The Christmas Story

I thought this was an amazing way to tell the story of the birth of Jesus.

In it they say, “Jesus has two dads, God and Joseph.” Which got me to thinking. Joseph was an adoptive parent, which if you think about it is pretty cool.

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What is Your Legacy?

This is the text from my sermon last week, entitled “What is Your Legacy?” The Scripture passage is Deuteronomy 32:1-12. Here is the link to the audio (a little different from the manuscript.)

Here is the video we started with:

“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land!”

I wonder if this speech is similar to the one that Moses gave to the Israelites shortly before his death?

This speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. occurred in Memphis shortly before he was killed by a sniper’s bullet.

I wonder if Martin Luther King, Jr., I wonder if Moses wishes they had been able to see the promise land, to actually get to the Promised Land.  I know I would have, but Moses and MLK had great a legacy they had set the stage for those that came after them to cross the Jordan, to enter the Promised Land. There was and is work to be done but these men left us with tools in order to face the stress and fear of the journey.

Today, we continue our series, “Spiritual Courage in Economic Grief” and this morning we tackle questions of legacy. What legacy do we leave in our family, our community and our world? How do we invest ourselves in others?

As many of you know my wife is very pregnant with our second child. It could be any time now, we’re hoping for a couple of more weeks but we could get to meet our son any day, which is incredibly exciting and also pretty scary. As a husband and a parent, I’ve started to think about things in a different way, now it’s no longer only about my wants and needs but the needs of my wife and the needs of my children. Sometimes I have to sacrifice what I want to do so I can be there for my family.

I also have started thinking about what happens if I’m not here, what do I want my children to know deep within them that will help them in their own journey. With that in mind I found myself in the office of a life insurance agent as Heidi and I try to plan as best we can in case one of us isn’t there.

I think both of those things are important, being able to provide financially for those that come after me, for my children, but also emotionally, mentally, spiritually provide for them the knowledge that will hold them up in their own times of grief, the wisdom that will guide them and help them to become leaders in their tribes when they are called.

All of this has caused me to think about what legacy are we leaving, especially in the current context we find ourselves. What legacy is our denomination leaving, what legacy is First Presbyterian Church leaving, what legacy are you leaving?

Will the legacy of the Presbyterian Church USA be one of bickering over who can and cannot lead worship or be one that stands with the poor and those suffering from injustice? Certainly, we have a long history of responding to the needs of those in need but will we be able to let go of our institutions and bureaucracy when they have out lived their effectiveness?

Our denomination will die, that is a fact. As the psalmist says, “You turn us back to dust.” The beauty in that is we get a choice in how to live, we will be guided by fear holding on tightly to our structures and our system simply because we have always done it that way or will we live by love, trusting in the God, who is with us, has been with us, will be with us no matter what. The psalmist also says, You sweep them away; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning; in the morning it flourishes and is renewed.”

In the morning it flourishes and is renewed. The hope and trust in the resurrection is what guides us to know that, it may not be easy, but it will be ok.

In this time of economic grief, in this time where it feels like we need to hold on more and more tightly to the stuff that is OURS, when it feels like we need to start developing strategies to shield ourselves and everyday on the news seems likes doomsday. It’s flat out terrifying.

It is precisely this time that we need to remember the story of Moses, the story of MLK, they had been to the mountaintop, they had seen the Promised Land and they knew, they trusted that we would get there.

If you remember the story of the Israelites, you know that under the leadership of Joshua they crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land, but unfortunately that was not the end of their struggle, they dealt with war, famine, exile, return, exile, and on and on, after they entered the Promised Land. It may not have been easy, but it will be ok.

I don’t know if MLK would believe we’ve crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land yet but I know he would believe there is work to be done. With unemployment at the highest level it’s been in generations, with corporations having record profits, with people taking to the streets to try and “Take Back America”, whether they be from the Tea Part or Occupy Wall Street, this certainly doesn’t sound to me like the land of milk and honey. It sounds to me like a land of pain and suffering, of miscommunication and anger, of hatred and fear.

I have a confession. I too have been to the mountaintop…literally; I have been to Mt Nebo, or at least where they believe it to be. I have looked out into the Promised Land and I have seen where we are going.

