Calvary Presbyterian Church

December 2017 / January 2018 Messenger

Sandra BacaComment

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

Sandra BacaComment

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? 
Blessings, 

Pastor Dave

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August/September Messenger

Sandra BacaComment

"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

Sandra BacaComment

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

Sandra BacaComment

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

October/November Messenger

Sandra BacaComment

How do you respond when things do not go as you wanted? How do you respond to your own faults, shortcoming, failings? Can we admit that we start out with standards and hopes, expectations and promises, but we don’t always live up to them? I remember when I was a Youth Director in my twenties, full of patience for kids and critical of parents that were testy and impatient. I envisioned myself as a calm, encouraging, and rational parent. I am not the parent I thought I would be back then; I realize that my point of view back then was a rather artificial one, and that I am more prone to become weary with the daily reminders one has to provide one’s children for every basic routine aspect of daily life, let alone the dramas, emergencies, and grand long term plans we have for our kids and don’t always know how to actualize. I am not that impressed with my performance, to be honest. 

Shattered expectations can have a crushing weight sometimes. How do you come to terms with them, and find a redemptive path forward? Can we admit and hold up our frailty and faultiness while also facing our broken world with hope and love? In many ways I think our society/country is struggling with this. We have a hard time recognizing our checkered history; we get appeals to just honor the flag without speaking of our ugly blemishes. But a path forward in hope and love must acknowledge who we are in our frailty and faultiness. As a society, even on good days, we foster injustice, we treat people unequally, and we do not value all life with the same vigor.

I think of Aleppo, Syria. While I recognize my shortcomings as a parent and as a member of a community, I still have the means to provide. But what of those for whom the brokenness all around them threatens their very lives and families? Can we grieve with them, pray for them, and maybe even stand in solidarity with them - whether these be Muslims in the rubble of Aleppo, or African-Americans on the streets of America? 

The history of the church has its own checkered performance. Our families. Our lives. Blemishes and blunders abound. But we come to Christ with this brokenness. Our passages in October will be exploring these themes – coming to Christ with acknowledgment of our frailty and faultiness, and through it being re-born and re-made to live with hope and love in a broken world; to be people who live out of gratitude. 

Do we see our brokenness? Are we secure enough to acknowledge it? Can we love ourselves and one another in spite of it, and love each other through it? Can we embrace the God who loves us and forgives us, and who remakes us along the journey? 

Pastor Dave,

October/November Messenger

 

 

August/September Messenger

Sandra BacaComment

What is Growing in You? 

It takes all summer, or so it seems, for our garden to start bearing fruit. But fruit comes. Watering, working the soil, amending. And when the harvest starts to come it is rewarding, like biting into the bright flesh of a flavor-full summer tomato, and you wonder what those mealy things were that you have been eating all winter. 

Growth. Slow. Easy to overlook at times. Sometimes not what you were expecting, but growth nonetheless. What is growing in you? How have you grown? Is it that bright smile growth of enjoyment, or that gnawing pain like Abby who comes down the stairs groaning from time to time as her bones are expanding? 

I asked our Session at our last meeting this question: how are you growing this summer? They all answered, which made me realize I hadn’t given sufficient time to my own question. It forced me to consider my own question, and with some time to percolate I’ve started to see. I think I’m learning in each season how to achieve some balance in my life, taking my health seriously, and being present to my growing kids lest I turn around and they are driving out of the driveway on their own. I am learning how to break from my parenting fundamentalism; to lean in closer to my kids, and learn how different they are from each other, and to adapt my parenting to those differences. I’m learning this takes a lot of energy, and I sometimes groan from the growth. 

I’m growing through poetry and art and music. I’m soaking in the process of paring the scriptures to flexible tissue of poetry, expressing questions and emotions. I’m soaking in the conversation that these different media bring, soaking in the conversations that come after the sermon, the conversations I have with my academic friends and colleagues. 

I don’t know what the end game is. Sometimes we gear life towards targeted or expected ends. I’m not sure what to expect, or know where my academic pursuits are leading, or where Calvary Presbyterian Church will be in ten years. And without known ends to aim for, it calls for a different kind of growth and movement; one not rooted in a tangible end, but growth nonetheless – pressing in, deepening, enriching, evolving, changing, fruit producing growth. 

We will gather on Tuesday evening August 23rd and we will be talking of such things: Spiritual growth. We have lifted up the value of spiritual growth as a church. But what does that mean? What does it mean for you? How do we express this? How do we go about it? I hope you’ll come out on the 23rd and add your voice to the conversation. And I hope you’ll give some thought to my question, though it may take some time to percolate, as it did for me. 

