Send down the Spirit #DevotionDandy #churchsplit

Read Acts 10:44-48

 

Division. It’s a word we know well. Both my congregations have experienced a split, a division, a time when there was distrust, anger, deception, hurt, and pain. Both congregations know what it is to have a line drawn in the sand and to be standing on one side of that.

 

Christ is the only one who make these proud divisions end. And it’s not easy work. The Jews were astounded, even after everything they had witness and watched, astounded that the Gentiles would be welcomed into the family of God like they were.

 

I know many of us have experienced the same. Whether it’s a church division, friend division, or a family division, we all know that heartbreak that it brings. We all know that we’d be astonished and amazed when that division no longer existed.

 

It’s probably a whole new world for them all. They have to get to know one another in a new light, a light where each side still has to work in order to be together, where each person is there for a reason, the same reason, and that it’s recognized the love they all share for the one greater God.

 

I rarely hear the word impossible, anymore. Thank goodness! To be nothing is impossible with the power of God, and I’ll flat out tell people that if they try to convince me otherwise. It wasn’t impossible for the Gentiles to become believers, and it is not impossible to get over the hurt of a church split. With God’s help, we can.

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Unclean #DevotionDandy #Acts10

Read Acts 10:1-33

 

There was a time in my life when I called myself tainted. I figured no one could ever be in a relationship with me long-term, friendship or otherwise. I was utterly depressed, I was in my darkest hour, and I had no hope and could see no other life than the one I had.

 

It had been that way for years.

 

When I was a child, I was sexually abused. That changed my outlook on life. It made me grow up with a different view point, one where trust comes slowly, where love is rare and doesn’t always come without strings attached, where relationships are often twisted in a way that doesn’t seem right.

 

It took me years to understand how to work through this, to recognize all the fingers of affect that this had on my life. But until that happened, I routinely considered myself tainted or unclean, even though I knew God loved me no matter what. I just didn’t think anyone else could or would.

 

I was wrong, of course, but he journey to discovery of how clean I was because God loved me was a long and complicated one. There were steps back and steps forward. It took many Peter’s coming forth and telling me I was clean, that I was washed, that I was perfect in the eyes of my Creator.

 

This passage is that moment. The moment when the veil of deception falls away, the moment when the realization of love is truly taken to heart, when love reigns and defeats all.

The Mission & Ministry of the Church #MadnessManaged #Stewardship

Recently I was selected to receive a grant, a grant which will help with my financial burden of debt, a grant that is a blessing. Part of receiving this grant means I have to take financial classes. Some are good, some eh, some interesting if I have higher brain power working with me at the time.

 

Last Tuesday, the class was all about Resourcing Church Mission. I was excited at first. I thought we’d be talking about funding church mission, like hands-on mission projects. I was wrong. But also right.

 

We talked about funding the mission and ministry of the church, specifically budget, money, endowments, memorial, annual and capital campaigns. You know, all that stuff a minister NEVER wants to talk about. It’s awkward to talk about it yadda yadda. You all know what I mean.

 

I realized about 18 months ago that both my congregations NEEDED to talk about money. They were both struggling (one still is), but neither had done anything for Stewardship Month (September) in at least 10-15 years if not longer. No one had spent the time to share with each other what was going on with the finances of the church.

 

This class only reiterated to me the importance of this. Our mission and ministry in the church cannot be done without financial backing. We need to talk about this in the church, in sermons, in devotionals, in meetings, in conversation. This is not a topic to avoid. It needs to happen more than just one month of the year, but if you’re starting at 0 don’t go to 100 right away. Ease into it.

 

Early Tuesday morning, when I was in my office, I had actually started planning for Stewardship Month, but I think I’ll be changing my plans. We need to talk about this year round. I’ll definitely still spend all of September on finances, but I’ll start to include it more often throughout the year, intentionally reminding everyone that the church finances are what keep this place going, keep the things we’re doing happening, and allow us to make an impact within our community.

