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So we wait

Josh Medlock, Director of Student Ministries

Were you one of the millions of people watching the election results this past Tuesday night?

Were you surprised that we didn’t have a clear winner that evening?

Are you surprised that as of this morning, we still haven’t had an official winner declared for the office of President of the United States?

My friends, the statement “It’s 2020” applies here.

We say that now whenever something happens that is unusual, unplanned, or seems to affect everyone all at once.

This year has been one of firsts for all of humanity in many regards.

It has been a year filled with uncertainty and the inability to plan ahead. At least it has for me.

Many of you know that I am indeed a planner. All of the events for First Youth this year were planned in 2019.

Of course with the pandemic almost all of those plans fell through or had to be radically changed.

So here we are in November.

Halloween has passed. Thanksgiving is coming.

I waited patiently for Halloween to see how many kids would actually knock on my door this year.

The bell rang seven times. Then it was over.

I have to be honest and tell you that I really didn’t feel anything once it was gone and over with.

Nor was I upset that the bell only rang seven times.

I felt a slight twinge of sadness for the little ones who were denied the opportunity to go out and celebrate the holiday with friends and family.

But at the end of the day I was actually glad more people weren’t out. It meant many chose to stay home and stay safe.

It’s 2020. 

Thanksgiving is right around the corner.

Usually by now we have had conversations about whose house we celebrate at this year, the menu, what time we are eating, who is bringing what … you know, all the normal stuff that families do to get ready to gather for a holiday.

This year is different. We are just now talking about it at my house.

Determining whether we will gather with a lot of family is difficult this year. Do we risk it? Who is going to wear a mask and who isn’t? Will anyone be sick?

I am not really worried about the menu or whose house we will be at.

I am now wondering if we will know who the President will be by then. Surely we will … right?

It’s 2020. 

Christmas is coming!!! Christmas is coming!!!

I am one of those dads who waits until AFTER Thanksgiving to put up any Christmas decorations.

This year, I found myself hunting for the Christmas boxes yesterday in the garage.

I am thinking we will have ours up by the end of next week. That will be a first for me.

I am feeling uncertain and would like to surround myself with a little joy and happiness.

Hard not to be joyful during Christmas.

The music, the trees, the lights, the nativity set.

We get to celebrate the biggest thing to happen to humanity…the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus.

So move over Thanksgiving, Christmas is coming early at my house this year.

It’s 2020. 

Right now I find it difficult to navigate social media without getting angry or frustrated.

I find it increasingly difficult to watch the news and try to wade through what is accurate and what is not.

I am realizing that not everyone is seeing what I am seeing or hearing what I am hearing, and that makes it difficult to have meaningful and transformative conversations.

I am not sure if any of you are having the same problems or feelings right now.

If you are, then like me, you find yourself once again waiting.

Waiting for the chaos to settle.

Waiting for love to replace the hate filled speech and actions of those around us.

Waiting for discernment and wisdom to replace ignorance and selfish ambition.

We wait.

The whole world waited over 2000 years ago, when God chose to be among us in human form through Jesus the Christ.

A new way, a new beginning, a new wisdom was shared with us and transformation began.

Through his suffering and death, that transformation is still happening.

We struggle to see transformation right now because our eyes are focused on worldly things.

These things have distracted us and distanced us from being in relationship with one another and with God.

We recently discussed the word HOPE in First Youth during one of our virtual lessons.

I reminded them that we can have hope because we have made it through dark times before.

Every one of us, at some point in our lives, has been through a trauma or situation that we could refer to as “dark times.”

Some of us have been through these times more often than others.

But one thing remains true for all of us … we are still here.

If you are reading this, then you made it through.

It may not have turned out the way you hoped. You may not have gotten the results you wanted.

Things are most certainly different because of it. But you made it through.

And we will make it through 2020. Things may not turn out the way you hoped. You may not get what you wanted. Things will definitely be different.

God is transforming the world. We are being transformed.

God is with us, always. Now and forever. So have hope.

The light is going to turn green and we are all going to go through the intersection.

We have no idea what that road looks like right now, but we will navigate it together and God will be with us.

We just have to wait.

I think I am going to dig out the Christmas boxes today.

Maybe the neighbors won’t be too upset if I hang the outside lights up next week.

Guess I will have to wait and see.

Blessings and the Peace of Christ be with each of you.

Holy moments

Rev. Caroline Noll, Associate Pastor

It takes a lot of focus and self-control for me to live in the present moment.

This is not new for me.

As a kid I wondered what I would be when I grew up.

In college I dreamed of the life I would have once I graduated.

When we lived in the Houston area I longed for the day when we would move back here, closer to family.

Now I’m wondering what my life will be like when I retire one day.

I’m nowhere near that, but it’s nice to imagine traveling to far off places at a leisurely pace.

Daydreams.

I could argue that I’m a planner.

The other side of that coin could be a mental break from current stresses.

But holy and sacred moments are never future events.

They are always now.

Right here. In this moment.

God comes so close to us. And we come so close to God.

And in that moment, even if only for a moment, there is light and love and peace and hope.

Sometimes holy and sacred moments happen observing my kids.

Putting down all my distractions and important grown-up work and entering the world as they see it to experience it with them.

To take joy in their joy.

To see their excitement and their wonder.

