Weekly Devotional July 10, 2019

Sunday, I’ll be sharing five things I’ve learned in the last 30 years of being a pastor. There’s way more than five things, however. So, let me share a sixth thing I’ve learned. Every church I’ve served has had quiet, silent, humble servants who bless their churches in more ways than most people notice–unless suddenly that person isn’t there. They prune bushes and trees. They replace batteries and light bulbs. They keep watch for those who need hearing assistance devices and make sure those devices are ready. They notice the recoil rope on the push mower is about to break and set to work making the repair. They chop ice away from the door, spray weeds in the parking lot, recycle the paper, and tend the flowers. They notice that person standing alone and quietly go to check on him or her. They send cards. They lift prayers. The list things they care for is long and important. But, in the Spirit of Micah 6:8 they walk humbly with God not seeking to draw attention to themselves. Sometimes they’re long-term members. Sometimes they’re are rather new to the congregation. I am humbled and grateful every time I glimpse one of them in action–or simply notice where they’ve been by the things that mysteriously get done. They remind me how much we need each other to be the church. Add in those who are willing–who just need to be asked or have a sign up sheet put out, and I’ve learned to appreciate the strong human desire to serve and make a difference. It’s real and it’s beautiful–and it has made me more humble and appreciative.

I invite you on the 14th to bring a thought to worship. I invite you to be thinking of one or two transformative things God has taught you about life over the years. You’ll have a chance to write down a sentence or two that will be be shared on future worship slides by completing the following sentence “Over the Years God has changed/blessed my life by teaching me….”

Blessings,

Roger

Weekly Devotional July 3, 2019

The last days have been filled with pictures and information that has been hard to take in. Yes, immigration issues are difficult issues. However, it’s not like, “First… we have to solve all those issues before we can show basic kindness to children.” We can be kind and caring even while larger issues go unsolved. Last week in the midst of the first breaking news of the plight of children “government holding centers,” the United Methodist Committee on Relief shared information I needed to hear. Although UMCOR is not able to bring hygiene kits into government holding centers, UMCOR has provided 46,128 hygiene kits in the past three months to individuals in church-run “transitional shelters” along the border. There are signs of humanity, care and hope amidst what has become a desperate situation. Churches and UMCOR has stepped in where they can to provide for the most basic of needs. I needed to hear that encouraging word last week. I am guessing some of you may find it encouraging as well.

Psalm 82:3-4 says, “Give justice to the weak and the orphan, maintain the rights of the lowly and destitute. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hands of evil.”

I was encouraged to see I was part of a group called United Methodists who are making a difference. I also was encouraged to see a politician who noted at one center that all the teen-aged girls were being watched over only by men, none who could speak Spanish. Not a single woman was a guard in that unit. Another unhealthy situation (that would not pass any church’s ‘Safe-Sanctuary’ guidelines) that makes me extremely concerned. I was encouraged to see someone determined to change that particular situation. And, I pray for those efforts. Caring for suffering children is a clear call to all who follow the Christ who said, “Let the children come to me.”

Sunday we shared a prayer–a prayer sent out mid-week from UMCOR for all UM Churches in the nation to share. I share it with you. Prayer has power. So I invite you to use this prayer as a way of expressing hope for all God’s children.

A Prayer for Suffering Children

God of all children everywhere,
Our hearts are bruised when we see children suffering.
Our hearts are torn when we are unable to help.

For all the times we were too busy and shooed a curious child away, forgive us, oh God.
For all the times we failed to get down on their level and look eye to eye with a child, forgive us, oh God.
For all the times we did not share when we saw a hungry child somewhere in the world, forgive us, oh God.
For all the times we thought that caring for the children of this world was someone else’s responsibility,
forgive us, oh God.

With Your grace, heal our hearts.
With Your grace, unite us in action.
With Your grace, repair our government.
With Your grace, help us to find a way to care for all children everywhere.

We pray they will know Jesus loves them–
not just because “the Bible tells them so,”
But because they have known Your love through caring followers of Christ.
Help us to show that nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate them
from Your love in Christ Jesus our Lord
Amen.

