The Time Has Come

Some things in life are inevitable. An old saw will tell us that death and taxes are the only two, but there are, of course, more. Sunshine and rain, the turning of the seasons, politics, emotion…the wheel never stops turning. People are born, people grow up, people die. Time rolls on. New folks enter your life, old folks move on. Interim Pastors come, share your road for a while, and then they leave.

If you hearken back to when I first came, you may remember that first Sunday, when I preached about the Lone Ranger, Scooby Doo, and Doctor Who. I talked about how in all these stories, there are Strangers who arrive in a new context. They talk with locals, seeking to understand the context. They identify problems or concerns, whether interior or exterior, using input from neighbors. They equip locals to solve or address those problems.

And then, they get back in their mode of transport, and they leave.

It’s an ancient story, one full of meaning and history. The Benevolent Interloper, the Helpful Stranger. You see this story in movies and tales throughout our culture. But central to the idea of this character, this figure in myth and literature, is that they do – indeed, they MUST – leave. These are travelers and wanderers, cursed and blessed to be always on the move, always drifting, never, ever, settling down.

When I took the role of Interim Pastor among you, I knew that my time would be limited. I had work to do, the tasks of a Pastor, and the tasks of an Interim – both comforting you all in your transition and pointing out the places you that you all told me you felt you had improvements you wanted to make.

At the front of my mind, always, though, was the fact that at some point I was going to hop my car and get moving. My work among you would finish – indeed, it has done, and so my time here draws to a close.

I hope – I pray – that I leave you all better than I found you. I hope you have more questions, more ideas, more stories, more knowledge. I hope you have seen different possibilities and different ways. I hope you have felt stretched and challenged.

The time has come. The villain is unmasked, the crooked mine owner is in the hands of the marshal, and the bug-eyed monsters are in retreat. It’s time for me to go.

God bless you all – I shall never forget you.

-Pastor Matt

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Laudato Si’ – His Holiness Pope Francis on Climate Change

Laudato-si-Special-Edition-1200If you’ve been attending public worship here, then you know that the theme for this summer is “growth.” We are talking about spiritual growth, personal growth, about growth in the church, and about how things grow – what it means in our culture and society to grow.

It seemed fitting to me, then, that as I was crafting sermons and messages on issues of growth, the publishing offices of the Vatican should release Laudato Si’, a Papal Encyclical letter addressed to the whole of the human community. His Holiness writes that “We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.” These letters, often written merely for the Catholic Community, speak to the critical moments and concerns of our time. In this case, the letter reaches beyond Catholicism, beyond even Christianity and into our common human experience, in all walks of life.

This was a hard letter to read for three reasons: firstly it is quite long. I have, in fact, run out of time to read it fully before our publication deadline in the Chimes – it is some 180 dense pages of environmental facts, theological connections, and calls to action.

This is the second difficulty of the letter – it is thick and rich like an excellent stew, full of food for thought and meditation. It presents complex ideas, challenging truths, and nourishing hope in equal measure.

Mostly, though, it is difficult because it speaks to a reality we would love to deny – the reality that the Earth “now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.” In every area of human life and development, in mining and farming and fishing and construction and waste, as well as in our social structures and our systems of government, we have aligned ourselves against the earth – against her stewardship, and in favor of plundering her resources, not to be cultivated for us all, but to be squandered by a few.

In many parts of our country and the world, we have commodified access to safe, clean water – made it a product to be purchased, rather than a resource to be shared. We in the United States are guilty of enormously selfish use of the Colorado River, draining it for our own populations and agriculture and leaving only a trickle to our southern neighbors in Mexico. Even in Denver, the gathering of rainwater for personal use is banned as an abridgment of the water rights of others. In the poorest parts of the world, there is no access to safe drinking water at all. “Yet access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights,” says the Pope.

A full recitation of our environmental ills would take many pages of the Chimes, so I will stand with the Pope and the leaders of the Catholic Church to say this: “The warming caused by huge consumption on the part of some rich countries has repercussions on the poorest areas of the world.” In short, our contributions to global climate change will not be felt most keenly in Denver or Phoenix or even in Fresno. They will be felt in Kinshasa and Nairobi, in Cuzco and Brasilia.

I, along with the Pope, the Presbyterian Mission Agency, the Evangelical Environmental Network, and many other organizations, feel this to be the greatest moral issue of our times. Our global irresponsibility is having life and death consequences today on the world’s most vulnerable. If we hope at all that the church will be a place of growth, we must start by tending to our own, literal gardens – caring for this “very good” (Genesis 1) world that our God has created for us. We must recognize that we are all interconnected, and that we have a moral responsibility to lives in Peru and Rwanda, in Angola and Argentina, to preserve the world and to share its resources that all may thrive and flourish.

