Tuesday, February 4, 2014

1 Corinthians1:25 For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength.

If we search for God - and we all do at one time or another,  if we search for God in special times and places -- Where does God search for us?  Where does God meet us?  Many people do not think they have met God unless they emotionally feel that they have encountered something. They sometimes gauge the success of their search for God, their meeting God, by whether or not they feel certain things.  They judge whether or not they have met the Creator or the Holy Spirit, by whether or not they gain a sense of peace, by whether or not they have an emotional high - an emotional rush, by whether or not they have the Spirit send those chills and tingles up and down their backs. 

However, life is not, completely full of special times, full of special moments. Life is full of other stuff, it is full of routines, of ordinary things: we work, we eat, we sleep, we play and relax, we suffer and feel pain, we sorrow and grieve, we are insulted and injured, we struggle and fight against trials and tribulations.  In these ordinary times we are as well in ordinary places, at home, at work, in hospital, visiting with a friend, driving in our cars, standing in elevators, or sitting in a lobby or a meeting room. 


These ordinary times, and these ordinary places, these times when we are not taking time to be "holy", and those places where we do not expect to meet God but are actually getting on - or trying to get on - with living our lives, those are the times and the places where God often meets us.     (From Pastor Randy's Sermon on 2/1-2, 2014)

From Pamela

So many times I have heard people say "that's an answer to prayer" when something good, or hoped for, or even expected happens.  I won't argue that the "good" development may well be an answer -- However, for most of us there are chapters when it is almost impossible to see anything "good" happening.  For most of us there are at least some hopes or expectations that do not come to fruition.   There is no sense of peace or contentment.  No happiness.  No foreseeable end to pain.  

That is when we surrender -- "God help me -- as only you can."

And then, eventually, the consolation and tender mercy of God will emerge.  

The answer to prayer that emerges is that in our suffering there is an awareness that something "more" is happening.  We may not recognize it at first.  And it may be revealed in a surprise, or some foolish notion.  But, amazingly, it gains momentum and begins to bear the fruit of wisdom.  
The beatitudes (read Matthew 5:1-12 again) sound like foolishness to some.  Yet they are the statements of wisdom about what God is often up to in our dangerous world.   

These ordinary times, and these ordinary places, these times when we are not taking time to be "holy", and those places where we do not expect to meet God but are actually getting on - or trying to get on - with living our lives, those are the times and the places where God often meets us. 
ordinary times we are as well in ordinary places, at home, at work, in hospital, visiting with a friend, driving in our cars, standing in elevators, or sitting in a lobby or a meeting room.
These ordinary times, and these ordinary places, these times when we are not taking time to be "holy", and those places where we do not expect to meet God but are actually getting on - or trying to get on - with living our lives, those are the times and the places where God often meets us. 
ordinary times we are as well in ordinary places, at home, at work, in hospital, visiting with a friend, driving in our cars, standing in elevators, or sitting in a lobby or a meeting room.
These ordinary times, and these ordinary places, these times when we are not taking time to be "holy", and those places where we do not expect to meet God but are actually getting on - or trying to get on - with living our lives, those are the times and the places where God often meets us. 
ordinary times we are as well in ordinary places, at home, at work, in hospital, visiting with a friend, driving in our cars, standing in elevators, or sitting in a lobby or a meeting room.
These ordinary times, and these ordinary places, these times when we are not taking time to be "holy", and those places where we do not expect to meet God but are actually getting on - or trying to get on - with living our lives, those are the times and the places where God often meets us. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Let it be

Last week we heard the story about Jesus' baptism.  When Jesus walked up to John the Baptist, John hesitated to proceed with the baptism -- John had some ideas about Jesus' identity, and about Jesus' role in the future.  They could have stood there in that moment and debated about what course of action to take, but Jesus responded with a statement about "now" (the present moment they both occupied

 “‘Let it be so now; for it is proper for us to in this way to fulfill all righteousness.’” Then John consented.  “Let it be so now,” is the mark of the new beginning.  Similar to January first, similar to that new year’s resolution, similar to that dreaming or thinking about change or starting over, nothing happens until we say: “Let is be so now.”  It is the move toward a new future.  For Jesus it would mean his baptism into his reason for coming, to be the Messiah for the world.  (From Pastor Randy's sermon 2/11-12)

From Pamela:  

Those words-- Let it be--unleash power.  Whether they are spoken by God, or by Mary, Mother of God, or Jesus or John the Baptist or by you or by me, "Let it be so" says that we are willing to acknowledge what is going on right now.  Sometimes we can't move forward along the path of transformation unless we state our awareness of what is really happening NOW.  Oh, sure, we can move forward with our own set of expectations.  We can manipulate our understanding and try to create our own future according to our own agenda.  

However -- God invites us to let God be God and to let God guide and support us as we move along the path which is God's intention for our future.  

