Today I Saw God

Sermon Response: Watch Out for Trespassers ~ by Wendy LeBolt

There's a church in Fairfax I've been tempted to wander into. It's got a great sign out front that reads: "Perfect People Need Not Apply." Church signs send a powerful message. Everybody's got them. I noticed that Floris has their "Join Us for Easter" banner up. I'd come, if I saw that.

But Tom's words about stink bugs and "no trespassing" yesterday in worship got me wondering whether people who don't have a church home imagine seeing this sign posted next to the Easter banner.

I've met these folks. They've had a bad experience with a church, been made to feel unwelcome, or have done things they figure deserve that sign. They don't see the open door. Don't know the cleansing pool at the foot of the cross. They don't come closer than the view from the road. They have their reasons.

It's too bad, because if they drove on in, they'd see the sign we see when we're leaving the parking lot.

That's a great image to take into the rest of our week, yielding to God and to our neighbor.

But as far as the stinkbugs go…my daughter found one enjoying his perch on her toothbrush this morning. That's going too far.

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Sermon Response: Honoring God in Marriage

I just love it when Tom pulls out the props. If you missed it, you'll want to catch it on the podcast.

He saved the toughest topic for the last in this series on Forgiveness: forgiveness in marriage.Some marriages, he said, dance the round and round. It looks very much like what we did at prom. Slow, circling, awkward, perhaps with a limp. What we had planned looked very much morelike Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Synchronized, beautiful, perfectly timed, deftly executed. Pure joy in motion.

If you're a married person where does your marriage fall on the spectrum from round and round to Fred and Ginger? Does it matter to God?

A few years back, Reverend Miner asked me a question I have never forgotten. It changed the trajectory of my life. She said, "Are you honoring God in your marriage?" I thought about this as we sang from the Chris Tomlin song, "It's my joy to honor you. In all I do, I honor you."

We're awkward dancers here at Floris, trying to honor God in all we do. Most of us have stepped on a few toes, sometimes even suffered the occasional break. But, as Tom said in one of those great asides that you know is not part of his text, "If in church we can't be broken people talking about brokenness, then we might as well go home."

From what I can tell, there is nothing broken that God can't fix.

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." ~Colossians 3:12-15

Let the dancing commence!

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Sermon Response: More Than Words

People say Tom is a great preacher. I always wondered whether he could keep it up through four services on a Sunday. I got to try it out yesterday when my daughter and I, after 2 false starts trying to get to 9:15, ended up at the 5:00 service.

In the mean time, being a bit compulsive about missing anything since I have committed to this blog on Monday mornings, I tuned into the podcast from the 11:00 service. I only had to listen long enough to hear Bill Abel read the scripture. It could have been God Himself reading those words. It is amazing to me how you can hear in someone's words the close connection he has with the One who inspired them. Bill celebrated his 90th birthday yesterday and I know him to be a man of great faith.

So, I was a bit surprised when the scripture was read at the 5:00 service by a disembodied voice. Yep. Heard it. Didn't see anyone. It felt right though when the conclusion of the passage was rendered by actors "on stage." Perfect. Just as Bill had been perfect at 11:00.

Tom at 5? It seemed to me he took some liberties with the Ruth, Naomi and Boaz story. Even mixed up the characters once. It is so good to see Tom be human :). But as usual he left me with a nugget. Ruth was just reminding her mother in law of the commitment she had already made to her when she married her son. We are family now; we're in this for the long run. (For the record, I married the son of a Jewish woman.)

the words? …

"Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried." Ruth 1:17

A new friend recently told me that these were the words she and her fiance had chosen for their wedding. Yes, somehow they have more power than 'in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer, …til death do us part.' But they seem to have the same author.

The funny thing is, I heard these words three times yesterday – read, spoken and preached – and from my friend last week. They were powerful every time, each in a different way.

Maybe it's not just the words. I'm thinking a lot today about what happens when we give God our words.

~Wendy LeBolt

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Sermon Response: Speaking Up

The Homestead, host for special occasions

I missed worship services this week because my husband and I were at the Homestead celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. But I caught up with the podcast. I was a bit surprised at just how muchit still felt like worship.

