Calvary Presbyterian Church

October/November 2019 Messenger

Emily LewisComment

In Awe of Awe

We were camping this summer on the Taylor River. It was a cold clear night, and we walked thirty yards from the campfire where we could look up through the trees at the un-obstructed sky. We watched for a bit as the dark blue turned black, the sky started to fill with stars, and as the milky way filled in as if God was slowly painting by numbers.

We talked about city lights and how they obscure the stars, making it hard to see what is over our heads all the time. Hudson and Abby were a little amazed to realize how many stars were there. The longer we stood with craned necks, the more they appeared, squeezing out the black space.

I’ve been thinking about awe and its importance in our lives. I’ve been thinking about worship, the poem below, and the role of awe in our lives and worship. There are many things that can propel us in life and our choices, such as duty, or commitments, or guilt, or pain, or cognitive agreement. Awe, however, and that sense of wonder or mystery, that feeling of beauty or love can propel us uniquely. Awe and mystery can draw us in, slow us down, shift our perspective, open up joy and receptiveness, and send us on with the residue of the holy clinging to us.

Biron, in the poem below, describes moments of awe, of staring “dumbstruck at the magnificence of a single ocean wave.” These moments of awe, for him, cause the magnitude of the climate crisis to fade for the moment, for the fleeting feeling of working and speaking fruitlessly to fade, and to be caught in the moment—a moment of awe, beauty, mystery.

I wonder if these moments of awe are too rare in our lives, moments of being in nature, silent, attentive to the things always before us, but obscured through our inattentiveness. I wonder if our worship is providing such a moment for us. Perhaps we might ask how to foster such a perspective—that worship might be an opportunity to stare dumbstruck at the love of God. And perhaps the magnificence of an ocean wave is no more fascinating than the mystery of how God has been present in your journey, or the wonder of how God loves this broken world, or the raw beauty we see when we imitate God by a simple act, like offering a hand or a cup of cold water.

These are moments, as passing as that ocean wave as it crashes into the foam. We are present, but our necks cannot crane toward the sky illimitably. As Biron expresses, that passing moment, though only for a moment, does something to us and in us, that we are changed and nourished. And through that moment we re-enter the world with something to offer that we did not have prior, some holy residue. And in place of that fruitless and vain feeling, we are supplied with hope, for me, and you, and every other blessed thing.

On Being Asked to Write a Poem Against the Destruction of the Natural World…


One means of sanity is to retain a hold on the natural world, to remain, insofar as we can, good animals. ~ Wallace Stegner

Well, yes I have written such poems on
occasion and several times in fact, not
because I was asked, but just because
my heart or soul or maybe some other
nameless part of me couldn’t help but
do so. I’ve quoted Rachel Carson, Walt
Whitman, and Wallace Stegner just to
add intellectual heft to my haranguing.
And based on what I can tell, so far none
of my writing or talking has made a single
bit of difference, except that I now stare
dumbstruck at the magnificence of a single
ocean wave, and cannot take my eyes
off clouds and full moons or Giant Egrets,
taking one tiny sacred step at a time.
After all, isn’t every poem ever just a search
and rescue party for our heart and soul–
nothing protected, nothing saved, nothing
sustained, except maybe, just maybe, me,
and you, and every other blessed thing.

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August/September 2019 Messenger

Emily LewisComment

The Heart of the Alien

Holly has been reading Number the Stars with Hudson, a story set in Denmark during WWII. They were reading a section about the Nazis rounding up the Jews. Holly paused to talk about what is happening at the border, and in cities around the country. “I think I traumatized our son,” she said the next morning, because as they finished the chapter, they were both crying.

You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.

Exodus 23:9

The injunction to not oppress the foreigner or sojourner as well as the call to love the stranger occurs at least twice in Exodus (22:21, 23:9), as well as in Leviticus 19:33-34 and Deuteronomy 10:19. In each case, this injunction is a part of a list of instructions regarding justice or fulfilling God’s law. This injunction is rooted in compassion, not in how we perceive the choices of the sojourner.

Drawing on a collective history, we are to have compassion on the one who is separated from security and provision. We are to relate to their vulnerability, to find commonality in it. This means that instead of painting characterizations of asylum-seekers and refugees as gangs and terrorists, we should ask what it is that they are fleeing. Why? What has it been like? How far have they come?

