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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sermon: Second Sunday in Lent

by The Rev. Rob Ruff
Second Sunday in Lent

“You better watch your back”, the Pharisees tell Jesus, “You better watch your back because Herod, the emperor, the guy in charge, wants to kill you.”

Herod apparently liked things calm, quiet, under control. But Jesus has been drawing large crowds and stirring up the people so Herod wants him dead.

Now if I got word that the guy in charge wanted me dead, I expect that such news would leave me just a bit unnerved. But Jesus does not seem upset, unnerved or worried.

“You tell that fox, Herod” says Jesus, “that I’m going to be about my business
of healing and curing. And I’m going to Jerusalem.” Jesus has no plans to go into hiding, or to lay low, or to get out of town. He’s not concerned about Herod’s threat because Jesus knows that a larger plan is unfolding here, a plan controlled not by Herod but by God.

“I’m going to be about my business says Jesus, and I’m going to Jerusalem.” And it seems that Jesus knows full well what will happen to him once he gets to Jerusalem.
And we know too, we’ve heard this story many times, year in and year out:

- Jesus will be greeted in holy city with palm branches and Hosannas.
- But the tide will quickly turn against him.
- He will eat a last meal with his friends.
- One of his confidantes will betray him with a kiss in exchange for a bag of coins.
- Jesus will be arrested, tortured, and executed like a common criminal, left hanging to die on a tree atop a garbage dump of a hill outside the city wall.

“I’m going to be about my business – healing & curing – and I’m going to Jerusalem.”
And at the mention of the holy city, Jesus’ tone changes. He softens and sounds sad as he laments the fate of Jerusalem and of her people, and by extension of all God’s people including you and me:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem…,” Jesus cries, “how often I have desired to gather your children together as a mother hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing.”

It’s almost as if He is wishing that God’s plan could have been accomplished, could have been fulfilled without a cross, without a death. It’s as if he’s saying,
“Here I am with my arms wide open, my dear ones. If only you would come to me,
if only you would gather under the loving shelter and safety of my wings.”

“Come to me all you who are weary and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28-30)

But alas you would not.

We would not, brothers and sister. For “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) We are, each one of us, wayward little chicks, prone to wandering away from our mother hen, chasing after our own interests, agendas, and appetites.

“…How often have I desired to gather you together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you would not…” Jesus bids us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us. But we would not. We instead find ourselves holding grudges against our enemies, hating and even killing them. Jesus bids us to lose our lives for his sake.
But we would not. We instead find ourselves grasping to save our lives for our own sake. Jesus bids us to see him in the face of the hungry, homeless, and imprisoned.
But we would not. We instead find ourselves crossing to the other side of the street
so we don’t have to see the faces of those unfortunate ones at all.

“…how often have I desired to gather you together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you would not…”

Notice that according to Jesus, Herod is a fox and Jesus himself is a mother hen. An interesting picture that, don’t you think? For in the natural world, where the rule is ‘survival of the fittest’ and where the strong so often devour the weak, a fox will best a chicken each and every time. And so Jesus portraying himself as a mother hen
may not inspire much confidence.

But Jesus isn’t talking here about how it is in the natural world.

He’s talking about how it is in God’s Kingdom that in the topsy-turvy world where the first are last and the last first, where the poor are filled to overflowing with good things and the rich are sent away empty-handed. In God’s kingdom, a mild mother hen gets the last word in her encounter with the devious fox. For the mother hen enters the holy city where the bloodthirsty fox lies in wait. And there she gives up her life, lovingly, in order to protect and save her wayward brood.

“No one takes my life from me, she says, but I lay it down of my own accord.” (John 10:18)

And then, after the sun has gone dark at midday, and the mother hen lies cold and dead
and the fox has triumphed, then, in order that her love continue, God reaches down into the grave and raises the mother hen to new life.

“… and on the third day” said Jesus, “I finish my work.”

