Pastor Sally’s Devotional 3/6

Dear Friends,

Here’s a prayer for Saturday.

 

Lord Jesus Christ,

You called your disciples to go forward with you

On the way to the cross.

 

Since you first walked that road

Countless millions have followed you.

 

In all that we do as your disciples,

Save us from false familiarity with your journey.

May we never presume to step into your shoes,

But make us small enough to fit our own,

And to walk in love and wonder behind you.

Amen.

(from Stages on the Way by Wild Good Publishing)

 

Have a blessed day,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 3/5

Dear Friends,

I have started a second quilt in the last couple of weeks.  The baby quilt for my soon to be born grandson has made it’s way to California and my son and daughter-in-law love it.  Whew!  I have not shared a picture of the quilt with you yet, because it will be featured in the April newsletter and I don’t want to spoil the surprise.  In the meantime, however, I have started a complimentary quilted wall hanging that will have more of the original Babar picture in it than the baby quilt.

I am finding the new quilt much easier to work on.  Part of the reason for this, of course, is that I learned a lot doing the first quilt!  So the appliques are not difficult this time.  I figured that out last time.  Nor is it difficult to work with the different stitches, because I recorded my settings for those stitches the last time.  But the most important lesson I learned the last time has to do with the artistic decision making.  This lesson I learned from Terry McCaskey who was quilting guide through the baby quilt project.  I can’t count the number of times I called Terry and asked how I should do this or that.  Should I do the applique with turned edges or fusible interfacing?  Should I blanket stitch or zigzag?  Should I use matching thread or disappearing thread on this piece?  And each time Terry would say to me, “Well… that’s really your decision as the artist creating this quilt.  There really is not right or wrong way to do it.”  I have to tell you such an answer made me a little crazy at first because I was worried I would make a mess of the quilt, but I didn’t.  In fact I was delighted with my quilt when it was all finished and pleased that the work was mine.

Sometimes we find ourselves approaching our spirituality in the same way.  In college I was part of a Christian fellowship group that wanted to tell it’s members exactly how to develop your spiritual life and if you didn’t get up early to do your daily devotions, you just weren’t spiritual.  This early morning stuff didn’t work for me, especially in college.  I did my devotions at night before I went to sleep.  I still like to read the Bible at night.

Just as we are different children in God’s family with different spiritual gifts, we also practice our spirituality differently.  Some of us read the Bible.  Some of us pray at a particular time of day.  Some of us pray on the run all day long.  Some of us are nurtured in our conversation with friends.  Some are nurtured in worship.  Some during a long walk in the woods.  Some staring at a beautiful icon.  Some working for justice or assisting those who are needy.  We need to adopt Terry McCaskey’s wise words and realize there isn’t one way to do things.  We need to find what works for each of us to come close to Jesus, to learn from him and to worship and serve him.

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 3/3

Dear friends,

This morning in Men’s Bible Study we talked about the moment when the first deacons were selected.  The church had been growing furiously and the apostles were overwhelmed trying to preach, teach and care for the needs of all the believers.  This was compounded by the fact that the early church largely held things in common.  People brought large gifts to the apostles and they distributed food and funds so everyone had what they needed, especially the poor, the widow and orphans.  So the apostles suggested the believers choose seven trusted people to take care of the administrative tasks so they could “devote themselves to prayer and to serving the word” – that is teaching and preaching.

Some of the men at Bible Study commented that this was the first time the church had divided up responsibilities based on the gifts of the members and indeed, that was correct.  The net result was the church grew even more as lots of people began to pitch in and make things happen.  Notice, however, the three key things of importance: prayer, teaching/preaching the word, and looking after the physical needs of the believers. 

These days a church needs lots of skills and gifts in order to thrive, but prayer, teaching/preaching the word and caring for the needs of believers are surely still in the list.  I wonder what your gifts are for Christ’ church.  Are you pitching in and doing your part to grow the body of Christ?

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 3/2

Dear friends,

One of my favorite psalms is Psalm 133, I suppose in part because it has some funky cultural imagery that is fun to think about.  Here is the psalm in its entirety:

 

1 How good and pleasant it is

    when God’s people live together in unity!

2 It is like precious oil poured on the head,

    running down on the beard,

running down on Aaron’s beard,

    down on the collar of his robe.

3 It is as if the dew of Hermon

    were falling on Mount Zion.

For there the Lord bestows his blessing,

    even life forevermore.

 

It is a psalm about unity and coming together.  Originally it was probably intended as a psalm of hope that the northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah might be reunited as the one people of God they were intended to be.  The images of oil running down the beard of Aaron calls to mind a joint worship service in which one king would be anointed and the priesthood under Aaron would bring the people together.  The combination of dew on Mount Hermon in the northern Kingdom falling on Mount Zion in the southern Kingdom reinforces the idea of living together in peace under God’s blessing.

