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Brexit, Presidential Elections & Righteousness

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“Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” 3 But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord….” – Jonah 1:1-3a

The decision of British voters to leave the European Union has been described as “seismic.”  Just like an earthquake, there will be several aftershocks, and time will tell the extent of the destruction – whether there will be economic collapse  or just rumbling & rattling.  Either way, Britain has decided to go its own way. This is not unlike Jonah, who decided to go to Tarshish rather than Ninevah where the Lord was sending him.

It makes me wonder – how often do you and I try to go our own way?  Where does this leave us?  How do we know which way to go?  Taking a “vote” is one way to decide.  But as we have been seeing more and more at the polls, direction is being decided by such a slim margin: 52-48, in the case of Brexit.  We see it in our Supreme Court votes, so often something like: 5-4, 4-3.  We see it in the polls for the upcoming U.S. Presidential Election in November: Hillary is out ahead, then Trump.  There has got to be a better way to decide where to turn.

Let me suggest Paul’s words to the young pastor, Timothy: “Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Tim. 2:22)  What if you and I, the British, and the next President were to make our decisions about which way to go based, not on “the evil desires of youth” (which could be anything from outright lust and covetousness – to innocent & naieve ignorance) but instead on righteousness, faith, love and peace?  What if we were to choose which way to go by first seeking the Lord and his righteousness (Matthew 6:33)?  What if we were willing to put our own selves, with our ambitions and desires, aside and seek the greater good and the Lord’s purposes?  We might just find that we would go to Ninevah first!  … Rather than make the Lord drag us there.

Pray:  God, we ask your hand upon the people of the United Kingdom and the European Union.  May you make good out of this transition.  We ask your hand on American voters & politicians.  May we decrease the rhetoric, and increase our pursuit of love and peace.  And for each of us.  May we seek first your Kingdom and your righteousness, and in so doing, may You increase our faith in You.  Amen.

One Foot in Front of the Other

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I was recently officiating a funeral, when one young man who had just lost his grandfather, was recounting losing his father at a very young age.  He said that he got through those tough days by simply “putting one foot in front of the other.”

Then shortly after that, one gentleman in our morning prayer group was sharing a story about his friend, a WWII veteran, who was one of only a few people to survive the Bataan Death March … How did he do it?  He said that he would look at a point on the path just a little bit farther than they were at the moment, and he would say to himself, “I can go that far.”  Then when he got there, and he would do that again – and again -and again.

That’s not entirely unlike what Nik Wallenda did back in 2012 in my hometown – Niagara Falls, NY.  Take a look at these pictures …

Walenda-1
Walenda-2
Talk about putting one foot in front of the other!

There are times and circumstances in your life, where you could become paralyzed by fear and the difficulty of the situation…  OR… you can choose to go on by putting one foot in front of the other and keep moving on faith.   Let me suggest that you do the latter.  And when you do … it’s amazing what God will bring you through… and where God will bring you to.

Walking with Jesus, day by day,

Pastor Augie

Godly Wisdom in the Worldly World

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1 Corinthians 2:14 “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.”

Do you realize that as God’s baptized people, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us? (Romans 8:11)  At times, I’ve had people resist and even deny this clearly Scriptural concept, and yet it is true – we are meant to be “God containers” within this world!  Humbling, isn’t it?  Sadly, I have been guilty – with more frequency than I care to admit – of ignoring the Spirit that is within me, and forging ahead with my own fleshly desires.  These may be outright sins, or they may even be “good” intentions of serving God, but they really have no basis in God’s Spirit.  Rather they are more about my own pride and fears. Ouch.  So what’s the solution?  Simple – say “no” to the wisdom and pace of the world, and spend time with God in His Word and Sacraments, where your soul, and the Spirit within you is nourished and fed.  It is only then that we can hope to bring Jesus into our family, church, community and world – not by our will, but by the Holy Spirit at work within us.

Blessed to be a blessing,

Pastor Augie

A Sent People

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We have just finished a message series on The Beatitudes called “Bless This Home.” The Beatitudes are the first twelve verses of Matthew chapter 5 in which Jesus begins The Sermon on the Mount. Immediately after concluding The Beatitudes, Jesus says (emphasis mine):

Salt & Light Image13You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:13-15

What do salt and light have in common?  Answer: They just are. Salt is salt. It is not complicated. It is what it is, and it does what it does. Light is Light. It shines. That’s just what it does. What this means is that Jesus simply calls us to be what we are … what He has made us … salt and light.

And what does that look like? Salt seasons things. It makes food taste better.  It preserves and adds flavor. It can even heal. What about light?  Light brightens dark places and illuminates our paths. Light is good. By being present in the world and pointing people to Jesus we are being salt and light where God has placed us – in our neighborhoods and communities.  We bring the counter-cultural Kingdom of God (The Beatitudes show how different God’s Kingdom is) into the culture of our world.

At Redeemer by the Sea we have a long history of viewing God’s mission as being a lighthouse. The challenge with a lighthouse, however, is that it is stationary. We are now beginning to understand that our Lord calls us not to hide our light, but to make it visible. Even though our building itself is situated on a on a high hill, we must admit that it can remain obscured, covered, and even invisible to much of our community. That is why we are beginning to recognize that God is calling us to move out into our community, joining Him in His mission there. I heard this expression that explains it well … “God’s Church doesn’t have a mission – God’s mission has a Church.” We as God Church, His people, join Him in His mission and we do that by being salt and light wherever we go.

Matthew chapter 28 is well known for Jesus commissioning His people to make disciples as we are going through life. However, it can often be difficult to move into new territories and into new places.  That is why we take comfort in the prophets and the people of God that have gone before us.  Consider Abram in Genesis chapter 12.  God simply sent Abram. He did not give Abram all the details. There were some big unknowns, and certainly Abram had to leave his comfort zone.  But he did, because it was God who was sending.   And what was God sending Abram to?  … A new land and a new people; to make his life in that place and in so doing to become a blessing to those who would follow. God wanted Abram to transform the community to which God was sending him. Through Abraham (God’s new name for the transformed Abram) God would make for Himself a people: a holy nation dedicated to His glory.

We can also take comfort in the prophet Isaiah, who when called by God (Isaiah 6) was terrified. Isaiah did not believe he was equipped for the role that God was giving him. He was worried about his ability to speak and represent a holy and righteous God. And yet as the angel takes the coal from the altar and places it on Isaiah’s lips, God communicates that He is doing for Isaiah what Isaiah cannot do for himself. He is atoning for Isaiah’s sins. And while it may sound cliché, God does not call the equipped, He equips the called.

And so it is with you and me. God has called us not to simply remain holed up inside our sanctuary; inside the familiar comfort of our church family. We certainly enjoy that family, and we rejoice to be refreshed by Word and Sacraments, with praises filling the house of the Lord.  But we realized that those are the tools given us to equip us for our mission to be a sent people joining Jesus on His mission to seek and save the lost. Those are the marks of a people being salt and light wherever God sends us.

May you be blessed to be a blessing,

Pastor Augie.