Monument Shopping

I’ve always called the stone at the head of a grave, not surprisingly, a gravestone.  Some call it a tombstone.  Which, by the way, makes me think of frozen pizza.  Really, there is a pizza name a Tombstone.

But last week I was told that neither of these terms are correct.  For those in the know, the proper term for the stone at the head of a grave is “monument.”

As long as I can remember I would drive by Twin City Monument in my home town, right there on Main Street.  It always made me a bit uncomfortable; like driving by Kessler Funeral Home, a subtle reminder of death.

But last week my brother, sister, and I walked into Twin City Monument to choose a gravestone, I mean monument, for my father.

It wasn’t so bad.

Ever since my father died I’ve actually been pretty much at peace with this whole thing.  And surprisingly I found myself resonating with the sales pitch.  I know, it’s weird to say that about a gravestone, I mean monument, but that’s what it was.

I know my father is not in that grave.  Still, as the salesman said, the monument marks his life.  We drive by cemeteries feeling kind of creepy about the dead, especially at night; but really, cemeteries only remind us of those who have lived.  Which is why we place the monument at the head of the grave.

 

As cremations rise in popularity it is easier to opt out of burials in cemeteries.  Ashes can be spread on the ocean, in the mountains, in the garden, or really anywhere I guess.  I know it’s a personal decision, and after shopping at Twin City Monument, a cheaper one too.

But I’m glad my dad will have a monument.  I never really thought about this before, but I think I will find comfort when the monument stands at the head of his grave.  As I grieve his death I’m  glad that he will have a place that will mark his life.

 

The Footwashing

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death- even death on a cross.         Philippians 2:5-8

Holy Week is drama. The week is to be experienced.
Midweek, the liturgy draws us to the upper room and the Last Supper. But John’s gospel doesn’t bother with the meal, he is more interested in what happens afterwards.

Then Jesus poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.                                                                                                        John 13:5

We readily participate in the Last Supper. Drinking the blood of Christ and eating his body doesn’t seem to faze us. But the foot washing is personal. Though flip-flops and sandals are regular foot ware, there’s something about baring our feet at the altar that exposes our humanity.

In my previous congregation I thought one of our matriarchs would easily agree to having her feet washed in the service. She was as faithful as the day is long and would say yes to any request, but her laugh upon my request to wash her feet in the Maundy Thursday service has stood out as one of those lessons learned in ministry.

When it comes to our feet, even the most faithful seek to cover up.
Of course she was in good company. Remember Peter? “You will never wash my feet!” Though common in the ancient world, foot washing still was personal, and certainly not to be done by anyone of honor. Maybe Peter would expose his toes to the servant of the household, but never to Jesus.

But Jesus simply names the reason Peter needs to do it. “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”
In the Christ Hymn of Philippians 2, Christ empties himself to become a slave. The foot washing, therefore, becomes the act of divine self service that will culminate on the cross. Jesus will go all the way to death to empty himself for our sake.

I invite all who desire to come forward for the foot washing on Maundy Thursday during the reading of John 13. It is drama, and it is personal, but the act reveals the depth of Christ’s for all of humanity.
And remember the command.
So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also out to wash one another’s feet.                                           John 13:14

Subtracting From the Soul

The soul does not grow by addition, but by subtraction.                                                                                        Meister Eckhart

This 14th Century German mystic isn’t offering a “give up something for Lent” thought; he’s speaking the truth of the spiritual life.

We associate growth with more; more muscles, more dollars, more time, more knowledge, more house, more sense, more whatever.  But isn’t it interesting that Jesus speaks about finding life by losing life.  It doesn’t make sense, of course.  We’d rather talk about success as a blessing and not a curse, and success usually is thought of as adding to.

But Jesus and Meister Eckhart are on to something, and it’s really quite simple.  The more life we lose, the more we subtract from the soul; the less distractions we have and the more room left for God.

Lent is a season to subtract.   Try it, but start small.  What one person, idea, task, regret, or possession, can you subtract from your soul?  Do it not just for a season, but as a way to grow the soul.

Pastor’s Annual Report

Pastor’s Annual Report  2015

 God’s Call

Rely on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace.                                                                                                                                                      2 Timothy 1:9

At the Bishop’s Convocation in October colleagues me asked about my call to Prince of Peace.  I surprised myself, when more than once I responded, “the honeymoon is over.”

By October the seriousness of our financial shortfall became worrisome.  My first year at Prince of Peace was behind me.  Attention and action were demanded.  I would be less than honest if I didn’t say that I was concerned.

On more than one occasion, leaders confided that they feared I regretted my decision to come to Prince of Peace.  Others wondered if I was disappointed in the congregation.

The writer of 2 Timothy reminds us that the Letter of Call is a holy calling, not according to our works but according to God’s own purpose.  My presence as pastor at Prince of Peace is to answer this call with faithful leadership.  I have been called not to solve the problem of our budget shortfall, but to invoke the presence of the living God into this particular situation, and to help the congregation discern God’s calling to our ministry in this new day.

Prince of Peace is a faithful congregation.  My family is settled and thriving in our new home.  Yes, I am challenged, but I have never regretted answering this call.  I look forward to our partnership as we faithfully move into the days and years ahead.

 

Brought to our Knees

Although Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he continued to get down on his knees three times a day to pray to his God and praise him, just as he had done previously.                                                                                                      Daniel 6:10

Not to compare our financial picture to Daniel being thrown into the lion’s den, but Daniel models our position of prayer in times of trial.

Sometimes in crisis we are brought to our knees.

The difficult reality is that our 2015 budget is forced to address salaries and staff.  Prince of Peace has been blessed by a faithful, dedicated staff that serves the congregation well.

The bind is that giving has not kept up with expenses.  Put simply, we are living beyond our means.  Because this affects people we love and respect, we are brought to our knees.

But falling on our knees, like Daniel, is not always a bad place to be.

It is easy to conclude that our imposing deficit is an unfortunate predicament, a problem to be solved.  But could it be a path to new life?

On our day of discernment in November I shared with the church council a quote from the spiritual journal Weavings:

“Rather than lamenting our restlessness and feeling threatened by it, perhaps this is a reason to rejoice!  If we consider that the Holy Spirit has often been an agent of restlessness within the church, then perhaps we need to give what is happening receptive attention.”

To what new life is God calling Prince of Peace?

Alternate Worship, perhaps midweek.

Intentional prayer ministry.  We are praying on Wednesdays prior to the congregational meeting.  There is good reason to keep this ministry growing.

Hosting a center for spirituality to meet the “spiritual but not religious” crowd.

Council Reorganization.  Instead of overseeing finance and property, council can be the source of big ideas.

Gathering for prayer and study on becoming a congregation that is transforming.

Connecting the generations as we pass on the faith.  I’m intrigued by an idea of creating a nursery within the sanctuary, a gathering place for our youngest children and parents, allowing them to still be present within the worshiping space.

Renovating the church house, for housing or a ministry center.

Outside of renovating the church house, (which has attracted alternate sources of funding,) the cost of these new ministries would be minimal.  I was impressed by one comment at our council day of discernment:  Prince of Peace can be a small church, with a big ministry!

I invite you into prayer and discussion to share your thoughts of new life at Prince of Peace, and to where you feel God is calling our congregation.

 

Finding Courage

For this reason I bow my knees before my Father.  I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit.  I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Ephesians 3:14,17-19

Speaking with Doug about these particular days at Prince of Peace, he shared a definition of courage:  “Courage is fear that has said it’s prayers.”

So much of church decline results from fear.   We fear change, we fear technology, we fear the stranger, and we may even fear where God is calling us.

But when we are afraid, and it will happen, we need to fall on our knees and say our prayers.  On our knees we begin to comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth of the fullness of God.   Here is the place of courage.

Too many churches have caved in the face of fear.  They lack courage because they haven’t said their prayers.

The church needs to face reality, we need to be honest and make hard choices, we need to change.  It’s scary, but when we kneel before our God in prayer, Prince of Peace will have the courage to be church.

