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Thoughts from Pastor Dan

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

John’s gospel does not have an infancy narrative accounting the birth of Jesus, but for me it has the most comforting, powerful account of what we celebrate coming into the world during this Advent season: Emmanuel, which means “God With Us.”  “The Word became flesh and dwelled among us,” says John 1:14.  God selflessly bore the empathetic role of a Mighty Counselor in the skin and bones, experience and feelings of humanity, all of whom God spun in God’s divine image.  In the beginning God became Emmanuel.

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

Happy birthday!  Today is the 36th birthday of Friends Congregational Church.  Thirty-six years ago today, a small community of people, devoted to the Way of Jesus Christ and to one another as siblings in discipleship, signed the charter that made Friends official. 

 

Birthdays celebrate another year in the life of a person.  So, how do you celebrate the birth of a congregation, especially when that congregation is not defined by any set group of people for all time, nor by the building that carries the name Friends?  It might sound unorthodox, but to celebrate the birth of a church is to give God thanks and praise for an embodiment that refuses to stay put.

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God.” –Romans 8:28a

 

I spent Thanksgiving Day with family.  Before the meal we held hands in a circle and shared what we’re thankful for.  Those voiced expressions served as our prayer of blessing.  “I’m thankful for my family.”  “I’m thankful for my health.”  “I’m thankful for the time we have together today.”

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

A Prayer for us…

 

God of justice, mercy, and love, we are troubled.  We are an ant mound stepped on by an intrusive, indifferent boot that just keeps walking.  Scattered, anxious, we are troubled.

 

News breaks of a grand jury’s decision, and hearts break at that sound that is terrifyingly familiar for far too many of your children.  With that scab pulled away from the wounds of racial injustice and racial tensions, the ant mound of Ferguson, Missouri erupts.  There are screams and unrest.  There are riot gear and tear gas.  There are burning cars and broken windows.  There are people running every which way with scattered, anxious perspectives about this intrusive boot print, and there is a world looking on with indifference disguised as a range of conciliatory emotions—disappointment, disgust, despair.  Clouded by the human temptation to make sense of everything we’re hearing and seeing out of an allegedly distant land, our capacities for compassion fall short.  So, too, we fall short of one another.

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

When was the last time you saw Jesus?  Jesus means so many things to each of us.  Our “walk” with Christ or our relationship with Jesus is understood in different ways every day.  Think about your concept of Jesus when you hear that question.  When was the last time you saw Jesus?  Set aside any preconceived notions you might have of Jesus’ physical appearance, be they the blonde-haired, blue-eyed portrayal of him in some paintings or a more historically informed picture of Jesus based on ancient geographical context.  Forget about the search for theological perfection or Christological certainty you have in uncovering a Jesus that makes dignified sense to you.  Instead, breathe in the Spirit of God that says through the psalmist’s words, “Be still and know,” and then exhale that blessed Spirit with the continuation of those words, “that I am God.”  Be still and know…that I am God.

 

Now, when was the last time you saw Jesus?

 

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Dear Church Family,

 

This week’s midweek devotional will (hopefully) appear as the clergy column in this Saturday’s Eagle.

 

The Westboro gang came to College Station this week.  They’re the folks from Topeka, Kansas who picket houses of worship and military funerals across the country holding large signs with hate-filled rhetoric.  Westboro appeared on Texas A&M campus Monday morning and were met by a “maroon wall” of students standing in solidarity against their morally violent message.  Even this UT alumnus was proud to wear maroon that morning on Simpson Drill Field.

 

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Dear Church Family,

 

Dear Friends Church Family,

 

This morning is appropriately dreary.  Last night ended another election in our country.  Today our emotionally jostled citizenry is sifting through the ashes of yard signs, campaign contribution receipts, and “I Voted” stickers.  Maybe it’s because of the rise of social media that’s connected me with the unbridled commentary of hundreds of people of all political stripes.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been serving churches for nearly 20 years where I’ve witnessed the bi-annual tensions of a faith family not knowing what is appropriate to say around each other as Election Day draws near.  All I know is that no matter what the results—whether ecstatically in my own selfish favor or bitterly opposed to it—the day after an election always leaves me cold.

 

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Dear Church Family,

 

Sunday felt like walking outside and in that moment happening to see a hummingbird drinking from a blooming sage plant.  Like most Sundays at the church, it was serendipitous to the point of my heart overflowing.

 

First, there were the blessings of consistency that we often take for granted—familiar faces walking in the door and finding the coffee, children buzzing with excitement in their classrooms, choir members gathering for a pre-worship service warm-up, and those devoted souls in the kitchen, in the narthex, and in the AV corner preparing everything for a hospitable morning of welcoming all.  Everyone was here.  Familiarity like this isn’t simple; it’s miraculous.

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

When the famous minister William Sloane Coffin’s son died in a severe weather-related car accident, he later reflected on his tragic loss and said, “I have learned that God provides minimum protection and maximum comfort.”  One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Psalm 99:11-12.  I’ve always heard it as an assurance of Divine protection: “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.  On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.”  When a boy in our congregation was minutes away from having a tumor removed from his brain, I put my hand on his head and prayerfully spoke those words from the psalmist.  But are those words empty if, as Rev. Coffin testifies, God provides minimum protection?

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

Today’s midweek devotional will (hopefully) appear in Saturday’s Eagle.

 

I used to think the Psalm that says “be still and know that God is God” was meant to comfort me.  It was the holy insistence that my Rock and my Redeemer had everything under control, and I could rest assured in that carefree being.   I’ve discovered that Psalm to be more about an inward communion with God that leads to outward expressions of holiness extending beyond the parameters of what I think I am meant to be and do.