July Pastor Article

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
The Fourth of July—also known as Independence Day or July 4th—has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1941, but the tradition of Independence Day celebrations goes back to the 18th century and the American Revolution. On July 2nd, 1776, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence, and two days later delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, a historic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson. From 1776 to the present day, July 4th has been celebrated as the birth of American independence, with festivities ranging from fireworks, parades and concerts to more casual family gatherings and barbecues.
On July 4 we celebrate our independence as a nation. We make a point to remember and let others know that we celebrate our freedom. The passage from Galatians reminds us of our freedom in Christ. No longer slaves to the law, but free in the Spirit.
The apostle Paul reminds us that we are no longer slaves but children of God because of Jesus Christ. A child is a word that describes the relationship. We are in a free relationship with Christ. We are heirs to the inheritance of God’s kingdom. We are on the receiving end, not the taking end. This is the good news of the gospel. Eugene Peterson writes: “Receive is a freedom word. Take is not. To receive is to accept what the divine provides for us. To take is to plunder whatever is not nailed down. To receive is to do what children do in the family. To take is to do what pirates do on the high seas … The difference between receiving and taking is deeply interior. It has to do with disposition of spirit, an act of faith, an openness to God. Outwardly similar, even identical, physical actions constitute both taking and receiving … But the similarities are all on the surface; by observing context and continuities we can easily distinguish taking, with all its ambitious assertion and prideful aggrandizement, from receiving, with all its grateful acceptance and humble receptivity.”
Let us celebrate this month our independence as a nation, but more importantly, may we receive the freedom and grace given to us by God. May we use our freedom wisely to promote the well-being of all God’s children, and to be good stewards of God’s creation.
Happy Independence,
Karen

Celebrating Life’s Heroes

The traditional definition of a “hero” is someone who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. Many of the people listed below have been “frontline workers” during the pandemic and definitely warrant our admiration and appreciation. We are grateful for their service, compassion and care.

 

During the month of May there are “Appreciation Days” that have been set aside to celebrate, give thanks and recognition to these individuals.

  • National Police Week & Police Officers’ Memorial Day
  • National Nurses Day
  • National Teachers’ Day
  • School Nurses Day
  • Military Spouse’s Day
  • Mother’s Day
  • Armed Forces Day
  • National Waiters and Waitresses Day
  • Memorial Day

 

If we use this list as a starting point for showing appreciation to these various people that we know and encounter, then we are on our way to being more appreciative. An “attitude of gratitude” can brighten the day for those we thank, and it changes our outlook on life as well. Make a point to say thank you to these “superstars” and show your appreciation to those who have made a positive difference in our lives. And, while you are at it, be sure to give thanks to God for all that God has done.

Following God’s Map with Patience & Perseverance

The irate employee stomps into the payroll office and shouts, “There’s been a terrible mistake! My paycheck is a dollar short this week! I demand to know why, and what you’re going to do about it!” The payroll employee looks up from his ledger and says calmly, “I see here that we paid you a surplus of a dollar last week. I don’t recall you complaining about the mistake we made then.” The employee says, “Well, an occasional mistake I can overlook, but not TWO in a row!” The Lenten season is a time to reflect that we have all made mistakes, and we are fortunate that God has forgiven us for two, three, 203, etc…….through confession and repentance we can receive that love and grace that has the power to renew and sustain. A grace so amazing that it can be difficult to comprehend.
The old fable imagines a handful of blind men positioned around an elephant. After taking a moment to explore with their hands the beast before them, each is asked to describe the elephant. Since one has the trunk, another has the tail, another a tusk, and so on, however, they come up with very different descriptions of what an elephant is like.

The fable may be used for all sorts of mischief, of course, but it does provide a helpful image: namely, that some truths are larger and more complex than any one person can fully understand or adequately describe. So it is with God’s love. While it may be overwhelming, God loves each of us where we are at in life, who we are right now, and wants to work with each of us to be the best we can be. The Lenten season provides us the opportunity for reflection, renewal and re-directing our lives to be in tune with God’s mission and purpose. As we approach Holy Week and Easter morning, take the time to draw closer to God and to get headed in the right direction.

