Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Radio can be a Tempting Thing

I pretty much took Saturday off.  I ended up working on both Thursday and Friday, my normal days off and by Saturday I was just exhausted, so other than a few minor things that I had to get done I spent Saturday doing much of nothing.  

Normally on Saturdays I listen to WNPR one of Connecticut's public radio stations.  I particularly love Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me.  But if you know me, it is amazing how often I say the phrase "I was listening to NPR the other day and...." Well after Wait, Wait, there is the Faith Middleton Show's Food Schmooze. No normally I don't listen to the Food Schmooze as at least 90% of the time they interview a cookbook author and talk about various foods that are not vegetarian friendly.  But on Saturday I was doing something else and didn't turn the radio off so I continued to listen as Faith interviewed a cake cookbook author.  And as they described various cakes I realized that I wanted cake!  

So to my cookbooks I went.

But here is the problem - most cakes make.... well a cake.  Much more than the typical person living alone needs or wants to eat.  So I decided to make a cake for coffee hour the next day.  Unfortunately that meant my cake craving had to wait, it also ruled out chocolate as it is Lent and I'm sure even in my congregation were very few people give up things for Lent, someone had probably given up chocolate and I didn't want to tempt them.  (Sorry if they gave up sweets entirely, but I wanted cake).

I ended up making a variation of a chiffon cake that I'm calling a Lemon Poppy Seed Muffin Cake.  It is a muffin cake because the texture is more like a muffin than a cake - slightly dry and airy but not as airy as a typical chiffon cake. Also it is only slightly sweet, like a muffin - though the frosting makes a nice sweet finish that compliments the cake nicely.

For cake:
7 egg whites brought to room temperature
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 egg yolks
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 cup poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar.
For Frosting: 
6 tablespoons butter soften
4 cups powder sugar
3-5 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon extract.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking power and salt.  In a separate bowl, mix together egg yolks, water, oil, and extract.  Mix egg yolk mixture into the flour.  Add poppy seeds.  Beat until well blended.  In another clean bowl beat egg whites and cream of tarter together until stiff peaks form.  Fold into egg mixture.  Spoon into a 10inch un-greased tube pan (angel food pan).  

Bake on lowest rake for 60 minutes or until top springs back, if it still look a little wet near center tube, bake an additional 5 minutes.  Remove from oven, invent to cool (I use a bottle wrapped in aluminum foil to help hold the pan up).  Cool completely and use a knife to separate the cake from the pan. 

For the icing, beat butter and powder sugar in a mixing bowl.  Add 3 tablespoons of milk, lemon juice & extract.  Add more milk for a thinner consistency and beat till smooth.  Frost cake by spreading over top, allowing icing to run down sides and center of cake. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Crepes for 40

Oops, this somehow didn't get published last week - enjoy a week late. 

Yesterday Bethlehem hosted a Mardi Gras dinner in order to raise funds for Camp Calumet's Campaign for Today which we have pledge $1000 to over 3 years.

I suggested it be a crepe dinner - they are simple to make and with a multitude of filling options, everyone can be happy.  But how do you make crepes for 40 plus people?  Well the same way you make them for 2 people but just many more times.

I started by taking my normal recipe and multiply it by 10.  Then I started flipping crepes - for about 2 hours!  But by sticking them in the oven, they kept nice and warm for serving.

Everyone else brought the fillings - steak, beef stroganoff, curry chicken, spinach & artichoke filling, sauteed veggies, ham, cheese, whipped cream, fresh berries, and various other dessert fillings like chocolate, caramel and Nutella.  Oh what a good meal!

Crepes for 2-4 people
1 cup flour
1 1/4 cup milk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons melted and partly cooled butter

Beat flour and milk together.  Break eggs in separate dish and lightly beat them before adding them to the flour mixture.  Add butter.  If you have time refrigerate for at least an hour.

Heat skillet over medium-high heat until water dances across the top before evaporating.  It is best to use a non-stick skillet and no cooking spray or butter is needed.  If you don't have a non-stick skillet spray the skillet you do have well with cooking spray.

Now is the fancy part - hold skillet in the air while you pour 1-2 tablespoons on one side of skillet.  Swirl skillet to allow batter to spread thinly and evenly.  Add a bit more batter to cover holes or use back of spoon to help spread .  Cook for about 1 minute (until ends pull away from side of skillet) before flipping.  Cook for about 30 seconds on the 2nd side.

Fill with your preference of fillings.  Eat and enjoy!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

What is That Picture Anyway?

