July Newsletter

I went searching to see which writings I have not shared here before. I see that the newsletter article that I left for our congregation as James and I traveled to Baltimore for General Synod 31 was not among those posted. Even though this is late, with the message last week about being easily spooked and scared often, I decided this was still a timely piece. Hope it makes sense to some, and have a great day.

Greetings from Afar:
Ha! I will have left on our trip to the east by the time you read this. Hopefully when we finally return it will be with enhanced knowledge and more enthusiasm and, well, all those things you gain from a trip away. I moaned and groaned on the last Sunday in June about apps and uncertainties about details of the trip, but we took time on Tuesday to let Paulina do some downloading and James to make some phone calls, and things appear better. My big job before the take-off was to make sure everything would fit into the suitcase, which for me was the easy part. My family always jokes that if you need to fit an elephant into a hall closet call me. One of the things that I took time to down load onto my iPad besides the Synod App was a Bible. Finally the device is being used as it was intended. It has been interesting to read the scripture in this way, and I even found a version with the footnotes that I can click on to find which other verses relate to the one I am reading. Amazing thing! And much less weight in the carry on. Through this experience, I am again reminded of how selfish and non-productive it is to constantly be in a state of worry. In reality the more we worry and fret, the more we focus on ourselves and what is happening to us. Truly even when we think we are worrying about a loved one or a friend, in reality we are worrying about them because of how it will affect us. We must remember to give our cares to God and trust that we are loved and cared for in all things. Matthew 10:26-31 “…do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.” See you soon. Pastor LuCinda

Message on Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017

Here is the message the people heard today, well at least this is the script of what was out there for today. I may just have gone off script a few times today, but that is how it goes and I am not going to try to replicate the real words here. This is what was intended and this is what you get in print. The scriptures used were: Isaiah 55:1-5, Romans 9:1-5 and Matthew 14:13-21. The title was, “God’s food.”

This weekend was the big city-wide rummage sale in Herreid. As we were getting items ready, which involved dragging boxes of mostly clothing out of nooks and crannies and sorting them then washing, hanging on the line and folding up everything that was deemed sellable, I finally looked at James and asked, “Why do people have children?” You might think this question has nothing to do with a rummage sale, but for me it is a central issue. At that point of the week, I came to realize that I have saved almost every item of clothing that my children ever owned. Seriously, if it didn’t wear out it is probably some place in my house, and let’s not even talk about their toys. I am not quite that far yet. It is no wonder there isn’t any room to live in our house!

Probably one of the most revealing things about me is something I remembered as I was going through the boxes and sorting and trying to figure out how I got to this hoarding life-style. I remembered back to a day when we still lived on the farm and I was some place in that older childhood, pre-teenage existence. It was a day when my mother was “cleaning house.” I remember having to take a box out to the burn barrel and seeing several of my dolls on the ground beside it about to be burned up. Now I did not see that dolls for the broken, hair cut, unclothed used up toys that they were. I only saw the beautiful gift they had once been.

That day, I wanted so badly to pick them up and take them back into the house and hold them and fix them, but there was nothing I could do, there was no undoing the damage that was done, and they were gone. Mostly I try not to think about those sort of days, but sometimes, like on Thursday when I was cranky from being over tired from doing something you I don’t really enjoy and probably would not have to do in the first place if I had just gotten rid of things when I should have, then maybe those memories would not rise to the top of the play list and I would not feel all those old emotions.

Yet for me as I considered those emotions and pondered the message that we were about to consider for this week, I tried to imagine what Jesus must have felt like in the story that we are dealing with today. The opening line of that story seems to me to be the key for today’s message those words of verse 13: “Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place.” Hold that thought—that emotion for a bit.

The gospel lesson for today has to be one of the top 10 most recognized Bible stories. It is in all four gospels, and I can remember back to teaching Sunday School that even at the youngest levels there were lessons about the little boy who offered his loaves and the fishes to the disciples who then gave them to Jesus who multiplied them in such quantity that all were fed and there was plenty left over.

I don’t know exactly how many times I have done a message on this text in the past, but I know we have talked about it here, and I remember speaking on it in both Jamestown and Mobridge. If we look at it alone, just in terms of the story of the miracle of feeding so many people, 5,000 not counting women and children according to Matthew, with only two loaves and five fish it is an amazing story of the divinity of Christ. And that is a wonderful story. It is a great message, but after hearing that often enough and speaking that often enough, we have to ask if there is more to the meaning of this lesson. We have to ask if there could possibly be something else in this scripture besides this historical account of what Jesus did in that remote area on that day when all those people came hungry for the words of Jesus and then were satisfied with the food that God provided in that remote area? Are you starting to get ahead of me a little? I hope so.

