Virtual Worship for 3/29/2020

Welcome

Call to Worship

Wait and watch for God!

Even when you feel in the depths of death and despair,

When you are overwhelmed with what the world is experiencing.

Wait and watch for God!

Even when life seems like a night that never ends,

When you are alone and lonely,

    and when you’re going stir-crazy from being at home!

Wait and watch for God!

In God there is constant love and kindness.

In God we find our healing and our hope.

Prayer                 

O God, open our hearts to be aware of your presence.

Help us to see you in all that is around us.

Breathe new life into us.

Fill us with the power of your Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Hymn                         

It is Well With My Soul        Hymnal #377  Words: Horatio G. Spafford, 1873;  Music: Phillip P. Bliss, 1876;  with lyrics, sung by Chris Rice

Scripture:      

Ezekiel 37:1-14

John 11:1-3, 6, 17, 33-44       Read by Dr. Mark Fredericksen

Sermon         

“Hear the Word of the Lord!”          Rev. Karla Fredericksen

 Hymn                       

Awesome God   The Faith We Sing #2040 Words & Music: Rich Mullins, ©1988 BMG Songs, Inc. with lyrics sung by Michael W. Smith

Pastoral Prayer

Offertory            

 You Raise Me Up Music by Rolf Løvland, lyrics by Brendan Graham; arranged by McKay Crocket; Sung by BYU Vocal Point (Josh Groban a capella cover)

Making a contribution to the “Offering” virtually is now easier using the donation page and using PayPal or a credit card – as always you can also send in a check.

Thank you for your contributions! DONATION PAGE

Offering Response        

Holy, Holy, Holy   The Faith We Sing #2007

Prayer of Dedication for the offering

As you hold your prepared offering in your hand, hold it out for God to bless, as you pray the Following: Amazing God, your great love for us was expressed in the gift of Jesus the Christ.   Our love for You and for each other is expressed in these tangible gifts we give in response to Your love for us.

Please accept these gifts and our lives, the work of care that they represent and our hope for a fuller life for others that all may know the reality of your great love for us.  Amen.

Prayer of Confession

Loving God, forgive us the times when we have not been there for others.

For times when we have not gone to help those in need. For now in these fearful times, we long to go, and are not allowed to go, to hold a hand, to touch, to cry together.

When we have failed to be your comforting presence at the bedside of the sick, at the door of the prison, behind the counter of the soup kitchen, with casserole in hand at the passing of a friend’s loved one, in offering the hand of friendship to the new neighbor in giving the word of hope.

In these fearful times, let us resolve to change, to be there for each other. You show us the way, and you give us hope that there is redemption from our failures.  In Christ’s name we pray.  Amen.

Affirmation of Faith

We believe in the steadfast love of God, whose

willingness to hear is greater than our despair;

whose power to forgive is greater than our sin;

we trust in this God to save us.

We believe in Jesus Christ, who wept in anger and grief;

who faced life with hope and death with courage;

at Christ’s command the bonds of death are untied/unloosed/broken;

In Christ we find life and resurrection.

We believe in the Spirit of God,

who breathes new life into dead bones;

who dwells in us and brings us hope;

who forms us into the people of God,

always alive to new possibilities;

this is the Spirit who dwells in us.

Suggested Songs

You Are Mine          The Faith We Sing #2218

Change My Heart, O God         The Faith We Sing #2152

The Prayer of Jesus

Creator of us all, Our Mother and Father in heaven,

May your name be praised,

May your reign come in all its fullness,

And may your will be done on earth, as in all realms beyond.

Give us today all that we need,

And forgive our sins, as we forgive all who sin against us.

May we feel your presence in time of temptation,

leading us in the right way, and away from evil.

For all things are from you and belong to you,

and yours is the power and honor forever.  Amen.

