Endurance

Romans 5:1-5
Romans 12:2

As I open the door, I take a deep breath.
Letting it out slowly, I attempt to ease the ever-present ache in my back.
Or was that my neck?
Shaking my head, I start walking.
The day is gray and the snow is melting.
I glare at the sky willing it to action – anything would be better
than this nondescript, indecisive day.
But even if it were sunny,
I would balefully resent its nerve at shining in my eyes.
At least then I could hide my disgust behind sunglasses.
I smile politely at a passing acquaintance.
Snow would be nice.
Maybe its stark, cold sting could freeze the angry, boiling blood
running through my veins.
Why can’t I be happy?

I’m just not used to being here.
It’ll get better.
What if it doesn’t?
There’s always something – some explanation for why
the grief is temporary.
“It’s just a phase; she’ll grow out of it.”
It must be “that time” of the month again.
It’s just difficult making the transition from one place to the next.
What part of life isn’t a transition?
I’d like to know.
Do I ever get to rest and remain the same?

Once you learn something, you are somehow changed by that knowledge.
You learn something new everyday.
The world is shrinking daily, a result of growth and change.
Worlds are colliding, overlapping; the barriers protecting me
from life are disintegrating.
Nothing remains the same except change itself.
Good old reliable change.
How do you find a permanent identity even as you are creating and
editing the original?
People think I’m changing; I feel I’m becoming more me.
Finally things are starting to feel congruent inside.
But that doesn’t lend logic to my actions.
The clouds keep changing form.
That was an elephant, but now it more of a tiara.
The wind shifts again.

Am I changing or am I remaining the same while the world
continues on its axis?
A parallel behind the rest of the world, my movements are slightly
out of sync.
It’s really just a question of inertia.
Objects at rest tend to stay at rest until acted upon to change.
The rest of the world keeps spinning, moving at a frightful speed.
I don’t want to join that dance; I get motion sickness too easily.
The longer I remain inactive, the more pressures close in on me
forcing a change.

Study harder.  Walk faster.  Think seriously.  Find a job.
Pay off your debt.  Trust love. Take chances.  Share the car.
Help your family.  Be positive.  Don’t cause pain.

What about the pain?
Did I cause that?
Any course of action seems wrong in some way.
Either way, I lose.
I can be me or I can answer the world’s call.
Used to be able to do both.
Now a sacrifice is demanded.
Will it be the bishop or the knight?
I can’t stop living.
I refuse to admit defeat.
I endure.

 

A Pastor Appreciation Month Reflection

After each child hits the one-year mark, I seem to come out from this fog and have more energy for all the stuff I’ve been wanting to do and ignoring.  Baby #3 is now, pleasantly and happily, one and we’ve weathered this first year without too many battles and/or casualties.  I’ve heard loads of stories of churches not being exactly pastoral to their pastors on Family Leave, but I’m so proud of my little church for not being one of ‘those’ churches.  They stepped up to leadership during my time off and were very understanding when I needed 2 weeks more than expected.

As I was reflecting on the people with whom I serve, and the people that I serve, I had a Jerry Maguire inspired thought: you make me want to become a better pastor.  I know that I have grown a lot these past 3 years, and I can feel my ministry becoming more personal and powerful because of our growing relationships.  I also know that growth would not have been possible without support and encouragement.  One of my church members made a book shelf for my office – for me! – when I first got here.  Before I had done anything.  He and his wife said they knew the study and prayer it would take to be a faithful minister and they let me know that I had their trust … from the outset.  That gift has stayed with me and strengthened my resolve and committment over and over again.

So, to all of you reading, letting people know you believe in them and where they are heading can have a huge lasting impact on them and your relationship with them.  Remember how important those little acts of trust and kindness can be and sow seeds of peace!

In Memory of Edith Emilie Rodenhausen

Friends and Family,

                It is an honor to be able to speak about a woman that I have loved and admired for so long.  I don’t expect this task to be easy to do, but all of us here wish to honor our memories of a person that, for many of us, shaped who we are and how we think about family and faith.  To try to say everything there is to say is impossible – if you have a few minutes, I have some stories collected on facebook that I’m sure you’d enjoy.  Grandma lived a wonderful, rich, full 92 years and I could easily sit and talk about her for hours. 

