From Pastor Kendall, November 2016
Once again November has rolled around and people are saying, “Where did the year go?” Already the stores are filled with Christmas decorations, children are wondering what they will find under the tree, and Mom and Dad are wondering how they will pay for it. The days of November will march by and soon the Thanksgiving holiday will be upon us.
Thanksgiving is basically a pre-season holiday, something you do to get in shape for Christmas. We eat, we sleep, we watch football, and we don’t stop until January. That’s a shame because the art of giving thanks is one thing that makes us humans. To receive a gift and say, “Thank you,” is one of the noblest things a person can do. There is nothing small or trivial about it. To say “Thank you” is to acknowledge that we have been given something we did not earn and do not deserve. You have absolutely spoiled me this past month. Thank you seems so inadequate. I am humbled and blessed by your generosity and thoughtfulness. The bible says, “In everything give thanks.” (I Thessalonians 5:18) . When we can’t do anything else or think of anything else we can always be grateful. As someone has said, “If you can’t be thankful for what you have received, be thankful for what you have escaped.”
I realize how much of my thanksgiving is driven by gladness for what I have. As we talk about Thanksgiving, I think of how glad I am to have a loving home, a generous church family, food on the table and people who love me. Now the truth is that there is nothing wrong with being thankful for blessings -large and small- in life. In fact, seeing the blessings is a sign that we are alive, I think. To see food on the table, notice clean sheets on the bed, give thanks for the ability to stand up and walk across the room, feel inspired by the beauty of a book or song or film artfully constructed, to be glad for the ache in your legs as you make your way down your basement steps, to rejoice in the glory of the child you hold in your arms, is such a good thing!
And yet...what if we had few -or none- of these things? How much of our gratitude is driven by the good stuff we have received? Is the core of our thanksgiving about what we have or who it is who has us?
In the book of Habakkuk 3, the writer rejoices even in a very difficult season of life: "Though the fig tree doesn't bloom, and there's no produce on the vine; though the olive crop withers, and the fields don't provide food....I will rejoice in the LORD. I will rejoice in the God of my deliverance." As I list all the "stuff" for which I am thankful, I think of my brothers and sisters who have so much less than I do or those who are facing difficulties with their health or dealing with other struggles in life. We have a God who comes to us to share in every aspect of our lives – our joys and our sorrows, our tragedies and blessings. We have a God who comes to us in Jesus, and in his death and resurrection will never let us go. Thanksgiving is not about looking at the world through rose-colored glasses, just as joy is not the same as optimism. Thanksgiving is about looking at the world as it really is: with all of its sorrows and all of its joys, and realizing that in the midst of all of it, The Lord is near. Whether you are in prison or free, in plenty or in want, in loneliness or community: The Lord is near. Whether you get the doll you wanted for Christmas, or a pair of crutches instead. Or even if you need the crutches. The Lord is near.
The steadfast love of God for us and all creation, the presence of the Risen Christ in every day and every night of our lives, the promise of God’s grace constantly flowing toward us: all these give us a reason to rejoice and give thanks even if we have -in terms of worldly stuff- next to nothing! Paul, in Philippians 4, talks about God's peace that is with the people. He then says, "I have learned how to be content in any circumstance. I know the experience of being in need and having more than enough; I have learned the secret of being content in any and every circumstance, whether full or hungry or whether having plenty or being poor."
Being thankful because of the stuff(ing) in our lives is one thing. Being thankful because of the grace and truth of God in our lives is something much better!
May your time of Thanksgiving be full of God!
In Christ, Pastor Kendall
From Pastor Kendall, September 2016
Some artists tell a story with words. Some tell a story with water colors or music or stone or clay. Another way of telling a story with our lives is the way we use the God given gift of time. Time is a medium we all use to tell a story with our lives. Most of us are busy. When I ask people how they are doing they usually say, “Busy.” We are a busy culture, aren’t we? I tell people that is how historians will remember us. Human history is marked by the Ice Age and the Stone Age and the Bronze Age. Four hundred years from now anthropologists will refer to our age as the Busy Age. We are working jobs where the expectations are higher than they were five years ago. We live in a culture where we are told that if we loved our children we would have a home cooked meal on the table every night at six, we would spend an hour with them on homework, we would do something with them that would spark their imagination, we would have them on a baseball team and music lessons and get them into the to the church for the next activity. Most of us don’t feel like we are doing such a good job of faithfully using the gift of time....
