Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Weekend Update

It was a busy week for me last week. I preached on Roi Wednesday night, at the Chapel Thursday night and then a separate sermon on Sunday morning. We spent Thanksgiving dinner at the REB (religious education building) which is where we hold Sunday School and other community related activities. The Christian Women's Fellowship sponsors the event by providing the turkey and one of the women and her family cook the turkey and set up all the tables. It was a very nice event with around thirty people attending.

The following night we celebrate Santa's arrival and tree lighting ceremony. Yes, we light a palm tree. The event has various people performing music and or dance acts and a greeting by the commander. This year Sophie was part of a K-2 girls dance group that participated and they did great. Sophie also received an award for her artwork on Christmas card that was sent to the troops who are in combat zones. Each year the art teacher selects on card from a child in each grade as the "winning card" and the local VFW prints those cards and has them sent from the school children. We were delighted her card was chosen this year.

In addition to being a fun weekend it was a hard weekend with feeling homesick. Thanksgiving weekend has traditions for Kim that have gone back over 25 years and we have often been in Seattle for this weekend even when we lived in Minnesota and Oregon. Being away from family and friends this weekend has been hard and the kids seemed to have really felt it. My parents are coming in a few weeks and that will be great for the kids and really help them through the holidays.

Below are a few photos from the weekend.

Sophie and her American Girl doll.

Emon beach where we swim, about a 5 minute bike ride from the house.

Gavin in his elf hat at the parade.

Sophie in in her dance dress with some of the other girls.

Santa coming in the Small Boat Marina

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Forgiveness Sermon

Last night on Roi I was able to upload one my sermon's to the Internet. My laptop's speakers aren't great and the sound was really low but I think it worked. I think with external speakers I would have been able to hear more clearly. I am still learning the program and up until last night I thouht I had to send the sermons to the States to be uploaded.

Anyway here is my first attempt. As I learn more I hope it gets better.

The website I am using is called sermon net and I have a free account and a "channel". Below is a link to my stuff. If it works I have four more messages I can get over the next few weeks.

For those who are trying to listen online thanks for the effort, I appreciate your support.


Least of these part two

Last Sunday in our fellowship we heard Jesus speak about caring for the least of these. This week our congregation's board was faced with an opportunity to Jesus' parable. We had a person who needed to leave the island for personal reasons and didn't have the resources to go. Tickets off the island right now hover around $3000.00. Hearing this person's need and knowing the issue the board unanimously voted to meet this need with no discussion, they just acted.

I must say I was so proud of God's people for being the Church and loving someone who isn't part of our fellowship. They just acted out of love for our Lord and this person. When the people of God are living as they are called to live it is one of the most beautiful sights in the world. When we live this way people will say "we know they are Christians by our love".


Here is a little blurb from the Theordore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership

A study commission by the National Shooting Sports Foundation reveals that more than 11 million meals were provided to the less fortunate last year thanks to the donations of venison made by hunters. Nearly 2.8 million pounds of game meat was served at shelters, food banks and church kitchens.
Donations were largest in the Midwest and the South. The Midwest provided 1.3 million pounds of game meat, and the South provided 1.25 million pounds of game meat.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Least of these

Jesus says that whatever you do to the "least of these" you do to me (Matthew 25:40). That is the key verse for tomorrow's message and it is a challenge since most of us tend to shy away from the least of these. We are naturally drawn to beauty and so to see Christ in those our society rejects is a necessary part of our growth process. I have been challenged by this text. The challenge is not so much trying to figure out if I am a "good person" or "in". Rather, it gives me pause to ask about my own growth in love. Am I growing in love for my neighbor? Am I making choices that benefit those who have less power than I do? Can I see Christ in more places now than I could before.

Those of you who know me know that I have often said that we shouldn't take our spiritual temperature all the time. Yet at times it makes sense to pause and ask some hard questions. Self reflection is a good thing, conviction from the Holy Spirit helps us grow. If we aren't growing then we become stagnant and our capacity for life seems to diminish. Following Christ should increase our capacity for life, love and forgiveness. We should be people who are generative, that is people God uses to generate life in others. Sometimes it means that we put ourselves aside in order to serve others, trusting that Christ will meet our needs.

The need to be selfless and generative is true not only for individuals but for congregations as well. A congregation can get so caught up in making ends meet and taking care of those inside it's walls that it can forget who it exists for. A congregation fundamentally exists for those outside of itself. It is the only community that exists to give itself away. The congregation gives away the gospel each and every Sunday. It forms people who can grow in love for the neighbor who isn't part of the congregation. It offers healing and wholeness for the downcast and broken hearted. All of this is for free, no charge. A congregation makes ends meet when it is faithful to it's calling and gifting. Christ has a way of opening people's hearts and wallets in support of a generative community.

