Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Walk on the Beach

Grace and greetings.

Yesterday, I went for a walk on the beach. To get down from the retreat center to the beach I had to take a set of stairs that I was told that was equal to a ten story building. Once I got down to the beach, I saw things that I have not seen in a while, sea weed, algae, sand dollars, shells and more algae, and more drift wood. Along the way I found a carving in the sand wall. I was first attracted to the shell below the carving, then I found the carving. As I walked along the beach on Puget Sound, I found a few other carvings as well.

After about an hour and a half of walking, I realized that I did not put on any of the sun block that I purchased on Sunday for just this occasion, oh well. By the time I got back to the retreat center, my arms were a little pink. It was not until over night that the slight burn on my arms and parts of my legs showed up. After all the time out, I was very luck that it was a very mild sun burn, it could have been a lot worse.

We have three more days here, then Kim and Sam will join me from Barrow and we will head to Portland to spend the July 4th weekend with my brother and his family.

Peace and blessings.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Monday in Seattle

Grace and greetings.

I have made it to Seattle for a conference on Preaching. Like the picture here on the left, I will be looking backwards in this blog. I took the picture while waiting for Samuel to get out of his driving class out at the college. While sitting there, I noticed the telephone poles in the mirror and just liked the way they lined up, one can tell that they go on into the distance, but able to see each pole by itself.

The past week was long; I was trying to get things tied up so I could leave, but also dealt with other matters that drains the person mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. But I also was able to play volleyball again; that by it self can restore my soul. It felt good to be on the court, and not having my knees hurt. I think it goes back to earlier in the year when the doctor injected my knees with steroids and a pain killer, as well as taking glucosamine/chondroitin. I had tried the glucosamine before, but I guess I did not take it long enough, or I did not give it time to work with my body. This time I had been on the glucosamine for about a month before I started to play volleyball.

I had not been able to load my pictures from the camera to the computer, so I had to wait until I got a new cord in Seattle. I ended up buying a card reader, but it would not read the card. Then, while looking around on my computer, I found a SD slot for the card, and it loaded right up. Here all this time I was waiting for something so I could share my pictures, and I had it with me all the time. The same can be said about our relationship with God and each other, sometimes we feel that we need to do something, or be about something, instead of just letting God do the work with us and it happens.

Well, it is a fantastic afternoon here in the Seattle area, so I am going to go out and enjoy the trees, as well as the rest of the area.

Peace and blessings.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day

Grace and greetings.

Following this morning's service, I had the opportunity to speak with my father, wishing him a "Happy Father's Day." He said they got up and went to church, then out to eat with some friends, enjoying their day. They had arrived shortly before I had called, and being true to my father, he was starting the grill for some chicken.

Here, we had lightly blowing snow, but now it is sunny. Though today is also the Summer Solstice, we are not really affected here as else where, for the sun does not set until August.

Anyway, I got a chance to relax in between services to watch the Angels-Dodgers game, only to get frustrated when the Angels blew both of their chances with the bases loaded and gave the game away. At least Matt Kemp scored the first two runs for the Dodgers. From what I understand from old classmates from Edison High School in Huntington Beach, that is where Matt went to school; not the same years of course...

I am not sure why I am also putting in my message from tonight's service, I feel burned out and tired, and this just seemed flat, maybe it will do something for somebody out there. Then again, it could just be a lousy sermon.

2 Corinthians 6.1-13

In the lectionary reading this evening, we pick up a few verses where we left off last week. Paul is still trying to get through to the Corinthians with whom he has had an up and down relationship with throughout the time since Paul helped start the Christian Church in Corinth. In reading of the two letters that we still have in existence, we realize that there are references to other letters that Paul wrote to the church, trying to heal the factions within the congregation.

