Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Natalie Rose Pearce

Natalie Rose Pearce was born on August 1, 2015 at 9:04 am. She weighed in at 6 pounds, 15.9 ounces (the doctor said let's just call it 7 pounds) and 19 inches long. She is beautiful! I am terribly biased being Natalie is our first grandchild, and we are loving every minute of it. Some rambling thoughts for you today.

Over the past few months, I have been told by many grandparents that there is nothing quite like being a grandparent. The love and joy you experience is beyond belief. I could not agree with them more. All of the joys of a newborn without all the responsibilities of parenthood are wrapped up in this bundle of joy.

My wife shared with my daughter about a week before Natalie was born these words: "You will finally understand how much I love you when you hold your own child in your arms." When we pray, Jesus tells us to begin by saying the words, "Abba, Father."  Daddy. We are held in the arms of our Father, and the love God has for us is of that of a loving parent.

The miracle of birth and the gift of life are amazing and powerful. How can one not believe in God the creator when one holds a newborn and counts the fingers and toes, sees the arms stretch and hear the voice cry. What an incredible gift. What an amazing miracle. And yet, it happens thousands of times each and every day. In fact, in the hospital Natalie was born, they have about 500 births a month!

I give thanks to God for the gifts of so many at the hospital who were at Natalie's side, and there with her parents throughout the birth and days that followed. I give thanks for the opportunity to be there too. God is good.

Here is a slideshow I put together of her first week.

Music - "Perfect Day" by Holley Maher and "Baby Mine" by Alison Krauss




Natalie Rose Pearce Week 1 from Charlie Woodward on Vimeo.


Peace,
Pastor Charlie

Monday, July 20, 2015

National Youth Gathering - The Future is in God's Hands

This week's entry will be brief, with a few links for you to check out. This past week, 30,000 youth and adults of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America made their way to Detroit, Michigan for the National Youth Gathering. Every three years, this event happens. Back in 1961, a predecessor Lutheran youth gathering happened in Detroit, and Martin Luther King was one of the speakers at that event.

The past few gatherings have focused not just on worship and fun events and study, but service as well. Each day, a third of the group - 10,000 of them - made their way into the city for service projects. The presence and impact was powerful. Not just for the city, but the participants as well.

Social media provided opportunities for us to follow along with all that was going on. I wanted to post some of these items to share with you. My hope and prayer is that you that the church of tomorrow is active and alive today, and that the future is in good hands - God's hands.

Highlights from the Gathering

THURSDAY



FRIDAY



CLOSING SONG FRIDAY NIGHT

SATURDAY



SUNDAY

A WORD FROM THE BISHOP



video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player


Thank you to the youth (Click here)


The youth and adults from Epiphany who attended the Gathering will be sharing with us in the coming weeks - don't miss it!


Peace,

Pastor Charlie




Monday, July 6, 2015

Chosen Child

A staff meeting is held each Tuesday at 11 am at Epiphany Lutheran Church. We begin with devotions, which we take turns leading. A month or so ago, Natalie Heimann, our Administrative Assistant, shared this devotion with us.

1 John 3:1–2
See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.

Chosen Child 
Natalie Heimann

Earlier this month I celebrated my adoption birthday. I was one week old when I was adopted, and my big brother got the best birthday gift EVER (at least that’s what he said at the time – I think he has rescinded that statement in the years since). Though I was blessed to be adopted into the best family I could have ever hoped for, I also realize that I was already a loved and chosen child of God and that there are some amazing parallels of being adopted into a human family and being adopted into God’s family:

