Cleaning House

Our baptismal vow asks us this essential question:  Will you proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ?

I wonder, “What could keep us from proclaiming by word and example the good news of God in Christ?  Will it be persecution?  The threat of imprisonment, torture or death?”  Nah.  Probably nothing so severe as that.  The greatest threat to us living out our baptismal vow to proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ is busyness.  Busyness is one of the most oppressive forces in our lives.  We are just too busy to be the body of Christ.

I was at an emerging Church conference a little while ago where someone asked a panel of church leaders, “How would you characterize these new generations of Christians?” and one rather crushing answer was, “Too busy to live out their ideals”.  As I looked around the room everyone nodded their head in agreement.  This is so true for me.  I treasure the silence and the solitude I experience in the half-minute walk I take around my car between putting Moses in his car seat and getting into the driver’s seat.  I walk s-l-o-w-l-y.  It’s like a 30 second sabbath.  We’re too busy to be the body of Christ, our lives are too full to be fulfilling and not empty enough to make room for what matters to us.

Social researcher Liah Greenfeld wrote:

“Americans who suffer from busyness today do not prioritize. They treat all their occupations– work, family, and even leisure–as equally important… [Americans] are busy not because our physical and economic survival requires constant exertion on our part, leaving us little opportunity for spiritual restoration–relaxing, getting rid of the sense of busyness–but because we are incapable of perceiving and taking advantage of the opportunities for repose. We are restless. And our busyness is an expression of this inability to rest, rather than its cause… We are veritably torn into pieces by all these simultaneous and necessarily conflicting demands that oppress us every minute of our waking life and eventually invade our sleep.”

I read that and thought, “Yep. We’re just too busy to be the body of Christ”.  But this story about Jesus clearing the Temple wants to speak into our busyness and say, “It’s not too late to clean house, because Jesus has some serious zeal for the Temple.  St. Paul makes this connection, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? …God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.”

So it’s really not much of a jump to say, “Jesus is consumed by zeal for you.”  He wants to clean house, clear out all the clutter and the busyness that keeps us from fully living when our lives start to look like an episode of Hoarders.

We don’t have to be afraid of this zeal.  Jesus is not going to harm you, even though things we mistakenly cling to will be challenged, and that certainly is scary.  But his is a protective anger on your behalf towards all the consumption that takes up room in you, but does not fulfill you and leaves no room in you for meaningful relationship with God or anyone else.

“Cleaning the Temple” is what it means to say, “No”.  Saying “No” is the energy to clean house.  Saying “No” creates the boundaries to hold that empty space.  Saying “No” makes room to decide what to give your “Yes” to.  So, without fear, wonder what space needs clearing in your life?  What “No” might Jesus be saying in your life in order that you might more fully say “Yes” to something else? These questions form the basis of the personal address of our Gospel.

But there’s also a wider address for our culture in this passage that we should not forget. The Gospel says, “Jesus poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.” The reason why money needed to be changed in the temple was because pilgrims were traveling to Jerusalem from far away countries and the temple was making big bucks off of this dirty exchange of currency.  In clearing the temple Jesus was saying “No” to the JPMorgan of the time, who turned a blind eye to Bernie Madoff’s deception.

The Gospel says, “Jesus told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!’” In the Jewish Temple doves were the offerings of the poor purchased by those could not afford a lamb or a goat. In clearing the temple Jesus was saying “No” to the Wells Fargo of the time, who gave bonuses to loan officers who put minority borrowers into high-priced subprime mortgages—internally dubbing them “ghetto loans.”

The Gospel says, “Jesus told them, ‘My house is to be called a house of prayer for all nations’ But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”  In the Jewish Temple there were few places where Gentiles were allowed to worship and that’s where all this business was located.  All the buying and selling had pushed out any room for prayer – which the reason why the Temple was built. But buying and selling had pushed out any room for the Gentile to pray – instead they were treated like a commodity, like a profit unit.  In clearing the temple Jesus was saying “No” to the Citigroup, Bank of America, and Goldman Sachs of the time, who gave tens of millions of dollars of bonuses to their top executives while duping their own clients.

I can’t think of a better time than now to call upon the words of the prophet Amos, who said:

“Hear this, you who trample the needy
and do away with the poor of the land, saying,

‘When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain,
When will the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?”—
skimping on the measure, boosting the price
and cheating with dishonest scales,
buying the poor with silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals.’

