Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Wade In The Water

On June 30, 2013 we held our second Wade In The Water event.  12 individuals were baptized into the kingdom.  The schedule for the morning went like this:
9:00  Registration
9:30  Instruction Time
10:30 Worship
11:30  Baptisms in Maple Lake
12:00  A Lutheran potluck followed.

This event emerged from our discussions of Vision and Mission.  How do we make baptisms accessible for those who may have concerns with institutional church?  This was our answer!

Wade In The Water 2013 at Trinity Point south of Mentor, MN

Monday, July 29, 2013

Wow!  I'm attending a three day conference on Stewardship with Adults Under 40.  I'll say more later about the topic.  This is my first experience with education surrounded by computers and smartphones.  The conference is using social media as well so I'm "connected" via facebook and twitter.  It's all quite stimulating and multi-tasking overload.  Imagine clicking keyboards, written conversations on twitter, presenters using power point, and laughter at jokes and insights!  I think I will be tired by 5:00 p.m.!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tuesday - What if you gain the world but lose yourself?

Then Jesus said to them all, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.  For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.  What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?"  Luke 9:23-25

Prayer for today:

Gracious and loving Lord, you gave up your life for me, yet it is so hard for me to give up my life for you.  Give me strength and courage to take up the cross each day.  Draw me close on this walk with you.  Be with me as I lose my life for your sake and experience your life in me.  In your holy name.  Amen. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday - Which of you does not seek the lost one?

Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?  Luke 15:4

The radical love of God is expressed in this scripture.  It makes no sense to leave the 99 unattended, putting them at risk, to go after one lost sheep.  But that is what God does.  In fact, a more radical concept is that God would send one sole person - his Son - to come down to save the whole creation in a manner that seems not in God's way. 

But God communicates the fullness of his love in Jesus, in this parable of the lost sheep, in this gift of faith to remind us the extent that God will go to find those who are lost.

So the question might be rephrased, "What are you willing to risk to find the lost?"  The answer will always pale in comparison to God's own response.  Yet we are called to be bold with this faith and to seek out the lost.  It is gift and challenge for which a deeper level of faith will be found. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Sermon on the Parable of the Father Who Had Two Sons

Sermon on The Parable of the Father who had Two Sons.

Tuesday - What is the Kingdom of God like?

Jesus said therefore, "What is the kingdom of God like?"  Luke 13:18

 Jesus compares the kingdom of God to two small yet familiar things: a mustard seed and baking yeast.  We often need to be reminded that faith in something that seems so small can yield great things.  We so underestimate the power of God.  And often, the thing that needs changing, is we ourselves.  Mahatma Gandhi said, "We need to be the change we wish to see in the world."  There is a lot of truth to that and, in Christ, we are empowered to be transformed for the good of the world.  All done for God's purposes and not our own. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Monday - Can Saltiness be Restored?

"You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?"  Matthew 5:13a

Salt gives flavor.  Salt acts as a preservative.  Salt is needed for life.  When Jesus declares "You are the salt of the earth;" he reminds us that Jesus gives flavor to our existence.  How would our lives be without faith?  Where would we turn if we could not pray?  Would we experience a love where another would die so we could live?

As salt people people we are filled with "good stuff".  Jesus calls us to share this goodness with the world to give hope.  And hope is the greatest flavor we all need. 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Saturday - Who are my mother and my brothers?

A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you."  And he replied, "Who are my mother and my brothers?"  Mark 3:31-35

The writer brings us back to baptism as a reminder that we are all brothers and sisters to one another.  Our congregation had a baptism event at our Maple Lake location.  We extended an open invitation to the entire community to come for a time of instruction, worship, and then mass baptisms in the lake.  Eighteen infants, children, and adults were welcomed into the kingdom of God that day.  Part of the fun was seeing the shore filled with family, friends, and community members cheering each of the baptized as they emerged from the waters.  Smiles and laughter were contagious.  We gathered for a potluck lunch right afterwards.  It was a great experience at being the family of God.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Friday - Which is easier, declaring forgiveness or healing?

