Bodies are an amazing phenomenon. In the letter to the Corinthians, Paul describes the people of the church as one body. One person is the foot and one is the arm, etc. That’s a great metaphor. The foot is good at one thing and the arm is good at something else. The nose needs the eyes and the eyes need the ears. It all makes sense….until….
Until the body wants to add another leg, arm, nose or set of ears. Well, that’s just an odd thing to have happen. It would take quite an effort to get used to having an extra arm or another set of feet. The body would have to learn how to rebalance itself. Hand and eye coordination are difficult enough for some of us. Imagine adding another hand and another eye. A whole new level of coordination would be necessary.
Rev. Sarah Hegar, our Director of Congregational Ministries and JV high school girls’ basketball coach, shared her insights. She said, “Some of my high school athletes are as wobbly as baby giraffes. They are just learning how to grow into their new bodies.” They call it growing pains, because it is painfully endearing to watch. It can be painful to live through as well. One might ask, “Where do I fit in now? Where should I sit? How do I act, dress, talk, run and walk?
I eat more, need more time to get ready, and have new cravings? It can feel like a mixed up time. As one songwriter put it, “There aren’t any Band-Aids for these growing pains.”
Growing the body of the church can be just as awkward and require new effort, too. It takes new coordination and may be met with some resistance. People can feel like they don’t quite know their place anymore. There can be a need for more time and space. The body of Christ can feel like it is stumbling forward, as it begins to change for growth.
However, there is sage advice handed down from generation to generation. One piece of advice is to pray:
Pray for wisdom.
Pray for courage.
Pray for strength.
We can make foolish mistakes in our growing years. That’s normal. We should learn from them and avoid them alto-gether, if possible. So pray for wisdom.
Pray for courage. It takes gumption to walk in a new way. It’s easy to say, “I quit.” You probably did say that a few times as an adolescent. Pray for courage to live into growing.
Pray for strength. Adding to the body is going to take effort and literally more physical stamina. Pray for strength.
Pray for us as a body of Christ to have the wisdom, courage and strength to grow!
May we grow to share more of God’s love, shine more of God’s light, and shape more of God’s people. Amen.
Blessings, Rev. Trey Hegar
First Presbyterian is an anomaly according to the Pew Research study on church growth. Most churches are shrinking. We are growing!
This growth is a gift from the Holy Spirit who unites us in our willingness to follow some simple commands from the New Testament. 1 Corinthians 7:7 says, “The purpose of the spiritual gifts is to build up, inspire, and support the church.”
We seek to use our members’ God given gifts to grow ministries. For instance, we know some of our members have the gift of social justice and compassion. When they asked if they could go to work on behalf of the church to have social justice class we said, “Yes!”
Likewise, when some artists approached and said, “We don’t necessarily feel called to the social justice ministry, but we love sharing God’s beauty in art. Can we do something with our gifts?”
We said, “Yes!” Now we have art rotating on once barren walls in the Gathering Space.
Another group said, we have a passion for teaching children. Can we do something for the kids?
“Yes!” And boom, there was Wednesday Revolution.
Another was for Special Needs families.
Another asked about prisoners.
We said, “Yes!”
Another was for animals.
“Yes!” And we combined the two to form All God’s Creatures.
“Yes,” is how we grow! We say, “yes,” to following Jesus and using our gifts to help connect with others in the Spirit.
These events don’t have to be eternal. I love the one and done type of events and ministry projects that so many of you have; such gifts of teaching an exercise class for older adults, teaching poetry, teaching yoga, doing a woodshed project. Someone said, “Let’s rent a dance floor.” It turns out there is one available to rent in town. So, “Yes! Let’s!” If you have the gift of an idea for the church. “Let’s do it!” We will even help plan it. Who, what, when and where? The answer is “YES!”
I read a story in the book, “Not Your Parent’s Offering Plate!” It was about a professional opera singer who worshiped in a church most Sundays for a decade. She did not sing in the choir or even do a special song for worship. One day a member from the church was at a banquet where the opera singer performed. The church member said, “I had no idea you had such a gift. Why have you never used it at the church?”
The opera singer replied, “I was never asked.”
