Tag Archive: Friends


For Times of Transition

On Wednesday, February 20, my classmates and I will will find out to which regions (there are nine in the country) we have been assigned as future pastors in the ELCA.  This is the first step in actually being called to serve in a congregation.  After regions, we’ll hear from bishops, letting us know to which synod we’ve been assigned (there are 65 synods, and each synod is like a diocese).

It’s an exciting time, pondering where we may be serving in just a few short months.  In what area of the country will we be?  What will the congregation be like?  What opportunities will we have? What challenges will we face?  Where will we live? What if it’s not at all what we’re expecting?  What if we are called to a place we don’t like? What if we’re called to the place we preferenced, but it’s not a good fit?  The questions and speculations seem endless.  And it’s tiresome.

My theme song for the past few weeks has been Phillip Phillips’ “Home.”  This song really makes me want to drive with all my windows down on a beautiful day.  It also makes me want to stomp my feet, clap and dance at some kind of folksy pub music night.  I think both are appropriate!

But beyond the driving, boot-stomping beat, Phillips’ soothing voice and the oddly fitting cross-country road trip video, I also just plain love the lyrics at this stage in my life:

Hold on, to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave is stringing us along
Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going to make this place your home

Settle down, it’ll all be clear
Don’t pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going to make this place your home

Settle down, it’ll all be clear
Don’t pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going to make this place your home

I feel like I’m holding my breath before the next big step and listening to this song, I hear reassurance and the promises of God coming through these poppy, folksy lyrics.  My road is unfamiliar, but I need not feel alone, because I have a whole bunch of wonderful family, friends, fellow seminarians and sisters and brothers in Christ supporting me – just as I am supporting and praying for them.  And the God who has called me to this unfamiliar road is paving the way, leading me ahead, one step at a time.

The line, “settle down, it’ll all be clear,” helps me to remember to be still and to trust God (Psalm 46:10), or in the words of Cheri O’Teri on Saturday Night Live, to “simma down now!”  I’m reminded to take a break from worrying about what the future will hold and to enjoy the present, knowing that all will be revealed and I shouldn’t get into a tizzy about something that hasn’t even happened yet!

And about all those demons – the demons of worry, anxiety, stress, and doubt about my ability to actually do this – they just fill me will fear and make me forget how far God has brought me in the past few years.  They make me forget that God loves working through (and has chosen to work through!) normal people to bring about God’s kingdom.  Just as God worked through sinners, deniers, murders and all sorts of broken people in the past, God continues to do so today.  And God can work through me too 🙂

And even if I get lost along the way and make mistakes, there will always be the voice of God directing me back to the right road, embracing me in forgiveness and abundance grace.

So wherever we end up, I trust that God will make that place a home.  I trust that I will be given what I need to serve God’s people with compassion and faith.  To walk with them and pray with them.  To teach them and learn from them.  To preach God’s word and to hear them speak God’s word from their lips.  To administer the sacraments of baptism and holy communion and to worship with a new community of people.

I’m just praying that I remember to hold on to God as we go.  I’m just praying that I remember that my energy, strength and ability to serve find their source in God’s loving heart.  I’m praying that the Holy Spirit will keep the cross of Christ always clearly in my sight.  I’m praying and holding on for dear life as we leap into this next adventure!

© 2013. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.

Yesterday was Reformation Day, which I started by humming “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”  As a side note, I personally believe that every day should begin with this song! Anyway, after a musical beginning, I headed out early as I do every morning to Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) München so that I would make it to my Hebrew class in time.  As I walked into the building from the subway I was thinking about spending time with my husband and one of my best friends later that afternoon.  Half daydreaming, I looked up at the door and there was a sign on it that said the building would be closed on Thursday, November 1 for Allerheiligen (All Saints’ Day).  I grinned, knowing that this day off gave me more time to spend with my hubby and friend, but then I looked pass the paper sign and through the glass door.

Through that door and on the left side of the grand old university hallway was a homeless man, sitting on one of the metal chairs that folds down from out of the wall.  He was wearing a black winter hat and had his hands tucked into his jacket pockets.  His head was leaned forward, bowed down in sleep.  I had seen him there before, wandering the university’s halls or sitting on the chairs on colder days, so I wasn’t really surprised to see him in the building.  However, seeing the note about Allerheiligen – about All Saints’ Day – and looking at this man jarred my senses.  The question that came to mind was: “who are the saints of God?”

