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Empowered by God's love, we are a community of Christ's disciples,
centered in worship and fellowship with:
OPEN HEARTS to live and serve with compassion and to share God's love
OPEN MINDS to seek spiritual formation and encourage each person's faith journey
OPEN DOORS to invite and welcome all to join in discipleship
Weekly Sermons from Dan – May 6, 2012
No Sermon from Dan this Week
Weekly Sermons from Dan – May 13, 2012
“Residing in Love”
John 5:1-6; John 15:9-17
went to see my mother last week, while driving back from Nashville where
I had been for a week of continuing education. I have not seen my
mother much since I came to Minnesota 32 years ago this month. I
see her even less since she died suddenly in October of 2003.
had been on the road for about an hour, after staying overnight with my
brother, and thought to myself, “I don’t’ care how long a drive
you have today (it ended up being 11 hours); when you are on the
interstate that passes within four miles of your mother’s remains that
have been lying in the ground for nine years, you go to see your mother,
especially this close to Mother’s Day.” I listened to myself
and pulled off Interstate 55 at Illinois State Highway 4 and took a left
onto the road into Worden.
was sort of raining, sort of not; somebody recently called this kind of
precipitation “perspiring”, which is a much nicer way of putting it
than I sometimes have heard. I pulled into the small town cemetery
on the very edge of my hometown. Like a lot of you, I didn’t
need to search for the right place to stand, my eyes had been focused on
the two graves in the cemetery where my parents both have been laid to
rest since before I turned into the cemetery entrance.
was 10 o’clock on a Monday morning so, of course, I was the only live
person there. It felt like I was out in the middle of nowhere. After a
week of traveling and with a whole day of driving ahead of me, I stood
there and just breathed. This is, of course, how most of us would
prefer this kind of visit, especially this close to Mother’s Day.
There is something about being alone in a place like this that helps you
be less distracted, more present to the moment, more able to be with the
one you have come to visit. You soak it up.
all the holidays that our culture, the greeting card companies or
restaurant businesses have created, Mother’s Day or what we have
expanded at church to call “The Festival of the Christian Home,” has
taken root, has taken something like a hold within many, if not most, of
us. Perhaps not all of us come at it from the same way. Some
of us are making sure we’ve called mom, we are going to see mom, have
gotten mom a present, or have made sure someone who isn’t a mom has
been noticed for the wonderful woman she is. Or maybe we made sure
that the mother of our children, who are at an age of forgetting or
ignoring Mother’s Day, at least has some flowers from somebody.
This holiday has taken root and helped us all to pause and consider how
it is not only that all of us have a mother, but that each and every one
of us needs someone in our lives who can nurture and accept us as loving
wondering today if, perhaps, it is this sense of nurturing and
acceptance that Jesus is talking about when he invites all of us to
“abide with him.” Abide is a word that can be used in
many ways, but here, in this conversation, Jesus seems to be inviting us
to live in, to live out of what it is like to be empowered by the
supportive nurturing, the unwavering acceptance of a loving parent.
was fortunate to have a loving mother. Now don’t get me wrong, I
didn’t always see it that way, and my mother certainly had her
challenges in life. But as you are standing in the rain, visiting
your mother like I was visiting my mother last week you don’t think
about all the questionable things. And I have to think, that’s
OK. There are enough therapy sessions, midnight memories and other times
to put your life in a realistic perspective. Days like my day last
week and days like today are about soaking up, soaking in a presence,
soaking in a meaning, perhaps even a missing part of yourself like the
rain was beginning to soak me.
Troger, writing about this gospel story says, “The words that you hear
in one time and place can have an entirely different impact on you if
you hear them in another time and place.” “How are you doing?” can
mean one thing in a casual phone conversation and something completely
different in an emergency room.
says, “Meaning shifts with setting.” So when Jesus says these words
to his disciples, they mean something different than when the community
for whom they were written some two generations later first heard them.
