“No one can celebrate a genuine Christmas without being truly poor. The self-sufficient, the proud, those who, because they have everything, look down on others, those who have no need even of God—for them there will be no Christmas. Only the poor, the hungry, those who need someone to come on their behalf, will have that someone. That someone is God. Emmanuel. God-with-us. Without poverty of spirit there can be no abundance of God.” - St. Oscar Romero
In the midst of our culture’s winter holiday season, I find it incredibly challenging to focus on the “abundance of God”. This is the season of parties, feasts, gifts and trips, and like you, I am swept up in it every year. I enjoy all of these things, and can’t help but feel satisfied and grateful that I have them. Indeed, we call them blessings, and we know that God likes them too, since Jesus never turned down a good party. It is so tempting to believe that they really are signs of God’s abundance in our lives.
Yet, these good things are not the same as the “abundance of God” that Saint Oscar Romero talks about in the quote above. According to Romero, the abundance of God responds to, or fills, the “poverty of spirit” that we bring to God. And that poverty of spirit is developed in us by paying attention to those who suffer true poverty. We know from the Christmas story that Jesus started in poverty, focused on poverty, and ended his life in poverty. He endured this to reveal God’s truly abundant grace, which answers our deepest need for love, forgiveness, and justice. In the midst of our many blessings, may we all experience this abundance in our hearts this Advent and Christmas season!
Oct 1, 2018 "On Gratitude and Stewardship"
“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10b
When we think about things that we are grateful for, perhaps the first things to mind are our family and our work. We feel we are very fortunate when we receive a sense of fulfillment in these two main realms of our life. As a third realm in your life, do you feel grateful for your church? Redeemer’s leadership and I hope that you do.
But isn’t it the love of God in our lives that makes us most grateful? Isn’t it God’s unconditional love for us that frees us to be lovingly present in these areas of our lives? Doesn’t trusting God’s love make our time and effort in those areas so meaningful and fulfilling? God’s love is always an invitation, always a gentle presence that assures us, frees us, and calls us to live fully, without fear or anxiety for anything. When we trust God’s love in the realms of home, work and church, normal life is transformed into abundant life. This is the abundant life that Jesus speaks about in John’s Gospel.
Our Stewardship campaign, “Forward in Faith”, asks you to keep this abundant life in mind as you prayerfully consider a fitting contribution of your time and resources toward the ministries of our church. May we all be grateful to have this opportunity each year to testify to God’s love! The campaign ends on October 21stat our Commitment Sunday service at 10:15. Please note that there will be one service that day.
Yours in deep gratitude,
March 29, 2018
“Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’.” John 18:18
Happy Easter to all of our Redeemer family! May the joy of Easter fill our hearts with new life and a will to live lives of gratitude and faith! Mary’s words to the rest of the disciples are the key confession of the church in all ages: “We have seen the Lord.” The question is how, where, and who are we inviting to see the Lord too?
Mary is part of that blessed first generation of eye-witnesses to the power of the resurrection. The rest of the church after that generation follows in their wake, and strives to see the Lord in all that we think, say and do, but all from the vantage point of our common mission. The risen Jesus promises to be present in the church and in the world. We look for Jesus to show up in our faithful activity, such as our Lenten projects, in our blanket making, food packing, sacrament teaching, and confirmation retreats. Through the faith we bring to our activity as a church, we see Jesus present to us and to his world. The same goes for our worship. We seek out Jesus in the absolution of our sin, the nourishment of the Word preached and taught, in the songs we sing, and in the meal at his table.
But ultimately we know that seeing the Lord is a gift of HIS grace--on his part. We do not conjure up the Lord, nor do we believe that certain incantations will bring him around, nor do we believe that we muster faith on our own. We simply confess faith in his promise of new life. We simply trust his Word, that he is with us, that he will give us faith to see him, and will meet us wherever we follow in that faith.
Blessings of Easter Joy to you and yours.
Feb 22, 2018
Where is the Lutheran Church in the current gun debate? Many people have strong opinions about how our church should be involved. First, the church takes very seriously the positive effects of prayer. Christians are to constantly pray for their nation and society, and especially for those who are victims of violence and tragedy. We are even encouraged to pray for the perpetrators. Particularly this week, Redeemer joins all people of faith in praying for those affected by the school shooting in Parkland, FL.
Beyond that, what are we to do? Here is a review of a “Social Message” that addresses gun violence in America in a limited way, as part of a larger problem of community violence in our society. In the attempt to help people be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ in the world, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which Redeemer is a member of, occasionally produces “Social Statements” and “Social Messages” on important social issues in our country. (Full access to all social statements and messages by the ELCA can be accessed at https://www.elca.org/Faith/Faith-and-Society)
The ELCA adopted a “Social Message” on Community Violence in 1994. Although 24 years old now, it is still relevant. It expresses basic principles that guide faithful deliberation on social action that would be inspired by our faith position as Lutheran Christians.
The message encourages reflection on many issues that contribute to community violence, including guns. The message supports action to “stem the proliferation of guns in our streets, schools, and homes." This effort is to be part of a range of actions to counter the prevalence of community violence. The document cites the biblical vision of God’s future (eg. in Isaiah 25:6) which is free from any violence as the common goal of all our efforts, advocacy, and prayer. This future will be "an age to come in which people are free from violence, justice is done, and the common good is realized.” (page 5) We believe Christians are called to live and act as if this vision were achievable, even as we admit that it won’t be truly fulfilled by us, but by God in God’s own time.
This message is given as a guide for Lutheran Christians, and is not to be seen as a set of rules to be blindly followed. The ELCA acknowledges that there are various positions on how best to strive for the reduction of violence in our culture. But we can say from the message that the consensus of the church as a deliberating body “tends" toward greater gun control for the common good. How that is achieved is for the political sphere to grapple with. Christians are called to participate in that messy process in good faith, and to behave in debate and deliberation as Christ himself would, with respect for the dignity of all participants.
The following comes from the bottom of page 4 of the message:
"As we move toward a more comprehensive address of community violence, we join with other religious communities in anti-violence initiatives that:
✦ offer vital spiritual and moral resources for replacing fear and violence with hope and reconciliation in our homes, communities, and nation;
✦ stem the proliferation of guns in our streets, schools, and homes;
✦ counter the “culture of violence” that pervades our national culture and media;
✦ build strong anti-violence coalitions in our neighborhoods and communities;
✦ develop peer mediation skills in the schools; and
✦ protect our youth from the epidemic of violence through equitable law enforcement, and the promotion of education, social programs, anti-drug programs, and real job opportunities.” (Download the full 6-page document at https://www.elca.org/…/F…/Social-Messages/Community-Violence)