Viewing the World Through the Cross

The cross – during Jesus’ life and for many years before and after, it was a symbol of fear, anxiety, domination and control. It was capital punishment in a most brutal, painful form. The purpose of crucifixion was to dissuade others from doing the same thing that the perpetrator had done. It was also humiliation – a person who was crucified was not even dignified with a loincloth but instead was left to hang naked for hours or even days.

As Lutheran Christians, we believe in looking at the world through a theology of the cross – which means to see God and the world as it really is – not as we want God and the world to be.

Good Friday is a day to see the world as it really is – full of cruelty, hatred, injustice, inequity and sin.

Good Friday is also a day to see God as God really is – boundless in love and forgiveness for us and the world. Luther called God’s gift to us – Christ on the cross – “God’s backside” – the point at which God appeared to be the very contradiction of all that one might reasonably have anticipated God to be.

Holding on to the cross and seeing the world through the cross means seeing through God’s eyes. Staying near the cross means that we don’t worry about our own salvation every moment but instead see the world as God desires it to be – full of love, justice, equality and freedom.

Stay near the cross – not out of fear for your own life after death – Stay near the cross so that you are working with God in this world today.

Categories: Pastor's Thoughts

Humility and Hand Washing

Today is Maundy Thursday, the day that we traditionally gather to share a meal of bread and wine that has come to be called communion – a word derived from Latin for fellowship, mutual participation, a sharing.

How can we share communion when we can’t come together? That is the conundrum of many pastors and of me during this COVID-19 pandemic. The meal and the washing ceremony have a deep place in my heart and it’s hard to give that up.

So instead of focusing on what we can’t do, let’s shift to focus on what we can do.

We can be grateful that God hasn’t gone anywhere. God is still here with us every moment of this crisis.

We can read and reflect on the words of these ancient stories – Passover and the Last Supper and listen for God’s guidance.  So let’s do that together for a few minutes.

Passover happened as the last message to Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt. The last of ten plagues was the death of the firstborn in every Egyptian household, and the blood on the door frame was a signal to skip the homes of the Israelites.

The Israelites were told to eat their meal hurriedly, with their shoes and coat on and prepared to leave. This wasn’t a relaxing meal with friends, it was a last meal before chaos and change.

Jesus’ story for today is not about the meal and those words: “This is my body given for you” or “This is a new covenant in my blood”. Instead it is Jesus showing what a new Passover tradition should be:

“Do you know what I have done to you? 13You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17If you know these things; you are blessed if you do them.”

It is hard for us to be willing to wash the feet of someone else for many reasons: privacy, intimacy, fear, and anxiety, to name a few.

We have to overcome our own expectations in order to be humble. That was Jesus’ lesson to his disciples on that Passover evening. God desires us to love and respect each other as equals because we are equally God’s children.

On this socially distanced Maundy Thursday, we are living Jesus’ teaching of humility and care. We are protecting each other from COVID-19 instead of selfishly insisting that we gather to continue a tradition. We are washing our hands and disinfecting doorknobs and light switches in the way that Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. Not because it is expected of us, but because we care for each other.

There will be many other years when we can come together and share a meal and wash each other’s hands or feet. But this year we have a unique opportunity to be Jesus for the world, washing our own hands so that others will be safe, loving one another as God has loved us.

Categories: Pastor's Thoughts

Dios prevalecerá

el mensaje del domingo de ramos y la pasión

Las lecturas de hoy nos llevan de un extremo a otro –
Del triunfo a la crucifixión.
Desde la celebración del éxito hasta el rechazo y la traición.
De la certeza a la incertidumbre.

Sin embargo, ¿notaron que también había constancia y fe en esta historia?
Jesús fue constante en su posición, sin ceder ni renunciar a su mensaje de justicia y amor.
Las mujeres estaban constantes en su posición– siguiendo y cuidando a Jesús hasta el pie de la cruz.

Esa constancia frente al desafío es real para nosotros hoy.
Nos bombardean con noticias y consejos contradictorios y no sabemos en quién ni en qué confiar.
La tentación de negar como Pedro o traicionar como Judas también nos desafía.

Pero sobre toda nuestra fragilidad y defectos humanos, podemos aferrarnos a este mensaje: ¡
Dios prevalece! Dios no se rinde y Dios no se rinde.
Dios se aferra al compromiso de Dios de amor, justicia, misericordia y perdón.

Jesús no renunció a su compromiso aun cuando luchó en su humanidad, sabía que Dios prevalecería sobre las acciones más horribles: su propia muerte humillante y vergonzosa en una cruz.

