Westminster Presbyterian Church

Chehalis, Washington - Worship Service Sundays, 10 AM

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WPC Going Forward

In January I rejoined Session as an Elder.  Neil Knecht, who plays Bass guitar at the second service, was at that Session meeting.  He told us that during the summer, after blended services where he had played with the modern worship group, some people from the first service attacked his music and said that they didn’t want to hear guitars played in church.

At the same session meeting another person said that she had heard from several people who attend the second service that they just want “their service back” meaning the 2nd service with guitars and drums.

I met with Pastor Shari later and said “we still have some division over this first service vs. second service thing and we need to address the issue with the congregation.”  She said “I’m going to the Holy Land in late February and I need people to deliver the message on two Sunday’s.  Will you address this issue on one of those Sunday’s?”

So here I am.

Shari asked which texts from the Bible I would like read and I asked for the part of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians and the Great Commission.  Shari gave me a great CD focused on Paul’s letter.  I will be sharing some of that message with you, just so you don’t start to think that I am a great Biblical scholar – which I am not.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

13 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

2 If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Most often we hear this reading about love at weddings.  We’re at the wedding and everything is beautiful and we hear these nice sounding words about love and we all say “isn’t that nice.”

But this is a real challenge to us.  In the first part, about rusty gates and being bankrupt, Paul is writing about us.  The description of the qualities of Love is not about us – that’s God.  That’s what Jesus did.  So right there it’s a challenge.

In fact this passage is an enormous challenge to Presbyterians, because Presbyterians tend to be very service oriented.  Anywhere you look in our community you will see Presbyterians contributing to worthwhile projects.  There would be no Lewis County Food bank, for example, if it weren’t for Presbyterians.

But Paul’s message warns us that all of that great service might mean nothing.

 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

I can go to the stake as a martyr.  I can give away everything to the poor and it means nothing?  Paul is telling us that we have to look deep into our soul and ask why we are serving.  Are we serving, attending church, joining session, giving money to the church so that people will think that we are good?  If so, it’s nothing.

I am in no position to judge what this passage means to you in your life.  You and I have figure out what it means for us as individuals.

My father died yesterday and to keep this from sounding like I’m judging you, which I am not, I’ll apply it to him because he served the church and the community in many ways.  But Paul’s message is clear that if all that service wasn’t done with love, an open giving heart, then it gained my father nothing.

I’ll give you my opinion on some of what Paul’s message means for congregation, for WPC inside and outside this sanctuary.  It means that we are to love, as Christ loved, all of the people who come to this church even if they don’t contribute – even if they don’t join a guild, or a committee, even if they have a tattoo and only attend one service.  And Paul’s message means that we are in no position to think that we are better or more holy than anybody else just because we serve the church more than somebody else.

This church has been working for 158 years.  That is 7.8% of the time of Christendom.  If we are here in the year 2060 that will be 10% of the time since Christ was crucified.  To me, that’s a remarkable thing.

The title of this message is “WPC going forward” so I’ll share my thoughts on how we accomplish that goal.

We have made it through 158 years because the congregation has been tolerant of others and been flexible in how we worship.  Our worship service today has changed many times over 158 years ago.  And, if we are going to make it to 10% of Christendom, we need to continue to be flexible and willing to change how we reach people.

And when it comes to the kind of service – guitars or the organ – we are called to make a joyful noise.  And I really doubt that God frowns hearing that noise with drums, or organs, guitars, clapping of hands or a baby trying to sing.

We need to stay away from the idea that this is “my service” and it has to have drums or it has to have the organ.  Personally, I like both, but I hope that if the church decided that the way we need to share worship with people who need to hear the Word, we should have service somewhere else with neither organ or guitars – I hope, I would say “then let’s try it.”   I’m pretty sure that I’ve been told that the worship service isn’t supposed to be about “me”.  I’m pretty sure I’ve heard that the service is supposed to be about God – worshipping God.  Pretty sure about that.

