Faith and Family Wednesdays

St John’s Lutheran Church in Stacy, MN presents Faith and Family Wednesdays.

Worship starts at 6:00PM. The service moves into an evening of learning, fellowship and projects.

All ages are invited and it is entirely free of charge.

We have learning opportunities for children age 4 (potty trained) up to 12 years old in Faithweavers and teenagers in Lutheran Confirmation classes. Also many guest speakers and projects for adults and kids who choose not to participate in either Faithweavers or Confirmation.

*Childcare for younger children may be provided depending on demand. 
We hope to see you there.
View below to see our previous Faith and Family services –

Scarcity Mentality

Pastor Mary Ellen
Sunday August 3, 2014
Psalms 145:18-19, Romans 9:1-5, Matthew 14:13-21

Grace and Peace to you from our Lord Jesus Christ:

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Last week we saw Jesus teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven. We noticed that He used many similes and “liken” the kingdom to many things. These things than give us a feeling for and a seed of an idea of what the Kingdom of Heaven is like.

One of the examples Jesus uses is that the Kingdom of Heaven is like leaven or yeast that multiplies rapidly under the right conditions. A small amount can be added to a large amount of flour and it can significantly change the nature of that flour. That is it is not just flour anymore but flour that can multiply and become more than just flour it can become the basis for bread. This bread if leavened flour is used can feed more people than bread made from unleavened flour.

That is the principle at work here when Jesus feeds the 5,000 men plus all the women and children with them. He blesses the 2 fish and 5 loaves and they become more than just a meal for 1 family. They become meals for 5000 families.

Many of us try to make it on our own. When we need or think we need something we will depend on our own abilities and skills to earn the money we need in order to obtain the object of our desire. Many of us don’t even want to wait until we earn the money but use credit cards or loans to obtain things. We are becoming a nation of people who are in debt because of our ever increasing standard of living and our appetite for more and more things – An appetite that can never be satisfied with the things of this world. We think that new car, TV, computer or other device, clothing, etc. will bring us to happiness and contentment but we only achieve that temporarily at best when we try to satisfy ourselves with the things of this world.

I know you have all heard this before. This is not new for you. It is called living within a “scarcity mentality”. It is based on the fear that we will not be able to provide for ourselves the basic necessities of life. When we insulate ourselves by buying more and more things above and beyond the basic needs of food, water, clothing and shelter we think we are safe and secure. Not only that we think we are better and more powerful than others. Our belongings become a source of pride.

So we have pride and fear at work here two things that separate us from one another and from God. When we are motivated by these 2 things, we are using what I have come to call “bad fuel”. Fuel is what gives us the energy to get things accomplished. For example, good fuel comes from eating the right food or putting the correct gasoline in your car. If you are running your car on fuel that is not made for your car it does not perform correctly or doesn’t work at all. Same with food – if you are not eating the right foods you won’t work correctly and you may end up not being able to function at all.

Jesus knows this. He not only teaches about this, He brings it into reality here in the feeding of the 5,000 families. A good teacher uses a variety of techniques to teach. I remember as I was going through the required courses in college for teaching high school, that when we engage the students by using at least 2 of their senses they will retain the lesson better. The more senses we as teachers engage in the learning process the more the lessons are solidified into the students’ beings and the more likely what we are teaching will be retained and put into practice. The lesson literally will become who the student is as a person.

Here is the point of all this – we were made with the desire for the infinite. Our desire will not and cannot be satisfied with anything on this earth. It is only satisfied through faith and our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. When we use fear and pride to fuel or motivate us that is not what Jesus teaches us. We are not following Jesus when we do this. Love is the motivation and eternal life with Jesus is the goal – object of our desire.

Jesus wants us to be able to live and love. He says that we will be provided for. That there is life beyond this life in which our needs will be all be met. He tells us not to worry about accumulating goods and that God the Father knows what we need and he will provide.

Nothing on this earth belongs to us. It all belongs to God. He is the one who blesses and multiplies. When we are in His will He will provide in abundance. Do we really believe that? We don’t have to live within a scarcity mentality with fear and pride as the fuel. We can live within the Kingdom of Heaven where love is fueling everything that we do.

I believe that God has a plan for St John’s. I believe that we need to catch His vision for us and when we do we will be blessed and provided for so that God can bless and provide for others through us.

This Fall, we as a church will be engaging in listening prayer for what God’s plan is for us. All groups and committees will be asking God for His vision for the group of people we call the church of St John Lutheran LCMC in Stacy, MN.

There are 2 questions we will consider during this process:
1. What is breaking God’s heart and yours in the communities you find yourself in?
2. What does God want you to do about it?

Mission Statement:

The mission of St John’s Lutheran Church is to believe, serve and worship in a way that makes Jesus Christ’s grace and love known to the communities we serve.

