Notes from Pastor Jon


I am back from a five-day trip to support a Marine training exercise in Southern California. Special thanks to Susanne for covering the service on October 23, in my absence. In the picture below, I am standing with four Marines during a break in the training. I am on the right. Do you see what the Corporal in the middle is holding? It’s bag of Red Bird Puffed Mints from right here in Lexington!
Before I left, two elders brought me candy to take to the field. One elder brought two bags of Jolly Ranchers. Marines love Jolly Ranchers. When I carry those with me, I can’t give them away fast enough. It’s a morale boost wrapped up in a bit of sugar.
Another elder dropped off a bag of Lexington’s own Red Bird Mints. The mints were also a hit. One Marine said, “it just melts away in your mouth.” Another Marine said the peppermint woke him up. A Jolly Rancher or a bit of peppermint can make a miserable training day just a bit less miserable.
Early in the training exercise, I noticed a Marine off by himself. He was sitting with the boxes of chow. I went up to him and introduced myself. He was a Lance Corporal and he said he couldn’t take part in the training because he was injured. His Platoon Sergeant had told him to guard the chow instead of training. I understood the wisdom of the assignment: it kept him in one place when everyone else was in a different location.
I stopped by several times to check on him. In the photo on the left, we are having a cup of coffee together. I heated the water on a small camping stove I bring with me to the field. As he waited for the coffee to cool enough so he could take his first sip, he said it was the first time he’d had a hot cup of coffee in the field. He was grateful for the visits, and he shared a bit about his official job in the Marines, which is a cook. Officially he’s a “Food service specialist” in charge of cataloging, cooking, and supplying Marines with food while in garrison or on field operations. Their mission is to keep Marines fed so they have the energy to complete their mission.
This makes me think of a couple of questions: Where are you spiritually fed so you can carry out God’s mission in your life? What kindness or mercy might you offer to make someone’s difficult day just a bit less difficult?
Together in Christ,

Rocket Lights

Do you remember when cars had a round metal button on the floorboard to turn on the high beams? My mom had a 1963 Corvair that had one of these buttons. She kept that car long enough for me to drive it for a couple of years. She said it was a classic! 
At some point, the high beam button was moved. The left foot was no longer in charge of the high beams, and the control was integrated into the steering column as part of the turn signal control, which is now called a multi-function lever.
When Katherine and Jonah were younger, they would call the high beams the “rocket lights.” From the back seat, they could see the indicator light on the instrument panel and thought it looked like a rocket (in orbit, of course, because it’s flying sideways). Can you see why they thought it looked like a rocket? For a while, all four Martins were calling the high beams, the “rocket lights.” Jonah would shout, “Dad! turn on the rocket lights!” I still turn on the rocket lights when I need a bit of extra light on a dark road.
I have two church-related thoughts about this. Here’s the first one: high beams help a driver see down the road, and I am excited about what is down the road for First Presbyterian this fall. Are you noticing the energy level on Sunday morning, too? The Holy Spirit is at work and this fall is going to be great.
Here is my second thought about the rocket lights: children see the world differently than adults. I would not have thought the high beam indicator light looked like a rocket unless two children had pointed that out to me. Now when I look at it, I can’t help but see a rocket. 
How will children help us adults see the church in a new way? I think that is a beautiful question to ask. It recognizes that while we have something to teach them, they have much to teach us. It also means we always make room for every age in the body of Christ.
Jesus said we should have faith like a child, a complete trust in God’s care for us. What if, with that kind of faith, also came the willingness to see like a child? What would we see in a new way in the church and in the world?
Together in Christ,

Lessons from an Acorn

For we have become partners of Christ… (Hebrews 3:14)
acorns from Pixabay

picture of acorns from

When Susanne and I walk our dog, Cali, in our temporary neighborhood (we move into our new house in a few weeks!), there is a place on the side of the road scattered full with acorns. Overhead is a magnificent oak tree, and I am sure every squirrel within four blocks of that tree knows about it.
Recently, when we get to that place on our walk, I tend to study the acorns on the ground instead of looking up to see where they came from. Some are flattened because they fell or rolled too far into the road and met a car tire. Some are in two pieces. The bottom part has been separated from the top. My favorite acorns under that tree are the ones that are still in one piece.
Over the weekend Susanne and I collected about twenty whole acorns so I could take them to church for the children’s moment. I put the acorns in a basket so the children could study all of them at once. Here’s what we saw: each one is a unique seed of the oak tree. We didn’t see two acorns that looked exactly alike, and every acorn has the same job. It contains all the information necessary to make an oak tree.
Something similar could be said about us. We have all been created by God as unique people, and in the church we all have the same job: love God and love our neighbor. 
One of the children said that squirrels like to eat acorns. I shared that squirrels bury acorns and then come back later to eat them. Sometimes, however, an acorn or two is forgotten and stays in the ground. When this happens, the squirrel is inadvertently planting a tree. Could it be part of God’s plan that the squirrel and the oak tree are partners? The tree depends on the squirrel’s forgetfulness to plant some of its acorns, and the squirrel depends on the tree for some of its food.
Something similar could be said about us. We depend on each other to accomplish God’s work in the world. And like squirrels, some things we do don’t always go as planned. I don’t think a squirrel intentionally forgets where some of the acorns are buried. It just happens. So when things don’t go exactly well in the church, God can still bring good from it. This reinforces the claim from the Book of Hebrews that we are partners of Christ for the work of the gospel in the world, not because we do everything correctly, but because God chooses us for this work.
Together in Christ,

Looking Toward Fall

God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:9)
I am looking forward to the start of the church program year. Of course, you might expect a pastor to write such things in a September newsletter, but it’s really true! I have missed Sunday school. Sitting around a table and studying with others has been a regular part of my Sunday mornings since I was an associate pastor in my first church. I have also missed singing in a choir, which I did in my previous church. So, I am ready to get into this new program year. 
I know that summer is an important time to give volunteers and staff a break. And a church’s summer program is different than the rest of the year. Please take a look at the bulletin board in the hallway heading to the fellowship hall for the fantastic pictures of the summer program at First Presbyterian. The bible school looked like an amazing week, and I appreciate all that Ann Kiefer and her team did to make that happen. I hope it has been a good summer for everyone.
As I write this, it’s a rainy Labor Day evening, and golden and brown leaves on the ground are the signal that the season is changing. The official end of summer and beginning of fall is still a couple of weeks off (or so), and there will still be summer-like days ahead, but the start of school, the start of the fall program at the church, and the availability of pumpkin spice all signal what is ahead.
In Mary Oliver’s poem, March Meadow: Song for Autumn, she writes about leaves falling to the earth. Here is part of that poem:
In the deep fall
don’t you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of air and the endless
freshets of wind?
Mary Oliver is a wonderful poet with a compelling story. Her words about leaves falling to the earth make me think about how much I feel grounded in the life and fellowship of a church family. I feel most grounded when I share in the life of a church in worship, study, fellowship, and in mission in its own community and beyond. 
As I begin my first fall at First Presbyterian, I look forward to how we will be grounded in that together.
Peace in Christ,