A Time to Catch Our Breath

                            A Time to Catch Our Breath

 

Whew, Im still trying to catch my breath. September, October and the beginning of November were incredibly busy – special Sundays and special events nearly every week. But, there is no time to rest or wait around as Thanksgiving and Christmas are now just around the corner. Im sure I am not the only one who feels tired from a hectic schedule, as I see people every day who say they are tired and busy and dont know how to get everything done. But, if you noticed, I missed something. I said Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner – but what about Advent? Doesnt it count? Perhaps that is the problem, we for-get about Advent – a time of waiting and contemplating a time to catch our breath. Waiting is not a strength for most people these days. Taking time to catch our breath, well, we just dont think we have the time. There is an old Pennsylvania Dutch saying that goes: The hurrier I go, the behinder I get“. How true. So, perhaps, we need to take time to catch our breath during Advent. To take time for the things that are truly important in life – being present and spending time with each other, because it is our presence (not presents) that let others experience Gods presence. Because God wasnt just present 2,000 years ago through the birth of Jesus, and we do not have to wait until Jesus comes again to experience His presence at some future time we can experience God in the here in now, if we just stop and take time to catch our breath.

In Gods Service,

CarinKaren

The Life of a Pastor

                           The Life of a Pastor

Who knew? Certainly not me. When Pastor Rob asked me to supply for him while he went on vacation two and half years ago, I had no idea where God was leading. As you know, just a few months later Pastor Rob asked me to be a consistent supply on the Sundays that he wasn’t there since he was now part time. In February of 2017, Pastor Rob announced that he was leaving for another call. At that point, I had no idea what the Synod was planning for Friedens or for me. But, I believe the Holy Spirit was moving, because I was delighted when I was told that I would be assigned as your “Interim Pastor”.

It has been a bit of a daunting task at times because Friedens is so much bigger (literally three times the size) than the last congregation I served. Yes, you read that correctly. And, being part time, it is a challenge to serve a busy congregation. BUT, all that being said – I love it here! It is a wonderful fit for me. I have come to love all of you so much.

So, this is supposed to be an annual report. I looked at Pastor Rob’s report last year and realized that it doesn’t give you a complete appreciation of all that goes into being a pastor of a church. I would like to share a snapshot of what that looks like. Remember, this is only seven and a half month’s worth of ministry.

Pastoral Visitations – 39

This includes, but is not limited to, Hospital visits, Sick visits, Shut-in visits, Pastoral visits,

Member visits, Baptism visits and Funeral visits.

Pastoral phone calls – 25

These are not just 5 minute check-ins. These lengthy calls. I find that phone calls are helpful to keep up on how people are doing without always visiting (because I live a bit far away and travel time can take up a lot of my time – I love in person visits, but this allows me to check in with more people).

Pastoral Emails and Texts – I have no idea, but it’s a lot more than you think

In today’s world of booming technology, this has become part of a pastor’s ‘toolbox’, if you will, as this is sometimes the most comfortable or easiest way to communicate for some.

Baptisms – 4

How exciting for me to baptize 4 children in my first eight months.

 

Funerals – 0

Although I did attend some funerals of relatives of congregational members, and participated in one funeral.

Meetings – 44

As you can see there are a lot of meetings, but, that’s because there is a lot happening.

Daily Church Work Emails and Texts – I don’t keep count, but knowing how many I get a day, it is in the

thousands. Welcome to the 21st century.

This is a pastor’s life. This is not a boast or brag. This is not a plea for pity. My goal is to show you how much I care about Friedens Church and how deeply I care about all of you. It is an honor and a privilege to serve you, and I thank God every day that He is allowing me to walk with you on this journey.

Your Servant in Christ,

Karen Althouse

 

 

Changing Focus

                 Changing Focus               

No matter how many times it happens, I always marvel at it. Marvel at what you ask? I marvel at the way people are able to put aside their anger and nastiness toward each other and exchange it for compassion and hope when tragedy strikes. Social media was so full of political nastiness (from both sides) and talk of hate for people who are different. Of course, it isnt just on social media, it permeates everything and everywhere you turn. Then, the unthinkable happens – two major hurricanes strike the US within a matter of weeks. Suddenly I see social media and other venues turn to rescue and relief efforts. Now, the nastiness doesnt magically go away, but for many, they change their focus. They change from bashing everything and everybody, to focus on helping those who are struck down, not worrying about who those victims are. Not worrying if they are Republican or Democrat, Christian, Muslim, or Jewish (or other), or if they are straight or gay. I am thankful that this happens, but, wouldnt it be wonderful if we could just keep that focus at all times?

