Meet PCM’s New Christian Education Director

Anne Weatherwax Director of Christian Education

Hello PCM Family!

I’d like to take a quick moment and introduce myself so you can get to know me a little better.  To begin with I am so blessed to be back at PCM once again; it has been 24 years since I was a member here before I moved away!  In those 24 years I had one more child for a total of three of my own, Victoria is now 28, Mirannda is 25, Hunter is 22 and then added to my quiver, a 16  year old daughter, Courtney, whom I gained when I married my husband John four years ago.  The newest loves of our lives are our amazing soon-to-be four-year-old identical twin grandsons James and River.  Life is so full and we are so blessed.

As I come to work here at PCM, I continue in my Master’s program at Liberty University Online as a Divinity student studying Discipleship and Religious Education.  My passions are spending time with my family and friends, crafting, reading, singing and taking every opportunity I can to tell anyone and everyone who will listen about God’s amazing grace.

Anne Weatherwax
Director of Christian Education

 

Education Series “Why Palestine Matters” begins September 22

PCM is excited to invite young adults, senior citizens, and those in-between to join me in a five-week Sunday School study this fall beginning Sunday, September 22nd in the fellowship hall at 9:00 a.m.

We will be privileged to have as our speaker, Muna Nassar from Bethlehem, the 2019 Presbyterian International Peacemaker on Sunday, October 6th. She works with Kairos Palestine, a Christian Palestinian movement which advocates for ending the over 50-year occupation of Palestine and achieving a just solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict.

While our beloved teacher, Mike O’Bradovich, takes a well-deserved break from his adult-education role on Sunday mornings, we will explore together the subject of Israel/Palestine today and the history behind it, using the newly-published study guide entitled Why Palestine Matters: The Struggle to End Colonialism.

The study guide was created by the Presbyterian Israel/Palestine Mission Network, a group of Presbyterians challenged by the church’s General Assembly in 2004 to explore the subject and speak to us members of the church on the topic. We are reminded by this publication that the Presbyterian Church has had a mission presence in the Middle East since the 1800s. We are also reminded by the Biblical scriptures that Palestine is where our Christian faith had its beginnings as did the Jewish faith. The third Abrahamic faith, Islam, also has its Palestinian connections. Today Palestine consists of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, the places we hear about regularly in our daily news along with news of the State of Israel.

The final Sunday of the series, October 13th, we will again be privileged to hear from a Palestinian speaker, Robert Massoud, a Palestinian Canadian whose family fled war in Palestine in 1947-1948.  You know Robert by reputation for Zatoun, his fair-trade company, whose olive oil we purchase each Christmas season.

 

Book Club For September

Here we are again!  Updating everyone on what the Men and Women’s Book Clubs are reading and discussing in September!

WOMEN’S BOOK CLUB:  The women are reading “The Day The World Came To Town….9/11 In Gander, Newfoundland”.  A true story and account of a community that exemplifies love, kindness, and generosity during one of the most horrible days in the life of our country.  Meeting times are at noon at PCM and 6:30 p.m. in a member’s home.  Contact Diane Frans at 402-572-1158 or dianefrans@outlook.com.

MENS’S BOOK CLUB:  The men are reading “It Can’t Happen Here” by Sinclair Lewis, a cautionary tale about the fragility of democracy.  Mark Frans is the person to contact for additional information at 602-677-1535 or markfrans@cox.net.

Be there or be square!
Diane and Mark Frans, The Reading Spouses

A Message About Mission Projects

The month of August has turned out to be packing month. We packed in a beautiful decorative way, 22 baskets for the silent auction to be held August 24th at Calvin Crest. Kudos to those creative Packers.

August 23rd your mission crew and its helpers will be packing 120 bags for the BART (Benson Area Refuge task Force) giveaway on August 24th we still could use dish soap and any warm coats for children.  This is an excellent time to check out the clearance sales for backpacks, an item we never have enough of.