Dios prevalece cuando no nos damos por ventosos, cuando nos aferramos a nuestro cuidado por nosotros mismos y por los demás. Dios prevalece cuando seguimos orando el uno por el otro y por el mundo. Dios prevalece cuando tomamos decisiones que nos mantienen a nosotros y a los demás a salvo.

Dios prevalecerá sobre todos. Recordemos eso ahora y siempre.

Categories: Pastor's Thoughts

God Prevails

Today’s readings take us from one extreme to another – From triumph to crucifixion. From celebration of success to rejection and betrayal. From certainty to uncertainty. Yet did you notice that there was also constancy and faith in this story?

Jesus was constant in his stand – not giving in or giving up his message of justice and love.The women were constant in their stand – following and caring for Jesus even to the foot of the cross.That constancy in the face of challenge is real for us today.

We are bombarded with conflicting news and advice and we don’t know who or what to trust.The temptation to deny like Peter or betray like Judas challenges us too.But over all our human frailty and failings, we can hold on to this message:

God prevails! God doesn’t quit and God doesn’t give up. God holds fast to God’s commitment of love, justice, mercy and forgiveness.

Jesus didn’t quit on his commitment even as he struggled in his humanity, he knew that God would prevail over the most awful actions – his own humiliating and disgraceful death on a cross.

God prevails when we don’t give up – when we hold on to our care for ourselves and others. God prevails when we continue to pray for each other and the world. God prevails when we make decisions that keep us and others safe. 

God will prevail over all. Let us remember that now and always.

Categories: Pastor's Thoughts

Respirará el aliento de Dios, Expirará el mundo

Tómase un momento y respira profundamente

Ahora exhala lentamente

Haz esto una vez más

¿Cómo se siente para poder respirar?

Las lecciones del día de hoy son sobre la respiración y como el aliento de Dios tiene poder para dar la vida a nosotros.

Con la locura de COVID en nuestras vidas, se perece que tengamos miedo de respirar.

¿Voy a respirar el virus? ¿Voy a espirar el virus y dale a otras?

Si bien es posible que nadie hable directamente de estas preguntas, están ahí todos iguales.

Por ejemplo, estaba en una oficina del doctor ayer y cada empleado tuvieron una máscara que cubre la nariz y la boca. Y en HEB yo vi gente usando máscaras también.

Hoy es un buen día para hablar más sobre la respiración.

la respiración es como traemos oxígeno a nuestros cuerpos y liberamos dióxido de carbona para que nuestros cuerpos puedan quemar azúcares y ácidos grasos para hacer energía.

Necesitamos tener oxígeno para el proceso de reemplazar los setecientos mil millones de células que se desgasten todos los días de nuestras vidas.

El oxígeno también en un parte del sistema de inmunidad que mata las bacterias y los viruses y protegernos.

¡Que cosas increíbles son nuestros cuerpos!

Cuando estamos pensando en la respiración, consideramos las lecturas del hoy que son sobre el aliento de Dios y su poder para nosotros.

Empezamos con la experiencia de Ezequiel cuando Dios lo llevó al valle lleno de heusos.

Y Dios mandó a Ezequiel

«Profetiza sobre estos huesos, y diles: “¡Huesos secos, escuchen la palabra del Señor! Así dice el Señor omnipotente a estos huesos: ‘Yo les daré aliento de vida, y ustedes volverán a vivir. Les pondré tendones, haré que les salga carne, y los cubriré de piel; les daré aliento de vida, y así revivirán. Entonces sabrán que yo soy el Señor’ ”».

Y despues los huesos comenzaron a unirse entre sí. Pero, ¡No tenian vida! Los cuerpos necesitaron más.

Ellos necesitaron el aliento de Dios para vivir.

Entonces el Señor me dijo: «Profetiza, hijo de hombre; conjura al aliento de vida y dile: “Esto ordena el Señor omnipotente: ‘Ven de los cuatro vientos, y dales vida a estos huesos muertos para que revivan’ ”». 

Y el milagro – 10 Yo profeticé, tal como el Señor me lo había ordenado, y el aliento de vida entró en ellos; entonces los huesos revivieron y se pusieron de pie.

La profecía de Ezequiel llamó el aliento de Dios, el Espíritu de Dios de los cuatro vientos y llenó todos esos cuerpos con el espíritu de Dios y vivieron.

Este es el poder del aliento de Dios y tenemos el aliento de Dios dentro de cada uno de nosotros.

Nuestro evangelio es otro ejemplo del poder del aliento de Dios.