But, I guess God understands. I mean, He sent his Son to die a terrible, tragic death. Jesus didnt die a natural death or a quick and painless death. It was brutal and it was tragic. I know that He did it to atone for our sins so we would have everlasting life with Him, but I wonder – I wonder if He also had to get our attention and change our focus? I dont know the answer to that, but it makes me wonder.

In Gods Service,

CarinKaren

(Pastor Karen)

P.S. Please dont infer that I think God sent the hurricanes, because I do not believe that in any way. God does not create these tragedies, but helps us through them.

 

Fall Already?

                                                                                Fall Already?

Well, not quite, but I cant believe that summer is almost gone. It went so fast. I just blinked and here it is, September. While we still technically have a few more weeks of summer, you can already see the signs of fall. Someone posted on Facebook that pumpkin spice items hit the shelves in August. Really? By the end of July, into early August, catalogs show fall clothing and fall items for sale. There are parts of me that just want to hold on just a bit longer to the warmth and sunshine. But, time marches on.

But, there will be good things happening here at Friedens this fall. Im most excited about Reformation this year. October 31, 2017 marks the 500th Anniversary of Martin Luther posting his 95 thesis on the door of the Wittenberg Church. Throughout this year you have seen articles in the bulletin from time to time about Martin Luther and the Reformation and what it means to be Lutheran. In early August we had a wonderful Walking in Luthers Footstepsice cream social. I enjoyed all of the wonderful ice cream toppings, the wonderful documentary on Luther, but talking to Katie Luther was the best! Sunday, October 29th (Reformation Sunday) will be the culmination or our celebrations. While the plans are not complete, Im looking for a grand celebration.

So, believe me, I know its hard as we say goodbye to summer, but, I hope you will join us for an exciting fall.

In Gods Service,

CarinKaren

(Karen Althouse)

 

Friedens in Bloom

          Friedens in Bloom

 April showers bring May flowers. What do May flowers bring? Pilgrims. Okay, so that is an old joke. I wonder if children today know that joke, or if it has had its time?

But, what do May flowers bring to Friedens? Many things. Hopefully, by the time you read this article you will see the new brick walkway (with bench) being built. Beautiful flowers are blooming around the property and the Green Thumb team is already on the job, keeping the grounds in shape. A parade is on the horizon (Memorial Day) and the Christian Ed. committee is already planning their VBS float“. Thats just to name a few.

Gods creation and Gods ministry is alive at Friedens, blooming in ways that can only happen with Gods presence. But, God cannot do it alone. Okay, so He can if He wants, but what He really wants is for us to be active participants. We do call it the LIVING Bible after all. When you participate in the ministries of Gods church, you will be surprised at how your heart will bloom. It will be filled with love blooming in ways that you never imagined.

In Gods Service,

CarinKaren

(Karen Althouse)

From the Pastor’s Heart

                 Well, This is What…

    Since Pastor Rob began his last newsletter article with So, Now What?I thought I would follow up with, Well, This is What“.

It seems that the transition is complete. You should have received your letter by now that I will be serving Friedens for at least the next year. It is an honor and privilege for me as, after supply preaching for almost two years, I have come to love the people of Friedens very much.

It can be a scary time when you dont know what is going to happen next. I know that I always have anxiety before a change. But, I am excited and looking forward to whats ahead. We are doing some great ministry at Friedens. You can see that by all of the things going on in this newsletter and by how long it takes to do the announcements on a Sunday — thats a GOOD problem’. That means there is life here. I want to take a moment and thank all of you who work so hard to continue the work of Jesus in this church and in the community. I would name you all, but my over 50 brain means I will probably forget someone.

Someone said to me recently, Well, youre at the helm now“. Actually, I would like to think that God is at the helm, holding on to us with His loving arms and gracious heart. So, hang on folks, its going to be quite a ride.

In Gods Service,

Carin’ Karen

(Karen Althouse)

P.S. You will see me sign many things this way, because I truly care, thus, I am Caring Karen.

