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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  • Backpacks, Blessings, and Cupcakes

    In preparation for Blessing of the Backpack Sunday at FPC Logan on August 22nd, I finally took some time to clean out my Texas Longhorns backpack that always travels with me to worship on Sundays. I figured I owed it to myself to create space in which to receive maximum blessing potential as I begin a new education year at our church. You might remember that Mary Poppins was known for magically pulling random items out of her bag that you’d never expect to fit, and I was very close to having a Mary Poppins situation. When I dumped out the contents, I found what you’d expect me to find…some long-lost papers, smashed peanut butter crackers, an eraser, pens that no longer have ink, a pack of playing cards from the Denver mission trip. I also found some unexpected gems: an extra copy of the “Hallelujah” that was hidden in our sanctuary during Lenten worship, a hand-written note from a church member, an item belonging to a game in the youth group room. The backpack cleaning gave me the opportunity to take stock of blessings and to reflect on church ministry and memories from this past year. Perhaps you have a few minutes to sort through your own bag. What would you find?

    At the beginning of this new education year, there are some things I want to set aside and some other things I want to honor. Let’s call it a “fall cleaning” instead of a spring cleaning. I want to set aside my attitude that the way in which “something has always been done” is the way something must be done today. I want to honor the ways in which we, the church, have navigated and continue to navigate this pandemic with grace and mercy towards ourselves and our neighbors. I want to set aside those items stored in the closet “just in case” they can be used, and stock up on fresh ideas and materials to usher in this education year with innovative thinking and planning. I want to set aside my frustrations when our sound system gives us a hiccup while we’re trying to livestream worship and honor the dynamic worship that we offer to God together with our hearts, minds, and voices, with or without technical perfection. While I’m at it, I also want to honor the persistent dedication of our worship volunteers and musicians who share the incarnate love of God with us every week.  

    I want to acknowledge and grieve the sense of lost time that I imagined many of us experienced last year, set it aside, and honor the time that God has given us today to love and serve in a variety of callings and capacities in our community. Just last week, our youth group donated two hours of their time one evening to packing backpacks for the Cache Food Pantry’s backpack program, ensuring that children won’t go hungry over the weekend when they leave school on Friday. This activity was a powerful reminder for me that often, when we respond to God’s initiative, we have no idea the magnitude of blessing we offer. You are a blessing to this church, and together, we will continue to be a blessing in our corner of the world at 178 W. Center Street. 

    There are some wonderful things coming up that you do not want to miss at FPC Logan. Over the weekend of September 18th-19th, we will gather at Camp Hunt on Bear Lake for an All-Church Retreat, which continues to be thoughtfully and creatively planned by our planning team: Paul Davis, Beth and Mark MacDonald, Mary-Ann Muffoletto, Sara Hunt and Ben Crabb. There will be something for all ages, including a photo booth and activity stations. I’m praying that there will be s’mores, but am comforted by the knowledge that, s’mores or no s’mores, there will be delicious food to share and good company with whom to share it. In October, FPC Logan will host Loaves & Fishes on Saturday, October 16th, and your Mission Committee is preparing another Mission Sunday for Sunday, October 31st. Stay tuned for more information about the October outreach events.

    Pastor Derek returns to FPC Logan this week. I hope you’ll join us in welcoming him back from sabbatical with our outdoor cupcake party after both services this Sunday, Communion Sunday, September 5th! It will be great to have him back, and Pam and I have done some “decorating” in his office that is appropriate to the occasion. Stop by to see us and give him a warm elbow shake when you’re in the neighborhood. Don’t forget your mask!

    Grace and peace, Pastor Meg

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