Tradicionalmente, leímos esta lección el domingo antes del domingo de ramos.

Es la historia de la resurrección de Lázaro.

Lázaro era el hermano de María y Marta, las mujeres que cocieron y limpiaron para los discípulos y Jesús muchas veces en los tres años de su ministro. Jesús tuvo una relación fuerte con la familia y las mujeres eran discípulos de Jesús como los hombres.

Un día cuando Jesús y sus discípulos fueron de Judea, Lázaro se enfermó.

Marta y María decidieron pedir de Jesús sanarlo.

En vez de regresar tan pronto, Jesús se fijo tres días mas antes de decidir regresar al pueblo de Lázaro.

Y como era de esperar, Lázaro murió y fue enterrado cuando Jesús llegó.

Lo que sigue dentro Jesús y Marta son una de las mas bonitas declaraciones de fe en la biblia

21 —Señor —le dijo Marta a Jesús—, si hubieras estado aquí, mi hermano no habría muerto. 22 Pero yo sé que aun ahora Dios te dará todo lo que le pidas.

23 —Tu hermano resucitará —le dijo Jesús.

24 —Yo sé que resucitará en la resurrección, en el día final —respondió Marta.

25 Entonces Jesús le dijo:

—Yo soy la resurrección y la vida. El que cree en mí vivirá, aunque muera; 26 y todo el que vive y cree en mí no morirá jamás. ¿Crees esto?

27 —Sí, Señor; yo creo que tú eres el Cristo, el Hijo de Dios, el que había de venir al mundo.

En su dolor y pérdida, Marta sabía lo que creía y lo proclamó claramente.

Después de hablar con Marta y maría y tomar un tiempo humano para llorar sobre Lázaro,

Jesús usó su aliento para proclamar el poder de Dios sobre la muerte:

Padre, te doy gracias porque me has escuchado. 42 Ya sabía yo que siempre me escuchas, pero lo dije por la gente que está aquí presente, para que crean que tú me enviaste.

43 Dicho esto, gritó con todas sus fuerzas:

—¡Lázaro, sal fuera!

Lázaro salió del a tumba, respirando y viviendo, para sombro de todos los alrededores.

Respira otra respiración profunda: siente la presencia de Dios entrando en usted, dándose vida, dándose esperanza,
Llenarse de alegría por estar vivo. Estira los pulmones con un gran aliento.

Respira esto: “Yo soy la resurrección y la vida. Aquellos que creen en mí, aunque mueran, vivirán, y todos los que viven y creen en mí nunca morirán”.

¿Usted los cree? Di en voz alta y claramente como Jesús gritó Lázaro ¡Sí, creo esto!

¿Puede sentir el aliento de Dios dentro de usted? Con el aliento de Dios dentro de usted no hay lugar por el mundo llenarse con miedo o ansiedad.

El aliento de Dios es el Espíritu Santo, que se llena del poder de seguir viviendo como hijos amados de Dios

Todos los días de esta semana, tomase un poco de tiempo para practicar la respiración en la respiracion de Dios y decir en voz alta ¡Sí, creo esto!

Categories: Pastor's Thoughts

Breathe in God, Breathe out the world

Take a moment and breathe in deeply.

Now exhale slowly.

Do this one more time

How does it feel to be able to breathe? Have you ever thought of breathing as a miracle?

Today’s texts are all about breathing and how God’s breath has power to give life.

With all the COVID crazy going on, it seems that we are afraid to breathe any more. Am I going to breathe in the virus? Am I going to breathe out the virus and give it to other people?

While these questions might not be directly spoken by anyone, they are there all the same.

So let’s talk more about breathing in and breathing out.

Practically speaking – breathing is how we bring oxygen into our bodies and release carbon dioxide from our bodies so that our bodies can burn sugars and fatty acids to make energy. We also use oxygen in the process of replacing the seven hundred billion cells that wear out every day of our lives.

The oxygen that we breathe in is part of the immune response to bacteria and viruses and helps us stay healthy.

What amazing things are our bodies!

Today’s first lesson is a vision given by God to the prophet Ezekiel.

He was taken to a valley full of bones and asked a question: “Can these bones live?”

And God told Ezekiel to prophesy – to speak for God to those dry bones and when he did,

Those bones came together and became human bodies again, but they weren’t living

8I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them.”

So God said to Ezekiel: “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.”

10I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

The prophesy of Ezekiel called God’s breath, God’s spirit from the four winds and filled all those bodies with God’s spirit and they lived.