Announcements:

  • If you hear any of our seniors that need meals they should sign up at 1-855-581-9495 (toll free). They would get 5 frozen meals delivered. No charge, donations accepted but not expected. It’s United Way, Twin City Transit and the local senior center partnering.
  • Pastor Chat and Prayers –  Come join Pastor Karla in a Zoom “gathering” for chatting from our homes, sharing our concerns and joys, and praying together for about half and hour, or as long as it takes.  If you’ve missed the “Prayers of the People” sharing on Sundays, this can replace it.  You can join in this time together by smartphone or computer, by downloading the free app from zoom.com. and then at the time of the meeting – TUESDAY, 10 AM – follow the link at https://greaternw.zoom.us/j/864450315 – and join the meeting, or join by phone One tap mobile 1+16699006833,,864450315# US or  land line 1-(669)900-6833; Meeting ID: 864 450 315

April 9 – Maundy Thursday – VIRTUAL WORSHIP (Soup Supper is cancelled) Virtual Communion will be at 6:30 PM  FOR THIS NIGHT, WE WILL NOT GATHER FOR SOUP & COMMUNION, you ARE invited to make your own soup or simple supper at home, then at 6:30 join in a “zoom” worship (a link will be published).  You’ll need to bring a piece of bread of some sort, and grape juice or another appropriate beverage (other juices work, too).  We will bless it together and remember the meal that Jesus had with his disciples.   REMEMBER, we may be separated, but we are NOT alone!

  • Decision made on General Conference (international gathering, every 4 years) – The Commission on the General Conference has made the determination that the General Conference will not meet in 2020 as originally planned. They have decided to work toward setting a new date in 2021.  More information:  Read article at PNW NEWS DIGEST

Closing Prayer

Loving God, we thank you for hearing our prayers,
for feeding us with your word and spirit,
and encouraging us in this time together.
Take us and use us to love and serve you, and all people,
in the power of your Spirit, and in the name of Christ. Amen.

Song of Response   

May You Run and Not Be Weary  Faith We Sing #2281

     (Below is some good accompaniment for you to sing to.)

May you run and not be weary, May your heart be filled with song. And may the love of God continue to give you hope and keep you strong And may you run and not be weary, may your life be filled with joy! And may the road you travel always bring you home.

Words and Music by Paul Murakami & Handt Hanson (Isa. 40:31) (c)1991 Changing Church Forum    CCLI#1397620 

GO IN PEACE

Tuesday Pastor’s Chat

DURING THIS PANDEMIC and our SHELTERING AT HOME!!

Pastor Chat and Prayers –  Come join Pastor Karla in a Zoom “gathering” for chatting from our homes, sharing what’s happening in our lives, our concerns and joys, and praying together for about half and hour, or as long as it takes.  This is face-to-face without being physically close. If you’ve missed the “Prayers of the People” sharing on Sundays, this can replace it. 

Be sure to dress from the waist up, because you can see each other! Wear PJ pants if you want, and miss-matched socks. (Pastor Karla does!)

Be sure that your microphone and computer/phone camera settings are ON.

You can join in this time together by smartphone or computer by clicking on the following link just before the time of the meeting – TUESDAYS, 10 AM – follow the link at https://greaternw.zoom.us/j/864450315 – and join the meeting.

OR join by phone One tap mobile 1+16699006833,,864450315# US or  land line 1-(669)900-6833; Meeting ID: 864 450 315

Save these links, as they are the same each week.

“Virtual Worship” for 3/22/2020

Welcome

   Welcome to the virtual worship of Chehalis United Methodist for March 22, 2020 – I pray that each of you is here to connect to God’s spirit and to a church community, despite social distancing during this pandemic. Further down there is a sermon and prayers. Please follow the whole worship experience by using the suggested parts on the way.

May God bless our time of worship.

Call to Worship/ Opening Prayer

   I invite you to begin worship with this call and prayer – starting with your hands over your eyes, listening for God’s voice. Then when you remove your hands… Read the following:

 God invites us to see the world through new eyes.

   Holy One, open our eyes, and help us to see in new ways..

   God invites us to take away the things that keep us from seeing the beauty of God’s world. 

I invite you now, to look all around you… If you are near a window, look outside, too…

   Holy One, open our eyes, and help us to see in new ways..

