Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Disagreeing Agreeably

We’ve all heard it said: “We have agreed to disagree agreeably.” We’ve heard that said, but it seems that it is, in our times, increasingly a rare feat. In part, I think that is because we do not really listen to each other. Instead, we shout at each other, assigning the worst possible motives to folks who think differently than we do, disagreeing disagreeably, with a lack of charity towards each other, with a vulgarity that is embarrassing. 

“We have agreed to disagree agreeably.” And maybe one of the central roles for Central is to take a lead in helping to foster the ability to do that. This week, you will have that opportunity, on Sunday, October 15, during Take Ten, when members of the Peace Islands Institute will be here, sharing some Turkish treats, and ready to engage in conversation with you about what life is like in Turkey, a nation with which the United States finds itself increasingly at odds. And on this Wednesday, October 18, you will have the opportunity to interact with community leaders with various viewpoints about how clean energy impacts the economy, our community and our families. In both settings, I hope that you will come to listen, to learn, and maybe to experience what it is to agree to disagree agreeably.

--Pastor Don Steele

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Why We Don’t Have to Live Discouraged

This Monday marked the worst shooting in US history. Our hearts break as a church, community, and people of faith. As we learned about the event in disbelief, it’s hard to find our bearings. Sometimes it feels like tragedy just keeps unfolding on the wide-screen of our TV’s and in our very lives.

            I remember hearing an encouragement to “look for the helpers” in the wake of the Boston Marathon tragedy. Mr. Rogers, the popular children's television icon, coined that phrase as a sign of active hope.  He said, "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world."

            As the country lit candles, sang songs, pledged dollars, and honored rescue workers this week, we have seen those helpers. Living in New York City during 9/11, I can testify that that show of solidarity indeed means something. But I believe as a people of faith, our job isn’t just to look for the helpers; our job is to be the helpers.

            It is through the eyes of people who have suffered that we can see the suffering of others anew. We can work to bless others who are in pain. We can bind together what once was broken, and in our effort to mend fences, the holes in our hearts can heal too. The miraculous promises of our Savior are active in the world partially to the extent that we open ourselves up to be those "helpers" — in the broader communal sense and at home. Here are some ways we can do that:

·         Pray. This isn’t a trite, quick-fix solution; the Bible promises that it unlocks the power of God to move redemptively.
·         Give. We can send money, supplies, or handwritten letters to those who are hurting. Recently, my youngest son made teddy bears for children affected by Hurricane Irma at his school. He was so proud to help make a difference for another child.
·         Model. I love the quote: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Whether we’re modeling with our life or patiently teaching character-building to our children, we should never underestimate our power to plant positive seeds. These seeds can grow and become much more impactful than any tragedy, as they are not limited to a single event, but rather reflected over an entire lifetime.

This week and always, remember your God-given power to make a difference. Share your tears, open your palms, and shine your light.

In Christ’s Love,

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Praising God

This weekend in worship, we will be reading Psalm 150- Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! As we celebrate the last weekend of Summer it seems especially fitting to praise God- praising God for our blessings, praising God for time with our family and friends, for the expansive easiness of summer, and praising God as we prepare for fall.
For believers, praise is our response to God. It’s the feeling that wells up in us when we see a beautiful coastline or a magnificent mountain view. It’s our response to God when we see the blessings in our lives- restoration to health or relationship. As we grow in faith we cultivate this response and communication- learning to see God at work in our lives, we respond with Praise.
This week we have had terrible news pouring in from Texas. Many of us with personal connections are hearing stories of flooding and fear, of those who are lost or struggling, and we pray that God will bring peace and comfort. We are also hearing those stories of rescue trucks and boats, of warm socks and neighbors reaching out- looking at the helpers, we see God in the middle of the flood, and we respond to God with praise.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Sound Boards

Earlier this month, I got to run the sound system in the Sanctuary for Vacation Bible School. The sound board in the Sanctuary has each microphone marked. When you want to hear what a person is saying through a microphone, or you want to turn up the volume so that you don’t miss some of what somebody is saying, you slide that button up; and when you don’t want to hear what a person is saying through a microphone, or you want to turn down the volume to remove distortion, you slide that button down. It was kind of fun to run the sound board. And I started to wonder about how valuable it would be to have a sound board in life—a way to turn up voices that I wanted or needed to hear, and a way to turn down voices that I didn’t want or didn’t need to hear. Because there are so many voices saying all sorts of things on television, on social media, through interaction at home or at work. And sometimes, it seems to be so loud, and it can all get to be so confusing. And so, how do I get a sound board that can work in my life as well as the one works in the Sanctuary so that, ultimately, I can filter through the cacophony so that I can hear God’s voice?
--Pastor Don Steele

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