Doubters and Leapers

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

John 20.19-31

Does anybody want to go to Hawaii?

Well, I’d like to take you, as Barney might say, in our imagination to the north shore of the island of Oahu. There is a bay there called Waimea Bay. Has anybody ever been there, Waimea Bay? If you go there in the winter, it’s best not to enter the water, because they have some of the wildest, largest surf on the planet there. But in the summer, the bay is actually pretty calm and you can scuba dive around there if you want. To one side of the bay is a big rock that extends out from the sand into the water. And they call it, “The Big Rock.” It is perfectly positioned with a steep face right over the water and it’s about 30 feet high. Does anybody know how high this ceiling is, to the tip of the ceiling? About 30 feet? So you would be standing there about at the top. Now in terms of cliff-diving it might not be the highest thing, but if you’re a little kid, or if you’re a little squeamish about heights, that’s a big rock.

It’s become a tradition to ignore the signs not to climb on the rocks and to make your way up to the top and to jump off into the water. Perhaps if you would visit with me in your imagination and would go up on the rock with me… now I want to ask you, are you someone who would just go up there and look and go “YEAH!!!!” and jump off and fly into the water, legs and arms flailing, or would you kind of inch your way up to the top and peer over and say, “Uh, you do it first.” Now which kind of person are you?

Somebody’s looking at their partner and saying, “No, you’re not! You’re the other kind!”

At the bottom is cool refreshing water, but you have to leap to reach it. This morning we gather here in this place, we climb a rock of a different sort, it is the Rock of Decision. At the bottom we see the cool refreshing waters of faith, but to get there, you have to take a leap. We don’t hurl our bodies off, at least not in the beginning (faith may involve that later), but initially, the leap of faith is one that involves our minds and our hearts and our very spirits.

When you sincerely leap, it shapes your core convictions. Not just the convictions that we utter for public consumption, you know the ones that we like to talk about when others are looking and listening. But it shapes the convictions that govern how we see things, that determine what we do, and what we say and what decisions we make with our money and our time and our talents. Folks, that Rock of Decision is The Big Rock. It shapes our life.

Now some go up and climb up that rock and make the leap with abandon. They jump off, legs flailing, “Yes, Jesus! I’m yours! Amen! Hallelujah!” Some make this leap hesitantly, inching up to the side, watching others go first. And then there are also some that wait at the top of the rock, just looking, thinking, wondering whether it’s really worth it at the bottom. Wondering whether there are any rocks that we can’t see down there that might break a leg or two. Maybe we can just climb down and wade in the water.

Well, that might be an option in Waimea, but not when it comes to faith. There comes a point when faith asks us to step out, to leap off, to give ourselves up to gravity and the water. We might not be sure about how deep it is, but others are doing it. How about us? When it comes to faith, are you a doubter or a leaper?

(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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