Sharing “one”* thing

*Disclosure: I realize human beings are complicated and to define ourselves by “one” particular thing may not only be a difficult task, it may actually be impossible. But before you run off screaming, please allow me to make a brief point…

Sometimes I have the feeling we are trying too hard to do too many things at once.

To survive in the twenty-first century often means we have to be efficient multi-taskers.  For an easy example, as you read this, how many other tabs do you have open?

I believe we try (and try too hard) to be all things to all people. I know I am guilty of operating this way. I want to be self-sufficient and capable of handling anything. For years I used to live by the motto, “Be able to do all things, and do them well.” Maybe in doing so I pushed help away that I needed, or missed encouraging others to do some things that would have helped them. People are unique and different from one another. We should remember that we all have strengths and blind-spots, and not beat ourselves up about it. Rather, we would do well to remember we are not good at everything, and neither is anyone else.

Have you discovered “one”* thing that you could share?

share logo_0What is your passion, your interest, your expertise, your unique perspective that can help the rest of us figure out life in this fast-paced, multi-dimensional, too often distracted twenty-first century world we live in?

Are you sharing that “one”* thing with others or keeping it to yourself?

I think we would all be better off if we capitalized on opportunities to help one another by utilizing our strengths, rather than continue to dwell on our deficits.

I recently read a story by Naomi Shihab Nye where she reflected on helping a woman at the airport.  This woman thought her flight had been cancelled because she did not speak English. Naomi spoke her language, utilized “one”* thing to help this fellow traveler, and made a new friend in the process. (Read it here at David Kanigan’s blog, Live & Learn , 11/16/2014. Online available: GATE A-4 By Naomi Shihab Nye). That does not mean Naomi’s only attribute is a gift of in the knowledge and use of language, but in the moment, that “one”* thing made all the difference.

How many new friends do we miss making? Good things happen when we take time to pay attention, overcome our fears and risk sharing “one”* thing with others.

Organizations also have unique gifts to share within larger communities. As it is with human beings, that doesn’t mean we have only one task to perform or one perform particular function or have to limit our definition of the work we do together. But seeking a focus to our work and gatherings can determine how we go about our business and how we measure what we do. A focus can help us sort what new projects we take up or pass on and can help us determine why we are doing any of them in the first place. A focus can also allow space for those holy moments like Naomi experienced, because we are able to listen, discern and act. When we are focused on a mission and/or purpose we also have a greater ability to operate with an openness outside of ourselves.

As a pastor I used to think that each church should be able to stand on its own regardless of how it interacted with others, but I have come to see that every congregation offers something unique to the town or neighborhood in which it resides, within its denominational affiliation or network, and within the body of Christ as a whole. Again, just like each of us as individuals, our communities of faith bring a particular value and voice to those around us.

Let go and be freed of the burden of trying to “do all things, and do them well,” and instead focus on what you value and do “one”* thing well. If you participate in a group like a church, do you know what your faith community’s “one”* thing is or could be? If you don’t participate in a community like “church,” what do you think might be “one”* thing they are missing?

Maybe it is your voice.

We don’t have to be all things to all people. We come as people created in God’s image to be creative and add to the beauty of the diverse world around us. Let’s listen to one another and cultivate a focus to utilize the strengths we each bring to the conversation for the greater good. Maybe then we’ll move towards the possibility of what good can happen around us, and like Naomi, join in. Who knows? You may even make a new friend.

PGS

____

Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.  Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Corinthians 12:14-27)

 

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Stewardship Sunday with Pastor Rip Hoffman, sermon on Matt 25:14-30

basket11/16/2014
Stewardship Sunday
Guest preacher Pastor Rip Hoffman
Sermon on Matt 25:14-30

St. Paul Lutheran Church
Old Saybrook, CT

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Installation of Pastor Geoff Sinibaldo at St. Paul, Old Saybrook, CT. Pastor Brian Scott, preacher, Pastor Jim Reemts, Conference Dean

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Installation of Pastor Geoff Sinibaldo

Pastor Brian Scott, preacher
sermon on Mark 4:35-41, “God wins”

Pastor Jim Reemts, Dean of CT Rivers Conference, New England Synod, ELCA

St. Paul Lutheran Church, Old Saybrook, CT

 

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Nothing is Stationary

universe.you.are.here.The world is constantly in motion: rotating on its axis, in orbit around our sun, spinning throughout our galaxy, and dancing across the cosmos. Yet sometimes our perspective makes it feel like we are stationary and everything else is in motion.

The ancients looked to the heavens and saw the sun and moon rise and set in the sky from horizon to horizon. They charted the stars and planets. They even placed God “up there” – where the movement took place to occasionally come down and instigate things on earth where all was still.

We no longer live in a three-tiered universe where we are the stable ones with heaven above and hell below. We understand that we live on one reference point throttling through the universe. As physics and mathematics deepen and uncover new understandings even that reference point is bound to change.

Comet.Philae.Probe.This week human beings landed the Philae Probe on a comet moving at 85,000 mph millions of miles away from earth. This feat of engineering and ingenuity will no doubt lead to further discovery of where we live, leading to new reference points. Yet from the perspective of that probe it now rests stationary on a chunk of ice and rock as the rest of the solar system whizzes by it.

The truth remains: nothing is stationary.

Even the things we think are solid are made of molecules and atoms and the particles in their constant dance beyond our vision and everyday experience. The microscopes peer into smaller and smaller corners of the universe just as the telescopes see further and further away into the movements of all that can be seen.

Nothing is stationary.

Sometimes our language for God, our perspective on faith, and our practice within religious institutions are seen and understood as unmovable and stationary. We still speak in terms of a three-tiered universe – God is “up there” when we have no real reference for what “up” really means. Remember, we are rotating, in orbit, in a solar system moving in a galaxy, spinning in a cluster of galaxies in an ever-expanding universe. There is no “up” in the way we have traditionally used the term. We say things like “God came down” when we speak of Theophany or Incarnation and the transcendent, but there is no “down.” We use words like “eternal” when our understanding of something as basic as time is becoming more and more complex and rooted in one reference point (our planet’s rotational cycle). Sometimes we still seem stuck, stationary and unmovable – like a probe looking up on its horizon unaware of its speed and distance from those who sent it.

How about us?

A closer reading of our sacred story first told by the ancients and recorded as scripture, do not tell the story of a stationary world or a stationary God. God is constantly on the move throughout the story as people’s movements, awareness, relationships, and actions develop their understandings of the world in which they live changes. They lived differently as a result. We should be so bold.

Let us not be discouraged in an age where everything changes, where the reference points move, and the universe seems bigger and bigger (even if we feel smaller and smaller on this little blue speck). Instead, let us look in wonder of what can be learned as our species looks to the cosmos and what we have already learned to venture out into it to see what new worlds can be opened. Let us look to one another; not as insignificant little creatures on a sistine.chapel.fingers.little planet in the far corner of our galaxy, but as people loved and cherished by the God of it all, who calls us by name and makes us “in God’s own image.” Maybe that means God is constantly in motion, so we should be too. To be in God’s image can be as simple as bringing love and kindness and mercy to others wherever they are, and pointing it out wherever we see it.

Who knows? We might even change the world, as our little blue speck gets a little brighter.

Nothing is stationary. Let’s join the God who is on the move.

PGS

___

God, brilliant Lord, yours is a household name. Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you; toddlers shout the songs That drown out enemy talk, and silence atheist babble. I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous, your handmade sky-jewelry, Moon and stars mounted in their settings. Then I look at my micro-self and wonder, Why do you bother with us? Why take a second look our way? Yet we’ve so narrowly missed being gods, bright with Eden’s dawn light. You put us in charge of your handcrafted world, repeated to us your Genesis-charge, Made us lords of sheep and cattle, even animals out in the wild,  Birds flying and fish swimming, whales singing in the ocean deeps. God, brilliant Lord, your name echoes around the world. (Psalm 8 – THE MESSAGE)

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“It’s the Body of Christ, Charlie Brown” a sermon on Matt 25:1-13

Essex, CT

Essex, CT

11/09/2014
A sermon on Matt 25:1-13

“It’s the Body of Christ, Charlie Brown”

St. Paul Lutheran Church
Old Saybrook, CT

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5 Things I’ve Learned by Greeting People at the Curb (or More Than Name tags…)

It started on a whim. The Sunday of the vote to call me as pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Old Saybrook, CT (8/31/2014) I put on my alb and stole and started meeting people in the Narthex when a flood of people arrived at the door. I started shaking hands as my soon to be partners in ministry shared smiles, names, put on name tags, and made their way into the sanctuary.

IMG_3880After a few brief conversations I turned around.  I noticed someone struggling with the door so I opened it for her. After a nice exchange, I walked outside. We have an open walkway connecting the parking lot to the church at St. Paul. After a few more greetings,     I found myself at the curb saying “good morning” to the rest of the congregation as they arrived for worship. Since I started at St. Paul in October, I’ve spent each Sunday morning on the curb before the early service watching the cars drive into the parking lot to greet the people.

Here is what I’ve learned so far:

  1. Don’t Underestimate “Hello”

I don’t believe a person can be over-welcomed. Churches tend to be closed systems (even the more open ones). Greeting people by the curb conveys the message, “It is good to see you and I’m glad you’re here.” Churches work hard on property signs, cleaning up spaces to make them hospitable, publications, websites, and activity on social media outlets (all good considerations in today’s world). Yet there is nothing better than a personal touch. Other than the people who sneak in another door (or a few minutes late), I am able in a few minutes to have personal contact with every worshiper. Especially as I am getting to know my people, this has been time well invested with big returns. I can only imagine how this can build over time, not only among the membership but with new people as they participate in this community.

  1. Outside Greetings are a Great Equalizer

0 St.Paul.07Since I am new I cannot tell the difference between long-term members, people who are making their way back to church and first time visitors. I’ve simply brought some energy and presence to my welcome.       I will say, in a short amount of time it has helped me learn people’s names (the name tags don’t go on until people are inside). It has also given people practice in saying “hello” to new people by greeting me as a relative newcomer. Unintentionally, this exercise has started helping the whole congregation start thinking about how we greet all new faces in our midst.

  1. Community Visibility is a Good Thing

Several people have given me feedback, saying how good it is to see someone (especially the pastor) outside on a Sunday morning. A comment I’ve heard each time I’ve been out there Sunday morning is: “most churches don’t do that.” If your congregation is going to be known for something in the community – why not hospitality? One of the people who helps run on our Facebook page started taking pics of me greeting people and posting them that morning. I’ve wondered what people driving by to other activities thought if they noticed me out there. Maybe they’ll never come worship with us, but at least they know we are here – which is more I can say of many congregations I’ve driven by before.

  1. We can Greet People on Other Curbs Too

It is one thing to be welcomed at church. It is another thing to participate in a welcoming church. And it is quite another thing to take that welcome with you. How many people in a given day/week/month do you simply walk by who become invisible to you on your way to wherever you are going? I’ve often wondered in the Good Samaritan story if the people who passed by the injured person on the side of the road were really that cruel or scared not to help or if they were simply too busy or caught up in what they were doing to even notice. Are we?

  1. It’s Getting Cold Out Here!

0 St.Paul.06Like many new ideas – this one may have a shelf life.     I may hail from Chicago, but it was cold out there on Sunday! I may need to change my strategy, put on hold for a while or try something else. I think most of our churches could learn to do that rather than simply attempting to repeat prior success in a changing context with diminishing returns. I have already started doing this in regards to the later worship service, when I don’t go outside. Instead, I’ve joined in conversations people are having with each other over hot drinks and snacks. Maybe the way to go in the near future is to start the coffee and tea early and be waiting inside the door with a warm cup – waiting just for you.

Remember, the goal is not to sustain the program (curb greeting); the goal is to welcome people and encourage a culture of hospitality.

We’ll come up with many new ideas over time I’m sure!

BONUS: A Short Reflection on the Direction People Park

While waiting in the early morning as the first few cars arrive Sunday for worship,               I have done an unofficial poll – most people at St. Paul either back into their spot, or drive through to a second spot so it is easier to pull out into the lot. I can only assume that once worship is over, people are so excited to serve in the community they can’t wait to           “Go in peace!”

PGS

___

 “Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The friends who are with me greet you.”       (Philippians 4:21)

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“Join the Dance of the Saints” an All Saints sermon on Rev 7:9-17 and Matt 5:14-16

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All Saints Sunday
Sermon on Rev. 7:9-17 and Matt 5:14-17
“Join the Dance of the Saints”

St. Paul Lutheran Church
Old Saybrook, CT

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