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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  • 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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