Agnus Day

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Sunday, February 5

What To Do - Presented in Small Bite Sized Chunks

Below is my sermon text for February 5, 2017. This is what I worked from, what I actually said at the three churches may, and did vary somewhat.
The lesson text is  Luke 6:20-38a, 46. I deviated from the Narrative Lectionary because, given the political climate, I wanted to preach on the Beatitudes, which those who follow the Revised Lectionary heard from Matthew's version last week. 
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I arranged the reading to be read responsively by the congregation, based on the translation from the Common English Bible. I include the reading in this post. 


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P      This is the Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke, the Sixth Chapter.

All   Glory to you, O Lord.

Gospel                            Luke 6:20-38a, 46

Please read the lesson responsively as marked, by or All,
the (R) Right Side of the Sanctuary, or the (L) Left Side of the Sanctuary.

P      Jesus raised his eyes to his disciples and said:

R      Happy are you who are poor, because God’s kingdom is yours.

L       Happy are you who hunger now, because you will be satisfied.

R      Happy are you who weep now, because you will laugh.

L       Happy are you when people hate you, reject you, insult you, and condemn your name as evil because of the Son of Man.

R      Rejoice when that happens! Leap for joy because you have a great reward in heaven. Their ancestors did the same things to the prophets.

L       But how terrible for you who are rich, because you have already received your comfort.

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R      How terrible for you who have plenty now, because you will be hungry.
L       How terrible for you who laugh now, because you will mourn and weep.
R      How terrible for you when all speak well of you. Their ancestors did the same things to the false prophets.
P      But I say to you who are willing to hear:
ALL          Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. 
L       Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you. 
R      If someone slaps you on the cheek, offer the other one as well.
L       If someone takes your coat, don’t withhold your shirt either. 
R      Give to everyone who asks and don’t demand your things back from those who take them. 
ALL          Treat people in the same way that you want them to treat you.
P      If you love those who love you, why should you be commended? Even sinners love those who love them. 
L       If you do good to those who do good to you, why should you be commended? Even sinners do that. 
R      If you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, why should you be commended? Even sinners lend to sinners expecting to be paid back in full. 
P      Instead, love your enemies, do good, and lend expecting nothing in return. If you do, you will have a great reward. You will be acting the way children of the Most High act, for he is kind to ungrateful and wicked people. Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate.
L       Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged.
R      Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned.
L       Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
R      Give, and it will be given to you.
         (Pause)
ALL          Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and don’t do what I say?

P      This is the Gospel of Our Lord.
All   Praise to you, O Christ.
 


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Grace, Peace and Mercy to you from God, our Creator and Jesus Christ, God’s Son and Our Savior. Amen.

