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Wednesday Words, August 16, 2017

August 16, 2017

Pastor Paul Cannon

Thus says the Lord: Maintain justice, and do what is right,

for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed.

Isaiah 56:1

It’s amazing what a week can do. Over the weekend we saw disturbing images of armed White Supremacists flying Nazi swastikas and bearing tiki torches as they marched in Charlottesville, VA. Then, in an act of terrorism, one of these demonstrators drove his car into a crowd of counter-protestors, killing one and injuring at least 19 others.

Where do you find the words to describe such hatred and bigotry? How do you explain these events to your children and grandchildren? How do we make sense of it all?

As I struggled with some of these questions, I realized that as Christians we have a word that encapsulates what we all witnessed, and that word is sin. What we saw was sin, in its purest, rawest form (hatred, bigotry, violence, etc).

It’s almost overwhelming. Almost. It would be if we didn’t know that God’s love is greater than all hatred. It would be if we just all turned a blind eye to what happened. It would be … if we didn’t see signs of hope all around us (a light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it!).

A few weeks ago, we saw one of those signs, as nineteen high school youth, and three (crazy) adults loaded up for a mission trip to Minneapolis.

It’s amazing what a week can do. On Sunday, we will have our high school youth coming up to share their stories from their trip. And there are a LOT of stories. One kid learned how to pick a bike lock (for a good cause, I promise!). Some of our youth sorted through piles of … let’s call it interesting … clothing.

Of course, they weren’t all funny stories. We encountered people in need and we tried to bring a little piece of God’s justice to them and, in the words of Isaiah, to “do what is right.” We painted homes, tutored children, packed food and did whatever God asked of us.

In and through these stories, we saw signs of hope. We saw people working to bring God’s justice and love to all people.

And for these signs of hope that God sends among us, we say “Thanks be to God.”

Wednesday Words, August 8, 2017

August 9, 2017

Pr. Paul Cannon - Headwind

But when he noticed the strong wind, (Peter) became frightened,

and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Matthew 14:30

It was my first trip to the Boundary Waters, and the wind was blowing fiercely in our faces.  This wasn’t an ordinary wind, however.  It wasn’t the kind of wind that you dust off the old kite for.  It was a violent wind causing between two and four foot swells in the lake.  It was the kind of wind that knocks down trees and laughs and little canoes like ours.

Our goal was to criss-cross the waters of Lake Lac-La-Croix, and hopefully make it a few more miles by sunset before we had to make camp. I was in the stern (back of the canoe where the steering is controlled), we loaded, and pushed out onto the waters.

The other canoes with the experienced paddlers were ploughing ahead of us, but try as I might, I couldn’t get our canoe pointed in the right direction.  The waves threatened to capsize our little vessel.

It was too much.  The wind was too fierce, and our faith faltered.  We turned back to shore.

We ended up being blown far away from any marked campsites, so we made camp in the woods.  The winds won that round. 

For Peter, it wasn’t much different.  The disciples were being tossed around out in a boat by the wind and the waves, when Jesus walks up to them (yes, WALKS) on the water.  They wonder if this is the ghost of Jesus, or if he is truly walking on water.  So when Jesus tells Peter to “come” he takes a step out onto the watery surface.

But when the wind kicked up again… his own faith faltered.  His fears overcame his trust in his Lord, and he began to sink.

It makes me think of the headwinds we face in our own faith.  What do we do when faith no longer seems like the popular thing anymore?  What do we say to a world that can be skeptical of religion? How do we live out our values of loving the neighbor and caring for the poor, in a society that’s all about me, Me, ME!!!

The answer is simple in concept, and difficult in its implementation: keep your eyes on Jesus.  We live in a time where the prevailing winds are fierce, and yet Jesus asks us to step out of our boat, and keep faith in him.  Do not doubt, but believe!

Pr. Paul Cannon

Wednesday Words, August 2, 2017

Pastor Cathy Daharsh

When it was evening, the disciples came to Jesus and said, “this is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go assay; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” –Matthew 14:15-17

The feeding of 5,000 families in the Gospel of Matthew is no small miracle, but it feels like the change in the disciples is an even greater change. They notice the hungry crowds, but don’t see any possibilities for feeding them. We can imagine the crowds wandering around, hungry and edgy, as they talk about whether they should head home or not. Maybe some people on the edges are packing up to leave when Jesus tells everyone to sit down on the grass. He offers them a rare moment of rest, and then a feast that leaves everyone full.  

