September 4 Devotions

Mary Oliver’s words are so true–“only if there are angels in your head will you ever, possibly, see one.”  We can only see what the mind allows as a possibility.  Mary’s quote is much like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.  Hate can not drive out hate, only love can do that.”  What is inside of us shapes how we see the world–be it a sense of “angels among us,” “an ability to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” or “the capacity to love in a world filled with hate.”  When Jesus was accused of working for the devil in Matthew 12:24-35, Jesus said, “Kingdoms divided against themselves fall,…Why would Satan send someone to cast out demons and thereby destroy himself?”  The pharisees saw what was a good thing, a God thing, but lacking love and hope inside themselves, all they could do was express an inner fear that Satan was attacking.
We are in the midst of difficult times in this world.  We don’t need to look far or listen carefully to find fears of the worst.  Mistrust, cynicism and hate abound.  Two thousand years ago in a world based in fear, because it was ruled by the Romans who used fear every day to maintain their power, Paul wrote a letter to the early Christians.  He said, “Don’t be in debt to anyone, except for the obligation to love one another. … The commandments, ‘Don’t commit adultery, don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t desire what others have,’ and any other commandment, are all summed up in one sentence, ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ Since Love doesn’t do anything wrong to a neighbor, love fulfills the law.” (Romans 13:8-10).
I think Paul was telling Christians who lived in a world of fear, don’t let the distrust and hate get into your heart and head.  Do not let suspicions and frustrations rule your soul.  Focus on Christ and just keep living a life of love.  Nearing an election, in a year of pandemic, with highlighted racial divides, and coping with “living in a nation of two Americas,” choosing love is not an easy.  But, it is a necessary.  Today, and everyday in the near future, we must ask ourselves, How can we bring out the better angels in each other?  When can we be part of God’s light shining in the darkness?  Where can we show love in a world with much hate?
Today I pray for you, me, and Christ’s church.  May we have angels in our heads, light in our souls and love in our hearts.  
Sunday, our Facebook Live worship service will focus on Labor’s of Love.  I hope to see you there.  
Be Well and Be a Blessing,
 Pastor Roger    

July 24 Devotions

     What a week.  In Portland the mayor meets with protestors and ended up being tear-gassed.  In Florida, Texas, Arizona, Georgia and elsewhere new Covid-19 records were set in terms of # of cases, # of deaths, # of hospitalizations.  Closer to home, Clay County, MN has the distinction of being the county with the first infant to die of Covid-19 in the state.  For those interested in the math 1- 986 infants were diagnosed with Covid-19 in MN.  So we have a Covid infant death ratio of 1 in 1,000 ratio–.1% of cases.  Better than 1-3 out of 100 with adults, but still not a comforting statistic for parents or grandparents.

     It would be nice if “What a Week” didn’t seem to be every week lately.  My personal challenge of the week was much smaller, but time consuming.  This week Sharon will be away on Sunday, so worship won’t exactly be live-streamed.  Instead, several live pieces of worship are now stitched together and set to “premiere” on the Church’s Facebook page.  It will look and act like Facebook Live.  We’ll be able to greet one another and make comments along the way.  While setting up a premiere for the first time beats getting tear-gassed in Portland, it did become a very long day of trial and error.  And, in the end, worship will Premiere on Sunday morning at 10 AM and I will watch it with the other watchers.

     However, that thirty-five-minute worship service won’t bring a Clay County infant back for the parents and family.  It won’t solve the racial problems in our country.  It won’t end “mask wars.”

     It will call us to hope, nonetheless, by focusing on a powerful parable Jesus shares.  Jesus says “the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and planted in the field.  It is the smallest of all seeds.  But, when it is grown, it … becomes a tree so that the birds in the sky come and nest in its branches” (Matthew 13:31-33).  Worship sometimes seems like a small thing in a deeply hurting world.  Like a small mustard seed, worship may also become a marvelous, sheltering home for our spiritual selves.  Worship may be that place where we find renewed strength to be part of fulfilling our Lord’s prayer, ”Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.”

     I hope worship is that for us this Sunday.  (Frankly, part of me just hopes it arrives on time from Facebook’s mysterious Premiere cloud).  I also hope we find ways to be in worship each day of the week.  After the sun sets, standing outside for a few moments under the starry skies, sharing our main hope or our main worry, asking God to hold it for the night is an act of worship.  Pausing to feel a mid-day breeze that has just crossed a lake and hearing water stir, as it has done for centuries before us can be a moment of worship.  It reminds us God is larger than our anxieties.  Any moment, we can pause to be aware and worshipful.  It may not change the world—but it may change us in the best of ways.

May you have a worshipful week.

Pastor Roger

June 18 Devotions

John Wesley encouraged Christians to check in with each other with the question, “How is it with your soul?”  Sometimes there is a pause as people think—discerning how it is with their souls, assessing if they wish to share how it is with their souls.  Often, some souls are hurting while some are rejoicing, some are weary while some are hopeful.  Mid-May 2020 I am going to venture a guess many of us might have said, “My soul is like an Easter ham left in the oven just a bit too long.  It is overcooked, singed a bit, and needs out of the heat, before the smoke starts curling out of the oven door.”  That was when Covid-19 seemed our only big issue.  Mid-June 2020, we are pressed to see and search out a solution for centuries of unhealthy racial divisions in this country; plus, the pandemic is surging now in many southern states.

     Ronald Rolheiser, OMI, wrote, “There is a place in the soul where we feel God’s embrace.  It is found whenever in this life we meet truth, love, gentleness, forgiveness, justice, and innocence.  In the presence of these, the soul feels right.”  I have a hunch your soul, like mine, longs for moments of feeling God’s embrace in the midst of all that is going on.

     Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but can’t kill the soul.  Be afraid of the one who can destroy both the body and soul in hell.  Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny?  Yet, not one of them falls to the earth without your Father knowing about it already.  Even the hairs of your head are all counted.  Don’t be afraid.  You are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:28-31)

     Those words are meant to invite us into God’s embrace:

1)     God’s embrace for white people seeking to be their best selves, while knowing they’ve much to learn about their Black neighbors;

2)    God’s embrace for Black people falling under the weight of injustice;

3)    God’s embrace for the myriad of diverse people in this world trying to keep hope alive for a better day for themselves and their children and their children’s children.

     Wherever we find truth, love, gentleness, forgiveness, justice, and innocence our souls find God’s embrace.  Whenever we find truth, love, gentleness, forgiveness, justice, and innocence are absent, if we work for these things, hope for these things, encourage one another through these things, we also find God’s embrace, by sharing it.  The embrace part is hard right now with physical distancing.  Still, rest assured the God who knows when a single sparrow falls knows our struggles.  Do not be afraid.  When we share the ingredients of God’s embrace with others whose souls are weary, their souls and ours are restored.

      Pray to feel and to help others feel God’s embrace today.

      Be Well & Be Blessed,

     Pastor Roger