April 17, 2016 Pastor’s Corner

It is already three weeks since Easter.  For many of us that seems like a long time ago . . . and we are already moving on to the other events of spring – and I know there are many events.

And obligations.  And activities.  Spring is busy, right? But, did you know that, actually, Easter is not yet over?  Officially Easter is more than a day.  It is a season.  The Easter season lasts for 50 days and only ends with the celebration of Pentecost which, this year, is on May 15.  So we still have some time for Easter celebrating!  And I believe that through a long Easter season, the church reminds us each year that resurrection was not just an event of long ago.  For Christians, it is literally meant to be a way of life.  We are a ‘resurrection people,’ and, fundamentally, that means that we are challenged to notice and celebrate and invite new life wherever and however we can.

And so, once again, we have the Easter season where we are invited  to look for hope, to celebrate life, and to imagine possibilities.  How do you do that?  I find hope as another baseball season begins.  As someone who grew up on the north side of Chicago, opening day of baseball season gives me a great reason to hope – that  maybe this year the Cubs will win!  Being a Cubs fan is all about hope.  I’ve had a lifetime of practice in hoping!

But there are other things too.  The season of Easter is a time to practice seeing the harbingers of new life that are around us.  Take a walk and notice the greening of the trees and the blooming of daffodils.  Enjoy the longer days.  Notice the sunrise and the lingering light in the evening.  I enjoy  hearing the sounds of children playing outside.  I like feeling a breeze come through open windows.  I like waking to the sound of rainfall outside and the smell of wet grass.

How do you celebrate the season of Easter?  I encourage you this week to consider how it is you experience new life and hope.

May resurrection moments fill your Easter season!

Grace and peace,

Marianne



April 10 2016 Pastor’s Corner

May 10 – 20 in Portland, Oregon the United Methodist General Conference will be taking place. General Conference is the top legislative body of our church and sets policy for the church every four years. The conference can revise church law, as well as adopt resolutions on current moral, social, public policy and economic issues. The group also approves plans and budgets for global church-wide programs.

During General Conference I have been elected to serve as the clergy delegate from Yellowstone Conference and the head of the delegation. This is a great honor and responsibility as we only get 2 voting delegates from all of the Yellowstone Conference(Montana, Northern Wyoming and a tiny part of Idaho). The 854 delegates present in Portland will represent United Methodists from around the globe, 504 from the United States and 350 from Europe, Africa and the Philippines.

Over the last several months working with other delegates from our area I have been preparing for Portland by studying petitions, learning about the legislative process, and building relationships. As another pastor informed me lately, “You have to be a little crazy to want to do this.” He is probably right. Working to get people to work globally together to share God’s love could be seen as crazy in a lot of ways. Hoping to follow the original madman into this endeavor, aka Jesus.

If you are interested in following along I will be posting on my blog as I prepare for General Conference at zestyreverend.com/gc2016PDX, you can follow me on twitter @zestyreverend, and find more news about general conference from UMC.org by going to http://goo.gl/yqhn5O

Your prayers are welcome in this process.

Enthusiastic Peace,

Pastor Tyler



March 27, 2016 Easter Pastor’s Corner

Easter Blessings to all the Friends and Members of St. Paul’s!
 
Early in March, I wrote an Easter letter which many of you received. Today, in the Pastor’s Corner, I want to share some highlights from that message.
 
Last year, on Easter, we began our Jubilee, celebrating 150 years of ministry in Helena. Since then, we have remembered various parts of our history. On June 21, our Bishop was with us for a grand worship service and picnic on our patio. That was a great way to celebrate our past. We unveiled a Jubilee booklet (there are copies available today in our foyer if you would like one).
 
Then, in the fall, we turned our attention deliberately toward our future, choosing to work with Intermountain to make an impact for good in our community. After all, it was the Methodist preacher Brother Van, whose vision started Intermountain as a ministry of healing and hope for hurting children. And it was the Methodist Deaconesses who kept it all going, handing the ministry over eventually to a staff whose continuing vision for how to help hurting children and families today has blossomed into the ministry we know as Intermountain. And throughout that time, St. Paul’s provided financial and hands-on support. So, building on our history and our long partnership with Intermountain, we chose to help raise awareness about ACES . . . ‘adverse childhood experiences’ . . . as part of our Jubilee year celebration. You perhaps attended the talk last fall on the evening of the Art Walk. Or, perhaps, you saw the Challenge Helena presentation about ACES. Or perhaps you attended the screening of Paper Tigers in January. There is another Paper Tigers screening right here in our sanctuary on Tuesday, April 19 at 6 PM.
 
