On Reformation Day, Pastor Steve and I held a conversational sermon about God’s activity in our lives – some of the ways we receive God’s goodness, respond to Christ’s grace, and rejoice in the Spirit. Here, I’d like to share a few more thoughts along these lines to encourage your own reflection.

“What do you have that you did not receive?” ~1 Corinthians 4:7

My personality most naturally receives God via the life of the mind. I gain so much from the study of God’s Word and the writings of a variety of sinnersaints. Israel’s name means “wrestling with God” and this well describes my pursuit to grab onto God for some answers.

In recent years, I’m learning to engage my body more directly in how I receive God’s goodness. This looks like taking closer care of my physical and mental health. Some of this has been inspired by approaching midlife and by my health scare in 2018. I love Lutheran theology’s emphasis on the earthiness of God – God loves stuff! The New Creation will not be for heavenly, disembodied souls but resurrected and renewed bodies. Even now, when I drift away in my thoughts, Christ comes to me in water, wine, bread, and words from a fellow creature.

“Readily recognize what [God] wants from you, and quickly respond to it.” ~ Romans 12:1-2 (The Message)

Easier said than done! More like, “occasionally recognize what God wants and eventually get around to responding to it.” Fortunately for me, being a pastor includes a lot of built-in opportunities for God to use me despite my (in)attentiveness. I find my responsiveness to God flows naturally out of God’s goodness to me. In other words, God’s gift contains its own response. God produces my response. It’s like when one of my boys hugs me. I don’t think about hugging them back. I simply find myself embracing them.

I enjoy responding to “God questions” from all ages at Bethesda. From my own children’s’ bedtime musings to doubts bravely expressed by youth to emails from saints with twice my experience, I find God’s grace at work within me to help people wrestle and reflect in faith.

“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice!” ~ Philippians 4:4

The year 2020 has a terrible reputation and who would argue? But who among us by complaining can add a single hour to their life? I’m picturing an inbox and an outbox in my soul. 2020 keeps adding challenge after challenge to the inbox. I could spend all day processing this inbox and never reach the bottom of the pile. It’s easy to look at the inbox and focus our energies on what is missing or menacing. It’s tempting to dump our inbox onto everyone else’s desk.

But what am I sending out from my soul? Perhaps an outbox full of prayer, praise and thanksgiving does not mean pretending your inbox is clean and clear. Perhaps it simply means placing boundaries on your inbox so that your proper work might continue unhindered. That stack of complaints isn’t going anywhere anyway. Maybe when I’ve sent out a few letters of faith, hope and love I can take a moment to clear out the inbox. It doesn’t have to take long. Lord, what a pile of predicaments. You can have it all.

Please recycle and resurrect according to your good purposes.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

Peace, Pastor Tom