What is Your Favorite Season in the Church?

ImageImageImageImageDear Grayce,

Easter is my favorite season.

Matthew says on Easter morning Mary Magdalene and another woman also named Mary were going to visit the tomb where they had placed Jesus after he was killed. Can you imagine how they must have felt, Grayce? Have you ever been so sad that you wondered if you would ever feel happy again? They must have felt that way. They watched their teacher – their friend – die on the cross. He helped them feel closer to God. He taught them how to love one another. And now he was gone. Would they ever be happy again?

When they get to the grave, they feel the earth shaking. Matthew says an angel came from heaven and rolled the heavy stone that sat in front of Jesus’ tomb. Then the angel just sat on the stone, dangling his feet over the edge. His first words them were, “Do not be afraid.”

You know how you and all your friends come to the church on the Saturday before Easter and hunt eggs? If you notice, the cross in the Courtyard is draped in black on that day. The black cloth helps us remember that Jesus was still dead in the grave on that Saturday long ago. You and your church friends hunt all those brightly-colored, treat-filled eggs on the same day that Mary and her friends were crying because they were sad and afraid. I used to think that maybe we shouldn’t be hunting eggs on such a sad day. But then I saw something that changed my mind.

A few years ago we put a Memorial Garden in our Courtyard. We built a beautiful brick wall, and a grassy space where we could bury the ashes of members of our church family after they die. Sometimes when we stand next to that wall we are very sad and afraid. Someone we love has died and we miss them very much. We wonder what life will be like without people like Millard, Margot, Nick, Charles, Lillian, Gloria, John, and Betty.

When we first built the Memorial Garden, I worried children might play on it, and it would be disrespectful. When I mentioned my worries to one of our older members, she laughed and said, “I like the idea of children playing on it. One day I will be buried out there, and knowing there are children running and laughing all around me brings me joy.”

Sure enough, during the first Easter Egg Hunt after the Memorial Garden was built, I looked up and saw a child sitting on the wall laughing and counting eggs, her feet dangling off the edge.

And now every time I stand in our Memorial Garden, even when I am very sad, I remember the angel from Matthew’s Easter story, the one who sat on the stone with his feet dangling off the edge. He still speaks the same words, “Do not be afraid.”

Grayce, if you are ever sad or afraid, I hope you will remember that angel as well, and know that the promises of Easter are for you too. And if it helps, go sit on the wall in the garden, let your feet dangle off the edge, and tell God exactly how you feel. I promise you God will hear you, and God cares. I believe this, because I believe that Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! That’s why Easter is my favorite season.

Peace,

Pastor Chris

Advertisements

When was the church built? Why do we celebrate Communion?

Image

Dear Myers,

When I was your age, one of my favorite things to do was sit at the big round oak table in our kitchen and eat a meal with my family. During those meals we might laugh, or cry, or be rather silent; we ate food that sometimes I liked (pork chops) and sometimes I didn’t (anything with green peppers); we talked about how school was going, or the soccer game we just played, or the plans for the next day. Sometimes at that table, we had to have hard conversations. Maybe one or more of the four of us (all boys) was in trouble, and we were all being reminded of what our parents expected of us.

If you ask me when my family was started, I might tell you about my great, great, great grandfather, who was a traveling preacher. He would ride his horse up to the front of the house and have his grandson walk with him out to the barn. As they walked with the horse, he would tell his grandson all about his travels. Those stories inspired my great grandfather not to be a preacher, but to go on an adventure to Mexico and Texas that ended with him being asked to leave town (something about hiding in a pickle barrel and being found by an angry store owner). 

Those stories, and many more like them, help me understand my family and how it got started. I know a little bit more about why we lived where we did, who all the people were I met at family gatherings, and maybe even why I felt called to be a minister. 

My family started with those people and places and stories from long ago. But I think my family was built around that oak table in the kitchen. That was where we learned how to love each other, how to forgive one another, how to be a family. 

So there are two answers to your question. The church where you and your family worship was started  in 1811 when Gideon Blackburn, a traveling preacher, rode his horse into the very small town of Franklin and got a few men and women to agree to be part of the First Presbyterian Church. And our congregation is part of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), a family of churches that was started in 1706 in Philadelphia. And our great, great, great grandparent churches were started in places like Scotland and Switzerland and France. And even before there was such a thing as a Presbyterian Church, there was the Catholic Church, and the very earliest churches that started in homes right after the time of Jesus. So you are part of a very large church family that goes back 2,000 years. 

But the church is built every time we gather around the table, and we remember the words, “This is my body, broken for you; this is my blood, shed for you.” When we eat together, we remember this story, but we also know Jesus is with us, right here and now. Every time we eat this bread and drink from this cup, we are learning how to love each other, how to welcome all people, how to forgive one another, how to be the church. 

Paul says in the Bible that the church is the “Body of Christ.” Another biblical writer says to “let yourselves be built into a spiritual house.” Every time we celebrate Communion, we are being built by God.

Myers, I know your family eats a lot of meals at your table at home. And, knowing your family, I’m sure you laugh a whole lot. But you and your sisters are also doing something else at that table. You are being built into people who know how to love, how to forgive, how to live as children of God, how to be a family. It is a real blessing. 

It is also a real blessing to be able to share Communion in worship. And I’m really glad that you are a part of this church family, being built along with the rest of us into the Body of Christ. The next time we celebrate Communion in worship, I hope you will remember that right then, in that very moment, the church is being built, and that you are an important part of our family.

Peace,

Pastor Chris