And it all begins with looking honestly at where we are and what is going on around and within us and saying "Let it be so".  

Nothing will happen (in terms of ongoing transformation) until you say those words.  They acknowledge your willingness to move from where you are (with God) to where God can take you.  

Let it be.  

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Consider the power of the Christmas story: the amazing depths and breadth and heights to which God's love for us will go. We feel the echoes of that love every time we peer into that dimly lit stable.  And, sometimes in the process, the Light of the World is born again in us. Then we have the joy of being granted the right to become the children of God.   (From Pastor Randy's Sermon on January 4-5 2014)

From Pamela:  I have spent the last couple of days beginning to take down my Christmas decorations.    I still love having a "real" Christmas tree and "real" flowers and greenery.  These real decorations need to be watered regularly and lavishly whenever they are inside.  (Otherwise they become fire hazards).   Even with care, they only last for a few weeks, at most.  Finally they wilt, dry out and need to be discarded.  They require more fuss, and they create much more muss than artificial decorations, but the fragrance they emit has never been replicated by aroma therapy.   Furthermore, I have just enough of a stubborn streak in me that I resist the convenience of the artificial Christmas decor.  

I am reminded by Pastor Randy's words of the stubborn nature of God's love for us.  Nomatter how life wears us down throughout the year, the emergence (anew) of God's love in Christ effectively meets our every need.  On the other hand, some of us may have had a year of abundance -- we may have entered December rooted in sophistication or the complexity of what we are "able" to do with our intellect, energy and sense of control.   Even then,  the simple gift of God's love in Christ trumps and transcends any abundance that the world or our human power produced since Christmas 2012.  

As children of God, we are filled to the brim of our being.  We are saturated with everything we need to know about what is true and lasting.  God's gift is REAL, and ABIDING.  Everything that we accumulate on our own is in some way artificial.  Even if our accumulations seem to enhance the quality of our life, they will eventually become worn out, used up or discarded.  

What did you receive this Christmas that is real?  What did you receive that is artificial?  How will you respond?  How will you stay close to the source of life so that what is REAL can be nourished and protected?  

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Expectation.  Maybe during this time of the year, expectation runs at one of its highest given the season.  Children are bouncing off the walls to see what will appear under the tree in a matter of ten days; others are excited for this major snowfall; some have great anticipation as they are going to experience that first Christmas with a newlywed or a new born.  Maybe it is the first Christmas in a new house, or you perhaps are even celebrating it in a new way.  Whatever situation people find themselves in; there is a level of hopeful expectation. 

However, as we know and often experience, sometimes our expectations are not met.  Sometimes things do not turn out the way we think they should.  Sometimes we are expecting happiness and we overlook joy....
What are your expectations?  How do you expect God to come to you this season?  Where are you looking?   Do we sometimes look in the wrong places?  Do we miss it when it happens?  Are we caught up in seeking happiness and missing joy? 
(From Pastor Randy's Sermon) 

From Pamela -- My life has rarely been filled with expectations that are met.  For some reason my greatest sorrows and my greatest joys have generally been unanticipated and unbidden.  There has generally been a balance of loss/gain, pain/pleasure, brokenness/reconciliation.  
Just recently I experienced a situation that seemed that it would be, at best, "positive" -- My younger brother is seriously ill.  My older brother arrived from out of town and we were debating about going to the hospital.  Why debate?  Because these two men have not spoken for nearly a decade, and have not seen each other for 7 years.  What was always a strained relationship had become totally alienated.  
Yet, as is so often the case, with grave illness hitting my younger brother, the older man felt that he "should" see his younger brother while he could.  
I did not see how the visit could be anything but painful -- my younger brother is very skilled at cutting himself off from others without ever looking back.  
Yet we went to the hospital room.  
Upon seeing my face, my "little" brother's face lit up as it so often does.  Then I announced:  "There is somebody else here to see you!"
When my older brother came around the corner, my younger brother's face was, literally, like the young boy seeing Christmas Morning miracles.  Then he said:  "Oh my God, I have missed you, brother!"
No words can contain the abundant joy in that moment -- totally unprecedented.  unexpected and mysterious.  
With the grave illness still raging, happiness is still elusive when it comes to my younger brother.  However, JOY is very much alive, well, and vibrant!  


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Preaching judgment is the easy part.  Sometimes we know other Christians who are ready to announce this judgment on people or other faith denominations; sometimes those people are us too.  When people talk to others who aren't interested in the church, it's almost always because they believe that the church is more interested in judgment than it is in peace, acceptance, grace and salvation.  Sometimes, we have communicated really clearly about sin but not so clearly about the love of Christ.  What an indictment of our core message!  Perhaps Christianity has given the impression that our sinfulness is more powerful than the saving One, Jesus Christ, who is the heart of God beating in the world. The one who is coming is more powerful than me, even more powerful than my brokenness.  It is only the relentless and ongoing announcement of love and peace coming that will inspire us to change and to live from its power.

