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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  • Affirmations of Faith

    On the last Sunday of October, ‘Mission Sunday,’ many of you helped us pack more than two hundred bags for a local school food distribution program.  Those bags of food went out to local schoolchildren, who live in food insecure settings, to keep their bellies full. The food we provided has the potential to ensure the schoolchildren are more successful in life and in their education.  In worship we sometimes use the phrase ‘Affirmation of Faith’ and then repeat a longstanding confession of the church, such as the Apostles’ Creed or the Brief Statement of Faith. I value reciting these affirmations, because they remind us of the core values we hold as Christians. But as I was thinking about this over the last few months, I believe that such mission work to the community around us is an even deeper affirmation of our faith by acknowledging Jesus’ call upon our lives, and then living out that ministry.

    I want to share information with you this month about another ministry which I believe is an affirmation of our faith. You have heard us talk about it quite a bit but may not know the details. For years now the Deacon’s Fund at First Presbyterian Church has provided financial assistance to those in our community facing immediate financial need that impacts their ability to live a healthy and productive life.

    There are social services around town, which provide supportive and meaningful resources, but there can be qualifications and restrictions associated with the access of those services. The Deacon’s Fund strives to offer judgment-free ministry to those who are facing financial challenges in life and helps people access these services.

    Barbara Troisi and Beth MacDonald are currently our two Deacon’s Fund facilitators.  They spend time each month looking at applications for assistance, and then distribute funds, which may involve multiple phone calls, trips to the store for Smith’s gift cards (useful for food or fuel), and various other tasks.  Prior to Beth and Barbara, other wonderful people contributed their efforts to this ministry: Linda Roberts, Tina Purintun, Kelly Rhea, Terry Brennand, Barbara Lutz (I am sure I have left a name or two off, please forgive me). Pam Riffe also makes contributions and supports people applying for these funds in her role as our office administrator.

    These are some of the ‘saints’ of the church. These are angels among us – superheroes, one might say – who make time in their lives to help others.

    The Deacon’s Fund recently received a large contribution from a couple in our community.  They are not part of our church, but they learned of our efforts to help local people through some friends who are church members.  They made this contribution to help those who are struggling to find sustainable and affordable housing. They wanted to make a significant contribution to help with housing issues and knew that First Presbyterian Church would be a wonderful avenue for those efforts. I am thankful for everyone who makes contributions to the Deacon’s Fund, small or large (most offerings to this ministry come in $10, $20, or $100 increments). Over the decades these dollars have helped hundreds of people in our community in moments of great need. This is truly part of the mission of the church, and one of the callings Jesus has placed upon us.

    Beth MacDonald is transitioning out of her role as a Deacon’s Fund facilitator at the end of the year (she will be plenty busy helping to organize and lead the Westminster Bell Choir). Thank you, Beth, for your efforts. This means we are looking for a new Deacon’s Fund coordinator to work alongside Barbara Troisi. If any of you would like to help, please let me know. If you have questions about this ministry, please talk to Beth, Barbara, or me. Beth has set up a nice spreadsheet to help keep track of funds received and funds dispersed. You don’t need to be a financial expert or math whiz to fill this role, only to have a caring heart.

    The ministry efforts of Mission Sunday and through the Deacon’s Fund are two of the wonderful aspects of First Presbyterian Church. Our calling as a faith community is certainly to worship and praise the Lord, but also to share the good news and make helpful, life-affirming contributions to the community and world around us. I pray that our ministry together continues to be vigorous.

    May the grace and peace of Christ be with you all,

    Pastor Derek

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