Two ways of waiting

Waiting is a reality of life. Not even the wealthy and powerful are immune to waiting. We wait in the checkout lines. We wait at the DMV. We wait in the doctor’s office. We wait for time to pass. In all, we spend a very significant part of our lives waiting for something or someone. We all live between the two time periods of yesterday and tomorrow. Yet, we can make our waiting worthwhile or worthless. We can wait well or we can wait poorly.

Often we wait poorly and take matters in our own hands. We act on limited knowledge but think our ways are better than God’s who has unlimited knowledge. Because we do not like waiting, we act before we should. Or if we see that the situation is beyond our ability to act, we simply give up and lose hope. We believe that yesterday is better than tomorrow. In this sense, Holy Saturday becomes one of depression and sorrow rather than of somber expectancy.

The gospel makes the reality of waiting worthwhile. There is a difference between passive waiting and expectant waiting. As God sent the Son “in the fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4), He has also picked an appropriate time of His second return (Matthew 24:36). In the midst of Holy Saturday, while we are watching and waiting, God reminds us that waiting on Him is worth it. We can wait on Him knowing that how we live matters in the long run.

God’s love compels us to “be alert and of sober mind” as we wait between the Cross and the Resurrection. Let us not waste our waiting but allow it to redeem us and use it purposefully for God’s glory.

Healthy Ways to Deal with Sadness

The 13th-century poet and mystic Rumi said, “The wailing of broken hearts is the doorway to
God.” Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" -Matthew 5:4
Sadness can feel overwhelming at times, like a monster that is knocking on the door of our
lives. We fear that if we let the monster in, he might never leave and we will be sad forever. How
can we embrace healthy ways of dealing with sadness? Here are a few reminders we all need
from time to time:

  1. Allow yourself to be sad. Denying such feelings may force them underground, where
    they can do more damage with time. Cry if you feel like it. Notice if you feel relief after
    the tears stop.
  2. Write in a journal, listen to music, spend time with friends or family, and/or draw to
    express the emotion of sadness.
  3. Think about the context of the sad feelings. Are they related to a loss or an unhappy
    event? Think about the feelings in a non-judging way and ride the wave of the
    experience.
  4. Sadness can result from a change that you didn't expect, or it can signal that you might
    need to make changes in your life. Emotions are changing and will come and go.
  5. Know when sadness turns into depression. Get help if this happens rather than getting
    stuck in it.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. -Psalm 34:18

Anxiety is in the air

Have you noticed that anxiety is in the air? It exists on a spectrum from nervousness to panic attacks. It will rob your life from you. If we define it, anxiety is the overwhelming feelings of fear, worry & restlessness. The opposite of anxiety is that calm, centered, connected place inside you.

What overwhelms you?

What makes you anxious?

Where do you experience worry, fear and restlessness?

How do you deal with your anxiety?

1 Peter 5:7, is one of the most oft-quoted passages about anxiety: “cast all your anxieties upon the Lord, because he cares for you.” But, this is only half of the whole idea that Peter is trying to communicate. Peter’s command actually comes in the preceding verse – “Humble yourselves” – and verse 7 modifies how we are to humble ourselves, which is by “casting all your anxieties upon the Lord.”

In his book “The Secret to Dealing with Fear and Anxiety,” author Ed Welch says, “This passage has been a secret because we have typically entered it at verse 7, ‘cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.’ But to understand its meaning, you need to start with the preceding verse, ‘Humble yourselves.’ [It’s] the only exhortation in the passage. This is what Peter wants us to hear (and obey). If we jump in at the middle—it makes no sense. We can’t cast our cares on him until we have recognized that he is God and we are his servants who have also been elevated to become his children.”

The verb for “casting” your anxieties is the same one used in Luke 19:35 to describe the disciples “throwing” their cloaks on the donkey that Jesus would ride into Jerusalem. Visualize that image. Casting your anxieties upon the Lord can feel about as silly as throwing your coat on a donkey. And yet, God wants us to do this so that Jesus can carry them into Jerusalem – the city where he would die to free us from their destructive grip.

Nothing Beautiful Comes Without Some Suffering

Suffering is inevitable but how we respond to that suffering is our choice. Pain is a part of life. We cannot escape it. How we face the things in our lives, especially the difficult things, determines the kind of person we become.

When we experience pain and turn to addictions to take away the pain (a drink, smoke, pill, etc) we keep scratching the wound and it is never allowed to heal. It is so easy to judge our feelings and condemn ourselves, but self-condemnation is of no help.

Be kind to yourself. Be gentle with yourself, dear one. Jesus said, “in this world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world.” Take heart, take courage, do not beat up on yourself for feeling all the things you feel. Christ himself cried out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Bring your pain to God, He is familiar with suffering, and God is the source of your healing. Both joy and sorrow are inseparable realities on this side of the resurrection. We often want the mountain peaks without the valleys but as Oscar Romero said, “Some things can only be seen through eyes that have cried.”