Well, of course there is more to the story. All we have to do to find out the more is look back a few verses to see what was going on before this story. The opening verse of today, Vs. 13 when it says “when Jesus heard this…” the word this refers to the death of John the Baptist. It was after Jesus learned of his death: the prophet who pointed the way of his coming, the man who baptized him, the one that was chosen in the womb to proclaim “repent for the time of God is at hand” when Jesus learned of John’s death, he took some time to go away to a deserted place presumably in hopes of being on his own.

In our lectionary cycle for this year, we don’t read that story of John’s death, yet if we listen to those words from Matthew 13, it is a big part of what was going on with Jesus. It is such a big deal that he leaves the city for a remote area to be alone with his closest disciples. But he can’t get away because the crowds follow him. They just can’t get enough of him. These crowds of ordinary, everyday people, people like you and me were hungering and thirsting for more lessons from the young itinerant religious leader who seemed to have something new, something amazing, something that would fill them to the brim with knowledge about God and God’s kingdom that no one else had ever shared with them, and they just couldn’t get enough.

And I wonder how much different are we than the people of Jesus’ time? Think about this, we, too, look for leadership in the times of our state and national elections. We long for someone to rise up locally and help our communities grow in amazing ways. We want someone to come to where we are and tell us which direction to go, to lead us into something new and fulfilling and yes maybe profiting, but mostly exciting and satisfying. Yes, we too are hungering and thirsting for something good, something new, something wonderful to follow, and for some of us the new is right in front of us, right in our pews in our hands when we open the words that God—that Christ left for us. We just need to listen to it, maybe in new ways.

Jesus didn’t send the people away when they followed him to the deserted place. He understood their need for his word and he took the time to talk to them, and to heal their sick. When it was late and time to eat, he didn’t tell the disciples to send them off to find their own food, he saw the need and he filled it. He had compassion on the crowd, he realized their need, and he fulfilled it. That might be all we need to know about the love of Christ.

If we look at the words from Isaiah and the opening line says: come to the waters…come buy and eat. It feels to me like those words are being spoken by Christ directly to us. Come buy wine and milk without money and without price…Listen carefully to me and eat what is good food. I know that I am only picking certain lines from the passage, but essentially these are the words from Christ to us… He is calling us to come and be fed, come and be satisfied with his teachings and his love.

Everyone who thirsts, we are all thirsty for the love and the teaching, for the healing and the compassion of Christ. Imagine where we would be if Christ just took his sad emotions and went to the deserted place and stayed alone. Christ didn’t come to earth for that. Christ came to have compassion on the crowds, on all of the crowds, those of his day and those of us right here today. Christ didn’t look at the situation in front of him with no idea where to turn like that sad 10 year old who was standing beside the burn barrel wondering how to reconcile the idea of knowing her dolls were being burned.

Fortunately for us all, Christ looked at this world created by God and corrupted by sin and he said, “Yes I will, pick me, and I will do what is needed to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to be reconciled to God.” With that as our example, I don’t know how we can do anything less than have compassion on the crowds of humanity who are hungering and thirsting to hear God’s word and feel Christ’s love. Let’s be sure we take the time to share what we know about that with those around us this week and in all weeks to come. Amen

Message July 30

The scriptures were: Romans 8:26-39 and Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52. It was another week of parables about planting, so my title was, “Another Sowing Parable.”

Before we get started, I need to apologize for failing to tell you last Sunday that I was planning to be out of town all week. I went with James, this year, to the coaches’ clinic in Bismarck. There was a session on a new piece of technology and he wanted me there to get the information on it. It was good, and there were lots of interesting sessions, but I hope that I will not have to go away overnight again this summer. I am good with staying home and getting things done around here and around home.

Our sessions included information about coaching ethics and philosophy and not just specific techniques, which was interesting for a change. One of our final presenters, a coach from Billings, MT, who did three of the four last hours, gave us his dilemma of walking into a team with absolutely no discipline. It seemed that for many years prior to his coming to West Billings High School, no one cared about the track team, as in no one—not administration, not parents and especially not students or even the track athletes.

