Monday, July 30, 2012

Externals and internals

Consider these words from Pastor Randy's sermon on Sunday regarding the people who were coming to see  and be with Jesus.
Jesus knew what they were after.  They wanted more miracles. They wanted more bread.  Many were following him--not because they believed he was the Christ, but because they felt he could do things for them no one else could do. Heal their bodies, feed their stomachs, and enliven their weddings.  But as we know Jesus was not doing these things as an end in themselves but to point to and show signs of the Kingdom of God.

Why do you want to spend time with Christ?  Are you looking for temporary relief?  Are you coming because somebody taught you that it is an important thing to do from time to time (every 7 days or every other week?)  Or perhaps you are open to transformation.  Perhaps you want to be molded and shaped in a new way.

What are your motives?  How do they express or affect your general sense of purpose, meaning and direction?  

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Leading up to this weekend

From Pastor Randy (while preparing for this week's sermon)....

We search for our purpose -- individually and together.  Our purpose helps us see what has meaning for us.  Then we ask questions about that meaning -- Its source?  Why has that purpose been given to us?  Where does it lead?  How do we respond? 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Finding the light

Read the story to the right about the visitor looking for the light in the phone booth.   Although pay phones are becoming a thing of the past, most of us (at least those who are over 40) have been in one of those booths.  They are close quarters, aren't they?  They can be stuffy, too!  And depending upon their location they can be terribly filthy.

Yet it is true....  there will be no illumination in the booth unless you close the door.

This idea of going "in" and shutting the door applies to prayer.  In fact, as Jesus taught us to pray, he said:   But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.  Matthew 6:6.  

Have you identified a room where you pray?  As you go deeper with this idea, consider the ways that you enter prayer and "close the door" to distractions so that the focus of heart, soul and mind becomes God -- conversation with God.  

We talked about balance this week -- our activities need balance between action and non-action.  Our prayer needs balance as well.  We speak to God -- God is there.  God speaks to us.  We listen.  (ah!  there's the rub!)  The light of God's presence is there.  

Do you have thoughts about prayer or practices that you have found helpful in terms of "finding the light" of Christ?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Why are we all running so fast?

Sometimes I ask the question, what are we all running so fast for anyway?  Again, I do not count myself as one who has this puzzle solved.  I am not a good example of what Jesus attempts to do in this text.  How do we view our time when we are home in the evening?  Often times I hear people say they are home because they did not have anything to do.  Perhaps, staying at home sometimes is something that we need to do.  I don’t think I live too boring of a life, but have I to be honest and say that one of the things that tended to excite our family when my daughters were growing up was when we had an evening when no one had to be anywhere, and that we are all home at the same time.   Pastor Randy O'Donnell  

Take a look at this week's calendar.  Are there blocks of time with nothing scheduled?  Are you inclined to fill in the time with a commitment?  Can you just let the time remain open and see what shows up for you and your family?  

Friday, July 20, 2012

This Sunday's Lessons

In the face of the Aurora Colorado shootings, how doe these lessons meet you?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Three Questions

How can you discern whether or not the words you are about to speak are called by God? 

Are they true?   According to what you have been taught by Jesus, and according to God's Law, are the words reflective of God's enduring will for justice and peace and abundant life for each person? 

Are they loving?  This doesn't necessary mean that they will be seen as "gentle" or "affectionate".  It means:  Are the words reflective of the love that God has for each of us?  Even if they are tough words that the listener may not want to hear, can they be spoken with an intention rooted in love of God, for all people, and for all of creation? 

Are they necessary?  As you pray about whether or not to speak, does it seem that the words on your tongue must be spoken so that the situation hears a directive that can move it closer to God's Will? 

If the answers to the three questions are all "yes" you can ask for God's help in speaking them.  Do your best, and wherever you fall short, God will most certainly forgive you and "pick up the slack"! 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Are you a prophet?

Think of some of the prophets in the Old Testament:  Moses, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Amos, Isaiah.  I doubt that any of them in their younger years imagined that they would be instructed by God to speak in God's Name.  I can't imagine any of them eagerly planning to stand before crowds shouting out admonitions that were met (most often) with resistance.

After all, it is a basic part of human nature to want to be heard, and at least acknowledged for what has been said.  Even more, humans, in general, want to be accepted and liked, if at all possible.

However, that is not the way things always work when it comes to delivering God's Messages. In fact, if you consistently hit the nerves of humanity with the truth that is most necessary according to the Lord, it is likely that you will die.  Yet as you die you are lifted up in God's arms forever, 

As Pastor Uhle said last Sunday, we are called by Christ to confront evil and proclaim Good News.  We need to live in balance, giving equal attention to what is out of alignment with God's Will AND to the promise that, in the end, God's Will for our eternal forgiveness and salvation has been assured in Christ.
Each of us is likely to be a "minor prophet" as we follow Jesus.  We will be led into situations that are out of line with God's will, and as we proclaim our understanding (hopefully revealed to us by God) of what is going on we may agitate the sources of injustice and inequality.   Most of us will not lose our lives in a literal sense.  Many of us will lose the approval and affirmation of others. But none of us will lose the Love of God. 

Like it or not, want to or not, God may choose you to be prophetic this week.  What will you say?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Flowing with John the Baptist

As our guest preacher today, Rev. John Uhle commented, the gospel lesson for today is indeed heavy in tone.  We read about the gruesome death of John the Baptist, whose life was inextricably interwoven with the ministry of Jesus.  Take time now to read the reflection (click on the link) from one of my other "favorite" preachers, Jan Richardson.

