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Sunday, April 29, 2007

um, so in case anyone hasn't been paying attention, it's really close to May. that means it's really close to my birthday. i have refrained from informing you of how many days left (yep, i started counting in march), so count your blessings.

but in case you're curious, only 19 days left.

i'd be happy to post a wish list, but only if you insist...

Friday, April 27, 2007

Week three of our study of the fruit of the Spirit. The first was love, the second joy and now peace. Truth be told, I don’t feel qualified to speak on any of these topics, but because we as Christians are sort of a work in progress, I will. At some point in my life I’ve made God proud by embodying one or more of these characteristics, and I plod through life the rest of the time making Baby Jesus cry. Or so I’m told.

Peace is a hot topic for our society right now. A majority of people in the United States want peace in the Middle East. They want us out of Iraq and away from Iran. I think most people would admit they want peace in Palestine, peace in Darfur, peace in Tibet, and the list could go on and on.

But there is no peace in the Middle East, there is not even peace between our Congress and our President. The media offers us little hope for peace in warring African countries or even hope for peaceful race relations here in America. Not to mention peace between religions (here or abroad) or even denominations for that matter. And with political issues other than war, we still cannot co-exist peacefully with our differences. Just yesterday here in Austin a bomb was planted in a woman’s health facility where abortions are performed. Thankfully, it was discovered and disarmed before it could usher in more chaos and more violence into our community. Last week I received a text message asking me if I was staying inside. My initial reaction was, hell yeah I’m inside. It’s 7am! I’m inside and in my bed! But as I reached for my computer to figure out what this text message was about, I discovered that 5 miles away from where I live there had been a standoff between police and a man with a 16 year old hostage that was 12 hours running and still counting. They evacuated everyone on the block and moved neighbors to a local grade school where class had been cancelled due to the shootings and housed hostage. Violence, violence everywhere.

And with dismay, I am reminded that peace does not reign triumphant here.

But then I see a child at church share a toy instead of selfishly keeping it for herself, and I am encouraged. I see adults compromise in committee meetings, and set up rules to ensure that everyone is heard and peaceful discussion can take place. I see the sun rise after the rain, I see the budding flowers begin to open despite the frost, and I watched my sunburn go away. Some things naturally heal themselves and peace prevails. I see my cat snuggle next up to my dog and I am reminded that someday the lion will lay down with the lamb, the Sunni will eat with the Shi’ite, the Tutsi and Hutus will live together and the Sudanese people will walk the streets with each other. Someday there will be neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female for we will all be one in Christ Jesus.

We all want peace, but sometimes our selfishness denies peaceful living to others. It is at this point that we beseech the Prince of Peace to help us live out loving our neighbor, peacefully. Peace never means war or hate or dehumanizing others or destroying villages or discrimination. Peace means living contented with our neighbor despite our differences. Perhaps even because of our differences for all good comes from God and it is God who said upon creating humanity, “This, this is very good.”

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But there’s another side of peace too isn’t there? The peace that is within us, not peace that reigns externally between nations or people, but the peace that wants to reign in our hearts. Unrest, insecurity, worry and angst are all indicators that we are not living in peace. When we are at war with ourselves, sometimes this proves to be the most difficult battle to fight. But like every war, we fight for freedom. We want to feel free; we want to be right with ourselves, right with the world, right with God, right with each other. We want peace in our hearts.

One of the first Bible verses I ever memorized was Philippians 4:6. “Don’t worry about anything, instead pray about everything. Tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank him for his answers.” A very nice verse about prayer (which I don’t understand), but which apparently proves an easy enough to summarize in one small verse. I took in the simple words and the seemingly simple theme and tried hard to practice them in my life. When I was in high school however, I was really into memorizing scripture. I would write out whole passages and memorize them. At one point I looked at Philippians 4:6 and for the first time read the verse after it. “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God,” the NRSV reads and then it continues with this, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

That one verse became revolutionary in my life. All of the sudden prayer didn’t just exist to help me get what I wanted in life, rather, it existed to bring my soul peace. So when relationships fail, I pray to be guarded by the peace of Christ. When jobs are lost, my friends are hurting, when fear pulls into the front lines of my heart, I pray for peace. I pray that peace will guard me, protect me, enable me to resist the unrest and carry on in prayer.