How many of you have ever coached a sports team? Any sport, baseball, basketball, football, softball, soccer? If you have, you’ve probably realize that you know so much more about the sport than your players know. So you try to get them to learn things that they can remember during the heat of competition. Stay low. Move your feet. Keep your head up. Small statements that you hope come back to them when they need it.
I tried to teach my players everything I knew about football, but it was too much. I needed them to learn what they needed to do, but to remember what is going on during the chaos of the game. So I taught in little bites or nuggets they could, hopefully, remember.
I taught my offensive line a blocking rule called GOOSE. If someone is in the Gap between you and the next lineman closest to the ball, block that guy. If not, is there someone On the line across from you; block him. If not, is there someone lined up Over you, but off the ball, block them. If not, is there someone in the seam between you and the next lineman away from the ball. Gap-On-Over-Seam. GOOS. The E stood for Eleven. There are eleven guys in a different color jersey out there. Block one of them. I didn’t care if they went through the letters and pointed out who they were supposed to block. Then I knew they knew what to do.
That is what Jesus is doing in this, his giving of the Beatitudes during the Sermon on the Plain. Beatitudes is Latin for happy or blessed, and this is called the Sermon on the Plain because Jesus came down a hill to speak to the crowd. In Matthew’s telling of the Beatitudes, Jesus goes up the hill, and so it is called the Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus raised his eyes and proceeded to tell his disciples and followers that those who are poor, hungry, mourning or rejected for His sake should be happy. My New Testament professor at Gettysburg, Dr. Carlson, jumped up and in his best game show host voice said the best translation is “Congratulations!!” “Congratulations! You're poor! Congratulations! You're hungry!” He explained that they deserved to be congratulated  because these people are totally dependent upon God. They aren’t trying to do it themselves; they can’t do it themselves. They totally trust God to provide for them.
But this is confusing. These people, the poor, the hungry, the mourners, the persecuted, are the most vulnerable in society, be it during the time of Jesus or today, and Jesus says to them, “Congratulation! Blessed are you! You should be happy.” But Jesus calls them out to get our attention as well. Because if they are dependent upon God to help them and to take care of them, then we are the ones who need to do it. We are the Church. We are the Body of Christ. It is God’s work, but our hands.
Luke’s Gospel continually points out that the marginalized and forgotten matter. The poor matter. The hungry matter. Those who mourn matter. The persecuted matter. They matter because they are suffering. They matter because they need help.
There is a cartoon that I’ve seen hundreds of times online. It depicts Jesus giving this sermon, and when he says, “Blessed are the poor,” someone from the crown yells, “No. All Lives Matter.”
God loves all of us. But God has a special place in God’s heart for the poor, the hungry, the mourners, the persecuted, the least, the last, the lost, the little ones and those who are alone. And God wants us to have that special place for them in our hearts.
So, if there is a community, or section of the population where the rates of poverty, hunger, death and incarceration are dramatically higher than other segments of the population, shouldn’t we care about them? Shouldn’t we do something? Can we say that while everybody’s lives matter, their lives matter as well, and we should draw attention to them and their problems?
When we lift up one group of people, especially a population that is in trouble, we aren’t saying that only their lives matter, or that they matter more. We are drawing attention to them and their situation to remind everyone that their lives matter.
Jesus is saying “Poor Lives Matter. Hungry Lives Matter. Mourning Lives Matter. Persecuted Lives Matter.”
One of the parts of the Beatitudes that Luke includes that Matthew does not are the “Woes” or “How terrible.” How terrible it is, and will be, for the rich, those who have plenty, those who laugh and those who people speak well of, because you have been blessed, you have been fortunate.
That may hit close to home. Jesus is saying be happy now because you won’t be happy later. What are you doing with those good things? How are you sharing the blessings God has given you? Are you using them to take care of you and yours? Are you helping those whom God has a special place for in God’s heart, and that God hopes has a special place in your heart?
Just in case you’ve tuned me out, give me the next 30 seconds please. Think about the last time that you did something to help someone in need. You gave money. You gave clothes. You helped someone. Think of how good that made you feel. Hold onto that feeling for a moment. Now, while thinking about that memory, how long ago was it? Were there, are there, other opportunities you’ve missed?
When I was playing football for Alma College, my position coach, Jim Cole, knew how to motivate me. When I messed up, which was often, he would stand next to me, and put his hand on my helmet. On that hand, he wore a National Championship ring that he won in his playing days. He wouldn’t hit me in the head, but put that hand there and I could hear and feel that THUNK. Then he’d say, “Campbell, I thought you were better than that.”
That was my button. That motivated me. That challenged me.
The Beatitudes, the “Blesseds” and the “Woes,” the “Happy’s” and “How Terribles” are meant to shock and grate at us. Jesus expected to upset those who heard these words. That is why when he continues, he says, “But I say to you who are willing to hear.” Jesus’ words are meant to make us think of what we are doing and to try to do as he tells us. Just as a coach will challenge their players to motivate them during a game, Christ challenges us to lead lives worthy of the gifts and grace God has given us.
After words to chafe and challenge us, Jesus gives us crazy talk.
Jesus calls us to do good things to those who want harm to come to us, to be generous to those who want to hurt us. Why would we do that? It makes no sense.
Except that is EXACTLY what God does through Jesus Christ. To a people and a world that has rejected and denied God and God’s commands, God sends the Son to suffer and die for their sake. To a people who self-identify as His followers, but who do not follow his commands and teachings, the Crucified and Risen Son tells them, “You are forgiven."
Jesus came to describe a way of life radically different from the way that we lead our lives. He calls us not to focus on ourselves, to not look out for number one, not to love only those who love us and to hate those who hate us. But to love one another as Christ loves us. He calls us to show mercy and grace to those who do not deserve it, just as He has done for us.
The only way to get away from being inward focused, loving and caring for ourselves and our circle of loved ones is to love someone outside of that circle. Not doing so to earn anything or receive anything, but because they need to be loved.
That is what God does. God doesn’t need our love. We’ve done nothing to earn or deserve God’s love. But God gives us love, grace and mercy. God gave the Son to suffer, die and be raised to show us that even crucifying Jesus cannot take away God’s love. So as God loves us who are unworthy, we should share and give that love to those who do not care for us.
Jesus’ warning against judging is common sense. We tend to get back what we give off. If we aren’t judgmental, we are less likely to be judged. If we are friendly, we may have more friends. This isn’t a threat, but a promise. If we share God’s love, we will be loved in return.
Among the greatest joys I had in coaching is when a player finally ‘gets it.’ It’s usually toward the end of the season, and a player has something that they just haven’t gotten right. It might be an assignment or responsibility on a play. It might be a skill or technique that they haven’t mastered. Then, all of a sudden, they ‘get it.’ It become natural to them. Seeing that is the joy that I found in coaching. I think that is the rejoicing that goes on in heaven when we finally ‘get it.’
When we ‘get it,’ when we love those who don’t love us, when we care about the lives that matter that are in jeopardy, I truly believe the celebrations in heaven will put any touchdown celebration you see in tonight’s Super Bowl to shame. Can you imagine what a high five looks like when you start to add in an angel’s wings?
When we stop being inwardly focused, and focus on the wider world. When we stop being selfish, and begin to pay attention about those who are marginalized. When we stop worrying about what matters to us and care about whose lives matter to God. Then we get it. Then we do it. Then we live out the name given to us in our baptism when we were called “Child of God.”
A coach wants their players to remember what to do in the heat of the game. Christ wants us to remember what to do in the heat of life. That’s why the Beatitudes, the Sermon on the Plain/Mount was given in little nuggets or sound bites. That’s why I had you read them responsively. Because I’m hoping something you said, or something you heard sticks; not just sticks with you, but sticks under your skin, and bothers you. Because that will cause you to act and to do.
Just in case, Jesus closed the Sermon on the Plain with one more challenge, one more push. He says one more thing to try to inspire you to action. “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and don’t do what I say?”
I pray that you hear and heed this call to action. I pray that you show love to the lives that are in jeopardy and that matter. I pray that you show love to those who need to know they are loved. I pray that your actions set off a celebration in heaven. Amen.
 
