Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A MId-Week Update from Pastor Carol Myers

Dear Friends,

I frequently hear people say, in a variety of ways, how important our young families are. I hear comments that delight in our children and youth and their presence in our church. I hear the older people of our church longing for more young adults, and longing for the days of youth musicals and crowded Sunday school rooms. I often hear that our children are our future, which is true. They are also our present!

I see our dedicated youth leaders. I also see our dedicated Sunday school teachers. Some of the youth leaders and Sunday school teachers have no children of their own. Some have children who are grown. Some are men. Most of them are young moms. And they are exhausted. They want their children to have quality Sunday school and youth groups, yet they are stretched to the breaking point by the additional responsibilities of teaching. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if church could be a way of recovering rather than additional stress for them?

There is much that could be said. We could talk about changing times in the church and the reasons why. We could talk about the good old days. What I want to talk about today is this: How can we care for our young families in ways that they feel supported and loved?

One of the primary ways, I think, is for those of us, both men and women, whose children are grown to take a short turn teaching Sunday school. Perhaps you can teach for two weeks. Perhaps four weeks. Perhaps a group like a UMW Circle or a Bible study could take responsibility for a particular class. Children need both male and female role models. Is this a gift you could give to the young families of our church?

Other ways include adopting a family. Are your grandkids far away? We’ve got families here who would love some TLC from you! Perhaps you can take a meal to a young family on an occasional basis. Perhaps you can write a note to a child who would love to get a letter in the mail. Perhaps you can offer to babysit so that mom can run errands. The possibilities are endless.

If God is nudging you to be in ministry to our young families, talk to Kendy or myself. Who knows? We could end up being the most family-friendly church in town!

On the Lenten journey with you,

Carol

A Mid-Week Update from Pastor Jeff Blackman

Grace and peace to you from God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Peter scolds Jesus.  What a strange image.  This week’s reading is from Mark 8:31-38.  In this reading Jesus is teaching his disciples.  (In scripture, it is a very helpful understanding to see that when Jesus teaches his disciples back then, he is also teaching his disciples right now.)  Jesus is teaching his disciples then and now that he must suffer, be rejected and then killed and then rise from the dead.  It was to this teaching that Peter scolds Jesus.
Why would Peter do that?  The obvious answer is that Peter didn’t want that to happen.  He wanted Jesus to be all-powerful and make “things right” by divine might.  In Peter’s mind how in the world could Jesus’ scenario be anything but humiliating defeat and the end of everything.  Peter wanted Jesus to succeed the way everyone else succeeds:  power, might, and violence.  What else did Peter know?  Essentially, Peter objected to Jesus’ plan and said so.
Much could be worked through here about authority, leadership, power, discipleship, etc.  Suffice it to say, Jesus recognized what Peter was saying as humankinds way of being, not God’s way.  Possibly Jesus might even have been tempted to take this easy, very familiar way.  Maybe Jesus had some sense of fear about what he was going to do.  Whatever was there, Jesus immediately and intensely corrected Peter:  We are doing it God’s way.
Verses 34-38 of chapter 8 are about what Jesus expected of his disciples, denial of the ways of human power and aggression and acceptance of the way of God’s kingdom.  Jesus essentially showed us the way.  We call it the way of the Cross and it is a hard choice, but for followers of Jesus, according to Jesus, it is the only choice for life.

                                                                                   Pastor Jeff Blackman

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Mid-Week Update from Pastor Jeff Blackman

Grace and peace to you from God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
We’ve made it to Lent once again.  We’ve observed Ash Wednesday which is a time of repentance and of girding up one’s loins for the spiritual journey called Lent.  In the life of the Church, Lent is 40 days, starting with Ash Wednesday, not including Sundays (all Sundays are considered celebrations of the resurrection, even during Lent).
The first Sunday’s gospel reading in Lent is from St. Mark and tells again the story of Jesus’ baptism.  It also tells us of his wilderness experience of 40 days.  This 40-day period is supposed to remind us of the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness of Exodus as well as the chaos (read ‘wilderness’) of Noah’s ark for 40 days.  Jesus is tempted by Satan but is victorious.
So, like Jesus, we find ourselves in the wilderness, sojourning toward Jerusalem.  “Jerusalem” represents many aspects of faith for a believer and one of those aspects or pictures is God’s vision for humankind:  presence, worship, and service.  This journey is punctuated by scripture readings from St. Mark and St. John the Evangelist.  Much of the journey is taken up with the question of the identity of Jesus:  who is he?  What is his authority?  What does he want of us?  These are some of the questions of Lent as we move toward a spiritual embracing of Easter and resurrection.
This Lent, come walk with Jesus, listen to and see his deeds and follow him.

                                                                                           Pastor Jeff Blackman

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Mid-Week Update from Pastor Carol Myers

Dear Friends,

The Gospel According to St. Mark makes it clear that Jesus’ identity is revealed at his baptism: God’s Beloved. In the waters of his baptism, Jesus is commissioned to bring God’s kingdom. What does that look like? Well, Jesus’ first day of ministry is spent healing and casting out demons. Then he starts his second day (and subsequent days) by preaching and casting out demons (Mark 1:9-39).

Demons are anything and everything that creates an obstacle to God’s kingdom of compassion, justice, healing, forgiveness, love, peace and well-being. Demons are anything and everything that tear down rather than build up. Our inner “demons” might include anger, jealousy, grudges, resentment, gossip, slander and fear. Systemic and societal “demons” include poverty, racism, violence and war. You get the idea. Jesus’ healing and casting out demons looks a lot like his healing of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law: He touches her, takes her by the hand, and raises her up (Mark 1:29-31). Jesus touches the untouchable. He doesn’t not shun people. He doesn’t tear down; he raises up. He makes the broken whole, beginning with his willingness to reach out to those who are suffering, one person at a time.

You and I have opportunities every day to decide whether we want to engage in the demonic or the holy. How do we think about ourselves? Can we learn from our mistakes and move on or do we do violence to ourselves in how we think about our lives? Do our words tear someone down or raise them up? How do we speak of whole groups of people that we don’t like?

Paul elsewhere encourages us to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Whenever our “truth” veers into insults and disrespect, it is no longer true. To speak our truth in love is to talk to the person who needs to hear our concerns in a way that is respectful. To speak our truth in love is to recognize the shared humanity and shared sinfulness of all people, including ourselves.

Raising others up can be as simple as reaching out to those who are hurting. Sometimes when someone comes to us who is hurting, we are not sure how to respond. I came across an article this morning that is helpful: http://www.wsj.com/articles/be-there-for-a-friends-relationship-crisis-but-dont-give-advice-1423504783?google_editors_picks=true.

The challenge to us all is this: We too have our identity in our baptism. We are God’s beloved. We too have been commissioned in the waters of our baptism to bring God’s kingdom. We are, in fact, the Body of Christ! How are you bringing God’s kingdom today? Are you tearing down? Or are you building up?


On the journey with you,

A Mid-Week Update from Pastor Jeff Blackman

Grace and peace to you from God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
This weekend in the Church is the last weekend before Lent begins, starting with Ash Wednesday.  This weekend is designated “The Transfiguration of our Lord.”  The reading from scripture is Mark 9:2-9.  Jesus goes to the mountain top and in an epiphany/theophany is once again encouraged and empowered by God to head into the last part of his ministry—the walk to Jerusalem and ultimately, his death.
The story of Jesus’ transfiguration has a similarity to his baptism.  A vision of power is created by the appearance of Elijah and Moses.  A divine voice is heard declaring love, Sonship, and direction, and then Jesus is once again led out into the “wilderness.”  This time, however, it is a very different wilderness.  It is not a physical desert.  Rather, it is a spiritual wilderness; the wilderness we all live in and call “home.”  Jesus comes down the mountain and heads toward Jerusalem where he will be crucified.  From the mountain top to the cross outside of Jerusalem is the wilderness of life in which we all live.  There are wars and terrible acts of violence and vengeance.  Disease becomes, in some cases, epidemic—diseases that had once been nearly eradicated.  Extremist groups and hate groups use social media to recruit and further their hate-filled causes.  People of faith disagree on major issues of life and cannot speak to each other.  Politicians often use fear to stir up a base of support and our leaders become locked in dysfunction.  Neighbors become enemies with neighbors and violence breaks out in “calm” neighborhoods.  The poor seek food and shelter and become almost invisible to a stressed out middle class of people working long hours with stymied wages.  Life seems at times to fall apart and those we look to for help and encouragement often have fallen to the same troubles and fears.  This is the wilderness that Jesus now walks through as he comes down the mountain and heads toward Jerusalem.
In this wilderness, in our world, Jesus still walks, gathering disciples and seeing through the obstacles of the contemporary desert.  He walks with ease and determination toward his destination, bringing healing, light, and hope to all who had ears to hear then and now.  Listen to him, just as the divine voice urged at his transfiguration:  Listen to him.

