Dear Friends, This past Sunday the church remembers the Baptism of Our Lord. And I wondered, do we remember our baptism? Does it matter for us? "... Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice camefrom heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:9-11) "THIS is who you are, YOU are my Son and I am so happy with you!" It was no coincidence that the revelation of Jesus' identity came just as he was about to enter desert testing, just as he was about to begin his ministry, choosing his first disciples. Jesus' own baptism affirmed his identity and strengthened him for ministry. Imagine if our identity, self worth, or strength to make it through another day depended upon how many "likes" we got on a Facebook post! Well here's a truth that will affirm you as no "like" or nice complement ever will. Does our baptism matter for us? Yes! Remember this: YOU are accepted as God's own beloved child! With YOU God is well pleased! Doesn't mean we are perfect, but does mean God loves us, has claimed us as beloved children, and promises strengthens us for the journey of life and ministry in Jesus' name. May the waters of your baptismal memory remind you today and the next day, and the next, that YOU are worthy, and loved. That is why we proclaim these words from 1 John 1:3 "See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are." A child of God, that is what YOU are! Amen
In Christ, Pastor Laura <><
I have been particularly struck in the past few months by the depth and pervasiveness of sorrow and tragedy, both abroad and right here in the homes of our own families and friends. The struggles come in all shapes in sizes and almost no one is immune. Lamentations 3:19-26, Psalm 42, and Matthew 26:36-39 all speak of downcast souls and how thankful I am that we have these verses to let us know we are not alone in our pain and despair. But a thread of hope is also woven through all three readings, all seeking hope that even in their pain, God is faithful. Sue Monk Kidd, author of “When the Heart Waits” startles readers with an insight that echoes our readings from today. She suggests that we confront our pain rather than making an enemy of it! Love your enemies, even your inner ones and they will be transformed and healed through love. The scripture writers say, “I will wait for God”, “therefore I will remember”, “not as I will, but as you will”. It is a sort of sacred waiting in the darkness, but a waiting that is not done so alone. We are a nation of quickaholics, a people compulsively seeking quick and easy ways to solve our problems, avoiding what is difficult, deep, and potentially growth-producing. I am not suggesting that God wants us to wallow in our pain, to become martyrs, to choose to stay broken when an opportunity for healing is present. But I am suggesting that when our suffering is prolonged, when we know it is not going away any time soon, then there is power in finding a sacred contentedness even in our pain, for we know that God dwells with us in the darkness.
Psalm 23, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
Instead of closing our eyes out of fear of the dark, when we open them, we will discover that our eyes adjust and we can see shadows and shapes. And one of those shapes belongs to Jesus who really is there with us, has been always, and always will be.
We are in solidarity dear friends with one another and with saints throughout the ages who have cried out to God and then waited. Noah waited for the floodwaters to subside. Sarah and countless other women waited with barren wombs, Jacob waited years to marry Rachel, Jonah waited in the belly of the whale, Simeon waited to bless the infant Lord Jesus, Mary waited, wondered, and grieved her Son, the disciples waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Psalm 130:6, “My soul waits for the Lord, more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.” Romans 8:25, “if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” It is not really an answer, is it? But my hope is that God’s word will bring you hope and God’s great faithfulness will be new to you every morning as you face the trials of this life. Jesus knows your pain and mine, “He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account.” Jesus is reaching out to us today to touch our lives, to bring us healing, to grow us in faith and love. Is it you or someone you love who is waiting in the darkness, soul downcast? Please believe right now in Jesus’ love for you right where you are, Jesus’ love for who you are, and Jesus’ love for who you can be with His help.
Join me in a few moments of silence as we lay our burdens at the foot of Jesus’ cross…
Let us pray. Lord we wait, sometimes with patience most often without. Open our eyes even in the darkness to your light, your steadfast love, your hope, and your healing. When the pain stays too long, help us to remember you are with us. Give us resurrection hope, a trust in the truth of your love that was so great that you gave it all for us so that we might live in your loving care today and for always. All this we ask for the sake of Jesus Christ, for our sake, and for the sake of all of your beloved whom you call us to befriend and to care for. In gratitude for your light that shines in our darkness, we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Pastor Laura <><
Last week I put up the following Facebook post:
“I'd really appreciate your responses!
