The Cross As Embrace

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

Luke 15.1-3, 11-32

I have to beg the forgiveness from the teenagers among us today because I felt compelled this morning to share some research with all of you that explains a great many things for those of us closely related to the teens among us. Maybe you heard the story on NPR a couple weeks back, but it seems that teenage brains are different. It seems that scientists used to think that the human brain was pretty much completely developed by about 10 years old. But it seems now that new research is uncovering that a crucial part of the brain, the frontal lobes, are not fully connected yet in teenagers. Really? It’s that part of the brain that says, “Is this a good idea? What is the consequence of this action?” It’s not that they don’t have frontal lobes, it’s not that they can’t use them, it’s just that the connection’s a little slow. Parents, does that explain it? Is this something we suspected pretty much all along? One of those discoveries that we think, “Oh yeah, thanks for letting us know.”

Now teenagers, I’m not only going to pick on you this morning. Because unfortunately, for those of us who are not, well, teenagers any more, it seems that we have our issues too. It seems, according to brain researchers, that as we age, our brains get slower. Now there’s a news flash for you. It takes us longer to learn new information and longer to retrieve information that we’ve managed to store away. The connections get slower and slower, they seem to dry up. Alas, can anyone win? Either our frontal lobes are not fully connected or by the time they do get connected, they aren’t working so well anymore. You just can’t win. I’m particularly worried because I know some of you, a lot of you, tell me about your “senior moments”, but I’ve been having senior moments since I was about 20, so if it’s downhill from here, I’m in trouble.

But… this morning we are here not to talk about brain research. We are here to meet the Spirit. But this research provides an apt metaphor for our spiritual brain function. For when it comes to the neural connections of the soul, so to speak, when you do the research, for many, if not most of us, it seems as if the connections are, well, disconnected. Many times the frontal lobes of our spirits just haven’t been able to make the right connections with God’s spirit. We try but we just can’t make the leap. Or the connections we do make seem to go awry or lead us in the wrong direction, they lead us astray. And we struggle, we wonder where God is. We wonder the great whys of life and are not satisfied with any of the answers that we encounter. We sense something, but the frontal lobes of our spirits and God’s spirit just haven’t been able to make that connection. Yet.

And sometimes we are able to make that connection with God’s spirit, but over time or because of particular circumstances, the connection seems to slow down. We age and we struggle to learn new information. And we struggle to learn and assimilate new circumstances and new ways of thinking and believing and living. The old information that we have stored away is no longer easily retrieved. And we become disconnected.

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

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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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