Pastor’s Corner 12/15/19

Beloved, 

 

                As we hurtle toward Christmas, racking up holiday dinners, concerts, parties, and other special events…possibly one or more per day…it could be that Advent has not registered on your consciousness.
 
                You know…that spiritual season of slowing down, waiting and listening for the still, small voice of God, cultivating quiet and preparing inwardly for the coming of Christ…THAT time! Uh huh.
Despite my best intentions, yet again I find myself looking at my Advent devotional, a full week behind, wondering how that happened AGAIN?! Ohm…

 

                 If you find yourself in a similar position of having forgotten to slow down, may I offer us some mutual grace? 
It is so terribly easy to get caught up in the cultural whirlwind that is the “Christmas Season!” Our culture and the Christian tradition are 180° apart in our pacing. Christian tradition says slow down, be quiet before Christmas and then celebrate enthusiastically for 12 days. Our culture celebrates wildly for 14 – 24 days prior to Christmas and then collapses in exhaustion (with a brief resurgence on New Year’s Eve) until going back to work and school, noses to the grindstone once more.                  Dear ones, my prayer for each of us is that we find (CREATE) time and space for the quiet time and reflection we NEED, and receive the Peace of Christ that will restore us body and soul.
 
Blessings, 
Margaret


Pastor’s Corner 11/24/19

 
         Dear Friends,
                Jesus’ invitation to “Follow Me” is ultimately a call for us to follow in his footsteps and patten our lives after Him. This applies not only to our individual lives as Disciples, but also to our life together as a community of faith.
 
                For us to follow the Prophetic Jesus means that we are called to be a Prophetic Church. What does that actually mean?
 
                The prophetic vision Jesus lifted up over and over again was the Kin(g)dom of God being realized on earth, fulfilling the hopes and dreams of generations. We are invited to share in this dream and equipped by the Holy Spirit to help realize it.
 
                This means SEEING the world differently than it currently is. This means looking at “reality” and not glossing over the rough spots or ignoring the pain of our world or the people in it. It means recognizing the truth and the gap between “what’s so” and the blessings of goodness according to God’s intent in Creation.
 
               We are meant to follow up Gospel-oriented clear sightedness by SPEAKING. We are challenged to speak truth to power…naming what is missing or misshapen in our society…despite any fears of causing discomfort or conflict.
 
              Finally, our speaking is meant to call forth ACTION…yes, from others, but even more importantly, from ourselves. How are we BEHAVING our faith? What steps are we taking to address the wrongs we see? Hand-wringing is not enough. We are called to join together to BE the Good News for and with our neighbors as we seek the fulfillment of Jesus’ vision. 
 
Let us be Prophetic Church, beloved!  
Margaret


Pastor’s Corner 11/10/19

The Secret Life of Progressive Christians

         One movie that holds a place in my heart is the 2013 movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It is about a man that lives his life in daydreams instead of speaking up and stepping out to discover what the world has to offer until a snafu at work forces him to do so. Walter is shy, clumsy, and self-conscious.           I urge you to watch the movie if you haven’t. It has beautiful music, and I would go as far as to say that it could change your life. Sera Maddingly reflects on the story: “Every time I watch the movie, I start to tear up. Life goes so fast sometimes, and things can end or go bad within seconds. It’s terrifying. Many of us are hoping and wishing we’ll do something wonderful or groundbreaking. It’s sad to say many of us stick to the wishing, dreaming, hoping, and daydreaming for fear that we’re not good enough to live out our dreams.”

       We Christians are really good at living in our daydreams, too. The word “evangelical” has been hijacked, and for a lot of the last few decades, mainline Protestants and centrist/progressive Christians have leaned on the culture intertwined around Sundays and church. We have rarely invited our neighbors to church. We rarely tell people about our beliefs. We love to read about theology and social justice and daydream about “one day”. 
 
      I struggle with this as well. Ask me about weightlifting, and I will talk your ear off. Ask me about work, and I will be guarded with worry about what someone will assume about me. But, it’s time to change that. It’s time for us to share and be prophetic about what kind of God we believe in! Some of my best connections with people, who are unchurched (and probably plan to keep it that way) are when I DO share about my job, my dreams for the Church, and what we believe. 
What is your dream for the Church? How are you doing to live that out?
 
Peace,  
Sami


Pastor’s Corner 11/3/2019

Pastor’s Corner

Beloved, 
 
     When I was in seminary, one of my Church History professors was a treasure trove of quotes from John Wesley. One that he repeated to us often (appropriately, given that we were students) was Wesley’s admonition to the people called Methodists that one of the most important characteristics of a Christian is that we be “teachable.”
     Dr. Meadows emphasized the need for us to hold our convictions lightly and to be humble enough to have minds open to new ideas and different interpretations of ideas we were familiar with. 
     I don’t consider myself to be someone who is particularly attached to being “right.” However, even for me, this discipline was sometimes difficult to maintain in the face of beliefs and faith practices that were contrary to what I entered seminary with. The need to defend my heart and what I “knew” (or desperately wanted) to be TRUE was at times overwhelming.
     In our sermon series on the Prophetic Jesus, you may find yourself similarly challenged. Oftentimes, our preaching and worship skirts around uncomfortable ideas and avoids pressing points that hit too close to home. This means we might not have as much practice as we need in allowing Jesus’ teachings to confront or disturb us.
     If you feel pushed this month, I invite you to remember the idea of being “teachable” and try it on for yourself. May this give you space for new contemplation! 
 
