Friday, August 25, 2006


So the coolest new thing I'm thinking about/working on is this project called New Life for Haiti. It's being spearheaded by a group of churches in the midwest who have decided to actually do something about some of the worst poverty in the world. Rather than sending donations to a big organization and just have a "check in the mail" mentality, they've decided that the best way to make a difference is to do something about it personally. They chose Haiti because of the long time relationship that LifeSpring Community Church has had with Dr. Katie Wolf and Steve and Joline Moore who have previously worked longterm in another section of Haiti. This region where New Life for Haiti is focusing is one of the least served areas of Haiti and most impoverished. The Gatineau area has one hospital, in the port city of Jeremie, and no medical care available in its extensively mountainous area. The first goal is to build and staff an outpatient clinic. The project hopes to help Haitians help themselves by giving them ways to defeat their poverty - education, agricultural resources, hiring them for the jobs the project generates.

What really excites me is the person to person approach. It's not a check to some big organization, it's my money spend on the cinderblock building the clinic, the antibiotic that saves someone's life, the surgury table that means someone doesn't die bearing a child. It's my money paying another Haitian teacher's salary so instead of one teacher and 50+ students, there's two. My money that fixes the roof so it doesn't cave in on the kids heads.

Better yet, it doesn't even take a lot of my money. The average salary is $300 a year. A better home is about $750. For a $100 I can do so much to make someone's life better. And it won't be a check in the mail, I can meet these people. My children can sponsor these kids and know who they're sponsoring. It's a relationship, a person.

Dr. Wolf, Cherlie (a Haitian nurse working with Dr. Wolf), Steve and Joline Moore and Dr. Rene (another partner) were at LifeSpring talking about New Life for Haiti a few weeks ago. Here is a webcast of that interview.

Can you see why I'm so excited?

Thursday, August 24, 2006


Do you ever feel like you go through your life hiding? Hide this thought so as not to upset others. Hide this belief because it might cause others to falter. Hide your thoughts, feelings, inadequacies and hopes because they could create strife and mayhem all around you. I hate hiding. I don't want to do it. Yet again, and again I am forced by sin within my culture to hide or cover over or not mention what is really going on inside me.

The new heaven and the new earth will have no hiding. No envy or jealousy, no one upmanship, no cause to be less than who we were created to become. I think we will still struggle and grow, but be redeemed and without sin, able to grow freely.

I long for this with the tears of many years.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Embellished Life

So, my business is finally up and actually running. What business? Decorative plates: scripture verse studies, stories, seasonal, names, personalized and all unique custom gifts. Each one is different since they are all hand painted. I've got the first five sold and several more potential orders to follow up on. I am very excited because it blends together all the stuff I love to do: art, studying the Bible, and hearing people's stories. Hopefully, with a craft show in Yorkville Sept 2, I'll get a feel for how well they will actually be received. Wish me luck!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

July 15th Service

So the next opportunity for a message went like this...

Opening remarks (Mike)

(My intro comments)
Tonight we're going to talk about faith and healing. (Pass out pads and pens) Our faith is our lifesource, our connection to the living God. In doing this message, I'm being challenged and I'd like you to join me. The challenge tonight is to really open up to God, to ask him to show us a starting place where he would like to see growth. Ask Him for one thing to take away from tonight to work on, an idea, a different way of thinking, a different way of living. We have to grow, we have to change, because if we stay the same we are no closer to God than when we first began. The notepads and pens are for writing down anything that strikes your interest tonight and we'll have a time of reflection at the end to talk to God about what He wants us to take home tonight. Let's begin with prayer. Raeann?

Opening prayer (Raeann's choice of either of the following two prayers)
Father you are our Alpha and Omega, our beginning and our end. Holy Spirit, you fill us and embue us with the very essence of divinity. Christ Jesus, you are the Holy One sent from the Lord God Almighty himself to redeem, to heal the world. We gather together tonight to become clay in your hands, to be remolded, remodeled into the vision you have had for us since the creation of the world. Open our ears that we may hear, open our eyes that we may see, heal our blind vision of our lives, heal our brokenness and recreate in us the image of God that you instilled. Let us learn tonight to love as you love, live as you live that the thanksgiving of many may redound for Your glory, O Lord of all Creation.

Lord God, you who knit our bodies
together in our mother's womb
you knew us before our creation
and imagined all we could be
you whom we call Abba, Father

We bow before you now, asking
for your presence in our midst(?)
We seek wisdom and instruction
all truth, all goodness comes from you
Our hearts and minds open to your love (?)