The feast happens because everyone manages to work together. The disciples come to Jesus first in discouragement about feeding the crowd, united in the belief that there’s nothing they can do. They work together as a unit in everything they do in the story, first in their hopelessness and then in their actions. They distribute the miracle food as a team, and work together to clean up all the leftovers.  

The challenge for us, and even for the disciples is to get past the reality we know, so we can get into the reality Jesus knows. This is what radical grace is (our new theme on "grace" for the next few weeks).  The things we can imagine are so limited, compared to what God can create. When God is at work, there ends up being enough for everyone; for the hungry crowd and for the skeptical disciples and for all of us who depend on God, especially, when we remember to work together. Amen.

 

Wednesday Words, July 25, 2017

Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with “three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

– Matthew 13:33

Have you ever heard of Amish Friendship Bread? I have eaten it, made it, and passed it along.  Amish Friendship Bread is a sweet bread that is made from a sourdough starter.  After ten days of adding flour and kneading the bag, you make the bread with the starter that has grown. You also save a portion of the starter to share with others. It reminds me a lot of a chain letter. The idea behind Amish Friendship Bread was to enjoy making something from scratch and to make connections and friendships along the way. The starter from the bread is like the leaven that is referred to in “The Parable of the Yeast” from this week’s gospel reading.

Yeast was a great mystery back in Jesus’ days. You take this rotten, stinky dough and put it in new flour to get delicious giving bread. In the parable, a woman adds to the leaven three measures of flour, which is enough flour to make bread for over a hundred people. This is a beautiful image of something small being made into something powerful and life giving, the Kingdom of God.

Other places in the Bible use leaven as a negative illustration. Jesus uses leaven to talk about the corruption of the Pharisees, evil, and how evil spreads through people; however, in the “Parable of the Yeast,” Jesus turns leaven into something positive.

We can’t see yeast working with our eyes. It’s all around us in the air, and it is constantly fermenting even if we don’t see it. The same is true for God. God might not seem to be working in our world but like yeast God’s kingdom grows and surprises us when we least expect it.

On one hand leaven is used to describe darkness in our society and on the other hand it is used to describe growth and something that makes life giving bread. The cross also has different meanings. On one hand, the cross is an instrument of death that Jesus endures for us, but it is also an instrument of life, resurrection, and grace.

May you this week discover the life giving work of God in surprising and unexpected ways that give you a glimpse of the kingdom of God breaking into our world.

Amen.

Wednesday Words, July 5, 2017

July 5, 2017

Pr. Paul Cannon

We played the flute for you and you did not dance; We wailed and you did not mourn.

For John came neither eating nor drinking and they say ‘he has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘look a glutton and a drunkard.”

Matthew 11:17-18

“WHAT DO YOU WANT?”  That’s the question we find ourselves asking our two-year-old with exasperating frequency.  He’s at the point where he can tell us what he wants … if only he could figure out exactly what that is.

Case-in-point: The other night, my wife is putting him to bed and is getting ready to tuck him in.  He has two blankets to choose from: great grandma blanket, or his doggy blanket (which has puppy paws printed on it).  Easy!  Just pick a blanket.

He picks the puppy blanket. As my wife moves to tuck him in with it, he wails “NOOOO!  I want great grandma blanket!”  Fine! Kirstin picks up great grandma blanket goes in for the tuck, and again, Isaac pipes up, “NOOOO! I want puppy blanket!”  And so the battle rages…

What do you want?  It turns out that’s a good question for us as well. What do we want from Jesus?  Do we want Jesus to challenge, or Jesus to comfort?  Pick one.

In our text for Sunday, Jesus is showing his frustration with ‘this generation’ (I would argue that all generations have this tendency) for not knowing what exactly it is they want in a prophet.  John the Baptist fasts from food, so they say he has a demon.  Jesus comes and eats/drinks with sinners and tax collectors, so they say he’s a glutton. 

So what do they want?  It turns out they want neither.  What they want is a tame Jesus.  Somebody who fits the mold of a proper, well-behaved, person who acts and looks … like them.  The problem is, that’s never what a prophet looks like.  Prophets are not well-behaved, they are rabble rousers.  They upset the apple cart.  They tell truths that often get them into trouble.

We want Jesus to challenge, as long as he’s not challenging us.  We want Jesus to comfort, as long as he’s not comforting our ‘enemies.’ 

Instead of placing our expectations on Jesus, maybe it’s better for us to just listen and follow.  Some days Jesus will bring a word of comfort.  Some days Jesus will bring a word of challenge.  But the beautiful, and often difficult thing, is that He will bring us the Word we need, when we need it. 

It turns out, we don’t get to pick at all.  It's not about what we want.  God, who knows what we need, will do it for us.

Thanks be to God.

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