A Reflection on Proverbs

The first reading today is from Proverbs 1:1-7.

What does a Christian life look like? In the abstract, that seems pretty simple: love God and love your neighbors as yourself. That’s the Greatest Commandment as Jesus describes it. But life isn’t abstract. Our lives are filled with events and people. When it comes to the nitty gritty of daily living, it’s sometimes hard to live the way God wants us too. Up to this point in the bible, we’ve heard much about kings and queens, leaders, prophets, and priests. But what if we are not royalty? How are we to act? Well, that’s what the book of proverbs is all about.

The book of Proverbs describes itself as wisdom, the knowledge gained through life experience. By examining these short sayings, a person can uncover what holy living looks like. The beginning of this journey is centered on the fear of God. But “fear” doesn’t mean to be afraid. Rather, this fear is to be awestruck by just how awesome God is. Wisdom literature (like Job, the Psalms, and Proverbs) unwrap how awesome God is and how we can act towards the world God made.

As Christians, Proverbs helps frame what we face in our daily lives. Doing what proverbs asks does not put us in a right relationship with God. Only through Christ and the Cross are we reconciled (brought into a right relationship) with God. Through this Christian lens, we look at proverbs to discover the grace and mercy we are called to share with the world. Proverbs doesn’t help us save the world (only Christ can do that) but proverbs helps us to live in a world and discern what God has in mind for all of us.

Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for 7/17/2016.

Distracted: Mary and Martha is not about Mary VS Martha

Now as they [Jesus and his disciples] went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38-42

My sermon from the 9th Sunday After Pentecost (July 17, 2016) on Luke 10:38-42.

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From Pastor Marc – My Message for the Messenger, Summer 2016 Edition

When was the last time you responded to a call to action? Not a day goes by when I do not receive an email, Facebook post or Tweet asking me to sign a petition, donate to charity or advocate for a social cause. We’re surrounded by invitations to look at our world, notice injustice and do something to make a difference.

At a prayer vigil on June 22, Rabbis and Christian clergy from the Upper Pascack Valley Clergy group participated in a prayer vigil for the victims of the attack on Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. As we gathered to plan the service, the clergy spent time in prayer and conversation trying to craft what this service should look like. We read the names of the victims and raised up prayers for the families, friends and loves ones who are mourning and suffering. It was through prayer and discernment that the clergy decided that we, together, were called to action. Rabbi Noah Fabricant of Temple Beth Or, during the service, invited all of us to take out our phones and to call our representatives in the US Senate and House. We were invited to share with them that we were at an interfaith prayer vigil, gathered as faith-filled people, and wanted to advocate for a change so that this kind of violence and hatred can end. We shared our thoughts and prayers with our representatives, knowing that faith-filled people do have a voice and no one “religious” voice covers all points of views and opinions. We left voicemails in their mailboxes with the sound of other people calling in the background. For the 45 of us gathered that night our call to action was a literal call to action, and we made it so.

So what “call to action” is the Spirit inspiring in you? As followers of Jesus, we’re called to love the world not because we are kind and nice people. We’re called to love the world because Jesus knew the world was worth dying for. When God calls us to make a difference, this isn’t a call for other people to answer. The call God gives is a call we answer because Jesus makes a difference in our lives. So let’s make a difference in the lives of others too.

See you in church!
Pastor Marc

A Reflection on Psalm 121

The first reading today is from Psalm 121.

I’m a big fan of questions. I like asking questions, love answering questions, and I enjoy starting my sermons out with questions. Questions help frame a conversation. They guide me, letting me explore all the possibilities such a question comes up with. A question enhances my creativity. And that’s what Psalm 121 does today when it begins with a question. The author asks, “Where will my help come from?” The author is posing a question and, in the next 7 verses, will explore possible answers.

The author of this psalm first looks to the hills for help. Hills might be a strange place to look for help but, when we’re in need, looking upwards is a normal response. We might feel we are trapped in a valley, surrounded on all sides by what is afflicting or bothering us. We look for a way out, so we look up, towards the hills that around us. Cities, castles, and fortifications were usually built on hills, providing some protection and defense during a military attack. A hill is a safer space than a valley so that’s where the author first looks.

But hills, the places where people live, build cities, and towers, is not where the author finds final strength. A hill cannot overpower or protect from the God that created it. The author turns to the ultimate creator, God, for protection. The psalm assures us that we are seen, noticed, and protected by the God who created all hills and all seas. In verses 3-8, the word “keep” is used six times. It’s used in this case to mean “watch over,” like a guard protecting a city a night. God isn’t just protecting us, God is watching us, guiding us, through trouble and strife. And this guidance does not happen only once. God continues this process, over and over again, through this life and into the next. 

Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for 7/10/2016.

Do: a sermon on the Good Samaritan after Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, and Dallas.

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.” Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’

Luke 10:25-37

My sermon from the 8th Sunday After Pentecost (July 10, 2016) on Luke 10:25-37.

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Other Food: a sermon on what the Kingdom of God might look like.

After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!” And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, “Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.”

‘Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.’

The seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!’ He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’

Luke 10:1-11,16-20

My sermon from the 7th Sunday After Pentecost (July 3, 2016) on Luke 10:1-11,16-20.

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A Reflection on Psalm 98

The first reading today is from Psalm 98.

What’s your favorite new song? One of my personal joys is going to library book sales and digging through their old cd collections. I try to find songs and albums filled with the music I heard on the radio while I was growing up. In the process, I discover songs I never heard before by bands that fill the soundtrack of my youth. These songs are old but they are new to me. 

Psalm 98 is a hymn of praise separated into 3 stanzas. It begins with the command that all of us should sing a new song to God. But what would be a new song to God? For the author of this psalm, something amazing has happened. God delivered the people of Israel from some kind of national crisis. We don’t know what happened (an enemy army could have invaded) but the people survived. The people are called to sing a song of thankfulness and praise. God saved the people and, sometimes, the most proper response is to sing.

But the psalm isn’t saying that only the people of Israel are called to sing. Everyone, everywhere, is invited to tell what God has done. This isn’t a song for only one kind of people in one kind of place. God’s deliverance of Israel is a sign to everyone that God is present and active in the world. Saving Israel from a national calamity isn’t only good news for Israel; it’s good news for the world. God is a God who cares for God’s people and God’s world. And a world that’s commanded to sing a new song is a world called to sing God’s love song to the ends of the earth.

Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for 7/03/2016.

We Didn’t Start the Fire – a sermon on Jesus, rejection, and discipleship.

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set towards Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’ But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village.

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’

Luke 9:51-62

My sermon from the 6th Sunday After Pentecost (June 26, 2016) on Luke 9:51-62. Blessing of the Animals Sunday.

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