Red Cups: Who is responsible for spreading the Good News?

Editor’s note: While retailers clear out their Christmas stock, Christians around the world continue to celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas (Dec. 25 — Jan. 6).  

Starbucks_Red_Cups_2015 (1)Much was made about Starbucks move this year to eliminate any message on their holiday cup and go with a straight red cup. Are they trying to get rid of the Christmas message? Are they anti-Christian?

Maybe a better question is who is responsible for spreading the Christmas message?

I love the verse in Luke (2:1-14) that says “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” “

The Good News was not spread on a cup of coffee, by any retailer, or through a text or tweet. The Angels told the shepherds, and the story went out from there…the old fashioned way…through word of mouth.

Who is responsible for spreading the Good News? Not Starbucks…you and me.

Let that be your challenge this Christmas season, to share the Good News with your family and friends (and strangers!) by wishing them a Merry Christmas, in person, and with feeling!

Easter Lut

Since I won’t see you all personally, I will contradict myself and wish you good luck with finals, safe travels, and a very Merry Christmas! I hope to see you at Easter Lutheran during your Christmas break!

“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.””

Merry Christmas!

 

Easter member Chris Cairo wrote the above reflection as part of his special ministry to college students and others, in which he writes to them on a monthly basis to encourage their faith to thrive in their daily lives.

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December 2, Day Four of Week One – The Way of Peace though Hope

Luke 24: 28 – 29   “As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

Hospitality 5.pngDo You Have Room?  Song link

They journeyed far, a weary pair,
They sought for shelter From the cold night air.
Some place where she Could lay her head,
Where she could give Her Babe a quiet bed.
Was there no room? No corner there?
In all the town a spot someone could spare?
Was there no soul Come to their aid?
A stable bare was where the family stayed.

REFRAIN:  Do you have room For the Savior?,
And do you seek Him anew?
Have you a place for the One who lived and died for you?
Are you as humble as a Shepherd Boy,
Or as Wise as Men of Old?
Would you have come that night?
Would you have sought the light?
Do you have room?

A star arose, a glorious light
It was God’s sign this was the Holy Night
And yet so few would go to see
the babe who came to rescue you and me.
This child divine is now a King
His gift of life to all the world He brings
And all the world He saves from doom
But on this night for Him there was no room  REFRAIN

Reflection:  Here, as his time on earth is ending and he is known only as a stranger, he is invited to stay with the two he had been journeying with.  So different than his first night on earth when no one had room for his parents.  I don’t think this juxtaposition is an accident.  Jesus, who preached humility, hospitality and inclusion is offered shelter and a meal, not because he is Jesus but because he is someone who needs shelter and a meal.  A quiet lesson on hospitality slipped into the ascension story.  Hospitality starts with humility.  It is not offered because I have more than you and am willing to share.  It is offered because this is how we live when we follow Jesus’ example.  Hospitality isn’t contained to shelter.  Hospitality is being a welcoming spirit throughout our days.  Hospitality is recognizing that no matter how much we have, we have no more than any other in God’s eyes.  All are equal, the haves and the have nots as defined in earthly ways.  When we offer hospitality, we are opening the door to our heart so another can enter and rest in safety.  Humble hospitality is a sure way of peace.

Action:  Today, show hospitality to all you meet.  Hold a door open and say hello.  Let a car or two merge in front of you.  Let someone else go first.  Speak to a stranger in an elevator, on the sidewalk, waiting in line at the grocery store.  Go to our community meal and sit by a stranger as an equal in God’s eyes.  Share your story and listen to theirs.  Let your heart burst with the kindness and humility of hospitality.

Dear God, make us angels of hospitality.  Transform our heart so that hospitality is how we walk this life.  Open our hearts as we open doors.  Fill us with your inclusionary breath as we love one another.  Take away our fear of the unknown and replace it with the courage to learn more about your people.  Show us the richness in reaching out to others and reaching in ourselves.    With open arms, Amen.

Blind Side

Today’s reflection is from Easter member Chris Cairo: 

I hope this semester is getting off to a good start for you!

the_blind_side1Tonight I am watching a good movie on TV, one I’ve seen a few times…”The Blind Side”. Very few movies move me. This one does. Part of what makes the story so powerful, is that it is true.

Simple story: a family takes in someone homeless, who is in need. Gives him, not only a place to sleep, but the gift of family. Helps him get through school. He is given an opportunity to succeed, and does, becoming a first round pick in the NFL draft (Michael Oher 2009 draft). Great story. Simple plot.

