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Wednesday Words, May 23, 2018

Wednesday Words

May 23, 2018

Pastor Paul Cannon

Family Leave

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 who is born of the Spirit.

John 3:8

Do you remember me?  I might need to re-introduce myself after being away for four weeks (it’s felt like half a lifetime).  I was blessed the past month to be able to spend that time with my growing family.  Believe me, it was time that we needed!

My 10 week old daughter Elin (our second) came into the world, and it’s been a learning curve ever since.  Sure, in some ways having the second kid is easier.  Diapers? No problem!  I’ve changed a thousand.  Midnight wakeups? Been there, done that.

And yes, the second kid is more work, but it’s honestly not that bad - a few more clothes to fold, and couple extra baths each week.  The routine changes, but you get into a rhythm over time.

The hard part in my book, is learning a new person and developing a new relationship.  Elin is different than Isaac.  She has her own quirks and joys.  Will you please just drink your bottle while Mommy’s at work???  Isaac never had that problem.  But Elin is a cute little baby too.  I’ve gotten more smiles out of her than I remember getting from Isaac at 10 weeks, or even 52 for that matter.  He was so serious (oh, how times change). 

Learning a new person; forming a new relationship: That’s tough!  But it’s the surest sign of the Holy Spirit.

Yes, the Holy Spirit - the shyest member of the Trinity.  Jesus took on human flesh and walked among us.  God makes himself known in Thunder and the Mountains.  The Holy Spirit?  She might show up as a humble dove or a gentle puff of wind.

But the real mark of the Holy Spirit is wherever relationships are being formed.  I tell my Confirmation students that the Holy Spirit is the force that brings us together (calls, gathers and enlightens).  It’s the spark of a new relationship, a holy connection made with God in worship, or the softening of one’s heart towards a stranger in distress. 

That’s the work of the Spirit, perhaps not the only work of the Spirit, but it is certainly the work that impacts us most directly. 

Take a second today, and say a word of thanks for all the relationships in your life, and prepare yourself for new ones to come.

Amen

Wednesday Words May 16, 2018

Wednesday Words

May 16, 2018

Pr. Cathy Daharsh            

What does it feel like when the Holy Spirit is at work?

We talk about a worship service, a bible study, or an event being “Spirit-filled.” What does that mean? How does that feel?

In the reading from Acts this week, the Spirit is described, “…. like a rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” – Acts 2:1-4

The Spirit also works in quiet and gentle ways. In the Book of Romans, it says, “…the Spirit helps us in our weakness for we do not know how to pray as we ought but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”

“Come Holy Spirit Come” are four words I often pray to find strength and courage in difficult situations.

Three years ago, at this same time of year, I distinctly remember praying those four words. I had just found out that my Uncle Ralph was dying from a brain tumor and he wanted me to lead a Memorial Service in Wisconsin with my aunts, uncles and cousins. He would also have a funeral in Colorado where he was living.

You would think with me being a pastor that it would be easy for me to talk with my Uncle Ralph about the service but in my own grief I needed God’s help to find the words to talk with him. Before I dialed Uncle Ralph’s phone number, I took a deep breath and prayed, “Come Holy Spirit Come.”

From the minute I started dialing the number to the end of the conversation, I felt the Holy Spirit intercede as I found the words to say to him and peace in the time we talked together.

When we talked about his Memorial Service he emphasized the importance of me talking about God’s Grace and serving others. Ralph joined an Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) in downtown Colorado about five years after my family and I had joined the ELCA. He found the church to be welcoming, non-judging, and a place where he could be completely himself. Ralph was gay and never felt that he could be fully who he was until joining the ELCA. He wanted that for all his friends.

For the funeral he was planning in Colorado, he talked about having it with a pastor but not in the church because not all his friends felt comfortable or even welcome in the church. I was inspired and challenged by Ralph in that conversation and couldn’t help but think how the Holy Spirit was at work. It was sacred space that brought me peace.  

My hope and prayer for you is that you know that Christ is with you as the Holy Spirit leads you, guides you, and strengthens you. When you are having a difficult time and you need strength and peace to carry on, I encourage you to take time to pray, “Come Holy Spirit Come.”  Amen.

Wednesday Words, May 9, 2018

Wednesday Words

May 9, 2018

Pr. Cathy Daharsh

“I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.”- John 17:16

Sometimes new chapters in life will be amazing and fun and at other times they can be discouraging and lonely. Last weekend my family and I moved into yet another home. My husband, Tom, and I have moved nine times in our 25 years of marriage. Some moves have been easier than others, but I have always tried to think about each move as being an opportunity to “begin again.” Just in case you are wondering, our newest move to Fox River Grove is an amazing and fun new chapter of life for us.

In our gospel reading today Jesus is preparing his disciples for a new chapter in their lives.  Jesus will be leaving the world soon, and he wants them to know they will not be left alone. Jesus lets the disciples know that although they will be living in the world they will be representing "another world." They will be in the world but not "of the world." Because of their faith they will be tested, face overwhelming odds, and they will not always be accepted by the world in which they live. Why? Because as followers they are called to not give into the ways of the world.