Mend our wounds, scars, pain and sorrow
Unwind our twisted pathways too
Bend the errant branch before you
to hold good fruit, prune dead away
Shaped and grown to rejoice with you.

Lead Creator, Abba Father
Dance divinity's music true
Sons and daughters of the Spirit
Spinning grace and faith fast stepping
Joy and peace, hope and love

The Puppet's story (Kelsey, Clarissa, Mike and I)
Char: So the story we'll be hearing about tonight is from Luke Chapter 8, the story of the woman who was bleeding and Jesus healing Jarius' daughter.

Erica (clarissa): "Oh cool, oh cool! I love that story can I listen too? Please, I'll be really quiet... Please, please, please...

Char: "Sure you can everyone is welcome to join us, I'm Char, what's your name?

Erica: My name's Erica"

Snuffy (Kelsey): And I'm Snuffy. Can I listen too?

Char: Hi, Snuffy and Erica, nice to meet you. Sure, you can listen too..

Snuffy: Umm, what am I listening to?

Erica: The story of Jarius' daughter, duhhh.

Snuffy: Excuse me, that wasn't nice. You need to say sorry.

Erica: Sorry for being mean. I just sometimes say things without thinking.

Mike: Hey, it isn't just the story of Jarius' daughter, it's the story of the woman who was bleeding. Oh hi, my name's ----

Char: Yes you are right, it is both their stories.

Erica: Hi Jack, glad you made it. Kids can you tell Jack what story we're telling?


Jack:(really excited) that's my favorite story! Oh can I tell it, can I tell it please! Please!

Char: I don't know, kids do would you like Jack to tell the story?


Char: Okay, Jack go ahead...

Jack: Okay, everybody sit down and get comfortable. Long, long ago and far, far away there lived a Jedi knight

Mike: Jack! Wrong story!

Jack: Oops, just kidding. Well you know the Jedi knights were kind of like Jesus.

Erica: That's a discussion for another night. Can you tell the Jarius' story or not?

Jack: Yeah, I will I promise this time. Long long ago, and far far away in the land of Israel God sent his Son Jesus to live with his people and teach them how to be God's children again. Jesus did many incredible things before God took him back and one of them is the story of Jarius.

Everyone had heard that Jesus was coming and was very excited. Jarius was really really excited because his daughter, his baby girl, his only child was really really sick. She was so sick he was afraid she would die. He went as fast as he could to where Jesus was and fell down at his feet. He begged him, "Jesus, please please come to my house, please touch my daughter and heal her I'm so afraid she'll die"

Jesus started towards Jarius house through the really crowded streets. Hey guys, how crowded do you think those streets were? Can you show me? (Ask a girl to be the woman beforehand to touch "Jesus" shirt ask a boy to be Jesus) Can you tell who touched your shirt? That's what it was like, but even more crowded...

A woman who was sick from bleeding snuck up and touched the edge of Jesus cloak and immediately her bleeding stopped.

Jesus said, who touched me?

Peter said " Look at all the people, everyone is touching you!

Jesus said "I know that power went out, someone touched me."

The woman wanted to hide, but everyone was going to look for her. So she came and fell at Jesus' feet. She told how she had touched his cloak for healing and God had instantly healed her.

48Then he said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace."

While Jesus was saying that to the woman, someone from Jarius house came to him and
(this is where I started ad libbing from the actual verses)
49While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. "Your daughter is dead," he said. "Don't bother the teacher any more."

50Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, "Don't be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed."

51When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child's father and mother. 52Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. "Stop wailing," Jesus said. "She is not dead but asleep."

53They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54But he took her by the hand and said, "My child, get up!" 55Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.

Snuffy: hey, if they weren't supposed to tell, how do we know the story?

Mike: obviously they didn't keep the secret. Jesus told lots of people not to tell others and they did.

Erica: It sounds like God comes through when no one else can. Remember that song Julie taught you all a couple of weeks ago "My God is so great, so mightly and powerful, there is nothing my God cannot do.

God is so Big (Julie)

Erica: There's lots of stories about Jesus healing people, but they are all about people's faith in Jesus and God too. Remember, Jesus said that when people didn't believe, he couldn't do the miracles. It's team work. God does the work, but he only does it when we trust and believe in Him.

Jack: Jesus didn't even have to touch the woman, she just touched his cloak and she believed that God could heal her and she was. We can't touch Jesus right now, but like the woman we can believe that God can do incredible stuff still today.

Thoughts about Faith and Healing (Brainstorming) How do we think about these stories today? What bothers you? What do you wish for?

