Sunday, March 31, 2013

We know the final outcome, we know the final word. The tomb is empty!
And it is exactly because of this empty tomb that we can know that the light that has burst into the world and has given us a hope that can rise above all things.  For the resurrection hope is what the human heart can run on. 
Hope is what prompts a man and a woman to stand before family and friends and promise “I do” even though they have no guarantees.  Hope is what fuels those same couples despite years of promises broken and hearts damaged, to give their original promise another try.  Hope is why human beings keep bringing children into this fallen world.  Hope is why we build schools and colleges.  Hope is why we build hospitals.  Hope is why there are therapists and counselors.  Hope is why parents agonize over what to do when their children are going through different issues and trials.  Hope is why the farmer plants seeds.  Hope is a composer who starts a piece of music, an artist who picks up a paintbrush, or an author who begins to put words down on a piece of paper.  Hope is why we set our alarms in the morning.  Hope is why the Cleveland Browns even bother to have training camp! 
Hope is why Abraham left his home.  Hope is why Joseph tells dreams. Hope is why Moses is willing to take on the Pharaoh.  Hope is why Samuel anoints the kid David.  Hope is why the prophets are willing to take on the society.  Hope is why John the Baptist begins to baptize people with water.  Hope is why Peter leaves his nets, why Zaccheus climbs down the tree, and why Matthew gives up tax collecting.  Hope is why these same disciples huddled together, stayed together and then were willing to risk their very lives for the hope that they had witnessed. Hope is why we gather to worship the resurrected God.
(From Pastor Randy's Easter Sunday Message) 

From Pamela: I have experienced tiny hopes that flutter with timid understanding of what might be possible.  I have also felt hopes emerging from probability that nothing, most likely, will get in the way of an expansive and joyful future.  
Yet the fulfillment of the hope is what leads me toward the unknown with confidence.  In the situations where hopes were shattered, I may be timid to set out on the same or similar path again.  But hopes fulfilled provide the inspiration and motivation to keep stepping on a path even if its way is obscured by the unknown.  
We can follow Jesus with hope.  Even when we find ourselves walking steps through suffering our major challenges, as long as we are following Jesus we can keep moving -- the fulfilled promises of the resurrection -- Death does not win! --  activate hope even in the midst of the unknowable mysteries we face.  

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday

Are We Willing to Accept Our Cross?

Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.  Psalm 31:5

"Jesus does not say "make a cross" or "look for a cross."  Each one of us has a cross to carry.  There is no need to make one or look for one.  The cross we have is hard enough for us!  But are we willing to take it up, to accept it as our cross?"  Henri Nouwen 

Today is the day when it is important to set aside the plural "we".  Jesus said pick up YOUR cross and follow me.  It is the day to look into the eyes in the mirror and say "Will you pick up your cross and follow?"

Yesterday you heard the "snap" of being broken and poured out for others.  Today take time to look at the realities of your life and see the cross which is yours.  Even today you have the freedom to  choose to ignore, reject, refuse or hate whatever suffering or tribulation is yours.  You can even stay on the sideline and cheer along the other cross bearers, sending out attaboys.   And then, if you wish, you can choose to simply carry on with the life you protect as your own.  Jesus will not force you in any way.

But he said:  "Pick it up.  Follow me."  What will you say?  What will you do?  When you look at this image

do you see Jesus or do you see yourself? 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Have you had enough Lent yet?

There is an old story told about a man who was dreaming that he was witnessing the crucifixion.  In this dream he couldn’t stand the gory thing that was happening as he watched the soldiers’ pound nails through the hands of Jesus.  So finally, in his dream he runs over and grabs a hold of the soldier and turned him around only to see that the face of the soldier was his own face.

This Lent we have been, in our cross of thorn readings, looking at how we participate in that event as well. How is it that we crucify Christ today?  How do we contribute to the crowd mentality to silence the voices we don’t want to hear?  To silence the message that can cause us to question our own motives, to question our priorities, to question our decisions?  How are we sometimes guilty of trying to rid ourselves of the ugliness of the cross of Christianity?  Sometimes, in our own humanity, we only want to hold on to the dawn of Easter morning while wanting to forget the darkness of Good Friday.    (From Pastor Randy's Sermon on March 9-10)

From Pamela:  Even those of us with the best of intentions on the week or two following Ash Wednesday may have reached this point in Lent with some "devotion fatigue" setting in.  We have had conversation as a staff that the Wednesday evening participation drops down as we come to the 4th or 5th Wednesday of Lent.  Perhaps we actually do believe that we have prayed enough, or fasted enough.  I know with the change of the season and the longer daylight hours we may become less inclined to come to church on a Wednesday evening -- it seems much more spring-like to dig around in either the flower bed or our closet.  We want to prepare our property and our wardrobe for spring.  

There is nothing wrong with that.  But maybe it makes sense to pause when we begin to think that Lent is getting to be burdensome or tedious.  

In reality, these next days of Lent (before the familiar patterns of Holy Week) may be times of significant transformation for each person.  As we acknowledge our feelings about the weight of Lent, we can more fully understand the expanse of what what is lifted from us in Easter!  

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

On the Pastor's Mind

 2Corinthians 5:16-21

 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Paul says we are not to regard another from a human point of view....  How in the world do we do that?  How can we see others the way God sees them?  What might we pay attention to when or if  we see them that way? 

Monday, March 4, 2013

No Fast Passes for Faith

We must be careful not to think our faith in God is somehow a permit that lets us escape the difficulty that life can throw our way.

God is not picking on us.  Sometimes, for unknown reasons, the towers fall in our life.  And yes, there are times when towers fall because we have been pulling on them, but many times we may be simply going about our daily life, and the next thing we know either physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually, the tower comes crashing down on us.  How do we respond when they do?

When it comes to maturing in our faith by undergoing hard times, or temptation – we would all love to be exempt.  We want the joy, we want the Fast Pass,

but not the trials that bring us a deeper understanding to life.

How is your journey this Lenten season?  For despite the burdens, despite the anguish, we can be reminded of the purpose of the cross.  It does not rescue us from our circumstances, but it does save us from our failings.  The journey from the cross to the empty tomb reminds us how far God is willing to go.  It reminds us of who has the ultimate and final word about all circumstances.  It reminds us that despite current challenges that we may be facing, God’s love, God’s grace, God’s presence will not be altered.  

(From Pastor Randy's Sermon 3/2-3)