Dear Friends in Christ,
Blessings to you and yours! I hope you have had a joyful, restful and restorative summer. Autumn breezes are just around the corner. Let us pray that they bring with them some winds of change for a world far more filled with fear, threats and uncertainty than it ought to be.
On Sunday, August 13, 2017, we heard in worship the story of Elijah, who heard the voice of God not in the violence of storm, fire or earthquake but in a “sheer silence” that followed all that noise. The image speaks powerfully to a world filled with so much violence, and the daily threat of more. When most of our national leaders are challenged by the words of a rival, they respond in kind thereby increasing the noise. We are no longer a nation of listeners, at least not when it comes to national politics. Even at the local level, where we keep most of our opinions to ourselves until we know we are in the company of like-minded associates, the silence is equally deafening. We live in a time when trust is vetted according to opinions and positions of power rather than compassion and understanding.
Enter: God. The “sheer silence” confronted by Elijah was the God whose patience and compassion transcend anything we can understand, but whose tolerance for monkey-business is zero. Elijah was standing before the God who would not speak until Elijah’s complaining was done and he was ready to hear what God had to say. Permit me to interpret the text a bit and I would say that it was a most austere and unflappable face. It is the face I believe is looking at our world now. And, it is a face whose mouth is closed. We are, after all, not a world of listeners any longer – not to each other, not to God. God still loves us and is unbearably patient with us, but no sound is coming from the face to which we have no intention of listening anyway.
Are you bristling? Well, don’t bristle at me! How easy it is in our loud, loud culture to shout back: “But God IS talking, Pastor Ken! We just aren’t listening. Donald Trump speaks for God.” Or, “Barak Obama speaks for God.” Or, “The Republican Party speaks for God.” Or, “The Democratic Party speaks for God.” Feel free to bristle, if you must, but your retort only reinforces the point. The more we argue our own correctness, the louder our world gets, the more the violence mounts . . . and, the more we drown out the only one who has a word worth hearing. As the Elijah story depicts, no one has a greater capacity for noise than God. But when God wishes to communicate, silence is the first word: the silence of a face whose compassion is exceeded only by its resolve to be heard. God is watching, but not as the judge supernal just waiting to send one group to heaven and the other to hell. Rather, God is waiting for the eyes of those who will repent of their earth-bound convictions, regret their declarations of certitude, and humble themselves before that terrible-yet-adorable face who is not amused by our violent world in the least.
So what is your point, Pastor Ken? Silence. How little of it we have in our world today! And when there is insufficient silence there is also insufficient listening. When we scream our point of view, God does not scream louder in return in hopes that we will hear. Nor is God known by the voice of the one who screams the loudest! Instead, God stands silent and watches, deeply and compassionately, waiting for us to leave our opinions behind and listen. And if you are wondering how you are supposed to hear God, practice on your neighbor. Practice listening to your neighbor, particularly the one with whom you disagree, because God disagrees with us – our war, opinions, pomp and circumstance. Practice hearing and deeply understanding the words of a person totally unlike yourself in outlook and experience. The art of listening long enough to walk in someone else’s shoes is the art of being a disciple. Learn here on earth to be a disciple of someone completely unlike yourself and you will be prepared to be a disciple of the God who is wholly different from all of us. We would all do well to stand in silence before the face of that God, the only face capable of silencing our mad, mad, mad, mad world.
On the road ahead for St. Peter’s Union Church are meetings and discussions about not only becoming a fully united congregation but also becoming a congregation ready to grow in a more diverse and challenging world. You can do this by making sure your point is heard – thereby increasing the noise – or by eagerly listening for the thoughts and feelings of others – thereby adding to the quiet. (“But what of MY opinion?” you ask. “Listen well to others and you will teach them how to listen to you! Then your point will be well heard,” I answer.) So I will ask you as your pastor and a fellow human being, consider the noisy world in which we live and where all that noise has gotten us; consider Elijah and the God who patiently waited for him to speak his complaint before answering; and, consider what a wonderful place St. Peter’s would be if its reputation was, “The place where people LISTEN and care.” A quiet place where people are heard and known and loved precisely for who they are – by people who listened long enough to know precisely who they are.
Perhaps there is a powerful lesson to be learned from our noisy world: noise leads us nowhere worth knowing; but, silence speaks a thousand words – all of them worth hearing. Are you ready, St. Peter’s, to be the listener in a noisy world? If so, you are ready for the future God has laid out for you; and, you are well prepared to hear precisely what that road is.
Meanwhile, read on! There is much to know about life together here at St. Peter’s in September 2017, including Sunday School, Confirmation, worship, the Federation process, congregational care, and more. And, thank you for your part in all of this.
Looking forward with you to an ever-more faithful St. Peter’s, I am . . .
Yours in Christ,
St. Peter’s Church is entering a time of transition. The board is confident that God will lead us through this process and the many important decisions that lie ahead. We are asking for prayers and support from the congregation during this process.
The Board would like to thank the following people who have offered their time, knowledge, and patience to represent our congregation and serve on our Search Committee:
Mike Hunsicker (Chairperson) Cathie Miller
Terry Miller Burdell Snyder
Jill Hoppes Charlene Miller
Jan Altenberg Nancy Knadler
We pray that the congregation will trust our leadership, and trust that God is working through us. We ask for the congregation’s strength and support to help guide us through this time of transition.
Matthew 7:7-8 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and for the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
We unanimously decided to suspend the search committee meetings with the introduction of the idea to become a Federated church. This is very exciting to us to look into this new chapter, we all have spoken about being one as a church opposed to just Lutheran or U.C.C. This gives us the ability to accomplish that, as one of the search committee’s members spoke “Now we would truly be a Union Church”
- With that being said our identity (as a church) will change through this process, which will help the search committee to determine the direction we will move forth in the future.
- The Shared Ministry we adopted has paved the way for this next step for all of us.
- We as a search committee have had numerous discussions about us voting as one, this would alleviate that.
- Please reach out to Board Members as well as Search Committee Members with your questions and we will do our best to find you answers.