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Monday, 04 March 2013 15:57

 

From the Pastor:

I don’t know about you, or even whether you made any New Year’s resolutions, but I have not been particularly stellar about keeping my “goals.” I figured if they were called “goals,” they would be easier to keep than “resolutions.” I have been better about making healthy choices with eating but I still haven’t managed to include regular (okay, any) exercise into my daily/weekly habits. I am better about taking some time away each week but still often don’t, even though it is better for my family, my congregation and myself to do so.

What has your experience been? Are you still working on your goals? We laugh about it and sometimes we stop even making the commitment. Why? Our struggle to follow through on our commitments to improve ourselves reveals a universal human struggle. We are in good company. Even Paul, the apostle, confessed: “What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise.” (Romans 7:15 Message)

   Part of the problem is that we believe that we can change ourselves simply by changing our thinking. While there is some truth to this, when it comes to decision-making, it’s not our minds that are in control so much as our hearts. Often we are driven more by what our hearts hope will give us a “good life”.

The problem is that our hearts have a mixed track record at choosing what brings life. We easily fall prey to the attractions of things that promise satisfaction or fulfillment or nurture, but ultimately disappoint. (That may be the box of Thin Mints or too much comfort food or shopping or alcohol or even exercising. All things fine in moderation but that also can become a substitution for a deeper fulfillment.) What we need is a vision of a life that is truly good, and we need that vision to capture our hearts so that it becomes the central, motivating force in our lives.

The vision that I trust to meet these requirements is the Reign of God (or the Kingdom of God) that Jesus taught about so frequently. It’s the vision of human life that was preached and lived by Jesus – a life of unselfish love, compassionate grace, demanding justice and forgiving peace.

So, how do we become captured and directed by the Reign of God? That is one of the primary functions of worship. As we gather each week, our songs, prayers, liturgies, and sacraments and speak to us of a different reality. They remind us that another world is possible. There is another way to live than what the dominant messages suggest: a way of being shaped by grace, love, justice and peace.

As this vision to fills our hearts and minds, we begin to see that the Reign of God is the source of the abundant life that Jesus promised – not just for us, but for all. We begin to experience that living God’s way can change everything – not just us but also our families and communities.

We learn or rehearse in worship some of the words and the habits of life in the Reign of God. Where the rubber hits the road is making what we practice on Sunday continue on Monday and beyond. Our hope is that the words and acts that we learn and practice in worship will direct our words and acts towards all people. For in the words of Jesus: "They will know you are my disciples by your love" (John 13:35).

 

God’s blessings on us all as we travel deeper into the Reign of God this year!

Pastor Lynn

Last Updated on Monday, 04 March 2013 15:59
 
Pastor's Note PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 05 February 2013 16:28

From the Pastor:

It seems like Christmas wasn’t that long ago and now, days after our UCC church’s Annual Meeting, we are looking at Lent coming right up upon us! This year, Lent comes very early. Lent is the season that we prepare for the coming crucifixion of Jesus and God’s affirmation of Jesus’ life and teachings and path to God in his resurrection that we celebrate on Easter.

Ash Wednesday falls on the day before Valentine’s Day in 2013. This linking is really quite appropriate. As our culture celebrates “love” on Valentine’s Day, especially romantic love, Ash Wednesday introduces the element of sacrificial love. In fact, the scripture readings for each Sunday in Lent concern themselves with the sometimes challenging part of God’s loving us and our loving each other.

So as we prepare ourselves for the journey of Lent, and as we explore the practice of love at Valentine’s Day and elsewhere, consider these issues the Scriptures raise:

Lent 1 (2/17) – The temptation of Jesus asks to what we are tempted to give our hearts.

Lent 2 (2/24) – Psalm 27 explores trusting God’s love, even when it is tough to do so.

Lent 3 (3/3) – In Isaiah, God loves and disciplines the people who found it difficult to be loyal to God in the wilderness. In Luke, Jesus gives the fig tree (and us) another chance.

Lent 4 (3/10) – All texts concern a love that forgives and reconciles.

Lent 5 (3/17) – In John, Mary anoints Jesus’ feet as a loving gift. In Philippians, Paul says knowing Christ is more important to him than anything else.

Palm/Passion Sunday (3/24) –Love keeps going, even with a broken heart.

Maundy Thursday (3/28) – Jesus, in the Gospel of John, tells us love is the new rule.

Good Friday (3/29) – Love sacrifices all and forgives.

Easter (3/31) – Love conquers even death.

As a faith community, let’s take up the challenge to be more loving. For example, we can go through our closets and donate unused clothing for someone else to wear. We can volunteer to prepare Saturday or Sunday sack lunches (Sunday, just show up about 9:30 and pitch in!) We can agree to bring a dish to the dinner we prepare for New Directions every 3rd Saturday. We can work on increasing the love in our homes and work places by practicing forgiving, speaking with kindness to everyone, or working to love one person that we find … challenging. You get the idea. We are limited only by our imagination.

In God’s love,

Pastor Lynn Bohlmann

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 05 February 2013 17:25
 
Pastor's note PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 03 January 2013 16:35

 

As I am writing this letter, it is a beautiful gray, snowy New Year’s Eve day. I am listening to Sting’s “If on a Winter Night” CD, trying to warm up, trying to understand “Blue Screen” issues on the laptop I have borrowed from my dad. I am reflecting back on the last year, keenly aware of loss and yet remembering tender and sweet moments. The gray and the snow seem to reflect the ambivalence of winter – the magic, the beauty, the cold, the dark, the joy, the playfulness, all joining together in a heady mix.

Every so often, I check email and see the news on the netbook that one family is allowing us to use in worship for our powerpoint presentations. More speculation about the “fiscal cliff,” including a sense of both inevitability and possibility, as we ponder as a nation, what direction we take in terms of economic policy. Good or bad, calamitous or a hiccup, going over a metaphoric cliff provides us the opportunity to rethink our priorities. We would be able to start a new year with a new vision.

As the Genesis 1 creation story tells us (among other things), chaos begets creativity.

This message fits us as a congregation as well. We are a revitalizing church that has tremendous gifts. We have members and friends, both long term and newly acquainted, who share themselves in many ways that bolster life within our faith community and within the Jacksonville community. We have a vision and a mission that centers us in God’s grace and calls us outward to live the compassion and concern for all creation, to partner with God in creating a more just and peaceful world.

We have our own economic concerns but we live out the call that God gives us to love all people, to welcome all people, and to serve all creation. As we move into the month that allows us to breathe after the busy-ness of Advent and Christmas, as we begin to think about how we might continue to live out God’s call to be Christ in this community.

As we prepare for a new year, we renew our vision to be a community of compassion that trusts deeply, prays boldly and gathers people together in love. The God of Christmas, the God who comes to live among us in our everyday lives, will guide us and sustain us as we go deeper and take risks in faith, hope and love.

We are finishing one (church) season, and are about to begin another, in which we hear God’s invitation first to see the light in the darkness and, second, to live out being that light. I see hope and joy among us; I feel trust and renewed energy. Let us work, pray and play together as we continue to be a progressive witness to God’s grace, as we engage in acts of justice, compassion and fun!

Happy New Year!

Pastor Lynn

 
 
Pastor's Note PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 04 December 2012 15:47

 

From the Pastor:

We stand at the beginning of December, awaiting Christmas and all the joy that holy day can bring. But first, we begin a new church year with the season of Advent, a season of watching and waiting and hoping. We start with a season of darkness, looking for God’s light. We start with a season that knows a little sadness because as a community we are seeking God’s comfort even as we may be walking in darkness. That darkness may be within our psyches or it may be within the world.

One of the beautiful, and truly counter-cultural, aspects of Advent, part of the wisdom of the season, is that it allows us, invites us, urges us to experience both the celebration and the sadness as we seek God’s comfort and God’s presence in the waiting for the coming of Jesus.

I am not great about waiting. I don’t know about you but sometimes (often?) I need to remind myself that waiting can be a time of creativity as ideas percolate in our minds and imaginations, that waiting is what most of the world does, that waiting increases patience, which increases tolerance, which leads to acceptance, which opens us to love, which, well, you get the idea.

I need this time of waiting and reflection. It’s just like waiting for a baby to be born or adopted. This time of “incubation” and waiting yields a beautiful creation, more healthy because of the wait. While pregnancy is not a perfect analogy that holds for all situations, it does show us this time of waiting for God transforms us, opens us, deepens us, and matures us. (And it is a better metaphor than the other one I thought of – how the flavors of marinara sauce deepen and blend as it simmers.


And so Advent invites us to learn to wait. That waiting is one way that God is present with us and comforts us in the darkness. I have noticed with my own life that when I slow down, when I wait, I lose some of the distractions that have kept me from seeing the comfort and the presence of God that God has already brought, or is bringing, into my life. In our multi-tasking society, I doubt I am alone in this manner.

As we move into the next weeks, let’s be intentional about taking some time to walk, instead of running, to listen and to look for the signs of God’s presence, for the signs of Christ’s coming, that are there in our lives. Enjoy your friends and families. Enjoy the holiday parties and gatherings. But remember to wait and watch and hope, to slow down and celebrate God’s presence and comfort even in the sadness and the craziness that can mark these days.


Hoping God’s peace for all of you,

 

Pastor Lynn

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 December 2012 15:48
 
Pastor's Note - September 2012 PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 04 September 2012 21:08

 

From the Pastor

A few years ago, I was reading the e-newsletter that Spirituality and Practice, a website of Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat compile and maintain. While I would often find something interesting or insightful, on that particular day I was more struck with the realization that I needed more of that. The article that struck me was on equanimity (www.spiritualityandpractice.com/practices/features.php?id=17965).   The Brussats define equanimity as “a state of inner balance that enables you to remain calm and centered in the midst of all the turmoil in your life.” Equanimity allows us to experience the bad and the good, the changes in our lives, and remain calm and centered.

Once again I find myself in a place that would be aided by a deeper cultivation of this spiritual quality . As many of you know, my mom is dying, the final stage of her journey living with cancer. There is sadness, for sure, but also a sense of peace. My mom has lived well and continued the spunk and liveliness, the desire to live and love, throughout her illness. She is dying the way she lived, although maybe with more graceful acceptance of all things and all people.

So our family is renewing relationships and finding peace. I am thankful for the faith community that my parents have as they are being well-cared for during this transition. I am thankful for our Congregational UCC community for its care and prayers and encouragement. I am grateful that our God is a God of love and a God who chooses to be in relationship with us. I am grateful for the life that Jesus lived and the life that he renews within us.

As our tradition has Jesus say: “ Come to me, all of you who are weary and over-burdened, and I will give you rest! Put on my yoke and learn from me. For I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, JB Phillips version).

For all of us seeking calm in the center of whatever storms in our life, for all of us seeking rest, for all of us seeding God’s embrace, the very heart of God is calling us to rest, to be comforted , to be healed. We may then share the healing and compassion that God has given and be empowered to live out God’s peace and justice.

Shalom, Pastor Lynn

 
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