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Join Us For Worship!

Join Us For Worship!
Sundays at 8:30AM, 9:45AM, and 11AM

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Parable of the Fig Tree

The reading for Sunday, October 2, 2016:

Luke 13:  6-10

In this week's Gospel, we get the parable of the fig tree, that poor fig tree who still hasn't produced fruit even though it's been 3 years. This Gospel gives us a space to consider our view of God and our view of ourselves.

Which vision of God is the one in your head? We could see God as the man who says, "Lo, these three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down; why should it use up the ground?" If we see God that way, and if we see ourselves as the fig tree, that's a scary proposition; we've got a few years to produce before God gives up on us.

A traditional approach to this parable might see God as the impatient one, and Jesus as the vinedresser who pleads the case for the poor little fig tree. I know that Trinitarian theology might lead us this direction, but I'm still uncomfortable with the idea of a God who gives up on humanity. Everything in Scripture (and the experiences of those who walked this path before us) shows us a God that pursues us, going so far as to take on human flesh and walk amongst us. This doesn't sound like a God that gives up after 3 years.

But what if God is the gardener who pleads for the tree? What if we’re the owners of the fig tree, the ones who grow impatient with the lack of progress on the part of the tree?

But what if it’s your own spiritual life that’s the fig tree that’s refusing to bear fruit? Maybe you've felt yourself in a fallow place spiritually. Or worse, maybe you've felt yourself sliding backwards. Maybe once you had a fire in your heart, and you've burned out early. Maybe you've spent years thinking about church development, wondering what the Pentecostals have that you don't. Maybe you haven't been good at transforming yourself into a peace-loving person.

Look at that parable again. The fig tree doesn't just sit there while everyone gathers around, waiting for something to happen. Action is needed. The vine dresser gives it extra attention. The vine dresser digs around it and gives it extra manure (ah, the magic of fertilizer). We, too, can be the vinedresser to our spiritual lives. And we don't have to resort to heroic measures. We don't have to start off by running away to a religious commune and devoting ourselves to God. Just a little spiritual manure is all it takes.

You've got a wide variety of spiritual tools in your toolchest. Pick up your Bible. Read a little bit each day. Find some time to pray more. Find something that irritates you, and make that be your call to prayer; for example, every time I hear someone's thumping car stereo, I could see that as a tolling bell, calling me to pray. If you can do nothing else, slow down and breathe three deep breaths. Do that at least once a day. Turn your anxieties over to God. When you're surfing the web, go to a site or a blog that makes you feel enriched as a Christian, as opposed to all those sites that make you angry or anxious. Give some spare change to those people who stand in the medians of the roadways. Smile more--you are the light of the world, after all. Time to start acting like it.

God is not the harsh gardener who will chop us down and throw us into the fire, but this reading does remind us that we won’t be here in our current physical form forever. Choose your spiritual manure and get to work bearing good fruit.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Good Samaritan

The reading for Sunday, September 25, 2016:

Luke10:  30-37

This week's Gospel presents one of the stories that even non-Christians are likely to have heard before: the story of the Good Samaritan. Those of us who go to church have heard it so regularly that we may have lost sight of the message. The fact that we hear it so regularly should tell us how important the message is.

We could focus on the fact that it's the lowly Samaritan (a foreigner!) who helps the victim, not the priest and the Levite, who hold high status in the Jewish society. We could focus on the victim, who, after all, invited trouble by traveling alone. In the details of how the Samaritan doctors the victim, binding his wounds with oil and wine, we see the foreshadowings of Christ's crucifixion.

But go back to the story again. Note the first few verses of the Gospel; in many ways, these verses sum up the whole Bible: Love God and love each other more than you love yourself. Most of us, when hearing those commands, say, "Great. I'm on target. Love God--check. Love other people--yup, most of the time." The story of the Good Samaritan is told to demonstrate what Jesus means when he gives us the Great Commandments. And here we see the size of the task that Christ gives us.

Many of us think of Love as an emotion, something that we feel. Here Jesus shows that that kind of emotional love is cheap, and not at all what he has in mind. We show our love by action, what we do for those who need us. It's not enough to see our fellow humans and think about how much we love them. Frankly, many of us can't even do that. Monitor your thoughts and feelings as you drive around town, and be honest. Are you really feeling love? Most of us are lucky if we can pull off feeling benign neglect. Many of us go through our days feeling murderous rage. Many of us go through our lives numbed by depression and pain, and trying desperately not to feel anything.

There's a way out of this pit. We must go through life behaving as if we love each other. We can behave ourselves into love. We don't have to start out by stopping for every crime victim we see. We don't have to start out by giving away our money. Although these are worthy goals, we can start where we are. When someone cuts you off in traffic, offer up a prayer for them. Smile at your snarling comrades at work. When someone wants some sympathy, offer it. Leave the waitstaff a more generous tip. Help out, even when you don't have to. Stop keeping track of who has done what, and you must stop right now, if keeping that list makes you feel aggrieved, because you've done so much more than everyone else. Instead of keeping track of your losses, keep track of gratitude. Share what you have, and it's especially important to share what you have with people who haven't had the lucky breaks that you have had.

In this Gospel, it's easy to see the Good Samaritan as a Christ figure: the outsider who stops to help, who takes charge of the victimized who have been left to bleed to death by the side of the road, the one who finds care for the victim and pays for it. We often lose sight of the fact that we are called to be Good Samaritans to the world. Once you start looking for opportunities to bind the wounds of the world, you'll find it easy to do that task daily. And then you'll fulfill the greatest commandment. God makes it clear that we show our love for God by loving each other.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Parable of the Sower

The reading for Sunday, Sept. 18:  Luke 8:  4-15

Many of us have heard the parable of the sower so many times that we may assume we already know everything there is to know about this story.  Indeed, if you read through the rest of Luke 8, Jesus explains the story in the usual way:  some of us fall into soil and blossom, and the rest fall onto different kinds of ground and fail to flourish ultimately.

