Category Archives: Sermons

guide helper counselor

. . . Helper, Counselor, Advocate, and Guide.

John 15:26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27 You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.”
This Sunday is Pentecost! Such an amazing day when we celebrate the Holy Spirit and reflect on the leadership, guidance, and power that the Spirit continuously bestows upon us and the church. During worship, we talk a lot about Jesus and God the Father, but we spend just a small amount of time talking about the Spirit. This lack of time devoted to the Spirit has left many people confused about the who the Spirit is and what the activity of the Spirit includes.

I found Professor Jones’ words (Wartburg College) to be very helpful, “In John, Jesus’ preferred term for the Spirit is the Paraclete. The Greek noun Paraclete is related to a verb that means “I call alongside.” The Paraclete, then, is the Spirit of Truth whom Jesus calls to accompany his followers as helper, counselor, advocate, and guide. Jesus promises to send the Paraclete as a replacement for his own presence among his disciples.” Jones further writes, “Jesus describes the Paraclete as the Spirit of truth who will expose sin, righteousness, and judgment and who will lead Jesus’ followers into all truth. It is vitally important that readers understand what Jesus means here by truth.

The Spirit of truth is not focused on propositional, dogmatic truth. Jesus does not send the Spirit to ensure that the community makes no errors in its theological descriptions of the Trinity or of the precise nature of Christ’s presence in the consecrated bread and wine. No, Jesus sends the Spirit of truth to help his followers live in the Way of Jesus.”

I hope to see all people at worship on Sunday. It will be an amazing day. Celebrating an amazing promise. A promise given to an amazing group of people.

God’s Peace~ Pastor Erik

laddder to the sky

I’m Glad to Know. . .

Mark 3:28 “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

                When I was a kid I remember being outside during Thanksgiving break putting up Christmas lights and decorations with my Dad. Several other people on my street were also out putting up lights because it was a beautiful day, and the weather forecast said starting that evening it would snow and be cold. While we were out, my next-door neighbor was climbing up an extension ladder to put lights on some high windows when he accidently fell. He wasn’t seriously hurt, but he fell hard, and his ladder also broke his window. He was mad, really mad.  He yelled a series of creative profanities and swear words. I thought to myself, “Oh no, Mr. B. just blasphemed against the Holy Spirit. That’s the worst thing he could’ve said.”
Unfortunately, I never asked my parents, pastors or any adult what it means to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit. I thought it was simply swearing at God. The Gospel of Mark teaches us that it is not about swearing. Instead, Mark says that blaspheming against the Holy Spirit is when someone sees and experiences the Good-Work of God firsthand and attributes that action to the devil. It means that someone is so-far-gone- that evil has completely permeated their life, character and the way they interact with the world and their neighbors.
I am glad to know that my neighbor, Mr. B, is ok and going to be ok. I want you to know that you are also ok. God loves you and so do I.

 

Blessings~ Pastor Erik

graduation

For surely I know the plans I have for you. . .

Jeremiah 29:11
“For surely, I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

This week, in many homes throughout the country, people are celebrating a graduation. People are graduating high school, college, and even in some homes (like mine) there is even a pre-school graduation party. On graduation there are special moments to reflect upon; a job-well-done, knowledge gained, challenges overcome, and meaningful friendships. There is also a time to look towards the future, and we look forward with a mixture of excitement, mourning, hope, anxiety, and curiosity.I wanted to share this passage from Jeremiah with all the graduates, to remind you that whatever adventure the future brings, you should know that God only wants the best for you and that God has already made plans for your success.

Congratulations and Blessings on your journey- Pastor Erik

Choices

Weekly Witness ~ You Did Not Choose Me But I Chose You. . .

You did not choose me but I chose you. John 15:16

These are words spoken by Jesus to the disciples and they are also words spoken by Jesus to you.

It seems to me that people today have more choices in their lives than any other time in human history. To name a few; what to eat, what to wear, where to live, where to go on vacation, which topics to study in school, which career to pursue, who to love, how to treat others, how to worship God, etc. Everyday is filled with choices. Often times the abundance of choices lead to more opportunities and the ability to engage in fulfilling activities, but the abundance can also distract and overwhelm us.

