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Over the past few days I’ve been inspired by groups.
At 6am on Saturday, the north lot was full of 26 youth, ten adults, a good assortment of parents and three dogs for the send-off of the youth mission team to Nashville. With great leadership, the five vans headed out a half hour later with 36 servants ready to join in God’s good work.
At 7:45am our Cameroon Partnership team met to plan next steps for our emerging partnership and make plans for our 2018 venture.
At 9:00am volunteers gathered to prepare the reception for Maxine Standen’s memorial and a good group of men gathered for their Saturday morning Bible study.
On Sunday Jess led her final class on Moses – the Reluctant Prophet and while we gathered for worship at John Knox blessed by the Credo musicians, about 20 of our members followed Marilyn Panco to cheer her on and support her preaching at Rocky River Presbyterian.
On Monday night our Nicaragua team gathered at the Hoffa’s house to reflect on our memories and talk about our transitions back.
In all of these gatherings I found myself so grateful for the gift of community. I found myself in awe of how the Spirit of God, most vivid in community, spurs us on toward deeper dimensions of faith and stronger efforts in service.
“Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching,” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
With a grateful heart,
Tom

We're about to step into the season of Lent and some are apprehensive.It is a holy season that wakes us up to our real life; the life we long to live.But we may not be real fired up about looking at the ways we avoid each other, bypass truth, and go numb far too quickly. 

We may be apprehensive while engaging silence, caring for the needy, welcoming the stranger, or following Jesus. But when we are brave and humble, we grow. We create space for deeper desires, more noble thoughts, and honest engagement with our loving God and our fellow travelers. But be aware

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(David Foster Wallace)

But let go we will, of all that hurts and divides us, of all that belittles and diminishes another, of all that blocks the love of God from being seen and known by everyone of us. Together, let's keep a holy Lent and be free. 

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Tom

 

A friend of mine gave me a helpful way of understanding anxiety. He said it's ok to let anxiety get on the bus with you. Just don't let it drive.
Somehow we can acknowledge that anxiety or loneliness or anger are present, they just got on the bus. But we can operate with freedom and balance knowing that they will soon get off. For that time they are on, sit with them. Say hi. You don't really need to change behavior or steer a different course. You want to be free for a greater good. Anxiety may be alerting us to our need for guidance and care. Loneliness may be reminding us that we are wired for relationship and have need of God and one another. We do well to acknowledge that they are there and then say goodbye as they make their way off the bus.
If we are seeking the Kingdom of God first (Matthew 6:33), if God is sovereign and worthy of our trust (Proverbs 4:5-6), if the Lord is our Shepherd (Psalm 23), then we don't need another driver and we're free to sit with the various guest that join us on the journey of life entrusting them and all of life into God's loving care and amazing grace.

I appreciate how Rev. Dr. Al Hart, after 59 years of ordained ministry, handles change as a Parish Associate here at John Knox. If he is preaching and has chosen a new or unfamiliar hymn to accompany his sermon, he offers the following assurance:

"I need to tell you that this is a new hymn. For some, this will be your first time singing it. Others might be somewhat familiar with it. I want you to know that we're going to be OK. I even think you might come to appreciate this new hymn."

So let me tell you, members and friends of John Knox Presbyterian, we are at a new and important time in the life of our congregation. We are living within our means and are probably feeling the crunch a little bit. We are looking at budgets that have been trimmed down, salaries that have been reduced, and support for missions cut in half. This can naturally create some anxiety and uncertainty.

For some, this is the first time hearing of the church needing to make cuts and minimize reliance on endowments. For others, you've been aware of this need and are grateful that tough decisions have been made. I want you to know that we're going to be OK.

I am listening to people talk about creating greater participation in worship, offering parenting classes, hosting a healing service, writing for the Lenten Guide, leading a seminar on Planned Giving, putting together welcome packets for visitors, hosting a fish fry, getting trained to better help the needy, increasing their pledge to the unified budget, taking responsibility for the food pantry. Friends, that's just this week.

Imagine if this momentum keeps building?

But first, we need to name the fact that we're going to experience the jitters and feel a bit unsteady. That's OK. That's when we grow and come to rely more heavily upon the dynamic work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the full assurance of God's love in Christ, we plow our row and move with joy into the world (see the podcast of Jessie's sermon from Sunday beginning at minute 32.)

My hunch is we might just come to appreciate what God can do with a few jitters.

Tom