Browsing articles from "February, 2018"
Feb 27, 2018

Community Labyrinth for Lent

In the court yard at St. John’s United Church of Christ we now offer a labyrinth. Everyone is welcome to access it from the West Street side. We will maintain this temporary installation through Easter. If you are looking for a meaningful Lent experience, come on over and walk the labyrinth:

A labyrinth is not a maze. It has one way in and one way out. You cannot get lost in it. There are no dead ends. It is a symbol for life: It may seem chaotic but it moves forward steadily.
As you enter please imagine how you are descending into darkness. A labyrinth has dungeon qualities to it. Ancient cultures have imagined all kinds of creatures in those caverns. It can be a dangerous and deadly place.
Just like the path of life leads to death so is your way into the labyrinth. As you step in you step from light into darkness. The light fades away more and more the deeper you get into it. As you enter please imagine your journey as the challenges and hardships you face in life: the turns you are forced to make, the dirt you have to walk through.
A labyrinth has a center. Once you are in the center stay there for a while. Rest. Celebrate your arrival. You made it through all of life’s troubles. If you are a religious person consider this the end state of your existence whether you call it heaven or Nirvana or however you name it. Maybe for you it’s just the great emptiness.
When you are ready make your way out again. Take with you the strength of having been there before. As you walk out remember how you overcame all those troubles. After all you are walking back towards the light. Find signs of hope along your journey. Remember resources for personal strength that you can tap into. From my Christian perspective I call this part resurrection life. Out of death back to life. From darkness back to the light.
This is a spiritual exercise. If you have an urge to walk really fast get some physical exercise first and come back when you are ready to walk slowly. This exercise works best in total silence. If that does not work for you right now please come back when it does. Find your own pace. Some of the images that may pop up along the journey may make you slow down, some may make you want to speed up and run away. Find your own pace, yet be mindful of others.

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Feb 20, 2018

Texas Primaries are under way – What kind of Leaders do we need?

Today is the first day of early voting in Texas. I will be honest I have only today checked the ballots to see who is running for what. You can find the ballots for your precinct here. Our democracy depends on citizens who inform themselves and make use of their right to vote. But who should I vote for? What kind of leaders do we need?

Here are a few candidates that I found:

1. The incumbent – I have a proven track record of doing what I always said I was going to do. You know what you are going to get when you keep me in office. So I ask you to keep me in office.

2. The entrepreneur – I have had great success in my own company. I am an achiever and now I set my mind to achieving things in the political arena. Please join my fight.

3. The activist – I am very passionate about my issue. I have always been passionate about it and I know you are, too. Let’s move forward.

4. The anti-politician – I do not like politics. I do not like what politicians do. I want to get in there and tell them to stop.

You may recognize one or two or all of them. They also have powerful biblical precedents:

1. The incumbent – King Solomon had one major qualification for office. He was King David’s son. (1 Kings 2) This is what got him the throne: family legacy, dynasty. Not competence, not vision spirit but tradition. And it worked. Under his leadership Israel has seen wealth and wisdom like never before and never after him again. A solid choice.

2. The entrepreneur – Abraham was a successful rancher with huge herds a livestock. A wealthy business man for his day and age. (Genesis 13) That is why he was a natural leader. As such he became a blessing not just for his own family but for people from every nation. He understood the art of the deal and how to use relationships in business and family.

3. The activist – Dooms day prophets like Amos may not win elections but they sure shape public opinion. When they dig in and get a microphone and a twitter handle they will use them to fight injustice loud and clear. (Amos 2) A great prophet is one who may not get a leadership role, just plenty of enemies. We need their clear voices as a moral compass.

4. The anti-politician – The prophet Samuel warned loud and clear against government overreach: taxation, military service, forced labor, over-regulation. (1 Samuel 8) Politicians tend a amass power and influence and anti-politicians are in important counter weight-counter to balance things out. We need them to rock the boat.

What kind of leaders do we need? Learn about your candidates and use your right to vote!