Now, if you are with someone else right now, look at them;  If you are alone, close your eyes for a moment, and imagine those you love with you and holding your hand.

With new eyes of your heart, “see” the love and warmth that these persons share…

   Holy One, open our eyes, and help us to see in new ways…

And now, let us worship the Holy One who calls us to see in new ways!

Hymn         

Be Thou My Vision     UM Hymnal #451 – verse 1

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,

naught be all else to me, save that thou art.

Thou my best thought, by day or by night,

waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.

Scripture:       John 9:1-41 

Please read the scripture before continuing on to the sermon on the video.

Sermon & Prayers of the People

     “I once was blind”      Rev. Karla Fredericksen

Offering

`Suggested Offering Response

 Holy, Holy, Holy     The Faith We Sing #2007 Argentine Folk

            Holy, Holy, Holy.  My heart, my heart adores you.

            My heart knows how to say to you, “You are Holy, Lord.”

Prayer of Dedication for the offering

Amazing God, your great love for us was expressed in the gift of Jesus the Christ.   Our love for You and for each other is expressed in these tangible gifts we give in response to Your love for us. Please accept

  • these gifts and our lives,
  • the work of care that they represent
  • and our hope for a fuller life for others that all may know the reality of your great love for us.  Amen.

Suggested Hymn(s)    

I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light – #206

                                       Amazing Grace  – Hymnal #378

       OR    (video below) Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)

   Announcements

         A NOTE FROM THE BUSCHLEN EXTENDED FAMILY:

We wish to thank the Chehalis United Methodist Church family for your incredible support during this last difficult year.
Your ongoing messages of prayer, caring, and concern lifted us up and gave us hope. The cards, calls, texts, gifts, and personal visits have been a continuous evidence of God’s grace manifest through His people in the midst of sickness and sorrow.
Please accept our appreciation for the gracious things you have done.
             – Busch, Jan, Julie, Craig, Joel, Myra

VIRTUAL WORSHIP WILL CONTINUE:

Thank you for your patience during this trying and fearsome time. Our virtual worship will have to continue to replace our in-person worship for the near future – until further notice!  We will activate the prayer chain to let you know when there is a change.  If you are not on the prayer chain, please send your preferred email address to sandycowart77@gmail.com and ask her to add you to the list.

    The prayer chain, this website, and Facebook, are venues we are using to get the word out!  There is also word of mouth – please, let your friends know in case they miss the email, are not on the list or have no email. 

UM GENERAL CONFERENCE IS POSTPONED:

The international meeting of the church which happens every 4 years, is postponed due to the pandemic COVID-19 virus which is sweeping the globe! The venue where the 1000+ person conference was to be held cancelled all events! When there is news of a new date, we will publish it.

Closing Prayer:

Loving God, we thank you for hearing our prayers,
for feeding us with your word and spirit,
and encouraging us in our worship, even when we must be apart.

We ask for safety for ourselves and our loved ones, and that you
take us and use us to love and serve you, and all people,
in the power of your Spirit, and in the name of Christ. Amen.

Closing Response                   

  May You Run and Not Be Weary        Faith We Sing #2281

                 Words & Music:  Paul Murakami and Handt Hanson; 
                 ©1991 Changing Church Forum;  CLLI #1397620               

May you run and not be weary.

May your heart be filled with song.

And may the love of God continue

  to give you hope and keep you strong.

And may run and not be weary.

May your life be filled with joy!

And may the road you travel always lead you home.

No worship? Yes Worship -Virtually

 DURING THE PANDEMIC VIRUS, WE DO NOT HAVE AN IN-PERSON WORSHIP!  However, we are putting up a Worship Video with a meditation or sermon, and some other elements of worship, plus a few written items – suggested songs, prayers, etc.  This is for your use with “in-home” worship.  There will be a link here and on the welcoming page, by 11:00 AM on Sunday for you to access these resources.

A new worship page will be uploaded to this site each Sunday, but you may access it any day of the week.

As always, you can look ahead at scriptures we will be using – Check this out on the “What’s Coming Up in Worship?” page.

