Sunday, November 22, 2009

Remote Controls and Kings

For today's children's sermon I brought a very lovely plastic tiara and claimed myself to be "queen" on this Christ the King Sunday. I dubbed the child who had brought the sermon box my loyal subject and directed that she open the royal box for me. Inside was a remote control. How perfect! The remote control is a perfect example of how we want to be in charge of everything. We can watch a show "on demand" and make the TV show us "picture within a picture" because we should not have to choose. But at our house what ends up happening is that we each want to be the king or queen of the remote. One person wants to watch "Gossip Girl," but someone else wants to watch sport or a movie. We talked about things we watch and one little boy mentioned watching baseball with his Dad. I shared how my husband loves baseball, but during the World Series the cable went out and then even the remote was not enough.
Today is Christ the King Sunday, a day when we say that instead of any one of us being king or queen, that God is the King of our lives. When we live with God as our King the picture changes. It stops being about how much we need to control. We learn to see everyone in the picture and to see that all of us are equal and loved and should be cared for. We let God's words tell us what is important. And Christ is a much better king.
Today more than other times the adults were as into the children's sermon as the kids were. I think that the remote control was such a statement of our desire to be King. We can all ask ourselves what the picture of really living in a "Christ the King" world means.

Monday, November 9, 2009

How Hard is it to Love Ourselves?

Love your neighbor as yourself. Much of the emphasis has been placed on the first three words, but what about the last two? Is it even possible to love others as we love ourselves, when our own self-assessment leaves us feeling fractured or inadequate? What kind of love would be shared?
At the EDGE, we watched a very short video clip from the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. You can watch it here.
Then I asked everyone to think of something about themselves that they consider to be a flaw- something they do not like. Interestingly enough, still being those wonderful teachers, they went deeper than I expected- physical concerns were not on the list, even with the cue from the video. Instead, they listed- procrastination; overcontrolling; can't handle being "out of the loop"; conceited; lack self-confidence; stuttering; impatient. When asked if they ever felt like they exhibited one of the "flaws" they had not mentioned, every hand went up to say "Yes."
We talked about how we are each made unique, wonderfully and fearfully made. God loves us flaws and all- good days and bad. So we can see our shortcomings but not be dominated by them. Even when we feel pressure from parents or others, when we feel inadequate.
We eventually talked about how when we are working with others, perhaps we should consider that the center of the world is more than just where we are. If we know we have these flaws, and on any given day they are a part of us, is not the same thing true for others? Does this then allow us to see others with grace, as we are shown grace? Next week we will be talking about loving others- the end of our time this week will be the bridge to talking more deeply about how hard it is to love others as God loves them.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Soles 4 kids- share a little, help a lot

Can you imagine what it would be like to be a school child who not only faces the challenges of homework and making friends, but faces the added stress of no permanent home at the end of the day? In the School District of Lancaster, located in the city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, approximately hundreds of homeless children struggle to attend school each year, with burgeoning needs significant enough to warrant a district-wide Homeless Office which acts as a clearinghouse for concerns such as clothing, health care and meals.
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church (TLC), located in the heart of the city, borders some of the area of greatest need. TLC became aware of children who could not attend classes regularly because they lacked shoes. Others were wearing ill-fitting shoes simply to be able to attend. As a part of its mission to be a Tender Loving Congregation, TLC Community Outreach Committee members devised a new venture, Soles 4 Kids, to gather enough sneakers for each child in need to have a pair. Inspired by members, Bob and Dorothy Cooper, on Sneaker Sunday, during worship services, children of the congregation went from pew to pew gathering the sneakers and funds and presenting them at the altar for blessing by Pastor Sadie Pounder. TLC collected 184 pairs of shoes and $2000.00 towards the purchase of additional sneakers or other items of need.
Both Bob Cooper and Ken Marzinko, Homeless Student Project facilitator noted “we expected a sizeable number of shoes, but the members’ generosity was overwhelming!” Enough has been provided to ensure shoes for all in need as well as funds for those who outgrow their uniforms or need other supplies. “It was amazing to see the joy in the faces of those who have, and of those who have received! What a wonderful witness!” The event is now envisioned as an annual component of the community outreach theme-“ Share a Little, Help a Lot,” which encompasses a variety of ways that TLC lives out the ELCA motto-“God’s work, our hands.”

How Hard is it to Love God?

Last week the Senior High EDGE series "Crosswalking Relationships" began and we talked about Jesus' response to the question of what is the greatest commandment- to love God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength. We blow through so much stuff in confirmation, but once we are beyond those classes, it is good to come back, and slow down and talk about what it really looks like on the ground to live in the midst of God's word. So we unpacked what this relationship could look like- heart, soul, mind and strength.
When we thought of strength- someone mentioned the idea of morals and actions and the strength it takes to live in a way that is not always shared by others. One person shared the ending of a romantic relationship because of behavior he could not condone, and the courage it takes to stand in the face of things it might be easier to ignore.
When we thought of mind- we talked about how often we do or do not read or study God's words for us and whether we see the Bible as a rule book, or whether we realize that the same words can bring new meanings at different stages in our lives.
We did some diving into the soul-People were open to talking about how they connect with God in prayer- there were beautiful moments of people sharing how prayer anchors the day, gives them strength to know they do not go it alone. Prayer helps to overcome anxiety so someone can sleep. How trying to have a pattern has become a part of someone's daily life. Then we got to the heart.
We contemplated what happens to us when we think we are in love with someone-how much of us is invested in the other person. We feel differently. We think about the person- ALOT! We look for them. We want to do things for them. When I asked if this also meant that we buy things for the other person- this got a lot of laughter-
"Come on, Vic- we don't have a lot of money!" But this led to one guy sharing that he thinks the most important thing to give is the gift of time- the gift of yourself. Whereupon all of the other guys agreed that stuff just doesn't say the same thing as being there. The girls agreed.
But we all know we only have so much time. We can get so busy with tests and sports, and friends and Facebook and family stuff and it can be hard to say "No" to all of these things. As we consider what it means to love God, it is about the relationships we feed- real and virtual. Rob Bell has suggested that maybe the question is not what we say "No" to, but what we say "Yes" to-is God a part of Yes? Is God the first YES?
Lucky for us, when we can't live as committed to the relationship, God is still saying "Yes." Knowing that allows us to continue to come to God, knowing that our prayers are heard and the love is still alive. The next topic even before we get to Loving Others, is "How Hard is it to Love Ourselves?"
I give thanks for this wonderful group- and I pray that in the midst of all of this week's tests and projects and sports and stuff, that they remember they never walk alone.