January 2024

What’s really happening in Communion?

As Lutherans, we teach that Jesus is truly present in communion in, with, and under the bread and wine.  I like to call this a ‘prepositional’ understanding of Jesus’ presence.  Luther wanted to leave some space for mystery.  Ironically, no matter how you understand communion, there is plenty of mystery.  Luther attested to the power of the sacrament to forgive sin, and give life and salvation.  From Luther’s Small Catechism: “‘How can eating and drinking do such a great thing?  Eating and drinking certainly do not do it, but rather the words…’given for you’ and ‘shed for you for the forgiveness of sin‘…when accompanied by the physical eating and drinking are…the sacrament…whoever believes these words have what they declare and state, namely, ‘forgiveness of sin.'”

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Why does Jesus sometimes ask people not to tell about what He has done?

There is not one single answer, just possibilities!  It could be that Jesus doesn’t want them to tell until they know the whole story.  It could be that Jesus doesn’t want people too caught up in the miraculous parts of His ministry because it doesn’t really build a deep faith.  It could be that it is important to be filled up first, and then get busy sharing.  We do know the whole story and have all the tools and support we need to build our faith, get filled up, and share the story of God’s love revealed in Jesus! – Pastor Trudy Stoffel

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What are those “unclean spirits” that Jesus casts out?

The word “unclean spirit” is sometimes translated as “demon,” but that’s a tricky translation for two reasons. First, the original Greek literally translates to “unclean spirit” and, second, our word “demon” is loaded with all kinds of connotations (think of scary movies). In the ancient world, there wasn’t a division between the supernatural and the natural – the ancient Hebrew and Greek words for “spirit” is the same as their words for “wind” (ruach, pneuma). Can you identify the source of wind? Where does it come from? What about spirit, where does it come from? Unexplainable phenomena can be made sense of in all kinds of supernatural ways; therefore, the kinds of things that we might use modern methods and tools to understand (physics, medicine, etc.), ancient peoples might’ve understood in supernatural ways. – Vicar Aaron Musser

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Why does Jesus speak in parables instead of ‘telling it plain’?

First,  speaking in parables allows people to find themselves in the story, not just in the moment, but across millennia!  Second, Jesus says that He speaks in parables as a kind of code for the insiders.  For persecuted groups, this can be an important thing to do, to protect from the powers that oppress them.  This is more necessary for groups that are doing things that will upset the balance of power.  What is Jesus up to that is so disruptive?
-Pastor Trudy Stoffel

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What are some good ‘faith’ resolutions?

With resolutions generally, it is good to be realistic.  You don’t need to start with reading the whole Bible.  Start with reading a book of the Bible.  Personally, I like Philippians.  Read until you encounter something challenging, particularly relevant or encouraging.  I made it to chapter 1 verse 3; ‘I thank my God every time I remember you…’  This seems like something good to reflect on in the first week of a new year.  Take something you already do every day and add a prayer to it… when you wash your face, give thanks for God’s love shown in your baptism. When you load the dishwasher or wash dishes, think of forgiveness washing away your sins and hurts.  Whatever you choose to do, keep it simple and trust that the God who can grow a tiny seed into a tree can work with what you have given as well. – Pastor Trudy Stoffel

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