Thursday, November 30, 2017

Devotion - Thursday, November 30

I did something to my knee last night.  I don't remember what I did, but Sam can tell you that I limped from my office to the Lounge in order to clear up an erroneous email I had sent.  As I age, I find this happens: I get an injury or a wound and have no idea where it came from.  It is just an unfortunate side effect of aging.

Another side effect is perspective.  Because I have lived three times as many years as you, the breadth of experiences from which I draw are three times as plentiful.  While the aches in my knee slow me down and make me a less interactive campus pastor, I hope that my expanded perspective will add something to my service as our campus pastor.

Tom was spot on last night, as he offered our devotion.  God is ever present and ever ready to aid us at times of stress and anxiety.  The verse he shared was an affirmation that we do not face life's challenges alone.  Wise words; from a young man!

Every burden is easier to carry when we have someone to carry it with us.  You have someone - you have many someones.  

These next two weeks will be hectic and tiring and perhaps overwhelming.  But they will go much better as you place them in perspective and allow others to share your burdens.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Devotion - Wednesday, November 29

I Peter 2:9 became very meaningful to me during my college years.  Peter reminds the people of God: "You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation."

I am sure I heard these words and comments on them during my childhood, but hearing them during the critical years of self-identification affected the way in which my relationship with God developed.

It is extremely comforting to know that we are chosen.  The feeling of not being wanted crushes us and dashes so much of what we hope to be.  But we are chosen, chosen by God.

The priesthood is no private club or tightly controlled circle.  In reality, there is a royal priesthood and we are all chosen to be part of it.  One of us might have a seminary degree and wear a funny looking collar on Sunday morning, but we are all priests - making present in the world the presence of God.

The holy nation to which Peter refers is not a political identity but a universal one which holds our allegiance.  These words from I Peter were making their impression upon my life as I was discovering youth and young adult ministry in South Africa, Germany, and Tanzania.  I found a this world-wide bond of God's royal priesthood to be comforting and assuring.

I seek to give to you that which I have first received.  It is my prayer that you receive and experience yourself as a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a citizen in the holy nation which is God's.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Devotion - Tuesday, November 28

My devotional guide gifted me with a comforting prayer this morning.  It asked:  "Be present in our prayers, and protect us by day as well as by night."

"Be present in our prayers....."  God's love is not poured out in portion to the number of prayers offered by the faithful.  Each is loved, whether there are a million prayers or a single petition offered on their behalf.  But the request here is that the prayers we offer makes the presence of God more powerfully known.  

I trust you know that God is with you.  But I want you to know that I pray for you.  My prayers are not going to alter or influence God's compassion, but they may serve as a reminder to you of God's presence.

It is not a small thing; to have another remember us in their prayers.  It is a wonderful thing; for the prayers of another to make present the love God has for his children.

" day as well as by night."  The darkness of night and the inability to control our dreams and our terrors are surely reasons why we ask for protection during these hours of each day.  But the daytime brings those who insult us or belittle us or ignore us.  Sometimes, getting up in the morning and leaving the safety of our room is the greater terror.  

My prayers are with you here, too.  And the community of faith we call LCM is eager to serve as a shield for you against any and all threats.  As we pray, we pray that this shield will be present with you.

"Be present in our prayers, and protect us by day as well as by night."

Monday, November 27, 2017

Devotion - Monday, November 27

There is this line, in I Peter 1:12:
It was revealed to (the prophets) that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things which have now been announced to you by those who preached to good news to you through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which the angels long to look.

"Things into which the angels long to look."

The God whom we worship became incarnate.  God takes on our flesh and lives among us.  To behold the goodness of God, one needs to be on the earth rather than above the earth or circling the earth.

