Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Gaps

          This is the last Sunday of this year. It’s the Sunday that falls in between two Wednesday holidays.  And on the liturgical calendar we are in between the birth of the Messiah and the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee.
          There’s a gap, a bit of downtime, a silence, between the two events. In the gospel lesson for today we heard of Joseph’s dreams, the atrocious slaughter of the infants by Herod, a refugee family fleeing into exile and their return. All that and yet we can see that from the beginning of these events to the end of the last one many years have passed. These are gaps in time we know nothing about. We can only guess what might have taken place. There are spaces in time missing from this story.
Today, for a moment, reflect on the gaps we encounter: the times of silence in our lives, the empty time when we’re between jobs, the uncertain time when we’ve retired and yet haven’t planned how we’ll fill our idle time, the pauses when we read a sentence of scripture when we come to a comma or a semi-colon, the interludes in a piece of music. What do we do with the gaps, the silences when we encounter them? Do we try to fill the void or do we leave it alone? What do we do with them?
The other side of this reflection is how do we feel when there’s a gap in time or there’s absolute silence? Are we comfortable or not so comfortable with the gaps? Do we feel alone, abandoned, anxious, or fearful or do we get a sense that we’re not alone?
I think many times when the pauses are too long, the silence to deep, the spoken words too far apart we have a strong tendency to rush in and fill the void. We have a low tolerance to the long, quiet stillnesses, the gaps in time because we feel like we’re alone.
My friends, what I pray that we learn today is that, we’re never alone. The presence of God is always with us, even when we feel as if He’s abandoned us because of some wrong we think He’d never forgive us for. Even then He’s with us.
What we learn from those who have chosen lives of quiet and contemplation is that often it’s in the silence when God speaks to us.
Isaiah 30:15. There you find God speaking to the people of Israel and he says, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength…”
If you read on you’ll find that God’s children wouldn’t have any of that and so they suffered. In verse 18 we then read how God “longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!”
That may be where we fall down. We’re too impatient to wait. We can’t abide the silences and the gaps. We feel alone in the silence. And so we impulsively forge ahead, many times doing the wrong things and we end up hurt just like the people of Israel and Judah, the chosen children of God.
Even with all their rebellion God never left their side, never completely abandoned them. In fact that’s why Jesus came to earth as a baby.
So, my friends, in the silence we’re not alone. In the gaps in time in our lives we’re never really alone. Jesus, Immanuel, God is always with us.
And these gaps, these silences aren’t bad things even though we may not like them anymore than we like change. In the silences, if we listen, God may speak to us. In the gaps of our lives we are never alone because God is with us, Immanuel.
The gaps, the silences are necessary for us. Just as rests in music gives us a place to breathe, the silences, the gaps, give God a chance to speak to us. As we sit breathing in and out in the silence paying attention to the rhythm of our breaths God comes to sit with us, becoming one with us in the silence.
As we become one with God and God with us we become attuned to the thoughts of God. The more time we spend in the silence the more opportunities God has to converse with us.
This isn’t so far fetched as some may think. If a couple has been married for quite a while we notice that sometimes one or the other finishes sentences the other one’s started. It’s almost like they know what the other is thinking. 
Our relationship with God is the same, I think. The more time we spend with God the more we grow in God’s likeness. It’s almost like we know what God’s thinking. And we know that God knows what we’re thinking, if we believe in God. That’s the key, believing.
My friends, I ask that you believe that God is always with you, never abandons you, and is speaking to you in the gaps and the silences. Embrace that silence and listen as God speaks his word to you.

Thanks be to God for his grace. Amen.

