Pastor’s Corner – May 2021

Emily Dickenson once penned these words:

I HAD no time to hate, because
The grave would hinder me,
And life was not so ample I
Could finish enmity.

Nor had I time to love; but since
Some industry must be,
The little toil of love, I thought,
Was large enough for me.

In her own poetic style, Dickenson warns us about spending our one wild precious life on hate and encourages us to instead give our time and energy toward ‘a little toil of love.’ Christian Spirituality gives us a similar charge: Love, not hate. The author of 1 John puts it like this:

Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sisterwhom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. (1 John 4:20-21, NRSV)

We seldom think of love and hate in such stark terms. And yet many of the voices we listen to, exhort us to one or the other, and it is usually not love. Media pundits and personalities prey on fears of people different than us; our inability to hear the other side fuels our cynicism about the state of things in these divided states of America. The voices that call us toward love are drowned out by sensationalism as we hear of yet another act of senseless violence and we each take our sides.

In the wake of Lent and Easter we were reminded of how Jesus came to make visceral what the love of God for each of us looks like. There was enough hate to go around, even back then, but Jesus’ little toil of love was to move toward others with compassion—to suffer alongside those who were suffering—to make space for the ones that no one else had time and energy to deal with and to love them wholeheartedly.

What would it take for us to love like Jesus? Who are the people we find difficult to love? So much of walking the way of Jesus is learning to love others the way that he loved people. Yes, love takes time and who has time for that? Well hate takes time, too, so what do you want to make time for?

Pastor James

Pastor’s Corner – April 2021

In the Northern hemisphere, our Easter coincides with Spring. Grass that laid dormant through winter starts to green. Bare deciduous trees begin to bud and blossom. The crocus and the tulips and the daffodils burst from their hard ground in all their glory and the wildflowers spring to life, painting the landscape brilliant reds and golds, violets and greens. The animals who have slept or hidden away through the winter season, venture forth on the warmer days. Everywhere we look, the world is teeming with life! Is it any wonder that for centuries poets and hymn writers looked this seasonal cycle of death and rebirth and saw it as a metaphor for resurrection?! Consider these lines from Christina Rossetti’s Easter Carol:

Flash forth, thou Sun,

The rain is over and gone, its work is done.

Winter is past,

Sweet Spring is come at last, is come at last.

Or the hymn Now the Green Blade Riseth (hymn #311 in our hymnal), which announces:

Now the green blade riseth, from the buried grain,

Wheat that in the dark earth many days has lain,

Love lives again, that with the dead has been

Live is come again like wheat that springeth green.

There is something so evocative about the world bounding back to life that reminds us not only of Christ’s resurrection but also Christ’s promise of new life to us in Him!

This last year has been a hard one for all of us. We have not been able to meet in person as a church much. We have had our lives constricted by masks, social-distancing, and travel restrictions. Some of us have faced economic hardship, personal struggles, the loss of loved ones and friends, anxiety, and depression. It has been a difficult year.

But with the changing of the season—liturgically with Easter and with the coming of Spring—we are invited to look around us for signs of life! What have you seen poking through this cold hard ground? What are you hoping to grow as you begin to tend your garden beds? What are the ways that Christ is calling out of hibernation? What are the things that are bringing you hope right now?

The church has not been dead. The work of the church has never stopped, and we have been fortunate to bless the community with our PALM Dinners, with our food bank, with blankets and masks for Marta’s house (thank you United Methodist Women!) and people in crisis through our discretionary fund. But in this season of Resurrection, may we sense together the life that Christ is calling us to and calling forth in us.

Pastor James

Pastor’s Corner – March 2021

As I write these reflections, my arm is throbbing from my second dose of the Moderna vaccine. It has been a year, since COVID-19 shifted the Church’s mission to online worship—a year of contending with masks, social-distancing, sheltering-in-place, and increased travel and business constrictions. A year ago, most of us never had our groceries delivered or brought out to our cars. With the roll-out of vaccines, which several of us have now received, there is the promise of life getting back to normal, albeit a new normal. Things are not quite the way they were.

As our County numbers for COVID-19 decline, we are busy making plans for in-person worship (Starting March 7). I am excited about the prospect of gathering once more with you all, even as I grieve the elements of the communal life that are still off limits to us— coffee hour, congregational singing, holding hands and hugging one another hello. Our Palm Dinners continue as to-go meals, meeting a need for those who need a meal, but without the robust hospitality and fellowship which happens when we gather around a table. These things will follow at some point, but for the moment I am happy for the opportunity to just be together.

