There and Back

I mentioned last week the incredible surprise our church and city gave us for our 15th anniversary as pastors and 25th wedding anniversary.

It was a “there and back” trip that was all too quick, and beyond imagination for us. We are so immensely grateful to everyone who gave so much to treat Terri and I to such a wonderful gift. Every moment (with the exception of coming back to snow on the ground) was simply perfect. We could not have planned or asked for anything more incredible to celebrate these milestones.

We are deeply grateful to our church family, our city family, and our great friends Dave and Carolyn, since it was their wedding we were able to attend!

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Look! A Barth Post!

Finally, I have braved the thought of trying to pick up Barth again. About every 300 pages I find something I understand… or I think I understand.

I don’t know why I’m trying to pick up Barth again. My life is so crammed full of stuff, this isn’t exactly devotional reading.

But for today, I try to look a bit Barthian, much to the chagrin of certain Lutheran friends of mine who have no time for the man… and you know who you are! 😉

The beauty of what I am reading today in Vol. II.1 (The Doctrine of God) is the realization that God indeed desires to reveal himself to us. We need to push past our misconceptions, and, quite frankly, our own desires to not know God. He longs to reveal himself to us.

Barth has an excursus on creation. In comparing the biblical creation story with the Babylonian creation story, there is a glaring contrast. In the Babylonian story the relation between the gods and humanity is fluid. Man acts, the gods respond. The gods act, man responds.

But in the biblical creation account we find that “God stands out from the very first line as sovereign in relation to everything which is not Himself, as the One who acts not only in and with, but first and foremost towards the world.

Creation is about God acting first. God made the first move. And in his sight and judgment it was good.

“It is not only created by God but upheld in its created existence and nature by His grace.

Now, off to the next 300 pages before I can understand something else.

I give thanks today for God who acted toward me first. It is his world, and I’m living in it!

The danger of presuming on God

In Luke 17 there is the story of the ten lepers healed by Jesus. Only one came back to give thanks.

11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?”19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:11-17, NIV)

Too often we ask God for something, then we walk away with the answer like we’re ungrateful! It’s like we expected to get the answer and we deserved that answer.

We need to live in gratitude. He gives all things. He gives good things to his people.

Don’t walk away God with some blessing he just handed you without saying thanks!

The World in Upheaval at a Time of Thanksgiving

It is a world at boiling point… again.

The Middle East is erupting. The job market is threatening to teeter once again with huge layoffs and company closings.

The U.S. faces the “fiscal cliff.”

There is no better time to pause… take a breath… and give thanks.

We give thanks for the One who holds the world in his hands. He is the One who knows the beginning from the end. We serve the One who is the Alpha and Omega.

Our hope is in him.

And for that we can truly give thanks.

 

Thanks for Incredible Partners in Ministry

This week I was able to take part in two meetings that continually bless my life.

Every month during the school year we have our local pastors get together for lunch. That was yesterday. Not everyone can make it, but over the years we have built solid friendship in spite of our perceived theological differences. We love serving our churches, our community, and doing it all in the name of Jesus. It’s a blessing to have these friends in my life.

Today I had lunch with my fellow pastors in my own denomination. It’s a group that has held “court” at Qdoba (a burrito place) for the last several years, and we have a great time together. It is a safe place to talk about life, laugh, hear each other’s triumphs and tragedies.

I am thankful for both of these groups. We know we don’t minister alone. We know the Body of Christ is much broader than our own ideological constructs. We actually ENJOY each others’ company!

They all help me keep moving forward.

The Broken Promises of Humanity and the Majesty of Our God

Today’s reading was once again out of the Deuterocanonical Books. I have found the Common English Bible to be a great help in reading a portion of text I am unfamiliar with in my tradition. It keeps me aware of the importance of good translations that are easier to read.

Sirach 43 is a tribute to the incredible majesty of God. And it should be a sobering reminder to our frailty as humans.

While we are called to “creation care” in our world, nothing is more full of human pride than to have some politician, or even scientist, stand in some place like New Orleans or New Jersey after a hurricane and declare something foolish like, “We need to make sure something like this (wait for it)… never happens again.”

Oh… really? So you’re going to move the city of New Orleans to above sea level finally?

I am not denying the effects of climate change and I make no claims in that particular argument as to exactly what should be done. But this I know: our actions are important, but they are not the final authority. And we need to stop acting like we’re the be all and end all of this planet.

Climate change, economic change, healthcare change… whatever it is… we need to work hard to do what is best as we see it, but let’s get over ourselves!

Hurricanes will come again. If New Orleans insists on staying below sea level, there will still be threats and more empty promises from foolish politicians as to how this will never happen again.

YES, we need to be responsible.

NO, we do not get to ultimately have the final say in what nature does as the Creator calls for its actions. And Sirach 43 is a powerful reminder.

19 He pours frost, like salt, upon the earth,
and when it freezes it has pointy thorns.
20 A cold north wind will blow,
and ice will freeze on the water;
it will settle on every pool of water,
and the water will put it on like armor.
21 He will consume mountains,
burn up the wilderness,
and extinguish grass like a fire.
22 A mist hastens the healing of all things;
the dew that appears
will give relief from the heat. (Sir. 43:19-22, CEB)

And this:

27 We could say many things
and never say enough.
The final word is: The Lord is “the All.” (CEB)

The final word belongs to the Lord. Not to us.

We can try and promise new things. We should indeed work to make things better. But we are not the final word.

That’s not to say we give up. It is a call to say, “Worship the One who does make the call when it comes to his creation.”

Our eyes need not be on humanity for final solutions. Our eyes need to be UP… and our lives need to be worshiping.