Pastor's Message


"Overcoming Evil with Good"

posted Sep 2, 2017, 6:54 PM by Ken Schmidt   [ updated Sep 2, 2017, 6:54 PM ]

We’ve had plenty of exposure recently to behaviors around us that are deeply troubling.  The whole ugly re-emergence of groups who are convinced that their kind are better than others due to the color of their skin or the path of their heritage is beyond distressing.

 

It is instructive for us to be reminded that such attitudes, while unacceptable and inappropriate, are not new.  They have existed throughout history, as one group has perceived another as “less than” themselves.  There are a multitude of motivations; some understandable, but all ultimately destructive and hurtful.  Such beliefs run extremely deep in some situations, and are hard to root out.  They become even more troublesome when they claim to do what they do under the banner of allegiance to the Christian faith!

 

Such attitudes and conduct are, inherently, evil.  So what shall we do about them?  Should we just let such folk say what they want to say?  Should we suppress their words?  The answer is difficult.  What if good looks weak in the face of evil?  What if there is simply no way to give good a chance when brought up against that which is so destructive and hurtful? 

 

How as followers of Christ, can we put into practice Paul’s biblical admonition to “overcome evil with good”?  While difficult, one thing we can say is that our conduct should never disregard the other as a real person in God’s sight!  Nor should it disregard the patterns of conduct to which God in Christ has called us. 

 

One of the powerful temptations that we face is to “ignore” the folks that are engaged in such behaviors.  We are told that they want attention, and so should not be given it.  I understand the inclination.  Nonetheless, the New Testament pattern calls us to approach those who have sinned against us.  Admittedly, the context for Matthew 18 is within the church community.  But in the end, even for those who separate themselves from the community, we are to treat them as tax-collectors and sinners.  And at that point, I find myself asking “How did Jesus relate to tax-collectors and sinners?”  I think I know the answer.  So do you.

 

So, ignoring the person or the behavior is a strategy, but not an answer.  Demonstrating acts of loving concern toward those who would devalue others is beyond difficult, but it is our challenge as followers of Christ.  Think about that.        

-Yours in Christ.  Pastor Del

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posted Jul 2, 2017, 6:46 PM by Ken Schmidt   [ updated Jul 2, 2017, 6:46 PM ]

Why is it that we don’t pause to think about a life until it is gone from our sight?  Why is it that we are reluctant to give voice to our words of appreciation?  Perhaps it is a human inclination to wait until we know all there is to know, before we will share our convictions.

 

Seldom do we view dying a slow death as a gift.  But sometimes it has those marks.  Those of you who watched the journey of our dear friend Charlie D. knew that he wanted as many conversations and visits as he could handle in his declining days of health.  What a gift it was to him, to have the opportunity to welcome friends and to remember the encounters and relationships that had shaped his life, even as his health and strength faded.

 

Such is not always our privilege, however.  As we remember our dear friend Annette L’s sudden and distant loss of her daughter Amy, we recognize that those circumstances are not often ours to control.  How precious to hear Annette’s testimony that she and Amy always told each other that they loved each other as they concluded their conversations.  It was nothing fancy, but always there.  How grateful she has been, to have shared those words.

 

How difficult it is to know which words will be our last ones for a friend or loved one.  Perhaps the best we can do, short of knowing all that God has in store, is to risk what we know in our hearts and place it on our lips.  Without being “sappy”, perhaps our best care for a dear friend is to tell them what they mean to us now.  We may not know how profoundly their mark upon our lives might finally be.  But if we are attentive, we know in our hearts when someone “matters” to us.

 

So, friends, as you continue to remember and care for those among us who have lost precious ones, do one thing more. 

Take time to tell those who matter to you that they do!  Do it on this side of glory.  Don’t leave that gift “ungiven”.  It is an incredibly precious gift to share, and to receive.

Yours in Christ.  Pastor Del

“A Word to Our Graduates (and a reminder to the rest of us)”

posted May 31, 2017, 3:33 PM by Ken Schmidt   [ updated May 31, 2017, 3:33 PM ]

For a number of our congregational families, this season has brought some significant milestones in the life of their children.  They either have already gathered, or will soon gather to mark the occasion of their offspring’s graduation from high schools, colleges and universities.  There will be parties and gatherings and celebrations.  And there should be such times to celebrate.  These are important moments!

 

The reaction of students to this season is surely varied.  Many are relieved!  Some are inclined to linger in the glow of their accomplishments, while others are eager to celebrate that the end has come!  Then, there are those who are ready to be done with the pomp and circumstance and to get on with life, or with the next phase of their training.  We, who watch them (with a bit more life experience behind us), recognize that these are important, even profound markers on the journey, but that they do not tell the whole story.  These moments signify, but do not contain our growth.

