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Lenten Reflection Three; Persistent Patience

Don’t Grab the Marshmallow

We want it now. Instant gratification is the drug of our consumer culture. But as shown among young children in the famous marshmallow experiment, developing patience is key to emotional development. For our inward spiritual journey, it’s a necessity. “We’re so attuned to instant gratification in our daily life that we want it in our spiritual life too: instant wisdom, instant growth, instant clarity, instant wisdom.” (The Samaritan Song blog, L. Phillips) A pilgrimage is like a drug rehabilitation program from our addiction to instant gratification. We practice watchful waiting, getting there step by step.

Question: What am I waiting for?

Does Your Anchor Hold?

Patience requires the development of memory and attention span. In our inward journey, we remember our story in the sweep of God’s story. And we hold our focus, freer from distractions. A pilgrimage helps. But also, retreating to a contemplative space. Either way, it’s how our anchor holds. In the Middle Ages, some withdrew to hermitages called “anchor-holds.” In Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard writes,

…some anchor-holds were simple sheds clamped to the side of a church like a barnacle…I think of this house clamped to the side of Tinker Creek as an anchor-hold. It holds me at anchor to the rock bottom of the creek itself and keeps me steadied in the current.

Exercise: Select a word or theme, like God’s love, or peace, or hunger, or forgiveness…whatever draws your deep curiosity or your inner disquiet. Hold your attention there, either while walking or retreating to a safe space. When your mind wanders, just observe what passes through, and then gently return. See how long your focus can be grounded. Write and if you’d like to, share.

Lenten Reflection Two: Real Presence

Walk Away from Screens

Let’s face it. We’re attached. Our faces are glued to our screens. This “irresistible attraction to screens is leading people to feel as though they’re ceding more and more of their autonomy when it comes to deciding how they direct their attention.” (Cal Newport in Digital Minimalism) But when you walk on an unfamiliar path, it’s nearly impossible to have your eyes riveted to your digital screen. You’re likely to trip, and you’ll certainly miss wonders being revealed on your path. “The invitation to walk brings us to a place where we can slowly clear away the constant preoccupations running in the background, and sometimes the foreground, of our minds.” (Without Oars, p. 39) Our attention turns to basic questions. Like this one.

Question: Why are you who you are where you are?

“Wisdom is not the result of mental effort”

Those words of Richard Rohr’s are a valuable guide. A pilgrimage is a confession that we can’t discover our true self or maintain a vital connection to God, just by thinking. Our busy minds won’t get us there. An inward journey of the whole person uncovers layers far deeper than just thought. Three steps are necessary in our pilgrim walk.

• Detachment, as we step away routine obsessions.

• Attention, another name for prayer, open to inner promptings.

• And connection, discovering our true self, hidden with others in a love behind and within all

things.

Those steps can help us touch our soul.

Exercise: Decide how long you can detach from screens. Try just a day. Or three. No phone. No

computer. No iPad. No TV. Detach. Pay attention. And discover where you connect. Write in your

journal or share with your group.

Lenten Reflection One, An Invitation

Our Lenten Journey begins, using the Reflection Guide that coincides with pastor Holbrook’s preaching.

Without Oars: Casting Off into a Life of Pilgrimage

By Wesley Granberg-Michaelson

Reflection Guide

An Invitation

Whether you’re reading this in a sea of tumult, roiling political waters, fierce climate changes affecting lands by fire and water – or during a pandemic – your life has likely been disrupted from whatever “normal” may have meant.

It’s time to reset our souls. Can we learn to step away from the anxieties and crippling fatigue that seem to imprison us, and step forward in a journey to replenish our inner lives? That’s the promise of a life of pilgrimage. Through courageous relinquishment, we can discover the ways of walking and being in the world that will strengthen our outward journey, walking into a promised future.

