Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Sun Returns

Grace and greetings.

The sun has returned indeed. Each day we gain something like 9 minutes of sun light. Of course with the sun, came the Arctic cold and wind. As I have commented before, it is not necessarily the cold in the Arctic, but the wind. A gentle breeze of 15 miles an hour can drop a cold 25 below to a very dangerous 50 below, just as it is this afternoon.

I have been waiting to write after I went out to get a picture of the sun, of course the last several days, I saw spectacular suns through the afternoon low clouds, only to be standing there without the camera. So this afternoon, I drove around for a little bit with the camera to get some pictures.

Tomorrow, of course, is the Super Bowl, the Pittsburgh Steelers verses the Arizona Cardinals. Though the game is in Tampa, Florida, which gives the Cardinals a chance, it is the defense of the Steelers that will probably carry the day. Even so, I will be pulling for the Cardinals, whether I am able to watch the game or not.

Hope you are all safe and warm. Enjoy the game if you care.

Peace and blessings.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sunday Evening Meditation

Grace and greetings.

Here is my meditation from this evening's service, titled: Live As If There Is No Tomorrow

I Corinthians 7.29-31

As we read of Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians to live as if Christ was returning the very next day, if not that very evening. He writes that people should remain in singleness to better serve God in these last remaining days. If people are married, they should devote their time to serving God rather than worry about what is happening in the pettiness of family life. For Paul, Jesus’ return was to happen at any moment. After two thousand years, we still wait, we marry, we live our lives, and go on with the day to day busyness that fills us with our time. Do we live with the expectance and urgency that Paul lived with? Should we? Or should we just write this off as one of the things Paul got wrong.

But let us look at this in a different light, what if Paul got it right; not with the expectation that he was looking for, but rather with fulfilling the word of God. For shortly after Paul’s own death, the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed again; Rome itself was starting to fall apart; and life of the typical person who lived in these areas and times would be forever changed.

As we continue to live our lives out in faith, we need to hold in tension the reality of Jesus’ imminent return and the fact that two thousand years has passed since Paul wrote these words. Following the death of particular people of faith, it is said that the “end of time” is near; and it is. The day of Christ’s return and the day of our judgment are only a few hours away. Just as we do not know the day or time of Christ’s return, we do not know the day or time that our lives here on earth will end and we will be called to account for our lives.
There are groups that will gather waiting for the return of Jesus and then are laughed at when Jesus does not return at the time or place that they expected. Then there are the many other people who live out their lives in faith, but do not give a second thought that Christ may return at any moment; after all, it has been two thousand years since Christ ascended, why should things change now.

We can take Paul’s urgency and hold it out to others, as well as to ourselves, remembering that Christ’s return will happen, but we do not know the day or time. We continue to live our lives in faith we will be able to see where God has already entered the world and bringing about God’s realm and making it a reality.

We do not know the day or time, but Christ will return. Are we ready?
Peace and blessings.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Day Observed

Grace and greetings.

The picture on the left is looking down the runway from the Arctic Ocean, back towards town. Again this was taken about 2 PM Friday afternoon, before the sun officially crosses the horizon, giving us more light each day.

Yesterday was, of course, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day observed. When I started to compose this blog, it was still Monday; now it is Tuesday morning, a day that many people are celebrating thinking that Obama is the answer to King's vision and dream; but it is just a start, and it is still forty years in the making. Not only did King have a dream about equality for all people, but he also spoke out for equal education which is still a major issue throughout the United States.

Another stance that upset the establishment was that he was against war, speaking out against the United States thinking that they can just show up with their military and expect everybody else to live and think and we do; speaking out against the idea that our form of Democracy and capitalism works and fits all situations. I am not always sure it works here all that well.

