Holy Foolishness

Foolish StaffTuesday, March 31, 2015

Mark 14:1-16:8

In the afternoon on Palm Sunday I found myself in the pew of a church I’d never been to, surrounded mostly by people I had never met before. As a pastor, I had already worshipped three times that weekend with my own congregation. It had also been a long weekend of celebrating and re-celebrating the birthdays of my husband and son. Back at home, I still had out of town guests waiting in a house that I knew was a mess.

In this worship service I had no responsibilities.
I did not have to do anything.
I did not have to be there.
My own long list of unfinished to-do’s for the coming week still hung in the air.  

It was a foolish use of my time.

And then the benediction came:

And may God bless you with enough foolishness
to believe that you can make a difference in this world,
so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

We live in a culture that demands that things make sense:
Love those who love you.
Act out of self-interest.
Consider the cost.

And in the face of all of that, here comes the foolishness of Holy Week.
God made flesh, simply for love’s sake, ready to give everything for a world that will reject him.
A friend who welcomes all to the table--especially the ones who do not deserve to be there.
A king who seeks to serve, getting on his knees like a slave.
God’s Son convicted and executed as a criminal.
A victory that comes only through the most crushing of defeats.
New life born from the tomb.
Messengers greeting failed disciples with words of forgiveness, not judgment.  

These are foolish things that we do:
To worship.
To believe.
To follow.
To give.
To forgive.

But considering the foolish ways of God, we cannot be any other way.

Ample Space

 

Friday, March 27, 2015 Palm

 

Philippians 2:8-9

 

 

As we prepare for this week of worship in the congregation, it’s hard to find adequate words to describe the very meaning of everything we will do. We have been through Holy Week before and we know that there is significance to our movement, prayers, readings and songs. It is significant that we do this together and across the generations. I am grateful for the patterns established over the ages so what we do in these days create ample space for our human emotions and longings. I am always surprised by what chords in me are touched by the community of faith at worship during Holy Week.

 

There is largeness to the Gospels when it comes to the passion. In some ways the best we can do is to listen and let the story move once again in our hearts and our minds. There is a prayerful kind of response that finds its way among us that corresponds to a story that powerfully speaks to the great lengths God goes to be present for us. We come to the foot of the cross and see God’s actions of mercy in Jesus that touch the hurts of the world and stir within us a good hope for all things.

 

 

Sunday we will enter into worship by a procession with palms. We will read the Processional Gospel from the garden patio. Children and youth will assist us in waving palms, banners and singing praises – all to help us recall Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Drums will set a simple rhythm for our procession which will take us to the entrance of the sanctuary for the blessing of the palms.

 

 

The procession will then continue into the sanctuary as we prepare for the reading of the Passion of the Lord according to Mark led by our youth. The congregation will share in the reading both in its hearing and in selected spoken responses. In this way we will be ministered to by the Word and anticipate our opportunities in the days ahead to contemplate the way of the cross and the light of the resurrection.

 

He came from his blest throne salvation to bestow;
the world that was his own would not its Savior know.
But, oh, my friend, my friend indeed,
who at my need his life did spend!    -ELW 343

 

 

Pastor Randy  

 

Creative Collaboration

MaryWe extend a warm welcome to Pastor Mary Peschauer and Heather Roth Johnson to Faith this weekend. As one way to further our vision toward a more collaborative and integrated ministry, Pastor Mary and Heather will share with us a creative approach to worship and learning that they established at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Minneapolis.

At Bethlehem they designed an alignment process in planning and implementation that brought greater clarity to the weekly message and learning time. This “One Story Integrated Approach” gave focus to one biblical story for all ages each week so the congregation could further live into the message the rest of the week. This approach is very much in line with our recent efforts toward intergenerational ministry.

Pastor Mary will be preaching and Heather will be leading a Story Time for our children at all three services this weekend. Be sure to be present too for Adult Sunday School as they will guide our conversation about this approach. They will also direct a retreat for staff and leadership on Sunday afternoon as they further share their experiences and ideas for creative collaboration for all our ministry areas.

Two weeks ago Pastor Mary was with us to observe our ministry context. She spent time learning from staff and sharing her ideas. Her insights into processes that strengthen connecting, collaborating, communicating and creativity were very helpful and gave us much to think about. I was grateful for this time as we continue to give attention to shaping staff and congregation as a community in mission.

Pastor Randy

Open to Newness

buttterfly small

Friday, March 13, 2015

John 3:1-21

The children’s message in worship often draws us in a new direction. All of us listen a little differently. Eyes and hearts wide open feel the invitation of the Gospel toward the gladness of participation. It’s as if we open up the windows of the sanctuary and let the warm breezes of spring remind us of God’s redeeming love for all creation. The simplicity moves us out of our preoccupations to once again receive what God so freely offers.

Something brought Nicodemus into the company of Jesus at night. And there was something in his role that naturally led him to ask questions. I know how my experiences over the years and my temperament can influence my perspectives and lead me to certain questioning.

I can relate to how Nicodemus’ expectations – his need to intellectually grasp things – got in the way of being open to the new thing God was doing. The conversation served as an invitation to Nicodemus to enter into relationship characterized by mercy and kindness. We can feel the uneasiness. It’s hard to be in a place where we are asked to simply receive. The story speaks to matters of faith and vulnerability.

So Jesus met Nicodemus in his searching and brought the very gift of light and the promise of love. It likely took some time for this to settle in for him. But the story points us to the Spirit that blows where it wills and makes it possible regardless of our reluctance and fear to be open and to receive what God so generously gives! This gift changes us and opens the way to the future.

Lent draws our meditations to the foot of the cross – the depth of God’s tenacious love for the world. We pause to receive the gift of God’s love today. It finds its way - ever so persistent so we can be brought into newness far beyond our efforts or anything we can imagine or deserve.

Pastor Randy

To Pause for Lent

dew on grassFriday, March 6, 2015

Psalm 19

The teaching of the Lord is perfect and revives the soul…

Last week at a first communion retreat I watched children gather around Pastor Sarah in the sanctuary to learn about the gift of a holy meal for faith and life. Not too far away their parents listened in and all together you could feel a wonder in the room for worship and learning. The retreat held during Lent seemed most fitting to the basic practices of our faith. On many levels these things are a constant and overtime shape our identity as God’s beloved.

More to be desired than gold, more than much fine gold, sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb…

Experiences of worship that move us are sometimes beyond explanation. It may be a word spoken or sung; it may be prayer or a silence; it may be needed stillness or movement toward another. While worship takes focus on what happens in an hour on the weekend in the sanctuary, we realize that worship goes with us throughout the week among many and varied places and expressions. We find wonder in worship because we trust that we are met by the presence of God among us, engaged by the love of Christ before us.

Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins…

In the patterns and disciplines of our walk of faith we find ourselves led back to be together weekly simply because overtime the gathering is just something we do. We look forward to the encounters. Call it tradition or routine we realize that we are most often grateful for the opportunity. We are glad to share in a community of faith centered on God’s movement of mercy toward us over and over again.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight…

You may notice from time to time in my preaching or writing that I like to quote hymn texts. Maybe this is a reflection of my age, the amount of years I have been a pastor, and my need to search for words poetic and insightful beyond my own wisdom or experience. It makes me feel connected to something much greater than me – the witness of the church throughout the ages. There are worship moments when a phrase from a hymn will draw me into silence so I can be surrounded by the song of the congregation – and in and through it renewed in ways beyond my own best efforts.

Pastor Randy