June 24th, 2020

June 24th, 2020

It’s time for summer breaks and rest!  This will probably be the last “ps from ps” that I write until the fall.  I usually take a couple months break over the summer due to travel and camps and resting my fingers from typing.  

It’s not that we “shut down” over the summer in 716 and don’t do ministry, it just looks a lot different.  More conversations, celebrations, prayer and relationship building happens around fire pits, pools, bike paths and golf courses (especially prayer on the golf course for me, as the club strikes the ball at a high rate of speed).

It’s a different shape.  But ministry and mission are still happening.  Needs don’t disappear.  And neither do our spiritual gifts and ability to share talents and resources.  

All through Matthew’s 10th chapter, Jesus is instructing and sending his disciples into the world.  He’s getting them out of old routines and placing them into conversations, celebrations, relationship building spaces and probably a few conflicts too.  He’s making them ready to share grace, hope and love that he will soon demonstrate in person on the cross.  Toward the end of the chapter, he tells them two basic things: welcome everyone and be ready to share a cup of cold water with the little ones.  

Welcome everyone.

Be ready to share a cup of cold water.

I hope your summer is filled with incredible experiences, some old patterns and some new offerings due to the effects of the pandemic.  And I hope that wherever you go, you might take these simple instruction from Jesus: welcome everyone and be ready to share a cup of cold water.  I’m not sure what the “cold water” will look like and I’m not sure who “everyone” might turn out to be.  But I do know that wherever we end up this summer, you might encounter an “everyone” and they might need “cold water” that you might already have the ability to share.

Many times in the fall, I restart online devo’s by asking that great elementary school first essay question: “What did you do over the summer?”  How will you answer that a couple months from now?  When you reflect back on July and August, what will have happened when you encountered “everyone?”  And did you offer up any “cold water” to the “little ones?”

Enjoy your summer.  Allow God to break into your life in new spaces and places.  Look for and anticipate it happening.  Be smart about your return to churches.  Don’t return until you are comfortable and you know your church is being safe for you and the community around you.  God’s going to be with you wherever you are.Lord, I’m ready.  Help me have the water ready for everyone this summer. Amen

Still in One Peace,
PS
June 17th, 2020

June 17th, 2020

“Don’t pass it up, pick it up.”

Pastor Jeremiah will be sharing this phrase in his sermon this coming weekend.  He heard it first at Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center (LCLC) as a mantra to remind campers that if they are walking around and see garbage/litter on the ground that they shouldn’t just “pass it up” and walk by, they should “pick it up” and dispose of it.  

Don’t pass it up, pick it up.

Jesus said the same thing to his disciples.  But he wasn’t talking about trash.  He was talking about “the cross” and picking it up to carry into everything we are and do.

“Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” – Jesus, Matthew 10:38

He wasn’t saying “do this or else.”  He wasn’t telling them they weren’t loved if they forgot.  He was simply letting them know that they were created for a different type of living.  A greater potential.  A lifestyle of cross-carrying.  Of different choice making.  Of priority setting.  Of denying certain things.  Of reordering relationships in our lives so that all of them (even family ones) start and end with a faith perspective.  

He invited them to pick up that type of lifestyle, a cross-carrying lifestyle, so that the kingdom of God could become more visible on a daily basis.  Not waiting for an after-life basis, but a now-present-here reality.

Don’t pass it up, pick it up.

It’s a lifestyle we could all probably pick up a bit more often.  Today.  

As we remember in the ELCA the Emanuel 9, nine Christians who on this day were killed because of the color of their skin in Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, it’s is still very clear that we need to be “picking up” the sacrificial love, grace, hope and forgiveness that comes through the cross of Jesus Christ.  

I remember the interviews of family members in the days following that tragic event and hearing about how boldly and promptly some of the family members had forgiven the shooter for his actions and hatred.  Forgiven.  An almost unthinkable gesture so quickly given in the midst of grief and loss.  And I believe the only way they were able to do that was by picking up that same cross that brought them that powerful measure of forgiveness and grace.

Today, may you remember what the cross means for each of us: God’s gift of his Son for our lives for now and forever.  And may that memory allow you to see everything you do/say/become/prioritize/stand for today as a chance to not pass it up, but pick it up.
 Lord, help me to pick up that cross of love today  Amen

Still in One Peace,
PS
June 10th, 2020

June 10th, 2020

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  That’s a group of about 3.something million Christians around the country.  Like most other church bodies, we are broken into geographical areas that we call Synods, ours being the Upstate NY Synod.  Each Synod’s leader is a Bishop, elected by representatives every few years.  

But every six years, those Synod’s come together to elect a national Bishop to lead the entire group.  The ELCA’s current Bishop is Rev. Elizabeth Eaton.  Bishop Eaton offered to share a sermon for this past weekend’s Holy Trinity Sunday worship so that pastors could have the week off from having to prepare a sermon.  

However, the timing didn’t work for our worship service because we record the service earlier in the week.  So I’m offering it to you here so you can hear her thoughts on the Scriptures and current movements in the culture.  Click HERE to view the YouTube link.

As the whole church continues to search for the new ways that God is calling us into the world, please continue to search as part of St. Paul’s or whatever church you belong to.  Join us this Sunday at the Zoom Coffee 1/2 Hour to welcome the New Missionaries at St. Paul’s that are joining this weekend.

