Hi all! So as you got to the webpage you might have noticed some new stuff. A lot of the links have been renamed to fit with our mission statement. I made a new logo for the website as well. Let me know what you think about both of them. One of the things that I think people are going to start to do more and more is to look for spiritual stuff online. I know it might seem silly for a small church like us to begin to embrace all this techonlogical stuff but I really feel this is where God is calling us to go. Why not us, right? I moved the youtube links from under my pastor blog to the online church page and also the one year bible page as well. The other new link that you will find under the online church is our Youtube channel whch will have our church services on it.
So what ther resources would be helpful for you as you look at our website? Are you looking for a daily devotional? Are you looking for a bible study? Are you looking for a place to put up your prayers? Let me know and we can build it together. I hope in the days, weeks, and years to come that our website will help more people learn about their faith as well as encourage others to grow in their faith.
As we think about the future, I also want to be crystal clear in that we are not forgetting our past. One of the things we really have to balance is the new/strange with the old/familiar. I think too many churches think that the old stuff has got to go. I don't believe that, I think it is a merging of the two that is important. This is not easy by a long shot, but it is how we need to tread the waters ahead. So don't worry the Gethsemane that has been a part of your faith journey will still walk with you. There will be changes form time to time but the core of who we are will always remain the same.
One of the questions I always ask pastors, is what books they are reading or what their favorite three books are. Recently talking to Pastor Phil over at CrossRoads church in Woodbury, he turned me onto the book The Power of Moments by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. He explained to me, he was using it to figure out how to make worship more memorable. I thought this was pretty telling coming from Pastor Phil because each week they have between 3 to 5 thousand people come to their five church campuses. This book he suggested isn't a church book. It is a book for business. How do you make your busy and customer experience really memorable. There was an example of a hotel in LA that has been reviewed to be one of the top hotels in all of LA. Looking at the hotel it doesn't seem to be anything special, it doens't have a bigger pool than anybody else and their rooms are not very fancy at all. So why are people flocking to come there? It is the experience. For one thing they have a popsicle hotline. So when you call the special red phone in the pool area a staff person asks you want kind of popsicles you want and then brings them to you on a silver platter. Guess how much it costs? It is free!!! It is touches like this that people remember and it is why people come to this hotel in droves and why they rate it so high. So it got me thinking about church. How do we make each worship a good memorable experience for folks. This June we did an experiement where we blocked off the back pews so that people wouldn't sit underneath the balcony. This was good not because they would be closer to service but because underneath the balcony it is hard to hear. I haven't hear too much back from anybody yet as to whether people like it or hate it. So what make worship memorable for you? Leave a comment and let me know. Also on a related note, what was a power moment for you? Why was it powerful? Leave that in the comment as well.
So I am reading this book by Tony Morgan called Killing Cockroaches. The book is a collection of blog posts that Tony has done over the years. As I was reading through this week, my eyes were drawn to his blog post entitled "Leadership Lessons I learned from Football". Here are the five things he thought about after going to a Clemson Tiger Football game in Death Valley which is the nickname for their home field.
1. If thousands of people make some noise, it can get pretty loud.
2. People will do some crazy things to worship something they love.
3. When you really believe in something, you'll take a stand.
4. People will put their money where there heart is.
5. When the cause is big enough, people will give their time.
It got me thinking do we ever get excited for God or worship as we do for our favorite professional or college teams? Why or Why not? What would a church look like if it was really loud? Or what if we had face painting before or after service? Sounds crazy? I think Tony brings up a good point, how do we get excited about God and how do we show it? What do you think? What could you do to show how excited you are about your faith?
"Christ the Lord Is Risen Today; Alleluia!" (ELW 369)
1 Christ the Lord is ris'n today; Alleluia!
Christians, hasten on your way; Alleluia!
offer praise with love replete, Alleluia!
at the paschal victim's feet. Alleluia!
2 For the sheep the Lamb has bled, Alleluia!
sinless in the sinner's stead. Alleluia!
Christ the Lord is ris'n on high; Alleluia!
now he lives, no more to die. Alleluia!
3 Christ, the victim undefiled, Alleluia!
God and sinners reconciled, Alleluia!
when contending death and life, Alleluia!
met in strange and awesome strife. Alleluia!
4 Christians, on this holy day, Alleluia!
all your grateful homage pay; Alleluia!
Christ the Lord is ris'n on high; Alleluia!
now he lives, no more to die. Alleluia!
Text: attr. Wipo of Burgundy, d. c. 1050; tr. Jane E. Leeson, 1807-1882, alt.
Listen with the ears of your mind as you read the words of this hymn. What can you hear? I hear trumpets and a booming chorus of people. What do you smell? My nose is filled with the smell of Easter lilies and other fresh flowers. What do you see when you close your eyes? I visualize a brightly lit sanctuary full of people. This song reminds me so much of my experience on Easter morning. I can't help but sing the words as I read the text. This song will forever be ingrained in my being. We all have songs that do this to us--bring us back to a certain time and place.
As Christians, Easter brings us back time and time again to be bathed in Christ's grace. What if the tunes of our lives reflected this amazing gift? Will Easter continue to just be a day, or will it become the heartbeat of our lives?
Alleluia Lord, may we live our lives with the beat of Easter in our hearts, and may our lives be a song of gospel to all we meet. Amen.
Saturday and Sunday for God Pause's Devotion has the writer talk about hymns because hymns are a big part of our Lutheran heritage. The devotional staff gives you a big list of hymns to choose from. So the next two devotions will be how I see these hymns in the lens of Easter.
