Category: Meditations

Meditations – July 17, 2019

By Pastor Mike Ashman     Zion Lutheran Church – Jubilee, rural La Porte City
Dear Friends,
This past week I have sat in classes in all morning, from 8 AM to almost noon, with a break for chapel in the middle. So far, I have found the experience refreshing (not that I do not miss the people or my cat) or my garden that is getting weedier by the moment. I feel a great sense of community as people feel welcome. We have some visitors who just stop off the street for a cup of coffee, or these days a glass of cold water. People are greeted with a smile and a sign of peace. We have former students wanting to unwind for a day, or maybe two or three.
Some days I ponder about people’s concept of church – what it means to them. Some people come in order to escape the world, in a universe filled with such division and pain; people are desperately looking for a place of wholeness and community. Other conceive of the church as a starting point. One church I am told has a banner that reads, “Mission Field” which is read as one leaves the sanctuary. Christ sends us out as hands, feet and voices into a broken creation.
Some outside regard the church as a place for the holy and righteous, they feel like just do not fit in as they have a number of dents and scars from life. From our perspective, we have a number of imperfect people, in fact of all of us. Some have open wounds that are still painful to touch – others hide their scars, but that does not mean they are not still here. We have just come to realize that there is a healing balm here that we cannot find elsewhere.
If you visit our congregation to look around, you will find a beautiful sanctuary. But, not without flaws. Some corners you will find some peeling wall paste. Some places might have acquired some dust. And up in one corner of the church, you will find a spot where the church almost burned down. You need to look closely, but its’ there. Perfectly imperfect, just like us who worship there.
I have always believed in the sense of community we find makes all the difference. Christ calls us into transformative ministry, where the rubber hits the road. We should therefore challenge ourselves and our community to remain open to everything around us, to see Christ in the other. You – We – can make a difference and our community of faith can have an impact on individuals and our community. May Christ grant you the strength to be the change.

Meditations – July 10, 2019

By Pastor Mike Ashman   Zion Lutheran Church – Jubilee, Rural La Porte City
I have returned from my last picking of the strawberries. The Lord has been abundant this year. Yet we hoped for a couple more harvests to tide us over until the raspberries would start to ripen. It has been a very good year.
With the beautiful berries, very large and bright red, I have taken the very best of each harvest and shared them. Not the smaller leftovers. Yes, the largest most plump berries I could find. We still had more than enough for a couple weeks of strawberries with ice cream and angel food cake every night. Mom also made ten or so jars of jam, not to mention the many three cup containers we froze for the upcoming winter. God is good.
I was once told that the most productive time is right after we get up. We ply several cups of coffee – a good meal – then head off for the daily grind. We head into our work with the best that we have to offer. This makes me ponder about what we give to God, the stewardship of ourselves. All too often, the people of church hear stewardship, and expect the passing of the plate to follow. But there is indeed a call from God to be good stewards of our selves – our very lives.
I think back to the times I spent talking to children about their spiritual life. I ask them about their prayer life, and I receive this glazed look. After some prompting, they will say that they pray when they are afraid, when they need God’s help. All too often, I think this remains true for many people. When sailing the ship of life, prayer only enters in when the whole thing starts to sink (like the sailors of Jonah’s boat); we pray when things are going bad.
Now I will say that it is important to turn to God at these times. But if we truly believe in giving God our best (how about taking some of our morning drive time? – you know the time when we are at our best), and be stewards of that time. Write a card to someone, just because. Share a cup of coffee at the local bakery, pay it forward. Or just simply smile. And also give thanks; offer a prayer of thanks – it’s a matter of time – and we have plenty of time as a gift from God.

Meditations – July 3, 2019

By Pastor Mike Ashman  Zion Lutheran Church – Jubilee, Rural La Porte City
Dear Friends,
Not more than a month ago, I heard a steady chorus of “I can’t wait for summer.” Farmers were getting impatient. Gardeners were in a constant state of alert, watching their thermometers with their sheets in hand. In a matter of a short period of time, we went from the furnace to the air conditioner. The next few days will see temps topping the ninety-degree mark.
We have been picking very nice strawberries which we have shared. We have been taking the cream of the crop for our friends and neighbors. And guess what? We still have more than enough as we froze another 12 containers. We can’t wait for raspberry season – and then tomato – and then watermelon, to share God’s blessings with our community. The only exception here is zucchini. Even as we watch the small squash growing, we realize this treat will be mostly ours.
Recently while re-taking a class on the Old Testament, we were introduced once again to the abundance of God. If we take a good look around, most of us lack nothing that we really need. Yet amazingly I find people who skimp and save their entire live, and to what end? I am reminded of my mother’s aunt who lived her entire life in this manner. Upon her death her wealth was divided between strangers. Her funeral was attended by a few remaining family members, no friends, no acquaintances, no community. So, my dear friends, what did she gain by such a life?
Before we know it, cooler breezes will take away our breath. We will harvest the abundance that God has provided. Let us be reminded that we should nurture all of all God’s blessings, not only the crops we watch grow, but also the neighbors who live down the road – and across the globe. God is good. All the time, God is good – and gracious.