 

This is a vision for a reality for which we long, but how we get there is the challenge.  Unity seems far away when we are so divided as a nation.  In fact some of our families are divided one from another.  How do we begin to bridge the gap?

 

I listened to a short TED talk today by Megan Phelps-Roper who grew up in the Westboro Baptist church which is a group of people who travel the country angrily protesting Judaism, homosexuality, transgender people, Muslims and various other Christian Denominations.  It is sometimes called a hyper Calvinist cult.  The Southern poverty Law Firm calls it a hate group.  Megan says she was put in the middle of protests with a sign placed in her hands before she could read the words on the sign.  Growing up Megan adopted the church doctrine but began to question the church’s beliefs in her teens as she was exposed to other student who did not seem evil to her as her church taught her to believe.  Surprisingly it was conversations begun on Twitter that were the real turning point.  Patient, caring people on Twitter took the time to befriend Megan,  to ask questions, and point out inconsistencies in the church doctrine.  Megan left the church at 26 and today travels the world speaking about her experience in the church and advocating dialogue between groups with conflicting views.

 

Megan offers four pieces of advice for people who want to build bridges with people of differing points of view.  First she says, “Don’t assume bad intent in the other person.”  She suggests we assume the other is at least neutral or has good intent.  This allow us to assume a kind approach.  Second she says, “Ask Questions” and seek to understand the other point of view.  Asking questions has the added benefit that often the other is inclined to ask questions as well so you both learn.  Number 3:  “Stay calm.”  This is seriously important as hot emotions often lead to thoughtless remarks that bust up the bridge you’re trying to build.  Megan says if you’re feeling upset, take a break, cool off and remember how to think instead of being a slave to your feelings.  Finally Megan says, “Make your case.”  If you believe something you should be able to make a compelling case and back it up.  If you can’t, maybe you need to rethink your position.

 

I like Megan’s approach.  We all need simple steps as we try to connect with one another these days.  I don’t believe God wants us to be angry and hateful with one another.  Jesus called us to love one another.  It just takes effort and intentionality to get there.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally

 

p.s.  Here’s the link in case you want to watch Megan’s TED talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/megan_phelps_roper_i_grew_up_in_the_westboro_baptist_church_here_s_why_i_left?language=en



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 3/1

Dear friends,

It really is great fun to have a birthday these days.  There are so many ways to be in touch!  So today is my birthday, and my favorite thing about birthdays is hearing from people.  I have heard from many, many friends old and new today.  I’ve gotten messages on Facebook, cards in the mail, emailed birthday wishes, phone calls and text messages.  Isn’t technology wonderful?!  It has been simply delightful to hear from people who are dear to me, many of whom are friends from long ago.

I started thinking about friends in the Bible today because of all of these connections.  I couldn’t really come up with a particular verse about friendship, which sort of surprised me, and so I googled “friends in the Bible.”  There was not really much there.  There were a few classic friendships mentioned like David and Johnathan or the friends of Job – who were not very great friends.  That’s when I remembered that in the faith community people who were dear to you were called brothers and sisters.  In fact there is a verse in proverbs that makes that connection:  “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24.  Friends in the Bible are understood to be so essential and important as to be considered a brother or sister and these brothers and sisters in the Lord are mentioned constantly!

I have been blessed today by the gift of many “friends,” who have reached out with a word of greeting to make my day.  Who are the friends, or brothers and sisters you should be reaching out to today with a word of greeting or good wishes?  It takes very little to bring a spot of joy to someone’s day.  Do it now!

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 2/27

Dear friends,

 

My husband shared this picture with me.  He found it somewhere on the web with the caption, “They met online.”  Get it?  They met “on line.”  It took me a minute to get it, and I wanted to make sure you’ve got it too.  If you’re still struggling, think about where clothes pins are usually used.

 

I think there are a lot of amazing things happening online these days.  There are, in fact, couples who meet online, get to know each other, and do end up married!  I think there are people who have met our church or have gotten reacquainted with our church “online” through our worship services, or daily devotionals or Facebook postings.  I think that’s terrific, and I hope to meet some of these folks when we finally move back to face to face worship; but if that’s not possible, I am happy if our church is of service through our online ministry.

 

Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  (Matt. 28: 19 – 20.)  I am grateful to the amazing tools of technology we have at our fingertips and the big push we have had in this last year that has forced us to use these tools more effectively so we can make new friends “online” and share the love of God in Jesus Christ with others.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 2/26

Dear friends,

Here’s a prayer to ponder today.  I is offer by Walter Brueggemann in his book, “From Whom no Secrets are Hid.”

The priest say, “Almighty God… from whom no secrets are hid.”

We rush to the next phrase, but now linger there.

We are rich conundrums of secrets.

We weave a pattern of lies in order to be

                well thought of.

    We engage in subterfuge about our truth.

