Psalm 90

You turn us back to dust…
A thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past…
The days of our life are seventy years, perhaps eighty if we are strong…
From everlasting to everlasting you are God…

Time seems to pass more quickly all the time. Life’s middle years carry lots of moments on lots of days when self reflection leads me to ask, “Where did the time go?” One of those moments came yesterday watching Hannah, my oldest daughter, preach, while remembering the day she was born and her toddler laugh and smile, her baptism, the first time she went to camp and the day she was confirmed. Where has the time gone?

The first time I thought about the fleeting nature of human existence was at my grandfather’s funeral now 36 years ago, when Psalm 90 was read and ruminated on, and I was having my first real experience with the death of a loved one. It’s a haunting and lovely reflection holding both the fleeting nature of life and the endless nature of the love of God Almighty. It is said to have been written by Moses.

And this is the teaching of scripture, first this great undeniable truth that all of us are on a journey toward death, and on the way the aging process that serves as a daily reminder. But second, more important, and most powerful is this, how our time is swallowed up into God’s time, that our life, and death, and life after death are all gifts from God, every day moving toward an unending glorious future! Both are most certainly true. We are moving toward death, and yet through death we shall most surely live. Contemplating these realities of time, Moses prays to God: “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a wise heart.”

Living with faith in the One who has conquered death, and who holds all time, we can face the frailty of our human days with hope, not in denial of our mortality, but trusting in the God who resurrected Jesus. We can sing the old Swedish hymn about time and find comfort:

Help me then in every tribulation so to trust your promises, O Lord,
that I lose not faith’s sweet consolation offered me within your holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
e’er to take, as from a father’s hand,
one by one, the days, the moments fleeting, till I reach the promised land.

(Covenant Hymnal, 435)

Peter Hawkinson

Making New Rituals

In normal times, I love to write. And one of the ways I get to do that most often is through weekly prayers. Whether they are short invocations to begin our worship service, or longer prayers of the people to cover all our joys, sorrows, confession and more…I like the challenge of writing these. Of finding the right words to try and sum up where we are as a community, what we’re facing, what we’re celebrating.

But these are not normal times – and I find myself struggling to write.

I have started looking elsewhere, poring through my worship books and prayer books and even poetry books, to see if anyone has been able to put words to this moment. If any of the old, familiar texts offer the right language for us to pray.

And I am realizing that a lot of it just doesn’t fit. It makes sense; these are unprecedented times, after all – but I still want something.

An author whom I love and respect, Kate Bowler (you may know her from this book), has been stepping into that void lately, creating new rituals of prayer on Instagram.

Every few days, she shares a snapshot of a brief, handwritten prayer, and then offers a space in the comments for people to share their own petitions – most often these days, they are sharing the names of loved ones lost to COVID-19.

Just a few days ago, she shared these words:

“Holy Spirit, move in us so that we can recognize truth that transcends politics, logic that sorts through rhetoric. Above all, help us be kind (and hilariously courageous).”

This little series of prayers, and comments, has reminded me that perhaps what I am missing the most is prayer with, and not just for, others.

So I want to take a page out of her book (or a post out of her Insta), and try this at home. Share with us in the comments what YOU are praying for these days, and let us join our hearts as one.

The Power of Our Weakness

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12)

I thought about this reflection of Paul yesterday when I read and re-posted this thought from blogger Carlos Rodriguez:

The Church does a terrible job with power and riches because it was never meant to be powerful and rich. Its assignment is humility and service. Kindness and welcoming. Gentleness and love. Go.

It’s an important reminder always, but especially now, it seems, as we watch the context for power and riches unfold before our eyes in this election cycle. this is what is always going on in the goings on of empire, of state, of government everywhere.

Two things stand out for me. first, we need to remember that the Church locates itself in the abdication of these things the world is always vying for. The cross of Jesus holds our aspirations. We pray always that we have the power to let go of ourselves and whatever we have in this world. Second, it is in the letting go that we find power after all, Holy power, God-power to serve, to welcome, to love. This is power indeed! Strength is the word Paul finds, the power of Christ dwelling in me, in us.

This is when the Church is at its best, when it freely admits, recognizes, and confesses its own weakness, thereby giving up, giving in and asking God to take over. This is how power is made perfect in our weakness, because power becomes God’s at work in us and through us and not our own.

All of this is a repetitive process of humbling ourselves, of “letting go and letting God” as the old saying goes. So as we hear the clanging of colliding kingdoms these days, as we witness the tug of war for the top of the hill, and as the plans of this world formed in power take shape — let us be the Church that is giving up, giving in, and seeking the power of the cross, finding strength to do the loving of Christ our world seems to need now more than ever before.

