It is not always easy to write a newsletter article. Coming up with ideas on a monthly basis does require much thought. I go through a variety of ideas as I contemplate what I would like to share. One of my processes is looking at the month to see what is going on. Can I build off something taking place? Sometimes it is easier than others.
I am happy to say this is one of the easier months, at least this year. The word I want to consider for March 2017 is renewal. Two things are happening in March that lend to the idea of renewal: the first day of Spring and Ash Wednesday/Lent.
I want to start with Spring. Even though it is later in the month than Lent, I believe many times we look forward to Spring before we consider Lent. And why not? What is it about Spring that we look forward to? Renewal – seeing nature bloom to new life and we look forward to the days ahead of the promise and hope in that life. It is an opportunity to praise God for many blessings.
I realize some may be surprised that I consider Ash Wednesday/Lent as renewal. We tend to look at this time of year with solemn emotions, especially as we contemplate the cross. And, I know people struggle with the concept of giving something up for Lent. But, that is where I see renewal! It is not just giving up something. It is also relying more fully on God. It can be a time of spiritual renewal in getting closer to God – for the first time or again.
As we enter March, I challenge us to reflect on our relationship with God. We have a wonderful opportunity to bring any obstacle to God, preventing a closer relationship. God will always be with us. Do we want to renew that relationship with God in hopes of being better disciples? We look forward to nature’s renewal. Why not look forward – and act – on renewing with God the opportunity for a deeper, fulfilling relationship?
Feb. 1, 2017 FROM PASTOR ED’S PEN…
Last year, around this same time, I asked for your help. I was planning a sermon series on hymns. I asked if you would provide me with hymns that mean something to you that I might preach upon. And, I am thankful for the overwhelming response. I have enough hymns to do another series in the future.
I want to ask for your help again this year. I would like to do another sermon series this summer. This time I want to do it on the Psalms. So, I ask: is there a psalm that you might want to know more about?
I would ask that you send me an email or a note with the psalm or psalms you are interested in knowing more. Please let me know between now and March 31st. Then join me this summer for this sermon series. I look forward to sharing in God’s Word with you.
January 1, 2017
FROM PASTOR ED’S PEN…
When it comes to the “Apostles’ Creed,” have you or someone you know asked the following questions:
1. Why is it Holy Ghost in one version and Holy Spirit in another?
2. Why doe one version have descended into hell” and another have “descended to the dead” and some churches take that portion out completely?
3. Why do we say “catholic” in the “Apostles’ Creed?”
Those are the most common questions I have heard asked. I know there are other questions people ask that are not quite as common. And, many people are surprised to find out that the current form of the “Apostles’ Creed” was completed by the eighth century A.D.
Beginning in January, my Tuesday evening class will look at the “Apostles’ Creed.” We will be using the book, The Apostles’ Creed for Today, by Justo L. Gonzalez. Following along the lines of the other books in the “For Today” series, it examines what the original meanings were for each section, and focuses on how it can still speak to us today.
Here is a great opportunity to learn more about the “Apostles’ Creed” and to obtain answers to the questions you and others may ask. Join me on Tuesday evenings at 7 PM in the Borden Parlor on this wonderful adventure as we explore the “Apostles’ Creed.”
December 1, 2016
FROM PASTOR ED’S PEN…
As we prepare ourselves for Christmas, one of my favorite traditions is the lighting of the Moravian Advent Star. It begins on the first Sunday of Advent and goes through Epiphany. Here is a picture:
There are two main reasons for this wonderful tradition during this time of year. First, Jesus is the Light of the world. As we read in John, Jesus came to share the light. But, according to John, we love the darkness. The good news is that Jesus still wants to shine that light in our lives.
Second, it was by the Star of Bethlehem that the magi were guided. They followed the star to the place where Jesus lived. There they worshipped the King of kings. They saw the light and lived by its guiding.
As we celebrate the birth of our Savior, may his light shine upon us, and may we continually be guided by him so we may bow down and worship God through Jesus. In the Light of Christ there will always be hope.
May you have a most blessed Christmas!