 

The point is that the degree or diploma, while a testimony for the world of one’s accomplishment, is not the conclusion of our learning.  There is a reason that the ceremonies are called “commencements”.  Be assured, learning can and does happen in the midst of the requirements of these educational institutions.  However, discovery and insight is not limited to the hallowed halls of the university or school.  Such opportunities are constantly around us, no matter where we encounter life.  At their best, our formal educational journeys teach us how to continue our learning and growth in the remainder of our lives. 

 

In this season of commencements, I join the hosts of others that are celebrating the accomplishments of you as our graduates!  But I do not believe for a minute that your learning journey is done.  In fact, I pray that among the things you will still learn is this truth:  God has more to teach you than can be contained in a decade or in a lifetime.  It is our privilege to become life-long students, with a will and a willingness to be shaped in our thinking and in our living so that we may become all that God intends us to be.  May you find the journey to continue to be filled with discovery and insight!


--Yours in Christ.  Pastor Del

"Generations of Faith"

posted Apr 28, 2017, 4:16 PM by Ken Schmidt   [ updated Apr 28, 2017, 4:16 PM ]

Within the last 24 hours we received the news: we are grandparents again!  Our middle son Ben and his wife Lauren have brought into the world a healthy son, whom they have named Cillian Rhys Keeney (pronounced “Killian Reece”).  He arrived a bit ahead of schedule.  There are too many hours between us to quickly go and see this new child, though we have been sorely tempted.  For now, we are trying to be content with plans to visit for several days at the end of May.

 

But amidst all the excitement and joy of this new birth, the crazy transition from couple to parents for our children, and our understandable yearning to actually hold him in our arms, I find myself wondering about the path for this wee one.  What will his life be like?  What challenges will he face?  What joys will he discover?  How will the lessons that we sought to convey to our son, and the teaching that our daughter-in-law’s parents instilled in her take shape in this tiny being?  And how will he discover God’s movement in his life?

 

I know, there are more immediate concerns, with nursing and diapers and the compelling and urgent needs of any little one.  There is so much to learn, and such an ability to absorb and to be shaped in these very early days of life.  But the big picture is made up of so many tiny pieces, as they come together to form and shape a life.

 

I remember that truth in this season as we look back on the baptisms of six young people from our congregation.  So many tiny pieces that make a difference:  Sunday school lessons.  Children’s times.  Vacation Bible School.  Children’s musicals.  Youth Sundays.  Friendships that linger.  Adults that care and mentor.  .  These pieces join what parents and extended family offer to shape lives like these.  What a joy to see all of that come together in a decision for Christ.

 

Ah, but the work is not done.  Not in this sense at least: from the time we are born until the time we die, we make a difference in the lives of those around us.  We all do.  Think about the difference little Cillian Rhys is making right now in the lives of his parents.  That is the difference that our young people are making in our lives.  It is not a one-way street.  We are all shaped in life and faith by the little things. 

 

We hope to have a bit of influence on Cillian’s young life and sooner rather than later!  We hope to be able to add to the little things that will shape him for God.  May we all find joy in that task for each other.

 

      -Yours in Christ.  Pastor Del

“Follower, Disciple, or Apostle?”

posted Mar 25, 2017, 7:13 PM by Ken Schmidt   [ updated Mar 25, 2017, 7:13 PM ]

In a few weeks’ time, we will encounter Easter.  It is a pivotal event for the Church; partly because of what happens to Jesus, and partly because of what happens to his disciples.

We know well what happens to Jesus; his passion, and death and resurrection.  But while offering all this, the New Testament provides us powerful insight into those who have gathered around Jesus.

Some of them are simply followers; that is, they follow Jesus around.  They are interested in what he is doing and saying.  Others become disciples.  That is a step beyond following, for they are learners and apprentices, discovering along the way what is required to follow Jesus’ guidance and teaching.  When do they move from being disciples to becoming apostles?

While we have sometimes used the terms disciple and apostle interchangeably for people who responded to Jesus’ call to “follow me”, this is a shift in roles!  And it is an Easter shift!  It is as persons who have encountered the Risen Christ that his inner circle becomes apostles.  It is through a post-Easter encounter on the road to Damascus that Paul joins their ranks as an apostle.

Is there a challenge for us there too?  I believe there is.  For we, as a post-Easter people are called to be more than apprentices of Jesus.  We are called to be more than recipients of the mercy of His Cross and the wonder of His Resurrection.  We are also among those who are sent out to “go and tell”.

Apostle means “one who is sent”.  Think about it.  That includes the first disciples, and the apostle Paul, and the vast stream of disciples that reaches down and includes us!

