Bar, Salt, Light

silent-night1

Let's take a minute and think about the year in the bar. Since our bar life runs on an academic calendar, it's reflection time. It's the short month (weeks?) in between wrapping things up at Shamrock's and putting plans together for next year. In the next few weeks, the dates will go on a calendar, get okayed by the good folks at Shamrock's and then make their way to some fancy flier. As you think over the year and the times you made your way to an event at Shamrock's, where did you feel like you connected? (With one another, God, the Paul Molitor burger). What part challenged you? Fed you? Felt like life or healing or a storm home?

Our life together is incarnational. We trust that Jesus is present-whether we recognized it or not. We are also Spirit-led. Which means we aren't afraid to let things go that no longer have energy. Even sacred cows. We are also risk takers-willing to try things that feel a bit on the edge or scary. If that's where we are being led--then we go.

So, Beloved. What will life in the bar look like next year? What are you hungry for? What are your friends hungry for?

I found this in my sermon files. It served as a great reminder to me this morning.

Over the last few months, our gatherings at Shamrock's have drawn hundreds of people. Never ever underestimate the power of the church to convene. We know how to create events. Through conversations with all those guests, I found out we have groups from a million other Lutheran churches, Presbyterian, Catholic, Sikh, non-denominational, Disciples of Christ, Baptist, Assembly of God and hundreds of others who claim no faith affiliation. We aren't looking for convert anyone. We simply offer Jesus' gentle invitation to come and see. Or come and hear. Or come and sing. Or just come and be.

That is being salt and light.

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

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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

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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.

Good News that's actually Good.

beloved

This morning at my clergy text study (which I call preacher's round-up), someone made a comment that we have spent 2000 years trying to turn Good News into law/bad news. I'm sort of scandalized by the thought because...well, crap...because it might be true. I know we can't help it. It's the way the rest of the world works. It's a system that we understand--getting what we deserve, proving our worth, getting what we deem as fair, digging our own grave, seeing the whole thing as a business transaction. One person said, "Actually, I am pretty sure that most people in our congregations do not feel deserving of love." Crushing! You are not a business transaction. God's love for you is not a transaction.

Maybe you are having some trouble believing that God in Jesus loves you whole-heartedly, as you are...and that is actually the point of everything. The point of the bible. The point of creation. The point of 2000 years of retelling these stories.

The point, the point, the point.

Beloved. Beloved. Beloved.

Thanks. I just needed to be sure you heard that. (Also, I am not preaching this week because Justin Rimbo is---so I had to sneak my sermon in somewhere.)

Whole-hearted Living

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Growing up, every single Sunday we did the same public confession in worship. Part of it was, "We have not loved you with our whole heart. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves." I have been thinking about this all week--both what it means to not love with our whole heart (fairly easy to think of examples). But, maybe more perplexing--what it means to do it. What does it look like when we love with our whole heart? Over the course of the last year, when have we loved with our whole heart? What does that look like? Where are we being called  (or perhaps, like Jesus in Sunday's Gospel from Mark, being kicked/thrown into)? Where are the places where we might love with our whole heart within and around Humble Walk? As we communally discern where the Holy Spirit is moving us in the coming season, these are some of our guiding questions.

I asked those who gathered for worship to brainstorm ways in which they have experienced or shown whole-hearted living.

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Here is what they said and drew:

Buying coffee for strangers and friends Forgiving Taking care of yourself Sending kids and self to bed on time Outside comfort zone for sake of others Not using people's past against them Recycling Listening to someone you disagree with To honestly see the world Love despite the bad Love enemies even when you don't mean it Loving without regard for boundaries Loving others regardless the little annoying things they do Loving another even when it's not convenient An image of a big heart with these words inside: empathy, being brave, stranger, serving, forgiveness, being uncomfortable, enemy, respect, God's work, our hands. Forgiving readily Accepting "Other" focused Believing without proof Giving people the benefit of the doubt Giving of yourself and what you have to offer Giving without expectation of something in return Sacrifice for another to exhaustion Focused, attention on one thing or one person Joyful, not matter the situation Loving their flaws To get married Friends and forgiveness (70 x 7 style) Parents loving kids/grandparents Love within a family Coffee (encased in a heart)