We speak of heaven as that most desirable place, but what is revealed to us is the stuff into which angels long to look.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Sermon - Christ the King Sunday

Matthew 25:31-46     

                                                  The “New Belgium Brewery” Way of Life

One of the conferences y’all paid for me to was this fall in Asheville.  Pastor Jon used the free afternoon to do some hiking in the glorious mountains; I spent that afternoon touring one of the local breweries.  New Belgium Brewery selected Asheville because of its clean, fresh water; because they could build the brewery on what would have otherwise remained a trash pile and waste site; and because the local folks demonstrated an eagerness to become a member of the “New Belgium Family.”  --- Can you tell I was paying close attention to the tour-guide?

I was, or I did, and I found myself intrigued by her presentation.  After the tour, over another round of beers, I asked her how much of her presentation was a script and how much was from her heart.  Considering myself a reasonably good judge of what is spoken as contrasted with what is said, I felt that she did believe what she was selling.  And, what she was selling was not beer.  She was lifting up a way of life; a way of seeing oneself in the world; a way of interacting with others which establishes and builds meaningful interactions and community.

All of this – from deciding to drink, buy, support a particular brand of beer.

I am not implying that this young woman has made beer her god.  I am clearly saying to you that her talk about beer evoked emotions within me which align very closely with my search for God.  Care for the earth; a corporate model in which every worker is a share-holder (not an expendable employee); a community where hard-work is kept in balance with enjoying life.  (Did I mention there is an adult-size sliding tube which takes you from the entrance to the lower floors of the building?  And there are bicycles of every style and description in racks all around the place which folks can ride or borrow for days off?)

I was at this brewery with a group of pastors.  After we had had a few, we fell into a discussion of the compelling story shared with us as we walked the campus of New Belgium Brewery.  We wondered if the story we tell, on our campuses, is as compelling.  Or more specifically, if we are telling it in an equally compelling way.

What is the story we tell, on this last Sunday of the Liturgical Year?  Christ the King Sunday is intended to be the culmination of our year-long journey and spiritual quest.  It is a time to consider well where it is that we place our hope and allegiance.  Are the visitors here this morning likely to experience a compelling presentation of the marvels and joys and life-giving aspects of the reign of Christ?  Does our liturgy and hymns and prayers and sermons evoke emotions which align closely with the search for ultimate meaning and purpose?

Is Christ the King Sunday, and the notion of Christ as our final authority consistent with that which flows naturally out of our hearts?  Or does coming to worship feel as if you are trapped and strapped to your chair and forced to once again hear over and over what needs to change or be different about how you understand yourself and your life?

Those are a lot of question.  Spoken too fast and too close together.  They – and the parts of this sermon not made up as I go along – are posted at that blog where I share my sermons and e-devotions.  You can go there and take time with each question, if you want.

Do try to remember this:  I am not interested in ever giving anyone a tongue lashing.  If it feels that way, when I preach, remember that emotions arise from within.  No one can make us feel a particular way.  What they do might trip a trigger, within us, which turns on an emotion. 

When I preach, my aim is to evoke.  The hope is that what lies at the core of your heart and soul will be switched on.  That you already know what the Law of God requires, you may be in need of assistance in allowing that switch to be flipped. 

No words or images or theological declarations are capable of bringing change in another person’s life.  But a well-placed invitation to examine what lies at the core of our lives may drill its way into your heart and soul and from there begin a re-make of both. 

So – allow me to ask those questions again.  And pay attention to how you respond in your bowels; ignoring as best you can what bounces around in your head:  Is Christ the King Sunday, and the notion of Christ as our final authority consistent with that which flows naturally out of your heart?  Or, upon entering this room, do you feel as if you are trapped and strapped to your chair and forced to once again hear over and over what needs to change or be different about how you understand yourself and your life?

The appointed Gospel Lesson for this Christ the King Sunday, is not or should not be used as a tool for tongue-lashing.  I say that, knowing how many sermons I have preached which focused on the particular actions to which Jesus refers. 

I had agreed to write a reflection/text study for youth leaders in the ELCA on this lesson, and in doing so I realized that Jesus isn’t trying to cram something down the throats or into the lives of those to whom he preaches.  Jesus merely reflects on what has come so naturally to them that it is part of their lives which happens without them giving thought to it.

Neither the goats or the sheep are aware of when they had in any way participated in actively bringing about the Kingdom of God.  Or when they had failed to do so.  It is just what they did, without thinking or without thinking about how much reward they would get if they did act.

Christ the King Sunday isn’t one last chance to trap you and strap you to your chairs and lecture you on what you have done wrong or what you need to do better.  Think of it more as a tour, through a local brewery.  What is said will (hopefully) evoke those emotions in you which align closely with your efforts in searching for your final hope and ultimate concern.  If it ain’t happening; it may have less to do with the skill of the tour guide and more to do with the disconnect between what Jesus says and that which is at the center of your life and self-understanding.

You are not trapped, or strapped to your chair, or being blasted.  But - being in God’s house is likely to force upon you some self-examination.  And this Gospel text in particular is likely to lead to some soul-searching and looks over the shoulder at how you have been living and interacting with others.  What do your actions reveal about where you find your hope or place your ultimate trust?


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Devotion - Tuesday, November 21

Sometimes the Bible reminds us of things we too quickly forget.  I was reading this morning from Revelation, Chapter 4.  There is an image of Heaven in these verses which one seldom hears preached at a funeral.

When we talk to one another about Heaven, we tend to portray it as more of the best of life here.  "He is sitting by the river, catching the biggest catfish of his life!"  Or "Mother and Daddy are surely please to be back together."

In Revelation, the image of Heaven is the opportunity to continually praise God.  There are these living creatures which never cease to sing "Holy, holy, holy....."  Whenever they give glory, the elders "fall down before him who is seated on the throne."

It is not my intention to deter you in your pursuit of Heaven.  Strive to find yourself there!!!!  My prayer this morning is for hearts and lives grateful and thus eager for the opportunity to spend eternity giving God thanks.

These days can be an opportunity to reflect on these things and to consider all that God has done for you.  Use them well.  And prepare for the time when what resides in the deepest folds of your heart will shine through.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Devotion - Monday, November 20

We don't talk a lot about "unclean spirits."  But Jesus did.

In Matthew 12 Jesus warns that when one unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it sometimes returns.  When it sees the house from which it came "empty, swept, and put in order," the unclean spirit returns; and "brings with him seven other spirits."

Thinking of an invasion of unclean spirits may allow me to be more gracious toward those whose behaviors concern me.  We live in a culture in which self-determination rules; what if we entertained the thought that not all offenses were the intention or fault of the offender?  Such a view might allow me to love the sister or brother whose actions reflect evil.  Such a view might enable me to aid them in their struggle rather that call them names and relegate them to the trash-heap.

We don't talk much about unclean spirits.  Maybe we ought to do so.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Devotion - Thursday, November 16

The way in which things came together last night was still bringing joy to me this morning.

Justice offered a wonderful insight on prayer, the various styles of prayer and the differing ways in which prayer allows us to share with God what is happening in our lives and what is weighing on our hearts.  

His reflection took its origins in Thanksgiving, that many of us would be gathering next week to give thanks; and that last night was our LCM Thanksgiving Meal together.

In the room were many of the post-student-stage-in-life persons whose prayers of thanksgiving include praying for all of you.  Persons whose prayers of intersession include the joys and challenges of your life.

And, it was obvious from the way you joined in the Thanksgiving Feast, that you are praying for them and expressing thanks for their love and support.

The Kingdom of God is like so many things.  It is surely also like a gathering in which we are allowed to experience the care of others and we are given opportunity to give thanks for all that God is doing.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Devotion - Wednesday, November 15

When the religious leaders criticized Jesus' disciples for plucking grain and eating as they walked through a grainfield, Jesus attempted to remind them the purpose of the Sabbath and God's Torah.  He ends with this:  "And if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy, and no sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless."

The Pharisees, including modern-day Pharisees known by other names, would evaluate Jesus' followers in terms of sacrifice.  "In order to show one is a true believer, one will not........"  