I have seen the Promised Land in the piles and piles of Kits for Kids that have filled this church year after year; I have seen the Promised Land in the hundreds of families who receive food baskets every year. I remember specifically three years ago. It was the first year we had a manger here in the front during Advent. The manger was overflowing with toys and coats and clothes. While we were distributing baskets, someone offered a coat to a child who was cold, then in what can only be described as holy chaos, the coats and toys and clothes were laid out, and those people receiving baskets also received a new coat, a toy for Christmas, a new outfit for school. No one took more than they needed and all left with smiles and warmth, both physically and spiritually. Was it what was intended? No. Was it what was expected? Certainly not. Was it what God had called us to in that moment? I believe so. Was it part of the legacy of this church? Yes.

I have seen the Promised Land in our students in the youth group; we are from 10 different countries, 5 high schools, 8 middle schools, including home schools and 3 churches. We have moved thousands of pounds of food in Los Angeles, we have ask questions about why things are the way they are and we have created space for all kids to express themselves to be vulnerable to shed tears to be real. I have watched a freshman sob while talking about his family situation to the group, while another freshman, his friend, with his arm around him gently holding him and letting him speak.

I have seen the Promised Land in our students who have for their whole lives been recipients of help become the givers of help. I have seen the joy in their eyes when they say, “I’ve never been able to help before, and this is awesome.”

I have seen the Promised Land in two of our college students who raised over $1,500 for an orphanage in Nicaragua in three days. I have seen the Promised Land in people welcoming each other and taking the time to listen to the answer to the question, “how are you doing?”

I have seen the Promised Land in the people that quietly give of their time, talents and money to organizations and causes they feel called to.

All these visions of the Promise Land lead me to the question. How will we as a congregation witness to the existence of a Promise Land, when it seems as if we are stuck in the wilderness?

Will we be guided by fear, seeking to maintain a death grip on the stuff that we have? A beautiful sanctuary, clean carpet, a big building

Will be open to what Jesus called the greatest commandment, “To love the Lord God with all your heart soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.”

Will our legacy be that we died with the most stuff or will it be that we died, having lived our life sharing the spirit of wisdom with those around us? Reminding them that God loves them, no strings attached. Will be witness to the hope found in Jesus that it might not be easy but it will be ok? Will we leave a legacy on this town, on this denomination, on this world that we were faithful when it seemed impossible? Will we stand with those around us who are suffering, will we be a place for people to find refuge, will we lead the path through the wilderness of this time of economic grief, even when no one wants to follow and people are calling us to turn around? Will we have the strength, the courage, to continue to respond to God’s call to welcome all comers? When First Presbyterian Church is gone what will we have passed on to those around us? How will we show spiritual courage?

These are tough challenging questions. I think about them everyday I work with the young people of this town, hoping that I am able to impart some wisdom, hoping I am able to provide them with some tools to deal with their journey ahead.

A few years ago a sociological study came out examining the tendencies of the various generations in our world today.

The G.I. generation, those born around the turn of the 20th century, the Greatest Generation, those born around the end of the Depression, Baby Boomers, those born after World War II, Generation X, that’s my generation, those born between 1965 and 1980 and Millennials, those born between 1981 and 2001.

This study called the G.I. generation, a generation of builders, the Greatest Generation was a generation of maintainers, the Baby Boomers were a generation of destroyers, Generation X, my generation, were ignorers. In this study that means the Millennials are the next builders.

That means those people 10-30 years old are building things, they are building the structures that will be maintained by those who are being born today. These Millennials aren’t apathetic, they aren’t disconnected, they aren’t selfish any more than anyone else. They are becoming organized, they are doing work, they are building.

We see them on the news, in the streets, chanting, “We are the 99%!” We see them, returning to their faith, but not a faith based on platitudes and rhetoric, on big buildings and social status, but one based on living out your beliefs not just believing them. When I see these people when I hear their passion, and their commitment. It is a passion and commitment I see in you, in the faces in this congregation right here, right now. Young and old. I hear your stories I know your struggles; I know it’s scary. We have an opportunity to be the message of spiritual courage in the face of economic grief.

We have an opportunity to help; we have an opportunity to help this town, this denomination, this country build structures that will be based on faith and trust in something bigger than itself. We have an opportunity to model for them; we can be Moses to their Joshua.

It’s up to us.

It’s up to us to rally together, to hold on to one another, to listen to each other, to love one another…warts and all.

It’s up to us to provide the spirit of wisdom that will guide them to continue to risk in the face of fear, to love in the face of hate and to stand up when the world is telling them to be quiet.

Let us not be remembered by how long we are here, but how we were here.

And in the word’s of Dr. King, “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land!”

May it be so.

The God Who Loves the Platypus, Volcanoes and You

Here is the text…mostly of the sermon I preached last Sunday at First Presbyterian Church–Bend, Oregon.

