My daughter’s reading list for her freshman year of high school seems to be getting me to read some books that I have been om my reading list.
Weisel’s book is devastating. While it shows the true will power that he had to have to survive the Holocaust and the many camps that he resided, it also raised concerns for the human condition. The condition that as things begin to happen to us we just start to become numb to it and either start to solely focus on ourselves or simply fail to care all together. This is evident in our country today as we become desensitized to the shooting that occur everyday. Hopefully, the 51 people killed in Orlando this past week, will bring the discussion to the forefront once again. Of course every person is a little different and reacts in different ways when placed in different situations.
It is devastating to see Weisel’s faith diminish the longer he stays in the camp. However, I don’t think that we can be really surprised by that, given the amount of evil that pervaded those in the camps during World War II. The fact is, you were always wondering when it was going to be your turn to be selected and face the gas chamber or a firing squad. It is no wonder that you would begin to wonder where God was in all of this.
One of the most moving parts for me was following the hanging of a young child:
Behind me, I heard the same man asking: “For God’s sake, where is God?” And from within me, I hear a voice answer: “Where He is? This is where-hanging here from this gallows…” That night, the soup tasted of corpses.
I believe God was present, every step along the way. However, the evil that pervaded Hitler’s Germany seemed to trump the sense of God in all of the death.
This book should be lifted up and required reading for everyone in high school. It speaks to this present day as we wonder where Christ is in the comments of certain politicians running for office. It seems that all they spew is hate for others and disregard certain people as not worthy of the grace of God. I pray that as we come to election season, love is lifted up and the care for all of humankind is of the utmost importance.
I have now completed two weeks of my marathon training and am 18 weeks away from the Detroit Marathon!
The first couple weeks of training has went more or less as planned. My long runs of 6 and 7 miles went well, although the 7 miler this past Sunday felt somewhat sluggish. to my detriment the 12 mile bike ride the day before did not help. I am looking forward to incorporating cycling into my cross training, however, knowing that I need to build that up as well and cannot go all out right away.
I stunned myself during my tempo run this past Wednesday as I accomplished back-to-back miles under 9 minutes! When my average time is usually over 10 minutes/mile this was great.
Fueling was great and I am relying on Hammer Gels to fuel and Muscle Milk for recovery. I am also still trying to stick with a Paleo Diet, with certain cheat foods, like Pizza and the beer I am drinking right now. Cutting down on sugar has been huge though and lower carbs have also had a great impact.
That is it for now. I am excited the children are out of school for the summer and that means maybe I can attempt to sleep in on Mondays. Until next time…
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
After an introduction and a defense of his position as a preacher and proclaimer of the gospel of Jesus Christ, Paul gets to his thesis in this mornings passage from Galatians. His concern for the people of Galatia is that they are looking to be justified in the law and not by grace, as the gospel of Jesus proclaims. It is this thesis that supports the basis of Martin Luther’s argument against the Roman Catholic Church and is discussed in length in Article 4 of the Apology to the Augsburg Confession.
So, what does it mean to be justified? Thank about what it means when you use the justification setting in a word-processing program on your computer. What does it do? It straightens up the words so that they are aligned on each side of the page. The majority of magazines and newsprint use justification so that you have a nice block of material to read. It looks neat and tidy!
The struggle that Paul and Peter both have as they are preaching throughout their territories is what does justification look like. Does it come to us in the form of the law that the Israelite people received from Moses in the Ten Commandments, food codes, and the hundred other instructions listed throughout the text? Or does it perhaps change when Jesus came to the world, walked with the outcast, healed the sick, ate with sinners, and died on the cross and was resurrected?
There appears to be a power struggle between Paul and Peter as to whose message carries the most weight. Paul could have easily given in, but I believe it is because of his passion that he defends the gospel of truth given to him through Jesus Christ. Exclusionary tactics are used to determine who is in and who is out of the kingdom. There are ecclesial face-offs within the church body and accusations of others caving in to public opinion and hypocrisy.
Does this sound familiar? This is human tendency and part of the public and the church life, whether we like it or not. To think that these struggles only happen today would be wrong. These struggles have been ongoing for thousands of years. It is in the letter to the Galatians that part of this conflict is brought to a head and addressed. They may be trying to justify their actions and Paul does not want any part of it. He is called to bring them back into the fold and make sure that they are hearing the gospel of truth that comes in the form of Jesus Christ. Nothing more, nothing less. It is not Jewish believers versus the Gentile sinners, for the works of the law mean nothing when it comes to being justified.