School supplies were packed  by Debby Marsh, her grandson Kyle and daughter Amanda. Four trips with a loaded dolly were needed to pack her van. Then they took items to Edison School and unloaded it. Thank you to such an industrious family for all their hard work and this is just in time for the new school year.

Speaking of school supplies—”no more clipping” is the new motto for Box Tops for Education. The new upgraded version is pictured here and explained on the bulletin board in the Commons. There also is a list of acceptable items for Box Tops scanning. You may also go to their website for more information. In addition for your information Campbell Soup labels are no longer being accepted.

August 11th blood drive racked up 40 units of blood thank you Mike Osborne and Lauren Ilg, who were your hosts. the next blood drive at PCM will be in January and after hearing this
month menu you might all want to come. 60 egg salad quarters were donated by the now healthy Mary McLean and also on the table was fried chicken, potato salad, macaroni salad, brownies and chocolate cookies. Sounds like a party to me.

The Garden Mart staff has really been industrious this year. Each week a beautiful presentation of vegetables is available to all church members and anyone else who comes. We have a plethora of tomatoes, beans, zucchini, cucumbers, winter squash (spaghetti style) and even apples from the trees on our property. We still come up with about fifty pounds of leftovers that are picked up by Saving Grace food rescue every Monday morning and taken to pantries that afternoon. This particular Monday after our blood drive we had leftovers from that blood drive which included all the goodies I named above.

Adult Education This Fall

Increase your understanding, deepen your faith… whatever you hope to gain, there are possibilities for your adult Christian Education this fall. So far, we have scheduled:

SUNDAY MORNINGS, 9:00—September 8 and 15: The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women  . Kathleen Keefer was an ecumenical delegate this year; she strongly appreciates the work of the United Nations and will share with us her experience of the Commission.

September 22 and 29, October 6, 13, and 20: Why Palestine Matters— Sandie Hanna has been part of the Peacemaking community of the Presbyterian Church (USA), especially with Palestine and Israel. She has been to Palestine and Israel and has frequent contact with the Palestinian and Israel peacemaking communities. She will help us understand and appreciate the importance of Palestine beyond what you see in the news.

CONTINUING EDUCATION FOR ELDERS & DEACONS –Those who wish to participate in the Church’s “Extended Table” outreach to members who cannot come to communion, and who have not yet been educated in the theory and practice of what we do, are invited to come Thursday, September 12 at 6:00 pm for a workshop led by Pastor Bob.

IN-DEPTH BIBLE STUDY—Is it “All Greek to you”? Pastor Bob leads Bible study using the Greek New Testament (no, you don’t have to read Greek; he does that!) on Saturday mornings. We will study the Acts of the Apostles beginning Saturday, September 14 at 10:00 am.

September Message

Dear people of God:

We’re listening; I hope you’re speaking. First, the Financial Planning Team and the Session are listening to what you say about readiness to give major gifts again to support the work we’ve done on the building. New Commons, new kitchen, renewed Sunday School rooms, new heating and air conditioning, new rest rooms… well, you know. It all needs to be paid for. Although some may call it “debt reduction,” I’ve been calling it the Fund for the Future. This will make it possible to focus energy and resources on our Church’s mission in the world. If you haven’t completed the survey, please do so.

The other thing we’re listening for is what God is saying to you about the future mission of our Church. What shall we do with the resources God has provided for us? We have a versatile facility, talented leadership, an amazing array of gifts among our members… how does God want them used in the future? Don’t wait for a minister or elder to come up with the ideas and tell everyone what to do; what is God saying to you? Whether you’re certain about it or not, talk to someone; I’ll always listen, and other leaders will too.

As I get closer to that movable line between “middle aged” and “old fart,” I resist the temptation to live in the past and yearn for a time that never really was (at least, not as we tend to remember it), and instead continue to devote my attention and labor to the future. That’s why I care so much, for example, about combatting climate change. I won’t live to see any improvements, and I don’t have descendants of my own to see it. I care about other people’s grandchildren; maybe even yours.

And so we’re listening to you and, through you, to God to call us into the future.

Faithfully,
Pastor Bob

 

Prayers from August 25th

Prayer requests from Sunday:

– Cindy Harvey gives thanks that her brother Tom is starting to sit up in his wheelchair.

– Cindy Denton gives thanks for the memory of Aunt Dot Mattern, who died a year ago.

– Suzie Payne gives thanks that Deb, Chuck, and Patrick had a safe bike ride in California to raise funds for JDRF, and for those who participated in Calvin Crest’s Family Fun Day to raise funds for the Camp.

– Please pray for sustaining care for baby Zion and baby Zechariah and other children & families at Rainbow House.

– Please pray for Nancy Perry and Margaret Moore, both with medical concerns.

Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayers.

Sermon from August 25: Wonderful Things

Wonderful Things

Pentecost XI (O. T. 21); August 25, 2019

Luke 13:10-17

Last week I read to you about Jesus calling some folks hypocrites; now he’s doing it again. And the hypocrisy Jesus points to is very like what we talked about two weeks ago: when the actions of religious people don’t match our words.

Let’s be clear what’s going on here. It is deeply embedded in the ways of the people of God that one day in seven should be devoted to worship, prayer, learning, rest, and family time; not to work. So, in one respect, the leader of the synagogue was right: there are six other days of the week in which Jesus could heal her. But there are two ways in which the leader of the synagogue was missing the point.

First, God gave the Sabbath law for the sake of freedom and human dignity. People would work seven days a week; because of the Sabbath, they had one day to devote to something else. Now, whether or not we are careful to keep a day free from work, there is one respect in which I hope you and I are all keeping Sabbath: that we make opportunity to be human beings, not merely producers and consumers. God gave Sabbath so that cogs in the economic machine could be human beings; it is an act of freedom. So Jesus points out the hypocrisy of using the Sabbath law to keep a woman bound to her infirmity, to prevent her from being set free. The Sabbath is for freedom, so he boldly sets her free on the Sabbath.

This occurs to me, too. The people Jesus had the most trouble with were not the folks that you and I might think of as “bad people.” He had trouble with the “good people,” the people who always kept the rules and were downright insistent that everyone else should too. They were called Pharisees – you’ve heard of them – and they were continually crawling up Jesus’ butt for his failure to be strict about the rules, and for associating with people who were not strict about the rules.

The leader of the synagogue was more concerned with keeping the rules than with the well-being of his neighbor. Surely he knew this woman; synagogue communities were not all that large. And those in the synagogue who supported him knew her too. And the lack of compassion for her is stunning.

Jesus considers us hypocrites if our devotion to “the way things are supposed to be” is greater than our compassion for others. It is so easy to become comfortable with “the way things are supposed to be” and so fail to act with compassion. The Christian Church in general has a big problem with this right now and I suspect it’s a problem here too. It’s hard for me to see it, since I’m part of the problem, but I think we need to ask ourselves some questions at this time in our life as a Church. I am excited about what we have been able to do with our building: it looks beautiful, it’s accessible and new and inviting. But I worry: are we so happy about our building that we fail to use it for its intended purpose? It’s intended to help us witness the presence of God in our community; are we using it for that? Sometimes I fear we are more devoted to preserving the building “the way it’s supposed to be” than to using it for the purposes for which God gave it to us.

I’m going to invite some imagination here. The people who saw Jesus heal the bent-over woman rejoiced at all the wonderful things he was doing. They saw him do two things: heal a woman, and poke the eye (figuratively speaking) at the folks who were more devoted to the rules than they were to a woman’s freedom. So start thinking of the sort of wonderful things we can do as a church, as a community of Jesus, that will cause people around us to rejoice. It will make some people unhappy, because it may leave stains on the carpet or leave a smell. Here’s an example of that: I was Parish Associate at a church in Trenton, New Jersey in the early 1980s. A Korean immigrant community used to meet at our church on Saturday; they would have worship and dinner together. Have you ever smelled kimchi? Yes, we could still smell it on Sunday morning. Some folks griped about the smell; other folks rejoiced that an immigrant community had found a home among us. Are any in this story people that Jesus might call hypocrites?

