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:
READING
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
REFLECTION
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.
PRAYER
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.
ACTION
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

Dear FPC—
I am missing you. I’m missing a lot of things, actually. But I also trust our public health leaders and can see that while we are flattening the curve, the curve is not yet going down. So we have to be patient. Being patient is hard. Trusting is hard. Waiting is hard. And all of it is overlaid with economic uncertainty and pain as well as very real health worries and fears.
So what do we do? Trust God. We all have our own opinions about what sources of information are worth trusting, but we can all agree that GOD is trustworthy. We can rest in him. We can ask him what he wants to do with us and in us during this time of disruption.
How is God shaping you during this time? How are you opening yourself up Him? Take time to pray. Read scripture. Talk with others about Scripture. If you want help, check out our Nites In page and our connect with Jesus page.
God calls us to connect with him, but also to love and connect with our neighbors. The other day our neighbors arranged for a do it yourself pizza kit to be delivered to our house. We felt so special and cared for! What can you do for your neighbors? How can God’s people turn out in love and not give in to the inward pull of selfishness and fear?
Outside flowers are blooming and trees are budding—life is moving. God is at work even now. Let’s trust Him and celebrate his care for each of us!
This Sunday we will be looking at the “so what” of Easter—how the truth of Easter shows up in our lives today. I hope you can join us!

Grace and peace to you!

Pastor Steve

Dear FPC—
Thursday morning found us with (yet another) aftershock AND some snow flurries! But the lovely flowers keep blooming and the trees are beautiful. That seems like a great image of our world too—hard things, scary things, beautiful things all keep happening. Thankfully, we do NOT have to live in fear! The good news of Easter is that Christ has won the victory! All the things that drag you down, that isolate you, even death—none of those things can separate us from God’s love for you in Jesus!
This is a time for renewed patience, prayer and trust. I encourage you to reach out to others today! Here are some great ways to show God’s love during this time:
• Greet people. Say hello as you walk along your block or work in your yard.
• Go out front. Be intentional about spending time in the more public parts of your yard or building. Rather than sitting on your back patio, put chairs in front of your house.
• Go first. Often people are just waiting for someone else to take the initiative. They may be open to connecting but just haven’t gotten around to starting the connection. Go first by introducing yourself, sharing information, and asking questions.
• Gather contact information. Collect names, phone numbers, and email addresses for those on your block or the floor of your apartment building. Express how you want to help people be connected to each other in times of need. Ask people their permission to share the list on the block.
• Give and receive. Be the neighbor who offers to give help to others, whether it’s loaning out a tool or a cup of sugar for a neighbor’s baking project. Also be willing to receive. Ask for help when you need it, as that can break down barriers.
• Get creative. Consider what makes your neighborhood unique and how you can love and serve your neighbors. Your own actions in your neighborhood may be different from what works in another setting.
• Go before God in prayer for your neighbors. Pray specific prayers when you know neighbors well enough to know their situations. Observe and pray for those you don’t know as well. For example, a house with toys scattered out front is home to a family—even if you don’t know them, pray for God’s grace on their family relationships.

Another way to connect is to start reading the Bible with some friends. Look at our “Nites In” page for resources, and my Facebook posts about Nites In. http://fpcslc.org/nites-in/
I hope you can join us in worship on Sunday. We are starting a series on Following the Risen Jesus, where we’ll be guided by Peter— who was both the leader of the apostles and a repeated example of how NOT to follow Jesus. But over time Jesus shaped him into a remarkable person of faith—just like he wants to do with each of us! See you Sunday!

Pastor Steve

Dear FPC—
Holy Week. What does that mean to you? Is it a time of reflection and quietness? A time of preparation for a big party on Sunday? Another name for Spring Break? Whatever your experience of Holy Week usually is, this year it is different. This year we are at home. We are out of sync with our normal rhythms and activities.

Maybe that is a good thing. Maybe this is a good chance for each of us to focus on Jesus and on what his life, death and resurrection mean for us, personally. How is your life different because of Jesus? This is a great time to read the passion (Holy Week) story in one of the gospels. Look at Matthew 21-28, or Mark 11-15, or Luke 19-24.
Don’t miss our special times of worship this week—our Maundy Thursday Service at 7 pm, our ecumenical Good Friday service at noon on Friday, and, most of all, our Easter Celebration at 11 am on Sunday! Feel free to invite a friend to “join” you on Facebook to participate with you. This is a great time to include friends in things that provide meaning and support to you.

Finally, don’t miss the beautiful weather outside! Spring is really arriving. That is not a coincidence—Jesus’ resurrection is the start of God’s new creation project—a project that we have a part to play in! We celebrate the new creation as new life blooms all around us. Nature is reminding us of the truth of new life and rebirth! I hope you can spend some time outdoors and reflect on the new life springing up all around us. My prayer is that new life is springing up IN you during this time as well!

May you feel God’s grace, peace and love today!

Pastor Steve

Dear FPC—
As I write this it is a beautiful, sunny day and we have the windows open. Spring is happening! Easter is coming! And yet. Still we are at home. Still we are staying safe, showing our love by staying home. I am praying for all of you as we go through these uncharted times. I am confident that we will get through them and that when we come out the other side we will be stronger—more connected, more caring, more appreciative of being together than ever before! N.T. Wright compares this time to the season of Lent—at time when we give up some things for a while—but with COVID 19 we don’t know when this period of “Lent” will end! We DO know when our church season of Lent ends—next week! It is time to get ready to celebrate the best news of all time! And it is news that we need today more than ever.

Sunday is Palm Sunday—the great celebration of the arrival of the king at last—the king who is coming to save us. Do you need saving? Do you believe you are worth saving? The truth is yes to both questions. As Pastor Tim Keller puts it, the gospel says that you are more sinful and flawed than you ever dared believe, but more accepted and loved than you ever dared hope. We need the king, and he is on your side. Come celebrate with us!

As we get ready for Easter, here is a wonderful daily inspiration for the nine days leading up to Easter. Just sign up and they’ll send you a daily email for 9 days. This is a great way to focus on Jesus’ last week and why it is important to your life today. https://www.exploregod.com/preparing-for-easter-daily-inspiration

May God shower you with joy and hope as we wait—

Pastor Steve