Grace and Peace, 

Pastor Dave 

August September Messenger

The Seven of Pentacles  by Marge Piercy
Under a sky the color of pea soup
she is looking at her work growing away there
actively, thickly like grapevines or pole beans
as things grow in the real world, slowly enough.
If you tend them properly, if you mulch, if you water,
if you provide birds that eat insects a home and winter food,
if the sun shines and you pick off caterpillars,
if the praying mantis comes and the lady bugs and the bees,
then the plants flourish, but at their own internal clock.
Connections are made slowly, sometimes they grow underground.
You cannot tell always by looking what is happening.
More than half a tree is spread out in the soil under your feet.
Penetrate quietly as the earthworm that blows no trumpet.
Fight persistently as the creeper that brings down the tree.
Spread like the squash plant that overruns the garden.
Gnaw in the dark and use the sun to make sugar.
Weave real connections, create real nodes, build real houses.
Live a life you can endure: make love that is loving.
Keep tangling and interweaving and taking more in,
a thicket and bramble wilderness to the outside but to us
interconnected with rabbit runs and burrows and lairs.
Live as if you liked yourself, and it may happen:
reach out, keep reaching out, keep bringing in.
This is how we are going to live for a long time: not always,
for every gardener knows that after the digging, after
      the planting,
after the long season of tending and growth, the harvest comes.

 

July Messenger

Sandra BacaComment

“Sheltered by Grace: All of Us”
    Mary arrived late as I stood with the immediate family. They were quiet, standing among the gravestones, shifting on their feet. It had been a few weeks since the memorial service. We stood in plain clothes in an all but hidden, rural cemetery for the inurnment. Mary pulled up in a silver El Camino. She had inherited the funeral home from her father. She was thin, wore a tan and draping overcoat and was raspy voiced from too many cigarettes. “Well, I got him,” she announced as she rose from the car. 
    Mary had little use for ministers. With a funeral arranged by Mary I could expect to have no input, little notice, and less reimbursement. The matters of death and burial were all straightforward business in her mind. Ministers had little to offer to the affair, and their words struck no chords with her. 
    She reached to the back seat and pulled out a beautiful turquois urn and handed it to the deceased’s oldest son. “Now,” she said with some meager attempt to find the right words, while leaning on the car door. “Apparently all of him did not fit in the urn.” She reached again behind the seat and pulled out a coffee can. “Here is the rest of him,” she proclaimed. “I’m not sure what you want to do with it. I guess he was a big man.” I don’t remember him being that large a man, I thought. The family shifted back on their heels, their eyes darted between the glassy urn and the old “Folgers” can. They were taken off-guard by the unexpected dilemma.
    I observed with great interest at this point, and tried to contain any chuckles. I always thought of funeral homes bringing decorum to the difficult business of burial and remembering. The family members walked uneasily with me towards the grave where the groundskeeper had cut the precise sized hole in the ground to contain the tiny vault that would house the urn. They set both containers near the hole that only had room for one. Suddenly, I found myself starting to like Mary. 
    In her callous style, Mary had broken through the impulse and decorum that allows or encourages families to pull out the positive memories while leaving at bay anything that might be deemed negative or capable of smearing the glassy memory of a loved one. For there sat the glassy urn along with the lackluster can, and as usual, only room for one. But what do you do with a person’s surplus, that which doesn’t fit cleanly with the rest?  
    I remember back to my own grandfather’s funeral. I remember people giving testimony and telling stories of his faith, of his well-worn Bible, of his faithfulness and prayerfulness – all while his surviving children sat in the front row looking down and away. The minister gave a glowing eulogy of my grandfather’s public churchgoing life, stealing uncomfortable glances once in a while in the direction of the downcast descendants, as if to acknowledge that there was only room for one story; the glassy one would be told. 
    Is there room for all of us under the shelter of God’s grace? Certainly the gospel stories suggest so – from the woman with a bleeding condition, to the tax collectors, the lepers, and so on. Can we find peace and forgiveness and the freedom to find our way with Christ, telling the whole story? Can we bring all of ourselves under Christ with peace and confidence, and let Christ help us find the words for it? Can we invite others under this shelter of God’s grace without condition or qualification? 
    The cemetery groundskeeper walked forward as I finished, obviously observing the family’s uncertainty as to what to do. He compassionately took his shovel and added a carefully cut half circle onto the existing square hole; big enough to receive the tin urn. The one laid to rest along with the other. I continued to observe, standing passively by, as these rather un-ceremonial figures did the holy work of laying a whole person to rest. As they drove off in cars, a rusty truck, and one silver El Camino, I walked slowly to my car. I walked by others whose burials I had officiated, and wondered to myself if all of them had really fit into their glassy urns. 
- Pastor Dave

