Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Making space to worship


"Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!"
-Matthew 21:9

Palm Sunday Hosana To The King Of Kings Wishes PictureThis week we are celebrating Palm Sunday in the church.  Traditionally this is a joyful time.  We remember the day Jesus triumphantly rode into Jerusalem, and the people stopped everything to worship Him.  Now, we have to remember the people would soon turn on Jesus, but for at least a moment, their hearts were filled with praise.

It was a confusing time in ancient Israel, and there is still an abundance of fear, uncertainly, and chaos in our world today.  However, I think it is important to pause and think about ways to continue to worship wherever we are…

I had a wonderful experience in with my family recently.  My wife was outside in the yard with our boys, and she started talking with one of our neighbors.  (FYI:  they were able to speak while also observing safe social distancing. :)

Image may contain: 1 person, tree and outdoorAnyway, the neighbor was apologizing, because she was not able to get out into her yard to remove the weeds that were growing there.  She was older, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain her yard.  When our older son heard this he immediately wanted to help, and he started picking the weeds.  It turned out to be a great activity that got the kids out of the house, and it also helped someone else.  Even our one year old got the hang of taking the weeds and putting them in the bucket.  It may not be much, but it opened our eyes to little ways that we can still reach out to our neighbors while still being socially distant. 

Our world today is confusing.  I wish I could be doing more for people in this time of great need.  However, I believe our scripture reminds us that there are still ways to praise God.  We may not feel like we are making a difference, but simple acts of love are still changing the world!

God Bless you all!!


Pastor Brian

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Seeking love in a world of change


Be renewed in the spirit of your mind…
Ephesians 4:23

The Bible tells us that we need to be renewed in the Spirit.  Indeed, the Christian faith is all about renewal, rebirth, and new life.  However, there are times I lose sight of this perspective.  Life becomes ordinary, and I stop looking for the in-breaking of God’s Kingdom. 

Image result for be renewed in the spirit of your mindToday the Corona Virus is bringing about a new reality.  It is causing a lot of troubles and real tragedy, but the virus is also forcing us to have a new perspective.  I know I am seeing everything a little bit differently.  First of all, I am reminded of how little control I really have.  Just a couple weeks ago, I was certain about almost everything in my life.  Now I am surrounded by uncertainty.  There are people being furloughed or laid off.  I know people who are sick, and there are others who are feeling the real danger of this virus.  It’s like everything changed in an instant. 

As difficult as this entire situation is, the virus has also shown me the importance of love.  I am so grateful for the blessings I have in my family, and I really value the time I have been able to spend reaching out to the people I care about.  It is certainly not a time that I would ever wish for, but it has caused me to take a deeper look at everything.

Today I hope you all can take a bit of time to take a fresh look at your life.  Our world may be flipped upside down, but God is present… I hope you can all open your hearts to the new work that God is doing!

Blessings,


Pastor Brian

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Faith and Love


Where is God leading you?

Our church is in the midst of a sermon series taking a look at the story of Abraham and Sarah.  The Bible speaks of these two individuals as heroes of faith.  When God asked them to leave their homeland, they left.  When God asked them to follow an unpredictable path, they listened.  They lived by faith, but they also had times of doubt.  They questioned God, and they laughed at God.  However, day by day they opened their hearts to God’s unending love. 

Their story reminds me that we all live by faith.  We do not always have the power to control others or even ourselves.  Sometimes things fall apart.  Other times, things come together.  However, these Bible stories teach us that we are loved regardless of our circumstances. 

As I look at my life, it is pretty easy to see that I am not in control. :) My one year old is always at the urgent care, and my 4 year old turns 5 on Friday!  It just reminds me how fast time is flying.  We start kindergarten next year, and before I know it, both kids will be graduating...  Now I still have a significant amount of influence and power over their lives, but I recognize there will be a time when I can’t just force them to do whatever I want.  I have to trust in love.  I have to trust that God is with them.  Today, I hope and pray that we all open our hearts to this kind of love!

Blessings!


Pastor Brian

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Transfiguration!


Do you believe in Transfiguration?

Transfiguration is a pretty big word…  I saw it defined recently as:  a complete change of form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state.  I bring this up, because we are celebrating Transfiguration Sunday this week in church.  This day acknowledges an ancient story from the Bible where Jesus was transfigured before three of his disciples on a mountaintop. 

When Jesus was transfigured, the Bible says his face shone like the sun and his clothes became a dazzling white.  This is the moment when Jesus became determined to go to Jerusalem and confront the cross as well.  Personally, I find the transfiguration to be very mysterious, but I also find a lot of meaning in it.  I find meaning in the mountains.  I find meaning in opening my heart to the mysteries of God in the world around me.

Last week, my wife and I took our kids exploring in the Pittman wash.  The boys loved scrambling over the rocks, watching the minnows in the stream, and crawling under thorn covered bushes.  Overall the wash is fairly tame, but it offers something wonderful.  I believe nature has an ability to change hearts in a way that would not be possible if we never challenged ourselves.

