Sermon on the Plain

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Sermon on the Plain

Luke 6:17-26

17 He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. 18 They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19 And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.

20 Then he looked up at his disciples and said:

‘Blessed are you who are poor,

for yours is the kingdom of God.

21 ‘Blessed are you who are hungry now,

for you will be filled.

‘Blessed are you who weep now,

for you will laugh.

22 ‘Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 23 Rejoice on that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

24 ‘But woe to you who are rich,

for you have received your consolation.

25 ‘Woe to you who are full now,

for you will be hungry.

‘Woe to you who are laughing now,

for you will mourn and weep.

26 ‘Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

THE GOSPEL of our Lord.

So, we might notice a few things about this passage. Most notably, it’s similar to the Sermon on the Mount, or the Beatitudes, from the 5th chapter of Matthew. But there are several differences.

The Lukan version is known as the Sermon on the Plain. And just before this, Jesus had gone up the mountain to pray overnight, and in the morning, called his disciples to him, and from them, chose the twelve apostles.

Then Jesus went down the mountain with them – a great crowd of his disciples, and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon in Phoenicia, which was further north than Galilee, which was north of Samaria, which was populated by non-Jews…..my point here is that the multitude of people represented many differences beyond a rather spread-out geography.

There would have been linguistic differences, for example, Galileans spoke a unique form of Aramaic, whose dropped or distorted consonants were the butt of Judean humor.

Racially, the population of the area formerly known as the northern kingdom had been mixed since the Assyrian conquest in the 8th century BC.

And culturally, Judeans thought of their northern cousins as country bumpkins due to their lack of Jewish sophistication and their proximity to Hellenistic settlements. How could they live so close to those pagans and not be tainted?

The Judeans thought they were the only ones practicing pure Judaism and properly following the ritual observances. The only ones doing it “right.”

Indeed, it was a mixed crowd that Jesus stood amongst on that level place. In fact, the word LEVEL, in the Greek, was understood as the lowest - A place of disgrace, suffering, idolatry, mourning, misery, annihilation and death. Yet Jesus went down to them.

We might wonder how that looked. A massive crowd, varying by race, culture, dialects, geopolitical histories, and religious practices all reaching toward Jesus to experience the power of his healing presence, in a place no one would want to be. But people clambered to be near Jesus, no matter where or who was there.

And all in the crowd faced Jesus, all tried to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them. Despite their status in the community, or wealth, or religion, or sexual or gender identification, nationality or immigration status, or……….talk about inclusion!

Now, let’s consider how we might feel in that place. Standing side by side and seeking the same thing as all the people around us. People we’ve surmised to be “less than” or even “more than” ourselves, based on implicit biases making some people acceptable to be looked down on, and others to be gazed up at, perhaps even in shame for our own lack of achievement, or losses, or just plain misery.

Yet Jesus is there. Savior of all. Jesus comes down to our level – into the deepest valleys of our lives – to comfort, to heal, to walk with us and to bless us.

Incidentally, Makarios, the Greek for blessed, means satisfied, unburdened, at peace.

And “woe” does not mean condemned. The Greek, OY, is a call to repentance, to change one’s behavior, to lament. It’s a warning to turn around.

Luke’s Jesus is turning human expectations, traditions, and ideologies upside down, as he stands in radical solidarity with all people. In solidarity rather than judgement.

We’re included in that solidarity! Jesus sees each of us as beloved, regardless of how others might see us. In Christ, we are free to be unapologetically who God created us to be! Each of us wonderfully made and gifted by the Holy Spirit, so we can let go of all the burdens of how others might view us.

ALSO, We are called to imitate Christ, to seek out those places where people are hurting, lonely, ostracized, marginalized or criticized for being “other.” And as we’ve learned, Jesus had no problem with “otherness.”

To quote Richard Rohr, “We need to look at Jesus until we can see the world with his eyes. In Jesus Christ, God’s own broad, deep, and all-inclusive worldview is made available to us….and, the point of the Christian life is not to distinguish oneself from the ungodly, but to stand in radical solidarity with everyone and everything else.”

In today’s context, we’re faced with so much division! Where do we experience the radical solidarity and inclusion of Jesus? Even the church shows drastic variance across denominations. Certainly, every congregation holds people of opposing opinions.

Jim Wallis, in his book, The (Un)Common Good: How the Gospel Brings Hope to a World Divided, discusses the losses we’ve experienced as the gaps in our society have widened – loss of civility, integrity, the ability to really listen to each other, loss of respectful public dialogue.

Too often, people cling to ideologies that are not helpful. Attitudes formed by a narrow worldview that excludes and diminishes others.

How are we supposed to change the polarized world we live in?

Wallis described one attempt made by a wide array of pastors and church leaders who began talking, praying, and discerning together how people of faith could help create safe, civil and even sacred spaces for truthful and respectful public discourse.

The result of that discernment was, A Covenant for Civility: Come, Let Us Reason Together, a scriptural based covenant which was ultimately signed by thousands of clergy and lay people from across denominations and the nation.

Excerpts from it read, “…The church in the United States can offer a message of hope and reconciliation to a nation divided by political and cultural differences. Too often, however, we have reflected the political divisions of our culture rather than the unity we have in the body of Christ. We come together to urge those who claim the name of Christ to “put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ has forgiven you.” From Ephesians 4:31-32.

Seven biblical based commitments – summarized, but I have copies of the full document if you’d like to see it in detail – commitments to:

Listen deeply, speak respectfully, disagree with humility, mindful of our words, mindful of how we treat each other, commit to prayer for political leaders, and for one another.

Deacon Kirsten Kessel

February 17, 2019

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Ordinary People Sharing God’s Extraordinary Love

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Ordinary People Sharing God’s Extraordinary Love

How many of you have ever been ice fishing? How about regular fishing?

So… you have something in common with Peter. And you probably know that you fish differently when you are ice fishing and when you are in a boat fishing in the summer.  And living in Minnesota, you probably know that you fish differently – you use different lures - if you are trying to catch walleye or trout.

Peter was a fisherman. He grew up fishing. And so had James and John, sons of Zebedee. They knew more than a little bit about how to catch fish in the lake of Gennesaret – which is just another name for the Sea of Galilee. They knew that if you wanted to catch fish, you fished at night. That’s when these fish came up to feed. During the day they hid in the cool dark waters of the bottom of the lake.

Peter and his partners, John and James, had just come back from a very disappointing night of fishing. They caught nothing.  They were exhausted. But… being good fishermen, they fixed their nets before they went home to sleep so that they would be ready to go when they went out again that night… just like they did every night.

But today was different. Jesus was teaching some people on the shore. He had already made quite a name for himself teaching and healing. And… in Luke’s Gospel… we learn that, after teaching in the synagogue, Jesus had gone to Peter’s house for lunch… and healed Peter’s mother-in-law.

Clearly, Peter has already seen the power of Jesus’ words… and so when Jesus got in his boat and asked him to push out a little ways from shore… of course he was willing to do so.  And no doubt he listened to Jesus as he mended his nets. But… when Jesus told him to go to the deep waters and put their nets on the other side… Peter objected. After all, he was a fisherman. He knew how to fish this lake. It would have been like me telling Don Schmidt – a master painter – how to paint!  And so he objects: "Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing.” But….in the next breath he says, “ Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets."

The catch was not only good…it was miraculous. And because Peter, James and John had fished this lake a million times before, they knew that it wasn’t just luck. It was Jesus. So when Jesus called them to follow... they dropped their nets and followed.

In Jesus’ day, it was common for rabbis to have disciples, young men serving as apprentices. But the rabbis didn’t call their disciples. Instead, only the brightest and best students, those good at memorizing scripture in Sabbath school – their version of Confirmation - were allowed to ask a rabbi if they could follow him. The rest of them - like Peter and James and John - were told to go home to learn the trades from their fathers….like fishing.

But Jesus doesn’t do things the way that they were always done. Instead, Jesus calls fishermen and other ordinary people to follow -people like you and me. Jesus is still calling us to follow. Sometimes he calls people to leave their nets, their jobs, their past lives to follow him. But at other times, Jesus calls ordinary people to tell the story, to be witnesses, right where they are.

In my role on the Synod candidacy committee, I sometimes interview candidates who are wondering how God is calling them. One student, Lauren, told me that when she first became a Christian, she worked as an advertising executive in a big firm. She remembered talking with her pastor about how that environment was so different from her church life that she was having a hard time reconciling the two. Her pastor replied, “You have an opportunity to be a witness in that board room. I would never be allowed in that board room – but you are there already. So think about it this way: You have an opportunity. How can you follow Jesus and show the love of Christ in the board room?”

