Good evening brothers and sisters,
Such a beautiful evening, and an evening that brings sadness to our souls.
I am not the only one, I’m sure, who reacted with disgust and horror as the police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into the neck of an unarmed black man named George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN on May 25. Several other officers stood silently and idly by. As many police chiefs and officers across the country have said since that incident, those officers have dishonored and brought shame to the 95% of police officers who put their lives on the line to keep the streets and neighborhoods of our cities safe.
In the same way, over the past few days and nights, protestors justifiably gather across our nation to raise their voices in dismay and alarm about the injustice of George Floyd’s death. That is their right, protesting has been in our nation’s DNA since the Revolutionary War. Like the officers who oversaw the death of George Floyd, the protestors who are causing violence to erupt in the streets are bringing dishonor and shame to the well-intentioned and legal protestors.
With the nation trying to pick itself up after the pandemic shut down, as businesses are trying to safely do business again, as millions face an uncertain financial future, as tensions escalate with China; it is evident that of our nation, our people, and our faith are being sorely tried. These are difficult days.
As I watched the news late this afternoon, the words of Psalm 46 came to me. I remember my Old Testament Professor, Dr Donald Gowan, saying that Psalm 46 likely was written when the nation of Israel was confronting a dark and violent time. As we face these days, perhaps this powerful Psalm will speak to us. I copy it below.
Remember, tomorrow morning, is Pentecost. As the followers of Jesus faced a dark and uncertain future, God pour Holy Spirit over them. A day to rejoice and give thanks to our God who enters every darkened room with reason to hope. Shaun will send the video of the worship service to you in the morning. Look for it on the church website or Facebook page. I hope you will join us.
Grace and peace,
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.
It goes without saying, we are living through some very difficult times as a nation…as a world. I find it a challenge to strike the balance between being overwhelmed by it all (I am a newshound) and wanting to turn away from it all. My wife, Heather, has created a blog (www.alampuntomyfeet.net) that I have turned to in the past for encouragement. Here is a recent post that reminds me of the advice Paul gives to the church in Thessalonica: “in everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thess. 5:18. Here is her post:
An Attitude of Gratitude“With his every deed he offered thanks to God Most High, in words of praise. ” Sirach 47:8 (a book in the Apocrypha)
Whether slaying Goliath or ruling wisely, David always recognized the source of his gifts and offered praise and thanks to God.
Practicing this kind of gratitude can have some surprising benefits. Acknowledging God as the source keeps us humble.
While we take pride in the soccer goal, the bonus paycheck, the newly-composed song,
we know that they were achieved as a result of God-given gifts.
Growing a delicious tomato reminds us of the creator of tomatoes (such a great idea!).
Thanking God, praising God keep our world- and our place in it- in right perspective.
But a grateful heart also reminds us, every time we say “thank you, ” that we are not alone.
As we walk, swim, slog, trek, or dance through life, our Divine Companion is there, delighting in our thanks and praise.
Let us start each day with praise for all that is to come and end it with a whispered “thanks” for all it held.
Praise God for blue skies and rainfall, good times and bad, plenty and need.
Good afternoon everyone,
I write to thank you for voting on the two issues I sent to you earlier. (Approve installation of Lisa Segedy as active elder, and approve dissolution of pastoral relationship between FPCE and Pastor Michael as of June 30, 2020.) Both motions passed.
I finally looked it up. WiFi. WiFi is a universal wireless networking technology that utilizes radio frequencies to transfer data. WiFi allows high-speed Internet connections without the use of cables. I am not a tech geek. (Just ask Shaun.) All I know is that when my wifi network is interrupted, I feel cut-off from people, music, and Facebook. Frustration soon follows.
Just for fun, I googled “prayer.” Here is one of the definitions that came up: Prayer isan invocation or act that seeks to activate a rapport with an object of worship(God) through deliberate communication.Notice anything? Prayer is less bulky than WiFi! Prayer does not rely on radio frequencies or cables. Prayer is turned on by your hopes, longings, hurts, worries, and love – and God always shows up on the other end.Prayer is spiritual communion with the Holy and with one another.
Is your prayer network turned on, is it healthy? Take some time today, take some time every day. Five…ten…fifteen minutes… Get away from all the radio, wifi and cable connections. Spend time with the most important connection of all.
“Can a woman forget her nursing child,
And not have compassion on the child of her womb?
…I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you
on the palms of My hands…”
I know where each one of you is today…and we are all together….inscribed on the palms of God’s hands.
Grace and peace,
As you probably know, we had an online congregational meeting this morning that needs your participation. Two motions for your vote:
Good afternoon – and what a lovely afternoon it has been!
I will bet my bottom dollar that all of us know the rhyme – “Here’s the church, here’s the people, open the door – and here’s the people.” It was the first important lesson – the church puts Christ, then people (not buildings!) first. Sure it will be great to meet together in our sanctuary on Sunday mornings. It will be even better when we can meet without some members feeling at risk. Here is a verse we do not often read: “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in earnest prayer to God…so that by God’s will I may come to you wit joy.” (I Cor. 15: 30-32) Paul was miles away from the brothers and sisters he was writing. The church is based on relationships, not a structure. So, I repeat – the church is open.
Two services to view when Shaun sends to you tomorrow:
Grace, peace, and be safe in your place people!
Good morning brothers and sisters,
Psalm 139 is one of my go-to readings at times like this (opening verses from Contemporary English Version):
You have looked deep
into my heart, Lord,
and you know all about me.
You know when I am resting
or when I am working,
and from heaven
you discover my thoughts.
You notice everything I do
and everywhere I go.
When my son was 7 years old, I took Desmond and his older sister on a walk through some woods. I thought I knew the paths well. I didn’t. When my son began to fade, I was still trying to act like I knew where I was going. My acting job didn’t work. Desmond collapsed to the ground with a wail and tears. His mind was overtaken by worst case scenario. “We’re going to die.” he sobbed.
I said, “No my little man, we are not going to die, I’m just confused and a little lost – we’ll be home in time for supper.”
We are slowly emerging – maybe - from the worst of the corona virus pandemic. Yet, confusion reigns. We still feel a bit lost. Many important decisions face us. Difficult emotions grab hold of us. Fear still plagues some of us. Impatience among others is growing.
People, these are very challenged times. Psalm 139 assures us, we can find hope, faith, and courage trusting that God knows all about us - fearful, impatient, confused… God casts his loving gaze on each of us…on all of us.
Grace and peace to all,
Happy gray Monday everyone,
My dad was not a complicated man. He was not keen on philosophical, religious, psychological, or sociological insights. And, make no mistake, my dad was a survivor. He endured a family rife with alcoholism and abuse. Before he reached the age of 21, his two older sisters, whom he adored, had died tragically and violently. The older I become the more I find to admire and honor in my father. Although Dad did not find religion or church to be all that useful, he based his personal and professional life on one spiritual truth that is found in nearly every religion of the world. As Jesus puts it:
“Treat others as you want them to treat you.”
As we begin to return to life beyond quarantine, we cannot simply return to normal. The world has changed more than we realize. It seems to me the basic truth known as the Golden Rule is a very useful guide for how we take the next steps as a church, as a community, and as a nation. What do you think?
Grace and peace,
Good day sisters and brothers…those who are boldly going as few places as possible and living to tell the tale!
I know, Cinco De Mayo was yesterday…it’s lesson? As it goes with a taco--it's okay to fall apart.
This is an incredibly challenging time. We know the marching orders to help us win this daily battle we wage with an unseen, deadly enemy. Get out of bed, make your bed (advice from Heather), get dressed (eventually), settle into some kind of routine, eat healthy food, take a walk around the block or your own back yard or your own living room – just move around! OK? Accomplish at least one thing – a crossword puzzle, declutter a closet or a drawer. Reach out to one other person with a card, text, phone call, FB post, email. At least give a shout out to the mail carrier from your front porch. Set aside at least 5 minutes to pray, meditate, or simply breathe slowly and deeply and try not to think happy thoughts. Get a good night’s rest. Eat a bowl of ice cream while watching your favorite tv show (advice from me).
But even if we do all of those things, there will be those times of the day when we want to go loco-taco and fall apart. We just feel like crying – and we should. We never expected this. We were never emotionally prepared for this. It will be OK. Be gentle with yourself: As it goes with a taco – it’s okay to fall apart.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. (Ps. 34:18) The more broken you feel, the closer the Lord is – lean on God. Pastor Michael
(I give credit for the falling apart taco saying to whoever does the website for the church I served in Arlington, VA.)
I spent some time with my son, Desmond, the other day. Senior year. Cancelled concerts. Cancelled band shows. Cancelled graduation. No time with friends. Sometimes the silent sadness, and frustration that crosses his face nearly brings me to tears. Shaun experiences the same loss and sadness with his kids at North Hills. Like any other parent with a hurting child, I want to make it better. But I can’t.
I feel the same way about “going to church.” I know many of you are aching for that fellowship. Long to see your friends, sit in that sacred space where you feel at home with our Holy God. Yes, we know that God is omni-present, with us wherever we go, wherever we are…but that sanctuary, those faces, the choir singing their hearts out… We miss it. Deep down inside it hurts. I want to make it better. I can’t.
There are some who might say, let’s do it anyway. Meet together. Pray, laugh, sing together. Some say we can…after the sanctuary is sanitized. Maybe we can meet again in the sanctuary on Sunday morning. With people wearing masks, gloves, sitting at least six feet apart. Choir singing not as a group but as individuals standing at least 6 feet apart. Is that what we want to do on Sunday morning? After worship scurry out the doors without hugs…hurried good byes.
The worship committee and session are prayerfully considering what to do about Sunday morning worship services. Last Sunday, 75 people attended the worship service on You Tube (that count is not perfect.) What does that say?
The church of Jesus Christ has experienced great loss many, many times throughout our history. The pattern set at the end of the gospels shows us a way forward. Jesus is with the disciples for one last meal. He is arrested, beaten, crucified, and buried. The loss feels insurmountable. God raises Jesus from the tomb of death. He’s back…but different. His mysterious presence startles and brings great joy to many of his disciples. Jesus meets with them one last time on a mountain in Galilee before leaving them for good. The disciples get it – life with Jesus will not be the same…but life with Jesus goes on – Christ is risen! And so are we. Jesus makes a promise - And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Life with Jesus would never be the same. Yet, the church thrived.
Brothers and sisters, what path lies before us? “We must let go of the life we have planned so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” (Joseph Campbell)
God bless you with peace joy this day,