GlassNew Life Lutheran Church
a congregation of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

1209 Leroy Rd, Marion Center, PA 15759
(724) 254-4685

Pastor's Page


 

Web Devotions from Pastor Steve

 

Welcome! The devotions below are short pieces I'm writing each Monday through Friday.  We'll keep up the last five days at a time, so if you miss a day, you will always be able to see the last several devotions and get caught up to re-enter the conversation.  Over time, we will engage voices within Scripture and within the Christian community from the past and present--theologians, saints, mystics, and holy fools.  See below for a description of the current series of devotions, or jump right in here for today's devotion. I invite you to read these just as one more conversation partner in your own reflection about faith, life, and the Reign of God who grasps us in Jesus.  I would invite your own contributions to that conversation, too. I would invite your e-mails at pscbond@gmail.com.

 

 

 




 

Fall Bible Study Series

Download PDFs from our Fall 2013 original Bible Study series on Galatians: "Grace. Seriously," meeting on Tuesdays from 7:00pm-8:30pm at New Life.

 


 

Sermon Songs

Original songs are sometimes part of Pastor Steve's sermons.  Here are a few you can download free (more coming over time as they are written and sung!), along with a listing for what Sunday or Scripture text they were inspired by:

 

 

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Devotions:  Current Series


Being Graced

Being Graced is a year-long exploration of living in the reckless generosity of God. Month by month, we are taking a look at different dimensions of the grace of God.  For the month of June, we are looking at how grace opens our eyes.  Check out these devotions here Monday through Friday, or follow them on Blogger at https://beinggraced.blogspot.com/. Or if you would like to receive these devotions via email, to write to me at pscbond@gmail.com and ask to be added to the list.

 

Today's Devotion:

 

“Sweeping the Spiders Away”—June 27, 2016

“But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord, and the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. 2The rich man had very many flocks and herds; 3but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his meager fare, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. 4Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was loath to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared that for the guest who had come to him.” 5Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; 6he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” 7Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul; 8I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added as much more. 9Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight?” [2 Samuel 11:27b-12:9a]

When someone brushes your shoulder unexpectedly and says to you, “You had a spider on you!”, have you ever noticed that there is both fear and relief at the same time?  Your brain has to process both the fact that you had a secret arachnid crawling up your back, and the good news that someone else has taken care of it for you and swept it away to go bother someone else or go save a pig with web-based advertising somewhere else.  There is relief and discomfort at the same time, and they are interconnected, because the relief is the relief of the uncomfortable truth that you are just finding out about: namely, that something with four times as many legs as you have was lurking unbeknownst to you toward your neck.

Forgiveness is, in a very important sense, like that dual rush of fear and relief from someone telling you they have brushed the spider off your back.  And that’s because being forgiven also requires that we face the uncomfortable—in fact squirm-inducing—reality that we have wronged someone else.  To hear someone else say, “You are forgiven,” brings us face to face the with the honest truth that we NEEDED it in the first place.  It means I admit that I have broken relationship with someone else, and by grace, they are restoring the relationship rather than leaving it broken.  There is grace in the same instant as there is hard truth.  There is relief in the same instant as there is discomfort.

And just like with the friend who brushes off the spider from your back, the relief is only possible at the point of facing the squirmy truth.  I won’t be relieved that the spider is gone until I know at the same time that there was, after all, a spider.  And I won’t appreciate what it means to know I am forgiven until I have been compelled to see, even kicking and screaming, that I was in the wrong… that I hurt someone… that, to use the old phrasing for it, sinned against my neighbor.

All of that is to say that the grace we call forgiveness includes opening our eyes to see the uncomfortable truth about ourselves first, and then in the same instant creates a new reality in which our sin is put away.  Maybe you could even say that the grace of being forgiven is what makes it possible for me to hear the truth that I messed up again in the first place, much like your friend doesn’t usually say, “Hey, there’s a spider somewhere on your body, but I’m not going to tell you where it is or help to get it… I’m just going to let it hang there and drive you nuts.” 

The story of David being confronted by Nathan tells us the same.  Without rehashing the whole soap opera, King David had done what nearly everybody does when they get a hold of power—he let it inflate his ego to the point where he thought he could do anything he wanted.  And in fact, he then had an affair, covered it up, and had the woman’s husband killed to contain the scandal when the initial cover-up didn’t work.  Well, you can’t fool God, and so God sent the prophet Nathan to do what prophets do: to speak truth to that power. 

