MOTHERS IN FAITH

MOTHERS IN FAITH

Whether you are fortunate enough to see your mother today, or if you’ll be talking to her on the phone, or thinking of her in Heaven, please take a moment to consider the other mothers who enrich your life – grandmothers, aunts, and friends. And, give thanks for the mothers of the church, the women who, regardless of their personal status as mothers, devote themselves to the children of God.

This congregation is so blessed by these women who serve quietly, humbly, and faithfully. You know some of them well – women like Sandra Masted, Donna Anderson, and Thelma Simmons, who are always leading us closer to the Lord.

But there are so many others in our midst, and you may not know them. You should, because these women are remarkable. They sing and teach, sharing their God-given talents to deepen our relationship with Him. They lead committees that grow and strengthen our community. They gather together to study the Bible and then share what they’ve learned with us, so we can grow in the Word. They tend to the altar and distribute the flowers, making our worship beautiful and sending that beauty home with us. They quilt and crochet, reach out with food and hope to those in need.

And like the most faithful of mothers, these women serve selflessly, serving all of God’s children because it is what He asks of us. They teach us by example, inspiring us to be more like them as they strive to be more like Christ. They honor the saints who came before them, minister to their peers, and lift up the generations that follow them, with love, justice, and grace.

We should thank the Lord for these women every day, just as we should thank Him for our own mothers daily. Today, take a moment to thank these women directly. If you don’t know any of them, stay for our Mother’s Day coffee on the patio and let me introduce you to one or two. You’ll be blessed to know them.

“For the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is His Name.
His mercy is for those who fear Him
from generation to generation.”
Luke 1:49-50

ON THE ROAD

ON THE ROAD

Last Sunday’s Gospel, the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, stuck with me all week. My thoughts returned again and again not to the later moment when the disciples recognized Jesus, but to the moment He first walked up to them and heard them talking. I kept wondering, “If Jesus walked up behind me and overheard my conversation, what would He hear?”

It would be wonderful if He caught me having a profound discussion of theology with an equally passionate friend; I am blessed to have those discussions and to have those friends. It’d also be terrific if He overheard me counting my blessings, because I have those conversations, too. Occasionally.

But, if I’m honest about probability and statistics, He’d no doubt hear me fretting about deadlines, grousing about colleagues, and agonizing over culture and politics. There’s not a whole lot of love in those chats. But there should be.

It’s easy to forget that Jesus overhears every conversation we have. And He longs to be part of each one. When we truly let Him into our conversations, they change. We stop gossiping about people and start talking about how to help them. We stop complaining about problems and start discussing how to fix them. We stop being angry and defensive and become positive and collaborative. Criticism becomes construction, disdain gives way to compassion, and exclusion turns into inclusion. Our words and our actions flow from a place of love – His love, shining through us.

As we walk the road of life together, let us remember to fill our words – and hearts – with that love. Jesus is walking right behind us, listening and waiting for the moment to join our conversations and our lives. Let’s turn around and invite Him in. Let’s urge Him to stay, so our hearts may burn within us with His power and love.

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”
1 Corinthians 13:1-2

STAND FIRM

STAND FIRM

I spent my childhood in places where hurricanes are the most common natural disaster, so I’m wired to worry when the wind blows hard. Wednesday night, I listened to the wind howl and prayed our trees would withstand the fury. I also fretted and flinched every time a pine cone plummeted from above and smacked the roof. I turned on the news and found the footage of toppled trees more upsetting than informative. As I struggled to get to sleep, I remembered we had our trees evaluated and pruned in anticipation of such storms; even though the storms had come later than we’d expected, the trees were ready. Weren’t they?

Thursday morning, we only had a few small boughs down, along with a normal number of pine cones. When the winds returned Thursday night, I was able to sleep comfortably, thankful the trees were in good shape.

