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Wednesday Words, April 28, 2021

Wednesday Words

April 28, 2021

Pr. Cathy Daharsh

This is love: not that we loved God, but that God loved us and sent the Son. ~1 John 4

I am a big fan of audio books. It’s a great way for me to get through the many books I want to read and can’t seem to find the time to get through. I love walking or getting in a car and hearing stories, especially biographies. The current biography I am listening to is Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey. I like stories because they entertain, but most of all, because stories help us to discover who we are.

From the book Greenlights, McConaughey says, “Life is our resume. It is our story to tell, and the choices we make write the chapters. Can we live in a way where we look forward to looking back?”

The stories we tell and how we tell them give us meaning. The stories of the Bible also tell us who we are and who God is. I hear God repeating over and over: you are loved. I have chosen you. You are mine.

God’s love grows all the greater, because it’s not only God’s love changing the world, but it is God’s love changing us. This doesn’t call us to stay put or play it safe. This love pushes us out, forces us to take risks, demands that we start getting uncomfortable, and sends us into the unknown. Fringes, borders, and grey areas are the places God has always gone and has claimed and loved. And because we live in Christ and Christ in us, that’s where Christ leads us too.

From the book Greenlights, McConaughey prays,

"God, when I cross the truth,
give me the awareness to receive it
the consciousness to recognize it
the presence to personalize it
the patience to preserve it
and the courage to live it."

The story of Bethany Lutheran Church is of prayers, encouragement, generosity, and compassion. God’s not done with us yet, the story of God’s love will keep being told through your words and actions. And for this we say, thanks be to God. Amen.

Wednesday Words, April 21, 2021

Wednesday Words – Love is a Verb

April 21, 2021

Pr. Paul Cannon

Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

- 1 John 3:18

Our 8th grade class is getting confirmed in a few weeks, and as a part of that process, they all have to sit down and have a face to face (actually, screen to screen if we’re being technical) with a pastor.  In that meeting I read them the promises they are going to stand up and make in front of the congregation. 

And I always ask them, “Which of these promises do you feel called to, and which one might you struggle with?”  The answers vary of course, but the most common struggle of our confirmation kids?               To proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed.

Not many of them feel comfortable talking about Jesus and I’m guessing not many of you do either (maybe a topic for another day).  Invariably however, I remind them that proclaiming the gospel isn’t just about words. It’s also the second part of that promise: deeds

Your deeds proclaim Christ every bit as loudly as your words (often more so), as we are reminded in our reading from 1 John this week, “Let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” 

Love as a verb instead of a feeling? I wonder what that would look like?

A few weeks ago, I alluded to the connection between John 3:16 (for God so loved the world …) and 1 John 3:16 (We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another).  Notice the difference?  1 John calls us into action.

Love is not just a feeling word.  1 John tells us we know love by God’s actions.  And we show love, by our actions.  Imagine telling someone you love them in one breath, but then ignoring their needs the rest of the week.  That of course is not love, even if you think you feel love towards that person.

That’s our calling as people of God: to show his love through the way that we interact with the world God so loved.  In other words, if you want to fulfill your baptismal promises (as our confirmation students are preparing to do), think first about your actions. 

How might you proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed?

Wednesday Words, April 14, 2021

Wednesday Words

April 14, 2021

Pr. Cathy Daharsh

 

Beloved, we are God’s Children now; what we will be has not been revealed. – 1 John 3:2a


The future is mysterious even to us or, maybe, especially to us. “What we will be has not been revealed,” the writer of 1 John tells us, announcing our future hope, which is grounded in the reality that “we are God’s children now.” Even as it evolves out of the present, the future has a mind of its own, and life surprises us. God is at work in ways that we don’t see immediately.

