Jesus probably talks about how we manage our assets as much as anything thing else in the context of love and community. What does he say about the commandments? What are the greatest commandments?
Love your neighbor.
Those two lie at the core of Christianity. To be good followers of Jesus, we love God and love our neighbors and Jesus builds on that in his teaching with a lot of illustrations and parables about how we handle our assets—money and property mostly.
As we’re doing church through this pandemic, Fairmount is trying very hard to be faithful to that trust. Loving God, loving our neighbors, and being good stewards of our money and properties—doing church through a mask and from a healthy social distance.
Church is still happening even as we can’t be in person on Sunday mornings. Over a hundred people are checking into our Facebook Live broadcasts every week. We are still caring for each other in our community—feeding the hungry with soup and grocery gift cards through the Ecumenical Mission Group. We just did officer training on Sunday after church—some in person and some on Zoom.
It still takes staffing to be church.
Church is happening even as we struggle through the pandemic.
Loving God, and loving our neighbors.
Carefully managing our assets as we go.
Your session is taking steps to lease the manse to be good stewards of our real assets. Good asset management is good stewardship!
Here’s where you come in.
Please turn in your stewardship commitment card. Please continue to support your church financially as we fight through the pandemic because there is no church without your support. There are real expenses to doing church even when we can’t all come to the sanctuary on Sunday morning.
This Community House is teeming with activity and kids every day as the Haytown Nursery School ploughs through the pandemic, too. Fairmount Presbyterian Church is blessed to be part of the community!
We soldier on and like always, even in the best of times, it’s all-hands-on-deck. We need your support to come through on the other side.
Our budget is lean and mean, and even so, it takes real money to turn the lights on to be the best stewards we can be of all God has given us. The backbone support for God’s work in the world through our church comes from you and me. That’s it.
It’s just us chickens.
Yours and mine.
Grace and peace,
In a Single Flow
At our last session meeting, Elder Pete Peterson led us in our opening devotional about prayer and in it, he encouraged our session to be in constant prayer for our church. In fact, he encouraged us all, all the church, all the community, to be in constant prayer. He says he believes that prayer is the thing that will get us through the pandemic—prayer is the thing that will take us into the future.
I try to be in prayer constantly.
And, I have varying degrees of success with that.
To be perfectly honest…
I have periods here and there when I can get into a rhythm about it, true. I feel as though the Spirit is carrying me and I’m in prayer (really try to be) all the time. I try, and then I always catch myself (and I’m never sure how long it takes me to catch myself) forgetting about it. It just slips away.
It’s not sustainable for the long term, no matter how hard I try.
So, I’m sharing that with you to assure you that you are not alone.
You’re not alone if you try and fail.
Keep remembering that we forget when we don’t remember what we’re forgetting.
It just means you’re trying.
And having said all that, I even have a routine! Every day. Every morning almost without fail, I start my day with several devotional practices, journaling, and prayer.
This I almost never forget. I almost always do this. Every day.
No kidding, like 99.9% of the time!
• I read the Daily Lectionary (over two years), a cycle of Bible reading that covers all the major stories and prophecies in the Old Testament and almost all of the New Testament, twice. All of that in a two-year time period. Here’s the link if you’re not reading this on a computer:
• I read Fr. Richard Rohr’s daily devotional. Again, if you’re not reading on a computer: https://cac.org/category/daily-meditations/
• I read Phyllis Tickle’s Divine Hours Prayer Manual. Look for it on Amazon, or Barnes and Noble, however you buy your books. There are e-reader versions.
• And, I read J. Philip Newell, Praying with the Earth: A Prayerbook for Peace. This is not available on e-readers, but you can also buy it through the usual channels, too.
• Then, I say my own prayers and I journal a prayer—write it out! Every day.
I don’t share this to lift myself up. I share it to encourage you to pick up some of it in your routine, whatever that looks like—if you have a routine. And if you don’t, I share it to encourage you to start one.
Even so, why can’t I keep going in a constant state of prayer all day every day?
I pray even now to keep remembering what I keep forgetting.
The Wednesday Morning section of Philip Newell’s book has a prayer that resonates me with every time. It prays from our individual vantage point as part of the bigger universe. The metaphor is obvious. See if this doesn’t grab you!
All things come from you, O God,
and to you we return.
All things emerge in your great river of life
and into you we vanish again.
At the beginning of this day
not as separate streams
but as countless currents in a single flow
the flow of this day’s dawning
the flow of this day’s delight
the flow of this day’s sorrows
your flow, O God,
in the twistings and turnings of this new day.
Today, in this new day, and today’s a new day on so many levels—I pray that we all pick it up right where we dropped it or pick it up and run with it as far and as fast as we can. To mix my metaphors, I pray that we pick it up “not as separate streams but as countless currents in a single flow.”
“In the twistings and turnings of this new day.”
Grace and peace,
I’m what they call a “second career” minister. Actually, it’s like my fourth career—careers that have literally consumed decades. All through the 80’s I am a rock & roll DJ and program director on the radio. In the 90’s, I work in promotion and marketing for major record companies in the music business. Now I get to say, “at the turn of the century” and sound like my grandma—but in the aughts, I work again in radio and television. This time, I’m in the advertising sales management end of it instead of content. By the time I finish seminary, I don’t actually start working as a minister until 2010.
I’ll never forget when I get the call to ministry. It’s the fall of 2003. You don’t forget a thing like that, I assure you! I’m happy to tell you about that sometime if you’re curious, but it’s too much to go into here. Anyway, here comes the call to ministry and it’s time to tell the kids. I’ll never forget my son Blake’s response. He’s in middle school at the time and all of a sudden, he sees himself as a “PK” (preacher’s kid). He says, “Oh that’s just great, Dad! Now, everywhere I go people are going to ask me to pray!” And he isn’t happy about it.
OMG, don’t ask me to pray!
And I understand. Blake’s reaction to prayer or the idea of it is in no way out of the ordinary. I think we all understand the pressure.
What do I say to God? How do I say it to God? Do I have the “right” words? What’s the “right way” to do it? Where should I be when I do it? Do I have to get down on my knees? Every time? Do I have to talk out loud?
Will God even hear me?
Who am I praying to?
(There’s a little trinitarian snapshot for you…)
How does that work?
Is there anybody listening anyway?
It’s enough to make your brain hurt!
So I’m having a conversation with this guy a couple years ago, and he tells me a story about weeding the garden in his backyard. Turns out, his wife overhears him. She comes out the back door and says, “I can hear you through the kitchen window, who are you talking to?”
He says, “Just talking to myself.”
She teases him about “not answering” himself or “let me know if you get any answers.” etc. etc.
I can relate. I talk to myself all the time. And I tell him that I do.
Maybe you do, too!
It’s okay—you’re not crazy.
I think it’s prayer! Seriously. Like we fool ourselves into thinking that we’re talking to ourselves, that nobody’s listening.
I don’t think God misses a word.
No matter how we’re saying, thinking, seeing, sitting, standing, loving, touching, squeezing. Whatever!
God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Universe, Allah, Great Spirit, Light, Smoke, Fire, Clouds, Sunshine, Rain.
From whatever pronoun you use for yourself to whatever pronoun you use for God, I think God by any other name is still God.
And I think that God is always listening.
Always in all ways.
So, give it a shot.
Think about it. Don’t think about it. It just is.
Don’t worry about the words you use or don’t use or what you say out loud or don’t say out loud. Don’t worry if you’re just listening.
Don’t worry at all.
It’s all prayer.
Always in all ways.
God never sleeps.
Grace and peace,
New Year, New Normal
As I think about the year ahead, probably like you, I wonder what it’s going to be like on the other side of the pandemic. I seriously doubt we’re gonna wind the clock back to January 2020 and everything returns to normal, just like it “always was.” I doubt that very much.
In fact, I don’t want it to be like it “always was,” like the old normal. I want a new normal. I went into the pandemic worn out by what looks to me to like identity politics. Politics became—maybe even replaced—religion, and people were and really still are firmly dug into and planted in their ideologies with minds closed off not even agreeing to disagree. Just being disagreeable!
I’d like to see our culture become decent and compassionate for each other at a greater level than it has been historically. I’d like our culture to get closer to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King vision of the Beloved Community where “all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it.
Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood.”
I like to see communities working toward that!
I like to think of Jesus as being that kind of community organizer with you and me—if we’re “following Jesus”—becoming that, too.
What does that look like?
Well, it’s up to us to figure that out.
I think a lot of it starts with knowing your neighbors.
Do you? Do you know your neighbors?
We were talking on Zoom in the Monday night Bible study this week about noticing our neighbors out walking. Families being families out on the roads and streets. Even in the cold weather! I’ve seen families out walking and riding bikes together in all kinds of weather since the start of the pandemic in my old neighborhood in Madison and now in the apartments where I live in Florham Park.
Well, I’m going to ask the hard question again, do we know our neighbors?
Chances are pretty good that we don’t.
Maybe it’s time to reach out. Even just driving by, let’s stop and put the window down and introduce ourselves! Mask and everything! I’ve tried to do that as I stop in to get coffee at the Coffee Potter or at the Pulled Fork Bar-B-Que place (good food there, by the way) up in Long Valley. As I venture out in the Fairmount area when I’m here at the Community House, I’m trying to get to know some people in the community.
It’s hard! I know it is. It’s been hard for me to get to know just the few of you that I’ve been able to get to know coming to church in person for that short time before we stopped doing in-person worship again before Christmas. It’s hard putting names with foreheads and eyes only. I’m sure it’s not just me, but that’s hard! At least it’s a start.
Maybe when we re-open we could have a big cook out at the Community House and true to the name, invite the whole community out to come together again. What a great way to reach out! We would get one of those big bounce houses for the kids. I might even climb in there myself just for old time’s sake. That would be fun!
Anyway, the new normal is something I’m thinking about on this gray winter day at Fairmount Presbyterian Church Community House. What does it look like on the other side? On earth as it is in heaven?
That’s up to you and me with a little nudge from the Spirit.
Come Holy Spirit, come.
Grace and Peace,
Assorted muttering and armchair theology from the interim pastor, Rev. Scott Foster.