Friday, February 08, 2019

Pastor's Note for February 7, 2019

Hello Friends, 

In December our worship services (at Schweitzer UMC - began a journey through the Gospel according to Luke. As Luke conveys the story of Jesus he adds a bit of flavor unique to his writing; that God the Father has an agenda of including the outsider in the people around Jesus through a fresh work of the Holy Spirit.

The past few weeks I have run into several stories where God’s inclusion of the outsider and a fresh work of the Spirit is more than the text we read in worship, it is happening now, in our midst.

In the food pantry a man talked about how he had been lost, he felt like no one saw him. At the pantry, he found people who listened  to hs story and saw him. The outsider was being included. 

A teacher in Grow To Know preschool joined some kids ministry leaders at a Kids Ministry conference. She returned with passion, vigor, and an unleashed imagination for seeing kids flourish in their love for God and others. There is a fresh work of the Holy Spirit.

As we take a journey through Luke’s Gospel, I hope you begin to see how God in Christ is always including the outsider, and there is a fresh work of the Spirit for us. Sometimes, we are the outsider - God’s inclusion is meant to touch us. His fresh work of the Spirit is for us, our community, and world.

Blessing to you as you continue in this journey with Christ, 

Pastor Jason

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing - A favorite Christmas song

I suspect we all have some favorite songs we return to at Christmas. One of my favorites is Charles Wesley’s "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," written in 1739.
As a boy I had sung Wesley’s hymn with my church when we went caroling and in worship. I memorized the words. As a young adult I began to pay more attention to the meaning. The meaning began to look like a tree decorated for Christmas with an unending array of splendor and delight.
Wesley’s lyrics are full of biblical imagery that span the full landscape of scripture. In the opening lines, "Hark, the Herald Angels sing, ‘Glory to the New born King’..." we are in the fields with the shepherds around Bethlehem listening to the angels announce the birth of the Messiah.
In the next phrase of "God and sinners reconciled" the song summarizes the promises of God to Abraham, and the visions of the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and then onto the pages of John’s Revelation where the picture is of God making his home among his people, wiping the tears from their eyes, and making all things new (Rev 21). In short fashion the lyrics touch on the major promise and work of God from Genesis to Revelation.
Each stanza of Hark! Is full of stories, metaphors, and truths of who Jesus is - the incarnate God who is pleased to live among us. It’s also full of the stories of our lives when we’re open to receiving the gift of grace: that we can be reconciled to God and to one another, that we can be friends with God, that we can have life and light. Ultimately in Jesus’ resurrection there is healing in his wings for the hurts and disappointments of life, and over the last enemy - death.
Wesley’s Hark! Arrested my attention because I had been immersing myself in the pages of scripture and I found the song connected the dots. I was taken up in its wonder because I saw the words being lived out in the lives of people I knew. People who had been living in darkness were encountering new light and life. God’s gift of Himself was transforming them. Friends I knew who were distant from God and others, were finding reconciliation; peace was really happening. And, maybe most importantly, the healing power of Christ’s resurrection was at work healing deep sorrows, of my own, and of our community.
Through the darkness of night, Hark! took the song of the angels at Bethlehem and put the gospel into my world. Today, I sing it with exceeding joy - in what God has done, and in great hope and anticipation. The world we live in still needs His Light and Life. My world still knows plenty of unrest, yet I continue to see God making peace on earth, with mercy mild. "Glory to the Newborn King."

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Faith at Work in a Hospital Room

As I stood in the hospital room with the family, around the body of one who had just taken their last breath on this earth, a nurse entered the room.

The wife of the deceased said, this precious nurse sang my beloved to sleep last evening when he was so agitated; she has a lovely voice.

The nurse embraced the wife. She leaned her forehead forward until their heads touched, and she began to sing:
   When peace like river attendeth my ways
   When sorrow like sea billows roll
   Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
   It is well, it is well with my soul

   It is well, with my soul
   It is well, it is well, with my soul

The room was silent for a moment.

The widow had a couple of brief questions that the nurse answered tenderly with assurance. Then she left the room; there was other work to do.

I left that room thankful for the followers of Jesus who out of their discipleship have started so many excellent centers of healing and compassion. I was thankful that some of those centers have retained their mission and vision to address the whole person; body, mind, spirit. I am thankful for a nurse whose own walk with Christ is not constrained by a false bifurcation of work and faith, nor was her spiritaulity so sentimantilized to make it distracting - she was on point.

This experience leads me to pray for businesses and institutions; that their mission and policies would reflect values of human flourishing, and reject the silos of task, faith, work, home, etc. I am also led to pray for followers of Jesus, that faith would be integrated in every arena of life - as Abraham Kuyper once said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!" 

In that moment, in that room - the nurse was like Jesus, comforting the sorrow in Mary and Martha. And His comfort is Good.

May your business, your enterprise, your vocation be one in which the goodness of God and purpose of humanity is cultivated and celebrated.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Easter Happiness - a prayer on Resurrection Day

Kind Father,
 On Friday Jesus thrust himself fully on you
  He gave his life for us and the forgiveness of our sins.

And today, RESURRECTION Day - You have not disappointed
 You raise up your Son
   Your faithful, strong love - gave Him victory over death

We confess that we do not always trust as fully as Jesus
 But your faithful and strong love is never failing
   And in faith, we rejoice that we can be found in Him
  United to You
    Full of the Spirit of life

Being found in Him, bring joy and confidence
 Joy and Confidence contend for us when the sting of death visits
   When sorrow is great
      When we are searching for direction in the fog of life

Christ meets us
  at the tomb, on the road, in daily life and work
Christ meets us
  with joy, with courage, with vision, with victory and love

This day, take our faith - little or great
 and grow in us the enjoyment of this Easter happiness
And as you do in us,
  do likewise in all nations and in all the earth

With Joy and Confidence we pray. Amen.

(The phrase "the enjoyment of this Easter Happiness" is found in a prayer by Saint Gregory the Great,   who served as Pope from 590-604)

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Chained to the Altar

Chained to the altar
   my heart that wants to go to flight

on the altar is the lamb that was slain
  on the altar is the Word become flesh
     on the altar is God, among us
         come to bear the suffering of the world,
of my suffering
come to bring healing for this broken heart

so I chain my heart
   that wants to flight
I keep it before its Hope and Healing


Friday, March 03, 2017

Church Mouse in the Library

When Moses and Asa were little boys I began telling stories of a Church Mouse. One of my goals for this year is to explore putting them in a form accessible to others. This story came about a couple of nights ago in a story telling session with Aravis and Kyrie. 
I'd love to have some feedback.

Church Mouse in The Library

It was seldom that CM found himself surprised by the presence of a person. Today was not that day. He was in the Library, returning C.S. Lewis' book, The Last Battle, his favorite in the Chronicles of Narnia series. He almost had it inserted back on the shelf when around the corner came Marie Lamb. He wasn't sure how she had come into the church. He hadn't heard the doors open. He did know that Marie, who was slight in stature, could move without much of a sound, but he hadn't heard her come in. While the thought of not hearing her crossed his mind, his eyes perceived that he should get moving. For hurtling through the air, coming his direction, was a book.

Marie had come to the church to put away a stack of books that had been accumulating in the returned book section. She had stopped by the office first to check-in on Pastor Marion, but he was out for the moment. So she made her way through the empty halls quietly. She didn't turn on a light, she knew where all the furniture was, she was as quiet as a mouse. But seeing a real mouse - that was not on Marie's agenda for the day.

Rounding the corner she saw a nose, whiskers, a tail and a book. Marie's instincts were not to run, but to squash the beast. She picked up the first thing her hand came to - Martin Luther's commentary on Romans. While in High School she had great aim with a softball, but she had never thrown a book before. Desperate times called for desperate measures. She didn't even look at the title, she knew it was big enough, hard, and could squash a mouse. 

CM's eyes opened up, his mind calculating his lack of hearing, and then suddenly his legs became like a race car. The book in his hands gave way as he went into survival mode. He raced to one of his internal library tunnels. He had been caught in the library before and could always hide for a while in a tunnel. 

Something had happened in Marie, she was in no mood to avoid a mouse. She wanted to rid the church of the mouse.  She began peeling back books, seeing the tunnels, hunting for CM. 

CM came out in the open. He was on a top shelf with all of John Wesley's Works arrayed behind him. 

Marie took aim, book after book flew like missiles from her hands. Bonhoeffer, Barth, Brunner - never mind that they were pacifist writers of the 1930's - the mouse had to be stopped. 

He darted in, and around, and behind. Finally he was able to make it to the duct work that would lead to his apartment, way up in the attic. Instead of making the climb he turned around to watch. Marie was still on the hunt. 

She cleared shelves of their books looking for the mouse. It was almost as if she was trying to get the last bit of yeast out of the house before Passover. 

After an hour or so the adrenaline stopped. Marie stopped. She looked around and then sat down on the floor. The shelves were empty.

About that time Pastor Marion returned. He had been to the hardware store getting some paint for the kids worship room. He popped his head into the sanctuary and saw something strange. Then he noticed all the books off of the shelves. Sitting on the floor, her hands were in moving back and forth, and her lips were moving but not there was no sound. 

Pastor Marion asked, "Marie are you ok? What happened here?" 
She sat quietly for a moment, then raised her head and looked him in the eye. "A mouse. I saw a mouse and tried to catch it." That was all she could say. 

After 20 minutes Pastor Marion said, "Marie, maybe you need some food." He decided to take her to the Side Tap Trap for a bowl of chili. Marie loved the chili at the Side Tap Trap and Pastor Marion thought it would bring her out of the daze she was in. 

As she settled into a booth CM was telling the story of today's events to his friends, Baptist, Naz Boy, and Episcopacy. They sipped their soda and looked on Marie, who sat below them with a dazed look. Naz Boy asked, "think we should drop in on her now? "

Now way, said CM. I've caused enough trouble for one day. Next thing you know she'll have her bent pointer finger staring us down, and it won't be good. She may be small but she is mighty."  

CM finished his soda and returned to his apartment. 

Pastor Marion worked late that night, putting all the books back on their shelves. He came across the Last Battle, and thought, I think it's time I read this again. 

The End. 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

All Things - A Prayer

Kind Father

All things come from you
All things return to you

Within an instant all things in my hands can be taken away
in the next moment
the next breath

Do not take
But let me offer all that is in my hand

Kids and Money Talk

In mid-December I brought home paperwork that described the details about my salary and benefits. I decided to take a few minutes to show and explain the data to our kids and let them gain knowledge, understanding, and a degree of economic insight. I described the features: cash salary, housing allowance, expense reimbursement, pension - defined benefit and defined contribution, insurance - health, death and disability.

As I explained the data to Kyrie, my 8 year old daughter, Anna, my wife, remarked that it was probably over her head. Kyrie piped up, "it is not, I am interested in this." It wouldn't be long before we knew how interested! 

A couple of nights later we were having a family discussion. Kyrie was being very funny and I began to imitate her. After I mimicked her one too many times she scampered across the room, stood upon my knees and declared: "if you copy me one more time, I'm going to put you on disability." 

She was more than interested, she caught the concepts and applied them.