Renewing Our Covenant with God by Pastor Randy L. Johnson

Renewing Our Covenant with God by Pastor Randy L. Johnson

Do you remember the first time you felt overwhelmed by the wonder of God’s creation?  I do.  It was on a family vacation when my parents and brother and I traveled in our 1952 blue Plymouth sedan from the flat lands and cornfields of Iowa to the foothills and Rocky Mountains of Colorado.  I will never forget how amazed I was to realize that what appeared from a distance as low lying clouds upon closer view magically turned into high mountain peaks.  At age eight I fell in love with mountains, feeling a connection to God’s creation in a way I had never before experienced.

I suspect that most of us have our own story of when we came to love God’s wondrous creation.  For some it may have been the first time on a Central Minnesota lake or up in the boundary waters; for some it may have been the first trip to the East or West coast and seeing the endless expanse of the ocean; for others it may have been camping out under the night sky and, like the Psalmist, feeling small when gazing up to heavenly canvas of the moon and all the stars.

Conceiving Joy...Eventually by Pastor Leah Rosso

My friend Shawn has something new that he does every morning at 5am. He’s always been a guy who’s in shape, and he’s run marathons in the past, but his new goal is to compete in the Ironman. The only problem is, at 45 years old, Shawn has never learned how to swim. In order to compete in the Ironman you have to run, swim, and ride a bike. So Shawn has begun swim lessons each morning at 5am. At first, he had to pull himself out of bed. He was up before his wife, before his kids, and definitely before it’s light out. And each day when he got into the pool and felt completely humbled knowing that five year olds could do what he wasn’t able to do, Shawn wondered why he was doing it. He was more tired than usual, his schedule was more packed than usual, and he couldn’t see any improvement from day to day. But Shawn has kept at it, and now he looks forward to it. It’s become a place of refuge for him— of joy. He has met people he would’ve never known; amazing people of all ages, including his teachers, who have shown him a world he never knew existed. The very thing that felt impossible, that seemed to throw his life out of balance, is also the place where he has found refuge.

"Navigating the Wilderness" by Pastor Leah Rosso

A few years ago my friend Nathan was going through law school and needed a witness for his mock trial and asked if I would play the role. I was kind of excited about it. It wasn’t anything dramatic, just a car accident in a parking lot, but I studied the materials he gave me and was ready to answer any question the prosecutor might ask. Well, apparently I’ve watched too many movies with court scenes in them. The day of the mock trial I dressed appropriately to look like a  respectful witness and I went over my notes again, since I was going to have to pretend I had actually witnessed what happened. When I was called up by the Judge I walked confidently up to the witness stand, took a seat, and 20 seconds later I was dismayed at being dismissed after one question from the prosecutor. I was so disappointed! He only asked me one question!  I was so ready to prove that the person Nate was defending was, in fact, telling the truth. But that wasn’t my job. My job was just to bear witness- to tell what I saw— not what my opinion was of what I saw.

Peace: Filling the Gap, Creating Community by Pastor Randy Johnson

Peace: Filling the Gap, Creating Community by Pastor Randy Johnson

Last month I had the privilege, along with several of you, to hear Julia Dinsmore share through her stories, poems and songs, her personal experience of living in poverty.  Growing up in a large Catholic working-class family in Minneapolis, Julia Dinsmore put a face on poverty through her internationally-acclaimed poem entitled “My Name is Child of God…Not ‘Those People.” I was challenged by her powerful, outspoken presentation as she laid open both her personal pain and struggles and the failings of our nation’s social, economic, and political systems that undermine the lives of so many individuals and families today in our nation.

As I began to prepare last week for today’s message and was reflecting on the ministry of John the Baptist, I was reminded of Julia Dinsmore and realized that like John, Julia serves as a prophet, a voice of one crying in the wilderness.  Both of these prophets confront us with important truths that address the gap between our inner hopes and dreams and what we actually experience.  This gap is especially felt during the holiday season as on the outside we are smiling and cheery at holiday greetings and gatherings while on the inside we may be acutely aware of the loneliness and pain within ourselves and within the hearts of those we know and love.  We feel this gap even further when we are confronted with media images of happy families preparing for the perfect Christmas and celebrating all their extravagant abundance versus the hard realities of an increasing number of people struggling to pay their bills and trying to keep their families intact.