Stand Up!

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

John 5.1-9

In the movie, Groundhog Day, weatherman Phil Connors is stuck in time – a particular day in time. He’s stuck on Groundhog Day. And he’s stuck in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, you know where the groundhog is pulled out his hole and if he sees his shadow it’s six more weeks of winter (in Logan’s case, it’s six more months of winter). Only for Phil Connors in the movie, it is Groundhog Day over and over and over again. He is stuck in that movie, every time he wakes up it is Groundhog Day and he is seemingly cursed to relive what he views as a tedious day in his life that is profoundly unfulfilled.

There is one sequence in the movie where Phil begins to be resigned to his fate of repeating the same pattern day after day, where he notices an old homeless man. At the beginning of the movie Phil passes this man and as the man holds out his hand asking something from him, he kind of sarcastically searches his pockets and just walks passed with a smirk on his face. But a little later in this sequence, Phil walks up to the man as he staggers down an alley and he says, “Let’s get you to someplace warm.” And he takes the old man to a hospital to strengthen, except that the old-timer passes away.

“Sometimes people die,” the nurse says.

“Not today,” says Phil.

And in subsequent repeats of the day, Phil tries everything he can to keep the old-timer alive. If just for Groundhog Day, just the day he is repeating over and over again, if there’s just some why he can keep him from dying for that day. And so he feeds him, and he cares for him, but no matter what he does, the man dies every time. Come on, Pop, breathe! He implores, but to no avail. There are somethings that you just cannot change.

I think that the old-timer in the story from scripture (with a life expectancy in bible times about 40, 38 years – would you say that’s an old-timer?), I think this old-timer in our bible story could have sympathized with both Phil and the old-timer he tries to help. Year after year this old-timer sits by the pool, close to what he believes will bring him healing, but he just can’t seem to make it.
Now in John’s gospel, the miracles that the author gives us are carefully chosen. They’re not just a hodgepodge of stories thrown together to prove Jesus is this great guy. No, they are called “signs”, these miracle stories. And they point to something as signs do. They point to a truth or a discovery that is intended to nurture a faith. Faith in Jesus.

So this morning we ask, what truth, what discovery does this story hold for us?

(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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