And so she did. But… after awhile, she felt called to serve God in a different way. She felt called to be a pastor and… a fire fighter.   So she came to Luther and while taking classes, she also trained as a fire fighter. She did not get a lot of support from the other fire fighters. Lauren is a thin 5’5” woman – with grown children. But she trained and she worked and she passed her exam – and was hired as a fire fighter in Eden Prairie. So now she is working at showing the love of Christ at the Seminary – and as a fire fighter.

Lauren discovered that whether she was in a board room or a classroom, whether she was working on a computer, preaching or fighting a fire, she could live out her Christian vocation. The positions she has had are really different – yet she realized that, regardless of where she is, she can show compassion, kindness and the love of Christ to the people she meets. In each place she asks herself: How can you follow Jesus and show the love of Christ in this place?”

That question isn’t only for Lauren. It’s a question for all Christians. How can you, how can I, follow Jesus and show the love of Christ right where we are?

Perhaps the way to start is to recognize who is in your circle,  in your life. Who do you know? Who is your neighbor? Who is in your family? Your extended family? Your work? Your school? Your postal worker who delivers your mail? Your grocery store clerks? When you start adding up the people that you meet or connect with in some way, the number starts to grow.

But… you may argue, I’m just an ordinary person, “I don’t have that gift.  I’m not a pastor or a preacher.” That may be true… but there’s an old Gospel hymn – There is a Balm in Gilead - that says you may not be called to preach like Peter or to pray like Paul – but you can tell of the love of Jesus who died for all through the words you speak – and in your actions.  Jesus has a habit of calling ordinary people to share the extraordinary message of God’s love.

This past week at our Wildfire Confirmation, we had presenters from the Teen Annex Clinic. The speaker for the parents and pastors asked us to line up from one wall to the other depending on how many sexual education conversations we had with our parents about their values. As you might expect, the side of the room with “little or none” was packed and the side of the room that had “lots” of conversation was filled with the children of nurses and teachers of sexual education.

I wonder how this room would line up if I asked: who told you about Jesus? Was it your parents? A Sunday School teacher? A pastor? A neighbor?

All the parents left the Wildfire meeting wanting to have honest and good conversations with our kids about our values. How much more do we need to have ongoing conversation with our families about our faith?  Growing in faith doesn’t end with confirmation.

How can you share the love of Christ – how can you share your faith – with people in your circle -- right where you are?

It might be by preaching or teaching. But… it might be by being a Confirmation mentor. It might be by sending someone a note or speaking an encouraging word. It might be by driving for Dinner at Your Door. It might be by inviting a friend to church. Or better yet, inviting to pick them up and go out for lunch afterwards. Or it may be in some completely different way.

God has entrusted to ordinary people – like you and me -- the extraordinary message of the love of Christ. The challenge for us is how can we – this day, this week – use the gifts that God has given to us to share the Good News of Christ in the words that we speak, in the stories that we share, and in the work that we do and the actions that we take.  We are ordinary people with an extraordinary message of God’s love. This is how we share the love of Christ right where we are – wherever we are. Amen.

Pastor Pam Stalheim Lane

Feb. 10, 2019


Luke 5:1-11

1 Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2 he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch." 5 Simon answered, "Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets." 6 When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!" 9 For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people." 11 When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

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Pursue Love: It is “the Way"

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Pursue Love: It is “the Way"

Have you ever noticed that dentists and dental hygienists are chatty people? They love to ask you questions right after they tell you to “say ah” and squirt water in your mouth.  After years of trying to answer their questions with my mouth wide open… I developed a strategy: I ask them questions.

This past week, I had a new dental hygienist – a young woman I’ll call Rachel. In response to my first question about her plans for the weekend, she told me that she planned to do something with her fiancé.’ I thought… aha! So… before I opened my mouth again, I asked her:  “Tell me about your plans for your wedding….”

She had many. She told me about her problems with choosing the venue, the guest list problems, the future in-law problems, her challenge with keeping the wedding small but including everyone… all of it seemed fairly typical of things that today’s couples think about. But in all of her talking about the wedding… she didn’t mention a word about the wedding service. So I asked her: What are your plans for the service? Any scripture?

She replied… “Oh… I haven’t even thought about that yet.”

Having been reading and contemplating Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, I was sorely tempted to say: “Let me tell you about a more excellent way…”

Paul writes so eloquently and poetically about love in Corinthians that it is often read at weddings. How many of you have heard 1 Corinthians 13 read at a wedding?  How many of you had it read at your wedding? It is a beautiful reminder of the power of love.

But… the love that Paul writes about is not… emotional or romantic or nostalgic or sentimental. It is, however, about the way of God. It is a reminder of God’s promise: God loves you’all.

In Jesus’ first sermon to his hometown congregation, he quotes Isaiah saying, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (Isaiah 61:1-2). Imagine hearing those words from the hometown boy - after all… wasn’t this Joseph’s son?

Jesus knows their expectations, and tells them, " you will say, "Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.' "

But Jesus didn't perform. Instead, he reminds them that Elijah and Elisha healed outsiders – a foreign widow and a general in their oppressor’s army... They knew the stories.

Jesus reminds them that God’s kingdom is not theirs to command because it is not just for them. And it never has been. Jesus came to bring good news to the poor, freedom to those in bondage and to announce God’s embrace of the outsider, the refugee, and God’s welcome of the unwelcome and God’s love of those that they might think were outside of God’s grace.1 This is God’s way. This is the way of love.

The way of love: This is the most excellent way that Paul writes about to the Corinthians – who were having a big church fight. They were a community divided. And so Paul reminds them – and us – about both the variety and the importance of all of the gifts God gave them.  And then… he tells them: I will show you a more excellent way” and proceeds to tell them the way to use their many gifts. This is the way of love, the way of Christ. Love is not a gift that is available only to some. It is not listed with all of the other gifts. The way of love, the way of Christ, is a way to live.

Paul knew that the Corinthians couldn’t sustain their faith community without the way of Christ, the way of love. And neither can we.

So how is Paul urging the Corinthians – and us – to pursue this “more excellent way?” My seminary Greek professor, Dr. Jim Boyce, explains that the “way” is an invitation to a journey, a venture whose end is known only to God. And so we are called to trust in the promises of God who is faithful, and who has called us into community.2

This is a journey that requires participation. It is not an invitation to sit and ponder how beautiful the love of others – say a wedding couple --- but an invitation for all of us to be a part of the way, the journey, the venture whose ending is unknown. This is an invitation to “Pursue love” because that is God’s way.

Paul is not theoretical about how to do this. He writes: “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant  or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.”

Listen to those verbs of what love is. These are action verbs, proclaiming that the one who acts out of love will NOT be: Envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, insist on their own way, irritable, resentful or rejoice in wrongdoing.  Instead, the one who loves will be: Patient, kind, hope-filled, bearing with the other, rejoicing in the truth.

These are two different ways of being. Love is the way of Christ. This is the way for Christians to act, and to be on our journey.

Yet, as Paul admits from his own experience, living into the way of Christ doesn’t come automatically. We are not transformed into perfect Christians the moment that we are baptized. Living into the way of love, the way of Christ is a process… a journey for us to pursue our whole lifelong. And… it is a journey for us to take and to live into – not on our own – but in community, in the community of Christ.

This is the message that I wanted to share with Rachel, the dental hygienist. I wanted to let her know that Jesus has invited her – and her fiancé – to “pursue love” but not just the romantic love that they share – which is wonderful – but into the way of love, the way of Christ. And that… if they could pursue the way of love in their marriage and in a Christian community… they would be blessed far beyond what they could imagine.

This is not to say that all of the problems of venues and guest lists and family dynamics would disappear. No… they will follow you. But… so will the promises of Jesus.

When Paul writes, “Pursue love,” and when Jesus commands his disciples to “love one another” it is not to give us an impossible task. Rather, the command to love one another reveals the promises of God and the way in which God wants us to live out God’s love for the world. We are to live in Christian community.

Again, it is not always perfect – the Corinthians are a good example of a church full of divisions.  And it is still true today – we are saints and sinners…we are not perfect but are still on our journey. But… unlike other organizations whose goal may be for power or wealth or fame… our purpose is what Jesus commanded us: “love God and love your neighbor.” Or as Paul writes, “Pursue love.” And, when we do this, when we act as Jesus would have us act, when we live into God’s way, then we bring to light God’s promises and realize the blessings of Christian community supporting not only one another but also the neighbor, the other, the refugee, the poor and in doing so, we follow God’s way and do God’s mission in the world. Amen.