Throughout this pandemic, the question I keep asking our Church Council and asking the church is this: What kind of Church do you want to go back to? It is an important question to consider. COVID-19 has put certain restrictions on how we gather, but we alone get to decide to be the kind of church we want to be. What does it mean for us to be the church in Klamath Falls in this season? How will we deepen our connection with one another? How can we promote healthy community and heal the deep wounds we carry? How will we stand for justice and the hurting and vulnerable in our neighborhoods and city? What are the practices we can do which will nourish faith in God in this season?

None of these questions are new. These are the sorts of things the church has always wrestled with as it has sought to live out the message and mission of Jesus Christ in every place and in every age. But perhaps the gift of the Corona-virus closures has been its interruption of business-as-usual. We get to decide whether we want to tenaciously cling to our misty watercolor memories of the way we were or to press on together toward becoming all we can be as a church. I for one, am excited about what God has in store for us together in the days ahead!

Pastor James

AppleMark

Pastor’s Corner – February 2021

February marks the twelfth month since we have been dealing with the fallout of the Coronavirus as a country. It was mid-March, and midway through the season of Lent, when we first went into lockdown. One of the things we’ve mourned during the last year, are the ways in which we have not been able to be physically present with the people we love. We have been stuck at home, or had our travel restricted, we have been discouraged from group gatherings, and we have not been able to gather inside the church building for worship. I felt the loss of congregation throughout this year, but especially during the Advent and Christmas season. That is such a joyful and hope-filled season in the life of the Church, and it was hard not to be with you all!

Here we are, almost a year later, getting ready to begin Lent again. With the vaccines rolling out, I have renewed hope that we will be together in the not-too-distant future! Hopefully Lent will give way to Easter hope, and we will gather to celebrate Resurrection (Christ’s and ours!). I can’t set a date on it, but I know we are getting closer! And I can’t wait! I am grateful for the opportunities we’ve had to connect with one another online, or on the phone, but there is nothing quite like being together! And like you, I can’t wait for the life to get back to normal!

Of course, the new normal will be different. When we are first back in worship together, we will have to wear masks and socially distance (like we did when we gathered for worship outside in October), but we also have an opportunity to go back to something new.

We have been in a long season of social deprivation. I am mindful that Lent is a season of fasting, and when we fast (from food or from an activity), it enables us to see the things we are hungry for. As we dream about being together as a church again, what are the things you have been missing that you want to get back to? What are the things that you have grown hungry for as you’ve waited out this virus at home? What new direction do you feel the Spirit moving? 

Jesus once told his disciples that the gates of hell will not prevail against his church (Matthew 16:18). We have been through a hard season together and many of us wonder what the future holds. But the Christian story is always one of resurrection and new life.  Let’s press on together, knowing that God has good things in store for us!

Pastor James

Pastor’s Corner – January 2021

As the New Year dawns, we find ourselves (again) in the land of fresh beginnings.  This is the time of year when we make New Year’s resolutions, embark on new diet plans, or exercise routines. This is when we get up the gumption to quit our bad habits and try to do better. Yet, as the weeks roll on, we find it much harder to follow through.

They say that resolutions fail for several reasons. Perhaps our goal wasn’t realistic, maybe we don’t have an actionable plan or good time management, or possibly, we just get distracted. But the making of resolutions is good. It signals a willingness in us to transform something we sense needs to change. No, good intentions don’t get us there, and we need stick-to-itiveness and follow through if we are going to see real fruit, but it begins simply with the desire to see something different in ourselves and in our world.

There were a lot of things that happened in 2020 we will be happy to leave behind. Politics and pandemics, school and business closures, anxiety about the economy and our health, have not been good for the soul. I am eager to see some return to normal life. I don’t think I want to hear the word unprecedented again for quite some time! But I also sense things in myself I want to grow into. I want to be in better shape, read more, and deepen my relationship with others and with God. Will I be able to live into everything I want to see in my life in 2021? Probably not, but I’m going to try anyway.

The Psalmist instructs us, “Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things for me” (Psalm 98:1). Singing a new song means moving beyond the same old song and dance. Singing a new song means another world is possible, another us is possible. But singing a new song is hard work. We must learn the tune and work out the words before we can sing it with any confidence.  We won’t sing out, until we learn how.

The hope for personal life transformation is at the heart of Christian spirituality. New years and new songs remind us that transformation is possible (especially if we trust the One who has done marvelous things for us!). Yes it will require effort, intention and a plan of action, but I am eager to see what the new year brings, what newness I can live into and what new song God’s Spirit will teach me.

What about you? What hopes to do you have for 2021?

Pastor James