All posts by Pastor Liz Lowry

Welcome to Messiah Night!

All are welcome to dinner at 5:30pm followed by activities for everyone!

For Youth:

6:00pm

VIP Children’s Choir

 

6:30pm

Little Angels (Preschool-PreK)

Kids for Christ (K-2nd Grade)

God’s Quest (3rd-5th Grade)

Confirmation (6th-8th Grade)

Come for worship, Bible study, games and crafts!

For Adults:

6:30pm

Christian Basics led by Pastor Karl

Using clips from seminary professors, scripture and great discussion, we will explore: Who is God? Who is Jesus? Who is the Holy Spirit? What kind of life does the Spirit want us to live?

FaithWalk led by Pastor Liz

We will gather each week to share on a different topic with scripture. What are we struggling with this week? How do we see God working in our lives? The first four weeks will be on doubt, hope, anger and healing.

Whole Again led by Lois Beery

For those grieving the death of a loved one, the loss of relationship or any loss in their lives. All are welcome as we talk, share, listen, read, and do activities that lead us in the way of feeling “Whole Again.”

 

D.C. Mission Trip: Reflections by the Youth

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Sarah:

This week I learned so much about people experiencing homelessness. We often see them as lazy or people who made bad decisions, but this isn’t true.

We had the opportunity to do a poverty simulation and it was so hard. We had to make tough decisions, and we learned how a minimum wage isn’t always a living wage and how high the prices are in places like D.C. Immediately my “older brother” had to drop out of college; we didn’t even think twice about it. My “twin sister” and I were 13. We couldn’t be on our own and spent all of our school time planning. Our father was in jail and we were alone. Our “baby brother” cost so much. Halfway through the simulation, my “twin sister” was expelled from school and a lot of our neighbors were evicted and had to live with us. I felt stressed and like a burden to my family. There was no time for our family to actually spend quality time together. People experiencing homelessness are often considered rude, but when you are constantly worried about just getting through the week, you have to yell at the bank worker, not pay attention in school or be late to work because you have to buy a transportation ticket you are just now able to afford, to get there.

Throughout the week after the simulation, I started thinking about people experiencing homelessness in every situation and how fortunate I am. The heat was unbearable. Sometimes it felt like 104 degrees. I can’t imagine someone living in that with no relief in sight. I learned how a fresh pair of socks could mean so much. I learned how good it felt for them to just have someone say your name rather than pass by without even looking you in the eye. I learned how I have been wrong, that if you can’t give money, you can give your time by talking to people experiencing homelessness. This mission trip will change me forever.

 

Luke:

For my reflection I did it on what things impacted me:

One of the things was how nice and friendly the homeless people were. It was so unsettling that these people have so many problems and yet are so happy.

We did a poverty simulation and in my group of family was my mom and sister, because Dad left us with ten dollars. The simulation was so stressful and angering. We knew it wasn’t reality, but we still felt stressed.

One thing that hit me hard was the Holocaust Museum. It gave me this empty feeling and there was a different section on Syria. We talked about it that night and I said that there is so much violence and death in Syria, it’s not even news anymore and yet no one does anything.

 

Avril:

Going to Washington, D.C. has been an amazing experience. I believe that through our workshop, simulation, and personal experiences that we as a group have grown mentally and grown in God. One of my most memorable experiences this week has been the poverty simulation. The poverty simulation really showed what people experiencing homelessness and poverty deal with every day. There are so many stereotypes describing people living without a home or dealing with poverty as lazy, mentally ill, and having poor priorities. The reality of it is so much different – many don’t make a living wage, living in a home is expensive, travel is difficult, and many don’t know the benefits that are available to them. During these situations, things can decline very quickly. After this week’s experiences, I have learned to be open-minded, and that I have many things to be grateful for in life.

 

Lilly:

During our week in D.C. I learned and experienced many things that change the way I view the world.

Handing out care packages to men experiencing homelessness made me realize the fear and discomfort I was feeling was due to stereotypes I heard growing up.

I saw God in the workers at kitchens we volunteered at. They were all so patient and kind, even though their daily work is combating such a huge issue of poverty and homelessness.

Overall, this trip leaves me with the knowledge that poverty and homelessness is an issue that everyone should want to end and work towards that common goal.

 

Kayla:

This week has caused me to feel many emotions. Empathy, hope, sadness, and disappointment are only a few of those emotions. I felt empathetic for the less fortunate and those experiencing homelessness. I felt hope when I listened to John’s and James’ stories. Sadness when I saw the Holocaust Museum and disappointment because of how everyone reacted to the Holocaust and now during the Syrian refugee crisis/war. I learned so much about poverty, homelessness, and the Holocaust.

I enjoyed everyone who came on this trip. We shared many laughs and tears. We had very great discussions and talked about numerous things. Everyone was funny, kind, and friendly.

 

Jovi:

The most important thing that I learned from this is that God will overcome and He is always with you. At the Holocaust Museum, it was crazy to think about how people being slaughtered and sent to their death knew that God was still with them. Also, when experiencing homelessness, one may feel unloved and alone, so it is important for them to always know that they are not alone. God will never forget you.

 

Carol:

Many words or thoughts have been spoken by many, including myself, about people experiencing homelessness and poverty. Most of the time they are words that speak a story created in our own mind. Who of us would appreciate someone telling a negative story of us without ever meeting us. Words like lazy, poor priorities, mentally ill, addicts, etc. These are words spoken of people of homelessness and poverty. Through our experience, we learned the truth about this problem people experience. The top five causes are never the stories we tell. As people of God, who are called to love our neighbors. We need to seek to know people so that we can be empathetic and show God’s love.

What now? – Thoughts on the Election

Dear Messiah Family,

As predicted, following Tuesday night, half of the country is rejoicing and the other half is grieving. We have seen in this bruising election and divided vote that we are a country of hurting people. We are a congregation of hurting people.

Many who have seen their livelihoods disappear or who feel at risk are experiencing hurt and anger. Leaders have not responded to the realities they are facing and they hope the next president will. Their pain is real.

There are also those who fear that the rhetoric and promises of this election will lead to a continuation of the oppression and violence they have experienced throughout our country’s history. I have been with those this week who have shed desperate tears. People who already felt vulnerable are feeling more vulnerable today. Their pain is real.

What now for the people of God?

The answer has always been in Christ. Christ who got dirty. Christ who lived among dirty people. Christ who stood with the outcast and marginalized until he was crucified.

It’s time to get dirty. It’s time to take up our cross. It’s time to bind up wounds, live alongside hurting people and seek justice and righteousness. We are called to love, and love is dirty and costly.

Love will have us getting into the mix of things. And in the mix of things, we are called to bind up the wounds of all those in our divided country. We must bind up the wounds of rural and working class people. We must bind up the wounds of immigrants, Muslim-Americans, and sexual assault survivors. We must bind up the wounds of people of color, LGBTQ folks and people who are poor. We must bind up the wounds of one another.

But as children of God, we must not only bind up, we must confess and repent of the wounds we inflict, and once doing so, we must speak out against those who would inflict wounds on others. As people of Christ, we must be clear that we are called to repent of any prejudice or violence in our words and actions. We must be clear that we will call others to do so as well.

What now is a good question to have and so we ask it of God. While the election has ended, God’s loving work continues. As the body of Christ, we will continue to seek to know the hope of God’s call. And we will do it together.

The Prayer of St. Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me bring love;  Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

God’s Echo in the World

It was one of those beautiful days full of sunshine and I walked down the street to meet some friends for happy hour. It was a good day. A breezy, relaxed day. A day for friends.

As I walked down the sidewalk I came to a group of guys crowded together – the sort that could be described as “upstanding” looking, if we were going to use those empty kinds of descriptives – and they were laughing and having a good time. A day for friends, after all.

Wanting to move easily on my way, I quietly spoke as I came to them, “Excuse me.”

“Show us your tits and we’ll let you pass!” one of them shouted.

My shoulders tightened. I didn’t take a precious second to look to see who said it, but pushed through these laughing men surrounding me. Not stopping. Not looking. I just kept walking.

I just kept walking.

This memory came to me as I read the recently exposed words of one of our presidential candidates. Words that described harassment and assault with laughter and entitled bravado. Words of violence that were met with assured murmurs of agreement.

I’m writing because I know that I’m not the only one for whom those words will conjure up images and memories. I’m writing because I know that those words squeezed the breath from some lungs and tightened the shoulders of many – a painful reminder that in so many spaces and so many places, from streets to boardrooms, women are not safe. I’m writing because for some, they are living in those places and spaces in this very moment.

Beautiful daughter of God, you are created in the image of God – your laughter, your smile, your tenderness, your resilience, your joy, your sorrow. You move with God’s love and care on your shoulders. From the crown of your head – whether straight or curly, loc’d or buzzed – to the soles of your tired, weary feet, you are a blessing of God’s own making. You are God’s echo in the world.

You are like the women of Scripture. You are Hagar – who was cast out into the wilderness by her child’s father and whom God protected and promised to build nations from. You are Vashti – who told the most powerful leader in the land, “no” – and you are Esther – who took what little choice she had and gambled her life for others. You are the unnamed woman, outcast and alone, who took a risk, grabbed the garment of Jesus in the midst of a crowd, and was healed. You are Mary, who Christ called by name and made a first witness to God’s kingdom, before any other disciple.

You are beloved. While those words of violence are condemned or brushed aside as “locker room talk,” you may still be left with the memory of words spoken or actions done to you. I hope you know that those words and those actions are NOT okay. I hope you will know with stronger clarity and with greater conviction, that you are beloved. You are the image of the divine.

You are God’s echo in the world. An echo that drowns out all other taunts or threats or “locker room talk.” An echo that drowns out the foolish violent voices of rulers or rulers-to-be. You are God’s echo in the world. Sing.

REBLOGGED FROM:

God’s Echo in the World

Lord, Make Me

This sermon is on the text 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13.

My first reaction to Paul’s writing today was to worry about being blameless until Jesus comes back. He gives a pretty heavy expectation here:  “Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” The early church, and especially the church in Thessalonica, is waiting and ready and concerned about Jesus coming back. The early church held a deep anticipation and urgency that we usually no longer have; we struggle to regain. Many faithful generations have come and go, and the urgency has probably kinda worn off for most of us. But today, we begin Advent, a time to reflect on Christ returning and God’s promises fulfilled, and Paul reminds us what we’re supposed to be doing while we wait. We wait with hope and we wait with work to do. The kingdom of God is already breaking in – love, holiness.

Which is why I read this and think….How am I to be blameless? Is that what I’m supposed to be doing as I wait? As I live my life. Be blameless. Until Christ comes again.

And then I notice that Paul doesn’t actually give them an order or a prescription for what they are to do and how they are to be. This is a prayer. Not a command like “Increase and abound in love. Be blameless.” But a prayer: “May the Lord make you abound in love” and “may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness.”

As I read this, I thought of my ordination. My ordination was a whirlwind, so much that flew by, but one moment in particular stood out. All the clergy laid hands on me and the Bishop prayed and I remember one line just knocking me over. “Make her a faithful pastor, patient teacher, and wise counselor.”

Make her.

All I could do was whisper, “Yes, Lord.”

Because I knew, I knew in that moment that without the Lord, without God making me and molding me, I will not be a faithful pastor. Without the Lord, I will not be a patient teacher and a wise counselor.

Make her. Make me.

Now truth be told – I am probably usually feeling somewhat assured that everything is cool and I will totally be faithful and patient and wise….and in the moments when I am not feeling assured about that at all….well…then I’m probably more likely to just try harder. I try to reassure myself that I can make myself blameless. Even if I don’t say that out loud to myself, I am acting like it. God, it’s okay. I got this. I’m three months in and I am totally all over this “faithful pastor” thing.

