Thursday, April 29, 2021

Pastoral Thought--April 29

As I was walking over to the church this morning, my mind was preoccupied with the words from my morning devotional. Although I had read them a little while ago, I could not shake the impact that they had upon me. So I wanted to share them with you and see if together we can learn something. In today’s entry from The Henri Nouwen Society, I read these words that I want to share with you and invite you to consider: 

"Today I imagined my inner self as a place crowded with pins and needles. How could I receive anyone in my prayer when there is no place for them to be free and relaxed? When I am still so full of preoccupations, jealousies, angry feelings, anyone who enters will get hurt. I had a very vivid realization that I must create some free space in my innermost self so that I may indeed invite others to enter and be healed.

As quickly as I read this paragraph, I found my mind racing forward into new possibilities and lines of thinking. These words made me wonder: 

How many places, or moments, in your day do you consider yourself to be "crowded with pins and needles?

How can we live faithfully as the church when there is no place in our spirit’s where peace and relaxation are free-flowing and easy to embrace? 

Certainly, I understand that there exists a great many things in our current culture that cause our anxiety levels to rise. If you watch the news or spend time on social media then you understand how prevalent these feelings are. There is absolutely no part of my heart that wants to be anxious or jealous or upset. But yet, on a rainy morning as I sip my coffee and study God’s word, I find myself gravitating back to the things that upset and challenge my heart. 

I begin to wonder about systemic issues that are surfacing around me. I consider how can I become a better Christian and offer peace and love to others when large segments of the population exist to whip us into a frenzy and drive us toward disunity and upheaval !? How can I apply the words of Psalm 46:10 and “be still” when so much that I come into contact with daily does not apply or seek this posture? 

And so as I fold up my umbrella and leave it on the porch, as I sit down and begin to think about these questions and what would be required of me attempt to address them positively, Nouwen’s words challenge me to create deliberate space in my life where I can be an instrument of healing in a world that is hurt and seeks to gain retribution for those very same hurts. 

I wonder today again, can you identify the place in your heart where you are “crowded with pins and needles?” Can you taken that place of your heart back to God and let God heal it so the you can help to heal other? 

Rev. Derek

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Pastoral Thought--April 28

This has not happened before. . . Let me explain. . . 

Yesterday the newest version of software was available for download onto my iPhone. I try to keep my devices up to date as much as possible to keep them secure and working at their optimal performance level. So I downloaded the new software and installed it. As the download was completing, and the installation progressing, I grabbed my iPad and watched a tutorial video. I wanted to learn about the newest features that Apple created for my iPhone. These features were nothing too extreme or surprising—some in fact I was looking forward to utilizing. But then it happened. . . .

Now Apple has included in their software an application called ’shortcuts.’ This application has been available for a while but I have never used it. Previously I deleted it from my iPhone because it seemed like a waste of space and time. You see, as I considered how I use my device that feature did not seem like something that I felt was valuable. But with this new version of software, and some of the new features that are included, I decided that I would look into it. 

But ’shortcuts' was challenging for me to understand—which has not happened before. I watched several videos on-line to learn how to create these ’shortcuts’ which are designed to simplify the use of the phone. But again it was hard to understand. I spent most quite a bit of time attempting to learn how to use it, and as dinnertime approached, I was only able to create some minor shortcuts. 

Then Emma came home from running an errand at Barnes & Noble. I mentioned to her that I was trying how to learn to use ’shortcuts’ and it was not going well. I assumed she would say something like, “I don’t use it so I don’t know what it is.” This is often her normal response to new technology from Apple. Sadly though that was not the case. Her face lit up and she quickly walked over to me as I sat on the couch and said I use it all the time. 

A bit unnerved by my lack of knowledge, and her ability, I said something like, “well I am trying to create a shortcut to play my favorite podcast and it isn’t working well.” Again, I assumed since she did not listen to podcasts that she would be unable to help. She took my iPhone in hand, and after a few clicks and questions, the shortcut was created. 

