I don’t have a thing to say this day that can be scribbled down in a few moments. I am going through a dry spell as far as creativity is concerned. It may be the gray days and being cooped up inside while recuperating from surgery. I overheard a conversation recently in which one person told another, “You know, even if the (Christmas) holidays weren’t particularly busy, the beginning of a new year wears me out! I feel like I’m at the starting line of a marathon, but I’m still sweating and breathing hard, looking for the finish line of the one I’m still running!” That about captures how it feels at least some of these days. What can be done, I wonder?
I know that just buckling down and trying harder has not been the answer in the past. In my coming and going recently, I came across a plaque that says, “When I wait, You strengthen my heart.” It’s a paraphrase of Psalm 27:14, and it is like medicine for my soul. Reading it again helps me in between marathons. I bought the plaque and it hangs above the candy jar outside my office, because I need reminding that waiting upon God is a source of strength. It helps me clarify what is important and necessary, because I’ve never been very good at waiting. What scripture verses or hymns are like medicine to YOUR soul? I think it is important to share this good news that helps us in times of waiting.
This coming Sunday is the 5th Sunday in Epiphany, and the gospel lesson I will be preaching on is Luke 5:1-11. It’s the story of Jesus meeting the disciples before they became his disciples. And it is story about trusting God between times of want and plenty. He reorients them to waiting upon God, and what a miraculous outcome!
Bless you BIG TIME as you remember to BE the church!
Last Sunday I shared a story from a news video of a Milwaukee bus driver stopping to save a toddler on a freezing overpass, which I saw as a parable of how God sometimes works in the world through those who are paying attention to the needs of the world around them.
At the end of sharing this story, I noted that this was the ninth such incident in Milwaukee in which a child was saved by Milwaukee city employees. It got me thinking about ways of being the church in the world. I used to think of the church as the bus and the pastor as the bus driver. As bus driver, my job is to get everybody on board our bus and make sure they get to where we are going. Because it is on our route, and we are only responsible for the people who get on our bus, no need to worry about others because there are plenty of other buses and modes of transportation.
But after this video, I’m thinking about the church NOT as the bus and me as the bus driver. I think of the church as being the bus driver, focusing our attention on where Jesus is leading us into the world, and our job as the bus driver is to PAY ATTENTION. Not only to those on our bus, but to those in need outside of our daily routine and usual route. And, like the Milwaukee bus driver, be ready to step outside the bus, face oncoming traffic and reach those in need and help them.
I’ve been reading 1 Corinthians this week, and as part of worship, we’ll be reading 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, in which Paul writes about the gifts given by the Holy Spirit. He finishes in verse 11 by saying that the gifts are given by the Spirit to be used for the common good…the good of all, not just for some, but for all. The church is called, equipped, and sent out by God to be attentive like the Milwaukee bus driver was, to pay attention to everybody: those outside as well as inside. Not just US.
Come to worship this Sunday and let’s see where the Spirit leads us to steer the bus next. Thanks for entertaining some new ways of being the church!
Wherever God leads you, I hope you remember how very much you are loved and that you are able to see glimpses of God’s presence in the least expected circumstances.
Monday night the Worship Team spent time evaluating our worshipful experiences through Advent and Christmas, including Sunday’s Epiphany celebration. Among the critiques, evaluations, reflections and suggestions we were able to affirm that God is truly faithful to us as we gathered to worship!
Highlights included: all the amazing music from the choir, member and guest musicians, and the Band; the still-inspiring children’s Christmas pageant with all of the energy and creativity of adults, families and children alike (who want to not be named, but who need to know our gratitude for their gifts!), the beautiful Cantata, candlelight and Silent Night, fellowship and Advent activities, and many opportunities for reaching out with food, gifts of food, time, service, sharing, yummy treats and beautiful decorations and heartfelt praise. Each highlight reminded us and teaches us still that we are blessed and loved by God who is faithful in all things, especially the holy chaos that is the Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany seasons!
