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Category Archives: Christmas

Holiday Bucket List

I shared this picture on Facebook and have seen it several places. I think it is a great way to orient ourselves at this time of year. But it also reminds me that sometimes we fall short of the mark.

Some of you may be aware that St. John’s received an anonymous letter early in early November. This letter was from a family that has visited us here at St. John’s several times and wanted us to know that they did not feel welcomed at fellowship or a “part of the gathering after church”.

I have shared this letter with council and a few or our committees and all seemed to wonder how this could happen, but have also shared with me similar things that have happened. I know of members of the congregation who voiced to me concerns about feeling welcomed. Just the other night at a committee meeting, a member of the committee shared how they sat at a table and those who were already sitting there didn’t even make eye contact with them.

One of the things that drew me to St. John’s was the welcoming open atmosphere and the genuine concern this congregation portrayed. We are open and welcoming in worship but the fellowship time has seemed to have taken on a time for sharing with friends and catching up from the past weeks. And don’t get me wrong we all need time to do this, but we as members of the congregation need to be aware of the perceptions that are happening in our building. People are leaving our congregation on Sunday morning feeling alone. People are sitting at tables and being shunned. And I know, as you know, we are better than that.

And I am at fault here also. I do not spend a lot of time in fellowship because I am usually in Adult Sunday School. Should I be in fellowship, yes I should. However, I should also be at Adult Sunday School. I’m not pointing fingers at others, I am saying I am at fault here too.

So what do we do about this?

We be present and talk to people. Make a conscious effort to say hello to someone you are not sure who they are. Ask them there name and chance asking if they are a visitor. I have done that to members of all the congregations I have pastored because I haven’t seen them in a while and just plain forgot. We are human.

Give hugs and spend time with friends. Fellowship is about building up the body, including new people and fostering lifelong relationships.

Send love to those around you. Seek out someone who looks down and see if you can help. Be the presence of Christ in the moment for someone.

Be the light in this place and everywhere. God has given us a wonderful place to call home in St. John’s! Let us share that with everyone and open ourselves up to the new and the old and embrace where God is leading us.

So be the light and welcome the stranger in our midst and let us build the body of Christ!

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Out

170105When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Baals, and offering incense to idols. Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them. They shall return to the land of Egypt, and Assyria shall be their king, because they have refused to return to me. The sword rages in their cities, it consumes their oracle-priests, and devours because of their schemes. My people are bent on turning away from me. To the Most High they call, but he does not raise them up at all. How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my fierce anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath. They shall go after the LORD, who roars like a lion; when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west. They shall come trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria; and I will return them to their homes, says the LORD. (Hosea 11:1-11, NRSV)

So who is called out of Egypt? Jesus or Israel?

Well the reading starts with when Israel was a child… So it is about Israel, who as a nation was held in slavery in Egypt.

But Jesus was called out of Egypt too after Herod died and it was safe for him to return to Nazareth.

God’s children are watched over by him, and he leads them to the places they need to be.

So heed his calling and follow where he leads, even when you don’t understand. He will always be there!

 

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Light

170104Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
For darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the LORD will arise upon you,
and his glory will appear over you.
Nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
Lift up your eyes and look around;
they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from far away,
and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms.
Then you shall see and be radiant;
your heart shall thrill and rejoice,
because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you,
the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
A multitude of camels shall cover you,
the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense,
and shall proclaim the praise of the LORD.
(Isaiah 60:1-6, NRSV)

Darkness covers the earth, but we can rejoice for the light has come.

Nations will be drawn to the light. Lift up your eyes and look around and see the thrill of peoples being drawn to the light!

Praise the Lord that the light has come and continues to shine through all of us!

 

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Forget

170103Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the LORD has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his suffering ones. But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me.” Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me. Your builders outdo your destroyers, and those who laid you waste go away from you. Lift up your eyes all around and see; they all gather, they come to you. As I live, says the LORD, you shall put all of them on like an ornament, and like a bride you shall bind them on. (Isaiah 49:13-18, NRSV)

Can the Lord forget us?

Can a mother forget her nursing child?

Can a parent not remember their child!

Even when the child does things that the parents don’t like, or destroys the relationship, the parent will never forget that child nor not love them. God will never forget you or forsake you. No matter what God will love you and that promise will never be erased.

 

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Hope!

170102Thus says the LORD:
A voice is heard in Ramah,
lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
she refuses to be comforted for her children,
because they are no more.
Thus says the LORD:
Keep your voice from weeping,
and your eyes from tears;
for there is a reward for your work, says the LORD:
they shall come back from the land of the enemy;
there is hope for your future, says the LORD:
your children shall come back to their own country.
(Jeremiah 31:15-17, NRSV)

There is hope for your future!

Hope is expecting things when there is no reason to expect them.

Hope is believing that God will always be there, even when we can not see God.

Hope is that which keeps us going on days when we would otherwise give up.

Hope is the promise of God.

Hold on to hope!

 

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Holy Innocents…

170101Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt,  and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.” When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.” (Matthew 2:13-23, NRSV)

We think of Christmas as this time of joy and hope. Some of us know sorrow of missing loved ones, but do we actually know all of the story?

When we think of Christmas we think about the manger and the baby. We think of shepherds and animals. We think of the wise men and the gifts. Mary and Joseph.

Do you think about all of the innocent lives of those killed by Herod?

The Wise men came to visit and stopped at the palace because that is where a king should be. So to visit the new born king they went to where the king would be. But Herod didn’t know what they were talking about and told them to come back and tell him when they found the king so he could go and worship him too. But Herod wanted him dead and when the wise men didn’t come back, Herod had all of the baby boys 2 years old and younger killed so the king could not come and take his throne.

But Jesus was safe, because Joseph listened to God and followed where he led him.

Do we know the story, or do we think we know the story?

Do we know where God is leading us, or do we think we know?

Are you ready to follow God when he tells you to go somewhere you had not planned to go?

 

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Make a joyful noise!

161231O sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done marvelous things.
His right hand and his holy arm
have gotten him victory.
The LORD has made known his victory;
he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the victory of our God.
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre,
with the lyre and the sound of melody.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD.
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
the world and those who live in it.
Let the floods clap their hands;
let the hills sing together for joy
at the presence of the LORD, for he is coming
to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity.
(Psalm 98, NRSV)

As we get ready to ring in the New Year and celebrate, let us remember why we can celebrate.

God made a way for us to be with Him for eternity and because of that we should praise His name and sing to Him.

Make a joyful noise throughout all of the earth for the Lord has done marvelous things.

So Sing praise to God!

Sing to the Lord a song and make a joyful noise and celebrate all He has done for you!

 

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