 

Saturday, February 4

Pastor Brian's (Auto) Biography

At my Mom & Dad's 50th Wedding Anniversary Party.
  I was born in Saginaw, Michigan to Robert and Charlotte Campbell. I was their only child. Dad (Bob) worked for Chevrolet as a set-up man and supervised a series of machines that made disc brakes. Mom (Charlotte) was the librarian at the elementary I  went to school.
    I graduated from Saginaw High School and attended Alma College, and graduated from Alma with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration. I worked for seventeen years for the Saginaw Public Schools in the Community Education Department coordinating after school activities, youth sports, academic competitions and summer recreation.
    I felt the call to ministry, left Saginaw and attended the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. I graduated from there in May of 2011 with a Master's degree in Divinity, and was assigned to the Northwest Synod of Wisconsin. I was ordained and called to serve Our Savior's and Emmanuel in August of 2011.
    I am a dedicated fan of the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Red Wings, and despite the efforts of the good people of Wisconsin, the Detroit Lions.
    I am also the proud butler to Ananias, the bulldogge. Ananias writes a column in the parish newsletter and destroys toys with alarming speed.

Saturday, December 24

One Thousand Words on Home for the Holy Days

This is the text of my Christmas Eve sermon. It is based upon Luke 2:1-7. In editing it, I finished a set of corrections, and saw that the word count was exactly 1000 words. So I decided to stop right there.