July Messenger

June Messenger

Sandra BacaComment
“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”
--E.B. White

    I came into ministry with a passion to save the world, or at least as many as I could save of those in the world. I was convinced that knowing Christ made a difference both in this life and in the next, and it was my motivation in life to bring others to that saving knowledge. I wanted so badly to save people. I grew tired of this, however. I learned people don’t always want to be saved and I learned I was not very good at it, and I realized that often-times (most times) God is already at work long before I showed up. It didn’t bring out the best in me; it made me a poor listener. I always knew where the conversation needed to go, rather than just letting the conversation go where it would. I was not able to hear whatever needed to be said. It turns out, I’ve become a much better pastor having let go of the need to save. 
    I want to read now. I spend countless hours with books, and I can’t get enough. I want to listen to your stories. I want to fly fish, to watch the water, to change my fly thirteen times in order to find the right one to get that big trout to rise to it. I want to set art next to poetry next to scripture, and see what percolates. Ever since I let go of saving people and starting listening and being present to myself, others, nature, and God, more, I have resonated with this line by E.B. White. I feel the tension. I feel the tension because I still think knowing that you are loved and forgiven makes a difference. I still believe reaching into another person’s world with hope matters. But I do so much better; we do so much better when we are able to be present without trying to save or solve another’s problems; if we can savor the story, savor the beauty, be present to the pain, and to see what rises. 
    I have started to wonder, however, if there needs to be so much of a tension. Can our savoring of the beauty and mystery of God’s world and our journeys with God generate life-altering effects? Maybe the feeling of salvation or possibility for redemption comes from being heard, from listening to one another, from being known and knowing. What if beholding the beauty and mystery opens us up to more redemptive ways of being in the world. 
    The above quote of E.B. White came in an interview with a reporter. He followed it by saying: “But if we forget to savor the world, what possible reason do we have for saving it? In a way, the savoring must come first.” I wonder if part of what we do in worship is to savor – to encounter the Lord through music, word, image, each other, scripture text and sermon – to encounter something of beauty and mystery. Perhaps only when we have encountered the beauty of God will we exude something life-giving, even life-altering to others. Yes, I wonder if the savoring is not essential to the saving, maybe even how it comes about. Maybe there isn’t a tension there as much as I have deemed for years. Maybe it is the tension in us, that I have felt, the inclination to save, the desire to change others, maybe even change ourselves. But transformation comes first through encounter – encounter with a God of love and mystery and beauty. 

Pastor Dave 

June Messenger

May Messenger

Sandra BacaComment

Let Awake People be Awake

“If you don't know the kind of person I am
and I don't know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world.”

Above are the opening lines of a poem by William Stafford entitled “A Ritual to Read Each Other.” It is a poem I have read or shared before, but I can’t help but be taken again by these lines. For I have heard too much beauty being overlaid with fear and anger as of late – associating the Arabic language with Jihad, Muslims with ghettos that need to be patrolled, trans-gender individuals with predators, sand that we’re going to make glow. I could go on. Have we forgotten how to have conversation? Have we forgotten how to engage one another in our journeys? Is there a different way to face was causes us fear? 
We (as a church in the process of moving, and as a Session in recent months) have affirmed that part of being faithful as a church is to be growing spiritually; to affirm and encourage and exhort one another in our spiritual journeys. And part of this is openness to one another; not forcing someone else’s journey into your rubric, but being open to who they are, and how it is that Jesus has been leading them. To be able to speak love and grace and forgiveness, rather than blame and hate. For being open to others’ journeys is the soil in which we might learn to be more open to our own. 
Hans-Georg Gadamer is among the authors I have been reading in my academic work lately. He says that the end goal of the hermeneutical process (that is the search for how we discern what is true) is openness. This is not just open-mindedness. It is to be open to that which is alien and refractory to your categories. I think of Jesus eating with tax collectors and prostitutes, of Jesus telling us to love our enemies. I think of Peter’s dream and the call to go preach to Cornelius and his pork-eating gentile bros. I think of Philip being called to climb into the chariot with the Euthopian Eunuch and talk the prophet Isaiah. I think of Jesus touching the leper and being touched by the bleeding woman. To be open to one another, to be led by the gospel and the Christ who calls us, is to be open; not just open-minded, but open to what is alien and refractory to our categories. It is the call to be transformed in the process. 
A light on a hill cannot be hidden. We must be light, and such light will look like conversation; sharing our stories and pushing each other along our redemptive journeys.
I don’t know what is going on around us, but much of the rhetoric I see concerns me. In an age of fear and trying to marginalize difference, we must be voices of love and grace. We must be willing to engage each other; to practice real conversation that can help up engage others with whom our paths cross. We must be awake and engaged with one another. For as Stafford begins his final stanza, 
“For it is important that awake people be awake”

