Pastor’s Page

Greetings and blessings to all,

As the people of God situated here in the beautiful greater Ringtown Valley, our two congregations, St. John’s, Ringtown and St. John’s, Brandonville, have been sharing the love of God in our community and in our world for many, many years. As part of the Lutheran tradition in the wider Christian community, we strongly celebrate God’s grace through Jesus Christ as the center of our proclamation, mission and ministry and try to do our best to communicate that grace to all, member and non-member alike. Inspired by this message of hope and life, we work to find numerous ways of communicating God’s love, especially in our local community, through worship, fellowship, service and gaining a deeper understanding of the God who comes to us in Jesus.

We, as congregations, are grateful for our members and all who support the ministry we do here. Ministry only happens when individuals touched by God’s grace and so strengthened in faith come together to create an atmosphere where worship, service, learning and fellowship may take place. As pastor, I am amazed each day by the dedication of those who call St. John’s home. This website is a summary of the ministry which you have done and continue to do in this place.

For those of you who are visiting this congregational website, please know that you are always welcome at either of our congregations. Please feel free to look over this website and, if the Spirit moves you, to participate in worship, fellowship, learning, or service with us. We are happy to include all who wish to share or be a part of Christ’s love.

We rejoice in all of God’s gifts of grace and celebrate our family in Christ. May God continue to bless us with abundant love and guide us in our continued service and fellowship.

Pastor Jay

Invitation for all.
‘Twas five months before Christmas
And all through the land
People relaxed at campgrounds
Or swam near the sand.
Mama had retired at
Quarter to ten
As I lay there watching a
Good movie when
The dogs started barking
And ran to the door,
So I stood up quickly
To traverse the floor.
I pulled on the handle,
The dogs took to flight,
Then I joined them promptly
Out into the night.
The dogs, barking, sped to
The back of the lot,
While I stumbled forward
To their present spot
I followed their gaze and
Looked up to the sky
And couldn’t believe what
I saw with my eye.
The full moon above gave
A lustrous glow
With rays flowing out
Both above and below
And across the moon I was
Surprised to see
What looked like a sleigh flying
Quickly toward me.
It was pulled by nine creatures
And, as it came near,
I recognized that they were
Majestic reindeer.
I looked at the driver,
A jolly, old chap,
Who called to the reindeer
With whistle and clap,
And suddenly lurching
Earthward with a bolt
The sleigh hit the ground
With a bang and a jolt.
Then out jumped a bearded
Plump jolly old elf
Whose appearance caused me
To laugh to myself.
His wardrobe was not what
I thought I would see,
No red suit or hat, nor black
Boots to the knee.
But rather a Hawaiian shirt
Graced his frame
With shorts and some sandals,
Now forward he came
And as he approached with
A wink and a nod,
I watched him in silence
Transfixed, feeling awed.
And laughing, he started to
Reveal to me
His plan that we share with
The community,
To celebrate Christmas
Invite everyone,
For food and some games
And for just having fun.
I looked at him, then, with
A questioning eye
Which he answered quickly
With fullest reply.
“The best way to celebrate
Christmas, dear friend,
Is to share its love daily,
To not let it end.
So gather together this
Summer to share
The joy of God’s presence,
God’s hope and God’s care.
For Christmas is not just
One day kept apart,
But truly realized when its
Held in your heart.
So I will be back on the
Twenty-fourth day
To join with the town in
A Yuletide display.”
And then with a wink he
Turned quickly around
And leaped in his sleigh
With a swift, nimble bound.
While pulling the reigns with
A whistle and shout
He summoned his reindeer
To now turn about.
Then suddenly defying
Gravity’s law
The sleigh took to flight
And prepared to withdraw.
While rising above me
Higher in the sky
Santa bade his charges
To gracefully fly.
“On Dasher, on Dancer
On Prancer and Vixen,
On Comet on Cupid,
On Donner and Blitzen,”
Then calling the reindeer
In front of the team,
“On Rudolf, your nose will
Lead us with its beam.”
Now quickly, like lightening,
The sleigh took to flight
And disappeared into the
Dark of midnight,
While I heard a voice from
The moonlit night sky,
“I shall return soon for
Christmas in July.” Pastor Jay Serafin

Here are the answers to the previous Summer Riddler.
The Return of the Summer Riddler

A giant tried to do me in
When, once, I heard God’s call
So, when I tried to run and hide
Was swallowed all in all.
Another giant showed the way
For God’s will to be done
So that when David slung the rock
He fell, and Israel won.
“Oh Lord, if you had been here then
My brother would have healed.”
These sisters cried to Jesus while
Their brother remained sealed.
Mary and Martha
An island, when one is alone,
Can seem so desolate,
Until, with visions, my head fills
Regarding end time fate.
John on the island of Patmos
I beautified the temple when
I came to take the throne,
But when I learned of the Christ’s birth
My temper became known.
Herod the Great
A leaping child was the sign
That Christ was on the way
I felt the twinge as my cousin
Walked toward me that fine day.

