Shaking Off the Dust

2 Corinthians 9:6-15

I was intrigued recently by an article that aired some dirty laundry. No, it wasn’t a celebrity gossip magazine, or The Presbyterian Layman, for those of you who know PCUSA scandal sheets (They love to publish what they view as theological dirty laundry). It was a science journal, and the aforementioned dirty laundry is the problem that Apollo Moon Missions had with moon dust.

One of the major problems that all the missions shared were not explosions, or mysterious black obelisks, or aliens leaping out of astronauts stomachs (a la the movies “Space 2001” and “Alien”) “The major issue the Apollo astronauts pointed out was dust, dust, dust,” says Professor Larry Taylor, Director of the Planetary Geosciences Institute at the University of Tennessee. This is not your minor annoyance kind of dust. It is not like the harmless dust bunnies that hide under your bed. It is “fine as flour and rough as sandpaper.” The dust was so abrasive that it actually wore through three layers of Kevlar-like material on [astronaut’s] boot[s],” Taylor says. To make matters worse, it was electromagnetically charged, so that the more astronauts tried to brush it away, the more it worked its way into the space suits’ fabric. It would gum up the joints of space suits so that it would eventually be difficult to move. It was everywhere and couldn’t be escaped.1

Clingy, omnipresent, abrasive, damaging, dangerous. This moon dust is like much of our lives. It is like the brokenness of life that clings to us like nothing else. Our uncertain circumstances, our past failures and wounds, our overwhelming challenges and limited resources, these things stick to us like moon dust. Despair, fear, alienation, wear through our Kevlar layers and work their way into our joints until we can hardly move.

My friends, it is time to shake off the dust.

The apostle Paul, when he wrote to the Corinthian church, wanted the Corinthians to shake of their dust. Paul had a long and deep relationship with them as their founding pastor. He went through many ups and downs with them. He loved them, got angry with them, and wept over them. There were times when he had to forgive and times when he had to be forgiven. There were times when the moon dust of life had worked into their joints so that they could hardly move. When they became dusty like that, they became stuck living in ways of selfishness, pride, and injustice, and idolatry.

1 “NASA’s Dirty Secret: Moon Dust,” Science Daily (Sep. 29, 2008): http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/

2008/09/080924191552.htm

But in our text this morning, Paul offers them an opportunity to shake off that dust and participate in God’s blessing. The specific invitation has to do with an offering that Paul was gathering for needy Christians in Jerusalem. The material offering was important, but in our text, Paul teaches the Corinthians that the meaning of the offering was even more profound than providing a meal or a place to sleep for someone who needed it. The offering was a chance to participate in a harvest of righteousness. It was an invitation to be a partner in God’s blessing. It was an opportunity to shake off the dust, to move and to breathe the fresh, clear air of a faith that makes a difference. Not only would it bless the believers in Jerusalem, it would bless the Corinthians themselves.

I hope that you felt it this past week. Our nation has reached a milestone in electing its first African-American as President. As many have observed, even if you didn’t vote for Obama, you can sense that something historic has happened. Last Tuesday night, as we saw the weeping faces in that huge crowd gathered in that park for Obama’s speech, we had hope served to us.

Now, I do have my cynical side. I wonder how the hope of this moment will be spent. Part of me wonders how much change will really come. We face huge challenges of bringing peace and dealing with the current economic crisis. The powerful, almost irresistible temptation in these times is to look out for ones self, to hoard, to act out of fear and mistrust, to blame others and absolve ourselves. This temptation clings to us and paralyzes us.

And yet, though self-centeredness & fear are almost irresistible, we hear the good news in this house of faith that this day is also an opportunity. It is an opportunity to shake off the dust.

The reality is that President-elect Obama can’t do it alone. Things will only get better; change will only come if we all pitch in and participate. If Democrats and Republicans and others seize the opportunity, if we open up our minds and hearts, if we for a few moments not let fear and self-interest rule the day, we can work together for the good, for the good of everyone in this nation, and yes, the world.

Now these words can be idealistic claptrap…or, if we are open to it, this time can herald a shaking off of the dust that paralyzes us.

This morning we are invited to offer the first fruits of our time, talent, and treasure to God, and, like the Corinthians were long ago, we are invited to shake off the dust of life and embrace a living, life shaping faith, to shake off the dust and participate as partners with God in bringing hope, and making peace, and working for justice, all while joyously praising and thanking God, and enjoying each other. This is what stewardship is: it is shaking off the dust, and moving forward.

Look at this building project. We had a little dust to shake off not too long ago. It had gone through some fits and starts, plans had to be redrawn, lots of different things went on.

