Archive for October 2010

How’s ‘Your’ Ministry Going? A sermon on 10-24-10

October 25, 2010

Luke 18:9-14
9Jesus also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Children’s Time: Do you like to build with building blocks? Let’s see how tall we can make this tower? Sometimes we try to build ourselves up before God, like the Pharisee in our lesson today. We might think we’re pretty special because we….
Go to church every Sunday
Read the Bible every day
Give and offering in Sunday School
Am kind to other people
Say our prayers before bed at night
Obey our parents
Share our toys with friends
Hold the door open for others… and
Never talk about our friends behind their backs.

…but will doing all those things make God love us more? No. If it’s up to us building a stairway to heaven, then we’re headed toward a fall when we rely on our own good works. (source: http://www.sermons4kids.com)

Dear friends in Christ: grace to you and peace, from the One who is and who was and who is to come: our living Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Well, if there’s any good news in today’s little parable by Jesus… it’s in the fact that we will never be able to stand before God based on our own tower of blocks. The Pharisee tries but only looks like a hypocrite. And we try, too, to get by on our own merits.

And that’s what makes this parable so tricky. It’s not just about our having to choose between the Pharisee and the tax collector… …or about “being humble” rather than “full of yourself.” If this story is just a lesson in humility then our own ‘success at being humble’ becomes the goal!

Jesus sets us up with this parable! Almost immediately we begin to pray, “I thank you God that I’m not like that Pharisee” …which makes us exactly like the Pharisee! “Look how humble I am, Lord!”

It’s been said that whenever we draw a line in the sand between ourselves and someone else… Jesus is standing there on the other side.

Well, there are plenty of sides to choose from during this Election Season: And it’s normal for candidates to give an account of their accomplishments: “Here’s what I’ve done this far.” Etc. In fact, I’d rather hear that than tearing down their opponent. I’m not like her at all. I’m you. (whatever that means)

I think the Pharisee does a little bit of both, here: listing off his accomplishments and tearing down the tax collector. This is what happens when we treat faith like an election – as if God would choose one over the other. Isn’t there enough mercy for ALL to go around?

And yet, the Pharisee is unable to see his own need for mercy. I mean, the life of a priest was not one of reckless abandon and drunken debauchery. I lived by a code… and was correct in stating his own righteousness.

Bruce Modahl, pastor at Grace Lutheran in River Forest, IL provides this vivid description of the work of the priest:

“The priests are up well before dawn. They rub the sleep from their eyes as they begin stoking the great fire at the altar. The musicians arrive in clumps, tune their strings and complain about the early hour. The ram’s horn player warms his instrument in his hands and under his cloak, then gently blows air through it. A priest’s assistant pulls a lamb from its pen, binds its legs and brings it to the altar. As dawn breaks the ceremony begins. The musicians and singers take up the familiar tunes of the psalms. The priests march in procession. At the altar one priest raises a knife to the lamb’s throat, drains its blood into a basin and throws the blood on the fire at the altar. The sacrifice of atonement is made. The sins of the people are covered. Now the priests light incense, and plumes of smoke indicate that it is the time for the prayers of the people to ride along on those scented clouds to God.” (Christian Century, Oct 19, 2010 p.20)

….And this happens again later in the afternoon, thus setting the scene for our story today, in which two people come to offer their prayers to the Lord.

So how do we pray without getting caught up in ourselves – or in tearing down those around us? After all, it is Stewardship Season… All month long we’ve been hearing stories about the work that we do – the important ministries the people of Holy Cross participate in. You’ve fed the hungry in partnership with the N. St. Paul Food Shelf – you’ve cared for children, in partnership with Building Bridges – you’ve raised up leaders for the church, through our student scholarships – you’ve done all that and so much more!

But you haven’t done it alone.

When I was a pastor-in-training I visited the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. We had coffee with one of the local pastors: Noah Brokenleg. He was a Lakota. And the one word of advice I still remember from him to this day was this:
“It’s never ‘my ministry’ it’s God’s ministry.”

That’s easy for us to say… and hard for us to live. God calls us to participate in great things! In the changing of lives! In the sharing of the Gospel! It is both humbling and awe-inspiring!

This is why Paul could write to Timothy: “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith!” At first glance it may sound a lot like this Pharisee: “Look at me, Ti-mo-thy!” But in very next sentence, he sets the record strait: “The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed.”

How do we humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord? We remember we are but earthen vessels – that the Lord pours forth the Holy Spirit into us so that we can do great things on Christ’s behalf. Only then can we be truly poured out as an offering to others.

That’s why we preach stewardship – the pouring out of our time and our talents and financial support to the ministry of the church.

Because “it’s God’s church,” God’s ministry. And thanks be to God who loves both the tax collector and the Pharisee! Even if we are covered in God’s mercy and can go down from the temple justified in God’s sight.

Let us pray: O God, we give you thanks that you have looked past our petty attempts to puff ourselves up and seen the person we really are. Help us to trust in your mercy rather than any human effort we can muster. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Seeing With New Eyes – a sermon from 10-10-10

October 25, 2010

Luke 17:11-19
On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace, from the One who is and who was and who is to come: our living Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Can imagine having everything you’ve ever worked for taken away from you? Your job, your health, your life’s savings? That’s what it was like back in Jesus’ day to get sick with leprosy. Everything was taken away from you.

Lepers in those days were to be avoided. They had this disease that everyone thought was contagious, so they were made to walk on the other side of the street if there was anyone coming along the way. “Unclean!” they would cry out, as a warning to others. And in some cases, they were made to wear bells so others could hear them coming and be sure to steer clear. But underneath all the sores they were just people like you and me. People who missed their families and who longed to be rid of this terrible disease.

In this story ten lepers are healed by Jesus. He doesn’t heal them right away. He tells them to go and show themselves to the priest, which they do. And on the way they are healed. But only one of them turns back to thank Jesus.

Now, most people try to make sense of this story right here – that it’s about saying ‘thank you.’ And that’s true. There is a part of this story that is focused on gratitude and showing appreciation. But there’s a deeper meaning to this story – a new way of seeing it through the eyes of faith.

Can you really imagine even one of those 10 NOT being grateful? I mean, they didn’t DO anything to be healed – they just were! Maybe because they were healed ‘as a group’ they missed the opportunity to show individual devotion to Jesus. What would you or I do in their shoes? If I was in that rag-tag crowd of followers with oozing sores and dead skin rashes – if I had been ostracized and declared unclean by my neighbors, literally made untouchable to the rest of society – I would have done anything to be made clean again. And I most certainly would have jumped for joy at being made clean!

“Thank you, Rabbi, for giving me my life back! No more need to be ashamed, shunned and avoided by my family and friends. You have restored not only my health – but my place in society! Thank you! Thank you.”

And maybe that’s what they were about to do at the temple with their priest. Who knows? Too bad they couldn’t recognize in Jesus their new priest and pastor – their lord and their master.

Only the Samaritan gets it. As Dr. David Lose (from Luther Seminary) has said about this story, “All the lepers were healed; one, however, saw, noticed, let what happened sink in…and it made all the difference. Because he sees what has happened, the leper recognizes Jesus, his reign and his power.” (www.workingpreacher.org)

This one who has returned, prompts Jesus to say, “Your faith has saved you.” Did the others not have faith? We don’t know. The important thing is that they were healed. Oh, that we could all see the healer with new eyes – eyes of devotion – eyes of gratitude!

This happens all the time in society. A group of people benefit, but only a few have eyes to see the big picture, and to come to Jesus in faith.

Take the Civil Rights movement, for example: Over the years, a handful of vigilant freedom fighters stood up to segregation and discrimination in the country. But when Blacks finally won the right to vote and to exercise the same inalienable rights as everyone else – all Blacks benefited – not just the few who saw a different vision of what could be. They set out to pursue that vision, which continues to this day.

Take our annual stewardship drive, already in full swing this fall: It’s no secret that in American Christian churches the majority of the operating budget is funded by a minority of the people. That’s the way it is in just about every denomination. Half the people give very little or nothing at all – and yet enjoy the same benefits of membership as everyone.

