Pastor Sally Devotional 6/1

Dear friends,

 

We opened the church office again today after more than a year of being closed.  I took a deep breath and walked inside knowing there were a piles of details needing my attention.  The phone messages all have to be changed.  The web site has to be changed… again!  There are groups to be contacted to invite back into the building and church groups that will be wrestling with whether it is better to come back in person or easier to meet online.  In the meantime, we are delighting to be worshipping in person outside, but I am already working toward the next change to in person inside the building.  And it occurred to me this morning that Jessica, who has been our administrative assistant now for a year, has never run the church from inside the building.  She has new things to learn while we are in the midst of yet another transition!  (I trust you all to be patient.)

 

For people who don’t like change, this year has been nothing short of traumatic.  I know our staff is weary of transitions.  We just get reoriented to a new way of doing things and wham!  We have to figure out a new pattern and a new plan.  I have always weathered transitions pretty well personally.  I like the adventure of things that are new, but I will admit, even I am tired of transitions.  I’m ready for stability!

 

I’m not sure, however, that seeking stability is possible.  Change seems to be essential to life and growth.  Many years ago I heard the Interim professor of Theology and Ethics give his retirement speech at Princeton Theological Seminary.  Dr. Winters had arrived at the seminary some 12 years prior to teach for 18 months – 2 years in the area of Theology and Ethics.  Now, 12 years later he was finally retiring and hoping the seminary would finally hire a permanent professor for his position.  I remember his retirement, however, because of something he said in his speech.  Laughing about how long his time of transition had been, he said, “You know… we are all interim.  We all are temporary in the place of life we hold.  We are growing from the people we have been into the people we will be.  None of us are permanent.”

 

The prophet Isaiah says something like this in one of the great prophecies of hope.  He writes:

6 A voice says, “Cry out!”

    And I said, “What shall I cry?”

All people are grass,

    their constancy is like the flower of the field.

7 The grass withers, the flower fades,

    when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;

    surely the people are grass.

8 The grass withers, the flower fades;

    but the word of our God will stand forever.  (Isaiah 40: 6-8)

 

Maybe that doesn’t seem entirely hopeful to you.  That’s because I haven’t included the larger context which reminds those of us who wither like grass that the Lord God comes with might.  He will come as a shepherd to feed the flock and gather the lambs in his arms.  In the midst of our temporary, brief lives, God is permanent and promises to gather and protect his children who are not so permanent.

 

In these days of more transition than we want, I try to remember that God carries us in his arms.  We take these changing days one at a time and watch for God’s leading as we step forward into the unknown… again.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally Devotional 5/27

Dear Friends,

 

I moved back to the church office this afternoon.  After a year squeezed behind my sewing table with my computer at odd heights and my books and papers in piles on the guest beds in our spare bedroom, it was a delight to spread out in my office again.  My keyboard is at the right height again with my Bible and papers set up just so.  My books are quivering on the shelves to be back in their places, and I can find things again!

 

One of the things I “found” again in the move back to the church office was a stack of cards.  I have been receiving cards and notes throughout the pandemic from various members of the church.  I had them in a couple of piles, and when I pulled them together I was amazed at how many there were.  They are pictured here.  Some of them are birthday greetings which were a joy to receive in themselves, but more than half are notes of encouragement or thanks for my ministry.  I think I am most blest among pastors to have such an appreciative congregation.  Thank you to those of you who wrote notes and emails of appreciation during this strange and difficult year.  Thank you to those of you who have held me and our church staff in prayer.  You have sustained us with love.

 

The church office does officially open on Tuesday, June 1.  By Tuesday all of our regular office staff will have been fully vaccinated.  We have some very young staff who were not eligible for vaccination until after Easter, and it has taken some time getting appointments and through the 6 week regimen.  We do invite you to come to the office if you need to be in church the or need assistance with something that cannot be handled on the phone.  If you want to just chat, please come to my Tuesday Outdoor Office Hours, 9:30 to noon this coming week, where we can visit without masks if you like.

 

As we take yet another step into the new normal, I did want to pause to be appreciate of your support and encouragement during this “more than a year” of pandemic.  You are a great congregation!

 

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” I Thess. 5:11

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally Devotional 5/25

Dear friends,

 

Yesterday my husband and I took our lunch down to McNaughton park to eat by the river.  While we were there a family of geese came by.  I have never seen such an enormous family.  I counted 20 goslings for Mama goose and Papa goose.  I thought maybe they were baby sitting some extra goslings for some other goose parents who were taking a break, but these two parents were very protective any time another goose came near.  And besides, I don’t think geese parents loan out their goslings to other parents.  So it appears that all 20 goslings belonged to these two goose parents.  I didn’t even want to think about that poor mama goose sitting on 20 eggs!

