November 15th, 2023

November 15th, 2023

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ps from ps
Spoiler Alert!!! – There is more “keeping awake” coming!

If you are a church nerd, you might know that this time of year, when we are all constantly raking leaves and watching the Bills lose in gut wrenching fashion, is also the Church Year End and the soon arriving Church New Year in the start of Advent.  

And the way that the preaching schedule falls at St. Paul’s with me preaching three of the next four weeks (including last week), all the texts are encouraging and even ending with: Keep Awake.  

Keep Awake for the end times.  Keep Awake for the Kingdom of God breaking in.  Keep Awake for Christ coming again.  That seems like a forceful mandate right?  “A little pushy this month God!  How about you lighten up?”

That’s a lot of keeping awake.  So maybe we should put on another cup of spiritual coffee and get after that!?

Because at the same time as we hear this, we acknowledged and prayed for yesterday at our Church Unleashed shoot that it is challenging to be joyful in and amongst the weariness of the current world.  The wars.  The terrorism.  The fights in Congress.  The overdoses.  The deaths too soon.  The cancer diagnoses.  The challenges with finances.  The hunger people are experiencing.

So maybe the continual push to keep awake isn’t a forceful mandate?  Maybe it’s a gift.

Keep awake to God’s presence.  Keep awake to the promise of Easter over death itself.  Keep awake to the Holy Spirit walking with you.  Keep awake to the Christian community of church wrapped around you.  Keep awake to the food arriving that nourishes.  Keep awake to the meal on the altar that promises.

Keep awake….I guess…needs to be repeated a few times then.  Because it’s a gift during the weariness.

So go ahead Bills, play well and hopefully don’t yank our hearts out next weekend.  But if you do, we will keep awake during that….and the rest…to God’s eternal love for us.

Lord, let’s pour another cup of coffee together and look around.  Amen

Still in One Peace
November 1st, 2023

November 1st, 2023

All Saints Day.

It’s a “lesser” tradition in the Church calendar, but a super important one.  There are many people that would classify themselves as “Christmas/Easter people,” meaning that they go to church on these two big holy-days.  But there’s not many people that would call themselves “Reformation/All Saints People.”  But maybe more of us should!

This day (and the church services this weekend) will be about the “saints that have gone before us.”  While Reformation Day the week before reminds us that we are ALL saints and children of God, this day is about remembering all the saints that have gone before us into eternal life.  (See the promise of Easter for details)

Churches have various traditions in their worship times together – lighting candles to represent the light those people brought to the world, posting pictures of the faces of those we love and some, like St. Paul’s, will write names out on clouds and surround the sanctuary with them as the “great cloud of witnesses” around us.

The remember is bittersweet.  But it’s important .  In many cultural traditions, saying the names of our ancestors out loud keeps their memories and spirit alive around us.  

So I want to invite you to take some space and time today to remember your saints – those that have impacted, shaped, directed and carried you – recently or a long time ago.  Look through the pictures.  Read the letters you might still have.  The articles about them.  The stories they helped create.  Call/Text your loved ones that knew them as well and keep those stories alive.

Shed the tears if they come.  Enjoy the laughter if it comes.  But in all things, give thanks for them.  Give thanks in the confidence that they have entered the Promise.  They have finished the race and won the victory because of Easter morning.  And live into their best for those you can impact by carrying their story forward.

Lord, thank you for the saints, especially……….  Amen

Still in One Peace
October 25th, 2023

October 25th, 2023

ps from ps

What if you were truly free….what difference would it make today?

Think about our brothers, sisters and siblings across the world right now….in Palestine…in Haiti…at the borders…those dealing with abuse…or racial or gender discrimination.  Think about those that are battling cancer or substance abuse or mental health challenges.  

What if any of them were free from all that?  How great would that be?

Whether you are reading this and battling one of those challenges or something a little less acute or intense, I want to remind you that Reformation Sunday is coming.  This is the weekend in church that we get to hear the text from John where Jesus says: “If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”

And guess what? Spoiler alert….. He did.  And therefore, you are!

Because of that news, the challenges we battle on a daily basis are NOT the final answer for us and DO NOT define our freedom.  Our freedom comes from God’s grace through the power of the cross.  A cross that defeated death itself and can also defeat the power that any adversary claims to have over us.  

Freedom for you.  No matter what.

The power of that proclamation doesn’t promise an easy path for sure.  Ask anyone battling the issues I named above or the issues that you are battling right now.  

But that freedom is a gift to hang onto.  It’s a reminder of the bigger picture.  It’s a reminder of the bigger champion.  It’s a reminder of the bigger Truth that you are a child of God and nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus.  NOTHING.  

