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Wednesday Words - September 28, 2016

Our focus for October is “First, We Give of Ourselves: Giving in Grace.” We will explore, together, the wonderful gift of God’s grace in Christ and how it is the foundation of our discipleship and giving.

We begin our discussions on “First, We Give of Ourselves: Giving in Grace” on Sunday, October 2.

The following congregation members during our “Mission Moment” on Sundays in October will share a message on “Giving in Grace”:

  • October 2 Don and Karen Barley
  • October 9 Gene Bengston
  • October 16 Pastor Raphael Malpica Padilla
  • October 23 The Pierzina Family

Here’s our “Giving in Grace” Bible Study for this week: 

The following scripture reading will be used as one of our readings for this Sunday’s worship.

21 But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ[a] for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God;24 they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, - Romans 3:21-24

In this passage from Romans, the Apostle Paul lays out the cornerstone of God’s great love for us. That cornerstone is Christ and God’s rich, abundant, and free gift of grace in Jesus Christ. As Paul tells us, each of us are sinful and in need of this life of giving grace, in and through Christ, that brings each of us forgiveness and life. Stewardship is our faithful, joyful, and thankful response as we find contentment in this rich gift of God’s grace.

Reflection Questions:

What do these verses from Romans tell us about God’s grace in Christ?

How does the gift of God’s grace in Christ impact our understanding of who we are as people?

One way to understand Christian stewardship can be summed up in this statement: “Stewardship is how we live each day in the midst of God’s rich grace, how does that inform our relationship with people and the world around us?

How does the passage from Romans inform your understanding of stewardship?

Beyond the obvious such as family, friends, and church, what are some examples of God’s grace that you have seen or experienced this past week?

What are some ways you have given in grace this week?

Wednesday Words - September 21, 2016

Pastor Cathy and I were at the Pastoral Leadership Conference this week - a time for pastors and church leaders of the Northern Illinois Synod to recharge, learn and worship together.  Our speaker/presenter was Dr. Eric Law who spoke to us about what it means to exchange "Holy Currencies." 

Don't worry, it's not about money...at least not entirely.

Most of our conversations revolved around the other kinds of currencies we exchange with one another: Time & place, leadership, relationships, truth, wellness and yes, money.  Dr. Law suggested to us that we need all of these things in order to be a healthy and holistic as a church.  

He told us something that seemed true to me: that most churches tend to focus on money, time & place, and leadership over the others.  It's true, right?  How many of our conversations revolve around the building (place), the pastors (leadership) or the budget (money)?  It's not bad.  We need those things!

However, ministry comes alive when we are able to connect those "currencies" with the other three.  

What would church look like if we talked more about how to build relationships in the community?  What would the church sound like if the church was bold enough to tell the truth about issues like poverty, racism, and war? What would the church feel like if it was a place where people came to find rest for their souls?

My challenge to you is to think about that this week.  How can you help build relationships?  What truths does the church need to tell?  How can we make church a more restful place for people?  

And if you have an idea, email us!  Because we can't be the church without you.

Pr. Paul

Wednesday Words - September 14, 2016

A few weeks ago I was asked to do a presentation with first call pastors in our synod on church administration and church finances. In my presentation I pointed out that the root word of administration is minister. Administration for me in a church is about listening, anticipating, organizing, and visioning with others for the sake of the gospel. Communication is key in administration in building a foundation to move forward in mission. 

There are many studies about communication. One study I read said, “The words you choose deliver 7 percent of your message. The tone of your voice delivers 38% of your message. Body language delivers the remaining 55% of your message.”  I emphasized to the first call pastors that at times the intention of their communication will get lost in translation. I also emphasized that they will not always know the answer but that is OK.

As I read this week’s gospel reading from Luke 16:1-13, I have found myself a bit lost in the translation and it seems that I am getting only 7 percent of the message. Lots of theologian have lots of ideas of what they think the parable in Luke 16 means, but in the end to me it feels like a stretch to find something that we like in it. We look for things that are not there to fit into what we hope and maybe want it to say. Today I wonder why the early church decided to share this story and the future editors decided to leave it in? It is a temptation for us to quickly resolve issues that make us uncomfortable because we don’t like being uncomfortable. Shouldn’t our faith make us uncomfortable? Shouldn’t our faith challenge us to grow? This week I journey in the unknown of being lost in translation and not knowing all the answers in this text, but with the understanding that we are saved by God’s grace not by always fully understanding Jesus’ meaning.

May we this week be open to the transformation of the Holy Spirit in our lives as Christ challenges us to grow in our faith. Amen.

Peace and blessings,
Pastor Cathy

Wednesday Words - September 7, 2016

This fellow welcomes sinner and eats with them. – Luke 15:2

I lost my credit card last week and panicked.  I’m sure you know the feeling. However, I was pretty confident that it was somewhere in the house, because that was the last time I had used it.  I looked under the cushions, I looked on table, I looked under piles of papers … it was nowhere to be found. 

And then I noticed that Isaac is now tall enough to grab things off the table.  Since he already knew how to open our trash can, I was worried it would not be coming back! But after a few days of searching, the card finally showed up again in the most likely of places: the laundry.  I left it in one of my pockets. 

I wonder though, how hard would I have looked if it had been something less valuable?  What if I lost a twenty-dollar bill?  What if it had just been a five?  What about an old penny?

On Sunday we’ll hear some familiar stories about lost items.   A shepherd loses a sheep (one out of a hundred), and a woman loses a coin (about one day’s wages).  But here’s the hook: in the scheme of things, neither item is particularly valuable, and yet the owners risk it all to go searching. 

Jesus does the same thing for us.

The Pharisees begin the story by mocking Jesus for eating with sinners and tax collectors. What kind of religious leader associates with that crowd? 

But Jesus tells them about a shepherd who loses a sheep and a woman who loses a coin and lights her lamps to go searching for them. Any shepherd would know that you can’t leave the flock to search for one lost sheep.  And any person would know you can’t burn valuable lamp oil to search for one lost coin!

But to God, the lost sheep and coin are so valuable that He does the unexpected.  The woman lights her lamp and searches.  The shepherd leaves his flock and goes looking.

That’s how valuable you are to God.  God will risk everything to come find you, whether you are the lowliest sinner or the holiest saint. You may not feel valuable, but to God you are a great treasure, worthy of risking his own Son.

Thanks be to God. 

Amen

Wednesday Words - August 31, 2016

The readings this week have to do with choices. As we know some choices in life are much easier than others.  What happens when we make wrong choices?  The truth is that we often do make wrong choices. For instance, when we take a wrong turn driving but we fortunately get back to where we need to be. However, some choices can affect a church, a community, and even the world.  This reminds me of a story from an unknown author...

There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence. Finally, the day came when the boy didn't lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone. The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence.

He said, "You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won't matter how many times you say I'm sorry, the wound is still there." 

The little boy then understood how powerful his words were. He looked up at his father and said "I hope you can forgive me father for the holes I put in you." 

"Of course I can," said the father. 

Discipleship is about caring for God’s people and creation which is not always easy. The truth is we will not always make the right choices and we will make marks that cannot be taken away. The Good News is that like the father in the story Jesus “of course” can and will forgive us. The hope in discipleship as we live in the Spirit is that we can learn from our wrong turns and move forward with right turns that affect a church, a community, and even the world in a positive way. Amen.

 

Peace and Blessings,

Pastor Cathy

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