Pastor's Desk: Lent Is Remembering

Pastor's Desk: Lent is remembering

Pastor's Desk February 2020


He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Luke 18:9-14

Dear Freinds,

It is the beginning of March and Fasnacht [Carnival] is over, which means that we are entering another Lenten season. Two days ago our congregation went to Kreuzlingen for Ash Wednesday, and it was such a joy to give ashes and Communion while worshiping with the Stadtkirche community. But apart from ashes and Communion the greatest joy was remembering, for Lent is a time of looking back and recalling three important things.

1. Remember where we came from

In Jesus’ parable called “The Pharisee and Tax collector”, the real problem of the Pharisee is that he has forgotten what he used to be. He is so caught up by where he is, or his present state of “righteousness”, that he fails to see that he was once the same as those that he is putting down. What the Pharisee needs is a reminder of life before his holy works, and this is what Lent does for us on Ash Wednesday ever year. As we receive the cross upon our foreheads and hear that we are really dust, we are reminded of where we came from before we knew of Jesus Christ. We were the people that we often despise and sometimes put down in our prayers, and the Lenten season humbles us by bringing up our former selves.

 

2. Remember where we are

Unlike the Pharisee, the tax collector’s prayer is short, and he does not mention his good works or how he comes to the Temple of God. Also, the tax collector does not think that he has arrived, and the Lenten season tells us the same as we fast and pray for forty days. Though good works are wonderful and pleasing in the sight of God, they do not mean that we can sit back and think that we are A-OK. In truth, we are still sinners who often fail while following Christ, and there will never be a moment in our earthly lives where we are not in need of grace. Lent reminds us that we are constant recipients of mercy, and in addition to adoration and gratitude our prayers must have confession.

 

 

3. Remember where we are going

At the end of the parable the tax-collector is justified, and despite his constant need of grace the Lord declares him righteous. In other words, sin and death are not the final word for him, and there will come a day when he need not pray for mercy as a sinner. The tax-collector can live with hope for a time where Christ will restore all things, and Lent allows us to share in this hope by pointing us to Easter. Through Lent we are reminded that our struggle with sin and death will cease, for like our fasting it is temporary and will not last forever. Just as this season meets its end with the light of resurrection on Easter morn, our season as sinners will meet its end with the glorious resurrection that is to come.

 

 

For the next forty days I pray that we would remember these things, and I pray that the Spirit would bring them to our minds as we face our temptations while clinging to the Word of God.

Blessed Lent and may the grace and peace of Christ be with you!

Your grateful pastor,

-Scotty J. Williams


Lent Devotional

Lent Devotional 2020


28. February 2020By Scotty Williams11 Minutes

(All Bible readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary, and all prayers are taken from the Creighton University Lenten prayer index.)

Thursday, February 27, 2020: Psalm 51; Jonah 3:1-10; Romans 1:1-7

Lord,
Let everything I do this day and in this season of Lent
come from you, be inspired by you.

I long to be closer to you.
Help me to remember that nothing is important in my life
unless it glorifies you in some way.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the day to day of my life and keep saying,
“Tomorrow, I will spend more time in prayer,”
but now my longing meets your love and I want to do it now.
Help me to rely on you for help.

The prayer asks you that I reach perfection.
Please, Lord, remind me that “perfection”
isn’t the crazy, “successful” way I try to live my life,
but a perfection of my most authentic, real self.
My “perfection” might be holding my many flaws in my open hands,
asking you to help me accept them.

Heal me, Lord, and help me to find you in the darkness of my life.
Let me reach out in this darkness and feel your hand and love there to guide me.

 

Friday, February 28, 2020: Psalm 51; Jonah 4:1-11; Romans 1:8-17

Lord,
I know how much you love me.
It’s hard for me to feel it sometimes,
but I know your love is always with me.

Help me to use your love as a way
to persevere in my Lenten intentions.
I am weak, but I know with your help,
I can use these small sacrifices in my life to draw closer to you.

 

Saturday, February 29, 2020: Psalm 51; Isaiah 58:1-12; Matthew 18:1-7

Loving creator,
I am not asking to overcome my weakness,
but to use it in some way to glorify you.

Let me be aware of
the many ways you reach out to help me today
and let me stand in awe of the power
that you use in such loving ways.

 

Sunday, March 1, 2020: Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7; Psalm 32; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11;

Lord God,
you who breathed the spirit of life within me.
Draw out of me the light and life you created.
Help me to find my way back to you.
Help me to use my life to reflect your glory
and to serve others
as your son Jesus did.

 

Monday, March 2, 2020: Psalm 32; 1 Kings 19:1-8; Hebrews 2:10-18

Loving God,
you call us back to you with all of our hearts.
I feel your call for me deep in my heart
and I know you want me back
as much as I want to return.
Please, Lord,
give me the wisdom to know how to return.
Make my journey back to you this Lent
one of grace, forgiveness and gentle love.

 

Tuesday, March 3, 2020: Psalm 32; Genesis 4:1-16; Hebrews 4:14-5:10

Father of my soul,
Mother of my heart,
I know your love for me is limitless beyond imagining.
You care for me as a loving parent.
Through my smallest Lenten sacrifices,
help me to become less selfish
and more aware of your ways.
Fan the flame of my desire
to draw ever closer to you.
Guide me to seek your love.

 

Wednesday, March 4, 2020: Psalm 32; Exodus 34:1-9, 27-28; Matthew 18:10-14

Dear Lord,
I know you receive what is in my heart.
Let me be inspired by your words
and by the actions of your son, Jesus.
Guide me to make sacrifices this Lent
in the spirit of self-denial
and with greater attention to you
and to those around me.
Help me to believe that you will grant me this
because of the sacrifice Jesus made for me.

 

Thursday, March 5, 2020: Psalm 121; Isaiah 51:1-3; 2 Timothy 1:3-7

Lord,
I’m not always eager to do your will.
I’d often much rather do my own will.
Please be with me on this Lenten journey
and help me to remember
that your own spirit can guide me
in the right direction.
I want to “fix” my weaknesses
but the task seems overwhelming.
But I know that with your help,
anything can be done.
With a grateful heart,
I acknowledge your love
and know that without you,
I can do nothing.

 

Friday, March 6, 2020: Psalm 121; Micah 7:18-20; Romans 3:21-31

Creator of my life,
renew me:bring me to new life in you.
Touch me and make me feel whole again.
Help me to see your love
in the passion, death and resurrection of your son.
Help me to observe Lent
in a way that allows me to celebrate that love.
Prepare me for these weeks of Lent
as I feel both deep sorrows for my sins
and your undying love for me.

 

Saturday, March 7, 2020: Psalm 121; Isaiah 51:4-8; Luke 7:1-10

Loving God,
Sometimes my heart
turns in every direction
except towards you.
Please help me
to turn my heart toward you,
to gaze upon you in trust
and to seek your kingdom with all of my heart.
Soften my hardened heart
so that I might love others
as a way to glorify and worship you.
Grant me this
with the ever-present guidance of your spirit.

 

Sunday, March 8, 2020: Genesis 12:1-4a; Psalm 12; Romans 4:1-5, 13-17; John 3:1-17

 

Monday, March 9, 2020: Psalm 128; Numbers 21:4-9; Hebrews 3:1-6

 

Tuesday, March 10, 2020: Psalm 128; Isaiah 65:17-25; Romans 4:6-13

 

Wednesday, March 11, 2020: Psalm 128; Ezekiel 36:22-32; John 7:53-8:11

 

Thursday, March 12, 2020: Psalm 95; Exodus 16:1-8; Colossians 1:15-23

 

Friday, March 13, 2020: Psalm 95; Exodus 16:9-21; Ephesians 2:11-22

 

Saturday, March 14, 2020: Psalm 95; Exodus 16:27-35; John 4:1-6

 

Sunday, March 15, 2020: Third Sunday in Lent

 