We are in a time of transition and this church has endured a lot of that over 158 years.  Change is difficult and can be unsettling.  Pastor changes, building problems, budget issues, personnel changes and more have faced this church recently.  I’m on the Pastor Nominating Committee and you heard Chuck Emerick’s report that the new pastor might not be here for 5 more months, or maybe a year.  And you heard me say that we need to get away from the idea that when that permanent pastor comes – they will be perfect and all of the problems will just go away because the new pastor will be imperfect, just like all of us, and we will still have work to do to keep going forward as a church.

The PNC committee has a helper, Rose Erickson from Onalaska who has been a worker in the Presbytary for many years.  She helps us get through the Presbyterian process.  She keeps reminding us that God is in charge of the process.  The truth is that, at first, when she said that I nodded my head but I thought “right, fine, but we’re going to get this done soon.  We need to get moving.”  Well guess what?  Rose was right, darn it, God is in charge of this process and it will be competed in God’s time not ours.  We need to have faith.

Within the family we need to have faith and to treat each other with love.  Then there is the challenge of what do we need to do outside of this sanctuary and how to reach all of those people who haven’t come to church, most of whom never will set foot in this sanctuary?

For them, and for us, we need to decide whether WPC is a club or a church?  A club worries about its membership and its dues and its budget.  A club will worry about fixing the building.  There are elements of a club that are part of this church and they need to be because we do need to pay attention to our budget and fix our beams when they slip.  But if that’s all we worry about at WPC the church won’t go on because clubs are dying in America.  Rotary, Elks, Eagles etc.  Generally speaking people under 40 won’t join clubs – for many reasons.  But the good news is that they will join causes.

The purpose of a church is different than that of a club.  The primary purpose of The Church worldwide and of WPC was told to us by Jesus in the last thing he said on earth before he ascended.  The Great Commission.  He said:  “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you.”

There is the main purpose of this church.

But what does it mean for WPC?  I don’t stand here with the answers but I’ll give you some opinions.  I’m pretty sure that for this church it doesn’t mean we will go door to door carrying our Bible.  But maybe it means that we need to be flexible in thinking about where we hold service, when and how?  Maybe we’ll decide that to reach young single parents in this community we need to hold a service at Stan Hedwall park on Saturday evenings?  Maybe it will mean we need to create a Hispanic service here or somewhere else.  Maybe.

It wasn’t that long ago that everybody in America got the same picture of what happened I the last day.  You could choose to watch the news from Walter Chronkite, Huntley-Brinkley or whoever read the news on ABC.  We all had about the same information on what happened.  But today, if you are conservative you can watch FOX or if you are liberal you can watch MSNBC or CNN.  Or you can find one of thousands of blogs to tell you what happened.  Of course the trouble is that now we don’t even agree on what happened today, let alone what we should do in response.  Same with music.  Used to be here you could listen to KELA AM.  Then along came KITI and then FM and now, with more than 1000 stations on cirrius radio or the IPOD you can spend all day in your car and just listen to Bluegrass music, or just organ music, or just classical piano.  Whatever you want and only what you want.

With that, my opinion only here, the idea that we are going to create one service that will have the music and the style that will appeal, across the board, to everybody who might want to come here for worship is highly unlikely.  If that’s true we need to be flexible and be willing to rethink how WPC carries out the great commission. I think it may be that in the next six months or so we may need to return to one service, but longer term I think we may need to look to create new and different ways of reaching out and doing worship.

The good news is that people are attracted to organizations that have a worthwhile mission and are carrying it out.  That’s our opportunity to go forward as a congregation.

To go forward we can take Paul’s list of the qualities of Love and apply them to WPC

Love –

Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Why not linger at Jesus’ manger?

Tonight the story of Jesus birth has once more been celebrated with readings, enactment, and carols galore. The big news of Christmas is sung about by angels, troubled over by scholars, the local Jerusalem magistrate is worried sick, and fascinating wise men from the East take the trouble to trek a vast distance, at great expense and risk, all of this because a baby is born.  Not just any baby, but the promised Messiah.

