community life

Sing a new song (what's wrong with the old ones, anyway?)

Psalm 96:1-9

Humble-bumpers
Humble-bumpers

O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples. For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be revered above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. Honor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary. Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts. Worship the Lord in holy splendor; tremble before him, all the earth.

Drawing theme: joy.

I used this Psalm during my approval essay at the end of seminary. During the faculty interview, I got nailed to the wall for it. Every other interview along the way had been filled with delight. No one questioned me or asked me to defend myself theologically. This one was different. In response to my claim that this Psalm (along with a host of other Psalms) invites us to write new songs and tell new stories, my prof wrinkled her nose and said, "Why does it always have to be new? What's the wrong with our old songs." I was unprepared for that response and couldn't actually find the words in the moment. I did, however, begin to sweat. 

The Book of Chronicles tells us that when David brought the ark to Jerusalem, David appointed Asaph and other Levites to sing praises to God. So, singer/songwriters commissioned to write new songs that told the stories that they were in the middle of—their real experiences. I wonder if they were paid a living wage?

Do you think some of those Levites said, “Nah, were good with the old songs. Why do they always have to be new hymns of praise?”

We aren't just talking about songs, of course, but the ability to see God doing something new. Perhaps resistance to it—like my old professor's reaction-might be the inability to see God doing new things. Or maybe it's sentimentality about the way it was or the good old days which actually weren't that good. Or maybe it's grief that things can't stay the way they are. Not ever.

Because if we aren't growing, we are dying. 

Because some of those old songs are actually crappy.

Because we have new stories to tell.

Because we are death and resurrection people. 

Because somewhere along the line, Bono told me I have a new song to sing.

Because before Bono said it, a bunch of Levites said it.

What are the songs we would like to let go of? (Actual songs?) Call them out.

What about metaphorical songs? Stories and tunes that seem worn out.

The story that I'm ready to rewrite is that one where we have manage to embed racism deeply into our lives as people of faith. Maybe you, too, watched in horror as the gun that George Zimmerman used to kill Trayvon Martin was auctioned off and sold. Remember that story? Where the middle aged white man shot an unarmed black teen because he was scared of him? He just sold the gun he used for $250,000. To a mother who bought it for her son.

Maybe you, too, watched the video of a giant St Paul police officer brutally take down a young man outside Central High School this week. It's hard to watch and hard to argue that it was unnecessarily violent. I shared a really well written essay by another parent of Central High School student. I encourage you to read the whole thing. Here's a portion:

"I don’t know the police officer in this video, Bill Kraus. I can’t say what he was thinking or feeling in that moment. He may have been exhausted or frustrated. He may have been calm. He may have been afraid. He may be a racist. He is a victim of a racist society – we all are. He may be poorly trained or sadistic. He may be a sociopath. He may be none of those things. He may have acted in line with his training (the police have released a statement essentially defending his work). He may look at this video with pride. He may look at it and feel sad and sick like I do. I don’t know. I probably won’t know. This is what I can tell you: I don’t want that kind of policing in my community. I want something different. I want something better. “

I want something better, too. I want a new song.

Laura and I represented this church at the annual synod assembly last Friday. I looked around that room of 500 people—representing churches all throughout the St Paul area. And remembered once again that we are overwhelmingly white.

I don't know how to fix it. I don't know how to write the next song. And I'm a little afraid that if I start writing a verse that the social media spin cycle will reign down on me and have all sorts of opinions about how to do it better. But I don't care. I'm willing to try and to fail and to try some more because I want a better song.

As we write these new songs, we don't need to change the chorus. The chorus has been the same since the beginning of creation. The chorus is the truest thing we know. We belong to God and we belong to one another. And God is making all things new.

We could choose to sing the same old sad songs of hunger, poverty, patriarchy, violence. We could sing those songs for another whole generation. We know them so well. But they are songs of death. Those are songs that give privilege to some at the great expense of others.

Let's be done with those tired anthems.

We belong to God and we belong to one another. And God is making all things new.

God's will is that the whole world be set right. Not just for the church folks but for all of creation. If we look, we can hear songs of life, too.

If we pay attention to today's Psalm, we'll see that the whole world is being new-God is setting the world right all around us. All creation gets caught up in praise—the heavens, sea, field. All of creation wants to sing these new songs. And even if we don't sing along, it's happening all around us. It does not depend on us. It is inevitable—God is making all things new. It doesn't depend on us, but I sure want to be a part of that action.

We glimpsed it this week through Obadiah's Teddy story. Which seeped into the world at a small hum. And the hum grew and grew until 1000's of people were singing it. You know it's a song about life and the world being set right because it's bathed in irrepressible joy. And an entire community continues to get swept up in the chorus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=API-5sU9CBs

Some new songs are quieter than Hey Teddy. I glimpse it in this delightful dad that I see at Elsa's school who wanders around outside at school pickup...playing his ukelele and talking with people. Every day. Wandering around, singing his song, being a human.

It seems he knows the chorus by heart. That we belong to God and we belong to one another. And God is making all things news.

We also glimpsed it around a house fire. Remember Emily from our bar community? Remember her house burned down on Christmas Eve? Well, this week she heard about another house fire. So we ran to Target and filled 2 huge tote bags full of things that this family of three would need. Things that they didn't know they would need: a binder to keep all the insurance papers in, toothbrushes, good chocolate, soft Kleenexes, fresh fruit, etc. Emily delivered them to the hotel they were just moving into. Emily knows because she lived this death song. And now she is writing a song of life. This is beauty and compassion born out of disaster.

Let's write some more songs of life together.

God will not stop until the house is full.

Luke 14: 16-23

Too Much Love
Too Much Love

Then Jesus said to him, ‘Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, “Come; for everything is ready now.” But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, “I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my apologies.” Another said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my apologies.” Another said, “I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.” So the slave returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, “Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.” And the slave said, “Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.” Then the master said to the slave, “Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled.

Drawing theme: Feast

God will not stop until the house is full.

Someone is giving a dinner party and the first string of invites went out. People RSVP'ed, which is no small thing, but as it turns out, they all declined the invite. They were busy—with actually some rather legit things. New real estate property, taking a new team of oxen for a test spin, newlyweds caught up in the whirlwind of setting up a life together.

So, the host sends out a second round of invites. The host tells his servant, “Fine, go out into the streets and round of those who are poor, crippled, blind, lame.” And in a surprising twist, the servant says, “Yeah. I already did that. They are here—ready to party—and there is still room.”

So the host sends out a third round of invites. The JV list. This time, he tells his servant to go out not the roads and the lanes—go beyond W7th street—beyond Randolph. Find some people and compel them to come. So that my house may be filled.

God will not stop until the house is full.

Can you imagine what it looked like to compel people to come in? I think of kids running lemonade stands in the neighborhood. The ones who jump up and down and zealously point to their stand, waving down motorists driving by. Smiling, eager, charming, earnest. Daring each passerby to ignore the opportunity for a mediocre glass of tepid lemonade. Who can resist, though?

I'm guessing sitting at that feast table wasn't comfortable at first. The guests were not well planned group dynamics—seating like you might do for a wedding. “Oh, we'll put grandma and grandpa with the pastor cause grandma will be nice to the pastor.” This is all sorts of unlikely guests mushed in together. The poor, crippled, lame. Those with the least amount of power become central to the feast and the story. Because that's what Jesus does. Takes power and turns it upside down. Takes those on the very outside and brings them into the center.

Have you ever been to party where you walk in cold? Not knowing anyone except maybe the host? I've been to a few of those. After scanning the room and realizing I don't recognize ANYone—and seeing most people are already engaged in lively conversation—I usually saunter over to the food and drink table. Because it gives me something to do. And then look around and think, “Crap. How long do I need to stay?” Breaking into a new social group—even figuring out the small talk banter that necessary to move beyond “Heyyyy. How do you know the host?” takes so much energy.

Every single person who walks into a HW gathering (bar, worship, summer wild things) has to work through the same thing. It takes such courage to try something new. It takes so much energy to walk into the room. Let's pause there for a moment and consider the miracle of each gathering. Of this gathering, today.

