Saturday, October 5, 2013

Sermon for World Communion Sunday 2013

“What Is It?”
Exodus 16

It had only been six weeks since they left Egypt – six long weeks.  They had

been chased by Pharaoh’s army, who were eventually vanquished by God in the Red Sea.  They had been thirsty, and God had provided water. 

After that brief respite in the oasis of Elim, they were on the move again, in the desert of Sin, on the Sinai Peninsula – a place where there was little food to be found.  They are hungry, and they are “murmuring” against Moses and Aaron for taking them on the journey.  They are looking back through rose-colored glasses at their time in Egypt, wishing for what they had there, conveniently forgetting about the slavery that oppressed them.

The murmuring takes the form it usually does when one feels like a bad decision has been made:

“I wish I hadn’t moved.”
“It was so much better when….”
“Remember what it was like back then?”
“I can’t believe you brought us here!”
“It would have been better if we’d never done that.”

It’s murmuring based on fear: fear of what’s to come, fear of not having what you need, fear that you trusted the wrong people, fear that you made a bad decision.  Fear is a survival mechanism, and the Hebrews were definitely in survival mode.

After six weeks, the food is gone and they’re hungry, and they are wondering where they will find their next meal.  Or more specifically – what Moses and Aaron are going to do about their next meal. 

God hears them, and responds to them, telling Moses that bread will rain down from heaven for them.  Moses and Aaron tell the people that God has heard their grumbling and will provide for them, but that there are specific instructions about how to gather this heavenly bread:  gather only what you need, except on the sixth day when you may gather twice as much so you can enjoy Sabbath rest.

When they awakened the next day, they found the ground covered with thin flakes, and they asked, “What is it?”  The word manna, in aramaic, literally means "What is it?"

If we are honest, we can recognize ourselves in the story.  We sometimes look back through rose-colored glasses and imagine that things were so much better back then.  We try to look forward, but we’re not sure where we’re going or what it will be like when we get there.  We’re afraid that we won’t have what we need.  We murmur.  We don’t always recognize the gifts of God when they arrive.

And yet, we know this story reveals good news.   What is the good news? 
What is it?  It is God’s presence, even in the midst of wandering and hardship.

What is it?  It is God hearing our murmuring, our concerns, our fears, and responding in love instead of anger.

What is it?  It is Moses and Aaron, faithful leaders, relaying the message of God.

What is it?  It is God providing for our most basic needs on a daily basis.

What is it?  It is the gift of enough – not too little and not too much.

What is it?  It is the gift of instruction and guidance.

What is it?  It is a warning against grasping for too much or hoarding for the future.

What is it?  It is the gift of Sabbath, even in the midst of trials, and the rest from our labors, our worries, and our fears.

What is it?  It is God hoping for our trust.

What is it?  It is the story of the growing relationship between God and the people of God.

What is it?  It is being surprised by God’s grace and abundant love.

When we come to the table, we may ask or be asked, “What is it?”  What does this mean?  There are many answers to that question.  Here are a few:

·        It is the sign and seal of eating and drinking in communion with the
crucified and risen Lord.

·        It is a sacrament – the ordinary made holy.
·        It is the gathering of the people of God at the heavenly banquet.
·        It is celebrated by all Christians and unites us with Christians around the world and throughout the ages. 
·        It is the real presence of Christ. 
·        It calls to mind the last supper when Jesus commended the breading of bread and the sharing of the cup to remember and proclaim his death.

These are truths regarding the Lord’s Supper, and there are other truths not stated here.

But at its most basic, when we speak of communion, the answer to the question “What is it?” is this:

Holy  Communion is a sign of God’s presence and God’s provision, of God’s grace and God’s love.

Just as the manna was for those first people of God.

May it be so.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Friday Five: Cats or Dogs or What?

It's a Friday Five about pets!!!  A subject well loved in my household.  Jan writes:

In my experience in the United States, people are either "Dog People" or "Cat People." As the graph above illustrates, not everyone is limited to those types of animals. So I am wondering about pets and experiences with them.

