“Finely-Tuned Freedom”

From the Pastor, October 12, 2016 “Finely-Tuned Freedom” Nicolo Paganini (1782-1840) the great Italian violinist, willed his fine instrument to his home city of Genoa. His bequest carried one condition. The violin was never to be played; it would simply be placed on display. But that’s not good for a finely crafted stringed instrument. It needs to be used and handled regularly if its beauty and value are to be retained. As a result of Paganini’s request, his marvelous violin has become nothing more than a decaying form. It has wasted away as a museum piece. Here in this country, we have been given a great gift: the gift of freedom. But how are we going to treat this great gift? Will we enshrine freedom like some vague ideal sealed behind a plexiglass case untouchable by mortal hands? Will freedom become another Paganini violin? Freedom must be defended and guarded closely and carefully. Defending freedom is not simply a matter of maintaining a military. Rather, it requires the active, watchful attention of all citizens to make sure that no one at any level of our society deprives anyone else of the rights guaranteed and vouchsafed in our Constitution and codes of law. Freedom must be exercised. Like finely crafted instruments, freedom is meant to be used, expressed, tried, and respected. But, of course, freedom is not absolute. Freedom is a communal attribute. This is expressed in the Preamble of the constitution in these words: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” Freedom exists as a result of the collective will of the people as the governing principle by which we live together as a body of people. But it is not something that is a fact of life. It is, rather, a product of our life together as a nation. One of the greatest freedoms we possess in this country is the freedom of speech, enshrined in the first amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” These rights and freedoms we have are predicated and built upon respect for one another, and commitment to the idea and ideal that each person is endowed by God with value and dignity, and that it is incumbent upon...

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From the Pastor, April 13th Update

May has become a very busy month for me. Susan’s son, Benny, and his wife, Lani, will be visiting us May 3-5.  They are flying up from Berkeley, California, and we will pick them up at PDX Tuesday morning.  We will spend time with them, although I plan to be in the office Wednesday morning.  Then, on Saturday May 7th, Susan and I will travel to Salt Lake City with the Coburg UMC Volunteers-In-Mission Team to spend the week working at the UMCOR West Depot.  We return on Friday the 13th. Sunday, May 15th is Pentecost, which we will celebrate together with Faith Lutheran at their church. Which makes me think: Do you read/speak a language other than English? I am looking for readers of various languages to share in a multi-lingual reading of the Pentecost story that morning. Please let me know if you could lend your talents and knowledge. Susan and I then spend some vacation time the next two weeks as we travel to Tennessee to attend Dawn’s high school graduation on the 21st. Nadine Wiles is in charge of worship that morning, and may feature a lot of music. I’m in favor. Susan and I will make our return trip that next week, arriving Thursday evening. Please keep us in your prayers as we travel that there may be no “incidents or accidents along the way,” as a former parishioner used to pray. We will continue to hold you in our thoughts and prayers during this time. Please contact Sue Huntley or Peggy Potterf in case of pastoral care needs, and they will help coordinate an appropriate response. Your pastor,...

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From the Pastor, March 30, 2016

The hustle and hubbub of Holy Week and Easter are now behind us, and in worship we will return to working our way through the Gospel of Luke. In august of last year, we began a year-log journey through all four Gospels entitled “Come Meet Jesus.” It is significant for any Christian community to spend time getting to know who Jesus is through a careful study of the gospels. Out beyond the “cultural wars” and all the media hype about religion, unfettered by politics and consumeristic tastes, is the Jesus whom everyone admires, but too few of us really know. During this year, as we have looked closely at the four gospels of the New Testament, we are asking, “Who is Jesus and why is he doing these things (Mark)?” In Matthew we discovered that Jesus teaches a way of wisdom and mystery, and now in Luke we are exploring his way of love and justice. Later this spring when we begin our study of John we will see how Jesus shows us a life deeply connected to God. This Sunday we will revisit the story of the encounter two disciples had with the risen Jesus as they walked to Emmaus, considering the relationship between the resurrection of Jesus and hope. Then we will return the next Sunday to earlier sections of Luke. You are always encouraged to bring your Bible with you and follow along, and read further on your own. I am glad to be on this journey with you, and to serve as your pastor....

