Waters of Blessing

We came to the end of our study of How God Grows Faith by looking at pivotal circumstances. Lois came and talked about her mission trip to Nicaragua and how that became a pivotal moment of faith. The Book of James tells us that even challenging circumstances can be growth points for us.
The Waters of Blessing trips are working to bring clean water to “villages” in that country. How can clean water be a mission for Christ. While there a many analogies in the Bible connecting water and Christianity, clean water gives and sustains life. It removes many potential illnesses. It takes away many fears.
That same Sunday, we held our annual Compassion Child Sunday that benefits Wadeline, our child in Haiti. I read a letter from her pastor telling about their village, the influence of the church and Compassion Center. And then he said the number one need in his village is clean water. Really! Water?
For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward. Mark 9:41

hat’s what I meant to add last Sunday.

Death of Mother’s Day

When Newsweek magazine was still around, they dedicated one page to volunteer editorials. It was called “My Turn”. I almost submitted an article back in the 1980s that I was going to entitle: The Death of Mother’s Day (You can see why I hesitated.) My premise was that from my pastoral perspective, grandparents were increasingly doing the parenting of grandchildren for any number of reasons. Cynically, I was suggesting that mothers no longer knew how to be mothers and Mother’s Day would soon be unnecessary, to be replaced by Grandmother’s Day.Grandparents

Of course, Hallmark beat me to the Grandparent’s Day idea. It was last weekend by the way. And now that I have a grandchild, it doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. But while there still are plenty of Moms working to be the very best Moms they can be, for many, raising children requires grandparents. In a recent Pew Survey that came out just in time for Grandparents Day, we learn this:

In 2011, 7.7 million children in the U.S.–one-in-ten—were living with a grandparent, and approximately 3 million of these children were also being cared for primarily by that grandparent.

Both of these numbers rose rapidly after the onset of the recession in 2007 and have stabilized since 2009, when the recession officially ended, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

In most cases (71%), grandchildren living with a grandparent are actually living in the grandparent’s household. This share rises to 94% among those children who are also being cared for primarily by a grandparent.

Children who are cared for primarily by a grandparent are more likely to be living below the poverty line (28% versus 17%) and have lower median household income ($36,000 versus $48,000) than children who are not being cared for primarily by a grandparent.

In 80% of the cases where children are living with a grandparent, at least one of the child’s parents is also in the household. And in more than half of the cases where children are both living with a grandparent and being cared for primarily by that grandparent, at least one of the child’s parents is also present. Some 52% of children are living with one parent in addition to a grandparent caregiver, and an additional 8% are living with two parents.

Historically, families have always needed grandparents, uncles, and aunts to make a way for kids. I recently heard a national church leader suggest that with the decline of interest among Millennials in church, grandparents have a chance to give religious training to the next generation, their grandchildren. She suggested that someone should be developing resources for grandparents to train their grandchildren in the faith.

Can you tell we just started the Fall Sunday School program? On Sunday, we changed times and offered classes. While many stretch out those last few days of warm weather as long as they can into the fall, the rest of us have started the journey with this past Sunday. We dedicated teachers. We recognized Madeline and bid Maxine a farewell. The theme for the morning was about the Art of Spiritual Conversations. We had some fun and thought some important thoughts. You had to be there. Maybe you were.

 

Money is a Game

Money is a game. Find a way to work together as a team to win.

That line was in one of those “10 tips” lists that come in magazines and in emails. It was about marriage and how to get along.

Remember: Money is a game. Find a way to work together as a team to win.money-puzzle

Money can be a stumbling block in any relationship. Do we take it too seriously? It is an instrument of power in world conflict, in marriage, and even in church. To call money a game seems to take away its power. And working together means we’re on the same team, rather than competing with each other. Money came to mind over the Labor Day weekend when we read through Bruce Larson’s 5 Questions to Ask Yourself about your Work:

  1. Why am I here in this job? Accident or divine will?
  2. For whom am I working? A company? Boss? Or God?
  3. What am I working for? Money? Prestige? Power?
  4. With whom am I working? Go always puts people first.
  5. What kind of place am I in? Is where I work a place to serve the world God so loves?

On Sunday, we were had as our guests the folks from James St. Methodist in our annual summer exchange. Pastor Baums and I talked about the some biblical principles of work, the children picked some careers (from teachers to dinosaurs), the choir rejoiced, and communion was truly shared. You had to be there. Maybe you were.

Horse Pulling at the State Fair

Just when you think you’ve seen it all at the fair, you enter the International Horse Pavilion in time for the horse pull. Oh, don’t get me wrong, the butterfly house was impressive, but this was unexpected entertainment. The place was packed at 7pm. At first, it looked like the teams of horses were going to drag a truck across the sand. Then they did. There was the optional first event. You could have your two horse team pull the 3,000 lbs load just to warm up. Most passed on that event. But some actually did the extra work. Extra work? What’s up with that?  These must have been the ADD horses. Then, every team did the 3,250 lbs event. The problem with watching the horse pull event is that you identify with the horses. With every attempt, you’re pulling with the team. Your muscles are aching, straining, horsesgrunting.  I had to leave after the first hour. I was exhausted. It was time to head back to the butterfly house.

This Sunday is Labor Day weekend and our combined worship service is at our church. The theme has to do with our work. Work can be like a horse pull or a calling. They say the horses love their work. They did seem enthusiastic, I must say.  Let’s think about what the scriptures say about our work this Sunday.

Last Sunday, we finished the series on the Psalms with Psalm 130, the prayer of desperation that is especially useful when we are in the “depths”. The prayer includes some words addressed to the psalmist himself.

5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
6 my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.

We welcomed new members and celebrated with Anne her 90th birthday. It has been a summer filled with eventful Sunday mornings. You had to be there. Maybe you were.

Oh God!!!

Ann Lamont recounts a conversation she had with her son in her recent book, Thanks, Help, Wow . He had been thinking about the name “God”.  He explained:

I know why we call God, “God”. Whenever you see or do something really great, you say “God”.  

I remember an old Christian rocker from the 1970’s used to notice that when something bad happened, people usually said, “Jesus Christ”. They don’t say: “Oh, Buddha”.  People who have no connection with Christianity will swear with Jesus’ name. What’s up with that?

The word God has enormity attached to it. It invites awe. I hope you have some time to say: “God” this summer in the face of something awesome (and not when you hit your thumb with the hammer).

On Sunday, we went through Psalm 84 and the man who seems to be standing outside the temple in awe of what might happen if he were to go in. We had some beautiful music from the K family and after worship quite a crew headed to serve lunch at the Samaritan Center. The loads of cookies were great! You had to be there. Maybe you were.

 

The Church and Natural Disasters

It’s been over two years since the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan. What followed was the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Nearly a million people were forced out of their homes and 20,000 died. Within a few hours, churches and relief agencies, many of whom were faith based, responded. What made this unlike any previous disaster was that the relief agencies were faced with assisting one of the richest nations in the world. In a recent article in Christianity Today, the author posed the question that many in the disaster relief community found themselves asking: “What do Christians uniquely bring to a materially wealthy nation struck by massive natural disasters…” in addition to the material aid, faith based agencies recognized that there were 3 neglected area of relief they could offer:Church

  • Spirituality – As workers prayed, listened and served, people were interested in their motivations.
  • Story – Efficiency is the mark of most agencies, but how the aid was delivered (the story) was equally important.
  • Sustainability – Local Christian churches have tried to maintain and sustain support, long after most agencies have gone.

On Sunday, we examined Psalm 46. There are some great verses to memorize in that psalm. Each of the 3 stanzas describes a world on the outside that is out of control, with a quiet center where peace and stillness reign. Like the church in a land where a nuclearized tsunami is at work, Christians can offer the refuge of God, calling people to be still and know Him. Michael and Sue performed a piano duet. The children’s story was done under the blanket. You had to be there. Maybe you were.

May all the work we do inspire us to say: “Praise God”

landscape

landscapeWhile on visits to England, Haydn heard the impressive oratorios of Handel and was inspired to try his hand at it. He started big! He took on creation using texts from Genesis, Psalm 19 and others. He was a devout Christian and noted at the end of each composition: “Praise to God”. He is quoted as saying: “I was never so devout as when I was at work on The Creation; I fell on my knees each day and begged God to give me the strength to finish the work.” May all the work we do inspire us to say: “Praise God”.

We returned to the sanctuary Sunday morning and heard about Jim Stone’s new chaplain ministry and Joe’s experience with the work of American Baptist Men in the Herkimer area as the community is recovering from the late spring floods. Doug’s music ministry was divine and the text from Psalm 19 took us from the heavens to our world to our souls. Following worship, we caravanned ourselves to Green Lakes State Park for a rainy start that broke out into sunshine. Swimming, walking around the lake and enjoying the great outdoors in great company. Praise God. You had to be there. Maybe you were.

Old Faithful

Last week, we stayed outside the Grand Teton National Park near Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Yellowstone was a few hours away, so we decided to take the bus tour to see Old Faithful. I was there when I was 13 years old and the memory I still carry is the smell of sulfur. Fortunately, I have better memories now. We arrived just minutes before she blew. Old Faithful is not the biggest or the most regular of the geysers. It is easy to get to and basically consistent. She sprays every 90 minutes. Well, actually, she does that most of time. When you arrive, they come clean with the details. It can vary from 51-120 minutes. When you call the park, they give you a time and tell you it will probably be 10 minutes before or after that time, sometimes early and other times late. The eruption of boiling water can last anywhere from 1 ½ to 5 minutes. Her spray varies, too (106 to 184 feet). It was early settlers who named her Old Faithful. On the bus ride back, I couldn’t help but think about faithfulness. The dictionary defines faithful as “worthy of trust” or “loyal”. The Bible is filled with disciples, kings, prophets, and ordinary people who were faithful. Not perfect. Consistent, most of the time. Performed well, on average. God calls us to be faithful, so “Old Faithful” might not be a bad name for a Christian.old-faithful-geyser-yellowstone

On Sunday, we celebrated World Communion Sunday with a missions theme. The little flags from many nations flew across the front of the communion table. The message started with the question Jesus asked: “When the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8) The Apostle Paul asks about people who have never heard the gospel in Romans 10:13-15. How will they hear without a proclaimer and who will send one so they can hear? Each generation is responsible for carrying on the message. Either we go to the world or we help send those who go. We must “hold the rope”, as missionary William Carey once said. The children sang for the first time this fall in worship, as well. Then Sunday night, three of our church choirs and friends gathered for a benefit concert for the food pantry at Blessed Sacrament. You had to be there.