And yet, God will not stop until the house is full.

Which means, a big part of our work together is to receive people well. Our ability to create spaces for people to enter is what we do. We need to be intentional about it. Which is why we need a greeter every week at worship and host for every bar event. Someone who says, “Hi. Welcome. Here's what you need to know.”

This summer, we are taking a giant leap in our worship and summer wild things life. For six weeks in a row, we will not gather for worship on Sundays. For six weeks in a row, we will not gather here at Sholom Home. Instead, we will host art making events in the park on Sundays. No agenda. Just art making for all ages.

Then on Tuesday evenings, we will gather for a meal liturgy at the Art House North. If you have been to the Meal Liturgy called Too Much Love during Holy Week, you get the idea. Although, you won't have to leave in silence like we do during Holy Week.

Worship will feel like a banquet feast that we are throwing for all those along the highways and byways.

A team will arrive 2 hours early to cook for us (yes, we will need volunteers) under the leadership of Emily Hennen, Head Cook. Then we will arrive and break bread together. On real dishes. At set tables. Served family style.

When was the last time you walked into a meal that was prepared for you? A couple weeks ago, Nate was out of town and the girls and I were invited over to a friends house for dinner. I had worked all day long on a garden project and I was physically spent. When we arrived, she said, “Come in! Sit down. Let me get you a cold drink.” And then I got to sit in her kitchen while she prepared a feast. It felt so good to be taken care of. Trans-formative, actually. I thought about it for the entire next week. It changed me. It felt and tasted like grace.

This is the gift we have this summer. We are not inviting people to hang out on Tuesday nights. We are not inviting them to a program. This is a feast. A table that belongs to Christ that will be stretched wider. It will not be comfortable. But anytime things are starting to feel too comfy cozy is when it's time to be stretched. Prepare yourself to be stretched.

God will not stop until the house is full.

Meal Liturgy. Wild Feasting. Art Making.

Too Much Love 15
Too Much Love 15

Remember back in deep winter when we listened where God might be leading us in the coming season? And we talked about a six-week shift in our worship life in July and August? It's beginning to come together. And it's going to be good. Also, it's a risk, which is what we are so good at taking. During this six week span, we will not gather for worship on Sundays (at Sholom Home or otherwise).

Our gatherings will look like:

Meal Liturgy at the Art House North Tuesdays at 5:30PM July 12, July 19, July 26 August 2, August 9, August 16

Imagine Too Much Love at Claddagh Coffee--but instead it's Tuesday evening at the Art House and you don't have to leave in silence. And you get to help with cleanup. Emily Hennen is our Kitchen Manager for Meal Liturgies. There will be volunteer prepping and cooking spots available each week. Team effort! Julie and Joel Heaton are going to be clipboard managers--people who manage the details and tell the rest of us what to do.

Art Events in the Park Erin DeBoer-Moran, serving as our Artist in Residence, will gather all God's creatures great and small at community art-making events in the out of doors. Erin might pull other artists to lead some of these events. These are bring your friends and show up and make art events.

I'm wondering what you want to do with Sunday, July 3. It's the one date--just hanging out there--looking for direction. Your Humble Walk staff will all be leading on location at Outlaw Ranch in Custer, SD (I'm leading Bible studies, Vanessa and Jeremiah are leading music/theater--and bonus: Erin is leading art sessions). Get back to me on this one, will you?

Epiphany Glimpse of Jesus

For the entire month of January, we have paused in worship to ask: Where have we glimpsed Jesus? And who are we right now (as a community)? Where are we being called?  

Here is what we have heard:

Who are we? [Welcomed as, not welcomed to. We often say that “the church is the people and not the building.” Less often do we actually act that way. Humble Walk does. And it's not just the "members" of the church but anyone and everyone who comes. They strongly believe that the community is made up of anyone who is gathered at that particular place and time. The church is those assembled -- and as a visitor, this made a big difference. I wasn't welcomed to Humble Walk. I was welcomed as Humble Walk.] (Keith Anderson)

We are all ages together--full participation We are people who have chosen a hard way (fulltime artists, nonprofits, risk takers, leaders) We are people for whom a hard way has chosen them (mental health, people in recovery, adult children of alcoholics) We are fully open and affirming to those who identify as GLBTQ We are a Storm Home for those seeking a place to rest, heal, find shelter (a last ditch effort for many) We are a learning community and have welcomed a gaggle of seminarians (Michelle Walka, Amy Hanson, Peter Clark, Nathan Johnson, Eric Worringer, Katie Parent, Laura Slezak...who did we forget?) and sent 3 people off to seminary (Jessica Olson, Justin Rimbo, Katie Stever) We are a community who retreats together every six months. We set aside work and screens and production to practice sabbath as feisty resistance in a world that glorifies busy-ness. We are a community that sends their pastor off on a 3 month rest. Even though we might feel anxious, we take risks as a community. We aren't afraid to fail. We are almost always flirting with disaster financially. And we don't let this control us. We respond to ideas with, "Yes, let's." We create spaces where explosive joy can take place Our community feels fragile/vulnerable and strong. We see our unpredictability as a gift

Where have we glimpsed Jesus this month? Helping our neighbors (chopping ice, shoveling show) and finding out it's fun to do. Throwing parties every month in the back of an Irish bar and inviting everyone. And they come. Sometimes, people will wait in line just to get in the door. By supporting artists (and by being supported as an artist) We found out that dancing can us around (Youth Group) By patiently waiting for markers in worship (click, click, click) in a world that waits for nothing Praying through health reports from our doctors Doctors taking extra time and care with our loved ones "My process is to make chaos on the canvas" Guest Artist DeAnne Lilly Parks "Don't judge. Do the work." Guest Artist DeAnne Lilly Parks

Retreat Glimpses at Bay Lake When we pause to give thanks, it's a firehose of gratitude Seeing God in outside play in creation Seeing God in attentive conversations Seeing God in all the sharing (of food, supplies, time, ideas, play, prayer) Remembering that everyone is "in" without a "but" or "œexcept..." In Laura's wrestling with the text (for hours) listening for the Good News for our community In taking risks during the school play In anti-racism workshops In a drag show--with a queen's mom dancing and cheering from the front row In our ability to create places where explosive joy can happen

Where are we being called? To continue to create spaces where explosive joy might happen To use good words, kind words, loving hearts and respectful love To keep our community safe (Child Safety Policy) To grow together (GLBTQ ally training) To be more overt in the ways we welcome and communicate that welcome We are being pushed to be even more public in our life together A men's group is forming July/August brings six weeks of midweek meal liturgy and Sunday art in the park events

It's not about the money.

cropped-11231033_998174488565_1158507090359502543_n-e1440295402184.jpg

On Monday morning, I woke up with my jaw clenched and a substantial headache. It was one of those nights of sleep where my subconsious was working hard-troubled and worried. All of the muscles in my face and neck were tense. In some ways, it didn't make sense. Worship on Sunday evening was robust-as always, a mixture of new and familiar faces. Hope, bread, longing, prayers, milestones and grace were shared. Then we gathered at my house for soup and bread. Advent Season within Humble Walk is simple, holy, dear. But underneath, my nocturnal head was spinning about our budget. The hour before worship, a trio of us met to talk about finances. It's clear as day that in order to end the year well, we need to do a year-end appeal. Where will it come from? Where will the energy and time to launch it come from? How on earth do you fund a church where most of the people involved never make their way into worship on Sunday? Humble Walk is a church where the majority of those who belong are not involved in weekly worship.

These were my first Monday thoughts as I drank coffee, stretched my neck and jaw, talked myself in and out of going to yoga class. Finally, a text from Heather-asking me to pray for her as she enters into a dream job interview. For me, it was an invitation. This text-this invitation-was exactly what I needed. It snapped me back from the ledge. Because it's not about the money. It's never been about the money. We need it, of course. Funding enables us to connect with hundreds of people outside of bricks and mortar buildings in surprising and delightful ways. It pays for a part time pastor. It pays for all those bar events and summer meals in the park. It pays for a litany of guest artists.