To be driven by mercy places our following of Jesus in a different place.  To be motivated by mercy is to live our lives in such a way as to help the other and aid them in their life.  We may sacrifice our time or even our resources in this effort, but it is an outgrowth of our desire to see mercy increase.

Jesus' care and compassion for others lies at the center of his life.  When we follow Jesus, we follow his way of loving and caring for those whom we encounter on our journey.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Devotion - Tuesday, November 14

This morning's devotion is more of a thanksgiving.   In a conversation yesterday morning I found myself talking about the significance of LCM-Clemson.  We were talking about reasons why LCM-C was worthy of the support of others.  The words which I heard myself speaking brought tears to my eyes.

It is often reported to me that you came from home congregations in which there were one, or two, or maybe three other persons your age.  This means that rarely have you had a community of peers, walking with you as you sought to determine your life path.

We not only need peers as we make our way.  We need mentors and guides; we need the wisdom of those who have gone before us.  But having peers is a special and very useful gift.

After a few opening references, Jesus seems to have never traveled alone.  When he sent the disciples out into the world he sent them two-by-two.  We need travel companions and we need someone to be with us as we face challenges and decisions.  Those persons do not necessarily need to share our confessions and affirmations, but they understand us differently when they do.

You are not a community of my peers.  But I can walk into practically any congregation and find my age group.  But I am grateful for the opportunity to set up a structure which allows this gift to come your way.  

Take a moment today and give thanks for those who journey with you.  And, pause just long enough to send them a meaningful snapchat or text or message which will let them know you are grateful.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Devotion - Monday, November 13

Matthew 11:16-24 is another section of the gospel which causes me discomfort.  Jesus is asking why it is so impossible to hear his words and accept his message.  

This section is difficult for me because I prefer not to blame folks for their unbelief.  The world (and even some of our fellow Church members) dangle many alluring opportunities to choose an alternate underpinning for one's life.

But, out of faithfulness to the scriptures, I need to be open to Matthew 11's message.

What is the source of your beginning to follow?  Maybe I should ask what more it might take for you to give your life over to Jesus?

In Matthew 11, Jesus speaks of the signs and wonders that the people of Bethsaida and Capernaum had witnessed.  Did they fail to understand the magnitude of these events?  Or did they find ways to explain them away - as a natural cause which coincided with Jesus' words? 

There are many alluring attractions, offering to be the matrix which under-girds our lives.  Be wise enough to recognize these; and faithful enough to see the presence of Jesus and God's Word.  It is doing the latter which enables us to avoid the lack of commitment which characterized Bethsaida and Capernaum.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sermon - Pentecost 20 - Year A

Matthew 25:1-13       

There was a lecture on campus this week, Thursday night, by a Reformation scholar from Yale Divinity School.  Dr. Gordon is about to release a new book on Zwingli. His earlier works were mostly about Calvin.  He was very fair in his presentation, fairly correct.  (That was supposed to get a laugh – that I would critique a Yale Divinity School Reformation Scholar – saying his lecture was “fairly correct”……)

The lecture hinged on where it is that one places authority.  Basically - who gets to determine (and to enforce) the drawing of lines between the sheep and the goats.  Who is it that can tell us which are the wise bridesmaids, and which are the foolish?  The Church which all of the Reformers sought to reform placed that authority in the great ecumenical Councils and those who upheld the Council declarations.  Luther, Dr. Gordon claimed, placed that authority in the religious experience which brought him to enlightment.  Dr. Gordon’s presentation asserted that Luther then insisted that this type of religious experience was to be normative for all the righteous.  Zwingli gave authority to the scriptures, which he understood as having been directed if not dictated by God.  Calvin places this authority in the mutual consent of the faithful (and by that he was most likely referring to the faithful Reformers.)

Where does that authority, or right, lie?  Who gets to decide (and possibly enforce) the drawing of a line; and statements about who is and who isn’t welcomed into the wedding banquet?

I wonder how many sermons this morning will unknowingly also hinge on the notion of authority.  How many preachers will warn congregants against being like the five foolish bridesmaids?  I wonder, as you listened to me read these verses from Matthew 25, if you envisioned two distinct and separate groups and wondered into which group you were to be found?

