New Community/New Creation

Where do we see God’s hope alive in the world today? As a New Community, a New Creation in Christ?

In church yesterday, I experienced God’s hope, peace and life as I took communion. I felt a letting go, a “here I am” moment. I thought, “here I am-sinner and saint.”

Each Sunday-we go forward to take communion and remember our Lord’s death and resurrection- the hope that grounds our Christian Faith. Lisa spoke of the opportunity we can all take to experience Christ’s resurrection in our daily life and work, when we look at another person or interact with another.

We were asked: In the midst of chaos in the world, where do we long for hope and where do we see hope? Within ourselves-where do we long for and see hope?
This week-within myself, those around me and in the world-I aim to look for hope, and as Lisa encouraged us-to meet Christ-the Risen Christ in each person we encounter.
The prayers spoken on Sunday morning prepare us for the coming week. “Send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you, with gladness and singleness of heart” (The Book of Common Prayer). Before we depart from the church, “Let us go forth rejoicing in our Lord and Savior.”

Along with the work we do, the responsibilities we have, our relationships, our hobbies, we also require love and care for ourselves. Along with the demands that each day requires of us, we also need to care for our minds, bodies and spirits. This is a significant and important part of tending to the hope within ourselves and within the world around us. Along with the demands that each day requires of us, we also need to care ourselves. I encourage you this week, and myself, along with seeking hope and as we do our work, and interact with family, friends and those who cross our paths to also take time to fill ourselves.

We are described as children of God in 1 John 1:1-7. As children are cared for, we as children of God-can and need to take time, energy and love to care for ourselves as well as one another. Imagine God as Mother/Father looking on you in love and care.
The New Community/New Creation through Jesus’ death and resurrection allows us to live in Christ’s grace, seek Christ in each person, seek hope in the world, as well as care for ourselves and one another as God’s children. Thanks Be to God.
Brynn Stember

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Holy Week

And so we begin Holy Week. We would like life to be clear, certain and under control, and for God to be the guarantor of such a happy outcome. But God never offers certainty and those who look for it will be grievously disappointed, as were the disciples when the events of that week spun wildly out of control. What God does promise is faithfulness amidst the “swift and varied changes of the world.” We should not confuse certainty with fidelity. We do not need cognitive certainty about God; what really happened, what is going on here, where will it all lead. What we do need is the assurance that God will prove faithful in our personal relationship with him; that no matter what happens, He is there for us and with us. Those who seek certainty in a world that is inherently unpredictable find only anxiety. Those who look to God to be faithful can find peace and joy despite the myriad uncertainties of this mortal life. This was the ultimate outcome of Jesus’ journey to Easter morning, and is the main lesson we should bear in mind as we follow him and the disciples through the tumultuous events of the week ahead.

John Lawyer

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Act IV: Israel and the Kingdom

Sunday March 15 preacher Lisa Wiens Heinsohn explored the story of Israel seeking to meet its needs for justice and protection through a human king by becoming an “imperial community”, instead of living in dependence and trust on God’s promises as a “covenant community.” She then explored how Jesus critiques the whole notion of human power by teaching that everything belongs to God, and, by implication, that nothing belongs (by right) to the empire. Like the people of Israel, we too have many needs, and this story invites us to find out whether we are going to be a covenant community or an imperial one. Where are we going to get what we need?

Lisa invited us to do a spiritual exercise this week. Every day when you wake up and before you go to bed, survey your day, and ask yourself three questions:
(1) What do I really want, underneath my surface desires and assumptions?
(2) Which of my desires leads or has led to barrenness—to the emptiness of imperial community, the power that is no power at all, because it does not lead to life?
(3) What does it mean that I am invited to receive God’s reign as a gift?

The people of St. Matthews are apprentices learning to follow the way of Jesus together. We are learning what it means to be a covenant community, not an imperial one. Let us discover together the radical gift of God’s reign.

Please add your thoughts on Lisa’s sermon, and as the week progresses, tell us about the results of your asking yourself the three questions above.

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Thoughts on the Fall

My favorite Episcopal communion liturgy is Eucharistic Prayer C. It not only acknowledges that humans and our earth are but a tiny part of creation, but it also elegantly encapsulates the Biblical story. About the Fall, it says:

“From the primal elements you brought forth the human race and blessed us with memory, reason, and skill. You made us the rulers of creation. But we turned against you, and betrayed your trust; and we turned against one another.”

Dwight Zscheile’s March 1st sermon elaborated on the themes of Prayer C: purpose, trust, betrayal, and conflict. The sermon put the Fall into a relational and communitarian context. In return for giving us cognitive superpowers, God entrusted us with the purpose and responsibility of stewarding the little blue jewel on which we live and all the creatures on it, including ourselves. Our stewardship responsibilities have placed boundaries on us both collectively and individually. We are relational beings, and we can’t have successful relationships with ourselves, other species, our earth, or God without limiting our behavior.

And there’s the rub. Homo sapiens seem to be hard-wired to hate boundaries. The very powers of imagination that allow us to conceive of nations, science, and art compel us to imagine what things would be like on the other side of our boundaries. And those imaginings are exactly what got Adam and Eve into trouble, and which get us into trouble. With the serpent’s help, Eve imagined how great it would be to have God-like knowledge. We imagine things like how great it would be to have sex with someone outside my marriage, how great it would be to have that house (or nation) across the way, or how great it would be to pay back those people who insulted my father (or blasphemed my religion).

And so we blow past the boundaries that keep our relationships healthy, and in doing so we betray the trust that God and others have placed in us. Our abilities to imagine better worlds and better lives lead us to make great advancements, but they also lead us to do selfish and hurtful things.