This may be because words, whether written or spoken,have great power for me. How I admire Queen Esther for acting on the admonition of her Uncle Mordecai andspeaking up, because "who knows but that you have come to royal positionfor such a time as this." Esther 4:14

I have experienced the just-right timing of words in my life, mostly written words. Notes, cards and emails I have receivedthat have come just at the right moment. And I have written some thatseemed to have more power than they deserved. Certainly more than I wrote into them. But I'll confess: written words are safe for me. I can edit them and get them just right before anyone reads them. Or I can tuck them away where no one can read them.

Spoken words, though, are a bit more dangerous. Once you speak them, you can't take them back. I expect I am not so timely with my spoken words. If I am feeling bold, I say more than I should. My children tell me they'd like to push the "fast forward" button. My husband asks if I can't please just "speak in outline form." But if I'm afraid or unsure, Itend tolose my voice, and sometimesthat's a shame because that's when God speaks up for us.

This, I expect,is what Esther experienced. This is what I came to know just a few years ago. And it probably was the most loving thing I've ever done for myself and my family. It guided us along the path that, this weekend, found its way to the Homestead. We ate lunch by a picture window that looked out over the foothills of the Blue Ridges. Before us, on the lawn, was a huge set of chess pieces. I set them up to mark the moment.

The Queen wore white

The bell hop came Sunday morning to collect the luggage. He asked the question everyone asks, "So what brings you to the Homestead?"

"We're celebrating our 25th anniversary," I told him. He smiled saying, "It's my anniversary, too. Two years. Every bit of it a blessing; she's made a better man of me." I had to smile at that. My husband was off in search of his golf clubs or Iprobably would have been guilty of the eyebrow raise in his direction.

It's a funny thing, speaking up. I told my dear friend that I wondered if my husband saw me differently these days. She, in her wonderful, loving and honestway spokeapt words,"Maybe by looking at youhe sees himself differently.That's what we all pray for."

It is indeed. What a privilege to beable to provide areflection which allowsothersto see themselves the way God sees them.

"Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely" Psalm 139:4

~ Wendy LeBolt

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Sermon Response: View from 9-12

A Nation Remembers

I am a bit relieved to write "9-12" in my journal today, the day after. I am not sure what I was expecting on our Day of Remembrance. More attacks? National Sadness? Silence? I read moving accounts of people who were changed on that day, remembered loved ones, and commemorated acts of heroism. I recall words written ten years ago by my then 11 year old daughter, "On Monday, we rushed on to avoid the person on the street; on Tuesday, we crossed over and smiled to greet them."

We were different on Tuesday. We talked about how life would never be the same. We were living a time that would be recorded in history books, and now is. As a nation we were a people wanting to capture the moment and yet move on. To stay and go at the same time. It is the wisdom of recording our stories and the greater wisdom of looking back on them.

From them not only can we see how far we've come but in what direction we are headed. That's what the Remembering the Future sermon series has been about. How gracious of the Spirit (or how brilliant of Tom) to see how beautifully it would all dovetail.

Yesterday in worship we got a glimpse into Paul's prison cell as he wrote to his church in Ephesus.Could he have known this letter would circulate to faithful who would be staggering through a temple in ruins?Paul may have known his death was imminent, yet he pens praises to God and expressions of God's infinite love in a letter which will encourage the church. Paul refused to let his jail cell imprison him. He wouldn't despairbecausehe could see beyond his circumstances and theirs to the glorious riches in the throne room of God.

We call those people visionary who can look beyond, but often in crisis we don't know who they are – until we look back. Sometimes then we can seehow prophetic they were and, perhapshow blinded we have been.

You might enjoy this video link of JonStewartfrom the Daily Show that aired the day after the 9-11 attacks. A comedian and satirist turned serious, he reflects the mood and message in New York on September the 12th. Through tears he says, "The view from myapartmentwas the Twin Towers. It isn't any more." He pauses to gather himself and then says, "Now, my view is the Statue of Liberty."

You can destroy our buildings but you can't take away our freedom. And freedom in Christ lasts forever.

~ Wendy LeBolt

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