We Are the Sign

Posted by on Feb 18, 2021 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on We Are the Sign

Dear Lord…as we look at your words to us this first Sunday of Lent…speak to us. Thank you for the signs you give us that you are in our lives. Thank you for the forgiveness you offer us as your children who you have giving the mission of making disciples in this world, but often fall short. Help us realize that we are the sign of your promises to all people.Our gospel for this first Sunday in the season of Lent is from Mark 1:9-15. We have considered this reading a few weeks ago when we looked at the meaning of our baptism and reaffirmed our baptism with each other. The other reading we will be considering today is from Genesis 9:8-17.One of my favorite movies is “Evan Almighty”. This is the movie that puts into pictures a man in supposedly current times who God asked to make an ark. It always makes me realize that God is always with us….guiding and protecting us. What the evil one of the characters did for his own pleasure was to build a dam that was not built to specifications and was in danger of producing a flood if there was a hard rain and destroying homes and lives. We saw God portrayed in several scenes talking with the man who God wanted to build the ark. God appeared to the wife when she wasn’t willing to stay with the man. We saw the children helping build the ark, the animals also helping and we learned at the end that what had been exhibited by all were “Acts of Random Kindness.”What we see in the verses from Genesis is the promise God made to Noah when the ark had saved Noah and his family from the flood. God promised to never do this again and stated that he would remember his promise (covenant) with the appearance of a rainbow after a rain or storm. Don’t we all LOVE to see rainbows? We, also, remember this promise God made to Noah and to us. It was the sign to remind all that God promised life to all and would not destroy everything again.Now…to the gospel reading. We see Jesus being baptized by John…and the voice Jesus heard from God, ”You are my beloved Son, in whom I’m well pleased.” As soon as Jesus heard this, Mark writes that he went off to the wilderness for 40 days. God’s statement about Jesus really began his earthly ministry. So, Mark hints that by going off to the wilderness for 40 days, Jesus was preparing himself for that ministry…as when he returned from there, he began calling his disciples and proclaiming the good news.I find it interesting that Jesus went off by himself for 40 days…and we are to begin looking at ourselves during Lent to see what we can add to our lives to grow as God’s disciples. We are asked to repent, which is really changing one way of acting to one that reflects our promises to follow what God wants us to do. There will be times when we will be tempted, as Jesus was…but remember that God is always with us protecting us. He never leaves us or forsakes us.Jesus was concerned with helping people who were in need as well as being healed. Jesus had left the family who raised him to do the work God had designated for him that began at his baptism. He took the 40 days to train and prepare for his ministry. So, you ask…what about the “sign”? Jesus was the sign that God is always...

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Follow, Listen, Tell

Posted by on Feb 17, 2021 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Follow, Listen, Tell

Dear Lord…we are going to be looking at your Transfiguration this week. You come to us in so many ways…through friends, through smiles, through words spoken by others as we are listening and learning. Be with us as we continue to work as your disciples…we have chosen to be your followers. We are also being asked to listen to your words…as we read your words in the Bible. You also speak to us in our own thoughts and direct us. Help us know your voice, listen to you and then tell others about your love and forgiveness. Today, we are celebrating Jesus transfiguration. This event took place just about six days after Jesus had told his disciples about his coming death and resurrection. As usual, Mark has a lot of things that we will be unwrapping as we consider these verses from Mark 9:2-9.It is important for us to remember that for the gospel writer, Mark, the coming of the Kingdom was not predicting the end of the world, but that it is an ongoing process where God’s words and God’s will are being made known to the world and told to others.This section of Mark begins just six days after Jesus has told the disciples about his pending arrest, death and resurrection. Can you imagine the feelings of those followers when they heard this? How would you have reacted to being told that the teacher you have been following for 3 years will be arrested, beaten, crucified and then resurrected? It could have been hard to believe and an instance of now wanting to even think about it.Notice that Jesus took only Peter, James and John with him to the high mountain. These were probably his three “core” disciples, who He knew would help the other continue in their mission, and this experience would eventually be clear to them.As they all approached the high mountain, Jesus suddenly was clothed in white robes…an indication of righteousness and heavenly existence. Not only did he appear in the white robes, but he changed from within as he was talking with Elijah and Moses. Elijah was an indication of the Law and the Prophets were indicated by the presence of Moses. It is the first time that both the disciples and we…as followers….see Jesus as both human and divine. The fact that Jesus was the Son of God is reaffirmed by the voice of God, saying “This is my Son, the beloved, listen to him.” This was spoken after Peter, who had rejected Jesus’ words about his impending arrest, death and resurrection in the previous chapter, suddenly, in the awe of seeing Jesus, Elijah and Moses together, wanted to build a temple to each of them. He is thrilled with the display of heavenly glory. He was positive that the Kingdom of God had come.Look at the important aspects of this transfiguration. This even happened on earth where Jesus will reign. He is the kingdom of God come to earth. The disciples experienced this event almost like a dream…an altered state of consciousness. God speaking to them assured them of Jesus’ divinity and told them to listen to him. Twice now, Mark has used God’s words to declare that Jesus is the Son of God…first at his baptism and now at his transfiguration.It is important for us to realize that the disciples saw the human Jesus who ate with them, washed his hands, washed their feet, taught the people about what was coming…as well as the divine Son of God. We, too, are seeing this in these verses. We, too are created...

