Living Lutheran

Hi friends,

I was just informed of a great website by a pastor friend of mine.  How did it slip off my blog radar screen?  Anyway, here it is.  If you like reading blogs that have diverse topics and voices, this one’s for you.  It’s called Living Lutheran and I added it to the blogroll.

Do you have favorite blogs that deal with faith and spirituality?  Add them in the comments.

Daily Devotions! Link Added

You will notice that there is no devotion for this upcoming Sunday posted.  Instead, I would like to highlight an RSS feed in the left-hand column of the blog entitled, “Daily Devotions!”  It is directly underneath the blog roll.  This is a free resource called God Pause from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN.

We will still have our weekly reflections.  But for today, as you are checking the First Lutheran blog, click there, too–and set aside a quiet moment with God.  In fact, God Pause will be available to you every day of of the week.  I pray you will find it useful.

Daily Injustices

Our first lesson for Sunday, September 19th is a revealing look at the culture of the prophet Amos’ time.  He doesn’t mince words when discussing their unjust market practices.  Scales could easily be “rigged” in favor of the seller, someone’s whole life could be ruined for owing the value of a pair of sandals, and leftover wheat husk was routinely passed off as high-quality grain.

Many of us these days are choosing to “eat local” and “shop local.”  Participation at farmers markets is way up.  Gardening is hip and canning is cool.  Churches are serving fair-trade coffee after worship and some towns even boycott when a big-box store looks to come to their towns out of concern for those who produce the items we consume.

Of course, as North American Christians, we have the freedom to choose where to shop, and many of us willingly choose the extra cost of buying locally-produced products.  For many others of us, this is not even a possibility.  And all the while we debate the pros and cons of our shopping habits, in our very own country, there are scores of malnourished and homeless people.  Still, the malls are jam-packed on Saturday afternoons, and Wal-Mart never seems to close. 

Amos raises a bigger point, also:  in the commerce we do, can we ever really escape being part of oppressing the poor?  How do we negate our injustice footprint?  Does God really care about the daily injustices done to his people?

Apparently, the answer is yes.

God of endless riches, each resource we “own” comes from your gracious hand.  Bless our choices with your riches.  Amen.

55 Minutes

According to Martha Stewart, we spend an average of 55 minutes a day looking for things.  This is not a new phenomenon; Jesus tells two parables for this Sunday, September 12th, that also give examples of searches.

Most of us cut our losses when an item is lost.  We purchase a new one, we go without, or we give up and move on with our day.  Unless that “thing” is of great value to us.  Then we stop at nothing to find it.  Imagine, for example, the fervor with which we seek for a toddler who wanders away in a store, or the endless calling into the woods for a lost pet, or the forensic experts who spent not days, weeks, or months, but FOUR YEARS combing through the rubble of 9-11 to identify tiny specks of remains for bereaved families so they would have something–anything–to bury.  55 minutes becomes 55 hours, 55 days.  An entire lifetime can be spent…searching. 

The preciousness of the lost ones?  They are always worth the effort, for God.

For our prayer, you will need to use your imagination.  Echo Jesus’ words:  Rejoice with me, for I have found _________ that I had lost.  Pray it once with your name.  Now, pray it again, with the name of a person that you find it a challenge to love.

Rejoice with me, for I have found _________ that I had lost.   Amen.

A Different Tactic

In our fascinating second lesson for this Sunday, we hear words from a letter in our New Testament called Philemon

[A quick aside:  How do you say that name–is it Fi-LEE-Mon?  Or FIL-e-mon?   Answer: either one is fine.]

More important than pronunciation are the concepts in the letter.  It is a rare glimpse at a very personal exchange between St Paul and his friend Philemon about a slave Onesimus (another name to sound out) that has left Philemon’s houshold.  He is appealing to Philemon to receive Onesimus back, and even asking that Philemon go beyond the slave-master relationship to one of brothers (Phil16).

Paul says, “For this reason, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty, yet I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love–and I, Paul, do this as an old man, and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus.”  (Phil 8-9).

Paul is telling Philemon he could force him, but he won’t:  he appeals to him on the basis of love to do the right thing.   And isn’t this the New Testament ethic in a nutshell?  A whole new tactic, where obedience is never forced, but always demonstrated.  It is whole new system, where slave and master disparities take a backseat to brother- and sister-hood.

Christ Jesus, may the obedience you first demonstrated transform all of our relationships.  Amen.