Before I even existed, my family was thinking about me and preparing for me to join them. They loved me even before they knew me. According to the story my daddy told me from before I can even remember, Mommy and Daddy had two awesome boys, but they wanted to be able to raise a baby girl, too, and after having 12 and 10-pound children, my mom wasn’t supposed to have any more children. As my dad’s story goes, “We contacted Mrs. Ward (the adoption case manager) and told her we wanted a blonde hair, blue eyed baby girl who was 6 lbs. 7 oz. and 18 inches long. And so Mrs. Ward looked high and she looked low, she looked East and looked West and then she found you!”
Prior to me even being born though, to be accepted as adoptive parents, Mom and Dad had to go through weekly home visits, their financial records were combed through, the whole family (including my local grandparents and 5 & 7-year-old big brothers) had to be interviewed to make sure they were an acceptable family. Once they were accepted as potential parents, they put my room together – pink and bows, of course. And then they waited for this baby they loved already.
That’s a lot like God, isn’t it? The Bible says God knew us when we were being formed in our mother’s womb. He loved us before we knew anything about Him. He has prepared a place for us and it is in Him. He is willing to go to great lengths to get us, and He has paid a great price to make us His own.

Part of the adoption process was giving me a new name. About 15 years ago, I inadvertently “found” my birth mom (and subsequently my birth father as well), and we are friends now. Well, I found out that she had “named” me Carleen (a combination of her and my birth father’s middle names of Collen and Carlisle. How ironic how closely that sounds like Carlin, my husband’s name, right?) In my adoption records, it shows that the hospital staff called my Mandy. And originally my parents really like the name Julie, but decided I looked like a Natalie instead. (My younger sister ended up as Julie five years later.) Legally, their family name became my last name – their home my home. And then a few months later, I was baptized. I became a Christian, one of God’s chosen children, before I legally became Natalie Dawn Christian. As is the case for all of us, as we live in God and God lives in us, we begin to look more and more like God. God’s ways become our ways. We are set free from our old identity and our past and we walk in newness of life.

When they saw me that first day at the adoption agency when I was seven days old, I smelled differently than they did – I smelled like the hospital, not like the Johnsons & Johnsons baby powder they had waiting with my baby bath at home. I was dressed in the clothes the agency provided, not the cute, frilly dress my Daddy picked up for me. Our heavenly father does the same thing for us. When God first finds us, we usually smell like the world. God wraps us in His love, washes us in the blood of Jesus, fills our hearts and minds with the Word, and floods us with the Holy Spirit. We begin to smell and look like we belong to God.

Finally, when I was a year old, we went to court and before a judge, Mom and Dad and Bruce and Chris declared their intention and desire to make me a legal, permanent part of their family. My brothers even had to say how they felt about me becoming their sister – evidently they told the judge I already was their sister and they weren’t going to share. As a side note, my mom, who was a strict rule-follower said that entire year she was ready to bolt to Canada if there was any indication I would be taken away from her! The judge’s finalization and approval meant that I was now a legal heir – I would never cease being their child. Later in our lives when we would get into arguments, I would tell my siblings that I knew my parents wanted me – they had to take what they got with them. Plus, I would remind them that they could be disinherited but legally, I couldn’t. With our entire extended family, I was NEVER treated any differently than my siblings or cousins – we were all equally spoiled!

You know, it’s that way with God. When we become His children we inherit all that is God’s – and it’s forever. God doesn’t have favorites – just like my parents, God cares for all of His children, and there is enough of God’s love for everyone.

Dear God, thank you for making us your chosen children and calling us as your own – for loving us before we are formed, before we are born. Thank you for letting us know that we will be your children forever, no matter what. We ask that you be with us today and everyday as we do the work of your kingdom and that, as your children, we act and look like you in all our dealings with others. We ask all these things in your holy and heavenly name. Amen.

Thanks for sharing, Natalie!

Peace,

Pastor Charlie

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Stilling the Storm

Here is my sermon from Sunday (Father's Day). 

Grace, peace and mercy be multiplied to you from God our Father, and the Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen

A mother was out walking with her 4 year old daughter. The child picked up something off the ground and started to put it into her mouth. The mother took it away and said “Don’t do that!”

“Why not?” asked the child.

