A Feast for the Soul and the Eyes!

Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away;
for now the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
is heard in our land.
 The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away.

– The Song of Solomon 2:10-13

Sunday evening before Zoom Bible study I went for a walk with Jason.   I realize this is in no way a surprising development. Most days Jason and I go for at least one and usually two walks around our neighborhood.   We are walkers. It is what we do/who we are.

But yesterday evening as we walked I tried to be just a bit most present – just a little more in the moment. A little less distracted by to do lists and work thoughts and worries about the world and pandemics. A little more right there – right then.

I tried to notice more. I tried of listen to the world around me. I tried to see more. I tried to delight and to give thanks for the blessing of that Sunday evening.

And oh my was there a lot to see and to hear and to give thanks for last evening! Spring is here!!! Finally whoo-hoo! Yippee! Hallelujah!

Will was playing outside with Jack and the little girls from next door.   Their laughter was absolutely ringing through the air as they played a rousing game of soccer in our backyard.   They were so very happy and their happiness was contagious. I felt a smile spreading across my face just hearing their laughter and chatty chatter.

While I was listening I also heard the wind whistling . Wow – was it windy/blustery/blowing yesterday evening!

Then as Jason and I were walking on a straight stretch of road – I closed my eyes for just a moment – and I listened to the birds chirping and calling and singing. (When I do this in the winter the only thing I hear is squirrels complaining about how miserably cold it is outside! And yes – I do speak squirrel . . . don’t you?)

Once I reopened my eyes – I noticed the absolute explosion of color.   Seriously in the last 4 or 5 weeks our world has changed dramatically.

Remember this . . .

This picture was taken just five weeks ago.

Everywhere I looked there was color. It is truly a feast outside for the eyes and the winter weary soul right now.

After our exercise had been achieved and the serious walking walk was over for the day – I decided to grab the camera and to go for a meander through the neighborhood. Jason was in charge of supper so I actually had some time to spare! So awesome!

I wandered and I meandered and I simply looked for beauty. I marveled and felt awe. I delighted and gave thanks for the blessing of SPRING!

Have you ever really taken the time to look closely – really – really closely at a flowering tree? Take a look today. They are intriguing.

I marveled at the incredible variety of spring blossoms.   There are so many different flowering trees and shrubs and bushes right now. And the daffodils – the variety of daffodils once you start paying attention is amazing – so – so many varieties.

I stopped and felt the warmth of the spring sun on my face. I watched the clouds moving and shifting and changing shape.

I gave thanks winter was behind me and I had made it through the long dark night of my soul yet again. ( I really – really dislike winter.)

I gave thanks for spring. I gave thanks for all of the many – many abundant reminders of God’s presence in our lives. I gave thanks for the blessing of spring and the blessing of my family and for the time to wander and meander and notice and delight.

I encourage you to take some time today or tomorrow to notice something beautiful – something lovely. To slow down and really see something created by God and to look at it.   And to give yourself the opportunity to appreciate the work of our creator God. Give yourself the gift and the blessing of being intrigued and interested and inspired.

You are all in my heart – thoughts – and prayers.

In Christ and with Love –

Pastor Kerri

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping Some Perspective

I will be completely honest – the past few weeks have been hard for me. Actually the past few months have been challenging for me.

I have been feeling particularly crummy lately.  I am struggling mightily with patience. Things that rolled off of me before aren’t rolling off quite so easily these days.  I am just not myself.

I try so hard to be optimistic and kind every day. I seek the beautiful and the good. I am a glass half-full kind of person. I really and truly do go around seeking reminders of God’s presence and looking for God’s blessings in my daily life.

I look for rainbows when it is raining. Seriously – I actually look for rainbows when it is raining.   Just last Wednesday (Saint Patrick’s Day) it was raining buckets when I noticed the sun had come out. Of course – the hunt for rainbows in the McFarland household was on immediately. And lo and behold – there was a glorious rainbow. Jack found it for me and took wonderful pictures!

You see – this looking for rainbows business is such a part of who I am – my children do it too! I love that I have taught my children to look for rainbows when it is raining.   Seriously – my sons look for rainbows when it is raining! This is a proud parenting achievement for me. My sons look for rainbows and they both eat chickpeas and kale!

But – as I said – I have been hurting physically and struggling – so I have not been doing the best job of delighting and seeking and exploring lately. Pain has slowed me down.   Some days pain slows me way – way down.   I haven’t become cynical. My glass is still half-full. (It would be so very – very sad to become one of those people who only see the worst in others and who spread yuck and meanness in the world. I always feel so sorry for those people. I can’t imagine how sad their lives must be . . .)

