Sunday, May 27, 2018

Moriah Hurst: The Invitation of Light and Air

“Living in the Spirit; living in the Gap”
Psalm 29
Romans 8:12-17
Matthew 15:10-13, 18:18-20

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Sunday, May 20, 2018

Phil Kniss: Opening up, breathing in

Pentacost Sunday: “Where resurrection leads us: Toward life in the Spirit”
Acts 2:1-21

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Happy Pentecost, Church!
Happy Retirement, Barbara!
Those two greetings belong together, as you’ll soon discover.

You’ve probably heard it said before—
you’ve probably heard me say it—
that Pentecost is the start of something brand new
that it is the birthday of the church
that God’s Spirit came down
and broke into our earthly reality in a whole new way,
and that the world changed from that moment,
or at least, that the way God related to the world changed,
because of the new arrival of the Holy Spirit.

That’s been the basic narrative of Pentecost.
And it’s a narrative I want to challenge today.
Or maybe, give it a different slant.

Yes, it’s accurate to celebrate Pentecost as the birthday of the church,
inasmuch as before Pentecost,
the leaders of the first church
were hiding behind locked doors in fear,
and were not about to step out into anything new and risky.
And after the Spirit was poured out on them,
they started acting, speaking, living
in a new kind of power and boldness.
The early church would not have emerged as it did,
without Pentecost,
so happy birthday to us!

But if we take Acts chapter 2 to mean
that God decided to do something entirely new
that God had never done before,
then we misunderstand the whole Biblical story.

The Holy Spirit has been at work, always.
According to scripture, the Spirit began her work
even before human beings showed up.

In fact, the Spirit shows up, and at work,
in the second verse of the Bible,
when the earth was still formless and void.
When there was nothing, except darkness,
and a roiling and chaotic cosmic watery deep.
Right there, above the waters, Genesis 1, v. 2 says
that the Spirit of God—in Hebrew, ruach—
was fluttering, blowing, moving, hovering over.

From before the beginning of history,
wherever God was present and at work,
it is described as the Spirit of God doing that work.

So the Spirit descending like a dove or flame or rushing wind,
in that meeting of Jesus’ disciples in the upper room—
was nothing new or different.
It’s what God had been doing all along.

So what makes Pentecost so revolutionary for the church?
A group of disciples decided to open themselves in a new way,
they decided to lay bare their guarded lives,
to put down their fears and anxieties,
and open themselves to the Spirit coming.

They decided to throw caution to the wind.
I mean that in a literal sense.
They took their caution, their fearfulness, their protectionism,
and they released it into the wind, into the Spirit.
Don’t forget, the very root meaning of the word Spirit is wind.
It is moving air. It is breathing.
In Hebrew, ruach. In Greek, pneuma. In English, Spirit.
From the word “pneuma,” we get pneumatic tires,
tires filled with air.
From the word “Spirit,” we get respiration,
inspiration, conspiracy—
words that meaning breathing out,
breathing in, breathing together.

Receiving God’s gift of the Holy Spirit,
means opening up, and breathing in.
Filling our lungs, so to speak.
It means allowing God to do the work
that God already wants to do,
and is ready to do, in and through us,
for the good of God’s purposes.

Receiving the Holy Spirit is nothing magical.
It is not reserved for those who know the right prayer or incantation,
or who meet all the right conditions of belief and practice.
It is available to all who open up, and breathe in,
and say to God . . . “here I am, for you.”

There is an invitation before all of us today.
There is an invitation to you, Barbara,
as you enter a new chapter of life in retirement.
There is an invitation to us, church staff and congregation,
as we walk into and through another season
of pastoral transition.
There is an invitation to us, Park View Mennonite
and the community of people who use our building,
as we begin a summer of being sojourners and nomads.

That invitation, to all of us, is the same.
Open up. Breathe in.
Expect the Spirit-Wind to blow.
Expect it!

We all—Pastor Barbara, the congregation, the community—
we all have an opportunity to be recreated by God.

Pentecost is a retold and reframed Creation story.
Acts chapter 2 parallels the first chapters of Genesis.
And the parallel is not just a coincidence.