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Dave 

May Messenger

April Messenger

Sandra BacaComment

“Do you Love Me? – Feed My Sheep”

    My fly tying vise sits on one side of my desk. It’s spring, and as I look at it there, I can’t help but be anxious to be on a stream casting for trout; it is one place I go to get lost in nature, in the encounter on the stream. On the other side of my desk sits an olivewood carving of Jesus washing Peter’s feet on Maundy Thursday. In the days after that event Peter himself goes fishing; or goes back to fishing, I should say. Both the washing of feet and his return to fishing speak to the difficulty Peter has in reconciling his own humanity with Jesus’ embrace and calling on his life.
    John 21 tells the story. Peter on the water; going back to the rhythms and the natural world he knew best. But that place, rather than being a place of escape, it becomes a place of renewed encounter with Christ and with his calling. If you recall the story, Peter and his friends spent all night without catching anything, and they hear a voice from the shore telling them to throw the net on the other side of the boat. They do so. The nets fill. Peter realizes it is Jesus. He races to shore. 
    It is the scene around the campfire that is most moving. “Do you love me,” Jesus asks three times. “You know that I love you,” Peter responds each time. And Jesus follows with the call, “feed my sheep.” We all have moments like this -- moments that come in the morning after tumultuous seasons, when we come to terms with life as we find it, when we come to terms with our human frailness, when we hear again God’s call to reconciliation, to forgiveness, to embrace, and to a renewed sense of ministry: “feed my sheep.” 
    Your Session has been discussing together that perhaps Calvary is in such a season. We have been through a long season of uncertainty, of being preoccupied with questions of whether Calvary had a future ministry, of how to meet the needs of families, of what Prince of Peace was going to do, and all sorts of related questions. We now find ourselves in a new place at First Plymouth, where the ground under our feet is more stable, where the preoccupying concerns of the last few years have lessened, or dissipated. We have resources for our children and families. We have beautiful facilities, administrative staff, reduced facility costs. So what now? 
    “Do you love me… feed my sheep.” This is the call that comes to us again—to consider what it means in this season of life and ministry to love Christ and feed the sheep. What does it mean for Calvary to be faithful stewards and responsive disciples given the resources and strengths we possess? For Peter, it means turning from a focus on the past, on his shortcomings and failure to conceive of what Jesus was about during that holy week. It means embracing his call for a new season. What does it mean for us, to turn towards a new season and embrace the strengths, resources and opportunities we have to love one another, to reach out in order to feed the sheep, and to engage together our spiritual journeys?
    These are the questions on Session’s minds. We would like to include you all in the conversation in a “conversation after worship” on May 1st. We hope you’ll plan to be with us in worship that Sunday and to stay a little longer for this conversation. 
    As we enter the season of Easter, between the resurrection and Pentecost, it is a fitting season to consider these questions. Between now and then I hope you will contemplate these questions, perhaps in your own place of escape and encounter? 
    I look forward to the conversation. 
    Pastor Dave

April Messenger

March Messenger

Sandra BacaComment

Worship at the Table
    Do you like to host? If so, who is it that you love to have around your table? Or do you prefer to be hosted? If so, whose table do you love to sit at? 
    For me, it was a group of dear friends who we would gather once or twice a year while we lived in the large parsonage in Catskill, NY. We had a big dining room. So these dear friends who had been with us in difficult and other formative times would gather in our home. We couldn’t have been more honored. The model for us was the several years of Easter, Thanksgiving and SinterKlaas meals at the home of the Fiets. Thom Fiet was our pastor, my mentor, and his family became our close friends. We loved eating at their table; loved the fellowship of their community of friends. 
    There is something about a community around a table eating together. All these meals I speak of were always potluck of one degree or another; a representation of the people, the personalities, their traditions and ethnicity. Meals are a place of conversation. Of intimacy, listening to each other chew, and watching each other drop food in our laps. It is a setting where old issues must either be settled, or they will linger in the air like a pronounced silence. 
    As we near Holy Week this month, we will celebrate such a meal on Maundy Thursday (March 24th). We will gather with the people of First Plymouth. We will gather around tables and remember when Jesus gathered with his friends around a table. This is how the early church remembered Jesus. For the early church, the Agape, or the Love Feast, was the way early Christians worshipped; the meal was worship, and worship was a meal. Only later did the two become separated into worship, of which a communion service was a part. 
    They would gather, as we will gather. They ate together, and they remembered, as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:26, “as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes.” The witness of Christ carried on as Christians would gather together around the intimacy of the table, listening to each other chew, serving one another, being reconciled to each other around the closeness of the table, remembering the Christ – being a community of memory and love and forgiveness. 
    Come to the table with us on March 24th. Let us consider together what it means to be a community in the memory of Christ – that we may be a community of friends, of love and forgiveness; the kind that others would love to be invited into. 
Grace and Peace, 
Pastor Dave 