Here’s another story. Years before I went to Miami, Arizona, that town had a thriving prostitution trade. Miami is the only town I’ve heard of where a brothel once advertised in the Yellow Pages. Anyway, one of the women left that life, committed her life to Jesus, and became part of the Presbyterian Church there – the one I served many years later. As part of her new life, she wanted to teach Sunday School. Well, parents were scandalized: such a woman teach their children? So they had a congregational meeting and decided she should not be allowed to teach Sunday School. Then the Pastor spoke up; he stood and said, “You know, sometimes it is possible for a congregation to take the Lord Jesus Christ by the hand, and show him the door.”

Okay, enough from me. Every month, when your Session meets, we say that we want to live out our mission by striving to:

  • Be intentional followers of Jesus Christ
  • Be risk-taking servants
  • Listen to the Spirit in our lives together, and
  • Commit to innovative ministry.[1]

What are some ways that we can do these things right here where we are?

The people present spoke up readily and suggested these things. I urge the people of the Church to think deeply about what God is calling us to be in our community and to follow through.

  •    A block party
  •    Offer a weekly meal for our neighbors
  •    Service on Saturday evening
  •    After-school program
  •    A Spanish-language service
  •    Ask our neighbors how we can help them
  •    Contemporary service
  •    Venue for neighborhood to teach and speak out and audience to listen to them

We too can do wonderful things, as our Lord Jesus has done. Instead of “hypocrites,” he will call us brother and sister, child of God, beloved, redeemed: a free people. Remember the bent-over woman, who was set free from the bondage to her ailment by our Lord. And I’ll finish by reading a poem by a fine Presbyterian poet, Thomas John Carlisle; it’s from the mouth of the bent-over woman and is called “Resurrection.”[2]

He called me woman

in the same honorable way

he would address his mother.

The name

took on a radiant meaning

as I rose

from my constricted past,

my years bent over

with crush and crunch

of my unliftable

burdens and desperations.

When he named me daughter –

daughter of Abraham –

I felt the glory

and I knew

that nothing could ever

hold me down again.

Robert A. Keefer

Presbyterian Church of the Master

Omaha, Nebraska

 

[1] Printed in the Session agenda every month, recited by the Session members at the beginning of our meeting.

[2] Thomas John Carlisle, “Resurrection,” in Beginning with Mary: Women of the Gospels in Portrait(Eerdmans, 1986), p. 34.

Capital Planning Study

In recent weeks, you may have heard about a planning study Church of the Master will start Aug. 19. The study will provide our leadership your feedback about the possibility of a major fundraising effort to eliminate our church’s debt. The debt stems from our much-needed church renovation. We’ve hired the Steier Group, a local fundraising firm which assisted in our last fundraising effort, to conduct the study.

Here are details:

Q. What is a planning study?

A. The study gauges support for our plan to eliminate the debt and for a potential fundraising effort called a capital campaign. The study, which lasts four weeks, also will help identify possible volunteer leaders and set a financial goal should the church choose to move forward with a campaign.

Q. How will the study determine whether there is support?

A. The study involves surveying the entire Church of the Master community. The Steier Group will administer the study and survey. The firm will compile your feedback and present it to our church leadership. We will then make an informed decision about our plan and a potential campaign. Hiring an experienced, professional development firm like the Steier Group ensures an effective and successful planning study.

Q. Why should we conduct a planning study?

A. Many churches use planning studies when considering a fundraising campaign. It is a wise first step. That’s because the study provides valuable information on how everyone feels about the proposed plan and a potential capital campaign.

Q. What is a capital campaign?

A. A capital campaign is a fundraising effort for big projects and needs, such as major renovations, and eliminating debt. Capital campaigns fund specific needs. They are not for regular, ongoing costs, such as salaries and utility bills.

Q. What do you expect of church members during the planning study?

A. Initially, we will be asking only for your feedback and prayers. Your input and participation will help us make wise decisions about our plan and a potential campaign. You will be hearing more about how you can participate in the coming weeks.

Pastor Bob

Sermon from August 18: The Present Time

The Present Time

Pentecost X (O. T. 20); August 18, 2019

Luke 12:49-56

I think all the stories and songs that portray Jesus as a sweet, mild-mannered, quiet guy ignore this story. Well, they ignore a lot of stories, but this one is particularly tough. And it goes to the heart of a deep pain we have in the Church and in American society. When I was young, people used to talk about the “generation gap;” I don’t hear talk about that anymore. But it is every bit as profound as it was then, and the pain we feel is just as real.

Jesus’ words and the prophecy of Isaiah (5:1-7) both deserve some explanation. The two have this in common: they both announce that judgment is coming. When we go along our merry way, ignoring the large realities around us, then suddenly crisis overtakes us. Remember the Great Recession of 2008? Who could see that coming? Practically everyone who was paying attention. The Prophet Isaiah had a particular gift for paying attention to the realities of his day and warning his contemporaries of what was coming.

As many of you know, I am a fan of science fiction literature, television, and movies. One of the large streams of science fiction is of the “If this goes on” variety. The writer looks at a contemporary reality and asks, “If this continues as it is, what is a likely outcome?” It can be good or bad; in the 1960s, for example, many stories imagined a thriving colony on the Moon by now. If we had continued pushing into space as we were then, that is what would have been. Then I remember one story called “If This Goes On”[1] that imagined the United States if a popular evangelical preacher is elected President and reshapes the country in his ideal, into an evangelical Protestant theocracy. Although it was published in 1940, it has often seemed relevant.

Anyway, the Prophet Isaiah was able to imagine “If this goes on” and warn his fellow citizens what to expect. The beautiful thing is the way he puts it: a love song from the vineyard owner to the vineyard. I love my vineyard, the Lord God sings; I planted it, watered it, put a protective hedge and wall around it. But it didn’t yield grapes that I could use for good wine! It grew wild. I hope you get what the Prophet’s talking about: God planted the people of Judah, protected them from enemies, made them prosperous, and gave them a good code to live by so they could have a just, blessed society. But they ran wild and pursued their own preferences instead. So what will the vineyard owner do? Remove the hedge and tear down the wall, so they are no longer protected. That’s Isaiah’s warning: if this goes on, our society will fall.

Remember: this is called a “love song.” God cares about the behavior of God’s people because God loves us. If God didn’t care about us, then God would be content for us to do whatever we want, to pursue our own preferences rather than God’s guidance.

Jesus also picks up the image of the vineyard and uses it to describe his church; you find that in the Gospel of John. The central question that the vineyard owner asks through the voice of Isaiah is, “What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it?” And I wonder sometimes why we have so much trouble sticking to our mission in Jesus’ Church. What more was there to do for us that God has not done? What more do we want from God? And if there is nothing more that God should do for us than God has done, why do we wander so far from the mission God has given us? Why do we end up as wild grapes, doing our own thing instead of God’s thing? What more could God do for us?

Jesus puts some imagination to his situation, too, and sounds a similar warning. But his is more personal: if you pay attention to my word and actually try to follow me, you may well make trouble at home. Indulge me in some autobiography. When I was in middle school, you could say I got religion in a big way. I made an emotional commitment to Jesus, got involved in a Bible study over and above our Sunday School, and even carried a Bible to school. And it wasn’t just me; there were quite a few of us kids in our Church who were involved in this Jesus movement. And we were a lot of trouble. I fought with my parents rather a lot about it, because they thought I should not be quite so demonstrative. And the other kids had trouble with their parents. When we would get a chance to lead worship, we would upset the older generations by what we said and by our music.