 

 

Well, Now What? Farewell Pastor

   Well, Now What?

 by  Pastor Robert Argot, Jr,  farewell post   Friedens Tydings March 2017

I believe it was George Carlin whom I heard ask, “If you have a bunch of odds and ends on a table, and you knock them all off but one, what do you have left, an odd, or an end?”

When seasons change, such as winter into spring or Epiphany into Lent, a (nearly) similar question could be asked…is the end, or is it the beginning?

It is a transition, and it is both an ending and a beginning. As seasons transition from one to another, one ends and one begins. It is natural. True, the timing may be different from year to year (remember last year Lent started in early February), but the transitions come regardless.

Almost ten years ago I transitioned to Friedens Lutheran in Bernville (and later Bethany in West Reading). There would come the day that I would leave Friedens. On my first day of pastoring Friedens, no one knew how long it would be, but the time would come when I would leave, even if it were due to retirement.

Retirement hasn’t happened yet, but the transition has. And now I find myself starting at Holy Spirit in Reading. Again, I say with all honesty, the day will come when I leave Holy Spirit too. This is not a threat but merely a fact. I don’t have a crystal ball. I don’t know if this stop will last three years or 23 years or somewhere in between. Transitions happen….it’s just a matter of how well prepared we are.

So there is the question that all three churches must face. Not only do seasons transition, but so does the world. Where as seasons are cyclical, the world often doesn’t work like that. It may be Lent again, but the world has changed since the last Lent. Are we ready for these changes, and for the ones to come? Are we talking about what it means to be the Church in these changing times? God’s love for us is constant, but the directions that love pushes us changes over time. Are we ready?

May all of our new seasons be full of blessings and peace.

In God’s service,

Pastor Rob

 

Epiphany 6A – Matthew 5:21-37, sermon by Pastor Robert G. Argot, Jr. 2/12/2017

Epiphany 6A – Matthew 5:21-37

Last week’s Gospel lesson was the beginning part of Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount.” That part of it gave a kind of pep talk to the crowd.  He told them that they were good, using words like “good salt” and “the light.”  He used a plural case for the word “you” to show that being God’s people is not meant to be a solo job, but instead we are part of a group.  And he reminded us that we are not perfect…that we will fall short.  This is not meant as a judgement, but as a lead in to the fact that our perfection is not something which we achieve, but which is achieved for us by Christ and the cross.

So yes, with a quick divergence to Sirach, please note what we are NOT created for. We are not created to be puppets.  We are given the ability to choose whether we follow God’s commandments or not….to choose between fire and water….when we sin, it is of our choosing.  But knowing that we have the power to choose, God wishes that we choose God’s way, which does include realizing that we can’t do it all and asking for God’s mercy, which God is just dying to give.

Now back to the Sermon on the Mount….acknowledging that God’s people are not a bunch of me’s, but a collective we, now what? Well now we get some additional instruction.  You see, even when we do see ourselves as a group, we can still have a me-oriented problem.  We can still be selfish.  We can still look inward towards our own group, rather than outwards.  So not only can we have an “It is all about me” problem, we can also have an “It is all about us” problem, and that is something which God did NOT create us for.  Instead God created us to look outward and see that we are always part of a larger community that God wants us to have a relationship with.  Today’s section of the Sermon on the Mount reminds us in a different way that we are not alone.  And since we are not alone, we need to consider our actions.

How often do you wash your hands after using the bathroom? 34% of Americans do not wash their hands after using the bathroom, and 70% do not use soap. And yes, men are about twice as bad about it as women.  But interestingly, studies show that you are a lot more likely to wash your hands if someone else is present in the bathroom at the same time as you.  So when you realize that you are not alone, you are more likely to exhibit proper behavior.

Well good news….Jesus points out that we are not alone…so maybe realizing that will help us to curb some of our sinful/hurtful behaviors. Maybe if we are thinking that we are not alone, we will realize that even some of our “lesser sins” can hurt people.  Maybe if we don’t think that “no one is watching” we will think twice about the choices we make, the things we say, the actions we take.  Even our smallest decisions, words, and actions can help to improve the lives of others.  Even our smallest decisions, words, and actions can threaten to make worse the lives of others.