“Peter Heals” Acts 9:32-43 #DevotionDandy

Read Acts 9:32-43

 

Miraculous acts of healing in the scriptures happen often, in the gospels and in the book of Acts. They’re always hard for me to read, especially with bringing back the dead. Personally there are many people whom I have loved and lost that I would like to bring back from the dead. I know I’m not the only one.

 

I struggle with these passages, and I tend to avoid then when I’m reading and preaching on scripture. They’re hard for me to mentally and emotionally understand. I just do get it. Why do some people receive healing and others don’t? How does this compare to what we see now?

 

There are people I know who have been able to live with disease for 20-30 years, and there are others who receive a diagnoses and die weeks later. There are those who are supposed to die who don’t and those who aren’t supposed to die who do. It does not make sense in my puny mind.

 

Why do I lose my child and someone else can have four healthy pregnancies and never a worry?

 

My questions will never be answered. And I know that, but that doesn’t make it any easier to live into the question. I think that’s what these passages show us, or at least me. Live into the questions. Only God has all the answers, and frankly, even if God wanted to share them with us, I’m not sure we’d understand. The answers are too big for us, they’re too complicated or perhaps too simple. Instead, it is our job to live into the questions.

 

To go with the flow. To know we won’t understand. To know there will be contradictions. To know that God is great and good, and that we are not God.

Fire and Ice… #ThrowbackThursday

I don’t know if you heard about this INSANE weather we’ve been having, but it’s INSANE. Saturday at about 3am we started to get snow. IN THE END OF APRIL! It stopped for the day, and I actually drove the 45 minutes to town to do some grocery shopping and earn a little extra cash on the side by selling an unused carseat we had.

On the drive back, we could clearly see the snow line, which was just south of the county line. Beautiful, yet scary. At the same time, we knew more snow was coming. And boy, did it come.

We got 15 inches of snow between Saturday (which most had melted by Sunday) and Sunday. Church services were cancelled, which included our 5th Sunday Service Sunday, which is a good thing because we had absolutely no power.

Just went the house started to get really cold, the amazing linemen got our power up and running and the furnace kicked on! w00t!

That afternoon though I received a call from the Sheriff’s department looking for a place to set up as emergency housing. All the highways were blocked off, so there were people stranded in town. I rallied our amazing people, and we shoveled that 15 inches of snow and got the church warmed up and ready to wait for anyone in need.

No one came to stay the night. Pfft, but whatever. We were there for anyone who needed it.

I had a doctor’s appointment in town Monday. Sunday I knew it was cancelled. Monday I found out that the roof on my doctor’s office had collapsed because of the snow. Tuesday there were no appointments. They found temporary housing, and they fit me in on Wednesday (my appointment was time sensitive so I got priority).

Chaos. Pain. Hurt.

After the fires in March and now this snow, our little part of Western Kansas has been hit hard. I’ve heard stories of more cattle loss, wheat crop loss, housing and building loss. There’s just nothing we can do to prevent these, and the pain I’m seeing and feeling is innumerable.

It’s times like this where I really do have to remind myself that God is good, all the time. Even when it doesn’t seem like it. Even when it doesn’t feel like it.

God is good, all the time.

“Back to Saul” Acts 9:19b-31 #DevotionDandy

Read Acts 9:19b-31

 

I’m a Beachbody coach on the side. It’s not anything new, but one of the tenants they teach is to be a product of the product. I can’t help but think about that in Saul’s case. He wasn’t a believer, and he finally gave in, and then he can’t get enough of it. At first people didn’t believe he had changed, that he’d made these life changes and were going to stick them.

 

He was doubted in his sincerity. But he kept at it, he kept talking about how Jesus was the Messiah, and people came to believe and follow because of him. They understood his life had truly changed. Then he was pushed out of the city and had to start all over again.

 

Saul did the exact same thing in Jerusalem, in Tarsus, in every place he went. He was committed fully to what he believed, he practiced his faith, he talked about his faith, he was a product of the one true God, the one true Jesus, the one and the only. And that showed people how serious he was. It showed them how much he had changed.