This meaning is also different from what these words might mean to us.
the Bible this is Jesus’ last conversation with the disciples. Here
“abide with me” would be a reminder that even though things were
about to unravel and change drastically, the disciples would be all
right. Jesus is assuring them that they had already been ushered into a
divine purpose. The disciples were already “abiding,” living
in a new life, a life of God with them. For the followers, who
would have been the first to read these words a generation or two later,
abide in me was comfort in the midst of persecution. For us who
live in a culture in which our individual needs, wants and whims are
celebrated, perhaps it is a call back to God’s initiative in our
lives. For us “abide with me” reminds us that we
can’t do it all, we are not always in control, we are, despite our
attempts at independence, connected forever to the divine love of God.
was standing there by my mom’s grave soaking up the moment when
something that she once said came from out of nowhere into my attention.
And it was more than just a memory, although it certainly came with a
clarity that only memory can provide. What came to me was an
experience of being with, of abiding in something of my mother’s love.
I experienced standing there was the little performance we used to do,
back and forth, at the times when I was saying goodbye after having been
home from college, seminary or Minnesota for visits. To understand this,
I need to tell you that my mom was, well, she was a worry wart. I
was in my late 20’s before I realized that the “nerve medicine”
she took was probably some early anti anxiety or anti-depressant.
How could a woman who at 35 with five children, who had experienced the
disability of her husband that changed those seven lives forever, not be
a bit anxious and sometimes depressed. I never have held that
against her. I think it’s why I believe so much in recognizing
and finding ways to help those of us who are anxious, depressed, and
maybe even worry warts.
anyway, my mom was a worry wart, and, like me, she could not hide her
emotions very well. Recently I was talking about this with someone, and
they said, “Oh so you mean you wear your emotions on your sleeve.”
I said, I guess you could say that, that’s the positive way of saying
it anyway.” And then I said, “What it really means is that I can’t
play poker. Even when I’m trying not to, I can’t hide what my face
is saying.” For my mom, it wasn’t so much that her emotions were
always out there for display, it’s that she also couldn’t hide them
even when she was trying. I’d like to say I loved that about
her, but to do that I’d have to say I like it about myself, and I’m
not so sure about that. What I loved about this in my mom, though,
is that she did not use this as an excuse to keep herself from me.
She did not try to hide herself from me by allowing her emotions to come
out sideways in anger or another self protecting way. My mother
took the chance of showing more of herself than she might have liked in
order to love me. My mom did not allow what we might think of as an
illness to prevent her from reaching out to my life, from being a part
of my life. Worry wart, anti-depressants and all, she was my mom.
back to the experience; when I was ready to leave, I’d be standing by
the backdoor of the house, bags packed, CARE package in the trunk, or
wife in the front seat, or kids in the back of the van. My mom
would come up and give me this hug and smile and then say, “Now Danny,
you be good.” She couldn’t hide the pride she had in me.
I can’t overstate what it meant for my mother to have a son who was
her “preacher.” But I was, after all, also her son, and she knew I
was far from able to “be good.” So I’d give her a hug back,
pull back at arm’s length, the way many of us do, and said, “Will
you settle for careful?”
was a ritual, I guess, that abides within me because that scene I lived
through so many times – her saying, “Danny, you be good,” followed
by my “Will you settle for careful?” – seemed to arise and hover
in the space between my rain soaked body and her grass stained
gravestone. And it’s not the reality of her death or the
memory of her life that I’m talking about, but instead it is the
sanctity of that moment. You see the mysterious nature of what
always occurred in the moment, when those two lines were spoken when she
was alive, also occurred again last Monday.
“meaning shifts with setting,” then my old joke took on new meaning
last Monday morning. Love, admiration, and need were transformed from
the old and familiar love of a mother to the new and mysterious
acceptance of myself. In her absence I have recognized the need,
and try to be good to others and myself. I’ve been careful with life.
My admiration and respect for my mother has been allowed to deepen as
forgiveness and perspective emerge. And out of that has grown a
tolerance and respect for others and myself, people like my mom and me.