                 There are themes, however, that ran through Grandma’s life that also run through our family life and these are the memories that bring us comfort and joy even in the midst of our sorrow.  Music, singing, camping, nature, the joy of being together … playing cards, laughing, sharing meals, praying together, these are the rhythms that shaped the lives of the Rodenhausen family.  Many of you probably know that one of Grandma’s deepest desires recently was to spend her last days in her own home, and I am fairly certain it is because there she felt all the memories and emotions of shared time.  The focus of Grandma’s life wasn’t a thing or a place so much as it was time that she spent with her family and friends.

                A lot of Grandma’s time was spent in song, whether it was singing children’s songs, sharing hymns, or whistling under her breath as she went about her activities.  Much of grandma’s family, growing up, played instruments and Grandma must have sung in just about every choir in every church that she attended or served.  A lovely alto, Grandma sang alto whether the parts were written out or not.  She sang with her daughters, she sang for her grandchildren.  I can remember every time we would visit when I was little, she would ask me to play piano for her … and it never seemed to bother her when I messed up, she just enjoyed music that was joyful.  Many of her children and grandchildren have now also grown up singing, and I pray that our songs may be joyful and that they remind us of a mother and grandmother who sang to praise God and enjoyed the singing.

                As I’ve talked with my cousins, many of our memories with grandma and grandpa was time spent outside, camping.  Grandma and Grandpa seemed to relish being outside in God’s creation.  Several of my cousins remember camping with our grandparent and how Grandma would clean and cook every tiny fish that was caught and eat them as though they were the best she had ever eaten.  Another cousin remembers how they would bring practically everything with them when camping – even big brooms and shovels.  After grandpa passed away, some of us started getting together to care for her yard every year on Memorial Day.  And I remember Grandma getting more than a little upset one fall when Dad chopped down the old, dead parts of her clematis vine.  She was so afraid it wouldn’t come back in the spring.  Grandma was not a green thumb, but she loved being reminded of her dad, her husband, and God through nature – especially through the flowers that Grandpa specifically tended.  I know, personally, that I will remember both of them when I look at roses blooming and when I see sweet alyssum or clematis vines in full glory.

                Almost every family gathering that I remember involved playing games of some sort – most often, a game of cards and to be very specific, Rook.  As my husband found out, to become a part of the Rodenhausen family, playing Rook is a prerequisite.  And grandma was the queen of Rook.  I can remember learning to play the game with her and my older brother … and having to hold the ‘dummy’ hand until I learned the rules.  As we got older, being able to play your own hand with the adults was a rite of passage.  We teased Grandma a lot about table talking, dropping cards, or conveniently ‘forgetting’ that she held the Rook or some other important trump card.  She took all our teasing in stride, and I could never figure out if she truly was forgetful or if she was just very crafty.  Grandma had a playful, mischievous side that came out in games, and it made playing with her incredibly fun.

            These are only a few of the memories that I have set to paper.  Often, Grandma talked about writing a memoir of her life and she never quite got around to it – I think, mostly, because there was so much to tell that it was overwhelming.  All of us have different memories and experiences to cherish and remember, and it is in the telling of these stories that we honor Grandma’s life and that we honor what she taught us about life.   As we leave today, let us remember and share what she taught us all about making time for one another and really enjoying the time that we have with one another, for that time is special and irreplaceable. 

                  The themes of these memories and what they tell me about Grandma lead me to one conclusion: Grandma loved life, she loved God, and she loved her family.  What was important to her was not a thing … her joy came truly in sharing her time with the people she loved.  I have come to count grandma as a friend and a role model, someone who shared her life generously and loved unconditionally.  It will be an honor to continue to sing praises to God for the gift of having known and loved Edith Rodenhausen.

Forgiveness and Justice 2/20/11

Matthew 5:38-48 (The Message)

  38-42“Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.

