The Pastor’s Peace™
Inspirational thoughts from Pastor Brian for your reflection and consideration, published monthly during the year, available in our printed Beaver Church Chatter newsletter and on our web site.*
Merry Christmas!!! Those of you reading this might think that old Pastor Brian got confused and doesn’t know it isn’t December. I am not confused because there are indeed 12 days of Christmas, and if you are reading this before the end of January 5th, then Merry Christmas!!! I guess a Happy New Year’s is in order as well, but that is just one day, and more importantly, it isn’t something we tend to forget. Christmas, however, is something that many think ends on December 25th, with trees and everything coming down the next day. Come December 26th you don’t hear a Merry Christmas for miles around. It is interesting that an event we have been preparing for during all of Advent and looking forward to with great delight is an event that we are so quick to move past. Perhaps we should focus more on celebrating Christ’s birth not only for those 12 days, but maybe even all year round.
For those who didn’t get a chance to attend our Christmas Eve service, I talked about leaning into the difficulties in the world around us. If we look at the ministry of Jesus, he never shied away from the difficulties of other. He was willing to reach out to those in need, those who did not believe, and even those who actively worked against him. Not only did Christ provide us salvation through his death and resurrection, but he provides us salvation by being the incarnation of God on earth and showing us how such a life is lived. The themes of Advent-- peace, hope, joy, and love--are all achieved by working through Christ to bring forth the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. If we are willing to lean into those areas that cause us discomfort and do so out of love and devotion, then we can work actively to create the peace and joy we celebrate at Christmas. It is only when we are willing to take risks with others that we often move beyond the issues that divide us.
I once heard a professor of mine tell a student who was working on his PhD that receiving your doctorate was not the end, but only the beginning. It was only after you finished your studies that the real work began. Christmas works much the same. We have been preparing for all of Advent to receive the Christ child.
That event has occurred and now the real work begins. Christmas is not about celebrating on December 25th, and then putting away the ornaments on December 26th; it is about thinking about what Christ has called us to do on December 26th and on every day of our lives. Christ calls us to believe, to share the faith, and to let our faith guide our actions so that we work to create a better world, a new earth. Go forth then in faith and lean into the winds of despair and divisiveness that threaten to tear us apart. Lean in with hope, joy, peace, and love, especially love. Go forth and follow the commands of our king the Christ child, the incarnation of God, our strength and our salvation.
Peace & Merry Christmas,
This January has been a doozy of a month weather wise. We have been lucky over the last few years when it snowed, but this past month we have gotten not one but two big snows on Saturday into Sunday morning. As I write this, the month is not quite over, so I am keeping my fingers crossed that this coming weekend will be ok. Of course when it snows like that we take into account safety and various factors when deciding if we are going to keep the church open. For both of those Sundays I decided that I could get there safely, and so we had church. The first Sunday we had a whopping attendance of 17 including me.
The next Sunday we topped it with an attendance of 18. Now I can’t say I was surprised, I was not expecting many, but I always feel that if some folks who live nearby want to come to church and can make it safely, then we should have church. I always make a joke in those circumstances that if 12 were good enough for Jesus, then it is good enough for me. I was asked one of those Sundays if it felt weird to preach to such a small number of people, and although it was certainly different, I like to think that it was meaningful all the same. So often we get focused on the size, or perceived influence of something to determine its importance, however bigger is not always better. Yes sometimes sharing the Lord to thousands of people can be wonderful, but it can be just as wonderful to share it with one person. If we look at the ministry of Jesus, we do see times when he preached to the multitudes, but what we see more of is Jesus sharing the Good News with small groups of people or even individuals. In fact one of the best known lines of scripture from the New Testament, John 3:16, does not come from a speech to a large crowd, but rather a very important one on one conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus.
I point out all of this to say that Christ’s work is done all over the world in a multitude of settings. It is not just done by preachers testifying to large groups, it’s not even done by just preachers, it’s done by all believers. No matter who you are or what situation you are in, you have the power to share God’s love. Everyone is capable of sharing the Gospel in word or deed. It is often in these smaller settings that we really connect, that we really can feel the Spirit of God working in our midst.
So, no matter who you are, you have a ministry, and everyone’s calling is important and part of bringing forth God’s kingdom. In light of that, I think my joke should really be that if just one person was good enough for Jesus, than it is good enough for all of us.
Peace and Blessings,
Well, I am glad that spring will technically begin in March. I am certainly tired of winter. We have had the weirdest weather this year ranging from 65 degrees in January to the polar vortex, to all that snow and ice on Saturdays and Sundays. I have so far fallen twice on ice this year, spraining my hand the first time and just bruising myself the second. My wife says that I am accident prone, but I just call it unlucky. The second time I fell I remember just lying there on my back for several minutes. Not that I was seriously injured or couldn’t get up, but I was just so frustrated from falling again, and had no desire to get up. Life is like that sometimes; we fall down, are hurt, become frustrated or scared, and are reluctant to continue on.