Jesus is the one who enters into the heart of human life, takes into himself all those things that separate us from God.  He steps into the gap between our inner life and our external behavior.  His work ends, not in self-righteous satisfaction of letting sinners have it.  It ends at the cross. And then, on Easter morning, what the broken get is new life.  Judgment may burn us up, but grace ignites us to be alive again.  

(From Pastor Randy's Sermon)

From Pamela:  Lutheran homiletics (the art of preaching) always teaches a balance of "Law" and "Gospel".  The Law part impresses upon us the high priority God's will should have as we make choices about behavior and relationships and priorities.  (That part usually makes us squirm, because we feel judged, yet we know we really can't effectively ALWAYS toe the line -- at least I can't).  Then there is the Gospel that says, you know what?  God knows you can never fully abide by God's Law, so therefore God sent His unconditional Love and Acceptance (in Christ) to complete the gap between God's Law and God's fulfilled promise that we are utterly forgiven and eternally reunited with God.  
I think about the flow of any given worship service -- greeting, confession, forgiveness, scripture, sermon, prayer, offering and then Holy Communion.  Lots of Law and Gospel stuff.... and the Gospel wins!  We are sent out as Gospel People, children of God free to love abundantly and serve others with lavish generosity.  
Yet, even before we walk out of the sanctuary we often kick into judgement of some sort -- and often the worship leaders are the worst -- 
(That didn't work, won't do it that way again, note to self:  next year ...... )  
Let's promise to let the Glorious Gospel of Christmas linger, at least for a while, this year.  Let's resist the temptation to pay attention to anything that disappoints, annoys or (in worst case) offends.  Let us not be ones who gather around critique or analysis of a better way to do Christmas!  Let us hear the amazing news -- the reign of Love has broken in -- no more judgement, no more bondage.  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Last Word

From Pastor Randy's Sermon:

Jesus' words pointed to a future that he knew would be rough for his disciples. He wanted his disciples to be prepared, but also to know that their allegiance and faith in what he was doing would be the final marker to all events that would and could occur.  This can also be the message for us today as well.  Jesus doesn't sugarcoat what lies ahead, but he gives meaning to it.  All of us in our journeys, in one way or another, to one degree or another, will feel persecuted, will feel cheated, will feel great despair, and though our faith does not promise that these things can be avoided, it does tell us that in the end our future is guaranteed.  The last word of God to us and to the world, will be a good word.  A time when all questions are answered, a time of hope and joy that we perhaps cannot even begin to imagine.

From Pamela:  

Do you know anybody who seems to always want the last word in a conversation (or argument)?  You know, the person who comes up with just one more comment or question or gripe?  Or the one who can't leave the space just blank -- 

I can remember how one of my family members would often stomp from the room if he didn't get his way.  We would begin to breathe more freely, and then we would hear him come out of his bedroom, back into the living room with an angry:  "Oh, and just one more thing ...."(and the negativity would begin all over again).  

I must confess, it got to the point where we would laughingly wager on how many minutes would pass between stomp out and re-entry.  

The last say is the speakers effort to control the situation and have lasting impact.   

Jesus proclaimed to the people of his day and to us today that God will have the last say, and that say is a resounding "YES!" to life....  

When disappointment, suffering and loss of any kind seem to close the door of possibilities we are called to stay alert, watching and waiting -- and proclaiming to one another boldly the YES which is God's last word to us.  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Blessed are they

From Pamela:

Pastor Randy proclaimed the good news on Sunday:   Blessed are you when you mourn!  Blessed are you when you are cursed or abused.  What?
And then he proclaimed our part in setting things right by praying for our abusers or enemies or those who persecute us.  What?

From Pastor Randy's Sermon:

Today’s text really gets at the core of some of the more difficult things of life, some of the things that we may agree or desire mentally, but yet are much more difficult to live out.  How do we do good to those who hate us – as Jesus advises us to too?  How are we loving our enemies?  How many of us when we have been struck, hurt or injured, have simply offered up our other cheek?  How many of us, as Jesus literally requests, give to everyone who begs from you? How do we make sense of this?  These are the very words that come out of Jesus’ mouth, how do we deal with them – ignore them, skip over them, soften them, or even sidetrack them?  Do we catch a glimpse of why people of Jesus’ time reacted harshly to what Jesus was saying, so much so that the religious among them, plotted to kill him?

From Pamela:  

I don't know, Pastor.... can it be true, as you said, that praying for our enemies gives us strength?  Praying in our weakness moves us to see how we have been blessed?  
Oh, that is right.... praying constantly, fervently, and trying to discover God praying with us doesn't change the situation or take away the pain we have suffered or caused.  Praying brings us closer to God, the source of all blessing.  Even when I hurt, or am ashamed, or enraged, praying brings me into the heart of God -- where all is "blessed."  
That's the good news!