Some don’t like Lent because it is too somber, serious or shame filled. Lent should never be a season of shaming, but it can be a time of serious reflection.
The fact of the matter is that we are sinners. We are broken. We choose our way long before God’s way. The image of God within us is marred, distorted and incomplete because of our choices. I get it, we don’t like to be told those things nor do we want to own that part of our lives. Yet, it is the truth.
That is only part of the equation. If we don’t see ourselves as sinners then we don’t need Jesus. Saint Paul reminds us that, “Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6b) If you don’t count yourself among the ungodly, then it is difficult to receive the forgiveness of Jesus not to mention the adoption into God’s family.
Lent is the time to think about our great need for a savior. Lent is a time to face the fact that without Jesus we would be totally lost. Lent can be a time of great joy because we are reminded of God’s mercy towards the broken, lost and forsaken (us).
When we start playing the comparison game, we lose perspective. Remember when Jesus told the story of the Pharisee (religious leader) and the tax collector (despised) who went to pray? The Pharisee started his prayer this way, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.” (Luke 18:11).
This guy thought, “Well, I am not so bad, compared to other people.” God isn’t grading on the curve. We all need what Jesus offers.
The culturally despised tax collector approached God, “He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’” (Luke 18:12)
Clearly, we need to take the approach of the tax collector. This isn’t just my opinion, Jesus thinks so too.
Jesus said, “I tell you that this man (the tax collector), rather than the other (the Pharisee), went home justified (accepted) before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:14
The Church takes 40 days to consider our need for what Jesus offers during Lent.
Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness contemplating and being tempted.
The children of Israel spent 40 years in the wilderness attempting to be faithful after turning their back on God’s promises.
40 is a number of testing and trial in the Bible. I don’t think we are being tested by God but I do believe that Lent is the time to wrestle with our misperceptions about ourselves. If we engage, we will celebrate Good Friday and Easter morning with greater appreciation, greater joy and greater assurance of Jesus’ love in our lives. Amen.
Did you see this news story from last week? It warmed my heart, and it has something to teach us…
An Austrian man who fled the Nazis with his family during World War II has bequeathed a large part of his fortune to the French village whose residents hid them from persecution for years.
Eric Schwam, who died at age 90 on December 25, wrote the surprise gift into his will for Chambon-sur-Lignon, located on a remote mountain plateau in southeast France that historically has a large Protestant community known for offering shelter to those in need.
Schwam and his family arrived in 1943 and were hidden in a school for the duration of the war. They stayed until 1950.
He later studied pharmacy and married a Catholic woman from the region near Lyon, where they lived.
A local government official said that Mr. Schwam asked that the money be used for educational and youth initiatives, in particular scholarships.
Around 2,500 Jews were taken in and protected during World War II by Chambon-sur-Lignon, whose residents were honored as “Righteous Among the Nations” by Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Center.
Over the centuries this village has taken in a wide range of people fleeing religious or political persecution, from priests driven into hiding during the French Revolution to Spanish republicans during the civil war of the 1930s, and more recently migrants and refugees from the Middle East and Africa.
As it turns out, Mr. Schwam’s estate will end up being a gift of approximately $2.4 million USD.
Honestly, I am more touched by this city’s kindness than I am about the gift.
This town didn’t take in this Jewish family thinking, “What’s in it for us?” They welcomed the stranger because it was the right thing to do. But it wasn’t just this one Jewish family, it was 2,500 people—that’s as many residents as were living in the town at the time. This means that they welcomed one refugee for every citizen! I think Israel has it right, this town is definitely numbered among the “Righteous Among the Nations.”
This town knew something about oppression. This town was predominantly protestant (like us Lutherans) and had faced persecution by the Roman Catholic majority of France over the years.
The people of Le Chambon acted upon their conviction that it was their duty to help their “neighbors in need.”
Many factors joined together to create this generous spirit: the history of Protestant persecution as a religious minority in Catholic France; empathy for Jews as the people of the Old Testament and a shared biblical heritage; and, last but not least, the powerful leadership and example of the pastor and his wife, André and Magda Trocme.
That’s right, the local pastor of this town led the charge to hide and save as many Jewish people as he could.
Of course, the government suspected that something “big” was happening in the town of Chambon and they investigated.
At one point, the authorities demanded that the pastor cease his activities. His response was clear-cut: “These people came here for help and for shelter. I am their shepherd. A shepherd does not forsake his flock… I do not know what a Jew is. I know only human beings.
May we only see human beings when gaze upon others. Lord, let the silly and superficial things that divide us fall away so that we can truly see the image of God in each other.
God grant us the vision to see those who are in need and the will to serve our desperate neighbor regardless of their background or ethnicity. Amen.
What are you doing to grow your faith in Christ during the pandemic? Have you seen this time as an opportunity to grow?
The old adage is true, one can sometimes “make lemonade out of lemons.” I hope you have seen this as a time to build up your faith instead of losing it in the despair of this past year.
Or if you already have a “spiritual routine” in your life, I hope you have continued.
There are 168 hours in a week and if you devote one hour a week to spiritual matters that is only .6% of your entire week. Not even a full one percent! If our only spiritual endeavor is worship, you are starving your soul!
There are lots of tools available to you. Daily broadcasts from church, a once-a-week Bible Study on Wednesdays, free daily devotionals that we will mail to you. Bruce Ewing writes a daily devotional that can be emailed to you. There are also podcasts, audio books and even just plain old regular books to read!
Besides studying scripture throughout the week, I also listen to audiobooks whenever I am in the car. Most recently, I have been listening to “The History of Christianity, Volume 1.” It is not a devotional, but I am refreshing myself on the history of the Christian church.
Honestly, I want you to be ready for the day you meet Jesus face to face. We all share the same destination. Whether you believe it or not, a part of this life is getting ready for what awaits us in eternity. A part of my calling is to help you get ready for that day.
I am reminded of something that Pastor Paul wrote to the church of Corinth about this very idea. He reminded them to get ready too.
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any person builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day (of judgment) will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what they have built survives, they will receive their reward. If it is burned up, they will suffer loss; they will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. 1Corinthians 3:11-15
Our foundation is faith in Christ alone. I think we can all agree on that. However, what we build on that foundation might not be godly. To put it another way, the things we invest our time, money and effort in this life may not be of God. Of course, we still have our faith in Christ, but not much to show for it.
Saint Paul reminds us that the fruit of our labors will be put to the test (a refiner’s fire) at the end of our lives. The things we did that lift the name of Jesus and helped others will remain. Everything else will be burned up. It is clear that there will be nothing to show for our selfish earthly labor.
Paul makes the point that any Christian living an unfruitful life will still enter into heaven because of their faith in Christ, but it will be like escaping a fire with only the charred clothes on their back.
I don’t know about you but I don’t want to get into heaven “by the skin of my teeth.” (That phrase also comes from scripture originally. Job proclaims it in the book by the same name in chapter 19, verse 20. “I am nothing but skin and bones; I have escaped with only the skin of my teeth.”)
I don’t think you want to enter heaven with only your soul either. Now is the time to get ready. It is never too late.
Jesus reminds us that the things we do today, have eternal consequences.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19–21
Every time you spend time in God’s Word you are storing up treasure.
Every time you help someone in need, you are storing up treasure.
Every time you meditate, contemplate and act on the love of Jesus you are storing up treasure.
We don’t need to add to the chaos of this world by chasing our own dreams and agendas. As Jesus said, “Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34
Friday is Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. The United States officially recognizes the 3rd Monday of January as a federal holiday in his memory and in his honor.
He was murdered in Memphis Tennessee on April, 4th 1968 following a speech to the sanitation workers of that city.
There is no doubt he is a martyr for the cause of justice and equality. The Lutheran church designates his birthday (January 15th) as a “feast day” or a “memorial day” for Dr. King. We recognize him both as a martyr and a “renewer of society”.
I have heard the talking heads on TV say a specific phrase too many times as it relates to violence, hate and white supremacy, “This is not who we are.” It seems that if they say it enough times, it will be true. That is not how it works. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of hate, violence and white supremacy in our nation.
It is disheartening that I (as a pastor) in 2021 need to state that I am against white supremacy, bigotry, racism and prejudice of any kind. It is also disappointing to see people deny or ignore the evidence that this kind of hate is still strong in our country today.
This past week on the news I saw individuals wearing anti-semetic (anti-Jewish) clothing mocking the holocaust and expressing that more deaths should occur because of their ethnicity. We all have seen the violent deaths of various people of color on the news this past year as well.
To be crystal clear, I am wary of anyone that attracts or tolerates that kind of hate. I am suspicious of anyone that a hate group (or racist individuals for that matter) supports unless that person denounces it from the mountaintops clearly and articulately.
