Lutheranlady's Weblog


Psalm 89: Scripture of the Week
June 26, 2017, 12:51 pm
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Maritime day

Psalm 89:1Your love, O Lord, forever will I sing;
from age to age my mouth will proclaim your faithfulness.
Our eldest daughter is old enough to be reading, but perhaps not quite fast enough to read and sing every hymn during church. Still, when I was worshipping with her this spring, I would use my finger to track the words in the hymnal. I was hoping she’d become more engaged in worship and less… crazy.

After a particularly trying worship in the pews, I asked her why she wouldn’t follow along and sing. She looked at me and said, “Mom. I don’t need to read the words. I just open my mouth and my mouth knows what to sing.”

I’m not so sure a squirmy six year old is what the psalmist had in mind, but I guess it works. She’s caught on to the freedom of living in God’s love. She trusts that what will come out will be a response to God’s love; something appropriate to our worship. As adults, we can get a little too rigid, tied to the notes and the rules, as if that was what was most important. This psalm retells God’s promises to David as a reminder of God’s faithfulness for us. God’s faithfulness is the foundation of our praise- the foundation of our living. God’s faithfulness is all that matters. We respond as we can. Maybe that means we don’t sing in unison, or even sing the same words all the time. Instead, we live as a refrain to God’s song of unending love.

Jesus came for us to show God’s faithfulness has no bounds. Jesus died and was raised to show that there is no where God will not be for us. In baptism, God claimed you as God’s own child, promising to never abandon you, no matter how far you might go.

How will you remember God’s faithfulness this week? How might you live out your song of praise?

*God, we know no faithfulness like yours. Make us courageous and bold in living out your love and forgiveness. Take away all fear, so that we might sing with joy, through Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.*

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Seeing, Hearing, Active God: A Sermon for the Third Sunday after Pentecost, Genesis 21:8-21
June 26, 2017, 12:49 pm
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Genesis 21:8-21

Grace and peace to you, siblings in Christ.

Last week, we remembered God is a promise keeper, fulfilling the promise to give children to Abraham and Sarah long after they had any reason to hope. Today we rediscover more about who our God is as we look at the other side of this family, focusing on Abraham’s son Ishmael and his mother Hagar.

Looking at this family from another angle, we reveal a reflection of who we are in our brokenness and sin. Last week, we celebrated the joy Sarah and Abraham had as they birthed their promised son. Today we confront the ways in which they were willing to destroy others’ lives in order to get what they were promised.

During those years of barrenness, Sarah took the life of her slave girl Hagar. She gave her slave to Abraham, so that she might use the body of this girl to conceive, carry, and birth a child for herself, a child to fulfill God’s promise.

When Hagar conceived Abraham’s son, Sarah went into a rage. She attacked Hagar, who carried all her hope and all her contempt. Hagar ran away.

In the wilderness, next to a stream, God sees Hagar, declaring:

Genesis 16:11 “‘Now you have conceived and shall bear a son;

you shall call him Ishmael,

for the Lord has given heed to your affliction.”

Hagar, having seen and heard God, returns to Sarah, and gives birth to her son.

Years later, Sarah herself conceives, carries, and births Abraham’s son Isaac. She no longer has need of Ishmael. This is where we pick up the story.

Matriarch Sarah saw slave Hagar’s son, Ishmael, playing- laughing- with her own son, Isaac. That they should see each other as brothers is too much for Sarah. She will not allow for any possibility that Isaac’s inheritance would be divided. Sarah demands that Abraham send them away, and he does.

As we prepare for the moment of God’s decisive action, Hagar and Ishmael have left on a desperate journey, cast out of their homes. Hagar has used all she has to protect her child, but there is nothing left. Nothing left for her to do but hide her child and hide her face as she waits for death to claim them.

Then- God hears them.

The pivotal verse of God’s action is Genesis 21: 17 And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is.

God heard them.

When has this slave woman ever been heard? She’s been used by others for their own gains, forced to grow a child to carry another’s blessing, beaten and cast out when they’ve had enough of her. She has never been seen. Never been heard. Not by anyone.

Except by God.

God hears them, even as they are deserted and surrounded by death. God hears and answers, providing a path into life. God gives blessing and a future. Even as people of power reject them and ignore their needs, God cares for Hagar and Ishmael.