November 1, 2016
FROM PASTOR ED’S PEN…
We have now reached November, 2016. And we all know what that means – Election Day is here! I do want to share a few thoughts on what that means for me, as the pastor, and for our church. The first thing I want to share actually comes from the IRS itself:
In 1954, Congress approved an amendment by Sen. Lyndon Johnson to prohibit 501(c)(3) organizations, which includes charities and churches, from engaging in any political campaign activity. To the extent Congress has revisited the ban over the years, it has in fact strengthened the ban. The most recent change came in 1987 when Congress amended the language to clarify that the prohibition also applies to statements opposing candidates.
Currently, the law prohibits political campaign activity by charities and churches by defining a 501(c)(3) organization as one “which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.” (https://www.irs.gov/uac/charities-churches-and-politics)
I cannot express opinions in communicating, as pastor, who to vote for (or not), how to feel about a candidate, nor how to vote on an issue.
However, there are two things I can express – as a Christian and as a citizen. We are extremely blessed to live in a country where we have freedom of speech. One of the blessings within that is the opportunity to elect the leaders in the different levels, and voice our opinions on the issues before us.
So, first of all, please get out and vote. We cannot take for granted this privilege we have been afforded that many nations do not have. Make your voice known for the candidate of your choice, and on whatever issue(s) come up.
Second, we have the privilege to express our concerns to our elected officials. As these leaders prepare to vote on our behalf, please do not be afraid to share thoughts with them, especially when the decision will impact the community we live in. I know we have some people already doing this. My hope is for all of us to remember we all can and should.
God has blessed us with many freedoms in our country. Let us never take any of them for granted.
September 30, 2016
FROM PASTOR ED’S PEN…
One of the pleasures in my life was the opportunity to work Life Enrichment in a nursing care facility. Life Enrichment consisted of planning and implementing activities, and one-on-one visits with residents. I enjoyed the wide range of possibilities in activities we could be part of, and getting to know many people as individuals.
But, every year, there was a challenge for Life Enrichment – mostly true across the board; not just where I was. The Christmas season brought many churches and other agencies out in wanting to do things, especially Christmas caroling. We received so many requests for times to come and sing, or play bingo, or bring goodies. We could honestly have something going on every waking hour of the day during that season. And, after the holidays were over, only a very small percentage of those churches and agencies would come back during the other eleven months of the year. What it might have been like for the residents had these same entities come multiple times of the year – a blessing for all involved!
I use this experience as I think about St. Vincent’s House. This is a part of the description found on their website: more than 60 years, we have provided programs and services for the disadvantaged and underserved population in the community – those whose poverty and pain are obscured by the glow of the island’s bright lights and enticing attractions. We are able to serve by collaborating with partners who share our vision for a Hope-filled and healthy community. Our services are designed to meet the real and immediate needs of our clients for food, shelter, healthcare to enhance their mental, physical, and spiritual well-being.
We have been one of those partners for some time now. We offer opportunity to bring non-perishable food to the church, and that will be taken to St. Vincent’s to help in feeding. Sadly, in recent times, our donations have gotten less while their need has gotten greater.
My hope is that we can, and will, recommit ourselves to bringing food donations each month to help meet the needs at St. Vincent’s. I see the needs getting greater. So, I challenge all of us to bring more regularly to our church, food for St. Vincent’s. The need is there all the time. But, I see it as a blessing for all of us in giving so others will be fed. And, we all may be spiritually-fed. That is a glorious hope! Please consider helping. Thank you!
August 31, 2016
FROM PASTOR ED’S PEN…
I met a woman soon after I arrived to serve a former church. She had Alzheimer’s. Every Sunday she would come with her sister-in-law. Never once did she remember my name. The only thing she could say was that she knew I was the pastor because of the robe. Sadly, her Alzheimer’s had reached the point she could not function without help.
I went to visit her sister-in-law, still living onsite where both had worked at an institute for higher learning. As I toured the campus, I came to the library. Upon entering, there were large letters on the wall, spelling out that the library was built in dedication to the woman who had Alzheimer’s. In her younger years she was a librarian and promoted learning.