There is no room in our country or even our world for racism and systems that reinforce such inequality.
For a moment we had Dr. King who reminded us that yes indeed, “This is who we are,” but that we do not need to be stuck here. That God has something better for us.
God’s just ways are ahead of us if we embrace Christ. We can leave hate behind and rid it from our society if we stand for the justice that God brings. It is time pray for God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
In the words of the prophet Amos, we should yearn for what God offers. And it is this…
But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! Amos 5:24
This is why we need to pray. Nothing happens on its own. It takes will and determination to stamp out racist and prejudicial hate.
Dr. King reminds us it won’t be easy, but something better is waiting for us if we do the work…
“We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live – a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now.
I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land… Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King in Memphis, TN, April 3rd 1968
Just before Christmas we said goodbye to our beloved Siberian Husky named Trinity. She was our three legged dog whose personality (read: sassy) dominated any room she occupied. She also occupied a large part of our hearts.
Trinity received her name from my morning Bible Study group when I served Trinity Lutheran Church. When they saw her three legs, they knew immediately that her name should be Trinity and be our church mascot. That was 13 years ago this month.
We mourn her loss because she was a member of our family and we were her pack. I could tell you story upon story of her sassy antics over the years but I won’t.
If you have never had a pet, this might be hard to understand such grief over “just an animal.” Yet, love is love and loss is still loss. Grief is real when you lose someone you love, animal or human.
I am comforted by a moment in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life when a small boy in his church experienced the loss of his dog…
One day, a ten-year-old boy came to see Bonhoeffer. Breaking down and crying, the boy explained that his beloved German shepherd, Mr. Wolf, had just died. The boy sobbed as he told the story, but soon his tears stopped and he asked Bonhoeffer, with deep intensity, “Tell me now, Herr Bonhoeffer, will I see Mr. Wolf again? He is surely in heaven?”
Bonhoeffer explained in a letter to a friend that he was dumbfounded. He didn’t know what to say. Never before had one of his astute professors or gifted fellow students made such an inquiry, a question that Bonhoeffer could see meant so much to this grieving boy.
Bonhoeffer sat with the boy, feeling small next to his important question. Clearly Mr. Wolf had meant so much to the boy. The overly confident protégé, who had always been told he had a brilliant answer for every theological question, now sat humbled by the boy’s love for his dead dog.
Finally, turning to the boy, Bonhoeffer said, “Well, we know you loved Mr. Wolf, and we know that God loves you. And we know that God loves all the animals. So, yes, yes, I think you will indeed see Mr. Wolf in heaven, for I believe that God loses nothing that God loves.”
That is the promise I cling to for every loved one I have said goodbye to. “God loses nothing that God loves.” That includes family, friends and even animals that share our home.
Love is a risky business. At some point we will experience the loss of that relationship. However, I wouldn’t trade the love I’ve received for no love at all.
Below is a previous blog post on the risks of love. It was written shortly after we said goodbye to Momo one of our other dogs in 2018…
Love is a risky business.
Every time you open yourself up to love and to be loved, you also run the risk of having your heart broken.
Friendships sometimes end. Couples divorce. Everyone eventually dies.
Love can be hazardous because heartbreak eventually catches up. That might sound like a negative statement but it is not meant to be. Let me explain…
Humans are amazing! We know the risks of love, yet we give our hearts away anyway! Why? Because we are made for connection.
According to Matthew Lieberman, author of Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect, he suggests the infant’s social needs for connecting with a caregiver who is committed to meeting the infant’s biological needs – food, water, sleep, shelter, safety – is paramount. No connection, no survival. He says love and belonging are NOT conveniences we can live without. As 60 years of attachment research attests; connection is the platform for the rest of existence, thriving and flourishing.
In other words, it is not just a pastor telling you that you need love in your life in spite of the inherit risks. You can’t survive without it.
Even if I wanted to avoid all possible heartache by retreating from family, not make friends, never get married, or ever have children or pets…I am not sure it is possible. Even if it was conceivable, we would be worse off for attempting to do something against our nature.
When we lose someone we love, it hurts because love matters. When there is a relational ending, we are in pain because relationships are important to us.
I was reminded of this on Wednesday night when we said goodbye to our boy dog Momo. It hurt so much to watch him pass. Why? Because we have spent the last 13 years sharing the same home, eating (some of) the same food and enjoying each other’s company (most of the time). A part of our hearts went with Momo as he left us because of the love we shared.