Scripture Reading (who are you in the story, Luke and Mark versions, sharing perspectives time) my personal story will wrap up this and transition us

My story: In November of 1999, I went in for my yearly physical to a new doctor. I had noticed a lump in my stomach that occurred regularly. After some poking and prodding, he told me I was just constipated. When November rolled around again, the company Matt worked for suddenly closed their doors one day, and had been "forgetting" to pay the health insurance premiums. Suddenly we were without work, without insurance and my lump was constantly noticeable.
At Thanksgiving, my family got together with my grandfather. I took a photo of my dad and grandfather side by side, they looked like old and wizened brothers. Grandpa swore at him and told him he better get in to see a doctor - or else!
My dad did go in and for the next month came in for test after test, everything the doctor could think of. At Christmas he was hospitalized, after he collapsed. The bloodwork was crazy with extra plasma cells, but the doctor's still had no idea what was causing it. Dad didn't want to talk about it, go see a different doctor or find an alternate treatments. He said, what will happen will happen. He felt that God couldn't forgive some terrible things he had done and it seemed like he felt this illness was a deserved punishment...

Our insurance was still messed up, I still hadn't even gone to see a doctor.

By March, my stomach had grown so large that people at work and at church were stopping me to congratulate me on my pregnancy - touching my stomach, asking when I was due. I was beginning to panic, I was bleeding. My cycles had over the course of the last 3-4 months lengthened so much that I didn't have a cycle anymore. I just bled. I'd stand up and bleed. I'd lay down and bleed. I bled as I walked around. I was constantly going to the bathroom, constantly thirsty, tired, out of breath. My boss was incredibly kind. I'd arrive, get out of the car and bleed so heavily that I'd get dizzy. I took to bringing towels and wearing skirts, bringing extra clothes.
Meanwhile, the doctor's finally figured out what was wrong with my father, a very rare, cancer like disease called amyloidosys where the bone marrow starts churning out one of the types of plasma and doesn't stop. It overproduces the cells until the body chokes on them - they clog the organs until the heart literally can't beat, the kidneys and liver fail. The doctor's found a type of medicine that stopped the production of the cells, but for my dad the damage was already too great. They gave him 6 weeks to 6 years to live.

End of April the insurance was finally straightened out and May 3rd, I went in to a different doctor in Plainfield. The new doctor examined me and his first words were: "Do you have any idea how sick you are? You could die...soon. Do you have any children? (We didn't, we'd been putting it off")
"I'm sorry, but it looks like you probably have a massive fibroid tumor. Is your bleeding always this bad? You'll probably have to have a hystectomy. I don't know how or if they can get this out otherwise. Dr. Snydersmith did blood work and ordered ultrasounds, he set me up with Dr. Lisac, a gynecologist at Rush Copley for a consultation.

My dad's kidneys had failed and he was traveling to Rush Copley for dialysis treatments twice a week. He was constantly short of breath, because his heart couldn't pump hard enough to keep him oxygenated.

I started researching fibroids. The conviction immediately had started growing in my heart that God had something different in mind, than a hystectomy. My dad had no interest in seeing if there was an alternate treatment. He felt the doctors were doing everything they could, if he died, he died. So many years of listening to dad talking about wanting to escape his life, made me think that he'd finally gotten his wish. I believed in something else.

The tests and Dr. Lisac confirmed the existence of a massive fibroid tumor - 8" x 8" x 5." The tumor was preventing the normal closure of the uterine arteries causing my intense bleeding. He referred me to specialists, including the best fibroid surgeon in Chicago and scheduled tests. And since, everything he said ended in hysterectomy and God was saying not, I started looking for alternatives. In the course of the week and a half, between Dr. Snydersmith's diagnosis and Dr. Binor (the fibroid surgeon)'s appointment, I read everything I could find. God had help me latch on to the key, the sheer size of the tumor made the uterine wall so thin that it would be like trying to sew a balloon back together. The morning prior to Dr. Binor's appointment I met with the head of radiology at Northwestern and talked about embolization, where they cut of the blood supply to a tumor and kill it, which causes it to shrink. I wanted to know if embolization and then surgery to remove the tumor was possible. He was cautiously optimistic but he emphasized, no one had ever done it.

That afternoon, after listening to Dr. Binor explain how he would tell his own wife to have a hystectomy, I offered the alternative. Embolization to shrink the tumor and then surgical removal. He was skeptical - no one had ever combined the procedures and it was a very long time to wait for a remote chance of success.
I knew from my research that small tumors have an average shrinkage of 42%, but I'd only found one case had where a large one gotten anywhere near that. Dr. Binor is a devout Jew and so I was honest with him:
I believe in the God of the Old and New Testament who did all kinds of miracles. I want a miracle and the only way to get that is to go through the process and let God decide whether he'll give me one or not. What's the worst that can happen? I have a hysterectomy. I have nothing to lose but some time and it gives God a chance to do what he will.

Dr. Binor thought I was crazy but the plan became: an embolization to kill the tumor, wait 6 mos, put me into artificial menopause with Lupron for 3 mos to shrink anything left alive (and drive Matt crazy), then surgery to remove the tumor.

My dad died a month after the embolization. The tumor shrank a total of 48% and Dr. Binor and Dr. Lisac were amazed when it shelled out perfectly into Binors hands at the surgery. Corwin was conceived 3 months later. My uterus did not rupture during pregnancy and the c-section went cleanly 9 months later. We have two beautiful children that we would not have had without a miracle from God.

So why a miracle for me and death for my dad? It's too pat and easy to say "well you had faith" We prayed and believed and asked for a miracle for my dad. We only stopped asking after he drew his last breath. We wanted a miracle, a last minute life altering reprieve where suddenly he would live and value life and us more. Instead he died. Honestly, I know that this is one of those unanswerable questions - the ones you ask when you see God face to face. But his still small voice inside me says it's important to keep asking it and keep seeking the answer because the question that really lies at the heart of it is about Faith. What is our faith really like? What exactly is it that we believe in?

I used to think faith was like something physical - either you had it or you didn't - as though it were an object to be obtained. As we've listened to Luke though, its become apparent that it is a continuum, that your faith starts small and is nurtured and grows.

There's a statistic floating around out there that on average every ten years a major event strikes any given individual. A major job loss, sickness, unexpected disaster, major life shifts. Whether the statistic is accurate or not, what is absolutely true is that we will face disasters in our lives from which no one else will be able to save us. What good will our faith be to us in those moments? Will we turn away and claim there is no God because we thought faith was like standard of living insurance? Will we cry out to God about the unfairness of it all, because we think we're special and deserve better? Can we begin to see these moments as opportunities - and I am not minimalizing the pain -these moments are chances to see God intersect with the mundane and transform it into something spectacular. There have been two ways our family has dealt with the pain - First, to turn from God and wallow in it as my Dad did with his ameloidosis and my brother did when his lungs collapsed. My brother has survived.

The other way to deal with it is to turn to God and wallow in it - In our story, both the woman and Jarius's daughter were "made whole." The greek word is "sozo" in both cases, it indicates being saved from extremity. Within Jewish tradition, this idea of being saved in extremity is the God's role alone: idols, angels, astrologers, armies, kings cannot save. It was a serious sin when Israel asked for a king in the OT, Israel indicated that it wanted to save itself, salvation coming from it's own ranks, rather than directly from God. God was to be the source of saving, lest someone who was weaker resort to sin in order to survive. Thus only God who had all might and right, could help overcome extremity. Man's intervention to help and save could take place only if God works in them and through them.

My sister's story is an incredible constant act of God saving her from extremity. She was into drugs, alcohol, parties and lots of sleeping around. When she became pregnant, not even knowing who the father was, she chose to let God save her from her extremity. He has taken her alcohol, smoking, and drug addictions away. He has provided housing several times by divine intervention. He has given her raises at work when she needs more money to live on, directly and obviously provided ways to deal as a single mom. Her story is incredible, and He comes through for her every single time, not just in a getting by sense, but really blessing her. I want that kind of relationship with God?

This is the God in whom we have faith. The God who brought Israel out of Egypt, parted the Red Sea, provided food and drink and kept his people safe. The God who took form among us as Jesus, who healed the blind, walked on water, brought the paralyzed to their feet, who has touched you and me - who has asked us to let him save us in our extremity.

"Sozo" made whole is used by Luke when he talks about healing but also when he talks about God saving us from our sin. If God is supposed to be the only one to save us in extremity, can you begin to see the problem when people try to save themselves, be self-sufficient? Can you see why it was faith for the bleeding woman having exhausted her other options to throw herself at Jesus' mercy hoping for God's miracle. Why Jarius needed to believe that Jesus could do as he had promised?