(As Professor Karoline Lewis points out), “in this section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus insists that life is threatened when anger and judgment and insult reign. Life is threatened when women are objectified, merely fulfillment of sexual desire or the carrying on the family name. Women, Jesus insists, are not culture’s for the taking. Life is threatened when women are consistently reduced, even discarded, based on their capacity to satisfy privileged and patriarchal needs and their capacity to bear children. Life is threatened when you do not follow through with oaths you make.”

As I first start with each new group of confirmation students, I tell them that our purpose as God’s people, as part of God’s creation, is to be in relationship with God and with each other. I remind them that Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love…love of God and love of each other as we love ourselves.  To love is to promote life, not death.  The law which God gave through Moses was meant to help preserve life and out relationships.  Jesus does not come to abolish the law, but to broaden it.

  • It’s not enough just to refrain from murder. We should also treat each other with respect and that means not speaking hateful words.
  • It is not enough to avoid physically committing adultery. We should also not objectify other persons by seeing them as a means to satisfy our physical desires by lusting after them.
  • It is not enough to follow the letter of the law regarding divorce. We should not treat people as disposable and should make sure that the most vulnerable — in this culture that often meant women and children — are provided for.
  • It is not enough to keep ourselves from swearing falsely or lying to others. We should speak and act truthfully in all of our dealings so that we don’t need to make oaths at all. (source = David Lose)So…let’s close with a couple relationship questions.Prayer of thanksgiving.Prayer for help.
  • Remember that God delights in you and loves you unconditionally and so desires the best for you in and through your relationships.
  • Second, think about another important relationship to you, but one that has suffered damage.
  • First, think about one of your best relationships….one which is healthy and good and which helps sustain you. Think about what makes it such a good relationship and why it is so important to you.
  • Yes, the law speaks, but so does the Gospel. Remember last week? What happens to those who don’t keep the law? That’s right, they are the least in the kingdom of heaven. Let me say that again…they are least in the kingdom of heaven. Last week, even the worst player on the New England Patriots could say that he won a Super Bowl. Good news…even the worst of us are still good enough to have a place in heaven. We have a place because Jesus chooses to die even for the worst of us…especially for the worst of us. Thus even the worst of us can make positive relationships, and even the worst of us is deserving of positive relationships.

“A few of my (almost) favorite things”

  “A few of my (almost) favorite things”, by Pastor Robert G. Argot, Jr.-   February, 2017

I have a favorite word. Really. I don’t use it much in conversation, but when I hear it, I smile.

The word is “penultimate.” I learned that word back in seminary. Where as the word “ultimate” means the greatest or the most or the final, penultimate is the second greatest, or the next to the greatest. So if you have the ultimate (or final)

experience of something, just before that you would have had the penultimate experience.

We don’t usually realize that we are having the penultimate experience until later and we look back and think about it. We may remember the last time we leave our house as we move, or the last time we have a conversation with someone, or the final time we….well you can fill in the blank. But do we remember the next to last time?

We have just gotten through the Christmas season. What a great season it was. In society, Christmas is probably the ultimate holiday, but for the Church, it is the penultimate holiday…for the best is yet to come. As much as the birth of our Savior is an incredible story, there is one more…the greatest story has not yet been told. The Easter story in on the way.

So yes, bask in the glow of the penultimate experience in Christmas, but as they say (whoever they are), “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”

Peace,

Pastor Rob

 

You’ve Got Mail

                 “You’ve Got Mail!”

While in middle/high school, I enjoyed walking down my drive way to get the mail. It was especially exciting to see one addressed to me…Joy!

While in college, I would often stroll by the commons area to see if there was any mail in my mailbox. It was especially exciting if there was a “package” slip in the mail, which meant I had to go to the mail office window and pick up a package. At least once a semester it was cookies from Effort United Methodist Church…..Joy!

When AOL first came out, and before spam emails were everywhere, the familiar “You’ve got mail!” was enough to make me stop what I was doing and see what popped up. And if was an actual email from a friend…..Joy!

Now, when my cell phone buzzes that I have a text message, I am quick to look at it and see what came through. And if it is a message from a family member or friend….Joy!

Why the joy? Because all these pieces of mail in their various forms are proof that I exist, that I matter, that I am loved.

On Sunday mornings, going to church gives me the chance to check my “spiritual inbox.” The prayers, the hymns, the scriptures, the messages, the gathering of people…..all these help show me the message from God that to God, I exist, I matter, I am loved.

Joy!

Peace,

Pastor Rob