Looking ahead with Jesus

The Gospel text for the 5th Sunday after Pentecost is from Luke 9:51-62.  This text is a great one about discipleship.  It is about looking ahead (with Jesus) and not focusing on the past.  It is about following Jesus without reservation.  It is about getting off our butts, leaving the sanctuary and actually doing something for the Kingdom.

In verse 58 Jesus says, "Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."  I have always liked this verse.  It serves as a reminder that following Jesus is no bed of roses.  We are not promised riches and luxury (like some prosperity Gospel preachers like to promise).  We are not promised comfort.  We are not promised ease of life.  Jesus had no place to plop down and take it easy.  Jesus has no temptation to enjoy His possessions while forgetting about the outside world.  Jesus’ home was out on the road — with people.  Ministry is "out there" and that is where the Christian needs to look and live.  Christianity is not a get rich quick scheme.  It is not a way to pad your bank account.  Jesus never did any of this.  Christianity is about loving people and serving our God by going to where people are at; proclaiming (through word, deed, and action) that Jesus has died and risen for the forgiveness of our sins.

Another kick in the butt this text gives me is the fact that Jesus does not live in the sanctuary of our individual congregations.  A while ago I attended a meeting at another church in SW MN.  As I walked up to the main door (going into the sanctuary) I noticed a sign that read, "Servants Entrance".  I thought that was neat.  On the other side of the sign it read, "Entering the Mission Field".  I thought that was even neater.  So I stole/borrowed the idea (not the sign) and now a sign like that is taped to the sanctuary door at the congregation I serve.  We enter the building being reminded we are servants and leave being reminded we have a job to do.  We are all missionaries (as scary as that may sound to some people).  Worship may be a safe place to be, but we can’t live in the church sanctuary all week (for a number of obvious reasons).  People that need to hear the Gospel live "out there" in the mission field.  You find these people in your home, school, work place, coffee shop or the grocery store.  They live "out there" not in your sanctuary or on your living room couch.

And lastly…this text reminds me they we are called to follow Jesus without reservation and without gripping on to the past like a security blanket.  History and tradition are fine but when it gets in the way of the future you are heading in the wrong direction.  Nobody drives down the highway keeping their eyes focused on the rear view mirror.  Nobody travels from point A to point B in reverse (unless for the obvious reasons of course).  That kind of silly (and careless) action will only get you hurt while finding yourself coming up short of your destination.  Jesus does not command up to "forget" about the past, he tells us not to "look back" or long for the past to a point that impedes your movement forward.  Simply…remember where you came from, but trust Jesus and follow Him while looking to the future.

In the sea of change that Salem is finding themselves in (see Changes are coming and Changes are coming — part 2, this text is going to be a fun one to preach.  Trust Jesus and look forward.  How can we possibly go wrong?  Take care and God bless.

Child Abuse Prevention Month

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and this year marks the 24th anniversary of this national campaign.  Last week my sister left me a comment and asked me to write something about this; so here I am: 

I found a website with some very helpful information at: Love Our Children USA.  There is an Amber Alert ticker, a place to donate money, a place to buy blue ribbons and other items promoting child abuse prevention.  There is also a number of other informational links.  If you page down about a third of the way down, on the right, there is a link titled: APRIL IS CHILD ABUSE PREVENTION MONTH.  This link will give you more information about what this month is all about.  Check these links out and spread the word.

"Then little children were being brought to him (Jesus) in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray.  The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs’" (Matthew 19:13-14)

Children have every right to protection as any adult; and to take advantage of a child is reprehensible.  Let us have the same attitude that Jesus has toward children, "for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs."

If you have any other information or web links that would be helpful to people, please let me know.  Thank you, Julie, for reminding us of this very important cause. -edh-

Feelings I won’t describe

I recently lead a group of parishioners to a place called The Banquet.  The Banquet is a non-profit feeding ministry in Sioux Falls that relies solely on volunteer help and funding from outside sources (nothing from government entities).  Many groups are church groups (like ours).  Some are companies and civic organizations.  With the homeless population so high along with the number of people living in poverty, The Banquet is a welcomed site for many who call Sioux Falls home.

For Salem and Belmont Lutheran Churches (where I serve) and Betheny Lutheran Church, this was our third year making the 90 mile trip to serve supper to nearly 400 people (a quarter of which are children).  Duties include:  greeting the the guests, helping carry trays for parents and guests with disabilities, serving food, washing dishes, pouring coffee/milk/water, wiping down tables, etc.  It takes about 35 – 40 people to pull an evening off like this.

My job this year (as it has been for the last couple years) was carrying trays for guests who needed assistance.  When I wasn’t carrying trays I would turn to look out at the dining room.  What I saw gave me goosebumps and feelings that are hard to describe.  So I won’t try to describe them.  Any attempt would ruin the moment.  Rather let me say this:  Week in and week out I see these parishioners in worship.  I preach the gospel to them.  I see them downtown having coffee.  I encounter them at the grocery store.  All is fine in our little world of Jackson.  There is food on our tables and clothes on our backs.  And our biggest worry is wondering what we’re going to have for supper.  But at The Banquet I saw these same people in a different light; many outside their comfort zones.  They were serving those who have different worries than us like: "Where is our next meal going to come from?"; "Where will I sleep tonight?"; "How will I keep my children warm?"  It is hard for me to imagine having worries like that. 

Sitting in front of a compter scene in a warm comfortable office has a tendency to blur reality.  But for a couples hours that night at The Banquet I saw reality.  I saw a world that we too often turn a blind eye to.  That night at The Banquet I experienced feelings that I won’t describe to you.  I watched children of God serving other children of God.  They were providing for needs and showing love through their actions.  I watched people who could have stayed home in their comfortable easy chairs.  I saw people humbling themselves through pouring coffee or picking up after guests.  I watched people leave their comfort zones to listen to a guest who just needed someone to listen.  And as I watched all of this I experienced those feelings that I won’t describe to you and wondered how I could have possibly been so selfish.  Maybe you can relate to what I am talking about.

Why do I write about this?  I think it is because I don’t want to forget what that night felt like.  I don’t want to forget that their are people out there that worry about things I take for granted.  I don’t want to forget that there are people who don’t have it as easy as I do.  I want to remember.

I think we can only experience feelings we won’t describe when we leave our comfort zones.  Because outside our comfort zones the Holy Spirit smacks us in the face with the reality of creation.  Outside our comfort zones we truly experience life.  And when we experience these feelings in that chaos out there, words have a tendency to ruin things.  So that is way I am so vague today.  That is why I am being so "secretive".  It’s not to hide anything, but to move you to action.

Believe me, I really want to describe those feelings I won’t describe to you.  I want you to experience what I experienced.  I want you to feel what I felt that night.  But words are not the answer (sounds ironic, especially when I keep rambling on and on).  Do you want to experience those feelings that I won’t describe to you; ones that come only through the Holy Spirit?  Well…then leave your comfort zones.  It is that easy.  The people who truly need your help cannot be found in your recliner while you eat a warm pizza while watching football.  Instead go out and serve at a soup kitchen, volunteer at your local food shelf, visit some shut-ins or wherever the Holy Spirit leads you.  Encounter people in need and reach out to them.  And while doing so…experience those feelings I won’t describe to you.  That is the essense of giving yourself to someone in need.

So if you are ever in the Sioux Falls area, stop by The Banquet (8th Street and Indiana) and see if they need a hand.  I promise you…you won’t regret it.  -EDH-