After he took the job, he found out that they really were at the bottom of the proverbial sports’ totem pole in their school. The first thing he learned was that they didn’t have a budget, so no equipment purchases and don’t think about purchasing any other sort of things like meals for the meets. He fixed that with a fund raiser. On one of the first bus rides to a meet one of the athletes asked who would be next year’s coach. It was then he learned that before him no one coached there for more than one year, and because of it the athletes did whatever they wanted. In fact, everyone kept telling him not to get worked up because it was “just track.” I don’t think the schools of Eureka or Herreid would understand that idea. We have never been like that.

His point was that discipline and expectations are very important to building a program that will be successful, and then that success carries itself. He decided early on in his time there that he wasn’t going to be there for only one year, and that he wanted to build something that the student athletes were going to buy into and something they would work as hard at as he would.

He was asked to speak at the clinic because he has had a team win the Montana State AA title for 7 of the 12 years that he has been there. And on the other years, they were pretty much second or third. I forgot to write down how many times they have been 2nd or 3rd.

I think his belief that children need discipline and need to buy into a program has done wonders for their teams. Lately, the more news I watch and the more I pay attention to certain local politics, the more I realize how important discipline and following some sort of rules would be good for all of us. Enough said on that.

The reading that we had in Romans today, at least the ending part, might seem familiar to us. I am sort of hoping that it becomes less and less familiar to us, but … Those words are found in our bulletins when we have a funeral. The last verses of Romans 8 are the final part of that affirmation of faith that we read together following our funeral messages, before the final song and benediction. As a public affirmation, we read these words and if we believe, really believe what we are reading, we are telling everyone around us that we have bought into the message that Jesus brought to earth from God, which is that we are loved and accepted and wanted. We have importance. We are children of God and nothing will keep us away from his love, his acceptance, his family.

But what about the words we keep reading in the 13th chapter of Matthew? What about those parables about sowing and plants growing and good seed and bad seed? What about that idea that on the last day, the weeds will be torn from the good grain and sent to the fire to be burned. One of the commentaries that I read last week said that was a much easier concept for the people of our frontier to grasp than it is for us. If any of you have read the stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder, you might remember the book called, The Long Winter. In it we read how they were out of fuel in the middle of that winter during a horrible blizzard, and they went to the barn and kept twisting hay and putting it into the wood burning stove to keep themselves from freezing. Having some extra weeds around to burn would have been a great luxury in those days.

So who are these weeds and who are these seeds that grow up to be the good crop? How does this difference happen? In today’s gospel lesson the parable is about a useless seed, a little tiny mustard seed that in the days of Jesus had no purpose, yet it grows up to be something of great importance that houses many of the birds of the air. It seems to be telling us that even what we think is nothing can become something. It seems to be saying that the least of these are important. Could it be telling us that we too are important? Could it be saying that even if we feel mostly inadequate, we are somebody in the eyes of God? Maybe we are supposed to connect them to other Bible stories of how the last will become first and the first will become last? Perhaps that is something for us to study in our age of importance and entitlement.

But what about the rest of the parables, those little incidental phrases near the end of this passage? The themes of those seem to be that the kingdom of heaven is a treasure that is worth more than anything else we could ever have or ever want. Jesus is telling us that no matter what we have or want to have on this earth, nothing can ever compare to what we can have in the kingdom of heaven, in God’s kingdom. And the underlying message of that is sort of the opposite, the converse. It is the idea that we should strive for what we gain in the kingdom of heaven, not what we gain in this kingdom. In other words, what we do here—on this earth—should be in an effort to build up mansions in the great beyond, not mansions on this earth where things don’t last. We need to be buying into the kingdom of heaven, not the kingdom on earth. Sort of gives you a different perspective on saving for retirement. Perhaps this is a different kind of 401K.

And what about the things we talked about a few weeks ago when I said, and I saw some of you agreeing, that we need to be about more than just sitting around waiting for the day when we join the kingdom of heaven?  Yes, we do need to be about more as a congregation and as individual Christians; we need to be active in spreading the gospel and loving our neighbors and caring for the world around us, “A Just World for All” and all of that stuff, but just doing that doesn’t make or break it in terms of getting us to the kingdom of God. We can’t ‘good works’ our way in, we can’t buy our way in, we can’t sing or teach or preach our way in, we all know that.