His work was and is to love us, to forgive us our wayward ways and to wash us clean in his blood. His work was and is to gather us back under the loving shelter of his mother-hen wings, “…transforming the body of our wayward humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory…” (Philippians 3:21)

And His work was and is to then send us forth to love our enemies, to give our lives away for the gospel’s sake and to serve the poor, the hungry, and the outcast in His name.

And because his work has been accomplished, because he is alive and loose upon the face of the earth, all the darkness of this world, the darkness of trial and tribulation, of suffering and pain, the darkness of all the foxes and forces of evil,
Is rolled back by the light of just one candle, the light from the candle of a loving mother hen the light of Christ, of course. And it is that light that we follow, Brothers and Sisters, throughout this Lenten tide and for all the days of our life.
It is the light of Christ which illumines our way amidst the darkness and shadows
of life’s changes and chances, it is the light of Christ that we follow as the foxes of this world nip at our heels.

We follow that light, the light of Christ, our mother hen, because it leads to life and salvation. And because of that light, despite foxes and enemies, despite darkness and death, we are not afraid. For Jesus is our light and our salvation, Jesus is the stronghold of our lives, Whom then shall we fear?


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sermon: The Wilderness

by Interim Pastor Hollie Holt-Woehl
First Sunday in Lent
Luke 4:1-13

Let us pray, “All-powerful God, do not let us be tempted to believe you have forsaken us. Remind us even in our greatest distress that no evil can withstand the power of your love. ” Amen.

A sign of the modern day Olympics is not so much the types of events as opposed to the ancient Olympics but the presence of the media and how the games are covered. If you catch any of the coverage of the current 2010 Olympic Games going on in Vancouver the amount of time actually spent watching the events is not as much as the time spent on commentaries, interviews, and human interest stories. Just try to watch the curling event, you might see a snippet but you never see a whole match, but you will definitely see commentaries, interviews, and human interest stories. I enjoy watching the Olympics, however usually after the first few days I begin to tune out the human interest stories. I will watch the events and walk away when the human interest stories start. However Friday night I saw a story which caught my attention. It was a story about the short track speed skater Apolo Ohno and his father. Here’s the part that was fascinating to me:

“After failing to make the 1998 Olympic team, Ohno, 15, had to decide whether to continue skating. Ohno's father feared he would make a rash decision after the disappointment at Olympic Trials and brought his son to a secluded cottage three hours northwest of Seattle [and left him there alone]. With no distractions from TV or telephone, Ohno passed the time by taking long runs. It was during one of his runs [on the eighth or ninth day], when he stopped and sat on a rock in the pouring rain, that he realized he wanted to continue skating.”

Apolo Ohno’s was left alone to figure out what to do with his life. It was a wilderness time in his life. We do not know if he experienced temptations or if he had a spiritual experience, but he credits that time of solitude as providing focus for his life.

In our gospel Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness. The wilderness is solitary, lonely, desolate, uninhabited. The wilderness is a place of trial and temptation. Jesus had just been baptized and received this word from God, “You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22) and now he has been in the desert forty days, he is tired and hungry. That is precisely when the devil strikes. The Greek word for devil is diabolos, meaning false accuser or slanderer.

The devil, the accuser, comes when Jesus is weak and tempts him to seize power and take control. The devil employs lies and distorts the Word of God toward his own ends. Jesus' response to the first temptation of the devil shows us that knowing and doing God's will is more important than fulfilling one’s own desires. During the second temptation, when the devil offered to give him all the kingdoms of the world, Jesus refuses to seek power and glory. In the third temptation, the devil urges Jesus to test God's power by jumping off the pinnacle of the temple. Jesus responds by refusing to put God to the test. Jesus had real strength that came from the knowledge that he was God's beloved Son. He would use his strength for a greater purpose than self-affirmation.

The wilderness is solitary, lonely, desolate, uninhabited. The wilderness is a place of trial and temptation. It is a place where all our securities, comforts, and resources are gone. We are at the mercy of elements we cannot control. It is a place where we are alone. Temptation comes when we are worn down and our defenses are lowered. God puts us under testing, that we might learn to find our strength under his control.

We all experience wilderness times in our lives. It is a place where all our securities, comforts and resources are gone. It is a place in which we are deeply challenged. We as a congregation have experienced many wilderness opportunities in this past year; the celebration of 100 years of ministry and entering the wilderness of beginning the next 100 years, the leaving of a beloved pastor and entering the interim wilderness, the waiting for a building project to begin with paperwork stuck in the wilderness of bureaucracy for weeks on end, the beginning of the building project and the wilderness of physical disruption of noise and mess, the early departure of a vicar and the wilderness of the unknown and uncertainty, the beginning work of the call committee and the wilderness of the call process and the uncertainties inherit therein.

Now add to this whatever personal wilderness experience in which you find yourself, life transitions, elderly parents, addiction, employment difficulties, family struggles, medical issues, or meaninglessness. Now add to this the wilderness of the society and the world right now and we all have more uncertainty in our lives than we may ever want to deal with. We may find ourselves worn down and our defenses lowered. We may find ourselves tempted to lash out as those closest to us as we seek a way out of the wilderness.

But thanks be to God that we can call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thanks be to Jesus Christ that he did not give into the temptation of self-preservation, power, and prestige, otherwise there would be no hope for us to get free from our wilderness. Because Jesus did not give into the devil we have hope that we will be rescued from our sin. Since Jesus died giving himself completely for us we know that he will forgive our sins and forgive us for giving into temptation.

These forty days of lent we are walking to the cross through the wilderness. We are walking to the cross of Good Friday and the empty cross of Easter. The cross is not just a symbol for us, it is a reality, because on the cross Jesus died, on purpose. Jesus gave up his life so that we might have life.

Dear Friends in Christ, just as Jesus did not give into temptation, Jesus does not give up on you. For when temptation over takes you, Jesus has not forsaken you. You will be tempted as you walk through this wilderness of life. You will be tempted, but that temptation will not have the final word. Jesus Christ will have the final word at the resurrection. And that word will be, “Welcome home my beloved child.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sermon: Ashes to Ashes

by Interim Pastor Hollie Holt-Woehl
Ash Wednesday

Ten years ago this past January the church, to which my parents and sisters belong, was burned to the ground. South Santiago Lutheran Church, rural Clear Water, MN was reduced to ashes by an arson’s fire.

In the ashes of that building were two bowls that my mom had at church from a church potluck which she was going to pick up after worship the day after the fire. One of those bowls was her favorite lost in the ashes. At the time oldest niece was in confirmation, also in the ashes was her confirmation quiz on the Ten Commandments and her confirmation folder with her sermon notes. She assured the pastor that she had at least twenty sermon notes burned to ashes in the fire.

A few things were saved out of the ashes. The church’s bell that used to be house in the steeple high above the church, which rang to call worshippers. A couple trays for communion, which held the blood of Christ twice a month for many years. And an altar cross, which was taken out of the ashes and cleaned up to be used again. This cross has been on that altar for 95 years, and now this cross is on the altar in their new building.

At the light of a match this church was reduced to ashes. Who knew that this church which had stood for 95 years would be reduced to ashes in no time. As I reflect on it the church was kindling wood standing in the form of a three window country church for as long as I can remember. But it still amazes me that at the light of a match a building can be reduced to ashes. At the light of a match, things can change quickly.

I think about our lives too, how quickly things can change. How quickly we experience euphoric highs of success, of accomplishment, of pride. And how quickly we can be reduced to the ashes of divorce, death, job loss, long term illness, depression.

Words ring in my head “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” Over the years I have said these words at many funerals as I put sand from the earth, upon a casket in the form of a cross. An elderly woman who taught Sunday School until she was 70, a middle aged man found burned up in his car, a father who left behind his young adult son as a orphan, a baby who just couldn’t fight her illness, a 17 year old taken by Leukemia, a mother with young children.

“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” How quickly life can change.

We take time on this day to reflect on our lives. To reflect over the past year. We see how quickly life can change. We see the difference a year make in our lives and the lives of others. We reflect that we do not know what each day holds. We reflect on our relationship with God.

