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A Pastor's Reflection on the Tidal Waters of Life

6/27/2017 12:14 PM

I occasionally take walks in my neighborhood, passing by a lagoon just a few houses from where I live.  Over the years I have noticed how the lagoon's water level seems to rise and fall.  This of course is due to the ebb and flow of the tides and winds that push ocean waters in the bay and ultimately this lagoon, and later pulls the water of the lagoon back toward the ocean.

Day in and day out the water of the lagoon slowly rises up against the bulkheads that define it.  Then once again that water recedes as the tides return to the ocean and the winds shift.  At times, there seems to be more than enough water in the lagoon to float the boats tied up along the bulkheads of those who live along it.  At other times, I observe barely enough water to keep those same boats from resting on the mud and silt bottom of the lagoon.

So, it seems are our lives as individuals and as a community of faith.  We've known times when there seemed to be plenty of water to float our boats.  And we've seen times where we wondered what kept the boat keel of our lives from sinking into the mud beneath us.

One of the blessings of being a long-term pastor is that of being present as the tides of life ebb and flow --rise and fall.  From the vantage point of where I sit, we've seen the tides rise as we pooled our lives and resources together in the building of our church Family Life Center. We rejoiced that it was there to use to help people  when Sandy devastated our shore community,  And  we've experienced the low tide of declining numbers in members and resources over the past few years.

But life has an ebb and flow to it like the ocean, the bay and the lagoon I walk pass.  And now I see the tide beginning to shift and rise in a positive way that will lift the boat of our lives.  I see a resurgence of enthusiasm in our committees with new ideas and creative approaches to things.  There is a growing awareness in the larger community that the people of Brick Presbyterian Church care about the community and want to make a positive difference as we begin interfacing with community organizations in new ways.  God's spirit is slowly replenishing our common life with an influx of new members eager to serve the Lord and share their gifts.  The tide is coming in as this year we are seeing more new members enter the church than entering the realm beyond.  By the end of this summer, we will have had more infant baptisms than we have had in some time.  The tide of God's love and strength is flowing in to refill the lagoon of our common life.  I see some of our members who have been out of their homes way too long, slowly moving back into their homes these many years of struggle since Sandy came ashore.  Our life as a congregation and our lives as individuals have an ebb and flow.

"For everything there is a season and a time for every matter" wrote the inspired author of Ecclesiastes.  The Apostle Paul put it this way saying in Philippians 4:12-13: "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength."  I am confident that as the tide of our lives is returning, God will continue to give us the strength we need to do amazing things that will glorify our Lord, and bring satisfaction, joy and hope in each of us.



Pride, The Sin that Keeps Us from Eden

3/28/2017 2:38 PM

Fake News verses Real News. Alternative Facts verses Facts.  Broad sweeping allegations are often lacking substantiating data.  News reports and weather reports are filled with adjectives and descriptive language giving interpretive spin and commentary.

Eye and ears fixated at computer monitors, TV screens.  Ears are tuned to the latest pronouncements of this or that political figure -- this or that commentator -- this or that insider -- this or that expert.

Conservatives verses liberals -- Republicans verses Democrats -- us verses them -- rich verses poor -- insider verses outsider each making pronouncements -- each writing their own justifying commentary.

Missiles launch from North Korea landing in the sea of Japan.  Russian spy ship sails up and down the U.S.'s east coast. More troops are deployed. Nations engage in military build-up.  Refugees displaced by war long for a safe haven.  While pressures within the earth build from unseen forces seek release to release great pressures that make the earth quake or erupt in volcanic tumult.  Anxiety runs high.  Cynicism grows.  Mistrust increases. lines are drawn by race, ethnicity, gender, social class, and religious perspective.  Everyone claims to have the truth, but whose truth is it.  So many say their position is the correct stance.  But, how is that so?  What makes it so?

Someone once said, "Reality is what you make it to be."   The human experience appears to me to be a vast wilderness of wild beasts and tempters.  The serpent that invited Eve and Adam to eat the forbidden fruit in Eden so they could become like God seems alive and well as egos lust for power, wealth and control.  As Satan tempted Jesus with quotes of scripture, so religion has been twisted and distorted to advance causes that are neither holy nor righteous.  Like Peter who claimed he would never deny his Lord and Master on the night of Jesus' arrest and kangaroo trial -- deep and significant principals biblical teaching are misused, taken out of context, or ignored.

These days are like the days the Apostle cautioned Timothy that would be coming -- days when people would not listen to sound doctrine, but rather gather to themselves what their itching ears longed to hear. In self-righteousness people proof text   Still proof text without context is no text and no text without the full text is any text.   And quoting the written word apart from the One who is the living Word, is no word.  As in the time of Timothy, so is ours; where everyone does what is right in their own eyes.  As Jesus weeps from the cross and prays for the world that nailed him to the cross, saying: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."

Faintly heard is Micah: "He has shown you, o man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"  While Jesus, the Living Word commanded; "You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the great commandment the second is like it you shall love your neighbor as yourself."  Ah but the desire for control, power, and to be right, keeps the spirit from saying, "Lord have mercy on me, a sinner," as the Devil says; "Pride is my favorite sin."



An Open Letter to Religious Community

1/23/2017 12:01 PM

Dear Friends of Every Faith:

It is a deplorable state of affairs when 16 different Jewish Community Centers in five different states receive bomb threats, as was recently reported.

As an interfaith community, I believe and contend that we all must stand together with and for one another.  Hatred directed towards any faith group or house of worship is hate that is given permission to be directed at any other faith group or house of worship.

We must from our respective houses of worship let our congregations know that we here in Brick Township stand united in affirming the values of religious freedom and mutual respect.  I urge each of us to proclaim a divine love that overcomes hatred -- a forgiveness that overcomes the powers of guilt, shame and intimidation -- that we, by our unity can demonstrate a divine power that overcomes divisive estrangement-- and that we embrace a love that embrace true justice for all.

As we gather to lead our respective houses of worship, let us pray for our unity with one another in that which we hold in common, while respecting our unique diversity.  Let us pray for the peace of all of God's people, regardless of religious label.  Let us pray for a love that conquers hatred -- a unity that is stronger than the powers of divisiveness -- a forgiveness that heals guilt -- a courage that is greater than fear -- and a hope that overcomes the forces of despair.

As we meet together from time to time, let us seek ways to address the causes of hatred and perceived injustice where we might.

My dear friends, let us be watchful and vigilant, not just for our own particular faith communities, but also for each other and our collective faith communities.

May the Holy One give us a Strong faith -- Courage -- Wisdom -- and guidance as we journey through this wilderness of hatred, anger, and depravity into the great Shalom.


Rev. Douglas G. Chase