Pastor’s Letter Jan. 19, 2022

Good afternoon, Beloved,

         I pray the day finds you well and free from the pretzel-like troubles of this world. These troubles that we are enduring so often today, though, are only intensified because we cannot find a solution. At least not one which seems acceptable due to the lines being drawn in the sand and people flocking to one tribe or another. We have seen this time and time again. The conflicts created by doing anything in the old familiar way as compared to the new changes being innovated in an ever-changing world. 

Now, I believe we can see these conflicts happen in generational differences, political differences, and yes even in religious differences. We even see this reality creep out over small things like mask use: should they be required for the greater good or should they be avoided due to their inefficiency and propensity to cause health problems for people. The problem is that somewhere along the line people stopped listening with an open heart to the opposing perspectives. And decided the arguments were either / or. I am right and moral and you are wrong and immoral. Why would we do anything else as there is so little time in our world to hear the voices of our friends, let alone those others who do not believe as we do. 

Why? Because, Beloved, God calls to all people – all genders – all identities – all of Creation. And if we cannot find a solution amongst our perspective then maybe…just maybe, we need to learn from another source to discover the middle ground in a world of divisions. For our reopening team that place in the middle was and is the individual discernment and choice of mask use for each person. A decision, I believe, was the most faithful choice they could make. Well done.

Perhaps this gift we give ourselves to learn though will also allow us to follow the faithful call to teach one another – another tribe – another Beloved child; so, we call all be held by God together. With this thought in mind, I offer these words from another source about the teachings of Christ and how we deal with the changing church of today. 

Lest We Burst

By John Engleton

Jesus told them this parable: “No one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’” – Luke 5:37-39

Between 2008 and 2019 I led worship approximately twelve hundred times, give or take a hundred. Leading services three times a week for almost eight years really ran up the numbers. I went from wobbly and nervous to loose and confident. I’m not boasting, just pointing out that practicing something a thousand times really helps.

Since the pandemic began, I’ve led worship maybe a hundred times. And those one hundred times have been in at least four or five formats that were new to me: live on Zoom, pre-recorded on YouTube, livestreamed in the sanctuary, outdoors on the lawn, a hybrid of all the above. I’m back to wobbly and nervous, and I don’t like it. I miss the old wine of well-known ways of worship. I’ve tasted the new and I would say, “The old is better!”

It’s okay if the time of worship during Covid isn’t your favorite. It’s okay if it doesn’t measure up to what used to be. No one should expect it to. This is a time of new wine. This time has to be given room to breathe and expand, to become whatever it will become. Our job as the church is to learn new lessons and strengthen new muscles. Our job as the church is to stretch and flex.

Because we aren’t the wine. We are the wineskins.

Prayer

God, this time is hard for us. Help us to worship you in beauty and truth, in new ways.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John EdgertonJohn Edgerton is Lead Pastor at First United Church of Oak Park, Illinois.

May all of these thoughts help guide you to find the place God is calling you too, not on one side or another; but in the loving place which encompasses all of Creation together. 

Your pastor and teacher, Brian

Please consider these thoughts during Epiphany. If you would like, you may text, call, or email me always. As I would enjoy hearing how you feel are stretching and growing in these times. My number is (207-350-9561) if you need anything or simply want to talk. Next week, My pastoral care hours are Mon. 9-4, Tues. 12-5, Wed. 9-4, Thurs. 10-2 to provide some time for visiting. Many blessings and Love to you all.

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