In other words, we are to be Jesus with skin on to our family, neighbors, and co-workers. We are to go out from St John’s equipped to be disciples and make disciples wherever we find ourselves.

If we are in God’s will we will be blessed and our efforts will be multiplied just as the 2 fish and 5 loaves. Let’s truly rely on God to give us the provision we need to be able to do this.

I know this takes a leap of faith that is to trust in Jesus and give Him our time and talents. It is nonsense to do so in this world. However just as Jesus teaches us we bring our good talents to Him for His purposes and He will multiply them and they will bring many people to realize that the true satisfaction for their needs is not found in this world. It is to return to the infinite and loving God who created them. He will provide all that we need to be able to sow these seeds to those in our everyday lives if we give Jesus a chance. If we give him our best He will honor it and you will be uniquely qualified to be able to influence those within your lives. Those you see everyday in all the communities you are involved in.

Let us pray:

Thank God our Father for the provision you give us every day.

Jesus we bring you our gifts and talents. Please multiply them as only you can do so that we are blessed and in turn can be a blessing to others so that all people are given the chance to come to you.

Holy Spirit stir in our hearts the righteous desires to seek you out for our every need. Dispel the fear and pride in our hearts and let Jesus’ love be the good fuel that motivates us to be Jesus with skin on to everyone we meet.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Living in the Kingdom of Heaven

Pastor Mary Ellen
Sunday July 27, 2014
Psalms 119:130, Romans 8:26-39, Matthew 13: 31-33, 44-52

 

Grace and Peace to you from our Lord Jesus Christ:

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

In the Old Testament reading for today, just after Solomon becomes king and David’s successor – the LORD appears to Solomon in a dream and says to him “Ask me for whatever you want me to give you.” Solomon asks for an understanding mind and the LORD gives him a wise and discerning mind.

In the Lay Shepherd lesson read today Psalm 119:130 “ The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.”

Paul says in the Epistle reading for today in Romans 8: “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” Jesus in the Gospel today says to the disciples, “Have you understood these things?” after Jesus tells them the parables about the kingdom of heaven.

All of these suggest that we as followers of Jesus Christ are not to put our minds on the back burner. We are to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to give us discernment and the wisdom and words that we need when we need them. Total reliance on God is what living in the kingdom of heaven is all about.

“I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.”― Martin Luther

Paul tells us in the reading from Romans that we have within us the very Spirit of God. Our Lutheran tradition confirms this as we receive God’s Holy Spirit in baptism and we reaffirm it at our confirmation.

Paul also says Holy Spirit intercedes for us and Jesus intercedes for us. With these two people speaking for us how can we not draw on their wisdom in living our lives from day-to-day in every situation and place we find ourselves.

Paul also says that nothing can separate us from the love of God as witnessed to us by Jesus Christ. So, we are loved and enlightened by the Creator of the universe everyday. This is living in the kingdom of heaven if we choose to do so. We can choose to have ears that hear, eyes that see and minds that understand all that God has given us by choosing to rely on God.

Whether we realize it or not, we are intimately connected to God. To illustrate how closely we are bound to God I have used this example in children’s sermons. When we are baptized we are linked with God so closely that it is impossible for us to separate ourselves from him. It is like mixing a package of powdered lemonade into a pitcher of water. After it has been mixed there is no way to separate out the water from the powder.

Even though we are so closely linked to God we can ignore it. Every day we can be lulled away from the kingdom of heaven by what we see, hear and take into our minds from the world around us. Yes we do live in two worlds at once here on this earth. We can choose to live in the kingdom of the world or the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus teaches us about the kingdom of heaven in today’s Gospel. He tells us what it is like:

• A grain of mustard seed sown into a farmer’s field that although it is the smallest of seeds grows into the largest of plants – a tree!
• Leaven that a woman took and hid in flour until the leaven spread into all the flour.
• A treasure found and then covered and hidden in a field. He sells all that he has to buy that field.
• A merchant in search of fine pearls when he finds one of great value sells all he has and buys it.
• A net that was thrown into the sea and gathered all kinds of fish. The fish were then sorted – the good ones kept and the bad ones thrown out.

Then Jesus asks – Have you understood these things? Will our answer be yes? I am not sure mine will be.

My mind can only grasp a small portion of what Jesus is saying here about the kingdom of heaven. But maybe that is the point. My understanding is like that of a small mustard seed. Choosing to rely on the wisdom of God is my only recourse here.

So I thought and prayed about these words of Jesus. I asked Him to help me understand what He means by likening the kingdom of heaven to such things as a mustard seed, leaven, treasure, merchant and net. The answer came in a multi-faceted form like a multi-faceted diamond with many faces.

You see the kingdom of heaven is not just the after-life with Jesus it is wherever. Jesus’ rule and reign are respected and honored. So, we can live in the kingdom of heaven right here and now. In a study of the Bible called Eschatology – a study of the end times – this kind of thinking is called “The Already and Not Yet”.