In Acts 2, God’s breath, the Spirit,
blew into a lifeless lump of humanity,
men and women hiding from the world out of fear,
behind locked doors,
and blew life into them,
so that they became a living, spirit-breathing community,
that would bless the whole world,
that would partner with God
to carry out God’s purposes for creation.

Sound like Genesis?
Where God took a lump of lifeless clay,
and breathed into it?
Created men and women who would bear the divine image,
who would reflect God to the world,
who would carry out God’s purposes?

See, the coming of the Spirit to bring life and purpose is nothing new.
It happened in the act of Creation itself.
It happened again at Pentecost.
It happens today,
whenever we open ourselves, and breathe in the Spirit.
We too can be recreated to a full and purposeful life.
We can be enlivened and empowered to live
like God intended women and men to live in the world,
to reflect God’s good purposes—
God’s shalom,
God’s justice,
God’s beauty.

God’s intention has always been to partner with humanity,
to restore the goodness and beauty and harmonious diversity
of the world as God created it.
And it is all dependent on God’s breath,
God’s creative, life-giving, sustaining breath.

Are we open to it?
Are we breathing it in?

If we would more fully open up and breathe in,
I wonder if what happened to the early church on Pentecost Day,
might also happen to us . . .

That we might start living differently . . . together.
That our fear might be turned into holy boldness.
That our isolation from society
might be turned into compassionate activism.
That we might start going out daily into the world,
to heal and deliver in Jesus’ name.
That our self-interest might be turned into mutual self-sacrifice
and sharing and generosity and being family to each other.

What this means for you, for us, in practical terms,
is not something I can declare from this pulpit.
As to how, in localized and specific circumstances,
you and we are being called to open up and breathe in,
I cannot, nor can any one person, proclaim from on high.
It needs to be worked out in community,
in mutual, relational discernment,
in mutual, relational support,
in mutual, relational accountability.

Yes, there are tried and true practices that will help us get there.
Spending time together with other disciples,
building trust,
establishing mutuality,
praying with and for each other,
studying and meditating on scripture,
worshiping together.
All of these practices exercise our spiritual muscles,
they build up our lung capacity,
they can help be more open, breathe more deeply.

And in this regard, there is work for all of us to do—
spiritual work, that will bring challenge and hope to each of us.

To Barbara, as you leave a role and identity
that you have lived with and cherished for over 30 years,
there will be multiple layers of grief and loss to work through,
and, by the wind of the Spirit,
there will be hope of re-creation and new creation,
as you discover and embrace new identities.

To those of us navigating the transitions ahead,
there will be our own sense of loss, and the need to grieve,
and, by the wind of the Spirit,
there will be hope of unexpected vistas on the road ahead,
destinations we could not have imagined.

To all of us at Park View Mennonite facing a summer on the move,
there will be chaos and confusion and unsettledness along the way,
and, by the wind of the Spirit,
there will be hope of new connections
with each other and with the community,
relying more on the human connection than the physical space.

And to all us who inhabit a world still heaving and roiling,
there will be a continuing epidemic of violence and fear gripping us,
in the form of mass shootings by troubled individuals,
state-sponsored mass destruction,
and acts of terror . . .
we will continue to live in a society where
ideology and politics divide us and make us more cruel . . .
we will still belong to churches and various church institutions
hanging on by a thread,
threatened by in-fighting, or sheer disinterest . . .
however . . . by the wind of the Spirit,
there will be hope of new beginnings,
new ways of learning to live together in love and charity for all.

If we take the risk, take the leap of faith, by God’s help,
and open up and breathe in
the Holy Spirit of God in Christ.

So . . . Barbara . . . and continuing leaders . . .
and church . . . and community . . .

I guess what I’m saying is for all of us here today,
as we all stand on various thresholds—
“Be at peace.”
The Spirit of God is with us.
The wind of God is hovering and fluttering above the chaotic waters.
We are not alone, in any of this.
We can be filled with hope.

Let us all open up, and let us all breathe in.

For starters, we are going to breathe, and speak
a blessing on you, Barbara.
Gloria Diener, chair of the Elders,
has prepared a litany of blessing.
So now I invite onto the platform,
Barbara, Gloria, Pastor Moriah, and Ron Yoder, chair of council.

