Monday, June 30, 2014

In Community

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. 1 Corinthians 13:13 KJV

I find that whatever ministry I practice must be done in the larger context of community if it is to have any authenticity at all; if it is to have any lasting value to the person ministered to and also if it is to be of benefit to me.

I do not give a sandwich away without giving my heart along with it. If all I give you is a pair of socks your feet will be dry but your soul will remain a desert- and so will mine.

Jesus was more about connections than He was about fish and bread. We belong to one another. That is the only real basis for charity if charity is to become a bloom not a blight on the human landscape.

May our hearts fill our hands.

Bless you as you step into the week ahead.

John LaMantia

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Imperfect Prayers

When imperfect people pray God listens. We don't have to memorize rituals and perform them flawlessly. We just open our heaped up, conflicted, imperfect hearts and lean into Him the way my son used to lean his weight against me when he was small and church had run long.

Our praise of Him may be like those pictures that adorn the refrigerator where Daddy is drawn with a big circle for a head, a missing body and the wrong number of fingers but someone so loved them as to put them on display.

We are precious and loved and therefore welcomed by every gesture, by every word in which our open-hearted God has revealed Himself.

Approach Him today. You can't fail to get it right. Christ has already done that for you. Just lean in.

-John LaMantia

You hear our prayers whether
they are full of thanksgiving
or full of complaints.
Your mercy is unending.
Even in your discipline
you restrain yourself
in ways we cannot know.
May our mumbled words of gratitude
and our fleeting praises
find crevices where they can grow
within your presence,
Lord of light and morning.

Prayer from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals (Claiborne/Wilson-Hartgrove).

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Father's Day

Quite a few years ago I preached the Fathers' Day sermon up at First Assembly in Anchorage. John David brought a handful of friends to the service and Kathy and I took all of them to lunch after.

One of those guys who came that day died later in an accident. One went to jail but from jail sent his brother, who was in the military and was being stationed in Anchorage, to find us when he got here. That brother and his wife took the walk to the altar to give their lives to Christ when Rich Smith made the invitation at South Anchorage Assembly.

The following year on Thanksgiving we got a call from the one who had been jailed that he had given his heart to Christ in a jail service and shortly after that the real culprit was found and JD's friend was released. He thanked us for our prayers and asked for our blessing on the new business he was starting and on his upcoming marriage. He said he knew God had been calling him that Father's Day and continued to call until he answered by putting him in a place where he could not refuse.

We can not always see the outcome of our ministry or our generosity but God inspires it and uses it in pursuit of His children. Many of the men and women I deal with in my mission work and jail work have deep father wounds that need to be healed. Many have never known the safe embrace of a loving parent if they knew their parents at all. We have to tell of the wonderful love of God and model that same love for them even as a father would.

To all my father friends and co-workers who stand in the pulpits and go to the jails, who serve as His hands among the wheat anywhere it is ready for harvest, Happy Blessed Fathers' Day, you honor Our Father in the best kind of way by being just like Him.

Today I will stand in the Father's place and love His sons and daughters at the jail and at the Mission. I thank all of you whose prayers and support allow me to do so.

John LaMantia

The sound of a kiss
is not so loud
as that of a cannon,
but its echo
lasts a great deal longer.

Wisdom from Oliver Wendell Holmes

Remembering this Fathers' Day that "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." James 1:17

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Dreaming Pentecost

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:1 KJV

Thus began the amazing partnership between the Godhead and the newly birthed Church under the direction and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, through the grace and intercession of Christ and by the will of the Father. A time of vision, a time of dreams, a time of adding to the Kingdom daily.

Our lives and ministry are on that continuum and we have every right to expect the Spirit of God to lead and inspire us even as He did in those first natal hours of the church of Acts. He is still the vision caster, the dream giver that the Kingdom may continue to come on our watch.

Listen to what Matthew L. Skinner, a professor of New Testament at Luther Seminary has to say about the importance of this day:

"Sunday's Pentecost observances are more than a celebration of the past. They are not merely an end to Easter or a chance to launch summer programming. They are not opportunities for stoking nostalgia about the church's supposed glory days. 

Pentecost is an invitation to dream. For when a community of faith quits dreaming dreams, it has little to offer either its members or the wider world.

Like any good dream, these dreams involve adopting a new perspective on what's possible, rousing our creativity to free us from conventional expectations. They help us see that maybe what we thought was outlandish actually lies within reach. Maybe I can find freedom from what binds me. Maybe there can be justice. Maybe I can make a difference..." 

I have just returned from spending a week in the presence of my fellow Mission laborers from around the country and sharing their dreams and visions for inspired ways to address the social ills that beset us. Many have dreams it will take entire communities of faith in partnership with a miracle working God to pull off. Many have small dreams but they dream in technicolor and the fruit of those dreams realized will change the emotional landscape of cities.

We are a church birthed by fire and the scripture assures us that the darker our surroundings the brighter that light becomes- so I am dreaming and letting the Holy Spirit be inspiration for me. Christ has all the answers and some of them may be as unexpected in 2014 as they were in Acts.

May His fire fall fresh upon us. May we welcome it.

Blessing to you all,