(…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.
How far can you see? She asked. I answered, how much detail do you want? If you don’t want much detail, then I can see about 2,555,000 light years (That’s the nearest Galaxy that can be seen with the naked eye).
For many things taking the long view is a very helpful way to manage day to day. When the baby is crying, the dog wants out, the dinner is burning and the phone is ringing all at once, talking the long view means realizing this will be funny at some point later – even if it isn’t now. Often that helps us have a better response right now! I call this “taking the long view.”
I know a couple who say this is how they manage their arguments – they each ask the question, “will this argument or issue make any difference five years from now?” Somehow that settles most every disagreement they have. It’s “taking the long view.”
I watched a man who was harried and busy with his list of thing to do that day and that week as he, engage a young friend who wanted some of his time to help with a project. The man smiled, took a deep breath and said “Yes,” and then softly under his breath said, “I’ll have plenty of time to sleep when I’m dead.” I think it was said with no sarcasm at all. That is “taking the long view.”
Perhaps when it comes to death itself, we might ask “What can I say or do now, that might really make a positive difference when I’m done and gone.” Somehow death has a curious way of sobering our thinking and behavior, doesn’t it?
Now think about it this way, If God, in Christ, really can and does free me from death, then today I ought to be able to….? That might just change how we live now, and in eternity. What God will do tomorrow really can impact what we do today. O Saints of God, live as though death really has been defeated. It will change your life. AMEN
Milt and Bernice were their names. Bernice would say, “It’s Ber-niss like furnace.”
I knew them best when they were in their seventies and still going strong. Bernice had taught Sunday school for 55 years when she retired from that volunteer position. They invited all those who had been in her Sunday school classes to send in a 6 X 6 quilt patch of what Bernice meant to them. When it was finished it was a touching testament to the lives that she had touched. The quilt was 20 feet by 25 feet when finished. Quilt patches poured in from all over the country.
Milt loved to read and would share book after book with me as his interest in theology and ministry were unstoppable. Milt went on a number of mission trips and loved to support local social ministry projects. He was always front and center in bible class taking notes (even though I knew he was capable of teaching class). Milt’s smile could cheer a room and when directed at you – just made you know you were cared for.
Together Milt and Bernice were a picture of hope and strength, love for each other and love of God. Jesus was their strength and the source of every gift that shared freely, especially their “welcome” which was always warm and genuine and always attentive.
What Saints of God have been instrumental in your life? Bring their names this Sunday to Worship at Good Sam (Nov 4) and we will give thanks for the Great Cloud of Witness that God gives to nurture and courage us in faith.
When I was eleven, my best friend Eric was killed when a neighborhood boy brought out his Fathers’ Colt 45 pistol to add to the play. Playing is an essential exercise in learning to dealing with life, but in this case it also became a horrific experience in how close at hand death can be. This tragedy for was for me an unimagined and savage introduction to life and death. At the time, I couldn’t imagine how to continue life with hope and joy. I’m sure that neighborhood boy playing with his Father’s gun, felt like his life ended that day as well.
When All Saints Sunday comes along I remember Eric with a mixture of emotion; some sadness for what could have been and wasn’t some prayer for the mercy and hope that entered my life since that tragic day, and some thanksgiving for the power and long suffering faithfulness of God who loves us, in and through and in spite of the suffering in the world.
Since that fateful day, I have learned to engage life and make connections and interactions really matter. I have sought to engage people who suffer in ways that really matter. I have sought to live life hopefully and urgently because death is a real experience, and it is not all there is to say.
I now have confidence that death isn’t the last word. It wasn’t for me. I really believe it wasn’t the last word for Eric. I pray and hope that for that neighborhood boy, death is not a last word for him either. God’s work of living hope since these events has helped to shape the life of faith I love and celebrate.
Remembering the Saints, is also about remembering how God has nurtured them in faith and nurtured our faith through them. I invite you to bring the names of people who have powerfully shaped your faith and hope in the activity of God for life and good. We will celebrate them and the long sighted goodness of God, together this Sunday at Good Sam. I will certainly bring Eric’s name as I give thanks for the hope, strength and resilient faith that God gives to those who are in Christ. Join us this week for All Saints’ Sunday.
