Devote Yourselves to Prayer…

Most of us are taught from an early age to live an unsatisfied life. We are trained to see our current situation as unsatisfactory, that if we can just get through the next challenge, get to the next life milestone, that we will have “made it” and life will be better for us. No sooner have we crossed that milestone, however, than we are off to the races again to get ahead of the next challenge or milestone in life. But what if we were just thankful for what we have now? Could gratitude change our life for the better? You bet! That’s exactly why the Apostle Paul, in his letter to the church in Colossae, encourages these early Christians with the scripture verse above. The ethic of gratitude focuses our souls on praising God, it drives us away from selfishness and narcissism, and it helps us enjoy this one life we have here on earth!

My first pastoral appointment began in the summer of 2007, just two months after I graduated seminary. I started that first Sunday morning with the knowledge that, after those three years in graduate school as a working student, a whole new education was about to begin. I’ve been blessed to officiate at many weddings and also presided over many funerals and memorial services. Some were for people I barely knew, while others were for people I had grown to deeply respect and admire. And yes, some were for scoundrels. But in all the services I’ve ever done, I can’t remember a single time the family said, “I wish dad had worked harder and bought us a bigger house,” or “I’m so sorry we didn’t have a nicer car.” Instead, when I hear families talk about their loved one, they talk about how their loved one made them feel. They express gratitude for the good memories, the hard times that they went through together, and the love they often felt, even when it was spoken only with a smile. This gratitude is what allows them to heal and travel through the valley of grief; and I am thankful for how these families have, time and time again, inspired me with their expressions of gratitude for their lived one. Gratitude doesn’t just affect the person feeling it; I’ve come to realize, it is infectious in its ability to inspire others, even when it’s done through the tears of mourning.

This November, I hope you’ll devote yourself to meditate on gratitude as we go from Sunday to Sunday. All Saints Sunday challenges us to be thankful for the Christians who have gone before us; the following Sunday will encourage us to be thankful for those who serve through our military and the service of our United Methodist Men of the year. On November 17th we are thankful for each other and for the work God is doing in our midst as we pledge another year of mission together. On November 24th, we express our gratitude for God’s love by loving those in our community who are less fortunate when we take our worship outside to bring in a harvest for Interfaith Emergency Services’ Food Pantry.

This month will be chock-full of gratitude, and my prayer is that it is infectious to everyone we meet!       

Gratefully Yours,

Robert

 



Turning the page …

If you’re like me, then these calendar shifts in the year make you evaluate your life. While not as intensive as Lenten commitments, the summer is usually a time when I tend to think about these things, following my birthday in July and the new school year in August. I begin asking myself questions like: How am I doing in practicing my Christian faith? Are there any books I want to read? How am I doing emotionally? Are there relationships I need to repair, renew, or begin? Are there certain habits I want to recommit myself to, or certain things I’ve begun doing that I need to eliminate from my life? This summer I began to look for new resources to help me in preaching from the lectionary (which is a new thing for me). With a set series of readings each week, the lectionary gives you a “menu” of scripture each week to read and reflect upon, not just for a sermon but for anyone looking to develop or strengthen a regular scripture reading habit. In searching for resources, I’ve found some great material for devotions and reading based on the lectionary that I wanted to pass on to you if you are searching for a good habit to start in this new school year. If you have a smart phone, then podcasts can be a great way for you to listen to the Bible or to reflections based upon the week’s lectionary readings. One of my new favorites is “This Week’s Lectionary with the CEB,” which is a reading of the week’s Scriptures, plain and simple. Another is “Lectionary Lab Live,” which is technically meant for preachers but is really useful for anyone looking for fun and light-hearted Bible inspiration during the week. I also bought a new Bible this summer, a “CEB Lectio Divina Prayer Bible” to help me use this ancient Bible Reading practice more effectively in my life. Lectio Divina is a great way to systematically read and reflect on the Bible, and this edition is set up in sections to read prayerfully and actively. While I know I won’t always preach from the lectionary, I’ve found it has enriched my spiritual life greatly; and I hope these resources will help you in your walk with Christ as well! I’m here to help, and please let me know if there are resources that have helped you along the way!   

With the Peace of Christ,

Robert  



New Beginnings

August promises to be a wonderful month in the life of St. Paul’s, full of new beginnings and new life! On August 11th we’ll start the new school year by collecting supplies for Tools for Teaching, Blessing Backpacks and School Bags for all students and school staff. Tools for Teaching is in great need this year and we hope you’ll help this great organization that stocks school supplies for teachers and students.

In August we’ll confirm the remainder of our confirmands from Confirmation Camp and celebrate with them after church. Colin Elfring was confirmed on July 28th, and on August 18th we’ll confirm Celina Stafford, Layla Watson, and Dylan Watson. All four of our Confirmands participated in Confirmation Camp from July 21-24 with Zion United Methodist Church. There were a total of six youth participating, and each was given a confirmation sponsor from their local church to be their adult faith partner during this process and beyond.

The week following Confirmation Sunday, on August 25, we will baptize one of our children, Charlie Didia, as he has made the decision to accept Jesus Christ at a very young age and we are excited for what God has ahead of him in his life. Charlie’s parents are Amanda and Jon Didia, and Charlie is a graduate of our Christian School!

With all these new things starting, it’s easy to get excited about our ministry here at St. Paul’s. As the new school year begins, this is a time when many people decide to begin coming to church more regularly, so you may see some new faces among us! Whether they are returning friends, or completely new faces, this is a great time to welcome them and “love our neighbors as we love ourselves,” echoing Jesus’s command in Matthew 22:39.

Let’s be on the lookout for those who need a new friend or a warm smile as they come into our doors for what may be the first time. It can be intimidating to enter a new church, especially one where you are sure to be noticed, so let’s make it easy on them when they realize they’ve met a whole bunch of new friends!

With the Peace of Christ,

Robert