Monday, January 18, 2010


JOHN 2: 1-11

One morning I was trying to keep up with the front runners in my running group. They were cruising along and I felt like I was running all out to keep up. One of the runners, Tom, came up from behind me and I said that I did not know how long I could keep up this pace. We were about 30:00 into the run at that point. Tom said, "Don't let doubt weigh you down. It will become like a giant weight upon your shoulders and just slow you down." It was good advice, but I could not let the doubt go. Within 5:00 I began to slow down, convinced I could not go any longer at the faster pace. Doubt had won out.

Everyone has doubts from time to time, but they can pass, unless we let them control our thinking. A golfer may see a stream of water 220 yards out from the tee. If he hits a good drive off the tee, it will carry the ball 240 yards and over the stream. Then doubt sets in. "I cannot do it. I might not hit a good enough drive." So he takes out a lesser club and hits a shorter shot. Doubt made him change his whole strategy. A baseball batter comes to the plate and begins to doubt that he can hit the pitcher's curve ball. The batter is practically out before he gets to the plate. A student doubts that he can do well on a test or a project. He has already begun to lower his/her grade and performance. Coaches, guides, and teachers try to help us to overcome our doubts. Otherwise we will never become all that God made us to be.

In the gospel, Jesus is testing Mary. She presents him with a disaster. No more wine at the wedding reception. If she had any doubts about Jesus, he is testing them. He does not give her a lot of confidence with his answer. "How does your concern affect me?" This would feed into anyone's doubts. If Mary had any doubts, she did not let them control her. She simply trusts that Jesus will take care of things, somehow.

Turn to the servants. They may very well have had doubts. "Who is this telling us what to do? He is not our master." But they follow instructions. Doubts don't hold them back. They may have had doubts when Jesus told them to draw from the jars and present to the headwaiter. "This is crazy, to bring water to the headwaiter!" they might think. But they draw the liquid and see that it is no longer the water they put into the jars. The headwaiter has no idea what happened. He was not tested. The waiters were tested, and now the servants know that Jesus is not just another guest at the banquet. Overcoming their doubts has moved them along in a faith journey.

If doubt rules our spiritual life, our prayer and worship life, then we won't have much of a relationship with God. If we say, "I doubt God will answer this prayer," or "I doubt God really cares about my situation, life, or disasters," then we have buried our faith and diminished our prayer. We cannot have much of a relationship with anyone where doubt plays such an important role. The disciples had doubts about Jesus when he got arrested and executed. They did not come to the cross. Mary did. Doubt did not interfere with her relationship to her son and Lord. She had been tested.

If the gospel says to take up our cross, and we doubt that this is a good thing, we won't do it. Doubt prevents us from becoming all we are meant to be in relationship with God. To achieve my goals in running, I not only have to train, but also overcome the thoughts in my head that say, "I cannot do this." It is the same with my spiritual goals. God's grace can overcome all doubts if we let it. Grace is offered. We must accept it and not turn back, or give up even when God tests us.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Girl Scout Cookies and Baptism


LUKE 3: 15-16, 21-22

JANUARY 10, 2010

This past Friday began the annual selling of Girl Scout cookies. I like Girl Scout cookies. I am open to buying a few boxes. My understanding of the Girl Scouts is that it helps young girls to develop their gifts and talents so that they can be leaders in society as adults. Selling cookies seems like a good way to develop some of these talents. I support this. So I am not going to buy cookies from someone's mother who stands outside of the supermarket at a table stacked with cookies. I am not going to fill out a sales form that some parent brings around.

I want the Girl Scout to be dressed in her uniform as a sign that she is proud to be a Girl Scout. I want her to come to where I work or live, and bring pictures of all eight types of cookies and tell me what is in them. Then I may ask some questions about the cookies. I want her to tell me why such and such is a really good cookie. Sell me! Why? I think that it will give her the chance to prepare a presentation and present herself to the adult world. It will certainly deal with any fears that she might otherwise have. It will help to accomplish a bit of what the Girl Scouts were founded to do, develop the gifts and talents of girls that will be so useful to them in later life. Selling cookies makes the girl a public person in a new way, standing up for something she believes in.