Shalom, 
Margaret


Pastor’s Corner 10/27/2019

Pastor’s Corner

                Reverend Wade Watts was a civil rights activist and head of the Oklahoma NAACP in the 1970s. One day, while sitting in a diner, he was accosted by a group of Ku Klux Klansmen, who told him this: “think very carefully about what you do to that piece of chicken in front of you, because whatever you do to that chicken, we’re going to do to you.” Watts leaned over, picked up the chicken on his plate, and gave it a kiss. I love this story; instead of reacting violently or cowering in fear, Watts responded humanely, while still forcing his oppressors to recognize his dignity.
               This week, we are looking at Jesus’ command to love our enemies as part of our Prophetic Jesus sermon series. Many find this teaching difficult to swallow. No one likes to be a doormat, after all. But as we will see this Sunday, loving one’s enemies isn’t just a warm, fuzzy ideal…it can be a radical act of protest. Walter Wink writes about the famous passage in Matthew 5, where we find both Jesus’ command to love our enemies and Jesus’ instruction to  “turn the other cheek” when we attacked. Wink Jesus’ cultural context: the “turn the other cheek” piece refers to the ancient custom of hitting someone with lower social rank with the back of your hand to avoid having to look the person in the eye. If the other cheek was turned, you would make the aggressor look at you, as if to say “if you’re going to hit me, hit me like an equal.” Jesus is telling us to oppose injustice in a nonviolent, subversive way, not asserting a quiet consent to injustice, but asserting our humanity. 
             In a world powered by hate, Jesus’ call to peaceful resistance is crucial. Often, the most radical and courageous thing we can do is love our enemies…by seeing and acknowledging their humanity while still insisting that they acknowledge our own. My prayer is that we find a way to strike a balance and that we can love all of our neighbors, and to “be perfect as God is perfect.”   
 
Anna


Pastor’s Corner 10/20/2019

Borrow the Sugar

                 Sarah Lazarovic says, “we don’t borrow sugar as much as we used to…this isn’t to say that pockets of sugar-sharers don’t exist, but most of us avoid asking.” With our 24-hour stores, and it just plain being more simple to buy our own, borrow we must. The fabric of community is fraying, and the habit of borrowing is a habit that knits community and connection.

                 Sarah’s article struck a chord with me because I struggle to borrow. Whether it be a strange work schedule or my introverted ways, I rarely speak to my neighbors, much less ask to borrow something. I come by it naturally, too, coming from Montana with its German Belt roots. Self-sustaining is the thread of most of our northern communities. But, that doesn’t mean borrowing things can’t be a part of the boot straps. In fact, I am sure the key to successful self-sustenance is connection.
                  Sarah continues, “the average drill is used 13 minutes in its lifetime. So, don’t go buy the drill, even if it is on sale. Go borrow your neighbor Jane’s drill. You may feel awkward doing this because asking to borrow something can feel vulnerable. It takes practice to create a culture of sharing.” 
                  Because it is more than borrowing a drill. You are borrowing the drill because you also want to get to know your neighbor Jane. It helps us feel more connected, even if it is loosely. It fights loneliness and sadness.
                  As we explore what being a prophet means, and we continue to ponder what stewardship means, I encourage you to borrow the sugar; to get to know people that society says we are supposed to know. It can be an act of rebellion.
 
To read Sarah’s full article, visit yesmagazine.org
Peace,    
Sami


Pastor’s Corner 10/13/2019

Beloved, 
 
      During many of the Pastor Meet & Greets, in response to the question, “Why does church matter to you?” MANY of you said something along the lines of, “because it is the church that surrounds you with love and carries you through the hard times.”
 
      All I can say to this is AMEN! Even though my cancer care is only just now rounding the corner to the second phase (chemo begins Monday, October 14th), I am overwhelmed by your prayers, meals, hugs and other forms of kindness and generosity. If one can recover through love alone, I’ve got this licked already because of you!
 
      As I’ve been researching treatments and what to expect as a patient, I’ve been stunned to discover how many people face serious illness and other life challenges without a network of support. They have “A” person or no one at all. Clergy know that many folks in this world are “dying of loneliness” with low quality of life because of their isolation. But this is the first time I’d put 1+1 together and figured out that the social limitations that compromise emotional well-being also cause further challenges when fatigue and illness make getting to the doctor or putting a meal on the table genuinely hard.
 
      This makes me wonder what un-spoken needs might exist in our community? Are there those in our congregation or beyond it who need TLC like you are pouring out on me? I’d be happy to share!!! 
 
