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Wednesday Words, May 8, 2019

Wednesday Word

Pastor Cathy Daharsh

We live in a time that more than ever needs us to pay attention to one another and to be engaged. On the surface, many people seem to be put together and happy, but sadly many people feel isolated, different and disconnected even in our church. People are needing a chance to begin again. “Begin Again” is our theme for this time after Easter as we read through the book of Acts until the end of June. Our theme is about second chances and “always being made new” as God works in our lives to transform us and to bring us hope.

In this week’s reading from Acts, we learn about a disciple called Tabitha who was devoted to good works and acts of charity in her community. She had become ill and died, and the apostle Peter is called to come to Tabitha’s home. When Peter is there he kneels down to pray, and God works through Peter to bring new life to Tabitha and her community.  She is given a chance to begin again.  

In the last 9 days, our congregation had 5 funerals. We continue to hold the family and friends of Lois Dinzole, Elaine Kohn, Raymond Wenk, Virginia Nordlof, and Kim Schneider in our prayers. In the midst of grief, I saw hope and strength in our community. I heard words of resurrection and new life as congregation members and staff members came together and supported each other in the belief of eternal life through Jesus Christ. During this time congregation members have initiated conversations about forming support groups for those who are grieving, not only from someone dying in their lives, but grieving losses of other kinds like separation or divorce, moving to a new community, losing a job, etc. I am hopeful these groups will start in the fall. This is a great example of our theme, “Begin Again.” Just when life seems unbearable and hopeless, God finds ways for us to begin again. Amen. 

Wednesday Words, May 1, 2019

Wednesday Words – Blue Ribbons

May 1, 2019

Pastor Paul Cannon

Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you."

Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep.”

John 21:17

 

I’ve seen a lot of Blue Ribbons tied around trees, stop signs, and light poles around town.  Maybe you have too.  Most of you already know that they are up in honor and memory of AJ Freund, the boy whom we have all tragically come to know over the last few weeks.  One yard that I pass on my way each day is literally covered in those blue ribbons and signs.  It’s all been a heart-breaking response to a story we didn’t want to hear.

The effect on the town has been profound.  At the end of our youth group the other night, we did highs, lows and something to pray for as we always do. When one of the high schoolers spoke up and said their prayer was for AJ, Pastor Sarah paused and gave a thoughtful response.

She said, “You know, God has AJ.  We don’t need to pray for him anymore.  He’s with God now.  But there are a lot of people around this situation who still need our prayers.”  The comment made everybody think a little deeper.  One person offered that we should pray for the first responders who found AJ. Another said we ought to pray for the close family and friends who were grieving. 

Indeed.  God has AJ now.  Perhaps the blue ribbons can be a reminder for us, that we ought to care for one another just as much as a reminder of who we lost.

At the end of the gospel story this week, Jesus asks Peter three times “Do you love me?”  Peter says “Of course!  You know that I love you.”  And each time, Jesus tells him “Feed my sheep.” 

It’s a puzzling response, but it reminds me of Pastor Sarah’s words in some ways.  It’s as if Jesus was saying “I’m with God now.  You don’t have to worry about me.  But there are a lot of people who need tending to.”  We show our love by caring for one another, feeding Jesus’ sheep.

How do we tend to God’s flock?  Who do we pray for when we see those blue ribbons? Perhaps Jesus words to Peter are for us today. Perhaps our prayers ought to be for social workers and family, medical staff and police, lawmakers and neighbors, that something like this doesn’t happen to the next child. 

Perhaps they can be a reminder to us to feed God’s sheep.  Amen

Wednesday Words, April 24, 2019

Wednesday Words

April 24, 2019

Pastor Paul Cannon

Praise God

3Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! 4 Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! 5 Praise him with clanging cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! 6 Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!

-Psalm 150: 3-6

 

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Wherever you are, I hope you said that out loud. I hope you shouted it in front of your computer screen at work, at school, or on the Metra while reading on your phone. I hope you dusted off your old boombox, pumped the music and ran out into the streets dancing. I hope you I hope you knocked on your neighbors’ door, barged into their home to share the good news until they finally relented and agreed to see what all the fuss is about.

