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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  • 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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