out of the Darkness; Into the light
Jesus tells his followers: "You are the light of the world ... therefore let your light so shine before others so that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven" (Matthew 5:14-16). When a person is baptized into the life of Christ, we had that child of God a lit candle and send them out with a charge to shine the light of Christ in all they do. As followers of Jesus and baptized children of God, we called out of the darkness that surrounds us and into the light of God's mercy, forgiveness and love, and we are sent to shine that light in the darkness, to make this world brighter in Jesus' name. To be light in the darkness is our work, and Christ Jesus is our light.
FALLING IN LOVE ALL OVER AGAIN
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
In these weeks after Easter, we are considering what this good news of Jesus’ resurrection means for us. We start with the simple facts ... the empty tomb; the cast aside grave clothes; the witness of the angels; the appearance to Mary and the other women and finally the disciples, including Thomas, who like us all, struggled to accept the completely unheard of news that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.
We then begin to understand that Jesus’ resurrection is the start of something new -- a new creation, a new covenant and relationship with God, a whole new world, and of course, a new us. But how, how can we who have grown old be born again?
HOPE BIG ENOUGH ...
This year at our family Christmas Eve services I was telling the Christmas story to a bunch of our children. (Now maybe it was because my own boys were getting to the age where we should be having “the talk,” but the story took on a new life this year.) I start the story by telling how the angel Gabriel comes to the Virgin Mary and tells her that she will conceive and bear a child, and she will call him Jesus because he will save his people from their sins. Then Mary asks, How will this be since I am a virgin? Gabriel explains that the Spirit of the Lord will overshadow you, and you will conceive and the child within you will be the child of most high God.
And I'm thinking that one good question from one of the children will change the course of this whole talk.
Digital detox is now a thing. It used to be just a handful of cranks warning us that the constant use of mobile devices would break our brains, but now even power users are bearing witness to the dark powers of ubiquitous technology. In many ways, tech has changed our lives for the better, but like most innovations that promise to improve life, there are unintended consequences with which we must reckon.
Here are some of troubles people are experiencing (perhaps you are as well) as we try to come to terms with our digital reality.
God's Grace fills our Deepest Need
Recall your happiest times. Not simply giggly times, but deep, satisfying happiness where you felt overwhelmed, maybe to the point of tears. Recall that feeling, that scene. Chances are that you were being generous in some significant way. We hear from time-to-time that happiness, joy and blessing are found where your gifts and the world's need meet. Scratching evening deeper, we might even say that we are happiest when we are giving, contributing, being generous. Here is a place, among others I am sure, where scientific research affirms spiritual wisdom: It is a happier thing to give than to receive. But it is also true that we happiness in receiving what need and long for the most.
What is church Membership?
Dear fellow members of Christ’s one body,
This coming weekend (December 1-2) marks the beginning of our observation of the season of Advent. Advent is the anticipation of God coming into our world and dwelling, abiding, being present among us ... being with us and for us. To observe Advent is to both remember and to hope for Jesus’ coming for us, to reconcile our lives, this world and the whole creation to God’s will and good purposes, according to God’s ancient promises.
As God’s baptized people, we are a community that remembers what God has done for us in Jesus Christ and longs for the day when God’s purposes are fulfilled for all people and for all creation. As a member of St. Paul’s you are part of a particular, local community of people that God gathers to remember and to hope together. We also are assembled to embody God’s will and loving purpose for the whole creation as we love and serve each other.
This leads me to believe, however, that there’s so much more to church membership than we might have ever taken the time to realize. At the beginning of a new church year and in a season that is about anticipation, expectation and hope for God’s will to be done in our lives, it may be a good time to rediscover together what we mean when we talk about membership at St. Paul’s. Who knows, a better understanding of our own membership in this body may help us better invite others into the benefits we share as part of this community. So, what does it mean to you when you say you are a member of St. Paul’s?
Make a one-time gift, or reoccurring donation to St. Paul’s today. God’s grace and your generous gifts keep the light of God’s love shining in this neighborhood.
The light shines in the darkness
Dear Sisters and brothers in Christ,
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
I am grateful to serve as a pastor of so diligent, loving and generous a congregation as St. Paul’s. Because of your presence, your work in and your commitment to this congregation the light of Christ overcomes the darkness that grips so many. Your financial commitment can literally and spiritually keep the light on ... and that makes all the difference. This is what I mean.
HeArer's Guide to the Passion
Over the next week, we will hear read in worship the story of Jesus' last supper with his disciples, his agony and betrayal in the garden, his trial and condemnation, his crucifixion, death and burial, and then his resurrection from the dead. We call this story, the Passion of our Lord because it speaks of Jesus' suffering and death for us. This story is also called the Message of the Cross. This story is central to faith and life, and it is the power of God for salvation for all who believe. In one way or another, all Christian preaching and action flows from the message of the cross, but this time of year we tend to let this story, as we find it in Holy Scripture, simply speak to us directly -- in passion reading, song and liturgical action.
As we prepare to enter into the mystery of faith, here are some things you can keep in mind as you hear again for yourself the wonderful story of God's love and grace in Jesus Christ. You can read the story for yourself in Mark 11-16.
So what does this mean for us?
Seeds are absolutely amazing ... spiritual things. This one little seed has the potential of becoming a plant many times its size ... a plant that will blossom and bear fruit that will create an abundance of food, as well as more seeds!
You can see why a seed serves as such a powerful spiritual metaphor ... especially as a way of understanding how God’s Word works in our life.
In this week’s Gospel reading from John chapter 12, we hear Jesus saying that unless a seed dies it remains just a single grain, but by dying ... by planting it in soil and water ... it grows to produce abundance of fruit. In order for this seed to become something more than a single seed in a packet on the shelf, it has to be planted.
It’s a way Jesus talks about his own death. Jesus in this case is the seed that will fall in the earth and die so that eternal life can be multiplied and given to all. By Jesus’ death and resurrection, God gives life to the whole world. What’s more by dying and rising and ascending ... Jesus is now present with us and for us ... all of us, everywhere.
In my sermon this week, we’re going to dig around a little to prepare our hearts and minds to receive the seed of the Gospel ... that is, the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection ... by considering how God has acted to save us and the whole world by sending his son to suffer, die and rise again for us.
Next week, as we enter into the Holy Week and Easter, we will simply read and experience the passion story and let the Word speak for itself without comment. But this week, let’s look look to frame the story in a way that will make its hearing ... well, we pray, more fruitful.
So, you could think of my sermon as a little fertilizer... or, on second thought maybe think of it as the spade that turns the soil and gets us ready to hear the good news and mystery of faith, prepares the soil to receive the seed of God’s life giving word for us.
I hope to see you in worship Saturday at 5:30 pm and Sunday morning at 10.
Sunday School starts at 9 am.
And peas ... be with you!
Sermon for Epiphany 5
Love and serve all people following the example of Jesus Christ.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
As we start to live and act as Jesus’ disciples we discover that Jesus leads us to speak with grace and to act out of love. That, I suppose, was central to his teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum that we’ve been reading about these past few weeks. It begins with hearing God’s word and promise -- the good news of God’s kingdom — and responding with faith and trust in God and God’s will and purposes. The first expressive response of faith is simply getting up and following Jesus.
That is as good an entry into reading a Gospel, like the Gospel of Mark, as there might be. When we read the Gospel we follow Jesus — hear what he says, see what he does — understanding that this is to strengthen our faith and kindle our love and to serve as a guide for what will be our words and actions.
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