You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world!
***Where has God worked through you to help someone else?***
***Or, if not through you, where have you noticed God working through someone else to help another?***”
My 17 year old nephew Connor replied, “God has helped me understand the concept of faith more clearly and I've been able to share it with those I care about who don't yet have a relationship with Him.”
My friend Dale is a nurse and she stated, “I see the servant hearts of my coworkers as they provide care for our hospitalized patients. It may be helping a woman in pain as she delivers a precious baby or sitting with an elderly patient at the end of life. Not a day goes by that I don’t see the hand of God reaching down assisting their purposeful work. They have all answered a calling.”
High School music teacher Cathy posted, “Every time one of my students plays a piece of music that I have taught them to read, on an instrument that I have taught them to play-there is God's work!
Pastor Chris’s wife Brittany shared, “I was working at a food pantry right before Christmas a few years ago. A friend and I brought in some wrapping paper and gift bows just to pass out if folks needed them. One woman asked how many bows she could take and I told her as many as she wanted. She was so surprised and overjoyed. I will never forget that moment, the look in her eyes. Since then, my friend and I (and another friend) opened up a different food pantry. It now serves many people regularly. I feel very blessed to be used by God in this way.”
Friends, the blessing of being salt and light is demonstrated in those simple and loving ways, done for another in the name of Jesus. You are the salt and the light; trust in God’s designation of you as such. So again I ask, “Where has God worked through you to help someone else?” May the love of God protect, encourage, and stretch you as you touch the lives of others!
Pastor Laura <><
"I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. 6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline." --2 Timothy 1:5-7
This past Sunday we welcomed six new members including the 2013 Confirmation Class. We asked ourselves, who passed on the faith to us? Who taught us to love? Who taught us about kindness and generosity? Who taught us the Lord's Prayer and "Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow? Was is our parents, grandparents, Sunday School teacher or youth group advisor? Can we stop for a moment to give thanks to God for them, our Eunice, our Lois, our Paul? Remember them and how they modeled living faith. Each of our confirmands received a large serving spoon as one of their gifts--- a reminder that they have been called to serve in Jesus' name. The spoon is also a visual reminder to ask the Holy Spirit to stir up our faith when we struggle to believe as we all sometimes do, when we, like Timothy, worry that we are not capable of the task for which we are called; we stir and ask the Holy Spirit to remind us again of the truth of God’s love for us. With great joy we welcome new members, on this very special World Communion Sunday when we also remember that we are part of the body of Christ around the globe! Let us pray. Holy God we thank you that we are your children and that you have reminded us this morning that we are called to serve you not just here at home but seeking to help you bring hope and peace to all the world. Bring unity to your church so that we might all work as one using the gifts you have so freely given. In the name of Jesus Christ our Savior we pray. Amen.
August 28, 2013 Reflection on Luke 13:10-17 “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.” We know it well as the fourth commandment and so did all in the synagogue the day Jesus bent the rule for the woman bent over for eighteen years. Things changed that day for the woman, for those gathered in the synagogue, for us! Jesus, choosing the Deuteronomy tradition for interpreting the 4th commandment, chose that day, that moment, to stoop down to look in the bent woman’s eyes and tell her she was set free from her affliction! She became a metaphor for a new way of honoring the Sabbath. The passage tells us that, “He put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.” She was no longer an unnamed woman, obligated to go to synagogue, she was now a daughter of Abraham given the gift of new life through the love, compassion, and touch of Jesus Christ. Sabbath keeping was not to be about dogmatic rule keeping and obligation. Sabbath is about being set free from that which binds us, it is about praising God, and…it is also about receiving. Friends, I was having a bit of a down day as I read our Luke passage, but when I read that the woman straightened up and praised God, I too stood straight, smiled and said thank you God for your healing touch. Thank you that Jesus cared so much for the woman that He dared challenge the Pharisees, He didn’t even care that they would be horrified that He touched an unclean woman! They would water their animals on the Sabbath--- could they not see her more worthy of loving care? Thank God Jesus did! Sabbath is to worship God, but Sabbath is also for you to receive healing. Come to worship- you may sit in the pew in joy or you may cry, you might laugh or lament. Come the way you are, for Jesus longs to set you free. May you know the love of Christ today in a powerful and personal way.
