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Wednesday Words, Aug. 21, 2019

Wednesday Words – Finger Pointing
August 21, 2019
Pastor Paul Cannon

If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.

-Isaiah 59:9b-10

This upcoming Confirmation year we will be teaching our 6th-8th grade students about Luther’s Small Catechism. Even though this book was originally published in 1529, I can’t help but think that maybe it was written for 2019, because when I read it, it still feels as relevant as ever – and in some ways maybe more so.

It’s Luther’s explanation of the 8th Commandment (You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor …. in case you didn’t have it memorized!) that is ringing in my ears this morning. It says we are not to tell lies, betray, slander or destroy the reputations of our neighbors.

But more than that, Luther says we ought to “come to their defense, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light.” I can’t say that I always do that. Come to think of it, I fail at this standard daily

When framed in that way, the 8th Commandment is pretty convicting isn’t it? We live in a finger-pointing society – a practice Isaiah cautions against – and it’s rare to hear an admission of guilt or honest self-reflection anymore. But as God’s people, we are always be called to point the finger inward, which is something we did at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Milwaukee this year.

A little over two weeks ago, I found myself headed up to Milwaukee for the ELCA’s Churchwide Assembly (think of it like the Bethany annual meeting, multiplied by a thousand). Together, the assembly conducted the business of the church: we re-elected the Bishop and elected a new secretary, we passed resolutions and memorials, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women and 10th year of the ordination of LGBTQI+ people.

After reflecting on the week, what I’m most proud of, is our church’s willingness to point the finger at itself, confess its own sins, and seek reconciliation moving forward. As a church, we issued an apology to people of African descent for the church’s role in slavery and racism. We created a commemoration day for the Emmanuel AME shootings four years ago, where an ELCA Lutheran killed nine members of a historically black church. We declared the church to be a sanctuary body, meaning that we will strive to find ways to walk with our immigrant neighbors. We issued statements on sexism and inter-religious commitment.

We didn’t just say we were against something and we didn’t point fingers (unless it was at ourselves). We didn’t blame a political party or ideology for the ills of society. We committed to taking action and doing something about it.

Wednesday Words, Aug. 14, 2019

Wednesday Words

August 14, 2019

Pastor Paul Cannon

 

Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth?

No, I tell you, but rather division!

There are times in all of our lives where we have to say something – regardless of consequences - because it just has to be said.  You know your words might be harmful to the other person.  You know that saying what needs to be said might cause division.  But you say it anyways.  You say it because it’s good, and right, and true and not saying it would be worse.

I had this situation on Tuesday morning with my four-year-old son Isaac.  I sat him down and spoke straight from my heart. 

“Isaac” I began, “You cannot wear your Halloween socks in the middle of summer.” 

Cue the meltdown.

It’s not that I’m the fashion police, or that I even care generally about what he wears.  I just thought that on Meet the Teacher Day for his preschool he should wear socks of the appropriate season, lest it reflect poorly on us all.

I knew he wouldn’t be happy about it.  I knew he disagreed with me.  But I told him anyway. Does that make me a monster?  Maybe.  But sometimes you just need to speak the truth, even it causes division.

This is something Jesus would agree with (if not the choice of socks).

“Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth?” Jesus asks rhetorically.  I dunno Jesus.  I kinda thought that was the whole point!  The answer should be “Yes” of course. Peace, love, harmony are kind of Jesus’ thing.

But Jesus says no.  Instead, when Jesus comes, he brings division – not because he doesn’t want peace and harmony in the world, but because when Jesus comes, he speaks the truth, and the truth can sometimes divide us.  The truth disrupts powerful systems and even more powerful people.

When you speak out against oppressive powers, that can cause divisions.  When you raise your voice for the poor and downtrodden, that causes strife.  When speak the truth to those who don’t want to hear it, there will be conflict. 

But that’s the way of Jesus.  It’s a way of division – not for division’s sake – but for the sake of truth.

Wednesday Words, Aug. 7, 2019

Wednesday Words

Pr. Cathy Daharsh

In a weeks time we heard of mass shootings in California, Mississippi, Ohio, and Texas. Yet in this week’s gospel reading Jesus says, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. – Luke 12:32

We find comfort in these words of Jesus, and then again we might not. I mean, if it’s your loved ones who died, your child who died, your friend who was harmed, suddenly you might have more questions than answers.

  • If God is really in charge, why does God allow such horrible things to happen?
  •  If God really is all-powerful and almighty, why doesn’t God act to save the lives of the innocent?
  • Jesus asks us to not fear. How can we not be afraid?

These are questions we wrestle with in our faith. Truth be told, there is no easy or perfect way to explain why someone would pick up a gun and shoot at a crowd of innocent people. There is no explanation that would lead us to say, “Oh, now I understand. That makes sense.”