So -We already can start our eternal life right this moment and every moment we choose to follow Jesus. So, our eternal life starts right now. We being who we are kind of waiver in and out of the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of this world – as Pastor Ed has pointed out several times in his sermons lately Martin Luther calls us both sinners and saints here on earth. Simul Iustus et Peccator = “A Christian is simul (at the same time) iustus (just or righteous) and peccator (a sinner).”

So, the mustard seed could be seen as the amount of faith one could have to follow Jesus here on earth. In fact, Jesus says to the disciples after they were unable to cast demon out of a boy in Matthew 17:

Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

The power to move the mountain is not ours. It is God’s power given to us through our faith. Faith links us to God. Faith exercised on our part is the realization that we are so closely linked with God that when we ask anything He will make it happen according to His will. Through faith we want to do what is pleasing to God.

When we are resurrected we will then be able to experience life as a saint and that life will be hugely different than this one. As different as a mustard seed is from the large tree it produces in Jesus’ parable. So, that is only one aspect or facet of this diamond called the kingdom of heaven.

As I reflected about the leaven it came to me that now we are both sinner and saint. The leaven is the sanctification process that we go through here on earth which transforms us into new creations. As Jesus deals with our sinfulness and as we confess it we are actually becoming holy. That is the saint part. That leaven works in us until it is fully realized within us as we step into our eternal life after our death – where we will be righteous. I can’t wait for that. I won’t hurt anyone and no one will hurt me. Everything will be as God first intended it. There it is another facet of the kingdom.

The treasure is that this experience of the kingdom is worth all that we have. When we die we will take nothing with us. We will have given it all up whether we want to or not. Realizing that we can live in the kingdom right now we can give up living by the dictates of this world as we choose another way – Jesus’ way of loving both God and neighbor. We don’t do this all the time here on earth but we can at least see its value in our lives. It is absolutely priceless to see the reaction to our kindness as we choose to help our neighbors in need. Yet another aspect of living in the kingdom.

Among all the treasures of this world living in the kingdom of God is the most precious. It is not just life it is the only life worth living! Appreciation for the life Jesus died to give us can only grow. I can hardly imagine how precious the new and eternal life will be as we all become saints and who we truly were created to be. Another aspect of the diamond called the kingdom.

Last but not least Jesus describes the kingdom like a net that catches all kinds of fish. God desires all people to come to Him and the net catches them all. We all have a chance to live in the kingdom, but God cannot allow sinfulness into heaven. We who are followers of Jesus have imputed righteousness. That is we rely on Jesus and His death on the cross for the forgiveness of all our sins. As we follow Him in this life we live in the kingdom as much as we are able to and desire to based on our faith.

As Scott said a couple weeks ago we are to sow the word of God to others regardless of how it is received. A farmer ceases to be a farmer if he does not plant seed – Likewise, we cease to be a follower of Jesus when we cease to live by the word and tell others about Jesus. God can work with those seeds and make them grow in the most unlikely of places. God desires all the fish to come to Him. Yet another aspect of God’s character and the kingdom of heaven.

A multi-faceted diamond is so precious and so is the kingdom of heaven. Even though we can only understand it a little we can live in the kingdom based on what faith we now have. Jesus honors every step taken toward follow His reign and rule and considers this love. John 14:15 says “If you love me you will obey my commandments.

We do not know how wonderful the life to come is but the seed of that life has been planted in us. It can grow here while we are still on earth as we walk in love, obedience and faith. We are to share that love with everyone we come into contact with so that we can in turn plant the seeds of eternal life in them.

Maybe the next time you have a choice about how you will go about dealing with the people in your life…. Stop and choose life – eternal life. Do things that Jesus would do not what comes naturally to you. Confess your resentment toward one another and live life without the burden of that heavy load. Give it to Jesus. Now that is living in the kingdom of heaven already.

Pastor Ed is teaching Scott and I in a vessel training class. That is one of the first things he teaches. To recognize that holding a resentment is a sin. It does not matter what hurt caused that resentment but confessing it will change not only you but plant a seed in someone else’s heart.

Living with resentment builds a barrier between you and another person. Let Jesus protect you by confessing it as sin regardless of how the other person receives it. This practice will change your life. It will give you part of the authentic kingdom living that we will all experience fully one day.

Let’s pray

Heavenly Father – we love and want to honor you always.

Jesus – we want to follow you and live the life you came to give us right here and now. Help us to confess our sins and grow in holiness. We look forward to becoming the saints you created us to be.

Holy Spirit – advise us along the way. Show us when we stray and live outside the kingdom. Give us wisdom and discernment as we live and love God and others in this world.

Thank Lord for being God with us here on earth. Amen