Pastor’s BLOG

In the Wilderness

Dear Friends,
 
Welcome to Lent. The First Sunday in Lent tells the story of Jesus in the wilderness for 40 days, where he is tempted by Satan. Churches in transition often relate well to the feeling of wilderness. They are between two pastors, wondering how much longer until we get there? Whether it is like Jesus fasting in the desert or the Israelites wandering around for 40 years, the wilderness can be filled with pitfalls and challenges, not to mention heartache and impatience.
 
What can I say to that?
 
1. The transition takes time. Your Mission Study Team is hard at work, meeting weekly, looking at community and congregational demographics, charting a map of where our members live, and asking questions about who FPC Lexington is and where God is guiding the church toward the future. Soon, you will be asked to take a survey that will be extremely valuable in learning from the congregation your sense of the church’s identity, strengths, and challenges. Your eager participation aids in completing the Mission Study Report. The time taken in preparation is time well spent and leads to a long and healthy relationship with your pastor-to-be.
 
2. Keep your eyes and heart centered on God. That will help keep you from succumbing to the temptations of complaining, being ambivalent, or checking out altogether. Pray. Imagine what God might be saying to you and your church in this time. What is God teaching you or the church in this in- between time? What are you learning about your neighbor? How are you growing as a disciple of Jesus? How are you still sharing Jesus’ love, even in the midst of the pandemic?
 
3. Recognize the gifts in the wilderness. For the Israelites it was manna, quail, and water from a rock. They were also gifted with the Ten Commandments. For Jesus, there were angels who attended him. What gifts in this wilderness time have been offered to you? What gifts are you giving to others to ease their strain?
 
4. God is with you. Jesus walks alongside us in this time of uncertainty. The Holy Spirit equips us with what we need to keep worshiping, serving, and growing in our faith. All in the name of Christ.
Grace and peace to you on this Lenten Journey,
 
Pastor Nancy
Rev. Dr. Nancy Jo Dederer
Transitional Pastor
 


Ash Wednesday – What to Give Up

Dear Friends,
 
Ash Wednesday is next week, February 17th. It is the first day of the penitential season of Lent. The reference to ashes comes from the ceremony of placing ashes on the forehead in the shape of the cross as a sign of both our penitence and our hope in Christ. This custom was introduced by Pope Gregory I, who was Bishop of Rome from to 590 A.D. to 604 A.D. It was enacted as a universal practice in all of Western Christendom by the Synod of Benevento in 1091 A.D.
 
Karen Carrickhoff and I are sending you a Lenten devotion book:

∙ For the adults, it is a booklet similar to the Advent devotion called Steadfast Love, with inspiration from Henri Nouwen.
∙ For the youth, it is a booklet of Lenten Micro Practices, little ideas each day to help draw you closer to God.
∙ For the children, it is a calendar and an activity booklet for families to try together.
 
Please note that these are NOT an “all or nothing” endeavor. In other words, even if you don’t look at it daily, pick it up when you can. Trust that the Holy Spirit is alive and moving in the moment.
 
The giving up of something for Lent began as a humble discipline to help Christians understand the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. However, in many circles, it has moved away from that, so that “giving up” has become something to talk about, has become something Christians want “credit” for, has turned into an undisciplined attitude of “look at me and how righteous I am.” Then instead of drawing us closer to the cross, it distracts us from faithful living. Today I offer you a chance to reclaim the discipline of “Giving it up for Lent.”

This list of “Things to Give Up for Lent” is from Rev. Craig Gates, Jackson, MS. It offers some alternatives to the traditional list of chocolate, desserts, or coffee. I invite you to read the list and consider picking a couple to work on over the season. Or maybe it makes you think of another idea. Take some silent time to invite God into your Lenten discipline. Perhaps write a letter to God asking for help in giving up something in order to draw closer to God’s son Jesus.
 
GIVE UP grumbling! Instead, “In everything give thanks.” Constructive criticism is OK, but “moaning, groaning, and complaining” are not Christian disciplines.
 
GIVE UP 10 to 15 minutes in bed! Instead, use that time in prayer, Bible study and personal devotion.
 
GIVE UP looking at other people’s worst points. Instead concentrate on their best points. We all have faults. It is a lot easier to have people overlook our shortcomings when we overlook theirs first.
 
GIVE UP speaking unkindly. Instead, let your speech be generous and understanding. It costs so little to say something kind and uplifting. Why not check that sharp tongue at the door?
 
GIVE UP your hatred of anyone or anything! Instead, learn the discipline of love. “Love covers a multitude of sins.”
 
GIVE UP your worries and anxieties! Instead, trust God with them. Anxiety is spending emotional energy on something we can do nothing about: like tomorrow! Live today and let God’s grace be sufficient.
 
GIVE UP TV one evening a week! Instead, call someone who is lonely or sick. There are those who are isolated by illness or age. Why isolate yourself in front of the “tube?” Give someone a precious gift: your time!
 