But I realized this week that I have been noticing the negatives of life more lately. I have let my focus rest on those unpleasant things more often. I have been focusing a bit too much on the yuck and the annoying and the pain and the disappointments. My thoughts have lingered longer than usual on the things that hurt or bug me. (As if I can change the course of action the governor in an adjacent state will take with the power of my thoughts . . . And those unmasked people really don’t care what I think either! In fact – I would just be very wise to avoid both and move on with my life.)

So this week I have been working really hard on resetting my focus.   I don’t hurt any less. (Wow – did those wretchedly awful muscle spasms in my knee hurt this weekend!) I still passionately disagree with those who don’t wear their masks or maintain a safe social distance or choose to spread hurt and negativity – but I can seek the good and the beautiful and God’s presence.

I know I will be happier this way. I know my life will feel more blessed. I know life will be richer and far more delightful. I know I will experience more awe and I will smile more and laugh more with my husband and sons and generally enjoy this one life we have to live more.

Frankly – I can dwell on beauty and on God’s presence or I can dwell on selfishness and hurt.

I think I will choose beauty and God’s presence.

And I found that even while limping I can find beauty. I can delight in the good and God’s presence and God’s love even on a not so great day.

And these reminders of God’s presence and God’s blessings and God’s love help. Actually – they help a lot! They help me cope with the zings of life and the barbs that come my way from simply being alive in this world.

They remind me I am not alone. They remind me I do not have to do this alone.

They remind me God loves ALL of us. (I think we all need this reminder right now in these very polarizing times!) I know I need this reminder too.   I need to remember that God loves that person who does not wear his mask and feels differently than I do about science and the CDC.

They remind me God is always present with us – each and every single moment of our earthly lives.

Life is often challenging. It gets downright exhausting and hard sometimes – but I do find being very intentional about seeking God’s presence and remembering my blessings adds so much joy too.

Where have you seen God’s presence lately? How has God made his presence known to you?

You are all in my heart – thoughts – and prayers.

In Christ and with Love –

Pastor Kerri

 

With Us Always – Mid-Week Lenten Worship for Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Pastor:  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

All:  Praised be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all mercies, and God of all consolation.

Pastor:  Seek the Lord our God while he may be found.

All:  Call upon him while he is near.

Pastor:  Let the wicked abandon their ways,

All:  and the unrighteous their thoughts.

Pastor:  Let them turn to the Lord for mercy,

All:  to our God, who is generous in forgiving.

Pastor:  All you who are thirsty, come to the water.  You who have no money, come receive bread, and eat.  Come without paying and without cost.

All:  Praised be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all mercies, and the God of all consolation.  Amen.

The Prayer of the Day

Pastor:  Let us pray.  O Lord, you led your ancient people through the wilderness, and brought them to the Promised Land.  Guide now the people of your Church, that, following our Savior, we may walk through the wilderness of this world toward the peace and joy of the world to come; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever.  Amen.

The Apostles’ Creed

Pastor:  God has made us his people through our baptism into Christ Jesus.  Living together in trust and in hope, we confess our faith in the words of the Apostles’ Creed:

All:  I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.

“Tree of Life and Awesome Mystery”

(Evangelical Lutheran Worship #334)

Verse 1: From the dawning of creation you have loved us as your own; stay with us through all temptation, make us turn to you alone.

Verse 2: In our call to be a blessing, may we be a blessing true; may we live and die confessing Christ as Lord of all we do.

Verse 3: Living Water of salvation, be the fountain of each soul; springing up in new creation, flow in us and make us whole.

Verse 4: Give us eyes to see you clearly; make us children of your light. Give us hearts to live more nearly as your gospel shining bright.

Verse 5: God of all our fear and sorrow, God who lives beyond our death, hold us close through each tomorrow, love us near as every breath.

Scripture Reading

Psalm 88

O Lord, God of my salvation,
   when, at night, I cry out in your presence,
let my prayer come before you;
   incline your ear to my cry.

For my soul is full of troubles,
   and my life draws near to Sheol.
I am counted among those who go down to the Pit;
   I am like those who have no help,
like those forsaken among the dead,
   like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
   for they are cut off from your hand.
You have put me in the depths of the Pit,
   in the regions dark and deep.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
   and you overwhelm me with all your waves.

You have caused my companions to shun me;
   you have made me a thing of horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
   my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call on you, O Lord;
   I spread out my hands to you.
Do you work wonders for the dead?
   Do the shades rise up to praise you?
         
Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
   or your faithfulness in Abandon?
Are your wonders known in the darkness,
   or your saving help in the land of forgetfulness?

