The End of the World is Tomorrow

Today’s reading from 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 is not, in some ways, the best advice to give to others. I wouldn’t tell a married person to live as if they were single. I wouldn’t tell someone who is mourning to act like they are not. And I wouldn’t tell anyone to pretend as if they are not living in the real world. This passage shows us why knowing the context of biblical writings is important. If we take these verses at face value, we would end up making some un-Christian life choices. But if we remember who Paul was and what he believed, this passage makes a little more sense.

Paul honestly thought the world was going to end tomorrow. The end times were not metaphorical, symbolic, or something that will happen “in the near future.” For Paul, if today was Sunday, the world is ending on Monday. He had no idea that there would be a Christian church 2000 years into the future. Paul wrote, preached, and shared Jesus with an incredible sense of urgency. The current structure of the world was about to be undone. Everything, including our relationships, society, and culture was going to change in ways we couldn’t imagine. Paul could, in the same breath, encourage slaves to not worry about being free and spouses to act as if they are not married, because the world was about to change. And even when Paul did act like relationships were important, he always assumed they wouldn’t last. Living a long and faith-filled Christian life was not something he spent much energy on.

As Paul aged, his writing slowly changed. His ministry lasted over twenty years and the amount of urgency in his writing dropped (but only by a hair). He never lost the hope that he would see Jesus’ return in his lifetime. And in some ways, the Christian life is rooted in that expectation. Every Sunday, we say out loud that Jesus will come again. And we, as a congregation, mean it. But the questions we ask about daily living are different. We don’t assume that because Jesus will return tomorrow, we can ignore today’s responsibilities. Instead, because we know Jesus will come again, we live everyday as he did. We heal what needs to be healed. We repair what is broken. We take seriously our relationships. We care for the earth like God does. We bring good news to the poor. And we think about others before we think about ourselves. Since we expect Jesus to return, we live as if he is already here. And, in away, he already is because he is present whenever we gather together.

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 the 3rd Sunday After Epiphany, 1/21/2018.

I sometimes do weddings: September 2017 edition

Last September, I was honored to preside over Jen and Adam’s wedding. It was a beautiful ceremony and event. Below is a video and pictures of me in action. A big thank you to Danfredo Photos + Films for the video and film.

jennifer + adam // the roundhouse from Danfredo Photos + Films on Vimeo.

Photo by Danfredo Photos + Films (
Danfredo Photos + Films (
Danfredo Photos + Films (
Danfredo Photos + Films (
Danfredo Photos + Films (
Danfredo Photos + Films (

Children’s Sermon: Looking at Masks

Brings three masks: Darth Vader, Storm Trooper, Batman.

Hi everyone! I’m so glad you are here today.
So I want to talk about something that happens in the story we hear about Jesus today. And to talk about what happens, I’m going to use these: show the masks. Put them on too.

So you might not know these characters. But when I put on this mask, I am…Darth Vader! When we first meet Darth Vader, we discover that he’s a leader of a giant empire that wants power over everyone. He hurts people and does bad things.

When I put on this mask, I am… a storm trooper. Storm troopers are from Star Wars and they are soldiers who serve Darth Vader. They do bad things, hurt people, fight wars, and more.

When I put on this mask, I am…Batman! And who is Batman? He’s a superhero. He saves people who are in trouble, he does the right thing, he always tries to help. He does good things.

So when we see these masks, we might think we know what we need to know about the characters they represent. The villains are always villains and the superheroes are always heroes. We just have to look at the mask, look at their outside, and know everything we need to know about them. We don’t need to get to know them because the way they look tells us everything about them.

But that’s a mistake. We’re not supposed to look at people from the outside and assume we know everything about them. We’re supposed to get to know them – what they are like, what they think, what they love, and more.

Because when we get to know them, we learn that what we originally think isn’t always right. If you’ve seen the new Star Wars films, you know that there is a storm trooper who is named Finn – and he becomes a hero instead of a villain. And we know that Darth Vader eventually changed and helps his son Luke at the end of Return of the Jedi. And we know that Batman, who always tries to do good, sometimes gets angry or upset or confused and will not be as good as we think he’s supposed to be. People are more than just what we think they are.

