Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday -- Pastor Alison

"...but if wickedness is found in him, he shall die." -1 King 1:52b

Certainly not what you want to hear from your future king when you know you've been wicked. The astounding lack of mercy is shocking. No one gets away with being wicked free (besides, you know who).

This seems like a good place to mention that my favorite musical is Wicked. And if you've not seen it or heard of it, it's basically the tale of the Wizard of Oz told from the "bad" witch's point of view. She's the heroine of the story. What she discovers though, is that all her attempts at being good seem to turn out bad. She tried to save a little lion cub and as a result, he never learned to fight for himself and grew up to be the Cowardly Lion. When Fiero was dying, she cast a spell so that his "bones never break" so that he will never die. Fiero is the Tin Man. And the one with the magic ruby slippers? Enchanted to help her walk. Ended up crushes by a house.

So what happens when all our efforts for good turn out bad? When we walk on a road to hell paved with good intentions? When despite our best efforts, we crucify our own Lord and Savior?

We die.

Yes, that's right. We die. We drown in baptismal waters. And then we are raised to new life in Christ. It's a pretty sweet deal. With every sunrise, every dawn, every new day, we rise again in Christ. Daily dying. Daily rising.

"Let all Oz be agreed, I'm wicked through and through." -Elphaba, Wicked

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

April 16 - Susan Straus

 2 Samuel 23

The reading begins with “These are David’s last words.”  Important words.  From a King and Oracle.  And how does this King describe himself in his last words?  Not as a man, great through his own achievements and relationships, but through his relationship with God.  David was royalty – the son of Jesse, the second king of Israel, chosen by God through the prophet Samuel.  To be chosen by God would imply an elevation in status, a protection from the common.  We see this today when people of all faiths lift themselves up, not through their actions but through their implied relationship with God.  And yet David didn’t rest on his laurels – he lived his faith.  Not always without sin but always within a relationship with God that spoke of respect and trust and faith.   David was God’s Oracle – he recorded the words of God and spoke them.  Sharing God’s word.  Preaching the Gospel.  David was a precursor to Jesus, someone unafraid to speak of his faith.

How do we measure up to David today?  Do you have a solid relationship with God?  And do you share your faith?  Those last two questions are terrifying for a lot of Christians (maybe especially Lutherans – the back pew folks of the Christian world).  And yet it doesn’t have to be terrifying.  The often overused/misused ‘What Would Jesus Do?” is actually a good reminder.  But first you have to revisit what Jesus actually did.  In a nutshell – he served.  He evangelized through service.  That is not such a hard thing to do.  “The spirit of the Lord speaks through me, his word is upon my tongue.” 2Sam23:2

Open up your relationship with God – that doesn’t mean you need to go door to door.  It means you crack open the shell that we build up around our hearts and allow God’s light to shine through you.  A smile, a kind word, a little extra tolerance in the place of irritation or fear.  Or, an invitation.  An invitation to an event at, or sponsored by, church.  Take the opportunity to open your heart to sharing what you know is the Good News through your actions (and maybe your words).

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

April 15 -- Pastor Antonio

II Samuel 22:1-51

The whole chapter is a proclamation of what the Lord had done with David, it is expressed in the form of poetry. These are a collection of psalms inside of the book of II Samuel. Poetry as a form of communication become a synthesis of the faith.

Poetry is the boiled coffee with the egg shell in it. Poetry is the synthesis of the experience. Poetry is an affirmation of the experience as it is rooted in the heart of a man or woman. The poetry can involve not just our intellect but our emotions. It is, in the case of the psalm, the roller coaster of a holistic experience. We do not just worship with intellect in this collection of psalms, but we are invited to use our emotions - crying in the presence of God, praising the power of God. In this case ,we find the deliverance of God in the whole life of David. The Poetry in the chapter became a confession of faith, it is a faith lived out in the experience of joy and glory.

Maybe a verse which we can take in our heart to meditate is v.:
"In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried to my God: and he did hear my voice out of his temple, and my cry did enter into his ears." This verse may not be only a reality for King David, but also a reality for you.

You may recall an opportunity when you have experienced God listening to your petition. You may remember that opportunity where it was not chance, it was not a guess, but you experienced an answer to your prayer and petition. Maybe you received something that you asked for.The greatest gifts in life you can not buy at the mall.

