September 15th, 2021

September 15th, 2021

ps from ps…
Well, What Would Jesus UnDo?  Probably more than we think!

At St. Paul’s and through WNY Church Unleashed in the month of September, we’ve been reflecting on the idea that Jesus doesn’t want us to just “add” things to our lives.  Jesus also gives clear directives that we’re supposed to “undo” some things as well.

In the past couple weeks, he’s spoke pretty clearly about undoing stigmas, stereotypes and faint hearted discipleship.  And now we’ll hear this weekend that he wants us to undo the world’s understanding of greatness.  

See in Mark’s gospel (chapter 9), just after telling the disciples that he’s going to give his life for the sake of the world, they start arguing among themselves about who is the greatest.  I just read a professor say that “Jesus’ disciples are so dense the light actually bends around them.”  Yeah, they don’t get it sometimes.   And if we’re honest, neither do we.

So he grabs a child and puts that child in the highest point of honor.  One to be welcomed.  

When one of our important friends come over to our homes, we clean up, buy food, throw a party and make sure everything is solid.  But if the kids are having one of their friends over, nothing really changes and maybe we break out some frozen pizza bites.  But that’s not the way Jesus wants it.  The least should/shall be welcomed.  The greatest are the ones that no one at that time would expect.  You want to be great?  Then clean up the house and kill the fatted calf for the least, little, lonely, lost and left behind.

That’s what greatness looks like in Jesus’ eyes.

Take time this week to look around at what “greatness” is highlighted in our everyday culture.  Who is ordained to be the most important and what “child” is cast aside?  And as you notice those misunderstandings of greatness (from Jesus’ perspective), how can you UnDo them?  How can you welcome someone differently than the world does?

Next week on Monday, we will restart God on Tap.  It’s an hour of great conversation, prayer, discussions, disagreements and usually accompanied by a pint or two if that’s your thing.  This month, we’ll start to take more time to name more of the things that Jesus would UnDo and see the Biblical stories where he spoke to it.  Bring yours with you!  What do you think Jesus would UnDo and have you heard/read a Bible story that speaks to that?

Enjoy your week of looking at greatness through Jesus’ eyes.  May you see another piece of daily life that Jesus just might UnDo!

Lord, help me see what Jesus needs me to see.  Amen

Still in One Peace
September 9th, 2021

September 9th, 2021

ps from ps…
Well you had to know that my first written Devo’s back in the fall would have some sort of tie in to the soon to be Super Bowl Champion Buffalo Bills.

If you didn’t, let me introduce myself: I’m Steve Biegner, Bills fans.  Been one for life.  Fairly passionate about this team and region.  Was thrilled to restart going to games when I returned to the city in 2002, after taking a brief nine year break while living in other parts of the country (SC, NC, Adirondacks…known as distant suburbs of Buffalo).

My sister Chris has been in a tough spot though.  After college, she went right from Buffalo to Boston and has lived there for a whole pile of years.  Boston is the home of the dreaded New England Patriots.  Whom I passionately dislike.  A lot.  The Bills and Patriots play one another twice a year.  And on those two Sundays, my sister has a choice to make.  

For whom do I root?

Now she tells me on the phone that it’s clearly for the Bills.  HOWEVER, on at least one occasion I was blown away to find that under her Bills jersey…..should would wear a Patriots shirt.  Incredible.  Hurtful.  Sinful.  (OK, some may disagree with me on one out of the last three words.)

Was she all in or not?  

Just a few years before the Bills/Patriots rivalry began, Jesus said to his disciples: “Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake and for the sake of the gospel, will save it!” (Matthew 8:27-38)

Were they all in or not?

He invited them to “Follow me.”  Get behind me and learn from me.  Watch what I do.  See where I go.  Experience what I conquer through giving my life for you.  

Were they all-in on that?  Or did they have their “Amen Jesus” jersey on top and a “I’m not so sure of this” t-shirt underneath?

Do I?  Do you?

If I’m honest with you, I’ve worn the “two shirts” more than I care to admit.  I have a cross around my neck, and then have acted life a jerk to my family.  I’m holding the “Jesus is #1” foam finger, and then not sharing my financial resources enough.  I’m preaching on Sundays about welcoming the stranger, and then not preparing the church enough on Monday-Saturday to potentially help Afghan refuges coming into 716.  

How many shirts am I wearing??

And yet the grace-filled, forgiving Savior continues to say to me: “Follow me Steve.”  I’ve been invited to follow this all-in Savior.  And I’ve been invited to an all-in lifestyle.  And that type of “all-in-ness” doesn’t match the way our culture normally does stuff now.   So it’s hard.  But it is possible. 

So let me invite you to take some time of reflection this week asking yourself: am I wearing multiple shirts?  Am I ready to bail at a moment’s notice?  Where is faith easy and am I ready when it’s hard?  And do I fully realize how “all-in” Jesus was for me?  This might be hard.  But it’s possible.

