June 14, 2024

Thank you for hanging with me on this journey through Paul Simon’s “Seven Psalms.” I encourage you to give it a close listen sometime when you have a half hour to soak it it in. While I love our worship music, I have always been intrigued and inspired by mainstream artists who are not afraid to explore matters of faith in nontraditional ways. God doesn’t limit his voice to the sacred, but allows it to be heard in everyday music if you listen closely. In the song, “Sacred Harp,” two travelers pick up two hitchhikers and ask them where they are going. The women answers enigmatically:

The sacred harp

That David played to make his songs of praise

We long to hear those strings

That set his heart ablaze

Their destination is wherever music brings peace and healing, passion and hope. This is an apt summation of  Paul Simon’s life. Seeking this sound has not led him to write one genuine worship hymn. But it has inspired him to write songs that have blessed and inspired, encouraged and united. This summer, let us also “long to hear those strings that sets his heart ablaze.”

Pastor Andy

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June 13, 2024

Know for many upbeat songs like “Feeling Groovy,” and “Graceland,” Simon has his moody side too. The opening lyrics of “Your Forgiveness” are haunting:

Yesterday’s boy is gone

Driving through darkness searching for

Your forgiveness

I’m less sure that people are seeking forgiveness today as they seem to justify everything they do based on their own rules. But honest people are those who realize that they are sinful and broken and cannot heal themselves. Being forgiven by someone brings healing and wholeness, even more so when that someone is The One. But where can the seeker find forgiveness? Simon seems to turn to baptismal imagery as a possibility. We are reminded that God’s gracious washing of us in baptism and feeding of us in communion are reassurance of that those who seek forgiveness, receive it in abundance.

Dip your hand in heaven’s waters

All of life’s abundance in a

drop of condensation

Dip your hand in heaven’s waters
Pastor Andy

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June 12, 2024

Paul Simon’s song, “My Professional Opinion,” reflects his tongue in cheek thoughts about the current divide we are experiencing in our country. While Simon has never sought to be political, his songs like “Sound of Silence,” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” have prophetic power. He’s teasing us to “slow down, you’re going too fast,” as this culture war continues to accelerate. The song ends in an unlikely couplet:

All that really matters

Is the one who became us

Anointed and gamed us

With His opinions

What a powerful thought-that what matters most right now is for us to remember that God became us! He sent his Son to a broken world to bring healing and hope. Those who believe have indeed been “anointed” with a new spirit of love and invited to let go of our opinions and take on the mind of Christ! The most powerful witness of Christians today must be that no matter what dividers us, God unites us. 
Pastor Andy

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June 11, 2024

The second of Paul Simon’s “Seven Psalms” feels like it is inspired by the love poetry of the Song of Solomon. The Song of Solomon can be read completely as a rather steamy interchange between lovers. The Jews adopted it as a love story between Israel and Yahweh. Here, Simon may be speaking of his relationship with his wife and singer Edie Brickell. Or is he using that to describe the intimacy and security of a relationship with God?

I lived a life of pleasant sorrows

Until the real deal came

Broke me like a twig in a winter gale

Called me by my name

“A life of pleasant sorrows,” is an interesting description of life before or without faith. Not totally bad but totally empty until the “real deal” comes. Being broken “like a twig” can certainly be part of the experience of coming to faith yet we also remember the healing power of Jesus when he calls Mary Magdalene by name at the tomb. How has faith come to you and how does it feel to know he knows your name?
Pastor Andy

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June 10, 2024

I won’t be playing Paul Simon’s new album “Seven Psalms” at any pool parties soon, but I think it will be my summer song of 2024. It’s a long song, 33 minutes, made up of seven songs (psalms) he wrote after a night time vision. He’s not a typically religious person, but the songs are filled with fresh and interesting spiritual ideas I want to explore this week. Here is a section from the first psalm “The Lord” that clearly takes its inspiration from Psalm 23.

I’ve been thinking about the great migration

Noon and night they leave the flock

And I imagine their destination

Meadow grass, jagged rock

The Lord is my engineer

The Lord is the earth I ride on

The Lord is the face in the atmosphere

The path I slip and I slide on

The first four lines are about the large number of modern people leaving religion, the great migration. What will they find when they leave the “flock.” He imagines some might find grass but others jagged rock. In non-traditional terms he affirms that he chooses to follow the Lord who is his engineer and the path he slips and slides on (remember his song, “Slip Sliding Away?”) At 81 years old, Paul Simon makes a vague but personal confession of faith that just might resonate with others who long to have a Lord. How would you describe the Lord you trust in?
Pastor Andy

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June 7, 2024

I have been watching a series on the History Channel called Alone. They leave individuals alone on an island off of the coast of Canada to see if they can survive the weather and the animals. Half a million dollars is waiting for the individual who can outlast all of them. Four of them tapped out in under twenty four hours due to howling wolves and roaming bears. One contestant said “I didn’t sign up to be stalked by a bunch of bears.” The video camera that was next to his tent showed two big black bears sniffing right next to his tent. Though they did not attack him they seemed too curious in him and he called for the rescue crew to extract him out of his area. Had he stayed, there may have been a day of reckoning in which he would only have his knife to try and keep away two black bears that would want him for food. In our text today Amos reminds the people of Israel that a day was coming when a man would flee a lion only to find a bear or sit home in safety only to be bitten by a snake. 

18 Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! 

      Why would you have the day of the LORD? 

      It is darkness, and not light, 

      19 as if a man fled from a lion, 

      and a bear met him, 

      or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, 

      and a serpent bit him. 

      20 Is not the day of the LORD darkness, and not light, 

      and gloom with no brightness in it? 

  21 “I hate, I despise your feasts, 

      and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. 