Friday morning, I gave prayers of thanks for the absence of detritus in the yard. And I gave thanks for the realization that we are like trees, often buffeted by unexpected storms in life. But if we’ve pruned hate, doubt, and fear from our lives, we can withstand the winds. If we’ve kept our spiritual roots healthy – watered them with the Living Water, fed them with the Word, and centered them in love and grace – we will survive the storms. We may snap and crack along the edges, but we will remain whole and upright, reaching toward Heaven and not bowing to the Earth.

We follow the Lord who calmed the storm. No matter how the winds may howl, He does not desert us. As hard as life may work to uproot us, He holds us secure in His love. Let us stand firm, anchored in that love, holding fast against the storms, that we may encourage others to root themselves in His salvation.

“Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and He brought them out of their distress.
He stilled the storm to a whisper;
the waves of the sea were hushed.
They were glad when it grew calm,
and He guided them to their desired haven.”
Psalm 107:28-30

HOLDING ON

HOLDING ON

Compared to all the activities of Holy Week and Easter itself, the days following Easter can seem quiet. Historically, this first Sunday after Easter sees some of the lowest church attendance of the entire year. And yet, the days immediately following the first Easter were crucial to the disciples of Christ, as they struggled to absorb all that had happened and reframe all that they knew in the new context of the Resurrection. Because we know the entire story, it may be hard for us to fully comprehend the paradigm shift for His followers in those first few days. They thought they had understood Jesus’ mission and all it meant to follow Him, but everything took on new scope and power as they came to understand the truth of the Resurrection.

From the beginning of those forty amazing days between Easter and the Ascension, Jesus impressed on His followers that they did not have much time together. He told Mary in the garden, “Do not hold on to me,” sending her to tell the others that He had risen and there was much to be done before He returned to the Father.

In the afterglow of Easter, we may be inclined to rest on the assurance of the Resurrection. But if we truly believe in the miracle, we know it is just the beginning. We hold on to the promise of the Resurrection not merely through praise and thanksgiving, but being His disciples here and now. We cannot leave our hearts and minds in a spiritual upper room, waiting for the Lord to return; we must be His hands and heart in the world, reaching out to those in need, those who do not know Him and those who have lost Him.

In the forty days of Lent, we honor the sacrifice of Jesus. In these forty days as we approach Ascension Day, let us honor the work of Jesus. Let us hold on to Him by embracing His people, by putting new hearts in His hands, by living our lives for Him.

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

James 2:14-17

GO INSTEAD

GO INSTEAD

Welcome to the garden!

Even as we gather in our sanctuary this morning, we truly stand in the garden where Mary encountered Jesus. Like her, we may be slow to grasp the full significance of all it means to be in the presence of the One who suffered so we would be spared, who died so we might live, who died so we would have eternal life. Like her, we must shake off our awe and throw away our doubt. We must open ourselves completely to the miracle of the Resurrection and embrace our Savior with gratitude and devotion.

This is the end of our Lenten journey, but it is the beginning of another. Like Mary, we may want to cling to the joy, we may want to savor the delight of our individual relationship with the Lord, but there is work to be done. In the first moments of their reunion, Jesus tells Mary to go spread the word, the great and glorious news of His Resurrection. We too are charged on this Easter morning with the same sacred task.

We are the people of the Resurrection. We know what it means to be loved despite our failings and flaws. We know how it feels to be forgiven even when we struggle to forgive ourselves. We know how the power and beauty of God’s grace transforms our lives and guides us along His path. We need to share that, in word and deed.

It’s wonderful here in the garden, but this is not where we’re meant to stay. We come to celebrate, to share our joy and love with one another, but we also come to prepare, to soak up the strength and the passion of this day, so we can arm ourselves for the magnificent task ahead – sharing the Good News and showing how God’s love in action can change hearts, lives, and the whole word.

Let us go forth, in joy and in power. He is risen. He is risen, indeed!

