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Wednesday Words, October 21, 2020

Wednesday Words

October 21, 2020

Pr. Paul Cannon

 

For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 3:22-23

 

There is two weeks to go, and the tension is so thick you could cut it with a knife.  I don’t even have to say it and you know what I mean. There’s an election coming up during a time where we are already inundated with anxiety from COVID.  It’ll be nonstop 

The next two weeks aren’t going to get any better.  You will be hearing non-stop about left versus right, Democrat versus Republican, blue versus red.  There will be neighbor against neighbor, father against son and mother against daughter. If all you knew was what you heard on the news, you would think there is only two kinds of people in this world – and you better pick a side. 

Resist it.  Resist the anxiety.  Resist the side choosing and the finger pointing. Resist because there’s only one opinion that matters, and in Christ, there are no sides.

To be clear, you should still vote (please vote), because choosing our elected representatives is important.  Those decisions will affect people’s lives in real and meaningful ways. 

But what we all have to resist, is the temptation to make somebody “other” – to draw lines in the sand – because in Christ there is no “other.”  In Christ, we are one body, though made up of many members (to quote from 1 Corinthians). 

This Sunday is Reformation Sunday, where we will remember that we are all (emphasis all) justified by God’s grace as a gift.  And the reason we have this gift, is because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” to quote Romans.

We are in it together. We should have each other’s backs.

So resist it. Resist the name calling.  Resist making somebody an “other.”  Because in Christ, we are one body, one people; all flawed and all forgiven.

Wednesday Words, October 14, 2020

Wednesdays Word

Pr. Cathy Daharsh

"The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son" - Matthew 22:2

Can you imagine those invitations? Gold-edged, hand-addressed, and each having the king's own seal. What an honor to be on that guest list! 

The big day arrives. The kitchen staff has been working all night preparing a meal. The air is full of delicious smells of baking bread and roasted meat.  The tired night shift has gone home, and the day crew have arrived and are excited for the party. Thousands of bouquets of flowers have been delivered. Dozens of long tables are set up with white tablecloths and silver. The wine is poured, the candles are lit, and the servers are ready for their guests in their spotless uniforms, waiting in anticipation. Finally, the trumpets sound and the castle doors open ceremoniously for the invited guests. But, oh no!  No one is there! Something is wrong.

The invited guests have "made light" (Matthew 22:5) of their invitations and have thrown them to the side. No one is planning to come. What could be so much more important than a royal wedding banquet? 

But the banquet is still ready and God, the host, won't give up until the seats are filled. The new call is out, and everybody's in. The slaves are sent out to gather anyone they can find, "both good and bad" (Matthew 22:10). This has become a "come-as-you-are" banquet.

With no entrance requirements, what a diverse list ends up in God's guest book. Here's the picture: business executives seated next to street people; criminals served the same feast as judges; gays and lesbians breaking bread with their straight neighbors; callused hands stand in line with well-manicured fingertips at the cake table.

As in the parable, the same call is out for us, and everybody's still in. God's guest list continues to be inclusive and diverse. And, we are all seated at the same table, feasting on the same meal, guests of the same host, God. The differences in race, power, and social status, which seemed so important in our "old" lives, become less visible as God's grace embraces us.

This is a "come-as-you-are-but-don't-stay-that-way" party. When we are given this invitation of new life and fed the bread and wine of God's grace, we are changed. God's love transforms our lives, even as God sends us out to invite others to the celebration. At God's banquet there is a place marked with each of our names, with all names. The invitation is meant for everyone. 

This Sunday is Commitment Sunday, an invitation to you and everyone to prayerfully consider where we are called to share our time and resources out of gratitude for the invitation from a generous God who invites and welcomes everyone to the wedding feast, the kingdom of heaven. Amen. 

Wednesday Words, October 7, 2020

Wednesday Words – Give Joyfully

October 7, 2020

Pr. Paul Cannon

 

Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion,

for God loves a cheerful giver.

- 2 Corinthians 9:7

 

The Bible takes giving seriously. I mean really seriously.  A few weeks ago we read the passage from Acts that told us how the early Christians sold all they had and gave to any that had need.  But we often neglect to mention the passage a few chapters later, that tells of a couple named Ananias and Sapphira, who sold their land and held back “part of the proceeds.”  Both immediately fell down and died.  Yikes!

I bring that up not because I think God is going to come after you for delinquent pledges, but to emphasize how central giving is to God’s character. It’s not an afterthought or a secondary issue; giving is at the heart of God. God gave his own son. It’s a part of who God is, and thus it’s a part of who we are as followers of Jesus. 

And if giving is a part of who we are, we might as well do it joyfully.

The passage we’ll hear from 2 Corinthians today is a letter from Paul to the church in Corinth, who is taking up a collection for the Christian Church in Jerusalem.  And unlike the passage we heard from Acts, Paul makes it abundantly clear that he doesn’t want the church to feel any pressure to give. 

He doesn’t want their money if it’s given “reluctantly or under compulsion.”  Instead, Paul asks that they make their gift cheerfully – joyful even – trusting that God will give back to them abundantly. 

