Christmas 2016

When I was growing up, the Christmas tree was never completely finished until we ran it through my mom’s squint test. All you had to do is squint your eyes so that the colored Christmas lights came out of focus just enough to form a halo around the bulb. My mom’s squint test would make it easy to see where there were too many light bunched up or where lights needed to be moved closer together. The tree was never fully complete until the Christmas lights were evenly placed throughout the entire tree.

 

          When you watch a Christmas move or sitcom you will see it. When you send or receive Christmas cards you will encounter it. Maybe on Christmas Eve with the glow of a lit candle in hour hand while softly singing “Son of God, love’s pure light; radiant beams from thy holy face…” you will experience it. Cameras magically come out of focus. Artists soften and blur


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Pastor Report 2016

Report of the Pastor

CHARGE CONFERENCE

WRITTEN BY REV. NICHOLAS PERRY

01 NOVEMBER 2016

 

 

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“When he had finished speaking, [Jesus] said to Simon,

‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’”

 (Luke 5:4)

 The late William Sloane Coffin once shared,

There was a story told in Lincoln’s time of a man asking the pilot of a Mississippi riverboat how long he had been plying his trade.

 “Twenty-six years,” the pilot replied.

“Then,” he said to the man, “you know where all the rocks are, all the shoals, and sandbars?”

 “No,” said the pilot. “I just know where they ain’t.”

 

Several years ago, I was white water rafting with the youth in one congregation that I served. We tried as best we could to navigate the waters of Letchworth State Park, but sometimes we would get caught upon rocks where the water was shallow [due to a lack of rain]. Although the experience was fun and I would certainly do it again, I didn’t like being stuck in my rubber raft on a pile of rocks as others passed by.

It is amazing to me how the theme of water flows from the Old into the New Testament perhaps encouraging us to explore its depths. In fact, during Holy Baptism we recall numerous accounts of water in the Scripture:  

                          Old Testament                                                            New Testament

                                 Creation                                                                       Jesus’ birth

                          During the flood                                                              Jesus’ baptism

                    Parting of the Red Sea                                         Jesus’ death and resurrection

                Passing through the Jordan                                  Holy Spirit’s baptism on believers

 

We live in shallow times. We continue to find ourselves and/or others stuck on the rocks unable to move. The good news is that we have a Savior who knows not only where the rocks, shoals, and sandbars are but far more importantly Christ knows where the deep water is (and how to get us there). We also come from a faith tradition that has provided tools for going deeper and exploring the great depths and vastness of God’s grace.    

Since, being appointed to Westfield on July 1

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I have been a wild journey of learning names and attaching faces to those names (a task made even more difficult with identical twins among us). I have visited with many of our homebound members, read stories to my new friends in Apple Seed Pre-K and regularly eat lunch with community members at the Community Kitchen.
During the summer in between unpacking boxes of books, I had the honor of starring beside Pastor Molly as Dr. Paws in our Vacation Bible School

Weird Animals: Where Jesus’ Love Is One-of-a-Kind. I have had plenty of opportunities to attend various meetings from Taking Off Pounds Sensibly

to eating at a submarine at a United Methodist Women’s luncheon. I am thankful for the steady hand of our finance team as well as the goals for disciple-making that our Administrative Board:
  • Bible Studies such as Adam Hamilton’s The Way Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus and our forthcoming Advent Study Under Wraps by Jessica LaGrone.
  • Small Groups United Methodist Women I, United Methodist Woman II, Voices of Westfield, Sunday School classes.
  • Cornerstone District Events such as Road Trip and/or Catch the Spirit.
  • Building Connections with the Apple Seed Pre-school, the Westfield Community Kitchen, and the Westfield Food Pantry.
  • Stewardship to be 100% sustainable (without dipping into our investments) to promote a holistic understanding of giving through sermons, articles, and testimonials.

We can point out where the rocks, shoals, and sandbars are. We know that tune well. However, we must also hear the clear invitation from Christ to “’Put out into deeper water, and let down the nets for a catch’” (Luke 5:4). We, I believe, as a church, are poised to allow the Holy Spirit’s breath to fill our sails and to lead us out into deeper waters.

Personally, I am excited to see that our Sunday School program is teeming with new life. Just this morning, I had a conversation with someone with plans that are already underway for a Junior Church to operate during the Second service. I suspect that other plans will begin to emerge as we push off from the shoreline and learn together some of the timeless teachings of John Wesley, our Methodist heritage, and their impact and usefulness for modern-day disciples who desire to go deeper.

 

Blessings,

Nicholas Perry,

Pastor



Hagah over scripture

“As a lion or a young lion growls over his prey…”  Isaiah 31:4

 lion cub with bone

During my time in school I was jealous of those students who could speed read. They were able to read multiple books and comprehend what they read in the time it took me to get through part of a book. Dismayed I researched techniques to speed up my reading pace only to find out years later that the Christian faith encourages us to read Scripture imaginatively, thoughtfully, prayerfully and slowly.

 

In Eat This Book: a conversation in the art of spiritual reading Eugene Peterson demonstrates in the first chapter how to read slowly. Peterson notices words that I might pass by on my way to the “good stuff.”  For example, in the passage above, Peterson lingers over the word “growls” (hagah) which is the same word in Hebrew for “meditate” in passages such as Psalm 1:2 describing the blessed man or woman whose “delight is in the law of the LORD,” on which “[he/she] meditates (hagah) day and night.” Or one of my favorite verses Psalm 63:6 “I think of [God] upon my bed, and meditate (hagah) on [God] in the watches of the night.” Peterson states, “Isaiah uses this word (hagah) to refer to a lion growling over his prey the way my dog would a bone.”

 


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