Several years ago, I wrote a psalm for myself. I called psalm 151. It expressed my conviction and spiritual journey. I wrote it in Spanish and the translation will follow:

El hombre mas feliz que ha caminado sobre la faz de la tierra.
Dios me ama, y lo siento en el abrazo de mi esposa en la noche fría,
en el sonido del violín y la constancia de mi hija,
en el beso espontáneo de mi hijo.
Dios me ama y me ha dado más de lo que había soñado.

The happiest man who had ever walked over the face of the earth.
God loves me and I feel it in my wife's hug in the cold night,
in the sound of the violin and the persistence of my daughter,
in the spontaneous kiss of my son.
God loves me and he has given me more than I could ever dream.

When I read this chapter, I encourage you to write your own psalm.

What will be the psalm that will come out of your own life?

What about writing your own psalm with your own adventures of faith?

What is your own psalm which will tell about God and yourself?


Pastor Antonio Cabello

Monday, April 14, 2014

April 14 -- Pastor John

2 Samuel 21:1-22

Saul’s wrath against the Gibeonites does not go unpunished.  We read in this chapter that the famine that David and his people are suffering through is somehow connected to Saul’s killing of the Gibeonites years before.  Saul’s “bloodguilt (NRSV)”, as God describes it, must be dealt with.  So, David meets with the Gibeonites and they agree on what should be done as restitution – seven of Saul’s sons will be handed over to the Gibeonites to be impaled to death.

Upon their death, David is moved by the mourning of Rizpah, a wife of the late Saul and mother of two of the sons who were gruesomely killed in this atoning act, and arranges for the bones of Saul, Saul’s son Jonathan and these seven other sons of Saul to be buried together.  Once all this takes place God renews the land.

The chapter continues with David and his army taking on the mighty Philistines and destroying these giants and descendants of giants, one of which was not only very large but also had the distinction of having twelve fingers and twelve toes.  That is truly something!

This chapter, like many that we find in the Old Testament, is a bit of a head scratcher. We wonder how famine can be connected to the actions of a man who is long-ago dead?!  Further, we wonder how the brutal killing of seven of this man’s sons can somehow make things better?! And finally, what is going on with the Philistine with the 24 digits – that is just plain crazy?!  I do not profess to understand this chapter as an Old Testament scholar might, but I do have a couple thoughts for you to ponder.

Thought #1: Clearly, what Saul and his army (which included his sons) did to the Gibeonites was very bad.  While the method of rectifying this behavior seems absolutely unreasonable, I must say that there is great truth in the fact that our actions have ramifications – even years later.  I will not try to make sense of the impaling death of these seven men, but I will concede that what Saul did caused great harm to a large community – that community was betrayed.  Likewise, what each of us do as individuals and what we together do as a community, state or country can bring great harm to others.  What price have you paid for such actions?  What price might we pay for some of the actions that we have done collectively?

Thought #2: I deeply grieve for people like Rizpah.  Yes, her husband and maybe even her two sons harmed and killed many people, but her grief is still legitimate.  David is moved by her grief here and given the brutality of his day and the lack of concern that many men seemed to show for women during that time in our history, I guess we can say good for him.  But more, I just feel for the Rizpah’s of the world.  Such grief is impossible to understand and unbearable to imagine.  May we be a source of comfort to the Rizpah’s that we meet in our daily journeys.   

Sunday, April 13, 2014

April 13 -- Pastor Scot

II Samuel 20:1-25

Rebellion, Discord and Violence”

Sometimes I wish the Bible wasn’t so honest.  There are times when I just want a few soothing passages without the harsh realities of the world crashing in from every angle.  But, that is not the Word of God that is The Bible.

Today’s reading, poignantly falling on Palm Sunday/Sunday of the Passion, is a messy tale of an aborted rebellion by Sheba (from the tribe of Benjamin of the north – the same tribe of Saul), a murder of someone suspected of insubordination (Amasa), and a town beheading someone to protect themselves (Abel).  There is no way to paint a pretty picture from this passage.  It is honest about the realities of political struggles and power and violence.

As I mentioned, today is Palm Sunday/Sunday of the Passion.  On this day in worship we hear the entire passion narrative of Jesus according to St. Matthew.  It, too, is a story of rebellion, discord and violence.  Officially Jesus is sentenced to die for being a competing king to Caesar, a true rebellion of sorts.  There is discord among the Jewish faithful.  This is squashed by the Chief Priests and crew who gladly let Rome kill those who would rebel against them or show discord to their unity.  And the Passion account ends in violence, not only the beating of Jesus, but his gruesome public execution.

