Paul’s Message: Learning to Read

TaizeJust before Jesus began to tell his disciples about his expected fate in Jerusalem at the hands of the religious types and worldly powers that be, he was approached by a few of them and they asked for some sign, some proof from heaven that what he was about was true. Jesus responds (in Eugene Peterson’s imaginative translation), “You have a saying that goes, ‘Red sky at night, sailor’s delight; red sky at morning, sailors take warning.’ You find it easy enough to forecast the weather—why can’t you read the signs of the times?” (Matt 16:2–3 MESSAGE)

Like a good teacher, and like God in the Hebrew Scriptures, Jesus doesn’t just lay everything out so that everyone is forced to bow down and worship. It’s not Jesus way to coerce and force obedience. Jesus doesn’t give his disciples all the answers, he teaches them to read–to read the signs of the times.

Jesus knew, after his journey on earth was done, that he would need disciples who would not just parrot his words. He would need disciples who could read the signs of the times and interpret the life changing significance of his coming in light of their times. Jesus was training disciples who could do more than memorize his words; he was inviting disciples who could live his words.

We would love for Jesus just to give us clear, irrefutable answers. Instead, Jesus wants to teach us how to read-to read the signs of our times. The better we know our times, our needs, our desires, our hopes, the more we are able to discover and live Jesus words of good news for us.

In some ways the signs of our times point to circumstances that are very different from the ancient world, and in some ways also to conditions and realities that are profoundly the same. In some ways, the signs are inside of us: our worries, fears, burdens, hurts, guilt, and grief–our own personal need for God’s grace and love. In other ways, the signs are also around us: air that makes us cough, conflicts that make us hot, tragedies and loss that make us weep, ideologies and theologies that cause our vision to narrow or blur-our communal need for God’s grace and love.

We need Jesus to help us read. We are trying something a little different this year as we journey together toward Holy Week and Easter. Join us for our Ash Wednesday service, which marks the beginning of the season of Lent–a season of connection, reflection, prayer, and preparation. Join us for small group time based on the film Pay It Forward. Join us for a mid-week service of quiet music, Scripture, prayer, and reflection in the Taizé style. It’s a meditative half hour of personal and communal blessing in worship followed by a simple Lenten meal of soup and bread. The services will be lay led. Join us for Sunday worship.

We will sharpen and deepen our reading skills together, and so open ourselves to a fresh encounter of the Living Word Jesus Christ.

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  • Courageous Ministry

    Dear Friends,

    I hope this month’s edition of the Pulse finds you and your loved ones navigating life and faith with as much grace and self-compassion as possible. I know that some in our community have welcomed summer as a time to travel with family and friends, and to be reunited with loved ones. Others continue to struggle with health issues, isolation, and anxiety about the resurgence of Covid with the Delta variant. In the immortal words of Paul to the Romans, as a community, we “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” There is a chair or pew here on Sunday mornings for people in all seasons of life, and an open door to my office for any burdens (or celebrations) to be shared. I hope that you will join us or tune in via livestream on August 8th when I incorporate a compassion ritual in our worship services, to mark the lingering impact of Covid on the lives of God’s people everywhere. 

    Whether you have been in Bruner Hall often this summer, or it has been some time since you’ve walked through the doors of FPC, I want to share with you some happenings that I celebrate as we continue to serve faithfully as an inclusive community of faith and compassion at FPC Logan. Since the beginning of Pastor Derek’s sabbatical on June 1st, we welcomed four guest preachers who shared the Good News with us, from Scriptures ranging from Genesis to the Gospels, from Ezekiel to Ephesians. Two of these preachers are women who I’ve had the privilege of mentoring as ministers in the ordination process with the Presbyterian Church in Utah. At summer’s end, we will welcome two additional preachers to share in our worship life, and I will conclude my ongoing spiritual disciplines sermon series later this month. 

    This summer, FPC has been home to Loaves & Fishes and a series of Red Cross Blood Drives. In June, our middle schoolers organized and delivered a supplies drive for Cache Humane Society, with two middle schoolers traveling to American Fork Canyon for a reservoir clean-up with presbytery peers. Eight high schoolers from FPC Logan traveled with me to Denver, where we served with Habitat for Humanity for four days, offering a total of 22 hours of service each. In two weeks, we will gather at Stokes Nature Center for earth care efforts. The Mission Committee is gearing up to prepare us for another Mission Sunday at FPC this fall. I learned that just this week, the Sew n’ Sews prepared a large shipment of homemade sanitary pads to benefit our neighbors in Ethiopia. Beth MacDonald and Barbara Troisi have been busy processing Deacon’s Fund applications to provide for the safety and welfare of neighbors here in Cache Valley. Barbara and Dorothy Jones visited our neighbors at Williamsburg with Cache Ministries in early July. Truly, there is no summer break in the ministry of FPC Logan! 

    In their meetings in June and July, your session has thoughtfully and prayerfully navigated decisions about worship safety precautions, knowing that there is no “right answer” about how to be the Church in a pandemic. Even among our Presbyterian churches in Utah, there is no uniform approach to worship in these strange days. We are discerning together, and the updated policy you received this week is the session’s most current discernment of how FPC Logan can be both a welcoming and safe house of worship for every beloved child of God, from the under 12 to the most senior among us. In electing the elders to serve on session, you covenant to pray for them and to abide by their decision-making. I hope and pray that you will continue to do both in the coming days and weeks.  

    Earlier this week, acknowledging the presence and concern of the Delta variant, the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, challenged us, the people of the Church, to “wait on the Lord and be of good courage.” Courage has many faces in Scripture and in our society today, but I am drawn to this Sunday’s passage from John in which the crowd went looking for Jesus. When they find him, Jesus instructs them to work for the food that endures for eternal life and reminds them that he is the bread of life. As we take up the charge to be of good courage, I hope that together, as a church community, we will be on the lookout for Jesus, the bread of life. I expect him to surprise us and challenge us, as he always does with his faithful followers in Scripture, the disciples and friends who want to do as Jesus does in the world. You will find him here at FPC Logan, whether we worship in Bruner or the Sanctuary, with or without masks, and you will find him in the community to which we are called as partners in ministry. Come and behold that God is doing a new thing in this place, if we only have the courage to answer the call, to work for the food that endures, and to fix our sight on Jesus, the bread of life. 

    In Christ’s promises,

    Pastor Meg

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