Yes, the term “Apostle” is given in a especial way by the New Testament to those first disciples who were commissioned by the Risen Christ to tell the good news.  But it applies to all of us!  The Resurrection is news to tell the world!

In truth, after Easter, you can’t be one without the other.  You can’t be an apostle if you are not first a follower and a disciple!  But the call doesn’t end with learning about Jesus. Nor does it conclude with choosing to follow Jesus.  It includes “being sent” into the world to invite others to receive his Good News as well.

May we remember that, and be challenged to come and see, to learn of him, and to go and tell!          

  -Yours in Christ, Pastor Del

“What difference does it make?”

posted Mar 4, 2017, 12:41 PM by Ken Schmidt   [ updated Mar 4, 2017, 12:42 PM ]

The season of Lent provides a time for Christians to consider their life in Christ.  While traditionally, this has meant some sort of "giving up for Lent", in this Lenten time we will be thinking together about what difference our commitment to follow Christ makes in our daily lives.  The scriptures we will follow do not necessarily talk about things we are to do; rather, they speak of the truths that shape our living.  Though obedience to Jesus Christ leads us to behave in unique ways, it does not begin with the behaviors.  Our faith begins with a relationship that God has established for us through Jesus.

 

 So, as you move into this season, I invite you to consider: 

              How has your relationship with Jesus Christ changed you as a person?

              What difference does following Jesus make in your daily priorities and activities?

              What evidence is there for others to see that you are a follower of Jesus?

 

We live in a day of much diversity.  People around us have a variety of beliefs and convictions; some Christian, and some not.  We certainly must meet others where they are; and honor how God may be at work in their lives. But we also have a call to share with them "the reason for the hope we have".  We can do that respectfully and sensitively.  Yet, we dare not neglect the opportunity to allow God to make a difference in their lives, as God has in ours.

 

That is our call, and a significant part of what it means to "Go into all the world and make disciples".

 

Perhaps there is something that you can give up for Lent.  How about giving up a bit of comfort, so that you can share the reason for the hope you have.  Or, if you're not clear about that hope, how about giving yourself over again to study and reflect on God's promises for you? Either way, you will be on the way toward living out the difference that following Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior can make.  What better way to honor God in this season than that?

 

                                                                        Yours in Christ, Pastor Del

“The Sermon on the Mount: A Nice Thought or More?”

posted Jan 25, 2017, 2:19 PM by Ken Schmidt   [ updated Jan 25, 2017, 2:19 PM ]

You know, we Brethren have made it hard on ourselves.  We’ve said that we will consider the whole New Testament as our rule of faith and practice.  That’s a tough assignment.  And nowhere is it more challenging than when we face the teachings of Jesus in the “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5 – 7)!

 

We should have expected a challenge, when we heard Jesus start out with “You have heard it said…but I say to you…”  We should have expected that he would raise the bar.  Some Christians would say that we’re not going to succeed, so just accept that you will fail.  Those of us within the Anabaptist faith stream have never been at peace with that attitude. 

 

Sure, we lean on God’s grace through Christ.  And we know that we will seldom fully measure up to the challenge extended to us.  But we also know that Jesus’ directives are not just given to make us feel bad and to have to confess our failures.

 

The behaviors he commends are Kingdom behaviors!  They are things we can and should begin to do now, so that we can embody the conduct befitting citizens of the Kingdom of God!  They are a reflection of what the Kingdom is to look like!

 

While some might argue that we will not be able to achieve those patterns fully, most of us would acknowledge that we will not accomplish what we do not strive for!  And behind the behaviors that Jesus sets out for us is the firm reminder that these behaviors go beyond the law to reflect God’s intent for his people!

 

In the coming weeks, we will be reflecting on the challenges of a portion of the Sermon on the Mount during worship.  I encourage you to be with us as we consider the patterns of faith and conduct that our Lord has set for us! 

 

Yours in Christ, Pastor Del

“A Decade of Thanks”

posted Dec 21, 2016, 5:35 PM by Ken Schmidt   [ updated Dec 21, 2016, 5:35 PM ]

We are blessed and cursed with the number 10.  With our numbering system, we tend to think in decades.  We talk about the songs of the 80’s.  We describe the world in the 50’s or the 90’s (at least those of us who are old enough do).  But we also mark time with events.  Many of us look back to September 11th (remember the year?) as a date when much changed.

 

The truth is that life and experience is more fluid than that.  Still, we do get more reflective in thinking about decades.  And so do I as I write this note for you.  As of January 1, 2017, I have served as your pastor for ten years.  Ten years!  That seems like a long time!  A lot can happen in ten years.  And some significant things have happened for us as a congregation. 