“Because it’s on the ground,” said her mother. “You don’t know where it’s been. It’s dirty, and it’s probably loaded with germs that could make you sick.”

The child looked at her mother with total admiration and said, “Mommy, how do you know all this stuff? You’re so smart.”

The mother said, “All Moms know this stuff. It’s on the Mom’s Test. You have to know it or they don’t let you be a Mom.”

There was silence for a minute or so as the child thought this through. “Oh, I get it,” she said at last. “And if you don’t pass the test you have to be the Daddy?”

I vaguely remember my Mother once saying, “Your Father knows everything, but Mom knows more!”  Happy Father’s Day. All kidding aside, I wish all Fathers a blessed day! I will remember my dad today as the one who taught me to treat others with respect, honor and dignity. For that I am forever grateful.

In our Gospel lesson, the disciples come to know more about who Jesus is, and so do we! We meet up with Jesus and his disciples after a seaside teaching session. The group gets in the boat and heads across the sea. So, why did Jesus and the disciples cross the Sea?  To get to the other side!

Mark 4:35-41On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side." 36And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" 39He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?" 41And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"

A storm arises. There is very little that is more terrifying to most people than a storm at sea. And many of the disciples were professional fishermen. They knew how easily even a good boat could capsize or be swamped by the waves. They knew what happened to those on board a boat in this predicament. There would be no way to swim out of the situation, in the dark, in the waves, in the storm. You get swamped in a storm, you drown.

What was Jesus doing? In the middle of the storm with the wind and the waves roaring and the disciples panicking, Jesus was calmly sleeping on a cushion.

The panic stricken disciples shouted to Jesus above the roar of the wind the sound of the waves crashing over the sides of their boat. "Lord, don’t you care that we are about to drown?"  In other words, Hey Jesus, we’re dyin’ here!

Jesus stands up. Without answering their question about whether Jesus cared for them in their time of deep trouble, he demonstrates how much he cares and speaks a word to the wind and the sea: "Be quiet! Be still!" It's calm. Jesus brings peace and calm to the terrified and panic-stricken disciple. Yes, maybe that command was meant for them too!

Notice that Jesus never gets out of the boat. He does abandon his disciples. Notice, too, that the disciples don’t ask for help, just compassion. They don’t realize what Jesus can do. They didn't expect the Jesus they had. He had done healings, sure. He had cured the lame, healed, even on the Sabbath. He had cast out unclean spirits. But such things are nothing compared to a storm, at least not a storm that might disturb a lake crossing at night. I wonder what they would have done had they known what Jesus could do? I wonder what they would have asked him? Could they muster the faith to trust God as Jesus did? We may never know.

What we do know is that when Jesus did what he did, they are taken by awe and wonder, amazement and fear. They did not have answers, just a question; "Who, then, is this, that even the wind and waves obey him?" Who Indeed?

This is not the first time God’s people didn’t comprehend God’s power. The children of God were in the wilderness for 40 years. For 40 years, God provided for them bread from heaven – manna it was called. When they entered into the promised land, the manna was no longer there – now they were to farm the land. They hadn’t farmed in 40 years, so they asked their neighbors, who told them about the gods they worshiped. The children of Israel started to worship these other gods, which made God (Yahweh) very upset – I AM the Lord your God.  You shall have no other gods!

And we hear that in the lesson from Job (38:1-11) – Job complains to God with all that has fallen upon him. God’s response?  “Gird up your loins like a man and let me ask YOU – where were you when I was creating?”

How about us? Do we NOT turn to God because we feel it is outside of His realm of understanding, power, control? When storms arise, it is best to turn to God. Dr Luke Bouman of Valparaiso University writes these words:
“We experience storms in our lives. And even in these storms, Jesus enters and shatters the illusions which give those storms power. Jesus did not sit in judgment over us when the buildings fell on September 11, 2001, instead he suffered with all those who suffered loss. Jesus did not use Katrina to punish New Orleans, but rather entered and died with those who perished there, leading them to new life through muddy baptismal waters.”

