October 31, 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation when Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses to the door of the Church in Wittenberg 1517. On Oct 4th the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Francis, who in his own way help reform the Church some 200 years earlier. This October I encourage you to think about the ways God’s Holy Spirit might be reforming us today using these great reformer as examples.
St Francis was born into a rich family and was called to give up everything, as Jesus said to the rich young man in Luke 18:22 “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” He became poor and urged others to do the same. Francis was called by Christ to “repair the church” when he received a vision from the Cross at San Damiano. Through him and his followers (known as Franciscans) he sparked a spiritual renewal in the church that focuses on the poor, outcast and broken. He lived a life of joy and reflected the truth that many had forgotten that “God, so Loved the world.” He modeled a simple life in which all creation took part in the Gospel. For St. Francis we are thankful.
One of the reason I bring up St. Francis is because I am part of the Order of Lutheran Franciscan. This order is a group of like minded Lutherans who find the life St. Francis and his teachings inspirational. We find spiritual renewal and fellowship through the gifts he brought to the church. A devotion to simple living, daily prayer and solidarity with the poor and outcast. For me, it helps keep me humble and accountable as I live to follow Jesus in my life and be the Shepherd of this little flock here. I look forward to sharing my journey together in mission in this place.
Of course our patron saint as Lutherans is Martin Luther. Martin Luther’s wanted him to be a lawyer but during a thunderstorm was so scared by God, Martin promised to become a monk if he was spared. He became an Augustinian monk and through his training and study he came to realize the God was never angry with him but that God truly loved him and the rest of humanity as well. He saw that the foundation of the Christian life was the Word of God and faith in Christ . This revelation convicted him to reform the many of the things the church that blinded people from the Grace of God. He taught that God’s grace was a gift and not something that could be earned through works or bought (like indulgences). He also translated the Bible into German so that all people could read God’s word and discover God’s grace for themselves.
In October will celebrate these reformers in worship by singing a piece based on St. Francis Canticle of Creatures and a special liturgy on Reformation Sunday. We have also being studying the Augsburg Confessions in our Bible Study. We will also being have a public viewing and discussion on Rick’s Steve Germany and the Reformation video. Date and Time will be posted soon. Check the church Calendar.
I leave you with some questions to ponder this October: Where might God be reforming your life? Where might God be reforming our congregation? Who are the people in your life that inspire you to understand God in new and exciting ways?
Pastor Mark Molter OLF/n
July is a busy time of year for us folks here at the Beach. I am excited about all the wonderful things happening as we continue to be a source of Gospel Joy in the community. Our summer Bag lunch program for the Kids is off to a wonderful start. We also continue to serve our weekly meals for the homeless. A few folks of have volunteered at House of Mercy, offering support with cleaning and sorting of clothing. We are also enjoying the wonderful power of the Sun as it provides us with green energy. Truly inspirational.
In the midst of all the wonderful things we are doing we encounter a world that is in pain. I increasingly have more questions than answers when faced with our world at times. I find comfort in the Gospels especially as I hear stories of Jesus having compassion on the the crowds. I know for myself I can become numb to seeing and hearing the numerous things on television about violence in our country, violence overseas, pollution to our common home the earth, and blatant disregard for common good in our politics. We have a world in which compassion is very much needed.
We are called to open our hearts to God’s Spirit and grace. So for the month of July I would encourage us to practice compassion. But where do we begin?
Pray: Make a short list of some of the big things or people that concern you. (Maybe even people you don’t like) Take some moments to pray for these things. Pray for peace and that you receive the gift of compassion. Be specific if you can. Think about some of these things as we pray together on Sunday. Maybe even use your directory to pray for people.
Listen: Take some time to find voices that you aren’t familiar with. Strike up a conversation with someone new. Call somebody in the congregation you might not know well and say hi. Check out NPR for interviews from various people who might be different from you. Take some time to hear another person’s story.
Read Scripture, Especially the Psalms. The Psalms are a wonderful collection of poems that express a wide range of emotions. Pride, Anger, Betrayal, Despair. Maybe read the Psalms with someone else. Look for the emotions the Psalmist feel and look for yourself in them. The Christian life is not one in which are called to be “happy all the time.” God walks with us in all our trials. When we recognize that, I hope we can see how God is walking with others through their trails as well.
I hope that we can as God’s people not just do exciting things together but also learn to live in this broken world and offer Compassion to a world that so desperately needs its. We are Apostles, the sent one, We are sent out in the name of Jesus which means we are Jesus to the people we encounter. Let us be Jesus, Let us show compassion.
Christ is Risen. He is Risen Indeed! During the Easter Season we are called to reflect upon what it means for us to claim that Christ is alive. I would like to share with you what several saints have said about the significance of Christ’s resurrection.
An early Church father John Chrysostom, in an Easter sermon that is read by the Orthodox church every year, wrote:
“Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.
He destroyed Hell when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.”
Dr. Munib Younan, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, reminds us of what the Lord’s resurrection means to the people in the Middle East who face continuing violence. As he wrote in an Easter sermon:
“The resurrection reveals how the justice of God is wholly different from the justice of the world. Where the world insists that death and fear and jealousy and mistrust and deceiving are unavoidable facts of existence, a culture we must accept and work within, necessary evils which ensure our own personal happiness, the resurrection proclaims exactly the opposite. By rising from the tomb, Jesus shows us a new path forward. The Risen Lord has given us a Culture of Life.”
And our beloved Martin Luther wrote during the reformation:
“We must consider that it is ours, that it has to do with you and me. We should not only consider how the resurrection happened, but that you recognize that it happens for you, as the Lord says in the words: “Go and tell my brothers!” (Matthew 28:10). There we hear what he intends with his resurrection.
This is the true teaching of the resurrection: that each person receives the resurrection as his or her own. For there is a great difference between ‘Christ is a Savior and king,’ and ‘Christ is my Savior and my king.’ But just how difficult this is, is indicated by the disciples, who scarcely believe that Christ is raised—not to mention that he is raised for them […] This is our comfort, that Christ comes forth: Death, sin, and the devil cannot hold him. The sin of the entire world is powerless. When he appears to Mary Magdalene, one sees in him neither death nor sin nor sadness but sheer life and joy. ”
As I reflect on what the resurrection means to me, I am reminded of the hope that Christ gives us. In John’s gospel, the first few words Jesus gives his disciples are “Peace be with you.” The risen Christ brings peace and life. In moments of chaos and uncertainty, Christ gives us peace. When fear of death and the unknown come upon us, we know that Christ endured death and returned with the words “Peace be with you”. When we feel surrounded by sin and guilt, Christ gives us words of peace and forgiveness. Remember this the next time we share the peace in worship. The risen Christ is there with us.
Be blessed this Easter season. Reflect upon what Christ’s resurrection means for you.
-Pastor Mark Molter
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” – Luke 23:34.
As Jesus is in agony on the cross his thoughts turn to not himself but to God the Father and to our sorry state. This is love. How often does our own pain turn us inward? Often when we are in pain we lash out at others. The reality of life is that most of us don’t know what we are doing. We often fail to truly understand each other or God. And yet Jesus offers love and forgiveness.
Then the robber crucified next to him said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” -Luke 23:42-43
We often assume that the Kingdom of God is someplace in the distance after we die. However, When Jesus talks of the Kingdom it is always in the present tense. What might the world look like if we lived like the Kingdom of God was here and now? That is Jesus. For the thief on the cross, he simply had to ask and Jesus graciously granted it to him. Are we bold enough to ask for ourselves?
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. -John 19:26-27
And Jesus on the cross shows concerns for others rather than himself. He offers his brother and disciple and new mother. And his mother a new son. We are adopted into the family of Christ at baptism and we are not left alone. In the great cloud of witnesses, we are given new brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers. This communion of saints walks with us on our journey of faith in Christ.
