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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  • 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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