I would add that Jesus does not turn his back on the racial tension we have seen rise over the past year, heightened by an appalling act of hatred in the church in Charleston a few days ago, but walks with us in the brokenness of the community, offering a word of peace in the midst of the chaos.

The tragic hateful event in Charleston is heartbreaking and painful. It hits close to home as two of those killed were graduates of one of our Lutheran seminaries. And the young man who killed the nine at a prayer service in at that church is a member of an ELCA congregation – the same church body to which we belong. What do we say about such things?

We denounce the violence and the hatred and the racism. But what more can we do? We hear cries for gun control and guards at the doors of churches or even allowing people to be armed in the church to protect us from such violence. I do not agree this is the answer, and I say that knowing that part of the reason I feel this way is because of how I was raised. I also do not believe this is the heart of the matter.

I believe what we must do is begin with what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. The message of the cross is that God is with us, in the midst of the chaos, in the heart of the storms in our lives, our community, our world and offers peace that surpasses understanding, hope that does not disappoint us, and love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things – a love that never ends. This was evident at the courthouse in South Carolina where family members spoke to the one who killed their loved ones and offered a word of forgiveness. Wow, isn’t that powerful?

Again, Luke Bouman writes:
“All of our storms are linked forever to the cross of Christ. All of our storms are less about God using his power to force resolution and more about God forsaking his power to end forever the hold of sin and death on all sides of any debate. And we, for our part, can only shake our heads in awe and wonder at how completely we are loved and grasped by a patient and committed God.

For there will always be storms that rage; some of them rage around us and some of them rage because of us. And Jesus, the risen Lord, forever calmly walks into the midst of the storm to declare its power null in the wake of his resurrection. Humbled, we are encouraged to stop our circling and posturing and join him in death and resurrection, the only true end to our storms.

But we have one thing that the disciples on the lake did not have. We do not wonder who it is that stills our storms with death and resurrection. We know that it is Jesus, and we know that Jesus is the living presence of God in our midst. Just so, we experience him in worship, stilling our raging lives with the calming waters of baptism, gently encouraging us to trust through his word, spoken and remembered, and sending us as calm healers by feeding us at his table. The more we experience Jesus in this way, the more we become the body of Christ, and participate in the death and resurrection ourselves as healing agents in this world. (Rev. Dr. Luke Bouman - Valparaiso University)

Hear this -
•              God does care that we are perishing!
•              Storms still arise
•              God is present – it is always good to have Jesus in your boat!

In response to what God has promised us in Jesus Christ, hear again a question that is asked of parents when their children are baptized and when  our youth are confirmed – “Do you promise to work for justice and peace as a disciple of Jesus?” Our response – “I do and I ask God to help and guide me!”

Knowing that God is with us, in the midst of the storm, and God’s peace is upon us, what are we to do?  Two words – the first from our Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton:
"I urge all of us to spend a day in repentance and mourning. And then we need to get to work. Each of us and all of us need to examine ourselves, our church and our communities. We need to be honest about the reality of racism within us and around us. We need to talk and we need to listen, but we also need to act. No stereotype or racial slur is justified. Speak out against inequity. Look with newly opened eyes at the many subtle and overt ways that we and our communities see people of color as being of less worth. Above all pray – for insight, for forgiveness, for courage."  

The full text of Bishop Eaton's letter can be found HERE


And from St. Paul’s letter to the church in Rome: Romans 12 from Eugene Peterson’s transliteration, “The Message:”
14-16 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.
17-19 Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”
20-21 Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.
 
As your Pastor, you have my word that here at Epiphany, we WILL seek ways to talk and to listen, and to pray. We also will strive to overcome evil with good.

The gift of Jesus this day is this – PEACE. Receive the gift. As God’s people let us do all we can to share the gift.  The peace of the Lord be with you always.


