from Pastor's desk -
a Weekly Message
December 17, 2021
Wait for the Lord, be strong, take heart!
This message from the Psalm 27 is often sung at Advent, and seems even more important these days. Wait for the Lord, whose day is near, wait for the Lord, be strong, take heart! Take this as your mantra over the next month or two, to remember that the pandemic will end, the suffering of God’s people will cease, that God hears our cry, and that we can do what is required in the meantime. Wait for the Lord, be strong, take heart.
Omicron, of course, is messing with our plans. So this is where we stand for this upcoming week.
12/19 Sunday Morning Worship:11:00 a.m. Blended (in-person and Zoom). Sunday School Marimba!
12/19 Festival of Lessons and Carols: 7:30 p.m. ZOOM only
12/24: Children’s Christmas Eve Service: 4:30 p.m. ZOOM only
12/24: Christmas Eve Candlelight Service: 7:30 p.m., blended
12/25: Christmas Day:11:00am ZOOM only. Wear your funny hats and ugly sweaters!
12/26: 1st Sunday of Christmas: blended.
Of course, given the state of things, all of this could change in a minute. Please, if you can, take a rapid test before you gather with others. If you feel sick or off, stay home. Get your booster!
The most important thing right now is to keep faith, keep trust, and remember what we have on our side: We have vaccinations that still do well in preventing infection and serious illness; we have masks and ventilation, we have ways of keeping distance, we have new antivirals coming online in January, and most important, we have each other and we have God. We can do this.
If you need support, even just a time to talk and pray, let me know. I’m available. If you want to vent or yell, I’m available. If you need anything, reach out and our community will do our best to help.
God loves you. Wait for God, be strong, take heart.
December 10, 2021
The theme of the week is joy: joy that God is with us. Sometimes, that’s a very radical thing to believe. In fact, it’s dangerous: how many times have human beings claimed that God was on their side? I learned recently that the great political philosopher John Rawls gave up religion when a Lutheran chaplain told his platoon during a firefight with the Japanese that God was guiding their bullets to kill their enemy while guiding the enemy’s bullets away from them. Experiences like this consistently drive people away from God—when, in times of anguish, pain, violence, one side claims God’s will. Isn’t the question really supposed to be, am I on God’s side?
I think that’s true—and yet, the news for this week tells us to rejoice, to make merry, to be glad, because God is with us, right in the middle of us. I joked at the Vespers service that the God portrayed in this week’s Zephaniah reading, the God that exults in the throng, the brings home the outcast, is like a different OutKast: he is the type of God that makes the club get full. He’s the god that get’s the party started.
And I’m not just talking justice and all the good liberal pieties now: I’m talkiing about sheer joy, joy greater than politics, the feeling that makes you want to stand up and dance, to shake it all off, to leave everything behind. Simple joy and freedom. “Rejoice,” Paul says. “Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.”
The Lord is near; the Lord is in our midst. That takes opposing sides and turns them into a mob—it makes a circle of the square. God standing in the middle means God becomes the center of gravity, and the party spins around him. No longer do we ask which side we’re on—we are in a circle spinning and moving.
In Christ, God steps across the divide between the sacred and profane and brings them together. God fills that chasm. Because of Christ, we do not have a God up there while we’re down here. God descended so we can ascend. And even by the act of descending, the holy presence of God has found a home in the middle of us. God’s the kind of God that doesn’t just help one side win the war—God’s the God that makes wars cease, if we can believe Scripture. It’s a staggeringly crazy thought, hard to for our mind’s eye to see.
To see it, God calls out to us—turn just a little bit. Step into the swirl. Let’s get this party started—I am in your midst. I’m in the middle. Dance and see.
We have come to a peculiarly American day, the day of Thanksgiving, in which the faith of civic life and the faith in God bleed together. This is a civic holiday in every sense—a day set aside by the government celebrating the continuity of that government, but also asking the people to give thanks to a deity, or at least a kind of benevolence in the universe. Interestingly, in the long history of Thanksgiving, these days came during extremely harsh moments in our national life: the colonists of the Mayflower had lost half their number, but had forged and unsteady and ill-starred alliance with the indigenous people. It was not clear that the colony would survive, yet they feasted with their new allies for three days. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation for Thanksgiving, during the darkest gloom of the Civil War. Then FDR moved Thanksgiving to its current Thursday in 1939, when our nation was in the depths of the depression and watching with concern as war broke out in Europe. He did this mostly at the request of businesses that wanted a longer holiday shopping season, but two years later, Congress finally made the fourth Thursday in November the official and permanent day for Thanksgiving. By then war was everywhere, death and bombs falling in Europe, and America’s children marching off to war.
I read a lot of headlines about whether or not you should talk to your crazy relatives, and how to win arguments with them. I suppose this reflects this bonkers time we live in, when reason finds no messenger, and conspiracy theorists spew such toxins that no one wants to touch them. I’ve never lived through a pandemic, nor ever thought that the basic foundations of the democracy that our forbears worked so hard to build would be so corroded by their descendants. But here we are, one more November, one more thanksgiving, and I’ve gone and bought a turkey and cranberries and stocked up on butter. Hopefully I’ll convince my children to set the table, and we’ll give thanks to our Beneficent Father who Dwelleth in the Heavens.
Thanksgiving, it seems to me, is never about counting our blessings. It’s not about how we have it so good. It’s not about comparing our blessedness relative to the blessedness of other. It’s more like lighting a candle in the dark, and rejoicing in the light it brings. It’s more about thanking God that we are here at all, that we live on in a beautiful world, that love has found us. Somewhere in Scripture it says, “I shall give thanks to the Lord at all times, his praises shall ever be in my mouth,” and I think this is the time when we learn just how powerful it is to give thanks. Thanksgiving is a candle in the dark, and part of the unseen power of God, who has worked love into matter. And when the times are hardest, when the cares and concerns of the world have scraped away all the accoutrements we adorn on live, we find ourselves cut to the bone of existence, and we find there the pulsing heartbeat of God, who loves us.
One of our great American poets, James Wheldon Johnson, wrote,
God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who hast by Thy might,
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.
May this be a Thanksgiving prayer for all of us this year.
November 19, 2021
This Sunday marks the last Sunday of the church year—Christ the King. That means we celebrate what it means to be followers of Christ and his gentle yoke, his way of life. In ancient times, Caesar had a title: Lord. Only he was to be called Lord, but the Christians dared to give that title to a crucified Jew named Jesus, and dared even to say that this Jesus was Lord of all things. Who is really in charge—Caesar with his legions, or Jesus with his love? And whom will you serve? Those have been the questions ever since, and that’s what we’ll be thinking about on Sunday.
I’m pleased to announce that we are bringing back the Advent Fair! This year’s fair will occur on December 4th in the church parking lot from 10 am to 3pm, with the customary tree sale in the church garden. We could still use some volunteers to bring baked goods and hot beverages for St. Martin’s Table, to help set up, and to help take down. Set up will happen from 8:30 to 10, breakdown from 3:00-5:00. Any help will be very appreciated—and you’ll have a lot of fun. Please email me HERE if you can help.
See you soon,