Category Archives: People

Musing: World Communion

Leftovers, World Communion Sunday, October 6, 2019.

It’s been a week and a half since the observance of World Communion Sunday. Not all that long ago according to the calendar. But it feels ever so much longer. One of the days between then and now was set aside so my beloved could have an outpatient procedure. Complications meant spending the following five days in the hospital. Thankfully we’re home; John’s doing well; and I’ve had a chance to sleep and nap and sleep some more.

I thought I’d write about the communion part of World Communion when I took the pictures for this blog post. Maybe say something about remembering Christians around the globe, connected in the one body of Christ.

But since the six days at the hospital I’ve been thinking about the the world part. The medical school at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics attracts smart, kind, thoughtful people from across planet Earth. John and I delight in meeting, however briefly, persons with difficult (for us) to pronounce names. We are grateful beyond words for their expertise, their care, their commitment. Their presence reminds us that we are all connected in the precious journey of life.

Thanks be to God for the diversity and the gifts of the world’s peoples.

World Communion Sunday, Urbandale United Church of Christ, Urbandale, Iowa, October 6, 2019.

Feeding the Hungry

Saw a sparrow feeding a young – though 3x larger – cowbird this morning.

Thought:  Wouldn’t it be grand if we fed whoever came our way?

Doesn’t matter how they got here.  Whoever ‘they’ are.  Wherever ‘here’ is.


Once upon a time I served as as associate pastor at a church that ran a food pantry and also administered an emergency fund.  There were rules, of course, for both.  The primary one used by the senior pastor was:

Error are on the side of generosity.

Those words have become a sort of mantra for me.  Whether working with a Food Pantry Board or an outreach committee of a local church or just trying to figure out how to respond to an appeal for help, error are on the side of generosity.

Today, as I think about the immigrants at our borders, my pleading, my prayer:  may we error on the side of generosity. 

Children: The Ring of Life

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I noticed the pool before I really saw the figures as I walked around the campus of Iowa State University this morning.  Real children playing tend to capture my attention – especially  when I have no where else I have to be at the moment.  These kids caught in stone deserved a closer look.

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The words on the rim of the pool are from a poem by James Whitcomb Riley.

The Hired Man’s Faith in Children
by James Whitcomb Riley

I believe all children’s good,
Ef they’re only understood,
Even bad ones, ‘pears to me,
‘S jes’ as good as they kin be!

Of course they are “as good as they kin be!”  These children are playing with a water lily and a turtle; there are a couple of frogs behind them.

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Titled “The Marriage Ring” and also known as “The Ring of Life,” the original sculpture was done by Christian Petersen (Danish-American, 1885-1961) during his tenure as professor and artist-in-residence at ISU.   Because of vandalism, the sculpture was recast in reinforced concrete in the early 1990s.

“The circular basin of the pool represents a wedding ring and the valuable gems of the ring are symbolized by the three children, which Petersen considered the jewels of a marriage.”

– Iowa State University, University Museums, http://umsm003.its.iastate.edu/view/objects/asitem/326/542/title-asc?t:state:flow=86c383ec-25f2-47ba-b6ff-8609eb50a7c3

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As is often the case, the pastor/teacher in me was reminded of a few words of scripture.

“Allow the children to come to me,” Jesus said. “Don’t forbid them, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to people like these children.”  Then he blessed the children.  – Matthew 19:14-15a, CEB

Whether with a child, a friend or on your own, may you have time to play today.

Monday Musing: Gift

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you;
but the kind of peace I give you is not like the world’s peace.
Don’t let your hearts be distressed; don’t be fearful.

– John 14:27 The Inclusive Bible

Peace, it seemed to me, would be the theme of the sermon Sunday morning.  It wasn’t.  The theme was gift.  I always like it when the preacher take a text a direction I hadn’t considered!  While I don’t remember much of the sermon, I do remember it began with this video.

Gift.
Freely given.
No strings attached.
No expectation of reciprocity.
For you to do with as you see fit.

It’s hard, giving freely.  I want the recipient to smile, to be happy or pleased, to be grateful.  I hope the gift will be used, appreciated, maybe even cherished.

And there’s a risk.  What is given might offend.  It could be ignored or re-gifted or simply tossed out.

Gift.
Because we don’t want people to stay sad.

Monday Musing: Good Shepherd

“I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep and they know me.”
– John 10:14 Common English Bible

Good Shepherd Sunday.  The Fourth Sunday of Easter.  (Did you know that Easter Season in the church lasts 50 days?)  Every year there is a reading from John 10. 

“I have other sheep that don’t belong to this sheep pen.  I must lead them too…there will be one flock, with one shepherd.”
– John 10:16 Common English Bible

Although it wasn’t part of the reading this year, I found myself thinking about the “other sheep” mentioned in verse 16.  It may be my favorite line in John 10.  Jesus has other sheep.  I find that strangely comforting.

Jesus’ fold is ever so much larger than what I see in any of the communities in which I worship.  People – Christian and non-Christian – who don’t believe as I believe.  People whose faith experiences are unlike mine.  People who worship God in ways foreign to my experience, who call God by other names, who follow entirely different religious paths.  People who don’t look like me or dress like me or think like me or speak like me or  (fill in the blank)________________.  I cannot, must not count anyone out.  Jesus counts them all in.  One flock with more variety than most of us can imagine.

“The Lord is my shepherd.  I lack nothing …
“You set a table for me right in front of my enemies.”
– Psalm 23:1, 5a  Common English Bible

Here’s the thing about this table in front of our enemies: our enemies are at table, too. And they’re probably not at another table.  There are no clear lines of separation; there is no segregation.  The Good Shepherd is host; friend and foe alike are all seated at the same table.

“Yes, goodness and faithful love
will pursue me all the days of my life,
and I will live in the Lord’s house
as long as I live.”
– Psalm 23:1, 5a, 6  Common English Bible

Good Shepherd Sunday and Mother’s Day coincided this year here in the U.S.  It reminded me of Bobby McFerrin’s beautiful version of Psalm 23 – a tribute to his mother.  Here’s one I found in cyberspace.

 

Everybody

“Tigger is all right really,” said Piglet lazily.
“Of course he is,” said Christopher Robin.
“Everybody is really,” said Pooh.  “That’s what I think,” said Pooh.  “But I don’t suppose I’m right,” he said.
“Of course you are,” said Christopher Robin.

A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner
Copyright, 1928, by E.P. Dutton
Copyright Renewal, 1956, by A.A. Milne

In the world of Winnie-the-Pooh everybody is all right really.  “All right” as in we recognize their worth:  from overly-enthusiastic bouncy Tigger to somberly staid Eeyore to Owl and Rabbit, Kanga and Roo, Piglet, Pooh and Christopher Robin.

We know people just like them in our world – friends, neighbors, family, colleagues.  And they, too, are (mostly) “all right really.” 

But what about the people we don’t know?  The other ones, known only by rumor or stereotype or prejudice or social media?  Or the ones we just don’t want to hear from or about ever again and the ones we wish would just go away? Are they “all right really”?

I want to be with Pooh and Christopher Robin.  Really.  Some days I am.  Some days it’s tough.

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Photo Challenge: Roll

It’s his favorite time of year:  Baseball Season!

Once upon a time, many years ago, he was a catcher.
Truth be told, he’d still like to be able to play today.

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He played plenty of catch with his sons.
And enjoyed teaching his grandson how to play.

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When I first met him, he’d leave work early to coach a Legion Baseball “B” team.
The day after a game, he’d roll his eyes and talk about the “groupies” (girls) who had a way of showing up for games and distracting his players.

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He was surprised – and pleased – to discover I could find his old glove.
And a great sport when I asked if he’d pose for this post!

NOTE:  You’re welcome to gently roll a baseball in our house, but please do not throw it.

My entry for the Tuesday Photo Challenge: Roll.

Love does not … Love does …

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Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.  – 1 Corinthians 13:5b-8a  NRSV

Love insists that every way be loving.  A person acting with love – living love’s way – will not insist on his or her own way.  Usually.  Particularly when the other options available are expressions of love.  But sometimes love means speaking up or speaking out or speaking against a way that is not loving.

