From the Pastor

Pastor Bob Albing

Do you ever feel like you don’t know what to do next? Or maybe you know what you want, or where you need to go but you can’t get there. Are you feeling stuck right now? Have you ever felt stuck and then somehow moved beyond it? This Lent we will be reading Bible stories on Wednesdays at noon that tell us about the wilderness. For the Children of Israel, the Chosen People, their time in the Sinai Wilderness was a time where many of the people felt stuck. Some wanted to go right into the Promised Land (they weren’t ready), some wanted to return to Egypt (they couldn’t), and at one point Moses asks God to let him die. Feeling stuck is not fun.

When Israel was in the wilderness it was a difficult time. There were no resources in the wilderness, it was a desert and the people had to depend on God’s providence. They were not in control. They were given enough to live each day. They could not go back but they also were not ready to go forward. For 40 years they were in the wilderness.

It is no coincidence that Lent is 40 days long. Wilderness times are times for God to work on us, to transform us, as God did the Chosen People. God changed them from a slave nation into a warrior nation. He made them a holy people who would be a light to the nations. And God does the same with us in the wilderness times of our lives. The wilderness times, like this pandemic, bring out the worst and the best in people. The wilderness time is God’s most powerful tool as he transforms us into his likeness and gives us the Mind of Christ. Look what the wilderness time did for Jesus!

The wilderness is not something we choose, but the Holy Spirit does some of her most creative work on us in those times. We can cooperate with the process, or we can fight against it. Maybe we do both. Either way, God is working on us. And sometimes, probably most of the time, it is only pain that causes change. I hope you can make it to worship at least a few times at noon on Wednesdays during Lent. The wilderness is always easier to deal with when you can journey together.

God’s peace, Pr. Bob Albing

Have you had any epiphanies lately?

Have you had any “aha” moments, when something dawned on you, that you had not considered before? These moments can be exciting and fun, like realizing you are NOT lost, when you are out hiking. They can be difficult when you realize something about yourself that requires change, like when you realize that YOU may be the problem, not the other person.

Epiphanies about God I think, are the same way. I have heard stories of people who realized suddenly that God would not be pleased with the way they were living. It was like waking up. The epiphany led to a changed life and new choices. Other epiphanies can be humbling and awesome, like realizing that God really does love you, at the core of your being and has been trying to bless you your whole life long. Those kinds of epiphanies can also be life changing.

I have had a few epiphanies in my life. My latest epiphany though was not an “aha” moment as much as it was a “hmmm” moment. Some context: pastors tend to always be wondering, “Are we doing enough?” or “As the church and as pastor, are we doing what God needs us to be doing, here and now?” or “What sort of ministry should we be engaged in this year?” One morning last month, as I was writing in my prayer journal and praying, and thinking about my church, a thought popped into my head: maybe we are actually doing what we need to be doing right now. Maybe we are doing enough.

Of course, there is always more that we could be doing; you know that to be true on a personal level. I am sure it is true on an institutional level. But maybe after two years of surviving a global pandemic we are doing what we can as a congregation and as individuals. Maybe we are doing enough.

As 21st Century North American capitalists, we are by nature consumers. We have been programmed to want MORE. That is how our economy works. We want more stuff, more money, more time, more time off, more education, more house, more cars, more, more, more. It’s not bad to want more. But perhaps it is not what Jesus is talking about when he tells his disciples to seek the Kingdom of God. I don’t think Jesus is telling his followers to want more.

Spirituality, in my experience, is about subtraction, not addition. It is about subtracting distractions, and useless ideas and prejudices. It is about subtracting busy-ness in favor of awareness, and contentment. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus talks about fasting and alms giving. Those involve subtraction, of food and of money. We modern folk have been programmed to want more and we even want more from our church. But maybe that is not what God wants. Maybe we are enough. And maybe you are enough. Maybe God’s grace is enough.

God’s peace to you, Pr. Bob Albing

Mark 1:1 The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the son of God.

Two of the four gospels in the New Testament don’t mention the birth of Jesus. It is only Matthew and Luke that tell us about his birth and ancestry. The gospels of John and Mark are more concerned with what Jesus did and taught than who he was related to and where he was born.

Did you hear stories when you were growing up about the day you were born or about when you were little? Children love to hear stories from the adults in their lives about when they were younger. Psychologists call these “origin stories” and they can provide a good sense of self-esteem for children; they can provide a sense of identity that is especially valuable when faced with major life transitions or traumas later in life.

I think that the Advent and Christmas seasons are especially important this year, as we go through these strange and difficult times. We are reminded and we get to celebrate, the “reason for the season” and how it all started, our Christian “origin stories”. They will remind us of who we are and what id important. They will inspire us to be like the angels and the shepherds who shared good news, though in very different ways.

God bless you as you prepare your homes for celebration and as you prepare your hearts to be a pleasant place of refuge for Jesus. A Joyous Advent and a Happy New Year!

God’s peace,

Pr. Bob Albing