Knowing that God chooses us and that we don’t choose God is very good news. It is good news because it means that our place in God’s Kingdom and the abundant love poured out onto us doesn’t depend on us. This is great news because as much as we try, humans are not always dependable and reliable. We often fall short, and we make poor choices. The good news is that God loves each and everyone of us so much that God is unwilling to risk the relationship. There is an old phrase, “if you want something done right, do it yourself.” In terms of your relationship with God- the choice has already been made.

Blessings~ Pastor Erik

bless this mess 2

Bless This Mess!

God Will Bless the Mess

One of the joys I have as pastor is that I am invited into peoples’ homes for conversation, communion, and relationship building. I like learning about others, hearing their story, and sharing my story. In addition to conversation, I learn about other people by taking notice of what people hang on their walls—photographs, art, souvenirs, and folky sayings. One of my favorite hangings is one that simply says, “Bless This Mess.” I can relate to that phrase well, and if you’ve recently visited my house, or especially my office lately, you’d agree. It seems like I live in a constant state of messiness.

There are so many reasons why homes and offices become untidy, disordered, and messy. Some reasons are fun and positive — children who make a mess are often so excited for the next project or event that things are not cleaned up first. Messiness can be proof that things are happening, and life is being lived. However, the reasons for a mess can also be upsetting and painful—poor health, financial distress, broken relationships unhealthy conflict. Sometimes a messy office or home reveals a troubled heart or mind.

I am confident in saying that everyone’s life is messy to some degree. I am also confident in saying that God will bless the mess. Stacks of dirty dishes in the sink means there was a recent meal with laughter shared by friends and loved ones. That is a blessing from God. Muddy footprints on the carpet mean someone had a great time splashing in the puddles on the sidewalk or playing in the yard. That is a blessing from God.  Or, neglected chores and housework can be a result of illness, depression, or loneliness. God sees the mess, hears the cries, dries the tears, brings hope of healing, meaning, and fulfillment. God calls you to notice the harsh messiness of the world and respond with grace and mercy, and blessing.

Have a blessed summer~ Pastor Erik

Shovel in the ground, close-up.

Projects. . .

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

My parents, especially my Dad, loves gardening. When I was 9 years old my family moved to a home with a big backyard in Colorado Springs, CO. The first project that my family and I did together at our new house that year was to completely remodel and reorganize the backyard into a serious flower and vegetable garden. We built huge raised bed gardens, pulled out overgrown shrubs, planted trees, hauled rocks and pavers, and put in new grass. It was a lot of work, but well worth it. Every year since then my Dad plants flowers and vegetables in ever square inch of the garden.

This past weekend, my family and I put together some raised bed gardens at our house. It has been something we’ve looked forward to for many years. Previously, we’ve always lived in an apartment where couldn’t have a garden. It was so much fun to put everything together. I hope Nozomi and Ronin had as much fun gardening as I did when I was a kid.  During our project, we were constantly thinking about what we should do to have the healthiest and most productive plants. Which materials should we use? Where should we put the raised beds in order to get the most life-giving sunshine? Which soil ingredients do we need to use to have the most nutritious soil? How is gardening in Northern Minnesota different than Colorado? Lots to think about and lots to do, as well as lots of happy memories and eager expectation about future harvests.

Throughout the project, as a pastor, I realized I am constantly asking these same types of questions about church. Like my garden, I want Our Savior’s to be as healthy and productive as possible. Like a garden, the question is how best to engage with resources we have. I know the church’s best resource is the people. The best resource is you. You are uniquely talented and skilled, and your talents and participation are greatly needed and always greatly appreciated.

One of the most important and impactful things you can do to nurture the congregation into continued health and productivity is to talk about the fulfilling and meaningful ministries that take place here with your friends, family, and neighbors. Then to invite them to come and see for themselves the magnificent things God is doing here.  To help you gain confidence and comfortability in speaking about what God is doing, here are some sentence prompts which I encourage you to complete. Also, I would love to hear about what you write and how other people have responded to you.

