Friday, February 28, 2014

Transfiguration Sunday

I’m writing this in the rain. I’m not in the rain, but I’m in my office looking out at the gray skies and wonderful, wonderful rain. After our long drought, this is so welcome by all of us; even with the inconvenience rains bring to hillside communities like ours.
         Curiously, when I visited Santa Barbara before becoming your pastor, I only saw gray skies and rain. We flew in and flew out in stormy, rainy conditions, never seeing the mountains or the Channel Islands. All we saw were twisting roads and low-lying clouds. Committee members would tell us about the gorgeous mountains and scenic views; and we believed them, but did not see them until the weekend I officially met you all. Then the sun shined brightly and the view from the park on the Mesa gave us a clear view of the Channel Islands and the mountains that frame Santa Barbara. The difference? Light.
         Weather is not something we can choose. We cannot choose the weather around us (unless we choose to fly or drive to another climate) only adapt to it. We can’t always choose our spiritual weather either. There are times of struggle and pain and times of joy and peace. But we do have a choice about the spiritual light around us. We can choose to live in light or darkness. We can choose to surround ourselves with the words and spirit of Jesus or ignore him. The text for Sunday (John 12:34-50) is Jesus’ invitation to step into the light he alone brings and leave the darkness of spiritual lies.
Sunday also happens to be Transfiguration Sunday, the event when Jesus was surrounded by Moses and Elijah in bright radiance. Transfiguration is the Sunday immediately before the beginning of Lent, which is the 40 day period of preparation for Easter.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

It's About Time...for Glory

I'm a bit time-obssessed. As I look around my office as I write this, I spy 5 clocks in front of me and one on my wrist. I've always been that way. I'm chronically early for appointments and really get stressed when I'm running late. I worry about getting to the airport with enough time and fret about the time between changing planes. I like meetings to start and end on time. And I confess to chaffing at people who are habitually late or drag meetings on beyond their stated end-time. Oh yeah, I have issues with time.
But a crack has developed in my armor, in the names of three granddaughters. When I am with them, when I am holding them or, in Elise's case, walking or playing with her....time stops! I am so drawn into the mystery of these little lives, all my time-issues vanish. I think I'm probably a lot nicer to be around when I'm that way!
Part of my issue with time is my expectation. I expect certain things to operate in certain ways and take certain amounts of time. And when they don't, I get agitated. The text I am still wrestling with for Sunday is from John 12:20-33 and it's the first time Jesus says in John that "the time has come for glory." And then he describes it!

Friday, February 07, 2014


            It’s this time of year that the Indiana farmers I pastored started getting restless and itchy. They knew winter was far from over, but they longed to get back on their tractors and turn some dirt over. It wasn’t until later March that one or two brave souls would hook up their discs to the back of a tractor and head out into their fields, only to break through the dirt into bottomless goo. And they would bring the story to church on the next Sunday about how so-and-so went out early and got stuck.
            But when the time came that the soil would support the load of the tractor and implements, a sweet smell permeated the entire community of Lafayette; fresh soil ready to grow things. The soil in the area around Lafayette was dark, almost black. And when it was being turned, everything smelled alive.
            I smelled some of that life this week as the rains fell in Santa Barbara, scrubbing some of the dust out of the leaves and the air. The air smells fresher and cleaner than it did in those long, dry patches.
            It’s amazing what smells do to us. They can whisk us back in time or make our salivary glands overwork. Smells can make us feel safe or make us afraid. Smells can draw us in and repel us away. In our text for Sunday from John 12, verse 7 says “And the house was filled with the fragrance…” What was the fragrance? What did it do and mean to Jesus and the others?

            The sanctuary will be filled Sunday with a unique fragrance from a plant that grows all around the church. When you come in, pause and reflect what that fragrance means to you.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Where did you lay...?

              Jon Lemmond and I returned from a week in Chicago Friday night. The event was the Covenant Midwinter Conference, where about 1,500 Covenant pastors from around the country (and the world in some cases) gather for worship, fellowship and continuing education.

            Because I don’t travel that much for work, I do not have a “travel routine” of putting things in the same place. Some mornings I felt like I was in a comedy movie, frantically looking for the room key, cell phone, or wallet, because I set it down in a different place. My brother roomed with me, and he would ask me, “Where did you remember laying _________ down.” That often triggered my memory and I’d find the lost object.
            The text for Sunday is John 11:1-44, the familiar story of Lazarus. The two questions Jesus asked Martha and Mary were: “Do you believe this?” (vs 26) and “Where have you laid him?” (vs 34). Jesus asked the sisters where they laid their brother whom they loved so much. Jesus asks us where we have laid that which we have loved and lost? What have you laid down over the years?

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