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God loves us & Meets us at the Point of our Need

The love that we have as we live together as brothers and sisters in Christ embraces each person.

God loves with an unconditional love that embraces us regardless of our circumstances. I love the parable of the prodigal son. There is so much love and vice to mine for the pattern of God's love that takes place within our patterns of sin.

The son has left his home and abandoned his past. After a time of sinful living that lives him empty, he returns to his home. He expects only to be treated as a servant in the home. He has no expectation of being treated as a son. He practices his pitch seeking employment. The waiting father sees the lost son, from far away, and begins to run with greetings for him. Sadly this love did not translate to how the  older brother treated his returned brother or his father. The older brother demanded to be recognized for his hard work. The older brother understood the framework of transaction. He worked hard, he should be celebrated. Celebration for the older son should be in response to hard work. The waiting father and the older son illustrate the differences between responses framed by love and responses framed by self-righteousness.

I hope that we will treat people the way we have been embraced by God.

How God loves us should organize our community and prioritize our tasks.

The lost generation is a term that is used increasingly to describe the children that are growing up never having any roots in a congregation. Without these roots that once grew in the soil of the church, the notion of an adult bounce back for marriage and baptism of children is described as less likely. But this generation, like every previous generation, will be redeemed by the love of God that is witnessed in the waiting father who celebrates the return of his son. People are not saved by seat time in the pew when they were kids. All people are saved by the Spirit at work through the Word of God delivering us into the righteousness of Christ.

Resentment and frustration with the generation of people who are not in church anymore sounds to me like the older son who is frustrated. The waiting father did not shout anger and silly quips on twitter about his son that left. He waited and he prayed.

We are not going to organize ourselves to reward the people who work hard. We will focus on the love of God that meets people where they are. If we are lost, God will find us and celebrate. If we are caught in pride, God will meet us there and show us our error.

God created each one of us to be in faithful communion with him. Falling and failing, we imagine we have placed ourselves outside of the boundaries of where God's love can reach. We are born sinners and we continue to find ways to sin. What good things can come from our hands? Not much, but the Holy Spirit does good and through people will bring these good works into the world. 

Our friendships grow out of our companionship but does not exist just by nearness of presence.

St. Peter was in the water drowning, and he cried, "Lord, save me." He did not need Jesus just be near him, Peter needed Jesus to grab him and lift him up.

Jesus had been walking on the water to the disciples. The disciples saw Jesus, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said. Jesus immediately replied, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." Peter was invited to join Jesus on the water. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and began to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"

Jesus reached out his hand and caught Peter. 

God loves us and he meets us at the point of our need with his hands to catch us. Falling and failing will not erase God's purpose and will for us. God meets us when we fall into temptation. While we were yet still sinners, God loved us in Jesus. The church is not near the community, near the home, near the grief, near the sadness. With the love of Jesus, we meet people where they are at.

We purposefully meet people with love of God.

The love of God is not accidentally in the world. Our heavenly father purposefully loved the world by sending his only beloved son to die for us upon the cross. 

The purpose of sharing God's Word in this world is to make manifest the love of God in Christ Jesus. 

God has gifted us with a love that we share.

We have words to share. We have a story to tell. Faith comes by hearing. I trust that the church will always be relevant in this world. There is sin and sorrow in this world, and the love of God has come as a balm for the sin-sick soul.

Posted by Evan Gaertner

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

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