When I talk to other people about Our Saviors, I say ___________________________

One thing that is different now than when I was a kid is ________________________

I hope the church will start _______________________________________________

I’m Lutheran because

___________________________________________________

My favorite part of Sunday worship is ______________________________________

I go to church on a week day to ___________________________________________

As always, it is a joy, honor and privilege to worship with you and to serve as your pastor.

I am always available to you and open to hear your questions, comments and suggestions.

Faithfully yours~  Pastor Erik

 

 

Lent1

Lent Reflections – The sense of “Smell”

Pastor Erik’s Lent Reflections 2018 – “Smell”

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.      (1 John 1:1)

                Just a while ago we celebrated the birth of Jesus at Christmas. Christmas is always a special time of year not just because of all the fun activities, but because we learn and remember that Jesus Christ arrived to us as a person- as human flesh. Jesus is both -100% God and 100% human being.  During Jesus’ earthly ministry there were many people who encountered him physically. The saw him, heard him, touched him and were touched by him. Today, we can also encounter Jesus physically. For example, many of you have already felt and smelled the oily ash that was drawn on your forehead in the shape of the cross on Ash Wednesday. In a few weeks we will feel the warm refreshing water that washes our feet, we will taste the Seder meal, and we will feel the weight of the cross as we place it on our backs and carry it during Holy Week.

John 12:1-3

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

2 Corinthians 2:14-16

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.

Psalm 141

I call upon you, O Lord; come quickly to me; give ear to my voice when I call to you. Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice.

A whole pound of perfume! A full can of Coke is about a pound. Whoa, that is A LOT. The other day, my daughter Nozomi got hold of some perfume and she put a generous splash on her hands and face. The amount she put on was more than enough. Typically, just a drop or two of perfume is enough for a person. An entire can of this expensive (quality) perfume was definitely overwhelming and overpowering. Not only did it fill the whole house, but it could probably be smelled down the street too. I think that the smell from the perfume, which was literally rubbed into Jesus’ skin, lingered long after that evening was over. People who entered the house days, weeks maybe even longer would instantly smell that sweet, and pleasant aroma. The perfume also lingered on Jesus’ body for quite some time afterwards. The sweet, pleasant aroma could be noticed on the cross and in the tomb.

Wherever Jesus went, that scent of that perfume traveled with him. The people that Jesus met, ate with, spoke to, and anyone who was near him, smelled him too. The location in the human brain that processes smells is very close to area that processes emotions as well as memories. There is a connection between our sense of smell and how we sort our experiences and how we react to our environment. Certain scents trigger memories. For example, today if you smell a specific cologne or perfume that a special person was wearing on your first date your memory will be triggered and your mind will be filled with memories of that special day years before. The basement of my grandmother’s house has a very unique smell. My grandmother used to store birthday and Christmas presents in her basement before she would mail them to me, and the presents would always smell like her basement. Even though her basement doesn’t have a “good” smell, whenever I smell that unique smell I instantly remember my Grandma’s loving and generous character. I think that the perfume that permeated Jesus’ skin was had a similar effect on people. For the rest of their lives, whenever they smelled that type of perfume they remember the day they interacted with Jesus. They remember the sermon he gave, the smile on his face, even  perhaps the agony of his crucifixion or the glory of his resurrection.

In the Apostle Paul’s time, bold and sweet-smelling incense was burned during parades and festivals to celebrate and honor military victories or pagan gods. The people watching or participating in the parade would undoubtedly take home the smell of the incense on their clothes. Friends and neighbors would all know where the person had been and what they were doing. Paul is drawing this connection with following Christ. Paul is metaphorically saying that people who following Christ also have the aroma of Christ, and they are being invited to go out and spread that aroma around the whole world.

