Pastor's Page

MAY, 2007

This month I wanted to share some thoughts on a variety of subjects.
There have been a lot of troubling news items over the past few weeks. The tragedy in Virginia is still very much on many people's minds, not just those directly affected. It seems to reflect the apparent growth in senseless violence in our world. Its very randomness calls to mind the acts of terror that some people live with daily, thinking of Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Sudan for example. One thing that struck me early on was how some in the news media seemed eager to place blame on the faculty or the mental health system. While I certainly don't know all the details it seems to me this was a profoundly troubled young man. Trying to blame educators or counselors is not appropriate given current laws regarding involuntary treatment. We certainly need to continue to keep all these folks in our prayers, including the shooter's family and the campus police officers who had to respond. 

A few weeks ago one of Pat's students was killed in gang crossfire at a birthday party in Salisbury. Some people crashed the party and an argument erupted between rival gangs. Like the tragedy in Virginia she had nothing to do with the circumstances - it was a senseless act that killed a young teen. It is important to know that those giving the party apparently had nothing to do with the gangs. In response the mayor of Salisbury is planning a community meeting in June to talk about gangs and related topics.

This morning I attended a meeting sponsored by the school system that sought to involve churches in working with schools. It grew out of that same concern. As some of you may be aware St. Marks in China Grove is using an endowment fund to offer tutoring to students at China Grove Elementary. If you have some thoughts about how we, as a congregation, might be able to support our children and community through the schools why not share those with me or with the Evangelism Committee or the Council. Gangs are not confined to big cities. Working together perhaps we can help make a difference in the lives of not only our own children but those throughout our community. One very important action that is already in place is the project by our Women of the ELCA to pray for children and schools.

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Have you ever looked up the references to Moriah in the Bible? In Genesis Abraham is told to go into the land of Moriah to a certain mount (nameless) which God would show him. In Second Chronicles it is identified with Jerusalem. Do you ever think of that in relation to our congregation? The Genesis reference is one of the most challenging in the whole Bible. It talks of the sacrifice of something tat is precious to us and central to our life. Abraham is able to offer that sacrifice because of the level of trust he has for God. And God does not fail him!

Sometimes the Christian life requires sacrifice  and not just of money or time. It may require us to give up things we hold onto, things we believe, grudges we carry, hurt and sorrow we live with. As long as we hold onto them we can't fully experience Christ's love, grace, and will for us. And it is not easy. I shared the example last Sunday of the two lawyers who worked together even though they hated each other. When one became Christian he had to give up that hate  with great effort  and pray for, even love, his partner. That is hard work. It may not be hard like plowing a field or loading a truck or repairing an engine but it is hard nonetheless.

Steve Dabb's Sunday school class has been talking about some key issues in relationships. This week there was a question on his blackboard, What is prejudice? That is a question for all of us. It simply meets prejudging someone. Sometimes it is based on a prior experience with someone else who had similar characteristics: parents, or family, or education, or life work perhaps (lawyer, politician, pastor, used car salesman), or appearance (tall, slender, fat, short), or race (white, black, oriental), or language, or accent, or the car they drive, or even where they go to church. It can be anything that allows us to categorize, or even dismiss, someone else without getting to know them personally. Families, congregations, communities, nations (think red state  blue state), can be divided by prejudice; not to mention the world's peoples. 

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NOVEMBER 2006--Memories & Hope

Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,

Mommy, mommy, mommy, no, no, no, don't leave me! Please mommy, don't go! I'm not ready! Suddenly I was a little boy again pleading not to be left alone. The last time I had called out for my mommy was coming out of anesthesia, after an appendectomy, while a senior in college. That I know only because she was sitting there as I woke up and later shared she had never expected to hear me call her mommy again. But such are our minds and lives that, if we were loved as children, we will always have a part of us which is still a child wanting mommy and daddy. 

Not long ago we took mother to our house and she really enjoyed the trip. She sat for a long time looking out across the gorge to the mountains beyond. Taking a break from my work I joined her. As we talked she said being there made her feel closer to God. We talked of many things, especially the wonder of creation. She told my sister later how much she enjoyed it and expected it to be the last vacation she ever took.

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Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,

Hard as it is to believe it is time again for Advent. That means it is only four Sundays until Xmas!

Do you hate that shortcut, Xmas? Well, I'm not too fond of it either but we need to remember that it is not a sign of disrespect. The X is used as an abbreviation for Christ. It looks much like the Greek letter chi which begins His name. Chi is often used with the second letter rho, which resembles our P. That symbol appears on many of our paraments and banners. Frequently it will be combined with Alpha and Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, which are used as a symbol for God, the beginning and the end of all things. 

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