Randy's Reflections
March 28, 2014, 7:00 PM

Pastor Randy's April Reflections


“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit . . .
And (they) exclaimed, ‘Surely he was the Son of God!’”                                      Matthew 27:50-54

 

I have a shamrock plant in my office which I have had for over twenty years. It is not flourishing with leaves and flowers, but it does currently have five clovers and three flowers on it. I can’t remember when I actually got it, but it took up residence in my office in Iowa when I realized its lack of blooms was due to our cat’s eating the leaves when we weren’t looking. Since then it was transported to California and ensconced in my office at the church.

I don’t understand why it doesn’t have more leaves and I don’t understand why it blooms when it does. I water it about every third day and every so often it will shoot up a stem which turns into a set of three flowers. Is there some spiritual significance here? Three days, unexpected appearance of flowers, and three blossoms (three days later he was risen from the dead and perhaps a trinity image)? My point is, that this plant has persevered through all kinds of changes, cold weather and humidity, nibbling from our cat, traveling from Iowa to California, and it continues to blossom at unexpected intervals. Joy punches out of the dry ground to blossom for no reason that I can tell.

Coach Mike Allen had only been at Gunderson High School in San Jose for one full season when he decided the basketball culture was detrimental to the kids on the team as well as to the school itself. Seven games into his second season he had seen enough. After the next Saturday practice he told the five starters they were suspended from the team due to their lack of respect. The only way they could return to the team was to bring a parent to meet with him.

The next Monday the entire team was waiting at the door to begin their 6 a.m. practice. Coach Allen told the starters, “You’re wasting your time; you can’t be here today. You need to leave.” After he unlocked the gym doors for the twelve boys who weren’t starters only four boys remained. Besides the five starters, eight other players walked away from practice that day and for the rest of the season. Allen was left with four players, two freshmen and two sophomores. He brought up two players from his JV team and now he had six boys for Gunderson’s Varsity Basketball team. They lost all the other games that season, 21 of them.

Only one of the suspended players, Ryan Tran, asked to be back on the team the following season. Even though this one starter came back, the streak of losses continued, reaching 24 straight losses. On December 12th, Gunderson won its first game in two seasons. One win turned to two, then four, then eight. That season the team made it all the way to the quarterfinals of the section playoffs. The Gunderson players swept Blossom Valley division awards for senior of the year, junior of the year, and sophomore of the year.

Did Allen do the right thing? He hopes so. Allen still feels the pain of not really knowing if he made a positive impact in the lives of the kids who left, but he persevered in what he thought was the right thing to do. The basketball culture has changed at Gunderson and there is evidence that those who followed his plan are having success not only on the court, but off the court as well.

Jesus talked and walked with a band of disciples for three years. He shared his life and his hopes with them. He was their mentor and he broke bread with them. Before he was taken into custody that Maundy Thursday he prayed in earnest for God to allow his journey to be different, but in the end he said, “Your will be done,” not mine. He persevered.

When he was nailed to the cross that Good Friday Jesus prayed to God, our Father, to forgive them, “for they know not what they do.” While on that cross he found a home for his mother, saying to John, “Behold your mother!” On the cross he was mocked, but still responded with compassion to the thief by his side who asked to be remembered. “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Jesus suffered feelings of abandonment on that cross. He spoke the words from Psalm 22, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Yet he persevered.

As he breathed his last, he commended his spirit to God; he proclaimed, “It is finished.” He wasn’t finished, but his purpose for being on earth was complete. He had come to give us new life and that meant he had to carry the weight of all the sins of the world on his shoulders. He completed the task, he finished the race, he persevered.

Thankfully, we are not required to sacrifice in the same way. Instead, we have  been given the opportunity to receive redemption through the sacrifice of Jesus. We don’t always know when, nor do we always know why, but there are days when the blooms of joy break through our despair and blossom, even in the driest of times, but we need to persevere.

Easter is a time when we can celebrate not only what happened to Jesus, his resurrection, but what was given to us, an opportunity to receive the grace and mercy of God. Sometimes the road takes unexplained turns and sometimes we are faced with harsh events in life, but as we lean on Jesus we can persevere. We can also have faith that even in those difficult moments we may experience moments of wonder and joy, just like the flowers of my shamrock.

As long as I water my shamrock and put it in the sun, I will have those unexpected amazing moments when a three-fold blossom will appear. When I continue to cultivate my relationship with God, I will also have those unexplained moments of joy and wonder, as long as I persevere.

Celebrating those moments of joy and wonder with you,

Pastor Randy

 

 




March 18, 2014, 7:00 PM

Randy's Reflections "Refreshment"



It has been dry this winter. Very dry. I remember thirty years ago when we took our used bath water and watered our garden and Meyer lemon tree with it. I also remember one of the benefits of that procedure was reducing the white fly population on our lemon tree. We had a terrible white fly infestation on that tree which left a sticky residue all over the leaves. Since the air quality wasn’t so great in San Jose we found our lemon tree leaves turning a sooty gray color.

    After a couple of weeks of watering with used bath water I noticed the leaves not as sticky. Come to find out the soap laced bath water provided a not so friendly landing area for the white flies. After a month our lemon tree had shiny green leaves and didn’t ever have a white fly problem again.

    Even though we had an unexpected benefit from using our gray water I am not looking forward to rigging up a siphon to use our gray shower water, we don’t take baths much any more, to water our garden. So when the rain came last month it was more than replenishing our reservoir of refreshing liquid for me. It was the sound of being able to water the garden as usual.