It is important that we remember Calvin’s insistence that the purpose of our weekly gatherings is to build up the church and every church member.  It is helpful when we point out thoughts, words, and action which might prove to be stumbling blocks to receiving the gifts of God’s grace.  It is important and we need to do it. 

I am trying to avoid uttering a “but”.  Because saying that word, after one sentence is complete and the next is about to begins – is sort of like drawing a dividing line.  And the message God has placed on my heart this morning is to tear down any such dividing lines or criteria for asserting authority.

So you tell me – really, tell me.  By the nodding of your heads or a subtle “Preach it brother,” when I read Jesus parable about the kingdom of heaven how many of you started wondering, “Am I sufficiently prepared?”  Or “Will Jesus catch me sleeping?” 

I do wonder how many sermons will return to this theme.  As I consider my own preaching history, most of the sermons I have peached on Matthew 25:1-13 have been encouragements to be ready, to be on guard, to keep awake!  Too often – far too frequently the discussions within our churches concern themselves with the topic of in which group of five we will find ourselves.  Even lectures on The Reformation revert to the pre-Reformation emphasis on who has the right to establish and enforce the criteria by which we had all better be ready to be judged.

Early in the week, a gift arrived in my email in-box.  The writer said one thing which completely altered my week and my approach to this text.  He wrote, “Focus on the lamps; ignore the bridesmaids.”

“Focus on the lamps; ignore the bridesmaids.”

This was the advice of a contemporary colleague in ministry and I would be remiss if I in any way implied that St. Matthew intended the emphasis to be placed on the lamps.  But it is a great thing for us contemporary preachers to do.

The drawing of lines and the debates over right vs wrong has inappropriately and unfortunately overtaken our churches and our worship events.  This congregation articulates why it is a “better” congregation that the one down the street.  That congregation defines itself by pointing out the ways in which it isn’t like the other options in town.  It all sometimes seems like a contest to determine which group of bridesmaids are the wise and which are the foolish. 

“Focus on the lamps, ignore the bridesmaids.”

The groom takes the action he does because there isn’t the light from the lamps present when he arrives.  The groom recognizes and welcomes those who provide the light in midst of a dark and lonely night.  The groom does not recognize those persons whose own faces are not lit by the glow of the lamp that never runs out of fuel.

In re-reading my sermon to this point – and particularly that last paragraph, I worried that I too had allowed this to slip into an evaluation of the holders of the lamps.  Call me on that – and help me to not do that.

Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, St. Matthew the Gospel writer, and Jesus the Christ ALL worked to ensure that the light from the lamp of God shines and gives light to a dark and too often lonely world.  And they all – every one of them – including Jesus – lifted as a primary concern shining forth the light which brought the world into being; the light which illuminates our path.

­What the light exposes is sometimes fickle or fleeting.  It is a light which exists on this side of I Corinthian’s kyros time.  It is a light which we too often see only in a mirror dimly.   It is a light which needs attending and trimming and dedication.  And that which is exposed by the light is to be examined.

What if we focused on the lamps, and ignored the bridesmaids?  What if we devoted as much attention to open, ongoing, heart-felt conversation about what the light exposes?  Too often, rather than looking at what the light reveals, we debate and argue about who is holding a lit lamp as opposed to whose lamp isn’t burning brightly.

Happening to have a lit lamp or failing to keep awake relegates us into bitter bickering about who is right and who is wrong; about drawing lines and enforcing them.

Worry about whether we are among the five wise or relegated to the pool of the five foolish inhibits our ability and our willingness to see what the light is exposing.

I think this is why some of us hate any mention of controversial topics in worship.  We are eager to be among the lamp-holders; less eager to consider what the light and the lamps expose.  It is comforting to know we are tending our lamps; it is a challenge to peer through the flicker flames and try to see clearly the path of the approaching groom.