Rebellion.  Discord.  Violence.  The Passion of Jesus makes us feel uncomfortable and the harsh realities of the world come crashing in from every angle.  But the Word of God will not flinch from the truth, nor flinch from the depth of our need for a Savior…a salvation which will come at the ultimate cost.

Dear Jesus, give us strength and courage to stay with you, to linger at your cross and not to look away.  Help us to know the depth of your love for us even in the face of our violence.  Grant us mercy and peace.  Amen

Friday, April 11, 2014

April 11 -- Pastor Alison

"I saw Absalom hanging in an oak."

I just started a new book, "The Cross and the Lynching Tree" by James Cone. (Link here.) It's been on my to read list since it came out in January of 2013 but Cone is always an intense read. So it waited until Lent of this year.

I'm not even half way through but already some of the points he has made have settled into my heart for reflection and processing. He begins to talk about the similarities between the cross on which Jesus hung and the trees that held swinging black bodies in the south. He points out that we have become quite numb to the power of the cross. We wear them as jewelry, see them all the time, and generally think about anything other than its symbol of death. Cone points out that this particular form of death, dying on a cross, was not only a physically brutal way to die that was set aside for rebels, but it was also a way to shame those on the cross.

Think about the ways that public execution has taken place in the last 2,000 years and imagine wearing those symbols on your neck. Guns from firing squads, guillotines, electric chairs. (I just googled this and also found boiling, flaying alive, disembowelment, breaking wheel, impalement, crushing, burning, sawing, and slicing - amazing what we humans can do to one another.)

Don't usually think of a lynching tree, do we? And yet, imagine how people were hung from them and left up as a warning to others. Imagine the way it was publicly acceptable and even necessary in some eyes for the good of the community. And it happened not so long ago as we'd like to think.

So it is fascinating that in today's lesson we find Absalom stuck in a tree and then murdered there. And as we are going into holy week, we reflect on a different person hanging in a tree, Jesus. We are all quick to condemn, to forget, to overlook and push aside. Our history proves this in the regrettable way we treat one another.

Lord, forgive us our sins. Forgive our complacency. Forgive our forgetting. Help us to reflect on the power of the cross that shines so brightly as a symbol of hope in the darkness. Have mercy on us and forgive us. Amen.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

April 10 -- Pastor Paul

 “I will come upon him while he is weary and discouraged, and throw him into a panic; and all the people who are with him will flee.”   2 Samuel 17:2

I’ve been there.
I’m sure most of you have too.
“There” is those moments in your life when it all seems to come crashing down. It’s when nothing is going right, you’re tired, you see now end in sight, you don’t know what to do and it seems that nobody cares. Yup…we’ve all been “there.”
In our reading today, Ahithopel hatches this great scheme to wait until David is tired our and then attack and kill him and all the people will scatter away. “Kick ‘em when they are down!” Not a bad plan at all…

While reading this, I was reminded of the old southern spiritual: “There is a Balm in Gilead.”

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul.

Some times I feel discouraged,
And think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit
Revives my soul again.
If you cannot sing like angels,
If you can’t preach like Paul,
You can tell the love of Jesus,
And say He died for all.

Holy Spirit, Come! Revive my soul again!

Blessings to you as we enter into Holy Week!

April 9 - Sarah Dillman

How easy is it to take “the high road”? And then if you do take “the high road,” have you had people question your judgment for doing so? I’m smack dab in the middle of raising teenagers right now and let me tell you, the phrase “take the high road” has been stated many times. We all know however, that is easier said than done. The high road doesn’t claim to be the easy road. I would venture to say it often seems like a gravel road with an uneven surface. It can be difficult to walk, even though it is a better choice. It can leave the traveler weary.

Today’s text finds King David traveling and being cursed and harassed in the process. One man who wants to defend the king says “let me go over and take his head off.” David responds in part with “let him alone” and leaves the fate of that man to the Lord. He continues along his path with his group, and they continue to have stones and dust thrown at them. Finally the weary group arrives at the Jordan and the king is able to refresh himself.

Where are you at today? What road are you traveling? Whether it’s the road to fame and fortune, the high road, the low road, the back road, the broken road or a road unknown, do know this: Christ is with you. If your choices have placed you on a road you didn’t expect, or expected to be better, know that He is still there beside you. Jesus is the ultimate traveler, traversing the road to sacrifice. As we continue this Lenten journey, preparing to lay down palm branches and remember Christ’s final footsteps, may you be reminded of His rest for the weary, promise of renewal and gift of everlasting love. Peace be with you.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

April 8 -- Pastor Antonio

II Samuel 15:1-37

Thy shall not covet ...

The ninth and tenth commandments deal with coveting. They seem to be the commandments broken by Absalom. He was not just interested in becoming a self-appointed judge, but a King. He knew quite well that Salomon was selected to be the new king after David, however he tried to be like his father who was, well, like while Saul was still alive. And he became partially successful with some leaders.
David's anguish and broken heart will turn to the mount of olives, the same place where Jesus experienced almost the same feeling for the nation of Israel and the whole world.

A profound sadness came from the people, except Absalom, David's own son. Absalom was the child who grew up with all the benefits of nature and royalty. For this reason, the brokenness of trust, the drama of the story will lead us to feel sorry for the misfortune created by the coveting heart of Absalom. He wanted every thing, and certainly in his own mind, he deserved it. Several chapters are invested detailing the difficulties of David in relationship to Absalom.

We sometimes like to forget about our difficulties, however they become a fundamental part of what we become. It is not about the success or the lack of it. It is about the way these serious difficulties shape David to reconquer his kingdom.

When did Absalom start to desire his Father's kingdom?
When has your heart started to desire what is not your own property or possession?

In the case of Absalom and our own desires, the old maxim, Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives, it is valid.

Sin does not grow in trees, it grows in the heart of man and woman. Sin is rooted in the heart and mind, it takes time to develop in that place inside where only God and you can enter. For a person to act out a sinful desire, it will take years. It will develop by itself or under the encouragement of people, society itself, or entertainment. The thought or the desire is nourished by time spent thinking about it. This for the untrained person will be just a fantasy or day dreaming, however the repercussions can be everlasting. For this reason, we have in our worship a confession of sin, an opportunity to root out the sinful thoughts and deeds from our lives.

For this reason during Holy Week, we will have the opportunity on Maundy Thursday to come and receive individual absolution for our sins. The powerful image of hearing our name, and receiving the words your sins are forgiven in the name of God and the authority of the Christ.

Monday, April 7, 2014

April 7 -- Pastor John

2 Samuel 13:1-14:33

These two chapters of 2 Samuel tell a rather sad story.  I suppose one could say that the end result is positive, but the process by which we get to that positive end result is filled with a lot of garbage.

We begin with David’s son, Amnon lusting after his half-sister, Tamar.  Amnon gives into his lust and rapes Tamar.  Tamar’s brother, Absalom (Amnon’s half-brother) finds out that Amnon rapes Tamar and vows to avenge his sister.  Sadly, David also learns of Amnon’s disgraceful act, gets angry but does nothing because “he loved him (Amnon), for he was his firstborn.”  It takes Absalom two years, but he does indeed get his (although I am not sure if it is also his sister’s) revenge.  Amnon is killed by Absalom, who then goes into hiding, fearing that David will seek revenge for the murder of his firstborn and apparent favorite son, Amnon.  Sometime later, through the help of Joab and a crafty woman named Tekoa, Absalom returns to his home.  The story ends with David forgiving his son Absalom for killing Amnon.
This story is filled with people making really, really poor choices.  Amnon gave into temptation and raped his own sister.  Absalom was rightly horrified at Amnon, but then acted is on that horror in the wrong way.  And David, the father of Amnon, Absalom and Tamar, did nothing and in so doing allowed all of this to take place.  This story shows reveals just how devastating poor choices can be.  Lust, revenge and favoritism brought the life of one person to an end (Amnon), essentially ruined the life of another (Tamar) and drastically affected the life of two others (Absalom and David). 

What we do – the things we say and the choices we make – truly makes a difference in our lives and in the lives of those around us.  Our actions are not our own and we are fools if we think that what we do does not have any impact on others.  We are not smart enough to know what impact our actions will have on those around us, so we would be wise to act cautiously and carefully and compassionately.