As people today we attempt to justify the things that we do so that it makes sense in our own minds and the minds of others. We separate ourselves in many ways. We put labels on people and decide to pick one side or the other, whether it be race, sex, class, sexual orientation. You do not have to go back too far in history to see how we attempt to justify those things that in our hearts we know are terribly wrong. We justified slavery by stating that it was okay because there was mention of slavery in the Bible, or it was okay because those that were enslaved ended up living a better life here than they would have in their own country where there was famine and death. This is just to name a couple. The sad thing is that we continue many practices of segregation still today and fail to recognize it.
The problem that occurred in Galatia was that people were finding it hard to believe in the idea of “Christ in us” as Paul describes this morning. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me (2:19-20a). That same problem is still a stumbling block for us today. We want our facts neat and orderly like the law. We want to know what is the right and proper thing to do and make laws so that we can justify ourselves, making it in our minds seem right and appropriate.
Paul in his letter to the Galatians brings an attitude of knocking down any barriers or walls that we may self-construct. Those familiar with Robert Frost may have read and heard his poem “Mending Wall,” which is about repairing breaks in the New England stone walls. He makes us think about the barriers we erect as humans in self-defeating attempts at protection and purity. In one stanza it reads:
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know what I was walling in or walling out, and to whom I was like to give offence.
It is with this questioning that Paul writes to the people of Galatia. It is in grace that they have been given new life, not any works, and thus the saving grace of Jesus Christ is for all people. Let us live our lives fully following Paul’s words, the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing (2:20b-21).
This message of grace is the powerful gift that we have to proclaim to everyone. Where have you experienced grace in your life? Be bold and share that with those that need to experience the same grace through Jesus Christ.
So, what good is the law? We will find out next week!
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
You may or may not be aware of the that we have a group from Alcoholics Anonymous that meets here once a week. They call themselves Saturday Night Live. The fellowship consists of wonderful people that have realized that the addiction they have cannot be handled on its own. The twelve step program that they follow has probably been one of America’s greatest gifts to spirituality. It connects God with people that are broken, like all of humanity, with the realization that it takes a higher power to give us strength and see us through the challenges in our lives.
While I do not have much experience with the AA group, I am a little more familiar with a group that was called together in my last call. It was the Meth Diversion Task Force that sought to steer people from their past lives of addiction and possibly other illegal behavior. It was the task force’s responsibility to interview and select inmates within the county correctional facility that would be eligible for an early release program and work through a process that involved three different levels, as well as incorporating meeting involvement in Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous. Some of the stories that I heard at these task force interviews were heart-wrenching. For example, at one time their were three generations from one family in the correctional facility at the same time under meth related charges. I heard stories of lives that were broken and thought to be beyond repair.
You may wonder why I bring this up today as we venture into our second week with Galatians. If you recall from last week, we were made aware of Paul’s unhappiness with the practices that they were now following after others came in, teaching them a gospel that was counter to his preaching. Yet, in spite of his condemnation of their current actions, he still blesses them with God’s grace and peace.
In today’s passage Paul continues to build up his case for the gospel he proclaimed to the Galatians earlier in his ministry. Part of his defense of the gospel comes in the reminding of the Galatians of his background. At this point, Paul may not be our best example of humbleness. He points out that he was a star pupil, beyond many of the same age and he was far more zealous for the traditions of his ancestors than others. He grew up living and breathing the law that was brought to the Jewish people by Moses and knew little of God’s grace. While Paul may not of had an addiction to alcohol or meth, he lived for the law and felt called before Christ came to him to persecute those that were not following it. He did not see another way, much like someone that is addicted to something.
Luke shares with us in Acts the full conversion story of Paul, also known as Saul. Paul was the source of great violence and attempting to destroy the church that Jesus had became the foundation for. It is in this persecution and violence that Jesus comes to him and calls him to stop, for he now has a new calling for him. As Jesus is revealed to him, he is made blind for three days and neither ate nor drank. He learns what it is like to live in the darkness and it is through Jesus Christ that his sight is restored by Ananias. It is in this that Paul is filled with the Holy Spirit and is baptized.
In baptism Paul is washed clean of his sins and called to serve Jesus Christ and proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles. “But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles…” (v.15-16). It is through the Grace of God that Paul’s path in life got on a different track.
