Friday, January 27, 2012

Are our wallets wet?

“As Jesus was coming up out of the water,
he saw the heavens torn apart
 and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.”
-- Mark 1:10        

Friends of Atonement,
           I was pretty young when I was baptized, and can’t say I remember what happened.  I take it on faith that water was poured over my head that day, and that the pastor announced that I belonged to God “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  But then what?  I imagine more prayers were prayed, the service concluded, and everyone went to the fellowship hall for coffee and cookies. 
          There’s an old story about a fierce race of people called the Goths, that when they went down into the river to be baptized, they held their sword arms up out of the water.  They would give most of themselves to God, but didn’t want to give up the fighting and pillaging that was so near and dear to their hearts.  A little bit of God was ok, but they wanted to make sure they didn’t get fully converted.
          Though it’s “just a story,”  people really do resist giving their whole selves to God.  There are parts of us we try not to get “too wet” with the grace of God.  For some of us, it’s our wallets and pocketbooks we’re holding up out of the river of life.  After all, that’s “our” hard-earned money, and we’ve got big plans for it. 
           When Jesus was baptized, he went all the way under.  Fully soaked in the cool waters of the Jordan River, he was fully committed to God’s will for his life and fully saturated by God’s promise of limitless life and love.  The Spirit of God was with him 100% as he spent his life caring for others and spreading good news. 
             Somehow I doubt that any clouds parted or heavenly doves flew down from the sky the day I was baptized.  But I do believe that same Spirit was there, soaking my soul in grace and forgiveness.  And that same Spirit was calling me to follow, to accept the mission of Jesus to care for others and spread good news.  And I believe that God claimed all of me, even the hand that swipes credit cards and writes checks. 
             And so I ask for help and guidance from that Spirit as I strive to live like a converted Christian with a converted wallet and bank account.  I don’t want to be the guy whose checkbook looks the same as any non-believer’s.   I don’t want to come to the end of the month and find that I spent more on fast food than I gave to the work of the church.  I want my offerings to be just that – offerings of my self to my Lord – a thank you from the bottom of my heart for the life and breath he gives me each day.  After all, if God could tear the heavens open to give me a Savior, can’t I tear into my earnings and give a good chunk of it back to him?


Pastor Scott

Invitation to Lent

God knows the way that I take;
When he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.
My feet have closely followed his steps;
I have kept to his way without turning aside.
I have not departed from the commands of his lips;
I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.
Job 23: 10-12

Job’s story just doesn’t make sense.  He is a good man who insists he has done no wrong, and yet every conceivable bad thing has happened to him.  His property destroyed, family members killed, and finally cursed by a dreadful disease, he leaves town and camps out at the local dump where he goes to be alone in his misery.  When his friends come out to cheer him up, they just end up criticizing him and making his pain worse than before by insisting that God must have had a good reason to do what He did to Job.  Assuming that God is punishing Job, they sit and speculate what kind of awful things Job must have done to deserve it.
There are those people think of Lent as a time when we’re supposed to “take our punishment” and  dig down deep into our souls to dwell upon the sin that we know is in there.  But we will seek a more profound, positive and productive way to live the season.  Lent is an invitation — our launching pad into the renovated lifestyle of the “God Movement.”  We who have been called by Jesus to live his love deeply in the world are invited to discover new ways of being.  We who are awakened to the awareness of our sin are invited into the circle of confession, repentance, and forgiveness that characterizes the life of the Spirit.  We who are baptized and claimed for God’s kingdom are invited to share our stories and embrace those who are hurting.  Lent helps us do all that. In it’s call to live a life shaped and disciplined by the cross, God’s presence is revealed in pain and suffering and we learn how to love those with the deepest need God’s blessing in their lives.
At the 10am services this Lent, I will present INVITED TO LIFE — a series of messages about the ways God invites us to live our faith.  We will hear stories such as —
  • February 26    Fresh out of the ark, God invites Noah to live as God’s friend
  • March 4         Abraham and Peter are invited to widen the scope of their faith
  • March 11      Moses and the Israelites are invited to turn their beliefs into a lifestyle
  • March 18      Jesus invites the world to walk the path of healing and eternal life
  • March 25     The disciples invite visitors from a far country to come see the Lord

In addition to regular Sunday services and Ash Wednesday worship on February 22 followed by mid-week worship and soup suppers, Marcia Weil will lead a short Bible study each Sunday morning before the 10am service. 
Palm Sunday, which falls on April 1 this year, we will be turning April Fools day on its head.  We’re calling it APRIL FRIENDS DAY, making a special invitation to bring our friends and neighbors to worship at Atonement so that they may hear God’s personal invitation to  join the “God Movement.”  We want to do better than Job’s friends, who just sat around and put him down.  At the end of that story, God shows up and reveals his glory and majesty to Job and his friends.  We pray that our friends and neighbors can have that blessing of knowing God in their lives.  Let’s invite them all to experience the God who invites us all to life!

Pastor Scott