 

It wasn’t long until Saul became Paul and he had quite a following, and the fact is, he’s still one of the best teachers and coaches out there. There are lot of his letters in the Bible, am I right? So Saul was doing something right. He was being a product of his faith and he was sharing the gospel in every way he could. He did not give up. He did not slide back into his life before he’d changed it, and he kept pushing forth even through the set backs.

 

That cane be hard for us to stomach sometimes, hard for us to keep pushing through. I should know. I haven’t blogged in weeks, and it’s harder to get back into it after stopping. I haven’t worked out in over a month, and I know it’s going to be hard to start up again, but I also can’t wait.

 

I know the different these things make in my life. I know the different the Messiah makes. So why wouldn’t I work to keep that difference? Why wouldn’t I want to be a product of my faith and share all that’s changed for the better with me with someone else? Isn’t that what it’s all about anyway?

Dependency and Trust #MadnessManaged

I found out on Good Friday that I would be having surgery on Easter Monday. It was quite a shock. Not a major surgery, but there was risk to it. Either way, I had to make plans quick. I was lucky to have the weekend to even begin to make those plans.

 

One thing I’ve known throughout being in a church is that it’s important to have people to rely on, even as the minister. As a minister, those people are sometimes different than if you’re a congregant. I rely heavily on my elders, and last week while I was out the ENTIRE WEEK going INSANE because I wasn’t allowed to work, I knew I could rely on my elders to get the job done.

 

I found pulpit supply quickly, but I also knew if I couldn’t, one of my elders could preach and they would knock it out of the park. I knew that the visitations I had planned on doing would get done or they’d be able to be pushed back a week. I knew that if there were any emergencies that came up, like a funeral or someone going into the hospital (which did happen) that I wouldn’t be bothered or concerned.

 

This is trust. It’s also dependency. For one week, I was completely dependent on other people—not something I’m good at or like doing. But it humbled me. I couldn’t do my own laundry, I wasn’t allowed to lift anything heavier than my son and it’s a good thing he’s a chunk. I was ordered to basically sit on my couch and watch television or crochet (which I did a ton of).

 

But I was dependent. And I had to learn to fully trust that other people were going to be doing the work of the church that I couldn’t be doing when I desperately wanted to be doing just that.

 

It’s humbling. It’s amazing to watch how people can grow in just one week. It’s beautiful to see the inner workings of the church and to know that maybe I can disappear for a week or two on vacation and the whole world won’t fall apart (now if I can only convince them of that)!

Joshua 4:19-24 “Legacy” #SermonizingSunday #Sermon #HandMeDowns #SermonSeries

 

I didn’t know my Grandma Shirley. She died well before I was born, and my grandfather remarried a year later to the woman whom I call Grandma. But I heard a lot about Grandma Shirley growing up. She was after all my father’s biological mother and she raised him from birth until her death in the mid-seventies. All her children were grown.

 

 

She made an impact on their lives.

 

 

They never understood why I didn’t feel quite the connection to Grandma Shirley as they did, so they talked about her often, as if she was still around and still alive. Weird at first, I got used to it after awhile, and after I made it clear that my Grandma was not Grandma Shirley.

 

 

This impact that Grandma Shirley left on her children is lasting. They still talk about her today, forty or so years after her death. They tell stories, they talk about her, they share about her. While yes, you expect this with any child who has lost a parent, the way my aunts and uncle carry on about their mom is a bit different.

 

 

They don’t want to lose her essence. They don’t want to lose the legacy that she left them. It’s important to them. It’s what gives them meaning and purpose, and how they function and see the world. Not as children who lost a mother too early to cancer, but as children who grew up with this strong woman who loved them, who knew and was a part of high society in Boston, and who taught them how to act in this world.

 

 

 

 

I didn’t get those lessons. Like I said before, Grandma Shirley died well before I was born, and my grandfather wasn’t want to talk about her at all. She wasn’t the love of his life, even though they were married for so long. Shirley wasn’t a woman who loved him with her whole heart. But even though I didn’t know her, she still left a legacy in me.

