“Love changes everything, how you live and how you die”
(from “Love Changes Everything” by Andrew Lloyd Webber)
I really didn’t want to write this letter, nor do I like the notice on the front page of this newsletter. Helping a church to close is NOT the dream of a pastor. But helping this church in its time of closing is the task to which I have been set. I will so serve. Life doesn’t give us only those things that we like; in fact, most of our spiritual growth comes from facing those things that we don’t especially like. And so I will grow as I walk along with First Presbyterian Church of Gloversville.
I decided to listen to a new Steve Hall CD called “Divine Light,” seeking “inspiration” (sometimes spelled “procrastinate”). I ran into some music I hadn’t heard before, specifically the song “Love Changes Everything,” from the musical “Aspects of Love” by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
And then I meditated (sometimes spelled “napped”) in the church sanctuary for awhile. And the building spoke to me. It spoke of all the joy and love that has been celebrated within it; it spoke of funerals and candlelight worship services. It spoke of comfort given and healing received. It spoke of friendships established and strengthened. It spoke of the presence and generous availability of God’s love and grace, and God’s continuing presence in the Body of Christ acting together.
Most especially it spoke of all the love that has been generated and embraced within its walls. Love that has been witnessed and enhanced by our stained glass windows, by our shepherd and our teacher. And another verse of that song flitted through my mind: “Love will turn your world around and that world will last forever.”
Although I won’t be your pastor until I retire, I will be taking a gift with me from this church that will last forever. All of us will. The love and grace of Jesus Christ and the gift of faith has changed us, has transformed us.
And a third verse: “Love will never let you be the same.” We will all be different, be more than we would otherwise have been, from the time spent here together. God’s love will never let us go.
When we leave behind our windows, the teacher and the shepherd will reside within us. Jesus Christ, whom we have gathered to worship, has taken up residence within our hearts. Wherever we may go, we are called together as Christians to worship the Lord of Love.
“Love changes everything, how you live and how you die”
“Love will turn your world around and that world will last forever”
“Love will never let you be the same.”
Or, as is said elsewhere, “Faith, hope and love abide, but the greatest of these is love.” –1st Cor. 13:13
Grace and Peace
"The Light of Christ is With Us"
I have never understood the mind of God – and I don’t think that I ever will. But that is not a BAD thing. My life is not limited by my own imagination or my own ability or inability to love my neighbors or my enemies, or even myself. I certainly would never have ended up as a pastor if I were limited to what I can imagine.
But there are times when I get annoyed at God, when things do not work out the way I would wish. And, often, I find that God surprises me again. When I am in the annoyed part of this cycle of faith, I find myself drawn to Ecclesiastes 3, which tells me: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” This text reminds me of two things, the cycle of faith that travels through that valley of the shadow of death and comes out into the light, and all those times that God has surprised me.
I have preached on this text at a funeral, specifically Ecclesiastes 3:2, “a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot.” Life ends, but life goes on – the seed cannot be planted until the plant from which it comes dies. We are reminded that while we do not understand, the one who came to live with us, to die and to give us the gift of the resurrection does understand.
I found a new squash at the farmer’s market this year and fell in love with its taste. I found an especially good looking sample, opened it up, took out the seeds, dried them and put them away for next year. I will plant them in a different garden than that in which they were grown, perhaps to give the extras away to someone who will also fall in love with it and keep the seeds.
We are moving into a time of shadow in the life of this congregation. But the light of Christ is there with us. There are seeds that we have planted that will bear fruit elsewhere, and many of our Holy Things will find a home in another house of God. As will we.
Perhaps we will never understand God’s plan for our lives. That’s okay – for the one who died for us does understand. And we are moving towards “a time to mourn and a time to dance.” Wherever we go, we need to keep God’s love in our lives as fully as we can, that way we will remember to dance.
Grace and peace,
God is in Charge
Apocalypse, end-times and the Mayan calendar prediction of a turning point on winter solstice in 2012 fill our air. People are getting worried and confused. What is going on, and what do Presbyterians (and UCC) believe will happen?
The word apocalypse and the ideas around it have been around a long time. Even before it appeared in New Testament literature, it showed up in the Old Testament promising that SOMETHING AWESOME was going to happen. The kingdom of God would come and overcome all evil. God rules, not humanity. Yes, nasty things happen in this world and it will get really nasty, BUT GOD IS IN CHARGE.
Take the Book of Isaiah. The book firmly proclaims that God will create a “new heaven and a new earth” (65:17), “The wolf will live with the lamb... and a little child will lead them” (11:6), and “they will beat their swords into plowshares.” (2:4). No matter how nasty things get, God rules. As Christians, we believe that that Peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding will triumph over humanity’s tendency to violence. This is a promise given to us by Christ.
This was an important message for the people of Israel at that time. The kingdom of Babylon had invaded and destroyed their society, bringing the leaders to Babylon and leaving the rest behind to get along on their own. They were losing their sense of God’s power and grace. Some found it hard to believe that God still loved them.
Isaiah’s apocalyptic message states that no matter how bad things get, God’s unconditional covenant of love still stands. No matter what we do as individuals or as a society or as a world, this unconditional covenant of love still stands. I t also proclaims that God acts through history. Through God’s direct action, the kingdom will come and the Peace of Christ will Rule – not human violence.
When people went through trying times, apocalyptic literature came into being, reminding God’s people that no matter how bad things got, GOD WAS REALLY IN CHARGE. Things may be bad – and may get worse – but the God we follow who acts in history will bring about the new heaven and new earth proclaimed in Isaiah. Those “swords” that cause so much trouble now will be used to tend the earth.
I plan to use the same Lectionary passages this advent as last year so that I can focus on these issues. Apocalyptic images fill the Lectionary texts in Year A (of the three year cycle). NOT to declare that the world is going to be destroyed, but to declare that Jesus WILL come again – as he promised so long ago. We just do not know when. Our God is a faithful God.
As for the Mayan calendar predictions – I have no intention of telling God what to do or when to do it. My faith in God’s wisdom, love and grace is enough. Remember, GOD IS IN CHARGE.
Grace and peace,
(This apocalyptic emphasis is in response to the congregation's request. I had asked for a topic they were interested in for my January sermon series.)
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