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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  • Lent in the Midst of COVID

    We’re in the church season of Lent, a time of journeying with Jesus as he makes his way to Jerusalem and to the cross.  In addition to Sunday worship services on YouTube we will be adding short mid-week Lenten devotions from Pastor Meg and myself (also available on YouTube).

     Last month Mary-Ann Muffoletto sent me a picture. She took a ‘screen shot’ of our most recent Zoom congregational meeting, and I’m thankful she thought to do this. This is the moment when we ordained and installed new elders and deacons to our church. This is usually a sacred moment of our worship together on Sunday mornings, a special time for those new deacons and elders and also for the congregation as these individuals step into leadership positions for us. We’re usually doing a “laying on of hands” at this moment, as we offer a prayer for these new officers. This last year Presbyterian churches around the country have doing this via Zoom, and here we are, lifting up our hands as a blessing for these church officers, as we lift them up to God in their new roles.

    The big thing on our mind in the church office and with Session is when will we be back in worship together? I don’t have an answer for you at the moment, but as more people receive vaccines and transmission rates continue to decrease in Utah and around the country, we get closer to that time. Two Session members have volunteered to work with Pastor Meg and myself on plans for when we get back into the building. Outdoor worship services in a park is also a possibility before we return to our church building. When we are back in the sanctuary and Bruner Hall together our plan is to record the service and make it available on YouTube for those who choose to continue worshiping from home.

    I want to close by sharing a few things with you about our building during this last year. You might think the building has been empty and unused, but I assure you this is not the case. While most of our activities have been put on hold, several things have been occurring in our building. Session approved Loaves & Fishes to serve take-away meals and that has been ongoing through much of the year. Additionally, numerous recovery programs (similar to AA) have been meeting throughout the year (for some people, being able to attend a sobriety meeting is a life and death matter). And finally, the Red Cross has been holding blood drives every month or so. Craig Mortensen passed along to me that Red Cross blood drives at FPC collected 490 units of blood in the last year. Most of these units even came from willing donors… (just kidding!). All of these activities have required people to wear masks and socially distance to prevent spread of COVID.

    It brings me great joy to think of how many people Loaves & Fishes has helped, how many people have continued their journeys of sobriety, and how many people were helped through blood donations in the last year. Each of these activities come with some risk of COVID transmission, but Session approved them because they are essential for certain members of our community. All of these happenings are possible because of the use of our church building. I thank all of you for your ongoing support of FPC Logan. I know we aren’t worshiping there, and many of us are anxious to be back in the sanctuary (I am too). Thank you for bearing with us and our cautious approach. Good things are indeed happening through use of our building and because of our collective journeys with Jesus Christ.

    Grace and peace be with you on your Lenten journey.

    Pastor Derek

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