Leave us your question and join us in worship on July 23rd!
Leave us your question and join us in worship on July 23rd!
Dear Messiah Family,
As predicted, following Tuesday night, half of the country is rejoicing and the other half is grieving. We have seen in this bruising election and divided vote that we are a country of hurting people. We are a congregation of hurting people.
Many who have seen their livelihoods disappear or who feel at risk are experiencing hurt and anger. Leaders have not responded to the realities they are facing and they hope the next president will. Their pain is real.
There are also those who fear that the rhetoric and promises of this election will lead to a continuation of the oppression and violence they have experienced throughout our country’s history. I have been with those this week who have shed desperate tears. People who already felt vulnerable are feeling more vulnerable today. Their pain is real.
What now for the people of God?
The answer has always been in Christ. Christ who got dirty. Christ who lived among dirty people. Christ who stood with the outcast and marginalized until he was crucified.
It’s time to get dirty. It’s time to take up our cross. It’s time to bind up wounds, live alongside hurting people and seek justice and righteousness. We are called to love, and love is dirty and costly.
Love will have us getting into the mix of things. And in the mix of things, we are called to bind up the wounds of all those in our divided country. We must bind up the wounds of rural and working class people. We must bind up the wounds of immigrants, Muslim-Americans, and sexual assault survivors. We must bind up the wounds of people of color, LGBTQ folks and people who are poor. We must bind up the wounds of one another.
But as children of God, we must not only bind up, we must confess and repent of the wounds we inflict, and once doing so, we must speak out against those who would inflict wounds on others. As people of Christ, we must be clear that we are called to repent of any prejudice or violence in our words and actions. We must be clear that we will call others to do so as well.
What now is a good question to have and so we ask it of God. While the election has ended, God’s loving work continues. As the body of Christ, we will continue to seek to know the hope of God’s call. And we will do it together.
The Prayer of St. Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me bring love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
It was one of those beautiful days full of sunshine and I walked down the street to meet some friends for happy hour. It was a good day. A breezy, relaxed day. A day for friends.
As I walked down the sidewalk I came to a group of guys crowded together – the sort that could be described as “upstanding” looking, if we were going to use those empty kinds of descriptives – and they were laughing and having a good time. A day for friends, after all.
Wanting to move easily on my way, I quietly spoke as I came to them, “Excuse me.”
“Show us your tits and we’ll let you pass!” one of them shouted.
My shoulders tightened. I didn’t take a precious second to look to see who said it, but pushed through these laughing men surrounding me. Not stopping. Not looking. I just kept walking.
I just kept walking.
This memory came to me as I read the recently exposed words of one of our presidential candidates. Words that described harassment and assault with laughter and entitled bravado. Words of violence that were met with assured murmurs of agreement.
I’m writing because I know that I’m not the only one for whom those words will conjure up images and memories. I’m writing because I know that those words squeezed the breath from some lungs and tightened the shoulders of many – a painful reminder that in so many spaces and so many places, from streets to boardrooms, women are not safe. I’m writing because for some, they are living in those places and spaces in this very moment.
Beautiful daughter of God, you are created in the image of God – your laughter, your smile, your tenderness, your resilience, your joy, your sorrow. You move with God’s love and care on your shoulders. From the crown of your head – whether straight or curly, loc’d or buzzed – to the soles of your tired, weary feet, you are a blessing of God’s own making. You are God’s echo in the world.
You are like the women of Scripture. You are Hagar – who was cast out into the wilderness by her child’s father and whom God protected and promised to build nations from. You are Vashti – who told the most powerful leader in the land, “no” – and you are Esther – who took what little choice she had and gambled her life for others. You are the unnamed woman, outcast and alone, who took a risk, grabbed the garment of Jesus in the midst of a crowd, and was healed. You are Mary, who Christ called by name and made a first witness to God’s kingdom, before any other disciple.