Today, we’ll hear Jesus start putting together his disciples, his teachers, his followers. One will be named Philip and he will go and find his friend Nathaniel. Philip will tell Nathaniel all about Jesus and Nathaniel, at first, will not believe Philip. Nathaniel learns that Jesus is from a town called Nazareth and is poor and is the son of a carpenter. Everyone knew that Nazareth was a nobody town. Everyone knew that nothing important was ever happening there or coming from there. Everyone knew, from the outside, that Jesus shouldn’t be from Nazareth. But once Nathaniel learns that Jesus knows him, Nathaniel learns that what he originally thought wasn’t right.

Jesus doesn’t want us to just see the outside of the people around us. He wants us to get to know them, to learn everything about them, to know their hurts and their joys and what makes them laugh – because Jesus, and God, knows all of that about us.

Thank you for being here and I hope you have a blessed week.

Each week, I share a reflection for all children of God. The written manuscript serves as a springboard for what I do. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship on 2nd Sunday After Epiphany, 1/14/2018.

How Does God Love the World? John 1

This morning’s gospel (John 1:43-51) reading is unexpected. We are in the year where we focus on the gospel according to Mark but today we detour to the gospel according to John. In John’s narrative, this scene takes place after Jesus meets John the baptism. Jesus begins to find his disciples. Peter and his brother Andrew are two of the first disciples Jesus calls. And then Jesus goes to Galilee to find Philip. Exactly where Philip was, scripture doesn’t tell us. In fact, scripture doesn’t tell us much about Philip at all. We really don’t know who Philip is or what he was doing when he met Jesus. We don’t know if Philip was religious or if he attended synagogue every week. We don’t know if Philip was seeking the Messiah or if faith was important to him at all. All the gospel according to John tells us is that Jesus went to Galilee and found Philip. For John, what Jesus does here and what Philip does next is what being a follower of Jesus is all about.

If we want to follow Jesus, we need to trust that we cannot follow Jesus unless Jesus comes to us. And that visit by Jesus happens in a variety of ways. Jesus comes to us in the moment of our baptism, when we gather to worship in church, when we sing together as a community, and when we share Jesus’ body and blood in communion. Jesus also comes to us when we are praying for a friend, when we are hiking far from civilization, and when we are stuck on a crowded subway car. Jesus makes himself known to us by by sending us a feeling of peace when peace feels impossible. He sometimes speaks words of hope that only we can hear. And he shows up by pushing us to love our neighbors even when we don’t want to. There’s no “right” way that Jesus comes to us. Rather, Jesus comes to us over and over again wherever we are. Jesus finds us because we are worth being found.

And once we are found, we are sent to find others. As we see in this text, following Jesus means living like Jesus does. Jesus finds Philip and so Philip finds Nathaniel. Our faith isn’t a commodity only for ourselves. Our faith, instead, compels us to share it with others. We are called to invite folks to know Jesus. We are called to invite folks to church. We are called to listen to the questions others have, to answer them as best we can, to be honest if we don’t know the answer, and still to be brave enough to tell them to “come and see.” We are called to be like Jesus and to be like Philip. Because when Jesus finds us, we become more than just ourselves; we become part of Jesus himself (aka the body of Christ). And when we find others, God is using us to love the world (John 3:16).

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 the 2nd Sunday After Epiphany, 1/14/2018.

Who Do You Listen To?

Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread. At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

1 Samuel 3:1-10

My sermon from the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany (January 14, 2018) on 1 Samuel 3:1-10. Listen to the recording at the bottom of the page or read my manuscript below.


When do we stop listening to new pop music?

A few years ago, a study was released asking that question. The study took several years of data from the online streaming music service called Spotify, matching the songs people listen to with their actual ages. And the authors of the study noticed that consumers of pop music follow a pattern. Pop music becomes important to us when we are teenagers. We’re developing our own cultural tastes but, since we’re young, we don’t know what our options are. We first listen to whatever is popular on the radio or the Disney channel or whatever we see on YouTube. And then, as we transition into our late teens and early twenties, we start expanding what we listen to. We discover bands and genres that are not on the radio. We affirm our own sense of independence and our own unique identity by becoming that person who tells their friends that we know what’s cool before they do. And then, in our mid 30s, our search for new music typically stops. We keep listening to the bands and albums we already love and we go back to re-discover the music that was popular when we were teenagers. While the rest of the world invents new musical styles and new sounds, we stay in the place we already are. Now, I know that this pop music generalization doesn’t work for everyone. I’m sure you have a friend who always knows what the kids are listening to these days, or you might be that kid yourself. But this pattern of what we listen to feels like it might make sense. And I’ve been thinking about this lately because something happened in our local media market that made me wonder if I’m on the other side of the pop music listening curve.