The scripture was Psalm 19:1-6 and Psalm 24:1-2. And if you don’t want to read…here’s the audio link

Also, let it be known that I learned I would be preaching this sermon about 3:00 PM on Saturday. Be nice!

The Picture of the World:

The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night-to-night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.

The Mountains give voice to the majesty of God, etc.

Speechless when I see them.

Often when I am running with my dog Walker, I’m listening to music and I am struck by how blessed I am to live in this place and I am brought to tears as I see God’s voice to me in the beauty of my surroundings.

I look at this picture of the Earth God created and entrusted to us and I am struck at how small it is, relative to the entire universe that God created.

I am struck by the fact that we look at this Earth from above and see how small it is, yet when we see pictures from India or China or Arkansas or West Virginia it feels like a totally different world. A world we have no connection to, a people we have no connection to, an Earth we have no connection to.

This morning I have a question for you. When you see this picture and you think about your place on God’s Earth, do you feel connected?

Sometimes I wonder if we feel connected to the Earth, not in a symbiotic way not in a tree hugging way, not in a way that I hear trees screaming when they are cut down way, but in a way that I understand that my actions have an impact on the Earth in the same way that my actions have an impact on my relationships. I certainly think about how, what I do affect my relationship to my wife, to my daughter, to my loved ones but do I think about how it impacts God’s Earth?

Steven in a letter to the editor of the Bend Bulletin in 2007, quotes William Sloane Coffin saying, “The modern world, in the pursuit of progress, has unfortunately divorced creation from Creator.” He continues, “As modern civilization has supposedly advanced and progressed, a sense of wonder and awe, reverence and respect for creation has declined. And, unfortunately, our souls and the soul of the community we live in are the poorer for it.”

I want us to take some time to look at some pictures and see if we can reconnect the creation to the creator. See if we can re-introduce ourselves to the Creator through God’s Creation.

Slide Show

We see the pictures, they take my breath and I wonder. I wonder if like William Sloane Coffin suggested, we have lost our sense of the awesome majesty that is found all around us, whether in a scenic view of the mountains or in the thistles of a juniper tree. My question is what do you see when you look at them? Do you see something to be used for your own pleasure? Do you see something to be celebrated and explored? What do you see?

Theologian and ethicist, James Gustafson talks about the entirety of Creation in a way I had never heard before. He talks about it in terms that are challenging and shocking and I want to get some feedback from you. Gustafson says that humans are not the center of God’s creation but only one part of the larger make up of what God intended for God’s creation. How does that strike you, the thought that we are not the center of the universe, we are not God’s favorite, but part of the picture of God’s Earth and the fullness thereof?

I love that idea, partly because I am fairly confident, some say cocky, partly because humility is not what I would consider one of my strengths. I actually have a hat that says “It’s Hard to Be Humble When You’re From West Virginia.” But that’s a sermon for another day and if I get off track now there’s no hope.

The humility it takes to recognize that we are part of the story not the whole story changes my mindset when I think about how I interact with other beings and living things on this Earth.

Listen.

I’m not here to try to make you feel guilty, or to make you run out and buy a hybrid, or eat local or any of that stuff. I think there is plenty of trying to guilt you into caring about the Earth already out there. My hope is that we can get back to being in awe of God’s Creation.

On this Earth Care Sunday my hope is to invite you back into relationship with the Earth, invite you to remember how much God loves you and how you are part of God’s Creation just as the trees outside these windows are, just as the mountains we hike and ski and snowmobile and camp and play in, just as the rivers that we float and that give us electricity, just as every thing we come into contact with in God’s natural world.

My hope today is to remind us that, as the Psalmist said, “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,”

I could probably wag my finger at you and say, “You’re not doing enough” but what would that solve? You’d probably just roll your eyes at me. Honestly, that’s probably what I would do if someone were trying to make me feel bad for not doing enough.  I mean I care deeply about environmental issues, not because of their political nature but because I think it is one way that I can respond to God’s call to love my neighbor.

Today I want you to remember that God loves you, and hopefully you love God. I also hope that one of the ways that you express that love is through nurturing the Earth that God has surrounded us with. Today we have a special opportunity to love our neighbor and nurture our world.

Following the service members of the Green Team will be stationed at the main door and the side door. We have the opportunity to pick up around Bend High. Green Team Members will give you 2 bags, one for garbage and one for recyclables such as bottles and cans.  You will also be given a glove or two just in case you don’t want to get TOO dirty.  When you return you can bring the filled bags downstairs behind the church where the big garbage bins and the recycle bin are located.  There will have someone there to show you where to put things.

