From the Pastor, February 3rd, 2016

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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 the heartbeat of God within. This Lent, which begins with the Ash Wednesday service, February 10th at 6:00, I am asking, urging and imploring all of us to embark on a journey of Deep Listening. I am asking that everyone in the congregation spend time practicing a style of prayer called Centering Prayer. I have published a booklet entitled Lenten Journey of Listening. It is a series of scripture readings with reflection questions. Central to each day is the practice of Centering Prayer that guides us deeply into listening to God. This is an ancient practice:

  • Sit upright in a centered and balanced posture.
  • Pick out a short phrase from the “Practice” column, e.g., “How precious is your steadfast love, O God.”
  • With each in-breath, silently say the first half of the phrase, and the second half on the out-breath.
  • Repeat this for several minutes, slowly, gently. Allow this to focus and calm your mind.
  • Sit in silence at the end, simply listening.

The booklet will be available at the Ash Wednesday service, or on the table next the church office.

Our Lenten Journey of Listening will be enriched through weekly gatherings on Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. for soup, devotional and personal conversions with our brothers and sisters from Faith Lutheran. the schedule for this is below.

One final story about setting forth into the uncharted territory of the future: An interesting map is on display in the British Museum in London. It’s an old mariner’s chart, drawn in 1525, outlining the North American coastline and adjacent waters. The cartographer made some intriguing notations on areas of the map that represented regions not yet explored. He wrote: “Here be giants,” “Here be fiery scorpions,” and “Here be dragons.” Eventually, the map came into the possession of Sir John Franklin, a British explorer in the early 1800s. Scratching out the fearful inscriptions, he wrote these words across the map: “Here is God.”

The future is unknown. But we are lead into it by a known God. Each decision we make, each idea we try, each new experiment we test, is a step into the territory marked “Here is God.” There is nothing to fear.

Your pastor, Craig