Something to Chew On, LXII

This is my final rendering to you of “From My Plate to Your Plate”. First, I thank all of you for the warm farewells, cards, and wishes for my future. I am also grateful for the very generous retirement gift that you shared with me. It was deeply appreciated and shall be put aside for some special desires as they come to mind.

I also thank all of those brave men who drove through the driving rains on Saturday, so that they could be in Bethany, Illinois to pick up all of Pastor Tracy’s goods and to assist with helping her to move into her new apartment in downtown Middletown.

Since this is the end of my third interim and the longest interim that I have held, I am prayerfully considering this to really be a retirement. Other opportunities for ministry may come along and I will always be available for pulpit supply as needed.

In the meantime, you are beginning a new day, embracing a fresh opportunity, and launching a new ministry with Pastor Tracy Siegman. Introduce yourselves and share your love and friendship with her as you have shared your love and friendship with me.

I shall be in prayer for you and for First Christian as this ministry not only begins, but continues to grow and flourish.

Something to Chew On, LXI

Most of you know that I am a trained musician. I regret that I will not be able to share an oboe solo with you before I depart. Perhaps, at some point in the future I can return to provide special music.

My hats off and my deep gratitude to Rachel Eve Davis as she continues to serve as our music director. Not only does she provide accompaniment from the piano or the organ, but she also serves as our choir director and sometimes leads singing as she is playing. Since my time of coming to be with you she has done a noble job of picking hymns for each Sunday. Some of these hymns are quite traditional, but we often have a mix of the contemporary.

Not all hymn styles may fit into everyone’s agenda. Some like the very traditional while others prefer the contemporary. We seek from Sunday to Sunday to provide a blend of the contemporary with the traditional.

I want you to think for a moment about traditional hymnody. A number of the very traditional hymns we attribute to Fanny Crosby. She wrote such great hymns like “To God Be the Glory”, “Praise Him! Praise Him!”, Jesus is Tenderly Calling Thee Home”, and “Blessed Assurance”.

I contend that when any of those hymns were first introduced there was an outcry among worshipers, “We can’t sing these hymns. Give us the old hymns”. My friends, have we changed any? One of the contemporary hymns that I believe most of us love is “Lord, Prepare Me to be a Sanctuary.” Note how hymns like that begin to grow on you.

I pray for the day when you may be able to have an accompanist like Rachel Eve, a choir director and song leader, and other musical leadership as needed.

With God’s Love,

Pastor Nik

Something to Chew On, XXXXXX

Easter began with our Sonrise Service being able to be held in our outdoor worship area. Last year, the weather would not allow this. We had a good group of worshipers join us outside for this service in a beautiful setting. Amongst the chirping birds, God’s creation beginning to break forth into new life, and the spirit of a resurrection morning, we could celebrate.

Following our outdoor worship, many gathered in our Fellowship Hall for breakfast. Thanks to all of the preparers who made this possible. Easter worship was truly moving as we celebrated the baptism of Nick Otis, Travis Hendricks, and Tyler Hendricks. My heartfelt thanks to Cliff Thompson, the Chair of our Elders, as I commissioned him to perform the rite of holy baptism on these three fine young men. Baptism recalls that moment of burial and rising to new life with Christ.

I presented each of the baptismal candidates with a burning candle and a salt shaker to remind them that Jesus has called each of us to be the light of the world as well as the salt of the earth. I pray that they may display these significant symbols in a prominent place in their homes to continually remind them of what Jesus actually expects from each one of us.

May the spirit of the resurrection remain with all of you as you prepare to soon welcome Pastor Tracy Siegman into your midst. Pray for her and for one another as you launch a new ministry together.

 

With God’s Love,

Pastor Nik

Something To Chew On, XXXXXIX

Yesterday’s Palm Sunday worship was truly monumental in a variety of ways. The children paraded in with palm branches to be laid at the foot of the cross. Truly my spirit was warmed and uplifted as three young men came forward to make their confessions of faith. Nick Otis, Travis Hendricks, and Tyler Hendricks took a giant step as they began their walk with Christ. I reminded them in a private session that their walk with Christ is like an infant learning how to walk.

There will be times when they may stumble. There will be times when they may need a helping hand or an encouraging word. That’s where all of you as a part of the Christian community at First Christian come into play. You may lend that helping hand. You may offer that encouraging word. Our celebration did not end there. John and Star Ralbovsky came forward to transfer their membership to First Christian. And they were joined by Gail Rudd who came forward to rededicate her life. Extend a warm welcome to each of these new members.