On Tuesday, October 30, I had visited the Alte Pinakothek, a gorgeous art gallery featuring medieval and Renaissance art from all over Europe.  A lot of this art is religious in nature, and many of the paintings featured saints with their golden halos and the symbols of their sufferings, deeds, and miracles.  Having minored in Medieval Studies in college, this was all familiar (and wonderful!) to me.  I know a lot of the saints stories and so looking at these paintings featuring these people is kind of like visiting old friends.  But thinking about these depictions in contrast to the man I saw sleeping in the hall of the university… what a world of difference.

“Who are the saints of God?”  “Who are the holy ones of God?”

Are they just those who have lived exemplary lives?
Are the saints limited to those who have been martyred in the name of Christ?
Are they only those who can work miracles?

Martin Luther spoke of Christians at “simul justus et peccator” (simultaneously justified through Christ and sinners).  This means that while we are forgiven and washed clean of all our sins in baptism, we still continue to sin – we are always, at the same time, saints saved through Christ and his righteousness, and sinners.  Crazy!  Through Christ’s loving acts – his death and resurrection – we are all glorious saints, just like in those in the paintings.  At the same time, we are also imperfect people who continue to mess up, hurt ourselves and others, and fall short.  And as sinner/saints, we are dependent on God’s grace and not on what we have done or haven’t done.

And what of the homeless man?  I don’t know his situation or circumstances.  I don’t know his story.  I have no idea whether or not he believes in Christ.  I have no idea if he’s been baptized.  But what if I were to act as if he were one of the holy saints of God?  What if I looked a bit closer and saw Christ in him?  How would this change things?

I still love medieval and Renaissance art.  The vibrant colors and masterful depictions of Biblical stories, classical myths, and saints continue to enchant me.  But looking around, I think that there are other beautiful works of art.  They’re not depictions done in the medium of gold leaf, rich paints or delicate carvings, but depictions artfully crafted by the fingers of God in flesh and blood.  They’re images with flaws and imperfections, shocks and surprises, but maybe if we look a bit harder, we might see a halo poking through.

© 2012. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.

“Homeless Man Sleeping with His Bible”

Community in Christ

This is the sermon I delivered on Sunday morning at Christ Lutheran Church in Washington, DC.

As the semester draws to a close and senior graduation creeps closer, I have been thinking a lot about my fellow students and life on Seminary Ridge in Gettysburg.  I’ve been thinking about the experiences we’ve all shared – both good and bad.  And I’ve been thinking about where we will all be in the coming months, whether in first call congregations, doing Clinical Pastoral Education and serving as chaplain interns, or beginning internship around the country.  Seminary has a way of bringing people together in community only to send them back out again.

And I’ve also been thinking about my upcoming trip to Munich to live in an intentional ecumenical community while I study at the university.  I’ve been reflecting on what it means to live in relationship with others from sometimes vastly different backgrounds.  In short, I’ve had community on my mind!

The author of 1 John also had community on his mind.     His community was going through conflict and strife, differing on theology and church practice.  And so he was writing to encourage his community to “…love one another, because love is from God.”  The reading we have for this morning uses some variation of the word “love” 27 times and the word “God” 21 times – that’s quite a bit of repetition and emphasis, so these must be important words!

Love comes from God and, as 1 John explains, “God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  Everything begins and flows from in God’s loving action toward and for us.  Through Jesus’ death, he has restored our relationship with God the Father.  And what’s more, Christ’s death has enabled us to love one another.

Now, we participate in all different types of communities: our families, our groups of friends, sports groups, music groups, book groups, academic or professional groups, theater and arts communities, and religious communities.  And, through social media, we participate in online communities.

And we all know that life in community is not always…how shall I put this…pretty.  We all sin, make mistakes, say things that aren’t very nice – we have all been there and done that.  As it says earlier in the letter of 1 John, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”  So when our human imperfection and sin happen in community, people get hurt, angry and upset.  It’s a vicious cycle that’s easy to get trapped in.

I’ve been taking pottery lessons in Gettysburg for about three months now.  Besides being something I’ve always wanted to do, I’ve found the classes to be a wonderful stress release.  There’s just something about getting messy with clay that is incredibly freeing.  If you mess up, you can usually fix it with a bit of water and some elbow grease.  Or, if it’s really bad, you can ball it up and begin again.  Some of the best pieces I’ve made have come about through mistakes.  I’ve only had to take a step back to rethink what was happening and remain open to inspiration.

Life in community is kind of like pottery.  It’s not clean, simple or perfect.  It’s messy.  But it’s wonderful.  Just like with pottery, some beautiful things can emerge from the messiness and struggle of life in relationship with others.

For example, our recent conversations surrounding what we can do about economic disparity may be difficult conversations to have, but the Holy Spirit is at work, bringing about good fruit, even if we can’t imagine what that will look like right now.

God’s love as shown to us in Jesus’ death and resurrection restores our relationship with God.  And knowing and abiding in that overwhelmingly beautiful and powerful love, we are to love one another.  The author of 1 John even takes this a step further, saying that, “no one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.”  It is through loving one another, that God’s love is perfected or fulfilled in us.  In practicing loving others, we come to know and understand more about the God who is love.

The church community, drawn together by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ, is where we should be able to let our hair down and be ourselves.  It’s the place where we should be able to be vulnerable with one another.  It’s the place we should be able to come and say, “I’m struggling with this and I need prayer.”  It’s also the place we should be able to say, “God has done something amazing!  Let’s celebrate together!”

But I fear that maybe because of our experiences in the world the other six days of the week, we may be less likely to embrace the church as the loving, forgiving, encouraging community it is.  The world prizes individualism and self-sufficiency.  The one who shows no weakness is the one who is valued as a strong person.

But the gospel flies in the face of all of this.  We proclaim that we rely on the undeserved grace of God.  We follow a savior went willingly to a cross for us – we didn’t do anything.  We are called to abide in Jesus – to draw our strength, hope and our very lives from him.  And we are called to live in community.  As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in his classic work on community, Life Together: “Into the community you were called, the call was not meant for you alone; in the community of the called you bear your cross, you struggle, you pray.  You are not alone, even in death, and on the Last Day you will be only one member of the great congregation of Jesus Christ.”

In baptism, we are welcomed into the body of Christ where we find support for our lives and faith journeys.  And in Holy Communion, we are fed together at Christ’s table in a meal that connects us not only with God, but with each other and all Christians, past, present and future, around the world.  I love Communion – it’s a such an important part of worship for me.  And part of it is being able to witness people receiving communion – it’s the communal aspect that helps to make it powerful for me.

I once thought that I could be a Christian on my own, but I ended up really missing the community of believers.  I missed being able to worship God with others – to sing, pray, and to receive communion with fellow believers.  I wanted a place that I could explore the faith and learn more from mature Christians.  But that was only going to happen in community with others.

This community in Christ is an incredible blessing that I think we may take for granted.  With texting, the Internet and social media, people are constantly “connected,” but these connections are not actually helping people to form or grow relationships.  Instead, they are making us more lonely and less connected to actual human beings.

As Sherry Turkle, Director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, explains in a TEDTalk: “Human relationships are rich, and they’re messy and they’re demanding, and we clean them up with technology.  And when we do, one of the things that can happen is that we sacrifice conversation for mere connection. … That feeling that ‘no one is listening to me’ is very important in our relationships to technology.  That’s why it’s so appealing to have a Facebook page, or a Twitter feed – so many automatic listeners.  And the feeling that ‘no one is listening to me’ makes us want to spend time with machines that seem to care about us. … We expect more from technology and less from each other.”

People are hungry for connections to others, but we’re tricking ourselves into thinking that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, MySpace, Google+, FourSquare or Pinterest will suffice.  And don’t get me wrong – I’m on many of them!  But people are longing for others to actually listen to them – to be present with them in the midst of what they’re going through.  People are desperately yearning to be themselves, and to be welcomed and accepted for who they are.  People desire real connection, but they are scared to death of intimacy.

Now people do post some important things on Facebook – things that they might not have the courage to say in person.  Things that can be as simple as “please pray for me as I go through this difficult situation.”  However, it’s one thing to be on Facebook and type something or respond to someone’s post – it’s another to walk up to a human being and be with them – to sit with them, listen to them, talk with them, and pray with them.  We have been drawn together by the Holy Spirit into community – to pray for one another, listen to one another, learn from one another, encourage one another, share our joys and how God has been at work, as well as to share our sorrows, needs and shortcomings.  The church is the place for people to be vulnerable and to learn to be themselves with one another.  This means that we risk being hurt, but it also means that we have tremendous opportunity to grow closer to each other.  And by being so open and vulnerable, we open the door and welcome others to be themselves.  People are looking for real community where they can encounter God present in the faces of those around them.   People are looking for a place where they can discover who God is calling them to be.

We have a priceless gift in the gospel and in our community that worships and bears witness to God together.  “Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world.  There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…  We love because he first loved us.”  This gift is not something to keep to ourselves.  It is something that is meant to be shared with others.  If fear of others’ judgment is holding us back from connecting with people, or being vulnerable with them, or inviting them to check out the community that means something to us, then may we look to God’s love – that perfect love that drives out fear.  Drawing from God’s love, we, too, can love one another with all boldness.

