Pastor’s Corner – March 5

“Follow Jesus, and expect the unexpected”
 
These are the words shared at our Ash Wednesday service last week as people received Ashes on their foreheads. Ash Wednesday began our season of Lent, the season we share in each year as Christians to help us prepare for Easter. In the ancient church, this season was used to prepare new Christians for the baptism on Easter, a ritual that invited them into the church. It also served as a way for Christians to recommit to the faith each year by re-learning the practices of faith alongside those who were new.
 
Ritual is a practice that opens us and our senses to the environment around us. Christian ritual invites us to be aware of what Jesus calls us to be and what God is doing in the world around us. When we take a moment to pray in tense situation, we feel God’s calm that gives us the peace to move ahead. When we stop our lives for an hour of reflection in worship, it opens us to see new opportunity to make our world better. When we relax into a practice of focused meditation, it develops the discipline of our minds to handle more complex problems. Taking time for ritual is like exercise, the more we do it, the deeper we can go with God in our lives.
 
To expect the unexpected is about allowing ritual to open us to receiving what God is doing in our lives. It may help us notice problems that need our community’s assistance, it may invite us to spend more time with someone who needs our company, or we may need theirs. If we open ourselves to God this season, and listen to the lessons of Jesus, what might happen?
 
As you enter this season I invite you to take part in one of our many practices: Sue McNicol is teaching a class on receiving God through photography. Join the God Hunger prayer group that meets Wednesdays at noon in the balcony. I will be teaching a class on discovering God and faith through full emotional living. Listen to each sermon this season as Marianne, Rick and I unfold the stories of Jesus the give un-expected lessons. Take part in the challenge to daily offer some resources to Intermountain found at stpaulshelena.org/lent2017.
 
Pick at least one ritual and use your church as a resource to open yourself to God’s unexpected love this season.
 
Enthusiastic Peace,
Pastor Tyler


Pastor’s Corner – Feb. 26

Intermountain here in Helena is an unexpected lesson.  This organization offers incredible gifts of healing and guidance to children and families living through mental health challenges.  Intermountain grew out of a need at the turn of the century to provide a home for children who were left to fend for themselves.  Behind that history is the story of Rev. Brother Van Orsdel who is said to have been in tears pleading at the Annual Conference for the Methodist churches in the region.  The public tears of a grown man and the vital work of women deaconesses have become the hope of more children and families than we can count. 

Hear the words of one parent who has seen hope in the work of Intermountain:

“I am a single parent of two adoptive children, one of whom has suffered with the emotional/behavioral chaos of attachment disorder since early childhood.  At one point I was having to call our local police to help restrain my daughter during her violent behavioral outbursts.  I was at the brink of losing my family (and possibly my life). 

Now, after 18 months of residential treatment at Intermountain, we are an intact family ready to thrive.  My daughter is returning home with the skills to manage her feelings and behaviors long before they get to the rage that previously overtook her mind and body.  We as a family have learned important skills for success.  This program not only changes lives, it literally saves them!”

Last year Intermountain treated 1334 children and youth, and made a difference in the health of Montana communities.  This Lent we are asking members, friends and you as the disciples of St. Paul’s to make a difference by financially supporting Intermountain through a spiritual practice.

Our Lenten focus is “Unexpected Lessons: The Journey of Discipleship.”  We will be learning from the great stories of the gospels to remind us how God can surprise us with unexpected lessons from the stories in our lives.  This is no ordinary path we follow.  In this spirit you will be given the opportunity to fill blessing cans for Intermountain.  These cans will be accompanied by a Blessing Guide to a Lenten Thank Offering.  Unexpectedly we are using a retro St. Paul’s guide from the 1990’s, so enjoy the throwback information on it.  Each day there is a practice on this guide that will ask you to consider your blessings and invite you to give from your abundance like “10 cents for each slice of bread in your house, pray for those who scavenge for food.”  It is a simple activity to do with friends, family or kids. You can find the Lenten Guide here:  Lent Bag

 

We invite you to journey with us through the unexpected.



