Musings from the President August 2013

Grace, peace, mercy, and love from God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit!

One week ago we were leaving Palm Beach Atlantic University after a tremendous National Gathering, aka NLS AM 2013. There were seven wonderful worship services…thank you Lord for your Spirit with us – alive and in everything we did. There was a tremendous keynote offered by The Reverend Doctor Al Sager…He challenged us to Come 2 Go! Come and see…then…Go and tell! There were three Forums that were like weekend talks followed by discussion in small groups where stories were related and thoughts abounded. There was the Best Practices Forum where sharing continued and thinking continued regarding living into our life’s journey as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Once again I was reminded that Via de Cristo is a tremendous ministry, designed by God to facilitate the first three words of the Great Commission: “Go make disciples!” If you were able to attend, I encourage you to review of your notes and re-read the daily newsletter, Conexiones, (there is a link on our home page: viadecristo.org) for nuggets to share with your Secretariat. If you were not able to attend, I encourage your reading of the Conexiones to find nuggets to share with your Secretariat. Yes, there were business meetings but the value of gathering is not in what was done. Rather, it was in sharing and encouraging one another to persevere in our walk with Christ.

There is that word again: Persevere! That word resonated in my head throughout our time together. Persevere, a verb, an action word, to: “Continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no indication of success.” Thank you Ms. Patterson, my fifth grade teacher, for teaching me about verbs! Thank you Lord for the reminder that we continue to persevere knowing your life, death, and resurrection has already won the race.

May God continue to bless our ministry together-

In Christ –

Ed

NLS Musings … June 2013

Grace, Peace, mercy, and love from God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit!

It is my joy to bring each of you reading this encouragement from God! What could possibly be better than the certain knowledge and presence of God’s grace, peace, mercy, and love?

Right now my heart is filled to over-flowing with encouragement for each of you that I find it difficult to know where to begin. Following God’s lead, after each of the first five days of creation, God said his work was good. After the sixth day, God said his work was very good! Then God rested… I don’t know where you are in your efforts: with your Secretariat; in your relationship with your family; in regard to _____? You fill in the blank with whatever thing, or things, currently causing you worry, concern, sleeplessness, stomach-churn, etc. Please know God is there! God is present! God will not leave you or forsake you! Persevere for the journey is not complete…

As I read the bible, God continually encourages, guides, directs, instructs (actually coaches) people as life unfolds. We often talk about the relationships in our lives: ours with God; God with us; ours with those that know God; ours with those that aren’t yet in relationship with God; those that we hold close; those that aren’t close; those that we cannot imagine ever getting to know; those we aren’t sure we want to allow to know us! The God of the bible, the creator of the universe, encourages us every step in our continuing journey of discovery. Please know and be encouraged knowing God cares and loves you so much! I trust that as summer unfolds, you will be encouraged in your journey and grow in your relationship with God and others.

May the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; may the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.

In Christ –

Ed

NLS Musings …May 2013

Grace, peace, and mercy from God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit

Some years ago, back in the Jurassic Age (June 1977), I participated in a class focusing on empowering people in the workplace.  The workplace was the military!  At the time it was a very revolutionary topic – empowering people: giving them a voice; preparing them to make decisions that affected the workplace.  This is a concept that many have written about.

Isn’t this what Jesus did with his disciples?  Granted Jesus, as God-Son, was infinitely better prepared to provide the teachings.  He not only knew his disciples from the time of their calling – he had known them from before there was time!  Yet, even Jesus experienced difficulties in mentoring his disciples.  Jesus chastised Peter saying: “Get behind me Satan” (Matthew 16: 23)  The disciples argued “which one of them would be the greatest.” (Luke 9:46)   Gracious!  These fellows were taught and spent time in the presence of the living Lord!  Jesus prepared them to be empowered.  I now have an idea of why God knew he couldn’t leave them, and us, without the Holy Spirit!  Thank you Lord!

As we prepare for and participate in weekend activities, please be reminded that we are working with disciples not very much different from the ones Jesus chose.  We are all fallen and have our own agendas.  Our weekends encourage disciples to continue their journey with God with confidence.  Weekends and follow-on functions encourage us to rely of God, to continue our journey with God together with other brothers and sisters, and to boldly go, empowered with God-Holy Spirit, into the places to shine the light of God’s love.

