Pastor's Blog

Group picture of the Youth with a Mission Team

In September of 1982, shortly after graduating from high school at the age of seventeen, my friend Jeff and I boarded a KLM flight bound for Holland. After being away from home for no more than a week or two at the most — at church camp or grandma’s house — I had now set out on a nine-and-a-half-month journey that would take me to Holland, France and Lebanon. My time with Youth with a Mission(YWAM) — an international discipleship and missions’ training organization — was one of the most challenging, exciting and life-changing seasons of my life. I often refer to this period of my youth as spiritual boot camp, as God used the teaching, ministry experiences and relationships to humble me, draw me closer to Jesus and to hone his call on my life.

Democrat and Republic icons with Cross in middles

In our expression of the body of Christ called Central Congregational Church, we pray this prayer together each time we gather on Sunday morning; Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. But what does it actually mean to pray, Thy kingdom come, and are we really interested in God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven?

As the global coronavirus pandemic and national social unrest rage on, we have been plunged into a time of confusion and conflict like many of us have never seen in our lifetimes. The debate and angry rhetoric circling around issues related to both the pandemic and racial tension have exhausted and polarized us. Should we wear masks to protect ourselves and others from the virus, or in doing so do we surrender our rights as Americans? Is it appropriate to declare Black Lives Matter, or is that a capitulation to far left, extremist elements in our society? Do we champion a bygone era to which we call America back to greatness, or do we believe America has never been nor ever will be great until all vestiges of racism and discrimination are identified and torn down?

Sunrise over a field of grass

Is this the end? Considering the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, social unrest throughout the country and the entrenched political polarization, I have had this question posed to me on more than one occasion. And now as I sit down to write this article, I am watching the attack on the Capitol Building with horror and disbelief that this is happening in the United States of America. Is this the end, indeed? 

When I look up synonyms for the word, apocalypse, the suggestions I get are destruction, disaster, catastrophe, Armageddon and Judgement Day. This word that comes to us almost without change from the Greek – apokalypsis – has most comprehensively come to mean, the end of the world. 

Spoiler alert! I do not know if this is the end, or the beginning of the end, and neither does anyone else. And yet, as our guest speaker this past Sunday (January 3), Pastor Steve Babbitt, from Spring Valley Community Church reminded us, our lack of information about the time of the end – and in our Christian context, the return of Christ – has not stopped people throughout the centuries predicting both the end of the world and the precise date of Christ’s return. Further, I am sure you can imagine with me that people throughout the ages that have faced various devastating natural disasters and brutal wars, easily convinced themselves that they were living in the end times and that the Second Coming of Christ was imminent.  

Pedestrians crossing street

Here we are in the month of March in the year of our Lord two thousand and twenty - already! How’s it going for you so far? While I hope you are doing well in the pursuit of your New Year’s resolutions (if you had the courage to make any), and that you have had some pleasant surprises thus far, I’ll bet if I asked how many of you are feeling behind schedule, under the gun or overwhelmed (or all of the above), I would see quite a show of hands.

As we head into this third month of the new year, possibly already searching for the pause or rewind button on the VCR of life (for those of you under 30, you can Google “VCR”), I would like to spend a few moments reflecting on the familiar words of Jesus recounted in Matthew’s gospel,

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” (Matt. 11.28-30). 

Image of Man holding passport in front of American flag

I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon of late. While citizenship, immigration and national borders are being hotly contested and defended, there is a concurrent,  growing interest -- at least in more affluent countries -- in our personal ethnic, racial and geographical heritage. Due to the availability of low cost in-home DNA testing, we can now receive a kit in the mail, use the included Q-tip type instrument to swab our cheek for a saliva sample, mail said instrument back to the company, and within a short time receive quite extensive results as to where we came from with percentages of our ethnic and racial makeup -- full color charts and graphs included.

While I have never sought out the exact ratios of my varied pedigree, I do know that I am made up of a rather lively blend of Scottish, Irish, English, German and American Indian ingredients. That being said, my American roots and citizenship go back many generations. As far as I know, none of my near relatives migrated to the states from somewhere else.

While I am interested in my cultural and ethnic roots, and am at the same time “Proud to be an American,” as the song says, (“Thankful to be an American” might be a better way to say it),  I am more interested and more grateful for my spiritual DNA, and the future hope that it has been instilled in me by my parents and grandparents.