It will be more important for them to help their neighbors than be successful. Relationships with people will matter more than material things. Their language will be the language of servanthood, love, and care. As followers of Jesus, they will make sacrifices and align themselves with the worries of the world. That is a huge challenge for the disciples and few will be able to fully engage in that challenge. It will be easier for them to give into the ways of the world and look, talk, act and feel like everyone else.

And yet, Jesus is counting on his followers to "keep the faith," and be a presence of God’s love in the world. Jesus gives them a message on how to survive. He emphasizes "togetherness”. The only way to make it through the difficulties of the world is to stay together. Jesus says our greatest enemy is being disconnected from each other. Without "togetherness" we might give up and become lost, cynical, or depressed.  Jesus reminds his followers the key is to keep a relationship with God and with one another.  The more we work together, the more confidence we will have to impact the world. Being connected to each other brings out the best in each other.  

Although we are called to live in the world we are not outside of the protection of God’s care. New chapters in lives can be difficult and challenging. There will be times when we find ourselves feeling overwhelmed and wondering how we are going to make it. Jesus has taught us that the best way to make it through new chapters in life is to work through them with others and to keep praying to God. Remember that Jesus has promised that wherever you may be in an ever-changing world that God is with you every step of the way. Amen.

Wednesday Words, May 2, 2018

Wednesday Words

"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father"  – John 15:12-15

Most people long for friendship but genuine friends are not always easy to find. There are many reasons that contribute to the challenge of developing authentic and true friends.  We live in a transient world where people are moving often for jobs, retirement, and family. We also live in a busy world where people are running from one activity to another that it makes it challenging to find time to build and sustain friendships. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat might help us to connect with old classmates and friends and family in different places, but those connection are only at a surface level and not at a deeper level that I think most people desire and long for in a friendship

Yesterday during the Faith Leaders of McHenry County meeting, I asked the leaders what topics they would like to have speakers on starting in the fall. The one topic that got my attention was an individual that said he read an article about 2018 being a time where people feel the most alone than another other point in history. The person who mentioned this article wanted a speaker that talked about how we as faith leaders might address this in our community.

After I left the meeting a took a moment to Google the topic to see if I could find the article he was talking about and found an article called, “Our Loneliness Epidemic,” by David Brooks, Syndicated Columnist, New York Times, April 17, 2018. Here’s a few excerpts from his article that I thought were interesting:

Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy summarized his experience as a doctor in an article in September in The Harvard Business Review: “During my years caring for patients, the most common pathology I saw was not heart disease or diabetes; it was loneliness.”

But the big issue surrounding Facebook is not privacy. It’s that Facebook and other social-media companies are feeding this epidemic of loneliness and social isolation. It’s not only that heavy social-media users are sadder. It’s not only that online life seems to heighten painful comparisons, and both inflate and threaten the ego. It’s that heavy internet users are much less likely to have contact with their proximate neighbors to exchange favors and extend care. There’s something big happening to the social structure of neighborhoods.”

This epidemic to me is an opportunity for the church to serve and care for people, especially, for those who are feeling isolated and alone.

Our staff had a brainstorm session about our hopes and dreams for worship and what we hope you would experience at Bethany Lutheran Church different than if you stayed at home. Many great ideas were thought of which include a hope for connectedness and depth in your experience of worship and with one another. We hope that worship might hook your hearts, minds, and souls. We also hope that coming to church would be a place where you can let your hair down, be fully who you are, and know that you are loved.

My prayer for our community is that the Holy Spirit inspires us to take time for each other and develop friendships that follow Jesus’ teachings and the relationships that he built with his disciples. Amen.

Wednesday Words, April 25, 2018

The Tale of Three Trees
Based on an old American Folk Tale, The Tale of Three Trees tells the story of three trees with grandiose dreams for their future. 

One tree imagines being made into a treasure chest which will hold valuable gems and priceless treasure.  The second tree dreams of becoming the mast of a mighty ship which will lead the king’s fleet.  The third tree aspires to grow taller than any other tree, pointing up to heaven, leading others to God.  The dream of each tree was fulfilled, but not in the expected way.  Just as none of the trees could envision God’s plan for their lives, we also can’t see where God is leading us. 

Each of us is uniquely formed by God. Out of gratitude for what Jesus has done for us we are called to build relationships, serve others, and share God's love. We are made to do this, but it is sometimes hard to discern how.  It is tempting for us to put pressure on ourselves to do more and it is tempting to compare ourselves to others. We are called to be the person God has called us to be, nothing more and nothing less. 

The words from Matthew 5:16 say, "Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good words and give glory to your Father in Heaven." We are encouraged to let our light shine in the every day of life. We are also encouraged to approach life as an opportunity to serve the Lord and not as a "have to do." 

My prayer for you today is that you remember that you are a Child of God and that God has created you with great love and care. May you find peace and joy in who God has made you to be and in your every day of life.  Amen. 

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