November 25th, 2020

November 25th, 2020

ps from ps…
“Each starting line doesn’t hold a guarantee, but instead a potential” – Coach on this morning’s run

Today, I am grateful for every terrible run I have!

(Whoa, Steve, get it together.  Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  We’re looking for upbeat here.  Got it? Carry on.)

Today, I am grateful for the arguments and struggles I have with my wife!

(Hang on dude.  That’s the exact opposite of what I was talking about.  Focus!!)

Today, I am grateful for financial problems I’ve encountered!

(Stephen!! – now you know I’m being serious because only your mom and your 4th grade math teacher called you that.  Have you been drinking?  It’s only 9:20am and there’s no Bills game so it can’t be that.  What is with you???)

Today, I am grateful for the hard stuff.  The starting lines that took me on the runs I didn’t expect, didn’t like and maybe struggled and suffered.  Today, on this Thanksgiving Eve, I’m grateful for the hard stuff.

So often we sit around our Thanksgiving tables and share the happy-happy-joy-joy stuff.  And that’s good, it really is.  Maybe this year is will happen on Zoom Thanksgiving Tables instead?  Celebrate those things.  They are good for sure.

But this morning, I was reflecting on the upcoming text from Mark 13.  Pastor Jeremiah shares a message on a text that sounds downright scary with the sun and moon darkened and clouds of thunder. Yikes!  And yet we are supposed to be ushering in Advent.  Sweet gentle happy-happy-joy-joy Advent that ushers in even sweeter Christmas!  

But today I’m grateful for this text.  Because underneath the “sci-fi” sounding images is a returning God to complete what was started – “a revolution of love,” Pastor Jeremiah will call it.  A revolution of love.  The same love God has been bringing again and again from the start of it all.  And yet it’s sometimes not an easy path to experience that love.  To feel it.  To trust it.  And yet it’s coming.  Again.  And more.

Every starting line doesn’t hold a guarantee, but instead a potential.

Some of the runs we go on will be hard.  Some of the arguments will be rough.  Some of the pandemics will be tradition changing and even life taking.  Some of the health changes will be challenging.  

But on each of these “runs” we have the potential to move through them and reflect on them with a faith in God and God of faith that isn’t just about the happy-happy-joy-joy, but instead about the potential.  Our potential.  And God’s potential to love us through it.  

Through the struggles.  Through the financial issues.  Through the relationship challenges.  Through, yes, even death itself.

So today, I’m grateful.  For the hard moments.  The hard runs.  That reminded me I made.  I got through it.  That God was with me.  That God sometimes pushed me through, directed my ways and even at times carried me.  

May this Thanksgiving, a different one for sure, be filled with gratitude.  For the good.  For the hard.  And for God’s presence on, in and throughout every part of it.

(Ah.  I got now.  I see where you’re going.  Carry on.)

Lord, thanks for this run!  Amen


Still in One Peace,
ps
November 18th, 2020

November 18th, 2020

ps from ps…
God has work.  We have hands.  And legs.  And presence.  And hearts.  And talents.

So let’s use them!  

And the Bible is full of stories of these intersection of work and hands.  God inspiring, asking and sending regular ol’ folk to do the incredible work of building the kingdom of God here on earth.  

We refer to them as “call stories.”  These are the stories when the disciples, Jeremiah, Paul, Stephen, Moses…..and the list goes on and on…are “called” by God to do something.  Something specific that uses the gifts of said person.  Something specific that uses said person’s gifts and talents to do something specific in the world: lead people to the promised land, bring a certain message to people who have become distracted, start churches all over the world, etc.  

Now those are some pretty big tasks for sure.  But sometimes the call is much more basic: to stand with the outcast, to share your wealth, to feed hungry people, to change your patterns of how you recognize God.  (These are just a few “calls” Jesus puts out there in about two chapters of one gospel…so there’s lots more there!)

This weekend in worship, Pastor Jeremiah, Pastor Julius and I will share a bit of our own call stories.  None of us were asked to do anything too overwhelming.  But all of us were asked to do some of those things that Jesus spoke of.

And when I say “all of us,” I don’t just mean three pastors.  I mean ALL OF US.

