From Pastor

From  Pastor Vaughn

PastorPonders

March 2020

I came to the season of Lent a bit later in life. My only memories of it growing up were small tins each family took home from church and filled with quarters. Maybe a quarter for turning on the living room light another if you didn’t finish your meal. I think it didn’t become a real part of my life until my time at Grand Valley, and I began seeing people walk around with a cross smudged across their forehead. Since then it has become more and more a part of my own life with God. I am not always terrific about my Lenten discipline, but I keep going back to you because there’s life there.

Lent is a season for self-reflection, to examine our lives with God and each other. Have we tended the fire of our souls? Have we turned our love from self to the world around us? This particular Lenten season we will be walk through the Beatitudes in worship. They begin the Sermon on the Mount and capture the essential spirit of Christ’s teaching for us. They mark out what life with God looks like here in the world. I hope you can join us! And, as long as tech cooperates, we will have a devotional for each family to take home and read on the same passage.

Please make your calendar for Sunday, April 4. That Palm Sunday some members of the Kid’s Club will be performing for us. We hope to see their parents here as well. To welcome them and help them feel a part, we are holding a potluck following service. Please come and bring a dish to pass. Get to know these families and help them feel a part. And watch our little church grow.

Since I couldn’t make it for our Ash Wednesday service I am including my Ash Wednesday reflection below. Blessings to you all!

Francesco was born into wealth. He never wanted for a thing, and nothing was kept from him. When he went out with his friends, he spent lavishly. When soldiers from Perugia captured him, his parents paid a ransom to keep him alive. His family’s wealth protected him from the hunger and disease that afflicted so many others. Until Francesco hears God speak. And once God speaks, nothing remains the same.

For the first time in his privileged life, when he sees the hungry and the dying around him, his heart breaks. He goes into his father’s warehouse, finds the most expensive fabrics, and begins selling them to anyone who will buy. And instead of giving the money to his father, who’d purchased the expensive fabric for trade, he gives them to the hungry. He gives them to the priest of a poor parish. He keeps giving everything away, until everything is gone And when his father discovers it he isn’t happy. Poor Francis runs and hides in a cave, and only returns when hunger drives him. Not having seen his son for a month, his father has him beaten, bound, and locked in a small storeroom. He only escapes when his father leaves on some errand and his mother has him released. Finally, his father drags him before the Bishop of Assisi for judgment. He’s squandered his father’s wealth, and he wants him to be disinherited. To be done with him forever.

But something happens. Before judgment comes, Francis gives his father that wish. He removes all of his clothes, everything he’d received from the man who’d been his father, and offers them back. He surrenders everything that gave him place and belonging in that community and told the bishop, “From this point, I have no father but our Father in heaven.” It is a strange story, and I don’t know that I knew what to do with it when I first heard it. But Francis knows something. He knows where his treasure has been: in wealth, in power, in position. And he knows the kind of life that comes with that treasure. Security? Yes. Privilege? Yes. But also violence. Also suffering. Also greed. He knew the kind of life that wealth gathered, and it wasn’t the kind of life he wanted for himself, or others, anymore. He knew that where his treasure was, there would be his heart also, and his heart had changed. He finally understood that as much as our treasures belong to us, we belong to them. Whatever we treasure, we serve. We organize our life around it. For his father that meant wealth. Everything he did served the purpose of acquiring more of it. Cost wasn’t counted in the lives spent in attacks against Perugia, to take what was theirs. Cost wasn’t counted in the people who went hungry to fatten his profit. Cost wasn’t counted in broken relationships. His father only counted cost in coin. Others may store their treasure in religious identity. We see this throughout the Gospels, people who invested their whole selves in the Temple, in their local synagogue, in the study of Scripture, and devotion. Their heart’s treasure is in the power and reputation that come along with the trappings of a strict religious life. In an election season like we are in now, you sometimes see toxic forms of nationalism, which confuse the Kingdom of God with the kingdoms of this world. Human words and old political documents become sacred text; candidates become messiahs. We claim promises given to Israel for ourselves and our country. We forget the words of Peter, who calls us “aliens and exiles.” And I could go on and on and on. The human heart clings to whatever it can take hold of and desperately prays, “Mine.” That’s why Lent. Lent gives us space to take a serious look at our hearts and the treasure we store there. It is a season we sort through the things that have crept into its corners. What have we given our hearts to that distort our life with God together? That diminish love? That keep our hearts from burning? What is keeping me from living with others like God lives with others? Lent is a time to examine our hearts, to begin emptying them, and to begin allowing God to fill them up. That is what this Lent’s sermon series is all about: Blessed are You. It about that new kind of life we share with God. I hope you can come join us for that. But tonight is about beginning again. There are no experts in this life with God. There are only people who get up again. Tonight is about recognizing that we are dust, and that we are dust God desperately wants to breathe his life into

But something happens. Before judgment comes, Francis gives his father that wish. He removes all of his clothes, everything he’d received from the man who’d been his father, and offers them back. He surrenders everything that gave him place and belonging in that community and told the bishop, “From this point, I have no father but our Father in heaven.” It is a strange story, and I don’t know that I knew what to do with it when I first heard it. But Francis knows something. He knows where his treasure has been: in wealth, in power, in position. And he knows the kind of life that comes with that treasure. Security? Yes. Privilege? Yes. But also violence. Also suffering. Also greed. He knew the kind of life that wealth gathered, and it wasn’t the kind of life he wanted for himself, or others, anymore. He knew that where his treasure was, there would be his heart also, and his heart had changed. He finally understood that as much as our treasures belong to us, we belong to them. Whatever we treasure, we serve. We organize our life around it. For his father that meant wealth. Everything he did served the purpose of acquiring more of it. Cost wasn’t counted in the lives spent in attacks against Perugia, to take what was theirs. Cost wasn’t counted in the people who went hungry to fatten his profit. Cost wasn’t counted in broken relationships. His father only counted cost in coin. Others may store their treasure in religious identity. We see this throughout the Gospels, people who invested their whole selves in the Temple, in their local synagogue, in the study of Scripture, and devotion. Their heart’s treasure is in the power and reputation that come along with the trappings of a strict religious life. In an election season like we are in now, you sometimes see toxic forms of nationalism, which confuse the Kingdom of God with the kingdoms of this world. Human words and old political documents become sacred text; candidates become messiahs. We claim promises given to Israel for ourselves and our country. We forget the words of Peter, who calls us “aliens and exiles.” And I could go on and on and on. The human heart clings to whatever it can take hold of and desperately prays, “Mine.” That’s why Lent. Lent gives us space to take a serious look at our hearts and the treasure we store there. It is a season we sort through the things that have crept into its corners. What have we given our hearts to that distort our life with God together? That diminish love? That keep our hearts from burning? What is keeping me from living with others like God lives with others? Lent is a time to examine our hearts, to begin emptying them, and to begin allowing God to fill them up. That is what this Lent’s sermon series is all about: Blessed are You. It about that new kind of life we share with God. I hope you can come join us for that. But tonight is about beginning again. There are no experts in this life with God. There are only people who get up again. Tonight is about recognizing that we are dust, and that we are dust God desperately wants to breathe his life into.


Pastor Vaughn