Pastor’s Corner – Feb. 19

In just two weeks, March 2 – 5, our church will become a beehive of activity as the team members from the Women’s Walk to Emmaus move in and set up what promises to be an amazing weekend of spiritual growth. The following weekend, March 9 – 12, the team members for the Men’s weekend will host a similar weekend, designed to foster spiritual reflection and community. For 30 years, St. Paul’s has provided a home for these amazing events that, every year, touch many people deeply.

So, just what is a ‘Walk to Emmaus’? You might remember the story from Luke’s gospel. After the death of Jesus, we are told that two disciples walk from Jerusalem to the small town of Emmaus. They talk about the events of the past days and their fears and concerns about what the future held. And, “while they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and walked with them.” (Luke 24:15) The story then relates how, in conversation with each other and with Jesus, they came to new understandings and new insights about their life and their call. It is one of the most hauntingly beautiful stories from the Bible.

Rooted in that story, the walk to Emmaus weekend is an experience of Christian spiritual renewal and formation. Through times of prayer, talks, great food and community experiences, participants have an opportunity to meet Jesus on their road of life in a new way as God’s grace and love are shared through other believers – clergy and lay alike. The weekend begins on Thursday evening and concludes on Sunday late afternoon. Following the three-day experience, participants have opportunities to join with others in small groups to support each other in their ongoing spiritual journey.

The overall objective of the Emmaus experience is to inspire, challenge, and equip the local church members for Christian action in their homes, churches, communities and places of work. Emmaus lifts up a way for our grace-filled lives to be lived and shared with others. If you have never participated in a Walk to Emmaus weekend and are interested in considering it this year, please call our office so we can put you in contact with the lay leadership of the weekend.

And, most of all, thanks people of St. Paul’s, for your warm welcome. You have always helped us make room for these important weekends, even though it is sometimes a bit inconvenient. This is one of the ways we make good on our mission of being ‘grounded in hospitality’ so we can help provide a place for people to ‘grow in faith, give in service and go in mission.’

Grace & Peace,
Marianne



Pastor’s Corner – Feb. 12

 
Ubi Caritas
Where charity and love are, God is there.
Christ’s love has gathered us into one.
Let us rejoice and be pleased in Christ.
Let us fear, and let us love the living God.
And may we love each other with a sincere heart.
Amen
– Mary Daly, Theologian
 
Last week in my sermon, I mentioned that I have been in conversation with people who are struggling with the current political environment in which we live. There are many people who are part of minority groups who are feeling deep fear. I believe they are scared for good reason, in December we saw white supremacists in our own state begin to target the Jewish communities with anti-Jewish propaganda and a statement that they wanted to carry out an armed protest. The community of Whitefish and many others in our state took an appropriate stand and said, “Not in our state!” I thank God for the success of these stands to put an end to this hate for the time being.
 
These conversations with people who are struggling happen because they know I am a safe person to talk to, and this is all due to St. Paul’s reputation of working to be open to all people. When people find out I am a Pastor at St. Paul’s they have a sense of trust that we can be asked questions about how to stay safe in our community. First, I want to thank each of you for continuing that legacy in Helena. Second, I want to invite you to not be afraid to identify yourself as a member of St. Paul’s in the community. People are looking for safe spaces and it provides them an opportunity to share openly their concerns about our world and country.
 
During the 11 O’clock service today, the choir will sing the words of Ubi Caritas in Latin. The chorus, printed here, is a part of an ancient chant of the Christian Church. It is often used as a prelude to the time in the Christian year we celebrate Christ kneeling to wash his disciples’ feet. It reminds us that God comes to serve us, and we are called to serve God. As you read or listen to these words today, say a prayer for the people in our community that are feeling fear. Remember, whenever there is fear and we offer our sincere heart to those in fear, it will root those present in the Love of God. We, as Christians, are called to believe God can help us overcome fear and conflict, and in this moment of history I believe this is what we are being asked by our neighbors to help them do.
 
Enthusiastic Peace,,
Pastor Tyler