This type of dynamic often occurs in our relationships with others. We spend time and invest energy in someone only to be hurt by him or her later on. We can become fixated on the hurt inflicted on us, not only causing a distance in our relationship with them, but also creating distance in our relationships with others, out of fear of a similar injury. One of the things emphasized by Jesus throughout his ministry is forgiveness. Not only forgiveness of our sins by God, but also God’s directive that we should forgive others. This is not always easy, in fact many times it is very hard, but it can be powerful and beneficial. One of the positives of forgiveness is the freeing power it can have for the person who forgives. It is not about saying that the offense was ok, but rather it is suggesting that one can acknowledge the offense, accept it and move on, focusing on the hope of the future, rather than on the sadness of the past. Perhaps we can have a positive relationship with the person we have forgiven, or at the very least the act of forgiveness helps to free us to trust again the other relationships in our life.
In addition to forgiving others we are also called to forgive ourselves for mistakes we have made in the past. If God can love and accept us for who we are, then we should be able to as well. Again, it is not that the mistakes we have made in the past are ok, it is that we have learned from them, accept them, and move on from them with hope for the future--that we have learned from these mistakes and can be better people moving forward.
Sometimes it is tempting to just keep lying down refusing to get up again and face the possibility of being hurt or hurting others, but if we refuse to move on then we will go nowhere and have little hope for a new future, a new creation. This Lent think about the many ways we can better follow God’s calling, remembering that forgiveness in all its forms is always part of God’s path.
Peace and Blessings,
The last several months have been a roller coaster of joys and difficulties for church members. From diagnosis of cancer, and triple-bypass surgery, to the joys of approved adoption and returning family members, it has been a bit of up and down. Of course that is the way things often are. If I were to be honest in looking back at my time at the church, there never really was a time when everything was just fine, nor was there a time when everything was just awful. Life is a constant mix of both, and we move in and out of these moments like bends in a river, hoping that our destination is one that is better than where we started.
When we read about the ministry of Jesus in the Bible, it is so miraculous. We see so many instances of Jesus healing those who are impossibly ill. He feeds the hungry and gives water to the thirsty. He helps those who have been marginalized by society know their worth and become accepted again. He gives hope to the hopeless and joy to those in sorrow; he even gives life to those who were dead, both spiritually and in reality. I, as I’m sure others do, wish that I could have been there to see him and experience his grace and mercy firsthand. How much better it must have been then. Well, being in the presence of Christ would have been wonderful, however, just like today there were people who died of disease, there were people who were still poor, still hungry. Jesus did not fix everyone’s problems, or at least what we might think were the main problems of the world.
Jesus did do some wonderful things, but the most miraculous was the events of Holy Week that we remember and celebrate this month. Jesus did not fix every single earthly problem we had, nor does Christ fix every problem we have today, but he did something even more important. Christ shows us that the river we are on does go someplace better, someplace wonderful, and that is not something we could know or achieve on our own. Although God does not fix every issue, as we might want them fixed, we are still given many blessings in this world. Whenever something does go our way, that was not something we worked to earn, it is not something that was promised.
Every joy is a gift in a world that without love, forgiveness, and salvation would have little to look forward to. Ultimately we share in the greatest joy, the joy of the resurrection, the joy of life eternal through Christ. This joy, this joy alone, is what helps me through those difficult turns in the river of life. May this joy help you as well this Easter season, and throughout all your life.
Peace and Blessings,
Well, it’s garage sale time at the church. As I am writing this we are beginning to pile up things in the church basement and will hold our annual garage sale on the first weekend in May. I have to say I enjoy the garage sale, not the work so much, but just seeing all of the stuff that comes in. We have had everything from a hot tub to even a boat one year. I have personally added several fantastic things to my household including a waffle maker, delicious, and my favorite, a ship’s wheel. I haven’t used the ship’s wheel yet, but some day it will go into my nautical / tiki- themed man cave. I might not get that man cave built until I retire, but it keeps me dreaming.
That is the funny thing about the garage sale-- you never know what you might find. Mostly it is things you already have or things you don’t want, but now and again you find those things that really surprise you. It might be the thing you never knew you wanted, but now can’t live without. God’s blessings are much like that as well. We spend much of our life doing the same thing over and over. Many times we even find ourselves doing things we are not too excited about, or find ourselves in places of despair. Life, thankfully, is not all like that, however. We also find times of great joy, where God has done something in our life that is totally unexpected. I would have never in a million years expected I would have met and married my wife, and yet I was blessed to find her. It is like those great objects you find at the garage sale, and not only that, but God’s blessings are a great bargain, even better than the garage sale. God’s blessings are free; we did nothing to earn them, yet God grants them anyway, everything from the smallest joy to our very salvation.