I identified with the son in Jesus’ story, because my dad and I were constantly at odds over this. My dad was an elder in the Presbyterian Church and he was loyal to his church and faithful in his worship, but my approach as a teenager was very different from his, so we were divided, just as Jesus has described here.

Now I am the older generation and am trying not to be a fuddy-duddy. I don’t want to be one of those older folks who complains about “kids these days” and is stubborn in the face of their enthusiasm. At the same time, I know the importance of maturity and not giving in to everything that people demand. When we were teens, we didn’t understand our parents’ hostility to our music and we didn’t understand their resistance to the social matters that were important to us: racial justice, an end to the war in Vietnam, and so forth. Now I want to ask my generation: what happened to us? We’re the children of the 1960s and 1970s; can we remember what we were and appreciate what our children and grandchildren are saying?

There are two extremes we older folks have to guard against: one is the assumption that younger people – whether teens or young adults – are simply impractical or “wet behind the ears” and we can just ignore what they say; the other is the assumption that we should automatically do whatever they want. Wisdom demands paying attention to the signs of the present time and making informed decisions for the future.

And so Jesus’ warning and his pointed question. Isaiah asks, “What more could the Lord God have done for you?” Jesus asks, “Why do you know how to interpret the weather but you can’t interpret the signs of the times?” Basically, when we’re happy with the way things are, then we’re inclined to ignore the signs of problems down the road.

And that is why we older types need to listen to the young when they call attention to the problems down the road. We are likely to be happy and content with the way things are – just like the people of Judah in Isaiah’s day – and don’t pay attention to the consequences of “If this goes on.” Are you and I paying attention to what the young are saying about the cost of education, or about our health care system, or about climate change? Obviously wisdom says that we don’t always give people what they want, but do we actually listen or do we just shut down? I hear people say, “Well, it will cost too much.” And then I want to see some numbers: How much will it cost? And what is the cost (financial, social, personal) if we don’t do it?

I remember proposing at a previous church that we study the cost of replacing our HVAC system; my suggestion was shut down immediately: “It will cost too much; we don’t have the money.” So they didn’t even look into how much it would cost. Well, sometime after I was gone, that church was faced with the need to replace the system, and they did it. And it didn’t cost nearly as much as people had feared, although it was more than it would have been if we had done it when I suggested. Pay for it now or pay for it later, whether you’re talking about the Church’s HVAC system, or our priorities for worship and mission, or a nation’s public policy.

I can think of several directions to go to finish this sermon on a positive note (after all, I’m a preacher of the Gospel, of “good news”), but here are two. First, remember that the Prophet Isaiah warned the people “If this goes on” because God loved them and wanted the best for them. God’s warnings to us are statements of love for us. Also, Isaiah wanted to give the people a chance to make some changes. Likewise, Jesus scolds the hypocrites who know whether to take an umbrella to work on a particular day but shut down when young people ask for action on climate change because he thinks we can indeed learn to interpret the present time. Just in the course of my lifetime, we have made changes that made a positive difference. We established Medicare. We abolished Jim Crow laws. We created emissions standards and water quality standards; remember when Lake Erie died? Remember when the Cuyahoga River caught on fire? Both are much better. We stopped the production of chemicals that were destroying the ozone layer. We banned DDT, which was wiping out songbirds.

Here is what I mean: we can repent. The Spirit of God works subtly and slowly, but works constantly for our good. But that requires us to learn to interpret the present time; a sign for us is the voice of the young. May God grant us grace to pay attention and to interpret the present time.

Robert A. Keefer

Presbyterian Church of the Master

Omaha, Nebraska

 

[1] “If This Goes On,” later reprinted in Revolt in 2100, by Robert Heinlein.