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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Wednesday Words

Pr. Cathy Daharsh

“…Why do you stand looking up toward heaven?”  - Acts 1:11

When our boys, Aaron and Mitchell, were very young I would take them to swim class. They were so young that I got in the pool with them. The swim instructor taught the parents to help their children to swim. After showing the children how to move their arms and legs, we would hold our children up with a hand under their back or belly while they practiced their swim strokes. Holding them up prevented them from sinking below the surface triggering a panic response that would cause them to lose concentration and confidence. By giving them support with our hand, they could practice their swimming without fear knowing that we would catch them if they started to sink. Over time they learned to relax because they trusted that we would keep them safe.

Then one day, we’d let go. They could swim all on their own. That was an exciting and memorable moment. The boys would finally understand that it was not actually me who was holding them up and keeping them from sinking, it was their own ability that was allowing them to swim. Their trust evolved and became a new kind of trust. It changed from believing that I would keep them from sinking to they could keep themselves from sinking.

In the beginning of the book of Acts, the disciples watched Jesus ascend into heaven, until “a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going, and they were looking up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’” - Acts 1:9-11

The disciples had walked with Jesus as he taught them. He had always been there for them. When he was crucified they thought they had lost him, but he returned through the resurrection. By seeing him resurrected, their faith had evolved. Now, in the Act story, he was leaving them again this time after he had risen. There was just one last thing that needed to be done.  Jesus needed to let the disciples go. The two men in white robes reassured the disciples that though Jesus had been taken up into heaven, through the work of the Holy Spirit, Jesus presence was still with them.

Like in those swim classes when parents carefully remove their hands from holding their children up, the disciples were ready to take their faith into their community. They now had the confidence and courage to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

I hope you know that Jesus has given you the ability to make it through this pandemic. Through the work of the Holy Spirit YOU are given courage and strength. You are stronger than you know. We have made it 61 days already in Shelter in Place. It’s not easy, but you are doing it. Hang in there! Trust in God’s work. Amen.

Wednesday Words, May 13, 2020

Wednesday Words 

May 13, 2020 

Pr. Paul Cannon 

 

This is the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him.  You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. 

- John 14:17 

 I asked Isaac this morning, “What do you want to do today?” He paused and thought about it for a second, and then gave me a melancholy one-word answer, “Nora” he said.  That’s his best friend that he’s grown up with since they started daycare together in the fall of 2015.  He knows he can’t see her, and he’s a little sad about it. 

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about how the COVID lockdown has affected us all in different ways. I’ve said numerous times now, that people’s busyness during lockdown seems to correlate with the number of children you have in your house. It’s doubled for Kirstin and me. We are constantly scrambling around, taking turns watching the kids while the other jumps on the computer and furiously tries to get a little bit of work done.   

But even in our busyness we are deeply missing the presence of friends and family.  For others, sheltering in place means loneliness and isolation while you wait around in a quiet house.  If that sounds like you, you’ve been in my thoughts and prayers this week.  

And it’s why I’m glad for the gospel message for Sunday – you’re not alone.  The Spirit abides with you. 

 Imagine Jesus saying, “You long to be with me, but we can’t be together, but we will always be together.”  If that sounds like it might speak to your present context, then you might want to pick up a Bible and ready John 14. 

 As Jesus is talking about the future where he might no longer be present to his disciples, he tells them, “I will not leave you orphaned.”  Don’t worry, you will not be alone.  “I might be gone,” Jesus seems to say, “But God is with you! Things will never go back to the way they were, but I will send you my Spirit.” 

 Humans are social creatures.  Yes, even you introverts.  We were created to be in community, and to be separated from it feels painful.  But you are not alone.  Jesus sent the Spirit to be with you.   

 And on top of that, you have us.  You have your church.  Being a part of the Body of Christ means that whether we are twenty feet or twenty miles apart (as we have been saying during our online communion), that we are always together. 

 We are abiding in this together, and the Spirit abides with you. 

Wednesday Words, May 6, 2020

Pr. Cathy Daharsh

“Do not let your hearts be troubles.”

What if not letting our hearts be troubled begins with looking into our hearts and seeing and naming what troubles us? That means facing ourselves, our lives, our world, which may be the first and most difficult thing Jesus asks of us in this Sunday’s Gospel.

I don’t know about you but sometimes I don’t want to see. I don’t want to name. It’s too difficult and too painful. It takes me too close to the edge of the things I may not want to think about and acknowledge about myself or even the world.

When I was coaching high school volleyball there was a season when girls on my team kept spraining their ankles and we were losing games. As a coach of a 4A school there was a lot of pressure and question on what was throwing this talented team off. Something had to change in their focus as well as mine. I had to take a critical look at how I was coaching this team. I was the leader and it was my job to bring out the best in the team.  I was troubled.