Lent is the season of reflection, repentance, preparation, and renewal. It is a time to open our hearts anew and refresh our commitment to God.

We have begun that journey tonight by begin reminded that we are dust and to dust we shall return, we do that not because we need a downer, but because it reminds us that we are not in control. Ultimately, it is God who is in control, not us.

In the ashes of our life it is God who calls us, it is Jesus who walks with us, and it is the spirit who guides us.

The ashes will not have the last word. God will have the final word in the resurrection of our bodies by Jesus Christ.

Until that day we reflect tonight on the words “remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return,” that we belong to God and our lives need to be grounded in him.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sermon: Transfiguration of Our Lord

by Interim Pastor Hollie Holt-Woehl
Luke 9:28-36

In our readings for this Transfiguration Sunday there is a lot of “glowing” going on. Moses comes down from seeing the glory of God with his face is glowing. Paul talks about Moses’ veil as gets the way of God’s glowing. Jesus starts glowing and Moses and Elijah appear for a conversation.

In the Old Testament Scriptures God shows up on the mountains, God appears to Moses in the burning bush, after the exodus from Egypt God again appears to Moses on the mountain and gives him the Ten Commandments (twice), it is on a mountain where the prophet Elijah takes on the prophets of Baal and God answers Elijah with lightening and power, it is on a mountain where God passes by Elijah not in the wind, earthquake or fire, but in sheer silence. This story of Moses glowing after an encounter with glory of God, comes after the golden calf incident. Moses was up on the mountain getting the Ten Commandments the first time and is up there for forty days and forty nights so the Israelites lose patience and create a golden calf to worship. Moses comes down from the mountain to see this sight, is furious and throws the tables to the ground. God then punishes the Israelites, after this Moses goes back up the mountain and asks to see God’s glory. He is only able to see God’s backside, because he would not be able to stand God’s glory face to face (Exodus 33:17-23). God then writes again the Ten Commandments on stone for Moses to bring to the people. Moses comes down from the mountain with a glowing face. God shows up in mighty ways on mountains.

It would not be so strange, then, for Jesus to go up on a mountain. However what happens is strange. While Jesus is praying his appearance changes, he is glowing and Moses and Elijah appear with him and they are talking about Jesus crucifixion and death in Jerusalem.

On that mountain top was not the first time Peter, James and John had seen something unusual from Jesus. They had been with him for a while, they had seen a great catch of fish, healings, exorcisms, lepers cleansed. And just a few short verses before today’s Gospel Peter seems to have understood who Jesus is and make his great confession that Jesus is the Messiah of God. No small statement. It seemed like Peter had it figured out but he did not want to hear what Jesus said after the confession. Jesus spoke of his betrayal, crucifixion, and death. Despite Peter’s confession, despite all the signs and wonders they had seen, despite the teaching of Jesus—the disciples did not fully understand who Jesus was. They needed a clearer sign. Some glowing light that would point out the truth of just what kind of savior Jesus is would help.

Well they got it, they got their glowing light and Peter responded, “Hey, Lord it is good that we are here. How about we pitch a tent and stay a while? Let’s make this wonderful moment last.”

We are not unlike Peter, wouldn’t we all want it to last? Hasn’t there been a time in your life when things were so wonderful, and you were sure that God was on your side that God was gracious and loving? How good to be here on the mountain top in God’s glowing presence. We want them to last forever but they don’t.

Good times don’t last. Disappointment and disillusion set in when dreams and hearts get broken. It’s like we have holes in our hearts and the good stuff comes leaking out. The good times don’t last. What was once so clear is now not so clear. We wonder what happened. Where did God go? Where is God in darkness, pain, and death?

It is important for us to know that this story does not stop with Jesus, Peter, James, and John staying on the mountain top. The story goes on to say that Jesus went down the mountain with them.