Amen 


A song from Steven Curtis Chapman in response to the Charleston can be found HERE 





Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Dignity

Laura Hillenbrand (author of the book "Sea Biscuit") has written an incredible book about the life of Louis Zamperini entitled "Unbroken : a World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption." I am about half way through the book and am enthralled. The book has been made into a movie - maybe you have seen it. 

In the book, Hillenbrand shares the story of the life of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner and World War II soldier. In the middle of the war, Zamperini's plane, the Green Hornet, crashed in the Pacific. Together with a fellow soldier, he survived for 46 days on a raft in the Pacific Ocean. When they finally make it to land, they found themselves on an island called Kwajalein that was occupied by the Japanese and the two are taken into captivity.

Hillenbrand writes of their experience there: 
The crash of Green Hornet had left Louie and Phil in the most desperate physical extremity, without food, water, or shelter. But on Kwajalein, the guards sought to deprive them of something that had sustained them even as all else had been lost: dignity. This self- respect and sense of self- worth, the innermost armament of the soul, lies at the heart of humanness; to be deprived of it is to be dehumanized, to be cleaved from, and cast below, mankind. Men subjected to dehumanizing treatment experience profound wretchedness and loneliness and find that hope is almost impossible to retain. Without dignity, identity is erased. In its absence, men are defined not by themselves, but by their captors and the circumstances in which they are forced to live. One American airman, shot down and relentlessly debased by his Japanese captors, described the state of mind that his captivity created: “I was literally becoming a lesser human being.” 

Few societies treasured dignity, and feared humiliation, as did the Japanese, for whom a loss of honor could merit suicide. This is likely one of the reasons why Japanese soldiers in World War II debased their prisoners with such zeal, seeking to take from them that which was most painful and destructive to lose. On Kwajalein, Louie and Phil learned a dark truth known to the doomed in Hitler’s death camps, the slaves of the American South, and a hundred other generations of betrayed people. Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen. The stubborn retention of it, even in the face of extreme physical hardship, can hold a man’s soul in his body long past the point at which the body should have surrendered it. The loss of it can carry a man off as surely as thirst, hunger, exposure, and asphyxiation, and with greater cruelty. In places like Kwajalein, degradation could be as lethal as a bullet. (Pages 182-183)

Dignity. As I have had opportunity to reflect on 25 years of ministry the past couple of weeks (I was ordained on June 3, 1990), this word seems to be foundational. Dignity.

First and foremost, I believe that what God offers to us through Jesus Christ is dignity. We are washed clean of that which causes us to be seen as less than dignified in our relationship with God, others, and even ourselves. The ministry of Jesus focused on raising the up the lowly, feeding the hungry, restoring the outcast to society - in short, offering dignity. 

We as the church are called to do the same. We are called to see in those around us the image of God in which all are created. With our outreach ministries, we hope to offer dignity and respect. We open our doors and welcome all (at the very least I hope we do) and offer a place where the word of God is proclaimed and the love of God is shared. 

Through the church's youth ministry and participation in outdoor ministry and other offerings, we offer a place where children of God hear that they are of great value in the eyes of God. I remember a conversation I had with one of my youth from my first church while we were at camp. This little boy had had a tough life. He came from a broken home. His brother died in a house fire because this boy lit the couch on fire with a lighter his parents left on the floor. He had trouble in school and more trouble at home. His grandmother was concerned about him, and she thought camp would be a good experience for him. She made sure he would go to camp and paid his way. That young boy came up to me one day at camp with a big smile on his face and said, "Pastor, you know what? My counselor told me that I am special." The words of the counselor spoke the word of God to this child. Dignity.

When I visit members in the hospital or care facilities, I am ever mindful of the need for dignity. When all is stripped away, literally and figuratively, and one finds himself or herself in a hospital bed with tubes and monitors and gowns that cover less than anyone would like, there is a need for respect and dignity. 

I have been at the bedside when saints have passed away. I have been called to homes when a child of God has breathed his or her last breath. I am thankful for the Hospice workers, nursing staff, policemen and paramedics who have treated the situation with honor and respect and dignity.

