LENT 1 B 2015 – FEBRUARY 22, 2015 OSLC

February 22, 2015  

We just started Lent this past Wednesday with ashes and prayer and Holy Communion on the day we call Ash Wednesday. We heard difficult words that are true and sobering: from dust you came, and to dust you will return.

Ashes are the Biblical sign of repentance. But repentance isn’t necessarily a dying move. The whole story of Jonah in the Old Testament isn’t really focusing on a large fish and Jonah as fish food. It is about repentance, and Jonah’s struggle to go proclaim that to the city of the enemy, Nineveh. But after the detour involving that big fish and other struggles, when Jonah finally talked with the Ninevites about it, they repented. A city was saved. The whole city repented and sat in sack cloth and ashes.

Ashes are a sign of death, of fragility. They clearly suggest something that doesn’t last. Clear back in Genesis, God told Adam “Dust you are, and to dust you will return.” Lent imposes on us the unpleasant fact that we will expend an unbelievable amount of time and money to avoid the fact that we are dust. We aren’t going to last.

So we had ashes put on us this past Wednesday. The word we use is imposed, because we get bumped into by something we would rather avoid, the imposition of ashes. And we get other truths imposed on us as well, and that is the joy we get to proclaim in this place over and over. Nothing will separate us, not even life or death, from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So Jesus comes to share our humanity, and that includes physical pain and very real death. Nothing will separate us from the love of God. God comes into our world as Jesus and Jesus stands with us, knee deep in our mortality, dust to dust, ashes to ashes, that God might save us and bring us close to God.

Today we hear that so wonderfully in the story of Jesus’ baptism. Many years ago my dream job was to be a life guard. In my small community, the swimming pool is where we met all summer. It was where farm and town folk met. It was where class mates came to mingle. We did as much laying around on the cement listening to the top 10 hits as we spent time in the water. So the dream job was to be there all day, seeing everyone and staying connected.

So I signed up as a 16 year old for the tough classes of Red Cross life saving. They were held in the morning in days when the pool wasn’t heated. We froze in that water, but I got my dream job. I was certified as a life guard.

And one of the main rules we learned was this: when you see someone in difficulty in the water, you don’t get in the water with them if it can be helped. You throw a buoy, you extend a pole, you toss a rope, you get flotation right to them. You reach out to them as much as humanly possible. Only as a last resort do you get in the water with them. Why? Because drowning people have a tendency to drag you down with them. Drowning people tend to drown their saviors. In desperation and panic, they will climb on anything to get out of the water, and that includes human life savers. So I weighed 120 pounds, as I think with smiles on their faces, they kept using 250 pounders as the flailing people in the water, trying to show how easy it was to drag me down with them.

So here is what happens in the Baptism of Jesus. Scholars constantly argue about why God would need to be baptized, but let me simply say that Jesus is jumping into the water to save us. It is the last resort, and Jesus is willing to be piled on, climbed on, pulled down into the water to save us. He goes there willingly, knowing that to join us in baptismal water will cost him his life.

So what does God do to get out attention? God could easily have sent a Messiah who was a scolder, a person who would be thoroughly justified in saying that God is ticked off at us and wants to punish us. But we get someone who jumps in the water with us and for us.

And then He comes out of the water and begins to publicly speak. Here are Jesus’ first words: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near, repent and believe in the good news.”

What good news? That God will jump into the troubled waters of our world, willing to die to save us. The good news is that God will be one of us, dripping wet, walking the walk we find so hard to do when we get out of the water.

The kingdom is here, and it starts to include us with baptism. And it continues with repentance, our daily acknowledgement that we are not avoiding trouble nor keeping our lives pure and sinless.

The kingdom is here. Jesus has jumped into the water. We are rescued and saved. We have a new chance at life. That is the message we celebrate in every single worship service, and Lent is here, to remind us again that we are living again, thanks to Jesus.

 

ASH WEDNESDAY 2015 – FEBRUARY 18, 2015 OSLC

February 19, 2015  

You’ve lost that lovin’ feeling’

Whoa, that lovin’ feeling.