 43-47“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

 48“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

    That last verse in Matthew (5:48) is translated in the NRSV as “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.”  We, in the church, tend to take this as a moral command to be perfect in all that we do and say.  In fact, that is not really the sense and meaning of that word in the original language.  “The sense of the word is more about becoming what was intended, accomplishing one’s God-given purpose in the same way that God constantly reflects God’s own nature and purpose.”[1]  It has the sense of being complete, and whole … not necessarily without flaws.  Being perfect has little or nothing to do with never making mistakes.  Instead, ‘being perfect’ begins in finding our identity in Christ, as Eugene Peterson translates it: Live out your God-created identity (5:48).  Only those who have experienced love can in turn share it with others.  It is when we experience God’s love that we are able to share that love with others.

OK, so we are Christ’s beloved and blessed children.  That is where we will start, how then shall we live?  What does that mean?  Jesus is disturbingly direct, and we’re not exactly sure we want to believe him.  Maybe he means that we should be the bigger person ‘metaphorically.’  He doesn’t really want us to turn the other cheek and get hit again, does he?

That’s the tough question, isn’t it?  Christians have gone one of two ways on this dilemma: some have used it to mean that we should be doormats, always giving more, depleting ourselves in our generosity.  These Christians have tended to become Christian martyrs in their personal lives.  The other Christian answer has been that Jesus is showing us a nonviolent way of protesting and showing injustice.  So that, in turning the cheek, we expose the violence and tell the person that if they hit us again they claim us as an equal. 

Has any of you heard in a sermon of bible-study why turning the cheek could be a form of non-violent protest?  Or giving them your shirt as well?  Or walking the extra mile?  (OK, so in person I gave some historical background on the examples Jesus uses in this passage.  Message me if you’re interested and we’ll e-discuss.)

One commentator was captured by the image of gift-wrapping your best coat if sued for your shirt.  Would your lawyer offer to deliver it for you?  What would you write on the gift tag?  Most of us would feel the urge to give some parting shot on that note.  Sometimes when we ‘take the higher road’ morally, we feel superior to other person, like we’re winning by not playing their game.  Both of these responses (the martyr and the social justice response) have glimmers of truth in them, but they miss the bigger point.

Jesus is suggesting that in our refusal to respond or retaliate to being wronged, we do not in fact ‘win’.  Instead, we effectively call into question the original game and change the rules of engagement.  It’s not about dominating someone else or coming out on top.  By our non-participation, we say that relationships are not about winning or losing, and all of life is about relationships.  And as we remember from our talk last week, relationships are hard work!  “This Jesus not only commands, he also understands, understand just how hard it is to love rather than hate, to forgive rather than begrudge, to embrace rather than protect, to share rather than hoard, to heal rather than to wound, especially when we ourselves walk so much of our lives wounded and hurt.”[2]

Jesus knows and understands the truth of human nature.  How many of you have been wronged in some way?  I would imagine that it doesn’t matter if it was yesterday or years ago, you can probably remember exactly how it made you feel, and you could recount details of how it hurt and how it didn’t get better.  The truth is love does not come naturally to us.  It is not natural to just stand there when being hurt or put upon.  What is natural is to want to protect ourselves either by retreating or by striking back.  It is so natural that we have an entire civil court system devoted to resolving disagreements between individuals when they cannot do so themselves.  (Judge Judy, anyone?)  It is easy to rest in the hurt.  “Some of us are so stubborn that we would rather be right than be in relationship with others.”[3]

This is what Jesus wants his disciples (including us!) to change in the world.  Relationship is more important that being right or hurting someone that hurt us.  The phrase we all utter at some point as children, “But it’s not fair!!” is deeply ingrained into us as humans.  We want the world to be a place of fairness.  We want justice.  The thing is, the road to justice is not a straight line.  Ask the parents of a murder victim if they feel better after their child’s murderer is convicted and penalized.  Or ask the people of South Africa about the strange road of truth-telling and forgiving they took together in order to rebuild their country after the apartheid.  There’s nothing logical or common-sensical about forgiveness and justice.