There’s nothing like the prayerful hands of others and the words “make her” uttered over you to realize the full weight of what God is requiring and to know that on your own, you are simply not up to the task. Reality check.

Have you found this to be true for you? One minute you are sure that you are doing the right Christian thing at all times, loving everybody, being holy, at the very least you are a moral person…most of the time, you know, at least not like some of those other people….and the next….the next you are faced with someone you simply can’t muster up love for. Or suddenly you are burnt out….after having tried so hard to keep it going and keep it together and let no one see the cracks. Or you are bowled over by your own guilt or your own fear, overwhelmed by the feeling that yeah, you know you can’t do this.….so how are you going to even try. Or perhaps someone simply prays and you are knocked over and all you can do is whisper, “Yes, Lord.”

You and I are simply not up to the task of what God requires of us. Loving all people, giving away what we have, crossing boundaries and barriers, losing our life as we know it and taking up our cross, living our lives out of hope and not fear.

And this is why we need Paul’s prayer. This is our prayer. Make us.

Lord, if you don’t do it…..how can I be blameless?

Lord, if you don’t increase my love, how will I love all people?

Lord, if you don’t direct my way, how will I go?

Lord, if you don’t strengthen my heart, how will I be more holy?

Make me.

Corrie Ten Boom was a Dutch Christian who, along with her family, was sent to a concentration camp during WWII for hiding Jews in her home. Her sister died in the camp. After the war, Corrie traveled and spoke to many groups about her experiences and her faith, and at one of these events, a man came up to her whom she immediately recognized as one of the guards at her camp. She could tell he didn’t recognize her, but she knew him. And when he came up to her, he told her that he had been a guard, but that he’d become a Christian, and although he knew God forgave him, he asked, “will you forgive me too?” and he reached out his hand. I will read her own words describing her reaction:

“And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

“It could not have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do [….]

“And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. […]  ‘… Help!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’

“And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

“ ‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’

“For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then.”

Corrie’s prayer – “help!” – is our prayer. Without the Lord, we are unable to meet the tasks ahead of us, the work he has given us, love the people he has called us to love, step out of our comfort zones and into scary territory…..but with God, empowered by the Holy Spirit,when we mechanically take that first step (whatever small step we can see before us) and cry “Help, Lord!” we find that God is faithful and will make us over. Forgive where we could not. Love where we could not. Be faithful and patient and wise where we could not.

Today, in the waiting and the living, take whatever first step you see in front of you. Take that first mechanical risky step and cry, “Help!” and God is faithful. Grace shines through. Grace shines through all the cracks, holding us together as a community of people who don’t have it all together and are definitely not blameless, who will let it all hang out and cry, “Lord, make us!” And the Lord makes us. The Lord makes us abound in love and strengthens our hearts.

The Armor of God

“I am filled with Christ’s love!” she yelled as she threw her Bible at the back of the girl’s head.

This is the scene I stumbled upon as I was flipping channels while watching television – a scene from the movie, Saved!, a movie I haven’t seen for many many years and one that parodies or critiques some attitudes or behaviors of Christian groups. And this scene is perhaps one of the most memorable and funniest – a teenage girl, in her zeal to intervene in her friend’s life – throws a Bible at her.

“I am filled with Christ’s love!”

Her friend picks up the Bible and tells her, “This is not a weapon.”

I’ve been thinking about this scene as I’ve reflected on the vivid image we are given in Ephesians this week: an image of armor and of battle. This is perhaps one of the most popular images of the New Testament – the Christian, decked out in Roman military gear – only the uniform is spiritual in nature. The belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation. Shoes that will help carry out the gospel of peace, and the sword of the Spirit, the word of God.

These are the final exhortations in the letter to the Ephesians. Last week, we were reminded that time is short and Pastor Karl pressed upon us the importance of worshiping in community together. Today, we are told to stand firm and to put on the whole armor of God. In this text, too, there is urgency. Urgency in knowing that we need the strength of the Lord.