1. Are you a DOG or a CAT person? Or OTHER?
I tend to be a cat person, although we've had dogs throughout the years.

2. Who were the pets of your childhood and what were they like?

The two pets I remember from childhood are Snoopy, the dog, and Cindy, our cat.  I don't remember much about Snoopy, but Cindy was much beloved.  She found us when I was in 1st grade, and she died when I was a freshman in college.  She was the gentlest cat with the sweetest disposition.  In all the years we had her, I don't remember her growling at us or scratching us, even through our early childhood years when we would try to dress her up or carry her under our arms.  I thought of her as my cat, because she slept on my bed at night.  When I was in 5th grade, I was tested for allergies/asthma, and the doctor said we would have to get rid of pets.  I was almost hysterical at the idea.  My parents didn't get rid of her, and we had many more years with her.

3. What pets do you have now?
We have too many pets at our house right now!  We have Cocoa, who is mixed breed Australian Shepherd.  She's nine.  We have Bella, our three-legged siamese cat.  She's four.  We have Gibby, our chihuahua puppy.  She's not quite a year.  And we have two turtles.

4. Have you ever had any unusual pets in your household or visit your home?
Not really.  My boys would love to have snakes (grandmother HATES them), or lizards.  I have drawn the line at reptiles, because of the major upkeep problems.

5. What have you learned from your pets? Give one recent example, if possible.
I have learned that pets are worse than children about driving you crazy.  Cocoa is an escape artist, and got out this morning because someone left our gate open.  She does not come when you call her; in fact, she runs the other direction.  Fortunately a neighbor brought her home!

BONUS: Pictures or anything else related to animals you love.


Friday, May 3, 2013

Friday Five: May Play Edition

Rev. Pat Raube writes at RevGalBlogPals:

It's May! And it smells so good outside. I can close my eyes and remember the golden hours after dinner as the days grew later and later, and we got to play outside until called home. It makes me want to go outside right now and play!

Of course, not all of us are in the northern hemisphere... plenty of RevGals and Pals are experiencing a season that is turning cold and blustery.

So to all of you, wherever you may be, how will you (or would you like to) play this month?

1. Tell about your favorite outdoor play
 I love to hike and walk.  I also like to ride my bike, but it's been a while.  My goal is to pick that up again now that the weather is warm.   I also love to watch my boys play!

  I really enjoy football - we go to all the local high school games.  We're hoping to get to a game this fall at my alma mater.

2. Tell about your favorite indoor play
 I love to read and cook.  I also enjoy playing Xbox with my boys.  Tickling and wrestling is also a favorite - at least until they get older.  We occasionally play cards or board games.

3. Tell about a game you (or your friends) created
 When I was a kid, in 4th - 5th grade, we lived on a street with a lot of kids and not a lot of traffic, and we played lots of games, some old-school games like tag and flashlight tag; others that we made up, though I can't remember them all.

We also had woods at the end of the street that were bumpy, and we invented mountain biking before it was mountain biking!  (and before there were helmets!)  

4. Tell about a game that is new to you
I haven't tried any new games lately - maybe I should take that as a challenge!
5. Tell how you would like to incorporate play into your workday
 I'm hoping to start taking short walks to break up my day.  The church is right across from the park, so it's easy to do.  

What about you - how do you play?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday Five: Technology

Jan at RebGalBlogPals writes:

For this Friday Five, let us explore our use of and desire for such items.
1. What types of technologies, like cell phones, computers, tvs, etc., do you routinely use? How frequently?

We have LOTS of technology in our house:  TVs, computers (desktop and laptop), iphone/smartphones, kindles, Nintendo Dsi, LeapPad, Xbox....... and I use the plural intentionally.

I routinely use the tv, computer, iphone, and Kindle Fire, although with some regularity I play on the gaming systems with my boys.
2. What social media and/or games do you like to play? How often? On which device do you occupy yourself? Which method of social media do you prefer?

I don't play any social media games, but I like to play games on my iphone, Kindle Fire and the Xbox - my current obsession is Plants vs. Zombies.  
I use all devices equally - although the portable devices get more use, I suspect.

I use Facebook and Twitter, but prefer Facebook.  I have a personal Facebook page and one for the church.  Most church members don't Tweet, so I haven't invested the energy in it.  
3. Do you separate online activities between home and work? Or is it all the same everywhere?

No separation.  That's why we have portable devices, isn't it????
4. Do you have a smart (or I-) phone?

I have an iphone, which I L.O.V.E.  
5. What do you wish you had--or do not have--in relation to these devices?