As we continue in the season of Epiphany, which focuses on the light of God that entered the world in the person of Jesus Christ, our eyes are still drawn to that light, and it is the light of Christ’s love that enables us to see hope and possibilities that God places before, around and among us.
This week in worship, we will celebrate the Baptism of The Lord with a renewal of Baptism and the sacrament of The Lord’s Supper. The lessons of Scripture for this Sunday are: Isaiah 43:1-7, containing words of promise and assurance from God through the writings of Isaiah; and Luke 3:15-17, 21-22, in which Luke gives an account of John’s ministry of baptism, and the extraordinary circumstances at Jesus’ baptism.
Wherever God leads you, I hope you remember how very much you are loved, and that you are able to see glimpses of God’s presence in the least expected circumstances. Continue to be the church!
Many thanks for all of your prayers and support. Our HEARTwork for this week is to pray for those in the path of hurricane Florence and other natural disasters, or those facing a myriad of crises in our community, our nation, and throughout the world. Specifically, I urge you to pause immediately as you are able when you hear of such a need. Pause, take a few deep breaths, and speak aloud or in silence the persons, places, and situations that the Holy Spirit has made known to you. Then comes the hard part: be silent and listen. Steady your breathing and listen in silence. Offer a few words of prayer or a simple, “Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.” Since this is HEARTwork we have practiced as a community of faith, I encourage you and pray for you to receive God’s help.
As we prepare our hearts and minds for THIS Sunday’s celebration in word and music, please read these Scripture lessons Psalm 19 and James 3:1-12. The Psalm describes the way all of creation sing God’s praise. The letter of James is instruction about the use and trouble our tongues can cause.
I thank you for your prayerful support of one another, and I give deep and joyful thanks to God for our faith-walk together. As we move into fall, let us enjoy what we can and remember to give thanks in everything. And keep practicing! See you in worship.
Last Sunday in worship I used the example of playing Peek-a-boo with the children to describe the experience of being surprised by the joy of the Lord. I wish I could have captured the giggling, surprised, attentive, joy-filled faces of our children just then! It continues to give me joy, even as I write this post. If I could have captured it somehow, I would share it with everyone as an experience of the surprising joy of God's grace. I would also like to capture the look of joy on each of your faces in that moment, to give you a tiny glimpse of the joy I imagine God experiences whenever God looks at you. I imagine it to be the joy that we will all experience when God's kingdom/rule/reign/kin-dom is fully realized, when our Christ is seated on the throne of God's grace.
Until that time comes, we have to hold onto the experiences of being surprised by the joy of the Lord because they are the source of our strength. The Holy Spirit will recall these moments of joy and instill in us the hope we have in Christ Jesus to keep shining the light of that joy. Without hope to oppose the powers and principalities that cause terror, grief, sadness, and shock, very much like what we have been seeing on the faces of children who are being separated from their parents even as I write this. I raise this up, because I have seen the joy of the Lord, and I have witnessed it among you. We gather together for worship, because the kin-dom of God is not an individual effort but is at the very heart of the work of God's people. That work is to remember that we are all God's children and to catch glimpses of God who surprises us and longs to see the shining joy of trust reflected in the faces of all people.
As we make our way to our worship here at Hope, I invite you to read these Scripture Lessons, Mark 4:35-41 and 2 Corinthians 6:1-13 to prepare yourself for the proclamation and activation of the Word in worship and praise for this coming Sunday.
As you read this, my family and I are visiting the General Assembly in St. Louis observing the national church at work, seeing old friends, making a few new acquaintances and being surprised by the in-breaking of the kin-dom of God. For those who are traveling, remember to travel safely, enjoy the journey, gather up stories and come home to share them! As a reminder, this summer is another great opportunity to invite family, friends, neighbors and anyone you meet to come worship with you at Hope.
This coming Saturday, June 16, 2018, will mark the opening of the 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), in nearby St. Louis, Missouri. The General Assembly is the highest governing body for our "Reformed, Always Reforming" church with a membership of close to 1.5 million members.
