Tag Archives: gifts


I had the awesome opportunity to hear Walter Brueggeman, Peter Block, John McKnight and Barbara McAfee speak in Cedar Rapids, IA on April 4 and 5, 2013. Their topic: “Engaging Community and Narrating Change.” People from several states were invited into a conversation that would offer new and inspiring possibilities for the 21st Century. Following is a summary of thoughts and challenges from the day:

We were called forth to connect people with people in service of something greater than ourselves. Our goal, to transform what currently exist! We were called to embody a culture that cares vs. a culture of consumerism.

How will we go about creating an alternative culture for the future? We begin by having conversations with one another, by forming meaningful relationships! Sustainable, abundant community conversations shift the context from retribution to restoration; from problems to possibility; from fear and fault to gifts, generosity and abundance; from law and oversight to choice and accountability; from corporation and systems to relational life!

We begin by having a shift in our consciousness and acting on a vision of what the world might become. We change the narrative of not having enough to living in a world of plenty. We cannot process ambiguity alone, we need each other. We need our brothers and sisters to live us into freedom. We need to leave the scarcity story and enter the narrative of abundance. We need to enter the story of cooperation vs. living in the story of competition.

THE FUTURE IS PRESENT TODAY! – Change your thinking and you change your life! All transformation happens through linguistics.

Building community is about returning to the common good; Earth, Water, Air. We need to create space to become alive, with song, poetry and art. We need to change our mind thought MINDSET? from a business perspective of efficiency, speed, ease and cost to a communal perspective; returning to neighborliness, walking with each other, restoring peace, intimacy, relationships and uniqueness.

WHAT IF WE SAID AND BELIEVED THAT WHAT WE HAVE IS ENOUGH? How would that change our world, our perspective? What would happen if we focused our attention on who we are vs. what we do? What if we focused our attention on walking with one another, vs. trying to fix one another? What would happen if we created a space for light and breath to enter a room?

The central power of forming communities is connecting the gifts of each other. What are our communities built on? What gifts do we have to offer each other? The truth is if we focus on our gifts vs. our deficiencies we have enough! The answer is caring for one another, freely giving from the heart from one person to another. Care cannot be managed or produced; care can only be given freely.

We build community by embracing our God-given gifts. Most days would be filled with joy if we could use the gifts that God has given us 90% of the time. Imagine if we could use our gifts, skills and passion and form community! The least used gift is the one most needed in our world today. What is your gift, passion or skill? Using those, what could you teach? When our gifts come together our gifts become powerful; our collective gifts empower each other. We are walking in darkness until we can express our gifts and passions.

God has given us our unique gifts and talents. How will we use them? Remember that ‘Nothing is Impossible for God.’  It is possible for ‘ordinary’ people like ourselves, to step outside the business perspective and make a life within the communal perspective. It begins with us, one person at a time. “What is the promise you are willing to make that constitutes a risk or major shift in your life. What is the change you want to see in the world?” Will you be willing to step out and share your gifts with one another? Change begins with relationships, listening, caring and encouraging our neighbors. Can we shift our consciousness and act on a vision of what the world might become? I believe we can, because there are no impossibilities with God. If God is for us, who can be against us?



Segments of a Sermon preached in Wartburg Seminary Chapel, Spring, 2012

John 12:1-11

The anointing of Jesus is a familiar text. It appears in all four gospels.

In the gospel of John, Mary anoints Jesus.  She is named.  Earlier in the Gospel, Jesus had come to the home of Lazarus when he heard of Lazarus’ death.  When he arrived, Martha was the first one to come to Jesus. Jesus told Martha that Lazarus would rise again. Martha misunderstood him and thought he meant Lazarus would rise during the resurrection on the last day. When Mary came to Jesus, she fell to his feet weeping and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Mary knew the power of Jesus and her faith moved Jesus deeply. He commanded Lazarus to come out of the tomb.

Jesus, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were friends. It was this deep friendship that brought Jesus back to the house of Lazarus six days before the Passover. This was not the safest place for Jesus to be, but it was where he wanted to be; with his friends. He may have been invited as a way for them to thank him for saving Lazarus, but for Jesus, he was there to say good-bye.

The people around the table could not believe what they were seeing. Only slaves washed the feet of guests; and a woman never touched a man, except her husband, and that was only in private; only a woman of loose morals let her hair flow freely; and the cleaning of  feet was never done with perfume.  What was Mary thinking? If she had anointed his head, it would have been similar to what was done at the installation of a priest, prophet, or king. When people died, that was the time to anoint their whole body. So, what was Mary trying to convey by what she did?

Mary had probably heard the rumors that Jesus was going to die for going against the government and stirring up the people. Jesus death would be by crucifixion. Mary knew about crucifixion. She knew that those who die that way were not given a proper burial. She had seen convicted criminals hang until birds and small animals have picked their bones clean. She ached at the thought of her precious Jesus dying that way. She did all she could to show her love, her loyalty and her faith in Jesus. She knelt at his feet and ministered to him.  She prepared him for his burial.

A few days later, Jesus knelt before the disciples and washed their feet.  Was he following Mary’s example? Was Jesus that moved by the way Mary ministered to him that he wanted to do the same for those who had been his loyal followers?  Mary had taken a great risk that evening. She had gone against cultural norms. She did it in front of those who would criticize her.  But, she was doing what Jesus had done throughout his ministry. She was going against the norm to care for the one she thought needed her care the most. Her actions were in sharp contrast to what was expected of her. Her love for Jesus was all that mattered and she wanted that love to show in her actions. Mary gave everything she had for Jesus. She poured herself out to show her faith. She believed; she was generous, and she was devoted.

Jesus became flesh for us and the feet of his body were anointed by Mary. Mary used her hands to honor Jesus’ body and used her hair as a towel. We have been given gifts by God to use to the glory of God. We use those gifts in all we do. We minister to those around us. We all face brokenness and look to each other for support. When one part of the body hurts, we all hurt.  Jesus was hung on the cross for our salvation and as resurrection people we continue to be fed the body and blood of Christ each time we come to the table and are nourished for the days ahead. We all were created in God’s image to do God’s work in this world. It is not an easy task. What Mary did that night no one would have imagined.  What Jesus did for us in his death and resurrection is more than we could have ever imagined.