I encourage you to take some time in the next 24 hours to think about what claimed your attention as you either read the Gospel of Mark 6:14-29 or recall today's worship experience. 

What was most compelling?  What bothered, confused or challenged you?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Who do you think you are, anyway?

Mark 6:1-4

He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him.

On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, "Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands!

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him.

Then Jesus said to them, "Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house."

Have you ever said or done something that provoked somebody (usually a defensive somebody) to say "Who do you think you are?" Those words may not be spoken aloud, but quite often they are communicated by gestures, glances (or lack of eye contact) that scream out to us that we are being discounted.

Being discounted is even more painful than being ignored, for we are not discounted unless somebody has actually noticed us and then judged us to be of no account.

This has probably happened to each one of us at some point or another. Depending upon our mindset at the time, we may have tried to assert ourselves more rigorously. Or, if we felt weak, we may have quickly been silenced and tried to disappear.

When we are relying upon our own strength (our ego stuff) to be effective, we respond to the question "who do you think you are" with a long list of our "qualifications" that represent our identity.


When we cling to our baptism and to our status as children of God we respond with power,solidarity and with authority!

We are baptized....and we respond to the question, WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE by proclaiming first WHOSE WE ARE!
We KNOW that we are claimed by Christ and rooted in Christ. All that we say and do in His Name points away from who WE are.

Our words and deeds may generate a degree of resistance from people, especially if we are communicating truth about a situation that calls for change or repentance. Naming a previously ignored or denied truth about a problem often does prompt, initially, some "push back" that conveys: Who do you think you are?

Christ empowers us and calls us to be effective--yes, even to the point of participating in "miracles"--and we do so because we, in baptism, bear His Name. His name empowers our hands, and it directs our words.

Before we go out it is critical that we return to our baptism.  As Luther said, creep back to it daily. Always remind yourself whose YOU ARE and give thanks for the promises unleashed by that truth!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Disappointment or desperation

The weather has been extreme this week.  Suffice to say, most of us have been aware of some shifts of plans or hopes.  I have been aware of the difference between being disappointed and being desperate.  There are many people who have been disappointed because the weather is too hot or too dry.  Perhaps the rain came at the wrong moment (no fireworks, folks.... severe thunder storm ahead).  With disappointment, though, we can regroup and implement plan B -- which can be almost as good as the "A" plan as long as we don't dwell on the disappointment. 

But then there is the point of desperation -- Trees crash, causing loss of property and sometimes life itself.  People are suffering in the heat.   With prolonged power outages in many regions, perishable food is ruined, drinking water becomes unsafe, and there is no readily accessible plan B.  There is nothing to do but wait.  Adapt.  Hope. Trust.  Do anything possible to survive, and then pray for safety and sanity. 

Perhaps you have heard the pleas from the desperate.  Have you found a way to hold them in prayer or offer some kind of hope through word or deed?

Perhaps you have heard the groans of the disappointed.  Have you served as a voice that invites plan B?  Or have you spoken words of gratitude that it is disappointment (rather than desperation) that has entered our life?

One of our responsibilities as disciples is to nurture an attitude of gratitude.  We are to walk with gentleness, generosity and patience. 

So.... how have you been this week?  How has the weather been a factor in how you are as you are doing whatever you are doing? 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Hope? Risk? Dare?

Last Sunday we pondered the inevitability of life's risks.  At some point a situation or relationship will take us to the limit of what is certain and it will be time to step beyond what is known into -- you name it.  Do we step from certainty into hope?  Do we race forward with a daredevil spirit?  Are we willing to risk everything, even the familiarity of our lives, as we lean towards the future?

Revisit these words from Pastor Randy's sermon (reread the Gospel if you wish).

This story does indeed speak about faith.  But the bottom line is, though from completely different backgrounds in life, these two share one crucial thing: taking a risk for that faith.  It was their risk taking that both had in common.  Each had something to lose by expressing their faith.  Jarius, in terms of his social status risked his reputation.  The woman, already looked down upon by society, risked further humiliation and possible punishment.  Jesus sees past all of that.  Jesus sees the risk for the faith.  This is what he wants to instill in all his believers, a willingness to forgo the standards of the world, and to reach out in faith.  A tough challenge for any person of any time or generation.  

As for me (Pamela) I have learned to know the difference between the time I am pushing the odds out of a crazy disregard of common sense (daredevil)... or when I believe that the odds are generally in my favor (hope).  I know that the familiarity of my circumstances (even if they are not particularly ideal) will often prevent me from stepping out -- even uncomfortable familiarity has a degree of comfort because it is predictable.  

Ah!  but Jesus calls us to be ok with taking risks in His Name.  An option may feel odd or uncomfortable.  Or it may even expose you to ridicule, embarrassment or punishment.  Still, when you take risks in His Name,  at the risk of people asking "What are you thinking?" He is at your side reminding you:  Your faith is going to give you power the others may not comprehend!

So, this week, we can be asking ourselves:    

At the edge of all that seems possible, are we being daredevils?  gamblers?  or.... are we seeing that in faith we can take a risk? When we reach out in faith our focus upon Jesus and His promises and His teachings may all cause us to stretch beyond predicted odds for success.  We may set aside the standards of the world.  We may boldly express a hope that contradicts rational expectations.  

Are you taking a risk this week?  Are you in relationship with somebody who needs to be reminded of faith's ability to bridge the gap between a certain present and an uncertain future?