Because about two months ago, I was driving home after a meeting at church when I stumbled on a new radio station. And this station was doing something different. They were playing all the music that dominated the radio waves in Denver, CO in the late 80s and 90s. This new radio station is devoted to “alternative.” Do you remember alternative? It’s bands with names like Toad the Wet Sprocket, Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, Hootie and the Blowfish, and the Crash Test Dummies. I was a bit shocked, to be honest, when I stumbled onto this station because this…this was my childhood. And I know I’m totally revealing my age here and there’s a chance you have no idea who these bands are – but I want you to imagine, for a moment at least, stumbling onto the music that you grew up with, this music that spoke to you, the music you hummed to yourself as you were trying to fall asleep every night. And if you’re young and what I’m talking about hasn’t happened to you yet, I’m hopeful that this experience of discovering your personal soundtrack will come. And then, in twenty years, you can be like me, and stumble onto the songs that matter to you while you are living in a new place and at a new point in your life. And then when that happens, will the songs you used to sing sound just like they did when you were 15? Or can we hear them in a new way?

I don’t know what music Samuel listen to when he was young. And in our first reading today, he actually is still young – probably just ten or eleven years old. When he was born, his mother entrusted him to the Temple in Jerusalem and that’s where he grew up. So it’s probably safe to say that the music of the Temple was the soundtrack to his early life. Psalms, hymns, trumpets, and various string instruments became, I think, Samuel’s songs. And as he tried to fall asleep in our first scripture reading today, I imagine that he hummed these Temple songs as he laid down after a serving God.

And then, suddenly, Samuel heard a sound he already knew but one that couldn’t really place. So Samuel did what he always did when he heard his name: he went to Eli, the spiritual and political leader of Israel. Eli lived in, and tended to, the Temple and he was Samuel’s caregiver. The words Samuel heard as he fell asleep were words he knew well. The person always singing this kind of song, always shouting his name, was Eli, so Samuel got up, ready to reply. Samuel, I think, was doing what we all do, sort of just half-listening to the words that were spoken. He heard his name and he instantly went into his own personal pattern of finding Eli and offering Eli a reply. Samuel, at this moment, struggled to understand what was happening. He didn’t pause and listen for that kind of understanding. And he probably didn’t even think he had to pause at all. The words he heard were, he assumed, from a song he already knew. But this time, the Lord was calling. And God, whose voice and breath gave Samuel, life, was speaking to Samuel in a new way. God wasn’t asking Samuel to listen like he always did. God wasn’t looking for Samuel’s usual reply. God need Samuel to pause, to listen for understanding, because God had a new word to share.

I wonder how many of us have said something, only to know by the responses that we weren’t understood. I wonder how many of us have been so focused on our reply that we didn’t understand what was actually being said. If I had a guess, I imagine that everyone in this room could share dozens of stories about the times when they weren’t listened to or when they failed to listen to others. It’s not hard to just react to what someone says. It’s not hard to be so focused on our reply that we end up being defensive, we lose our empathy, and we attack whatever the other person just said. We sometimes spend too much time trying to “win” whatever conversation we’re in, rather than actually listen and understand the words we hear. And that’s because, I think, listening for understanding is very hard. And it’s scary. And it forces us to be vulnerable. When we truly listen, we discover the ways we hurt others. We learn hear how our in-actions caused pain to those around us. When we listen to understand instead of just listening to respond, we discover how powerful our words actually are. And we are forced, in that moment, to put our own ego aside. Because when we listen, we let the other person lead and we become their servant.

And that, in essence, is part of what it means to be follow Christ. We are called to listen for understanding. And this call starts the moment God calls our name. That call is made public, for all to see, when the waters of baptism are first poured over us. This call to listen is a call meant for us and for little William Lintner in his baptism today. And even though the words of this call do not change, the meaning for us changes as we change. The words and songs that set us on fire as a teenager and helped us grow up in our 20s always stay the same; But we, the ones who are listening, change. We grow older. We gain new experiences. We run into new challenges and we find new joys. And so we’re not asked to just respond to things like we always did. We’re not here to only focus on our replies. God invites us to listen for understanding. God invites us to lose our ego and know that God’s voice and words will come to us from unexpected places and through unexpected people. And we are called to trust that the God who called Samuel is still calling us. Our God is still speaking. Our God is still singing a song just for us. And we can, right now, turn towards God and our neighbor and truly listen.


