Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Love in a broken world...

As I write this, I am sitting at home with a sick kid, and I am kind of bummed out. My first grader woke up with a sore throat yesterday, and he continues to feel a bit crummy. Thankfully, he seems to be on the mend, and my entire family is repeatedly testing negative for covid... In the end, I know it is not a big deal, but I'm still feeling a sense of loss. First, it is never fun to see someone feeling this way. Second, my family was planning on taking a vacation this weekend, and it looks like that will have to be delayed or canceled. My son also missed his first-grade award ceremony, and he is missing the final day of school with his classmates. Finally, my wife and I have to figure out which one of us will work from home to take care of a sick kid and another healthy and VERY energetic three-year-old. :)

There are times our plans fall apart. This can leave me feeling frustrated or even lost. I think I also have to remember there is much more going on in the world than my own trivial complaints. The news of the shooting at the elementary school in Uvalde, Texas that is so tragic I can barely bring myself to read the details. We are living in a world where there is unimaginable brokenness, but I understand it is also easy for the smallest things to derail or even overwhelm us. 

Today I hope we can look beyond ourselves. Whatever we may be feeling today, I hope we can absorb the fact that there is a bigger picture. There is also a larger calling in our lives to find a way to love. Plans will fall apart. There will be troubles in this world. I wonder how we are being called to love in the midst of this pain. Are there opportunities, large or small, that you have to love those around you? 

Heartbreak Quotes & Heartbroken Sayings | Keep Inspiring Me

Today, I do not know if I will spend my vacation on the road or at home with a sick kid. I do not know what is going to happen in the world around us. However, I do know that I want to spend whatever time I am given with love. I will love my family. I am going to share God's love with the people around me. I am also going to live with the faith that all of this matters. I hope all of you are going to live with this hope as well.

Blessings,


Brian 

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Radical Grace

When was the last time you forgave someone?

When was the last time you were forgiven?

Forgiveness is not always easy. In fact, it is often tied to a lot of conflicting emotions. It may be possible to say, "I forgive you," but sometimes we continue to carry our grievances around with us. There will be times when our anger and frustration lash out at the world. Other times resentment will lurk deep inside of us, only surface in some very unexpected ways. 

I think about forgiveness everyday... Yes, it is a big part of my job as a pastor, but it is also a very big part of my family life. My two children are constantly knocking each other over, jumping on each other, and smashing one another's toes with the furniture. It doesn't really matter what they are playing... It usually takes about five minutes for everything to go off the rails! Then we work on apologizing. :)

Forgiveness is an important skill for anyone. However, my children know that they have to live with each other. They also know that we are going to insist that they say they are sorry... As stressful as life can be, it is such a joy to hear them tell each other they are "best friends." Especially when we know they mean it!

My kids know they are going to be living under the same roof. They also know they do really love each other, and forgiveness helps to remind them of that. Two thousand years ago, Jesus taught about God's Grace and Forgiveness. In some ways, the people living in those ancient times could not just walk away from each other either. If they were wronged, they could not just just dismiss the other. They had to find a way to work together. They literally needed each other.

We have a lot to be grateful for in our modern day society. At times, it is very important for us to draw boundaries with unhealthy individuals, but this can turn into an excuse that ignores God's gift of Grace. 

Thursday Thoughts - Grace | Pizza Ranch

Today I hope we can take a little bit of time to think about our relationships. Where do we need to bring truth and grace to create something better? We all need relationships. As much as my two boys can become frustrated with one another, they also know they are better together. The same is true for the rest of us. God wants to be in relationship with us, and it is my prayer to honestly allow God's Grace to wash over us.

Blessings,


Brian

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Real People

Our mission at Community Lutheran Church is defined with eight words:

Real People
Inclusive God
Radical Grace
Inspired Growth

Over the next four weeks, we are going to be taking a deeper look at each of these phrases individually. This weekend we will try to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be Real People. 