The BIG news is that God loves us so much that God chose to come and tell us so personally. Why? So we could see and experience what God is like.  God sent Jesus, the one and only Son, to earth, to be with us and God chose to begin as a baby.  Given the infinite variety of ways God could have demonstrated love isn’t it fascinating to see God at this point vulnerable and weak? God’s incarnation begins like this, so that we might no longer view weak and vulnerable as a negative starting place.

This is indeed the good news of Christmas Eve. Birth is a starting place.  We know this, marvel at it, and yet we tend to rush it. I recently met 3 day old Caleb McGregory. It was such a delight to behold this precious newborn that I asked his parents if Caleb might debut tonight as a stand in for baby Jesus. Guess what? They agreed! We all start out like this. So did Jesus. God’s own Son came to be with us as a newborn.

Caleb Daniel McGregory 1 day old

When you see new parents with a newborn what advise is instinctively offered? It seems to me there is something we commonly share when gazing at such a cherub face.  What is it? Something like, “cherish these days, babies grow up so fast”, is it not

Let’s take our own advice, to cherish the baby Jesus tonight, and linger at his manger crib.  In fact God’s messenger angel encourages us to do just that saying:

“BEHOLD” I bring you good news. Behold, when used in scripture, is like a code word for  ‘pause’ and ask, what difference does this news I am about to hear make in my life?

This “God with us” baby is fully human/fully divine, and completely vulnerable. That’s what an incarnate birth means.  Jesus begins just like us.

In this culture we give middle names to signify who a baby is – Earl is my son’s middle name for his paternal grandfather, Christian is my daughter’s middle name for her paternal grandmother.  You’re is probably significant to your family too, is it not? Emmanuel is one of the names for Jesus, God’s son. It signifies that God come to be with us, breaking into human history personally.  Jesus Emmanul the Christ.

This friend is the heart of matter. Like the baby Jesus lying in the manger, we too start out our spiritual lives as vulnerable and weak spiritual babies.  This is as it is supposed to be at the start.

Lingering in the stable tonight we are meant to peer into the manger and notice this Jesus is approachable. What starts here is a new way of relating to God. Now it’s personal.  Baby Jesus is one of us. Baby Jesus starts out with us in fragile flesh.

As he matures we see in reading Jesus story in the Gospel accounts of his life that Jesus remains approachable. Social outcasts like the Samaritan woman at the well, crowds of physical and emotionally infirmed, all manner of sinners are welcome around Jesus. What starts here, in the manger, absolutely revolutionizes the human experience. The weak, vulnerable, needing care, baby Jesus shows us that God dignifies our human weakness.

God’s story is develops from here.  Coos turn to talking, crawling yields to walking, and running, and racing, and maturing. Imagine for a moment how delightful it must have been for Mary and Joseph to cheer Jesus on as he took his first steps.  They must have also watched with glee as the son of God took part in footraces with the with the neighbors’ kids.

This is the beauty of the manger. A story is developing here – what starts here does not stay here.

Here’s how it works, once we meet Jesus, and begin to get know his story, we are invited into a new chapter of our own life, a new life that we begin to share in Christ. At first we’re ‘babies’ in this faith, weak, and needing care in order to grow. The incarnation indeed shows us that this is how is it is meant to be. This is good news; we don’t have to wait for a mature faith to form in order to approach Jesus.

Jesus in the manger is accessible, especially to those who pause to peer inside. Looking at Jesus is how faith starts.  For some at this point you may not know much about Jesus. Perhaps you come from another faith, or no faith at all. The Christmas story is that Jesus came from heaven to earth to demonstrate God’s love for us.  Jesus story begins in this humble way on purpose, so that we might see what God is like. God is love. Jesus is that love incarnate – with us.

Just like babies quickly outgrow their newborn things…so too as we get to know Jesus, we come to see God is not only with us but God is also for us. God did not come to condemn us, or scold us, or scare us.

God’s love for us is unconditional.  There is absolutely nothing we can do to change the truth that God loves for us is real, abiding, unchanging, no matter what. God’s love for us begins at the manger. The invitation to linger at Jesus’ manger is a gift you can open right now. Jesus is approachable.

Jesus is God’s gift to every weary heart that aches for peace. Jesus is God’s gift to every soul that yearns for hope. A relationship with God starts here. Perhaps you are meant to start tonight. That’s good news; , it’s your first step in a developing story. Trust me, each baby step of faith is worthwhile.

Others lingering at the manger are perhaps meant to take a next step of faith tonight beyond Bethlehem toward maturity. If you know what that step is, Jesus is inviting you to take that next teetering step.

If you aren’t sure what a maturing faith in Jesus looks like – join us another Christian church near where you live.  Here at Westminster we are committed to “Glorifying God and Reflecting the Love of Jesus to the World. That translates to = we aim to imitate Jesus in our lives and communities so that God’s love is evident in us.

Reflecting God’s love is best done by people who peer into the manger and see God, the Savior the world longs to know. This baby grows up showing us that ultimately God’s love overcomes affliction and death with astonishing power. His birth, life, death, and Easter resurrection give us an ultimate hope that what starts here does not stay here – but endures, and transforms, and gives the promise of a hope filled future. That’s why Jesus starts like this, to show us that weak and vulnerable is an appropriate starting place, but it is not where we stay.

We linger to see what starts here but we do not stay here in Bethlehem. To this end we will spend the next month of January looking at what it means to live incarnationally, demonstrating God’s love among our neighbors. You’re invited to join us, as we seek to imitate Jesus approachable compassion for the lonely, homeless, and the hungry nearby.

Loving, approachable God, as we look forward to the New Year, help us to trust you as we start out in faith so that the story you are developing in us may flourish. Help us to imitate you Jesus, so that your love for our families, neighbors, and the world might become evident in us. Amen.

*Adapted to blog from Rev Shari Monson’s Christmas Eve sermon

Day 23 The long-awaited promise of a Savior

Bethlehem image make your own page

For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

In this season of Advent we spend time in anticipation—waiting for God’s promise of a Savior to be fulfilled.  Waiting is not an activity our culture does very well.  Who likes to wait in a line at a grocery store?  Or in rush hour traffic on I-5?  Or for an escrow to close?  Or for a college acceptance letter to arrive?

Yet anticipation can be an exciting, even exhilarating experience when the end result is truly worth waiting for.  I think of my preparation for becoming a pastor, a process that actually took thirteen years from the time I first sensed God’s call in that direction to the day I was ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament.  As a widow and mother of a one-year-old in 1988, I had to uproot our household, downsize dramatically, and move to another city on the east coast for seminary.  Six years and two thousand miles later I received my Master of Divinity degree from Fuller Seminary in Seattle, was certified ready for ordination by North Puget Sound Presbytery, and launched into seeking a call in the church.  It didn’t materialize.  I busied myself raising my son, teaching Christian Education, directing a divorce recovery ministry, and a variety of other volunteer activities.  I wasn’t the least bit idle, but it was a long six years of waiting and anticipating until finally I was offered a position as interim pastor at a Methodist church.  PC(USA) ordained me to take a Methodist call!  Go figure.

Our waiting in Advent is not nearly so long, unless we look at it historically, with all the centuries of waiting for God’s people to welcome the Messiah.  We take four weeks every year to reflect on God’s faithfulness in fulfilling that long-awaited promise of a Savior who would bring light into our dark world and peace into our anxious hearts.

Application: What have you waited for in your life?  Perhaps a long time of anticipation for something of great worth to take place?  How delighted and grateful were you when it arrived?

Prayer: Let us give thanks, not only for the magnificent gift of Jesus in Bethlehem, but also for the opportunity to anticipate anew his coming into our hearts again with all the promise of new life and redeeming love.

Written by Rev. Melody Young, Pastor of Congregational Care, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Chehalis, WA.

Day 16 Ready to Roll Advent Devotional

Day 16 Ready to Roll Logo

Escape to Egypt

Read Matthew 2:13-23

The description of the escape to Egypt takes a mere three verses and appears only in the Gospel of Matthew.  An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and warned him of Herod’s murderous intentions.  Joseph was instructed by the angel to flee Bethlehem to escape Herod’s wrath.  The account tells us that Joseph, Mary and the infant Jesus left immediately on the night of Joseph’s dream.

