Our pastors thoughts on many of today’s events

Dear FPC—
Happy July! That means that the first half of 2020 is over! Frankly, I’m ready to move on to something new . But, of course actual events—pandemics, systemic racism, economic turmoil, political disputes, etc. – don’t care about our turning over the page on a calendar. So our lives today look a lot like our lives last week for most of us.
I am encouraged by your broad engagement with our book study on Race Talk. We had over 50 people involved and everyone was very open and honest in their reflections, which I really respect. I am hopeful that we will all learn some new things about ourselves and about how our society has embedded racism in some surprising ways that most of us are unaware of. My prayer for this time is that each of us will learn something about ourselves and become more open to listening and learning from others, especially others from differing backgrounds.
Of course, many of you are not able or inspired to join an 8 week book group. That is of course fine! But, we have gathered some resources that any of us could find helpful. They are on the Resources for Anti-Racism page on our website. http://fpcslc.org/anti-racism-resources/
Some of these were shared by some members of the congregation! If you have other resources you think would be helpful, please feel free to let Pastor Chris and I know about them.
Have a safe and happy Fourth of July. For all of our challenges, it is good to celebrate our country and the aspirations of freedom, equal justice for all, and opportunities for life, liberty and happiness that it still points us towards.

This Sunday we will be looking at the surprising power of forgiveness and mercy. That kind of power is sorely needed today. As Abe Lincoln once said—do I not destroy my enemies by making them my friends? If you really want change in our world, we need to start making friends, one person at a time.

God bless you!

Pastor Steve

Dear FPC:
Last Sunday we saw God’s expansive welcome—sending us out into the streets, the alleys, the highways and the hedges to invite all kinds of people to his banquet. Do you think of being with God as a party? The Bible often describes it as a great party—a banquet or a wedding feast. Our future is not an unending pew sitting, it is a rich, sumptuous celebration! I hope that none of us miss out!
This Sunday we are talking about how far God will go to bring each one of us home. I think you might be surprised! One of the big questions our society is facing today is who is included in the “us.” We are wired to look for differences and to treat people who are different from ourselves as “the other.” As not part of “us.” My question for you is where do you think Jesus would draw the line between us and them? Who is our neighbor that we are called to love?
Do those questions make you uncomfortable? I have to admit that they often unsettle me. Let’s walk together as we let Jesus disrupt us!
Grace and peace to you this week!

Pastor Steve

Dear FPC—
The other day Alice looked outside and said “what a beautiful fall day!” I think we will be back to summer by the weekend, but how strange that we have had this run of cooler weather (and how about that rain the other day!?).
All of this reminds me—even though it is still June, Fall is coming. We are making plans—not just for VBS and youth service projects, but for our fall programing, the Scottish Festival, and more. Of course all of those plans are impacted by the continued uncertainty of the coronavirus. Pastor Chris, the Session and I all appreciate your prayers as we navigate these uncharted waters.
A great thing about our faith is that even when our times are uncertain (as they really always are!), we can trust that our lives are held tightly by our loving Savior Jesus. We are not doing any of this alone, and we are in good hands. That is a powerful and encouraging truth. I hope you feel its impact. Pastor Chris and I (and your deacons!) are available to visit with you and talk through the challenges you are facing.
But, we are constantly reminded that we are not just recipients of good news, we are supposed to be conduits of it! We are blessed to be a blessing. One way you can do that is to let your neighbors know that you are there for them. Walk to your neighbors and drop off a note (or one of our Neighbors Helping Neighbors door hangers) with your name and phone number (or email if you prefer) and let them know that you are there—willing to listen, to pray, to help if you can.
I’ve heard from many people how good they feel when our calling tree checks in with them. All of us love to be remembered and included. So—pass that blessing of remembering and including on to your neighbors!
Let’s transform our neighborhoods by being the helping neighbors!
This Sunday we will be looking in worship at God’s extravagant invitation and what it means for us. Don’t let the busy-ness of life distract you from the meaning of life!

Grace, peace and joy to you from our Lord Jesus!

Pastor Steve

Dear FPC—

Suddenly racism is on everyone’s mind.  Many people’s reaction is “Racism?  Not my problem!”  With respect, it really is our problem.  People of color are the victims of the racism of white people—both conscious and unconscious racism.  Our brothers and sisters have been mistreated and even killed for years and we are mostly ignoring it.  That is a serious problem.  

