Pastor’s Corner July 22, 2018

Virtues of Patience

“The Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22

For the first time I planted a vegetable garden this year. It’s been an experience. To begin with, I was grateful for the raised bed and good soil. I enjoyed the process of going to the nursery and choosing what I wanted to grow. It was satisfying planting the pepper, tomato, and zucchini plants. I’ve been watering the garden and watching it. I was surprised, after being away for a week, how big all the plants and the weeds (!) had gotten. However, there are still no veggies to eat. I expected to have peppers and tomatoes and zucchini by now. Instead, I water, weed, and watch, and wait.

Waiting is hard. As we have access to most everything at our fingertips on our phones, waiting is not a virtue we practice much. Patience seems counter-cultural in our increasingly speedy society. The dictionary defines patience as the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset. That makes it sound very hard; acceptance, tolerance, no anger. Opportunities to exercise patience come in many forms; from little things like road construction to more significant things like waiting for healing after a surgery. The virtue of patience is challenging.

In my devotion this week the author writes, “though patience may appear passive, it is actually a form of concentrated strength. Patience needs to respect the reality of process.” Things take time. Sometimes we just need to sit back and wait. Which requires concentrated strength. I appreciate the reminder that patience isn’t passive, it’s an active discipline. Actively exercising faith and actively trusting the process.

Psalm 40:1-3 says

“I waited patiently for the Lord;

He turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, and out of the mud and mire;

He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”

As I read that again, I saw it in a new way. In between waiting patiently and standing on a firm place, the poet was in the slimy pit. Patience is not a pretty process. Usually there is mud and mire involved. If you are in a slimy pit right now, hold on to hope. Trust in the process. Exercise that concentrated strength. And most of all, rely on the Holy Spirit. For Paul reminds us that patience is a fruit of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us strength more than we can muster in our own power. One day you will be standing on a solid rock again. A little more patience and I will be eating my garden vegetables!

 

Walking on the path of grace,

Pastor Patti



Pastor’s Corner July 8, 2018

New Hires:
 
Here at St. Paul’s, we have a strong sense of community. But that does not stop at the church doors. Our missions have reached out into the community and far afield into the world.

Helena has seen some real challenges lately. One of those challenges was the closing of Helena Industries. Luckily, Family Outreach of Helena has stepped up and helped many adults with disabilities find jobs in our community.

From their website:

“The focus of our program is to teach families and friends how to teach skills to children and adults with special needs. In addition, the families and friends often request education regarding the disability and information about resources and services available. We work hard to ensure that children and adults in the Family Outreach program have the same opportunities that all Montanans have in education, in the community, in friendships, and in life.”

Family outreach serves children and adults with intellectual disabilities and developmental delays. Their service programs provide developmental training, education, behavioral assistance, social skills and job training. They were founded in 1977 and added adult services in 1994.

St. Paul’s has been on the receiving end of this mission this time.We are proud to announce the hiring of two amazing men, Thes and Charlie, who will be doing the janitorial work in the church building and the Susanna Wesley building. They are already hard at work for us and are doing a great job.

Thes and Charlie both used to work for Helena Industries. Charlie loves all kinds of machinery and enjoys tinkering with engines. Thes is very friendly and outgoing and likes to test out equipment and electronics.

You might see them in hallways or offices with their job coach working diligently to make our church home shine. Both of them are very thankful and happy to get back to work.

Please stop and introduce yourself and get to know these great guys!



Pastor’s Corner July 1, 2018

Divergent Church
 
I recently read an article about Tim Shapiro and Kara Faris’ new book Divergent Church: The Bright Promise of Alternative Faith Communities. The book focuses on doing church differently, and, even though the ways seem unconventional, they are rooted in deep faith practices.

The typical Christian life is going through changes. Our country has changed. Communities of faith need to take risks and be innovative in making Church relatable again. This book explores some possibilities for offering several ways to experience God at work in the world.

