Friday, April 26, 2013

Christ the Good Shepherd

April 21 was the Fourth Sunday of Easter, also known as Good Shepherd Sunday. I have always struggled with the concept of church pastor as the "shepherd" and the average parishioner as "sheep" (or the congregation as the "flock"). I think Christ has called the Church to function as the Shepherd, and to think of the local community as the sheep who need tending. This sermon examins that idea in greater detail.

You may find it at:

Monday, April 22, 2013

Leaving a Legacy on the Road

The things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone, but the things you do for others remain as your legacy. Ndukwe Dike Kalu

I like to think of myself as a helpful individual. When someone is stuck in a snowdrift, I will generally help them out. When someone is in hospital, I will make an effort to visit. When someone is struggling in some way, I might make a suggestion – if asked.

I really do try not to give unwanted or unsolicited advice, not because my opinions aren’t good (there have been times they have been very good, in fact), but I have learned that my help or suggestions do not always provide the results desired.

I learned that once again this week when my wife and I stayed a night at the Days Inn in Coeur d’Alene. It had been a rough weekend for us and we were on our way home from Seattle. Normally I would have pushed through another six hours to enjoy the comforts of our own home in our own bed, but I knew we wouldn’t make it – at least not the way we were feeling at that point. It was supper time and we were exhausted, so we called it a day.

We enjoyed a good night’s sleep. Although we did not qualify for any discounts, our motel clerk gave us an unofficial Good Neighbor discount anyway. Gracias amiga!

The next morning we were quite refreshed and were prepared to hit the road after enjoying a meal in the motel breakfast room. I poured a bowl of cereal and discovered their milk dispenser was empty, so I found the morning clerk and told her about it. She quickly went and got a fresh carton of milk and began the process of removing the empty and replacing it with the new.

I watched her snip off the end of the milk tube before she put it into the dispenser and knew immediately she was going to have problems. At that point she became flummoxed and unsure what to do next, so I got up to help her. I pinched the tube next to the carton so she could feed the line through the handle and, together, we got the job done with very little loss of moo-juice.

She thanked me for my help and complimented me on my superior mechanical skills. I peshawed and told her I was just happy to help. Then … catastrophe!

I lifted the handle to dispense milk into my bowl of cereal, and upon releasing it a fountain of milk began to spray up from the handle like Old Faithful! Fortunately I was able to save myself and my bowl of cereal with a hasty retreat to the far side of the room. The clerk swung open the door and pinched the tube with one hand while clipping it with an industrial strength paper clip she had lying handy nearby. Thus ended the eruption of Mount Moosuvius.

Our clerk was very apologetic for the mess and trouble as she cleaned it up, but we assured her it wasn’t a problem – because it wasn’t. It was a Monday morning, and I have no doubt machines hate Mondays as much as the rest of us. We thanked her for her hard work (and for the floor show), finished our meal, checked out, and finished our trip home.

Life happens. The way we handle our part will either make the world a better place or not. I know I have a lot of room for improvement in my life and attitudes, but if I was able to depart, leaving the motel clerk with hope that the rest of her day would be better, then I probably did as much as could be done, despite the results of my help.

After all, there’s no use crying over spilt milk in this, our valley (or anywhere else) – is there?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

From Darkness to Charcoal to Life

Video Sermon Here:

Sermon Outline Below:

Alleluia, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Have you ever been lost? I mean REALLY lost?

I like the shirt Jim Singer wears ever now and then:
                Support your local Search and Rescue; Get Lost!

I think Peter and the Apostles must have really felt lost.
                Life must have felt very UNREAL to them.

For three years: Walking Daily with the Prince of Peace.
                Listening to his stories.
                Wrestling with the nature of God.
                Looking at the Kingdom of God in new ways.

It all came crashing down in Holy Week.
                The big parade into Jerusalem led to the cleansing of the temple, and then – Catastrophe. Not a little set-back, but complete, total annihilation.

Oh sure, there was Easter Sunday.
                There was the empty tomb, the women prattling on about how they confused the gardener with the risen Lord, and visions of angels, and other such nonsense. Peter and John had gone to investigate, but that confused them more than anything.

                True: Jesus did come to visit them in the upper room on two occasions, but it was evening; they were tired; they’d been hitting the wine a little heavy. The vision told them to be at peace, to “calm down” and assured them that everything would be OK.

                But that was just the grief talking, wasn’t it?

What happens when you are alone with your thoughts?
                You go crazy, don’t you?
                You start thinking about what coulda, shoulda, woulda been.
What’s worse, you’re left alone with your own thoughts; your own demons; your own failings and failures.
There are neighborhoods in most big cities you don’t want to be in at night; parts of Detroit, or Seattle, or Chicago. They’re scary, and they’re dangerous, and they’re filled with strange people for whom life doesn’t seem all that sacred.

That’s the neighborhood I live in when I am alone with my thoughts. I go deep, and I go dark, and I start to lose my footing with great ease.

That’s where Peter, John, and the other apostles were. They had already left Jerusalem. They’d gone 80 miles north, back home to where it all began for most of them, back home to Galilee; to family, friends, and neighbors; back to their old jobs.

But they can’t escape their neighborhood. They can’t escape the muggings going on in here (head). They can’t mend their broken hearts or shattered dreams. So they go back to their dreary lives. Into the darkness; that’s where they went.

Have you ever tried to “go back”? Have you ever tried to recapture your youth? Addicts tell me they’re always “chasing the buzz”. Nothing ever feels as good as the first hit, or the first high. They chase after that which will never deliver. That’s what Peter, James, John, and the rest are doing. Maybe we can find the magic once again – out there on the water; out there amongst the fish.

They tried, but they came back empty. Empty! That’s worse than a slight buzz, or a fuzzy high. That stinks!

But as dawn begins to break, they see a figure a hundred yards away. He’s got a fire going, and … what’s that? He’s got fish! He calls out: Try the other side. Send your nets out there! BAM!!! More than enough!

Do you love me? Take care of one another. Take care of friend and stranger alike. Bring everyone in. If you can’t find them here, cast your nets there. Love means bringing them in; feeding them; clothing them; tending to their needs. Bring them in, and you will see Me in the process.

Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia!