The Silence and Simplicity of the Season

candles“Be still and know that I am God”~Psalm 46:10

It is easy to get overwhelmed and stressed at this time of year. Expectations are high to create the “perfect” Christmas. Gifts need to be purchased and made, cookies need to be baked, and our homes need to be decorated. It is hard to slow down and take in the peace, joy, and blessings of the Advent season amid the chaos of our planning and preparation for Christmas. Often this chaos depletes us and leaves little time in our hearts to anticipate Jesus’ miraculous birth.

For many of us, the holiday season is a whirlwind of activity. During this time, it is critical that we intentionally search for pockets of rest and quiet to soothe our hearts and minds. Jesus urged His disciples to find quiet to rest and restore their weary spirits. We must also take time to slow down and reconnect with our Savior in a quiet place, if only for a brief time each day.

Quiet can be difficult. What do we do with the silence when we are so used to the noise? What will we accomplish if we aren’t busy moving and doing? How do we shut out the disruptions and stresses of our daily lives? There is much to accomplish in our quiet moments, too. It soothes our soul and allows us time to reflect on what the season of Advent means to each one of us. Quiet permits us to be present in the moment and appreciate all the abundant gifts from God.

On that first silent night so long ago in Bethlehem, a tiny baby was born in a simple stable on a calm and starry night. This single amazing event changed everything for us! When we make time to enjoy the silence and simplicity of the season, we are truly able to anticipate what’s to come, and we are better equipped to make room for Jesus during this busy and festive season.

Heidi LaBounty
Seeds of Faith Preschool Director

Heralds of Good Tidings

bellFriday, December 5, 2014

Mark 1:1-8

Isaiah 40:1-11

When I listen closely to congregational life, I hear over and over again how faith is strengthened through relationships - in the sharing of the work of the church. The work becomes the actions that move us outward and forward. This is a true labor- as it takes time, effort and generosity. In the season of Christmas we naturally feel a greater awareness of what we might offer in these ways.

All together we come to appreciate the love that defines us and moves us.

The very first words of the Gospel of Mark immediately invite us into God’s dynamic work among us: The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The events, encounters and conversations told in the Gospel will draw us into many dimensions of participation.

And the quality of this participation is one of great hope!

John the Baptist is first on the scene and already has us looking forward to the coming of the One who is more powerful than he. We feel moved to be expectant and watchful, ready for change. We are to be awake to actions that are beyond our own and full of promise. Even Mark’s reference to the prophet Isaiah’s words from the past serve the message of expectation: Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings… say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God.”

While the traditions of the season might comfort us with the familiar, the message of Advent reminds us that Jesus who came continues to come to be among us for the sake of the well- being of the world. Might we be enlivened with hope in such a way that we are eager to share in a good work among us? May we know that the accomplishment of this work is not solely dependent upon us? Might we know that the many inconspicuous labors offered to our neighbor truly matter and is the source of true joy?

Pastor Randy

After That Suffering

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Mark 13:24-37

Christmas is coming, and the Gospel of Mark kicks off the season with words of warning.  Not what you expected? Well, there’s a good reason for that…candle

 

We begin our time of waiting and anticipating the coming of Christ with these fearful words of foreboding.

This piece of scripture is plucked from the midst of a chapter about turmoil and terror, destruction and persecution.

And it comes right before Judas agrees to betray Jesus,
and the powers that be make their plans to arrest and kill Jesus.
They scheme to put down this troublemaker by stealth,
all in an effort to keep the people from rioting.

This is how we begin in the season of Advent.

This is how we prepare as a church to receive Jesus,
in the midst of a troubling time, with words of warning.

Beware!
Keep alert!
Keep awake!

In our place and time, just as in that place and time so long ago, Christians are tempted by many powers that promise us peace. There is the assurance of peace in the strength of government and its agencies. The powers of brute strength, violence, and weaponry claim that they are the way to peace. Peace is marketed to us in the things we can buy and the money we can accumulate. Delicious and entertaining distractions call us consume their peace.

But the peace they offer is corrupt, ultimately destructive, shallow, fleeting. The peace they offer cannot conquer our suffering, and many times may only deepen it.

Yet in this season, those voices call out in a deafening refrain. They are persistent and unavoidable, just like the Christmas tunes that begin to plague us the day after Halloween.