I thanked her and smiled as she walked away. But secretly in my heart I thought, ‘wow that has never happened before.’ I have never needed someone else to show me how to use a new piece of technology. But this time I needed help and it felt. . . unnerving. 

For the rest of the evening, and early morning, I was a mixture of emotions. I was happy that Emma helped me but yet felt my ego bruised by a lack of understanding. I enjoyed the feature on my iPhone but wondered about other places in my life where my knowledge was lacking. As I finished my third cup of coffee today, I spent time reflecting on the times in my life when I needed to lean on the understanding and help from another person and I wondered if God was presenting me with a lesson. . . 

What would it look like to lean on the teachings and support of others rather than think that I have all the answers to the problems of my day? 

The issues that we struggle with in our daily lives can be as minor as learning how to use ’shortcuts’ on my iPhone. But they can also be quite complex and much harder to wrap our minds around. I can wonder about how will I live faithfully in the post-pandemic world as much as I can wonder about something much smaller and more personal. What if God is offering you the same choice to consider right now? What if God is asking you, today, to lean upon the wisdom and knowledge of another person, and not feel that this makes your faith ‘less than?’ 

I wonder how that posture and choice might impact your faith and your evangelism? 

Rev. Derek

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Pastoral Thought--April 27

We all hope and believe that the pandemic will cease to impact our lives and our church very soon. Every day we encounter a new piece of news that suggests that things may be getting better. Vaccinations are on the rise. New reported cases fall. . . Then on the next day, that information is retracted or amended and we become discouraged or angry at the slow rate of progress. Ultimately we become frustrated and that frustration is lived as part of our Christian lives. 

We hope, and we believe, that the steps that we are taking, either as the church or as families, have been correct. But there is so much that we do not yet understand about covid-19  that this conclusion can be hard to support. 

You and I have read, or heard, individuals proclaim that these very same steps that we have adopted have been misguided. We have heard that we are being coerced to think differently and respond differently. We read that we are wrong in our thinking and responding to covid. But as I read the quotation below, and as I stop and think about it, I wondered if a different perspective is at work in our world???    

"First, the line of progress is never straight. For a period a movement may follow a straight line and then it encounters obstacles and the path bends. It is like curving around a mountain when you are approaching a city. Often it feels as though you were moving backward, and you lose sight of your goal: but in fact you are moving ahead, and soon you will see the city again, closer by."

These words appear in the book Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community. Written in 1965, Dr. King wrote these word while working, and trying to rest, in Jamaica. His schedule was frantic and he was beginning to feel that what he was working would never come to pass. While his words were initially written to address the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, I can hear in them a sentiment that applies to our current covid-19 situation and recovery. 

For we think that we are progressing accordingly, but there are times when that conclusion feels hard to accept and we wonder if we are misguided and foolish in our choices—either as the church or as families.

But I agree with Dr. King. “The line of progress is never straight.” Here at Plains we have been doing the best that we can to address these challenging times. We have worked hard to adapt and made choices that felt right and proper in the moment. We have attempted to keep everyone safe and healthy and offer meaningful worship. Then, something silently creeps into the back of our minds and we can become discouraged and frustrated that life in Christ’s church is not returning to normal. 

Yet we are moving closer and closer to the conclusion of this pandemic. We have adapted to the challenges before us, and we will continue to do so together. 

Rev. Derek 

Monday, April 26, 2021

Pastoral Thought--April 26

This weekend I spent some time re-reading the work of Gregory of Nazianzus. I was first introduced to Gregory’s work as part of my M.Div studies at Pittsburgh Seminary. My theological professor often referred to Gregory and spoke glowingly about his teachings. As I read his work the first time in class I was amazed at how clearly Gregory spoke to issues and needs of the 20th century—issues that he could not have anticipated or understood.   

