Death Will Not Have the Last Word

Death Will Not Have the Last Word

“All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” Isaiah 40

Chauncey and Carol sauntered into church this past Sunday as they always do. They arrived at 7 a.m. to practice with the choir, to have a cup of coffee, to reconnect with friends, to worship God, and to sing praises with a joyful voice. After singing for a second time at the 9:30 service, Chauncey and the choir exited the sanctuary. Someone said to Chauncey, “I think we were better at the 8 o’clock service.” Chauncey replied, “I think we did fine at both.”

As Chauncey walked with Carol and choir friends toward his car, he collapsed. He would not regain consciousness. Chauncey left this world from church on a Sunday morning after singing of God’s love. Chauncey left a world that he loved, his bride of 64 years, and the church that was his second home. He crossed over to the other side in an instant after 89 full, productive, and faithful years.

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” Easter reminds us that death will not have the last word. Well done, good and faithful servant Chauncey. We will see you on the other side.

A funeral service for Chauncey will be held on Saturday, May 4th, at 1:00 p.m. Cards can be sent to:
Carol Richardson
638 Windmill Drive
Freeland, WA 98249

My love to you!

 

 

Pastor Jim

Palm Sunday Worship at 8 and 10 this Sunday.

Faith is a Most Difficult Endeavor

Faith is a Most Difficult Endeavor

Weekly Word

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

Faith is a most difficult endeavor.

Babies and toddlers mostly live by faith. That may be why Jesus encouraged us to have faith “like a child.” Babies rely 100% on others. They have no choice really; they cannot fend for themselves. They simply have faith that mommy will pull them close to her breast. They have faith that someone will safely put them in their car seat. They can accomplish nothing on their own, so they put their trust in others.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

As we age, we like to think that we can “do it ourselves.” We are strong and smart. We think that our lives will never end. We figure things out, we have most of the answers, life is pretty black and white. There seems to be little need for God or faith.

Faith is a most difficult endeavor. It is hoping for and believing in something that cannot be proven, something that is totally beyond our reason or control. It is about embracing mystery and claiming our place, as fragile insecure creatures bound some day to die.

Faith is a most difficult endeavor. Most days, I am not sure how God is working. Some days, it seems that God is not working at all. My prayers often go unanswered. I see no evidence that God is even listening to my prayers. I pray for peace, and the world is much the same as it was when I started praying some 40 years ago. I pray for the people of God at TLC, and they die, they suffer, they are forgetful, and often lonely.

Faith is a most difficult endeavor. Adam and Eve did not want to trust God. They were not happy being loved and cared for. Adam and Eve wanted to be in control, they want to know, they wanted a say in the trajectory of human affairs. I am more like Adam and Eve than I would like to admit.

Faith is a most difficult endeavor. But in the end, there is nowhere else to turn. In the end, God will believe in us even if we do not believe in God. In the end, God will love us even if we do not love God. In the end, God will have faith in us even if we have lost all faith. How do I know that? I don’t. I am certain about very little at this point in my life.

I guess if I am to regain the faith of a child, then I will have to become more childlike. I will need to depend on others to feed me, to drive me around, to change my diapers, and care for me. That day will come, but until then, I guess I will just try to get more comfortable being a creature. I will give thanks for what I understand and for what I don’t yet understand. I will look to heaven and say, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”

May God Bless us as we journey together!

 

 

Pastor Jim

“Where Can I Go…?”

“Where Can I Go…?”

“Where can I go then from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I climb up to heaven, you are there; if I make the grave my bed, you are there also. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand will lead me and your right hand hold me fast.” Psalm 139:7-10.

My two-and-a-half-year-old grandson, Cam, stayed overnight with us last night. We had lots of fun playing on the floor. The firetrucks and aid cars were out as we ran from one emergency to another. The tired first responders took a break and enjoyed some of Connie Alexander’s homemade apple pie.

All was good except… Except it was now time for bed. Cam was having none of it. He tried negotiation. “I will make you a deal, Bapa.” He tried hiding and running. He decided he needed to use the bathroom – an extended visit, with a story.

