Have you ever gotten your car stuck in mud or snow? It’s not a good feeling. It’s happened to me a few times in my life, but the one that stands out in my memory is when I got stuck in someone’s yard after a pastoral visit. Something like that can be a real test of your humility – you’ve made your visit as their pastor, you’ve solemnly prayed with them, then a few minutes later, you’re helplessly spinning your car tires in their yard! How many times do you try on your own to get unstuck, before you go back and knock on the door and ask for help? You came to leave them with hope and a prayer, not a muddy rut in their grass!
Thankfully, I knew enough to look for something to lodge under a tire, and I found a small broken tree branch to do the trick. What a relief it was when my car finally eased out of its muddy trap! During all this time, the young couple inside the house never came out. Maybe they were unaware of what was happening (I hoped so!), or maybe they were giving me a chance to get out on my own in order to preserve my dignity. I did follow up later with an apology, to say I’d had a bit of trouble and hoped I’d not done too much damage to the grass.
When we get stuck in the mud or the snow, we know we’re stuck. It’s obvious that we’re either going to have to figure out a solution, or we’re going to have to get some help. But there are other ways we get “stuck” in our lives that are not so obvious. It might be a simmering resentment toward a person or an event in our past, or it might be fear or feelings of inadequacy. It might be that we don’t know how to move forward in the face of a perplexing problem, or that we can’t make a necessary decision. It might even be that we have too much confidence in our own opinions and abilities and are unwilling to ask for the help that
Do you feel like you are “stuck” in some way in your life? God is in the business of getting us “unstuck,” but sometimes God does let us sit for a while until we’re ready for the solution to our problem. We might need a change of heart or mind. We might need to get closer to God in prayer. We might need to listen to wise people who love us and who want the best for us. Or, we might need to learn to trust God more by simply taking a step forward in the face of uncertainty. If you feel “stuck,” I hope you’ll talk to God about it. God might direct you to “a big stick” to wedge under one of your “tires” so you can get unstuck by yourself. Or, God may direct you to “go back to the front door of a friend, and knock and ask for help.” Either way, I pray you'll enjoy the freedom of moving forward!
It’s my privilege to be speaking to you from this position, as your new pastor. I’m delighted to be in Manakin-Sabot, and I have appreciated the warm welcome I’ve received at Hebron Presbyterian Church. It’s my hope to serve you faithfully for a good while, as we all seek to serve our Lord, together.
I was having a conversation the other day with one of Hebron’s faithful. We were discussing, among other things, ancestry and this area’s history. The conversation called to mind my maternal grandfather, who looms large in influence in my life, even following his death some years ago, just days before his 100th birthday. My paternal grandfather died before I was born, and in hindsight I can see that my mother’s father made an extra effort with my sister and me, knowing that he was the only grandfather we had.
I’ve often wondered what it is that makes the things that certain people say to us stand out so vividly in our memories. I distinctly remember the day my grandfather said, “Connie, there are two things you need to understand about the Church; one is the importance of unity; and the other is the priesthood of the believer.” For my grandfather, these two principles existed in tension with one another, and yet were both elemental in the healthy functioning of a congregation. The “priesthood of the believer” means that each of us has both the right and the responsibility to study and interpret the Scriptures for ourselves, and to come to our own understanding of them. The principle of unity means that in the midst of practicing “priesthood of the believer,” we find a way to remain unified as we keep our shared focus on the person of Jesus Christ.
This lesson from my grandfather guides my practice of ministry. The Church is deeper, richer, more engaging, and more fruitful, when each of us takes seriously our right and our responsibility to study the Scriptures for ourselves, and to ask God’s Holy Spirit to guide us as we seek to understand them in the context of Christian community. Then we use what God is teaching us, to draw us into closer and more genuine fellowship with one another, in the name of Jesus Christ.
I expect as time goes on, you’ll hear more from me about my Grandpa Hoke. When my grandfather died just short of turning 100 years old, the family already had a party planned for his big birthday. With gratitude for his life, we had his 100th birthday party, anyway!
A few upcoming events to mention:
I hope you'll be able to attend the afternoon Service of Installation this Sunday, March 4th at 3 o'clock, for your new pastor. Rev. Clay Macaulay, a friend and Director of Alumni Development at Union Presbyterian Seminary, will be our preacher for the installation service. The clincher, of course, will be the refreshments after the installation service, in Holman Hall. My thanks in advance to all those involved in preparations for the reception!
The published menu for Wednesday Night Special on March 7th includes grilled chicken, which sounds pretty good to me! Dinner will be served at 5:45 p.m., and at 6:30 p.m., we'll clear the tables and continue our Lenten study of love, looking at the relationship between King David and Mephibosheth, and Luke's story of the woman who washed the feet of Jesus. The dice will be back, by popular demand.
On Sunday, March 25th, you'll have the opportunity to support our church's summer youth mission trip by indulging in a Pancake Brunch following the morning worship service. There will also be a Student Service Auction, in which you may bid on services such as yard work, pet-sitting, grass-cutting and more. Calendar this event now, and plan to support our youth
See you Sunday!