    That rain also brought a serendipitous event to me one day while I was walking along Alamo Creek Trail. One day while I was out for a stroll I heard quacking and splashing coming from the creek. It had been a while since I heard the flowing stream that runs along the creek bed. Yet this time is wasn’t just the water rushing between the banks and over the rocks, it was also the joy of the ducks swimming, diving, and gliding along the flowing stream. Ducks having joy? Well I had never heard ducks quack like this before. It reminded me of children running over the grass through an oscillating sprinkler in the back yard. I never thought of wild animals taking pleasure in the little things, the swimming, gliding, and splashing, but I think they were.

    It also made me think of the Psalms of praise. You know there are some Psalms which are laments. They speak to us of our struggles in life and ask where is God when we need him? Like Psalm 4 or Psalm 22. There are some Psalms that celebrate God’s redemption in our lives. Like Psalm 32 and Psalm 103. And there are some Psalms that just praise God. Psalm 100: 1-3 says, “Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.”

    When you want to celebrate with words from scripture what Psalm do you recall? What Psalm speaks to you of how during those joyous times you just want to say, “Thank You God!”? Let me know what Psalms you use or have read that speak of the joy of splashing water flowing over shiny rocks. Let us not forget all his benefits.

 

    Singing Psalms of praise with you especially for rain,

 

    Pastor Randy




March 1, 2014, 2:00 PM

Pastor Randy's March Reflections



 

It is a great thing, this reading of the Scriptures! . . . It is a well that has no bottom.

                                                                 St. John Chrysostom

I am grateful for today’s much-needed rain. Farmers, conservationists, and even water districts are concerned about this season of drought. Just as we need rainfall to provide the earth with refreshment, restoration, and life, so do we need spiritual nourishment for souls.

As Christians, we depend on the Bible for that much-needed spiritual nourishment. Since the Bible can inform us, reform us and transform us, we need to delve into it daily. This is one reason for our reading through The Story, which covers the entire Bible in one year. It is also why we are reading through the book of Matthew, one chapter at a time, during Lent. This devotional booklet is available in the narthex, in the church office, and on our website.

The Bible not only informs us about specific Biblical characters, but also informs us about human nature, something that hasn’t changed down through the ages. Additionally, the Bible informs us about God’s character, which remains the same throughout the centuries. It is important to know God and to understand human nature so we can better understand ourselves and can catch a glimpse of the Author of Life.

Information, however, is not the only thing necessary for feeding our souls. As we ingest this information we find that we are lacking in so many ways, not only in our living, but also in our dealings with each other and in our interaction with God. The Bible informs us that God designed us to be compassionate, nurturing, and focused, but are we? God expects us to care for ourselves, others, and nature, but do we? The reality is that we are not and we do not, at least much of the time.

Because we are not motivated to change on the basis of information alone, the Bible also helps reform us. God has expectations for us to be more than we are. God’s desire is for us to be fully human, doing that which is good and beneficial for ourselves, for others, and for the world around us. In the Bible we discover guidelines, principles, and laws given by God to help us be the people he expects us to be. As we are informed by the Bible about ways in which we do not live up to God’s desire for our lives, so we are reformed by following those God-given guidelines.

It is good to recognize that we need to change. It is good to believe that we can change. It is, therefore, imperative that we know how to change. Reformation is something we strive to accomplish, yet as we seek to improve our behavior and character, we also quickly learn that reformation is neither easy nor attainable through our own strength and power.

Reformation cannot be achieved by our will alone. No matter how hard we try, the changes we need to make in our lives are beyond our ability or capacity to implement. We need the Bible to inform us about who we are and what is expected of us. We need guidelines to mark the way in which we need to go and how we should get there, reformation. But, just as importantly, we need the power of the Holy Spirit to transform those areas which are too hard for us to change on our own.

Therefore, the Bible also serves to transform us. True, there is no special incantation for transformation found in the Bible. There is no step-by-step procedure for our becoming all we were created to be within the 66 books with their hundreds of pages. There are, however, passages which speak to us about our hope that is grounded in our belief in Jesus and a yearning to love God first and others second (see Matthew 22:35-40).

We need to shake off the mold of the world’s expectations, the character which is most commonly accepted as human, and renew ourselves by believing, learning, and living like true children of God. Romans 12:2 urges us to no longer “conform to the pattern of this world, but [to] be transformed by the renewing of [our] mind[s].” How do we know, then, what we need to change? We are called to be different, to be salt and light in this world (Matthew 5:13-16). Sometimes the Bible is very clear about how we need to change, but other times demands something beyond human discernment. In John 14:26 Jesus assures us that “the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in [his] name, will teach [us] all things and will remind [us] of everything [he has] said to [us].”

The Holy Spirit will not only convict us of our wandering ways, but will also teach us how to change. One way we verify the truth of the Spirit is by making sure it coincides with the Bible. By reading the Bible we can learn the ways we need to change and, by the power of the Spirit, that change can happen.

So, let us continue to ruminate on the words of Psalm 1 that promise that we will yield our fruit in due season. We will not wither, but we will be like trees planted by streams of water that prosper in the eyes of both God and humankind. For then we will be not only informed and reformed, but will also be wondrously transformed. Then the God of hope will fill us with all joy and peace as we trust in Him, so that we may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15: 13).

Being transformed with you,

Pastor Randy