Happy New Year!

psalm51Sometimes when the new year comes around I just want to say ‘whew!’ I think about this past year and part of me is glad for its passing and other parts of me are grateful for the incredible events of the year.

On Sunday, December 29th we had an informal service, what I called a ‘coffee and cake’ service. We sat in the fellowship hall, enjoyed some homemade brunch goodies, sang hymns, prayed and shared the scripture. On this day I shared Peterson’s interpretation of Psalm 51. Peterson was responsible for the publishing of ‘The Message,’ an interpretation of the bible that applies a lot of modern language and feelings and this version of Psalm 51 was no different. The original text was listed as a prayer from David after he murdered Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba in order to marry her. It is a psalm of repentance, of asking for forgiveness from God. I figured what better way to end the year!

Seriously, I think if everyone could take a breath and pray as David did in this passage, the world would be a better place. One of my favorite lines is “God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.” I think at the end of the year we all could stand a little bit of a new creation in our lives, a ‘Genesis week’ to get us a fresh start in a new decade.

The service continued with some lively discussions around the wording, around who we are as humans and a surprising question about whether Jesus ever made mistakes (see what you missed?). I love this kind of worship experience, where we are active participants in worship. You know, John Wesley told us that we should ask questions about our faith, even tough questions. Some of them we may even have answers for, others we just have to accept without an answer. Wesley’s famous foundation for our faith rests on Reason, Experience, Scripture, and Tradition (REST) with Scripture have primacy but all the others are important as well.

With all this in mind, I’d like to give you a chance for a fresh start this decade. I’ve included the Psalm 51 passage that we used. I urge you to take time this month to read it, not once, not twice but at least ten times during the month. I find it really helpful to read it out loud. Each time stop at a different sentence and read that one sentence twice. Let it soak in. You can read it as David did, a prayer to God or just read it. I promise you two things from this. First, God will hear you. God always hears us when we pray. Second, I promise if you do it earnestly, with intent, paying attention to it, you will notice something about yourself.

Now, for something else of importance. I baked a coffee cake for the Sunday service and several of you asked for the recipe. It was my mom’s recipe, passed to her from her friend Anita. The cake is called ‘Nochures’ and it is a delight to share it with you. Happy New Year!

Nochures (coffee cake) recipe from Pastor Rick’s mom, Margaret (Peg) Rabe

preheat oven to 350

2 cups brown sugar

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup shortening (I used soft margarine)

combine above to make a crumble, reserve 1 ½ cup for topping

Mix together

1 cup sour milk (1 cup milk + 2 tbsp vinegar)

2 eggs beaten

1 generous teaspoon baking soda

add to the flour mix

grease a 13 x 9 pan (or a 10 x 10)

pour the mixture into the pan, sprinkle the crumb mixture on top

sprinkle cinnamon on top

dot top with pats of butter

note: crumbled walnuts or pecans may be added to mixture or to topping

Bake for 30 minutes or until done – if you are using a smaller pan (like 10 x 10) plan on an additional 10 – 15 minutes baking time

Psalm 51 (from The Message)

A David Psalm, After He Was Confronted by Nathan About the Affair with Bathsheba

Generous in love—God, give grace! Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.

Scrub away my guilt, soak out my sins in your laundry.

I know how bad I’ve been; my sins are staring me down.

You’re the One I’ve violated, and you’ve seen it all, seen the full extent of my evil.

You have all the facts before you; whatever you decide about me is fair.

I’ve been out of step with you for a long time, in the wrong since before I was born.

What you’re after is truth from the inside out. Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.

Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean, scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.

Tune me into foot-tapping songs, set these once-broken bones to dancing.

Don’t look too close for blemishes, give me a clean bill of health.

God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.

Don’t throw me out with the trash, or fail to breathe holiness in me.

Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails!

Give me a job teaching rebels your ways so the lost can find their way home.

Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God, and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.

Unbutton my lips, dear God; I’ll let loose with your praise.

Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you.

I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered.

Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.

Make Zion the place you delight in, repair Jerusalem’s broken-down walls.

Then you’ll get real worship from us, acts of worship small and large, Including all the bulls they can heave onto your altar!

“Be mindful of whom you represent.”

“Hello – My name is Rick and I am a ……. err…….. well…. I work with people….”