The last major portion of Martin Luther King, Jr's, and eventually placed him for his death, was speaking out and protesting against poverty. Poverty is still a root problem not only here in the North Slope, or in the United States, but throughout the world, where ever we have upper-class systems that keep all others down. Poverty is tied into all the aspects of King's visions and dreams, it is the starting point of segregation, of not treating each other as Children of God. Poverty is the reason that many school districts can not afford the appropriate funds to properly teach and prepare our youth for the future. Poverty is the reason war can happen, sending the not so rich into battle while the rich can sit on the side line and watch. Poverty is spoken through out the prophets of the Bible, including the prophets of our own time, whether we chose to listen or not.

While the election of Obama is a major step in the correct direction, we still have a long way to go before we truly hear King's dream of claiming to be the Children of God that we are and finally coming together stating, "Free at last, Free at last. Thank God Almighty we are all free at last."

Peace and blessings.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Sun is Coming

Grace and Greetings.

Yesterday I went around this part of town to take some pictures to share on my blog. Here is a picture of some snowmobilers out of the ice returning back to Barrow. I took the pictures between 2 and 2:30 PM while we had some light, but no sun yet, though it is coming. The sun should break over the horizon sometime this coming week.

The weather has been strange in Alaska, (as well as all over the country) the last couple of weeks. A couple of weeks ago, we were twenty degrees below zero, but for the last couple of days we have been in the single digits ABOVE zero. Of course the wind is strong enough to keep the combined at negative temperatures. Anchorage went from -20, which is not unheard of, but unusually cold, to 50 degrees above yesterday. They have lost the two feet of snow they had in a matter of a day and half. Unfortunately, the sewers were still all frozen, so the water had no where to go, but above land and flood portions of Anchorage.

At right is another picture of the Arctic Ocean looking towards the horizon where the sun will be coming in the next week.

Peace and blessings.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Dr. Who???

Grace and greetings.

Though nobody has asked, I thought I would explain about Dr. Who. (See my blog of "Starting Anew, Again") While I was trying to find an appropriate picture in our very limited library, I came across this picture Sam took of his eye, and in a way, Dr. Who is the one who keeps "his eye" on us.

Dr. Who started out as a children's Sci-Fi show in Britain in the 60's that came over to the United States sometime in the '70's and has taken on a life of its own. Of the ten different actors that have portrayed the title role, Tom Baker is probably the most well known in the United States, playing the Doctor in the late 70's and early 80's.

The Doctor is an alien from a race of "Time Lord's", that make sure everything is kept safe from all the monsters and others who wish to take over the different worlds or affect the time of different worlds. Of course, throughout the thirty years or so, the majority of the Doctors spend their time on Earth. They each end up with "companions" that journey with them throughout their adventures. The Doctors have the ability to "regenerate" rather than die; this gives the series the ability to change the lead from time to time. Of course, as each Doctor takes his place, they all play the character a little differently, because the character is now different.

In 2004 Dr. Who came alive again, at least in the United States, and the latest Doctor, David Tennant has decided to hang up his doctor's coat, passing on the mantle to another Doctor to start filming in 2010, if it is picked up by the appropriate people who make such things happen. David Tennant has been the Doctor for the last three years, and is ready to move on. He (the actor) wanted to do Hamlet on stag, but they would not allow him out of his contract, so before he gets too identified with the Doctor, he is stepping aside. If history has anything to say about it, those who have played the Doctor the longest, like Tom Baker, get stuck as the Doctor, long after they have left the show; so David Tennant getting out while he can.

If you are interested in checking out the Doctor, the best place to start is with BBC Video. It is a great show with very loyal fans.

Peace and blessings.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sunday Night Freeze

Grace and Greetings.

Though the picture on the left was taken last May, the cold is settling in around us now. As I wrote yesterday, the Interior gets colder extremes than we do here in Barrow. Tonight, the air temperature is around -40 and the wind chill is around -55. But last week in Tok, Alaska, the thermometer hit -80 degrees. Now that is cold.

Here is my offering for Sunday Night's Service, it is titled, "Baptized in the Spirit", based on Mark 1.4-11

This weekend is the Baptism of the Lord Sunday. It is a day that we remember the importance of baptism in the life of the Christian. As we heard in the Gospel reading tonight, Jesus started off his ministry by being baptized by John the Baptist, and then going out into the wilderness. During the baptism, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus, as a dove. Doves have been God’s messengers from the beginning of time, Noah sent out a dove to find dry land following the flood.