The Return of the Summer Riddler
A giant tried to do me in
When, once, I heard God’s call
So, when I tried to run and hide
Was swallowed all in all.
Another giant showed the way
For God’s will to be done
So that when David slung the rock
He fell, and Israel won.
“Oh Lord, if you had been here then
My brother would have healed.”
These sisters cried to Jesus while
Their brother remained sealed.
An island, when one is alone,
Can seem so desolate,
Until, with visions, my head fills
Regarding end time fate.
I beautified the temple when
I came to take the throne,
But when I learned of the Christ’s birth
My temper became known.
A leaping child was the sign
That Christ was on the way
I felt the twinge as my cousin
Walked toward me that fine day.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Oh Mary, when the angel came
To tell you of Christ’s birth,
Did you realize that you could hold,
In God’s view, such great worth?
Oh Peter, when you denied Christ
And heard the crowing sound,
Could you imagine, in your faith,
Christ’s church would soon be found?
Oh Thomas, in your disbelief,
Before Christ showed his hands,
Would you have thought you’d take Easter
To far and distant lands?
Oh Paul, as you watched Stephen die
And tormented “The Way,”
Did you ever consider that
You’d bear Christ’s cross each day?
Oh Christian, when your faith is weak
And Christ seems far removed,
Can you, like many saints before,
Know that in Christ you’re love?
Pastor Jay Serafin

Tuesday Prayer
Our prayer today is more of a template for you to use to create your own prayer which connects with your life, your needs and your hope of how God can be present for you and those you love. Follow the guide to lift your own prayer petitions to God, trusting in God’s mercy, grace and love.

  1. Give thanks. Think of three things (or people) that are blessings in your life or for which you are grateful and for which you wish to share your gratitude.
    Dear Lord, I thank you for and _, and __. I am grateful that they bring joy to my life and I am blessed to see your loving presence revealed through them. For all the blessings you send my way, I give you thanks.
  2. Healing and wholeness for others. Think of a person or two who has a particular need that you wish to lift to God.
    Gracious God, your gifts of love and healing abound. I ask that you hold __ and _ in your loving hands, granting wholeness and an abundance of all that is needed to bring refreshment and peace into their lives.
  3. Wholeness for creation. Think of something in the world that is broken or that causes pain or despair or heartache for people.
    God of wholeness, your creation is a gift, and I hurt when I see brokenness in what you have created to be good. Touch this world with your healing grace, and bring your wholeness to _____ so that it may be restored to the fullness of glory which you intend.
  4. Personal need. Think of two things in your own life which would help to bring healing and wholeness to you.
    Loving God, among the many blessings you send my way, and with a grateful heart, I ask that you continue to touch me with your love. I ask that you enter into the midst of my pain, illness, despair and fear to bring your healing and wholeness, and that you especially restore me in the midst of my and ___.
  5. Life of service. We are called to live lives of service, sharing God’s love with others. Think of a talent or ability you have, even if it is time to share, and a way you can use that talent/ability to help others feel God’s love.
    God of life, your Son helped us to see that we can find you in the people we encounter and can do your will by sharing your love. Help me to be more intentional in sharing your love, and inspire me to use my gift of _______ to make your presence and good news known so that your name is glorified in the sharing of your love.
  6. God’s will. In the Lord’s prayer we pray, “Thy will be done.” Jesus helped us to see that God’s will is good and brings wholeness into our lives. Therefore, it is good to pray that God’s will is done. Think of somethings troubling you that God’s presence and promise can help you through.
    God of hope, we don’t always know what the future holds, but we know that the future is in your hands. Help me to find security in your loving promises so that whatever comes my way, I know you are by my side, that I can persevere even in the midst of ___, and can rest secure that your will is sufficient for me today and always.
  7. In Jesus’ name. We pray in the name of our Lord, who is our light, our life and the one through whom God’s promises are made.
    All this I pray in the name of your Son, Jesus, who bore the cross and was raised from the dead so that I can live today and every day in the midst of your gracious promises. Amen.
    Pastor Jay Serafin

God grant us grace to see the ways
Your love is all around
So that we know how your presence
Is likely to be found.
God grant us hope to face this day
With confidence, secure
That your protective hand will hold
Our future safe and sure.
God grant us peace so we may rest
Within your Spirit’s calm,
And when we face conflict and fear,
In you we find our balm.
God grant us love enough to give
And love, then, to receive
That so inspired by this love,
Your own love we perceive.
God grant us courage every day
To face the tasks ahead
So that when burdens come our way
We neither fear nor dread.
God grant us life to celebrate
Each joy and every pain,
So that we grow, through ups and downs,
A faith which will not wane.
God grant us joy to freely share
Your good news every day,
So that your generosity
We, daily, may display.
God grant us insight, just enough,
To better understand
Your guiding Spirit and your will,
The workings of your hand.
God grant us strength of faith to know
That you will always give
Sufficiently of what we need
To grow and thrive and live.
God grant us promise, understood
Through your beloved Son,
So that each day we remember
Our salvation is won.
Pastor Jay Serafin