I thought I had lost my best friend once.  Shortly before I got married, our friendship just sort of fell apart.  She felt wronged, I felt wronged; we could barely speak to each other on the phone without feeling this strong tension that wouldn’t resolve itself.  Years later, we are once again best friends.  Here’s the difficult thing:  I’m not really sure how the relationship mended.  I’ve never fully understood what happened; she’s never been able to fully explain.  There weren’t explicit apologies offered and accepted, but we both decided at some point that our friendship, our relationship was more important than the difficult time we had both gone through separately.  I decided to forgive her and love her for who she was and for who she is now.  And she did the same for me.  I can’t really talk about it without feeling tremendously grateful for the gift of grace and forgiveness that healed our relationship.

Old grudges and deep wounds take a long time to heal.  Past hurts and disappointments haunt us and painful memories are slow to fade.  What is it that allows us to step out of those hurts and find forgiveness for ourselves and offer it to others?  Or perhaps a better question is what stops us from experiencing and extending forgiveness?  There’s a slip of paper in your bulletin for you to think about and fill out.  Write down just one thing that you believe is holding you back from living into your God-given identity.  What gets in your way of being the you God calls you to be?  Write down that one thing, maybe it’s a fear, a memory, a resentment, or a hurt – what one thing keeps you from embracing and becoming who God wishes you to be? (Online readers: take a moment to reflect on this, write it down so its concrete, offer it to God in prayer – for help, see the end of the sermon.)  Take a moment and reflect on this.  Write it down and put it in the offering plate.  Give it over to God.  No one will open or read what you write.  It’s just between you and God.

When it comes down to it, we don’t forgive because it’s easy or because we love the other person.  We forgive because it’s what we are supposed to do.  We forgive because Jesus tells us to, because Jesus models God’s love for us.  Frankly, we forgive because it is in our best interest to do so, because in forgiving others, we are forgiven (Luke 6:37).  In forgiving others, we escape the cycle of anger and frustration of self-righteousness.  Jesus’ love and forgiveness sets us free to forgive even ourselves and recognize that we are important and loved by God.

“Do not fight fire with fire, Jesus says; rather, fight fire with water.”  Forgiveness changes the way of operating in the world; it goes against the models of competition, battle, and economics.  Forgiveness honors life and paves the way forward.  “South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu tells stories of profound forgiveness that came from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the wake of apartheid. There, people who had lost loved ones or had themselves been physically attacked and left wounded forever found it in their hearts to forgive their perpetrators … Tutu says, quite simply, ‘Without forgiveness there is no future.’”[4]

Forgiveness is not about fairness or justice; it’s not about being right or winning.  Forgiveness is about finding wholeness in healing and becoming the best possible you that God has created you to be.  The scriptures come alive in The Message translation of this passage: 

I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves.

My favorite poet, Mary Oliver, has a line in her poem ‘Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches[5]’ that always reaches into my depths and asks me what is real.  She says, “Listen, are your breathing just a little, and calling it a life?”  Jesus calls us to a life that is rich and vibrant, a Technicolor world that takes effort and focus.  It is a world filled with joy and love and forgiveness and blessing.  “You are kingdom people, blessed and beloved by God and called to be salt and light in the world.  Go be who you are!”

Let us pray, believing I am God’s beloved child, I know I am called to share God’s love with others.  But I find it hard because I’m stubborn and proud.  Forgiving sometimes feels like giving in and losing.  When really, God, we are freed in forgiving and in forgiving, we find the grace and mercy that allow us to be the person that you created and called to your purposes.  Let me live in such a way that I may always know this grace and mercy and bear it out into the world.  Amen.


[1] David Lose, “Perfect” at http://www.WorkingPreacher.org

[2] David Lose, “Perfect” at http://www.WorkingPreacher.org

[3] Barbara Essex, Feasting on the Word, Matthew 5:38-48.

