Paul’s Message: Faith For the Middle of Things

Life is tough in the middle of things…and it seems that we are always in the middle of things.

We are in the middle of a search for a new associate pastor to help lead us into an exciting new era of ministry. It’s taking longer than we had hoped.

As I write, the General Assembly of our denomination is meeting. On the agenda are such ‘easy’ issues as same sex marriage, whether or not to divest from companies that actively support Israel’s occupation of the West Bank [update: the Assembly voted down divestment by a two vote margin], and a pretty radical re-visioning of the structures of Presbyterian government. This assembly takes place in the shadow of many congregations who are in the middle of leaving the denomination because they do not agree with stands the denomination has taken (particularly in areas of inclusiveness and LGBT equality). We as Presbyterians, are definitely in the middle of things.

We are smack dab in the middle of another election season. Billions are being spent to steer (or commandeer) the course of our nation because we struggle in the middle of many urgent issues (and the powers that be want to ensure that they stay the powers that be).

In the middle, things are undecided, unclear, uncertain. In the middle, too much of life dangles frustratingly beyond our control. Do you have areas in your life where you feel like you are stuck in the middle? (…thought so)

We are always in the middle of things.

The good news is that our Christian faith is precisely for the middle of things. Through our faith, God lightens our middle with thanksgiving and joy that come from the good things God has done. Jesus heals our middle by setting us free from the brokenness of Sin (the kind of our own making and the kind visited upon us). The Holy Spirit shades our middle with hope–the kind rooted in God’s steadfast love and enduring faithfulness. Though many things are maddeningly beyond our control, our Faith reminds us that we can entrust them to God’s control.

Our faith, when we live it, also brings out the best in us for life in the middle. It calls and enables us to listen with humility, to speak truth in love, to move forward with purpose in the face of risk, and to rest when needed.

By showing us where we can make a difference and by setting us free from anxiety about what is out of our reach, our faith empowers us. God gives us a faith for life in the middle of things.

Friends, may you discover faith for whatever middle you find yourself in, and may it be an awesome adventure

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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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