Local Mission

[Blog readers:  I received this by email from one of our church members, a leader in this recent project.  His desciption of the day’s work and pictures are below.  All photos are used by permission of the home owner-pastorhh]

The following pictures are from our mission to help a family.  This project is local, using local people’s resources to show love for our fellow Christian.  The day was hot and the conditions were right to get the project done quickly. The men in the pictures are not mentioned by name but let it be know that they want to share the Love of Christ by using their talents. We thank 1st Lutheran for helping the Cancer fund and the community in need.

May God Bless Us, for it is by His grace that we are here to do His Perfect Will.
-The Project Committee

 

Adult Forum Study

Hi Friends,

What’s so amazing about grace? That’s the question that our Adult Forum series will consider for fall 2011.  Utilizing a video and discussion for Philip Yancey’s popular book, we will study the concept of grace–in the Bible, and in everyday life.

As promised, there is a new tab titled Grace Forum [in green, above] to house the companion resources to the Adult Forum series.  New questions/resources will be added as needed, so please check back often.

If you haven’t been a part of our series on Sunday mornings, you could still read the book OR just ponder the questions as we go.

God bless your study, your contemplation, and the deep prayers of your heart,

pastorhh & pastorcl

Complacency

Complacency and faith do not go well together.

Unfortunately however, complacency and faith are too often closely linked.

An example could look like this:  a faithful Christian decides to be diligent in reading their Bible daily and going to church every Sunday – a great thing!  However, this person soon realizes their personal and diligent faith practices are rare among friends…and, by human nature, begins to judge the faith of others for not doing what he/she is doing.  Unfaithful thoughts emerge supporting their personal acts of faith as more than others.  Therefore, this person reasons, I’m certainly doing enough.

Complacency has taken a seat right beside faith!  We read in the Book of James (2:17) “Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”

In this Sunday’s gospel reading (Matt. 21:23-32) Jesus speaks directly to the issue of complacency and faith.  He even goes so far as saying to the devout chief priests and elders “the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.”

Faith– Good Works = Complacency

AND

Complacency = Dead Faith.

As Lutherans we teach and believe firmly that good works do not equate with salvation.  God certainly does not need our good works.

But the world does.

Am I complacent?

 

 

Exaggeration

Growing up I was fascinated by one story book in particular:  The Legend of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.  Many nights were spent curled up on the floor of my bedroom, my legs tucked under my nightgown, listening to my mother read chapter after chapter about the helpful lumberjack.  My story book set the tale in Minnesota, but I have also heard that Paul Bunyan lived in Maine, or Quebec, or even California.  Which one is it?  Does it matter?  No. It is the story’s exaggeration of detail, not the actual details, that matter.  The exaggeration is the vehicle behind which the truth sneaks in.

Sunday, we will read from the prophet Jonah.  Many recall this story as the one where a reluctant prophet, summoned by God, departed for his mission and ran the wrong direction, gets swallowed by a great fish and ironically, is thrown back precisely where he was asked to go.  Is that the only thing that happens in the book of Jonah?  Hardly.  The Ninevites, sworn enemies of the Israelites, actually listen to Jonah’s paltry prophecy.  They do repent–and not only the men, women, and children wear sackcloth, but the animals, too!–and the city is saved.  Jonah, meanwhile, cannot stand God’s exaggerated mercy.  By the end of the book, we are left with a question.  We do not know what Jonah chooses–life, with a gracious God; or death–that is, Jonah’s personal pride, and the bitterness of the desert.

The parable from the Gospel of Matthew we will read in worship on Sunday morning is also an exaggerated tale.  It, too, is meant to be the vehicle behind which the truth sneaks in.  And if you get caught up in the details, you will miss the point.  Can we stand a God with a very exaggerated sense of mercy?  Or will we get caught up in the endless parsing out the details of the kingdom of heaven?

Dear God, you always exaggerate everything!  (Thank you.)  Amen.

9/11/2011

9/11 Memorial Fence - St Vincent's Hospital 7th Ave & 11th St, NYC

For our weekly devotion, I’d like to point you toward an ELCA pastor and proud New Yorker who has put eloquent words to the horror she and her congregation experienced the 9/11 attacks.  In 2001, Rev. Heidi Neumark served in the Bronx, and today leads a congregation in Manhattan.

For background, you may first want to read the pre-assigned, but oh-so-relevant passages for this Sunday, September 11.

Click here to read her reflection on the terrorism and violence, 10 years later.  http://www.livinglutheran.com/blog/2011/09/inexhaustible-forgiveness.html

I notice that Pastor Neumark takes the title of her piece from the Prayer of the Day for 13 Pentecost.  Below is the full prayer we will pray on Sunday morning.

O Lord God, merciful judge, you are the inexhaustible fountain of forgiveness.  Replace are hearts of stone with hearts that love and adore you, that we may delight in doing your will, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Devotion for Sunday, September 4, 2011

God of Truth and Forgiveness,

Each week we mouth the words, “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”

But we confess that we do not always want to forgive our enemies.

As the psalmist says, sometimes we want to kill them.

Sometimes we would prefer to pray that you punish our enemies, since we would like to watch them suffer.

Help us to practice forgiving those who sin against us, lest our hates become more precious than our loves.

Thank you that you have bent us toward reconciliation that we may pass one another Christ’s peace.

It’s a terrible thing to ask of us.

I am not sure I can do it, but you are a wily God able to do miracles.

May we be struck alive with the miracle of your grace,

Even to be reconciled with ourselves.

Amen.

By Stanley Hauerwas, adapted from his prayer I Do Not Want My Enemies ForgivenPrayers Plainly Spoken.