You are free
Like me
To be
The very
Of faithful glee
When we can see
That on the tree
Christ won fully
The victory
And, to agree
He is the key
That radically
Gave reality
New vibrancy
So that we
Speak Easter’s plea
And lovingly
Share God’s decree
That life can be
And fruitfully
With great degree
Lived fearlessly,
And amazingly
That you, with me
And everybody,
Are now set free
To shine brightly
God’s light amply
And beautifully
For all the world to see
Pastor Jay Serafin

Our Prayer this day
We thank you, Lord, for
Budding trees and bright green landscapes
Sufficient rain
Gentle breezes
The healing, life-giving rays of the sun
Loved ones with whom to share the joys of Spring
Those who work to bring healing and wholeness
Food enough to keep us healthy
Clean water
Hope in your promises
The gift of faith
Our church family
The opportunity to pray to you each day
We ask you, Lord, for
The blessings of good weather to provide abundance
A faith that remains strong amidst the tests that life brings
Healing for all in need
An understanding of your presence in our lives
Your justice to be made real
Enough for all your children
Wise and compassionate leaders
An end to violence
An appreciation of the beauty already before us
Wisdom to navigate the future as you wish us to do
The prodding of your Holy Spirit in our lives
A commitment to community
Physical strength to meet life’s challenges
Mental strength to persevere no matter what comes our way
Faith, hope and love
That what we truly need you grant us in the name of your Son.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Thanksgiving in Easter
For sunlight’s arc higher each day
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For life which overcomes death’s sway
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For peaceful moments, time to rest
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For all the ways we know we’re blessed
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For friends who know our own heart’s song
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For family where we belong
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For opportunity to serve
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For your deep grace we don’t deserve
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For flowers, colorful and bright
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For safely resting through the night
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For death’s defeat and Easter’s hope
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For all the ways you help us cope
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For time to work and time to play
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For your presence throughout the day
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For promise through water and Word
We give you thanks, O Lord
For Gospel joys which we have heard
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For walking with us every hour
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For how, in love, you show your power
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For trusting you when touched by fear
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For knowing that you’re always near.
We give you thanks, O Lord.
Pastor Jay Serafin

The buds shoot forth freely in defiant reach
As they wake from their winter’s repose,
Collecting the life-giving rays of the sun
While the tulips and pansies expose
Their vivid and colorful, newly adorned,
Petals swaying softly in the breeze,
In glorious proof of dear nature reborn,
Of this elegant and grand reprise.
The rabbits build warrens and birds nest on high
And the squirrels and chipmunks, they abound,
All expending effort to build a safe home
In which new life is soon to be found.
Springtime is a season of life over death
Which imitates our great Easter song,
Recalling our God, who in unfailing love
Grants us new life that we may grow strong
In a world in which death is defeated by love
And so brings resurrection this day,
From shoots bursting forth to the faithful of God,
Each gifted new life through God’s way.
Pastor Jay Serafin

As Mary stood, alone, that morn,
In grief and deep despair,
The Gospel writer John tells us
How God answered her prayer
Of anguish at the passing of
The one whom she adored.
The body, gone, her only wish,
To have her Lord restored.
She looked around the empty tomb
To try to find a clue,
Thinking the body was removed
To where, for what, and who?
The tears flowed, streams of deepest pain,
How could this ever be
The final chapter of the tale
She once had hoped to see
Of God’s great power now unleashed
Upon the world to show
Her Jesus as God’s chosen Son
For all the world to know.
“Why are you weeping?” called the voice,
A figure dressed in white,
Another figure stood nearby
Concerned about her plight.
“I do not know where my Lord is,
They’ve taken him away.”
At once, she turned to look outside
Into the growing day,
And, spying there another form,
A gardener, maybe,
She walked outside the tomb’s entrance
To speak her forlorn plea.
He asked her why her tears flowed free
And who it was she sought,
Her terse reply cut through the air
Quickly, with no forethought.
“Sir, please tell me if you have him
And I’ll return him here.”
A simple word, then, pierced all time,
Dispelling her deep fear.
The figure spoke her name, “Mary.”
And suddenly she knew
The very truth he came to share,
Alive and in full view.
A second sometimes seems as if
It were a thousand years,
Yet in that heartbeat Mary found
The hope which ends all fears.
What honor Mary held that day
As Jesus spoke her name,
For in that instant no one else
Was privy to the claim
Which she, alone, bore to the world
That God’s great victory
Is life which defeats even death
And sets us fully free.
As Mary ran to share the joy
She left the tomb behind
To live abundant, Easter life
And help others to find
The truth of God’s most gracious love
Which conquered death for all,
Granting us life in Jesus’ name,
A brand-new protocol.
Her tears had turned to laughter, now,
For she could fully see
The final chapter of the tale
She understood to be
Our God’s great power now unleashed
Upon the world to show
Her Jesus as God’s chosen Son
For all the world to know.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Christ is risen. Alleluia!
Christ is risen! Alleluia!
With an unwavering voice
We proclaim the ancient message
As we fully now rejoice.
Christ is risen! Alleluia!
As we watch the sun appear
We are greeted by the one who
Frees us from all doubt and fear.
Christ is risen! Alleluia!
Death’s fierce power is broken
By the one who is the new Word
Of full life God has spoken.
Christ is risen! Alleluia!
Walk with Mary to the tomb
Then watch as she shares the message
To her friends locked in a room.
Christ is risen! Alleluia!
Blessed are they who will not see
Christ the way that Thomas saw him
Yet believe and are set free.
Christ is risen! Alleluia!
God’s triumphant victory
Which God gives to all creation
Showing all God’s full glory.
Christ is risen! Alleluia!
Let us live the life each day
Which our Lord in grace has given
And in love we may display.
Christ is risen! Alleluia!
Hope meets truth and God’s great will
That in resurrection God can
All our dreams and needs fulfill.
Christ is risen! Alleluia!
Let us carry Easter’s song
In our hearts and share the joyful
Message that has made us strong.
Pastor Jay Serafin

