According to Acts chapter two, the earliest converts to Christianity led a fairly simple life. They gave up all personal possessions and lived communally. They devoted themselves to learning from the writings of the apostles (bible study), fellowship (pastoral care and friendship), breaking of bread (communion), and praying.
Dr. Mark Allen Powell, a prominent New Testament scholar, always stops and looks with wonder to the sky on cloudy days. He does this because he believes the scriptures, which claim Jesus is coming back. Ever since he told me that, I have paused on cloudy days to look to the heavens with a smile – just in case this is the day. I have a lot more opportunities in Ohio than I did in Texas!
Advent is an important time of preparation – not for Christmas festivities – but for the birth of God incarnate. As part of that, we are going to take a look at the ancestresses of Jesus, who are named in the first chapter of Matthew (Matthew’s begats). The five listed, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary have important stories that help us understand God’s work in the world before actually becoming human. We don’t usually hear much about them, because they don’t all appear in the lectionary. I think one big reason for this is their stories are a bit Rrated.
On Sunday November 20, 2016 at 10am there will be a service of Thanksgiving at Ascension Lutheran Church. We will prayerfully lift up our praises to God for all the blessings which have been bestowed upon us. Specifically, we will embrace and affirm the cancer survivors in this community.
On Sunday August 14th, our daughter, Abbe Geneva Linder, was baptized in Ngaoundere Cameroon. Our son, Pomgna Freeland Linder, was baptized in the same church and by the same pastor, Jonas Miner. Pomgna was born in Cameroon and has always been a United States citizen. He is categorized as a citizen born abroad. Pomgna came to the United States to live when he was fifteen months old. In turn, both Abbe and Pomgna celebrated their first birthday in Cameroon with their grandmother, as well as their baptisms.
My time as Vicar here at Ascension Lutheran Church has been good. I have learned many things through the activities of preaching, teaching, bible study, committee meetings, one on one conversation, the intern support group, and prayer. My wife Halima and I were happy to be assigned to this congregation. We felt the opportunity for growth is present in this space. Pastor Tim has a solid reputation as an internship supervisor. The changing dynamics of this community from a suburban space to an urban space is intriguing and has allowed for unique pastoral responses, such as our collective focus on “Living In the Tension.” Two weekly services, one traditional and another contemporary allowed our family to experience different worship styles. We like the variety. I have always had significant relationships with people older than me and the average age of this community has been a joy filled discovery. I find my elders to be full of insight and wisdom, consistently observing behaviors, while identifying needs and providing a spirit of stability that is only found in Christ centered praying folks.
Our confirmation class students are full of love, hope, peace, and intelligence. The spirit of empathy represented consistently among members of this group ministers to me. I’m pleased about our time together. There are three primary instructors and one secondary teacher who substitutes. We use a model which allows me to teach three Sundays in a row. I have been able to engage the participants over stretches of time, fostering a degree of continuity I find important.
We are in a season of listening. This time of preparation is full of reflection. Oftentimes our spiritual exercises have been triggered by what someone has said in the past or by something that is read in the present or by what we imagine the future holds. We know about several listening styles. Understanding the message being sent is a goal that is not always achieved. There are several reasons why clarity does not happen. It has been reported that 70% of what people hear has been filtered and changed. Effective communication includes flexibility and awareness in the listener.