Bethlehem has an interesting painting behind the altar. I have yet to hear anyone tell me exactly when it was installed in the church (it is not in the earliest pictures of the sactuary) nor do I know who painted it. But even more interesting is what the painting is of - as in most of us don't know what exactly that painting is of. Many people, including myself at first, thought it is Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. One person thinks it is Jesus telling the angel "Hey don't worry, I got this." However Bob once explained his thoughts on the painting to me, and so it was part of our sermon discussion today.

The gospel for today was Mark 1:9-15 which includes Jesus being driven into the wilderness by the Spirit where he was tempted by Satan and the wild beast were with him and the angels waited on him.

So Bob's thoughts on this painting, and I now agree with him, is that this is not Jesus in the garden because at least in the bible angels never came to him there, but this is Jesus in the wilderness.

And this was the opening portion of our sermon discussion today, which lead to thoughts about what is the wilderness in our lives, what is it like to be in the wilderness, who are the angels in our lives, what if we feel alone who are the angels then and many more thoughts, comments, and stories about being in the wilderness and being angels to one another.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, February 20, 2012

Coming Down from the Mountain

Yesterday I got to preach twice, once at Bethlehem in the morning, and then again in the afternoon at Luther House at Yale, which I'm on the board for.  

I used the following basic structure for both sermons, but the conversations varied a bit and overall had a different feel each time.  The sermon is based on the gospel for yesterday Mark 9:2-9.  

Enjoy it, and I wonder how the conversation would be different if I had it with you?

Take a moment and think about a “mountain top” experience that you have had.  A moment when you felt like you were the king of the world.  Or felt extremely close to God.  Or were at the top of your game.  What was it like coming down from that experience? 

What was it like when reality hit? Or the first time something bad happened after that experience.  Maybe you can’t think of a mountain top experience, can you then think of a rock bottom experience?  When you were in a valley of shadow and death?  What was that like?  Would you ever choose to be in that experience? 

Then why would Jesus, the Son of God, choose to come down to have such similar experiences?  Jesus who came to the top of a mountain physically and had THE mountain top experience of all mountain top experiences when he and his clothes changed physically, with Moses and Elijah appearing with him, the two people, who according to scripture, bodies were physically taken to heaven. And then God’s voice comes from a cloud claiming yet again – this is my Son, the beloved!  Why after this experience would Jesus choose to come down from it? 

He could have stayed up on the mountain and still have been worshiped. He already had crowds following him for healing.  He did not need to continue his ministry.  And yet he does.  And after coming down from the mountain, he does not just go back to what he was doing, which can be depressing enough, but he turns towards the cross.  He turns towards persecution from strangers.  He turns towards being rejected and betrayed by his closest friends.  He turns towards being arrested, beaten, and mocked.  Jesus turns towards his death once he comes down.  But he does it for us.  He does it because in the transfiguration, the full glory of God was revealed.  Something that was already in Jesus, him being the Son of God, was already there, and it was being shown through his healings and teachings.  But it is not until Jesus turns towards the cross, so that Jesus might die for our sins, that the full Glory of God was truly revealed.

And the full glory of God is in you already.  And it comes out at times.  Our goal, our hope, as a community of living saints, is to help the full Glory of God that is already inside us, to be revealed in each other and in others in this community.  So how is the full Glory of God shining through you? 

Monday, February 13, 2012

I Love to Tell the Story

When I was in high school someone once told me "You have a story for everything."   And I don't think I have changed much since then (at least in my storytelling).

The word story seems to be every where for me lately.  I use biblical storytelling for the gospel.  I use Godly Play methods in our education program which presents the bible stories with props for a more interactive and hands on learning method.  I'm on a committee that is forming a new ministry in Connecticut and my job on the communications team is to "help tell our story."  Next fall, Bethlehem while be using the Narrative Lectionary in which each week we will focus on a different bible story.  (Okay I know a lot of those examples are about bible stories but you know I am a pastor).

In some ways the word story seems childish because we relate the word often with fairy tales or children's books; adults read fiction or novels.  Or the word seems old fashion, related to myths and legends.  In the modern world, we care about facts.  Or the word has connotations of make-believe and fantasy.  I have in the past felt bad about using the word story and have looked for a different word because I felt it was too childish or that the subject of the story must not be real.

But I have come to accept the word story because I LOVE stories.  And I love being surrounded by stories and storytelling because stories are such a profound way of communicating.

  • If people know a story about you, they are more able to relate to you.  By telling someone a story from your last vacation, they learn more about you than if you just told them where you went. 

  • Through a story, you can simplify a complex idea into something much easier to grasp.  World hunger can be overwhelming if you are surrounded by facts.  But by sharing the story of one person who goes hungry, it become easier to realize that everyone can make a difference. 
  • Through a story, morals are taught, ideas are shared, mores are dispensed.  Jesus taught through parables.  Many of us learned about the world through Aesop's fables and Grimm's Fairy Tales.  
  • Stories can change.  I loved Choose Your Own Adventure Books growing up, because the story could change.  When you tell stories orally, they change each time you tell them.  Different words are emphasized, hands actions and gestures change, the tone of voice is higher or lower or louder or quieter.  The words you choose even alter each telling.  This is because stories are interactive, and the teller adjusts subtlety with each telling based on the listeners reactions.  Stories aren't set in stone, even when everything about them seems the same. 
So maybe we need to reclaim the word story, and realize they are an important part of how we communicate with one another and how we teach others about who we are, and what we believe.  And that stories are for all people to hear and tell because we all have stories.  

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Egos Too Big and Too Small

I really enjoyed researching, discussing and thinking about the similarities and differences between the Old Testament reading (2 Kings 5:1-14, the healing of Namaan) and the gospel reading (Mark 1:40-45, Jesus healing a leper).  A rich man, a poor man, an important person, an unnamed person, healed without even being seen, healing through touch.  And yet for both of them it was the men's egos that almost got in their way of healing.  

Enjoy the sermon

There is a great paradox between the Old Testament lesson and Gospel today.  But first let’s start with the Old Testament.  In our reading from 2nd Kings, Naaman was a powerful man, and he felt wanted, important, nothing could get in his way.  And yet even with all of his power and wealth he still was sick and diseased.  So thinking he could buy his health, the cure for his leprosy, he travels to Elisha with tons of money.  And then he become angry and goes away in rage, when Elisha doesn’t even bother to come out of his home to see Naaman in person.  So when Naaman’s servants finally get Naaman to do as Elisha told him to do, he has to humble himself to go bath 7 times in this barely worthy to be called a river body of muddy water.  Naaman was only able to become whole when for the first time in his life he admitted that he was not powerful enough and he had to rely on God and others.

When have you been like Naaman and thought you were powerful, wealthy, should be treated like royalty? 

Naaman almost let his ego get in the way of healing.  We can probably often relate to that.  Thinking that we are too important, too great, to let little things get to us.

And this is when the paradox with our gospel reading comes in.  In Mark, Jesus heals this unnamed leper who has been casted out of society. The leper had been an outcast, he is unwanted.  And he knows it.  He even challenges Jesus to prove that he is wanted: “If you choose, you can make me clean.”

And we all at times have felt unwanted, unworthy.  We all are in need of healing of some kind.  Many of us have been cut off from family and friends.  (Have you ever had a good friend just stop talking to you for some unknown reason?)  Almost everyone at some point has sat outside of the community, apart from the life-giving energy and love that a community provides us with.  (Haven’t you ever felt like the outsider?)  We are all in need of healing of some kind, whether that is physical, social, psychological, spiritual, intellectual, vocational or financial.  We are all in need of healing.  And whenever we are in need of healing, some part of us does not feel wanted and we do not feel whole. 

So when have you felt unwanted, when have you not felt whole?

At the end of our gospel reading, Jesus chooses to make the leper clean.  He heals him through his touch and as a result the leper is able to rejoin the community, while Jesus now needs to stay outside of the towns due to the large crowds.  And unlike Naaman, it wasn’t until the leper allowed his ego to grow, to realize, hey wait, maybe I am worth something, that the leper is able to be healed, to be restored to wholeness. 

Our egos often get in the way of us becoming whole.  It is so easy to realize our ego got in the way when we are like Naaman, thinking we are more important that we really are.  But more often our ego gets in the way when we are like the leper, thinking we are unworthy, thinking we are unwanted, thinking that God doesn’t truly love us, or that we cannot possibly be restored to wholeness. 

And yet we are worthy, we are wanted, and God truly loves us and wants us to be whole.  This is why Jesus died on the cross for us - to forgive us of our sins, including the sins that come when we let our egos get in the way.  

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Community Bread

I currently have 6 loves of beer rye bread rising in my kitchen, waiting to go into the oven.  And as I was kneading and shaping the dough into loaves, loaves that will go to congregation members who won the Book of Faith puzzler and will be put on the coffee hour table tomorrow, I was thinking about how inter-connected baking and pastoring are for me.

My dad is who I learned to bake bread from.  Just about every weekend growing up, my dad would make loaves of challah, or rye, or (my favorite) burlap bread.  Often he would give us kids some of the dough to knead, and even more frequently the bread would come out of the oven just as we were getting ready to go out for dinner and my family would devour a loaf of bread before we left the house - leftovers were almost certain on those days.  During the months before Christmas and Easter, the kitchen became a stolen making factory with my dad producing some years over a 100 loaves for family, friends, and fellow church members. I grew up with the smell of fresh bread in the house and it is something that I never wanted to go without.

