Pastor’s Corner – January 21, 2018

We are only three weeks into 2018 and it feels like months! I think because I have been hearing story after story of trauma, stress, and difficulty. My daughter Amanda is living right in the midst of the mudslides in Montecito, CA. Each day she tells me about the death and destruction as well as the hope and life. They go hand in hand. I have been following the disturbing stories of the gymnasts and athletes who suffered abused at the hands of a pedophile doctor. As much as my heart breaks, I also have been inspired by their courage and power in telling their stories. What has struck me in all of this is the evidence of the faithfulness and everlasting love of God in the midst of all the pain. I also have been hearing stories of cancer, untimely deaths, and other traumas. But in each story is a thread strength, love, courage, and hope. A light shining through the broken cracks. Alongside all this trauma I have been studying the life of Jonah…you know the guy who ended up in the belly of a big fish! His story has wide swings between curse and blessing, obedience and rebellion. The imagery in his prayer is powerful and has grabbed ahold of my heart. It conveys the turmoil he was in as well as the hope he holds on to from the bottom of the sea.

Jonah’s Prayer (Jonah 2:1-6 NLT)

Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish. He said,

“I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble,
    and he answered me.
I called to you from the land of the dead,
    and Lord, you heard me!
You threw me into the ocean depths,
    and I sank down to the heart of the sea.
The mighty waters engulfed me;
    I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves.
Then I said, ‘O Lord, you have driven me from your presence.
    Yet I will look once more toward your holy Temple.’

“I sank beneath the waves,
    and the waters closed over me.
    Seaweed wrapped itself around my head.
I sank down to the very roots of the mountains.
    I was imprisoned in the earth,
    whose gates lock shut forever.
But you, O Lord my God,
    snatched me from the jaws of death!

 

So, for those of you out there who feel like you are sinking in a sea of waves, facing turmoil of your own, may you find hope and comfort in Jonah’s prayer. Make it your own, holding onto a thread of faith, trusting in God, even from the bottom of the sea. And may we all lift one another up with love and compassion, for we never know what people are going through.

 

Walking on the path of grace,

Pastor Patti



Pastor’s Corner – January 14, 2018

Call or Bust
 

As we explore beginnings this next month, I personally feel butterflies in my stomach. New beginnings can be exciting and nerve-wracking and frightening all at the same time. In the throes of changes and beginning something new, we may feel like the butterflies will never settle. When we are hurting, we may feel like the pain will never go away; we can’t imagine life before the pain or without the pain.

To me, no matter what beginning I am going through, the body of Christ is there as a community of support. When I was 22, I was sponsored for the Women’s Walk to Emmaus retreat here in Helena. I was getting ready to graduate college, and I had just been rejected from a mission internship with the UMC. The internship was a beginning that had ended abruptly. I had put all of my eggs in that basket, and now they were gone. I reluctantly agreed to the Emmaus retreat, and dreaded it. At that point, ministry seemed like a dead end.

Well, as you can see, it wasn’t as dead of an end as my 22-year-old-self had thought. It was a whole new beginning that I had not even fathomed. I met women and men who changed my life, truly changed my life. I was gobbled up by a community that not only supported me, but pushed me to be my best version of me. When I left that weekend, I didn’t know what my beginning quite was, but I knew I would be surrounded with love. By that time the next year, after a year of even more struggle than I could have imagined at that moment, I had a new beginning: I had just been accepted to seminary in North Carolina. I returned to Emmaus to help with the weekend, and I got to share the news of God’s call on my life, and share that news as a gift to the community as well. It was a beginning we went through together, even if it didn’t feel like it always.

I pray this sermon series brings questions to your mind about new beginnings, and what holds us back. What gives you butterflies in your stomach? And, most importantly, may you see the body of Christ as support and respite in your beginnings of beginnings and endings of beginnings. Finally, may you see your story as essential to someone else’s story.

Peace,

Pastor Sami



Pastor’s Corner – January 7, 2018

“Be still and know that I am God.” –Psalm 46:10

I used to think that during winter, when the ground is covered in snow and the trees are bare branches and plants seem lifeless, that everything is dead. Then I came to think that during winter, when the ground is covered in snow and the trees are bare branches and plants seem lifeless, that there is actually much life-creating work going on underground as roots grow deeper and branches store up nutrients which will become new growth. But after my reading today, I have come to learn that the reality in a climate like ours is in-between those two thoughts. Most plants and trees in winter are in fact dormant. Not dead, but not growing either. They are resting. Hmmm. Resting.

What does that teach us about our spiritual lives? What does it look like to rest our souls?

I am not an expert in this. I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences. I’m sure there are many ways to rest our souls. One might be along these lines. I read in my devotional this week a suggestion to create time to sit in silence and “allow our spirit to settle.” Her advice was to carve out 5 minutes to begin and not to expect anything, just allow the soul to open to the presence of God. Resting our soul. What do you think? How do you rest your soul?

Walking on the path of grace,

Pastor Patti



Pastor’s Corner – Dec. 31, 2017

For over twenty years, on Christmas eves, St. Paul’s received an anonymous poem from The Christmas Poet of St. Paul’s. The poem would arrive in the Christmas offering as a gift from the poet. Some years later, The Christmas Poet of St. Paul’s also began contributing a poem to the Easter offering. In 2014 this anonymous poet included a letter with the poem stating, “this is the final delivery,” but included a challenge for others to take up the tradition. In 2015, The Anonymous Christmas Poet of St. Paul’s II emerged. Here is our Christmas gift from the poet this year:
 
Unwrapping Christmas
 
A beautifully wrapped gift
Oh how it brings us joy.
What could it possibly be?
A blanket, a scarf, a toy?
A gift given us from our family or our friend.
A time of year we show our love
through the gifts we send.
I think it must be Gods’ favorite time of year too.
For God gives us the gift of life then sees what we do.
We continually think of others and our generosity flows,
The good that is in our hearts spills over and grows.
By giving we are happier, for we are designed this way,
It lifts our spirits to share our love by giving it away.

Our gift to God may just be time to give someone in need,
It may be to volunteer and to plant a seed.
It may be a simple hug or a supportive word,
An encouragement to let someone know that they are heard.
The most precious gifts are not always wrapped in boxes and in bags,
with frilly ribbon and colored bows and pretty Christmas tags.
So this year as Christmas comes and you are buying things in part,
Just know that some of the greatest gifts …come straight from the heart.

– The Christmas Poet of St. Paul’s II