Monday, March 16, 2020: Psalm 81; Genesis 24:1-27; 2 John 1:1-13

 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020: Psalm 81; Genesis 29:1-14; 1 Corinthians 10:1-4

 

Wednesday, March 18, 2020: Psalm 81; Jeremiah 2:4-13; John 7:14-31, 37-39

 

Thursday, March 19, 2020: Psalm 23; 1 Samuel 15:10-21; Ephesians 4:25-32

 

Friday, March 20, 2020: Psalm 23; 1 Samuel 15:22-31; Ephesians 5:1-9

 

Saturday, March 21, 2020: Psalm 23; 1 Samuel 15:32-34; John 1:1-9

 

Sunday, March 22, 2020: Fourth Sunday in Lent

 

Monday, March 23, 2020: Psalm 146; Isaiah 59:9-19; Acts 9:1-20

 

Tuesday, March 24, 2020: Psalm 146; Isaiah 42:14-21; Colossians 1:9-14

 

Wednesday, March 25, 2020: Annunciation of the Lord

 

Wednesday, March 25, 2020: Psalm 146; Isaiah 60:17-22; Matthew 9:27-34

 

Thursday, March 26, 2020: Psalm 130; Ezekiel 1:1-3, 2:8-3:3; Revelation 10:1-11

 

Friday, March 27, 2020: Psalm 130; Ezekiel 33:10-16; Revelation 11:15-19

 

Saturday, March 28, 2020: Psalm 130; Ezekiel 36:8-15; Luke 24:44-53

 

Sunday, March 29, 2020: Fifth Sunday in Lent

 

Monday, March 30, 2020: Psalm 143; 1 Kings 17:17-24; Acts 20:7-12

 

Tuesday, March 31, 2020: Psalm 143; 2 Kings 4:18-37; Ephesians 2:1-10

 

Wednesday, April 1, 2020: Psalm 143; Jeremiah 32:1-9, 36-41; Matthew 22:23-33

 

Thursday, April 2, 2020: Psalm 31:9-16; 1 Samuel 16:11-13; Philippians 1:1-11

 

Friday, April 3, 2020: Psalm 31:9-16; Job 13:13-19; Philippians 1:21-30

 

Saturday, April 4, 2020: Psalm 31:9-16; Lamentations 3:55-66; Mark 10:32-34


How To Practice Lent

How To Practice Lent


Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 6:1

Don’t Prove Yourself

In chapter 4 of Matthew’s Gospel Jesus goes into the wilderness, and for forty days He is tempted by the devil with a host of things. He is tempted to show His power by turning stones into loaves of bread, and He is tempted to test the Lord by leaping from a temple roof. Then after being tempted to bow down for the kingdoms of the earth, He tells the devil to go away for He will bow to God alone. In the end, Satan’s goal was making Jesus prove Himself, and the same is true for us today as another Lenten season begins.

For those unfamiliar with Lent, it is a time where we remember the temptation of Christ and prepare for Easter with forty days of walking through the wilderness. Of course, our wilderness is not some desert in the Middle East, but it is an arid lonely place that echoes with the tempter’s voice. During Lent we begin to feel that our usual prayers are not enough, and we are tempted to bring the Lord a prayer that is long and very eloquent. And we also begin to feel that our fasting and giving are not enough, and we are tempted to abstain from more things and increase our funds to charity.

Jesus wants us to be ourselves.

Be Yourself

Indeed, the devil aims to also make us prove ourselves, but as Jesus showed His followers the goal is that we be ourselves. Later on in Matthew’s Gospel He talks about hypocrites, and He warns against their holy works or practicing their righteousness. To be clear, He does not discourage long prayers or giving more, for there are many people who are eloquent and generous with a humble heart. Instead, He puts down an inauthentic piety where our good works do not match up with who and how we really are.

Jesus encourages us to be ourselves while offering prayers, and it does not matter if we say two words or speak for several minutes. He encourages us to be ourselves in every fast that we take up, and it doesn’t matter how many things we put down on our fasting list. And finally He encourages us to be ourselves to be ourselves with giving, and it doesn’t matter how much we give or if we are not recognized.