 

 

This is her purse. Her church purse, to be exact. My grandma gave it to me when I was in eighth grade. For various reasons, she was worried I would never have anything of my Grandma Shirley to remember her by or to know her by, she was worried my dad’s sisters and brother wouldn’t think to give me anything, so she gave it to me before she died.

 

 

I was amazed when I received the gift. I opened it up, and my Grandma took me through each item in it. I should probably have mentioned that my Grandma and Grandma Shirley were best friends before Grandma Shirley died, so my Grandma knew my Grandma Shirley very well. They’d gone to church together. They’d spent time together, listened to each other, learned about each other.

 

 

This purse contains everything I have from my Grandma Shirley except her genetics. I don’t have any pictures of her. I don’t have anything else that was once hers. It has her gloves that she’d wear each Sunday—back in those days it was considered proper for women to wear gloves and cover their heads while in church. It has a little coin pouch for tithing and offerings. It has a tiny hymnal, which I can barely read the songs in there and I have no clue how she managed to do it. It has a New Testament, worn and worked as she would have opened it and read it many times throughout the service.

 

 

This is what I know of my Grandma Shirley. This is how I am connected to her. When I asked “What do these mean?” I was given the answer, the answer of generations past…this means she had faith, strong faith, faith that led her through life and taught her how to go about her day. This means my Grandma Shirley was a follower of God, going where God told her to and doing what was commanded of her.

 

This is her legacy.

 

 

We each have a legacy. Whether you think about it or not, our legacy is important. It’s not just what we leave with our children, or an inheritance, or our good looks. Our legacy is our faith. It’s the beliefs we hold true to our hearts, our deep connection with our Creator, the moments when we know God will part the waters and let us walk through the storm unscathed.

 

 

In this passage, Joshua was teaching his people the meaning of leaving a legacy. The meaning of leaving behind something for remembrance, something that would help tell the story of all God had done. Twelve stones. Joshua set them up in a place he knew his people would return to and be around, a place he knew these stones would be gazed upon and seen daily.

 

 

Our faith needs to be like that. Our children, grandchildren, our neighbors, and friends should know what we’re leaving behind, that we’re a God-fearing, God-loving people, a people who welcomes those who are hurting and suffering, who lifts up in prayer all those who are in need, who teaches the strength of faith that generations before us have had.

 

 

This church has people like that. You know the stories. I’ve heard them. I will continue to hear them as I talk to each and every one of you. These are our faith stories, our legacy, the impact that this church is leaving behind in this community. But we can’t stop now. We can’t stop making an impact, we can’t stop leaving our legacy.

 

 

 

 

 

When that stops, the faith dies, the church dies. The impact we’ve made in the past becomes less and less important until something else takes over for it. My family has not stopped telling me stories about my Grandma Shirley. They don’t stop telling my cousins, either. She died in the mid-seventies, but we know who she was. None of us met her, but we know what kind of woman she was and how she raised her children. My aunts and uncle did not stop her legacy from growing. They encouraged it, they nurtured it, they continued to teach what Grandma Shirley had taught.

 

 

My Grandma, who was not a familial relation by blood, continued to share Grandma Shirley’s legacy. She carried on the stories as an adopted member of the Smith family. Our calling is the same. Each and every one of us is adopted into God’s family. We are all members, and we all carry the weight of leaving the legacy of God’s impact in our lives, of our faith in those around us, those in this church and those in the community.

 

 

This is our legacy.

 

Amen.

Acts 10:34-43 “The Why” #SermonizingSunday #Sermon #EasterSunday #Easter

I’ve got a juicy little bit of gospel for you. It’s the best piece of gossip, the best piece of news that you have ever heard. He is Risen! Hallelujah, our Christ is risen from the dead! Oh happy day!

 

 

That’s exactly why we are here. We have been given this piece of information, this piece of gossip, this piece of Good News and we have come to believe that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior, that he is the one who forgives us our wrongs, that he lived, died, and rose again. And today, this very special day, we celebrate his resurrection, his coming back from the dead, his life as it’s carried on in a new way.