God Cares

Listening to these readings from the Bible the one overriding theme that speaks to us, I think, is that God cares. He cares whether we’re thirsty. He cares whether we’re scared; he cared enough to send his Son, Jesus, to save the world, a world that was pretty messed up then and I think you’d agree is still pretty messed up today.
God loved us enough to send us an Advocate, his Holy Spirit, after Jesus ascended into heaven, which means we’re never alone. God is always with us.
For some folks that gives them hope and for others it leaves them uncomfortable because if God is always with us he knows every mistake we’ve ever made.  By the same token he also knows how often we’ve succeeded in walking in the Way of Jesus.
God knows our needs before we ever get around to talking to him in prayer. His invitation to us is always an open invitation to “come” when we’re thirsty, when we’re hungry, when we’re too scared to step out alone, when we’re grieving a loved one dying.
God has told us time and again to not be afraid, but we still are.  Even though we forget, even when we try to go it alone, even then God still cares. He never abandons us. God’s always ready to give us his best.
And there’s no hidden agenda with God. He just asks us to come, listen, seek, and believe. 
In this season of Advent when nights are too long and days are too short we are reminded that God sent his Son to be the Light of the World, a world that was hiding in the darkness, a world that still hides in the darkness.  In John’s gospel reading Jesus says, “whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” God cared for this world so much he sent the Light into the world to drive back the darkness.
          God cares. God cares that a family is missing their mother, their grandmother, their great-grandmother, their friend. God cares, that’s why he has us gather together to celebrate the lives of these saints so we can support each other, so God’s love can flow from friends to family and back again.
God cares. He cared for Norma and he cares for her family. And he cares for every one of you gathered here this morning. And my friends, that the Good News for us, God cares for us. God loves us. God desires an intimate relationship with us.

Thanks be to God for his loving grace. Amen.


          In this Christmas season, a time of long nights and short days, a time of too much darkness and not enough light, we need to hear the words of Paul to the people of Thessalonica, “…do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.”  
          And also John’s words that say, “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life… Light has come into the world… whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” “…whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life… the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.”
          My friends, these words give us hope…if we believe. There’s the key…believe. If we believe we shall have eternal life. If we believe we shall not perish. If we believe we will hear the voice of Jesus.
          Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.”
          Believe in God, believe in his Son, Jesus the Christ. My friends, the good news is that if we believe we shall not die but shall rise again just as Jesus did…and live.
          Where God is there are many rooms and Jesus has prepared rooms for us in that place. Beulavon has a room all ready created just for her.
          Jesus said, “…if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” I believe that’s exactly what will happen. Jesus will come back and we will all join our friends and our families again…and sing praises to our God.
          A very long time ago when I worshipped at Silver Creek EUB church I learned my ABC’s, “ask, believe, and confess.” The good news for all of us gathered here today is that if we believe we will not die but will live eternally with God in a place that he has prepared for us, if we believe.
          I can’t tell you how God will accomplish this wonderful thing, that’s a mystery to me, but I do believe that God can and will do what Jesus promised. Because 95 years isn’t enough time for us to get to know each other…and God.
          So, believe in Jesus’ words and trust in the way, the truth, and the life of Jesus the Christ and believe that one day we will all be together in one place, a new heaven and a new earth.

          Thanks be to God for his grace…and peace. Amen.

Monday, December 16, 2013


          The ‘pathway’, the road we walk, the journey we’re all on, Isaiah says, has been made new…and it’s a safe place to walk. It’s a place where healing occurs. It’s a place of beauty with flowers and streams of water in the middle of a hot, dry desert.  It’s a Holy Way Isaiah calls it.
          As the children were thinking about their journey here today what were you thinking about? Did you reflect back on what you saw as you came to church today? What caught your eye? What did you see that you’d never noticed before?
          This church is on a journey. In fact this church has been on a journey that began over 142 years ago. There have been changes and yet much has remained. The journey continues and only God knows what lies ahead. One thing is certain, it will interesting. Some things will change and some things will stay the same. It is a journey on a pathway designed by God, a Holy Way.
          As you listened to the Word read this morning what word or group of words spoke to you? One group of words in particular spoke to me, “Be strong, do not fear…Your God will come…he will save you.” 
          Isn’t that all that most of want in this life to not fear and to be safe? Isn’t it a comfort to know that God is right beside us taking care of everything? We really shouldn’t worry about anything because God has been there ahead of us. He has already prepared the answer or answers for us because he loves us.
          James reminds us to be patient as we wait for the Lord to come again. Just as a farmer puts the seeds into the ground and then waits for the rain and the sun to cause the seed to burst and plants to grow so should we wait patiently for God’s plan to blossom and bear fruit.
          What did the psalmist say today, “Blessed are those whose help is in the God of Jacob, and whose hope is in the Lord their God.” Our God is faithful, forever. This God who created everything we see has it all taken care of.  God is watching out for everyone, everywhere even as we wait.
          So, the good news for us today is that God is here with us as we wait. He’s always been here. He was with us last week as we discerned his Word for us. He will walk with us as we journey through this next year toward Advent 2014.
          In the meantime God has work for us to do. Some of which is telling our own faith story, maybe to each other, in the beginning, and then to our friends who may question why we go to worship every Sunday.
          Last week one of things we felt God leading us to do, or reminding us that we need to keep doing, is to make disciples. 
          As disciples are made God’s word, and His love, gets to more and more folks and they learn about God’s kingdom right here in this very place. And as more and more people join us in telling the story of God’s love for the world in Jesus Christ we may one day actually experience real peace on earth.