It is the same way with our baptism. Before Jesus is baptized, he lived a rather private life. Now he is going public with his teaching, healing, preaching, and finally his crucifixion, death and resurrection. Talk about putting your gifts and talents out there! Most of us were baptized as babies, but some as adults. We all received 7 gifts and 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit. That is a lot a talent. It is all potential. At some point we are meant to be more public with all our freely received gifts. We cannot leave it up to the professional church people or priests to be the only public witnesses of our faith, any more than Girl Scouts can leave it to their mothers to sell cookies.

The time may come when someone wants to speak about faith or against faith. Some may be seekers. Some want to put down our religion or spiritual path. That may well be the time to speak up with one who is searching or one who is negative. There may be opportunities to be of service in our church and community in which it is suggested that we get involved.

Not everyone liked Jesus when he got more public about his gifts and talents. Not everyone will want to buy cookies from the Girl Scout who tries to sell them. So move on to the next person. Jesus did. The Girl Scout may not sell the cookies to someone but she will overcome her fears, and learn not to take rejection so personally. The point is you are becoming all God made you to be. Very few people actually followed Jesus to the cross, but that did not stop him. We would not be here in this gathered congregation had he given up because of "failure" to be popular or successful as the culture defines success.

We never lose our baptism gifts. But they can go dormant. Fear, complacency and too much focus on self are just three ways that prevent us from becoming all that we are meant to be with our baptism gifts and fruits.

Monday, January 4, 2010


MATTHEW 2: 1-12


JANUARY 3, 2010

A star is very important in this Epiphany scene. The Magi rely on it. A star has a shelf life of several billion years, more or less. Gases come together and form a fireball. It burns up fuel for billions of years. As it ages, it expands and then blows apart. End of big star. Now this particular star seen by the Magi, had been around for billions of years. God had a plan for it, so long as the star was a star. At a certain point the star was supposed to get very bright and even move, noticeable to the naked eye of someone who was star gazing. The star was part of God's plan. This is an important lesson for us.

Turn to the Magi. As long as they were who God made them to be, with all their gifts and developed talents, they would be part of God's plan to announce the Good News of the Christ to the religious and political leaders of Jerusalem. These three Magi were people who watched the sky closely at night. They were interested in the beyond. They knew how to travel in the desert at night. How could they otherwise follow a star if they traveled by day in the hot desert? They were interested in things spiritual beyond their own cultural ways. They were not Jews and yet they were interested in a Christ King of the Jews and wanted to do him homage. Finally, they needed to have a lifestyle that allowed them to travel away from home for quite a while. These were their gifts and talents. This was in God's plan. Had they not become the people God made them to be, then they would never have been able to fulfill God's plan for an Epiphany.

Now look at ourselves. We are each made with certain gifts and talents. If we discover who God made us to be and develop these gifts, then we will serve God's plan to be a light for others at different points in our life. For instance, I am a priest. It took me a while to figure out that this is how I will be most who God made me to be. As long as I try to be a priest God will use me to be a light. This is the spiritual path, to become who God made me to be. On the other hand, if I become selfish, self-centered, whining, resentful, and fearful, then I won't be much of a priest and won't be a light for anyone. This is sin, to be other than who God made me to be.

Each of us has gifts and talents. God made each of us a unique package. The spiritual path is to discover who we are. Then as we live who we are supposed to be, opportunities will arise wherein we will have a chance to become a light for others. Some won't like our light. Herod did not care much for the light the Magi brought to him in the message of the Christ being born. But then Herod never became who God made him to be. Herod became a frightened, self-centered, power hungry political leader.

The best gift we can give to God is to become our true self, the person God made us to be.