S. C. D. C. W.

The following messge was used on Sunday, April 19 at St. Paul’s UCC in Eureka, SD. The scriptures were: Luke 24:36-49,  I John 3:1-7 and Acts 3:1-19. The last one was supposed to be 12-19, but I added the opening verses to make the story clearer. The title was printed as: S.C.D.C.W. It stands for: Strength, Courage, Discernment, Compassion and Wisdom.

This past Friday, while James and I were sitting in Eagle Butte in the cultural Center at the clergy retreat, we received an invitation, via my phone, from Victoria to join her family at the zoo in Bismarck on Saturday. I suggested that we had enough of a zoo experience this week to last us for a few days, and they were welcome to come to our zoo, since we were not going anywhere on Saturday other than the mail or the grocery store in town. I say this because, our van put on over 700 miles this week, and adding the trip we took in the school bus to the track meet in Hazen on Tuesday, my total mileage pushes just under 1,00 miles since Sunday evening. Yesterday, I was more than ready to stay at home.

The buttes outside of town.

The buttes outside of town.

[I wanted to put a picture of me and Jessica sitting at her spot, but I forgot to get it from her. You will just have to imagine us for now]

So, I realize that in the grand scheme of things putting on that amount of mileage in a week really isn’t such a big deal. And the amount of work that went with it wasn’t all that much of an effort either. How tough is it to 1) say a prayer, 2) run a stop watch, or 3) sit at a meeting and look like you understand what the people there are saying? In most parts it was fairly easy. On some parts, well, I will just say, I am still processing a few of the concepts that were being thrown out at the clergy retreat. I won’t speak about it totally, but I am pretty sure it will come out at some point.

My traveling actually started last Sunday afternoon when I went to Bismarck to spend the night with our daughter, Jessica. The legislature in North Dakota opens each session with a prayer, and since she has been there Jessica has wanted me to come and be their, what they call, “guest Chaplain.” It finally worked out that they had an opening that would work, and I agreed to go. I would have preferred to go up in the morning, but since they are in the final two weeks, they gaveled in at 8 a.m. Besides it was a good excuse for us to spend some time together.

The people in charge were very friendly and congenial. I thought it would be strange to do this being from out of state, but they were more than happy to have someone from South Dakota, and they were so concerned about how far it was to travel. I finally said I live about halfway between the two state capitals, and we are used to traveling to get anyplace. I was impressed that they double checked my name and our church name, and in so doing we found that Jessica had put down First Congregational UCC instead of St. Paul’s UCC. In her defense, she really thought all of our churches were named First Congregational, UCC. The speaker got quite a chuckle out of her err and couldn’t wait to raze Jessica that she didn’t know the name of her own mother’s church.

I didn’t know it until afterwards but I was only the fourth woman Pastor there this session. It was pointed out to me by a woman who noted only the women did NOT mention God as Father. I chose to open with Good and Gracious Creator God. I was thinking more down the road to the time I would spend on Friday with our Native American Christians. But this is off my main topic, and I will discuss that more next week.

I sat with Jess during the remainder of the session, and then went with her to a caucus meeting. One of the leaders was having people introduce their guests, and he introduced me for Jessica by saying that I had prayed for them that morning. I told him I pray for them every morning; it was just that they heard me for a change.

Now, I told you about my day on Monday, not because I wanted to give you a report or even to just add a story to the beginning of the message. I wanted to share with you what my prayer and thoughts were about on that morning. See, doing the regular Sunday morning messages are always fairly simple because the lessons, the scriptures are mapped out. The lectionary is pre-determined and there are places to look for the meaning and even some sample messages and resources to look into and study. Doing that prayer was throwing me for a loop for a few days, until I realized that the message last week was just about the best springboard of all. Our topic was “Peace be with you.” And I figured it would be a pretty good prayer topic to use for a group of politicians.

In the prayer I offered, I asked that Peace be with the representatives, but I also asked that they be given 5 other qualities. I am not really sure how I came to these five words, but I realize that these are the qualities that the disciples would need as they went about the formation of the early church. They needed those qualities in the days after the death and resurrection of Jesus their leader and teacher, their guide. These words were not in the scripture lesson of John last Sunday, and they are not in the lessons that we read for today, but they are there between the lines. They are there for us, too as we look at what the lessons mean for us in our time.

The five words were: strength, courage, discernment, compassion and wisdom. When I first read today’s gospel as found in the book of Luke today, I wondered why we had virtually the same scripture as last week. Why would we focus on nearly the exact same story two weeks in a row? I was initially tempted to skip the gospel, but I figured there had to be a reason why we would look at this story in John and then also in Luke. Although both stories have the Peace be with you greeting, and the part of how Jesus shows them his body and how it was bruised in the crucifixion, the story today has two important differences. Jesus makes it very clear that he is alive and not just appearing to them. He is physically with them to the point that he eats a piece of fish.

The other part and that is our main focus for today is vs. 48 & 49.  Jesus says, “You are witnesses of these things.” Then he tells them they are to stay in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit comes to them. This is the beginning of the Christian Church. This is the task of the disciples after Jesus leaves them. This is the task that we continue to this day. This instruction which the disciples are given by Jesus is where the strength and the courage come into play. To go out and spread the good news of Jesus’ life and death and resurrection in a world that already has plenty of religious beliefs likely took far more than strength and courage.

Witnessing to others has to be one of the bravest things we do. Even today in this country that we think of as being basically built on Christian ideals, it is not an easy task. And I am probably the least courageous of anyone in this room. I am usually the last one in a group to speak up in witness of my faith, and that is something that I need to get over. Most of last week, I wondered why I had said yes to Jessica. I really didn’t want to stand there at that podium, but I realized it was an opportunity to share the words of Jesus, and maybe someone in the group would be hearing it in a new way.

The disciples, Peter and John, in the scripture that we read in Acts were in the city of Jerusalem sometime after the time of Pentecost when they received the Holy Spirit, and they went to the temple for afternoon prayers. On their way inside they saw a lame beggar. As they looked at him, they could easily have dropped a coin his way, and moved on. But instead they realized, they discerned that this beggar needed more than just a few coins each day to help him survive. So instead of giving him any money, which they actually said they didn’t have, they looked at him and healed him. They didn’t do it just to show off; in fact, they later explained that it wasn’t them doing the healing, but they said it was the very name of Jesus that made the beggar whole. Peter and John showed compassion to this beggar just as Jesus did for the many he healed while he was on earth. In that same way, we are asked to have compassion on others, and do what we are able to do to help those who need what we are able to offer as individuals and as a church. What can we give—our time, our talents, our treasures, our knowledge? Sometimes it is nothing more than our ear.

And finally we come to the last of the five words today, wisdom. Perhaps wisdom could have stood alone. In a way it sort of covers all of them. We might not think of wisdom as encompassing strength and courage, but in many ways with enough wisdom, or maybe if wisdom is used correctly, you won’t need the courage or the strength. At any rate, the word wisdom takes my mind to the Serenity Prayer. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. The wisdom to know the difference.

Just as Jesus greeted the disciples with Peace Be with You, we are greeted with the peace of Jesus so that we can have the opportunity to be still and listen to the nudging the words that God sends to us, the wisdom that we gain from study and time in prayer and devotion with God so that we too will know how best to minister to those around us. As we were reminded on our retreat on Friday, Christianity is more than just waiting around for the day we get to join with Jesus and the saints in heaven. Christianity is also about doing. It is about doing all the things that Jesus did while he was here on earth. Teaching, preaching, healing, feeding and on and on. Everything we do in every aspect of our lives is about promoting the love of Jesus Christ on earth. Let’s go and witness with our deeds this week. Amen!

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