Think back to your own baptism if possible. There are some here who probably were baptized as an older child or adult and can remember; others of us were baptized as infants or small children and cannot remember. If you cannot remember, try to remember of the last time you were present at a baptism, whether it was last month here, or maybe some other place. Baptisms are always public events, it is something that the community of the church comes together to celebrate. It is a time to witness vows, to renew vows and a time to celebrate that we have responded to God’s call to be a part of the family of God.

But baptism is not just the start of our journey with God, it is also a time we receive the Spirit of God. As small children we do not remember or felt anything other than the water upon the head. As older children or adults, we may feel good inside, but not sure exactly why. For most, the feeling is probably forgotten by dinner time; but the Spirit of God continues to work in us, through us and for us whether we are conscience of anything happening on our behalf or not.

Imagine yourselves coming out of the River Jordan, and the Spirit of God descending on you, blessing you and calling you beloved. I challenge you to be aware of God’s Spirit filling you this week. Be attentive to the movements of your spiritual lives. In your daily prayers, ask God to show you the power of the Spirit that lives in you; to give you the wakefulness of God’s grace and blessings. Pray that the Spirit use you to bring about God’s realm here on Earth as well as in Heaven. Pray that the Spirit flow through our church and community, restoring lost lives; healing old wounds; guiding us into the reality that we may show others, God is indeed alive not only in Barrow, Alaska, but wherever God’s creation is found.

Know that in our baptisms, God’s promises to be with us always. We make vows to raise our children, ourselves and each other in Christian understanding and teachings. God’s Spirit descends upon us, feel the Spirit using you in every situation you find your selves in. Just as Jesus rose out of the water, hear these words for you as well, “You are my Beloved, with you I am well pleased.”

Peace and blessings.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Starting anew, again

Grace and greetings.

It is a new year, but just as things continue to change, they remain the same.

I had my annual physical a couple of days ago. I am getting to the point in life where the doctors like to start prodding and probing in places where they have not gone before, at least concerning me. Of course, we do live in Barrow, Alaska, and the medical world is not the same as in other places. What is considered normal procedures in most places are not always available here. Doctors come up from Anchorage to perform procedures, but for once, I am in the minority. Most of the procedures that are performed here are for the Native Inupiats, and all others need to go down to Anchorage. So modern medicine will have to wait for me. In the meantime, as far as the doctors can prod and test, I am alive and doing well, thank you.

The twilight is growing longer now, as we look forward to the returning of the Sun. Still, it is cold here, -25 but with wind chill at -45. Though as cold it is here on the Arctic coast, the inland parts of Alaska, Fairbanks and surrounding areas, get the extreme temperatures. They will have the colder air temperature, but we get to include the wind chill. Of course we have the colder parts about six weeks before and six weeks longer than the interior.

As things start out new again, they continue to remain the same. I officiated my first Witness to the Resurrection this afternoon, for another still born. My prayer is that we do not have to experience as much death and loss as last year.

Well, Kim received her Christmas a little late, all four seasons of the new "Doctor Who". So she has been going through the DVD's one by one...four seasons....times five or six disks...times three or four hours a disk...comes up with a little bit of time. Right now she is up to the middle of the Second season...we will see if she has the dedication to watch every hour for the next several weeks. But this is a woman who would read the entire "Lord of the Rings" every year for twenty years, so I think she is up to the challenge. Good thing Sam nor I wanted to watch anything else for a while. (Of course, as Kim sits and watches, I write with a wink and a smile).

Peace and blessings.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A Mid Week Pause

Grace and greetings.

Yesterday ended up being a day of rest for me. After all the services for the last several weeks, Sam returning from Anchorage Monday night, along with the normal stressors of life; Monday night I went to bed at 9:00 PM and did not wake up until 3:00 PM Tuesday afternoon. To tell the truth, I think I could use a few more sleep times like that.

