Our Hearts Burning Within Us….4 MAY 14 Karen Van Fossan

Hearts Burning Inside Us


Karen Van Fossan

May 3, 2014


I hate to have to say this –

but we are coming up on finals week

at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities.


I welcome your encouragement and prayers!


As your grateful intern –

and one of the newest members of this parish –

I invite you all to visit me there some time.


I’d love to take you on a tour, a walk,

by the bee hives tucked among pine trees,

to the chapel with its winding wooden ceiling,

the art room where we could,

as Ian and Melia like to say, with bright excited eyes, “do an activity.”

I’d take you through the café where you can still pay by IOU.

I would also take you to the largest classroom on campus.


In this classroom, just last week,

for me, something happened.


It started maybe a month ago.


After Old Testament class one day,

one of my classmates stopped me.

“Would you like to be Job?” she asked.


Not really.


Then she shared a little more information.

“For our final project, some of us are doing a rock opera

about Job.

Would you like to be Job?” she asked.


Now that was a different question!


Our rock opera is set in modern-day North Dakota.

And, as excited as I am about the country line dance

in the opening scene,

my favorite part is getting to talk with God.


Admittedly, my classmate playing God isn’t really God.

And, thankfully, I’m not really Job.

But still, I feel a little like Job when we’re rehearsing,

and I can’t help relating to the person with the booming voice as God.


When God enters the stage, I want to run –

away from God

and toward God.

My responses, as Job, are extreme.

When I’m not supplicating and quivering,

or backing against the farthest wall,

I’m inching, inching, closer, closer,

seeing if I might reach toward my Creator.


No wonder, generations after Job, on the road to Emmaus,

the journey-mates were kept from recognizing Christ.

With hearts burning inside us –

meeting God can be kind of overwhelming.


But they do meet God.


On the road to Emmaus,

not only do they meet God,

but Christ shows them how to meet God ever after

whenever they have the courage:


Christ reminds them how to pray.


At the start of the trip, Christ listens.

Apparently, they’ve been needing someone to listen.

They look sad, our gospel says.

Then they spill out everything –

how Jesus had been crucified,

how the women had seen the angels,

how the body of Jesus had completely disappeared.


They talk for who even knows how long,

and Christ never asks them to hurry

or be more succinct

or tell a more interesting tale.


All along, they’ve been talking to Christ –

all along, they’ve been talking to God –

praying the prayers we pray when we’re in grief and overwhelmed;

this happened,

then that happened,

and I don’t have a clue what’s coming next.


After they’ve emptied out,

after they’ve spilled their grief and pain,

Christ helps them enter another form of prayer.


They practice being silent now.

When they’re able to stop their speaking,

in the quiet,

they receive.

In the quiet, Christ helps them

integrate, interpret,

make meaning.

Yes, we still have grief and pain, even as we listen for God.

But, as we listen,

our presence conveys just what these two travelers convey:

“Stay with us.”

As our gospel says, “Jesus went in to stay with them.”

Silence, our times of silence,

are a way to be hospitable to God.


Then, with hearts burning inside them,

they break bread,

as we break bread today.

Christ sits down, takes the bread, and says the blessing.

We pray to God;

we pray next to God;

and when we pray,

God is praying with us.


We pray with God not only through our speaking and our listening,

but also through the stuff of the earth,

the bread at our open table,

the meal after a funeral,

the gathering after a tragedy,

the meeting at the capitol to keep the next tragedy away.


Our sacrament means that not only

is this bread and this wine sacred,

but the earth from which our God

created them is sacred,

the same earth from which our God

created us.


When we pray,

we touch God.

We can speak to God, listen for God,

break bread with God beside us.


God not only walks on the road to Emmaus.

God walks on the road to St. Paul,

and Kiev, Ukraine,

and Fargo, North Dakota.


At last week’s rehearsal of “Job,”

in one of the final scenes,

as God sang God’s big song,

I found the courage to approach.

God sang and sang and sang.

I came closer, closer, closer.

God sang with arm extended,

hand facing up,

like this.