I would add that our lenten season of secretninjas is an example. Those secretninja's where flung far and wide--along with all sorts of joy and love. Our bar events are whole-hearted living. Many times, the room is filled with new faces. Someone in worship commented that when he looks through the fb list of people who are attending, not only does he not recognize those who are coming--but he doesn't even know the people who invited them. A third example is when we are in the park in the summer time--particularly during the meals of Wild Week. I look around at a playground area filled with people sharing a meal who might not ever otherwise come together. Thereby the grace of God. These three areas (secretninja's, bar, park) began with "What if we tried..." and have completely taken on their own life--well beyond anything that we can control or manufacture. This is whole-hearted living.

Luther Sem Student

You all know that we are a learning site for Luther Seminary Students. They come and we learn from one another--we fall madly in love with them--and then we bless them on their way to amazing things. It's catch and release. It's part of our gift to the larger church--and it's a gift to us to have them around. Laura Slezak (pronounced Lara Slayzack) has been around for months. Laura just officially chose us as a learning site for the next semester. So, you will see more of her as we learn together. I asked Laura to give us an introduction. Humble Walk, meet Laura. Laura, Humble Walk.

Here's what she wrote: Hi y’all. My name is Laura Slezak and I am your new contextual education student here at HW. Has anyone else ever seen the acronym and thought homework? The problems I suffer from due to my student status. I am from north Texas, although the above greeting is about as Texan as I get. I am in my first year at Luther Seminary where I am trying to figure out what is going on, which is where you lovely people come in. I am the oldest of four children and suffer from all of the stereotypical neurosis or quirks associated with that birth position. If you catch me without anything to say (a rather common occurrence), chances are I will tell you all about my family. My family background and my education have had a global emphasis and therefore tend to inform my perspective. I over-analyze absolutely everything, including this introduction. And . . . time to be done. Here’s to hoping I haven’t scared you off because I am looking forward to getting to know y’all.

3 Kids, 2 Wands, 1 Cloak*

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We have a whole community full of youth ministers. Many adults who used to make their living (?Debatable) in full time youth ministry positions. And a slew of former camp counselors. Another section of kid advocates. Then add adults who generally like kids and a room full of involved, intentional parents. When people ask if we have a youth minister, I sort of laugh and then launch into a mini sermon about what it looks like to have Community Supported Youth Ministry. We use the whole village, yo. There is a rotating cast of adults who spend a couple hours of intentional time with our oldest kids--5th grade and up. Vanessa is our volunteer coordinator of these monthly gatherings. This month, I was lucky enough to be one of those adults. (Along with Vanessa).

We rounded up the youths and headed to Claddagh Coffee Shop for two hours of conversation. Think youths need to be entertained? Ha. Think again. At least this group doesn't. Plan A: Everyone bring 3 questions about God. We wrote these questions anonymously on scraps of paper and then threw each one out to the group. The conversation was so lively, we didn't even have a chance to pull out the board games we brought along as Plan B. People, these are 5 and 6th graders. Within five minutes, I quickly realized that I should take some notes so that we all might get a glimpse of what they are thinking about. Here is the list of questions and tangents:

Initial questions about God Why sadness? Why did the bible skip like 20,000  years? (No mention of dinosaurs) Who wrote the bible? What if God doesn't exist? What if God does exist? If God is all about love, why are some people so mean? What is time?

Which led us to: Sherlock Holmes Indiana Jones Harry Potter Lego Brick Bible Chapters of the bible are so different it's like we each took a piece of the story and wrote it in our own words Big Bang Theory (a theory, not the TV show) WW2 Religion verses experiencing God Heaven is for Real Life before the internet Life before indoor plumbing Isis Communion of the Saints (Dead people are at communion?) Time travel Senior citizen hip hop groups Ancestry.com What if Ancestry.com went all the way back to Jesus? Alzheimer's What about the platypus? Freedom in Christ Having a sixth sense that detects holy things? Having a sixth sense that detects/moves us to compassion Do you think God was delighted when we first left earth and landed on the moon? Don't you think we should spend an afternoon in a gondola asking these questions and hanging out? So, a trip to Denver then?

