“You are dust…”

ashcross2On Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent, we gathered at St John’s Episcopal. These services are always a blessing for me. I enjoy the opportunity to minister with my colleagues (Derek, Steve Sturgeon, the Vicar of St. John’s, and Scott Thalacker, pastor of Prince of Peace Lutheran). We are unique in style, perspective, and tradition, but we also share the common bond of our calling. There’s always something that I learn from them.

I love the whole ashes on the forehead thing. I love smudging your foreheads, one by one, as you come forward. There is nothing that I am doing that anyone of you couldn’t do. But personally, it’s a profound moment for me because, standing there in front of you, I feel not only like a pastor, but your pastor. Can’t really explain it beyond that, but it’s special for me.

I also love the ashes on my forehead. It reminds me that we are all mortal, finite, flawed, and in need of God. That’s not a bad I dark thought. It’s a freeing one. It’s reassuring for me to know that I am not, nor do I have to be, the perfect anything. I am dust brought to life by and dependent upon divine breath – a creature of God’s creation. You are too.

Lent is a time to discover that again. When the weight of responsibilities and expectations (other’s and our own) become too heavy, when our hurts go too deep for us to heal on our own, when our energy and attention wane I when our wants take precedence over other’s needs, we could use a reminder: we are dust. Lent starts here, and then patiently and persistently prepares us for divine breath.

The world distracts us with tons of messages that tell us that we have to be self-reliant and super. In ways both overt and subtle, we often get the message that when we are not, we are bad. When we mess up, we are bad people, bad parents, bad children, bad workers, bad citizens, bad Christians. Lent reminds us that we are not bad, we are dust … in need of some divine breath.

You are invited to get ready with us. Join us in study, worship, fellowship, and mission. When all is said and done, you will discover God’s enlivening breath. That’s what this dusty old pastor believes anyway (I cling to this because I need that divine breath as much as you do).

On Ash Wednesday, Derek offered the Word. He told a story about a nun who was trying to focus on God by learning the discipline of contemplative prayer. In great frustration, she approached a teacher, telling him “I’m such a failure at this prayer! In twenty minutes of sitting I’ve had ten thousand thoughts.” “How lovely,” responded the teacher, “ten thousand opportunities to return to God!”

Derek was my pastor in that moment. He reminded me that though I may be in the middle of my ten thousand nine hundred ninety ninth distracted, dusty moment, it is but another opportunity to return to God. Dusty as we are, we are all invited to place our lives in the Divine’s hands so that God can breathe that life-giving breath on us once more. In your dustiness, may you find life, and that abundantly.

Peace,

Paul

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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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