Those forces which have worn us down are formidable. Political toxins have invaded with ferocity the spaces where we think and live. Public life has been poisoned, almost mortally, by political schisms and elections. Pervasive fears seem overpowering. Inner anxieties have cascaded into the public sphere, fracturing many of our hopes for work toward the common good.

Further, criminal police brutality instigated a massive movement of racial reckoning in the nation’s life. America’s original sin of racism and white supremacy was revealed, once again, as a moral

corruption chiseled into our corporate soul.

So of course we’re exhausted emotionally, politically, and spiritually. Our inner resources seem sucked dry at a time when we are called on to have even greater strength for the work ahead. We thirst, panting for living springs. We hunger, longing for the bread of life.

Whether for an hour, a week, a few minutes, or the duration of reading a book, it’s time for us to take a step back from the frantic and frenetic tumult that has swept over our society, and re-center our souls.

Already, we have experienced some hints of what this offers. Time for long-postponed walks on new trails, overdue connections via Zoom with treasured friends, dinners lengthened with leisure

rather than punctuated by another urgent appointment. Perhaps we’ve rediscovered some of these deeper longings which now require space for exploration.

Re-centering our souls helps us know how to step forward, not in reaction or fear, but with intentional, courageous purpose, on a pilgrimage.

If this resonates with you, let me invite you on a journey of renewal. Decide to embark on a pilgrimage. This may include a physical journey to a holy place. Or it may be an interior journey, in a quiet, solitary space. But your life will move, with holy purpose.

Without Oars: Casting Off into a Life of Pilgrimage is not a book about pilgrimages, per se, although that is included. Rather, it’s an invitation to begin the journey of renewal. My hope is that you will be challenged to work with the text and travel down its roads, trusting that you will discover a wellspring nurturing your life forward.

Casting off into a pilgrimage, whether real or virtual, beckons us to leave things behind. The book outlines ten such movements helping us discern what is essential to keep, and what baggage hinders us from moving forward. This reflection guides works with each movement, offering simple suggestions to prompt and probe your journey.

I invite you to walk together with me, with holy purpose, toward a holy and renewing place.

Suggestions for the use of this Reflection Guide:

Brief reflections, quotes, a question and an exercise are included for ten days, based on each chapter. You may choose to do this once a week, for ten weeks, or fit them into a season like Advent or Lent. You might go on a ten-day retreat. Better yet, I’d encourage you to embark on a ten-day pilgrimage. You could choose a destination that may hold sacred significance. Or you could decide to walk ten to fifteen miles a day, in various directions, planned or discovered, returning to a home base each time. Whatever you do, include

some walking each day, because pilgrimage is an embodied practice.

The guide can be used in a solitary way, in dialogue with yourself, and hopefully God, assisted by your words in a journal. But you could also embark on this pilgrimage with a group. Perhaps you might meet once a week or once a month, working through the questions and exercises together. Or, to build community that would likely last a lifetime, you might choose to go on a ten-day pilgrimage together, using the book and this Reflection Guide to shape your time.

I’d welcome hearing your feedback. You can be in touch through my website: www.wesgm.com. You’ll also find some other related resources there.

Buen Camino! Wes Granberg-Michaelson

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Sunday Worship February 20th

Interim pastor Jeff Munroe delivers another powerful sermon. We welcome all to join us at the church at 9:30 AM on Sundays or watch live or watch later.

Link to video on SCRC’s Facebook page: https://fb.watch/bmaW4TD7gw/

Link to full screen video: https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?height=314&href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FSTXReformed%2Fvideos%2F649029606293655%2F&show_text=false&width=560&t=0

Sunday Worship February 13th

Interim pastor Jeff Munroe and family are here with us on St Croix for the next three weeks. Pastor Munroe gives a powerful sermon here…

Link to Facebook video. You do not need a Facebook account to watch it.

https://fb.watch/be9kk7a0jx/

Link to full frame video below….

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Sunday Worship Feb 6th

Interim pastor Taylor Holbrook gets a great send off before he returns to the states for three weeks. The video link is below. You do not need a Facebook account to watch it.

https://fb.watch/be8kE8K7iA/

Link to full frame video below.

