Category Archives: Pastor Barb’s Message

Pastor Barb’s Message 5/7/17

Grace and peace to you all!

 “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.  He leads me … He restores my soul.” Psalm 23:1-3

I can tell I’ve been at WFC for awhile, because when I read Psalm 23, in my mind’s eye I see the marvelous banner that hangs in the front of the sanctuary (thank you, Trudy Anderson!).  It beautifully illuminates the hope, peace, and calling of this beloved psalm.

This week you’ll receive a letter from Matt Bliss as part of the Consecration Sunday campaign.  When Matt describes the values of WFC that make a difference in his life and his family’s life – humility, welcome, love, hope – I hear echoes of Psalm 23.  We are beloved by the One who is our Shepherd, and as we follow our Shepherd, we offer love and hope to the world around us.

As you prepare for Consecration Sunday on May 21, I invite you to pray this prayer by Steve Garnaas-Holmes.  What do you hear, when you quiet your soul beside God’s still waters?  How is the Shepherd calling you to share your life, your resources, your love with WFC and with the world?

Gentle shepherd,
you who lead me to abundant life,
to live so others also may follow
and find green pastures:
help me know your voice,
recognize your calling,
hear my name.
Give me grace to listen
for your voice,
deep within,
so quiet, yet so clear,
the voice of One who leads,
leads to still waters,
leads through deathly valleys,
leads through all suffering, all joy,
leads to abundant life,
you whose very life is a leading,
whose love is a voice,
speaking to me,
speaking in me.
I quiet my soul.
I listen.

I listen for you.

Pastor Barb’s Message 4/30/17

Grace and peace to you all.

“Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” Matthew 18:20

Sunday’s gospel reading is the story of two disciples walking to the village of Emmaus, outside Jerusalem, on the evening of the first Easter.  As they walk, dazed and confused by the events of that tumultuous day, they are joined by a third person whom they invite to have dinner with them.  Not until this stranger breaks bread and shares it with them do they recognize that it is Jesus, and that they’ve been blessed with his presence, his teaching, his inspiration, and his peace.

During the next few weeks, the Stewardship Team here at WFC will be bringing us stories, in worship and through the mail, of how this congregation has embodied the presence of Jesus for each other, again and again.  This week’s letter from Larry Pillsbury should arrive in your mailbox tomorrow; last Sunday we heard from Heather Lewis and this Sunday Deb Beckett will speak in worship.

What a joy to hear how our support and our companionship, as we walk our faith journeys, can be the embodiment of Jesus’ love!  What a privilege to hold the Holy for each other.  Often we take this holiness for granted, and it’s only when something opens our eyes – sharing in communion, caring for each other in times of pain, working together to make the world a better place – that we recognize Christ in our midst.

I hope you are enjoying these letters and stories as much as I am.  May these be part of God’s grace-full blessing of our life together at WFC!

(If you are not receiving the letters in the mail and wish to do so, please contact Sally in the church office: office@steeple.org or 878-5792.)

 

Pastor Barb’s Message 4/23/17

Grace and peace to you all.

Today, stay awake. Be alert. Be on the lookout for moments of wonder, signs of grace, revelations of beauty, glimpses into the mystery of life, and of God. Or we may well miss the miracle that is right before our eyes.
-Br. David Vryhof, Society of St. John the Evangelist

“Christ is risen!  Christ is risen indeed!”  Just five days ago, on Easter Sunday, we echoed centuries of Christians in celebrating the amazing news of God’s steadfast and powerful love, even in the face of death.

Where have you seen signs of the Resurrection in your own life?  In the world around you?  What “moments of wonder, signs of grace, revelations of beauty, glimpses into the mystery of life, and of God” have you experienced?  What will you discover today?  Easter reminds us to keep our eyes open, because we never know what God might do!

This isn’t an idle exercise.  I write today’s post as news comes in of violence and threats of violence around the world and close to home.  For us to live as people of faith in a challenging world, we need to be firmly grounded in God’s good news.  Celebrating life and grace – celebrating resurrection! – every day gives us the foundation we need for the challenges of life.