When a congregation becomes about itself there is never enough. There is never enough money, people, space or time. People stop coming and the panic increases about paying the bills. At this point the community must ask the question: are we growing in love? They must ask if they are helping people grow as disciples? They must contemplate whether they are holding all that Christ has given them to tightly and not willing to give it away? The answers to these questions will tell much about the future health and life of the community and those who are part of it.

To be a person who ministers to the least of these takes great fidelity to a life that is rooted in prayer, study and community. It takes a willingness to be available to Christ and to one's neighbor. It takes vulnerability to treat people as people and not projects. It takes the ability to take a risk and dare to grow in love.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Upcoming Themes etc..

One of the technical issues I am working through is how to post my sermons to this site. Much of my creative and prayerful energy each week is dedicated to my preaching and the Sunday morning bible study I teach. Our sound technician records each week's service of which my message is a part. I am working on figuring out how to take that raw media and get it into a form that I can upload to my blog. I am working through those issues and hope to make my series on prayer available through this website.

Also I am looking at rewriting some of my essays on availability and vulnerability and will make those accessible through this site as well.

Finally I am trying my hand at writing a retreat for one of our members and if there is anything worthwhile that comes out of that endeavor I'll post it here as well.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day

Yesterday was Veteran's Day here on Kwaj and we had a ceremony not unlike our Memorial Day ceremony. We gathered at the flagpole where there are memorials to those who fought and died taking the atoll and where the flags of United States and Republic of the Marshall Island fly. We were fortunate to have the keynote address from the US Ambassador to the Marshall Islands. During her speech she asked the veterans to stand. Since we live on a military installation many of the people stood and were recognized for their service. Then she asked the veteran's family members to stand and another group stood. I was reminded again that this holiday is really about people and their service. We wouldn't have the freedoms we enjoy if people hadn't served. It was good celebrate the service of the people we see day in and day out here on the island and to thank them for their sacrifice.

Another touching moment was last weekend as we celebrated All Saints Day at our church. In a normal church we would remember and pray for the congregational families who lost loved ones in the previous year. This place being different than a normal  congregation we haven't had any deaths since I have been here so I decided that we should pray for the families and remember the names of those who have died in combat this last year. So at our second service we had a slide show with all their names followed by prayer and in our first service we had members of the congregation read their names during our prayer time. What struck me was the sheer volume of names. It took six volunteers nearly ten minutes to simply read the names (no title or rank) of those who died this past year. We can easily forget their sacrifice and the grief that their loved ones experience. I think it is good to remember them in our prayers regardless of how we feel about our wars or foreign policy. For the families they simply experience the pain of grief and the sting of death. Therefore they should be held in our prayers.

For the veterans who read this thank you for your service and happy Veteran's Day.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Rain, Rain

Rain rain go away come again another day.

I think we have finally hit the 100" mark this week for total annual rainfall. That puts us about 25" over the normal and we still have all of November and December left. I came from a place that I thought had a lot of rain. What I am realizing more fully is that Seattle has lots of gray days with rain but it certainly doesn't have tropical rain.

Tropical rain is a beast unto itself and almost a year into it I am still impressed with how much rain can come down in a such a short amount of time. Being outside for a minute is enough to soak you to the bone. Riding a bike for 5 minutes in the rain without a coat is enough to leave you miserably wet and if you have to go into an air conditioned building for any length of time miserably cold as well.

The difference between Seattle and Kwaj is that when it is done raining here it will eventually get clear; the blue sky will come out and it will get hot. Seattle on the other hand stays well, gray. The folks here struggle when the day is completely gray (doesn't happen all that often) and Kim and I find the gray days actually remind of us of home and make it feel like winter. That is of course when we step outside to 85 degree weather, then we feel like we are in the tropics.

Another major difference between Seattle rain and Kwaj rain is church attendance. When it rains in Seattle people still come to church and when it rains here people stay away since they don't want to put full rain gear on over their church clothes, drag their kids fully laden and make their way to worship. Seattle is the opposite in that when it is sunny people want to enjoy the beauty of the Northwest and stay away. We have enough sunny days here that people can still make their way to worship and then go to the beach.

Personally I don't mind the rain but if I am going to be living in the tropics I would rather have the sun.