That is the power of God’s Breath. And God’s breath is in us.

Our gospel lesson is another example of the power of God’s breath and it is traditionally told on the last Sunday of Lent, the Sunday before Palm/Passion Sunday.  It is the story of Lazarus’ resurrection.

Lazarus was the brother of Mary and Martha – the same Mary and Martha that cooked and cared for Jesus and the disciples multiple times in the three years of Jesus’ ministry. It’s pretty clear that Jesus had a very close relationship with the family and that the women were firmly his disciples too.

So when Lazarus was getting really sick, they sent for Jesus to come and heal him. Those sisters had witnessed Jesus healing people over and over, so it was natural that they would turn to him when their brother was seriously ill.

But Jesus didn’t seem particularly worried about Lazarus and stayed where he was for several days and then he decided to take the risk of going back into Judea where the chances were good that he would be killed, to be there for Lazarus, Mary and Martha.

But when Jesus got there, Martha met him to say that Lazarus had been dead for buried for four days.

What follows between Martha and Jesus is one of the most beautiful conversations of faith in the Bible:

21Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.”

23Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

25Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

27She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

Even in her pain and loss, Martha knew what she believed and proclaimed it clearly.

Then after talking with both Mary and Martha and crying himself, Jesus used his breath to proclaim God’s power over death:

“Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”

And Lazarus came out of the tomb, breathing and living, to the amazement of everyone around.

Take another deep breath – feel God’s presence coming into you, giving you life, giving you hope,

Filling you with joy at being alive. Stretch your lungs with a great big breath.

Breathe this in: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”

Do you believe this? Say loudly and clearly like Jesus called out Lazarus “Yes, I believe this!”

Can you feel God’s breath inside of you? With God’s breath in you, there is no room for the world to fill you with fear or anxiety.

God’s breath is the Holy Spirit, filling you with the power to continue living as God’s beloved children.

Every day this week, take a little time to practice breathing in God’s breath and say out loud “Yes, I believe this!”

Categories: Pastor's Thoughts

Continuación del Estudio del Libro de los Salmos

Querida familia de San Juan-San Juan:

Continuamos nuestro estudio de los Salmos hasta el mes de agosto, terminando el 25 con el Salmo 23. más conocido y amado. Hemos aprendido que los salmos son ejemplos de diferentes maneras en que podemos expresarnos a Dios y cómo Dios responde a nosotros. Podemos encontrar canciones de frustración, miedo y lamento, junto con perdón, alegría y acción de gracias.

El himno “Qué amigo tenemos en Jesús”, escrito en 1855 por Joseph Scriven, un irlandés que vive en Canadá, para consolar a su madre en Irlanda. Estas palabras nos recuerdan que, al igual que los antiguos israelitas podemos traer todo en nuestras vidas a Dios, que estará con nosotros a través de todo.

Qué amigo que tenemos en Jesús,

  ¡Todos nuestros pecados y penas para soportar!

  Qué privilegio llevar

 ¡Todo a Dios en oración!

Oh, qué paz a menudo perdemos,

 Oh, qué dolor innecesario tenemos,

 Todo porque no llevamos

 ¡Todo a Dios en oración!

¿Tenemos pruebas y tentaciones?

¿Hay problemas en alguna parte?

Nunca debemos desanimarnos

Llévalo al Señor en oración.

¿Podemos encontrar un amigo tan fiel,

¿A quién compartirán todas nuestras penas?

Jesús conoce todas nuestras debilidades;

Llévalo al Señor en oración.

¿Somos débiles y cargados,

¿Abrumado por un montón de cuidados?

Precioso Salvador, todavía nuestro refugio.

Llévalo al Señor en oración.

¿Tus amigos te desprecian, te abandonan?

¡Llévalo al Señor en oración!

En sus brazos te tomará y protegerá,

Encontrarás un consuelo allí.

Bendito Salvador, has prometido

Tú cargarás todas nuestras cargas;

Que alguna vez, Señor, estemos trayendo

Todo para ti en sincera oración.

Pronto en gloria brillante, sin nubes,

No habrá necesidad de orar.

Rapto, alabanza y adoración sin fin

Será nuestra dulce porción allí.

Que Dios los bendiga y los mantenga durante el mes de agosto.
Pr. Ellen

Categories: Pastor's Thoughts

Continuation Study of the Book of Psalms

Dear St John-San Juan family,

We continue our study of Psalms through the month of August, ending on the 25th with the best known and best loved, Psalm 23. We have learned that the psalms are examples of different ways that we can express ourselves to God and how God responds to us.  We can find songs of frustration, fear and lament, along with forgiveness, joy, and thanksgiving.