But most importantly, the love, at least the love I have for my mother,
not just for the love she showered over her preacher, but also the love
that I know now kept her going, kept her determined to raise her family,
gave her courage and as much hope as a worry wart could muster; that
love abides, endures, and survives.
Today when Jesus says, “Abide with me,” he is reminding us that we can’t do it all, don’t have to do it all, we are not always in control, we are, despite our attempts at independence, connected forever to the divine love of God that like the best of mothers, both reminds us to, “Be good” and then smiles and understands when we respond, “Will you settle for careful?”
Weekly Sermons from Dan – May 20, 2012
“Always Blessing, Always Blessed”
Confirmation Sunday/ Ascension Sunday
1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53
I want to spend some time talking with these young men and women, and I
invite you to listen in.
can’t help but smile as I think about all the wonderful things that I
have learned throughout Confirmation (this experience)…I know no
matter what else is going on in my life, I can leave Confirmation with a
smile on my face and a greater understanding of God.” Can
you believe I wrote that? Well, I didn’t – Maddie did, and, for me,
it is an encouraging, inspiring reflection about our year together.
you ever caught yourself, like the disciples at the end of this story in
the gospel, staring up into the sky? Maybe, for you, it was
looking into a lake up north, or daydreaming just before you got out of
bed to begin your day. Have you ever been lifted up, held up, or
inspired by someone? Have you ever, in middle of a conversation or a
movie, glanced down into your soul and sensed that something different,
something from a different place, or maybe even a different time had
been blown into your life and had been planted there, and you knew it
would stick there for the rest your life.
is what I hope has happened for all of you during this year. I hope that
in something we did, in something I said, something you saw in a Rob
Bell movie or something you experienced as we packed food at Feed My
Starving Children or served food at Simpson Shelter, or maybe it is
happening today; I hope you were inspired.
in her Confirmation essay, shared an experience of one night at
Confirmation when I asked you to choose an object to reflect on and I
rang my bowl bell. Do you remember that night? She chose a simple
piece of purple velvet cloth. But out of a simple time came an
inspiring experience. She wrote: “He (that’s me) struck
the bowl with a wooden dowel. When he did, I felt the Holy Spirit
in the room. I closed my eyes and focused on the ringing sound
coming from the bowl. The sound made me feel calm and centered. I
couldn’t get the spiritual vibration out of my head. …I will never
forget that sound or the spiritual feeling it gave me. It was
truly an incredible night.”
I was sitting at my desk, staring at the wind blowing the leaves of a
tree outside my home’s office window. I was searching for something
like that feeling of M.E.’s to speak to you from today. But no matter
how you try, you cannot fake inspiration, because inspiration is a
something that comes from beyond you. Inspiration is a breath of
different air that your very soul breathes in, and you are left staring
into space, looking into the bottom of that lake or not knowing if you
are in the moment, still sleeping or awake to the day ahead of you.
So there I was staring at the wind blowing the new leaves of an old oak tree, when I started to reread the faith statements I had asked you to write. There is such power in all of your writings and in the conversations about them that I have had with all of you. There are questions, longings, desires and moments of inspiration. The one that got my attention first came from Sophie who wrote, “Christianity is confusing. I have many questions, and I learned over the past months that it is good to question, because that means I am trying to understand. Confirmation was a great experience because I got to meet new people, explore my faith, and ask questions each week.
also got my attention when he said, “Faith, in general, is a
challenging concept.” Like a lot of you, Matt was being very
authentic when he said, “I’m not sure what I believe, but I’m
trying to understand.” You are right, Jon, faith is a
challenge to me. And so are you, Matt, there are times when I’m
not sure what it is that I believe either. And so are you Sophie,
Christianity can be confusing.
we have together tried not so much to figure it all out this year as we
have welcomed the questions. That means we have been faithful.
One of you expressed this in a way we can all understand. “Before
Confirmation, I didn’t know the true meaning of the word faithful.