But I, O Lord, cry out to you;
   in the morning my prayer comes before you.
O Lord, why do you cast me off?
   Why do you hide your face from me?
Wretched and close to death from my youth up,
   I suffer your terrors; I am desperate.
Your wrath has swept over me;
   your dread assaults destroy me.
They surround me like a flood all day long;
   from all sides they close in on me.
You have caused friend and neighbor to shun me;
   my companions are in darkness.  Amen.

Homily

This week the message is being shared with us by Pastor Ken Boehm from Ascension Lutheran Church here in Louisville, Kentucky.

Lord’s Prayer

Pastor: Lord remember us in your kingdom and teach us to pray:

All:  Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours,  now and forever. Amen.

or

All: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

Blessing

Pastor: May the Lord bless you and keep you this day and all the days of your eternal lives. Amen.  

Worship for Sunday, March 21, 2021

Jeremiah 31:31-34

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 51:1-12

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love;
in your great compassion blot out my offenses.
Wash me through and through from my wickedness,
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my offenses,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are justified when you speak and right in your judgment.
Indeed, I was born steeped in wickedness,
a sinner from my mother’s womb.
Indeed, you delight in truth deep within me,
and would have me know wisdom deep within.
Remove my sins with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be purer than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
that the body you have broken may rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my wickedness.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit. Amen.

Hebrews 5:5-10

Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him,
“You are my Son, today I have begotten you”;
as he says also in another place,
“You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.”

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

The Word of the Lord.

John 12:20-26

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.”

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Jesus was an incredibly busy person and so were his disciples.   Throughout the Gospels – we see Jesus and his disciples had places to go – people to see and truly important things to do. After all – they were men on a mission to change the world.

It would have been so easy for them to ignore folks like the Greek men who approached them in our Gospel reading for this week. The disciples could have avoided making eye contact with these men and hurried right past them.   They could have pretended they didn’t see them or hear their questions.

But the disciples didn’t ignore the Greek men. Philip and Andrew took the time to listen. And then – Philip and Andrew shared their request with Jesus.

At first – Jesus’ response seems rather bizarre. After all – when Philip and Andrew tell Jesus there are some nice Greek men who would like to drop by for a visit – Jesus responds by telling them he is about to die.

What on earth was Jesus talking about? Because it sure didn’t sound like Jesus was answering their request.

It was kind of like they asked Jesus what 2 + 2 was and Jesus answered purple.

At first Jesus’ answer just doesn’t seem to fit the question. But when we look closely – we see Jesus is answering their question.

First – Jesus knows these Greek men want far more than just to see him.   Because if all they wanted to do was to see Jesus – they wouldn’t have needed the disciples’ help.

Jesus wasn’t hiding in a cave – or hanging out in the desert. Jesus didn’t use disguises. Nor did Jesus surround himself with the 1st century equivalent of the Secret Service.

Jesus spent his days in public – preaching – teaching – and healing.   Jesus was out in the world almost all of the time. Jesus was pretty easy to see and to hear – if that was all you really wanted to do.

Jesus knows the Greek men actually wanted to get to know him and to know what made him tick. So this is the question Jesus answers. Jesus tells them how to get to know him.

Jesus tells them to know him – they need to go where he has gone and do what he has done. They need to live as he lived.

Think about the people you know the best – how did you get to know them so well?

You spent time with them – often lots of time. You talked to them and listened to them. You shared in their lives.

I could bore all of you to tears with how well I know both of my sons – but I will spare Jack this week and just pick on Will.

When Will was tiny he adored school buses. And for years he went everywhere with a bus tucked under his sweet little arm. Buses are a thing of the past for Will now.

Ships are his passion these days. First it was the Titanic and her sister ships and now it is warships. I listen to endless – I mean – delightfully inspiring descriptions of the German warship the Bismarck and the Japanese battleship the Yamato and the Langley which was a part of the US fleet. And so – so many – many more . . .

I could go on and on and on telling you about all of the things I know about my Will and his passion for ships and whale sharks and the color orange – plain McDonald’s cheeseburgers and pineapple and playing with his brother on the trampoline and snakes because I have gotten to know him pretty well over the last 8 years.

But I couldn’t tell you most of these things about my niece and nephew.   I love them and they are delightful human beings. But I could only guess their favorite colors and favorite foods. Because we just don’t spend enough time together.

If you want to know anyone really well – you need to spend time with them.   You need to share in their lives and to listen to them.

In our Gospel reading for this week – Jesus tells us if we want to know him – we need to spend time with him. We need to spend time doing the things he did.

