3rd Sunday of Easter: Forgiven Leaders

We are forgiven leaders.  Sinners by nature, saints by grace.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus asks Peter, three times, whether he loves him, and if he does, to care for His Sheep.  Each time coincides with the times Peter denied Jesus.  Each time, Peter seems to be forgiven on the account of his repentant love for Jesus.  Each time, Peter is reinstated as the Rock and Leader of the early church.  He is also reminded of his future death: on the cross, upside down.

We are sinners by nature, saints by grace.

As for my sin, I’ve dealt with serious rage.  Anger that could hurt others and damage my relationships with all.  While God looked down on my rage, as I did not love my neighbors, friends, loved ones, myself, as I should, he did not cast me from his presence.  Instead, he lovingly opened his arms to me, enveloping me in his grace in the waters of baptism.  There, I was rinsed clean, even if it was just by pouring.  Even by baptism of pouring, every sin was poured from my head into the baptismal waters, forever erased like bleach to stains.  I was forgiven.  I was and am considered a saint.

Worthy was the Lamb to receive honor and blessing and wisdom.  And worthy are believers who accept the Lamb, too.  Because when we join God’s people, we receive, albeit slowly, all the honor, the blessings, and the wisdom.  We gain new insight into the Kingdom of God in the here and now, seeing others as Beloveds of God no matter their spiritual status.  All are Beloved.

How many times I’ve cried for help from the Lord, and he has healed me.  He was erased all my fears and their monumental desire to kill my spirit.  He has, having already wiped my slate clean from his eyes, helped me grow in relationship with Him and further work on my anger issues.  He has helped me become medicated, work through therapy, and work on not just apologizing, but making those apologies count the first time.  

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Saul is one of those forgiven leaders.  

He sinned greatly against God’s people, but Christ saw him on the a road to a larger city.  Paul was on a mission to destroy the church, and God’s mission was to destroy Paul’s ego, pride, anger, and prejudice.

God does that to a lot of people.

God used Paul and created in him a better man than ever, more than his previous religion could.  

Because it isn’t religion that saves us – it is God in Christ.  We are sinners by nature, but by grace, Christ saves us and endows us with all the wisdom, love, honor, and a multitude of blessings.  More than any person could handle.  

God loves that much.  Jesus, the God in the flesh, loves us so much.

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Today, in church, we sang about how much Jesus loves us, and how much we love Jesus.  In the multitude of hymns we sang today, we learned that we love Jesus because he first loved us!  As future Christians, we might have cried to God to heal us.  Before we were Christians, we were sinners, but Jesus loved us so much that he helped us enter the waters of baptism on our own free will, eager to join the church’s covenant. 

We are still eager to serve Jesus, by loving God and loving others. 

Alleluia.  How could you be a forgiven leader in this day and age?

Love,
Leigh Todd

LORD? You’re there, right?

Hi Beloveds,
Today is the first Sunday in Lent. We lost an hour due to daylight savings time, which made me late to church (37 minutes late to work, to be exact!), but I still got to sing to my Jesus and pray to my Father in Heaven, being enveloped in the arms of His Holy Spirit.

Today’s readings have a common theme: Calling upon the name of the Lord. In Deuteronomy 26:1-11, the Israelites are commanded to give the first fruits of their labors to Heavenly Father, in remembrance of what God did for them when they called out to him in Egypt. He rescued them, as they were in a desperate situation. In the Psalms, David (as tradition says he is the author) cries out to God the Father in hope. He declares that the Lord is his “refuge and fortress” and that he “rests in the shadow of the Almighty.” He declares, further, that we can call upon the name of the Lord, where he will not only be ever-present with us in our troubles, but will “deliver us and honor us.”

In the New Testament, Jesus becomes the Arm of the LORD (Isaiah 53:1). He is a refuge, our hope, our fortress. He becomes the way in which the Father interacts with the world, through God’s Holy Power. In Luke 4:1-13, this Jesus walks through the desert for forty days, fighting temptations from the devil. He says to only serve Heavenly Father and to not test God Almighty.