Love does not believe all things.  Especially if we are talking about believing everything you hear or everything you read.  Real love believes the best about another, looks for the good, seeks out the inspiring.  True love harbors doubts about second-hand stories and rumors that in any way disparage another; love grieves when such stories and rumors are accurate.

Even if we are talking about believing as giving our heart to and orienting our lives toward, then love still does not believe all things.  Love believes – sets its heart on and orients its life toward – all things life giving.

When one is treated without love in the name of love – say, being beaten or belittled or isolated or controlled – love does not bear it or endure it or simply hope for better.  Love leaves.

When you share life – in all its glorious messiness – with one who truly supports you and wants only the best for you, who would do anything to see you smile or hear you laugh, who can sit in the silence with you when there are no words and share your tears in the midst of the heart-wrenching, then love does indeed bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things.  Whether parent or partner or friend, that kind of love that never ends.

May you love and be loved in all ways life giving.

Love is …. love is not …

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.   – 1 Corinthians 13:4-5a NRSV

Yes, this is the beginning of a Biblical text used at many, many Christian weddings.

But it’s not just for two consenting adults who are freely making vows to mutually support and encourage and care for one another through the valleys and peaks of life.

This text is for everyone.  (Paul probably borrowed it from his culture and adapted it for the church.)

Love is not a feeling.  Love is an action.  Love is how we treat one another.

We all live in relationship to other human beings every day of our lives.  Friends.  Family.  Neighbors.  Strangers.  Colleagues.  Coaches.  Teammates.  Employers.  Employees.  Customers.  Caregivers.  Care receivers.  Teachers.  Students.  Fill in the blank:  _____________ .  People just like us – even when they seem as different as can be imagined.

We are all called to be patient and kind.  Patient with ourselves; patient with others.  Kind to ourselves; kind to others.  That’s what love is.  It’s what love does.

Sounds so simple.  Yet can be so hard.  Particularly in a culture that seems to admire and even celebrate hurry-up, get-it-done, look-out-for-oneself, take-advantage-of-everyone, what’s-in-it-for-me attitudes and actions.

Love is patient.  Love is kind.

At the same time, none of us are called to be envious, boastful, arrogant or rude.  Not envious about what another has or has accomplished.  Not boastful of our own or a loved one’s accomplishments.  Not arrogant about whatever or however we might think we are superior.  Not rude – ever.

Love is patient.  Love is kind.

May it be so in my life.

 

 

Without Love

“If I speak in tongues of human beings and of angels but I don’t have love, I’m a clanging gong or a clashing cymbal.

“If I have the gift of prophecy and I know all the mysteries and everything else, and if I have such complete faith that I can move mountains but I don’t have love, I’m nothing.

“If I give away everything that I have and hand over my own body to feel good about what I’ve done but I don’t have love, I receive no benefit whatsoever.”

– 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 CEB

Did you read the text above?  Really read it?

The guy sitting next to me at church Saturday evening harumphed – an audible, derisive sort of scoff – at the truth of it.  He was genuinely surprised to hear this sort of thing coming from the Bible.

It’s great imagery.

Say what I will but words without love are just noise.  And it’s not just about the tone or the sincerity; it’s about being truly genuine and coming from a place of deep compassion for the persons – every single one of them, friend and foe alike – who will hear what I say.

Look into the future if that’s your thing but if you don’t see through eyes of love you might as well be blind.

If my generosity isn’t fueled by love, I’m not being generous.  I’d add that if there strings attached, it’s neither generous nor a gift.

The apostle Paul – formerly known as Saul, now known as St. Paul – is writing to a church divided and is calling for unity.  The body of Christ – the sum total of all the followers of Jesus – is ONE.  It’s made of many parts, all equally good, all absolutely necessary, each with different gifts.  To treat any individual as less than, to ignore or dismiss another, is simply not the way of Christ.

How we treat each other – within the church or not, Christian or not, matters.

It’s something to consider.

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Hearts at Faith United Church of Christ, February 2013. Photo: TLClark