Anticipation

 

Anticipation

 

I can remember as a kid tracking the weeks leading up to my birthday.   Once I figured out if my birthday was on a Tuesday or a Friday, the those weeks before I could announce the countdown to my family.  “There’s only three weeks until my birthday!”  “There’s only two weeks left.   You better start shopping.”   “There is ONE week left until my birthday arrives!”  And with each passing week, the anticipation would grow.  Each week as my birthday got closer, I could feel the age and excitement build more and more. 

We’ve arrived in the season of Lent.  A time of self-reflection, honesty, and remembering our mortality.  It can be a sobering time as we discover ways we haven’t lived up to our potential.  But something else happens during Lent, and I want to make sure we don’t miss it.

Lent is the 40 days leading up to Easter.   The problem is that there are actually 46 days leading up to Easter.   During the season of Lent, we don’t count Sundays because Sundays are always supposed to be days we celebrate the resurrection.  So in the midst of this season where we are looking deeper into where we’ve messed up in our relationship with God, there are these weekly Sunday resurrection interruptions.  There are these moments we celebrate that God is still with us, that nothing can hold God back, and that we are loved and forgiven.  It’s as if there’s this countdown to Easter that’s built right into the process of Lent.  “There’s only three weeks until Easter.”   “There’s only two weeks left.  You better start inviting.”  “There’s ONE week left until Easter arrives!” 

Even after Christ’s resurrection, the party couldn’t stop.  “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all.”  Acts 4:33

May you take the time to reflect and grow in your relationship with God this season of Lent.  May you be willing to be honest and real with God about what’s going on in your life.

And may you discover God breaking in week by week to remind you of the promises of the resurrection, until we gather again to celebrate the gift of Easter.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Chris


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Flavors

 

 Flavors

There is an ice cream shop in Venezuela that claims to have over 900 different flavors of ice cream.  That’s right….over 900 flavors.  There are your normal flavors like vanilla and chocolate and strawberry.   There are more adventuresome flavors like cherry and peanut butter or cookies and lemon flavored.  There are also some extreme flavors.  Some of the flavors are ones I don’t know that I’d touch, even on my craziest days.  Flavors like:  avocado, mushroom and wine, spaghetti and cheese, trout, and salmon. If none of those have your tummy growling, there are also tuna fish, onion, spinach, and fried pork rind flavors as well. 

 

Sounds delicious, doesn’t it?  I have friends who are plain vanilla type of guys and other friends who are more adventurous.   Most of the time, if we go out to get some ice cream, everyone picks and eats their own favorite flavor, and everyone is happy.  But there are times that something else happens.

 

Sometimes we get together, especially for birthdays and some thing so common but interesting happens.   The birthday cake will come out with more candles than should be allowed on a cake, we sing some off key version of Happy Birthday, the cake is divided up, and then it happens.  You know what I’m talking about.  What goes with cake?   That’s right.  Ice cream. It’s not 900 different flavors, but just one flavor that goes with the cake.  (It’s never tuna fish or pork rind flavored!)  And we all eat it.  And we all have a blast.

 

Sometimes, even in our uniqueness, there’s something about feeling like we are one together.    The author of the Gospel of John put it this way:  “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one.  As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”  John 17: 20-23

 

There’s something amazing that happens when we can see ourselves as one, intertwined by a common yet extraordinary faith.  That’s why I love the Lenten Series that the Shawnee Ministerial Alliance hosts every year.  Each week, on Thursdays, from noon – 1p.m we gather at a different church and we worship together.   Then we eat together and talk and share a few moments of life together.  All these different flavors of ice cream gathered in one spot, to worship One God and to reflect on the journey of Jesus Christ during this Lenten Season leading up to Easter.

 

You should join us.   To change up your lunch once a week.  To make new friends.  To worship and sing and pray.  To eat.  To see what a bunch of different flavors look like when they are all in one place, for one purpose, and one focus as followers of Christ.  I hope to see you there!

