Q2-4082 webFriday, March 14, 2014

John 3:1-17

It is natural to make plans and follow a path toward the future. Congregational life is no different. We do our best to consider how we can improve programs, expand efforts and invite participation. We ask searching questions and get on with the work. Meetings are essential and good thinking goes along way! But there is more to it than this and it is what makes the journey forward an adventure.

While we plan we do so with a perspective that the wind of the Spirit makes us ever so responsive – nimble of faith and full of compassion.    

Nicodemus came to Jesus seeking understanding. His questions made for an encounter that brought an engagement far beyond what he might have expected. He found himself hearing a word about the very nature of newness, participation in God’s work and the wonder of the way God goes about it. Nicodemus wanted to know “how these things can be” but more so came into a transforming experience with the merciful presence of Jesus.

It is human nature to ask the questions and to seek confidence in our increased understanding. Like Nicodemus we might see though that the questions open our hearts to something larger and more promising. The encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus reminds us that faith is born anew by the gift of the Spirit and in ways we could have never imagined. The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit. – John 3:8

While our well planned goals can motivate us and bring noticeable accomplishments we still find our greatest joy in the Spirit that enlivens us and makes all things new!

Pastor Randy Olson

A Greater Hope for All Things

hands and clay

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Greater Hope for all Things
Matthew 5: 38-48


Congregational life is rich with possibilities of discovery and growth. Each week we take a certain rest from our routines and listen. We listen to one another and we listen to a particular word that has been attended to across the generations. In our listening, together, we are caught up in grace and strength to trust that the word is for us. They are words that make much of what might otherwise go unnoticed. In this way we get to be moved by a love and a hope sometimes beyond our understanding but no less real. No wonder Jesus would say in the Sermon on the Mount, “You have heard that it was said… but I say to you…”          

Jesus brought words and teachings into the grittiness of the disciples’ lives. On the mountain they listened and likely struggled to understand the implications of what they were hearing. I can imagine that the words touched an array of emotions. Jesus must have sensed deeply their fears and disbelief.

While the mountain may have felt like a place set apart, Jesus was leading them into a place of engagement with real life situations and relationships know or yet to be known. Jesus was leading them into a place of change within themselves and beyond themselves. Natural inclinations such as a need to get even could be left behind for a greater hope for all things to become whole and well.

On the mountain and in the sermon was an invitation into a profound way of being that grew from a profound way of belonging. Clearly the message of love went far beyond sentiment. It was a kind of love greater than the disciples imagined – not only a love of neighbor but even love of enemy. It was a love that could move them into the kinds of actions that promised newness, forgiveness and peace!        

This was more than an interesting lesson; it was a call to participate in the holiness of God. Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect – Matthew 5:48. Note that this is not perfectionism as we know it but a goal toward God’s loving purpose for all of creation. It is living into our identity as God’s forgiven ones. It is an awareness that the best of our actions flow from God’s unconditional love.

A verse from Wendell Berry comes to mind: “…what are we but hosts of times, of all the Sabbath morning shows, the light that finds it good.” (A Timbered Choir: Counterpoint, 1998)

Pastor Randy Olson