Then, finally, in Romans 10:8b-13, Paul reminds us that EVERYONE, not just Jews like in the past Exodus, can be saved by calling upon the name of the LORD. As Disciples, we are saved by calling upon the name of the Lord via baptism (Acts 22:16).

Calling upon the LORD in past times was reserved for trouble and praise. Surely, David and all the other Psalmists cried out to God in both praise and in anguish. David sinned A LOT, yet the LORD was always near to his heart. Jesus reminds us that even in the desert, we should look to God through worship, praise, and anguish. I can only imagine that he relied upon the LORD when he was tempted, hurt, hungry, and anxious for his ministry, death, and resurrection ahead. In Paul’s epistle to the Romans, Paul explains that calling upon the Lord Jesus and Heavenly Father is not just for little pains or crying glories, but for salvation itself! As David explains in Psalm 91, “I will show them my salvation,” God shows us his salvation amidst all our troubles via our sins and others sins. That, as David sinned and repented, we can erase our sins through repentance, calling upon the name of the LORD, and baptism. We can be free of our sins. We can be free.

God, are you there? Surely, he is. Jesus and Heavenly Father are there, wrapping their arms around you through God’s Holy Spirit. Call upon them, my dears.

Be loved, and share that love, Beloveds.

Amen.

God Has a Habit of Calling the Unlikeliest People

Dear future congregation,

While I haven’t met you yet, and I imagine we don’t share the same beliefs, I just want to say that I am excited to serve you in the future.

With today being the fifth Sunday of Epiphany, we are covering four scriptures: 

  • Isaiah 6:1-8, (9-13)
  • Psalm 138
  • 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
  • Luke 5:1-11

In Isaiah 6, we meet Isaiah being caught up in a vision.  He fears greatly, because he has seen the Lord with “unclean lips.”  By this, he means he is a sinner.  

In Luke 5, Simon declares “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” when Jesus causes a miracle to happen at the Sea of Galilee, with loads of fishes.

In 1 Cor. 15, Paul considers himself the least of all apostles, because had had persecuted the early church of God.  He considered himself too sinful to lead Christ’s people.

Do you see a connection?  Do you see a connection within this church, within yourselves?  Have you ever considered yourself “too sinful” to be called by God?

I know I have.  Before I discovered grace, I thought I was too sinful to be a Christian.  Surely, I failed God everyday.  Every day I forsake salvation by my sins.  Everyday I committed myself to Hell.

Truth be told, folks, we’re saved by grace.

Nothing in highest heaven, lowest hell, widest earth, and deepest space can separate us from God’s love.  When we entered those waters of baptism and were immersed in Christ’s love, we were saved.  Past, present, future sins forgiven – not because we were righteous, but because Christ died for us on that cross.  As we look forward to the season of Lent and Easter, let us meditate on our forgiveness and bask in the glory of the resurrected Lord.

But let us not stay in this meditation.  Let us go forth, as Jesus called Peter, “to become fishers of people.”  Let us carry this meditation in our hearts as we reach the world out in love, peace, and liberation as we preach the gospel.  But what does this preaching look like?  How is it done?

In Psalm 138, God is considered majestic, holy, exalted.  But he considered the lowly, those in the midst of trouble, those troubled with foes.  The Bible is clear: Although we are citizens of Heaven, we should make a home with the lowliest because they first will be last, and the last will be first.  

Preaching looks like reaching out to the old lady who is lonely, and wants company as she watches the news.  Preaching and spreading the Gospel looks like helping homeless vets, drug addicts, children, women, literally everyone.  It means giving away perishables.  LORD, you know what I’m talking about!  It’s the same thing I will preach every day, and I never tire of preaching this: The Leader is the Servant.  The Least is the Greatest.  The Weak are God’s People.  Those struggling with rent or the electricity bill are God’s angels.  

