Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Sun Returns

Grace and greetings.

The sun has returned to Barrow, if only for a little bit at a time; but it will be gaining about 9 minutes a day until the Summer Solstice. Due to the heavy cloud cover, we could only see the sun outline through the clouds, but we know it is there. It is not like we have had no light what so ever, there has always been a twilight during the middle of the day, again depending on the cloud cover, which this past winter seems to be quite a lot.

The weather has been strange the last several days. Through December until recently, we averaged about -25 plus wind chill. Then on Saturday, the winds shifted from the usual North East to the South, and the temperature jumped to 10 above. Then as everybody was watching the football games in the frozen Northeast and Green Bay, the air temperature hit a high of 30 degrees above zero Fahrenheit. Yesterday, the winds shifted again, this time out of the North WEST, and the temps have started to drop again, we are heading towards 25 below. But with with wind shift, comes blinding snow as the wind picks up to 44 mph and gust to 60 mph. It is starting to slow down a little bit this afternoon, so we will see how things are going tomorrow. But it was windy enough to close down the schools for the day.

Earlier this week I hurt my lower back again, so I am just waiting for the last few minutes before I head off to the chiropractor. We have one in Barrow, if you do not like him, oh well. Fortunately, I get along with him and am glad for the adjustments. Well, my back and the clock are telling me it is time to go.

Peace and blessings to all.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Come and See

Grace and greetings

John 1.29-42

Jesus tells Andrew to “Come and See” (where I live). Andrew follows Jesus and thus starts the gathering of Jesus’ disciples. The statement is innocent enough, “Come and See”. As a child we were excited to show our parents our latest drawings or pictures. As we grew older, it was other “toys”, like a new car, or a new house, and new friend, “Come and See”. Actually if you think about it, that is the only way others can experience our joy and excitement, is if the people actually come and see.

What better way can we experience how somebody is doing other than physically showing up and seeing. This past summer, I had the opportunity to go to Wainwright with others concerning the Ahmaogak Memorial Parrish. We came away with a better understanding of what going on there and the ministry happening. People invite us to come and see what is happening in their house, town, country, world and we are able to come away with a better understanding of where and who they are.

Too often we expect things to be different; we judge them by standards of how things “used to be.” We remember how things used to be in the church, when it was full of people, but now it seems that there are fewer and fewer people involved. Some people believe the Spirit has died in our church, but I disagree.

No, we are not the church we were thirty years ago, but who is? We are no longer the “only” church in town, life has changed, culture has changed, and we have changed. We are no longer the same body of Christ we were thirty years ago. But that does not mean the Spirit of God is not alive here in our midst.

John the Baptist spoke of the “coming of the one who will forgive sins.” He pointed out Jesus and said “He is the one I spoke about.” But later in his life, after John the Baptist was in prison, he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask if Jesus was actually the One, or were they to look for another? Jesus replied that the hungry are being feed, the naked are being clothed, and the Good News is being preached. Things may not be what we want or expect, but God is alive in our lives.

Come and See how God is working here at Utqiagvik Presbyterian Church. The Deacon’s are feeding the hungry with hot meals every Saturday and giving out clothes; the Sunday School is active and alive; there are bible studies; Officer Training; prayers being lifted up and offered. God is indeed alive here at the church. The Spirit of God is all around you, filling you and flowing through each and every one of you. Yes, it may be different than thirty years ago, but Come and See how God is Alive Today.

Peace and blessings to all

Sunday, January 13, 2008

I Call You Beloved

13 January 2008
Matthew 3.13-17

Grace and greetings.

We are baptized into Christ. We have become members of the Church Universal. We are baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection. We are forgiven of our sins and called to new life. Do we really live our new life to the fullest? Do we live out the true meaning of forgiveness that allows us the freedom to fail, and to try again?

When Jesus was baptized as recorded in Matthew, “…Jesus came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’” I am not sure how many of us had the heavens open up following our baptism, or if voices from above were heard, but I am sure that we are baptized by the same spirit as Christ, and also called “Beloved.”

Regardless of our own baptism, whether it was by sprinkled as an infant, or immersed as an adult, we are baptized into Christ’s body and therefore his ministry as well. We were all baptized by the Spirit of God. Do you ever feel the Spirit moving in you? The Spirit moves each and every one of us differently. But we are all forgiven, and allowed to start over again.

Each morning we get up, we can remember our baptism as we stand in the shower with the water flowing over our bodies. Receive the blessing of God with the cleansing power of the water and the word. “You are my beloved.” You are cleansed and freed to live the life that God has called us to live.

Just what is that “life God has called us to live?” God has called us into community and to forgive one another, just as we are forgiven. We are called to worship God with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength. Each of us may find different ways to acknowledge and worship God, but we are all given gifts to use at our baptism, the greatest of these gifts is love through forgiveness.

How do we live out our baptism? Do we think about it daily, weekly, monthly or every once in a great while? With the gift of forgiveness we are able to gain confidence in what we do, day after day. We can remember that God is with us, always.

Remember your baptism and that you too are called, “Beloved”.

Peace and blessings to all.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The New Sun

Grace and greetings.

The dark and cold are starting to affect us now. It is getting harder to get out of bed more often than not. We do have a SADD lamp, for the seasonal disorder of lack of light, that helps sometimes but not always.

