Pastor’s BLOG

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

Baptism of the Lord – January 10, 2021

This coming Sunday, January 10, is Baptism of the Lord. On this Sunday we remember Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River. This was the beginning of his public ministry. As Jesus emerges from the water, the Holy Spirit descends from heaven as a dove, and we hear a voice naming Jesus as God’s beloved Son (ref. Mark 1:4-11). Right before Jesus ascended into heaven, he commissioned his disciples to go make disciples and baptize them, teaching them to obey Jesus’ commandments (ref. Matthew 28:16-20).
This special Sunday is also a day to remember our own baptism. In baptism, we are claimed by God as a beloved child. In the Presbyterian tradition, the congregation makes a promise to nurture the faith of those who are baptized. As we prepare for worship this week, I invite you to reflect upon your own baptism. How old were you? Who was there with you? If you were too young to remember, perhaps you could ask a family member about that day. If you have children, take some time this week to tell them about the day they were baptized. Pull out those special pictures and share what that day meant to you. Or perhaps you remember the day someone was baptized here at FPC. Send them a note or email. Consider who has guided you in your faith over the years or at a critical time. Offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the way they fulfilled their part of the baptismal covenant.
If you have not yet been baptized, let me know. I will be glad to help make that happen!
In worship, we will have a time of remembrance and reaffirmation of our baptism. If we were worshiping together, I would invite you to the font to touch the water and remember. I would offer to anoint you with the sign of the cross on your forehead. This year, since we will be worshiping at a physical distance, I invite you to have a bowl nearby. It could be a small cereal or salsa bowl, or that crystal bowl gift that you rarely use! Have a pitcher, measuring cup or something else filled with water. You can pour the water into your bowl when I do that act in the service.
Even though we are physically distanced, we are bound together by the Holy Spirit, and Jesus promises to be with us always. Remember your baptism and celebrate!
Grace and peace,
Pastor Nancy
Rev. Dr. Nancy Jo Dederer
Transitional Pastor
Prayer for Baptism of the Lord:
Eternal God, at the baptism of Jesus in the river Jordan you proclaimed him your beloved Son, and anointed him with the Holy Spirit. Grant that all who are baptized into his name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; for he lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, on God, now and forever. Amen.

What Are Your Joys?

Grace and peace to you.

We have entered the Third Week of Advent and the pink candle is for Joy! With the pandemic taking so much out of us, it might be challenging to identify the joy. Hope? yes. Peace, we pray for it. But joy? When so much life has been lost? When schools are closed? When family holiday gatherings have been nixed? And Zoom fatigue is dragging us down? So many of us are exhausted by 2020 and won’t be sad to wave it good-bye.

My friends, do not be discouraged. Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. I encourage you to find time this week and take a mental or written inventory of the joys in your life. Here are some of mine:
1. I rejoice that a vaccine for COVID-19 has been approved!
2. I have joy working here among you as partners in Jesus’ ministry.
3. I find joy in the service music by our bell choir, Gathering Band and music staff and volunteers.
4. I rejoice that even though we aren’t able to meet in person, Karen and volunteers are providing
opportunities for all ages to learn and grow in their faith.
5. I rejoice that the Mission Study Team is formed and getting ready to take the next step in this transitional season at FPC.
6. I rejoice in the commitment of so many to work in new, creative ways to share the gospel in word and deed.
7. I am joyful that I have a new puppy!

My biggest joy is that Jesus Christ is with me! And by the grace of God, I am with him. In this Advent Season of preparation for Christ’s coming, I pray that you be with God, as well. In Christ is our joy.

With Advent hope, peace, joy and love,
Pastor Nancy

Living in the In-Between

Dear Friends,
In Sunday’s sermon, I mentioned the tension of living in the Advent season. Advent’s focus is on Christ’s coming into the world again, with power and glory. Much of our December is spent in preparations for the birth of Jesus—decorating, baking, gift lists, etc. We can get overwhelmed by all the work involved in creating “the perfect Christmas.”

What would our December look like if we prepared for Christ’s second Advent into the world? How would we worship and work together for this great hope to be fulfilled?

It can be hard to live in the in-between-times, wondering when and how the renewal of all things will occur. It leads to lots of questions that faithful followers of Jesus have been asking for years. In the sermon, I lifted up to you the 3 Ws of Advent: Waiting, with alertness instead of complacency; Watching, which is a word that denotes action, not just passive window-watching; and Wakefulness, not sleeping on our watch, but anticipating Christ’s arrival.

These are also good Ws to follow during the “in-between pastors” time. My title here at FPC is Transitional Pastor. Its very name indicates something is about to happen! Things are changing. You are moving from one pastor and preparing for a new one. During this time, I encourage you to wait and watch with patience, leaning into this time of learning and growing. Keep active in the church. I know it’s difficult during this Covid-19 season to be active, especially now that we are going back to Virtual Worship Only beginning this Sunday; however, there is more to discipleship than attending worship on Sunday morning. Consider asking someone to be a prayer partner or join one of the Bible studies. Write cards to our shut-ins or pick up the phone and give another member a call just to chat a bit. Check in with your staff who are working so hard during this time. Offer an extra dose of thanks to our amazing Tech Team for bringing worship to wherever you are at whatever time is convenient for you! Find ways to wait and watch actively.

One of the most popular questions people ask during the transitional pastor time is When is the new pastor coming? Not surprising! The unsatisfying – but Presbyterian – answer is In God’s time. But it’s true! There is a process that has many steps. The first step is forming the Mission Study Team, which Session has recently approved. That group will work with me on discerning who FPC Lexington is now and the direction you sense God is leading you as a congregation. This will take time. It will include a survey, small group gatherings (by Zoom, most likely), and it counts on a lot of your input. Be wakeful to opportunities to participate in the New Year. It is such an exciting season for you as you remember your roots and look toward your future as faithful followers of Jesus.

With joy for the journey,
Pastor Nancy Jo Dederer
Transitional Pastor