But look now. Much of the dust has been shaken off and we are moving forward. Much work remains, but it is God’s work, and there is no better partner to have. When the building is done, we will be better able to shake off even more profound dust in this community as we grow in ministry.

You who are members and friends of this community of faith are invited to shake off a little dust with your financial commitments for 2009. It is tough, I know, in this day. But ultimately we belong to a faith that is not down in the dumps about this day. With our worship, with our fellowship, with our mission outreach, and with our financial priorities shaped by the commandments to love God and neighbor, we celebrate and respond to the invitation to shake off the dust.

I was amused by the British 19-year-old who has officially changed his name to “Captain Fantastic Faster Than Superman Spiderman Batman Wolverine Hulk And The Flash Combined.”

The Glastonbury, England, teenager — originally named George Garratt — said his new name, which is thought to be the world’s longest, has so outraged his grandmother that she is no longer speaking to him.

The teen said he used an online service to officially change his name for a $20 fee.

“I wanted to be unique,” Captain Fantastic said of his name choice. “I decided upon a theme of superheroes.”2

Well, my friends, we are unique, so shall we choose an apt name for ourselves? How about “Presbyterian Captains Fantastic, Dust Repelling, Joy Celebrating, Justice Seeking, Love Making, Peace Planting, Hope Proclaiming Cache Valley-ites.” Ok maybe not that.3 Maybe we can shorten our name to this: disciples. Besides being a little easier to say (and remember), simply being a disciple, with God’s grace, is enough to shake off the dust.

2 “Teen’s ‘Fantastic’ new name ‘Super’ long” Published: Nov. 3, 2008: http://www.upi.com/Odd_News/

2008/11/03/Teens_Fantastic_new_name_Super_long/UPI-90361225751268/

3 Maybe I should reconsider. When I said this name in worship, some really liked it!

November 9, 2008

Rev. Paul Heins

First Presbyterian Church

Logan, Utah

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  • Lent in the Midst of COVID

    We’re in the church season of Lent, a time of journeying with Jesus as he makes his way to Jerusalem and to the cross.  In addition to Sunday worship services on YouTube we will be adding short mid-week Lenten devotions from Pastor Meg and myself (also available on YouTube).

     Last month Mary-Ann Muffoletto sent me a picture. She took a ‘screen shot’ of our most recent Zoom congregational meeting, and I’m thankful she thought to do this. This is the moment when we ordained and installed new elders and deacons to our church. This is usually a sacred moment of our worship together on Sunday mornings, a special time for those new deacons and elders and also for the congregation as these individuals step into leadership positions for us. We’re usually doing a “laying on of hands” at this moment, as we offer a prayer for these new officers. This last year Presbyterian churches around the country have doing this via Zoom, and here we are, lifting up our hands as a blessing for these church officers, as we lift them up to God in their new roles.

    The big thing on our mind in the church office and with Session is when will we be back in worship together? I don’t have an answer for you at the moment, but as more people receive vaccines and transmission rates continue to decrease in Utah and around the country, we get closer to that time. Two Session members have volunteered to work with Pastor Meg and myself on plans for when we get back into the building. Outdoor worship services in a park is also a possibility before we return to our church building. When we are back in the sanctuary and Bruner Hall together our plan is to record the service and make it available on YouTube for those who choose to continue worshiping from home.

    I want to close by sharing a few things with you about our building during this last year. You might think the building has been empty and unused, but I assure you this is not the case. While most of our activities have been put on hold, several things have been occurring in our building. Session approved Loaves & Fishes to serve take-away meals and that has been ongoing through much of the year. Additionally, numerous recovery programs (similar to AA) have been meeting throughout the year (for some people, being able to attend a sobriety meeting is a life and death matter). And finally, the Red Cross has been holding blood drives every month or so. Craig Mortensen passed along to me that Red Cross blood drives at FPC collected 490 units of blood in the last year. Most of these units even came from willing donors… (just kidding!). All of these activities have required people to wear masks and socially distance to prevent spread of COVID.

    It brings me great joy to think of how many people Loaves & Fishes has helped, how many people have continued their journeys of sobriety, and how many people were helped through blood donations in the last year. Each of these activities come with some risk of COVID transmission, but Session approved them because they are essential for certain members of our community. All of these happenings are possible because of the use of our church building. I thank all of you for your ongoing support of FPC Logan. I know we aren’t worshiping there, and many of us are anxious to be back in the sanctuary (I am too). Thank you for bearing with us and our cautious approach. Good things are indeed happening through use of our building and because of our collective journeys with Jesus Christ.

    Grace and peace be with you on your Lenten journey.

    Pastor Derek

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