Dear Friends,

I am going to ask you three questions that you can use at the dinner table, around a campfire, or share in a time of personal reflection. I invite your time of discussion to close with this week’s reading of the scriptures from the Gospel of John, Chapter 15 with one final question!

Question #1

Do you remember the first toy you “loved?” Share with those around you. How old were you when you had this special toy. Did it have a name? Where is that toy now?

Question #2

Can you remember the first time you told another person, “I love you”? Share with those around you. How old were you when you said these three words without being asked, but because your heart was so full you couldn’t stop yourself? Do you still have a relationship with that person today?

Question #3

Can you imagine how the moment of being chosen, loved first, and loved forever could feel like? Truly imagine who could love you that much without exception and to the point of laying down their own life and then picking it up again – out of love for you and for me. This is the gift that Jesus gives to us this very day, in this very moment, and in the days to come time and time again.

The passage we will hear this week is part of a series where Jesus has talked about what it means to be a disciple, a leader, a shepherd, and a friend. Jesus invited his friends and invites us today into this claimed, compassionate, and merciful relationship with our creator. He not only reveals once again to us who God is but invites us to trust in the promise. It is you and I who belong to God. We are God’s beloved now and always.

For me, I sum it up like this, we were made out of love, to be loved, to love one another. We were made out of love (vs. 16, You did not choose me I chose you.) to be loved (vs 9, As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love), to love others (This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.)

Gospel of John 15:9-17

9 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants[d] any longer, because the servant[e] does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

Who longs to hear, right now, that you love them? Tell them right now!

Pastor Katie

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It’s time for us to “Come Alive” again this weekend as a Christian community as we gather again in the sanctuary or on-line to worship the Risen Savior. We surely hope that you are able to join us one way or another!

Our Scripture this week is the first portion of John 15, which draws from vineyard imagery to emphasize our connectedness to Christ and thus to God. Highlighting the specific metaphors that Jesus emphasizes, we will explore three aspects of what it means to:

a) abide in Him;

b) get pruned!;and

c) bear fruit.

I don’t know about you, but now that the weather has turned for the better, I seem eager to do anything but “abide!” After a year of pandemic, I’ve remained in place long enough and I’m anxious to get out and move if I am anything! I am so longing to be able to get to “bear fruit” that has been missing from our lives during this chapter of limited socializing that I’m not wanting to wait another second. Perhaps you can relate!

But as the gospel reminds us, there is another side to this understandable yearning. We can certainly resume our past busy-ness or frantically be about accomplishing all of the things we felt were put on hold without first tending to the primary connection we have. And that is with Christ. We can be so giddy about seeing people we’ve missed and resuming long-lost rhythms of life that we forget that it is Christ’s fruit we bear, not our own. It is our rootedness in His grace that is the source of our ability to grow and produce and harvest - not our own acumen in any of those regards!

Jesus’ example here reminds me of his words elsewhere in this Gospel that emphasize the “connected-ness” of the Trinity. He speaks of His abiding “in” the Father - in other words, not being someone who acts on His own, but only on behalf of His father. The Holy Spirit He promises to send will not be an independent agent or expression, but one firmly anchored to it’s connection with Him.

So it is with us! I suggest that, before we “get busy” with taking advantage of the season before us, we first find ways that our “abiding” in Jesus can be cultivated, nurtured, and assured. That way, it will be the fruit of Christ’s kingdom that we bear and not simply our own.

Don’t forget to pre-register for worship at 8:30 or 9:45 a.m. so that we can best honor our limited capacity in this time, yet practice ample hospitality! Remember that we are very much in need of hands raised and ready to serve in a variety of capacities in order to make our worship and our mutual “fruit-bearing” possible. Make your willingness to serve known! Meanwhile, a few element of Sunday’s worship will be available on demand as usual. The full service will be available on Facebook as well. Hang in there while we iron out the obstacles!

See you in worship!

Pastor Tim

Dear Friends,

For a moment, envision with me your very own family outing. Let’s set the outing at the shopping mall. You are the parent and you have many little children with you. Trying to keep them together is like a momma duck and her little ducklings trying to get from the nest to the pond all together.

When my children were very little, I started to whistle nursery songs so they would hear my whistle and want to stay close. As they became older, especially in the teen years, they would be embarrassed as I would still whistle away so they knew I was nearby; but now I would whistle harmonies to the music coming out of the shop speakers. But I find them and they would find me as my whistle was a calling out to them.

That was the first story that popped into my head as I heard our scripture today about the shepherd and the sheep. In this, Jesus paints for us a very real setting calling himself the shepherd and referring to us as the sheep and the flock. He not only shares with us that he knows his sheep and will protect them; he gives us a promise, that all of us are part of his flock. Then he gives us the Good News that it is this flock, the all of us in one big flock, for whom he will lay down his life and pick it back up again. Yes, that is EVERYONE in his flock, God’s flock of all shapes, sizes, colors, identities, histories, and capabilities.

In his words, he does not say that the flock is just the ones “we” know. Nor does he say "Look around and you and I decide who is or who is not in 'our' flock." He says that he must call to them and they will listen. Then without skipping a beat, he says, "I will lay down my life for them."

Our Jesus’ is the Jesus for the world yesterday, today and tomorrow. We are God’s beloved children. And I believe, in our hurting world in this very moment of time, we are crying out; we long to belong, to hear the whistle, voice, and invitation that indeed we are wanted, loved, and forgiven forever.

We are indeed weary but God’s mission calls to us and we are to COME ALIVE, dear friends, and share that we have been made out of love to be loved and to love one another. In hearing this message, people may ask, "Who is it then who cares for you with such love and forgiveness?" It is none other than our shepherd, Jesus Christ, who gave his very own life on this earth for us and then picked it back up and conquered death. As children of the Father, we are promised, that belonging to this flock means we will receive the mercy and grace from God and we shall celebrate our very own Easter Morning!

Little lambs, imagine or remember how amazing it felt the first time you heard the shepherd’s voice and you felt safe, free, and beloved. It was that moment you trusted God to be God. Now, imagine that same feeling for your neighbor who you invite to join you in worship, service, or prayer. Little sheep, let’s act. Let’s COME ALIVE so that all will hear the voice of the shepherd and know they belong now and always. Amen


Pastor Katie

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