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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  • Lent in the Midst of COVID

    We’re in the church season of Lent, a time of journeying with Jesus as he makes his way to Jerusalem and to the cross.  In addition to Sunday worship services on YouTube we will be adding short mid-week Lenten devotions from Pastor Meg and myself (also available on YouTube).

     Last month Mary-Ann Muffoletto sent me a picture. She took a ‘screen shot’ of our most recent Zoom congregational meeting, and I’m thankful she thought to do this. This is the moment when we ordained and installed new elders and deacons to our church. This is usually a sacred moment of our worship together on Sunday mornings, a special time for those new deacons and elders and also for the congregation as these individuals step into leadership positions for us. We’re usually doing a “laying on of hands” at this moment, as we offer a prayer for these new officers. This last year Presbyterian churches around the country have doing this via Zoom, and here we are, lifting up our hands as a blessing for these church officers, as we lift them up to God in their new roles.

    The big thing on our mind in the church office and with Session is when will we be back in worship together? I don’t have an answer for you at the moment, but as more people receive vaccines and transmission rates continue to decrease in Utah and around the country, we get closer to that time. Two Session members have volunteered to work with Pastor Meg and myself on plans for when we get back into the building. Outdoor worship services in a park is also a possibility before we return to our church building. When we are back in the sanctuary and Bruner Hall together our plan is to record the service and make it available on YouTube for those who choose to continue worshiping from home.

    I want to close by sharing a few things with you about our building during this last year. You might think the building has been empty and unused, but I assure you this is not the case. While most of our activities have been put on hold, several things have been occurring in our building. Session approved Loaves & Fishes to serve take-away meals and that has been ongoing through much of the year. Additionally, numerous recovery programs (similar to AA) have been meeting throughout the year (for some people, being able to attend a sobriety meeting is a life and death matter). And finally, the Red Cross has been holding blood drives every month or so. Craig Mortensen passed along to me that Red Cross blood drives at FPC collected 490 units of blood in the last year. Most of these units even came from willing donors… (just kidding!). All of these activities have required people to wear masks and socially distance to prevent spread of COVID.

    It brings me great joy to think of how many people Loaves & Fishes has helped, how many people have continued their journeys of sobriety, and how many people were helped through blood donations in the last year. Each of these activities come with some risk of COVID transmission, but Session approved them because they are essential for certain members of our community. All of these happenings are possible because of the use of our church building. I thank all of you for your ongoing support of FPC Logan. I know we aren’t worshiping there, and many of us are anxious to be back in the sanctuary (I am too). Thank you for bearing with us and our cautious approach. Good things are indeed happening through use of our building and because of our collective journeys with Jesus Christ.

    Grace and peace be with you on your Lenten journey.

    Pastor Derek

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