Pastor Steve’s Blog Sep 16, 2018 I ran across an interesting article this week while I was reading the online magazine put out for pastors from Christianity Today. I thought I would share a small portion of the article on the “Ministry of Absence” written by Stephen L. Woodworth. It made me stop and think and perhaps it will for you as well. “Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor and theologian who participated in the Nazi resistance during WWII, shared (Henri) Nouwen’s conviction when he wrote, “Before God and with God we live without God.” While frequently misunderstood and misapplied, Bonhoeffer’s challenging observation points to the reality that our lived experience on this side of heaven is an existence among shadows. God is certainly present, but in a way very much unlike the totality of presence we will experience in the world to come. We live “before God and with God” as imperfect creations, marred by sin and limited by our ability to see only “in a mirror dimly” (1 Cor. 13:12). According to Nouwen, that is a reality rehearsed regularly in our weekly worship. Through the ministry of the Word and sacraments, we are simultaneously reminded of God’s presence as well as his absence. We study his revelation and allow his eternal voice to speak into our current lives, yet we grasp it imperfectly until we are able to see him face to face and “know even as we are known.” We consume bread and wine with the conviction that Christ is spiritually present even as we acknowledge the explicit promise that we will do so “until the Lord returns.” Our entire lives of worship and ministry are practiced without the physical presence of our Lord. While spiritually present at all times, the impetus for our following lies in a future hope of our reunion. We anticipate the kind of unending presence of God that alludes us until we are glorified.”
September 16th 2018
March 24, 2019
Pastor Steve’s Blog March 24, 2019 Let me share another thought from our Lenten Devotional “40 Days with Jesus: Celebrating His Presence” by Sarah Young. She wrote this devotional as if Jesus is speaking to you personally. “SEEK MY FACE, and you will find all that you have longed for. The deepest yearnings of your heart are for intimacy with Me. I know, because I designed you to desire Me. Do not feel guilty about taking time to be still in My presence. You are simply responding to the tugs of divinity within you. I made you in My image, and I hid heaven in your heart. Your yearning for Me is a form of homesickness: longing for your true home in heaven. Do not be afraid to be different from other people. The path I have called you to travel is exquisitely right for you. The more closely you follow My leading, the more fully I can develop your gifts. To follow Me wholeheartedly, you must relinquish your desire to please other people. However, your closeness to Me will bless others by enabling you to shine brightly in this dark world. As the deer pants for the streams of water; so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? Psalm 42:1-2. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. Psalm 34:5. For Reflection: Philippians 2:15”
March 17, 2019
Pastor Steve’s Blog March 17, 2019 A Thought from our Lenten Devotional “40 Days with Jesus: Celebrating His Presence” by Sarah Young. The author wrote this devotional as if Jesus was speaking to you personally. “Thankfulness opens the door to My presence. Though I am always with you, I have gone to great measures to preserve your freedom of choice. I have place a door between you and Me, and I have empowered you to open or close that door. There are many ways to open it, but a grateful attitude is one of the most effective. Thankfulness is built on a substructure of trust. When thankful words stick in your throat, you need to check up on your foundation of trust. When thankfulness flows freely form your heart and lips, let your gratitude draw you closer to Me. I want you to learn the art of giving thanks in all circumstances. See how many times you can thank me daily; this will awaken your awareness to a multitude of blessings. It will also cushion the impact of trials when they come against you. Practice My Presence by practicing the discipline of thankfulness. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. Psalm 100:4 Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. I Thessalonians 5:18”
March 10, 2019
Pastor Steve’s Blog March 10, 2019 I hope you were able to join us at our Ash Wednesday service on March 6. It was a great service in which we all had the opportunity to worship God and prepare our hearts for the penitential season of Lent by receiving ashes on our foreheads in the shape of a cross. This ritual was introduced by Pope Gregory I, who was Bishop of Rome from 590-604 A.D. It was enacted as a universal practice in all of western Christendom by the Synod of Benevento in 1091 A.D. As I said on Wednesday night, Ash Wednesday is not for the faint of heart. The season of Lent is a time for serious self-examination and soul-searching, for both individuals and our church, about our sins and our temporal existence on this earth. As we engage in this season of Lent, we must remember that it is a season we pass through. It is not a season in which we take up residence. It is a season we pass through in order to be properly prepared for the season of Easter and the Resurrection. The rejoicing of Easter and the Resurrection is all the greater because we have seen our mortality and recognized and repented of our sins during Lent. So please take full advantage of Lent, but do stop and set up camp in it. For God and the church never meant for us to permanently take up residence, thinking only of our mortality and sin. Lent reveals the “bad news,” but the “Good News” is because of Jesus and his death on the cross, we get to pass through Lent and move on to Easter. Glory be to God. Amen.