As we snuggled on the floor, Cam started acting even more like a two-year-old. He did not want to sleep, he wanted to keep playing. He struggled to get away. He kicked and cried. He said, “I don’t like you Bapa.” I said, “Well Cam, I like you, and I love you.” “I don’t like Bapa, I like Gigi.” “That is fine Cam, I like you, and I love you, and you are my favorite.” “You are not my favorite Bapa.”

As this interchange continued for 20 minutes, I could not help but think of Psalm 139. How often we humans run from God. How often we rebel, wander off, kick and scream against the one who loves us. Life is difficult. When we are little, we do not want to go to bed. When we are older, we just want to go to bed.

Life is difficult and it does not always go our way. We find ourselves mad at God. “I do not like you God. I do not want to be around you. I don’t think that you care about me.” And God’s response is always the same, even though we are acting like a two-year-old. “I love you, I will always love you, you are my favorite.”

There is nothing that Cam could possibly do that would stop me from loving him. I might not always like his behavior, but I cannot help but love him. He is my favorite. He is my favorite along with my daughters, my dear Gigi, little Cooper, and you.

We can run from God, but when we are done running, God is there to welcome us home. We can curse God, but when we are done with our fit, God is there to welcome us back to the meal. We can refuse to believe in God, but God will never refuse to believe in us.

My whole body was sore this morning; I am not used to sleeping on the floor. Cam stretched and yawned. He said, “I love you Bapa. But let’s go, there is a fire. It is an emergency!”

My love to you and more importantly—God’s love to you.

Pastor Jim

Ashes

Ashes

It struck me last night, as I looked out on the ashen foreheads of God’s people gathered for the Ash Wednesday service. It struck me last night, what our community and island might be like if Christian people wore those ashes every day.

In theory anyway, there are a lot of people out there professing Christianity. Some like church and some don’t. Some like formal worship with predictable liturgies and some like informal services with less predictability. Some like classical music and some like praise songs.

In theory anyway, there are a lot of us Christians out there and we should find our unity not in our politics or musical preferences, but in our faithful following of the ways of Jesus.“

We are one in the spirit, we are one in the Lord. We are one in the Lord and we pray that our unity will one day be restored. And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yeah, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” Jars of Clay.

Three emails this week. One from college student missing home, one from a poor person trying to make it through the winter, and one from a practicing Buddhist. Three emails one theme.

The college student expressed a deep appreciation for TLC. A deep appreciation for a place of grace, for an open door, for worship that is meaningful and playful. A deep appreciation for a non-judgmental church where everybody is welcome. He said that he listens to the sermons every week.

The poor person is a neighbor of yours, lives in the woods, barely survives. Your neighbor is not a church person, in fact, they have little use for religious movements. But this neighbor, this child of God, was cold and broke and unable to work. Our wood ministry team rolled in with a fresh delivery of dry wood. The poverty was still present but the chill was off the day, the home would be warm that night. The email expressed a deep appreciation for people who would love those who will never be in a position to pay them back.

The email from the Buddhist expressed a deep appreciation for the funeral service of Bill Read. Raised a Catholic and now a practicing Buddhist, she had never worshiped with the Lutherans before.

She wrote, “Your kindness, gratitude, love and compassion came through. It was wonderful to witness.”

It struck me last night that perhaps we should keep those ashen crosses on our heads all year long. It would remind us that every kind deed bears witness to the one who died for us.

May they know we are Christians by our love.

My love to you!


Pastor Jim

You Can Lead a Horse to Water…

You Can Lead a Horse to Water…

You Can Lead a Horse to Water…
Weekly Word

“You can lead a horse to water, but a pencil must be lead.” Stan Laurel.

I realize that many who are reading this Weekly Word have no idea who Stanley Laurel was. He was, of course, one half of the comedy team “Laurel and Hardy.” Together, Laurel and Hardy would leave them laughing. On the big screen, or live on stages across the world, they would amuse audiences with their silly slapstick humor.

Stan Laurel quietly and humbly mentored the comic genius of Jerry Lewis, Dick Van Dyke, Peter Sellers, Marcel Marceau, and Johnny Carson.