The first bread I baked alone was banana bread, with leftover bananas from my college's fruit and finals kits.  The recipe came from my congregations cookbook.

The first time I made communion bread was my year after college as I "made Jesus" for a Teens Encounter Christ weekend.

My first two years of seminary, I was frustrated with the lack of an oven in my tiny studio and for some reason I never baked communion bread for the seminary chapel.

And then internship came.  Bob got a job at a bakery up the road and my lack of baking continued.

Until I made caramel rolls.

Hot gooey caramel rolls - dozens of them.  For an internship cluster meeting, for Easter breakfast, just because.

Soon I became aware that if the confirmation kids had something to eat in the morning, they were more alert and participated more in the lesson.  So it was brownies, and cakes, and bread.  At some point Bob left his job at the bakery and I became the sole bread provider in the house.  And my consumption of flour grew as I experimented with different recipes for breads and desserts.

In my year off after seminary, before my call at Bethlehem, I baked out of a desire to create something.  And my baking was almost always shared, with friends, with co-workers, with the congregation we were attending.

Baking is something to be created and to be shared.

Jesus broke bread together with the disciples, with tax collectors and prostitutes, with 5000 men, plus women and children.  He shared the bread.

And so I bake to share.  Whether it is loaves given away or a dessert (or 20) at a dessert party.  I don't want to eat it alone.  I want to give this creation away, as a symbol that I care for the other.  But also as a reminder of Jesus who shares his life, his body, his bread with us in communion.

Beer Rye Bread Recipe
This is my dad's recipe as published in Baking with the St. Paul Bread Club, with some minor changes to adjust for my taste.  

Makes 4 small loaves or 3 regular loaves.

3 cups beer (I used Magic Hat's Single Chair Ale)
1/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 1/2 tablespoon salt
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
5 cups rye flour
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour

Heat beer in a saucepan over medium heat until barely bubbling.  Remove from heat.  Add shortening, brown sugar, molasses and salt.  Cool to lukewarm (about 110 degrees).  Pour into a large mixing bowl.

Meanwhile dissolve yeast in warm water.  Wait until foamy, about 5 minutes.  Add to beer mixture.  Beat in rye flour.  Add enough white flour to make a soft dough.  Turn out onto a well floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic - about 10 minutes.  Dough will be slightly sticky.  Place in greased bowl and cover with a towel or plastic wrap.  Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 2 hours.

Punch down dough, and divide into 3 or 4 pieces.  Form each into a round or oval shape.  Place either in a greased bread pan or on a cookie sheet with cornmeal dusted on bottom.  Score tops of loaves and let rise until double, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, preferably directly on a pizza stone.  Let cool on wire rack.

Monday, February 6, 2012

MMC: Super Bowl/ Souper Bowl of Caring Edition

Good Morning Bethlehem

Well the Giants might have won the actual Super Bowl, but they didn't win our Souper Bowl of Caring competition yesterday.  The Patriots bin raised $39.50 while the Giants raised only $26.07.  But all total that is $65.57 or 262 meals for hungry people in Connecticut.  The bins will be back this coming Sunday if Giants fans would like to prove they are as generous givers as they are cheers or if the Patriots fans would like to prove that they are gracious even when they loose.  You can also still bring in canned and boxed food for Redding Social Services.

A Few Announcements
ARE Team Meeting – Mon Feb 6, noon @Rancho Allegre
Hymn selection – Mon Feb 6, 7pm
Confirmation – Tue, Feb 7, 6pm
Grow 2 Gather – Sun Feb 12 9am
Council Meeting  - Sun Feb 12 after worship
Mark your calendars!  Mardi Gras Crepe Dinner is Saturday February 18.  Suggested donation of $9 for adults $4 for kids with all money raised going to Camp Calumet's Campaign for Today. 

Book of Faith Puzzler
The question from last week: According to Matthew 22, what is the greatest commandment?  A) To love the Lord B) To love you neighbor C) You should have no other gods D) Do not murder
Matthew 22:34-40, a Sadducees tests Jesus by asking him which commandment is the greatest.  Jesus replies “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Congratulations to Judy C, this week's winner. 
This week’s question:  When does Jesus pray? A) at his baptism B) When he feed 5000 C) When he raised Lazarus from the dead D) in the garden of Gethsemane E) All of these times and more
As of now I have yet to receive any answers for this week's puzzler, so if you get your answer to me by noon on Wednesday you have a good chance of winning the puzzler. 