Then the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, "Who is this who is speaking blasphemies?  Who can forgive sins but God alone?"  When Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, "Why do you raise such questions in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Stand up and walk'?"  Luke 5:17-26

Burtness shares a prayer loaded with good things for us to pray:

Lord Jesus, you have the power to forgive, and I ask your forgiveness for the hurtful things I've done and the things I should have done.  Give me the grace to let go of resentment and the strength to forgive others.  You have the power to heal, and I ask for healing of my body, mind, and spirit.  Give me the perseverance to bring others to you, in spite of the obstacles.  To the glory of your name.  Amen. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Wednesday - What do you want me to do for you?

There were two blind men sitting by the roadside.  When they heard that Jesus was passing by, they shouted, "Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!"  The crowd sternly ordered them to be quiet; but they shouted even more loudly, "Have mercy on us, Lord, Son of David!"  Jesus stood still and called them, saying, "what do you want me to do for you?"  Matthew 20:29-34

Burtness writes this in commentary:  "Instead of continuing on, staying on schedule, and doing what's expected of him, Jesus stops, stands still, and asks the men a question.  He focuses on what they need and what only he can give."

I am so reminded of the many times when I have so many things on my plate I just walk by people with never a notice.  It is so easy to get so full of what I want to do, that I forget to notice some people along the way.  At times I miss an opportunity to stop and listen to someone who might be hurting.  In my pursuit of the end goal, I may forget to consult with others along the way. 

Jesus always takes the time to listen to the cries of the faithful.  I'm reminded of Luther's explanation of the 2nd commandment - Take not the Lord's name in vain.  It is really a command to pray.  When you pray to God - in God's name - expect him to listen. 

Perhaps the lesson today is to slow down enough to notice the people we encounter along the way.  And by faith we can trust that there is enough time, enough resources, enough of everything to simply lend a listening ear. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tuesday - Will You Lay Down Your Life for Me?

Peter said to him, "Lord, why can I not follow you now?  I will lay down my life for you."  Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for me?  John 13:37-38a

Giving up my life for Jesus?  A question that perplexes me.  I read about martyrs like Oscar Romero or missionaries who take their entire families into the nether places of the world and I think, "Could I really do that?"  The irony is there are some people who think serving in northern Minnesota is kind of like being a missionary in a far away place!

In many ways, we in America have had an easy go of Christianity in recent history.  We have not had to stand up to anyone threatening to outlaw our religion.  We have freedom to exist with many different expressions of Christianity.  We are willing to set aside our weekly worship to pursue other interests. 

But when Jesus asks Peter, he could be asking us, "Will you lay down your life for me?"  This causes one to think!

The truth is we could never do what Jesus did in giving up his life for the salvation of the creation.  We need Jesus to be the one who willing goes to the cross to save us from ourselves.  But there is room for us to ponder this question, especially in the context of examining our Christian faith active in our lives and in the world today.  What does it mean to simply live our lives in the calling of Jesus?  What changes do I need to make to grow closer to the risen Christ? 

Sunday Sermon - The Fig Tree

Sunday Sermon - The Fig Tree

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Friday: Did I Not Tell You That You Would See the Glory of God?

Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb.  It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.  Jesus said, "Take away the stone."  Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, "Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days."  Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"  John 11:38-40

Questions to Ponder:  When have you waited for God to answer a prayer, or had God answer a prayer in an unexpected way?

As I write this I have a friend who is caring for his wife's recovery from surgical removal of a brain tumor with more procedures on the horizon.  I can only imagine what thoughts and prayers he is offering to God during this time.  The basis of our faith is the resurrection to eternal life but we are so concerned about the present time and our fear of what the future might bring. 

Yet, Jesus reminds Martha that the glory of God will be seen.  As Christians we have a hope in a future.  Our faith joins us with God in the present time and yet connects with that eternal promise so we won't give up.  We do pray for healing.  We do pray for comfort.  We do pray for strength.  And all the while we are calling on God, acknowledging that God is here and is listening. 

