Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Advent - a time for quiet waiting

There is an old joke that says, “Time is God’s way of making sure everything doesn’t happen at once.” The truth is that we can’t pay attention to everything all the time. We simply don’t have the capacity. The liturgical calendar of the Church offers us the gift of  perspective. It allows us to focus on particular aspects of the human experience in this season and other aspects in another season. In these days leading up to Christmas we enter into the season of Advent, with its themes of watching and waiting and preparing. It is a time to slow down and be intentional about taking a break from the hectic pace of our lives and our world. In so doing we create a little space for God to enter in and take up residence. We allow for the possibility that we will notice. As you move through this holiday time, with all of the festivities and activities which seek to lay claim to our time and attention, I invite you to also find some time to nourish your soul by basking in the quiet and the stillness which is also a part of this season. In the words of the psalmist (46:10), “Be still, and know that I am God!” May the blessings of this Advent season be yours.
- Pastor Roger  
 (keeping my feet firmly planted in the flow)

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

What Does It Mean To Be Faithful?

As I sit at my desk pondering what to write, I look out the window at the Sleeping Giant off in the distance, silhouetted against the morning light, and I find myself reflecting on what it means to be a person of faith. The answer which keeps coming to me is that it involves a richly woven tapestry of things. In part it has more to do with being than it does with doing. Sitting and watching the clouds float over the Giant, and allowing that beauty to nourish my soul, is a profoundly spiritual practice. But the faith which is enriched by such contemplative practices also calls me to action. In a world filled not only with amazing beauty but also with fear and violence such as we have witnessed in recent days in the mail bomb situation and the shooting which took place at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, faith calls us to stand up and speak out. Faith challenges us to be in solidarity with the vulnerable and the oppressed in our world. Faith inspires us to proclaim that the God of life calls us to embrace values of love and justice and hospitality and community. Faith means striving to live into the words of John Wesley when he wrote, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” It means pondering the words of the Talmud, Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.” It means taking whatever small and not-so-small steps we have it within our power to take that will make a difference in the world. On November 6th we in this country have an opportunity to vote. It is sometimes tempting to believe that our vote doesn’t matter and won’t make a difference. But the message of our faith is that it is one of the ways we can make our voice heard, and speaking out is a faithful act. On November 11th we in this congregation will have an opportunity to make a financial commitment to the ministry of Plymouth Congregational Church. It is sometimes tempting to believe that what we can afford to give doesn’t matter and won’t make a difference. But the message of our faith is that giving is an expression of gratitude, and gratitude is a faithful act. What does it mean to be a person of faith? It means slowing down enough to experience the presence of God, and then allowing that experience to inspire us and empower us to make a difference in the world. May we learn to be faithful like that!
- Pastor Roger  
(keeping my feet firmly planted in the flow)

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Celebrating the Gift of Transformation

Fall is upon us. The autumnal equinox occurred just a few days ago. I find that I am attracted to transition moments - sunrises, sunsets, the changes of seasons. They help me pay attention to the ongoing process of transformation. The truth is that every moment is a transition moment and the whole world and all of us in it are always and forever in the process of change and transformation. But most of the time we are so busy paying attention to something else that we fail to notice. Which is why I appreciate those occasions when it is so dramatic that I can't miss it. The setting sun paints the clouds with amazing hues of yellow, orange, and red. The trees use that same palette to paint their leaves. Then my only response is to stand in breathless awe. Then I stand a chance of remembering that every moment is a gift of as yet unrealized potentiality just waiting to be unwrapped. I saw a quote the other day. “The trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let things go.” I can cling tightly to the way things are, or I can let go into the promise of the way things are becoming. Change will occur whether I like it or not, whether I notice or not. But when I notice and surrender I get to enjoy it. The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, “And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of God as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image, from one degree of glory to another.” (2 Corinthians 3:18) I invite you to join me in paying attention to the amazing process of transformation that is happening all around us and within us in every moment. It is an ongoing gift from God. May we notice it. May we celebrate it. May we enjoy it. May we participate in it. 

- Pastor Roger
(keeping my feet firmly planted in the flow)

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Celebrating My Gifts . . . And Yours!!!

I am a poet, a photographer, a flute player, a dancer, a preacher, a dad, a grandfather, a partner, a grateful human being. All of these things bring joy and a sense of purpose to my life. And whenever I start comparing myself with someone else I say things like “I’m not a very good poet” and “I’m a mediocre photographer” and “I wish I could play the flute like my brother” and . . . You get the idea. It’s never a helpful path to follow, and it never leads me anywhere useful. I just end up feeling bad, and the joy and purpose are nowhere to be found. But when I manage to remember that any such comparisons are inherently false then I begin to find my way back into the light where joy and purpose flow freely. I am not simply a poor imitation of someone else. I am wonderfully and uniquely myself, with my own God-given gifts, touching the world as only I can. And the same is true for every other person on the planet. When we compare ourselves with others we generate an “us vs. them” energy. When we simply celebrate who we are and the gifts we have been given then we begin to generate an “all of us together” energy. We are freed to really appreciate our own gifts and the gifts of everyone else as well. Plymouth Congregational Church is a vital and vibrant congregation not because we are all the same, but because we choose to celebrate and share our individual uniquenesses so that God can shine through us and touch the world. Together may we learn to celebrate and shine.
- Pastor Roger
(keeping my feet firmly planted in the flow)

Thursday, July 26, 2018

A Little Kindness Makes a World of Difference

A couple of weeks ago I had the delightful opportunity to see the remarkable documentary film “Won't You Be My Neighbor?” about Fred Rogers (the man responsible for the PBS children's show “Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.” I knew of the show, but I'm not sure if I ever actually watched it. Which may have been part of why I found the film so compelling. Going in I didn't have any emotional investment in the subject matter, and yet I found myself absolutely enthralled and inspired. As one reviewer put it, “On paper, all that low-key positivity ought to be tricky material for a documentary filmmaker. But watching “Won't You Be My Neighbor?” was a profoundly emotional experience.” There were several things which grabbed me. First, here was this quiet, gentle, unassuming man who was absolutely driven, by his faith and by his deep concern for the well being of children, to do something to make a difference in the world. He ran against the grain of cultural trends. His show wasn't flashy, it was slow-paced and gentle. And his message was profound in it's simplicity. He wanted every child to know that they had inherent value. “I like you just the way you are.” He took children and their feelings seriously. He respected them. 

Sometimes in the church we try to get fancy. We think we need to get on board with the all of the latest cultural trends. We fall into the trap of believing that if we just do this, or that, or some other thing that we heard about, then we will be successful. We worry that our message always needs to be exciting and flashy or else people won't be interested. But the truth is that we don't need to be flashy, we just need to be real. We need to be kind and caring. We need to be open and honest. We need to practice hospitality. We already have an amazing message. “No matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here.” My experience at Plymouth is that these are more than just words. They speak to a reality which we embody and live out on a regular basis. In our own quiet, gentle ways, may we continue to reach out beyond ourselves and touch the world with the power of God's love and acceptance. 

- Roger Lynn

(keeping my feet firmly planted in the flow)

Sunday, July 1, 2018

We Are The Church Together

There is an old Sunday School song that begins, “I am the Church. You are the Church. We are the Church together. All who follow Jesus, all around the world! Yes, we are the Church together!” We who are part of this particular corner of the Church known as Plymouth Congregational UCC do a pretty good job of exemplifying this truth. There is diversity among us, and it takes all of that diversity to truly be the Church. Some among us have lived a long time, while some are just beginning life's journey. Some have been in church their whole life, while some are very new to the experience. Some have enough money to be very comfortable, while some struggle financially. Some are gay, some are straight, some are transgender. Some are more liberal, while some are more conservative. Some were born in this country, while some were born in another part of the world. Some are loud, while others are quiet. Some are active in social and political causes, while others seek to make a difference in one-on-one encounters. Some are very clear about what they believe, while some are searching for answers. We are not all the same size, shape, color, or gender. We do not fit neatly into one category, one description, one box. And yet, together we are the Church. The message which is printed in our bulletin every week continues to be the reality we strive to embody. “No matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here.” Thank you for the part you play in making Plymouth the remarkable gift that it is. “Yes, we are the Church together!”

- Pastor Roger
(keeping my feet firmly planted in the flow)

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Summer Brings a Change of Pace

In astronomical terms, summer begins with the summer solstice on June 21st. But in cultural terms, summer began last Monday with Memorial Day. Summer brings a change of pace, with backyard barbecues, concerts in the park, weekend getaways, and family vacations. The summer effect finds its way into the church as well. Things slow down a bit, with generally lower worship attendance and fewer mid-week activities. A few special events also get added to the calendar - including Breakfast on the Pass and Church Camp. Summer can be something akin to Sabbath – a time for us to experience rest and renewal for our weary souls.  When you are in town I hope you will join us for worship on Sunday mornings, and wherever your life takes you in the next few months I hope that you will have the opportunity to be refreshed. And whether these days find you traveling or at home, please remember to continue supporting Plymouth with your prayers and your financial contributions. Summer may bring with it a slower pace, but the bills still need to be paid. Thank you for being a part of this vibrant community of faith which we call Plymouth. 
- Pastor Roger  
(keeping my feet firmly planted in the flow)