4 Epiphany (2 February 2014)

The Rev. Dr. Richard O. Johnson writes, “That’s what these beatitudes are about, you see–that when we are in the hands of Christ (and we are!), the brokenness, the sorrow, the poverty, the troubles of our lives can be taken and reworked and redeemed and made beautiful. And so those things which often seem so burdensome to us, those sorrows we’d like to have just taken away–Jesus looks at them, and he smiles: ‘Blessed are you,’ he says. ‘Those very things, I can use them! Those very burdens, they can have a value! In my hands they can change, they can become beautiful! Blessed are you! And–by the way–you can rejoice and be glad! The kingdom of heaven is yours!’”

3 Epiphany / OT 3 (26 January 2014)

The Rev. Dr. Richard O Johnson writes, “We are always needing to repent, to change. During the next several weeks, we will be hearing each Sunday from the Sermon on the Mount—another of Jesus’ sermons, a bit longer than nine words! It is a text that reminds us, time after time, that we have fallen short of what Christ calls us to be. And yet as we hear these words, as we struggle to live our calling, perhaps the most important thing to remember is that Jesus’ call to repentance is followed by these words: ‘The Kingdom of heaven has come near.’”

The Baptism of Our Lord (12 January 2014)

The Rev. Dr. Cathi Braasch writes, “Pray God, that we who are baptized into Christ will never cease to marvel at the wondrous love of God that we received, by Spirit-given faith, when we were washed with water and the Word of God. Pray God that more will be brought to baptism, whether as children or as adults, and that we will have the privilege of being God’s instruments in welcoming them to the font and into the with-God life in and through Christ’s church.”

1 Christmas / Feast of the Holy Family (29 December 2013)

Pastor Russell E. Saltzman writes, “This is the underside of Christmas, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by Herod, king of Israel by sufferance of the Roman Empire. This is the part of the Christmas story that never gets told, not in our children’s Christmas pageants. The magi arrive with their gifts but we are careful to clear the sanctuary before mad Herod shows up swinging his sword seeking baby boys. It is a disturbing tale.”

Christmas (25 December 2013)

The Rev. Dr. Richard O. Johnson writes, “Back in 1980, the late Dan Fogelberg wrote a song called ‘Longer.’ You don’t hear it a lot anymore, but maybe you remember it: ‘Longer than there’ve been fishes in the ocean, higher than any bird ever flew, longer than there’ve been starts up in the heavens, I’ve been in love with you.’ I’ve always liked that song because it sounds to me like a song that God sings to us. God has loved us longer than we’ve been in this world, longer even than the world has existed. And that is his message to us in Jesus Christ. When we call Christ the Word of God, we mean that through him God has helped us understand the real meaning of all this thing we call life—that God created me and all that exists, and that God chose me in Christ before the foundation of the world, and destined me to be his child through Jesus Christ, according to his good pleasure.”

Christmas Eve (24 December 2013)

The Rev. Dr. Richard O. Johnson writes, “What is that crowds your heart this night, threatening to keep you from hearing the angels’ song? Whatever it is—care, disappointment, worry, grief, cynicism, or just frustration at the burdens you bear—whatever it is, the promise to you this night is that Christ makes room. The great hymn writer Paul Gerhardt put it this way: ‘Come and see! From all that grieves you, you are freed; all you need I will surely give you.’”

4 Advent (22 December 2013)

Pastor Russell E. Saltzman writes, “Attacks against the virgin birth really aren’t against the biology of it. Opponents talk about impossible biology, but that really isn’t what they are attacking. They are attacking the idea of that new beginning which the prophets sought. They are denying the possibility of hope coming entirely from God. The doctrine of virginal conception says this, and says no more: True human life, authentic humanity, and humanity genuinely filled with hope, all this is and will be God’s doing, and it must come from God. And we declare: This hope, this authenticity of human life, this Immanuel, has been born among us in Jesus Christ.”

3 Advent (15 December 2013)

The Rev. Dr. Amy C. Schifrin writes, “It is by mercy that the kingdom of heaven comes to us, for it is by mercy that we are changed into who God had intended for us to be from the beginning. Like the steady drip of water that makes the rough edges of a stone smooth over eons of time, so in the fullness of God’s everlasting mercy, our rough places will be made plain. Hidden deep in human suffering, the King is with us, reveled only in a glimpse, a word, a crumb, a splash, a sign—in all that brings healing, sight, joyous sound, strength to walk into the future, and hope, even when we had given up. The King is with us. The kingdom of heaven has come among us.”

The Immaculate Conception (8 December)

Sr. Edith Selzler, O.S.B., writes, “During Advent, as we wait for a deeper closeness to the Messiah, God’s Word made flesh, in our hearts, we might reflect on whether our receptivity to the Spirit, to other persons, to the Word speaking to us in the Scriptures is as sure and faithful as Mary’s. Do prayer, kindness, and hospitality open the ark of our hearts to bear the Word to all we encounter? May Mary’s example motivate us to prepare to become worthy bearers of the Word.”

2 Advent (8 December 2013)

The Rev. Dr. Cathi Braasch writes, “As a preacher and as faith-traveler, I find the Advent road of my life as much in need of straightening as ever. The longer the journey continues, the clearer my need for this Ruler-Word becomes. The Ruler-Word keeps pointing out those scripture-signs and sacramental-signs that have always been there. These signs warn of the ditches on either side of the road, ditches with names like legalism and antinomianism. These signs warn of the soft shoulder of self- righteousness. When driven on, this soft shoulder gives way, pitching me into the ditch and leaving me stunned, hurt, broken in my soul. The signs of warning and encouragement are all there to be seen, heard, remembered, celebrated and acted upon. If I do not heed these signs, how will I ever point others to them?”