Monday, September 24, 2018

Retirement


   It’s been said that clergy never retire, they just get put out to pastor.
   That’s kind of where I am this month.
   I believe it is time to retire.  That doesn’t mean Sally and I won’t be busy.  We’ll do differed maintenance on the house.  We’ll do differed maintenance on me.  We’ll travel, we’ll read.  And, we’ll look for ministries we can do together.
   I believe that when pastor’s are ordained, they are called to serve the whole Church, at particular places or in particular tasks.
   My call, and Sally and my call, hasn’t ended. It will be different, and the congregation will be served by another pastor.
   My call here will end so that another can begin.
   We remain, however, a part of that larger Church, the Body of Christ together.
   I thank God for you, your love for me and my family,  and for all we have done together in God’s name.
   God bless you now and always.
  

     
   
     

Communication


   We have been hearing about how polarized we are as a country for years.
   Our common cultural attitude seems to be outrage, with little real communication between people.
   By “real communication” I mean real listening and real discussion that does not necessarily lead to agreement, but leads to understanding.
   I have learned that we can’t say we understand a person’s view until we are able to state it in a form that they agree is what they indeed believe. That’s a first step.
   Advancing toward cooperation, however, requires humility.  It means all parties acknowledging that they might be wrong, in order to better understand and to learn.
   It means living together, as we do at FLC, by concentrating on the things that unite us, the things that are ultimately important, and are centered on our faith, our common relationship with Jesus Christ.
     
   
     

Easter Fool For Christ


One of my favorite bumper stickers reads, “I’m a fool for Christ.  Whose fool are you?”
   It is a reference to Paul’s statement, “We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute.”  1 Corinthians 4:10 .
   Paul is speaking of his sacrifice to bring others to faith.
   Having Easter fall on April Fools Day this year is especially appropriate.  It gives us a lot to chew on with regard to what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. and what it took to get us there.
   Easter is a reminder that we belong to God by God’s grace, not our own doing.  That sounds like foolishness to many in the world, but to us it is the power of God.
   May we be lifted-up to live by God’s grace, and not the world’s judgment.
   Let us live fully as people of God, in Jesus Christ!

Gun Control


   Every complex problem has a solution which is simple, direct, plausible—and wrong.”  - H.L. Mencken
   The current discussion of gun control reminds me of this idea.
   Arm teachers? Raise the age for purchase? More security guards? Ban particular guns?  Mental health screening and treatment?
   Screaming for someone in power to “do something”?
   Venting may be necessary for a person who has experienced an obscene loss.
   But, after awhile, it won’t get the job done.
   Doing something, in a culture like ours, means making a proposal, and then listening to other viewpoints,  and refining our proposal in order to find a way forward.
   And, it means praying, and believing that God does make a difference, looking at what God has done for us on the cross, and how that act can inform us now.
“In this place we worship
Jesus Christ, God disarmed.”  Bishop Martin Wells

Crossroads


   We are at a crossroads at Faith Lutheran Church.  We have had only one pastoral transition in our entire 54-year history.
   This means that we are naturally somewhat apprehensive about what the future will bring.  But we are also rightly excited about what possibilities for the future that God is preparing for us.
   It is fitting, therefore, for us to look to the Bible for examples of people who also faced their moments at a crossroads.
   That will be our theme on Wednesday nights at our 7:00 p.m. worship services starting on Ash Wednesday (see page one).
   How do you feel about the future of FLC?
   Are you investing in the possibilities?
   Are you praying for wisdom and hearts that are responsive to God’s leading?
   We don’t know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future.  Listen to Him!

