Monday, December 13, 2010

Gaudete Sunday

Isaiah 35:1-10;
Psalm 146:5-10;
Luke 1:46b-55 (alternate);
James 5:7-10;
Matthew 11:2-11 (Blue)

Many of you may remember Pastor Brett mentioning last week that the 3rd Sunday of Advent is sometimes known as Gaudete Sunday. This comes from the Latin word meaning rejoice. The first two Sundays of Advent have given us readings that were anything but joyful. week 1 of Advent we dealt with some pretty intense end time readings. Last week we heard John the Baptist’s exhortation to repent and turn away from our sinful ways. This week however we experience a little shift from the stark and uncomfortable to the exciting and joyous. After two weeks of being reminded that the world we know is perishing and we ourselves are far from perfect we get to focus on God’s coming and what that’ll do for the world. Our reading from Isaiah provides us with two images that have stayed with me this week, a crocus blossoming in the desert, a beautiful vibrant flower breaking through the parched desert ground gives us quite an image of what God’s presence brings us. The second image in our first reading that struck me was that of a highway in the wilderness, a path where there was no way before.
One thing that I think is important and seen in today’s readings is that Christian joy isn’t an escape from things like shame, suffering, or mortality but it happens in the midst of those things. Similarly Gaudete Sunday doesn’t happen at the end of the repentant season of advent as if its an end to our need of repentance or a false acknowledgement that everything will magically be better now, no brothers and seasons joy happens in the midst of all those things, and our repentance is a necessary part of that joy. As if to drive that point home today’s readings speak of joy in the midst of some pretty scary tings. The reading from Isaiah 35 is sandwiched by Isaiah’s oracles against the nations and the sacking of Judah by King Sannechrib and the Assyrians. And John the Baptist recognizes the fulfillment of God’s promises from where? Prison nonetheless. Even the prayer that gives Gaudete Sunday its name comes from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, a letter written from where? Prison. Rejoice in the lord always again I say rejoice.
I think that is why both Isaiah’s images rang so true for me. They both point to the truth that God’s coming doesn’t mean that at the drop of a hat, or the snap of the fingers sin and earthly problems dissipate. I think sometimes we Christians assume that is what it means to be God’s children. And then when we realize that we as Christians will face things like struggle and illness we assume that we’re just not faithful enough and our troubles are compounded by self hate and despair. Or perhaps even worse we decide since discipleship doesn’t really eliminate our problems it may not be worth the effort so we walk away from the faith or replace it with a pseudo faith that doesn’t go any deeper than the surface. When faith in God doesn’t lead us to an escape from this world’s problems we all too often assume it isn’t doing anything. This fails to acknowledge that the promise of God isn’t that we’ll never hurt again but that God knows our hurts and hurts with us. I am reminded of a quote by British theologian John Stott.
He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross that symbolizes divine suffering. ”The cross of Christ . . . is God’s only self-justification in such a world” The other gods were strong; but thou wast weak; they rode, but thou didst stumble to a throne; But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak.”

Christian joy isn’t a statement of the condition of the world around us, nor is it even a result of some superior personality trait. It is acknowledging God’s presence in all our struggles and despite our failings. This is why we rejoice on this 3rd Sunday of Advent because we remember that God is coming as he promised and that his coming is truly a great thing for a fallen world, a world in desperate need of a God who suffers.
Whether we are talking about God’s presence being made real in the birth of a baby to a virgin girl, Jesus’ second coming to make the world new, or in the bread and wine of the Eucharist the result is the same. Before the world is transformed our perspective is transformed. The desert looks a little more welcoming because of one beautiful flower; our thirst all of a sudden isn’t so unquenchable. Brothers and sisters yes we will hurt, and we will hurt others we will crave things that bring nothing but death and decay, but rejoice for the God who loves us enough to become flesh and blood, to live and die for our sakes, to defeat the power of death is here in our midst; lifting us up, holding us tight, and calling us his. Please pray with me.
Dear God, you know that our hearts long for the joy and gladness promised by life with you. Help us to remember that you are with us always, and that our hearts will rest only when they rest with you.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sermon on 2 Timothy 1:1-14

The Faith That Was Once For All Delivered to the Saints.