In the picture, it is the covering that is on the altar. Of course, in Reformed Theology, we do not have altars, we have communion tables. Here, we have both. But the cover is hand made of calf's skin, along with a fur lining. It is one of those things that have been around so long, that nobody really remembers who made it or when. The offering "cans" covering was made at the same time, or shortly there after, and we use them at every service that an offering is collected. Of course, the picture and my description do not do the cover justice, it is a true treasure of this church, and I wonder at its glory everytime I gaze upon.

Peace and blessings.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

In the Flesh

Grace and greetings.

Here is my meditation from this evening's service. If you have not had the chance to read, "The Boy in Striped Pajamas" by John Boyne, please do so. I read it in its entirity in two sittings, so I am sure most people can read it just as quickly if not faster. For those who do not want to read the book and wait for the movie, it is suppose to be out in theaters, if not now, very soon.

In the Flesh, John 1.1-18

We are reading the book, “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” by John Boyne for the book club that meets at the Tizzy Library the last Friday of each month. It is a story about two nine year old boys on both sides of a fence, and they become friends by sitting and talking with each other. The two boys come from different worlds; one, Bruno, from Berlin, Germany and the other, Shmuel, from Poland. Bruno is a naive boy whose father is the commandant of the camp that he cannot correctly pronounce, so he ends up calling it Out-With; Shmuel’s family live inside the camp. They find out that they share a birthday, even though they are forever separated by the fence. As the two boys sit opposite each other throughout the year, Bruno cannot imagine the camp as Shmuel is describing it; after all, his father is in charge of everybody there. As luck would have it, both boys are given the opportunity to see how the other lives. Bruno, who wants to be an explorer when he grows up, agrees to explore the camp and help Shmuel find his lost father the day before Bruno moves back to Berlin. During the exploration, the boys make discoveries that frighten both of them, but they hold onto each other, hand in hand, to the end of the adventure.

Bruno and Shmuel, though the society at the time was telling them that they are mortal enemies, become friends to the end. They end up hand in hand during the times that seemed the darkest for them. That is what Christ is for us, somebody who will walk with us during our darkest times, our brightest of times, the times inbetween and hold on to us, even during the times we cannot feel Christ there.

God and Creation, mainly humanity, are like the two boys. They sit opposite each other at a fence, and talk with each other, but are not allowed to be on the same side at the same time. Humanity is na├»ve about God’s world, much as Bruno is about Shmuel’s world. In order to close that gap that separates us from God, God sent us Jesus. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through The Word, and without The Word not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (Verses 1-5) “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” (Verse 14).

In order for God to fully understand us and to give us a chance to understand God, Jesus came. Jesus came to hold us and to show us the Light that shines in our darkness, and our darkness cannot overcome the light. Jesus came, full of grace and truth, that we might receive from his fullness, all of us, all of Creation, grace upon grace. Jesus came and became flesh just as we are flesh.

Jesus came…

Peace and Blessings.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Another year has passed

Grace and greetings.

Here it is 2009 already. New Year's eve I spend over at the church. We had a Wednesday Night Service, and then a Watch Night service at 11:00 PM. The Watch Night service is a time to admit our wrongs over the past year and then renew our covenant with God for the coming New Year.

The picture is taken out the window of our dinning room, across the lagoon looking towards the Post Office. At midnight on New Year's Day the community enjoys a firework display, shot off from the middle of the lagoon. Of course, this gives us a perfect place to watch the fireworks safely from the comfort of our warm home.

With Sam in Anchorage for the week, things are fairly quiet in the house, as Kim and I slept most of yesterday, getting up in time for the Rose Bowl. Having grown up in Southern California, it is a tradition that I have a hard time giving up. Of course anytime that USC marches on to victory is always helpful. Now we only need to get Wisconsin back in the Rose Bowl so I can root for a Big Ten school.

I pray all had a safe and wonderful New Year's Day.

Peace and blessings.