Thursday, February 27:  First Christian Church

Thursday, March 5:  St. Paul’s United Methodist Church

Thursday, March 12:  First Baptist Church

Thursday, March 19:  St. John Lutheran Church

Thursday, March 26:  Wesley United Methodist Church

Thursday, April 2:  St. Benedict Catholic Church

Good Friday, April 10:  Emmanuel Episcopal

 

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Chris Dodson


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Super

 

It’s halftime of the Super Bowl and I’m writing my article.   I’m sitting in the youth room at the church during their party.   I’ve been looking around the room at these 26 youth and adults now for half a football game, and I thought I’d share my breakdown.  There are about 6 Kansas City Chiefs fans in the room.   2 San Francisco 49ers fans.    Yep, the rest don’t even care that a game is on tv.  Most of the youth were engaged in the commercials for the first few minutes.   At halftime, there are 12 still watching both the game and commercials.  5 are excited about the halftime show, while the rest could care less.  

Estimates are that between 98 and 100 million people will tune into this game.  I wonder, kind of like our youth group tonight, how many people out of that 100 million actually care about the actual game.  I wonder what percentage tune in just for the commercials.   How many just tune in for the halftime show?   This is a large group of people, interested in many different things, all together for the same event.  We have a smaller version of that right in front of me right now.

There’s something about our own uniqueness, our own passions, the special way each one of us is wired that makes each of us different.   Yet, for the right event, for the right passion, for the right cause, people can still gather together.   Like for a Super bowl. 

Or for church.   Sometimes there’s actually a strength to different people with different passions coming together.  I think Paul knew that when he wrote:  “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” (1 Corinthians 12:12).

Some of us love football. Some of us love the commercials.  Some of us enjoy working with children and youth.  Some of us teach.  Some of us like sitting in the front pew.   Some of us savor our seat in the back.  But it takes all of us together to be the body of Christ.   To grow the Kingdom of God, to care for those inside and outside the doors of the church, to reach the potential God sees in us, we bring our uniqueness together, and we share life together.

Who knew a youth group Super bowl party could teach us something so Super about ourselves?

 

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Chris


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Obit. or Birth Notice?

 

I read a story this morning of an irate subscriber of a newspaper who stormed into a the office waving the current edition, asking to see “whoever wrote the obituary column”.

When referred to a young reporter, he screamed, “You can see I’m very much alive, and you’ve put me in the obituary column! I demand a retraction!”

The young reporter replied, “I never retract a story. But I tell you what I’ll do. I’ll put you in the birth column and give you a fresh start.”

 

A fresh start.  Doesn’t that sound nice?  I think all of us at times after a mistake, a bad first impression, or saying something we shouldn’t have, have wanted to make a fresh start. Southwest Airlines had an entire commercial line for a while where they would show someone doing something embarrassing and then flash up the tag line, “Wanna Get Away?”

 

A fresh start.  The opportunity to start over.  That’s what King David was asking for as he cried out to God in Psalm 51.  “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin….Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.”

 

A fresh start. A new and right spirit in us.   We’ve been talking all month about all that is made new in us because of our faith.  A new day.  A new us.  A new journey with God.  But as you look at how you’ve lived your life recently, does it look any different than a year ago?  Are your attitudes any different?   Are you taking on each day as if it’s fresh and new or as if it’s just a repeat of a week ago?  Would I see your name in the obituary column, with each day feeling as dead, and boring and as repeated as a previous one?  Or would you show up in the birth column, seizing this new, never before day with God already blessing you before your feet hit the floor?   How you life this day is up to you.   Just don’t miss the possibility it holds!

 

 

Grace and Peace,

 

Pastor Chris


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Light!

Light!

Back when electricity was first being introduced to a little Scottish village, almost everybody in a particular church switched from the propane lanterns to electricity just as soon as it could be hooked up.  However, one couple in the congregation couldn’t get their electricity because they were waiting for the poles to go up and the wire to be strung.  So they continued to use their propane lanterns.

 

The day finally came when electricity was brought into their home.  Everyone came for the festive event.  The man waited for it to get extra dark; then he told his wife to go turn on the switch.  When she did, the light filled the room, and everyone rejoiced.  The man grinned from ear to ear, picked up a propane lamp and said, “It sure makes lighting my lamps easier!”  And with that he lit a lamp, and his wife turned off the electricity.

 

I feel like that after Christmas sometimes.  It seems like there is all this energy pushing towards Christmas eve and Christmas day.  Everybody is a bit more cheerful and generous.  Our lives are tuned into Christ. We make conscious efforts to be the light of Christ to the world.  But then the day after Christmas happens and it starts to fade. And I wonder where all the light has gone.  The day to day activities return.  Now it’s cold and winter blues start to set in and it feels like all that light that we were celebrating has now been turned off.