Gregory was sainted in both the Western and Eastern Christian Church being one of only 3 individuals in church history to be given the title “theologian” as an epithet. Gregory’s impact on the church is undeniable. He was a 4th century bishop of Constantinople, and as a theologian, he wrote a number of significant works that shaped some of the Trinitarian Theology that we cherish. The piece of his writing that I was reading related to how we recognize and understand our sin. 

In his text, Orations, Gregory wrote these words:

For we either hide away our sin, cloaking it over in the depth of our soul, like some festering and malignant disease, as if by escaping the notice of men we could escape the mighty eye of God and justice. Or else we allege excuses in our sins, by devising pleas in defense of our falls, or tightly closing our ears, like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ears, we are obstinate in refusing to hear the voice of the charmer, and be treated with the medicines of wisdom, by which spiritual sickness is healed. Or, lastly, those of us who are more daring and self-willed shamelessly brazen out our sin before those who would heal it, marching with bared heads, as the saying is, into all kinds of transgressions. . .  

While the grammar and diction of this paragraph can be challenging, the impact of them should not be lost. Gregory wrote these words, because from his position in church leadership, the church was risking a lot by “hiding away” our sins from each other—and especially from God. At no point in this work does Gregory wish that we flaunt our sin, or justify them with excuses, but instead, he poses a question. . .  

Gregory wonders what will happen to the church, and its ministry, and it members, and its leaders, when we dare confront our sin and live together. What happens when we stop saying things like, “well this is just how I am?” Or “this is just what I deal with?” Or “I am only human what do you expect?” These are excuses, and while they are true, at their core they deny the fact that in the person of Jesus we find healing from God. 

And so I leave you with the essential question from Gregory: what will happen to the church, and its ministry, when the church’s members bring their sin before God and allow God the space and emotional room to heal us? 

Rev. Derek

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Pastoral Thought--April 15

In his book, The Blue Mountain of China, Rudy Wiebe writes these words that have been with me all week. While there is a bit of rhythm to this quotation, I find that it reads like a prayer to God; a prayer of faithfulness and of hope. 

Jesus says in his society there is a new way for [people] to live: 

You show wisdom, by trusting people; 
you handle leadership, by serving; 
you handle offenders, by forgiving; 
you handle money, by sharing; 
you handle enemies, by loving; 
you handle violence, by suffering. 

In fact you have a new attitude toward everything, toward everybody. 
Toward nature, toward the state in which you happen to live. . . toward all and every single thing. 
Because this is a Jesus society and you repent, not by feeling bad, but by thinking differently. 

Rudy first wrote these words in 1970. His world was very different from ours, but that does not change the call that these words present. Rudy obviously did not write when covid and other social issues were at the forefront of our world and thought. He probably couldn’t imagine that a global pandemic was going to change how the church interacts with its community and how it seeks to be faithful. 

The news in the 1970s did not speak of many of the issues that you are I are confronted with each day when we are at work or when we are at home. But nonetheless those issues were present even then if the church was willing to look for them. 

If we are going to think and serve the people of our culture authentically, as Christ calls us to do, then we will be confronted with the chance to think differently about how we interact with them. We will not be able to go back to old methodologies and old lines of thought. We will be asked by God to work and serve differently. 

Perhaps Rudy’s words might be helpful to you this afternoon as you envision what that relationship and interaction looks like. . . For we do indeed look at this world through new eyes and a new perspective. 

Rev. Derek

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Pastoral Thought--April 13

While I was waiting for an appointment yesterday I heard a story that I wanted to share with you from the podcast “Unlocking the Magic." 

Jason and his wife were sitting in their home one evening when they heard a loud crash. The crash was followed by a lot smoke coming from down the hall. Startled Jason got up ran down the hall to investigate the source of the noise and the smoke. He headed down the hall quickly toward the room where the smoke was coming from; his mind was racing. A lot of possibilities were filling his mind in that moment— none of them were positive or good. Opening the door to the room from which the smoke was coming from, he entered his daughter's nursery. 

