Making A Difference

With October being Breast Cancer Awareness month, this TV spot with Dr. KaraBeth Moore could not have been more timely. Thank you KaraBeth for using your gift of healing!

Breast cancer hits home in a particular way for my family. This February my aunt Brenda died from complications of breast cancer. This was her second round of journeying with the disease. The disease took many things from B. but it could not take her love, her generous spirit, or her faith in Christ. No, these three things only grew stronger and more visible. B.’s witness for Christ bloomed in the way that only gracefully handling trials can do. And while we grieve our loss, we do not grieve her current residency in heaven. No more tears and no more pain, B. And for that we are all thankful.

This weekend is All Saints Sunday. It is the day in the church calendar we honor, celebrate, and remember our loved ones who have gone on to the church triumphant. As followers of Christ, we grieve but do not despair; we cry but do not lose hope; we mourn but that does not diminish the celebration of new life through Christ. I know my heart will be full of love. In part because of someone who shared it generously and showed it so fiercely.

Breathe and Pray – Descending with our head into our heart

I talked about breathe prayers yesterday in the sermon (full sermon link here) and thought I would repost a piece I did in June about the practice. Breathe prayers are a great way to descend with our head into our heart as Henri Nouwen puts it in his Reaching Out.

Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.

Luke 10:41-42 NRSV

By descending with our head into our head we move from full of knowledge (which the Apostle Paul says puffs up), or anxiety, or worry, or resistance, to full of love which Jesus said is the basis of the great commandments to love God and one another in Matthew 22..

Trust me solely and I will bless you completely is the promise Jesus gives.

Martha was wearied because she was worried and distracted. And in so doing she cut herself off from the presence of Christ even though he was standing in her home. Please don’t miss that (pun intended!)…Christ was present, Martha was distracted. And because of her state of mind, it was as if Jesus wasn’t even there.

In recent days I have taken up the practice of breath prayers. It is an old and tried practice of keeping your focus. They are short sentences designed to center your mind on Christ throughout the day. The breath prayer I am saying is “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me.” I begin each morning with a time of meditation using these words to center myself and then throughout the day, I come back to them to wake my soul to the presence of Christ.

If Christ is going to be Lord of all of my life, I realized that I needed an intentional plan for my mind as well as body and spirit. I sure don’t want to miss him because my mind is somewhere else, unproductive, and unaware.

And what I’ve found is that – I have a long ways to go! And I’ve always found that when the words flow from my heart so does God’s peace.

Todd, Todd, you worried and distracted by many things; there is need for only one thing.

Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me.

top3 for October 23, 2020

Here are three things that I have been reading and thinking about this week. Have a great weekend!

#1


“It is easier to find guides, someone to tell you what to do, than someone to be with you.”  

Eugene Peterson


With Advent coming up in little over a month, it is good to be reminded that we are an incarnational people. Immanuel means God with us. That defines everything we do as the people of God.

#2


Washington Post article on former Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland


Everyone has setbacks. It is not a matter of if but when. And how we handle them makes or breaks whether setbacks lead to growth or bitterness. I am not attempting to make a political statement referencing the above article. I just thought it was one of the best examples of handling a serious setback with grace.

#3


For this reason I have said frequently that the works that come after faith should have the sole purpose and intention of chastising the body and serving one’s neighbor; they are not intended for earning a lot of merit or for making someone pious, for that must be present prior to the works. This is the real service of God in the works, if these works come about quite freely, to honor God. Otherwise what use does he have for your fasting, unless you quell thereby the sin and the flesh which he wants quelled?

Martin Luther – Works, Volume 52 (underline mine)

I am still thinking through this quote from Luther about the purpose of works. Chastising seems like a strong word to use but I can see his point. All works, if I read Luther correctly, either squelch the sin within or meet the need for others. Both of these fan the flames of faith. Giving purpose to our doing. Making sure our being doesn’t get left behind.

Lighthouse Ministries – Downtown for Good

Lately, on the first Sunday of the month, the Downtown community has collected food goods and funds for the Lighthouse Ministries. Lighthouse has seen a rapid increase of need since Covid hit and is now serving over 300 meals per day up from 100 meals per day pre-Covid. The need is great. A big thanks to Josh and Susan Gordon (pictured above) who have been helping collect and deliver supplies from the church building to Lighthouse.

November 1st is right around the corner and we again will collect supplies and donations that afternoon during our drive-thru communion element pick-up.

Here is a link for more information and a way to give directly to the ministry.

Actors – A Sermon Excerpt

The word hypocrite comes from the Greek word hypokrites meaning “an actor” or “a stage player.” It literally translates as “an interpreter from underneath” which reflects that ancient Greek actors wore masks.

An actor 1) looks the part, 2) speaks the part, 3) may even have gifts for the part but is not the person you want when in a tight spot or difficult situation.
Actors lack the conviction to make the part their life. Their true loyalties align elsewhere. They are not willing to make the sacrifices needed, the time invested, risk failure and loss.

It is a role they play not who they are.

This weekend we heard Jesus call the religious leader types “hypocrites.” The people of Israel were in a tight spot with Rome and needed someone who didn’t simply play the part of a leader but who was actually a leader. Someone whose main concern was not selfish ambition but selfless sacrifice.

And so it is with us now. The country is full of division and fear over an election. How does the church lead in this time? How do we not only talk the talk but walk the walk?

1) Pray – pray for those we agree with as well as those we disagree with. Pray that God will work through the rancor and division to bring about peace based on mutual respect and not a cease fire based on power or manipulation.

2) Vote – I don’t need to say this because I hear from many of you that you have already voted or intend to do so. But I did want to speak to one issue about voting that is troubling. There are voices from within Christian circles saying that you can’t be a Christian if you vote a particular way. Let me say that as long as your vote is made in prayer and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit you can vote Democrat, or Republican, as a Christian.

3) Stop Worrying – I know this is easier said than done and that simply by saying it I’ve created worry! But, for the Christian, our citizenship is twofold. Our first responsibility is as citizens of the Kingdom of God. And we know that the Kingdom of God is not dependent on a vote, or a politician, or a preacher for that matter. The One who was, and is and will always be is our Lord and Savior. And the promises of a coming New Jerusalem is where our hope is found and not in an election. On November 4, guess what? Jesus will still be Lord. The Kingdom of Heaven will still be in-breaking. The promises of God will be no less real. So, let us be anxious for nothing and instead pray (Phil 4:6-7).

The nation is looking for true leadership and not actors. And it just happens that the church is filled with just such leadership through the empowered people of God. I give thanks to God for you.

Click below if you would like to hear the sermon in its entirety.

October 18, 2020 – Actors – Rev. Todd Nelson | Downtown | First UMC