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Thoughts from 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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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

Today’s midweek devotion will appear in Saturday’s Eagle.

 

A friend of mine has a home too small for her dog-loving heart.  She took in a stray that marked his territory all over her house.  Still, she cares for this four-legged stranger—calling on friends who own male dogs for advice, canvassing her neighborhood with pictures of her new houseguest in hopes that his owner will surface.  The whole thing gives her a headache.  She tells me, “I must be crazy, caring for this stray when I already have two of my own that I know how to handle.  I think I have a problem.”  If compassion is a problem, maybe we should all start praying for our lives to be more problematic.

 

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Dear Church Family,

 

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

 

Yesterday, I was privileged to attend a seminar at Texas A&M University, hosted by the Office for Diversity, titled, “Exploring Dynamics of Internalized Dominance and Internalized Racism: Tools for Shifting the Status Quo.”  The educational event of roughly 50 attendees included interactive lectures and dialogue in small groups.  As a clergy person who is not officially affiliated with the University, I found the seminar’s learning outcomes particularly insightful: 1) Identify the types of behaviors and attitudes that undermine effective partnering to dismantle policies, practices, services, pedagogy, and curriculum that maintain racism on campus; 2) explore strategies to dissolve internalized dominance and/or internalized racism in themselves and others, and identify effective ways to partner across race to dismantle racism on campus; and 3) deepen insight and capacity to form productive partnerships for creating socially just, inclusive campus environments for all.  What an inspiration it was to know that TAMU was going about this intentional effort!  But, again, not being a University faculty/staff member, this pastor, who just survived Holy Week and Easter, was wondering, “And what are we people of faith doing in our houses of worship and in our community to create and foster this kind of peace?”

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

What if there were no resurrection?  In admonishment of doubting Christians, the preacher often says, “No resurrection, no Christianity.”  But the Gospel of Mark, which most biblical scholars contend is the first gospel written, has no account of an actual resurrection.  Instead, there is a mysterious man in a white robe greeting the women—Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome—saying, “Jesus is risen!”  And there’s a large stone that’s been rolled away, revealing a tomb without a body in it.  In other words, Mark’s Easter testimony is not so much an account of the resurrection as it is a story about an empty tomb.

 

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Dear Church Family,

 

When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. –Mark 11:1-6, NRSV

 

Much attention is given to Jesus calling his first disciples.  From our vantage point, we scratch our heads at how those first followers could stop what they were doing—literally drop their nets—and accept Jesus’ invitation to spend their days walking with him in service to the mission of sharing the good news of God’s love.  But every year when the story of Jesus’ “Triumphal Entry” at the gate of Jerusalem comes up, I am dumbfounded at how much more incredible it is than the Son of Man calling the twelve.

 

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TODAY’S MIDWEEK MESSAGE COMES A DAY EARLY TO REMIND YOU ABOUT THEOLOGY ON TAP TONIGHT, 6pm, AT PERRINE WINERY ON HARVEY ROAD.  DETAILS AFTER THE DEVOTIONAL…

 

In addition to wearing green, cooking up corned beef, and breaking out the U2 and Van Morrison tunes (although I prefer Thin Lizzy), many will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day today by praying the prayer of St. Patrick’s Breastplate.  Part of the prayer focuses specifically on Christ:

“Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.”

That excerpt is often the only part of the lengthy Breastplate Prayer of St. Patrick that is actually prayed, but there’s a lot to be said about the Christology it implies.

 

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