Category: Meditations

Meditations – November 14, 2018

By Pastor Mike Ashman,  Zion Lutheran Church, Jubilee
Dear Friends,
This past Sunday, we celebrated All Saints – giving thanks to all who have witnessed God’s love to us. We lit candles. We told stories. Tears were shed. But in the end, we are people who trust in the promise given to us at baptism of life and life eternal. Jesus tells the people at Lazarus’ tomb – unbind him and let him go – so we also are able to return to God our loved ones trusting in those promises that whether we live or die, we belong to God.
But I sometimes consider that we limit this concept of sainthood to a chosen few who have lived with unwavering faith and courage. The biblical term of a saint comes to us as one chosen by God. If we look through our Bibles, we find that God chooses people like Jacob who tricked both his brother and father. We see Moses trying to beg his way out of a leadership role because he stammers. We have Peter who all too often has a little too much initiative, but also as the one who denied knowing Jesus three times.
God chooses everyday ordinary people to be extra-ordinary lights in a world that all too often would rather stare into the darkness: a small child being held by a parent with eyes glimmering makes people stop and wonder; the teenager who has been blessed with God’s presence who makes friends with the new kid; a young man who loves his grandma so much that he would move heaven and earth to give her the care and attention she needs. These are the ordinary saints that populate our world and our community. Their light shines in a cold, dark world to give us hope – the hope that has only one true source.
Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Meditations – November 7, 2018

By Pastor Mike Ashman,   Zion Lutheran Church-Jubilee
Dearest Friends,
The past weeks the parsonage has felt more like a B & B with guests coming and going. With my mother’s 89th birthday, we celebrated with our family and friends for a whole week. Instead of feeling exhausted for the next week, she has found a new source of energy as she has cleaned the berry patch and the house along with switching out her winter and summer clothes.
Where is this new-found energy coming from? First, she feels blessed in many ways. Since moving to our new locale, she has found a new circle of friends. Back home she had lost almost her whole support group with the exception of my cousin. This new circle of friends has given her a new sense of purpose and worth. This group also has given her a spring in her step as they have told her just how special she is – not something she has received in her life.
Mom has also embraced that is a healthy 89 year-old which means that she does as much as she possibly can. Yes, she does get frustrated that almost everything takes two to three times as long as it did before. Tying shoestrings become a major task. She also still skirts around the house preparing meals and cleaning – accomplishing as much as possible.
We have a found a true community who cares here in our church and environs. I remind everyone who touches our life they are a gift from God. By sharing a simple smile, we make the world a better place. Rather than focusing on what separates us, we are asked to see all the many more things that bind us together as human beings. God calls us to lift up each other using the love and strength that was given to us.
Thanks be to God for each and every one of you – you are truly a blessing.
Pastor Mike Ashman

Meditations – October 31, 2018

By Pastor Nathan Clements   American Lutheran Church, La Porte City
The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.  ~ 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 (NRSV)
Well, neither you nor I won the $1.6 billion Mega Millions jackpot last week, but that’s really not a surprise. After all, the odds of winning the jackpot were 1 in 302,575,350. That means your odds of becoming an astronaut, being canonized as a saint, being trampled by a hippopotamus, being struck by lightning not only once but twice, and naturally having identical quadruplets are better than winning the jackpot. And, considering that hippopotami don’t even live in Iowa, that’s saying an awful lot.
But people across the country still lined up to purchase their lottery tickets with the hope that they might become extremely wealthy in the blink of an eye. Simply put, our culture glorifies money, and we are led to believe that material wealth will make us happier people. That’s simply not the case, though. All the possessions, treasure, and goods in the world can’t purchase the greatest gift humankind has ever received, the gift of God’s love and forgiveness.
As Paul wrote in his second letter to the church in Corinth, God blesses us in abundance so that we may share our gifts, talents, and abilities abundantly as a blessing to others. We are not called by God to feel guilted into sharing with others what has been given to us, but rather called to give out of genuine, Christian generosity. God gave His only Son that we might have life in his name. Christ freed us from the bondage of sin and death that we might live more fully as God’s children. Christ went ahead of each of us to prepare a place, that we might live in community with him forever after our life in this world has come to an end. This extravagant gift of love is what we proclaim as Christians and what we strive to embody in our own daily lives. But, that’s not always an easy thing to do. Our culture continues to tease us with the illusion of happiness in material wealth.
In lieu of a fresh $1.6 billion in your bank account this week, consider the gifts God has already given to you and how you might be called to share those with others. Let generosity and love for your neighbors live within you. Share cheerfully as you are able. Together we can be the hands and feet of generosity in Christ’s name. Indeed, this is our calling as Christians.

Meditations – October 24, 2018

[The disciples] called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
-Mark 10:49b-52 (NRSV)
 
Take a moment to think about how you might answer Jesus’ question, “What do you want me to do for you?”
What possibilities did you imagine? Did you think of yourself, your family or friends, strangers you’ve never met, our nation or world, or something else? It’s hard to imagine being asked this question by the Savior of the world. But, Bartimaeus didn’t seem to hesitate. He asked Jesus for his sight to be restored. When he regained his sight, he followed Jesus as he continued his journey to Jerusalem. And oh, the things Bartimaeus would see. A triumphant entry into Jerusalem with palm branches and cloaks spread across the road. Betrayal and arrest in the garden. Accusations and violence. Jesus bearing the weight of his own cross on the way to Golgatha. And, finally, crucifixion and death. Yes, his faith made Bartimaeus well, but that was not the end of the story. There was far more to witness and a greater story to share. I hope Bartimaeus was able to see Jesus after his resurrection, as well.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus has already accomplished the greatest thing he could do for each of us by conquering death and preparing the way for life everlasting. What more could we ask? And yet there is power in asking. There is power in prayer. We trust that God hears us when we ask for healing and guidance, courage and hope, restoration and wholeness. These prayers do not go unheard, and they draw us more closely into God’s mission in the world. We actively participate in His mission when we offer a helping hand to those in need, when we love our neighbors as ourselves, and when we use our gifts to make life together in community better for all. We often see prayers answered by God through the care and compassion of those who surround us. Those who see with faith the needs of others and act with faith as Jesus taught us.
May our eyes be opened to see Jesus in our neighbors, and may we be his hands and feet in serving others whenever there is need. Like Bartimaeus, may our prayer also be “let me see again” the ways God is at work in the world to which we’ve gone blind. And, may we help to open the eyes of those who have a deep need to see Jesus again or, perhaps, for the first time.

Meditations – October 10, 2018

By Pastor Nathan Clements, American Lutheran Church
As [Jesus] was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
-Mark 10:17-22 (NRSV)
I wonder where the man went after his conversation with Jesus. I wonder how he felt when Jesus told him he lacked one thing in his faith. I wonder how long he grieved. I wonder if he ever sold any of his possessions. I wonder if he ever knew that Jesus loved him deeply.
This passage hinges on Jesus’ love for a person who lived a life of abundance while others around him lived in poverty. Jesus is the bridge between those who want and those who truly need. The man wanted to know what he could do to inherit eternal life, while others around him struggled to live life in the present. Jesus spoke of a way he could serve his neighbors, but trading his treasure on earth for treasure in heaven seemed too difficult to the man. He could not fathom such a drastic change in lifestyle. We never do find out how this exchange may have affected the man’s life, but we do know that Jesus loved him.
When you love someone you desire the best for them. For the man in this passage, Jesus’ love meant encouraging him to share his gifts and resources to care compassionately for those in need. By doing so, treasure would be stored for him in heaven. But the human desire to preserve himself in this life was his stumbling block. He simply could not allow himself to let go of his possessions in this way. But, despite his inability to let go, Jesus’ love for him remained nonetheless.
Many of us can relate to this man. Many of us find it difficult to care for others in the way Jesus has commanded us. We may even feel grieved at times by our own inabilities to love others. Yet we are consistently invited by Christ to envision a new way of life where we can see beyond our wants and address the needs of others. We will never be perfect in our care, nor will we ever fully empty ourselves for others as Christ did for us. But, the invitation to follow in his way has no expiration date. We know this way of living is hard, and so does Jesus. This is why he walks with us and encourages us each day to follow his lead.
Take some time this week to listen to God’s call to love and serve those around you. Act upon that call. When you don’t act perfectly, do not be grieved. Christ’s love for you remains. We are on this journey of faith together.

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