On one hand, being Real People is perfectly obvious. We can only be ourselves, and trying to be anyone else is ridiculous. However, we can spend a ton of time trying to hide our failures or even the truest parts of ourselves from others. It is not easy being vulnerable, and can be hard to admit that we are not perfect. 

A couple weeks ago, I had a conversation with a handful of teenagers. I asked how many of them had people in their lives they could talk honestly to. About half of these kids said they wouldn't share their deepest secrets, or their truest selves, with anybody. They had learned not to trust, and they believed they were more likly to end up worse off if they opened themselves up to being vulnerable.  

Now I know this group of kids is not a statistically significant sample, but there are plenty of people who feel this way. If we can't trust others, I don't think we will ever realize our full potential. As a chuch, we are called to embrace everyone. We shouldn't judge others for their misteps, and we shouldn't judge ourselves. We all need to take time to recognize that God beleives in us, and Christ loves us just as we are. 

7 Beautiful Examples of God's Grace in the Old Testament

Today I hope we can see ourselves honestly. It is okay to be imperfect. Let's be gracious to one another, and let's take a little extra time to share God's Love with a broken world. We all need to hear this Good News.

Blessings!


Brian Ward





Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Holy Week

Do you consider these days holy?

Where are you searching for the resurrection?

Where do you see God today?

In the church, we believe it is important to remember the difficult path that Jesus took to the cross. When I was younger, I did not really like all the somber Holy Week services. I wanted to play outside with my friends and enjoy the first days of Spring. Instead, I would go to church and sing countless verses of the hymn:  "Jesus in Thy Dying Woes." I knew these services were important, but I really wanted to be somewhere else...

There are moments in life that we all want to skip. No one wants to dwell in the moments of defeat and failure, but the Scriptures tell us to remember these times. It is not healthy to pretend that life is perfect. It is not safe to say that we do not need grace. Jesus took time to pause with his disciples and sit in the difficult moments. Jesus stayed with them in their fears and doubts, and he taught them how to love. 

Over the past few weeks there have been several members of our church who have faced illness and tragedy. Plans made with joy just months earlier, have fallen apart. As a church, it is impossible to pretend these difficulties did not exist. We need to stay beside each other. We may feel more questions then answers, but we also trust that God is with us. I know that the moments I have spent with people in these times are incredibly holy, and I would not want to be anywhere else.

Although we may not always want to dwell in the moments of despair, Jesus showed us compassion. I think these worship services during Holy Week are incredibly important, and they are a reminder for us to share Christ's Love. I am reminded of how important and even sacred it is to sit with people in the midst of their suffering. I don't think any of us are able to show a perfect love, but together we can offer hope. 


Today I pray you can all take the time needed to have compassion for the people near you. There are going to be people you meet who need to hear of Christ's Love. There are people who need to know they are not alone. I hope our church can offer a bit of hope in a world filled with pain. We are not always called to provide the answers. We can simply offer a love in the midst of all the questions. The resurrection is coming, but let's take time to share God's Love along the way.

Shalom,

Pastor Brian

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Grace for the Journey

In 2005, I led a backpacking trip in Colorado. During that trip, I would often remind the campers not to focus too much on the destination. Everybody wanted to make it to the top of the mountain. We all understandably wanted to complete the journey and return home victorious. However, I knew if we were not careful we would miss countless moments of beauty along the way. There were going to be unexpected vistas, sunrises, flowers, and conversations shared together that would all point to the presence of God. 

America's most beautiful mountains | loveexploring.com


In our sermon series, Jesus is on a journey from the north of Israel down to Jerusalem. This week we are going to hear the story of Christ after he arrives in the city of Jericho. Things were really becoming exciting for the disciples at this point. There was energy moving through the crowd, and people could not wait for Jesus to get to Jerusalem. 

I think it is wonderful for people to be excited, but the crowds in the time of Jesus were missing the point. They were expecting their version of a fairy tale. They wanted to crush the Romans and live happily ever after. They were not expecting a cross. They were not looking for God's Grace on their journey.

