February 24th, 2021

February 24th, 2021

ps from ps… Jesus shared the “plan” with the disciples that he’d be betrayed, handed over and killed.  And Peter was not a fan.  He pulled Jesus aside and said: “Dude, let’s not do that!  That’s crazy talk!  There’s got to be another way.” – Mark 8, Biegner Translation
There’s got to be another way.  If I’ve said that to God once, I’ve said it a million times.   My plan.  My timing.  Less struggle.  More glory.  Less pain.  More easy street.

Occasionally I pull God over, pull God aside and explain to the Creator of the Universe and US Postal System and the rover that just landed on Mars and the plastic thing at the end of your shoelace that keeps the lace from unraveling, I’ve got a better idea.

I deserve to be put in timeout for the number of times I’ve done this.

What’s incredible about Jesus’ response to Peter’s selfishness (and mine) is this: he invites him to come even closer.  He doesn’t push him away.  Jesus replies: “Get behind me Satan.”  The words really can be translated  “follow me.”  Watch me.  Emulate me.  Learn from me.  Take notes and watch what God’s up to!  He even invites him to drop that selfishness/poor thinking/evil dwelling action and instead – pick up his cross.  Pick up his sacrifice, instead of his selfishness.

Today my friend, you and I play the role of Peter.  Probably still sharing words similar to his at times.  Probably still trying to pull Jesus aside.  And yet, Jesus continue to pull us closer.  Nearer.  To watch.  Learn.  Listen.  And have an opportunity to drop some of the stuff that’s getting in the way, only to pick up God sacrificial love in its place.

May your Lenten time of Restoration, bring you closer to Jesus to watch, learn, listen to and follow that incredible grace. 

Lord, help me listen.  Help me follow.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
February 17th, 2021

February 17th, 2021

“You’re making progress”

My Coach said that to me yesterday while we were out on a run together.  “You’re making progress,” he said.  Except it didn’t feel that way.  I didn’t really want to be running.  It was cold and I didn’t have enough layers on.  I wasn’t holding the pace I had hoped for.  My mind was fairly distracted and I wasn’t very present while I was running.  About the only thing I seemed to be accomplishing was moving forward.

So it didn’t feel much like progress.  It felt like back tracking on most levels. 

“You’re making progress,” he said over and over as we spent the 40 minutes together.  Toward the end of the journey, he unpacked the depth of “progress” for me.  See he was using the second definition of the word: “to advance or develop toward a more complete condition.”  Progress isn’t perfection.  It’s simply movement toward a more complete condition.  Progress was happening, even while the run wasn’t perfect.  I made progress as I started the run.  I made progress that I didn’t stop the run when I was cold.  I made progress that continued the run despite the distractions, poor form and slower pace.  And maybe the time that I made the most progress was when I recognized that even negatives and imperfections of the run itself were still helping me to make progress.

Lent begins today.  A 40-day run for Christians.  And Jesus says the same words to us: “You’re making progress.”  We hear in Scripture “return to the Lord your God, for God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”  Those words are spoken to every imperfect runner, who is actually still making progress.  Those words are spoken to every imperfect Christian, who is actually still making progress.  Attempting to advance or develop toward a more complete condition.  Returning to God.

Lent is our run together.  Lent is our time set our hearts and minds on making progress.  On running with and toward the Lord of grace and mercy.  It’s another starting line.  It’s another imperfect journey with an imperfect runners that, no matter what happens, brings us toward a more complete condition.  

Your Lent doesn’t have to be perfect.  And yet it is still a gift.  A chance.  A start.  An opportunity to be present.  It is an invitation to return.  As we move into it, open to all that will and can happen, no matter what the results, we will notice that we are indeed making progress.

Lord, here we go.  Let’s make progress.  Amen

Still in One Peace,

Reminder: St. Paul’s Daily Devotionals for Lent (written by Mary Wolf) can be found at stpaulseggertsville.org

February 10th, 2021

February 10th, 2021

ps from ps… I’ll never forget the view.  Spectacular!  You could see everything from up there.  

On the island of Ile a Vache, where our mission partner Grace Ministries is located, it is very hilly terrain.  But there is one large mountain that stands above the rest.  And if you are walking from the open-air market in Madame Bernard to the mission in Grande Plaine, you have two choices: go around it (and add an extra 30 minutes of walking in 90+ degrees) or go over it.
So over it we went!  Pastor Jeremiah was with me on that journey and we decided shorter was better.  It was a slow roll up the side of the steep hill and finally after a few breaks for water, we made it.  Exhausted and over heated, we were treated to the best view on the island.  You could see our Grand Plaine school and orphanage on the west end of the island all the way to our Pointe East school on the other end.  We could have stayed up there for hours resting and taking it all in.  