When he came down from the mountain they encounter a situation which was out of hand. The whole impression is that of people running about not knowing what to do. People are staring at this boy being tossed about by an unclean spirit. The disciples were helplessly baffled; the boy's father was bitterly disappointed and upset. Into this scene of disorder comes Jesus. He sighs and wonders how long it will take for the disciples to grasp who he really is and what he is doing. But nonetheless Jesus addresses the situation with a word and his presence immediately the disorder was calmed.

So often we feel that life is out of control; that we have lost our grip on things. Only Jesus Christ can deal with life with the calm competence that brings everything under control. Jesus comes down from the mount to walk in the valleys and plains with us. Jesus is not transfigured up on the mountain to stay up there. He is transfigured up on the mountain so that he can walk with us and transform us in the valleys and plains of our lives.

There was once a middle age woman who came to the congregation I was serving. We was an active and faithful member but she seemed bitter, that’s too strong of a word, let’s say she had sharp edges. I saw her come and go from worship many times, still with the same sharp edges. Then one day she came to worship and her edges were softened and her face was glowing. I saw her come and go from worship a few more times, her face continued to glow. Finally I could no longer keep it in, I asked her what happened. She said she went to visit her mother one weekend and attended Catholic Mass with her. As she was going forward to receive the Eucharist, she felt this ball of emotion fill her chest and then fall to the floor when she reached out her hand to receive Christ’s body. “I don’t know what it was,” she stated, “but I feel different.” She had been transformed.

Paul talks about Moses’ veil as getting the way of God’s glowing (2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2). There are things that get in the way of us seeing God’s glowing or, as Paul says, the glory of the Lord. Paul asserts that Christians are being transformed through their communion with Christ and it does not just happen on the mountain top. Our transformation is not an event but a process. If our lives, our values, and our attitudes are not being transformed into the image of Christ, that indicates that we are not showing our faces to Jesus Christ through devotion, prayer, worship and service. However, if we turn our faces to Jesus through devotion, prayer, worship, and service we are transformed.

We are transformed by Jesus to go out from here into a world of pain and difficulty where it is not easy for us to follow Jesus. It may be easy here in worship—all we have to do is follow along in the bulletin and stand up and sit down when everyone else does. It is easy here, in fact it is good to be here, but there are no bulletins out there. And that is why it is so important to know that Christ goes with us and goes before us as surely as he has gone before us to the cross.

The season of Lent begins on Wednesday, it is a time when we focus on the discipline of being a Christian and being on a journey to the cross of Christ. As you journey through the valleys and plains of Lent with Christ you will be transformed by the One to goes all the way to death and beyond for you.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sermon: Changed by God's Presence

by Interim Pastor Hollie Holt-Woehl
Luke 5:1-11

Once upon a time, there were two people who were visiting the Grand Canyon. They were on the horseshoe-shaped skywalk with glass floor, taking in the sights around, above, and below them. The first person, seeing the vast awesome creation, began to praise God. “What an awesome and incredible God we have, look at this beauty, the intricacy, the artistry, the immensity…it is all so wonderful to take in.” The other person, looked around, above, and below around, went to the edge of the skywalk, spat over the edge, and watched the spit fall, fall, fall to the bottom far below. And after a moment said, “That’s the first time I ever spat a mile.”

People respond differently to God some are driven to praise and wonder, others just spit, others run, still others confess. In our readings today we have three stories of people’s responses to God or Jesus, as he manifests God’s presence in the world, we hear the responses of Isaiah, Paul, and Simon Peter.

Isaiah is the first story we hear (Isaiah 6:1-13). One day Isaiah sees the Lord sitting on a throne, it must be an awesome sight. The hem of God’s robe fills the temple and these winged creatures called Seraphs are flying around praising God saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is filled with his glory” (Isaiah 6:3). Isaiah does not spit in God’s face, but instead he says, “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5) In the face of God, Isaiah sees himself for who he truly is, that he is unclean, that he is not worthy to be given this honor of seeing God.