March Messenger

 

February Messenger

Sandra BacaComment

     Half way down the Mount of Olives, on the hillside overlooking Jerusalem, you will find the church of Dominus Flevit. It is the site thought to be where Jesus looks out over Jerusalem and weeps. 
     “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34)

     As you enter the church you will find this mosaic image in the floor, of a hen gathering her chicks under the protection of her wings. It is an image that captures both the strong and comforting protection of a mother over her children, as well as the vulnerability of the chicks. As we enter into the season of Lent, like entering into a chapel overlooking Jerusalem, we take in the grandeur of God’s love and the beauty of this world, and of our relationship with God, and with others. But we also take in the frailty of life, the frailty of intentions, of human bonds, even of human life. We look out over our lives and out over the world much in the same way that Jesus looked out over Jerusalem. As Jesus looks over Jerusalem he is struck by the discrepancy between God’s hopes and goodwill for God’s people and the turmoil and trouble of reality, and it causes him to weep. 
     I invite you to journey through lent together. That we may proclaim both the bold, extravagant and abundant love of God, while also facing the frailty and brokenness of this world, some of which we know in our lived experiences, and some of which we have kept at a distance. But we grieve it. And in doing so, we open ourselves up to the grace of God more, and learn from Jesus how to hold this tension, and how to walk in it, and how to be sign of love and grace in a broken and grief-filled world. 

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Dave 

February Messenger

January Messenger

Sandra BacaComment

Happy New Year! 
     It is a new year, in a new place, in a new chapter of ministry. We have celebrated advent. We have celebrated Christ’s coming to Bethlehem at Christmas. In addition, we have been settling into our new place of meeting and place of worship, and into this new relationship with First Plymouth. As we move into the season of Epiphany, we want to consider together what it all means – what does it mean for our lives and our ministry in this new year, and in this new chapter of Calvary Presbyterian Church? 
     Starting January 10th we will focus on stewardship for three Sundays. If you have followed the rhythms from year to year, you may notice this is not the normal season for talking about stewardship. Stewardship is normally in November, the season of harvest, of giving of our plenty as we plan for the New Year. Stewardship is often a practical season in the life of the church; encouraging and motivating your necessary giving and volunteering. And yet, stewardship also taps into another important impulse; a deeply important question: How does God’s coming into our world affect the way we live, and give, and love and serve? 
     This season of stewardship is a season for us, like the Magi on Epiphany, to respond to the birth of Christ with our gifts, with our love, and with our service. It is a season to rediscover how we respond to the advent of Christ in our world, in our lives, and how we live in light of the future advent of God’s kingdom, the one we pray would be on earth as it is in heaven. For if the world has been so greatly altered by Christ’s coming, by the life and the forgiveness and the redemption offered; if our lives are so affected by Christ’s love and invitation to faith and forgiveness, then what does a response to so great an event look like? How do our lives reflect the grace of God offered to us? 
     Furthermore, we begin a new season of ministry with new opportunities in our relationship to First Plymouth. It is an appropriate season to consider together what God would have us do with our time and our service. So in this season of Epiphany we will consider together how a life of giving reflects our understanding of the order of the world, and the one who rules and redeems it. We will consider how a life of love invites us on a journey – a journey of discovering God’s love in a deeper way, and opens us up to being changed in Christ’s image in the process. And we will consider together what it means to discover ways to serve that express our love for Christ, and deepen our love for Christ. 
Give        January 10th     Matthew 2:1-12    Giving – Reflecting the Order of the World. 
Love       January 17th      Luke 10: 25-37    Love that Reorders our World, and Remakes Us in the                                                                            World  
Serve     January 24th     Luke 10: 38-42    To Serve or to Sit – That is the Question
     We will conclude our season of Epiphany and Stewardship with our congregational meeting on January 24th. It will be an opportunity to review and celebrate 2015, and to consider what our ministry and our commitments will look like in 2016. The meeting will follow worship. Please plan to be with us. 
     I look forward to this new season and what we will learn together as we respond to the birth of our Savior! 
                                                Peace, Pastor Dave 

 

November Messenger

Sandra BacaComment

Seeing Relationships as Sacramental

In our tradition we have two sacraments: baptism and the Lord supper. These are the places where we speak of finding “means of grace.” Truth and grace come together in these moments of connection with our Lord and our community, becoming a sign and seal of God’s promises; bringing hope within our touch and feel. But, I wonder where else you find means of grace, as well. What are the sacramental moments or opportunities in your life?

