Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"Rainbows and Reminders"

Last Sunday, Madison Wright read the account of the giving of the rainbow (and the covenant) from Genesis. In this somewhat familiar and beautiful account, God says these most interesting words: "When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth."

From earliest childhood, I was taught, like many of you, that rainbows are a sign of God's love and of promises for future generations. But, the text also says it is a reminder to God.

What if the rainbow is a sign of God's repentance for obliterating creation? What if it's really about forgiveness and new starts for God and for all of us? I haven't made my own peace with or sense of this notion, but I do see rainbows differently now. They are a sign that we all need reminders to be more forgiving, to be intentional about changing our behavior, to remember our past and to do something new and different. It's a call to be in right relationship with God and with each other. I invite you to comment on what you think of this disconcerting notion and engage in a bit of conversation.

Whatever you make of it, the next time you see a rainbow, it might be good for you to remember, that it is God's reminder of unconditional love for all of creation for all of time. And, be reminded that we too can reorient and recommit and reconcile with God and with each other! Any day, any time!

Wishing all of you blessings for the week ahead, Laura Lee

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Farewell to Meat

That's right, I said it, farewell to meat. So now that I have your attention, no, this is not going to be a post about why you should become a vegetarian. But as I was reading about the origins of Mardi Gras, also called Shrove (Confession) Tuesday or Fat Tuesday, I learned that Carnival is from the Latin carne vale, or "farewell to meat."

Traditionally, many Christians would give up meat for the Lenten season, and they would have one last feast on Fat Tuesday. Today, many people still feast and celebrate on Fat Tuesday, but they don't follow that with a time of fasting during Lent. And many others do use Lent as a time of fasting, self-reflection, and spiritual growth.

When I was growing up, I always thought Lent was a Catholic thing, that time when people talked about giving up chocolate or television or meat. After college, I began attending a church that observed Lent, and I learned that there was value in "giving it up," letting go of something that distracts me from my walk with God. That can be different from year to year - from caffeine, to watching the news, to late night television. One year I gave up stress - meaning that I intentionally took better care of myself.

I suppose that fits better with another practice that some Christians prefer, that of taking something on for Lent. Whether it be a new discipline of regular prayer, reading scripture, attending worship, exercising, eating mindfully and compassionately, or spending more time with a loved one, there are many practices we can intentionally take on to make Lent a more meaningful and fulfilling time.

The United Church of Christ has developed a calendar with suggested practices of each day for Lent - click here to download the PDF. You can print it and put it on your refrigerator or desk. Join us tomorrow evening at 7 as we begin the Lenten journey with a lovely Ash Wednesday service.

For today, feast and celebrate, and say a fond farewell to those things and practices and behaviors that don't serve you well in your walk with God and with others. And if you find you really miss them, they'll be there waiting for you on Easter. Or maybe, just maybe, you'll find you don't miss them after all!

Blessings and peace,

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"The Second Funeral"

My first funeral was memorable, as it is for most pastors. But, it's the second one, two weeks later, that shaped my ministry. This one was for a toddler who had darted into the street, just as his mother's attention was diverted. The mom was 7 months pregnant, and so was I. I felt so helpless and incompetent in the face of this family's tragic loss. So I called my mom and blubbered a lot. When I was done, she said, "Remember, every life is a complete life." Her wisdom got me through that funeral. It also got me through over 350 funerals for people with AIDS, mostly young people and some were babies.

Last week, Jack Gallagher took his own life. He was a friend of Sarah Beckwith's and of Lyndsey Broadfield's. By all accounts, he was an amazing young man with so much promise. Whitney Houston died, only 48 and she was certainly an amazing artist, with so much promise. Our Jewish friends have a saying, "There is something wrong with the universe, when parents have to bury their children." There is something about tragic deaths of young people that deeply affects us all. When young people die, our hearts are touched by this 'distortion of the universe'.

And yet, Princess Diana changed the public role of the English Monarchy; Whitney Houston left an astounding musical legacy; Sam (my little toddler) helped shape this pastor's ministry; Jack gave so much laughter and joy to those who knew him........ Each life is complete. Each life makes a difference. Each life is a blessing.

In times of such loss, we can remember Jesus, who also died tragically and young, but who left the whole world with a legacy of love. His was certainly a 'complete life' that reminds us of the differences we make by living our own.

Blessings to all of you in all of your living this week,
Laura Lee

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

For the Institutionalized

Quinn Caldwell's UCC devotional this week is most thought-provoking! Worth reading, pondering and considering the church we are called to become and leave behind, so I share it will all of you today.

Wishing you a most blessed week - Laura Lee

Sooner or later, every churchy person gets sick of the church.  They get burned out and wonder whether this is all worth it.  If you ask, you will find out that the problem is not with God or faith, but with the church as an institution.  It's not God that wore them out, it's being asked to serve on another committee.  It's not following the Gospel that did it, it's being the only one that ever mows the lawn.  It's too many events, too much email, too many evening meetings.

Many find themselves longing for New Testament times, back when we were a movement instead of an institution.  One guy said to me that he would much prefer to have lived under Roman persecution, because dying in the arena for your faith felt meaningful—unlike the church meeting he had that night.

Institutions are a pain.  They take lots of work and lots of maintenance.  They can suck the life out of you, fast.

Movements are more fun.  They are exciting, engaging, enlivening.  They also tend not to last.

The reason you know anything about the faith is that once upon a time, somebody in the Jesus movement realized they needed to set up a system to pass the faith on to the future.  They poured themselves into the resulting institution.  They did it not for their own gratification, but so that YOU would find out the truths they lived by.  They measured "what was worth it" not only by their own sense of fulfillment, but by their hopes for you.

I'm not saying every committee meeting the church has ever held mattered; most of them didn't.  I'm saying that all institutions are annoying, AND that the church is the one that brought your faith to you.  So when you're feeling ground down by yours, right after you refuse to chair another task force, but before you decide to quit forever, just remember this: the work you're doing is at least as much for your grandkids as it is for you.

About the Author
Quinn G. Caldwell is an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ, and co-editor, with Curtis J. Preston, of the Unofficial Handbook of the United Church of Christ.