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Acts Challenge Day 29

There is no Acts 29. With the end of this book of the Bible, please consider this message from Pastor Taylor…

Acts 29 has been used as a metaphor for the continuing of the gospel story.  Paul’s story ends without conclusion in Rome, but everyone reading this story knew it went on from there all across the world.

With our first day being the challenge given to follow the wise men as the world of the Gentiles was opened up to the message of Jesus, how does this thirtieth day have impact for the story as it lives on in St. Croix?

The next chapter of St. Croix’s story is looking for a new pastoral leader.  What has the reading of Acts done for you in looking forward to the next chapter for this church?

Acts Challenge Day 28

Read Acts 28 and then answer the questions afterwards…

Paul on the Island of Malta

28 After we had reached safety, we then learned that the island was called Malta. The natives showed us unusual kindness. Since it had begun to rain and was cold, they kindled a fire and welcomed all of us around it. Paul had gathered a bundle of brushwood and was putting it on the fire, when a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “This man must be a murderer; though he has escaped from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.” He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. They were expecting him to swell up or drop dead, but after they had waited a long time and saw that nothing unusual had happened to him, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a god.

Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the leading man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for three days. It so happened that the father of Publius lay sick in bed with fever and dysentery. Paul visited him and cured him by praying and putting his hands on him. After this happened, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured. 10 They bestowed many honors on us, and when we were about to sail, they put on board all the provisions we needed.

Paul Arrives at Rome

11 Three months later we set sail on a ship that had wintered at the island, an Alexandrian ship with the Twin Brothers as its figurehead. 12 We put in at Syracuse and stayed there for three days; 13 then we weighed anchor and came to Rhegium. After one day there a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli. 14 There we found believers[a] and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. 15 The believers[b] from there, when they heard of us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage.

16 When we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him.

Paul and Jewish Leaders in Rome

17 Three days later he called together the local leaders of the Jews. When they had assembled, he said to them, “Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our ancestors, yet I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. 18 When they had examined me, the Romans[c] wanted to release me, because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case. 19 But when the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to the emperor—even though I had no charge to bring against my nation. 20 For this reason therefore I have asked to see you and speak with you,[d] since it is for the sake of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.” 21 They replied, “We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brothers coming here has reported or spoken anything evil about you. 22 But we would like to hear from you what you think, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.”

Paul Preaches in Rome

23 After they had set a day to meet with him, they came to him at his lodgings in great numbers. From morning until evening he explained the matter to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the law of Moses and from the prophets. 24 Some were convinced by what he had said, while others refused to believe. 25 So they disagreed with each other; and as they were leaving, Paul made one further statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your ancestors through the prophet Isaiah,

26 ‘Go to this people and say,
You will indeed listen, but never understand,
    and you will indeed look, but never perceive.
27 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
    and their ears are hard of hearing,
        and they have shut their eyes;
        so that they might not look with their eyes,
    and listen with their ears,
and understand with their heart and turn—
    and I would heal them.’

28 Let it be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”[e]

30 He lived there two whole years at his own expense[f] and welcomed all who came to him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

Questions to Consider:

1)  Paul impresses the people by being bit by a serpent and not dying.  They say he must be some kind of god.  He then is involved in healing many on the island.  The goodwill he achieved is rewarded in generosity for all as the ship is loaded with provisions by the islanders.  How has sharing the gospel in your situations helped build goodwill in the community?  Yesterday in worship we talked about reflecting light into the world.  How have you seen that done in your life?

2)  Paul makes it to Rome.  He speaks with the Jewish leaders.  We hear nothing of the emperor or his defense in court.  The Jewish leaders listened, some were convinced and others refused to believe.  Paul closes by quoting Isaiah about their hardness of heart and says this salvation has now been sent to the Gentiles. they will listen.  Do you think it strange after all the detail Luke shares about the journey to Rome that the story ends so abruptly?

3)  Paul stays in Rome for two years and proclaimed the kingdom of God  teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.  And so the story closes.  Is there something else you would want to know about Paul’s time in Rome and the rest of his life?  Why do you think the story stops here?

Acts Challenge Day 27

Read Acts 27 and then answer the questions afterwards…

Paul Sails for Rome

27 When it was decided that we were to sail for Italy, they transferred Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan Cohort, named Julius. Embarking on a ship of Adramyttium that was about to set sail to the ports along the coast of Asia, we put to sea, accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica. The next day we put in at Sidon; and Julius treated Paul kindly, and allowed him to go to his friends to be cared for. Putting out to sea from there, we sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were against us. After we had sailed across the sea that is off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship bound for Italy and put us on board. We sailed slowly for a number of days and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, and as the wind was against us, we sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmone. Sailing past it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea.

Since much time had been lost and sailing was now dangerous, because even the Fast had already gone by, Paul advised them, 10 saying, “Sirs, I can see that the voyage will be with danger and much heavy loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” 11 But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. 12 Since the harbor was not suitable for spending the winter, the majority was in favor of putting to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, where they could spend the winter. It was a harbor of Crete, facing southwest and northwest.

The Storm at Sea

13 When a moderate south wind began to blow, they thought they could achieve their purpose; so they weighed anchor and began to sail past Crete, close to the shore. 14 But soon a violent wind, called the northeaster, rushed down from Crete.[a] 15 Since the ship was caught and could not be turned head-on into the wind, we gave way to it and were driven. 16 By running under the lee of a small island called Cauda[b] we were scarcely able to get the ship’s boat under control. 17 After hoisting it up they took measures[c] to undergird the ship; then, fearing that they would run on the Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and so were driven. 18 We were being pounded by the storm so violently that on the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard, 19 and on the third day with their own hands they threw the ship’s tackle overboard. 20 When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest raged, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.

21 Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul then stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and thereby avoided this damage and loss. 22 I urge you now to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For last night there stood by me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, 24 and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before the emperor; and indeed, God has granted safety to all those who are sailing with you.’ 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. 26 But we will have to run aground on some island.”

27 When the fourteenth night had come, as we were drifting across the sea of Adria, about midnight the sailors suspected that they were nearing land. 28 So they took soundings and found twenty fathoms; a little farther on they took soundings again and found fifteen fathoms. 29 Fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let down four anchors from the stern and prayed for day to come. 30 But when the sailors tried to escape from the ship and had lowered the boat into the sea, on the pretext of putting out anchors from the bow, 31 Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32 Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the boat and set it adrift.

33 Just before daybreak, Paul urged all of them to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have been in suspense and remaining without food, having eaten nothing. 34 Therefore I urge you to take some food, for it will help you survive; for none of you will lose a hair from your heads.” 35 After he had said this, he took bread; and giving thanks to God in the presence of all, he broke it and began to eat. 36 Then all of them were encouraged and took food for themselves. 37 (We were in all two hundred seventy-six[d] persons in the ship.) 38 After they had satisfied their hunger, they lightened the ship by throwing the wheat into the sea.

The Shipwreck

39 In the morning they did not recognize the land, but they noticed a bay with a beach, on which they planned to run the ship ashore, if they could. 40 So they cast off the anchors and left them in the sea. At the same time they loosened the ropes that tied the steering-oars; then hoisting the foresail to the wind, they made for the beach. 41 But striking a reef,[e] they ran the ship aground; the bow stuck and remained immovable, but the stern was being broken up by the force of the waves. 42 The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, so that none might swim away and escape; 43 but the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land, 44 and the rest to follow, some on planks and others on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land.

Read Acts 27

Questions to Consider:

1)  A long chapter that is better suited for the sailors of St. Croix.  Again, the detail that Luke includes is interesting.  Paul predicts there will be calamity if they set sail.  They do and there is calamity.  Do you have inklings or urgings by the Holy Spirit that you act on, or that you fail to act on?

