Sunday, February 19, 2012


Because Pastor Shannon and his family are in Florida, Chuck Vanderscheuren led our service this morning, with Elsa Holmgren taking the pulpit to deliver the message. Chuck began by giving us an update on the Shannon’s vacation that included the adventure of a fire alarm at the hotel where they were staying. No harm, just another bit of unexpected excitement.

1. Covenant Park registration for summer camp… next Sunday last day for discounted rates. See Cheryl Borndal for details.
2. The youth will have pasties here for sale next Sunday, $4 each, to help raise money for CHIC.
3. Wednesday Ash Wednesday soup and sandwich at 6:15 for family time dinner and service at 7:00
4. Next Sunday we'll be decorating the Youth Room after church… Bring an extra pair of clothes you can paint in.

The quartet opened the service with their uplifting rendition of Jesus and Me. Duane officially opened our service with a prayer and then they quartet chimed in again with Heavenward Bound followed by a time of congregational worship with songs from the silver songbook.

As the offering was taken, three young people from the River Falls Covenant, who are here for the weekend, sang the song, “Come, let your glory fall…” After the prayer time they returned to share more special music.

Steve Borndal read from Psalm 50:1-6 and Mark 9:2-13. In the subsequent prayer time there were many requests shared, revealing many needs.


Elsa began by reminding us that this morning we’re celebrating Transfiguration Sunday, a remembrance of that special mountaintop moment on the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Here's the passage from Mark from which Elsa gleaned today's insights.

2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4 And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

5 Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)

7 Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.

11 And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”

12 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? 13 But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.”

The incident is remarkable and profound, but in the middle of it we find Peter saying silly thing about making tents for Elijah and Moses. It's not the first time Peter says things out of left field. Just the week before Peter got Jesus’ identity right… that He was the Messiah. Jesus follows this revelation with comments about going to the cross, being killed, then rising again. Peter exclaims, "Never, Lord! This will never happen to You!" and Jesus says, “Get thee behind me, Satan.”

The mountaintop experience with Peter, James and John happened six days later.

These three men were present to witness Jesus’ transfiguration, which was described this way in The Message: His appearance changed from the inside out, right before their eyes. His clothes shimmered, glistening white, whiter than any bleach could make them. Then Moses and Elijah appeared and the three disciples saw Jesus consulting with Moses and Elijah.

But Peter in a panic gets all worked up, is practically frantic and needs to respond to all this. He says, "Let's put up tents." The writer of this Gospel notes that this absurd remark was only made because he didn't know what else to say.

God intervenes, “This is My beloved Son, listen to Him.” Suddenly only Jesus is left.

Elsa pointed out that this is the first time in the Gospel when Jesus’ identity is revealed. God speaks, "This is My Son."

Now imagine you’re Peter. It has been a week since Jesus said He was going to be killed, so you’ve spent a week all anxious about your friend. Now, on this mountain, God affirms that He loves His Son, and Jesus will be glorified.

This is what is true, the ultimate truth… no matter how bad things get, this is how the story ends. Glorified, not buried.

“Listen to Him.” It's interesting that Jesus is not talking in this scene.

Mountaintops and visions are temporary. We relish them but they can’t nourish us forever. God the Father is fully aware of the suffering that awaits Jesus. God says, “Listen to Him,” because mountaintop experiences fade like a mist. His words live forever. The words and promises of God are what are true forever.

Some of you have been on mountains or have received powerful affirmations of God’s greatness… but even if you have not, the Lord’s words are here for all of us. “This is My Beloved Son. You can trust Him.”

Life is lived at the bottom of the mountain, not on the mountaintop. Often the valleys are deep, and sometimes our sorrows are so awful it feels like our lives are being lived on the bottom of the ocean.

The only hope worth having is the kind that you can take into the darkest hell, and yet it’s still true. God’s promises are His strong arms. These are not greeting card sentiments. This is a living hope.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

God’s Desire

6th Sunday after Epiphany

After welcoming us warmly, Brad stated that our focus today would be on a familiar text, Romans 12. "How do we know what God wants? We’re going to look at that today."