We know Jesus went to worship and studied God’s Word. Jesus spent time with other believers. Jesus prayed. But Jesus did so very much more.

Jesus served. Jesus spent his life helping other people in God’s name – because he knew the best way to help people know God was to show them God’s grace, love, and mercy.

We are called to follow in his footsteps. We are called to help and to serve others.

Yes – it is incredibly important for us to worship our Lord. We need to be a part of a Christian community. We need to study – and to pray – but knowing Jesus doesn’t stop there. To know Jesus we must serve others.

Serving will look different for each of us. Your way of serving will not be exactly like my way of serving our Lord. But we should take our cue from Jesus. Jesus helped people – he had compassion for the suffering – he welcomed strangers and outcasts. He was kind and loving. Jesus fed the hungry and comforted the grieving. He welcomed children and embraced sinners. Jesus was gracious and friendly and kind.   Jesus made incredible sacrifices for others!

And we can do the very same things.   We can help. We can have compassion. We can live lives of grace – love and mercy. We can be generous. We can serve.

Perhaps you will choose to serve by bringing food or toiletries for the Fern Creek – Highview United Ministries or by donating school supplies this summer.

Maybe you will get to know Jesus better by helping at the Ronald McDonald House or by pulling weeds in the church flower beds.

Maybe you will get to know Jesus better by calling someone from church and checking in with them – or by sending a note to some of the people on our prayer list. We all should be supporting one another through these difficult days of the pandemic.

Perhaps you will serve by helping a neighbor with some spring yard work or by donating blood at our blood drive in April.

No matter how you serve – know this:

When you serve – you are signs of God’s love – grace – and mercy.

When you serve – other people can see and begin to know Jesus through you.

When you serve – lives are changed and the world becomes a better place for us all.  Truly this is Good News. Amen.

 

 

Life-giving Light – Mid-Week Lenten Worship for Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Pastor:  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

All:  Praised be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all mercies, and God of all consolation.

Pastor:  Seek the Lord our God while he may be found.

All:  Call upon him while he is near.

Pastor:  Let the wicked abandon their ways,

All:  and the unrighteous their thoughts.

Pastor:  Let them turn to the Lord for mercy,

All:  to our God, who is generous in forgiving.

Pastor:  All you who are thirsty, come to the water.  You who have no money, come receive bread, and eat.  Come without paying and without cost.

All:  Praised be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all mercies, and the God of all consolation.  Amen.

The Prayer of the Day

Pastor:  Let us pray.  O Lord, you led your ancient people through the wilderness, and brought them to the Promised Land.  Guide now the people of your Church, that, following our Savior, we may walk through the wilderness of this world toward the peace and joy of the world to come; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever.  Amen.

The Apostles’ Creed

Pastor:  God has made us his people through our baptism into Christ Jesus.  Living together in trust and in hope, we confess our faith in the words of the Apostles’ Creed:

All:  I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.

“Tree of Life and Awesome Mystery” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship #334)

Verse 1: From the dawning of creation you have loved us as your own; stay with us through all temptation, make us turn to you alone.

Verse 2: In our call to be a blessing, may we be a blessing true; may we live and die confessing Christ as Lord of all we do.

Verse 3: Living Water of salvation, be the fountain of each soul; springing up in new creation, flow in us and make us whole.

Verse 4: Give us eyes to see you clearly; make us children of your light. Give us hearts to live more nearly as your gospel shining bright.

Verse 5: God of all our fear and sorrow, God who lives beyond our death, hold us close through each tomorrow, love us near as every breath.

Scripture Reading

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew 5:14-16

[Jesus declared -] “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

The Gospel of our Lord.

Homily

This week the message is being shared with us by Rev, Ron Poisel.  Rev. Poisel is currently serving as the chaplain to the ELCA pastors of our conference.  He also is delighting in retirement from Christ Lutheran Church in Jeffersontown, KY and his two amazingly awesome granddaughters.  

Lord’s Prayer

Pastor: Lord remember us in your kingdom and teach us to pray:

All:  Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours,  now and forever. Amen.

or

All: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

Blessing

Pastor: May the Lord bless you and keep you this day and all the days of your eternal lives. Amen.

A Tremendously Terrific Tower of TP

Last Saturday Saint Stephen hosted a time to drop off much needed donations for the Fern Creek/Highview United Ministries Food Pantry.

Will and I set off for the church bright and early on Saturday morning.   We wanted/needed to get to church early enough to warm up the narthex before the wonderful Lutherans began to arrive to drop off their donations for FCHUM. (And it takes forever and 6 months to warm up the narthex – even this time of year . . . )

We also left early because we were both rather excited. Lutherans – other than Rod, Buddy, and Cheryl – might be stopping by Saint Stephen. This was very exciting indeed. Of course – seeing Rod, Buddy, and Cheryl is always delightful and tremendously exciting too. But maybe – just maybe we could see them and even more of our sisters and brothers in Christ.