Lord, thank you for the invitation.  Help me fully live into it.  Amen

2 PPS’s from PS

9/11 – My guess is that you will see an increased amount of media this week on the coverage of 9/11/2001.  Please be smart and know what is healthy for you and what level will bring up challenging emotions.  Surround yourself with love this week.  Remember with me the 343 and the thousands of others that died and their families that were changed forever.  And shut media off if it’s too much! 
June 2nd, 2021

June 2nd, 2021

ps from ps… Last weekend, Michelle and I got away with a couple good friends to the Allegheny National Forest in PA.  And when I say away, I mean our cell phones went out of service and then we drove and kayaked another 18 miles into the woods.  Off.  The.  Grid.  Just some hammocks, hiking shoes, kayaks and food.

It was needed.  And it was beautiful.  And it was healing.  “And you will find rest for your soul.”

It happened to be a few “extra demanding” days before, but that wasn’t the reason it was so healing.  It was healing because it was a time for self-care, adventure, quiet and space.  Those are four things that often get pushed out of our dailyness.   And those four things helped me reconnect to the beauty of the world, my wife/friends and God’s creation that is right around me all the time.

It’s always interesting to me when I’m first in the woods how many times per hour I reach to check my phone.  Even though I know it doesn’t work where I am.  “My phone” is sort of a symbol for me of focusing on “everyone else’s everything” instead of just being mindful and in the present moment.  

Our gospel this weekend starts: “Jesus went home; and the crowd came together again so that Jesus and the disciples could not even eat.”   Jesus didn’t have a phone but he did often get pulled into everyone else’s everything.  Maybe he was heading home to reconnect with family, to go for a leisurely hike, to have some of his mom’s cooking or to rest from his ministry?  Who knows.  Yet we do know that the demands of the world were constantly in his face and needing his goodness and his god-ness.  

Is your ministry demanding right now?  Is everyone else’s everything pulling at you so hard that you can barely eat?  Have you given yourself time of rest?  Time to reconnect?  Time to heal?

Then, get in your woods!  It doesn’t have to be the National Forest.  It doesn’t have to be kayaks and hikes.  But it should be time and space just to be present, care for yourself and allow the recognition of God right there with you to wash over you again.

This summer at St. Paul’s, I want to pay special attention to that – resting in God.  I want to allow more space in worship to just be in God’s space.  Even at church, we get to rushing around and cramming things in and missing out on the rest/sabbath/healing component of worship.  This summer we will open ourselves up to worship differently.  I would encourage you to come to church at St. Paul’s, or wherever you worship, with a mindfulness toward rest.  Toward space.  Toward recovery.  Toward inspiration.  Set your intentions to be with God.

Your ministry can be demanding at times: your work, your parenting, your caring for your parents, your battling illness, your showing compassion, your mission pulling at you so much that you can barely eat.

Get in the woods.  For a couple days.  For an hour at lunch.  For an early morning walk.  For a phone call to a trusted friend.  For a time of worship in community.

And you will find rest for your soul.

Lord, help me to rest in you.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
May 26th, 2021

May 26th, 2021

ps from ps… Ever been through a power failure?  They are fun and exhilarating…until they aren’t.  
In all the storm induced power failures I’ve been a part of, I really prefer the short ones that happen in the summer.  Like 24 hours is perfect.  Just enough time to get creative with cooking and lighting and not lose everything in your freezer and refrigerator.  It’s the ones that last 4-7 days at 35 degrees outside that test your patience and nerves, along with tempting you to look around at your family and start to ponder who you will eat first if you run out of food.  (Not that this has ever happened…much)
When the power doesn’t work though, you have to have a secondary source.  Like generators.  Or solar.  Or candles.  Or propane stove.  You need to switch over, especially when things are extra challenging.
And this is what Paul was telling the church in Rome.  You can no longer operate by the flesh (human thinking, self-ish thoughts), but instead live in the spirit (God-centered thoughts and movements).  In other words, he was telling them to switch power sources, especially when things got tough and decisions became harder and circumstances were more demanding.  Be God-centered and not human-motivated.
When it’s easy, it’s easy right?  When the normal power is flowing and we’re not pressed, we’re at our best…hopefully.  But when things are more demanding (read: needing to forgive one another, battling prejudice thoughts or actions, welcoming those who are different than us, reaching out to the family member whose lifestyle we don’t agree with, sharing our blessings with those that aren’t as fortunate, etc), we need to switch power sources.  
And the beautiful thing is, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, God invites us to do just that.  Living as God’s missionary in the world becomes a perpetual process of switching over.  Time and time again.
What situation in your life today is calling for that power source change?
I hope you have a beautiful transition into summer.  I hope on many levels you don’t lose your power…kinda.  However, I hope you do switch your power source from flesh to spirit in any and all circumstances.  
God gives us the opportunity and Paul invites us into it!  May our summer be powered by this Source.