 

 

This is the why. We know what happened in Judea. We know what happened in Galilee and through all of the Middle East. We know these stories. I hear over and over again about how sad it is that this world doesn’t believe anymore, that Christianity is a dying religion, that young people don’t believe. I hear it. You hear it. Some of you may say it and believe it too. Some of you may believe that God isn’t in our schools or our courthouses, that God has been banished from this country even.

 

 

But God hasn’t. God is very much alive in us today. The spirit resides in us through our belief, through our baptism, through our sharing and preaching of the Good News of peace throughout the land. We do NOT have the power to make God disappear, to banish the amazing presence of our creator from four walls that make up a building or the air that makes up a state or a country.

 

No one has that power.

 

 

But we do have the power to forget. We do have the power to not share, to not understand WHY it is we are here. We are here because we believe. We are here because someone shared the Good News of peace with us, someone told us the stories of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, someone showed us how to commune with our dead savior.

 

 

Our neighbors, our friends, our family are not here because we haven’t shared with them this story. We haven’t shared our juicy bit of gossip with them. Instead, we focus on those other things in life, the things we let affect us when we shouldn’t, the things that distract us from what a wonderful and beautiful day this is.

 

 

I know all about distractions. Trust me when I say I think everyone in this room knows and understands distractions. But our goal, our purpose needs to exactly what Peter is telling us in this passage. We know all about who Jesus is, what he can do for us, and what he does do for us. We know his history, his life, from beginning to end and after.

 

 

There’s wonder in that story. There’s beauty it in. There’s surprise and intrigue. It’s seriously the best story I’ve ever read, and one that I can and will and do read over and over again. It’s a book that I can’t put down, one that I’m addicted to. And you know what? The story continues. It goes on after the words on the pages end. It goes on through the stories we tell each other, just like Peter is doing in this passage.

 

 

He’s sharing with others the power of his why. The reasons why he is who he is. The why of how he got his start and how he knows he’ll get his end. We know all about “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. [How] he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day [TODAY!] and made him to appear.”

 

 

We are witnesses of ALL that Jesus did. We are the ones who can talk about what happened. We’re the ones who can tell the story because we saw it happen. We saw the power of the Holy Spirit at work. This is why there are stories of real live people in this decade in my sermons. These are situations, these are moments, where I witness the power of the Holy Spirit, the work of Jesus in our lives. These are the times when I can share with you what I have witnessed.

 

 

You have these stories too. You know what they are. You see them. You experience them. This is what we are witness to. We’ve seen and experienced Jesus’ story first hand, how he changed his life, our lives, the lives of those around us in worship today, and the lives of his disciples. Do you think Peter was always Peter? No!

 

 

He wasn’t. He probably never expected his life to change as it did. He never saw it coming. But Jesus came to him, shared with him the stories he knew, the Good News of peace that he had witness in the world two thousand years ago, and that’s how Peter came to follow Jesus. That’s how Jesus taught Peter to be a disciple, to teach others, to share the Good News of peace.

 

This is a moment when gossip is good, when we do need to be sharing and telling what we’re hearing. We have “been chosen by God as witnesses, [as those] who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” That’s the wonder of our communion practice, of sharing together in the bread and the body. Not only are we connecting ourselves to everyone today who is partaking in the meal, but all those who have come and gone before us, including Jesus himself. We’re all sharing in the meal.

 

 

And with each new believer, with each new follower, the table gets one seat bigger, our family grows, and the Good News of peace spreads even further. It’s true. We know that! We are to share the Good News, this juicy piece of gossip that he is risen! Hallelujah, Jesus Christ is risen today! He is alive. Our God’s not dead. He lives, he lives, Christ Jesus lives today.

 

Amen.

Matthew 21:1-11 “The Who” #SermonizingSunday #PalmSunday #Sermon

This passage of scripture is all about who Jesus is, who he was from the time he was born until after his death. This was the recognition of the power and prestige he held before his people. This was a moment when the disciples who followed him would see that recognition in others who hadn’t even met him yet.