Merry Christmas - Enjoy your home, where ever it is.
Quick survey. How many of you travelled “a distance” to be here? I don’t mean here, as in church – by the way, thanks for coming - but here as in Longwood/Withee /Greenwood? You’ve come here to celebrate Christmas.  How many of you are back after spending time away, such as in college, or your work takes you away. Hands up please? Thank you. To all of you, welcome home and Merry Christmas.

Joseph and Mary headed to the town from which his family came, Bethlehem, not so much for the holidays but because In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists. … Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea.
Joseph has come to Bethlehem, the city that his family is from. But when they get there, there was no place for them in the inn.
We think there was no room for them at AN inn, a hotel or boarding house. But the word, translated here as inn, is translated elsewhere as the guest room, or upper room. Houses in Israel at this time had two floors. You had the second floor where the family would live, and guests would stay. The first floor was for animals, a barn. Think of a house with a ground floor garage and the living area above it.

For those of you who have come home, what have you come home to? Are you coming home to the house you’ve lived in? Is your room still your room, or has it been “repurposed?”

What if you come to “your own home” and there is no room for you? Your grandparents & cousins have taken over your old room and you get the fold out sofa bed with the bar across the middle of your back. Maybe you get a sleeping bag on the floor. Maybe the room for you is the garage.

Joseph’s family couldn’t find a place for them to squeeze in on the second floor, so they got the garage/barn. They weren’t turned away, but got the very last space available. They found a way.

Now to those of you who are “locals,” imagine this. You have last minute “bonus” guests. Those who you didn’t think were coming showed up, maybe with at plus one or two. You’d find a way. You’d find room. It may not be great, but it’s a place to stay. You can’t turn away family who came home for the holidays.

I bring this up, because as Perry Como sang, “There’s no place like home for holidays.”

No matter how much family friction your family has, you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. You love them. There are times you don’t like them, but you love them. You may want, or need, some alone time, but you want to be with the people whom you love on this special time of the year. They are the ones you turn to when things happen, good and bad. They are the ones you want to share your joys with. They are the ones who comfort you in the midst of your sorrows. “There’s no place like home for holidays.”

Despite all of their flaws, you love them.

Despite all of our flaws, God loves us. Especially you.

God’s people were disobedient and rebellious. God loved them still. We continue to be sinful, and reject and defy God, sometimes denying God. And God loves us still. God wants us to share our joys with Them. God wants to comfort us in our sorrows.

So into the mess of human life, God went home.

God found a way. God chose to be born in an occupied territory, to a teenage mom, to a family that consigned them to the garage/barn, with a feeding trough for a crib. A family that soon would be refugees, fleeing from King Herod.

Suddenly, your home for the holiday doesn’t seem that bad.

One of my favorite theologians, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: In the body of Jesus Christ, humanity has been accepted by God. Out of God’s mercy, we are accepted as part of God’s family.[1] We are with Christ, part of the body of Christ, claimed in our baptisms, baptized INTO Christ. We are fed by Christ, when we receive his body and blood, the bread and the wine, given for us. We are with Christ because Christ is with us, Emmanuel, God with us.

God took the people who have rebelled and wandered away, and has brought us home through Jesus Christ, the child savior, whose birth we celebrate tonight.

We go home for the holidays. We celebrate Christmas by coming home because that is where we know we are loved.

God came home on this Holy Day because we needed to know that we are loved. And that divine love cannot be broken or lost.

As you celebrate being home for this Holy Day, find a way to remember the gift of love given to us by God, in the form of a child, wrapped in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.

Remember that Joseph’s family found a way to make room for the Holy Family. Remember that God’s love extends beyond our families, beyond our friends and make room in your heart for those who in need; the least, the last, the lost, the little ones and those who are alone.

There are those who have no place to celebrate these Holy Days. Remember those who experience abuse. Remember those who are rejected because of their race, religion or sexual orientation. But don’t just remember them. Find a way to help them.

I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord.


Welcome home. Merry Christmas.



[1] Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, page 214.

Friday, December 2

This is the Article From Ananias for the December 2016 Newsletter.

I am SO excited about this time of the year.