Pastor Pam Stalheim Lane, Faith-Lilac Way Lutheran Church      February 3, 2019


1 Karoline Lewis, Working Preacher, 2010 https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=550

2 James Boyce, Working Preacher,  https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1540



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ZOOM... Many Gifts... One Body

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ZOOM... Many Gifts... One Body

A few years ago, the leader of our supervisors and internship retreat divided us into two groups – supervisors and interns and gave each group what looked like an oversized deck of cards called ZOOM.  She told us that our job was to hang the cards on the wall in order so that they told a story – and that we couldn’t just make up a story – the cards themselves were definitely connected one to another like a puzzle - expect without the interlocking nodes of puzzle pieces. She also told us that there was a “right way” in which they were connected. … and then… she said “GO.”  

Now, when the pastors and interns got together, usually everyone was on their best behavior, trying to lift up the other. Oh… you go first.. no you…and so on. But with that little word, “GO” -- suddenly a fierce and aggressive competition began.

My team jumped right in, noticing connections right away. There was boy with an envelope that he was about to mail. Someone found the next card that zoomed in on the stamp of the envelope to show…a cowboy on a farm. The next picture zoomed in even closer to show the farmyard. We kept zooming in. The next picture was a rooster… and then the comb on top of the roosters head… We didn’t think we could zoom in any more.  But we weren’t done. We had half the cards left.

Then we realized that we also had to “zoom out”. Working together, we discovered the boy with the envelope was on the cover of a magazine…which was sitting beside a pilot in an airplane.. that was circling  the earth… which was then shown as a small dot in the universe..

There were actually more cards than this - but you get the idea. We were being asked to take a look at our own perspective.  Did we need to zoom in… and take a closer look at the details? Or, did we need to zoom out… to look at the bigger picture? In both cases, there were connections to be made and we noticed how inter-related all of the pictures were.

Both groups got the sequence right. But, interestingly, we put it in reverse orders.  They zoomed in…. and we zoomed out. Again, it shows perspective.

Paul in his letter to the Corinthians is inviting the congregation to zoom out to see that “We are all ONE in Christ.” We are all ONE BODY.  BUT we are not the same… and that is good!  Just as God made parts of the human body differently to serve different functions – eyes to see and ears to hear and feet to walk and lips and tongue to talk – in the same way, God gave people different gifts. These are all gifts to be celebrated.

In the previous chapter in Corinthians, Paul “Zooms in”  - to recognize that not everyone has the same gift. And this is by design. All of the gifts that people have been given by God are valued – and indeed necessary. Further, just as a body works best with both eyes and ears, so the body of Christ is best served by people with different abilities working together. We need people who serve as teachers and plumbers and people who drive dinners to people who can’t cook themselves and people who make chili to eat…. and people who sing… and on and on…God has given many gifts to God’s people.

Luther calls this our vocation. We often use the word “Vocation” to mean your job or employment. But Luther calls “vocation” the things that you do because of your passion and your God given gifts – such as singing in the church choir.  Although I know there are churches who do, we don’t pay our choir to sing. (Don’t get any ideas! It’s not in the budget!). But, people in the choir sing because they have been given the gift of music and it both gives them joy – and gives US joy as they enliven the worship and glorify God with their gift of song.

This year I’d like to invite you all to “zoom in” to take a look at what gifts God has given you to share… what gives you joy? How can you meet the need of another using your particular gifts?  It’s not necessarily just one thing. Perhaps it includes knitting or crocheting…maybe it includes prayer? Maybe it involves offering a ride to church to someone who can’t drive? Or simply – but importantly -- being an encourager of another?

At the same time as we, individually “zoom in” to see what gifts God has given us to share… as a congregation we also need to “zoom out” to see ourselves as part of the whole people of God.  We are a part of the group of local congregations called Wildfire. Together we can support – as we did on Friday – providing meals for school kids and their families on the weekend. Zooming out a little further, we are a part of the Minneapolis Area Synod… and further yet… part of the ELCA. The circle gets bigger when we zoom out to include the whole Christian church…and bigger yet when we include the ecumenical community which is part of the community of God in all of the nations of the world.  

And I haven’t even started to connect us to the rest of God’s creation. Looking back at the book of Genesis… we are but a small part of God’s universe. And yet… God knows your name. God has called you to share the gifts that God has entrusted to you.

Paul writes, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” Let us rejoice in the gifts that God has given us – sharing them joyfully. But let us also rejoice in the diversity of gifts that God has given – valuing the gifts of others and remembering that we are just one small part of Christ’s body.

Let us think more expansively not only about who is our neighbor… but also that Christ’s body is bigger than we may be accustomed to thinking. After all, our world is not divided up into places where God is – and God is not. As Paul writes, “we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”  Paul notes the dividing lines of his day: “Jews or Greeks, slaves or free.” Now we have many more categories. But regardless of how many distinctions that are made between people – heritage, country of origin, ethnicity, rich or poor, still…. We are “one body” in Christ. As Paul writes, “We were all baptized into one body.”

Brothers and sisters in Christ, We live in an increasingly connected world. We are more connected to the mother in Somalia whose child just died of hunger and more connected to the Christian Guatemalan family that is fleeing their home because of armed militias than we like to think.   

In Christ, we are all one body. May you zoom in to see and share the gifts God has entrusted to you. And  may you – and I – and this whole creation – zoom out of our comfort zones into the world around us to see the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ  so that we can be part of God’s work in caring for all of God’s creation. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot would say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear would say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." 22 On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24 whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But strive for the greater gifts.

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God Restores God's People

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God Restores God's People

Our Gospel lesson begins with a problem. Mary says to Jesus, “They have no wine.”  This was not just a comment about the refreshments – and Jesus knew it. Wedding celebrations in Jesus’ day went on for many days – maybe even a week.  Everyone was invited. And lots of people would be expected. So maybe the hosts didn’t plan properly. Or maybe they weren’t well off. Maybe they didn’t have a big store of wine. It was also expected that the guests would bring gifts of wine and food. Maybe the lack of gifts of wine was an indication that this wedding couple were not being supported – for whatever reason – by the community. Water wasn’t an option - it used for washing rather than drinking because it wasn’t always clean… And it certainly wasn’t used at a celebration. The result, for the wedding couple, would have been shame and public humiliation.

I love that John shows that Jesus is a little irritated at his mother –this makes Jesus sound like a real human son.   But… he also solves the problem. He turns water into wine…the best wine and lots of it.. And only the servants know.

Like at the wedding at Cana, there was also a problem in our Old Testament reading that the prophet Isaiah addresses.  The book of Isaiah is really long, and scholars believe that it spans the time of three prophets – all called Isaiah. It may have been an honor to take on the name of the last prophet – like Popes often take on a new name when they are installed. But it is confusing for scholars so scholars call them 1st Isaiah, 2nd Isaiah and 3rd Isaiah.

Last week, I preached on the promise that prophet 2nd Isaiah proclaimed to the people of God.  After Israel was conquered by the Babylonians, the people of God, especially the leaders and their families, were exiled to Babylon as slaves.  A generation passed and the exiled people of God started to forget that they were the people of God. They started to blend in, signed their kids up for sports teams with the Babylonians, and, not surprisingly, the generation of kids who were born in Babylon started thinking of themselves as Babylonians rather than as the people of God. 2nd Isaiah chewed them out, reminded them of who they were – that they were God’s people – and that God loved them and would bring them home.

Meanwhile, there had been a change in the government of Babylon, and they were free to go. The people of God got excited, packed up their bags – and headed home. Except…. When they got to Israel, things had changed since they had left in chains a generation earlier. The walls of the city of Jerusalem were destroyed; the temple was in ruins. And they were not welcomed back with open arms. Their cousins who remained there had started blending in with others who were left in the countryside of Samaria, and were even taking on the name “Samaritans” - much like many of the exiled people had started to blend in with the Babylonians. This was not the homecoming that they anticipated. Instead, they were told to go “home” to Babylon. This was no longer their home.

The prophet Isaiah – this time 3rd Isaiah - speaks to their grief and hurt and anger in an honest lament to God.  We only have the end of the lament in our lesson today. But basically the prophet is asking, “Why God?  Why bring your people back if you aren’t going to support them? Why should they be called forsaken, the people that God left and the land that you promised them be desolate and be called the land that God destroyed?”