That call comes to all of us through our baptisms, through our relationships with our churches, and through our service in the community.  God continues to say to us: “Hey you!  I’ve got some work.  You got some hands?”

What work does God have in store for you today?  A fire/ems call?  Outreach to an elderly person?  Sharing food with the pantry?  Calling to check on someone grieving?  And in each of these cases, someone reading this has the right hands to use.

May we all hear today’s call and have hands ready to go.

Lord, you got work?  Call me to use my hands.  Amen


Still in One Peace,
ps
November 12th, 2020

November 12th, 2020

ps from ps…
And the colors are changing again.  And I don’t mean the leaves on the trees.

Erie County in NY has moved to “yellow” on the way to “orange” and unfortunately “red” as we look to continue battling the spread of Covid-19.  We like these colors when we drive around to look at the leaves or rake them on the ground, but not necessarily in our health plan.  And so we will be asked to scale back, scale down and go to battle again against this spread, probably until a vaccine is ready to roll.

And yet, God’s abundance hasn’t stopped pouring over us for one minute!

Our gospel lesson coming up this weekend is a story from Matthew that you can read here.  It’s about a master that shared talents with his slaves and then went on a journey.  Long story short, when he arrives back he praises the slaves that invested the talents and produced more of them.  He tells the slave that didn’t do anything with them that he missed the point.

Now I don’t think this is Jesus’ story about how we can make big bucks or that we should put all our resources in the stock market.  I think it’s a reminder that God is a god of abundance, pouring out blessings for us to live into.  The those blessings will continue to flow.  Continue to overflow.  Continue to be given to us.  Continue to increase when we share and invest them into the world.

So what does this mean as the “colors” change?  As we pull back again, it will be very easy to, like the slave that missed the point, stop investing those blessings.  But our God of Abundance still says invest away.  Share your blessings and more will come.  Share your time, talents and treasure.  Share your love, grace and forgiveness.  Share your energy, gifts and passions.  

Will it be easy?  Probably not.  Our normal patterns of sharing are about to be disrupted again.  But just like we emphasize that Covid doesn’t “close” churches, Covid doesn’t get to close God’s blessings and our chances to share them.  In fact, with a little thought, prayer and creativity, there are probably more ways to invest now than ever before.

So invest your talents in new and creative ways.  God’s promise is to surround us with abundance of love and grace as we do.

Lord, keep us healthy and help in these colorful times to invest the blessings you give us.  Amen


Still in One Peace,
ps
November 4th, 2020

November 4th, 2020

ps from ps…
Well…..here we go!  Looks like we’re in for a few days of Messy.  Many people predicted this was coming and now we enter into a few days of wandering and wondering post-election.

So this morning, I just want to offer you some suggestions for the next couple days.  Some come from a Jesus perspective and some from a mental health perspective.  Most are a mix.

1.  Set your intentions for the day.  Take control of what you want to do and who you want to be today.    Live into God’s calling and commission for you today and don’t let the things of the world distract you from that.

2.  Be kind to yourself today.  Practice self-care.  Let those baptismal waters wash over you today and be the reminder that you are a child of God first and foremost.

3.  Be kind to others.  Someone said to me yesterday: “I don’t care who you voted for; I care how you treat the person that voted differently from you.”  Or as Jesus was known to say: Love God, love your neighbor.

4.  Find your win today.  Times like this get us focused on the “loses” of life.  So finding, naming and making space for a “win” today is important.  A walk outside on a beautiful day.  A call to trusted friend.  A random act of kindness you can perform.  Every Bills fan knows even after 4 or 5 losses in a row, when we get a big win (like how we crushed the Patriots this past Sunday), you feel like you are Super Bowl caliber all over again.  So find your win.

5.  Remember the whole story.  When the two disciples walked away from the Good Friday cross and wandered their way to Emmaus, Jesus showed up next to them to walk along side.  When they shared their grief and confusion, he just told them the whole story of God again.  A story where God has a plan for goodness and love and hope.  (For quick review, if you read the whole Bible from cover to cover today, you’ll also hear this story)

6.  Shut the TV off for awhile.  You didn’t catch Jesus watching a lot of TV during these types of times, did you?  Social media, TV, radio, etc can all continuously wear on us.  Suddenly before we know it, we own that frustration and it seeps into us and we kick the cat or something.  Don’t kick the cat.  Instead, give yourself a break from the news cycle.  (Refer to point #2 for more details)

7.  And lastly, remember you’re not alone!  This is what church does….we struggle through the tough parts of life together.  