          In the meantime we will continue to wait for the Lord, Jesus Christ, to come again and make everything new. What a day that will be. Thanks be to God for his grace. Amen.

Monday, December 9, 2013

There Will Be Change

          This year during this season of Advent we are still waiting for the Messiah’s return. Just as the people Isaiah was speaking were waiting for the coming of the Promised Savior so we wait for the Savior of the World to come again.
          Isaiah gives us a picture of a tree stump which will produce a new shoot. The tree has been toppled and it looks like its dead but in the spring a leave appears, then a branch, and eventually it’s a small sapling.
          Israel and Judah were being punished by God for disobeying the ten laws he’d given them. They failed to love God; they were failures at loving and caring for their neighbors. And so, God sent armies from Babylon to destroy the nation, the city of Jerusalem and the Temple on Zion. The people were taken into exile, many would never return. And some were left behind. God’s children were in exile in every nation in the known world.
          Isaiah said that there was a remnant, those chosen few who had remained faithful to the Word of God. From this remnant the nation would be rebuilt. From this remnant, from the stump of Jesse, a new shoot would spring forth. This shoot would be the Savior of the whole world, Gentiles and Jews.
          When this Savior came things would be different, everything would change. Nothing would be like it had been before.
          Imagine wolves and lambs, leopards and goats, calves and lions, cows and bears all co-existing being led by a child. Imagine children playing next to a cobra’s den and putting their hands in the viper’s nest and not being bitten. It’s beyond anything we can imagine. We can hardly comprehend such a state, yet this is what God told Isaiah to tell the people…and a few believed, a remnant trusted in the words of the Lord.
          From that remnant a nation was rebuilt. From this remnant a Savior was born. From this remnant a Savior will return to save the world…again. And make it new, make it different. Make it a place of peace and justice and righteousness and compassion. Make it a place where there is happiness and joy and laughter, a place we can just barely imagine. Some might call that place heaven.
          A different place, a place nothing like anything we’ve ever experienced. When that happens “there will be change.” Nothing will be the same.
          Can you remember your excitement when you were 6 or 8 or even 10 years old as you waited, expectantly, for Christmas Day? Can you remember the anticipation you felt as December 25th drew closer and closer? Do you remember how happy everyone seemed? Do you remember the smells that came from your Mom’s kitchen? Do you remember how you were told you had to wait until Christmas to sample the good things Mom was making? Do you remember?
          My good friends, Jesus, our Savior, our Lord is coming again. The day of his return is closer now than it’s ever been. Can you feel the excitement, the anticipation, the tension?
          God is gathering his children, the remnant, the body of Christ, in preparation for his return. When the Savior returns things will be different, things will change, drastically. Nothing will be like it is now. We won’t see any of the old familiar things because it will all be different.
          As we wait in joyful anticipation for that day, let’s keep Paul’s words to the Romans and John’s words to the Jews ever before us.
          The Word of God was written to give us hope and to encourage us as we wait. Paul says that we are to, “Accept one another as Christ has accepted you.”
          John said, “The ax is lying at the root of the trees and every tree that doesn’t bear fruit will be cut down and used as firewood.”
          Jesus Christ our Savior is coming again to save the world, to make it new again, to bring peace like we’ve never known in our lives. And so we wait, expectantly, anxiously, excitedly for that day, that day that’s just around the corner.
          My friends, as John said, “Repent, for the day of the kingdom of heaven is near.” And things are going to be different. Everything will change.
          God sent his Son, Jesus, not just for the Jews but for all who accept him as their Savior, Gentiles…and Jews.
          In Paul’s words, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as your trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Thanks be to God. Amen.