Perhaps the reason Jesus brought his disciples up that mountain so long ago was to experience the world in a new way.  Their faith was given a new perspective, and their lives were all affected.  Today, I hope we can all find time to see God in a new light.  I hope we can all acknowledge that God is bigger than our understanding, but God’s grace is always working to lead us into the wonder of these mysteries!

Blessings!


Brian  

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Love and Sacrifice


Where do you find love?

Last week I had a chance to go on a trip with my family to Florida.  We didn’t get to see Mickey Mouse or do any of the other touristy stuff.  Instead, this was a trip to see my grandfather and a few other family members who my kids haven’t met.  We also got to stomp around in a Florida swamp, ride a golf cart through a retirement community, and feed the cattle on a ranch.  What more could little boys ask for? :)  

Of course there were difficulties… Both kids had ear problems on the plane, and we wound up going to the urgent care one day to try and deal with an infection, but in spite of all the chaos, it was fun to see so much growth.

One highlight was getting a tour of a ranch where my uncle has done some work.  We got to see newborn calves, and the boys had a chance to feed the cattle as well.  My 1 year old learned that if he was quiet these nearly 1000 pound animals would walk right up to him and eat the food right out of his hand!  It was so much fun to watch the delight on his face while feeding the animals!  In fact, the entire trip was a delight.  Yes there were difficult moments, but we all experienced love, and we all had opportunities to love others.  The joys of the trip vastly outweighed the trials!
Helping little brother feed the cattle

This week at Community Lutheran we are learning about what we have to do for love, and we are considering the sacrifices we may have to make.  Today I hope we can open our hearts to the Holy Spirit.  May we always step out boldly for love!

Blessings!


Pastor Brian







Thursday, January 23, 2020

Spiritual Growth


Have you ever thought about your Spiritual Growth?

What was your life like ten years ago?  How about twenty years ago?  Fifty years ago?  What kind of person were you at that time?  If you had to live those days again, would you make the same choices?  What have you learned?  How have you grown? 

Personally, I was just finishing my seminary studies ten years ago, and I had no idea where I would be heading.  I can think of so many mistakes that I was about to make.  I experienced success and failure as well as joy and sorrow.  Today, I have grown into a very different person, and the greatest lessons I’ve learned were not taught in school.  I’ve had to learn these lessons in the moments of vulnerability, failure, and sometimes from the tragedies.
Image result for making all things new 
This week we are talking about spiritual growth at Community Lutheran, and I know there are times I don’t want to go through the real pain of growth… I want to jump straight to the “happily ever after” part.  However, our scriptures teach us that each day we live is an opportunity to grow a little more, even if there is some pain involved... 

We are not the same people we once were, and we will not be the same people a year from now.  We will face joy and pain, but God goes with us through it all.  Whatever happens, I hope we can experience vulnerability and failure and know that it is okay.  We are not supposed to be perfect.  We are to try and live with open hearts so that our spirit can learn to soar.

Blessings,


Brian

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Searching for Love and Justice

Do you see hate in the world?  Have you ever witnessed someone being bullied or harassed for the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, or any host of other factors?

In the book of Genesis, it says that the inclination of every human heart is evil, and I can see the real damage that hatred is doing in our world today.  Now this doesn’t mean that people are evil.  In fact, the Bible says all people are created good, and we always have the capacity to see the good in others.  However, I think we are inclined to put too much emphasis on our fear and shame, and that can cause us to find evil in what God created to be good. 

Earlier this week, my wife and I were having a conversation about the state of the world.  We were talking about injustice, violence, and other problems that seemed almost too big to handle. 

Interestingly, our four year old son heard us talking, and I guess he noticed a sense of hopelessness in our voices.  Now, I don’t think he really understood everything, but he noticed that we were overwhelmed.  So in the midst of our conversation, he stopped us to say, “Mommy!  Daddy!  Wait!  When I become an astronaut, I can use my spaceship and fly you guys into space and you won’t have to worry about any of this stuff!”

I have to admit that comment warmed my heart and it certainly made me smile… However, I am also reminded that as Christians we are a part of the world, and as generous as my son’s offer was, I can’t just run away when things get tough… (Or fly off in a spaceship as the case may be...J)  God does not see this world as hopeless!  God sees all of us as his hands and feet, and we are called to be the voice of hope! 

Jesus came to this world to bring about real change, and Christ believed we would do greater things than he ever did.  This doesn’t mean we have to take on the world single handedly.  In the book of Micah chapter 6 verse 8, it says:

The Lord has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

God is with us in the simple acts of love and justice that we can all do.  Today, as we remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I hope we can all believe that we have a role to play in sharing God’s love and justice with the world.  God believes in each of us and God never ceases to call us into action. 

Blessings!


Brian Ward