Yesterday's Sermon
I loved worship yesterday, in fact the installation worship service I went to in the afternoon was a bit of a let down after yesterday morning.  If you missed worship, you can read about it and the sermon here.    So where & when do you pray?  What do you pray for?  And what did you think of the prayers of the people yesterday?  Were you more prayerful as your prayers and the prayers of the people around you were read?  

Serving on Sunday
We have quite a few blank spaces for sign ups on Sunday, so please let me know if you are willing to volunteer.
Worship Assistant: _______
Reader: Nancy B
Ushers: _______ & __________
Communion set up & clean up: _________
Offering Counter: __________
Coffee Hour Host: Heloisa & Mark H

Sunday's Text
We are still in the season after Epiphany and as has been a theme the last few weeks, the texts are about healing. 

The first lesson is 2 Kings 5:1-14.  Naaman has leprosy and is sent to Elisha for healing.  Elisha tells him to immerse himself in the Jordan river 7 times and he will be made clean.  But Naaman does not like this advice as it is a muddy river in a far away (for him) land and at first Naaman refused.  However his servants convince him to go to the Jordan and there he is made clean.  When have you not wanted to do something, even something beneficial to you, because it was too inconvenient or you thought you were better than that?  Did you need someone else to convince you to try?

The second lesson is 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, a passage that many athletes find strength in as Paul asks "Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize?"  What do you compete in?  When have you competed and not won the prize?  What does that do to you mentally, spiritually and possibly physically for the next competition?

The gospel is Mark 1:40-45, Jesus healing a leper.  After healing the leper, Jesus orders the man not to tell anyone, which the man then ignores and word about Jesus spreads so quickly that he "could no longer go into a town openly."  Why do you think Jesus tells the leper not to tell others how he was healed?  When have you don't something people tell you not to do?  Why did you do it?  

Hope you all have a great week. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

What Do You Pray For?

I am glowing right now from how wonderful worship was this morning.  I truly felt God's presence throughout the worship service.  The sermon today was based on the gospel Mark 1:29-39, and more specifically when Jesus went to a deserted place to pray.  During the sermon I asked the questions, "When & where do you pray?" and "What do you pray for?"  This lead to a wonderful conversation and people were very honest about what those questions mean to them and more especially what they pray for.  

I then gave them an opportunity to write prayers, either just a few words or full sentences and those were our prayers of the people today. Not only did I feel God's presence as we prayed but I also felt like people were actually listening more intently to the words I was saying.  I personally tend to zone during the prayers of intercession and just by rote say "hear our prayer,"  but these prayers seemed so much more full.

We also communed in a circle around the altar and font which always makes me smile as I watch children commune their parents (even if sometimes the children are in their 60s).  

So enjoy the sermon - I hope you feel God's presence as you reflect upon prayer. 

Jesus has had a busy first day.  On his first day of healing, he healed the man possessed by an unclean spirit that Ryan told us about last week, then he comes to Simon Peter’s home and heals his mother-in-law.  No wonder why word about him quickly spread. 

It spread so quickly that by sundown, when it was no longer the Sabbath, there was a line of people waiting to be healed.  People who were sick or demon possessed – the whole city was gathered around the door of Simon Peter’s home. 

And after this busy day, Jesus needed some time off, some time to reflect and pray.  He got up early in the morning and went to a deserted place by himself to pray.  Jesus was probably looking for answers, the way most of us look for answers when we pray.  Was his mission to stay in that town of Capernaum to heal the sick of the whole town? Or was his mission to continue to travel throughout Galilee to preach God’s message?  Did he really want to do this?  Already he was overrun with people and this is only the first day of his healing ministry – did he really want to live this life? 

Jesus needed time to be alone with God in prayer.  Just like we often need to turn to God in prayer.  Therefore – when and where to you pray?  What do you pray for?  What happens when your prayers are not answered? (at least not the way that you want them in the time frame that you want them to be). 

Many people find comfort in knowing that they are not alone in their prayers, that others are praying with them, whether it is for healing, or finding employment or relationship issues, or in thanksgiving for joys in our lives from beautiful days, to births, to love.  Yet we are often uncomfortable making those request – it can seem like begging.  So here is your opportunity to lift up prayers among the congregation, and still remain anonymous if you wish.  In your pews are some note cards, I’m going to give us a few minutes to write down those prayers, maybe just a word or two, maybe a full sentence.  And place them in this basket.  These will be our prayers of the people today – prayers that came from the people of Bethlehem

Having others pray our prayers doesn’t mean that they are any more likely to be answered in the way that we truly want, but often when we hear our prayers on the lips of others, we become more open to allowing God to answer those prayers in ways that are not just our own.