Memo from the Boss

“My Church ….”

  I read the words, but which one?  The little church where I was baptized or where my children were baptized? Is it the one down the road or the one that returned me to ministry? Hmmm.

Coffee helps me ponder, so I sipped some hot Caribou and considered an odd possibility… none of the above!   None of those beautiful churches were ‘my church’. Every single one of them belonged to someone far greater than myself, Jesus Christ.

My church is Christ’s church. I work for Christ, not the other way around. That makes Jesus Christ my boss! I take another sip of Caribou smiling at the thought of my next T-shirt: 
I work for Christ.
 

Wait! What about the traditions, Sunday routines and décor, I get a say in them, right?  The coffee burns my lips.

Ask the Spirit. What the boss wants, the boss gets. If Jesus Christ need us to change directions, well, we do what the boss tells us to do. Change.

Be still my caffeinated heart! Change?  

Jesus tells us to find new disciples, so we find new disciples, any way that works. We get out of our pews and do it. If what we are doing isn’t working, we change to make it right. Jesus gets what Jesus wants, disciples. Jesus is the boss.

We change to find disciples, not change disciples to find us.

Church: The Spirit is poking us to find disciples, those who do not know Jesus. What’s working in this group? A 2nd

band-led service directed by a worship leader from the same demographic group as the missing. It’s not my style, but then again, it’s not ‘my church.’  The Boss gets what the Boss wants, disciples.  Our job is to respond. We pray, plan, budget, pray some more and do what the boss wants, multiple disciples.

Jesus, you are the Boss.  It’s not ‘our church’, but ‘your church.’  Show us what to do.

Time to share the Caribou, folks.  There’s a work order in our pews.
 
Pastor Terri 


Dear Atheist

Dear Atheist,

I overheard you the other day, proudly proclaiming the end of God.  You were pretty certain of that ‘fact’.  A couple of your table-mates nodded in mutual defiance, but the others looked away.  They were uncomfortable with your ‘facts’. No, they did not speak up.  They let it slide by and quietly claim their allegiance to the invisible God they seldom meet, but still believes exists, just in case. Maybe that is why you wonder if anyone really believes in God.  No one has ever shared their story with you.  Pity.  Their stories make doubt seem doubtful.

You said religious people are hypocrites, showing-off their goodness. But, take this from the pastor who knows, they come wearing all their faults, worries, and guilt. No, they don’t shout these from the pews. Most keep their faults to themselves, but I bet you do, too?

Folks come to Jesus like a patient goes to the doctor-to find healing and peace.  It seems healthy, forgiven Christians may actually live longer than atheists.  Maybe forgiveness, hope, and a new lease on life are good for the body as well as the soul?  Staying connected to Jesus is how we stay sane.

So, let me confess the truth: we Christians mess up more than we succeed, but this world needs us to keep trying. Why? Because–there is more to life than our cell phones and political stances. The world need us to be the Jesus we follow-to treat people with dignity and respect, love the unlovable, and be the peace.  Jesus came out swinging with love and healing. What a contrast to the world today.  Like I said, we don’t always get it right, but wouldn’t it be a better world if we did? 

I’ve learned over the years that most atheists are really angry agnostics, indifferent Christian who struggle with the church people who failed them in the past. Jesus isn’t fond of their actions either, but he is willing to forgive them.  Are you willing to forgive?  Is that what is keeping you away from Jesus?

Yes, some folks are not fans of the church—at least the one they think  they know.  They don’t feel welcomed, don’t fit into the homogeneous crowd or haven’t been there for so long that it is just plain awkward to jump in now. I wish they would, because we are trying hard to change that. 

So this is what I’m going to ask my folks to do—share their story with you, explain the crazy time that God found them, or how their faith carried them through when belief in humans failed.  I want them to share how they try to love like Jesus and how they fail, but they try again.  I want them to share how Jesus takes hold of their soul and gives them the courage to stand up to injustice, fight bigotry, love diversity, and find peace in loving the stranger. I want them to be bold in their faith and dare to show their passion so folks like you see the real Jesus, the One that also stood up to an unjust world and loved it anyway.  I want you to see forgiveness, transformed lives, and hope that defies understanding.  Most of all, I want YOU to see JESUS in them. I want you to see the invisible Son of God alive in the visible Body of Christ called the church.   

God’s grace will do the rest. 

From one who knows,
 
Pastor Terri


Speaking Mocha

I’m sitting in a Boston coffee shop sipping coconut iced coffee after having my first taste for such divine java at the Corner Drug store back home. Today, my table is smack dab in the heart of the Berklee School of Music in Boston.  I’m surrounded by student musicians fully immersed in their musical studies.  The young guy next to me is snapping his fingers to an imaginary beat as he explains music theory to the equally youthful gal directly across from him. They are whole heartedly engaged in the conversation, each contributing questions and comments that liven their spirits, laughing and exclaiming at the ideas they share. 

There is energy here, life in the quest for answers!  I love it! These beautiful people surrounding me are insanely curious about music- the language, story and construction of every note. It’s in their soul as deep as God is within my own soul. Their passion flames a fire which cannot be extinguished, even at the expense of their own sleep. It’s a passion that is God given, a quest for the language of the divine cosmos. Do they know it is a gift from God that drives them?
 
Then, there is me.  I’m reading about Jesus,The Epic of Eden by Sandra Richter, which makes me an oddity here. No one here is talking about Jesus.
 

I speak Jesus. They speak music. We all drink coffee.  It should be a match made in heaven. 

Call me a dreamer, but I wonder what God would have us do to reach the people in the coffee shops in our world, or for that matter, the bars across the street?  What language do we speak?

I pray for the Holy Spirit to transform our tongues to the language of the coffee shops and the bars, to speak music to the musicians so that we speak Jesus to those without Jesus. May the Spirit of Pentecost ignite our passion as deep the musicians surrounding me; and may Jesus be the music that fills  the depths of their young souls.

Come, Holy Spirit, come. Form our tongues to speak the language of the people.
 
Pastor Terri

 



23 Easters Left

According to the trends, there are just 23 Easters left before  the mainline Protestant churches close their doors-for good.
 
This message is for you–the reluctant Christian waiting for someone else to lead the way back.    
 
If you are a reluctant leader, join the club. You are among many others, including me.
I wake up every day asking for instructions and wondering why God picked me, without a spouse and many obstacles to overcome. 
 
Moses was just like us, scared and too afraid to lead. Yet, Moses was the face of the people despite his resistance.
 
They could trust him and respected his wisdom– both he would deny.  Which is exactly why God chose Moses to lead. God wanted a leader  who listened to the Spirit’s wisdom instead of his own human understanding.
 
To deny one’s gift of leadership is to deny the One who gave it to you.  Peter learned the hard way. His denial was accepting his discipleship,  and ultimately his leadership. Are you Peter?  
 
There are many faces in a church-not one or two and all contribute to the Body. The more faces in diverse roles of leadership-the stronger the Body of Christ. 
 
We are now at a pivotal point in church history with an estimated 23 more Easters before mainline churches  close their doors. 
 
Do we lead or settle? Do we set the pace for a bold future or copy others just surviving? 
 
The cross was bold. The resurrection even bolder. Christ is boldest of all.
 
Can we, who put on Christ, be anything less? 
 
Dare to lead, let others follow, and never settle for less.
 
Put on Christ, my friends,
 
Pastor Terri


Dare to Lead

  Apple just announced that their stores will undergo a major shift from ‘selling’ Apple products, to eye-catching interactive labs geared to ‘using’ the products. They are leading the next generation forward, the same people that the church wants to reach– but cannot find. Apple knows.