Two quick lessons I learned in my first church internship involved unconventional church and fear around risk: The first involved an existing contemporary service on Sunday morning. It was decided to try the service downstairs in the fellowship hall to help with interruptions by the other two services and to have worship in a space that wasn’t the typical “church” feel in hopes to reach people uncomfortable in a church. After about a month, the senior pastor had received so much anonymous criticism letters he moved the service back upstairs to the sanctuary. The contemporary service continued to be the “middle child” of the congregation, never receiving the support or respect it deserved.
The second involved my intern church reopening a closed UMC in a neighboring town. The church sat in a Hispanic neighborhood with Spanish as the primary language. A team was put together to lead Sunday worship and then cook and serve a free dinner on Tuesdays. Over 120 people ate on Tuesdays. Families who may have otherwise gone without were given food. Sunday worship did not grow. Soon, the elaborate home-cooked meal turned into cheap alternatives and quick meals with little prep time. Sunday worship did not grow. The new church shut its doors. I overheard the original team talking right before it closed, and their reason for stopping was because they were fixing nice meals, and all “those people wanted was food” and didn’t come to our church.

Traditional church is still very needed. Also, new, innovative ways of doing church are still very needed. Just as we all learn differently and through different means, we all experience God in different ways. These divergent churches explored in Shapiro and Faris’ book are nontraditional, possibly unusual, but are serving as people’s main congregational gathering, providing spiritual formation, connection, and a sense of identity.

I share these stories not to point and scoff, but because they have shaped my ministry and affected my theology. I will never forget that conversation I overheard or the drastic effects those decisions had on that church community. I also learned the importance of holy risk-taking, or also how we like to say, following the holy spirit. It can lead us down paths that seem not worth our energy, money, and time. But, introducing someone to God’s love is the name of our game.
Come talk to me about your holy risk-taking ideas!

Pastor Sami
 


Pastor’s Corner June 24, 2018

A response to immigrant family separation:
 
Dear brothers and sisters, siblings in Christ,
In the news, we have seen disturbing reports and pictures of children being taken from their parents and placed in detention centers by our government. Their crime was fleeing their homeland due to violence and threats of death, to make a perilous journey over harsh geography to seek safety within our borders.
 
I remember another time a family crossed a border for similar reasons. When Jesus was born, Herod—who was in power—became threatened by the news of his birth since some were already calling Jesus “King of the Jews.” He sent the Wise Men to see the boy. Herod told them it was so that he could honor him, but he really wanted to know his whereabouts so he could kill him. The Wise Men, after laying their gifts before Jesus, were warned in a dream not to return to Herod and Jesus’ father Joseph was also warned in a dream to flee with his family. They became refugees in Egypt, where they stayed until it was safe to return home. When Herod learned that he had been outwitted, he ordered the murder of every boy in Bethlehem under the age of two.
 
This event is known as the “Slaughter of the Innocents.” Matthew describes the scene with a quote from the prophet
Jeremiah:
“A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.” -Matthew 2:18
 
Can you hear Rachel weeping for her children?
 
The horror that is happening to children in our country was multiplied when government officials used scripture to justify these actions. We who follow Jesus know that God keeps widening the borders of who is in and who is out through Jesus’ life, teachings and ministry, Paul’s Emmaus road experience, and Peter’s vision. If the law is not rooted in the Love Ethic of Jesus, who keeps expanding our understanding of who is our brother and sister, it harms and invites death rather than reconciles and brings life.
 
Can you hear Rachel weeping for her children?
 
Scripture reminds us over and over again to welcome the stranger:
Exodus 23:9 — “You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.
Leviticus 19:34 — “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
Deuteronomy 1:16 — “Give the members of your community a fair hearing, and judge rightly between one person and another, whether citizen or resident alien.”
Deuteronomy 10:18-19 — “For the Lord your God…loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
0Deuteronomy 24:17-18 — “You shall not deprive a resident alien…of justice.”
Matthew 25:31-46 — “For I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
Hebrews 13:2 — “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
 
Some of us learned a lesson about how to encounter the Bible when we traveled to Cuernavaca last fall. For the members of the base Christian community we visited, bible study is more than just reading and reflecting on God’s word. It requires action that is transformational. The Word of God should intersect with the lives of God’s people, so as they read the Bible, they look around at what is happening in their community, then think about what the scripture is compelling them to do. This is followed by action. The community then evaluates what they did so they could learn more. And then they celebrate.
 
May the cries of Rachel be heard in your sanctuary. As scripture is read and prayers offered, may you listen for what God is asking of you and your community. May you respond as faithful followers of Jesus, who calls us to create Beloved Community—that place of love, compassion, connection, and justice for all of God’s children.

Blessings,
Bishop Karen P. Oliveto