But Jesus’ words cut through the noise, with a jarring reminder to pay attention.

The real peace is coming.
A peace surpasses all understanding.
Peace that is up to the challenge of a suffering world.

So while we wait, do not let yourself be deceived or distracted from the peace of Christ.

Beware!
Keep alert!
Keep awake!


Pastor Sarah

Sheeps and Goats

Turbat sheep and goats-2

Thursday, November 22, 2014

Matthew 25:31-46

Christ the King Sunday is the last Sunday of the church year.

Next week we begin our year-long journey through the Gospel of Mark.

This is our last week in the Gospel of Matthew.

And boy, am I happy about that.

Matthew has been hard on us. For weeks now, we’ve heard one troubling parable after another. Distressing stories of judgment. People cast out into darkness. We’ve heard of weeping and gnashing of teeth more than a few times. And even the beatitudes in Matthew chapter 5 offers the not so comforting, “blessed are you when people revile you and persecute and speak all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.”

If Matthew has been harsh on the people in the pews, just imagine what it is like to struggle with these texts as a preacher, trying to receive the scripture honestly, while still looking for some bit of good news to share.

But hold on folks, we are almost there! We are almost done with Matthew for a while. We just have to get through this Sunday’s gospel.

Oh, and what a lesson it is.

We get the judgment of all judgment, as the Son of Man sits on his throne and divides the nations “as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”

Spoiler alert: you do not want to be a goat.

And yet, are there any sheep among us?

Is there anyone among us who would not finding themselves standing accused at the King’s left hand, whimpering, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?”

With so many opportunities to see Christ in the least of these--the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the prisoner—without a doubt, we have all overlooked him at some point. Even worse, we have likely blamed Christ for his own poverty, or met a lonely Christ with only a cold shoulder, or abandoned a multitude of sick Christs as someone else’s problem, or justified Christ’s isolation in prison because criminals deserve to be punished.

There is no wiggle room in this judgment scene. The goats do not get to argue their case. The king makes no allowances for special circumstances.

If we don’t all feel like a goat after hearing this lesson, we’re just not being honest with ourselves.

There may be no good news for the goats in this scripture, on this Sunday.

But listen up goats: Christmas is coming!

Christ is coming.

Hope is on the way for us sinners, in God’s Word made flesh.

Forgiveness, for all the ways that we fail and fall short, coming to meet us right where we are, in the person of Jesus.

God among us shining light into the darkness.

After all these weeks of confronting the darkness of our deficiencies, our shortcomings, our failures, perhaps, this is what the Gospel of Matthew has been getting us ready for.

I for one, am ready.

Come, Lord Jesus.

Pastor Sarah

An Abundance of Thankfulness

 

farmersb small

Friday, November 14, 2014

Matthew 25:14-30

The first thing you noticed when you walked into my parent’s house was a wooden kitchen table. My mother kept a bright colored table cloth on it with an arrangement of flowers or desserts. It was inviting and there was always room for one more. In my memory, the small kitchen was regularly filled with comfort food and the warmth of others. It was rich in relationships and refreshing in its simplicity.

 

Such abundance was hard to measure but its corresponding gratitude said a lot!

 

The talents in the parable were in great abundance. They were a pure and simple gift – no question. Two servants recognized the generosity by which they were given and therefore responded with imagination. They were free to make more of the gift. On the other hand another servant misconstrued the character of his master and the gift turned into his possession to guard. In contrast to the others he became constrained by fear, held on too tightly to the gift, and missed the opportunities the gift provided.

 

Our gatherings in November provide the needed language of the faith that shapes our perceptions, understanding and responses. Generosity, gratitude, thankfulness, praise, wonder, harvest time, blessing, fruit of creation, daily bread, treasure, feeding, open hands, sharing… such words matter. They expand our awareness of life lived in the Spirit. Listen to the hymns and anthems in worship this month. Listen to the stories around the table. Listen to the seasons of life. Listen to the gospel – the Word of life!

 

It all points to the abundance of God’s love for the world. And they invite us into a rich participation of relationships in the life of the church. If we let them, our shared life, our ministry and mission can be filled with imagination and courage toward the future. What we offer makes a difference!

 

Generosity is transforming.

 

Pastor Randy