Please stay safe and healthy!  Here we are in the midst of Lent, after the First Sunday of Lent in which scripture told us that Jesus was tempted to throw himself down off the pinnacle of the temple.  Some want to say in these times that “God and his angels will take care of you.”  However, Jesus said, “Don’t tempt the Lord your God.”  Tempting God is throwing ourselves into dangerous situations, expecting God to save us from ourselves.  Instead, God expects us take every precaution to remain in safety.  Wash your hands often, practice social distance, avoid touching your face, especially with unwashed hands, and wash your hands after touching your face.  Don’t “tempt the Lord.”

“Virtual Worship” 3/15/2020

Welcome to the virtual worship page for this Sunday. Below are YOUTUBE links to the recorded parts of worship.

Our apologies for the amateur photography – this is our first time doing virtual worship! And apparently we were a bit nervous, at least the shaky camera makes one think so. We hope you enjoy, and in the contents, and in the space surrounding you, you will feel the presence of God in your life!

An Introduction to Worship

Welcome Call to Worship – Prayer

Suggested Hymn    Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing       Hymnal #400

Gospel Lesson John 4:5-30, 39-42 Read by Mark Fredericksen

Meditation: A Dialogue – Nicodemus & The Woman at the Well Read by Mark (Nicodemus) and Karla (Woman) Fredericksen

Suggested Hymn Fill My Cup, Lord Hymnal #641

Pastoral Prayer and Closing Words

Suggested Prayer: The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Offering time – For the offering, we hope that you will not forget your pledge or offering to the church during this strange time of no gathering. Your mailed in, or virtual transfers are appreciated. (We are working on getting a virtual link for making donations.)

Suggested Response to your check-writing/Offering

While holding your check to the sky: Holy, Holy, Holy TFWS #2007

Suggested Hymn As the Deer  TFWS #2025

Announcements – for announcements we suggest that since there isn’t any small group activity at the church this week, that you explore the rest of this website, to see the usual happenings you may have missed and can plan to attend (when they are gathering again).

Here are a few other “announcements“:

The cancelled in-person Property and Finance meeting – Board members be looking for minutes and emails from the chair, Stan Long. You’ll be doing some of the work through email. (When you reply to him, be sure to remember to “reply all” so that all the members can be in on the conversation.

This may also be the case for the Missions and Outreach Committee (?)

Suggested Song: May You Run and Not Be Weary   TFWS #2281

In the Shadow

Published in the June 2019 Friendly Caller:  Here is a repeat of an article I wrote almost 4 years ago for the friendly caller.  I think the images are pertinent in all times:

God  watches over you – God is your shade at your right hand.     

– Psalm 121:5

There are times in our lives when God seems vividly “with” us.  We feel a spiritual presence, connection and guidance, and there is no mistake that God exists and cares for us.  And then there are the other times when we wonder IF God is there at all.

God is very much like the shade created by a sunlit day.  At times during the day we feel very connected to God’s presence. It is very vivid and there is no mistaking it, like the long shadow cast in the early morning or late afternoon sun.  At those times we are very much aware and can recognize the work of God in our lives, and the influence of the Holy Spirit. 

It is in the middle of our everyday lives, with life’s living and trials, that we can start feeling abandoned – for God’s “shade” in our lives is so short as to hardly be noticeable, like at noon-time.  At these times, God’s work in our lives does not seem quite so certain, so evident, so obvious, and we may even have to search for it!  We may even come to clearly doubt that God even exists, just like on the days that our shadow does not seem to be present at all on the darkest of days.

And yet, at ALL times God IS with us.  God is inexorably “attached” to us like the shadow that follows us everywhere, even when we cannot recognize or detect its presence on the dark days.  Whenever there is light, when we move, our shadow moves.  When we stop, our “shade at our right hand” stops.  We can depend on the fact that God is there, as surely as shadow is there whenever light of any sort is present.  When the sun has gone down, even then, we are enveloped in the shadow created by the earth itself shading the sun from us.

