Randy's Reflections
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March 8, 2015, 8:00 AM

Pastor Randy's March Update

Even though Lent just started, already I am looking forward to Easter. The celebration at Easter time is so fantastic. I can’t wait for the jubilant singing, the joyous prayers, and the recounting of the most amazing event in history, the rising of our Lord from the dead.
 

Yet the Lenten season is really important for it gives us a time to reflect on our journey, from baptism
to glory. It gives us time to remember that the jubilant celebration is a capstone of our, at times
arduous, difficult, and sometimes precarious, journey. I love stories of perseverance, especially those
stories that celebrate renewed relationships.

 

“Field of Dreams” is one of my favorite movies. It just celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary this last
summer. I love the line from Shoeless Joe Jackson when he asks, “Hey, is this heaven?” Ray Kinsella,
played by Kevin Costner, resplies, “No, its Iowa.” Many of you know I lived for seventeen years in
Iowa. Three of those years we lived about thirty minutes from Dyersville, the home of “Then Field of
Dreams.” The story really begins when Ray hears a voice say, “if you build it, he will come.” He is not
sure what it means but he decides to plow under a portion of his corn field and build a baseball field.
The story doesn't end there. He then searches to find out who the “he” is, for which he built the baseball
field. After many different twists and turns in the story, he ends up finding out that the person he
built the field for was his father, a man with whom he needed to reconnect because of an earlier
estrangement in their relationship.


Ray’s path seems convoluted, but I really like the tenacity Ray shows as he seeks to follow the vision
he has been given. This is like the path of faith many of us experience, except the big difference is we
know where we are headed, we know the person whom we seek. But still the question we must live
out is “How tenacious are we in following our Lord?”


Recently the shocking video of 21 Coptic Christians being executed makes me reconsider how
committed I am to my faith. Would I be willing to proclaim my faith with such a threat to myself, or
my family, or even my friends? Fortunately most of us will never have to encounter such a choice, but
certainly this news should cause us to pause. We should think about what we are willing to sacrifice to
stand up for our faith.


Stephen, the disciple of Jesus in the first century, who was the first Martyr, the Greek word for
Witness, not only stood up for what he believed he also called the Jewish leaders to account. This is
what precipitated his death.

Again let me say I don’t think many of us will be called to sacrifice our lives for our faith, but certainly
we need to remember the road from baptism to glory can be arduous and painful. But we need to
remember there is a reward in the end. So as we consider how we can be faithful in our commitment
to Jesus, let us be ready to encounter some bumps and potholes along the way. We know that in the
end it is all worth it. So let us be sure to celebrate fully those times when we are with other
Christians, and let us share those special moments of joy we are given; moments like seeing our kids
accomplish something difficult, or receiving praise for a job we did well. Perhaps someone gives us an
unexpected gift, or this time the plumbing fix doesn’t turn into a disaster.


It is not easy building a baseball field when everyone else thinks you should just be tending your crop
like normal, but then who would have thought people would be celebrating a baseball field after
twenty-five years?

Let us continue the journey knowing that joy is a guarantee when we have Jesus.
 

Looking forward to Easter with you,
Pastor Randy 




February 4, 2015, 1:00 PM

Pastor Randy's February Reflection


I don’t think it is any coincidence that February is the month during which we celebrate both Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday this year. Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent. Lent is traditionally the six week period in which we prepare ourselves to celebrate Easter. Lent is a good time to ponder questions such as: Where do we spend most of our time? Does this indicate what or whom we love the most? Do we spend enough time with those we most care for? Where does God fit into all this?

Valentine’s Day is a great day to examine our priorities. It is the day we celebrate love. It can also be a precursor to Ash Wednesday when we assess our relationship to God and others. Are we following the greatest commandment? When Jesus was asked what this was, in Matthew 22, he instructed his followers to “love the Lord your God with all your heart with all your soul and with all your mind. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Someone once said that if we truly follow the greatest commandment we will automatically do the second. Loving God first and foremost means we will follow his model of loving others to the point of sacrifice, like Jesus did in dying on the cross for us (see I John 4: 20-21).

Since we need to love God most, then we also need to spend time with God. Some people follow the Lenten tradition of giving something up during those six weeks. When we give up something it gives us an opportunity to add something. For example, if I give up watching a certain TV show, I can spend time that time with others or God instead. Or if I stop spending money on something, I can give that money to help someone, or to do God’s work. Sometimes, instead of giving up something, people will add something spiritual to their routine, like spending more time in prayer. Some people choose to spend time reading scripture daily. Others look for service projects to do.