On the Lenten journey,
Karen

Keeping a Holy Lent

The word “Lent” comes from a word meaning “spring” and “long,” an apparent reference to the lengthening of the days of spring. Lent is the season preceding Easter, a season for self-discipline and renewal. Its tradition goes back to the early days of the Christian church, beginning in the first century as an observance lasting forty hours, roughly the amount of time Jesus was believed to have laid in the tomb. In later years, the duration of the season was extended to six days called Holy Week. A custom arose about that time among those able to visit Jerusalem of visiting various sites associated with the life and ministry of Jesus. It was to be a time of fasting and self-denial, symbolic of Jesus own suffering and death. This visiting of significant sites also led to the Stations of the Cross for the Roman Catholic Church.  In later centuries, the duration of Lent was again extended, this time to 36 days, apparently a tithing of the number of days in the year. Still later, four more days were added, the numeral four being significant as symbolic of the number forty, that number often symbolizing a long time, or even endless time. It especially calls to mind the forty days and nights that Jesus is said to have spent in the wilderness, a time of testing and temptation prior to the start of his ministry. Sundays are not included in the numbering of the days of Lent, because Sunday celebrates the resurrection of Jesus and Lent recognizes the events leading up to the resurrection. For this reason we refer to the Sundays in Lent rather than the Sundays of Lent. Currently, Lent begins with Ash Wednesday in most Western churches, though the Eastern Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox churches begin Lent on Monday.

As our world faces many challenges, including hunger, homelessness, drug addiction, war, political divisiveness, disease and overall despair, make an extra effort this Lenten season to spend time in prayer and reflection. Be disciplined in offering prayers for those around you, those across the globe, those your encounter in your daily activities. When and where you can, be generous with your time and resources. In all things, be thankful for God’s grace and goodness.

Show Love

When we think of the month of February, we often think of Valentine’s Day and think of hearts, roses and candy. According to historical sources, the roots of Valentine’s Day–and the story of its patron saint–is shrouded in mystery. St. Valentine’s Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. But who was Saint Valentine, and how did he become associated with this ancient rite? The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured. According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl–possibly his jailor’s daughter–who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is unclear, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and–most importantly–romantic figure. By the Middle Ages, perhaps thanks to this reputation, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France.
Regardless of what February 14 signifies for you, I would encourage you to go beyond the “Hallmark” marketing to find ways every day to show love, kindness, compassion and encouragement to those around you. What are you doing to show love as Paul wrote about it to the Corinthians? A love that is patient, kind, not envious or boastful, not proud, not self-seeking, slow to anger, keeps no record of wrongs, love that protects, hopes and perseveres. Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 again, and read it not as a romantic vow, but as a Christian mandate for our every day lives. Go forth and show love in all that you say and do.

Sabbath Sunday

If your normal week is busy with work and overflowing with activities, then sometimes the best thing you can do on a Sabbath is to rest. As one author put it, “The Sabbath is a day to let go, to stop trying to control people and situations. It’s a day to unhook from performing for people or pleasing people. It’s a day to focus on what God is graciously doing all around you and respond to God rather than depending on your own abilities to make things happen.” Keeping the Sabbath teaches us to trust God and appreciate all that God is doing. By taking time to hit “reset”, it is a way for God to set us free from worry and anxiety, ambition and adrenaline, self-importance and anger. As Psalm 23:3 tells us, it is in the green pastures of the Good Shepherd’s grace and beside his still waters of reflection that we allow God to “restore my soul!” When we reflect upon God’s grace and goodness, we can honestly say, “Everything doesn’t depend on me. Things don’t have to happen my way. I will put my trust in God.”

May you find a time each week to have Sabbath rest. Here are some readings for reflection, and some ideas for hopeful and helpful Sabbath activities. Enjoy and be blessed!

Recommended reading: Psalm 23, Psalm 92, Psalm 127:1-2

 

Ideas for Sabbath day activities

  • Spend time worship, giving thanks to God.
  • Spend time in quiet prayer and reflection.
  • Spend time getting much needed rest.
  • Visit family and friends.
  • Write in a journal.
  • Go for a walk and enjoy God’s creation.
  • Take food to someone who is sick.
  • Call, text, or message a friend who’s been on your mind.
  • Plan or participate in a service project.
  • Plan a family activity or game night
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Thank You!

Many thanks to the congregation for the generous Christmas gift! I appreciate your kindness and generosity. This January will mark 29 years at FCCG. Thank you for the opportunity to serve with you.

Thanks again,

Karen