Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Taking it slow...

Often clergy get away for at least a week after Easter, but that wasn't in the cards for me this year, so we're away this week. And the double blessing is that in addition to some quiet/away time, we get to spend each day with our little guy, Louie, our grandchild. Let's just say that it has been both a delight and also a challenge. He is a very sweet child and easy to care for, but he's starting to teethe this week so.... we need to give him some extra loving. As other grandparents have told me, NOW you recall why we have children when we're younger! It is such a privilege to help his Momma and Poppa, too.

Yesterday, for example, I tried playing a number of tunes for him and his favorite turned out to be "I Wanna Be Sedated" by The Ramones. Today it was Lou Reed's "Sweet Jane" and "I Fought the Law" by The Clash. He also did a little baby jig to Woody Guthrie's "Car Car." Who knows what tomorrow will bring, yes?

Each night that we've been away I've read a little bit of Barbara Brown-Taylor's new book, Learning to Walk in the Dark, as well as some of Carrie Newcomer's poems in A Permeable Life. And when my little man is down for one of his regular naps, I catch a little rest, too before working on this week's message for Sunday worship. I am doing a seven week series called: Meeting God at the Table with Jesus. Each week we'll have an informal conversation about what one of Christ's different feasts tells us about the nature of God. 
This Sunday we're using a gospel text from Luke 7: 39 in which a woman who has sinned - and it is never stated what it was that condemned her - crashes a party Simon the pharisee is throwing. Two fascinating ideas that are swimming around in my head have to do with forgiveness and gratitude.  

1) From the woman's actions - pouring expensive oil on the feet of Jesus and weeping over them with her tears - it seems clear that she has already been forgiven by Jesus. What her actions suggest is a grateful response to grace - and she is ecstatic.  As David Lohse has written:

Consider: forgiveness at heart is the restoration of relationship. It is releasing any claim on someone else for some past injury or offense. That’s why the analogy to a debt works so well. Forgiveness cancels relational debt and opens up the future. Which is why it’s so important, so valuable. But it’s also something more. Forgiveness also gives you back yourself. You see, after a while, being indebted, owing others, knowing yourself first and foremost as a sinner -- these realities come to dominate and define you. You are no more and no less than what you’ve done, the mistakes you’ve made, the debt you owe. When you are forgiven, all those limitations disappear and you are restored, renewed, set free.

2) Because forgiveness buries the past and gives us a fresh start, we must practice giving as well as we have received. It is illustrative that Jesus never scolds the pharisee or shames him. Rather, Jesus simply celebrates the woman's new life and invites others to do likewise. When we own our own brokenness - our own need for forgiveness - we can practice giving it away in abundance. And the sad truth in this story is that the party's host doesn't think he needs grace.

Rather than be taken aback by the woman’s show of love, he judges both her and Jesus. He is a man who has no sense of being forgiven – even of needing forgiveness – and so is trapped in a judgmental hardness of heart. This story, then, tells both halves of the truth: the joyful truth that those who recognize their need receive their heart’s desire and live out of gratitude and love, and the tragic truth that those who believe themselves righteous or sufficient on their own never know the joy of receiving and so pursue truncated lives absent genuine gratitude or love. (Lohse)

Preachers need time away to both rest and reflect. I am so grateful that my time away takes me my family this year.

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