How our faith and nationality come together has always been tricky business. We do not live in a religious State as ancient Israel did when they achieved a land and monarchy. We live in a modern pluralistic State. As individuals and as Christian communities, we must discern how to relate to the State, their policies, and exertion of power. Furthermore, we must decide for our-selves how we live out the code given to us by our faith, a code rooted in compassion and our own individual and collective experiences of being sojourners or aliens.

“for you were aliens in the land of Egypt”

While we should all be responsible citizens of the communities and the State that we find our-selves living in, we should remember that we too are sojourners. Our first citizenship lies with Christ and Christ’s kingdom, a kingdom yet to come to full shape. We should not rely on the State to do justice for us, nor to care for the widow and the orphan and the sojourner. We should find ways to do it.

John 13: 34-35 “‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Those who observe us will not know we are disciples, as it was in Jesus’ day, because we are physically following Jesus around. Jesus goes away and says that you cannot follow. So he outlines a new way that the world will know we are disciples—If you love; love one another, love one another as Christ has loved us.

“you know the heart of an alien”

Governments are problematic entities, and we ought not rely on them to do the work of Christ’s kingdom. The call to love falls to us. For this is how people in this modern pluralistic society will know we are Christ’s disciples, when we have love for one another, and when we can see ourselves in one another, and when we cultivate the common ground of compassion.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Dave

On Sunday, August 25th, we will host a time with Rev. Anne Kleinkopf. Anne is leading an immigration task force at First Plymouth and is engaged with and coordinating with numerous other organizations and efforts in Denver. She will help bring clarity to the murky waters of the immigration and border crises, and how she and others are responding.

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June/July 2019 Messenger

Emily LewisComment

I've been thinking about interpretation and about community—about the voices invited into the interpretive and decision-making process, and those excluded. Did you hear about the 22 white men in Alabama who pushed through a new abortion law? We all know that abortion is divisive and controversial. But what caught my attention is this turn from abortion “debate” to an all-out power grab. What is most striking is the move to utterly disregard the voices of women who are impacted, whose choices are being taken away or limited, and whose health concerns ignored. Instead of including those voices, those voices have been actively sidelined.

Who gets to interpret? Who gets to set the standards, and make the decisions on outcomes? In our Christian tradition, we take the scriptures as authoritative, and as our creeds and confessions direct us, we turn to the scriptures as an authority for faith and life. We interpret, and we look for what our scriptures and tradition have to say about the matters we face. But these matters are often muddy, and so we grapple and we interpret. And in the end, who gets to decide? Who gets to interpret for who? Do men get to decide for women? Rich for poor? Educated for un-educated? Elder for younger? Who gets the final say, and who gets to scrutinize who?

My friend Lenny and I were discussing such things on the South Platte river last fall, including the issue of LGBT inclusion in the church. He lamented that as a Christian rooted in scripture, he still wants to hear an argument from scripture. I sympathized with his desire. But I also asked, "can one be a Christian and be rich?" I continued, "and I'd like your answer to be based in words that come from the mouth of Jesus."

He grinned big, looking towards the ground. We went back to fly fishing. Interpreting the scriptures is not always straightforward and easy. Jesus' teachings about wealth are difficult. While Jesus repeatedly says to sell it all and give it to the poor, we don’t and we can’t. We can't sell it all because no one else is going to buy the groceries and clothe our children and put them through college. Furthermore, our economy's strength is based on buying stuff. In addition, we like things that make life easier. We like toys. Indeed, it is hard to know how much one can squeeze through the eye of a needle with.

We want to heed Jesus' words, but our society is different. The structures for caring for retirement and end of life are different. Life expectancy is different. Clearly, just taking Jesus' words at face value doesn't seem to work. So we work hard to discern what Jesus meant and how we might apply it in some way that is not literal. The church has down through the ages opted for the theology of stewardship, rather than avoiding wealth and mammon. And at times we have even regarded wealth and prosperity as blessings from the Lord, signs of God's favor, even things to seek, completely disregarding Jesus' words.

Like Lenny, in a culture that is geared around buying and selling and storing up for oneself treasures and toys and stock portfolios, I would really like an answer that comes off the lips of Jesus. But in the midst of life’s complexities, I guess it is good that we have had space to interpret for ourselves how to hold the scriptures in the face of our realities and responsibilities. It is a luxury I suppose—to have a voice in how to interpret the scriptures on matters that affect our lives on a day to day basis.