And all the while we are surrounded by the many believers who also share this faith.  Those in this present day and those who have gone before us.  Bearing with us.  Praying for us.  Helping us.  And I might even add, cheering for us, because of the greatness of God to fulfill all that God promises. 

Christ is with you Lauri, Keith, and Tyler. 

Thursday: Do You Not Believe That I Am in the Father and the Father Is In Me?

Philip said to [Jesus], "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied."  Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me?  whoever has seen me has seen the Father.  How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?  Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?"  John 14:8-10a

The author asks us to ponder this question, "Does it bother you that you can't have God or Jesus your own way?"

At staff this morning we spoke to the incredible gift of multiple churches that gather the many faithful followers.  While we may not be able to 'have Jesus our way' we are certainly given a number of options by which to gather and worship our risen Lord.  Some are concerned over church hierarchy.  Others have difficulty hearing a message that "tells" them what to believe rather than helping them to understand it.  Some like tradition.  Others prefer newer and fresher approaches to faith.  Some are simply content to sit in the pew no matter the faith expression.

In reality, the fullness of God will only be experienced the our resurrection.  I like a quote from St. Augustine that was shared on pg. 43.  "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you."  Faith has us trusting that, in Jesus, we experience the fullness of God as we can best understand in this time and will more fully understand when we get to our heavenly home.  Our present day journeys will have us encountering the risen Christ in a number of ways and that is the work of God in our midst. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Busy week

We are in the midst of a number of funerals and activities at church the last week or so.  Hopefully things will slow down and I can get back to the daily routine of commenting on this blog. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Tuesday: Whom are you looking for?

Read John 18:1-8.

Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, "whom are you looking for?"  John 18:4

I like how the writer takes this passage which leads to Jesus' death then juxtaposes it with Mary's grief at the tomb where Jesus asks her the same question "Whom are you looking for?" leading her to life. 

Are we looking for the things that give life?  Often the chaos and dysfunction in our lives keep us from looking for things that are positive and life-building.  We are reminded that the question Jesus asks rests in the pursuit of a relationship with him.  Relationships are in it for the long-haul with an eye to a life well-lived. 

Monday: Do you want to be made well?

Read John 5:2-9a.

One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.  When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, "Do you want to be made well?" John 5:5-6

Our reading today shares the story of a woman's struggle with alcoholism.  There is a lot of pain around this disease with the individual, their family, their co-workers, and their friends.  It is so difficult to know what to do for someone who struggles with this.  We want to help but Jesus' question is forthright for any of us who struggle with any brokenness in our lives.  Do you want to be made well?

Wholeness and restoration perhaps can bring healing for us when we start asking different questions.  I liked what Bill Wilson wrote in today's devotion.  "I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes."

Friday, February 15, 2013

Saturday: "Do you wish to go away?"

Read John 6:51-69

Jesus asked the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?"  John 6:67

When everyone else is leaving, isn't it difficult to stick around?  Doesn't it seem that when things are getting difficult or encountering resistance, that is when people start backing away?  Jesus is addressing his disciples as many other followers are leaving because the journey was getting too difficult.  

"It's a terrible thing to look over your shoulder when you're trying to lead and find there's no one there," Roosevelt lamented to one of his top advisers, Samuel Rosenman, back in 1937, back when war raged in Spain and Japan had invaded China. 

I think Jesus was asking this question, not to condemn his disciples, but rather to identify with what they were feeling.  Indeed, our faith journey is often filled with comments like "Do I have to?  But this is hard!  It is too much to bear."  At times what we need is someone to simply acknowledge what we are feeling, to give us courage to rise up and keep moving forward where Jesus calls us.  

Friday: "What can you give in return for your life?"

