September 16th, 2020

September 16th, 2020

ps from ps… When I was a kid, I hated it when it seemed that my sisters had less chores than I did.  Not only that, it also seemed that I started doing mine when I was a lot younger than they were!  Didn’t seem “fair.”

We’re big fans “fair.”  We want it in our jobs, our relationships, our friendships, our rules and laws and even in our calls during football games.  “Fair is fair,” right?

Jesus tells a parable in Matthew 20 about some workers that started their days in the field at different times.  Then when the day was done, they all got paid the same thing.  “It’s not fair” the listeners said.  “It’s not fair” the early workers said.  But Jesus response then, now and in the future, shows us a different lens that God works through: grace.  Grace is God’s undeserved love and favor.  And that’s what Jesus hands out at the “end of the day” to everyone!

We were filming TV Church yesterday and Pastor Julius Carroll used the phrase “God of reversals” to start each of the prayer petitions he shared.  He used that phrase because Jesus mentioned to the listening crowd – the last shall be first and the first shall be last.  A God of reversals.  Turning things upside down and around backwards from the way we think things should play out.  

And it isn’t an isolated incident.

Upon hearing Jesus was going to the cross, Peter said: “Don’t do it.”  Jesus the Reverser said, “Follow me Peter.  I’m giving my life for all.  Grace for all.” 

Upon seeing the outcasts, widows and sick, the Church Leaders said: “Don’t do it.”  Jesus the Reverser said, “Follow me Church and stand with all those who have been cast out.”

Upon seeing the hungry, the Disciples said: “Don’t do it.”  Jesus the Reverser said, “Don’t send them away.  We will feed them all.”

Upon seeing us, the mess that we many times can be, the ones always wanting our version of fair, the ones who complain we started our chores earlier or younger than them, Jesus the Reverser pours out grace and love on us and for us anyways.

God the Reverser, help me to go into this day and see the world, the chores, the relationships, the outcast as you see each of us, with Eyes of Reversal, with actions and words and presence of your grace.  Amen



Still in One Peace,
ps
September 9th, 2020

September 9th, 2020

Sometimes, even when things get torn apart, good can still come from it.

Michelle and I have lived in our current house for about 15 years now.  Over that time, it seems like we’ve been through the entire house with a round of renovations in each room.  Paint changed.  Walls removed.  Lights added.  Flooring switched.  I’m pretty sure we’ve hit every room at least once now.

When we moved in, the first room we tackled was the family room.  After the kitchen, it’s the room we are in the most.  So for 15 years, we’ve been looking at the same walls, colors and floors as we’ve relaxed, talked with the kids, watched them grow, watched Bills games, celebrated Christmas, birthdays and the like.  Routines were created and viewpoints were solidified in that room.  So when the walls started coming down and the pile of trim, molding, old paneling and drywall piled up in the driveway, I had a brief sense of loss, grieving the change a bit.  And yet, I know something good, brighter and newer is coming….. but it’s hard getting there.

I wonder if Jesus disciples felt that way at all?  As he came and taught them a “new” way and direction and boundary and reach and grace of God, how did they feel about this change?  We hear from Peter time after time that he’s stuck in his old ways.  And yet each time Peter clings to the old, Jesus gently redirects him to “follow him” and learn this new way.  Something good and newer and different is coming.  

I’ve felt this way many times during this pandemic with all the changes we have been forced to go through.  I grieve the loss of so many things that we aren’t able to do now and might not be able to go back to.  But as with Peter, I have to believe that God is about to show us a new, better thing.  As with my family room, I look forward to the new, brighter and better thing coming.  

Jeremiah reminded the people: “For surely I know the plans I have for you” says the Lord “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you a future with hope.”

Last night, I went out in the driveway and started sifting through the remnants of my “old” family room and pulled out all the pine trim and molding.  I grabbed the saw and starting cutting it up into small pieces.

There’s it was: kindling for the upcoming winter.  Small pieces of wood that will help me light the fires in my fire place to warm and heat the house.  Old walls, trim and molding now repurposed as we move forward.

As we continue to transition through these challenging times with changes in church, school, and family routines, don’t forget to name the grief/loss that is involved in these changes.  It’s ok to do that!  It’s important to do that.  With our health situations, family traditions and relationships, what parts are important to let go of and what parts are important to hang onto?  What changes are we in the middle of that could be a blessing?  And what parts of these “pandemic renovations” can we take, change and repurpose to bless our lives in new ways in the future?

We may not be named Peter, but how is Jesus inviting you and me to “follow him” and more deeply trust him during these times of change?

Lord, help us through the traditions and redirect us toward the blessings coming.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

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