To be honest, I would have told you before Confirmation, that my golden
retriever was a pretty good definition of the word faithful.”
(I don’t want to embarrass the Peterson’s by saying that it was
Sara.) What she said, a sentence later, could be a summary of our whole
year, “to be faithful, means to have a relationship with God.”
year was about recognizing that you have a relationship with God.
There have been many moments of inspiration this year. And when we
share them, we take the risk of letting others know that we, like the
disciples, have caught ourselves staring into space. It is then
that we are vulnerable. I think sometimes it is that vulnerability that
inspires us, that willingness to risk recognizing that not only do we
not have it all together but also that we are not all there
is in this world. Sara described some moments of inspiration as coming
in friends laughing together or hearing a coyote late at night.
Then she said, “Seeing and hearing such beautiful things, it makes
me believe that I must be a part of something greater than myself.”
of you, I believe, had a similar experience the night we watched the Rob
Bell film, “Lump.” In that film where we talked about our
stuff catching up with us, Rob said, “There is nothing you can do to
make God love you less.” If there is a mantra that has come out
of you sharing about this experience, whether it comes from what Derrick
or Joe or Carly said, this is it. Let’s say it together one more time
as we did the first night we heard it. Remember that
we whispered it softer and softer three times so that both our ears and
our hearts could hear it.
is nothing I can do to make God love me less…..
than a few of you mentioned that what will stick with you is the idea
that Jesus did not call just the “best of the best” to follow him.
Jesus called all of us. Katie was really inspired by this and
said, “ Jesus, the son of God, chose us to carry out his ministry.
To me, that is the single most awe-inspiring thing in the world…. That
means that Jesus loves us and has FAITH IN US.”
does have faith in us; this is what the scripture we read tries to say.
Jesus has enough faith in us to leave us, and to be present to us in
less than obvious physical ways. If inspiration is about
recognizing that Jesus has faith in us, it is also accepting the
responsibility of sharing that news with others in our own special and
of the ways that we discussed what Jesus having faith in us calls out in
us was the night we became the body of Christ. Lexi does a great job of
telling the story. “This year we did an activity where each of us
was a part of the body of Christ: legs, hands, mouth, brains, and even
hair. I found myself in the center of the body, right where the
heart is. I found that place very fitting to me. I’ve
always been an empathetic person, I always want to make friends, and I
like to be close to others’ hearts. During that activity, I
found that, like God, I am a heart. He shines through my heart,
and I know, with all of my soul, that my heart is where he resides in
also understands and writes, “This is, to me, what Christianity is
about. Loving and supporting others to become the best that they
can be and helping them just get through the day and know that there is
someone that they can trust and rely on.” I know you will do
that Nicole, and we can all do that, all of us. As a group we did this
in our service projects, Feed My Starving Children and serving at
Simpson Shelter. There, a lot of us learned what Jane expressed, “When
you could actually talk to the people and see how thankful they were,
then you know you are doing a good deed. It opened my eyes to see how
homeless people are just like us.”
you are ready or not, you do have a relationship with God.” That
relationship continues today as you become a part of this community of
faith we call EPUMC. Jessica is very excited about this and said,
“I will finally become an official member of the church which I
have attended since Kindergarten, the church which I identify myself
with.” I hope that sense of belonging that she is expressing
is what others of you are feeling.
I know, helps a lot of us when he writes about the openness of our
church, “…. one of the reasons why I like this church is because
the people here aren’t pushy about Christianity, but if you want to
learn or participate in it you could ask anyone and they would help
you…. Just because your church isn’t the size of a grocery story
doesn’t make it better.”
of you make us a better place for others to experience the openness, the
intimacy, the relationship with God that you and so many people are
think this desire to help others find a place where they can be more
comfortable in their relationship with God is what we are called to do.
This is what Eric was remembering when he wrote. “I remember
in Rob Bell’s ‘Rain’, he is taking his one year-old son on a walk
in the woods. During the walk, it starts raining, and the son is scared.
