Discontent is part of the fabric of our lives. A life centered on the acquisition of “things” is driven by discontent because appealing to our desires is more fun than thinking of our basic needs. Diamonds capture the imagination in a way that chicken soup does not. Having a roof over our heads is not nearly so inspiring as acquiring the home that inhabits our dreams. This is especially true in this most hallowed season in the marketplace.
It has been a little over a year since my Aunt Dorothy died. She was the last relative of my parent’s generation. Dorothy and her husband never had any children so their nieces and nephews were very special to them. Dorothy lived to be 104 years old. For some, living that long would be challenging. For Dorothy it was in some respects, as I remember her saying that she really had to work hard on staying focused on the “here and now;" it was so much easier to drift into the past. Yet, even with this struggle she gave thanks for God for each day and for the people in the care center who provided her care and security. She was like that. I would describe her as a thankful person. What a wonderful legacy to leave, that of being thankful. Her dying words to her nieces and nephews who gathered at her bedside were, “Love everyone, and be thankful.”
By now you should be aware that the Rev. Pam Schroeder, Pastor for Care and Community, is retiring. Nearing thirty years in ministry and after nine years among us, it will be time to lay her burden down and rest; to turn her attention to new paths to walk. Well done, good and faithful servant!
The mayor has lit the city Christmas tree. Black Friday and Christmas sales are beginning. All of this before some folks have gotten the Jack-O-Lanterns off the stoop and before I know what we’re cooking for Thanksgiving. It is forty-five days until Christmas Day, and I do understand the necessity of planning – we are already busy with preparing for Christmas Eve and beyond. Yet I can’t help wondering what we will miss as we zoom through the next seven weeks straining ahead to a day not yet here.
The Glasgow Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, is off and running. There are speakers who are experts in climate change science with data on how we are doing as a world community in controlling climate change. National leaders are present as the goals and action plan continue to be addressed and decisions made. Youth of the world remind us of the urgency of halting climate change and even reversing it in situations where it is not too late
As we approach Reformation this weekend, we remember Martin Luther as the reformer of the Church who unintentionally led to the formation of Lutheranism. Martin Luther saw injustice in the church and took steps not to form a denomination, but to reform the Church of the day. It was a time of momentous change. Changes that came with the price of threatening his life. Yet, Luther persisted.
There are certain creatures (like sharks, for instance) that die if they don’t keep moving. I think that organizations, including congregations, are the same. A congregation that stops being propelled by its mission (Share God’s Love) toward embracing its vision (to be the open arms of Jesus Christ) soon settles into a death spiral, weighed down by traditions, anxiety, fear. To keep moving spiritually, an individual must constantly be open to reflection – being honest about who we are and what is keeping us from living the Divine image of God; repentance – turning away from the fear and brokenness of our lives back to God; renewal – making the changes necessary to grow more fully into our life.
Lately I find myself reflecting on the changes we have experienced over the past 18 months. As we move out of the heights of the pandemic, the future looks hopeful. I am seeing life the way I have not seen it for what seems like quite a while. Ferris Bueller’s famous words come to mind, “Life moves pretty fast. If you do not stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Over the last couple of months, I’ve learned that several pastors I know and love have either left a congregation or retired from ministry far earlier than planned because they have no more to give. The pandemic and all the other cultural forces that make our society uncivil and adversarial have left them, as one colleague put it, unable to keep turning the other cheek.
When people are asked, “Do you pray?” the majority say, “Of course.” Surprisingly, this holds true even among those who say they really don’t believe in any god. Prayer seems to be a rather ubiquitous part of human experience. On the other hand, what people mean by “prayer” is much harder to pin down.