I was recently asked how you theologically address controversial social issues that arise. My response included, among other aspects, the need to talk about interpretation and whose voices have been privileged, and whose have been marginalized. For often, what comes to the surface is that we are not just interested in coming to a thoughtful conclusion, but maintaining some sort of control on the process. Can we not trust women to contribute to the abortion issue, and should we not give privilege to their voices and experiences? Or should men continue to make laws to govern them? And what about those who identify as LGBT. Can they be invited into the interpretive process? Could they add something to help us understand and appreciate the complexity of experience, and could they help us be better interpreters of scripture in light of life’s complexity? Shouldn’t those whose lives that are most impacted be at the center of the interpretive and discerning process?

As these things often go, instead of privileging others’ voices, we tend to scrutinize their judgment, their choices, their motivations. This not unlike the circumstances women seeking ordination had to face for generations.

Here at Calvary, our attempts at conversation, of discussing the scriptures together and paring them with poetry, and inviting responses to the sermon—these are not just cute moves with no teeth. We treat the interpretation process as open, ongoing, and potential, and learning to listen to one another will make our interpretations better, and our insights more helpful. In a society where authority structures are changing, perhaps we can move with that. And instead of interpreting and dictating for others, we would do well to interpret with others.

What do you think?


Pastor Dave

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April/May 2019 Messenger

Emily LewisComment

I have begun my spring ritual of walking in my back yard and poking around with my fingers to find green leaves emerging below the mulch. The re-emergence of plants and flowers and the heightened activity of insects and birds. It happens slowly. First leaves and shoots, then the colors of flowers budding. I like to watch it happening day by day. I do often wish it would happen quicker though. Spring can be long, especially here in Colorado where we have frosts still well into May, and the periodic hail storm to test the resilience of early vegetation.

After many months of gray, brown grass, no flowers, and frozen nights, I find myself longing for the fruit of spring. I look forward to picking lettuce from the garden, cutting the grass, enjoying the spring blossoms on our crab-apple tree, and to having David Cooper bring fresh sprigs of lilac to adorn the altar. Long stretches without such fruits of the earth start to wear on us.

Similarly, the fruits of God's Spirit working in us sometimes seem dormant, as in a long winter. And it comes time for a spring-like reemergence of these things. We start to long for their refreshing return. We begin to watch, start to amend the soil, to do what we can to foster their comeback, and hope that this fruit resurges stronger than before.

 the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity,

faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5: 22-23)

I have given myself a break from much of the news during Lent. It is a barren landscape of cold-heartedness, of discord, and hate, and violence, and dysfunction, and the gossip and hysteria of a misdirected media. I have noticed in lent that the soil of my heart, the tone of my spirit, these have taken on too much of the gray flowerless tones of winter. I desire the shoots of love and peace and kindness and joy to emerge relentlessly from the soil. I crave generosity and gentleness to issue forth their fragrance in my spirit once more. I want to be revived by the fruit that comes not just from time, and seasonal movement, but from the Spirit at work in my being.

I want to walk in the assurance of spring, that the dormant fruit of the Spirit can reemerge even stronger, and fuller, and can even reseed itself. I want to poke my fingers in the soil, confident it will come. I want to see life emerge day by day and know that the Spirit is indeed at work in the world, and in me, and that life will re-emerge, and that what was dead will be alive again.

Happy Easter!

Pastor Dave

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February/March 2019 Messenger

Emily LewisComment

Ministering to Those Who Cannot Reciprocate

“When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Luke 14: 12-14


I get frustrated with old friends that do not initiate or reciprocate. That is the notion of friendship, it seems to me. A giving and taking, a caring for one another. I think this is true of friendship. But these words of Jesus reminded me of late that friendship and ministry are not the same thing. Ministry goes beyond a reciprocating friendship. Ministry calls us to love, care for, and bring hope and healing to those that cannot reciprocate.

 It is a challenge to live out such a truth. We often fall into routines and patterns where we by and large care for one another, invite those that invite us back, care for those that are committed to the church already. But how do we live out the call to love those who cannot love us back, and to give to those who cannot give back? How do we prevent ourselves from preaching and affirming truths that we do not have the scaffolding to live out?

