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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  • Back to School, Not Back to Church…

    …at least not all the way. Some ministries of the church are in action, others are not.

    Ministry is Continuing!

    To date we have shared around $7,000 with our local community to help relieve those affected by coronavirus, and we have another $2,000 we will be distributing now. This has gone toward food, diapers for families in need, rent & mortgage relief, and other purposes.

    Thank you for continuing to worship with us—our YouTube videos get around a hundred views each week, and in some cases, there are multiple people watching one screen. Thank you for listening. And thank you for your continued financial support.

    We are going to be doing some new things in the interest of our own spiritual health, fellowship, and the ministry of the church. The first is drive-through communion (or drive-thru, as it is frequently written).

    Drive-Through Communion — Sept 6th, 9:15-9:45am

    If you wish, you’re invited to drive through our parking lot on Sunday, September 6th from 9:15-9:45am and I will serve communion to you. You are just as welcome to partake of communion from home, as we’ve done the last few months.

    Fellowship Bike Ride — Sept 13th, beginning at 1pm

    On Sunday, September 13th we will have an FPC Bike Ride. We will meet at FPC and go on a 10-mile bike ride led by John and Jean Stewart. Maps of the route will be provided, and a shorter route will be available if needed. Some of the route will be on streets and some on dedicated bike paths. Meet us in the parking lot at 1pm, and we will depart by 1:15.

    Zoom Bible Study — every Tuesday morning from 8-9am

    If you’d like to join us for Bible Study we will begin on Tuesday, Sept 8th, from 8-9am. We will meet via Zoom so you can enjoy breakfast and coffee from home. The zoom link will be available on our First Pres Logan Facebook page each Tuesday morning.

    My role as pastor is to be a spiritual guide, someone who helps each of you on your faith journey (and as you might imagine, you help me just as much). I confess to you that feeling like we are connected and in touch these months has been a struggle. Continuing to not meet in person remains one of the more challenging decisions of my career in ministry. I want to see all of you each week. Worshiping at home via YouTube is certainly just as pleasing to God as when we gather and sing, but it doesn’t feel the same to me, and I’m sure it doesn’t feel the same to you. Hopefully, some of the above activities will help us with that.

    In the Presbyterian system the pastor does not make decisions about all of the activities and happenings around a church. The pastor leads worship, teaches through Bible Study and similar endeavors, provides pastoral care, and participates in many other diverse activities around the church and community. We have Elders and Deacons who take on other responsibilities, including making decisions about church activities (reserved for Elders, who serve on Session). Who does what around a church (and how we do it) is outlined in the Book of Order, which covers all kinds of things. But as you can imagine, there isn’t a chapter titled What To Do in Case of Worldwide Pandemic.

    The Elders that we elect as a congregation (you elect them, Pastor Meg and I do not vote) make many important decisions for each congregation, although pastors frequently share their thoughts and offer guidance for any vote that is taken. The Session of FPC Logan met on Wednesday, August 19 and voted unanimously to continue with online worship for at least the next month (until the next Session meeting, on September 16th).  At that meeting we will reassess the situation and take another vote for the coming month (or months). Session made this decision because we don’t feel it is safe for us to be in the same room for an hour together. Some people may be willing to take the risk. I am not, and neither are your FPC Elders. Of particular interest is the effect that the return to school will have on coronavirus numbers. Public schools and the Utah State University are back in class now, with both online and in-person classes. Also, of great interest is progress in vaccine trials. We are praying that one (or several) of these vaccine trials provides good news in the next few months.

    May the grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you all,

    Derek

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