It’s Better Than Getting Pinched

The following is only an excerpt of this sermon. The full sermon can be heard by clicking the audio link below.

Acts 8.14-17

Sometimes people ask me about specific things related to Presbyterian beliefs and practices and living here in our unique context, as kind of a religious minority. There are many who are curious about what we believe and what we do as Presbyterians.

Well, I have found a book that is helpful and I just wanted to lift part of up to you. In a way it offers a lot of information in the way of the meaning of Presbyterian and its history and theology, and it also gives some practical advice. It’s called The Presbyterian Handbook, and it’s got many useful chapters in it. Just to give you kind of a taste: it’s got some basic biblical information, the Five Grossest Bible Stores, the Five Weirdest Laws in the Old Testament, Ten Bible Villains and Ten Bible Heros, the Three Most Rebellious Things that Jesus Did.

It has some helpful history: the Six Most Notorious Heretics, How to Explain Pre-destination to Your Friends, and (this is one of my favorites) How To Avoid Getting Burned At The Stake.

It also deals with modern church life, somethings that you can use when you come to a Presbyterian church. Later this summer you might want to read the chapter: How to Survive For One Hour In An Un-Airconditioned Church. And this one is a favorite of mine: How to Respond When Someone Sits in Your Pew. The short answer to that is that they are all God’s pews. You can find out what to bring to a church potluck, and that’s helpfully differentiated by region.

But there’s one chapter that I kind of wanted to focus on this morning and that is a very important chapter for many of you and it’s a chapter entitled “How To Stay Alert In Church.” Well, first of all, one might ask what does it signify when a book of Presbyterian belief has to include a chapter that says “How To Stay Alert In Church.” Well, let’s just move on from that one.

Here are eight helpful hints. The first on how to stay alert in church: “Get adequate sleep. Late Saturday nights are Sunday morning’s worst enemy. Resolve to turn in early or a good night’s sleep on Friday night is equally important to waking rested.”

“Hint number two: Drink plenty of water, though not too much. It is easier to remain alert when you are well-hydrated. Consider keeping a small bottle of water with you in worship. Just a sidenote, one quick bathroom break is considered permissible; two or more are badform.”

“Eat a high protein breakfast.”

Here’s a good one for our Utah context: “Arrive early and find the coffee pot.”

“Focus on your posture. If you have difficulty focusing on the service, divert your attention. Occupy your mind, not your hands. Look around the worship service for visual stimuli, keep your mind active in this way while continuing to listen.”

“Stay alert by flexing muscle groups in a pattern. Clench your toes and feet, flex calf muscles, thighs, glutei, abdomen, hands, arms, chest and shoulders. Repeat. But avoid shaking, rocking or other movements that attract undue attention.”

“And if all else fails,” finally, “consider pinching yourself. Dig your nails into the fleshy part of your arm or leg, pinch yourself, bite down on your tongue with moderate pressure. Try not to cry out.”

And it’s got pictures in case you wanted to see them later. Helpful pictures.

Do we need that? The honest answer is… sometimes, yes. With all of the busy-ness and confusion in the rest of our lives and world, when it comes to our spiritual lives, we get sleepy. We get tired. We lose the sense of God’s presence. We lose contact with God’s spirit. Then when it comes to a time in our lives when we need to hear God’s voice, when we call out, “God where are you? I need you!” we don’t know where to go and what to do because we’ve fallen asleep. It helps, my friends, if we are alert in the spirit.

An essential part of both bible stories this morning is the Holy Spirit, that’s what ties them together. The third person of the triune God. When Jesus came down to the river to pray, he was baptized. And the text tells us that the Holy Spirit descended from heaven in bodily form like a dove and voice came from heaven: “This is my son. My beloved. With you I am well pleased.” The spirit blessed Jesus as God’s son, it affirmed his place in God’s plan, it proclaims God’s love and favor on the one who was about to give up everything. The one who was entering the danger zone.

(To listen to the sermon in full, please click below)

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  • November COVID Update

    If you are reading this before Sunday November 1st, I hope you take the time on Sunday morning to join us for communion in the parking lot at FPC.  It’s communion in the drive-through style, something the first Christians could never have envisioned.  It is nonetheless a faithful celebration of the meal that Jesus first initiated with his disciples.  Pastor Meg and I will be in the parking lot from 11 to 11:30 a.m. and we’ll have music to go along with the meal and hopefully lift your spirits. Stop by to hear the music, and for a blessing along with the communion meal.

    One of the most exciting things for me in recent weeks was our congregational meeting that we held via the online service Zoom.  It was so heart-warming to see that many of you in attendance.  Counting the couples on various screens, I think there were around 50 of you in attendance.  Thank you for your participation.

    At the meeting we elected new elders and deacons for the Class of 2023.  Please join me in expressing our thanks to elders Lovet Fokunang, Dee Logterman, Scott Hofmann, and Dawn Drost, and deacons Terry Brennand, Darcie Bessinger, and Marcia Baker.  We also elected Sheryl Bessinger to fill a partial term as an elder in the Class of 2021.  I’m thankful that they’ve accepted God’s call upon their lives to serve God by serving the people of our community.  May we lift them up in prayer (along with our other deacons & elders) as they help to care for and lead our congregation in challenging times.

    As you might imagine if you’re watching the news, Session unanimously voted to continue with YouTube worship for the month of November.  We continue to get around one hundred views each week, and I am very thankful for your participation in worship on YouTube.  It’s wonderful to have Pastor Meg back from maternity leave.  She is already busy planning Christian Education events and leading youth ministries.

    We will not host a church Thanksgiving dinner for obvious reasons, but we are spending this month getting ready for some exciting things in Advent.  We will have special music throughout our Advent worship services, there will be Advent activities for families, there is a special online bell choir concert in the works, and we’re hoping for an in-person outdoor Christmas Eve service.  Yes, it will be chilly, but we live in northern Utah and I know you people are hardy!  This service will be 30 minutes long, so you don’t get too cold.  We’ll have wonderful organ and bell music and Christmas hymns to sing, along with gospel readings of the birth of Jesus.  I think it’s going to be a wonderful way to celebrate the birth of the Christ-child.

    May the grace and peace of our Lord be with you all.

    —Pastor Derek

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