 

 

It’s really very simple, actually. Go to the city, do as Jesus says, and then come back and do as Jesus says. But it’s also incredibly complicated. Jesus trusted that the people the disciples met would listen to their hearts and the spirit calling out to them, that they would help him fulfill the prophecy.

 

 

Prophecy back then wasn’t like it is now. Back then, it meant something for someone to be a part of the prophecy, a part of fulfilling a prophecy. The word prophecy has seemed to lost meaning over the years and has become something only for fantasy and sci fi novels.

 

 

But the prophecy was fulfilled through Jesus, through the disciples listening to him, through the townspeople who heard the words “The Lord needs them” and knew exactly what to do. Jesus wasn’t just some person coming to do. He was the master, the savior, the chosen one, the Messiah, the Christ, the one who was and is and is yet to be.

 

 

Jesus was there to fulfill the prophecy. “Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” He was the one. The person. He was the who.

 

 

And he still is. All these years later, Jesus is the who behind this week, this celebration, this time of the year. He is the reason for the season, in other words. Who Jesus was and is and is yet to be became something beyond what those disciples back then could ever imagine. Who Jesus was become who Jesus is to us today and who Jesus will be to those generations that come after us.

 

 

The who. The one. The reason we are all alive today, who he was is what gave us purpose and meaning in our lives. Yes, there’s the why too. We’ll get to that next week. But the who, the one who would change and transform everything—that goes beyond anything right now.

 

 

Who is Jesus to you? Is he just your savoir? He is your best friend? Is he the one you can confide in day and night? Who is Jesus? Who is this man? Who is this one who calls himself “Lord” who says he needs a donkey and a colt?

 

 

That’s what’s key here. Jesus wasn’t just some random person. For certain the people in those days were looking for the signs that the Messiah was coming, that he was there walking among them. Surely, they knew what to look for and even if they didn’t spend every moment of their day with their nose to the ground in search of they savoir, they knew what it looked like when it happened upon them.

 

 

Here we are in the exact same boat. Jesus is coming. The Lord is asking for things because the Lord needs them. He is humble, he is mounted on a donkey and a colt, and he is coming this way to see us. We are to lay down our cloaks and create a path for him, a royal walkway to show him our love and our dedication to the calling he has given us.

 

 

Who Jesus is what gives us the goal and meaning behind what we do. We wouldn’t do it if it weren’t for Jesus, in other words. We wouldn’t be the people we are today, or working out our calling in these ways without him. But that means we have to know who he is. We have to be able to succinctly say, this is who Jesus is to me. This is who my Lord and Savoir is and what those two words mean.

 

 

So who is Jesus for you? Have you thought about it that way? This is part of the why. This is part of our who reason for being here, for believing, yet many of us can’t put into succinct words who Jesus is. We can’t explain it to someone who doesn’t do church-speak, who hasn’t grown up in the same environment that we have.

 

 

To me Jesus is my Savoir, that means he forgives me, he wipes away all the wrongs I have done, all the things I’ve failed at, all the times I’ve come up short. For me, Jesus is my strength. He is the one who stands behind me and gives me that little extra push. He is the one who gives me courage, power, confidence. All those things that help me get through the day to day of life.

 

 

Jesus is the one who I know I can fall back on. When the world is in utter chaos and spinning in circles, I know he’s going to be the one standing in the middle of it all, ready to take charge and take me under his wing. I know he will always love me, no matter what.

 

Jesus is who I want with me every day. He is who I know will never fail me, the only one. Jesus is who I want to be like when I grow up, and yes, I’m still growing up. We all are.

 

 

Who is Jesus for you? Who is he? He’s fulfilled the prophecy already. He is who the scriptures have told us who he is, but who is he to you on a more personal level? He’s humble, he’s coming, the Lord needs us and what we can do for him.

 

 

Next week, as we remember how he lived, as we remember how he died, was crucified, was buried and how he rose again we’ll shout his name to the heavens and to all those who can hear us. “Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

 

 

Jesus is here. He is coming. The Lord rides in on a donkey, on a colt, paved by a way of cloaks and palm branches. Hosanna in the highest heaven, for Jesus is come and we know exactly who he is.

 

Amen.