On this lost day all time stood still
Between future and past
As death had staked its fullest claim
And they remained downcast.
They witnessed Jesus on the cross
Their Lord, they thought, in whom
God’s promises would be revealed
Who lay now in a tomb.
In hidden spaces they sat still,
Their future now unclear.
“Could their own lives be in danger?”
Was now their constant fear.
The Sabbath left them waiting for
An opportunity
To anoint him, the one they loved,
In tearful memory.
We wait with them upon this day
Between future and past,
And feel the power death still has
To conquer and to last.
In solemn silence we await
The first day’s morning song,
As minutes pass by so slowly,
This day, it seems so long.
Yet wait we will and wait we must
To see the sun arise
And shine upon us its bright light
And, maybe, a surprise.
Pastor Jay Serafin

“My God, my Father why have you
Forsaken me this way”
And left me hanging on a cross
This dark, foreboding day?
A quoted psalm, a question asked
By Christ upon the tree,
Reverberates throughout all time
And lingers now for me.
The mystery which marks our faith
Transcends the human mind
Beyond our own capacity
To figure out or find
An explanation full enough
To satisfy our soul,
Yet only by our faithful gaze
The cross can make us whole.
What can, dear Lord, your dying mean?
What can the blood-stained cross
Tell us about your holy love
And why you bore such loss?
Is love so pure, so wide, so deep
That you would bear such pain
So that we might be reconciled
And walk with you again?
Can human sin, which placed you on
The cross that day to die,
Be fully reclaimed by the tomb
So you can glorify
The Father’s action to restore
The world broken and stained
By our refusal so to walk
The pathway which you’ve gained?
Are worldly powers, so annoyed
By your bold justice claim
That they decided to kill you,
The reason why you came,
To seek the lost, the hurting, poor,
The fearful and the ill,
And show the world your Father’s hope
That we follow His will?
How can we carry such a cross
Which signifies defeat
For cross means death, which is the end,
A story now complete?
My God, my Father, why have you
Chosen this way to give
Your children hope that in the cross,
Through dying we may live?
These questions percolate through my
Mind searching for a clue
To help me understand this day
Which draws me deep to you.
Still, I am left with question marks
Where periods should be,
And cannot comprehend such love
Which claims my destiny.
I only, now, can claim the cross
And grasp its rugged frame,
Knowing that by this gracious gift
I will live in Christ’s name.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Maundy Thursday
A prayer is whispered in the night
In dark Gethsemane,
“Could this cup which I’m bound to drink
Be moved away from me?
A pregnant silence gave reply,
This cup is God’s great will
To create true relationship
And finally fulfill
The plan which God had destined to
Bring salvation to all,
And so, the cup must now be drunk
You must answer this call.
Alone atop the garden’s hill,
With friends asleep nearby,
Deep realization filtered in
Resulting in a sigh.
“Not what I want, but what you will,”
And, thus, yielding to move
Compliant to the holy plan
Of deep, eternal love,
The figure called his friends awake
To steel them for the way
The final hours would transpire
Upon the coming day.
What sadness must have filled the air
Upon the hill that night,
As Jesus steadied his resolve,
In ways so recondite,
To take upon himself such pain,
Human iniquity,
Our greatest power to destroy
So that we are set free
From bondage to our sinful ways
Empowered to pursue
The great command he gave that night
To love as he’s loved you.
I cannot fathom God’s great plan
Nor understand such grace,
I only can receive such love
And fully now embrace
The fact that God did come to us
Through Jesus Christ, His Son,
And on the cross and in the tomb
God’s victory is won.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Lent Day 43
“Just Love one another as I have loved you,”
If only it were quite so simple to do.
Yet that is the commandment that Jesus gave
The night before he bore the cross and the grave.
“My yoke, it is heavy, my burden is light.”
Yet sometimes we don’t seem to have enough might
To follow these teachings and love everyone
In the same way as did our God’s only Son.
So, each day we must rely upon God’s grace
To carry us forward with vigor and pace,
As we try again to serve all in Christ’s name
Fulfilling our mission with strength in the claim
Which God had made upon our life when he chose
To give us the victory as Christ arose.
So, off again into the world to share love
Which we have received from our great God above
Who cares for us dearly and never will fail
To carry us through deepest hurt and travail.
Now empowered by God’s promise and God’s will
We try again to love each other, and still
Rely fully on the God who came to be
Our savior, redeemer who has set us free.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Lent Day 42
Where is the holy in our lives?
Where is God’s presence found?
We work so hard to have it all
That we don’t hear the sound
Of singing birds or gentle breeze
And often fail to see
The beauty right in front of us
God’s gift to you and me.
The warming sun shines, rising high
To share its sacred light
Which, when combined with chlorophyll
Has power to ignite
The spark of life inside the cell
Upon which we depend,
Its energy becoming ours
So that we can expend
This self-same energy each day
In effort to pursue
Those things which animate our lives,
All that we love to do.
This process, oh so intricate,
Is God’s creative hand
At work to bless with abundance
Our life-sustaining land.
Each piece of God’s creation is
A miracle, you see,
Which, combined with another piece
In wondrous harmony
Begins a process leading to
The world which we behold
In all its beauty, charm and grace,
So delicate and bold.
The hand of God is never still,
Creative, freeing grace,
Which fashions right before our eyes
The ennobling face
Of life lived in complexity,
Of cross and empty tomb
Of hopes and dreams of what might be,
Of light defeating gloom.
We cannot know the mind of God,
Its depth or breadth or height,
So, mystery and promise play
To touch us with insight.
However, in a simple leaf
Kissed by the sun’s bright rays
We find the most amazing gift,
God’s generating ways.
So, when we fail to recognize
God’s blessings all around,
We miss the holy in our lives
Where God’s presence is found.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Lent Day 41
Lord, bless us this Holy Week.
Open our hearts to:
Your Son’s passion story
The crowds who praised Jesus
Then turned their backs on him
Those who pushed for execution
To further their own interests
Those who denied Jesus
Those who fled
Those who wept
Those who grieved
The final hours with the disciples
The command to love one another
The meal shared
The arrest
The trial
The violence
The scorn
The crucifixion
Help us to see where we:
Enter the story
Participate with the actors
Are responsible
Act in the same way
Need forgiveness
Use this week:
To prepare us for what is to come
To help us get in deeper touch with our faith
To help us contemplate your action
To strengthen our resolve to love
To show us how broken this world is
To place us in this story.
So that,
In brokenness we might be made whole
In faithless moments our faith might increase
In times of trial we lean on you
In sharing your love we might feel your presence
In our trial we might lean on your grace
In death we might find your life.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Palm Sunday Lent Day 40
We enter into Holy Week
Waving branches
Shouting “Hosanna!”
A part of the crowd.
The story, however, turns.
Soon we watch unfold
The crowd turns.
Jesus is placed on trial.
Instead of waving branches
The crowd call out
“Crucify Him!”
“Crucify Him!”
And he is crucified.
We are complicit.
Joy to sorrow.
Victory to death.
Shattered dreams.
And we are left to wonder.
Where is God?
What is God doing?
And the answer…
Pastor Jay Serafin

Lent Day 39
We come together, once again,
To worship in Christ’s name,
As ever has the church before,
To gather with the claim
That God has promised, through the Son,
Forgiveness and whole life,
Regardless of our station, wealth,
Our brokenness or strife.
With waving branches, “hosannas,”
With passion readings, too,
We are reminded once again
Of what our God would do
To grant us life and future hope,
Though it would cost great pain,
So, at the cross we face the truth
And fully entertain
The magnitude of God’s vast love,
Which through incarnation,
Becomes the story we now tell
Of our own salvation.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Lent Day 38
The cross, the cross, it is the cross
Which confounds and dismays
My mind when I consider God’s
Amazing, grace-filled ways.
I am undone by this great love
Which called me by my name
And held me tight each blessed day
Even when troubles came.
I can’t deserve the gift that I
Receive from God’s great grace.
I am broken and yet made whole,
I’m lost, yet held in place.
For God has given promises
In which we can believe,
Abundant and eternal life
We’re certain to receive.
The shameful, deadly, cross-shaped tree
On which our Lord was nailed,
Has turned into the very sign
By which the Christ is hailed.
The cross, the cross, it is the cross,
So confusing and grim,
Device of death which gives, through Christ.
The life we have in him.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Lent Day 36
The valley, paused in silent rest,
Awaits the call of Spring,
Its somber, brown-toned visage lies
Still until quickening.
Yet, painted by this deathly hue,
It waits the promised day
When through the land the breath of life
Flows, creating its array
Of greens and reds and yellows, too,
Which overcome the gray,
And singing birds and sun-warmed earth
Announce what’s on the way.
Our Lenten journey, thus, cascades,
From meal in upper room,
To arrest, trial and the cross
Which leads to rock-hewn tomb.
But just as valleys spring to life
When God’s breath blows around,
The power that death holds on us
Soon will be fully bound
By God’s creative victory
Which comes through his own Son,
Who bore the cross because of us,
And in his death he won.
For God’s great breath of life which flows
Can never be constrained,
And blows throughout the world He made
To show all God has gained
For us in cross and empty tomb,
To conquer every strife
And, just as Springtime flowers bloom,
Brings us the gift of life.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Fruits of the Spirit Lent Day 35
22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5: 22-23a)
Lord, hear our prayer this day.
Respond according to your will.
Open our minds and hearts to that will.
Use us as servants of that will.
Show us how better to order our lives according to your will.
This day, gracious God, we ask for:
For all who feel unloved,
For those on the margins of society,
For courage to share your love.
For those for whom life has become a burden,
For those who grieve,
For added strength for all who bear your joy to the world.
For all who face violence,
For those whose souls are distressed,
For more skilled peacemakers.
For those who feel rushed into decisions,
For all who need to discern the right moment to act,
For better understanding the person in front of us.
For all who are abused and mistreated,
For the sake of building better community,
For honest efforts to care as we want others to care for us.
For those whose hearts are closed,
For the sake of those who lack resources,
For insightful ways to share your gifts.
For those in whom faith is ebbing,
For those afraid or indecisive,
For boldness to act to share your love.
For those reaching out to the hurting,
For those who face harsh situations,
For our daily interactions with others.
For all burdened by addiction,
For those who too readily act upon impulse,
For our own efforts to live as your people.
For a world more in tune with your will,
For feeling your love impact us constantly,
For your will to be done, and our desire to help.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Lent Day 34
What can I ask of you, dear Lord,
That you are unaware
Is on my mind as I begin
To approach you in prayer?
You know my thoughts, my hopes, my dreams,
My faults and deepest sin.
You know me better than I know
Myself, my truth within.
Yet I reach out to you this day
In the name of your Son
To hold conversation with you
And praise all that you’ve done.
But in the midst of giving thanks
For your generous heart
I am compelled to lift my cares,
That troubles may depart.
Dear Lord, I pray that, most of all
Your will is done in me,
For by your grace you make me whole
And in your love, I’m free.
Please hear me as I offer prayer
And grant my needs this day
So that I may live emboldened
According to your way.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Lent Day 33
When I am broken, make me whole,
Dear Lord, I lean on you,
For nothing else can soothe my soul
Except your promise true.
When sadness and tribulation
Consume my weary thought,
I only can lean on your grace,
The peace which your Son bought.
My Lenten journey to the cross
Is fraught with steps which I
Take stumbling because my sin
Calls out, “Christ crucify!”
Yet in that cross, my only hope,
God reconciles me
With his great love which lifts me up
And fully sets me free.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Lent Day 32
Like water streaming gently by,
Time flows forth unopposed,
As equinox brings warming Spring,
Its longer days disclosed
By sunlight overtaking night
As daytime grows in length,
And nature transforms by its rays,
Gaining new life and strength.
In hope, we lift this metaphor
For all the world to see,
That sunlight, rising in the sky,
Compares to victory
Which God gives to all creation
As, through the rising Son,
God’s light shines bright upon the earth.
In him victory’s won.
So, living water, flowing time,
Winter transformed to Spring,
Brings forth nature’s triumphant song
Which causes us to sing
Of God’s great glory, now unleashed,
To lift us above strife,
And by God’s love, as time flows on,
Grants us the fullest life.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Lent Day 31
We pray for peace this day
And hope to find a way
To share your love with everyone
And help ensure your will is done
In all we do and say.
We pray that we may be
Capable each day to see
Your presence in our neighbor’s love
Which, through them, comes from you above
Then share it faithfully
We pray that, since we sin,
Your grace may fully win
That your forgiveness makes us new
So that your mission we pursue
Strong in our faith within.
We pray that, in our fear,
Your hand is always near
To hold us up when we might fall
And point us to your loving call,
Your presence, strong and clear.
We pray that as we go
Before your cross we know
The full expression of your love
Which Christ brought to us from above
Exalting in its glow.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Lent Day 30 Psalm 51
Dear Lord, have mercy upon me,
Allow your love to shine.
Please wash me thoroughly this day
From sins which are all mine.
My sinfulness has broken me.
You seek the truth within.
Yet without your beloved grace
I remain in my sin.
Please grant me wisdom so that I
Might better understand
Your holy will so that I may
Fulfill your love’s demand.
Create in me a clean heart, Lord,
That your Spirit may be
My guide, my hope, my brightest light
Granting insight to me.
Do not abandon me, dear Lord,
And may your Spirit dwell
Within my deepest consciousness
That I may know you well.
Restore to me the joyous tune
Of your salvation’s song
That I may sing your glory’s verse
Each day my whole life long.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Lent Day 28 Psalm 118
Is this the day the Lord has made?
Then do rejoice in it
Give thanks to God, for God is good
So to God’s ways commit.
“God’s love endures beyond all time,”
Let all the people say
And with the Lord fast at our side
We celebrate this day.
God is our refuge far above
What we mortals can do
And my salvation comes from him
His righteousness is true.
The stone rejected has become
The great chief cornerstone
God’s doing is so marvelous
And we are not alone.
Give thanks to God, for God is good
His mercy never ends
Though troubles come and hardships rise
God’s love, his people tends. Pastor Jay

Lent Day 27
Lord, grant us wisdom so that we may walk in your paths.
Lord, grant us strength that we may meet the challenges of the day.
Lord, grant us peace so that we acknowledge that you are by our side.
Lord, grant us hope that the future is in your hands.
Lord, grant us patience to seek to discern your will.
Lord, grant us love to share freely with others.
Lord, grant us joy fully knowing life in you.
Lord, grant us humility to serve as you served.
Lord, grant us kindness so that we build relationships.
Lord, grant us today in which we can live our mission.
Lord, grant us tomorrow to continue to walk with you.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Lent Day 26
We stand upon the faith of many
Mothers and Fathers
Grandmothers and Grandfathers
Cherished friends
People we will never meet
People we will never know
Historically famous individuals
Silent folk, unknown to us
All who shared a gift
An understanding
That God is gracious
Slow to anger
Abounding in steadfast love
Such a love
That God becomes human
In order to enter into relationship with us
So that we may more fully
Enter into relationship with God
It is a faith
Passed on
Generation to generation
Person to person
Child of God to Child of God
Now it is our turn
To speak what must be spoken
God is love
God is life
No matter what
No matter what
God’s love prevails
God’s life prevails
And the breath of life
The very breath which animates us
Becomes for us
The breath we use
To speak the good news
Which has been spoken
Generation after generation
By the many faithful
Known by us
Or not
Who came to know God’s love
And live in God’s promises
Only to share
The Good News
God is love
God is life
We live because of God
We live for God
We live in God
We live with God
With the people of God
Of every time
And every place
We rejoice
And say
Pastor Jay Serafin

Lent Day 25
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. (1 Corinthians 12: 4-11)
22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5: 22-23)
St. Paul, in his discourses on gifts or fruits of the Spirit, helps us to realize that the Holy Spirit blesses us in different ways. One of God’s great gifts to us is that we are individuals, uniquely gifted by the Spirit for service. Your talents and abilities do not match mine, although we may share some in common and overlap in some areas. Like snowflakes, no two people are exactly the same. In this way, God provides for the mission of the church and its ability to minister in the name of Christ. There are many reasons why this diversity is a gift. It would be boring if we were all the same. Diversity is a sign of the complexity of life, which richly endows our ministry with texture and opens us to all kinds of possible plans, procedures and actions. Because your talents are uniquely yours, you have capabilities which I do not have, but may not have some that your neighbor or family member might have. This multitude of talents helps us to fill in the gaps, shoring up someone else’s weaknesses as they do for yours and mine. I don’t believe that Paul’s lists are exhaustive, but rather illustrative. In other words, you might possess talents and abilities, gifts of the Spirit, not mentioned by Paul in the Scriptures cited above. The good news is that your gifts of the Spirit are equally valuable to the mission of the church, and by using your gifts you help the church to live out its mission in the fullest way possible.
Because I think Paul’s list simply illustrates some of the gifts of the Spirit, I would like to challenge you to think of how the Spirit has gifted you. What talents or abilities or insights do you have which you can use to share the mission of the church and touch the world with Christ’s love? Might you have one or two on Paul’s list above, or do you have other gifts of the Spirit not mentioned by Paul? What other gifts of the Spirit do you see in others? What potential possibilities do these gifts offer in the ministry we share? If you can think of other gifts of the Spirit, feel free to name them in the comment section. They may or may not be gifts you claim for yourself, but are gifts you believe can be used to minister in Christ’s name. The important thing to contemplate, however, is that you are gifted by the Spirit, and these gifts are given to use for the building up of the community of faith. How can you use your gifts to share the love of Christ? How can you help others to name and use their gifts? All of this matters. You are important enough that God, through the Spirit, has blessed you to be a blessing for others. Naming these blessings/gifts is a beginning. Finding ways to use them is our call.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Lent Day 24
When traveling the road of life, with ending-place unclear,
We step into the future, Lord, expecting you are near,
So that when foggy atmosphere obstructs our view ahead
We can be confident with you we will not be misled.
In moments when we are unsure which direction to go
We know that with you by our side we certainly can know
That if we take a step and fail your hand will hold us strong
And we can step with courage singing out a brand-new song,
Proclaiming that when we feel lost along the future trail
Your love and presence, life and hope will never come to fail.
So, we step forward, boldly walk, into our future days
Upheld by your benevolence and your protective ways
Revealed by your amazing grace, your promises which give
Assurances that, what may come, in you we’ll always live.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Lent Day 23
Dear Lord, the love you give to us is such a special gift
Giving our faith a foundation and spirit an uplift,
Yet, sometimes we forget the fact that your love is so strong
And rely on our broken ways and mix up right and wrong.
Please bless us with the firm belief to stand upon your love
Which ties us to your gracious Word you sent down from above.
So, each day as we journey down the road which leads to cross
Help us to see our victory which caused you such a loss
And strengthen us each day to serve in your Son’s holy name
As children of your selfless love in which we fully claim
A place within your kingdom and relationship with you
And all the promises you give which will form us anew.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Lent Day 21
Lord, as you journeyed faithfully
The streets of Galilee
To feed and teach and heal and love
Help us to walk with Thee.
Lead us to learn from your dear Word,
Give us hearts filled with love,
May we be grateful to receive
Your blessings from above.
Amidst the storms may we remain
Calm in your promised peace,
Knowing that you can hold our pain
And cause the storms to cease.
Help us when we must bear our cross
And carry love’s full load
For we know your burden is light
As we walk down faith’s road.
And when we stand before your cross
Examining its frame,
May we find hope in hopelessness,
And true life in your name.
Pastor Jay Serafin