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Feb 13, 2018

Of Passion And Ashes

Skoreaandolympicflag

I am usually not good at watching sports. I don’t usually like sitting on the couch watching others move while I’d much rather move myself. There are few notable exceptions though. I will always try to watch the soccer World Cup and the Olympic Games. So, as the Olympic winter games in Pyeongchang opened, there I was on the couch, sitting down. Seeing Korea come together under one flag was in inspirational moment. As a matter of fact, it is those inspirations that bring me to the couch for the world’s super sports events. When international events call, they have a tendency to transcend national and personal identity. I love the stories how athletes grow up in all corners of the world and then come together for this one event with this one shared dream. From World Cup to World Cup, from Olympic Games to Olympic Games, it takes 4 long years of preparation.

For individual athletes preparation takes a lifetime. Most of them get inspired as little children and they keep practicing until they are old and fit enough to compete at the top of their sport. Are you on top your game? That’s the question of sports. It should also be the question of your spiritual journey. At some point you may have seen or heard or experienced the spiritual equivalent of a world record. Someone told you something, you did or felt something that was just out of this world. But then what came from that moment? Did you put it to work? Did you learn to walk the talk? Did you change you heart? Did you change your ways? Did you learn to inspire others? Or are you still – figuratively speaking – sitting on the couch – while others run the race for you? The Olympic Games in Pyeongchang inspire me to no longer be an armchair Christian, but to be on fire like the Olympic Cauldron.

Both the Olympics and the Church call us to be part of something bigger than ourselves. They both call us to a lot of effort, life-long training. February 14th will be Ash Wednesday. At 6pm we will burn the palms of last year’s Palm Sunday service. And there we will begin the intense 40 day training camp of Lent. The goal is not Olympic metal but more spiritual responsibility. All that passion that I have seen or heard or experienced, how can I put that to work in my life? How can you? Lent is not just about giving something up. Lent is about training the muscles of your soul. You have 40 days to grow stronger. In what spiritual discipline do you want to get better?

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Feb 7, 2018

Four considerations regarding cremation

Most of us will eventually die. The only recorded exception to that was Enoch “because God took him.” (Genesis 5:24). So let’s assume for now that we are all going to die. It only makes sense to think about what you want to happen with your remains after death. As a pastor I get frequently asked if cremation is okay with God. Let me give you 4 considerations regarding cremation:

1. Will I have my body in the resurrection life?
I sure hope not. I hope with Paul that things will be different: “There are both heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one thing, and that of the earthly is another.” (1 Corinthians 15:40) Our heavenly bodies will be different. They will not be plagued by disease, they won’t die. Concepts like growing up or aging obviously do not apply in eternity. Yes, we will still be ourselves, but different.

2. If my remains are burnt won’t I be burnt forever?
No. Even when a body rots under ground it will still be renewed hereafter – not physically or literally, but in a way that is whole: “he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

3. Are their any dangers in cremation?
Yes. As pastor I have seen too often that loving relatives have a hard time letting go of the deceased person. That is normal to an extent. But sometimes families will choose to take the urn home. Sometimes spouses will keep the ashes of their loved one on a shelf in the bedroom or the mantle over the fireplace. That can hinder closure and can delay the process of saying farewell.

4. What to do with the ashes after cremation?
Find a final resting place! I doesn’t matter whether you want the urn in a grave or a columbarium. You can scatter the ashes on designated sites and return your loved one to the circle of life. The main point is finality. Keeping the urn at home is not a good option. Because when you grow older, your children will have to go through your things and have to decide what happens to grandpa’s ashes. Don’t punt that to the next generations. All too often urns end up in garages or storage sheds.

Since 2016 the majority (50.2%) of Americans have chosen cremation. The National Funeral Directors Association has the projected rate of cremation reaching 78.8 percent of deaths by 2035. I suggest to make sure it doesn’t get in the way of the grieving process or puts undue burdens on following generations.

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