 

Mike and I watched them for a long time as they walked down to where our car was parked and then moved on down the river edge.  Dad seemed to wander near the front leading the flock while mom took up the rear.  In some ways the parents hardly seemed to pay attention to their goslings.  The little ones wandered with their heads bobbing constantly toward the ground picking up stems and leaves and seeds and bugs.  They were hungry.  Occasionally one would run ahead or to the side flapping its wings joyfully, but they would always look up, find mom and dad and get back to the flock.  Mom and Dad seemed oblivious to their little dears as they wandered until I came a little two close.  Then they were hissing and raising their wings threateningly until I moved back… which I did.  They were clealry paying more attention than it appeared.

 

As I watched them I thought about the way God looks after us.  We often think about our relationship to God as sheep to a shepherd.  We particularly love the story when the good shepherd goes looking for the lost sheep and carries him home.  But that story is about the unusual event.  Most of the time it would seem that the sheep were supposed to follow the shepherd, to listen for his voice and to come when called.  As we remember with joy that God is gracious and seeks us when we are lost and protects us when we are in danger, we need to also remember that we have responsibilities in this relationship.  We are also supposed to listen, to follow and to respond to the call of our Lord.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally Devotional 5/20

Dear friends,

 

I really am quite excited about gathering for worship with you on Sunday.  I feel like I’m planning for a party.  The staff and I have been back and forth this week talking about decorations, flowers and lots of “red” in celebration of Pentecost.  Anna added an upbeat video about our kids in worship this morning.  And Jess and I have revised the bulletin format three times now in order to fit in the words to songs so we can all sing along.     I think it’s going to be a fun day and looks like we will have wonderful weather!

 

It is somehow right that we should begin meeting anew on Pentecost.  Pentecost is a day of new beginnings.  Pentecost is sometimes referred to as the birthday of the church.  That makes good sense to me.  On Pentecost the disciples were drawn together by God’s Spirit, and together they were sent out into God’s world.  Their mission was communicate the grace and forgiveness of God which was available to all people because of Jesus Christ.  The Spirit gave them courage to speak about God and for God.  The Spirit filled them up so they could embody God’s love wherever they went.  1000s of people heard God’s voice in the words of these disciples and experienced God’s love in their presence on that first day of Pentecost. This is a lot to celebrate!

 

I hope you can join us on Sunday as we remember and give thanks for the faithfulness of the disciples of old and embrace the challenge to be God’s people anew in our time and place.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 5/18

Dear friends,  (I never got my devotion posted yesterday.  Here it is!)

 

My granddaughter released butterflies last weekend.  I was talking with her on Sunday night at our Sunday evening zoom bedtime reading time, and I asked her about her butterflies.  She has been raising Painted Lady butterflies after my husband and I gave her a Butterfly Garden kit as an Easter present.  The kit came with a butterfly house to build out of netting and colored cardboard.  Once the house is constructed, there’s a postcard you fill out and send to the distribution house for Painted Lady caterpillars. 

 

Charlotte received her caterpillars and spent the next several weeks feeding them sugar water and leaves and then watched as they climbed a branch she had set for them in the house.  They spun their cocoons and dangled from the branch for the appropriate time as the caterpillars slowly decomposed into caterpillar soup and then reassembled their cells into butterflies.  Four butterflies emerged about 10 days ago and Charlotte decided this weekend was the right time to release them.

 

She was surprised.  The butterflies didn’t want to leave the house she had built for them.  Eventually she got them to step on a flower which she pulled out of the house into the big bright world.  The butterflies looked around for a while and then took off.  Two of them, however, immediately returned and landed on her hand where they sat for a while until they found the courage to try their wings.

 

I couldn’t help but think that we humans are an awful lot like those butterflies.  We get used to doing things the way we’ve always done them and find change unsettling.  We may be reluctant to try new things – even good new things!  We’re not sure if we can trust the new world around us.  But God is with us.  When we feel unsure, we have a hand to fly to for rest and reassurance until we are ready to try again.  Fortunately for us, our Lord is patient and kind and goes with us into the newness. We are safe with him.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 5/12

Dear friends,

I am rejoicing today.  The CDC has just issued new guidance for vaccinated people – no need for masks or social distancing outside or inside.  Wow!  Happy Dance around my study!  I have already sent a request for a meeting of the reopening team for our church.  We had already met this week and were planning to make new recommendations to the session.  We may be able to do more than we had planned.  We will still need to consider safety for our children, youth and others who are not yet vaccinated, but I believe the new guidance can be received with great rejoicing.  Vaccinations are working and making our communities safer!

