Did You See That?

camerasMark 12:38-44

There were a lot of people in town for Passover celebration.
And everyone who was anyone was at the Temple.

Standing out in the crowd were the religious elite, swishing around in their long robes and saying long prayers. If there had been paparazzi in this day, the papers would have been full of photos of these important men making their entrance at the biggest parties of the season.

Heads turned as the wealthy opened their substantial purses and heaved their heavy contents into the treasury receptacle, raining down in a metallic cacophony. There were no giant novelty checks at the time, so cold hard cash had to do.

There would have also been a lot of nobodies in the crowd.
Nothing particularly notable about them.
Not a thing that made them stand out.
No one would even know they had been there.

Despite all the noise and distraction, it was the nobodiest of nobodies that Jesus notices. And this poor widow is the one that he asks his disciples to take notice, as well.

Jesus calls his followers to notice the ones that the world does not care about.
He’s been doing it throughout the entire gospel of Mark.

When the disciples are on their way to see Jesus heal the child of a righteous Jewish man—
Jesus lets a defiled woman take his attention.

As the disciples are arguing over who is the greatest—
Jesus turns their attention to a child, the person of the lowest status in the household.

While the disciples jockey for the best seat—
Jesus gives God’s blessing to a blind man sitting on the side of the road.

While everyone else is fawning over the rich, the elite, the important, the powerful…
When the rest of the world is doing their best to turn away from weakness, from poverty, from suffering…

Jesus says to his followers:
See her. See her poverty. See her two little copper coins.

See her. And care.

Pastor Sarah

The Alpha & The Omega

frosted leaves

October 30, 2015

Revelation 21:1-6a

It has been a long time since I fished and swam the waters of Upper St. Croix Lake. From there the Brule River flows to the north and the St. Croix to the south. All the gifts the place held, including the people I shared them with powerfully shaped my childhood. Now when I visit and stand on the shoreline letting my thoughts wonder across the waters I am moved by the memories. Sometimes they are accompanied by tears with the realization of the passage of time and the acknowledgement of loss. The countless faces of that community that shared that time and place with me never seem far away in my remembering.

All Saints Day is a time of remembrance. Within the experience of worship we look to the past and remember the saints who have gone before us and are now at rest in God. In our walk of faith, remembrance is central to naming our identity as children of God. In the life of the church we take the memories and bring them alongside our hope in the risen Lord who makes all things new. It is within a redeeming grace that the past is gathered up and brought into a new day. We come to trust that God, the Alpha & Omega, holds all time in God’s gentle embrace.

All Saints Day teaches us how to live into the present moment, grateful for the witness of the saints who have gone before us and enlivened by the Spirit who goes ahead of us. It is a day when we may feel the emotion of loss and yet know that our tears are met by the God of all consolation.

Pastor Randy

O Christ the same, through all our story’s pages,
our loves and hopes, our failures and our fears;
eternal Lord, the king of all the ages,
unchanging still amid the passing years. – ELW 760

Things We'd Like to Forget

truthThursday, October 23, 2015

John 8:31-36

They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”

It appears that the people have forgotten something.

Like the time their ancestors were enslaved in Egypt…
Or, the time that their people were enslaved in Babylon…
Also, that time right now when they are enslaved by the Romans…

And, oh yeah, all those times that they were slaves to sin…

But, 1st century Jews are not the only ones who have a monopoly on selective memory. We do it, too. We all tell ourselves comforting lies about our past. It helps us avoid dealing with the very present reality of our sin, which is painful and messy.

So instead we tell ourselves lies like:
People get what they deserve.

Believing this lie lets us off the hook when it comes to showing mercy or helping those in need. We can ignore all the factors playing into the suffering of others, and that we ourselves may be one of those factors.

When we believe this lie we can claim success as our own…ignoring all we’ve been given along the way, the many shoulders we are standing on, the way circumstances and what Warren Buffet calls the “the ovarian lottery” have factored in.

And when we fail, we tell ourselves that the answer to all things is inside ourselves. Just try harder. Just be better. Just do more.

Lie. Lie. Lie.

While this approach may help us avoid the hard things about the truth, it also keeps us from experiencing the freedom that is in the truth.

In forgetting their slavery, the Jews in our lesson have also forgotten the truth that God has delivered them, time and again.

In forgetting their sin, they are also forgetting:
The mercy God showed in their time of need…
The undeserving gifts of grace they have been given…

The power of God that does for them what they cannot do for themselves…
When we face up to our sin, we finally get to see the truth. And it is good news.

People do not get what they deserve.

We get mercy. We get grace. We get a power that can turn death into life.

All of it despite our sin.
All of it because of our sin.

Pastor Sarah

Taking Shape

geese at duskFriday, October 16, 2015

Mark 10:35-45

When I served the church as a mission developer, forming a new congregation of the ELCA in Northeastern Ohio, we learned to listen closely to those who were seeking a new connection to the church. They helped us think about things we took for granted in a new light. Early on our attention was given over to matters of identity, mission and character. With little history behind us, it was exciting to plan for the future and try new things. We quickly learned that the resources of our faith were enough to be the church together in mission.

At times it may have seemed that little was happening but we could still feel the immediacy of the Spirit at work through the simple gifts of worship and welcome. In a high school cafeteria, we made the best of our environment and even found joy in the shared labors that made our gatherings possible. We could see community take shape before our eyes even if it moved slowly. Overtime we came to learn the unfolding, dynamic and surprising gift that it was.

Years later, now in this place called Faith, I am still learning about how the gospel comes alive in the people who gather to worship and serve. I am still learning how the Spirit often works in quiet and undramatic ways. With eyes of faith, we see the many ways we serve through the many gifts among us for the sake of the needs around us.      

We have listened to the Gospel of Mark these past weeks in worship and have noticed that the disciples heard the words of Jesus, together as a community of followers. And while it seemed that they mostly struggled to understand, Jesus remained steadfast in his love for them. It was especially hard for them to grasp the call to follow in servant like ways. But overtime both in the presence of Jesus and in his actions the disciples could see the new and promising thing happening for the world.

Sovereign God, you turn your greatness into goodness for all the peoples on earth. Shape us into willing servants of your kingdom, and make us desire always and only your will, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. – ELW, page 50

Pastor Randy

What is Your Motivation

cross with question mark shadow

Friday, October 9, 2015

Mark 10:17-31

In Colin Durant’s book Choral Conducting philosophy and practice there is a chapter that asks the question- Why do people sing with other people, the answer might seem obvious as this is a book on choral conducting – to sing in a choir. However, Durant goes on to list varying motivations that bring people together to sing in a choir. While I don’t have the space to list all of the motivations, there are two main themes that come to the forefront. First: To be in a community working together to create a beautiful product and Two: To belong to a community.

In this Sunday’s gospel reading Jesus promises his disciples a new community of brothers and sisters, mothers and children in exchange for the sacrifices they had made to follow him. It seems to me that we here at Faith are in the process of creating a new community. We have just completed a successful capital campaign. We are making new decisions in the many and varying ministries to ensure a sense of community and belonging. So, as we move forward together in community let us keep our eye on the prize- a beautiful product called the community of Faith Lutheran Church. Or put another way, an active, diverse and Christ centered congregation of faith in community with each other. What is your motivation? Are you going to act on that motivation? I hope you do!

God Bless You All,