Blessings and Strength,

Roger

 

Weekly Devotional June 28, 2019

Occasionally I’ll be ready to check out an item at a store and the store’s phone will ring.  It’s most common at an auto parts store.  What follows is a conversation that I only overhear half of.  In an auto parts store the phone conversation may lead to the check out person going on the computer to search for a particular part.  It may take a few moments.  The store either has the part or not.  The price is either right or not.  Finally, perhaps five or ten minutes later the mystery person on the other end of the phone either makes plans to come in for a part or not.  Suffice it to say, sometimes I find myself frustrated while I stand waiting to check out my item–a real live person, who will make a real purchase.

     Jesus seems to have similar moments in the Bible.  Luke 9:50 and following describes Jesus asking people to follow him into Jerusalem.  One person says, “Yes, but first let me bury my father.”  Another person says, “Yes, but first let me go and say good-bye to my household.”  Jesus was there in the flesh.  But, the people he was inviting kept tending to other calls.  It wasn’t like the other calls were not important.  Of course there are lots of important things in our lives.  Yet, any of us who seek to follow Jesus into a life-change, or try to ramp up our devotional lives, or plan to take some type next step on the spiritual journey, we all know one of the first challenges in tending to the spiritual side of life, is being able to make time with all the pressing, practical demands upon our lives.
     Saying “no” to say “yes,” saying “yes” and then overcoming life’s interruptions is seldom easy.  Prioritizing things like worship, service, forgiving or loving isn’t easy when the rains are frequent, the grass is long, and all the neighbors have already finished their mowing.  But, if you’ve ever lost something, searched and searched, then when you’ve about given up, stopped to pray, only to find you suddenly knew exactly where to find what was lost, you know life works better when staying connected to God is our first priority.
     If you’ve many things to care for today, I invite you to intentionally make a few moments to be near Jesus.  If you know someone who is feeling overwhelmed, I invite you to say a prayer.  Then find a way to be a gentle interruption (a momentary God-send) in the midst of that person’s endless stuff.  Life is better when we find ways to see, and be present to, the God who is right in front of us first–before tending to the rest of life.
     Praying God’s Peaceful Presence for You,
     Pastor Roger

Weekly Devotional June 21, 2019

     I had a dream while I was at the Annual Conference of Minnesota Methodists.  It seems well to pay attention to dreams when the day before has been steeped in prayer and Scripture–and when the Sunday Bible reading is rambling about deep in the brain as well.  It was a simple dream–but a bit frightening.  We had a busload of Grace Kids going somewhere and a couple of us needed a bathroom stop.  But, the place we stopped could best be described as huge business that was a combination antiques and pawn shop.  There seemed to be a little of everything inside.  Books, drum sets, violins, guitars, dolls, computers, art supplies, fishing gear.  Everything, and all really nice stuff.  The owner saw the busload of kids outside, and a couple of the kids and adults who just stepped in the door.  I immediately knew this was probably not the place to make a bathroom stop when the owner said, “This store has been my life and it is time.  Invite all the kids to come in.  Each child can pick any one thing that speaks to his or her soul and keep it.  No cost.”  My jaw dropped.  The owner smiled.
 
     Isaiah 55:1 says, “All who are thirst, come to the water!  Whoever has no money, come buy food and eat.”  This week’s Scripture says, “Now you belong to Christ, you are now descendants of Abraham and Sarah, heirs of God’s promise” (Galatians 3:29b).  As I watched all the kids search for that something that spoke to their souls, I awoke.  I knew I had glimpsed heaven–and God’s hope for the church on earth.   The shop-owner was Jesus–who meets people where they are, discovers what they most need and shares freely. The shop-owner was showing the church it’s mission.  We are meant to help people find that which speaks to their souls–to share what we have found and treasured in ways that bring life, hope and celebration.
 
     Sharing one thing with another–one gift, one kindness, one moment of care, one reminder that someone is a child of God–is our purpose.  When has someone reminded you that God has adopted you?  How might you show another he or she is adopted and ever-loved by a good and gracious God?
 
     Blessings,  Roger