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Wednesday Words, September 19, 2018

Pr. Cathy Daharsh

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” - Philippians 4:6  

Why is it so easy for us to worry? We live in a time when there is an increasing problem of worry. Worry is a powerful force that "messes" with who we are leaving us frustrated, cranky, and confused about life situations. I confess that I have had moments that I have been sick with worry about something in the news, when my children struggle, or when there has been conflict in the church. Worry can take over our whole being, which can literally make physically ill. Paul’s answer to this is very straight forward, “Do not be anxious about anything.”  

Doesn’t it seem, though,  that every time you try to stop worrying you worry all the more? You can’t stop 'worry' just by the exercise of will power. As with most things, it’s not a quick fix.  We learn from Paul in our readings from the book of Philippians that it is like running a race, and in every situation, every worry bring it to God with prayer and petitions. Nothing is too small or big to bring to God.  

The temptation for us is to do more worrying than praying. It takes practice to pray first in the midst of challenges that bring worry. Praying will not solve the problem but continuous prayer I believe does help us to see things differently, to take a breath, and to find footing to carry on and forward with a healthier perspective.  

We are coming to a time in the church that can be a period of worry for me as we talk about the finances and health of the church for next year and finishing out this year. I worry if we will have enough money to pay for what has been budgeted. I worry about not having enough money pledged for next year to do the ministries we are called to and to pay our staff what they deserve. I worry about not having enough money to maintain our building and renovate for the future. Paul’s letter to the Philippians has reminded me to take it to God in prayer so that I am not absorbed by worry and trust that God will provide. It’s a good reminder for all of us. It’s easy to get caught up in worry, but Christ calls us into relationship and trust in him to find peace and focus. 

May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen. (Phil 4.7)

In Christ's Peace, 

Pr. Cathy

Wednesday Words September 12, 2018

September 12, 2018
Pastor Paul Cannon

Pushing Forward

Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

My wife is a pretty good runner, and from time to time the two of us will go out together for a jog (note: this happened much more frequently before we had two kids!), and I’ll admit, that it’s not always easy for me. Kirstin has a tenacious running style that I had to adjust to when we first started running together. Once when we were still in the newlywed stage, living in our first apartment, we decided to jog over to our local gym to workout together. We both put in a good workout and then jogged back to our place. When we were about a block away, both of us exhausted from lifting, Kirstin kicked it into high gear. Without warning she started sprinting home. Out of pride, I did all I could to keep up with her on my weary, wobbly legs. I felt like I was going to die. Ultimately, she left me in the dust.

Kirstin’s instinct when things get hard is to dig in.  If there is a steep hill to climb, she sprints it.  If at 10pm there is a final load of laundry to do, she folds it.  If there is a test to study for, she studies until she knows it.

It’s one of the things I admire about her the most: a tenacious spirit to push forward when things get tough. 

The Apostle Paul has that same spirit.  We are hearing from him once again in his letter to the Philippians, which he writes from jail.  Times are tough for Paul.  This is the point in his ministry where he should have packed it up.  This is where Christianity should have ended!  It’s one thing to say you follow Jesus, it’s another thing to keep following Jesus when you’re being jailed for it.

But this is where Paul digs in.  He doesn’t look back; he only looks forward.  His only thought is to what will happen to his community if he gives up.  His says earlier in the letter that he would prefer to just die, but that for the sake of this community he strives forward. 

His striving created this community that we all have today.  So may we all learn to push forward when things get tough, never looking behind, always looking ahead.  Amen.

Wednesday Words September 5, 2018

I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ; and most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear. - Philippians 1:12-14

My wife Kirstin and I have been binge watching the show “Parks and Rec” on Netflix the past few weeks. This is our second time through the show, which should give you an idea of how much we love it.

In one recent episode that we saw, the main character, Leslie Knope (played by Amy Poehler) was in Washington D.C. trying to secure some funding for a river cleanup proposal, while she visited her boyfriend Ben Wyatt, a high rolling political consultant.

After being thwarted in her attempts to get her project moving and feeling down after spending time with Ben’s successful and powerful colleagues, Leslie found herself hiding in a closet at a party, feeling dejected. Then, walking up from behind Leslie came a political figure to grab his coat and offer a kind word, a figure who has been in the news a lot lately: John McCain. At the exact same time, Kirstin and I let out the same sound, “Awww.” It was the sound of heavy hearts.

Regardless of one’s political affiliation, when Senator McCain died on August 25th, 2018 I think the entire country let out an audible “Awww.” It was the sound of many hearts sinking. It was the sound of a country recognizing a man who, when at his best, truly stood above party and represented the best of what America has to offer: a spirit of sacrifice, love and openness.

I think that at our best, the church represents those same values. This week, we’ll speak the words of Paul who writes to the Philippians from jail, saying “I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel.”

Paul saw his imprisonment as a sacrifice he was willing to make to spread the good news of God’s love to all people. That spirit of sacrifice, love and openness was a message that spread across the world and that we are entrusted with today.