The opportunity was never offered to the opera singer and likewise the opera singer never freely offered to share her gift. We want you to share your gifts.
I know many of you do not have the gift of singing solos, teaching children or even being on a committee to plan church events.
Yet, I know many of our members have the gift of finan-cial planning and saving. I am asking you to share your gift. Help us say, “Yes,” to more opportunities to grow in minis-try. We are hoping to raise our annual offerings, so we can have an even bigger impact on our community to be a witness to God’s love for all people. You can help us grow with your gift.
Now I don’t want to leave out others who may be on fixed incomes or who give so generously already. You are the reason we have been able to do so much.
For all of us, there are many places we spend and give our money. I am asking you to prayerfully consider giving another $20 a week. It will add up to a big, YES for future growth!
Blessings, Rev. Trey Hegar
We are not doing Advent the same way this year!
Advent is traditionally a time of waiting. We wait for Christ to be born, to celebrate the birth of Jesus and for the world to know peace. Advent waiting helps us to recall why we need peace, hope, love and joy. However, this Advent we are doing things a little differently. This Advent we are going to talk about, “What Can’t Wait.”
A worship group called, “A Sanctified Art” assembled an engaging rethinking of the Advent story by meditating on the precarious timing of Christ’s birth. Here is what one of the writers shared: God chooses an unwed, lower-class, teenage girl forced to travel cross-country to be counted for the census in the midst of her third trimester. Matthew’s gospel tells us that Christ’s birth incites King Herod to mandate a mass genocide, which forces Mary, Joseph, and Jesus to flee to Egypt for refuge. God’s plan to enter the world in human flesh seems so perilous—so much could and did go wrong.
This led me to wonder, what if God had waited? What if God had waited for some perfect day when all the world’s problems were resolved? What if God had waited for a perfect moment in time—or for the perfect family?
But God couldn’t wait. God dove into the mess and the muck of this world so that we might know love.
In the same way, we can’t sit and wait around for our world’s problems to solve themselves. We can’t assume that a perfect moment or a fail-proof plan will emerge if we just hold out for long enough. We can’t wait to join God in being love known in flesh and bone.
We will put these words about what can’t wait into action in worship through art, liturgy, poetry, and music. We will be
sending out Advent Calendars and Daily Devotionals to help you pray and do something about, “What Can’t Wait!”
Blessings, Rev. Trey Hegar
We are one year off from what will most likely be one of the most contentious presidential elections in the history of most of our lives. I am worried about the divides, not only in our nation, but in our personal relationships. There are taboo conversations that some families won’t even begin to discuss when they are sitting around the living room together. If families are this fragile with politics, neighbors and strangers, they are probably not too far from completely distancing themselves from those with different opinions. It is concerning.
In seminary, one professor shared a favorite lesson from the great Reformed Theologian Karl Barth. “As a (pastor) theologian you should study with the Bible in one hand and the Newspaper in the other.” I spend time each week reading the Bible for sermon study and I also watch the news on various channels. At the top of the hour, I will watch the opening of Fox News. Then I will flip the channel to CNN to catch their take on the headlines. Then I go to MSNBC or OAN (One America News) and/or FSP (Free Speech News) to hear their commentary. I try to do this a couple times a week.
Every week I am reminded about what most of us already know. We are not getting the same spin on the political news from all of these different sources.
It is not just at the news stations. I have my own biases, too. Of course, right? We all do!
Then I read the scriptures. Specifically, I read the Gospel lessons from Jesus. Jesus lived in a politically charged time of Roman occupation in the land of Israel. Jews and Gentiles loathed each other. Rules, laws, and compassion clashed.
Often the Pharisees, teachers of the day, would try to trap Jesus in a corner with a question about a hot topic. Instead of lashing out and berating people, Jesus, our wise shepherd and teacher, would use stories. Jesus in his confidently humble way would say, “let me tell you a story.” These stories called parables would disarm loaded conversations. They were powerful little paradoxical lessons that presented the problem of the day in a new way. They could help people see things differently. They were humbling. Being humble is the art of learning to say, “I might be wrong.” Being confidently humble is being able to lovingly show another person how they may be wrong.