I encourage you to read Laudato Si’, and to investigate with the Evangelical Environmental Network and other such organizations how you can turn today to make a contribution to the well-being of all the people of the world. Our time is running out – there is no better time than today to make a change in your own life.

Blessings be to you all, and to our Sister Earth.


-Pastor Matt

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And Then the Sun Came Out, or, and Then Your Pastor Gloated Relentlessly for Days

This has been something of a peculiar month in Colorado, due entirely to the inclement weather. For weeks, in Denver it had been constantly raining or overcast, chillier than May should indicate, and the vaunted 300 days of sun they bandy about in the tourist lit seemed like a distant dream. On social media, at coffee hour, standing in line at the grocery store, the note was constant and consistent.

“This is awful and terrible. It’s never like this in Colorado. I can’t stand this much longer. I’m going nuts!”

Oh, dear friends.

You must understand, I was raised in Washington State, on the Western slope of the Cascades. In that part of the country, the weather pattern is this: the clouds run into the mountains, and the mountains drop a significant percentage of their water directly in the foothills of my childhood. And those clouds are there MOST of the time.

I grew up with months at a time of grey skies, completely undifferentiated. With the piercing white of a cloud-full sky as the canvas of the heavens. And, as a Washingtonian, I can differentiate for you between misting, spitting, sprinking, spritzing, drizzling, and, very occasionally, just plain old raining. It wasn’t until I came East that I encountered the broader variations of bucketing and torrential downpour, the hard rains of a harder part of the world.

So, as many of the folks at church bemoaned the hideously dreary weather, I felt…normal. Regular. This was standard weather for me, the daily storms, the constant clouds. If, in Washington, we got a little down whenever it was cloudy for a week running, we would never get anything done. We adapt, internalize the fact that sometimes, the skies are just boring. And we move on.

And then…then it’s dawn on a Sunday, early for the 8 a.m. service. And as you look out the window to the North, you can see that bright, peculiar Colorado blue sky, laced with fleeting clouds. The next day, it’s not an indistinct twilight that wakes you, but sunlight streaming in the windows. You breathe in deeply, and the air is crisper – brighter. Warmer.

Colorado was and has been a revelation for me, in large part because it is the gift unexpected. I’m still not prepared to accept that I live surrounded by this natural glory, by the brilliance of the sun, by the friendliness of the people. And the unexpectedness of the gift makes it all the more precious – it helps to instill in us a sense of gratitude. 

Of all Christian virtues, I suspect that gratitude may be the most important – the most central to the living out of grace in our daily lives. Truly, if we did not need grace, we would have no reason to be thankful for it. If we were not thankful for grace, the whole of the artifice of the church would collapse. It is the gratitude that provides the soil for all manner of Christian virtues.

We did not earn Colorado. We did not win for ourselves 300 days of sun a year. These are gifts of God, presented to us for reasons beyond what we can understand. When the sun smiles on you today, remember that this day is a precious gift, and be grateful.

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The Kids

It’s so commonly said that it’s become a bit of a joke at seminaries and among pastors. When asked where a church feels called to ministry in their local community, one response floats often to the top. “We really want to minister children!” church leaders will respond. Push a little bit on that statement, why folks want to bring in children, and the truth is out: “If we bring in more kids, their parents will come along, too, and that will keep the church alive and kicking!”

I can’t fault the impulse. In all the time of my ministry, I have only ever known two congregations that were not existentially afraid – two out of the eight or so churches I’ve worked with that weren’t concerned with their growing age and the dearth of young adults in worship.

I do, however, deeply fault the logic, and all because of my college freshman philosophy class.

Immanuel Kant, 18th century German moral philosopher, spent a chunk of the “Grounding on the Metaphysics of Morals” on the question of what constituted a moral act. He ended one such line of thinking with the proposition that one such moral act was to treat a human as an “end in itself.” That is to say – humans are, morally speaking, not to be used as means to an end, but as valuable for and in themselves.

When we see the people in our community as things that we NEED – as a sort of commodity that we can buy with children’s programming and coffee – we have lost any sense of these folks as ends in themselves, and are instead trying to use them as a means to a laudable end, the preservation of the church.

God calls us not to need other people in this way, but, rather, to have something to GIVE – a series of wondrous gifts, our hospitality and our friendship and the good news of Jesus Christ. And I am enormously excited when I see us sharing those gifts with children.

If we’re going to minister to children, let it be because we have something we want to give them! Let’s tell the Bible stories that touched our hearts, let’s play and listen and share! We have gifts to give, gifts that will treat each child as a beloved daughter or son of God, as valuable as just who they are.

“Allow the children to come to me,” Jesus said. “Don’t forbid them, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to people like these children.” If we take Christ at his word, then even God’s kingdom is not ours, but belongs to these children, these kids. And our responsibility, to the best of our ability, is to give it to them. Not for our sake, but for theirs. 

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One million bread tabs

Do you have plastic bread tabs? Do you need to get RID OF THEM in a good cause! Here it is!

My Truant Pen

Ten years ago, my mom decided to help her 6th grade class understand just how big a “million” is. We throw the word out lightly. “My mom told me like a million times to clean my room.” “There are a million legos in my son’s room which he hasn’t cleaned”.

It was a memorable moment in Austin Powers when a million dollars went from a lot of money to a trivial amount over the course of a few decades:

One million ... bread tabs? One million … bread tabs?

Anyway, she’s at just about the halfway mark of the million bread tabs. She does not plan on teaching for another ten years, though, so it’s time to hit the gas on the project!

We’re asking you to save your bread tabs, and then send them in to the school to help them in their quest for a million.

The address is:

Columbia Crest A-STEM…

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Practice Makes Perfect

Out walking a few days ago, I passed by the fields at Mullen High School, our local Catholic parochial school. As has become apparent at a number of local practice fields, including Schaefer and Mullen, it is most definitely Lacrosse season*. The kids at Mullen were, mostly, standing around waiting for their coach to get back to them. But a small group had moved off to the side, and were practicing passing to one another and how they might recover from a drop.

It was a strange, smily moment for me, as I recalled the days of my youth playing basketball. I remembered just that moment at a practice when we would have a lull and would turn to shooting or passing drills – that sense of constant repetition, to burn into mind and body the actions and movements that make for a truly spectacular athlete.

And then I thought about the church.

What is it, I asked myself, that sets apart a truly exceptional Christian? How could we drill ourselves like these young students to become truly excellent at our faith. What would it mean, with three or four people standing around with nothing better to do, to practice Christianity together?

If you weren’t aware, the Catholics drill as hard at some parts of this as they rehearse their lacrosse players. But here are a few ways that you and your neighbors might try to stay in peak spiritual condition.


I mean, honestly, this one’s a bit of a no-brainer, but this is where the historical church really shone and where we’ve lost a bit of our edge. When was the last time, other than a worship service, that you recited the Lord’s Prayer? Do you pray before meals? Do you pray before sleep? What would it mean if, when you had a moment to take a break, you were to just start praying? Have you ever prayed a Protestant rosary (spiritual calisthenics if ever there were any)?

There are as many ways to pray as there are grains of sand on the shore – can you find a prayer discipline that speaks to your heart daily?


A few Sundays ago in worship, we recited a bit of the Heidelberg Catechism. If any of you learned as children and can now remember any part of your catechism, good for you! If you’ve never encountered a catechism before in your life, well – now’s as good a time as any! The catechism provides historical answers to questions that Christians have struggled with over the centuries, and can help ground your own thinking and exploration of God’s work in our lives. Try learning or memorizing one question and answer per day! I recommend the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Bonus: there is scholarship money available from the PC(USA) for students who memorize the catechism!


Both the easiest and hardest of spiritual exercises, the daily experience of compassion and kindness constantly brings us closer to God. Like Boy Scouts of old, we can go about our regular, daily lives prepared to be a help to our neighbors – unloading groceries, providing water to the thirsty, being a kind and caring voice to those in active distress…the list of ways that you can stretch your compassionate muscles is endless.

What am I missing in this brief list? How do you practice staying in spiritual shape?

*Honestly, it might have been field hockey. I’m not so great at telling.

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A good minister friend of mine posted this. How do you carry your ashes?

Lent is my season. It has always been my season.

Out of all the seasons of the Christian calendar, Lent is the one that’s a little dimmer, more somber. Shades of dark purples and grey instead of bright reds and whites and greens. In comparison to the other seasons, which all seem to be about the Light or the coming of the Light or the fire of the Light’s presence on earth, Lent is the singular season when we’re called to darkness.

It’s the season of repentance, of lament, of reflection, when our hearts are called to strip away that which distracts us from engaging with the present reality of who we are and where we’re at, to shut out the constant barrage of noise and information overload and let ourselves sit in the silence that so often terrifies us.

I like that silence, and I like a touch of the darkness, too. I’ve always…

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