So here is a psalm for today:

Praise the Lord.

Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
    praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
    praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
    praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
    praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.  (Psalm 150)

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devoional 5/11

Dear friends,

 

It was a delight to visit my youngest son, Terry, in Minneapolis for a week of vacation last week.  Terry was also on vacation and had just reached the point of being fully vaccinated.  He wanted to take advantage of his new status by visiting some places in the city after being cooped up in his single rented room for over a year.  Terry’s firm sent everyone home after the virus put three of the firm’s partners in the ICU.  They are still largely working from home.

 

One of the places we visited was the sculpture garden.  This is a large outdoor garden with weather resistant works of art.  The best known piece and my personal favorite is the Spoonbridge and Cherry  by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.  Oldenburg was born in Sweden but moved to Chicago when he was 7.  Van Bruggen was born in the Netherlands in 1942 and moved to this country in 1978 after marrying Oldenburg.  Both were sculptors and often collaborated.  Oldenburg is still living at 92.

 

The Spoonbridge and Cherry fountain-sculpture was inspired by a novelty item Oldenburg had collected in 1962, featuring a spoon resting on an “island” of plastic chocolate. From this the artists envisioned a gigantic utensil as a fanciful bridge over a pond. In considering Minnesota as a site, they compared the spoon’s raised bowl to the prow of a Viking ship or a duck bobbing in a lake. Van Bruggen added the cherry, a personal symbol recalling happy moments in a childhood clouded by World War II.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed looking at this sculpture.  It just made me smile.  I wanted to walk up over the bridge handle of the spoon as it spanned the water beneath but of course didn’t dare.  I imagined the spoon bowl as the prow of a great Viking ship and thought with pride about the swedes who had largely founded the state of Minnesota.  Mostly I enjoyed the fact that the cherry never slipped down the spoon on which it rested, but remained suspended in air. 

 

What caught my imagination the most, however, was the fact that Van Bruggen had added the cherry to remind herself of happy moments recalled from a childhood clouded by World War II.  Born in Groningen in the Netherlands in June of ’42, she would have been about 3 and a half when the war ended.  Still I imagine she had memories of the terrible fighting there.  Groningen was the scene of a terrible battle just before the end of the war.  So close to the German border, the German forces made a terrific effort to hold on to Groningen.  100 Dutch citizens lost their lives.  270 buildings were damaged.  There would have been years of rebuilding in Van Bruggen’s childhood and teen years.  One can only imagine her memories, yet she chose to remember cherries in order to recall happy moments in the midst of tragedy.

 

We get to choose what we will remember.  Of course some of us are haunted by difficult, sometimes terrible memories in life, but choosing to remember the good is very useful way of neutralizing the bad.  I wonder what cherries have been a source of hope in your world in this past year.

 

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Romans 12: 21

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally Devotional April 22

Dear friends,

 

Today is Earth Day, which marks a day when we are particularly thankful for the place we call home – planet Earth.  This is actually the 51st Earth day which began in 1970 when people came together to express concern for the future of our planet.  Earth day is a day both to give thanks for the natural wonder all around us and to ask the question: What can I do to preserve, protect and pass on this gift to future generations?

 

Our place as caretakers of the earth harkens back to the tasks given to the first humans by God in the Garden of Eden.  They were charged have dominion over the earth. (Genesis 1: 28) Rabbi Nahum Sarne who wrote the JPS Torah Commentary on Genesis  is very quick to point out, however, the authority to “rule” over the earth is limited by God who is ultimately the only one with complete dominion.  The man and the woman’s role is more in line with being caretakers on behalf of the creator.  I think the language in the second creation story captures this idea better when the man and woman are charged with tilling and tending the garden of God.  (Genesis 2: 15)

 

We actually have a boatload of gardeners in our church to love to till and tend the Earth.  I’m one of them.  I love to dig in the earth, break up the soil and plant new things of beauty.  The tree pictured is a weeping cherry that my son and his friend helped us to plant last weekend.  My husband and I prepared the bed, tilled and amended the soil, and picked out the tree.  As you can see here, we had very little to do with setting that big tree.  We certainly are enjoying it, however!