Gloria - The life of our faith community is forever fluid, an ebb and flow bringing new visions and new possibilities. Seventeen years ago, Park View Mennonite Church welcomed Barbara Moyer Lehman into our newly created position of Associate Pastor of Nurture and Pastoral Care. And her presence has encouraged us and changed us. 
All - Thank you for sharing the story of your life with us. Thank you for trusting us with the beauty of the butterfly. Thank you for blessing us with your presence and the presence of Christ as we have navigated the sacred stories of our lives, individually and as a congregation. Thank you for stepping into scripture, memorizing it, and breaking it open for us. 
Barbara - Thank you for all I have learned during the years I have had with you. Your faith journeys—from birth to baptisms and weddings and beyond—have inspired and stretched me, and your experiences now mingle with mine. I am blessed by what I carry from this place into the future. 
Moriah - Barbara, we pastors hold cherished memories of the many occasions we have shared in worship and work. We have prayed together, dreamed together, and laughed together. 
Phil - We have offered care to the congregation together. We have carried the pain of the congregation together. We have shared food and fellowship. Thank you for your creativity, your encouragement, your humor, and your hope. 
Ron - Today we say farewell to your ministry among us, a season full of blessings seen and unseen, and we bless you as we release you from your role as a pastor here at Park View Mennonite Church. 
All - May the road rise to meet you, Barbara. We entrust you to the loving care of the God of the journey, the Faithful Traveler and Companion on our way. May the future be a source of many enriching and transforming moments. May your heart and spirit be blessed as you continue to minister to others with the great love and compassion that have marked your service to us. Amen.

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Sunday, May 13, 2018

Phil Kniss: Walking through a spinning world without getting dizzy

Easter 7: “Where resurrection leads us: Toward engaging the world”
John 17:11, 13-21

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This is graduation season.
The time of the year we hear lots of cliches and platitudes.
Which is perfectly fine.
We don’t always have to be profound and original.

After all, they aren’t the first grads.
They are like millions of graduates before them—
they’ve reached a big milestone,
they’ve worked hard and deserve our well-wishes,
and the future stretches long and wide before them,
longer and wider than the academic world they leave behind.

Even though they already know it, it’s okay to tell them,
that today is the first day of the rest of their lives,
and that they should follow their passion,
and be true to themselves,
and remember who they are.

In fact, maybe it should be our goal to state the obvious,
because behind all those platitudes, lies a bigger truth.
It’s a truth they need to hear, and we need to hear again and again:
Our identity matters.

A lot of those cliches are truer than we think.
They point toward our most basic human pursuit—
figuring out who we are in relationship to the world around us.
Our mother was right,
and our commencement speaker was right,
when they said, “Remember who you are.”

Only thing—it’s more complicated than Mom realized,
and harder than our commencement speaker admitted,
because remembering something
implies we knew it to begin with.

Sorry to break the news to you, Ella, Chloe, and Asha,
but that question, “Who are you?”
is one you will live with after you graduate from high school,
and that you will still be working on
if you graduate from college or grad school,
and are able to say “I am . . .
an engineer, a doctor, a teacher, a biologist, or . . .

I am a pastor. And I am many other things.
But I am still working on parts of my identity.
Who am I, in relation to the neighbors that live on my street?
Who am I, in relation to my immigrant neighbors in town,
with and without documents,
who help grow my food, package my poultry, repair my car?
Who am I, in relation to my political polar opposites,
in the divided and fearful social climate we live in?
Who am I, as a global citizen,
when my country acts unwisely or unjustly or violently
in this world God created and loves?
Who am I, as one who tries to follow Jesus Christ,
in a world that doesn’t?

Yet, this is the world we have to live in,
that we are called to live in.
This is the world that God is invested in,
and expects us, likewise, to invest in.

There are many ways to figure out our Christian identity in this world.
In the Mennonite church I grew up in 50 years ago,
and in many parts of our Mennonite family today,
this world is looked on with great suspicion,
and—as much as possible—avoidance.
We can, and did, find our identity by setting ourselves
apart from the world in just about every way,
and living to ourselves, in our own safe communities.
I respect, and even admire, Mennonite communities
that are so intentional about their different identity in the world,
that they build social structures to support that difference.
Their identity is clear, and tangible,
and the fact they can maintain that identity is admirable.
I’ve devoted some time trying to understand,
and build relationships with,
the conservative and Old Order branches
of our Mennonite family in this community.
I’ll be talking to the Shalom class this morning about them.
I’ve come to respect their way of answering the question
“Who are we?”
I don’t own it, but I respect it.