It won’t stop me from loving our other two dogs. It won’t stop me from loving Mrs. Pr. Ben. It won’t stop me from loving my kids or my parents. It won’t stop me from loving at all. As a matter of fact, this loss (and every loss in my life) has caused me to love the people and animals closest to me even more. Weird huh?
As I think about it, a dog’s love for its people is not complicated like human love can be. It is unconditional. Don’t be offended, but I see a little bit of Jesus’ love for me when I see how our dogs love us without reservation or condition.
At the heart of the good news (gospel) about God is His love for us. A big love that never ends in heartbreak.
St. Paul tells us that “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” 1Corinthians 15:26
That is exactly what God did on Good Friday and Easter morning. The only way to obliterate death was to destroy it from within. The Son of the Living God became human in order to bring life out of death. Only God could do this. Yet it took God the Son to die in order to abolish death.
In the moment of resurrection, death no longer had permanent power. It went from being a destination to becoming a doorway. St. Paul quotes Isaiah when wrote a little later in 1Corinthians 15 “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” (15:54b)
Never forget that all of this was done out of love for us and for creation. Earthly love may be fragile and risky, but God’s love is not.
One of the lesser studied books of the New Testament is the book of Colossians. It is a letter of Paul that paints a different picture of salvation. In Colossians, Paul paints a cosmic view of redemption that involves everything (not just humanity).
I like the version from Eugene Peterson’s “The Message.”
“From beginning to end Christ is there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.”
Like I said, in this life, love can be risky. But I wouldn’t trade all the love I have received over the years for no love at all.
If you see me (and Rachel) online, just know that we are sad right now and tears flow pretty easily. We give thanks to God for gift given at Easter…it is that love that keeps us moving forward.
Some would say with the 12 disciples and the others who followed Jesus during his ministry.
Others would say on the day of Pentecost when Holy Spirit was given to all who believe.
And still others would say in about 300AD when the first actual church building was built.
OK, no one would declare that last one out loud, but some within the Christian Church claim that as their truth in 2020.
What do I mean? Many pastors have heard the same thing more than once this year, “We should open the doors and open the church.”
Earlier this fall, a pastor shared these words on Facebook, “One of the saddest things I have heard, ‘For us the church is the building. Without it, we have nothing.’
Let me be abundantly clear:
The building is not the church.
We all miss being together but don’t forget, we have a parking lot worship every week.
The Christian Church didn’t miraculously begin in the year 300AD when the first Christian Church sanctuary was built in Aqaba, Jordan. No! The Church had been around for almost 260 years before the first actual church building was erected.
Our building is a beautiful venue in which to do ministry. It is the place where the church gathers but the structure itself is not the church.
Jesus uses the word “church” three times only in the gospel of Matthew (yep, that’s it!) and he is referring to the body of believers (us), not a place and definitely not a building. Somewhere down the road of history someone wrongly started using the word “church” as the place where people gather.
The root word of “church” in the Bible is ekklesia. From this word we get ecclesiastic and ecclesial. This word has everything to do with people and nothing to do with a building of any size. In all of the places that the Bible uses the word “church” it is always in relation to people and not a place.
We are the church, not 3720 E. Tropicana Ave. As much as we love our building (I do too), it is not the church.
I can’t speak for other congregations, but this is the most difficult trial we have ever faced at Community Lutheran Church in our 47-year history. No one could have predicted this season of exile that we are experiencing. Yet we are enduring! We are still the church and we aren’t going backwards!
Saint Peter in his letter to the church writes about difficult moments such as these. Peter writes, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1Peter 1:6-7
Our faith is being proved genuine in 2020! This season can serve to grow our trust in Christ. We will get through this… together. We are the church and “the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
As you know, we have been worshipping online since March. It hasn’t always been easy, but we have been doing the best that we can. Recently (with the cooler temperatures), we started parking lot worship at 8am on Sunday and it has been wonderful to see so many people come!
A few weeks ago, I stated that we are literally applying the words of Jesus to “love your neighbor as yourself” in our rationale not to worship inside the building during the pandemic and potentially risk the health of others.
This past week, our governor instituted stronger restrictions in hopes of slowing down the infection rate in our state which is climbing. The day after those guidelines were implemented, I received a message from a local TV station asking if I wanted to be interviewed for their evening news broadcast to comment on these mandates.
I replied that we are already online and agree with any mandate that is backed by mainstream scientific research.
And just like that, I wasn’t going to be interviewed! Ha! My guess is that they were looking for a pastor to complain about the restrictions.
Shortly after that conversation, I came across an article from the Christian Medical and Dental Associations (CMDA). This organization dates back to 1931 and is made up of over 20,000 individuals in the healthcare profession.
I found their article to be of note. I hope you take the time to read.
God bless you and stay safe,
A Plea to Our Churches
by Jeffrey Barrows DO, MA (Bioethics)and Christopher Hook, MD (Hematologist)
The daily rendering of the news informs us that the rate of COVID-19 infections is skyrocketing. The time it takes for the U.S. to accumulate one million cases has dropped from 44 days to just seven days. The pandemic has not only arrived; it is hitting with hurricane force and has reached a crisis point. The sector that is bearing the brunt of this raging pandemic is our healthcare system, particularly the healthcare professionals who constitute the backbone of our healthcare system. They are overworked because of the sheer volume of critically ill patients under their care and because many healthcare professionals have become ill with SARS-CoV-2 themselves. We have to slow the rising tide of COVID-19 cases, or our hospitals will be overrun.
The vast majority of healthcare professionals who have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 did not become infected at their workplace. Studies have shown that most healthcare professionals become infected predominantly in the community. It is when they go to church, celebrations and small gathering with friends outside their immediate family that they become infected.
As an association of Christian healthcare professionals, CMDA has been wrestling with the role God would have us play in this pandemic. We previously released guidelines for churches to follow as they reopened from the shutdown last spring. We also released public policy statements addressing the “Duties of a Christian Health Care Professional in Pandemic Infection” and “Triage and Resource Allocation.” Finally, we released this recommendation on mass gatherings:
Romans 13: 1 & 2 gives clear guidance in times like these. “1Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.
Christian Medical & Dental Associations endorses the efforts of state and federal government authorities to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus by limiting large gatherings. We believe that churches that ignore those instructions are placing their congregants at increased exposure and risk of SARS-Co-V-2 (Covid-19) infection and therefore we cannot condone such decisions or actions by churches.
Despite these efforts, CMDA is saddened to learn not only that many churches have ignored our guidelines but that congregants have become infected with SARS-CoV-2 as a result of those decisions. One of us is personally aware of several recent weddings when people did not mask or engage in social distancing which resulted in the entire wedding party and family being infected with SARS-CoV-2. This is not only unfortunate; it is unloving.
We believe the church is a major priority in our lives, but it should not become an idol by itself. Loving God with all our heart, mind and strength is our first priority, and it can be done with our families outside of church. It can be done via the gifts of electronic communication that allow us to join virtually with other church members. We are not being prevented from having Bibles, reading Scripture and singing songs of praise because we can do them at home and with the church through these virtual tools.
But the issue here is the second greatest commandment: to love one another as we love ourselves. Restricting meeting for a season is not about fear of contracting the virus ourselves. Rather, it is about loving one another and minimizing risk to the vulnerable around us. As members of the body of Christ, we are called to be His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). That means that Christ has chosen us to reveal His love and grace to all those around us. Choosing to put off gathering together as a church is a statement of love.
Voluntarily choosing not to gather allows us to make a statement that is not overshadowed by a government restriction. It enables a church to proclaim to their locality that they care so much for their members, family and friends that they are willing to give up their right to gather together. It allows each church to make a statement of love, not just by their words, but through the action of no longer gathering together. It is tragic to see Christians become even more reviled because we appear to care only about our individual freedoms and don’t care that we may be contributing to others getting this illness because of our selfishness. As Christian healthcare professionals, we will voluntarily restrict our “freedoms” for a time to help protect my neighbor.
As an association of Christian healthcare professionals, CMDA urgently requests that churches strongly consider taking their services online and cancel in-person gatherings until this current surge of COVID-19 cases passes.
Jesus said, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.Matthew 24:42–44
One of the undisputed tenets of our faith in Christ is that one day he will return to judge the living and dead. You may not believe that personally, but the Christian Church of every stripe does. Jesus promised that he would return, and we accept that as gospel truth.
Jesus also reminds us that we cannot predict the hour of his return. Many have tried and ended up looking foolish. There is no secret countdown clock to the “end” as much as we might like one.
Instead, Jesus tells us to be vigilant in our trust of him. We are to embrace the Boy Scout motto as it pertains to our faith, “be prepared.”