I’ll never forget the afternoon of my ordination council meeting. I was running around opening doors, getting water, greeting ordained ministers, worrying about whether I would pass or fail, whether these people would see my faith story or deny my experiences as unworthy for the cloth. I remember dashing from one place to the next in the hallway outside of the office when I ran into Suzii Paynter. “Peace be with you,” she said to me and like a reflex I said to her, “and also with you.” I started to leave and she grabbed me by the shoulders. “Peace be with you.” I smile with guilt recognizing my hastiness and worrisome attitude, said “thank you” to her and again began to leave. But little Suzii Paynter has very strong arms and she held me fast. “Peace be with you she said.” I stared at her, not understanding. “Peace be with you.” I closed my eyes. I felt my shoulders drop, my heart melt and my mind wind slowly down. “Peace be with you,” and in that moment, I felt the peace of Christ come upon me, to guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus. I realized the importance of living in the moment and living in peace. I stopped being a Martha, and began to be a Mary. And the peace of Christ came upon me.

It is hard to find that on our own. It is hard to be at peace with ourselves. I’m always second guessing myself, feeling guilty, worrying about life. It’s hard to live in a way that always eases my mind and my heart with peace assuring me I have made all the right decisions, lived in the right way. Black and white, black and white.

But sometimes the peace of Christ comes when nothing is right, nothing is black and white and we live in a world of greys and grieving and questions and laments. It is in those moments when we feel prayer has failed us, God abandoned us, our friends misunderstood us, and the world hated us that we are called to live with the peace of Christ. Love abounds in the midst of hate. Joy abides in the midst of tragedy and peace presides even when chaos has the upper hand. “And the peace of God which transcends all understanding…” When nothing makes since and we choose to let ourselves be free, free to live with questions and pain, but to live with peace, “the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.”

Peace be with you.

Amen.

Ann Pittman
Beresheth FBC Austin
April 26, 2007

Monday, April 23, 2007

The cats. The dog.

It is raining cats and dog at my house.

So as you know, I adopted a dog that has heartworms. Two months of treatment and several hundred dollars later, she should be well. In the meantime, she's on bed rest. A two-year-old dog on bed rest...riiiight. So at about midnight every night she goes ballistic and begins herding furniture. I kid you not. She discovered the cats wouldn't take to being herded, so she just runs in circles around the furniture in my house. I'm convinced she thinks she's actually getting somewhere.

I discovered that Janie also had giardia, a gross disease that involves loose stool and vomiting. Swell. And humans can get this too. Really great. So the same week she got put on heartworm medication, she was put on anti-giardia medicine.

In the meantime Zorba appeared one morning having lost significant chunks of fur. Now, before you say, "serves little Satan right," keep in mind that I love this cat and I'm asking you to hold your collective tongue. I freaked out about the huge bald spot on his neck and the ones I kept discovering under the long fur of his right side. So I whisked him off to the vet's office. My normal vet wasn't in that day, so Zorba saw another one who told me the cat was fine and I just needed to comb him more. The man charged me $42 and told me to COMB MY CAT. When a strange goo appeared on the bald neck spot the next day, I called and left a message for my cat's personal vet, Dr. B. This time, I went ballistic and sure enough the next day Zorba was back at the vet. Now I love my vet who is very thorough, a friend of a friend, and also Jewish. Love him. He shone the black light over Zorba and mused at the colors that appeared. He listened to his heart, considered the introduction of a dog and stress into the house, and finally decided to put Zorba on allergy medicine since cats between the ages of 3-5 years old sometimes develop allergies. My vet didn't charge me a dime even though that was a prognosis I would have been happy to pay for. Comb my cat. Give me a break.

The next week, Potter came flying through the kitty door so loudly and swiftly one night that out of instinct (or being paranoid even in my subconscious) I woke up. Instantly he was on my bed panting like mad. I tried to check him out for bites or injuries, but he took off to the couch for the rest of the night. The next day he didn't purr once and I finally found an incision on his left side. Wondering how in the world he would incur one incision, I peroxide-ed it and neosporin-ed it and tried not to pet him on that side of his body.

On Easter, I went next door to visit my neighbors Clarence and Tommie. They told me the "craziest story" from the week before. Clarence had started his car and heard a chopping noise. He stopped it and out ran a grey cat with hair flying everywhere. "It hopped over the fence into your backyard," they said, "but it wasn't your cat." Oh but it was. "That cat could have died!" they exclaimed. Thank God he didn't. So I called the vet to inform him Zorba did not have allergies or undue stress, rather that he had lost his hair while napping underneath the hood of my neighbor's car. "Fan-belt kitties," said my vet. "That's what we call those cats."