But for those of us more fully embedded
in a diverse and broken and beautiful world,
we need to keep asking this complicated question,
“Who am I, and how do I live in a way
that is true to who I am?”

So to you graduating seniors—
from high school, and college, and otherwise—
and to all of us here today, I pose again this challenging question,
“How do we go about ‘being Christian’
while being resident in, invested in, committed to,
and loving toward this world—
a world that God first loved, and invested in,
and is working to reconcile to Godself?”

The apostle Paul once wrote a letter to a group of Christians
living in a worldly cultural crossroads of the Roman Empire,
in the city of Colossae.
This was his advice:
“Set your minds on things that are above,
not on things that are on earth.”
“Seek the things that are above,” he wrote.
“Put to death . . . whatever in you is earthly.”

These words are familiar to us.
“Set your mind on things above.”
Look toward heaven.
Look away from the earth.
Common Christian wisdom.
The stuff of gospel songs.
“This world is not my home, I’m only passing through.”
and, “I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”

But . . . we object, and rightly so . . .
if we aren’t invested in this world as much as God is,
then we are not aligned with God.
God is “all in” with this world.
God loves this world—so much so
that God gave up everything to reconcile and restore it.

So Christian faith and identity cannot be an escape from the world.
We reject being too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good.

So what did Paul mean when he wrote,
“Set your mind on things above”?

He meant for us to pay attention to how we are oriented,
to always know which way is up.
We have a resurrection identity.
Our life is subsumed in the life of the risen Christ.
In Paul’s words, “it’s hidden with Christ in God.”
Christ is our life, our identity.

Paul did not urge the church to forsake the world.
He didn’t.
Rather, he urged us to know, and remember,
our resurrection identity and orientation.

We must live fully and participate fully in this earthly life,
while . . . we orient our life around Christ and the kingdom of God.
We don’t have one foot on earth and the other foot in heaven.
We have both feet planted firmly on this earth,
and both feet in the kingdom of God.
And we have our eyes open to the horizon,
so we don’t forget which way is up.

I’ve learned, from going out on a sailboat a few times
with John Fairfield and others,
that the best way to keep from getting dizzy, or seasick,
is to stand up and fix your gaze on the horizon.
To get over being seasick,
stand at the wheel, and steer.
Your brain and your body can be in sync that way,
because you know which way is up.

When you’re being tossed around by the waves,
the worst thing to do is curl up
and look down at the bottom of the boat,
and try to shut out the churning world out there.

I think that’s a pretty good metaphor for walking through life
in a world in constant flux,
seemingly spinning out of control.
How to do walk safely on a spinning earth?
We keep our eyes on the horizon.
We remember the big picture.
We remember our orientation in Christ,
our resurrection identity.

Chloe and Asha and Ella,
you—and we—are in the same boat.
We have all chosen, as God’s people in Christ,
to fix our eyes on the horizon.
We begin with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
And we construct a common life and shared values
out of that communal orientation to Christ.

Sometimes the ways of the world line up.
There is a lot of goodness and beauty
and love and compassion in the world.
We can celebrate that, and participate fully in it.
But sometimes the world spins in a different direction,
and we need each other,
to find the horizon again,
and remember who we are.

That’s what Jesus was so concerned about
when he prayed to his father for his disciples in John 17 . . .
15 “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world
but that you protect them from the evil one.
16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.
17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.

So you high school seniors—
when we send you out into the world,
as we have before and we will again,
we want to remind you, even as we remind ourselves,
to remember who we are—
children of God with a resurrection identity,
whose very life is wrapped up in Christ.