Apple is adding conference rooms, larger screens, and transforming their Genius bar to the “Genius Grove” complete with earth friendly trees and catering to the computer generations who also has a passion for purpose. And, they are open for business when the people are looking for products-in the store or on-line.  Here’s the link to their progressive story to reach the generation that we want to reach: 

http://www.theverge.com/2017/4/25/15419398/apple-store-redesign-genius-bar-grove

Wait! If you are reading our traditional format–paperwe don’t have the technology to link you to that story.
You must ‘copy and paste.’

Wait—we don’t offer that either, unless you can get the downloaded PDF from our website and even then, maybe that won’t work.

We could send you a text, but are not set up to do that either. 

How about a group message from Facebook?

These are the facts: the world is changing faster than the local church wants to change.
Having a computer in the office doesn’t mean that we are using  technology to connect to the rest of the world.  We still connect by paper, including a newsletter that cannot keep up with the faster pace of our changing world.
 
We updated the website last summer, but it can and should be used for so much more to reach those looking for Jesus, not just information about who we are or upcoming events.  Social media is just an app away to connect those searching for Jesus.
 
Are we connected to the app?
 
Meanwhile, the techy people represent the unchurched who cannot connect to us, nor we to them.
We cling to our paper, books, worship time, designs, and even our traditions as if that makes us religious.  

See the problem?  

Meanwhile, Apple leads the generation that we are missing in churchThey lead and let others follow.
 
Jesus is progressive, forcing change,  connecting to the ones who are unconnected from ‘the church. He  commands us to do the same.

Beginning in June, expect to see  changes–the beginning of more to come:

  • Worship moves to 10 AM year-round.
  • Kid’s Church and the nursery continue year-round.
  • Expect a colorful monthly newsletter in your e-mail.
  • Receive current happenings also by e-mail.
  • Join small groups and mission events for soul searching purpose with Jesus.

Lead and let others follow.

Be bold witnesses to a resurrected Christ.

Pastor Terri.



PAID in FULL

 

I shuffled through paperwork on the way to my tax appointment.  Deep in the pile of papers only an IRS agent can love, a document caught my eye: “Paid in Full-Parent Plus Loan.”  It was the first big loan I took out to help my overwhelmed daughter pay her college tuition. I didn’t want to do it, but there was no choice if I wanted to keep her in school that year and my income was just a bit too much for grants.  Her meager campus cafeteria job paid $10 per hour, but that was barely enough to cover her rent for an old house near campus that she shared with four other students. The left over paid for food, books, a variety of school fees, and gas for her slowly dying car.

Paid in Full-the relief was in my hands! Done! Finished! No more debt!

 As excited as I was, the tax guy didn’t care. He punched numbers into an on-line form to calculate the difference for another debt I owed –the government. Sigh, so much for my money… I handed him my plastic card for the difference and another debt was marked “Paid in Full.” 

When was it ever MY money?  Someone always wanted it, claimed it or needed it.  But there was this very persistent voice of God running through my head reminding me just who gave it to me to use in the first place. That’s right—use, give away, spend, and share for the Kingdom. 

 ‘I know God, but just once could I keep it all? 

 “Keep what you need-will 90% cover it?” God asked.

 “Well, when you put it that way.”  I humbly respond.

 While I whined, I realized that money was a small price to pay to help Jesus with the work of the kingdom on earth.  The investment price was steep and the set up costs exceeded what anyone on earth could pay. I looked at the cross sitting on my desk.

“That was quite a price to pay for a kingdom,” I said.

 “It wasn’t for the kingdom,” God replied. “It was for you.”

 “Huh?”

 “Without my children, there wouldn’t be a kingdom.”

 “So, why did Jesus have to die? Couldn’t he just find us and drift back to Heaven?

 “My child, you were so entangled in the cosmic net of evil.  Jesus had to pierce the heart of evil to rupture its cosmic grip. Death was the only way into the soul of evil.  When Jesus rose to life that third day, my Son burst the chains of hell open and freed my children from certain death.  It was the price he paid to save you, a price paid in full.”