"For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?  Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?"  Mark 8:36-37

The writer, Eric Burtness, lifts up that most people approach life in one of three ways:  survival, success, or significance.  Our humanity gets caught up in any one of these approaches depending on the circumstances surrounding us at any given moment in our lives.  I'm reminded of "the love chapter" in Paul's letter to the Corinthians.  If I do many things but have not love, I'm only a noisy gong or clanging symbol. 

Living in the presence of Christ, we can live faithful lives in each of these circumstances.  In survival, we seek the risen Christ to give us what we need.  In success, we acknowledge it is the risen Christ working through us.  In significance, we humbly remember the life, death, and resurrection of Christ to empower us to be lights of hope in the world.  It's all about God!

Thursday: "Who touched me?"

She came up behind [Jesus] and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped.  Then Jesus asked, "Who touched me?"  Luke 8:44-45a

In this reading of this encounter of the healing Jesus, I am struck by the outreach of Jesus' actions.  The large numbers of people that gathered around Jesus would make an anonymous touch of his clothing seemingly inconspicuous.  But Jesus, knowing that a healing had taken place, wanted to know more about this person in need.  Jesus wanted to take time to identify and to relate to someone who was hurting and who, by faith, reached out to God. 

The good news of God in Jesus is that God wants to know the person who seeks out God.  Too often people think they have to make their lives "right" before approaching our Lord.  Whether this woman knew it or not, her redemption was already there in the presence of her faith that reached out.  The working out of her redemption (and ours) goes hand in hand with the risen Christ who carries us through that process assuring us of the promise of God by the power of God's grace. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Ash Wednesday Sermon

At Trinity we are using the Lenten Journey study guide entitled Beyond Question.  Each Wednesday night we will be looking at different questions that Jesus asks his followers.  For Ash Wednesday the question is "What are you looking for?"

John 1:35-42
The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, "Look, here is the Lamb of God!"  The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.  When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, "What are you looking for?"

What are you looking for?

Reading the gospel of John, it is interesting that these are the first words Jesus speaks in addressing the disciples of John the Baptist who have begun to follow Jesus. 

What are you looking for?

A few months back, Pr. Jo invited people to write down on a slip of paper a question they would want to ask God.  You can imagine the questions:  Why is there suffering in the world?  Why are people hungry?  Why am I so sad?  Why is Grandma in so much pain?  What is your plan for my life. 

What are you looking for?

It is a reflective question.  It is a question that causes us to think about our lives and the decision we’ve made; partners, children, work.  What’s next for my life even if my body creaks with old age?  Where am I at in terms of my faith - a faith that is ever-evolving, hopefully growing, and giving life to my existence?

Socrates boldly said “The unexamined life is not worth living.” 

Socrates believed that the purpose of human life was personal and spiritual growth. We are unable to grow toward greater understanding of our true nature unless we take the time to examine and reflect upon our life. As another philosopher, Santayana, observed, "He who does not remember the past is condemned to repeat it."

Examining our life reveals patterns of behavior. Deeper contemplation yields understanding of the subconscious programming, the powerful mental software that runs our life. Unless we become aware of these patterns, much of our life is unconscious repetition.

A psychotherapist once said, "I see so many tragic examples of the effect of an unexamined life. I remember Melissa, a sensitive, attractive woman in her late forties who realized that a series of repetitive, doomed-from-the-beginning relationships had used up so many years of her life that it was now very unlikely that she could still manifest her dream of a husband and children of her own. I recall Donald, a caring, hard-working man who neglected his wife and family emotionally for too many years. By the time he came to see me he was divorced, depressed and living alone in an apartment.

If only Melissa and Donald had taken the time to examine and reflect upon their lives as they were living them, they could have made changes and had a different experience during their lifetime."

And so we come to Ash Wednesday as we begin our Lenten Journey together.  Lent is an intentional time of spiritual reflection.  Our foreheads are marked with ashes, a sign of death, one thing we all have in common.  On Ash Wednesday there is no distinction between rich and poor, advantaged or disadvantaged, privileged or despairing.  We all are as good as dirt.  But then look at what great things God does with simple dirt. God warms the soil and brings it back to life causing growth to erupt all over the place.  But always in God’s time and in God’s way. 