As many of you know I have a facebook account. This is a way to use the internet to stay connected with friends from seminary, home, and other pastors that I have met in various ways. One thing I really like about facebook is it serves as a window to what is on people’s minds. For instance, there were a few weeks where there was a lot of discussion on the Mosque being built on ground Zero, that became the issue of the week. As of late there was a buzz on facebook about this new survey of American’s knowledge of religion. I’d like to share with you some of the report.
A new survey of Americans' knowledge of religion found that atheists, agnostics, Jews and Mormons outperformed Protestants and Roman Catholics in answering questions about major religions, while many respondents could not correctly give the most basic tenets of their own faiths. (For example)Forty-five percent of Roman Catholics who participated in the study didn't know that, according to church teaching, the bread and wine used in Holy Communion is not just a symbol, but becomes the body and blood of Christ (I hope and pray that most of you when asked could verbalize a Lutheran understanding of communion, much like Catholicism we believe that we receive the real body and blood of Christ with the bread and the wine). Also in the survey, more than half of Protestants (Including some Lutherans) could not identify Martin Luther as the person who inspired the Protestant Reformation. (Its cute when an 8 year old tells you Martin Luther was a civil rights leader in the 60’s; it’s not so cute when an adult tells you that)
Brothers and sisters perhaps the most startling thing about this survey was the lack of surprise with which I read the report. In my pastoral formation and in my various ministries I have seen the evidence of poor catechesis, the failure to teach the faith, all around me. I have seen one half of my own siblings who had as much exposure to the Body of Christ as me, choose to confess atheism. I have studied alongside pastoral candidates in seminary whose memory of Daniel and the Lion’s Den was a Saturday morning cartoon and didn’t learn until Systematic Theology that it was indeed in the bible. I have been blown away by decisions made by church bodies, including my own, that evidenced a disregard, denial, or ignorance towards the teachings that have been handed us through this beautiful thing we call the Body of Christ, the one holy catholic and apostolic church we confess to being a part of every Sunday.
However this struggle to faithfully pass on the truths of our faith that I have embraced as a called and ordained pastor isn’t a new one. St. Paul himself witnessed this in the churches he helped to create. As soon as he helped plant a church on his missionary journeys there seemed to be people that challenged his authority and re-interpreted the gospel that Paul had brought in Christ’s name. These re-interpretations were just similar enough that it seemed innocent and faithful until over time and various re-interpretations these communities all of a sudden find themselves embracing a Gospel different from the Gospel of Jesus Christ in significant ways. St. Paul spent much of his time recruiting and training leaders who would be willing and able to sustain the Gospel entrusted them in a bold and faithful manner.
Timothy was one such leader. In today’s second lesson Paul encourages Timothy to hold strong to the Gospel that was handed to him first by his grandmother and mother and then affirmed and strengthened by the ministry of Paul. And he does actually name these modes through which Timothy receives faith and comes to love the Gospel of Jesus Christ. First it is Timothy’s family, namely Lois and Eunice passes on their love for their Lord and savior Jesus Christ. The formation of faithful disciples begins at home but it also requires the discipline, education, and worship of a larger faith family. St. Paul alludes to this when he reminds Timothy to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in him through the laying on of St. Paul’s hands. It isn’t totally clear whether or not Paul is talking about a baptism or a rite of ordination but ultimately I’m not sure that it matters. The point remains that Timothy’s faith, a faith that began to take root because of the faithful work of his mother and grandmother found fullness in the ministry, instruction, and worship that takes place in the wider community that was blessed by St. Paul’s leadership. This is how the church functions, disciples of Christ working to make more disciples of Christ. A disciple is some one who does more than follow Christ, but it also implies a student or adherents of His teachings or doctrine.
Gasp…. I said a word that large parts of the western church are terrified by. Doctrine is often perceived by Christians as unnecessary or even destructive to a living faith. The recent survey that has everybody talking presents us with the fruit of those fears, Christians who don’t know what the church teaches, and I am not talking about simply Christ Hamilton or even the Lutheran church but the historical church, the Body of Christ. Lest you hear my message as a condemnation this morning especially if you’re one who hasn’t paid attention to the church’s teachings, let me tell you that it is not your fault and the reason its not is that there are many things you can do by yourself but being a Christian isn’t one of them. I think herein lies the great falsehood that has crippled the church, that faith is an individual thing. That real faith arises solely out of your experience with God apart from any external factors. In this atmosphere one of two things usually happens. Either Christians come to matters of faith having checked their brains at the door, to keep our mind from interrupting their heartfelt experience of God. These Christians therefore leave doctrine and theology for those who like such things. Unfortunately many of them experience faith at the other extreme. Refusing to check their brains at the door but sharing their understanding of faith as simply an individual matter the intellect with which they interpret their own experience is elevated to an inappropriate place, replacing the Lord as the ultimate authority and even the object of worship. Add to that the prevalent mindset in our society that change is a virtue in of itself and each generation due to progress is better and more capable than the last you have a church which has severed its connections to its past. Brothers and sisters we are a part of the story of God’s people and we are blest by the entire story of God’s relationship with God’s people, but only when we know that story and with Paul’s words to Timothy I encourage you to not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
The truth is we often use the relationship language in terms of faith all the time. This is not new at all, throughout the early church many loved to talk about faith as a relationship with the risen Lord, so I encourage you to think of your faith in those terms. And (these questions are not hypothetical I’d love to hear answers) do relationships grow when we refuse to learn more about the other person? How do we become more than mere acquaintances with, for example, co-workers? (We spend time with them learning about them)
Therefore I challenge you to spend more time with our Lord and savior learning about the faith that was once for all delivered to all the saints (Jude 1:3), claiming that faith as your own. Because that is what the church needs, Christians who can think and talk about the faith in a world that doesn’t always welcome it. I would even offer you some suggestions how to do that; when studying the bible expose yourself to multiple translations, use a bible with accessible study notes that can illumine the scripture even more, don’t simply fill your reading list with new books by contemporary Christians but occasionally pick up a book by a fellow believer written more than 50 years ago maybe even more than a thousand years ago, spend some time in Sunday school regardless of your age when pastor Brett is done with his class on St. john’s Revelation they’ll be 4 offerings for adult Sunday school and the Pastor’s class will be offered again on Wednesdays. Whatever you do brothers and sisters remember that God wants you to love Him with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22). And the God who gave himself for us, becoming man to live and die for our sakes, is worthy of that and so much more. Please pray with me.
Lord God,
You came to us in Christ Jesus so we can truly know you and love you. May you open the eyes of our heart and mind so we can come to you and call you Lord and sit at your feet and proclaim your truth to the world. In Christ’s name we pray.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Luke 16:1-13