Meditations – June 19, 2019

By Pastor Nathan Clements    American Lutheran Church, La Porte City
A centurion had a servant who was very important to him, but the servant was ill and about to die. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to Jesus to ask him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they earnestly pleaded with Jesus. “He deserves to have you do this for him,” they said. “He loves our people and he built our synagogue for us.” Jesus went with them. He had almost reached the house when the centurion sent friends to say to Jesus, “Lord, don’t be bothered. I don’t deserve to have you come under my roof. In fact, I didn’t even consider myself worthy to come to you. Just say the word and my servant will be healed.” When Jesus heard these words, he was impressed with the centurion. He turned to the crowd following him and said, “I tell you, even in Israel I haven’t found faith like this.” When the centurion’s friends returned to his house, they found the servant restored to health.
~ Luke 7:2-7, 9-10 (CEB)
We human beings are often very good at over thinking things. We’ve probably all done this at least once in our lives. From choosing a new vacuum cleaner to pursuing a career path, there are just some things about which our minds get hung up. Sleepless, fidgety nights follow, pros and cons are weighed, reviews are read and re-read, and eventually we have to make a decision. But how will you ever know if you made the right one?
How about inviting Jesus into your home? That seems like a fairly simple decision to make, and yet the centurion in Luke 7 couldn’t help but over think his choice. His servant whom he cared for deeply was ill and dying, and in an act of faith he sent for Jesus to come and heal him. While Jesus was already on his way with his gift of healing and restoration for the household ready to give, the centurion had second thoughts. He sent a message to Jesus saying he didn’t want to bother him with his troubles. He felt unworthy to have Jesus enter through his doorway. He even admitted to feeling unworthy to deliver this message to Jesus himself. Despite his faith and hope in Jesus, the centurion backed out at the last minute. And the result? Jesus restored the servant’s health anyway.
With faith even the size of a tiny mustard seed, God is able to accomplish powerful things. When we over think or second guess our faith, Jesus’ healing and restoration is still for you. When we call upon the name of the Lord you are not bothering Him with your troubles. When we invite Jesus into our homes you are never unworthy to stand in His presence. When we pray you never need to feel ashamed to speak the truth to Jesus Himself about your feelings or realities in life. You might naturally over think vacuum cleaners, vehicle purchases, carpet colors, and career paths, but you never need to second guess God’s unending love, mercy, forgiveness, and grace for you as a child of God. In fact, it’s not even your decision to make! God already does and always will continue to love you throughout your life. That decision has already been made. Our challenge, then, is to not over think our call to abundantly share this message with others. It’s simply what we just need to do.

Meditations – June 5, 2019

By Pastor Nathan Clements    American Lutheran Church, La Porte City

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? [I]n our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” ~ Acts 2:1-8, 11b-13 (NRSV) During my summer breaks in college I served as a camp counselor at Lutheran Outdoor Ministries Center in Oregon, IL. Some of my favorite memories came from overnight canoe trips with our older campers. We would depart after lunch to our drop-off location, paddle for a few miles downstream on the Rock River, turn right into Mud Creek, pull ashore, unload our canoes, and haul our equipment up a steep (and usually very slippery) hill to our campsite. We pitched our tents near the picnic shelter, cooked supper and cleaned up, played a game in the big, grassy field, and had a Bible study and campfire before bedtime. Those were wonderful evenings immersed in the beauty of God’s creation. But, I will never forget the night that scared me more than any other moment in my life to that point. It was moments before bedtime, so some of the campers were in their tents and others were sitting by the campfire. Suddenly from above there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the campground where we were sitting. The lightning was so constant that I could see the wind whip the trees and our tents as if it was daylight. The thunder constantly rolled. The nearest 4-walled shelter was across the grassy field, so my fellow counselors and I jumped into action to move everyone to safety. Branches started falling from the trees as we collected our group and ran together to the shelter. I had never heard, felt, or seen wind like that before, and it was terrifying. When we had arrived at the shelter and had everyone accounted for, the wind seemed to stop as quickly as it had started. We were all safe, but our campsite was leveled. I called the camp office and they came to pick us up in vans. The National Weather Service later confirmed it was an isolated microburst that fell right overtop of us. In an instant, our peaceful camping trip and evening around the campfire changed and couldn’t be the same again. The Holy Spirit made quite the entrance on the day of Pentecost. Jesus’ disciples were seated in a home in Jerusalem when, without warning, the sound like a rush of a violent wind filled the house, and their lives changed and couldn’t be the same again. They were given the ability to speak all the languages of the earth to spread the good news about God’s deeds of power. Barriers were broken, limitations were dismantled, and the presence of God caused amazement among all who gathered at the frightful sound of the wind. Rather than an isolated incident, this macroburst of the Spirit would spread its effect far and wide, reaching across the globe through generations of God’s people who proclaimed the love of God in Jesus Christ. We, today, continue to be swept up in this wind of change, compelled to share this good news even when those around us may sneer or disregard the message. We must remember that Jesus himself told his disciples, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) As disciples of Christ, and sons and daughters of the Pentecost, it is our duty and our joy to continue spreading the good news of God’s love, forgiveness, and salvation through Christ our Lord. May there be rush of wind in your life of faith to amaze and encourage you to share this message boldly, and may your Spirit-given gifts shine brightly through you this Pentecost and beyond.


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