GO!

Peter Hawkinson

Grateful. Love. Learn.

My girlfriend Leah has a journal that she writes in at night, where she answers the following three questions:

What is one thing I was grateful for today?
What is one way I showed love today?
What was one thing I learned today?

She has been answering those questions for herself for awhile now, but last month, we started answering these questions together.  When we call each other to say good night, we each take turns sharing our three answers to these questions.

Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.”

Days contain so many different elements.  So many things to celebrate, to give thanks for, to be excited about.  At the same time, they also contain disappointments, mistakes and difficulties.  However, if you are anything like me, it is so easy to focus on the negatives more than the positives.

What I love about ending my day with “Grateful, Love, Learn” is that it helps me end my day with a Philippians 4:8 mentality.  I have seen the Holy Spirit use this mentality to help me get a better night’s rest and as we know, good sleep helps make for a better tomorrow, where I can be more aware of all the excellent and praiseworthy things that are happening around me.

So I invite you to either journal or have a conversation with a friend or family member to end your evenings where you talk about one thing you were grateful for, one way you showed love, and one thing you learned.  See what amazing things God does with this Philippians 4:8 mentality!

  • Pastor Joel 

Image Bearers

But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” (Mt 22)

And the Revised Common Lectionary (www.commontexts.org) hits us over the head like a two-by-four this week, as early voting commences, as elections loom, and tax proposals hang in the air, and as the American political process rages in a way like it feels it never has before.

Matthew 22:15-22. Jesus’s last days are at hand, and while he’s tested with a question about taxes, he commences with a short and powerful sermon about righteousness and loyalties: ” Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” We’ll gather this Sunday to ruminate on what this means for us as November 3 approaches. A lot of thoughts are rumbling around in my spirit. I Hope to worship with you on Sunday morning one way or another!

One simple conclusion is that this text comes to us as a holy reminder as people belonging to Christ that we bear the image of the One who suffered and died on a cross. Of this Will Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas write: “The cross is not a sign of the church’s quiet, suffering submission to the powers that be, but rather the church’s revolutionary participation in the victory of Christ over those powers. The overriding political task of the church is to be the community of the cross.” (Resident Aliens, p. 47). Moreover, simply as human beings, we bear the image of our Creator, who said, “Let us make humankind in our own image.” (Gen 1:26). The Roman coin Jesus now holds in his hand bears the image of the emperor. As human beings, we bear God’s image. Which means, if we keep the analogy going, that we owe God everything — our whole and entire selves.

So as those who bear God’s image and likeness, and in particular who seek to live out of the love of Christ, who is God in human flesh– how do we reconcile in these hard days the splintering of our families, churches, and communities over political and and cultural differences that seem almost unbridgeable?

No easy answers. Lots to consider. Stay tuned. Think about it. Pray about it! See you Sunday.

Peter Hawkinson

Where are you?

For the past several weeks, a small group of us have been gathering on Sunday mornings for a different kind of class.

No one is teaching on passages of scripture, or expounding theological arguments. There are no PowerPoint presentations, or visiting speakers. We are gathering instead to reflect and share on our experience of two simple things: reading about God, and walking our neighborhoods.

Our study is shaped by a book called Backyard Pilgrim, a short volume by Matt Canlis that takes its inspiration from Jesus’ ministry: a ministry that happened in a small geographic area, a series of villages where everyone knew everyone else, by an itinerant preacher who moved at about three miles per hour.

In a society that moves so much faster, that shudders at the thought of being so deeply known (exposed? without privacy??), this is a radical way of living.

And this past week, our reflection prompt gave me another idea to sit with, about where to find God in the midst of this strange societal moment we find ourselves in.

We are now in the fourth of six weeks of the pilgrimage journey, a journey that takes us through the arc of scripture as we walk through our neighborhood, and this past week it was all about God seeking and finding lost children. “Where are you?” God asks over and over, first Abraham, then Jacob; Moses and King David. They answer, “here I am,” but it doesn’t stick. They wander again. They get lost.

And then we get to Isaiah, where those “few and feeble” responses finally break down. As Matt writes, “We can’t even say, much less do, what is necessary to be found. The time has come to reverse God’s question. Not from the place of human pride but from the place of need we can cry out to God: ‘Where are you?!'”

Isaiah is the first book that tells us not where we are, but where God is. Isaiah promises the coming of a son, a king: Immanuel, God with us. God here, beside us, in an intimate way.

