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Author: Mark

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.

Trusting God and making plans.

Trusting God and making plans.

How quickly a year goes by! January is always a time for new beginning. For me, in particular, is it is filled with joy and celebration as Caitlin and I celebrate our Anniversary at the beginning of the month (Jan 2) and at the end of the month as I celebration my ordination (Jan 30) and the beginning of my call at Community Lutheran 2 years ago.

Each year presents itself with new tasks and challenges. I am excited to see where God is leading me and I pray that the ears and hearts of those around me are also are open for surprises ahead. January brings with it some great opportunities for growth. I have been surprised by the many things God has done. Often not according to plan but still delightful. Trusting in God requires us to make plans but be open to change. We desire change and be stuck. And we can content with life and hope nothing changes at all.

At times life can seem overwhelming and it can feel like we are spinning our wheels. I am reminded of the prophet Jeremiah who tells the people of Israel who are in exile “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) God has a plan for us even when we are still trying to figure it all out. We can trust in God and we can trust in those God as surrounded us with.  We can make plans and dream dreams about what the future might hold. They plan big or small. Simple or complex. Some plans work, others fail. Nothing is certain. Yet, we are a people of faith and no matter how good our goals we are called to Trust in God. Let us start off this New Year relying not on our plans or visions but on God’s Grace.

Preparation as an act of Faith

Preparation as an act of Faith

Advent is here, the beginning of the church year. While all the stores, radio and television channels become all about Christmas way too early, we take a step back from the Christmas rush to prepare and ponder what it means for our broken world to wait for a Savior. For us, the birth of Jesus is not an afterthought. The birth of Christ is the beginning of the Good News that “God is with us”. John 1:14 tells us And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” With the weight of all that is happening in the world, we sorely need grace and truth that comes from Jesus. Through Jesus, we find that we are loved by God and we are called to a greater purpose be God’s light in the world. This love is meant to be shared with the world and bring redemption. Advent is the season we celebrate and prepare for the Good News found in Jesus.

We celebrate advent using several colors. In some traditions, the color of Advent is blue as a symbol of hope and Jesus’ royalty. In other traditions purple and rose symbolize the coming Kingdom and the need for repentance as we hear from John the Baptist and Jesus: “Repent for the Kingdom is at hand.” Both are true. Jesus brings hope, but he also reminds us that God comes to shake things up in our lives.

We celebrate Advent not just to remember the hope of God’s people waiting for Jesus long ago, but also as God’s people who wait for Jesus to come again now. We are still waiting!

It was around this time two years ago that Community Lutheran was searching and preparing for a new pastor. What were they feeling? What were their hopes and dreams? What would change? While they waited, I was going through some of my own preparation; wondering and waiting as Caitlin and I thought about our future in a new place with new people.

I invite you to reflect upon a time of waiting in your life. What was it like to anticipate change? How might that be similar to us as we wait for Jesus? While we wait for Jesus, know the Holy Spirit is with us and beside us, guiding and preparing all of us.

This year I chose the theme is Waiting for Jesus: Faith, Hope, and Love for my weekly devotional teaching. What does it mean to wait in Faith, Hope, and Love?

As I begin thinking about a new year, lots of things pop in my head. A year full of possibility something planned other things have yet to even be thought of. God is calling us to new adventures and down a few paths untrodden and unknown. We are reminded that Jesus Christ comes to us as Emmanuel “God with Us.” Let us rest in this promise.

I hope that this Advent and Christmas, Christ makes himself known to you in a meaningful way. Have a happy and blessed celebration here in our community and with your family.

Gratitude

Gratitude

. We begin November with All Saints Day and at end of November, we also celebrate Thanksgiving. What a great time to give thanks for the all the saints who inspire us in our faith, to give thanks for our communities, our family and all that we have. God is good. I urge you to find a moment each day (it can be just 5 minutes) to give thanks. Give thanks to God, thank the people who care for you and thank those who are often overlooked. With all that is happening in the world around us we can often be so focused on negativity and our fears about the future we forget to be grateful for what we do have and what God is doing right now. When we focus on gratefulness we can experience joy.

I would also encourage you to engage with the Psalms. The Psalms reflect the whole range of human emotion. As we give thanks we should also take time to be honest with ourselves and God. Sometimes we aren’t thankful. Sometimes we are angry or in pain. Sometimes we are overwhelmed and confused. In the Psalms we read honest conversation with God. If you pay close attention you might notice how many of the psalms move from pain and sadness to hope and thankfulness for God’s goodness. We can truly experience gratitude and thankfulness when we allow ourselves experience the wholeness of Life, the good and the bad. We often forget that the Good News of Jesus isn’t that we will be happy all the time but that we have a God who took on flesh, knows what it means to be human. Jesus walks with us through joy, pain, sorrow and death. Isn’t that something truly to be thankful for?

Find a Psalm that resonates with you. Use it as your prayer. My prayer for you is that you will find a deeper connection with God and you will experience a greater sense of gratitude. For myself, Psalm 55 is my prayer. I look at the news. I see the violence, and hateful words everyday. I long for God’s justice and peace. Especially verses 6-7

“And I say, “O that I had wings like a dove!

   I would fly away and be at rest;

truly, I would flee far away;

   I would lodge in the wilderness;Selah

I would hurry to find a shelter for myself

   from the raging wind and tempest.”

And as I read these words, I know that God is my refuge and my strength. And that I am called to provide words of comfort and peace in times such as these. I am grateful for this task.

Be Grateful Brothers and Sisters. Christ’s peace be with you.

Reformation Always

Reformation Always

October 31, 2017, marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation when Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses to the door of the Church in Wittenberg in 1517. On October 4th the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Francis, who in his own way help reform the Church some 200 years earlier. This October I encourage you to think about the ways God’s Holy Spirit might be reforming us today using these great reformers as examples.

St Francis

St. Francis was born into a rich family and was called to give up everything, as Jesus said to the rich young man in Luke 18:22, “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” He became poor and urged others to do the same. Francis was called by Christ to “repair the church” when he received a vision from the Cross at San Damiano. Through him and his followers (known as Franciscans), he sparked a spiritual renewal in the church that focuses on the poor, the outcast and the broken. He lived a life of joy and reflected the truth that many had forgotten that “God, so loved the world.” He modeled a simple life in which all creation took part in the Gospel. For St. Francis we are thankful.

One of the reason I bring up St. Francis is because I am part of the Order of Lutheran Franciscan. This order is a group of like-minded Lutherans who find the life of St. Francis and his teaches inspirational. We find spiritual renewal and fellowship through the gifts he brought to the church. A devotion to simple living, daily prayer, and solidarity with the poor and outcast. For me, it helps keep me humble and accountable as I live to follow Jesus in my life and be the Shepherd of this little flock here. I look forward to sharing my journey together in mission in this place.

Martin Luther nailing the 95 Theses

Of course, our patron saint as Lutherans is Martin Luther. Martin Luther’s parents wanted him to be a lawyer. During a thunderstorm he was so scared by God, Martin promised to become a monk if he was spared. He became an Augustinian monk and through his training and study he came to realize that God was never angry with him, but truly loved him and the rest of humanity as well. He saw that the foundation of the Christian life was the Word of God and Faith in Christ. This revelation convinced him to reform many of the things in the church that blinded people from the Grace of God. He taught that God’s grace was a gift and not something that could be earned through works or bought (like indulgences). He also translated the Bible into German so that all people could read God’s Word and discover God’s grace for themselves.

I leave you with a question to ponder: Where might God be reforming your life?