All of your donations boxed – bagged – and sorted.

One of the hazards/bonuses/incredibly glorious blessings of being a pastor’s kid is all of the extra time one gets to spend hanging out at church. Even before the pandemic Jack and Will spent far more than an hour or two at church each week.

Now – NTI has meant Will is my devoted sidekick/pastoral assistant.  Will is wonderful company and thankfully he loves being at church. If I go to Saint Stephen – he expects to go too. In fact – he is downright insulted if I leave him at home.

By the time 9:00 AM rolled around Will and I were ready and eagerly awaiting the arrival of our sisters and brothers in Christ and donations for FCHUM. The lights were on. The furnace was pumping out hot air and our masks were firmly in place.

And almost immediately the Lutherans began to arrive in their cars and trucks and SUVs. They came wearing their masks and bearing what turned into a tower of toilet paper.   (And – yes I did build a tower out of the toilet paper. Doesn’t everyone?!?)

Barefoot 8 year old added for scale! See I told you he was comfortable at church . . .

The Lutherans brought toothpaste and tuna. They donated macaroni and cheese and pasta of all kinds!   There were bottles shampoo and bars of soap. There was a bounty of boxes and bundles and bags.  The narthex quickly filled with your amazingly wonderful donations for our neighbors!

Almost 30 generous Lutherans stopped by on Saturday morning to deliver donations for the Fern Creek/Highview United Ministries Food Pantry!!!

I had hoped/planned to take lots of pictures – but I was simply having way too much fun talking to everyone to remember to take any pictures.

On Saturday we collected 482 rolls of TP and 16 rolls of paper towel!!!

We collected 104 diapers – 46 tubes of toothpaste – 26 toothbrushes – 16 sticks of deodorant – 75 bars of soap – 37 bottles of shampoo – 12 bottles of dish soap – and 5 bottles of laundry detergent.

My car’s trunk was very full. One of the reason’s we bought this model was because it had the largest capacity trunk of all of the cars this size!

We gathered 47 boxes of macaroni and cheese – 10 boxes of cereal – 31 cans of tuna or chicken – 25 cans of pasta – 16 cans of soup – 12 jars of peanut butter – and 25 cans of fruits and vegetables.

We collected so many donations for FCHUM that Will and I could not deliver all of them on Monday afternoon. We will need to make a second and perhaps even third trip on Tuesday to finish the task!  But we are NOT complaining.  This is an incredibly awesome “problem” to have!

Thank you! Thank you for sharing your blessings with your neighbors. Thank you for your generosity.

You are in my heart – thoughts – and prayers.

In Christ –

Pastor Kerri

Will and I still need to deliver this to FCHUM on Tuesday. Nicely done – Lutherans – very nicely done!

Worship for Sunday, March 14, 2021

Numbers 21:4-9

From Mount Hor [the Israelites] set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22

Give thanks to the Lord, for the Lord is good,
for God’s mercy endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord proclaim
that God redeemed them from the hand of the foe,
gathering them in from the lands;
from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.
Some were fools and took rebellious paths;
through their sins they were afflicted.
They loathed all manner of food
and drew near to death’s door.
Then in their trouble they cried to the Lord
and you delivered them from their distress. 
You sent forth your word and healed them
and rescued them from the grave.
Let them give thanks to you, Lord, for your steadfast love
and your wonderful works for all people.
Let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving
and tell of your deeds with shouts of joy. Amen.

Ephesians 2:1-10

[Saint Paul writes:] You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

The Word of the Lord.

John 3:14-17

[Jesus said:] “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

“But the people became impatient on the way . . . ”

Oh my – these words speak so powerfully of the human condition – don’t they? This is the story of my life and I am guessing all of your lives too!

Are we there yet? How much longer?

How many more sleeps?

Can we move this along? Can we get things rolling?

What’s next?!?

Most of us have the attention span of a toddler who has been drinking espresso and eating Halloween candy all day!

We are truly impatient beings.

Remember in-person worship and the Confession and Forgiveness? As a part of our worship each week there is a pause for personal reflection and confession. This pause is usually about a minute or so. A mere 60 seconds.   That’s all.

60 seconds really isn’t very long. After all – there are 1,440 minutes in every day and 10,080 minutes in a week. Just 1 minute of silence to consider our sins. 1 minute to sit quietly while asking for God’s forgiveness. 1 minute to talk with our Lord.

I settled on a minute – because – frankly – it is all Lutherans seem to be able to handle!

I love all of you so very much. But you are just as human as I am. I know from personal experience there is absolutely NO way to confess an entire week’s worth of sins and sinning in 60 seconds or less.   Seriously – in a mere measly 60 seconds we should just be getting started with our confessing. But I have tried longer pauses – and they just don’t work. Honestly those longer pauses sorta freak people out.

60 seconds of silence and confession are all we can handle. Any longer and we get impatient. The shuffling – the shifting and stirring start.   The coughing and the throat clearing.   The bulletin reading – impatience and restlessness emerge.

We are impatient. We constantly push. Waiting troubles us. Think about how impatient we are when faced with any kind of waiting – not just waiting in silence considering our sins . . .

If we have to wait more than 20 seconds for anything – we quickly grow impatient. If we are stuck in traffic – often there is honking and perhaps some “creative” gesturing to communicate our impatience . . .

If we are in line – there is toe tapping and loud sighing.   Waiting rooms are filled with people who are grumbling and grumping. And muttering and sighing.

We want what WE want when WE want it. And let’s be honest – we want it NOW!

Sometimes in our impatience we push right past what is good for us and others. Sometimes our impatience makes us selfish. Sometimes our impatience blinds us to our blessings.

This is what was happening in our first reading. The Israelites’ impatience was blinding them to their blessings from God. It was making them careless and self-centered. They were taking their blessings for granted. In their impatience – food – freedom and God’s presence in their lives were no longer enough. Their impatience made them demand more and more! Their impatience made them selfish.

It is hard to admit – but the same can be true for us. We too can become so impatient that we fail to see God’s blessings to us. We can become so impatient we are blind to God’s presence in our lives. Our impatience can make us careless and selfish.

Lent has traditionally been a time for Christians to practice the disciplines of reflection and self-denial. Of fasting – and waiting thoughtfully. Of working on being more patient – of abstaining. Of trying to surrender some of our wants. Of putting others’ first. Of working for the greater good.

Lent is a time to be aware of our impatience and the ways it can blind us to God’s blessings to us. To reflect.

Our reading from Numbers – leaves us wondering how the Israelites could be so ungrateful. How could they take bread from heaven for granted? Or freedom from slavery? How could they not see how blessed they were? Their lack of gratitude is puzzling – even shocking. Their impatience is troubling . . .

But before we judge the Israelites too harshly – let’s consider our own lives and think about our own hearts. Because we also receive God’s amazing and abundant blessings. We too have God’s promises. And yet – aren’t there times when we don’t really appreciate those blessings? When we grow impatient?

Perhaps we should ask ourselves – do we ever take God’s blessings for granted? Do we thank God for the air we breathe – for the sun that shines – for the rain that falls – for our homes – our families – our jobs – and the food on our tables.

It is easy to take blessings for granted – or to think – if God really loved us as much as he says he does our homes would be larger – our cars newer and our bank accounts bigger.

We ALL tend to take our blessings for granted especially once we have gotten used to them. And we get used to them very – very easily!

It is so easy to take the familiar for granted. To forget to be grateful. To become impatient with the way things are in our lives.

I encourage you to take time this week to thank God for all he has done for you. Take time to be thankful and patient and grateful. Because we have all been blessed and that is very Good News indeed. AMEN.

 

Going to Second Grade – Again . . .

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

– Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Baking brownies. This is a chemical change = science.

This has been quite the year hasn’t it?

Our challenges have been as unique as we and our life circumstances are. For some of us it has been the loneliness. For others it has been a bit too much togetherness.

For some of us it has been busyness. Others have struggled with boredom.

For all of us there has been so very much change! Most of us are change-resistant in the best of times.   And these are not the best of times!

Change is unsettling and exhausting. Change is just plain hard.

Even now – almost a year into this pandemic – the changes keep coming.

I too have struggled. Wow have I been busy and popular! Some days this has been challenging.

I am not really an early morning person – but these days I get up at 5:00 AM or occasionally 4:30 AM. Because I crave quiet. I need time to think and write (without interruptions) and to reflect. So I get up early-ish 7 days a week. I love these early morning hours when it is just me – a cup of coffee and my thoughts. I think this change is here to stay.

Once the McFarland men descend the stairs the juggling – the bustling and the chattering ensue. My life is blessed – but it is intense.

This is our igloo.

Our home is spacious – but there are 4 of us working and going to school here these days. It often gets VERY busy! Our home is currently a second grade classroom – a computer programmer’s office – a high school – and a pastor’s study. Plus – in the evenings it is our home . . .