Children’s Sermon: Very Ordinary

Gather around the font.

Hi everyone!

So a happy New Year to all of you. This is our first church service of 2018. I hope you all had a good winter break, a happy New Years, and you had a few fun snow days this week. So since this is the first weekend of the New Year, a lot of us are thing about stuff that’s new – new things we want to try, new places we want to go, new things we want to learn, and more. And so I think it’s great that we, as a church, are going to do something sort of new today: at the 10:30 service, we are going to celebrate a baptism and welcome a new friend, publicly, into the Body of Christ, into a life of following Jesus.

And so that’s why we’re up here around our baptismal font. And inside of it, what do you see? A bowl with water in it. That’s right. Water. Now, let’s talk about the water. Feel free to touch it, maybe splash a bit. How does it feel? Wet. Cool. Like water. It feels pretty much like normal water, doesn’t it? It feels very ordinary. It’s the same kind of water you might get out of the taps at your home or at a store. Even though the water here at church comes from a well, water is just, well, water. Clean water is something that everyone needs to live well. If the water was bad, it might get us sick. But when it’s good, it’s something we need everyday so we can be healthy, keep growing, and keep learning. Water is necessary for us and it’s also, at the same, time very ordinary.

Yet it’s this ordinary thing that God uses to make a promise to each of us. God takes something very plain and almost boring, and unites God’s words to it. So how does god do that? Well, it’s through the power of words and breath. We hear in the Bible that God’s breathe moves over waters so go ahead, and together, take a deep breath and blow over the waters. Blooooowwww. When we speak God’s words, air leaves our body and moves into this water and this ordinary thing is united with God’s words, and it’s here where God promises come true to us. When we are baptized, God promises to love us. When we are baptized, God promises to be with us, no matter what. When we are baptized, Jesus makes a promise to be by our side no matter where we go. God makes a promise, through this water and through our baptisms, that we are never alone and that Jesus will always be near us.

God chooses to use ordinary things, the stuff of everyday lives, to show us how we much God loved us. God doesn’t decide to use something special like sparkling water, or water with bubbles in it, or water you can only find in one special place in the world. God uses ordinary water, everyday water, to say I love you.

And God truly does.

Thank you for being here and I hope you have a blessed week.

Each week, I share a reflection for all children of God. The written manuscript serves as a springboard for what I do. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship on Baptism of Jesus, 1/08/2018.

Torn Open: Baptisms are Events

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Mark 1:4-11

My sermon from the Baptism of Jesus (January 7, 2018) on Mark 1:4-11. Listen to the recording at the bottom of the page or read my manuscript below.


Did you ever wonder what it’s like to be baptized in the Jordan River?

Now, I know I’ve shared the following images and video before but on a day like today, when we celebrate the baptism of Jesus and the upcoming baptism of Shane Kurtz, I felt like I needed to share these images again. A few years ago, an old friend of mine served as an assistant for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (aka the ELCJHL). She lived in Jerusalem and spent time in the various congregations that make up the ELCJHL. One of those churches is this one (show image) – the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bethany Beyond the Jordan. This church serves mostly as a pilgrimage site because it overlooks a spot on the Jordan River where tradition says Jesus was baptized. The Jordan River, as you can see here (show image), isn’t really much of a river at all. It’s more of a muddy stream at this point. And the track the river follows isn’t exactly the same as it was 2000 years ago. In fact, Jesus’ traditional baptism site is sometimes like this – (show image) – dry. But it occasionally fills with a little water (show image). The tent like structures in the back serve to keep visitors safe and out of the sun. The stone stairs and pillars are old, and were used by the ancient churches that once stood on this site. One thing visitors to this place like to do is to actually step into the Jordan river itself. But what would that look like? Well – it might look something like this: (show 15 second video).

Now, doesn’t that look…I dunno…warm? Last I check, it feels like it’s -5 outside here in Northern New Jersey. And I’m sort of tired of wearing multiple pairs of socks, long underwear, and winter hats while walking around my own house. I am ready to be somewhere warm. And looking at these images of Jesus’ baptism site – with its bright sun, white sand, and plants full of green leaves – I sort of want to just jump into that river – and let the sediment rich waters – full of yellows, oranges, and reds – wash over me. That water, from here at least, looks warm and inviting. But we all know that looks can be deceiving. And my friend who took that video told me that the water in the river was ice cold that day.