This weekend we celebrate paying off the mortgage. Twenty years ago, the campaign was “Embrace the Vision…Seize the Opportunity” as our congregation moved forward in building for the future. There are many stories to tell of how the building project evolved through faithful and dedicated leaders prayerfully discerning and following God’s lead. Surprises happened that strengthened and grounded the faith of our community in moving forward and saying, “I believe.” Projects like completing the Community Room, purchasing a 21 stop-25 ranked pipe organ, and furnishing the youth room were some of the many surprises along the way. 

The plans of God grow out of our current moment. Those leaders in our congregation twenty years ago took a step into the future in faith and as they look back, they see something bigger than they imagined. The work of becoming what God has in mind for us is a partnership between God and us, a mysterious path of evolution using our talents and effort, plus God’s movement forward. We move toward the future with purposes we hardly see, rooted in our identity as God’s children. We need not fear the future, for we will be then what we are now — God’s beloved people. Amen. 

 

More pictures from the ground breaking, construction, and dedication

Wednesday Words, April 7, 2021

Wednesday Words

April 7, 2021

Pr. Paul Cannon

We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us –

and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.

1 John 3:16

Happy Easter everyone!

Look at this verse above (go ahead, I’ll give you a second). You might have noticed on second glance, that it isn’t the verse you think of first, when you see “John 3:16” written in print. That verse is of course from the Gospel of John and begins, “For God so loved this world …” It’s probably the most well-known verse in all of scripture.

The verse in the header is FIRST John 3:16. It’s one of the Epistles (or letters), located way in the back of New Testament. It’s always struck me as serendipity, that both John 3:16 verses reference Jesus’ sacrificial love. Of course, I treasure both, but if I had to pick one I love the most, it’s the verse from 1 John, “We know love by this …”

The next few weeks of this Easter Season, we’ll be dwelling in the book of 1 John (not the Gospel), and we’ll take our theme from this verse, We know love by this …

I love this verse because it not only conveys the same sense of God’s love, but then it turns around, looks us in the eye, and says to us, therefor YOU “ought to lay down (your) lives for one another.”

Oh! I knew God loved me, but I didn’t know I was supposed to do something about it!

If the cross proves anything, it’s God’s love for the world. That’s how we come to know God. That’s how God’s love is revealed.

But in the resurrection, the responsibility of that love is placed on our shoulders. We’re meant to carry that same love for one another.

We hope you join us the next few weeks in this Easter Season as we dive into the book of 1 John. We’ll continue this conversation about God’s love, and how we are called to bring that love to the world.

Wednesday Words, March 31, 2021

Wednesday Words
March 31, 2021

We're sharing this reflection by Rev. T. Denise Anderson from the Again & Again Devotional. We've chosen the Easter Devotional to serve as an invitation to our Easter services!

Again & Again, Sanctified Art Devotional
Rev. T. Denise Anderson
Commentary on Mark 16:1-8

Do we ever consider the mechanics of a sunrise? The earth spinning at 1000 mph, traveling an orbit of 584 million miles around a star that’s about 1 million times the size of our planet is dizzying. But because we’ve come to expect sunrises every day, we’re not always impressed by them. Often we sleep right through them. That doesn’t make them any less awesome or miraculous. 

Easter is as familiar to Christians as a sunrise. We know the story—at least one variation—and we likely expect to greet the day the same way every year. But if we’ve been sitting in the tension of last week, we may be able to experience this day differently. 

Mark’s gospel is, again, straightforward. There are no frills in this resurrection account. There’s not much joy in it, either. Sunday morning was a time of profound grief for those closest to Jesus. Consider those first few days after you've lost someone and the liminality between their death and funeral. There’s no closure yet, and mornings are reminders that the nightmare is real. It’s hard to imagine how you’ll face the day. 

Friday's terror gives way to new terror as the women arrive to find the stone removed and a strange young man with an outlandish story. Remember that nothing about this sight is recognizable to them. This isn't comforting. They run away terrified, unable to even speak of what they saw! 

But resurrection still came, even if they weren’t yet able to receive it. Things can be scary and okay at the same time. 

