Waking Up to Good News

My friends, as Timber our dog will tell you (and I think he is pretty much in agreement with all other dogs and cats and many other pets), sleeping is good (except when visitors come). If you are like me, then you know that sometimes sleep is very elusive. You know what it is like to toss and turn, tired but unable to slow your thoughts or calm your spirit enough to drop off to sleep. Study after study has shown that getting a good night’s sleep is critical. It’s healing. It’s refreshing. It’s empowering.

More than a good nights sleep, now health professionals are saying that (Halleluia!) naps are good too. A good nap will boost alertness, creativity, mood, and productivity.

An hour and a half takes us through a full sleep cycle, and we need enough full cycles of sleep, including REM sleep, that slow wave, deep dreaming kind of sleep, to be healthy. In a nation and culture that values overworking, in a time when sleep deprivation is a condition that effects millions of us, and knowing that this condition negatively effects our health and well-being, getting enough sleep is an important word.

It’s a word, however, that runs counter to the word that Paul offers us in 1 Thessalonians: to stay awake, alert, and enthusiastic, not just some of the time, but all of the time. “So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober;” he says. (1 Thess. 5:6).

That’s hard to do that when we are sleep deprived, and would rather be napping. It’s hard to follow Paul’s word (and Jesus says it too) to stay awake because we can so often get tired; not just physically tired, but profoundly tired in the deeper parts of our being. There are too many ways in which the world saps us of energy and life.

We can get tired of wrestling with our own inner demons (those demons that never seem to rest). We can get tired of wrestling with that addictive behavior (the one that time and again proves that we are not strong enough alone). We can get tired by the seemingly inexhaustible darkness of depression that reaches out to grab us from inside, never seeming to let go. We can get tired of facing illness and aging that trudge onward while our strength lags further and further behind. We can feel exhausted when we look in the mirror and the person staring back at us is not the person we want to be physically, emotionally, spiritually.

We can get tired of wrestling in relationships, in relationships that are supposed to be nothing but affirming, supportive, & loving; but instead test our patience, and ability forgive and let go. We can get tired of having the same arguments over and over and over again, tired of not living up to the expectations and standards of the ones close to us, and tired of their not living up to ours.

Oh those kids, why can’t they slow down for a minute! Why can’t they just do what I tell them to do, just once, for crying out loud? Why can’t they be and do what I think they should be and do? It’s not that hard. I just want what’s best for them.

Oh those parents, I’m so tired of them ragging on me. Don’t worry about it. (This was the phrase that drove my parents nuts). I just want to hang with my friends for a little bit. I just want to do something fun instead of something boring. Relax, would ya? You look tired.

We can get tired of never having enough, of always having to scrimp and save, scratch and claw; tired of never having enough money to eat and keep a roof overhead, or enough time to spend a few minutes with the kids, or a few moments not thinking about the next 16 things that we have to do.

We can get tired of being different; of living, thinking, believing against the grain of our culture, tired of existing outside of some traditional ideal, tired of others valuing us as less, or broken, or hell-bound because of our difference. We just want to comfortably fit in for a little while, not having to explain, or defend, or keep secret. We can get tired of the world denying the beauty that God created in us to shine.

We can get tired of fighting for causes, for truth, and for good with scant result, while others skate easily through life. We can get tired of holding up our signs while the rest of the world drives right past, barely casting a glance at their neighbor, and seemingly happy and rewarded for their disregard.

We can tire of a faith tradition that for good reason always compels us to think, discern, and decide for ourselves rather than just making it simple, clear, unambiguous, tired of a faith that requires us to listen and make decisions together, that makes us wait for committees and dialogues, and makes us wait for the Spirit to move a majority on that which is so clearly right.

There, I’ve gone on way too long about being tired, and now we’re tired.

We see the bags under our eyes in the mirror and the apostle wants us to keep awake? I can barely keep my eyes open for this sermon(!), and the apostle wants us to be alert at five in the morning right when the alarm goes off, and at one in the afternoon right after lunch, and at five thirty when we get home from work, and at ten (or nine or eight thirty) when the pillow is calling to us. Isn’t that unhealthy? Don’t we need rest? Can’t we have that nap? I’m tired. Sorry Apostle. We’d prefer to just have a drink and go to sleep; escape what we don’t want to see in the light.

Maybe I’ll open my eyes if you brew some coffee (leaded of course) or hand me some pill (any of you remember No Doz?) or a can of red bull at least. While I love my morning cup of joe to wake me up in the morning, I suspect the apostle is thinking of something a little deeper, a little more profound than recommending a Mountain Dew Code Red or a Pepsi Max to stay awake.

Yes, the apostle is speaking us all of us who are tired, profoundly tired, and he is reminding us that God has created us to live, to live awake, alert, and enthusiastic.

Now Paul is writing to a church that was eagerly waiting for the coming of Jesus Christ. They were awaiting that day of the Lord when Jesus would come on the clouds just as he said, when all things would be set right. They were awaiting the time when the inner demon would torture no more, when the trying relationship would test no more, the time when they didn’t have to scrimp and save anymore, the time when joy would flood their souls, and peace would calm the storms of their spirits, and love would embrace them (and I mean embrace them). They were hoping and expecting, imminently (like about 3 o’clock, that kind of imminent). But now, decades after Jesus death, they were getting tired of waiting. They were getting profoundly tired.

Paul offers them these words of encouragement. “You are children of the light.” I know that you feel like the horizon is dark. I know it is tempting for you to try and escape that dark night like the world does, with shallow pleasures and numbing substances, with materialism and self-centered living, but you belong to the day. You don’t need a Red Bull, God has blessed you with faith, a faith that reveals, a faith that brightens. God has blessed you with love, the kind of love in community that emboldens and empowers. God has blessed you with hope, the kind of hope that keeps you focused and alert, looking for signs of God’s presence.