You’ve lost that lovin’ feeling,

Now it’s gone, gone, gone, oh oh oh.

 

50 years ago, this song sung by the Righteous Brothers became the #1 hit in America.

Maybe it would make a good theme for Lent. We’ve lost that loving feeling.

At least, that’s one message behind much of our Scripture on this Ash Wednesday.

From Isaiah, there is a call to a nation of God’s people not to neglect or forsake acting in the ways of righteousness.

Righteousness is one of those big Biblical words that mean something special, and it’s a word we show know. Righteousness is a conduct that doesn’t jerk around day by day, but it has a consistent focus, and that focus is showing the world that the living God is in charge of our life. It isn’t enough to shorten the word to holy, as if we are special and set apart in some more perfect way. That is certainly part of it. We are indeed chosen by God. That should be at the center of how we define our existence: chosen by God, called by God, marked by God, washed by God, launched by God.

Righteousness doesn’t mean that artists are going to make statues of us and put them in front of churches. Righteousness doesn’t even mean that people will name churches after us, although I do personally like the ring of St. Mark’s. Righteousness means we constantly ask ourselves the question “How do I live to tell the world that God is real in my life?”, and then act accordingly, by the help of God.

And of course, Isaiah tells the people who know that righteousness is a wonderful calling for both people and nations, that they need to humble themselves. That is what we are doing today. It is a bit humbling, isn’t it, to walk out of church with a black cross on our foreheads.

Isaiah asks the question: Why do we fast, but the world doesn’t notice, nor do we figure out why we are doing it and what it means? Exactly why are we going to get ashes today? And he tells us the age-old answer, which is precisely our age-old problem, as new as today. We don’t notice. I bet back then they were too busy making a living to notice, just like today. Or they were too busy just surviving. I don’t think the predicament of human existence has changed much at all in 3,000 years.

Why do we fast, asks Isaiah? Because we are making choices that are not God’s choices. We are forgetting that righteousness is not about me, meaning how good I am and how much other people respect me for that. Righteousness is about re-creating the world in God’s image. Righteousness is about loosing the bonds of injustice, about undoing the thongs of the yokes that put people in bondage, about letting oppressed go free. Righteousness is about sharing bread with the hungry, and bringing homeless into our houses, and seeing the naked, which really means people not able to be dressed to go out in public, and clothing them with what they need.

And then, dear people, we will be back in right relationship with God, and God will hear us and we will be re-connected.

So let’s hear this call, and be connected with God today.

Because, let’s face it. We’ve lost that lovin’ feeling.

Paul, in his second letter to the Christians trying to figure out righteousness in Corinth, entreats them. He pleads with them, cajoles them, begs them, to see that now is the acceptable time of salvation. Folks, you don’t have to wait for something more. This is God’s time right now. And then follows the whole list of excuses we use about why we would go on some kind of spiritual detour: afflictions, meaning who doesn’t let the flu and colds and worse become an excuse; and hardships, and calamities, and sleepless nights, and hunger, and worse: beatings and riots and more. Do you see yourself in that list someplace? Come on, God, you don’t expect me to be concerned about being a living sign to the world of your presence when life is this lousy, do you? This is more than ‘my dog ate my homework’ kind of excuse to God. This is Paul speaking the truth. We use the everyday struggles of our personal world to say, “God, I deserve a rain check on this righteousness stuff. God, give me a pass today.”

And Paul reminds the Christians that they have all the power of God right at hand. They do not need to be overwhelmed. In fact, they don’t need excuses. The weapons and power and strength of righteousness and living as God’s people are within reach. Purity and knowledge and patience and kindness and holiness of spirit and genuine love and rightful speech are right here. God has come close to us in Jesus Christ, and given them to us. The power of God is given to us. It is as if Paul were saying, you’ve got the medicine in your medicine closets. Open the door and just take the stuff. Use what you have been given.

And our Gospel from St. Matthew, in the section we call the Sermon on the Mount, is Jesus’ kind words to say that we don’t need to let the whole world know that we are working on this righteousness thing. We don’t need to hold out a mirror, or use public venues to do religious stuff, or sound all preachy and churchy when we talk, or go around all hang-dog and scruffy so that everyone asks us what we are doing, and we say, well guess what, I’m fasting today.