Relationships are one of those sacramental opportunities. We have affirmed this in identifying Calvary as a church that is people more than building or programs. It is the journey together where we experience God's love, forgiveness, presence, and Grace.

What does it mean for relationships to be Sacramental? Here are some possibilities: 
We behold in each other the ways that God is working in lives, not just in abstract ways but in the details and difficulties; the joys and triumphs of our journeys. 
We have the ongoing opportunity to love, to listen, and to bestow grace and forgiveness.
We have a continual mirror in one another to reflect back to us our triggers, our struggles, our pet peeves, and our opportunities to grow. 

We have in each other opportunity for stimulating conversation, and to foster openness that allows us to think out loud together, and to grow in our ways of conceiving of God and ways of participating with God’s work in the world.

Perhaps you can articulate other ways that relationships can be sacramental.

I offer this as both a meditation towards how we have defined Calvary in recent months, as well as a reminder in times of transition. For when our structures change, we can be left feeling a bit unsettled, looking for the railing to hold on to, looking for order, and being annoyed with others. But when we feel such things, let us press closer to these relationships, seeing them as sacramental; opportunities. In doing so, we might grow in this season, and be God’s Grace to one another. We might find stability in our community together, rather than in structures. We might work through our challenges, and embrace the new relationships available with our host First Plymouth. We will have much to learn together, figure out, and to accept. I trust this will all be part of our spiritual journeys, not excepted from them. For these are sacramental opportunities perpetually before us. May we embrace them. 

Grace and peace,

Pastor Dave

October Messenger

Sandra BacaComment

From the Pastor...

“We thank you, our sisters and brothers,
    that we have found a home among you for these years. 
We thank you for this kindness.
We are grateful for partnering together in acts of ministry.
With joy we recall what we accomplished with God’s help,
    and with sadness those dreams not fulfilled.
We ask your forgiveness for mistakes made and expectations not met.”
    These are words from our liturgy this past Sunday – words spoken by one congregation to another. As we step forward with God’s leading, we began the process of bringing closure to our formal relationship with Prince of Peace. This is the kind of passage that warrants our reflection, and words of acknowledgement and affirmation. 
    In all of life people come in and out of our journeys, though often with little said. But we are affected by these encounters. They become part of ourselves for good, for bad, or indifferent. As we move on to the next chapter, we take the good, the new friendships. We also take the lessons of relationships, and the reminder of God’s care. We also venture forth for new opportunities, new relationships, always open to the challenges and opportunities that lie before us. 
    We bless one another. To bless one another is such an important thing. To wish God’s presence and blessing on one another. And in doing so, to acknowledge what has been. In my conversations with many of you, you have voiced that what was expected, or imagined, in this move to Prince of Peace did not go as expected. You never expected to be making a move as a church again. Therein the power of our liturgical back and forth on this past Sunday – to acknowledge, that there has been rich opportunities, as well as unmet expectations; that we likely have hurt or offended each other along the way. But we forgive, we acknowledge, and we bless. Our future, nor Prince of Peace’s future, is determined by what has happened in the past. 
    I have included here the poem that Ron Deal read for us on Sunday. For in it is a reminder of the opportunity and the challenge of really hearing one another; of being a community that is deeply connected with each other, deeply aware of God’s call and of the world around us, and able to walk faithfully into that. 
    I hope it blesses you again. With you in this next step of Calvary’s journey, 
Pastor Dave 

 

 

Saying Goodbye

Colfax Community Network just said goodbye to a long-time staff member, Kelley Birschbach. He shared these parting words (edited):