 

But I’m guessing you didn’t. Jesus rose from the dead, didn’t he? Same as last year. And the year before that. And the year before that. And the preceding two thousand years before all that (give or take a few decades). Kind of hard to get excited about it again. Isn’t it?

 

Maybe you didn’t do any of those things, but I still hope you feel the excitement, because even two thousand years later, this God on the Cross deserves our praise – not just for what Jesus did, but what he continues to do.

 

Why do we still break out the trumpets every Easter? Why do we bring out all the choirs? Why all the fanfare over something that happened so long ago? Our Psalm for Sunday is a reminder that God deserves our praise today, just as much as yesterday and the day before.

 

Every Easter we celebrate something old, but we also remember that we are called to celebrate all the new things that God is doing among us. We are celebrating all the ministry, all love, all the community that God has provided for us.

 

That is worth our praise. That is worth our shouts of Alleluia! That is worth our time, energy, and labor of love. Praise God!

Wednesday Words, April 17, 2019

Wednesdays Word
From Lasting Hope Devotional 

Psalm 31:15-16

My times are in your hand;
rescue me from the hand of my enemies,
and from those who persecute me.
Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your steadfast love.


To ponder
Through all the world with devils fill
and threaten to devour  us,
we tremble not, we trust God's will:
the cannot overpow'r us.
- Martin Luther, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God"

Rescued by steadfast love
One summer while serving as a camp counselor, I was trying to impress another counselor.  She challenged me to swim from the boat to the shore.  I didn't think we were out that far out, and I didn't want to be beaten by her.  I didn't know at the time that she was a professional swimmer.  I was not.  I jumped into the water and began to swim as hard and fast as I could, until I got a cramp in my legs.  I panicked and felt as if I was going under.  I screamed.  I cried.  Then a life preserver was thrown my way, and I was pulled back into the boat.

Often the rescue we need from our enemies is rescue from our own egos.  We are often our own worst enemies and persecutors.  As the psalmist cries out, "Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love." We too cry out.  We cry out for God's face to shine on us and be ever present.  We cry out for God to save us with God's steadfast love.

This steadfast love is never-ending and never tires.  It's the type of love that is made manifest each time we tell the God-defying forces of this world that they cannot overpower us.  This steadfast love is a love that will stretch itself upon a cruel cross, in the face of its enemies, and will rescue the whole world.

Prayer
God of steadfast love, thank you for rescuing us from ourselves and from the enemies of this world that get in the way of our receiving and sharing this love.  Amen.

Wednesday Words April 10, 2019

Wednesdays Word
From Lasting Hope Devotional 

Psalm 126:3

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad indeed.

To Ponder

Nelson Mandela emerged from prison not spewing words of hatred or revenge. . . He had been harassed for a  long time before his arrest, making impossible  a normal family life.  By the time of his release on Feb. 11, 1990, he had spent all of twenty-seven years in jail.  No one could say that he knew nothing about suffering. . . Everything had been done to break his spirit and to make him hate-filled.  In all this the system mercifully failed dismally.  He emerged a whole person. -- Desmond Tutu, No Future Without Forgiveness

Inextinguishable Spirit
If you travel to South Africa and visit Robben Island, you will see the prison that held people like Nelson Mandela, people who stood in public opposition to the apartheid system of racial segregation.  You can receive a tour of the remote, sea-surrounded prison from an ex-prisoner who will tell you first hand of the horrors inflicted upon him during an extensive stay on the island.  You will have to reckon with the unfathomable ways that human beings exert power and force over the lives of other humans, all in an attempt to maintain a position of dominance.

The miraculous thing about Nelson Mandela's story is that while he was in prison, while a powerful and dominating force attempted to diminish and extinguish his spirit, something was being cultivated in him.  His spirit would not break.  He maintained a level of wholeness that would not be snuffed out.

God has done great things, indeed!  God frees captives from their bondage  But what is more, God is present in the suffering, cultivating something whole, with a poewr even greater than the powers of domination and fear.  For this we can be glad indeed!

Prayer
God of the cross, you meet us in the place of the crucified, and it is there that you begin to cultivate your resurrection.  Continue to meet this world in its suffering places and make it whoel and glad indeed.  Amen.

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