One of the affirmations at the back of our United Methodist Hymnal (#883) ends with the phrase:

“In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. We are not alone, thanks be to God!”

This is the hope with which we live on a day to day basis.  The hope that God does not abandon us.  That God did not just set the planets to spinning, but is involved with us all on a day to day basis.  That our actions matter, and not only does God influence our lives, but our lives influence God.  Like the shadow that is moving with us, and is inextricably connected to our own movements, we are moving for and with God.  The hope with which we live is that God walks with us, and that it really does matter to God what constitutes our daily living.  We are not alone!  Thanks be to God!

“Under the shadow of thy wing, oh may we dwell secure Sufficient is thine arm alone, and thy defense is sure.” (Isaac Watts, 1719)

In the love of God – Pastor Karla 

Keeping Sabbath

As with other disciplines, such as fasting, Sabbath is not just about what we don’t do but what we choose to DO in place of the thing with which we are disengaging – what will we do with our time? As with fasting, where we must choose how we will eat otherwise when we’ve given up chocolate or fried foods. Will we exercise or do something else that is healthy in place of the unhealthy habit we gave up?

“Sabbath is something that need not be limited to Sunday; it can be observed any time of the week. In breaking from the schedule of our everyday lives, we free up time to add what is truly restful, to embrace wholly our relationship with God, and to feast on God’s presence in our lives. There is a sense, then, that we can somehow reclaim that time we spend on unfocused busyness to make it holy. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Herschel, in his book The Sabbath, echoes this idea about regaining our time and making it holy when he calls Sabbath, ‘a palace in time which we build.’”

– Kyle Roberson, Soul Tending

Sabbath is not a day, but a way of living.  We “fast” from work and productivity.  The practice of Sabbath is what separated the Hebrews from other cultures.  Their lives were planned around the time that they gave way to deep rest and a time to allow God to be present to them without distraction.  Our “palace in time” was the last creation of God in Genesis.  And observing it is one of the 10 commandments given to Moses.  It was created FOR the people of God, to help them be their best selves.

Sabbath was also the great equalizer of the people.  Rich and poor alike.  Student and Rabbi, Priest and King, as well as farmers and crafters and other commoners.  Men, women and children.  Servant and master.  All were to observe Sabbath.  No exceptions.  Suspending hierarchies, and creating equality.

Productivity ended for Sabbath.  All food was prepared before.  Chores were done in advance or put off.  Animals taken care of early the day before, or waiting till late when the day was ended. (Sunset to sunset).  No money was exchanged.  No products bought or sold.  The economy was suspended for everyone and everything to have a day of peaceful rest.

How do WE observe Sabbath?  Culturally, we do not take an exact time where everyone together takes time away from all productivity.  Yet, the commandment still exists and Christians still observe (or should observe) sabbath.  Do we take a time away from productivity, personal or communal?  From physical work, intellectual pursuit, purchasing, from serving others even?  A break that is complete!   And HOW do we spend the time?  What is truly restful?

I, who do not spend much of my “work” week in anything physical, may find that Sabbath means something physical and relaxing, play not work – playing with children, taking a walk.  Where someone who works with their hands, and is physically tired at the end of each work day, may find reading a book or napping more relaxing and restful.  The idea is that we suspend usual activity to live in our “palace in time,” where we treat ourselves and others royally, and not be concerned in any way about producing a work product, or being economically or intellectually fruitful!

Sabbath is about allowing ourselves the time to just be.  And at the same time allowing others the same opportunity to just be for a time, too.  To just be, is to allow God’s entry, God’s presence in ways that cannot happen when we are engaged in “productivity,” which can distract us from God’s presence.

Longing for a Bigger God

For several years, the fastest growing churches in America have been nondenominational evangelical. These churches sprang up claiming to be the “Christ-centered” and “Bible-based” alternatives to mainline denominations. In fact, the term “denomination” itself was seen as a bad word. Non-denominational churches arose as an attempt to return to a more authentic faith experience and belief. But while the style of music and worship seemed new (praise music, multimedia, PowerPoint, and auditorium seating), the theology was also new, not ancient – that is from the late 1800 Holiness movements, not 2000 years ago.  And that new theology was simply packaged within a slick presentation.