I’m not sure I know how to communicate all I want to say or how grateful I am for the past five years working at CCN. I’ve been able to do exactly what was in my heart to do. As a person in my mid-twenties, how lucky am I to be able to say that? I wouldn’t trade it for any other job, any other mission, and certainly, no other students. To walk with these kids as they grow, to see all the challenges they face, to witness their courage, creativity, and kindness while also some of their loss, fear, and pain… and then to try to foster a relationship where there can be relief and trust and joy.
    I recently went to a motel to say goodbye to a couple families. I let them know the news about my departure and then just sat with the kids asking about their new teachers and how the first weeks of school have gone. They asked me about my future, but mostly, we just hung out like usual. We told jokes and laughed and I lectured them on the importance of homework.
    At one point, I sat down at the top of the 4th floor steps looking west down Colfax Avenue with Denver and the Front Range spread behind it. An 11 year-old girl came and sat next to me while a few kids chased one of the boys down to the parking lot. “Kelley, do you have a wife? How old are you? Yeah, you should really have a wife by now.”
    “Oh, well thanks,” I said laughing. “I’ll get right on that.” She continued prodding me about the subject and eventually I asked, “Alright, well what do you think I should look for in a wife?”
    She immediately shot back with two traits: physical attractiveness and wealth. “She should have a mansion,” she said. I chuckled a bit, but also sensed what must be behind those answers.  “Hmmm, well, I’m not sure those are most important. What else?”
Nothing came to the top of her mind. She thought for a while, swinging around on the railing. “She should have a nice… car?”
    This is something kids do. When they don’t know the answer, they search for what they think you want to hear. She was trying to guess the “right” answer, but even after a moment of critically thinking through my question, this bright young girl could not conceive of the kinds of character one would want in a committed relationship.
    In what was now a pretty glaringly important conversation, I attempted to help her process her thinking. “Kiddo, what if she was really pretty and had lots of money, but she was really mean to me all the time?”
    “You could hit her.”

My mind did a double-take, too. She did not say this with an ounce of humor. In her mind, it was the reasonable and probable solution. I kept thinking my questions would turn the light on, but they just led us further into sobering space.
    Much of this girl’s present and future are held in those two astounding statements. That’s what she knows, understands, and envisions.
    There is much more to say about that situation, but I hope it shocks all of us into a different mental and emotional space right now. Because it’s not a television show or even a story on a blog. It’s her life.
    So as I go, I want to encourage all of us – one more time – to not run away from the pain of this little girl. Instead, I wish we’d all step a bit closer toward her in compassion. You don’t have to donate a million dollars (but if you’d like to!!) and you don’t have to come down to CCN with a bag of new fancy clothes to make her day. But maybe there’s a life connected to you right now that you can honor with compassion. Maybe look the cashier in the eye with a smile. Maybe apologize to someone. Maybe help the woman looking for her car. Maybe take that risk one more time. Or maybe just take a moment to breath and stop criticizing the person in the mirror. I don’t know, but you’ll know.
    And moving forward think about these kids from time to time. Remember what they’re dealing with and trying to overcome. Remember that their parents were likely in very similarly traumatic childhoods not that long ago and are doing their best. Give, spread the word, and come be a part of this place that is uniquely special.

 

 


September Messenger

Sandra BacaComment

Seeking Community in a Disjointed World.   

We feel and see with different hearts and eyes: -

Ah Christ, if all our hearts could meet in Thee

How well it were for them and well for me,  

Our hearts Thy dear accepted Sacrifice.  -Christine Rossetti  

I met up with an old friend this week. We’ve been friends for over 18 years. He lives in the Springs with his wife and four kids. So we met up late in the evening, when kids are in bed and no one needs us for the rest of the day. We weren’t too far into our conversation when a random Trump comment sent us careening into the way of oncoming politics. I discovered what I had already suspected. As much as we have in common, as much history and shared convictions, we do not see the world the same way.   Back and forth we went, friendly though puzzled. We voiced our convictions, like a tennis volley that went on far too long. But as we became aware of the clock, I started to step back from my own body to listen more astutely. In doing so it became discernable that in our political arguments was our own stories finding their ways out, about attempts to make a future for our families out of bootstraps and sheer will, as well as a little help from others at key points along the way. Of trying to find our place and calling amidst the cacophony of soundbites, and conflicts of interests. Finding your voice, and a way to serve while also acknowledging your part in the complex and sinful systems of this world – it is a difficult and sometime disorienting endeavor.   “We feel and see with different hearts and eyes: Ah Christ, if all our hearts could meet in Thee…”   As I woke from my politically induced stupor the next morning, and stumbled upon this poem from Rosetti, I found myself hopeful. In a world so wrought with division I become overwhelmed at times. But connection is still possible even while “we feel and see with different hearts and eyes.” It is possible to meet in Christ, and with each other. We can transcend and surpass such drastically different ways of seeing the world when we affirm the limits of our understandings, our common humanity, and our place at the feet of Christ.   And the last line of Rossetti’s poem … “our hearts Thy dear accepted sacrifice.” Not our hearts individually, but our hearts joined; our hearts meeting in Thee – hearts that see the world through different lenses, meeting together in the late hours of the day, and being offered as one offering to God, mingled but not monolithic; a patchwork, a collage, a community of hope desperate to reach through the fog to find a hold – a hold in Christ, a hold in community.              

-Pastor Dave  

 

Welcome Calvary’s New Members

On August 23rd we celebrated the growth and deepening of our fellowship as five individuals joined the church as members. Though they have all been participating for some time, this step is a deepening of their connections, their faith, and their desire to contribute to the life of Calvary with the gifts that they bring. Part of those deepening commitments was the baptism of Richard Wiest. So we give thanks for these friends – for their faith, their fellowship, and for what they bring to our church!   