Near the end of his life, Stan Laurel said, “If anyone at my funeral has a long face, I’ll never speak to him again.”

I would encourage you to laugh today. Seek out people who make you laugh. Laughter might not be the best medicine but it certainly is good medicine.

Every Sunday, I hope that we have an opportunity to laugh together. Does that mean that we do not take worship seriously? Does that mean that we do not take our mission seriously? Does that mean that we do not take the problems of the world seriously? It means that we do not take ourselves too seriously, and we recognize that humor is a gift from God.

Laughter and tears are equally important aspects of the human journey. One without the other leaves us strangely out of balance.

Saint Teresa of Avila in the 16th century wrote, “From silly devotions and sour-faced saints, good Lord, deliver us.” And again, she wrote, “A sad nun is a bad nun. I am more afraid of one unhappy sister than a crowd of evil spirits.”

May TLC be a place of joy, laughter, praise, and peace. May we be a safe place, a sanctuary for all who grieve, and a place where the downhearted are comforted and encouraged to dance again.

“Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you have refreshed the hearts of God’s people.” Philemon 1:7

Blessed to be a Blessing!
Pastor Jim

Everyone Welcome – Everyone Equal

Everyone Welcome – Everyone Equal

Everyone Welcome – Everyone Equal
Weekly Word

My grandmother used to tell me stories. When she was a child, she would on occasion go with her mother to the home of the richest family in DeKalb, Illinois. DeKalb was the birthplace of barbed wire. Barbed wire helped tame the American West. In 1874, the Barb Fence Company produced 10,000 pounds of wire. By 1879, that figured had grown to more than 50 million pounds. Barbed wire was big business and it made vast fortunes for the entrepreneurial inventors.

The Ellwood House was a grand mansion. It was a one of a kind show-place that hosted parties for Civil War generals, politicians, and industrialists. The ballroom was decorated, there was dancing, cigars, and fine wine. No expense would be spared. It was all about extravagant hospitality for the guests.

The servants employed at the Ellwood Mansion were numerous, but the grand parties required more labor. My great-grandmother and other women in town would be hired to work in the kitchen, in the parlors, out of sight, behind the scenes. My grandmother remembered those nights fondly. Sometimes she played with the Ellwood children, other times she never got out of the kitchen.

The servants had only one role. They were there to serve the Ellwoods, by taking care of the needs of every guest. It should be noted that the servants did not have a say in the guest list. The Ellwoods invited whomever they wished. It was not the servants’ place to approve or disapprove. The merit of each guest was simply not their business.

The servants either understood this, or they were soon not welcome in the mansion themselves.

Every Sunday, we come to a mansion that we helped build. But the mansion, we call the church, does not belong to us. We are simply servants here. Jesus is the one and only host of every party at TLC. Jesus invites whomever he wishes.

Our role is not to approve of the guest list, we are not to judge the merit of anyone that enters the doors of the church. The past or present of the guests is none of our business. Their age, occupation, belief system, or orientation is not our concern. The master of the house invited them to the party and they showed up.

Our only response is to welcome them with open arms, to take their coat, to offer them a drink, to express our profound appreciation for their presence.

For much of the history of the church, we have forgotten our place. The one who invited known sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes to the party, does not need us to keep the church free from riff-raff. We work here; that is all.

Everyone welcome—everyone equal. It is either true, or it is not. We either follow Jesus, or we don’t. At the feast of bread and wine, everyone eats; no one is turned away.

Every Sunday when you come to TLC, dress appropriately. Wear the clothes of a servant. More importantly, have the attitude of a servant—the attitude of Jesus. What freedom God offers us!

You are gay? Does not matter to me. I just work here. Come on in, join the party.

You are divorced? Does not matter to me. I just work here. Come on in, join the party.

You are a Trump supporter? Who cares? I just work here. Come on in, join the party.

You are a Patriots fan? Does not matter to me. I just work here. Come to the table.

“Many tax collectors and sinners were sitting with Jesus. When the Pharisees saw this they said, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’”

Gotta love those religious people. The servants who argue with the Master about the guest list are soon the only ones not welcomed at the party.

I look forward to serving you this Sunday- come serve with me.

Pastor Jim