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Wednesday Words - January 28, 2015

Thought for the Day:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Psalm 111:10

This Sunday’s Psalm points us on a path to wisdom, by fearing the Lord. There are three words in that sentence that often are misunderstood in today’s world. Those words are fear, wisdom, and Lord.

The word “fear” automatically triggers the idea in our minds that we are to be afraid. The Hebrew word here could mean this; it is, however, most commonly not understood of God in this way. It is not the idea of being afraid (like in punishment), but rather the idea of awe, wonderment, respect, adoration, praise. God is deserving of all of our praise and we hold God in highest esteem.

The second word is “wisdom.” Wisdom is not being smart or having head knowledge but it carries the connotation of insight, understanding, following, and being aware of our true direction in life. When we fear we hold God in awe and this sets us on the pathway to right living. Martin Luther reminds us in his explanation to the First Commandment that we are to “fear, love and trust in God above everything else.” When we do this we are on the path that God sets before us; a pathway that leads to insightful relationships with God and others.

The third word is Lord. Notice that the NRSV (New Revised Standard Version of the Bible) uses this L-O-R-D in all small caps to represent the Hebrew YHWH. This name is so sacred and special that it was not to be spoken.

It is in Christ that the full nature of God’s fear, love and trust is possible, because in Christ we discover a God who comes to us up close and personal (in the flesh). We have a God we respect and hold in awe, but we also see a God who is loving and compassionate, as God has always been, but made most clear in the person and work of Jesus.

As we celebrate Global Mission Sunday, we again are reminded of how we are to accompany our neighbors both far and near so that all might hold God in respect and awe for the loving acts of kindness that he bestows and that we are to share. 

We walk with others so that all might come to believe that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; walking with Jesus, God’s son who lights our way and gives us a true direction for or lives.

Pr. Len

Wednesday Words - January 21, 2015

Thought for the Day:

God alone is my rock and my salvation. Psalm 62.6

This Sunday’s lessons call us to believe the good news and follow Jesus. Yet, it is often hard to believe the good news or believe that there is good news.

What seems to confront us at every turn in today’s 24 hour news cycle is bad news. We cannot escape from the latest bombings, beheadings, civil uprisings, terrorist attacks, measles outbreaks, mudslides, earthquakes, and ice storms. We hear the bad news of murders and kidnappings, lost children and seniors, domestic violence and yes, death itself throughout our lives.

In the midst of all the bad news it is difficult for us to hear and see the good news breaking in through Jesus. Yet, there is good news. There are people lifting up people in prayer, gathering in vigil at various places of violence. People working for peace and justice as wells are dug and food is shared, and ebola and malaria are met with medication and committed medical people. All desire to bring good news to the world.

There is good news to share. We have experienced it in our own lives as we live in warmth with food to eat and clothes to wear. We are a blessed people compared to many in the world and that is not something we deserve, but rather is a blessing that is bestowed on us by a loving and gracious God.

Jonah this week brings news of repentance to the people of Nineveh. When they respond by turning to God Jonah becomes upset and angry with God. The story comes to a climax when Jonah sits pouting outside the city and God provides a gourd for his shade. Then the gourd shrivels up and dies and Jonah complains to God that he is left sweltering in the hot sun. God reminds Jonah that this gourd was a gift and he had nothing to do with it providing him shade and comfort.

So, when we are tempted to grumble about the circumstances of our life, or the church, or the world, we are reminded that we have been given the greatest good news of all – Jesus is with us in all the bad news with his kingdom breaking in on us again and again bring us the news that he is with us providing us with forgiveness, love and joy!

Look to see where you may find the Good News of Jesus in your life this week. Believe the good news and follow Jesus.

Pr. Len

Sunday, November 16th, 2014

Seize the Day

Sermon - November 16th, 2014

Matthew 25:14-30

Carpe Diem

 

Grace and Peace…

 

A week and a half ago, my brother and I took a little trip to Cincinnati.  We had tickets  to watch our favorite football team the Bengals take on the in-state rival Cleveland Browns.  

 

Those of you who follow football, already know it was a rough game.  And the trip didn’t get off to a good start either.  We checked into our (finger quotes) non-smoking hotel room, and when we opened the door it smelled like we stepped into an ash tray.  In hindsight, we probably should have taken it as a bad omen.  

 

Of course, it didn’t get any better after that.  We arrived at the stadium, got our seats, only to find out that somehow we were surrounded by a pack of obnoxious Browns fans. Great.

 

The game was horrible.  The final score was 24-3 and the Bengal’s quarterback delivered the worst performance ever. And I’m not exaggerating. Bears fans, if you think Cutler was bad on Sunday, our quarterback literally had the worst statistical game in team history.  (And did I mention it was cold and windy?).  GREAT!

 

But at least I can say I saw history being made!

