Pastor Connection
January 28, 2021
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A Note from Pastor Amy
"Soul" the latest movie from Disney has become a favorite in my house. It is a lovely story that explores existential questions like purpose and the meaning of life. I highly encourage people of all ages to watch it. Without giving any spoilers, I will share one thing about the movie that has stuck with me this week (though, there are many things about the movie that would be good fodder for a Pastor Connection even a Lenten study).

The movie defines a lost soul as a person who becomes so fixated on something that they are cut off from the the things that give life. What's interesting about this definition is that the issue or item of ultimate concern is not deemed as good or bad. It is merely that the fixation is all consuming. A person could become fixated about work, or self image, or money, or a hobby, or a certain drive, or a relationship. It's not the thing that causes someone to become lost. It's the fixation itself. The person becomes consumed, their life is disoriented, and then suddenly they don't have much of a life at all.

I couldn't help but think of this image when reading this Sunday's sermon text: Mark 1:21-28. It's Jesus' first act of public ministry according to the gospel of Mark, which is important. When we read each of the gospels, Jesus' first act of public ministry shares a bit of insight into that gospel writers' Christology.

For Mark, Jesus is first seen as an exorcist. I know...that is not necessarily the most comforting image. We are much more prone to accept Jesus as teacher, healer, shepherd, miracle worker, comforter, and friend. But in Mark, Jesus confronts a man with an unclean spirit in synagogue and commands that destructive force to leave. There is no denying it. Jesus is an exorcist.

Admittedly, this story can be hard for us to relate to. I for one, don't walk around expecting cosmic battles with unclean spirits being exorcized from my friends and family. I'm sure I'm not alone. So, many times this story is tamed with interpretations that explain away the "unclean spirit" as a mental health issue or disease like epilepsy.

But, there is danger in those explanations. First of all, they can do immense harm to those who are actually suffering from health issues, promising quick fixes with bad theology. Saying that the man in the synagogue was ill equates healing with measures of faithfulness and illness with measures of sin and evil. Yuck!

But second of all, and perhaps even more detrimental, interpretations that try to tame this story are prone to let us all off the hook. The truth is, we might actually know how it feels to be consumed by an "unclean spirit." Let me explain - in the Jewish understanding of purity laws, the term "uncleanliness" was assigned to anything that cut someone off from the promise of life. We may not see spirits or exorcisms, but we know what that feels like. To use the definition from the new movie I love, we know what it means to be consumed by a fixation, disoriented, and then lost.

In those situations, we need Jesus to come into our world with the power of God and shake us back into a new orientation. I think this is what Jesus was trying to do throughout his ministry with his message "The Kingdom of God has drawn near," which we read just last week. Jesus came into this world preaching a message of reorientation to the promises of love, hope, justice, and community. He continued to confront the forces that lead us astray to become lost souls and a lost world.

This Sunday's story is another picture of Jesus reorienting us. To those forces that consume us, Jesus say, "Be quiet! Come out!" Then, Jesus invites us to the promise of life and life abundant. He invites us to emerge from a lost soul to a person focused on the vision Jesus' promises for each of us and our world.

I'll end my note simply asking some questions for you to consider:
  1. What fixations do you have that cut you off from life?
  2. What destructive forces have seemed to consume you?
  3. What things are life giving that help you see Jesus a bit more clearly?

May God's Kingdom continue to guide each of us this week.

Peace,
Pastor Amy
Helping with the Presbyterian Pantry
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With Sunday Supper suspending, some may wonder how they can help distribute food to those who need a little extra help. You are encouraged to consider volunteering with the Presbyterian Pantry at Westminster. This relatively new food pantry has been supported by some of our Sunday Supper funds and continues to offer food assistance in a spirit of unity between the 5 Presbyterian Churches in the Cedar Valley.

It operates on the first Saturday of the month, 9-11 a.m. and the 3rd Thursday of the month, 4:30-6:30 p.m. Volunteers come a half hour early to help. You may click the following link to sign up as a volunteer. Should anyone wish to help pre-pack the day prior to pantry openings, please call the church directly at 234-5501. 

