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Wednesday Words - June 22, 2016

Grace and Peace Bethany Lutheran,

 

We always say that the Holy Spirit is hard to see.  It's hard to identify.  We use images like the dove, or tongues of fire to represent the Spirit in our art, but in our day-to-day lives, the Spirit often seems invisible or even worse, not there at all!

 

But this week we'll hear a little bit more about where we can see the Holy Spirit at work, and it's actually in the most common and often overlooked places.  Saint Paul tells us that we see signs of the Spirit - what he calls the Fruit of the Spirit - in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  

 

Paul also contrasts that with what he calls "works of the flesh," which are things like anger, jealousy and strife.  Unfortunately sometimes these things are more visible in our world.  The tragic events in Orlando was the very representation of those evils in full force.  

 

And yet, in the wake of that tragedy, we've seen the fruits of the Spirit pouring out on the victims and their families, as they are wrapped in love, prayer and support.

 

Even in tragedy (some would say especially in tragedy), the Spirit was in full force, working to combat the evils of homophobia, anger, hatred and violence.  A local prayer vigil this past weekend was held for the victims, and included members of the Islamic community praying side by side with people of the Christian and Jewish communities.  It was a beautiful outpouring of the Spirit.

 

That is where we see the Holy Spirit most keenly.  That is where God shows up. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are expressions of the Spirit of God that cannot be cowed by violence, anger, bigotry or even death.

 

So may the fruit of the Spirit be with you and in you this week as you go on your ways.  

 

In Christ,

Pr. Paul

Wednesday Words, June 8, 2016

Do you know that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, when you realized you did something wrong?  Have you ever needed to hear that word of grace and forgiveness for what you did?

On Sunday you’ll hear two stories about people who found themselves in this situation.  The first is about King David, who conspired to have a woman’s husband killed so that he could marry her (don’t tell me the Bible is boring!).  The second story is about a woman who is described as “a sinner” who sneaks into a Pharisee’s home (uninvited) so she could encounter Jesus. 

These two people, David and the woman, couldn’t be more different, and yet they both find themselves with the same guilty feeling in the pit of their stomach, in need of grace. 

King David, (perhaps used to getting everything he wants), needs Nathan (a prophet of God) to point out his terrible error.  When the full weight of his sin comes crashing down on him, he knows that only God’s grace can save him.

The woman, on the other hand, never asks for forgiveness.  Instead, in an act of love and devotion, she washes Jesus feet with her tears, and dries them with her hair before anointing his feet with oil.  Jesus forgives her because of her faith.

The sins of King David and the woman were unthinkably bad, but that made God’s forgiveness and grace that much more incredible. 

Think of these stories the next time you get that sinking feeling, and remember how much greater God’s grace is than our sin.

In Christ,

Pr. Paul

 

Wednesday Words, June 1, 2016

Miracles in the Bible can make it hard sometimes in our faith. Difficult and tragic events have happened in many of our lives. We desperately hope for Jesus to show up and provide some kind of amazing miracle that will take away our pain and suffering. But, when we hold too tightly to the dream of miracles to happen like in the Bible, we can miss smaller works of the Holy Spirit in our midst. 

In Sunday’s Gospel reading Jesus comes across a widow who was grieving the death of her only son. No one rushes to Jesus to ask him to help the widow’s son. Maybe they think that it is too late, but with a simple touch Jesus heals the son.

In reality, our lives are messy and do not often have the nice tidy ending that the widowed woman has in the Gospel reading this week.  Often the miracles that happen today are in less clear forms than as written in the Bible.  But, be assured, Jesus does hear our cries for help, just as he heard the grieving widow.  Jesus steps into the chaos of our unpredictable world to bring us peace.  Sometimes it is easier to see miracles when we look back at our lives. Think of a moment in your life that you thought you could not possibly go on after such a difficult or tragic event, but you do. How? I believe in those moments God was working in you and around you as you were strengthened and grew in the Spirit of God’s love and grace.

My prayer for you this week is that you are open to growing in the Spirit as you witness God’s work all around.

Peace,

Pastor Cathy

 
 

Wednesday Words, May 25, 2016

People surprise me. When I put someone on a pedestal they do something that disappoints me and when I judge someone’s actions they do something faithful and extraordinary. I believe that all of us have the capacity to grow in our faith and I also believe that all of us have the capacity to fall short in our faith.

Jesus spent time with all kinds of people and unexpected growth in faith seemed to always happen. In this week’s Gospel reading from Luke, we hear about a centurion asking Jesus for help. The centurion is someone you would not expect to be a friendly neighbor or to show humility. But, this centurion has been touched by Jesus and expresses a humble faith that has come into full bloom through the work of God’s Spirit.

Our theme for the summer is “Growing in the Spirit.” As we see the growth of many flowers expected and unexpected around us, the following poem is an interesting illustration of faith through an ordinary and unexpected flower: 

If a Christian would take the form of a flower, what would it be?

Some would say a rose, some might say a tulip, and yet others would say a daffodil. I on the other hand, say that a Christian is called to be a dandelion, because a dandelion has all the attributes of a Christian witness.

  • A dandelion is the first sign of hope in the spring
  • A dandelion is the first expression of love, for it is the first "flower" usually given to a mother by a small child.
  • A dandelion makes itself known in the neighborhood quickly
  • A dandelion is not conscious of class and equally casts itself on the rich and the poor.
  • A dandelion provides beauty and color where nothing else will grow.
  • A dandelion can be cut, trampled, dug up, or pulled up and still bounces back with its witness as though nothing happened.
  • A dandelion is a victim of slander, for some people call it a weed, but it pushes on undaunted to conquer the world.
  • A dandelion is very neighborly.

Wouldn't it be great if we would all act and witness like dandelions?

Author: Unknown

May we be open to the work of God’s Spirit in our lives as we grow in our faith and trust that each of us has the capacity to “Grow in the Spirit” in unexpected places and in unexpected ways.

Peace and Blessings to you,

Pastor Cathy

Sunday, May 29, 2016

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