Reflection of The Light


   The Epiphany is coming.  This is the season that we reflect upon Christmas.  It is the Light breaking into the darkness.
   Here are the numbers:
   3 dedicated Christmas worship services.  The world expects that.
   4 gifts to the 12 boys in Leroy’s Boys Home’s Swain Cottage and dozens of homemade cookies for all the cottages.
   340 gifts to the House of Ruth for survivors of domestic violence.
   235 (plus about 35 more) cold weather clothing items for Love I.N.C. (in the Name of Christ).
   364 personalized signed Christmas for hospitalized veterans in Loma Linda.
   318 gifts for the resident of the Casa Bonita Convalescent Hospital next door.
   And more!
   Those are the ways we embody the birth of Christ.
   The world doesn’t expect that.
   To the world, that’s an Epiphany!


Merry Christmas!


   Christmas is a season of giving.  It’s also a season of saving in order to buy in order to give.
   That’s the Christmas message, too, only backwards.
   God gives God’s self.  God enters into human history, our history.
   God buys our sin with his death.  God gives God’s blood for our sins.
   God saves us.  God bridges the gap between us and God formed by our sin.  God does it with the cross.
   That’s why Christmas is a season of giving.
   We give to others as an expression of our gratefulness for what God has done for us.
   We give to make sure no one is forgotten.
   We give to make sure that the most important message in human history is told again and again:
   Jesus was born to die out of love for all people.
   That’s a message worth celebrating.
   Merry Christmas!

Unity In Christ


Sally and I worshiped on board ship during our anniversary cruise.  It was a little like heaven, with people from all over the world worshiping God together.
   When we returned, we worshiped at the Armenian cathedral in Burbank with the Armenian Patriarch. Sally was an invited guest clergyperson because of her ecumenical work.  Though it was mostly in Armenian, we could see the presence of the Holy Spirit in those gathered.
  FLC celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation in October as well.
   This was not a time to honor our divisions, but to celebrate our unity in Christ, and the ongoing Lutheran movement to remind all Christians of salvation by faith alone, through grace alone and authority for faith and life through the Bible alone.
   We have unity in the Church through our common relationship with Jesus Christ.
   That is something to celebrate!

Cloud Lift


   The children Israel were led through the desert by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
   When they were stopped, the cloud covered the tent, i.e. the tabernacle, in which God was present and worshipped.
   “Whenever the cloud lifted from over the tent, then the Israelites would set out… “  Numbers 7:17a
   The “cloud lift” is a design element in the east-meets-west California Craftsman style in which our worship space was built.  We see it all over that space.
   It reminds us that we are there to worship and then we depart to accomplish the mission God has given us: to introduce people to new life in Jesus Christ that grows into enthusiastic Christian living.
   Where is God present now?   “...you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God”.  Ephesians 2:22.
   We accomplish our mission wherever God leads us.

Salvation


   It’s hot!  It’s always hot during the LA County Fair, but this year, it’s really hot.
   Some will remember the time in our previous worship building when we didn’t have air-conditioning.
   Most of our members had AC in our homes, so we installed it in our worship space.  It went in the week before a big wedding.   Temps were over 100 degrees.  The church was packed.  I said to the congregation before the wedding that I bet they were glad they were there the Saturday after AC, rather than the Saturday before!
   After the service, a gentleman came out to shake my hand and said that he didn’t think churches should be air-conditioned.  He thought people should have to sit there and consider the alternative.
   He had a point, but only for those who are perishing.
   We have been saved by God’s eternal Grace.  That’s pretty cool!

Golden


   Some say we are now in a Golden Age of TV. 
   Shows on a multitude of channels, commercial and cable, Netflix and Amazon, and YouTube, and emerging platforms, are drawing huge volumes of viewers.
   Sometimes, though, there’s nothing on.
   And so, I found myself watching a TV evangelist the other day.
   What interested me most was how often he said, “The Bible says…”
   He was teaching from a story of King David and the bad treatment of his Mighty Men (think special forces), and his theme was how the Bible teaches us to deal with opposition.
   The Bible text itself, however, was about how God works among God’s people.
   Popular culture defines Christianity as a self-help therapy to make us feel better about ourselves.
   The Bible says we need a Savior.  I’ll go with that.
For life-coaching, I’ll swap a Golden Age for The Golden Rule, anytime.