Ever since responding to God’s call I have had a difficult time telling people I am now a minister. It’s not that I am ashamed of it, it is that when I say what I do most people change how they interact with me. You know, they suddenly are conscious of the beer they are drinking or magically try to eliminate swear words, maybe they say how they meant to come to church, or they find an excuse to leave the conversation. It got me wondering, “Why is it so hard to talk about your faith and be faithful?”

From October 20th to November 24th Rev. Sam Wilde and I will be exploring this topic during our worship services. We will examine how we as individuals respond to our call to faith and how we invite others into it. Each week we will explore the opportunities we have in living life as a disciple and how our actions can encourage or discourage someone from following Jesus. We will link each topic to scripture and then bring it back to application.

The reminder ‘Be mindful of whom you represent’ is meant for us to take a moment before we respond, reply or take any action, that we are disciples of Jesus Christ. As Christians in the community and world, we are His representatives and our behavior can either be a welcoming breath of love in a world of hate or something else entirely.

The series is focused around five “I” words. The “I” here being you. Here are the topics for the five weeks ahead.

Sunday, October 20th ,10 am service – Introductions – How do you present yourself to someone? Introductions can set the stage for someone to take another step, to come closer or they can send them fleeing.

What sort of introduction can lead someone to want to know more about Jesus?

Sunday, October 27th ,10 am service – Invitations – Don’t you love getting a text, an email, a phone call from a friend who invites you to their house or to go to a movie or a game, maybe a picnic? Why is it so hard to invite someone to share in the joy you have from accepting Jesus in your life?

Sunday, November 3rd ,10 am service – Interactions – How many ways are there to interact with someone? All these interactions say a lot about who we are and the question is, ‘does anyone know you are a Christian by your interactions?

Sunday, November 10th ,10 am service – Intentions – There’s a saying and some debate as to who actually coined the phrase, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.’ What does Jesus intend for us to do as disciples and more importantly, what is your intent when you talk to someone about your faith, your church, and your trust in God?

Sunday, November 17th ,10 am service – Inspiration – Sometimes I think Jesus’ disciples had it easy, He was right there with them! How we can use the gifts from Christ, our solid foundation, to stabilize us and to keep us steady? What in your daily life do you do to receive inspiration from Christ?

November 24th – The Open Door – All this journey, through the introductions, the invitations, the intentions, interactions, and inspirations we have to remember the person we are talking about it you! Yes, you are that representative of Christ and his mission, to bring about wholeness, to spread God’s love, to bring peace in our world. During this last Sunday, before the first Sunday of Advent, before Thanksgiving, we will take the time to reflect on our community and how we are fulfilling Jesus’ call to be disciples.

I hope you will take time out of your busy schedules to join us Sunday mornings. Worship begins at 10am, our Sunday school starts at 9am.

Pastor Rick Rabe

Judicial Council Ruling – a mixed bag of ups and downs but mostly down.

If you have been following the decision from the General Conference in St. Louis, the next step was to have the Judicial Council (think Supreme Court but for the UMC) review the wording against the UMC constitution and decide what is and is not constitutional.  Well, they did their job and a lot of the homophobic language that the conservative groups put in the “Traditional Plan” will take effect in January, 2020.

 

SO where do we go from here?  Adam Hamilton if the lead pastor at Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City and a leader in the UMC.  Some of you who have taken our most recent study course know we used his book.   Rev. Hamilton posted the following on his Facebook page, worth the time to read.

 

From Adam Hamilton’s Facebook post of April 26, 2019

Yesterday, the Judicial Council of the UMC (the church’s version of the Supreme Court), ruled on the constitutionality of the various parts of the Traditional Plan passed at General Conference the end of February. As expected, portions were deemed unconstitutional while others were deemed constitutional.

As much as some may have hoped the Judicial Council would have ruled it all unconstitutional, the JC has made a reasoned argument that some parts of the Traditional Plan comply with our constitution while others do not. This is painful and disappointing, once more, for those who disagree with the Traditional Plan. But it is not unexpected.

The divisions in the denomination cannot be solved by the Judicial Council.

There are numerous conversations taking place across the church focused on finding a way forward for United Methodists who disagree with the Traditional Plan. Most United Methodists in the US believe they can remain in a church where Christians disagree on same sex marriage. They have been doing this for years. There are few UM churches where everyone agrees completely on these questions.

