Thursday, October 22, 2015

Fear & Faith

We walk by fear and not by faith!  Is that how it goes?
Be afraid, be very afraid!  Really?  Who says?
Whatever happened to the Freedom of a Christian?
What forces mold and shape your life?  
How about our life together?

Have you ever risked stepping outside your comfort zone? I suppose I am assuming we all know what a comfort zone is. For this discussion, let's agree that a comfort zone is a place or a way of being and acting that is familiar, predictable, and well-traveled. You know what I mean. Don't you?

We all have our individual comfort zones and when we assemble (for example, as a congregation) we have a shared comfort zone.  There may be much over-lap and similarity. This experience can make our individual comfort zones all the more comfortable.

So, back to the original question.  Have you ever risked stepping outside your comfort zone?

As you think about this, consider fear and faith. In my experience, fear can do a pretty good job at manifesting itself as apathy. Fear is both a powerful motivator as well as immobilizer. In other words, fear gives us a rational for staying put in our comfort zone.

Faith, on the other hand, (or a least on the other end of the fear/faith continuum) is that gift from God that enables us to live, move, and have our being more in the way that God intended for us. Faith helps us to love, to forgive, to serve, to build-up, to worship, to dance. Mature and dynamic faith propels us to seek first the kingdom even here and now.

These are just some of my extemporaneous thoughts about the topic we will discuss further on Sunday morning at 8:45. In the meantime, if you have a question to raise or a thought to share, avail yourself of the comment feature at the end of this post. 

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Reformation Sunday
October 25, 2015

Over the centuries, Lutheran have kept a special day to thank God for the freedom that the word of God grants to believers and to pray that with the help of God's Spirit, the church will be continually reformed and renewed. You are invited to worship with us on this Reformation Sunday, in praise and petition to God for the ongoing health of the church.

Prayer of the Day
Gracious Father,
we pray for your holy catholic church.
Fill it with all truth and peace.
Where it is corrupt, purify it;
where it is in error, direct it;
where in anything it is amiss, reform it;
where it is right, strengthen it;
where it is in need, provide for it;
where it is divided, reunite it;
for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen

Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm 46
Romans 3:19-28
John 8:31-36

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Crowd Control

Recently I have been re-reading a book that was recommended by my spiritual director several years ago.  The book is The Spirituality of Imperfection: Storytelling and the Search for Meaning, by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham. 

In our day and age of Netflix and short attention spans, the discipline of storytelling has been diminished. However, it remains a truth that a well-told story, like a picture, is worth a thousand words. It points beyond its own limitations to a larger reality that can bring meaning. Jesus told stories. Often they were referred to as parables.

Last Sunday’s sermon was based on Mark 10:17-31. In that passage we encounter a rich man who wanted to know what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus schools him on the Way. The man was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

Kurtz and Ketcham share the following story and reflection that I have found helpful and that I now share with you.

Around the end of the nineteenth century, a tourist from the United States visited the famous Polish rabbi Hafez Hayyim. 
He was astonished to see that the rabbi’s home was just a simple room filled with books. The only furniture was a table and a bench. 
“Rabbi, where is your furniture?” asked the tourist.“Where is yours?” replied Hafez“Mine? But I’m only a visitor here.”“So am I,” said the rabbi.
Greek thinkers, Hebrew prophets, Eastern sages, and Christian saints agree that the “problem” is not material realities but our attachment to material possessions--attachment that hinders us from seeing and seeking our own good, the “goods” proper to us because they fit the spiritual reality into which we “fit.” Material realities tend to stunt spirituality because as we possess them, they possess us. Possessions can lead to obsessions; consumers become consumed with getting things, keeping them, safeguarding them, adding to their hoard. Obsession with possessions crowds out the spiritual. (page 34, The Spirituality of Imperfection.)

What do you think? Is your life crowded? What can be put to the curb? How do we strike a balance? Is there a balance to be struck?  Thoughts and comments appreciated.