Pastor’s Corner 9/15/2019

Pastor’s Corner

Hello again, everyone!
                We’re about to enter a sermon series that I’m extremely excited about. For the next several weeks, we’ll be discussing world religions. You see, my undergraduate degree is in religious studies. I remember when my Islamic traditions professor told us about a concept in Islam called the jahilyyah, the name given to the period of time before Islam came to be. Jahala means ignorance, but not only ignorance…willful ignorance. Bold ignorance. To give us a modern day example, my professor told us about a bumper sticker he saw, reading “Everything I Need to Know About Islam I Learned On 9/11.” That, he said, was jahala: willful, vicious ignorance.
                 We humans have a startling capacity for ignorance, which leads to a startling capacity for hatred. I have to think, however, that we also have a startling capacity for curiosity and knowledge, and a startling capacity for kindness. If we can be willfully ignorant, maybe we can be willfully and powerfully curious about others, about their faiths, their ways or life, and how we can relate to and respect each other as members of one big, beautiful human family. My prayer is that through this sermon series, we can begin to do just that.
Stay curious, friends.


About Blackie Nelson

                The Jazz Sunday musicians for today would like to dedicate our performance to our friend, mentor, and father, Blackie Nelson.
                Blackie was a consummate musician. Most folks in Helena remember him as a superb guitarist but he was also excellent on piano or bass. He played music (mostly Jazz) around Montana for many decades. When he passed away in August, he had been a member of the Musician’s Union for 66 years. When luminaries like singers Nancy King and Julie London came through Helena, Blackie was the one they wanted to back them in their performances.

                The selections chosen for today are all songs that Blackie loved to play and would suggest whenever he was put on the spot to choose the next tune for a band. But Blackie didn’t particularly like to call tunes. He preferred that other musicians decide on the music to be played. No matter what song was picked, Blackie always seemed to know it and would provide graceful and solid accompaniment with never a need to look at any music. He may have chosen not to be the “head” of the band but was always the “heart” of every group he played with. He will be greatly missed. Blackie’s guitar will be heard once again this morning in the capable hands of his son Ken Nelson as we play some of Blackie Nelson’s favorites.  

Pastor’s Corner 9/8/2019

                 Welcome Home! Welcome to our little corner of the world! We are so grateful and glad you are here! Today, we are celebrating the beginning of a new program year here at St. Paul’s. We are celebrating where we have been and the ministries we support.
                 I recently read a story about two hiking buddies: Trevor and Melanie. They met at an exercise class last year and learned of their shared passion for nature and outdoor activities. One detail, though: Trevor cannot see, and Melanie cannot walk. “He’s the legs, and I’m the eyes!” Melanie exclaims. Trevor carries her in a custom backpack. Melanie vividly describes the terrain underfoot and landscapes they traverse. Their unique and beautiful partnership brings joy and purpose to both of their lives. “She loves the feeling of freedom, leaving her wheelchair behind,” Trevor explains.
                  The Dream Team prefers to be called “exemplary” over “inspirational”. Every one of us is stronger in some aspects and weaker in others. How we team up together will determine our total strength.
                 As we begin a new program year, may we see our potential together, our strength together. Trevor and Melanie’s partnership is a glimpse of God’s Kingdom here in our world. Together, we have accomplishments to celebrate, new worlds to explore, and a shared responsibility to God’s world and God’s beautiful people!

Let’s get to work!

May the force be with you,


Pastor’s Corner 9/1/19

Pastor’s Corner
                Beloved, During the Pastor Meet & Greets, many of you have voiced the desire for increasing the number of children, teens and families with young people in church.
                As congregations committed to being inclusive communities of faith, this can be a wonderful vision for us as it keeps us connected to ALL ages. 
               It can be a genuine gift to be blessed by crying babies, rambunctious toddlers, and children of all ages who can’t stop talking… if we choose to see it that way.
               Older generations often expect to give wisdom and receive hope. But what if that were reversed? We have young people heeding Jeremiah’s wisdom to not be afraid to lead “merely” because of their age. Are we willing to receive their prophetic word… even if what we hear isn’t to our liking?
               Might we be willing to provide young people with hope by loving and valuing them so tremendously that they cannot help but know themselves to be beloved children of God who matter NOW… and not just for who they might grow up to become someday?
              What are you prepared to do to make your church an inviting, vibrant, energizing place for families and young people? Could you volunteer to be a 2nd adult present for safety purposes at children and youth events so that those willing to teach can be fully utilized? Are you willing to consider that YOU might have capacity to lead in ways previously undiscovered? How will YOU embrace and care for those already in our midst even as we pray for God to lead us in expanding our circle of love and care?
I invite your prayer & reflection!  

Pastor’s Corner 8/25/19

               One of my favorite bands is Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (a mouthful, I know, but I promise, they’re great). I love them so much that I even used one of their songs in my wedding ceremony. My current favorite track from them is called “I Don’t Wanna Pray.”
                It doesn’t sound like the most appropriate song for a pastor to be singing, does it? Yet, despite its provocative title and upbeat, quirky melody, the lyrics are much more spiritual than the name suggests. Here are a few that I find particularly relevant:
“Pardon God and mom, what I’m sayin’ isn’t fair
See, I’m lookin’ to become
Not the pray-er but the PRAYER.”
                At St. Paul’s this Sunday, we’re talking about prayer as part of our Living the Questions: Wisdom from Progressive Christianity sermon series. We’ll critically examine conventional beliefs about prayer and talk about finding new ways to connect with God in our world today.
              That being said, I find this song fitting. When I listen to “I Don’t Wanna Pray,” I don’t hear the speaker saying that they want nothing to do with God…in fact, they profess love for their Creator multiple times throughout. For them, the best way to connect with God is not to kneel, bow our heads and say flowery words, but to “walk the walk.” To not pray in order to bring our wants and needs to God, but to live in such a way that we are a living and breathing prayer and an answer to the prayers of others.
                This week, I invite you to think about what it looks like to be a prayer rather than just someone who prays. How can we, as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel put it, “pray with our feet?” And as we go forward, let’s remember another piece of wisdom from “I Don’t Wanna Pray”: “Not much good to talk, better to walk it, Not much good to take, better to give!”   
In Christ,