Again and again, the sun rises on a new day, often without embrace or acknowledgment. The same is true of resurrection. Whether or not we discern what’s happening, God is literally and figuratively turning the world around!

Wednesday Words, March 24, 2021

Wednesday Words
March 24, 2021

We're sharing this reflection by Rev. T. Denise Anderson from the Again & Again Devotional as it looks toward Palm Sunday

Again & Again, Sanctified Art Devotional
Rev. T. Denise Anderson
Commentary on John 12:1-19

Lights. Camera. Action! 

We begin the high drama of Holy Week with a reading in three parts. 

Lights: In John’s gospel, the role of the sometimes mysterious woman who anoints Jesus before his death belongs to Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, whom Jesus resurrected from death. Judas objects to the act’s expense, but Jesus points out there are still opportunities to address poverty, if that’s Judas’ desire (it’s not). The spotlight is on someone we now understand as a scoundrel and who’d later play a major role in the crucifixion plot. Everyone’s motivations are exposed and the week’s events foreshadowed. 

Camera: The word “photography” comes from the Greek words for “light” and “writing.” Essentially, photography “draws the light,” and cameras are modeled after the construction of the human eye. All eyes right now are on Jesus. That’s a problem for the chief priests, who then set their eyes on Lazarus to undermine Jesus. We witness what is both secret and open. 

Action: Everything is now set in motion. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is a spectacle. It’s a protest, a counternarrative to the Empire’s extravagance and repression. It happens opposite the Roman governor’s own parade into Jerusalem for the Passover. It’s the people’s declaration of a different reign. The use of a donkey is Messianic imagery. This is political theater, and it would ramp up the plots against Jesus’ life. 

“Courage” derives from Latin word “cor,” which means “heart.” When we consider the full Palm Sunday picture, these are frightful times. So much is happening that is both hopeful and terrifying. Tensions and tears are plentiful. But the Word will remind us to “take heart.”

Again and again, we take heart amid the drama. The script is unsettling, but we have not yet reached "The End."

Wednesday Words, March 17, 2021

Wednesday Words
March 17, 2021

We're sharing this reflection by Rev. T. Denise Anderson from the Again & Again Devotional as it connects to worship from last week, and the Gospel of John. It offers a chance to reflect on Sunday's message.

Again & Again, Sanctified Art Devotional
Rev. T. Denise Anderson
Commentary on John 3:14-21

John 3:16 is arguably the most recognizable verse in the New Testament. It’s a full and true statement by itself. But, like all verses in Scripture, we miss so much without the context around it.

The passage is part of Jesus’ discourse with Nicodemus, a religious leader who visits him at night for a conversation. Jesus speaks of being born from above, but Nicodemus is confused. Jesus breaks it down this way: I know what I’m talking about because I came from heaven, and I came so that the world might be saved from condemnation, though there are many who prefer to remain hidden because “their deeds were evil.”

John’s gospel doesn’t intimate this, but it’s speculated that Nicodemus came to Jesus at night to keep this conversation a secret. Jesus wasn’t exactly popular among Nicodemus’ set because he challenged them. If this is true, I wonder if Nicodemus saw himself in Jesus’ comment about those who love to remain hidden (Note: While light [phos] and pigment [chroma] are different, I choose not to use “darkness” here because there’s an historical practice of distorting scripture’s light/dark dichotomy to reinforce colorism and anti-Blackness around the world).

What about us? Do we identify with those who avoid being exposed? Systemically, we remain invested in collective narratives that valorize our past and gloss over (or completely ignore) our ugliness. But I also don’t like this kind of scrutiny for myself. There is vulnerability in being fully seen. We risk being defined by our blemishes. I trust few people with that picture, and only because I know they love me.

And there it is: love.

Again and again, God’s love calls us into its redeeming phos. Can we trust this love enough to draw the drapes of our souls?

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