How Do We Live In This Wilderness?

How Do We Live In This Wilderness?

You’re not you when you are hungry. That’s the line from the Snickers candy bar commercials. That ad campaign has been a great success around the world. Because everyone, everywhere can relate. When we are hungry, we are not ourselves. The Snickers commercials portray what we become when we don’t get enough to eat. Demanding divas. Grouchy gremlins. Crazed coaches. Feisty fighters. If our identity completely changes with a blood sugar shift that can be resolved by a candy bar, we can begin to empathize with the attitude of the Israelites. Nearly two months had passed since the people had left Egypt. Now, every crumb of that unleavened bread they hurriedly pack up is gone, and the roasted lamb is only a memory. There’s not even a peanut from an old candy bar to be found at the bottom of the bag. God’s response to God’s hangry people isn’t to fill up their backpacks and tent shelves with everything they could possibly need for the next forty years. There, in the wilderness, the promise of God is enough for one day. The prayer of Jesus, Give us this day our daily bread, probably has roots in this wilderness experience. Jesus taught us to pray for one day’s supply of bread, provided one day at a time. And like the Israelites in the Sinai, Jesus wanted us to receive not just what we need, but what we all need. Give us this day our daily bread has us praying not just for you and me, but for all God’s children – including those who take too much and those who...
How Do We Get There From Here?

How Do We Get There From Here?

Kelly Gissendaner might seem an even more unlikely person than Moses to be a sign of God speaking. The state of Georgia executed Kelly in 2015. She was executed for a crime to which she confessed. She had conspired with her boyfriend, who murdered Kelly’s husband. Kelly was executed, and the man who committed the murder is eligible for parole. In that way, the American judicial system did not serve Kelly Gissendaner well. But in other ways, it did exactly what we hope the criminal justice system will accomplish. In prison, Kelly became truly remorseful for the terrible wrong she had willfully done, understanding the full consequence of her evil actions and the awful consequence. Kelly was transformed while incarcerated. As part of a theology program in the prison, Kelly developed a deeply rooted and enacted faith. She immersed herself in worship, prayer, study, and service. She reconciled to her children and was a steadying influence on fellow inmates she counseled. The theologian Jurgen Moltmann with whom she corresponded, the Pope, and even Gissendaner’s children asked for the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole to commute Kelly’s sentence from death to life without parole. Because of those efforts, Gissendaner’s execution was twice delayed. When the efforts ultimately failed, her theology professors were concerned the execution would be deflating to her friends in the program. The women had found such hope in Kelly’s and the witness of other Christians speaking up for her. The women remained fast in the faith. One woman said, “It had been so long since I had seen God move. The worst has happened, and I’ve...
PJ’s Sunday Blessing

PJ’s Sunday Blessing

It is a beautiful October morning in Fishers, Indiana; fall is truly in the 46 degree air. Trees are beginning to turn yellow and orange and there is dew on the grass, God’s world is following its normal pattern, and God’s plan is unfolding as it should. As we head to Faith to celebrate today, we collect our Peace and Social Witness special offering. A reminder that peace and social witness go hand in hand. Those suffering injustice, oppression, loss of hope, and living in refuge camps need us to stand up for them. They will have no peace until things change; they will have no peace until people like us get involved through giving, action, and praying. Pray for others; pray for justice, tolerance, love and hope for all. See you in church,...

Have you ever rolled a stone over?

Have you ever rolled a stone over? Sometimes there are worms; sometimes little rolly polly bugs; sometimes only grass or dirt. Whether surprises or not, moving a stone is an interesting experience. The daily Bible reading from Faith this morning was Genesis 29: 1 – 14, that describes the first meeting of Jacob, son of Isaac, with his future wife, Rachel. They met at a well where shepherds bring their sheep. They are an unlikely couple. I don’t think lookingforawife.com would have paired them up: • He is blessed. She is a lowly shepherd. • He is fleeing. She is following her daily routine. • He is a younger son. She is a younger daughter. • He is a dreamer. She is down to earth. • He is looking for his uncle. She is looking for the well. • He is a tither. She has nothing to give. • She needs the stone covering the well to be rolled away; Jacob rolls it away. The only thing they have in common is that Jacob is looking for water and so is Rachel. And, by the way, she also is his first cousin. Part of verse 8 says this: We can’t water the sheep “until…the stone has been rolled away from the mouth of the well. Then we will water the sheep.” Without waiting for the proper time, Jacob rolls the stone away, and the sheep are given fresh water. So they meet, water the sheep, fall in love and eventually marry. (But that is another story.) As I read this, I remembered the words from Matthew 2: “And suddenly...
God has a dream and a way for you.

God has a dream and a way for you.

Some people seem to live dream-like lives, don’t they? That was Esau, Jacob’s older brother. He was probably chosen first when their friends were picking teams for games. He was probably the teachers’ favorite. Esau got into the best colleges, joined a great fraternity, graduated with honors and got a high-paying job. His family was beautiful. Have you ever known people like that? Everything comes easily to them. They aren’t anxious about anything because they don’t need to be. It’s not that they don’t work, they just don’t work too hard, and they get – not what they deserve – they get more. For the rest of us, life is more of a challenge. So we understand Jacob. Jacob’s name means striver, hustler, supplanter. And that’s exactly what he needs to be to get on in his life. Some people have it made, and others of us have to make it happen. In Jacob’s story – may be our story – we discover that making our own dreams come true is a perfect way to go the wrong way in life. The best dreams come from God. The best dreams, the things we most deeply yearn for priceless gifts, things like being loved and respected, cherishing those who are close to you, having integrity, beholding beauty, discovering joy in your work, being able to make a positive difference in other people’s lives. Dreams like that are blessings from God. And blessings cannot be hustled. They can only be received. Rebecca, Jacob’s mother, had told her second child that God had promised that he would be blessed. God had even...
We see the sacrifice.  God provides possibilities.

We see the sacrifice. God provides possibilities.

In first-year Hebrew, we spent one semester learning the alphabet, vocabulary, and grammar.  The second semester, we started translating and this is the first passage we translated, this terrible passage about a man being asked by God to prepare for the sacrifice of his son. The passage makes sense as a “starter passage” because there are many repeated words and phrases:  “took, take”,  “went, went up”, “look, looked”,  “here, here, here I am.” But our ineptitude made our translation very slow so that the arduous journey of Abraham and Isaac seem endless.  Word by word, it felt like we were going with them step by step up that mountain on a dreadful journey.  It gave us plenty of time to wonder what God was asking of Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac. Plenty of time to wonder why Abraham kept moving forward.  Plenty of time to whisper into Isaac’s ears, “Turn around.  Run home.” Plenty of time to wonder where they were going. The sacrifice that God appears to ask of the small family is awful. But the truth is we are often asked to make sacrifices that are awful. To let go of a relationship that mattered to us. To give up food or drink that we believe we cannot live without.  To walk out of safe situations and into dangerous ones.  To commit our money to something other than our comfort. Often the journey to that sacrifice is slow and tortuous and filled with questions.  We cannot believe that a loving God would call us to do what seems like death to us. But in this story, as in our stories, God’s...