Something out of nothing

One of the many joys for me as a pastor is seeing God create something out of nothing. No, I am not talking about anything magical here but rather the Holy Spirit bringing about a sermon when I had nothing.

Often times I enter Thursday not knowing where I am going with a sermon. I know the text, since I am preaching through the Gospel of Mark, but I don’t always know what the message is. And there are many times when I am anxious about this even though I know I shouldn’t be; even though I know I should trust God.

Today was such a day.

I did my reading and note taking before “relocating my office” to my favorite coffee shop down town. I do this every Thursday (for the most part) and at the same time. I set up my computer, ordered my lunch to be brought to me at 11 AM, got my coffee and scotcheroo and off to work I went. This is my routine.

As I started writing I noticed that my fingers started flowing across the keyboard faster and faster and with purpose. The message started to materialize in front of me like a Star Trek transporter. And as the message became clear I got more and more excited and felt more and more guilty. I was excited as the Spirit was working through me to create this message but guilty that I didn’t trust God enough to not be anxious about it. I have been a pastor for 10 1/2+ years and God has not let me down. Every Sunday I was scheduled to preached, I preached a sermon. Never once did I show up on a Sunday morning with nothing.

And God does this in other ways in our lives; creates something out of nothing:
~ Opportunities to share our faith
~ Opportunities to serve one another
~ Faith where there was no faith
~ Purpose where there was hopelessness
~ Life where there was death

If only I had the faith to see this more often.

Oh God, increase my faith and sharpen my eyes to see you at work in this world.

Praise be to God!

The Pastor -|—


Sabbath rest

I thought I should come back today and write something a little more intelligent than the “May the fourth be with you” post from last night.  I guess it just goes to show that no public writing should take place after 10 p.m.  Actually, it is a little questionable now since I haven’t consumed my morning pot of coffee yet, so forgive me if things get weird 🙂

For 12 sermons now, I have been preaching through the Gospel of Mark.  Yesterday was Mark 2:21-22…

Yes, 12 sermons and I am not through the second chapter yet.

…But coming up this Sunday I will finish the 2nd chapter by proclaiming the Good News in verses 23-28 concerning the Sabbath Day, with the following verses capturing my attention this morning:

“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

The Sabbath was made for me.
The Sabbath was made for you.

That is Good News.  I mean, think about it ~ the Sabbath was made for you to slow down and enjoy rest.  And I am not talking about sleeping in after a late Saturday night or enjoying a nap on the couch in the afternoon.  The rest that we are being given is rest in the promises of Jesus.  When we make the Sabbath Day about physical rest we miss the point.   Jesus’ death and resurrection frees us from the toil of justifying ourselves in the eyes of a holy God.  But through faith in Jesus, we are made right in God’s eyes and thus we can find holy rest through fellowship with God in worship, study of scripture and communion with other believers.

Sure, you can find rest for your bodies on the golf course or the lake or watching your children play a sport (on Sunday), but rest for your soul is found only through Jesus.  And if that is the case for you, then why wouldn’t you want to worship the King of the universe in the presence of other believers as the Good News is proclaimed TO YOU.

The Sabbath was made for you to enjoy the promises made to you through Jesus Christ.  May you enjoy a holy rest made possible only through the awesome and amazing grace of God.

The pastor -|—

A big fat lie

When I was growing up I was taught a big, fat, lie.  It was not from my parents or a teacher or some other trusted adult.  The lie came through friends who they themselves learned from someone else.  And the lie came in the form of a childhood rhyme that you probably know very well because you were taught the same big, fat, lie.  And it goes like this…

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.”

I am not too sure why I bought into that lie.  I think maybe I used it as a make-shift shield against bullies trying to make me cry (and believe me ~ I had a few of those people in my life growing up).  Maybe it was because I knew that those bullies would never use sticks and stones to actually break my bones so you might as well stop with the names.  But all the while I was using this rhyme as a weak, invisible shield, I was being hurt more than any damage that sticks and stones could inflict.

Names and words do hurt.

I started thinking about this rhyme as I began my sermon prep this week on the 8th Commandment, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”  And as I was remembering, all those names I was called as a child came rushing back.  I still remember the pain those names caused.  I still remember the laughter of those kids.  In a way, I wish they had broken some of my bones with stick and stones instead of using words to hurt me.

