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The Kingdom of Heaven is like.......



I will be in Salt Lake City this Sunday visiting my son Louie and his family.  I am really looking forward to the visit.  At the same time I will miss my church family here in Chariton, Iowa.  While I am away the congregation will carry on with Morning Prayer.  Frank Myers will lead the service and Bill Gode will read the lessons and Daniel Scheetz will provide the music.  Morning prayer is a wonderful service and I am sure everything will be fine.

I won't be there to give a sermon so maybe I will write a few things on this blog.

This reading from Matthew has the words of Jesus starting with: The kingdom of heaven is like.  It got me to thinking...what do I believe the kingdom of heaven will be like.  Will it be full of angels and archangels singing God's praises.  Will it be streets paved with gold?  Or will it be like the Larson cartoon that has two angels sitting on a cloud looking down on earth.  Feeling a little bored the one angel says to the other, I wish I had brought a magazine.

I don't think heaven will be boring but beyond that I really have no idea what it will be like.  I see no reason for all of that singing and streets made of gold makes no  sense.  So...I don't know.  I guess I will ponder that thought as I fly from DesMoines to Salt Lake.

Blessings,
Fr. Fred Steinbach






Pastor's Corner: God Winks

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This is my week to write the Pastor's Corner for our local newspaper and I decided to post it here as well.  I hope you enjoy the read.

Hand of God?

I wish theology was simple. I suppose if it was, there would not be between thirty and forty thousand different denominations of Christianity not to mention the different sects of Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. Many of these belief systems are pretty sure they are the ones who have gotten it right.

Do not expect me to clear all of this up in this Pastor's Corner. However, there is something about my beliefs that I would like to share. I do believe God is actively involved in my life. I believe God guided me back to Chariton after a forty year absence. Too many things just kind of fell into place when Sherry and I were considering moving here but it isn't just the big events like a move. Little things happen too that seem like more than coincidences.

A parishioner loaned me a book a few days ago titled, When God Winks at You by SQuire Rushnell.  It is a collection of accounts of people who have had things happen to them that some might call coincidences but others might chalk up to more than that. The author calls them God winks. This book begins with a story about a woman named Mavis who had planned for years to go to the Crystal Cathedral in California. One Sunday she decided to finally attend one of their services. She arrived and was ushered to a seat next to a young woman. The two of them began to talk and share their stories. The younger woman said she was from the Midwest and she was in the state because she was trying to find her birth mother. Mavis told her that when she was young she had had to give her daughter up for adoption. She said it had always been a painful memory. The young woman asked her when the baby had been born and after more sharing they realized that they were mother and daughter. Was it a coincidence or was God winking at them?

Most of us do not have these kinds of amazing experiences but we have all had times when God winked at us in different ways. People may have shown up when help was needed or someone told you something that you needed to hear.

Bad things will still happen to good people and we do not know why. However, that does not mean that God is not walking with us during difficult times. We all must walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Just remember you are not alone.

God Bless You,
Fr. Fred Steinbach
St. Andrew's Episcopal Church

Rocky Road or Well Grounded: Last Sunday's Sermon

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The Gospel

Matthew 13:1-9,18-23

Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”
“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”


The Sermon



Nurturing Your Spirit

Jesus was a realist. He knew that it isn't enough for a follower to be just exposed to his message. That seed of emerging faith must be cared for. He used a wonderful analogy of the seed sown on a path, rocky soil, weedy ground, and good soil. What made sense to his followers two thousand years ago makes just as much sense for us today.

Jesus tells us that seed planted on rocky ground does well at first and then quickly dies because there is no nutrition for the roots to help the plant grow. You have all seen plants that tried to grow up among the weeds. They usually don't do well. They may bear fruit but it is often low quality. Seed that is planted in good soil, is weeded, watered and given lots of sun will do well.

So how do we make sure our spiritual lives are planted in good soil? What does that look like. How do we nurture the spiritual seed that is our soul. You tell me. Give me some ideas. I do not believe there is an all encompassing recipe, a 'one size fits all' What makes all kind of sense for Bill might not be effective for Lisa. In my case meditation in the evening is a part of my daily routine. Wearing the collar when I am in public is another way for me to nurture my own soul. (I am better behaved when I wear the collar)

I recommend that each of you reflect on what you are doing and can be doing to make sure your soul is being cared for.

This writing from Matthew says something else to me. It reminds me that we have a responsibility to each other. So what can we do to help each other grow spiritually? Think on that this week.

Fr. Fred