In fact, I think many of us feel guilty about how we are doing managing, being stewards of, the time God has given us. I think many of are over scheduled. Nearly frantic. Half exhausted. And feeling guilty that no matter how hard we work or how carefully we schedule ourselves we can’t do what we feel like we need to do…or other people are suggesting we should be doing as a good spouse, a good parent, an outstanding employee or student, and a good Jesus follower.
So here is the first word about sharing our time from Ephesians: Remember you are God’s dearly loved children. That is what the apostle Paul says in the 1st verse of Ephesians 5. Paul has just said we are to be “kind and compassionate with one another, forgiving each other, and then he says we are “dearly loved children.” As God calls us to be kind and compassionate with one another, I also believe God is telling us to be kind and compassionate with ourselves. The guilt we have, generated by our desperate attempts to manage our time in faithful ways needs to be tempered by remembering you are loved -even if you meet yourself coming and going. If we are going to use the gift of time well then a first step is letting God’s forgiving love set us free from our guilt about so rarely getting it right, and then we need to get to know Jesus well enough that we understand what pleases him…and what doesn’t.
Curious about what pleases him? Look at the Beatitudes in the Gospel of Luke or the Gospel of Matthew. Look at what Jesus has to say in Matthew 28 about making disciples and teaching people what he has taught us. Look at what Jesus says in Matthew 25 about feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, and clothing the naked. Look at what Jesus says in John 13 about putting on a waiter’s apron and being a servant to others, and look at what Jesus says in John 15 about loving one another in the same way we have been loved by him. And remember that none of this is going to be right, none of this is going to feel right, until you figure out what pleases Jesus and then let him be your guide as you make decisions about how to spend your time. Maybe the formula of 1-1-1 would be helpful to you. A model for a balanced life in the church, is one hour each week in worship. One hour in your bible study or circle or some fellowship activity, and one hour in a serving place. Three hours a week for God, where God fills you up with God’s Spirit and then sends you off to serve, is about right. It’s not a perfect formula, but it may work for you. Live wisely…. learn what pleases Jesus and then give your time away in ways that brings joy to you!
The easy thing is just to fall into the day and take care of what comes at us. We’re like that old scene from “I Love Lucy” where she is working in a candy factory. The conveyor belt, carrying the candy out of the kitchen to the place where the workers are to pick each piece off and put them in boxes, starts up. Lucy is doing okay. Getting the candy in the boxes. And then the conveyor belt begins to speed up and she can’t keep up. She starts throwing the candy in the boxes, stuffing pieces of candy in her mouth and in the pockets of her smock. The easy thing is just to fall into the day and take care of what is pressing… what is urgent…give attention to whoever is shouting the loudest. Life can be very different if we are determined to live wisely, and so I love the story, in Mark 1:35, when Jesus gets up early in the morning and goes off to a solitary place to pray. He had been healing people the night before. Folks with all sorts of needs had filled the town, but in the early morning darkness he goes off to pray. I think that Jesus not only spent some quiet time with God, but that this time included some thought about what needed to happen during the day ahead.
Live wisely. Know yourself. Be wise about saying “yes” and wise about saying “no.” Spend one hour in worship, one hour in fellowship and one hour serving each week. Slip away in the evening or in the morning to look ahead, listen for the voice of God, and make your list. Know what pleases Jesus. Know who you are…and your God-given dream. For your life. For this chapter. For this day. As Fall begins, think about how you spend your time. What kind of a story are you telling by the way you are handling your time? What kind of a story are you telling by the way you share your time?
In His Service, Pastor Kendall
Fishing & Farming
From Pastor Kendall, May 2016
Jesus had been raised in the home of a carpenter. “On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, ‘Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him.” (Mark)
He had been around sawdust since he was able to crawl. The sound of hammers and planes and saws were the music of his early life, the notes around which his mother and father’s voices would dance. The scent of the wood with which his father was working filled his nostrils, and every time he walked past a carpenter’s shop later in life the smell of the wood reminded him of home...and his dad. Like all good carpenters he could tell if something had been put together with love, carefully, or thrown together quickly. He could close his eyes, run his fingers over a table or chair or door and describe it as an almost living thing. He was the son of a carpenter. Knowing he was the son of a carpenter and a carpenter himself, why doesn’t Jesus use images and metaphors from the carpentry shop in his teaching? Most preachers and teachers talk about what they know. Jesus was a carpenter. Jesus was raised by a carpenter. Jesus knew wood. So why didn’t he use carpentry images in his
parables? Why didn’t Jesus say, “I am the Builder and you are the 2 x 4’s. If you are willing to lose your life and let yourself be built into the house, you’ll find your life. But if you insist on being your own separate 2 x 4, and refuse to let yourself be nailed to the rest of the frame, you will lose your life and end up on the scrap pile back by the burning barrel?” Why didn’t Jesus say, “The truth of God is sharper than a circular saw?” Why didn’t Jesus say, “The Kingdom of God is like a carpenter who lost his favorite hammer. The carpenter looked for his hammer until he found it, and then he called the rest of the crew together to rejoice with him saying, ‘This my Craftsman hammer that was lost but now is found so rejoice with me! Let’s shut the job down an hour early and go grab a pizza!” The only time I can remember Jesus sounding much like a carpenter is when he warned us to stop noticing the speck of wood in our neighbor’s eye while failing to see the wooden beam - the sin, the weakness, the addiction, the issues - in our own eye...or life.
The Carpenter doesn’t use metaphors or images from the carpentry shop in his teaching about God and life, but he most often talks about two other areas of life: farming and fishing. I think that’s interesting. Curious.
Maybe it’s because both activities involve mystery. And when it comes to God and things of the Spirit and love and faith and serving and a kingdom future, a world made new, there is always mystery. When you are in a boat, getting ready to cast towards a shadowy place near a rock, you’re dealing with mystery. When you’re putting seeds in the ground, pushing them down into the darkness below, you are dealing with mystery. Or it could be Jesus thinks farming and fishing can help us better understand God and life and faith and love and giving and forgiving and serving because whether you are fishing or farming, you’re not in control. Oh, you can do everything just right. You can find the right kind of equipment, you can get the right kind of bait, you can go to the right place on the lake or river, you can fish in the right kind of weather at the right time of day...and get
nothing. Or, on the other hand, you can choose a lousy place, use the wrong kind of bait, go fishing at
the wrong time of the day (or night), and fill your boat with fish!
Faith and things of the Spirit are never an automatic thing. You’re not in control. There is an element of mystery and waiting...so whether you are fishing or farming or trying to walk with God and loving others as Christ loved us, patience is a good thing to have.
Perhaps Jesus uses the analogy of farming and fishing because we can easily be discouraged in our walk of faith. But just like in farming, there is power in even a little seed. Just like fishing, the big catch can come when we least expect it. Because there is power in the seed. There is power in loving. There is power in grace. There is power in forgiveness. There is power in serving. There is power in joy. There is power in every seed. There is a special power to bring new life in the grace and truth of God we see in the Living Seed that is Jesus! The crop of new life in his living and dying and resurrection released into the world is stunning! One life...one life in Galilee...ended temporarily on a Roman cross but God commanded him, “Get up” and he did. Jesus rose from the dead...and we are different today!
Life is surprise and mystery and we are not in control. When we least expect it the surface of the water will suddenly be torn open by a swarm of fish and the nets will be full that had once been empty. The dark, cold ground will be punctuated by green shoots of new life that stagger us with joy and surprise. The stone that was rolled away at Easter by God is the same God that gives us back the One whose grace and truth offer us a life that is abundant...better than any kind of life we might have hoped for or imagined. There is power in this life. Power enough, you may want to know, to change even you into farmers and fishers of people.