Regardless of our sins, those we know we have committed and those we do not know, we are given the gift of God’s grace. In our brokenness we should be reminded of the new life that we were given in our baptisms and remember it on a daily basis.
Paul finds community with those that he proclaims the gospel to and it breaks his heart to see the Galatians turn away from the true gospel of Christ. It is through him that the grace of God is shared for all people. It is the grace of God that works in the AA meetings that are held here every Saturday evening. It is through the grace of God that those seeking to dig themselves out of their meth addiction find those that can help and a group to support them. It is the grace of God that supports all of us throughout the week when we may need it most.
In baptism we are made new, like Paul, and join the community of Christ. Through Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection we are reminded of the grace of God and are called to live into it on a daily basis. May you go out this week experiencing that grace and share it with others when you are called to do so.
There are times that we long to return to those places that we have held deeply within our hearts from the time past and to see how things have changed since the last time we have been there.
I recall going back to the city where I graduated with my undergrad degree several years after my graduation and recalling the changes that occurred not only on campus itself, but also down the main road of town as businesses closed and new ones took their place. As buildings were raised and newer building rose out of the rumble.
Bryson once again brings his quick wit and humor to a beloved country that he can now say that he is not only a resident of, but also a citizen. This is not his first traipse around England and definitely not the first time that he has written about it. In Notes from a Small Island, he wandered the countryside and met many people along the way. He returns with another great contribution to the country that his wife grew up in and that he has now nearly spent half of his life.
His tongue in cheek commentary at times makes you wonder if he truly does appreciate the country or whether he is simply making fun of those things that he finds ridiculous. I would tend to agree with the latter as he seems to have little patience for the idiotic and returns to the places that at one point meant something to him now may seem almost mundane. There is a story wrapped up in each of these places and he shares it with a love that one can only gather by truly being in communion with it and its people.
I found myself laughing out loud at various points in the book and would encourage the reader not to be too embarrassed if you too chuckle in a public place while reading. His love for the country that he now calls home shines brightly and his writing brings it all to life for those that have not had the pleasure to visit in person.
Here we go!!!
A funny thing happened along the way as I look towards turning 40. No, I am not there yet, but it is less than a year away! I started running about 9 years ago, and at that time it was more of just something I thought I would try.
This is after growing up and participating in sports where running was the punishment. I played one year of football when I was in fourth grade and because I did not hit properly the coach made me run around the entire area where we were practicing (which was at least a 1/4 mile). That was enough of me playing football! I played tennis all four years in high school and of course some running was involved but I did not think anything about it. I had friends that played soccer and ran cross country, and I thought that the distances they were running were just insane.
So, here I find myself now. Approaching my 40th birthday with a new goal on my mind. That goal is to complete the Detroit Marathon on October 16; my first full marathon before I turn 40! No, I just did not decide to do this on a whim. Since 2009 I have ran 5 half-marathons and a 25k. So much for the boy that grew up detesting running.
My official training started this morning with an easy 4 mile out and back run that felt pretty good. I am motivated by many things while I look towards race day. They are, not in any particular order:
Running for me is a sense to connect with God and is a time of contemplation. For this reason I usually prefer to run by myself. I do listen to podcasts usually while I run and the one that I listened to this morning was true motivation. Runner’s World has just started producing two podcasts that are wonderful and the Human Race podcast that I listened to this morning feature a conversation with 85 year old Sylvia Wiener, who has completed 75 marathons and thousands of other races after surviving the Holocaust. Stories like this are great motivation as well.
I encourage you to listen to yourself and by chance even to where God may be calling you to push in your life. I know that as I push towards this next goal that I am not alone as Jesus is right along side me and that I can count on all of your support and love. I’ll be sure to keep you updated about my training and other opportunities.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom to be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Beginning this Sunday we are going to start a six week journey with Paul in his letter to the Galatians. Almost half of the New Testament consists of letters that Paul has written to those places that he has either ministered to along his journey or to individuals working to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. They usually contain a salutation and words of thanksgiving for the ministry that is being done at the current time.
Aren’t these words that you would like to hear from someone that brought the faith to you and being affirmed in the things that you are doing? It is nice to be acknowledged for those things that we do correctly and those times that we go above and beyond the expectations. We like to be greeted with kind words and acknowledged by those that we encounter throughout the day. We like to be welcomed with a warm smile and a friendly hello. While Paul usually does not do this in person, his letters usually speak for him.
