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Wednesday Words, June 21, 2017

Pastor Paul Cannon

Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

- Matthew 10:38-39

If you ever come to church, and feel like things are just a bit too tame … I get you.  Church is nice: the people are nice, the sermon is usually nice, the songs are nice.  But there is a reason the saying goes, nice guys finish last.  ‘Nice’ just isn’t all that exciting.  Nice, doesn’t demand anything of you.  Nice, doesn’t challenge you.  Nice doesn’t bring you out of your comfort zone.

So if church is that way for you … you have my sincere apologies because that is NOT what the Gospel is.   This week’s reading from Matthew reminds us just how radical, just how challenging, just how costly it is to follow Jesus.

On Sunday, we will hear Jesus tell his disciples, “Do not think I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”  Confused yet?   You should be!  That wasn’t very nice at all!

Before you get too worked up about this particular verse, understand that this is not the Biblical prescription for violence. This is the same Jesus that tells Peter to put away his sword when he is arrested.  In fact, it’s not a prescription at all - it’s a description. Jesus is describing to his disciples what following him might look like: man against father, daughter against mother, etc. 

Following Jesus’ way of the cross will cause all kinds of conflict, because it will push you out of your comfort zone.  It will challenge you.  It will demand everything of you – even your own life.  Following Jesus will put you face to face with people who don’t look like you, talk like you, or behave like you.  It will make you uncomfortable.  It will not be nice.

This ‘costly grace’ is best summed up in the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who wrote,

“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: 'Ye were bought at a price', and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”

Thanks be to God!

Amen

Wednesday Words, June 14, 2017

Pastor Cathy Daharsh

My confirmation sponsor, Linda was a role model for me growing up and influenced the way in which I do ministry. She made ministry look so easy but later in life I found out that it was not as easy as it looked. When I was in high school she worked at the Casa Maria House in Milwaukee which was a nonprofit organization that focused on social justice issues.  When I was in high school, I spent a week with her in Milwaukee helping at soup kitchens, visiting homes for women and children in need of safety, and delivering food and clothing to people in the community. Linda treated everyone she met equally with pure love and grace. She continues her ministry as a social worker in a predominately Latino school in Milwaukee. We met a year ago and talked about her journey of faith.   In my eyes she looked like she always had her life together and she seemed to know exactly where God was calling her so it  surprised me when talking with her about her faith journey to learn of the the challenges she has encountered through the years.  She emphasized that it faith that motivates her and that it is Christ who enables her to do what she could not do on her own.

In our Gospel reading this week, Jesus makes it look easy to travel around towns and do ministry. He goes to cities, preaches in all the synagogues, and cures every single sickness. No distance is too great, no audience too skeptical, no disease too severe. Jesus gets it done. When he commissions his disciples to carry out his ministry, things get more difficult for the disciples and it leaves us wondering why Christ includes us in his mission and if we can follow-through.

We are called into the mission of Christ even in the midst of political challenges, social divisions, and systemic obstacles. Despite the challenges, despite the questioning of our abilities, despite our inevitable difficulty in accomplishing what Jesus could do far more easily than we could, Jesus confidently sends us out. Jesus seems to think that we can get the job done and do this ministry even if it will not be easy.

Our theme for the next two months is “Traveling Grace.” A theme that reminds us that Christ is with us wherever we may be as we travel throughout our communities. May we remember that we are called to serve knowing that Jesus confidently sends us out. Amen. 

Wednesday Words, June 7, 2017

Pastor Paul Cannon

Holy Trinity Sunday

This Sunday is the time of year where, as Pastors, we go to painstaking lengths to explain the Trinity.  God is three-in-one, and one-in-three.  It’s confusing in more ways than one (or three).  The first thing you need to know about the Trinity is that almost every way you try to describe it, is a heresy (fair word of warning: the link is a satirical cartoon that may be offensive to some, and hilarious to others). 

The second thing you need to know, is that it doesn’t matter – at least not in the way you think.

I don’t believe, for instance, that when you die and go to the pearly gates, that Peter is going to make you confess your Trinitarian beliefs correctly as in the Athanasian Creed (fair word of warning: the Athanasian Creed might disagree with me!). 

But here is why I think the Trinity matters: because by some miracle, God keeps showing up in our lives in those three distinct ways.  We encounter Jesus in suffering and in the cross and in his unconditional love.  The Holy Spirit shows up in the community, in the faces of strangers and our connections with one another.  God reveals Godself in creation and all that we see, have and experience.