We can probably all guess that picking up the sword of the Spirit and putting on the whole armor of God does not look like throwing a Bible at someone’s head. But sometimes, if we’re being really honest, we think and act like standing firm is making sure everybody knows we’re right and they’re wrong. Or if you’re like me, imagining that Christian decked out in Roman military gear gives a sense of being Superman, puffed up chest and defender of the good. We are ready to stand firm in the battle; the problem is it’s usually the battles that we have chosen.

When we choose the battles and when we stand firm with anything other than the clothing of God, we find ourselves in trouble – rather than standing firm with the strength of the Lord, we are immovable and stuck. Attached to being right or being important. Or if that isn’t resonating with you today, sometimes we find ourselves easily pushed around, by others or by our desires (sleeping in on Sunday mornings) or our insecurities. And rather than relying on the strength of the Lord, we look for other ways to feel strong or to fill our time and our lives. We waver.

But there are three things about our text that point us in a different direction. First, that we do not fight flesh and blood, but powers and authorities and spiritual forces of evil. Second, that most of this armor is defensive, intended to protect us and simply enable us to stand without failing. Being strong in the Lord. And third, we may not really know how to dress ourselves in this kind of armor, and that’s why we must pray in the Spirit at all times.

We do not fight flesh and blood, but powers and authorities and spiritual forces of evil. We are in a spiritual struggle. Those who have fought long and hard against injustice probably more readily recognize this than others of us – it takes real people to embody systems of injustice, but even in the midst of the struggle, we may sense that we’re combating something far greater and more insidious, that overtakes individuals and shapes entire communities. Sin and death permeate our hearts, not only as individuals but as societies. We see the powers and darkness in our commercialism and our addictions, in our wars and our violence, in our genocides and apartheids, in our racism and sexism, in our apathy and our despair. We see the powers and darkness in the brokenness all around us – in the struggles and pain and break down in our relationships, our families, our church, our city, our nation, our world. Sin and death, feeling like tight webs throughout our collective lives. We know this struggle. We are in the middle of this struggle.

We do not fight flesh and blood, but powers and authorities and spiritual forces of evil. Sin clutching at our hearts.  But knowing that we are not fighting against flesh and blood will free us. We take up the armor of God knowing that God provides for the struggle. In our text, Paul is said to be an ambassador in chains who must preach this gospel of peace. To who? To his jailors. The gospel of peace is to free them too. The powers and authorities and forces may feel overwhelming and may chain us, but that is why God strengthens us with spiritual gifts.

We are girded with protection. Truth and righteousness and faith and salvation – they flow through our lives. They are our defense. Truth cuts through the lies of all the powers that we have already named. Righteousness covers us. Faith turns our eyes to the one who protects us. Salvation reminds us that the victory is already won in Christ Jesus. We clothe ourselves in Christ.

Now if you’re anything like me, you might be thinking, that’s a great picture, Paul – wonderful metaphor – but how exactly are we supposed to pick up the shield of faith and put on the belt of truth. How exactly is that done?

Pray in the Spirit at all times. Keep alert and persevere.

Pray in the Spirit at all times. If there is one thing we may take from God’s word this week, may it be that we would pray in the Spirit at all time. Just as Pastor Karl urged us to press forward in gathering together in worship, let us press forward in praying together at all times. Pray for truth that cuts through our lies. Pray for faith that shields us. Pray for righteousness that we carry with us in all our relationships and conversations and struggles. Pray for each other. Pray for our hurts and our wounds. Pray for our world. For oppression and violence and need.

And praying together in the Spirit, we will keep alert and persevere. In prayer, we will clothe ourselves in such a way that we will not be throwing Bibles at people’s heads, but walking in the gospel of peace. Praying in the Spirit, we will stand firm. Firm in the light of God. Firm in the victory that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Firm in the waters of baptism as children of God. We will stand firm as witnesses to God’s light breaking through the darkness. We will take up the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, as a proclamation of God’s peace and of God’s love. Together, praying in the Spirit, we will stand.