God leads us to the wilderness to fellowship and commune with Him.

God Wants You

Truly, as it was for Christ, we are tempted by the devil to prove ourselves, and as we hear his voice in our wilderness we must hold fast to the Word of God. Through the Word we are shown that God is gracious, merciful, and abounding in love, and He does not desire our good works; instead the Lord desires us. In addition to being ourselves Lent shows us that God ultimately wants us, and He leads us to the wilderness to fellowship and commune with Him. And as we do these things we must have an authentic piety, where our prayer, fasting, and giving matches up with who and how we are.

While practicing Lent this year may we hold fast to the Word of God, and I pray that it would help us hear the voice of the One Who made the tempter flee. Christ who tells us:

Be yourself in prayer!

Be yourself in fasting!

Be yourself in giving!

Be yourself in every season!

Be yourself in all things!


Brunch Seminar with Kirsten Haglund

The myth of perfectionism

Brunch Seminar with Kirsten Haglund on March 28th, 2020


Though perfectionism can lead one to successful achievements it can also lead to self-destruction. During this seminar Kirsten Haglund will show how perfectionism is a myth and how we can embrace our true selves and live a fulfilling life with purpose and joy.

Speaker: Kirsten Haglund (Biography)

Event on march 28th has been cancelled. It will be rescheduled at a later date.


World Day Of Prayer 2020

What is the Women's World Day Of Prayer?

3. February 2020By Scotty Williams1 Minutes

Where it all started

In 1887 Mary Ellen Fairchild James called for a day of prayer for home missions among women in the American Methodist Church. In response, Methodist women committed to a week of prayer that focused on self-denial for the sake of foreign missions. Since then, Fairchild James call has become the ecumenical Women’s World Day of Prayer (WDP), where every year women around the world stand in solidarity with one another through prayer and works of service for the benefit of all.

Mary Ellen Fairchild James

WDP 2020: Zimbabwe

This year All Souls will be taking part in the WDP for the first time, and as we stand in solidarity with our sisters around the world we will give a special focus to the nation of Zimbabwe and share a wonderful meal of dishes from across Africa. The 2020 WDP theme is, “Rise! Take Your Mat and Walk”, and you can learn more about it by clicking on the image.

Event on march 6th has been cancelled


Pancake Day 2020

Why Celebrate Pancake Day?

An old English tradition


Where does Pancake Day come from?

Pancake Day originates from an ancient English Christian tradition where households got rid of all their “luxury foods” in preparation for Lent. Three luxury foods were milk, eggs, and white flour, which the people used up by making something similar to what we know today as pancakes.

In addition to making pancakes, we will have a wonderful time of fellowship with fun quizzes and a pancake race with prizes for the winning team.


Pastor's Desk: How's your new year going?

Pastor's Desk: How's your new year going?

Pastor's Desk January 2020


But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

2 Corinthians 12:9

Dear Freinds,

Unlike other New Year’s Pastor’s Desks I decided to do this one differently, and am sending it out on the 31st as January comes to end. By now you have probably have broken some or all of your resolutions, and you might be finding that certain hopes for 2020 have become dull. In my case, I hoped that 2020 would be a year of nations finding peace, but since January 1st I have found myself wrestling with disappointment. This month there was the constant news of political tensions in my home country, and the escalation of the persecution of Christians in Asia and Africa. And then, with the usual mix of wars and rumors of wars, came the fears of a Coronavirus epidemic and the ripple effects of Brexit. Nevertheless, despite these things, my hopes are not entirely dashed, for as it was in so many previous years the grace of God has carried me.

Since January 1st God’s grace has carried me through the joys and cares of child-rearing, and has helped Maria and I as we have sought to be good parents to our son. God’s grace has carried me through the joys and cares of relationships, and has helped me be a better husband, son, brother, and friend. God’s grace has carried me through the joys and cares of ministry, and has helped me as I have sought to be the pastor that All Souls deserves and needs. God’s grace has carried me through the through the joys and cares of Swiss life, and has helped as I continue on my journey down the expat road. And God’s grace still carries me as I watch this month come to an end, and it will carry me through the joys and cares of eleven more months that are yet to come.

