Pr. Laura Blog

One Word

Paris. Syria. ISIS. Ferguson. Sandyhook. 9/11. Dachau.

It only takes one word to conjure up the darkest moments of our history, both present and past. With one word, we see blood and terror, hate and destruction, evil on the loose, and our seeming powerlessness against it. One word can be overwhelming, leaving us to shake our heads as we acknowledge the anguish, and then to walk away, our hands hanging limply at our sides, feeling useless.

One word.

God looked into the darkness and chaos of the universe before there was time and spoke a word: Light! God looked into the darkness and chaos of our world and our hearts and spoke a Word: Emmanuel! It only took one Word to banish the eternal power of the darkness; it only takes one Word to dispel the hopelessness and inevitability of this world’s destructive powers. One Word. God’s Word. God’s Word made flesh and dwelling among us.

And by faith we know that God’s Word will be the last Word.

 

Come, Lord Jesus.

Under Construction

No matter which way I leave my house, I find road construction.

It is everywhere in Duluth! And if by chance I find a road that is not being worked on, chances are there is a new structure being built, with large vehicles coming and going. Whether I am going to work, to shop, to bring a child to or from an activity, to go to the library – you name it: my normal routes from point A to point B are disrupted. And everything takes longer.

It can make a person downright cranky sometimes.

Yet, for the most part, I am grateful for the investment in our infrastructure. Usually I am able to take the longer view and realize that, in the long run, a bit of inconvenience and frustration now will pay off big. In the meantime, I am forced out of my auto-pilot mode as I travel new streets and try ingenious ways to bypass the detours (which usually take far more time than just getting in line with the other cars, but sometimes yield wonderful results). I see new things, learn new areas, just see the world from a slightly different angle.

Then I get another bonus later on in the fall when it is all over: I can return to my former routes with renewed appreciation for their convenience, and get to drive on smooth pavement to boot!  It is a wonderful feeling that will last and last and last….until the orange signs and cones go up again.

Do you ever feel like your faith life is under major construction? That no matter which way you turn in your life, there are either major potholes to be fixed, or the tearing up of the old road is already underway?  It’s as though the infrastructure of your devotional life is crumbling and it all needs to be fixed at once. You are forced to think in new ways, cope in new ways, and forge new paths. In the midst of all of this, how often do you think, “I just want to go back to my old routes!”?

But we can never stay in one faith routine. Why, you ask? Because in our baptism, God claimed us for the kingdom and will not stop the work of re-creating us, not ever! And while in the long run, that is a comforting and blessed thought, it also means that we are going to be shaken out of our old ways once in awhile. It may be rough going during those times of growth and change – there might be orange signs and major detours and times when we are forced to grind to a halt, stuck in a long line of traffic, unable to go forward or backward.  It can feel as though nothing will be right ever again.

But in the long view, we know that God is loving us and guiding us on our way to a new level of faith, a new understanding of who we are as disciples of Jesus, a new creation in Christ. And when we do get over the rough patch, and can return to a more comfortable serene routine, we can appreciate the smoothness of the path and the ease with which we navigate the twists and runs along the way. It is a great blessing that we can revel in….

…until God spots another pothole in our sinful souls, and puts up the orange signs and cones, making us new once again.

Sabbath

Sabbath – It means the Lord’s Day, the Day of Rest, right? Right!  It is a Hebrew word, meaning “to stop or cease” usually from labor or work. The Lord God rested from his work on the seventh day of creation in Genesis 2:2, and then in Exodus 20, commanded us to do the same.

For us in the 21st century, the cultural habit of Sabbath is largely gone, or is at least relegated to “when it works for us” or to “never get around to it”. It used to be easier to rest for a day because there wasn’t as much to do – everything was closed, all the games and practices and classes and events just didn’t happen on Sunday. Now we have to work hard to make Sabbath happen, which is more than a little ironic.

How do you find Sabbath in your life? I imagine there are big Sabbaths and little Sabbaths, some connected to your faith walk and some not. I just returned from a big Sabbath experience with my family on the east coast of the US and points between here and there. It reminded me that Sabbath – resting or ceasing work – comes in all kinds of ways.

Of course there was the Sabbath of simply being on vacation from my workplace (though as a pastor one’s work is always in one’s heart). And there was the Sabbath of walking beautiful historic streets in Boston, Princeton and Old Quebec; and that of listening to the waves lapping on the shores of the Maine and New Brunswick. But there was also the Sabbath of relationship renewal, as I spent days with my husband and daughters, just being together and not taking off in a bunch of different directions. We experienced the same things and could share our reactions on the spot. I saw my girls’ relationship with one another deepen, delighting in their interaction with each other.

It is good to rest, regroup, refresh and then return to the tasks of life. If we do, we are better ready, better prepared and more likely to feel grateful for the joys of life as we know them, more ready to take on the bumps and bruises along the way with better resilience. And if we take some time – say an hour or two once a week – to return to the source of all life and the Creator of Sabbath, well, then, we can remained far more grounded in what matters in life and not get so carried away with the weird stuff our culture likes to fool us with.

Sabbath is a blessing, a gift from God. Do you know someone who has lost sight of this gift? Are there folks you know who have forgotten that they are beloved children of a Creator, who walks with them and will help them to shoulder all that they try to carry? Or maybe just someone who works too much? Invite them to come and share Sabbath with us – here at church on Sunday, here at an event or a meal or a time of study or fellowship. Help them discover what you know – that Sabbath is important and there are many ways to experience it… and one of the best ways is among those who make up the Body of Christ.

~ Pr. Laura

From Pastor Laura

It seems like I have had more than the usual amount of “good-byes” lately.

Some were expected, and some weren’t. Some marked the close of a chapter, others the separation from someone dear. Some of them are all mixed up together.

Overall, I don’t like it. It hurts.

A good-bye means separation, an ending of some sort. What remains is a hole and often that holes aches for what used to be there, whether it be the person you could share your secrets with or the ability to mount a flight of stairs without thinking about it or familiar surroundings that are no longer yours. It doesn’t matter much whether the ending is ushering in what is next and is even better, or is thrust upon us against our will – there is still loss and a need to get used to a new normal.

At the same time, I am reminded that the word “good-bye” is actually a smished up version of “God be with you” dating back to the late 1500’s (which explains why it ends the way it does, because back then they used the word “ye” instead of the word “you”). And while knowing that doesn’t render the separation painless, it does make it feel a little less final:  because if I know God is present with what or who I no longer see, I know we remain connected through the God who watches over all that God has made, including us.

The march of time stops for no one. As we travel through our lives, many chapters and people will come and go. To some of these we may say “Good riddance!” But to the rest we can say “Good-bye” – that is, “God be with you,” and know we are held in God’s loving arms – together.

I pray, if you have good-byes in your life, that they may be gentle. And in the midst of them, remember that God is with you!