The starting place is for us to listen and to learn.  Here are two videos that I highly recommend you watch and one very short thing to read: 
Deconstructing White Privilege by Dr. Robin DiAngelo.  This is a very accessible 22 minute talk that could change how you look at the world.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=DwIx3KQer54
Racism and Corporate Evil:  A White Guy’s Perspective—a sermon by Tim Keller.  In 26 minutes Rev Keller shows how we should care about group (corporate) and systemic evil, how we are sometimes unwittingly part of it, and how we can change. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhJJcTKTVGo  
Here is some advice from a black pastor: To all of my non-Black friends who are sincerely asking “what do I do?” While there are so many answers to that question, the best starting place is to draw near and “mourn with those who mourn.” It is PROXIMITY that moves us from apathy to EMPATHY. Our Empathy moves us to ENGAGEMENT and the aim of quality ENGAGEMENT is always EQUITY! #kingdomleaders #georgefloyd
Pastor Chris will be introducing a great opportunity for all of us to learn on Sunday as well, so don’t miss that.   Finally, Intervarsity Press is making a number of books about Justice available for FREE https://www.ivpress.com/pages/resources-for-faithful-justice  I particularly recommend “Disunity in Christ” 

Thanks for listening and for risking connecting about this important issue.  
Pastor Steve

Dear FPC—
            A Time To Pray.  
It feels like the world is going crazy.  COVID, senseless killings of black men, huge protests, a spirit of lawlessness leading to rioting and violence and destruction, a spirit of division driving us apart, many businesses still closed down (and some will not reopen), and now surging numbers of new cases of COVID 19 here in Utah.  Lord have Mercy! 
It is time to pray.  Let us take special time over the next week (through Friday, June 12) to pray and to fast for our country, our state, and our community.  Praying isn’t the only thing we should do, but it is the first thing—the foundation of any wise course of action.  
“If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”  2 Chronicles 7:14 
As you pray ask God’s Holy Spirit to lead you and listen for His nudges.  Here are some requests to consider:
Show me my own sin; reveal to me the darkness of my own heart (Ps.139:24)
Reveal to me the repentance I need in my own life.
The ending of the lawlessness and violence.
Justice for those who have had their lives taken from them, especially George Floyd, and comfort for their families.
Comfort for the family and friends of the thousands of people who have lost their lives because of Covid-19.
Help for the millions who find themselves suddenly without a job.
Provision for all those business owners who have lost their business because of rioting, for those who have insurance and those who do not.
Strength for the health care workers, nurses, doctors, technicians in hospitals and medical facilities who continue to work fearlessly to save lives.
Wisdom for our government and civil leaders as they seek to keep us safe both from the virus and from the violence in our cities.
Food and provision for those who are hungry and in need.
Fresh anointing for the Church of Jesus Christ to faithfully proclaim the Gospel and reach people who are hurting, suffering, alone, and in need.
Specific acts of grace and mercy that You want me to carry out in this time.
Here is a prayer for our country that I borrowed from the Book of Common Prayer (slightly edited):
Almighty God, you have given us this good land, we humbly beg that we may always be a people mindful of your favor and glad to do your will.  Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure conduct.  
Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. 
Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes who came here from many kindreds and tongues.  
Lord, send your spirit of wisdom to those to whom, in your Name, we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to your law, we may show forth your praise among the nations of the earth.  
In a time of prosperity fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble don’t let our trust in you fail—all of this we ask in through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  
Remember, Jesus said:  “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”  Luke 11:9-10.  
Let’s start knocking!  
Grace and peace to you,
Pastor Steve

Dear FPC—
As we approach Pentecost on Sunday (remember to wear red to worship!), we are praying for a renewed experience of God’s Spirit in us. With millions around the world through Thy Kingdom Come we are praying for friends to experience God’s love in a new and powerful way. I hope you will join us in this!
Here is today’s reflection:
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8.37-39
We expect there must be something that can separate us from the love of God. But God is saying, ‘I don’t care where you are,
what you’re doing, how far away you are: my love for you will not change.’ Sometimes we think that God’s love is dependent on the way we act. But God is saying, ‘Listen, not even the heights of this earth could separate me or stop me from loving you.’
Christianity is first a relationship with God through Jesus, not first a series of activities! The love of God is ultimately expressed in the Cross of Christ, which stands for all time as the sign and assurance of God’s unchanging love.
Loving God, thank You for Your love from which nothing can separate us, and which does not depend on our efforts. Please reveal this love and the peace it brings, in the lives of the five people I am praying for.
Think about how you can show someone that they are loved and known by God.

Join us on Sunday as we celebrate the reality and protection of God with us through his Spirit.

Grace and Peace to you this week!

Pastor Steve

Dear FPC—
Try to imagine how the first disciples felt when Jesus ascended to heaven. First he is killed, then he comes back, but now he’s gone? What do we do? Jesus promised that he would send his Spirit to be with them, guide them and empower them. But not yet. After the ascension they had to wait for the Spirit to come. They waited 11 days, praying and seeking God’s help until the Spirit arrived on Pentecost.
This year we are walking with the disciples after Easter, and we are going to use this time between the Ascension and Pentecost to pray. We are praying for Jesus’ Kingdom to Come—in our hearts, in our lives, in our homes, on earth as it is in heaven. And we are praying for 5 friends to come to know Jesus better.
We have lots of information and resources available on our Thy Kingdom Come page, but here are three things you can do now:
Download the Thy Kingdom Come app to your phone and use it over the next 11 days to pray each day.
Join us for the Festival of Prayer this Saturday, May 23, at 10 am on Zoom. Just email the office or a pastor for the zoom information.
Check out the Family Adventure Prayer map! There is even an augmented reality app that you can use with it!
What a great way to get ready for a fresh move of the Spirit in your life—pray for it and invite Him in! Join us for Thy Kingdom Come!
I’m looking forward to worshipping with you on Sunday as we consider how our new life from Jesus doesn’t protect us from hard times, but does carry us through them. Blessings on your week!