The baby boy gets soaked, and he feels more and more afraid, alone and
confused. The dad reminds us, his son’s perspective, his son’s
reality is the storm, it is all the boy can see, and all he knows (is
the storm). The dad says that what his son doesn’t know is that
“[he, the dad] would do anything to protect him” The dad then takes
the baby boy out of the pack and whispers into his ear all of the way
home, “I love you buddy. We’re going to make it. Dad
knows the way home. We’re going to make it. I love you.”
last words are inspiring, “God is with you always
and, even when you feel alone and confused, God is there trying to bring
you home. God knows the way home. You are going to make it. He loves
you.” What better message could we bring to our friends, our
families, our world?
at our last time together, I said that today your confirmation of faith
was not, it is not, and it cannot be a graduation. It is a
transition, yes, a confirmation of an intention in your life, yes, but
it is not an end of anything. This is a moment when, through the power
of the Holy Spirit, we gaze into your eyes and we take in the scene of
all of you before us, and together we are lifted up, held up, even
inspired. We look at you, we look to you and we are heartened to
take courage, we are compelled to hope. We look to you and we see
God’s future alive in our time. We look at you and in you we see the
presence of Christ. We are no longer staring at the sky to be inspired,
we are looking to you, we are looking with you in this moment that is
before us as together as we confirm the faith we share.
Weekly Sermons from Dan – May 27, 2012
“What’s Mine is Yours”
were precious few followers of Jesus left. It has been 50 days, almost
two months, since they last saw him, since they last were filled with
anything that resembled hope. Have you been there, have you been
left hanging by someone you had hoped loved you, a bank deciding to lend
you money, a medical test waiting to come back, the new job you were
hoping for coming through? Maybe that’s how we feel here at
EPUMC, on the verge of hearing our Healthy Church Initiative Report.
Where is it that you have stood around, sat around, stewed about or
worried or wondered what was going to happen, so much that you were
feeling something like the few followers of Jesus that were left, 50
days after he left them?
very few followers of Jesus who were left, were hiding out, they were
holding out, and my guess is that they were just about ready to give
in…. Like those of us who are feeling trapped, held back, held
in behind closed doors, we are worrying about the future. Will our
church survive in this culture? Will our children, who are now
launched out into the world, have a faith? Or maybe as a video
entitled “Pentecost” from “The Working Preacher” website asked,
“Will our faith have children?”
those prized, few followers, we live in a culture that makes us wonder
if what means so much to us will survive even one more generation.
There are so many challenges, a lack of vision, money, divisions, and
arguments. Take a look around you today; we’ve gotten a little
older, it’s summer and the cabin is calling. After a year of
being a part of the Healthy Church Initiative Leadership Team, the one
thing I’ve discovered is that we do not know those who live right
around us very well. People pass by us all the time, on their way to
work in the city hall complex and the buildings just to our north. They
pass by us on the walking trail and as they walk through our parking lot
to get to another trail. They pass by us on their way to the middle
school to drop off their kids. People pass by us in their cars to
get to Mitchell, to get to Hwy 212, or to every other place in the
Cities. And these people are, some of them, very different from us. And
we are here on the inside; waiting, watching, maybe worrying, and maybe
feeling trapped or held back behind our closed doors.
are a little like those wonderful few followers of Jesus that were left;
we don’t really know what to do!!!!!! Maybe like those
wonderful, precious few followers of Jesus, we are wondering just how
long we will have to wait until something like the fullness of life we
have experienced in Jesus will take over and solve our problems of being
on the inside, of waiting for people to come in to check us out, for
them to check in with what we have to offer, or to check faith out.
