Paul’s Message: Crazy Times

AncientWallIn the Old City of Jerusalem, in the Jewish Quarter, they have uncovered part of a very old wall. It dates from the 8th Century BCE. About that time, Israel was besieged and afraid. In one moment, the there was a new and mighty coalition of neighboring nations aligned against them. Soon after, the mighty Assyrian empire was sweeping down from the north ready to run Jerusalem over. It was a crazy time. Isaiah tells us that “their hearts…shook as the trees of a forest shake when there is a wind.” (Is 7:2 CEB)

As we walked past this wall on my recent trip to Israel/Palestine, I could imagine the prophet approaching Israel’s king, “Ask a sign from the LORD your God.” (Is 7:11 CEB) The king would not, dared not test the Lord. Besides, he was focused on fortifying his defenses. Guess what, he gets a sign anyway–Immanuel, meaning “God is with us.”

How much things change, and how much they stay the same. We live in crazy times. Ukraine, Gaza, the Ebola Crisis, Ferguson–and these are just the headlines. Like Israel of old (and new), we are besieged and afraid. On top of that we are angry, confused, tapped out, exhausted, looking for answers and resigned to having none. Cable TV runs 24 hours, analyzing, rehashing, pontificating, spinning, selling, and we don’t get any wiser (you could make a good case for the opposite).

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like I’ve just about had enough. I want to retreat, ignore, repress, escape the crazy times. But Isaiah comes to us as we are inspecting our defenses and challenges us to ask the Lord for a sign. Dare we?

Church is a place (or it should be) where we get together and dare to ask the Lord for a sign. We dare to ask for a fresh discovery of Immanuel, God with us. Church is a place where, in the midst of crazy times, we pray, reflect, cry, ask questions, and support each other. We don’t agree on everything, but we agree on our need for Immanuel. We create moments of refuge with fellowship and refreshment. We celebrate the blessings of Immanuel in our lives and world with joy. We even take a crack, from time to time, at trying to figure out where Immanuel might take us. We sometimes give positive action a shot. Sometimes we dare to hope.

If you want to make sense of crazy times, if you want join with others who are trying to do so, if you want to spend time journeying to the depths of self, life, and Spirit, come on out. Truth be told, we need you, for you bring a little bit of Immanuel with you when you come.

September is the beginning of a new season. Classes are starting, the choir will be singing, the preachers will be…(well, you never can quite tell what they will be doing), and brothers and sisters will be worshipping and walking together in the midst of crazy times. It’s better together than apart.

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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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