Our son has returned to school this week, so hopefully this will give him something to do, and get him going.

Even though I have reason to come to church every day, some days are harder than others to make it. My therapist has told me to "be gentle with myself", and not beat myself up on the days that I cannot seem to do anything. For me, it seems to be different than the depressions I have experienced in the past; more fear and lack of energy than before. But I am not hiding in my bed for days on end, so things are going okay.

This afternoon I tried to cheer myself up with lighting a fire in the fireplace in the pastor's office here at the church. My Administrative Assistant and I could smell something different, so she called the city about the possibility of natural gas leaking in the fireplace. Somebody was here within ten minutes, (if not faster), to confirm that we were getting carbon dioxide gas in the vents, so the vent above is probably blocked. With the wind chill around -40, I am not sure who wants to climb the roof to find out just yet. I guess another time.

I am getting ready to teach a class on the Sermon on the Mount, (Matthew 5-7), and reading of the beatitudes usually help lift my moods. Nothing at the moment though.

Obviously, the Inuit have lived with the dark seasons for many centuries. In fact earlier this week in my Inupiaq class, I found out the meaning of some of the months.

Siginaioaq means the month with no sun. (December)
Siginaatchiaq means the month of the NEW SUN (January)
Siginnaasugrk means the month with more sun (February)

It is not like we are totally without any light at all, even on the longest day, we can see the sun light from the horizon, giving us a twilight for most of the six weeks that we are without the sun.

Well here is to looking for a New Sun this year. I guess things are lightning up as I write, I am feeling somewhat better, or is that the CO2?

Peace and blessings to all.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Journeying a Different Path

Grace and greetings.

Happy New Year

You know the story of the Magi, how they studied the stars, sun, moon and all the earth around them. They journeyed to Jerusalem and stopping off at Herod’s place for directions. They arrived in Bethlehem in time to pay homage to the new born king and offering their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Then, having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. Joseph, Mary and Jesus also left by a different road than the one they had arrived on.

There is a saying that you cannot step into the same river twice; even if you step in the same place, the rushing water has changed the river, so it is not the same river. Hopefully, we too grow and are changed by the events that we witness and experience. Hopefully, we are not the same people we were ten years ago, five years ago; or the same person we were last year or even last week. Our prayer is that we continue to grow and change as God revels to us the secrets of life, be they great or small.

Just as God guided the Wise Men to Jesus, and then sending them home by a different road; God is guiding us in our lives, the question is do we listen and take heed? Will we be aware when we are called to leave our homes to journey to foreign places to live as Abraham and Sarah were called, or to take a trip that will last for a year when you are only at your place of destination for a few hours? Are we listening to God to know if we are to return home be a different road?

We gather each week for church services, whether it is in the morning, evening or both. We worship, sing, greet one another, pray for one another, fellowship with one another; and hopefully, hopefully we grow and change every day. There are days were we can look back and say, “That was a special day, my life changed.” Mostly, the days seem to go on without any noticeable change or new knowledge gained. But if we look back of the big picture of our lives, we can see how we have been changed by God’s love and guidance throughout our lives. Just like the river with the rushing water, we are never the same again either.

I challenge you to consider returning home tonight by a different way. Whether that is taking a physically different path, or to look inside you to see if you have grown or changed from the time you walked in here an hour ago. Because you have come here tonight, because you are answering God’s call to you, you have changed, whether you realize it or not. And because you are a different person than you were when you came in earlier, you will be going home by another way.

Peace and blessings.

Friday, January 4, 2008

At arms length for the New Year

Grace and greetings.

I think I am starting to get into the Christmas spirit of things, now that Christmas was almost two weeks ago. I guess for me, what else is new? But a thought has come to me, or actually to several other people who have made similar comments about the Christmas season and the nativity scenes. One friend wrote in his family Christmas letter:

"The small sign next to the creche said, 'Set donated by _____. Please do not touch' I completely understand the 'do not touch' ideas as I think of my darling children and the destructive path they can leave behind. At the same time, I thought this little sign was odd and it struck my heart to the core. I briefly laughed in my head about the idea the sign was saying, 'Stay away from the Baby Jesus. Put the baby down and step away slowly!"I saw it as a symbol of the whole tension in Christmas. We spend money, decorate, and put on the airs for all seeking to perfect the picture. We create our fragile ceramic figures of Christmas--while asking those around 'Please do not touch.' We hold people at arms length. We hold Christmas meaning and the birth of the baby at arms length-afraid to touch. We get caught up in the symbols instead of the relationships and the love."

Just before we received Chadron's letter, a group of ministers on line were commenting on how the baby Jesus' were having to be bolted down in their creches or they walk off on their own. How do we receive the birth of Christ in our midst? Do we really let the birth renew us and our spirits, or is it just all for the "good feelings" and show?

What does it mean to bolt down Jesus in our lives? Is our faith allowed to grow up just as Jesus did, from the baby to the adult who walks out of the tomb? Or for the sake of comfort and understanding, do we bolt down our faith and not move spiritually within our lives?

My prayer is that we are able to experience the rebirth of Christ in each and every one of our hearts, being able to witness the Divine in all of us as we walk and grow in our daily lives. Do not hold each other at arms length, but try to embrace each other in the name of our Living God.

Peace and blessings for this New Year.