Your gig is up and it’s time for a clean sweep.

The Temple was full and needed emptying.  Our banks are full and in need of emptying.  And there’s a way in which we too are full and in need of emptying. We need emptying so that we might be a house of prayer to cultivate earnest relationship to God. Do you have room for prayer and relate to God? When’s the last time you cleared your schedule and just kept it that way determined to nurture intimacy with your God?  Like the Jewish Temple, this is what we’re made for.  This is the essential.  What’s stopping us?

And we need emptying so that we might be a place for ‘all nations’, a place to cultivate relationship with the ‘Other’.  Do you have room for strangers, for those who are outside of your family or outside your circle of friends?  When’s the last time you had someone over for dinner? (We all know your house is messy, no one cares about that except you – are you gonna let that stop you from the thing that God says is essential – that is, the welcoming of the outsider?)

We are too busy to be the body of Christ, but Jesus is consumed by a zeal for you and wants to give you the courage to say “No” to everything that wants to fill up your time and your energy but never really fulfills you.  It’s time to make a fast from busyness as usual and enter the liminal empty space of Lent. It will feel like the destruction of the Temple. It will certainly feel like death. But Jesus makes you this promise, “In three days it will be rebuilt.” Your whole life will be rebuilt, cluttered rooms of your life will be swept clean, time will bend to a new rhythm, priorities will reorder their importance, and life will unfold in a whole new way so that we can get back to being the body of Christ, so that we can answer “with God’s help we will” when asked “Will you proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ.”

The Way of the Cross

WHAT: an art exhibit based on the 14 stations of the cross and led by music and story audio recording

WHERE: Edmonds Church of God 8224 220th Street Southwest  Edmonds, WA 98026

WHEN: Holy Week – Tuesday April 3, Wednesday April 4, Thursday April 5, 5-8pm

COST: Free

“This was truly an incredible experience that fed my soul and was just what I needed as my heart is getting ready for Easter.  Thank you! Thank you!” – Way of the Cross Participant

*Some content may not be suitable for young children. Parent’s discretion advised.

World AIDS Day Service

join us for music, scripture, story, poetry, film, prayer and remembrance.

we will pray for and remember people of all ages, geographies, classes, genders etc. who have been affected by the global AIDS pandemic – and for an end to the pandemic. please feel free to bring and share any stories of how the pandemic has affected you and people you know.

all are welcome. please invite anyone you think may benefit from this service.

“So You Think Mars Hill Church Sabotaged Our Pig Roast”

But you would be wrong. It’s been two weeks since Church of the Beloved hosted a pig roast, at which over 200 of our friends and neighbors and local churches enjoyed themselves. But the leading story among many circles has been drastically different than the leading story of our neighbors. While our neighbors have said,What an amazing celebration that was! Thanks so much for having us over!, I also hear, almost daily, a variation of a rumor that needs be cleared up, namely, Mars Hill Church sabotaged the pig roast.

The truth of the matter is this: A former resident of Rosewood, who was one of the originators of the pig roast five years ago, attends Mars Hill Church and helps lead its small groups in the Edmonds area, asked some of his small group people to help fund, set-up and have a meet-up prior to the opening of the pig roast. In the spirit of hospitality and peace, Church of the Beloved said, “Sure.” About 25-30 folks from Mars Hill attended. Furthermore, we invited nearly all the churches around us, regardless of their doctrine or social stances. Church of the Beloved even unwittingly invited the Ethiopian Orthodox Church down the street…except they don’t eat pork. Oops! In the weeks leading up to the roast we wanted it to be clear that this pig roast would be offered as a free gift to all our neighbors, and that included those who go to Mars Hill Church.

I’m writing this open letter because of the cloud of volatile whispers that was kicked up. I take very seriously that many have been hurt and are sad and angry. I, too, am in that camp, but the roast was not an endorsement of Mark Driscoll’s teachings. Rather, it was about us offering hospitality to all our neighbors.

As I say this, I’m pointing four fingers at myself: We claim that we better understand the breadth of God’s grace and that we are practitioners of that grace over and above ‘the women- and homosexual-haters’, and yet we can’t even welcome our Christian sisters and brothers from Mars Hill to our table without mistakenly calling them saboteurs and invaders. This event has exposed our own prejudice and disgust for our neighbors, and we need the grace of God even more.