One of the most beautiful things in life is birth. There is no birth without great pain. Nothing beautiful comes without some suffering. Joy and Sorrow are like two train tracks, often running side by side throughout our lives. When we numb the pain, we numb the joy. The way of life that Jesus invites us to follow him in is the Eucharist way. On the night that the Lord Jesus was betrayed, he gathered with friends at a table and he took the bread, blessed the bread, broke the bread, and gave the bread. Christ himself was taken, blessed, broken and given for the healing of the world. We too are taken, blessed, broken and given. This is the Eucharist way. This is the way of Jesus. May you and I walk this Jesus way together.

A Crisis of Work

This week I sat and listened to a struggling unemployed young man who has basically given up hope on finding work. I also sat and listened to an upwardly mobile executive who is drowning in the weight of responsibilities on her shoulders at work.

We have a work crisis…check out these statistics:

…Only 33.7% of Americans are engaged at work
…13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work
…84% of Christians who are 18-29 years old have no idea how the Bible relates to their field or professional life
…10 million men in America are unemployed or have stopped looking for work altogether
…21% of American adults have no religious identity, up from 15% in 2008

Jeff Haanen (Founder and Executive Director of the Denver Institute for Faith & Work) says:  “We have two enormous problems facing us at work. One one side, we undervalue work. Gallup polls show that only 13 percent of employees worldwide are “engaged” in their jobs — that is, they are consistently emotionally invested in, and focused on creating value for, their organizations. 63 percent are not engaged and 24 percent are actively disengaged. Perhaps even more concerning is that the labor participation rate in America has steadily been dropping for the past 50 years. Today, about 10 million prime age men (25-54) are either unemployed or have dropped out of the workforce altogether — not even looking for work. Our attitudes about work have drifted significantly from historic ideas about calling. On the other side, many of the upwardly mobile nearly worship their work. It becomes our primary source of meaning and value – until one day our hearts tell us the pursuit of mere career success has left us spiritually empty.”

We have lost a healthy understanding of work, and specifically how our faith can and should influence our work. God calls us to engage our entire lives to the pursuit of the Kingdom of God, and that must necessarily include our work.

Monday Morning Faith

Your work is an essential part of what it means to be created in God’s image.

You’ve probably heard the proverb about giving a man a fish versus teaching a man to fish. We all understand the value of a person working. But why is it so important for people to work? Is it simply because a vibrant workforce is good for society? The economy works better for me if you have a job? Or is there something more inherent about work that compels us all to want to do good, beneficial work?

In the opening words of the Bible we see God doing work. The creation poem of Genesis 1 is an ode to the work of God. We see God laboring as he brings everything into being. In the very beginning, God worked. God is not like the early pagan deities who were personified as lazy; lounging around in the heavenly realm all day. The God of Genesis 1-2 is a working God.

As the Creation poem nears its climax, God says, “Let us make humanity in our image to resemble us so that they may take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and all the crawling things on earth.” (v. 26)

Humanity bears the image of God. What is this image? What is the purpose for which God creates the man and woman? In order for them to “take charge” of all Creation. Humanity, like the One in whose image we are created, is designed to be workers. We are created to work. There is paid work and unpaid work. Your work is your love made visible in the world. Whether you run a company, serve coffee, serve on a board, stay at home with your kids, create products, or volunteer at the community center, your work is your love made visible. We are created to be co-creators with God in this world.

The word “sorry”

“Say ‘sorry’ to your sister,” I say to my son after he accidentally spills her milk. “Sor-rry” he says in a two syllable, angry tone. He doesn’t want to admit error, he doesn’t want to apologize. He is like me at times.

The word “Sorry” is a powerful word, one that is not very often utilized in our public lexicon today. It is a word that assumes a blow to the ego, something that not many people (no matter what their spiritual or religious background) are ready or willing to do. Sorry, and all that comes with it is possibly the most difficult of the words that we will look at in this month’s sermon series.

Some people think that the word Sorry suggests weakness and is, therefore, a sentiment to be avoided. To admit wrongdoing and the need to apologize and make an amends is to open oneself up to ridicule and judgment.

Some Christ followers may think since Jesus died on the cross for our sins the word Sorry is not a word that needs to be lived on a daily basis. They may think that the need to say Sorry suggests a lack of faith in God’s forgiveness.

The Good News is a paradox. To live the word Sorry is to express weakness, but it is in that weakness that strength is found. It is in the acknowledgment of our need for restoration that abundant life is found. When Sorry becomes a central theme of our life, we are joining Christ on the cross and journeying towards resurrection.