We will conclude our celebration next Sunday with the baptism of Nick, Travis, and Tyler. And we will add to that the celebration of our Lord’s resurrection. In the meantime, join us on Thursday evening as we gather at 7:00 p.m. to recall and be a part of that special feast of remembrance that Jesus has given to us. Next Sunday you will not want to miss our Sonrise Worship at 8 a.m. We hope that we can be outdoors, weather permitting. An Easter Egg hunt will follow. Then we will assemble in our church sanctuary for our joyful resurrection worship. We have a busy week ahead yet it is a week worth your full participation.

 

With God’s Love,

Pastor Nik

Smomething to Chew On, XXXXXVIII

Today, some of you may have had the opportunity to lend assistance or even to get your lunch at One Market and Eatery. Yesterday many of you had the chance to hear the Reverend Dave Wess share about this new ministry and outreach in downtown Middletown.

One Market and Eatery will be open on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. You can pick up a great sandwich or a salad and have the chance to visit with the other diners. The cost is whatever you can pay and hopefully, you will be able to pay more so that someone else who has no resources can have a meal.

There will also be opportunities to help with clean-up, food preparation, and the like. Consider taking your lunch time at One Market and Eatery when you have the chance. It is located at 1316 Vail Avenue just north of Central Avenue. You will be glad that you did.

Your worship team is busy preparing for Holy Week activities. This coming Sunday, we will have a parade of Palms. The following Thursday, join us at 7 p.m. for Maundy Thursday worship and a remembrance of that last supper that Jesus had with his disciples.

On Easter Sunday morning, we will gather outside (weather permitting) for our Easter Sonrise Worship at 8 a.m. Please note the time change. This will be followed by a breakfast in our Fellowship Hall followed by an Easter Egg Hunt and then joyful Easter Worship at 10:30 a.m.

Something to Chew On, XXXXXVII

It was so good to be back in the saddle again and be with you. As I might have said yesterday, most of my work will continue at home since maneuvering in and out of the car becomes difficult. We had a good meeting of the Board following worship. Thanks to all who get their reports in and share them via email with other members of the Board. This was my last Board meeting with you and I only need to complete an annual report as I wind down my ministry with you.

This leads me to stress that annual reports are due in the office by the first of June. This year the plans are to print a very limited number of copies and the annual report will be submitted electronically via email to help save on paper costs.

Summer church camp season will soon be here. To qualify for the early bird rate and receive half off your tuition rate, camp registration forms need to be turned in by April 23rd so that we can get them to the Regional Office prior to May 1. After May 1st, you will be responsible for the difference between the half off cost and the full registration fee.

Please be in prayer for our Regional Office and the sudden resignation of Dr. William H. Edwards.

Holy Week begins April 9th with Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday Worship, Easter Sonrise at 7 a.m. and our joyful Easter worship at 10:30. As a part of our Easter Worship, a baptismal service is being planned. Let us look forward to these special times as we seek to be captured by God’s Empowering vision.

Join us in worship as we welcome the Reverend Dave Wess who will be sharing an opportunity for ministry called “One Market and Eatery” in downtown Middletown.

 

 

With God’s Love,

Pastor Nik

Something to Chew On, XXXXXVII

My dear people, I continue to improve slowly. I started sleeping upstairs last Monday evening. I try to limit my stair activity to one time up and one time down. Any pain is kept in check with ibuprofen. I had an MRI last Tuesday and meet with the orthopedic doctor tomorrow afternoon to get the results and any next steps. Thank you for the calls and cards. I will miss the salad luncheon.

I share with you what I might have said in the pulpit this morning. I remind you of the staff, a symbol of our journey. Pharaoh has set the children of Israel free and they have begun their journey. Their journey and our journey are not without their obstacles at times. The children of Israel often mumbled or complained. I offer two instances.

The first concerns that moment when Israel is brought up to the edge of the sea and no escape is possible. The armies of Pharaoh are rapidly approaching. You hear Israel shout out, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness. What you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt?” You can read about this instance in Exodus 14:10-14.

The second instance occurs when Israel is in the wilderness and without food. Again, they complain. You can read about this in Exodus 16:1-3.

I encouraged you to pay attention to God’s way last week. Yet sometimes we tend to cry out, “Hold on—we have a better way”. I want you to underscore the simple word, “we” and put that beside the word, “God”. Which one will you choose?

You see, these are only two instances and there are many more if you fully read the book of Exodus. You will begin a journey if a different kind in a little more than a month when Pastor Tracy Siegman comes to journey with you. Notice that I did not say that she will come to fully guide your journey. She comes as you work together on the great journey that God has planned for you.

 

With God’s Love,

Pastor Nik

Something to Chew On, XXXXXVI

Well, I did it again. I had a second hitch in my giddy-up. Last Thursday after leaving orchestra rehearsal, a number of the musicians gather at a nearby restaurant for a bite to eat. As I entered the restaurant, I tripped on the threshold and fell straight forward, coming rather hard on my left knee and leg. After recovering from the shock of the fall, I was still able to eat and a fellow musician assisted me to my car.

My wife and I went to the Emergency Room the next morning. After x-rays, it was discovered that I have an effusion on my left knee, a buildup to fluid. My left leg was mobilized in a brace. I also have a very small chipped bone at the bottom of my femur. I see an orthopedic doctor in the morning to check out the next steps.

Fortunately, I still had my walker and use it along with a cane on a limited basis. Right now, I am restricted to staying downstairs and sleeping in my recliner. I am heart sick that I cannot be with you. Until I return I will be sharing most of what I would be saying to you on Sunday mornings through these articles. Therefore, you may find that the articles are bit longer than usual.

I remind you of my title for this morning: Vision—Seeing God’s Way as the Way. God’s empowering vision is just that. It is not something that we attempt to catch or at worst, appoint a committee to come up with a plan. I set the stage last week with the call of Moses.

As the children of Israel were about to depart from the Egyptians, many must have been wondering which way they would go. The staff that I have used a symbol of our journey together will not give us directions. I share with you two very important critical warnings. The first warning concerns where you are now and where you have been. It is so easy for us to say,

“We’re comfortable. Why do we need to change?”

Even in the midst of danger and destruction, we need to acknowledge the goodness and the greatness of God. There is but one way and that is God’s way.

“We live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7, NIV)

I always like to trust the words from Isaiah 55. ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ “declares the Lord.” ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’ (Isaiah 55:8-9, NIV)

In a little less than two months, you will be welcoming Pastor Tracy Siegman as your new pastor. Here is the second warning. She will not bring with her any magic formula that will result in amazing things to happen here. However, allow her to be the catalyst through which God can speak and enable you to envision God’s empowering vision for you and the future. Walk by faith with her so that you may discern God’s way as the way.

With God’s Love,

Pastor Nik

Something to Chew On, XXXXXV

Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, that forty-day period not including Sundays that helps us to get ready for Easter. Lent is always a time of introspection, examining where we are in our relationship to God, to Jesus, to our church, and to one another. One of my favorite scriptures comes from Psalm 139 which speaks so powerfully of the ways in which God knows us.

I also think of Lent as a time when we seek to remove those things that get in the way of our sincerely knowing and appreciating what God has done for us. I liken this to our efforts at this time of the year to engage in spring cleaning. As you drive about you will see families engaged in preparing their yards and flower beds for the mowing season that will soon be upon us.

My wife and I always take the time during Lent to go through out closets, clean out that which we have not worn for some time and donate those items to one of the nearby pantries. Personally, I will be bringing some boxes of books and putting them out for members to take. What remains I will take to a used bookstore.

Often, we have the carpets cleaned after a year’s wear and tear. Of course, when the weather warms, I will power wash and scrub the deck as well as wipedown the outdoor furniture.

Spring cleaning becomes a symbol of Lent as we prepare our hearts and ourspirits for all of the goodness and abiding love that God offers to us.

 

With God’s Love

Pastor Nik

 

Something to Chew On, XXXXXIV

In this age of political uncertainty when you hear of conflicting reports of what our leaders are up to, there is one abiding principle that we can apply. We may not fully agree with what has been said. It is then that we need to apply the principle of love and consider the ways in which our love and the love of God can speak far louder and with much more power than what we hear that may go against the grain of the foundation of our belief.

I think first and foremost of the teaching of Jesus when he said, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgement you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.” (Matthew 7:1-2, NRSV) He then went on to comparing this to the speck you might see in your neighbor’s eye as opposed to the log that you might have in your own eye.

Often we are too quick to be both the judge and the jury before we have recognized our own selfish thoughts. Let us always remember that love is not angry. Love does not hold a grudge. Rather it looks with kindness and compassion on what others say, do, or believe.

Very shortly, we will be moving into the season of Lent, that forty days prior to Easter, not counting Sundays. I invite you to join us starting just one week from Wednesday with our Ash Wednesday worship. Throughout the season of Lent, I will be focusing on the theme, Captured by Vision.

 

With God’s Love,

 

Pastor Nik