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Wednesday Words, November 24, 2021

Happy Thanksgiving Bethany Lutheran!

We are entering a time of year where things start to get FULL.  Our calendars fill up with events. Our houses fill up guests.  And yes, our stomachs fill up with food.  There is certainly a LOT to be thankful for.

In the church, we fill up as well.  Our staff calendars fill up with activities. Our worship schedule becomes fuller (Advent Services on Wednesdays!).  And our hearts fill up with love for you all.

Our prayer for you this Thanksgiving is a prayer of fullness! 

May you be filled with all the care, love and grace that God provides.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pr. Paul

Wednesday Words, November 17, 2021

Wednesday Words

A Celebration of Christ the King in the Seasons of the Church Year

November 17, 2021

Pastor Cathy Daharsh

 

Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” – John 18:33-34

Time has been a challenge to keep track of in this Pandemic. When our staff tries to remember the details of how we did things last year, it seems that it is a little blurry, and we have at times mixed up last year with two years ago. It’s hard to believe that this Sunday is Christ the King Sunday and the following week we begin Advent. For Christ the King Sunday, we are doing something unique and meaningful. We will be journeying through the Seasons of the Church Year, looking back at where we have been in the last 12 months and pointing to where we are heading. 

We will review from Jesus’ birth in a stable, to walking in Galilee, to opening the eyes of others, to teaching the disciples and the crowds, to Jesus being crucified and rising again, to the Holy Spirit coming, to the forming of the new church, to what it means to be a disciple. Sunday marks the last Sunday of that journey, and the following Sunday we begin celebrating Advent as we once again begin the journey to remember who we are and whose we are. 

We know that the kingdom, the God that Jesus brought is a present reality in our lives. And yet we also know that there is a future kingdom over where God will reign in Christ, a kingdom in which the world will once again fully reflect God. Sunday, we will celebrate Christ as past, present, and future king over all the earth, at the same time that we express our hope and faith in a kingdom yet to come. 

Join us this Sunday as we look back at this past year’s journey with Jesus, and forward to a new journey. Amen. 

Wednesday Words, November 10, 2021

Wednesday Words

November 10, 2021

Pastor Cathy Daharsh

My boys used to love building tall structures with blocks. Sometimes they would build the buildings together, and sometimes apart. But, tearing them down seemed a part of their process, and sometimes one or the other son would be mad or sad that their creation would come down. Even after the frustration of a building being knocked down there was always room for a new creation. 

This Sunday we come to the end of the book of Mark. We hear Jesus talk about the end of the Jerusalem temple, shocking his disciples. They assume that it will stand forever, and Jesus reminds them that some things need to be torn down so others can be built up. 

In this time of the pandemic companies are pondering the usefulness of physical office as people continue to work from their dining rooms, and office buildings stand empty. Our physical spaces are changing, and Jesus brings us a timely word about assuming the permanence of the world around us. 
Is it time to tear down, or to build up? And how do we know?

Some workers are complaining about having to return to their offices. Some like the ability to work at home, others like the flexibility, and others are saving money not commuting. Then there are companies struggling to find employees. It seems that many for employees, their work environment is about to change. 

Looking at the temple, the disciples see an amazing structure, and yet Jesus reminds them not to be fooled by how it looks on the outside. Our idea of permanent is far from God’s idea. It’s not just the stones that will come down, it’s the temple and its customs and its place in everyday life. All of it has an end, so that something else can come to life.

Jesus isn’t very comforting, as he promises “wars and rumors of wars,” and uncertainty. This is the start of the birth pangs, and, unlike with a human baby, no one knows exactly what is being born. The disciples want much more certainty than Jesus is willing to offer them.

God is always in the creating business, and yet it’s hard to let go of the former things so we can enter the new things. It’s unsettling, even with Jesus as our guide. But, sometimes to build up, we need to let go and tear down. For the month of November, our theme is Loving our neighbors, no exceptions. It’s a theme of tearing down stereotypes and preconceived ideas of others and building up people through listening and learning as we set the table for new neighbors to join us in our faith journey. God is creating and building through the ministry of Bethany and for this we say thanks be to God. Amen.

Wednesday Words, November 3, 2021

Wednesday Words – Beyond Belief

November 3, 2021

Pr. Paul Cannon

Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?

- John 11:40

I have led thirty-three funerals in my time as a pastor here at Bethany, and death still sometimes feels like a stranger to me.  You see somebody you know and love here one minute and the next … they are gone. Like Lazarus, I sometimes expect them to jump up and throw off death just as Lazarus tossed aside his shroud. I still sometimes expect to hear their voices echoing off the walls of our sanctuary or catch them sitting in their favorite pew. 

The first funeral I did at Bethany was for John Michaels.  I can still picture him sitting in a chair in the office, preparing his handyman list for the day.   I can hear Judy Engebretson regale us with her stories from abroad or Pastor Linstrom’s distinctive voice as he read the Gospel. 

You probably feel the same way about many of your loved ones.  You hold memories of a beloved grandma bustling about a kitchen, or grandpa reading stories to you on his easy chair. They are no longer here, but you can still see them in your mind as clearly as if they were here in front of you. Those memories we cling to as sure signs of our love for them. 

That’s what this Sunday is all about: All Saints Day. It’s a day to remember, honor and cherish those memories as we proclaim the good news of the resurrection, with faith in our savior, Jesus Christ. 

The beauty of our faith is that we proclaim that death is not the end.  Through our baptisms, we are connected with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus in ways that are beyond our understanding. 

Sometimes I wish, as your pastor, I could tell you exactly what your loved one was up to.  Where are they? What is heaven like for them?  Are they the same or are they changed?  Those are things I can’t answer for you. 