God responds to this honest anger, lament and sorrow by proclaiming, quoting now from another translation: “you will have a new name, which the Lord himself will give you. You will be like a beautiful crown in the Lord’s hand, like a king’s crown in your God’s hand. You will never again be called the People that God Left, nor your land the Land that God Destroyed. You will be called the People God Loves, and your land will be called the Bride of God, because the Lord loves you.”

This is a beautiful piece of poetry in the Hebrew Bible. But, honestly, it had never really connected with me when I was growing up. My growing up years were stable:  I was not an exile. I grew up in a stable family, and, while we had our challenges, really…we had a good life.

But at my first “real” job after college I went to work at Augustana, an inner city church that had an outreach ministry called Crossroad. Ethnically there was a mix of people from all kinds of heritages – including African American, Native American, Scandinavian  American and others too. Most of the women were living on welfare – as had their mothers.

Augustana/ Crossroad did a lot of good work with the kids – and with the neighborhood moms, but nothing seemed to change for them until we hosted a weeklong Spiritual retreat called a Cursillo in which messages of love and grace are poured out in such an overwhelming fashion that it’s hard not to feel the love of God. We did this retreat especially for the inner city moms.  

When the moms heard this passage, “You will have a new name… you will be like a beautiful crown in the Lord’s hand… you will never again be called the people that God left… no longer be called forsaken… You will be called the people God loves…the Bride of God...” They began to cry.  They wept. No one had ever called them God’s beloved before. They never heard the promises of God as meant for them.

I wonder if this is the problem in our world, in our country today. We are divided about so many things – race, immigration, the changing climate, what it means to be an American and maybe even… who is a child of God.

Tomorrow is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I really wish it wasn’t a day off for children from school. I think it should be a day in which children are taught and all of us are called to listen to the lament of people who feel as if they have been left behind and the hope and vision of what could be.

Martin Luther King Jr as a pastor and as a leader was an eloquent voice for a people who had been enslaved and wondered if God had abandoned them, not unlike the people of Israel returning from exile and not unlike the mom’s group in Minneapolis who felt stuck in hopelessness and poverty.  He spoke many good words… but these spoke to me for our time today:

With the voice of a prophet, Martin Luther King Jr proclaimed: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” And he calls us all to faith, saying, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

This past year, we proclaimed our baptismal verse – to let our light shine.  Now this year, we as a congregation need to think about that next step… even when we do not see the whole staircase, the rest of the journey.

The Wildfire pastors have been meeting to think and pray about how our congregations can reach out into our community in meaningful ways so that they too may have the chance to hear that they are not forsaken, they are also the beloved children of God.

God works in mysterious ways. Jesus provides an abundance of the best wine at a wedding – his gift to keep them from shame.  The Isaiahs of the Old Testament proclaimed God’s surprising presence and care for God’s people. Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed the need to respond to God’s gift of love and light by our showing love and light for the neighbor. The question I have now… is how is God working in our neighborhood – and how can we and our Wildfire partners be a part of God’s abundant love for the sake of the world?

Let’s pray about it: Gracious God of abundance, God of light and love. Help us to proclaim your love and shine your light so that, with our neighbor, we can not only love kindness but do justice. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Pastor Pam Stalheim Lane

Faith-Lilac Way Lutheran Church

January 20, 2019

John 2:1-11

1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." 4 And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come." 5 His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." 6 Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. 8 He said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward." So they took it. 9 When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now." 11 Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.


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A Love Poem from God: I Love You All!

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A Love Poem from God: I Love You All!

Today is Baptism of our Lord Sunday, the day in which we are reminded of Jesus’ baptism – and our own. In the Gospel of Luke, we hear a voice from heaven proclaiming: "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."  It’s just a short statement – but with it, God names and claims Jesus as God’s Son and calls him “Beloved.” I’ll come back to this pronouncement.

 But today I would like you to turn to the reading from Isaiah, it’s on page __ of your bulletin. This is another proclamation from God.  It is a poem – actually just the heart of a poem -- from God, speaking through Isaiah, to God’s people. Like the Gospel, this poem makes a declaration of love, and names and claims God’s people. I think he uses poetry since in poetry– like lyrics of a song… truth is spoken to the heart in way that bypasses all the objections of our brains and gets right to our hearts and souls.

 Here’s the context: the people of Israel were conquered and a large portion of their people – all of their leaders - had been forced from their country to serve their captors in Babylon. A generation has passed and the people.. especially the new generation… but the older people as well… have begun to forget about their homeland and forget about or maybe gave up on God. The prophet Isaiah has just gotten done chewing them out!

 Here’s where we pick up the poem.. “But now thus says the Lord.” But now... With those two words, Isaiah proclaims that God is turning the page, forgiving them for all of the times they have messed up – the times they have turned from God, and from their neighbor – the bad choices they have made.

 With words reminiscent of the very beginning of the creation story, Isaiah reminds the people that God is the one “who created you and formed you.”  In this poem “Jacob” and “Israel” refer to the whole tribe of God’s chosen people and the “you” in this passage is also plural – it means you all. God has formed ‘you all.” God has redeemed “you all.”  

Being redeemed – in Biblical times – was not a “get of jail free” card or the result of lawyers getting a case dismissed on a technicality. Being redeemed meant that someone else – a loved one – had paid a price for your freedom. God says to God’s people, “I have redeemed ‘you all’” God reminds them of their relationship: “I have called you all by name, you all are mine.” Why? Skip down a few lines. God says clearly and unequivocally: … “because you all are precious in my sight…. And I love you. I love you all

Hear the Word of the Lord: You all are precious in God’s sight. God says to you individually and as the whole people of God… “I LOVE YOU.” Hear those words again: “I LOVE YOU ALL.”

God doesn’t say those words quite so clearly again until God speaks them to Jesus, who opens the door for all people, all nations -- not just the tribe of Israel… to be God’s people. So hear these words again. God says, “I LOVE YOU. I love you ALL.” Because of Jesus, this love poem is written not only for God’s first chosen people but now… for you all too.

This is the last scripture that I shared with Valerie Wietzke when I visited with her. And these are words that you can claim too.  

God promises you: When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”

Some of the images in the Bible refer to the pastoral context of their day. Not many of us have used a winnowing fork on a threshing floor – and so sometimes images take some translation for us in our world today. But in this poem, God talks about water and fire. And we know what a blessing – but also how dangerous they can be. Here in Minnesota, we love our 10,000 plus lakes and being on, in and by the water. But we also know that hurricanes and tsunamis, blizzards and raging rivers can cause devastation.  

And, while we love the smell of a campfire, the Campfire wild fire in California devastated not only forests but homes – and whole towns like Paradise, California. Maybe the people in the Northwest have grown accustomed to living with the threat of fire, but I will never forget seeing the wildfire in the distance when camping in the wilderness the summer before last. When we came around the corner after spending the day at a beautiful alpine lake, we discovered that what had been a green carpet of trees on the mountain across the wide valley from us – that was also filled with timber -- was aflame. We could smell soot in the air. Knowing how fast fire can travel –– we got out of there. We quickly packed up our tents from under the wooded trees in the valley and hiked up a rocky mountain ridge. I prayed lots of prayers before going to sleep that night. The next morning we woke before dawn and we could still see the fire… but it was going the other way.  

I believe in the power of prayer. But I also know that God does not put a protective shield around God’s people so that nothing bad ever happens. Bad things still happen to good God-loving people.

In God’s love poem, God does not promise that bad things won’t happen. But what God does promise is that – even when they do, God will be with you, you all – and with me.

God even uses some hyperbole to assure the people of Israel that God will not abandon them – but instead will gather God’s people, including your sons and daughters from the North and South, the East and West.

And because of  Jesus Christ, this promise of God’s gift of love and grace is extended to people of all nations and people who have no nation, people who have riches and people who have nothing, people from the North and South and East and West.

For when God’s voice broke through the heavens and claimed Jesus as God’s son, as beloved, that changed everything. And when you were baptized into Christ – drowned in the waters of baptism and reborn a child of God… that changed everything for you too. God’s love poem is for you…all. God claims you all saying: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (43:1) and again at the end of this passage, claims “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made” (v. 7).

Brothers and sisters in Christ, you have been created by God, redeemed by God, named by God, and claimed by God. This is why you do not ever need to be afraid. For God is with you.