I know that life can be difficult; I know that it can be monotonous at times. We might believe that there is nothing great for us, and that all is despair, but just keep digging around. Keep looking through all that life has to offer, and I guarantee that you will find some blessing, something you didn’t even know was there. It might be a friend or partner. It might be the wet kisses of your puppy dog.
It might be a beautiful sunset or the beautiful sound of the wind through the trees. It even might be something you can’t fully realize now, but will come into being in time, like my ship’s wheel. No matter what it is, know that God’s love and blessings abound. Go forth and look for them; you never know what you might find.
Peace and Blessings,
Many church folks have been asking me over the last year why I have been limping so much. For me, it was just a pain that was always there, would get a bit better, and then get a bit worse. I finally did go to a doctor, and with some x-rays and some physical therapy, it was confirmed that I have osteoarthritis of the hip. This is the wear and tear type of arthritis that happens when you lose cartilage in your joints. I am a bit young for this to happen, but it is not uncommon for folks in their 40s to develop this issue. Millions of people older than me deal with this issue every day. When I finally understood the diagnosis, I was not really that worried, and there are things I can do to slow the progression. It did, however, strike me that this was something that was because of my age, and although it could be managed, it would never go away, at least not without a hip replacement. It was one more marker that my life has changed, and that the time in my life when I was younger and didn’t have to worry about such things was now over.
This is not a bad thing; life continues on and all of us age. We all reach a point where things we used to be able to do when we were younger are no longer things we can do. I think, however, that it is important to understand that any time in our life can be good and useful, just in different ways. We have a tendency in our society to idolize youth, as if being older was somehow bad. Perhaps we have trouble embracing change, embracing that we are now different than we were before? If we look at the ministry of Jesus, though, we see that he was all about the differences in life and paid little attention to what was idolized by society.
Jesus spent time with, helped and healed the old, young, sick, pariahs, and everyone in-between. Although Jesus did heal many who were sick, he did not turn them into something they were not. They might have been able to walk again, but they did not suddenly turn into 18 year olds. He was loving and accepting of people outside of social norms, but that unfortunately does not mean the rest of society was. If anything, all of this teaches me that no matter who we are or what period of our life we are in, Jesus loves and cares for us and insists that we have worth. It is easy to remember what we loved about the past or to idealize some portion of our life before. What is more difficult is to be comfortable and ok with where our life is now.
It is more difficult, but worth so much more than daydreaming about the past. After all, if Christ thinks that we are a gift to the world no matter our age or ability, perhaps we should too.
Peace and Blessings,
For those that don’t know, my mother, stepfather, and both grandparents are in the process of moving from Alabama to Beavercreek, OH. They have purchased a house that they will all be moving into, and only one thing needs to happen for them to come up—remodel a 1400 sq. ft. basement. The walkout basement in the house is finished, however, we are turning it into a one-bedroom apartment for my grandparents and installing a stair lift. This involves adding closets, a bedroom, a kitchen, a den, and expanding the bathroom, you know a little side project. Well, for anyone who has done contracting, you know that this is actually a great deal of work. I took a week off in June and my stepfather and I did all the demo work, all the framing, lined up all the contractors for HVAC, electric, and plumbing, plus laid a kitchen floor. Not too bad for a week, though I am pretty sore. I think my stepfather might need to sleep for 3 days straight, like Jesus rising from the tomb. The point of telling you all this is that such tasks can seem very daunting, even impossible. I know that once we had torn out all the things that were being removed from the space and I stared at all of the many piles of stuff that had to go to the dump, I did feel a smidge overwhelmed and unsure. However, wheelbarrow-by-wheelbarrow load, we got rid of it all and got so much done after. Life is like that often. There are things before us and we wonder how we can do them or even get through to the other end of a difficult situation. The answer, like my wheelbarrow loads, is piece-by-piece, day-by-day, or even minute- by-minute. It is only through many small steps that we make any journey in life. A life of faith is like this as well. When we accept Christ into our hearts and accept God’s grace through Christ, we start a journey, a journey of discipleship. We are saved through Christ and God’s gift of grace, but to serve Christ as our Lord is to think about how we live our lives, and if we are working in the world in ways that Christ would want us to. Just as Christ sent out the apostles, Christ sends each one of us into the world to do God’s work to help usher in the Kingdom of God: and I thought that basement was a lot of work.
The issues of the world around us and our own issues can seem daunting and impossible, but we do not do this work alone, and we do it step-by-step. None of us will ever reach perfection, at least I won’t, and the Kingdom of God will not be fully realized until the return of Christ. However, all the work we do to improve the world and ourselves has real meaning and real effect. If you are facing something that seems so very hard, keep all of this in mind: you are not alone, and even the very longest journey in life is made from small steps.
Peace and Blessings,
The Pastor's Peace Archive™
Read Pastor Brian's thoughts from past years.
The Pastor’s Sermon™
Listen to Pastor Brian's sermons, when available, recorded during Morning Worship and other special worship services.
The Pastor's Sermon Archive™
Listen to Pastor Brian’s sermons from past years.
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