There are very few people who possess this skill. Rarely can we tell someone how, “they might be wrong.” We get angry. They get mad. We all shut down and call each other doofus.
So, I wonder, in this day of division, what would it look like if instead of telling people they are wrong, what if we told a story, a parable? Perhaps the story could start with, “Once there was this man named Jesus……he loved the Romans and the Jews, though they hated each other’s political views. He died so they would all live. He died so we would all live, too!” May the bad news not divide us as much as the good news of Christ can unite us. Amen.
Blessings, Rev. Trey Hegar
People want to know their lives make a difference. People want to make the world a better place to live. They want to
believe that they can truly make a difference for the good of all. There is embedded in us, it seems, a desire to be a part of something that changes lives in a positive way.
There is a sweet elementary age little girl in our community.
Her family does not go to our church. However, she faithfully attends our Wednesday Revolution program and Vacation Bible School. This child lives in a home with a lower than average income. Her clothes are always clean, but they are outdated and a bit faded. When we share concerns and prayers you can see her eyes look far off into a distant place. She has perhaps felt more negativity than we would want for any child. But let me tell you about the way her eyes shine when she is greeted with big, warm welcomes! She becomes vibrant, doing cart wheels and hula hooping, when she hits the door on Wednesday afternoons. She is told that she is loved as a child of God. She knows it! Your church is changing her life!
We make a difference for the young and the “young at heart.” Recently, the Deacons shared communion with seven shut-ins. One deacon and I visited a 90 plus years old friend of the church, who has dementia. She can’t remember what day of the week it is or the names of lifelong friends. However, she knew communion was holy and sacred. She took the bread just like she had done since she was a child. She chewed with her eyes closed, perhaps seeing some old faces of the past. Then, her shaky hands held the little plastic cup with reverence. We finished the cup and without hesitation she joined in the Lord’s Prayer. She did not miss a word. My heart melted with warmth. There was no doubt we had connected with the Holy Spirit in that moment. Our friend may not “remember” that moment, but I believe we, the church, made a big difference that day.
Our church is in the business of Sharing God’s Love, Shining God’s Light and Shaping God’s People. I hope you will joyfully, and prayerfully continue to support our ministries with your financial gifts, so together we can continue to make a positive difference in our community.
Blessings, Rev. Trey Hegar
I read a social media post that said the satirical newspaper, “The Onion,” was going out of print. The editorial team could no longer come up with funny, fake news that was as absurd as the real news.
Here are a few whacky true things in the current news cycle. There is talk of our government starting a new branch of the military called, “Space Force,” which may never send a human into space. Soldiers will engage in Satellite vs Satellite warfare from the ground. The FAA approved drones to make fast food deliveries in a North Carolina town replacing human pizza delivery jobs. There is an online high school virtual reality sports team. The players take the field in their own living rooms across the globe using a gaming system that can track bodily movements. And now internet giant, Google, says its artificial intelligence system can predict when a smart watch user will die with 95% accuracy based on the users’ exercise, sleep, and eating habits. It can eliminate the need for doctors with online prescriptions and drone deliveries. The future is here. It is digitized, computerized, and void of interpersonal contact.
Deliveries, doctor visits, sports, and even war no longer require a face-to-face encounter. We may have negative gut reactions to this new world. We may long for the glory days of old. Those feelings don’t change reality. The digital revolution is here.
So how do we as Christians live into this stranger than fiction new world? Well, we do what disciples of Christ have always done. We jump into the middle of the foray. We don’t run from the world around us. We dive in head first. We live as people of Christ in the midst of the world. We don’t build some sequestered commune bent on keeping things as they were. We live into the new way showing Christ as a light.
This September, we will begin a fall series called, “What Disciples Do.” Disciples have lived through 2,000 years of ever changing history. They remained faithful to the lessons of the first disciples as the world changed around them. We will talk about some of those lessons in detail, as we follow the disciples of Jesus in the gospel of Luke. We will talk about what it means to follow Jesus in the digital age and what it means to search for meaning in an age of instant answers. We will hear about being faithful in little things, saying what needs to be said, and being humble. Disciples have always asked hard questions about life and faith. They have learned to keep on keeping on in a world of fear. They learned to make their wrongs right, and they found hope in Jesus when all else seemed trivial. I hope you, as a disciple of Christ, will join us in person or online for the next series, “What Disciples Do!”
Rev. Trey Hegar
How do we live together in a world of Post-truth? This is the dystopian question which causes many futurists to sleeplessly abandon their ruffled beds. Maybe you have seen the YouTube sensations I shared in my recent sermons. There was “The Dress,” which appeared white and gold to some, and black and light blue to others. There was also the audio playback of “Laurel and Yanni.” The congregation was split 50/50 over whether they heard one or the other. How could we hear and see the world so differently? I don’t know, but the truth is we do.
In psychology studies, it has been shown that we begin to see the world the way we want to see it. In other words, we may begin to only look at things that confirm the way we want to see the world.
Take the example of this basic psychological profile question. In Intro to Counseling, a counselor performing an intake on a new patient may ask the very simple, but profound question: “Do you see the world as mostly good or mostly bad?”
If we see the world as mostly bad, we may begin to focus more and more on things that prove our point of view. There are 300 channels on my TV and more than half would confirm a person’s negative world view.
The other side of the coin is just as true. If a patient saw the world as mostly good, they would begin to look for the good even in the worst of situations. One example I read talked about the Christmas Tsunami in Indonesia. One person said that was the worst natural disaster. The positive person looked at all the volunteers coming out to help.
In the real world, the two patients may call each other all kinds of names and absurdities for seeing the world differently, even though they both have their own subjective truth.
As this phenomenon becomes more prevalent and moves from the trivial to the emotional, political, and moral, we may find ourselves backing into our own corners, where we feel safe and have our own post-truth worldview confirmed.
The danger of this post-truth world happens when we begin to want “our side” to be so right, that we take hearsay as evidential. This is where “he said vs she said” begins to hold up in the public court of opinion. We are in worse trouble when in the post-truth world, when we accept insults as viable proof of the invalidity of another’s empirical argument.
For example, could a scientific argument be nullified in the following manner, “He said blue whales are in danger. He is dumb. Who wears a bowtie on national TV?” How can we trust that? I don’t know, but studies have shown that if we agree with the person making the insult, then we will agree with the point and reject the other who may be right.
In the classic Orwellian novel 1984, someone you believe could tell you 2+3=4 enough times and with enough authority that eventually you would agree. It would become your truth.
So the question remains: How do we live as Christians in this post-truth world?
A great response comes from Paul in his letter to Galatians where two groups who had their own views and truths of the world were learning to live together as one community. Their peace came from not agreeing on facts, but from agreeing on virtues. Paul said, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” There is no law against such things. We will talk about each of these over the summer to see what it means to live them out in this brave new world.
Rev. Trey Hegar
The Iowa WINs (Welcomes Immigrant Neighbors) Com-mission has received the Volunteer Group of the Year Award. The award letter read, “Trey, on behalf of the Iowa Disaster Human Resource Council, it is my pleasure to inform you that Iowa WINs has been selected as the Volunteer Group of the year!”
I am so moved that this congregation is compassionate in so many ways. I know IowaWINs has received a lot of attention this past year and deservedly so. Yet, they don’t do it alone. They do it as one part of our larger body in Christ. The award is for all of our congregation. For example, I know for a fact that some of the leaders for IowaWINs eat cookies after worship. So, if you have ever set out cookies or cleaned up after hospitably time this award includes you. You make this church welcoming! If you have handed out bulletins in worship, sung in the choir, played in our bell choir, been a liturgist, this award is for you. You make our worship holy! If you have worked on budgets, cleaned our church yard, served our youth or children, this award is for you. You all make this church a great place to be nurtured!
It takes so many of you who make up different parts of this body, that there are too many to name.
1 Corinthians 12 says, “When one part of the body celebrates, we all celebrate together and when one part mourns we all mourn.” So today, let us celebrate together recognizing that we have created a place where God is worshiped and we are challenged to share God’s love, shine God’s light and be shaped as God’s people.