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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  • Back to School, Not Back to Church…

    …at least not all the way. Some ministries of the church are in action, others are not.

    Ministry is Continuing!

    To date we have shared around $7,000 with our local community to help relieve those affected by coronavirus, and we have another $2,000 we will be distributing now. This has gone toward food, diapers for families in need, rent & mortgage relief, and other purposes.

    Thank you for continuing to worship with us—our YouTube videos get around a hundred views each week, and in some cases, there are multiple people watching one screen. Thank you for listening. And thank you for your continued financial support.

    We are going to be doing some new things in the interest of our own spiritual health, fellowship, and the ministry of the church. The first is drive-through communion (or drive-thru, as it is frequently written).

    Drive-Through Communion — Sept 6th, 9:15-9:45am

    If you wish, you’re invited to drive through our parking lot on Sunday, September 6th from 9:15-9:45am and I will serve communion to you. You are just as welcome to partake of communion from home, as we’ve done the last few months.

    Fellowship Bike Ride — Sept 13th, beginning at 1pm

    On Sunday, September 13th we will have an FPC Bike Ride. We will meet at FPC and go on a 10-mile bike ride led by John and Jean Stewart. Maps of the route will be provided, and a shorter route will be available if needed. Some of the route will be on streets and some on dedicated bike paths. Meet us in the parking lot at 1pm, and we will depart by 1:15.

    Zoom Bible Study — every Tuesday morning from 8-9am

    If you’d like to join us for Bible Study we will begin on Tuesday, Sept 8th, from 8-9am. We will meet via Zoom so you can enjoy breakfast and coffee from home. The zoom link will be available on our First Pres Logan Facebook page each Tuesday morning.

    My role as pastor is to be a spiritual guide, someone who helps each of you on your faith journey (and as you might imagine, you help me just as much). I confess to you that feeling like we are connected and in touch these months has been a struggle. Continuing to not meet in person remains one of the more challenging decisions of my career in ministry. I want to see all of you each week. Worshiping at home via YouTube is certainly just as pleasing to God as when we gather and sing, but it doesn’t feel the same to me, and I’m sure it doesn’t feel the same to you. Hopefully, some of the above activities will help us with that.

    In the Presbyterian system the pastor does not make decisions about all of the activities and happenings around a church. The pastor leads worship, teaches through Bible Study and similar endeavors, provides pastoral care, and participates in many other diverse activities around the church and community. We have Elders and Deacons who take on other responsibilities, including making decisions about church activities (reserved for Elders, who serve on Session). Who does what around a church (and how we do it) is outlined in the Book of Order, which covers all kinds of things. But as you can imagine, there isn’t a chapter titled What To Do in Case of Worldwide Pandemic.

    The Elders that we elect as a congregation (you elect them, Pastor Meg and I do not vote) make many important decisions for each congregation, although pastors frequently share their thoughts and offer guidance for any vote that is taken. The Session of FPC Logan met on Wednesday, August 19 and voted unanimously to continue with online worship for at least the next month (until the next Session meeting, on September 16th).  At that meeting we will reassess the situation and take another vote for the coming month (or months). Session made this decision because we don’t feel it is safe for us to be in the same room for an hour together. Some people may be willing to take the risk. I am not, and neither are your FPC Elders. Of particular interest is the effect that the return to school will have on coronavirus numbers. Public schools and the Utah State University are back in class now, with both online and in-person classes. Also, of great interest is progress in vaccine trials. We are praying that one (or several) of these vaccine trials provides good news in the next few months.

    May the grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you all,

    Derek

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