May we all marvel at the spring – the new growth in all of God’s creation, including the growth in ourselves.

God’s peace, love, and joy to all –

Ed

April musings from the president

Good Friday 2013

Grace, peace, mercy, and love from God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit

“There is so much to tell yet my heart is heavy!” I am convinced that’s how Jesus’ disciples felt in the time between his crucifixion and his resurrection. It is difficult for us, on this side of that first Easter, to imagine the emotions the disciples must have felt: sadness, certainly; regret, undoubtedly; fear, absolutely! The more I read and reflect on the last 24 hours of Jesus’ earthly life, the more I am convinced that John, the only male at the foot of the cross, was not yet at the age of accountability. The other disciples were more than likely in hiding because they undoubtedly thought they were next! They, like so many other “revolutionaries,” would experience the same fate as their leader: crucifixion!

Yet, we who are on this side of that first Easter, look past the sadness, probably cannot relate to the regret, and, living in the United States, cannot imagine the fear. We look to the hope and the excitement of the resurrection. God’s love for all creation demonstrated in a very powerful way! What an incredible gift! Thank you Lord!

Isn’t that what a Via de Cristo weekend experience allows? A time to reflect. A time of joy. A time to rekindle hope. A Via de Crusto weekend is a time to once again experience the joy and excitement of the resurrection. A joy that stems from God’s love, tangibly demonstrated, and  a renewed confidence that we serve a risen Lord.

A question for us to ponder – a topic for reflection: What emotions do I (we) experience when I wake in the morning? What emotions do I (we) experience when I (we) leave my (our) Reunion Group? What emotions do I (we) experience when I (we) leave an Ultreya?

I find my journey oscillates between hope / joy / peace and sadness / regret / fear. Thank you Lord for the brothers and sisters you place in my life to encourage me on the journey. Thank you Lord for being there with me…for experiencing events and feelings with me. Thank you Lord for loving me no matter where I am!

May God continue to give us much to tell and a hopeful presence.

In Christ –

Ed

 

Hallelujah

Good day faithful Jesus followers of the National Lutheran Secretariat Board.

 I’ve been thinking of that word – “Hallelujah” a lot since I was in New Orleans with 34,000 Lutheran youth from all over the country. Rachel Kurtz sang the song “Hallelujah” as the closing piece at The Super Dome on Friday night and I wanted to share the video of that with you. You can’t get the “real” experience of being in the Dome that night, but I think it will give you a sense of what we experienced in just one six minute song.

As I was watching this video the other day for the thousandth time since New Orleans, I was preparing a devotion based on Philippians 1:21, which says… “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” And I thought, “Hallelujah!” Jesus is my life!

What does that mean? Well, for me if means that everything that happens in life—all the pain and agony, all the joy and happiness, all the loss and gain, all the good and bad—everything is for a purpose. Hallelujah! It all has a rhyme and reason. Sometimes we are able to see it clearly, other times we catch but a glimpse from the periphery, and still there are times where we don’t see it all. Hallelujah!

Yet it’s there, that one singular reason, that one great hope beyond hope: we are nothing and he is everything. Through it all, Jesus is my life. Hallelujah!

St. Paul’s words echo in my mind and heart. Yes, to die is gain, but to live is Christ. This should be the cry of our hearts as we live each day. One moment our family brings us happiness, the next stress…but I press on. Hallelujah! One moment our jobs are secure, the next we’re laid off…Christ Jesus has made me his own. Hallelujah! One moment our health is great, the next the doctor has bad news…straining forward for what’s ahead. Hallelujah! One moment we’re surrounded by friends, the next we’re left alone…I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call. Hallelujah!

Every moment. Every day. No matter what. Jesus is my life. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

OK, here’s the video – enjoy!

http://youtu.be/HfPPlZayM3Y

 The Rev. John C. Bradford
Pastor, Christ the King Lutheran Church 

10550 Georgetown Pike                                                 

Great Falls, VA 22066                               

www.gflutheran.org                                                         

Love God, love people – nothing else matters.

