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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  • After all this time…

    Well, this is it my fellow followers of Jesus, we are returning to in-person worship at First Presbyterian Church. It has been fourteen long months of us learning to be a worshiping community in the best ways we could figure out (thank you Jesus, even for things like YouTube and Zoom). It’s been challenging for me as your pastor (I imagine Pastor Meg would say the same). It’s been challenging for all of you in faith and life and with family and friends. 

    But we’re going back to church, praise the Lord.

    Many things seem to be happening in our world at this moment. How are you handling it all? We’re opening the church doors again. There was a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis. Many of you have your Covid-19 vaccinations. It’s Springtime and the tulips are starting to bloom. The Sandhill Cranes and other migratory birds are back in the valley. So how are we doing as we process all of this? How are you doing?

    Relief? Sorrow? Joy? Sadness? 

    All of the above?

    I’ve heard several phrases of late, including ‘pandemic pain.’ I’ve felt fatigued myself. But having received the vaccination shots, I am ready to be back in our church building with you praising the Lord together. With high vaccination rates among our church members and several safety precautions, Session has voted for our return to in-person worship. Details are listed in another article inside this edition, but our first Sunday back will be Sunday, May 9th, with our regular service times of 9 & 11 a.m.

    This worldwide pandemic is not over. Not by a long shot as I watch the news from places like India and Brazil, or even Michigan. But many of us have received our vaccinations and we are implementing some practices that should allow us to worship the Lord together, safely. And to be clear (I cannot say this enough), if you do not feel safe coming to church in the near future, please continue to worship from home. I will do my absolute best to make sure our worship live-stream allows you to connect with God and connect with the rest of us from the safety of your own home. We have purchased a small and simple (yet high quality) camera that will live-stream Sunday morning worship directly to YouTube. You have the option to watch it ‘live’ as we are worshiping or watch it at a later time that is more convenient for you.

    So, what might we expect on Sunday mornings in May when we go back? First and foremost, we will be together singing, praying, and praising the Lord. Hallelujah! There will be a few changes, of course. We ask that everyone wear a mask while in the building. We will not have indoor fellowship to prevent ‘grouping’ around the food. Both services will be in Bruner Hall (this is to allow for social distancing). We will initially space chairs out in groups of one, two, three, four, etc. (please find a group of chairs that matches your household). Our air handling system will be on during the service. We won’t use hymnals so that multiple people aren’t touching them each morning (lyrics will be in the bulletin and projected onto the wall). And finally, if you are feeling under the weather, we ask that you please be extra-considerate of your fellow worshipers and remain home.

    Every day of life is a new endeavor. The same is true for us in this process of returning to worship. May we prayerfully and carefully take actions that promote good community health, along with our spiritual health. Thank you for your patience with us, and I look forward to seeing every one of you, whenever that might be.

    —Pastor Derek

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