A Note from Pastor Jenni

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July 10, 2024

I love the Bible stories of the Old Testament: Creation, Noah, Moses, Daniel, and his friends.  There is something about those characters and their stories that seem like old friends.  They are companions that I have walked with my entire life.  Their stories are those that quickly come to mind.  I have often thought of those stories and the lessons they taught me in my childhood and thought about the deeper lessons those same stories can teach me as a grown-up.  From that thought has come the sermon series we begin this week that will carry us through the remainder of the summer!

I Love to Tell the Story: In the Beginning.  It all started out of nothing…God created everything.  And everything was GOOD!  There is such beauty and imagination in the creation story as God formed and fashioned all that our eyes behold.  I love to ponder God’s creativity as he stretched the giraffes neck, painted the stripes on the zebra, selected the bright colors for the flowers and the birds.  The crowning glory to all of God’s handiwork was Adam and Eve.  God walked with them in the garden…I wonder what those conversations were like.

All was well…until it wasn’t!  The second part of the creation story is one of disobedience and disappointment.  When Adam and Eve made a choice, listened to the serpent and gave into temptation everything changed.  Their eyes were opened.  Their relationships altered forever. 

In preparation for Sunday I invite you to read the creation narrative Genesis 1-3.  Bonus assignment: read it in a few different translations and see how the story that is so familiar comes to life in a new way!

I hope that you will join with me on this summer adventure as we look at familiar stories with new “grown-up” lenses.  We will ask the questions: What is the deeper lesson of this story?  In light of this story, how does God still interact with us today?  How does this story speak to me today? 

Blessings,
Pastor Jenni

 

The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it.  
But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden—
except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.”

(Genesis 1:15-17, NLT)

July 3, 2024

As we get ready to celebrate the 4th of July I often like to think about what our founding fathers thought about as they signed a document of treason against the crown.

Our Declaration of Independence was carefully constructed and wordsmithed into the document we have today…it is far from perfect but its words still ring true and something for us to strive towards.  It begins:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

I love those words that our country was founded upon – words that hold so much meaning – words that we still have a long way to go in order to live into those truths.  

Over these past few weeks and months I have been thinking a lot about the world – and our nation – and the time that we are finding ourselves in…this moment of time where there is tension and unease around every corner.  Where words are being scrutinized and history is being re-examined through a different lens.  And I have found myself heartbroken by what I see, and what I hear…

I believe there is so much focus on what divides us – our political affiliation, our skin color, our gender, sexual orientation, working class, bank account numbers, age, education, religion, what car we drive, what neighborhood we live in – but very little about what we have in common, what it is that unites us.  

As we approach this National Holiday focused on our freedom and independence (from England) let us also focus on our freedom (from sin) and our dependence (upon God.)  May we look to what unites us and work toward peace and harmony in our lives, our community and our world.

Blessings,
Pastor Jenni

You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. 
You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. 
Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.

(Eph 4:4-6 MSG)

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June 26, 2024

Power of Prayer

The Apostle Paul begins his letter to the Church in Colossae:

In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God…

For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, so that you may have all endurance and patience, joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. (Colossians 1:3-12)

This month we have been hosting a Bible study on prayer.  It is based on a book by Max Lucado called Before Amen.  The premise is that prayer doesn’t have to be convoluted or complicated, prayer at it’s best is simply speaking those things that are on you heart to our God who loves us and wants the best for us.

In our third session, They Need Help¸ Max talked about how he gathered a group of people together to pray for the church…and the result was remarkable!  They grew in number, with records for worship attendance and the giving numbers exceeded expectations.  It is truly remarkable what God can do when his people pray!

This sparked conversation and a dedication to pray for Emmanuel daily!  We have all heard by now that Emmanuel is running on an unsustainable deficit budget.  Our Session is faithfully considering ways we can reduce our deficit and increase our revenue.  These are not easy conversations nor are there any quick fix solutions.  The one thing that I have held to is we are not to panic or make drastic decisions but instead pray.  Pray first!  Pray last!  Pray always!

This is what I want to invite you to do along with us…pray!  Pray for Emmanuel!  Pray that God will continue to provide for our needs.  Pray that we will continue to be faithful stewards of all the resources God has given us.  Pray for our growth – spiritually, financially and physically!  Pray that God continues to use us in mighty ways.  And pray that God will show YOU how to respond, how to be his hands and feet in our community and beyond.  Let us commit to praying daily for Emmanuel over the next month and witness how God’s answers our prayer!

Amazing things happen when the people of God pray! 

Blessings,
Pastor Jenni

Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven’t stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works.   We pray that you’ll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.

(Col 1:9-12 MSG)

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June 19, 2024

Have you ever thought about how you might contain God?  How you would package up God and take him with you?  It is truly an impossible task but one that I think is fun to think about.

Is your vision of God small, pocket size, that would fit into a tiny container?  Is your image of God medium, tote bag size, one that could fit nicely into a bag or backpack?  Is your idea of God large or even extra-large, needing a container that is a little more unruly but still portable?  Or is God so vast to you that there aren’t enough containers to hold God?  I admit to all of the above at times when I think about God.  For me God is often pocket size, easy to carry and take with me.  While at the same time God is so grand that he is truly uncontainable!

Depending on the day, I also feel God’s presence differently.  At times God is so close and I imagine I feel his breath on my cheek.  Other times God seems distant, so far away that I barely know he is there.  And still in other rare moments, God feels completely absent…all of these are very normal feelings! 

Romans 5 is often a comfort to me in those times where God feels less than close. It is a great reminder of how God is always with us, a constant presence even when times are tough.  There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

So, maybe we can’t contain God!  But we can be assured that God goes with us wherever we go.  In the good times and in the struggles, God is with us.  God goodness and mercy continues to pour into our lives…so much so that we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything!

Blessings,
Pastor Jenni

In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. 
Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!
(Romans 5:5, MSG)

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