The verses from psalm 141 are beautiful poetry. Describing prayers, after being spoken to God, drifting gently up into the air like the smoke from burning incense.  The incense smoke fills the room with the scent of hope, trust, praise and devotion. For those of you who have ever participated in Holden Evening Prayer, these words –used as lyrics- have a special place in your heart.

I hope this 5 senses Lent series has helped you reflect and grow in your faith. It certainly has for me. I also hope that this series has helped prepare your hearts for the rollercoaster of emotion that we will experience during Holy Week and Easter. It was my goal to show that we all encounter Jesus in a physical way. The Bible and the Bible stories are not just words printed on a piece of paper. These stories are alive. We hear them, see them, are touched by them, taste them, and even smell them. 

Happy Easter!

Pastor Erik

wiping away tears

Lent Reflections on the sense of “Touch”

Pastor Erik’s Lent Reflections 2018 –“ Touch”

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.      (1 John 1:1)

                During Jesus’ earthly ministry there were many people who encountered him physically. The saw him, heard him, touched him and were touched by him. Today, we can also encounter Jesus physically. I want to encourage you to think more deeply about how you encounter Jesus in a physical way.  There are 5 senses: touch, hearing, sight, taste and smell. This week focuses on the sense of “touch.”

Luke 7:11-15

Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.

This is quite a dramatic story.  Take a few moments and imagine the scene- Jesus and a LARGE crowd of people approach the gate of a small town. Coincidently, a LARGE crowd from the town had gathered near the gate. The moods of the two crowds are very different.  I imagine Jesus’ crowd to be in a positive and joyful mood. They have just listened to Jesus preach wonderful sermons, and they have seen Jesus heal several people. I imagine them to be smiling, loudly laughing and hopeful; playfully recounting the messages and extraordinary events they’ve witnessed with others from the group.  Now imagine the crowd from the town. They are sad. They are crying.  They are probably silent except for the sound of weeping. A man has just died (probably not of old age) and the crowd is walking solemnly with the corpse and the man’s mother. The mother is now a widow. Not only has she just lost her son, but she is also facing many troubles on how she will live and support herself. Now, these two crowds, lead by Jesus and the man’s mother, meet face-to-face. Serious drama.

Notice that Jesus doesn’t step off the road in order to let the funeral procession pass. He doesn’t politely say, “excuse me.”  He does what everyone is least expecting. Jesus stands directly and boldly in the way of the grieving crowd. Have you ever been to a funeral? What would happen if a stranger entered into the service and disrupted it? How would you feel? What would you do? I would probably be too shocked to do anything.

Jesus is doing more than disrupting the funeral and obstructing their path. He is obstructing death itself. Remember, Jesus is a stranger to the woman. Yet, Jesus invites himself into her extremely private and emotional event. Not only does he invite himself into the scene, he takes over the scene. Next, he does something almost unthinkable- he touches the bier that is carrying the dead body. Jesus is unmoved by the purity laws about dead bodies or social etiquette. Jesus is only interested in life. Restoring life. Renewing life.

A couple years ago, I went to Kolkata India for a few weeks. I volunteered at the Mother Theresa “House of the Destitute.” I saw extreme human suffering and I even saw several people die. The other volunteers and I were encouraged to follow Mother Theresa’s example and not be afraid to touch others. Disregarding open wounds, painful and ugly infections, and intense diseases, Mother Theresa showed that the simple act of holding someone’s hand, gently massaging their frail and broken bodies, or even simply brushing the hair out of their eyes is an act of love. Using “touch,” Mother Theresa reaffirmed the dignity and humanity of her fellow human being and she showed the world what love looks like.

Revelation 21:1-4

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”

Because I have little children at home, literally every day I wipe tears from their eyes. Sometimes the tears are because they has tripped and fallen or perhaps it is time to go to bed, brush teeth, eat a vegetable, go to church or leave church and return home. One thing I’ve learned about wiping away tears is that it must be done very gently and delicately. It requires my full attention so that I don’t poke an eye or frighten them. Wiping away tears doesn’t take away pain or remove insecurity, but it shows the crying person that they are cared for and embraced. It shows the crying person that they are receiving the full attention and love of the other. I have a deeper understanding of Revelation 21 now. Envisioning God wiping away my tears, your tears, and everyone’s tears shows me that God is personally invested in each and everyone of us. Every individual matters to God and everyone is deserving of – and receives God’s full attention and care.