Jason’s daughter was standing up in her crib crying as the smoke filled her room. He looked across the room and found that a sedan had driven through the wall of their home directly opposite to his sleeping daughter. The driver lost control of his car, skidded through their yard, and impacted Jason’s home tearing a large hole in the house. The gentleman whose car hit the house was very nice and did not flee the scene, as Jason worried that he might, but the driver worried that everyone was okay. Jason held and comforted his daughter while the three of them waited for the authorities to come. 

The police came and everything worked out fine. The car was towed away. Jason was safe. His daughter was safe. But, Jason would have to renovate/fix the house because there was now a giant hole that faced the street. A large plastic sheet was placed over the opening in the wall to cover the hole until the work could be completed that was needed to renovate the house. It would take a long time to complete, but again, they were safe.

The work progressed slowly. . . irritatingly slowly for some in the community. . . One of Jason's neighbors, as she looked upon the hole in the house, and plastic covering the wall said, “Wow your house is so ugly now.” She shook her head and walked away. This neighbor’s sentiment upset Jason a great deal. Did she not realize that gravity of what could have happened! After all, the plastic covering was only temporary. Where is her grace in the moment? 

He spent a few days ’stewing’ over the comment unable to get past it. After a few days of stomping around his home and office, Jason consulted a good friend who gave him the following advice in response to the incident at his home: 

What story are you going tell now?

Jason looked at his friend rather astonished. Why would his friend think along these lines given what Jason just told him! This was an issue of conflict and pain, what did story-telling have to do with any of that in this moment! But as this trusted friend continued to explain his perspective, his point became clear to Jason. This friend said that in every moment of our day the opportunity exists to tell our story in any way that we want. It can be a tragedy or it can be a triumph. The car crashing into his home can be only a painful account or it can be something that builds toward an undiscovered future. The choice was Jasons . . . and it is ours as well. 

Certainly the car running into Jason’s home could have been far more tragic than it was. Someone could have been hurt. But Jason's family was safe. His daughter was unharmed. By now she does not even remember the story. How would Jason shape the narrative moving forward? What story was he going to tell about this incident to neighbors, friends, and co-workers? 

The same opportunity is possible for us because we face all sorts of incidents and moments in our days. Some are minor and some stay with us for a long time. Some pass by quickly and some linger. . . They naw at our hearts and cause us to lose sleep because they are so serious.  

What story are you going to tell when those moments happen to you? In Jason‘s case the story was this going to be a story about tragedy and a difficult renovation? Or was the story going to be about new possibilities and dreaming of something extraordinary because his family was safe after the accident?

Jason chose something extraordinary, I wonder if you might make the same choice? 

Rev. Derek

Monday, April 12, 2021

Pastoral Thought--April 12

I witnessed an interesting story this morning that I wanted to share with you. . . Perhaps you have found yourself in a similar moment. 

Midway though the morning I heard a commotion outside of my door and went to investigate it. Two of the teachers were gathered in the hall watching a third. They were discussing a problem that presented itself; a problems whose solution presented a challenge. One of our "little saints" locked the bathroom stall door. Then she slid under the door and ran back to class. As of now, no one knows who we have to thank for this little dilemma. But honestly, it does not matter. 

In this moment two options presented themselves: 

Option 1: The teachers stood in the hallway outside of my office attempting to determine who was responsible. They figured that once they knew who did it, then that child could come back down from class, crawl under the door, and unlock the door (makes sense to me). This was the option that I would have chosen. The two of them worked to frame the question in a way that when the child answered it, they would implicate themselves in the deed. This way, if no one confessed to the crime, we would know who was responsible and could resolve the issue. 

While that discussion was taking place (and it was a lighthearted discussion), Option 2 happened. 