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Authority and Change

Posted by on Feb 1, 2021 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Authority and Change

Dear Lord….Thank you so very much for your guiding hand in our lives. Thank you for creating us and choosing us to do your work in your world. We know it’s not an easy task and it wasn’t easy for you, either. You understand us and are always with us to help us. Be with us as we continue to maneuver through your world.The gospel lesson for the 4th Sunday after Epiphany is from Mark 1:21-28. Within the first chapter of Mark’s gospel he has included many events in the life of Jesus…with little detail. Much of what he has written has very subtle backgrounds.In this passage, Jesus and his followers have moved to Capernaum, an area north of the Sea of Galilee. By this time, it may be assumed that many people have heard of Jesus, where he came from and who he worked with. What is interesting about the beginning of this section is that Jesus is teaching from his own authority, not from the self-seeking rabbi’s. It is amazing to the people he’s talking to because they were aware of the fact that Jesus and Joseph were carpenters and here he is, teaching the people with authority. The authority he is teaching with is God’s authority. Jesus’ authority was recognized by the demon who had possessed one of the people present. This demon stated that Jesus was the Holy One and accused Jesus of coming to destroy “them”…possibly mistaken originally for people…and not only for demons. However, the words of the demon-possessed person as well as Jesus’ action of rebuking the demon, causing him to come out of the person only confirmed Jesus’ God-given authority. All of these actions only confirmed Jesus’ authority from his teaching in the temple to the declaration and destroying the unclean spirit and to the crowd’s reaction to what they had seen. Here was a man who was human, but was able the actions of a demon-possessed person, heal that person who was obsessed and teach in the synagogue. Can you imagine seeing all of these things happening at the same time? What would you think when you saw the demon coming out of the man…and the man collapsing on the floor. It wasn’t stated, but I would expect that this person would have been cared for by some of the people in attendance. For me, there would have been no question as to who Jesus was and by what authority He was working and teaching. We, too, would have been shocked.Jesus was asking the people to keep silent about what they had seen. Jesus did not want to have the self-seeking praise that most teachers in the synagogue had. He wanted his actions to be seen as humble and caring for the people…not himself. He expected no favor from the actions…no praise, no repayment. How different! Do we sometimes expect thanks, repayment, praise for our actions? How many times do we act for other people just because we know it’s the right thing to do?We, too, are being challenged to stand against the evil in our world. How many things can you think of that were true evil…such as the happenings at Columbine, Sandy Hook, other things? There are so many other ways we are challenged to stand up against the wrongs in the world. We have the power and authority of Jesus with us and with all of us who had accepted Jesus as our Savior. In the baptism ritual, we went through a couple of weeks ago, we answered this question, “Do you accept the freedom and power...

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Called to Follow

Posted by on Jan 24, 2021 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Called to Follow