2)  Paul shares that an angel of the God he worships has assured him that there will be no loss of life, but they will have to run aground on some island.  These are pretty clear instructions given by an angel.  How do you interpret biblical angelic experiences?  How would you describe any angelic experiences you have or have not had?

3) Paul keeps all the prisoners alive because the centurion wishes to save Paul.  How does the particular plan of the gospel help those who may not follow the way of Christ in our world?–

Acts Challenge Day 26

Read Acts 26 and then answer the questions afterwards…

Paul Defends Himself before Agrippa

26 Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and began to defend himself:

“I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, because you are especially familiar with all the customs and controversies of the Jews; therefore I beg of you to listen to me patiently.

“All the Jews know my way of life from my youth, a life spent from the beginning among my own people and in Jerusalem. They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that I have belonged to the strictest sect of our religion and lived as a Pharisee. And now I stand here on trial on account of my hope in the promise made by God to our ancestors, a promise that our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship day and night. It is for this hope, your Excellency,[a] that I am accused by Jews! Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?

“Indeed, I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things against the name of Jesus of Nazareth.[b] 10 And that is what I did in Jerusalem; with authority received from the chief priests, I not only locked up many of the saints in prison, but I also cast my vote against them when they were being condemned to death. 11 By punishing them often in all the synagogues I tried to force them to blaspheme; and since I was so furiously enraged at them, I pursued them even to foreign cities.

Paul Tells of His Conversion

12 “With this in mind, I was traveling to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, 13 when at midday along the road, your Excellency,[c] I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and my companions. 14 When we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew[d] language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.’ 15 I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The Lord answered, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But get up and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and testify to the things in which you have seen me[e] and to those in which I will appear to you. 17 I will rescue you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

Paul Tells of His Preaching

19 “After that, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout the countryside of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God and do deeds consistent with repentance. 21 For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. 22 To this day I have had help from God, and so I stand here, testifying to both small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would take place: 23 that the Messiah[f] must suffer, and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”

Paul Appeals to Agrippa to Believe

24 While he was making this defense, Festus exclaimed, “You are out of your mind, Paul! Too much learning is driving you insane!” 25 But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking the sober truth. 26 Indeed the king knows about these things, and to him I speak freely; for I am certain that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” 28 Agrippa said to Paul, “Are you so quickly persuading me to become a Christian?”[g] 29 Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that not only you but also all who are listening to me today might become such as I am—except for these chains.”

30 Then the king got up, and with him the governor and Bernice and those who had been seated with them; 31 and as they were leaving, they said to one another, “This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.” 32 Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to the emperor.”

Questions to Consider:

1)  What’s happened to Peter?  This is the third time we have heard Paul’s conversion story.  He shares it with Agrippa and connects all he is doing to the Hebrew scriptures and the promises made there.  If you remember in Acts 10 we hear Peter’s conversion story as the gospel is opened to the Gentiles, but it is Paul who acts on that in ways that changes the world.  Why do you think Paul was so well equipped to share this message to the Gentiles?  What happened to Peter in relation to sharing with the Gentiles?  (Read Galatians 2)

2)  Agrippa is shocked that Paul is seeking to convert him to Christ as well.  Paul says that is exactly what he hopes for.   Are you afraid to talk of your faith with those who you think may be hostile?

3)   Agrippa concludes that Paul has done nothing wrong, but because he appealed to the emperor he needs to be sent to Rome.  In many ways this is driving toward the vision of Jesus that his disciples would be his witnesses to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria to the utmost parts of the Earth.  Rome had prepared the world for the gospel as Roman roads went out from Rome to the known world.  Paul is taking the gospel to the center of that world.  It will end up in St. Croix from the pathways forged by  Paul.  How do you celebrate the gospel going out from this church on the hill throughout the island of St. Croix and to the utmost parts of the world?