Again, this is not to point the finger or deny the very real economic hardships facing Amercians in this time and place. Nor is it to deny the gift of one’s time and volunteering that the church also relies upon. Rather, what’s important is that we see that giving starts with gratitude and devotion to our Lord. It’s not, nor will it ever be, simply just about giving money. It’s about seeing with new eyes that all we have belongs to God and we are only stewards of it for the time being.

Think about it this way: God has given you an inheritance that can only be claimed by faith. So, what has to happen before you can claim your family inheritance?

1. Someone has to earn that inheritance and put it away for you until they die.
2. That someone needs to make a last will and testament, identifying you as the heir.
3. That someone has to die.
4. Then someone has to read the will and claim the inheritance.

It’s no different with this good news we have in Jesus. God has earned every penny of our salvation and put it away for you. God has written down a will in holy scripture to pass it on to you. God has died on the cross and been raised in victory to seal that will and testament to each one of us. All that’s left is for the will to be read – and for God’s children to claim the inheritance.

In the meantime, healing is still taking place, across the board, in this community. Jesus is still saving lives, the sick are being called upon in the time of need, the hungry do get fed as we are able to provide assistance, and the Gospel is spoken – not only here in this sanctuary, but through every one of you – when you go forth from this place. YOU might be the only Bible another person reads, because they’ll read it on your heart. Jesus is the Word and the word became flesh and lives within you, as we read in John chapter 1.

So, don’t go to the priest today, go to Jesus and worship him in gratitude for the inheritance we share as his children. Go to your neighbor and show yourselves to them. Tell others all that God is doing through your life – your church – your family. See with new eyes today – eyes of gratitude and faith. We are the beneficiaries of a great inheritance – let us share that treasure generously.

Won’t you pray with me: O God, you have given us an inheritance of new life through Jesus. Help us to see the bigger picture with the eyes of faith and to share that good news with all we meet, we ask it in the name of Jesus, your son our Lord. Amen.

I Got Nothing

October 3, 2010

A sermon for the 19th Sunday after Pentecsot / 10-3-10

Children’s Time: Do you remember who first told you the story of Jesus? I think it was my mother and my grandmothers. When I was little we’d go over to grandma’s because mom needed a babysitter during the day. My grandma Alta had this saying, “Trust in the Lord always and lean not unto thine own understanding. Acknowledge him in all thy ways and he shall direct thy path.” It was a Bible verse from Proverbs 3:6. “Trust in the Lord? Well, who’s the Lord?” “Well, Jesus, of course,” she’d say.

She had this plaque hanging in her kitchen with that same verse on it. It must have meant a lot to her. At Christmas, grandma also remembered Jesus by putting out the manger scene (show picture). My other grandma, Mildred, had an angel on the tree each Christmas, to remind us to tell the good news of great joy about Jesus! So, who taught you the faith? Who handed it down to you?

In our lesson today, Paul tells Timothy how grateful he is for his mother and grandmother for handing down the faith to him. Let’s remember to thank all those who have shared the good news about Jesus. And let’s be sure to tell others about Jesus’ love. Who knows? You might be that someone who shares the faith with a person just waiting to hear some good news today!

Intro: Dear friends in Christ: grace to you and peace, from the One who is and who was and who is to come: our living Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

I want to begin by saying that I just can’t preach this sermon today. I’ll let you in on a little secret this morning. It’s the pastor’s prayer I pray every time I’m sitting down to write the sermon each week: “Lord, I got nothing. It’s all you. Give me a word that will make a difference to your people this week. Amen.”

That’s basically it. I got nothing… all by myself… Pat can’t play one keystroke on the organ… all by herself… Not one lesson will get taught today down in Sunday school if it’s just up to the teacher.

For the past several weeks we’ve been hearing about faith and how money influences our lives: the woman with the lost coin, the dishonest steward who forgave his master’s debtors, and last week the rich man and Lazarus! Who knew that a great chasm exists between the rich and the poor… in the after life!