Peace, Pastor Laura <><
July 28, 2013 “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’” Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need. “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:1-13)
If in human friendships we witness one doing for the other out of obligation, how much more will the one Jesus calls us to address as, “Our Father”, do for us when we ask? God listens to us not out of obligation but out of love. Jesus wants us to know who it is who is hearing our prayers. It is not a cold, distant, deity, but rather, our loving, compassionate, Lord God who is waiting for us to ask, seek, and knock. As evidenced in our Lord’s Prayer, we can keep our prayers short- God doesn’t need lengthy explanations or elaborate words. Be yourself, pray our Lord’s Prayer, and these three essential prayer words from Anne Lamott’s book by the same name- “Help, Thanks, Wow”. May God bless your prayer time richly. Pastor Laura <><
July 7, 2013 “Having earlier sent out the twelve, Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Take nothing with you. The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (From Luke 10:1-11, 16-20)
“Missionaries Needed: Apply Withing”
So the job posting could look like this, quoting lyrics from the hymn,
“So Send I You” “So send I you to labour unrewarded To serve unpaid, unloved, unsought, unknown To bear rebuke, to suffer scorn and scoffing So send I you to toil for Me alone.”
I wonder how many resumes would be received with a job description like that! Are we called, as descendants of the seventy-two, to go out, through Word and deed, to bring the Good News of Jesus to a both literally and figuratively hungry community…? I say yes, we are all called to this mission, together. Not only that, I say that we must go, each in his/her own way! How do we even begin? With prayer and commitment to the following;
First: This week challenge yourself to share your faith with someone. This can be done in telling them about our VBS or new community park. Or maybe you will offer to keep a struggling friend in prayer…maybe even praying for them right there and then! They will take notice and the Holy Spirit will use your conversation as seeds of faith.
Second: Invite a friend, neighbor, or family member to join you in church, even offering to pick them up. While we know that it is true that God does not measure the success of our mission, or our faith as a church, by numbers in the pews or Sunday School class, we do want others to live in the joy of knowing Jesus, we do long to keep the doors of this precious sanctuary open for the benefit of generations and communities to come long after we are gone. That being said, were our building gone tomorrow we would still be the church of Christ. I am one person, you are many, together we can increase in faith and numbers.
Finally: Leave everything at home except your faith and courage. Trust that though you may meet wolves, otherwise known as resistance or rejection, when you present the peace of Christ to another, you will make a difference. God is the one who has made ready the harvest; we are called to simply do our best for Him. So no matter the outcome, God is pleased with our efforts and want us to rejoice that our names are written in heaven.
“Christ has no body on earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ looks out to the world. Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which he is to bless others now.” (~St Theresa of Avila)
Pray First Share Your Faith Invite Someone To Church Trust God To Help
Your Name Is Written In Heaven!
Have a blessed week fellow missionaries for Christ!
Pastor Laura <><
June 30, 2013 “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”” (Luke 9:51, 57, 61-62)
Can’t I at least go home and say good-bye, pack a few things, make a reservation at the Inn in the next town before we head out Jesus?
What is it that Jesus wanted? He wanted their willingness to say yes, “I will follow”, not later, but now! He wanted them to understand that the mission to which they were called, His mission, was more important than anything else! All that we have collected; our possessions, positions, and pride, are here today and gone tomorrow. But Jesus’ offer, to all of us, to follow Him? Irreplaceable and incomparable. It takes trust, strength, and boldness to be countercultural. God in Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit will enable us, and has called us to follow even in the midst of our everyday, secular world.
