“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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  • 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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