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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  • Breakfast Encounter

    Last Friday morning, I stopped by my GP’s office to let them draw some blood for a test and to get my flu vaccine for the year. Because of the blood test, I had to ‘fast,’ arriving for the blood draw without having any food that morning. When the phlebotomist had drawn the blood and given me the shot, I went to a nearby diner to get some breakfast. Little did I know I was about to witness something extraordinary.

    While I was eating my pancake, egg, and piece of sausage and reading a book about Oscar Romero, a young man went up to the counter to pay. I didn’t notice any of this, of course (occupied as I was with not only Oscar Romero’s life and ministry to the poor of El Salvador, but also all that butter and syrup…) until the young man started yelling at the woman behind the counter.

    “Swipe it again!” is what drew my attention.

    She did, and the card must have been denied a second time. She ran it again, and the look on her face told me the same thing happened. Denied.

    The young man was getting more agitated and saying things to her under his breath. I was paying more attention now, and she asked if he had another card she could try.

    “No! I don’t have another bleeping card!” he yelled at her. Except he didn’t say bleeping.

    Now I’m not a stranger to harsh words. I’ve said them myself. Usually when I’m trying to get a rusted bolt off an old machine and it finally comes loose, taking some of my knuckle skin with it. And I think I quietly swore under my breath in January of 1988 when the Washington football team beat my beloved Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl, 42-10. There have been other times too. But never, ever at a person.

    Upon being sworn at, the young woman stared at the man like she didn’t know what to do (how could she?). Tears were about to appear. And the air in the room went real still. Like in the movies. I’m sure the background music was still playing, but it seemed deathly quiet at that moment.

    I was about to get up and walk over to the counter—not exactly sure what I was going to do once I got there—when another man who had been eating nearby wandered up real slow, eyes staring at the young man. He was a tall guy, with white hair under his old IFA ball cap, probably in his sixties. He asked the young woman, “What seems to be the problem here?”

    And that’s when the young man made what I thought was a fatal mistake: he answered when he hadn’t been spoken to. “It’s nothin’. My card won’t work,” he spat back.

    I thought a fight was about to break out, but the older man, his eyes searing into the young disgruntled one’s face, reached for his wallet and said to the cashier, “Aubrey, I’d like to pay for this young man’s meal, if that’s okay with him.” And after getting out some cash, he put his hand on the young man’s shoulder, not one of those friendly pats on the shoulder, but one of those firm grips that, well, made me think he was making sure the lesson was going to stick.

    I’ve had those kinds of hands on my shoulders a few times over the years. Perhaps from a coach, maybe from my dad once or twice; they happen when a boy or young man really needs to start paying attention.

    And after staring at him for what seemed like an eternity, the old guy said, “Be kind.” And then walked away.

    The young man left the restaurant and climbed into an oversize truck that was parked right out front, cranked up the volume on his radio, and left some rubber on the road as he departed.

    I went into the church office sometime later to finish my sermon, but I kept thinking about angry people and hurt people and kind people and people who teach lessons to those who could use them. I also thought about people who have a head full of kind words who refuse to tolerate ugliness.

    I hope I can be someone like that.

    I have a feeling Aubrey earned a whole lot of tips that morning. She deserved them.

    Be kind.

    That’s all for now.

    —Pastor Derek

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