Archive for the 'Thought' Category

Pondering Peacemaking

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What does it mean to be a peacemaker?

Of course, I know Jesus’ words on the subject: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

But HOW?

With all the rancor seen in the world today, with so many people at odds with others, how can I be a peacemaker?

Perhaps it starts with me.

Instead of looking to foster peace between others in conflict, I should first address the conflict within me.

Why am *I* upset? What is it that moves me, shakes me, disturbs me?

Why am I NOT at peace with so many events happening around the world, in my community, and in my own life?

Could it be that I’ve lost sight of my Father?

Could it be that I’ve forgotten who I am, and Who has me?

I *am* a child of I AM.

THAT is my identity. That will always be true, whether I remember it consistently or not. I have been adopted into God’s family.

When I focus on the conflict I see, I absorb that conflict. I didn’t think I was that empathic, but — surprise, surprise — apparently, I get upset when I see those who are upset.

When I focus on the Father who sees all sides of the conflict that I witness, I am able to be at peace.

I remember Whose I am.

I AM.

We Are Unleashed!

We Are Unleashed! Sermon Audio Here

Acts 1:8

Last weekend was the 64th Annual Meeting of the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches.

2018 NACCC Annual Meeting Highlights:

Council Reports

  • Approved recommendation of 3 new churches
  • Consolidated two offices into one
  • Approved 2018-19 budget
  • Our churches donated $116,000 to churches who faced disaster needs around the world
  • Started regional convocations around the country – Midwest and Northeast
  • Developing a lay ministry training program – distance learning with mentors and cohort
  • Adopted new mission statement: “To nurture fellowship among Congregational Christian Churches and support ministries of the local church in its community and to the world, all in the name of Christ” AND vision statement for the NACCC: “Vital and healthy Congregational churches, sharing the love of Jesus the Christ”

Bible Lectures by Terry Lindvall: M.Div from Fuller; doctorate thesis on CS Lewis. Ordained in Congregational Church in 1973. President of Regent University. Fellow at William and Mary. Author.

Acts 1:8 – “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you shall be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth”

• Witness is a noun and verb
• What is a good witness – from a lawyer

  • Remember what was seen
  • Each witness has their own style and sight
  • Power of witness is in the details – what happens when we see and hear
  • Witness answers truthfully and without guile or agenda

• Three areas of witness in Scripture

  • Torah and Law as first witness
    o Jews set up stones along the way as a witness for their return.
    => Ex: Finding Dory – shells lead back to home. All of us are ‘like living stones’
  • Creation Itself as second witness
    o The heavens declare the glory of God – Psalm 96 –
  • Witness of the saints
    o People in Scripture were passionate livers of God’s grace. We are surrounded by this hall of witnesses – they are eccentric, sort of crazy, and strange.

Three Take-aways:

  1. we recognize we are witnesses of God’s love. Deuteronomy 6.
  2. we recognize God’s glory in creation and bear witness
  3. we learn to witness the odd and flawed characters of God’s people.
  • How do you witness of Jesus?
  • How do we bring forth Christ?

A Pastor’s Response To Politics

This is an article I wrote for our church newsletter after last year’s election. I thought it might be worth capturing here.

Dear church family,

As I read through Facebook on the morning after the election, I realized I should say something. I don’t **need** to say something; there are others more eloquent than I am who have said many encouraging and hopeful things. I’m just one man.

However, I am just one man who has a responsibility to stand up for what is right. As a follower of Jesus, I am bound to follow His example. As a student of Scripture, I take seriously the promises found in the prophets that justice will roll on like waters, righteousness like an ever-flowing stream (Amos 5:24, for those of you who like to fact-check.)

I pledge that I will stand up for the poor, the oppressed, and those who are getting the short end of the stick in today’s society. Do I support sin? May it never be! But I *will* let my guts be moved with compassion for those who receive judgment from those not qualified to judge. “Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts, will be gracious…” because boy, oh, boy, do we need God’s graciousness right about now. (Amos 5:15 for the reference)

As a pastor, I will preach and teach and admonish and encourage our congregation (and everyone who has ears to hear) that we must be full of grace and truth, that we must put on love and put off hate (Colossians 3). We MUST be willing to move beyond business-as-usual, and demonstrate over and over and OVER AGAIN that we belong to God’s Kingdom, and we’re committed to building His spiritual work right here. We are the both the workers AND the building materials for God’s house of worship (1 Peter 2).

We must stand with the poor, be counted with the unfairly treated, loose the chains of injustice, and do all this in all humility and gentleness of spirit, for it is God’s work we are to be about (Isaiah 58:6-10).

To finally borrow once again from Amos: Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say He is. (5:14) Let us seek what is good together, friends.

KFJ, Pastor Ed

 Vote Jesus

What I learned as Shrek

I had a wonderful opportunity this month to be another person in Shrek the Musical. My daughters convinced me to try out (“Dad, you’d be the PERFECT Shrek”), and I was very glad I took their advice. I got to work with a wonderful cast and crew of some of the most talented people i’ve ever known.

SOME of the Moses Lake cast of Shrek the Musical

the Moses Lake cast of Shrek the Musical

As I focused on getting to know Shrek’s story, and as we all worked to put the show together, I learned a few things I’d like to share. Some were learned from the script, and some from the show.

People get in the way. That’s okay – reminder that you’re not doing this by yourself.

  • Trying to get from one point to another backstage is not easy in a working show. There are LOTS of people in our cast, and I had to get around and through groups of people. I reminded myself that these wonderful people weren’t in my way – they are a PART of my journey, and it’s not something I could do by myself. I’m glad of their presence backstage, on stage, and in my life.

Putting up walls doesn’t really help.

  • Shrek talks about his desire to Build A Wall. But putting up walls to protect yourself also leads to isolation. He comes to the realization that he needs to tear down his wall, and build a spot for someone else to join him. He gained a good bit of wisdom at the end; he’s a good role model for me.

Sometimes, you have to WORK to hear even the simplest of things.

  • Part of the costume for Shrek is a large foam rubber cowl that cut off 90% of my hearing. I found it very difficult to hear cues, musical phrases, and certain pitches were completely lost. I couldn’t just assume that I’d hear what I needed to hear; I had to **really** work to listen. Hopefully, this trait will stay with me long after the show is over – to actively work to listen to the world around me.

Don’t be afraid to ask others for help.

  • An annoyance of the Shrek costume was that the neck of the cowl kept popping out of the back of my costume. It became a running event to have people “fix my back”. Right before I’d go on, I’d recruit whomever was standing around to make sure my costume was in place. Some of the cast and crew got so good at it that they’d fix me before I knew I needed it. We depend on so many people to help us in so many ways; it’s good to recognize it, and celebrate it.

Sometimes it takes an Ass to remind us that we need each other

  • Donkey (played so well by Tucker Merchant in our production) is the catalyst of Shrek’s story. He realizes before anyone else that Fiona and Shrek are right for each other. He not only helps Fiona see Shrek’s value, but teaches Shrek the importance of authentic forgiveness and friendship. Donkey MAKES Shrek a better person, and enables him to love Fiona. I am so thankful for all the people in my life who have filled this role for me, and enabled me to be a better person, to help me tear down the walls brick by brick that were built over time.

If you prepare for upcoming changes, you can adapt pretty quickly.

  • At the end of the show, Fiona magically morphs from human to ogre. In the animated story, this is just par for the course, but in REAL LIFE, in REAL TIME, it’s amazing to watch a crew of people transform our beautiful Fiona (played by the beautiful Amy O’Donnell) into a beautiful ogre – complete with green skin and bulbous nose. AND it’s all done in about 90 seconds. This transformation took a LOT of planning, and many hands to make it possible. When we *know* that a change must be made, when we plan for it and enlist friends to help us make it happen, we can adapt to a new situation pretty well. It just takes a little magic, that’s all.

Love changes you – but not always in the way you expect.

  • Fiona, after her transformation from True Love’s Kiss… stays as an ogre. She is dismayed, because she thought she needed to be a certain way to be considered beautiful. Shrek tells her the truth: she is beautiful as she is. I believe that loves transforms us; not instantly or magically, of course, but the transformation is real, nonetheless. I have been transformed by the love I’ve encountered: the love of my wife, learning to love and be loved by my children, and realizing God’s love for me is far deeper than I can comprehend.

Learning these lessons with this cast and crew has been one of the greatest privileges of my life. While my skin won’t miss the green makeup, my heart will miss the ongoing interaction with the “screwy but delighted crazy stew” that was the cast of Basin Community Theatre’s production of Shrek the Musical. I love you all. Let your Freak Flag Fly!

Taking the opportunity to teach

imageToday is my sister Janet’s birthday. She died a couple years ago, and has joined others in our family who have shuffled off their mortal coil: Mom, Dad, all my grandparents, my father-in-law, my nephew Norman, and I could go on.

indeed, that’s the challenge, isn’t it? To go on; to continue to live life as best you can, knowing that such important people are no longer a part of your living existence.