It is interesting that Jesus never becomes overly exasperated with his followers. He simply reminds them of the blessings that were present along the way. In the city of Jericho, the crowd was pushing Jesus forward, but Christ stopped to listen to the voice of a blind man crying out for help. It can be easy to ignore the voice of the downtrodden. We like to listen to influential and powerful people, but Christ hears everyone's voice. He reminds us not to get so focused on our destination, that we lose sight of our neighbors. 

My time leading backpacking trips were incredible. There were a number of mountaintop moments that I wouldn't ever trade. However, there were also hail and lightning storms. There were sick kids. There was even a time when the kids forgot their tent, and we had to sleep outside in swarms of mosquitoes. Nothing ever turned out exactly like we planned it, but it was a joy to experience the unexpected. I think there is so much to the journey of life that we don't want to miss. God is near to you today. Are you taking it all in?

Blessings!


Brian Ward


Thursday, March 17, 2022

Finding our way

Where is God's grace leading you? 

At the beginning of this month, I was able to celebrate the 7th birthday of my son. It was so amazing to see his energy and excitement. It was also the perfect day for a party. He was able to run around with his friends, eat birthday cake, and feel a lot of love from his community. Celebrating these milestones is a wonderful experience, and it makes me feel like we are all a part of something wonderful. I love taking these moments to pause and think about all the ways we can develop and improve as a people. I believe in celebrating the multitude of gifts we have and sharing them with each another. 

However, I can just as easily look at the world with distrust and fear. There are a number of very real concerns in our world, and we cannot just pretend these things don't exist. There is war in Ukraine and a threat of nuclear escalation. We are still in the midst of a pandemic, and there are a number of other mental and physical illnesses that are impacting us. 

Where are we being led? What is going to happen? Who are you turning to?

In our sermon series at Community Lutheran, we are on a journey with Jesus to Jerusalem. When Christ took a path that led him to the cross, he decided to live for what really mattered. He was not going to just share God's grace with his friends, he was going to share this gift with all people, even his enemies. Along his journey, there were moments of difficulty. Some of the people who followed Him didn't want to face the pain. However, Jesus told them that God's love would still provide. Those early followers saw a lot of danger and despair, and it certainly seemed like Christ's death was going to steal any hope they had of victory. Hope was fading, but there was a light in that darkness. Death was not the end.

Praying with the Psalms - Brother Rice High School

Today, we are facing real trials on our journey of life, but God has promised to be there for us. There are going to be trials and difficulties, but I believe there is also hope. It is my prayer that we would all find a way to have faith in this season. There are blessings in the world around us. There is grace in the world around us. There is Good News that we need to share. Let us offer a bit of light to the world, and let us live with a bit of faith in God's Love.  

In Christ,


Brian 

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Happy Spring!

We are entering into the season of Lent as a church. This season remembers the journey that Jesus took to the cross. Many people also view it as a somber time when followers are encouraged to give something up. Some of my friends are fasting from things like chocolate, alcohol, or social media. These individuals remember the suffering of Jesus, and they become a little more tuned in to Christ's work in their lives. 


However, Lent is so much more than giving something up. The word Lent actually means "Spring" in Latin. This is a season all about new life and new opportunities. Jesus taught that there needs to be a time of letting go. There needs to be a time when it is okay to say goodbye to all of the things we think we need. There is a season when we need to experience a kind of death. If we don't have a place where we can leave our ego and sense of entitlement behind, we can lose sight of the things that truly matter. 


Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who lets go of their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
-Jesus in John 12:24


Flowers in Snow to Remind You Winter Is Not Forever

Jesus taught us about love, but He also taught us about vulnerability. If we don't take time to open our hearts to the new life being created, I think we are also going to miss out on the grace being shared everyday. Therefore, I do not believe Lent should only be about suffering and lament. This is a season to grow. This is a season to discover a new identity in Christ. So it doesn't matter if you are giving something up or enacting a new practice, this is a season of hope. You are becoming someone new, because you are loved. Let us enter into this season with vulnerability and grace. 


God is with you! Happy Spring!


Pastor Brian