With all the disappointments so far God’s grace has not fallen short for me, and I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that it will also not fall short for you. It will carry you through broken resolutions and the dulling of hopes that once shined bright, and it will bring you an unshakable peace in these turbulent times where the world seems filled with great unrest.

Though your 2020 might not being going well God’s grace is well with you, and like His love nothing can ever separate you from it.

Happy New Year and many blessings!

Your grateful Pastor,

-Scotty


The kingdom is not just work

The kingdom is not just work


26. January 2020By Scotty Williams7 Minutes

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about Him, so that He got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And He told them many things in parables, saying: A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
Matthew 13:1-8

As we work for God’s Kingdom, are we taking the time to get some rest?

We are more than sowers

While training for the ministry almost seventeen years ago, I found myself on the verge of a burnout. I had been working hard in my intern Church to spread the Word of the Kingdom in North Minneapolis. To the pathway people on Lydale Avenue, I spread the Word by visitations. To the rocky ground people at Fairview Park, I spread the Word by playing sports. To the thorny ground people near West Broadway, I spread the Word by flyers and tracts. And after preaching for the good ground people at Church, I had two night jobs to pay for seminary.

Truly, I was working hard and wearing myself thin, and as burnout loomed on the horizon the senior pastor told me this:

Though we are called to work for God, we are more than sowers in the field. We are also the field itself, and sometimes we are called to rest.    

Sometimes you’ve got to let the fields lie fallow.
-Joshua Burkhart

We are also the field

As a boy, I’d often visit my great-uncle’s farm in Texarkana, and every year he had a field that he left alone and would not touch. He would let it lie fallow for weeds and other wild plants to grow, and he would send his cows to graze in it and leave their droppings everywhere. In others words, he let the soil rest and regain the nutrients it had lost, and the same is true for those in Christ who spread or work for the Kingdom of God.

Though we are called to sow the Word we are also called to get some rest, and in so doing regain the things that works for God can take from you. We pastors know all too well the drain that ministry often brings, and without a break it can leave you with a burnout or even worse. The Church is filled with stories of people who were strong in faith, but lost their faith by wearing themselves out in service for the sake of others.  And there are also fellowships that were once filled with life and joy, but lost it all because they failed to see that even Churches need some rest.

Sometimes you just need to take 5 minutes for yourself!
-Unknown

We must take five

In the entertainment industry short breaks are called for with the phrase, “Take five”, and this year our Church Council wants to do the same at ASPC. Each month we will have a Sunday where there is no service or activity, and we take a break as a fellowship from our work in East Switzerland. On these Sabbath Sundays everyone is encouraged to sit back, get some rest, and be rejuvenated through non-Churchy things like sleeping in or hanging out with others. Of course, everyone is free to attend a service elsewhere, but we must remember that God is also glorified by fallow fields.

Just as we are sowers of the Kingdom we are also people in need of rest, and not just on the Sundays where our congregation doesn’t meet. From Monday to Sunday Christ our Director tells us, “Take five”, and I pray that we would heed His voice and regain the things that we have lost. May we daily have a moment (or moments) where we intentionally step away, and get back the peace, hope, and joy that strengthens us as we spread the Word.

A prayer for rest by Sarah Forgrave

Jesus, I am tired. My mind is frazzled, my hands are full, and my emotions are reeling with all the things I have to do. Help me to come to you in the middle of the overwhelm. Remind me of your ever-present help in my times of need. Show me how to rest in You. Reveal to me both the beauty in the work and in the rest. Calm my anxious thoughts and encourage my heart with Your nearness. Instruct me in your ways. Bring productivity and contentment out of the peace and comfort I find. Settle me in Your truth and in Your love. Amen.