In the meantime, Janie was still throwing up as was one of the cats now (hard to tell which one since I didn't catch them in the act). And none of them had (as my grandma used to call it) a good BM. So I mentioned this to the vet and we figured one of the cats must have initially had giardia and the dog had given it to herself by eating out of the litter box (ew!) and the damn animals were now just passing it back and forth to each other. So I went and picked up a new prescription for giardia for all three pets who are now finishing up that medication and I took Zorba off the allergy pills.

But I'm not finished yet.

Last night I was petting Potter and discovered a clump of hair all fastened together by goo. With further investigation, I discovered to my horror that I had missed the second incision, which was now oozing yellow mucus! I grabbed the peroxide and used five cotton balls pressing on his skin and wiping up the snot-like substance that just kept coming out. When it was finally all gone, all that remained was a deep red hole. I put Neosporin on it and tried not to think of Staph infection symptoms. I felt horrible and of course called the vet who is probably grimacing now at the sound of my voice on his machine, "Dr. B? It's Ann Pittman again..."

On the other hand, I came home today to two cats laying together asleep on the couch and a dog jumping up and down to greet me. Three times today I had cats snuggling up under my arms purring and cuddling until the dog chased them off with jealousy. On our short walk tonight (Janie isn't allowed long ones yet because of her heart), I met about 8 or twelve children excited about seeing the "snow dog" out and about.

When it rains it pours, but sometimes to our surprise the most effective medicine of all is the one that warms my heart.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

My Meditation for Beresheth tonight coinciding with a prayer vigil for Virginia Tech...

Fruit of the Spirit: Joy. What a difficult topic to discuss this particular week. I’d have been happy to preach on joy last week when the weather was cool, my cacti garden surviving, my house clean, my job easy and my family doing well. And still, this week too is full of joy. My sister got her number one choice for her medical residency in Chicago. She traveled up there after receive not-great-news about being appraised for a loan, but found a delightful condo that she was able to buy for $1 less than her loan amount. A scary but good week for Amy. And I too have had a good week. Amidst an impending end to my grant which sustains my job, I have pressed on through the anxiety of “what will I do next” to enjoy the weather, love my neighbor and do my job.

But these are normal weeks for us, are they not? The good usually accompanies the bad and if we have a godly perspective on life, we can usually find joy amidst both.

But it’s hard to remember joy when great tragedy strikes: when your daughter dies, when your best friend dies, when you watch your classmates shot to death before your eyes while you play dead.

It’s hard to talk about joy when people are suffering to such extent. It makes me feel guilty because I can talk about joy amidst everyday trials, but grief currently consumes their very existence. When tragedy strikes and you are in the midst of it, life moves in slow motion like an old picture reel and you move like a cartoon from one frame to the next. Or it passes by so quickly that you can’t discern one emotion from another and so the world is seen through one pensive, fearful, burrowed brow.

I remember when my good friend died October 30, 2005, that’s how I felt. I couldn’t have preached on the fruit of the spirit or specifically on joy then. Cognitively I could have imagined joy abstractly, but I couldn’t have found joy to save my soul.

But as grief passes, slowly amidst the pain, we find that joy still lingers there under the surface. The surface that has been splattered with blood or a doctor’s diagnosis or lost jobs or lost relationships or a guilty past eventually begins to clear as we talk to our pastor, continue with our work, worship despite the barriers, and begin to be able to see nature again; eventually the surface clears and we discover the source of our joy is still there waiting for us to see her again.

God is joy and God is mysterious. Joy and sorrow often accompany each other as you can tell from the art – much of it named such. They always say, if you didn’t experience darkness, how could you ever appreciate the light? If you never walked through the valleys, how would you understand the mountaintops? And so, “how can you drink a cup of wine unless it has been through the potter’s fire?” asks Kahlil Gibran.

The Fruit of the Spirit is mysterious. The works of the flesh I understand: selfishness, envy, drunkenness, divisions. But joy, love, patience, these things are mysterious. Gifts of God. Given when we trust, risk, let go of ourselves and allow the Spirit that moved (even at creation) into our lives to move in them.