For many, this event will pass without much notice or news in public media outlets, neither fake nor fair. That is, unless some bold action is taken by the hundreds of commissioners who have gathered from across the country, including international mission partners (to read more go to http://www.pcusa.org). Our Clerk of Session, Gary Terpstra, is one of those commissioners, so he will be part of the action beginning this Saturday morning at 11:00 am with opening worship and ending the following Saturday with closing worship. Members of HPC's Missions Committee, including Kathy Sorensen, Carol Finley, and Sue Hack, will attend the Global Missions Luncheon on Monday to hear Leisa Wagstaff speak. Leisa has visited Hope in years past and is one of three missionaries Hope supports annually.
For many, the GA is like "Old Home Week" and an opportunity to see colleagues and friends like a big family reunion. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend, for even a short time, this biennial gathering to watch the church at work. Now, before anyone likens this activity to watching paint dry, I will remind you (and myself) that the work of being the church is about paying attention to the movement of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit moves in the lives of individuals and then gathers them into groups to collectively pay attention to that movement and to discern the direction that wind/breath/Spirit is moving us all. I remind you: "none of us knows as much as all of us know together." A corollary statement might be, "Each of us serves best when all of us serve together." Whether you attend GA or not, I urge you to join in the millions of prayers that will assist us all in discerning where the Holy Spirit is empowering the church in being the church.
And as we make our way to our worship here at Hope, I invite you to read these Scripture Lessons, Mark 4:26-34 and 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 to prepare yourself for the proclamation and activation of the Word in worship and praise for this coming Sunday. For those who are traveling, remember to travel safely, enjoy the journey, gather up stories and come home to share them! As a reminder, this summer is another great opportunity to invite family, friends, neighbors and anyone you meet to come worship with you at Hope.
As Reformed Christians, we believe that God equips every person with gifts, talents, and skills to be used not only for one's self alone, but to be shared in the community of faith and spread out into the rest of the world. The gifts God gives find their best expression when nurtured in the community of faith and shared in helping God's kin-dom be made real. This Sunday we will confirm, through ordination and installation, the call of God to be church officers, as elders and deacons. Officers are active members of Hope Presbyterian Church who have been asked and/or felt some sense of call to use their gifts at this time for the ministry, nurture, and governance of this congregation, and to the holy catholic (universal) and apostolic (connected to Jesus' first disciples) church! What a hopeful and exciting moment to witness firsthand the movement of God's Holy Spirit in the church, local and universal!
The installation of new officers means they are receiving the baton of leadership from a group of dedicated officers who have completed one or two consecutive terms (3 years each) as elders or deacons. By our polity (governance structure), their ordination is for a lifetime, whether actively serving or actively resting from service. I hope you all will join me in offering deep gratitude to God for their service and ministry. I will miss their presence in meetings (though I'm sure THEY won't miss the meeting part!) while at the same time I am eager to see where else God will call upon them to use their gifts. Please pray for all of those in leadership and service to God through church leadership.
I also invite you to read these Scripture Lessons Psalm 138 and 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1 to prepare yourself for the proclamation and activation of the Word in worship and praise for this coming Sunday.
As a reminder this summer is another great opportunity to invite family, friends, neighbors and anyone you meet to come worship with you at Hope. And for those who are traveling, remember to travel safely, enjoy the journey, gather up stories and come home to share them!
Peace be with you as you go to be the Church!
One of the readings this week is in the first chapter of the book of Acts, verses 15-26. It is the post-resurrection account of the eleven apostles filling the space left by Judas, whose grief and shame drove him to end his life.
In this passage of Acts, the gospel writer Luke relates how the remaining apostles went about prayerfully filling a necessary position, and how they were led by God's Holy Spirit in doing so. I always find it funny that they prayed about the decision then used a common means of the day for discerning God's will. What did they do, you ask? They cast lots. They threw dice, drew straws, played a harried round of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Essentially, they flipped a coin. Who knew that a coin toss could be considered a religious ritual?!
