From the Pastor’s Desk – December 11, 2013

 

From the Pastor’s Desk

December 11, 2013

 

Furrows, be glad.  Though earth is bare,  One more seed is planted there:

Give up your strength the seed to nourish,  That in course the flower may flourish. 

People, look east and sing today:  Love the rose is on the way.

– Eleanor Farjeon, Hymn #12 verse 2

Weren’t those wonderful seeds the children planted for us last Sunday?  Hope, joy, faith, peace, love – God’s gifts to us.  Thank you, Becky and the Sunday School, for sharing your talents with us.

Prepare the way of the Lord!  How can the second verse of Eleanor Farjeon’s hymn/poem help us prepare inwardly for Christ’s coming?

In Wisconsin, the very idea seems ridiculous.  A seed planted in the furrows at this time of year?  Can you even find the furrows under the snow and ice?  And if you do, can you get a spade or a plow into one of them?

Perhaps that’s just the reminder we need.  Each of us has places in our lives as cold and frozen, as finished and shut-down, or as tired and worn-out, as a Wisconsin field in winter.  You know what they are in your own life – or maybe you’ve walked away from them altogether.

George Herbert, in his great poem “The Flower,” wrote:

Who would have thought my shriveled heart

Could have recovered greenness? It was gone

         Quite underground; as flowers depart

To see their mother-root, when they have blown,

                      Where they together

                      All the hard weather,

         Dead to the world, keep house unknown.

And yet God plants seeds in our lives even in the midst of our spiritual winter – and nourishes them in the cold and dark where we cannot see the growth that is being prepared for us.  Who would have thought?  Herbert goes on to say,

And now in age I bud again,

After so many deaths I live and write….

Is this the preparation you need for God’s coming this Christmas?  Is there some furrow in your heart where God is breaking open the frozen soil, planting the seed, overseeing the growth?  How good is the Lord, whose mercies never cease, who comes to us as the Christmas Rose!

In Christ, Katherine

PS  Read Herbert’s entire poem at:  http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/181059

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From the Pastor’s Desk – December 4, 2013

 

From the Pastor’s Desk

December 4, 2013

 

People, look east.  The time is near  Of the crowning of the year.

Make your house fair as you are able, Trim the hearth and set the table.

People, look east and sing today:  Love the guest is on the way.

– Eleanor Farjeon, Hymn #12 verse 1

 

Prepare the way of the Lord!  In worship last Sunday I spoke about how we can prepare for Christ’s coming again in our lives and work.  With this newsletter I want to reflect with you about our inward preparation for Christ’s coming – in all the ways in which he enters our lives.

“Make your house fair as you are able.”  We know all about decorating our homes for Christmas.  How do you decorate your soul?

Look around.  What is cluttering it up?  Too many worries, too many distractions, too many “to do” lists tacked on the refrigerator? How can you sort them out, put them in one place, clear room to think of other things?

What has gotten it dirty?  Old resentments piled in the laundry basket?  Spills of anger on the furniture?  Prejudices and dislikes clouding the windows?  Bitterness molding in the dark corners of the bathroom?  What do you need to do to clean them away?

What is dusty?  Your Bible?  Your prayer concerns list?  Your old love letters to God?  Your spiritual exercise equipment?  Your faith? Your hope?  Your love?

What is broken or rusty?  Your good intentions?  Your promises?  Your acts of charity and kindness?  How can you repair them, get them working again?

Look around.  Christ is coming.  What needs to be done?  And what are the special touches you want to make to your soul – the touches of beauty, of lovingkindess, of good things to eat, a comfortable place to sit, time to sit and visit together?  What joy does it give you to add each bit of welcome?

“Love the guest is on the way.”  It’s time to get ready!

And getting back to outward preparation – make sure to be here this coming Sunday, December 8.  After worship we’re having a brief congregational meeting; our children are doing a short Christmas play for us; the Deacons are sponsoring a potluck; and we’re decorating the Christmas trees.  See you then!

In Christ, Katherine

From the Pastor’s Desk – November 26, 2013

From the Pastor’s Desk

November 26, 2013

 

Happy Thanksgiving – past or present!  I’m writing this on Tuesday before the big day; some of you will read it today, but by this time this appears in the bulletin, we’ll be celebrating Advent.

So – let me write about something that comes between Thanksgiving and Advent – St. Andrew’s Day, November 30.

Andrew was Simon Peter’s brother.  You remember him – he and Simon were the first two apostles called according to Matthew and Mark, followed by James and John.  Luke leaves out Andrew from that story, and John (the gospel writer) portrays Andrew as one of John the Baptist’s disciples.  In John, Andrew is the one who is always bringing people to Jesus:  he brought Simon Peter and he brought the boy with the five loaves and two fishes.

Somehow, though, Andrew misses out on a lot of the publicity.  “Peter, James and John” – we hear about them quite a bit.  Not “Peter, Andrew, James and John.”  There are some stories full of marvels about him in apocryphal literature, depicting him as carrying out all sorts of miracles.  Tradition says that he died by crucifixion.  The St. Andrew’s Cross, in the shape of an X, which is the first letter for “Christ” in the Greek alphabet, may or may not be an accurate representation of the manner of his death; it’s not attested before the 13th century.  We Presbyterians know it best as the cross on the Scottish flag; Andrew is Scotland’s patron saint.  He’s also associated with foreign missions.