Paul in Romans 8:38-39 says there is nothing, nothing at all that can keep us apart from the love of God. Then how is it that there still are weeds that get pulled away from the good crops and thrown into the final fire? The fact is, there is nothing outside of ourselves that can keep us from God. It is what is on the inside that determines where we go on the day of dividing. It is what we believe, where our faith lies that makes the difference for us when our time here is over. All God asks is that we believe, that we believe in him, in his Son and accept the Holy Spirit into our lives to guide us and help us through all that we face. Will we be perfect at all times, of course not, we are human. But by following the words of Jesus, who says, “we are to love God with all our heart and love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves.” If we do that then when our day comes, nothing will be able to keep us from that love that God offers us, which means on that day, that wonderful day; we will see Christ in Paradise.  And, as long as we can buy into that faith—that wonderful faith in Christ, I don’t think there is anything we can’t accomplish. Amen!

Message from July 16, 2017

Following is the message from this past Sunday. The scripture focus was Matthew 13:1-9 and 18-23,  and Isaiah 55:10-13, though I backed up and started from verse 6. Also read was Romans 8:1-11, but I did not reference that one in the message. The title was, “Open to the Word.”

Our message from Matthew is one of Jesus’ parables and should be a fairly familiar one for us. I am sure we all remember the parable of the sower, but the truth is the point that Jesus makes is not about the sower, it is about the soil that receives the seed. The  story is really about how we as the hearers accept the words that Jesus offers. The point of the lesson today is if we are open to God’s words.

In the parable of the sower—the one who scatters the seeds—is Christ, or at the least someone working on behalf of Christ, perhaps his disciples, or maybe, hopefully even one of us in today’s world. The seed is the word of God, the gospel, the teachings of Jesus. The soil—and this is the variable part of the story/the soil—is the one to whom the word is spoken, and scary but here is probably where we can say, this is us.

In the first case, the seed doesn’t even have an opportunity to take hold. The word goes out to this person, but before it can even enter the mind of the listener something interferes, as the writing here says, the powers of evil causes a distraction and takes away the message. Perhaps this is the person who doesn’t even find an opportunity to become part of a faith community, the second seed, the one that falls on rocky soil sprouts, but because of the lack of roots, it withers and dies. According to the explanations of the parable, these are the people who hear the words of Jesus and get all excited about it, but they either don’t know how to nurture this new found joy. Or maybe they do find a church home, perhaps they even join a congregation of believers, but they just are not able to get that involved. There are just too many things that pull them away from any commitments of any kind and so they just are not able to follow Jesus as he would have them do. Either way, these two types of seeds, these two types of potential believers produce nothing.

If you are talking strictly seeds and growing, we have some peas that fit the bill of either of the first two situations this year. James thinks those that would be of the first type were likely pulled out by one of those pheasants that lives in the hay field across the dike between us and the creek. He probably snuck up over the dike for a snack, but was disturbed before he could get all of the seeds. He scratched them out, but didn’t have time to eat them all. Those that weren’t eaten up lay on the top of the soil and because they had a little moisture and a lot of heat they germinated, but they were not in the soil far enough to take root and grow. The bottom line is that there are no plants, and no peas from these seeds.

The cosmos acting as weeds in the vegetable garden.

The third type of seed falls on good soil, but for whatever reason all sorts of weeds grow up with it. I can really relate to that business this year with our garden and all of the extra volunteer plants. As you noticed coming through the door this morning and with what is on display up front here, we have been busy pulling out lots of extra cosmos and anyone who wants some are certainly welcome to take what they want. If someone wants some but doesn’t want them today, let’s talk and I can arrange something for you later because I have this feeling we will need to take out more this week. The cosmos and the other volunteer plants that we have like the pumpkin and the sunflowers are all pretty harmless. We might consider them weeds simply because they are in the wrong place, but the way weeds is used in the scripture lesson today the meaning is more of a noxious plant. We are to understand that this plant is not good for any reason at all.

In fact, according to the Tyndale commentary, the worst sort of weeds in the days of Jesus was a very poisonous plant that looked much like the wheat plants, but with a much stronger root. Let’s consider that in terms of the metaphor that this parable seems to be. If the actual weed is poison, the symbolic weed is a person who is poison, or a situation that is poisonous. The seed in this case is someone who hears the word, and it takes root in them, and they are growing and flourishing maybe even as part of a church congregation, but they are also surrounded tightly by bad influences. They are tangled up with people and situations that are “poisonous.” The explanation says that they are so much a part of the world that they cannot live their lives as Christ would have them live.