have something to hear from the scripture today. It is when the
frightened few followers of Jesus that are left, those fathers and
mothers of our faith, are sitting on the inside of things literally
watching the world pass them by, wondering what will happen to them, and
wondering what are they supposed to do- it is then that Pentecost
happens. And what happens at Pentecost? What happens in the wind,
the flames and the tongues is not something that solves the problems the
frightened few followers of Jesus thought they had, it creates a new
problem that this gift of the Holy Spirit creates is that they can’t
stay inside; they have to go outside, beyond their walls, beyond their
doors, beyond the berm in front of them. The Holy Spirit
comes and does what a mighty wind is supposed to do, it inspires. It
breathes a new and a different life into them. It’s not that
they are forced to go out there as if the blast from the wind and fire
propel them out; it’s that they can’t help but go out. They
can’t help themselves. They can’t stay on the inside – they have
to go on the outside.
you remember a time when you could not help but do something? Oh,
I don’t mean you couldn’t help but have another piece of French Silk
pie or the time you couldn’t help yourself and bought that power tool
that was on sale. I mean a time you couldn’t help but be something
like your best self.
is something like I was trying to say in my memo several weeks ago.
I was talking about the server at Original House of Pancakes named
Athena. In my memo I said, “I was reflecting on what good it
does to pray for her and I said, “I don’t mean that I “need” as
in I “should” pray for her; I mean I need to do it as in I
can’t help myself. I want; I have a desire to say that prayer
week as I wrote about this young woman’s injury and lack of medical
care, it happened again. In this past memo, I had written, “What
I’m discovering in my spiritual journey is that this need to pray for
this young woman also leads me, as a part of that prayer, to want to do
something about the broader concerns of our community and this world.
You know maybe when we open ourselves, when we risk having our hearts
broken, when we risk sharing something of ourselves we begin the journey
of faith. Praying for others also will lead us to discover
something more of where God is calling us.”
when we take the risk of following our compulsion, our prompting, our
intuition or whatever else you call it, and we reach out, we also find
something of the solution to our worrying and wondering. The Holy
Spirit comes to us and compels us to change our focus from an inward
one. This focus asks the questions; how we can stay safe and what will
it take to solve our problems? The Holy Spirit compels us to
follow an outward focus. This outward focus frames the questions
that we center our lives on in a different way. It asks: Who is
around us, who is passing us by? What is it that they need, what are their
problems? How can we serve, how can we repair what
is wrong in their lives? How can we love those who are passing
us by as much as we love each other?
in a word, is Pentecost. It is this outward focus breaking in on our
inward world. In the Bible, Acts is the second volume of the
gospel of Luke. At the end of Luke’s gospel, Jesus promised to
share with his followers what they will need. Something he possesses
will be distributed among them. The story of Pentecost is what
that is and when it happens. You see, Luke believes that Jesus did
not come to fix our problems. Jesus came to share the essence of God
with us, everything he had. Jesus came to help us to recognize and
claim that God has provided us with the courage, the hope, the love. And
like Jesus, we have a life worth sharing and a story worth telling.
love the end of the video. It says in plain words on a screen; our
Problem is that we have a story to tell and we can’t help but tell it.
is the story of God’s power in your life that you simply can’t help
telling? Is it the time when you were desperate for food to feed
your family and someone told you about a place like PROP? And how,
after you were back on your feet, you were suddenly able to always
remember to shop for PROP the first Sunday of the month. There are
people telling that story. Or maybe it is the darkness of
depression that surrounded you that in some ways can still cover you for
days like a blanket. But somehow, somehow it has not always held
you back, and you are able to sometimes just to say out loud to someone
who has ears that are listening that you have struggled, are struggling
with depression too.
maybe you cannot help but create something beautiful in your flower
garden. Maybe it is the song you sing, the wood you carve or the rock
you grind for others to hear and hold and smell.
power of this day is recognizing that you do have a story of God in your
life. Your story is worth telling because, just as God shared this
life in Jesus, God shares a life in you. Your story is worth
telling in whatever way you do it. Your story is worth telling,
and, here is the kicker, it doesn’t matter how responsive or reactive
you are, it doesn’t matter how quiet or loud you are, it doesn’t
matter if you are a people person or a detail person, a liberal person
or a conservative person.
You are visitor number
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