Now, we have no idea what season it was when Jesus went to visit John in the wilderness. We don’t know if it was spring or summer, winter or fall. Scripture doesn’t really give us many details when it comes to Jesus’ baptism. And our reading from the gospel according to Mark spends more time talking about John the Baptist than it does about Jesus’ baptism itself. This gospel doesn’t really pause and reflect on what this baptism of Jesus is all about. Details that might help explain this event are just not there. Instead, the text moves really fast. Jesus shows up and the first thing he does is go straight into the water. And as he comes out of the river, with the red, yellow, and orange waters dripping off him, Jesus sees the heavens torn open and the Holy Spirit coming down. The inherent separation of God and humanity is broken, it’s torn apart, by this Jesus who walks into the water. But the text doesn’t linger on this point. You would think that Mark might want to spend a little more time describing what the heavens being torn apart might actually look like. He could have spent at least one or two sentences explaining or making more plain what was going on here. But he doesn’t. Mark doesn’t give us any time to really linger on Jesus’ baptism. Instead, Mark wants to move on. He’s rushing us through this moment, trying to get to verse 12 and beyond. Jesus’ baptism is important – but Mark doesn’t slow down and try to explain what this event is all about. We might have questions about this moment, like why would Jesus need to be baptized? And why would Jesus, the Son of God, the one who had no sin, need a baptism for the forgiveness of sin? We might want to pause, reflect, and try to uncover and explain everything about this moment. And in some ways, we’re invited to do that because I stopped reading the story at verse 11. We assume we’re supposed to linger on this moment. But looks can be deceiving and Mark is in a rush. He doesn’t want us to explain this moment; this baptism of Jesus; he wants us to experience it and to recognize the event it actually is.

So what if we let Mark take us through Jesus’ baptism as fast he wants to? There’s no time for us to linger. There’s no time for us to wonder why Jesus was at the River Jordan once he shows up. Instead, once Jesus arrives, he’s down there in the river , submerged in the yellow, red, and orange waters that make up the Jordan. And when he stands up, we suddenly see something new. Because we are, at that moment, witnessing an appearance of God [working preacher, Karoline Lewis] that we have never seen before. Because at this moment, God is standing right there, in the water. And God is surrounded by more than just water, and sand, and lush green leaves. God is surrounded by people of all kinds and from many different places who are there, confessing their sins. All of them were yearning for God. And God unexpectedly showed up and walked into the water with them, letting everyone know that they are not going through this life alone.

Jesus’ baptism is, above all, an event. And the baptism that we practice, the baptism that we experienced, are events too. Now our baptism might not have been filled with the special effects like Jesus’ was. And the water used to cover us might not have been full of red, oranges, and yellows. But as the gospel according to Mark shows, our baptismal moment is focused on what comes next. Because God knows that there are verses to our own story that are still being written. None of us can predict exactly what our future might bring. And none of us know where life might take Shane or us next. But we do know that, in special moments that are filled with water and prayer, God makes a promise to each of us that we will never go through our life without Jesus by our side. When Jesus stood in the River Jordan, everyone saw God in a way they hadn’t seen before. And later today, when the waters of baptism are poured over Shane, we will see God doing a new thing. Jesus will become Shane’s companion, guardian, and friend forever. And as we bear witness to God doing a brand new thing for him, we are all reminded that the God who walked into the muddy waters of the Jordan is still here, walking alongside each of us and he is our companion, our guardian, and our friend – through this life and beyond.



The Light was Good: Genesis 1

In the beginning, a lot of things were called good. The motion of the sun and moon, the monsters in the sea, and the critters on the land are all called good in the first verses in the book of Genesis. God does more than just create; God also gives everything in the universe worth and value. Water, land, animals, and people are created by a God who loves and values them. And since God, without prompting, has decided that everything in creation has value, we are called live lives that value everything. Much of what God creates in the book of Genesis are orders: systems of relationships where everything has a place and everything takes care of everything else in the system. But there is one thing, standing on its own, that God called good. We discover that goodness in our reading from Genesis 1:1-5 today. God created light and calls light, in itself, good.

Genesis, I think, invites us to play around with light. We don’t have to, at first, immediately place light in competition with its opposite. Even before darkness is created, God called the light good. Light does not need to be defined as the opposite of darkness. Instead light, on it’s own, has value and worth. We should explore what light is and does before we try to see what light struggls against.