And today, the use of words continues to be a problem as many kids experience bullying online.  Even rough and tough football players are not immune to the power of words.  In the book of James, the author says that the tongue  is something that can not be tamed.  The same tongue we use to praise God is used to hurt our neighbor.  And I think the worst thing about this is that often times we don’t realize the pain we are causing because so many people try to hide their pain lest they look weak.

Maybe we spread a rumor about someone (true or not, it doesn’t matter).  Maybe we attack a person’s character without all the facts.  Maybe we participate in back stabbing.  Maybe we betray a person’s trust through sharing a secret.  Maybe we use words in a way that sounds comforting but really causes more hurt.  Whatever the form and context of our words, we need to be very mindful of what we are saying.  Luther’s Small Catechism has a great explanation of this commandment; one that we would do well to remember:

We are to fear and love God so that we do not betray, slander, or lie about our neighbor, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain his actions in the kindest way.

Romans 10 says that faith comes from hearing.  Since that is true then how do we proclaim the Gospel and build faith if we are using words in destructive ways?  May God be praised in all we SAY and do.

Dear Lord, grant me a kind tongue that seeks to speak well of others and gives you glory.  May my words not harm my neighbor but rather lift them up. In Jesus name, Amen.

The pastor -|—

Life is good…PRAISE BE TO GOD

Wow…life has been good.

We have had a great start to our youth education year (release time, confirmation and Wednesday Night Live).  All these programs have seen increased numbers along with a group of caring and committed teachers. I have seen intellectual and spiritual growth in some kids.  Always a fun thing to see.

I have been amazed at how God has been working through me these past few weeks in preaching.  On Sept. 4 I preached a sermon about God’s plan for us (which I said is community).  This was supposed to be a stand alone sermon but the next three weeks God has provided messages to build on that theme.  And what a ride it has been.

Personally…I had been dealing with an ankle injury that kept me from running for 3 weeks.  It drove me crazy to see friends running knowing that I could not.  I had to pull out of a 1oK I have enjoyed running the past 2 years.  But now my ankle is healed and I am back to running.

I started a weight loss program through Weight Watchers (something I did a few years back).  I want to drop about 20 pounds to get back to my ideal running weight.  Well…in just over 2 weeks I have lost 7.2 pounds.

It is easy to complain to God when things are not going well and easy to draw away from God when things ARE going well.  But we need to remember to praise God when thing do go well (and also praise God when things do not go well).   Whatever the case, God is good ~ for he sent Jesus to die for you and for me.

edh -|—

The Spirit of Christmas

img_f0517412aa1Don’t freak out…I know it’s not Thanksgiving yet, but I wanted to share with you my thoughts on the Advent sermon series I am pondering.  Sometimes it is hard to believe, but Advent is right around the corner and of course Christmas is close behind.  And since that is our reality, Advent planning needs to begin (if it hasn’t already).

I haven’t done an Advent sermon series since 2005 when I preached a series on 1 Peter (something I came across in some publication).  This year…my series is a little different.  The title of the series is “The Spirit of Christmas” with the following sermons topics:  “The Spirit of Hope”, “The Spirit of Life”, “The Spirit of Peace”, “The Spirit of Sharing” and ending on Christmas Eve with “The Spirit of Love”.  This idea came from a Hanging of the Greens worship service we are doing on Nov. 30; a service I found in a Hanging of the Greens book.

Each Christmas season, one of the things that really gets me going is seeing people totally miss the true spirit of Christmas.  It seems that with each passing year, Christmas becomes more and more commercialized (if that is even possible).  Each year I feel moved to submit a letter to the editor in our local newspaper to remind people of the true meaning of Christmas.  Each year I hear stories of how businesses and retail stores tell their employees that they can’t say “Merry Christmas” to the customers.  Heaven forbid if we offend anyone with those words.  So this sermon series really speaks to me and hopefully it will speak to others as well.

I haven’t totally thought out the scripture references for each theme (maybe you have some ideas for me), but hopefully I will have that done within the next week.  I am thinking a one day retreat away from my office might be in order.

In any case…I wanted to through this out to you and see what you think.  Is anyone else doing a Advent/Christmas sermon series?  Have you ever done one before?

God’s blessings to you as you prepare for the Christmas season.