And Matt challenges us to ask ourselves: “Could it be that one reason we miss God is not because he’s far off, but because he’s so close?”

These days, if I am looking in far-off places, on a big scale, in the huge events that are taking place around the world and in our country, I’ll be honest and tell you that I struggle to find God.

But up close?

Oh, up close I can do.

Up close are the leaves changing color on my street: dramatically, beautifully, showing off the contrast with their dark tree trunks and the gray sky above.

Up close are the contended sighs my dog Zoe makes when she’s snuggled into just the right position on the couch next to me.

Up close are the friends who have committed to be my quaran-team, who check in over the phone and save a regular night on their calendar for us to eat and be together.

Up close are the neighbors who stop to chat when Zoe and I are out for our morning walk, and the smell of woodsmoke in the evening from backyard fire pits.

Beauty. Fellowship. Little graces and moments of joy.

God, I find, has been here all along.

If you, like me, are finding it hard somedays to find God in the midst of the chaos and the suffering, then I suggest you try this: try looking up close.

My Neighbor’s Gift

A prayer for today from Rev. Arthur A.R. Nelson:

I Need To Breathe Deeply

Eternal Friend, grant me an ease to breathe deeply of this moment, this light, this miracle of now. Beneath the din and fury of great movements and harsh news and urgent crises, make me attentive still to good news, to small occasions, and the grace of what is possible for me to be, to do, to give, to receive, that I may miss neither my neighbor’s gift nor my enemy’s need.

Precious Lord, grant me a sense of humor that adds perspective to compassion, gratitude that adds persistent to courage, quietness of spirit that adds irrepressibility to hope, openness of mind that adds surprise to joy; that with gladness of heart I may link arm and aim with the One who saw signs of your kingdom in salt and yeast, pearls and seeds, travelers and tax collectors, sowers and harlots, foreigners and fishermen, and who opens my eyes with these signs and my ears with the summons to follow something more of justice and joy.


The prayer resonates with my spirit in so many ways. Mostly, though, it causes me to recall these holy moments with my 4 year old neighbor Abigail, who almost daily is shouting at me/us from the edge of the fence: “Hey! Hey! How are you? Come over here and see me!” She, along with her little brother and dads moved in about a year ago. Her strong and tenacious calling out is a gift during a time like this. One day it’s “look at our fountain!”, the next, “I got a slip and slide!” Sometimes, though, the questions and opinions are more prodding: here’s a few I’ve gotten: “Where are your parents?” “Why do you live in that house?” (her finger pointing) — and “I’m not so fond of that color” as she calls out my lime green golf shirt. Abigail is most certainly fully alive and alert to life. One day, early on, she called me over and said, “so tell me about yourself”. And I did, and she told me about herself. A holy moment indeed. Time to breathe deep.

I reflect on our many small conversations with joy, as Abigail teaches me about what it means to be a neighbor — acknowledging each other’s lives and giving and receiving bits and pieces of life’s journey, breaking through the constant pull toward a more easy and simple co-existence, risking opinions and even invasive questions that call for vulnerability and express care. These are, as Pastor Art says, the “small occasions” revealing “the grace of what is possible for me to be, to do, to give, to receive.”

It makes more sense to me because of Abigail, all this talk of Jesus about the need to become like a little child. These days she is the presence of Christ for me.

The Cure for Pain

Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

This morning the song, “The Cure for Pain” by Jon Foreman (the former lead singer of Switchfoot) came on and I have been listening to it on repeat ever since.  Whether you have heard the song before or not, I invite you to click this link to listen to it before continuing to read this blog- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZfSxkVZdBo

There are many lyrics that I could highlight, but I want to focus on the line that is repeated throughout the song, “it would be a lie to run away.”

It goes without saying that each one of us recently has looked at the “race marked out for us” and questioned if we have the endurance to run it.  I’m not talking physically, but spiritually.

We’ve been through an exhausting season and reprieve is not in sight yet.  It can be so tempting to give-up, to stop, to run away from the difficulties.  

We know we are surrounded by a great cloud of witness, but when things feel so overwhelming, it can be easy to believe the lie that the fellowship around us isn’t enough.

There is a lot I don’t know but one thing I’m certain of is that it would be a lie for me to run away from the race marked out for us.  The only cure for the consistent longing of my spirit is our Lord Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith. 