My Big Guy has gotten out a lot of decorations to put up around the house. He hasn’t put them all up yet, but is working on them. I’ve offered to help, but everything is too high for me to reach. So I mostly just help by smelling them to make sure they are ok to put up.

One of the things he had out that I was sniffing was what he called a Nativity scene. He could tell that I was curious so he stopped putting things on that little tree and told me a story.

It seems that God decided that the best way for people to understand how much God loves them was for God to become a people. That way, God could show them how to love one another.

It makes SO MUCH sense. If My Big Guy could become a dog like me, I’d understand him so much better, and he’d understand me better too.

God didn’t want to be a part of some rich or powerful family. Instead, he chose to be born to a couple who just got married. And the girl who would be his mom, Mary, she was a young girl. My Big Guy said she was probably the age of the girls in his C+LIFFE class. That surprised me. They are barely out of their puppyhood!

But when Gabriel the Angel told her that she had found favor with God, and that God wanted her to give birth to the one who had been promised, she said, “I serve the Lord.”

I am SO proud of that little girl. She was so brave.

But then My Big Guy told me about the journey that she and Joe had to take because of some scents for us. I didn’t understand that. I mean, I smell all kinds of stuff, but I don’t think the government has any business in smelling everybody.

When Mary and Joe got to Bethlehem, nobody would give them a place to stay. So they stayed with the animals, which I understand you people may not like, but I found that to be amazing.
Think about it. God decides to become one of you peoples, but the first ones in creation who got to witness the birth were animals like me. We got to see first hand how much God loves not only people, but all of creation.

I was a little disappointed that in his Nativity scene there wasn’t a bulldogge, or any kind of dog at all. Cows, yes. Sheep, yes. Even camels. But no dogs.

But now that I know the story, I can imagine myself there, seeing God in the flesh. And that is the most wonderful thing ever.

Even if I have to wear a silly hat.

Love and Licks, Ananias

Put the X Back in X-Mas!

This is my Pastor’s Ponderings article for the December 2016 Newsletter.
Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. – Luke 2:10-11 CEB

Now that I have your attention, let me explain.

As part of the “War on Christmas,” people have been pushing back on the use of the term “X-Mas.” They want to put the “Christ back in Christmas.” If you have been one of those people, you’ve been fighting the wrong fight.

I don’t have a problem using, writing or saying X-Mas.

That is because, unlike Algebra class, the X is not unknown. The X in X-Mas is Christ.

The reason is that X is the Greek letter CHI, the first letter in the title Christ (χριστὸς). The second letter, the one that looks like a “p” is actually RHO, and has the sound of the letter “R.” It is an ancient way for people to identify themselves as Christians, combining the letters CHI and RHO. It is where we get the liturgical symbol that looks like the letter P with an X through the tail, in case you’ve ever wondered where that symbol came from.

Using an X in X-Mas is identifying the ancient history of this Holy Day, the day when we celebrate a Mass in honor of the birth of Christ. If you really want to put the focus on CHRIST back in Christmas, then don’t fixate on giving gifts to your loved ones. Don’t focus on the birth. Focus on His commands

If you want to put the focus on CHRIST in Christmas:
  1. Feed the hungry
  2. Take care of the poor
  3. Help the homeless
  4. Welcome the immigrant
  5. Embrace the outsiders
  6. Pray for your enemies
  7. Share with those in need
  8. Visit those who are alone
  9. Advocate for the marginalized
  10. Confront power

If we want to put the focus on CHRIST in Christmas, we will do what he told his followers to do. We can share God’s love with our loved ones. We can celebrate with those close to us. But we shouldn’t stop there. It should be the starting point.

I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. … If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and
sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? – Matthew 5:44-47 CEB

Let us be ONE in Christ,
     Pastor Brian Robert Campbell

Sunday, November 27

Faith Fixes You

This is the manuscript from my November 27 sermon that I worked off of. The lesson for the day was Joel 2:12-13 and 28-29. We are one week ahead of the Narrative Lectionary.

Yesterday, I saw online that an actor named Ron Glass passed away. You might know him from Barney Miller; he played Det. Ron Harris. I knew him better for another role, sci-fi show Firefly. He played a pastor, known as Shepherd Book.