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From the Pastor, March 16, 2016

Holy Week, that time between Palm Sunday and Easter, is really the time in which every Christian should take time to pause and carefully consider who Jesus Christ is to them, and what it means to follow Jesus. It is a time in which we explore the full range of human emotions – from delirious joy to total bewilderment to anger to fear to incredible grief, and then on to joy again. Holy week is designed to move us at the deepest levels of our hearts, minds and souls. This year, as we journey through Luke’s telling of the last week of Jesus’s life, we skip through the streets with the people who jump and shout as Jesus rides a donkey into Jerusalem. We will share a meal on Thursday at Faith Lutheran that commemorates the Passover meal Jesus shared with his closest associates only hours before he is betrayed by one of his inner circle and arrested by the very religious leaders that should have welcomed his message. Then on Friday at our own church we will contemplate how we have denied Jesus, along with Peter. We encounter the raw mockery of justice at Jesus’ trial, and experience the full force of all the injustices that infest our world. And then, on Sunday morning, we celebrate all the ways in which Jesus lives in the world and in our personal experience. On a road, talking with travelers? In a room, sharing a meal? Breaking bread? In our tears? In our laughter? In those moments of deepest darkness, when somehow a word rises above our despair, “I know that my Redeemer lives?” Holy Week is for you, it’s for me, it’s for every person who looks at the world and shakes their head, and, as the coffee mug says, “It’s for all the days of the week that end in ‘Why?’” See you in church! Pastor, Craig Rev. Dr. Craig S. Pesti-Strobel Coburg and Junction City United Methodist Churches ConSpiritu: Creating a World We All Can Live In   Love, above all. Above all,...

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From the Pastor, March 2nd, 2016

Paul in his Letter to the Romans says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another…” (Romans 12:15-16). One of the greatest gifts we offer our community is hospitality for funeral and memorial services. Our gracious welcoming of all who gather to express their grief as well as their gratitude for the life of their loved ones and friends provides a tangible expression of the love and comfort of God. This week we will extend this ministry twice. On Friday, at 11:00 a.m., we will celebrate the life of Julia Baker, who is a member of the extended Jager clan, and who grew up in this church. Following the service, we will have a reception in the fellowship hall, graciously hosted by several of you. On Saturday, we will gather at 1:00 p.m., to celebrate the life of Lloyd Smith, a longtime resident of the Junction City area. People are invited to bring a potluck dish, which we will share at the reception following the service. We offer this ministry to all in our community, regardless of church affiliation or active membership. All of this is because we witness to a Love that never ends, a Hope that never dies, and Gracious Mercy that knows no bounds. Thank you for all the ways that you live out this Loving, Hopeful and Merciful Grace through the ministries of our church! Proud to be your pastor,...

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From the Pastor, February 3rd, 2016

When it comes to predicting the future, humans can be notoriously and even hilariously off-base. Take the following self-assured pronouncements: “Theoretically, television may be feasible, but I consider it an impossibility–a development which we should waste little time dreaming about.” (Lee de Forest, 1926, inventor of the cathode ray tube.) “I think there is a world market for about five computers.” (Thomas J. Watson, 1943, Chairman of the Board of IBM.) “We don’t think the Beatles will do anything in their market. Guitar groups are on their way out.” (Recording company expert, 1962.) A while back I received another self-published article by someone who calls himself “Servant of Christ,” sharing yet another personal vision about the impending total destruction of the world. If I had a nickel for every “prophetic” prediction about the end of the world and the return of Christ that I have received in the mail, seen online or read in a book, I could single-handedly subsidize our entire church budget for at least a year. Maybe more. Corrie ten Boom has said it best about how to anticipate the future: “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” The one thing that holds true for every one of those predictions about the end of the world is that they were 100% wrong. Corrie ten Boom’s comments reflect more the words of the prophet Jeremiah: ‘“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart”’ (Jeremiah 29:11-13). God has plans for our future here in Junction City as a faith community. That future will look different from that to which we have become accustomed, but that is always true. That to which we have become accustomed looked different from that to which preceding generations had become accustomed. For my entire growing up years, I became accustomed to watching TV programs on a black and white television. When I first got married we could only afford a small portable black and white set. That was okay. I was accustomed to that. Then we got a color television. Do you think I ever went back? Of course not. Now there are plasma screens and high definition screens the size of picture windows. “Accustomed” keeps changing. What stays constant is our mission as a faith community: to proclaim the love and grace of God as experienced in Jesus Christ, and to make the...

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