Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Wind at Your Back

I love to ride my bicycle. I especially love to ride my bicycle at the shore. I can hop on it at our front door, and ride for 10-12 miles. There’s not much traffic. There are bike lanes in places, wide berms in others. There are sights to see—marsh, beach, even a lighthouse. And there is also wind—no hills to climb—but wind that, when you are pedaling, feels like a hill. During a recent ride, I found myself singing to myself a song, the words of which are that familiar blessing: “May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back.” And as I was pedaling, it occurred to me that in my rides at the shore, the wind is NOT always at my back. When I ride at the shore, my route is kind of like a giant oval, and so, for half of it, the wind is at my back, but for the other half of it, I’m going against the wind. If I wanted the wind to be always at my back, I would have to keep going the same direction. I could never turn back. And that struck me as a kind of metaphor. God blesses us when we bother to pay attention to the direction that the wind of God’s Spirit is blowing. Oh, sometimes in life, we probably have to pedal against the wind. Sometimes in life, we probably have to climb the mountain, but if life is nothing but a slog, maybe we need to pay better attention to the direction the wind is blowing. For God blesses us when we move in that direction, not turning back, but continuing to move in the direction that the wind is blowing—in the direction that God’s Spirit is carrying us.
--Pastor Don Steele

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Compassion at the Concession Stand

Every parent had to take a turn working in the concession stand. That was the rule if your child was playing soccer, and a few years ago, if you knew us while we were living in Pennsylvania, you would have known that we had a child who played soccer—our youngest son. Like many of you, a few years ago, it felt like our lives revolved around his schedule. Anyway, it was my turn to work the grill, and I was doing that with the father of another player on the team. We started to talk, and for some reason, he started talking about his mother. She had fallen and broken a hip, and he was deeply concerned for her and for how he was going to care for her. I listened. I nodded my head. I made small comments. And as he was winding down from the story, I said to him, “Please know that I’ll be praying for her—and for you.” That was the only religious thing I said. He wasn’t a particularly religious guy, but he was caught up short. “Thanks,” he said, a tear actually in his eye, “I really appreciate that.” Given that our sons played soccer, there was another game two days later. When I saw him, I asked how his mother was doing, and again, he gave me the full story, and again, I offered only one religious comment, “Well, I will keep praying,” and again, he thanked me, sincerely. His mother was not miraculously healed, nor did he turn into a church regular, but I like to think that a seed was planted. I think that those of us who find meaning in religious commitment need to find ways to talk about that, but I think that we need to talk about this part of our lives in ways that are not obnoxious—in ways that are authentic and compassionate.
-Pastor Don Steele

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Morning Has Broken

It happened just this past Sunday morning at the 8:30 service. We were in the Cloister Garden for that service, and it was a particularly beautiful morning out there—a cool breeze stirring the leaves, water trickling through the fountain, the sun dappling the flagstones. We opened the service with the hymn, “Morning Has Broken.” 

“Morning has broken like the first morning,” we began to sing. “Blackbird has spoken like the first bird.” And as we reached that very line, some actual birds—I don’t know what kind—began to make quite a racket somewhere up in one of the trees. You could hear them over top the keyboard, over top our voices singing. They weren’t in key. “Praise for the singing!” we went on. “Praise for the morning! Praise for them, springing fresh from the Word!” And, I suppose, you could have seen the birds’ noise as a disruption. In the normal course of my life, I might have! But with the words of the hymn in front of us, it wasn’t a disruption, an annoyance. It was a blessing. And I wonder how often this happens in life—the disruptions, the annoyances that, if we could just view them another way, we would see in them blessing from the hand of God. “Do you have eyes, and fail to see?” Jesus asked his disciples when they found themselves worried, perhaps annoyed with each other. “Do you have ears, and fail to hear?” (Mark 8:18). And sometimes, I wonder if our eyes fail really to see the everyday holiness—if our ears fail to hear God’s song of blessing filling the air we breathe.

--Pastor Don Steele

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

I Love Music

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing.” Psalm 100:1
“Be filled with the Spirit as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts.” Ephesians 5:19

            OK, I am going to admit it: I love music. I love almost all kinds of music. I love to listen to music. I love to sing music. Music, more than just about anything, moves me—especially when music is combined with words.  And in the Bible there is this assumed connection between music, even singing, and worshiping God. The idea that you could be in relationship with the Lord without a song in your heart seems to be as foreign to the people of the Bible as is the idea that you going for a swim wearing blue jeans.

            Of course, here at Central, we are blessed with incredible music—a fantastic organ, abundant pianos, incredibly talented musicians who can play and sing, a congregation that likes to sing along. And on July 30, we’ll have the chance to spend our worship time singing the songs of the Church—favorite hymns set in the context of the Church year, which begins in November with the first Sunday of Advent, and concludes with the season of Pentecost—“ordinary” time, stretching from the day of Pentecost in the late spring through Thanksgiving.

            I hope that you will sing with us that Sunday. I hope that you will take this opportunity to tell us about some of the things you really like to sing. And I hope, as you go about your life this summer and beyond, that there is music in it—a song that makes your heart sing.

--Pastor Don Steele

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

United Community

I think many of us remember the Father's Day sermon that Pastor Don gave a few years ago after the shooting in a Charleston AME church- telling us that it was going to take a whole lot of fathers and mothers to change the world into a place where children of all backgrounds can be united together in friendship and common purpose.

Our Vacation Bible School was born out of that call and that purpose- a way for children from diverse churches to come together to experience God's love- learning to live into that diversity as the church. Some have called Sunday morning the most segregated hour of the week- we have worked with our partners from around Summit to make sure that VBS is one of the most inclusive. 

We are excited about our upcoming VBS- working with churches from all over Summit to teach our kids not only about the truths of the Bible in stories. We will be teaching children that they are created in God's Image to love and serve the Lord, God built them for a purpose, it is our Christian vocation to love God and to love others. We are also showing children that we are all made in the image of God. Because we are joining with historically black and Spanish language communities, as well as more evangelical traditions, children are coming from diverse backgrounds and ethnic groups- different traditions- but all united by our love of God. 

We are so pleased to be including Spanish language as part of our week- we will have our posters and rooms in two languages, some of our prayers and songs in Spanish and many of our leaders in kids adding a new voice and language to our VBS tradition. 

In a world where diversity is a growing value- where we recognize the need for diverse voices in business, academics and leadership, where we know that colleges and employees value diversity in every candidate they consider, we are so excited to also work together to build a church community where diversity is honored.  At Central Church we know that when we come together as a diverse people that we better represent God's image- all created in the image of God- it makes me think of how beautiful God must be. 

This year promises to be a great one in Vacation Bible School. We have fantastic music and stories, snacks, games, crafts and gizmos. We have decorations and Bible stories and little reminders of God's love that children will be able to carry with them throughout the year- but beyond all of that, at VBS this year we have a community- a community of churches from different backgrounds and groups- different traditions- all coming together as one to love our children and to teach them about God. 

Children from Kindergarten-5th grade are invited to register as participants, while youth and adults in 6th grade and up are invited to register as leaders.

We cannot wait for VBS!

Pastor Deborah