Paul’s Message: Anticipation

peacemaking_mosaicdoveThe mountains are green. The trees are budding. The tulips are peeking (and they will survive until the deer munch them). Spring is a time for looking forward.

I admit, as my fingers tap the keys on my keyboard, I am a little distracted. In a couple of days, I will be taking off for Israel/Palestine for a conference sponsored by the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program – Mosaic of Peace: Responding to a call for peace and wholeness in a land called ‘holy.’

I am looking forward to walking in the Old City of Jerusalem and in Bethlehem, to seeing the olive groves of the West Bank and Galilee, and to walking in the paths where Jesus and the disciples made their mark. Most of you know that I studied there as an undergraduate in the ’80’s. I am looking forward to returning to the place where my life took a big turn toward ministry.

But I am not going there just to sightsee. I am very excited about meeting Jews and Palestinians and other Presbyterians engaged in ministry toward justice and peace. Making peace involves passion, controversy, and risk. It’s tough, but it’s what Jesus did. I am looking forward to meeting those on the front lines of the struggle. I am looking forward to learning, sharing, and being empowered to contribute in whatever tiny way I can to justice and peace. You’ll hear and see more when I return, of course! (I will be back on May 10)

This spring, I am also looking forward to ongoing, meaningful, and relevant ministry with all of you. We don’t all agree on everything, but we stand together on the core of things – loving life in relationship with Jesus and with each other. Sometimes it’s tough (Living with me often is. How about you?) and asks a lot. Sometimes the deer munch the flowers before they get a chance to bloom. But more often, a loving life together is blessed. What I love about so many of you is that you don’t just want to exist; you want to live, and you want to share life. That’s awesome! Ministering together, with all of its challenges and blessings, is something to look forward to.

Thanks for all you do. Thanks for being who you are, and for being willing to stretch with me in becoming the people God calls us to be. I thank God for bringing us together.

Happy Spring! Now if I can just remember where I put my passport…

Peace, Paul

For more details about the trip, follow this link: http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/peacemaking/mosaic-peace/

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  • Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

    There is a beautiful piece of seasonal writing attributed to the theologian and civil rights leader Howard Thurman that you may have encountered in Christmases past. It’s entitled, “Now the Work of Christmas Begins.” Take in these words from the author:

    When the song of the angels is stilled,

    when the star in the sky is gone,

    when the kings and princes are home,

    when the shepherds are back with their flocks,

    the work of Christmas begins:

    to find the lost,

    to heal the broken,

    to feed the hungry,

    to release the prisoner,

    to rebuild the nations,

    to bring peace among the people,

    to make music in the heart.

    Indeed, this is the real work of Christmas. This is the work we discover in faith when we follow the light of Christ, which the darkness has not and will not overcome. In last Sunday’s Scripture passage, Luke records that Mary and Joseph were amazed at what was said about Jesus when they encountered Simeon in the temple in Jerusalem. On account of the angel Gabriel’s visit, Mary knew in the beginning that the child she would bear would be holy, but I wonder if she knew that this would be the character of His holy work? What a proud mother she must have been. What a nervous mother she must have been, watching her Son challenge the status quo as He lived in obedient faith to God, gently shepherding God’s people! Yes, this holy child will lead us – the Church – in finding, healing, feeding, releasing, rebuilding, and bringing peace. His story is ours to discover anew in the pages of the Gospel, the pages we will turn together in worship in the months to come. 

    Although the real work of Christmas is ours to offer another, let us also take to heart that it is also ours to receive as blessing and gift. At times we are lost, feeling broken, or living and praying for peace of mind or spirit. At times we sense that our lives are in need of rebuilding. As the great Henri Nouwen has observed, our own wounds may serve as a source of strength and healing in our own work of serving.

    My heart is full this holiday season. As may be true for you, I am holding joy and sorrow in the same chamber. I rejoice in what I hold dear, in the embrace of my loved ones in the home, and in the privilege of worshiping with you through a variety of experiences this December. I grieve with families who lost loved ones to Covid or other causes in 2020, and most recently, Pastor Derek’s family. I find joy in new traditions and customs that this holiday season has inspired. I long for loved ones who are no longer with us and who I remember especially at Christmas. My faith is wide enough to embrace these differing realities, to hold joy and sorrow in tandem. I pray yours is, too. 

    In faith, we will find, heal, feed, and rebuild, because Christ has first found us and embraced us with His healing presence. He feeds us with His Word and at table, in our hunger for bread that nourishes and lasts. In the grateful words of Martin Luther, “to you Christ is born. For this purpose Christ willed to be born, that through him we might be born anew. Christ must above all things become our own and we become his. See to it that you make this birth your own and that Christ be born in you.”

    Dear friends, Christ is born in us, and His love will guide and equip our ministry together in 2021. Pastor Derek and I look forward with anticipation to a new year of ministry with you. Let us follow the light of Christ together!  With joy, Pastor Meg

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