A Lenten Offering - Courage
Good rainy day,
As I write, I am looking out the side window of our home. Thirty feet away, one of the many deer who call our neighborhood their home is frightened and in distress. At some point last night he (or she, I didn’t look closely) found himself trapped in our neighbor’s fenced in back porch. He began to kick at the gate and got his lower leg stuck in between the bars. Now, he is soaking wet, lying on the ground with a forlorn look in his eye. When I walk closer to him, he kicks and tries to scoot farther away from me. I paid a quick visit to our neighbors earlier, Animal Rescue will be here soon.
Talk about a metaphor for where we find ourselves today! Trapped. Able bodied, but I hope wise enough to know that staying inside, or away from crowds, is the healthy place to be. For now. This too shall pass. The scripture I turn to this morning is an easy one to memorize and put into action: Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (I Thessalonians 5:11)
Something I learned to do has a parent of older kids, especially teens who don’t want to listen to us much anyway, is to text/email positive, uplifting, inspiring thoughts and phrases. They will never let us know whether they make a difference, but I believe they do. Here is what I sent to Desmond and Micaiah this morning: “Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” (John Wooden)
If you all are staying in a safe place and keeping your well-washed hands to yourself…good for you! And thank you from all of us. A suggestion, reach out to someone with your gratitude and encouragement today. Family and church friends, sure, of course. But how about sending a letter of thanks to people working in our senior care facilities, or in the ER, or your pharmacist, or postal delivery person, or the people behind the counter at Arby’s or the take out person at the Chinese restaurant, or pizza delivery guy, or the Uber driver, others you want to suggest?
As people of faith, we trust a God who rescues and saves people from distress. Let us rejoice and be glad. And, let us be a sign of God’s loving, encouraging presence to those who are serving us!
Grace and peace!
A Lenten Reflection
Earlier this afternoon Heather called to me from the kitchen, “Michael, you have to see this.” I responded and looked and saw the strangest thing occurring in our backyard. A rather large tom turkey had leapt from the ground to the top of the wood fence that divides our back lawn from the neighbor’s behind us. The fence is close to 8 feet high. And narrow. But there he stood, wings spread widely for balance, precariously walking at an achingly slow pace across the top of fence. Heather and I looked at one another and asked, Why is he doing that? Who knows? But he made it and jumped off into our neighbor’s yard.
An influential Jewish Rabbi of the 18th century, Nachman of Bratzlav, wrote, “Life is a narrow bridge. The main thing is not to be afraid.” We know that Rabbi Nachman’s life was marked by physical and mental suffering, including the death of his wife and several children. The Rabbi surely knew the temptation to give up on God or give in to grief and resentment or sink into self-pity. But he did not, he courageously walked he narrow bridge and shares his hope and encouragement with us.
Most of the time, we do not know why life can become such a struggle. But it can. The thing is not to recoil in fear, or hide in the safe corners of our lives. We walk the precarious path with achingly careful, brave steps, knowing that no matter how narrow and stressful the walk may be - when we fall (and we will fall), there is a God and a God-given community that will catch us, hold us as we catch our breath, and send us on our way again.
Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths of the earth, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
Your financial support is important
Shaun and I were in the sanctuary earlier today, filming a couple of pieces that will be sent to you over the next two weeks. I also sorted through the mail. I write to remind you that thought the church facility may be closed, the bills keep coming. The electric and heating cost will be lower, but the power is still there. Your church staff is still working to serve you the best we can. The support we send to the mission of the Wilkinsburg Community Ministry is meeting important needs.
What an unexpected and odd journey this is! With faith and hope, please continue to send your financial support to the church.
To testify to your great love for the world revealed in Jesus Christ.
May they serve as signs of hope to those who are
suffering, fearful or discouraged.
In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.
A Lesson from COVID-19
We like to be in control, don’t we? We live among over-achievers in the wealthiest, most powerful nation in the world. We are people of faith who trust a God who is good and can make bad things better. We are Presbyterians whose historic mantra has been to live life “decently and in order”. We like to be in control. And here we are stuck in our homes for who knows how long? Even Planet Fitness, the library, and movie theaters are closed! If you are like me, your feet are getting very itchy. Gotta move…gotta move…gotta move…
Right now, Covid 19 is in control, there is little we can do about it except stay away from one another and don’t touch things and wash your hands, like, all the time. And if we don’t do it, more people will get sick, more people will die.
Do you remember these words of Jesus? He delivered them to his disciples as he approached Jerusalem, a hill called Golgotha, and a rough, wooded cross. Take a few minutes and ponder these words:
Jesus called the crowd and his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.
