Thursday, October 19, 2017

Patience


Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12   

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11   

As a child, I can recall looking to the horizon and wanting something more. Whether that was looking to my small town baseball field with lights blazing, wanting to be attending a game; or the southern horizon which comprised a hill and a huge oak tree half a mile in the distance and wanting to be “somewhere bigger”; or the western horizon where I could see the banks of the Missouri River 30 miles away. I wanted more than what my little town had to offer; I wanted to be living in those places I’d only read about. I wanted my life to start! And not on this little farm in South Dakota.

However, while I don’t long to live there, I enjoy going back home. The new home owners allow me to explore the property that has changed so much since I lived there, and changed not at all. I appreciate what that farm and my life growing up has given me: contentment with quietness, appreciation for nature, an introspection that I think serves me well today.

God always knows what’s best for us. We may not know this until later, when we have the benefit of hindsight; but, His way is always the BEST way.

Prayer: Dear Lord, sometimes we long for what we don’t have…it may be related to finances, friendship, career, family.  We might be impatient when things aren’t going well, or when we are suffering through crisis. Help us to be content where we are and to call to you for peace. Let us ask you for help in changing those things that we need to change. Remind us that you are with us, every day. Amen.
 
Donna Gustafson

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

For Everything there is a Season


For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven:

A time to be born and a time to die…

A time to weep and a time to laugh ; and a time to mourn , and a time to dance. Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

 

Recently I worked with two families who were facing the death of their loved ones. The first involved an 80+ year old who was told by his physician that there was nothing more he could do for him. He was dying--and this was overwhelming for both him and his family. It was hard for them to even say the word “dying”. We talked for over an hour about his and the family’s wishes and what was important for them during this time. He held firmly onto my hand during our conversation as if just by holding on, he could make this all go away.

 
The second patient was a younger man whose body rapidly took a turn for the worse. As I sat with his elderly father, we talked through the family’s decision to remove the ventilator, feeding tube, and other technology. The doctors would keep him comfortable while life support would gradually be withdrawn. The father did not know what to expect, but he knew the family had made the right decision to let him go.
 

The above Ecclesiastes passage came to my mind during both these cases. We are all in the act of dying over time, some longer and some shorter. The love in these families was very evident, and as they struggled with “dying,” both had spiritual support through their faith and the hope of a better life to come.

 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for your love throughout our lives from birth to death. Thank you for your blessings so that even with the finality of death there is the promise of a new life to come. Amen.  

 

Nancy Hall

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

See the Good, Be the Good


And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.  Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me--everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. (NLT) Philippians 4:8-9 

He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him. (NIV) Psalm 40:3 

We all have those times in our lives that really stink. Looking back on those awful days--and in the midst of them--sometimes all we want to do is complain, cry, yell or maybe even throw something. Ouch. In those times, we have to learn to lean hard on God. When we do, he can bring us great comfort. Not only that, but he can give us perspective.

God has taught me to pray this at the beginning of the day, “No matter what this day brings, Lord, please open my eyes to see the good in it.” Lysa TerKeurst, in her devotion “When God Isn't Answering Our Prayers” says: “In the midst of what you’re facing, find simple things for which to praise God. I don’t mean thank Him for the hard stuff. I mean thank Him for the other simple, good things still in the midst. A child’s laugh. A bush that blooms. The warmth of a blanket. The gift of this breath and then the next. Psalm 40:3 reminds me God will give me a new song when I make praise the habit of my heart and mouth.”

God has also taught me to take my morning prayer a step further. I ask him to also open my heart to BE the good in the day ahead. This way, instead of resigning myself to being a recipient of the bad, I try instead to be a giver of good. I say this prayer hoping that God will show me how I can be a blessing...even if it's just a small gesture or a few kind words. The thought of possibly making someone else's awful day a little brighter lightens my heart.

PRAYER: Gracious Heavenly Father, forgive us for losing our cool when our days are awful. Open our eyes to see things the way you do; and open our hearts to love the way you do.  e need your grace to do this, because sometimes looking beyond all the awfulness around us is so very hard to do. And thank you so much for the peace you bring us when we finally learn to trust in you. Amen.

 
Sharon Irvin

Monday, October 16, 2017

Surprise! Surprise!

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” James 1:17

 
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8
 

We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophesy, in proportion to faith; ministry, on ministering; the teacher, in teaching.” Romans 12: 6-7
 

Last April, I was given a blooming orchid plant – my first orchid plant gift. I watered it carefully and it continued to bloom for two months. I enjoyed its beautiful blooms and was sad to see it go. I placed it under our back yard deck and forgot about it.
 

Last week as I picked tomatoes at the edge under the deck, the orchid plant greeted me with brilliant new blooms. What a special gift! I couldn’t wait to show the orchid blooms to my family and neighbors.
 

Daily, each of us receives gifts from God. Often we do not recognize them or give thanks for these gifts. Can you name gifts you have recently been given by God? Even though we haven’t earned these gifts, we receive them gratefully.
 

PRAYER: Dear God, we are thankful for your most precious gifts. Help us to follow your example and to share our talents and gifts with others. Amen.
 

Lois Poppe

Friday, October 13, 2017

Promises


When God made a promise to Abraham, because he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore to himself saying, "I will surely bless you and multiply you."  And thus Abraham, having patiently endured, obtained the promise. Hebrews 6:13-15

Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.  And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10: 23-25

His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises. 2 Peter:  1: 3-4

One of my favorite old time hymns is Standing On The Promises of God.  The tune of that hymn causes me to repeat the words to myself.  The words of "eternal praise," "overcoming doubt and fear," "listening to the call," "bound by love" keep repeating in my mind as I think of that song.  It reminds me that our Christian faith is based on promises from God that we have learned about from studying the message that Jesus brings to us in the Bible.  The promises become our expectations that we have because we believe in God.  I suppose we become disappointed and somewhat doubters if certain promises don't seem to come our way in a timely manner.  However, as written in Hebrews, as our faith grows, we overcome our doubts and concerns and rely on the "promises from God."

While we live to claim the promises from God, our church has promises from us.  We made promises of support and involvement when we joined Eastridge Church.  We continue to make verbal promises during worship activities and responses.  Our church lives because of our promises.  Today, our church has several service and financial needs.  Are we living up to our promises?  Can we expect to claim promises from God if we haven't fulfilled our promises to our church?  Let us meet the needs of Eastridge Church.

PRAYER:  Dear Heavenly Father, we give You thanks for the messages of promise that You have presented to us through Your son, Jesus.  Help us to grow in faith in order to fulfill our promise to follow Your word and to search for the direction You would have us live so that it would be pleasing in Your sight.  Amen

Lauren Holcombe

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Price of Our Peace


But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.  We all, like sheep have gone astray; each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53: 5-6

The prophet Isaiah addressed the Jewish people around 700 B.C., during the time that they were in captivity in Babylonia. They were displaced and miserable. Isaiah was reminding them that they needed to turn away from their sinful ways and back to God, who had promised to send a messiah to save them. Isaiah seemed to know more about the future savior than anyone, and he accurately foretold the suffering that Jesus would endure in order to save God’s people.  But while the Jewish people had to wait hundreds of years for their messiah, and many did not recognize Him when he appeared, we have the advantage of knowing “the rest of the story,” as told in the New Testament. By sending His son to earth, God proved how much He loves even His sinful people, and we have only to believe His promise that our faith in Jesus Christ will lead us to “the peace that surpasses all understanding.”

PRAYER:  Gracious and loving God, we thank You for the mercy You have shown Your sinful people by sending Jesus to live among us. We thank You for the peace that comes with our faith in the Trinity, and we pray that others will find such peace as well. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done. Amen.

 
Judith Keller
(reprinted from 2016)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

"Get Woke": October 1, 2017 Sermon notes by Rev. Dr. Melodie Jones Pointon



The story of Moses begins with God’s people, the Israelites, slaves in a foreign country. Over the years I’ve read commentaries that always try to soften this story, altering some of the details. Slavery at that time simply meant the lowest class of physical laborers – it wasn’t slavery like we think of it. Or, they weren’t really treated poorly, the Israelites. It’s just that they had forgotten God, and so were living for money instead of for vocation and purpose. But no. No! That’s not right! The text is very clear that the Pharoah (or King) that we are dealing with here is the sort of person who demands all boys under the age of 2 be slaughtered. Our protagonist for today, Moses, was saved from this, placed in a basket by his mother, rescued by the Pharoah’s daughter, and raised by and Israelite handmaiden (who turns out to be his mother) in Pharoah’s house. Later in the story, Moses is forced to flee the palace after he goes for a walk one day, and witnesses brutality amongst his people, the Jews. He loses his cool, retaliates, and is banished to the hills to become a shepherd. He makes an in with a priest’s family when he marries Jethro’s daughter. He leaves his old world, and his people, behind. 
        

