Personal Notes from Mike
  • Enjoyed visits this weekend from my parents, Mindy, and Scarlette/Tristan/Sean.  Missed seeing Alison and Nelson...but the trip from Madison, Wisconsin is a bit far for them to make with so little time off for their jobs.
  • The next big event in the family comes in 10 days when Jie leaves for her annual trip to China.  She will be gone until June 13.
  • This is my 45th Easter as a pastor.  I've led an Easter Vigil (Saturday night) for 38 of those years.  The joy is undiminished.  The youth group here sponsored a brunch between the worship services today...and it was very nice. I haven't done a Sunrise Easter Service for several years now...and I'm NOT complaining...(celebrating!)  Easter is hard work, and I'm always somewhat exhausted come Easter Sunday afternoon (and my staff and all the volunteers at the church are also exhausted) but it is a good tired and feels like a fitting sacrifice for something so life changing as the Easter Story.

April 16, 2017
We're Having Company
Happy Easter to all!  This is my favorite weekend of the whole year: both as a Christian and as a pastor.  The stories we tell in church are poignant and personally edifying.  And in my pastoral role, the worship services are challenging and satisfying.  To add to the Easter joy this year, Jie and I are having company throughout the weekend:  my parents Friday and Saturday, Mindy on Saturday and Sunday, and Scarlette/Tristan/Sean on Saturday and Sunday.   
I like having company.  When I was a kid, if my mom said, "We're having company," my heart would leap for joy and I would eagerly quiz her for all the details.  Who was coming?  When?  How long were they staying?
Having company is generally a good thing.  The house gets cleaner (not on its own, of course.)  Life's monotony is jiggled.  Curiosities are stimulated.  Stories flow.  Food improves.  Behavior is upgraded.  Sometimes there are even gifts. 
When I was growing up, there were five categories of "company."  We entertained relatives, exotic foreigners, church dignitaries, ordinary church people, and local friends.  The exotic foreigners were usually my dad's seminary classmates who would be invited to spend a weekend with us.  All our relatives lived hours away, and they didn't visit nearly enough for my liking.  Dignitaries were district superintendents or travelling evangelists. If it was a district superintendent, we always brought out the best china and silver for the meal.  But I always wished we would have had a real dignitary visit, frequently daydreaming that my mom would surprise us one day by saying, "Guess what kids...we're having company for supper:  the President of the United States will be here, so we need to get the house picked up." Likewise, anyone from the Chicago Cubs would have been great.
Ordinary church folks didn't visit often when I was growing up.  It's probably because ours was a house full of boys and nobody wanted to get stuck in the middle of all that.  Sometimes my parents would have an old woman from the church come to the house and watch us while they went out. Some were better than others.  We had little affection for tough old women who put up with no nonsense.  Our preferences were the sweet old ladies who could be manipulated.  Our favorite was Elizabeth Loving (I'm not making up the name) who would play church with us, listen to my sermons, and root through her purse to give my brothers some coins when they took up the offering.
I liked having my friends come over, but I never put them in the category of "company."  Perhaps that's because we'd spend most of our time outside, hiking or playing ball.  When my brothers had friends over, they weren't company either, they were nuisances.  

But the best of all company was my grandparents.  I had a full set of grandparents until I graduated from high school:  Grandpa and Grandma Haworth and Grandpa and Grandma Smith.  Since both sets lived on the other side of the state from us, visits were rare, maybe a couple times a year for each set.  Grandpa and Grandma Haworth would never let my parents scold us.  It was great.  And Grandpa and Grandma Smith would always bring  food and snacks when they came...mostly stuff my mom didn't think was good for us.  It was great. 
The word "company" is from Latin and means "to share bread."  When someone comes our way and gets involved enough to eat with us, they are company.  The UPS man is not company.  (I'm excited when the UPS man shows up at my door, but it isn't as good as when company shows up.  

And maybe that's why I love the Easter stories so much.  People who thought they'd never experience Jesus' company again suddenly do. Jesus always loved being company.  And as soon as God makes him alive again, what does he do?  He goes from house to house, and town to town, and suddenly becomes "company," like he always did ...and always will.  

May we be surprised and delighted by his company today, and always.     --Mike

 The Sunday letter is something I have done now for over 20 years.  It is a disciplined musing:  mindfulness, memory, and imagination.  I write it when I first wake up on a Sunday morning and then share it with the congregation.  The letter you see published here is usually revised from what the congregation receives.  This discipline of thinking and writing puts me in the place of describing rather than advising.  It prepares me to proclaim the gospel rather than get preachy with the souls who will sit before me.  --JMS


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