To speak of the final day that Luke 21 talks about as “The Judgment Day” may not tell the whole story. God’s Judgment has gotten a bad rap. It’s not that there aren’t examples of judgment like Sodom and Gomorrah where fire and brimstone consumed both of those towns (Gen Ch 19). But it is more often the case that when judgment comes there is also mercy and consolation. When Adam and Eve were banished from the garden (Gen Ch 3), they were given animal skins to wear (to cover their nakedness) and work to do in tilling the ground. This is perhaps a severe mercy, but definitely mercy at work.
When angels come to human beings, it always causes fear and trembling. It’s why the first thing they usually say is, “fear not.” The next thing that happens is that they have news. It is usually good news, even though it may stretch us out of our comfort zone. This was true for the shepherds in the fields and for Mary and for Joseph. It was also true for Elijah, angels provide assurance and direction, and it will be true for us when we greet the angels of God.
When justice and righteousness do finally come as God has promised, then mercy and strength will also come to God’s people. The one who will bring this judgment and justice will be known in this way, “The Lord is our Righteousness.” Somehow judgment is not fire and brimstone, fear and trembling only. It is hope and righteousness that are the work of God.
Luke Ch 21 talks about seeing the Son of Man coming in the clouds and our having the strength to stand before him. You can hear in those words the weight of sober seriousness and fear. We may indeed be afraid, but there is also a hint of something else. There is surprise, news we hadn’t expected. And in that moment of Judgment the final word will be a word of life, filled with mercy and consolation. It will be a moment when we come into our own and when we are finally completed in all we were created to be. For the Lord will be our Righteousness.
Jeremiah 33:14-16 also blends these two activities together:
14The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The LORD is our righteousness.”
Fear is really an opportunity to stop and see the powerful gifts of God at work in us.
(…Taking the Message with You)
Reflecting on Worship, Nov. 25
Getting to that condition where Christ is King and Lord reigning in your heart is a destination at which you arrive after some journeying. With it usually comes a long history of trusting, learning, discovering and practice depend on the Promises over and over again.
The question to ask today is not so much, “have I arrived” but, “where in my life will I ask Christ to Reign today?” We tend to learn to build trust in our lives, one piece and one step at a time. Serving Christ in our relationships, in our motivations, even in our parenting takes practice, prayer, failure and reapplication.
We invite you to take one place, one issue or topic in your life that you find unruly, disordered or in chaos and begin praying for Jesus’ Reign and Lordship there. One step at a time, learning the trail as we go, we too will come to that place where Christ has been shown to be worthy, just and righteous in all his ways. Then together we will proclaim, “This is the one for whom we have waited, let us rejoice, bow down and worship him. AMEN!”
Preparing for Worship Nov. 25
Have you read the Book of Daniel? This Sunday we read from Chapter 7. It’s a courtroom scene with God playing the role of Judge. The books of truth are opened and one person, presented before God, receives what has belonged to God alone from the beginning of time.
From my point of view, it doesn’t seem like such a grand idea that all power and dominion should be given to any one human being. No one is really up to it. So it is a little surprising to hear in Daniel Ch 7 this vision where God takes the chariot throne of power and hands power and authority and dominion to an individual, one like a human being (son of man).
From God’s point of view however, this must be a great day indeed. Forever God had longed for and loved a humanity which has ignored, betrayed, rebuffed and rebelled against every gift and every blessing that God has provided. It seems that every leader called forward from among God’s people has had feet of clay; Moses committed murder, Elijah ran away from his mission in fear and depression, King David managed to use his office to kill a man and take his wife as his own. Don’t even bother to look at the other Kings of Israel. It only gets worse.
But here in this vision, the day that God has longed for has arrived. A son of humanity has been found who is a fitting vessel to receive everything God has to give, even the power and strength of God flows to and through this child of humanity. What a grand victory for God to have this beloved one step up to receive an inheritance poured out by God and bestowed upon one who is a blessing to God in every way. What a triumph to finally have the joy of God’s heart powerfully poured into this heir who is well suited to carry this gift for all eternity. The court has decided and verdict is given, let all power and dominion, all authority and strength be given to this one, who stands before God, like a human being.
May that King come! Come quickly O King of Kings, we await with eager longing your eternal reign.
(Taking the Message with You…)
Reflecting on Nov. 18 Worship.
I heard it in a TV commercial the other day. It always gets me when I hear it, “Did you know that the State will decide who receives your property after you die, if you don’t have a legal Will?” It gets me because; I don’t have a legal will at the moment, I’ve been putting it off. I guess I usually say to myself, “I have time to work on this…” But, I still haven’t gotten to it and there are important reasons for me to get to it now.
There are a variety of important things we tend to overlook. Making plans around death and in the event of tragedy are issues we commonly put off. Jesus often reminds his disciples to “be prepared for you don’t know what day or what hour your master will return.” Living in expectation of Jesus’ return can really be a gift to the person of faith.
Jesus has a habit of engaging our lives right where we are lacking or avoidant; inviting us in, calming our fears, calling us forward. Such partnership in life is a great treasure when our anxiety is great or our weakness and fear inhibit us.