And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46
Yes, even Christ felt forsaken. There are times when we feel God has abandoned us. There are times we feel abandoned by those around us. It is painful. Yet we know that God is the source of our salvation. We know that Joy will come in the morning because although Jesus is on the cross here, there is resurrection yet to come. Lament, Wail, Cry, Curse, you need not deny your pain. Yet remain in hope.
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. -John 19:28-29
We all thirst. Thirst comes in many forms. We thirst for physical things like water. We thirst for things like peace, justice. We often have a hard time finding a place to satisfy our thirst. We know that Jesus offers us living water when he encounters the Samaritan woman at the well.
An orthodox priest was once asked “If God is everywhere, Why is the Church necessary?” And he replied “Yes, God is everyone but so is water. Water is in the air we breathe but, we still must go to a well or stream. The church is that well.” What wells do we go to for water? We are reminded every Sunday through the means of Grace (Baptism and Eucharist) that God promises to be present. Let us not forget to come together and receive the water that quenches thirst and the bread that satisfies hunger: Jesus Christ.
Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. -Luke 23:46
Jesus breathed his last and trusted the Father. What does trusting God look like to you? Would you be willing to die in that trust. These last words of Christ remind us that we all need to die. We need to let go of our ego, our pride, our own way of doing things. When we let go and trust. New life can begin. What needs to die in you so something new can begin?
Council recently approved three areas of focus for the 2017 – 2018 time frame; one of these is Spiritual Growth. But what does that mean to you? It is really a self-defined term; it is by definition very personal. It means something different for everyone since the Holy Spirit empowers us each in different ways for the building up of the body of Christ – the church. However, it is certainly not religiosity. Just the opposite! To me it is an internal drive, given by the Holy Spirit, to learn more; but primarily to experience more. At the beginning one is usually not even sure what the search is for. But there is a heart driven desire to reach out for something or to sit back and let the spirit sweep over and engulf one. It usually means a change in one’s jungle path, i.e., go to a different style of worship service, attend new or different Bible studies or participate in prayer meetings. All of which can be intimidating to a newcomer. Not by design, but arising from an internal fear of the unknown. Those who feel that they are further in their journey must be patient and provide a sense of encouragement to the “searcher.” The Holy Spirit is in charge and will bring the person along the path in God’s good time.
I would hope that the church can encourage all to pray for their empowerment by the Hole Spirit – to start the journey into deeper spirituality. To me, we need “mystical” experiences. They are always occurring around us; we just need the eyes of Christ to see them – to let them speak to us and to encourage us. To wisp us along on our journey into a closer relationship with God. Recently while sitting in a waiting room, I was listening to new age music. There was a mystical element to it. I had the same experience also when listening to “epic” style music on YOUTUBE. A very challenging feeling – one of mystery and emotion, raw, secret with multiple meanings. Perhaps dangerous to the uninitiated; it is no wonder that most folks fear entering the “spiritual” world. This is not a place for Sunday school stories and games; it is a place of vulnerability. I feel as if I have experienced but a tiny bit of the banquet; but I hunger for more. Why is it that the teachers/leaders so often have head knowledge, but no experiences to guide them? We need to break through the stoicism that our culture has bestowed upon us. We need to let go emotionally and allow the Holy Spirit to use us and to guide us. I suspect that far too many folks talk about “it”; but never actually progress through the barrier. It stays as an abstraction, not a reality. Years ago I was led by the Holy Spirit and didn’t really know what I was getting into. But what a blessing! I want more; I pray for a mentor. I want to experience more. I want to be flooded with “coincidences”! With so many that I could write and write. What would it look like to have a true resurgence of “Spiritual Growth?” What would our metrics look like? The metrics that we develop will tell the depth of our understanding of what it is we are searching for!