Faith presented in Luke is dynamic. It has the implications of entrusting oneself to God - like the those being healed of infirmities, of committing oneself and pursuing God in Luke's mentions of the crowds and the efforts people made to get to Jesus, of action dominating knowledge - those who needed Jesus being honored over religious and intellectual leadership, of faith a response to God's action - the crowds surrounding Jesus and people pressing in to be healed as others have been healed and finally Luke includes in his descriptions of faith, a desperate, unsure hope for God to come through. "Will you heal me Jesus." I don't know about you but the faith I grew up with wasn't this kind of faith. This is a faith built on evidence and action, a faith built on being in extremity. Watching my sister, I've seen faith start out as a tiny seed, something desperately hoped for and needed, and as each time God came through watched that faith grow. That tiny seed took root the moment she let God save her in her extremity and has grown into a wild vine that has covered most of her life. Watching Beth live out her faith, helped me trust God to save me in my extremity.

Don't misunderstand me. Faith is not a bargaining chip. It isn't something that gets us what we want. We are not at the center. (Circle diagram) God is. Faith is a response to God.

In faith, both Jarius and the woman were looking for Jesus. They were looking for God to intersect with their lives and save them.

In faith, both the bleeding woman and Jarius physically sought Jesus. They went after their healing, they pursued it. They found out Jesus was coming and made sure to get to him. Jarius relied on Jesus authority to connect to God's power. He needed Jesus' to come with him, to touch his daughter, to be there. The woman focused on Jesus' as a vessel of God, she touched his cloak assuming she could make the connection there.

In faith, they trusted in Jesus. For Jarius, Jesus was God personified, he trusted him to choose to heal his daughter. For the woman, Jesus was the vessel of God's healing. She trusted that God would heal her.

In faith, though they had exhausted their own means, they knew they hadn't exhausted God's means. Jarius' daughter was dead before Jesus even arrived. The woman had spent all she had on physicians. They were trying to bite off something only God could chew.

We're going to spend the next few minutes talking to God. I'll be reading some questions and then there will be a few minutes of silence for you to talk with God directly about what he wants you to hold onto this week.

Is this my kind of faith? Is this the kind of faith that we have experienced in our own lives? Do I entrusting myself to God, ? Do you? My future even? Is our faith a pursuit of God like Jarius and the woman - will we not let him get away? Do my actions dominate my knowledge- do I try to let God rather than just think about it...? Do I seek to see God at work around me, that when my time for desperate measures comes, my faith is a response to God's action that I've already seen? Can I let myself be comfortable with a desperate, unsure hope for God to come through, so that I don't try to fix it myself and deny God the chance to make my mundane, his kind of spectacular.

Reflection (directed time alone with God)

Song: It is well with my soul

Communion (Mike)

Responsive Reading (Wendy)
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;

Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;

Always bearing about in the body the sufficiency of Jesus Christ, that His life might be made manifest in our body.

For in all of our brothers and sisters upon this earth, we see Christ looking at us from their eyes

And in our lives, Christ becomes present to love others. For the Lord God sent his Son the Christ to heal the nations and return the outcast.

We are called to Love the Lord Our God with all our heart, and soul and mind. And to love our neighbor as ourselves.

In this we become God's vessels of grace and mercy, of healing and redemption.

For all things are for His sake, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.

For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Closing Prayer (Steve)

Closing Remarks (Mike)

And so, that was that service...

May 13th message

Okay, so after I gave this message back in May, I was so embarrassed by it that I didn't want to post it. Given a little time to forget, I'll read it again after I get it posted so I don't chicken out again...

May 13th, 2006


Welcome to Via Christus Community Church. It's a place where we're constantly trying to give birth to this incredible vision that God has put inside us: to love Him and love others. We want to celebrate God passionately and creatively, become the people He originally intended us to be, and pursue the glimmerings of Him that we find all around us. We love others, valuing the beautiful diversity of talents, experience and personhood we see everywhere, embracing a life shared deeply together, and pouring ourselves out joyfully from our abundance.

Pastor Mike is away at a church conference in Texas and meanwhile, Julie and Emma are taking the opportunity to visit family. In their absence, we are all ministers one to another - a serving priesthood of believers. Tonight it is our prayer, that we come together under that incredible vision God has put inside us: to Love Him and love each other well. Let's pray.


Lord, we stand in the middle of your kingdom and wonder where it is. We forget that everyone is part of the kingdom, even those we don't like. Your son sat and ate with tax collectors and prostitutes. So we wonder- if we saw him today, would we welcome him into our homes knowing the company he keeps? Kill our egos, God. Sometimes we act like we own the kingdom. We make up rules and say they're yours. We pronounce judgements and say they're from your lips. Wake us up Father. Help us. Open our eyes so we may see the world as your son saw it. Open our minds to see the possibilities we shut out. Open our hearts so that we may love as Jesus loved, without judgement or condition. Open our lives so that we may accept the rest of the world as Jesus accepts us. Amen.

READING (Wendy) Luke 6:1-11


BACKGROUND (slide of verses with highlighted text)

When Mike asked me to do the message on legalism I laughed. Or maybe the most correct picture was along the lines of "hehehe"(rubbing hands together). I thought it would be easy, I love talking about it and what it's done to me. However, when I began trying to get some thoughts down on paper and doing some research, I realized what a tremendously complex subject it was. Legalism touches on so many of our basic problems as people. It touches on our desire to be in control, our desire to be accepted, our wanting to put ourselves first and our wanting to oversimplify. It's about how small we want to make God. It's both as simple and as complex as saying that it is "the law" versus "love." Or as simple and complex as saying that it is trying to have power over someone or God having power over someone. Or settling for some rules rather than a real relationship with God. Or God as an intellectual subject vs a living loving creator. Or putting the rules higher than God. Growing vs stagnation. Power from God vs power over God. Seeking the good, right and true vs. seeking self assurance. The letter of the law vs. the intent. Serving the law rather than serving God. It's the difference between a human being and a human doing.

Let's start off this evening by taking a quick romp through some history to glean an idea of what legalism looked like in Jesus time and then from there we'll try to get at the root of what it is or isn't and what causes legalism. After that we'll try to translate the "old" legalism, into what it looks like now, in the churches, between people, and between us and God. Hopefully, we come away from tonight with our heads and hearts spinning a little, but better able to follow Jesus.

I have to admit I'm falling in love with Jesus. Jesus has this incredible ability to see to the very heart of people. It was like the external stuff wasn't even noticeable, except where it infected people's hearts. He was so much more than just a bunch of rules. It's such a contrast with the religious leaders of the day, the Pharisees and Scribes or teachers of the law. Their concern was that every little external observance was carried out to its fullest extent. They had limits on how far a walk was allowed on the Sabbath, limits on the amount of effort that could be put out before you were "working" on the Sabbath and violating its rest. It's the difference between seeing a human being instead of just a human doing. It's the difference between little nitpicky god, and a God so complex and unfathomable that we hardly understand a fraction of his creation.
(Jesus healing slide)
In Luke's gospel, it's the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who are constantly challenging Jesus. The Pharisees themselves were a religious group much like the denominations we have within Christendom today - instead of Methodist, Presbyterians or Catholics, Israel had Pharisees, Saducees, Essenes, and numerous others. However, the teachers of the law were different. The "teachers of the law" refer to the scribes, an official religious office. These were the Rabbis, teachers, religious judges., In Jesus time, they were the ultimate authority on all questions of faith and practice.
(Pharisee photo)
When a human being is reduced to a human doing and God is put in a small box labeled rules, the technical term for that is legalism and if you compared it to a disease, legalism infected Israel in Jesus' time like a plague. A large part of this was due to the role of the teachers of the law. From the time of Nehemiah, the office of the Scribe was largely intended to preserve and teach the law of God. However in reality that role expanded farther. The scribes divided into three areas of study, the Midrash which focused on scriptural investigation (think CSI), the Halakhah aimed at what rules were to be observed (kind of like the tax and the IRS), and the Haggadah (think street preachers) focused the oral tradition in the broadest sense.
(Pharisee painting)
By Jesus time, the law was not simply a matter of the directives laid out in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, but also all the traditions of the forefathers, all the teachings of various Rabbis through the years, and all the scriptural interpretations and conclusions drawn. The purpose was perfect adherence to the laws of God - and by extending and adding to its provisions they proposed to protect anyone from accidently or intentionally straying across its sacred boundaries. There was a strong tradition that not only had God given Moses the written laws and traditions, but also a large body of unwritten oral tradition of equal or greater importance. This tradition was added onto by successive generations and came to carry more weight than the scripture. The greatest merit a Scribe or Rabbi might claim was the strictest following of the traditions he had received from his teacher. Even the Sanhedrin, the ruling council could not set aside the rulings of the preceding council. Everything was focused on the actions, a persons outward behavior. Either you were righteous - to them that meant right acting - based on your behavior, or you were a sinner.
(Sanhedrin slide)
Throughout the gospels and especially in this segment of Luke that began with the stories we looked at last week of the leper, the paralyzed man, and Jesus eating with the tax collectors and these two stories we listened to today - of the disciples eating grain they had gathered on the Sabbath and Jesus healing the withered hand on the Sabbath, it's obvious that Jesus is working from a completely different view of the world. Jesus sees Human beings. He sees into the heart of who and what we are and are meant to be. Jesus sees God as bigger than any set of rules, no matter how complex. Jesus doesn't put either people or God in a box. Where the Pharisees and Scribes view the outward actions of a person as what are important... and their laws, traditions and regulations apply to the external appearance. Jesus looks inside the people first - he touched the leper, he forgave the sins of the paralyzed man, he kept company with tax collectors and sinners. This inner view of people is summed up in the two stories we are looking at today: Jesus watched his disciples eat grain picked from the field and he says "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath" Jesus looks at the man with the withered hand and asks "What is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil?"
(The pharisee and the harlot slide)
For Jesus the law was a tool meant to serve man not subjugate him. In Mark the story of the grain is recorded similarly, except with the additional explanation "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." The law was intended to point to a good relationship between God and men and when the law was broken, bring about a consciousness of the broken relationship. The law was not intended to be an end in and of itself. What a person did wasn't supposed to define who they were!