God gives: unexpectedly, abundantly, and to all. Sarah was afraid the inheritance was too small to be divided between both of Abraham’s sons. When God spoke to Hagar, God declared Ishmael will also be the beginning of a great nation, just as Isaac will be. Math with God is different than our own accounting. God acts in abundance when we see scarcity. The promise is always bigger than we think it will be.

When we feel a need to make the circle smaller, to tighten the boundaries defining who is included, and we begin to push people out, we forget this story. We forget who our God is, and what our God can- and does- do.

God sees you, all of you, and knows the struggles you are facing. God hears you, when you’ve been too ashamed to tell anyone. God loves you without the judgment and demands we so often put on the love we show to each other. God is acting for your wellbeing. God sent Jesus to reveal our brokenness- our need to have outsiders, forgotten people, people to carry our rage. Jesus opened the circle of God’s welcome, bringing into community those who had been cast out. This Jesus brings us all into a new life and a new way of being.

Our God is a hearing God, a seeing God, a God who acts. Baptized into Christ, we are called to be hearing, seeing, active people.

But this is not who I have been. Reading and praying this passage over the last week has made me think about all the ways I have closed my eyes and my ears, so that I don’t have to see- or hear- so that I don’t have to act.

A friend posted a photo and news article about drought in Somalia. View it here.Beautiful, horrifying photos that tell of a land experiencing a harsher, more arid climate, leading people to desperation, to violence, to starvation, and to dangerous paths of escape to new lands, where they will often be barred out or cast away.

I listened to the outcomes of recent trials of police officers involved in shooting deaths of black people. Following that, I listened to an interview of a teacher of conceal and carry classes. This teacher, who is a black man, teachers other people of color a certain way of organizing their license, registration, and insurance papers so that when pulled over, it’s all easy to access. I think of my own exploding glove compartment, and how I’ve never considered it might cause more than a rolled eye if I ever had to make someone wait for me to find my papers.

I paddled the Cloquet River yesterday to learn about water quality. As we stopped for lunch, and I raised my hand for my roast beef sandwich, someone teased, “way to eat high on the food chain.” I think that was meant as a rub from a vegan husband to his wife and I got caught in the middle of it holding the sandwich he thought was for her- but still- here we were, talking about the impacts of farms on the water quality in the lower half of the state… and I held a piece of that cycle in my hands.

These are all things I don’t have to pay attention to. Who I am – especially as a white, cis-gender, middle class, educated American citizen- has made it possible for me not to have to see- or hear- or know. This is what it means for me to have privilege and power. I’m not forced to see how other people are living as a result of my choices and my culture.  I find myself reflected in Sarah, who sees Hagar and her offspring as disposable means to obtain what she wants. Who am I casting off?

Our God doesn’t cast people off, but seeks them out; doesn’t ignore them, but truly sees them and hears what they need. Who I am- as a baptized child of God- is a harvester in God’s kingdom. God’s growing justice, love, inclusion, and healing.

If today you’ve been forgotten by the world, know that God has not forgotten you, but is coming to you to restore your life.

If today you’re content in your ignorance of other’s suffering, know that God is calling you to open your ears and eyes and schedule- there is work to be done and God wants you to have the joy of joining in.

God heard and answered both Sarah and Hagar’s cries. God makes God’s blessing big enough for all. You’ve been blessed to be a blessing.



Laughing at God: Genesis 18:1-15, 21:1-7 Second Sunday after Pentecost
June 26, 2017, 12:29 pm
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Genesis 18:1-15, 21:1-7

When’s the last time you had a good laugh?

 

Did you know laughter brings many benefits? I hadn’t really thought about it until reading an article about laughter therapy groups, in which people gather together and laugh. It might have started out as fake and forced, but there’s something so contagious about laughter, it became real. They were healthier for this time spent laughing.

 

People throughout many cultures laugh. What our laughter means can vary. In today’s Genesis reading, laughter expresses the human response to God’s promise and action.

 

Throughout the summer, we’re going to be reading through the book of Genesis and following the families whose stories are recorded. This week, we meet Abraham and Sarah, sometimes called Abram and Sarai, who were promised a new land and many descendants.

 

In chapters 12, 15, and 17, God continually promises they will be the ancestors of a great nation that will possess a fertile land. God uses grand metaphors- your descendants shall be as innumerable as the dust of the earth and as numerous as the stars.