Over the hour of yoga, I prayed for Heather-who dreams of being a hospice nurse. And as I prayed, I felt myself unclench. What a gift it is to be in relationship with one another and to be invited into new possibilities.

Invitation is what Humble Walk is all about. We invite people to gather-to break bread-to remember that we belong to God and we belong to one another.

How do we fund a church without membership? Easy. We fund it through you. You who are with us physically, you who are with us online. You who come and learn from us, you who come and rest with us. You who sing with us. You who come to be reconverted to a life of faith. You who believe that Humble Walk is needed now more than ever.

We invite you, your congregation and your checkbooks to join us in raising $15,000 between December 16-23.

Find us: Sundays at Sholom Home East 740 Kay Avenue St Paul 4:30PM Shamrock's Pub Dec 21 All Ages Christmas Pub Pageant 5:30PM Beer and Carols 7PM

Online giving via Razoo

Mail checks to:
Humble Walk Lutheran
PO Box 16363
St Paul, MN 55116

Humble Walk Monday Nights.

Humble Walk Monday Nights

A pastor's sabbatical is a weird time.  It's both quieter and noisier than usual.  We ask questions we don't normally ask, like "Who brings snack every week to worship?" (hint: it was Jodi).

But we ask some of the same questions, too, like one of our favorites:  "Why not?"

Parents and kids and parent-less kids and kid-less parents and people of all walks of life in between have been asking for more fellowship time.  More time together.  More messy hands.  More open hearts.  We're a neighborhood church; let's get our toes rooted and our feet dirty.

So here we go.  Welcome to Humble Walk Monday Nights (jazzier title pending).

We're going to try gathering weekly in a non-worship way (but in an old church building, of course).  Games, art, fresh fruit, a homework station, and periodic Bible talk are all on the loosely sketched agenda.  5:15-6:30pmish.  We're booked at Art House North (793 Armstrong Ave W) right between theater rehearsals and yoga class, which feels about right.

For our introverts, our tired ones, and our kids with homework, we'll have extra stations:  an art box full of Stuff to Make, a carpet square stocked with Legos, and a table set aside for math and reading and whatever else you might not be able to ignore for an hour.  It's OK.  Bring it with you.   Bring your kids, bring your parents, bring your friends, bring whatever you've grabbed from McDonalds on the way home from work.  We'll find space for all of it.

If you've wanted to invite your friends, neighbors, co-workers, and even people you don't like that much to check out Humble Walk, here's a time for them to meet us in a slightly less rowdy element than Beer and Hymns.  (But only slightly.)

Here's the calendar.

September 14, 5:15-6:30pm:  Bingo night.  With highly desirable prizes.

September 21, 5:15-6:30pm:  Board game night.  Bring your favorites, we'll bring ours.

September 28, 5:15-6:30pm:  Bible night.  We'll read a Bible story together -- one of the classics -- like Elisha getting teased about his bald head by some kids, and siccing two she-bears on them (no, really).  Then we'll break into groups and wrestle with the story.  There'll be a discussion group for people who want to talk, ask questions, challenge the text, decide if this matters for our lives and how.  We'll bust out the art box and the Lego space for those who want quiet tactile reflection.  Maybe we'll have some prayer time, if it fits.  We'll definitely have Humble Walk Art Sharing Time (TM) because it's just wrong to read a Bible story and not get some art out of it.

October 5, 5:15-6:30pm:  Busy night.   Lace up your walkin' shoes.  Part of being community is caring for our neighbors.  We'll hand out plastic gloves and trash bags, and roam West 7th picking up litter.  We're made beautiful; let's make our world a little more beautiful too.

October 12, 5:15-6:30pm:  Spontaneous Talent Show.  There's no sign-up and no auditions.  We grab the sanctuary space and fill it with fun.  Glorious awards to be had.

October 19 BEER AND HYMNS, 7pm, Shamrock's Pub.  We do our normal thing and it is glorious.

October 26, 5:15-6:30pm:  Bible night.  We try that Bible thing again, improving on wherever we were last time. We reflect on two months of hanging out.  Do we want to keep going?  Maybe.  We'll find out when we get there.

Do you want to come?  Great.

Do you want to help?  Also great.  We'll need art supplies, bingo callers, and just about everything else.  Can you let me know?  Thanks.

Scenes of abundance.

waffle (1)

This is the final post before I sign off. We have experienced such abundance lately. At Bay Lake Camp, with Wild Things in the park, waffle party at Claddagh Coffee. Overflowing grace. Cups running over. Here is last Sunday's sermon (preached at Bay Lake). It's a story of great abundance--where Jesus meets us where we are over and over. Then we forget. So Jesus does it again. I have the great honor to witness this sort of thing every single day around Humble Walk. I pray that you do, too.

MWAH. See you All Saints Sunday, you crazy sinner saints.

John 6:1-21

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, "Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?" He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, "Six months' wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little." One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?" Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost."

So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, "This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world." When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid." Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.

We call this story the feeding of the 5,000. It's actually more like 20,000. Because back in those days, they only counted men. Women and children didn't count. So, let's say a small prayer of thanks for progress.

20,000 people strong. A good sized crowd. Last Saturday, I found myself in an actual crowd of 20,000 people. A friend invited me to a music festival in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. On a river bank, out in the woods on the grass. 20,000 beating hearts. Sweating (it was really hot) and singing along to amazing music. My nerdy preachers' heart looked around and thought, “Huh, five barley loaves and 2 little fish in this crowd? I don't know, man. That would take a miracle.”

In our Gospel story today, no one brought any lunch or provisions. There were no food trucks planned for this event. No vendors. No pop up shops. No island cafes. No camp cooks. No picnic baskets.

Just a huge, hungry crowd. Hungry. Word of Jesus had traveled from mouth to ear from mouth ear. Like it does. Like it's always done and continues to do. Through stories. Of healing. Of hearts lifted. Of demons cast. Of thirst quenched. Of life given. Of dead raised. Of paradigms blown apart. Of new stories given again.

All that good news. People were buzzing about it. And so they came looking for more.

Jesus was unfazed. Jesus went up a mountain to pray and rest. But that crowd found him. I wonder what it looked like to have this crowd coming toward him?

The disciples looked at that crowd coming toward them and immediately assess that it's big. And they are huuuuungry. Spiritually, perhaps. And definitely physically. Do you feel your own belly rumble? Now imagine 20,000 others around you.

Jesus sees it all. Jesus sees them all and asks his disciples, “Well, now what?”

Philip gets out a pencil and paper, pushes up his glasses and quickly does a bit of math and calculates the actual cost of feeding this crowd. I thought I was the nerd in this story.

Andrew offers “Hey, what about this kid? His mom packed him a lunch.” Everyone rolls their eyes and says, “Thanks, Andrew. Five loaves of barley bread and 2 fish. What's that to this crowd. It's nothing.”

That little boy panics because he's the one who planned ahead. “Hey, that's my lunch.”

Jesus tells everyone to take a load off. Sit down in the grass, in the shade of the mustard shrubs. Then Jesus gave thanks and he broke that bread. Jesus takes the five loaves and the 2 fish and feeds the whole crowd. Everyone was filled with good things. Not just a little bit, but until they were all satisfied.

Not only was everyone filled, but there were left overs. 12 baskets left over. Jesus instructs his disciples to go out and collect all that's left so that nothing is wasted. Gather up the fragments—the bits, the crumbs, half-eaten loaves.

Gather up the fragments so that nothing is lost.

Gather up the fragments so that no one is lost.

Can you imagine this scene of abundance?

We have weird ideas of abundance. We think of Chinese buffets. Where there is food piled as far as we can see. So much that we can take a bite of something and if we don't like it, we can throw it away and get a new plate. We think of abundance as being able to have enough to waste.

But Jesus is different.

With Jesus, nothing is wasted. No one left behind or out. No one is lost.

When we feel like all we have is nothing. A bit of bread. Crumbs. Surely not enough. Actually, nothing. God in Christ Jesus, laughs and says, “I'm really good at making something out of nothing. Remember you are dust. Life from dust. Abundance from scraps.”

