Friday, March 31, 2006

Zechariah: branches out of stumps

As the Old Testament ends, in the neighborhood of books called the minor prophets, a theme spoken earlier gets louder and clearer: a messiah is coming. Zechariah draws on pictures familiar to Israel, old stumps and new branches, olive branches and a kingly crown; a king and a priest in one person, Messiah.The old gives birth to the new, and places of loss become places where hope springs.
The altar piece captures the multiple themes and images of Zechariah and the longings for "Messiah" that stirred deeply in the hearts of the people of Israel, and in our hearts today. "Come Lord Jesus!"

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Baptism at Samarkand

On Sunday afternoon March 26, Allison Prather and Krista Rodkey were baptized in the swimming pool at the Covenant Retirement Community, Samarkand. Both young women grew up at Montecito Covenant. Allison is in high school at Cate School and Krista is a student at Westmont College. Many members and friends of the young women and Montecito Covenant Church gathered around the pool as Pastors Diana Trautwein and Don Johnson read the words of institution and gave them opportunity to affirm their faith. Following the baptism, Christine Groppe, baptized 95 years ago, offered a prayer of blessing on both young women and all those gathered. We celebrated together how the waters of baptism mark our discipleship.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Telluride Ski Trip: pray!

On Friday afternoon, March 24 two church youth groups (and maybe more) from Montecito Covenant and Ocean Hills Covenant began gathering in the parking lot around 4:00 pm for a week long ski trip to Telluride, Colorado. David Given pulled them all into this group for this picture so you/we could pray for them. Pray for safe travel, safety on the slopes, new friendships, and fresh, new, deeper encounter with God.

Nehemiah: Rebuilder

For two summers I worked as a union laborer with a major construction company in Minneapolis. As a laborer, I was assigned a lot of messy jobs, often requiring a jackhammer or concrete saw. Some were jobs to fix mistakes in construction, like when concrete was poured beyond where it should be. Other times the jobs were about remodeling a business, a drive-up teller or expanding offices. Remodelling was messy work because it required demolition and reconstruction. Some of the old had to go and new construction needed to tie in with the old.
But my little summer jobs were nothing compared to what Nehemiah undertook. The entire wall surrounding Jerusalem was in ruins. It had been knocked down by the Babylonians 160 years earlier. And it had been left in ruins for almost four generations. That's a lot of mess. But without a wall, the new Temple was vulnerable to invasions and attack, as were all the citizens of Jerusalem. So Nehemiah rebuilt the wall. That's the story for Sunday.
The image on the table and floor is of broken pots (remember Jeremiah last week), bricks and burned bricks. Also, to the left is a spear because the reconstruction effort was threatened by enemies, so Nehemiah posted soldiers in the construction zone. And then there is the branch, budding even more this week than last. But that's getting ahead of the story.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Jeremiah: the prophet of Exile

Because of network problems, I could not get this posted before Sunday, so this week it is an "after-market" reflection. The prophetic call and task are distilled in the altar-piece arrangement with the earthenware pot that symbolizes the life and ministry of jeremiah. During the woship service on Sunday March 19, I took a clay pot, like Jeremiah did, and let it crash to the chancel floor, shattering pieces dramatically across the chanel. The point was to illustrate, as Jeremiah did, that the coming exile does indeed shatter things. We talked about exile and how it means being where you never thought you'd ever be and not enjoying being there. We explored images of holocaust survivors, Transition House and Rescue Mission residents and a whole host of places in life that are "exiling" to us.
The good news from Jeremiah and from Jesus in John 10:12ff is that the Good Shepherd comes to our exiles and turns exilic deserts into pastures...because of the shepherd. And that was the cane/staff image. The shepherd comes to guide, resuce and protect us.
The question that the sermon raised in my heart is, how easily do I let god actually shepherd me? How "directable" am I to God's instructions. I'm a pretty fiercely independent person. I like being in charge and doing things my way, yet, I know I need a shepherd. I'd rather call God my advisor, consultant, mentor, but he's not: he is my shepherd. God must be in charge of me, not be relegated to peer status, and equal. So this image of shepherd haunts my egalatarian view of life because it reminds me that I need someone else in charge of my life than just me. I really need a you?

Friday, March 10, 2006

Bridging Hope: making a REAL difference

The imagery for Sunday is all African because the special guest preacher/teacher is Rev. Dennis Wadley, Director of Bridges of Hope International. Bridges of Hope is a ministry birthed out of Santa Barbara; the Goletta Covent Church where Dennis was the former pastor. Dennis and his family formed a team and moved to Philippi South Africa to begin "bridging hope" into the communities devastated by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
This continent that was the possible cradle of human origins, source of so much of the world's natural resources and so devastated by poverty and oppression is now a place where HOPE is shining. Be sure to bring a friend to worship on Sunday March 12 where Dennis will preach at 8:30 & 10:45 and lead an Adult SS session at 9:45am

Friday, March 03, 2006

Isaiah: A Hammer of Love

I don't know many prophets, and the ones I would call "prophetic" I don't like hanging around for too long. They are so intense and focussed. They are almost always way more serious about life than I am. I was recently at a meeting where Dr. Tony Campolo spoke. He's kind of a prophet for our day. Whenever you go into a meeting where he's speaking, you know where he is going to go: to justice issues and the plight of the poor and the ambivalence of the rich. I've heard Tony's talks for 20 years. The wars change, but his call for peacemaking and justice remains constant...and troubling.
Prophets are that way. On Sunday March 5th we will be looking at the life of the prophet Isaiah. I think Isaiah would make Tony look sleepy. Isaiah thundered and boomed. Isaiah spoke directly to the seats of power and authority. Isaiah faced off with the religious leaders of his day. So I'm not sure which image on the altar speaks of Isaiah most clearly: the big hammer or the prickly cactus plant. Either one would get our attention real fast!
God gave prophets as gifts to his people like we have alarm clocks as gifts to our careers; they wake us up so se can go to work. Prophets woke people up for God, so they could go to work for him.