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Pastor’s Blog

Julie’s Jar

Last Sunday I asked the gathered community to finish this prompt: “The purpose of the church is….and my part in it is….” Thank you to everyone who thought about this and who wrote something. Over the next few Caller issues, I’ll be sharing all of them without reference to who wrote them.PXB - farbenspiel-174873_1920

There are some overarching themes: radical welcome, sharing God’s love in deed and word beyond our walls. There was also great variety among the responses. At first, that variety gave me pause because I felt it first as expectation. How can we possibly be all this to so many? Then I rejoiced because it is what you experience the church to be. I rejoiced because it demonstrates we can be differ in our perspective yet still be held together. I rejoiced because I was reminded each of us has a piece of the canvas and the beauty of the church is not captured by anyone of us alone.

Here are some of the responses. More will be on the way in the future. As you read through them, you may recognize yours. I hope all of you will continue to reflect on this and talk to other people inside and outside church about “the purpose of the church is….” Believe me, plenty of people who never attend church have definite opinions on it.

To make Christ known, [to be] a place of worship & fellowship with one another.

To provide fellowship and spirituality to others, learning from others, helps meet our needs for daily living.

A community to embrace all who are needing family and belonging. I see my role or purpose as a welcoming servant.

To provide a place to worship God together. [For] fellowship with other Christians. To renew and inspire our focus. To share our caring for one another. To remember Jesus and his great sacrifice through the act of communion.

To prove God’s people a place to worship him. To give us a place for fellowship.

Community. Family. To uphold the 2nd most important commandment: love thy neighbor as you love yourself. Checks and balances; accountability. Teamwork, because no one can do everything all alone (that’s how we were designed to operate by God). My place is to Smile, hug, lead somehow (even if it’s a small task or project) be present to anyone that is here in our church, too.

To be a place where all people find welcome, acceptance and can grow closer to God. My place is to welcome and accept all people and share our journeys together.

To share God’s love with the world. To live at peace with expectation.

Julie’s Jar, “Learning from Suffering”

Learning from suffering…

Everyone suffers. This is part of the human condition. Why is it then we seek to distract ourselves from it, run from it, eliminate it? It is impossible to eliminate of thorns

I recently heard a young woman reflect on the need for Christians “to learn to suffer well.” She was not promoting suffering but recognizing there are ways to walk through the inevitable sufferings we will face: those we don’t expect and those we know are coming. What does it mean to suffer well?

Rabbi Steve Leder suggests this: “Everyone of us sooner or later walks through hell. The hell of being hurt. The hell of hurting another. The hell of cancer, the hell of divorce, the hell of chronic pain. The hell of anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s, a kid in trouble. The hell of a reluctant, shovelful of earth upon the casket of someone we deeply loved. The point is not to come out of hell empty-handed. There is real and profound power in the pain we endure if we transform our suffering into a more authentic, meaningful life.” (More Beautiful Than Before, Steve Leder)

As we live through Lent and anticipate Holy Week, remember this notion in the Christian tradition. Jesus died and went to hell, destroying it for the sake of transforming the world. Imagine that; Christ went to hell and did not come back empty handed but unlocked the gates to set all creation free.

Suffering does transform us. Our power in it is choosing how we let it shape us. Many people remember their suffering by reliving the feelings associated with the memory. But it is possible to remember something and not be possessed of the emotions associated with the event(s). It’s work to do this, make no mistake, but it is work that will transform us to be more whole, healed people.

Suffering is inevitable. It’s part of the human journey. Don’t go through that part of your trip without gaining something that empowers you to live more fully and beautifully.

Julie’s Jar, “Take A Moment”

There is a practice among Christians during the season of Lent. That practice is to “give something up”. The practice is ostensibly for the purpose of appreciating in some small way the suffering of Jesus. How about we flip that practice and all of the underlying assumptions it perpetuates?

Everyone suffers. Even Jesus suffered, during his life and on the cross. The human condition is a container of joys and sorrows, work and respite and so much more. I propose this season of Lent that we consider this: Jesus knew suffering and has compassion for our suffering. Instead of giving up something, take a moment each day to allow Christ to come to you in a memory or a present moment of suffering. Invite Jesus to accompany you, bringing with him the source of divine compassion. Let Jesus do his job.

Christ did not come to add suffering or perpetuate suffering. We recognize the suffering he endured because we too know suffering. Jesus came so we may have life and have it abundantly. The underlying assumption of “you better appreciate the suffering of Jesus” is, I believe, “you are unworthy to begin with.” There is no saying of Jesus inside or outside the bible in which Jesus condemned humanity as unworthy. The position of Jesus vis-à-vis humanity is decidedly full of grace, especially for people who are suffering.

This season of Lent, invite Christ each day to a conversation, a time of quiet, or whatever works for you in which you allow the love of God to soothe any suffering you experience or have experienced. When our suffering is tended by the divine source of compassion, we have more resources to be compassion with ourselves and with the people around us. When we have more compassion for ourselves and the people around us, we begin to notice the many ways in which our lives are abundant. So, don’t give something up; let Christ in.

Julie’s Jar

doveDisappointment is part of life. Learning to deal with disappointment is part of how we develop wisdom and maturity. It was a disappointment that Werner Tillinger could not be with us for the retreat and Sunday worship, due to the flu. In dealing with that disappointment, I discovered something of the Spirit.

Werner, Mike and I had collaborated about the weekend over many weeks. We talked and then left space for God to be part of the deliberation. We planned and then allowed God room in between the planning to step in.

When we knew Werner would not be able to join us, we began making adjustments. Mike would preach. I would fill in other spaces, etc. We chose to not make adjustments to all the prayerful preparation and let the scriptures, songs, and stuff of worship stand. We all stepped into a space of grace on Sunday that was prepared before we got there, not only by us, but by the Spirit of God.

There were certainly last-minute adjustments, but I was reminded once again that when the people of God prepare in cooperation with God, there is a bigger container in which God can show up. It seemed to me that God showed up and spoke into that container with words of encouragement and hope through scripture and sermon. God showed up and sang into our hearts in the beauty of music and sacred silence.

Disappointments leave us vulnerable. Vulnerability leaves us open. When we prepare our lives to be places and moments of meeting God, God will show up, especially in our vulnerability.

Julie’s Jar “What Makes Us Great”

~What Makes Us Great?~

“Great job,” we tell someone when we like or approve of something they’ve done. “He’s a great man,” we say of a man who has wielded power for the benefit of other people. “Great” was also an adjective used to describe the nemesis of Harry Potter: Voldemort. Voldemort was described as great; he did terrible things but great things, big things, consequential things.thumbs up

Being great at something can be consequential in ways that help and in ways that hurt. What makes us great? According to Psalm 18, we are made great by God’s care. To acknowledge our greatness in such a way requires us to recognize our utter dependence and reliance on God. This takes humility: knowing we are never self-made.

God provides us with an object lesson in the birth of a baby. Even the essence of God comes into human life utterly dependent on the care of other people. Jesus, we believe, is God’s love incarnate for the world. This love is unreservedly reliant on the care of people whose only power is to love. The care of Mary and Joseph, the care of community from the shepherds, wise men and a faith community in which Jesus will grow, this is what makes Jesus great; this is what makes God’s love great.

Together with God, we birth love incarnate into the world. God is made great by this care we give and we are made great by the care we allow God to give us, even the care through other people. It takes humility to be great. All you have to do is look at the manger to know this is true.