Pentecost All Around

In mulling over the meaning of Pentecost this week, I read a popular sermon by Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber, who serves a mission congregation in Colorado.  It made me realize again that no matter what our context–a church that’s small, finding its way, just a few years old–to our congregation’s larger and more established ministry–the message of Pentecost reforms every community, everywhere.  Here on Sunday, pastorcl spoke of Spirit-led changes.  Similarly, Bolz-Weber writes:

Just like that first Pentecost God still says yes to all our polite no thank yous.  God still crashes our parties and invites in the people we are trying to avoid. That’s the thing about the Pentecost Spirit of truth: it feels like the truth might crush us. And that is right.  The truth crushes us, but the instant it crushes us it put us back together into something real.  Perhaps for the first time.

Because the radical and mysterious and dangerous thing the Spirit does has always been to form us into the Body of Christ. Sometimes despite us, sometimes against us, but always for us. Because it is only the Spirit who can turn us from a “they” into a “we”.

Holy God, reform us not as we wish, but as you will.  Amen.

Overheard

When my husband and I were new parents one of the most helpful books we read was “The Happiest Baby on the Block” by Dr. Harvey Karp.  He has a sequel to the book called, “The Happiest Toddler on the Block” for one-to-four year olds.  Both books are filled with sound advice and explanations, but one technique seemed to be magical with our toddlers (which we still use today) is called “praise through gossiping.” 

Most parents intuitively do this, but in case you’ve never heard of it, let me give an example.  One parent tells the other parent in grand fashion all the ways Toddler Jane was a good girl today.  It’s somewhat exaggerated, of course, but the key is that this praise is done within earshot of Jane.  “Daddy, I’ve been meaning to tell you all the ways Jane was such a good helper today!  First she brought baby sister her bottle, then she got dressed all by herself, then she…”  Meanwhile, Daddy says, “You don’t say!  Now, what a big girl.  We’re going to have to make sure Jane gets an extra book at bedtime tonight!”  You get the idea.  The main thing is to ensure that Jane overhears this conversation.  You know the outcome, too:  Jane beams with pride in a way that is deeper than if you just complimented her in the moment.  It seems like you’re talking to Daddy, but you’re really talking straight to Jane’s heart.

This Sunday’s Gospel reading is one that we get to overhear.  We are meant to overhear it.  It was designed that we might overhear it.  Because it was a conversation meant for us all along.  The prayer of Jesus in John 17:

I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word…and they have believed that you sent me… I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.  As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.

Jesus, allowing us to overhear his words to God, ends up speaking right to our hearts.

Lord, speak to us that we may speak in living echoes of your tone.  Amen.

Certainty or Faithfulness?

In recent days and weeks we have heard a great deal of consternation over the definition of marriage.  Many are claiming a certainty over definitions of marriage; many evangelicals in the Christian faith are claiming certainty according to scripture.  Bold public statements such as this have put the minds of many faithful Christians to the test.  Some may be asking, if I am a Christian, “Is there only one certain stance I should have”?   Others may ask, if we change this are we undermining our faith?  These are likely questions, but I’m not sure they are the right ones or even good questions.

The story of the new church as outlined in the book of Acts includes many incidences of faithfulness to God challenging scriptural and traditional certainties.  In Acts chapter 10, Cornelius, a Roman centurion is admitted to this newly forming church.  His identity, his life, and his history all attest to a person not right for admission to this new church.  Furthermore, he has now entertained the eating of profane foods (according to Old Testament law) for himself and others in this faith.  The existing community of faith listening to Peter was “astounded” (vs. 45) at Peter’s decision to include Cornelius into this family of faith.   They were astounded that the Holy Spirit had fallen upon even the Gentiles!  Who are the Gentiles in our world today?  What might we or others be astounded by when “certainties” are questioned?  Might it be the Holy Spirit?

Jesus calls us to “abide in his love” (John 15:9-17) and that his love would abide in us.  God abides in us by his presence of the Holy Spirit.  Might we listen to this Spirit that abides in us which may also astound our certainties?   Jesus then says, “this is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”  Perhaps it is Jesus’ amazing love that is astounding to us when it abides in us.  How might your faithfulness to Jesus’ love that abides in you affect your certainties?   Some of us may be struck with horror, others with belief, and yet others with joy.  Perhaps, regardless of all that we feel, God’s love persists to abide in us.  His faithfulness does endure forever.

Synod Assembly 2012

Our four voting members & two pastors gave a great report on Sunday, May 6 about an important mission we can be a part of this year [more on that later–stay tuned!].  Each year, we travel to Rochester for the Southeastern MN Synod of the ELCA’s 20day Assembly with about 500 other Lutherans in the 9 county region.

But for now, here’s a 10 minute video on where your mission support dollars go, what they do, and how they transform lives.  It’ll do your heart good to take the time to watch.

And as you watch, ask yourself:  how does First Lutheran share a living, daring confidence in God’s grace?

6vWIMvUf-NI

Rainbows

Did you happen to catch the beautiful rainbow that emerged after Tuesday night’s scattered showers?  Well, one alert member did, and sent me a text with this photo. The wonders of technology, right in our pocket!  Thanks, BN!

Context

There are seven I AM statements that Jesus makes in the Gospel of John. They are words that, on their own, might not give much help in matters of faith:  Bread. Light. Gate. Shepherd. Life. Way. Vine.

That’s where context comes in.  How one hears something has a direct and deep correlation to how one is feeling, thinking, observing.  Context is colored by one’s personal experience.  Some of these I AM statements of Jesus might mean very little to you personally; but another I AM statement might be deep and richly meaningful.  For example:

To a livestock owner, the shepherd image is helpful.  She understands the animal-human bond.

To a dying person, life might be just what they need to meditate on.  For she desperately wants life to continue.

For a baker, a chef, even a nursing parent–what beauty there is in knowing a Lord who says:  I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry.

To one who is intensely fearful at night, how might his heart sing to hear, I am the light of the world.

To a gardener or a crop farmer, the vine image makes complete sense.  He experiences the every-day miracle of how things grow.

What’s your context…what’s happening in your life now?  If you’re not sure, go back and read the seven I AM statements [blue hyperlink, above].  Which I AM statement feels most like promise to you? Why do you think that is?

If you could add or modify an I AM statement based on your personal context, what would it be?  Share your ideas with a comment.