I think a useful Lenten reflection is to examine your internal dialogue and identify the thoughts and behaviors that hurt and enhance your relationships. What are the healthy boundaries that we should impose on ourselves, and what are the unhealthy boundaries that keep from us deeper and better relationships? For example, you might think, “This spaghetti is overcooked!” but do you really need to tell that to the person who cooked it? Or you might think to yourself, “There’s somebody who looks troubled. Maybe I should say something to him.” (and you probably should.)

What are your thoughts on relationships and boundaries, and where God is in them?

Ron Matross

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Creation

In her Sunday sermon “Creation,” preacher Blair Pogue made the following points about the first creation story in Genesis (1-2:4a):
The story causes her to picture God as an artist
This passage is not a scientific account, but a story that addresses important theological questions: Who is God? What is God like? What is the nature of the universe? Who are we in relationship to God?
This passage was first told orally, and then written down when the Israelites were in exile in Babylon. It was written to address feelings of hopelessness and despair (“Where is God?” “Does God still care about us?”)
God created something out of nothing.
God called everything God created “good.”
We are part of an interdependent web of life.
Do any of these points resonate with you, and if so, why?

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Generosity

We can all imagine ways in which the world could be a better place. One attractive image is the community formed by the early church: “Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul … There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need” (Acts 4:32a, 34-35). In other words, these followers pursued the way of Jesus through generosity to each other; no one was needy because those who had more shared with those who had less. However, this inspiring story also raises a crucial (and challenging) question: how can we follow such an example?

First, remember the primary reason to be generous: love. These followers were not motivated by fear or guilt or obligation, but by the power of God’s love, which they then embodied by their actions. Reflecting on God’s generosity to us helps us to be generous to others. The earliest meaning of “generous” in English is “of noble lineage”; generosity is a divine quality that we share as children of God. It is part of the Christian family’s DNA .
Second, consider the many ways to be generous. At first glance, the story in Acts reinforces a natural tendency to assume that generosity means contributing money. Indeed, monetary contributions are literally costly and, often, truly sacrificial. Such giving can also be a spiritual discipline, as it establishes our priorities: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21), Jesus declares.

Ultimately, however, generosity means giving ourselves—not just our money—to others. The early church behaved generously because they “were of one heart and soul.” We don’t contribute dollars in order to fulfill a legalistic obligation but as our commitment to the well-being of others.

Money is just the beginning. For example, generosity with our time is a deeply meaningful way to share God’s love. We often treat time as a personal commodity which (like money) we spend, invest, waste, redeem, and save. But time (like money) is entrusted to us as a resource to spend generously. Giving “our” time—helping with a project, running an errand, listening patiently—builds community and expresses our divine DNA. In addition, we can be generous with our talents, with our experiences, even with stories of our successes and failures. In all of these ways, generosity means giving of ourselves.

Finally, identify barriers to generosity. I was once asked at a spiritual retreat, “What would your life look like if you were truly free?” I would be more generous because I would be free of fear that generosity will impoverish me. In fact, generosity is not the “cost” of following Jesus but its reward. Generosity characterizes God’s kingdom because, as Frederick Buechner says, “in the long run, there can be no joy for anybody until there is joy finally for us all.” Generosity propels us on this path to joy—and makes the world a better place.

Questions:
1. When have you been the recipient of generosity? How did you feel? How did you respond?
2. In what ways has God equipped you to be generous to others?
3. How could you be generous in a new way?

Barrett Fisher

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Daily Practice: How to be Rich Toward God

Today at St. Matthews we explored the parable of the rich man who decided to build bigger barns to store his bumper crop, only to be confronted by his own mortality and the reality that “life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”  (Luke 12:13-21).  ( You can listen to the whole sermon at http://www.stmatthewsmn.org/sermons ).   All of us are confronted, both by our desire for “more” –more money, better grades, a bigger house with bigger closets, more caring, more love—and also by the fact that we also have more than enough in many areas of our lives.  In fact sometimes the enormous amount of energy it takes to maintain our stuff seems crazy—is this really the way we were intended to live?

In Luke’s gospel, Jesus teaches us that where our treasure is, there will our hearts also be.  He teaches us how bankrupt a life can be when we have a surplus of possessions but are not “rich toward God.”  But how do we begin to disrupt our habitual relationship toward the stuff of life, and begin to re-orient ourselves toward the riches of God’s kingdom?

This week, August 4-11, we at St. Matthews are invited to do a short experiment in practicing what we explored together in worship on Sunday.

Every evening, for five minutes, we are invited to do the following:

  • Ask ourselves: where did I spend my life today—my attention, energy, resources?
  • What did I think I needed more of to be at peace?
  • Where in my life was I conscious of already having more than enough? What did I do with that bounty today?
  • The point of these questions is not to judge ourselves, but to be mindful of where our life is, where our energy is going.  Try jotting down the answers – a few words or phrases or bullet points.  You might also try discussing this at the dinner table with your family.

Every morning, for five minutes, we are also invited to do the following:

  • Ask ourselves: what would it look like for me to be rich toward God today?  Given the particular tasks and schedule that I have today, what would it look like for me to experience being rich toward God?  Try jotting down where your imagination goes when you ask that question, what comes to you.  You might also try discussing this at the breakfast table with your family.

Everyone is invited to respond to this blog with what comes to you as you do these practices this week.  What surprises you?  Where do you feel God’s Spirit teaching and guiding you as you engage with this practice?

Lisa Wiens Heinsohn

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