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Debts, Trespasses & Sins

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith
February 14, 2024
Bible Matthew 6:5-15

Happy first day of the Lenten Season and Happy Valentines Day! What a wonderful day to remember and even celebrate Ash Wednesday, on a day where nearly everyone around me is sharing heart shaped candy, cards with hearts on them, heart shaped boxes containing wonderful chocolates and even amazingly creative heart shaped balloons. So many ways to say “I Love You”.

How appropriate then, to have on the Christian church calendar this day to remember that life is short, and that we are to take some extra time loving God more and loving others more as a result of our love for God. Many have the tradition of giving up something for Lent, I have done that off and on over the years. I remember Ash Wednesday 2020 and we were at the beginning of the COVID pandemic where so many were constrained to stay at home, or wherever they found themselves. I was meeting, via Zoom, with fellow clergy to help support one another as we were entering a time that was threatening the very life of the church. We were discussing how we would be celebrating Lent with our church families even if we couldn’t meet in person. I suggested that we had already given up so much, that perhaps it was time to do something more; a new way to study scripture, a more concerted effort to communicate God’s love and presence, and even a new way to pray.

Our scripture for today gives us a glimpse of Jesus doing just that with his followers; we call it “The Lord’s Prayer”. Now this may not be a new way for you to pray. You may be in a congregation, like mine, who recites together this prayer during worship, and particularly at Holy Communion time. So, what’s new? Well, for me, I had grown up praying “and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”, recently I was challenged by one of my children to consider praying “and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”.

Funny, how changing one word makes this prayer all the more honest and personal. When you read our passage for today notice how Jesus says in verse 14 of Matthew chapter 6; “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Ouch! Can we just go back to Debts or Trespasses? Suddenly a scripture comes to mind from a previous midweek posting; “Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8). Okay, then, love is the key and it is often expressed in forgiveness, which is so much easier to say than to do. It’s sort of like when I was a little kid and we had a valentine exchange at school. My teacher said we were to have a valentine for every student in the class. What? I was supposed to write out on a valentine card the names of the people I did not like, and would not forgive them for making fun of me? Fine, I did, and even if they tore my card up, which happened, I was to be kind.

Yep, tis the season to love; love God and love others. Just like a song I learned as a youth and to sing as a round; Love, love, love, love, the gospel in a word is love. Love your neighbor as your brother, love, love, love.

Amen!


 

Stuff as Treasures?

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith
February 7, 2024
Matthew 6:6:19-21

This afternoon I am blessed to be sitting in my office at home with the window open. I can’t believe it is this warm on the 7th of February. I hear birds chirping as if Spring has come already. Hold on everybody, I’m not sure the early Spring that the groundhog predicted is here just yet, but I will rejoice and be glad anyway. It feels like I should be doing some Spring Cleaning, I have “stuff” stuffed in places I need to clean out, but, since it isn’t really Spring just yet, I think I will wait .

Our scripture passage for today speaks about “stuff” as “treasures”. I’ve heard it said that one man’s junk is another man’s treasure, either way, junk or treasure, I fear I have too much. Here’s what Jesus taught; “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

I believe the main thrust of this teaching is to be careful what motivates us. First, to be motivated to spend our time and resources on what brings God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. For my day to day life here, I believe Jesus wants me to be cautious in my consumer driven, materialistic culture, to ask if what I am collecting is a treasure that will bless, or junk we don’t need. I am reminded of a conversation I had with a dear friend when I was packing up to move. I asked in frustration’ “How did I get all this stuff?”

She responded quickly; “One Walmart bag at a time”.

My desk calendar puts it well; “You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?”

Amen!


 

Serenity

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith
January 31, 2024
Isaiah 40:21-23, 25-31

Serenity – “A state of being tranquil, peaceful, unclouded and clear” (Webster’s II University Dictionary). Ah, that sounds wonderful. Have you ever been in that state? I have visited many states in my time; the state of confusion, the state of anxiety, the state of fear, I’ve been in a fitful state, an angry state, and even a hopeful state, which has led me, many times to Serenity, that clear, unclouded, peaceful and tranquil place where I simply trust God and rest in Him. How about you? What state do you visit most?

I would love to say that I spend more time in Serenity than any of the other states, but that would not be truthful. Still, this meditation is to encourage all of you who might be traveling between states, just now, to find comfort in the above listed scripture passage in which God speaks to a people venturing into many of the tear-filled states like those I have listed. The original audience is the people of Judah who are living a slave like existence under Babylonian rule in the nation of Babylon, so far from home. They are becoming hopeless that brighter days will ever come, and even less hopeful that they will ever see the home they remember ever again. A portion of our passage today reads; “To whom will you compare me, or who is my equal? Says the Holy One…Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

I have a little card with The Serenity prayer by Reinhnold Niebuhr that helps summarize what I hope to do, to encourage you to pray as you travel between states; “God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it. Trusting that you will make all things right if I surrender to Your will so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next.”

Amen!


 

Happy Birthday!

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith
January 17, 2024
1 Peter 1:3-5

Happy Birthday! Happy 71st birthday to my big brother!

I remember another day some thirty years ago that I celebrated another kind of birthday with my brother – his baptism. What an evening that was! We started attending a little church his family attended, though he was not a believer at the time of his invitation to come to the church. Through some severe trials and troubles, the day came when my brother called me and said “sis, I have made my stand”, translation; “I believe in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior”. Wow!

A little background; my brother is 7 years older than I am and we both had an older brother who passed away several years ago. When the two boys were very young, our parents immigrated to the United States from The Netherlands. They were sponsored by Trinity United Methodist Church in New Albany Indiana, and as such, became members of this church. Both of my brothers tolerated going to church with our parents and didn’t really subscribe to this whole salvation in Christ deal. When I came along I was well versed in the scriptures and loved just about anything the church had going on. Needless to say, my brother thought I was pretty weird. When I married and had children, I remember my brothers coming to visit us and both noticed how we had bible songs, and videos often playing for our kids. My brother, whose birthday it is today, thought that very odd, but again, tolerated it.

Fast forward to some 30 years ago after the birth of our fourth child and a traumatic exit from the military and illness that my husband was dealing with, BOOM! God intervenes and the Holy Spirit draws my brother to his wife’s pastor and well, the rest is history.

I am inspired by our reading for today; “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” I pray you too, will have experienced this “new Birth”, and if not, perhaps today is the day you will experience the love and provision of God in such a way that you too can have a new birth. Just in case I don’t hear from you if you do;

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!


 

Thankful Christmas

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith
January 10, 2024
Psalm 90:12

Taking down the Christmas tree has never been one of my favorite activities and yet, a necessary one. However, I have some friends who live in a Senior Apartment building who had an 18 foot Christmas tree in the middle of their gathering place, which used to be a gymnasium and they would decorate it according to the different holidays throughout the year. It was an amazing sight. Not sure who the brave one was that climbed an 18 foot ladder to decorate all the way to the top, but I suspect it was not one of the Senior residents .

Something sad happened this year for my friends. After Christmas, when some of the residents popped into the gym for a time of fellowship, the tree was gone. Gone! All the wonderful decorations and all the anticipation of decorating for Valentines day, Easter, Independence Day…gone. Now I’m told it was put into storage for Christmas next year, but still, the gym looks and feels so empty without it, and my friends are very sad. What a way to start a new year.

Some of the folks told me they just cried and cried when they realized the tree was gone. They even apologized and asked me if it was wrong mourning a tree. I suggested that it wasn’t the tree, it was what it represented. For some, it was a symbol of life and hope, for some it had decorations that came with memories of folks that had lived there, but were there no longer. All I could say was that change is never easy, and forgiveness isn’t easy either, but like the necessity for me to take down my tree and, seemingly, the necessity for the apartment manager to take down the 18 foot tree, it had to be done. Don’t know the reasoning behind it all, I just know what’s done is done, and we have to find a way to move on.

I thought about my attitude about taking down my tree; Chore? Frustration with lights getting tangled? Hassel doing up and down the stairs? Or, opportunity to reflect and give thanks for another Christmas celebrated with my family, and yes, being thankful I live in a warm home where I can have a Christmas tree. Psalm 90:12; “Teach us [O Lord] to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Today, I’m seriously thinking about postponing taking down the Christmas tree, though the ornaments have all been boxed up. I think I just need one more day to pray for my friends who know their days are numbered and who need encouragement to walk through these precious days with wisdom-God’s wisdom. I need that encouragement too, how about you?

Amen!


 

Happy New You!

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith
January 3, 2024
2 Corinthians 5:11-17

As I write this, I am sitting at my desk near a window and I see a bright blue sky with sunshine all around, my phone says it is a cool 41 degrees. Why is weather so important to me today? Well, I am reflecting on years past as I began a new year and as I was reading the above scripture I remembered just such a day in Idaho back in the mid 1980’s.

I was stationed at Mountain Home Air Force Base, and relatively new to the military scene. Fortunately several of the other female Airmen befriended me and I felt more at home in this high-plains desert where, as my future husband would say, are as many women as you see trees. The point being there was lots of sage brush, lots of sand, and very few trees – get the point?

It was around Christmas week that all us girls gathered to help a friend of ours who was lucky enough to get leave to go back home for Christmas, pack for her trip. The rest of us had to stay on base.

We always made a big party out of anyone’s good fortune, and that day it was a riot of clothes flying everywhere, decisions about what to pack and what to leave behind as only one suitcase was allowed on the transport. What a time we had! When Christmas leave was over, our friend did not return to us. It seems there was black ice on a road she was travelling and she was killed in her car heading back to her parent’s house after visiting her fiancé. Needless to say, we were all devastated. In my grieving, I posted on her white board a portion of our scripture for today; “anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

I realize that the context of this scripture is the Apostle Paul telling the First Century believers in Corinth that if they profess Christ, the old life they had of worshipping idols, taking advantage of people, being selfish etc. had to stop, because that is not the way of Christ. When a person comes to saving faith in Jesus Christ, that old life passes away and a new life begins.

I was in my early 20’s when I experienced this sudden loss of a friend, I realized how important it was to make the most of the time we have. I am so thankful we celebrated and shared our love for her before she went home (literally).

Here’s a New Year’s thought; spend some time intentionally loving the people around you. Celebrate the life God has given you, show and tell people that you care. Just as the previous verse in our scripture today reads; “we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view…” How about we begin this year asking the Holy Spirit to help us see people the way God sees them; all created in His image, all loved unconditionally, all needing the hope of salvation that comes through Christ Jesus, God’s only begotten son.

Happy New Year! Happy New You!


 

A Christmas Story

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith
December 27, 2023
Matthew 2:13-15

A dear friend loaned me a book I had never seen before; “The Spider Who Saved Christmas – A Legend” written by Raymond Arroyo. I was intrigued because I never thought of spiders as people savers. I know of a pig that was saved by a very intelligent spider, but this was the first time I read a story of how a spider risked her life spinning web upon web to protect someone, and not just anyone, but little Jesus and his mommy and daddy.

The summary on the back reads, in part; “The Spider who saved Christmas spins the tale of Nephila, a cave dwelling spider who encounters a trio of visitors running for their lives. The spider miraculously risks her all to offer them a special gift—and a timeless lesson. This instant classic reveals the origin of Christmas tinsel and reminds us that hope can always be found—even in the dark places where we least expect it.” The passage of scripture I have chosen for this week tells the story of Joseph being warned in a dream that King Herod is out to kill baby Jesus. The backdrop is that the evil Herod took no chances and declared that all baby boys age two and under should be murdered. The chase was on and thanks to the Wisemen, who, unknowingly, revealed to the king that a new king of the Jews was to be born, well, that did it, and Herod devised a horrible plan to ensure that he alone would be known as The King of the Jews. Hence this Legend of a spider in a cave where Mary and Joseph seek refuge for their baby Jesus, the true King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

I don’t want to give away too much, because I hope you will look for this book at your local library, or maybe even order a copy online and cherish it every Christmas season, but I do want to make a comment. I was drawn into this story like I have never been before, I marveled at the quiet faithfulness and bravery of Mary. It must have been her worst nightmare to have to flee back into the wilderness with a very young baby, and poor Joseph, he was trying his best to learn how to be a father to his Savior and a loving and supportive husband to his young wife. Ultimately, the spider does an amazing thing and as little as she was and as fragile as her webs were, she used what she had to save a family she had never known before, she was simply driven by a God given inspiration.

Perhaps you’ve been dodging a God-given inspiration and believe that you don’t have what it takes. Here’s a thought for us all; just use what you have and God will take care of the rest.

Amen!


 

Christmas Break

Midweek Study with Pastor Edith
December 20, 2023
Matthew 2:18-25, Luke 1:26-38

Today is the first day of “Winter” or “Christmas” break for my grandkids and they are excited! One of the things one of my grandsons said that he was looking forward to during break was not only Christmas Day, but also no homework assignments . I remember feeling exactly the same way; sleeping in, eating cereal in front of the T.V., lounging around in my pajamas all day, you probably have some memories of school break you could add here.

It is ironic then, that I should come across an Advent devotional that issued a “Christmas Assignment”. In his devotional A Season of Joy, A celebration of Christmas, Dr. David Jeremiah writes for this day; “Joseph and Mary were given an assignment by God; Be stewards of the life of God’s Son. And they did what is required of all stewards—they were faithful. They weren’t chosen for this assignment because they were perfect but because they were willing, obedient, and faithful. Those traits of Mary and Joseph make them a model of faithfulness for us this Christmas. There is a Christmas assignment for us all: to bring the living Christ into the world around us and reveal Him to those who don’t know Him”.

There are many ways we can be beacons of light to show the way to the Savior; we can write cards of encouragement, make calls on the phone, or better yet, go in person. We can share a meal, some homemade goodies and perhaps add a note with a reference to the Christmas Story from Matthew or Luke. Whatever way the Holy Spirit leads you to lead someone to the Lord, just do it. One way I have been blessed, even just today, was in the grocery store (ugh, I dreaded it thinking there would be lots and lots of “Grinches” out there). It turned out that everyone I came in contact with were smiling and very helpful and many simply said “Merry Christmas”. Wow! I am so thankful for their witness even with a simple smile and greeting.

Perhaps that’s were our assignment starts; with a smile. I looked back on my desk calendar and found this helpful quote; “A smile is the lighting system of the face and the heating system of the heart”. Why not turn on the lights and heat up the room.

Amen!