                                                                                               Pastor Jeff Blackman
  

Sunday, February 1, 2015

A Mid-Week Update from Pastor Carol Myers

Dear Friends,

The Gospel of Mark gives a stunning account of Jesus’ first act of ministry in 1:21-28. He has just been baptized, knee deep in water, and the heavens are torn open. The Reign of God is set loose in the world. Immediately, Jesus calls four ordinary folk, four fishermen, to join him in making God’s kingdom come, God’s will be done on earth. Immediately, they head to a desolate place filled with desperate people. The first thing that Jesus does is cast out an unclean spirit. Not a bad first day on the job!

The people are astonished. No wonder. It would have been understandable if Jesus hadn’t even noticed the suffering man in the crowd. Suffering people tend to be invisible. It would have been understandable that if Jesus had noticed the man, he would have dismissed him. After all, the prevailing understanding of the day was that all sickness was caused by demons and all demons were caused by sin. The religious leaders and the equivalent of television talking heads, newspaper editorials, talk radio shows and conversation at coffee would have insisted that anyone with a demon had made poor choices and got what they deserved. It would have been understandable that fear could have held Jesus back from doing anything. What would people think? Fear could have even caused Jesus to feel threatened and lash out at the man.

But Jesus stands his ground in the face of evil. He stands his ground against all that is opposed to God’s Reign. It is a spiritual battle between the unclean spirit and the Spirit of God, and it is a battle that rages throughout the New Testament. Good vs. evil. Demonic vs. God. On the side of evil: everything that damages and destroys, oppresses and exploits. Obsessions, addictions, anger, violence, poverty, racism. And the biggest demon of all? Fear. Fear that fuels everything from gossip and slander to terrorism and war.

On the side of good? God. Working for the well-being of all people and of all creation. Jesus teaches by doing with authority and power. He has God’s seal of approval. His words and actions resonate with truth. This isn’t about information; this is about transformation. The opening round of the battle is won and we know the final score. Ultimately, good is stronger than evil. The people are amazed.

The challenge to you and me? Whose side are we on?

To choose God’s team is to follow: to say what Jesus says and to do what Jesus does. We are called to have compassion for those who suffer. While that may look different under different circumstances, at the minimum, we are called to see and to suffer with (the literal meaning of the word “compassion”) others. We are called to justice. That too may look different under different circumstances. At the minimum, we are called to stand our ground against evil; to refuse to blame; to recognize that people are caught in systems and structures, powers and principalities much bigger than they are. If you aren’t sure how to live out compassion and justice, look for where God is already at work and join God there. Where is God at work? Wherever there are words and actions that heal.

And if you are feeling too small, too ordinary for the task, let me remind you that you have been drenched in God’s grace at your baptism, claimed as God’s own and commissioned to join Jesus in his mission. The Holy Spirit has descended on you, empowering and enabling you for a purpose. These are your baptismal vows: Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of the world, and repent of your sin? Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves? Yes and yes!

If these words resonate with truth, if you find authority and power in these words, what are you going to do about it this week? What healing will you foster in a broken relationship? How will you respond to the suffering of a person or a group that you have previously dismissed or blamed?

Your healing words and actions have the power to change the lives of others. By the grace of God, they transform you.

On the journey with you,

Carol

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Holy Places by Kendall Clarke

                           

In Chapel a couple of weeks ago Carol and Jeff were talking about Holy places, it got me thinking about a special time and place in my faith journey. It happened to me the last time we did the living Last Supper play this is what I wrote in my journal after the performance.

The last supper was amazing the hand of God was in his house last nite,it was truly awe inspiring performance  ( not so much the acting as ,the presence of God among us) I am so thankful that I had the chance to experience it. It was a mountain top feeling. While in my pose I had to come up with a focus point so I could look the same every time, so I looked at the EXIT sign ,the more I looked at it I started looking at the X in the exit sign made me think of the X or cross the Jesus died for me it ,and the X that  was left on his hand it truly was meant for me for me to be in this time and place, for it will never  happen again that performance was truly amazing ,from this day forward with God beside me and Jesus leading my way I will work to become a better man the man called me to be In Jesus name I Pray Amen.

A few days later after thinking about it I expanded my entry

After the performance we were sitting in the chapel waiting to take pictures  we were sitting in the dark, you could hear the thunder going and I could feel the presence of God in that room it was enough to give me a chill,

I want to thank all of the people that helped put the Living Last Supper on I feel it was one of the best and most fulfilling experiences of my faith life. So one of Holy of Hollies is the Chapel of theTrees, Every time I go to Wed. service I recall the feeling I had that Day and give thanks to God 


Kendall Clarke