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Wednesday Words, Nov. 28, 2018

Wednesday Words

Nov. 28, 2018

Pr. Paul Cannon

So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

Luke 21:31

It’s almost a tradition now.  We load up the car, strap the roof top carrier to the top of the Toyota, snuggle the kids tight into their car seats, and take off for our next adventure.  Inevitably, an hour or two down the road, ‘the littles’ start getting restless, and so we stop for a lunch/stretch break (usually in Madison).  We unload a sleepy-eyed Isaac, and then go for Elin … diaper blowout.  You can almost set your watch to it. 

There were signs, if you think about it: a whine here, a whimper there.  It doesn’t matter.  We should have known.  The little baby gets cozy in her car seat, tilted at just the perfect angle, feeling the meditative vibrations of the road … it’s the perfect storm of baby relaxation.

Forgive my crass comparison, but today, I see some similarities in Jesus’ words about signs.

Jesus warns the disciples “There will be signs in the sun, the moon and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and waves.”  At that time, he says, they will see “The Son of Man coming on a cloud.” 

The signs were there for anybody who wanted to read them a certain way and you can see why some thought the end was near. The Jewish Temple was destroyed in 70 CE by the Romans, Christians were being persecuted throughout the empire, and there were certainly natural calamities to point to as well. 

But Jesus’ words to the disciples and his followers were not meant as warnings.  They were meant as words of hope. The Christians in the times of Luke weren’t anticipating hard times, they were living them.  The signs were already upon them.  Forgive the metaphor, but the poop was already in the diaper!

Putting yourself in their shoes (or their diapers, if you will), you understand how Jesus’ words were words of hope. The Kingdom of God is near!  Jesus is coming!  “Raise your heads because your redemption is drawing near.” 

Perhaps you too are in the middle of difficulties.  Perhaps all the signs are pointing towards hardship.  Then perhaps you too should consider Jesus’ words this week as a sign of hope – a sign that God is coming (and has already come). 

Hope will look a little different to everybody: a kind word just when you need it, or peaceful feeling during a familiar hymn.  But the signs are there.  You just have to look for them.

Wednesday Words, Nov. 21, 2018

Wednesday Words

Nov. 21, 2018

Pastor Paul Cannon

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is tomorrow, which of course means one thing: Food.  Turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, cornbread dressing, pecan pie, and seven layer salad (any salad with mayo and bacon is okay in my book!) top the charts for me. I’m sure you have your own list of favorite recipes that fill you with almost as much nostalgia as they do calories.  We feast, maybe watch some football, argue politics with our relatives (unless you’re a Midwest Lutheran … then you just uncomfortably avoid eye contact), and head home.  Thanksgiving is an excuse to gather, to celebrate, and most of all – to eat.

But is Thanksgiving really about giving thanks for most of us?  At our house, we might go around the table, each person offering up what they are most thankful for, which is good and important, but I wonder if that practice might miss the full scope of what we have been given (everything!). 

I recently saw a video I wanted to share with you all (click this link to watch the video).  It’s a Christmas Video, but it gets the same point across.  You have been given all you have, and that is indeed a LOT to be thankful for. 

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! May we remember to give thanks to God for all he has given us. 

Amen. 

Wednesday Words, Nov. 14, 2018

Pastor Cathy Daharsh

Wednesday Words

307 mass shootings in the US this year, a divided country, fires, hurricanes, poverty, and more. It’s mentally and emotionally exhausting! Are these signs of the end of times? Sometimes it feels like that. 

In this week’s gospel when Jesus talks about all the stones being thrown down and the temple being destroyed, it must have sounded to the disciples as if he was talking about the end. It’s a question that is asked even today. Whether there will be a sign of how long do we have? How will we know? 

Jesus is not a whole lot of help on answering the disciples’ questions. He gives us a list of signs: wars, rumors of wars, nations rising against nation, earthquakes, famines. 

But then Jesus says, “Do not be alarmed, this must take place but the end is still to come.”  

The end is still to come!  Things will even get worse!? That is not what Jesus means. Think about it a different way. The end is not the wars. It’s not the last breathe someone takes on this earth, but, as Jesus says it’s the birth pangs. 

Many of us know birth pangs from experiencing them, others from being with someone in labor or hearing someone tell about them. Yes, challenging and difficult and sometimes more than you can imagine; however, the birth pangs are not the end. 