A Morning Prayer

“O, God, for another day, for another morning, for another hour, for another minute, for another chance to live and serve you, I am truly grateful.
Do this day free me
from all fear of the future,
from all anxiety about tomorrow,
from all bitterness toward any one,
from all cowardice in face of danger,
from all laziness in the face of work,
from all failure before opportunity,
from all weakness when Your power is at hand.
But fill me
with Love that knows no barrier,
with Sympathy that reaches to all,
with Courage that cannot be shaken,
with Faith strong enough for the darkness,
with Strength sufficient for my tasks,
with Loyalty to Your Kingdom’s goal,
with Wisdom to meet life’s complexities,
with Power to lift me to You.
Be with me for another day, and use me as you will.
For Christ’s sake, I pray. Amen.”

Pastor Bradford

Friends

He walks down the street every morning as I leave.  He has a way that he walks that I can notice from far away.  He is an older man, always in an orange t-shirt and white ball cap, perhaps to be seen from afar.  He walks his dog on the leash and every time I pass by he gives a big wave…even though his back is to me!!

Today I was leaving a bit later than normal and he was walking facing me.  I almost felt I was late because he was on the return trip.  Again, with his whole arm he gives a friendly wave not caring if I wave back or not.  A wave is such a beautiful thing and we have sorely lost that in our culture.  Wave at a stranger-maybe in your neighborhood- today and see what happens!!!

The second marker I have is the guy in the black corvette!  He always has his parking lights on so I see him coming down the street.  He looks like a cool star wars type machine!  We live in a wooded area so it’s still dawn and a bit dark as I leave.  Seeing his car as I come out of the neighborhood is the second marker I need in the morning to know I am on schedule.

The third marker I need as I leave in the morning is to pass by my former church, Christ Lutheran, and to see Jesus in the window!  Sometime ago someone etched into the large glass pane above the doors a larger than life size image of Jesus!  They have set lights at the base of it so it looks really “real” as you drive by.  I need to see Jesus as a marker in my life, don’t you??

We do see Jesus as we crack open the Gospel of John(I am inviting all of us to read 7 chapters a week until the meeting together!!) and see another HUGE marker.  “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God….and in him was life!”

The Word.  What “Word” might you ask?  How about a word of grace?  Love?  Hope?  Jesus as the Word of God is all of that….we might tighten it up and call it Gospel.  The Good News of Jesus….is the Word of life for us all.

In the Greek the word for “good news” is (roughly) “euangelion” from which we today get our word evangelical.  We are a church of the “good news” evangelical…and we are the VDC also part of the “good news” as we evangelize our environments!

May Jesus be your mark of ashes on your forehead and the water of life in baptism that washes those ashes clean.  The marker of grace is all we need in life…sins forgiven, a future promised.  Yesterday a dying woman said to me about all of this “Are you sure?”  and I said Yes, Ma’m, I’m sure.  Jesus loves me this I know because the Bible tells me so!

For you and me today we can mark that as the truth!

Have a good weekend,

Peace be with you,

Pr. Doug

Father’s Day

I’m not quite sure what makes a good Dad. I’ve tried different things, like trying to be tougher, tighten up the bed times or mandate the vegetables. I try and do and say the right things, to love my son’s mother, and try to set a good example in all things. Most of all, I am pretty quick to say I’m sorry, or forgive me.

There is a man from my former congregation who I invited to speak one Father’s Day. He said his kids always knew that his “no meant no”. I think my strong-willed-guy thinks my ‘No” is where negotiations begin. But this guy has his youngest of 3 graduating high school and getting scholarships and honors just like the older two. Maybe I’m jealous of that, or wonder how does he do that while another guy molests or beats up their mother? It’s a mad, mad world somebody said.

In Seminary there was a push to have more inclusive language for God. I’m all for the maternal nature of God and the idea that God can’t be “boxed in” as such. I don’t mind the Father language for God. I kind of like the Abba Father, which as you know is a tender term meaning something more like “Daddy”.

Of all the memories of my original weekend the song “Abba, Father” is close to my heart. Such a powerful lyric despite the hand motions (I don’t like hand motions, btw). But I pray for all of us in VDC national and local that we would always be open to allow God to mold us and fashion us. I think we all should pray that we would be One in Christ Jesus. And that in the end, all glory and praise goes to God, who gave His son to die for us, so we could live forever.

