Monday, August 22, 2016

"I'll Save You a Seat"





This scripture in Luke is well known.  It is the one where Jesus says you should not choose the seat at the head of the table at a banquet.  That you should sit elsewhere. If others intend for you to sit there, they will make it known, but don't be haughty and expect it.  It is the one where he says  "For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." 

It also suggests that we not invite the 'Joneses' to our banquet and ignore the rest of the world It suggests we invite the poor, the forgotten, the sick, the downtrodden. And give those folks the highest seat at the table.

In other words, don't be haughty or think you deserve the highest honor.  Be a person who does good unto others as a part of who you are.  Don't only give to those whom you know and take care of your own, either, but give graciously and sacrificially to those you don't know.  And when someone is in trouble, or needy, or lacking in some way, help them out, even if they are strangers.

This STORY about a woman who almost died, basically DID die, during childbirth at St. Joseph's Hospital in Denver a few years ago.  She had a relentless medical team that saved her life and received an enormous amount of blood through transfusions, over 270 units in all.  And she and her daughter survived.  And she had a chance to tell her story and thank some of the people who voluntarily give blood all the time.. either a lot or just a few times or maybe even once.  At an event sponsored by Bonfils Blood Center to give tribute to voluntary blood donation, Cassidy Smith became a living miracle, a testimony to the power of blood donation.

When we give the gift of life through blood donation, we offer people we don't even know and will probably never know a chance at life.  It is a simple, yet profound, way we can allow someone else in need a seat at the head of the banquet table. It is a way we can serve their needs and not hold on to all we have ourselves. It is a way to be selfless.

There are many other ways to be selfless givers, of course.  What are some you can think of? Email me at peverhart@niwotumc.org or comment by clicking the comments link below.





Monday, August 15, 2016

A Struggle of Olympic Proportions

Jeremiah 1:4-10 and Psalm 71:1-6

Story LINK

This week let's take a look at the Olympic athletes that, although they didn't win or place in their individual events, really are the truly champions of this Olympic games. The Refugee Olympic team is made up of athletes who were forced to flee their countries due to war and violence. There are ten of them, from Syria, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Their stories are all different, they range in age from teenager to mid-30s and they are the best of what the world has to offer.

They have endured struggle and loss and heartache that most of us can never dream of. They have saved lives besides their own, they have had to start all over not only in another city, but in another country, sometimes having to learn a new language. To find the strength and fortitude to become Olympians is truly remarkable.

And the Olympic committee that decided that this 'refugee' team was a goal worth having. In the midst of all the other Olympic preparations that the International Olympic Committee has to undertake, they took the effort to collaborate with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to form the team through tryouts and offering them Olympic-level coaching.

Jeremiah 1 says "you shall go to all to whom I send you," after a reluctant Jeremiah doubts his ability to be the prophet he is expected to be. He is also told, "See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant."

The Psalmist says in Psalm 71
In you, O LORD, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me and save me.

This is a reminder that no matter what circumstances life throws our way, we always have a refuge in God. That God will be with us in the trials and tribulations of life. 

These refugees remind us that our inner strength which comes from God can propel us to heights that we never imagined possible. And it does not have to end with a gold medal on a podium for us to receive our highest reward.

Simone Biles, gold medalist all-around winner for Team USA women's gymnastics said in an interview that she was lucky because she had parents who could afford to provide lessons for her and give her what she needed to succeed.  She has an understanding that so much of the world, so many like her, do not have the opportunities she does. And, in the case of the refugees, perhaps some of them did have those resources, but it was taken away from them in the cruelty of war and destruction of their homelands.

What is God appointing us to in this place?  What refuge from what storms does God offer to you?

Email me at peverhart@niwotumc.org or comment by clicking the link below.