We carry old secrets too painful to utter.

                                         too shameful to acknowledge,

                                      too burdensome to bear,

    of failures we cannot undo,

    of alienations we regret but cannot fix,

    of grandiose exhibits we cannot curb.

And you know them.

 

Such an intense and honest prayer.  It comforts me, however, to think that God knows exactly who we are with all of the secrets we hide and yet, God loves us still.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 2/24

Dear friends,

I am a fan of JRR Tolkien’s books, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Ring Trilogy.  One of the endearing characters in these books is Bilbo Baggins who is a hobbit, about half the size of humans as we know them.  Hobbits have large hairy feet, voracious appetites and big, big hearts. The passage I am quoting below from “The Fellowship of the Ring” is about Bilbo as he sets off on his last journey at the end of his life.

“Well, that’s that,” he said.  “Now I’m off!”

Bilbo chose his favorite stick from the stand.

“Is everything ready? Well let’s start then!”

He stepped out of the front door.

It was a fine night, and the black sky was dotted with stars.  He looked up, sniffing the air.  “What fun! 
What fun to be off again! This is what I have really been longing for, for years!  I am as happy now as I have ever been, and that is saying a great deal.  But the time has come.  I am being swept off my feet at last,” he added, and then in a low voice, as if to himself, he sang softly in the dark:

 

The Road goes ever on and on

down from the door where it began.

Now far ahead the Road has gone,

and I must follow, if I can,

pursuing it with eager feet,

until it joins some larger way

where many paths and errands meet.

And whither then?  I cannot say.

 

I like the language when Bilbo says he is being swept off his feet and on to the Road.  He believes he has no choice in the matter as he begins this last adventure, and he goes willingly.  In fact he finds he is happier now that he has taken the step and set out on his journey on the Road.  Do you notice the word “Road” is capitalized.  Bilbo knows the journey has great meaning.  It is a spiritual journey in which he trusts the one who has swept him off his feet and on to this Road.

 

Like Bilbo, we are unclear where our spiritual journey will take us, but we trust the one who has swept us on to this Journey.  We walk with joy knowing this is our path and this is our place on it, looking with eagerness to see who will join us along the way and what adventures God has yet in store for us.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 2/23

Dear friends,

The scripture in my mind today is from Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8 but especially the first verse: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”  Life really is full of a plethora of activities and happenings both good and bad.  Sometimes our lives almost feel like a paradox.

So today, on the one hand I am cut to the heart that we have passed the 500,000 number of deaths from Covid 19 in this country.  How can we have lost half a million people?  And on the other hand, Indiana has now dropped the age eligibility for the vaccine to 60 and my husband and I now have appointments on the near horizon to be vaccinated.  I feel relieved and grateful for these miraculous vaccines. Is it ok to feel both grieved at the terrible loss of life from this virus while also feeling relieved that my time has come to be vaccinated?  I think it is.  Life is full of paradox.

I also learned today that a friend from my youth is very ill.  I am so sorry he is going through so much struggle in these days.  At the same time I am aware another friend is expecting a baby and I rejoice for her.  Someone I know is fighting cancer.  Another is recovering well from the death of a loved one.  The Covid numbers in Elkhart county have been climbing slightly over the past week, but wow, have you noticed the sunshine today?  Everything is melting.  Life is paradox.  It is both joy and sorrow, challenge and relief.

I think this is part of what the writer of Ecclesiastes had determined… that we live with joy and sorrow, challenge and hope, and God is in the middle of all of it.  God is in the middle of this life in abundance that he has given to us in all its flavors.   Here’s the full passage from Ecclesiastes:

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.  Ecc. 3: 1-8

 

Peace to you,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 2/22

Dear friends,

I came across a bit of scripture today that caught my attention.  Jesus was in the midst of praying for his disciples in the 17th chapter of John.  While he was praying he defined the term, “eternal life.”  I’d never quite seen this verse of scripture as set apart from the prayer.  So what does Jesus say?  He says, “This is eternal life, that they may know you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”  It’s quite something to ponder.  Eternal life is found in knowing God and Jesus.

In 1541 John Calvin wrote a catechism for children in the Geneva ages 10 – 15.  A catechism is a set of questions and answers that help people know and articulate the faith.  It’s a very old style of Christian education that we don’t use anymore today, but was used extensively in the church for hundreds of years.  The first question in John Calvin’s catechism for children had to do with what is the purpose of human life.  What should our chief aim be?  What do we live to do?  The answer the child was taught to give was simple: “To know God.”

It seems to me that is what Jesus was getting at in his prayer.  He wanted his disciples to know that life… real life… abundant life… eternal life was found as we know God, and we know God best as we know his son Jesus.  When we make it our chief aim to know God, lots of other stuff falls into its proper place. 

May you come to know God more and more in this Lenten season of discipleship.

Peace,

Pr. Sally

 



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