And so, joy remains. Because truly, tragedy surrounds us everyday. Over a hundred people dead in Bagdad this week. Thousands of victims still awaiting relief from Hurricane Katrina. Millions of children with flies buzzing around their gaping sores and gaping mouths still starve. Billions of people are still losing a war with AIDS. Car wrecks, failed marriages, cancer diagnoses abound every day, every week of every year. But this week we feel tragedy more acutely, we remember it more profoundly and so though we understand joy remains, we also understand how much more precious joy really is.

Because we’ve seen what a lack of joy, an un-peaceful spirit, an unhappy soul has done. It has killed 33 people.

And so tonight we praise God because in the midst of pain we remember joy. Mysterious joy, God given joy. And so as Frederick Buechner describes it, “Happiness turns up more or less where you’d expect it to – a good marriage, a rewarding job, a pleasant vacation.” To which I would add, pain likewise shows up where we’d expect it – in death, in de-humanization, in deception, in disease. But as Buechner concludes, “Joy on the other hand, is as notoriously unpredictable as the one who bequeaths it.” Mysterious God, mysterious Spirit, mysterious pain, mysterious joy.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Two weeks ago when mom was in town, we joined the Nethercuts for dinner at the elite UT Club. We parked in the garage and as we were crossing the street to the lower level of the Club, mom said, "I can't help but think about the UT sniper when I'm on this campus."

"Mom! That happened before I was born." I said with an incredulous get-over-it sort of attitude.

"I can't help it," she said; she who lived in Missouri and Minnesota in the 60s. "It's still makes me uncomfortable."

Two weeks later her words haunt me. Students and adults across the globe are shaken up by Virginia Tech's tragedy. And it will not soon go away.

To the parents of those who died or are still in the hospital, my heart is with you and my prayers are for you. God cries too, for this world is a mess. I'm sorry the TVs keep exploiting you and the web reminding you. At the same time, may you always remember whom you loved, and may their spirits live on in you.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

My Meditation for Beresheth tonight...

Google the word “Love” and you’ll find information or pictures about porn, Jesus and everything in between. Everyone is an expert on love and everyone has an opinion about love.

“Love stinks” wrote the J. Geils Band.
Meatloaf tells us that he’ll “do anything for love, but [he] won’t do that.”
Whereas Whitney assures us that “I-e-i-e-I will always love you.”

Even the first love song of the movie Moulin Rouge, sung back and forth between the two main characters Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman, is composed as a dialogue using over 20 pop culture love songs.

We all think we’ve got the scoop on love. I know I do.

I love my family with an enduring, entangled love.
I love my friends with a loyal, fierce love.
I love God with a mysterious, dependant love.
I love my cats with a maternal, delightful love.
I love my dog with a wondering, out-of-nowhere love.
I’ve fallen in love several times. Those loves have been na├»ve, co-dependant, youthful, mature, honest, deep, natural, connected, respectful, admiring love. You should see the list of people I’ve loved and well, lost. I mean, I’ve almost been married twice! Surely that should make me an expert on love. Or maybe not.

I could tell you what I’ve learned about love from Jesus.

I’ve learned from Jesus that it’s extended to everyone. Samaritans, Women, Prostitutes, Tax Collectors, Doctors, Fishermen, Housewives, Mothers, Fathers, Children, Pharisees, Lepers, Mourners, Rejoicers, the rich and famous, the poor, and even me.

I’ve learned from Jesus that it’s unconditional. There are no pre-requisites to being loved by God. There aren’t even and requisites to continue being loved by God. I can work on worrying less, panicking less, being less neurotic, less stubborn, less selfish, less cynical, less of a smart-ass, but even if I screw up my ambitions and embody all those undesirable things in one afternoon or even one hour, God still loves me. Should I abandon all faith only to find it in a pig-sty and come crawling back to God, I will still be embraced as one of God’s chosen children, unconditionally loved.

I’ve learned that I need to love others. Not my favorite lesson on love, for sure, but an important one nonetheless. More times than I have fingers, toes, teeth or freckles, I am instructed by God to take care of the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed, to take care of the widow, the orphan. To feed the stranger, visit the imprisoned, clothe the naked, care for the neglected. I’m instructed to love my friends even when they require my forgiveness 7 times 70 times over. And I’m instructed to love my enemies who may never relinquish their hate or repent of their anger. I’ve learned from Jesus that I need to love others.