Living in faith, in its best form, has the strength to allow us to walk through difficult scenarios in life. It allows us to plan and to be prepared and even to walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
Where in life these days might faith in Jesus invite you to be better prepared? Are there relationships that need attention or mending? Are there words to another that haven’t been said? Do you too need to get that “Final Will and Testament” written? I know I do.
It just might be time to jump in. I hear there are still waters and green pastures yet to come.
(Preparing for Sunday)
Are you ready for winter? I know the winter season doesn’t officially begin for almost a month, but the signs are all around; the grass has almost stopped growing, few leaves cling to the maples and the nights are frosty cold. My wood stove is already getting solid exercise.
There seems to be a long list of necessary activities that come with preparing for winter. Is the garden tilled under and put away? Are the gutters cleaned out? I got the wood put up for the winter and one more raking of leaves will just about do it. Are you ready for winter?
Every year, as winter rolls around, we hear again the stories from Scriptures that speak of the times and trials that will come at the end. “The End Times,” we call them. What I notice about them is the stark nature of the trial and suffering that will come. This Sunday’s lessons speak of this kind of struggle, and we see it in the lives of faithful people of every time and place. One of the gifts of faith is the ability to persevere.
Among the qualities of survival that help us deal with stark challenges in the world, I rank “faith” high among them. I think that it is faith and hope in God’s working that plays a huge role in why the Faithful will shine like the stars at the last. Perhaps these Faithful will be the ones who read the times and seasons and were prepared to apply their faith to the challenges, harshness and coldness that can fill the world.
Don’t you think that the stars that shine in the winters’ sky shine the brightest?
O Lord, spur us to preparation and gird our hearts that we too may persevere to the end in faith. Then, may we shine like stars in your glory.
(…Taking the Message With You)
Do you ever feel like you are just muddling through? That is exactly what things look like for the widow of Zarephath (I Kings 17) – muddling through with a “not so happy ending” close at hand. Jesus sees a widow (Mark 12) put a couple of coins in the offering and somehow perceives that she is barely making it too. Where in your life do you feel like you are muddling through?
These places in our lives are the primary places where faith gets discovered and formed. The exact places were we struggle and muddle through are the exact places God’s merciful, active presence can most tangibly be revealed. Not simply by solving all our problems but by being present, walking with us and sustaining us through them. It is in that way that faith and trust and hope in God’s activity gets formed and strengthened. In this way, over time, the loving presence of God finally comes to shine in our lives.
Where in your life do you think God might be ready to show you God’s love, mercy and trustworthiness? I invite you to begin watching precisely there, for what God will do. You might find the same presence of God working as the Widow of Zarephath found.
Lord, I’m ready to watch for your guiding and encouraging presence, especially in this _____________ place in my life. AMEN
An act of faith is sometimes a crazy leap that almost no one else sees. In this Sunday’s lessons we have two widows each who give out of their poverty. The question of faith seems to hover around each of these stories. The widow of Zarephath (I Kings 17) has just a little food left in her cupboard and she decides to share it with a prophet of God who “happens” by.
In Mark’s Gospel (Mark 12), a widow who places two small coins in the temple offering and gives what may be everything she has on hand, in hope. It seems such a contrasting gift, in Jesus’ eyes, compared to the other gifts left by wealthy contributors. Jesus sees in this widow’s offering, out of her poverty, a great act of hope and faith.
What is it about vulnerable people in difficult circumstances who manage to do small things that show or lead to great faith? Does either of these widows believe they have done something significant? Jesus thinks one has, Elijah believes the other has. Yet probably neither of these women imagines they have done something significant – it was just all they had to give.
Perhaps if we had eyes for observing faith in action around us, as Jesus or Elijah did, we too might see great acts of faith in simple little gestures. Certainly, they would be in places we wouldn’t have expected and will not likely get notice in the local news. Perhaps we are also capable of small acts of great faith.
Oh Lord, give us hope that would allow us trust you with everything we have. AMEN
Good Samaritan Lutheran Church, (Good Sam for short)
Is a gathering of families and community people in Southern Maryland who value worshipping together and gathering around the Feast of Jesus (the communion meal). A young congregation is a couple of ways; lots of families with young children and the congregation is just 15 years old.
Good Sam in situation in the edge of Lexington Park and desires to be intentional about connecting with the community around us, many of whom are poorer and struggle to get by. So we enjoy engaging the community around our Food Pantry program (called “Our Daily Bread) and are pleased to host St Mary’s Caring Soup Kitchen on our property.
Our facilities are used by Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts, AA groups, VA Counselling site, other church groups, County Quilters group, Youth Concert Groups and more.
Our Jr High and Sr High youth groups are pretty active. We had a nice Confirmation Class this last year and are pretty proud of our young people. Our Sr High group sent Twelve youth to the ELCA National Youth Gathering in New Orleans this last summer. There we learned more about Discipleship, Justice and Peacemaking. The 100 Wells Project was a highlight and Good Sam made a significant contribution…
Thanks Good Sam.