The Trinity matters because God matters.  God continues to be revealed in each expression of the Trinity, breaking into our lives in new, unexpected, and sometimes alarming ways. 

In your life, I hope and pray that you may find your connection to God, the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

AMEN!

Wednesday Words, May 31, 2017

This Sunday we celebrate Pentecost which is the conclusion of the 50 days of our Easter celebration. After Jesus appeared to the disciples and after he ascended into heaven, Jesus’ followers received the promise of the Holy Spirit.

Pentecost is a festival day in the church which is filled with color and movement as we both conclude the time of Easter celebration and welcome the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Here’s a poem and reflection from an Iona Community Resource that creatively captures the day of Pentecost:

LIKE FIREWORKS IN THE NIGHT

It was almost too much to take in; too mind-blowing for them to understand; too big for human minds to process. Some said it was like a raging fire. Others compared it to the unstoppable force of the wind. Some discovered in it the fulfillment they had longed for and there were those whom it was an explosive technicolor extravaganza – like fireworks in the night.

But come you did, and since then nothing has ever been the same. You have a whole lot to answer for, God-Spirit for the result was excitement and unprecedented disturbance as well as soothing and calming and peace.

But doves don’t change lives. So, if we have become apathetic and complacent, and over-relaxed and easy, let us understand your presence as the restless wind of adventure.

Fireworks don’t change lives either if we have become fascinated by the outward trappings and impressive rituals, and carefully choreographed formalities of organized religion, let us understand your presence as fire: fire that melts and molds, that reshapes and refines; that stirs up energy and cuts to the core and reaches the heart and the center.

In the quietness now, we listen to your powerful God-Spirit. In the quietness now, work in us for our own sake and yours.

A time of Reflection

So many people so many shattered dreams. For there are those who believed they would be accepted but have discovered they are unwelcome and unwanted. There are those who thought they would be fed, but whose bellies still gnaw with terrible hunger. There are those who were promised equal treatment, but have discovered there are more important agendas to be met. Great Spirit, listen again to the discerning of your people. Mend their hurting, mend the injustices, mend the unfairness, and greed, and let that happen because you live in us.

As you move into the summer with God’s Spirit in you, may you be inspired to open your eyes to the hurt, the injustices and the unfairness around you. And, may you know that God is with you wherever you may be. Amen. 

Peace and blessings, 

Pr. Cathy

Wednesday Words, May 24, 2017

May 24, 2017

Pastor Cathy Daharsh

On Monday, I was studying the readings for this week with a group of seminary classmates over a video group chat. During seminary my class was very close and even though we now don’t see or talk with each other all the time I always feel connected to them. We can pick up right where we left off whenever we meet. It seems that we are connected in a mysterious way. Do you have people that you feel the same way with? 

                This week’s text has references to unity. As my seminary classmates and I talked about unity and the mystery of God’s unity even through war and challenging times, Harold who was a former rocket scientist brought up his fascination with the unity of atoms. From an article in Live Science it says “In quantum physics, entangled particles remain connected so that actions performed on one affect the other, even when separated by great distances. The phenomenon so riled Albert Einstein he called it Spooky Action at a Distance.”

                One thing entangled with another, even though those things don’t seem to be related at all, points to God’s mysterious work among us. We as God’s people are connected in ways that often are hard to explain or imagine. We are connected in small and large ways and our actions and messages affect our connections to others.

                Last Sunday we had our first Bethany volleyball match with Bethany competing against Bethany. 19 members of our congregation signed up to play volleyball so we formed two teams. I am surprised and pleased with the amount of people that signed up to play. The volleyball league we are playing in is not a church league like the league our softball team plays in. We are playing against people with many different faith or non-faith backgrounds which I think is great. 

After the match on Sunday, Pr. Paul  told me that while he was leaving to go home a woman said, “Hey, do you play with the Bethany Lutheran team from Crystal Lake?”

                He replied, “Yes.”

                And she said, “That’s cool.”

                That was it but a connection nevertheless was made and who knows how God will work from that brief conversation.

As you carry on in your days this week, take time to pay attention and be open to the encounters you make with people, God’s people as God is continually uniting and entangling us in mysterious ways. Amen.

                

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