There may be more to the story than I am aware of, but it didn’t seem right to let the whispers gain momentum without this side of the story being present, because regardless of creed or lack of creed, this is a place of welcome in the name of Jesus.

PIG ROAST ~ Sat Aug 27 4-8pm

PIG ROAST – SAT AUG 27 – 4-8pm – FREE

Come join us in giving thanks to God and celebrating the purchase and first stages of renovating Rosewood Manor. We’ll have live music, games for kids, Hawaiian Style Roasted Pig with all the trimmings and beverages.  And it’s free, seriously free and our gift to you.  If you want to give a gift back to help us cover the costs, we wont say “no”, but this party is to say thanks for all you’ve done to help us get here.  So come hang out and we’ll give you a tour.

*After party outdoor showing of Zoolander at sundown.

E.E. Cummings Eucharist

[ This is the Great Thanksgiving prayer for the Sustainable Grace Series created by Church of the Beloved for Clayfire/Sparkhouse – a fantastic new publishing co.  Check them out. ]

TABLE: The Lord be with you

ALL: And also with you

TABLE: Lift up your hearts

ALL: We lift them up to the Lord

TABLE: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God

ALL: It is right to give God thanks and praise

TABLE: “We thank you God for most this amazing day:

for the leaping greenly spirits of trees

and a blue true dream of sky;

and for everything which is natural,

which is infinite, which is ‘yes’!

We who have died are alive again today,

and this is the sun’s birthday;

this is the birth day of life and love and wings:

and of the gay great happening illimitably earth!

How should tasting, touching, hearing, seeing, breathing any–

lifted from the ‘no’ of all nothing–human-merely-being

doubt unimaginable You?

Now the ears of our ears awake and

Now the eyes of our eyes are opened.”

Therefore, with the sky and all that flies in it,

with the sea and all that swims in it,

with the land and all that runs, crawls and slithers on it,

we join in the song of unending praise:

SING: All Creation cries, “Holy holy holy God”

Earth’s crammed with heaven and every bush afire with God:

But only those who see, only those who see, only those who see, take off their shoes.


TABLE: In the night in which he was betrayed,

our Lord Jesus took bread, and gave thanks;

broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying:

Take and eat; this is my body, given for you.

Do this for the remembrance of me.

Again, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks,

and gave it for all to drink, saying:

This cup is the new covenant in my blood,

shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin.

Do this for the remembrance of me.

Let us proclaim the mystery of our faith:

SING: When we eat this bread and drink this cup we claim your death

Lord Jesus, until you come, until you come, in glory.


ONE: This we believe:

ALL: God is the source of all creation,

and all that God creates is good.


ONE: This we believe:

ALL: Earth is a sanctuary,

a sacred planet filled with God’s presence,

a home for us to share with all creatures.


ONE: This we believe:

ALL: God became flesh and blood, a part of Earth,

a human being called Jesus, who lived and breathed

and spoke among us, suffered and died on a cross

for all human beings and for all creation.


ONE: This we believe:

ALL: The risen Jesus is at the center of creation,

reconciling all things to God,

renewing all creation and filling the cosmos.


ONE: This we believe:

ALL: The Holy Spirit sustains life in creation,

groans in empathy with a suffering creation,

and waits with us for the rebirth of creation.


ONE: This we believe:

ALL:  We believe that with Christ we will rise

and with Christ we will celebrate a new creation.


TABLE: So now, Holy Spirit, come!

And fall on this bread and wine,

uniting Heaven and Earth in these,

the gifts of God for the people of God.
Come! Everyone come to Christ’s table,

for it is here that you will receive

a taste of the feast that is to come,

it is here that you will receive

energy for the work ahead of you,

And it is here that all Creation is renewed.

What is Epiphany?

I like this picture of the Magi because it's from Iran and the wise men were likely from Persia.