Paul’s letter to the Galatians seems to start out like any of his other letters. There is one thing missing that I am sure the listeners of the letter as it is read to them are shocked by. They are greeted with a salutation, but where is their word for thanksgiving? Instead, he goes right into his purpose of writing to them and does not hold back. It may even appear that he goes on the defense of the things that he has taught to the Galatians. He backs this up with his credentials and the point that the gospel he originally shared with the Galatians was the same that was revealed to him through Jesus Christ.
So, why does Paul seem to go on the attack right at the outset of his letter? Why is this letter to the Galatians different from all of the other letters that he had written or would write? He is concerned that the people of Christ are following another teaching, different from the good news that was proclaimed to them by Paul when he was with them. The last time he left the Galatians they were probably full of the Spirit and ready to proclaim the same good news that he had shared with them to others in the area. He was probably satisfied to the point that he felt that it was time to carry the good news on to another community and they would be fine as there were probably some leaders that had been lifted up among them. He had spent a great deal of time with them and I am sure he put in a lot of hard work.
Of course, our plans always work out, right? In this case, Paul is shocked to hear that the Galatians have steered away from what Paul preached and were now following the instructions that spoke counter to the Word that Paul shared. He is astonished that they were so quick to step away from his teachings and fall so quickly for someone else that preached a false gospel. In my mind, I am picturing something like the guy that I saw before the Detroit Tiger’s game earlier this week that was walking around with a big cross and megaphone preaching anything but the grace of God that comes to us through Jesus Christ.
Come to think of it, are we really much different from the Galatians? At times we are quick to follow what others say and do without really thinking for ourselves. Perhaps we find ourselves on a different path in life than what God had intended for us and it most likely is not a path that Jesus would have taken. We forget what has been taught to us in the past and we turn to the next best thing, that which is close by. This is what the Galatians have done. They probably got to the point after Paul left that they were not quite sure of themselves and someone else came in bearing another story. A story that did not line up with the story Paul shared, but they felt it was close enough to follow.
At this Paul gets upset. Personally, he does not care what the people think of him, because he is not trying to please them. His calling was to go and proclaim the good news and somewhere along the line, that good news was rearranged.
Doesn’t this sound like a great letter for us to spend six weeks with? Honestly it is. It speaks to the freedom that we have in Christ and the inclusion that the church has the utmost desire for. Grace abounds in the letter to the Galatians and we will unwrap it in the coming weeks. The grace this week comes to us in the fact that even though Paul is upset with the Galatians, he is still willing to teach and share the grace and peace of God as he opens up the letter. Yes he is upset. The grace can be found in the word of God that he continues to share and the hope that he has in Jesus Christ. That hope he now shares with the people in Galatia with a little corrective love.
Yes, we may at times follow a false witness, like the Galatians. However, may we always know that through Jesus Christ we have received the grace of God, which is always present in our lives and ready for us to return at anytime.
As we spend these next six weeks with Paul, may you get to know the people of Galatia through his letter, and be open to the revelation of Jesus Christ in your own life.
May the boldness of the Holy Spirit embrace you as you hear God’s Good News this morning!
Change! Not just change, a transformation.
Isn’t that what we are really talking about today? Isn’t it change that is occurring in the midst of those that are gathering in Jerusalem? And what is our natural reaction when it comes to change? We run away from it as far as we can. We try to find any bit of familiarity and cuddle up to it so that we don’t lose anything more that is familiar to us in this time and place.
Change is uncomfortable. Change can lead to disaster. Change can also lead to something miraculous and wonderful. You know what, change requires faith. Do you have faith? For those that fear any change that may come their way, we may possibility question where their faith lies. For changes that come in response to the living, breathing Word of God and the Holy Spirit, requires our utmost faith.
This morning we celebrate Pentecost. Traditionally we look at Pentecost as the birth of the church as we read of the Holy Spirit busting down the doors of the house where the believers are gathering and creates a ruckus so loud and bold that others in Jerusalem have to rush to the scene to witness the commotion. Not only has a strong wind blown through the house and brought others to the scene, but the believers are now speaking in various tongues. The amazing and miraculous thing is that they are able to understand one another in their own language. Imagine that you are at a gathering of the United Nations, because of course we would get invited to that. Just imagine though being surrounded by hundreds of people, all citizens of different countries, speaking hundreds of different languages. And you could understand them all!!!