As I found my courage,

I extended my hand, too.

Slowly, slowly…

I placed my hand in God’s.


And then, in real life,

I started to cry.

I was Job reaching for God,

Karen reaching for God,

and also Karen

simply reaching for a person of God’s creation.


In a world such as this,

no wonder our hearts are on fire.




Peace be with you! 26 APR 14

2nd Sunday Easter 2014


It is an amazing journey isn’t it?  Did you ever think you would be where you are this moment…in this space, with these companions?


On Easter Sunday I invited us as a community to see if we could bring to our awareness those Bread Moments that flood our lives…those moments that maybe God is surprisingly present if only we take the time to see.


You see my friends in many ways we as a community are much like the ancient early Church…


We gather together and we do what we have always done as people of faith,


we proclaim God’ Word,


we sing psalms and hymns of praise and thanksgiving;


we break bread and share a cup….




Because in those things we know that we have come to recognize Christ in our midst!


Sometimes we are fearful…much like those early disciples were who were gathered in that upper room…we, like they realize in some way, either implicitly or explicitly that we are on the verge of something new and something almost unimaginable!


I can feel it….


I have heard others feeling it as well. 


I have listened deeply to the invitation of the Holy Spirit as that Sacred Breath of God blows among us.


New opportunities are afoot. 


New understandings are developing. 


New faith is being born. 


New insights are on the horizon and coming into view.


We are being Church in the 21st Century in a new way…and in an ancient way as well….


Someone asked me years ago what the Church will look like in the next century….and all I could say is this….


Make no mistake the Church will always be….because the Church is the People of God gathered together in prayer and thanksgiving, proclaiming the Word, breaking bread and sharing the cup…


That I am convinced will never change…because we will always do the things that we know in which we will experience the living God…


I can not tell anyone what the structure of the Church will look like in the next century with any certitude other than this…it will look different than it does right now…because the Holy Spirit never stops the relentless pursuit of transformation! 


That reality can cause us to do what the early disciples did….to gather in fear…shut the door and lock ourselves in the prison of denial and the chains of apprehension…


But make no mistake my friends….into those rooms and through the doors of even our deepest fear God walks in and says…Peace….Peace be with you….


The resurrection…It changes every thing….                                    the resurrection…Christ’s appearance to those disciples changed not only their lives, but the very course of history and it will continue to change ours as well. 


We can find ourselves like the early disciples…filled with apprehension, doubt, and fear…


but the Risen Christ reminds us that we have nothing to fear….


we have a purpose, we all are attending to the same goal, each with our own gifts, each with our own talents are pointing to and working together to reach the same goal.


What is our purpose…


what is that goal….


we hear it at the beginning of every liturgy…..


We heard it in our Gospel today as well…


Jesus said..as God has sent me…so I am sending you…


Our primary purpose is to spread the Good News of God’s unending grace and love for all!


It is profoundly simple,  and yet


in the very same breath it is a task that will pull us and push us to the edges of our certitudes


and invite us to step into a future that we don’t fully understand or even clearly see.


Such a journey…is not easy…


we often make that mistake in understanding faith…


as if we believe and pray and do what we are called to do then we will be blest…


and we will be my friends,


but being blest does not mean being free of conflict, challenge, struggle, pain or our wounds….


being blest means knowing that in and through all of that…


God is with us…


God is here and there is no door…


no room…


no place that we can hide from the hound of heaven….


God’s grace and love will always triumph if we allow it to transform our fear.


So this week when we find ourselves wanting to lock the doors, and shutter our hearts in fear and apprehension and certitude…maybe we can stop and simply repeat the words of our Gospel today….Peace be with you…as God has sent me..so I send you!

I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly! John 10:10 –10 MAY 14

Fourth Sunday Easter….Happy Mothers Day—Grace filled First Communion


I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly!


John 10:10


I have listened intently to the voices that I have heard this past week…


And I have been left in a real quandary….I mean a certifiable perplexible dilemma…


I wonder if anything or anyone in our world is just Ok?