Monday, August 8, 2016

Ripped from the Headlines: In Sickness and In Health

Psalm 80: 1-2, 8-19

I was going to do my "Ripped from the Headlines" message this week on the Hebrews 11 verse that says "let us run with perseverance the race that is set  before us," and focus on the Refugee Olympics team that has been fielded for the Summer Games from inspiring athletes who have escaped terror in their homelands and still are managing to present as world class athletes. And hopefully that story has a place in this series somewhere, but I was so struck this morning by this story in the New York Times about a heart transplant recipient that walked his donor's daughter down the aisle for her wedding.

Oh my gosh. The range of emotions that must have been on display in that ceremony. The living heart of a man who died is still beating and present at his daughter's wedding, one of the most heart-tugging day's of a father's life.  It's just such a great story.

Turn again, O God of hosts; look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine, 
the stock that your right hand planted. 
 They have burned it with fire, they have cut it down; may they perish at the rebuke of your countenance.
 But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand, the one whom you made strong for yourself.
 Then we will never turn back from you; give us life, and we will call on your name.
 Restore us, O LORD God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

God has placed his hand upon those who have regard for the vine of life.  God has granted life.  The family made the decision to donate organs. A man who was near death was saved.  I firmly believe that God can only act in the world through our actions. God depends upon God's children to enact healing and wholeness and peace and love.  

What stories of healing can you share? Email me at peverhart@niwotumc.org or comment by clicking the link below. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

"Buying Into Faith"

For this month, the series "Ripped from the Headlines" will showcase a news story that is current and hopeful.  Though so much that is negative makes the top of the headlines, I will strive to focus on positive stories, as possible. It may be that the positive story comes out of a lonely, desperate, possibly dreadful initial story. But what seed of hope can we find in the headlines that shows us the peaceable kingdom at work?

This is the news story I will base things on this week.
Scripture is Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16


This story is heartwarming, but starts in a sad and fearful place. These young boys were afraid that they were going to get taken up into gang life, without being able to stop it, which must have been scary. Must still be scary.
But they reached out to this woman, an employee of the local housing authority, in the story and fortunately, she did the best right thing first. She hired them to work for the LaGrange Housing Authority immediately, no questions asked. She hired them to protect them.

We read so much in the news about racial strife and white privilege and perceived indifference to each other on both sides.  But this story shows us the way it should be done.  She sees an immediate problem and helps to solve it, but it should be noted that the problem needed to be pointed out to her. Fortunately she paid attention.

The writer of Hebrews in this eloquent passage, (one of my favorites), tells us faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. It also speaks of looking forward to a homeland, a promised land, and desiring a better country.

This is what is happening in this story. And in other stories that don't get nearly enough press time.  People are reaching out across differences to create a new relationship and a new community together.  One request, one answer, one life at a time.

What positive stories about reaching out across differences do you know?  Email me at peverhart@niwotumc.org or comment by clicking the link below.


Monday, July 25, 2016

A Word of Hope and Healing

2 Corinthians 1:3-5
James 5:13-16
Psalm 121

 All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too.

It seems like every week, there is another mass shooting, case of police brutality, act of violence against police, terrorist suicide bombing overseas, or some other horrible violence that reminds us that love is in short supply in our global community. 

It also seems like every month, we have another serious illness and/or a sudden loss occurring in this small congregation.

I thought maybe it would be a good time to pause for a moment. To pause for a moment of silence and a deep breath. To pray for hope and healing. To read scriptures that remind us that hope is eternal and God is always here with us. To hear a message of hope, healing and promise for our own lives and for the world we live in.

If you have a hopeful story or quote to share, or a story about peace and peacemaking, please email me at peverhart@niwotumc.org or comment below.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Cymbeline: Roots and Growth





What I read in this letter to the church at Colossae is almost a warning about 'church law.'  Paul is warning the church not to be caught up and bound in what the official regulations are, but to be caught up in Christ instead.  He is saying that the letter of the law regarding circumcision or dietary laws or whatever are not the focus. The focus is our relationship with Christ and on our willingness to   follow Christ and let Christ and his inclusive love lead the way in our lives.  It isn't saying that we can be reckless in how we practice our faith, but that we allow love to guide us, through Christ, instead of "human traditions," as Paul puts it.