Still in One Peace,
PS
June 3rd, 2020

June 3rd, 2020

What’s your statement?  Your mission statement you might say.  With all that is going on in our culture right now, what statement does God need you to make?

It’s a fairly profound question to ask yourself seriously.  Last night, we started to do just that.  I met in our Zoom discussion with folks from St. Paul’s.



The topic of “how are you doing” quickly turned to what can we do as individuals and the church to speak to the injustice and pain happening around us?  And we remembered that, despite not being able to gather inside our church right now, we do still have space in a prominent location on Main St to be able to make a statement to the community about God’s love, grace and hope.  

So we are all praying about the next “statements” that we need to make using our church property.  At the end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus sends the disciples and the church to: Go, make a statement by baptizing, teaching, leading and pointing to God, remembering the Holy Spirit will be with us as we do it.  It’s called the Great Commission.  So, how do we point to God right now?

I would ask you to join in the discernment and contemplation.  Maybe your statement is firmly planted and rooted already and that is awesome.  Or maybe you’re just beginning to think about it.  If you are, join with others trying to figure out what we can do to bring healing and hope to all who are hurting, victims of racism/abuse and a system that is inherently broken right now.  We’re meeting again next Tuesday (St. Paul’s), Wednesday (Parkside) and Thursday (Zion).  Join us.  Zoom links will go out again on Monday for all those gatherings.

But until then, keep asking: what is the statement that God needs you to make to live into the Great Commission?  Where are you being sent to?  And how can you help point toward God?Lord, help me hear clearly the statement you need me to make.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
PS
May 27th, 2020

May 27th, 2020

Good morning! My coach reminded me this morning that today I could live into being great. He didn’t say perfect. He didn’t say mistake free. He said great. Better than good. Using all the talents. Pouring myself into the run, the day, to make it better than it was before I hit the starting line.He asked me to think about the people in my life now or in the past that pushed me to be great. It was an interesting mile or so realizing that I didn’t/don’t have that many people that have done/do that. A couple great volleyball coaches/teammates that worked with me.  Pretty short list. (Doesn’t mean there wasn’t/isn’t a ton of support/love, but being pushed is something totally different.) And now my work in “church life” seems to too often confuse humility, peace and meekness with mediocrity, lazy and too easily satisfied. Good is too often accepted where great is needed.But everything I read in Scripture and have experienced with living into my faith says that we are created by a Creator to be great in the world. To show greatness, compassion, vision, love, forgiveness great-fully. Full of greatness. Better than good. I think this is why I love to run. There’s always a new chance to be great. One mile can feel like you just dropped the tree into the wrong spot but the next one give you a chance to do it better. To be great. Even for 200 meters. For a half mile. For a half marathon. Whatever distance you can do it for.As we all figure out the new normal and re-open our selves and our lives, this seems like a awesome opportunity to be great today. For whatever distance you can do it for. There will be so many new chances to do it as we recreate life and cultural norms.So if no one has pushed and encouraged you yet today, let me tell you that you can be great today. You can love a little more deeply. You can forgive a little more boldly. You can dream a little bigger. You can risk a bit more. You can be more honest with your own prejudices. You can change one life which might change the world. You can be great. Take that starting line today and for whatever distance you can, run with greatness. You are designed for it.
Lord, help me run your race of greatness today.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
PS

(Photo creds to Chief Billy Major, official photog for Fire Church)
May 20th, 2020

May 20th, 2020

And boom!  Summer finally arrived in WNY.  The Pause is slowly un-Pausing.  And it seems like we are at the beginning baby steps of the “new normal.”  

(Some of the “old normal” will still hang around, like the 6 yards of mulch that will get dumped in my driveway tomorrow that won’t magically move itself around the yard, self-spreading into the beds.  Boo)

One of the other pieces that I hope you are still holding tight to from the “old normal” is God’s unbreakable love for you.  Just you.  Because you’re you.  Not because of your work, or your effort, or your title, or your pedigree, or your tribe, but just because you are you.

All this Coronaness can make us forget that.  Masks blocking smiles and compassion.  Disconnection from relationships.  Distance from social gatherings or work places or sacred spaces or rest places.  We can get knocked out of center and as the dose exposure to these viral times increases, the memories and belief of our own self-worth and God’s love for us can fade.

Let them fade no longer people!  Because you are simply an amazing child of God!  Want to remember that?  Splash water on your face – and remember you’re a baptized child of GOd.  Squirt a hose on someone in the yard this weekend – and remind them they are a baptized child of God.  Run outside in the raindrops, like a scene out of Shawshank Redemption – and remember you’re perfect in the eyes of God.

Thursday at 10am this week, we’re going to baptize Nathaniel Sileo.  Danny Sileo (who was our intern at St. Paul’s a few years back) and his wife Mary Grace are moving to Virginia and want/need to have their son baptized before they go.  So the new normal of CoronaBaptismalProtocol was created!  Masks, distance, small groups – none of it can stop God’s powerful waters from washing over this kid!  Godparents on FaceTime.  And YOU are invited to be the congregation as we will stream this on St. Paul’s Facebook Live.  

New normal is slowly arriving.  But we know some of the old normal is still profoundly here.  Waters STILL pour.  God STILL welcomes.  Community STILL affirms and prays.  And each of us are STILL worthy to be loved by God.

Lord, let that love STILL flow.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
PS