This is one reason I am excited about the Legacy Tithe. It is a way for us to partner with important work going on out in the world, and to get our hands in a little. A way for us to invest in work that is loving those who are motivated but in desperate circumstances, who are in a place where they need to be ministered to, where they need to be assisted, where they need to be loved and cared for. And as is most often the case when we branch out to such folks, loving and helping is a bit of a risk. It is messy. But it is hopeful.

As we move through this year, it is our desire to highlight our mission work even more. We want to be in touch both with these new endeavors through the Legacy Tithe, as well as the missions we continually support through the budget and leadership of FIAT. It is important for us not just to give money but to be connected to this work, to get our hands in where we can, to get our hearts in where we can. Because there is something essential to our faith about loving those that are not in a position to love us back. There is something essential about inviting those to the banquet who cannot reciprocate. There is something oh so important about loving those that we desperately seek to help, but cannot control. And when we reach that point, we have moved beyond friendship, to costly ministry. Lord, lead us!

Pastor Dave

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December 2018/January 2019 Messenger

Emily LewisComment

What is December like for you? How much space do you have to sit and reflect? How much time do you have to hope?

It is a busy month for us. My work as a pastor is busy in December with Advent and Christmas Eve planning and preparation. It is also the end of the year with all the tasks and processes that need to be accomplished in an orderly fashion. Holly’s work is busy as well with deadlines and crunch time. We still have to decorate the house, think about Christmas cards, and make Christmas cookies. Abby has her play and Christmas choir and band concerts coming up. We have a couple Christmas parties sprinkled in, with Christmas shopping, and shipping gifts to family with enough time for them to arrive before the 25th.

The Christmas season is busy, maybe even frantic at moments. I wonder if it works against the whole notion of Advent? As we turn the liturgical color to purple for this first Sunday in Advent, it signals a time of preparation and repentance. Repentance takes time to consider what we are repenting of, and what new direction we ought to be making a turn towards.

We don’t often think of the Advent season as a season of repentance; that sounds more like Lent. What do we have to repent of? Perhaps we ought to repent of our patterns and rhythms that do not reflect the themes of Advent, like Christ’s hope, joy, peace and love. Perhaps we need to repent of our complicit-ness in the current state of the world. We have not worked towards God’s “kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” We have not anticipated and worked towards the fullness of Christ’s vision for humanity.

A thoughtful and reflective season takes time and space. Do you have any in this busy month of December? Time to pray? Space to reflect? Room to repent, and to turn towards the kingdom that Christ speaks of, towards a hopeful way of living and being in the world?

I suppose such a focus for Advent is a little counter to the normal bustle and Christmas Party conversation. But maybe there is space even so. Maybe we can make space, even in our conversations to consider together what a life of hope and joy and peace and love might look like in this world. How do we anticipate the kingdom? What do we repent of, and what does the turn towards kingdom priorities look like?

It takes some effort. It takes some time. Do you have time to hope this advent? Do you have time to repent?

Wishing us a blessed Advent,

Pastor Dave

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October/November 2018 Messenger

Emily LewisComment

Iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens the other (Proverbs 27:17). The Hebrew of the second phrase translates woodenly, “so one sharpens the face of his friend.”

In the season of stewardship, “making the most of the time” has been our theme. I want to ask, has your involvement at Calvary sharpened you? Has it inspired, or invited growth, or challenged you to be bolder, to step out in faith, to give, to lead? Has it caused you not to put off good that could be done? Are you a better disciple of Christ in the world because of it?

I have served as your pastor for over four and a half years now and counting. Is anyone else surprised by this? I have been reflecting on this. As a pastor, I often feel a range of responsibility. I am responsible to Christ. I am responsible to the Presbytery. I am responsible to my own sense of integrity as a minister called at such a time. It is hard to know how to evaluate success, or faithfulness, or even progress. But in the end, I hope that iron sharpens iron. I hope that we have pushed each other closer to Christ and challenged each other to consider if we have given what we could, pitched in where it was called for, loved when it was needed or even difficult, and led when our hearts connected to a need. I hope that we have been a voice and a presence that speaks God’s truth to each other: that you are loved and called and capable.

In the season of stewardship, we consider how we are living a life of gratitude, and how we steward all of life in light of Christ’s love toward us. We consider how we use our time, at what level we will give. We consider as a church where we will direct our mission work. And we consider if the fruit is in keeping with the love God has first shown us. Do our lives reflect the joy of salvation and love? Does the use of our time reflect a desire to grow and serve and care? Does the use of our resources demonstrate trust in the God who provides for us and leads us?