There are, however, some who cannot remain in a United Methodist Church where any view or interpretation of scripture regarding same-sex marriage, other than their own, is allowed. These self-styled “incompatibilsts” have said they cannot remain in a church where everyone doesn’t adhere to their interpretation and practice regarding same-sex marriage. The conservatives who hold these views wrote and passed the Traditional Plan. They have said that there is no room for compromise – it is their way, or those with differing views should leave.

So, where do we go from here?

It is likely that as long as one side makes no room for compromise or acknowledging the views and convictions of the other, the only path forward is division. What does this look like?

1. One side or the other convinces their churches to leave (the Judicial Council ruled that churches could, in fact, vote to leave the UMC when certain conditions are met).

2. Perhaps there is a new way of staying united that allows for different expressions of Methodism that are still somehow connected and share the name, logo and some central agencies, as Bishop Scott Jones has suggested.

3. There may be a dissolution of the UMC, and the formation of two or threee new expressions of Methodism out of the one denomination.

These are the three paths forward that I most often hear in the various conversations I’m a part of.

While various groups are holding conversations about these questions, one very broad conversation will be held in Kansas City, May 20-22, for “compatibilists” – those who believe we can disagree about how we interpret scripture while agreeing that we will welcome LGBT persons without treating them like second class Christians. Ten leaders from each US annual conference will be attending this gathering, as well as many bishops, general secretaries and other leaders of the church. [18% of those invited are young adults, 18% are people of color, 12% are LGBT leaders in the church.] There are evangelicals and progressives, men and women, laity and clergy. They will be dreaming about what Methodism should look like going forward, and how we create a dynamic Methodism that welcomes all people, is focused on inviting them to faithfully follow Christ, and inspires them to pursue a passionate personal life of faith while also “doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with God.”

The 600 participants were selected from over 2,600 people who were nominated or nominated themselves in just a few days from when nominations were announced. The rapid and large number of nominations indicates a high level of interest in this conversation. These persons are from over 2,000 churches indicating, once more, the high level of interest in a better way forward.

Conversations will focus on what centrists and progressives believe God wills for United Methodism going forward. The group will look at various paths forward. And ultimately seek consensus on the way forward. Attendees will the. return to their annual conferences to expand the conversation within their conferences.

I believe by May 2020 we will have resolved the current division and that there will be a United Methodism for the majority of UM’s in the US who feel that the Traditional Plan does not reflect their understanding of God’s love, mercy or grace.

I also believe, with many others, that annual conferences are the key to how things ultimately sort themselves out. It is likely that annual conferences will vote to align as compatibilists or incompatibilists (something like One Church Plan or Traditional Plan). All like minded conferences will form connections. Churches who disagree with their annual conferences will have the ability to vote to align with a conference that shares their views. This approach shares elements in common with the CCP and Bishop Jones’ suggestions.

Again, the Judicial Council decision was not unexpected. The important work for United Methodism will be in the upcoming conversations. For most local churches, little changes. Progressives will continue to do church as they have. Centrists will continue to lead and do ministry as they have. And conservatives will continue to do ministry as they have, regardless of the ruling of the Judicial Council or the passage of the Traditional Plan at GC 2019 in February. But this season does represent an exciting moment as Methodists pray and discern where God is leading our church in the future.

United Methodists and the Special General Session, Feb 23 – 26

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:13

 

That is one of many peoples favorite snippets of Scripture.  It is from Paul in one of his many letters to the early church.  How strange it is to contrast this against the ‘other’ scripture, the one that will be debated in St. Louis next week.  I’m talking about Romans 1: 26 – 32 or since what will be debated ignores most of that scripture then we focus on Romans 1: 26 & 27, where, by some, people claim this means that God hates homosexuals.

In 1972, the United Methodist Church added discriminatory language specifically against homosexuals to the ‘rules of the UMC’ in the book called ‘The book of discipline.’  They were very thorough in there additions citing everything from calling it a sin, to prohibiting gay marriage and gay clergy.  There was also language prohibiting clergy from supporting gay rights, and prohibiting financially supporting anything to due with gay and lesbian issues, with a single exception, the “HIV epidemic.”

Of course, there was no mention of the other things Paul wrote in the next section… “They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents,  foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.”  Imagine if they had included ‘inventors of evil?’   My dad worked for the defense industry, certainly people who make weapons would be considered ‘inventors of evil’ as would many, many others in 1972 but they were the majority…..