Option 2: the aid for the nursery class, Jen, took a wire coat hanger, grabbed the step stool in front of the sink, and entered the adjacent stall. Then she stood on the stool and used the hanger to slide the lock open from across the stall. There was some concern that this was not going to work. But silently, Jen worked to slide the hanger across the lock until it opened. Her work took as long as it took me to position my mask on my face, walk into the hallway, and to the doorway of the girl’s bathroom where the teachers stood. 

I watched as the door swung free. . . crisis averted. And everyone chuckled and went back to class while making jokes about “MacGyver-ing” the problem. 

Let me also say that no one was angry or upset with the child who locked the door. In fact, I don’t think they even asked the question to the rest of the children in the school. It was a problem and Jen solved it without fanfare or stress. 

This got me thinking about how we engage small problems in our day. . . Because let’s be honest, we face a lot more small problems in our days then large-scale ones. “Death by 10,00 paper cuts” is more likely to happen then a large incident that leaves us broken down. 

As I watched Jen over the stall-wall, I thought, “Wow who is going to have to climb under the door to open it? . . . Maybe I can call Emma? . . . I know I can’t do it because the opening is tool small for me. What are we going to do?” I was so fixated on the problem that I did not see the opportunity that was there also. An adaptive option was present in this moment, as it is present in most of our situations and moments. . . In this case, Jen just figured it out before the rest of us.

I wonder, how will you face those same small, irritating challenges in your day? What option is present that you may overlook? Because if you take the time, if you linger and look differently, you might just see a solution that was there all the time. 

Rev. Derek 

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Pastoral Thought--April 8

In the book that I am currently reading we find the story of Bill McKibben. He is an author and activist. In the 1990s Bill approached his local cable company and made a strange request of them. He sought to copies of every single thing that they broadcast for a full 24-hour period—just one day. He wanted all of the shows, the commercials, the movies, everything that this company broadcast so that he could study them. Surprisingly the cable company handed over the video tapes which were approximately 1700 hours worth of material. 

Bill took those tapes and went to his mountain cabin to immerse himself in the videos that he was given. It took him an entire year to fully watch everything (all 1700 hours) that he was in possession of. He left his cabin and wrote a book entitled, The Age of Misinformation. In that text, Bill offers the following conclusion: 

“The residual idea, the central theme, is that each of us is at the center of the universe—the most important thing on earth. We’re being told we’re the heaviest object around and that everything needs to orbit around our ideas of convenience and comfort.”

He wrote those words, as I stated already, in the 1990s. I wonder what Bill might say today if he were to duplicate his study and immersion experience??? I suspect that his conclusion would be far harsher this time around. . . 

 Now likely this is not new information to your minds. You have heard myself and other church leaders offer up this same conclusion to you. Perhaps you have even joined in the chorus of those who affirm that the biggest problem in our current culture is the self-centered, entitled, nature of it. People see themselves as the center of existence. Your conclusion would be supported by many other people—regardless of cultural context. We are a people who feel that they are the most important, most knowledge, best qualified person around. This is not slight against our neighbors, it just is the way that things are at this time. Likely this feeling or mindset or choice will be with us for a while. 

So this makes me begin to wonder, though. I wonder how am I going to put forth the message of God, a message that affirms that we need God because of our sin and our brokenness, if we cannot be honest enough to state that we are either sinful or broken? How are we going to live faithfully as the church in a world that is so focused on itself that it has little time for introspection? 

These are not new questions to any of us. . . In fact they will live on for quite a long time in this culture. But are we not called by God to interact with people, to care for them, to serve them, to love them? 

As MaryAnn McKibben Dana, the author of the book that I found Bill’s story in, would say: 

“If our focus is only inward, we become organisms cured in on ourselves. By serving one another. . . we can save our own lives.”

Perhaps today God is asking you to find someone to serve, to love, to lift up, to care for. By practicing this act, or making this choice, you not only help them, but you help continue to "save your own life?” Even if they are totally focused on themselves, your example helps lift the veil from their hearts so that God can come in and redeem them. . . 

Rev. Derek

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Pastoral Thought--April 7

This morning I woke up with a bad headache, and it won’t go away. 