During Lent this year, during the Adult education hour I will be teaching a Bible series about personal encounters with Jesus, as found in the gospel of John. I believe that Jesus didn’t always treat everyone the same when they came to him with questions or requests. I think Jesus dealt with each person on an individual basis. He accounted for individual differences when trying to help others.

Jesus met people from different background and different life circumstances, and they each had different needs. Each week we will look at the story surrounding this encounter, as recorded by John. We will look at the cultural background and try to define the personality of the individuals and to determine their need when they come to Jesus. As we uncover how Jesus met their circumstance, request, or need, we will see if there is something which he is offering to us as well, something which we can apply to our lives today.

Since we have a special fundraiser for the Mexico Trip on Palm Sunday, we will only meet five times, but each time it will be about a different Bible character and his or her encounter with Jesus. We will begin with Nicodemus. The second week we will examine Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman. On week three we will see how Jesus deals with an unnamed blind man. The fourth week we will explore how Jesus deals with Mary and Martha at the funeral of their brother Lazarus. On the last week we will see how Jesus deals with Peter in the instance where Peter doesn’t want Jesus to wash his feet (I think they needed washing, both figuratively and literally).

Some of these people have encountered Jesus at other points in the gospels, but each situation is unique. We will see how Jesus dealt with each person regarding their individual circumstance at the time of the encounter. It will be as if they and Jesus are meeting for the very first time. In fact, the series will be called, “Meeting Jesus for the very first time.”

As Jesus reaches out to each of these individuals with the same kind of love he has for God, we will be reminded that Jesus saw the time spent with these individuals as a priority in His life. We will also be reminded that God sees each of us as a priority in His creation. Let’s make this Lenten season one where we put things in perspective. Let us spend a little more time with God during this six week period and seek to learn what it means to live out the greatest commandment of all: “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” If we do this, I am confident that we will learn to love others more as well.

Seeking to meet Jesus with you, perhaps really meet him, for the very first time,

Pastor Randy

 




January 23, 2015, 3:00 PM

Randy's Reflections "Letting Go"


So lately I have heard a lot of people talking about the constant tread mill running they are doing. I don’t mean actually running on a tread mill, though for some of us that would be a good daily exercise, I mean people feeling like their life is way too busy. All the obligations (to others outside the home), all the responsibilities (they have to their family), and all the demands (for their work), they have to meet.

    In fact the only time they seem to stop running is when they hit the sack, which usually isn’t early enough, or they get sick and have to stop all the running around they are doing. It is hard to keep up with all our commitments. This is compounded by the fact that we get asked to do new things all the time. It is not easy saying no, especially when we have so many people counting on us.

    So how many of us are overcommitted already? Raise your hands. It is hard to type this while I am raising my hand. Why do we keep committing ourselves to doing more and more? I think sometimes it is because we don’t think sitting and enjoying a simple conversation with someone or watching the birds at the hummingbird feeder or splashing in the bird bath is enough justification for our life. Yet when we get over committed it is not only detrimental to our selves it takes away an opportunity for others to do something, let alone mean that sometimes we don’t do a quality job.

    One thing I want to work on the next couple of months is creating margins in my life. They say that more and more textbooks are using larger amounts of white space, you know the place on the page where there is not writing or pictures, so the printed word, which is the most important thing on the page, is easier to digest.

    So it is with our lives. The more margins the more we can focus on what we really should be doing. And also it gives us room to, every once in a while, that is now and then not every day or every week, have time to commit to a special opportunity which just happens to come along.

    Life will go on with or without us! A scary thought to have, but even though God created each of us for a reason the world is populated with enough people to cover all those jobs which need to be done.

    So I hope you, and I, can try to have more margins in your schedule. I hope that you, and I, can focus on what is most important for us to do. How do we know what is most important? I think if we take some time in prayer, talk to our friends, and think about how important is what we are doing we can figure it out.

    So, here is to a new beginning where we find the balance between doing and resting, between committing and letting go, between answering God’s call and letting someone else answer it. May you continue to grow in God as you grow in living a life that speaks boldly about doing what you do well.

 

    Peace,

 

    Pastor Randy


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