[4] Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge, Huffington Post, “Is it Crazy to Forgive Those Who Hurt You?  A Christian Perspective,  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-candace-chellewhodge/is-it-crazy-to-forgive-th_b_822437.html

[5] Mary Oliver, Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches, http://www.poetry-chaikhana.com/O/OliverMary/HaveYouEverT.htm

Advent Suppers

Come, eat together, make crafts as a family, share in music and devotions throughout this Advent season.  We’re exploring the signs and symbols of the nativity!  Sunday nights 5-7 PM.  Bring sandwiches or desserts to share.

One Year of Ministry and Counting! 8/15/10

ONE YEAR OF SHARED MINISTRY AND COUNTING!

A BIG thank you to all of you who were there to celebrate my one-year anniversary of ministry with you!  It was a wonderful meal with wonderful people.  And thank you to all who weren’t able to be there for whatever reason.  This year has flown by and has been filled with blessings and challenges and the wonder of experiencing God together.

I was given the magnificent gift of a stole filled with your memories, encouragement, and thoughts so I thought I might return the favor and give you some of the memories that I have gathered these 12 months:

It all started with a lively and enthusiastic search committee.  When we sat down to talk after my neutral pulpit, Ruth Ann rocked a 3 month old Matty while Jan Marshall gave Joe and Sam a tour of the nursery.  Even from the very beginning, you welcomed me as your pastor and my family as your family.  I can never express how much that means to me.

“Four men and a moving truck” made the trek from my parent’s house, to Joe’s parent’s house to our new house in Butler—newly scrubbed from top to bottom—and were met by a moving crew that had the truck unloaded faster than I could ever have imagined.

A stock-your-pantry welcome complete with recipes now tucked safely away in my cookbook and treasured as a lesson in hospitality and welcome.

A Haunted Prison experience and service in the rain with youth and friends.

My first baptism, first Christmas Eve service, Lenten season, Easter morning, first wedding … you have taught me more about what it means to experience God’s love together than I ever dreamed possible, when accepting this call.

I became a minister because I wanted to be a worry stone for people, reminding them of God and the comfort that can come from knowing God.  The most confounding and wonderful thing about sharing faith and joy with others is that you cannot keep from enjoying it yourself.  You have trusted me with your fragile moments, laughed with me when experiencing God’s blessings, and nurtured my leadership through your growing trust and belief in our shared ministry.

God can indeed do amazing things in a very short period of time, and I am so happy to be able to claim you as a church family, a cherished flock, and fellow disciples of the One who shows us the Way.

In peace and love, Pastor Karin

Summer Reflections 8/8/10

 Our theme at Vacation Bible School last week is a wonderful image for the Chris-tian journey. Whether you joined the Christian faith as a young-un or as a more mature individual, faith is an adventure. And it is an adventure that begins in wa-ter. Faith is not, in my opinion, some fluffy, abstract kind of thing that exists only to make you feel better. Instead, faith is a living, growing sentient being—faith feels things. It is alert, awake and conscious. It experiences our emotions with us and if we feed it, it gives things back to us.

The early church is a dynamic witness to what a living faith looks like and what it requires of us. Through stories of Jesus and the disciples’ lives after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the kids learned that God’s word is amazing:

God’s word is true God’s word is comforting God’s word is surprising God’s word is life-changing God’s word is for everyone!

As we live out our faith, I believe we encounter these five revelations at different times in our faith expedi-tions. Sometimes God surprises us. Other times (when we most need it, usually) God’s word comforts us. All the time, we can seek and know that God’s word is true and that God’s word is for everyone. What I would also like to suppose is that God’s word is life-changing, always – not just once when you accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.

One of the reasons we read Scripture and worship together every week is so that we give the Holy Spirit an oppor-tunity each week when we invite God to enter our lives and change it for the better, to change our direction and our perspec-tives. In sea-faring terms, God becomes our anchor and our compass. God secures us and directs us.

As the kids would respond to these catch-phrases during the week: Let’s go! Whether you are a weathered sailor on the high seas or a fresh stow-away ready for an adventure. Let’s go! Let’s be changed!