Tuesday, December 30, 2014


When you’re on a hunt for something of value, a treasure hunt, how do you feel? What are you experiencing emotionally?
I know that when I’m on the hunt for something of value there’s a sense of excitement, maybe some anxiety too because I might not find what I’m looking for.
Just picture yourself as one of the Magi. Think about how they must have felt when they discovered the star and in their research found that it meant a new king had been born.
Think about the talks they must have had planning, arguing, negotiating what to take, what not to take, what route to take, how many servants, all that they’d need for a journey that they had no idea how long it was or how much time it would take.
And think about all the different people and characters they’d meet. Some would be helpful and some, I’m sure, would make you fear for your life.
Think of all the people they had to trust, even King Herod. Kings can be kind of hard to read, especially Herod and his reputation for killing people he thought might be in his way.
So, we’re on a journey called life. As Christians we’re also seeking the Savior, Jesus. Sometimes it’s not so easy to find Him.
We talk to folks, we ask questions of religious people, we read books, we read the Bible, we pray, we seek, we hope.
Where do we find Jesus? Can we find him in this building? Is he out there in our community? Or…is he inside us, gently, and sometimes not so gently, pushing us to get on with the work and get out of our comfort zones? Is Jesus the one who leads us to those chance encounters with some very strange people and is he the one who turns those encounters into blessings?
If we’re on the wrong road is he the one who shows us a different way? Maybe we need to tune our hearing so that we can hear his voice as he speaks to our hearts helping us to understand and trust in him.
Maybe that’s why at this time of the season, winter, that we celebrate the birth of the Savior, to discover the real riches that Christ and Christmas brings to us. It’s a good time of the year to just be and let time and light and love penetrate the darkness and show us the way home.

Thanks be to God for his grace. Amen.

Monday, December 22, 2014

God’s Vision for the World

Over the last couple weeks we have seen the vision God had for the world. In Habakkuk we were urged to write God’s message clearly so all people could read it. In Esther we heard the story of God’s love and vision for the whole community. Today as we heard the lessons read we get the idea God’s vision has grown and is meant to encompass all, Jews and Gentiles, people of faith and people without faith, all people.
The Good News is for all people, and we find that the vision spoken by Isaiah was written and delivered to those who were the least in society.  God’s vision wasn’t, and isn’t, just for the chosen ones, the wealthy and rich, but for the poor, the prisoners, the nations that are downtrodden. It is in fact a vision for all God’s people everywhere.
We hear this passage from Isaiah and immediately think that it’s about the coming of the Messiah. That’s who we think the ‘Suffering Servant’ refers to. It could be that the message wasn’t so much to point the people toward a Messiah but to point the listeners to themselves, the people of Israel. This vision of God’s blessing brings with it a responsibility to work at bringing God’s vision into reality right where we are.
If we look at Isaiah’s message in that way, thinking about us as the Church, and understand that the message isn’t about the Messiah being responsible for telling the Good News but the community of the Church is responsible for interpreting and delivering the message of Good News to our communities and the world. What would our communities look and feel like if the people of the Church were actively working to bring about God’s vision of justice for all?
As our scriptures tell us this ‘light’ has been given to the people of God to light the way for others. So, the question for us is this, “If we are to light the way for others, how are we living this out in our communities and how is it being experienced by those we encounter?” Is this light of God’s incarnation in the world helping people to see and understand God’s vision of justice for all?
God’s vision is for all people. Through the Spirit of God, God’s servants are, and will be, a light to the nations, bringing justice, healing, wholeness, and release to the prisoners. The people of faith, you and me, are God’s servants; our church communities are God’s servants. My hope and prayers is that we don’t think of this passage as someone else’s responsibility to undertake and bring about God’s vision of justice. It isn’t about someone else, it’s about us.
As it’s written in the book of Esther, “For such a time as this” God’s servants are called to work for justice…each and every one of us are called.

Thanks be to God for his gift of grace and faith. Amen.

Monday, December 8, 2014

God's Time

There’s a song that reminds us we’re given 86,400 seconds every day. That sounds like a lot of time. And it is, until we realize we’ve wasted 3,600 seconds not doing what we know deep in our souls we should be doing and maybe another 3,600 doing something else. We delay, we put it off because we’re afraid that someone will be mad or hurt or will ridicule us or one of the other million excuses we use.
Mordecai asked Esther to do something hard, to do something that could have cost her life. So, for a moment, maybe a day she hesitated until she heard from her Uncle Mordecai.
He said she may have been placed in this position as queen “for such a time as this.” Mordecai wanted her to know that God was there as their protector even when they were in exile.
So, do you know what God has for you to do? Has God been calling to you to do something you don’t want to do or you’re afraid to do? Have you been wondering why God put you here in Walnut, IA?
Well, think about this for a minute. There are homeless people in Omaha and Council Bluffs living along the river, under the viaducts, sleeping under cardboard wearing multiple layers of clothes. There are children going to homes unsure what kind of reception they’ll receive when they get there. There are children who don’t know what it’s like to be hugged or kissed or told they’re precious. These are people who don’t know what it’s like to be loved.
There are folks living in care centers who are so lonely they just want to die because they have no family to visit them. And there are folks living in homes who never have anyone checking in with them to see how they’re doing.
The Jews in Esther’s story were living in exile. They didn’t know if they’d ever get back to their homeland. Fortunately for them God knew their plight and he hadn’t abandoned them.
Mordecai and Esther were part of God’s plan to save these people. If they hadn’t answered God’s call the ending of the story would have been way different. God may have save the Jews but Mordecai and Esther may not have survived.
So, back to you and me. I believe God is calling us, you and me, to a particular work. I believe God’s been calling for a while. My call may be different from yours and then again it may be the same.  My question is, “Do you think we’ve answered God’s call to us?”
What is God calling his Church to do? If God is calling his Church to a particular work then that means God is calling you and me to a particular work since we are the church. And, if God is calling us and we’re not answering the call, who’s being hurt by that? If we don’t answer God’s call who will he call next and what will happen to us?
This is God’s time, every day, every 86,400 seconds, belong to God. One day, I believe, we’ll have to answer how we used God’s time. That scares me some because I’ve wasted a lot of the time God’s given to me. My only hope is in the forgiveness offered through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
But still, we are all here for a reason, for a particular purpose and the only way we’re going to know what God has for us to do is to take time to listen.
So, in this season of Advent, this winter time, I think it’s a perfect time to sit by our heaters, wrapped in our blankets, and let God speak to us his call. And may we have the courage Esther showed to answer the call.

Thanks be to God for his forgiving grace to us. Amen.