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to My brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that He had said these things to her.”
John 20:17-18

LOVE GIVING 7

As we arrive at Palm Sunday, Holy Week stretches out before us, with its wonders and mysteries, its joys and sorrows. As we seek a final way to love giving for Lent, let us give glory to God with our every word, thought, and action. Let us make our journey from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday a powerful reflection of all that He has done for us.

Sing with joy when God gives you what you’ve been asking for, and sing even louder when He gives you something else, because He alone knows best what you truly need.

Take pains to be humble, knowing that fortunes can change in a moment and only God is eternal.

Walk down the street confidently, no matter what people may be shouting, knowing that Jesus walks with you.

Show gratitude to those who help you, and be quick to help others, even those who insist they don’t need it.

Break bread with those you love most and, although they may break your heart, ask God to bless them.

Stay awake to both the pleasures and the pains of the world, because a sleeping heart becomes deaf to the Word of God.

Endure pain, ridicule, and betrayal with a steadfast heart, knowing that the Lord will never abandon you.

Walk the path of the Lord, when your burden is great, when the road is broken, when you are broken, for His path is the only route to Heaven.

Even in the midst of a seemingly endless night, remember that the Light always returns.

Be faithful, even when faced with seemingly impossible obstacles, and know that your faithfulness will be rewarded.

Greet your Savior in every place and in every face in which you see Him, and greet Him in joy and thanksgiving.

Proclaim to everyone, through your words and through your life, that Jesus is Lord. Give Him glory in all things, in Lent and always.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
Colossians 3:17

LOVE GIVING 6

As Ash Wednesday approached, I spent time praying about what I should give up or give for Lent. It occurred to me that, given my lifelong struggle with my temper, I might work on giving up grudges.

I’m quick to remember those who’ve hurt me, and even quicker to remember those who’ve hurt the people I love. My desire to forgive is often at war with my desire to guard against further hurt. I can remember my father quoting, tongue only partly in cheek, John F. Kennedy’s admonition: “Forgive your enemies, but don’t forget their names.” His point was that it’s important to know, in business and in life, who you can trust.

But if we’re keeping track of hurts, nurturing our grudges, are we truly forgiving? Or are we keeping the initial wound alive and allowing it to infect our hearts with anger and pain? In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul says such behavior gives the devil a foothold in our lives.

And what about the people we have hurt? No human being goes through the imperfect struggles of life without hurting someone else, even though it might have been unintentional. Do we want those we’ve hurt brooding on our trespasses, or are we eager to repent sincerely and contritely and have them forgive us?

As we follow the footsteps of Jesus through Lent, we walk from the desert, filled with despair and temptation, to the empty tomb, shining with hope and the ultimate forgiveness. Jesus died to forgive us everything. And He doesn’t just wipe away our sins, He offers us the hope and the courage necessary to overcome our pain and doubt, the strength required to rebuild, and the joy in finding a new way.

Through Lent into Easter and beyond, let us seek to give forgiveness to each other and to ourselves, so we may draw nearer to Jesus and more closely follow His example.

“So watch yourselves. If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”

Luke 17:3-4

LOVE GIVING 5

LOVE GIVING 5

At the Town Hall last week, we wrestled with some big questions about the future direction of our congregation. While some of the questions were daunting, the greater truth was inspiring: We are in this together. We are committed to the work of the Lord. We are linked together as the body of Christ.

As we follow Christ, during Lent or any other time of year, we will face challenges, surprises, and even roadblocks. But we can be assured that we will never face any of these moments alone. First and foremost, God is with us every step of the way, supporting us with His ineffable love. But we also walk with the saints, those who have gone before us and those who are on their own journey right now, right beside us. Our power is in our community, our connection with each other and with the Lord.

But community does not appear on its own. Community is constructed by willing hearts who reach out to each other, forming connections, building bridges, and creating friendships. Sometimes, we reach out to offer help. Sometimes, we reach out to teach or to guide, to lift up or to heal. And sometimes, we reach out simply to say “Hello,” or “You are not alone,” or “All are welcome here.”