    Amos 5:18–22 (ESV)

Sometimes in life we wish for punishment or the Day of the Lord to come on those who have offended us, caused us pain, or have gone against those commandments of God that we believe are the important ones to be followed. Yet we fail to look at ourselves in a mirror. We fail to remember our own failings and shortcomings with others and especially with God. In war when bombs are dropped from a plane the ground troops always need to make sure they are not dropped too close to them or they will suffer the same catastrophe as their enemies. I wonder if instead of the Lord bringing harm or the Day of the Lord on others that we should instead pray for forgiveness and blessings that might flow over them and onto us. For when we were still sinners, Christ died for us. We should never forget that we too were not deserving of the love of God and His forgiveness poured out to us. If we want to be more like God then less days of judgment and more days of forgiveness.

Pastor Aaron Kruse

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June 6, 2024

Henri Nouwen once said, “What we see, and like to see, is cure and change. But what we do not see and do not want to see is care: the participation in the pain, the solidarity in the suffering, the sharing in the experience of brokenness. And still, cure without care is as dehumanizing as a gift given with a cold heart. (Henri J. M. Nouwen, Out of Solitude, Ave Maria Press, 2008, pp. 35-36)

Matthew 25:35–43 (ESV): 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ 

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’

The quick response to so many is “I will pray for you.” As kind as this may sound, at times we do not need prayer but the touch of a hand who heals our wounds, the meal cooked for us out of love, the quiet payment of a bill that cannot be paid, or the hour spent as one listens to a heart being poured out. Care of another is not a means of efficiency or of transactional value. Care for another is the cost of sacrifice and of time spent. Love always costs us. Yet, the cost somehow frees our souls from being encased in the cold tundra of transactional relationships.

Pastor Aaron Kruse

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June 5, 2024

I remember back in college I considered backpacking the entire Appalachian Trail which is 2100 miles long. A book I read encouraged the reader to buy a backpack that can only carry 20 pounds. He shared that the whole experience would change based on the size of one’s backpack. Most inexperienced campers would buy the biggest and heaviest backpack available which would then necessitate the heaviest boots in order to help the ankles and waist handle the extra weight. This would then mean the traveler would not be able to travel as far to each waypoint for more supplies so then the camper would have to carry more supplies further. The writer concluded through his own experience that once one lets go of the perceived desires of camping the right way then everything else changes. I find it amazing that one simple decision in buying a backpack could dramatically change a camper’s 6-month experience on the Appalachian Trail.

John warns us to beware of the love for the things of the world. Let’s read 1 John 2:15–17 (ESV): 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

I find it is easy to get caught up in trendy or techie things of the world by believing that they will make my life easier. Unfortunately, I find they can become like the big fancy backpack, that they only add more weight and complexity to my life. Now, I am not suggesting that we return back to the days of log cabins and living off the land but I am suggesting that sometimes it is easier to trust the things of the world rather than trusting God through prayer for what we need each day. My needs and my desires sometimes look a bit the same some days and I find that I trade in power of prayer for a fancy gizmo or the promise of an easier life. 

So if you had to pause today and make one decision that would change everything in your life, what would it be? Is there one thing in your life that has added complexity to your life? Many times only changing one thing can have a cascading effect that then changes many others things in our lives. So, what is your one thing?
Pastor Aaron Kruse

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June 4, 2024

It was called the Monaco Curse but a couple of Sundays ago Charles Leclarc finally broke the curse and won the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix. Well, in the 1950 Monaco Grand Prix, Juan Manuel Fangio was approaching a dangerous bend for the second time. As he rounded the bend, Fangio noticed that something was wrong. The faces of the spectators were all turned away from him. “If they are not looking at me,” Fangio thought, “they must be looking at something more interesting around the corner.” So he braked hard and carefully rounded the bend, where he saw that his split-second assessment had been accurate. The road was blocked by a massive pileup. Fangio went on to win the race that day. Jesus gives us a warning in the Gospel of Luke of what it will take to win in the Christian life.

Luke 12:41–48 (ESV): 41 Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?” 42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. 47 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

Life can be like driving in a Grand Prix race. It is moving quickly and split second decisions have to be made. Errors involve pile ups and injury to ourselves and others. Jesus reminds us to pay attention to the signs along the road. Just like Fangio was watching his surroundings before he went around a blind bend, we too must not be complacent with our time, money, and relationships. These God has entrusted us with to care for and manage them well for the sake of Christ. Faith is not a ticket to hedonism and power. Instead it calls for us to be a servant to all and a willingness to make sacrifices for others. Remember, this parable was for those who already believed. It is a warning to not take for granted the faith that has been entrusted to you. There may be a pile up waiting for you just around the bend and now is the time to begin preparing for it.

Pastor Aaron Kruse

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June 3, 2024

Upon entering a little country store a stranger noticed a sign saying “DANGER! BEWARE OF DOG!” posted on the glass door. Inside, he noticed a harmless old hound dog asleep on the floor near the cash register. He asked the store’s owner “Is that the dog folks are supposed to beware of?” “Yep,” the proprietor answered, “That’s him.” The stranger couldn’t help being amused. “That certainly doesn’t look like a dangerous dog to me,” he chuckled. “Why in the world did you decide to post that sign?” “Because,” the owner replied, “before I posted that sign, people kept tripping over him.”

32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” Mark 13:32–37 (ESV)

Are people tripping over you? Like the store owner’s old hound we can become lazy in our relationship with Christ. We can take for granted the blessings and gifts that God has given us. We can believe those gifts are for our own prosperity instead of being a blessing for others. We can forget that it is God who has given us all that we have in life. Or we can be like a tree planted by a beautiful stream of water that gives shade and life to those who are under it. What will you choose: to be a curse or a tree of life to all those around you.
Pastor Aaron

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