Monday, January 26, 2009

It’s Monday. How’re we doing?

Monday morning can be a drudgery for many. Or it can be an opportunity for a full week of productive effort. Our attitude and perspective can often determine our outlook.

“Monday Morning Men” is a group of mostly elderly and retired gentlemen at our Church who meet for coffee, sweet rolls, (most are Scandinavian) and Bible study, followed by several hours of working around the church on various maintenance projects. What a great way to begin the week.

On the other hand, today’s Washington Post contains an article by columnist Robert J. Samuelson which suggests that our new President and elected leaders are facing the economic equivalent of enduring a back-to-back Ironman triathlon and Tour de France if they want to overcome the three financial monsters we face (consumer spending collapse, financial and credit collapse and our trade imbalance crisis). Not a positive beginning for the week.

However, this, in a sense, is the ongoing challenge for those of us who are followers of Christ and who also must live, work and raise families in this culture and in this world. Every day we are immersed in the often conflicting compellings of practicing our faith while we live our lives.

I’m learning to really appreciate the Lutheran perspective on faith and living. In fact, I’ve already alluded to it in a previous post. Lutherans believe that there are, at the basic level, two factors involved in faith living (or living the faith, if you will): justification and vocation.

In other words, we are justified (“restored” in God’s eyes) by God’s grace alone, and then our vocation is to live out our faith as God calls us to do. This oversimplifies, of course, but the model holds for me.

So, how does our Monday look? Let’s be busy in our vocation and trust God for the possibilities.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Mark’s Gospel Provides A Contrast In Approach To The Record of Christ’s Life and Ministry

The account by the apostle Mark of the life and works of Jesus is somewhat in contrast to those in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Matthew and Luke begin with accounts of Christ’s birth, while Mark (and John, sort of) begin their storytelling with the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist.

The reason I call attention to Mark is that our current church Lectionary readings and related Bible studies are sifting through the second Gospel. In any Bible reading or study, Lutherans generally begin by asking two basic questions about the text:

The first query is, what is God up to in this lesson? And then we can ask, what is God telling me in this text?

Of course there are other questions to ask as well. But by beginning with these, we can get a sense of perspective and direction from the message, rather than just randomly reading and drawing “off-the-top-of-the-head” conclusions.

So, in this particular instance, what might God be up to with the way that Mark begins his story? I got my inkling as I read, and you can begin your consideration by carefully reading chapters one and two, which was our assignment this week.

Most interesting to me was that Christ’s public ministry began with a baptism (a “commissioning” of sorts—his uniquely with heavenly approval) but then our Lord was immediately driven into the wilderness, apparently by the same Spirit that had descended on him in the form of a dove .

While in the wilderness for 40 days, he was confronted by Satan himself and tempted to the "nth" degree. After the temptation and subsequent strengthening, Jesus then “hit the road”, so to speak, with all cylinders firing.

He began his ministry by performing miracle after miracle that got immediate, regional attention. But his complementing message was early and often misunderstood. Check out Mark for yourself for a most interesting narrative of the initial events in Christ’s public life.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Emulating a “Servant God”

In this month’s issue of our church newsletter, the PFLC Visitor, our associate Pastor, the Rev. Alison Shane, right, made a wonderful – but perhaps a bit intimidating – Epiphany observation in her remarks:

“Nothing makes God-with-us more tangible for people than when we serve them. In our actions of service, people catch a glimpse of God’s work on earth.”

Stop. And let the implications of that thought sink in for a moment.

Pastor Alison continues in her comments, “A servant God is a very different image than many people are used to. Popular religion holds up a God who is ‘in control,’ whose ‘will is done’ in everything that happens to us, even in death. But a servant God comes in the midst of the brokenness of life and comforts, washes feet, and carries the load. God comes and says, ‘Sin has caused a broken world, and many things in life are therefore senseless. But I am here with you, and I have redeemed you and this world. Together now we walk through life.’”

She then gives us our core impetus for Christian service (living out our vocation, in Lutheran terminology): “When we serve, when we walk with others in service to them, they can catch a glimpse of our servant God. As we walk with them, they see God walking with them, and we are bearing Christ’s light to the nations.”

Thanks, once again, Pastor Alison, for cutting right to the quick and shedding important light on our mission as followers of Christ. Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Snow Is Finally Gone – For Good, We Hope

Photo at left is what it's looked like around here for most of the past three weeks. Note how the weight of the snow made the tree branches droop. At right is what it looks like today. Woohoo, the snow has melted. For now. You can click on each photo for larger, more detailed images.

I had forgotten what it was like to be able to drive down our driveway and back up again in a normal manner. Controlled, accelerating, fish-tailing skids have been the routine lately.

The weather forecast is for “warmer than normal” temps for the next week or so. We’ll see.

P.S. 2:30 pm UPDATE: Well, yes, the snow is gone, but with the warmer temps, the ferocious winds associated with dramatically changing weather fronts came right up Agate Passage out in front of us. Trees are going down in the area like matchsticks, many weakened from heavy snow loads, I assume. We just got our power back after said winds knocked down a big conifer nearby. This resulted in our SIXTH power outage since December 14. Fortunately, this one lasted only a bit more than an hour. I think we've had "our share" for a time.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Nathan Meets Curious George – Just Like Dad

Curious George was one of our son Doug’s favorite “friends” when he was a young lad. Curious George is aptly named, and so it becomes a natural way, through stories, for very young boys to learn about their world via this loving, inquisitive monkey.

Of course Grandma and Grandpa had to introduce new grandson Nathan to Curious George on this, Nathan’s first Christmas. I love the photo above, in which Nathan appears to be interacting (“curiously”?) with his new friend. I wish I knew what he’s saying; any ideas?

We remember, back when Doug was little, how Curious George had to always come along whenever we went out anywhere. In fact, I believe we lost the monkey one time on a long trip and it was very traumatic for Doug until we got another Curious – er, “found” him one day. Have fun with George, Nathan; your daddy sure did!

All this serves to remind us how wonderful it was to be all together as family during the Christmas season. Hayley, your gift finally was delivered to us, and it’s on the way to you.