In ancient times-the time from when this story came—all the good, rich soil was used for wheat. Because wheat leads to delicious bread. Bread fit for kings and queens and for people with money. The scraggly land-the left-over bits of land was used for barley. Barley can grow in crappy soil. Bread made from barley is the bread of poor people. Of peasants.

Don't miss that detail in this story. These were barley loaves.

Jesus takes this peasant bread and feeds the world. Abundance from scraps.

That story is enough. But then there's a little more. This experience of abundance was life-changing, this crowd immediately wants to make Jesus their king. By force. Which strikes me as funny and also deeply human. You show us amazing miraculous beauty and love abundance? We want MORE. So we will take you force and make you our king!

Jesus slips away. Back up to the mountain to pray.

Evening rolls around and the disciples go down to the sea, get into a boat and start to make their way across sea. Across Bay Lake. It was dark. Maybe they should have been in bed. A storm whips up and swirls around them. They continue to row, waves beating against the sides of their boat. They were terrified. Not of the storm, but because they look up and Jesus is walking toward them. On the water. It terrifies them.

No matter that they just witnessed Jesus feeding a crowd with scraps.

No matter everything they have witnessed up to this point.

They forget it all in an instant and absolutely freak out.

Jesus says, “It's okay. I'll come to you. Again. I'll come to you. I'll meet you right where you are. I know you forget. You forget about the abundance and the life and beauty and love and feeding. I know that about you. So, I'll come to you.”

And Jesus does. And when Jesus meets them, they arrive on the shore.

When Jesus meets them, they immediately arrive.

When Jesus meets you, you arrive. You begin.

We do often want what I call the Cancer Miracle Story. We think, “If this miracle happens, then I believe.” “If Jesus heals this cancer, then I will believe.”

Today's story gives us a reorientation. It changes that direction. When we trust, we witness miracles all around us. Right now, this moment, every minute, we are being met by God. Right here, today, we are invited to trust that Jesus holds you, holds everything. We have in this very minute, a full connection to God. And that is when we arrive. That is where we begin. Again. Welcome. Welcome back. Welcome to this story of abundance. Amen.

From Jerusalem, With Love

IMAX-Old-City

My friends and colleagues, Jeni and Collin Grangaard (and their sweet nearly 2yo, J) just up and moved to Jerusalem. Yes, that Jerusalem. They are working with Young Adults In Global Mission (YAGM)-which is a hope-filled program now in the hands of brilliant, skilled pastors. I'm guessing at some point, we will send off some of our own youth adults abroad for a year of service with YAGM. God-willing. In the meantime, people like the Grangaards are there--planning, mentoring, pastoring, receiving and walking with young adults. Jeni and Collin are some who have prayed for Humble Walk all along the way. They have also offered all sorts of other support to us. How about we do the same for them? Let's pray for Collin and Jeni. For the transition and the work they do on our behalf.

Below, is Jeni's latest post (with her permission). It's gorgeous.

A little update.

Today we went to the zoo. J's daycare is closed because of the Eid al-Fitr holiday. We have been so happy to have bonus family time, especially while so many are celebrating. The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo was fantastic. Elephants, all sorts of Monkeys, Tigers, Syrian Bears. We didn't get through all of it, but we will be back. They are even open on Saturdays, a big deal here. We made up a soundtrack as we walked and rolled through. Walter Martin's "We Like the Zoo Cause we are Animals Too," and "Colonel Hathi's March" from The Jungle Book were the most memorable. To be expanded.

I am also making a soundtrack of songs that do not make sense here. So far, I have Easy Like Sunday morning (as Sunday is really Monday), Manic Monday (again because Monday is Tuesday), and It's Friday I'm in Love, because Friday is prayer and family time. Suggestions welcomed.

Prayers have been ringing like music here in Jerusalem. We live close to a couple of mosques, so the call to prayer and mellifluous muezzins are resonant in the air. We walk by shrines and domes and walls and holy places on a daily basis. Isn't the whole world holy though? Here as there, we think of our friends and family and communities we have been and will be a part of, lifting up special prayers for some.

As mentioned above, it is Eid al-Fitr, the celebration marking the end of Ramadan. Ramadan brings a month of fasting from sunrise to sunset. It is a pillar of the Islamic faith. We have bumped into many Muslim families as they celebrate the holiday, including our generous neighbors. They brought us flowers and we made them homemade chocolate chip cookies.

For Eid, and even a bit for Ramadan, many have been granted permission to travel out of the West Bank. That is a big, positive, deal. It means increased flying checkpoints and road closures, but it also means more access to places that are usually cut off, like family, places of prayer, and the sea.

Because Jerusalem closes down on Saturday for Shabbat, we headed to the sea. There we met many people celebrating life and Eid al-Fitr. We saw mamas in hijab wading in the waves with their toddlers. We saw swimmers and runners and paddle boarders and puppies and pda.

The best thing we saw, the most beautiful encounter of the day was coming upon a family of four, a mom and dad and two children. One child swaddled in mama's arms--an infant, too small for the flowing waves. Mama was in her hijab, protected from the sun. The other child, a boy, was in his father's arms, smiling through his soul. His dad picked his son up from his wheelchair and carried him and his smile down the craggy stairs, across the melting sand, and into the green-blue sea. He set his boy down in the water, holding him up under the arms so that the boy could use what muscles he had to walk in the water. Joy. Then as the waves got bigger and bigger the dad picked his boy up so he could feel the waves and jump over them. Beauty. Then, the father helped he boy float in the blue-green sea, feeling the water up to but not over his ears. Wonder. We sat and watched for ten minutes, engrossed in the gift of family and care and kindness and adaptability we can carry within us. I am telling you, it may be the best thing we see in this place, but it is too early to say.

On Sunday we were with the saints of the Lutheran Church of Beit Sahour, where we were warmly welcomed by every church member. Josie tried to climb on each and every pew, but was still doted on at coffee quarter-hour. We were prayed for in the prayers of the church, and, after a sermon on loaves and fishes and bread enough for all. We were served sweet anise bread at coffee quarter-hour. Seriously, it lasts for precisely 15 minutes and then everyone gets up. Introvert's dream. In that brief time, we shared bread, coffee or tea, greetings and some really nascent Arabic.

Tomorrow, we return to somewhat normal patterns, day care and planning. Our YAGM come in a little more than a month. Cannot wait!

Boundaries for Sabbatical

campfire

A year and half ago, we sat around the big executive table at Acme (our former worship space in the art studio) and talked about the possibility of a sabbatical. A year and half in the life of this church is a lifetime--we are in a different worship space-people have moved, new faces have joined us, our kids are two grades older, jobs have come and gone, I started to like radishes and we applied and received a fat sabbatical grant.

It's all happening.

Specifically, my sabbatical begins August 1. I know that should be followed with a “sigh,” but it actually feels like more of a “gulp.” When my friend, Kara, began a sabbatical-she had this lovely image of putting her church in a boat. She stayed on the beach—and launched them off. They patiently shifted their legs around to make room for some of her baggage and then off they sailed. Way off on the horizon, Kara could just barely see the sail being raised for worship each week. She knew it was happening-but she wasn't a part of it. Because she had to stay on the beach. To rest.

It's a good image.

What it feels like to me-as the pastor who started this church seven years ago-is that I'm sending my kids off to sleep away camp for the first time. Up until this point-it's been me. I've been the main influence-the person tending to the needs and the dreams and questions. And now, you are going to have other influences and people to tend you. Now, there are amazing camp counselors who know things. Different songs and ideas swimming in heads and hearts. A whole different rhythm to the week. Teeth brushing and showering? It's camp-do whatever you want. (No really-do whatever you want to). You will change and grow-and I'm going to change and grow and it will be beautiful. A tiny bit scary, and mostly beautiful.

I've been thinking about sabbatical boundaries for myself for the last 18 months. Let's just say that it's complicated. I was a at party last week, and the host introduced me as, “This is my pastor. Well, and friend. And neighbor. Oh, and boss.” I laughed, because it was all true. It's true for most of us—we have multiple layers of relationships. So, a few clear guidelines for August-Oct are necessary.

1. Social media: I'm taking a full on break from facebook. You'll all keep the fb dream of memes alive while I'm gone.

2. Email: all work-related email (pastorjodihouge@gmail.com) will get an auto response that says I am unavailable-give the names of the people who are available-and instruct you to resend it in November. These emails will also automatically delete on my end. Doesn't that sound terrifying? What if people don't resend it? What if I miss 1000 opportunities? Well, yes. Those things will happen. But my work is actually stopping for 3 months—it's not just on delay. I am fully setting it down.

3. Will I be at worship or Wild Week or Beer and Hymns in the Fall? No. But you will be and it will be amazing.

4. What if there is a crisis? What if someone needs pastoral care? We have two amazing pastors who are covering for me and they are available. Pastor Angela offthegridpastor@gmail.com Pastor Phil pastorphil@epchurch.org. Also, you can do this for one another. Look around you-this community is filled with skilled listeners and prayers. Lucky us.

5. Can you still talk to me when you see me? Yes, of course. I'm traveling nearly the entire month of August (Enneagram 7's dream). So, this won't really be a thing until September. Invite me to social events? Etc? Yes. Sure. Just no business talk.

6. What about my family? Well-they are their own agents and this community is such a vital force for them, too. You will likely see them at worship and events.

7. Texting me or calling me. Don't. Not even to ask me a question.

8. I am doing two speaking events that are 100% business. These are exceptions and extraordinary and just happen to fall within the sabbatical. In August, I am traveling to Iceland for a pastor's event-they asked me to talk about the theology that supports Humble Walk and how we do experiential worship. They other is Why Christian? in September.

9. Periodically, I will send a blog post about how things are going on my end. Remember, I am not dead. I am just on break. And I am coming back (it's actually written into the grant agreement that I return for a minimum of a year).

Like Ross and Rachel, we're on a break. Like Ross and Rachel, we will get back together.

10. Pray for me. I will continue to pray for you.

Thank you notes in our PO box

thank you

One of the best things about having our own PO box is that it seems to attract thank you notes. Honestly. They just keep coming. I look through that little window and my stomach does a little flip (as I relive my college PO box days). In a digital world of text messaged thank yous, these hand written cards shine. Someone actually took the time to sit down with a pen and a card. They found a stamp-looked up our address-put it in the mail. Here are two for our whole community to enjoy.

Dear Humble Walk, Thank you for Laura's Bible! It's such a lovely translation for kids and so thoughtful of you. Gratefully, The Nordenstams. (Yellow crayon drawings by Laura, who is a fan of Spark Story Bibles).

Humble Walk Lutheran Church, (Jodi, Michelle and Slade)

Please accept this donation for the youth program. Valerie and I were very appreciate of the support you all gave us. We wish to pay it forward to the youth of Humble Walk for camp or gatherings or how you deem appropriate. Peace, Jean and Valerie Hyde.

3 years ago, we sent two youth (Val and Brylle) and two adults (Michelle and Slade) to the ELCA National Youth Gathering in New Orleans. This gathering happens every three years-and moves locations.  Maybe you know this already because our Rachel Kurtz is one of the Big Deals at the Gathering. This very week, it's happening again in Detroit. Once again, thousands of youths from all over the US will converge. The next time it rolls around, we will have another set of youths old enough to go. It can be life changing and powerful. It's also expensive. So three years ago when we talked about sending our two teens, it seems insane. No one had any money. Then we decided we would make it happen anyway--about $1000 per person--and trust that we were doing the right thing. Off they went with two super adults and the risks paid off.

Fast forward three years and financially, things have changed for Jean. So, she sought us out as a place to be generous. I KNOW. Grace upon grace. (She also gave me permission to share this story).

So, our youths have $1000 to begin dreaming about a trip or camp for next summer.

Beyond the shelter

summer

Early Spring, after we gathered for worship--we shared a meal together. I asked people how the worship community might be met this summer. In the past, we have moved from the shelter of a building to a park, lake, yard, playground. Because it's summer. And we have been focusing on sabbath. Real sabbath. Taking deep breaths and setting down all of our "shoulds." What if we embody sabbath for the month of July during worship? What would that look like? Likely, it would mean being outside. Someone said, "The beautiful summer days come and go so quickly. It's hard to stop whatever outdoor things we are doing to come in for worship at 4:30PM."

4:30PM in January feels like nearly evening.*

4:30PM in July feels like the middle of the afternoon.

So, we decided that in July, we would take a break from our fine shelter at Sholom Home. We are a community that meets people where they are at (pub, park, coffeeshop, yard). Why wouldn't our worship community do the same?

Last Sunday, people gathered for a BBQ next to our Humble Walk garden. Tomorrow, we gather for a Blessing of the Animals in the school park behind Adam's Elementary School (which is also the location of our Wild Events). Next week, we'll gather for a potluck picnic at Lake Josephine (where we did all those amazing baptisms last summer). Finally, our last Sunday in July will be at the end our the retreat at Bay Lake Camp. Glorious sabbath summer.

If you hate this-no worries, August will be here in no time and Sholom Home awaits.

*I think we should have this conversation in January, too. Because what if people want to meet outside in January?

Cat herding

cat-herding

Cool cats. This is our most scattered season-spread out over the city and globe, doing our things. I know this--this is every single summer. And every summer, as your pastor, I wonder if everything is coming undone. Then I take some deep breaths and think about those mustard seeds out there growing in and among us in ways that cannot be contained. The Spirit tending and calling us in mysterious, unseen ways. It takes some internal work--letting go. Reminding myself that we are constantly being born and reborn. Dying and rising together. It feels out of control because it is out of control. And yet. There are places where we need one another to show up. Want to be of service to this community? The world? Here are real live places to serve.

*An actual garden with real vegetables which need tending. Can you take a week? Or split a week with someone? Water, admire, pick vegetables for your dinner. Head Farmer Emily: empoweredme@yahoo.com    https://www.volunteersignup.org/RJEBF

*Summer Bay Lake Retreat. If you plan to come to Bay Lake, register so that we can plan for you.  We want everyone to come. That means YOU. Email Hospitality Guru: julieamanda@gmail.com

*Theater camp at the Art House North. We are supporting this good thing by providing and serving snacks each day. July 13-17, July 20-22. Snacks for hungry kids changes the world. Kids who are learning to respond to one another's ideas with, "Yes. Let's." Show up at the Art House, serve snack, marvel at youths, clean up snack. (You don't have to provide the snack...just serve it). Email Wild Director Casey to volunteer: caseylinstad@gmail.com

*Worship set up. Weekly at 4:15PM, beginning August 2. (Sabbatical pastors Phil and Angela will not do this for you) Sign up at worship or contact emmy.kegler@gmail.com.

*A potluck picnic this very Sunday at the Hennen House, right next to our community garden. This is what worship looks like: a yard party/potluck. If you plan to come, let Emily know so she can be prepared for you. Head Farmer Emily: empoweredme@yahoo.com

You make this thing go round and out.

Today. (Not yesterday or tomorrow)

hot-tamales-theatre-size

Sunday was Pentecost Sunday (Acts 2). We ate Hot Tamales during the sermon to remember what fire feels like in our bellies. Also, because they are delicious. We spent a good amount of time talking about the Holy Spirit-how the Spirit moves in with an invitation into the present. Being invited to notice what is happening in the present isn't usually where we spend our time. Our time is consumed either bemoaning the past or planning for the future—both of which are also often bathed in anxiety.

But, what if...what if the Holy Spirit calls us to notice what is right before us? The Spirit is at work here—today--offering life, connection, agitation, creativity, comfort, unity. All good things! All gifts.

I spend a good amount of time with other church leaders-in meetings and such. And usually this is an exercise in praying for the down-hearted. Sheesh. It's a hard time to be pastor. No one really knows how to do this job anymore.