And it is because we know that God’s presence is always with us –we can be confident that there is no water that is too deep, no fire that burns too hot, no problem that is too big and no situation in which we find ourselves that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

This is the promise of God for you, but not only for you but for you all. And…because we know this, and are sustained by this, we all can dare to wonder: what is God calling me to do and to be today? How is God calling me to live? May you remember each and every day that you are a beloved, claimed child of God, and may the love of Christ poured into you joyfully overflow in all of your words and deeds. In Jesus’ name. Amen  

Pastor Pam Stalheim Lane              Faith-Lilac Way Lutheran church January 13, 2019

 

The Holy Gospel according to Luke 3, the 3rd chapter.

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16 John answered all of them by saying, "I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." 21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased." The Gospel of the Lord.

But now thus says the Lord,
    he who created you, O Jacob,
    he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
    Ethiopia[a] and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my sight,
    and honored, and I love you,
I give people in return for you,
    nations in exchange for your life.
Do not fear, for I am with you;
    I will bring your offspring from the east,
    and from the west I will gather you;
I will say to the north, “Give them up,”
    and to the south, “Do not withhold;
bring my sons from far away
    and my daughters from the end of the earth—
everyone who is called by my name,
    whom I created for my glory,
    whom I formed and made.


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AH Ha! God is With Us!

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AH Ha! God is With Us!

Today, January 6, is the day of Epiphany. An epiphany can be an “aha” moment, a revelation of sudden insight, a revealing of truth, a manifestation of a divine being. But in the church year, it refers particularly to this story, the story of the Magi and Jesus.  

It is full of everything that makes a good story :

There are the good guys – sometimes called wisemen or kings, but more accurately called Magi.  The magi were astronomers. They studied the sky. They may also have been Zorastrian priests from Persia.

There is also a bad guy. We are introduced to Herod – a powerful brutal king frightened of losing power  -- and willing to kill just about anyone who got in his way. Jesus wasn’t the only one. Herod reportedly killed his own sons when they seemed to be gaining too much power or popularity.

And there is a purpose for the journey. The Magi asked King Herod: “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” They give Jesus a title:  king of the Jews, and declare their intention to worship him.

But there is also lots of room for interpretation, imagination and wonder.

Much of what we know or think about the Magi comes from the stories and legends that have been told about these mysterious visitors. For example, because they brought 3 gifts, it was often assumed that there were three Maji. And because the gifts were expensive gifts often given to kings, it was often assumed that they were kings.  We also assume they rode camels since they came from the East, probably over dry and desert land. Sometimes– they are called “wisemen” – like the translation printed in the bulletin – perhaps because they didn’t fall entirely for Herod’s trap. But none of those assumptions are in the Bible. There are no names for the Magi – although one legend names them Melchoir, Gaspar and Bathazar .  And I’ve read other stories about an imagined “4th wiseman who never quite made it to the manger.  It could be that none of them made it to the manger. Despite the scene depicted in many nativity scenes – including mine – most scholars believe the Magi did not arrive on Christmas night… but instead came a bit later.  But we don’t know… so you can keep your “wisemen” or Magi and the camels in your nativity sets. Don’t misunderstand me - the stories that have grown up around the Magi are not bad – in fact it is good to wonder… and to imagine how it might be that Magi from the East came to worship Jesus.  

This past week, Kristin, a friend of mine, asked a group of us to pick a word to think about this year. One person said: Courage. Another said Hope. I said “Wonder.” It is good to wonder… to be open to God’s possibilities… to God’s revelations to us as a congregation, to be open to how God is working in our neighborhood and in our lives.  I’m going to be wondering this year – and I invite you to join me in being open to the Holy Spirit.

As for the Magi – I have often thought of them as seekers… as people on a journey to find Jesus. And it’s true… they are looking for Jesus. But I don’t think that they would have started out on this quest if something hadn’t sparked their interest, if something hadn’t been revealed to them… if they had not had an “epiphany.”

And this is what sparked my interest this past week. After all…. like people in the time of Jesus, our world too has leaders who are nasty and ruthless in their quest for power and control - they may or may not be called kings, but they are operate on the same selfish, egotistical yet childish fears. Like the people of that time, we too have an undercurrent of darkness, strife, and injustice, pain and sorrow in our world.  We mourn when people we love die – too soon – like Valerie and Don and David. We can easily become discouraged when we listen or read or scan the news – especially when we hear stories of our country not welcoming the neighbor, not caring for the elderly, the veterans, the poor and the immigrant.

And yet……while the Magi were not Rabbinic scholars and they did not know the law or the culture and they had no idea what the Hebrew scriptures – our Old Testament Bible --  prophesied… after all…they weren’t even Jewish! Still they set out on a journey with great expense – because God revealed – through a star – that a great King, the King of Israel had been born. And they felt compelled to seek him.

God continues to reveal God’s self in surprising ways to ordinary people – like you and me. God reveals God’s self in the ways that God has promised - in the bread and wine of communion, in the Word of God and in the waters of Baptism… and we, like the Magi,  seek him.

In seeking to follow Jesus, we won’t always get it right. We might make mistakes. After all… that’s what happened to the Magi. I never understood why, after following the star all the way from their distant country, they would suddenly stop following the star and instead ask Herod for directions.

Who knows? I like to imagine that maybe it was because it was cloudy… or maybe they got anxious and tried to travel during the day. Or maybe they just got overly confident in their own understanding.  Or maybe something else. The Bible doesn’t say. And yet… despite the Magi getting off course for a bit, God continued to seek to reveal God’s self to them. Again he sent the star to lead and guide them.

Today is the first Sunday of the year… Epiphany Sunday… the Sunday that celebrates God revealing God’s self to “outsiders” and unexpected people –  including Easterners with a different religion, Gentiles and… people like us. And so I would like to challenge us to do two things this year.

The first is to wonder. Wonder with me what or where may God be calling us as a congregation this year?  And secondly…be bold. Be bold in seeking the one who is seeking you. Sometimes it takes the courage to take the first step – not knowing where the next step will take you.

One of my pastor friends shared an “Epiphany Blessing” with me – that I would like to share with you. Listen for the way that it encourages us to take the path of Christ with courage – not knowing where it will lead.

An Epiphany Blessing by Jan Richardson

If you could see the journey whole…. you might never undertake it; might never dare the first step that propels you from the place you have known toward the place you know not.

Call it one of the mercies of the road: that we see it only by stages as it opens before us, as it comes into our keeping step by single step.

There is nothing for it but to go and by our going take the vows the pilgrim takes:  to be faithful to the next step; to rely on more than the map; to heed the signposts of intuition and dream; to follow the star that only you will recognize;

to keep an open eye for the wonders that attend the path; to press on beyond distractions beyond fatigue beyond what would tempt you from the way.

There are vows that only you will know; the secret promises for your particular path and the new ones you will need to make when the road is revealed by turns you could not have foreseen.

Keep them, break them, make them again: each promise becomes part of the path; each choice creates the road that will take you to the place where at last you will kneel to offer the gift most needed—the gift that only you can give—before turning to go home by another way.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, God continues to reveal God’s self to us through the waters of baptism. bread and wine, and the Word of God. But that is not all. God also reveals God’s self through the wonders of God’s world and the surprises along the way. God invites us to be bearers of the light that has come into the world, the light that the darkness neither understands nor has overcome.

May you be open to follow the journey, trusting that God is with you – and us – at each turn, through dark valleys and in the joy of discovering…ah ha! God is with us! Amen.  

Pastor Pam Stalheim Lane

Faith-Lilac Way Lutheran Church – January 6, 2019

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’[b]” Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.  NIV

Footnotes:

  1. Matthew 2:1 Traditionally wise men

  2. Matthew 2:6 Micah 5:2,4

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Surprise!

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Surprise!

Luke 2:41-52

Let us pray.  Light of life, you came in flesh, born into human pain and joy, and gave us power to be your children. Grant us faith, O Christ, to see your presence among us, so that all creation may sing new songs of gladness. Amen

Surprises can be positive or negative, depending on what the surprise is, and who’s receiving it.

Remembering back to when my firstborn, Leif, was about 2 ½, and we were shopping in a sea of round clearance racks, tightly packed with end-of-season clothing.

I was determined to find the best deals, but Leif was getting restless in the cart, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to keep one eye on him and one eye on the rack as I rifled through the items.