The hymn “What a friend we have in Jesus” which was written in 1855 by Joseph Scriven, an Irishman living in Canada, to comfort his mother back in Ireland. Those words remind us that we, like the Israelites of old can bring everything in our lives to God, who will be with us through everything.

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
May we ever, Lord, be bringing
All to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
There will be no need for prayer—
Rapture, praise, and endless worship
Will be our sweet portion there.


May God bless you and keep you through the month of August,

Pr. Ellen

Categories: Pastor's Thoughts

An introduction to the Psalms

Martin Luther called the Psalms the “Prayer Book of the Bible” and the “little Bible” because the Psalms contain the story of God’s love, grace and forgiveness and desire for a real relationship with each of us.

Our Bibles are books, with front and back covers, and we have become accustomed to treating the Bible like other books and thinking of Genesis as the beginning and Revelation as the end, with everything inside happening in, more or less, chronological order. When we are reading the Bible, it’s important to remember that the original content of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) was collected on scrolls which were not bound together. A single scroll would be opened and read from right to left, so readers and writers made connections by flow rather than flipping back and forth like we do with books.

The Book of Psalms, a single book in the Bible is actually 5 books (Book I: Psalms 1–41, Book II: Psalms 42–72, Book III: Psalms 73–89, Book IV: Psalms 90–106, Book V: Psalms 107–150) There is a flow between Psalms that are next to each other: for example, Psalm 22 is a lament and Psalm 23 is a statement of trust following the lament. Reading the two Psalms as partners can add depth to each Psalm as well as connect us more deeply with God.

Psalm is a Greek word for “songs accompanied by stringed instrument”. Psalter, the Latin word for the Book of Psalms was named for the psalter, an instrument that was used for accompaniment.  (It’s like referring to “guitar music book” today.) Before the printing press, monks would hand copy and illuminate collections of Psalms for monasteries, church leaders, and affluent men and women. It was a sign of great wealth and piety to own a Psalter, especially because most people couldn’t read.

Monks and nuns chanted or sang the psalms as they prayed 5 times each day. Today, in some churches, a psalm is chanted or sung, often using a tune that was written down centuries ago by those same monks. Many catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and Episcopal churches chant the Psalms on Sundays. There are some beautiful versions of psalm chants online and great examples of how to chant the psalms

The next article will discuss the 5 different types of Psalms: Individual and Community Lament; Hymns of Praise; Individual and Community Thanksgiving; Royal Psalms; and Wisdom Psalms.

*The author relies heavily on Professor Walter Brueggemann’s Psalms (New Cambridge Bible Commentary).

Categories: Pastor's Thoughts

PENTECOST/PENTECOSTÉS

Dear St. John-San Juan Family,

Pentecost (which means the 50th) is the day that we celebrate the baptism of the early church by the Holy Spirit and is the true “birthday” of the Christian faith.  Pentecost is also the Feast of the Harvest in the Jewish calendar, a day when everyone is to bring a gift of the first-fruits to the temple as a Thank offering to Yahweh.

Is it coincidental that the church received the gift of the Holy Spirit on the festival of Thanksgiving to God? Giving thanks for God’s goodness by sharing the message of God’s love and generosity with others in ways that they can understand is the message of Pentecost and continues to be God’s message to us today.

During this Season of Pentecost, I pray that you will find ways of giving thanks to God for God’s love and generosity through sharing that love with others in ways that they can understand.

Pr. Ellen

——————————————–

Querida familia de San Juan San Juan,

Pentecostés (que significa el día 50) es el día en que celebramos el bautismo de la iglesia primitiva por el Espíritu Santo y es el verdadero “cumpleaños” de la fe cristiana. Pentecostés es también la Fiesta de la Cosecha en el calendario judío, un día en que todos deben traer un regalo de los primeros frutos al templo como ofrenda de agradecimiento a Yahvé.

¿Es una coincidencia que la iglesia recibió el don del Espíritu Santo en el festival de Acción de Gracias a Dios? Dar gracias por la bondad de Dios al compartir el mensaje del amor y la generosidad de Dios con los demás de manera que puedan entender es el mensaje de Pentecostés y continúa siendo el mensaje de Dios para nosotros hoy.

Durante esta temporada de Pentecostés, te pido que encuentres formas de dar gracias a Dios por el amor y la generosidad de Dios al compartir ese amor con los demás de manera que ellos puedan entender.

Pr. Ellen

Categories: Pastor's Thoughts