Overall, though, we just don’t know much about him.  His brother is credited with being the first bishop of Rome, the first pope (and just this last week a casket containing what purport to be some of his bones was displayed in public for the first time).  Andrew was “the other brother.”  He was one of the Twelve, but “not part of the inner circle,” as one commentator says.

What do you suppose Andrew gave thanks for as he was dying?  For all we know he disliked publicity, disliked being “important,” and didn’t want to be part of the “inner circle.”  Or perhaps he was jealous of his brother.  In either case, he had the privilege of walking and living with Jesus for three years, of bringing people to him, of serving him.  He also had the privilege of suffering for him – something foreign to our sensibilities but a clear thread in many New Testament writers – the privilege of sharing, in some way, in Jesus’ gracious acts of love.

How about you?  What are you thankful about as you consider your life?

In Christ, Katherine

From the Pastor’s Desk – November 21, 2013

From the Pastor’s Desk

November 21, 2013

 

Well, it’s a big weekend coming up.  As someone commented the other day, Saturday is the start of Holy Week in Wisconsin – Deer Hunting Season.  Then on Sunday the Packers play the Vikings in a home game.  Heaven knows (and understands) what crises of conscience those two events’ happening at the same time are causing.  Do the deer get a few hours’ break Sunday afternoon?

It’s also Christ the King Sunday, or Reign of Christ Sunday if you want to avoid male language.  Most Presbyterians don’t get too excited about that.  Lynda is happy, because the paraments finally change from that everlasting green to white.   Anne is frustrated because she’s Communion Team head for that day, and she needs six servers when everyone is off in the woods.  I’m excited because I like that sort of thing, and because it means Advent is almost here.

I also just learned, from the 1974 edition of the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, that as a church holiday Christ the King only dates to 1925 (that’s right, during the Roaring Twenties).  It was to be observed “in celebration of the all-embracing authority of Christ which shall lead mankind to seek the ‘peace of Christ’ in the ‘Kingdom of Christ.’”  Sounds pretty triumphant, doesn’t it?  It was originally set for the last Sunday in October, near All Saints Day.  Since 1970, it’s been celebrated on the last Sunday of the church year, just before Advent begins a new year.  And in the lectionary, the gospel is always about Jesus’ Passion and death.  So this Sunday we’ll hear about Jesus on the cross, which doesn’t sound very triumphant at all.

It’s a central conundrum in our faith.  As Wisconsinites cheer our team to victory on Sunday; as many of you stalk your buck through the Wisconsin woods; we’ll be celebrating in worship a different sort of victory, a victory that comes through weakness and defeat. And as our time and attention turns to those twenty people coming for dinner next Thursday, and that stack of Christmas presents waiting to be wrapped, we’ll be celebrating our Savior, abandoned, jeered at, thirsty, dying, stripped of everything.

Perhaps that is the connection we need between the realities in our lives – between the joys of family, of sport, of celebration, and the tragedies of tornados and typhoons and car accidents and loss.  Somehow God holds all of our lives in embracing arms, the joys and the griefs, the successes and the failures, in loving understanding and unfailing strength – even the strength to die out of love for us.

In Christ, Katherine

From the Pastor’s Desk – November 14, 2013

From the Pastor’s Desk

November 14, 2013

 

This week’s newsletter is giving way to the e-mail below from Keith Koepsel.  I thought you would want to hear this personal note.  (Yes, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is already responding and will be there long-term; look for more in the December Bell.)

In Christ, Katherine

Dear Wisconsin Friends,

I would first of all like to thank everyone who expressed concern for Gwen’s family in the Philippines in the wake of the recent typhoon. We had people email us. We had people send us messages on Facebook. We had people call us, both locally and long-distance. And, both Gwen and I have had people around town in places like stores and the post office expressing their concern and asking about Gwen’s family. This means a lot to us.

Thankfully, Gwen’s family is safe. They were a couple of hundred miles north of where the typhoon hit, and only had some strong breezes out of it, and a little rain.

But, we are concerned for those who were hit hard. As of tonight’s news, the confirmed death count is 2,344 people, with over 500,000 homeless. The high homeless count was compounded by the fact that just 2 weeks earlier, that same area was hit by a fairly large earthquake. So, we are trying to help with relief for that area. There are some very good reputable organizations trying to provide relief over there. But, also others that get tangled with government red tape so that items aren’t getting to the people who need them. Or, things like good food items somehow getting substituted with lower quality items.