Many of us have been had this parable presented to us as a yardstick for measuring ourselves:  what kinds of seeds are we?  And yet, seeds are not a good metaphor for humanity--or are they?  After all, it's not like seeds have any kind of self-determination.  They are more acted upon than acting.  If the sower doesn't toss them onto some sort of soil, they have no chance at all.  They can't go out and get their own water and fertilizer.  If weeds or thorns threaten them, they can't move.  Most humans have more options than seeds.

I'm also thinking of plants that I've had that seem to be dead--and yet, they have somehow rebounded.  I had a plant that had a pest who stripped off all its leaves.  Because I am a lazy gardener, I left the plant alone until I had time to plant something else in the box.  Imagine my surprise to find new leaves sprouting from the stalk that had looked so lifeless just a few weeks earlier.

As I think about this metaphor, I'm also thinking of my tomato plants, some of whom have sprouted in the most unlikely places.  I have a front flower box that I'd assume wouldn't be good for a tomato plant, since it's shady and doesn't get as much rainwater as other parts of the yard--plus the soil isn't deep.  And yet, last year, we got more tomatoes from the tomato plant that grew from reused potting soil that we put in the box than we did from other plants that had been placed more purposefully.

Perhaps we should be thinking about the soil of our lives.  We all have ears to hear and hearts that have the possibility of being open.  What can we do to ensure good soil for God's word?  For each of us the answers will be different:  some will require solitude, some time in nature; some will need some nourishing reading, while others will need creative outlets.

Whatever we need for the seeds of God's word to become sturdy sprouts that grow into strong plants--let us do it now.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Justice Ministry

Justice Sunday last Sunday kicked off our House Meeting season!
Our goal this year is for everyone to come to one of the house meetings and learning more about why we as a congregation practice both charity and justice and how each of us can grow in our discipleship through this important work. Folks will get to share, if they wish, their experiences on important issues in their lives and community as well as hear updates on the work of Trinity's Justice Ministry as part of BOLD Justice.

Trinity’s Justice Ministry House Meeting Schedule
SEPTEMBER 18th @8AM Pat Messmer (in the sanctuary) (754) 816-5630
SEPTEMBER 20th @10AM Ron McCoy (in Charter Hall) (954) 790-3106
SEPTEMBER 23rd @7PM Lisa Montalchi (at her home) (954) 297-1325
SEPTEMBER 25th @12:15PM Denise Payne (in Charter Hall) (954) 495-1075
SEPTEMBER 25th @4:30PM Piper Spencer (at the Parsonage) (954) 668-1620

Saturday, September 10, 2016

this Sunday

One combined service on Sunday September 11th at Trinity at 10am then pizza and service for Gods Work - Our Hands Sunday! I'm baking cookies for college kids and our military as I type this. Quilts making for refugees. Prayer shawl making. Notes of encouragement writing. Food Pantry organizing. Blood donating. Memorial butterfly garden gardening. Lots of choices ! Plus birthday cake for anyone attending whose birthday falls in September. Please join us!
Ever in Christ
Pastor Keith

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

God's Work, Our Hands

On this Sunday, September 11, at Trinity Lutheran Church, we will celebrate a Justice Sunday.  First we will gather for worship, where we will consider this text from an ancient prophet:

Isaiah 58:  6-12

Then we will do our annual God's Work, Our Hands Sunday.  Some of our works will be works of charity, like boxing up cookies for college kids or working on quilts for Lutheran World Relief.  Our church has begun its work with BOLD Justice, where we will have house meetings to determine the justice needs of our community.

There's a difference between justice and charity, and we believe we must do both.  In a book I cannot recommend highly enough, The Heart of Christianity, Marcus Borg explains the difference this way: "Charity means helping the victims. Justice asks, 'Why are there so many victims?' and then seeks to change the causes of victimization, that is, the way the system is structured. Justice is not about Caesar increasing his charitable giving or Pilate increasing his tithe. Justice is about social transformation. Taking the political vision of the Bible seriously means the practice of social transformation" (page 201).

Will we see this social transformation in our lifetimes?  We will certainly see some justice.  Just think about how much transformation you have seen in your own lifetime.  As short a time as 10 years ago, I had students assure me that our nation could never elect an African-American or a woman for president, that those candidates would never be taken seriously.  Now, that's changed.  It wasn't too long ago that same sex couples were denied the right to legalize their bond.  Now, that's changed.

The work we will do on Sunday is important too.  We may pray to God for change, and we should then expect God to equip us to make the change.  Gathering together is a way to strengthen our efforts.  It builds community too.

And it's just more fun.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

College Cookie Packages

Our college cookie list is up to 16 boxes to be mailed/delivered.
I may be up late baking Saturday night after a two day meeting near Daytona. If anyone wants to lend a hand and provide cookies for these cherished cookie packages - please consider baking a few dozen and bringing them in on Sunday!

Thanks and blessings!
Pastor Keith

Friday, September 02, 2016

COOKIES!

COLLEGE COOKIE PACKAGES AND NOTES OF ENCOURAGEMENT

Trinity Lutheran, as part of God's Work, Our Hands Day SEPT 11th is preparing cookie packages that will include handwritten notes of encouragement. If you have someone to add to our list, please msg me their name and address (they can be away at college or live at home, no difference). They can be someone we know or complete strangers, but if we don't have their name and address we can't cookie them up.

Donations of homemade cookies or contributions towards mailing costs are also welcome.