They aren't thinking about small anything. Big! They are thinking so big and beautiful it was hard to keep up. Honestly, it felt like a privilege to be let into the conversation. I already know they are theologians--and now I see they are philosophers. And I want to give them the moon. Next month, Denver for that gondola ride? I'm in.

*Two kids were out sick. The three that were able to participate came bearing 2 magic wands and 1 full length cloak.

Celebrating

Within the Humble Walk community, we have had our share of heartbreak. We don't hide that from one another. Every week, we gather in prayer around very painful things-broken bodies, strained relationships, financial stress, scary transitions. We carry one another's burdens and offer support to one another-and we lift it all to the Creator of the Universe. I want to make sure that we remember to celebrate with one another, too. There are so many good things happening within our community. You people are just soaring right now. You are out there-shining-taking risks with great courage. Art is being made, kids/adults are coming into their own skin, health and healing are arriving in all forms. This, too, is the body of Christ.

I am blessed to be a witness.

Just do the deal (Parks and Rec)

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I know we all love lists. And it seems that January is prime list month. "5 easy solutions for..."

"Top 10 ways to cut out..."

I'm a sucker for them. So neat and tidy and accessible. These lists usually don't offer anything new in the way of news--but even old news repackaged can be helpful.

The list category that makes me want to pull out my hair are the ones related to church. Every single week, there is a new list of reasons why some group is leaving church or annoyed with Christians. A list of things we shouldn't say or do. I used to read them and then sort of get depressed. The insight seems obvious that I could feel my body actually going to into slow motion as I work my way through the list--the energy draining out all around me. Really? I think. We need this pointed out to us? Well then, we are screwed.

The other reason these lists are so life-sucking is that they are often fear-based. Don't do or say or be this or all the young people are going to walk out of your church and never look back. Because, let's face it--this is the demographic that we are most afraid of--and afraid of losing.

I'm reading Amy Poehler's book, Yes Please. Once again, the leading lady comics are teaching me how to do my job. (See also: Bossypants) Today, I read about the beginning of Poehler's series Parks and Recreation-and how the initial ratings were crap and the talk around the show's success didn't look good. Here is where she has something to teach me:

"We kept our heads down and did our jobs. We controlled the only thing we could, which was the show. We did the thing. Because remember the talking about the thing isn't the thing. The thing is the thing." (page 253)

I'm ready to be about the thing.

Milestone. MILESTONE!

Milestones Today, your generosity is a milestone for Humble Walk. Every week in worship, we celebrate milestones. Just before the dismissal, we invite everyone who has a one to come up around the altar. “Maybe you lost a tooth or job, maybe you got a tooth or job. Some milestones are joyful and some are not. We welcome them all.” The idea came from one of our seminarians-as a way to recognize our whole lives. We want to honor the moments that are significant and make up a life. It acknowledges that our lives are holy-sacred moments in the absolute ordinary. Each person takes a small stone from the pile and shares their milestone. When they are done sharing, they put the rock in our big milestone jar and the gathered say, “MILESTONE!”

Enjoy this final video, “Milestone.” Count how many stones actually get into the jar—and enjoy Jeremiah's hair keeping the beat. Thank you for your gifts of support. You make this church go round and out. Praise be to God for you. YOU.

 

Experiential Worship

It's Experiential. The very first time Humble Walk gathered for worship, kids outnumbered adults. This remains our constant around the the table and font. We decided from the beginning that we would live out the Gospel's great reversal within worship by putting our most vulnerable in the center. We want those with the least amount of power to lead this community. For this community, that means we put the youngest worshipers' needs first. God bids us to come and die and to lose our lives in order to find it. We see this lived out in our worship life every single week.