Monday, December 2, 2013


          The scripture lesson from Isaiah said, “He will teach us his ways so we can walk in his paths.”  Back when Isaiah was a prophet people walked everywhere. The places they walked were, for the most part, just paths. Some places were wider where the caravans traveled but where people walked it was mostly paths. So, it’s easy to understand what Isaiah was talking about when he talks of walking in God’s paths.
          Everybody could get a picture of a path because that’s how they got from one place to another. Today the Prophet might use the term “road” or “highway” or “interstate” and we’d immediately get a picture in our minds what he was talking about because that’s how we travel today.
          So, when we think about traveling in God’s path or road what’s that mean to you. How can we travel in God’s road and what kind of road would it be or what kind of road is it?
          For me it’s easy to picture a path because I walk almost everywhere I go here in Walnut, unless I’m going to McDonald’s for coffee, then I drive. But, mostly I walk. I use the sidewalk when it’s clear but I’ve been known to walk in the street too. It just depends on the circumstances.
          So, when Isaiah speaks of walking in God’s path I picture a sidewalk. But that’s only a mental picture. God probably didn’t intend for us to literally walk his path.
          More likely he was trying to get us to understand that we needed to get to where we could see or where we could hear God’s message for us. Isaiah said that the people needed to get to the mountain in Jerusalem, to the temple of God where the Message would go out from.
          Think about that for a minute. Where can we go to hear God’s message for us? Where can we go where the noise of our everyday lives can’t interfere with God’s message? What path would we take?  And would we all necessarily take the same path?
          The lessons from God’s word for us today talk a lot about peace, freedom from disputes, and loving each other. What pathway would we walk to achieve peace? How do we get from where we are now to where we need to be to be at peace?
          Isaiah and the psalmist said we need to get to the temple on the mountain, the house of the Lord. That’s where they said we should begin. Paul in his letter to the Romans said that now is the time to wake up. The time of Christ’s return is nearer than it’s ever been and we need to be paying attention.
          Paul said that we need to put aside those things that are inhibiting us and put on the armor of light and behave decently. He said, “Clothe yourselves with Jesus Christ and forget about fulfilling your physical desires.”
          So, the pathway to peace, to reconciliation leads to the temple, the house of the Lord. To get there we have to shed the things of darkness and put on light. Can you picture that?
          Darkness is all those actions and things that keep us from being at peace with each other, those things that really don’t make us or anyone else happy. Putting on light is being intentional in our attitudes towards our neighbors, our families, and the strangers we meet. Clothing ourselves in Christ is being like Jesus, imitating his life, being like him.
          Right now these are just words. How can we possibly be like Jesus? How can we shed the darkness and put on light? How?
          It’s as easy as surrendering, giving everything over to God and it’s that hard too, because it’s not exactly easy to admit that what we’ve been doing isn’t good for us or our friends and families. It’s never easy to let go of what has become so familiar to us and try something different like really trying to love everyone.
          Friends, if it was easy we wouldn’t need foreign ambassadors traveling all over the world to work out peace accords and disarmament agreements. If it was easy we wouldn’t need mediators to help settle disputes. But, it’s not easy.
          That’s when we turn to God and ask for his help…and his love…and his peace…and his grace. That’s when we surrender and say, “I give up. I can’t do this by myself. I need you. I’m sorry for trying to do it my way.”
          And that my friends, is the beginning of walking the pathway of peace, admitting that we can’t do it alone, admitting that we need God’s forgiveness and love and grace.
          The pathway to peace is love, love for God and love for one another. But first we have to walk the path to God. My friends, none of us have to walk this path alone. There are many other folks who will be walking with us. They may be strangers but they will soon become friends because they’re walking the same path.
          The path we’re on right now is leading us to a manger in Bethlehem. May we be patient as we travel in hope. The journey has only just begun.
          Thanks be to God for his eternal, loving grace. Amen.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Two Sides

