Lent is in full swing early this 2018. It is a time of reflection as Jesus makes his way toward the cross. The number 40 is a significant number through the Biblical Story, a symbol of struggle and transformation. 40 days and nights of the flood in Genesis with Noah. 40 years in the wilderness with Israel and Moses in the Torah. And of course, Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness facing temptation.
As we experience Lent this year, I realize that many of us are going through our own wilderness and trials. With health, finances and family circumstances. God walks with us through it all. This Lent on Wednesday evenings, we will encounter the voices and experiences of people who knew Jesus through dramatic monologues. These moments from the Gospels will help us see Jesus as a friend and teacher. As human and one who cares for us deeply. My prayer is that you will experience Jesus in new and profound ways this Lent. I encourage you to join us on Wednesday evenings for dinner at 6pm and our service which will include these monologues at 7pm.
Every year is unique and different. This year Lent has me thinking about our journey as a congregation toward the Cross and the Resurrection. We can’t have resurrection without death. Resurrection is a change. It can be a change in perspective or a significant change in life. Every person goes through moments of change. I am reminded most vividly of the 17 deaths we experienced on Valentine's Day/Ash Wednesday from an act of Gun Violence in Parkland Florida. One certainly things about life and death after something as tragic as that.
As Christians we are called to live a daily dying and rising. Death is a normal part of life and we try our best to trust God in it, because we know that we have hope in the Resurrection. As a community of believers we are also called to a continual dying and rising. People die, People leave, programs change or stop for various reasons and yet God sends us comfort, new people, new ideas, new ways to begin.
Questions to ponder this Lenten Season:
These are big questions! Let’s explore these together. I’d love to hear from you. God is in the midst of it all.
Lent and Easter come early this year 2018.
Ash Wednesday comes to us on Valentines Day Feb. 14th. It should not be lost on you that this year we celebrate love and repentance on the same day.
This year in the Sunday lessons we are exploring the Gospel of Mark in depth. With only 16 chapters it is the shortest of the Gospels. Take some time to read this gospel in Lent. Take note of what sticks out.
First, one of the characteristics of Mark is that it is a Gospel of action. The word “Immediately” comes up about 41 times in Mark and 11 times chapter 1 only. God’s work of Saving grace is available to us now. The Kingdom of God proclaimed by Jesus is here. The question we must ask ourselves is how do we respond to Jesus? Do we wait, or procrastinate, saying will listen or get to it later? If we are honest we say no. Or we just don’t quite get what Jesus is asking of us. We are in good company. The disciples had a hard time grasping what Jesus is doing too.
Second, Mark’s Gospel focuses on the Authority of Jesus as the Son of God or the Son of Man. Jesus is clearly identified as the Messiah or the Christ. He challenges authorities, the devil, the religious establishment, and the local government. What are your expectations of someone who challenges Authority? The disciples had many expectations for who Jesus was and what he was about. Jesus also urged his Disciples to remain quiet. What is Jesus waiting for?
Third, Mark’s Gospel spends a long time on Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and the Cross. The Cross is central to the story of Jesus. It makes everything become clearer. As you read Mark’s gospel keep the cross in the background. How does thinking about the cross change your thoughts on what the disciples and others are saying? How do Jesus’ and others actions move us toward the cross?
My prayer for you is that you know Jesus deeper in your exploration of the Gospel. May Jesus comfort you, confuse you, convict you, and most importantly may you know the Jesus is with you. Amen.
November has quickly come upon us. We begin November with All Saints Day and our Annual Meeting. At end of November we also celebrate Thanksgiving. What a great time to give thanks for the all the saints who inspire us in our faith, to give thanks for all work we do as Community Lutheran Church and to give thanks for family and all we have. God is good. I urge you to find a moment each day (it can be just 5 minutes) to give thanks. Give thanks to God, thank the people who care for you and thank those who are often overlooked. With all that is happening in the world around us we can often be so focused on negativity and our fears about the future we forget to be grateful for what we do have and what God is doing right now. When we focus on gratefulness we can experience joy.
I would also encourage you to engage with the Psalms. The Psalms reflect the whole range of human emotion. As we give thanks we should also take time to be honest with ourselves and God. Sometimes we aren’t thankful. Sometimes we are angry or in pain. Sometimes we are overwhelmed and confused. In the Psalms we read honest conversation with God. If you pay close attention you might notice how many of the psalms move from pain and sadness to hope and thankfulness for God’s goodness. We can truly experience gratitude and thankfulness when we allow ourselves experience the wholeness of Life, the good and the bad. We often forget that the Good News of Jesus isn’t that we will be happy all the time but that we have a God who took on flesh, knows what it means to be human. Jesus walks with us through joy, pain, sorrow and death. Isn’t that something truly to be thankful for?
Find a Psalm that resonates with you. Use it as your prayer. My prayer for you is that you will find a deeper connection with God and you will experience a greater sense of gratitude. For myself, Psalm 55 is my prayer. I look at the news. I see the violence, and hateful words everyday. I long for God’s justice and peace. Especially verses 6-7
“And I say, “O that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest;
truly, I would flee far away;
I would lodge in the wilderness;Selah
I would hurry to find a shelter for myself
from the raging wind and tempest.”
And as I read these words, I know that God is my refuge and my strength. And that I am called to provide words of comfort and peace in times such as these. I am grateful for this task.
Be Grateful Brothers and Sisters. Christ’s peace be with you.
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.
Posts from various People reflecting on How Christ intersects with daily Life.