While some may be put off by this initially, if you stick around long enough you will see that it's not about sacrifice but of receiving a gift. It might be easy to think in this model that the adults sacrifice so that the kids are met or that those without kids sacrifice so that the kids are met. If you regularly show up where we gather for worship, you will find your heart being opened by our youngsters' prayers spoken for hurting people and impossible situations. You will see them lead us into the Gospel with questions, artwork and unfiltered commentary. You will receive the broken and spilled body and blood of Christ from the hands of small prophets. Beyond precious, these moments are gifts because they transform the rest of us (who are protectively trying to guard our hearts from any such transformation). Knowing what it's like to be left out or bullied or without power, kids have a way of pointing to justice and mercy and truth. Thanks be to God.

So, our worship is experiential and engaging. We also eat bread.

Enjoy this Slow Jam and give us all your money. We promise to keep living out the Gospel with the most vulnerable at the helm.

We Are Connected. $15,000 Appeal.

Today. Today is the day we launch our 7 Day End of the Year As We Know It Appeal. We know you have been waiting for this exciting launch. Wait no further. The community of Humble Walk is growing in every way. Our summer park life is teeming. The twice monthly gatherings at Shamrock's Pub pack the house. Our kids are growing up and multiplying. Seminary students keep finding their way over to us. The online conversations we host are lively. Through it all, we are rooted in weekly gatherings around Word and Sacrament-Christ breaks in and meets us with grace and truth. We do give everything freely. With great abundance and without strings-gather with us, use our ideas, go and do likewise. Of course, we do have operational costs that support all this good ministry. Do you have $15,000 waiting for a good home? Because that's what we need to end this year well. If not $15,000, how about $200...$70...or $70x7? We promise to put it to good use, straight away.

Online gifts: http://humblewalkchurch.org/

As a extra shiny bonus, we have recorded 3 stellar original masterpieces for your enjoyment. Each highlight a part of the Humble Walk life.

We Are Connected

We have a strong online community and presence. Through facebook, our website, blog, and Twitter we are part of what Keith Anderson calls The Digital Cathedral. (You can read all about it and us in Keith's book's with the same title.) Being a church without walls has it's advantages. It pushes us out and into places where people naturally hang out-places like the social media empire.

Perhaps you follow us online or participate in our digital conversations. Maybe your community has used ideas that we road-tested. Maybe our community has walked with you in prayer and support.

We give thanks and are honored to be a part of your life and the broader church world in these ways. Thank you for connecting with us. We are connected-in Christ.

Enjoy...

Darkness (The Good Kind)

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At the end of November, I gathered with my clergy retreat group for 24  hours in the woods. We have been doing this monthly rhythm for over three years-thanks to a generous grant  and continually saying "yes" to the gift. Each month, we rotate leadership. The leader picks a theme and makes a soundtrack based on the theme. We pray and tell stories related to the theme. Our November theme was Darkness (the Good Kind). We have so many associations with the dark being bad. "Going through a dark time." "Dark night of the soul." "I've always been afraid of the dark." Even in scripture-"A light shines in the darkness-and the darkness shall not overcome it." What if we consider other connections? If the only associations we have with dark and darkness are negative/scary and things we want to avoid--what an easy, subtle leap toward those same scary feelings about those with brown skin. Could there be a better time than right now to unravel that (perhaps even unconscious) connection?

My colleague, Joy (pastor at Christ Lutheran on Capitol Hill) challenged us to consider the gifts of darkness. She said, "Think of images related to darkness that are good. Like seeds, new birth, Advent, cool shadows, deep sleep, mystery, chocolate, dark earth, indigo night." It's nice, isn't it? To consider the gifts that these hours of December nights bring us? Particularly now, as we close in on winter solstice.

It's no secret that I love to sleep. These days, if there isn't anywhere to be in the evening--I can call it a day at 4:30PM. Yoga pants and pj's without fear of being caught (shock!) giving up on the day as the sun sets. This doesn't even feel possible in July. At 4:30PM in July, we aren't even home from the pool yet. Oh, the gift of crawling into bed and feeling the weight of quilts and giving into sleep. Sometimes, at 9PM.

