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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  • November COVID Update

    If you are reading this before Sunday November 1st, I hope you take the time on Sunday morning to join us for communion in the parking lot at FPC.  It’s communion in the drive-through style, something the first Christians could never have envisioned.  It is nonetheless a faithful celebration of the meal that Jesus first initiated with his disciples.  Pastor Meg and I will be in the parking lot from 11 to 11:30 a.m. and we’ll have music to go along with the meal and hopefully lift your spirits. Stop by to hear the music, and for a blessing along with the communion meal.

    One of the most exciting things for me in recent weeks was our congregational meeting that we held via the online service Zoom.  It was so heart-warming to see that many of you in attendance.  Counting the couples on various screens, I think there were around 50 of you in attendance.  Thank you for your participation.

    At the meeting we elected new elders and deacons for the Class of 2023.  Please join me in expressing our thanks to elders Lovet Fokunang, Dee Logterman, Scott Hofmann, and Dawn Drost, and deacons Terry Brennand, Darcie Bessinger, and Marcia Baker.  We also elected Sheryl Bessinger to fill a partial term as an elder in the Class of 2021.  I’m thankful that they’ve accepted God’s call upon their lives to serve God by serving the people of our community.  May we lift them up in prayer (along with our other deacons & elders) as they help to care for and lead our congregation in challenging times.

    As you might imagine if you’re watching the news, Session unanimously voted to continue with YouTube worship for the month of November.  We continue to get around one hundred views each week, and I am very thankful for your participation in worship on YouTube.  It’s wonderful to have Pastor Meg back from maternity leave.  She is already busy planning Christian Education events and leading youth ministries.

    We will not host a church Thanksgiving dinner for obvious reasons, but we are spending this month getting ready for some exciting things in Advent.  We will have special music throughout our Advent worship services, there will be Advent activities for families, there is a special online bell choir concert in the works, and we’re hoping for an in-person outdoor Christmas Eve service.  Yes, it will be chilly, but we live in northern Utah and I know you people are hardy!  This service will be 30 minutes long, so you don’t get too cold.  We’ll have wonderful organ and bell music and Christmas hymns to sing, along with gospel readings of the birth of Jesus.  I think it’s going to be a wonderful way to celebrate the birth of the Christ-child.

    May the grace and peace of our Lord be with you all.

    —Pastor Derek

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