We come together as a community of faith trying to find strength, courage, and words through the unconditional love and teachings of Jesus. That doesn’t mean we don’t struggle to understand. That doesn’t mean we don’t shake a fist at God. That doesn’t mean we don’t continue to ask tough questions. We come together in the promise of God who came to walk with us in Jesus Christ to defeat sin and death. Through our baptism we are claimed by Christ which gives us hope, courage, and strength to work through tough times in faith.

Thoughts and prayers ground us so that we might find our footing to take action in Christ. May we keep the faith and continue to be a voice in this world that aches for support and a word of hope so that we do not need to live in fear. Amen.

If you are interested in reading about how the ELCA is taking action,  here’s a link for A 60-Day Journey Toward Justice in a Culture of Gun Violence https://elca.org/60days

Wednesday Words, July 31, 2019

Wednesday Words

Pastor Cathy Daharsh

How much money do we need to live?  How much "stuff" do we need?

These were questions I asked myself when leaving a very comfortable life in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. My husband Tom left his VP position, I resigned from my job as Director of Youth and Family Ministry and we sold our large home with ½ acre of land so that I could go to seminary. Our family of four would live in a small duplex, less than half the size of our house in Sheboygan.

I clearly remember the day we told our families that we were moving to Dubuque, Iowa for seminary. Immediately after the shock and the sadness that we were moving, Tom’s brother asked, “Can I have your riding lawn mower?”

Everyone laughed and then proceeded to ask for items that we couldn’t possibly fit in our future smaller space. It weirdly felt a bit like we had died as the family was going through our house dividing our stuff.

In our Gospel reading this Sunday, a man came to see Jesus and he had money on his mind.  He said to Jesus, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me,”

Jesus replied, “Take Care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life doesn’t consist in the abundance of possessions.”

This was a lesson I needed to learn. Truth be told, it was difficult for me to leave our comfortable house with lots of stuff. But what I eventually discovered was that our family grew closer together in our small duplex. Since our home was smaller, we bumped into each other more often and shared more time together which was an unexpected blessing. We discovered that all that extra stuff we had was really only a distraction. Our boys played outside even more and connected with other kids on campus. My husband, Tom and I, got of the house more often and connected more with each other and our neighbors. We also seemed to thank God more often for our family, our neighbors, what we had and our life together.

It seems to me the more stuff I have the more I am distracted from my connection and relationship with God. Jesus taught us the foundation to building our life together, which is to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. When we put our time and effort into God and our neighbor, I believe that we see the world in new and more meaningful ways. I also believe that it opens our eyes to caring and communing with creation. May we take time to simplify our lives. May we know that no matter how much stuff we have we are loved in Christ. Amen. 

Wednesday Words July 24, 2019

Wednesday Words

Pr. Cathy Daharsh


Jesus’ words about prayer this week in the Gospel of Luke bring up the question of what happens when our prayers are not answered. What happens when it’s not as simple as ask and receive?

Author Bob Hostettler says that something is happening in our connection with God, even when a prayer doesn’t seem to be answered. He says, “Sometimes prayer doesn’t work. That may be an unpopular — even blasphemous — statement. But it’s more or less true, from our human perspective at least. We pray for a healing that never comes. We ask for something to change, and it doesn’t. We plead for answers we never get. But even when a prayer isn't answered, it still works.”

I remember a story of when my niece, Kylie, was five-years old (she’s now 20.). She sat at the dinner table, nearly in tears. She stared at the chicken remaining on her plate. Her dad, my brother, had told her to take three more bites of her food, just bites, not even the whole thing before she could leave the table. She complained and cried as though eating three bites (of a food she normally loved) was going to kill her.

I sat down next her. I tried to encourage her, with no luck.

Then she looked at me with her big brown eyes with tears in them. “You could eat my chicken for me.” 

“No, honey, I can’t. Your dad said you have to eat three bites.”

“But if you eat it, he’ll think I did.”

“But it would be a lie for us to let him think you ate them.”

“Please?”

“No, I’m sorry, honey. But I’ll sit here with you for as long as it takes. We can talk or we can sit quietly, until you eat three more bites.”

“Her plea to me didn’t work. But we sat together and talked a little until she finally managed to finish her meal.”

We may not always get our answers we want to our prayers. We may feel at times as though God isn’t listening, and definitely not cooperating. But prayer still works in those times. It continues the conversation. It reminds us that God is there. And even when, for whatever reasons, we don’t get the answers we want, prayer still can bring comfort and strength from being in God’s presence and knowing we are not alone. When we talk and pray to God, we grow closer to God, even if the answer doesn’t come in the way we imagine or hope. Amen,

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