On Ash Wednesday there is a heavy emphasis on repentance.  The word repentance means simply to turn around.  To repent is to turn away from those things that take away life and turning towards our Lord who gives life, both in this world and the next. 
What are you looking for? 

The good news is God is always looking for us.  God wants us to ask questions.  God wants us to turn to him especially in those despairing moments of life because in calling out to God, we acknowledge that God is there.  The questions might be incredibly simple or terribly complex but God wants to hear them.  And as we process that one question, God promises to accompany us on that journey of discovery in our quest for an answer.  That is why Jesus instructs us to pray in a private room.  God wants us all to God-self.  God wants us turning totally towards God.  God wants us entirely.  In the symbolism of ashes and repentance, we are stripped from all the things that would keep us from being totally with God as God embraces us with a love that would sacrifice God’s own son to prove that love for us.  In Jesus, grace is embodied and shared in Jesus Christ. 

And so we are not left floundering on our own.  Jesus accompanies us on this Lenten Journey of discovery.  What are you looking for?  We may not have an answer to give but this we can trust, that Jesus knows and Jesus journeys with us.  In the receiving of the Lord’s Supper we take in the sacrifice of Christ strengthened for the journey ahead as we explore and engage and expand in faith and hope to live in this world. 

What are you looking for?

In Jesus you will find more than you ever imagined.  If only we will take some time – to think, to pray, to be alone with the risen Christ.  Jesus is more than waiting for us.  Jesus is here, now, to bless and to inspire, to heal and to forgive, to offer hope and life.  And along the way we will find that which we are looking.  God simply calls us to trust God along the journey and to be open to the new discoveries we will find along the way.  Amen.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Friends Reunion

I recently attended Luther Seminary's yearly Convocation. This year's theme was "Worship in a time of change." Very well done. Great speakers. Terrific worship experiences. Fun to be on campus to see the changes and see familiar faces.

The best time was getting together with old friends. Had not seen Steve since his chemotherapy a number of years ago. Fun to see him healthy and vibrant in personality and vocation. We met another friend, Curt, for dinner and rehashed old times and past acquaintances. Before we knew it, three hours flew by along with many visits by the waiter to see if we had yet put money in the check folder. We shook our heads many times over the crazy things that have happened to us and we somehow got through it all.

Amazingly, God has been so faithful to us. We are truly blessed by God's presence in our friendships that we can only give thanks and praise.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Wade In The Water

Some have inquired as to the background picture on this blog. This was taken at an event our church hosted at our church lake property at Trinity Point on Maple Lake near Mentor, MN. The event was called "Wade in the Water" and we invited anyone who was desiring to be baptized to come on that particular Sunday for instruction, worship, and baptisms in the lake. We had 18 people come forward to be baptized. The following video shows the fun we had.

Gooey Butter Cookies

This preacher takes Mondays off. It's usually a day for cleaning or running errands. Today I wanted to surprise Karsten with homemade cookies. An internet search had me come across a recipe for Gooey Butter Cake. When we lived in Woodbury we loved to eat at a small restaurant in Afton called The Sail Away. One of their specialty desserts was an individual Gooey Butter Cake. Delicious. Good memories for sure. Well the side bar came up with some alternate recipes and I came across this for Gooey Butter Cookies. It's basically cream cheese, butter, and yellow cake mix. A very easy recipe. Karsten gives them a "thumbs up."
Ingredients: 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese 1/2 cup butter, softened 1 egg 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar Directions: 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). 2. In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter. Stir in the egg and vanilla. Add cake mix, and stir until well blended. Roll into 1inch balls and roll the balls in the confectioners' sugar. Place 1 inch apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet. 3. Bake for 10 to 13 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove from baking sheets to cool on wire racks.