Friday, February 26, 2016

Coming Home

Dear Christa—
Coming Home
Shortly, Joy, Shane, and his mom will load up the cars, pick up the dog, and set their direction toward Colorado. After two years in the Northwest, they are coming home. In many ways, it seems to me, it has been a difficult time. They’ve moved 5 times. One house caught fire once and flooded twice, all within a few months’ time.
When they left, my mom was here, and she was downcast, feeling that she would never see them again. It wasn’t so. She came to Colorado the last 2 summers when they were visiting. Their leaving and coming were both quick opportunities, which shows that circumstances, good and bad, can change in a moment—when we least look for them. 
Many good things happened too, and I think they will look on their days in Seattle with many fond memories. Yet, there are good expectations about coming home: a new job, living near family and old friends, waking to sunny skies—
Since they will stay with us until they find a house, we’ve been preparing. The bedrooms are ready. A shiny new, sturdy gate is installed. By tomorrow the cleaning supplies under the sink will have found a new storage home. Even the geriatric Molly dog is going to the groomers for a bath.
I am reminded that life can change for us on a pivot—a mere bending of God’s design. It should cause us to take heart when we find ourselves under cloudy skies as tears of rain wash over and through us. In a twinkling—in a phone call or text, in the smile of a friend—a whole new (or somewhat old) door can open before us. And sometimes, it’s like coming home.
One day, 
too, the door will open to a spiritual entrance—into the very throne of God. There we will put aside the good and the bad of the past. We will walk to a place that has been especially prepared for us. 
We will turn around and take in all the wonder. 
And we will know—
We’re home.

—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Birth of John the Baptist

Dear Christa—
The Birth of John the Baptist
The story of Jesus begins with John the Baptist. In many ways Jesus’ early life is hidden until his famous first miracle of turning the water into wine—not so much with John the Baptist.
People knew John the Baptist—that he was unique and he was a prophet of God. From his very birth, people took note of John the Baptist.
The neighbors and friends assumed he’d be named after his father, when Elizabeth said, “No! He is to be called John.”
Imagine the mystery surrounding this child and his unusual birth:
His father was a priest.
Both parents were old when he was conceived.
His father was mute after serving in the temple.
They gave him an unusual name.
When Zechariah confirms the name, he suddenly can speak again.
And speak he does—prophesying God’s coming redemption and John’s role as a prophet, giving knowledge of forgiveness of sin.
The bewildered listeners may have taken heart and focused on the appearance of a political salvation, but Zechariah’s words meant so much more.
Salvation—salvation from sin. What greater mercy could ever be extended to humankind?
–-to be forgiven of sin
—to be redeemed from ourselves and our own selfish desires
—to become more like what we were originally designed to be, a reflection of God most high.
It’s hard to believe, but believe it. Act on it. Live it each day: We have been redeemed from sin.
And, somewhat like John, we prepare the way for others to have that knowledge of salvation.
John was bold—his message was captivating. Oh, to be like John of whom there was no doubt among followers of God and those who aren’t that he proclaimed and served a powerful God.
The very same God we serve today.
-the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Genesis: Afterthoughts

Dear Christa—
Genesis: Afterthoughts
Joseph’s life sums up the one of the great paradoxes and intriguing aspects of God’s creation: sovereignty and choice. If theologians were ever going to nail exactly how it works, they would have by now. It is a mystery that Joseph expresses to his brothers.
Joseph tells them:
Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.
This is a continued illustration that runs through all Genesis and all Scripture of man’s choice and God’s sovereignty. The bad that is done to us by others is a part of our sanctification, even when we don’t understand it. I learned this from a young wife I met at my niece’s wedding in Denver last summer who told me her story, and said: “This is a part of MY sanctification. God is weaving a story, and all story is marked with conflict.
“Joseph lived 110 years and saw the third generation of Ephraim’s children.” In this Joseph sees the fulfillment of God’s promise of his family becoming a nation. For Joseph there was some revelation and understanding, and Joseph died.
For 400 years the narrative lies silent. For 400 years the family—isolated—became a great nation.
Times changed. Pharaohs changed. Conditions changed. God seemed distant, but He was as real and active as on the day he called Abram out of Ur.
God is always active—each day, each moment—whether we see it or not. This is the lesson of Joseph. He believed in the activity of God—as should we.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Conclusion

