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The Basin and Towel

with Indispensable Churches and Tending the Light

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episodic encounters

God Bless Us, Everyone!

I’ve started a new book recently – Trauma Stewardship, by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky at The Trauma Stewardship Institute.  She talks about “trauma exposure response” as the entire sum of feelings, thoughts, actions, and worldview that caregivers (and others) develop as they view and interact with trauma over time.  It promises to be an interesting read – I’ll let you know.

But for now – and since it’s the day before Christmas Eve as I write this – it seems to me that one of the ways in which we can see the Christmas story is as God’s own “trauma exposure response’:  His response of pure love to the deep trauma of sin in our world, the trauma that bent and broke everything in His precious creation.  If He were human, how do you think He might feel upon being faced with such a catastrophic event?  If He were human, how do you think He would feel as time and time again He might reach out in love to a people He had chosen as His own (as in the Old Testament), only to find them slap Him away as if they didn’t need Him?  If He were human, how do you think He would feel at such repeated abuse and neglect and hatred, even now, when He is only trying to make things better?

But God’s “trauma exposure response” begins with the truth that God is not human – God is God, and while that may sound trite, it means that God remains true to Himself.  Unlike human caregivers who become enmeshed in the lives and deaths and toils and tribulations of the people we care for, who suffer from too much empathy or lack of boundaries or codependency or hurt feelings (or you name it!), God remains God, and none of these things that affect us, affect Him.

AND YET He sent His Son to become one of us – to take on human flesh – to suffer exactly all those kinds of toils and tribulations, to learn empathy and boundaries and hurt feelings and trauma exposure and everything else that goes on in our messy, sinful, often awful world.  He sent His Son for a lot of reasons – to redeem us from sin, to break the chains of death and the grave.

And just maybe one more of those reasons might be this: since you and I sometimes (frequently?) become overwhelmed with the deep and unrelenting traumas in life, the presence of Jesus in the manger of Bethlehem, in the fields of Galilee, among the sick in Judea and the synagogues of Israel also means that somewhere, in your office or your clinic or your ambulance or your support group or church or hospital rounds that same Jesus, who is also God, is standing next to you.  He knows you and what your job is like.  He knows the pressures you face, and the challenges that rise up.  He knows that you go home exhausted at night sometimes, only to come back for more the next day.  He knows – and because He is not only human but God, then God knows, and loves you as much as the ones you are caring for.

So dear caregivers, trauma responders, whatever you call yourselves, take heart!  The Lord is with you!  And here’s a Christmas verse for you before we break (really?) for the new year –

“UNTO YOU is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!”  (Luke 2:11)

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At the Formational Prayer Essentials Seminar Part 2

If we resemble Jesus enough to allow the woman of ill repute to break the bottle of perfume at His feet (Luke 7:36-50), soon others like her will be lined up around the block, each bearing their own bottle of perfume to break as they cry their hearts out for gratitude at the mercy of Jesus we are showing them.

If we are instead like the Pharisees who are around Jesus trying to prevent the woman from approaching Him and breaking the bottle, others who may have brought their own bottles to break will learn that they will be shamed if they do so.  They will keep those bottles hidden and, perhaps, stop coming altogether.

If we receive the broken and the breakers, the wounded and the wounders into the church with the mercy of Jesus, soon word will get out and others will come bearing their own sins and wounds and brokenness, knowing that here is a place where they can receive healing and forgiveness.

If we insist on public shaming of the broken and the breakers, public condemnation of church leaders who “fall” or “fail,” soon word will get out and others who have their own sins and wounds and brokenness will learn to keep their sins and wounds and brokenness to themselves.  The church will not be a safe place for them to be, and eventually, perhaps, they will stop coming altogether.

SermonSeeds: The Father Voice in blessing

A Formational Pastor Post

Ephesians 3:14-21 – RCL New Testament reading for July 29, 2012 (Proper 12 / 9th Sunday after Pentecost

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

The people of God over whom we pastor come to us Sunday after Sunday (and sometimes in between) having made it through another week – sometimes just barely.  Some make it by the skin of their teeth.  Some have been beaten up by life, and come licking their wounds.  Some of the wounds are decades old, and they’re still limping from the effects.  We acknowledge their wounds, and sometimes look for the cause so they can be treated appropriately.  But the people of God don’t need us to beat them more with shame or blame or accusations or “shoulda – woulda – couldas” – they’ve already had enough wounding from the rest of the world.  What they need from us is medicine, healing, and caring.  The kind of caring that only Jesus gives.

They come to us again and again not needing to hear our thoughts on the latest movies or TV shows or politics or issues.  They come to us again and again needing to hear words like Saint Paul writes here:  Regardless of what is happening in the rest of the world and the rest of your life, I love you.  I’m praying for you.  I know that God cares for you.  I know that He has riches He is giving you now, that you can’t even see.  If you find it hard to hear the voice of the Father through the noise of the world, listen to it here in these words.  This is the Father’s voice of prodigal love.  Come, soak in it – bask in it – and receive His healing.

So I’m thinking about not preaching this text this Sunday.  This text doesn’t call for exegesis.  Instead, it’s calling “use me to bless the people of God!”  I think I will.

Episodic Encounters / SermonSeeds for July 8, 2012

A post from The Formational Pastor

Revised Common Lectionary:  Ezekiel 2:1-5; 2 Corinthians 12:1-10; Mark 6:1-13

How would Ezekiel have the courage to carry on his ministry knowing that the Israelites would probably not listen to him?  Or even knowing that they had been habitually rebellious against the Lord who had brought them out of Egypt into the Promised Land?

How could Paul have the courage to carry on his ministry knowing that the same Lord who had called him into that ministry now refused to remove his painful “thorn in the flesh”?  Instead, after praying earnestly three times, the Lord spoke to him and said “My grace is sufficient for you.”

How could the disciples have the courage to go out and preach that people should repent, cast out many demons and anoint many sick people and heal them after the reception they saw Jesus receive in Nazareth?

In each of these readings, it was not because somebody else came to them with a word of encouragement.  Not because somebody read to them a relevant Scripture (e.g., “Be strong and courageous”).  Not because somebody scolded them out of their fear into action with a “suck it up, guys.”

Look at each of these incidents as Episodic Encounters with the Lord.  See how these encounters encouraged Ezekiel, Paul, and the disciples, knowing that they had heard and met the Lord Himself.  Consider their ministries after these Encounters – Ezekiel’s, to the rebellious Israelites with awesome visions and prophecies; Paul’s, to many other churches and believers in his missionary travels; the disciples, as they entered a powerful season of healing and demon-casting.

Encouragement, Scripture readings, kicks into action may have their places – but if we can be with the Holy Spirit as He guides people into Episodic Encounters with Him or the Father or Jesus, we’ll really see together how His Kingdom is coming!

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