May it be so.

Blessings,

Greg

Flock and Fold News

Hey Youth, Parents and Partners,

The year is coming to a close and so are our weekly meetings. The last Senior High Monday night meeting will be Monday, May 30th, the last Middle School Wednesday night meeting will be Wednesday, May 25th.

Check out this link, the youth blog (bendfpyouth.wordpress.com) or the posters in the Commons area for Summer dates.

Middle School Mid-Week Gathering- Wednesday 5:30-7:30 at Trinity Episcopal Church (downtown) Come for dinner, games, small group and work projects. $3 for dinner.

Senior High Youth Gathering- Monday 6:00-8:00 at Common Table (downtown) Come for dinner, conversation, games and projects this week. $5 for dinner

More information on all gatherings: Pastor Greg Bolt, gbolt@bendfp.org

This Sunday is an opportunity to involve your family in a service project.  Members of the congregation will be picking up trash in our neighborhood.  We will head over to Bend High School after the 9 o’clock service and head down 9th street toward the circle after the 10:45 service.  Doing service together as a family and then talking about why you do it is a great way to do faith formation @ home.

Here is a link to the May edition of Heartfelt http://www.thelogosministry.org/heartfelt.html

This on-line newsletter for parents focuses on teaching honor, courage and bravery this month.

Thought this was a good reminder: http://youtu.be/x4VgObInXHA

Also here is a word from www.fosterORadopt.com on the need for foster parents. Heidi and I are currently starting the process to become certified a foster parents, this is the beginning of our journey. Find out about why here

“As a community who cares for the wellbeing of our children, it is timely that we recognize that May Is National Foster Care Month. This month, and every day, we have an opportunity to support the children and youth who live in our homes, neighborhoods and our great city. There are foster parents in our community who take children in temporarily until they can be reunited with their families. These foster parents do it because they care, because they want to make a difference, and because they know every child deserves a safe and nurturing place to call home.

Many people aren’t aware that one of the State’s greatest needs is to find safe, loving and skilled homes who can care for children and youth with disabilities. Children and youth with disabilities who are also in the foster care system are one of the most vulnerable populations in the United States. Even so, little attention is paid to the unique challenges they face as they negotiate their way through multiple systems to adulthood. One of the best things we can do to serve these children and youth while they are in care is to connect them with families who are adequately prepared to care for them.

The ideal foster parent for a child with special needs has parented before and has experience in the medical, mental health and/or education fields. The traits most important for a foster parent of a child with special needs, however, are patience, understanding of diagnosed disabilities and the willingness and time to learn, make accommodations and access necessary resources.  Could you be this foster parent?

Last year over 14,000 children in Oregon spent at least one day in foster care. You can make a difference for one. Learn more about becoming a foster parent today. Call 1-800- 331-0503 or visit www.fosterORadopt.com.”

Blessings,

Greg Bolt

Pastor for Youth and Their Families

First Presbyterian Church- Bend, OR

twitter: http://www.twitter.com/ggbolt16

facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/ggbolt16

email: ggbolt16@gmail.com

Faith Notes Article

I know it’s been a while since I wrote an article but I wanted to take this time to catch everyone up on what’s been going on in my life. I first wanted to thank everyone for the love and support they have shown me over the last year and a half of becoming ordained and becoming a first time father. My daughter feels so at home within the walls of this church and in the arms of so many of you. The grace and love you have shown her warms my heart and calls me to be the best parent I can be. The gratitude I have for this community can not be overstated.

With that in mind I wanted to share with you some news. MY WIFE AND I ARE EXPECTING OUR SECOND CHILD!!! That’s right! Our due date is November 13, by that time Sophia will be 23 months old and I am sure that we will have our hands full. We will need all the help we can get to wrangle our already adventurous daughter and also dealing with a newborn. I can’t wait for what lies ahead.

I wanted to also take this time to tell you about something that has been on the hearts of both my wife and I for a long time. The thought of becoming foster parents, has been something that has tugged at us for a while now. In the past year there have been several moments when we have been asked if we had thought about it, received an email or in someway been confronted with the idea. I know that when that type of reoccurrence has happened in other facets of my life it’s always been God trying to tell me something.