Once upon a time – (2019) I thought I was busy. I was so wrong. I was not busy then. Back then I only had one full-time job. Not so anymore. Now I am a pastor and a teacher.

Now I write sermons and go to second grade. I return emails and listen to chatter about warships – submarines and nuclear bombs. (Will’s interests of the week.)

I write blog posts and get updates on the Manual science fair and AP something or other. I do know all of the classes Jack is taking – but he abbreviates the class titles into a shorthand intentionally meant to befuddle and confuse me! I defy you to discern that “a push” is actually advanced placement United States history. . . while you are also listening to an 8 year old chatter about nuclear submarines and you are trying to finish a thought . . . (The aforementioned 8 year old should probably be doing his math assignment and not be talking about nuclear bombs.)

This year has been intense and exhausting and stressful.

We read a story about snowmen and then had to build our own.

To counter some of this stress I am focusing on the things that matter to me and to our family. My floors are not as clean as they once were. There are actual weeds in my flower beds and I love weeding. (Yes – I know I am a freak . . .) But something (well actually somethings) had to give. I am letting those things go for now.

Our sons don’t mind a few dust bunnies. Nor do a few weeds in the flower beds bother them. What they do need is to chat about “a push” and the complexities of learning multiplication. They do need me to be a bit more present and engaged in their lives and their educations than they did 12 months ago.

This year of togetherness has been intense. It has also been filled with incredible blessings.

I know so much more about our sons’ educations – because I see them in class. I watch them interact with their teachers and classmates. I get far more updates from them than I ever have before.

I spend time helping Will with his class work. (Jack doesn’t need my help. But he does chat with us about what he is learning which is amazing and delightful.)

The Cat in the Hat celebrating Dr. Suess.

I know this pandemic is far from over. But one year in I have been doing some reflecting on what I have learned and on how I have been changed and shaped by the experience. I have been thinking about what I will remember from this past year.

One of the blessings of this year for me has been the opportunity to go to 2nd grade (again). It hasn’t always been easy. Some days – some hours have been stressful and hard. Right now Will is jumping on our trampoline because the poor little guy was just too full of energy to focus on yet another writing assignment. And I didn’t want to reprimand him AGAIN.   Hopefully after he burns off some of his glorious 8 year old energy he will be more able to focus on school work.

Yes there has been stress – pressure and exhaustion – but there have been so many blessings. I have witnessed Will’s reading improve dramatically this year. He has gone from simple addition to multiplication in less than 7 months (seriously cool). We have learned about Native Americans – the abolition of slavery – and women’s suffrage together. We have read stories – made crafts and done amazing science experiments.

His very own – pop-up card made for art class.

Yes – we have been busy. Sometimes I get impatient and annoyed by all of the interruptions and busyness and noise and demands on my time and energy. My floors don’t look their best nor do my weedy flower beds.   Some things have had to give.

But we have laughed and learned and grown (all of us)! We have been blessed.

I know this year has been and continues to be challenging. But there has been more to this year than that.   How have you been blessed? Where have the blessings been? Have there been surprises? What has brought you joy this year? What have you learned? Have you grown?

You are all in my heart – thoughts – and prayers.

In Christ and with Love –

Pastor Kerri

Living Water – Mid-Week Lenten Worship for Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Pastor:  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

All:  Praised be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all mercies, and God of all consolation.

Pastor:  Seek the Lord our God while he may be found.

All:  Call upon him while he is near.

Pastor:  Let the wicked abandon their ways,

All:  and the unrighteous their thoughts.

Pastor:  Let them turn to the Lord for mercy,

All:  to our God, who is generous in forgiving.

Pastor:  All you who are thirsty, come to the water.  You who have no money, come receive bread, and eat.  Come without paying and without cost.

All:  Praised be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all mercies, and the God of all consolation.  Amen.

The Prayer of the Day

Pastor:  Let us pray.  O Lord, you led your ancient people through the wilderness, and brought them to the Promised Land.  Guide now the people of your Church, that, following our Savior, we may walk through the wilderness of this world toward the peace and joy of the world to come; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever.  Amen.

The Apostles’ Creed

Pastor:  God has made us his people through our baptism into Christ Jesus.  Living together in trust and in hope, we confess our faith in the words of the Apostles’ Creed: All:  I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.

“Tree of Life and Awesome Mystery” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship #334)

Verse 1: From the dawning of creation you have loved us as your own; stay with us through all temptation, make us turn to you alone.

Verse 2: In our call to be a blessing, may we be a blessing true; may we live and die confessing Christ as Lord of all we do.