Christ is risen!  Christ is risen indeed!

~~~~~~~

 

Pastor Barb’s Good Friday Message

Grace and peace to you on this Good Friday.

How could this Friday be called “good”?  Steve Garnaas-Holmes suggests that it wasn’t that Jesus was killed; it was something about the way he faced his end:

That in love he was free of their anger,

that his tenderness was impervious to their brutality,

that he had become from a world they could not breach,

that aflame with love he was not consumed,

that he had given himself to them more wholly than they could

either fully receive or prevent was already resurrection.

 

Pastor Barb’s Weekly Message 4/9/17

Grace and peace to you all!

Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week.  Together, we’ll move from the excitement of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, into the quiet reverence of the Last Supper, through the confusion of Jesus’ arrest, and to the agony of the cross.

It may not sound like Good News to journey with Jesus through betrayal and death.  Couldn’t we just go from Palm Sunday to Easter, and skip the hard parts?  Yet I believe that this journey to the cross is at the center of our faith: God came to live among us; God received the worst that we could do, even to the point of death; God responded with resurrection and new life for us al.  This story tells us that nothing we do, nothing we experience, nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love (to quote Paul in Romans 8:37-39).

I don’t know about you, but I need a Love like this.  The world, and sometimes my life, can be a real mess!  A Love that journeys through death to resurrection is the only love sturdy enough to sustain us through it all.  A Love like this gives me a solid footing, no matter what comes my way.

I can’t recommend this enough: make time this week to attend as many services as possible!  (We’ll join with the Richmond Congregational Church for the mid-week services.)

Palm Sunday, April 9 at 9:30 a.m. at Williston Federated Church

Maundy Thursday, April 13 at 7:00 p.m. at Williston Federated Church

Good Friday, April 14 at 7:00 p.m. at Richmond Congregational Church

Easter Sunday, April 16: 6:30 a.m., Sonrise Service at the home of Tony and Susan Lamb near Lake Iroquois

Easter Service at 9:30 a.m. Williston Federated Church

If you’re not able to come to the worship services, find time to travel through this week in Matthew’s gospel:

Sunday:  Matthew 21:1-11

Monday:  Matthew 21:12-17

Tuesday:  Matthew 21:23-27

Wednesday:  Matthew 26:1-16

Thursday:  Matthew 26:17-75

Friday:  Matthew 27:1-56

Saturday:  Matthew 27:57-66

Blessings as you make the journey through Holy Week.

 ~~~~~~~

Pastor Barb’s Weekly Message 4/2

Grace and peace to you all!

This Sunday’s reading is Ezekiel 37:1-14, the story of Ezekiel and the valley of dry bones.  (This is the passage that inspired the spiritual “Dem Bones”)  Here is the reflection from Steve Garnaas Holmes on this passage.  May it spur your thought and prayer!

        God said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?”
I answered, “O Lord God, you know.”
Then God said to me, “Prophesy to these bones,
and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.
Thus says the Lord God to these bones:
I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.”

—Ezekiel 37.3-5

There are parts of you,
maybe great parts,
that have withered and died.

Maybe spiritual gifts that you have buried,
a face of yourself you have closeted,
wounds ignored, hopes starved.

Some have passed on, forever.
But some, God may breathe life into.
God may bring bone to bone and sinew to sinew.

You may be aware of it; a daily ache.
Or it may be unknown to you,
a hidden mystery.

What part of you is God bringing back to life?
Where is God’s breath blowing,
the dry bones moving?

Don’t direct the wind.
Don’t even worry where it is.
Just prophesy to the dry bones.

Speak hope.
Be open to the miracle.
Let God breathe, and wait.

Pastor Barb’s Weekly Message 3/26

Grace and peace to you all!