I’ve learned from Jesus that love is not to be abused. Love is confusing, delicate, a precious pearl to be treasured. Love should never de-humanize anyone. Love never views people as objects or sins or stepping stones or anything other than what they are, delicate children of God. The ultimate Love does not abuse or view us in this way, neither are we to abuse or judge others.

I’ve learned from God that love is diligent, love perseveres and love never relents. Love is something that we must work hard to do. Love is easily offered by God, but often difficult to believe by us. Just as God perseveres in loving us as a people, as God’s children, so must we continually remind ourselves to love, love, love others.

Love is cyclical. When we love God, it becomes easier to love each other. When we love each other, it becomes easier to see God. Love is not easy or cheap. It is not fickle or optional. Love is. God is love. I am who I am said God. Love me and love each other.

So maybe love is a very splendid thing, maybe love actually does lift us up where we belong. Maybe, truly, all we need is love. Everybody now.

Monday, April 09, 2007

So, last weekend (not Easter weekend) was the show Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at church. It was amazing, but not because we necessarily were so spectacular (although we were) but because everyone had a blast, got into character well, had fun with the show and with each other, worked really hard for a great product and met a bunch of new people of all ages. Here's one of my favorite pictures of the women's chorus laughing during rehearsal...



Here's another good one. This is of my new friend Joe H. He played Levi or one of the brothers (I kind of got them all confused. One night "Dasher" even made it into the show. Of course, this was a combo of Dan and Asher, but since Santa isn't in the Old Testament, Dasher didn't make much sense).



From a lawyer to a middle school student, many people were involved...



and many friendships were developed...



All in all it was a huge success on so many levels as a church production. But perhaps one of my favorite parts about "Joseph" was that in brought in both my parents and my sister Amy. Congrats mom and dad, in 28 and 5/6 years, you haven't missed a show yet! Let's keep it that way! :)

Sunday, April 08, 2007

My "Sunday school" lession this morning...

When I was growing up, Easter meant a lot of things for me. It meant going over to grandma’s to try on the matching dresses that she would make for me and Amy when we were young enough to not be bothered by that. It meant posing for pictures once those dresses were made. For me it meant pretending to like being dressed up. (Some things never change). It also meant a hunt. Just as at Christmas when we would come downstairs surprised and delighted by all the things Santa had left us, Amy and I would scour the house searching for Easter baskets filled with candy and books and toys, squealing with victory at every new find. When Emily came along and I was in high school, it meant “not seeing” some of the baskets that were strategically placed just for little Emily to find. And like my grandma at Christmas who used to always say, “Oooh, I forgot one!” and go running off to some closet to find and quickly wrap a present, if Amy and I came up with an odd number of baskets (or when Emily came along, a number not divisible by three) then we were missing a basket. Mom would count in her head and look at the gifts she’d usually bought and then look at dad inquisitively. He’d usually have hid the baskets and would then nonchalantly go over the baskets and where we’d found them. Dad would figure out in his head where the missing basket was, pretend to look with us, and then “find it.” If Amy and I were at our wits end about where the basket was, we’d play “hot and cold” with Dad and Mom until we found that last one. Then we’d divide all the booty so that each girl had the same amount. Sometimes you could tell whose basket was whose. For a while I was really into dissecting worms so the science book would be for me (who knew!) and Amy loved dolphins and having her ears pierced, so the dolphin earring were obviously hers.

Later in childhood, I discovered Easter was about Jesus dying on the cross. I think the resurrection part was mentioned too, but man it was the dying and being dead for THREE days that really stayed with me. Easter meant Jesus died, and I got a new dress and presents. What a non-sequiter. In college it began to mean family. One of my best friends in college was a girl from Texas who obviously didn’t have time to go home for Easter. So every year she would come home with me. By this time, we no longer searched very hard for baskets. They’d be hidden in the usual places. And by the time I was a senior, my mom was sick of filling baskets, so there’d just be four – one for Ann, Amy, Emily and Julie. I loved that about my parents. They always bought Julie presents and she got her own basket. My parents taught me true hospitality and true family.

When Julie would come to town, she would roll down the window on the way to church and yell to no one in particular, “He is risen!” At first it embarrassed me. But she insisted because that’s what she and her dad had always yelled every Easter. By my senior year I had joined in the yelling-out-the-car-window. And at some point in there, the resurrection became more important than the dying.