Each night during Advent, my family meets at the table and lights tea lights...one the first night, two the second...until we get to Christmas. We read a chapter from our Advent story book and everyone gets a piece of chocolate. It's one of my favorite things in the world. It's complete gift. I welcome it and look forward to it all year. Darkness is a gift to me.

Interested in listening in on Joy's Darkness soundtrack? Here's the list. I have played All the Stars and Winter Song over and over and over. Go buy these or create your own soundtrack (and share it with me, please).

All the Stars (Wailin' Jennys) Bird Song (Wailin' Jennys) Anjo Da Guarda (Airto Moreira) Cancion De Cuna (Eliot Fisk) Winter Song (Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson) Lazy Bones (Joel Plaskett) Wedding Song (Tracy Chapman) Spirit in the Dark (Blind Boys of Alabama) Dark Night of the Soul (Loreena McKennitt) Night Ride Home (Joni Mitchell) Closing in On Midnight (Tiller's Folly) El Noi dela Mare (Jean-Felix Lalanne and Muriel Anderson Vicky Cristina Barcelona) Holy, Holy, Holy (Sufjan Stevens) Slouching Towards Bethlehem (Joni Mitchell) Common Threads (Bobby McFerrin) Midnight (David Wilcox) Blessed to be a Witness (Ben Harper) Gratitude (Eric Bibb)

These kids are alright

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Our kids have sort of been blowing me away lately. Always. Of course. But lately, they have been breaking my heart in good ways. When Nate and I talked through Advent worship, we thought about an even simpler service than our regular worship. We wanted it to be a bit shorter to allow for ample time to transition to the post-worship meal at a host home. Which, on paper and in theory and in our heads, looked like it was true. In bulletin form, it was simpler. Streamlined. (Which is tricky because there isn't much fluff in that service to begin with). But then the first Sunday of Advent rolls around and our Humble kids were there en mass. The youths basically led the whole service. Not because we planned it that way--or because it Youth Sunday (every Sunday at Humble Walk is Youth Sunday). They led it because that's what they do. They filled the baptismal font with tea lights to set the theme from the Gospel of Mark's "Keep awake" message. They made the advent candle for the wreath. They created art in response to the Gospel (quietly, in their seats, while listening to the sermon). We know they were listening, because when we moved into the prayers of the people--they prayed for things directly connected to my sermon. Communion rolled around and they rushed up to serve and to receive. As is often the case, one child even abandoned her back-row sitting family to secure a seat in front. Closer to the action and the communion bread.

Do you know who is not efficient and streamlined? Kids. They will not be rushed. They don't give a rip about your plans for a shortened worship. Thank God. Because it's way better this way.

On Saturday, our fifth and sixth graders shopped and put together kits for Lutheran World Relief. They made 5 Personal Care Kits-and along the way, learned about situations where someone might need a kit. Those who experience natural disaster, or those fleeing violence and war. It's thrilling to witness their worldviews expanding before our very eyes--and to make the connections of a church at work far beyond this West End community. Why do we give offering? Well, because we are created with a need to give--and it reminds us that none of this belongs to us anyway. And our offering not only funds youth group outings, but a portion goes well beyond our border to places of great need. These connections are shaping who these kids are growing up to be.  At the end of one of these conversations about LWR, one child said, "They do such good things. I want to work there when I grow up."

The second week of Advent had us asking questions about John the Baptizer. When I started talking about John, one 4-year-old turned to his mom and said, "I know that guy. He's in my book. He's hairy and eats bugs." Yeah right, mom thinks, like he would really eat bugs. Sure enough, that boy was right. John the Baptizer was totally hairy and ate bugs--so we all ate Bit O Honeys and organic, kosher, candy-coated locusts* as we thought about questions we had about John and his message. Score one for Spark Story Bibles and giving those books away like candy-coated locusts!

These kids are alright. Thank God they are leading us along the way.

*Yeah right. Like we would really eat bugs. They were candy-coated pecans from Trader Joe's. But whatever.