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Thoughts from Pastor Dan

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

In the 2016 movie Dough, an old Jewish baker is struggling to keep his business afloat when a young Muslim boy becomes his unlikely apprentice.  The teenage boy lives with his mother, who works a menial job to make ends meet for them.  With good but desperate intentions, the boy reluctantly agrees to sell cannabis for a drug dealer, doing so by dropping subtle doses of it into the dough at his Jewish mentor’s bakery.  It sends sales sky high, appears to save the bakery, and places the boy’s mother and him on safer financial ground.

 

The old baker, set in his ways of keeping to his own culture and religion, finds himself letting his ideological guard down as the apprentice and he share the suddenly profitable labor of his resurrected bakery.  But when the man finds out that the reason for his bakery’s success is that the boy has been pharmaceutically enhancing the challah, he lashes out at the boy, saying that he should’ve known better than to trust a Muslim.  The boy cries devastated tears as he runs out of the bakery, his relationship with the old man deeply severed.  The old man demolishes his own bakery and stumbles to the ground under his own agony, ripping his shirt open in lament over what he feels as a betrayal.

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 
 

Today’s devotional is written by Friends Church member Pam Engler. Pam is a retired Christian educator who co-chairs the Fellowship Committee and the Faith Inclusion and Disability Awareness Team. She enjoys volunteering for Meals on Wheels, the Brazos Church Pantry and helping some second grade students at Crockett Elementary School improve their reading skills. Pam and her husband Cady have two grown children and two grandchildren.

 

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear.  Be still, and know that I am God!” –Psalm 46: 1-2a, 10a (NRSV)

 

I recently attended a conference for volunteers and professionals in educational ministry in the church.  The theme of the conference was God with Us in the Chaos.  When this theme was chosen two years ago the planning team had no idea how much chaos we would be experiencing in the early months of 2017.  It seems like every time you turn on TV or radio news, check out internet updates or read a newspaper the word chaos is found.

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

The devotional for this week originally appeared in the “Faith & Values” section of The Eagle on Saturday, 2/18/17: http://www.theeagle.com/news/faith_and_values/strive-for-the-will-of-god/article_f97d0bd3-6a1f-58f9-a1bc-2f2ff260f2b2.html.

 

Nearly 60 clergy from Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi gathered for a retreat in New Braunfels this week. Pastors, chaplains, and ministers from the South Central Conference of our denomination, the United Church of Christ, met for only 25 hours to talk about the present and future of the Church, to meditate on the stories of Jesus, and to worship the God of us all. Who said retreats were for rest? Especially these days, when the sacred paints of neighborliness and truth run in a messy blur down the canvas of our human condition, there is seldom rest for those who vow “to accept the joy and the cost of discipleship” (taken from the UCC’s Statement of Faith).

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

This week’s devotional is written by Associate Pastor Trent Williams.

 

"Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God." I John 4:7

 

This past weekend, my husband John arrived in town with our two dogs in tow after driving some 23 hours from Philadelphia. Ever since I arrived as your Associate Pastor in October of last year, I've been eagerly anticipating when they would be able to join me, and now that they are here life feels more complete. It certainly makes this a special Valentine's Day, although we usually focus more on February 16th each year, which is the anniversary of when we began dating. Still, this is a special week, and thoughts of love are all around us. Whether you have a special someone to call your Valentine or not, we as human beings are made for love, and we all need to be told on a regular basis that we are loved.

 

Love is a word that we use a lot in church and in our culture, and it's an important word. But I sometimes wonder whether we really know its meaning when we use it. Do we mean the first flush of romantic feelings that come with a new relationship, do we mean the deep and intimate knowledge of one another shared by a couple that's been together for a lifetime? Do we mean the self-giving love of a parent for a child, or perhaps that mysterious power lying at the heart of all things that we call God?

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

If we are being afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation; if we are being consoled, it is for your consolation, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we are also suffering. –2 Corinthians 1:6, NRSV

 

“I trust you,” said the African American pastor of a socioeconomically diverse congregation. “You’re not one of those pastors who says, ‘Take a picture of me with these poor kids!’”

“Well,” I replied sheepishly, “I’ve got a lot of work to do on that front. Many of us do.”