And don’t try to think of life as a spiritual bank, either, where you pile up all these good things you are trying to do, Jesus said, like some super-big job application for the holiness club. Just let your heart be the place where God dwells, and where the motivation for living comes, and where you hear God guide your next move. That’s all.

Join me again:

You’ve lost that loving feeling……whoa, you’ve lost that lovin’ feeling…..

So Lent begins today, with honesty before God.

We hear God tell us the truth, and pray together, dear God, let me love the world, its creatures, and its people, just like you do. Jesus, show me the way today, and oh yes, if that way has something about a cross in it, dear God, let my heart be strong enough to walk with you.

TRANSFIGURATION B 2015 – FEBRUARY 15, 2015 OSLC

February 15, 2015  

There are moments that linger with us, the “take away our breath” kind of moments that are unforgettable and even shape us. Sharon had brought our only child at the time, Karin, to come join me on a Navy trip in San Diego. We took Karin to La Jolla and the wonderful Pacific beach there. We picked her up out of her car seat, and started walking on the beach toward the waves, and our 2 year old just got the biggest eyes in the world and said in awe and wonder “big water!” It was a defining moment, both for her and for us. We saw our beautiful world through her eyes.

Of course, so was her birth, one of those defining moments, as I held her as a newborn while Sharon was being attended to, and her baby blues were wide open and she focused unwaveringly on the weird person looking down at her. And I was smitten.

Many of us have driven west on I-80 in Nebraska, and can remember the first bluish line off in the distance that made the horizon irregular and interesting. And then we drove miles closer, and mountains came into view. And we have memories of places like Longs Peak outside Estes Park, or farther north at Jenny Lake and the Grand Tetons, and the views that no camera could contain as we look out on the world from a new and higher perspective. Those sights never leave us.

Or we have the colorful sunsets over the Mississippi, pink and blue and orange all mingled together in spectacular ways that make it hard for an artist to fully capture.

Or Sharon and I have our memories of going to the St. Louis Airport while in our first parish, having become sponsors for a refugee family from Laos. We waited for the family, mom and dad and 4 boys, to come off the plane, wondering what the Chittakones would be like. And I will never forget the first view of these new refugee friends.

We read about people who die, and see light and feel so at peace that it is a hard struggle to come back to life. Perhaps some of you have had that experience. We come to Transfiguration and hear a story about people given a view they will never forget.

This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. I will mark you, and I will say “from dust you came, and to dust you will return”. And it will be really hard on me, your pastor, because I know some of you will not be here next year. I have no clue, nor do you, who that might be. So we speak of death and life, and we pray that we do not lose faith or lose sight of God in our world. And in our darkest moments, we cry out for assurance that God is really here.

Which is why this Sunday is so special. There was a changing of the guard in the important ministry of prophet to God’s people, and Elijah’s time of ministry was up. He passed the mantle to Elisha, and then all saw Elijah taken up into the heavens in a fiery chariot. Here was a living and lasting memory, a photo in the mind’s eye, that God had been at work through Elijah, and God would do the same through his successor Elisha. There was no doubt that God was at work with these people.

And shepherds had seen and heard angels. Who could forget that view, or the view of the little one they were told to go visit, there in the manger in Bethlehem. There was no doubt that they had been in the presence of God. Who could forget, if you were a wise man from the east, that the star stopped them in their tracks at Bethlehem, and a humble family received their gifts and treasured their presence, and a future king lay there in his parents’ care.  And who could forget seeing the dove come down out of the heavens onto Jesus at his baptism in the river Jordan.

Or who could forget that they had been healed by this man Jesus of Nazareth, who made their lives new in a sudden and profound way? And who could forget that the presence of the inexplicable, the demonic, that which took over life in evil and awful ways with epileptic fits and strange paranoid thoughts and psychotic visions and convulsions and fits of rage, that evil presence was cast out by the One who could only have been sent by God.

