Thoughts for Sunday

Fire and Rain

“It is neither Caesar nor sin, it is neither death nor the devil, and it is not even God’s own Law that ultimately rule creation; but it is God who ultimately rules, and the Way in which God rules in the world is Jesus” (L. Snook; The Anonymous Christ, pp. 158-159).

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Please begin today by reading our Gospel text that is assigned for this coming Sunday (Luke 13:10-17) … which is always an excellent way to prepare your heart and mind for “being present” at worship. Now … can you see her, the poor stooped-over woman (somewhat represented by the image on this blog post)? She looks like a walking 90-degree angle. Her back is so badly bent-forward that for eighteen years (half her life) … just try to imagine! … she hasn’t been able to see the beauty of a bird in flight or the stars at night. If anything, she felt like she was “the Big Dipper.” Each step is treacherous, for she has to strain with everything she has to see but a few feet in front of her. Each step is excruciatingly painful: as though fire is literally shooting through her whole body. And so, her vision – as with her hopes – is tied to the ground, “earth bound.”

My friends, how easy it would have been for her to excuse herself from coming to church on Sunday. I mean, this was a time in first-century Palestine before epidurals, muscle relaxant medications, or orthopedic surgery … say nothing of being able to pop even a couple of Aleve tablets. But came she did. “Remembering the Sabbath day to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:9-10; Deuteronomy 5:13). She came to pray. To sing psalms of thanksgiving to God in spite of her terrible suffering (I Thessalonians 5:17). She came to nurture her faith by hearing … by hearing (What?) … God’s Word for her. Earth-bound though she be. Until …

Until this particular Sunday (Sabbath) morning … one of yet another torturous, feeling-though-set-on-fire-walk from her little house to the synagogue (Luke 13:10-11). And though unable to see where the Voice was coming from, God’s Word showered the fire of her pain-riddled life like a powerful, healing rain. Recall Dr. Luke’s account:

“And when Jesus saw her, he called her and said to her, ‘Woman, you are freed from Your infirmity.’ And [Jesus] laid his hands upon her, and immediately she was made straight, And she praised God.” (Luke 13:12-13; RSV)

Come, join with this woman … and all of us who are bent-over, carrying heavy fiery burdens (you name yours) … as we are thus better “positioned” to hear God’s showering, healing, raining word for us in worship. And again, prepare yourself in heart and mind, by asking: “What does worship mean? Is it strictly about our praise to God? And where have you experienced God’s healing in your life and perhaps still feel crippled/broken? All of this, so that together – as a family of faith, yet seekers still – we can call upon God in ‘prayer, praise, and thanksgiving’ to be at work in, through, and among us for the sake of this world and all people, whom God so dearly loves – that he gave his only Son … bent over on a cross (John 3:16). See you at worship.

Dr. John Christopherson
Senior Pastor

Worship This Weekend

“Remember this portion of the story of God, as it is written in the book that we love…”

I had the chance to witness Abigail Baki’s ministry last fall, as she recited the book of Ruth at First Lutheran’s “Refresh and Renew with Ruth” retreat. Our church’s Care and Health Coordinator, Jordan Stone, connected Abi to the retreat’s planning team, and her recitation of Scripture added so much to our weekend. When it was determined we would do a preaching series on Ruth this summer, I knew I wanted to bring Abi in as a special guest in worship so she could share this ministry of dramatic interpretation with all of you.

Abi learned the craft of dramatic Scripture interpretation and memorization through Northwestern College’s Dramatic Ministries Ensemble. You can get a sense of her ministry from this video, which showcases Abi reciting from 1 Samuel chapters 1 and 2.

Come this weekend to any of our services, and be blessed by God’s word as Abi gives a lively recitation of all four chapters of Ruth. This book is an incredible tale of devastating loss, loyalty, compassion, bravery, and hope. Abi’s interpretation, and a short sermon of mine to follow, will serve as a fitting bookend to the themes we’ve been discussing this entire month. If you can’t make it in person this weekend, you can later view our broadcast.

May God’s redeeming love be the source of your joy, this day and always!
Pastor Katherine Olson