Calvary Presbyterian Church

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? 
Blessings, 

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

October/November Messenger

Emily LewisComment

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

Emily LewisComment

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

Emily LewisComment

“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

Emily LewisComment
“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

Emily LewisComment

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