My father is an amateur geologist and we often spent many afternoons searching for rocks, studying rocks, and admiring rocks. Near my parent’s house in Colorado there are some amazing rock formations in the mountains. Millions of years of water and rain have cut deep grooves and scarred the once smooth rock surfaces. It is amazing how powerful and forceful even a single drop of water can be when it is allowed to continuously drip. One of my favorite seminary professors often said, “God wipes the tears from our eye’s so their continuous flow won’t make permanent grooves on our cheeks.”

Blessings to you during your Lent journey

God’s Peace~Pastor Erik

wine picture

Reflections on the Sense of “Taste”

Pastor Erik’s Lent Reflections 2018 – Taste

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.      (1 John 1:1)

                Just a few weeks ago we celebrated the birth of Jesus at Christmas. Christmas is always a special time of year not just because of all the fun activities, but because we learn and remember that Jesus Christ arrived to us as a person- as human flesh. Jesus is both -100% God and 100% human being.  During Jesus’ earthly ministry there were many people who encountered him physically. The saw him, heard him, touched him and were touched by him. Today, we can also encounter Jesus physically. For example, many of you have already felt and smelled the oily ash that was drawn on your forehead in the shape of the cross on Ash Wednesday. In a few weeks we will smell the wonderful Easter Lilies, we will taste the Seder meal, and we will feel the weight of the cross as we place it on our backs and carry it during Holy Week.

John 2:1-11

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ 4And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ 5His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ 6Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. 8He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. 9When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ 11Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

1 Peter 2:2-3

2Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— 3if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Psalm 34:4-8

I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. 5 Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed. 6 This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord, and was saved from every trouble. 7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. 8 O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.

The book, “The Year of Living Biblically,” states that there are 247 alcohol references in the Bible. 59% of those references are positive, 14% are negative and 25% are neutral.[1]  Many of the positive references refer to the abundance of wine as a sign of God’s blessing. Jesus’ sign, his first in John, is an announcement to the disciples, wedding guests, and to the whole world that his time has indeed come. His time will bring fulfillment, abundance, renewal, healing and hope to humanity.

The wedding of Cana is one of my favorite Bible stories. I like it because I can easily imagine the scene and the dramatic events unfolding. I imagine the people, the mood, the music and beautiful clothes of the bride and groom. I think about the conversations that people are having as they sit and enjoy the afternoon. I would love to be able to see the look on the chief steward’s face when he takes the first taste of Jesus’ wine. I am assuming that this guy was probably a bit stressed. Here he was, overseeing a large wedding party. If you’ve ever been to or planned a wedding party you know how much work and planning went into it. And now, a very stressful thing has occurred –the wine has run out! With the wine gone, people will slowly begin to leave the party, and then more people will follow. The party is over. Most likely the people will think that the wedding host was stingy or didn’t put in enough effort in planning the wedding. Reputations are at stake! So, the steward probably had a nervous, desperate, maybe even frightened look on his face before he took that sip of that wine. Then, immediately his fear is gone. With just one sip he knows that everything is ok – more than ok. This wine was excellent and there was more than enough.

Tauna’s Uncle Ed and I brewed a half keg of Belgian White beer for our wedding reception. I can proudly and definitively say that it was awesome beer, and other people agree. They drank it all in less than 15 minutes, and they wanted more. They were heartbroken when they learned that it was all gone. From that night on, every beer would be compared to that one, but none of them would taste as good. I like to imagine that the wedding guests at Cana felt the same after they tasted Jesus’ wine. His wine set the standard.  From that day on, people knew what good wine tasted like and every time they drank wine they remembered how awesome that wedding wine was. Jesus’ goodness and abundance are at the very top. Nothing else can compare.

