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God is Love

God is love.

In 1 John 4:16, St. Paul writes, "So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him."

There are different kinds of love that we experience in the world, but the most important love is the unconditional love of God. God's love transcends and persists regardless of circumstances.

The prophet Hosea discovered the love of God and how forms and guarantees of the law are inadequate to express the ways in which God is bound to his people. Hosea is told by the Lord, "Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins" (Hosea 3:1). The image of adultery is used frequently to describe the faithlessness of God's people. When we vainly follow after false gods and false promises we have devoted our hearts to another. When we are caught, we may feel like staying in the shadows because we feel we don't deserve to be seen. Shame keeps us in the darkness. But God calls us to bring to light our weaknesses and trust in him to be our salvation. God's love persists regardless of our circumstances. Have faith in God's love.

In February our sermon series will look at 1 John 4 and experience how God's love is unconditional, meets us where we are at, and equips us to love others. Also on February 8 and 9, our worship services will celebrate the couples that are celebrating a wedding anniversary that ends in a 0 or a 5. Finally, February 26, the people of Our Shepherd will be invited to turn in a commitment card that will share how they plan to participate in the love of God for the people of our community. If you have been in a church for a while, you might recognize that this sounds like a stewardship series. You would be right, but this series is a lot less about money and a lot more about love and how we share it. 

Stewardship or sanctification are two words that are used in the church to describe how we respond to the love of God.

How well do we love? Poorly. We will forsake the love of God to love this present world's momentary rewards. We will love the praise of men more than the praise of God. Jesus told Nicodemus, "that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19).

C. S. Lewis wrote that charity and agape love (unconditional love of God) are synonyms, acts of love for another that happen regardless of circumstances. This selfless love is the greatest of the four loves, and specifically should be nurtured as a Christian virtue. Agape love is the only love that is self-sustaining and does not require something in return from the other. It is a gift from God. Our stewardship of the world that God has placed us into is fueled by charity. We care for ourselves and others with a love that does not require sustenance from the people we serve. We are sustained in this mission with the love of Jesus.

You are not alone as you share this love in the world; God is with you.

Posted by Evan Gaertner

Chalking the Door

On the Epiphany of Our Lord, January 6, family and friends can gather at the main entrances to homes or apartments (nursing home quarters, extended care facility, hospital rooms!), and ask God’s blessing on their dwellings and on all who live or visit there. The following prayer service will be a very memorable experience for all in the family and a wonderful reminder that in our homes and lives we seek the blessings of Jesus.

Leadership in these prayers may be shared with a change of voice at each Leader’s part (L).
Leader: Peace be to this house and to all who enter here.

Leader: A reading from Proverbs: “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.”

Leader: Let us pray: Gracious God, as a shining star once guided the magi to the birthplace of the infant Jesus, so enable those who dwell here to be your light in the world; through Jesus Christ we pray.
All: Amen.

Using chalk (hence, “Chalking the Door”), people are invited to inscribe the lintel of the home (the horizontal frame above the door) with the inscription shown below.
The letters C M B come from the traditional (9th
 century) names for the “three kings” — Caspar, Melchior & Balthazar.
Some also suggest “Christus Mansionem Benedicat” which means “May Christ bless this dwelling!”

Each person is afforded a turn to make one or more of the marks:

20 + C + M + B + 20

Leader: A reading from Isaiah: “The effect of righteousness is peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and quiet places.”

People may join hands or extend their hands outward and upward (the orans position) for the prayers.

Leader: Let us pray: Sovereign God, we pray that you will bless this home and all who live here with your gracious presence, that your love may be our inspiration, your wisdom our guide, your truth our light, and your peace our benediction; through Jesus Christ we pray.
All: Amen.

Leader: Lord, remember your children and teach us to pray (pray the Lord’s Prayer from memory):
All: Our Father…

People may make the sign of the cross in remembrance of their baptism.
Leader: May the Lord watch over our going out and our coming in, from this time forth and forevermore.
All: Amen.

Posted by Evan Gaertner

Christmas Eve Sermon - Risky Trajectory

God joins us in this world and we are saved because of Him with us. Because of sin we are headed the wrong direction. On our own we do not have the thrust to push ourselves into an optimal orbit with God. We are stuck in a suboptimal orbit. At times we will try to redefine the finish line so that we feel accomplished, but the truth is that we fall short.

When Jesus is born, we does not arrive into a world that has everything figured out. He does not join us on a victory that is already fixed. He joins the losing side. He joins us in our flesh and becomes reckoned with us as sinners so that we might be reckoned with him in his righteousness.

When Boening launched the Starliner capsule on the top of an Atlas V rocket on December 20, they expected success. Because of a failure to set the mission clock correct on the rocket, the capsule was doomed to never arrive to the International Space Station. The Christmas presents on the capsule never arrived, and the astronauts did not get the supplies they expected. NASA later explained that if a person had been aboard the capsule that the mission could still have been successful. A person in the capsule at the controls could have overcome the problem of being out of sync. The optimal orbit would have been reached with a person aboard the capsule. With Jesus Christ, our savior, in our flesh, we are able to reach unity with God. Without Jesus Christ, we will always fall short. Our trajectory is set to failure because of our inherited sin and our actual sins. Because of our faith in the righteousness of Christ, we are able to experience unity with God and reconciliation with each other.

Rejoice this Christmas that Jesus has become flesh, dwelled among us in our sin, and redeemed us who are under the law. Merry Christmas.

Posted by Evan Gaertner