The debate as to where authority lies will never cease – and it should not.  We need to discuss this and expose the various answers and then admit how answering these questions will impact our attempts at forming congregations and churches and communities of faith.  How one answers that question does influence whether you are likely to be Catholic or Lutheran or Baptist or Methodist……. 

We all should strive to be the wise bridesmaids, who plan ahead, who are awake.  Our life together ought to strengthen these traits in us.

Above all, we need to focus on those lamps.  We need to study our bibles and be ready to offer the wisdom of Jesus in the midst of any and every conversation.  I am not asking for you to memorize texts which can be used as proof or validation for your previously held thoughts.  I mean knowing the Gospel message and bringing it to light whenever we find ourselves seeking guidance or wisdom.

As a pastor in the Christian Church, I won’t ignore the bridesmaids.  As a preacher and a teacher in the Christian Church, I will trim my lamp and shine the light of God’s Word so that the darkness of the world around us might be dispelled and the way of our groom might be illuminated.


Thursday, November 9, 2017

Devotion - Thursday, November 9

This morning's reading from Matthew 10:34-42 is one of the "contrasting" verses.  By this I mean it is a verse which speaks a message other than the verses I am most likely to remember and repeat.

In Matthew 10, Jesus says, "Do not think I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword."

Even here, Jesus is not speaking of a military weapon.  The sword which he goes on to speak of is the one which divides father from son, daughter from mother.  He says that only the one who leaves everything and follows him is "worthy" of him.

These verses are not a call to militant action.  They are a reminder that the Word of God is likely to divide us.

Divided are those who understand the complete transformation which comes in following Jesus.  Divided are those who would want to claim the name but not take the action.  Divided are those who would go along with the conventional thinking rather than call into question words/actions which demean or hurt others.

Jesus does bring a peace into the world.  But that peace is one which cuts through all the bullshit and only leaves the will of God.  Those who would prefer to see the world as the world would like to be seen are likely to feel the cutting edge of Jesus' sword.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Devotion - Wednesday, November 8

A couple of us went to the Catholic Student dinner last night, carrying with us the candle stand given to our Lutheran Bishop by the Catholic Bishop.  In a very simple ceremony, we repeated the affirmations of the Call to Common Mission.  These affirmations are invitations to unity; they are also strong guides for the way each of us should live our lives.

Allow me to share them with you this morning:

The first imperative
Catholics and Lutherans should always begin from the perspective of unity and not from the point of view of division in order to strengthen what is held in common even though the differences are more easily seen and experienced.

The second imperative
Lutherans and Catholics must let themselves continuously be transformed by the encounter with the other and by the mutual witness of faith.

The third imperative
Catholics and Lutherans should again commit themselves to seek visible unity, to elaborate together what this means in concrete steps, and to strive repeatedly toward this goal.

The fourth imperative
Lutherans and Catholics should jointly rediscover the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ for our time.

The fifth imperative
Catholics and Lutherans should witness together to the mercy of God in proclamation and service to the world.

I am more guilty than most of lifting up the things which lead to a variety of denominations among God's people.  The affirmations above could be re-written with the name of any faith community.  The call to rediscover the power of the gospel for our time and to be active in our service to the world needs to reclaim the center of every congregation and ministry group.j

May God guide us in living into these affirmations and living them out in our lives together.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Devotion - Tuesday, November 7

In I Corinthians 14, Paul continues to write of spiritual gifts.  He writes mostly about tongues, and prophesy.  In is commentary on these verses, Martin Luther writes that these gifts are given in order that the Church might be built up and unified.  Luther expresses concern about any words or works which might allow the world to point to disharmony within the Church.

A response to my Reformation Day e-devotion raised this concern with regard to my words.  A united Church is clearly what God desires.  

This overarching aim does (at times) find itself in tension with the call to God's people to be prophets.  The one who speaks of God's hope for the world will find themselves disheartened by hatred and bloodshed and violence.  The one who speaks of God's hope for the world cannot remain silent while sisters are exploited and brothers gunned down.

