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.