May this upcoming Reformation weekend remind you of that.  May the battles you face be conquered by the power of Christ within you.  And may you know you are not alone because you are connected to the wider Christian community and to the faith that is within you.  

May you know that you are free because of Christ.  Free indeed.

Lord, thank you for the freedom that conquers all.  Amen

Still in One Peace
October 18th, 2023

October 18th, 2023

ps from ps
Who is your lead blocker?  Have you thanked them?

And who are you blocking for?  Is there someone that needs a lane cleared?

I’m thinking about preaching on Isaiah 45 this weekend.  It’s a great story of God telling Isaiah to anoint this guy Cyrus to be the leader of the chosen people and get them out of exile.  It’s a big role.  God elevates Cyrus to a messiah-like level….like a Miley Cyrus-like level but different!  But then, God reminds Isaiah, Cyrus and the chosen people, that God will be their lead blocker!

(Obligatory football reference because we’re in the middle of football season). On the football field, the lead blocker is a huge need if the ball carrier is going to be successful.  They do the hardest work.  They find the first obstacle and move it out of the way.  They take on the toughest stuff and clear the path.  

The Isaiah 45 story goes on to tell the people that God will be that blocker!  Gcd as Lead Blocker will: subdue nations, open doors, break walls into pieces, form light and more.  God will “go before us to show us they way.”  Take on the hard stuff.  Do the hard work.  Defeat the first obstacle.  Remove things from the path.

Let me fast forward from Isaiah 45 to the tail end of every gospel where we learn that Jesus has done that for us on a cross and through the celebration of Easter morning.  Taking on that hard cross.  Doing the work of redemption.  Defeating death and the Devil.  Removing any separation from us and God eternally.  Lead blocking for our success.

Now let me be clear, God is no Snowplow Parent.  That’s different.  (Google that if you’re unsure of the reference). There will be (mix of football and Bible references coming up…) dark shadows, unexpected tackles, fumbles, crosses to bear and valleys to move through.  God doesn’t promise a snowplow in front of us.  We will feel the hardships and they each have an opportunity to teach us.  And good news, God does promise to tackle those challenges together.

So if God is our macro-Lead Blocker….who is our micro one?  Who has helped us in the toughest of moments and cleared the way, helped remove obstacles and more?  Have we taken a chance to thank them for that?  Can we reach out to someone this week?

And who can we block for?  Maybe for one play or a whole series?  Who can we set up for success or walk with as they battle the toughest stuff?

Thank you God for Lead Blocking for us.  May we share in that share role for the world around us.  Amen

Still in One Peace
October 4th, 2023

October 4th, 2023

ps from ps
Been awhile since I wrote one of these, eh?  So long that Mailchimp has changed the platforms, etc.  So we’re starting from scratch…or maybe halftime or the third quarter.

Halftime.  It’s that great gift during a football game to breathe, use the bathroom, go get some fresh snacks and refill your pop.  But for the players, it a wonderful time to rest and reconnect with their Coach.

This Sunday, we’re adding an extra worship time before the Bills game in London.  Basically it’s for people like me with screwed up priorities.  However, if you live in WNY, you know that churches can’t “beat” the Bills.  So it’s another week that we audible and take church to where people will be: bars and restaurants!

We’re going to have a service at 8:30am at the Tavern at Windsor Park on Transit Rd in Williamsville.  And the shape of the service will be similar to the flow of the game:

Gather and Put On The Uniform – This will be our time to get together, name who God is and who we are.  We’ll recognize what team we are on, that we’re all going to give it 110%, but most likely will get a penalty of two.  But we’ll also hear the Coach’s forgiveness and grace. (Confession)

Game Plan – We’ll hear what Coach wants for us, the plans he has for us, the victory that has already been won and our invitation to live into it. (Scripture)

Coach’s Halftime Speech – Coach will gather us together to refuel and redirect.  How has our first half gone?  What tweaks do we need to make for the second half? (Sermon)

Hail Mary Prayers – When the game gets close to the end and things are tight, we realize it’s out of our hands and into the Coach’s love and care for the whole team.  (Prayers)

Post Game Handshakes – We meet and greet others on the team.  Pat them on the back.  Lift them up.  Congratulate and console. (Sharing the Peace)

24-hour Rule – No matter what happens, we leave the time with a little celebration or disappointment and we go into the world ready for the next.  (Blessing and Sending)

Join us if you’re free (please call the restaurant for reservations because we are almost full – 716-689-6600) or maybe your local church will have the same format in their church too.

Either way, I’m just wondering – what would Coach say to you at Halftime?  What do you need to hear?  Both to motivate you or correct you?  The gospels are full of speeches from Jesus to the disciples.  How does that team respond?  

And how do we?

Either way, it’s good to be on this Team!

Still in One Peace