I have been your pastor for four and a half years and counting. I may be saying much of the same things over and over at this point. You may have tuned me out. I generally assume that a majority percentage of what I say as a pastor is ignored or is unable to be absorbed at the time. But I hope, even so, that iron sharpens iron. That even in the resistance, or the receptiveness, or the plodding along, that we are sharpening each other. That we are more attuned to what God has called us to as individuals and as a church because of this pastor-congregation relationship. I hope, and I expect that I am, more attuned to what it means to listen and care and walk along side. I hope that you, and I expect you are, are more attuned to what it means to listen to the Spirit as a church as we discern what God has called us to.

May we continue to sharpen one another in this season of service, friends.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Dave

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August/September 2018 Messenger

Emily LewisComment

The Calm Before the Storm

The house has been quiet in the morning. For the first summer of our parental lives, our kids have slept in. I drink my coffee in peace. I have savored the summer months for these reasons. For we have not had to rouse and keep after the kids to make sure they have gotten out of bed at the appropriate time, have dressed, and groomed, and gotten breakfast, and packed their backpacks, and have the lunches and so on. The weekly rubric of who needs to be where has been limited. I have enjoyed summer.

Fall rhythms loom, however. Not long till the mornings shed their calm and take up the daily frenzy again. Not long till the rubric of drop-offs and pick-ups and activities becomes its own full-time preoccupation and focus of Holly and I’s communication. Not long till we have to monitor and assist in the daily homework, till we have to revive our atrophied math knowledge in order to function as home tutors. As I anticipate these renewed rhythms I am reminded of how much coordination and consistency it takes to function as a family. It takes a lot, and many of us parents feel like things are barely being held together. I wonder if functioning as a church isn’t similar in many respects.

As we enter another fall, as rhythms and activities pick up, as yearly rhythms proceed such as nomination processes, and budgeting processes, and stewardship season, and Advent, and so on, it takes an awful lot of coordination and consistency. Sometimes the daily and weekly focus is just keeping up, and we don’t have a lot of time to reflect, or adjust, afraid that if we stop spinning plates, they will all fall. But I wonder, if in this calm before the impending storm of a busy fall, if we can ask: “How are we doing as a church?”

How are we doing as a church? What is the measure by which we might answer such a question? Are we doing what we say we do? Are we living in to who we claim to be? Are we doing what we are able to do? These are important questions. These are questions best entertained as a community, which is hard to do as we all have our own personal and or family rhythms to keep up with, in addition to our church rhythms together. But it is worthwhile to entertain.

In many respects, these last couple years have been plodding along in the weekly and seasonal rhythms. There have been little as far as crises or major transitions to navigate; a welcomed reprieve from a season of uncertainty and a couple moves. This is not to say that we haven’t been attending to these big questions in these last couple years. Your leadership/Session has certainly been attentive to these things. There are things we have done, and seen some positive effect from – like attending to our presence on the internet, and making ourselves easier to find, and we have started seeing occasional visitors again. We have moved toward a lay driven home communion plan recently, recognizing my limitations as your part time minister. We have been paying attention, and we have been acting. And yet, it feels time to consider this question: how are we doing as a church?

On August 19th we’ll check in as a church family in one of our “conversations after worship” around this question, and Session will share some of the thoughts and direction we have been discussing and working on. But I encourage you to ponder and reflect on this question: “how are we doing?” And consider, “what are standards by which we might answer that question?”

I know your own lives have their own rhythms that are hard to keep up with, but I hope you will write August 19th on your calendars and be a part of the conversation. And it is important for us to reflect on our choices and priorities even as we become busy keeping up with the steady flow of things to be done.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Dave

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June/July 2018 Messenger

Emily LewisComment

“Walking in Faith”

He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”

Faith. It can be a noun, a metonym standing for one’s beliefs, practices, the entire history of Christianity. The faith. But “faith” can also have the sense of trust, active believing. The first has a feel of solidity. Firmness. Set. Proven. The second only exists if it is being exercised. The second is less solid, more uncertain and unfolding. To walk in faith. To trust the person. To be called to follow even when you don’t know all that will come.