In two weeks, we will be celebrating the end of the church year and it always ends the same way, on Christ the King Sunday. We will remember that Jesus is our eternal King and will return one day.
This notion of Christ as our King isn’t some sort of end time idea. Christ is our King today, right now, in this moment. This isn’t some future transaction where we cease being under the rule of a human leader or government and then Jesus steps in and takes over. As a Christian, I know that Christ is my King today and forever. My allegiance is to Christ first and foremost.
I know that I will be spending way more time in the Kingdom of God (eternity) than I will spend in this life. I want to be ready when that day comes. I strive to be vigilant, awake and ready for Christ’s activity in my life. From my study of scripture, I know that I am not in the law enforcement business for Jesus but a grace giver of God’s love.
I feel sorry for my fellow Christians who think that Christianity is just about rules and keeping others in line. They are missing out on so much!
As the children of God, the best way to prepare for Christ’s return is to love others, forgive often and help those in need right now. It is easy to remain vigilant if you are able to love without judgment.
We are almost there. Election day is around the corner.
Are you ready for this season to be over? Really?
I hear the rumblings of a few that they are willing to move on after November 3rd provided their candidate of choice wins. And if they don’t it is either it is a case of voter fraud or voter suppression depending upon what side they are on.
I see a very immature response on the part of some in this election cycle who want to fight, argue or even name call. As I preached about several weeks ago, I was falsely accused of taking a side of a very specific political issue and then lectured to (online) about how this is the wrong position. The funny thing is, I wasn’t talking about that issue or anything related to it. We are polarized and for many people everything is seen through the lens of politics. As it turns out, some aren’t seeing things as clearly as they thought.
Are you ready to let go of the anger and hate?
Politics has become a religion with different denominations. Judgment and condemnation are for those who don’t follow the right leader. It is time to see that all of this is hurting our society even our churches in this country.
It is time to move beyond the tribal notion that God is a Republican or a Democrat. Christ is neither.
I am more concerned about how people treat others than who they vote for. After all, Jesus reminds us to “love our neighbor as ourselves” without a disclaimer stating who is excluded from this unconditional kindness.
Near the end of November, we will once again celebrate Christ the King Sunday. We remember that Jesus as our eternal king. Not one day, but right now. Jesus is our king today and forever.
That is a statement I can get behind. Jesus is my king. I am all for what He stands for… unconditional love, kindness, caring for those in need, healing for those who suffer, a voice for the voiceless, compassion, empathy and a seat at the table for anyone who wants to be in the presence of Christ.
Have you ever heard of the term “The Butterfly Effect?” The term was coined by Edward Lorenz a research meteorologist who designed a computer program to model the weather. He was able to reduce weather into several formulas that were able to be predicted.
In 1961 Lorenz was busy and wanted to shortcut his weather models by starting ½ way through. He inputted the numbers but rounded them off in order to hurry this up.
The output, the simulated weather pattern or prediction was significantly different than his earlier printout. He realized that rounding off the numbers made a significant difference. One one-thousandth or hundred thousandth made a huge difference.
Or to relate it to the Butterfly effect—tiny changes brought by a butterfly flapping his wings in San Francisco has the power to transform the weather in New York.
Meteorologists doubt that a butterfly in California can truly affect the weather on the east coast BUT it is the recognition that little things affect big change.
I am not here to talk about the weather, but the Butterfly Effect has some validity as it relates to humanity.
Think about it. One man from a remote part of the planet preached love and peace and he changed the world. Jesus changed the world’s future with his message. Without Jesus, the world we live in would be completely different. Not just in mindset or belief but the things his followers accomplished in his name would also be erased or irrevocably different.
One person can make all the difference.
Before the pandemic, I went to UNLV to hear Father Greg Boyle speak. Father Boyle founded Homeboy Industries which helps gang members in Los Angeles become more than they ever could be in a gang. Father Boyle’s work has transformed many, many lives including the city itself.
The Butterfly Effect is real… at least as it relates to people.
Believe it or not, you and I can make a difference too.
If you worship with us on a regular basis at Community Lutheran Church communitylv.org, I have repeatedly cautioned those who worship there will be a “day after” the election. What we do right now will have a direct impact on November 4th.
In a world of hate, I choose to be kind to individuals. I may stand against what they are for but I don’t need to hate them.
I believe in love. I believe in Jesus. And I believe that those two things can change the world.