Paul writes to the church on behalf of the other workers, stating they are “Ambassadors for Christ” coming to them with authority. But he also asserts that as we are all in Christ, we are ALL NEW CREATIONS; we are all made new. Within the newness of Christ, we should be able to put aside our differences and come together and sisters and brothers in Christ. Paul requests that they do not take God’s grace in vain; for God’s time will be when it happens, and it God’s time is now.

Paul appeals to the group in Corinth to trust in the message that Paul and the others working with Paul bring to the people. Paul writes of his troubles that he has experienced, in Corinth and throughout his ministry. Paul tells of his pain, his loss, and his love for the people of Corinth. Therein lays the message of Christ that is so often lost in the world of riches and might. So often in the world, we look to superior military might; we look at the riches of a person or nation. But Christ came with his strength in his weakness, by going to the cross. Paul too expresses his weakness means strength in Christ. The message is not as the world gives, but as Christ gives to us. As we empty ourselves, we find God.

All too often, we end up in arguments in the church. Sometimes those arguments can be summed up with the quote: “The reason that fights in churches get so vicious is that the stakes are so low.” We find ways to divide ourselves over petty differences. We get into arguments over the color of the carpet; over who is doing what for which committee; who got snubbed at the nominating committee; whether a picture or flags belong here or there. The arguments are not over salvation or how to fully use our gifts for the betterment of the Realm of God.

It is this type of arguing, over the pettiness of the church, that Paul is writing to the people of Corinth and to the people of the future church. Paul is telling the people of Corinth, that like any parent of an adult child that is misbehaving, and fighting tooth and nail to prove it; Paul is saying, “We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return—I speak as to children—open wide your hearts also.” (Verses 11-13)

Open wide your hearts to God, and as we open them wide to God, we will be opening them to each other as well.

Peace and blessings.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Rotarian Again

Grace and greetings.

Tonight I joined the Rotary Club again. I was a member when we lived in Columbus, Ohio. Sam was born while I was a member, and for the first year of his life, I could swear that he had a better attendance record than several members; the same could be said of Presbytery meetings at the time. Now I am a member of the furthest northern club, (any real surprise there?)

After the meeting, Kim and I drove around a little so Kim could have some time out of the house. As we were driving, out of the ice we could see lone seals here and there. This was the first time that I have seen a wild live seal up here, cool.

We are also trying to get the church ready to paint, though the weather has been some what dry, it still has been pretty cool, high 20's to high 30's, but the wind chill around 25. Hopefully we can start painting sometime next week.

Right now, other than trying to get Sam to do something other than watch TV or be on the computer without World War Three, life is going along about the same right now. No funerals at the moment, but several weddings scheduled. I get to get off the North Slope next week with a conference in Seattle for a week. Then Kim and Sam will join me in Seattle, and we will have a little more than two weeks in Seattle and Anchorage before coming back to Barrow for two weddings. Good reason to be coming back.

Peace and blessings.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Four Funeral and a Wedding

Grace and greetings.

This past week has been another emotional roller coaster and left me drained. After the funeral on Monday for Martha Marie, the murder victim, another prayer was answered but it meant the passing of another person. Martha Aiken, a pillar in the community and church for many decades entered the Church Triumphant with a smile and tear Tuesday morning. She had been ill for the last several years, and truly missed her husband, Robert, who had passed away several years earlier. Her funeral service was probably the longest that I have attended or officiated, five and a half hours. Her sister, the Reverend Mary Ann Warden, helped officiate the service with me. It was a time of mourning, as well as a time of celebration.

Then yesterday, we had another celebration, a time of joy with a wedding. It was good to have the people gather for a joyous occasion. From last Tuesday to yesterday, that meant four funerals and a Wedding. I kept looking around for Hugh Grant to show up...oh wait a minute; the movie was four WEDDINGS and a funeral.

Here is my message from this evening....

“We are a New Creation”
2 Corinthians 5.6-17

As we hear the words of Paul, we can with confidence come together to become one in Christ. With Paul, we yearn to be with God, but we are still here, alive in this place and time; so even if we are not comfortable, or at home in our own bodies, we live them for God. As we go about the business of our own lives, God will call in account of our lives for what we do with the gifts God has given us; do you use the gifts for good or ill?