      If you, or someone you know could use some support for any reason, please note this on the presence form so we can respond!
 
Shalom, 
Margaret

 



Pastor’s Corner 10/6/2019

Happy Fall, Y’all!

        My favorite book growing up was Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. The titular character says excitedly: “I am so glad that I live in a world where there are Octobers.” I am inclined to agree. October is my favorite month. I love the colors on the trees, the crispness in the air, and yes–I’m not ashamed to admit it–pumpkin spice EVERYTHING!
 
        Another great part of October is World Communion Sunday. For those who might not know, World Communion Sunday occurs on the first Sunday of every October and is shared by many Christian denominations. The aim is to promote unity and cooperation among churches, through the practice of the Eucharist.
 
        All around the world, churches will celebrate Communion. Some will use wine, some will use grape juice. Some use wafers and others use King’s Hawaiian bread. Some will worship in grand cathedrals, others in straw huts. In different languages, in different liturgies, and with different elements, we will all testify to God’s grace, given freely to each and every one of us. God invites ALL who hunger and thirst, ALL who need healing and reconciliation. In a world of divisions, of us and them, of haves and have nots, the Table is our common ground.
 
        My prayer is that when we come to the table, we will be mindful and carry the spirit of “all.” I pray that we can take this spirit with us into our daily lives, that we may let the knowledge of grace lead us out into the world to serve others, particularly those most in need of food, shelter, and love. I echo Jesus’ prayer for his disciples in John 17:20-23:
20 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, God, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
 
Grace and Peace ,  
Anna


“Living Christian” by Angie Cejka

Living Christian

          When I was growing up in the forest of Michigan, my parents taught me two very valuable lessons: always be as independent and self-sufficient as possible, and when you have more than you need you should build a longer table, not a higher fence. They built our family on hard work and generosity – and even though they never took us to church, they taught us to live a Christian life. They lived it, too – my parents worked five jobs between the two of them. Our whole neighborhood was poor, and we often traded and bartered things instead of buying them For instance, we once traded taxidermy services in exchange for our neighbor’s help moving a woodstove into our basement. We rarely bought meat, choosing instead to farm, hunt, and fish; we grew a large garden and canned as much as we could. We shared our harvests with our neighbors, knowing that when we were in need, they would help us as we had helped them. I’ve always carried that message with me.   

          A little over one month ago, a gentleman came into the office here at St. Paul’s. He was a tall, thin veteran and while I could tell he was weary, I immediately sensed a level of peaceful dignity and solitude within him. He had come to us with a simple request: let him stay in the parking lot, in his van, while he got back on his feet and navigated the legal system for the next 45 days. His name is Daniel Laine, and he has been attending St. Paul’s for two years. I shook his hand and invited him to tell his story.
          Daniel, or Dal as he likes to be called, is an incredibly strong person. He has experienced so much in his 60+ years that he prefers to eschew the dramas that come with living rough. Every day, he comes into the office to fill up his water bottles and chat with the staff. Dal is a gentle, kind soul and always willing to lend a hand – on Tuesday, he helped a woman in the parking lot when her car battery was dead. He always offers his help when he sees us in need, and we are so thankful for him. 
          St. Paul’s will always be a home to those who need it. When we have the opportunity to help, our church builds that nice, long table and we invite those in need to sit and share our bounty.   
 
Angie Cejka
Office and Facilities Coordinator
Helena United Methodist Ministries


Pastor’s Corner 9/22/2019

The Skiing Pastor: Our Western Heritage

                As I feel the weather slightly shift, I am ready to ski! It has been a long year of waiting for my knee to heal and strengthen, and with my new, trusty knee brace made just for me, I am ready to tackle the mountain!
                And even though I am so excited for the possibility of Weekend Warrior Worship gathering regularly up at Great Divide Ski Area, I am definitely not the first pastor out West to connect with people through the great outdoors. John Lewis Dyer, “Father Dyer” was a circuit rider through the treacherous, snowy mountains of Colorado in the 1800s. He traveled through blizzards, often on skis, to mining camps and small towns speckling the beautiful Rocky Mountains.
               The pastor at Father Dyer UMC in Breckenridge, CO states, “everyone in Breckenridge knows not just about Father Dyer the person but also Father Dyer the church because this is where you can come to get a free meal. This is where you can come to be welcomed, accepted, and loved.”
               There weren’t churches in this area of Colorado until someone decided to trek the wilderness and build the relationships. Father Dyer was going to where the people were. He even gave away his gloves one winter day, guiding a group of people lost across a mountain pass. If Jesus was washing feet, Father Dyer was thawing feet out.
               No matter where we are, whether at home, out and about, in worship, or even at our place of work and play, we carry God’s love with us. The most important connections we make may not be in our church building on a Sunday morning. May we trek our world, especially here in the Wild West, where organized religion is not the most popular thing. May we go where the people are, and may we share an inclusive love that may be invisible everywhere else.
 
Peace and happy trekking!
 
Sami