So, I put him on the floor and asked if he could help me find something specific, like a red shirt, which he did with enthusiasm! But once he found the requested article, he lost interest and crawled under the rack, which began a slightly sophisticated game of peek-a-boo. Leif would poke his delightful little face through the clothes and shout, “surprise!”

This went on for several minutes, and I thought I was pretty clever keeping Leif busy, until, he didn’t pop out. Up until then, he had always stayed right with me.  

I called his name, but got no response. I started looking under the racks around me, but didn’t see any little feet hiding under them. I was getting worried and called his name more urgently. Still no sign or sound – not even a giggle.

I wasn’t sure which direction to look. I was afraid to go too far from our starting point. There was no one around to ask for help, and just as I was about to really lose it, little Leif called out from several racks away, “come and find me mommy, I’m hiding!” I didn’t expect that! So our harmless game of peek-a-boo had become hide and seek, thanks to my precocious toddler and to my chagrin.

I felt extreme relief upon finding him,  concurrently with astonishment that Leif had managed to hide himself and kept silent for those long minutes! When did he learn to play hide and seek? How did I not notice his wandering.? Was this small child capable of such stealth?

Well, since I’d heard his voice I was able to locate him easily, and he jumped out joyfully not having any idea why I would be upset. He was playing and he thought I was playing too. He was developing as children do, generalizing concepts and skills as his world expanded, but it was a wake-up call to me in realizing that he’d continue to grow and develop and I could not assume one day would be the same as the previous. A somewhat scary, yet joyful surprise.

But I hadn’t remained the same either. I was learning to parent this little boy as he developed through infancy and even until today. And his brother too, which is a whole other story!

We aren’t finished being parents just because our children become adults. The growth we can monitor will end – at some point shoe sizes and inseams do stabilize – there will be a final pencil mark on the wall, but change continues whether we observe it or not.  Children become mature versions of themselves, with dreams and hopes and goals that may surprise their families. In the same way, each of us will remain a child in our parents eyes, and in God’s eyes.

In Luke’s gospel, Mary was confronted with the realization that her little boy, Jesus, was becoming more than she had recognized. The infant she nursed, the tears she wiped away, the hurts she comforted, the milestones she celebrated with him, the joy she felt at his delight over simple new experiences had been part of his transformation, as well as hers. Was this event a wake-up call for Mary, a reminder of what her boy would grow into? Perhaps in preparation for the road ahead.

I wonder how Jesus responded to Mary’s question, “Child, why have you treated us like this?”  Was he surprised by their anxiety? Was his response, “Why have you been searching for me?” said in tones of remorse or scolding? Did he comprehend the changes in himself? Was this the first indication of his true calling?

We don’t get many answers about Jesus’s growing up years, but from this one and only story, we know that the infant whose birth we celebrated last week grew to be a walking, talking, thinking person who progressed in wisdom and in years. We know that he was raised in a faithful Jewish family that made the annual trip to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem a priority.

We know that Jesus’s priorities had changed. The will of his heavenly father had superseded the will of Mary and Joseph. Three days they searched for him, and on the third day they found Jesus alive and well in a place that surprised them. Yet their search was over!

And like Mary and Joseph, our search has ended, because Jesus shows us the way to God.  He was born, lived, died and rose to make the way clear for us, even if the road along the way is what we least expect. Our searching ends with new life, meaningful life, the life God intends! Perhaps not what we expect.

And like Jesus, as children of God, we’ll continue to grow in wisdom and in years, in divine and human favor, as we respond to God’s love.  No matter how old we are.

It reminds me of a song written by Chris Rice called, Welcome to Our World. Some of the lyrics go like this:  Fragile finger sent to heal us, tender brow prepared for thorn. Tiny heart, whose blood will save us, welcome to our world.

So wrap our injured flesh around you, breathe our air and walk our sod. Rob our sin and make us holy, perfect lamb of God, perfect lamb of God. Welcome to our world.

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The Perfect Gift

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The Perfect Gift

The Perfect Gift

Christmas Eve 2018

Ever been stumped as to what to give someone for Christmas?  You don’t have to answer that – especially if that someone is sitting near you in the pew.  

This fall, at our Minneapolis Area Synod’s gathering of clergy, we were asked to bring a gift for someone – we didn’t know who it would be. Oh, I thought – it’s the dice game! I’ve got an enormous flyswatter from the last time that I played that game. I’ll bring that!

It’s a good thing I read the rest of the letter. It went on to say that it should be something that you own, that is important to you, that is worth under $20 and that you should share a story about it with the person who receives it.  That made it harder. What could I give? What would be the perfect gift?

Recently I read a story about a man, Charles, who wanted to give the perfect gift to his family for Christmas.1 So…on Christmas eve, just before dinner, he handed sealed envelopes out to his family - his wife and children and grandchildren and his sister who were sitting around the table.

“What’s this?” asked his daughter.  

Charles explained – that he had been thinking a lot about this day when they would all be together and he did not want to not miss this opportunity to share a special gift with each of them.  

He said, “I’d like you to open these, one at a time. Laura, since you are curious… would you begin by opening your envelope?”  She did. Inside there was a red velvet letter H.

Laura asked, “ The letter H.  What is this for? “

Charles replied: “H is for the beautiful harp music that you play for us – heavenly harp music I might say. I appreciate you sharing your musical talent – that’s a gift for all of us.”

Laura smiled. “Glad you like it.”

Charles said, Tom… why don’t you go next?

“Ok,” Tom said. Tom was about 8 years old and was already tearing into his envelope.  Inside, he found a letter T. “Grandpa, what’s the T for? Toys?”

Grandpa Charles smiled and said, “Kind of… but not just toys… T is for taking time to be together… Taking time together to throw a baseball in the park, to play with the model train, to build a snowman, to tell stories. I wanted you to say: ‘thanks for sharing time with me. ‘

Tom ran over to his Grandpa, threw his arms around him and said, “Oh Gramps… Any time!”

Charles grinned and turned to his son-in-law: “John, why don’t you open yours?”

John quickly opened his envelope and out fell the letter S. “S… Let me guess. Is it for the Star that I put on the tree?”

“That’s right John, it’s for the star” said Charles. “But it’s not just because you are 6’4 that I ask you to do that. Your joy shines through everything you do – just like the light from the star.

John, a bit surprised said, “Why… thank you.”

Sara, Charles sister, asked,  “my turn?” Charles nodded. She opened up her letter. “The letter C! Is C is for Christmas cookies?

Charles laughed. “Good guess! C is for the cookies you make and for the loving care with which you make them – and we are all glad that you share.”

Everyone at the table agreed… and several people… and not just the children... reached for another cookie.

“What if I go next?”

Charles looked at his granddaughter who trying to be patient but was also trying to sneak a peak by holding her envelope up to the light. “Absolutely, Julie. You’ve waited long enough.”


Julie let out a big sigh and ripped the envelope open. The letter “I” fell to the table. “Grandpa, what does ‘I’ stands for? Igloos? Ireland? Icicles? Ice cream?”

He replied, “Imagination.”

Julie said, “Imagination?” What do you mean?

Everyone laughed.

Grandpa Charles explained, “You have the gift of imagination – you can dream of igloos and Ireland… ice-cream and icicles before the rest of us can say one word. Keep dreaming and imagining, let your curiosity keep asking, “what if?” We are all glad that you share your “what ifs” with us!  

Judy, Charles’ wife of 50 some years said, “I may need a little more imagination. I can’t guess what letter may be in my envelope.”

“Then, my dear, you are just going to have to open it,” Charles replied.

Judy carefully opened the envelope. “The letter R!” Is that for “Reading, ‘riting and ‘Rithmatic?”  

Charles replied, “No, dear. It’s for  ‘reminiscing.’ I love remembering with you. Thank you for all of the years together to remember!”

Judy said, “Thank you! I love remembering with you too – but even more, I love it that we keep on making memories. Tonight you have given us a wonderful gift and I don’t even really want to break this lovely moment… but… are you ready for supper?

Charles said, “Soon… but there’s one more gift. And it’s the best gift ever. You could call it the ‘Perfect Gift.’”

Tom said, “But grandpa… I don’t see any more envelopes.”

Charles replied, “You are right. But put your letters on the table. See what they spell.

Everyone dropped their letter to the middle of the table and almost at once they all saw it:    C - H – R - I - S – T! Christ.

Charles said to them, “I kept thinking about what was the perfect gift that I could give to you on this Christmas night. But then… I realized, the perfect gift has already been given. God’s got that one all wrapped up. God loves us so much that God gave us Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, our Savior. Jesus Christ is the perfect gift.”