Next Sunday Brad and Brooke will be in Florida, thinking about us while someone else welcomes us warmly.

Wednesday Feb 22 is the beginning of Lent. There will be no Kids Club or Youth Group as we share a meal at 6:15 and begin Lent with worship together at 7:00.

The youth group from River Falls will be visiting with us next week.

Brad again reminded us that our worship is not like going to a movie where you sit and observe. Rather it is something we all participate in together.

Darlene’s introit -- rolling, rhythmic and bright -- gently transported us into the spirit of worship. Brad then read to us from Psalm 63 and led us in singing "I Will Worship" and other songs. A Scripture reading from Mark 1:40-45 followed the tithes and offerings.

After many prayer requests were gathered and offered up to God, Brad began his sermon.

God’s Desire

How do we know what God wants?

Sometimes we play games with God as if He were like a game show in which He was hiding behind Door #1 or Door #2 or Door #3. Or we play the game, “If it’s your will to go to Baskin & Robbins give me a parking space out front," as we drive around the block six times till it happens.

How do we know whether this or that is God’s will?

First, some things we know clearly. “Should I steal this bike? Is it O.K., Lord, for me to commit adultery, just this once?” These are questions we don’t have to ask. The Bible is clear on many things.

But some things are less clear.

Romans 12 begins with “Therefore…” And whenever we see a “therefore” we have to ask what it’s there for. ("That’s one reason I paid the big bucks for seminary," Brad quipped.)

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Therefore, I urge you… In response to what Jesus has done, offer your bodies as a living sacrifice. The first answer to the question is, “God wants your body.”

God created you. But He looks down with love… He’s not just watching and waiting to stomp you like a bug when you mess up. He wants to be near you, to be with you. It's how Brad feels at the end of a day when he can't wait to get home so he can be close to his children.

A good way to start your day is to offer your hands or your lips to God, to be used in a manner that will bring life to others this day, not death. Sometimes we spend so much of our time trying to dig ourselves out of the hole we’ve dug ourselves into.

“Give your bodies as a living sacrifice.”

Not a dead sacrifice… but a living sacrifice. If you take relationship out of Christianity you end up with dead legalism. The world sees Christians as people who have a list of rules. Christianity is not about rules. It is about a relationship with Jesus Christ.

I do not try to be "good enough" for God to love me. I offer my body to God because of what He did for me when I didn’t deserve it.

A second directive for understanding God’s will: Give God your will. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world.” Another translation says, “Don’t let the world press you into its mold.”

MTV believed it had 20-year-olds in their power because this audience was a blank slate. This is an insult to a generation. As we approach life, we are to fill our minds with truth and not passively let things fill our heads. The essential thing is to not have a blank mind, but have your mind armed with truth.

Third step is this: “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Psalm 1 begins...

1 Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the LORD,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.

God wants you body, God wants you will and God wants our minds.

Brad told a story about Genghis Khan. Someone asked, “How is it possible that you conquered all these cities with such ease?” He replied, “We bribed the gatekeeper.” You need to be a gatekeeper of what goes into your mind. This includes what you watch on TV or the movies you see. Don’t allow the trash to pollute your mind.

The second half of this idea is to fill your mind with good things, not just block out the bad.

1Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice... Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

It’s not a matter of anxiously praying about every little decision like “Do I go out this door or that door?”

God works in us both to will and to do for His good pleasure. But to do this you have to follow Paul’s directive… you have to give Him everything.

As Brad prepared this message he was reminded of an old guy who spoke at a Bible college in Canada. He got up to preach…. "The problem with Christians…. too many have moss growing on their butts because they never move. I have never lived that way. I’ve lived my whole life going 100 miles per hour."

Don't be paralyzed by uncertainty. Live pleasing to God and the rest is much easier.