 

On this Earth day I invite you to take a walk outside and give thanks to God for the glories of the creation large and small.  Then maybe think about what you can do to add to the beautiful landscape before you as you take on your roll to till and tend what God has given us all.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally Devotional April 20

Dear friends,

 

I’ve been reading through the book of Isaiah lately in my personal devotional time.  I consider Isaiah one of the most difficult books of the Bible to read in part because it is a compilation of Isaiah’s prophecies over time directed to different peoples at different times. Scholars believe Isaiah was written by at least two different prophets and maybe three over a long period.   There does not appear to be an order to these prophecies excepting that they sort of fall groupings.  To me, the book often looks like someone took a box of Isaiah’s prophecies written on scrapes of paper, dumped them on a table and starting copying them into one complete scroll.  There is, of course, more order to the prophecies than that, but it sometimes feels pretty haphazard and makes writing these prophecies a challenge.

 

So why spend time on Isaiah?  I am reading and studying Isaiah because Isaiah was exceedingly important to the early Christians who did not have the New Testament to read.  They only had the Hebrew scriptures which we call the Old Testament.  The early Christians loved Isaiah and quoted from him frequently – so frequently, in fact, that Isaiah is sometimes referred to as the fifth gospel.  So I’ve been spending time with Isaiah off and on over the last few years trying to see what those early Christians saw in these writings.  I came across one of my favorite passage this morning”

 

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples

    a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,

    of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.

And he will destroy on this mountain

    the shroud that is cast over all peoples,

    the sheet that is spread over all nations;

    he will swallow up death forever.

Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,

    and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,

    for the Lord has spoken.

It will be said on that day,

    Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.

    This is the Lord for whom we have waited;

    let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

10 For the hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain.  (Isaiah 25: 6-10)

 

For anyone who wonders why many Jews in Jesus’ day believed in resurrection, this is an important bit of scripture.  Isaiah is clear that God will destroy death and wipe away the sadness of his people and gather them in a great banquet to live with him in joy.  The life in abundance that Jesus spoke of is envisioned in these first few verses which describe the Great Banquet of rich foods and well aged wines. I hope you notice that all peoples are gathered for this feast.  There is no distinction suggesting that some might be invited and others not.  All will say, “This is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us!  Let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

 

Imagine those early Christians pouring over their Hebrew scrolls trying to understand what God was doing when he raised Jesus up at Easter.  Surely they read this passage with great joy!

Peace,



Pastor Sally Devotional Thursday April 15

 
 

Dear friends,

At our recent staff meeting Anna Parkinson had the devotions for the day.  Anna mentioned that she had been thinking about Leviticus lately.  Several of us laughed.  Leviticus is not a particularly enthralling book of the Old Testament and is known for its detailed rules and regulations.  Anna laughed too and then said she was serious.  She had been thinking about all of the rules in Leviticus that protected the health of the greater community, and she said she had been developing a new appreciation for those rules.  Leviticus is full of such rules and regulations that protected the people’s health.  Here’s an example:

The writer of Leviticus begins by saying that if a home owner discovers there is a disease in the house… “the owner of the house shall come and tell the priest, saying, “There seems to me to be some sort of disease in my house.” The priest shall command that they empty the house before the priest goes to examine the disease, or all that is in the house will become unclean; and afterward the priest shall go in to inspect the house. He shall examine the disease; if the disease is in the walls of the house with greenish or reddish spots, and if it appears to be deeper than the surface, the priest shall go outside to the door of the house and shut up the house seven days.”  (Lev. 14: 35 – 38)  This is just the beginning of what may happen to the house and the people who live inside.  The passage goes on to detail several stages one must go through to rid the house of the disease, and if all else fails the house has to be torn down and the building materials taken outside the camp and put in a dump for unclean things.  The people also have steps to go through in order to be made clean.

I agree with Anna in having a new appreciation for rules that protect a community.  God was very clear with the children of Israel that everyone was part of the community and no one person was an entity unto themselves.  They lived together, worked together and were responsible to one another and for one another.  The rules God set in place protected everyone because each life was of value to God. 

How weary we are of rules these days: masks, social distance, no large gatherings.  Bear in mind when we practice these precautions, we are living in accordance with the values set out for us by God in ancient days.  Each life is of value.  We are intended to live in community.  We are responsible to one another and for one another.

Peace,

Pr. Sally



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