 

Jesus told his audience in the middle of his Sermon on the Mount, “You are the light of the world.  A city built on a hill cannot be hid.  No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

 

You are the light of the world!  As Christians, that means when we look into the world and see many dark places, our job is to bring the light of Christmas forward into those dark places.  The light of Christ is the most powerful light in the world.  Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  I don’t know about you, but this little light of mine?  I’m gonna let it shine!  I hope this song gets stuck in your head…and I hope that in 2020 you are willing to light up with world with Christ!

 

 

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Chris


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Random Act

I love the Christmas story.  I think the thing I like most about the Christmas story is Mary’s response when she is told she will bear a child.  Mary’s words according to the Gospel of Luke, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”  Wow!  God was asking her to do something extremely difficult and her words are, “Here am I…”  An expression of her willingness to serve regardless of the task. 

Then, God came into the world in the form of a baby, born in a manger, the feeding trough of livestock, and spent that earthly life touching the untouchables.  Speaking to those who were not to be spoken to.  And loving the unlovables.

And we are called to the same….

I want to challenge you this Christmas season.  Find a way to do a Random act of kindness.  Do something unexpected.  Don’t sit and plan it out now, just keep it in your thoughts that you want to do something.  Make it a personal thing where you see the face of the person you are being kind to.  An act of kindness like adopting an angel from a tree is a wonderful gift to many families and I encourage you to help out with something like that, but this project is about seeing the face of God, face to face in another person….

 

Take someone to lunch who usually eats by themselves or grab an extra meal from the fast food restaurant that you visit and drive around looking for someone to give it to.  When you are out shopping keep your eyes open for someone who needs a hand opening a door or someone who needs a smile.  Make a phone call and tear down a fence that has been built for far too long.

What matters is not what you do, but that you see the face of God in the person who needs you.  I want to hear your stories of your act of Random Kindness.  I know that there will be some incredible stories to be told as we look for ways to serve another person.

God is calling us to be a servant, and has provided us an example of how he wants us to serve in the coming of this Christ child that we celebrate.  My hope is that when God calls you, you will be able to hear the voice of God and respond, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

Grace and Peace,

Chris Dodson


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The Little Gift

In the rush of last-minute Christmas shopping, a woman bought a box of fifty identical greeting cards.  Without bothering to read the verse, she hastily signed and addressed all but one of them.  Several days after she mailed the cards, she came across the one card that hadn’t been sent, and she looked at the message she had sent.  She was horrified to read:  “This card is just to say….a little gift is on the way.”

 

We laugh at little Christmas jokes like that but the truth is that man of us feel rushed this time of year.  We have Christmas plays, and office parties, and gifts to buy and wrap.  We have food to cook, family to entertain, and houses to clean.  And then when it’s all over we have the bills to pay and the pounds to lose! 

I love the Charlie Brown holiday specials and I watch them all every year.  It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, and A Charlie Brown Christmas are masterpieces of holiday literature. I know, masterpiece might be pushing it a little. I’m ok with that.  I can recite most of the words with the characters as the show goes along.  I especially like the Christmas special because it calls us back to the real meaning of Christmas. There are some great pieces of Christmas literature in the world but I’m not sure that there is a more beautiful part of any Christmas story than when Linus walks out onto the stage in the middle of a crazy Christmas program rehearsal and starts reciting right out of the Gospel of Luke, “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.”

I think that lady with the Christmas cards in the joke above had it right, even if unintentionally.  This card is just to say….a little gift is on the way.”  A little gift is on the way.  A baby….born in a manger….the Savior of the world.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Chris

 


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The Leftovers

We find ourselves at an odd place.   I am writing this article before Thanksgiving.  Images of a cooked turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, homemade roles, and pecan pie are dancing through my head.  I can almost bring to mind the smells that will fill the house once we start cooking the meal. My stomach has started to growl.  My mouth has started to water.  I’m now hungry and ready to eat.  All while sitting in my office trying to type this article.  

 

Most likely, you are reading this after Thanksgiving.   The family has gathered and gone.  You know the winners of the Thanksgiving Day football games.  You’ve already had that hard, post-Thanksgiving nap.   You’ve put all the leftovers in Ziploc bags and plastic storage containers to snack on the next few days.   Wow.  Even thinking about leftovers makes me hungry! 

