Friday, April 21, 2006

The Nugget, May 2006

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
Maya Angelou

Back on the first Sunday of Lent I said in my sermon that Lent is NOT my favorite time of the year. Almost as a confession I said that there is something about Lent that I just don’t much care for. But as I ponder NOW those words I spoke THEN, I can only ask myself, “What was I thinking?” I take it all back.

Lent at First Congregational Church was a wonderful experience. And now the presence of Easter is just as wonderful, despite the rain on Easter Sunday, or -- in our case up the hill -- the snow. With out-of-state family visiting us, we were hoping for some warm California weather to offer them, to complement their Easter weekend in our fair state. But it was not to be. Instead they had to hustle down the hill on the afternoon of Easter Sunday as the snow deepened and their fears of being snowed in increased. It was no way to treat good people like them.

But it was an appropriate reminder that the heart of Easter is not just sunshine and warmth. It is more about the presence and power of God arising from within, despite the darkness and gloom. Jesus’ promise is that God’s presence is with us not just in the brightness of spring and the joy of happy times. Instead, as the resurrected Christ remarked, “I am with you always, even to the ends of the earth.”

Truth be told, I do not mind the rain and the winter weather, even in these weeks of spring. The way I see it, we will get the warmth and heat of summer soon enough. One of our folks came up to me during the wedding reception for Teddi and Joe at Native Sons Hall and said, “I am so tired of all this @!#$! rain. Can’t you pray for good weather? Enough is enough.” I swallowed hard, and then admitted to her that I may be part of the problem: it appeared God HAD been answering my prayers.

If only our prayers could affect the weather. In fact, they don’t. But it is in prayer that we can find our way to the fullness of Easter. It is in prayer that we discover the spiritual strength and wholeness to become God’s Easter people, come what may.

Speaking of being God’s Easter people… Faith Roberts was the first one to mention to me that she had seen the new United Church of Christ commercials on TV. Others of you have seen them: the so-called “ejector commercials” that humorously remind people that “whoever you are, and wherever you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.” Jesus did not reject (or “eject”!) people and neither do we. By the way… if you do not see the commercials on the TV stations you watch, just go online to the UCC website.

I cannot see the calendar take us into May without raising a toast to all of you on our one year anniversary together. I celebrate this congregation on how well you are progressing through this Interim period. I raise a toast to the Search Committee on the work they are doing. I commend them on their serious commitment to the task that is theirs, and the spirit and discretion with which they are approaching their job. I feel from many of you a sense of excitement as their works gains momentum.

I raise a toast to the leaders of this congregation. This has been a different year because of the transition we have been in, and that has caused us all to approach our work with a heightened sense of what is yet to be. I raise a toast to all of you – church family and friends -- who have had to think about your church life a little differently knowing that the pastoral leadership of the church will be changing in the not too distant future.

As God's Easter people we are on our way. Thank you all for the joy of the journey so far.