ABOUT EPIPHANY

It seems as if there is a growing interest in the Church’s celebration of Epiphany.  A lot of the excitement appears to be growing out of the dissatisfaction with Commercial Christmas and the desire to rediscover seasonal celebrations that mark sacred time – I know that’s been the case for my family.  We can trace back the Celebration of Epiphany to 361 AD and earlier, which likely predated the celebration of Christian ‘Christmas’.  Today Epiphany primarily commemorates the adoration of the Magi, but early celebrations would have included the entirety of the  nativity.  Obviously there is more ‘buying power’ when pushing Christmas between Thanksgiving and Dec 25th.  When explaining the season of Christmas, a light seems to turn on when I mention the well known song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”… “aha!”  This puts Christmas into perspective as, not just a day, but season begun by Christmas Day and continuing for twelve days until the celebration of Epiphany on Jan 6th.  According to St. Matthew, the wise men brought Jesus gifts, which started the tradition of gift giving during this season (Of course there were pagan traditions preceding this!  Don’t everyone get all uptight now.) The Feast of Epiphany, then kicks off a whole season of ‘epiphanies’ about Jesus and leads us up to the season of Lent.  In Beloved’s tradition (Lutheran) the ‘epiphanies’ include revealing events in Jesus’ life, like the Baptism of our Lord and the Transfiguration of our Lord.  In a way this feels like ‘our’ season because it is smattered with God’s proclamation, “You are my Beloved.”  So, as we discover who Jesus is, we also discover our identity in Jesus.  Now here’s some ways to celebrate:

A COUPLE EPIPHANY TRADITIONS

The above picture is a European epiphany cake... it actually looks much tastier than our American version.

A New Orlean’s tradition is to make a King Cake with a figurine of the infant Christ baked into it.  The lucky person who finds it gets the heimlich maneuver.  Hooray!  Here’s a recipe for King Cake. (This cake is also made at the end of the season of Epiphany, Fat Tuesday.)

Chalking the door

AN EPIPHANY BLESSING FOR THE HOME

This short liturgy is a way of marking our homes, usually at the main entrance, with sacred signs and symbols as we ask God’s blessing upon those who live, work, or visit throughout the coming year. Although the service is intended for use in home dwellings like apartments, condos, houses, and college dorms, it is certainly appropriate when adapted for use in offices, places of business, nursing homes, hospital rooms, and extended-care facilities.  On the Twelfth-Night after Christmas, many families gather in their homes to celebrate this Epiphany feast with friends, food, singing, and gifts. It is at these Twelfth-Night celebrations that “Chalking the Door” with this blessing is most often observed.

ONE: The Lord be with you;

ALL: And also with you.

ONE: Peace be to this house!

ALL: And to all who live here!

ONE: Let us pray.

O God, you once used a star to show to all the world that Jesus is your Son. May the light of that star that once guided wise men to his birth, now guide us to recognize him in the epiphanies of the daily experiences of our lives.  As we go about our work, our study, our play, keep us in its light and in your love.  May all who enter here find your gracious hospitality, for Christ has come to dwell in this house and in these hearts.

ALL: May Christ bless our home!  Amen.

(Each person present can take turns writing the following blessing over the doorway of the house with chalk)

20 + C + M + B + 11

(The letters have two meanings. They are the initials of the customary names of the Three Magi: Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. They also abbreviate the Latin words “Christus Mansionem Benedicat”, “May Christ bless the house”. The year is divided before and after the these letters.  The crosses (+) represent the protection of the Christ.)

If you still want more information about Epiphany take a look here: – Wiki

HAPPY EPIPHANY!!!



Christmas Eve w/ Beloved

Church of the Beloved is having two Christmas eve services at Rosewood Manor this year at 5pm & 11pm.

Rosewood Manor (8104 220th St. SW Edmonds, 98026) is a cozy and historic mansion just perfect for songs and stories set around the hearth.  We hope you and yours can join us.

The two services will be almost identical, both having a beautiful mixture of carols and readings from Madeliene L’Engle’s book – The Glorious Impossible, candle light communion and then the releasing of our written prayers on a sky lantern… (epic).  There will not be any childcare for these services – they are for the whole family.

*Parents should note that the 11pm service will tell the whole Christmas story, even the parts usually left out that may be extremely disturbing to small children.