On the third Sunday in Advent, in my sermon I quoted Brian Doyle, a Roman Catholic who decided to stay in church against all logic and reason.  He names our mission.

“The point of the church is to stop fussing about power and real estate and edicts and remember that our charge from the thin astonishing rabbi is to be arrows of love and hope and mercy against the epic tide of rage and despair and cruelty. ”

 

I do not regret being pastor of Prince of Peace, and I feel called to be the pastoral presence during these challenging, yet exciting times.  I look forward to continued discernment as we courageously move forward to be the church.

I give thanks for our staff; Kathy, Doug, and Victoria.  I am grateful to the Cherry Tree Club and for the selfless service Wendy gives to this ministry.  I am also grateful to the congregation for our partnership in ministry.   It is good to be here.

 

In the Name of Jesus

Pastor Peter Froehlke
January 8, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thought for a New Year

Over Christmas my in-laws gave the grandchildren tickets to Aladdin on Broadway.   I’m grateful that parents are included on this outing.

We all know the story.  Aladdin comes across the magic lamp.  With a simple rub the Genie magically appears and grants Aladdin three wishes.

I’m always intrigued by the gesture.  If I were Aladdin would I be selfish and wish for riches?  Or, would I be more selfless and wish for a greater good to benefit humankind?

 

I haven’t given much thought to the civil war in Syria.   It is hard to give prayer and attention to a conflict that has lagged  on since 2011.  For a few months last year the media sparked our anger and offered ISIS as our new enemy, but outside of that, this war fights on without much worldwide interest.

I recently read a story, however, on a Syrian activist that deserves our attention.  Eliza Griswold, in The New York Times Magazine writes about Raed Fares.  He came across a genie, so to speak, who granted him a wish.

Since 2011 Fares has been protesting against the Assad regime and ISIS.  Fares is a radio announcer living in the northwest Syrian town of Kafranbel who has used his medium to speak against the dual enemies.

The genie in this story is an American by the name of Jim Hake.  Hake is the founder of Spirit of America, a nongovernmental organization with the explicit mission to support U.S. military and diplomatic efforts.  Introduced to Fares, Hake granted him a wish, “What do you need?”

Fares didn’t realize Hake was serious.  His first answer was, “A new country.”

Hake couldn’t provide that , but Spirit of America was able to hand over 500 solar-powered and hand-crank radios to his radio station.

The second time Hake asked Fares, “What do you need?”  Fares understood that Hake meant it.

“A siren,” Fares answered.

Since 2012 Kafranbel had been under constant attack by the Syrian army.  Fares radio station is able to warn the town of incoming planes.  But he told Hake that he needed a siren to warn those who had no radio.   Again, like a genie, Hake found five World War II style air-raid sirens, powered by hand-cranks so they don’t require electricity.  The sirens helped keep the citizens of Kafranbel safe.

 

It’s all about perspective.  Grant any of us a wish, or two, and I doubt we’d wish for a siren.  But to Raed Fares those five sirens were the difference between life and death for those residents of Kafranbel who had no radio.

The world is cruel.  We have no idea of the ordeals that so many in this world are forced to endure on a daily basis.

I struggle to think of anything we can do about Raed Fares’ predicament.   But doesn’t he at least deserve our attention?    And our prayers?

And maybe we should offer a thank you to the genie, Jim Hake, and the Spirit of America; who risk their lives offering something  from America other than weapons in this too often forgotten land.

 

Pastor Froehlke

 

Merry Christmas

Hopefully after Sunday we’re all inspired to wish our neighbors and friends a Merry Christmas as opposed to the generic Happy Holidays.
I invite you to Christmas Eve worship at 7:30 and 10:00.
My sermon title is “Breath of Heaven.” The breath that blew creation into being is the same breath that encounters our world through the Christ child. While the world chants “I Can’t Breathe,” Christmas assures that we can! We breathe the breath of heaven.
My best to you and yours this Christmas.

 

Pastor Froehlke