My prayer for us all this week is that we may follow that same Spirit, wherever it may lead us. Amen

Wednesday Words August 29, 2018

Pr. Cathy Daharsh

In this Sunday’s Gospel reading from Mark, Jesus tells the Pharisees that it is not what we swallow and put in our bodies but what comes out from our bodies that really and truly matters.

I am reminded of a scene from the movie “Saved” produced in 2004. It’s a comedy drama that addresses some serious topics. Mary, a devout student, attends a religious, nondenominational Christian High School. She is a rule follower and does her very best at literally following the teaches of the Bible.  There ends up being situations in her life that don’t perfectly fit into her literal understandings. She begins to understand that loving people as Christ has taught us is not about rules and regulations. Her so called "perfect" world starts to fall apart when her boyfriend tells her that he thinks he is gay. She thinks that she can help him not to be gay and ends up becoming pregnant. Her supposed devout friends end up turning on her, and she discovers new friendships with those who might be looked at as outcasts in her school. There’s a scene in the movie that reminds me of how the Pharisees might respond to others who were not literally following the rules and regulations of Scripture. The scene is with one of Mary’s friends that has turned on her:

Mary says to her “former” friend, “You don’t know the first thing about love.”

Her former friend holds up the Bible and angrily says, “I am filled with Christ’s love.”

Mary starts walking away and her former friend winds up and throws the Bible at her back and says, “You are just jealous in my success in the Lord.”

Mary replies, “The Bible is not a weapon. You idiot.”

That scene was exaggerated, but illustrates a point.  I do think that we can get carried away with rules, regulations, and ways we think things should be. As a result, we get distracted in living out our faith as Christ has taught us. I think the readings from the Book of James and Mark this week encourage and call us to a healthier approach to living the life Christ has given us. I believe that as we are continually growing and evolving in our faith that we need to always ask the question, “What is really important here?”

Balance seems important. There is nothing wrong with doing things a certain way and in the way we have always done them; however, if those ways get in the way of feeding the hungry, caring for the lonely, and loving one another then it is time to for us to rethink and refocus our attention on what is important in Christ and how we reflect that in our actions and messages.

May we be open to how God is calling us at this time and place to live out our faith in Christ. Amen.

 

Wednesday Words August 22, 2018

Wednesday Word

Pastor Cathy Daharsh

We have walked with David this whole summer.  The reading of his story in 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel is coming to an end this week. Through David’s experiences his faith in God was strengthened. Life experiences can strengthen our faith in God, but I also know that tough life experiences can have the opposite effect as well. Sometimes it’s easier for many people to not believe when bad things happen.

How often have we had congregation members drift away from the church after something traumatic has happened in their lives? How often have we heard about someone who has had a bad experience with a church leader  and not come back to the church? I have many stories, too many stories to tell from my family members, friends, and congregation members.  

In my former church in Iowa, Janice came back to the church after 30 years of being away and being very angry with the church. She had nine children, two girls and seven boys. All seven boys were sexually abused by their priest. Janice’s daughter, Sarah, was part of the church I was serving. Janice got her foot back into the church when Sarah invited her to help the VBS team make background scenes for the program. It was a dream team that created extraordinary things and had a whole lot of fun doing it. Janice continued to be part of that team for three year, so I had some time to get to know her.

A few years after we had met, Janice needed surgery. I decided to visit her in the hospital and to bring her a prayer quilt. By that time, I had gotten to know Janice more and I had found out about the abuse that had happened to her sons. I really didn’t know how she would feel about me visiting her in the hospital. I distinctly remember being nervous and saying a prayer before I entered her room.

During the visit we talked awhile about this and that and she shared more about how involved she use to be in the church, but after they discovered what the priest had done she left the church. It was hard to hear her story. Some of her children as adults received money for damages. Most of them didn’t go to church anymore.  At the end of the conversation, I don’t know what possessed me (well I do know) to ask this risky question - “Janice, why don’t you join our church?”

“I think I will,” she said.

I couldn’t believe it. This was the work of the Holy Spirit for sure. Before I left the church in Iowa, Janice quilted a Luther Rose in honor of me and the church.  That quilt  hangs in their fellowship hall to this day.

Now that’s a happy ending to a person who has left the church and came back after a most difficult situation.  What about all the others out there that are skeptical about the church, especially in light of the Willow Creek and the Pennsylvania situations?

These are difficult stories in the news that do affect the people in our church and in our community. Skepticism of the church is alive and well. Unfortunately, these stories only add to the skepticism that is already there. There is work for us to do.  Are you ready?

The questions for us to ponder are:

  • What is our call to this?
  • How are we to respond?
  • What is our responsibility as members of a church?

Jesus said, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not see and yet have come to believe.”

Let’s add today, “Blessed are those who still believe even after bad experiences in their lives, especially, after bad experiences in the church.” Amen.

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