But then one of the seraphs flies to Isaiah, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touches his mouth with it and says: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out” (Isaiah 6:7). Then Isaiah hears the voice of the LORD saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” It is not a specific call to Isaiah, but a general call that is put out there for anyone to respond. “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” However Isaiah responds to the call, “Here am I; send me!” (Isaiah 6:8) Isaiah is changed by this encounter and answers the LORD’s call to be a prophet who will go and speak to God’s people.

The apostle Paul use to spit in the face of the things of Jesus because they were not what he expected, that is, until he had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. Paul use to be a persecutor of the church but after meeting Jesus he became a follower and a witness to Jesus. It was a humbling experience for him when he came face to face with God in Christ Jesus. Paul realized his unworthiness, in retelling his story in 1 Corinthians 15 he says, “I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:9-10). He, who once was full of his own importance and spat in the face of Jesus, now confesses his sin and his unworthiness. He sees that it is by the grace of God that he is anything at all. Paul is changed by the encounter with Jesus and goes on to be a witness and he is then persecuted for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Simon had met Jesus before this fishing incident, in fact Jesus had been in Simon’s house. While Jesus was in Simon’s house “Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked him about her. Then he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. Immediately she got up and began to serve them” (Luke 4:38-39). Even though Simon does not spit in Jesus’ face in response to this event of healing, the experience also did not bring him to his knees. Then Simon experiences Jesus’ preaching, that too does not bring him to his knees. Once again he doesn’t spit in Jesus face, however when Jesus tells him to put down their nets one more time, he puts up some resistance, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets” (Luke 5:5).

It is not until they caught so many fish that their nets begin to break and after they filled two boats full to overflowing with fish, that Simon falls down before Jesus saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” because he is amazed at the catch (Luke 5:8-9). Neither Jesus’ healing nor preaching could bring him to his knees but this experience did. Simon is changed by this encounter with Jesus. He leaves everything, his family, his job, his hometown and follows Jesus.

Isaiah, Paul, and Simon Peter respond differently to the Holy One. However, each are changed by God’s presence and each go willing to follow and serve.

These are only a three responses to the Holy One, there are others in the scriptures which have different outcomes, in which some are driven to praise and wonder, others just spit, others run, still others confess. Why the different responses to the Holy One? Because it is scary to meet God /Jesus face to face. The initial meeting is scary and so is the outcome because we will be changed. When we are changed, we give our lives in service to God and others. Isaiah was changed so that he answered God’s call to speak a tough word to God’s people. Paul was changed so that he proclaimed and followed Jesus instead of persecuting Jesus’ followers and became persecuted himself. Simon was changed so that he left everything to fish for people. Meeting Jesus is scary because we can be changed, but we don’t always let Jesus get that far, we bail out too soon.

Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier when he sped up at the precisely the point where other people slowed down because the plane began to rattle as it approached that “barrier.” Yeager held on through the rattling and finally broke the sound barrier.

We can hold on through the scary rattling of change in the face of the Holy because we have one that will hang with us through it all. God won’t bail out. Jesus hung in there on the cross so that he can hang with us through the scary, and the rattling experience of God’s presence.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, God’s presence in awesome, it is scary, it is powerful and it will change us. Being a follower of Jesus will at times require us to give something up or do something new or risky. But Jesus hangs with us through the awesome, the scary, the powerful and the change, so that we will not be alone but we will be changed when we leave everything and follow him.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sermon: Anything Is Possible if You Show up for Work

by Interim Pastor Hollie Holt-Woehl

The Presentation of Our Lord
Luke 2:22-40

In the 1989 movie titled “Dad” there is a scene near the end of the movie when the elderly dad, played by Jack Lemmon, is talking with his middle-aged son, played by Ted Dansen. The dad is dying of cancer and instead of thinking deep and profound thoughts he is singing television theme songs and thinking of the 1947 World Series.