Dear Lord….speak to us today. You call us to be your disciples. You call us, just as you called your disciples, to follow you. Please strengthen us as we move through some uncomfortable times that we may always remember you call us and we promise to follow you.The gospel lesson for the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany is from Mark 1:14-20. In this passage, we see Jesus beginning to call those who will follow Him and learn from Him in preparation for his resurrection. Jesus had followed John the Baptist as John was speaking to the people who were wanting to hear his message. It could be said that John was acting as a mentor to Jesus. John knew what Jesus would be doing…as did Jesus. John helped inaugurate Jesus into his own mission by showing him how to speak to people and work with him.At this point in our gospel lesson, John the Baptist has been killed by Herod. Jesus is now on his own to bring the gospel message…the message of hope and life to people. He did realize that he needed to have more people working with him and following him to expand His message to more people. Jesus began his ministry with the words, “The time has come, the Kingdom of God has come near, repent and believe in the good news.” (v. 14) He announced the beginning of his ministry here on earth. He is actually calling for a change in the nation. You ask, what does that mean? Well…the people in Israel have always been looking for a physical relationship, such as a relationship with Abraham…where they could see him. They were looking for a physical relationship with the promised Kingdom of God. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus WAS that physical relationship…but the leaders ultimately refused to acknowledge that.Jesus was calling the people to turn from one position in their life to another more fulfilling. He was calling them to repent. We have discussed this concept earlier this month. Remember that repentance is more than being sorry for actions. True repentance is ordering one’s life in a way to be acceptable to God. This requires words AND deeds in making changes.So, Jesus begins to recruit followers to learn about speaking to the people they would encounter. He is teaching them about the Gospel…that is a proclamation announcing God’s rule and asks the listeners to place their loyalty in God and make changes in their lives….or repent from their previous actions.Jesus then begins to call the disciples…or followers while he is teaching them. Notice that the disciples are called from beside the Sea of Galilee, while they are fishing. In fact, it is specifically stated that James and John were in their boat mending their nets.Mark probably stated this fact for two reasons. The first reason would have been that the men had been fishing during the night and it was now morning. Their fishing was done either in the early morning or in the evening. There were enough fish that were caught that the nets needed repair. Fishing also took place in the months between March and September while the crops they had planted were maturing. Does this sound familiar? Yes…it does to me.The second reason for this statement is much more subtle. These two men didn’t think twice about leaving their father with the hired men to continue the mending, etc. In Israel this just was not done. The sons did not break with the family and leave the parents with hired help. Families tended to stay together. But in making this statement,...

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God Knows Us and Calls Us

Posted by on Jan 18, 2021 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on God Knows Us and Calls Us

Dear Lord….Thank you for making us part of your family. Thank you for knowing us and all our faults. Thank you for calling us to be your disciples. May we continue to show our commitment to you as we work our way through this year. Be with us as we consider your words this morning.This Sunday is the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany. I have the sense that we will all be having certain “epiphanies” as the days and year progress. God’s light will continue to shine on us and enlighten us.The gospel lesson for this morning is from John 1:43-51. I am also going to be having comments about the Old Testament lesson from Samuel. These two passages work so very well together, I cannot consider one without the other.In our gospel reading, we find Jesus in the process of appointing his disciples. In the verses preceding this reading we find the names of some of those people Jesus has challenged to follow him. In our reading, Jesus went to Galilee and found Philip and said to him, “Follow me”. Philip was from Bethsaida where two other disciples had also come from, namely Peter and Andrew. While Philip was walking there, he found a man named “Nathaniel” and challenged him to come with them as they had found the prophet Moses wrote about and that the man was Jesus, son of Joseph of Nazareth.I was taken back by the next thing Nathaniel said, “What good can come out of Nazareth?” Doesn’t this sound a lot like things we are all too familiar hearing. A derogatory comment about someone that we do not know. It appears Philip didn’t say anything in response to that comment. When Jesus saw Nathaniel, he said nothing derogatory nor did he respond in the way we would probably have expected He said that Nathaniel was an Israelite who had no deceit in him. That was a shock to Nathaniel as he had never met Jesus before. He asked how Jesus knew him. Jesus responded that he had seen this person under a fig tree. In Jesus time, the fig tree was a symbol of peace and safety. He had possibly seen Nathaniel reading the Torah under this tree…studying the law. Immediately, Nathaniel confessed who Jesus was. What a surprise! Here was someone who had been derogatory toward the area Jesus came from, and is now confessing who he sees Jesus is…the Son of God…King of the Jews.Jesus sees us just as we are. He sees all that we do…all our choices…and promises, as he did to Nathaniel, that we and all disciples will see even greater things, such as many miracles, Jesus’ resurrection, as well as the angels descending on the Son of Man.We are now aware of the way God communicates with humanity…through Jesus Christ who is both human and divine. God sees us just as we are and accepts us just as we are. Have you had an experience similar to that of Nathaniel? Has someone recognized you by the way you talk to people, by your actions, your kindness? The other very important thing we see in the passage is that people are brought to Christ by the personal witness of people they talk to, work with, meet on the street.Then…let’s talk a little about Samuel. He was caring for the blind, aging Eli in the temple. Samuel slept in the temple by the Ark of the Covenant and was available anytime Eli needed him. When he heard his name called, he thought it was Eli. Eli’s response to the call was,...

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