Sometimes I wish I had an ipad or mac, since it would be easier to link all my devices.  But then I remember/remind myself that the devices meet all my needs.

Sometimes I wonder that we ever did anything without them, as I can't imagine going back to the way it used to be.  At other times, I wish we could all disconnect!

Bonus: What is the difference between your attitude towards these means of technology and a generation older or younger than you?

The younger generations in my world see these devices as the norm, necessary for living.  They are adept, and much more knowledgeable than I.   Even my kindergartner uses an ipad in the classroom.

I see them as necessities.   I can remember the moment when I first become aware that we needed webpages and now, Facebook pages, to stay connected and be relevant in the church.

However, when I think about adding a new device (especially one for my own use), I still think of them as luxuries - mostly because of cost.  That's why I don't have the newest or even next to newest iphone yet!

Many in generations older than me use technology, but aren't comfortable with it.  Some in my congregations don't use it at all.  I am lucky in that my parents have always embraced technology; my dad is still one that I get advice from when making a new purchase!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Grace is Sufficient

Rachel Hackenberg gives the prayer prompt:

From 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NRSV), "The Lord said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.'"

Oh, how contrary that is to all that we strive after, how countercultural to our daily instincts! We envy the ways in which power begets power. We yearn for favor to pave our way. We pray for our own success to beget further success. Weakness and struggle seem to be stumbling blocks in the way of comfortable living . . . but no. No. Power and comfort and success are neither the goals nor the paths. Grace -- the loving kindness of God -- is sufficient for our living."

Inadequacy.  Weakness.
That is all I see.
But you, O God, see beyond.
Beyond my strivings.
Beyond my grasping.
Beyond my limited understanding.

Quieten my soul.
Let me hear you speak. 
May your words pierce my heart.
Your grace is sufficient.

"Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side."  (Catharina von Schlegel)

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Rachel Hackenberg  ( offers prayer writing prompts throughout Lent.  I will be doing my best to keep up!  I hope that you will use them as a springboard for your own prayers.

Isaiah 10:21 (NRSV): "A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God."

The prophet Isaiah foreshadows warring years for Jerusalem and a scattering of the people, but he also claims with hope that a remnant of the Israelites will be saved from the destruction in order to rebuild the nation. Despite all that will be lost, those who remain will be Israel's good news.

Sometimes it seems as if remnants are all that's left.......

A remnant of joy.
A remnant of patience.
A remnant of creativity.
A remnant of energy.
A remnant of faith.
A remnant of trust.
A remnant of awareness.
A remnant of health.
A remnant of anticipation.
A remnant of peace.
A remnant of contentment.
A remnant of love............. for God .............. for myself ............. for others.

Many of those remnants have been to hell and back.
It is easy to remember when they were ripped from the whole.

I am afraid I will never be whole again.

Please God, weave me into something new.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Friday Five: Almost Groundhog Day Edition

Rev. Pat Raube, at RevGalBlogPals writes:

I have to admit: I never thought much about Groundhog Day.

Then I saw that movie. And an odd holiday that seems to be a remnant of an obscure Pennsylvania German custom took on all sorts of new meaning.

So, in of the movie and the day, I present you with this Almost Groundhog Day Edition of the Friday Five!

1. The Holiday:  On a scale of 1-5 (with 1 representing, "Hey! Stop hating on the most awesome season ever!" and 5 representing, "Green. NOW."), how much are you hankering for spring? And what is, to you, a true sign that it is actually on its way?

I'd give it a 3.  It's almost/already spring here, which I love.  I'm not looking forward to the "traditional" spring months here because they bring blowing sand and increasingly hot temperatures. However, spring is not really here until the trees start to bud.

2. The Film: Seen it? If yes, Love it? Hate it? Meh?

Enjoy it.  Love the theme of possible change and redemption.  Love comedy.  Like Bill Murray.

3. The Meaning: If you could relive one day of your life, what one would it be?

It's actually two days:  the days our sons were born/came home with us, and their adoption days.

4. The Meaning, Part 2: If you had to relive one day of your life over and over until you got something right (a la the Bill Murray character in the film), what day would that be?

 Not sure about this one.  I try not to live in the past and with regret.  If I think about it for too long, there are several I can come up with!

5. The Meaning, Part 3: If you had to design a life-changing experience for a fairly despicable human being (as is, for example, the Bill Murray character at the film's start), what would it be? How, given all sorts of unlikely powers to bend time and take control of another person's personal growth, would you do it?

I think of a recent experience where another pastor, from a different tradition and with a different understanding of scriptural interpretation than mine, shouted me down at a ministerial meeting ("I rebuke you!  I rebuke you!" ) while talking about a hot button issue.  I'd not change him to believe as I do, but to be open to a new understanding of scripture and being able to hear me.

I don't really want that power;  too tempting!  :)

Thanks for the Friday Five, Pat!  It was fun!

And for the rest of you, if you could change someone or something, what would it be?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Studying Sabbath

Throughout my years of ministry, and even before, I have studied Sabbath.  I have studied scriptural references, both Old Testament and New.  I have read modern theologians writings about Sabbath.  I have read how-to books about Sabbath.  I have looked at our denomination's offerings on Sabbath.  I have tried to live Sabbath, to have a Sabbath day, to encourage Sabbath practices in others.  I have preached and taught Sabbath.  So why is it so elusive?

We struggle with the tension between law and grace when talking about Sabbath.  When the subject comes up, one quickly hears references to what we must NOT do on the Sabbath.  One is reminded of Blue Laws; of stores and restaurants being closed; of the expectation that one would refrain from doing "work;"  of the hoped for rest and renewal.  

We remember the commandment: 

"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy" (Ex 20:8-11). 

We do it because God did it.

Or perhaps:  

"Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day" (Deut 5:12-15).

We do it to remind ourselves that God has freed us from all that binds us, including work.

And yet we struggle with what sabbath is, and perhaps more importantly, how to  "keep" it.  Perhaps we need to listen more closely to what Jesus says and does when asked about Sabbath keeping, as in Luke 6:1-11 and other gospel texts. The question is not what do we do (or NOT do) on the Sabbath to keep it holy.  This is law.  It is instead to ask for what, and for whom, was the sabbath created.  How is sabbath-keeping grace? 

When we understand the difference between those questions, then we will come closer to keeping sabbath as God intended.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Friday Five: Where is its HOME?

Mary Beth writes:

As noted at my own blog, my word for the year is "clear."

One of the things to which this refers is clearing away clutter.

One of the best ways I have found to do this is to give everything that comes into my house a HOME. And I can easily tell that I have too many things when there are not enough homes for them all!

I gleaned the idea of items having homes  from my younger sister who used to say to her toddlers, "See that book on the floor there? Is that its home? No? Please put the book into its home." Often, I am saying the same words to myself that she said to her little ones.

Photo from
In my mother's house, the Marks-A-Lot marker always went in the cupboard next to the sink. I don't know why, I just know that's where the Marks-A-Lot goes, still and forever, in my house many miles away.  

So:  Tell us your favorite homes for five things, the places that you can always and reliably find them. 

Tell us about them; show us pictures if you want!  And definitely post a link in the comments, using the following formulation, so we can all come and see.


In our house, we are not always good about putting things where they go!  It is a growing edge, especially for my boys (DH included)!  But I do have some things I "religiously " place in their home, because my sanity depends on it!

1)  KEYS
My keys go in a specific pocket on my purse.  If I don't put them there, I spend valuable time looking for them, and since I'm rarely early, that's not a good thing!  If they are not in my purse, the second place is a specific place on the kitchen counter.

2)  PENS

 With two school aged children, I am always having to sign something.  In addition, there are the requisite phone messages and numbers to write down.  So pens go in one of three places:  the junk drawer, the school supply/craft drawer, or my purse.  I can usually find one in one of the drawers, but for some reason, after a period of time the pen in my purse disappears.  I think the gremlin that lives in the dark bottom of my bag eats them.


Readers go by the computer because that is the only place I need them.  My regular glasses suffice for all other reading.  If my readers are not by the computer, I am frustrated, and I get a crick in my neck and/or a headache straining to read the screen.


Sadly, I am a willing participant in the addiction/dependency on our cellular devices.  My phone is in my purse or on my person at all times.  It is Murphy's Law that dictates that as soon as my phone is in another location, I receive that call/text/email that is so extremely important!


As noted, I am firmly entrenched in the electronic age.  My Kindle goes with me wherever I go for two reasons:  1) my calendar is on it, and 2) you never know when you will need reading material!