          Two sides, the good and the bad, the pretty and the ugly, the legal and the illegal, there always seems to be two sides, heads or tails.
          The Message God gave Jeremiah was aimed at King Zedekiah because he and his cohorts had been fleecing the people they were to supposed to be looking after, supposed to be caring for. They weren’t, so, God said, I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the Lord.
          God was stepping in when the leaders failed in their duties. He also told Jeremiah about a “righteous Branch”…from David’s lineage, who would rule like a king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
          We know now the “righteous Branch” was Jesus the Christ, the Son of God. Through Him Judah, and the whole world, was saved. Through Him we live in safety because Jesus intercedes for us before God, our Father.
          God saved Judah through this ‘righteous Branch’. What’s the other side of the coin? The other side of it is the Judgment. If we would’ve continued reading in Jeremiah we would’ve heard this. “Both prophet and priest are ungodly; even in my house I have found their wickedness…Therefore their way shall be to them like slippery paths in the darkness, into which they shall be driven and fall; for I will bring disaster upon them in the year of their punishment, says the Lord… I am going to make them eat wormwood, and give them poisoned water to drink; for from the prophets of Jerusalem ungodliness has spread throughout the land.” Judgment was, and is, the other side of the coin.
          And, if we’d keep reading we’d find that God’s not very happy with his children, but especially the leaders. The king, the priests, and the prophets, all of them were leading the people away from the word of the Lord. That’s why he called Jeremiah to prophesy to the leaders and to the people.
          It’s not until we get to chapter 30 that we find the Good News that God is going to save Judah and Israel. God is going to restore the nations to health and heal their wounds. Their fortunes are going to be restored and the city rebuilt on the hill. Out of all this will come thanksgiving and there will be the sounds of parties and merrymaking.
          On one side of the coin was judgment and on the other side was justice and healing. So, what can we take away from this? What’s the Good News for us living today? What are the two sides of our coin?
          The world’s in quite a mess and our nation isn’t a whole lot better. Bickering, fighting, with words and weapons, is prevalent everywhere we look. People everywhere are pointing fingers at their leaders.
          We could get out our magnifying glasses and look at the churches, at our denomination, and without looking too hard we’d find similar things going on, bickering and fighting, people pointing fingers at their leaders.
          So, what are we to do? Bury our heads in the sand? Is God paying any attention? Does he care?
          You are here this morning because, I believe, you have faith that God is paying attention and listening…and acting. You’re here because you truly believe God has a plan. Maybe you’re here because here you can give God your thanks and praise for all he’s blessed you with. Maybe you remember what he told his children, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you…I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow. I will give the priests their fill of fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty, says the Lord.” Maybe that’s why you’re here this morning.
          Two sides of a coin, two sides of any issue, two sides, judgment and justice, grief and joy, pain and happiness, darkness and light.
          We’re entering that time of the year when there is more darkness than light. For some of us the gloominess consumes us. We long for the light. We feel the weight of the darkness and we wonder if we’ll survive. That may be why we’re here today, to catch a glimpse of that flickering light that breaks through to shatter the darkness. Maybe we’re here so we can see the ‘righteous Branch’ Jeremiah spoke of.
          My friends, believe the Good News. God tells us in Jeremiah 31:31 ff…“I will make a new covenant…I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another…for they shall know me, from the least of them to the greatest…for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.”
          We are not to lose hope. We are not to give up. We are to trust in the living God and his Son, Jesus the Christ. What is it we say about the mystery of faith, Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. 
          My friends, the two sides of the coin, the good and the bad, have been, are, and will be again taken care of through the grace of our loving Father in Jesus the Christ.

          Thanks be to God for his eternal, loving grace. Amen.