These churches may offer a worship experience that is upbeat and full of energy, but the people don’t really sing, they listen to a “worship leader” who is a soloist and try to follow along, though they may have an emotional experience listening.  I read an article recently on how many church people do not sing anymore at all.  And singing is the only part of worship that seems to be considered “worshipful” in those settings with no liturgical or historic connections to the faith.

I often think of these churches as “doorways” to the faith as many are attracted to the lively worship (mainline church has the reputation of being dull and boring!) And yet, while these churches seem to have no problem attracting new members, their retention rate is not as good as you might think. What often happens is that as people begin to grow in the faith, they begin longing for something deeper – spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally. They begin longing for a bigger God.

If you wander the few bookstores that are left, or surf through religious books online, you may have noticed a new genre of books for the Contemporary, Emerging, or Post-Modern Church – the name changes almost as fast as we change our clothing. While there are numerous definitions for this movement, it all represents two significant shifts away from the “nondenominational” church. First, theology is becoming broader (this is a reaction to public perception that churches are about guilt, judgment, and hypocrisy). The second is a shift back to more ancient styles of worship. Ancient music, classic settings (like a real church!), and the more candles the better!

This is good news. Public perceptions are forcing the evangelical church to wrestle with being called “judgmental” and “mean-spirited.” The Emerging Church Movement was an example of churches seeking to find “the love they had at first”  (Rev. 2:4) and offer a gospel that is both relevant and lifechanging. It also reveals a longing for a deeper faith and a desire to step into the divine mystery. A long time ago J.B. Philips wrote a book entitled, Your God is Too Small. People are longing today for a God who is too big to fit on the PowerPoint screen!

Chehalis UMC seems well positioned as a church with a broad theology and both new and ancient styles of worship, hopefully not fitting the “dull and boring” stereotype, and yet we seek to share our faith experience on a deeper level with others, there is much still to learn about the balance of using new media and also retaining the ancient faith.

Pastor Karla

Feelin’ Small

This past month the sermon series has been about “Little People” or at least those who are “feelin’ small” due to their situation in life.   The first sermon was about faith as small as a mustard seed, and then we moved to the Samaritan leper who came back to thank Jesus, another widow who had no power, yet persisted against the powerful until she received justice, then to the man who beat his chest asking for forgiveness and in his “smallness” (humility) he went away justified with God.  Then, we came to Zaccheus, who really was a “wee little man.”  And each week, Jesus continues to love them all!  This series is finally done, but the concept goes on and on!!

There are many ways that we can “feel small” in our own eyes.  It’s easy for each of us to begin to think “Why do I seem to always be overlooked?  God doesn’t even see me.  Doors aren’t opening the way they should.  I never seem to get a break.”  Small churches sometimes begin to think that way, too.  We look around us at churches that are growing despite what seems to us as faithlessness to GOOD news, those that actually do spiritual harm to some folks, those that teach hate and their actual message is BAD news of condemnation.  Why are they growing in numbers?  At the same time, all of OUR efforts seem to be wasted, though we are bringing good news of love and grace and peace for all.  Shouldn’t we get some of the rewards for that?  Shouldn’t our numbers grow?  Shouldn’t our budgets get met?  Shouldn’t our buildings glow!?

Well, the actual fact is that those “other” churches are rarely growing either.  I’m guessing that the mega-church folks across the way are choked by some of the same insecurities, just on a different scale.   But, since WE are still numerically smaller than they, we “feel small” because we are comparing ourselves to others.  We are not focusing on mission, but on our size, our “success” (however it’s measured), on Sunday worship, not on weekly ministry.  Comparing ourselves, can become self-condemning, and grows into a self-fulfilling prophecy of real ministry spiraling downward.