Sacred Idleness

The importance of rest

Sabbath Sunday 2019


 And on the seventh day God finished His work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work that He had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all His work that He had done in creation. (Genesis 2:2-3)

When our son was born Maria and I worked hard to be responsible parents, and we tried our best to step in first whenever he cried out with a need. When he cried out with hunger, we were right there to feed him. When he cried for diapers, we were right there to change him. When he cried for presence, we were right there to hold him. And when cried out for comfort, we were right there to soothe him.

Indeed, we worked hard at being responsible parents, but instead of praising our noble efforts a nurse came by and told us this:

What your child needs the most is not parents who do everything. What your child needs the most is parents who know how to rest.

George MacDonald once wrote that there are times where we all need idleness, or moments in life where we simply do nothing and put aside our quests for work. Of course, we all have responsibilities and things that must be done, but we also need to simply rest and step back from our labors. If you remember in Genesis, after the universe was created, God stepped back and rested and declared that everything He made was good. And later on, when Israel was given the Ten Commandments through Moses, God told them to remember the Sabbath or keep the seventh day as a day of rest.

So even God values idleness from time to time, and the purpose of stepping back is to enjoy the fruits of all our work. You see, without rest our labors lose their meaning, and the things we get from doing them become burdens instead of blessings. Without rest the places we live become buildings to maintain instead of homes. Without rest the foods we eat become things to consume instead of being savored. Without rest our relationships with others become surface-level instead of deep connections. And without rest our relationship with God becomes a thing for Sunday instead of daily life.

This week at All Souls we will have a time idleness, and on Sunday (November 17th) there will be no service with all the usual works we do. Like Israel long ago, we will use the day to worship through rest and enjoy the fruits which have grown through our labors as a fellowship in Jesus Christ. But above all, we will seek the Lord beyond the sanctuary and worship Him in ways beyond the liturgical practices we know and love. And as we seek the Lord and worship Him through things like taking a nap or going on a walk, I pray that we would offer thanks for and recapture the purpose of the works that He has blessed us with.

In our world, where things are fast-paced and one’s worth is determined by how they perform, the Church must not be a place of labor that only seeks to do things well. Our world needs a Church that truly knows how to rest, and invites all to be refreshed through the sacred joys of idleness.

Good Sabbath to you all and God bless!


Pastor's Desk: Practicing thanksgiving

Practicing thanksgiving

Pastor's Desk November 2019


In last month’s Newsletter the theme was change and how to live with it, and since then my wife and I have been learning how to live with a very big change. On October 24th at 3:05 a.m. our family grew from two to three, and we found ourselves changed from Scotty and Maria to the Mami and Papi of a new born son. Suddenly our norm of sleeping eights hours was replaced by naps between crying and feeding, and our norm for going out was replaced by limits on where we could go. And though we love being parents these changes started to feel constricting, but as it was when we were waiting for a child these words from Paul kept coming to our minds:

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)    

Now when Paul says “all circumstances” he is speaking literally, and during our long adoption journey what kept us going was the practice of thanksgiving. When we experienced roadblocks with paperwork, we gave thanks unto the Lord. When we experienced two painful disruptions, we gave thanks unto the Lord. When we experienced positive updates from the agency, we gave thanks unto the Lord. And when received encouragement from others we gave thanks unto the Lord. Of course, there were times where it felt as if our gratitude was forced and not genuine, but even still we sought to do the will of God in Christ for us.

Truly, what kept us going on the road of adoption was the practice of Thanksgiving, and what is keeping us going on the road of parenthood is giving thanks unto the Lord in all things. And friends, as you continue on roads or embark upon new roads that life presents to you, my prayer is that you would carry on by giving thanks in all things. May the Lord continually give you an attitude of gratitude by His grace, and know that He accepts your thanks even when you struggle to give it.

In all things may you give thanks unto the Lord, for this is His will for you in Christ Jesus!

For some daily tips on practicing thanksgiving throughout this month, check out this article by Mary Ann Brussat titled, “Ways To Practice Thanks-giving“.