Our narrative text for today finds us dealing with all the same issues that I’ve just summarized. Pharoah has died, making leadership uncertain with a change in power. “When an oppressive ruler dies, everything comes unglued…”
[1] God’s people get “woke.” They groan under their slavery, and they cry out. The groan, they cry. God hears, God remembers, God looks, and God knows. This, dear friends, is a turning point for the people of Israel, for God’s people living in a horrible, desperate situation at the very bottom of the social and economic rung. Out of political chaos and unrest, God’s people get “woke,” and find their identity. 


These, dear friends, are God’s people.


And God, God hears, remembers, sees, and knows God’s people.


It is out of this context that Moses re-enters the scene. It’s a story so familiar to us that modern-day horticulture embraces this story in a bush called “burning bush.” Moses, while shepherding, stumbles across a burning bush. 



Or, rather, he stumbles across a burning bush that is not consumed, and angel who does not speak, and a God he cannot see who does speak. It’s almost as if God is trying to get Moses’ attention. Or, as Katherine Schifferdecker from Lutheran Seminary wonders, maybe God is trying to get someone’s attention. Maybe God has been there, in that spot, for years, for decades, and other’s have just walked by. After all, God is about to ask Moses to do something…impossible. And Moses doesn’t want to go. Moses doesn’t want to do it. Depending on who you consult, Moses makes either 5 or 8 objections to why he can’t be the one to go back to Pharoah. Not the least of which is that he’s not eloquent, or he can’t speak (likely has a stutter). 


“Moses must have had misgivings about going against the people to whom he owed his life and his privileged upbringing.”
[2]


And yet…it’s not just because we know how the story ends – that Moses does go on to do the impossible, to demand the Israelites freedom, to become the instrument of liberation, to lead God’s people out of the plagues, through the Red Sea, and into the desert. It’s not just because we know all these things…


Moses does something here that God’s people haven’t done since they became slaves in a foreign land. And he does it repeatedly. Three times, in three different ways, Moses realigns his life to be a servant of God. He realigns his identity, removing the political, economic, and social structures that tell him he is no more than a slave in a foreign land whose worth is counted by his work. 


God speaks, and Moses hears. “Here I am,” he says.


Moses enters into God’s presence, acknowledging God’s holiness by taking off his shoes.


And Moses hides his face, so as not to see the Holy One who speaks. This makes the final statement that Moses willingly submits himself to the God who has yet to be named.


These three actions tell us, from this pivotal story, that Moses will go. These statements say, “Here I am…”


And “…I am here.” He puts aside all those things, the politics, economics, and social forces that tell him who he is, and chooses to find his identity in God.



It is pivotal for the people of God! Over and over, throughout the rest of God’s story, we hear it repeated, “I am the God who brought you out of the land of slavery…” When David defeats Goliath, finds himself in front of the ark of the presence of the Lord, and brings God’s people into a unity they have not known since: remember…I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of slavery.” Through the prophets…remember…I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of slavery. 


But we also learn something here about God’s story. As Terrence Fretheim points out, “Following a pattern set in God’s interdependent ways of creating the world , God chooses to work in and through that which is not God in moving toward a resolution of Israel’s suffering dilemma in Egypt. To save the people of Israel, God chooses not to act alone. Initially, God chooses to engage a human figure as an instrument of this action.”
[3] 


Just Mercy author Bryan Stevenson came as a part of that same series of lectures at Nebraska Wesleyan earlier this month. And I am told, that as a part of the questions asked by the students he was asked where to begin. In a system that is so obviously broken in so many different ways, with inequality and injustice surrounding us, it is easy to be overwhelmed. What is the point of entry to changing the world? Where do we begin? His answer: begin changing the world, one small injustice at a time. Change your attitude. Change your direction.


And I would add this, from our text today: change your identity. Listen for God’s voice, take off your sandals, and hide your face. You, my friends, are a child of God. Now, go out into the world and do something about it. Amen.




[1] Brueggeman, NIB, pg 705.
[2] Rev Blog Pals, Liz Crumlish is a Church of Scotland Minister, https://revgalblogpals.org/2017/09/26/narrative-lectionary-speak-up-exodus-223-25-310-15-410-17/
[3] Terrence Fretheim Working Preacher