All this is to say, I am happy to have been sent to this church, West Springfield UMC to be their pastor.  Early on WSUMC joined an organization called ‘Reconciling Ministries‘ – a voluntary group who focus is on acceptance of all God’s children.  WSUMC planted their feet firmly in the 1 Corinthians 13:13 soil long before I arrived.

 

I preached a sermon on Feb 3rd, 2019 based on Paul’s Corinthian writings.  If you’d like to read it, you can find it here.

 

In closing I ask each of you to pray for the delegates to the General Session in St. Louis.  Pray that they are overwhelmed by God’s love and grace.

 

Blessings,

 

Pastor Rick

 

Why do bad things happen to Good People? – The Book of Job

I will admit, I am a big Job fan.  Ever since I led a 7th & 8th grade Youth Group and we performed a play on the book of Job, I became a fan.  It is a morbid, sobering book in the Old Testament that seems to tell a tale of a uncaring God delivering heaps of problems on a faithful, prosperous man, Job.  On October 7th Rev. Sam Wilde delivered an interesting look at the first section of Job and included a very interesting perspective on Job’s wife.  On October 14th Pastor Rick started us into an exploration of the poetry in the book, a tale woven like a fine, complex fabric filled with the colors of the various characters involved in Job’s story.  I have posted both on the pastor’s page so you can read each sermon.  Pastor’s Page

This coming Sunday, October 21st we will conclude our exploration of Job as we try to answer the ages long question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”  I hope you will join us Sunday, the service starts at 10am.

Pastor Rick

respond, respond, RESPOND!

A lesson from James 1: 17 – 27

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Quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger….. it seems that this is the opposite right now of so much of what happens in the world today. Every day I get up and pray, make some coffee, then check the headlines and see the results of our ‘slow or never listen,’ react quickly, get angry world. It’s enough to send me back to bed.

It’s odd don’t you think that James writing just after his brother Jesus’ death would see the same problems in that ancient world? I mean, we are talking about 2,000 years ago in a civilization that didn’t have electricity, cars, big business, internet, instagram, or twitter. You sent a letter by handing it to someone who was headed in the general direction you wanted the letter to go and you may never even know if it got there. Nothing was all that quick back then but here is James telling everyone in the new church, ‘slow down and think about it!’

James, writing so long ago, provides us with a form of continuity and connection to our ancient world and through it to God. He starts his letter with a reminder, a bit of a humbling reminder, everything we are, have, see, experience, our entirety is a gift from God. I love Peterson’s interpretation of Jame’s statement of these gifts, “The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.” His interpretation is consistent with most of the others when he calls God, ‘the Father of light.’ Unlike Star Wars, God has no dark side, God is the light of the universe and James is pointing out, we carry that light.

It is here that James, who we will later hear more about in the coming weeks, reflects on what we must do with that light we have been given, how do we remain faithful to the gift from God. His first opening salvo is this statement about listening and speaking about controlling our outbursts and especially our anger. As we will find out, to James, faith cannot be passive. Someone who simply professes “I am faithful’ has missed the point. Even in the simplest, seemingly passive part of our lives, conversation, we must take action. Yes, for James, faith without action is no faith at all.

His writings are really spirited and full of instructions… listen again to this part about faithful action.. “Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. ( and the Word is capitalized here) Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.”

Quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger

James wants us to not just hear and respond. I think we have enough of that nonsense in our divisively charged political climate. We have enough of people forgetting the light and going instead with gut level, angry responses. No, James really wants us to not just hear something, and he is talking about more than conversation here isn’t he? James has assumed that we have received the Word. That’s the Word with a capital “W” as in Word of God, in other words, the gospel. Do we come here today, listen to the Word and then like someone who looked in the mirror and two minutes later forget, or do we integrate it into our actions, do we incorporate our faith fully into our lives.

We are seemingly pressured in this world to respond, respond, respond. Everything. I am amazed that my own children expect me to stop whatever I am doing when they send me a text and respond. I have to remind them that sometimes I cannot, like right now, it would be rude to stop my sermon and respond.. “OK, I will pick up the dry cleaning” or “yes, that is a lovely burrito, looks yummy” and then resume my sermon.

James wants our first faithful action to be to slow down from this response driven insane world and integrate our faith into our lives. Quick to listen – really, hear what is being said, texted, instagramed, Facebook, tweeted…. where ever, listening is an active effort. It means reflect, value, research if needed, and for James, reflect on what you heard against the Gospel, against the values from Jesus’ teachings.