In other words, if you want to be my disciple; give up control of your life. Give it to me. True disciples are not in control of their lives, Jesus is. And trust me on this, the life we get back is worth the sacrifice.
Let us hang in there together. Let us pray for one another. Let us pray for the world God loves.
Sunday Morning Worship - online
Good morning all,
Worship begins in 15 minutes (seriously, you might be able to!)
Thanks to the tech and social media skills of Shaun, I was able make a recording of the some parts of this morning’s reading, a scripture reading, and brief sermon, prayers of the people, and benediction. I sent in written form to congregation.
Shaun opened a SoundCloud account for us. Is embedding the recording on our church website – (www.fpcedgewood.org) People will be able to access this recording and future recordings whenever they would like to…
This is exciting isn’t it? Thanks Shaun!
By the way, I met with Ronan Jones earlier this week. He continues to express interest in purchasing the equipment to record and/or streamline our worship services.
So money is no longer the issue…the people with the required skill set is the next step. He is simply awaiting word that all is ready to go – then he will purchase the equipment….
I wonder if it might be worth hiring a person or two to record, produce and post/deliver… Or at least, someone to train us and help in getting things up and running.
Take care everyone… I don’t know how long it will be until we can gather for worship. Until then, I will be staying in touch with folks, doing administrative stuff, helping at WCM… let me know if there are other ways I can serve you, the congregation, or community at this time.
Good afternoon everyone,
To add a contemporary twist to The Book of Ecclesiastes …
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.
I fully realize that some of you will think I am over-reacting… and I know there are those who have wondered why we didn’t cancel worship two days ago. This is not a decision I wanted to make. But there are many vulnerable people in our congregation. There are those (myself included) who are still enduring the slow-fading symptoms of bronchitis. I do not want to ask anyone to come to worship who will be nervous about being there. But I am convinced it is the necessary call –
We will not gather for worship tomorrow morning.
Stay home. Stay safe. Let us put into practice the ancient wisdom: “be still and know that I am God…”
May the Lord bless you and keep you all healthy and safe. We pray for those who are affected, infected, suffering, and dying. We pray the people in authority tell us the truth and make wise decisions. We pray for those are working in the health care field.
Strength for the Journey
Good afternoon everyone,
If you have stopped following the news recently, I understand. In case you missed it…the Penguins forgot how to play hockey over the weekend. But more urgently: the Corona virus is not going away, yet. A bitter and divisive election is raising anxiety and blood pressure. The stock market is gyrating. The headlines incite more anxiety. Not to mention what may be going on in our personal lives and the lives of our families.
The good news of the gospel – we will be ok. Paul writes, “for we walk by faith not by sight.” Lenten disciplines deepen our faith. Praying leads to peace. Bible study leads to courage. Fasting reveals our dependency on God. Worship focuses our spirit.
We will be OK. We can thrive, for God does not give us a timid and fearful spirit - “Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong.”
Practice the disciplines of Lent. Grace and peace everyone!
Scam Warning and More...
A lovely morning is setting us up for ugly afternoon – quick – enjoy the sunshine. Four things I want to share:
God bless you everyone! See you in church.
From Heather - Reflection for Lent
Good afternoon… I am certainly not the only spiritual person in our household. Heather’s thoughts and prayers strengthen and encourage me… Here is what she shared with me today. In this time when churches and our entire nation is being tested and feeling the stress… I found this most helpful – what do you think?
Resilience is the capacity of a system, enterprise, or a person to maintain its core purpose and integrity in the face of dramatically changed circumstances. - Andrew Zolli
One of the core concepts to emerge out of the field of positive psychology is the importance of resilience, a quality that helps people to thrive and to be well. Positive psychologists are studying the question of why some people are able to bounce back and overcome adversity, while others are not.
Their research has revealed two factors that are foundational to our ability to be resilient: spirituality and community.
Making It Personal: What are your thoughts about the quote above by Andrew Zolli about resilience? Do you agree that spirituality and community are key factors in resilience? Can you think of an area in your life where you might need to summon up some courage to be more resilient?
Grace and peace from both of us….Heather and Michael
The morning the devotion I turn to nearly every day (www.pray-as-you-go.org) invited me to take a deep breath and to draw in the love of God as I did. An easy thing to do as I basked in the morning sun. After a scripture reading about repentance, I was encouraged to open up a troubled area of my life. Not such an easy or fun thing to do. Yet it is in those “troubled and troubling” areas of our lives that God does his best work.
The Book of Lamentations is not an easy book to read. The author is eloquently mourning the destruction of Jerusalem. But in the midst of his lament he reflects: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is God’s faithfulness. (Isn’t there a hymn that celebrates God’s faithfulness? Sing it to yourself today.)
Grace and peace everyone! Pastor Michael