Christ is giving us the opportunity to choose which of the many answers we may have in life, to choose to live solely for God. Make all our choices for God, in all that we do. Many of us speak of our faith, our ability to pray and sing for God; and then walk by our sister or brother as if they do not exist. We may continue to see others from a human point of view, and make our judgments on what we see and what we know. We make judgments on where they may or may not go to church; what clothes they wear; where they may or may not work; how they treat their families. If we have Christ in our hearts, we are given the gift to no longer see each other in human terms, but as God sees us. Do we see somebody who is intoxicated or high most of the time? Or do we see the Child of God who hurts so much, that the only way they can deal with the pain is to drink?

Throughout the ages, the people in the church have been called hypocrites, because they are seen professing their faith on Sunday morning, and rejecting the existence of their Christian brothers and sisters week in and week out. Being human, we hold on to grudges; old beliefs; past histories of each other. We are called to view each other as God views us, we are called to forgive and to love so that we may become a new creation in Christ.

But that new creation is not just for us as individuals, it is for us as a society as well. We have experienced death in our own community all too often. We mourn our loss, and look to one another to comfort us. Do we hear the call to life? Do we as a community realize that we are a New Creation, called and loved by God?

God continues to bestow gift after gift upon us, as individuals and as a community. Are we willing and able to recognize those gifts from God? Sometimes we think, God answers the prayers of one that may not favor many. Martha Aiken prayed for the last year or so to be lead home. Many of us, myself included, were not ready for her to leave. But now that she has returned home to God, there are others that will be called to step forward to become the pillar of the community that Martha was for us. Sometimes we follow in somebody else’s shadow or footsteps, never to take on the gifts we are given until that person is no longer with us to rely on. As Jesus was preparing his disciples for his departure, he told them that he had to leave in order for the Holy Spirit to come and guide them. In Martha’s case, she knew her faults and failings, she knew too, that many people placed her on a pedestal; which is the last place she wanted to be. She wanted to live her life for God, using the gifts that God gave her, that she may be a New Creation and help the Inupiat people to be that beloved New Creation as well.

Go and claim your gifts; proclaim the gifts that God has given you, as individuals and as a community. Become that New Creation. Tell all the world, so that all may know; In Christ Jesus, we are a new creation, our old life has passed away, and everything has become new again.

Peace and blessings.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Children of God

Grace and greetings.

The funerals for the young couple that died last week are almost over. Friday, we had the funeral for Scooter, who had done the shooting. Tomorrow we will have the funeral and burial of Martha. I am still not sure what I will be saying tomorrow, but I pray that it fills the need and speaks of God's love for us.

I have included my message from tonight's service. As it deals with adoption and the accidents of birth, one person suggested using parts or all of it tomorrow since Martha was adopted, as many are in the North Slope. We will see if I use it or not. Anyway, here is my message from tonight...

“Children of God”
Romans 8.12-17

This past week as people in the group in the internet were discussing this passage, they we attracted by the phrase, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear but you have received a spirit of adoption.” As they were telling of stories of individuals that had been adopted or knew of somebody adopted, for they did not know too many people around where adoption took place. Then I wrote, explaining my observation here in Barrow, and I am sure that it is true in most of the indigenous cultures, that adoption is a common place event, affecting most of the families here one way or another. Not only that, but with the adoption, the person is part of BOTH families, the birth family and the adopted family. Then another person commented that she experience the same thing with the Inuit people in Northern Canada. There are many things that the dominate culture of the “white European decent” can learn from the Native cultures, particularly when it comes to dealing with extended family.

In the passage from Romans, we hear that by the Spirit, we are adopted into the family of God. I personally have a problem with that statement. The reason I have a problem is that before anything else, there was God. God formed the chaos into Creation and blessed it. God created us in God’s image and blessed us. So even at the very beginning of time or at the time we were in our mother’s wombs, we were already in the image of God, we were already called by God, we were already in the Family of God, and God continues to create and bless.