"Bless the Lord, O My Soul" (WOV 798)
Bless the Lord, O my soul;
bless the Lord, O my soul;
and all that is within me
bless God's holy name.
Text: Psalm 103:1
As we think about how Easter changes how we live in the world, this is a good hymn to memorize because it invites us to see the world in a new way. It invites us to ask some very important questions about how we live our daily lives. What does it mean to bless the Lord? What would it mean to take everything we are, everything we own, and everything we hope to be and use it to respond to the message of Easter? How would our lives be different? How would our world be different?
It might seem like a daunting task at first, but real change is made one small step at a time. I challenge you this week to make one small change that will bring you closer to living out the Easter message. How will you bless the Lord this day?
Awesome God, you have blessed us with so much in our lives. Help us to live with generosity and gratitude so that others may know your grace. Amen.
The hard truth is that many of our churches here in the United States are closing and dying because people don't want anything to do with organized religion. Given this reality, many of us may feel it is safer to stay within our walls than to venture forth into a community that is not as friendly to the church as it used to be. We may feel scared, just like the disciples who locked themselves away.
Into the midst of this fear, Jesus comes and tells them, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." We need to listen to the message of Easter and not be tempted to ignore it because of our fear. Jesus has told us to go into the world and spread the news. How will you or your congregation answer this call this Easter season as you live outside the walls of your building?
Lord of Peace, help me and my siblings in Christ overcome our fear of going into the world. Help all of your churches to leave their walls behind and spread your Easter message to friends and neighbors. Amen.
Prior to my call to ministry I was working as a nuclear medicine technologist. My job was to make people glow so that we could figure out how their organs were working. Now in the course of pastoral ministry I often think back to my time as a technologist and how ironic it was that a lot of my patients wanted to talk about spiritual matters during their hours-long exams. Unfortunately, for hospital staff this practice was frowned on. So, instead of talking about God, I was conscious of treating my patients as beloved children of God--even the cranky ones. Looking back, I can see that the results were amazing.
Our scripture reading for today reminds us that we are all priests in God's kingdom. Christ expects us to be his hands and feet. So how can you live this out in your daily life?
Our Alpha and Omega, help us embody your message of Easter in our daily lives. Help us to be your priests in a world that is in desperate need of your grace. Amen.
This is my second reflection from God Pause for the Tuesday following Easter. Again since we are in the season Easter I think this is still pretty relevant. Enjoy!
How long do you think the Easter glow will last if we just confine it to one day of our calendar year? A week? A month? Soon the realities of the world will come walking back to us. There will be a funeral for a loved one. We or a loved one will experience an illness. No matter how we hope against hope, there will be bad days and hard days ahead.
The psalmist invites us to sing, "This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." How do we do that on our bad days? How do we do that when we are sick? When we live a life changed by the Easter message, it becomes a lot clearer. We realize we don't walk through life alone. We understand the joy the psalmist writes about, knowing we are in a relationship with God.
Loving Savior, remind us today how blessed we are to walk hand in hand with you. In the midst of our life, help us rejoice knowing that your grace is enough and has transformed us into the people this world needs us to be. Amen.
HI all! I hope you all had a great Easter. Things are settling down here a little at church, just a little. I was asked back in March if I would be willing to write some devotional material for Luther's Seminary God Pause the week after Easter. It was quite the honor to be asked so I was happy to oblige. I wanted to share each of these devotions with you over the next couple of weeks because I have had a lot of positive feedback around them and because we are in the season of Easter for the next several weeks. Let me know what you think and have a great week!
Acts 5:27-32 (NRSV)
27 When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them,
28 saying, "We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man's blood on us."
29 But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than any human authority.
30 The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree.
31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.
32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him."
Yesterday was awesome, wasn't it? The soaring music, the life-giving, packed worship service, the marvelous meals, and the family gathering were all the stuff of legends. Another Easter in the books, and today we simply rest in the knowledge that all our hard work is done for this high holy holiday. However, our text reminds us today that Easter isn't just a holiday; it is a new way of living our lives. The disciples were so excited when Jesus showed up alive after the crucifixion!
Furthermore, they realized the implications of this seismic event in the history of time and space. It changed them. This story of resurrection spurred them into action like it does for us today, even in the midst of weariness. Nothing could contain their desire to let others know about Jesus and his victory. May we, too, be infused with holy energy to spread the gospel.
Risen Savior, help us to see that Easter is not just a high holy day but a new way of living our lives. Infuse us with your holy energy to propel our tired bones into living out your Easter message. Amen.
The text this week, is a parable that Jesus tells equating a vineyard to the Kingdom of God. In this story the land owner hires workers from the beginning of the day until the last hour before quitting time. Each one is told that they would get a fair day's wages. At the end of the day, all the workers receive equal pay. The first ones hired that day are furious how dare the land owner pay the later comers the same as them. The land owner responds that it is his money and he can spend it how he wants to period, end of story. The land owner wants to be generous with everybody for all their work.
This story can be hard for many of us American Christians to swallow. We live in a society that hard worker equals pay and more hard work equals even more pay. When I read this story the first time, I thought how unfair it was for the land owner to pay the late workers the same as the early workers, because the early workers did a lot more work. I think the problem that we have living in our society is that we equate work with value. The more work the more valuable of an employee we are. God has a different standard for us. This parable reminds us that everybody is valuable in God's eyes. That the last person, to do work for God is just as important than the first person.
What if we viewed other people like this? What if we saw the same value in them that God has? How would you treat people differently? The week give this a try and see how your relationships are different when you treat each person you meet the same way God treats us, with value.
Pastor Paul. I hope you find these reflections insightful and help you in your faith journey!