So in that vain, my wife and met with a woman named Emily Leeson, who works with an organization called Boys & Girls Aid (boysandgirlsaid.org). She gave us some background about how we could become foster parents and about how we as pastors could spread awareness for the need for them. Right now, I know the need is great and I know that many of you are helping in many different ways so I am leery of an all out media blitz on the need for foster parents. I just wanted you to know that this is something that my wife and I are praying about, discerning, and starting the process to become foster parents. Who knows what will happen? I will keep you informed about what we are learning and how the process is going.

If you’d like to join us on this journey feel free to visit the Department of Health Services website fosteroradopt.com.

Blessings,

Greg

Flock and Fold News with Videos!-Update

What’s up people?

This month’s Heartfelt Newsletter is out! This month is all about Supporting Critical Thinking, Imagination and Creativity. Check it out here http://www.thelogosministry.org/heartfelt.html.

Heartfelt is designed for busy families who want to grow body, mind and spirit, and who want to support and encouragement.

EASTER PANCAKE BREAKFAST! April 24 from 8:00 AM-12:30 PM in Heritage Hall! Come celebrate with the Youth as the winners of the baskets from the Los Angeles Market are announced. Let us thank you for all the support you have shown the youth and their missions.

I was reading some blogs the other day and came across the video about Facebook and Online Security that geared towards kids. I think it helps kids and adults think about how they interact online and who they interact with. Check it out here

I saw a couple more videos I thought you might find interesting or funny or something. These are really just entertaining more than anything else.

This one is a parody of the song “Friday” by Rebecca Black (if you haven’t heard of it ask your kids, they have) it’s called “Sunday”. Check it out here

Last one, only because I love peeps, you know those AWESOME marshmallow things you get at Easter. This is the story of Jesus told through peeps. Enjoy

Senior High Stuff

NICARAGUA INFORMATION IS HERE!!!! We are excited to announce that the applications for our trip to Nicaragua are here! Please, prayerfully consider joining us on this trip of a lifetime! If you need more information, please contact Greg or Click here for Information and Application

There is still time to sign up for the Los Angeles trip. The trip is from June 13-21! Greg needs your $100 deposit IMMEDIATELY. Scholarships Available. Click here for the form

Don’t forget this Monday we’re meet at Common Table at 6:00PM for dinner then we are headed to do some work for the Boys and Girls Club so wear stuff to work in!

Middle School Stuff

Parent’s Meeting Regarding Confirmation Sunday April 17! We would like to invite all 8th graders and their parents to an informational meeting, Sunday, April 17 in the Youth Center from 10:15-10:45 for a chance to learn more about this fantastic opportunity in the life of our young people. This year we will be meeting on Sunday afternoons from 12:00-2:00 (after the second service), we will begin Sunday, May 1, 2011 and conclude with Rites of Passage Sunday, June 5, 2011.

Don’t forget we are meeting Wednesday nights at 5:30 PM at Trinity Episcopal Church. This week we will be working in small groups and putting together backpacks for the Family Access Network.

Stuff Stuff

There will be a Darkness to Light training, child abuse awareness class, here at the church. 6 to 9 PM Childcare will be provided. The class is an excellent opportunity to learn how to be part of the solution in keeping our children safe.  The Kids Center offers the training for $20 per person or $25 per couple to cover the cost of materials.  Children’s Ministry can provide scholarship dollars as needed.  You can sign-up at the church.

Also the Presbytery of the Cascades has great summer camping opportunities for the whole family. Check it our here campcascades.org

If you have any questions or would like to help out feel free to contact me!

Blessings,

Greg Bolt

Pastor for Youth and Their Families

First Presbyterian Church- Bend, OR

twitter: http://www.twitter.com/ggbolt16

facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/ggbolt16

email: ggbolt16@gmail.com

The Myth of Scarcity

I am reading this book called “OMG: A Youth Ministry Handbook” edited by Kenda Creasy Dean. I’m only a couple of chapters in but I came across this quote that I wanted to get some feedback on. I wanted to see what you thought.

It is ironic that Christians, especially those born into a culture of plenty, buy into the scarcity myth: the fear that there is not enough to go around promotes gratuitous consumption at every level. Despite God’s lavish and prodigal grace, which has showered creation with resources that promote the flourishing of life, sin allows the suspicion of scarcity to supplant our awareness of God’s abundance. The scarcity myth destroys trust and leads people to hoard rather than share life-giving resources. Whether it is an Israelite squirreling away more than his share of manna or a teenager amassing more after-school activities than she can ever invest in, we humans have perfected the art of distrusting God’s providence. We try to protect ourselves against the future. It always backfires.

Given all the directions that our youth and parents are pulled in, I think this quote speaks to our need to trust that God WILL actually provide.

Blessings,

Greg