But what I can do, is echo the words of Jesus to you, that if we believe we will see the Glory of God. And maybe someday, like Martha and Mary, we will witness resurrection for ourselves, knowing that nothing in this world, life or death, can separate us from the love of Christ.

Amen. 

Wednesday Words, October 20, 2021

Wednesday Words - Declutter Your Fears

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Pastor Cathy Daharsh

So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. – Mark 10:50

Did you have a security blanket or a bear or something that helped you to feel secure when you were a young child? For me it was my thumb. I sucked my thumb so much that it would get raw and sore. When it was time for me to enter kindergarten, my parents sat me in the big gold velvet chair. The chair that they always sat me in when they needed to have a serious conversation. They said that to go to school I needed to stop sucking my thumb. The surprise to me as I reflect on that story is that I did without a big fuss. That thumb gave me security, but I was somehow, someway able to declutter my fears and let go of my thumb to enter school. 

Bartimaeus in this Sunday’s reading was motivated to see Jesus and he too let’s go of something that gave him security, his cloak. He throws it on the side as he moves toward Jesus. The cloak for him as a beggar gave him warmth, a place to collect money, and a bed to sleep. Him throwing that cloak to the side suggests that he believed that he wouldn’t need it anymore, and that he would be healed. 

That was Bartimaeus’s first act of faith and trust that Jesus would heal him. The reading this week provides us a contrast to the story of the Rich Man we heard a few weeks ago and his insecurities and fears.  When Jesus asked the Rich Man to sell what he owned, he left Jesus and went the other way. Bartimaeus leaves the securities of what he knows and follows Jesus.

So, the question for us is, what are our security blankets, what do we fear decluttering but would strengthen our faith and trust in Christ if we did?

Gracious God, help us to declutter our fears, to let go of those security blankets that hold us back from fully following you. Help us to know that when we let go of our fears, your peace will find us and your work through us will bring hope to others. Amen. 

Wednesday Words, October 13, 2021

Wednesday Words – Declutter Trophies

October 13, 2021

Pr. Paul Cannon

Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Mark 10:43-45

In the church library, there’s a trophy from back in 2016 when the Bethany softball team emerged victorious in the church league we’re a part of.  I wish I could report that there was a clutter of trophies crowding our bookshelf, but sadly the trophy has stood by itself these past five years. 

Maybe, like our softball team, you saw our theme for the week, Declutter Your Trophies, and thought to yourself, “that’s not really my problem!”  Maybe your glass display case stands empty, except for the participation ribbons you received from years ago. 

But this week isn’t so much about the physical trophies we have won (or not won as the case may be).  A piece of plastic, wood or metal molded into the shape of baseball player (or whatever victory you achieved) won’t get in the way of you loving God or loving your neighbor.  But the pride we place in our accomplishments might. 

James and John were competing for a trophy in our Gospel story for the week.  They wanted to have Jesus appoint them to the positions of sitting at Jesus’ left and right (traditional places of honor next to a King or head of household).  They wanted, of course to be lifted up above the others. 

Maybe they felt they earned it or perhaps it was merely the boneheaded squabbling of siblings that brought them to ask Jesus the question.  Whatever the case, Jesus wanted them to get rid of the notion altogether (declutter it!). 

Of course, we’re all guilty of that from time to time. Maybe you have literal trophies of those accomplishments at home, but for most of us, it’s more subtle.  We like to lift ourselves above those people … and imagine that we are more righteous or intelligent or even wise than they are. 

It is a phenomenon we see a lot in politics, but the truth is it’s everywhere.  I even see it in my kids when they race to be the first one to brush their teeth at night (which inevitably results in a squabble).  It’s everywhere, because that impulse is in us.

The good news is there is a simple solution.  Jesus suggests trying humility.  If you’re trying to outdo one another, then outdo one another in service.  Turn that energy towards loving your neighbor.  Do that and you will begin to live into the Kingdom of God. 

Wednesday Words, October 6, 2021

Wednesday Words – Declutter Your Stuff

October 6, 2021

Pr. Paul Cannon

Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

- Mark 10:21

When the staff was planning the “Declutter” theme, Ruth Ann shared a story with us about stuff. Thelma, a longtime friend and roommate of Ruth Ann’s, was talking about needing to go through all her stuff in the presence of her Polish caretaker Ewa (pronounced Eva) to whom English was a second language.  Thelma kept using the word “stuff” referring to her need to sort through and get rid of all her stuff, when a frustrated Ewa took Ruth Ann aside to ask her, “Thelma keeps talking about this ‘stuff.’  What is stuff?” 

Eva couldn’t figure out what Thelma meant by the word.  It’s easy to see why the term might confuse a person to whom English is a second language; it’s so vague, it could mean almost anything! And in fact, it does! Maybe our need for the word points to the fact that we have so many things in our lives that we require a term that captures the broadness of it all. 

STUFF, it clutters up our homes - our drawers, our closets and our garages are filled with so much stuff that it can make you feel like you’re up to your eyeballs in it all.  Maybe that has something to do with why Jesus wants the rich man to get rid of his “stuff”.  Maybe the rich man has too many things to see God and his neighbor clearly.

Of course, stuff doesn’t just clutter our homes, but can also clutter up our hearts too.  We get attached to our possessions and guard them jealously.  We hang on to them long after we have any need of them.  We buy bigger houses with bigger garages to house it all.  We even have separate storage lockers that we rent so we can find places to keep it.

Jesus tells his disciples that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God.  Maybe that’s because too often we hang on to our stuff so tightly that we couldn’t possibly fit through the door … unless we let it go. 

This week, consider letting go of some things.  Find a place you can donate the items to.  Free up space – not only in your closets, but in your hearts as well. 

After all, it’s only stuff.

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