Monday, November 18, 2013


          This morning I’ve asked you to look back at your lives, your family, your community, and your church and remember the things that have come into each of these areas of your lives. What were those things that surprised you when they appeared? What things that came in are still there…and maybe that’s surprising, that they’re still with you.
          Of those things that have survived, how many could we eliminate, get rid of, give away or sell?
          Last, but certainly not the least, what are your hopes for the future? More of the same…or maybe you’re ready to throw everything out and begin with something entirely different.
          God told Isaiah he was going to create a new heaven and a new earth…and the old things wouldn’t be remembered. Did you catch what God said, “…a new heaven and…a new earth? Do you ask yourself, “What’s the matter with the ‘old’ heaven and the ‘old’ earth?”
          Things weren’t too rosy in the day of Isaiah. The city and temple were lying in rubble and the outlook was pretty bleak. But God says all that’s going to be changed and no longer will there be weeping and crying.
          All people will live long lives; all people will have work and enjoy their labor. Everyone will get along even the animals will lie down together and eat together. There will be peace. Just what everyone was hoping for was going to happen.
          So, what are your hopes, for you, your family, your church, your community, this world? What has God been telling you?
          Next Sunday we will be given a worksheet, actually a Bible study, to help this church discern the pastoral leadership we need for the future. 
          The future fills us with anxiety and fear because we’ve no idea what’s coming. We hope everything will work out for us but we have not guarantee that it will. And so, we’d like to go back to the way it was and leave it like it is now. If it’s not broken then don’t mess with it.
          The reality is everything changes, families, churches, schools, towns, countries and the world. Everything changes.
          Think back to the mirrors that were here a few weeks ago. I know some of you looked in the mirrors. Do you really believe you look the same as you did 10 years ago? The truth is we’re different and so is the world and community we live in.
          So, what are we to do? Were you listening when I asked the young folks what they’d do if given the chance to re-design the world? Did you make a list of things you’d do?
          What made your list, peace, no more people going hungry, no more people without work, no more cancer or heart disease or Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s or worn out hearts and lungs and knees and hips? Maybe your hope is that everyone will be happy as God told Isaiah he would make the New Jerusalem, a place of happiness, no more weeping and crying.
          So, did the prophecy Isaiah received from God come true…or is it still coming? The city has been rebuilt and where the Temple was located an Islamic shrine was constructed on the Dome of the Rock in 691 BCE and is still there. So, is there a third temple planned? Maybe the third temple will be in the New Jerusalem.
          Will any of our hopes be realized? I don’t know but I believe if they are in alignment with God’s plan for the future they will.
          So, what are we to do in the meantime? I think Jesus gave us the answer in the gospel lesson for today. He said, “13 …bear testimony to me. 14 make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict… 19 Stand firm, and you will win life.”
          I think we could add another one of Jesus’ sentences, “Peace be with you. Do not be afraid.” Peace, no fear, happiness, joy, plenty these are God’s promises for us today.
          My friends, God’s plan is still in effect. We aren’t to sit around waiting. We aren’t to worry or be anxious. We are to tell the story that there is forgiveness of sins for everyone who repents (changes). 
          Everything will be made new. God said so. A new heaven and a new earth are what he promised and one day will deliver…maybe it will be today.
          Thanks be to God for his grace. Amen.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Veteran's (Remembrance) Day Talk 2013

            Good morning. I’m David Krueger. The last time I was asked to speak here was exactly 10 years ago. I wonder if I really have anything to say that anyone else would find interesting and not put you all to sleep.
          As I look out over the group gathered here today I wonder why are you all here? For some it’s because there were some donuts and coffee and a chance to visit with old friends. For those of you who are in school you’re here because it’s better than sitting in class, but it might not be. You’ll have to be the judge of that when I’m done speaking.
          We’re actually here because our ancestors back in 1918 decided it was time to quit fighting. An armistice was declared at the 11th hour on the 11th day in the 11th month in 1918. In 1919 President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11th as the first commemoration of Armistice Day. You see WWI was thought to be the war that would end all wars.
          We know now that it wasn’t and we have become cynical in that we don’t believe that there will ever be a time when there won’t be wars.
          November 11th became a legal holiday back in 1938 which meant that banks and other Federal institutions were closed. It was to be a time for ‘proper and widespread observance of the anniversary of the Armistice 20 years earlier. In 1954 President Eisenhower signed a proclamation that named the administrator of Veteran’s Affairs as the chairman of a Veteran’s National Day Committee.  At the same time the name “armistice” was dropped and “Veterans” was used in its place.
          Now you have a little bit of information on the history of Veteran’s Day but we haven’t answered the question why we’re here today.
          Since I’m not able to speak for any of you I can only explain why I come every year.
          In March of 1968 I enlisted in the U.S. Army. Like everyone else I was sworn in and then began all the fun of being in the armed forces. We hurried out to the airport and then we waited. We did a lot of hurrying up and waiting it seemed.
          I took my basic training in Fort Lewis, Washington. I never understood why they sent us there. Fort Leonard Wood must have been full. I was there 9 weeks and then spent another 9 weeks in Fort Ord, California where I learned how to operate radios.  My next stop was Fort Gordon, Georgia. That’s right I flew from one end of the country to another. In Fort Ord I learned Morse code and how to send and receive messages using a lot of dits and dots and so forth. In Georgia they refreshed our memories about Morse code and then taught us how to use typewriters, teletypes they called them, to send and receive messages.
          Both Fort Ord and Fort Gordon were overflowing with men and women who had either been drafted into the Army or had enlisted. Enlisted people were called regular army and the draftees were U.S.  Anyone who served can probably give you their service number that was assigned to them when they entered the military. RA16983646 was mine.
          I mentioned that there was a lot of hurrying up and waiting, well, after I completed my training in Georgia I waited 2 months for my orders to come down.
          Everyone from my class was sent to Viet Nam…except me. When my orders came down I was sent to Boeblingen, West Germany, Panzer Kaserne. It had been the headquarters for Rommel in WWII.
          Rumor had it that his ghosts wandered the motor pools. I think he walked up the ladder of my Deuce and a half one night.
          When I arrived at Panzer Kaserne I was assigned to the radio unit that was responsible for providing secure radio communications for the Seventh Army in Germany. In the beginning every communication was sent by using Morse code but after a year they went all radio teletype communication, still secure. That meant that all the messages sent were encrypted.
          That also meant that I had to be checked out before I could do that work because it required a top secret security clearance.  Eventually I was cleared for that work and began to work the night shift, 6 PM to 6 AM every other day. That meant no KP or guard duty. I liked that.
          I spent 27 months in Germany finishing my duty at Badenerhof Kaserne in Heilbonn, Germany. I never went to Viet Nam mainly because so many guys were requesting to go back there to finish their time because they didn’t like the spit and polish in Europe.
          So, that’s what I did in the Army but it doesn’t explain why you and I take time to stop our normal routines on the 11th day of the 11th month and come together here in this gym.
          I come here to be reminded, to remember, those who’ve gone ahead of me and those who’re serving us today all over the world. I come to remember those who went to war in Viet Nam and came home in a coffin or came home injured and maybe today still carry some of that shrapnel somewhere in their bodies.
          We take our freedoms so much for granted as if it’s our right to be free. My friends, men and women have fought hard for us to enjoy the freedoms we have today. And there are men and women still fighting today to help others be free.
          My life was never in much danger but I had friends whose lives were. Their lives were changed by their experiences in places that were nothing like back home.
          At good friends, it’s not just those men and women who I stop and remember today but their families who they were separated from for long periods of time. Wives were left with the job of packing things up when they had to change duty stations. Mothers and fathers, wives, and sons and daughters prayed that their family member would come back to them in one piece, some did and some didn’t. That’s why we’re here today, to remember all these people and the sacrifices they made so we’re able to enjoy our freedom to do pretty much anything we want.
          Today, I am remembering my friends who served with me; I remembering our son, Ben, who served 5 years in the USN; I remembering our granddaughter who is serving 6 years in the USAF, right now at McGuire AFB, New Jersey.