Dear Christa—
From Genesis to Now: The Conclusion
Gen. 50
Every life must eventually come to an end. So, as with Abraham and Isaac, Jacob, too, came to the end of his days. In many ways his life had been just as he’d expressed to pharaoh—“few and difficult.” Some of those difficulties had been the result of his own hands and some had not. Joseph and his brothers did just as Jacob had requested, carrying his body to the cave near Mamre to be buried.
Afterward, the brothers were once again fearful of Joseph. Oh, the things we do that can come back to haunt us—foolish and rash decisions that devastate and hurt others. These had been done at an early age of adulthood, but we can be just as guilty at anytime in our lives.
It’s true that Joseph could have been waiting for revenge. People do. They can wait and calculate, nursing the wrongs with retribution for the future, but not Joseph.
Joseph accepted the events of life as from the hand of God. What a wonderful thing it is when we are able to look back on hardship and see the plan of God. Joseph accepted his life as from the plan of God.
These brothers had nothing to fear because Joseph recognized that what people had meant for harm, God intended for abundant blessing. So, the brothers and Joseph and their descendants lived in Egypt in the land of Goshen for hundreds of years until they became a large nation, no longer classified as one family.
Revealing Creation, the Fall, God’s chosen people, and the positioning for the salvation of the world, Genesis is a foundational narrative in Who God is, His omnipotent power, and his interaction with individuals and the world—both God followers and those who aren’t.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Prophesies

Dear Christa—
From Genesis to Now: The Prophesies
Genesis 49
There comes a time when Jacob calls all his sons to him—all older men themselves at this point. And, as they gather around him, Jacob predicts the future of each.  We learn through Reuben that sin has a way of catching up with us. Although Reuben’s foolish action of sleeping with his fathers concubine was many years back, it was his downfall: Reuben would not excel.
The violence of Simeon and Levi at the Shechem would also come back to haunt them. Jacob curses their cruelty and anger. They would not have their own land in Canaan. It’s a warning to not let anger get the best of us, no matter how bad we’ve been wronged.
Through Judah, we see the result of repentance. Judah’s life was far from stainless, yet it’s Judah who receives a great blessing. Ultimately, its Judah’s descendants who are honored above the rest. David would come from the house of Judah, and Jesus would be born of his line.
The other sons that we know little to nothing about were given prophecies, some positive and some negative.
Then, Jacob ends with his favored sons from Rachel, his first love and the one who always seemed to have his heart, even to the end of his days.
Joseph’s blessing was long. He is fruitful in the midst of persecution from his brothers, and God is credited with Joseph’s perseverance—the Mighty One, the Shepherd, the Rock, the Almighty—great attributes of God who’d sustained Joseph through all his years of trouble, and Jacob proclaims Joseph a “prince among his brothers.”
And, indeed he was, and at this point there wasn’t a soul who could deny it. Joseph had experienced great suffering and great blessings, as do all people (just perhaps on a less extreme scale), yet Jacob in his last words make it clear that God is the sustainer in our trials and the provider of every blessing. What an example is Joseph in how God deals with his people.
the parishioner who doesnt do anything

Monday, February 1, 2016


 Dear Christa,

From Genesis to Now: Blessing
Genesis 49

The last three chapters of Genesis closes out the life of the last patriarch, Jacob—Israel, the namesake of the nation God chose to especially reveal Himself through.
When Jacob appears before Pharaoh, he summarizes his life in comparison to Abraham and Isaac: “My years have been few and difficult, and they do not equal the years of the pilgrimage of my fathers.”
Jacob looks back on his life with sorrow, yet his parents Isaac and Rebecca, too, had many years when Jacob’s lived far from them.
So, the last 17 years of Jacob’s life was to be spent in Egypt. I wonder how often he looked into the morning and evening Egyptian sky and longed for the hill country around Hebron. In the darkness of his failing vision, did he ponder the vision of God’s promise that He was there too in the fertile Egyptian soil and that He’d one day accompany a great nation back to his homeland?
Jacob makes Joseph promise he’ll take his body back to be buried in the family cave. He would rest next to Leah, the wife who’d deceived him. I’ve always wondered if they they found a measure of happiness together in the long years following Rachel’s death.
Jacob claims Joseph’s sons as his own, giving Joseph a double portion of blessing in the nation of Israel—and placing the younger above the older, not a surprising gesture on the part of Jacob. It also reveals that God chooses whom He will. It matters not the birth order, or any other cultural traditions we have.
Then, he reassures Joseph, the brother who holds the welfare of his entire family in his hands: “I am about to die, but God will be with you.” Could a father bequeath any greater promise and blessing on a child?
So, as God had always directed Joseph’s life, his father assures him that long after he is gone, God will not leave him but continue to direct his steps. A reassuring word from a person we respect means so much and encourages us in the path before us.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything