Thoughts from Pastor Dan

The Lord is with us No Matter What

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

This week’s devotional is written by Felipe Hinojosa.

 

I lift up my eyes to the hills— from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.
Psalm 121, NRSV

 

My grandfather, Felix Tijerina, started every road trip early in the morning, with a car packed full of kids, food, and other supplies, and by reading Psalm 121 out loud in Spanish, el Salmo 121. They were headed north to work. Their destinations included Traverse City, Michigan, to pick cherries and Archbold, Ohio to pick tomatoes, and for everyone in that packed truck the road ahead was unfamiliar, with many unknowns along the way. I never experienced this. All I have are the stories of my mother and my tios and tias. And because of this reading Psalm 121 before every road trip is a family tradition for us. But I’ve learned that it’s also an important ritual followed by many Mexican and Mexican American migrant families who throughout much of the twentieth century and still today read the text before heading north to work in the fields. Here’s why this matters.

 

A Prayer in the Paradox

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Dear Friends Church Family,


 

Good and gracious God of land and water, of fire and wind, I’m taking a cue from the earth. That’s why I’m reaching out to you in prayer, Creator of all things, because the earth seems to be reaching out to its inhabitants. What is a welcomed snap of cold air and a gentle breeze here in the Brazos Valley is a gush of hot wind full of blazing fire in Northern California. What is a kiss of refreshing rain in my backyard is a flood of turbulent water in Puerto Rico. Mindful of this weekly paradox, O God, I come to you with hands open asking what to do, or even how to feel about all this.

 

Peacekeepers or Peacemakers?

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

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

 

"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus...[who] emptied himself..." -Philippians 2:3-5, 7

 

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God."

-Matthew 5:9

 

On Sunday in church, we were blessed with a special guest preacher and workshop leader, Rev. Dr. Irie Session. Dr. Irie preached a powerful sermon that challenged us to follow the example of Jesus, who emptied himself of his privilege for the sake of others. In the workshop following church, Dr. Irie continued this theme and led us in unpacking what it means to develop a diversity consciousness, recognizing the beauty and blessing of God's diverse creation and letting go of the ways that privilege interferes with the ability of all of God's children to experience the fullness of life.

 

Walking Toward Faith on the Appalachian Trail

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

This week’s devotional is written by Ella Maxwell. Ella, a member of the Friends Church youth group who was recently confirmed at Friends, wrote today’s devotional as her “Statement of Faith” in completion of Confirmation. She read it from the pulpit in the September 17th worship service at Friends Church.

 

“I want to be that kind of person who not only is good with people, but is good to people.”

 

Holding silence for a full day at my camp over the summer, my unit, being the oldest campers, was asked to reflect on a single query: “Going into high school, who do you want to be, and what do you want to leave behind?”

 

Moving Toward Tensions

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

The whole Israelite community complained against Moses and Aaron in the desert. The Israelites said to them, “Oh, how we wish that the Lord had just put us to death while we were still in the land of Egypt. There we could sit by the pots cooking meat and eat our fill of bread. Instead, you’ve brought us out into this desert to starve this whole assembly to death.” –Exodus 16:2-3, CEB

 

During Confirmation, the students—confirmands—completed a series of assignments. One of those was titled “Jesus the Christ Studies.” Confirmands studied Jesus the Christ, the one through whom we see and experience God, by contrasting the Way of Christ with the ways of the world. History shows us that following Jesus—discipleship with Christ—often leads to tension in our lives. No matter how virtuous we assume our culture or society to appear, following Christ invites us to live in ways that challenge those assumptions. For example, we live in a capitalist society which is frequently understood as virtuous without question; but when capitalism leads to greed that places profits over people and the benefits of some over the dignity of several, Jesus calls us to call out such injustices.

 

What’s in a name?

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

[Jesus] said, “And what about you? Who do you say that I am?”

Simon Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Matthew 16:15-16, CEB

 

The names we give to people have the potential to unleash power or to push it down. The nine-year-old in our house taught me a lesson about this recently.

 

As we sat in the car waiting for her big brother to get out of swim practice, Ruthie said, “Sometimes you call Mac names that you don’t call me.”

“Oh? I know that I call him ‘Son’ a lot.”

Raised in a family of boys with two younger brothers where my dad often called me “Son,” my usage of that name has rolled off the tongue for 12 years now when speaking to Mac.

“Yeah, but you also call him ‘Boss’ sometimes. Like, you say, ‘what’s up, boss.’ You don’t ever call me that.”

From there we unpacked the several nicknames that I (and Ruthie’s mommy) have for Ruthie. As she becomes more aware of herself and how her identity relates to the world around her—an awareness far keener in her mind than I fully comprehend—Ruthie takes comfort in some of those names and squirms a bit at others.

