This Is My Friend…

…and seminary classmate!  I have been part of his email list for all the years he has been a missionary, and I find his particular dual vocation fascinating and admirable.  Plus, “Dr. Dick” (as we called him) played volleyball with all of us “young” seminarians during summer Greek, so you know he’s cool.  Check out the link below:

http://www.elca.org/Who-We-Are/Our-Three-Expressions/Churchwide-Organization/Communication-Services/News/Releases.aspx?a=4514

Please pray for all of our international and missionary servants.  The ELCA has some truly wonderful and blessed ministries far and wide. 

Does your congregation sponsor a missionary?  Tell us in the comments.

What is Love?

Love is blind.

Love is never having to say you’re sorry.

Love will find a way.

Love never fails.

Love is a many splendored thing.

All you need is love.  Love is all you need. 

Love stinks.

Even in song lyrics we cannot find consensus!

This Sunday’s lectionary Gospel reading, John 13:31-35, speaks of love.  But, what is it?  What is love?  How do we fulfill this command?  Could it be that this is the one command Jesus gives because it’s one we can strive to fulfill our whole lives through, but can never fully attain? 

You’re so clever, Jesus.  Here you give us the one command that has the power to humble us.  Entirely.  Utterly.

God of love, fill our hearts with love anew.  Amen.

System Restore

Psalm 23 is assigned for this Sunday, April 25th in worship.  In the translation used in our new Evangelical Lutheran Worship book, verse three is as follows:  “You restore my soul, O Lord.”  It is not only a confession, but a repudiation.  For what or who else can restore our souls but the Lord?

Every once in a while (or maybe more often than that!) computers go haywire.  Often, the solution to the glitch is to re-boot; shut down the running software programs and restart the machine.  Sometimes, when the glitch is very severe, one must go through the process of wiping the hard drive memory and restoring the entire system.  I have had to do this more than once, and though it is arduous, it is the only real alternative.

What is true with computers is true with people, at least in a sense.  But we do not reboot ourselves when things go haywire. 

Instead, God’s goodness and mercy, following us all the days of our lives, anointing us, filling our cup to overflowing, leading us beside still waters, comforting us by rod and staff, guiding us along right pathways, walking through the valley and promising us a dwelling…God reboots us

Arduous for God, but grace for us.

You restore my soul, O Lord.  Amen.

The Color of Our Glasses – Part 5

I took a short break from this series due to a vision issue, no pun intended.  On Good Friday I began to lose my vision because of detached and tearing retinas.  In these days of  recuperation following successful surgeries, I have been pondering what this means for me as I try to make sense out of Biblical hermeneutics for others by writing a series with a focus upon our individual perceptions of scripture.    Initially I can say my perspective on the many Bible stories about blind people and restoration of sight have changed and will likely continue to change.  I will no longer assume the role of one helping the blind and instead take on the role of the blind and helpless one calling for help.  No longer will I only think on what I can or might do, but rather on what God has done and will do. 

A few years ago I preached for the third time on the parable of the Good Samaritan.  As I prepared the sermon I found myself tired and struggling with this story… yet again, until, it dawned on me that maybe instead of trying on the roles of the Priest, Levite, or the good Samaritan, I could try the role of the beaten and left for dead person in the ditch.  Soon I began to see the meaning of this story in an entirely new light.  Instead of thinking I or someone else “should” tend to the needs of another “in the ditch” of life, that maybe we are all in the “ditch” of life and have incredible need of a loving savior.  Considering the desperate needs of others, even when they don’t appear desperate (because we may be over on the other side of the road and can’t see their lives in full view) is a wonderful avenue away from the judgementalism that so easily invades our lives.  So the next time you feel the need to measure-up someone because of what you think to be true or right, think first that they might just happen to have been beaten and left for dead in the ditch of life.  