I would like to start this morning’s sermon with somewhat of a confession. As many of you may know, before seminary I coached basketball at the junior high level. I was a pretty good coach; I worked well with my players and fielded a competitive team year after year. I garnered enough of a reputation to be approached by a well-known AAU basketball club in Southern Maine about coaching one of their younger teams. AAU stands for Amateur Athletic Union; they offer opportunities for sports teams to play at regional and national levels. AAU by its nature is more competitive than playing for your school or at your local Y, and thus a higher pressure environment. There are certain practices you would see teams employ at this level that may not be employed at other levels of youth sports. One of these practices that I found myself taking part in is akin to what we call in the church as “sheep stealing” or “steeple chasing.”
We would start the tournament season with a small roster of 8 through 10 players knowing that after the state tournament when we’d be preparing for regional and even national tournaments, some of the more localized teams would be wrapping up and we could cherry-pick their better players. Yes, arrogance was often the mark of some of these bigger basketball clubs, and play beyond the state tourney was often assumed. So this cherry-picking was easily justifiable. I mean after all there were worse things that we could be doing, and many teams did. Besides, we were giving these kids more opportunity to play.
We didn’t talk about the damage it did. And it did some damage. Firstly it altered the relationships on our team, relationships that we have been working on developing for at least two months. It also put these players in a situation where they would have to choose the following season between playing with a bigger basketball club or the more local travel team—their friends and neighbors who they have been playing with for years. This decision was also sure to alter relationships. Not to mention the distortion of a child’s self image and his sense of priorities that often happened in these situations. After three seasons of involvement, two of which ended with trips to Florida to compete in the Nationals, I decided that this scene wasn’t for me and stuck to coaching for the school season.
You guys may be asking why am I telling you this. Well much like the dishonest manager, I was often commended for my shrewd behavior even if it wasn’t entirely righteous and something to be proud of. This is a parable that the church often has a hard time with for this very reason. People often are confused and wonder if Jesus is really commending the dishonest behavior of this questionable character—and if not what, exactly is he trying to teach?
Brothers and sisters, Jesus doesn’t commend him for his dishonesty—neither does the fictitious rich man in Jesus’ parable. What he is commended for is his shrewdness. A quick survey of the word “shrewd” likens it to such words as “astute,” “sharp,” “perceptive,” “keen,” and “intelligent.” None of these adjectives mean “dishonest” in their own right; rather shrewdness I think speaks to knowing how to succeed and being able to make it happen.
Unfortunately, brothers and sisters, shrewdness in a system characterized by sin will sometimes lead to questionable ethics. Knowing how to succeed and having the ability in a fallen world, where the very definition of success is subject to the whims of the human condition, will sometimes put us at odds with God’s divine will. This is why Jesus tells us this morning we can’t serve God and money. We will come to hate one and love the other. As Christians we have a decision to make: will we serve the will of the world or the will of God? Will we answer the world’s call—to look out for Numero Uno, becoming the kind of people that Amos prophesies against this morning—or God’s call to live as God’s children loving and nurturing the world he made, while swearing allegiance to God’s kingdom?
You see, brothers and sisters, choosing to serve God is the right choice but not the easy one. For in making this decision we are not swept away to another world that is subject to another set of rules. No indeed, we still live in the fallen world, but our rules and perspective change. Sometimes it seems like we’re playing a board game with friends and family, and we are all playing by different rules. But, brothers and sisters, I’m not talking about a game—I am talking about your faith, your relationship with the God who created and redeemed you. And the question that today’s parable dares to ask is how do we live as Christ’s disciples in the world that crucified him? Called to be shrewd children of God, what does it mean to be successful in living a Godly life?
I think it begins by realizing that our very definition of “success” is altered. Worldly success is based on results: making money, growing a company and receiving accolades, for example. Success in God’s kingdom however has nothing to do with results. That’s because the results lie not in our hands but in God’s. You see, perceptions of eternal salvation that emphasize human choice or behavior are applying the world’s rules to God’s kingdom and getting stuck on result as a measure of success. I think that success in the Godly life can be seen in two ways: relationship and faithfulness—two things that do not often line up with a secular view of success and can actually, directly contradict it.
You see God became incarnate in Jesus Christ to empower us to be in relationship with him in a way that was never possible before. And I promise that as our relationship with God deepens, the relationships around us will be deepened as well. In contrast to worldly success which often includes exploitation of others to move up the social ladder—a la today’s reading from Amos, the relationships formed by living Godly lives help make God’s kingdom manifest and as a result are life-giving.
Faithfulness to God and God’s vision of the world is another mark of success in Godly lives. Faithfulness leads disciples to trust and obey things that don’t come easy in a world where trust often leads to pain and where obedience is often seen as weakness. However by acknowledging that God’s plan for the world is what ought to be and allowing the Holy Spirit to work in and through us to be a part of that divine plan, obedience and trust become second nature.
You see, brothers and sisters, it is easier to oppress and exploit others than to love them. It is easier to pursue our own desires than it is to discern the will of God and to do our part to fulfill it. But easy isn’t better and it sure isn’t right. And we serve a God whose love for us has transcended any rules. He became human to bring us closer to the divine and he died so we may live. The problem with the rich man in Jesus’ parables was that he was subject to the same limits and laws as his manager—so he had to fire him. God, on the other hand, is free from the shackles that bind humankind and in Jesus, has freed us from those shackles us well. So we in turn can live in this world by God’s rules—not ours.
Please pray with me:
Lord God,
We thank you that in Jesus Christ, you have chosen us—claiming us as your children and offering us life without end. Lord, I pray that you in turn can give us the courage to choose life as your disciples, not as the world’s slaves. In Christ’s name we pray. AMEN

