Today’s Word from Reverend David Bieniek…

When I was working on my masters in Youth Ministry many years ago, we were taught the importance of offering a “cafeteria method of youth ministry” where youth of a parish could pick various places to connect with the church and thus God, as choosing dishes at a cafeteria. Some of those might be social, educational, spiritual, and even social justice events. The hope being when we connected a young person in one aspect, they would find a home in other aspects.

Recently I heard a similar theory about disease prevention especially in regard to COVID. A mask is good in preventing the spread of the disease, but it is not 100% effective; it has holes in the protection, like a slice of swiss cheese. If you add another slice, like social distancing, you have hopefully covered up more of those holes, but you still might have spaces for the disease to get through. Continue to add slices – hand washing, being careful who you expose yourself to, avoiding crowds, isolation, etc. – and you increase your chance of staying safe.

What, you might ask, do either of these things have to do with each other or God’s Love on our Path to the Gospel? I am glad you asked.

I have never felt that God speaks or reaches out to us in only one way. Many people find God on Sunday mornings participating in worship in a church, singing, praying in a community, and hearing a good sermon. Those people may have found a real difficulty these days in this time of COVID church. Some have always found God quietly reading Scriptures at home, meditating, praying, and coming to their own deeper understanding of the Almighty. These people may be thriving in this time.

Some people find God in nature, hiking or watching the seashore, eagles, sunsets, and other wonders. This time may have given them pause and time to enjoy the life around them. Other people find God in community whether it be family or a chosen community. These people may be suffering or thriving depending on how they have adapted.

So, the cafeteria for us has a wide variety of offerings these days – virtual worship, homemade Communion, online devotionals, Zoom Scripture groups and adult educational opportunities. We also have private prayer and meditation, Scripture and other spiritual reading, and of course discussion with friends and family whether in person or virtually. But we also have a whole source of God moments in the world around that many people never see as spiritual. Sunsets and sunrises, eagles soaring past our views, tall trees and sprawling deserts, fresh snow and stretches of beaches all remind us of God’s handiwork and give us other cafeteria choices.

And I love this season as we wait for Immanuel, “God with us” to be revealed in the birth of a child. The songs and decorations, the shows and traditions, and all the things we can still enjoy are still ways that God protects the child within us waiting in anticipation not only for God’s revelation but also for a time when we feel protected and freed from our isolation and fear.

The point here is that God comes to us in many different ways. And God protects us in many different ways. Our job is to recognize those God moments and allow our souls to be fed and protected.

May the stars at night and the songs in the air guide you to the Love that is born at Christmas just as they guided the Magi and the Shepherds. May you find God in all the various places along the Path of the Gospel.

In Advent Love, as well as Hope, Joy & Peace,
Pastor Dave