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Thoughts from Pastor Dan

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Dear Church Family,

 

Today’s midweek message is a day early to remind you that Theology on Tap gathers tonight at 6pm.  All are welcome.  Details below.  Read on!

 

Let’s not get tired of doing good, because in time we’ll have a harvest if we don’t give up. –Galatians 6:9, Common English Bible

 

Last week I was at Big Bend National Park with family.  We took a four-plus-mile hike up a huge mountain on the Lost Mine Trail.  When we reached the top, I noticed a large rock at the edge of the mountain that overlooked the entire canyon.  My initial thought was, “Maybe I can climb on top of that rock and have that much more of a majestic view,” but when I got to the base of the rock I found that it was way too steep.  However, there was a slight pathway around to the other side of it that led to an inlet just big enough for me to sit and enjoy the view!  Carefully scaling the side of the rock, I reached the other side and sat in its cleft overlooking green mountains and hearing nothing but the rare gift of silence.

 

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Dear Church Family,


Today’s midweek devotion is written by Andrew Roblyer, a Friends Congregational Church member who is part of the Faith and Inclusion Ad-Hoc Committee and co-leads Living the Questions, our ministry of, by, and for 20 and 30-somethings.

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about “extravagant welcome” lately, which I feel is an appropriate topic considering that I have been so kindly welcomed to share my thoughts with you this week

 

You see, I was raised in a tradition that fostered a “club” mentality to church. Visitors were welcome, but always encouraged to become members as soon as possible so as to truly receive the full support of the church family. Outreach and evangelism were important, but only insofar as they encouraged people to attend, and eventually join, our church.

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. –Matthew 5:9

 

I’m scheduled to officiate a wedding in McKinney, Texas in a couple of months, but instead of joyful nuptials shared between two beautiful people, all I can think of is inexcusable violence exerted against a teenage girl by a supposed authority figure.

 

You’ve heard the news: There was a pool party in the Craig Ranch neighborhood in McKinney.  Teenagers, both black and white, were there swimming.  According to Texas Monthly's The Daily Post, “Witnesses say that some white adults at the pool had made racist comments—telling the black teens to ‘get used to the bars’ outside of the pool, or to ‘go back to their Section 8 housing.’ (The average home price in Craig Ranch is $450,000.)”  Tensions escalate.  Police arrive on the scene.  When a 14-year-old black girl tells an officer—identified as Corporal Eric Casebolt—that “she needs to find her glasses,” she is grabbed by the officer and, moments later, thrown to the ground.  Casebolt then grabs the girl’s hair, pulls a gun on two unarmed teenage boys who approach this troubling scene; and “when the girl screams about his gun, he grabs her by the back of the head, shouts, ‘On your face,’ and slams her, face-first, into the grass.”  The man then puts his knee in the girl’s back to keep her pinned down as she cries, “I’m not fighting you.”

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

Today’s midweek message is written by Friends Church member Pam Engler.  Pam and her spouse Cady joined Friends Church on Pentecost Sunday last month.

 

Recently three television shows that I watched regularly (Parenthood, Glee, and The Mentalist) aired their final episodes.  Each provided a satisfactory ending with glimpses both into the past and the future.  But their absence has created a void in my life.  I miss my virtual friends!

 

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Dear Church Family,

 

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. –Psalm 46:1-3, NRSV

 

Waking up to another morning of saturated earth and news of flooding in various parts of Texas, this Scripture soothes my anxious soul.  The rains have come and they continue to come.  The rain has done more damage than our State has perhaps ever seen from floods.  Yet the psalmist encourages us to “not fear,” even when the earth’s waters of the Blanco River “roar and foam,” picking up homes from their foundations and sweeping them and their inhabitants to an unknown fate.

 

When inexplicable violence and natural disasters occur, it might be tempting to leaf through the pages of Scripture for explanations of “why did this happen.”  Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 7 come to mind, when he talks about foolish people building their houses on sand instead of on rock consequently losing their homes when the rains come: “The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!”  Easy, obvious explanation.  Yes, and it also frees us from being about the spirit of that metaphor and what that spirit calls us to do.

 

Jesus was not speaking in legalism or literalism.  He never does.  Jesus was using a metaphor to make a greater point about the sure foundation of his words and acting on those words.  When the Blanco River roars and foams and carries our neighbors’ livelihoods and very lives away, the wise are called to set aside the temptation of accepting easy answers and blaming victims for their own plight, and to instead hear the words of Christ and act on them—“Feed my sheep”—for such is the sure foundation of the Kingdom of God that we pray for on earth as it is in heaven.

 

A friend of mine, Rev. Jim Denham, is Pastor of Chapel in the Hills church in Wimberley.  His spouse, Molly, has been sending out email reports of what is happening there.  Their home and their church are fine, she writes, but the same cannot be said for their congregation.  People are emotionally and physically jarred.  I suppose that’s what happens when the river on which your home once stood looks like a bomb hit it on both sides for miles.  I guess that’s how one feels when helicopters are circling overhead searching for missing persons.  This is what it looks like when the earth’s waters roar and foam.  And, just like the poetry of those Psalms that bend toward resolution, the whole picture of this story isn’t finished.  Given the psalmist’s encouragement, my hopeful heart is not concerned with the fearful question of “why did this happen.”  Instead, my attention is set on the more convicting question of “where is God in all of this.”

 

God is in the refuge of hands and homes extended to those left helpless and homeless.  God is in the strength of relentless rescue efforts and searches for missing persons.  God is in the help of donated food items and financial contributions that are committed to figurative and literal rebuilding efforts even before the saturated earth dries out.  Today I am comforted and convicted by the hope of God being present in the words of Jesus and the actions of those who act upon those words: “Feed my sheep.”  Translation?  I hear those words saying, “Make God visible today by reflecting God’s love in acts of kindness toward those who are hurting.”

 


 

Pastor Dan

 

 




 

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Dear Church Family,

 

Last week I attended the Festival of Homiletics in Denver.  The event gathered 1,800 clergy of different denominations from across the country for five days of worship celebrations, sermons, lectures, workshops, and even concerts.  One lecture I attended at Trinity United Methodist Church was offered by Craig Barnes, President and Professor of Pastoral Ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary.  Standing in a pulpit addressing what looked like at least 1,000 of the Festival attendees, Barnes offered six points for effective pastoral ministry.

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

Today’s midweek devotion is written by Mark L. Thomas, a longtime Friends Congregational Church member who presently serves as Church Council Vice Moderator, as is active on the Friends Church Sustainability Team and in the Social Justice Class.

 

He put a new song in my mouth,
                   a song of praise to our God.
                Many will see and fear,
                   and put their trust in the Lord.  (Psalm 40:3, NRSV)

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

 

Today I had lunch with teenagers.  That wasn’t the plan.  I thought I was going to have lunch with one teenager at her school: one of the youth from our church.  We would sit somewhere in the cafeteria apart from the usual lunch crowd and talk one-on-one about anything and everything in her adolescent world, and that would be that.  But when I arrived with my brown bag lunch and made eye contact with the teen I had come to see, she patted the spot next to her and said, “Come sit here with us!”

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

Earthquakes and aftershocks in Nepal with a death toll rising above 5,000 people.  Unrest in the streets of Baltimore.  Another execution in Texas.  The Supreme Court hearing cases with significant implications for the freedom to marry in the United States.  It’s enough to exhaust even the coolest under pressure with anxiety.  And it’s more than enough to tempt us with thoughts and actions that come from anxiousness rather than from contemplation.

 

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Dear Church Family,

 

Today’s midweek devotion is written by my friend and ministerial colleague, Kyle Walker.  His words here reflect on the testimony he will give tonight at the Texas legislature regarding a House Bill…

 

Before moving to Austin in January of 2013, my image of the Texas legislature was more along the lines of that scene of from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas where Charles Durning plays the Governor.   You can see that funny scene of him Doing the Sidestep here.   If you listen carefully to the lyrics you will notice that the Governor uses religious language and references over and over to sidestep any questions about his stance on the famed Chicken Ranch in LaGrange, TX.

 

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