So before we hear the tough news on Wednesday that we are dust and to dust we will return, and before we go to the grave with our brother Don Stern and our sister Louise Young this week, we listen and see this moment in our minds’ eyes, as Jesus takes some special friends up a mountain today. Mountains always seem majestic, and the heights always seem to make us feel closer to God, and on this height, there was the same Elijah who went up into the heavens, and there was Moses, who met God in the fire of a burning bush and began to offer leadership to an enslaved people who needed guidance on their way into God’s promise. And there was Jesus, glowing radiantly, a transfiguring of the One that Peter and James and John had been called to follow to fish for people. The world “transfigured” literally is the Greek word “metamorphosed”, a change just as we label a pupa changing into a beautiful butterfly in today’s science classes.

But unlike looking at ocean or viewing the distance from a Rocky Mountain high or seeing a sunset over the Mississippi, no matter how beautiful and life-affirming that might be, the transfiguration of Jesus is a bit disorienting. The disciples didn’t really know what to do, except hope that it would last long enough that they could take it all in. Jesus put his disciples on that disorienting boundary between this world and a world that God enters and disrupts. Everything, from Elijah and Moses showing up to the very voice of God speaking, leads up to these words: Listen to Him.

On Easter Sunday, we hear of a young man at the tomb, dressed in shining white clothing, who reveals the truth about the resurrection and tells the reality of the morning. “Do not be alarmed, the man says. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised, he is not here.” In other words, weren’t you listening to Him?

Some days I preach sermons that are an invitation to a life application, to do something that God is calling you and me to do. This is probably not one of those days. It is rather a day to simply come into a vision, an epiphany as we call it, a sight that makes life rich and bigger and better. It is a sight of Jesus, gleaming white, and a sound, the voice of God saying “Listen to him”.

Religion is not something we think up on our own. Our faith is revealed by God. Our faith is the result of gifts from God who enters our world, God who comes to us to give us a new reality. This is one of those days where the gift is given. Jesus gleams before us, a picture of what God and heaven and our future might be. Jesus is of another realm, simply put, another existence, a reality we can scarcely understand, but one that God reveals to us. And we are invited today, like Peter and James and John, to live in the revealing of God’s reality. This story we hear every Sunday and every time we pick up our Bibles did not come from peoples’ imaginations. It came as a gift, God’s revelation to us. We are being addressed today with an invitation to listen to God’s Son, and enter into God’s divine reality, and then go down the mountain to tell the world that God is here.

And maybe, in the prayers and in the singing and in the meal we receive, we might leave our world and enter a bit more into God’s world. We are not invited to escape our existence, but simply to walk into God’s presence, God who has entered our own existence. On days when we think, in the limits of our understanding of space and time, that God is up there or out there some place , and we are stuck down here, and we want so much for God to deliver us, we have this day. We have a glimpse. We have a vision. And we have an opportunity to think about God in a new way, and in a new reality, and we are given hope.

And this hope does not disappoint us. Even when we hear… from dust you came, and to dust you will return.

Dorcas Bazaar on Nov 16th

November 1, 2013  

Dorcas Society’s annual Christmas Bazaar is 10 am to 2pm, November 16th, 2013. Find our flyers posted around church and buy your tickets in advance for the hot lunch served this year by OSLC youth group as a fund raiser for summer trips.

We are in need of your help for volunteers, bake goods, Norwegian treats, jewelry, books and craft items to fill our tables. If you have something to contribute, please talk to a Dorcas member. We hope to see you on Saturday, November 16th!

Chicken-Q Fundraiser on June 22nd

June 5, 2013  

The Youth of OSLC will be holding a Chicken-Q fundraiser in the church parking lot on Saturday, June 22nd, during the Washburn Neighborhood Association Annual Yard Sale!

We will be serving dinner between 11:00 a.m – 6:00 p.m. Meals (provided by Rooster Andy’s) are $8 and include 1/2 chicken, baked beans, potato salad and dinner roll. Advance tickets can be purchased at the church office. Thank you for supporting the youth of Our Savior’s!