So what does light do? Light illuminates. Light exposes. Light uncovers what we try to hide. Light, above all, shines. There is a reason why so many of our hymns and songs talk about light. When we focus on the light, we learn how we can act like the light. What, in our own lives, is God’s light trying to expose? What, in our world, is God’s light trying to uncover? How can our community let God’s light shine?

The light God called good is a light that is still in our universe and in our lives. And God gives us that light at different moments in our lives. When we were baptized, we were united with the light that was there at the beginning of creation – God’s true light – God’s Son, Jesus Christ. This light is a light we all carry. This light that God called God is a light that leads us. And we are invited to be just like this light to everyone we meet.

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 the Baptism of Jesus, 1/07/2018.

Children’s Sermon: New Year’s Eve so Remember Highs, not only the Lows

3 communities worshipping together at First Congregational Church in Park Ridge.
I’m doing the children’s sermon. Bring cheesy/small/dollar store party hates.

Hi everyone! I’m so glad you are here today.

So my name is Marc, and I’m the Pastor of Christ Lutheran Church. I am glad to be here today with y’all. What are your names? Listen to the names of the kids who are there. Repeat each name after they tell you them. You’re bad with names but try to remember. Awesome. Thanks for coming here today (especially since it’s so cold outside).

So today is a special day….it’s….put on a New Year’s Eve party hat.

Today is December 31. It’s New Year’s Eve. It’s the LAST DAY OF 2017! It’s a bit of a holiday. Some people are having parties and will spend tonight wearing party hats. Others are staying home but planning to stay up past their bedtime so they are awake when it’s 12:00 am – when it’s finally January 1, 2018. And others will try to do that – but they’ll fall asleep on the couch instead.

Today is a great day to think about the last year – and think about what was good about the last year, what wasn’t so good, and then make goals and plans for 2018. Those goals and plans for 2018 are sometimes called “New Year’s Resolutions.” And “New Year’s Resolutions” we come up with sometimes grow out of our experiences of the last year – what went right and what went wrong. So, if it’s okay, let’s do a little of that right now. We don’t have to think about the last year – but maybe we can think about just this last week. Maybe we can share our a “high” from the week and a “low” from the week.

So for example, a high for me for this last week would be seeing the new Star Wars movie. I liked it. I had a great time watching it, seeing it in the movies, and eating popcorn. I had fun. So that’s why it’s a high for me.

And if I wanted to share my low, I’d mention how I was feeling sick all week – but I feel better now. So I was tired and sneezy and I lost my voice – it wasn’t fun. So that’s was my low.

What about you? Do you have a high or low? See if anyone wants to offer a high or low for their week. If they share, thank them for it.

Thanks for sharing! That was great. Highs and Lows are great because they help us get to know each other a little bit – and also help us know if there are specific things we should pray for when we pray for our friends – what we are thankful for, what we need help with, and what we can ask God for.

So one way we sometimes spend this day is doing what we just did – thinking about what went right and what went wrong – and maybe making goals and plans for 2018 to go better.

But did you notice the order we just went? We started with our highs and we ended with our lows. And it’s sometimes easier to focus on our lows – on our frustrations and on things that didn’t go right. Maybe school isn’t going well, or something is bothering you, or there’s a struggle. And sometimes, the lows are going to dominate what is going on in our lives. That’s just the way it is.

But I’m going to invite you to try something – when you spend today thinking about your highs and lows for the year and dream up your New Year’s Resolutions, I want you to think about your lows first – but then end with the highs.

End with the things that went well. End with the moments when you felt loved, included, and happy. End with the moments that were awe inspiring, filled you with wonder, made you go wow. End with what you have – and wrap all of that up with something that can never be taken away from you – And that’s Jesus. All of you, right now, whether you can feel it or not, are beloved children of God. You are part of Jesus’ family. You matter to the creator of everything. And even in the moments when things don’t go as well – and we will have those moments, and sometimes those moments will last longer than we want, you still have Jesus with you, no matter what. And that’s something to celebrate today – and into every New Year too.

Thank you for being here and Happy New Year!

Each week, I share a reflection for all children of God. The written manuscript serves as a springboard for what I do. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship on New Year’s Eve (with First UCC and Pascack Reformed Church) on 12/31/2017.