This summer we consider the call to live by faith. The second sense of faith. To let go of our certainty enough so that we can listen and be open. To resist the urge to delegitimize every voice or opinion which challenges one’s own. To see the days ahead as holding possibility for the one willing to walk by faith. Ironically, there is some human impulse that wants to take the uncertainty out, to eliminate risk and ambiguity. Ironically, “The Faith” often wants to give answers for everything. But Jesus’ call to follow was never to follow a manual, it was to follow a person. To listen. To respond.

On June 24th, our gospel passage will be the story of the disciples in the wind and the waves, while Jesus sleeps in the boat. At their panic, Jesus calms the storm. But he asks “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And while the disciples respond with awe, and perhaps greater confidence/faith, I suspect Jesus’ questions are more of an indictment than a doxology. He calms the storm, and in the calm they trust; because they prefer the calm, the secure, the stable. But Jesus insinuates that there was not really cause for alarm even in the storm. Faith as active, existing only when being exercised.

How do we balance our desire for security and stability, with the call to live and walk by faith? These are questions for us to consider. How does this tension play out in our personal lives? In the life of Calvary Presbyterian Church? Can we have faith, and move by faith, without demanding that Jesus calm the storms first? Can we hear an uncomfortable call without trying to get Jesus to be subdued and predictable and conforming (Mark 3:21 – “When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’”)?

Can we live in faith, even before the calm, even without the calm, or is our faith only in service to finding the calm? Questions to consider this summer.

Pastor Dave

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December 2017 / January 2018 Messenger

Emily LewisComment

Alive with Anticipation, Activated with Expectation
She stepped out the red doors, and before descending the steps looked deep into the night sky. Abby was holding her grandfather with one hand and said in a low voice while pointing with her other, “I think I see Santa Claus!” 
This was a number of years ago. But Abby still approaches Christmas with the same anticipation and complete expectation. There is no fiction about it for her. In her mind, you move towards Christmas knowing full well that someone is going to visit you, and I am not just talking about grandpa and grandma, though that is a part of the expectation as well. 
In this season of Advent we remember the stories of Christ’s coming. We recall how God sent to us a savior. But it is not just a story of happenings gone-by. We tell the story to remember that not only has God come, but God is here. God has come to us, and “Emmanuel,” God is with us. God is with us, and we ought to look for him when we walk out those doors. He may not be streaked across the sky, but then again maybe this grand universe does speak to God’s presence. Or perhaps we will see God in the face of our children, and the joys and blessings we have been afforded, or as Jesus says, in the eyes of the poor and needy. Maybe we will find the mercy of Christ when we are part of compassionate caring, joining with someone else who is having a hard time. Maybe it will be in answered prayer, or a sense of peace which comes when we believe God has our best interests and purest longings in heart. 
God is here, and God is to be found, and as the scriptures say, God is coming. The story is not over yet. This season of Advent invites us to become an active participant in the story, working for God’s kingdom and watching for it to grow and come to its fullness. The scriptures speak of a day when every tear will be wiped away, and when God’s purposes will come to fulfillment. And whether that comes in the form of the Lord streaking across the sky in a chariot or as a slow growing seed, we do not know. But in this season of Advent and Christmas I pray a sense of anticipation and expectation might reemerge in us. For this is not a flat story of events gone-by. It is about a God who is present and with us, and coming; we can discern that presence if we look for it. 

May the expectation of Christ pervade your celebrations, 
Pastor Dave

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October/November 2017 Messenger

Emily LewisComment

We have heard a great deal of ardor for our country, our democracy, our flag and anthem. But it deserves mention that the privilege given to us by those who have fought for our democracy, is the privilege to vote, the privilege to be involved and to have a government that represents us. We honor those sacrifices by our involvement and our service. In a similar way, the privilege of our Presbyterian polity is the privilege to serve and to discern together as a congregation how God is leading us. And in our Presbyterian polity, God does that through ministers of word and sacrament, through elders, and through deacons. God does it through you! So… how will you honor this privilege? 

Pastor Dave

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August/September Messenger

Emily LewisComment

"Depiction of Joseph Reuniting With His Brothers" by Sieger Köder.