So, by now… the disciples are ready for an answer when they cry out to Jesus: “Increase our faith!” Jesus’ reply is to say, “If you had faith as tiny as this mustard seed, you could say to that mulberry tree: ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea!’ and it would obey you.”

…but you don’t! You got nothing. That’s why I’m here, Jesus says.

That’s the kicker for this whole series of stories. We simply don’t have faith all on our own. Not even a faith as tiny as a mustard-seed! How will we ever make it across that chasm we heard about last week? To be the good and caring people God commands us to be? How is that camel ever going to go through the eye of that needle, so that the rich can be saved, too? We simply can’t do the faith on our own!

It can be handed down to us from our parents and grandparents. It can be heard from a friend, coworker or classmate. Faith can be experienced in the breaking of bread together and in the splashing of water at the font. But being “strong in the faith” just isn’t up to us.

The disciples were met with the same perplexity at Jesus’ sayings, when they cried out in exasperation: “Who then can be saved!” Jesus says, “you can’t – with mortals it is impossible! But… with God all things are possible.”

And that’s what the Word does to us… it tells the truth about us and lifts the burden onto God’s shoulders.

I love Chinese food. And I also look forward to cracking open my fortune cookie at the end of a tasty meal of fried rice and sweet & sour chicken. This week’s fortune said: “You believe in the goodness of others.” That’s not a bad fortune, looking for the best in other people… but what I really believe in is the goodness of Christ. Whenever we put our money on the goodness in ourselves, we’re falling into legalism.

I once heard a preacher describe legalism as an escalator that will take you up to heaven; but you have to take that first leap – just one little jump on board. No, he declared. Jesus comes running down that escalator and breaks it into pieces and picks you up and carries you into heaven. That’s hard to hear amid the other voices of faith that are rooted in legalism:

Did you pray hard enough? You must not have tried very hard. You can’t expect God to do this all alone, here – c’mon, a little effort here! And the trouble with legalism is that 1) we put ourselves in the driver’s seat – making faith about what we do rather than about what God does.. and 2) we end up on this treadmill of good works, never quite able to measure up in the faith or in life.

Martin Luther’s explained how we get faith in the Small Catechism (under his explanation of the 3rd Article of the Apostle’s Creed) where he writes: “I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him. But instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy, and kept me in the true faith.”

So the next time you hear someone say, “She’s a strong Christian!” Ask what that means. Are we saying we have more like a pumpkin seed faith? Or, maybe even a peach-pit-sized faith! You see the danger here? What we’re trying to do is remember it’s not about us – and how much faith WE have. It’s about God’s faithfulness and power to change this world! The sooner we get off the ladder the better!

Paul told Timothy to guard this treasure he had received from his grandmother Lois and mother Eunice – this treasure of faith – and to not be ashamed or cowardly. It is the power of God we have been given!

Paul goes on to recall Timothy’s tears… and encourages him to rekindle the faith that he received through the laying on of hands. Who laid hand on you in the faith and blessed you? And when have you had the opportunity to do the same. To place a hand on another person and pray for them? These are holy moments – moments filled with the Holy Spirit – moments when we acknowledge “we got nothing.”

Every day we have the opportunity to lay our hands on others and bless them – to bless young people or the old – with the touch of the Holy Spirit.

This week there’s been a story in the news about a young man, Tyler Clementi, who committed suicide this week. Someone secretly videotaped him in an intimate encounter with another person and posted it on the internet and he killed himself. I wonder if he’d had anyone to bless him – to lay their hands on him and tell him how proud they are of him and how much God loves him. Let’s not wait on those opportunities to share the good news with boldness and confidence.

I attended a lecture by Timothy Wengert’s this week in Alexandria. He’s a professor at Lutheran Theological Seminary Philadelphia. He compared faith to “falling in love” with God. “Suppose you and your spouse love to dance – and you’re out on the dance floor and shle looks at you and says, ‘I love you. Ask me whatever you want and I’ll do it.’ Well, what else is there but his dance? There really is nothing else. I just want you!”

The disciples were filled with the same devotion when they said to Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Thanks be to God for the undeserved dance. It’s all we got – and it’s all we need.

I began this sermon by saying “I got nothing. I can’t do this” but it’s not true (unless we go it alone). Here I am and there you are… stepping in time with Jesus. Thanks be to God for all the faith we need! Let us pray: O God, we live out the faith – knowing that we can’t do it on our own… but by the power of your Holy Spirit help us to move much more than mulberry trees and to pass on this faith to all we meet, in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

The Gift of Enough

October 1, 2010

A Sermon on the 18th Sunday after Pentecost (9-22-10)
Luke 16:19-31
19“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. 23In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. 24He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ 25But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. 26Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ 27He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— 28for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ 29Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ 30He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Children’s Time: Show an alarm clock with a “snooze button”? What happens if you push this button too much? You’ll be late. Did you know we sometimes do this with people? We forget to pay attention to the hurting. We get too distracted with our own problems, that we ignore others when we really could help them. In our Bible story today, Jesus tells us about a rich man who never took the time to help others who were less fortunate. Every day he walked by a poor man, Lazarus, at the main gate. But in the end, it was he who was all alone and Lazarus who was rich. Let’s not be people who fall asleep on the job when there’s work to be done and people to serve. God is counting on us! (credit: sermons4kids for this idea)

Dear friends in Christ: grace to you and peace, from the One who is and who was and who is to come: our living Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

I’m a pretty hopeful guy – I mean, I like to think there’s always hope that things will turn around. Isn’t that part of our “job description” as the people of God? To have faith in what we cannot yet see? A future where people’s lives are changed for the better? So, if you ask me, I’m someone who believes in the saying, “It’s never too late.”

That’s what makes reading today’s lesson so hard for me, because for the rich man, IT IS too late. He’s dead and gone and there’s not a thing he can do about his situation: a great chasm lies between him (in his hellish fate) and Lazarus (in the lap of Abraham) that cannot be crossed. It’s simply too late.

Another reason this parable bothers me is because I want everyone to end up in heaven. Who needs more polarity or another chasm to divide us in society? Isn’t God bigger than even our divisions? Already the political ads are in full swing: “Who’s side is she really on?” “You can’t trust so-and-so.” Well, the gospel of Luke is pretty clear: Jesus sides with the poor and the lowly, every time. There’s no getting around it that divide.

Give me the story of the thief on the cross any day over this one. Here’s a scene where it’s never too late for repentance. In his dying breath, the thief begged Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom. “Truly I tell you,” says Jesus, “today you will be with me in paradise.” And maybe that’s the difference: at least the thief felt sorry for what he’d done.

The rich man feels sorry for himself. There’s no repentance, no remorse. In fact, he has the audacity to ask Lazarus to serve him some water! Time and again, Jesus said “the last shall be first.” Do you smell tax cuts for the wealthiest 4% of Americans? (There, I’ve gone and made another chasm.)

My intent is not to lay a guilt trip on you today – but to simply let this story speak for itself. The Bible clearly teaches that money is NOT the root of all evil. It’s the LOVE of money that leads to selfish intentions. It’s the lure of the luxurious lifestyle that hits the snooze button of our soul time and again until we realize it’s too late.

In their book, Passing the Plate, Christian Smith & Michael Emerson examine the giving habits of American Christians and their findings are troubling. Quote: “American Christians are among the wealthiest of their faith in the world today and probably the most affluent single group of Christians in two thousand years of church history. … And yet, despite all of this, American Christians give away relatively little money to religious and other purposes. A sizable number of Christians give no money, literally nothing.”

According to their findings, between 1959 and 2000, while the financial giving by American Christians was declining, the personal consumption expenditures of Americans increased for eating out in restaurants, toys, sports supplies, live entertainments, foreign and domestic travel by U.S. residents, lottery tickets, casino gambling, photography, sports and recreation camps, and other entertainment expense. (Passing the Plate, 63)

We are in a position to do an enormous amount of good… and that great chasm between the rich and the poor is ever widening. Yesterday’s newspaper reported that in the U.S. “one in seven Americans, and one in five children, is living in poverty.” (StarTribune, Sep 25, 2010) …and “as a direct result of unemployment, fewer have health care: 51 million were uninsured at the end of 2009, up from 46 million a year earlier.”

