Archive for October, 2010

We’re Having a Party

October 25, 2010 Leave a comment

What’s the good word? This weekend is a weekend for celebrations. My wife and I are hosting a wedding shower for a good friend of mine that is getting married on New Year’s Day. Then on Sunday, Reformation Sunday, we are going to be doing a little celebrating ourselves at Messiah. Sunday marks one year for me at the congregation, and what a year it has been. I have to admit that I am one of those “go-for-broke” visionary passtors. I’m focused and always thinking about the next big thing. At times I find myself emotionally, spiritually, and physiacally stretched to my limits. Sometimes I fail to stop and appreciate the Spirit’s work that is being done right now. Gratitude for what God has done and will do should be a natural and normal part of our life and ministry. The Psalms contain countless admonitions to praise God for every conceivable thing. Gratitude transforms attitudes, inspires hearts, affirms our calling, and builds relationships. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said from his jail under Nazi rule, “In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” If he can take the time in a Nazi concentration camp prison to stop and give thanks, than so can I.

In my time here at Messiah we have welcomed in 30 new families, I have performed 18 baptisms of infants, 2 adult baptisms, and we have grown in our worship attendance by 11%. God is doing amazing things. It’s hard sometimes to stop and realize what God’s Spirit is actually accomplishing in our lives. Too often we focus on the negative and let others drag us down. The culture in which we live in always tells us, “It’s not enough.” But when is it ever enough? I mean if we stop and think about it, the more we gain and acquire, the more we demand. Dallas Willard once said in an interview, “We are designed to be creators and initiators, not just receivers.” Now besides the numbers, I have had many conversations with members about how God is touching their lives here at Messiah. I got a thank you the other week on the back of our communication cards from a member about how God worked in him during a class I was teaching that Sunday. At the close of his earthly ministry, Jesus instituted the Last Supper- a reminder for us to celebrate the wonder of God’s mercy and love. What do you have to celebrate? How is God’s Spirit moving in your life? If you need a reminder, read the book of Philippians. Paul reminds this community in this letter about the encouragement, comfort, tenderness, and compassion they enjoyed in their relationship with Christ, and then directed them to show that to one another. I, like Paul, celebrate the good things that God is doing in the lives of others, and am blessed to see others blessed by God. That’s the good word for today.

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October 18, 2010 Leave a comment

What’s the good word? All the miners are out of their cave and all are safe back with their families. As I sat and watched I couldn’t help but get teared up by it all. The one thing I think we can all learn from this is the importance of community. The president of Chile was there to greet each and every one of them. Families and friends gathered for months, and even as their family member was brought up, they didn’t leave until all had been saved. Community is important for all of us. There’s great value in community. I believe we join faith communities because we each have a need to have relationships and a need to belong to something bigger thank ourselves. Paul writes in Romans, “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” Unity, the church can’t live without it, but it does not always mean uniformity. Theologian Leonardo Boff said, “We are community beings. Solitude is hell. No one is an island. We are called to maintain relationships of communion with all, giving and receiving, and together building a rich open shared life, one that respects differences and does good to all.”

I remember how this nation came together after 9/11. We had a sense that we were one community. I also remember how quickly that feeling faded. Now instead of disagreeing without being disagreable, we cast stones and harsh words across the isle at one another. Suddenly our differences are magnified and are cast in a bad light. I wonder how quickly the sense of community will fade with the miners? Will the hugs, friendships, and happiness fade into the sunset as well? What happens when money begins to talk about rights to movies and book deals? Will there be a sense of community then? As our lives continue at a fast pace, will we too loose the sense of community that we felt as we sat and watched and cheered for these miners?  We need a place where we can belong and have a sense of community. Ecclesiastes 4 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, their friend can help them up.” And that’s the good word for today.

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Back To The Drawing Board

October 6, 2010 Leave a comment

What’s the good word? I have been thinking about last week’s confirmation lesson on Joseph (the older testament one). The pressures of ministry seem to be creeping up on me lately. I seem to have lost my “spark” for visioning for the future. That’s my gift, and it’s what I like to do. I see the big picture and I surround myself with staff that can help catch the smaller details. Lately though I have been consumed by other “stuff”. My theology professor in college loved that word, “stuff”. What happens when all the “stuff” of the world creeps in on you? What do you do? What do you do when you feel like you are giving your all but God isn’t showing up? What do you do when you cast vision but few seem inspired? What do you do when criticism comes at you left and right? What do you do in those times of your life when you feel like you are a hamster on a wheel? We all have those times. Well last week during one of my low points I had to teach the lesson of Joseph to our confirmation students. Man could I identify with him. Bottom of a well? You bet! He was thrown in a well, sold into slavery, falsely accused of rape, and ultimately imprisoned. Ok, so I started feeling a little better about my situation. And yet, right there in the middle of this BIG story there’s these words, “And the Lord was with Joseph.” What? I thought when the Lord was with you things are supposed to be going well. Don’t you agree? Isn’t it interesting that when things aren’t going well we always default to feeling as though God has abandoned us? And yet the truth in Joseph’s story-which is our story- is that God is most powerfully present even when it seems He is most apparently absent. We don’t get to choose when bad things will happen to us, but we do get to choose how we will respone. Joseph’s response was one of faith, and in that choice lies an amazing amount of hope. And that’s the good word for today.

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