This is what is taking place in Jerusalem.
“Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”
And what is their response? Some are truly amazed at what is transpiring in front of their very own eyes and what they can hear with their very own ears. It is the Spirit at work in both those speaking and those that have gathered to witness. However, as you know, we can not gather together in assemblies without some naysayers. The few that speak out against them are sure that they must be drunk on the new wine! Isn’t that are first assumption at times too when we see someone doing or saying something so outrageous that it confronts our own perceptions. Surely, they must be drunk, or perhaps they are high! Jesus too spoke to those that questioned everything he said and he was thought to be speaking counter to the law. It is Jesus’ message in action that is now taking place in Jerusalem. The promise of the Holy Spirit coming to the believers is now being fulfilled.
The tongues, as of fire, are God’s promise coming to the believers and the Words of Jesus being fulfilled. Just as we have taken part during the Easter season of pointing to where we see God’s promise, the believers received God’s promise on the day of Pentecost as they were called to go forth and share the good news. And the Spirit is poured out upon all flesh, even those that come rushing to the scene can understand those that are speaking in their own native tongues while those that questions the whole thing are left wondering. The Spirit is bringing about change for all of those gathered on this day! It is a transformation of the heart and mind, and the Spirit brings all together in one place to witness what God is doing in and through Christ.
We too are called to change. As the Holy Spirit comes and breaths new life in this place through the living Word of God, Jesus Christ, we are called to places that we may have never expected. How do we get there, if we do not know where there is? We listen. We listen to God and the Spirit calling us into new forms of ministry and being with one another.
These past couple of days I have had the opportunity to attend Synod Assembly and the overwhelming message was about change. Where are we called to as a church? Where are we called to as a Synod? And as we get down to an even closer level, where are we being called to as a congregation?
Presiding Bishop Eaton was present to share the news of some of the wonderful ministries taking part currently within the ELCA. However, God is always at work in all we do and as a denomination she is encouraging all of its members to come together and examine how we are all “Called Forward Together in Christ.” What do you want the future of the ELCA to look like? Where do you think we are called to be as a church? We will be having these discussions in the coming months so that we can share our input.
Bishop Kreiss discussed the new focus of the synod as we are called to Rise Up and Go Forward! There are some great things happening within our Synod that Trinity is going to be a part of.
And here at Trinity we are in the midst of change! You are getting to know me and I am getting to know you. It is also time to start moving forward in the Kingdom of God and listening to where God is calling us. We will be putting together an exciting new Stewardship emphasis over the summer. We already have some great ministries at work and seeing our new Bike Ministry serving by not only giving bikes to those in need, it also is serving as a ministry to those that want to share their skills and talents.
The Spirit is alive and well in this place and I encourage you to be open to the breath of change that is taking place in the church today as we are called to exciting and new places. May the Spirit transform you and ignite that flame within you to share the powerful message of Jesus Christ through your words and actions.
I was drawn to music at an early age through the music that my parents played on the radio, through cassette tapes, or records. The music was eclectic and ranged from classics to country and rock and everything in between. Through these early experiences it was encouraged that I take piano lessons and did so for eight years. I also played the trombone for five years in the band.
I have appreciated and loved many forms of music from as early as I can remember and understand the power that music has in it. I was delighted as I started to read Albom’s newest novel finding that the narrator is no one other than music herself. The gift of music given to those that grasp it at such a young age and nurture their gift and skills as they grow.
The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto serves as a biography of sorts as the life of Francisco Rubio (who would become Frankie Presto) is told from the very beginning of his birth to his death. Music plays a vital role throughout the his whole story. While there are aspects of it that seem somewhat super-natural, the spiritual flows through it in ways in which you could argue God was at work.
The love that pours through this story begins from the time of Frankie’s birth in a chapel to his chance encounter with his future wife while he was still a young boy. At times you want to be able to reach out and slap Frankie because he allows things to get away from him and does not seem to fully understand. This is life as we know it and as Albom shares the story you feel a connection to the characters.
The magic strings play a vital part of the story as they bear life and are connected throughout the story of Frankie. While this novel is a little longer than others that Albom has written, it moves fairly quickly and brings in those that you may be familiar with in the music world. You are left with the feeling that you would like to know Frankie as well.