It was an amazing moment when the eye surgeon told me I would see again (I did not know they could do such a thing).  I felt like a badly beaten and left-for-blind person laying in a ditch until being rescued by being told I would see again.   Thanks to our merciful and loving God.  Steadfast, isn’t He?

Getting Back to Normal…

This week’s gospel reading from John (21:1-19) informs us about what Peter and the other disciples do following the disturbing events of Good Friday and the amazing  new life of Jesus as begun on Easter morning.   As is often the case for any person following a huge, life changing event, we believe life must get back to normal.   Thus for Peter, he says to his buddies, “I’m going fishing”  and they respond, “We will go with you.”  They are doing their normal thing, trying to get their lives back to what they were before.  We, like Peter, all seek the normal (whatever that is…?), but Jesus challenges him with a new normal on the shoreline that new morning.  Jesus insists on asking Peter if he loves him.  When Peter keeps answering yes, yes, yes, Jesus insists that Peter must tend and feed His sheep.  Could Jesus be insisting upon a “new normal” for Peter and others?  That in loving Jesus, in this new time after the unsettling events of the first Easter, something has changed the “normal?”  When we admit that we love Jesus are we changed somehow away from our old “normal?”  It seems to me that the manner in which Jesus desires us to follow Him ( in His new normal for us) involves a normal that includes loving, tending, and feeding others in new ways.  Are we being called upon to love others in ways we had never before thought we could love?   Is Jesus’ appeal to Peter an appeal to open his heart to a new normal? 

I’m drawn to the words of the hymn “Lord, Let My Heart Be Good Soil”

Lord, let my heart be good soil, open to the seed of your word.  Lord, let my heart be good soil, where love can grow and peace is understood.  When my heart is hard, break the stone away. When my heart is cold, warm it with the day. When my heart is lost, lead me on your way. Lord, let my heart, Lord, let my heart, Lord, let my heart be good soil.   (Text and Music: Handt Hanson – ELW #512)

As you enter your third week of Easter 2010, has your normal been changed by what happened on April 2nd and April 4th?

Another Milestone Reached

Somewhere around Sunday, April 11, 2010 our blog reached 10,000 hits. 

10,000 hits!  And that’s not counting my visits at all!

When this ministry was inaugurated in the fall of 2008, I feared that the blog would only be read by me, my sister, and a few parishioners.  After a bit of a slow start–and lots of learning on my part about the ins and outs of the blogosphere–it seems our faithful readers are enjoying what they see. 

THANK YOU for reading along.  You are appreciated.

And if any of you out there in the First Lutheran Church community would like to write a guest column, please contact me, pastorhh, or pastorcl.

Unless

Every year, on the first Sunday after Easter, we read the same encounter with the risen Christ.  It’s the story of Thomas from John 20:19-31

How many times do we begin our faith declarations with the word, “unless?”  How many ways can [and do] we repeat the questions of Thomas in our moments of hesitation?   Thomas.  He was a day late and a dollar short, missing what everyone else seems to be so certain about.  The poor guy. 

His nickname aside, I venture to say that we are quite understanding and sympathetic toward the man.  We seem to be much less gentle with ourselves, and others around us today, who are having their “unless…”  moments.  Why is that?

Risen Christ, may peace be with us, too.  Amen.

Holy Week and Easter Schedule

6:30 pm April 1, 2010  Maundy Thursday Worship with First Communion for our 5th graders

Noon and 7:00 pm April 2, 2010  Good Friday Worship

6:30 am April 4, 2010 Easter Sunday Festival Worship with Holy Communion

8:30 am April 4, 2010 Easter Sunday Festival Worship with Holy Communion

10:00 am April 4, 2010 Easter Sunday Festival Worship with Holy Communion (contemporary)

A blessed Eastertide to all!  Please consider worshiping with us.  Friends and visitors are always welcome.  If you are unable to be with us in-person, remember that KOWZ 100.9 FM will be broadcasting the 8:30 am Easter Sunday worship service.