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2020 and 2021 has been a time of many different things! Can I get an amen?

One experience we've all had at one time or another this past year has been feeling as if we are on the outside looking in. Outside our normal circle of family and friends... outside our normal experiences of work, school, and community... outside our normal realm of certainty and comfort... outside our ___________.  How would you finish that sentence?  

COVID-19, racial and social injustice, divisive politics and more have contributed to this experience of feeling like an outsider. But really, you have to admit it's been that way long before 2020. North/South… black/white… rich/poor… red state/blue state… Muslim/Christian... conservative/liberal... friend/enemy…outsider/insider… It just seems easier that way. If we’re really honest, we’re okay with that, until we’re the ones on the outside looking in.

God sees things differently! 

“...God shows his love for us, because while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, CEB)

“You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus… There is neither Jew nor Greek... neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28, CEB 

My prayer is that you'll be able to look beyond what you see, to the open invitation of God's grace. Because here's that thing, God's relentless purpose is to bring those who are outside in! Can I get an amen?

Your partner on the journey,
Pastor Steve 


God is always faithful!

One of my favorite hymns is “He's Always Been Faithful” by Sara Groves. The line, “All I have need of, his hand will provide,” connects it to the classic hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” that partially inspires Grove's words. As the song implies, whenever I stop long enough to look at my life in the rear view mirror, whether I knew it at the time or not, all that I needed has been provided by God.

God is always faithful!

“Therefore since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness combined with our faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (Romans 5:1, CEB)

Because of the faithfulness of Emmanuel, God with us, Jesus Christ... through his death on the cross and God's raising him from the dead... we've been given all we need and so much more. Through God's faithfulness and our faith, we are connected with God, now and always.

God is always faithful.

And God will be again. Indeed, as Groves sings “His loving compassion, it knows no end. All I have need of, his hand will provide... He's (God's) always been faithful to me.” My prayer is that this will be your song and mine, now and forever!

Your partner on the journey,

Pastor Steve

Moments Matter

Moments matter.

Trouble is we miss or choose to ignore many moments that come along and the positive impact they can bring. Perhaps we're too busy, focused somewhere else, or just not willing to make a connection with God and/or others when these moments present themselves. Jesus took another approach.

Trudging up the path to the well with a heavy water jug on her shoulder comes a Samaritan women. Needing a midday rest from travel, no one would have noticed or minded if Jesus had ignored her... but he didn't. He asks for a drink of water. From there a deep theological conversation unfolds between them, leading to Jesus' revelation that he is the Messiah. The woman's understanding and belief changes the spiritual trajectory of her life and her community forever (John 4:7-42).

There the young man stood; privileged, wealthy, and confident; but a need for something more still gnawed at his soul. “What must I do to obtain eternal life?” he asks. With the crowd around him clamoring for attention, Jesus could have ignored the question or given a quick answer and moved on... but he didn't. Instead, the Bible tells us that “Jesus looked at him carefully and loved him.” Then he issued the man an invitation that made him walk away, challenged deeply about his life (Mark 10:17-20).

Jesus had an important itinerary to keep, so he and his disciples were quickly passing through on their way to Jerusalem. “Jesus, Son of David, show me mercy,” came the cry from the crowd lining Jericho's streets to witness the procession of the famous miracle working teacher. Those leading Jesus' entourage told the blind man to keep quiet and not to bother the travelers. Annoyingly the blind shouted all the louder! Jesus could have ignored the shouts for help, everyone else was trying to... but he didn't. From that day forward the man could see in more ways than one (Luke 18:35-43).

Moments matter. Jesus choose not to ignore potentially life-impacting moments when they presented themselves. My prayer is that you and I will follow that example. Click here to listen to more.

Your partner on the journey,

Pastor Steve

There All Along

In a scene from the movie The Legend of Bagger Vance, struggling golfer Rannulph Junuh (played by Matt Damon) is competing in the match of his life and slices a tee shot into the trees.  As he looks for the golf ball, his mind takes him back to a painful experience from his time fighting in the first World War. As this PTSD induced flashback is breaking him down mentally and emotionally, his caddie and mentor Bagger Vance (played by Will Smith), talks him back from the brink.

(Bagger) “You've been carrying this burden long enough. Time to go on and lay it down.”
(Junuh) “I don't know how.”
(Bagger) “You got a choice. You can stop or you can start... It's time for you come on out of the shadows, Junuh. It's time for you to choose.”
(Junuh) “I can't.”
(Bagger) “Yes, you can. And you're not alone. I'm right here with you. I've been here all along.”

Sometimes when we experience a life impacting event... positive or negative, expected or unexpected... it means change. Change is hard. In the midst of that change you may think no one else knows or cares. You may think you can’t. But you’d wrong. You can. You can, because the risen Jesus Christ is with you and has been there all along.

My prayer for you is that whatever road you find yourself on, you will seek and know the risen Christ's peace and presence.

Your partner on the journey,
Pastor Steve 

When Words Are Not Enough

Sometimes words are not enough.

Jesus once told a story about a man who had two sons. Individually, the father told each of his sons to go and work in the family's vineyard that day. The first son told his father, “No, I don't want to,” but later he changed his mind and went. The second son told his father, “Yes, sir,” but he didn't go. At the end of the story Jesus asked his listeners this question: “Which one of these two did his father's will?” (Matthew 21:28-31, CEB)

Sometimes words are not enough.

When the risen Christ appeared to some of the disciples for an early morning breakfast on the beach, Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Three times Peter says, “Yes!” Three times Jesus responded with “Feed and tend my sheep,” (John 21:15-17).

Sometimes words are not enough.

Singing “Oh how I love Jesus, oh how I love Jesus...” (Frederick Whitfield) with others in church or praying and telling Jesus, “I love you,” are both great things to do! If we believe in and follow Jesus Christ we should express our love for him. But, when it comes to loving Jesus, “I love you” is not enough. To love Jesus means to care for others, to shape one’s life according to Jesus’ life, and to live out a love that knows no limits! 

Your partner on the journey,

Pastor Steve

In The Gathering

“Here's the church... Here's the steeple... Open the door... and see all the people!”  

As a kid I used to love singing this nursery rhyme song and doing the hand motions that go along with it.  Full disclosure here, the secret to making the hand motion work eluded me for quite some time.  Then one day it was an “aha” moment... “So, that's how that works!” I remember from early Sunday School days that this song and hand motion was used to help us kids see the church was the place, the building, that you went to on Sunday morning... with all the other people!  

“The church is not a building, the church is not a steeple, the church is not a resting place, the church is the people. I am the church! You are the church! We are the church together!” (We are the Church, United Methodist Hymnal # 558).  

I remember singing this song for the first time as a young adult in worship services. In it, I was learning a different message from the nursery rhyme of my childhood. People are the church. 

In the last few years, I've come to know the church is more than people; it is people gathering in the name and presence of Jesus!  I think it's interesting that in the four New Testament Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), of the ten times Jesus appeared after his death and resurrection, only once was it to an individual. Nine times the risen Christ appeared to a gathering of two or more disciples.  

“It was still the first day of the week. That evening, while the disciples were behind closed doors because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.”                    (John 20:19, CEB)  

As the disciples found out on that first Easter Sunday evening, something unique happens when followers of Jesus gather. The risen Jesus Christ steps into our lives as a gathering of disciples. Then Christ’s presence and peace sends us out in the life-breathing presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Click here to listen to more (April 18 sermon).  

My prayer for you is that you will make a habit of gathering with other followers of Jesus to worship, to be in conversation, to be in mission, to study the Bible, to enjoy a meal, etc.  My prayer for you is that you gather with other followers of Jesus as often as you can, in whatever way you can (in-person or virtually). And my prayer for you is that whenever you gather with other follows of Jesus, you will always expect Jesus to show up and change your lives in the gathering that is the church!

Your partner on the journey,

Pastor Steve 

Breaking Bread

“Jesus himself came near... but their eyes were kept from recognizing him... As they came near the village... he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, 'Stay with us...' So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him...” (Luke 24: 15-16, 28-30, NRSV)  

For me, the story of the walk to Emmaus on that first Easter Sunday has always been the most intriguing of the Bible's reports of the risen Jesus (Luke 24:13-35). We could debate the possible reasons the two disciples didn't recognize the risen Jesus, however, in the end we would have to confess we just don't really know.  

But what we do know is that for those two “Emmaus bound” disciples, that Sunday had not yet  become Easter. They had not truly encountered the living Jesus, even though he was walking right beside them. It didn't happen, until they invited this “stranger” to a shared meal and he blessed and broke the bread.

We’re not told specifically what blessing prayer the risen Jesus prayed, but more than likely he was following an ancient Jewish table tradition.  Before a meal, the male head of the household would take a loaf of bread, pray the traditional blessing, break or tear the bread apart, and distribute it to all those assembled for the meal.  That prayer went something like this: “Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.” It was a table blessing the two disciples would have heard and prayed hundreds of times before, but this time was different!

Every meal, especially those shared with others, can be an occasion to experience the presence of Christ.  What was it Jesus said? "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there among them" (Matthew 18:20, NRSV).  So, I encourage you to receive the gift of Easter that is Jesus Christ's presence and grace, at each and every meal you sit down to. As on that first Easter evening in Emmaus, it all begins with your invitation for Jesus to join you at the table.  

Your partner on the journey,

Pastor Steve