I had a music teacher once who said, “play it like this…” and then he played it. When it my my turn the music didn’t come out quite like I heard it in my head or like my teacher had shown me. “It does sound right when I play it” I said. “Well, you have to practice it to play it right.” said my teacher. I guess if it was simple we would all have beautiful music flow from our lives.
Knowing the good is one thing, doing the good is another. But it’s even more complicated then that. Knowing what the good is in some situations is quite difficult. Worse than that, the nature of evil is to pull us away from the good, to confuse the issue and to spread disinformation. If you haven’t read CS Lewis “Screwtape Letters,” it is worth the read.
Real freedom comes with the truth. But in a world of self deception and disinformation and down right evil misrepresentation it can be very difficult to see clearly what is really true and really good. Even the Law and laws in general don’t really get us to behaving in true and right ways.
I just don’t seem to drive right at the speed limit if I can get away with 9 miles/hour faster.
Into this world, Jesus, comes with a vision and a hold on what is true and right in a way that the world doesn’t have. Those who sustain their connection with Jesus have a view to what is true and right that sometimes convicts us but always has the power to free us and to restore us to the good that God has always intended us to have.
It’s hard to give freedom to those who don’t know they need it, or don’t know they don’t have it.
Perhaps this is a good description of why the Word of Life that comes with Jesus is so important to keep near us.
What is true and good always does come from God to those who are open and hungry to receive it. It comes as beautiful music to our ears and resounds in our hearts. Always the true and good come to us as stirring hope. How we can stay near to this font of life and hope that comes with Jesus is alway the question. Sometimes, it even flows from our lives before we realize it. Welcome to the ongoing life of the reformation. Embrace it!
Sent from my iPad
Perhaps it is obvious that when Jesus says “the last shall be first and the first shall be last” (Mt 20, Mk 9 and Lk 13) He wants to hold up the virtue of not being first, as well as the mindset of not needing to be first. What might not be so obvious or clear is that when we put ourselves forward (vie for first in line, etc) there is a certain kind of recognition that comes with that activity (think “running for president”). But when God uses us and for God’s reasons and God puts us forward – the work and recognition take on a whole different playing field. The glory of waiting and watching for God’s lifting up – while we serve happily behind the scenes is much more like Jesus, much more like the character of God and much more like God working in us than anything we might try to gain for ourselves.
Is this good news in your life right now? Is it a truth you really don’t want to hear right now? What would it look like to grow into this way of being this week, for you? Would it change life at work or at home or among your friends? Could this be a simple way of inviting God to be the prime mover in our lives at home, work and beyond?
Mark 10:40 (click to read the text)
:… for whom it has been prepared.”
Finding the Work of God that lies before you… is first about finding the work of God within you. Growing up, all I wanted to be was an oceanographer. Since then, I have discovered a greater truth in me: I am a Servant of Christ, and it is as a pastor that I sail through the mysteries and structures of God’s goodness.
James and John seem to be caught up in the excitement of their faith. Surely Jesus will sit at the right hand of God in the Kingdom. This is an exciting thing, and for them, at this moment, it is also a chance to further their own sense of ambition. Occasionally you can run into ambition in the church. In a small church were the Pastor is a big fish in a small pond, or in a mega church were the world seems to be drawn to a charismatic leader. It surely is natural to want glory and honor and recognition. But this is not what Jesus does with his gifts or work and when we are well grounded in our faith it is not what comes out of our hearts and actions.
The real Glory of God, and our true and best honor, is being exactly who we were created to be and accepting the invitation to excel at that gift with all humble determination. When I was young, all I wanted to be was an Oceanographer. To study the depths and currents and mystery of our global waters really fueled all my passion and curiosity.
The thing is, that is not where God’s working and calling and invitation has brought me.
So now, I explore my avocation in and around my Sailing, but I express my acceptance of God’s activity in my life in my call to ministry. It is what has brought me to you, and Shannon and Sara. For all of these I humbly thank God for the Glory of God’s abundantly perfect ways.