Jesus paid a debt he did not owe, so that we would not have to owe a debt we could not pay.

So whether you think you are a great Daddy or not, and whether you had a good Daddy or not, join me tonight in giving thanks for our Father God!

“Your Father in heaven knows what you need before you ask. Pray this way “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day or daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors, and do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from evil.” Matthew 6:8

Happy Father’s day (every day isn’t it??)
Peace,
Pastor Doug

RHC

The hospital has a term for when a patient has died. It is “RHC” meaning respiration has ceased. We use those initials so no visitors or other patients might hear the words death, died, passed away, etc. We speak in secret code so that as the nurses make notifications from the nurses station they can say RHC and not “so and so died”.

Tonight I’m paged to be with a family for a woman near death. As I arrive on the scene the family is in tears gathered around the bed. Because the patient has some type of infection we wear gowns and plastic gloves. I come in to be with them and the daughter asked for prayer. We join hands with the gloves on and I pray.

Words come hard at times like these. I make a few words, bring some comfort where I can and hug where and when appropriate and just wait silently. The grandson says something about her favorite TV station that she left on all the time at her home. We switch to that station, the daughter next to her tells her it’s on (she is basically not conscious). A few minutes later she gently stops breathing, and she RHC’s!

I don’t know if you’ve ever been with someone at the time of death. It’s a powerful thing. She falls asleep here and wakes up there. She was so quiet and so peaceful. The difficulty in breathing stopped and she relaxed her body.

This Sunday is Holy Trinity Sunday and we celebrate God the creator, Jesus the redeemer, and the Spirit the sustain-er! The family is sustained by the Spirit, thankful for Jesus redeeming their loved one from sin to eternal life.

The love and hug one another and, as death often does, draws them in closer.

Blessings for a good weekend and continue to pray for our team in Denver and for all who will come, not for RHC obviously but for VDC!!!

Peace,
Pastor Doug

My Friend Carl

My friend Carl died last week. His wife, Mary, left the news on my voice mail. Terrible way to get the information but then when is it ever a good time to hear of a friend’s death? Carl and I have known each other for probably 7-8 years. He was a member of my congregation I first served from 2000-2005. After I left there he stayed in touch with me and came over (40 minutes one way roughly) to my current town to worship at our services or to meet me for lunch.

We’d talk about his health, which was failing him rather quickly. Carl was hugely overweight and had trouble with his knees and back. But we’d go over that, issues in our personal lives or I’d share about some problem within the congregation. He’d encourage me forward like a good friend should. The food would arrive and he would say “Do your thing” and I”d pray.

Carl was a fallen away Catholic and was pretty angry with the church. He was angry, generally. Estranged relations with his son, a marriage that was just hanging in there, and a part time job at a local helping agency.

During this last couple of months he spent about 2 weeks here in the hospital I serve. I visited with him as often as I could. Several times I went to his room and he was sound asleep. I knew he didn’t sleep well so I left him alone and when we did visit he would have a few caustic words about the lack of care he was getting and how he never seemed to know what was going on.

So his services will be this week and I’ll make it a point to be at the visitation so I can see him one last time. I’ll greet some friends we have in common, a pastor friend of mine will do the service. Then, I’ll get in my car and drive wherever. And as I do I’ll do what I’ve been doing alot since he died.

I’m thinking about friendships. I am thinking about how I was thinking about visiting Carl at his rehab facility where he’d been sent to get physically better. I’ll wonder why I didn’t go see him that week when I wanted to. I’ll wonder why, before he came to the hospital, the lunch we were supposed to have got put off.

Then I’ll look to my other friendships and renew my pledge to reach out. I’ll now initiate connection more often and renew those relationships that have gone stale. I’ll set up lunches and invite people over to my home. Join me in not putting off those friends who, when they die, we will miss.

And, ultimately, for Carl, me and for you we can point to the One friend we all have, forever and ever. We can point to the One friend who already died. But, for Carl and all of us, death was not the end of the story. Jesus defeated death and rose again. Wow, that will lift my spirits this week. That Gospel will be the center point of the funeral sermon. And along with other thoughts as I drive away, I’ll give thanks for what a friend we have in Jesus!

God Bless You

Amen,
Pastor Doug