GIVE UP buying anything but essentials for yourself! Instead, give the money to God. The money you would spend on the luxuries could help someone meet basic needs. We are called to be stewards of God’s riches, not consumers.
 
GIVE UP judging by appearances and by the standard of the world! Instead, learn to give up yourself to God. There is only one who has the right to judge, Jesus Christ.

May you have a meaningful Lenten Journey.
 
Grace and peace,

Pastor Nancy
Rev. Dr. Nancy Jo Dederer,
Transitional Pastor
 


The Great Ends of the Church

This past Sunday, we began a worship series on The Great Ends of the Church. The Great Ends are a series of statements which define the mission of the Presbyterian Church (USA). First approved in 1910, they have remained a part of our constitution for over 100 years. If you have a Book of Order, you can find them at F-1.0304. The six Great Ends of the Church are:
 
∙ the proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of humankind; (1/24/21)
∙ the shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the children of God; (1/31/21)
∙ the maintenance of divine worship; (2/7/21 – Communion Sunday)
∙ the preservation of the truth; (2/14/21 – Transfiguration Sunday)
∙ the promotion of social righteousness; and
∙ the exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world.
 
With the start of Lent, we will likely take a break from the Great Ends and pick up the last two later. Join us for worship each week as we hear God’s word to us and explore our calling from Jesus Christ to let our light shine.

There are banners that accompany each of these statements. In the bulletin you will see the black & white design in the top corner. During the service, banners appear on the screen near the pulpit in color. If you like to color, we can make these designs available to you to print out at home. Please let me or Jeanna know.

The Mission Study Team has spent some time with these statements as they prepare to discern FPC’s own “great ends,” your purpose or mission statement as a congregation. I hope this series will help to broaden our understanding of what it means to be followers of Jesus.
 
Grace and peace,

Pastor Nancy
Rev. Dr. Nancy Jo Dederer,
Transitional Pastor
 


We Worship and Serve God Alone

Dear Friends,

Last week was a difficult week for many of us as we watched the attack on the US Capitol. This happened on Wednesday, January 6th, the Day of Epiphany. Epiphany, a day that we remember the Light of Christ revealed and shining in our world, was instead marked by an event that was shameful, distressing, and violent, to say the least. It reminded me of the second part of Matthew’s Christmas/Epiphany story: Herod’s fear of Jesus, (the newborn king,) “and all Jerusalem with him” (Matt 2: 3).
 
Following the Magi’s visit, Herod realized his grip on power was slipping, which led him to order the slaughter of countless innocent babies in Bethlehem. Herod’s hope? To disrupt God’s reign and claim himself as the ultimate authority and power in the land. To be clear, I am not making a partisan statement. Nor am I comparing President Elect Joe Biden with Jesus. That would be just as inappropriate. I am, as a Christian pastor who tries to follow Jesus faithfully, speaking out against self-serving, violent action that not only goes against the way of “American democracy,” but most importantly, confuses where our ultimate allegiance belongs. We worship and serve God alone.

This past Sunday we remembered our baptism. We have been marked as God’s own in baptism and must lead a life worthy of our calling, in all humility, with gentleness, with patience and love. However, this does not mean quiet capitulation.

We cannot be silent in this time. The church must speak against idolatry and false gods. It must call out sin with an invitation to repentance. In other words, the church is called to be prophetic.

Theologian Walter Brueggemann said, “The prophetic tasks of the church are
✦ to tell the truth in a society that lives in illusion,
✦ grieve in a society that practices denial,
✦ and express hope in a society that lives in despair.”

Presbyterian pastor Carol Winfrey Gillette is a contemporary hymn writer. Below is a hymn text she wrote around election time, 2020. The tune is “Beach Spring” (#422 God, Whose Giving Knows No Ending). Join with me in speaking or singing this prayer as we go about the coming days and weeks.
 
God of Love, We’ve Known Division
1. God of love, we’ve known division 
and we’ve seen its awful cost.
We have struggled as a nation,
and there’s much that we have lost.
We have been a house divided
and, divided, we can’t stand.
May our nation be united;
give us peace throughout this land.
 
2. Turn us, Lord, from what divides us—
fear that drives us far apart,
greed that leads to great injustice,
racist ways that break your heart.
May we seek what brings together
hearts that bear each other’s pain,
care and mercy toward our neighbors,
love that welcomes strangers in.
 
3. May we all, in conversation,
speak the truth and listen well.
May we hear, across this nation,
stories others have to tell.
May we learn from other cultures
and be blessed by their world-view;
May we serve with one another
loving others, loving you.
 
4. You have challenged us to goodness;
you have shown a kinder way.
It’s your love that now inspires us
as we seek a better day.
May we end our harsh division;
may we stop the hate and fear.
Make us one, Lord, as a nation;
may we be united here.
 
Grace and peace, dear family of Christ.
 
Pastor Nancy
Rev. Dr. Nancy Jo Dederer,
Transitional Pastor