 

It’s the idea of leftovers that has my mind going this morning.  Somewhere and somehow along the way we survive the hustle and bustle of Thanksgiving.  But outside of that post-Thanksgiving nap, we know we are usually entering a hectic crazy time in the calendar.  Churches are busy preparing for Advent and Christmas.   Your calendar might start to fill with extra programs the kids or grandkids are in.  Christmas parties start to fill up the weekends.   Shopping for everyone on your list and hoping you didn’t forget someone.    You’ve finished cooking for Thanksgiving and now you have to plan that Christmas meal. 

 

We dive into December so busy, with our schedules so plump and full, with our days just mashing into one another, with busy hour rolling on top of busy hour, that I wonder if all we have to give God by the times it’s done is our left overs.    With whatever energy is left in the tank, we try to carve out time for God.  With whatever dollars and cents are sitting in the bottom of our purse, we offer it to God.  Our ideas and creativity are spent on finding the right gift and creating the right dish, that all we have to offer God is any leftovers still hanging out there.  

 

But I don’t think that’s how we are supposed to come into this season of Advent and Christmas.   Isn’t God after more than our left overs?  There’s a familiar scripture from the Gospel of Matthew that hits at the point of this.   

Matthew 22:34-40.  Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’   All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

 

Love God with what?  ALL my heart. ALL my soul.  ALL my mind.  ALL.  No mention of left overs. What would it look like to try this year and love God with ALL of who you are, even in the midst of shopping lists and crazy schedules?   What would it look like to love your neighbor with ALL of who you are this December?  What if we looked and listened for God in ALL of the events filling up our calendars?   What if we offered God ALL of who we are this Advent season, instead of just offering the left overs? 

 

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Chris Dodson


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Try And Stop Me!

I bet you are expecting a nice newsletter article about Thanksgiving aren’t you.  I bet you think I’m going to write about turkey and dressing, friends, family, football, and the things I’m thankful for. 

 

Well, I’m not.

 

Actually I am going to write about what I’m thankful for but that will come in just a minute.  About a week ago a friend of mine asked the question, “I just took my mother Christmas shopping so does that mean that I can start singing Christmas carols all the way home?”

 

Now, I used to be in the camp of “Wait until after Thanksgiving!”  And maybe you are still there.  But then I started thinking that the Advent season and the Christmas season represents a pretty incredible and important part of my life and faith.  If my soul is craving the opportunity to celebrate the season for more than 4 weeks out of the year then maybe I should listen.

 

So my thought for you today is this.  If at some point you find yourself fighting the urge to crank up the Christmas carols, stop it!  Let ‘em fly!  Let ‘em ring out!

 

Because one of the things I am most thankful for in my life is that our God would love us so much that God would choose to come down and be with us in a human form and begin this incredible journey of Jesus’ life.

 

So this thanksgiving, I’m giving thanks to God for God’s unending love….I’m going to eat some turkey, watch some football, and break out the Christmas music!  Just try to stop me!  

 

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Chris


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Thanks

THANKS

There was once a woman who was always able to find something for which she was thankful.  One morning there was a terrible snowstorm, but she still showed up in time for work, and she was thankful. Her supervisor was surprised to see her, and was equally surprised to hear that she was thankful to make it to work in such a storm.

 

When asked why she was so thankful, she said that she was thankful that she lived so close to work.  Her supervisor still did not understand how she could even walk on the icy sidewalks with the blowing winds.  She said that she was so thankful that she was able to crawl to work on her hands and knees. Her supervisor was astounded, and asked what was so wonderful about crawling to work on her hands and knees.  The woman smiled and said, “During the blizzard in the early morning light, no one was able to see me!” (Parables, Etc. November 1993)

 

As we prepare to go into the holiday season this year and especially thanksgiving our minds and hearts naturally turn to all the things we are thankful for.  Often, I hear people say that they are thankful for good food, good friends, and good family.  But what about when things are rough?  Can you find the strength to give thanks when things are not going so well?  The goofy story above teaches us that in every part of life there is always something to be thankful for if we will look hard enough.  But I think thankfulness goes even a bit further than even that truth will take us.

 

Our scriptures teach us that thankfulness is not just a reaction to the circumstances around us but an attitude that can actually affect our lives.  Consider Philippians 4:6, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (NRSV)”  With thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.   Thankfulness is not just to be the reaction to the good things we find in life, but the attitude with which we view life (including our problems which we take to God.)  Thankfulness is not just reaction, it is medicine and it will help us heal.  

 

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Chris


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