Keep the faith.  Pray for our country and leaders.  God’s got this.


Still in One Peace,
ps
 
October 28th, 2020

October 28th, 2020

ps from ps… Here’s one thing I’ve learned about 2020 – it’s been a rough year.  And even though in a few weeks we will flip the calendar to 2021, my guess is that some of the “rough” will overlap into the new year.  Some have asked “can’t we just unplug 2020, count to 20, plug it back in and it will reboot correctly?”  Despite that magically working with our computers and TV’s, there’s not much of a chance it works with the mess that has been/is 2020.

With that said, it’s even more important that we have a way/place/space/plan to make sure we are finding those moments of “peace like a river.”

As we approach All Saints Sunday this weekend, I’ve been reminded of so many of you that lost someone important/close to you in this past year.  On paper or from our ears as they are read, it looks and sounds like name after name.  But it’s actually story after story, love after love, memory after memory.  It’s a sacred and important time to remember.  And a time to dwell in that peace like a river.

As we do that remembering and as we move through these pandemic times, darker days and shift to more indoor moments with less interactions again, find your peace like a river.  Jesus said in John’s gospel: “My peace I give to you, my peace I leave with you; I do not give as the world gives, so do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid.”  

Here’s what that tells us: We have been given God’s peace!  It’s here, right around us.  It’s unlike the crazy ways of the world.  So, we don’t have to let fear, grief, anxiety and trouble overwhelm us.

It doesn’t mean we won’t face difficult moments that bring on that range of emotions.  But it does invite us to let a river of peace wash them away.  So find your peace like a river that reconnects you to that promise for you from God.  

One of my places I go to is music.  Recently, I just listen to songs like this one, “It is well.”  You are welcome to listen to it HERE.  I think I’ve shared it before, but I return to it time after time.  If you are struggling to find that peace like a river, please reach out.  Check in with me, a loved one, a counselor or a trusted friend.  You are not alone!

Together, we will move through whatever this world brings and paddle down that river of peace.

Lord, bring me to the shores of that river.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps
October 21st, 2020

October 21st, 2020

ps from ps… Change.  Some people thrive on it.  Some people dread it.  And yet as we approach the celebration of the first Reformation, it’s all about change.

Continue.  Usually for the people that love change, continuing is challenging.  But for those that dread change, continuing can bring comfort.   And yet as we approach the celebration of the first Reformation, it’s all about continuing.  The assigned text is from John 8 where Jesus says: “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples.”  

So which word more clearly reflects the spirit of celebrating the Reformation this coming Sunday?

Maybe both.  

When I do make the effort to look up words in the dictionary, I’m often drawn to the second definition.  It’s usually there that I find a deeper, challenging, meaning for the word.  The second definition for continuing is: recommence or resume after interruption.  Recommence.  Resume.  AFTER an interruption.

And what does that interruption call us to do?  Maybe change?  Inspect?  Evaluate?  Reflect?  

Have you been interrupted recently?  Like maybe with a pandemic?  Or political divisions?  Or a health crisis?  Or a loss of someone close/loved?  Or a shift in job responsibilities?  Or plans being thrown off?

And through any or all of those things, has your faith life been interrupted recently then too?  

I believe one of Martin Luther’s purposes in posting those original 95 thoughts on needed changes in the Church was to interrupt it, invite the Church into reflection, evaluation and inspection so that it could recommence and resume in God’s word, and more truly be Jesus’ disciples.

That interruption set off the entire Protestant Reformation!  Change and Continuing all mixed together.

What are the interruptions in your life right now?  Has something been posted on your door?  Is it God calling each of us into a period of change so that we can continue?  

As we move into this reformational time, may what happen over 500 years ago happen for you today.  May the gift of reflection, evaluation and inspection in our own lives BLESS US to be able to continue, to recommence and resume living into the discipleship to which we are all called.

Lord, help me to change and continue.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps