This Week’s Message from Pastor Bob

Dear people of God:

Today is Earth Day. I know, you’ve seen that everywhere you look, but I didn’t want to miss it. In the light of our devotion to the way of God, Earth Day encourages me to share two thoughts with you.

One is that the restrictions we’re living under have been good for the world around us. That is, we’re cutting back on carbon emissions, so the air is cleaner; we’re reducing our consumption of fossil fuels. People have seen more wildlife than usual. I don’t think this will endure long enough to make a significant difference on climate change or any of the other ecological challenges we face, but it may give us a hint of our capability. The question is whether we can change our impact on the Earth without doing as much economic harm as people are suffering right now. Will we take the time and trouble to figure that out? I hope so.

My second thought is to remind all of us that we are not the center of the universe. There is a fiction among some Christians that God created the universe for our good, that we are the purpose of Creation. That way of thinking leads to the assumption that we can do to the world anything we desire as long as it makes us happy. But that Bible makes clear that God created the universe for the glory of God, not for the pleasure of humanity. Our responsibility to the Earth is to live on it in such a way as to glorify the One who created it.

“Reduce, reuse, recycle.” Those are steps to follow this Earth Day. And to continue to work on in days to come.

Madeleine L’Engle wrote that she was troubled by the tendency to refer to ourselves as “consumers.” After all, to “consume” means to “use up.” Is that our hope? To use up the Earth’s resources, the Earth’s beauty, the Earth’s capacity to glorify God? To use them up so that no generation to follow us can participate in the Earth’s song of praise?

No, of course not; in general, we human beings are better than that. Christians – human beings redeemed by and devoted to Jesus Christ – have a deep reason to care for the Earth: to glorify God.

Pastor Bob

During the COVID-19 restrictions, I am posting special messages from time to time. This one is from April 22, 2020.

Special Message from Pastor Bob

Dear people of God:

I got a laugh and a tear from a cartoon in yesterday’s papers. It was Stephan Pastis’ Pearls Before Swine and you can see the cartoon here: https://www.gocomics.com/pearlsbeforeswine/2020/04/16.

Or, here’s a narrative of it. In the first panel, we see Pig walking and carrying a sign. In the second panel, Pig walks up to Goat’s window and holds up the sign, which reads, “Smiles are contagious too.” In panel three, Pig and Goat smile at each other through the window. And in the fourth panel Pig walks on, humming a tune.

Whenever time and weather have permitted, I’ve continued my running. Since the closing of parks, I can’t drive to some of my favorite places, but from the Church-house I can easily go to the Big Papio Trail for a run. Usually, I’ve found, runners have continued to smile and wave at each other as we pass, although we try to keep a responsible distance from each other.

I had to stop by a store the other day for some supplies, and wore one of the great masks Kathleen made for me. I apologized to the proprietor that she couldn’t see me smile at her. It probably helped her that I said it. It’s true, though, that we can smile with our whole face, so that it will show in our eyes. Maybe that’s something to learn during this emergency: to smile with our whole face, not just with the mouth.

After all, “Smiles are contagious too.”

Pastor Bob

During the COVID-19 restrictions, I will post special messages from time to time. This one is from April 17, 2020.

Special Message from Pastor Bob

Dear people of God:

I hope you remember comedian Steve Bhaerman, aka Swami Beyondananda, who visited us last September. He told us about the four principles of Cosmic Comic Consciousness:

  1. It’s a joke; laugh.
  2. Practice self-facing laughter.
  3. Find the joke hidden in the picture.
  4. Commit random acts of comedy.

His latest e-newsletter reminded us of the value of laughter in times of stress. Even Jewish prisoners of the Nazis helped themselves live through hell by telling jokes.

So this year I intend to resurrect an old practice that I haven’t done for some time: Holy Humor Sunday. The Fellowship of Merry Christians has promoted observing the Second Sunday of Easter (April 19 this year) as Holy Humor Sunday, celebrating the reality of the Resurrection of Jesus as the best practical joke ever played. I don’t know that Easter is behind April Fools Day, but I do know that the Resurrection has left Satan with egg on his face.

I need your help. Many of you have sent me jokes over the years; usually I get a good laugh, and then delete them. Well, now I want to collect some over the next week. Email me (robert.keefer@pcmwindow.org) (by April 15) a joke you love, one that is clean enough to share with the Church, and I may use it. If it’s a church-related joke, so much the better. If it’s a joke that pokes fun at our current situation, great!

For example: I heard a comedian recently imagine the coronavirus as a sentient being, saying to us: I’ve been watching you all for years. Stay home and spend the day in your pajamas. Communicate with each other only electronically. Not interact with other humans. Have everything you want delivered to you. Didn’t I just give you what you wanted?

Well, no, but it made me laugh. It meets the Swami’s third principle: Find the joke hidden in the picture. Can you help us all find the joke hidden in the picture? Send them to me!

Pastor Bob

During the COVID-19 restrictions, I will post special messages from time to time. This one is from April 8, 2020.

 

Special Message from Pastor Bob

Dear people of God:

This week I finally got the Christmas lights down. Those of you who park in the South parking lot and have noticed the lights still up over the Apartment will be relieved to see that, the next time you are here.

Well, in my defense, I needed the right combination of circumstances. Good weather, for one thing. Someone around to call for help – since I needed to get on a ladder, and church policy specifies that someone has to be around when you get on a ladder – and Kathleen has been here. And, of course, a little free time. It took less time than I thought it would, but that’s often the case with this sort of project.

This is a good time for working on projects. Usually, in the winter, I have a list of “bad-weather projects.” This winter was relatively mild and I don’t think I got anything done from that list. But now I have my “COVID-19 projects;” things to do since we’re not going to the theater, not going out to dinner, not getting together (physically) with friends, and above all not going to meetings every evening. I’ve checked off a few of them; this week, “Christmas lights down.”

What are you doing with your time? Are you working through those projects that you’ve put off? One of you was telling me about a certain cleaning project that you hadn’t done not only for lack of time, but also lack of interest. You got it done, and now it’s behind you! What’s next?

I remember I used to tease my voice teacher; he and his housemate didn’t take their Christmas trees down promptly at Epiphany or even soon after. I remember saying, one year, “Bill, you can take down your Christmas tree; yesterday was Ash Wednesday.” Well, it’s about time I took down my Christmas lights. It’s almost Holy Week.

Pastor Bob

During the COVID-19 restrictions, I will post special messages from time to time. This one is from April 2, 2020.

 

A Special Message from Pastor Bob

Dear people of God:

What are you doing to keep your head on straight? We’re still early in this COVID-19 situation; it’s early in week two of something that will endure for at least six weeks. So it’s time to make choices about what will help us manage.

The experts tell us that it’s important to establish a routine. One woman told me that the first day of the “work at home” regime she spent the day in her pajamas. But she realized that to think and feel right about her work, she needed to keep to her routine, so she got up at her usual time, and dressed in her usual way.

Parents are encouraged to get your children up at the same time they would ordinarily if they were going to school, and to engage them in activities during the time they would have been at school. In addition to whatever lessons are being provided by the school, there are virtual opportunities at museums and other places. And, of course, Anne Weatherwax is providing weekly “Sunday School @Home” lessons you can do with them.

Although the circumstances are strange and we’re having to do worship in a different way, I’m sticking to the plan of working through the Ten Commandments and will continue with the story of the Exodus thereafter. Yes, I’m getting some flack for that, but I trust the experts who say that a semblance of normality is helpful to people.

So I’m keeping to routine, too. One thing I decided to do and will continue to do: on Sunday morning I put on my preacher clothes and open up the front doors of the church at 8:00 and keep them open until 11:30. I call it “drop-in hours;” we can’t meet for worship, but I can see you in ones or twos. This week I had one person come in, and two people phoned. It was nice.

Remember I’m offering times for “Word and Prayer” on Wednesdays (4:00), Thursdays (7:00), and Fridays (noon), should you want to get out of the house (as long as we’re able to) and come to the church. Contact Dee Moriarty to let her know, so that we keep the numbers to no more than eight.

In the meantime, comment below your answer to this question: What routine are you keeping or establishing to help you manage this difficult time?

Pastor Bob

During the COVID-19 restrictions, I will post special messages from time to time. This one is from March 24, 2020.

 

Special Message from Pastor Bob 3/17/2020

Dear people of God:

I knew that Sunday morning would feel weird, but I didn’t know it would hurt.

It was a great experience to work with Bill Norton to prepare the video worship for you. He and others and I will work together to try to improve the experience for all of you. Some of you have responded not only with gratitude but also with suggestions; for both I thank you.

Given the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, I expect the current restrictions to stay in place for some time. We will probably not meet on Resurrection Day or for any of the usual services for Holy Week. I imagine we will not resume our regular schedule of worship until May. I do not know that for certain, but that seems most likely as of now.

I’m glad for how we did on Sunday and look forward to what else we can do. But I was surprised how much it hurt to walk through the building on Sunday. There was no one sitting at the tables in the Commons, sipping coffee and discussing basketball scores. Ushers were not scurrying around getting things ready. Children were not running down the hall.

Chris was here to play the piano, Bill was here to record, Kathleen was here to read Scripture, and I was here to offer a message. Above all, of course, God was here. But you were not here.

I have said it, because of my theological training, for years, but Sunday I experienced it and it was a blow. A Church building without the people of the Church is an empty shell.

Pastor Bob

During the COVID-19 crisis, I will post special messages from time to time. This one is from March 17, 2020.

 

Pastor Bob’s March Message

Dear people of God:

I know that many of you enjoyed my pictures, videos, and messages in our Facebook “Family and Friends” group. Thank you for your comments and for sharing my Nicaragua experience.

It’s hard to put in a few words all the positive takeaways from the week. One thing to mention is the profound sense of blessing I took from the people of the Church praying for me the Sunday before I went. I really was nervous about this, not knowing what to expect or what would be expected of me in these seminars, not knowing if what I planned to do would be of any benefit, not knowing if my command of Spanish would be up to the task. Andy Cook’s strong prayer, the children’s strong presence, and your strong backing all helped me face the challenges.

And then I was blessed by being there. I met wonderful folks, both those who lead the mission center and the pastors and church leaders I met in Estelí, Tipitapa, La Concepción, and the country near Matagalpa and near Santa Teresa. Their stories, questions, insight, and above all interest in learning about the Bible touched me. And, of course, their friendliness: they wanted to connect with me as much as I wanted to connect with them.

It strikes me now, as I reflect on that week and as I anticipate the beautiful Lent services the Worship Design Team has in mind, that what really stays with us is the connections we make. Some of them may remember what I said about the Greek word “apaugasma,” but many more of them will remember that I listened to them, laughed with them, and ate with them.

And that, above all, is what I will likewise remember about the friends I made and the other folks I connected with in Nicaragua: we listened to each other, laughed together, and ate together. Sounds like the Church at our best, doesn’t it?

Pastor Bob

 

Pastor Bob’s February Letter

Dear people of God:

I heard a story recently on the radio that angered me; some of you may be angry at me for writing about it. But it feels right, given who we are as a church and that February we think of as the month of love.

A Lesbian couple in Tennessee were unable to adopt a child through their church’s social service agency, because it is the agency’s policy not to place children with same-sex married couples. Tennessee state law protects the right of faith-based agencies to refuse to serve same-sex married couples (Note: Neither Nebraska nor Iowa has such a law).

Now, I am not angry about Tennessee state law, specifically; I am not writing to you about state support for discrimination against LGBTQIA+ persons. Rather, I am angry with the ongoing assumption that Christian faith demands exclusion of such persons from our life, witness, worship, and social services. Whenever there is a public conversation about the rights of LGBTQIA+ persons, the general assumption is that Christians are opposed to equal rights.

These two women in Tennessee are active members of their congregation, yet the denomination of which they are a part has identified them as unsuitable to adopt a child, simply because they are both women. No consideration was given to their Christian faith, their financial stability, their ability to provide a good home. “We are Christians and therefore we consider you to be wrong” is the message.

Will we speak up and say that “We are Christians and therefore we are opposed to rights for LGBTQIA+ persons” does not follow logically? That we, like many congregations, welcome all who trust in Jesus Christ for their salvation?

One more note, which Chris Petersen mentioned in our recent gathering. He and I learned that the Human Rights Campaign asked LGBT young people if their church accepted them as they are. The results: 8% said “Yes;” 22% said, “Not at all;” 53% said they didn’t know. They didn’t know if their own church would accept them. If we do not say it, how will people know?

Pastor Bob

 

Pastor Bob’s December Letter

Dear people of God:

Life is messy. A former custodian once volunteered to clean the apartment, but I said I liked to clean it myself; I found it therapeutic. Given the realities of human interaction, bodies that don’t always do what we want them to do, squabbling organizations, and all the other messes in life, I love to be able to impose a semblance of order on something: straighten and dust pictures, vacuum the carpets, clean the porcelain. I can’t make people behave, but I can make the kitchen floor shine.

People have sometimes thought of God as pure, pristine, above the human fray. I suppose there’s truth to that picture, as long as you don’t read the Bible. From the time God says to Adam and Eve, “You don’t want to eat from that tree; you won’t like the consequences,” God has been involved in the mess. Later this month we celebrate the most outrageous thing God chose to do about the human mess: become part of it.

“Jesus is God’s show-and-tell,” I quoted for you in a recent sermon. It’s an affront to our reasoned conclusions about God that the Word of Creation should sleep in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes. He learns how to read and write, to plane wood, to play games with his friends. He has a short, difficult career as a preacher and prophet and is convicted as a criminal against the State. It all begins to make sense when his life is restored and he becomes the source of life for the rest of us.

God doesn’t act as a well-behaved, austere Deity ought, but becomes part of the mess. God doesn’t make us behave, either, but if we permit it, God can make us shine.

Pastor Bob

Pastor Bob’s October Message

October 2019

Dear people of God:

You may wonder why we are doing another capital campaign so soon after the last one and that is a fair question. Let me tell you the story and then I’ll finish with some numbers.

Before I was called as Pastor it was made clear to me that major renovations and improvements to the building were on your minds. Over our first couple of years together the scope of our needs became clear, and we prepared two possible scenarios: remodeling our existing facility or erecting a new building. We chose to remodel.

As we completed our plans, the next big question was whether to do all the work at once or to do it in stages. Although we aimed for a building cost of $1.6 million, we were fairly certain we would not raise that much money in one capital campaign. So, we considered two options. One option was to do the entire project, borrowing the money for a long period, knowing we would need to have one or two more campaigns to pay for it. The second option was to do the work in phases: take a construction loan, but only do as much work as we could pay for in one campaign. Then we would have another campaign and do the next phase of work.

If we had chosen the second option, then the $1.2 million we raised would have paid for the HVAC work, carpet, walls, and other renovations, and electrical and plumbing work. We would probably have new restrooms, furnaces, air conditioning, etc., but would not have the new Commons or new kitchen. Those would have waited. Instead, we chose to do the whole project at once, which gave immediate benefits and, of course, cost less in the long run. But it means we have a large debt to pay.

The construction cost $2,000,251.88; that includes not only the expected costs, but changes we requested, and additional equipment (such as for the kitchen) that we purchased. In addition, we paid $165,944.56 in design, engineering, and construction management, and $57,380.35 (4.8% of the amount pledged, $1,199,286.52) to conduct the capital campaign itself. So the entire project cost $2,223,576.79. Toward their pledges, people gave $1,139.934.19 (95% of the amount pledged) to the campaign. We borrowed $1,692,266.14 from the Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program (this does not include the approximately $69,000 borrowed this summer for the recent roof project) and paid the balance from campaign funds. Since the loan was initiated, we have paid $130,411.84 in interest and closing costs and $53,918.10 in principal. So, as I write this, we owe the Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program $1,638,348.04 and we have $476,000 in our capital campaign investments. To ensure the vigor and security of our future mission, we need to raise (if not now, then soon) an additional $1.2 million.

This is, of course, over and above the ongoing cost of being the Church, which is supported by our regular tithes and offerings. As the Bible says, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:34).

Pastor Bob