So my invitation to you today is when you are afraid, disappointed, worried or tired is for you to turn on this song and read Hebrews 12.  I would invite you to prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit to remind you why it would be a lie to run away from whatever is weighing heavy on you that day and what Jesus is calling you to. 

I pray that a great cloud of witnesses would surround you to help process the pain that you are feeling so you could run the race marked out for us with perseverance, love and hope.  In God’s mercy,

Pastor Joel

But where is God in all of this?

She asked the question so plainly, so earnestly, that it forced me to a halt.

I was in full-on leader mode, looking at the clock, consulting my notes, trying to bring our group discussion to a natural conclusion that would coincide with our self-appointed end time…and that all flew out of my head in the moment she asked the question.

The question that has been on my mind, and I’m sure on yours, from time to time, throughout these last six months.

As the numbers of COVID deaths rise, and the wildfires continue to burn; as the protests spread and the political barbs keep being thrown; as the radio waves and my Facebook feed get more venomous, more divisive, more contemptuous….where is God in all of this?

It’s a good question; and a fair one.

It’s also a brave question, when most of us are spending the days just trying to survive: to look outside of ourselves for even a minute to seek God.

And, finally, it is an old question; one that has been asked over and over since God first revealed God’s self to humanity.

If you take a quick tour through scripture, you’ll see the Israelites asking this from their chains in Egypt; from their exile in Babylon; from their oppression in the Roman empire. You’ll read about Job asking this of God: “where are you and what are you doing?” when he loses his children, his livestock, his property, in a seemingly senseless tragedy. You’ll watch the disciples ask it on the road to Emmaus, after burying their leader who was crucified on a cross.

And even beyond that, you’ll find it throughout church history, in the writings of the saints, the Desert Fathers and Mothers. Saint Ignatius of Loyola wrote it into a daily spiritual practice called the Examen that people still do engage with, asking themselves: where did I experience God today?

We keep asking it, because that’s what we are called to do, as Christians: to look for God in the midst of our suffering, in the midst of chaos; in the places where it seems impossible we might find God.

But perhaps we also ask because there isn’t just one answer.

“Where is God?” might have had a very different answer in March than it does right now.

On a sunny day than a rainy one.

When our hearts are full, and when they are broken.

So here’s the invitation: keep asking. Don’t be afraid to explore, or ashamed that you need to know. Ask yourself, and ask ones you love.

Where is God in all of this?

I don’t know what you will find, because I suspect that our answers would be different. But I do know this; scripture promises that when we look for God, “seek and you will find.”

So go! Look. And I am willing to bet, you will be surprised what you find. And who you find.

Psalm 62

“For God alone my soul waits in silence.”

So many of the psalms come to life in new ways these strange and difficult days, as we are confronted by our mortality and painful troubles fill our days and nights. We find that our words fall short of soothing the sorrows of racial wounds and political divides: sound bites are all we seem to have left. 202,000 of our dear loved ones have died, and we are still settling in to our isolation for the long haul. It is a moment, likely more than any other to come in our human journey, when life is laid bare, as we realize how tenuous our existence really is, how fragile and fleeting our life’s breath.

Right here and now we are invited into the breath prayer of Psalm 62: “For God alone my soul waits in silence. David uses it twice, comes back to it again, as if to reveal both his desperation and the soothing hope the simple words bring into the chaos.

“For God alone… God is not one among many. This kind of prayer is not about covering bases, but rather centering ourselves in the midst of one reality into another that holds us. We are left after all is said and done with God alone, who holds our coming and going from this time on and forevermore. We are brought from a temporal into a broad immortal space.

my soul waits“…In life’s brokenness I quiet my soul and wait. Waiting means there is another whom I trust and from whom I receive, who I anticipate making an appearance. My praying turns from trying to manipulate the will of God to putting myself in a position to be moved by God’s will. My soul waits.

in silence“…it’s not the absence of sound when I run out of something to say. It is rather a fertile time of being quite so that I can hear what God wants to say. There are many things I have to get off my chest. There is much that seems urgent to speak. But then comes blessed silence, so that I can hear God whispering that all is well, that “I have overcome the world.”

The result? “from him comes my salvation” (v.1) and “for my hope is in him.” (v.5). The first (salvation) understands that the past gives context to the present. The second (hope) is convinced that the future gives context to the present too.

Read the whole psalm song. Read it over and over until it holds onto you:

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. (v.8)

“For God alone my soul waits in silence.”

Peter Hawkinson


This reflection flows from my devotional reading of Where Your Treasure Is: Psalms That Summon You from Self to Community by Eugene Peterson, 1993, Eerdmans publishing.