You are beloved. While those words of violence are condemned or brushed aside as “locker room talk,” you may still be left with the memory of words spoken or actions done to you. I hope you know that those words and those actions are NOT okay. I hope you will know with stronger clarity and with greater conviction, that you are beloved. You are the image of the divine.
You are God’s echo in the world. An echo that drowns out all other taunts or threats or “locker room talk.” An echo that drowns out the foolish violent voices of rulers or rulers-to-be. You are God’s echo in the world. Sing.
Messiah Children’s Minister
Broad Job Expectations: Encourage the spiritual growth of all children fifth grade and under at Messiah, including Messiah Christian School (MCS). Support and encourage parents at Messiah. Train and enable members of Messiah to lead, volunteer and serve in Children’s Ministry. Bring passionate, innovative enthusiasm to the staff and congregation at Messiah for Christ. Be a physical presence in MCS, to our staff, children and parents. Demonstrate a passion for ministering to a diversity of people and backgrounds. Envision and reimagine Children’s Ministry at Messiah.
Educational Requirements: Bachelors of Education, preferred. Early Childhood Major preferred.
Qualifications: Active volunteer in a Children’s Ministry program. Active part of a congregation, experienced at working with children, enjoys arts and crafts, experience managing and recruiting volunteers, has a desire to teach children and their families about the faith and share the love of Christ, has a desire to help parents fulfill the baptismal promises made at their child’s baptism (both at church and at home), has communication skills and an ability to utilize social media effectively.
Compensation: $25,000-$30,000, 50% discount for any of minister’s preschool children enrolled
Hours Required: 25-30 hours per week year round. Approximately 10 hours a week directly in the preschool. Approximately 15 hours a week leading Children’s Ministry. Hours include daytime, evening and weekends. No paid vacation but extended time off encouraged.
Responsible to: Direct Report-Senior Pastor, Reporting bodies-MCS Board, Church Council, Education Chair, Pastors
Direct Reports: Nursery staff
Ministries Responsible to Maintain
Please submit your resume and cover letter to Pastor Liz Lowry: pastorliz@messiahlutheran. net
This sermon is on the text 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13.
My first reaction to Paul’s writing today was to worry about being blameless until Jesus comes back. He gives a pretty heavy expectation here: “Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” The early church, and especially the church in Thessalonica, is waiting and ready and concerned about Jesus coming back. The early church held a deep anticipation and urgency that we usually no longer have; we struggle to regain. Many faithful generations have come and go, and the urgency has probably kinda worn off for most of us. But today, we begin Advent, a time to reflect on Christ returning and God’s promises fulfilled, and Paul reminds us what we’re supposed to be doing while we wait. We wait with hope and we wait with work to do. The kingdom of God is already breaking in – love, holiness.
Which is why I read this and think….How am I to be blameless? Is that what I’m supposed to be doing as I wait? As I live my life. Be blameless. Until Christ comes again.
And then I notice that Paul doesn’t actually give them an order or a prescription for what they are to do and how they are to be. This is a prayer. Not a command like “Increase and abound in love. Be blameless.” But a prayer: “May the Lord make you abound in love” and “may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness.”
As I read this, I thought of my ordination. My ordination was a whirlwind, so much that flew by, but one moment in particular stood out. All the clergy laid hands on me and the Bishop prayed and I remember one line just knocking me over. “Make her a faithful pastor, patient teacher, and wise counselor.”
All I could do was whisper, “Yes, Lord.”
Because I knew, I knew in that moment that without the Lord, without God making me and molding me, I will not be a faithful pastor. Without the Lord, I will not be a patient teacher and a wise counselor.
Make her. Make me.
Now truth be told – I am probably usually feeling somewhat assured that everything is cool and I will totally be faithful and patient and wise….and in the moments when I am not feeling assured about that at all….well…then I’m probably more likely to just try harder. I try to reassure myself that I can make myself blameless. Even if I don’t say that out loud to myself, I am acting like it. God, it’s okay. I got this. I’m three months in and I am totally all over this “faithful pastor” thing.
