Upcoming Sermons & Scripture Readings:
July 3 John 8:12-32 “Light from Above, Freedom Within”
July 10 John 9 “Beyond Mere Blindness”
July 17 John 10: 1-21 “The Gate and the Shepherd’s Voice”
July 24 John 11 “Unwrapping Death”
July 31 John 14: 1-14 “Knowing Jesus: Knowing God”
August 7 John 14: 15-31 “The Abiding Spirit of Truth and Peace”
August 14 John 15:1-17 “Bearing the Fruit in which Love Abides”
August 21 John 15:18-16:4 “Beyond the World”
August 28 John 17:1-26 “A Priestly Prayer”
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 each person to defend the dignity of every other person in our society, and to allow them the full exercise of their rights as a member of that society. We especially expect such behavior and respect from those who we elect as our leaders. If anyone running for office is unable to demonstrate respect for all persons, they are not worthy to lead as our elected officials at any level of government. According to the foundational documents of our country and to the arguments that brought our nation into being, the ruling authorities of the United States of America sit...
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,...
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....
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,...
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,...
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 world better by being changed by that love and grace. All that God asks of us is that we willingly open our hearts and minds to what God desires to do through us (and to us). Our only task is to open ourselves up to God. We do that by pausing each day and listening for God to speak to the deepest places within our hearts. The season of Lent is just such a time in which Christians all over the world undertake spiritual practices such as prayer, fasting, scripture study, and other disciplines in order to more clearly hear...
Today, January 6th, is Epiphany, the date on the Church calendar in which we celebrate the coming of the magi to Bethlehem to pay homage to this enigmatic young child, born to a young Jewish couple of no status yet rumored to be the newborn King of the Jews. These magi, probably Zoroastrian priests and scholars from Persia, ostensibly follow a “star.” Many people over the years have speculated just what sort of astronomical phenomenon could have given rise to this journey to the land of Judah. My brother, Nick, has collected the musings from the astronomical community, which can be viewed on his website at http://www.astronomynotes.com/history/bethlehem-star.html. What has caught my interest recently is the possibility that what Matthew is referring to is not a celestial event but rather a spiritual event. Dale C. Allison, Jr., in an article published in Biblical Archaeology Review suggests that the star was, in fact, an angelic presence. It is important to keep in mind, Allison says, “In antiquity, stars were widely thought to be living beings, and this is the clue to a correct understanding of Matthew’s text.” Throughout the Bible, angels appear not only as messengers but also as tour guides, as it were. Stars as cosmic beings frequently appear in famous battles assisting the Israelites or engaging in heavenly struggles of their own. Epiphany celebrates the manifestation of the divine in the human world. The idea of the Incarnation of the Son of God in the flesh of Jesus, the infant, has always exercised my wonder and boggled my thinking. Consider it: The Divine Presence at the Center of the Universe, the Supreme Source of all levels of Reality somehow condensed and constricted itself in order to enter into our tiny, miniscule reality here on planet Earth. The Infinite entered into the Finite. Eternity entered into the Time-Bound. I once tried to express this artistically in a series of banners I made for the Advent-Christmas season. The banners depicted a dark star-filled sky that was split open much like a knife would slice into a curtain, and a sliver of unimaginably bright light were to shine through the opening. The Incarnation has to involve some sort of rupturing of the normal physical properties of time and space in order for the Eternal to enter into time. But something very important arises out of this. Think of it: By definition, the Eternal encompasses everything that has ever happened, is happening and will happen in the future. But it also contains all the possible things that could have happened, might still happen, and could happen if certain other things happen in order to give rise to new possibilities. This is what entered into our world. What that means is that there is nothing that is predestined or predetermined. All possibilities are present in our world as a result of the Incarnation of the Eternal One. Nothing is a foregone conclusion. The future lies in the power of our choosing. It began with Mary’s saying “Yes” to God, because with God there is nothing that is impossible. Remember that. Because the Eternal One has entered our Time and Space realm, our reality is filled with unlimited possibilities. In this new year, as individuals and as a church, I challenge each of us, myself...
Back in the darkest hours of the Second World War, British poet W.H. Auden, himself a devout Anglican, struggled to square the story of the birth of the Son of God with a world caught in the maelstrom of war. He wrote a Christmas Oratorio entitled “For the Time Being,” which tells the familiar Christmas story from the vantage point of the Twentieth Century. Near the end of the oratorio, after the baby has been born, the wise men have come and gone, and Herod has committed his atrocities, Auden offers this sobering reflection: The Light comes into the world. Our eyes, so used to the darkness, and weary from long searching, shudder and recoil at its brilliance. Once again as in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed to do more than entertain it as an agreeable Possibility. But for the time being, here we all are, Back in the moderate Aristotelian city Of darning and the Eight-Fifteen, where Euclid’s geometry And Newton’s mechanics would account for our experience, And the kitchen table exists because I scrub it. To those who have seen The Child, however dimly, however incredulously The Time Being is, in a sense, the most trying time of all. Remembering the stable where for once in our lives Everything became a You and nothing was an It. But the Vision and the Light are hard to bear, And it is easier to hide our eyes and enclose our hearts Lest our lives break free from their desolating moorages, And our Worlds be challenged to rise to the Promise of the Vision, illuminated by the Light-come-into-the-world. How will we rise to the Promise of the Vision of the One who was the Light-come-into-the-world? How will we be a part of God’s design of a world in which the lion lies down with the lamb, we beat swords into plowshares, and study war no more? How will we go out into our world proclaiming and living the Good News of Jesus that turns the world upside down and makes all things new? As we gather for Christmas Eve and the Sundays of 2016, may our eyes see the vision anew, and may the Light illumine our paths anew. Rev. Dr. Craig S. Pesti-Strobel Coburg and Junction City United Methodist...