What’s Up with Pastor Todd 4-24-20

“The Road to Emmaus” by Daniel Bonnell

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 4-24-20

It’s difficult to know what the lessons of the week will be on Monday morning. This is always true. Human beings have a notoriously mixed record in the future-predicting business. Last week was a great example. The first part of the week was what has become “normal schedule.” Monday: get “to do” list from Sue, start at the top with creating Zoom links for the week’s program schedule, write “What’s Up with Pastor Todd,” do the Monday “Daily Devotional,” create staff meeting agenda, write worship for the coming Sunday, and so on. 

By Thursday all my plans for the weekend had been blown out of the water. My oldest daughter, Fiona, got a message from her boyfriend, Riku, that his building was under emergency evacuation. Within 30 minutes Fiona and I were driving to Chicago to pick him up and bring him to Connecticut. This circumstance changed meeting plans, worship plans, sleeping and eating plans. What was up with Pastor Todd on Friday was very different from What was up with Pastor Todd on Monday. Here I am today facing yet another Monday and asking, “What’s Up with Pastor Todd?”

I suppose one solution would be to wait until Friday to write my column, but I’ve found it a helpful discipline to begin the week with a self check-in. And the truth is, even in an unusually disrupted week like the last one, parts of what I had written on Monday were still relevant when it came time to preach the following Sunday. My Monday self check-in ended up being a gift to my very different reality seven days later. 

There’s a common principle of spiritual practice that encourages us to “be here now.” Mindfulness teaches us to “stay in the present moment.” But I find that this doesn’t exclude looking forward and looking back. Rather, it includes both and gives a stable place from which to reflect on the past and anticipate the future. 

Pastor’s Page February 2020

Pastor’s Page Feb. 2020

February is discernment month for First Church Granby. Feb. 9 following worship will be our annual congregational “discernment” meeting. I think it’s great that FCCG has one meeting a year devoted to the spiritual practice of discernment. There are many different approaches to discernment. You can find a number of different examples in the Bible: prayer and fasting, casting lots, consulting prophets, rituals involving sacrifice, pilgrimage. Gideon famously put fleece outside overnight to discern what God wanted him to do in battle. Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive the 10 commandments. We won’t be doing any of these things. We will be doing prayer and conversation. But what all these have in common is the ancient human attempt to determine what God wants or what God is up to, in more formal language, “divine will.” 

Divine will is a notoriously difficult thing to determine. The Bible is full of stories of individuals who claimed to know the divine will when, it turns out, they didn’t. The results are usually unpleasant. So humility is the first and most important quality to bring to discernment. The second is patience. Scripture says that “the Spirit moves where it will.” God answers in God’s good time. And sometimes the answer is silence. In which case, we might decide to sit with the question a while longer. But I want to encourage us that it is indeed possible to discern God’s deepest longing for us. I’ve experienced it. I’ve witnessed it happen in congregations. We’ll know we’ve nailed it when there is a moment of connection, joy, and release. God’s will may not be pleasant. God may not be inviting us to do something we particularly want to do. But there is joy and release knowing it’s the right thing to do. There is a deep sense of connection knowing that in the long run discerning and doing God’s will leads to abundant life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.

So don’t miss worship Feb. 9 and stay for the meeting after. Our transition coach, Claire Bamberg will be joining us and facilitating a discernment discussion on the topic of “What is Your ‘Why’?”

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 7-15-19

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 7-15-19

Sunday we continue our “My Favorite Scripture” sermon series. This week we’ll be looking at Luke 9:57-62, focusing particularly on verse 62: “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” This Scripture is a favorite of Ann Wilhelm.

Ann found this Scripture inscribed in the cover of her father’s childhood Bible. Ann’s father, Fred, and his wife, Edith, who was a refugee from Nazi Germany, bought a farm in Granby on which they raised Ann and her siblings. Today Ann and her husband Bill Bentley own and manage the family farm. This Scripture came to mind as Ann was thinking about FCC Granby and her role in the church’s transition to a new way of being.

For me, this Scripture points to the tendency of people and congregations in transition to hedge our bets. As the familiar hymn says, “Love so amazing, so divine demands my soul, my life, my all.” But we don’t want to let go of it all. We don’t want to turn our church over to Jesus and let him have his way with us. What if something happens I don’t like? What if I’m asked to give up something important to me personally? So there’s a lot of bargaining that goes on in church transition. Not surprising, since bargaining is one of the stages of grief. And transition always involves loss and grief.

But I want to hear Ann’s thoughts. And I want you to hear them, too. So this Sunday we will be doing something a little different with the sermon. Ann and I will be sharing the sermon as a “sacred conversation.” It’s a kind of semi-scripted dialogue in which together Ann and I will be reflecting on the Scripture and its connection to our life as a congregation. I look forward to a great conversation!

By the time you receive this I will have taken a couple days of meditation retreat. I’m grateful for the opportunity to go deeper spiritually so that I can lead the congregation in deepening our connection with God. Successful congregational transition requires that we go in two directions at once. We need to go deeper spiritually because transition is incredibly difficult and demanding. We need to get spiritually “fit” for the kingdom of God so that we can meet the demands of the work ahead of us. We also need to go outward relationally to connect with our neighbors. As I said this past Sunday: the future of FCC Granby lies with the people who are not yet members of our congregation.