My prayers this morning did not reach a simple and calming end.  Neither will this devotion.  What it may do is give us the assurance that we do not face all of this alone; that others are by our side; and that our fellow followers also struggle to be agreeable and peaceable - while also hearing and responding to the call to speak of God's preferred vision for the world.

We are united - in our resolve to never allow the world to weaken the power of Jesus' message.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Devotion - Monday, November 6

My son was united in marriage yesterday.  I am still on a bit of a high from all of that - so it naturally spilled over into my morning prayers.

I am grateful - for the blessings of God pronounced over this union by Pastor Aebischer, for the collection of persons who came to add their affirmations, for the one who affirmed by son by saying "I do."  I am grateful.

My prayers this morning also included so many of you - those whose weddings I had the honor of officiating, those of you who I am currently discussing relationship and possible marriage, and those of you who long for the affirmation of another's love but find that allusive.  

I hope my next comments do not leave open the opportunity for any of those mentioned above to feel further excluded.

The high that I am on this morning emerged from the mood in the wedding hall yesterday afternoon.  It was a great mixture of folks, from many different sub-sets of society.  For a few wonderful hours, we were all together, in one place, for one purpose.  And it was glorious.  It was what I envision the Kingdom of God to be.

Not that all were Christian, or even persons of faith.  One was a Holiness Pastor; there were three Lutheran Pastors and one UCC Pastor.  But all sampled Jesus' invitation and love.  And, it was glorious.  Regardless of how lonely persons might have felt when they entered the room; regardless of how often they might experience hostility in the wider world; for a few hours there was joy and laughter and utter delight that through God's intervention, we are one.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Devotion - November 2

My undergraduate studies in psychology continue to serve me well in my pastoral ministry.  The courses and concepts aid me in my interactions and often suggest ways to improve interactions with peers, parents, and the world.

This morning's reading from I Corinthians 11 led me to wonder if those studies might also be a hinder.  Paul writes about "spiritual gifts."  Paul writes of actions and thoughts which are only possible as a result of the workings of the Spirit.

I worried that I may be more inclined to find sociological or psychological reasons for behaviors; leaving too little room for the working of the Spirit.

There is never any doubt of the Spirit's presence when the people of God are assembled.  Whether it be a Wednesday night meal, a Sunday  worship experience, or the interactions I over-hear coming from the LCM Lounge - I am continually reminded that these can be explained no other way than to see the workings of the Spirit.  

Observe your world this day, and note the places where you see the Spirit's activity.  It might be in the already-busy-with-my-own-studies classmate who sits by your side and aids you in your homework.  It might be phone call or text message with a simple but affirming reminder of another's care.

The Spirit is active - in our world and in our lives.  We know this; we experience this.  We could do a better job at talking about this.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Devotion - November 1

In keeping with the Liturgical Calendar, allow me to say a few words today about All Saints' Day.

On the Calendar, each day has a saint to be commemorated.  We know that Martin Luther was born on November 10 because he was named for the saint commemorated on Nov 11 - St. Martin of Tours.

As the list of saints grew, there simply wasn't enough days in the year for them all.  All Saints' Day was a solution for this.  While we might miss the honoring of a particular saint, on this day all were honored.  All Saints' Day was a day of obligation - you could not miss mass on this day.

It was on the eve of All Saints' Day that Luther posted his 95 Thesis.  He knew everyone would be coming to church on November 1.

Most of the churches of the Reformation ceased observance of various saint's days, but retained the tradition of All Saints' Day as a way to call attention to the Reformation assertion that all are saints, i.e. equally valued in the heart of God.  Reformation Churches attached to All Saints' a remembrance of loved ones who had died in the past year, sometimes lighting candles for these persons as their names are read in worship.

On this day, my prayer is that each of you will know how much God loves and cares for you.  On this day, I would encourage you to offer prayers of appreciation for the Saints who have kept the Word of God and passed it down through the ages.  Let's celebrate that which has sustained the Church through centuries while we allow the contemporary Church to reinterpret in ways which are helpful and appropriate for our own times.