          And I’m sure some of you have family members you’re remembering today, too. That’s why we’re all here today, to remember.

Monday, November 11, 2013


          Be strong. Do not fear. These were God’s words to Haggai to give to Zerubbabel and Joshua        .
        God said, ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.
          I’ve been praying that there would be peace, in the world, in our country, in our community, and in our homes. Today, God is telling us to be strong and not to be afraid. In a little while things will be made new. In this place I will grant peace.
          That’s something we can hang our hat on because it is the word of the Lord straight from his mouth to Haggai to us. I will grant you peace.
Oh Lord, would that it could be today.
          I don’t know about you but for me there are some days that I’d just like to run away like Elijah. Out to the wilderness where I could be alone, where there is silence except for the wind and the birds and the other wonders of God’s creation.
          Some days it feels like no matter what nothing is going to change. Everything’s a mess, everything’s broken, and I’m too tired to fix it. Maybe the people who came back from exile to see their city and temple destroyed felt like that. Maybe that’s why they hadn’t started to repair the walls because the task before them was too much.
          But God, our Creator, the One who loves us when no one else possibly could, says, “Be strong…Do not be afraid. I’m going to shake things up and make everything better than it was before.”
          Strife and wars and conflicts come and go. Our hope is in God. Our hope is that our Creator can take the remnants of what’s left and create something greater than what was here before. Our hope, our faith is that God still has a plan, a grand design to make everything better…and one day bring peace to our world.

Remembering in the Silence…
          In the silence of this sanctuary let us remember…
They shall not grow old, as that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
          At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.
We will remember them. (Spill the Beans, Issue 9)

Let us pray.
          Ever-living God, today we remember those whom you’ve gathered from the noise and storm of war into the peace of your presence. May that same Spirit of Peace fall on us and all who remember this day; particularly those whose remembering brings back memories of personal loss and tragedy.
          Grant us your peace; bring justice to all peoples, and establish harmony among all nations and races, through Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

Monday, November 4, 2013

From a Distance...