But we knew we had to get back down and return to the school children because there was more work to do.  

In Mark’s gospel, Jesus invited a few of the disciples up an important hill for an important experience: to see it all.  On that mountain top, Jesus was transfigured (changed) and it became abundantly clear to the disciples that this was God in their midst.  They did what we wanted to do: rest in it and take it all in.  They wanted to hang onto that moment and soak it up.  
But Jesus invited them back down the mountain.  Because, there was more work to be done.  THat’s what they were called to do.

The mountain top experience was there for them to recognize the connection to God and the big picture of what they were called to do.  In Haiti, that mountain top experience was there for Jeremiah and me to see the same thing: God was with us but God was calling us.  Back down the mountain.  There’s more work to be done.

These types of mountain top experiences come in all shapes and sizes and places and times in our lives.  They are profoundly impactful and they are there for a reason: to show us that God is with us and God is calling us.

As we transition into the season of Lent in the days ahead, may your “returning to the Lord” be driven and propelled by those experiences.  May you remember the spectacular “view” you experienced, taking in the sheer beauty of the big picture of God’s love.  And may that experience lead you right back down the mountain.  Because, there’s more work to be done.

Lord, thank you for the mountain tops.  May they lead me into the work you are calling me to do.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
February 3rd, 2021

February 3rd, 2021

ps from ps…
This week, I want to share some reflections from Pastor Lee Miller, a friend and colleague who serves as pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Buffalo, as well as the Dean of the Conference churches in this area. – ps

 Mark 1:29-39

29As soon as [Jesus and the disciples] left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
“Every time we read through the cycle of the Gospel-writers I’m struck by something new. A new detail. A pattern I hadn’t realized before. Or maybe I’m just forgetting what I once already learned. How about you? What are you hearing new in Mark this year?

For me, I’ve been impacted by these early occasions for healing.

We know that Mark does not include a birth narrative, that “the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” begins with a baptizer and some water. In Mark’s reluctance to offer fine detail, the whole 40 days in the wilderness only requires 2 verses (12-13) and before we are halfway through Mark’s first chapter the first disciples have been called. 

On the next sabbath day Jesus taught in a local synagogue, but unlike Luke, the words of the scroll he read are not recorded, only that he taught with authority. And then…

Mark spends a little more time as he shows us that, just then, Jesus made whole one with an unclean spirit. The spirit recognized the authority of the Christ, was silenced, and left the man.
And as soon as they left the synagogue, with Jesus’ fame beginning to spread, he accompanied Simon to the home of his mother-in-law, and here again is another story of healing. Jesus took her by the hand, accompanied her, and lifted her up. It is then that the fever leaves her. The Greek word used here for “lifted her up,” kratesas, may be translated “to hold.” So it is as Jesus takes her hand, and holds onto her, that the fever departs.

God’s word incarnate, let loose in the world, seeks us out, comes into our very homes, takes our hand and takes hold of us, reducing and drawing out the fever of this world.

This is good news.

I am struck in Mark by these early stories of healing. For me, this year, I am clinging to these stories of healing. God’s word has an impact on this world, and it is for our benevolence, for our welfare and wholeness.

God is at work healing us, driving down the fever pitch of anger and hatred, and restoring us to relationship with God’s own self, and each other.

Thanks be to God!

Where do you see God’s healing at work today?

How are you a part of God’s healing work in community this day?”
January 27th, 2021

January 27th, 2021

ps from ps…
So much healing going on right now!  Today, every other news story is about healing from Covid and getting the vaccine out to everyone, especially those most at risk.  Physically healing (and proactive healing through the vaccine) is on everyone’s mind right now.  And in the gospel stories, it was on Jesus’ mind too!

Physical healing, yes.  He made the blind see.  Stood up the bent over.  Fed the hungry.

But in the gospel story coming up this weekend, he drives a demon out of a person at church and brings healing to them.  I would suggest MORE than physical, but actually emotional, mental health and holistic healing.

So what/who is this demon really?  In the reading, about the only thing we know about the demon is that it speaks to Jesus.  “What do you want with us Jesus?  Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God.” it says.  What does Jesus say?  “Be still, and come out of him.”