I have heard that we are either too tall or too short…too rich or too poor…too fast or too slow.


I have heard that my cell phone is obsolete as well as my computer even if I just bought it last week and that the wrinkles on my body can disappear if I simply inject some of the stuff that nature has decided I no longer need….


I have found out that some of us have too much hair and others too little.  I have learned that this past winter was long and harsh and that spring has been too long and cold and wet.


I have heard that the government has moved too fast on one issue and too slow on others.  I have heard that the internet is too accessible and that it is still too restricted as well.


I have heard that some people weigh too much and others too little—that some people have a green line and others ought to if they don’t.


I have learned that I have just….”Got To Have It”….and that I ought to “Just Do It”


So the dilemma is real and I don’t think it is a dilemma for only me…I bet it is for all of us as well……


And I am left with one question……


Is anyone or anything just really OK?


Wouldn’t it be awesome to just have one day of being OK?  Wonder what that would feel like? 


There are a lot of voices that seem to be speaking of scarcity…and a lot of voices of fear and deprivation….far many more of those than the voices of gratitude, serenity, peace, excitement, and just being okayness….


Jesus seems to have understood that reality as well….even without the help of the internet, tv, radio or smart phones…


It must have been the same for him?  Maybe that was the condition to which he was speaking when he says…..I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly!


It is so easy for me to step into the stream of negativity, doubt, fear, resentment and just general not-okayness…..


It is so easy to say…I don’t have enough time, energy, resources…what ever….and much more challenging to simply say….wow I am only one person, in this one place at this moment with physical, spiritual and emotional needs and I can’t do it, say it or even try to understand it all!  And maybe, just maybe that’s OK!


And it is much more challenging to try to see the positive, hope filled, excited, joyful peace that surrounds us.


I really have tried these past few days to live in the okayness….in God’s abundance and the gratitude…and it has been amazing how easy it was to slip into the negativity…


I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly!


Our faith…this whole journey of the Spiritual life is a journey into discovering God’s grace….not God’s judgement!  Somehow many of us seem to have focused on the later instead of the former! 


The Good Shepherd….reminds us…just go through the gate….not over the top of the wall and though the briars and thorns that line the top ledge…just go through the gate…you will recognize the voice!


I wish that was what was flying at sports games…


You see my friends….we do the greatest dis-service possible to the spiritual life when we put on that life things which crush the Spirit of God….


Fear….doubt….anger…resentment….certitudes….burdens of shame….anything that crushes the human spirit is not a Godly thing….


I don’t mean to say that all of life is this glorious ubiquitous euphoria that has no challenges, trails or tribulations….nothing could be further from the truth….


But while the trials and tribulations can tempt us to believe that God isn’t present with us, that is preciesly what they try to do…to crush the joy, peace, serenity and hope of the Holy Spirit in our lives.





What voices do we listen to?  What voices to we hear?  What voices do we speak?


Advertizers know us almost better than we know ourselves….sometimes they know how to elicit from us reactions that we don’t even realize are being called forth.


A juicy orange being cut open…the light just careening off of the droplets as the orange is sliced open and conveniently dropped on a table so that the juices just burst forth and the camera just catches them in the light…I don’t care who you are…almost everyone will feel their mouth water and the thought of a glass of nice cool orange juice will float across our imagination….triggering in us the sale of the product the next time you are at the store if not right then…


There are a lot of voices in our world….and it is so painfully easy to listen to the negative, scarcity ones that tell us that we and our lives are not enough.  But Jesus seems to be saying just the opposite….you are mine…I have called you by name…   


There are lots of voices….not many speak of the abundance, joy and hope of our God….but that points to the importance of community, of family, of friends…to gather with others who know and who believe that God is indeed here…that Grace is alive and active…that Jesus will always be the Good Shepherd….even through the storms of life…


Jesus won’t keep us from the trials, tribulations, tragedies and storms…but Christ will be with us through them all…calling our name and reminding us….


That he came so that we might have life and have it more abundantly….


I wonder if we can live into that abundance this week…?