Paul’s Message: I Wish…

As the spring season progresses, as I sit in the shadow of stunning green mountains with just a touch of winter snow left at the peaks, as I look out over a valley just waking up to a new day, as I look forward to a day of meaningful work (and a little play too), I find myself wishing.

I wish the Lakers are able to reconfigure their team and win another championship next year (I wish for the Jazz to make it to the western conference finals. ;-)

I wish Timber would stop barking at the neighbor’s dog who seems to be relishing her walk in front of our/his window.

I wish for time and weather to hop on the bike and get a good ride in today (I think this wish will come true :-) .

I wish safe and blessed travels for all who are heading this way or that (including my daughter Lydia coming home to the US after a semester in Oaxaca, Mexico. Yea! says mom and dad).

I wish for blessed arrivals for summer citizens. May your travels be filled with refreshing experiences, meaningful work, or happy reunions.

I wish for wisdom for those who have questions that are profound.

I wish for a summer of wonderful worship and meaningful ministry for First Pres (Faith doesn’t take summers off, it makes summers better)

I wish for a warm welcome for the new associate pastor the Lord has already chosen (even if we and she/he don’t know who it is quite yet!)

For those who are looking for work, those who don’t know where this month’s rent, or next month’s mortgage payment, or tonight’s dinner is going to come from, I wish they discover a path to just what they need.

I wish for healing and strength to come to those who are hurting. I know that many are struggling with brokenness in mind, body, and spirit. Many are wrestling with relationships or wallowing in loneliness (sometimes both). Some are seeking to overcome past hurts, or to deal with the demon of an addiction. I wish for you to take steps toward wholeness.

I wish for peace inside ourselves, in our homes, in our communities, in our government, in our churches, and around the world. Boy do I wish for peace.

“I wish” is, perhaps, not the right phrase. “I pray” is a lot more like it. Praying is a lot more (and a lot mo ‘betta, as they say in HI) than wishing. Wishing is more for pipe dreams. Praying is more for children of God who hope and work for wholeness to come. Praying is aligning ourselves with that divine love that desires to move the whole creation toward Sabbath peace. Praying makes things happen. Maybe it’s not as quick, or not in the way that we’d choose. Maybe those stubborn prayers seem to remain forever on our lists, especially the larger and/or deeper ones. But I believe prayer eventually brings hope, and hope (combined with love) makes things brighter and moves things forward. I not only wish, I pray … for you.

Peace, Paul

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  • Patience–for the Lord is Near

    I don’t often read from the book of James in the New Testament.  It’s a relatively short book, with instructions for Christians ranging from words about poverty and riches to warnings against judgment upon others, and finally to instruction on patience in the midst of suffering.

    Patience in the midst of suffering…  I confess that doesn’t sound very appealing.

    Suffering comes in so many forms, and all of them are significant and legitimate. Suffering varies, of course, and as a person living in the United States of America, I’m often reluctant to claim that I suffer from anything egregious. I have food, shelter, companionship, and various freedoms. But we do suffer. We suffer from lots of things. Isolation, job loss, self-doubt, economic uncertainty, criticisms or judgments from others. Criticisms or judgments from ourselves. There is no doubt that in one way or another we are even suffering from this COVID-19 pandemic. I miss you all. Meg and I are your pastors. We should be seeing you each week and praying with you, rejoicing at the good things in life, and comforting each other amidst the difficult time in life.

    It’s impossible to determine when we might get to the end of this, but I feel like we are about to turn a corner thanks to the hard work and miraculous creativity of scientists who are making COVID-19 vaccinations possible. I was in Colorado for a few days at the end of January to visit my father again, and it was such a blessing to drive him to a hospital where we received his first vaccination shot. The next one will be available in a few more weeks, and only then will I feel more secure about him, and the rest of us, making it through this.

    While reading James recently I came across this passage in the fifth and final chapter.

    Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.

    James is writing to a group of people in first century Palestine who are wondering when Christ will return. He suggests they be patient for the coming of the Lord. I hope they were able to be so, because here we are two thousand years later…awaiting that same return. But in the midst of our ‘waiting’ we’ve learned something else about the Kingdom of Heaven. We don’t have to wait for the return of Christ for Christ to be present in our lives and across this world. The Kingdom of God is at hand. We help bring it about. We help bring about that kingdom of love and grace and comfort.

    James goes on to suggest that just as a farmer waits for his or her crop to sprout up and grow with the rains and flourish for time of harvest, we too must be patient. He then instructs them to strengthen their hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Patience. It’s been a long time, but I hope and pray we are doing well with patience during this pandemic.

    I am still in shock that around 3-4,000 Americans are dying each day from COVID-19 or related complications. It is staggering. The number is higher around the world. How do we mourn such a time? I’m not exactly sure, but perhaps the season of Lent which begins on February 17th will give us some room to do just that.

    This all brings me back to one of the central purposes of us as a congregation—the faithful worship gathering that we hold each week. I thank you for your patience and support while we worship on YouTube and occasionally via Zoom. I’d rather be in person with you, but not at the risk of anyone’s health or life. It’s a bit strange to me, being the church in this ‘digital age’ forced upon us by quarantine and social distancing. We’re doing our best, and I hope we’re doing it well. But I’m having a struggle with patience as I dream about seeing you all again in person. Session continues to discuss future plans; we will continue with our current setup for now and pray for a day when vaccinations are widespread and transmission rates approach zero. Not only for the sake of our worship, but also because of the value we place upon the health and well-being of each person.

    I’d like to also thank you for the love and support you have extended to my family as we’ve grieved my mom’s death on December 28th. My father received many cards from you, and he sends his thanks; they were all very meaningful. As you know my parents regularly visited Logan and enjoyed worshiping the Lord with us. Dad says when we’re back in person for church you can be sure he’ll be around to worship with us again. He, along with all of us, can’t wait to hear the Praise Band, Chancel Choir, and Westminster Bell Choir live and in person. Once again, thank you all.

    As James pleaded to those early Christians living in very uncertain times, may we strengthen our hearts, for indeed the Lord is near.

    Peace be with you all,  

    Derek

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