Monday, August 16, 2010

Luke 12:49-56

The Ties that Bind

There are not any gospel lessons harder on our ears than today’s. The harsh words spoken by Jesus today should definitely offend and even confuse. The Gospels often talk about reconciliation and the peace that Jesus brings. Today he tells us he’s not bringing peace but fire and he’ll create divisions even within families. Brothers and sisters when Jesus speaks like this it is imperative that we don’t skip over it and find the more comfortable parts of the gospel but we wrestle with all his words. Before I get into families I want to say a little something about the peace that Jesus doesn’t bring and the peace he does.
Throughout Luke’s gospel Jesus tells those who he heals and teaches “Peace be with you”. From Jesus these aren’t mere words of greeting or departure. It is a blessing, the gift of a very special peace; the peace that comes only from the presence of God. In today’s gospel when Jesus says he doesn’t bring peace he is talking about a worldly peace. Mortals have perceived peace as an absence of conflict and strife. God’s peace isn’t an absence of conflict or strife, but rather an acknowledgement of God’s presence in the midst of conflict or strife. Jesus brings a peace of the highest order, which calls for a restructuring, reordering, and redefinition of human values, priorities, norms, and institutions, processes that may even create conflict and strive.
Even the most fundamental of human institutions the family isn’t immune from the restructuring and redefining work of the Holy Spirit. That’s because it isn’t immune from the corruption of human sin. A look back in the Old Testament would remind us that family division and dysfunction is not a new thing but it was common long before Jesus came. Moses and pharaoh were brothers, Jacob and his mother schemed to steal the birthright out from under Esau, Jonathon was forced to choose between loyalty to his father King Saul or his best friend the future King David; he chose David proving that there are indeed bonds stronger than biology. These are all extreme cases of familial division but the truth is that all families in some way or another deal with conflict at some level, including your own, some creating insurmountable chasms between members and some prove to be bumps in the road.
The truth is brothers and sisters that families are always in conflict over earthly things that in the end will perish anyway; things like money, politics, and land just to name a few. If these earthly matters work to create tension within and divide families than shouldn’t matters of faith; things we believe to be of eternal significance be important enough to create even bigger divisions. Unfortunately in our world all too often families are willing to sacrifice relationships over the worldly and temporal matters but are willing to compromise when it comes to the questions of faith and the state of our souls. Perhaps some of the re-ordering which is done in the incarnation of Jesus Christ needs to be done in the area of priorities as well.
Brothers and sisters these are tough words to hear indeed. Largely because our identity and feelings of self worth are so wrapped up in our family and our experience of family. To hear Jesus tell us that he is bringing another thing with the potential to tear apart families scares us because it challenges our understanding of who we are and where we belong.
Who we are and where we belong. I believe these questions are absolutely fundamental to us as human beings. For Christians, the incarnation of Jesus Christ and the faith it creates replaces the family as the primary source of answers for these questions. This is why our baptism rite doesn’t include last names and we often talk about families of faith. Because there are indeed bonds stronger than blood or biology. Relationships forged in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and strengthened by the Holy Spirit go deeper than those of heredity. Sure our birth families are still important to us and should be. But they are no longer the relationship that comes first in our lives. We have been claimed as Children of God and been given a spirit of adoption from our Heavenly Father.
Brothers and sisters no matter how happy and near-perfect your earthly family may be this is indeed good news. As God’s own we are blessed with an inheritance that doesn’t perish when this world fades and a lineage to be very proud of. We are created in the image of our heavenly Father and called to live out that resemblance in the world around us. We belong to a daddy whose lap has room for all of us and whose love knows no bounds.
The human family like the humans who make them up are sinful and not forever. They know the limits of our best intentions and the hurt of our worst moments. They may know irreconcilable divisions or merely annoying differences. They can cause deep painful despair or overwhelming joy. But it is God’s family that’ll continue to be a source of hope for all of eternity, it is God’s family that is as perfect as its parent, it is God’s family that Jesus Christ came to bring, it’s not always easy as we try to live in both worlds but it is always good.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sermon on Mary and Martha