Now in essence that could be anyone of us. We are here, we are believers, we participate in our congregation, yet we are still part of the secular world. I think the hardest part for me in this area is that I leave here on Sunday mornings, or Wednesday evenings as the case may be, and I drive out of town. And I will be honest; sometimes I forget where I have just been and what I have been doing. And sometimes, I just plain act like these are two different lives, and they are not, and I need to stop thinking that way. Maybe if I would get off my lazy couch and contact the conference office about going into what they call discernment and taking steps towards full ordination, maybe then I will begin to see my life, as really being here as a permanent commitment and not just a temporary thing like others jobs I have had.

The final part of the seed story is about when the seed falls on the good soil and it sprouts and grows and is harvested with very good yields. This is the soil that I am thinking we all want to identify as being. We come here each week listening to the stories of Christ and the word that God has for us, we participate in the liturgy and the music and the prayers, we put our offerings in the collection plate hoping that it helps someone who is really in need and then we leave with the idea of facing another week of sharing what we know with those around us in whatever way we can. That is what the good soil is about in this story of the sower. We know that, and I feel pretty confident is saying that we all want to be that.

But maybe we want to ask if there is more than just the soil and the seeds. Is there more than just the word or the message being spoken to fall where it may fall? We know that sometimes growth and harvest is connected to the elements as much as to the soil. This year is our area we all know what farming in a drought it all about. Now more than ever it is important to keep vigil, to take steps of precaution, to use good practices that protect what is already growing be it crops or animals. I go outside into the garden and look at the parched soil, and it doesn’t matter how much water we pour on to it at 6 a.m., by 10:30 parts of it are powder dry. And some days I catch myself asking if there is a connection between the physical drought and a spiritual drought, like there was a connection in the parable. I don’t have that answer. But, I do not believe that God sends drought to punish us. You know that old statement of: well they get rain because they live right.

Jesus wants us to all be the good soil that accepts the seed/the word of God. Jesus wants us to grow amid a field of fellow believers and produce an abundant harvest. Maybe our question today should be: what is that harvest? Is it simply more members in our pews? Or maybe it is a continuation of being the ones who share Christ’s love with those around us whether they are right here in our community or someplace around the globe. Maybe our harvest is as simple as sharing a “cup of water,” in the form of a bag of school supplies, a tub of items for the home, a financial donation to someone in need, a quilt for a college student or a …. You fill in the blank, and let me know sometime what it is you would put there. Amen!!

First message after Synod 31

Today was the first Sunday back from General Synod 31. The scriptures used were Romans 7:15-25a and  Matthew 11:16-19 & 25-30. The title in the bulletin was, “Our Challenge.” Below is what they heard or as close as the script can get us. I know that I was off it a few times.

When we stepped off the plane in Aberdeen and finally outside of the terminal with our suitcase in hand and carry-ons on our backs, we were hit squarely in the face by some pretty oppressive heat. When I sat down to pull this message together I was hit squarely in the heart with the notion that this wasn’t going to be a one morning message. And I promise, we will do this is stages because there is just so much material.

We left Baltimore trying to remember and hold close all the things we had done and experienced. Before I get too far here, the scripture passage of the week was Psalm 46, and the theme was Make Glad. We will hear that scripture before we leave, and the logo is on the front of our bulletin. While in Baltimore we spent time in meetings at least I did, time on the water front, sometimes eating together with the other representatives from South Dakota, some breakfast meetings with SD, Iowa and Nebraska, sometimes eating alone just the two of us. We listened to presentations, debates, heard messages, participated in music, and saw and met people from places all over the country and even the world. We had group discussions and quiet one-on-one talks, and then finally we boarded the plane for home.

In those few short hours (6:25 a.m. Eastern Time to 12:28pm Central Time—7 hours when you count the time change) we tried to absorb and synthesize or maybe the word here really should be metabolize all that we had done and seen and been a part of. The truth is I still don’t really know what happened there. [What in the world just happened there?] I watched a clip on U-tube of the Sunday, July 2nd worship service, and I seriously began to wonder if I had accidentally missed a session. Finally, I realized that by sitting in the visitors section with James that afternoon, we missed some of the action up in the front. And the more I dig around on the website news, the more I realize that we each saw Synod 31 from our own perspective, and what is on the news feeds was not necessarily the same view-point that I had from my spot in the South Dakota delegates section off to the far left side of the stage.

