Saint Valentine’s Day

Saint Valentine’s Day

Weekly Word

This is a holiday to celebrate love! That means many people feel left out, sad, wishing that they had someone to get flowers from, or someone to send flowers to. Many will re-read old Valentine’s Day cards from dear loved ones who are gone.

This melancholy caused by a date on the calendar is not unique to Valentine’s Day. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day can be painful reminders of love lost or a love that was never known.

My hope is to include everyone in this Valentine’s Day reflection. No parishioner left behind! To that end, let’s look at the most famous love poem ever written. The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Christian Church in Corinth writes about a more excellent way: LOVE.

Love is patient.
Love is kind.
Love is not envious.
Love is not boastful or arrogant or rude.
Love does not insist on its own way.
Love is not irritable or resentful.
Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing.
Love rejoices in the truth.
Love bears all things.
Love believes all things.
Love does not lose hope.
Love endures, Love never ends.
Faith, hope, and love abide,
These three; and the greatest of these is love.

The Bible tells us that “God is love.” This beautiful poem speaks of God’s perfect love for us and gives us something to aim at as we seek to love each other.

No Parishioner left behind! Here is your exercise for today. Go back to the love poem of Paul and take out the word “love” and replace it with “God.” Reflect upon those words knowing that “nothing can separate you from the love of God.” God just loves you! Isn’t that Good News?

Now then, go back to the poem again and put your name in the place of love. Print it and put it on your refrigerator. Read it slowly and prayerfully. How does that sound? Does it accurately describe you?

As you go about this day, this week and the rest of your life, read this personal poem every day as you work toward God’s ideal. I believe in you! I think that over time we can all be more patient and kinder. We can check our own envious and boastful natures. We can seek to be less arrogant and more humble.

God is not done with us! We are a work in progress. Partner with God, put yourself in the path of the Gospel, and practice a love that has nothing to do with falling in love.

See you this Sunday!

Pastor Jim

God Bless the Human Race

God Bless the Human Race

God Bless the Human Race
Weekly Word

In March, I will be taking 30 TLC Pilgrims to Israel. This year will be the 25th anniversary of my first trip in 1995. Israel was never on my list of places to go. Four of our “more senior” female church members took me for a walk in 1994 and said, “we want you to take us to Israel.” That walk changed not just my life, but the life of our congregation. What followed has been 25 years of amazing TLC trips, great inspiration, renewed and deepened relationships.

In 2022, Felicia and I will be leading our last trip to Israel. The details of that pilgrimage are still coming together. The pilgrimage will explore the roots of our faith as we visit Israel and Istanbul.

Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one’s lifetime.”

My first trip outside of North America was that 1995 pilgrimage to Israel when I was 35 years old. It ignited a passion for travel, for history and culture. It gave me a deeper appreciation for my homeland, but in addition, it helped me to understand that all people in all lands are pretty much the same. They just want to love and provide for their families. They get up each morning as we do, they carry many of the same burdens and fears. They cry when they are hurt, they bleed when they are cut, and they will die as we will die. People everywhere are just people. But more than that, they are the children of God.

If we look closely at the face of an immigrant or a refugee, we will see the image of our parents or grandparents who came to a land of opportunity. If we look closely, we may even see Jesus, in those who have never really met Jesus.

When we travel, we have no choice but to rely on the hospitality of others. In the Bible, hospitality was right up there with peace and justice. Hospitality; caring for friends, neighbors and strangers is part of what makes the human race a family.

May God bless the human race.

See you Sunday!

Pastor Jim

Weekly Word: Do Not Be Afraid

Weekly Word: Do Not Be Afraid

Do not be afraid. Fear not.” That word from God to humans appears 365 times in the Bible. Is that a coincidence? For each and every day in the year – 365 times – God tells us not to be afraid. And yet, we are afraid.

When we are born, in our purest state, formed by God and carried in the safety of our mother’s womb, we are only afraid of two things. The only fears we have as a newborn are instinctual. We are afraid of loud noises, and we are afraid of falling. That’s it. The rest of our rational fears come to us by our human experience. We should be a little afraid to cross a busy highway, or to swim too far from shore. Rational fears may keep us alive.

But many of our fears are irrational. They are taught to us by professional worriers, or we catch them like the plague from media sources or politicians who peddle fear. Volcanoes, terrorists, pandemics, airplane crashes, spiders and snakes are real, but they are not a real threat to you. Even death, which will come to all of us, is not to be feared. I have been there; it is far more peaceful than scary.

Is it a coincidence that God tells us 365 times not to be afraid? I don’t know, but the theme is not an accident. The God who created us, knows that we are easily given over to our fears. We are afraid and the fear that can keep us alive, can also keep us from living. Fear, in the right measure, can protect us but when fear is unchecked it can enslave us.

I know that the world seems to be crazy, fragile and dangerous right now. Spend too much time watching the news and you will be convinced that things are worse now than they have ever been. In reality, that is simply not the case. This longing for the good old days is romantic recall; nothing more. The truth is, on most days, most of the people in the world live in peace; their days are routine, unremarkable, not affected by corrupt politicians or natural disasters.