We have chosen to bind our hearts and lives,
to the Galilean’s side.
Let’s sing!  "I bind my heart this tide"

—Phil Kniss, May 13, 2018

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Sunday, May 6, 2018

Barbara Moyer Lehman: Standing on the Threshold

“Where resurrection leads us: Toward love in obedience”
Psalm 98
John 15:9-17

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I must confess, dear friends, that today I feel some pressure.  This is my last sermon to share with you as one of your pastors.  I also noticed about a month ago that the Gospel reading for today is from this section from John that we refer to as, “Jesus' farewell discourse/sermon”.  And then yesterday I had a wonderful time with the elders.  It wasn't exactly, “Jesus with his disciples at the last supper”, but it was “Pastor Barbara with her elders for her last breakfast.”    The pressure gradually increased as I opened yesterday's DNR and noticed in this insert section (Parade) that said today, May 6, is World Laughter Day....a good reason to look at the lighter side of life,  When I mentioned this to John, he said I probably should have some jokes included in my sermon!!  The brief article said that, “after all, smiling or laughing is good for your health and soul...and there's nothing like a good chuckle to bring the world together!”  So now on top of everything, my last sermon should somehow have enough humor to 'bring the world together'.  I wish I had known earlier!    At least I could have ordered from Amazon a book for Pastor Phil, suggested, that is a coloring book for adults called, “I Run on Coffee, Sarcasm, and Lipstick”.  I know that one of those is correct and true!.  So then I went to my favorite cartoon strip, “Pickles.”  Some of you follow this one.  It is about the daily life of an elderly couple, Earl and Opal.  
Opal is standing in front of a full length mirror, looking a bit frumpy, with her bathrobe on and she says, “Yesterday someone told me that I'm aging gracefully.  I hate that!”  Earl replies to her, “Why?  It's a nice compliment.”  Opal answers him, “Wrong!  Wrong!  Wrong!.  It's just a nice way of saying you're slowly looking worse and worse!”

Some days, I know that feeling!
Jesus' farewell speech to his disciples is given to them to reassure that when he leaves them, they will not be alone.  He is not abandoning them! Jesus knows he is on a threshold, something awaits him in the future.  The disciples do not yet understand.  For 3 chapters we read of his instructions to them, to us.   It becomes clear in these chapters that Jesus is the ONE who loves.   He will send the  Holy Spirit to comfort, guide and empower them.  This Spirit will continue to dwell within them even after his departure.
Most important, he emphasizes over and over, especially in the verses for today,  LOVE EACH OTHER AS I HAVE LOVED YOU.”  These words I also say to you, my brothers and sisters, “Love each other as Jesus loves you , and as I have loved you.”

Today I want to share with you some glimpses of my journey, when I have found myself, “standing on a threshold”.   You, too, as a congregation are 'standing on a threshold.'  I hope to conclude with looking at ourselves, where we are now, as we stand on the threshold of something new!

What do we mean by threshold?  The word originally referred to the doorway leading to the place where the grain was sorted and sifted, that is the threshing floor.  One would stand in between, going from one room to another. Sometimes we feel 'betwixt and between', in a liminal space.  The Latin root “limen” literally means threshold. It is a time of transition from one thing to another, from one room to another, from one realm to another.  Some of us women are part of a small group that sings at bedsides to give comfort at life's threshholds. 

Richard Rohr calls 'liminal space' a space where human beings hate to be, but where the Biblical God is always leading them.   Standing on a threshold may require of us patience to wait, and we don't always do that very well.  It isn't part of our DNA, nor are we taught that in our Western culture.  Thresholds can be huge, transformative.  They can be simple and small.  Sometimes they become joyous occasions and in them, God surprises!.  Some bring to us discomfort and uneasiness. It is often a time then of moving into unknown territory. 
The biblical narrative gives us many examples of persons being in liminal space or standing on a threshold:  Joseph in the pit, Israelites wandering in the wilderness between Egypt and the Promised Land, Jonah in the belly of the big fish, Mary weeping at Jesus' tomb, disciples huddled in the upper room, disciples on the road to Emmaus, and on and on.
I have experienced several times being in liminal space, ...the threshold!