How can you really connect with others in the coming weeks?  Does this mean changing how much time you spend online in favor of spending time with people instead?  How can you reach out to people longing for God and for real community?  How can you welcome others into the community of faith?  How can you support others in their lives and their faith?

Look around – look at the faces of the saints around you.  These are your brothers and sisters in Christ.  Let us take a moment to give thanks and to pray for this community that we may be filled with the love of God and strengthened by the Holy Spirit to welcome others into the body of Christ.  Amen.

© 2012. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.

Mad World

I was just going through my “favorites” on YouTube and I ran across this dance (see below) from the most recent season (I think!) of So You Think You Can Dance.

This contemporary dance piece set to Gary Jules’ “Mad World” depicts a meeting between two very different men. One is poor, broken down, homeless and on the fringes of society. The other is a powerful business man in a tailored suit, who clearly has a purpose in his steps. Their situations are reflected in their dance styles and, in addition to the artistry of the dancing, there is a moment in the piece which speaks volumes about all of us. This moment shows us two men who have been in their own worlds, caught up in their own strikingly dissimilar stories, coming face-to-face only to realize that they were once friends.

After initial shock, they begin to dance in step, uniting through their shared past and in their common humanity. Only a short while thereafter, they go back to the way they were at the beginning of the dance – separated by situation, class, and economics.

How often do we turn a blind eye to others we encounter, remaining focused on our own “mad world” and situation? Do we ever dare to come face-to-face with others, or are we frightened of seeing amazing similarities in the face of someone apparently so different from us? Are we afraid to see ourselves in the face of someone we would prefer to keep at arm’s length (or even further away)? How can we begin to dance with others, uniting in love for one another as fellow humans?

Just a few thoughts before I head to homework land! 😉

© 2011. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.

Count Your Blessings

On Friday, in CPE, I was blessed to be able to attend a Bible Study on Isaiah 6 (The Call of Isaiah) at a retirement home. Before we began, we sang a few hymns, one of which was “Count Your Blessings.” Inspired, the leader then had the participants shout out the things for which they were thankful. Here’s what they listed: health, the love of the Lord Jesus, family and friends, the nurses and staff, ministers (and those about to be ministers), their rooms, laughter…

The list could have gone on and on, I’m sure. I said I was thankful for the chance to meet new people and I definitely felt even more thankful for this after I actually had some time to spend with the people there!

I was amazed that people listed the little things – the things we so often take for granted. I mean, I can’t even think of the last time I gave thanks for my room! That’s probably because it’s a mess… Seriously though, I was reminded of how important it is not to take things for granted.

Instead of being thankful for all that we have been given, why are we more likely to complain about all of the little things that, in the long run, don’t matter? Why do I get bent out of shape when someone is driving poorly when I could be giving thanks that I am able to drive? Why do I get irritated when things don’t go my way instead of thinking how incredibly blessed I have been in my life?

Each night before I go to sleep, I count my blessings. It’s a practice I’ve gotten into over the past year and a half or so. I give thanks for beautiful weather, for loved ones, for experiences I’ve had, and for things I’m looking forward to. Even if I’ve had a terrible day, I can still give thanks that it’s over and tomorrow is a new day!

I’m truly grateful for the folks who reminded me that we should be continually counting our blessings. Now, this doesn’t mean that we should ignore or gloss over difficulties we’re going through or problems we’re struggling with. It does, however, mean that we can gain some perspective in the midst of trials. We can see the good in the middle of difficult times and find hope and strength to keep chugging along. By counting our blessings, we can, as the hymn says, “see what God has done” and recall how God acted previously in our lives. This reminder of how God has worked in our lives is a comfort because we then know God’s track record and can deduce that God is still working and will not abandon us, no matter how difficult things seem.

I’ve never been a big math person, but I think counting my blessings is one math skill I will be happy to incorporate into my life!

Oh, and this just landed in my inbox…
For Everyday Blessings
Dear God,
Open my eyes to the beauty of this day.
The yellow of an egg yolk in a blue bowl.
The scent of bacon frying in the pan.
The soft caress of the morning breeze.
The sound of children at play.
Awaken my senses.
Let me see, hear, and feel the beauty around me.
And be aware of the presence of the Great Artist in my everyday world.

Source: “Prayers for Every Need: Volume One: Celebration” (Guideposts)

Coincidence? I think not!

© 2010. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.

Bing Crosby singing “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)”:

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