Dear FPC—

What do you do when people are coming over? I know at our house we pick up. We vacuum. We dust. We put things away—we want everything to look nice for our guests. Think how much more you might do if a famous person were coming to visit. What if GOD was coming? This week in Immerse we are reading about what was involved in God coming to live among the Israelites. There is a LOT of getting ready when God is coming!

One of the themes all through the Bible is about God’s desire to live with us – from the Garden, to the tabernacle, to the temple, to Jesus, to the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, to the great end of the story with the coming together of the New Heavens and the New Earth– all of it is about God’s desire to be with us. As we see the laborious detail spelled out in Exodus about building the tabernacle, let’s think about what we do to welcome God into our own lives today.

In some ways our Christian life is about us becoming people in whom God’s Spirit lives. That involves us picking up our trash and cleaning up our mess, and it also involves us being transformed by God’s presence with us. How is being a Christian changing you? How are you different compared to last year because you are following Jesus?
Join us on Sunday as we look at what it means to have God living with us, right now!

Grateful for you—
Pastor Steve

Dear FPC—
I am getting to celebrate my daughter’s delayed wedding reception! They were married in May of 2020, and now finally get to have a party! Of course, even after all this time, they are not getting to have the party they hoped for. Not even what they expected as they starting planning again last spring. Traveling and preparing for the party feels like a bit of normalcy at last, but with constant (and unrelenting) reminders that things are still NOT (at all) normal. It is frustrating. I wish my girl could have something more like what she had dreamed of, but this is the life we have now.
THIS is the life we have NOW! All of us have gotten used to certain disappointments in life—I’m never going to be a rock star or a pro athlete, for example. But we still get to treasure and enjoy the actual life we have. That is part of growing up to be a healthy adult.
We all need to apply that learning to our current circumstances too. The COVID pandemic has upset many, many plans, changed many dreams, and even worse—ended many lives. All of us are sick of it and sick of trying to understand what to do, how to respond, etc. The promise of a more normal summer replaced by a fall with dramatically increased cases and overwhelmed hospitals is frustrating and exhausting.
All of us have versions of the disappointment I feel for my daughter this week, and all of us are struggling with how to cope with that. The desire to just forget about it is strong. So is the temptation to crawl back into our shell. I get it!
But the fact is that God has given us one life— THIS LIFE! We are here to glorify God, to enjoy him, to love and serve our neighbors, and to live in community as best as we can. We do that in whatever circumstances come— sunny day, dry hurricane, earthquake, pestilence, good harvest, drought or plenty— we still are called to follow Jesus out into our community. We are taking some steps as a congregation this fall to try to be loving towards our neighbors and each other in our activities. Like having our community concert online this Saturday. Our hope is these steps will allow us to continue to return to being together while acting responsibly. As we do that though, the key thing is our ATTITUDE!
As I approach this wedding reception, my prayer for my daughter, for myself, and for everyone involved is that we can set aside any sadness about the things we do NOT have and instead be grateful for and enjoy the things we DO have. That is also my prayer for our congregation. As we celebrate the Kirkin, begin to celebrate our 150th anniversary, worship God each week, gather in Immerse Groups, whatever— may we celebrate God’s goodness in all that he has given us. Let’s live these lives that are in front of us now and make the most of them! May we appreciate this life as a gift, not wish for a different life.
In the world we may have times of tribulation, but they are passing. We always have Christ, who has overcome the world and offers us lasting joy and purpose. May you enjoy all of God’s good gifts today!

Choosing joy today—
Pastor Steve

Dear FPC—
Labor Day. What does that mean to you? The end of summer? The end of backyard grilling? The beginning of school? I really appreciate a labor day holiday because it recognized the importance of work in all of our lives. Work is essential to a healthy, well-rounded life, it is not merely a way to make money.
Did you know that God gave people work to do BEFORE the Fall? Yes—while they lived in paradise—the Garden of Eden—Adam and Eve had work to do. Work is a gift from God—it gives us purpose, meaning and a sense of accomplishment. See Genesis 1:28, 2:15, 2:19-20) After the humans rebelled in the garden, then came toil. See Genesis 3:17-19.
Work is a gift from God, toil is the result of our rebellion. I love to celebrate the goodness of work and the blessings of our occupations, avocations, and callings to service. Whether you are working at an education, working in a job, or working after retirement, all of us have Godly labor to do that will bless us and bless those around us. Stop and thank God for the blessings he has given you for work!
Here is prayer about work that my friend Matt Kaemingk wrote in his wonderful book Work and Worship: Reconnecting our Labor and our Liturgy.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, We gather this morning from all over your city; we gather from the places you’ve called us to serve.
We come with hearts, minds, and hands that are full, Lord, full of stories to tell: stories of praise and thanksgiving, stories of sadness and confession.
Some of us carry urgent requests for you, Lord; we need you to move quickly in our lives and our world.
We carry these things before you, Lord, openly and honestly as an act of love for you and our neighbor.
May all of our offerings be a sacrifice of praise to you this day.
Gather our stories into your story, gather our work into your work, bring our lives into your life.
For you have called us here, Lord, you have carried us, and all these things, to you.
And so we gather, Lord, for worship, not by our power, but by the power of your Spirit; not in our name, but in the name of your Son.
May we, today, be a sacrifice of praise to you. Amen.

Amen! May you and I be a sacrifice of praise to Jesus today! God bless you this week and see you on Sunday!

Pastor Steve

Kaemingk, Matthew; Willson, Cory B.. Work and Worship (p. 216). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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