October 5, 2009

A Frightful Scripture

Filed under: Faith Seeking Understanding — Pastor Tim @ 10:33 am

“Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”  Mark 10:21b

Don’t those words strike terror into your heart?  Jesus had been asked what was needed “to inherit eternal life,” and this was his response.  But who can do that?  A number of folks manage to live on a shoestring; would Jesus really ask such people to give up their shoestring!

Actually we know this man depended upon much more than a shoestring.  The scripture says simply that “he had many possessions.”  Perhaps the question for us becomes this: How much is too much?  If we compare our lives to Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey or any number of professional athletes or movie stars, we may convince ourselves that we’re getting by on a shoestring.  If we compare our lives to the one-sixth of the world’s population that lives on a dollar a day, however, suddenly we are the wealthy.

But let’s not get hung up in any guilt over how much we do or do not have.  I don’t think this is a story about guilt.  It’s a story about love.  “Jesus, looking at [the man], loved him.”  Apart from his wealth, apart from his obedience to the commandments, apart from anything he could do to earn his way into heaven, he was embraced by Jesus’ heart!

That’s a frightful message for some of us who don’t know who we would be without our possessions, or without our obedience, or without our good works.  But that’s the gospel message for all of us: we don’t have to do a single thing, indeed we can’t do a single thing, to earn God’s love!

January 9, 2009

Happy Birthday, Faith UCC!

Filed under: Faith Seeking Understanding — Pastor Tim @ 1:03 pm

Happy 2009!  The first Sunday of this year marked the 45th birthday of Faith United Church of Christ in Davenport.

How are we a different congregation from when we were a newborn congregation?  Or a 20-year-old congregation?  We often focus on these facts: that the average age of our members is older, and that the number of members we have is lower.  I believe those changes are due largely to the shifts in the neighborhood of our church property.  We no longer are able to draw young families from the surrounding neighborhood because few young families move in this neighborhood any more.  (In the last fourteen years, we have never had even 20 trick-or-treaters at Halloween time at the church parsonage!)

But we are also different in the many ways that we serve in our community.  Whether it is supporting many of the hunger and shelter ministries of Churches United, or providing items for numerous social service agencies in our area, or supporting church camps at Pilgrim Heights, we have grown stronger through the years in our commitments to reach beyond the boundaries of our property.

We face new decisions every year concerning where and how we are to grow as a congregation.  May we always keep our hearts open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit as we make decisions that affect our future. 

June 24, 2008

Sabbatical - Lawn Care

Filed under: Faith Seeking Understanding — Pastor Tim @ 4:47 pm

So far, the major theme of my sabbatical seems to be lawn-mowing!

 Because of the floodwaters between us and Pilgrim Heights, I couldn’t get to camp for the first week of my sabbatical.  I went to my parents’ house an hour north of St. Louis instead.  They live on six acres in a country woods.  Because of recent health concerns, (my father has neuropathy that has been acting up), they needed help with lawn-mowing among other jobs.  So I spent a good portion of two days on their riding lawn mower.  (I hit a stump, bent a blade, and had to replace it on a third day.)

This week I have made it to Pilgrim Heights.  Right away, I learned the maintenance worker hasn’t had a day off in a long time.  So I’ve spent a good portion of today on the John Deere tractor, mowing, giving him an afternoon off at least.

Sitting on a tractor connects me with my roots.  I think back a lot to the days before my Grandpa died in a farming accident (1969, I think).  We visited the farm once a week, occasionally helping with chores (walking bean fields and chopping weeds, stacking hay bales, gathering eggs), but usually just to visit.  Visiting is sort of a rural art.  It helps folks slow down.  At least it helped us slow down when we left the hectic pace of the suburbs for Grandma and Grandpa’s farm.

Here at camp, we spend an hour for meals.  It is always hard at first to slow down enough to sit for that long.  It’s hard both for campers and for the leaders.  By the end of the week, when everyone’s exhausted, we look forward to those slower times.

A part of the gift of this sabbatical is the chance to slow down, whether visiting at the dinner table, or riding on a tractor.