Captive Free Event

Last weekend our congregation hosted a ministry called Youth Encounter.  A band that tours the United States by the name of Captive Free came for a Saturday night concert and helped to lead Sunday School and our later worship service on Sunday morning.  What an important ministry!  Here are some pictures.

The Antidote to Nostalgia

israelites gathering manna

The story of the Israelites and Moses in the book of Numbers resembles a soap opera or melodrama. There is sweeping action, random and powerful emotional outbursts, a tortured protagonist, a touch of the supernatural, and a long, incremental story that draws big and small conclusions. You can review the first reading for 17 Pentecost (Sept 27, 2009) here.

I can see the Israelites’ point. Their descriptive longing for the leeks and onions and cucumbers and wonderful meats and melons and garlic…these words have been recorded for thousands of years and still, the idea of it makes my mouth water.

But what I connect to most is not the food. It’s something far broader. Wanting the old ways–desperately, persistently–even if it means that someone else gets to control your destiny. The price of security is often one’s freedom. And as we read on, Moses, too, feels enslaved to the expectations of the people.

Nostalgia is a powerful emotion. Nostalgia, however, can also become a closing-in, a glossing-over…a thin substitute for faith. The antidote to nostalgia? Imagining a future, where freedom in God IS the daily manna.

God of past, present, future: You tend to our needs. You do not cater to our wishes. Help us to find the difference. Amen.

Tug-of-War

tug of warCompetition and posturing; as old as humanity itself.  As we read this Sunday’s Gospel passage (found here, the 16th Sunday after Pentecost) we learn nothing new about ourselves.  Nor the lifelong tug-of-war we insist on perpetuating.

But we do learn something new about God–this God of ours, incarnate in Jesus Christ–who does not capitulate nor condone.  For our God exploits no one.  No one is expendable in his kingdom.  All are welcome.

But the disciples…they were silent, the passage says.  How can one begin to control one’s willfulness, if one cannot even own up to it in the first place? 

God of infinite justice, you know our motivations and fears.  Welcome us, also.  Amen.

 

 

On Teaching

School has begun this week, and our programs here at church are also gearing up.  Along with the usual excitement, we have a remodeled high school building which is not only beautiful, but also seems to have breathed new excitement into the entire community.  Here at church, we have made some long-overdue changes to our Confirmation programming.  It’s an internal “remodel,” which I hope will have the same effect.

It is an interesting coincidence, then, that all of our lessons assigned for the week speak to the theme of teaching.  Each lesson:  Isaiah 50:4-9a, James 3:1-12, and Mark 8:27-38 contain the verb “teach” or “teaching.”  (Maybe it’s not a coincidence at all.)

chalkboard

As a faith community, when we speak of teaching, we are not speaking only of the imparting of information.  Teaching is broader and deeper.  It speaks to conduct, lifestyle, character, as well as beliefs.  When we endeavor to teach others about Christ’s love, then, often what we say is of the least importance.  What do the learners hear?  What do they see?  How does the learner feel?

Teaching involves the entire person–body, mind, and spirit.  Who were the most influential teachers for you?  And how can you take the wisdom they shared and pass it on? 

What do you still need to learn?  How is Jesus Christ teaching you right now, today?

Teaching God, knowledge is but one component of our life together.  Help us follow as disciples in a way that engages us entirely, that we might reflect your love to the wider world.  Amen.

Our Faithful Mission Together

Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson has just released a new video asking all members of the ELCA to engage in conversation together.

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What will our witness be?  As members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, what stories shall we tell? 

In the weeks following the 2009 Churchwide Assembly there are many who are asking:

What does this mean?

What does it mean to be faithful?

We are a church that believes every member is sent to do God’s work with their hands. We are a church willing to engage in difficult conversations that sometimes reveal our differences.

As a church, we have many conversations ahead — not only about human sexuality, but about how our congregations can grow as evangelical centers for mission.

How can we, in our daily lives, do God’s work with our hands? How we can stay connected?

