Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Unexpected Ressurection

Abby has been known to come up with a random memory from her short life. She will try to communicate what she remembers to us in her 4-year-old language, and gets frustrated if we don’t remember. It’s challenging for Mindy and I to figure out what she is referring to. Believe it or not, Abby can remember things from a year ago! I know, odd for a 4-year-old, but it is true. She remembers trips we took last summer and friends we saw. Thankfully, most of her memories are current and happened weeks ago, as opposed to months and months ago.

It is fun to see how God gives similar characteristics to your kids that He also gave to us. Our family lines have unique characteristics that God allows to keep going even though He creates us uniquely. There have been several friends shocked at my memory recall. Like Abby, I have images of the life stories I have experienced. Summer certainly is a time of many memories. I remember long hours at the pool, vacations, and enjoying great times in Florida when my grandparents moved there. I will never forget catching crabs in the ocean with my grandpa or building sand castles. I remember seeing him study God’s Word and then seeing how it was displayed in his actions. I never knew at the time what every memory was capturing, but Grandpa was teaching me the art of being a pastor and a family man.

Every story of Jesus displays just how deep the Father’s love is for us. If you were asked what resurrection stories you remember from Scripture, there are two that would probably be at the top of your list. Jesus’ resurrection, which was the completion of what Jesus needed to do to restore our relationship with the Father, and the resurrection of Lazarus, Jesus’ good friend and brother of Mary and Martha. Both are stories of love. We probably wouldn’t remember the story in this week’s lesson in Luke 7—a widow in bitter sadness at the death of her only son. Yet, this story is significant for us because it shows the expansive way Jesus provides and cares for His people—another story of love.  Jesus had such compassion on this grieving widow that He gave her son life again.  The people who witnessed it were amazed and said a prophet was among them. If Jesus can bring dead people back to life, what can’t He do? This kind of question combats any human struggle we have; struggles and life situations that we make excuses for and can never seem to get away from. Logging a story like this in our memories helps as we go through even the most significant struggles in life that leave us bitter and sad. Jesus’ compassion for the life of one person is amazing! Likewise, the impact of those around Him recognizing the prophecy is fulfilled in His coming is huge! These are great connections we have to this story, and something powerful to add to our memory.

Changing the Result

We are a results-driven culture; that is for sure. It doesn’t take long to see how many commercials are showing products that produce results. We know all too well that our jobs demand results. We can even see it in our expectations for our kids. We want to see results, whether results in faith or results in their careers. Our ears perk up as we hear someone sharing results. God certainly built us to use the gifts we have to bless others, and in turn, it creates results. I have to admit that even in the pastoral ministry, I am looking at churches that have results. Results can sometimes produce ego and can get us off track, so how do we drive for results but stay humble and patient?

When I began in ministry, I was handed the Sunday night service. There were less than 50 people who attended this service. Now, you may think the problem is having a Sunday night service in the first place, but not so in California. Almost every church has as a Sunday night service. Looking at our church size and the fact that over 200 people attended every other service, 50 people for Sunday night was really low. To help with this task, I was given a youth intern who was amazingly gifted with music and working with kids. He already had a band going, we just needed to implement them into the Sunday night service. We called it “The Awakening,” and that is exactly what happened to this dead service. It awakened! I learned a lot during those times. I watched God come into a place we had already presumed dead, and fill it with life again. I was naïve, which translated into my faith to believe that God could do anything anywhere.

Maybe I was not so naïve after all; maybe it was an important lesson I would need in life and future ministry. There were many times in ministry I tried to figure out why well-planned and executed events fell flat on their face. I can’t tell you how many well-crafted super bowl parties I put together where I felt deflated at the end. I wondered where my performance could have been better and examined my expectations of the results. Now I have learned to keep planning and preparing, but to balance my expectations. Most importantly, I’ve learned to trust this simple lesson—God can show up at any place, at any time, and awaken us.

This week’s lesson is exactly that. A results-driven centurion believes God can show up at any time and heal, bless, or change the results. This centurion lives commanding men to do tasks, and when they fail, he takes the hit. So much is expected of him. Results drive the culture he lives in too. In our reading, this man came to Jesus knowing he could change the results of anything. He faithfully trusted that Jesus was his God who could handle any challenge and problem.

Last weekend we laid a new vision for Mt. Calvary. Yes, the church has been here before.  But I am not going to speak about the past, rather I am concerned with the future. I am concerned with us preparing and praying for God to show up at anytime, in any place. I am praying God would make this church known for its extraordinary servanthood. I am praying the community would see this extraordinary servanthood. I am not worried about the mistakes or failures of the past.  That’s why we confess and receive absolution every week. I want to pray for Jesus to guide us to servanthood in new areas. Will you pray for Mt. Calvary? Will you pray that Jesus stirs our hearts to serve? Will you pray that we are prepared for the people He sends us? The centurion was focused on his communication with Jesus knowing God will listen. I pray you communicate with your Savior and are prepared to see Him show up!

On The Move!

This is a big weekend for Mt. Calvary. We are excited to share the new vision for our church at the On The Move celebration, as well as some new thoughts on what can come from it. It will give us more focus on ways to grow and serve. With this event we hope to raise the bar, and make it a great event that you will enjoy.

You may not know this, but I am a business minor. Yet, some of the business language can still confuse me. I’m sure some of you have the same question I had when the Strategic Planning Committee began this this process over a year ago.  How is a vision different than a mission?  I knew I wanted to make sure I could communicate this in a way that people would understand. I also knew that the Discipleship Model (Worship 1, Read 1, Love 1, Pray 1) was a key part of walking on our faith journey. But how does a vision help to guide the church and the faith process? Well…the vision lays out what our church and community would look like if we got everything we wanted. Our new vision is Transformed People, Transformed Community. If every person was transformed in our church, then we could transform the community! The vision is bigger than we could probably ever reach, but this allows us to keep driving toward the future. The mission stayed the same. It helps lay out or define what transformed people are, as the saving love of Christ makes them Extraordinary Servants. (This is a great time to point out we didn’t change everything. We kept what still works with who God made us to be at Mt. Calvary.)

At the dinner, we will also meet people with whom we can potentially partner. In fact, one of them is going to preach for us this weekend. Many of you know that there are not a lot of Lutheran churches in the mid-county area, but Vicar Chris Paavola has felt led by the Spirit to start one. He has a true passion to minister to the community in University City and is calling the church All Nations. You will get to hear his passion and love for the people this weekend. He also has some great ways we can serve with him and his church in partnership. People in Brentwood are passionate about their city, and this allows us to continue to minister to this area, as well as one close-by. You will also hear of other local partnerships, which will allow lots of opportunities to be extraordinary servants. All of this fits into the new vision, and hopefully it will clarify where we are going as a church and how we can serve.

When Jesus went out with the disciples, they blessed and served others. That continued at Pentecost when the disciples were sent out. And from Paul’s many letters, we know that he continued to bless and serve others in many cities. Now, we are looking at where God has placed us, and how we can use the gifts and talents of the people at Mt. Calvary to serve this area. I am excited for this weekend, and I pray you are also. Even if you can’t be here on Sunday, you will continue to hear about our exciting next steps to be extraordinary servants to our community.