 

Abram and Sarai have conscripted a slave girl to bear a child for them, so in chapter 17, God gets more specific, renaming and promising blessing to Sarah, with whom Abraham will have a son. At this promise, Abraham “fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, ‘Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Can Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’”

 

It is too much to believe. One of my previous parishioners would often say, “I have to laugh or I’ll cry.” Is that what’s found in Abraham’s outburst?

 

In the next chapter, God appears to Abraham in the form of three men. As was expected in their culture, Abraham and Sarah treat them with great hospitality, offering water, refreshment, and rest. Sarah’s been pushed back to her place in the tent. While she’s preparing food, she’s trying to catch the words of these strange and unexpected visitors.

 

What she hears is ridiculous. One says he’ll come back later and by then, Sarah will have a son. It’s so ridiculous, it hurts. How often has she waited, thinking, maybe this time, only to learn a few days later, no, there will be no child this month. Maybe she’s screamed enough into the night that her voice is hoarse, and cried enough that her eyes are dry. She’s past the time of thinking her cries will change anything. All that’s left to come out is a scoffing grunt of a laugh. Ha.

 

 

From behind the tent flaps, Sarah is heard. God speaks up, “Why did Sarah laugh? Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?” God repeats the promise, “I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.”

 

Scripture doesn’t record what happens in those months. We know from what happens later that a child is forming within Sarah. Her laughter is preparing to change.

 

Was there a loosening in Sarah that freed hope? Was there a pure giggle still waiting in her heart? Laughter waiting to finally have reason to burst out? Joy germinating and growing alongside the child?

 

Laughter came when her son was born. Wonder and joy and life- so real and present- in her arms. What other response could there be but amazed laughter? A mother’s laughter transformed when it encounters the fulfilled promise of God.

 

The child is named Isaac, which means laughter. Both father and mother laughed at God’s promise of a future beyond their hope. Now their laughter bears witness to God’s faithfulness. God fulfilled God’s promises and gave new life when it was least expected.

 

Their laughter causes God to ask, “is anything too wonderful for the Lord?” As people of faith, we may answer, no, God can do all things, even as we know that good things do not always come. Gathered today, in this place and in worship centers throughout the world, are those who long for a child, a home, a safe community, an end to addiction, and healing. It might be especially cruel to read this on Father’s Day, as some wish their prayers for a child were answered, or remember in grief the death of a child or parent, or live with complicated and painful – or nonexistent – relationships with family. We might wonder why God does not give us what we want, what we need.

 

God is not Santa Claus, giving us based on a list of good and bad. God owes us nothing, and yet- sometimes, we get to glimpse a wonderful sign of the life God is bringing to us all. We’re in the midst of a process of salvation God is working, the dawn of a new day in which all will be made well. We’re not there yet.

 

This scripture isn’t so much about God giving us something we want as it is about who God is. It points us to a God who keep promises when it seems God has forgotten the promise. It describes a God who has power to give life when everyone knows it’s over. It encourages us to hear God’s promises in trust. God has promised a new creation, peace, life, abundant feasts where no one is hunger, and an end to violence, sin, and death.

 

In this time, we might as well laugh at God’s promises. It is so hard to keep up hope. How can we keep working for what seems impossible- what will never come?

 

We gather to be grounded in God’s promise. We pray for healing. We continue to do what we can to join in God’s work. We help each other wait with faith, reminding each other who our God is and what our God does.

 

God gives life. God brings joy when all is past hope. God does awesome things like resurrecting the dead and making holy the sinner. We read in Romans, “God proves God’s love for us in that while we still were sinners, Christ died for us” (5:8). Sarah and Abraham receive the fulfillment of God’s promises after they laugh in God’s face.

We have the kind of God who does the ridiculous out of love for God’s creation. God is reckless and foolish, blessing more than our faith deserves. More than we could possibly believe.

 

God acts crazy because God loves you. That’s worth laughing about.

 



Certainly.
June 19, 2017, 12:11 pm
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Romans 6:5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

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Certainly. What a word to use when describing such a mystery as resurrection!

We are desperate for certainty, especially about those things which we cannot prove. People love movies and books of “real life accounts” from those who have passed into death and returned to tell us all about it. Is there a bright light? Pearly gate? Angels? Everything we’ve ever wanted? We want to know! And know for certain!

Those kind of details aren’t what Paul is so certain about. What he’s certain about is Jesus- and Jesus’ hold on us. Jesus has claimed you and me forever. Not even death is going to separate us from Jesus.

