In Life and in Death…

I stepped on a giraffe today.

Or maybe it was a rhinoceros. Animal crackers, especially ones you’ve stepped on in the church hallway, can be hard to identify. I’m pretty sure it was a giraffe, though.

Dropped animal crackers in the hallways are just one hallmark (pun intended) of serving in a church with a weekday preschool program.

Also, the assorted backdrop of childrens’ cries, squeals, and nursery noises reminds us that the next generation of the Church is on board or right around the corner. Sometimes, we church staffers close the double doors to minimize the volume from the nursery around the corner. Infants can generate some kind of noise, you know.

An active preschool assures that our church campus is loud, lively, and a bit messy at times. And yet, God’s providential hand and abiding presence are evident in all that loud, lively mess.

With the arrival of spring, our playground certainly is envlivened every day — trees are budding and blooming and our preschoolers are running, climbing, jumping, chasing, scampering over playsets, skinning knees, crying, yelling with joy. Loud and lively as a playground should be.

And just across the playground fence, the saints rest. This church, like others I have served, features a playground adjacent to a cemetary. Our children play tag with tombstones as a backdrop.

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The loud and living growing up in view of memorial markers.

My church honors and embraces the legacy of creeds, confessions, and catechisms that the saints have passed on to us. Each time I pass by our lively playground and sedate cemetary, I am mindful of the first Heidelberg Catechism question, which our church family has revisited during the season of Lent:

Question 1. What is your only comfort, in life and in death?

Answer: That I belong — body and soul, in life and in death — not to myself but to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ…

Even if you do not spend your days around a preschool, life can be loud, lively, and messy. Whenever I ask one friend, “How are things going?” he cheerfully answers, “Organized chaos!” Such is life. So much we’d like to control, so little we do.

Thank God for our only comfort in every generation and age, the risen Jesus Christ, who is Lord of the living and the dead.


A Light: This Week and Always

isaiah-49-6I will give you as a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.’  

-Isaiah 49:6

As we think about God’s great act of salvation this week, this Holy Week,  we rightly think about what it means for us: for ourselves, for our family, maybe even for our fellow Christians.  Often, though, that’s as far as it goes.

God does not, however, stop at the boundaries, of our own hearts, our doorsteps, our sanctuary.  God has saved us, and asked us to pass on the Good News of Jesus to the whole world.

This week, we focus on Jesus: his journey to the cross, the grave and then his rising from the dead.  We go to worship and hear the familiar stories, walk with our Lord and sing songs of grateful praise.  While we do this, we need to keep our ears open for what we can take away from the stories, scripture, sermons and songs that we can share with others.  Expressing God’s salvation may seem like a task that’s too big for us- it is… but with God’s help we’ll do what we can.  If we are faithful followers of Jesus, we can be a light to the world; our lives can be a sign of the new life that his resurrection has bought.

 Join us for Holy Week worship at First Pres:  

Thursday, March 28th at 6:00pm in the sanctuary (Maundy Thursday). Come as you are. Worship/Communion service with Message: “Caught Red-Handed.”

Friday, March 29th at noon in the chapel (Good Friday). Come as you are. Worship/Prayer service with “Solemn Reproaches of the Cross.”

Sunday, March 31st, 8:30 and 10:55am in the sanctuary (Easter Sunday!). Worship Service with Message: “Carpe Vitae.”

Worth in Christ

Have you ever felt worthless? What if that worthless feeling is warranted? What then?

Failures, missed opportunities, unmet potential, the fact that we all sin, falling short of God’s vision for our lives- we’ve all been there… we all live there.  Sometimes it feels like you’re living at the bottom of a pit, looking up at a world you can’t get to.

There is hope.

hashtagConsider the story of the # symbol.  Not long ago, it was almost never used.  Occasionally used on a telephone, the # seemed worthless on a computer- at best, it was an occasional stand-in for the word “number.”   Taking up space on our keyboard, doing nothing.  Rarely noticed, and when it was- it was only for people to think, “why is that dumb symbol even there, hovering over the number 3?”

Then, all of a sudden, the world changed for the lowly #.   It was saved.  When the use of Twitter (and other forms of social networking) began in earnest, oh how popular it became!  Given a brand new name, the “hashtag” has become the critical symbol, boiling your message down to its point. [As in:   #whereisshegoingwiththis?]

While the plight of the # is nice, we Christians, in Jesus Christ, have had a far more surprising comeback than the #. Our joy and our worth come from Jesus.  All of a sudden, because of him, our worthless and sinful lives have meaning, have value.  No matter how we feel, we have worth.  Jesus came to us as one of us for all of us, and in his sacrificial death, has secured for us a place among God’s children.  WE ARE WORTHY BECAUSE HE IS WORTHY.  Thanks be to God!

But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ*—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

-Ephesians 2:4-6