This was one of those headaches where two Advil are ineffective. You can feel the tension trickling all the way from the back of your skull and down your entire back. Normally a very hot shower helps me when I feel this way, but that didn’t work out this morning either. I still hurt and could not find relief. The water this morning was tepid at best. The headache had taken root deeply in me. . . In an attempt to address the pain and find a way to be productive, I then began to run through my normal tools to help alleviate the a headache. 

The foam roller that we have for back pain did not help my neck as I gently rolled it up and down my back and neck. 

I tried to stretch it out my shoulder by putting gentle pressure on each side of my neck in the hope to release the muscles. That did not help either. 

So I turned to other things. Hot coffee and my final Cadbury cream egg both tasted good but neither helped the headache. (You know that I am desperate when I sacrifice a Cadbury egg to feel better). 

I tried everything that I could think of to help stop the headache and none of it helped—even a little. I still suffered from a pounding in my mind that made it challenging to get ready to face the day with God. 

With eyes that look tired and gray, and slumped shoulders, I took my backpack and headed to the church. I didn’t even have the desire to walk a few extra times around the church to enjoy the beautiful, warm, morning. I plopped down in my chair, sipped some more coffee (I actually gulped it if I am being honest), and I tried to start the morning. I opened my backpack and took out the contents. My new book, some audio cables to test out, my blue water bottle, and note pad with various ramblings on it, they all came out and went to their places around my office. 

But one things remained in the backpack; one thing that I forgot to mention earlier as a coping tool. . . In an act of pouting I put my soft leather slippers in my bag too in defiance. At the time I figured, ‘well if I am going to suffer with this blasted headache, then at least I will be comfortable!’

And so as I looked into my bag and saw the slippers a small smile crept across my face. I grunted and slipped off my shoes. Then I slid those shoes to the side of my desk, and I put on my gray slippers. . . Instant transformation happened. . . and I do mean "instant."

These shoes are nothing special. They are just a pair of gray American Eagle leather slippers that my mother’s neighbor gave me because he no longer wanted them. They are in very good shape and I happily wear them around often. Emma teases me and says that they are ‘old man slippers,’ but she is wrong. They look great. I wiggled my toes and felt a smile come across my face. The headache is still there, but I am less focused on it, and that helps. 

This story makes me wonder about you, today? 

You may not have a bad headache. Your morning shower may have been quite warm and inviting. But I am certain that you have had a day, perhaps even recently, when the suffering of the present moment make the prospect of taking the next step feel hard. . . if not impossible. I am sure that you have thought, ‘I can’t do this. I don’t have the energy, or the desire, to take one more step forward.’ But God does not ask us to do anything except be present in the moment. God does not ask us to solve all the problems of the day—especially not on a day when we feel the pangs of suffering creeping around our hearts. 

Again, God just wants us to show up and learn from Him, lean on Him, trust Him, rely on Him. The rest of great things that you intended to do with God today can wait until tomorrow. Today, maybe it is enough to just show up, to wiggle your toes, and be content with the loving God who has done so much for us. 

I wonder what your ’slippers’ look like? And I wonder if you are brave enough to put them on and let God causes a little smile to come across your face? 

Rev. Derek

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Pastoral Thought--April 6

So with the message of Easter still touching our hearts, and knowing that we are trying to dwell “with” our community and offer them space, what happens when life gets in the way? 

About 20 years ago, The Atlantic published an article by David Hajdu entitled, “Wynton’s Blues.” In the article David tells the story of jazz musician Wynton Marsalis performing “I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance with You.” On the night of the performance Marsalis was performing masterfully. His trumpet was singing magnificently for everyone in attendance. The audience was mesmerized but what they were hearing. . . Until the unthinkable happened. 

Right at the climax of the song, someone’s cell phone rang. It was a cacophony of electronic beeps and bleeps and it filled the room. Humiliated the person in question rose and headed for the back of the room to deal with the issue of their phone. I could not imagine that experience for that individual. If that happened to me, I would want to crawl under my seat and never. . . and I mean never. . . want to be seen again in public. 