The son asks his dad what he was thinking of the 1947 World Series. Dad says, “It produced one of the great moments in baseball history between the Yankee center fielder Joe DiMaggio, prince of players, star of stars, and the Dodgers left fielder Al Gionfriddo, second stringer…. Well it is the sixth game, bottom of the sixth inning, it is 8-5 Dodgers, two on, two out. Up steps DiMaggio, he hits a smash deep left, had home run written all over it. Everyone… knew it. But here comes this little Gionfriddo guy. He’s racing after the ball like he doesn’t realize it was hit by Joe DiMaggio. At the last possible moment he jumps, reaches over the rail, robs DiMaggio of a three run homer. An incredible catch, but then comes the really amazing thing. Dimaggio is just approaching second base when he sees Gionfriddo make this amazing catch. He gets so upset he kicked the dirt. This man who never showed emotion was human after all. It took Al Gionfriddo to bring it out. You know what that means to me?”

The son replies, “What?” Dad, “In America, anything is possible if you show up for work.”

Anything is possible if you show up for work. It is about going about the daily, everyday work because you never know what is going to happen.

I think about this for our faith life also. Anything is possible if we show up for a life of faith. Anything is possible if we go about our daily life being open to the Holy One. We never know what is going to happen.

Look at Simeon. Simeon is just an ordinary guy, he is not a priest, a Pharisee, or a scribe, but he is righteous and devout looking for the consolation of Jerusalem, and the Holy Spirit is upon him. He is a faithful watchman for the fulfillment of God’s promise that he would not see death until he saw the Lord’s Messiah. He is just going about his day one day and the Spirit guides him to the temple. How do you suppose this took place? Did the Holy Spirit speak in an audible voice and say, “Simeon go to the temple?” Or did the Holy Spirit block off his way so that he could only go to the temple? Or did the Holy Spirit speak in a quiet voice to his heart and mind saying, “Maybe a visit to the temple NOW would be a good idea.”

Then when Simeon gets to the temple, what is it that draws him to the baby? Once again, was it a voice, a feeling, or did he see something, like a halo? How the Holy Spirit works, speaks, leads, guides, is an absolute mystery to all of us. Simeon is just going about his life, “showing up for work,” living and serving God, so that he is open to the Holy Spirit.
Look at Anna. She shows up for work every day in the temple as a prophet of God. She too is a faithful and devout servant. She is 84 years old still going to work every day as a prophet of God, in fact she never left the temple. She worshiped and prayed night and day in the temple. When she comes to Simeon and the baby Jesus she began to praise God and she too recognized the baby Jesus as the one for whom they all had been looking. How did she know? When you are going about your daily life how do you know when the Holy Spirit, leads, guide, speaks, directs?

Oswald Chambers once said, “God never speaks to us in dramatic ways, but in ways that are easy to misunderstand.” I think many times we think about things too much. My family went to the Water Park of America over the Martin Luther King Day holiday. While there are many water attractions there, it was the “FlowRider” which was the most fascinating to me. The FlowRider simulates riding a surf board on an ocean wave. “The FlowRider cycles through 24,000 gallons of water per minute, its sheet of water moves between 25 to 30 miles per hour.” I enjoyed watch people, mostly young kids, teen boys and men try and tackle this ride. It was a difficult thing to master, many who tried it would get drawn to one side of the other. Some fell off their surf boards. The little kids would get on there and just figure it out. The adults would ask questions. After watching for a while, I decided I would try it. I was the only one of three middle aged women, who dared tackle this ride. But I too talked the lifeguard, how does this work? What do I do? I wanted to be prepared, I wasn’t going to hop on like the little kids and try and figure it out. However, it seemed to me that the little kids who just did it had better success than the adults who had to understand it. The little kids just showed up jumped on and were open to whatever happened.

“God never speaks to us in dramatic ways, but in ways that are easy to misunderstand.” Sometimes we make the Christian life more difficult than it needs to be. We over think. We control. We want to know how it works. We want to be prepared for every situation.

This is what I think one of the things God wants: for us to be faithful, to seek and be open to the Holy Spirit, and to show up for each day for a life of faith and work expecting to see God through the Holy Spirit, because anything is possible if you show up for work.


Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Reconciling in ChristRIC

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