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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  • Back to School, Not Back to Church…

    …at least not all the way. Some ministries of the church are in action, others are not.

    Ministry is Continuing!

    To date we have shared around $7,000 with our local community to help relieve those affected by coronavirus, and we have another $2,000 we will be distributing now. This has gone toward food, diapers for families in need, rent & mortgage relief, and other purposes.

    Thank you for continuing to worship with us—our YouTube videos get around a hundred views each week, and in some cases, there are multiple people watching one screen. Thank you for listening. And thank you for your continued financial support.

    We are going to be doing some new things in the interest of our own spiritual health, fellowship, and the ministry of the church. The first is drive-through communion (or drive-thru, as it is frequently written).

    Drive-Through Communion — Sept 6th, 9:15-9:45am

    If you wish, you’re invited to drive through our parking lot on Sunday, September 6th from 9:15-9:45am and I will serve communion to you. You are just as welcome to partake of communion from home, as we’ve done the last few months.

    Fellowship Bike Ride — Sept 13th, beginning at 1pm

    On Sunday, September 13th we will have an FPC Bike Ride. We will meet at FPC and go on a 10-mile bike ride led by John and Jean Stewart. Maps of the route will be provided, and a shorter route will be available if needed. Some of the route will be on streets and some on dedicated bike paths. Meet us in the parking lot at 1pm, and we will depart by 1:15.

    Zoom Bible Study — every Tuesday morning from 8-9am

    If you’d like to join us for Bible Study we will begin on Tuesday, Sept 8th, from 8-9am. We will meet via Zoom so you can enjoy breakfast and coffee from home. The zoom link will be available on our First Pres Logan Facebook page each Tuesday morning.

    My role as pastor is to be a spiritual guide, someone who helps each of you on your faith journey (and as you might imagine, you help me just as much). I confess to you that feeling like we are connected and in touch these months has been a struggle. Continuing to not meet in person remains one of the more challenging decisions of my career in ministry. I want to see all of you each week. Worshiping at home via YouTube is certainly just as pleasing to God as when we gather and sing, but it doesn’t feel the same to me, and I’m sure it doesn’t feel the same to you. Hopefully, some of the above activities will help us with that.

    In the Presbyterian system the pastor does not make decisions about all of the activities and happenings around a church. The pastor leads worship, teaches through Bible Study and similar endeavors, provides pastoral care, and participates in many other diverse activities around the church and community. We have Elders and Deacons who take on other responsibilities, including making decisions about church activities (reserved for Elders, who serve on Session). Who does what around a church (and how we do it) is outlined in the Book of Order, which covers all kinds of things. But as you can imagine, there isn’t a chapter titled What To Do in Case of Worldwide Pandemic.

    The Elders that we elect as a congregation (you elect them, Pastor Meg and I do not vote) make many important decisions for each congregation, although pastors frequently share their thoughts and offer guidance for any vote that is taken. The Session of FPC Logan met on Wednesday, August 19 and voted unanimously to continue with online worship for at least the next month (until the next Session meeting, on September 16th).  At that meeting we will reassess the situation and take another vote for the coming month (or months). Session made this decision because we don’t feel it is safe for us to be in the same room for an hour together. Some people may be willing to take the risk. I am not, and neither are your FPC Elders. Of particular interest is the effect that the return to school will have on coronavirus numbers. Public schools and the Utah State University are back in class now, with both online and in-person classes. Also, of great interest is progress in vaccine trials. We are praying that one (or several) of these vaccine trials provides good news in the next few months.

    May the grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you all,

    Derek

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