What's In It for Me?

dinner tableFriday, August 26, 2016

Maybe just a whole lot of extra work.

Luke 14:1-14

Jesus has this instruction for those who welcome him to their table:

When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.

Jesus makes it clear that these people are not in a position to repay the invitation. These people will not be able to offer favors or connections that the host can cash in on later. These people will not add to the glamour of the gathering. No one will be impressed that these people came to dinner. In fact, anyone who is anyone will be repulsed that you ate with these people.

But what’s even worse, is that it takes a lot of extra effort to invite these people.

For of course, you can't just put out a sign for the blind. So instead, you will have to go out and find them to tell them.

You can't just say "Come!" to the poor. They may not have any transportation to get there.

You can't just say “You are welcome” to the lame…especially if it means climbing stairs to get to the table.

You can't just wait for the crippled to come to you. You may have to bring the feast to them, wherever they are at.

And because these people aren’t used to being invited, it may take some extra convincing to top it off.

Oh, these people are going to be a lot of work.
And for all your effort, there may be very little benefit in it for you.

But this is what Jesus calls us to do.
And each and every time we stand around the table and say, “Come Lord Jesus,” let us remember that.

Pastor Sarah

What do we want? FREEDOM. When do we want it? NOW.

ProtestWhy do you have to keep making trouble, Jesus?

Gospel: Luke 13:10-17

The leader of the synagogue was irate, outraged, indignant:

A rabbi should know better! There is a proper way of doing things! There is a place and a time! The law allows for emergency healings on the Sabbath—BUT NOT THIS! NOT NOW! NOT HERE! That woman had been living like that for 18 years! She could wait another day! And this certainly did not need to happen here, in the synagogue, right in front of all these people! He’s way out of line! He’s disrupting good order! He’s going out of his way to make trouble!

And the leader of the synagogue was right about Jesus.
Well, sort of.

Change makers are inherently trouble makers. By trying to change things they are going to disrupt the status quo. And that looks like trouble to those who benefit from the “way things are.” They will resist change. To the shouts of “Now!” they will answer, “Not yet.” To those pointing out trouble in the world, they point back and say, “YOU are the trouble.”  

During the civil rights era, several white clergymen wrote a letter to Martin Luther King, Jr. urging him to withdraw support from boycotts, protests, marches, and sit-ins---which they felt caused “racial friction and unrest.” Their 1963 letter complained that “a cause should be pressed in the courts and in negotiations among local leaders, and not in the streets.” In 1964 according to the American National Election Studies, 63 percent of Americans believed the civil rights movement was moving “too fast.” Meanwhile, 57 percent of Americans in this year called the protestor’s actions “violent.” Another 58 percent believed the protests were “hurting their own cause.”

It had already been 344 years of bearing these burdens. Couldn’t they wait one more day to be set free?

Much like the leader of the synagogue, we hear these questions asked in the face of every change movement. Why can’t they protest without bothering us? Why can’t they wait for change to come about gradually? Why can’t they be more patient?

Why not?
Because as another famous protestor* said nearly 500 years ago, “How soon ‘not now’ becomes ‘never.’”

This wasn’t the first time Jesus very publicly disobeyed the law, thumbing his nose at “business as usual,” publicly embarrassing the authority figures of his day. This would not be the last time, either, because for Jesus the time for setting free was always now. Restoration will not wait. Freedom for the oppressed will not be delayed until those in power are ready for it. Anyone bothered by the disruption will just have to learn how to deal--or maybe even, come to see things in the new light of God’s freedom.

Like it or not,
Jesus is bringing the Kingdom, now.  

*That’s Martin Luther. And if you didn’t already know…following a trip to Germany, Rev. Michael King, Sr. was so inspired by the reformer he changed his name and young son’s name.

Pastor Sarah

So Great a Cloud of Witnesses

Blue Skies

August 12, 2016

How do we best take in the landscapes we pass through? Too often we miss things that are right before us because we have grown accustom to looking at them in the usual way or we simply rush by. Past adventures tend to shape the expectations of the next journey. “Having been there” can too easily diminish the light of dawn - the uniqueness of any particular day in any particular place.

