Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Birds of the Air

            It was a bit ironic that on Sunday, June 18, we began worship with a passage from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter six, in which Jesus reassures people that they do not have to live overwhelmed with anxiety because they can trust God. And the verse that we lifted up that morning was this one: “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them” (Matthew 6:26). And it was ironic to begin worship that Sunday with that verse referring to “the birds of the air” because during the preceding week, one of those birds of the air—a pigeon, to be exact had taken up residence in Central Church’s Sanctuary. We assumed it flew in through one of the open windows in the Sanctuary, and while we tried to help it to find its way back outside, it found its own way eventually into a large organ pipe from which it could not seem to escape. That Sunday, June 18, a number of organ pipes were still disassembled, removed on the preceding Friday so that the organ tuners could reach the pipe. They were able to set free the pigeon, which flew off from the Maple Street lawn, alive and well.

            Of course, in the passage in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus was trying to reassured people who were worried and anxious. They could trust God, Jesus told them, and he pointed to “the birds of the air” as an example of how God takes care of God’s creation. “The birds of the air” don’t worry. Indeed, “the birds of the air” are presented by Jesus as being pretty passive. God feeds them. God takes care of them. And yet, in many ways in contrast to what Jesus was saying in Matthew’s Gospel about “the birds of the air,” that week, we were not passive, waiting for God to take care of the pigeon. The pigeon needed our help, and so we did something.

            And that leads me to two thoughts. First, from time to time, we all need some help along the way, because we all can get trapped. And, sure, we can spend time blaming ourselves or listening to others blame us for the choices that we made that ended up in us getting ourselves trapped, but what use is there in that? When somebody is trapped, they just need some help, and all of us need some help from time to time, and there does not need to be any shame in that.

And second, from time to time, when somebody is trapped and in need of help, it is our hands through which God helps and feeds and sets free. Indeed, it seems to me that is usually how God works—not through some disembodied miracle, but through human beings, using our hands and our mouths and our minds to help each other along the way.

It is hard to know how the pigeon felt when it flew off that Friday, but I know how I felt. I felt relieved, truly glad that the pigeon was alive and well and free again.

--Pastor Don Steele

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Little Children

I just got back from watching the end of the year programs put on by the children of our Weekday Nursery School and Kindergarten. They were wonderful! And as I watched those precious children singing about Mommy and Daddy in a room filled with Mommies and Daddies, not to mention Grandma’s and Grandpa’s, I couldn’t help but remember that exactly one week before, I was watching the Broadway musical, Dear Evan Hansen. Evan Hansen is a 17 year old boy who is isolated and filled with self-doubt. As the backstory goes, his parents divorced when he was 7, his father moving away and starting a new family. Evan grew up being largely ignored by his father. And as the story unfolds onstage, you can’t help but wonder how that experience impacted him. And as I stood here at Central today, I couldn’t help but be struck by how precious these children are, entrusted to our care and worth everything that we can muster to support, to nurture, to see and to hear.

Friday, June 2, 2017

We Must Do Better

Yesterday, I was driving to the church, listening to NPR when I heard that on Wednesday, somebody left a noose at the Smithsonian Museum of African American History & Culture. A noose. NPR had a guest on speaking about it, Carol Anderson, the author of "White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of our Racial Divide". She suggested that after the investigation into the act, the museum ought to implement the noose into an exhibit to show that racism is alive and bold in 2017. Seems like a brilliant idea to me. It's devastating to hear stories like this. Just when we start to get comfortable in our own little world...boom, a dose of reality that shows us how far we still have to go. We must learn and then come to terms with our nation's real, sometimes ugly history. We have to put ourselves in situations where we meet people unlike us, and realize there is nothing to be afraid of. In fact, there is a lot to learn from people who don't share the same background as ourselves. A LOT. We have to do it for ourselves. We have to do it for our children. We have to do it for future generations, so that we can create a new chapter in the history books. It seems like every day we get another dose of bad news, so we have to individually, and then collectively, work hard to change that narrative. We must do better. Humanity desperately needs it. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

May Flowers

As May continues at Central we find that just as the flowers and plants are budding and growing around us that we are also feeling growth at Central. We are so so grateful to our volunteers and leaders who minister to our children and community-based for their growth as leaders and the growth of our children and youth in faith, generosity and knowledge.  We are grateful for growth in our partnership with churches and community groups and for our growing presence in the community.
     Most of our growth at Central is just like the budding of the cherry blossoms and daffodils- buds and blossoms from trees planted long ago and nurtured over time. We are admire the wisdom and vision of so many lay leaders who thoughtfully worked to form partnerships, to develop relationships and to do the hard work of preparation and building. Thanks to all of you!
     This summer there is so much to look forward to at Central- Vacation Bible School, Mission Trip, Service at Central- we hope that as we continue to do the work of ministry- participating in the work of God in the world, that we find time to enjoy the fruits of our labor at the church- growing friendships, connections to churches and communities, opportunities to learn and grow in Christ's love. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Mother's Day Commencement

I will not be in church on Mother’s Day this year. Instead, I will be at Rutgers University as our youngest son graduates. At first, it seemed to be odd to have his commencement on Mother’s Day, but the more that I’ve thought about it, the less odd it has seemed to me.
            He is the younger of our two boys, and so this commencement marks a real change for us—the commencement of a new phase of life for our family. Our children, our kids, the ones we brought home from the hospital, played with as toddlers, sent off to the first day of school, snapped prom pictures in their rented tuxedos—they are grown up. Graduating from college is the commencement of adulthood, in a way, it seems. And on Sunday, this Mother’s Day, both of our boys will have graduated.
            And yet, Donna and I remain their parents. That is the thing that you discover as you move through life. You remain parents. On this Mother’s Day, we will commence a new kind of relationship, to be sure—a relationship, not with boys, but with young men, making their way, finding their place. When they were younger, we were, as their parents, more active, more in control. But now, all sense of control is gone, and we are more passive—our hearts still powerfully linked to them and what happens to them, but with so much less to say about what happens to them.
            All of which makes it seem to me to be less odd to think about sitting in the stands as our youngest son graduates this Mother’s Day—removed from corsages and Hallmark cards and brunch—deeply engaged in matters of the heart with the two human beings on the face of this earth who made the biggest change in our lives, making Donna a mother, me a father—the two most precious gifts we have received from the hand of the loving God.

--Pastor Don Steele

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Breaking News!

Do you yearn for practical tips to help you enrich family time and foster greater peace within?

Do you feel empty and dissatisfied as you parent, like you've lost yourself along the way?

Do you long to live with a deeper sense of purpose and personal fulfillment?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I hope you will watch the recent episode of my parenting TV series, Chaos to Calm. I interview Central’s own Pam Robertson and Time Management Coach Lisa Allen for important answers to these questions. Watch “The Chaos of Unfulfillment” here.

Living in tune with our life purpose can afford us richer fulfillment indeed. I have been exploring that topic this year on many fronts. In addition to watching the episode, I invite you to read my recent article for on three steps to discerning life purpose by clicking here. This article includes insights I preached about at WAVE as part of the New Year, New You series.

Now, I am delighted to report that I will be exploring life purpose further in my first book! The PC(USA) has contracted me to write a book for their best-selling Being Reformed workbook series. The book will be an interactive discernment tool to help people live more fully into God’s plan for their lives. Thank you to Deborah for playing a part in this exciting development by connecting me with the publisher!

In terms of other upcoming news, I will be preaching at the WAVE service on May 21st. I will be exploring one of Jesus’ beatitudes, his basic teachings from the Sermon on the Mount. WAVE services are kid-friendly and begin at 5 pm.

Also, the last episode of this season’s Chaos to Calm will air later this month! It will feature Pastor Don, Pastor Deborah, Charity, and Adam. Tune in to discover something new about each of them and what makes their work at Central so special. A meaningful church connection is certainly an important step for families looking to move from chaos to calm!

Until Then,
–Pastor Noelle Kirchner

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