Paul’s Message: Sabbath Living

SabbathWorldIt’s stewardship time?! Nooooooooo! And that’s just the reaction of the pastor. Yes, May will be stewardship time in the life of FPC. Yes, a significant part of the discussion will involve money (cue another Noooooo!)

Ok, now that we have all of the ‘Noooooo’s’ out of the way, we can get down to business. Stewardship in the church context often means talking about money to pay the church’s bills. Doesn’t that sound exciting? Here at FPC, however, stewardship means something different. We will not be talking about the church budget. We will not be focusing on the need to pay the church’s monthly electric bill or the pastor’s salary. That’s not personal stewardship.

We at FPC focus on giving for you and not to get something from you. That’s why we don’t ask for pledges, or for how much you plan to give to the church. The specifics are between you and God. What we will be talking about is celebrating the joy of giving, and giving to nurture Sabbath life.

Sabbath life is the kind of life that God intends–individuals, communities, and creation living together in diverse and beautiful harmony. It’s what Adam and Eve experienced in the garden. It’s what Jesus made possible in the cross and resurrection and will complete when he returns. We can experience that kind of life when we live, love, and give like Jesus.

As a church body, we try to model this principle. Of all the income that we received in 2012 (including special offerings), just over 10% went directly to supporting mission and not to our operating expenses. We believe that this giving is one reason why, as a congregation, we are so blessed. We will encourage you to think about what God has blessed you with in terms of time, talents and treasure, and to ask yourself, “What is God calling me/us to give back?”

When we experience God’s grace and provision for us, our faith teaches us to respond by returning the first portion of that to God. It’s not a duty. It’s not an obligation that earns a few marks in the good column of God’s heavenly ledger. It’s a spiritual discipline that uncovers the profound truth that giving is the secret to abundant life. We were created to give, and giving empowers us to live life to its fullest.

When you give to God through this community, your giving will support the discovery of Sabbath living through our ministry. You will be supporting the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ. We hope you’ll join us in this journey to discover Sabbath living, and may you have a blessed Spring.

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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