In coming back James and I landed on a hot Wednesday afternoon and drove another two hours to home. You all know what that is like around here. No one in this part of South Dakota gets off a plane and is home in half an hour. We got off the plane and drove home to find life of a different perspective. There was a garden to tend, a garden that though Paulina did her best to keep watered, needs lots more watering if anything at all is going to grow. It also needs some serious weeding, to which Dan can attest from when he stopped by on Thursday. Right now the plants that should thrive are sharing with those that should not, and then there are those lovely cosmos that according to James are weeds this year. And they are all over the place, and my reaction is, “How do we dare pull them out?” And as we look around the rest of the yard and inside the house we find more and more and more that should be done before it is time for fall and our sort of harvest and school beginning and I just want to get back on that plane and forget about all the things there are to do around here, and then I consider what we as a church need to do.

Some of you may have heard me say that last Sunday in June that we are at the 60th Anniversary of the United Church of Christ and we should have done something about that on that Sunday, but I figured we could do something later this summer. I don’t think we are going to talk about that in terms like you do most anniversaries where you look back to where we started and discuss the past. I think if nothing else, attending this Synod, going through these sessions and meeting these people has made me realize that the past is there to shape who you are today, not to dwell in. The past is what develops us, but we can’t get stuck in it. We need to live in the here and now and we need to put our face to the future.

Maybe if you think about it that is what caused the death of Lot’s wife, she refused to give up the past; she wasn’t willing to look to the future. Interestingly if you look closely at the history of our denomination, you see a people who has always been looking to the future, and if we want to be a congregation that doesn’t turn into a pillar of salt like Lot’s wife, we too need to turn our faces forward to the future. Jesus as he was speaking in the passage we read for today was lamenting the generation of his time. He spoke of them as whining children for whom nothing was ever good enough or right. Jesus wants more from us, Jesus wants us to stand up and act, to do what we can while we can. And if we listened to the ending of this reading for today we hear that going to Christ will give us help, he will teach us what we need to know and gives us rest for our souls.

One of the most exciting things that came from this Synod was not something that was debated or resolved or voted on. It was the new purpose statement and its initiative that was announced by the General Minister Rev. John C. Dorhauer.

It came about from the surveys that members of the church were asked to complete last year. I know that at least a few of us in our church did them. At first I was confused when I saw it written, but on Monday morning he came to our breakfast caucus to talk to just us. Caucus was South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska. I kept thinking that this affected our motto which is: That they may all be one. It has not and that has not changed, but for the next two years we will be working, and by we I mean us too because you will probably laugh with me when you hear the purpose and the three initiatives that go with it because it will be easy for us.

The purpose statement is based on the Greatest Commandment as Jesus told it in Matthew 22:37-39: to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and soul and mind, and the second… to love your neighbor as yourself. This will be enacted through the 3 great loves initiatives, the 3 great loves call to action. They are: love of children, love of neighbor and love of creation. (Show the t-shirt) How easy will that be for us? We already do these things. Here is where I must have been asleep or talking to those around me during Rev. Dorhauer’s Saturday morning presentation. This is what I found on the news portion of the national website. Yet when I got to the ending of this reading, I remembered what he said as he wrapped up his message to us.

I read a portion of the what I found on the UCC website under news about General Synod. It talked about three initiatives that the church will be involved in including: drives to donate to those living in shelter, school supplies for children and a walk at the next General Synod to raise awareness for the earth. He noted that there is a website to keep track of this and they will be collecting stories about how we are all participating. He invited us to sign up at the exhibit hall and I told the congregation that I must have missed that booth and wondered if they didn’t have chocolate there which would have made me miss it. HA! One last piece from that article had Dorhauer saying, “As disciples of the Risen Christ, we call ourselves to embody love and incarnate justice.”

Maybe I sound like I have jumped on a bandwagon, and you might be sitting in the pew thinking, oh no, or why us? I know that I am a skeptic and probably would be thinking that about now. And maybe we might be thinking what does this justice stuff have to do with us around here? We certainly aren’t going to go around marching with posters and banners and acting like a bunch of radicals. Does anyone remember the final verses that I added the last Sunday of June because I wouldn’t be here last week? Those last words were: Matt. 10:42 “Whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.” That is justice work!

I would like to take the next 2 months the rest of July and all of August to listen to some of your ideas. Give me some ideas of things that would interest you to do. It certainly could be things that we have been doing, or something new, or a different way. Or tell me what you don’t particularly like. I will listen, I will take phone calls, notes, emails and I will put them together to see what shows up the most or the least. I want to be able to put together some ideas for the first Sunday in Oct., and by the Oct board meeting maybe we can discuss a plan for some future missions/some justice tasks.

