September 16th 2018

Pastor Steve’s Blog Sep 16, 2018 I ran across an interesting article this week while I was reading the online magazine put out for pastors from Christianity Today. I thought I would share a small portion of the article on the “Ministry of Absence” written by Stephen L. Woodworth. It made me stop and think and perhaps it will for you as well. “Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor and theologian who participated in the Nazi resistance during WWII, shared (Henri) Nouwen’s conviction when he wrote, “Before God and with God we live without God.” While frequently misunderstood and misapplied, Bonhoeffer’s challenging observation points to the reality that our lived experience on this side of heaven is an existence among shadows. God is certainly present, but in a way very much unlike the totality of presence we will experience in the world to come. We live “before God and with God” as imperfect creations, marred by sin and limited by our ability to see only “in a mirror dimly” (1 Cor. 13:12). According to Nouwen, that is a reality rehearsed regularly in our weekly worship. Through the ministry of the Word and sacraments, we are simultaneously reminded of God’s presence as well as his absence. We study his revelation and allow his eternal voice to speak into our current lives, yet we grasp it imperfectly until we are able to see him face to face and “know even as we are known.” We consume bread and wine with the conviction that Christ is spiritually present even as we acknowledge the explicit promise that we will do so “until the Lord returns.” Our entire lives of worship and ministry are practiced without the physical presence of our Lord. While spiritually present at all times, the impetus for our following lies in a future hope of our reunion. We anticipate the kind of unending presence of God that alludes us until we are glorified.”

November 11, 2018

Pastor Steve’s Blog Nov 11, 2018 Well, it’s official. I am now a veteran after 22 years in the Navy and this is my first Veteran’s Day as a veteran. I must say that it has been and is an adjustment after being on active duty for over two decades. For those veterans who read this blog, I want to personally thank you for your sacrifice on behalf of this great country. Having served, I know the sacrifices you had to make. Your service is greatly appreciated. We are a better country because of you. I know I speak for the entire congregation when I say: “Happy Veteran’s Day!” Let me lift up this Scripture, Micah 4:3 “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks.” I read a story this week by Chaplain Norman Nygaard when he was serving at the end of WWI. He writes: “I was in France about eight kilometers behind the front lines when WWI stopped. My brother and I took a walk out in the countryside in the Argonne Forest. We came upon a bonfire about two miles out of town, there being no further need for a blackout. The boys around the fire were singing hymns. The chaplain led in prayer, and then gave a short message telling the soldiers what peace could mean. We left that scene of peace and good fellowship with “Blest Be the Tie that Binds” ringing in our ears.” This Veteran’s Day pray for peace and remember those serving at the tip of the spear defending our rights and liberties.

November 4, 2018

Pastor Steve’s Blog Nov 4, 2018 One of the events mainline churches celebrate every year is All Saints Day or All Saints Sunday. We have a tradition in the United Methodist Church of celebrating those saints who have died over the past year since the last All Saints Day or All Saints Sunday. It is also a time to recall the previous loss of a loved one no matter when they passed from this life unto eternal life. All Saints Day or All Saints Sunday is a gift that has been handed down to us from our forefathers in the church. It gives us permission to reconnect once again in a spiritual and affirming way with our loved ones and recall the precious memories they imparted to us along the way, particularly in matters of the faith. I read an online article this week at UMC.org by Joe Iovino entitled: “All Saints Day: A holy day John Wesley loved.” Let me share some of it with you. “John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, enjoyed and celebrated All Saints Day. In a journal entry from November 1, 1767, Wesley calls it ‘a festival I truly love.’ On that same day in 1788, he writes, ‘I always find this a comfortable day.’ The following year he calls it ‘a day that I peculiarly love….’ From the early days of Christianity, there is a sense that the Church consists of not only all living believers, but also all who have gone before us. For example, in Hebrews 12 the author encourages Christians to remember that a ‘great cloud of witnesses’ surrounds us encouraging us, cheering us on…. Charles Wesley, John’s brother, picks up on this theme in his hymn that appears in our United Methodist hymnal as ‘Come, Let Us Join our Friends Above, #709. In the first verse, he offers a wonderful image of the Church through the ages: ‘Let saints on earth unite to sing, with those to glory gone for all the servants of our King in earth and heaven, are one.’”

October 28th 2018

Pastor Steve’s Blog Oct 28, 2018 It is Sunday afternoon, the football game is over and the JAGS have lost again. Other than mentioning that it is certainly more fun to win than to lose, I want to press on to another couple of points. I want to thank the Staff Parish committee and you, the church, for my new white robe I received this morning as part of Pastor Appreciation month. As you saw in church today, it is a bit long in length and also a bit long in the sleeves, so I will see about getting it tailored. Thank you again for your thoughtfulness and your grace shown to Cindy and me. The other point is this. You know the saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” Well, that’s me when it comes to putting on a number of pounds, above 15, since I retired from the Navy. For 22 years I kept my weight within 5-10 pounds of my height and weight standards and always made weight every 6 months at weigh-in besides passing my physical fitness test. Now that I have retired, I haven’t faithfully gone to the gym, I am enjoying way too many cookies, cake and scoops of ice cream, but somehow I am expecting to not gain weight. Only one problem. I am gaining weight. I am living out the definition of insanity. Somehow my mind has convinced me that I can eat these sweets every day, but expect different results. I am going to have to do something different if I want to see something different. But what a bummer. I like eating cookies, cake and ice cream and my body tells me it’s ok if I don’t go to the gym. But that will not get the job done and will not get me back on track to take my weight off and be healthier. I have to make different choices and then reinforce those choices as I live out those choices daily to create change. And as we all know, change can be difficult. But with God’s help…all things are possible! As I sit here, the Holy Spirit is telling me that this same point applies to the church. Many United Methodist churches today want to keep doing the same things, in the same ways as they have always done but somehow, and in some magical way, get different results. The days of “opening the doors and they will come” have come…and gone. I wish it weren’t so. Admittedly, that model of church growth and ministry is so much easier. If we want to be relevant today as an Arlington community church, then we have to be willing to embrace new models and methods of outreach and ministry to reach the lost for Christ. We have to be in relationship with our community. When it comes to St Paul, I wonder just how much change we are willing to consider, embrace and implement. Remember, with God, all things are possible…and this goes for churches, too!