What brought on this moment of reflection, you ask? A blog post about a Korean cabbage dish called kimchi. You see, a wonderful nam from my congregation asked if I’d like some shredded cabbage – he and his wife are trying their hand at making sauerkraut, and they had some cabbage left over.

As a pastor, I have a personal rule to say “yes” if anyone offers to give my family food. God provides… often more than I could ask or think… because let me tell you, I would never have imagined THIS much cabbage. My friend gave us… oh, I’d guess between 5 and 7 GALLONS of shredded cabbage. A kitchen garbage sack, about half full!

I am *very grateful* for this kind of provision! and blessedly, it happens fairly frequently. But this bounty has gone beyond my knowledge of how to process this volume of cabbage… so I’ve been hunting for recipes and ideas. I’ve already put up 3 quarts of what it hope will turn into sauerkraut (we’ll see), and I’m going to set aside a bunch for tonight’s stir fry dinner. I still have about 2/5ths of a bag left, so I thought of kimchi.

At the end of this blog I’d found was a statement that made me feel as if I’d been punched in the gut: “No matter how many years I’ve been cooking, she still never misses a teachable moment. But, I know I am very blessed that she’s still around to do that.” 

So, let me take this opportunity to say: pour into the lives of those around you. Love them with your heart, of course, but also with your history, your experience, your wisdom, your favorite jokes or treasured memories. Take every opportunity to teach those around you -because as you do, you leave a piece of your heart and mind with them… And you get some of theirs back as well.

Thoughts on the NACCC

This is a portion of a letter that I wrote to another church; they are considering becoming a part of the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches, the group to which my congregation belongs. I thought that some of my readers might enjoy these thoughts about the NA…
To give you a bit of background on my personal journey: I wasn’t raised with any kind of faith, became a follower of Jesus when I was 17, and got involved with various different groups of Christians, each contributing something to my development as a follower of Christ.
 
1) the Christian /Church of Christ emphasized living out their faith in response to the Word. 
2) the Foursquare church emphasized the work of the Holy Spirit. 
3) the Swedish Baptist church taught me to work through the text of Scripture line-by-line.
4) the Evangelical Free church taught me the importance of family in faith formation.
5) the Church of God, Anderson taught me the perils of power as a substitute for obedience.
6) the Presbyterian church showed me that a purposeful, thoughtful Christian life was possible.
7) the NACCC brought me full circle, reinforcing Jesus as the Head of the Church.
 
What I’ve learned about the NACCC is that the use of power and authority isn’t a preferred method to be the people of God. 
 
Our congregation was originally a German Congregational church (that denomination used to be around about 100 years ago), and they placed great emphasis on personal piety, communal experience of faith, and practical service to Christ. Then, in the 1950’s when the UCC was started, we joined that group. However, we discovered that over time, the UCC placed more and more emphasis on hierarchical structure, and the controls that go with it (especially in regards to what was considered to be “acceptable theology”). That was not at all who we are as a church; and so, our congregation left the UCC in 2003.
 
The NACCC is an association of fellowship, not an organization of control. We have churches in our national fellowship who are far more theologically liberal than we are… and we have churches that are much more conservative. Where we stand on various issues is *not* the determining factor of our organization. We come together to fellowship with one another as we each follow Christ as the Head of the church. There is no denominational control, no edicts from on high, no memos from the Central Office that tell us what we must do, or how we must do it.
 
This allows our little congregation to focus on its mission of following Jesus the best way it knows how, and we still can get together with other churches who are doing the same thing if not in the same way.
 
Personally, I consider it a strength when I’m able to be in a room with 100 other ministers, knowing full well that I’d probably disagree with them on various points of doctrine– but still having sweet fellowship because we recognize the Lord is in our midst, and it is the Spirit which allows us to experience the bond of unity while living with methods of diversity.
 
To close — I’m a BIG fan of the NACCC. It’s not restrictive on in matters of theology (we don’t make our ministers sign theological creeds like the CCCC), and it’s not dictative on matters of social conscience (like the “still speaking” campaign of the UCC). At the risk of sounding like a fairy tale, it’s “just right”.
 
Grace and peace to you as you seek to follow the Lord’s leading!
 
Keep Following Jesus,
Ed

Happy Pi Day

PiSong image
Happy Pi Day

A while ago, I got a stray thought in my head to put Pi to music. Lots of people have done this, but what I’ve heard often turns out classical-sounding. But since Pi just keeps going, I wondered what it would sound like as a jazz improv piece…


Pastor Ed Backell

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