Pastor’s Corner – February 11, 2018

LENT: A Holy Season of the Year

What is Lent? According to our United Methodist tradition:

“Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lencten, which means “spring.” The forty days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry. Sundays in Lent are not counted in the forty days because each Sunday represents a “mini-Easter” and the reverent spirit of Lent is tempered with joyful anticipation of the Resurrection.” http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/what-is-lent-and-why-does-it-last-forty-days

I think of Lent as that season in our Christian year to grow deeper in faith; through study, devotion, fasting, service, or prayer. Historically, in the early church, it was a time to teach new believers the doctrines of the church in preparation for baptism. Thus, traditionally, many churches, including ours, offer special studies during Lent. Sami and I will be preaching from a book called Why Jesus? by William H. Willimon. The premise is that Jesus is the most fascinating person in the world who has made a huge impact. How do we describe Jesus? Who was he? What did he accomplish? What difference does that make in our lives today? I was intrigued as I read this book at how much more I have to learn about Jesus. I will be leading a study in this book on Wednesday evenings at Covenant. Join us for a soup supper and discussion. All are welcome. We have several other studies going and starting that could help deepen your faith. See if any sound intriguing to you.

Lent is also a season historically for fasting or other spiritual practices. How might you draw closer to God through taking on a new spiritual practice?
 
Perhaps fasting from a particular food, or from social media. Or taking on a new prayer practice. On Wednesday evenings in Lent, Sami and Dominic will be preparing interactive prayer stations based on the Psalms. They will be available from 6:30-7:00 in the St. Paul’s sanctuary. There is also a community sing following, which explores music as a way to draw closer to God and one another. Is there a spiritual practice that might help you focus on God?

Or perhaps, you don’t need to add one more thing to your already busy life. Perhaps to draw closer to God you need to stop doing something. I talked to a colleague today who has put all meetings and small groups on hiatus for Lent in order that his church people might have time to rest, to be with their families, to take up a new hobby, to renew their spirit, to invest in relationships at work or in the neighborhood. Is there something you need to stop doing, in order to draw closer to God?

Or perhaps, in order to grow in faith, you need to take the focus off of yourself and onto others in the form of service. Is there some way you can intentionally help others this Lent season? Jesus constantly taught us to be with the poor, the lost, the lonely, the sick. How might you share the love of God with others in service?

Lent, a holy season of the year. What might you do or not do, in order to draw closer to God over the next 40 or so days? I pray as we embark on this season that we might discover the abundant life Jesus promises each one of us.

Walking on the path of grace,
Pastor Patti

 



Pastor’s Corner – January 28, 2018

What is Your Spiritual Type?

As we continue to explore different beginnings in our individual lives, another facet of beginnings is beginnings within the church. One of our responsibilities as the body of Christ and church communities is to nurture and raise up new leaders. This refers to those exploring God’s call within a lay leadership arena and also exploring God’s call toward professional ministry. Both of these are important work! My favorite part of baptizing people is presenting the person to the community before me and sharing our spiritual responsibility to nurture and raise him/her to be the best version of themselves possible.
 

These beginnings aren’t just at baptisms. One of the best ways to explore ways God is moving you toward leadership is through spiritual gifts inventories and simple quizzes. The Living Prayer Center, a ministry of The Upper Room, which is the publishing house of the Walk to Emmaus curriculum, offers a spiritual-type test to help with discerning. The test consists of 15 questions and four possible results: Sage, Lover, Prophet, and Mystic.

Your first challenge: to take a couple minutes and take this spiritual test! It may surprise you! I just took it and my result was Sage. It says I value responsibility, logic, and order. I love words, busy schedules, and details. My contributions are usually found in theology, education, and publishing. It also says I need to break a rule or two once in a while to not be dry!

Go to http://prayer-center.upperroom.org/resources/quiz and discover what your spiritual type is. What did you learn about yourself? Where does your type pull you in our communities’ leadership?

Your second challenge: tell me what your type is! Let’s find you a place to explore that spiritual type! Maybe there is a book you want to study or a community project you would like to support. As we begin this year, let’s begin some new ministries together!

Peace,
Pastor Sami



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