Pain-Killers & Hope-Killers

(proclamation from Advent 1, 2010 by Ryan)

I’m handing out pain killers tonight.  You can take it if you want.  You always have that option.  But Advent asks you to wait just a minute, before you do, and consider this:

Painkillers don’t do what they say they are going to do. They might immediately mask the pain, but they don’t kill the pain.  They numb our sense of the pain, but they don’t address the source of the pain.  Now I’m not saying that there aren’t good reasons to numb your pain.  And it seems like Advent brings a lot of these reasons to light.

Earlier we read in Isaiah about a time when everyone comes running to God to teach them how to live, about a time when the world forgets how to fight, a time when every tool to make war is repurposed into a tool to make food.  And yet the present reality is that most of our children cannot remember a time when our country was not in two wars.  The drastic disparity between what God promise for the future and what we experience now is hard to bear.  And Advent seems to bring these differences out.  So it makes sense that during the season of Advent we encounter so much pain-killing, like… excessive eating… excessive drinking… excessive shopping… excessive entertainment…  the list goes on because your pain-killing is as unique as your pain.  Making the connection is scary – but it could change everything.

Karl Marx said, “religion is the opiate of the masses”, “Religion is the people’s pain killer.”  And that is definitely one of the many shadow-sides of religion, but tonight Jesus is calling us out of our opiate stupor.  Advent is the smelling salts of the masses; wakes you up to all that is around you, wake you up to all that is within you even if it hurts, because there is some pain that is linked directly to your hope and if you kill that pain, you kill your hope.  Making the connection is scary – but it could change everything.

There are times when we feel so drugged, so groggy, so numb that we need something to surprise us into hope.  The salvation of God always comes as a shock.

This year, you’ll know it’s Advent if there is desire awakened in you tonight.  You’ll know it’s Advent if you face the possibility of becoming horribly disappointed, but you risk to hope anyways.  You’ll know it’s Advent if you are beginning to feel the discomfort of reality and you know that you were meant for more.  You always have the option of taking a pain-killer, but this year Advent is asking you to wait, confront your pain, and be shocked by the closeness of your God.

Some Thanks Comes Only After Rupture

Here’s a story I think everyone might identify with.  If you want to, as I tell this story, you can turn your hands up in your lap, make a fist, and imagine yourself in this story.  It might call to your memory scenes and snapshots, rather than long narratives.  But however it comes, allow yourself to remember:

There comes a moment in the life of anyone who has traveled around the sun a few times when they realize, “Now, wait just a second – This is not what I signed up for.  This was not part of the plan.  This is not how my life was supposed to turn out.“  And the rage simmers within you.  You squeeze your fist a little tighter.

A new outfit seems in order.  A new group of friends.  Maybe a new degree.  Or even a new town.  But sooner or later, after all your best efforts, the same realization visits you again, “This is not what I signed up for.  This was not part of the plan.  This is not how my life was supposed to turn out.  I thought it would be different.  I thought I would be different.”  And the rage boils within you.  You squeeze your fist even tighter.

(This process may repeat itself a few hundred times or so, until…)  It feels like, if you were to squeeze your fist any tighter it would explode.  With just an once more of pressure you would surely rupture and spill out onto the ground everywhere.  Your fist begins to feel so tired; tired of holding all these pieces together.  Your fist begins to fail…  “No! Keep holding tighter!”  But you can’t. And your fist, whether you like it or not, begins to relax and starts to crack open where your fingers meet your palm.

You take a deep breath and think,  “Okay.  This is my life.  It’s not the one I signed up for.  It’s not the one I planned.  It’s not how my life was supposed to turn out.  But it is my life.  And it is.  It is, and it’s okay.  This is my ‘is’-ness”

You’re not visited by a host of angels or a blinding light.  There’s no voice from heaven. There’s no double rainbow.  But you know that God is there, with you, helping you face yourself and your ‘is’-ness.

You cry.  It’s been a long time since you cried.  It feels good.  The tears feel hot, like they’ve been cooking inside your body for a long time.  With the tears your fingers start to open.  And the tears seem to release your entitlement of what you ought to have and who you ought to be.  Slowly, you begin to notice a thousand little things that previously went unnoticed while you were wanting something else.

Your hands begin to open up, even bigger than you thought you could ever open them.  “No wonder!” you gasp. “Before this rupture, nothing could have fit into my hand.  No gift could have been placed into it. No gift could have been given from it.”  From somewhere deep and new within you, you say:  “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

Some thanks only comes after everything else is gone.