What went wrong? The law overwhelmed the relationship with God. Rather than the law pointing people to God, the law became an end in itself.. Those who considered themselves righteous were setting themselves up against the law as the standard, rather than allowing God to judge them. They were self assured instead of God assured. Rather than the complexity of a real relationship with God, many chose to simply keep the rules so that God was neat, orderly and compartmentalized. It degraded God from a living loving creator, to an impersonal third party.
(Adam's creation slide)
Not only did it affect the relationships of people with God, it affected people's relationships to one another. The law became a tool of power. Power for oneself because rather than God being the source of judgement, the law was a tool that people wielded against others. Those who could keep the law were part of the in crowd, those who could not were sinners and outcasts. Those who kept the law would be loved and accepted by God, and obviously those who didn't, weren't. It only mattered that you were a human doing...
(Pharisee and publican slide)
It shocked me to get a glimpse of this burden on the people of Jesus' time. Legalism wasn't just replacing God with rules, it was also seeing people as merely a checklist of whether you looked okay on the outside. Instead of revealing truth and giving insight the law was used to judge and condemn people in their relationships to God and each other.

There is an essential element of legalism that is also an embodiment of the original sin -stealing God's power and position for ourselves. When the rules are used to give people the power of judgement that rightly belongs to God, when people control who is acceptable to God and who is not. There is an element in this of wanting our relationship with God to be easy, something we have control over. It's easier to run through a checklist and say "everything's fine" than be challenged continuously to grow. It's easier to control people if you have rules that they have to measure up to. Every one of us realizes in our heart of hearts though, that God is so much more than this.
(Contrast slide)
With two phrases of Jesus set up his contrasting Kingdom."The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." And "Which is lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it." It's easy to read the first and think, of course Jesus is lord of the sabbath. However, the phrase Son of Man is used by Jesus constantly ... he constantly self identifies with his humanity. Humankind is Lord of the Sabbath. Mark writes Jesus's words as "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." The Sabbath was a tool to help people, not a goal for people to achieve. And not just the Sabbath, but all of the law. In Jesus's new Kingdom, the law serves its intended place as a truth-teller, as an informer of what good looks like and what breaks relationships. The law is banished from its role as taskmaster and slave owner, it is a servant of mankind.

So we've romped through history and seen how crazy the law was in Jesus' day. It wasn't simply a matter of the directives laid out in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, but also all the traditions of the forefathers, all the teachings of various Rabbis through the years, and all the scriptural interpretations and conclusions drawn. And from this "law", the religious leaders of the day, divided people into the "righteous" and "sinners" based only on what showed on the outside. The law wasn't intended... as a means of stealing God's power and position of judge... for ourselves and what it was intended for: serving as a tool to help people see how relationships between people and God should be. Under the law, we were considered human doings, now we are human beings. God's Kingdom is larger and more wondrous than we can imagine.

Now obviously, we don't have the rules and regulations of the Pharisees and Scribes now a days, but we do have others. We're going to take the next 15-25 min and do some brainstorming together about what legalism looks like now... in our churches, between people, and in our own lives. After that, we're going to have some quiet time set aside to talk directly with God, and it has to do with the paper and pencils you found on your chair. But I'll tell you more later.


Let's start with some concrete ideas of some of our new "laws" (who what where when how)
God, world, church, people, me
What aren't you supposed to do in church? What actions are okay, what actions aren't? When can the law heal? When does it separate people from others in the church? When is it a tool of social exclusion? Status exclusion?

Would it be equally valid to discuss this as "the ways churches, leaders and people divide over rules, regulations, and interpretations" (rephrased however you choose).

