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February 2018

As I write this we are in the middle of one of the worst flu seasons in a decade, with at least eight more weeks to go. Schools have been closed in eleven states. Some emergency rooms are so overrun that triage tents have been set up outside. To date there have been an estimated 30,000,000 victims, with 30,000 fatalities, thirty-seven of them being children. Gloomy comparisons to the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1917-1918 are surfacing in the press.

Also, as I write this we are approaching the church’s season of Lent, the eight weeks from Ash Wednesday to Easter. Lent is a hard sell to people who have written off the church or never tried it in the first place. It begins in ashes on the forehead as you remember your mortality, continues through the tense tests of discipleship provoked as Jesus sets his face toward Jerusalem, and ends in Jesus’ intense prayer struggle with God in the Gethsemane garden, his sentencing before the authorities, and the death on a cross.

Some people want God to be exclusively about happiness, success, and well-being. A God who cares most that we have long and abundant lives, that we get ahead and feel good. A God of the strong and the winners. A God who bears a striking resemblance to their status symbols. Such a God has little to say to people suffering from flu, cancer, arthritis, MS, Alzheimer’s, or the myriad of ordinary aches and pains that tarnish our daily lives.

But God-for-real carries a cross in his heart. God’s story has a chapter called the passion of Jesus (a.k.a., Lent) and that chapter never goes away even though it is followed by a most happy reversal, Jesus’ resurrection. Lent comes around every year because every year we need to be reminded again of the character of our God. He hears the cries of his people in captivity (Ex 3:7). He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds (Ps 147:3). And in his son Jesus – we recall this most pointedly in Lent – he sympathizes with us in our weakness. God gets it!

Pastor Lew

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December 2017

As a boy growing up in Mill Hall our Christmas tree had a mystical quality about it. The lights and ornaments were shrouded in a layer of what was called “Angel’s Hair.” It made a beautiful impression but it was neither angelic nor hair-like. It was in fact glass spun thin, difficult to work with, mean to the touch. My father wore thick rubber gloves to put it on and we didn’t touch the tree afterward until we took it down. If you did touch it the angel hair seemed to attach itself like a magnet drawn to metal and irritated the skin like poison ivy.

I find myself remembering the mystic look of angel’s hair on a Christmas tree the same way I find myself listening to music I do not listen to at other times of the year. And watching movies from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. And recalling Bigger, Brighter, Better days. This is Christmas; this is what we do; we look back fondly. But in my better moments I remember why no one uses Angel’s Hair on Christmas trees anymore.

God is relentlessly present tense! It is the will of God that we live well in this moment fueled by real memories and reasonable hopes. Nostalgia is a distortion of real memories as anxiety is a distortion of reasonable hope. Join me and the worshipping congregation of Calvary this Advent and Christmas as we see how God challenges our tendencies to distort the past so that God can free us to live life better here and now.

Pastor Lew

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November 2017

God Does Some of His Best Work at Night

Daylight Saving Time ends on Sunday, November 5th and most of us are not happy about it – though apparently not enough of us to change the annual inconvenience. Even before that dramatic marker, the loss of daylight hours creeps up upon us from August on. Less light for outside work. More night time driving. Some suffer depression from the depravation of natural light and many of us grumble.

While I would not try to talk us out of the instincts of our bodies and brains, I would like to offer this solace: God seems to do some of God’s best work at night. The Bible is filled with stories of God’s intervention in human affairs to bring about wisdom, rescue, and hope in the nighttime hours. This November in the worship we’re going to look at some of the great nights from the Bible. Fueled by that extra hour of sleep on the first Sunday, I hope you will join us.

Pastor Lew

November 05, 2017 (All Saints Sunday)

Sermon: Great Nights from the Bible: The Night of Wrestling God

Text: Gen 32:22-32 Jacob’s Wrestles at Peniel

 

November 12, 2017 (Veteran’s Sunday)

Sermon: Great Nights from the Bible: The Night the Lions Went Hungry

Text: Daniel 6:10-22 Daniel thrown into the Lion’s Den

 

November 19, 2017 (Thanksgiving Sunday)

Sermon: Great Nights from the Bible: The Night of the Jailbreak

Text: Acts 16:25-34 Paul and Silas are delivered from prison

 

November 26, 2017 (Ordinary Time)

Sermon: Great Nights from the Bible: The Night of the Water Walker

Text: Matthew 14:22-33 Jesus comes to the disciples during a storm at night

 

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September 2017

From Adult Sunday School Room to Welcome Center: What’s in a Name?