I share this story as a reminder that Alzheimer’s and dementia affect each and every one of us in some form. It could be one personally has it, or a family member lives or lived with it. It could affect a dear friend or coworker. As the body of Christ, the church, we are not immune to the effects Alzheimer’s/dementia brings.
We, as the body of Christ, can do something about it. I feel blessed we have an opportunity before us to fight back against Alzheimer’s/dementia. On Saturday, October 8th, the American Alzheimer’s Association will be holding their annual walk to end Alzheimer’s. First Presbyterian Church has a team started to participate.
I would like to ask three things. First, I would like everyone to pray for a cure – an end to Alzheimer’s/dementia. Second, please consider joining our team and/or come out to support our efforts; and third, consider using your resources and/or talents in helping find that cure.
If you have questions, please come see me for more details.
July 31, 2016 FROM PASTOR ED’S PEN…
I have a book I filled with many wonderful and inspiring stories. Sometimes, I pull them out and read them for encouragement. I came across one entitled, “The Parable of the Old Mule.” The author is unknown. I share it because I believe we live in a time where we could use a little encouragement. Enjoy!
The mule fell into the farmer’s well. The farmer heard the mule ‘braying’ -or-whatever mules do when they fall into wells. After carefully assessing the situation, the farmer sympathized with the mule, but decided that neither the mule nor the well was worth the trouble of saving. Instead, he called his neighbors together and told them what had happened …and enlisted them to help haul dirt to bury the old mule in the well and put him out of his misery.
Initially, the old mule was hysterical! But as the farmer and his neighbors continued shoveling and the dirt hit his back … a thought struck him. It suddenly dawned on him that every time a shovel load of dirt landed on his back, he should shake it off and step up! This he did, blow after blow. “Shake it off and step up…shake it off and step up…shake it off and step up!” He repeated to encourage himself. No matter how painful the blows, or how distressing the situation seemed the old mule fought “panic” and just kept right on shaking it off and stepping up!
It wasn’t long before the old mule, battered and exhausted, stepped triumphantly over the wall of that well! What seemed like it would bury him, actually blessed him…all because of the manner in which he handled his adversity. If we face our problems, respond to them positively, and refuse to give in to panic, bitterness, or self-pity, the adversities that come along to bury us usually have within them the potential to benefit and bless us.
May God bless us this month as we, “shake off the shackles and step up out of the wells” in which we find ourselves! “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” –
June 30, 2016
FROM PASTOR ED’S PEN…
I would like to share an anonymous story with you, entitled, The Scar:
A little boy invited his mother to attend his elementary school’s first teacher-parent meeting. To the little boy’s dismay, his mother said she would go. This would be the first time that his classmates and teachers met his mother and he was embarrassed by her appearance. There was a severe scar that covered nearly the whole right side of her face. The boy never wanted to talk about why or how she got the scar.
At the meeting, the people were impressed by the kindness of his mother with the scar, but the little boy was still embarrassed and hid himself from everyone. However, he could hear clearly the conversation between his mother and the teacher.
“How did you get the scar on your face?” the teacher asked.
The mother replied, “When my son was a baby, he was in a room that caught on fire. Everyone was too afraid to go in because the fire was out of control, but I went in. As I was running towards his bed, I saw a burning wood falling down and I placed myself over him trying to protect him. I was knocked unconscious, but luckily, a fireman came in and saved both of us.” She touched the burned side of her face. “This scar will be forever, but until today, I have never regretted doing what I did.”
When the little boy heard this, he couldn’t help running towards his mother with tears in his eyes. He hugged her and felt his mother was greater than anyone. He held her hand tightly for the rest of the day.
As I reflect on this story, it reminds me of why we worship in the Christian faith. Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection saves us. He carries the scars on his hands and feet. And, as we face our day-to-day lives and challenges, I am reminded to cling to God daily. May we always have God in our hearts, and as the author of 1 Thessalonians says, “Pray without ceasing.”
FROM PASTOR ED’S PEN…
May 31, 2016
Back in February’s newsletter article I asked you for a list of hymns you would be interested in being part of a sermon series covering the hymns. Thank you to all who responded. I have had great response so that I could do multiple series on hymns!