When we become children of God, we become servants of Christ.  We are not raised on a pedestal, but lowered on a humble chair as we serve our Master.  As we serve His People.  If you think you’re something special when you become a Christian – think again.

As we look forward to celebrating Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, let us remember who he reached out to during his ministry.  The poor, the disabled, the sinners.  He even said that he did not come to call the righteous, but the sinners unto repentance and healing.  He came to reach out to heal, to help, to humbly raise the lowliest to the greatest heights. 

I hope you do the same.  

God has a habit of calling the unlikeliest people – sinners saved by grace. “I am what I am” and grace is grace. Now let us carry that love God gave us at baptism and give it to the world.

Alleluia and Amen.

1st Sunday After Christmas: Always Learning From God

1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26
Psalm 148
Colossians 3:12-17
Luke 2:41-52

Jesus was in the Temple, at twelve years old. He had hidden from Joseph and Mary, and taught the elders in the temple. What marvelous things this pre-teen was saying! He was so knowledgeable of a God who surpasses in creativity. This God, who is His Father, is God beyond wonders. Just like Samuel, who grew in stature and favor of the LORD, Jesus grows in favor of God as he grew.

In Colossians, we’re taught to absorb the word of Christ and forgive as Christ forgave. To love beyond measure. In essence, we’re taught to be like Christ. We are taught like Christ was taught and how he taught his elders. We can be students of our marvelous God, just as Jesus and Samuel were, and learn something special, every day. We can love like crazy, forgive like we’re insane, and sing hymns and cherish family members and church members like they are our world – because they are. We have to take care of each other, as I can imagine Christ was teaching the elders in the Temple.

Christ had access to the knowledge of God’s heart, because he spoke with him. We can have that knowledge, if we only talk to God as we would a friend, as someone has put us into his fold and loved, cherished, and valued as a child. A little over a month ago, I was asked during a sermon to read the Bible and see what God was saying to me. What did I see and hear? Love. And much much more. This Christmas season, what is God saying to you? What is our marvelous God creatively saying to you today?

Alleluia and Amen.

Proper 12: Food, Water, and God’s Miracles

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My view at Miller Park

Hi everyone,

I overslept, so I didn’t go to church, which has kind of ruined the whole Sunday for me, but I’m also hopeful.  I’m doing church at home, where I can read the weekly Gospel reading (John 6:1-21) and think of faith on my own terms.

Today’s home church consisted of going to Runza to get a blended cappuccino drink, walk to Miller Park to write to God, and then come home to study the lectionary.  It’s been a simple day, especially since I can’t do anything on Sundays – all the shops are clsoed!  Even the library!

In Gospel reading, it is not a calm day.  Jesus finds himself in the need to feed his 5,000 (at least) followers as they have traveled very far in a very long day.  Relying on God, Jesus gave thanks for the fish and loafs of bread and miraculously, all were fed with leftovers!  Then at night Jesus was no where to be found, so his disciples traveled across the waters toward Capernaum.   Suddenly, the disciples saw that Jesus was walking on the water in the midst of a storm!  The disciples were frightened, but Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid, I am here!”

As God’s servant, agent, King, prophet, and Son and Savior, we can rely on Jesus.  As Jesus said, “don’t be afraid, I am here.”  Thanks to God, we have a Savior that can perform miracles and be by our side even when we are frightened by the storms of life.  Not only is Jesus a Savior from our sins, but he is also our Savior in our daily life.  God gave Jesus all authority in Heaven and Earth to be our Lord, and that he is.

Jesus relied on God, so we should we rely on God in all things.  Then, Jesus gave the most comforting saying, “don’t be afraid, I am here.”

So when life gets tough, rely on the miracles of God.  Rely on God and our Savior Jesus Christ when the storms around us are raging, because they will always provide and they are always here to help us.

Alleluia and Amen.

Love,
Leigh Todd