Let me just close by reading Psalm 46.

I finished by giving them this line. Churches are reaching out to those in need of being churched because they are willing to be the river that flows through the heart of the people to make glad the city of God. Let us be that river here. Amen!!

Final session, worship and adjourn

Alexander relaxing during debate

So it is over. The resolution that I was assigned to was last. It passed and it needed a 2/3 vote. I was happy about that. It was a true witness resolution because it was about minimum wage and a fair living wage.

Many young people were involved

The worship service was wonderful! Everything from the music to the message and all of the visuals were just great. We heard so many powerful women speakers that it will be hard to listen to myself. Actually I can hear myself trying to copy their cadence in the future. If I am lucky maybe I will get it right.

This afternoon and this evening we gathered in a group and ate together. Hurrah! I won’t go to conference in the same way again. I won’t feel left out anymore.

 The final picture is of the sunset over Baltimore on July 4 our final night here. Wonderful experience!

Recognizing Jesus

This was my message last Sunday. The scriptures used were: Acts 2:14a, 36-41, I Peter 1:17-23 and Luke 24:13-35. The title was as posted above, and the message was about the disciples who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus and how we meet Jesus on the roads of our lives. Below is the script of what was presented, though I can’t guarantee that at times I was off a bit.

Some of you are aware that tomorrow, I am headed to a place called Ree Heights, SD. [Grrrrr, why didn’t I take a picture to add to this post?] According to the email directions that I received it is some place on Highway 14 between Highmore and Miller. Great! Not a problem, I have been on that road in the past, and the way roads are marked in South Dakota, this should be easy. But the hitch is that the meeting is not in Ree Heights. The meeting is in the country at Eagle Pass Lodge some 2.1 miles off the highway on a non-paved surface north of Highway 14 going north and curving east and following along and the other piece of information that Marva was able to glean off the internet for me was that there are NO road signs for this place, so keep close track of your mileage. As much as I use the internet to find songs or search out the answer to my questions, I don’t use GPS. I guess, sadly, in this day and age, I am just so old fashioned that I still believe in road maps.

Speaking of road maps, I have a quick story. About 10 years ago when Jessica was interning in Washington DC, she had to come home in the middle of the summer for a wedding.  So because of the cost of the trip, she decided to fly into the airport in Minneapolis, and she thought Victoria (who was maybe 19) should come and get her, alone. Well, I went along. The short version is we missed the exit for the airport and ended up in some little tiny out of the way area. The business section had boarded up gas stations and the restaurants were brick buildings with no windows and let’s just say none were familiar chain restaurants or anything to do with sausage or Knepfla and sauerkraut. We were in some really unfamiliar territory and didn’t know how to start finding our way back. We had a cell phone and I called my brother-in-law, Bruce for help. He knew Minneapolis fairly well, and with his knowledge and an internet search he was able to get us turned around and to the airport in time to meet her plane. Let’s just say it was scary, and I am pretty sure this trip tomorrow will be nothing like that one.

Our gospel lesson today is also about a trip. It is about a couple of disciples or the term should probably be followers because these two were not part of the inner circle of 12 which is now 11. They were on a trip on the third day after the death of Jesus, the same day that his tomb has been found empty. Unlike the two trips that I mentioned, they are going to a place they know. They are headed to Emmaus, which interestingly is one of those cities that the “experts” have not exactly located. I say interesting because when you study literature when a place is not specifically on the map it can translate to be Anyplace.

Not the best road, but a typical road here in the winter.

So these two followers of Jesus are traveling a road, well walking actually, on a road they have been on before to a place they have been before, but the difference for them is that they are going this time with a very different frame of mind. This time they are traveling with great sorrow in their heart and probably a bit of fear for their own lives. I will admit that during that drive into unknown territory in Minneapolis, I was more than a little scared. Victoria was driving and I just kept telling her where to turn and, I pretty much remember, saying don’t stop, don’t pull over just keep driving. These two men are walking along and recounting the events of the past few days, the past week, maybe especially the news from early this morning when their leader’s tomb has been found empty and they are wondering what is to happen next, and they meet up with a stranger.

Even stranger to their ears is the notion that this person has no idea of what they are discussing. This stranger seems to them to be the only person in existence who has no knowledge of the drama they are discussing. How can someone be in this vicinity and be so clueless? How can anyone possibly be on this road and not know that Jesus was crucified and now he is missing? As the story goes the three men travel along together until evening and then the stranger wants to go on his own way, but the two disciples insist that he stay and eat with them and that is where they recognize Jesus.

The point of this story for us today is not so much about the journey and knowing where we are going, or not know where we going as was the case in either of the two stories I mentioned in the beginning. The point for us is about recognizing Jesus, about recognizing the opportunities to be present with Christ in our everyday lives. Where is it in our lives that we have the occurrence, to be on this road with Jesus?

This feels like one of those tough, open-ended essay questions where the answer key says, “Answers will vary.” And the joke goes that the new teacher counts everyone’s wrong because she is expecting them all to write, “Answers will vary.”

How do we recognize Jesus when we are out walking the road of our lives? The truth is that Jesus is all around us, all the time. He comes and meets us on our road to Emmaus just as he met the disciples. It is a road we know, but it is also a road that holds lots of emotions. It varies from day to day. One day it is a road on which we are struggling, maybe in sorrow, maybe in frustration because things are not going as we think they should be. Some days it might be a road where we are rejoicing because of any number of blessings in our lives. The fact is that when Jesus meets us, he reassures us, he builds us up, and he gives us purpose, and rejoices with us. And we recognize Christ when we have a relationship with him. We recognize him when we take the time to let ourselves be drawn closer to Christ in prayer, in worship, in song and in the way we live our lives.

And hopefully we come to know that the encounter with Jesus is not really all about us, though sometimes when we are hurting that is what we need it to be. But the deeper the relationship we have, the more we begin to realize that looking outside of ourselves is really how we find Christ. I am not quite sure how to put this, but it seems to me that the more we come to know Christ and the more we travel with him, the more we realize that the journey should never end with it being about us. The time we spend together is about listening and learning so that we can be built up, and can be strengthen so that we are able to continue Christ’s message of love for this world.

We see from reading to the end of the gospels that Jesus did not stay with the disciples after the resurrection. He didn’t come back to be with them and continue their ministry physically, but he stayed with them and stays with us spiritually, and he continues on the journey with us as we meet others. That spirit that has been left with us is there to empower us as we encounter others. What is the line?…When you did it to the least of these, so you did it to me.

As we are strengthened by a closer relationship with Christ, we begin to recognize the needs around us. And did you notice where they were when the disciples realized who Jesus was? It was when they were sitting down to a meal that their eyes were opened to who he was. One interpretation of that might be that it is in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper that we find Christ. And another idea might be that it is in simple ordinary, everyday tasks when we encounter Christ. Did we offer someone a glass of water, a cup of coffee, to join us in a meal? Did we open someone’s door or help them with a task they couldn’t do alone? Did we listen to a friend in need? I am so starting to understand the importance of that simple deed of listening, even and especially when we think we are way too busy doing something of great importance.

The last thing I want to mention today is the text from the book of Peter. In this passage Peter is trying to explain to the early Christians the importance of treating each other up with the same love that Christ had for them. The churches were facing conflicts both from inside themselves and from outside of their circle of Christians. Historically I can understand the conflict that the early church faced from outsiders, but I always had this notion of them being really together as a group. Yet I suppose they were all looking to take leadership control, and I guess if you consider it, that is how conflicts inside a church can happen.

But instead of arguing or demanding their behavior to be a certain way, Peter simply reminded them all to love as Christ loved them, and he said they were to love, deeply. The real meaning of the Greek word at this point is not deep as like a deep hole, but instead the word is more like strenuous or sustained, like a long distance run. Peter is talking about a persistent love, a love that will not let go. Peter reminds us that Christ wants us to keep on loving even when it seems that there is no hope. Peter told the believers and us when we see situations of conflict that we are to love because God is at work in the situation, and we are not to be discouraged or drug in other directions.

This week as we set out on our journey to wherever Emmaus is for us, I pray we are able to carry the spirit of Christ with us and recognize the needs Christ sets before us to be filled, and mostly I pray that we be filled with the deep love that God gives us, so we are able to share that love with those we meet. Let’s go today with our eyes opened wide to see the risen Christ in our world. Amen!

And for an update, the trip was wonderful! Three of us traveled together and shared information and stories on the way there and back. The meeting was uplifting and supportive and we were approved for another year, and so all was good. For those of you who took the time to stop and read through this message, I pray God’s blessing on you!!

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