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

This week’s devotional is written by Andrew Roblyer. Andrew is a member of the Faith Inclusion & Disabilities Awareness Team at Friends Congregational Church. He also frequently helps lead worship celebrations, offering children’s messages and serving as a lay leader. Andrew is married to Joe Hartsoe.

 

Today I would like to share a modified version of an article I wrote that was originally published by New Direction Ministries of Canada. As I was searching for words for a Midweek Message that reflects the hope that I’m desperately clinging to and the fire that has been burning in my heart, this piece came to mind. Some of you will recognize it, as I shared it at Theology on Tap about a year ago, but I hope it still evokes some of what it evokes for me.

 

Just Dance

 

…I was watching this guy dance in his underwear and –

Oh, right.  Midweek message.  Sorry, that was probably a really awkward place to come in, huh?  Let me back up.

…died on Sunday.  Better?  No?  Let’s see…how about:

…the mental fog that accompanies total exhaustion and emotional depletion poured down onto the dance floor in physical form, whiting out everything but us two friends, dancing apart together.

Yeah, much better.

 

The past six weeks have been a blur.  My life has been made up of people living who shouldn’t, people dying who shouldn’t, and people dealing with the ‘almost’s and ‘I don’t know’s who shouldn’t have to.  As I wrote on another blog: “It's like we've been put into this bare room lit with fluorescent light twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  The reference points by which we measure time are lost in the hazy blur of life going on around us. ‘It’ simultaneously feels like a lifetime ago and as if no time at all has passed. Disorienting, to say the least.”

 

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Dear Friends Church Family

 

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” –John 16:12

 

Last night we held a Bible study at the church called “Queering the Bible.” The study, examining those six passages that have been and are used as weapons against LGBTQ people, drew a diverse crowd of members of our church and non-members whose interest was piqued.

 

To start the study, the facilitator drew our attention to something called hermeneutics. Our hermeneutic is the lens through which we read the Bible. From the start it was important for us to acknowledge that our experience informs how we read Scripture, and how we read determines what the Word of God says.

 

I had coffee with a new friend this morning. We’ll call him Tom. Tom talked about how he was raised in a small town, rural environment that was highly conservative. This experience taught him a “traditional” (his words) reading of the Bible, where nothing was to be questioned, and where doubt of any kind was taboo.

 

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Today’s midweek devotional is written by Associate Pastor Trent Williams.

 

Yesterday, many of us had the day off as we commemorated the civil rights icon and leader, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As I sometimes do on this holiday each year, I spent some time listening to one of King's favorite singers, and a civil rights leader in her own right, Mahalia Jackson. Jackson was a powerful gospel singer who shared the stage with King on several occasions, including at the 1963 March on Washington, where she sang before King spoke. As the story goes, King was delivering his prepared remarks, and following his typed manuscript fairly closely. This was the section of his address where he talked about the crowd having come to Washington to "cash a check," to claim the promises of the Declaration of Independence for all Americans.

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

This week’s devotional is written by Paula Verdegaal.  Paula serves as Vice Moderator on the Church Council.  She and her partner Wolfgang are the proud parents of Noah and George Verdegaal.

 

Now that school is back in session, the holidays are over and the Christmas tree and lights are (hopefully) put away, the last of my holiday guests just departed this morning. After having guests of family and friends in my house for almost three continuous weeks, I noticed myself longing for a return to my every day routine towards the end. No more eating out frequently, no more special trips to show people around town, no more sacrificing my small moments without children to spend as much time together. These thoughts brought in a few different emotions: guilt that I was so anxious for alone time and sadness that I didn't know when I would realistically get the chance to spend extended time with my friends that were visiting again. Even though I was enjoying myself, was it ok that I was also looking forward to an empty house?

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

If the category on Jeopardy was “New Year 2017,” you picked $1,000, and Alex Trebek said, “You’ll need these directions or guidelines as to how you should live your life and conduct your affairs for a ‘more fulfilled you’,” your response might be, “What are resolutions?”  But if Jesus were the show’s host saying that same prompt about what you’ll need in 2017 for a more fulfilled self, your response might be, “What are principles, Teacher?”  (No offense to Mr. Trebek.)

 

There’s nothing wrong with resolutions.  A lot of us make them in hopes of achieving a better self.  But according to Forbes.com, “University of Scranton research suggests that just 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals.”  Those self-willed promises sound like a pretty unreliable hook to hang our hat on for the next 361 days.