There it was–stamped on the empty cross–Paid in Full.



To Pew or Not to Pew

To pew or not to pew, that is the question.

This is the most pivotal question that American churches are facing today, seriously, we lose members over issues like this! But the greater question is this: Why are the pews in the front empty?  
 
District Superintendent, Fred Vanderwerf, visited us recently, pointing to the declining numbers in our pews all across our denominations, even in our own church.  Then, he noted the empty pews– in the front.   No one wants to sit there, not even church goers of 50 years!  We clamor for the back pew taking up the ‘best seats in the church’ and mark our pew as our own.
 
Ever wonder why Jesus never built a building for his ministry?  I’m wondering if it had anything to do with pews? 
 
Pews give permission to sit, stay put and become passive participants in what was designed  to be an active church body, each person contributing their energy, voice, and gifts to the worship service and mission outside the wall of the building.  Yet, we come early to get the back seats where we can be invisible, quiet, and withhold our singing voice except for a concert in the cities or shower back home.
 
Let me ask this:

Would Jesus’ disciples take the back pews or grab one in the very front?

While Jesus was teaching, they grabbed the front seats, close to their teacher   Yet, when engaging a newcomer, they would find them in the back and bring them to Jesus.  While the disciples hungered for Jesus and huddled close to him, they found those in the back and brought them forward–to meet Jesus and be saved.

 
The back pews are for the unsure, the newcomers, and those who are checking out Jesus.  It is safe in the back for beginners to find their home place.  Why would we steal that from them?
 
It is radical hospitality for the church to save the best seats in the house for the guests-the ones in the back third of the church. It is there where we greet our guests, strike up a conversation and ultimately bring them to Jesus through friendship.
 
It is radical discipleship to be engaged in the service, move right up to the front and be part of the worship and not an observer.  Sing with your whole heart, mind and soul to God. 
 
 OK, so this is where some say, “Pastor, you don’t want to me to sing!” 
 
Actually, it’s not what I want, but what God wants.  God wants us to be a whole disciple, from our head to our toes and everywhere in between, even our voice and our seat up front.  
 
Let me ask this: How long has it been since you found Jesus in your life?  And, how many years have you been sitting in the back with one foot out the door? It’s ok, you are not alone on this one.  But, if not now, when will  you ready to stand with Jesus? 
 
Be radical. Sit up front (all the way) and save the best seats for the guests; and then participate with your whole heart and voice. Remember, it’s a pew, not a cross.   If moving pews is uncomfortable, just look up at the cross.  Radical hospitality hung on a real cross (not a pew) saved you and me from ourselves and the sins of the world. The best seats  are ready just beneath that cross-up front.  
 
Pastor Terri


Heroes Wanted

I’m mad at the world and I want to fix it with a clever meme, but can’t find one Carrie Fisher just died. The original Princess Leia is gone; her death was breaking news on FOX, CNN and the Washington Post.  Carrie Fisher succumbed to an unexpected and way too early heart attack taking a Star Wars heroine along with her because no one can play Princess Leia like Carrie Fisher; her inner spunk captured in Leia. 
 
princess-leia

Yet, she died an un-heroic death leaving fans stunned and heart-broken, more so because she was Princess Leia than Carrie Fisher, which is an even greater tragedy.  Princess Leia fought evil, stood up to injustice, and put her life on the line to save entire planets.  The cause was greater than herself.  Carrie Fisher, however,  struggled to overcome personal brokenness, like troubled relationships, substance abuse, mental illness and a Hollywood that exploits the beautiful only to dump them when they outlive their youthfulness.  Princess Leia fought the dark side in the universe while Carrie Fisher fought the darkness within.  Both fought to save the innocent, including the homeless and the hungry. Both were heroes in their own courageous ways.

Ironically, children dying in Aleppo took a back seat to our hero’s death.  Children shooting children in Minneapolis never broke the headlines. And, refugee families begging for a camp to take them were too depressing even for the news.

