Friday, December 5, 2008

Sabbath Elevator

While we were staying in Jerusalem the hotel we stayed at had what is called a "Sabbath Elevator". This is very common, they are all over the country. What you might ask is a Sabbath elevator. On the sabbath the elevator goes to all the even floors and the other one goes to all the odd floors. This allows a person to go up the elevator without pushing any buttons which is considered work. The other elevators work normally. It is a pain to have to wait...

On the Sabbath my Dad got in a non sabbath elevator but some Jews got in thinking that it was a Sabbath Elevator. When Dad went to push the button they told him not to and then they realized they were in the wrong elevator. Instead of pushing the button they asked Dad to do it. Interesting that he could violate the sabbath but not them. It seems selfish to let someone else sin for you..They didn't want to make themselves impure so the let Dad make himself impure. Since we don't follow the sabbath laws it was fine to love your neighbor and help them.

Their reaction is fairly human, we want someone else to sin for us. As Christians we don't follow the Sabbath the same way but we also want someone to sin for us. That is we want Christ to take all our sins and atone for them on the cross. Since Jesus who knew no sin became sin for us we are free from sin, death and the power of the devil. This gives us the freedom to no longer have to worry about Sabbath Elevators and to love our neighbors and get our hands dirty in the process. Thanks be to God for our freedom.

Sermon Resources for Dec 7th

Here is a link to Luther Seminary's advent devotionals.

It is a good resource and it is free.

Reflections from the Holy Land

I met some amazing men while I was there. These men are Palestinians doing ministry in some very difficult circumstances. I was touched by their passion, vision and energy. None of them can do the ministry they do without an international network of prayer and financial support. It is awesome to see what God can do when the Body of Christ works together for a common goal.

I was very touched and challenged by being in their presence. I was touched seeing what God can do with seemingly nothing and challenged by their clarity of vision. It makes me rethink my vision. Do I have the kind of clarity they have? Am I part of something bigger than myself? Am I doing what God called and I am being who God created me to be?

One thing that I came away knowing for sure is that we don't cooperate very well as Lutheran congregations. We all work in our own little kingdom and rarely do we really work together as the larger Body of Christ. One of the only examples I know of is the shared bell choir MLC has with FOG. There is so much more to be done together.

I think one of the barriers is competition and ego among the clergy. So often we disagree and want to feel like we are better or more right theologically. We have not been captured by a common vision fueled by the Spirit and about bringing the kingdom. We get caught up in "doing church" and forget about "being the church" and sharing the Gospel in a very real and power. I think that the devil likes to divide us so that we are less effective. What we need is someone or something to work like a catalyst for change and to help us rally around kingdom work.

Reflections from the Holy Land

We went to Mount Tabor, which is where Jesus is to believed to be transfigured. The church there is very pretty and when we went in we couldn't go into the lower part because a Roman Catholic group was having Mass. We joined our hearts with them as they worshiped and when there were parts that we know we joined in prayer and song.
When they went to commune the priest invited us (a protestant group) to commune in one kind with them. What a profound moment of ecumenical life. After we communed we sang the the song they had chosen which was "They will know we are Christians by our love". It was a beautiful moment as we came together as Christians first and RC/Protestants fourth. I believe this pleased our Lord and that he smiled down on us.

When we are in Christ we are a new creation. This is what the scriptures teach. We have a common father Abba, a common Lord Jesus, and a common Spirit dwelling within us. How often we forget that what we have in common is so much greater than what we disagree about. I think this unity is a witness to a lost and hurting world. I am thankful for this experience, it will stay with me my whole life.

Reflections from the Holy Land

There are churches everywhere in the Holy Land. If a person wants to take the ultimate church building tour head to Israel. There is literally a church over almost every holy site. Sometimes these churches are owned by one denomination sometimes they are owned by more that one denomination. Needless to say there is regular arguments about whose site is more holy, more authentic etc... This is one of the tragedies of the Holy Land. Many of these arguments are amongst Chrsitians..

Some places however do not have churches on them such as the Sea of Galilee. We sailed the sea (which is really a large lake) and it was awesome to know that we were on the same body of water that Jesus walked, stilled the storm and called his disciples. There is something prfoundly real about seeing the places that I had read about my entire life. It brings a certain authenticity to the stories. They are more like accounts than stories. Stories may or may not be true but an account is the telling of fact. It brought these accounts to life and it brings a certain wholeness to my life that I didn't expect. The emotional impact of the trip really surprised me. I know it would be cool but I didn't expect it to be as profound as it was.

One of the sites that is a must see is the pool of Bethesda. We read in John 5 of how Jesus healed an invalid who had been there for 38 years. The awesome things about this site is that the church is next to it and you can see the actual pool just as it is described in the Bible. Totally awesome. We saw the place where Jesus healed a man and we talked about healing in our own lives while we were there. It was really cool to pray there and to be in a place where our Lord was. As I reread the scripture now it brings it to life and increases my faith in Jesus. It brings me a greater sense of love, wonder and awe for this man who is the Son of Man and Son of God. It makes the scriptures come alive like they never have before. Praise be to Christ!!

Reflections from the Holy Land

One of the things that I noticed while in Jerusalem is that people are practicing their religion. The city is full of religion: Franciscan monks, orthodox monks, Hasidic Jews, Muslims, pilgrims and observant Jews. These are just a few of the religions that people practice. The whole city is religious which is just the opposite of my experience in every major US city that I have either lived in or visited.

It is such a contrast to Seattle where we are not even allowed to have a Christmas tree, it has to be a holiday tree. I think that we have lost a lot as a people by moving to a religionless society. Some would argue that wars are caused by religion and they would be right but because a few have misused God for their own goals. This sad fact doesn't mean we should move away from religion. Rather it should move us toward Christ. For in Christ there is a new creation and the possibilty for change in society isn't through new laws or regulations. The possibility for change is through the power of the Holy Spirit working in the lives of believers. This is where the power for change and hope resides.