Last week during the sermon I showed part of a video called “Fifty People, One Question: Galway” (you can find it here online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LP7pdAn3foE&t=298s).  Each person is asked the question: what is your biggest life regret?  It’s incredibly poignant to watch their faces as they ponder, and answer that question.  It makes me ask the same question of myself, and do my own pondering.

Lent is a season of repentance: an honest reckoning of ourselves, our gifts and faults, our graces and sins.  We offer it all up to God, trusting that the One who made us and loves us will be able to turn even the hardest parts of our lives toward the good (though we may not have any idea how that can happen).  Paul writes in Romans 8:28:  “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to God’s purpose.”

Why does Paul write this?  Out of his own experience, his own conversion from persecutor of Christians to disciple of Christ.  And because he knows the Jesus story: not even the cross could stop God’s love, not even death can stop God’s eternal life.  Our regrets are hard, certainly, but they are not the end of the story.  As God’s beloved, we know that even our worst moments can work together for good.

Thanks be to God!

Pastor Barb’s Weekly Message 3/19

Grace and peace to you all!

This Sunday’s lectionary reading is John 4:5-42, the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well.  It’s an amazing story in many ways.  Jesus and this unnamed woman have the longest theological conversation in all the gospels, and in the midst of their conversation, Jesus speaks of giving “living water.”  “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty!” she responds.

Mary Oliver’s poem “Thirst” describes this as well as anyone I know:

Another morning and I wake with thirst
for the goodness I do not have.
I walk out to the pond and all the way God has

given us such beautiful lessons.
Oh Lord, I was never a quick scholar but sulked

and hunched over my books past the hour

and the bell; grant me, in your mercy,
a little more time.
Love for the earth and love for you are having such a long

conversation in my heart.
Who knows what will finally happen or where I will be sent,

yet already I have given a great many things
away, expecting to be told to pack nothing,

except the prayers which, with this thirst,
I am slowy learning.




May we, like this poet and like the woman at the well, learn both thirst and prayer as we continue our journey together into Lent.

~~~~~

 

Pastor Barb’s Weekly Message 3/12

Grace and peace to you all!

What is Lent for?  Really, it’s to clear away everything in our lives that get in the way of falling in love with God.  That’s the focus of fasting, of prayer, of giving to those in need: opening ourselves to loving God, and being loved by God.  Pedro Arrupe says it well:

Nothing is more practical than finding God,  that is,
than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with, 
what seizes your imagination,  will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends,
what you read,  who you know,  what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love,  stay in love, and it will decide everything.

May this Lent be the time that we fall in love with God again.  Blessings on you Lenten journey!

Pastor Barb’s Message 3/5/17

Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness … He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 

Matthew 4:1-2

There are very few people who realize what God would make of them if they abandoned themselves into God’s hands, and let themselves be formed by his grace.

St. Ignatius

It’s the beginning of Lent, the forty days of preparation for Good Friday and Easter.  As you probably already know, it remembers Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness at the start of his ministry, fasting and praying.  So every year, Christians enter a kind of spiritual wilderness for forty days.  Often people give something up, a kind of fasting from a usual comfort or habit.  The Eastern Orthodox church adopts a vegan diet for these forty days – no animal products at all – and doesn’t eat the first meal of the day until after 3:00 pm.  (I’m not doing that.  Just sayin’)

Why do we do this?  Because it’s so easy for us to forget God exists, in the press of our lives.  Fasting helps us to remember, each time we miss whatever we’ve given up, that God exists.  It reminds us to turn to a prayer, if only a quick “I know you’re here, God, thanks” kind of prayer.

Over time – over forty days – those prayers add up, bit by bit.  They open our spirits to be shaped by God’s love and call.  We arrive at Good Friday as different people than we started on Ash Wednesday, as people a bit more available to God, a bit more aware of the beauty and pain around us, a bit more accepting that we are beloved, a bit more willing to step up to the task of loving everyone who comes into our lives.

Blessings upon your Lenten journey, my friends.

~~~~~~~