Then ‘Slow to speak’ – do you really need to re-tweet that snide comment? Do you really need to respond to that angry statement from someone else? Do you really need to share gossip? Statements about someone else that may hurt them? How does what was said reflect in your mirror against the faithful person you want to be? How does what that person said, did, acted, tweeted stand up against the gift of light God put in you in this world?

Slow to anger – Oh, I wish some of the people in leadership in this country would let their own light shine instead of reacting with anger. I tell you when I get up and read the headlines and see the rhetoric I wonder where God’s light has gone. The anger, the reactionary messages, the failure to listen to each other and most of all the failure to listen to God’s word on how to treat each other, well, I do want to run for the covers.

It’s funny that James must have seen all this too. This battle between who we see in that mirror and who we actually are. James writes about living our faith. He pushes us to be faithful not just in word but really in action and he starts with something so common, listening to one another. He starts there because if we cannot do that, then we need to go back to bed and pull the covers over our heads and dwell in the darkness. He wants us to remember that God brings the light to the world through us.

Be that light. Be quick to listen….. reflect on what you are hearing, filter it through your faith and the gifts you have been given. Before you speak, slow down. Is what you are about to say shining God’s light or throwing away His gift? Slow to anger. When you listen, think, ponder, reflect on the Gospel and then decide if it reflects God’ light that you should become angry. I think you will find yourself with less anger in your life.

2,000 years ago people were just like you and me. They had struggles, they didn’t listen, they forgot the gifts from God. They forgot their faith, they forgot Jesus telling us about loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. Today, we are finding ever more ways to do the same, even faster. Slow down. Make time for your faith. Make time to listen, you just might finally start hearing the Word of God and end up changing what you see in the mirror each day.

Amen

 

romans122

That’s a wonderful passage don’t you think? I read this passage in Romans and thought – “well, that is what has happened to me!” I am not conformed to this world, just ask my wife Julie. It’s that second part though, ‘be transformed by the renewing of your minds’ that I think most people get stuck in. How on earth do I renew my mind?

By the time you read this it will have been one year since I accepted the request from our District Superintendent to come to West Springfield UMC and “get my feet wet” in ministry. It has certainly been a period of mind and spiritual renewal for me and I hope also for some in the church.

It seems Paul is telling us that by renewing ourselves, we will be transformed. Certainly renewal is critical to getting things to change. What forms can renewal take though when you are trying to ‘discern the will of God in your life? I’d like to recommend a couple of practices that might seem so basic you’ll say “I know that!” Bear with me though because I think knowing and doing are often distant cousins.

1. Prayer – yes, you’d expect that from a pastor wouldn’t you. But ‘doing’ prayer is more complex than you think because it requires you to set aside time. When I say prayer, I don’t mean the dinner time favorite, “God is great, God is good and we thank Him for this food!” Prayer requires, more like demands, privacy, isolation, dedication, and separation. Prayer is hard mostly because we don’t want to set aside time from our busy lives for ourselves, alone, reflecting. Prayer is hard because we might be afraid of what we will feel, think, worry, or even look like if someone sees us praying. To pray is to give yourself over to God, it is surrendering in a way. In Mark 8:35 we hear “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” Jesus has told us that we have to surrender our life, even if for a moment in prayer, in order to save it.

Here’s the challenge then. Pick a time in the day, it does not have to be long but you have to commit to it. Set aside that time for yourself to lose yourself in prayer. Turn off your phone or leave it somewhere else, be alone, be quiet, and have a talk with God. Don’t worry about ‘how to pray right,’ God listens to it all. The important part of this is to release yourself from everything else, even for 5 minutes each day to be in prayer. It’s going to be hard at first, your mind will wander off, you’ll think about what to have for dinner, almost anything. To focus simply start telling God what’s been happening in your life, like talking to an old friend. It’s the first step to renewing your mind.

2. Scripture – and yes, the pastor is going to recommend you read something from the bible. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, thought that reading scripture was critical to development of character and to bringing us closer to God. Where do you start in the giant bible? You can follow our lectionary readings which you can find online at https://umcdiscipleship.org/worship/lectionary-calendar or you can pick a verse at random. Again, the point here is to set aside time at least weekly to do this. The good news here is that you can do this alone, or with someone else. I’d suggest a short passage. I’d also suggest you follow what is called ‘lectio divina,’ Latin for “Divine Reading.” It has a traditional model of read; meditate, pray; contemplate. If that is a bit challenging, you can try an alternate which is read; contemplate; read the same passage again; contemplate. The goal in all scriptural reading is to challenge yourself to interpret what it means to you in your life. Don’t worry about reading the ‘right’ version of the bible by the way. Instead read the best version for you. I like both the Good News and The Message versions for readability. The important part is to actually do oa reading, at least once a week.

