Nearly blown away

Recently I was out running on a breezy September morning with my faithful dog Sunny.  By all accounts it was just a normal run, one with a good pace and a mild temperature, maybe even a little foggy so early in the morning.  Then this amazing thing happened, as they so often do, the leaf in this picture literally was blown into my hand, as in one minute my hands were empty and the next minute there was a leaf in my hand.  You should know that it would not be remotely out of character for me to pick up a beautiful leaf to show my kids, because I am regularly in awe of God’s glorious creation, but that was not what happened.  This leaf, this exact leaf which I hold in my hand in the above picture, was blown by the wind into my hand, I probably couldn’t have grabbed for it even if I wanted.

And why am I sharing this with you?  Good question.  I think I’m sharing this because there are times when God is so adamantly attempting to get our attention that we really, really, need to stop and look around. I love the world around me and I spend probably more than a normal about of time noticing things happening around me, and I fancy myself as a reasonably self-aware person, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t need redirection periodically.  As a type A personality, I regularly think bout what’s next, not worrying exactly,  just being deliberate about the stewardship of my time.

My take away?  If God drops a leaf into your hand, your best bet is to stop, just stop, and savor, because the moment may not come again.

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Trinity Presbyterian Church, Woodbury, MN

In case you missed it, here is the sermon from October 1, 2017

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Trinity Presbyterian Church, Woodbury, MN

Sermon from September 17, 2017. 

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Trinity Presbyterian Church

In case you missed it.  Sermon from September 3, 2017

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Persevere

NRS Romans 12:9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.

In these last few days before summer vacation ends and school starts we have been having a Star Wars marathon of sorts.  Most recently Emmett 11, Solomon 8, and I, watched and re-watched Rogue One, which might actually be one of my top four favorites (along episodes 4, 5, and 6).  What resonated with me was the sense of hope, even in the midst of impossible odds, hope prevailed.

This text from Romans can regularly be heard as a benediction, and in fact, it is well suited as a benediction because it is a wonderful reminder of the many facets of our common calling to love, persevere, serve, be patient and to hope.  In this day and age, particularly in this day and age, life is wrought with conflict, stress, injustice, and suffering, hence our call is to hold on to hope and rejoice in hope.  Individuals, Christians, and communities of faith, are emboldened to be voices of love and hope, not to be silenced by the prevailing winds of conflict and destruction.

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Reaching out

NRS Matthew 14:22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” 28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Reflection

This text is a vivid reminder that being a disciple of Christ does not give us a pass to avoid all of the storms in our lives. There are times when life will seem overwhelming as though we might sink in the chaos of the storm.  When Peter was walking on water in the midst of the storm, he started to sink.  It wasn’t really the storm which threatened him; it was his inability to have faith in God’s sustaining presence.  Faith is what offers us the courage to endure throughout the perilous storms we experience. This story paints an amazingly comforting image of Jesus extending his hand to save Peter, it is the same hand which is extended to us.  It is not a shallow gesture, no pun intended; it is a personal gesture of love to one of his faith-filled and doubt-filled disciples, Peter.  It is personal and intimate, yet it is also for each of us.  The strong hand of God reaches out for each of us.

Just as Peter is loved and rescued, we are loved and rescued. Peter began to sink and Jesus reached out. When we begin to sink, Jesus reaches out to us.  So maybe the only question is whether you believe more in the winds that are against you or do you believe more in the power that can secure you in the midst of the storm?  When the wind is against you, when the fear paralyzes you, when your faith is tested, you need only hold onto the knowledge that if we reach out, Jesus will not let us sink, not today, tomorrow, next week or next year.

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Choose reconciliation

NRS Matthew 18:15 “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 16 But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

You have probably heard the story about two agrarian brothers who faithfully farmed their own adjacent plots of the family land.  They generously shared equipment and always helped one another.  As the story goes, something happens and there was a falling out between the two.  One brother dug a ditch all the way around the property so that it was clear where the property lines were.  After many years of not talking, one of the brothers found an independent contractor to build a wall by the property line so that he would never have to look at the ditch that was dug and see the daily reminder that he shared property with his brother.  The contractor worked while the brother was away and when the brother returned home he thought for certain he would find the beginnings of a grand wall.  The contractor was nowhere to be found.  But alas, the brother was dismayed to see, not a wall, but a bridge and on the other side of the bridge stood the other brother with his hand outstretched.  This text in Matthew can be about both conflict and reconciliation, either holding onto the grudge or finding peace and healing.  I love the tangible reminder from this text that we are called to be reconciled people, just as Jesus reconciled us to God.  I wonder in what ways you can be an agent of peace and reconciliation this week.

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