Schemers. Naïve. Fearful men who have trouble speaking under pressure. These are the central figures in the narratives of Genesis and Exodus that feature in our scriptures during the past few and upcoming several weeks. God working good through flawed people, through families that are plagued by dysfunctional patterns, through much stress, heartache, and difficulty. But there are moments, moments that stand out like a candle in the pitch dark; moments of reconciliation. Moments of tenderness, of touch, of water on parched ground, of tears of joy over re-connection, of new perspective on how God has been present and active.

Esau embracing his brother Jacob, who had swindled him out of his birthright. An embrace of forgiveness. An embrace that chooses relationship over retribution. An embrace that holds the potential for a different way. Or Joseph embracing his brothers; the brothers who sold him as a product in a world of human trafficking. After many lonely years, they embrace once again, and news comes back to a father who thought he would never see his son again. Or Moses, who has a heart of compassion, as evidenced when he intervenes for slaves being beaten, or women being mistreated at the well in Midian. He has a heart of compassion but is plagued by his own failures and questions of identity, and God calls him from the back of beyond, to be a reconciling figure. 

These are stories of great human pathos, and even greater moments of divine touch, of reconciliation and hope. Moments where our deepest longings and thirsts are slated: for belonging, for healing, for embrace, for reconciliation, for compassion to win out over hate and violence. 

These are ancient stories, that speak of realities that are all too contemporary. Stories that speak of the potential for God’s kingdom to come on earth, even while those in power saber-rattle with arsenals of nuclear weapons. Even while the rulers of the earth would dispense with a million lives just to satisfy their pride, and likely still sleep well enough at night. But these old narratives speak of the redemptive potential even in the scheming, naïvity and fearfulness of us human beings. They speak of a God who hears cries, and who works in the darkness to bring good, to use the things we would rather discard. These narratives speak of a God who calls us to walk in faith, to embrace our lost brothers, to choose reconciliation over recompense, to be candle whose meager flames shines brightly in the darkness.  

Pastor Dave

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June/July Messenger

Emily LewisComment

Being Led

John 21: 18-19
18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19 After this he said to him, “Follow me.” 
Peter had gone back to fishing, in the story where the above is excerpted. He went back to fishing where he could work with his hands, and his back, and do what he knows; where his mind could mull over the questions of what happened. How was it that he messed up? He can lick his wounds, over how he embarrassed himself on numerous occasions, of the look in Jesus’ eye when he looked across the courtyard as Peter denied knowing him in the fear of the moment. He can stew over how he didn’t live up to his own expectations. That is the moment Peter finds himself in. 
Peter is looking back and coming to terms. He is taking stock. We do it at different points in our lives, with one level of severity or another. It seems to be at crisis stage for Peter, making great changes in his life driven by disappointment and guilt. But Jesus comes to him on the shores of Galilee and he invites Peter back into his true calling, inviting him to feed the sheep, and to love Christ even if imperfectly. It is here where this parabolic statement of old age is inserted, about growing old, and being lifted and led by another. I take Jesus to be telling Peter that what you are experiencing is not failure, but discipleship. It is not an indignity, but a mark of maturity. There comes a point of letting go of control, of being willing to be our frail selves, to be in community, and to be led by the Spirit in ways we would not have anticipated. This is not a disqualification, but the path toward spiritual maturity. 
We have been talking about life, death and dying here at Calvary in the past month. And thinking about such things involves a fair amount of looking back and taking stock, as well as looking forward and making preparations. In Erickson’s stages of development, the crisis of the later stage of life is that of integrity vs. despair, of coming to terms with one’s life and with one’s death. Coming to terms with life when much is behind us. As Erickson suggests this can lead to a sense of dignity, or to a sense of despair. What keeps Peter from despair? I want to suggest that there are a few things about this interaction with Jesus and Peter, and about this statement about old age and being led that keep Peter from despair and which say something to us. 
First, there is an accepting of limitations. Jesus is able to accept Peter despite his missteps, despite his faltering in the intensity of the moment. Peter, through the back and forth around the fire, is able to accept that Jesus accepts him. Peter is able to not let his past keep him from future opportunities. He is willing to accept his life as it is, without giving in to despair. 
Second, Peter comes to terms in part through his response to the future. After all, the only way one can alter what has happened in the past is through perspective, and perhaps how we continue into the future, and continue to shape our overall narrative. How we live today and tomorrow can be a response to life, when what is behind cannot really be changed. Peter chooses not to fight against the past, but allow it to open him up to what future ministry might hold. He chooses to love Christ despite his frailness and to feed the sheep. 
Lastly, This parabolic statement of old age and being lifted and led is more about maturity than merely end of life issues. It is about the path of discipleship. Of being willing to let our limitations move us closer to each other, and to new opportunities and ministries. This statement about being lifted and led is followed by the invitation, “Follow me.” 
If I had a chance to have coffee with Peter I would ask him about that moment, that transition. What did it mean to him? What was it like to give in to the truths of that parable? Did he get to the point in his journey when he would not have chosen to go back to buckling his own belt and going wherever he pleased? Did the journey change him in ways that he wouldn’t want to undo? Did he stop looking back, or was looking back always intertwined with looking forward? 
How would you answer these questions? Or, what questions would you have for Peter, if you two were to sit down to coffee? 

Pastor Dave

June/July Messenger

April / May Messenger

Emily LewisComment

From Our Pastor;
    There are shades of green on the tops of the trees, like the fuzz on a baby’s head. The Dormant life of last year’s fall is beginning to surge, giggling and gurgling, with hope of maturity by Spring’s end. So by the time our Spring’s storms, and fits and starts have concluded, the trees should be decked out for summer, lettuce and carrots should start to spring forth, and Sydney and Nancy and others will be advising me on how to participate in nature’s fruitfulness, though my garden is a poor representation of nature’s potential. 
    Spring. It is no coincidence that Easter is celebrated in the Spring. This blending of the natural and the liturgical is nothing new. It is an ancient pattern. In fact, dying and rising deities are not unique to our Christian tradition. Baal in the ancient Ugaritic (A northern Canaanite city bordering Israel) myths was always in a tenuous battle with Mot (death), and resurged with the new growing season. There are many others. Yes, the Christian tradition is unexceptional in these respects, celebrating the rebirth of a deity and connecting it to the rebirth seen and experienced in the natural world, even to depend on the deity for this rebirth and renewal and the consequent sustenance of human life. These similarities help to accent the differences, however; these help to accentuate the distinctiveness of the cruciform and resurrected life of Christ. In Christ, there is more than a resurgence of something old, more than a sustenance of biological life, more than a resignation to the seasons of death and rebirth – there is a conscious choice; a conscious choosing of self-sacrifice, a conscious choosing of selflessness, and change, and dying to self so that something new might come. 
    In Spring, we more or less know what will grow. In the cruciform journey of dying and rising that we walk with Christ, we are less certain. In what ways will Christ lead us when we die to our certainty, to our need for success, to our need to be liked, to our need to be in control? In what expressions of grace will we find ourselves when we give ourselves to the sacrificial love of Christ? In what types of ministry will we be called when we realize that we too are called to be the body of Christ given to the world? 
    Death. Life. Breaking. Re-surging. Dying. Rising. Letting go. Being lifted up. These are the yearly rhythms of the cruciform journey of being Christ’s disciple. These are the yearly rhythms that shape us, that remake us, that transform us into the followers of a Christ who does not grasp at power or prestige or control, but gives himself for the healing and forgiveness and wholeness of the world. So when Christ rises anew on Easter, something wholly new is possible. It is not just that we will survive another year, but we will live forgiven, and whole, renewed and reconciled. A newness we cannot manipulate or anticipate. A newness that comes in following Christ, in taking up our own crosses and following in his footsteps. 
Philippians 2: 5-11
5    Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 
6     who, though he was in the form of God, 
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be exploited, 
7    but emptied himself, 
    taking the form of a slave, 
    being born in human likeness. 
    And being found in human form, 
8    he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death— 
    even death on a cross. 

9    Therefore God also highly exalted him
    and gave him the name
    that is above every name, 
10    so that at the name of Jesus
    every knee should bend, 
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 
11    and every tongue should confess
    that Jesus Christ is Lord, 
    to the glory of God the Father. 
    It is the Christian journey of discipleship that through these yearly rhythms our own lives might more and more be entwined with the cruciform life and journey of Christ. That through the dying and rising, breaking and healing, falling away and being lifted up, we might be bound up in Christ, and that we too might birth forth healing and hope, forgiveness and wholeness. And perhaps when the fits and starts of this life are over, the peach fuzz of that newly born might give way to the fruitful tree of a life that Christ has shaped and formed – with fruit more sweet and lush than any we might have anticipated. 
Grace and peace, 
Pastor Dave

April / May Messenger