We receive this promise in a watery cross, in a morsel of bread and a sip of wine. Water on our foreheads dries. The feast leaves us hungry. We’re left needing to return again and again to font and table so that we can be reassured in Christ’s promise. Our certainty is fleeting, but the One who continues to draw us in is steadfast.

*God of promise, continue to show yourself to us so that we might know that we are certainly loved and united with you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.*



Romans 5: Scripture of the Week Devotion
June 12, 2017, 12:45 pm
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“Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ… God proves God’s love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” Romans 5:1, 8

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Performance reviews. Job interviews. End of term finals. The silence of the phone after a first date.

 

We are judged. We are told where we’re failing. We see red circles on our mistakes. We feel the sting of not being chosen.

 

It is not a good feeling.

 

Some of us may have experienced this feeling at church, but that’s not what God wants for us.

 

We’re made right with God through faith. It’s Jesus’ faithfulness – Jesus hold on us, no matter what- Jesus willingness to do all things for us- that brings us into God’s presence as blessed and holy ones.

 

Instead of experiencing rejection once again, we discover that in Jesus, we are chosen! We are worthy. We’re worthy of Jesus’ love and effort.

 

When the world keeps on judging, remember that God’s already judged you. God’s judged you through Jesus, so instead of your brokenness, God counts Jesus’ holiness. You might have plenty of “growing edges,” but God’s going to keep you. No more fear. Be at peace. You’re enough. God has made you God’s own beloved one.

 

*God, help me to trust in your love for me. When I feel my own failure, strengthen me with your claim on me. You know my worst, and still, you love me. That’s not something I get very often. Thank you. Amen.*

 

-Pastor Liz



What’s Next? A Sermon for Trinity Sunday Matthew 28:16-20
June 12, 2017, 12:43 pm
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Matthew 28:16-20

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

 

Grace and peace to you, siblings in Christ.

In this season of graduations, “congratulations” is often on our lips, quickly followed by, “what’s next?” For those who have jobs lined up or another level of education to go on to, there’s an easy answer. They can be confident in their plans.

Confidence doesn’t always continue a week, or a day, or an hour into that new plan. College might be more difficult than expected, the new job more to learn than bargained for. That confidence in future plans can easily turn into an overwhelmed “what did I get myself into?”

You don’t have to be a recent grad to have situations in which you’re not sure you’re up to the task. A move, new opportunity, birth of a child, illness of a loved one— there are many points in life that we might pause and wonder if we have the skills, strength, and stamina to live through the new thing.

That sinking feeling came to me on a Friday morning in August, the day I began my year-long internship at Zion Lutheran Church in Rockford. I was excited- I was finally going to be working in a congregation. Six years of higher education had led me to this first real taste of the life I was called into. So I drove down from our country parsonage, next to the church my husband had been assigned, over the border into Illinois, which as a Wisconsinite, is a difficult line to cross, through the city intersections until I arrived at this central city church. It was my supervisor’s day off, so while he came in to meet me and show me my office, he quickly left for his golf game. This church had so much I hoped I could learn from. They had launched community development corporations. They had their own food pantry. That morning there was a group of Laotian members making egg rolls for the Sunday fundraiser and a group of neighborhood church leaders working on hunger issues. There was so much amazing work being done in God’s name- that I found myself in the bathroom, shaking and crying, totally overwhelmed and confident in one thing- that I had no clue what I was doing there.

How could I possibly live up to the challenge?

We open the Gospel of Matthew to meet the disciples in Galilee. It’s not been long since Jesus was arrested before their eyes, and then tried, crucified, and buried. It’s been even less time since some of the women went to the tomb to prepare his body and were met by an angel accompanied by an earthquake. The angel told them that Jesus had been raised and would meet the disciples in Galilee. Then as the women ran to tell the other disciples, Jesus met them- Jesus- alive.  The women share all this with the men, who travel on as instructed.

When the men gather in Galilee, they see Jesus. I love what the text says- “When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.” (Other translations….) After all that’s happened, I can’t fault their lack of confidence! Are they doubting the living Jesus in front of them? Or doubting their own readiness to be a part of whatever Jesus is doing? Surely they must also be wondering- what’s next for me?

Confidence comes from being able to tell ourselves, “I can do it!” When we realize what the “it” it is we’re going to be doing – that’s when we might freak out! It helps if we can see the new task’s connection to something we’ve become familiar with.

