Archive for January, 2014

Mark 1:35-39

January 3, 2014

In the morning, while it was still very dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.  Mark 1:35-39

This past Sunday, the Sunday after Christmas, Kelley and I watched worship at our church via the Internet.  We were enjoying some days away at a beach house.  Our associate pastor was also spending the day on vacation with his family.  We don’t like for both pastors to be gone on the same Sunday but that is how it worked out this time.  And the folks at Faith got along just fine, worship ably led by our Director of Music and Worship.

 

I still wondered how that would sit with our people.

 

Many people have a kind of “magical” sense about the Christian faith.  They believe, in the grand scheme of things, that God invests pastors with certain “powers” that are unavailable to “regular” people.  They think God gives pastors special protection.  They think pastors’ prayers get to the head of the line.  That pastors alone have the “power”, the spiritual juju, to turn regular water into holy water or the bread and wine of Holy Communion into the actual Body and Blood of Jesus.

 

I can assure you, after several years in the position, that this certainly isn’t true in my house.  I am no more “spiritual”, no better or worse, no holier, or godly, or special, than anybody else.  However, what is true, is that I have been called, and trained, to serve in a unique capacity in the church.  I get to do the stuff in the front of the room and to lead behind the scenes. 

 

As Lutherans put it, all Christians are ordained in their baptism for service in the church and the world, but, for the sake of good order, (you could call it quality control or at least that the person in the front of the room has some idea of what he or she is doing), some people are set aside to serve within the ordained ministry.

 

So yes, I know some stuff.  I keep learning all the time.  But what is most important is not simply that I know about God, but that I know God.  Personally.  And that means that I am daily and diligently working on my side of that relationship.  As a pastor, the people I serve make it possible for me to have almost unlimited time to do just that.  It is one of the many benefits of this life that God has led me into.  But never is this just about me – here I am more like a scout who walks in front of the crowd, once finding the path, I could back and invite them to follow me as I follow God.

 

So let me do that now.

 

Jesus got up early in the morning and went off by himself to pray.  We can do that too.  No one else in the world has the power to determine when we wake up or when we go to sleep.  We get to make those two choices every day.  And we get to decide what to do with those first and last moments of every day.  Here’s the invitation for 2014 – use those moments to develop your conscious contact with God.

 

A few minutes in the morning for prayer, for reading, for writing, and you will carry a sense of God throughout the day.  A few minutes before going to bed and you can unload your worries and cares into the hands of the One who loves you and takes care of you.  Just a few minutes a day and you will very quickly come to a new understanding that God doesn’t need to be “conjured up” by a pastoral specialist.  God is right there with you.  Always.

 

Let us pray:  Dear Lord, teach us some new spiritual disciplines this year.  Inspire us to make more time to be with you, conscious of your presence, open to your guidance.  We know it worked for Jesus.  We trust it will work for us.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

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Isaiah 55:6-11

January 2, 2014

Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.  Isaiah 55:6-11

It was great to have some time off and some time away since Christmas, and just as good to be back into the routine today.  Life is good when it is as good to be back in the routine as it is to have a break.  And now we come to the beginning of a new year.

I love the beginning of a new year.  Frankly, I love new beginnings.  I love freshly cleaned whiteboards.  A blank document waiting for the first character to be typed. I like writing the first check of the year and the weird feeling of knowing that the year you just wrote feels strange – and that it will take most of the year to get used to writing it. I like weeks that begin with Sunday mornings.  I like knowing that every day is a new day and an opportunity to begin again. 

How will we move into a new year?  Perhaps you are the type to make New Year’s resolutions.  Some will be new.  Others…you’ve tried before and it didn’t work out so great that time.  Looking back, you quickly realize that the problem didn’t lie in your desires but in your lack of power. 

The Apostle Paul described it this way in Romans 7, “For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” 

What will be different this year?  Where will you find the power to do what you haven’t been able to do before?  Isaiah’s suggestion is to seek the Lord.  To call upon him.  Certainly this is mysterious.  But it is also powerful.  “Seek the Lord” will be our theme as we walk together into this new year.

Let us pray:  We call upon you, O Lord.  We seek you.  In the quietness, in the bustle, on busy freeways, in colorful sanctuaries, in the early hours in our back yards, in the evening hours at the end of our days, come to us.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.