Pastor’s Corner – December 3

The Holiday Dinner Table

Ah. The holiday dinner table. A place of wonderful memories, delicious food, and high anxiety. Along with the common stress during holidays and meal planning, our country’s political tension the last few years has caused disruption with the holiday dinner table. Even with the general election completed over a year ago, there are still repercussions of the outcome amongst families, friends, and co-workers. When we are able to control the news we read and see, being bombarded with opposing views is not our favorite dessert for the holidays.
 
Unfortunately, this tension can extend past meals and into cancelled wedding invites, vacations, and life-long grudges are cemented. What do we do about this? Whether we carry our own hurts about this topic or see others hurting around us, what do we do?
 
Conversations around delicate topics are difficult, vulnerable, and often passionate and painful. But, they are also very important. Those conversations are important because they are happening less and less, which just make the holiday dinner table more tense.
 
So, as vulnerable and tough that these conversations can be, the work is crucial for our relationships within and outside our families. Working through anxiety and tension will help us reconnect with those whom we love. Serving one another will also help. We see the needs of others instead of focusing on our personal needs. Most importantly, remembering our hope is found in God’s grace, not in winning arguments will help us heal and find peace in tense and high-stressful times.
 
As we enter into the season of company parties, family gatherings, and possibly tense holiday dinner tables, I invite us all to strive for health, peace, and respect toward those whom we love. May we lean in to situations outside of our comfort zone, create peace with those we interact with, and reconnect with friends and family.
 
 
Peace,
Pastor Sami


Pastor’s Corner — Nov. 5

Those to Glory Gone
 
I sing a song of the saints of God, patient and brave and true, who toiled and fought and lived and died for the Lord they loved and knew…
 

This week we celebrate All Saints’ Day. It is a day to celebrate those who have gone before us, who stand with us still, and who unite as the “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12). It is a day that can mean many things to many people. Some Christian traditions honor saints more or less than others. No matter what, it is a day to remember and honor those who have shaped our church, our lives, and our faith.

My last semester in seminary, I received a care package in the mail. It was from my future appointment home, Choteau UMC. I had already been appointed to begin in July of that year, but I wasn’t there quite yet. Twice a year, the church assembles care packages for affiliated college students during finals week. They knew I was finishing school, so they sent me a box of goodies. There was a main card from the congregation, but stuffed in the corner was another little card with a dollar enclosed. It was from a parishioner who wanted me to choose a place to donate the dollar. I didn’t think much about it and dropped the dollar in a children’s offering at church.

I arrived at Choteau and began to get to know the parishioners. In October of that year, an active parishioner had a massive heart attack and passed away. The funeral was difficult for all involved. Her ministry and love were great, and the loss of her weighed on everyone’s hearts.

A few weeks later, I was picking through a box of school stuff, and I found that little card from my care package. It happened to be from the parishioner who had just died. That saint from May, the name that meant little to me then, was now my friend. I read her note again with different eyes. I read her name with a different tune; a saint of God, patient and brave and true, who toiled and fought and lived and died for the Lord she loved and knew.

Let us give thanks for both the saints in glory and those on earth, who have connected us to God. May we add our voices so someone else may hear about the grace and love of God.

 

Pastor Sami



Pastor’s Corner — October 29

A year or so after I moved from California to Colorado, it was time for my husband and me to start our family. I got pregnant and our extended family was ecstatic. But we were living in a small town on the plains of Colorado and felt very isolated from our family. Soon it was December and packages started arriving in the mail. Day after day, more and more packages came. The postmaster even noticed. Our living room was filling up with wrapped packages and at that point it was still just the two of us! All those packages filled our hearts. It really didn’t matter what was in the packages; just receiving them lessened the miles separating us from our family. An abundance of love flowed from our family members miles and miles away, through those packages and into our hearts. Our family was very generous!

Generosity. That is the focus of our stewardship series this year. Generosity is said to enlarge our souls, realign our priorities, and strengthen us to fulfill our God-given mission. To be generous is to place ourselves, our time, our talents, and our financial resources in the service of God. When we are generous with what we have, we find unexpected blessings flowing back into our lives. That is the way God’s economy works.

Remember the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000? After a long day’s work of teaching and healing, Jesus dismisses the crowd and retreats with his disciples. But the crowd follows them. When Jesus sees the crowd, instead of running away or hiding or saying “I’ve had enough, come back tomorrow,” Jesus is filled with compassion. He begins healing and teaching some more. Then his disciples, practical as they are, draw Jesus’ attention to the fact that it is almost supper time and they are out in the middle of nowhere. In their opinion Jesus ought to dismiss the crowd so they can all go get some food and rest. But Jesus instead looks at the disciples and says, “You feed them.” They don’t know how that is possible. Jesus says, “How much bread do you have?” They count–5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. Jesus says, “Perfect. Give them to me.” Jesus gives thanks for the bread and fish, and he hands it back to the disciples, who then distribute it to the crowd. And there is enough for everyone to eat and be satisfied. A crowd of 5,000!
 
Miraculous. Those disciples offered what they had, as meager as it was in the face of the need. Jesus took it, blessed it, multiplied it! That is how our God operates. When we offer what we have in service to God, God takes it, multiplies it, and does miracles.

But there is another part of the story I want to focus on … the leftovers. Not only was there enough for everyone to eat and be satisfied, but there were also 12 baskets left over! God does not provide just enough…our God provides abundantly. Our God is a generous God! Think of God’s gift of grace that is available to all. Abundant grace! God doesn’t limit forgiveness to 7 times, or 70X7 times. God’s forgiveness is limitless. Our God is a generous God. Love spills over from the heart of God into our lives and then flows into the lives of others. And that is my vision for our church…that we would be a place where the love of God spills over into our neighborhood. So let’s place ourselves, our time, our talents, and our financial resources, as meager as they may seem in the face of the needs around us, and see what God does in and through us. I bet we see some miracles!

 

Walking on the path of Grace,

Pastor Patti



Pastor’s Corner — October 22

AMEND Together to End Domestic Violence

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and though there is so much violence against the vulnerable in our society, there are groups and people working diligently to change the statistics. Shan Foster, a former NBA player, is using his public visibility to bring awareness. Shan reflects on his travel experience with basketball and mourns the amount of violence he has seen. He also mourns our own culture that supports violence. He is the senior director of external affairs of the YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, and he has partnered with United Methodist Men to lead a group series that will teach men to recognize, respond to, and prevent violence against women, girls, boys and other men.

The group visits middle and high schools in the Tennessee area to teach healthy manhood, healthy masculinity, respect of women, and practical ways to hold each other accountable. Shan’s goal is to engage good men to be a part of the solution by challenging and changing the culture that supports violence.

“At the end of the day, this is a men’s issue,” Shan states. So, they are encouraging men to not stand on the sidelines but to be a part of the solution. The groups become a safe place for men to express how they are feeling and to be heard and supported. They allow men to be vulnerable and talk about possible violence they have experienced as well.

This partnership with United Methodist Men allows the movement to reach further than Tennessee. Let’s help them by spreading this program here in Helena!

How are we starting conversations with older men about what it means to be good role models of being a good partner and spouse, a good father-figure, and a productive citizen of society? How are we teaching our young boys and young men to function in a violent society? How do we create safe spaces for men to be vulnerable and feel supported?

For more information on this wonderful program, visit ywcanashville.com/programs/amend-together or umc.org
 
 

Peace,

Pastor Sami