August Messenger

Sandra BacaComment

From the Pastor’s Desk

Stories. Of the privileges of my current vocational and academic life is that I get to indulge in the reading of stories. As a pastor I have the privilege of hearing excerpts of your own stories. I read the scriptures closely. I read literature of various times and places. Through listening and reading I get to consider my own story as well. And in the act of preaching all this finds some life and expression. Stories mingling and seeking to say something about life under God’s care and lived for the purposes of God’s kingdom.

There is a line in that novel I have great affection for, A River Runs Though It. The father says to Norman, "You like to tell true stories?" Norman answered, "Yes, I like to tell stories that are true." Then the father asked, "After you have finished your true stories sometime, why don't you make up a story and the people to go with it? Only then will you understand what happened and why.” Stories. Only through the creative interacting of stories can we someday make sense of our individual and family stories. It is a provocative line, and not far from the activity of the church. We engage the scriptural stories with careful reading, study, sermonizing, and even discussing the sermon.

The other important piece is the reading and listening to each others’ stories so that we might better understand our own stories and journeys. There are stories to be told and interacted with. Your individual stories, and the stories of Calvary’s history as a church, even as we prepare for another transition and a new chapter in this collective story. One thing literary theory has taught us is that we cannot separate the scriptural stories from our own. We read the one in light of the other. It is a process not to shirk but to engage. It is a lesson we as a society have much to learn about – to resist the impulse to reject another’s story or make it conform along political lines. We must learn to listen to peoples’ journeys and experiences. This listening brings new light to how we read our scriptures. And perhaps along the way we will better understand our own stories.

It is a privilege to journey with you as your pastor and I look forward to the continued work of engaging stories, both personal and scriptural, that we may grow in understanding, and grace, and compassion. I think of the words of Deuteronomy 6 that call us to bind to ourselves the “law” (the first five books of the Bible which include the stories of God’s people). I leave you with this charge to love the Lord, and in doing so, to bind to yourself those transformative stories even as we tell our own.


Faith in Action Team (FIAT)

“We are so excited to hear about the amazing graciousness of Calvary Presbyterian Church members again, for our students at Kenton Elementary. A huge Thank You!”

On Sunday, July 26, Calvary and Prince of Peace filled some 43 backpacks full of school supplies for Kenton Elementary in Aurora. Plus, thanks to your generosity, we had additional supplies that could be delivered loose. With your help, many students, across multiple grades, will get a great head start for the year. Heather Woodward, Kenton’s principal, wrote, “We are so excited to hear about the amazing graciousness of Calvary Presbyterian Church members again for our students at Kenton Elementary. A huge thank you!”


News from the Garden

The garden has suffered from the crazy weather this summer. Once the rain stopped and the sun came out, many of the plants immediately went to seed. We did not plant cucumbers or squash this year, and will mostly have tomatoes, carrots, beets, and beans. The beans are in and will be put out soon, and who knows when the tomatoes will be ready. There is kale and chard, so if you want some feel free to pick it, or see Sydney and she will pick for you. It wilts badly in this heat and is best not to pick ahead and put out. We always need help with watering, so if you are going to be near the church feel free to check to see if it needs watering.


Choir rehearsals will begin again in September. Exact date is still to be determined, but please consider joining us!

Crafters will meet at the usual time at the Calvary- Bracken House on Thursday, August 20th at 11AM.

Thank You Cathy Jaynes for all your hard work and dedication in getting the church office ready for new staff. Due to your great organization and filing, I am able to step in and run the office as efficiently as possible.


Update from the Daytimers

Daytimers will meet as usual on the fourth Wednesday of the month. On August 26th at 11:30AM we plan to carpool to the Cheesecake Factory in Park Meadows, so reservations must be made. Please contact Edna at 303.759.5647 or send her an email at ednawaters@comcast.net by Tuesday, August 25 if you would like to attend. This will be our first venture to this location.


Retreat Announcement

When Corey Schlosser-Hall returns to Colorado for the Denver Presbytery’s Annual Fall Leadership Retreat, he’ll guide participants in exploring new meanings of the idiom “Playing by Heart.” Instead of rote memorization of church doctrine, we’ll delve into the “Heart of the Matter,” living in the Spirit; “Matters of the Heart,” stewardship of our resources; and dare to “Take Heart,” courageously and face the future. The retreat will be held at Highlands Camp on Friday and Saturday, November 13th and 14th, 2015. Everyone is welcome! Register at www.highlandscamp.org. Make plans to attend now!