The thing about tasting, as 1 Peter and Psalm 34:8 describe, is that it leads to longing. When we experience and taste something amazing- we want it again and again. We search for it, yearn for it, and anticipate it. Having received a taste of God’s goodness, how can we not want more? Life’s joys and pains both can fuel intense cravings for the thing that fully quenches our thirst: the fullness of Christ. Every Sunday when we celebrate Holy Communion, I invite everyone up to the front with the words, “taste and see that the Lord is good.”

[1] Jacobs, A.J. The Year of Living Biblically. Simon and Schuster. New York. 2007

Vision-kills-Ultron-Light

Reflections on the Sense of “Sight”

Pastor Erik’s Lent Reflection 2018 – Sight

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.      (1 John 1:1)

                Just a few weeks ago we celebrated the birth of Jesus at Christmas. Christmas is always a special time of year not just because of all the fun activities, but because we learn and remember that Jesus Christ arrived to us as a person- as human flesh. Jesus is both -100% God and 100% human being.  During Jesus’ earthly ministry there were many people who encountered him physically. The saw him, heard him, touched him and were touched by him. Today, we can also encounter Jesus physically. For example, many of you have already felt and smelled the oily ash that was drawn on your forehead in the shape of the cross on Ash Wednesday. In a few weeks we will smell the wonderful Easter Lilies, we will taste the Seder meal, and we will feel the weight of the cross as we place it on our backs and carry it during Holy Week.

This year, during Lent, I want to encourage you to think more deeply about how you encounter Jesus in a physical way.  I am writing a Biblical reflection each week that focuses on the 5 senses. This week focuses on the sense of “sight.”

Mark 8:22-25

They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, ‘Can you see anything?’ And the man looked up and said, ‘I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.’ Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.

1 Corinthians 13:12

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.

Little trees!  Mark 8:22-25 is unfamiliar for many people. It is only found in Mark’s Gospel. It not part of the lectionary so many people have never heard it or heard a sermon about it. It is short, strange and it is often overlooked. What’s the significance that Jesus needs a second chance to fully restore the blind man’s sight? Why do people look like trees that are walking around? These are questions that I invite you to think about during your Lent journey.

Perhaps the most popular or at least widely known hymn is “Amazing Grace.” We sing this beautiful hymn in worship regularly. It is also a popular hymn for funerals and other special occasions. Even people who don’t attend worship probably know it because it is heard often in popular culture. One of the verses says, “I was blind, but now I see.” It is a very moving verse, but I’ve struggled with it’s meaning. For me, “I was blind, but now I see,” describes spiritual development that goes from 0% to 100% instantly. Like flipping on a switch or turning on a lamp. For some people this may be true, but for me (and I don’t think I’m alone) spiritual development has not been like flipping on a switch. It’s been an arduous journey full of ups and downs.

Whenever I feel like I’m finally seeing life and faith clearly some new insight or experience presents itself and forces me to reevaluate and refocus. Some days are clearer than others and some days are very unclear. Metaphorically, most days I feel like the guy in Mark’s gospel who sees people as little trees. Just like the man, even though I’ve experienced Jesus I still have a difficult time seeing the world clearly.  What I like best about this story is that it shows Jesus staying with the man and refusing to give up. Jesus shows that he is committed to fully restoring the man’s sight even if it means trying again. The man doesn’t go from blind to full sight instantly. His fully restored vision takes time, and it also includes a conversation with Jesus on the journey toward clarity.

The 1 Corinthians text complements the Mark story. I think the Apostle Paul is telling us that we don’t have perfect vision.  We are all looking through a dim and cloudy glass and hence all of us have a limited perception. We don’t enjoy complete clarity and understanding. Our face-to-face time is yet to come. What I get from these texts is that it is ok not to have all the answers right now. We don’t need to be at 100% in order to be “good Christians.” There is a mysterious component to faith – a mystery that will be revealed in time. This is what it means, “God accepts us just as we are.” God is with us and walking along side us on our faith journey.  God doesn’t just meet us at the finish line.