Paul’s Message: Time to Believe

“It’s time to believe what we know.”

I heard Rob Davies say this during the opening of last fall’s Bioneers Conference. During this presentation, spoken word was offered, accompanied by the Fry Street Quartet providing original music composed just for the occasion, under a big screen that displayed powerful images of both creation’s beauty and creation’s crisis. This presentation was intended to usher the audience into an experience that not only informs the mind, but moves the soul. It worked … and we need more.

The scientific community has spoken, and continues to confirm what we have long known: the creation is wounded. We know that it will require common action to heal. We know that changes in lifestyle and outlook are needed to build a sustainable future. We know these things. But knowing isn’t believing. Belief draws upon knowing, but is more than intellectual assent; it involves the soul. It involves tapping the deep waters of human identity and relationship to shape life that is in harmony with creation rather than at odds with it.

Over the past year, I have become more and more convinced that as we celebrate creation’s beauty and wrestle with its crisis, there is a need for proclamation that not only informs the mind, but moves our individual and corporate soul. I believe that we need the spoken word. We need original music composed just for this occasion. We need powerful images splashed across screens small and large. We need the kind of proclamation that draws upon science and spirituality, conversation and invitation, grace and justice, deep reflection and meaningful action. The focus of this needed proclamation is to call those who are unaware, educate those who are uninformed, empower those who are ready to work, nudge those who are reluctant, and strengthen those who are losing hope. I believe that we can do that. It leads to believing … living what we know.

When the church is at its best, it empowers individuals and communities to live faithfully in ways that bring peace, healing, and justice. When the church is at its best, it brings life like Jesus did. We at FPC are flawed and sinners like everyone else, but through God’s grace we want to be the church at its best. That’s why over the coming year we are going to work on growing in environmental ministry.

What’s environmental ministry? It’s ministry, rooted in a strong biblical foundation, that seeks to nurture a healthy and sustainable relationship with the creation that God has placed in our care. It’s ministry that seeks to bring healing to the wounds that we inflict upon the world. It’s ministry that seeks justice and wholeness not only for people, but for all of life.

The Session (the governing body of our congregation) has committed our congregation to this ministry. We believe it’s a natural calling for our church. We hope and encourage you to be involved. There will be opportunities small and larger to both learn and share, to be changed and to bring change. Take note of the lunch on May 6. Speak to me or a session member about what we are doing. And together we will make a difference, bringing belief based on what we know. –Peace, Paul

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  • Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

    There is a beautiful piece of seasonal writing attributed to the theologian and civil rights leader Howard Thurman that you may have encountered in Christmases past. It’s entitled, “Now the Work of Christmas Begins.” Take in these words from the author:

    When the song of the angels is stilled,

    when the star in the sky is gone,

    when the kings and princes are home,

    when the shepherds are back with their flocks,

    the work of Christmas begins:

    to find the lost,

    to heal the broken,

    to feed the hungry,

    to release the prisoner,

    to rebuild the nations,

    to bring peace among the people,

    to make music in the heart.

    Indeed, this is the real work of Christmas. This is the work we discover in faith when we follow the light of Christ, which the darkness has not and will not overcome. In last Sunday’s Scripture passage, Luke records that Mary and Joseph were amazed at what was said about Jesus when they encountered Simeon in the temple in Jerusalem. On account of the angel Gabriel’s visit, Mary knew in the beginning that the child she would bear would be holy, but I wonder if she knew that this would be the character of His holy work? What a proud mother she must have been. What a nervous mother she must have been, watching her Son challenge the status quo as He lived in obedient faith to God, gently shepherding God’s people! Yes, this holy child will lead us – the Church – in finding, healing, feeding, releasing, rebuilding, and bringing peace. His story is ours to discover anew in the pages of the Gospel, the pages we will turn together in worship in the months to come. 

    Although the real work of Christmas is ours to offer another, let us also take to heart that it is also ours to receive as blessing and gift. At times we are lost, feeling broken, or living and praying for peace of mind or spirit. At times we sense that our lives are in need of rebuilding. As the great Henri Nouwen has observed, our own wounds may serve as a source of strength and healing in our own work of serving.

    My heart is full this holiday season. As may be true for you, I am holding joy and sorrow in the same chamber. I rejoice in what I hold dear, in the embrace of my loved ones in the home, and in the privilege of worshiping with you through a variety of experiences this December. I grieve with families who lost loved ones to Covid or other causes in 2020, and most recently, Pastor Derek’s family. I find joy in new traditions and customs that this holiday season has inspired. I long for loved ones who are no longer with us and who I remember especially at Christmas. My faith is wide enough to embrace these differing realities, to hold joy and sorrow in tandem. I pray yours is, too. 

    In faith, we will find, heal, feed, and rebuild, because Christ has first found us and embraced us with His healing presence. He feeds us with His Word and at table, in our hunger for bread that nourishes and lasts. In the grateful words of Martin Luther, “to you Christ is born. For this purpose Christ willed to be born, that through him we might be born anew. Christ must above all things become our own and we become his. See to it that you make this birth your own and that Christ be born in you.”

    Dear friends, Christ is born in us, and His love will guide and equip our ministry together in 2021. Pastor Derek and I look forward with anticipation to a new year of ministry with you. Let us follow the light of Christ together!  With joy, Pastor Meg

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