Monday, March 21, 2011

First and Best Communion

Yesterday a young girl in our community took Holy Communion for the first time. Before the service I took her into the chancel, and we looked at the wine and the bread, and reviewed what we talked about in our class. Her mom said she was so excited, she woke up early and put on "just the right dress" she had picked out the night before. She was all smiles as she came forward, practically bouncing up the aisle, to receive a taste of God's love.

I serve communion to children as young as the parents will let me because I think the adults have it all wrong. We used to commune on the day of confirmation (9th or 10th grade); then we moved it to 5th grade, the (arbitrary!) "age of reason"; now it's the discretion of the pastor and the family. Our communion practices have changed to reflect more accurately our theology of communion: what is God really doing here? We used to think a person had to "understand" what was going on in communion before they could receive it.

Well, if we really believe the bread and wine are tangible means of God's grace to us; if they are really ONE MORE WAY God is reminding us of God's unfailing love for us that not even death can interfere with; if a sacrament is a holy act of which GOD is the subject... you get the point.

And if a 5-year-old bouncing down the aisle with a grin on her face isn't an apt expression of the joy we feel in being surrounded by God's love, then we are lost.

Maybe we should start communion earlier and take it away when we forget what it's all about.

When I asked her what she will always remember when she takes communion, she proclaimed excitedly, "GOD LOVES ME!!"

Amen, sister!

Monday, March 14, 2011

God knows!

Recently I was driving along the highway, minding my own business, when I was passed by a truck with this decal taking up its back window:

Kill ‘em all, and let God sort ‘em out!

My heart broke.

I am discouraged to know that someone in my community holds this belief, and holds it strongly enough to pay money to display it on a vehicle.

And I am heartbroken to know that people believe God thinks so little of humans. Are we, in God’s eyes, interchangeable, disposable, worth so little? Are the distinctions between individuals, which seem to be the cause for so much concern among us (gender, race, language, location, sexual orientation, etc) really unnoticed by God, that God would find any gathering of people expendable—just kill them all and let God sort them out?

And I am pissed off that people who don’t bother to know God so freely speak for God. For if this person did know God, s/he would remember something we all need to remember, which, fortunately, shows up in the readings for worship (January 16): The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother's womb he named me. (Isaiah 49:1). God knows each of us, and loves each of us, and values us for who we are, which is, after all, who God created us to be.

When I was a campus pastor, we had a conversation on campus about “visual pollution”, which was bombarding the campus in the form of T-shirts which some people found offensive. We love to express our views in secondary discourse: T-shirts, bumper stickers, special apps for our Facebook pages. Sometimes we wear words we would not dare speak.

I’m not sure who “they” were, whom the driver was so upset about existing; perhaps “they” change from day to day. But I do know that God knows every “they” on the planet—the ones we know and love, and the ones we will never know, never love, and especially the ones who don’t seem to be known or loved by anyone. God has already sorted us out, and knows us each by name.

THAT is something worth declaring!

Here or Later

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without you nothing is strong, nothing is holy. Embrace us with your mercy, that with you as our ruler and guide, we may live through what is temporary without losing what is eternal, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen. - Prayer of the Day for Sunday, November 14

This prayer came to me as a little bundle of grace as I sat in front of my altarcito at home. I actually stopped speaking mid-prayer to let it sink in: “that we may live through what is temporary without losing what is eternal”.

Being faithful in our time and place requires double vision. We see the world we live in, with its ups and downs, good days and bad, things we can control and things we cannot. In the US we look at the world through privileged lenses, still able to see what isn’t quite right but not in too much danger of it setting up shop in our own living rooms.

But we are also called to see the world as God sees it, which we glimpse through scripture and from experience, but we have to imagine a lot, admittedly. I believe God has both a vision OF the world and a vision FOR the world, and invites us to see both. God knows how we suffer, how we sin, how we hurt; when and why we rejoice and are well. But God also sees how things could be, if we lived differently with and among one another; God sees a world that gives life rather than taking it or wasting it through war, hunger, disease.

So on our way through “what is temporary”, we could get discouraged and wait for that land of milk and honey, the city of gold with the pearly gates, and simply bide our time here. But why wait? God gives us a vision of the way things could be, and we can see how we could be instrumental in getting them there. It’s one thing I love about being an ELCA Lutheran: we focus so much on being saved by grace already, so we don’t have to worry about that--we can spend our energy in this life not getting to God but getting into what God is doing here, now, among us, in this life, this world. It takes balance: seeing what’s and who’s around us for what it is, seeing what God calls us to be as communities, seeing what heaven might look like so we can build it here on earth. Why do the hungry have to wait to die to be satisfied, when we have the resources right now to eradicate hunger around the world? Why do people have to live in sickness when there is clean water running in springs below their feet? Geography is a blessing to us, but not an exclusive privilege. We are called to BE the body of Christ, which means to live as Christ lived. It isn’t easy, but it’s the right thing to do.


Welcome to the blog of Living Word Lutheran Church, mostly written by Pastor Lori Ruge-Jones (that’s me).

It’s an interesting thing to have the name “church”, because some people run TO it and some run AWAY. I’ve always been fascinated by those who run away, being wired to run to, myself—how far, for how long, and why the connection with a community of faith is severed.

So part of my hope in leading a community of faith is to make sure there are enough spaces for all kinds of people—intellectual spaces, personal spaces, physical and geographic spaces, spiritual spaces. That means a chair in the worship space as well as a place at God’s table. That means we don’t agree on everything, but we are willing to walk this part of the journey together. That means we are willing to suspend our fears and prejudices to make room for the Holy Spirit to move among and through us. It’s kind of messy work, when you try to avoid “we’ve always done it this way”, but it’s a lot of fun, and God continues to amaze and surprise us, as promised.

Confession: I’m not very disciplined when it comes to things like newsletters and blogs, so my entries may be sporadic. I’ll try. The media guy told me twice a month is good for a blog, so if I can keep to that, I’ll be doing well. Then again, I may be prolific and bother the cyberwaves more often than needed.

And I always like to pray.
Gracious and amazing God, bless us along this journey, that we may be faithful: to be kind to friends and strangers; to be brave enough to look where you want us to see, inward and outward; to discover what it means to live as a child of God with others, together the body of Christ. You are our God (thanks!) and we are yours (are you sure?!?). In this holy relationship we live and move and have our being. Amen.

Peace upon you++