SKMBT_C364e17082410240_0001A faded picture shows the Adult Sunday School Room in its heyday, filled with dense rows of chairs occupied by adults. Typically, a speaker, actors, or even an orchestra occupies the stage in front. It was a happy past, but we are not there anymore. The primary function of that large space (about 2,300 square feet) these days is to serve as a place to meet and greet one another and to welcome persons on their way to the sanctuary. It is often the place where people will form their first impressions of Calvary, both its people and its building. For these reasons, we have begun to refer to this space as the Welcome Center.

The fourth of our wish prayers for Calvary is this: May our building be renewed for holy space and mission! In living out that prayer we have begun a series of improvements that will take us through the fall, winter, and into the spring. They include (1) repainting the Welcome Center … (2) making various improvements related to showing hospitality in the Welcome Center … (3) repainting the sanctuary (after addressing the source of the leaks that have caused peeling of paint) … and (4) reupholstering the pews. We will need donations of labor and donations of dollars along the way.

In a small congregation like ours the most important port-of-entry is you! A personal invitation, a personal welcome, a personal engaging – only connect! As we make our space more welcoming, I hope you use this occasion to invite new persons to the work, study, and worship of Calvary.

Pastor Lew

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Summer 2017

Listening for God on Broadway This Summer

If you step back and analyze it, a musical is an odd way to present stories about the human condition. People don’t really talk by singing to and at each other like they do in Hamilton or Oklahoma. But here’s the thing about a musical: you don’t step back and analyze it; you step in and immerse yourself in the music, dance, and sets. You do it best when you see the professionals in the great theatres like St. James in NYC or the Kennedy Center in DC. But you do it good enough when a local high school or community theatre performs their amateur versions.

As a young person, I was relatively content to compartmentalize: I could be deeply moved, even enthralled with the Sound of Music or West Side Story and never ask what they had to do with God. As I grew in my faith I grew in a desire to see some connections. If God is God, the inspirations for the story, songs, and production have their final source in him. If God is God, a completely secular picture of the human condition is incomplete, is closed off from some of the most important data of the situation. And in the other direction, if God is God, the gospel message about God seeking to recover those who belong to him needs to be told in a way that not only reaches the mind but also the heart.

Recently I asked the worshiping congregation to note their favorite Broadway musicals. I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of answers. I started from that list, added a couple of my own favorites that weren’t on there and came up with the list below. Throughout the summer, we will hold in conversation these musicals and the scriptures as noted. The basic elements of our worship will be scaled back to the essential minimum to give us more time for the songs of these musicals to be presented by our musicians and guests.

As you look at the list, you may have special memories associated with one or more of the 12 musicals we will look at. If so, I would like to hear from you. Please hand me a note on Sunday morning or send an email to lewparks20@gmail.com. I look forward to this journey together as we listen for God on Broadway.

Pastor Lew

 

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March 2017

Deadly Sins—Saving Virtues

Sometimes we find ourselves in experiences without the language to name them – overwhelmed and muted at the same time. Then someone comes along with a toolkit of names for what is happening; we borrow the words and we gain a foothold for the climb out of the overwhelming experience.

I think the church’s lists of Seven Deadly Sins and Seven Saving Virtues is one of those toolkits. This toolkit of names, often brought out in the season of Lent, was created by Christians through the centuries as they wrestled with the temptations of daily life and heard or read the scriptures. The sins are “deadly” not because they cannot be forgiven or overcome – they certainly can and that is the whole point of listing them. They are “deadly” because they want to take over a person’s soul. They are insidious. If left unchecked they can cut a person off from love and community, and ultimately from the life-giving Spirit, the seal of their own sacred worth.

Less well-known then the list of seven deadly sins is a list of seven parallel saving virtues. Virtues are pathways given by God out of the deadly sins and into a life of confidence, consistency, and fruitfulness. God gives the pathways of virtues but we must choose to follow them, to practice and practice until the virtues become automatic reflexes. The Apostle Paul calls this work of progressing from life-destroying sins to life-affirming virtues “growing up in Christ.” John Wesley calls it “sanctifying grace.”

Please join me in the worship service this season of Lent as we look at the seven deadly sins and their counterparts in the seven saving virtues. March 12: the deadly sin of PRIDE and the saving virtue of HUMILITY… March 19: the deadly sin of GREED and the saving virtue of TRUST… March 26: the deadly sin of LUST and the saving virtue of LOVE… April 2: the deadly sin of CONSUMING ANGER and the saving virtue of SELF-CONTROL… April 9: the deadly sin of GLUTTONY and the saving virtue of TEMPERANCE… April 23: the deadly sin of ENVY and the saving virtue of REST IN PROVIDENCE… April 30: the deadly sin of SLOTH and the saving virtue of HOPE.

Your traveling companion through the season of Lent,

Pastor Lew

 

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