          The pictures at the beginning of the worship slides today were of Walnut, some were from high up, some from ground level and some in between. Isn't it interesting how our perspectives change, depending on where we’re at?
          From a distance we may not clearly understand what we see but up close we can see details more clearly. If we really want to see more detail we dig out the magnifying glass or maybe our microscope.
          Thinking about distance, let’s give some thought on how we communicate, with each other...and with God, and how we receive answers from folks we send messages to.
          It’s not unusual today to see people sitting at tables with their eyes looking down at their laps. No, they’re not praying. One could only hope.
          No, most of the time they’re texting, who really knows who and what or even why. Maybe they’re asking questions or maybe they’re the ones with the answers and they’re sharing their wisdom with someone on the other end, maybe even someone just across the table from them. Either that or they’re on Facebook seeing who posted some picture or quote or joke or some bit of news or messaged them.
          So, I mentioned praying, in passing. What about our communications, our prayers, with the Holy? How’s that going for you? Is God speaking to you…or are you still waiting for an answer?
          How do we communicate with God…and how does God communicate with us? Habakkuk had been communicating with God through his prayers and laments. He continued to pray…and wait…and pray some more…and wait some more. When we listen to God’s word from Habakkuk it sounds as if the writer is a little worried that God isn’t listening to his prayers. It sounds as if the writer thinks that God isn’t paying any attention to what’s going on.
          Habakkuk doesn’t give up. At first he’s complaining that God isn’t paying attention or listening to his prayers; then in the next part he changes his tactics and begins to compliment God on his positive attributes, not that he doesn’t also question “why” sometimes. And then he says, “I will stand watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.” He wanted to get higher up. Maybe he thought he’d get better reception there.
          And then…God answers. We may be amazed that God answered but Habakkuk wasn’t, or at least I don’t think he was.
          We read…then the Lord replied, “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.” God said, “Write it down…on tablets so a herald may run with it.” Write it down.
          Consider this. What if at morning prayers you are always complaining to God about the things going on in your home, or injustices in your community, or your state, or your country, or someplace specific in the world; what if this was your practice to pray for this every day? And then you decided to move your place of prayer to a higher place, to gain a better perspective, get better reception, and you waited for God to answer…as you continued to pray.
          And then…the Lord spoke, “Write it down on your tablets.” Would you get out your smart phone and begin composing the Message to send to all your Facebook and Twitter friends?
          God’s Message that Habakkuk was to give to the heralds was a warning. There was going to be an end to what was going on and if things didn’t change there was going to be an accounting and it wasn’t going to be pretty. Those who were taking advantage of their neighbors, abusing them, stealing from them, killing them, these things eventually were going to overwhelm them. All these things that they created with their own hands and worshipped weren’t going to be able to help them. The Lord was in his holy temple and he expected all the earth to be silent before him.
          We don’t know for sure if Habakkuk did what the Lord asked him to do but we do know he heard the Message and he answered God with a prayer.
          The Message he received was frightening. God was going to destroy the invaders and it wasn’t going to be fun to be around when that happened.
          Habakkuk knew how powerful the Lord was because he knew, he believed the Lord had created the world and everything in it. Apparently he believed in the Lord’s anger over the injustices taking place in his country. Even though the Lord might send famine and hunger to the nations, Habakkuk was going to continue to rejoice in the Lord and be joyful in God his savior.
          How many of us could say we’d do the same thing? It’s hard to be hopeful, trusting in God, when all around us the world is falling apart.
          And therein may be the answer. Habakkuk still believed. He had faith that the Lord God would make everything right again.
          There are people today who, since they haven’t heard God speak or seen any evidence of things getting better, don’t believe that God is.  And so they, like the people in Habakkuk’s day, rely on their own strength, creating for themselves idols out of steel and wood and megabytes to worship and do their bidding. God has answered so they are going to do it themselves. They just can’t wait any longer.
          Friends, look back in the Old Testament and read the stories of Moses, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These men, these patriarchs of our faith, waited a lifetime for God to answer.  And we expect God to be different today? Why?
          Friends, I believe God wants us to be like Habakkuk, to be tenacious in our faith; continuing to pray, maybe even changing when and where we pray and wait to see if God might not hear us better. Never doubting that God will eventually speak his word to us, maybe even asking us to “write it down on tablets” so it can be communicated succinctly and easily to all in our communities.
          So, good friends, leave here and go to the high places, the ramparts, and wait for the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God for his grace. Amen.