My story of understanding Easter goes on through seminary when I discovered Lent; through three different churches and how they viewed worship and this season, and even to experiences I’ve had over the past few days here at FBC. But my story is too long to tell anymore today.

What are some memories you’ve had of Easter growing up over the years?
What did Easter mean to you as a child?
What did Easter mean to you as a teen?
What does Easter mean to you now?
What do you think Easter should mean?
Janie ATE my BRAND NEW PHONE while I was alseep last night. I just stared at it in shock this morning. Now I'm just depressed.

So I can't get your calls peeps. Call me at home if you know the number or look it up in the church directory or call and leave a message on my cell phone which i will check and call you back. But I can only call you back if it's a local number and if you're under the 20th person I've called this month. Of course I bought the house phone line for two purposes: secuity system and internet. I didn't actually get the phone to use it. So my plan is only for less than 20 calls a month. Figures.

Happy Easter mom, dad, amy, emily, grandma, and grandpa. Hope you know my home number. Happy Easter Julie, sorry I can't call you back. I thought about you today too...

The dog ate my phone.

I can't believe it.
It was 80 degrees in February.

I got sunburned in March mowing my lawn on a cloudy day.

Last week it was so hot, we wore shorts.

Today it is April 8th and around 35 degrees and tomorrow it might freeze and kill my cactii garden.

Texas is weird.

5 bucks says no one wears their new Easter dress to church this morning! It's too cold!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

My dog ATE my glasses.

Seriously.

I looked on both bedside tables (I'd switched beds in the middle of the night). Nope.

Then I discovered them on the living room floor. NOT where I had left them. The right arm was bent perpendicular to the frames. The end of it - where it loops around your ear - was chewed off with only a sharp point remaining. Both arms or legs or whatever you call the things that hold the glasses on your face were chewed. The right side so badly that it scraped my ear when I put them on. Even the lens was had bite marks. Perpetual rain drops to look through.

So I went to an "eye store." Paid for a $69 exam and discovered that my prescription hasn't changed much (good thing - i haven't been to the eye doctor in around 5 years). Apparently it levels out and stops getting worse in your early to mid-twenties. Best news I'd heard all day.

Then I picked out a nice pair of glasses. Similar to my old pair of course (no need to branch out) and they were 50% off. Awesome. 1 hour and they'd be ready.

So I went shopping.

I needed a black ink cartridge and typing paper so I headed to "an electronics store." I bought what I needed and headed out. Then I saw the phones. Roger's been nagging at me to get a new phone so he could hear me and truthfully I was having a hard time hearing people on it as well. Plus when it rang, it had begun tapering off at the end as if it were too tired to finish exerting the energy to ring. Consequently when the guy at the counter looked at my janky old phone, he said "pick out whatever phone you want." So I got a RED (awesome!!) $250 phone FREE. It had been a while. Not going to lie to you. My former phone was OLD.

I was feeling pretty good, so I checked out the sales at Gap. Too expensive. Gap kids - just right. So I grabbed an XXL zip up coat and a skirt and a pair of grey chuck taylor shoes all for under $60! If you're short and have small feet, always shop kids if you can. So much cheaper.

Upon return to the "eye store," my luck began to fade (if you can call having to pay $170 for new glasses and lenses AFTER the 50% discount cause your new dog at your glasses luck). I inquired of my glasses and the man returned to the counter looking sheepish. Never a good sign. Retail persons should always be confident and happy.

"Well, it looks like they broke the frames when they were trying to put the lenses in..." Sure enough, broken right in half. Like Erkel's glasses. All I needed was some masking tape. "And we don't have another set of frames in the store."

"And that means...?"

"You can either pick out another pair tonight and we'll get them ready or wait 7-10 days for a new frame of the original pair you chose."

"But I'm a pastor" I said out loud - thinking in my head that "man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart."

Precisely.

"And I'm up in worship tomorrow!"

"Oh."

The usual response. But the other guy standing there got really excited that I was a pastor. He high-fived me for preaching occasionally. Unfortunately, that didn't really make me feel better.

"Frank," I said to my Westlake friend who always tells me to buy what I want, "Do you think I should pick out another frame or wait for the pair I like to come in and just wear these broken ones tomorrow at church?"

"You CANNOT wear those to church, Ann."

Figures.