And yet, some Americans are managing quite well, all things considered. According to the Greater Twin Cities United Way, “when polled this summer, 63% of Americans feel they are no longer in harm’s way” of the Great Recession. “They have dodged the bullet and feel fortunate. They may not be as well-off as a year ago, but they know how amazingly well-off they are in comparison.”

So, what does all this mean? If you can give be generous, whatever means you may have to work with. In the Bible, God commanded the people of Israel to set aside a percentage of their income for the Lord’s work. It’s called a tithe. Does anyone know what the percentage is? It’s a 10% tithe of your possessions. You can find examples of this in Numbers 18:26 and in Leviticus 27:30 we read:

30All tithes from the land, whether the seed from the ground or the fruit from the tree, are the Lord’s; they are holy to the Lord. …32All tithes of herd and flock, every tenth one that passes under the shepherd’s staff, shall be holy to the Lord.

This stewardship season we’re going to ask you to make a pledge to give away 10% of your household income. Probably the easiest way to figure this out is to simply pull out last year’s tax return, find your adjusted gross income and take 10 percent of that. Obviously, we’d like the church to be a part of that 10%. Maybe consider giving half of that pledge to the church and the other half to other charities that are important to you.

We’d like to do the same thing on our church council – to increase the giving we do as a congregation to that 10% tithe… but that can only happen when each household makes a conscious decision to do their part. So I challenge you to grow in your giving and not hit that snooze button today. The point here is not to try and dictate to you how you should spend your money… but to create a climate of caring for those less fortunate by improving our habit of regular giving.

The sin of the rich man wasn’t just that he’d been lulled to sleep in the lap of luxury. It’s that he just didn’t care about anyone except himself. This same thing happened in our first lesson for today, from the book of Amos. See how the people of God came under judgment, not because they had wealth – but because they had grown not to care anymore:

4Alas for those who lie on beds of ivory, and lounge on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock, and calves from the stall; 5who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp, and like David improvise on instruments of music; 6who drink wine from bowls, and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph! 7Therefore they shall now be the first to go into exile, and the revelry of the loungers shall pass away.

You really do reap what you sow.

Here’s a little gem I found in this week’s Christian Century, in an article by Kristin Swenson. She’s quoting John C. Bogle telling “how Joseph Heller responded when someone pointed out that his billionaire party host made more money in a single day of hedge fund trading than Heller had ever earned from his book Catch-22. Heller replied: ‘Yes, but I have something that he will never have: enough.’” (Christian Century, Sep 21, 2010)

And that one little word, enough, has stayed with me this week as I’ve been preparing these thoughts. What a liberating thought – to know in your heart that you have enough of what you need – that God knows what you need before you even ask for it – and will provide in due season… enough.

That’s my wake up call for you today. And to make sure you don’t hit the snooze button I’d like to close with a little song about staying awake. It’s a little bluegrass tune from 1979 called: Fire on the Mountain.

FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN by Randy Palmer

There’s a fire on the mountain tonight
No place to run, no place to hide
(Tell me now) would you be alright
If you had to die tonight
There’s a fire on the mountain tonight

1) Moses, he led the pack
Once he started out, no turning back
With old Pharaoh at his heals,
The Red Sea began to swell
But he crossed to the other side safe and dry
(chorus)

2) Elijah, he cried out from the trees
He said you’re living life in sin and misery
They said, “Hey buddy you must be blind!
We’re all havin’ a good time!”
But Elihah held his head and cried from grief.
(chorus)

3) Simon Peter, he denied our Lord
Three times, until finally he swore
But then the cock began to crow
And he said, “How did you know?!”
And from that moment, Peter was a rock.
(chorus)

4) Jesus he died upon the cross
And for our sins, he paid the cost
Now he’s inviting you to choose
It’s your chance to win or lose… (so don’t hit the snooze!)
But it’s your decision, your gain or loss.
(chorus)