There’s nothing like the prayerful hands of others and the words “make her” uttered over you to realize the full weight of what God is requiring and to know that on your own, you are simply not up to the task. Reality check.
Have you found this to be true for you? One minute you are sure that you are doing the right Christian thing at all times, loving everybody, being holy, at the very least you are a moral person…most of the time, you know, at least not like some of those other people….and the next….the next you are faced with someone you simply can’t muster up love for. Or suddenly you are burnt out….after having tried so hard to keep it going and keep it together and let no one see the cracks. Or you are bowled over by your own guilt or your own fear, overwhelmed by the feeling that yeah, you know you can’t do this.….so how are you going to even try. Or perhaps someone simply prays and you are knocked over and all you can do is whisper, “Yes, Lord.”
You and I are simply not up to the task of what God requires of us. Loving all people, giving away what we have, crossing boundaries and barriers, losing our life as we know it and taking up our cross, living our lives out of hope and not fear.
And this is why we need Paul’s prayer. This is our prayer. Make us.
Lord, if you don’t do it…..how can I be blameless?
Lord, if you don’t increase my love, how will I love all people?
Lord, if you don’t direct my way, how will I go?
Lord, if you don’t strengthen my heart, how will I be more holy?
Corrie Ten Boom was a Dutch Christian who, along with her family, was sent to a concentration camp during WWII for hiding Jews in her home. Her sister died in the camp. After the war, Corrie traveled and spoke to many groups about her experiences and her faith, and at one of these events, a man came up to her whom she immediately recognized as one of the guards at her camp. She could tell he didn’t recognize her, but she knew him. And when he came up to her, he told her that he had been a guard, but that he’d become a Christian, and although he knew God forgave him, he asked, “will you forgive me too?” and he reached out his hand. I will read her own words describing her reaction:
“And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?
“It could not have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do [….]
“And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. […] ‘… Help!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’
“And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
“ ‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’
“For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then.”
Corrie’s prayer – “help!” – is our prayer. Without the Lord, we are unable to meet the tasks ahead of us, the work he has given us, love the people he has called us to love, step out of our comfort zones and into scary territory…..but with God, empowered by the Holy Spirit,when we mechanically take that first step (whatever small step we can see before us) and cry “Help, Lord!” we find that God is faithful and will make us over. Forgive where we could not. Love where we could not. Be faithful and patient and wise where we could not.
Today, in the waiting and the living, take whatever first step you see in front of you. Take that first mechanical risky step and cry, “Help!” and God is faithful. Grace shines through. Grace shines through all the cracks, holding us together as a community of people who don’t have it all together and are definitely not blameless, who will let it all hang out and cry, “Lord, make us!” And the Lord makes us. The Lord makes us abound in love and strengthens our hearts.
“I am filled with Christ’s love!” she yelled as she threw her Bible at the back of the girl’s head.
This is the scene I stumbled upon as I was flipping channels while watching television – a scene from the movie, Saved!, a movie I haven’t seen for many many years and one that parodies or critiques some attitudes or behaviors of Christian groups. And this scene is perhaps one of the most memorable and funniest – a teenage girl, in her zeal to intervene in her friend’s life – throws a Bible at her.
“I am filled with Christ’s love!”
Her friend picks up the Bible and tells her, “This is not a weapon.”
I’ve been thinking about this scene as I’ve reflected on the vivid image we are given in Ephesians this week: an image of armor and of battle. This is perhaps one of the most popular images of the New Testament – the Christian, decked out in Roman military gear – only the uniform is spiritual in nature. The belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation. Shoes that will help carry out the gospel of peace, and the sword of the Spirit, the word of God.
These are the final exhortations in the letter to the Ephesians. Last week, we were reminded that time is short and Pastor Karl pressed upon us the importance of worshiping in community together. Today, we are told to stand firm and to put on the whole armor of God. In this text, too, there is urgency. Urgency in knowing that we need the strength of the Lord.