I heard about a father who was so happy to have a son and was so willing and ready to share his love for baseball with his son that he buys all the right clothes and equipment. He brings his son to all the local games and as the kid gets older he sent him to the most expensive baseball camps. It isn’t until the boy is much older, reaching adulthood, until the father finds out that his son never really liked the game, as a matter of fact he hated it with a passion. The father didn’t set out to be a bad or oblivious parent; as a matter of fact all he wanted to do was share the game he loved with the child he loved. But yet something was amiss. His inability to hear his son or his refusal to even be in conversation with him caused the dad to confuse what his son wanted with what he himself wanted. I am sure many of you can think about times when better listening, communication or observation could have aided your good intentions.
The truth is brothers and sisters I think we as Christians even do it in our faith lives more than we’d like to admit. Sometimes we are all too willing to serve the Lord and in our eagerness we may miss a step. We jump into the serving without first listening to how we are being called to serve the Lord. Despite our good intentions we may be serving ourselves, the world, or yes even Satan. I think service and obedience to Jesus always includes discussion and listening to Him. Christians have a special name for communication with God, its called prayer.
The story of Mary and Martha offers us a corrective for this tendency that all Christians struggle with from time to time. Like many familiar texts it runs the danger of misinterpretation. So many times I hear it said that there are Marys and Marthas in this world and that is ok. After all we need people serving. I don’t think it’s fair to Mary to assume that since she’s sitting at Jesus’ feet she’s not called to service. And it’s definitely not right to assume Martha doesn’t belong at Jesus’ feet because she feels she is called to prepare the meal. And most importantly I think lifting up Mary and Martha as a typology where we see two ways of being a Christian fails to acknowledge Jesus’ admonition to Martha that her sister did in fact choose rightly, implying of course that she herself chose wrongly. I am not denying that there are different ways to serve and people are called to those different ways. The New Testament is full of passages that highlight that fact, but today’s isn’t one of them. What today’s Gospel lesson tells us however is that whatever we are called to; however we may serve the Lord it always begins and ends at the feet of Jesus, listening and learning from our Lord and Savior. Jesus may not be knocking on door and visiting homes with his disciples like he did in today’s reading. But through study of God’s word and unceasing prayer we are offered the same opportunity that Martha and Mary had to be in God’s presence, and that is where we should desire to be as Christians. As we see in Martha anything else leads to distraction, hardened hearts, and confusion.
If you ask me Martha’s rebuke of Mary and her words to Jesus speak volumes about the heart and mind with which she served Jesus and the disciples. Martha’s bitter words are not a result of serving Jesus. I think they are a result of confusing the world’s expectations with the call of Christ. She knew she was expected to be in the kitchen so she succumbed to the expectation without realizing this was an opportunity to serve God’s son. Somebody had to prepare a meal and act as host and it may have been Martha’s call to do so. But I highly doubt either Jesus or his disciples would’ve minded waiting a little longer to be fed so Martha could join her sister in Jesus’ presence. Christian hospitality doesn’t begin with food on the table and end when the dishes are clean. Like all Christian service it begins and ends in the presence of Jesus Christ. If you find yourself becoming angry, jealous, or distracted in your service to the Lord I ask you to take a break and in prayer and study of the bible return to the feet of Jesus. You may find yourself able to return to the same service or you may find that perhaps God was calling you to something different the whole time.
As important as it is for individual Christians to learn this lesson it’s equally important that it is taken to heart at the congregational level. All too often mission is equated to having a lot going on. The busiest churches are seen as the most faithful or effective; and thus the churches do be emulated. Programming is good and churches should be striving to meet the needs of the wider community in the name of Christ. But any programming comes out of continued conversation with God and with their specific situation. I am reminded of a story from internship. The situation in which I did internship was a unique one. After a volatile departure of a Pastor 5 years before there was still a lot of hurt. After years of being vacant they decided to welcome a detached intern.
Much of the ministry that occurred was helping this congregation get back on its feet. In one conversation we were talking about new things we should be trying. One longtime member who has become a trusted friend was smitten with the mega church in West Des Moines said we need to do small groups like the Lutheran Church of Hope. I looked at him and said “Chuck you need to remember two things Dayton is not West Des Moines and Church of Hope does small groups so they can be more like you guys.”
The truth is if churches spent as much time talking about how to emulate Christ as they did talking about how to emulate each other, I think the whole church would be much better off. Congregations need to be more like Mary placing themselves in Jesus’ presence through prayer, study, and conversation before they act.
In my brief time here I have experienced a healthy congregation with a solid approach to mission. However in light of Mary and Martha I want to challenge us as a congregation to be more intentional about placing ourselves at the feet of Jesus, surrounding all we do with prayer and the Word of God. I would also challenge us to be in constant discussion not just with God but with each other about the ministry of Christ Hamilton. Because simply doing without asking questions, listening, and learning leads to distraction, hardened hearts, and confusion. Please pray with me.

Lord God,
Like Martha we often find ourselves distracted, confusing the expectations of the world with your call to serve. Help us choose the right thing like Mary did putting ourselves and our actions at your feet. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.