The next year… as the family gathered around the Christmas table, they each brought their letter and their gift of heavenly music, time, bright stars and delicious cookies, imagination and reminiscing. One person was missing: Charles. He may have had a premonition that he didn’t have much time left to tell the story. But tell it he did – and his loved ones all remembered the gift that they were to him – and God’s perfect gift to them… the gift of Jesus Christ.

I hadn’t read this story yet when I was looking for my gift to bring to the clergy gathering.  I finally settled on a Jerusalem cross pin that I had received from Salam Arabic Lutheran church in Brooklyn on one of our youth mission trips.  I worried that it wasn’t the right gift… but I was out of time, so I packed it up and headed to the conference.

After worship that evening, a wonderful thing happened as we divided into groups to share our gifts and our stories. I realized then… despite my anxiety about finding that perfect gift… it wasn’t about the gift at all. God had already given each of us the perfect gift -  Jesus, God’s own Son… The important thing for us to do was to tell the story.

Tonight we celebrate that perfect gift - God’s gift - Jesus Christ. This Christmas, be sure to tell those you love what a gift that they are to you… and tell them the story about God’s perfect gift: Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Pastor Pam Stalheim Lane

Faith-Lilac Way Lutheran Church 2018

1 Adapted from The Christmas Letters: A Timeless Story for Every Generation by Brett Nicholaus


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Mary's Song

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Mary's Song

The Gospel of the Lord

Praise to you O Christ.

Brothers and sisters will you please pray with me?

God of song and mystery, like Mary, let your word spring forth from our lips with joy and wonder. Open our hearts and lives to your gift of abundant life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.  

Mary’s Song

The power of music to bless us and transform the world

What do you do if you want to remember something?  Maybe you write it down… on a calendar, in your phone… or maybe you put sticky notes where you will see them or hang it on your refrigerator.  Unless you are one of the few with an amazing memory… you probably have developed a method or two for remembering things.

It turns out that music is one of the best ways to remember something. There is something that sparks our memory if we hear a tune or just a line of a song we know well or learned in our childhood. As writer Jodi Picoult once said, “Music is the language of memory.”  It’s true. I’ll bet most of you could sing the next line if I started singing “Hark the Herald angels sing..,”Glory to the new born king”

This marvelous music memory that we all have was an important key to helping me recover many years ago when I received an internal head injury after being hit by a car.  One of the things that I responded to, while I was in a coma, was my family singing Christmas carols – and the liturgy. Those words and music connected with me deep inside my soul.

That is the power of music. Songs reach into our hearts and minds and lives and help us express ideas and emotions that simply cannot be expressed by words alone.   What do we do when we celebrate? We play music!

In the opening hymn we sang: “Sing out your joy, for soon he is born…” We rejoice, we celebrate, we sing the promise of God that has come to life… in the birth of Jesus.  

But music is not just for celebrations. Music can also reach deep into our hearts at those times that we lament. Sometimes it can seem as if the power of darkness and sorrow is winning. Sometimes our hearts are broken. It is at those times that we turn to songs or Psalms of lament. Most of the lament psalms – for the Psalms were first written as songs to be sung or chanted – begin by acknowledging the hurt and the pain of life but then work their way to praise and thanksgiving.  Music can also help us to work through our trials and bring us out on the other side.

Songs are powerful. I was reminded of the fall of the Berlin Wall almost 30 years ago. It started with people gathering around candlelight in St. Nikolai church – the church where Bach wrote much of his music. They gathered to singing and praying for the fall of that wall. The Stazi police thought that nothing could happen as a result of songs and prayers – so they did not bother them. It began as a small group. But over time their numbers grew until they filled the sanctuary and then overflowed into the street until finally they marched with more than three hundred thousand, more than half of the citizens of the city, singing songs of hope and protest.  Their song shook the powers of the nation and the wall came down.

Likewise, it wasn’t only the strong words of Martin Luther King Jr that spurred on the justice movement of his day but Gospel songs, like “We shall overcome” made people not only hope for voting rights … but inspire them to believe that it could happen.  

Songs are powerful.  They help us express joy. They move us and give us the courage to stand up to oppression and to over come evil with good.

For our Gospel today, I wanted you to sing rather than just listen to Mary’s song, the Magnificat. These words have been set to many tunes but the message that they convey is timeless. These words, this song, reminds us that God meets ordinary people in ordinary places and cares for those who the world sees as “nobodies”.

There is every reason in the world that Mary should be afraid. She finds herself unmarried and pregnant – a condition that, in her day, could be punishable by stoning. But instead… she runs – possibly for protection - to her cousin Elizabeth – who has also been surprised by God with a baby even though everyone in her world thought her barren. And together they are amazed at the surprising ways that God has acted in them – ordinary, poor and seemingly powerless women.

And Mary sings. She accepts God’s choice and humbly and yet with not just a little courage, sings with joy and wonder that God would chooses to work through her, an ordinary girl to bear the Savior of the World. She rejoices, singing that her soul “magnifies” the Lord.

But then she sings – not only of her own condition – but of the condition of the world. She proclaims that God is at work in the world, turning the world’s expectations upside down.  Her verbs are past tense – not because God is done – but because Mary remembers God’s on-going work with the people of God. God worked with Moses to free the Hebrew people from Pharaoh’s hand. God worked with the prophets of old caring for the weak and turning expectations upside down. And now…Mary realizes… God is working in a new way… through her.

Mary sang and rejoiced to become a part of God’s unfinished business… and do we.

Today, as we baptize Lilah, welcoming her into God’s family, we  are reminded of God’s on-going work – and that God prefers to work through ordinary people like you and me.

She will be receiving a few gifts as reminders for her and you of her new life in Christ. First, her baptismal towel with a dove on it is a reminder that the Holy Spirit will always be with her. The candle that is lit today can be lit on the anniversary of her baptism, reminding her of Christ’s light shining in and through her and reminder her to “let her light shine before others so that they will see her good works” – not to praise her – but so that they will give thanks and glory to God.  She will receive a prayer shawl – and a prayer partner, reminding her that she will be in this congregation’s thoughts and prayers.

These are the gifts that we give all of the baptized. But I am adding one today: the gift of music.  The children’s choir of the congregation in which I was grew up recorded some songs – songs of the church, songs found in the hymnal. I want you to play these songs for her as she is growing up so that the music proclaiming the love of God can be the song of her heart – and the song that pulses through her bones, teaching her the love of God and the promises of God are given for her and for you.

May the power of music bless you so that your song, like Mary’s, can be one of joy and wonder and reflect the mysterious goodness and grace of God.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Pastor Pam Stalheim Lane

Faith-Lilac Way Lutheran church

December 23, 2018


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Living the Good News

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Living the Good News

This past week I happened to be listening to the radio when Michael Cohen, Trump’s attorney and “fixer” was being sentenced. I had to look up what a “fixer” was. According to my dictionary, a “fixer” is: “a person who makes arrangements for other people, especially of an illicit or devious kind.” But at this point, Michael Cohen had run out of room to maneuver or “fix” anything. Speaking to the judge, he said, “Your Honor, this may seem hard to believe, but today is one of the most meaningful days of my life. The irony is today is the day I am getting my freedom back….I have already spent years living a personal and mental incarceration, which no matter what is decided today, owning this mistake will free me to be once more the person I really am.” Perhaps he was trying to win sympathy for a lighter sentence. But it sounded like repentance to me.

Repentance means not only saying, “I’m sorry” but also means committing to live life differently.  

In our Gospel, people from all walks of life come to John to be baptized – not with the baptism of new life in Jesus… Jesus hasn’t started his ministry yet – but with the baptism of repentance. John’s baptism of repentance calls for change, a 180 degree change in the way that people live their lives.  John tells people: “Bear fruits worthy of repentance.”

People believe John – but… they want to know: What does this mean?  Specifically, “What does this mean for me?”

Suddenly John becomes practical: If you have two coats – share with someone who has none. Don’t cheat, steal or extort money. Don’t be a bully. Be satisfied when you have enough.  

John the Baptist isn’t theoretical or heady. Instead, he gives them some very practical, very “do-able” ways to “bear fruit of repentance.” Instead of the old way of getting what you can when you can, John calls the people to: Share. Be fair. Don’t extort or bully or steal. Instead…care for others.