Here's a little note of note: Matthias is never mentioned again in the accounts of the spreading of the gospel of the early Christ-followers. God's Spirit was getting another unlikely servant ready. My attention is drawn to the efforts of God's people and the ways that we try to make a decision, even by arbitrary means, only to recognize later on, in a faithful look backward, that it was not our efforts at all that helped open up the kingdom/reign/kin-dom of God. Read this first chapter of Acts and see if you can identify the Apostle God chose. Then let's gather together in worship to share where all WE have found God's Spirit to be at work!
See you in church,
I have wracked my brains and begun about thirty different notes for this week's post, but I seem to come up wanting every time!
When I first began writing my little missive, I intended to share a bit about what's happening in worship this week and leave you with a few things to consider in preparation for the coming Sunday's worship. Somewhere along the way I got sidetracked and have struggled with what to write about more times than not. Maybe it's a case of "pastor's block," instead of writer's block. And when it sometimes accompanies me all the way to the pulpit on Sunday mornings, it easily becomes a case of preacher's block, too! The best remedy, I find, is to drop the pretense, lose the lofty expectations of myself, and get back to the K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, sir!) version in this Corner.
This week in worship, I am preaching on Psalm 98 and John 15:9-17 and will be focusing on Jesus telling his disciples and us a bit more about abiding in the Love he came to demonstrate with his life, death, and resurrection. I plan to consider how we can love one another, and ways that we have a hard time loving one another, and ourselves, too, I think. I invite you into prayerful preparation in reading these two helpings of Scripture and reflect on recent ways you have found it both easy and difficult to follow Jesus' commandment to "love one another."
In the meantime, please be kind wherever you go, show love, and tell others how very much you (and THEY) are loved by God. That's a good start for now.
See you in church,
On Monday night in the new UIS Student Union Ballroom our own Sue Hack was selected as the 2018 Outstanding Volunteer in the Springfield "Good As Gold" Volunteer Awards Ceremony! A small coterie of Sue's church family and devoted friends gathered to honor Sue as one of four nominees in the Distinguished Volunteer category of awards for the 10th Annual ceremony, hosted by the UIS Volunteer & Civic Engagement Center, Junior League of Springfield, and the United Way of Central Illinois. Recipients and nominees are drawn from charitable and nonprofit organizations in and around the Springfield area. Many of the organizations and agencies Hope Presbyterian Church has supported for many years were represented, including Habitat for Humanity of Sangamon County, Sojourn Shelter, Kumler Food Pantry, St. John's Breadline, and the Outlet, just to mention a few.
Of course we applauded each Distinguished Volunteer Nominee as they were called to the stage, with a bit more emphasis for Sue. When one of the two hosts indicated that there was a sealed envelope to be opened and the name of the Most Distinguished Volunteer would be read, Sue's peanut gallery got a little quiet, which is no mean feat!
And then "Susan G. Hack" was announced the winner, and the end of our table erupted in wild applause, hoots and hollers, and at least a few ear-piercing whistles! And I recall that there was no withholding of applause or dampening of the joy in the friends, family, and associates of the other nominees, to no surprise. I trust that those around us understood our exuberance as love and support for our friend, rather than a fist-pumping reason to chant "We're Number ONE!!"
You see, every nominee and every organization represented there KNOWS that we have only scratched the surface of the needs in our community and surrounding area. Every one of us were there to celebrate the collective nature of reaching out to those in need. I am deeply grateful to know this year's winner, Sue Hack, and to be a student of hers as she lives the calling of God in her life. I revel in the opportunity to participate in what I consider another demonstration of that "Great Cloud of Witnesses" of which we at Hope are a significant part. I understand the cheering and shouting to be a collective "Alleluia and Amen" by a small portion of the HUGE congregation throughout Springfield gathered in support of doing justice, loving kindness and taking our part in a humbling walk with God.
See you in church,