Lord, be my power source this summer.  Amen

Still in One Peace,

“PS from PS” update:  Written devotions will be a bit sporadic through May.  May will be some creative time for a new offering: Digital Audio Guided Devotions.  These audio guided dofferings, created by PS and engineered by Andrew Gruszka, St. Paul’s new Director of Digital Ministry, are designed to be used on 30 minute walks or runs over the summer.  As you “abide” this summer, Steve wants to invite you to be more and more active and allow your faith journey and devotional time to sync up with your activity time.  So, we’ll test run several by the end of May and send you links to try them out.
May 5th, 2021

May 5th, 2021

ps from ps… What does it look like to “abide?”  I imagine it looks a lot like Billy on my bed every morning.  After sleeping from 10pm-7am, he awaits us letting him out, making him breakfast (read: pouring food in a bowl) and heading off to work so he can return to my bed and sink into the comfort, quiet and warm embrace of the most expensive dog’s bed known to man.

Maybe that’s what abiding looks like?  Maybe that’s what Jesus is inviting us into?

Two weeks in a row in church life we hear Jesus’ invitation to “abide in him.”  It’s a simple invitation, which also includes a lot of pronoun confusion of “I in him and him in me and you in us and one for all and all for one” or something like that.  Don’t get confused and lost in that though.  It’s actually a pretty simple invitation.  

Abide – I love the third definition of the word – “continue without fading or being lost.”  That’s a pretty great invitation right?  Not only from a comfy bed for a dog like Bill, but from a Savior for a missionary like you!  From a rabbi/teacher for a student like you!  From a guide for a journeyer like you!  From a healer for one in need of healing like you!  From a Shepherd for a sheep like you!  

We’ve all felt “lost” at some point.  We’ve all felt like faith has “faded” at another point.  And maybe you’re at one of these points right now?  

Well if you are, there’s an invitation that maybe we need to hear two…or three…or four weeks in a row.  It comes from the warm, quiet embrace of Jesus today.  “Abide in me.”  

It’s an invitation of grace, compassion and welcome for someone just like you!

Lord, thank you for your invitation to abide.  Amen

Still in One Peace,

“PS from PS” update:  Written devotions will be a bit sporadic through May.  May will be some creative time for a new offering: Digital Audio Guided Devotions.  These audio guided dofferings, created by PS and engineered by Andrew Gruszka, St. Paul’s new Director of Digital Ministry, are designed to be used on 30 minute walks or runs over the summer.  As you “abide” this summer, Steve wants to invite you to be more and more active and allow your faith journey and devotional time to sync up with your activity time.  So, we’ll test run several by the end of May and send you links to try them out.
April 14th, 2021

April 14th, 2021

ps from ps….A few weeks ago, I wrote about nicknames.  Specifically, some that were given to Jesus.  Savior, prophet, messiah, teacher, etc.

But today I wonder about our nicknames again because of an interaction that happened after Easter in a locked up house with the disciples.  The disciples were gathered up.  Jesus shows up on scene.  But Thomas was missing.  So after they tell him what happened, Thomas says: I really need to see this to believe it.

And BOOM: Nickname cometh!  From this moment henceforth you shall be deemed – Doubting Thomas!!

And that’s how we’ve referred to this poor guy for generations.  

One wrong move.  One slip up.  One honest comment about the struggle of faith.  One bad take while a guy is mired in grief.  And now his nickname is Doubting Thomas.

Be careful what you say today!  You might have a new name forever!

I was just talking to some friends about nicknames.  The wife of a classmate of mine is hiking the Appalachian Trail as I type (she’s at mile 200 of 2010 or something crazy like that).  But she’s a fast hiker.  Both fast pace and larger number of miles.  So the nickname she received on the trail: Roadrunner.  

When you reflect on the disciples that Jesus called to follow and then sent out to begin the movement, what other types of nicknames would they receive on their trail?  Doubter, Thief, Selfish One, Betrayer, Rule Follower.  And still Jesus called them and loved them!

What nickname will you receive today on your trail?

I hope that you give yourself a little break today on the hike.  I hope that you show yourself a little grace today.  I hope that when you reflect on the Biblical story, you’ll see your own imperfect and yet loved/called face in that scriptural mirror.  I hope that you know that the nicknames can’t define and override who you really are.  I hope you’ll remember that you aren’t who you are at your worst moment.  I hope that you remember that your original nickname is Child of God.  And that each week we gather in worship you should hear your current name of Forgiven – Loved – Graced.

Lord, help me to define myself by the name you give me.  Amen
 Still in One Peace