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...

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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...

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