Joyful

 

Loon smallJohn 15:9-17

 

 

The Gospel reading for this week gets us thinking about joy. As so often is true, a look at one thing in the readings gets us considering other things. Joy touches upon many aspects of our faith experiences and the life of the church. As we discussed the reading in our staff meeting this week we recognized that joy does not lend itself to easy definitions. But we do know it when it happens.

 

While happiness seems to be a response to favorable circumstances, joy goes deeper. The Gospel of John reminds us that joy is grounded in the presence of the Holy Spirit. In this way, joy may occur when we are least expecting it, even in the midst of loss and hardship. This is so because joy is a manifestation of love. It accompanies the promise of God abiding with us in all times and circumstances. Joy then turns us outward toward others with actions that speak of hope. Here is a good contentment and an awareness of what truly matters and sustains us.

 

Joy is rooted into the depth of God’s gracious ways for the world. It is less about our plans and strategies. It is the acknowledgement that the Holy Spirit is out ahead of us drawing us into the next things. Our participation in the mission of the church is a response to this surprising work of the Spirit. So the posture of the church is one of discernment as a community of faith. Just when we feel that we have it figured out the Spirit brings dimensions of newness.

 

Finding the fitting response to this new thing can be hard work but it is worth it. It keeps us alive to the journey and to the needs of our neighbors. It invites us to be living daily into our identity as the church together.  

 

Let the rivers clap their hands, and let the hills ring out with joy before the Lord…  Psalm 98

 

Pastor Randy

 

 

The Big "So What?"

hands.2 croppedFriday, May 1, 2015

John 15:1-8

This weekend we confirm 22 of our young people.

After three years of Wednesday night classes, worksheets, small group conversations, retreats, service projects, fellowship activities, worship participation, worship reflections…
…three years of parents keeping track of calendars, checklists, emails, and sign-ups, picking up and dropping off, nagging and sometimes dragging their youth against their will…

we must ask the question, “So what?”

So what was this all for?
So what does this all mean?
So what was the point of it all?

The “so what” of all this time and effort
is not the public profession of faith
in this Saturday’s worship service.

It is not the photo ops, or a cake with a cross on it, or dinner with the out of town family.

The “so what” is not even the friendships or new relationships that formed over the course of these three years.

Affirmation of baptism (and baptism) is a right of passage—that is, a passage that lead us through and on to something else.

This right of passage leads beyond this moment and farther on to the “so what.”

And that “so what” also happens to be the “so what” of our gospel lesson this week:
That you bear much fruit and become my disciples.

The connections to the community, the scriptures, the worship, and the Son that were strengthened over those three years, the relationships that were formed, all of it is for the purpose of bearing the fruit of discipleship.

We are baptized, nurtured, prepared, and sent so that we might bear fruit for a world that hungers.

The world hungers for reconciliation and justice—and not just in Baltimore.
The world hungers for food, shelter, and medicine—and not just in Nepal.

All around us the world hungers for the compassion, the welcome, the self-sacrifice, the salvation, the grace, the truth that is made flesh in the person of Jesus.

And so, we are called to abide in him, reaching out as an extension of the true vine, reaching out toward the hungry world, bearing the fruit so desperately needed.

May our young people continue to abide in Jesus, and may the rest us be right there with them.

Pastor Sarah

RenewingFaith

RF Logo RGBLast week we announced, Renewing Faith, the start of an exciting time in our congregational life. The capital campaign seeks to engage every household of Faith in promoting the healthy future of our church. In the next few months, there will be great opportunities to discuss the campaign’s purpose, to discern our part in it and to share in the excitement about our future together.

You can find information anytime at http://faithlc.org/quick-links/renewingfaith

As a first step in this time of discernment, consider the RenewingFaith name and logo. It all resonates with the spirit of this Easter season and the very signs of newness in faith and congregational life. The logo and theme are meant to name the very character of what God is doing in and through the life of the church today.

Look around and notice those things that are full of promise, and fresh beginnings. Spring growth itself serves as a great reminder of the Spirit that daily lifts us up toward service and love in the world. Stories of faith across the generations too point us toward the creative movement of God’s grace underneath the many expressions of ministry here at Faith Lutheran and the wider church.

Think about how our congregation is filled with energetic staff, invigorated membership, and vibrant ministries—making this the right time for our Faith community to renew our promise to serve the needs of those within and outside of our congregation. Attention to unfinished space, maintenance, debt reduction and sharing with others will only help us further flourish in our mission as the church.

Let the RenewingFaith campaign remind us to continuously ask God to make a new, fresh, and resilient spirit within us so that we can serve with willing and generous hearts.

Your Capital Campaign Team

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Psalm 51:10–12

Seeds

Planting Seeds small

Friday, April 17, 2015

John 3:1-7

Planting seeds is an act of faith.

There is a long wait from the fall to the spring, before the green tips of those tulip bulbs begin to show.
It seems like those vegetable seeds might have been all eaten by the birds, and then suddenly, you have more tomato plants than you know what to do with.
Maybe those flower seeds never amounted to anything. But with a change in the soil, sun, or preparation next time may be different.

We don’t know if or when some little kernel will take root and bear fruit.

Every planting is an act of trust.
Every attempt is living in hope.
Every failure is an opportunity to try again in maybe a little different way.

As we celebrate the graduation of our community’s high school seniors, they will share about the seeds that this congregation has sown in their faith lives. While some have already sprouted, many more will emerge in the years to come. As we surround our high school seniors with blessing, we are reminded: every one of us has the opportunity to make a difference in the life of another. Every day is another opportunity. We all have something to offer. The impact can be greater than we might realize or will ever know.

So as we look around, thinking about where we can scatter seeds of the gospel, let us remember:

The seeds of faith may spring up quickly or take many seasons to germinate. Even when one’s spiritual life has withered, something hidden may be just about to spring forth. A barren landscape of belief is resting, waiting to receive something new.

Through Believing

water dropFriday, April 10, 2015

John 20:19-31

It’s that time when the ice on the northern lakes can go out at any moment. There are signs that something is quietly happening underneath and within the ice promising that it will give way to open water once again. I am always captivated by the process and the transformation that occurs – winter letting go and the landscape enveloped with newness.

I have stood on the shorelines or paddled along them just days after ice out and have felt the gladness of new adventures waiting. If you look and listen close enough at the edges of the water you can see the very new beginnings of many things.

And so this season of Easter, with all the rising up we find in the Biblical stories, helps us to believe once again that change, real change can happen. Even the realist in us formed over the years by our necessary duties can give way to seeing ourselves and our relationships in a whole new light. The story of Thomas especially reminds us that even our most usual and pragmatic ways of seeing things can give way to a spirit lifted up toward a new vision.

In the way Jesus helped Thomas to believe, we too can trust that the Spirit still breathes in us and makes change happen. The resurrection appearances in John make some important connections with the Spirit. Among them, wherever the Spirit is present forgiveness is close at hand emerging within our reality. And if there is ever a sure indication of the old giving way to the new it’s in such moments as these.

Here is a true and joyous rising up!

If you look and listen close enough around congregational life there are wonderful and welcomed signs of growth and movement. The promise of resurrection dwells within the very experiences of worship and community – we feel the gladness of adventures just waiting to happen.

Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heav’n to earth come down!

- ELW 631

Pastor Randy