I would like to give you an update where I will be heading with the sermon series of hymns. I will be preaching on ten hymns, over ten Sundays this summer. Here is the schedule:
June 26th: “How Great Thou Art”
July 3rd: “America, the Beautiful”
July 10th: “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”
July 17th: “My Jesus I Love Thee”
July 24th: “Blessed Assurance”
July 31st: “Just As I Am”
August 7th: “The Church’s One Foundation”
August 14th: “Jesus Shall Reign”
August 21st: “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”
August 28th: “It Is Well with My Soul”
I look forward to sharing these hymns with you and how they still speak to us today. And let us sing God’s praises – always!
FROM PASTOR ED’S PEN…
April 29, 2016
The word I want to consider this month is communion. But, not in the traditional sense when participating in the Lord’s Supper. I want to reflect on the deeper meaning of communion.
To begin, I want to define communion as it is found in Merriam-Webster. The first definition is about the “Christian ceremony in which bread is eaten and wine is drunk as a way of showing devotion to Jesus Christ.” But, the two definitions I want to reflect on are these: “a close relationship with someone or something,” and “a group of Christians who have the same beliefs.”
For me, communion is about relationship. This month serves as a great example in how this is and could be acted upon in our Christian lives. There are there aspects of May that tie the concept of communion together very well.
First, we will celebrate Pentecost on May 15th. The birthday of the church with the Holy Spirit coming upon those first disciples and bringing many people to give their lives to Christ – this represents communion with bringing many into a close relationship with fellow believers and helping to define the beliefs that shape the Christian faith.
Second, we will worship Trinity Sunday on May 22nd. We are invited to know God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and be in communion with God. From the beginning of time and to the end of the age, God has always been with us. God invites us into a close relationship.
The last also has to do with May 22nd. This year marks the five year anniversary when the sanctuary reopened its doors for worship. For me, it is a pleasure to be among committed Christians wanting a close relationship with God and one another – communion.
We share in God’s love and the mutual care for one another. I believe Paul summed it up best in 2 Corinthians 13:13, which serves well as a benediction: the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. That is what communion is all about!
FROM PASTOR ED’S PEN… April 1, 2016
I write this article as we are coming off Easter Sunday. And what an Easter Sunday it was! It was very meaningful to me that so many people came to worship and join in fellowship as we proclaimed the risen Lord.
So, here we are in April and from the church liturgical year view – there is not much going on. Our next major event coming up will be May 15th, which is Pentecost.
Two years ago I attended a continuing education event that changed my take on Easter and Pentecost. I believe my original take came from involvement in churches that celebrated Easter on that one Sunday. And Pentecost was possibly not celebrated. Or, if it was, it was downplayed. They were two separate entities.
Historically, that has not always been the case. Patrick Regan, in his article, “The Fifty Days and the Fiftieth Day,” wrote that Pentecost in present day is treated as time-after. But in its original celebrations, Easter Sunday was not treated any different than the other 49 days leading up to the 50th day, Pentecost. And Pentecost was the culminating feast of this whole season of celebrating the resurrection, ascension, and the founding of the church. (pg. 224 in the book, Memory and Hope: Readings on the Liturgical Year, Maxwell E. Johnson, ed.)
I began to question how often I have let Easter Sunday be the culmination of the Christian year, forgetting to celebrate the risen Lord daily. That led to a better question in how I can become more aware of celebrating the risen Lord daily. In all honesty, without the resurrection, there would be no church. Without the Holy Spirit coming on those first disciples and being with us now, there would be no church. So, I have begun to take the idea further to celebrate the risen Lord year-round. May we all remember to celebrate the risen Lord always.
FROM PASTOR ED’S PEN…
February 29, 2016
For the fun of it, I looked up “Christian Easter Clip Art” for the purpose of seeing what might come up. I found it fascinating that over 90% of the pictures included the cross. In all the pictures, the cross was empty of a person. But, there was always something else associated with the cross. Some had a sunrise in the background. Some had flowers (mostly lilies). Some had a dove. And some had a purple cloth draped. There were others of varying kinds, but the ones I listed are the majority of Christian Easter Clip Art.