What did make the headlines?  Political leaders fought to gain control of bathrooms.  Britney Spears really didn’t die.  Amazon sold more televisions this year than the height of Mount Everest.  Meanwhile, Christmas Day saw some churches closed for lack of interest while most were poorly attended, giving the dark side a burst of energy.  Yet, US citizens pressed on and slammed one another in malls across America trying to grab the best after-Christmas sale.  Score another for the dark side.

People!  What happened?   When did we stop playing for the good guys, more explicitly—the Good Guy, Jesus, the Hero of the Light? When did we forget that the smallest of these was worth the whole cause?  When did the ‘poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free’ represent mall shoppers crushing each other?  And, why were churches even asked if they would be open on Sunday for Christmas and New Year’s Day?  People—it’s Sunday, the Sabbath!  God doesn’t take holidays!

We loved Princess Leia. She was the rich fighting for the poor; defending truth, justice, and light for the lost and displaced, not only in this world, but for all facing the same injustice—anywhere. Still, we don’t get it!   Princess Leia is a story. The Prince of Peace is real.  Jesus the Christ came to fight the dark forces with a sword of light and charged us to do the same. Yet, we know more about Princess Leia than the Prince of Peace!

People, it’s time to crawl out of the movie theaters and into the churches, pick up your lightsaber and fight the real forces of darkness!  It’s time to learn the ways of Jesus, meet in churches across America to strengthen our collective resolve to fight evil, and stop our world from blowing itself up faster than any ‘death star.’ The immigrants, refugees and children of our world cannot wait for a story tale Princess to save them!  You are it!  Be a hero and be courageous.  Follow the teachings of Jesus; pitting love of neighbor against evil and GO!

May the Light of Christ go with you.

Peace,

Pastor Terri 



Christmas Wish

nativity-picture

Look at the kids and you never find a Scrooge among them.
 

 Kids love Christmas: the colors, lights, cookies, traditions and, of course, the gifts!

Ask them what they like about Christmas and it is the feeling that Christmas leaves in their heart.

They are excited! They anticipate  joy!  They believe in Christmas!

 

So why do adults lose Christmas?

We think Christmas is only for children.

Our Christmas wishes grow with things that cannot be bought in a store.

 

 We want our family around us,

Laugh with our friends and

Make all of the bad things go away.
 

This is why there is always a gift under the tree for us:

 A piece of heaven wrapped in Jesus.

 

Jesus connects us to the divine with a step into eternity,

Transforms our weary souls into a better version of ourselves,

Life has meaning, purpose, and direction.

 

Jesus forgives the secrets that still hurt,

Heals broken relationships from a life time ago,

And gives us courage to make the decisions we must make.

 

Jesus transforms us into a better sister, brother, mother, father, or grandparent.

We become better neighbors, friends, and strangers.

We see the world through Jesus’ eyes.

 

We give because our hearts will not let us stop.

That is when Christmas finds us.

We see the possibilities.

 

Hope, Love, Joy and Peace,

 

When heaven connects with our heart.

 

Merry Christmas,

Pastor Terri 



King Solomon’s Prayer

After King Solomon dedicated the first temple of Israel that housed the Ark of the Covenant, he turned to his people and offered this prayer:
 
1 Kings 8:22-61 (CEB)crown-1

Solomon stood before the Lord’s altar in front of the entire Israelite assembly and, spreading out his hands toward the sky, he said:

Lord God of Israel, there’s no god like you in heaven above or on earth below. You keep the covenant and show loyalty to your servants who walk before you with all their heart. This is the covenant you kept with your servant David, my father, which you promised him. Today, you have fulfilled what you promised. So now, Lord, Israel’s God, keep what you promised my father David, your servant, when you said to him, “You will never fail to have a successor sitting on Israel’s throne as long as your descendants carefully walk before me just as you walked before me.” So now, God of Israel, may your promise to your servant David, my father, come true.

