FROM THE PASTOR’S DESK
On Wednesday, October 14, 2020, I sat behind my desk in my study, wrestling with my thoughts Hmmm…What topic should I write this newsletter on? After wrestling for days, like a flash of lightning, the word endurance popped into my mind. Endurance! It is the power to withstand pain or hardships; the ability or strength to continue despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse conditions. William Barclay said, “Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory.”
Let’s face it—All of us have experienced the uphill battles of life; and, some of you are dealing with them right now. Some of you are dealing with deep loneliness; some of you are dealing with aging (changes in your mind and body that you don’t quite understand); some of you are dealing with mental anguish because of COVID-19 and the uncertainty of the future; some of you, in your latter years, are still dealing with the residue from your childhood and teenage years; and, still there are others who are concerned for the wellbeing of your children and grandchildren.
Let me simply encourage you with these words:
And let us not be weary in welldoing, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. (Galatians 6:9)
There was a soldier on the battlefield who had grown tired and weary; he put his weapons down on the ground and fell to his knees. With the sound of bombs and explosive devices going off in the background, he wept, cried, and groaned, as he yelled, “Oh, God! Please help me!” It was at that moment that the soldier felt a light touch on his shoulder. When that hand touched his shoulder, he felt power, strength, and renewal that he had never felt before. That hand upon his shoulder is what gave him the endurance to keep going when he wanted to give up. When that soldier stood up and turned around, no one was behind him. He was still there, alone.
Like the young soldier, we all get tired and weary from the burdens that we have to bear. But let me encourage you to keep fighting; keep moving forward; keep pressing toward the mark of the high calling. It is only when we endure to the end that we can see that it was the footprints of the Divine leading us along those stony paths. And, it is only when we endure to the end of the race that we are able to taste the sweet fruit of victory that we all long for.
Grace & Peace;
Pastor Michael L. Sloan
Sunrise, sunset. Sunrise, sunset. Swiftly fly the years, one season following another laden with happiness and tears.
Soon you will be able to peak out of your windows and see the beautiful leaves turning from green to dark read, yellow, orange and brown; and then you will be able to see them as they fall from the trees and land on the ground. This summer has gone by so fast. I don’t know about you; but it seems to me that the days, the weeks, the months and the years just keep getting shorter.
When I was younger, I was riding in the car with my dad and he said, “Son? The older you get the faster time goes.”
I heard a university dean (when speaking to a student) say, “Time waits for no man [or woman].”
Just last week as I was listening to the radio (in the car), I heard someone say, “You can waste my money; but don’t waste my time.”
Time—it is like a precious commodity. It is one of those things that you really don’t realize how precious it is until you don’t have much of it left. Some of you know this all too well.
Therefore, let me encourage you NOT to put off what you should be doing today until tomorrow. Let me encourage you NOT to wait to do the things that you’ve always wanted to do. Let me encourage you NOT to hold off until “the right time.” The time will never be right. There will always be something standing in your way, making you feel as if the time is not right. But the time is now. The time is now for you to finish the book that you’ve been wanting to write. The time is now for you to go back and finish some of those projects that you started years ago. The time is now for you to repair those broken relationships with your siblings, your children, and friends. The time is now for you to pick up the phone and call that relative that you haven’t spoken to in years. The time is now. Don’t wait! Do all those things that you’ve always wanted to do, now!
Don’t think too hard about it; just do it!
Grace and peace!
Pastor Michael L. Sloan
For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. ~James (3:2b)
I remember when I was in grad school working on my Master of Divinity; sometimes the course load would get a little heavy for me to carry and the course work would become challenging. I remember calling my grandmother (late at night) and talking to her about it over the phone. And, I’ll never forget what she said to me. She said, “You can do it!” I remember when I graduated from that program and I wanted to do doctoral work. There were people who were trying to discourage me and I remember calling me grandmother and talking to her over the phone about my desire to do doctoral work at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School. And, her response was the same as before, “You can do it!” I remember when I was pastoring my first church in Illinois. I was tripping and stumbling over my own feet trying to find out how to actually be a pastor. I can remember getting discouraged at times and I would call my grandmother and talk her about it; and, I can hear her voice even now over the phone responding the same was as before, saying, “You can do it! Just keep at it! You can do it!” As many of you know, the road of parenthood is challenging and difficult. I remember there were times while being a single parent I would run into challenges and difficulties and I would give her a call and she would simply say, “You can do it! You can make it!”
Those simple words, “You can do it! You can make it! Keep at it!” sustained and strengthened me over the years and gave me the courage to keep going even when the path that I needed to take was not clear.
The words and phrases that we speak to others (be it orally or in written form) have more power than you can even imagine. The people around us take our words, our phrases, our facial expressions, and our body language to heart. Not only will people remember the words that come out of our mouths; but they will also remember our facial expressions and our body language as we speak to them. The words that you and I speak to others are more powerful than you think. The words that you and I speak (or, write) to others have the potential to make them feel either extremely powerful or extremely weak. Therefore, I know it sounds very elementary; and, I know that you have heard it before—but, seeing that our words have the potential to build up or tear down—let us use our words, wisely.
With the 2020 presidential election and the global pandemic it is perfectly normal to be passionate about your beliefs and your convictions; however, let me remind that while you are speaking about your beliefs and your convictions, passionately, make sure you do so in a loving and kind and manner. And, keep in mind that we are all just trying to be better human beings.
So—I’ll leave you with this. Before you speak THINK:
…is it TRUE?
…is it HELPFUL?
…is it IMPORTANT?
…is it NECESSARY?
…is it KIND?
Grace and Peace to the members and friends of First Congregational Church of Spencerport!
Pastor Michael L. Sloan
FROM THE INTERIM PASTOR'S STUDY:
Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the Good News of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the Good News." Mark 1:14b-15
God came into this world, in the person of Jesus, with an offer that the kingdom was near and requesting all who could hear, to repent, to change their ways, to change their lives and to believe the Good News. He came with a radical message, a message which could change the lives of all who followed him. However, Jesus didn’t meet the many expectations of a Messiah and as a result many put off making a commitment.
Not much has changed today. How many of us are ready to risk everything to embrace Jesus’ example of humility and trust in God’s desires for their lives? Jesus’ request to forgive without expecting anything in return or Jesus’ commitment to justice for all, especially if it means risking everything we’ve ever worked for, whether it be our homes, our security or the acceptance of peers to go and do God’s bidding, all seem pretty daunting. We all know what the promise is, for that hasn’t changed in over 2000 years, but that fact still can’t seem to break through our needs to meet our own self-serving desires.
Advent/Epiphany is our annual call to stop putting off our commitment to follow Jesus. We don’t need to wait for a better time to pray, to forgive or to help the needy and the least among us. Each year, we are reminded to leave the old ways behind and enter the new year thinking, “Do not put it off one more minute. Change your lives and believe the message today.”
Knowing, what we might expect, helps us to experience and share God’s love every day and to become those beloved children God has been seeking for so long. Let us hear God’s
requests – whether it be in Scripture, prayer or acts of love and kindness towards each other and everyone God places in our path. We must always be prepared to respond to God’s gift to us when it is offered. For it is only when we risk making those changes, that we can experience the fulfillment of promise in our lives now.
This is why Christ came and risked everything, and this is what we have to gain. Yes, the kingdom is near, and it is time we believe the message!
May each of your days be blessed and your kingdom wishes fulfilled as you journey into this new year once again.
FROM THE INTERIM PASTOR'S STUDY: