Pastor’s Notes

Following Aaron’s Lead

By Pastor Russ | May 30, 2020

Speak to Aaron and his sons saying, “You shall bless the Israelites and say to them: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. So they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them”.

Num 6:23-27

In case you haven’t noticed, I have been talking a lot about Moses lately. It might be because we completed the first year of the Moses Project. It might also be because I am writing a grant named for Moses’ sister, Miriam. Whatever the reason, you have to bear with me a bit longer as I reflect on Moses’ older brother, Aaron, who was the first high-priest of Israel. You know Aaron, because God called him to speak the benediction over the people of Israel.

Have you ever wondered why God would ask a human to bless other humans? Why not simply bless people from heaven? Rabbi Jonathan Sacks suggests that a priest’s job is to teach us about holiness and that at the heart of holiness is the ethic to love God and others. By blessing the people, Aaron is showing them what love looks like, namely, desiring that God’s goodness not only be on the self but also on the other.  

Maybe we need to follow Aaron’s lead. We have forgotten how to bless others and instead look for our own happiness. When we can raise our hands and bless our neighbor, then we will transform society. That is what Jesus did as he raised his hands on the cross to save us. As people blessed by God, let us raise our hands and bless others.

With Love,

Pastor Russ

Photo: Getty Images

God Knows George and So Should We

There is something terribly wrong with the events surrounding George Floyd’s death. To deny any person breath is a violation of God’s created order. George Floyd is a child of God created in the image of God. God knows George by name just as he knows you and me. 

A friend reminded me of Proverbs 31:8 that says: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed.” Campus Ministry values the good work that many of our alumni do in law enforcement. We also stand in solidarity with George Floyd’s family and community who are experiencing the terrible sting of death. May the Holy Spirit bring comfort to those who mourn as well as guide all of us into the truth that every life matters because every life is created by God.

“Holy and gracious God, you know that I am hesitant and filled with fear when I stand before you. You know my history – my failures, mistakes, and sin. Who am I that I should come to you? And yet, you call me to bring everything I am ashamed of, everything that hurts, everything that keeps me stuck and to lay it all at your feet. And then, with my past redeemed, you send me into the future to love as I have been loved and to bless as I have been blessed. Give me the faith and courage to walk forward in the spirit of Moses and the love of Jesus.” Amen.

Weekly Prayer | May 26, 2020

A Time to Laugh

By Pastor Russ | April 30, 2020

I don’t know if you have noticed. You probably have (I tend to be the last to notice these things), there’s a lot of humor going around social media these days. People are being really funny right now. One of my favorite memes says, “Back in my day… there was so much toilet paper, people used to literally string it up in trees of their enemies.” I find myself having at least one good laugh each and every day because of what is shared on social media. 

Laughter is good because it is deeply connected to our humanity. It is also deeply connected to our faith. For the people of Israel, the child of promise was named Isaac, which means “he laughs” (Genesis 21:6). Some have wondered who the “he” was that laughs. Of course, God laughs in doing miraculous things like give an elderly couple a newborn baby. God laughs. But so, too, do we. 

Sarah said, “God has given laughter to me. Everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.”

Genesis 21:6

When thinking of Isaac, his life was no laughing matter. His birth created a split in the family which led to Hagar being dismissed, he was almost sacrificed on an altar, and at his death one of his son’s deceived him. How could Isaac possibly laugh in the face of such trauma? It is because in these moments, laughing is almost the only thing you can do. Laughing takes the power away from those things that cause us fear; laughing helps us survive. 

So in the midst of this pandemic, have a good laugh! If you have a joke, tell it. If you find a funny meme, share it on social media. And as you laugh, know that God laughs with you because God knows that we will get through this and death has no power over us. 

So may you laugh during these hard days and may your spirits be lifted. 

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