The title “The Blind Side” refers to a line in the movie where Leigh Anne Tuohy, the heroine, (and yes, I truly think she is a hero) tells him his job on the field is to protect the quarterback’s ‘blindside’.

But, I think the title, and the story, also calls us to look for our ‘blindside’.

How many of us would have seen his need? Seen his need and understood that we could help? Seen his need, knew we could help, and then actually did something about it?

Jesus tells us “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

Turn that into a question from Jesus; ‘what did you do for the least of these in My name?’

Easter has been growing. Not so much in number, but definitely in service to others. Our partnership with Oak Ridge (tutoring/community meals), our partnership with Loaves & Fishes (community meals at the Lake 4 nights each week), our partnerships in Guatemala and Tanzania, and our partnership with Treehouse. These are some of the ways Easter is answering Jesus’s question.

How will YOU answer that question?

P.S. not in the movie: but the daughter, who was a straight A student, dropped out of some of her advanced classes, so that she could take classes with Michael and help him in school.

 

Easter member Chris Cairo wrote the above reflection as part of his special ministry to college students and others, in which he writes to them on a monthly basis to encourage their faith to thrive in their daily lives.

Better than Minnesota Summer?

Today’s reflection is written by Easter member Jamie Larson:

Summer flowers--Julie McCartySummer in Minnesota–the time to get out and explore the best of our great state! While out on a drive, I saw an open house sign welcoming visitors and produce market advertisements displaying choice food selections. State and county fairs likewise are promoting noteworthy grandstand acts. The radio names a recently chosen Olympic city where the best in their sports will meet in the future. I am alerted to the expanse of the sky by a low-flying plane overhead, forcing my gaze to the sunshiny blue sky. What a wonderfully beautiful day!

As great as it all is, it is hard to imagine it could be any better. Not to be unappreciative of the bounty God has provided to us here on Earth, but the residence to come in the next life transcends even the most picturesque island and most lavish hotel.

Yet, that has been laid out for us and our future. I think it is most eloquently stated in a favorite youth group song entitled “Big House” by Audio Adrenaline. For those unfamiliar, the song describes how wonderful Heaven will be and how it will not only meet but exceed every need we may have:

I don’t know where you lay your head / or where you call your home
I don’t know where you eat your meals / or where you talk on the phone
I don’t know if you got a cook / a butler or a maid
I don’t know if you got a yard / with a hammock in the shade

I don’t know if you got some shelter / say a place to hide
I don’t know if you live with friends /  in whom you can confide
I don’t know if you got a family / say a mom or dad
I don’t know if you feel love at all / but I bet you wish you had!

Come and go with me to my Father’s house …
Come and go with me to my Father’s house …

It’s a big, big house / with lots and lots a room
A big, big table / with lots and lots of food
A big, big yard / where we can play football
A big, big house / It’s my Father’s house

All I know is a big ole house / with rooms for everyone
All I know is lots a land / where we can play and run
All I know is you need love / and I’ve got a family
All I know is you’re all alone….so why not come with me?

Hear the song on YouTube:

 

YouTube link:  youtube.com/watch?v=M4WwQxmtb-s

I am proud to be part of Easter, where we are taking the impetus to invite others to “come along” and to be included. We are doing this with outdoor services, school partnerships, open community meals and outreach to Feed My Starving Children. We are a church organization, originally, but also really truly an integral partner with the community far beyond the expanses of our buildings–reminiscent of the song “We are The Church…”

The church is not a building, where people go to pray,
It’s not made out of sticks and stones, it’s not made out of clay…
The church it is people, living out their lives,
Called, enlightened, sanctified for the work of Jesus Christ
.

That’s US!   🙂

And I think God is excited and guiding us. Just as He knows each of us and our days and our directions better than our own, Easter too as a mission for his Word is being guided in its calling, empowered in its direction, and blessed to be a blessing to those around. Thanks be to God indeed.

Easter member Jamie Larson lives in Eagan and has a special love of dogs, eagles, and spending time with her family.

 

Experience opens our eyes

Easter member Chris Cairo has his own college ministry where he stays in touch with young men he’s mentored over the years via e-mail blog posts periodically. What follows is one of his reflections he agreed to share with us on our blog. 

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Our friends in Tanzania (southeast corner of African continent–click on photos to enlarge)

I don’t know about you, but Ebola worries me. The first nurse getting infected bothered me, but the second one really gets one thinking. Why aren’t we doing more to contain this??

