Moscow First United Methodist Church is an exciting place to be. It is filled with the sound of choirs and congregants raising their voices in praise to God, with bells ringing and the historic clock chiming the hours. It is filled with children laughing, families working together, and seniors sharing their stories. Above all, however, it is filled with the people of God who are earnestly listening for the voice of God. I invite you to join with us in our many activities but mostly I invite you to join us as we encounter the God who comes into our midst as we gather together. Grace and Peace,
Debbie Sperry, Pastor
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How is God working in your life?
I read that question this week and wondered, even as a pastor, how often we stop to reflect on the answer. What is God doing in my life? Am I looking for signs of God showing up? Do I believe that God is ready and willing to do something? Anything? Personally, I'm a firm believer that God acts, in concrete ways, in our lives. But I don't always slow down to see and acknowledge what God has done. Though, when we do, the answers are often pretty awesome. This week, I'd like to invite you to stop and answer the question: how is God working in your life? To help you reflect, there are some additional questions below.
After you've identified something God is doing, I'd encourage you to identify two people (one from within the church and one from outside) you will share with, so that together you can celebrate God's faithfulness.
What have you seen God doing in you? Your family? Your work? Your neighborhood?
If you're seeing God at work, are you thanking God for God's presence, or love, or healing?
Are you excited about your relationship with God? If so, how might you share that with someone else? If not, what would you like to change? Have you prayed for that change?
If you're struggling to see God at work in your life, what seems to be the barrier? Are you spending time on your relationship? Are you talking with other Christians about what God is doing in them or how they have been able to find God in hard times? Do you have a habit or vice that takes priority over God and detracts from how God might be at work in you?
Peace and Grace
Our youngest, Steven is a verbal kid. You may not understand a word he's saying, but he's certainly convinced he's talking! He does use some sign language (please, thank you, all done, more, food, milk, and help). He also has some intelligible words (at least to us): hot, "dat", dog, yeah, "Roof" (for Ruth) and "woof". In the characteristic parental battle, he regularly says da-da. Da-da is sort of the go-to word for lots of things...don't know what the word is, say "da-da". But it's also clearly his word for dad. And though we encourage him to call me "ma-ma", Steven really doesn't care. He uses "da-da" for both of us. If I ask him, "Where's mama?" He'll point to me. He knows who I am, and the way he adheres himself to my side, I'm fairly sure he likes me. Nevertheless, dad and mom are both "da-da". I've come to believe he must think of the term as "parent". It applies to each of us in that we are love him, care for him, help him, play with him, and are the adults he sees the most. Maybe it's just to make myself feel better, but it sort of seems like he says "da-da" and means, "you, the one who loves me that I like a lot." It makes no difference to him that the term isn't gender-appropriate for me. (And really, it doesn't matter much to me either since his relationship with me is full of love and laughter).
Last week in worship, we studied the first line of the Apostle's Creed: I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth. Over the years, a number of people have shared how they struggle with that phrase; specifically with "Father" language since they associate their own father with God as the father. When their father was angry, abusive, distant, or disinterested, it makes it hard to believe anything different about God as Father. When I've talked to those folks, I've encouraged them to use language that is comfortable and allows them to relate to God as a care-giver, provider, one who cares deeply and loves abundantly. For some that has meant "mother" for others "parent" and for others simply "God." Ultimately, I think it's most important that we identify the relationship that matters (and in that know that God cares about having the relationship and isn't aloof or distant). We may not end up using the most common terms to call out to God, but I'm fairly certain God understands and helps anyway. As long as we mean, "You, the one who loves me that I like a lot," I think we've got it covered.
Peace and Grace
When I lived in Atlanta, my roommate introduced me to a place called the "Open Door". It was an intentional living community where some people would have been homeless and others could have afforded housing of their own. Each resident chose to live there and do life together. One of the things they offered was a foot clinic on Thursday nights. Residents, volunteers, and guests would share a meal and then clean up and set up for foot washing. We generally had 6-8 stations and we would welcome dozens of those living on the streets to wash and care for their feet. Most of them walked miles each day. And with the southern rain, their feet were often wet with no real chance to dry (too cold to be without socks at night and most wore their shoes to sleep so they wouldn't be stolen). When your feet don't dry out, the callouses become very thick. So we would soak, scrub, remove callouses, cut out corns, trim nails, and lotion their feet.
When I was in seminary there was a woman named Shively who I pretty much steered clear of. We hadn't had a bad interaction, but she was fierce, and I had no desire to get to know her. As luck would have it, we ended up working in the same office over the summer. We had a few casual interactions and started to get to know each other, and she ended up being pretty likable. One day, we did some truth telling and she told me before we worked together, she thought I was pretty much a heifer (this is a common term in the South, and has no relation to your size, but is liken to a more derogatory term that is used here in the West). I was surprised and laughed and then confessed that I had thought the same of her. Apparently, being a strong outspoken woman can lead people to think certain things about you, no matter which part of the country you're from.
I was wrong about Shively. She was articulate, brilliant, funny, and easy to get along with. I had judged her based on next to nothing in terms of facts or reality. And, fortunately, I had been forced to confront my bias and learn the truth about her. All too often we judge people based on all sorts of things. We judge based on age, size, gender, appearance, color of skin, religion, accent, and even area of study. Those things may say something about a person, but they don't tell you much of anything about who he/she really is. Each person is an individual and deserves to be known for who they are.
Cognitively, we might get that, but how often do we push ourselves to stop and spend the time and really get to know someone we've judged? Building relationships with people are even more critical for us, both as the church and as a society. Too many people think they know someone based on who they voted for (or think they voted for), their stance on a particular political issue, or whether or not they speak out on said issues. Those truths (if they even are truth and aren't just assumption) tell us something but they don't tell the whole story.
The divide in our country is heartbreaking, and if we aren't careful it will divide our churches. This is a time for the church to rise up and be a witness. We need to witness to the fact that each person is a beloved child of God (regardless of race, creed, or gender). We need to be a living witness to the love of Christ through our words and our actions. We need to be a witness that often the Bible declares something very different from the culture in which we live. And we need to be a witness of what it means to believe differently (politically), but still be able to come together and worship the same Lord.
The miraculous work of the Gospel is not that we are united in our similarities, but instead that the power of Christ is more pervasive than our divides and differences. Staying together takes work. We will be challenged to see beyond our own perspective. We might even be offended. And, yet, if we stick with it, we will be stronger as we support and love one another. To do that, we have to be together. We have to look beyond stereotypes and first impressions. We have to listen, earnestly and intentionally. And we have to believe that God really does have the power to heal and unite.
Moscow First United Methodist Church is honored to be an active participant of the Family Promise of the Palouse providing temporary, safe housing for families in our community who are facing homelessness. Our next opportunity to host is March 12-19.