Someone in the inquirers class asked about our vision for this church. There are different ways of expressing this, but this morning our vision can be summarized in this way: to wake people up to this Good News. All of us get tired at times, but the Spirit wakes us up and empowers us to work together to bring light to all the dark places of the world.

This is what we celebrate together. This is a place and time when we encourage one another, and build each other up with the things that God has already given us in Jesus

Christ. Right now, my friends, God offers these things to you. The Spirit is here, encouraging you to come, to open your mind and heart to faith. Feel the loving embrace of the Spirit. Look for signs of God’s presence. It doesn’t matter how dark your night may seem, you belong to the day.

In our house the first one to wake up is my wife, who wakes up at some ungodly hour that I will not mention here. She gets up early to walk the dog. Later she walks with Sally, but first, it’s Timber’s turn. Now Timber as I mentioned before, has no trouble sleeping (In fact he models healthy sleeping all the time, all the night through. No tossing and turning for him). But when Carrie’s alarm goes off, he knows it’s time to wake up. Instantly he goes from dead to the world to alive to the new day. His ears perk up. His eyes get wide. His tail beats the bed in anticipation. He is ready to head out the door.

Well, my friends, God has gotten up early this morning, and it is time for us to wake up and go for a walk. God is waiting to show us a new day. God is waiting for us to invite our neighbor to discover the new day too.

For those of you who are tired this morning, I invite you to wake up to this good news: that God has destined you for wholeness. God has destined us all for wholeness and salvation, and she will not be denied.

Knowing this good news, we can rest easy…and get a good night’s sleep. Amen.

November 16, 2008

Rev. Paul Heins

First Presbyterian Church

Logan, Utah

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  • Courageous Ministry

    Dear Friends,

    I hope this month’s edition of the Pulse finds you and your loved ones navigating life and faith with as much grace and self-compassion as possible. I know that some in our community have welcomed summer as a time to travel with family and friends, and to be reunited with loved ones. Others continue to struggle with health issues, isolation, and anxiety about the resurgence of Covid with the Delta variant. In the immortal words of Paul to the Romans, as a community, we “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” There is a chair or pew here on Sunday mornings for people in all seasons of life, and an open door to my office for any burdens (or celebrations) to be shared. I hope that you will join us or tune in via livestream on August 8th when I incorporate a compassion ritual in our worship services, to mark the lingering impact of Covid on the lives of God’s people everywhere. 

    Whether you have been in Bruner Hall often this summer, or it has been some time since you’ve walked through the doors of FPC, I want to share with you some happenings that I celebrate as we continue to serve faithfully as an inclusive community of faith and compassion at FPC Logan. Since the beginning of Pastor Derek’s sabbatical on June 1st, we welcomed four guest preachers who shared the Good News with us, from Scriptures ranging from Genesis to the Gospels, from Ezekiel to Ephesians. Two of these preachers are women who I’ve had the privilege of mentoring as ministers in the ordination process with the Presbyterian Church in Utah. At summer’s end, we will welcome two additional preachers to share in our worship life, and I will conclude my ongoing spiritual disciplines sermon series later this month. 

    This summer, FPC has been home to Loaves & Fishes and a series of Red Cross Blood Drives. In June, our middle schoolers organized and delivered a supplies drive for Cache Humane Society, with two middle schoolers traveling to American Fork Canyon for a reservoir clean-up with presbytery peers. Eight high schoolers from FPC Logan traveled with me to Denver, where we served with Habitat for Humanity for four days, offering a total of 22 hours of service each. In two weeks, we will gather at Stokes Nature Center for earth care efforts. The Mission Committee is gearing up to prepare us for another Mission Sunday at FPC this fall. I learned that just this week, the Sew n’ Sews prepared a large shipment of homemade sanitary pads to benefit our neighbors in Ethiopia. Beth MacDonald and Barbara Troisi have been busy processing Deacon’s Fund applications to provide for the safety and welfare of neighbors here in Cache Valley. Barbara and Dorothy Jones visited our neighbors at Williamsburg with Cache Ministries in early July. Truly, there is no summer break in the ministry of FPC Logan! 

    In their meetings in June and July, your session has thoughtfully and prayerfully navigated decisions about worship safety precautions, knowing that there is no “right answer” about how to be the Church in a pandemic. Even among our Presbyterian churches in Utah, there is no uniform approach to worship in these strange days. We are discerning together, and the updated policy you received this week is the session’s most current discernment of how FPC Logan can be both a welcoming and safe house of worship for every beloved child of God, from the under 12 to the most senior among us. In electing the elders to serve on session, you covenant to pray for them and to abide by their decision-making. I hope and pray that you will continue to do both in the coming days and weeks.  

    Earlier this week, acknowledging the presence and concern of the Delta variant, the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, challenged us, the people of the Church, to “wait on the Lord and be of good courage.” Courage has many faces in Scripture and in our society today, but I am drawn to this Sunday’s passage from John in which the crowd went looking for Jesus. When they find him, Jesus instructs them to work for the food that endures for eternal life and reminds them that he is the bread of life. As we take up the charge to be of good courage, I hope that together, as a church community, we will be on the lookout for Jesus, the bread of life. I expect him to surprise us and challenge us, as he always does with his faithful followers in Scripture, the disciples and friends who want to do as Jesus does in the world. You will find him here at FPC Logan, whether we worship in Bruner or the Sanctuary, with or without masks, and you will find him in the community to which we are called as partners in ministry. Come and behold that God is doing a new thing in this place, if we only have the courage to answer the call, to work for the food that endures, and to fix our sight on Jesus, the bread of life. 

    In Christ’s promises,

    Pastor Meg

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