Nathan forces David to come face to face with his actions, and to own them rather than to keep hiding them and running from them.  Nathan forces David to see what he had done.  He does it graciously, and even subversively by telling his little parable of the man with the ewe lamb, to get past David’s defenses.  But he did, in fact, open David’s eyes in a way that David needed.  There is forgiveness, to be sure—by the end of the story, Nathan will say to the king, “Now the Lord has put away your sin.”  But that statement of forgiveness is only possible as David is brought face to face with the reality of that sin first.  Otherwise he will be stuck trying to cover up and hide his actions rather than having them swept away.

Chances are, our day to day sins are not quite so melodramatic as David’s.  But we still have the same need to face what we have done as we receive forgiveness for our mess-ups.  When I wrong you, I need to know it—not so that I will suffer a certain amount and thereby earn a second chance—but because when you forgive me, I will not appreciate the gift of your grace to me unless I realize what you are wiping away off of my back.  If you keep trying to pretend there is no spider because you are afraid it will make me squirm to know it is there, it doesn’t make the spider go away.  What I need is for you to be honest with me, and to say to me, “Steve, you screwed up.  This hurt me.  This didn’t work…. Those words were cutting rather than curing… that action was self-centered and rude...”  or whatever else I’ve done.  I need to know that if I am going to understand the depth of your grace when you forgive me. 

And the same is true with us and God as well.  We all need those people who will help us face the ways we have broken relationship, hurt others, treated people as objects, let hate fester in our hearts, and fallen for idols.  We need those people who, like Nathan, will be real with us and hold us accountable.  We need those voices of sisters and brothers in Christ who will open our eyes—first, to see the spider… and second, to see that it has been swept away and taken off of our backs, in the very same instant.

Today, instead of more of the same old hiding, covering, and running, who are the people you can seek out who will help open your eyes to the need for grace… and who will also speak that grace into your life by announcing God’s forgiveness?  And how might you be one of those voices for someone else who has got something with a lot of legs crawling on their back, too?

Lord Jesus, open our eyes to see what we have been carrying on our shoulders for too long… to face it, and then to see as well that you have swept our sins away at the same time.

 

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December 2013 Pastor's Letter

 

The Hard Work of Hoping

Don’t be fooled: it’s hard to hope with your eyes open.  It’s hard to wait when you aren’t sure of the outcome, either.  (I suppose that’s why, in some languages, “hope” and “wait” are the same word—they are both hard to do in the same way.)

The places and times we do our waiting in life are difficult to stay in for very long. The nervous pacing… and sitting… and stretching of the Emergency Room waiting lobby.  The teary, anxious nights worrying over a loved one until they come home safe and sound.  The uncomfortable silence in the room when you are waiting for the phone to ring about the new job. The days between the test and the call from the doctor’s office that everything is ok.

Waiting in those moments, hoping in those moments, is hard work.  It is not for the faint of heart.  It means, on the one hand, guarding against false hopes and empty promises and just plain wishful thinking. Hope has to be able to look at the world as it is right now, look at people as they are right now, and look at possibilities as they are right now, and go from there, without burying its head in the sand.  And on the other hand, hope has to guard against giving up—it has to do the hard work of keeping vigil, of staying there in the hospital waiting room, of praying for the prodigal to come home, of trying new ways to do what needs to be done, and envisioning a future where what is broken is mended.

So… how do you learn to hope rightly?  How do we learn to navigate those waters, and to live as hopeful people who keep their eyes open and don’t merely wish the unpleasantness of the world away?  How do we start to act in light of what we are hoping for, and how do we learn to wait without just stewing and sitting on our hands, but doing what can be done while we are waiting?

Well, in a lot of ways, this is exactly what this thing called “church” is for.  This community of other sisters and brothers in Christ, this gathering of other “waiters” and “hopers” is the laboratory in which we learn how to hope well, and how to wait faithfully.  It’s what this season called Advent is all about, too.  We practice—with the slow, methodical lighting of candles week by week, and the discipline of gathering for worship in the evenings, and with new focus to our prayer life—at waiting with our eyes open.  We learn how to hope without falling for impostors or snake-oil salesmen.  We learn how to be present in those emergency-room waiting times, or with someone in their sleepless night, or beside the phone, or wherever else, in the ways we learn to wait in this Advent season for the coming of Christ.  We are waiting for him, not only to show up where we expect him in the manger, but we are waiting for him to surprise us by showing up enfleshed in all those other moments of waiting where he sends us. This Advent, come and learn with us how to do the hard work of waiting faithfully. Come learn how to be people of hope and new life.

  —Christ’s Peace, Pastor Steve

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