 

We got back to our throat-burning hotel room feeling dejected and a little beaten.  But we decided - right then and there - to make the most of our trip and find something (anything!) interesting to do the next day. That way, when people asked us why we went to Cincinnati we wouldn’t have to talk about the real reason.

 

We decided to seize the day.

 

We googled Cincinnati attractions, and found something called the American Sign Museum....whose website proudly boasted to be the only sign museum in the whole country! It couldn’t be any worse than the game was, so we went and goofed around and took funny pictures.  And I have to say, the American Sign Museum was by far the highlight of our trip.

 

But we weren’t done seizing the day.  When our GPS led us to a Starbucks that no longer existed, we wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.  We drove 5 miles out of our way to find a decent coffee shop where we commiserated with a barista named Kelly who was also a Bengals fan.  

 

When we saw a sign for Bob Evans - one of our mother’s favorite restaraunts - we stopped for lunch, even though it we weren’t hungry, to take a selfie by the sign and send it to her!

 

And I have to say, that despite the horrible, no good, awful game, we ended up having a lot of fun.  It was a resurrection kind of turnaround for us.  We had an unbelievably depressing start to the trip, but we finished it with a flourish! We seized the day!

 

Well, I got a similar kind of feeling when I was going through our readings for this week, because they all use this kind of ominous, depressing “God-is-coming” language, but when you stick with them, they end up in this hopeful, seize-the-day kind of place.

 

The first two readings, are about God’s judgment on the earth.  

 

The prophet Zephaniah is talking about the “The Day of the Lord” when God will come to bring doom and gloom!

 

And in case you think, oh, that’s just an angry God, Old Testament thing, Paul writes to the Thessalonian church - a church grieving the death of some of its members. He writes, “The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”  And “then sudden destruction will come upon them...and there will be no escape!”

 

Wow, that’s dark!  God would seem super scary if you stopped reading there. And if that were the end of the story it would have been just as depressing as my Bengals game. But Paul and Zephaniah aren’t writing warning stories, they are writing a call to action.

 

Paul tells the church in Thessalonia to “stay alert.” In the margins of my Bible I wrote “carpe diem,” seize the day.  Don’t fall asleep.  Be ready.  

 

Here you have this church in Thessalonia that is grieving the death of some members, and Paul is telling them, don’t worry! God has come for those people, and God is coming for you, and that is a hopeful sign.  

 

Paul concludes that the way to be ready - the way to seize the day - is to encourage each other, and build each other up. Stop the bickering.  Stop the fighting.  God is coming, he says, and therefore we should respond with faith, love and hope. We should look out for our the people around us.

 

His conclusion is to seize the day.  Don’t sit around being idle.  Go out and do something positive with your time, because it might be short...because it might be short.

 

Isn’t that what the gospel story is about today?  Jesus is telling the parable of the talents.  A master gives one servant 5 talents - more money than a normal laborer would make in a lifetime!  Another receives two talents - 30 years worth of income!  And the last received one talent - 15 years of wages!

 

The first invests the 5 talents and makes 5 more talents!  The second invests his two talents and makes 2 more.  But the third takes his talent and buries it in the ground, because he’s afraid of what the master will do if he loses it.

 

But when the master comes home, he tells the first two - well done, good and faithful servants!  But to the last one who did nothing with the talent, he threw out into the darkness.

 

I want to be clear - Paul reminds us that we have nothing to fear.  We are children of the light - already saved through baptism and faith.  Our work isn’t urgent because we need to save our own skin.  Our work is urgent because our time is short and God’s world is in need.  

 

Make the most of what you’ve been given. Don’t bury your gifts in the backyard. Don’t sit on your hands.  Don’t be idle.  

 

And there are so many ways that you can do that!  It doesn’t matter how old or young you are, how able or disabled, how busy or tired - you have all kinds of opportunities to seize the day - all around you, all the time.  

 

Last thing: I want you all to take a look at the Bethany Weekly that you should have received when you came in today.  Go ahead and pull that out.  And I want you all to open it up to the middle pages.

 

There’s a ton going on at this place, and the stuff on the list isn’t even the half of it.  But what I want you to do now is to take out a pen or a pencil and circle something that looks interesting to you - something that you’d want to be a part of.   

  • Look at the Thanksgiving dinner boxes - you can provide somebody a Thanksgiving meal through our community food pantry.  

  • The Family Christmas Project is coming up - they need shoppers and donations and wrappers and deliverers.

  • Attend a fellowship event, and lift up each other through love and friendship and laughter - that’s just as big a part of what we do as anything.  

  • Check out the community harvest food drive - Give some struggling folks in our community a boost by donating food.

 

Our gospel tells us not to put this stuff off until tomorrow. Don’t put it off.  God is coming - life actually is short!  So let’s spend our time lifting up our neighbors.  Let’s spend our time giving back.  Let’s spend our time being joyous and loving.

 

Let’s seize the day.

Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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