“Is it a gender thing, Ruthie? Because ever since you were an infant, I’ve felt conflicted about calling you ‘Baby Girl’ when I turn around and call your brother ‘Son.’”

“Yeah,” she said with squinting eyes. “That’s kind of it. But there’s more to it than that.”

She went on to explain that certain names I call Mac give the impression that I have a relationship with him that she doesn’t have with me, and that rubs her wrong (which, brought to my attention, rubs me wrong, too); and that there are names that I and others might call her that she feels don’t bring out the fullness of who she is.

 

A Prayer in Response to the Termination of DACA, by Rev. Mary Lenn Dixon

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

In response to yesterday’s announcement that the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program is ending, this week’s devotional was offered by Rev. Mary Lenn Dixon as introductory remarks and a prayer last night (9/5) at the Pastor’s Coalition Community Prayer Service at Friends Congregational Church. Rev. Dixon serves as Retired Deacon to the Episcopal Churches of Bryan-College Station, coordinates our local Clergy for Justice, and is actively involved with the Brazos Interfaith Immigration Network (BIIN).

 

In the Holy Bible, we learn that the stranger who sojourns with us shall be to us as the natives among us and we shall love them as ourselves (Leviticus). We learn we are to show hospitality to strangers, for in doing so some have entertained angels unaware (Hebrews). We learn that when we welcome strangers, we welcome Jesus (Matthew). Let us open our ears and hearts to hear what the Spirit is saying to the people, as we pray.

 

The Art of the Ache

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

This week’s devotional is written by Andrew Roblyer, who serves on the Faith Inclusion and Disabilities Awareness Team at Friends Church.

 

Recently, I listened to a 2013 TED talk by Kelly McGonigal that highlighted some fascinating research about stress. Two of the most interesting revelations: stress may not actually hurt us unless we expect it to, and stress drives us to be more social. While the former is absolutely fascinating (and I highly recommend you look up the talk), it’s the second that I want to explore today.

 

I’ve said for quite a while that I experience God most through the other people in my life. Deep conversation about life with complete strangers or dear friends often feels like the best kind of prayer. So for me, the scientific evidence simply confirmed something I have long known to be true: that, at least for me, God heals my spirit through my friends, family, and church.

 

Reaching Out

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

God is our refuge and strength, a help always near in times of great trouble. –Psalm 46:1, CEB

 

As the fall cranks up in our community with students returning, traffic congesting, and kids headed back to school, routines resurface.  With this sense of normalcy—for better or worse—comes a heightened sense of individuality where we say to ourselves, “I got this.”  Increased busyness tempts us to look inward for self-willed strength that is cloaked in routine: “So long as I keep my head above water—bills paid, car functioning, food on the table, loved ones where they need to be on time, dog walked, pets fed,” we tell ourselves, “all that hectic stuff won’t be a problem.  I’ll be fine.  Just gotta maintain.”  What’s more, with the news of the world screaming chaos at us 24/7, why engage any of that when I can just hunker down, take care of me and mine, and pray to my God for good measure?

 

That last part is what’s particularly troublesome.  Individuality is a part of our identity, and there are seasons for it to be celebrated; but when individuality becomes the exclusive lens through which we view everything in our lives, it affects our theology.  Suddenly, a pat on the back for getting through a tough week thanks to impeccable planning on my part becomes vindication for my self-willed relationship with God.  This sounds a lot like putting our light under a bushel basket, which Jesus instructed us against doing in that Sermon on the Mount.  The goodness of God is not meant for the maintenance of the individual, but for the sustenance of the community.

 

The Greatest Wrestling Match

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Dear Church Family,

 

The following is taken from the sermon I offered at Friends Church on Sunday, August 6th, coming soon in video and transcript form to the sermons page at www.friends-ucc.org.

 

In Genesis 32, Jacob wrestled with an angel of God.  If we place ourselves in Jacob’s shoes, what does that wrestling match mean for us?  James Newsome suggests, “even in the midst of our struggles with God and with self, the most enduring word is a word of God's grace,” and once we’re in a wrestling match like that, why would we ever want to let it go?

 

When I was in my early 20s, my Grandfather, my mom’s dad, was in his twilight years.  I was in college and working, trying to shift into this thing called “adulting.”  In my self-absorbed mind—I have to confess—I didn’t really want to go visit Granddaddy all that much.  I was reluctant to get into that wrestling match with him.  But then I’d walk into the living room at his old house, and I’d find him sitting on the recliner trying to dose off, and I’d sit across from him, and things would start to get real.  I’d look into his eyes that had seen the Great Depression, into his face with more than eighty years of wisdom tracked across it, and I’d realize how wet behind the ears I was.  I’d see how confused and worried I was about my life.

 

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