Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Nugget, April 2007

“Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable,
always excelling in the work of the Lord.”
1 Cor. 15. 55-56

I have come to understand how active and busy this church can be, but the last few weeks have brought this to my attention like never before. The energy, enthusiasm and excitement surrounding our most recent activities has been remarkable. The Costa Rican dinner and silent auction, the Pancake Breakfast for Irish Days, and many other activities have been exhausting, but they have also been exhilarating and have brought out the best in us. (And have been very profitable for their respective causes – did I mention that?) And as I write this, Holy Week and Easter are still to come!

I thought Lent was suppose to be a time to pause and reflect? Lent is to be that, of course, but it is also a time of service and good works. And that we have been doing. Thanks to everyone who has shared in the recent activities and has made a positive contribution. My hope is that each one can find the time to rest and recuperate in the midst of all the activities and busyness.

Bishop Spong likes to say that the richest expression of Easter comes when it is exclaimed rather than explained.

Which is to say that Easter is not so much about how we talk about it, but how we experience it. The varied interpretations and meanings -- and arguments -- over the particulars of the resurrection are not nearly as important as whether or not Jesus is alive within us; whether or not our Savior is experienced by us and leads us to community and service.

When spring time rolls around, and when Easter draws near, you can be sure that there will be media reports of some new discovery that raises questions about the resurrection of Jesus. So it was with a sense of déjà vu that I read the news reports of the discovery of the purported remains of Jesus. Actually the claims that they had discovered the remains of him and his family -- including his wife Mary Magdalene (?!) – had been made some years earlier. What was new was a documentary film about these discoveries that had been released recently by a major Hollywood film maker.

After the film’s release certain scholars questioned the validity of some of the prime evidence that had been presented, nearly debunking the whole project. But did this put the issue to rest? Not at all. Any kind of publicity is good publicity in these matters. (Am I sounding cynical yet?)

Here is where I am going with all this: Whatever it is that keeps us focused on the explanation rather than the experience of Easter needs to be resisted. We can argue all we want about the particulars of what happened so long ago at the tomb of Jesus, but the only thing that really matters is whether or not we are experiencing the risen Christ. What is needed today is not a new argument, but a new experience of God that gives rise to acts of compassion and justice.

May God give each of us this Easter season a new awareness of the risen Christ, alive and active within us.

Steve Shepard
Interim Pastor

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Nugget, March 2007

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.
(Psalm 51.10,12)

We need this season of Lent in which we find ourselves. The spirit of Lent is something like the person who smacks himself on the forehead and says, “What was I thinking?” When awareness of our imperfections dawns on us, we want to do better, and need to find the strength to choose a better way. During Lent we are offered the opportunity to consider the better way, the path that leads to wholeness and peace rather than estrangement from God and one another.

Only by taking the time to understand our brokenness and seek the better way, will we be ready to celebrate Easter. Jesus’ resurrection was such a seminal event for Disciples of Christ that it cannot be remembered and observed without a time of preparation.

On the Wednesday evenings in March everyone is invited to join us in our Soup Supper and Video Vespers. You will find the soups delicious and the Vesper services inspirational. Different committees and boards of the church are taking turns bringing the light meal which will begin at 6 pm. Special thanks to the various groups within the church who are working hard to prepare the soups.

After we eat, we will gather for a time of reflection and prayer, singing and meditating, viewing a video clip as part of the basis for our reflections. The films from which the clips will taken will be as diverse as “Little Miss Sunshine”, “Amistad” and the newly released “Amazing Grace.” Our Vesper services will conclude each Wednesday evening by 7:30 p.m.

“Give Me a Clean Heart, O God,” is the overall theme of the Video Vespers. Each Wednesday will carry a particular theme, such as “Give Me a Clean Heart, O God, That Works for Peace” (March 4) or “Give Me a Clean Heart, O God, That Seeks Justice.” (March 11). Invite your neighbors and friends and join us for this special series that will bring us to that wonderful time of celebrating Jesus resurrection.

The front of this edition of the Nugget has information on the events of Holy Week, which this year is the first week of April. I invite you to participate in as many of these special services as you can. Our Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunrise services are joint worship times with other churches in town, which give them added meaning.

Working with Rev Russ Ogren of Sierra Bible Church, and Rev Doug Merritt of Faith Lutheran Church has been an exceptional experience for me. And not just during this season, but for the entire time that I have been your pastor. I invite your to join me in celebrating the ecumenical relationship we share with these other pastors and their congregations. We sometimes forget that despite the fact we each have our own particular church life, we share a risen Savior whose love extends far beyond each congregation. Thanks be to God for the common life we all share in Jesus Christ!

Steve Shepard
Interim Pastor