Butterbraid Fundraiser Starts February 17th

February 14, 2013  

The OSLC Youth will be once again taking orders for those delicious fruit-filled pastries starting Sunday, February 17th, 2013. The pastries are $12 each and come in eight mouth-watering flavors! We will be taking orders until Sunday, March 3rd and delivery will be on Palm Sunday, March 24th, after worship in the Fellowship Hall … just in time for your special Easter gatherings! Contact Jessica Zinniel for more information.

Souper Bowl of Caring on February 3rd

January 12, 2013  

On Sunday, February 3rd, 2013, after worship in the Narthex, join our Youth Souper Bowl Team! This winter our Youth will be presenting the congregation with the opportunity to join in the fight against hunger in our community and our world.

Last year, 6 boxes of food items and $300.25 was collected for the Lincoln/SOTA II/Coulee Montessori Food Pantry. It was a winning day! We are now looking for ‘players’ from the congregation to help this year by filling large soup buckets with cans of soup and/or dollar bills during Super Bowl Weekend, February 3rd, 2013.

The winners of the Souper Bowl are the many families served by our local food pantries and each of you who follow the teaching of Jesus to help feed those who are hungry.

Fashion Cornucopia on November 3rd

October 10, 2012  

Plan now on attending the fabulous Women’s Clothes Closet fashion show fundraiser entitled “Fashion Cornucopia” taking place on Saturday November 3rd, 2012 right here at OSLC!

There will be two shows with the doors opening at 11:00 am and 5:00 pm for the luncheon and dinner shows respectively. Tickets are available at the church office for a minimal cost of $30 (or a table of eight for $200, which is $25 per person). The shows will feature fall and winter women fashions from local area businesses including Dale’s, Kick, Lillian’s, Three River Outdoors, Touch of Class, Moonglow, Jobaflat and Scott Joseph Menswear.

Also, a “What to Buy Your Man” segment has been continued for this year. An exquisite meal will be provided by our own CFS Team. Live music will be featured by Josh & Kim Shively and Company and the WCC will be open for tours the day of the show.

A table outside the fellowship hall will be set up every Sunday to buy your tickets. Tickets are going fast, so be sure to get your ticket as soon as possible!

For more information, view the Fashion Cornucopia Flyer.

Boy Scout Troop 13 Meatball Supper on October 27th

October 9, 2012  

Boy Scout Troop 13 will have its 32nd Meatball Supper on October 27th, 2012. We will serve the family style meal at 3:00 to 7:00. The cost is $9 and tickets can be purchased at church on Sunday mornings. If you have questions contact the church office. We appreciate any support you can give us as this fund raiser helps our boys afford summer camp.

Adult Inquiry and New Member Sessions Begin Sept. 16th

August 29, 2012  

If you are wishing to transfer membership from another Lutheran Church; if you are a friend, fiance, partner or married to a member and wish to join; if you’ve grown up with another faith or no faith at all – these are the sessions to come to so that you can learn about our Lutheran faith and decide whether you wish to join us as a member. If you are an adult who has never been baptized or confirmed in any Christian faith group, please come so that we can support your walk with Jesus. Why don’t you come, and also invite someone else to come with you?

Classes begin at 4 pm on Sunday September 16th 2012. We meet in the Choir Room, up a few stairs from the fellowship hall doors. New Member Sunday is October 14th, which is also the date of the First Communion for our youth. The last class will be that afternoon. Our schedule is:

Sep 16: How does a person know God’s love and salvation is for them?
Sep 23: What do Christians teach about Holy Baptism, and why do we baptize infants?
Sep 30: What are the teachings about Holy Communion? And where do our worship services come from?
Oct 7: Who was Martin Luther and what was the Reformation?
Oct 14: What is the ELCA & Our Savior’s? How can I be involved in worship, growth and service?



Contact the church office if interested or write a message on a pew card at worship. Anyone who just wants to ask questions about basic Christianity is also welcomed, even if you are already a member of OSLC. Maybe you have some unanswered questions that have come up in your adult life since confirmation or membership. Please come and ask them.

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