We are a dynamic and active congregation, but we cannot become so focused on our tasks that we forget the greatest calling we receive from God – to reach out to the world and let all come to know Him, His Word, and His Love through us. As we continue to seek ways in which to love giving this Lent, let us reach out to those around us. Greet someone after worship today; perhaps you know them and just haven’t said hello in a while, or perhaps you haven’t had the chance to meet them yet. Invite someone to worship on Sundays or Wednesdays, or to Bible Study. Suggest to a friend that you meet not just for coffee, but for prayer. Each invitation, each extension of your hand and your heart builds our community and strengthens the body of Christ. May God bless our efforts.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Hebrews 10:24-25

LOVE GIVING 4

LOVE GIVING 4

In preparation for today’s Town Hall, the Visioning Committee met with Pastor Marj, a member of Bishop Erwin’s staff. She shared that the ELCA is working to shift the church’s approach to charity from doing things for people to doing things with people. While supporting causes financially is still crucial, the national church asks us to engage personally with those who need our help. As we search for ways to love giving, aren’t we being called to give compassion?

Compassion is easy to feel, and we are surrounded by those who need it. Tragic stories are never further away than social or print media. Suffering exists all around us, in people who are broken by sin or sadness, people who feel cut off from or cast out of community. People are starving for food, for opportunity, for meaningful connection. People are struggling to rebuild lives that have been devastated by war and famine, abuse and addiction. We can weep for them, pray for them, write checks to the people who are actively engaged in helping them.

But if we remain at arm’s length, are we truly giving to them – or are we giving to an idea? Are we giving to make them feel better – or to make ourselves feel better? Jesus dined with the outcasts and embraced the lepers. If we wall ourselves off from those who need us, aren’t we rejecting His example?

True compassion is love in action. That action might be as simple and immediate as taking the hand of someone who needs your forgiveness. It could be as complex and long-term as building a social justice campaign here in our congregation that genuinely involves our members with a community that needs us. Whatever the scope, the result is the same: By giving compassion, we grow closer to the people Jesus asks us to love, and we become more like the people Jesus asks us to be.

This Lent, give compassion.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

LOVE GIVING 3

LOVE GIVING 3

Even as we talk about how we can love giving, it may seem counterintuitive, in this season of Lent, to think about giving joy. Yet as I sat in the Wednesday Worship Show this week, watching some of the amazingly talented actors and sings with which this congregation is blessed, I was filled with joy. I was struck by the selfless joy with which they delivered the Lenten message. These men and women use the talents God has given them to share the Gospel in a new and invigorating way. They let His glory shine through their words and actions. The power of His glory and their delight in sharing it resonates with me long after I’ve gone home.

Our choirs and praise teams perform the same beautiful ministry on Sundays. From the youngest children’s choir, whose pride and happiness radiate as they sing out for their Lord, to our Cathedral Choir, whose powerful talent and conviction deeply move me on a regular basis, to the praise team, whose energizing and enlightening songs recharge my spirit, they are blessings.

What if we each set out to share the Gospel with the zeal of these artists? What if we dedicated ourselves to finding a way to explain what God has done for us that leaves those we meet with a smile and a new eagerness to draw near to Him? What if we learned to turn our very lives into joyous songs of praise?

You don’t have to be an artist to give joy. You only have to open your heart. As Hank Williams wrote:

When God dips His pen of love in my heart
And writes my soul the message He wants me to know
His spirit all divine fills this sinful soul of mine
When God dips His love in my heart
I said I wouldn't tell it to a living soul
How He brought salvation when He made me whole
But I found I couldn't hide
Such love as Jesus did impart

This Lenten season, sing out. Give joy.

“Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.”

