Category: Meditations

Meditations – December 13, 2017

By Pastor Nathan Clements, American Lutheran Church
A shoot will grow up from the stump of Jesse; a branch will sprout from his roots. The Lord’s spirit will rest upon him, a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of planning and strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord. He will delight in fearing the Lord. He won’t judge by appearances, nor decide by hearsay. He will judge the needy with righteousness, and decide with equity for those who suffer in the land.
~ Isaiah 11:1-4a CEB
Advent marks the beginning of a new year for denominations that follow the liturgical calendar, and we begin the year by waiting. Advent is a season when we step back a little, reflect, pray, and hope. We hope for the coming of our Lord Jesus. But waiting and hoping isn’t very easy or glamorous, is it? Especially since we know that December 25th will be Christmas. We know it’s coming, and we know exactly when it will be.
Our time of waiting today is very different compared to Isaiah’s time of waiting. The Messiah has already come into this world; we are no longer living with the wonder of how the Messiah would arrive. We know that God chose to become flesh in the form of baby born in Palestine. We know that this baby had humble roots, that he descended from God’s covenant people. We know that this baby would preach and teach and feed and heal. And ultimately, we know that this baby would be betrayed by his friend, be mocked and persecuted, and be killed for teaching that God is love. We know these things, so why do we wait this Advent season?
We wait because it’s all about time. But not our time, or our sense of time. Rather, it’s about God’s time. We would never have enough time to fully prepare ourselves for Christ’s arrival, and the four weeks of Advent certainly isn’t long enough either. And perhaps that’s the point. Christ arrives into our lives whether we are prepared or not. Christ arrives into our lives according to God’s time.
So we begin the liturgical year with waiting, and keeping awake and alert, for Christ’s birth on Christmas day, and for Christ’s return on the last day. We wait because we proclaim a God whose love for us is farther and deeper than we could possibly understand. We proclaim a God who created us and continues to create through us. We proclaim a God who fashioned us as God’s people, who taught us, as one of us, to live in community. We proclaim a God who has promised to return to us in the person of Christ, according to God’s own time, to judge the living and the dead. We wait, because we recognize none of this is our own doing. If it was, we would try to hurry it up, or slow it down. We would try to make good on our resolutions, trying to change ourselves to be better, or healthier, or more compassionate people just in time for the ball to drop marking Christ’s return.
But that’s not how it works. We do not know the hour. And so we wait. And in our waiting we live, and love, and pray as Christ taught us, so that when the time does come, we may be ready according to God’s time and not our own. Come Lord Jesus, we pray. Help us to be ready for your arrival at your time. Amen.

Meditations – December 6, 2017

By Pastor Nathan Clements, American Lutheran Church
Come, thou long-expected Jesus, born to set thy people free; from our fears and sins release us; let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art, dear desire of ev’ry nation, joy of ev’ry longing heart.
Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus – Evangelical Lutheran Worship #254, verse 1
Blessings to you this Advent season from the members of American Lutheran Church. Advent marks the beginning of the church year – a time when we join our hearts in hopeful anticipation of our Lord’s coming, both as a baby born in a lowly manger as well as Christ’s return at the end of time. The scripture we hear proclaimed in worship this month speak to both of these events. We will hear Old Testament prophets preparing the way for the Messiah and New Testament evangelists calling upon us to remain patient and steadfast in the Gospel until we are reunited with Jesus in this world. Together we pray, Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus!
For many people waiting is neither easy nor glamorous. Even before Thanksgiving we were hearing Christmas music played in stores and on the radio. Traveling plans to be with loved ones for Christmas were made weeks or months in advance. Many Christmas trees and lights appeared in our neighborhoods the day after Thanksgiving. But, there is virtue in waiting. There is virtue in taking the time to prepare our hearts and minds for God’s gift of Jesus.
Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting that we take down the lights and trees. There is nothing wrong with being excited for Christmas! Simply remember that this time of excitement has a name, Advent, and it is an opportunity for us to slow down, reflect, and prepare for the gift we are about to receive.
In our sanctuary the paraments this season are blue, the color of hope. The Advent wreath is a beautiful symbol that accompanies us in our journey through this season. Week by week as we continue to light more candles our sanctuary becomes brighter as the days become shorter. We are reminded of our progress in our pilgrimage to Bethlehem to meet the Christ child. We eagerly await the completion of time when Christ’s light will shine brightly throughout the world.
Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus. The world is in great need of you. Our hope and trust is in you. Help us prepare to greet you anew this Christmas. Amen.