View the video conversation starter by clicking below:

From Pastor Karl Korbel

Dear Bloggies (Bloggers?)(Friends of the Blog?)
 
Let’s talk about change and possibility.  Christ brought about great change.  He clearly demonstrated that God’s attitude toward people, toward all creation, is loving and caring,  and that that attitude is demonstrated in loving and caring action.  This was apparently a new way at looking at God for most people. 
 
It is still hard to convince some people of that.
95 theses
 
The Lutheran denomination started from an effort to bring about change.  It succeeded in ways that the early figures of what we call, “The Reformation”,  could not have foreseen.
 
Some of us see the actions taken at the recent Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church as change.
 
Here at First Church there has been some change.  There is the obvious pastoral change, now completed. 
 
And, still regarding Staff,  we have the services of a Spiritual Care Minister.
 
The work of the Reformation Band has come to an end.  There is a new back-up organist.  A new worship book has already been experienced and will soon be in our pews as a major tool for worship. (Do you like cranberry?)
 
Guided by the work accomplished during Pastor Heidi’s Sabbatical,  there are changes in our educational ministries,  including Sunday School and Confirmation Class.
 
Some of the ways work is accomplished within the congregation are new.
 
Scripture has images and words that celebrate the coming of the new,  the radically new, like Jesus, and the refreshing renewals that emanate from the biggies.
 
What might be ahead for you in the adventure – life?  I’m not sure of the understanding that “The Lord has a plan for my life,”  at least not if that means the Lord wants to micro-manage each of us.  But as far as opening up opportunities for growth, for love,  for fulfillment, for renewal and refreshment,  a lot is being offered.  
 
Are you being renewed?  Revitalized?  Changed?
 
God’s peace.    Pastor Karl
 
 

It’s Time We Open Up!

The following is an excerpt from a sermon by Lutheran pastor Peter Marty.  It appears in its entirety on the Day 1 website.

The text for the sermon is our Gospel reading for this coming Sunday, September 6, 2009, the 14th Sunday after Pentcost.  Mark 7:24-37 can be read here.

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EPHATHA! Be Opened! We simply must find ways to articulate the faith and love in Jesus Christ that we hold so dear. In my denomination, a research project revealed that 90% of teenagers active in the church could not tell you what their parent or parents believed. 90%! They didn’t know! If adults cannot speak meaningfully and regularly of their faith, how will it ever get passed along?

This speech impediment we have on matters of faith is really quite peculiar. Because on most matters in this country, if you’re really for something, you let people know. You put a bumper sticker on your car. You wave an American flag on the street corner when the kids come home from Iraq. You wear T-Shirts with logos. You tattoo your favorite expression on your bicep. Fifteen-year old girls wear boxer shorts bearing slogans of their school spirit.

If you’re enthused about the difference that Christ Jesus makes in your life, why wouldn’t you find a meaningful way to let people know … and to share at least a piece of that joy. EPHATHA! Be Opened! Be set free!

wordofmouth

When Martin Luther put together a baptismal liturgy in 1523, the actual rite required the pastor to take some of his own saliva and touch the ears and lips of every child getting baptized. At the same instant, the pastor was to repeat the words of Jesus to the deaf man, that one with the speech impediment. The baptizing pastor was to say: Ephatha – That is, be opened. We don’t do this anymore in the Lutheran Church. And I’m not sure I’d be serving my congregation very long if I started using this saliva ritual.

But the idea isn’t bad. From the very get-go in life, with a lot of help from parents and pastors and adult mentors, we need to find better ways to not be so bound-up with our lives and so tongue-tied with our faith. Have courage. Grab hold to what is good. Loosen up and love a bit more freely. Support the weak. Strengthen the faint-hearted. Honor all people. And for Jesus’ sake, keep looking for those ways to open your life to the power of the Holy Spirit … relying on that great prayer of the Psalmist if it helps: O Lord, open thou my lips, and let my tongue declare your praise.

O Lord God, who has the gift to open up even the tightest of lives, work on us. Deliver us from that which has us all bound up that we might become truly free people ready to serve you with hearts that are wide open and willing. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.