reason to buy expensive parts, or to store things away for a rainy day. It’s trendy and admirable to be a minimalist. And part of the reason it’s so easy for us all to get on board with this, is because goods are cheap. It’s easier to toss things out, than it is to take the time to repair them.
It doesn’t matter what you believe will happen to this world in the end. Maybe you believe God will destroy the earth, or maybe you believe God will restore the earth.* Really, it doesn’t matter.
I don’t want to talk about the dispensation or tribulation or Revelation or any version of millennialism. I don’t care about your political affiliation, whether you’re a democrat, a republican or a libertarian.
When I was a kid, there was always a man waiting inside the church’s double doors. I knew he would be wearing a Christian t-shirt with something about the rapture, and he would be shouting, “Abby, are you on fire for Jesus today?” As he jumped up and down he’d yell, “I’ve been born again, have you been born again? Tell me you’re born again!” I was horrified.
When I was 19, the faith I had been holding onto my entire life crumbled like sand, and slipped right through my fingers. Everything had to go. The baby and the bathwater. Everything was suspect, and I just couldn’t decipher the good from the bad, the right from the wrong, so I had to let it all fall. It wasn’t just uncomfortable, it was painful. This is a story for another time, but as I read Out of Sorts, I wish that I would have had a copy to keep me company in those days.
We all want to know where we come from. It binds us to a story beyond our lifetime, giving us a feeling of immortality. For the majority of us in the west, the stories we uncover are tales of immigration and migration, tragedy and suffering, hardship and pain. My family tree is littered with holes, but my great-great aunt had the forethought to write out her memories. I read through it year after year to remind me of my roots and to learn the lessons of my people as I embody their legacy.