C.S. Lewis " In the end, there will be two groups of people, those that say to God "Thy will be done" and those to whom God says "Thy will be done."

How big is your God? Have you accepted Him in and made a tidy little room in some compartment of your life? Then you have made Him into an idol and put Him on a shelf. Perhaps the rules are followed still, but your god is small - he is not the God of the Universe, the Creator of this intricate beauty that surrounds us. Do you realize you are surrounded by the Kingdom? Can you let go of the god of your little compartment and allow the God who surrounds you in to overwhelm your defenses and love you - shape you like you had shaped that former idol, bandage your pain, heal your scars and wounds, inflame your heart with His love and the wonder of all He is and created you to be...

Other thoughts for brainstorming:
Legalism - human doings
power over someone
God as an intellectual subject
rules more important than God or people
stagnation, finish line
power over God and people, manipulative
letter of the law
serving the law
asks the question "what am I doing?"
creates hostility, results in division
extrinsic motivation for rules God having power over someone

Love - human beings
real relationships
a living loving creator
people and God more important than rules
growth, life as a journey
power from God and people, healing
good, right and true for their sake
intent of the law
serving God
"Who does God intend me to become?"
creates peace, heals broken relationships
intrinsic motivation for growth

CONTEMPLATION PAPER (write a message to God on dissolving paper)



So, that was the service.

Catching up!

Well, I am embarrassed to admit that it has been nearly three months since I've blogged.

To catch up with the busy summer: my wonderful nephew Jacob visited for five weeks, my mom Kathy (actually Matt's mom) came for two weeks, we've had two weddings (local) and a funeral (Ohio), went to Boise to see my new nephew mid June for a week, and for two weeks, passed a virus between the kids and I that featured 4-5 days of 104F temperatures. I wonder why I feel like I've had no time to catch up!

So, on the good side of things, lots to talk about:

the Mom's playgroup we started this summer is some 20 moms strong and having fun - our best playdate yet was to a free zoo in Aurora, IL that had a great playground too. Corwin and Angeleah went crazy they were having so much fun...

Had to resign my application to the therapy dog group, too much time was already committed per week and I couldn't add that in without quitting something else or skimping the kid's time. In a few years, Delilah and I will do that. She and I did great and it was a lot of fun, the dog group sent a really nice note letting us know we'd be welcome back anytime.

Had another chance to talk, I plan to post it and the original message. The best (most selfish?) part of getting to do the messages is the intense growth I experience each time I prepare one. How cool it would be to get to do them all the time! (How insane...)

Via Christus is sponsoring a craft booth at hometown days in Yorkville for all of us crafters. Thanks to that encouragement (and deadline) I've actually got my business going finally. While in Ohio for the funeral, I received my first four plate sales!!!

I discovered the voice memo function on my phone and filled it with little ditties I was singing to God in the car and other thoughts. I took one of the ditties, cleaned it up and wrote it down and shared it at God Things at tonight's Via Christus service. I had my usual performance anxiety attack, but tough, I'll get over it eventually if I can just manage to play enough. The song is posted here. You can download the free viewer here. The viewer will play the score for you and the lyrics are on the screen. I'd love comments on how to improve this - it's just a baby and I'd like to see it get finished.

Jacob's visit this year really made huge changes in Corwin. I noticed his conversational skills had taken a sudden leap and he gives so much more interaction in everything. Mostly it centers around the word "Why?" which I think has God laughing hysterically upstairs...I tortured my parents for years with that question. I definitely getting my just desserts. Potty training has begun, paused, gotten frustrated, almost made it and is working on staining our carpet. Can I just say, this stinks! It's all about the bathroom yur in...(hah, hah, get it?)

Angeleah has also leaped forward. Not conversationally, as she still only says 5 or less words somewhat consistently. Her climbing skills have increased dramatically. Earlier this summer we found her on top of the counter. Given that a stool puts her chin just past the counter, we aren't really sure how she got up there... She is determined to climb the indented fingertip drawer pulls of our TV cabinet. Her current best is about halfway up. She loves balancing along curbs and climbs on top of her rocking horse to stand no handed and laugh. She climbs the couch and if I hear too much giggling from the other room I know she has gotten on the back of the couch and is walking back and forth along the wall.

Matt's job has long commutes, but we appreciate the paycheck and stability of the job he's at currently. They also are letting him develop the kind of skills he's been wanting to develop, which is absolutely fabulous.

The church plant is slowly and steadily increasing. We're beginning to have a positive impact on our community through the food drives and the mom's group. May God help us find more ways to really bless others...

So I've posed enough topics, it's been a really busy summer, but really good...