Meditations – November 15, 2017

Pastor Todd Holman
St. Paul United Methodist Church, La Porte City
Matthew 5:48: Therefore you are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.
It’s a fascinating thing when we find passages like this in Scripture. God commands holiness to shine in and through all of us. It’s a calling that reminds us our life in Christ is a transformation that sanctifies us to God in love and perfection. Many people understand this at some level, and yet most argue the impossibility of ever obtaining it. The psalmist in Psalm 119:96 states, I have seen a limit to all perfection; thy commandment is exceedingly broad.  
In my first ordination interview I was asked a Wesleyan question that I was not quite prepared to answer. (John Wesley is one of the founders of Methodism) The board asked, “Do you expect to be perfected in this lifetime?” I concluded this was a trick or test. If I answered yes, obviously there isn’t much humility in that line of thinking. And if I answered no, they might think I was incompetent. So, I resorted to years of stored up worthless dialogue from watching too many movies, and found one I especially liked from Bill Murray’s character in Ghostbusters. I firmly stated, “I’m not at liberty to say.”  
Eventually over the years I’ve come to recognize this was a moment that helped change the direction of my life. There seems to be a constant tension with a call to be perfect, and a reminder of what a sinful nature human beings succumb to. However, a major reason that tension often exists is due to the desire to receive constant communion from God with no effort on our behalf. The tension is relieved when we truly live out our faith in the gift of life that Christ gives us. It requires our due diligence to be immersed in God’s grace. When we discover what it means to love and follow the living God with a whole heart, rather than loving the idea of a God who can save us, a real transformation of God’s salvific grace begins the work of love and perfection that only Christ can give.

Meditations – November 8, 2017

By Pastor Todd Holman, St. Paul United Methodist Church, La Porte City
Ephesians 2: 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall. 1 7And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near.
A common theme appearing in mainstream media describes our country as more divided now than ever before in history. While I disagree with this assessment, considering the civil war, it is clear there is strong division.  Unfortunately, whenever human beings take up residence in proximity with each other, there is always threat of division.  
Paul writes addressing the same issue taking place in the church. The above Scripture appeals to the division of Jews and Gentiles at Ephesus.  In each point of view both are unable to see shortcomings in themselves. The Jewish population were God’s covenant people. They stubbornly resisted God’s will and were spiritually arrogant. The gentile population perverted conscience and judgment and gave themselves over to sensuality and idolatry. In kind, many of us find it is easy to point out flaws in the other person, without the ability to see flaws in ourselves.
In Paul’s presentation of Christ, he makes no effort to choose sides. Instead he presents the solution; our answer is Christ. He encourages us to discard something old for something new. Our goal is to reach unity by example through Christ. This should not be confused with uniformity. Unity brings us together and recognizes the various gifts we bring to benefit one another. Our differences should be used to strengthen and preserve, not weaken and destroy. Division does not have to be, and is not supposed to be a solution for differences. Whether we find ourselves “far or near,” our viewpoints continue to hold great value, if we continue to seek peace and unity in humility of love and faith through Christ. And if Christians can demonstrate unity in love and peace despite our differences, I can only imagine the impact it will have on the rest of the world. 
Blessing through the joy and peace of Christ.

Meditations – November 1, 2017

By Christopher Simon
A Deep Yearning
“If you would be loved, love, and be loveable.”  ~ Benjamin Franklin
We all desire to love and to be loved, and we all know the pain of loneliness and lost love. The desire to understand others and to be understood is at bottom an attempt to feel connected.
We are simply not whole by ourselves and require the connection with others that comes most completely through love to regain our sense of wholeness.
This is perhaps the most pressing problem of the modern world –  loneliness, alienation and disconnectedness. Much of what is said about the value of the individual and his or her right to live as he or she sees fit contributes to people “doing their own thing” at the expense of building relationships with others that might give them this connectedness and satisfy this deep yearning. 
Of course, there are many ways to relate to others. We can do it through friends and family. We can do it through our jobs and our hobbies. And we can even do it through modern technology, e.g., social media. 
But ultimately, it all comes down to being kind and loving to the people we interact with. So nurture the yearning to love and be loved, first and foremost by making yourself worthy of love.

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