Paul’s Message: A Pondering Christmas

WisemenLet’s take a cue from Mary this year. Let’s ponder.

When Gabe the angel came visit, he opened this everyday conversation with, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

Of course, this wasn’t an everyday conversation. It’s not every day that an angel chats with an young teenage girl in a small town far from the center of anything.  It was an extraordinary conversation. Mary knew it. It perplexed her. What did she do? She pondered.

It’s easy to go through this season without pondering.  There is so much to do. There are so many carols to sing, so many gifts to wrap, so many parties, and gatherings, and concerts, and on and on.  It’s easy to wake up in January having celebrated much, but pondered little.

For some of us, the season is a little more blue. We are supposed to be happy. We do our best to put a smile on our face. We try and get into the spirit of things. But on the inside, the more we try and be happy, the more we slide into the darker corners of our hearts.  We grieve the loss of a loved one, or struggle with an inner hurt. We wake up in January, emotionally wrung out from a holiday known for joy.

Whether we are on the happy side or the blue side of the holiday season, I believe that we can grow from Mary’s example. We can pause to ponder.

When we ponder, we pause to turn things over in our heads and hearts. We listen. We share. We wonder. We question. We doubt. We examine. Sometimes, we even come to believe. That is to say, we come to discover that the good news of a coming savior is not just for others, it’s for us.

Perhaps you would benefit from some communal pondering. Ponder with a friend. Ponder with your church.  Our worship services, sunday school classes, mid-week bible studies, and more are there to give us an opportunity to ponder the significance and depth of the one whose coming we await. When we ponder together, we are reminded that we are not alone.

After Mary pondered, she was able to say yes to God’s invitation. She ended up singing a pretty profound and joyous song of good news that still echoes today.

When we ponder, it gives us opportunity to sense an angel’s greeting (It might not be the angel Gabriel. Maybe it will be angel Gus, or angel Betty, or Angel Hala), “favored one! The Lord is with you.”

And we can sense that in the midst of everything, God is waiting to bring peace to our hearts and peace to the world.

May you ponder this Advent and Christmas, and may you be blessed.
Paul

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  • A Season of Resurrection

    Resurrection day has arrived. And with it the reminder of eternal hope because of Jesus Christ. Spring has also arrived here in Cache Valley, and while it’s not over, the end of our year-long pandemic seems to be approaching, thanks be to God. I hope this day finds you well in spirit and body, and also vaccinated (or soon-to be). I saw a sign the other day that reminded me while we’ve all been through the same storm in this last year, we haven’t all been in the same boat. Some people have weathered this storm fairly well, others have struggled mightily in one way or another. In spiritual terms, economic terms, emotional terms, and in health. And of course, not everyone has made it through the storm. I am worried that recent progress in this pandemic could be lost, but I’m thankful so many vaccinations are underway. As I’m sure it has been for you, this has been an emotionally challenging year for me as well. It seems to have contained more “downs” than “ups.” But my belief in God keeps me hopeful. Having spoken to many of you, I am thankful that a large portion of our congregation has received Covid-19 vaccinations or are in process of doing that now. The better our state and local community are doing, the sooner we’ll be able to worship in the building together.

    We’re beginning to worship together (outdoors, for the moment) for the first time in over a year. Your elders and Worship Committee have been hard at work making plans for us to transition from online worship back to in-person worship. I’d like to share with you how this process will work. To begin, we will continue to have online worship in some form, even as we get back to in-person outdoor worship (and eventually indoor). This allows anyone who wishes to continue worshiping from home to do so. We will be purchasing a special camera that allows us to livestream a worship service (which means what we do in worship goes straight to YouTube, with no long hours of editing required).

    Details for May are not yet determined, although we are making preparations and plans for indoor worship, for when Session feels it is safe. Session and the Worship Committee have approved the following plans for April:

    April 4th (Easter Sunday!)—we will worship together outdoors, in the Peace Garden and along the East side of the sanctuary, at 11 a.m.  We will hold this outdoor service (with members of our choir leading us in song) no matter the weather, so bring an umbrella or rain jacket if necessary. Masks will be required. YouTube worship will also be available.

    April 11th—we will worship via YouTube on April 11th, with a sermon delivered by an outstanding preacher named Rev. Brian Ellison. Brian is the Executive Director of the Covenant Network, a national group of church leaders working for a church that is simultaneously faithful, just, and whole, that seeks to support the mission and unity of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and to articulate and act on the church’s historic, progressive vision and to work for a fully inclusive church (particularly concerning the LGBTQIA+ community). FPC Logan is a member of the Covenant Network. Meg and I will lead the service, but Brian will be our preacher.

    April 18th—we will worship together outdoors at Trapper Park in southwest Logan, at 11 a.m. This Sunday is dedicated to Earth Day, and after a service (with music from our Praise Band) you are invited to walk the wonderful Logan River Trail with us. Materials will be provided to collect trash along the trail. There is a pavilion at Trapper’s Park. We will hold this service rain or shine (come dressed for the weather). Masks will be required for the service in the park. A YouTube service will be available for those who wish to stay home.

    April 25th—we will worship via YouTube on April 25th. Going back to YouTube this Sunday allows us to evaluate the recent outdoor services and make plans for future services, which may be outdoor, or if we are fortunate, perhaps indoor.

    I thank you for your grace and patience during this long year, and in coming months. It’s been a difficult one for your pastors and church staff too. I am thankful that we’ve had YouTube worship, but I’m very much looking forward to getting back to seeing each other in person and worshiping the Lord together.

    In this season of resurrection, may your hearts be filled with grace, peace, and joy.

    —Pastor Derek

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