But how could God possibly live on earth? If heaven, even the highest heaven, can’t contain you, how can this temple that I’ve built contain you? Lord my God, listen to your servant’s prayer and request, and hear the cry and prayer that your servant prays to you today.Constantly watch over this temple, the place about which you said, “My name will be there,” and listen to the prayer that your servant is praying toward this place. Listen to the request of your servant and your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Listen from your heavenly dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive!

If someone wrongs another and must make a solemn pledge asserting innocence before your altar in this temple, then listen from heaven, act, and decide which of your servants is right. Condemn the guilty party, repaying them for their conduct, but justify the innocent person, repaying them for their righteousness.

If your people Israel are defeated by an enemy because they have sinned against you, but then they change their hearts and lives, give thanks to your name, and ask for mercy before you at this temple,then listen from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel. Return them to the land you gave their ancestors.

When the sky holds back its rain because Israel has sinned against you, but they then pray toward this place, give thanks to your name, and turn away from their sin because you have punished them for it,then listen from heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel. Teach them the best way for them to follow, and send rain on your land that you gave to your people as an inheritance.

Whenever there is a famine or plague in the land; or whenever there is blight, mildew, locust, or grasshopper; or whenever someone’s enemy attacks them in their cities; or any plague or illness comes;whatever prayer or petition is made by any individual or by all of your people Israel—because people will recognize their own pain and spread out their hands toward this temple— then listen from heaven where you live. Forgive, act, and repay each person according to all their conduct, because you know their hearts. You alone know the human heart. Do this so that they may revere you all the days they live on the land that you gave to our ancestors.

Listen also to the immigrant who isn’t from your people Israel but who comes from a distant country because of your reputation— because they will hear of your great reputation, your great power, and your outstretched arm. When the immigrant comes and prays toward this temple, then listen from heaven, where you live, and do everything the immigrant asks. Do this so that all the people of the earth may know your reputation and revere you, as your people Israel do, and recognize that this temple I have built bears your name.

When your people go to war against their enemies, wherever you may send them, and they pray to the Lord toward the city you have chosen and toward this temple that I have built for your name, then listen from heaven to their prayer and request and do what is right for them.

When they sin against you (for there is no one who doesn’t sin) and you become angry with them and hand them over to an enemy who takes them away as prisoners to enemy territory, whether distant or nearby, if they change their heart in whatever land they are held captive, changing their lives and begging for your mercy, saying, “We have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly!” and if they return to you with all their heart and all their being in the enemy territory where they’ve been taken captive, and pray to you, toward their land, which you gave their ancestors, toward the city you have chosen, and toward the temple I have built for your name, then listen to their prayer and request from your heavenly dwelling place. Do what is right for them, and forgive your people who have sinned against you. Forgive all their wrong that they have done against you. See to it that those who captured them show them mercy. These are your people and your inheritance. You brought them out of Egypt, from the iron furnace.

Open your eyes to your servant’s request and to the request of your people Israel. Hear them whenever they cry out to you. You set them apart from all the earth’s peoples as your own inheritance, Lord, just as you promised through your servant Moses when you brought our ancestors out of Egypt.

As soon as Solomon finished praying and making these requests to the Lord, he got up from before the Lord’s altar, where he had been kneeling with his hands spread out to heaven. He stood up and blessed the whole Israelite assembly in a loud voice: “May the Lord be blessed! He has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. He hasn’t neglected any part of the good promise he made through his servant Moses. May the Lord our God be with us, just as he was with our ancestors. May he never leave us or abandon us. May he draw our hearts to him to walk in all his ways and observe his commands, his laws, and his judgments that he gave our ancestors. And may these words of mine that I have cried out before the Lord remain near to the Lord our God day and night so that he may do right by his servant and his people Israel for each day’s need, and so that all the earth’s peoples may know that the Lord is God. There is no other God! Now may you be committed to the Lord our God with all your heart by following his laws and observing his commands, just as you are doing right now.”