John challenges his listeners to do their part – to be good neighbors, to care for the other. It sounds a lot like Jesus’ 2nd commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus said that all of the law and all of the teachings of the prophets rests on two commands. Love God. Love your neighbor. These are the law – the commandments for how we too should live our lives. But…  while the law and the commandments can help us be better neighbors - and while repentance, asking for forgiveness and changing our ways to care for others helps build the community… they are not the Gospel. They are not the Good News.

John the Baptist knows this.  Although he is a little in the dark – he doesn’t know who the Messiah will be -- he does know that it’s not him. And he knows that the Messiah is coming.  He points to Christ.

There’s a great painting by Reformation painter Lucas Cranach of John the Baptist preaching to the people by the river Jordan. In the picture, John is pointing to Jesus – and just so the viewer doesn’t miss the significance of this….his finger is about a foot long. He points to Christ as the way, the truth and abundant life.  

That’s what Paul was doing too when he wrote to the Philippians. Paul wasn’t writing his annual Christmas card of peace and joy to all the earth – he was writing from jail. And yet… despite his situation, Paul says, “Rejoice. Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS.”

This sounds like an impossible task. After all… always is a long time. Bad things happen. Situations change. And yet…  Paul encourages the Christians in Philippi – and us -- to hold onto the joy of Jesus Christ -- not because we are happy and not because everything is going to go our way but because…the Lord is near.

The Lord is near. Paul invites us to share with God – to pray with intention – and to not let any of our personal challenges, whether our own health, family, finances or work or school  – or the problems of our world to overwhelm us. Instead… Paul invites us to share our challenges with God – with thanksgiving.

We can give thanks… as we ask and as we pray, because we know God listens and God is near and… we already know the end of the story.  That’s the Good News. Because of Jesus’ love for you and the promise that God made to you in baptism, God has already forgiven you, redeemed you,  and claimed you as God’s own.

So… like the crowd in John the Baptist’s day, the question becomes… what then shall we do?

We are still subject to the law – and so Jesus’ first and second commandments still apply to us. “Love God and Love the neighbor”. And we still live in a broken world, a world that needs people to stand up to oppression and injustice. As a people of God, we are pretty good about praying for justice and peace, and caring for the neighbor through various programs such as Dinner at Your Door, Near, and Kidpack, but our Community Outreach task force is exploring new ways that we can be witnesses to and with our neighbors so that others can know God’s way of truth and justice and God’s redeeming love.

The truth is - there is much bad news out there. There is much that needs to be changed. Regardless of whose fault it is, it is not part of God’s plan for 7 year old girls fleeing oppression to die in our country because they don’t have water to drink or food to eat. It is not part of God’s plan for children in Flint, Michigan to still be suffering from the lead that was in their water tap.  It is not a part of God’s world for children in our own community to be hungry and homeless. This is not God’s way. And God has put us here….in this community….to reflect the love of God and to help make our community care for its most vulnerable people.

So… what are we going to do about it?  We will pray first but then… rather than assume that we know and before we develop a program or do anything else to seek to make difference in our community – we are going out into our community to ask them. That’s why Deacon Kirsten and I and hopefully a few of you will be visiting our neighbors today.  And as we go, we will be asking questions about them but we will also be standing there, not because of our own agenda, but like John the Baptist and Paul – as people of God who are pointing to Christ and saying by our presence: God cares about you.

There is a need in our community to see God’s witnesses – you and me -- reflect the love of God so that others can know and live into the abundance of God’s love and mercy and to be treated with care. After all, God’s community is not a closed club. The love of God, the way of Christ is for all.

Paul challenges us to live into the Good News, into the freedom of the Gospel. It is because of the love of God given to you and me that we can live with joy –no matter what the circumstances of our lives may be – Christ’s love and joy shines through and we can dare to rejoice always.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, rejoice in the Lord and let the joy of Christ reflect in and through you.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Pastor Pam Stalheim Lane

Faith-Lilac Way Lutheran Church

December 16, 2018  Advent #3


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The Word of God in the Wilderness

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The Word of God in the Wilderness

The Holy Gospel according to Luke the third chapter:

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, "The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: "Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.' " Luke 3:1-6     The Gospel of the Lord.

The Word of God in the Wilderness

Luke begins this passage with a list of the “powers that be” of the time. He includes not one or two – but seven leaders of the world. These are the people that are in the news. These are the people that get the headlines, that have the power. But… notice: the Word of the Lord doesn’t come  to any of these. Instead, Luke writes, “”the word of God came to John son of Zechariah… in the wilderness.”

Compared to the first seven names, John was a nobody. He didn’t have any of the vestiges of power or wealth or prestige or position. He was a young and in the wilderness, place where no one who could avoid it would go. After all… the places of power and influence were in Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome.

The wilderness was a dangerous barren place of waiting, testing and challenge.  The wilderness is where God sent the people of Israel after leaving Egypt – the most technically advanced country of the time. The wilderness is where bandits and outlaws fled as well as people who wanted or needed to live outside of grasp of the power of the world. It’s where Moses fled and where Jesus was driven. It was a dangerous barren place of waiting, testing and challenge.

And yet… Luke writes…“”the word of God came to John son of Zechariah… in the wilderness.” So… essentially… the word of God came to a no-body in the midst of no-where. But…that’s often how the Word of God shows up.

Where do we expect power to be? Maybe if Luke was writing today, he would say: In the second year of the presidency of Donald Trump, while Mark Dayton was governor of Minnesota, and Putin was ruler of Russia and Angela Merkel was chancellor of Germany while Pope Francis was leader of the Roman Catholic Church and the Rev. Elizabeth Eaton was bishop of the ELCA, the Word of God came to… Becca… and the children of God at Faith-Lilac Way… and to you.

The Word of God is not limited to those that the world deems powerful or privileged or in positions of authority. As we see in Luke, God – and the Word of God -- shows up in surprising places.

This past week, I heard the Word of God in some of the places that I expected to find the Word of God and in some surprising places.

I heard the Word of God in worship on Wednesday night. It was a small gathering at our midweek service but those who came read scripture, prayed and… as we lit the first Advent candle, we sang of hope, the hope of God in our midst – despite the challenges of the world around us. It was refreshing– I hope for others – but certainly for me – to hear the words of God’s promise of God’s presence with us in the midst of the life’s ordinary challenges.

But I also heard the Word of God when I met with Becca. From our backgrounds, it would seem unlikely that Becca and I would meet.  Before moving to Minnesota, I grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin in a Scandinavian-American Lutheran family. Becca was raised in an Asian-American Buddhist family and grew up in California. Our stories sound pretty different. But… Becca has an quite the story.

Becca studied and became a financial accountant in a big firm. But…because of work, she and her husband moved to Ohio. She was a person of faith – a Buddhist --but since the closest temple was quite a drive away, she found that she just wasn’t getting to worship. So… they started to attend a place of worship in their neighborhood. It happened to be a church… a Lutheran church. And in that Lutheran church, the Word of God spoke to Becca….and called her into ministry to proclaim the Good News of Jesus.

In just a few minutes, the youth and children of this congregation will be donning shepherd and angels costumes in preparation of the annual Christmas program. It doesn’t matter how many times I hear the story, somehow, the story of the birth Jesus, who came in a very ordinary way as a vulnerable baby to a poor unwed mother - when it comes through the voices and actions of children is always extraordinary and always new. Perhaps it is because, again, the Word of God comes powerfully through ordinary people – like me and you.  

How is the Word of God coming to and through you?

Perhaps you are in a wilderness right now. As I visit people in the hospital or go with my mother to her doctor appointments – as I did this past week, I look at people’s faces. Sometimes I see the anxiety and fear of the unknown. Other times, I see weariness and pain. Often… people are just waiting… hoping but not knowing. This is wilderness time. And… oddly enough… this is one of the times that people are often open to hearing the Word of God in a new way.

The Word of God comes to us in many ways. I invite you to be open to the way of God’s Spirit this Advent time. Our culture makes Advent into a time of busy-ness. But Advent is also a time of waiting… watching… and listening for the way God is speaking to us anew.  

There is both hope and disruption, promise and proclamation in the words that John quotes from the book of Isaiah. "The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: "Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.' "

Valleys are filled; mountains and hills are leveled; the crooked made straight, the rough places made smooth. Isaiah and John proclaim big changes in the environment around them. And change is not always easy. But…the good news of God prevails. For “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” This is God’s promise – for you… and for your neighbor. Thanks be to God! Amen.

Pastor Pam Stalheim Lane

Faith-Lilac Way Lutheran

2nd Sunday of Advent, Dec 9, 2018


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