Pastor Paul’s Lenten Message

Just Words

“Rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Prov 12:18)

Friends,

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me. That’s what they say, right? Well, I am not sure who “they” are, but they are most certainly wrong.

Another version of the saying ends, “and words will never hurt me.” ‘I usually (I don’t think) put things so bluntly, but that’s wrong too. I think most if not all of us discover this pretty quickly. Words most definitely can hurt. Though I do not want to minimize the profound tragedy of physical violence, I believe, in fact, that words can wound more deeply and with more lasting effect than any stick or stone.

It’s time to elect a President again. Public discussion on the critical issues we face needs to proceed. In our churches, school boards, council chambers, as well as in our personal relationships, I believe we need to give more thought to the words we use.

In Genesis, the Spirit of the Lord hovered over the deep and said, “Let there be … “ With words the cosmos came into being. God’s creative words bring life. One of the ways that we reflect (or not) the image of our creator is through our words. The words we use shape our reality. They effect perceptions. They can give birth to new thoughts and possibilities, or they can kill them. They can unite or inspire, or divide and discourage. They can deepen love, or spread hate. Words have power.

Too often, our words are chosen less for truth, edification, and nurturing community and more for their power to manipulate, obfuscate, and demean. Too often, this negative use of words is employed because it works. They are effective because we let them be so.

This may seem to be a rant, I know, but as we enter the season of Lent, it might be helpful for us to reflect on our words, and how we receive the words of others. Do they illumine? Are they helpful? Are they honest? Do they bring life? Or do they accomplish something else?

This season of Lent, let’s give some thought to our words. Let’s choose them carefully. Let’s let others know when their words hurt more than they help. Let’s not accept a public discourse that is less than the values of love, justice, and equality that we confess.

I confess that many words that I have uttered and written have been less than well chosen. Careless words and words that hurt escape all of our mouths at one point or another.

Thankfully, our language contains the word “grace” which can be one of the most powerful words we know. With grace, and nurturing habits of choosing life giving words, I believe we can reflect our creator and when we examine our words, the Lord will say, “It is good.”

Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony … And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Col 3:14,17)

–Peace, Paul

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  • Affirmations of Faith

    On the last Sunday of October, ‘Mission Sunday,’ many of you helped us pack more than two hundred bags for a local school food distribution program.  Those bags of food went out to local schoolchildren, who live in food insecure settings, to keep their bellies full. The food we provided has the potential to ensure the schoolchildren are more successful in life and in their education.  In worship we sometimes use the phrase ‘Affirmation of Faith’ and then repeat a longstanding confession of the church, such as the Apostles’ Creed or the Brief Statement of Faith. I value reciting these affirmations, because they remind us of the core values we hold as Christians. But as I was thinking about this over the last few months, I believe that such mission work to the community around us is an even deeper affirmation of our faith by acknowledging Jesus’ call upon our lives, and then living out that ministry.

    I want to share information with you this month about another ministry which I believe is an affirmation of our faith. You have heard us talk about it quite a bit but may not know the details. For years now the Deacon’s Fund at First Presbyterian Church has provided financial assistance to those in our community facing immediate financial need that impacts their ability to live a healthy and productive life.

    There are social services around town, which provide supportive and meaningful resources, but there can be qualifications and restrictions associated with the access of those services. The Deacon’s Fund strives to offer judgment-free ministry to those who are facing financial challenges in life and helps people access these services.

    Barbara Troisi and Beth MacDonald are currently our two Deacon’s Fund facilitators.  They spend time each month looking at applications for assistance, and then distribute funds, which may involve multiple phone calls, trips to the store for Smith’s gift cards (useful for food or fuel), and various other tasks.  Prior to Beth and Barbara, other wonderful people contributed their efforts to this ministry: Linda Roberts, Tina Purintun, Kelly Rhea, Terry Brennand, Barbara Lutz (I am sure I have left a name or two off, please forgive me). Pam Riffe also makes contributions and supports people applying for these funds in her role as our office administrator.

    These are some of the ‘saints’ of the church. These are angels among us – superheroes, one might say – who make time in their lives to help others.

    The Deacon’s Fund recently received a large contribution from a couple in our community.  They are not part of our church, but they learned of our efforts to help local people through some friends who are church members.  They made this contribution to help those who are struggling to find sustainable and affordable housing. They wanted to make a significant contribution to help with housing issues and knew that First Presbyterian Church would be a wonderful avenue for those efforts. I am thankful for everyone who makes contributions to the Deacon’s Fund, small or large (most offerings to this ministry come in $10, $20, or $100 increments). Over the decades these dollars have helped hundreds of people in our community in moments of great need. This is truly part of the mission of the church, and one of the callings Jesus has placed upon us.

    Beth MacDonald is transitioning out of her role as a Deacon’s Fund facilitator at the end of the year (she will be plenty busy helping to organize and lead the Westminster Bell Choir). Thank you, Beth, for your efforts. This means we are looking for a new Deacon’s Fund coordinator to work alongside Barbara Troisi. If any of you would like to help, please let me know. If you have questions about this ministry, please talk to Beth, Barbara, or me. Beth has set up a nice spreadsheet to help keep track of funds received and funds dispersed. You don’t need to be a financial expert or math whiz to fill this role, only to have a caring heart.

    The ministry efforts of Mission Sunday and through the Deacon’s Fund are two of the wonderful aspects of First Presbyterian Church. Our calling as a faith community is certainly to worship and praise the Lord, but also to share the good news and make helpful, life-affirming contributions to the community and world around us. I pray that our ministry together continues to be vigorous.

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

    Pastor Derek

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