Psalm 95:1

LOVE GIVING 2

LOVE GIVING 2

We began Lent by looking at the importance of centering our giving in love. Now, let’s look at how we can enact that love. If we’re emulating the sacrificial love of Christ, we can’t just drop a check in the offering plate and think we’re done (though as a member of the Stewardship Committee, I heartily encourage that as a first step).

Let us look for ways to extend ourselves and involve ourselves with our neighbors, especially those in need. There are diverse and vibrant service groups within our congregation, and you may already be part of one: the Comforters, the Prayer Shawl Ministry, the Homeless Kits Ministry, the Sunday School and Bible Study teachers, to name just a few. If you aren’t involved in one of these but would like to be, you’ll be welcomed.

Perhaps our existing groups don’t speak to your particular gifts or area of interest. Perhaps there’s an unaddressed need you’d like to fill or a problem you’d like to correct. Start a new ministry and encourage those around you to join you. What better time than Lent to use your gifts and channel your desires into meaningful service that can change lives while honoring God?

When we serve our neighbors with a humble and willing heart, we are truly God’s hands. We don’t just give of ourselves, we share Him. We reassure those who know Him. We introduce Him to those who have never met Him. We remind those who have forgotten Him that He still loves them.

And our own bonds with God are strengthened because we have found new and vigorous ways to do the simplest but most powerful thing He asks of us: We demonstrate that we love Him and we love each other. This Lent, give love by giving service in His Name.

“Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Matthew 25:34-36

LOVE GIVING 1

LOVE GIVING 1

Lent begins Wednesday. As we’ve discussed before, the Lutheran Church now encourages us to see Lent as a time not to give up something that reminds you of your sin, but to take on tasks that remind you of your redemption. As our Year of Change stewardship program begins, we are in an excellent position to use the discipline of Lent to prayerfully consider these weeks as a time simply to give – of our time and our talents, as well as our treasures.

In the coming weeks, we’ll look at the ways in which we can give to our congregation, our community, and our world during Lent. But as a starting point, to paraphrase Francis Schaeffer, “How should we then give?”

Lent is traditionally considered a time of serious, even dark, contemplation. This encourages inward thinking. But when we remember why Jesus endured His forty days of suffering and temptation, we can see Lent as a season of amazing sacrificial love, a foreshadowing of His ultimate gift of love on the cross. This encourages outward thinking and action.

So if we’re going to model our Lenten behavior after His, let us dig deep. Let us give with the certainty that comes from offering something not because we think we won’t miss it, but because we know that the recipient shouldn’t live without it. Let us give with the purpose that comes from having our priorities in order and the desire to share that purpose. Let us give with love.

However you choose to honor Lent this year, may the Holy Spirit move you to do so with love. May you find that you love giving to others and to the Lord. And may that love propel you to wonderful discoveries about your relationship with others and with the Lord throughout this amazing season.

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.”

2 Peter 3:10-12

SOLVING THE PUZZLE

SOLVING THE PUZZLE

It was a delight to see so many of our youth rush forward at the end of the Wednesday Worship Show this week, eager to share what they’d learned during the Pokemon: Fruits of the Spirit series. They’ve been following the series since October and collecting ‘clues” in chapel since last month. Wednesday night, they were able to apply the clues to the drama, enjoying and underlining the essential message about how the love of Jesus makes life sweeter for all who follow Him.

A wonderful aspect of the conversation was their fierce assurance that all the puzzle pieces fit together easily. They understood that Jesus loves them and, if they love Him in return, their reward will be great. How often adults lose sight of the powerful simplicity of God’s love: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved,” Paul and Silas told the jailer. As we discussed with the youth, it’s easy to get distracted by the pursuit of all the things we think will make life more meaningful and more enjoyable, and to lose sight of the ultimate fulfillment of a life lived in Christ.

We have a responsibility to teach the young people in our lives the importance of pursuing a relationship with God before they pursue riches, power, or fame. We also have a responsibility to remind each other of the same priority, for we know how easily we become distracted in our daily struggle to accomplish everything we think we need to do.