 

We’ve celebrated a mortgage burning and a 90th anniversary.

We’ve said hello to a significant number of new friends who have become a part of our family of faith.  And we have said goodbye to dear ones whom the Lord has gathered in, or whose paths have diverged from ours.  It is the nature of life in community that there is a rhythm of comings and goings. 

 

Some days, I wonder where the time has gone.  Some days I wonder just what we have accomplished.  But then I look around, and remember.  I remember the lives touched, the gifts and talents expressed, the healing accomplished, the growth experienced, the grief lived through.  I remember those realities and I give thanks.  I give thanks for you.  I give thanks for God’s work in you and through you.  And I remember that that work still goes on and will continue as long as there is work to do!

 

As a new decade begins in our journey together, I suspect that this flow will continue.  By God’s grace we will navigate it together.  May we remember that though the big events tend to get all the press, it is the little things…the little steps…that lead us to become more of what Christ has called us to be.  No matter whether it is our first day or our second decade, may we see this time as what it truly is…a time to continue the work of Jesus, simply, peacefully, and together. May it be so.

-Yours in Christ, Pastor Del

"Into Such a World"

posted Nov 17, 2016, 5:55 PM by Ken Schmidt   [ updated Nov 17, 2016, 5:56 PM ]

We like to put on our “best appearances” for the holidays, don’t we?  Festive decorations adorn our homes and our worship spaces.  Things are put in order to make space for the tree and gifts that may accumulate.  Preparations are made for delightful treats that our friends and family may enjoy.

 

It is troubling to think that we might not have everything in order when the doorbell rings!  It is troubling to thinks that our guests might see us disheveled and unprepared.  If only we could have our lives and our nation and our world in order to welcome our Lord!  Just now, it is hard to imagine that, amidst the reality that many are still deeply divided in spirit and attitude in the aftermath of elections and the approach of Christmas.

 

If only our world could be as peaceful as it was back…when Jesus was born!  So we wish and imagine.  But we would do well to remember that the world into which Christ entered was not in a particularly festive or peaceful place at the moment of his birth.  Rome’s peace was enforced with a heavy and unyielding hand.   People were traveling; not because of holiday gatherings, but because of the edict of the Emperor required this of them…for tax purposes! 

 

Nor were the people of the world that received Jesus’ birth a united people.  Even the hints of the Gospels (that note but do not dwell on such things) remind us that the world into which he came was as troubled as…well…as ours.  There was a yearning, then as now, for life to be better, for oppression to be eased, and for God’s people to have something or someone in which to hope.  That is, ready or not, what they received:  Someone in which to hope. 

 

What a healthy reminder to us: to remember that our Lord comes, not when we have all the decorations in place, or when all the cookies are baked, or when our lives are in order.  Our Lord comes into a world that is not ready, so that we might be “made ready” to receive his Kingdom and His love.  That is the news of this holy yet chaotic time.  God comes, ready or not, to be with us!  Immanuel!  May it be so as we receive him again into this ever-troubled world.        

  Yours in Christ, Pastor Del       

“Becoming Great Again”

posted Oct 30, 2016, 6:04 PM by Ken Schmidt   [ updated Oct 30, 2016, 6:04 PM ]

“Make America Great Again!”  “America’s already great!”  We’ve all heard the rhetoric.  Wherever you come out on the side of those vying for the highest office in the land, I would remind you of something.  Greatness has never been lodged in those who have simply come in first.  That is not to say that those who win competitions are not great.  They might be.  But they might just be the winner, and not the greatest!

 

Just a few months ago, we watched as the 2016 Summer Games of the Olympics were completed.  There was lots of talk of greatness; of records shattered and dominant outcomes.  But I would argue that the moniker of greatness is misplaced.  Greatness doesn’t show itself on the big stage.  Greatness reveals itself in the moments when few if any are watching!  Greatness is about far more than coming in first.  Greatness is not about raw talent, but about applying the talents we have with endurance, perseverance, and sacrifice, to serve a purpose larger than ourselves.

 

Since as Christians, we are citizens first of the Kingdom of God, and then of the nations where we are privileged to live, we do well to be reminded of what makes a follower of Jesus great.

Philippians chapter 2 expresses the challenge well: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…”  Remember how it goes?

 

 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.  Therefore God also highly exalted him…”

 

Sounds like a pattern for greatness, doesn’t it?  May we be challenged to be great through our commitment to follow Jesus Christ as servants of each other.  May we be great again in that way, for Jesus’ sake and for the sake of his Kingdom, no matter what the rhetoric of our political scene says.

 

          Yours in Christ, Pastor Del

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