In our dealing with social issues, and especially in the past few years in dealing with issues about sexuality and same sex unions - at the heart of it all is that one word - dignity. How do we treat one another with dignity? How do we offer respect?

I count it a blessing that my parents instilled in me the importance of treating others with respect and dignity. It is at the foundation of what we are called to do and to be as children of God and as the church. It is the gift we receive. It is a gift we can offer.

Wow - pretty heavy stuff.

Allow me an opportunity to offer a lighter take on respect.

This video made my day today.

All I am asking for is a little respect!







Peace,
Pastor Charlie



Monday, May 25, 2015

Prayer is a Power Thing

A couple of Sundays ago, I preached on the power of prayer. Here are some excerpts from that sermon.

Paul Harvey told about a 3-year-old boy who went to the grocery store with his mother. Before they entered she had certain instructions for her son: "Now you're not going to get any chocolate chip cookies, so don't even ask."

She put him in the child's seat and off they went up and down the aisles. He was doing just fine until they came to the cookie section. Seeing the chocolate chip cookies he said, "Mom, can I have some chocolate chip cookies?" She said, "I told you not even to ask. You're not going to get any at all." They continued down the aisles, but in their search for certain items she had to back track and they ended up in the cookie aisle again. "Mom, can I please have some chocolate chip cookies?" She said, "I told you that you can't have any. Now sit down and be quiet."

Finally, they arrived at the checkout. The little boy sensed that the end was in sight, that this might be his last chance. He stood up on the seat and shouted in his loudest voice, "In the name of Jesus, may I have some chocolate chip cookies?" Everyone in the checkout lanes laughed and applauded. Do you think the little boy got his cookies? You bet! The other shoppers moved by his daring pooled their resources. The little boy and his mother left with 23 boxes of chocolate chip cookies. (1)

Prayer sometimes can be like asking for a box of chocolate chip cookies.

I believe one of the dangers we fall in to in our prayer life is that we lose sight of who God created us to be.  Prayer is seen by many as a private thing – between me and God – which in many ways it is… it is a one-on-one communication with God.  But in praying, it is sometimes easy for our prayers to become nothing more than a selfish listing of what I want, what I need, and what I am about, and totally ignores the others around us.

As I have said before, God created us to be a part of community.  God created us as a people – and calls us to live our lives as a part of the Body of Christ.  Sin breaks in when our focus turns to self and ignores the neighbor.  Notice in Jesus’ prayer that his prayer is for the community, for the world, for unity for ALL.


Dr Anna Madsen (a wonderful Lutheran theologian I got to hear a couple weeks ago) writes this:
The Hebrew word that we translate in Scripture as righteous also can be translated as properly aligned. Prayer is a moment to become properly aligned, rightly oriented, to the thing that defines who we are.

This is why it is so key to identify who our God is, or what we understand God to be. Prayer provides us the opportunity to become aligned again, to remind ourselves that we are not alone, that we live in community. (2)

Prayer is more than asking for a box of cookies. But it is ALSO about asking for a box of cookies. Since we ARE in relationship with God, and prayer allows us to be continually connected to God, it is important to share with God what is on our hearts, our minds, our hopes and fears.

Prayer invites us to live our lives as God’s children. And if we truly look at prayer as that, our prayers focus not simply on what I want, but what God is calling me to do and be as a child of God.

Remember when the disciples asked Jesus how to pray what he told them?   When you pray, pray this way – “Our Father.”  Not MY Father.  OUR.  It begins with community!