What I realized was that this team had great volleyball skills, but they did not get along with each other or with me. There were friendship issues, jealousy among players, and family issues that had nothing to do with volleyball. The team needed to re-center and so did I. To get centered again, I did not let the girls touch a volleyball for a week and we did teamwork activities, talked about personal issues, and did conditioning. The team didn’t win every game after that, but the team played together, supported one another, and played to the best of their ability. The team was self-centered including myself, and the girls and I discovered that teamwork started with strengthening our relationship with each other.

God doesn’t purposely throw our lives off to teach us a lesson. Losing our balance happens. It’s a part of life. Sometimes it comes out of circumstances we didn’t create or choose. Other times it is a consequence of our choices or actions. Regardless, Jesus says that is not a place to stay.

If your heart is troubled then it’s time to re-center. Re-centering doesn’t mean our hearts won’t be troubled. It doesn’t necessarily fix the problem, whatever it might be. It means that our lives are connected to something greater than ourselves. Jesus in this Sunday’s Gospel is reminding us that there is a center and it is not us. It is not our success, accomplishments, position, or power. The center, however, is within. Christ is within us. Whatever you face, there is the center. Whoever you are, there is the center, Regardless of what troubles, there is the center. Not because you are the center, but because Christ is within you. Amen.

Wednesday Words, April 29, 2020

Wednesday Words - Together

April 29, 2020

Pr. Paul Cannon

All who believed were together

- Acts 2:44

The second chapter of acts paints a portrait of Christian community that we should all aspire to.  The verse that caught my attention this week was verse forty-four,  “All who believed were together…”  Togetherness is something that I’m longing for in this time of quarantine.  I’m guessing you are too. 

At John Baldwin’s funeral last week, I felt keenly aware of how distant and alone we all feel in this time. I wanted to console those who mourned they way I always do – with hugs and words of comfort.  Instead, I found myself coldly waving to those in grief, with muffled words through a protective mask (worn by everyone at the small gathering).

Though I’ll admit it felt strange, I think it’s equally true that the physical distance we put between us couldn’t separate the love that people had for one another as they remembered John - holding one another in love.  And maybe that’s the point.


Despite that odd social distance we all kept between us, there was togetherness.  I could see it in the way that people interacted and cared for one another.  We came together in the belief and hope in the resurrection, remembering John’s life, and proclaiming that in the waters of baptism he had new life.

There is togetherness in belief that transcends all other barriers.  At the funeral I was reminded again of that famous verse from Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Did you hear that? With faith, nothing can separate us.  I’ve felt that in our worship together on Sundays - maybe you’ve felt it too – that in some strange ways, I’ve felt just as connected with you all (in some ways even more so) than I ever was before. 

Being a part of this community of faith means that you too, are connected to God and to all those people on the other side of the computer screen.  You are connected with all the saints, both past and present, through Christ our Lord. 

Amen.

Wednesday Words, April 22, 2020

Wednesday Word

Pr. Cathy Daharsh


In this Sunday’s Gospel, Cleopas and another are walking together on the road to Emmaus. The mood is somber as they process the chaos into which their world has been thrown. Their hope is failing them. They had invested their lives into Jesus and now they will need to rebuild a new kind of normal.

I think we all are doing that right now. The way in which we had been living our lives and worshiping has been turned upside down and we are in the midst of figuring out how to do this “shelter in place” life, wondering about the future, and attempting to find hope along the way.

This past weekend our family went to the Daharsh Cabin in northern WI for some R&R after the news of my husband's brother, Tony's death. We were grateful for the time away to process his death and everything else. Tom’s other brother, Tim, and their daughters joined us and we worked side by side on projects talking at times and in other times just being  quietly present to each other.

We did lots of projects around the cabin, took shingles off two garages and tore down the four seasons room. The four seasons room was invaded by a family of ten skunk that made their home underneath the room. The skunks were removed about three weeks ago, but the remnant smell of skunk was still in the air. There was something profound and symbolic about getting rid of the stench in the air, removing the boards and siding that held the smell, and dreaming about a new future for that space. We took turns swinging a mallet to demolish the walls, which was therapeutic. It will be converted into a deck with an overhang where we can gather our family and friends to grill out and socialize. The sliding glass doors that will be installed in the cabin will lead into the space and it will give us a clearer and more open view of the woods from inside.


With the help of Jesus, Cleopas and another see clearer and use their faith to make sense of a scary situation. They look at scripture and see the stories of God’s people going through great trouble and chaos. In every single instance God is there guiding and providing for them. Even when the people think God has gone far away, the prophets remind the people God is still with them. Looking at the way God’s people have gotten through difficult times before helps them (and us) remember they will get through this, too. Then when they act on their hope, inviting the stranger back to their home, they literally find out Jesus has been walking every step of the journey with them. Their act of love leads to them communing with Jesus.

 I have no doubt that Christ is walking with you every step of the way as you struggle and grow in these challenging, strange, and sometimes scary days. My prayer for you, my friends is that Christ’s presence brings you moments of peace and hope that strengthens your faith and give you footing to carry on. Amen.

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