But, what if...what if we let go of the past. The bemoaning and grief of how we experienced church in our youth-or the church we knew in our first call. And what if we stopped trying to project what the church will look like in ten years? We let go of all the articles about who or what the Millennials are and the “Nones” and the latest stats about how the church is tanking? What if we stop trying so hard to crack the code?

Letting go of what was and what will be absolutely frees us to attend to what the Spirit is doing right now. Right now! God is at work all around us-and I think we forget that. Sidenote: the world will say this is crazy. That living in the immediate is unsustainable--like being drunk at 9:00 in the morning (Acts 2). Yet, the invitation is here--an invitation to be present to your life.

Humble Walk is uniquely gifted in being able to attend to the immediate. We don't have a long history. Just shy of seven years. We've learned from the beginning that we have to hold what we have loosely. Being roughly...mildly...financially unsustainable means you need to live in the immediate. So, we look around and listen and respond to what God is doing this season. 5 Year Goals are cute-but that's a few lifetimes away for this community.

For now...today...we'll gather to hand out summer fliers. Later in the week we'll tie dye, eat ice cream and plant a garden. On Sunday, we'll gather for worship and hand out bibles. Beyond that? Who knows where the Spirit might lead us. (I keep hoping it leads us to a Roller Skating rink.)

Meet Angela and Phil. You lucky ducks.

August -October, Sunday worship gatherings will be led by two dynamic pastors (Angela and Phil). They'll divide up the Sundays and arrive at Sholom Home with some Good News for you. I am thrilled that they each said "yes." Thrilled. It's possible that you have met Phil at one of the storytelling events in the bar (yes, that Phil). Or maybe you met Angela when she came to worship a could months ago and shared a Milestone "My Milestone is that after praying for this community for years-and seeing it out there like a beacon of hope-I finally get to be here in person." Show up on Sundays. Honestly. Bring all your people. Because these two have the Gospel burning within them and those are good pastors to be around. I made them write bios (or I would just make it all up for them). Read on:

Pastor Angela Fairbanks Jacobson

After living the life up north for the past decade on Lake Superior in Ashland, Wisconsin, Pastor Angela Fairbanks Jacobson now seeks urban adventures.  She currently serves temporarily as Interim Pastor at Easter Lutheran Church in Eagan until this September.  Her most recent ministry (“first call”) adventure of the past few years was as the Pastor/Mission Developer for Off the Grid, “an emerging, Christ-centered, seeker community in the Chequamegon Bay area that welcomes doubt, explores faith, and embraces paradoxy”.  It was not uncommon for her first thought during that time to be “What would Jodi do?”  Some of her other favorite questions to ask throughout ministry and life include “what if…?” and “what is God up to?”  She looks forward to exploring these with the Humble Walk community….

Sometimes Angela can be found on the Mississippi riverwalks, on cross-country skiis, on a yoga mat, in a canoe, on the playground, napping in a sunbeam, or nowhere to be found.  She can also be found with her husband Karl (also a pastor) and with their five children – Hannah, Sam, Nora, Lucy, and Claire – in St. Paul or beyond.  No matter where the twists and turns (and ups and downs) of life have taken her, she always has close at hand her GPS blessing, “God, go before us, to prepare and provide, and sustain and surprise us with the Holy Spirit.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.”  Let’s be surprised together!

Pastor Phil GebbenGreen

Phil GebbenGreen is a Presbyterian pastor at Edgcumbe Church in Saint Paul.  He and his wife Julie are co-pastors, which works out really fantastic most of the time.  Phil truly believes that the Bible is chock full of super good news, and he loves to talk about it. Besides pastoring a congregation, Phil is interested in the insights of the Non-Violent Communication, the Enneagram, A Course in Miracles, and—when the mood strikes him—meditation and centering prayer.

Phil is also a handyman, and he enjoys working with his hands and varying his day between spiritual and physical endeavors.  This is reflected in his hobbies that include weightlifting and reading, cooking and movies, and then some more reading (preferably fantasy, history, or a good novel).  Phil and Julie have three children: Isaac, Micah, and Lydia.

 

The Lilacs Have Gone By

lilacs

On my walk this morning, I noticed the lilacs have begun their magic and immediately thought of this essay. A friend read it to me during a retreat last summer-and I thought it was so good that the hard copy has been sitting on my desk for a year, waiting for today.  Enjoy. It's a wonderful entry into our 3 month Sabbath series.  

June 22, 1996

|

ELLEN GOODMAN and Boston Globe

The lilacs have gone by. I take note of this with an unexpected snap of regret as I take my morning commute from the kitchen to the driveway.

The flowers had made their annual appearance on the bushes that stand beside my backdoor. For two weeks, they had permeated the air with a seductive promise.

I planned to take up their offer, to spend time in their company. But now the last of the blooms has turned a crusty deadhead shade of beige. And I had paid only the most transient of visits, enjoyed only a contact high, a small whiff of their possibilities.

This morning, it is the absence of lilacs that finally stops me in my tracks. I brake belatedly to pay the toll of attention to what is now missing. A year's worth of lilacs, an entire life span of flowers.

I repeat the phrase in my mind: The lilacs have gone by. It is what gardeners say. But in fact, the lilacs stayed in one place and I had gone by them, hurrying, on the way, on the move.

Behind me in this small city garden there are irises in bloom. The peonies are on the way, the ants already feasting the sweet sap off their buds. They will be followed by day lilies and black-eyed Susans, by asters and fall. Is it seasonal, this consciousness of the racing pulse of daily life? Is the awareness of flowers "going by" more than a banal metaphor for transience? Is it, rather, some alarm coded into our DNA as if it were a clock?

The days are still lengthening, but lately my friends have been wistful about time, the common currency of their lives. They talk of spending too much time on what are dubbed essentials. Too many hours seem to be taken out of their week, as if the week were a paycheck, too much withheld before they get to some small luxury, a moment of discretionary spending.

At lunch last week, a woman not given to maudlin cost accounting had figured out on her actuarial table that she has probably 30 more chances to see the pink ladyslippers in the woods. Thirty is a lot said the woman who is approaching 50 herself. But it is also, suddenly, finite.

This morning, dangling out of my briefcase is a plastic bag of excess black-eyed Susans that I dug up in a rush last night. Flowers for a friend. On the phone last week, we talked about the sense of channel-surfing through life. Work, click, kids, click, parents, click, errands, click. With split-second timing it was possible to cover everything - but only if we stay on the surface. What happens when life becomes a list, we asked each other? When even the pleasurable things become items to check off? What happens when we are getting through the days? What are we getting through and to? But our thoughts were interrupted by call-waiting.

Sometimes, you catch a glimpse of something in human nature that longs to spend time lavishly. To relish as well as to produce. On a late spring morning, there is a wistful reminder in this natural datebook. How quickly things "go by."Life and lilacs.

Write to Ellen Goodman at The Washington Post Writers Group, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071

PO Box!

2015-04-15 11.23.09

We are into our 7th year as a church. 7 years ago, I wish we would have gotten a PO box. But we didn't. So, we collect mail at: my house, the synod office, Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, occasionally at Acme Scenic Arts and once in a while Sholom Home East. Madness, people. Madness. Today, we are the proud renters of a PO box. Now we can spend the next 7 years moving everything over to this address.

Humble Walk Lutheran Church
PO Box 16363
St Paul, MN 55116

It's so awesome and old school. With a golden key.

Just wait until next week when I begin to separate Humble Walk email and my own personal email.

Beyond the Frond: Songs for Palm Sunday

mix tape

Our in-house mix tape creators are above average. It's hard to keep humble about the mixes they do because they are so stinkin' good. Brie Marie made one for our very first Easter Vigil after party. During a cleaning spree, I unearthed it and have been listening to it over and over. For Palm Sunday, we asked Sara K to create one inspired by the tone of the day. We said, "A party that's about to crash/go south. Or a sense that the other metaphorical shoe is about to drop." Here it is. Download all these songs and enjoy. In this order (she employs a well-established formula for awesomeness. Don't mess with it. Trust the system.) Or just hop in my truck and run errands with me. You can still hear the music over my truck's tiny exhaust issue.