So, we are going to try and help with what we can from over here so that it can get there promptly. If you would like to make a donation for typhoon relief, giving to reputable organizations like Red Cross is always good. Or you could go through us. Gwen’s brother is a pastor in the Philippines who will be going on a mission trip to provide relief in Cebu and Leyte starting November 24. They will be purchasing food, medicine and clothes for those in need and personally distributing these items. So, if you would like to give for that cause, please send checks to us here in Colorado (P.O. Box 363; Gunnison, CO 81230), so we can keep track of who gives. Gwen will then later on email you with pictures of the relief efforts. We will wire whatever money we have as of next Thursday to the Philippines on that day (the 21st) so that they will have the money prior to the weekend and their trip. Money received after Thursday will be sent later to personal contacts Gwen’s family has in that region. If you wish to have a donation be for tax deduction, make the check out to Trinity Baptist Church instead of to us, with “typhoon relief” in the memo section. We will get those checks to the church to be recorded.

In other news, we are again planning to send Christmas photo cards and a letter. If you are not on our Christmas list, and want to be, please let me know. Or, if you are on our list but your contact information (address, email or phone) has changed, also please let me know.

We hope you have a good holiday season.

Keith, Gwen and Riego

From the Pastor’s Desk – November 8, 2013

From the Pastor’s Desk

November 8, 2013

 

“…What is new is that we no longer experience the many things, people, and events as endless causes for worry, but begin to experience them as the rich variety of ways in which God makes his presence known to us.” – Henri Nouwen, Making All Things New

Early November (and how did it get here so soon?).  It’s that time of year when we’re caught between the past and the future.  The daisies on my front porch are still hanging on, although the mums on the deck gave up long ago.  The weather reports promised snow and it didn’t happen.  Every day I wonder – can I get away with summer’s clothes by adding a sweater, or is it time for the heavy gear?  Hmm, that energy bill wasn’t bad – what will the next one be like?

For the last two Sundays we have focused on the past and its influence in our present:  on the Reformation and Presbyterianism’s Scottish roots; and in our celebration of All Saints and of all those we love who have joined the Church Triumphant.  Last Sunday also we welcomed Jon as an Active Member by Profession of Faith. This Sunday we also commemorate the past as we recognize our veterans (and, of course, pray for our service men and women today).

The future is taking up more and more of our attention, though.  It’s almost Bazaar time, and the energy and activity are building. It’s almost Thanksgiving.  It’s almost Advent and the start of the Christmas season.  It’s almost 2014, and our Stewardship and Finance Teams are faced with how to complete the funding for a new budget year.  Our PNC has been wading through a heavy wave of new PIFs (denominational resumes), searching carefully and prayerfully for the new pastor who will arrive some time in the coming months.  At staff meeting yesterday I asked the first of the questions I’ll be asking many of you soon:  what do we want to have finished before the new pastor arrives?  What do we want to have ready for you to carry forward with the new pastor?  What are the areas where you’re simply hoping the new pastor will have some guidance for you?

In the midst of past, present and future, my devotional reading this week has been fruitful for me.  Of everything I’ve read this week, the quote at the top of this letter is what I most wanted to share with you:  a commentary on life in the midst of bustle and change.  Does it make sense to you?  Can you imagine living that way?  May you begin to experience life more lightly – seeing the obstacles and demands and interruptions of life as new greetings from the God who is always with us, to see with each new step the Beloved Face smiling hello.

In Christ, Katherine

From the Pastor’s Desk – October 31, 2013

From the Pastor’s Desk

October 31, 2013

 

Happy Halloween.  As I’ve been out and about today in the mist and fog there have been some very strangely dressed people crossing my path, and WPR has been playing “scary” music.  Hmm…something must be going on.

What I’m scared of – forgetting that DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME ENDS this Saturday night!  We “fall back” – so you can sleep in an hour – unless you forget and change your clock back twice, in which case we’ll miss you at church.  CHILDREN, I’M HOPING YOU’LL COLLECT THE RIBBONS during worship again.

I’m sure you will, because we have a really talented and willing congregation.  Last Sunday was a good demonstration.  Barb Shorrel’s clay bowl was there for our pledges, along with Chuck Norseng’s enthusiastic coaching in the “marks” of stewardship. Those of you in kilts and scarves and “bonny plaids” lent not only color but dignity to our worship.  As the church “reformed and always reforming” we remembered our roots and grounded ourselves in the present.  Our Wednesday night class also located ourselves in the present – on the “Reformed” branch of the Vine now hanging in the narthex.  Ask a class member to interpret it for you.

Your love and caring was in evidence Wednesday at the graveside service for Tony Coleman and the reception here afterwards. Thank you to all of you who baked and set up and served and cleaned up – and then turned around and hosted the potluck that evening.  And then turned around (some of you) and served food to others again Thursday morning at the Food Pantry.

Now, as some of you turn around again to hand out candy tonight to the Trick-or-Treaters, you might want to ask yourself:  Have I offered food – or turned in my pledge card or repaired the roof or attended yet one more meeting – for Jesus’ sake?  Have I done it to please him, to obey him, to give him glory?  Have I done it seeing Jesus in each person I have helped?  Is my life filled with the awareness of Christ’s presence – with me, in others?  And if I can’t feel it, do I keep on doing it anyway out of love for Him?

Or, on the other hand, if I feel all those good things, are those feelings overflowing into actions?  Do others receive joy from my joy?  Does the living water in me give drink to anyone else?

On this night filled with Wal-Mart ghosts and spirits, may the Holy Spirit fill you with all joy and peace in believing.

In Christ, Katherine