3. Challenge yourself – renewal is all about stepping outside of your comfort zone. I know when I started preaching I thought ‘who am I to discuss faith with someone? I’m a computer guy!’ It was quite literally a leap of faith. So what about you? What have you been fearful of trying? At West Springfield there are several existing and new possibilities. The United Methodist Women come together in Christian Fellowship, doing projects to help the church, the community, and the world. We are restarting our Sunday school program this Fall. How about joining to assist in a classroom (don’t worry, we will provide a ton of guidance and materials!). How about joining the new study group starting this October? Ready to roll up you sleeves? Join in on the Big E meal service during September.

Cannot find something that fits? Come and talk to me, we will explore somethings that might work for you. Who knows, maybe you will create something new! The point is to try and step outside of that safe and cozy place and reach for something that will challenge your spirit.

So there it is three things you can try to transform yourself. Start with one and see if Paul was right. Go ahead, get your feet wet too, the water’s fine!

Blessings

Pastor Rick

Is your heart at peace or at war?

Is your heart at war or peace this Easter?AdobeStock_67863635-1024x684

“Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”  Matthew 26:21

It is this small bit of the story for Holy week that brings me closer to God. Why? Haven’t I been betrayed by others? How do I feel about them now? More importantly, haven’t I too betrayed others? Haven’t I betrayed myself? How many times have I betrayed my promises to God as well. “I will try harder. I will forgive him/her? I will not lie any more? I will go on a diet?” It is a frightening, almost endless list.

I have just finished reading “The Anatomy of Peace,” a book recommended by our Bishop. It was produced by an organization called “The Arbinger Institute.” (if you wish to borrow my copy, let me know) Within it’s pages is a story of loss and redemption or at least a possible way towards redemption for some fictional characters who are struggling in their lives. The book focuses on a single theme, whether our hearts are at peace or at war.

It made me think about Jesus in the garden. His posture, his words, his calm demeanor as portrayed in the Gospels convey one thing for me, His heart was at peace, even with those who would abandon and betray him. There is a subtle difference here between having a heart at peace and a heart that is resigned to defeat and war.

As a Christian, for that matter as a human, we are often torn between the struggles of our relationships with one another, even our relationship with God. How many times have we turned from God because our hearts were not at peace with God but instead upset and at war. How easy it is to be angry at God when things go wrong in our lives. The same is true for many of our relationships.

This lent, I have been praying, more than ever before in my life. I have found that a consistent time of the day (for me it is early morning, I am an early riser) has helped me remember to pray and to stay in prayer just a bit longer. What I have found from this is that my heart truly does stop waging the hundreds of ‘wars’ that move around inside my head and settles down, it rests at peace. All those struggles stop for a moment, suspended, and in the words of the authors of the book “I step outside of my box” for just a while and see the world around me no longer filled with objects but with beauty and peace.

That’s part of the point of the book. We as humans cannot see each other until we see each other as humans, as people instead of labels, objects if you will. In today’s politicized world, stepping outside of the box is not easy, for me, prayer has made it possible.

I then think of Jesus in the garden. Why was he there? In Matthew 26 it says “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” I think he was there to bring his heart to peace. He knew His end was near, He even knew he would be betrayed. I think he needed to make sure he saw His disciples the way they really were, as people complete with faults and struggles of their own ( in church speak it would be ‘filled with sin’). Part of me thinks he wanted to see Judas and Peter as people one last time before what was inevitable would happen. So, he prayed.

I understand that the book is designed to appeal to a broad audience and so it must remain outside of faith. It is a shame in a way because one of the suggestions for getting out of our own boxes could have been ‘to spend time in prayer,’ ‘to pray as Jesus must have in that garden.’ God was there, God is here as well, whether it is in the early hours of your busy days as I do, or some other time, I encourage you to take a moment to bring your heart to peace instead of war, to sit, lie, stand, kneel, in prayer this Holy week, for certainly a heart at peace can change the world.

 

Pastor Rick

 

 

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