Besides enjoying sci-fi, I connected with Shepherd Book. The series came right at the time I was first considering the ministry, and seeing a man of faith who had not always been a man of faith spoke to me.

I watched a couple of episodes of Serenity before writing this, because I wanted to see one particular scene.

Shepherd came into his quarters to find another character is “fixing the Bible,” trying to reconcile contradictions, develop a more unified message.

In response, Shepherd says, It’s not about making sense. It’s about believing in something, and letting that belief be real enough to change your life. It’s about faith. You don’t fix faith. Faith fixes you.

We don’t know when prophet Joel wrote his 3-chapter call to worship. Scholars have three Ideas, each around 2 or 3 generations apart. The first is just before kingdom of Judah falls, when the northern kingdom of Israel has already been dispersed. The second is after the Babylonian Exile when the exiles return to Jerusalem. The third is about a hundred years later during the rule of the Persian Empire.

Whenever Joel wrote, he wrote a call to the people of Judah to return, not just to God’s rule, but to worshipping God. Whenever Joel wrote, he wrote a reminder to the people of God that while God has allowed them to suffer, God still loves them.

The first snippet of text we hear from Joel is that call to worship:

Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing.

Joel says the LORD calls upon the people to come back to God. They are called back to mourn, to repent for what they did, to atone for their sinfulness – to fast, weep, mourn. Typically, while in mourning, would tear, or rend, your clothes. But God doesn’t want that.

God wants their hearts to be torn, to rend their hearts, to know heartbreak. In our lesson from last week, Jeremiah said God would write their law on our hearts. Now, God wants those hearts to break over what they did.

No matter when this is written, the second sentence has to sting. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.

God speaks of their grace and mercy, but has allowed or will allow Israel and Judah to be punished. This reminds us that while our sins are forgiven thru the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our sins have consequences. Our sins rend, or tear, at the fabric of our relationships with our family, our community and our world.

God forgives, but the world remembers.

The tear can be repaired. The tear can be patched. It may actually be stronger, but it is never the same.

But these are words of hope, you have sinned, you have been punished, you are broken, but I still love you, says the LORD. Bring your broken heart to me, Let’s sit and cry together.

If you’ve ever reconciled with someone, sat down, got everything out on the table, you know what I mean. At the end, you are both crying, sobbing, snotty messes. But then, you begin anew, brought closer by mutual pain.

That is what Joel is telling us that God wants with us, to begin anew.

The second passage may be more familiar, quoted by Peter in his speech that we hear on Pentecost Sunday. I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my spirit.

God promises to send God’s Spirit to ALL flesh. Everyone, female and male, young and old will able to see what God can do, as well as what can be done in God’s name.

But dreaming is an act of faith – It is believing in what CAN be. Not in what is, but in what COULD happen.

It requires trust – trust in YOUR vision and in other to help. That can be hard, especially if trust has been broken. But if we confess and repent, God is gracious.

It requires work, we must DO God’s love, give it away and not just accept it, we must go and do, share and sacrifice.

IMAGINE what could be done if we LIVE OUT God’s love? What if we didn’t worry? What if we weren’t afraid? IMAGINE if we admit we are broken, but we believe

It’s just crazy enough to work, given the world we live in, it doesn’t make sense.

It’s not about making sense. It’s about believing in something, and letting that belief be real enough to change your life. It’s about faith. You don’t fix faith. Faith fixes you.

Tuesday, July 12

Talking About Giving

This is An Article From Ananias for the July-Early August issue of the OS/Em Newsletter.

It was strange when My Big Guy read the 5th chapter from Ask, Thank, Tell to me. He paused a lot while he was reading. He told me that much of it ‘rang true.’ I’m not sure I understand what that means.

This chapter was on “Practicing Biblical Stewardship.” I thought I was going to learn all of the stories in the Bible that talked about stewardship, but instead, it was about the Pastor’s role in leading a church’s stewardship work.

Remember, stewardship is being responsible for the gifts God has given you, and using them in a way that honors God and how God wants you to use them.

I was surprised that Mr. Lane said that a lot of churches don’t want their pastor to be involved in stewardship, or to talk about money. That surprised me because Jesus talked about money all of the time, so I thought people would want the pastor to talk about what Jesus talked about.