Verse 3: Living Water of salvation, be the fountain of each soul; springing up in new creation, flow in us and make us whole.

Verse 4: Give us eyes to see you clearly; make us children of your light. Give us hearts to live more nearly as your gospel shining bright.

Verse 5: God of all our fear and sorrow, God who lives beyond our death, hold us close through each tomorrow, love us near as every breath.

Reading

The Holy Gospel according to Saint John 4

Jesus left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a Samaritan city, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’. (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well?’ Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’

Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come back.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!’ 

The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you.’

The Gospel of our Lord.

Homily

This week the message is being shared with us by Pastor Claire Ackleow from Faith Lutheran Church in Jeffersonville, Indiana.

Lord’s Prayer

Pastor: Lord remember us in your kingdom and teach us to pray: All:  Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours,  now and forever. Amen.

or

All: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

Blessing

Pastor: May the Lord bless you and keep you this day and all the days of your eternal lives. Amen.

Whispers of Spring

O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, praise his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
    let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
 let the field exult, and everything in it.
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy.

– Psalm 96 1-2 and 11-12

The first violet of the spring and I had to head into a neighbor’s yard to find it!

Likely you have noticed that I am just a bit outdoorsy. Jason and I go for walks twice a day – everyday unless it is raining significantly. (I really dislike getting rained on! Yuck – just plain yuck!)

We walk even when it is pretty cold outside. During the winter months this means I often/always look like a toddler who dressed herself. I wear gloves topped with mittens – at least one scarf/shawl – not one but two wool hats – and of course my massive puffer coat. Getting ready for a walk takes some serious time and effort – but it is so worth it to feel sun on my face – to breath fresh-ish air – and to move.

Even my winter shadow is puffy . . .

We tend to walk the same circuit of streets and cul-de-sacs in our neighborhood. (After 5 laps of our normal circuit – we know 45 minutes have elapsed and it is back to work and NTI for us.)

As we walk – I notice things. I cannot tell you the number of nails and screws I pick up on our walks.   I am a bit of a nail vigilante.   I hope I am saving a neighbor or three from a flat tire. If not I am picking up trash . . .

We smile and wave to our neighbors who also walk or spend time outside.   We don’t know most of their names – but they have become a part of our lives because of our walks. (I will admit to worrying about and praying for neighbors who we don’t see for a while.)

I find delight in weedy weeds this time of year . . . less so in July . . .

We watch puppies grow into well behaved dogs – or not so well-behaved dogs. We see babies grow into toddlers who grow into children and children into teens. We see our neighbors age (and ourselves too for that matter).

And we see the seasons change.

Right now whispers of spring are emerging all around us. Soon they will be bursting forth in wild abundance – but right now the signs of spring are far more subtle. You need to be looking for them. And – of course – I AM LOOKING! Wow am I looking and searching and seeking in earnest!!! I am all in for this particular adventure.

Just last week I noticed some trees have that glorious green haze trees develop as they prepare to burst forth with their amazing green leaves.   (I love the green haze. It holds so much promise.) Only a few trees are sporting this green haze right now – but their   green halos are like beacons of hope!

I have also noticed robins. Robins are suddenly everywhere. Beautiful busy – busy robins are bustling around all over the place.   The Canada geese are back too. I hear them calling and honking to one another as they fly overhead. It is so very nice to have these noisy friends back too. Have you noticed how much noisier it is getting outside? It isn’t summer noisy yet – but it is certainly getting noisier outside as the birds return and at least a few children play outside.

My lilies are starting to send up glorious green shoots. So are the iris. Of course – the wretched weeds are growing most quickly of all!   But this time of year – even the weeds make me smile and my heart sing for joy.

Hello my lovelies – I have missed you!

My rose bushes have teeny – tiny baby leaves. You have to get in very – very close to see these leaves – but they are there.

Spring is coming with whispers and wisps. Soon spring will burst forth with great and glorious abundance.   Soon spring will be wild! Soon spring will be a riot of color and noise – but right now it is quieter and a bit more subtle.

God is at work in our world. Spring is coming.

I encourage you to head outside and spend a few minutes exploring and seeking and searching for God’s presence in our world.

Where do you see God’s presence? How is God making himself known? Look – listen – wonder – wait . . . Don’t hurry. Mute your phone (or leave it behind.)   Watch the world go by. Listen . . . What do you hear? What do you feel? What do you see?

Enjoy the gift of God’s creation. Delight in God’s blessings. God is here. God is with us. We are not alone.

You are in my heart – thoughts – and prayers.

In Christ and with Love –

Pastor Kerri

Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.

– Psalm 111:2