Notes from Pastor Jon

May Navy Weekend

I want to share with you this month about my May Navy weekend drill in Charlotte. I was part of a change of command ceremony. Can you find me in the photo? The ceremony last Saturday officially welcomed the new Commanding Officer to the Navy Reserve Center. (She’s on the far right. She is a helicopter pilot and Naval Academy graduate.) She replaces the previous commander who is leaving for a new assignment in Norfolk. (He’s second from the right and is a former ship commander.) By the way, we are all saluting because the picture was taken during the playing of the National Anthem.

The ceremony includes dignitaries (there were four Admirals present), a guest speaker (He’s the second from the left. He’s their boss.). Family members of the arriving and departing Commanding Officers are also invited. The ceremony regularly includes a Chaplain, and the departing Commanding Officer asked me to be part of it. I was honored to be there. You can see additional pictures of the ceremony at the NRC Charlotte Facebook page.

My role in the ceremony was to lead a prayer near the beginning of the ceremony and offer a benediction. There is a nice tradition in all branches of the military that Chaplains pray during ceremonies. When I am part of an official ceremony like this, I am always aware that I am offering a prayer in a gathering of people with many different faith traditions or no faith tradition and that shapes the prayer I offer. Also, when Sailors and Marines see me in a particular role, it may encourage them to come find me at some point when they need a bit of counsel.

As a Chaplain, I have a very good seat during the event. I sit on the platform where the ceremony is happening so I can see everyone who has a part in the ceremony and everyone in the audience. I saw a lot of smiles and a few happy tears. The departing commander did a very good job in his two years in Charlotte, and he was a bit emotional during his departing remarks when talking about his closeness with his staff.

After the ceremony a cake was cut and everyone had a piece. My piece was from the center of the cake. I was kind of hoping for a corner piece with extra icing, but those special pieces are probably saved for the Admirals.
Together in the Risen Christ,

Happy Easter!

We had a great Easter morning together. Thank you for helping to make it a full celebration. After two solid days of steady rain, the blue morning sky and the sunshine coming in through the church windows added to the brightness of the day. It felt like the spring morning offered its own hymn of praise for the news of the day.
Thank you for adding lilies to the celebration also. We had forty-two of them around the building. Susanne reminded me that the shape of the flower is like a trumpet, so even as Ed and Ben were playing trumpet and trombone, the lilies were announcing their Hallelujahs, too. All the songs of the morning were about God’s triumph in Jesus and filled the church with joy.
I am thankful to have shared my first Easter with all of you. You are faithful and you care about the work God is doing in us and through us. At the center of that work is the story of Good Friday and Easter. It tells us who we are and who God is. And last Sunday morning we came together to hear it again. I want to keep hearing that story of the women going to the tomb and finding it empty, because it means God can turn any ending into a new beginning. What ending is God about to turn into a new beginning in your life?
What new beginnings awaits the church in the work God has for us in the months ahead?
Together in the Risen Christ,

A Season of New Life

I am looking forward to the arrival of Spring in a couple of weeks. Signs of this welcomed season are already visible. As the earth moves along its pathway around the sun, it’s the tilt of the earth that makes the northern hemisphere warm up from the winter cold of the past few months. The warming temperatures bring warmer winds to blow away the cold of winter for a new season of green and flowers and kites!
March is a windy month. And that makes me think about our family’s kite. I am not sure which box it’s packed in, but the breezes of this month make me want to dig around in the attic to find it. 
It takes wind to make a kite fly, so March is a great month for kites. But wind is only one part of the kite-flying equation. Kites also need a string and a person on the ground holding that string. With that combination, a kite can soar.
That makes me think about the church and what makes us soar. The church needs the wind of God’s Spirit to carry it. That wind hovered over the waters of creation. It blew through the upper room on the Day of Pentecost sending the disciples into the open with good news. And as we work our way through this season of Lent, that wind lifts us steadily toward Easter Day. Like March winds, the Spirit blows into creation bringing a season of new life.
The church also has a strong cord that connects us to the ground. That strong cord is Jesus. He keeps us grounded in a mission and ministry to a world full of hunger and pain and violence. He keeps us grounded in a community defined by his dying and rising.
Is this a Trinitarian image? The Spirit is the wind, Jesus is the string, and God the Father is holding the string and watching and guiding the kite/church as it carries out its great mission.
Together in Christ, 

God is Doing Something New

I am still reflecting on what a great day we had together at church last Sunday. The afternoon service was remarkable, and I am so blessed that many braved the rain to attend in person. We had a good group watching online as well. (Within about 24 hours of the installation service, there were 62 views on YouTube.)
An installation service is a special moment for a congregation and their new pastor. It’s a worship service in which members of the Presbytery formalize the call of the congregation and its new pastor. It’s a service of celebration marking the start of a new pastoral relationship.
The commission from Presbytery was a group I invited to be part of the service. Four of the five were immediately recognizable. Randy Hall, Ken Davis, Cathy Fulp and Susanne are people you already know. The fifth member of the commission was Rachael Brooks. Susanne and I have known Rachael and her husband Michael and their children for about twenty years. We first met them when they joined the church I was serving in Kentucky. That was a long time ago! Rachael followed a call into ministry and is presently the pastor of a small church in Pilot Mountain. It’s great to be serving in the same presbytery.
By my request, Ken sang 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman. There is a line in that song that I felt spoke to the moment:
   The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning;
   It’s time to sing Your song again.
   Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, 
   Let me be singing when the evening comes.
Shelley chose the anthem, God Is Doing Something New for the choir to sing. It fit exactly right for the day.
   God is doing something new, here among us, let it start.
   May it change us, restore our hearts, He’s the way through the wilderness.
   In the Desert, He’s the stream. God is doing something new in you and me.
Rachael’s sermon from Ezra 7, was full of encouragement for what God has planned for us together. She gave us a faithful vision for what’s ahead.
These are days full of energy and excitement for the church. And I humbled and grateful to share in the work with all of you.
Finally, I want to share my thanks one more time for the notes and sympathy cards I’ve received since my mom’s death. You’ve sent messages of hope and peace, and that has meant a lot to me over the past month. In February, I am planning some time with my brothers when I travel for the Navy to California.
Peace to you as we are growing together in Christ.