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Expectations (Sermon)

 Sunday, 7 February 2021- Year B Mark 1:29-39 We know that we are called to the imitation of Christ. Not only is modeling Christ Jesus part of our mission statement, but Ephesians 5:1 tells us to imitate God. This imitation happens through, and only through, the help of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is gifted to us, yet many of us struggle with the modeling we are called to for the sake of the world.  In today's gospel, Jesus does something that most of us would find nearly impossible. On his first day in ministry, he calls disciples, he teaches in the synagogue, he heals a man possessed by demons, and then he heals Simon's mother-in-law. That's a pretty full day.  When that day ends, word has circulated quickly enough that people are crowded up to the door of Simon's house with their own sick and demon-possessed people.  Sidebar: what's the difference between sickness and demon-possession in Mark? It is likely that what people called demon-possession in Jesus' da
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  “Be still, and know that I am God!   I am exalted among the nations,   I am exalted in the earth.” - Psalm 46:10 In discussing this verse with a friend today, it occurs to me how undervalued stillness is in many Christian traditions. In my experience, stillness can be a struggle because people find it difficult to quiet their minds from racing thoughts, pressing needs, and clamoring desires. The inability to be still or have a quiet mind then becomes a source of shame or guilt, instead of its own reflection point.  In the Lutheran tradition, we value the tension that plays between positive and negative construction. This is most clearly evident in our interpretation of the 10 Commandments. While the written word is in the negative construction, " do not do this ", the interpretation includes a positive construction, "Instead, do this". Is there a way to put both positive and negative construction on stillness?  Positive: Being still will help me draw closer to God

Who Can Stand?

All Saints 2020 Readings: Revelation 7:9-17; Matthew 5:1-12 Revelation 6:15-17   Then the kings of the earth, the officials and the generals, the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in caves and in the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one seated on the throne and from the Lamb’s wrath! The great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”   Who is able to stand?    It’s a fair question. In the vision of the Revelator, six of the seven seals have been opened. Famine, war, pestilence, and death have spread through the earth. All of the natural worlds are acting unnaturally. And then- the kings of the earth, the officials and the generals, the rich and the powerful, and everyone else- enslaved and free- hides from what is happening, and they cry out to the mountains and the rocks- who is able to stand?     They cry out to the mountains and the rocks, perhaps, because

Prayers for Ordinary, But Important Tasks

Paraments Changed from Green to Red Sometimes the everyday rituals mean the most. I was pondering these while doing some necessary, but mundane tasks at church. Here is a series of prayers for church and home activities that help us connect more deeply to the activities.  Waiting for A Hot Beverage to Be Ready Water of Life, I give you thanks for this tea/coffee/hot cider/cocoa/etc  that I am about to consume. Its warmth and comfort remind of the consolations and peace of your everlasting arms. May I rest in those arms forever and carry the peace of this moment into the rest of my day/evening/night . Amen.  Changing the Altar Candles Light of the world, you illuminate all existence with love and mercy. Even in the depths of pain and grief, You are present and do not permit us to walk alone. Strengthen our trust in your real presence and our perception of your works all around us. Amen.  Washing Dishes or Loading the Dishwasher Holy Provider and Healer, you have once again provided dail

God's Punctuation

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God,  who are called according to his purpose. - Romans 8:28  Never place a period where God places a comma. - Gracie Allen  Some of you may be familiar with the comedy duo of George Burns and Gracie Allen, who were active together in show business in the middle of the 20th century. George played the straight man to Gracie's comic timing. They were also married and had children. They were deeply in love. When Gracie was dying and George was deeply grieved, she wrote him a final love letter. One sentence that George shared from this letter was this, "George, never place a period where God places a comma."  This was Gracie's way of reminding George that his life wasn't ending. There was a pause, but there would be more the sentence God was writing as the life of George Burns.  That sentence, which may have been a proverb before Gracie wrote it, has taken on a life of its own. The United Church of Chri

Undivided Heart

Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth;  give me an undivided heart to revere your name . - Psalm 86:11 What does it mean to have an undivided heart? Specifically, the psalmist requests an undivided heart for the purposes of revering, holding in awe and respect, God's name. A heart that is focused on keeping God's name holy is truly an undivided heart.    In the  Large Catechism , Martin Luther writes, "Anything on which your heart relies and depends, I say, that is really your God... Idolatry does not consist merely of erecting an image and praying to it, but it is primarily a matter of the heart, which fixes its gaze upon other things and seeks help and consolation from creatures, saints, or devils. It neither cares for God nor expects good things from him sufficiently to trust that he wants to help, nor does it believe that whatever good it encounters comes from God." ( Book of Concord,  386f)    Our hearts are divided if we believe that God takes

I Am Not Resigned

I know.  But I do not approve.  And I am not resigned.  - Dirge Without Music,  Edna St. Vincent Millay*  It is difficult to communicate what it means to have a teachable spirit . How do I encourage people to live in a way that shows curiosity and a willingness to learn about others and their experiences? It is possible to learn to be different in the world while being gentle with yourself and without shaming the you of the past or expecting perfection of the you of the future. Trying to accomplish this is so hard as to feel impossible.  I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned .  The political and social systems of the United States have only been united in one thing for generations. Keeping class dissension alive by exacerbating differences between people of different races and cultural backgrounds means that those who are at the highest reaches of wealth will rarely have their windows rattled (metaphorically). In particular, if people can be convinced that upper reaches o