Hello! The pastor's "Friday e-mail" is coming to you on Thursday this week, due to some commitments I have tomorrow. Like many of you this week, I've marveled at our unseasonably warm temperatures, that have accelerated the sprouting of bulb plants and teased us with a promise of things to come. One of my favorite things in late winter is the sound of the spring peepers. Our home in North Carolina is near a stream, and I expect there is quite a chorus of peepers by now. I've been hearing them the past few days at the farm where I'm staying here in Goochland County. I used to worry about the peepers' coming out so early, because I worried they would freeze to death when the temperatures fluctuated. But I've since learned that they can produce a kind of natural "anti-freeze" in their bodies which enables them to enter a dormant state when it gets too cold. That's about what I know about peepers, other than the engaging sounds they make.
The ability to "go dormant" is an important feature of how God created many species in nature. We witness it all around us during winter in this part of the country. And while we humans don't hibernate in the scientific sense, we do go through seasons of life when we "pull back" in some way; either to recover from a traumatic event, or because we are trying to figure out a solution to a problem or a doubt, or simply because we are tired and we need a rest. These times of "going a little dormant" can be good for us, as long as we don't get stuck there. Even though we may question God's presence during these times, we can be assured that God is with us as we are seeking God in our dormant seasons. God's design is for us to come out on the other side of these introspective times with renewed energy, clarity and purpose.
One of my favorite hymns is Natalie Sleeth's "Hymn of Promise," sometimes known by its first line, "In the Bulb There is a Flower." I love this hymn, because it reminds us that there is so much promise that we can't yet see. This idea applies to so many situations, and to so many of us people. Not a one of us is fully realized as God created us to be, and we all continue to live into God's purposes as we seek God through our seasons of dormancy and renewed life. I'm delighted that Markus has chosen to include "Hymn of Promise" in our worship this coming Sunday. Here are the words for you, now:
- Hebron Kids for Christ (grades 4th-6th) will enjoy a Winter Beach Movie Party following worship, from 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. The event will include lunch and a movie at the Parrish House.
- The Men's Group plans to leave from the church promptly at 4:00 p.m. to see the movie, "Sampson." All men in the congregation are welcome to attend.
WEDNESDAY NIGHT SPECIAL
Save room for another delicious meal, prepared by our WNS volunteers, to be served at 5:45 p.m. this coming Wednesday, February 28th in Holman Hall, for $5 per person. The menu is "Breakfast for Dinner."
Then stay for Week #2 of our study of love, based on stories from the life of King David, which begins at 6:30 p.m.
NEXT SUNDAY, MARCH 4TH
In addition to our regular Sunday morning service, there will be a service of installation for your new pastor at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, with a reception to follow. The guest preacher for the installation service will be the Rev. Clay Macaulay, Director of Alumni Development at Union Seminary in Richmond.
So, this is my first "Friday E-mail" as your new pastor at Hebron Presbyterian Church. I am delighted to be here with you in Goochland County, and I appreciate the warm welcome I have received. For those who don't yet know, I'm making my temporary residence in a cottage on a farm owned by church members. It's a lovely setting, and one which I especially appreciate after having lived "in the woods" for more than a decade in Asheboro, North Carolina. There are advantages to living in the woods (beautiful bird song, the sound of rain in the trees), but witnessing sunrises and sunsets are pleasures enjoyed in more open spaces. After the deluge of several days of rain, I came home one evening at just the right time to witness a beautiful sunset. It felt like a "welcome gift" to this community.
One wishes that all moments of life could be filled with such peace and beauty. Being blissfully without much electronic connection this week, it was late in the day Wednesday before I learned of the school shooting in Broward County, Florida. There's no need to recount the details here, as most of you have heard them, by now. We are deeply touched by such a tragedy, and we ponder anew questions about weapons, and mental health, and the fallen nature of this world in which we live. There are hard questions that need to be asked about a culture that can produce such an event.
How does a Christian respond to an event such as the school shooting in Florida this week? First, I believe, we pray. Though the phrase "thoughts and prayers" has been maligned recently on social media as being mere lip service, there is value in true "thoughts and prayers." We pray for the victims, for families who've lost loved ones, for the community that has been shaken by this tragedy, for students and teachers who are afraid to return to school, for law enforcement who seek ways to prevent future incidents such as this, and even for the shooter himself, that his heart would be softened to the love of the Lord, to recognize what he has wrought and to seek and experience God's mercy.
Then, we pray for wisdom to ask the right questions, and to seek answers that matter. We pray that God will not let us forget and merely move on with our lives after such a tragedy, but that our Lord will lead people of knowledge and influence and good intention to effect real solutions. You and I may not personally solve all the world's problems, but we pray for God to show us where God wants us to act, and to speak; and that all those whom God is calling to respond to tragedy will hear that call to step into what God is already doing in this world.
Preparing to Worship Together
The sermon passage for this Sunday, February 18th, is 1st Peter 3:13-22 The sermon title is "Hearts That Sanctify," taken from verses 14-16:
"But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence..."
A couple of upcoming events to mention:
This coming Wednesday, February 21st, we'll begin a five-week intergenerational study called "What is Love," using events in the life of King David to look at the meaning, risks and rewards of godly love.
The study will begin at 6:30 p.m., after the Wednesday meal.
NEXT Sunday, February 25th, Hebron Kids for Christ will have a Winter Beach Movie Party after worship, with lunch and a movie at the Parrish House (11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.)