I came across the following in my daily devotions a few years ago – it is called “A few thoughts on the Lord’s Prayer.”
  • I cannot pray "OUR", if my faith has no room for others and their need.
  • I cannot pray "WHO ART IN HEAVEN", if all my interests and pursuits are in earthly things.
  • I cannot pray "HALLOWED BE THY NAME", if I am not striving, with God's help, to be holy.
  • I cannot pray "THY KINGDOM COME", if I am unwilling or resentful of having it in my life.
  • I cannot pray "ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN", unless I am truly ready to give myself to God's service here and now.
  • I cannot pray "GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD", without expending honest effort for it, or if I would withhold from my neighbor the bread that I receive.
  • I cannot pray "FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST US", if I continue to harbor a grudge against anyone.
  • I cannot pray "LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION", if I deliberately choose to remain in a situation where I am likely to be tempted.
  • I cannot pray "DELIVER US FROM EVIL", if I am not prepared to fight evil with my life and my prayer.
  • I cannot pray "THINE IS THE KINGDOM", if I am unwilling to obey God.
  • I cannot pray "THINE IS THE POWER AND THE GLORY", if I am seeking power for myself and my own glory first.
  • I cannot pray "FOR EVER AND EVER", if I am too anxious about each day's affairs.
  • I cannot pray "AMEN", unless I honestly say ..."Cost what it may, this is my prayer. (3)
Prayer – it is more than asking for a box of cookies.  It is about being one with God, and letting God lead the way.

Prayer – it’s a powerful thing.


Peace,

Pastor Charlie

A video addition - Blessings by Laura Story



  1. http://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-stories-faith-60321.asp
  2. Dr. Anna Madsen - http://omgcenter.com/blog/
  3. http://www.christianstudy.com/data/illu/sie0003.html

Monday, May 18, 2015

God's Got a Grip On Me

Last Saturday, we gathered at Epiphany for the funeral of Susan Krueckeberg. I thought I would share some of my message for this week's blog.

Hear again the word of the Lord - Lamentations 3, a modern translation:

I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed.
I remember it all—oh, how well I remember— the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:
God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.  How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).  He’s all I’ve got left.
...Why? Because the Master won’t ever walk out and fail to return.
If he works severely, he also works tenderly. His stockpiles of loyal love are immense.
(selected verses from Lamentations 3 – The Message)

On Sunday, May 10th - Mother's Day - the Gospel lesson was from the 15th chapter of John. In that lesson, we hear Jesus tell his disciples a couple of important things before he leaves them:
#1.  Love one another. Just as I have loved you.  #2. Remember, I chose you, not the other way around. 

After preaching on this text, I stopped in the office to check messages. Norm had called. I could hear in his voice that things were not good. Sue was back in the hospital and in ICU. I made my way over to Kettering and met with Norm and Scott and Stacie and Sue, and heard that things were worse than not good.

After three and a half months of good days and not so good days, hopes and fears, steps forward and backward, there was nothing more that could be done. We prayed together, cried together, and started to make plans for this day. The grip on hope seemed to be slipping. How difficult it is to have hope when there seems to be no sign of hope anywhere!

BUT - I believe that is where God meets us. For when we have no hope, the only thing that remains is God’s promises. I love you. I chose you. You are mine. Forever. For long ago in the waters of baptism, God made a promise to Sue. God said, this one belongs to me. And while our grip may be slipping, God’s grasp of grace will never let go. It is HOPE in this, as Paul reminds the church in Rome, hope that does not disappoint us. (Romans 5)

You see, Jesus came to help us see that it is God’s grip on us that is so much stronger than our grip on to God. A grip so strong that nothing, not even death can release God’s embrace. For this reason, we gather in this place, and remember God’s promises, and place our hopes and fears in God, and in God alone. 


The sermon hymn that followed was "Precious Lord, Take My Hand."
When my way grows drear
When the darkness appears



Precious Lord, take my hand
Lead me on, let me stand
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn
Through the storm, through the night
Lead me on to the light
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home

Precious Lord linger near
When my life is almost gone
Hear my cry, hear my call
Hold my hand lest I fall
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home

And the night draws near
And the day is past and gone
At the river I stand
Guide my feet, hold my hand
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home



Peace,
Pastor Charlie