So, it raised a question for me: why the cross and not more pictures of an empty tomb? I ask that for two reasons. First, in Jesus’ time, the cross was the common instrument used in executions. It was not uncommon to see crosses along the roads. And second, Jesus’ resurrection was the only time in history that a tomb was empty because someone came back to life.
Recently, I was reading 1 Corinthians 1: 21 – 2: 5. In that passage of Paul’s letter he speaks of the cross and the crucified Christ. As he developed his theology, he had to address God and his Son crucified, especially in a world filled with so much philosophy and living by tradition. He came up with two possible answers: God is not as smart as we think, or we have to redefine wisdom by God’s wisdom. The second line of thinking is the direction Paul settled upon.
The early Christian church, in the 300s, looked at Pauls’ writings and the Gospels. It was in this passage especially that led the Council of Nicaea to officially adopt the cross as a symbol of the Christian faith. Their reasoning was that the cross brings remembrance of Jesus’ suffering, in which he shared with humans; his victory over sin and death; and good prevailing over evil. The empty cross is a symbol of hope in the midst of human struggle.
Easter is March 27th. We will still spend most of March in Lent and Holy Week. We should spend time reflecting what the cross means to us. Is it a symbol of hope? If not, then spend time with God, giving over to him that which is preventing hope. Pray to see the cross as hope. And, on March 27th, may we all shout with joy that “Christ is risen!”
FROM PASTOR ED’S PEN…
January 29, 2016
I would like to begin my article with a quote from The Hymnbook from 1955: “The Christian religion is a singing faith…From the dawn of creation, when ‘the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy,’ psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs have been vehicles of the faith, the aspiration, and the joy of God’s people. The corporate praise and choral prayer of a worshiping congregation have been characteristic expressions of its response to divine grace.”
Singing hymns are a wonderful way to praise God! The music and lyrics can draw us closer to God. They serve as reminders of our Christian faith. They can even be prayers offered to God, especially when we don’t always have the words. Hymns speak to us and for us.
This coming summer I will be preaching a sermon series on hymns. These sermons are meant to enhance our understanding of the hymns themselves. Who wrote them? What caused them to be written? How can they still speak to us today?
With that in mind, I need your help. It is true I could pick hymns with the hope they might be favorites of the congregation. But I would like to hear from you. What is your favorite hymn? Which hymn(s) might you like to know more?
or a note with hymns you are interested in knowing more. Please let me know between now and March 31st. Then join me this summer for this sermon series.
FROM PASTOR ED’S PEN…
December 31, 2015
As you get this, Christmas day is over. So, it may seem a little strange that I want to write about the twelve days of Christmas. For those that may not know, the twelve days of Christmas are December 25th through January 5th, culminating with Epiphany on January 6th. One of the things I find fascinating is that there are historians who believe that the song was meant to be used in teaching tenets of the Christian faith, with each day representing something different. The following is the list of what is generally believed each item means:
“My true Love” = God
“Partridge in a pear tree” = Jesus Christ on the cross
“Two turtle doves” – the Old and New Testaments
“Three French hens” = faith, hope, and love
“Four calling birds” = the four Gospels
“Five golden rings”= the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy)
“Six geese a-laying” = the six days of creation
“Seven swans a-swimming” = the gifts of the Holy Spirit (wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and the fear of the Lord)
“Eight maids a-milking” = the Beatitudes (blessed are the poor in spirit, those in mourning, the meek and hungry, those thirsting after righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those persecuted for believing in Jesus)
“Nine ladies dancing” = the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control)
“Ten lords a-leaping” = the Ten Commandments
“Eleven pipers piping” = the eleven faithful apostles
“Twelve drummers drumming” = the twelve points of the Apostles’ Creed (belief in God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, made man, was crucified, died, arose on the third day, sits at the Father’s right hand, will come again, the resurrection of the dead, and life everlasting)
I cannot say how true it is that this was used as a way to teach the tenets of the Christian faith. But, I believe the Christmas spirit should be in our hearts always in reminding us that Jesus came among us to reconcile us with God. And he will return one day and we will be with him always. As we move into 2016, let us remain faithful in our daily walk with God, keeping God first in our hearts. May Christmas and Easter be in our hearts every day!