1 Harlem River Blues 2:49 Harlem River Blues Justin Townes Earle 2 I've Got Your Number, Son 3:11 Volume 3 She & Him 3 Visions 3:20 Dark Arc Saintseneca 4 Fisher Of Men 3:13 Hold Time M. Ward 5 Let Me In 3:07 Dogfight The Sensations 6 my, you look ravishing tonight 2:49 kleenex girl wonder 7 H.S.K.T. 4:18 Sylvan Esso Sylvan Esso 8 What Do All the People Know? 4:20 What Do All the People Know? The Monroes 9 Beginning To Feel the Years 3:09 The Firewatcher's Daughter Brandi Carlile 10 Off The Bone 3:11 Do It Yourself The Holy Broke 11 Angeles 2:57 Either/Or Elliott Smith 12 No Diggity 3:42 Thinking In Textures Chet Faker 13 Pressure 3:57 This Is My Hand (Prismatic Edition) My Brightest Diamond 14 Love Like This 3:58 Isles Wild Belle 15 My Silver Lining 3:35 Stay Gold First Aid Kit 16 My Special Prayer 3:06 When A Man Loves A Woman Percy Sledge 17 Sharp Cutting Wings (Song To A… 3:27 Niagara, Niagara Lucinda Williams 18 My Bucket's Got A Hole In It 2:04 Greatest Hits Ricky Nelson 19 Somebody That I Used to Know 2:23 Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield… Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield 20 Amsterdam 3:19 The Weatherman Gregory Alan Isakov 21 Working Titles 3:47 Maraqopa Damien Jurado 22 Another Saturday 2:56 Dark Was The Night: A Red Hot C… Stuart Murdoch 23 Turn Away 3:06 Morning Phase Beck

Wabi Sabi

Too Much Love 15

Today, I picked up the book Everyday Sacred by Sue Bender and it fell open to this page: October Tea One day, in search of something else, I found a book called Wabi Sabi. Wabi sabi are the Japanese words for a feeling, an aesthetic that is hard to describe.  I read: "It's a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent and incomplete. It is a beauty of things modest and humble. It is a beauty of things unconventional."

A friend, a student of the Japanese tea ceremony, mentioned "October tea." She said it's one of the most important times of the year for tea, the most wabi. November celebrates the new tea, but October is the time to use up the last of the old. Instead of letting it dribble out, or be thought of as the dregs--"We cherish what remains of that which is in the process of passing."

This month only, mismatched dishes are used. The utensils are ones that have been broken and repaired. "Not just repaired, but carefully and beautifully mended," she added.

I feel like this describes so much of Holy Week at Humble Walk. Modest, humble, unconventional, imperfect, impermanent, incomplete. Each part of the week had all of these elements-each time we gathered, it was holy--it felt like time was suspended. We walked the razor-sharp line of joy and pain, of suffering and delight. I felt my Grinch heart grow. It was as if we were, as individuals and as a community, being not just repaired, but carefully and beautifully mended.

We wabi sabied the hell out of Holy Week.

A word from Justin Rimbo. Snakes.

Miss the preaching of Justin Rimbo on Sunday? Well, read it here for yourself.First Reading: Numbers 21: 4-9 Gospel: John 3: 1-21

Let’s Do the Mind-Warp Again”

Or

Snakes on a Plain”

My Humble Walk family, grace to y’all and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

So, most folks here know who I am, I thought it might make sense to start by giving a refresher for anyone who doesn’t. While Humble Walk might attract its fair share of seminarians from certain local institutions, I am – as far as I know – the only person Humble Walk has ever sent to seminary, and it actually looks like I’m gonna graduate.

Milestone.

Our family pulled up our tent pegs two years ago and relocated to Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina. It’s a lot like Luther, but with much less snow, and the students aren’t as smart or good-looking. My wife Angie is a teacher and all-around talker-downer for me when things get too crazy, and we have two kids, Owen, who is 6 going on 30 – he’s very serious, and considerate, and Type A. He almost gave an altar call during a Maundy Thursday service once at Humble Walk, trying to usurp Jodi’s Children’s sermon. And Zoe, who is almost 4, is the opposite. She is an ARTIST and has grown to be kind of like that Amy Poehler character from SNL who runs around shouting “RICK RICK RICK.”

All in all, things are really good in South Carolina, but I find that we still spend most of our time trying not to get sucked into drudgery and routine or maybe just not feeling exhausted all the time. That would work for us.

I’ll share this example from a few weeks ago about what our days usually look like – Owen goes to elementary school close to the school where Angie teaches, so they usually get up at 5:30 to get ready to go together, and they get home around 5pm, just totally wiped out. And I take Zoe to preschool, and go to class, and pick Zoe up, and get Zoe to a sitter, and go to class again, and come home and we all eat dinner, and then I go and read, and write papers, and read some more, and then it starts all over and I just want to get some sleep. But in the morning, as soon as she hears the shower, Zoe is up, and once Zoe is up, there is nowhere to hide. On this particular day I have in mind, I was completely passed out in bed when Zoe threw open the door, flipped on the lights and said, “DAD. I have TERRIBLE news . . . I have the hiccups!”

She was right. As far as I was concerned, at 6am, this wake-up call was, in fact, terrible news. To be woken up this way felt kind of like I was under attack. And I have to be honest in saying I was also kind of a jerk to Zoe later that morning.

I hear – through my sources – that you have had some kind of a winter here. And if there’s one thing I remember from the seemingly-endless winters that are a part of living in Minnesota, it’s that, somewhere in March or April or early May, the lack of sunlight starts to warp your brain a bit. So when the weatherman finally comes on and says, “it’s going to be warm and sunny this weekend,” you have nothing left to do but sort of glare at the television and say, “Psssh. Right.” And maybe you’ve gotten a small taste of it this past week, but it takes a few weeks of living in sunlight again to remember that summer even exists, that we’re not stuck in some eternal winter, like the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

HERE’S THE THING: WHEN WE GET USED TO THE GRIND, TO ISOLATION, HIBERNATION AND DESPAIR FOR LONG ENOUGH, THEN GOOD THINGS - EVEN WHEN IT’S PURELY GOOD NEWS LIKE LIFE AND LIGHT - CAN START TO SOUND LIKE IT’S A LIE. LIKE JUDGMENT. OR DEATH. THE DOLDRUMS HAVE THIS POWER OF MAKING LIGHT LOOK LIKE DARKNESS.

In both of the readings today we find two groups of people who are a part of a wrestling match with God, and their reality has become so self-centered that they are in serious danger of that distorting, late-winter mind-warp. Consider the preposterous things that are leaving the lips of the Israelites as they wander the wilderness (and you have to read this in a whiny voice): “Why did you bring us out of Egypt to diiieeeee? We don’t have any food except for this food God sent us which we used to like but now it’s DETESTABLE . . . we want pizza . . .” At other times, they say things like, “It would be better off just to be slaves again.” So much drama.

And then we have Nicodemus: Jesus is in Jerusalem for Passover, and Nicodemus the Pharisee, a “leader of the people,” sees him flipping tables in the Temple, and so he arranges a little covert meet-and-greet under cover of darkness. Maybe he didn’t want the other Pharisees to find out he was meeting with Jesus . . .

There’s actually this other theory that says that after dark was the appointed time when the Pharisees met to discuss matters of the Law, so maybe Nicodemus is actually there on official business – maybe he’s sent there as a representative of all the other Pharisees, to figure out who this Jesus is, and what he’s up to.

In both cases, we have people who have missed the forest for the trees. The big picture of God’s goodness. The Israelites are stuck looking down. They are looking two feet in front of them. Their focus isn’t on the wide-open expanse of freedom above and around them, or the potential for a future, they’re just blinkered. And this story says that God sends snakes to bite them – an interesting take on the way we understand God, and probably deserving of its own sermon – but at least this gets their attention. So God works through nature to wake them up, and then heals them through the same thing. There are, literally, snakes on that plain.