Jesus tells his disciples they’re going to be doing everything he’s been doing. Remember what Jesus has been busy doing: teaching about God, reviving the dead, healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, restoring outsiders to community, and all the while growing a crowd of onlookers and disciples.

Now it’s the disciples who are going to be discipling.

They are called to be discipling disciples who follow Jesus’ pattern of ministry- gathering groups of people, doing life-giving acts, living and preaching God’s grace.

It might be scary for them to think of doing this themselves, but they are not unprepared. Jesus is calling the disciples to do familiar work. They’ve spent an intensive period of formation with Jesus. They’ve been there as he’s taught and healed. They didn’t always know everything or do things right, but they learned and grew.

Their future ministry will be familiar enough because they are continuing to imitate the God they have come to know through Jesus.

When we’re faced with a change in life, how do we get ourselves to a place of confidence so that we can bravely move forward?

As we were packing and saying goodbye to move up here, I intentionally paused to experience the familiarity of all I was leaving. I looked out at my congregation, remembering time spent with them, stories, tears, and prayers shared, and reminded myself that there was a time I did not know them so deeply, that I had been struggling simply to know their names. I drove all the winding roads and remembered when I was so confused as to how to get to the places I needed to go.

I told myself what was now familiar was once overwhelmingly new. As I went out to begin something new, it, too would one day become familiar.

The disciples were called into scary new and yet familiar work. Even though Jesus was ascending, he was not abandoning them. Jesus promises he will be there with them. The Holy Spirit will continue to disciple them as they disciple others.

Because the disciples were faithful in their call, Jesus’ work has expanded through the generations. We’ve been discipled and we’re called to disciple others. Think back and remember- who was it who brought alongside them so that you would learn to pray, love and serve? When were those times of experiencing God’s love for you? Even as you are continuing to be discipled, God is calling you to disciple others.

When faced with this call, we may feel overwhelmed or unqualified. Who among us is totally good? Or has it all together? Or knows all the answers to the big questions of life, death, and faith? When we’re asked to serve on a board, teach Sunday School, or read for worship, some of us might freeze and think – I can’t do that. When we’re given the opportunity to show forgiveness, mercy, justice or love- we might wonder if we have what it takes.

You can. You do. God has called you to continue God’s work, and in calling you, God has given you what you need to serve. As was true for the disciples, God created us in God’s image, shares the Son’s authority with us, and empowers us with the Spirit in order to bring us in to the work of the Triune God. We all serve in different ways. We never serve alone. The Spirit fills you, too. We join the work God is accomplishing in the world.

Next time someone asks what your future plans are, tell them. You’re healing the broken world, welcoming the stranger, living forgiveness, and caring for those in need. You’re offering what you have to God, and through you, God is bringing life and love. Be confident in your call, and even more confident in the God who calls you. In the midst of your worshipping and your doubting, God is there, blessing you with the call and the means to serve in God’s great work of salvation.



The Spirit’s Base Line: A Sermon for Pentecost
June 5, 2017, 10:52 am
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Read the Bible

Grace and peace to you, siblings in Christ.

Today we celebrate the church festival Pentecost. Our reading from Acts tells the dramatic story of the disciples receiving Jesus’ promised Holy Spirit. Wind, flames, and words rush in and out- and people hear – and understand – the good news of God’s work in Jesus.

This event empowers the disciples to really take on Jesus’ work. Its effect reaches us today. At baptism, God sent the Spirit to you. A candle was lit as a sign of that flame resting on you, as it did on the disciples so many years ago. What is history is also continuing today: the Spirit comes to us, remains with us, and empowers us to do Jesus’ work in the world.

It’s a beautiful coincidence that we’re starting our time together on Pentecost. You’ve commissioned Pastor Sarah on to her summer sabbatical, and you are called into your own sabbatical, with the purpose of rediscovering and relishing the joy, power, rest, and direction the Spirit brings. This is a time of renewal. The Spirit’s work is to replenish us.

The Holy Spirit sets the beat for us to dance, to party, to live. Over these next three months, I’ll be walking with you as we listen for that Spirit and allow ourselves to be moved in new ways.

When I first talked to Pastor Sarah back in March, summer seemed a very long ways off. But by the end of this week, I finally started to feel like summer is actually going to come. The sun is out, the air is warmer, and I let the kids talk me into stocking our freezer with ice pops.

Our summers always include a number of activities we have to make time for. Walks in the woods, coloring with chalk, building sand castles, and watching a parade. We’ve lived and visited enough places that I’ve seen a wide variety of parades- from our small town North Dakota parade that drove down the parade route and then turned around to drive it again. We had to make the action last more than 5 minutes.  We moved from that to a 3-hour long parade with trucks, tractors, politicians, and candy in southern WI.

I’m always impressed by the school marching bands. While I’m sweating away in shorts and a t-shirt, with a water on the side of the road, these teens are marching in hot polyester uniforms and funny hats, lugging their instruments and having enough breath to actually play them.

There’s a way in which I always feel a part of the music as the band marches by. It’s those big drums- boom, boom, booming- reverberating in my chest. Sometimes it’s almost like they’re trying to reset my heart beat- boom, boom, boom. I hear the rhythm, and I feel it inside me.

That’s what the Holy Spirit is like. Boom, boom, boom, setting the beat for our lives.

If you have young ones in your community, you might have seen the movie Trolls. The movie focuses on two groups of creatures- Trolls who are carefree and fun-loving, always happy and quick to sing, and the Bergens, the monsters of the story, who are sad and angry. The Bergens look at the happiness of the trolls and want it. They think they have to take happiness from the trolls in order to be happy themselves. But at the very end of the movie, they are transformed. The trolls begin to sing and dance, and in domino fashion, they bump into one Bergen who starts to catch the beat- who bumps into another- who starts to move a little- and finally the whole room is one big happy dance party. The beat is infectious and its song is joy.

When on that long-ago Pentecost, the party got raucous with flame and wind and witness, disciple Peter got up to explain this wasn’t just any disturbance. This was the fulfillment of God’s promise recorded by the prophet Joel, “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.” The Spirit is the song that knocks first one person and then another into God’s dance.

What is this song and how does this dance go?

Paul writes the church at Corinth to remind them of the Spirit’s song and how to follow the Spirit’s lead in the dance of Christian life. He explains, “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” The Spirit leads us into different actions, based on our own personal gifts, for the sake of others. Some teach, some encourage or heal. Some send cards to let people know they are loved and remembered. Some sit with a child and encourage their reading. Others prepare a meal or this Table. Maybe you send money where it’s needed, remind a representative to make decisions that will benefit those most at risk, or help a parent pick out summer clothes from the clothes closet. The Spirit creates faith in us, gathers us as a community, and sends us out to continue Jesus’ work in the world.

The Spirit is here, among and within us, singing God’s song, beating God’s rhythm, with such insistence that even the most reluctant dancer is drawn in. Sometimes, though, it can get difficult to hear the Spirit and our feet can miss the steps.

There might be too much noise in our lives. If I were sitting on a lawn, watching the marching band while speakers from the house were blasting music with strong base, I’d be overwhelmed with the conflicting beats. Or we might be actively trying to avoid hearing what is being sung to us. If I came with my lawn-mowing sound canceling headphones, I might know there was something going on, but not quite hear the music. Are there things in your life that are keeping you from noticing the Spirit’s song and holding you back from joining the dance?

Let’s set an intention for the summer. Let’s commit to each other and to God our desire to turn down some of the excess noise in our lives and set aside things that muffle the voice of God. Our summer is also about sabbatical, letting some things rest so that we can attend to what is most important. What might that look like for you?

My advice? First, join in worship. This is where we most clearly hear the song. We practice the dance as we pray, hear the good news, give back God’s gifts, and gather at the table.

Then, try something new. Explore prayer practices. Show love to your neighbors. Learn something new. Share your talents. Serve in a way you haven’t before. Don’t be afraid. I spent my jr. high and high school dances standing with my friends, wondering how they all learned how to dance, and trying to be invisible. I was always afraid to look stupid. That kept me from the freedom of simply having fun with the beat- or even having fun offbeat. The thing about the Spirit’s dance is that we can’t get it wrong. No matter what, God has claimed you, the Spirit has come to live in you, and even when you make some wrong steps, the Spirit is still happy to turn you back around.

Your pastor is rightly proud of all of you. Pastor Sarah often told me that you are a congregation who knows what it is to do Jesus’ work in the world- making a real difference in the lives of those in this community. You’ve been joining the dance. This summer, let’s tune in to the joy of dancing to the Spirit’s beat.