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.

This entry was posted in Sermons. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
  • After all this time…

    Well, this is it my fellow followers of Jesus, we are returning to in-person worship at First Presbyterian Church. It has been fourteen long months of us learning to be a worshiping community in the best ways we could figure out (thank you Jesus, even for things like YouTube and Zoom). It’s been challenging for me as your pastor (I imagine Pastor Meg would say the same). It’s been challenging for all of you in faith and life and with family and friends. 

    But we’re going back to church, praise the Lord.

    Many things seem to be happening in our world at this moment. How are you handling it all? We’re opening the church doors again. There was a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis. Many of you have your Covid-19 vaccinations. It’s Springtime and the tulips are starting to bloom. The Sandhill Cranes and other migratory birds are back in the valley. So how are we doing as we process all of this? How are you doing?

    Relief? Sorrow? Joy? Sadness? 

    All of the above?

    I’ve heard several phrases of late, including ‘pandemic pain.’ I’ve felt fatigued myself. But having received the vaccination shots, I am ready to be back in our church building with you praising the Lord together. With high vaccination rates among our church members and several safety precautions, Session has voted for our return to in-person worship. Details are listed in another article inside this edition, but our first Sunday back will be Sunday, May 9th, with our regular service times of 9 & 11 a.m.

    This worldwide pandemic is not over. Not by a long shot as I watch the news from places like India and Brazil, or even Michigan. But many of us have received our vaccinations and we are implementing some practices that should allow us to worship the Lord together, safely. And to be clear (I cannot say this enough), if you do not feel safe coming to church in the near future, please continue to worship from home. I will do my absolute best to make sure our worship live-stream allows you to connect with God and connect with the rest of us from the safety of your own home. We have purchased a small and simple (yet high quality) camera that will live-stream Sunday morning worship directly to YouTube. You have the option to watch it ‘live’ as we are worshiping or watch it at a later time that is more convenient for you.

    So, what might we expect on Sunday mornings in May when we go back? First and foremost, we will be together singing, praying, and praising the Lord. Hallelujah! There will be a few changes, of course. We ask that everyone wear a mask while in the building. We will not have indoor fellowship to prevent ‘grouping’ around the food. Both services will be in Bruner Hall (this is to allow for social distancing). We will initially space chairs out in groups of one, two, three, four, etc. (please find a group of chairs that matches your household). Our air handling system will be on during the service. We won’t use hymnals so that multiple people aren’t touching them each morning (lyrics will be in the bulletin and projected onto the wall). And finally, if you are feeling under the weather, we ask that you please be extra-considerate of your fellow worshipers and remain home.

    Every day of life is a new endeavor. The same is true for us in this process of returning to worship. May we prayerfully and carefully take actions that promote good community health, along with our spiritual health. Thank you for your patience with us, and I look forward to seeing every one of you, whenever that might be.

    —Pastor Derek

  • Pages