The Pharisees aren’t so much looking down as they are stuck looking in. They love God and God’s commandments, but that love has warped into a love for their ingrown interpretation of the Law, the letter of the law, that they alone get to interpret and enforce, like judges in a courtroom. And the very idea which Jesus embodies - that God is fulfilling the law through restoration and reconciliation and through and for people who aren’t already in is, for them, like walking out of a movie theater after a ten-hour marathon. The light is almost blinding, and can knock you off balance, they’re disoriented. Nicodemus – and really, all the Pharisees – are put in this new position where, pretty quickly, they have to figure out whether they will accept Jesus’ re-working of their ideas, or if they’ll reject it. It’s a bit of a crisis. The lights have been flipped on.

I didn’t take any Greek at seminary, so I’m relying on the wisdom of Karoline Lewis to let me know that the word “judgment” in this text has the same Greek root as the word “crisis.” A crisis is a moment when we have to figure out how we’re going to see things. So maybe Jesus when Jesus is talking about judgment coming into the world, he is saying something close to, “Here’s the crisis at hand: a healing, restorative light came into the world, and some people liked their brokenness so much that they wanted nothing to do with it.”

This is a laughably simple decision for us. Light is a good thing, right? Jesus is just alright with us. It’s fun to point the finger at the silly Israelites and the Pharisees as being mind-warped, self-centered whiners until we remember that, oh yeah, they’re me. If you’re not sure about this, think for a second about how you felt when you heard Jesus say that his coming into the world is a “judgment.”

Ick.

Judgment sounds, to us, like suffering. It sounds like snakes on a plain! After all, if you’ve ever attended 6th grade, you have been judged. If you write something and put it on the internet, you will be judged (don’t read the comments). If you are a human being, whether you’ve been on a reality TV show or not, you have experienced judgment at the hands of other human beings, and it suuuuuuuucks. And Jesus says he is judging us? Why would Jesus want anything to do with judgment?

Well, maybe he wants to transform it. Redeem it? Or, more specifically, he wants to turn it back into what it really is, which means exposing us to divine light for long enough that we instead start to forget about winter – about death, and despair and isolation – and see how we’re a part of something better. If Jesus is judging us, meaning Jesus is making the call on our inherent value, the judgment is that we’re LOVED, and WORTH IT. I need to hear this over and over - Jesus didn’t come into the world to condemn us – to cut us off from God, as much as we ask for it – but to save us. To heal us. And part of that means restoring us to our full selves.

When judgment is left in our hands, it is a tool for pain, for bigotry, for hatred – for condemnation. In God’s hands, judgment becomes more like a huge coming out party. We don’t have to hide who we are, because who we are is a people joined to Jesus Christ in our baptisms and lit up, and lifted up for everyone to see. Jesus isn’t just about transforming the concept of judgment – Jesus is also transforming us into who we’re created to be. All of a sudden, encountering Jesus sounds less like condemnation, and more like life. The good news is good again.

Jesus can do this. The beginning of this same book says that Jesus was there at the beginning, his life was the light of all people, so we already know Jesus can turn chaos into creation. And – Easter spoiler alert – Jesus also has the power to turn a cross into an empty tomb. So who are we to say that Jesus can’t turn our twisted version of judgment into grace, healing, salvation? Jesus – and Humble Walk is proof of this – takes messes, and does miraculous things with them.

In a few weeks, we’ll see Jesus lifted up on the cross, the same way the snake was lifted up in the wilderness, the same way we lift Jesus up when we gather as a community. This time of year, especially, we proclaim Jesus’ ability to transform – to take what looks like death, and turn it into life. To stick with us for long enough that we make it through the mind-warp and start to trust in Jesus again. And on Holy Saturday, the day between the crucifixion and the resurrection, Nicodemus shows up one last time, and we get to hear his epilogue as he shows us what that transformation looks like.

Nicodemus, who once came to Jesus by night, comes to his dead body before the day is over, following the Jewish customs of anointing Jesus body and wrapping him in linen, and laying him in a tomb nearby. A great act of love. And done in public, no less. He’s not hiding, he’s not afraid of the light.

It seems that, toward the end, Nicodemus’ crisis is finally resolved, but I’m not so sure he resolved it himself. Somewhere along the line, as an unwritten subplot throughout this whole book, Jesus has affected Nicodemus in a such a way that he turns from darkness to light, from suspicion to trust, from inward to outward, to who he really is. Jesus, even in death, takes what’s warped in us – our misperceptions and selfish invulnerabilities – and . . . I won’t say Jesus makes us normal, but he transforms us into a really good kind of weird – the kind that loves openly, and lays down its life. This is the gradual, gracious work of God; the long winter’s crisis of coming out into the light. May it be so for us here and now. AMEN.

Well-rested People

breathe

I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. (Exodus 20) On Sunday, we talked about this verse (and the rest of the assigned reading: Exodus 20: 1-17). In this one little verse, we get a peek into who God is and how God is faithful to us. God tells us that God is ours--that the relationship is already established (your God. The "your" is singular...meaning you--your God). And that we have already been delivered from slavery. We no longer work for Pharaoh.

Pharaoh is not our god.

Of course, we forget this in a heartbeat. All week long, we think we are slaves to our jobs and obligations so that when Sunday rolls around (or a day off)--we want to be free.

The word from God is this:

I brought you out of slavery. I already did that. You are free.

That inner committee—those voices in your head that tell you the opposite—those voices that say “produce, produce, produce ” the voices that say, “If you stop, if you rest, you are nothing.” The voices that cause all that anxiety---silence them. Say, “Get behind me Satan.” Say no.

We wear our exhaustion with pride. It's a trophy—our ability to withstand stress is a mark of real character. The busier we are-the more important we seem. We even say dumb things like: "Are you keeping busy?" As if that's a goal. 

When in fact, the world aches for well-rested people.

When God stopped to rest, God did not show up to do more. God did not just check in on creation in anxiety to be sure it was all working. God has complete confidence that everything will do what's it's intended to do. That the world will hold. The plants will perform. The birds and fish and beasts of the field will prosper. All will be well. (So says Walter Brueggemann. So say we all.)

God, in whose image we are made, is not a workaholic.

God is not Pharaoh.

In fact, God rescued us from Pharaoh.

God does not keep jacking up production schedules.

God doesn't add another device with the false hope of being more efficient (lie).

When we stop production.

When we rest.

When we resist the urge to check in. To check email. To do just a little bit more.

When we stop—it is an act of faith.

It is an act of resistance.

It is absolutely counter cultural.

You want to keep church weird? Stop producing.

Maybe an entire sabbath day is a luxury that you cannot even imagine. Maybe you have such a patchwork of part time jobs and grad school and and and that 24 hours seems unfathomable. I understand that within Humble Walk, there are about 2 people with traditional 9-5 jobs. The rest are part time plus contract work. Or a mishmash of contract work. Which means, if you don't work--you don't eat.

So it is very tricky to talk about taking an entire day off.

Maybe then, it's a 2 hour block of time.

When we do,

We declare with our own bodies that we are not ruled by the god of anxiety.

We declare that we are not ruled by busyness.

By accumulating.

By the pursuit of more.

We declare that we are not a commodity.

We are not a transaction.

Walter Brueggemann (theological hero, in Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now) says this:

The “other gods” are agents and occasions of anxiety. Be we, by discipline, by resolve, by baptism, by Eucharist, and by passion, resist such seductions. In so doing we stand alongside the creator in whose image we are made. 

By the end of the six days, God had done all that necessary for creation...so have we.

Think about what kind of friend, neighbor, parent, citizen, student you are when you have had a bit of rest. If you are wondering what the church community has left to offer the world. If you have ever wondered how we as a church might meet a deep longing—something that nearly everyone in your life is aching for...it is permission to stop.

We are going to keep practicing in May, June and July. In August—I'll be gone on sabbatical so you can do whatever you want.

My friend Glenn says that practicing sabbath is like riding a bike. Talking about theories about riding or telling someone how to ride a bike is way, way different then putting your butt in the seat and your feet on the pedals and pushing off. It takes practice.

So, we are going to practice.