There was one line where Mr. Lane said people don’t want to “hold their financial lives up to the light of Scripture.” Why wouldn’t you want to know if you are doing what God said to do? I’m always checking with My Big Guy to see if I’m behaving how he wants me to. (I’m getting better!)

Chick said pastors aren’t comfortable in talking to their churches about money for a few reasons. One of them is that the pastor’s salary is usually the biggest item in the budget, and that makes it awkward. I hadn’t thought of that. Also, sometimes pastors aren’t that good at their own stewardship practices, so that makes it even harder to tell others what they should do.

Those made sense to me, but isn’t My Big Guy supposed to tell you about the tough stuff to do? That’s what most of our talks are about now that I’m a grown up bulldogge. He doesn’t have to worry about me messing up the house anymore, so now we talk about being nice to people and other dogs that I meet.
Chick gave some examples of what the pastor should do to lead the church’s stewardship efforts: they should preach on stewardship when the lesson lends itself to it; they should be a part of the stewardship team; and they should be a good example on how they use their gifts.

Then he stopped reading. I looked at him, and even looked at the page to see if we got to the end. He said the last thing was that the pastor should know what each person in the congregation gives. I scratched behind my ear (it helps me think) and thought that was a good idea. He looked at me and said that you have said he shouldn’t know that.

Mr. Lane wrote the common complaint is that if the pastor knows how much people give, they will only care for those who give a lot. I think that hurt My Big Guy’s feelings. It seems like you don’t trust him.

This stewardship stuff has become a real trust issue.

The thing is, if God has trusted us with all of these blessings and gifts, why can’t we trust one another to work together to use them in the way God wants?

Love and Licks, Ananias

Monday, June 6

Biblical Values for Stewardship

This is An Article From Ananias on stewardship from the June-Early July newsletter.

My Big Guy read chapter 4 from the book Ask, Thank, Tell which is about the values of stewardship. He reminded me that stewardship means how we manage and use the gifts and blessings that God has given us.  For you all, that means the money and possessions you have, but it also means the talent and abilities you have, like the things you are good at.

I’m good at sleeping and chewing on things, so I was excited to find out how I could be a good steward of these talents.

Mr. Lane who wrote this book says that there six values of someone who gives using Biblical values. They are:
  1. Intentional
  2. Regular
  3. Generous
  4. First
  5. Proportional, and
  6. Cheerful.
 What he meant by that is you have to make a plan on your giving and sharing, then actually do it. You need to give on a regular basis. You are generous because you trust that God has blessed you and will continue to bless you, so you don’t have to try and keep everything for yourself.

Your giving to God should be the first thing you do, and not just from whatever is left over. My Big Guy explained that proportional means you should give according to how much you have. If you have a lot, you should give a lot, but if you only have a little, just give a little of what you have.

And being cheerful comes from doing all of those and realizing that you are taking the stuff that God has blessed you with, and sharing that with others as a way of sharing God’s love.

It could be like this: You make a plan to set aside a certain share of whatever you get as soon as you get it. It’s the first thing you do, and you do this every time you get something.  When you do this, and keep doing it, you can see how what you give is helping those who need to feel God’s love.

Mr. Lane said something that Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” That confused me for a while. Then I thought that means where ever the things that I think are the most important will be the things I care the most about. Obviously, My Big Guy is my treasure, and I always am worried about him when he’s away.

Then I thought about my toys and bones. I always want them to be around so I can play and chew on them. But if I worry about them, I might forget about My Big Guy. And that would make me sad.

If we worry too much about our stuff, we forget about all of the good things God has given us. Then we could become selfish with our blessings and not want to share them.

I have an idea on how I can become a cheerful giver, and I hope I can share those ideas soon, when My Big Guy says it’s ok.

Licks and Love, Ananias

Saturday, May 14

Trust In God and Not In Ourselves

This is Ananias' article from the May Newsletter.
First, I want to remind everyone to invite your friends, your friends kids and your grandkids to come to the Vacation Bible Schools at Emmanuel and Our Savior’s. The nice ladies who put the VBS together promised me a treat if I would tell you that VBS is for EVERYONE!!!

