Tuesday, October 30, 2012
First things First—the devastation from Hurricane Sandy in the United States and the Caribbean is substantial. If you are interested in helping check out Lutheran Disaster Response -- Hurricane Sandy
Remembering the Saints: This weekend many congregations, ours included, celebrate All Saints. We remember the saints; the believers who’ve gone before us with faith in Jesus Christ. We’ll name the believers we’ve known close to home and give thanks for the countless many who’ve joined the church triumphant detailed by John in his vision in Revelation 21:1-6.
All the Saints? Saints are often held up has models of virtuous living. In truth saints are human beings whose lives, at a blessed moment in time, were open channels for God into the world. Some are well know like Mary, Joseph, John the Baptist, Peter, James, John, and Paul; but other saints are much less renown—but they are no less saints of God.
The Old Testament has heroic people to emulate too—Ruth and Esther—Sarah and Abraham, Moses, David, and the prophets can all be held up as models for us. But all saints is about more than just a few souls.
All Saints is a celebration of all who opened their lives to God. Many wrongly assume there are sort-of saints, saved by grace through faith, and then there are the real holy acting SAINTS. All Saints reminds us who, in the eyes of God, is in the great cloud of witnesses described in Hebrews 12:1-3. Real saints aren’t perfect—they aren’t ever going to be confused with angels.
The saints are the ones who followed Christ enduring troubles seeking to live out the Good News in our mixed up world. Oscar Wilde is credited for saying wisely, “Every saint has a past and every sinner has future.” In Christ Jesus we celebrate all the Saints who have followed our Lord acting in love both toward God and our neighbors (Mark 12: 28-24).
Who counts as a saint: Growing up in a cynical post-Watergate culture we learn fast that many leaders, and yes even saints who speak boldly on God’s behalf, have been touched by sin and have engaged in sin. We celebrate the faith of the saints not their character. We realize that they, like each of us, have complicated life stories; and that God can use them and us anyway. Great saints of the 20th century—Martin Luther King Jr, Dorothy Day, Dietrich Bonheoffer, and many more are renown not because of their perfect character but because God used them, as imperfect as they were, to bring His Word and Kingdom closer to His people.
All saints is a great day to take perspective on the church. Abigail Van Buren wrote in April 1958, “The church is a hospital for sinners – not a museum for saints.” The real church—the church in heaven and on earth—that celebrates the saving work of Lamb of God is made up of real people saved by grace through faith Ephesians 2:8-10. Real saints of the past, and of our day, can be bold and faithful in one moment—yet struggle with sin and temptation, and fail in the next. All Saints is time to remember who is in John’s Revelation 20:1-6 vision. The ones who stood with the lamb of God as the New Jerusalem emerged were not perfect people on their own—they were sinners saved by the blood of the lamb. Every tear had been wiped from their eye—they had been redeemed.
Remember all the saints who’ve gone before us. Remember them and join with them as part of the great cloud of witnesses who look to Christ and live—loving both God and neighbors as themselves. Pax, John.
Posted by John, an unlikely pastor at 10/30/2012
Thursday, October 11, 2012
Mark tells a story this week. A wealthy young man came to Jesus with a question: Jesus what do I have to do to inherit eternal life? Mark 10:17
Jesus peppered him with questions: Why do you call me good? You know the commandments? Mark 10:18-19
The man was undeterred. He listed everything he'd done proudly naming the way he'd honored the commandments from childhood on Mark 10:20.
Jesus answer challenged him more than he could have imagined, You lack one thing.
This young man had everything and had done everything right. How could he lack anything?
Sell what you have and give it to the poor then come with me. Mark 10:21
Looking out for the other guy isn't always easy. The old sinful self creeps in over and over again. Evil and selfishness often disguises themselves. God's calls these old enemies out. Listen to God's word and act. Look carefully at each decisions: what is truly best for your neighbors. Jesus was inviting this man to freedom and he wouldn't accept. He wouldn't let go of his many possessions. Listen again to the words of the prophets and the apostles. God unimpressed by empty worship. God wants faithful action and voting that is in the best interest not of ourselves but of others. God's Holy Word shakes us from complacency. Faithfulness pushes us out into public conversation and even action for the sake of our neighbors.
Every election year people of faith can take very different public stands about complex issues. Its good and right to wrestle out loud. Listen to each other and to God Word. Listen to it; let it shape and mold honest dialogue and conversation. People of faith can step forward with confidence in God's Word as a guide. People of faith can and even do disagree. And as we do disagree let's remember the reason why we vote and why we enter complex political conversation: for the sake of our neighbors.
The young man was invited to give all away for the sake of his neighbors, the poor. And the young man went away heartbroken. Mark 10:22
There's a lesson for us. We won't take all our beloved possessions with us into the kingdom of heaven. The simple truth is we won't have a choice at all. U haul trailers don't follow hearses. The thing is Jesus is inviting us to live this way today. Instead of knowing vaguely that we really don't get to own anything forever why not live today like it’s the truth. Why not live today like we can't and shouldn't try to hold onto things.
Jesus explanation was very plain. It's hard—truly it's impossible for a rich man to enter heaven on his own—but for God all things are possible. Mark 10: 23-27
Our culture is built on the accumulation of stuff—not the accumulation of wealth—rather stuff. And Jesus is challenging our culture and us as part of it to look beyond stuff and to see what has true eternal merit.
Posted by John, an unlikely pastor at 10/11/2012
Monday, October 1, 2012
Jesus said, "...anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." Mark 10 16 NIV
We started watching a classic video, Grandma's Bread. The story puts communion and family into perspective. Visiting before bed Wednesday night our girls said it was was sad story. But it was good to know of the clear promise. In communion we join with the whole body of Christ--both alive on earth and in the church triumphant.
The night ended as we gathered around fellowship hall tables for taste testing. First a wafer of bread. They finished the bread with a reminder that we eat and drink the bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ, for the forgiveness of sins. Christ promises to be with us, under the bread and wine, for our forgiveness. He promises to be with us taking away the junk and hurt we've caused God and people around us.
Little cups of wine were passed out. And the young people waited to sample it together. Moms and dads pulled out cell phone cameras to record the moment their child took this first taste of communion wine. Many puckered faces were recorded for posterity. We prayed together thanking God for coming to us in bread and wine.
May we be ready to recieve Jesus like children.
May we be ready when the Son of God comes to us in bread and in wine, in the word, and in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Posted by John, an unlikely pastor at 10/01/2012