There are many times that we forget who we are, and become wrapped up into the chaos of the world around us. We lose the voice that speaks to us of God’s love and God’s inheritance. We abuse the gift we have and need to turn again and remember who we are, that we are the Family of God.

A famous preacher, author and retired seminary professor, Fred Craddock tells of a time when he and his wife were eating at the Big Bear Inn in eastern Tennessee. While they were waiting for their meal to arrive, an older man, about 80 sauntered over to their table and said, "Good evening. Y'all on vacation?" "Yes," said the Craddocks. As they talked with the man, the subject of Fred's occupation came up. It's always interesting to see how people will respond when they find out you are a pastor! When the stranger learned that Fred taught at a seminary, he said, "Oh you teach preachers! I have a story about a preacher," and the man pulled up a chair. The old man said, "I was born back in these mountains. My mother was not married, and the reproach that fell on her, fell on me. The children at school had a name for me and it hurt a lot. During recess I would go hide in the weeds until the bell rang. When I went to town with my mother, the men and women would stare at her, and then they would look at me. It was a painful time. I guess I was in 7th or 8th grade when I started to go hear a preacher. In a way he frightened me, and in another way I was attracted. When he spoke, he thundered. I was afraid that people would say 'what's a boy like that doing in church?' so I would go in just in time for the sermon and then I would rush out. One Sunday, however, some women lined up and I wasn't able to get out. I began to sweat and get cold and I wondered, 'Oh no, somebody's going to say to me, what's a boy like you doing in church?'" Just then I felt a hand on my shoulder. I looked out of the corner of my eye and saw the preacher! I thought to myself, 'Oh no, he's going to guess.' The preacher looked straight at me and stared into my face. And then he said, 'Boy, I know who you are and I know who you're father is. You're a child of.... you're a child of.... you're a child of God. I see a striking resemblance!' Then he patted me on the shoulder and said, 'Go claim your inheritance, son.'" At that, the old man got up to leave. Fred Craddock asked, "What's your name, sir?" The old man turned and said, "Ben Hooper." Ben Hooper who had served as Governor of Tennessee for two terms!

We are of two families, one of Spirit and one of Flesh. God created us to be in the world around us, but not to be of the world. Jesus, born of the Spirit and Flesh, showed us how to go about our lives without getting caught up in the world around us. God has bestowed many gifts upon us; though sometimes we luck out with the families that we are born into, we are all of the family of God. Like Ben Hooper, go and claim your inheritance.

Alleluia and Amen.

Peace and blessings.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Thursday Afternoon

Grace and greetings.

I wanted to continue posting pictures for the blog, but something wrong with the cord that transfers the pictures from the camera to the computer; so the pictures may have to wait until after I get outside (off the North Slope-also means outside of the State).

Life is still going on here. Right now we are waiting for the Medical Examiner in Anchorage to release the bodies of the two involved with the murder-suicide. It looks like I will be officiating the funeral for "Scooter" first, maybe tomorrow if his body arrives on tonight's flight. That means Martha Marie's funeral will be either Saturday, Monday or Tuesday. With Martha's funeral, it will mark my 82nd funeral to officiate in the two years that we have been here in Barrow.

At the church, we are trying to get the building ready for the fall Presbytery meeting here in October. The painting season for outside is very limited and short. Right now we are trying to scrape the old paint off, but it starting snowing Saturday afternoon, and I have not tried since due to the rain and work schedule.

Right now, we are trying to get things ready for Kim's Social Security Disability hearing next month. She is very anxious in filling out all the paperwork, but then again, there is a reason we are filling for disability...

Sam finishes up his driving classes tonight; the class only lasted for four weeks, so we will probably wait and give him more driving time before trying for his license.

Peace and blessings.