We can probably all guess that picking up the sword of the Spirit and putting on the whole armor of God does not look like throwing a Bible at someone’s head. But sometimes, if we’re being really honest, we think and act like standing firm is making sure everybody knows we’re right and they’re wrong. Or if you’re like me, imagining that Christian decked out in Roman military gear gives a sense of being Superman, puffed up chest and defender of the good. We are ready to stand firm in the battle; the problem is it’s usually the battles that we have chosen.
When we choose the battles and when we stand firm with anything other than the clothing of God, we find ourselves in trouble – rather than standing firm with the strength of the Lord, we are immovable and stuck. Attached to being right or being important. Or if that isn’t resonating with you today, sometimes we find ourselves easily pushed around, by others or by our desires (sleeping in on Sunday mornings) or our insecurities. And rather than relying on the strength of the Lord, we look for other ways to feel strong or to fill our time and our lives. We waver.
But there are three things about our text that point us in a different direction. First, that we do not fight flesh and blood, but powers and authorities and spiritual forces of evil. Second, that most of this armor is defensive, intended to protect us and simply enable us to stand without failing. Being strong in the Lord. And third, we may not really know how to dress ourselves in this kind of armor, and that’s why we must pray in the Spirit at all times.
We do not fight flesh and blood, but powers and authorities and spiritual forces of evil. We are in a spiritual struggle. Those who have fought long and hard against injustice probably more readily recognize this than others of us – it takes real people to embody systems of injustice, but even in the midst of the struggle, we may sense that we’re combating something far greater and more insidious, that overtakes individuals and shapes entire communities. Sin and death permeate our hearts, not only as individuals but as societies. We see the powers and darkness in our commercialism and our addictions, in our wars and our violence, in our genocides and apartheids, in our racism and sexism, in our apathy and our despair. We see the powers and darkness in the brokenness all around us – in the struggles and pain and break down in our relationships, our families, our church, our city, our nation, our world. Sin and death, feeling like tight webs throughout our collective lives. We know this struggle. We are in the middle of this struggle.
We do not fight flesh and blood, but powers and authorities and spiritual forces of evil. Sin clutching at our hearts. But knowing that we are not fighting against flesh and blood will free us. We take up the armor of God knowing that God provides for the struggle. In our text, Paul is said to be an ambassador in chains who must preach this gospel of peace. To who? To his jailors. The gospel of peace is to free them too. The powers and authorities and forces may feel overwhelming and may chain us, but that is why God strengthens us with spiritual gifts.
We are girded with protection. Truth and righteousness and faith and salvation – they flow through our lives. They are our defense. Truth cuts through the lies of all the powers that we have already named. Righteousness covers us. Faith turns our eyes to the one who protects us. Salvation reminds us that the victory is already won in Christ Jesus. We clothe ourselves in Christ.
Now if you’re anything like me, you might be thinking, that’s a great picture, Paul – wonderful metaphor – but how exactly are we supposed to pick up the shield of faith and put on the belt of truth. How exactly is that done?
Pray in the Spirit at all times. Keep alert and persevere.
Pray in the Spirit at all times. If there is one thing we may take from God’s word this week, may it be that we would pray in the Spirit at all time. Just as Pastor Karl urged us to press forward in gathering together in worship, let us press forward in praying together at all times. Pray for truth that cuts through our lies. Pray for faith that shields us. Pray for righteousness that we carry with us in all our relationships and conversations and struggles. Pray for each other. Pray for our hurts and our wounds. Pray for our world. For oppression and violence and need.
And praying together in the Spirit, we will keep alert and persevere. In prayer, we will clothe ourselves in such a way that we will not be throwing Bibles at people’s heads, but walking in the gospel of peace. Praying in the Spirit, we will stand firm. Firm in the light of God. Firm in the victory that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Firm in the waters of baptism as children of God. We will stand firm as witnesses to God’s light breaking through the darkness. We will take up the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, as a proclamation of God’s peace and of God’s love. Together, praying in the Spirit, we will stand.