Fruits for the World

Fruits for the World

What does it mean to be Christian? As we see a lot of religious talk and bible quoting in the public sphere. This has been my question for the past few months. I am reminded of what Paul reminds us Galatians about living in the Spirit.

“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. “

Galatians 5:16-26

As Luther Might say, what does this Mean?

How do we live by the Spirit? How do we evaluate ourselves and those leading us to see if they are living the Good News of Jesus entrusted to us?

Galatians provides us some guidance. In our culture we get hung up get up on few of the first sins related to sex and can’t move past them. They are important, but the rest are just as if not more important. Just look at our country. We have made idols of money and politics, we have outright hatred for people based on race or who we voted for. The list of things that draw us away from living in God’s Spirit our numerous.

I urge you as we think about how we live our lives, who we support, and what things we give allegiance to. Use the Fruit of the Spirit as your guide. Are the people leading our country, our communities, in our lives Loving, Joy filled, working toward peace, patient and diligent, Kind, Good, Faithful (to not just to God but to all people), gentle (humble) and self-controlled (purposeful and disciplined toward the wellbeing of others)? I hope you find someone. And if you can’t find anyone, maybe God is calling you.

Nobody is perfect but if each day we ask for God’s grace to be just a little more loving, more kind, more peaceful, more patient, gentler, and more self-controlled. If we can help others around us do the same. The world will be a better place. Following is Christ can be difficult and us be nourished by the Fruit of the Spirit along the way and share this fruit with others. How are we as a community of Christ cultivating and sharing this Fruit?

On Being Made Holy

On Being Made Holy

It seems the longest Season of the Church year Pentecost has come quickly upon us. We celebrate the presence of the risen Lord and fulfillment of Jesus promise to send his Advocate the Holy Spirit. Martin Luther in his small catechism in describing the 3rd Article of the creed as “On being made Holy.” It is through the Holy Spirit we can know Jesus and it is through the Holy Spirit us leads us to repentance and to receive forgiveness. Being Holy is being whole in the presence of God. It is through the Holy Spirit God calls us, not just us individually but as Christ’s body in the world to make the world, Holy. A world aware and alive because God’s presence. As John 3:17 says “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

How does Holy Spirit’s make the world Holy? “The Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers” as stated in Martin Luther’s Small Catechism.

We understand the Holy Spirit is a variety of ways: As Wind, Fire, A dove, a wild goose. It is certainly not something we can control or tame as John 3:34 reminds us that God “gives the Spirit without measure.” The Holy Spirit most simply described is an outpouring of God’s Love upon God’s people. Think about it, Love is often depicted in the same way: as a wild animal, as fire, as a fragrant breeze. So during Pentecost we celebrate this wonderful outpouring of Love upon God’s people the Church. This outpouring of Love is for the world God created.

The Holy Spirit works and inspires so many people in our congregation, giving them the energy and gifts to share God’s Love. To love their neighbors through words of forgiveness and caring but also by feeding the hungry, providing clothing, tending the sick, offering God’s presence. We worship together, we pray for each other and the world. We study God’s word and we try to follow Jesus out in the world. All this is happening here in this place. And that same Holy Spirit is working throughout the rest of the world too. Isn’t that exciting?

During this season I would ask that we do three things. First, be grateful for every breath and know the Holy Spirit is in each breath. Second, Pray for the Holy Spirit to surprise you, pray for open ears, eyes and mind. Lastly, Take time to study God’s word, it can be the lessons from Sunday or a devotional you like. Take some small action around what the Holy Spirit might be prompting you to do. You are not alone in these tasks. Ask your fellow pilgrims, remind each other to be grateful, pray with each other, take action together. The Holy Spirit is here in and among us inspiring and moving us to make not just ourselves Holy but the world around us as well.

The Risen Jesus: A Punchline

The Risen Jesus: A Punchline

Jesus is Risen, Jesus is Risen indeed! This year we celebrate Easter on April Fool’s but for us the resurrection of  Jesus is no joke. The Resurrection isn’t just a metaphor or a nice symbol we reference to make us happy. It is a true and assured hope that there is Life after Death. That Death is not the end, but it is a beginning for us as we continue to learn and trust in Jesus Christ.

How does the resurrection change our lives? What difference does it make that we worship Jesus, who lived, died and was resurrected? As Luther might ask “What does this mean?”

It means that we can live unafraid of death and all that it brings with it. Many live in such a way that they will do ANYTHING to avoid pain, aging, illness and death. They go to extraordinary lengths to deny the inevitability of it, fooling only themselves and a few select others who are in on the game. We use drugs to lessen the impact of what’s coming, or we choose inappropriate and (ultimately) damaging lifestyles, or we try to fool ourselves into acting or looking much younger than we are, or we are simply paralyzed by fear into a kind of stupor that keeps us from doing or being anything.