But Marsalis never missed a beat. 

Then he replayed the cell-phone ringtone, note for note. And he began to improvise on it, making variations on the tune. Slowly, the musical spell was cast again, and the audience returned to him. He changed the key, slowed the tempo. . . and then, incredibly, picked up exactly where he left off in the song. Without interruption, the audience would have heartily applauded the virtuoso performance. But thanks to the interruption and Marsalis’s graceful way of embracing it, the ovation was tremendous. He had head the obstacle with gracious ears and responded."

Life gets messy sometimes and we have to deal with it as evangelists. The people that we interact with derail and distract us. They say that they want to hear the message of Easter, but then when we attempt to share that message, the seem distracted. 

I have been talking about God with someone only to realize that their eyes tell me that they stopped listening a long time ago. They are distracted. They are over-burdened—and that is not always their fault.  

When these moments happen, and we know that they do, how we respond, and how we improvise, could be the difference between sharing the gospel message and alienating someone from it. We want them to experience God at work, but that sometimes seems like an impossibility given their distractions that sit with them. 

I wonder what it would look like to share the gospel message in a manner similar to how Marsalis dealt with a distraction? Don’t run away from it. Don’t condemn them. Just keep sharing, keep playing, and trust God to handle the details. . . 

Rev. Derek  

Monday, April 5, 2021

Pastoral Thought--April 5

Easter worship was a blessing (I know that’s an understatement but it is true). At Plains we celebrated the truth that Jesus has defeated death once again. Evil tired to control God, tried to force God to submit, and God would have none of it. God was victorious! The love that God has for each of us is so strong that it sent Jesus to the one place that He never went before. God’s love called Jesus to be alone. For as we know throughout all of eternity Jesus lived in a perpetual state of union with God in heaven. They was never a time that any of the three persons of the Trinity were separated from each other. They knew total communion. 

I struggle to imagine what it must have felt like to be totally alone for the first time ever on that cross.

But it happened. It was Jesus’ total act and choice of love. Now that we have celebrated the joy of Easter together the natural next step for us as the church is to consider what’s next? How will we take the powerful message of Christ’s ultimate victory over death and the grave with us into our local communities? How will our conversations be shaped differently in this Post-Easter world?  

For the temptation exists to rush quickly too into these interactions without allowing them to take shape organically. We attempt to control the conversation because we are so excited about the power of Jesus’ resurrection—and that is not necessarily a bad thing. 

Julie Brister wrote these words for us that I believe will be helpful in shaping our Post-Easter encounters. She said: 

"When you’re waiting for somebody to stop talking, what you’re really doing is saying that you want to control the situation. Control is not a good thing. . . at all; [we are not] trying to control what’s going on. Eventually. . . you get people to let go, and to really listen and be in the moment. But that can take some time and some work."

I think that Julie is correct in her assertion. The temptation in our Post-Easter world is to rush so quickly into speaking about how transformational and life-changing the message of Jesus’ final victory is that we lose track of the person who we are speaking with. We emotionally steamroll over them because we cannot wait to tell them how great Jesus’ resurrection is. But what if God is asking us to indeed share the joy of the resurrection but also to slow down and be present with people who hurt and suffer?

For that posture is exactly how Jesus encountered the people of Israel as he walked among them. He gave them space to share their pain and he listened. Certainly he knew how to help them. He knew what they needed to hear. But he let these encounters take shape at their own pace. Because he lived in this way, Jesus both shared the message of the gospel completely and he was able to help them personally. 

I wonder what your conversations today might look like if you practiced what Julie Brister is talking about in your regular Post-Easter interactions?

Rev. Derek

I Wonder--November 29

I wonder if you would pray with me for someone you have not met?  Today I had my yearly physical with my doctor and it went very well. Heart...