Our Generosity Challenges over the past few weeks have been small, but our hope has been that they have brought you a small measure of joy.  This week, we asked you to complete the “Pay it Forward” challenge, where we are asking you to buy something for the person behind you in the drive through line at your favorite eating establishment.  In doing so, you’ll be bringing a small measure of joy to somebody else’s life.

 

Go and give as you have made up your mind!  I promise we won’t come after you. 

Wednesday Words, September 30, 2020

Wednesday Words 

Pastor Cathy Daharsh

My heart aches these days with the unending stories of divisions, systemic racism, hate, fighting, and jealousy in our world. I believe that it is “such a time as this” that we are called even more so to reflect God’s love in the midst of chaos, judgment, and destructiveness. But how do we do that? I asked this question of our high school youth on Sunday. Ellie Pierzina shared how it was a simple thing, but she liked when people wave from their cars or while walking. She thought that was something she could do. It’s a simple gesture of care that says we are in this together. What are ways you can spread God’s love and generosity? 

From the Generosity Project Week IV…

The Apostle Paul wanted the people who were a part of the Christian faith community in Corinth “to know” the witness and faith practice of their sister Christian community in Macedonia and their example of extreme generosity. The first-century Christians who lived in the region of Macedonia were common, ordinary people. Their primary focus in daily life was how best to serve Christ. They were very poor, but they not only shared what they had, they gave beyond what was expected, resulting in personal great joy. They did not let their extreme poverty and many challenges stop them from recognizing God’s abundant grace in their lives and singular desire to serve Christ. 

In contrast, members of the church in Corinth had become engaged in quarreling and jealousy and were focused inward, on themselves. Paul reminds the Corinthians through the example of the sister churches in Macedonia that it’s not about the amount of money, but rather their response to what God has done in their lives and the desire to serve Jesus. Paul challenges the Corinthians and us “to know” God’s story and to live God’s story in our daily life. The question, “Did you know?” becomes the impetus for sharing our own stories of generosity. So why should we tell and share stories of generosity? For the apostle Paul it was to: 

      • encourage the Christian community in Corinth to be generous – so we too want to encourage one another to be generous in our households, congregations, synods, etc. 

      • replicate the generosity of God in the Corinth faith community with the story of the generous response of the Macedonian churches – so we too want to replicate God’s generosity in our households, congregations, synods, and across the ELCA; 

      • excel in generosity – so we too want to excel in generosity as reflected in the faith practice of joyfully sharing our time, talent, and money; and 

      • “We want you to know ...” because of the grace of God granted us. The research and “science of generosity” tells us that being generous brings a multitude of personal benefits, including joyfulness, a longer and healthier life, less depression and simply a deepened sense of purpose in life. Don’t we all wish for our loved ones to live, long, joy-filled lives—lives filled with purpose and meaning that comes from following Jesus? 

 

My hope and prayer for you this week is that you experience the generosity of God’s love and that you are inspired to share that love with others. My hope and prayer may seem almost elementary to some, but please know spreading God’s love at this time and place is no small thing. Amen. 

Wednesday Words, September 23, 2020

Wednesday Words  - RBG and Small Changes

September 23, 2020 

Pr. Paul Cannon

 

“All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all as any had need.”

- Acts 2:44-45

 

I was out for a walk with the family, when my phone beeped with the news: At the age of 87, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg has Passed Away.  It was heart breaking news. RBG was the diminutive titan of the highest court in the land and champion of women’s rights, and just like that, she was gone. 

The news sent me down a rabbit hole of learning (in some cases re-learning) about her life, but what I found most fascinating, was her breakthrough case in gender equality.  Because it wasn’t some glamorous high-profile case brought to defend discriminatory laws against women – it was a local Oklahoma case about … beer.

You can read about the case here (or better yet, listen to it here) but what I find interesting was how trivial the case seemed on its surface.  It boiled down to a University of Oklahoma men’s fraternity that contended a law prohibiting men from buying beer until twenty-one and women until eighteen was discriminatory.  That small, seemingly insignificant case became the basis by which gender equality protections, were recognized under the 14th amendment. 

It turns out, small changes can have an enormous impact. 

It makes me think about the early church and how a small, seemingly insignificant group of Jesus followers eventually changed the world.  They did it (at least initially) by loving each other with generous hearts, selling their possessions and giving to everyone who had a need. 

They took care of each other and their communities wherever they perceived a need.  They were local and small, but they had an enormous impact. 

This week, we’ll be asking the question, “Where do you practice generosity?”  Sometimes we think about that question in terms the times we’ve responded to big national disaster needs.  Maybe you found a well of generosity after Hurricane Katrina or you recall a mission trip you went on as a youth.

But most of the time, generosity is practiced in our homes, in our neighborhoods and in our communities. Often it’s the overlooked, unnoticed acts that are the most impactful – a neighbor snow blowing your driveway while you’re away, a friend driving you to the hospital, a word of support from a loved one. 

Small? Yes.  But these acts ripple outwards and affect the world in big ways. 

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