When a loved ones are in hospice, and  family stands by their side in worry and concern, I talk to families about this being a time for their loved one to birth into new life. Just like with birthing a new baby we don’t know the exact day or time, but we do know new life comes after the challenge of the labor pains. 

The world is in many ways a mess. As people of faith, we do not deny there is evil, but neither do we accept violence, fear, or hopelessness. 

Our faith calls us to be hopeful, live for others, and believe in the resurrection of new life. 

We pray and believe that new life will come in the midst of darkness and despair. Amen. 

Wednesday Words, Nov. 7, 2018

Wednesday Words

Nov. 7, 2018

Pastor Paul Cannon

Who gives justice to those who are oppressed, and food to those who hunger.

The LORD sets the captive free.

The LORD opens the eyes of the blind; the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;

The LORD loves the righteous. The LORD cares for the stranger;

the LORD sustains the orphan and the widow, but frustrates the way of the wicked.

- Psalm 146

I want you to know that at the time of this writing, I have no idea how the election turned out. It may have gone one way, or it may have gone another. You might be happy at the time of reading this or you might be frustrated. In this time of political tension in our country, I try to abide by some wise words, “Always assume the best intentions in others.” I think that would be a helpful motto for all of us as we digest whatever political news may be coming.

Most of us, I think, want similar things for ourselves and for our neighbors. Those things probably aren’t so different from the words that we’ll hear in the Psalm on Sunday. Justice for the oppressed, food for those who hunger, care for the stranger, sustaining the orphan and widow – God’s values.

To say these are “God’s Values” is not hyperbole, it’s scripture. As Christians they are values we all ought to strive for as well. We may disagree on the best path to getting there, but I choose to assume that my brothers and sisters in Christ, who may vote differently from me, are trying to reflect these same values.

It’s a charitable interpretation, but it’s also what I hope people from the other party think of me – not that I’m evil or bad or wicked for voting for a certain candidate or party. We’ve had enough of those kinds of interpretations. Too much, actually. Far too often, it’s somebody sitting on the other side of the internet from you, decrying (or maybe even mocking!) your political opinion or belief.

We are the body of Christ. We may vary wildly from one political party to the next on the best way to achieve God’s goals, but we remain united in the values that God holds close: justice for the oppressed, food to those who hunger, care for the stranger, sustaining the orphan and widow.

Thanks be to God.

Amen

Wednesday Words, Oct. 31, 2018

Pastor Cathy Daharsh

We are Saints and Sinners!

This week Sunday we celebrate All Saints Day, a day to remember and recognize the saints that have gone before us and the saints among us. Some religious traditions determine saints as those who obey God’s will, and sinners as those who disobey. Others set apart saints as super-holy people. Ordinary Christians like you and me aren’t particularly bad, they would say, but we haven’t done anything extraordinary enough to be called saints.

I thought this week would be a good time to review and remember the teachings of the Lutheran Church about Saints. Being a saint isn’t about what I do or don’t do but about who I am in relationship with God. That’s also true of being a sinner. The Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article II defines sin as the self-centered failure to trust God. Adam and Eve’s problem wasn’t just that they ate a piece of fruit or broke one of God’s rules. Their real sin was their desire to be “like God,” relying on their judgment rather than trusting God’s word. For us, too, our specific sinful behaviors are only symptoms of this self-contentedness.

Martin Luther describes Christians as “simultaneously saint and sinner" aka "Simul Justus et Peccator."  This both/and approach is a unique Lutheran understanding of who we are in God’s eyes. Luther calls Christians “simultaneously saint and sinner" because he redefines "saint" as a forgiven sinner. We are called not because we change into something different but because our relationship with God changes as a result of God's grace. Luther said: "The saints are sinners, too, but they are forgiven and absolved." 

Here's a picture from The Lutheran Handbook published by Augsburg Fortress: 

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This picture makes me laugh but it's also is an excellent illustration of how we understand a saint and a sinner. As the book says, "It's impossible to tell a sinner from a saint, because all people are fully both. The church is filled with them." 

The teachings of the Lutheran Church have brought much comfort to me. For the majority of my life I practiced my faith in the Roman Catholic Church, and for most of that time I lived with the pressure that I thought that I would never be good enough for God. I also believe that many Christians including Lutheran Christians, even with our teachings of grace, struggle with the worry that they are not good enough for God. It's easy for you and me to look in the mirror and see all the flaws in ourselves, but I hope and pray that you recognize and truly believe that you are a Saint, a forgiven sinner! Amen. 

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