top3 for November 13, 2020

#1

The Third Wave is Breaking Healthcare Workers

Let me add my voice to the great multitude thanking our healthcare workers. They always stand guard over our health but in the past eight months it has gone to a new widespread level. Each night there is a group who gathers to pray. [BTW…it’s a zoom call and you are welcome to join! Shoot me an email at jtoddnelson@gmail.com and I’ll share the link] We regularly pray for strength for all of our frontline workers whether they be in squad cars, firehouses, or our hospitals. And I believe that these days it may be even more pressing to pray.


#2

Think Like a Futurist to Be Prepared for the Totally Unexpected

There is much talk about what the future will hold when the pandemic is over. This piece, which is a few years old, is a good reminder that predicting the future is not helpful. In fact, true futurists consider future-predictors as ‘amateurs’. The professionals have a different take on their role. It is not predicting the future but noticing the present and how it is different from the past that is most helpful. How to do that? Being open to facts, listening closely to those around you, watching for trends, and most of all being flexible are all good habits that may very well lead us to be on the forefront of whatever changes may be taking place.

#3

And now the prophetic task is not blueprint or program or even advocacy. It is the elusiveness of possibility out beyond evidence, an act of imagination that authorizes the listening assembly to imagine even out beyond the ken of the speaker.

Reality, Grief, and Hope by Walter Brueggemann

I warned you about more Brueggemann!

Elusiveness of possibility out beyond evidence.

That is the work of the prophet and I would say it is the role of the church. Each week when we meet in person or virtually, it is staking a flag that we believe there is a God and a way of living that leads to life. I often say that where the presence of God is all things are possible. How timely that message is right now. But when I think about it…it is never untimely!

Running a race without knowing the finish line – Sermon excerpt from Nov. 8, 2020

For the entire sermon podcast click here.

The bridegroom did not return when expected…from The Message translation

The parable of the bridesmaids in Matthew 25:1-13 hinges upon the above point. Without the delay, we would never have seen the difference between the wise and foolish. For all were invited, brought lamps, got drowsy, slept, awoke, and trimmed their lamps – but only the wise brought extra oil and were therefore present when the bridegroom arrived allowing them to 1) enter, and 2) enjoy. It’s not enough to be invited! It’s much better to get into the party. And the difference boils down, in this parable, to some brought extra oil.

When the finish is delayed it may cause us to –

  1. Give up
  2. Question God’s love
  3. Question what we have done wrong

Jesus is more concerned about 
our readiness/preparation than his return’s timing.

How do we run a race without knowing where the finish line is? Three parables about the judgment in Matthew 24-25 show what it takes to run the race:

Take care of your household, bring extra oil, use your talents

1. Community connection (household caring)

2. Spiritual practices (oil filling)

3. Serve others (talent stewarding)

None of the above are news to us. These are foundational practices we have heard from the earliest moments of our faith journey. Be a part of a church. Read your bible and pray. And make sure to take care of others. Let us not grow tired of the very practices that God sends to help us run the race and run until the finish line. Rather than look for the novelty may we rededicate ourselves to the tried and true.

Making A Difference – Susan Holt


Congratulations Susan Holt for being named Teacher of the Week. What a great TV clip above that celebrates her accomplishments! Susan sees her teaching as a calling in life to nurture the body, mind and the spirit of her students. I love that she doesn’t have students but family members. This is what making a difference looks like!

Please join me in continuing to pray for our educators and their work with our kids. We are blessed to have many in our family Downtown. They are truly unsung heroes.

The Great Contrast

From yesterday’s sermon –

Jesus speaks to the crowd and the disciples as the religious leaders look on and he draws quite the contrast. For the entire sermon you can go here.

Here is what it boils down to – one is my interpretation the other Jesus’ words from Matthew 11.

Religious Leaders

Get over here you who can’t think for yourselves. We, the serious and sophisticated, will give you some rules to follow and do you a great favor by holding you accountable. Oh, these rules aren’t for us – we don’t need them but you are a different story. And stop complaining about how difficult things are. Don’t expect us to help you – remember…God helps those who help themselves!

Jesus

Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Matthew 11.28-30 NRSV

Whereas Jesus paints a picture of pulling alongside us in life, the religious leaders wanted something different. They did not want to leave their Moses seat nor other places of privilege. They enjoyed the respectful greetings in the marketplace and not having to get their hands dirty in everyday affairs of regular folks. Jesus wants to lift our burdens while the religious leaders, in Jesus’s day, wanted to simply add to them.

In whom will we place our trust today? The contrast is great. The choice is ours.

top3 for October 30, 2020

#1


Intercessor. My main role and greatest gift to the congregation is prayer.  Period.  The most important thing I do each day is to be in prayer with and for the people who God has placed me in the middle.  


The above is from a piece I wrote a few years ago entitled My Role as Downtown Pastor. I review it weekly to make sure I am staying the course. The above snippet was the part last week that I found myself focusing on.

At no point in ministry, except for maybe the start of the Andover campus, have I been more aware of my need to pray for others. The biggest difference is that back at the beginning of the Andover campus days I did not have the disciplines around prayer that I do now and fell into quite a spiritual hole. I’ve written about that in other places so I won’t rehash it here. Having a practice, even what I would call a discipline, of intercessory prayer keeps me grounded and doing the very thing I know is the most important. And as if often the case, the very practices in regular times of existence become lifelines in times of trial. Almost eight months into Covid have proved that in my life.

#2


“The impact of 9/ 11, along with the loss of life, was an important turn in societal ideology. We have been forced to face new waves of vulnerability that we had not before acknowledged. The force of that fresh awareness is evident in the various scrambles for security that have ensued since that event.”

Reality, Grief, Hope: Three Urgent Prophetic Tasks by Walter Brueggemann https://a.co/eOnbr5c


Fair warning – I’ve picked up Brueggemann again! So you’ll probably be seeing a few things from this Old Testament scholar over the next few weeks. I’m reading this book which he wrote in light of 9/11 with the lens of pandemic and it has been really helpful. Facing waves of vulnerability and scrambling for security is a powerful critique of where we are as a society right now. As the Great Depression changed a generation’s ideology and shaped their values and even practices – so will this time of pandemic. I’m not much of a prognosticator so I’ll leave that to others. But to think we haven’t been changed, or will be changed, is not a realistic view. The times in my life that have been the least secure have been the moments I have clung more to Christ. I pray that may be the change that sticks around after this season.

#3

Jesus is conservative before he is radical; he honors Scripture, law, and the teaching office before he puts them under his sovereignty.1

1 Bruner, Frederick Dale. Matthew: A Commentary: The Churchbook, Matthew 13–28. Revised and Expanded Edition. Vol. 2. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007. Print.

I believe the above quote is what Jesus meant when he said, “I come not to abolish [the Law and the Prophets] but to fulfill (Mt 5:17).” Christ is above all faithful to complete what he starts. That is why the apostle Paul could say with such conviction that “he who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it (Phil 1.6).” In these days where so much is up in the air and I question many things, it is comforting to be reminded that God will finish what he began. My job is to stay close, surround myself with others who will point me to Christ, wait patiently and work diligently until such time as it is completed.