The nudge of a friend’s, “did you see that” can make us a little more attentive to the beauty that surrounds us, refreshing our tired eyes. Every journey, near or far, holds the promise of allowing us to see all that freely comes our way.

I grew up near the shores of Lake Superior. I experienced the bone chilling winds and came to appreciate the warmth of wool and a good pair of boots. My dad delighted in his July vacations especially after working outside on the railroad through the long winter months. I have learned by my return trips that the landscape of my childhood is about many things. I am always learning more from it. Like a moonlit harbor that makes for solitude and reflection. Like the waves of the lake that bring to mind the passage of time - the built in rhythms of rest and work - the cadence of faith and service.

Those who walk alongside of us often help us with such perspective, a way of seeing with appreciation, an encouragement toward taking on the challenges.

The community of faith and the witness of the church surely go with us in our travels – we are companions on the journey. We move along in paths of mission, we take notice of a sustaining grace and the presence of God’s steadfast love all around. Together we share in such gladness and find a way forward with hope, a vision toward the goodness of our shared labors.

Therefore since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith… Hebrews 12:1-2       

Pastor Randy

Rich Fool

self storageFriday, July 29, 2016

Be on your guard against all kinds of greed.

Luke 12:13-21

A large crowd gathered as Jesus spoke to his disciples about the cost of following.
There is nothing they could count on keeping to themselves.
Not their lives.
Not even their secrets.
The only thing they will have left to cling to—is God.

And suddenly a man shouts out from the crowd: Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me!”

Much like Sally in the Charlie Brown Christmas Special (with Christmas list in hand), this man is saying, “All I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share.”

And we may wonder, “Well Jesus, what could be wrong with that?”

 

Well actually, a lot.

 

Jesus has been talking about self-sacrifice for the kingdom of God, and all this man can think about is how to use Jesus to get what he wants.

Jesus has been bringing together a family through hearing and doing the word of God, and this man is seeking to divide his family over a matter of wealth.

This man wants only black and white, yes or no, clear cut, simple answers, and Jesus will respond with a disturbing, distressing parable.

Be on your guard against all kinds of greed…

The kind that ignores what Jesus is saying, because something else seems all important.

The kind that divides people in order to stakes its claim.

The kind that dodges real engagement with the word of God—a difficult word that both convicts and frees us all.

Pastor Sarah

Hearts Filled with Care

flower smallFriday, July 22, 2016

Luke 11:1-13

When Jesus taught his disciples about prayer, he gave them the words that we have come to know as the Lord’s Prayer. The prayer is so deeply woven into our life of worship that it’s easy to lose sight of what it continues to teach us. The instruction around prayer in Luke had little to do with technique. Eloquence is not the goal here. Prayer takes in the basic things of life like food, forgiveness and hope for the future. We pray for any number of reasons but the very act of praying brings not only our needs but our very selves into the reliable care of God. It’s all meant to be uncomplicated. It’s meant to bring simple expression of our deepest longing into God’s company.

Think of the places and times you find yourselves praying. From prayers shared within weekly worship to prayers in moments of solitude uniquely ours – we find a way to bring the real stuff of life into a place of mercy and light. It is both a speaking and a listening. It is a communication that is on-going, relational and bringing faith alive. Prayer can be difficult as we wonder about God’s response. It can be reassuring - a reminder of God’s promise to be present for us even when answers are hard to come by.

Luke made a connection between prayer and the gift of the Holy Spirit: how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! As Jesus encouraged the disciples to ask and seek, he drew their attention to the mystery and work of the Spirit. Like in so many things, Jesus broadens the view, widening the possibilities for a life of faith given over in service to others. If the Holy Spirit has something to do with prayer then prayer changes us.

What have we to offer? What have we to share?
Coins from the coffer, hearts filled with care.
God will not falter; so let us dare
lay it at the altar there.

                                                                                 - Offertory Hymn from Dakota Road

It seems that the best way to understand prayer is to pray. In the praying we participate in something larger than us, even peace that passes understanding! So as our weekly liturgy calls us to do… let us pray.

Pastor Randy