I can’t help but wonder whether they left in a panic and packed in haste.  Their steadfast belief in the Lord and their obedience points instead to a departure marked by confidence and conviction.  The long trek that lay ahead of the family was fraught with danger.

They were travelers on an unfamiliar road. They were dispossessed and far from home.  They faced unknown risks and uncertain outcomes.  These are words that describe the early trials of Jesus, Mary and Joseph on their journey to Egypt.

These words may also describe people in our community that lack the basic needs that we may take for granted.  We may categorize all people who panhandle at freeway exits into one group – the less fortunate – without considering that each person with a sign is an individual.  We may define each person by their sign and not see his or her true design – a child of God.  Maybe you’ve been burned – soured on the idea of giving to the person standing at the freeway exit.  Once the gift leaves our hands, we lose physical control of its use.  As Christians though, we have prayer. We can trust in God to work in the hearts and lives of the man who is unemployed, the woman struggling with mental illness or whoever is the recipient of our generosity.

To that end, during this season of giving, the Hospitality and Outreach Commission is launching Ready 2 Roll. The goal of Ready 2 Roll is to equip each of us to be ready to bring aid and comfort to people in the community that need something to eat; clean, dry feet; a little money to get by; or help in finding resources in our community through small care packages.  Early in 2014, a team will be forming to help launch Ready 2 Roll.

Reflection: For a moment, picture Jesus as a young child. Imagine his parents organizing their things for a trek to Egypt. What do you imagine is going through their minds? How might they have shared this news with their family, neighbors, or anyone else for that matter? When you’re in trouble and need to seek the help of others how does that happen? Who is helpful to you in tough times?  Alternately, who comes to you for help? Do you imagine Jesus being in the midst of these situations?

Prayer for Ready 2 Roll by Myrtice Dills: Thank you Lord for the person receiving these gifts.  May you bless them in whatever their circumstances and may they know you love them. We ask this all in the loving name of Jesus Christ.

By Heather Carlson, session liaison to Hospitality and Outreach Commission


Day 15 Advent Family Fun Third week of Advent JOY!

advent joyYoung Reader: We come together again for this third Sunday in Advent. Let’s review our first two candles.

Second Reader: (Point to first candle) Our first candle was to remind us to get our hearts ready with hope for the coming of Jesus.  (Point to second candle) The second candle stood for the importance of God’ s love for us, and our response in faith believing that Christ is coming to our hearts and our world. This week we talk about joy!  As Christmas Day gets closer, we get more excited!  What makes you excited about Christmas?  (Allow time for responses)

Youth Reader:  The Bible tells us that there were shepherds in the fields watching their sheep. (Read Luke 2:8-14; add the Shepherds to your Nativity scene)  The Shepherds knew that something very special had happened and they were filled with praise and joy!

Parent:  We can’t order a dozen “joy” for Christmas and charge it on a credit card. What is joy and how do we get it? (Allow time for responses)  Our third candle, the pink one, is the Shepherd’s candle.   It reminds us that the angels said,   “We have news of great joy!” When we open our hearts and let the love of Jesus enter, we know joy!  (Read Psalms 144:15)

Sing: “Joy to the World”

Parent:  Let us pray.  Dear Heavenly Father, as we become more excited for Christmas, help us to remember the true joy of giving and the true pleasure of receiving.  Show us ways to spread the joy of the birth of Christ with others during this season and the rest of the year.  May the joy that is in our hearts be reflected in our faces and our actions. Amen.

Young Reader:  When we welcome Christ, we will know true happiness and joy, the kind that will last forever, the kind we have to share!

Thought for the week: (Isaiah 55:12) As you go about your business each day try to spread joy to all those who come in contact with you. 

Family Activity:  Do something to make each other laugh (watch a funny movie, take funny photos together, have a cup of hot chocolate, or tickle each other).

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