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Thoughts from Pastor Dan

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Dear Church Family,

 

Today’s midweek devotional appeared in Saturday’s “Faith and Values” section of The Eagle.

 

An oily black smudge on my forehead and my fingers looking like they'd cleaned a chimney were the indicators Ash Wednesday night that Lent had officially begun.

 

The 40 days of Lent require fasting for the ones who claim to be followers -- disciples -- of Jesus. Fasting in westernized Christianity suggests that we give up something, that we fast from some luxury we otherwise take for granted in our daily lives in order to appreciate what Christ gave up in redeeming the transgressions of the world.

 

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Dear Church Family,

 

There’s a band called The Decemberists who just released a new album.  Its title caught my attention: “What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World.”  My snarky preacher self immediately thought, “Did those stealthy indie rockers weasel that poetic title from Frederick Buechner?”  We ministers love Buechner’s deep theological quote that’s found its way into our sermons and benedictions for a decade now: “Here is the world.  Beautiful and terrible things will happen.  Don't be afraid.”

 

Terror and beauty meet at the paradox of our faith.  Symbolically, the beams of the cross claim that paradox.  The brokenness of the human condition intersects with the redemptive grace of God, and at that paradoxical point there is no room for fear. 

 

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Dear Church Family,

 

“…encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.”1 Thessalonians 5:11
 
While we’ve enjoyed cool-to-warm sunny days with clear skies in the Brazos Valley, the Northeast has been pummeled with a record-setting blizzard.  Most of the news reporting on that region has pointed to the threatening snow and piercing wind chill.  Social media has poured out concern for people in that northeasterly neck of the woods.  It certainly is troubling; even devastating in some cases.
 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

Not much of a devotional today; just a witness.  I want to recap what I witnessed at last night’s gathering for our church’s monthly Theology on Tap.  Seated at a long table, our group of twelve—yes, that magic Christian number—began our time by going around the circle (rectangle, really) sharing one simple prayer each.  We were coming from a host of experiences: the loss of a spouse, indefinitely irreconcilable difference between members of our family, celebrating a birthday, recent time spent with dear colleagues and friends, and the list goes on. 

 

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Dear Church Family,

 

Today’s midweek message will appear in this Saturday’s Eagle.

 

Jesus is recorded as saying that the greatest command is to love God with your entire being, and to love your neighbor as yourself.  “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”  Those first followers of Jesus had no idea the power of his words.  They had no concept of where loving one’s neighbor as oneself leads.  Two thousand years later, neither do we.

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

My favorite folk musician, Loudon Wainwright III, has a song called “That Hospital” where he laments having to go there all the time.  From car accidents to surgeries to other brushes with death, he has to “keep going back to that hospital.”

 

Lately I’m a little too familiar with Wainwright’s perspective.  Yes, being a minister summons you to the hospital on occasion, but when you have two church members there for days on end, “that hospital” becomes more of a home away from home.  Unlike Wainwright, however, I don’t find lament in having to keep going back.  To be sure, there is pain there in that hospital.  There is sadness, frustration, even tragedy, but none of that stuff has the final word when there is also comfort and peace.

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

“O righteous God, who searches minds and hearts, bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure.”
Psalm 7:9

 

Roxane Gay is an author who focuses on race, gender, and identity.  In a recent interview on NPR, she described 2014 as the year of “enough is enough.”  From unfettered misogyny to unchecked racism, Gay pinpointed public outrages, protest movements and hashtag revolutions solidifying a public narrative against social injustices.

 

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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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