The point is, when we began our Jubilee year, we didn’t want it to be only about the past (though we have lots to celebrate). We wanted to celebrate the past and move into the next 150 years by taking deliberate steps to make a difference. We have done that for sure.
 
Our Easter offering this year will again focus on our relationship with Intermountain. It will support the remodeling project that will provide a chapel at the Helena Intermountain campus on Lamborn. Today, the chaplain’s program serves children of many faith backgrounds. The chapel has been a long hoped for vision that is finally taking shape and nearing completion. It is planned as a flexible space for reflection and spiritual growth for the many and varied needs of the children Intermountain currently serves. Brother Van and the Deaconesses would be thrilled! To contribute to that offering, just use the Easter envelope or mark your check ‘Easter offering.’
 
Yesterday, on March 26, 2016, we officially began our 151st year! As we move into our future, be assured that the celebrating continues through our ongoing ministry and outreach for good. We are still going strong, moving forward into our future with joy and a continued commitment to make a difference. Congratulations St. Paul’s . . . and may the story continue!
 

Pastor Marianne Niesen



March 20 2016 Pastor’s Corner

Today, Palm Sunday, marks the beginning of the week Christians call ‘Holy Week.’ Before Christians celebrated anything else . . . even Christmas . . . they recalled the last week of Jesus’ life. They recalled Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a donkey (which we will talk about today). They remembered the acclamations of the people who saw in Jesus one who led them in paths of peace and justice
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From the praise of the crowds, the early believers remembered the last supper Jesus ate with his friends at the Upper Room. It was a meal of love – as well as a time of farewell for, when Jesus left the meal to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, he was arrested and taken away. For Catholics, that day is called ‘Holy Thursday.’ Protestants know that same day as Maundy Thursday. ‘Maundy’ is a shortened form of ‘mandatum’ – Latin for ‘commandment.’ At that meal on that day, according to John’s gospel (John 15:12), Jesus gave his followers a new commandment (or mandatum) to love one another. Holy or Maundy Thursday reminds us that at the heart of Jesus’ teaching – even at the moment of his greatest suffering – is his commandment to love.
 
And then the remembering turns to the crucifixion. On a day that, in retrospect, Christians called ‘good,’ Jesus was condemned to the ultimate Roman form of capital punishment: death by crucifixion. The traditional ‘time’ of his crucifixion and death was noon – 3 p.m. (which is why many Good Friday services are during that time). However, of course, while that is tradition, we have no idea of the actual time.
 
Holy Saturday was remembered as a time of loss and waiting. The male disciples fled in fear. We are told the women – like Mary Magdalene – stayed to the end, accompanied his body to burial, and stayed to mourn.
And then came Easter . . . the magnificence and wonder of Resurrection upended the mourning and the morning! Over the years, as the early believers pondered what had happened, they proclaimed every Sunday as a ‘mini’ Easter. But, once a year, during a week called ‘holy’ they recalled the whole story.
 
Years later, a longer period of preparation got attached to Holy Week. It was called ‘Lent.’ And years after that, the tradition of Christmas took root. But first, there was a Holy Week.
 
So, today we begin the oldest remembrance of Christianity. I encourage you to attend our Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services. Thursday will be a communion service, ending with the old custom of ‘stripping the altar’ of everything on it, recalling the desolation of those who saw their beloved friend arrested and taken away. Friday’s service will be a Tenebrae (Latin for ‘shadow’) service. After music and reflections, we will gradually extinguish candles as we remember Jesus’ seven ‘last words.’ The exuberance of Easter will follow on Sunday . . . and, for me, the joy of Easter is more vibrant after sharing in the solemn remembrances of the week.
 
Join us in celebrating Holy Week at St. Paul’s!
Marianne