In the play Cymbeline, the King (Cymbeline) marries a woman who is described as quite wicked after his first wife's death.  The evil queen wants her son Cloten to marry Cymbeline's daughter Imogen, but she is in love with Posthumus. Posthumus and Imogen exchange tokens of their love, a bracelet and a ring.   The main thread of the play is deception and misinformation regarding the relationship and fidelity of Imogen and Posthumus.  The villain Iachimo tries to trick Posthumus into thinking that he had relations with Imogen and things go awry in a big way.

The play highlights the themes of young love and jealousy and most importantly, what happens when you think you know the whole story, but you don't.  Having a lack of information can lead one to making some pretty harsh judgments and proclamations that one might later regret.


Paul suggest something similar in our judgments with one another.  
 So don’t let anyone judge you about eating or drinking or about a festival, a new moon observance, or sabbaths. These religious practices are only a shadow of what was coming—the body that cast the shadow is Christ. Don’t let anyone who wants to practice harsh self-denial and worship angels rob you of the prize. They go into detail about what they have seen in visions and have become unjustifiably arrogant by their selfish way of thinking. They don’t stay connected to the head. The head nourishes and supports the whole body through the joints and ligaments, so the body grows with a growth that is from God.-- from Colossians 2
When we allow judgments about others that we make or judgments about us that others make rule our religious life, that is a selfish and arrogant way of practicing our faith.  When we choose to allow partial or misguided information to rule our heads and hearts, then we shut out Christ's ability to grow in us and allow us to grow as the body of Christ. When we choose, instead, to connect to Christ as our head and allow his love to nourish our body and our soul... his example, his witness, his love for neighbor, his extension of grace.... then we will grow as Christ's witnesses in the world.

What areas do you struggle with the most in terms of passing judgments on others?  What sources can you look to for learning and understanding more about what you tend to judge?  What ways can you seek Christ? How can you allow Christ to help you grow in the faith? 

Email me at peverhart@niwotumc.org or comment below.




Monday, July 11, 2016

Comedy of Errors: Estranged and Reconciled

Colossians 1:15-23 (The Message)

"For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him." from Colossians 1

Paul tells us in this scripture that Jesus is the flesh of God, that the Christ is God poured out in human form... and that everything in all of creation got its start through God and that through Christ, who embodies God even unto the cross, the whole broken world is made whole again.  He connects the past, the present, and the future of God's creation and gives it purpose.  Lofty theology about Jesus, the concept of incarnation, and the cross as salvation. Sometimes hard for us in this postmodern age to wrap our heads around, but it is a concept that Paul firmly believed and passionately taught, probably because he himself had been 'broken' and then 'saved through Christ.'

In Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors, you have a farcical play about two sets of identical twins. The stage is set when we learn that Egeon has twins that were separated in a shipwreck 25 years ago. He raised one alone, while his wife and the other are somewhere unknown.  He is in Ephesus looking for his long lost wife and other twin son... Unbeknownst to him, his son Antipholus of Syracuse and his servant Dromio of Syracuse are in the city of Ephesus, also, on this day.  They each have an identical twin Antipholus of Ephesus and his servant Dromio of Ephesus.    The fact that twins and their servant twins have ended up in the same city together creates a play with much mayhem and confusion. It's got lots of madcap antics as you might expect.

But we see in this play a couple of poignant themes.  A father who is looking for a long lost son.  A twin who has lived a lifetime separated from his 'other self' and a longing for companionship and camaraderie that is all too rare.

Paul is sharing his lofty theology to the church at Colossae to remind those gathered that we do have a place to find our 'other selves.'  That we only need to reach to Christ who has come in the form of Jesus to show us a way to connect what is broken, a way to save what might seem lost.

Nothing is lost.  All we need to find our way is given to us in the message of Jesus who became our Christ.  We just need to look, and listen, and find a space where Jesus is welcomed, no matter where we find ourselves or who we think we are.  We all belong to Christ.  No one is torn apart or left behind.

Thoughts? Email me at peverhart@niwotumc.org or leave a comment on the comment link below.