Hmmm, where was I two or three months ago when this was spreading in Africa?  Was this even on my radar screen?  (Probably not) …yours?

This is precisely why Easter Church sends our youth to places such as Heart Butte, Montana and Cortez, Colorado, and people to Guatemala and Tanzania…beyond the community work we do on these trips (which is good), mission trips expose us to the world beyond Eagan, MN, where life is…well, VERY good compared to some of these places.

DSCN2236 - Cropped Copy

Our friends in Tanzania (click on photos to enlarge)

It opens our eyes to the needs of others in ways that the internet can’t (and never will). We begin to care about others who are very different and very far from us.

In the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19) Jesus tells us “therefore go and make disciples of ALL NATIONS’, and to make disciples one must care for/love that person first.

DSCN2016We must care about what’s going on with Ebola in Africa, not because we are worried it will spread here, but because we are concerned with what it is doing to those we love there.

There is a lesson in this for us don’t you think?

 

 

 

 

Editor’s note: Thank you to Andrea and Matt Brokl for their photos of Tanzania. 

 

Spreading God’s Love Through Piggybacks

My name is Sara Funkhouser and I am going to be a freshman at Concordia College! Like Adam, I went to Lame Deer, Montana. I have been on three mission trips and I have worked with children for the last two. Last year, I felt as if I was simply a friend to the children. This year, I felt like a mother. 

For two days, I was blessed with the opportunity to assist with Kid’s Club; it is a summer program for children that allows them time to be kids, get creative, and experience God’s word. I began my time there swinging with a young girl named Shantel. The entire time that we were swinging together, she would just giggle. After a while, I began working with a young boy named Kevin, and the trip was not the same after that first encounter. 

When I first began to work with Kevin, he was absolutely silent. He would not speak, nod his head, anything. He just stood there, looking into space. Then, I asked him if he wanted a piggyback ride, and he did not leave my side after that. We went everywhere together. Which meant that Kevin was almost always on my back. We would go between the playground and the reading station. We went up and down the hill countless times. Kevin would just sit on my back saying, “With speed! With speed!” So, I would run as fast as I could while making sure Kevin never fell off. At first he was afraid that I was going to drop him or that he was going to fall off, but eventually he learned that if he told me that he thought he was slipping, I would put him up higher on my back and on with the adventures we would go. We would run all around the park, well fly because I was his spaceship, and we would collect imaginary treasures as we went. He even let me stop for more fuel whenever I wasn’t running quite as fast; to check he used my neck and would tell me if my fuel levels were low. 

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Sara and Kevin at Kid’s Club in Montana

While we were often running around, he and I both enjoyed some of the quieter times. Together we would sit in the shade and he would sit on my lap as we read story after story. He especially loved Clifford, so I think we read that at least three times every day. I was also able to ride along in the van that brought him home one day. 

On the van rides home, the children received animal crackers. Those mean animal crackers tried to eat me. Don’t worry, though. Kevin ate them in order to protect me. Less than two minutes after asking for more “cookies,” as the kids called them, his little head began to bob. He fell asleep sitting next to me in the van, and he looked so peaceful. 

On the last night, we had a community cookout. Kevin and his older brother Markis came to eat with us. Unfortunately, I sprained my ankle during the preparations. When I came outside on crutches, they both rushed over to where I was sitting. Markis walked up to me and gave me a hug, while Kevin came and sat down on my leg like he had done so many times earlier in the week. He then walked back to where he had been sitting, talked to one of the adult leaders, Bob, and came back a few seconds later. Bob was carrying Kevin’s food over to my table because Kevin wanted to sit next to me and make me feel better. Bob walked over to their car with them when it was time to leave. He came back and told myself and the other girls sitting at the table not to cry. Then he said, “Markis told me to tell you that he loves you.” I cried, right then and there. From the first piggyback ride I knew that God had put us into each other’s lives for a reason. 

Love is sometimes unexpected, but it is still wonderful all the same. I want to thank everyone who aids in making these trips possible. Without your love and support, I never would have worked with some incredible people over the past three years. And, while I am now too old to participate in mission trips as a student, I look forward to the time when I can be an adult leader to assist other teenagers in their faith journeys. Mission trips are life-changing. It is not something that words can describe, but it is something that has to be felt. I know for a fact that my life will not be the same because I spent two days with Kevin and Markis in Montana.