The beauty of being in community with other believers is knowing that, should we, in our haste and distraction, drop the puzzle and see it fragment into pieces, we are surrounded by brothers and sisters in faith who will drop to their knees with us. They will help us pick up the pieces and put them together again, with God at the center as He always should be.

Let us give thanks for the young hearts opened to Christ. Let us continue to teach them, and each other, to build their lives around Him, for our salvation and to His glory.

“For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

Romans 10:10

THE PRICE OF LOVE

THE PRICE OF LOVE

If you’ve been preparing for Valentine’s Day by shopping for roses or elegant chocolates or fancy dinners, you may have had occasion to wonder if it’s possible to put a price on love. We want to give gifts that speak to the depth of our love – but we want to watch our budget, too.

CASTING LIGHT

CASTING LIGHT

Groundhog Day has long been a holy day in my family. My brother came to Christ through baptism on February 2, 1964; our father went home to the Lord on February 2, 2007.

Perhaps my parents selected the date for Eric’s baptism because it was Candlemas, which honors the presentation of the infant Jesus at the temple; I never thought to ask. Instead, I teased my brother about being baptized on Groundhog Day: If he saw his reflection in the font, did that mean he got an extra six weeks of grace? And God alone selected that date for my father.

This year, I smiled anew at the irony of these important events happening on a day when we delight in the silliness of whether or not a rodent sees his shadow. But then I thought about the mark my father left on the world and the mark my brother is still making – marks made not by casting shadows but by erasing them. The marks made by casting light into the dark places, by working hard to make the world a better place for everyone. The marks created by a life lived in hope, charity, and love, a life centered in faith.

Each day, we lift our heads into a new day and make a choice: Are we looking for light or for darkness? Are we living for truth or for easy answers? Are we serving God or ourselves?

In challenging days like these, we must not let the shadows of fear, hatred, and anger darken our world. God charges His children to shine His light so the shadows are vanquished. He commands us to love one another, to see and respect His light in each other. He commands us to love Him so His light burns in us eternally.

This is a time in our community, in our nation and world, for people of faith to stand tall. May the Holy Spirit embolden us to stand proudly and to radiate the love of Christ Jesus in all we do, think, and say May we cast light. May love triumph.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Matthew 5:14-16

PUZZLE IT OUT

PUZZLE IT OUT

I’m a Word Whizzle fanatic. It’s a puzzle game I play on my phone when I’m waiting somewhere. The goal is to find the words made by adjacent tiles. The trick is, there are often words in the tiles that don’t fit in the category, yet those are the words I keep finding. Or I lock into part of a word that fits, but I can’t complete it. Often my frustration gets in the way of my problem-solving, and I have to close the app and do something else. But, delightfully, once I’ve shaken the improper words out of my head, I can open the app again and, suddenly, the correct words are clear and obvious.

It’s a lot like prayer.

I bring a problem to God (usually after wasting time trying to solve it myself), a problem that has me so jumbled that I can’t find the right words. And yet, even as I ask for His help, I think I can tell God what He needs to do for me to address the problem. Then I get lost in the maze of my own thoughts and desires, and I can’t see the answers He’s trying to give me. It’s only when I remember to shut down my clamoring thoughts and listen to God, mind clear and refreshed, that I hear Him completely, that I see His will for me, that I can rejoice in the solutions with which He blesses me.

Sometimes, I can’t get clear enough to hear Him by myself. That’s when I turn to the prayer warriors in my life and ask them to pray with me and for me, when I borrow from their strength until the Holy Spirit can renew mine. Together, we pray. Together, we seek answers. Together, we discern God’s love and will.

Our lives are filled with challenges on every level. Let us approach these problems with clear heads and open minds, directed by God. He doesn’t need our answers. He needs our trust, devotion, and love. He needs us to come together in prayer, unity, and service. Let us embrace His answers with joy, and be eager to put those answers into practice in our lives and in the world.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:6-7

LET IT RAIN

LET IT RAIN

LET IT RAIN

  It was inevitable, I suppose. Californians have endured years of drought that have scorched our state and altered our way of life. We wondered if we’d ever see any relief. At last, the rain has returned, filling the aquifers, reviving the landscape – and we’d like it to stop.

 

   Yes, there are portions of the state where they’re suffering from mudslides, flooding, and other devastating side effects of so much rain. But many of us aren’t being inconvenienced beyond trying to remember if we own umbrellas, or getting wet in the few feet from the car to the house.

   Isn’t this a familiar pattern? We say we want change, then complain when God brings it, because His change requires us to change, too. We may have to get rid of bad habits, or reassess relationships, or commit more fully to serving Him. But when we have been parched, even dying of thirst, because of the lack of Living Water in our lives, how can we be anything but grateful when the Lord offers us a deluge of His love?

   God hears our prayers, and He sends us the answers we need. Sometimes, what we need and what we asked for are two different things. Sometimes, we think a sip of water will do, but God knows we need a torrent. It’s up to us, as His thirsty children, to welcome His answers with open minds and hearts, even when the force of His love can challenge us to the core.

   We have work to do, for the Lord and for each other. Let us break out our boots of faith, which let us stand firm and tall no matter the spiritual weather. Let us boldly ask God to shower us with the blessings we need, and let us joyfully welcome the downpour He sends. Let us come together to discern how God would have us serve Him. Let us work, gladly and tirelessly, in the healing rain.

            “Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!”

                        James 5:7-9

A VOICE OF CHANGE

A VOICE OF CHANGE

Martin Luther King, Jr., the remarkable man of God whose birthday we celebrate this weekend, was born Michael King, Jr. His father, a Baptist minister, attended an international conference in Germany in 1934, when his son was five; King, Sr. was so impressed by what he learned about Martin Luther during his trip that, upon returning to the United States, he changed his name – and that of his son – to honor the reformer.

   As we begin our Year of Change, it’s inspiring to reflect on the connections between Martin Luther and Martin Luther King, Jr. Both men sought to change a broken system through adherence to the truth of the Gospel. Both made a stand rooted in equality, love, and non-violence, and endured brutal responses. They faced outrage and punishment from an entrenched, entitled establishment. They recognized there was no greater calling than to live out the Gospel, in word and deed, no matter the cost. Luther was able to escape those who sought to kill him; King was not as fortunate.

   It’s sobering to realize that 500 years after Luther and 50 years after King, there is still so much work to do in the name of equality and Christian love. It is our duty to respond gladly. We cannot turn a deaf ear to the call of the Holy Spirit, who encourages us to love one another, to serve and forgive and teach one another. Like King and Luther, like Peter and Paul, we must be willing to set aside everything we think matters to do the one thing that truly matters – to strive to be like Jesus with every breath we take.

   In this Year of Change, may we follow the example of Luther and King. They showed us the immense change that can come from one person who stands with God and declares his allegiance to the Gospel. May we open our hands to God’s work, our minds to God’s work, and our hearts to God’s people.

            “We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will.”

                        Martin Luther King, Jr., on the eve of his death

A YEAR OF CHANGE

A YEAR OF CHANGE

Friday, we celebrated Epiphany, the revelation of the Messiah to the Gentile world. It is a day both gentle and cataclysmic, showing the tenderness and the power of God’s love for us. It is a day that changed the world.

Devotional for January 01, 2017 - A FRESH START

Devotional for January 01, 2017 - A FRESH START

Happy New Year! What a delight to be able to begin a new year on the Lord’s Day. To start this year with our hearts and minds set on worship is a blessing. To enter this next chapter freshly forgiven, with the sins and sorrows of the past year discarded behind us, is a gift.