When I was 16-17 years old, probably in grade 11, my dad came to me and asked this question, “Are you sure you want to go to college?”  “Yes”, I replied.  “I want to go to college.  I don't know what I want to do.  I am more clear about what I don't want to do.  I don't want to be a secretary, a nurse or a teacher.”  ( in my era, these seemed to be the three options for young women to enter.  Nothing against any of those careers or people that chose them.  It just wasn't me).
My dad continued, “well, you probably will go to college, meet your husband, settle down and have a family.” (The thought not articulated by him, but implied was, if that happens, you won't need a degree!)
I understood more clearly in later years why he asked the question.  My dad went through 9th grade, my mother finished 8th grade, higher education  in my circle of family,  friends and faith community was not seen as particularly important, and certainly not necessary, especially for a young woman.  Growing up on a small dairy farm, money was tight, debt was high, managing expenses was challenging. I was a very 'average' student!  I received no awards or scholarships in my graduating class of 304.  I don't remember being on the honor role consistently. For me to go to college would require sacrifice, saving, borrowing money and working jobs.  All of that happened.  My parents loved me and wanted me to be happy.  They would do what they had to do.
Threshold # 1:  Heading off to Bluffton College (University), 500 miles away, sensing clarity that this was the right thing to do and the right place, but not knowing what the next 4 years would be like.  Some of you here today know what that liminal space is like.  You may be in it.
Well, my dad was somewhat correct.  I went off to college, 'found' my husband, (and a good one), or he found me, and then I did what many young women did of my generation, we 'followed' our husbands, as they found jobs, began careers or did further study.  It was the era of the Vietnam War.  John was registered as a CO.  We also had talked of someday doing some service somewhere.  I followed John to Kenya, East Africa, for 3 years, where together we served in MCC Teachers Abroad Program.  It was transformative, one of the best decisions we ever made.  It was also hard and sometimes lonely. It was before computers and cell phones and smart phones.  We wrote and received weekly air mail letters from our parents. Every 3 months felt like Christmas when the boat mail came, 3 months worth of Sports Illustrated, Good Housekeeping, local newspapers, church periodicals.  As newlyweds, we depended on each other and our love, as together we learned to love the Kenyan culture, its people and the 480 students we helped to teach for 3 years.
When our term was over and we left Kenya, I followed John to Elkhart, IN so he could attend seminary for two years.  It was there that our first son was born. I followed John to Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, so he could teach math and Bible for the next 4 years at Rockway Mennonite Collegiate. And there our second son was born.  As parents we found much joy in parenting, and being part of the Canadian scene. Most days I enjoyed being an 'at-home' mom and was glad I had those years together with my sons, but the Canada winters seemed long, the snow was deep and the walls began to close in around me, when I was at home all day in a small apt. with a toddler and infant. John was gone all day and wrapped up in his world of teaching, coaching and doing all that a Mennonite high school sometimes expects/demands of its teachers.

We made the decision to move back to the states to be closer to one set of parents/grandparents.  My 62 year old mother had died while we were in Canada, and soon after we moved back to the states, my dad also died.  Our move took us to a small Indiana town of Union City., about an hour from John's folks. I followed John so he could teach math and physics at the high school. Both of our boys started elementary school there and for 4 years we became Methodists!

One day I realized I was bored and restless.  My sons didn't 'need' me quite as much.  They adjusted well to school and enjoyed it.  I soon discovered that being a waitress in a family restaurant and doing occasional substitute teaching was not going to fulfill me for the rest of my life.  One day John said, “Why don't you consider taking some seminary classes.  I think you would enjoy it.”  There was no seminary in Union City.  Actually there was very little in UC, except a lot of really good people!  Earlham College in Richmond, IN was about 45 miles away and on the campus was their Quaker seminary, Earlham School of Religion.  We drove there one day, explored the possibilities.  I registered for a class.  A short time later, John (my wise, thrifty, money managing husband) said, “if you are going to commute for one class each week, you might as well make it worthwhile, take a full load of classes!”  I followed his suggestion.  He might have later regretted this.)

Threshold # 2:  Entering seminary....what in the world was I getting into?  Suddenly I went from reading  Dr. Seuss, Richard Scarry, Judy Blume, books with my sons to reading theology, early church fathers/mothers, words, names, people I had never heard of before and didn't understand, but this small Quaker seminary was a warm, welcoming community on a beautiful campus with an eclectic group of students that made me feel comfortable!  I loved it and the people there.  I was the only Anabaptist/Mennonite at ESR that year.  I tried to represent us well.  During that year, my eyes, ears and heart were opened in new ways. Continuing down this path seemed to be the right thing to do, the obedient thing. I felt the opening of a window, the blooming of something new and beautiful within me, maybe an inner call, a spark... had occurred.  Could a very average, PA farm girl, with a family that included 2 young sons make it through a seminary education and degree program?  John supported me 100 % as we discerned together that we wanted to return to Elkhart, IN so I could continue with my studies in a Mennonite Seminary and so we could become connected once again with a Mennonite faith community.
This time John followed me!
We moved to Elkhart, where I completed my M.Div, a full time load of classes for two more years.  It was hard work.  It put some stress and strain on our family life and marriage relationship, but we got through it.  We persisted through some trials and tribulations.

Threshold # 3   Completing an M. Div and also another year of CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) in South Bend, IN, I was ready!  For what?  And where? Positions for a seminary trained woman pastor in the Mennonite Church in the mid-80's were FEW and FAR BETWEEN!  I was discouraged.  How long would I have to wait?  Was I not being obedient to the call I had sensed and felt all along?  An inner call?  Was there an 'outer call' from some place for me that would come?  John and I began to explore the possibility of working together, as a team. We met with wise persons and tested and discerned this option. We both had seminary, had complimentary gifts, interests and personalities?  Maybe that was the direction.  We found more opportunities, explored the options and eventually accepted the call to be co-pastors of the Orrville Mennonite Church in OH.   It was stepping into new territory for the congregation and for us.
Did I get into pastoral ministry on the 'coattails' of my husband?  Yes.  Was I happy about that?  Not particularly, but sometimes God surprises, and sometimes you do what you have to do.   The congregation had to work through some issues along the way.  What would it be like to have a husband and wife team?  Women in leadership?  And a woman who wanted to preach.  All new issues.  We had issues to work through, questions about how would it affect our marriage and family life.  We made the move and found a warm, welcoming congregation, who loved us and our sons, allowed us to grow into pastors.  We had lots of life experiences, but we were first time pastors.  They gave us an opportunity to develop and mature as leaders and we stayed for 14 years.  This congregation and the larger community held and carried us through the most painful experience of our lives, losing our 22 year old son, Andy, in a tragic accident.  It was hard to get through our own grief and find meaning again after this tragedy.  It was also hard to be in leadership while trying to help our congregation deal with his death and their own grief.  We leaned heavily on others, OH conference pastors, other pastoral colleagues in town and  a whole host of friends, neighbors and loved ones.  After 14 years we decided we needed a break from working together.  We resigned as co-pastors after 14 years. 
Soon after, I pursued the position here at PV that had just been posted.  I applied, went through the process, was called and , 'the rest is history'! 
Threshold # 4  Anticipating retirement...a new chapter, yet to be written.  After 31+ years in pastoral ministry, 17 of those years here, how does one enter a new phase, step across the threshold, 'let go' of a role, responsibilities, position, and do so graciously?  I am learning, step by step.

But what about you?  My brothers and sisters at Park View.  You, too, are standing on the threshold, in the door way, anticipating change, worrying, wondering...what will this summer be like for us, for you, as we move out of this space for 3 months?  As you call someone else to join the leadership team? Change creates anxiety, disruption to our routine and regular rhythm is disturbing.  Some people can 'go with the flow' easier than others. Others might see it as a 'great adventure', with new possibilities!  There will be times when you will feel vaguely disoriented or maybe greatly disoriented!  But these months can be a significant turning point in the life of the congregation.
From my own experience, I know that being in this liminal space requires acceptance of mystery and a heart full of trust.  It means having faith that something good can come out of this and believing that it will happen.  The challenge is to give ourselves fully to the process of change while being unsure and unclear of how the future will unfold and how we will be affected.
We may need to remain in this 'holding pattern', this liminal space longer than we like...maybe long enough to gain the lessons we need to learn, the clarity to know when it is time to move forward, and the stamina to take that first step.  If we rush ahead too soon, we may find that God will find a way to put in a speed bump to slow us down.

My hope and prayer is that in the next few months you will be able to participate in creative Sabbath experiences, to find new ways to build community, to learn to love God more fully, and each other more deeply.  In the fall, return to this place, come home and celebrate the renewed, refreshed, revived space that we hope it becomes.  Share the insights of what your threshold experience was like over the summer.  What did community life look like? How did you continue to love and care for one another?
May God continue to lead you, the Spirit continue to nudge you in following Jesus more faithfully into the future.

May we be able to move forward with endless songs above earth's lamentations, and even through our trials and challenges.  

Please join in singing together, HWB 580  “My life flows on”.

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