Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Getting Off the Rails.

This month during worship at Resurrection we have used Psalm 95 as our call to worship. Verse seven states, “For he is our God, we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.”

Thus the picture above sparked my imagination. As God’s sheep, we sometimes wish that we had a clear direct path to our lives.   The railroad track is a set path that will not be moved easily. We want God to lay down our life’s tracks and make the path smooth without steep hills or broken rails. However rarely is our life so clearly defined and directed. And even when the rails are clear we may not be sure in which of the two directions to travel.

Upon further reflection, I am glad that my life is not set on such rails. Trains are great, but they are so limited in where they can go. They must follow the rails. As the sheep of God’s hand, we have a greater flexibility. After all Jesus told us that the Spirit of God (like the wind) blows where it will (John 3:8).

This week I am in the midst of experiencing how the wind of God blows. Last spring I planned to be heading north this week-end for a canoe trip in the BWCA. I scheduled a guest preacher and kept my calendar cleared. But last month the canoe trip was cancelled but I kept the guest preacher. Then two days ago I learned that the male chaperone for our youth mission trip had to cancel and the trip needed a replacement. So Thursday I am leaving, not for the BWCA, but for Denver to serve with our youth in a YouthWorks mission trip next week.

I will be writing more about the trip in coming posts. Right now I am thankful that my life in Christ is not set on some static rails, but has the flexibility to discover new paths. Like the sheep in the picture, I need to step away from the common track and set off on a new path of adventure.

Otherwise, I just might be smacked down by the oncoming freight train of routine.

Lord Jesus, guide me by your Spirit.

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Running Out of Water

English: Dripping faucet Deutsch: Tropfender W...

Confirmation students often surprise me with the questions they ask. Recently we were discussing the Lutheran sacrament of baptism. They wanted to know, “why do we use water for baptism?”

The simplest answer would be that this is what Jesus used and commanded (though technically Jesus never used water since he never baptized anyone, see John 4:2). Though John the Baptist baptized Jesus with water, he remarked that the Messiah would “baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 4:11).  However water remained the essential physical element for baptism in the early church.  As the Ethiopian Eunuch observed after his conversation with Philip about Jesus, “Look, here is some water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?’ (Acts 9:36). Since the early church, water has remained an essential element of baptism.*

Jesus might have chosen another physical element, but water was what he chose.   Water remains a basic part of life. Without water, biological life dies.  Jesus takes this simple, basic element and does something extraordinary.  That is the power and wonder of the baptism.

In my old church I was leading worship and preparing to do a baptism. I discovered a great-grandfather of the child was a former governor of Minnesota and he was present for the service.   I was a bit nervous knowing this. As I called the family forwarded to the baptismal font to start the service, I looked into the baptismal bowl. It was empty. No water. My nervous meter shot straight up.

Silver bowl with modernist base designI picked the empty bowl up and said, “An essential part of baptism is water and our bowl is empty.”

I started to walk towards the side door, saying as I walked, “There are two essential parts to baptism: the Word of God and water. I have God’s Word here (holding up my Bible), but I need water as well. And do you know where we get our water for baptism?”

I stepped into the kitchen.

“From the faucet right here in the kitchen.”

I turned on the water and filled the bowl.

“It is just ordinary water that we start with, but used with God’s Word it does extraordinary things.” I walked back into the worship area holding the bowl of water.

“And that is part of the power of baptism. God takes ordinary people, like you and me, and does extraordinary things we them. Turning us into the children of God.”

I placed the bowl of water back into the font and continued the baptism.

Later the former governor told me that was one of the most memorable baptisms he had seen.  It was for me as well.

Lord Jesus, thanking for taking ordinary stuff, like water and me, and doing extraordinary work with them.

*The gift of the Holy Spirit remains connected to the act of baptism, but certainly not restricted or limited to water baptism (see the story in Acts 10:44-48).

Holy Spirit Business

Holy Spirit comes to work

I am preparing for my first annual congregational meeting at Resurrection Lutheran which will be this Sunday.  Annual meetings among pastors often have the reputation either of being boring, business-as-usual constitutional necessities or of being highly emotional and conflicted debates on peripheral or personality issues.   As a pastor, I don’t want either extreme to happen, but I do pray that the Holy Spirit comes to work: to coax, push, pull and move the congregation towards God’s future.  Discussion regarding a congregation’s priorities can be passionate and yet loving, for we share a common mission to trust, live and serve God.

The book of Acts has a lengthy account of a large church meeting in Jerusalem.  Paul and Barnabas brought a major concern to the whole church for discussion and debate.   Their concern was whether new Gentile members to the church had to fully convert to Judaism before they could embrace Jesus.  Since most of the early members of the church were Jewish and since Jesus was a Jew, many believed that Jewish laws should be upheld.  Paul felt otherwise and a strong debate developed among the leadership of the church.  What rules and regulations, if any, were needed?  After a lengthy debate, the leadership wrote a letter to the many new Gentile believers,  “It seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden than these essentials: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from fornication” (Acts 15:28-29).  What stands out is that they trusted the Holy Spirit to be part of the discussion.  This was a matter of faith, since the Holy Spirit did not fly into the meeting like a dove and deliver a telegram from heaven.  It was in the discussion itself that God’s Spirit worked.

I think every pastor hopes and prays that the Holy Spirit would be the key partner in any congregational meeting. The Holy Spirit is neither boring, nor highly emotional, but is trustworthy.   The Spirit calls us to trust God in all things.   That seems good to me!

How has the Spirit worked in guiding you and your life with other Christians?

Installation Reflections

The day before my installation, I sent my daughter, Suzanne, a picture of our family stove and a quick note that I was being installed as Lead Pastor at Resurrection, as a gentle form of humor.  Her comment was that I should have used an image from a better stove, like a Wolf Convection Oven. It was the one she used when working as a pastry chef at a guest ranch in Colorado last summer.   A Wolf stove is first class and will serve the people well for many years. A stove that will last.

As I reflect on her comments, I hear wisdom. Resurrection deserves and needs the best from its staff.  And I do want to serve the people of Resurrection for many years.   I know from my experience at St. Andrew’s that ministry and trust build over time.  There are rarely instant solutions or fixes, particularly when one is dealing with the intricate network of relationships within a congregation.   Patience is one of the fruits of the Spirit that is often ignored in our instant culture.

I also know that the real power of a stove comes from outside, either gas or electricity.  I am praying that I will remain steadfast in remembering that all my power and all the power of Resurrection comes from outside of us.  As Bishop Rogness read yesterday, “Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to your through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders.”  I Timothy 6:14

How do we together keep from neglecting the gift of the Holy Spirit?