Pastor Steve

Dear FPC—
This is getting hard, isn’t it? We yearn for connection and “normality” and even just for clear information about how to keep our neighbors safe. Please know that your Session and staff are all learning, working and thinking hard about how we should move forward as a congregation. For many or most of us our lives will continue to different from how they were in January or February for some time. What can we DO during this time?
I think this a wonderful time for the church (remember that the church is always and only a PEOPLE—you!—not a place or a building) to really make a difference. We can make a difference in our neighborhood and around the world.
Here are 3 ways we can do that right now:
Walk for Water on Saturday
Pray for our friends and neighbors. We are having a special prayer emphasis called Thy Kingdom Come from May 21 (next Thursday) to Sunday May 31 to pray for 5 friends. We will have a prayer vigil, a Festival of Prayer (on zoom on Saturday May 23), and activities for all ages to join in. For more information check out http://fpcslc.org/thy-kingdom-come/
Reach out to your neighbors. One of our members told me about how he left notes with his contact information at each of his neighbors with an offer to help or talk or check in. He says he is closer to his neighbors than ever, despite having lived in that house for years! You can do that too! To help you we are providing “Neighbor helping neighbor” door hangers. You can write your name and phone number on it, it offers to help, to talk and to pray for them. The hangers will be available next week—but you can write your own note anytime! You can knock and say hi (wearing your mask of course!) or just leave them on the step.
My prayer is that we come out of this time more connected to our neighbors and known as people who care. That is a witness for Jesus that will bear fruit for eternity!

Blessings, peace and patience to you!

Pastor Steve

Dear FPC,
Things are complicated. I see new life springing up in flowers and trees, and am excited about a new family being born on Saturday as Gracie gets married. At the same time, I am heartbroken by the continued death and destruction from the pandemic. And I am devastated by YET ANOTHER black man shot down for no reason at all (and frankly puzzled and a little angry that the murderers have not been arrested). Life and death—both happening at once all around us. Kindness and hatred both popping up all over.
All I can really say is Lord Have Mercy. Lord have mercy on us, on our leaders, on our broken society, on our health care workers, on people in dire economic straits—please help us! Help us to see and repent of our own racism, our own greed, our own fear and selfishness.
I encourage you to pray too. Not sure what to pray? Here are 5 ideas from our friends at the Bible App. https://blog.youversion.com/2020/05/how-to-pray-when-you-dont-know-what-to-pray/ You can also come and pray with your pastors (while masked and in your car) on Tuesday, May 12 from 5-7.
We will embark on a prayer adventure called “Thy Kingdom Come” on May 21. I am excited that we will have good activities for all ages and for families. There is a digital family adventure prayer map that uses a special augmented reality app on your smart phone! We will have a virtual Festival of Prayer on Zoom on Saturday, May 23. I hope you will join us!

Thank you to all of you who completed our congregational check in. Overall most of you are doing pretty well, for which I’m grateful. We were able to learn of some specific needs, and are following up on them. We also learned that almost all of you sense a deepened call to serve and help others during this time. You are especially eager to offer prayers and emotional support. A great way to do that is as part of our calling tree. If you are interested in joining that, please contact Bev Simpson.
As you move through this complicated week, my prayer for you is that you are source of light and life to those around you.

Grace and peace to you from our Lord Jesus!

Pastor Steve

Dear FPC—
Connection. We are made for it. Today (Thursday) Alice and I walked up near the U Hospital to watch the fly by (see my picture!). It was really fun. Fun to see others gathered (and yet spread out) to also watch. Fun to see the pilots flying by. Fun to remember all the health care workers and patients nearby being honored.
People are made for relationship. Relationships with each other and, most fundamentally, relationship with God. We are constantly trying to connect well with you. That is why we are doing our “congregational check in” –please click the link in the email you received or text DZSE to 90888 to get started.
But our most important relationship is with God. Like all relationships, communication is key. That means prayer for us. We are going to focus on prayer this coming month. Right now, I hope you will download the Hope Over Fear prayer journey and use it for the next few weeks. It trains us in three key postures of Jesus Followers—surrender to God (hands up!), generosity to others (hands open!), and mission (service to others, hands out!). Don’t miss out on this great way to connect with God.
Then on May 12 we will be having a special time of “drive by prayer” – between 5 and 7 pm you can drive by church (wearing your mask) and the pastoral staff will be available to pray with you (from a safe distance and wearing their masks).
Finally, coming up later in May we will have a special prayer emphasis called Thy Kingdom Come. Look for more information in our email blast and elsewhere soon!
I hope you will use this time of disruption to strengthen the relationships that are most important to you, and especially your relationship with God. If you’d like to talk about it, Pastor Chris and I are here for you, just call, text, or email and we will connect with you!
Grace and peace to you on this sunny day from our Lord and Savior Jesus,

Pastor Steve