Will you spend a quiet moment with me now contemplating letting go of that which holds you back from saying, “I will follow you Lord. Help me along the way.” Amen.
May God bless your saying yes, right now, to journeying with Jesus, Pastor Laura <><
A Heavenly Example of Object Permanence Object permanence is the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be observed seen, heard, touched, smelled or sensed in any way.
...stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” 50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
Ephesians 1:15-23 …18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion…
Happy Ascension Sunday everyone! Let’s not get too caught up in the “how” of the Ascension so that we miss the “why”. Join me in thanking John Calvin for saying, “For us it is enough to believe that he is in heaven.” What difference does the Ascension make, you ask? Let’s take a look at two: First of all it makes a big difference in how we understand power. Political and military leaders have had power throughout the ages and continue to today. Entrusted with authority, in human weakness they allow self-interest to get in the way of caring for the interests of others. In the Ascension, at the right hand of God, power is made perfect in Jesus’ hands. Jesus, the one who suffered for us, is the one who has the real power, yesterday, today, and forever. Power has wounded nearly all of us at some point in our lives--- we have suffered as victims of misused and abusive power, hurt as children or adults, at home, in the community, at work, and even at church. So also we may have been the one who has inflicted the hurt through our misdirected use of power. Embracing Jesus’ definition and embodiment of loving power, we can pray for, hope for, and trust in Jesus’ healing and forgiveness. Let us pause for a moment to pray in silence for others, for the world, and for our selves that we may seek to heal and forgive…Jesus may your perfect power reign in our hearts, actions, and lives. Amen… Second, we know Jesus, God with us, as both fully human and fully divine. That did not change when Jesus ascended! God who reigns in power is our God who understands us because He chose to come down and experience living in human flesh. Jesus is still as human as ever and still understands what it is to be one of us. Through the humanity of Jesus, we are brought with Him close to the heart of God. Through Jesus, we have communion with God through our ascended Lord. Justo Gonzales explains, “At the very heart of the Trinity now is this human being Jesus.” And paraphrasing Calvin… since Jesus entered heaven in the flesh, in a sense we already sit with God in heaven… wow… And from Ephesians 2:6, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” That alone is such encouraging, comforting news, that I must repeat it and could end this sermon right here, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” With the disciples we may be tempted to gaze upward wondering where he went, feeling we have been abandoned, our Savior gone to some distant, unseen, unknown. But the truth is…Jesus is with us intimately, and in His bodily ascension, He assured us of His invisible presence. He is not gone, but has kept His promise that we know from the gospel of Matthew, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” And so you may be waiting for the charge or challenge this week. Jesus told the disciples, just before He ascended, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Maybe what we are being called to do this week is to stay put, rest… and contemplate the great love our God has for us in giving us the gift of being risen with Jesus. In today’s passage Jesus didn’t say, hurry up get to work right now! He said, “Stay, wait here… there is another gift to be given before you go out.” Soak up this wondrous, amazing, inexplicable event called the Ascension and with the disciples praise and worship Him with great joy! Open yourself to receive Jesus’ good, perfect, and loving power, and receive His healing from that which has hurt you. This lesson in object permanence does not require us to look for something hidden, but calls us to put our faith in that which, though unseen, is the assurance of things hoped for. (Hebrews 11:1) We are not alone, abandoned, nor are we orphans. Please join me in another moment of silence, close your eyes, and place yourself with the disciples that day, receive Jesus’ blessing, and watch, wonder, and remain in hope as you trust in the good news of the ascension of Christ… Let us pray. Holy and mysterious God, we give thanks that we do not need to explain, but rather join countless others who in faith have received the blessing of communion with you through our risen and ascended Lord Christ. Heal us in your power, encourage us to hold on to the wonder and gift of including us in your ascension. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit we pray. Amen.
Yup it was a long one:) May the Holy presence of the risen and ascended Christ be with you always, Pastor Laura <><