Weekly Devotional Jan 16 2019

“Humans feast on the bounty in your house. You let them drink from your river of joy.” (Psalm 36:8) I had the privilege of doing a couple of deliveries today. I filled the back of the Subaru twice: 87 pounds to the Food Pantry donated by the Dilworth CVS and an entire cartload (both top and bottom filled) of diapers,wipes and toiletries to Churches United for the Homeless. This upcoming Sunday we’ll read from Psalm 36 about the bounty in God’s house and the joy God wants all people. I was reminded that sometimes the bounty of God depends upon the faithful generosity of God’s people. “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” is not only a prayer of our lips, it is the love of our hearts expressed through the action of our hands.  

The joy in my deliveries was deeply rooted in the fact that I know every week Lee Jensen delivers food that you donate to the food pantry. The joy in my deliveries was knowing all the love and compassion that went into the giving of diapers and wipes to those to bless those who are down on their luck, and knowing every so often people of Grace go to Churches United and prepare the evening meal for the residents there. My prayer is that every day the lives we live, individually and collectively, may point to a God of bounty and joy.

This Sunday we’ll celebrate God’s bounty, joy and so much more in worship. Hope to see you there. Blessings, 

Pastor Roger Grafenstein
Grace United Methodist Church 
1120 17th St. South

Moorhead, MN 56560

Weekly Devotional Jan 2 2019

My Christmas practice for many years has been to follow the church calendar–keeping the lights glowing through the twelve days of Christmas until the wise ones reach the manger. This year my manger lights no longer glow. Mary burned out two night ago. The bulb for her in the outdoor nativity ceased to light in the bitter cold. Plus, the blizzard completely covered baby Jesus. I’m not trudging through the cold and snow to fix it. I do know the difference between a plastic Mary and the real meaning of Christmas. So, my routine will be a little different this year.

But, the metaphor of Mary suffering “burn out” speaks. It’s not uncommon after all the varied holiday activities wrap up. After the the company has gone home and the left-overs are gone, after the wrappings are tossed and the radios have ceased playing the sounds of noel and Rudolph, after all our daily routines have flipped and flopped and life nears getting back to normal, it’s common to feel a bit “burned out.”
Sometimes I am in awe of the people who drew near to Jesus–especially the wise ones who left home and journeyed for so long. Life takes more energy when it’s unpredictable. Then again, they wise ones did have a focus and faith. They knew the difference between what was pretend and what was really important. In fact, it was their ability remember their number one priority that energized them and lead them to the manger. It was their faith and focus that gave them the courage to walk through the darkness after their manger moment–escaping Herod and giving Mary, Joseph and Jesus a head start.  
My prayer for all of us — Post-Christmas and into the New Year — is that we’ll be able to keep our focus on the things that give us life and energy. My prayer is that we’ll keep looking to Jesus to guide us — especially when we feel a bit burned out. My prayer is that we’ll remember God is still active in our lives even when they don’t feel like a celebration. This Sunday we’ll ponder a bit more of the story of the wise ones encounter with Jesus in hopes that a bit of their wisdom will become ours.  
In the meantime, if you happen to drive by the church parsonage some evening, Mary and the manger scene will NOT be aglow. I’ve given myself permission to NOT change her light bulb. The manger scene will be dark. Think of it as seeing Mary, Joseph and Jesus escaping to Egypt under the cover of darkness. God’s Blessings, Pastor Roger  

Weekly Devotional December 19 2018

This past Monday we piled into our car to have a Christmas gathering with my parents and uncle. By we, I mean my wife, son, his daughter, his dog and our dog. We had three wonderful hours with family in Alexandria and were about to head home when my son decided to check craigslist. The tires on his car were in terrible shape and he had one wheel that was bent, too. Turned out a person in St. Joseph had just posted four factory wheels, with almost new tires, already on, mounted and balanced for a low price. So, trekked a few miles out of the way, since we were already so near. It was when we slowed down in St. Joseph, MN, just as the sun was setting, that our Subaru started to kick and buck a little.
It’s Advent. I immediately thought of Mary and Joseph reaching Bethlehem: no room in the inn, the sun setting, far away from home. They had few options. By contrast, we had two mechanically inclined fellows, a three-year old that’s at least a little heartier than a newborn, and a grandma for whom such a situation wasn’t new. We had resources to stay over if we needed. The only drawback–two dogs that might make it hard to stay the night. Plus, by this time our car really started acting up in earnest, w had four extra wheels and tires for a Ford in the back. Still, we had it way better than Mary and Joseph.
How stressful it must have been for them–far from home, homeless, contractions starting in earnest. Yet, it is precisely that stress-filled, imperfect night that has become the perfect sign of God’s faithfulness. God provided shelter in a stable. God provided a safe birth, shelter, warmth, a heavenly light, angel songs, and watchful shepherds. The shepherds even brought an uplifting story to tell a young newlywed couple about the newborn baby they were holding. God made the night holy–as a sign to all in need–not just those far away from home, without shelter after dark. Yes, “Life has it’s stressful moments.” But, “God can change a stressful moment into a Bethlehem-Moment!”
Engine light on, motor-shaking, we pulled into O’Reilly’s. They loan out computer-code readers and my son knows how to use them. While he checked the codes I bought a spark plug socket and extensions knowing the old-school place to start was with checking the spark plugs. The code reader told my son – misfire on cylinder #1. Talk about a time saver. Google told me where cylinder #1 was. Monday was my son’s birthday and here we were without a cake but with an important engine candle that wouldn’t light. I popped out the plug. My son’s eyes saw the crack in the porcelain. He put the new plug in cylinder #1. I turned the key and the engine purred–smooth as fresh cream in a hot coffee. A high five and we were off. Our stressful moment was changed into a tiny Bethlehem Moment. The Bethlehem-Moment wasn’t just that the car ran again. The Bethlehem-Moment was that we calmly fixed it together. Sometimes fathers and sons aren’t calm with each other. But, this birthday night God gave us a moment that was calm and bright and blessed.
I thank God for those moments when life happens exactly the way they were meant to happen: and God whispers, “Yes, I am at work here and now.” “Yes, I am with you.” So it was, Mary and Joseph named the baby–Jesus which means “God saves,” or “God is with us.” Whatever your situation or stress-level, may you sense God-with-you during these days of nearing Christmas. May the calm of the Bethlehem stable 2,000 years ago brighten Christmas 2018 for you. A Blessed Advent and Mary Christmas,

 

Pastor Roger Grafenstein