Boom!  Mic drop!  Healed!  There was no mention of anything physical, but Jesus could still bring a bigger healing.  Living life without these demons weighing this person down.

I think healing is waaaay bigger than just vaccines.  And I think demons are waaaay more extensive than the weird looking ones we’ve seen in the movies.  And I think Jesus would agree.

One of the most challenging things to do on our faith journey is to do the inner work of looking at our own demons.  It’s not the most pleasant and fun thing to do, so most times we avoid it.  But our demons speak.  They speak out in the ways we know about and ways we don’t even realize.  They speak out in our racism, our anger, our abuse (of ourselves and others), our prejudice, our actions and lack of them.  They speak out in our lack of compassion and sharing of blessings.  They speak out in our “thoughts, words and deeds,” like we say in our Confession in church sometimes.  

What are your demons?  How do you hear them speaking?  How do others?

Whatever they are and wherever they present, I love that Jesus speaks to them today and has power over them.  It’s right there and THEY know it!  And they’re afraid of his power.  So sometimes, they try to block that power out.  Sometimes that turn us away that healing and hope and forgiveness and grace and love and compassion that are RIGHT THERE for us.  Oh course they would, right?!  We would our demons let us walk toward something that could conquer them?  Because Jesus is ready to say it again for us.  It’s what I am honored to announce at the conclusion of our Confession time….your sins are washed away…you are made clean…be still…it has come out of you!

If you’re struggling on this journey of looking at the demons in your own life, please reach out to me or another spiritual or mental health professional.  There is help doing this and it’s hard to do alone.  But as you do it and take that risk, healing will come.  The Voice of Stillness ordering it out will become a little louder and the burden of carrying it will get a little lighter.  

Healing.  Physical, emotional and spiritual healing is what God wants for you.

Lord, thank you for driving our demons out.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
January 20th, 2021

January 20th, 2021

ps from ps…
“As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew castings their nets into the sea…” – Mark’s gospel.

When I’m down at our mission in Haiti on the island of Ile a Vache, I LOVE watching the fisherman fish.  It’s old school – still using nets like the one in the picture, like the ones that Simon and Andrew were casting.  It’s about as Bibley an illustration I ever see.  

As I’ve gotten to know them, and the culture of fishermen, it’s been wonderful to learn about how and why they are fishing – simply to eat, feed their family, extended family and sometimes their neighbors.  And only when the fishing is good (calm seas) will they grab a few extra to trade at the market for other needed goods.  

You don’t see fishermen overstocking, storing up or getting more fish than they need.  And you don’t see them fishing just for themselves.  They are always on the water for the greater good of their family and neighbors.

Jesus called out to the brothers who were fishing: “Fellas, leave your nets, follow me and I will make you fish for people.”

Fishing for people.  Not showing them how to get more fish or develop faster fishing techniques.  He invites them to use their skills to bless other people.

As I listened to Pastor Julius’ sermon for this coming weekend, he uses the phrase: “leaving your self-centered nets behind.”  Self-centered nets.  Or if you say it really fast – self-centeredness.  I would suggest the two phrases are very similar.  Is Jesus inviting us all to follow him and leave our self-centered nets…or our self-centeredness behind?

If we’re only fishing for ourselves, what good are we to the world?  If our nets are only self-centered, or our ness is only self-centered, how could we possibly follow this call to follow One who is always about the other.

Come.  Follow me.  Fish for people.  Leaving our self-centered nets behind.  

What does that call mean for me today?  For you?  

As I watch our Country bring in new leadership, what does it mean for our new Administration, our policies, our stimulus, our borders, our partnerships, our use of land and our National “fishing?”

What does it mean for our daily work?  Our decisions as individual families?  Our mission as a church?

What does it mean for my conversations with those I love and those that drive me up a wall?  My spending?  My time?  My prayer?

Come.  Follow me.  Fish for people.  Leaving our self-centered nets behind.

Somewhere in Haiti right now, there is probably someone in his boat fishing and trying to provide for his family and neighbors.  Somewhere in WNY and wherever you are reading this, there is someone doing your version of fishing now too.

Listen to that Voice calling out from the shore inviting you in all/whatever you are doing today to leave your self-centered nets behind, as best we can, and “fish” for the world around you.

Lord, in all we do as individuals and a country, please help us leave our self-centered nets behind. Amen

Still in One Peace,

ps on the ps from ps – Go Bills!!!!