What now? Should we work for peace? Should we advocate for justice? Should we address climate change? Should we be a voice for the voiceless? Should we be concerned for marginalized or oppressed populations? Should we demand that our politicians be honest and faithful? Should we vote? The answer to all of the above is YES!

Be energized by your calling to follow Jesus. Be energized to positive action – do not be paralyzed by your fear.

“Do not be afraid. Fear not.” Repeat 365 times, and I will see you this Sunday!

Much love,

 

Pastor Jim

Lessons From Preschool

Lessons From Preschool

Lessons From Preschool

For the past 22 years I have lived with a Preschool Teacher. (I am her long-term, perhaps never-ending, project.) Kindergarten teachers are very happy when they get Trinity Preschool graduates. They know that our 5-year-old graduates will be prepared for kindergarten.

In 2020 it would serve us well to live more intentionally with the lessons that help form our preschoolers. Will you join me in striving to apply these life lessons to our everyday life?

1. Wash your hands. Enough said. Cleanliness is next to Godliness.
2. Wait your turn. This simple lesson implies manners and patience. Manners and patience never go out of style. We could use more of both in our society.
3. Be kind to others. Be courteous, look for ways to assist friends and strangers. No put-downs. Explain your neighbor’s actions in the kindest possible way. If you cannot find something good to say about someone, then just remain silent.
4. Be a helper. Help clean-up. Leave things better than you found them. This would apply to your home, your workplace, your church, society, and the environment.
5. Listen to directions. Read the Bible, follow Jesus, seek the wisdom of others. If you think you are smart enough to go it alone, then good luck.
6. Share. If you have had your turn, let someone else play with a toy. If you are bringing birthday treats, then have enough for your classmates. Share, give to others, be generous. There is no joy in hording, there is no point in being the richest person in the cemetery.

Keep it simple in 2020! Preschool Graduation is May 27th – perhaps we could all graduate this year.

I will see you in church this Sunday.


Pastor Jim
Optimism in 2020

Optimism in 2020

Optimism in 2020
Weekly Word

Felicia and I watched the new Netflix documentary called “Inside Bill’s Brain.” It is a three-part series offering insights into the genius of Bill Gates. It is fascinating, to say the least. Bill Gates reads 14 books a week; he led the effort to eradicate polio from the planet; he has prioritized sanitation in developing countries, as a critical step toward safe drinking water.

The driving force behind his genius is an unfailing OPTIMISM. At his core, Bill Gates is optimistic. When hard work comes alongside of good research and adequate resources, even the most complex puzzles can be solved. Bill believes that problems can be addressed and ultimately overcome. This optimism leads him forward.

The human race and planet earth face some daunting issues, but when one scans the breadth of history, the facts point to another reality. Consider these trends:

200 years ago, 94% of the people on the planet lived in extreme poverty; today 10% live in extreme poverty.

200 years ago, 17% of the people had a basic education; today 86% percent have a basic education.

200 years ago, 12% of the population could read; today 85% are able to read.

200 years ago, 43% of newborns would die before their 5th birthday; today 4% of newborns die before their 5th birthday.

On Whidbey Island, we live better, eat better, travel safer, and have more access to quality health care than any king, queen, or rich person who lived more than 70 years ago. To say that we are blessed in the scope of human history would be an understatement.

Optimism – I am committed to embracing optimism in 2020. This optimism is not Pollyanna-ish in nature. Bill Gates may have our crap and polio covered, but all of us still face our share of problems. This optimism does not deny the reality of the problems, it just attempts to put those problems in their proper perspective.

When I look at Trinity Church, I am optimistic. I see what is possible when God’s people work together. I am inspired by your talent, your generosity, your courage in the face of adversity, and your faith. I am optimistic, because with God all things are possible.

I will not be reading 14 books a week in 2020, but I hope to embrace a new sense of optimism.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Keep smiling!


Pastor Jim

Weekly Word

Weekly Word

Weekly Word

The Seahawks are in the playoffs after an agonizing finish to the regular season. They literally missed winning the division by inches. But this Sunday at 1:00, they will be playing in Philadelphia. That means that their schedule will not interfere with your Sunday morning worship plans.

It is important for us to be together on this first Sunday of a New Year and a New Decade. Why? Because in a world that tends to focus on bad news, we gather to encourage each other and to share Good News! Put yourself in the path of the Gospel this Sunday and every Sunday in 2020. My Sermon is almost done and I look forward to seeing you at your Church Home—TLC.

There is another reason to be in Church. According to the research of the theological think tank, known as the “Ridiculous PJ Institute,” the Seahawks are 18.5% more likely to win if you are in church on game day. God does not care who wins the game, but when the 12th Man shows up at TLC, good things tend to happen. Results may vary.

Finally, from a Church of Good News: Thanks to your generous support, we reached and then exceeded our 2019 budget goals. Blessed to be a Blessing! Thanks to you, we have made a difference in the lives of people near and far, from Bihar, India to the streets of Seattle, from communities devastated by disaster, to your neighbors here on Whidbey Island. In a time of unprecedented decline in North American Christianity, TLC continues to shine because of you!

It is a joy to serve with you! See you in Church this Sunday—we worship at 8:00, 9:30, and 11:00 a.m. – welcome to 2020!

Pastor Jim