It also means that we can live free from sin’s power. Has someone done something to you that still controls your heart and mind? Have you done something that has clouded or affected your whole life? Have you allowed prejudice or fear to warp your heart so that you cannot love and forgive? Trusting in the resurrection, you can let all that go. You can move forward toward something new, toward new life. When we trust in Jesus we trust in life itself as he told us “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” He proved this to us on Easter Sunday.

We are called to embrace the resurrection life Jesus offers us. Our true selves are found in Christ and in God our creator.  Embracing the resurrection life also means embracing the cross like Jesus. As Jesus told his disciples. “Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” John 12:15

In following Jesus, we die to ourselves (our ego) so that Christ can live in us. Someone told me that a good acronym for what ego really is Edging Grace Out. Just imagine if we didn’t edge out God’s grace in us. Imagine if we let God’s grace edge out sin and death in us and in the world around us. That is the hope of the Resurrection. That is the power of God’s grace that is able to overpower sin, death and evil. God is doing a resurrecting work in you right now. What can we as a community do to celebrate this resurrecting work?

Lenten Journey

Lenten Journey

This March we are full swing into Lent. It is a time of reflection as Jesus makes his way toward the cross. The number 40 is a significant number through the Biblical Story, a symbol of struggle and transformation. 40 days and nights of the flood in Genesis with Noah. 40 years in the wilderness with Israel and Moses in the Torah. And of course, Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness facing temptation.

As we experience Lent this year, I realize that many of us are going through our own wilderness and trials. With health, finances and family circumstances. God walks with us through it all. This Lent on Wednesday evenings, we will encounter the voices and experiences of people who knew Jesus through dramatic monologues. These moments from the Gospels will help us see Jesus as a friend and teacher. As human and one who cares for us deeply. My prayer is that you will experience Jesus in new and profound ways this Lent. 

Every year is unique and different. This year Lent has me thinking about our journey as a congregation toward the Cross and the Resurrection. We can’t have resurrection without death. Resurrection is a change. It can be a change in perspective or a significant change in life. Every person goes through moments of change. As Christians we are called to live a daily dying and rising. Death is a normal part of life and we try our best to trust God in it, because we know that we have hope in the Resurrection. As a community of believers we are also called to a continual dying and rising. People leave, programs change or stop for various reasons and yet God sends us new people, new ideas, new ways to begin.

Questions to ponder this Lenten Season:

  • What does dying and rising look like in your daily life?
  • What are we holding onto that needs to be let go of?
  • How do we properly say goodbye to the people and things in our life?
  • Do we ignore the pain of loss rather than share it? Do we listen to others in pain?
  • What does sharing pain look like positively? Negatively?
  • What are the new things that are happening? How do we embrace them with joy? With sorrow?
  • In the midst of everything, do we trust God?

These are big questions! Let’s explore these together. I’d love to hear from you. God is in the midst of it all.

Questions about Mark’s Gospel

Questions about Mark’s Gospel

Gospel of Mark represented as a Lion

The Revised common lectionary has a cycle of readings that focus on 1 of the 3 Synoptic Gospels. This year explores the Gospel of Mark in depth. With only 16 chapters it is the shortest of the Gospels. Take some time to read this gospel in Lent. Take note of what sticks out.

First, one of the characteristics of Mark is that it is a Gospel of action. The word “Immediately” comes up about 41 times in Mark and 11 times chapter 1 only. God’s work of Saving grace is available to us now. The Kingdom of God proclaimed by Jesus is here. The question we must ask ourselves is how do we respond to Jesus? Do we wait, or procrastinate, saying will listen or get to it later? If we are honest we say no. Or we just don’t quite get what Jesus is asking of us. We are in good company. The disciples had a hard time grasping what Jesus is doing too.

Second, Mark’s Gospel focuses on the Authority of Jesus as the Son of God or the Son of Man. Jesus is clearly identified as the Messiah or the Christ. He challenges authorities, the devil, the religious establishment, and the local government. What are your expectations of someone who challenges Authority? The disciples had many expectations for who Jesus was and what he was about. Jesus also urged his Disciples to remain quiet. What is Jesus waiting for?

Third, Mark’s Gospel spends a long time on Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and the Cross. The Cross is central to the story of Jesus. It makes everything become clearer. As you read Mark’s gospel keep the cross in the background. How does thinking about the cross change your thoughts on what the disciples and others are saying? How do Jesus’ and others actions move us toward the cross?

My prayer for you is that you know Jesus deeper in your exploration of the Gospel. May Jesus comfort you, confuse you, convict you, and most importantly may you know the Jesus is with you. Amen.