In another era we would say that our only measurement should be “souls saved.”  Yes, I said another era.  We don’t usually think in terms of saving souls as if it’s a once and for all type thing.  But, we might want to measure in terms of lives touched, rather than in bottoms in the pew.  The culture in which we live has changed drastically.  Our Christian lives are no longer lived inside the church buildings.  (Thank God!  That’s the way it should have always been!)  If we are involved with living out our Christian values, seeking peace and justice, striving for changing the world… well, then, we may be out there in the world instead of in the pew on some Sundays.

Don’t get me wrong! – I STILL want to see you all in the pew!!  I AM your pastor, you know.  And I still believe that it is in community that we strengthen our faith and renew our commitment.  However, I’m not going to sweat the fact that in reality, “regular” church attendance, for some, and especially for the younger generations, is not every single week.  I DO, however, want to know that you are living out your faith in other ways.  The point is, we need not “feel small” over the fact that there are fewer there many Sundays than there was a decade or more ago, IF we are living our faith, being faithful to good news, seeking justice, and living love as a congregation.  Remember the church is not a building, the church is a people.  The church gathered is Sunday morning.  The living church is out THERE in the world, being Christ to the lost, lonely, hungry, and searching.  Ministry is connecting with these, and perhaps bringing them in, but certainly making a difference.

We small churches sometimes want to substitute activity for real ministry. And we think that adding “programs” will make a difference in how we feel about ourselves as a church – the more activity the better!  But, “faster and bigger” doesn’t always mean “better and stronger.”  (Sometimes it means tired and more demeaned.)

So, I guess the point is, I don’t want to hear any more “small talk” – moaning and groaning about how things once were and wishing to live the hey-day again!  What I want to hear from you is the voice of “NOW talk” – what are we planning and implementing that is about today, about real ministry with people who need the church (as the people of God), talk that is about mission and ministry.  The numbers may or may not come, but let’s remain faithful to the call.  Jesus loves us little people and little churches, and calls us to follow.

As a deer longs for flowing streams…

As many of you realize, I’ve been sharing with you on Sundays a series of sermons, “The spirit still speaks,” based mostly on the stories of Elijah. A few Sundays ago, the “mantle” was passed to Elisha, and now the sermons will come from some stories of Elisha the prophet and others, before we move back to the regular lectionary.

As I look back over this series, I realize that there could have been some others about Elijah:  Like Elijah defeating the 500 prophets of Baal, as his sacrifice was consumed and theirs was not!  Like Elijah suddenly becoming frightened for his life, after bravely standing up to Jezebel and her foreign prophets and Gods, and him fleeing and being fed by ravens while living in a cave.

Elijah like the rest of us, of course, was a man and not just a prophet.  So, he experienced what we all experience – a full range of human emotions:  love, anger, fear, shame, insight, humility, pride…

Fawn

“As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God… Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me?… I say to God my rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I walk about mournfully… My adversaries taunt me… continually, “Where is your God?”    (excerpts from Psalm 42)

Elijah spent some time in depression when Jezebel threatened his life and he fled.  He was secluded for 40 days and nights, and then went to Mount Horeb.  There an angel told him to wait for God to pass by.  There was a great rock-splitting wind, but Elijah did not find God in the wind.  There was an earthquake, there was fire.  God was not in them.  Then there was sheer silence.  That is where Elijah heard God’s voice.  The voice told him what he was to do next.

I think that there are times when we each get depressed about where the turn of events has taken us.  We can’t seem to find God in the present.  We become direction-less.  We view the past with nostalgia, and the future with fear, and the present is filled with indecision and a feeling of exhaustion from the whirlwind-like lives we have been living.  We have sought God in all the BIG things, the stressful, stringently power-focused, mighty acts in which we think we will find God.  In the gala events of the church.  In the mighty blow-out pipe organ or in frenzied worship.  In the busy-ness of church life, as if in the doing and doing, the whirlwind, we will find ourselves faithful.

Maybe, just maybe… if we stop focusing on noise and hustle-bustle, and instead stand on the mountain in the midst of sheer silence, we will hear the voice of God telling us where to go, and what to say, and how to do what God calls us to.

Just a suggestion.  What do you think?

Faithfully,   Pastor Karla