Sometimes holy and sacred moments happen in reading and stillness and reflection that would never happen if I sat down just to check my messages and start planning first.

Sometimes holy moments happen outdoors when the leaves or the sky or the air fill me with awe.

Sometimes holy moments happen in conversation with one another, when I stop talking and really listen to another.

Or when someone does that for me.

I have loved Luke 12:22-34 for a long time.

“… do not worry …”

And the disciples are doing just that, worrying about the future.

Do you notice the examples Jesus sites to bring them back from that edge?

Birds. Flowers. Small things. Common things.

Things we might not notice.

Right here in the present moment under our nose.

And Jesus names them holy, sacred, of beauty and worth.

The list of stresses in this present day may be long.

We might be ready for another day.

But God is here in this day, waiting to meet us.

As the deer

Rev. Valarie Englert, Senior Pastor

In the daily lectionary this week, one of the morning Psalms (there are two morning Psalms and two evening Psalms for each day) was a particularly beautiful one, Psalm 42.

It begins:

As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.


These opening verses may be familiar to you; they are the words to a hymn that our congregation has sung many times, and it is a favorite of many (me included).

As I read these words this week, I let the psalmist speak for me:

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.

When shall I come and behold the face of God?

My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me continually, ‘Where is your God?

The seemingly endless pandemic, the state of our country and the divisions that have opened into chasms have made my soul very thirsty for God and for the divine healing presence.

One of the great beauties of scripture is that it can speak for us when we struggle for words, when it becomes difficult to describe the turmoil rumbling around in our very bodies, when the future seems so cloudy and uncertain.

I am grateful for the words of the psalmist.

Then I encountered verse 4:

These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I went with the throng, and led them in procession to the house of God, with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival … 

…and all of the sadness of the last six months washed over me in an instant.

miss terribly gathering in our sanctuary every week.

I miss the sharing of Holy Communion, the singing of hymns, the shared, spoken-aloud prayer concerns.

I miss seeing you all face-to-face each Sunday morning, and the warm greetings of folks I pass in the hallway as I speed toward the sacristy to don my robe and stole with fellow worship leaders.

I miss those few moments on the chancel as I await the start of the prelude.

I miss the way the light comes through the stained glass windows just so, and the gathering of our children with Pastor Caroline on the chancel steps.

I miss the singing, bell playing, and uke strumming of all of our choirs.

I miss so much, and I know you do, too.

Yet even in the midst of such sudden, unimaginable change, we manage to come together every week to worship virtually.

There is a sense of togetherness as the worship service streams over our devices.

It must be a God-thing, because I cannot imagine anyone or anything but God’s Spirit who is able to infuse cyberspace with a sense of the Holy.

I am thankful that the psalmist reminds us of God’s faithfulness, no matter what:

Deep calls to deep at the thunder of your cataracts; all your waves and your billows have gone over me. 

By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.


This, too, shall pass. All of this. The pandemic. The strife. The deep divide.

And God is with us, and will remain with us and all creation for eternity.

The love of our God in Christ will pull us ever deeper into the very heart of God’s Kingdom – we just need to say “yes” and allow God to have God’s own loving, grace-filled way.

In God’s steadfast love and faithfulness, our souls rest, and our thirst is quenched.

May God’s peace be with you today, tomorrow and every day.

An invitation

Rev. Caroline Noll, Associate Pastor, Pastor for Children and Families

I have a vague memory of taking the SAT on a Saturday at Richardson High School.

Mostly I remember the hallway. Tan linoleum floor. Lockers and fluorescent lights.

There were quite a few students from my own school there that day, and we poured out of the various classroom doorways after the verbal portion of the test at the end of the day.

“Oh my goodness! I’ve never even heard of some of those words!” we exclaimed. “Draconian? What in the world is draconian?”

I don’t recall her exact words, but I do remember my childhood friend, Shelly, very nonchalantly rattling off the definition as if was a word 17-year-olds used regularly.

Not this 17-year-old.

When I went home, my mom of course knew what it was. And then later that week, the news anchor had the gall to use the word on the evening news!

Suddenly, the word was everywhere.

Have you had that experience?

You learn a new word or idea or thought, and suddenly you hear it and see it everywhere!

The book you’ve been enjoying or the TV show you’ve been binge watching suddenly has an anecdote or quote for every conversation!

The words and thoughts that fill our minds and our time are coincidentally and amazingly suited for each occasion we encounter.

But it’s not coincidence, is it?

The things we surround ourselves with, spend time with, they matter.

They shape us and mold us. Words, songs, shows, people, places.

They become a part of us, sometimes by invitation and with awareness, but always permeating.

So what does this have to do with the gospel? Is this just some moralistic lesson to do good?

I believe it’s an invitation. Not from me, but from our creator God who has hope and faith and love in us and for us.

God who came in Jesus to love us fully and show us the way. The Holy Spirit who prompts us with this invitation all the time, everywhere.

An invitation to take the time to stay in love with God because you are loved by God.

To spend time in prayer, whether that’s breathing or silence or reading or speaking or writing or singing!

To worship, online, in your homes, in creation.

To connect with those in your world who see you in part as God sees you, and who encourage you and listen to you as you do for them.

To read the words of scripture that you might encounter the living Word.

God is with us. We are not alone. May you see and know God’s presence everywhere.