Correction about Hat and Mitten Tree
Last week we reported that Hats and Mittens collected in December were given to Salvation Army and People's Clinic. We have a small correction. They were given to Cunningham and Hospitality House. We hope to give some to People's Clinic in the future. Salvation Army is not receiving donations at this time. Thank you again for your generous giving. Your gifts have helped to keep people warm this winter.
Tuesday Bible Study

We meet for Tuesday morning Bible study at 9:00 a.m. each week. Pastor Pat will be leading a discussion this coming Tuesday on the sermon text for Sunday. We hope to see you there!
Zoom Link for Bible Study: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87122450563
Meeting ID: 871 2245 0563
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Grand Sweep Bible Study

A new Session of the Grand Sweep Bible Study has begun! This Winter, we will start studying the New Testament. This class is led by the pastors from the PCUSA churches in the Cedar Valley. The class meets weekly on Tuesday evenings at 6:00 p.m. and lasts until 7:30 p.m. and discusses a new book each week via Zoom. Please let Pastor Amy is you'd like to join the group. She can help you get connected to the group's email updates and Zoom meeting notifications.
Church Annual Reports Available Starting Monday
Church Annual Reports for 2020 will be available starting next Monday (February 1). While we are not sending out the annual report in a mass mailing or email, annual reports are available to any church member upon request. You may pick one up at the office. You may also call the office to request that one be mailed to you through the post office. You may also email Pastor Amy, who can send an electronic copy. The church congregational meeting will be Sunday, February 14, at 10:30 a.m.
Pastor Amy on Leave
Pastor Amy will be on leave Monday, February 1 - Sunday, February 7. Pastor Pat will be available for pastoral care concerns in her absence. There will be no Pastor Connection on Thursday, February 4 while Pastor Amy is gone.
Ways to Give
Thank you for the generous ways you continue to support our church ministry. Remember that you can also give online. May God bless our offerings.
Church Snow Policy
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With the snowy weather, we would like to remind you of our church snow policy. If Waterloo Schools cancel, then our church office is closed for the day. If Waterloo Schools delay opening, please call the church before coming to the office. It might take staff a little longer to get on the road. Thanks for your understanding.
In Our Thoughts and Prayers
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With Our Sympathy:
Rev. Bob Roof passed away Sunday, January 24. Rev. Roof was an Interim Pastor at Waterloo First several years ago. We pray for his entire family during this time. Service plans are being made for the late Spring.

Updates:
Bob Cutsforth learned recently that his cancer is back. He will not be seeking treatment at this time.

Ongoing/Continuing Prayers:
Kason (Connie Leeper's daughter-in-law's nephew) who is recovering from brain surgery, Florence Ramsell at Northcrest, Mary K Williams recovering from surgery at home, Steve Miller recovering from surgery at home, Jan Bellinger, recovering from knee surgery at home; Jim Clarke receiving treatment for cancer; prayers of safety for Barbara Benskin's son who is a trucker; Neva Kerr, New Aldaya (Hospice); Paul Holtz, Hospice Care

Add to the Prayer List
Click HERE to submit a prayer request online. Our pastors will be praying for you and sharing concerns with the congregation as requested.
Happy Birthday!
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January
31 Stacy Robinson, Mike Shea

February
1 Jan Schwab
4 Gerald Buls, Sue Roberts
5 Darlys Varner
6 Blandine Mananga, Jackie Reisinger
7 Don Broadston
9 Colleen Jessen. Florence Ramsell
11 Harold Haasis
12 Bruce Bowers, Carol Carroll, Jean Curran, 
13 Sheryl Berry-Rudic, David McQuilkin, Susan Wexter
14 Bill Davis
17 David Dutton, Robert Junge
20 Emma Schellhorn
21 Marvin Carroll
22 Krystal Matthias
25 Jan Bellinger
26 Aubrey Robinson
27 Mary K. Williams
28 Dean Bellinger, Nicholas Ellsworth
29 Michelle Schellhorn

First Presbyterian Church | Waterloo, IA | 319-233-6145 | www.1stpresby.org