So my saleslady who had helped me earlier came up with a solution. Buy a cheap pair of glasses, don't get the really good lenses and you'll still get 50% off. Then you'll have an extra pair for when the ones you want come in!

So that's what I did.

I now have two new pairs of glasses (one arriving in 7-10 days), a new phone, a black ink printer cartridge, computer paper, a jacket, a skirt and a pair of grey no-lace chuck taylors.

All because my dog ate my glasses.

Sheesh.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Maundy Thursday Noon-day Sermon...

Roger’s sermon from several weeks ago on Jesus’ teaching from the Sermon on the Mount read “let your yes be yes and your no be no” or as the Message Bible puts it, “Don't say anything you don't mean. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, 'I'll pray for you,' and never doing it, or saying, 'God be with you,' and not meaning it. You don't make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. Just say 'yes' and 'no.'” This text proves rather revealing in light of today’s story. Peter, assuming he heard the story Matthew tells of the Sermon on the Mount would have done well to listen to that lesson. In our text, Jesus looks at his disciples and says they will all desert him. But if Peter heard Jesus’ words on Matthew’s mountaintop, in the book of Mark - they didn’t sink in, for Peter is quick to refute Jesus saying “Even though all become deserters, I will not!” And our author Mark (who is quick to finish every story in his fast paced novel) leaves no room for the reader to speculate on the potential irony or even be alerted to any foreshadowing. Jesus quickly corrects Peter regarding the weakness of his character and offers him and the others listening specific details of how Peter will betray him. It’s a rather humiliating moment for Peter one can only assume and so Peter responds by adamantly disagreeing with Jesus again, and he’s not the only one, all the disciples assure Jesus that should they need to die with him, their loyalty he can always count on.

Let your yes be yes and your no be no.

But in Mark’s gospel, the disciples never do anything right. They are consistently questioning Jesus, lacking in faith and missing the point. And this story is no exception.

Even the three “special” disciples, Peter, James and John, the ones who just a few verses earlier in chapter 13 were talking with Jesus privately, even they let their leader, their teacher, their friend down in his time of need. Completely distraught, Jesus asks them to accompany him to pray. They go to Gethsemene, Jesus falling on his face prostrate before God just a little ways away from Peter James and John who all fall promptly asleep. Four cups of wine at a Passover meal will do that to you. Jesus returns after having practiced what he preached, begging God to take away the cup, and yet not succumbing to the temptation to follow his own will: a true, biblical prayer of lamentation. Boldly speaking to God of fear and anger and boldly agreeing to follow his “Abba” Aramaic for “papa” father God in obedience. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” is still ringing in Jesus’ ears when he returns to his friends. “Simon, are you asleep?” Jesus asks rhetorically. The three men must have known that Jesus was very upset. He hadn’t called Peter “Simon” since Mark chapter 1 when he first met him! The nickname “Peter” was given to him as a gift of life, potential, and friendship. What a slap in the face to be called Simon again after so many years! But even that moment of shame couldn’t keep the three friends awake for when Jesus returns from a second time in prayer nervous and afraid, he finds them napping with heavy eyes. But Peter, James and John can’t find the words to make things right, or the actions either it would seem, for the third time Jesus returns to them after praying he finds them in deep slumber on the ground. It was final and official. The disciples, illustrated in these three men, were asleep; eyes closed to what Jesus had been preparing them for; lids too heavy to raise up to heaven for lamentation, help or praise.

Exasperated and knowing a crowd was gathering, Jesus recognizes that already the disciples are pulling away from him. He calls Peter, James and John, his three closest friends to get up and come on.

All twelve disciples have assured Jesus that they will not deny him even if it means death for them, his three closest friends slept through his most distressing hour of need, Peter claimed to stick it out with Jesus ‘til the end but we already know that the “Et tu Brute” of the disciples crew will not pull through; and now arrives Judas.

With a kiss, a tender, prolonged kiss: prolonged by a twinge of doubt in Judas’ mind perhaps or prolonged to make sure Jesus is properly identified, Jesus is betrayed by an honest confession from his student seeking to understand God’s new kingdom, “Rabbi, my teacher,” Judas says and greets him affectionately with a kiss.

A moment of chaos ensues, the guards seize Jesus and someone draws a sword and cuts off one of the High Priest’s slave’s ear. And though my heart goes out to the poor slave, a victim of erradic behavior, for a moment I’m also inclined to think “hurray!” someone has finally stood up for Jesus. Someone is objecting. They’re not all going to just let him get whisked away – taken to jail, unjustly, without cause! For a moment we think someone’s done something right. But Jesus rebukes the crowd. He denounces the need for weaponry and chastises the priests for their secrecy and hypocrisy. And although we don’t know much of what happened next, we know Jesus is for some reason silenced…

and the disciples flee.

Except for one.

The one in the expensive linen cloth that he put on especially for tonight. The one who perhaps had planned to stick up for Jesus, put those priests into their place once and for all. The linen cloth would show he had money, power; it might buy Jesus some time. If those fishermen of his would keep their word and stand behind their teacher then he could offer some prestige to their cause, validate it, make it seem more normative, beneficial to the community. But as the others ran, his knees rattled, and his nerves failed. The confidence with which he had dressed that night faltered, but not fast enough for him to turn and leave. Instead, the next thing this lingering onlooker knew, his expensive linen dress was gone and he too was running home: naked in the dark. Exposed.

They’re all exposed. Exposed for where their true loyalties lay, exposed for who they really were: cowards. Afraid of the sword, afraid of the religious leaders, afraid of the government.

But I am too.

We all are. This is no secret. Every one of us has a little bit of Simon, a little bit of James and John, a little bit of Judas and even a little bit of that man who hung in the back of the crowd in his nicest Easter clothes. If you think the right suit or the right jewelry or the right job or the right words will hide the fact that you too are a traitor just like the rest of us, you’re wrong. For there’s a little bit of each of these friends, these deserters, in all of us. This is no secret.

But there’s a little bit of Jesus in us too.

There’s a little bit of us in the garden crying out to God, “Say it isn’t so.” But it is. The world is cruel, full of hate and violence and torture and abuse and manipulation and systematic evil. Jesus says, “not my will but yours.” And God’s will was to send Christ to earth to live amongst us, to usher in God’s kingdom, to be fully human and fully divine. Unfortunately that meant fully victim to the world’s vices including execution by crucifixion.

“I only want to say
If there is a way
Take this cup away from me
For I don’t want to taste its poison
Feel it burn me,”

That’s how Andrew Lloyd Webber interpreted Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane. The same man who wrote of Joseph’s story in the Genesis narrative. Joseph who was facing lifetime in prison, but unbeknownst to him, would soon save a nation upon his release.

“Close every door to me,
take those I love from me,
children of Israel are never alone.”

The despair and the hope, felt by Joseph thousands of years before Christ was understood by Jesus who was fully human and completely scared, and is still known by us today in our wars, our divorces, our illness, our poverty and our despair.

We all have a little bit of the disciples in us and we all have a little bit of Jesus. But with our despair at the ways of the world and even the ways in which we participate, comes the hope of Easter morning. It is around the corner, it is true. Some of us reach it quicker than others. For Jesus, he had one day left. One day of interrogations, of sentencing, of execution: Friday. Then a day of death and then the day of resurrection. But we’re not to Friday yet, or even Saturday. We’re still in Gethsemane, praying, crying out to God to take away our cups, or at least to take away our fear. We’re still discovering we’re human, exposed before God who knows the very aching and motivation of our hearts. We’re still discovering that the world will disappoint us, that our friends will desert us, our spouses fail us, our children run away.

Today is only Thursday and we are still in Gethsemane. And though our Easter dresses and suits and hats and linen cloths hang pressed and ready for Sunday, when the joy of Christ’s resurrection will motivate us to live out God’s kingdom…today we still sit exposed before God. Fortunately, Jesus is sitting with us. It’s Thursday, the most solemn day of Holy week. We’ve three days left to keep our promises, three days to keep giving up our vices. Three more days to die before we are resurrected.

Come Easter morning, with Gethsemane behind us and God in front of us, I hope we don’t stay scared, don’t stay where we are. I hope we run, not away from Christ, but into God’s loving arms, for whether we are dressed in our most expensive clothes carrying our weapons or our Bibles, none of this worldly or religious piety will bring us any closer to God. Let your yes be yes or your no be no.

Easter is around the corner. But for today, let us live in the moment and confess it to God, our Abba Father, our tender Mother. Let us recognize that some of us spend more time in Gethsemane than others, but through Christ, Easter can always be a present reality. And with Christ, we too will walk away from the Garden to live the will of God.