I’m not sure what I would do if I had two people to listen to like I listen to My Big Guy. I’d be really confused if they told me to do different things at the same time. It’s hard enough for me to try to do what My Big Guy wants me to do, let alone if I had two masters.

That is what the author of Ask, Thank, Tell (the book on stewardship that I’ve asked My Big Guy to read to me) writes about in chapter 3.

Jesus was talking about wealth and possessions when he said “you cannot serve two masters.” In fact, the author says that Jesus talked more about money than any other topic in the Gospels. I wasn’t sure about that, so I made My Big Guy look into that, and he said it was true. (Fact Checked by pbc)

It turns out that Jesus talked about possessions, wealth and money more than he talked about prayer, forgiveness or even his death. The only thing Jesus talked about more than money was the kingdom of God.

The author (Chick Lane) said Jesus did that because he didn’t want people to put their trust in their wealth and themselves, but instead to trust in God to provide. My Big Guy said that is why in the prayer Jesus taught we pray for our daily bread. That is asking God to give us what we need today, instead of relying on saving and storing things up for ourselves.

I get that. I trust that My Big Guy will fill my food and water bowls each day. But between you and me, I do have some treats hidden around the house, just in case. Somehow he found the fish treats, but I’ve hidden others.

But I guess that means that I don’t trust My Big Guy. That makes me sad. I know he loves me and will take care of me, even when I’m bad.

So I’m going to get all those treats I’ve hidden out and will eat them up so that I trust My Big Guy will provide what I need each day.

Mr. Lane said that if we worry about what we have, we can obsess over our wealth and resources and not think about sharing the blessings God has given us with those who don’t have as much as we do.

That makes a lot of sense to me. I’m going to try to figure out how I can share the blessings God has given me. Let me know if you have any ideas.

Licks and Love,

Ananias

Tuesday, April 12

Everything Belongs To God

This is Ananias' article from the April Messenger newsletter.

The Earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it; the world, and those who live in it; for he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers. – Psalm 24:1-3

My Big Guy read chapter two of Ask, Thank, Tell to me, the book I wrote about last month. It was all about gifts.

I like gifts. My Big Guy will give me the gift of toys to play with. I get so happy when he gives them to me. I run around the house and shake them. I’ll find a comfy place to lay down and play with it and chew on it.

Sometimes, I play a little too rough with the toys and chew a hole in them and all the stuff comes out of them. Sometimes, when I shake it, I don’t have as good a grasp on it as I think I do, and it goes flying around the house.

When those things happen, My Big Guy takes the toy away. Sometimes forever, or sometimes, for a little while.

The point of the chapter in Ask, Thank, Tell is that the gifts we get from God aren’t ours. They still belong to God.

When My Big Guy gives me a toy, even though I chew and drool on it, it still belongs to him. He trusts me to use it the right way, but it is ultimately his.

It is like that with the talents, abilities and blessings that God gives you. You use them to do things. You use them to help others. You use them to provide for your family. But they still belong to God, because everything comes from God.

The man who wrote the book says we don’t take ownership or control over the gifts God gives. We are just trusted to use them how God wants us to use them.

I realize that the toys I play with are given to me by My Big Guy because he loves me and wants me to learn and have fun. But, they belong to him. I just get to use them.

If you think about the blessings and gifts God has given you in those terms, you start to think differently about everything. My Big Guy read a quote from Genesis in the book that God has given people dominion over the Earth.

I didn’t know what dominion was, so My Big Guy said it was like being a manager. You have responsibilities, but you aren’t the owner. That’s like when he goes away, and leaves me in charge of the house. I make sure nothing happens while he is away. So I’ll bark at the squirrels and tell them to stay away; Ananias is in charge. Being a manager is hard work. That’s one of the reasons I’m so happy when he comes home. I don’t have to be in charge.

But the fact that My Big Guy trusts me enough to leave me in charge shows that he thinks I will do the right thing.

I want to make him happy and proud of me by doing what I should with the gifts and responsibilities he gives me.

We should do the same with the gifts God gives us as well.

Licks and Love, Ananias