P.R.A.Y.E.R For Monday Lent Day 20
P- Perseverance. Dear Lord, grant us perseverance amidst the difficulties we face in life. Help us to realize your presence in our lives and give us the strength of your Holy Spirit to shelter and strengthen us as we move forward, in the name of your Son, Amen.
R- Reliance. Gracious God, your promises grant us a future on which we can rely. Help us to see that the big picture, our place in your kingdom, is assured by your grace so that we may focus on the daily ways we can live out our baptismal vows by serving the needs of those around us, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
A- Audacity. Holy God, in the midst of the uncertainty of this world, and in the places where we might feel confused, inspire us to act boldly with love for those around us, for your church and for the mission we share so that your good news continues to touch the lives of your children through us, in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Y- Yearning. Lord, as long as your people are hurting and we face the brokenness of this world, keep our hearts yearning for the fullness of life in you, so that we continually are inspired to work for peace and justice, and to care for your children in need, in the name of our Lord Jesus. Amen.
E- Enthusiasm. Bless us with your Spirit, O Lord, so that we may be unleashed upon your world with loving hearts and willing hands ready to serve in places of need. Use us to shine the light of your love into the places where despair and fear and pain hold sway, in the name of the one who bore the cross, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
R- Resourcefulness- Teach us, Dear Lord, to use the gifts and talents with which you have blessed us to share the joy of life in you. Give us creativity, enlightenment and energy in the best proportion so that we can share your story and touch others with your love in ways that bear fruit according to your will, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Lent Day 19
Lent means the “Springtime” for the soul,
A time to focus on
The ways that we become more whole,
A spiritual dawn.
With prayer and study, worship, too,
With fasting and with love,
We live out our baptismal vows
And feel blessed from above.
In preparation for the feast
Of Easter, life anew,
Our Lenten discipline helps us
Feel closer, God, to you.
So, bless us on our journey to
The cross, as we, through Lent,
Focus upon our Lord, the Christ,
Whom you lovingly sent.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Evening Prayer Lent Day 18
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear my prayer.
For clarity of mind and comfort of soul,
Hear my prayer.
For deeper insight into your will for my life,
Hear my prayer.
For moments of joy and inspiration each day,
Hear my prayer.
For caring family and friends who share my journey,
Hear my prayer.
For seeing ways to share your love with others,
Hear my prayer.
For calm in the midst of the storms of life,
Hear my prayer.
For Spirit-inspired purpose which lights my way,
Hear my prayer.
For grace which helps me to forgive,
Hear my prayer.
For patience to keep me tempered amidst tempest,
Hear my prayer.
For certainty that your will is good enough for me,
Hear my prayer.
For your light to shine in the midst of my darkness,
Hear my prayer.
For health and wholeness according to your will,
Hear my prayer.
For enough of the things I truly need,
Hear my prayer.
For a generous spirit which compels me to share,
Hear my prayer.
For this day, that I encounter you in the people I meet,
Hear my prayer.
For the will to use my talents in service to your mission,
Hear my prayer.
For tomorrow, and every tomorrow, that I may walk it with you,
Hear my prayer.
For blessings from your Son in whose name I pray.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Lent Day 17
A poem
Lord, help me see that even I,
Though beaten by the strife,
May rest within your promises
Of wholeness and of life.
Though burdened by the cares and toils
Of life amidst the storm,
Your grace is comfort, true relief,
Which brings me back to form.
For when I see the cross ahead,
The load that I must bear,
I recognize your thorn-crowned face
And leave all to your care.
Each day which passes in your sight
Is gift enough for me,
So that even when troubles rise
Your love is plain to see.
Unto your cross I cling for life,
And hope and comfort, too,
Believing in your promises,
My future claimed by you.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Little Known Church Heroes Lent Day 16
During the remainder of Lent, from time to time, I will share a few stories of Christian heroes who are not as well known as some of the bigger names in the faith. Our first Church hero is Blandina, and her story is quite remarkable. Detailed in his “History of the Church” by Eusebius, a church leader and historian, in the early Fourth Century, the story shares a remarkable tale of faith and perseverance in the midst of great difficulty. As you probably know, Christians in the early centuries of the Church, from time to time, faced persecution at the hands of Roman authorities. At times, this persecution cooled and at other times it ran hot, often depending upon the Emperor and the local governor in charge of a territory. In 177 A.D. local Roman authorities in the city of Lyon (modern day France), then in the region named Gaul, decided to round up the local Christians and deal with what they held to be an illegal religion according to Roman law. Their mission was to bring these Christians back to the approved Roman religion. In order to do this, they tortured the Christians, sparing any who renounced Jesus and returned to Roman-approved traditions. Vast numbers of Christians were rounded up in the region and placed in prison, where they were tortured. Some renounced Christianity and made false claims about the Christians, claiming that the Christians practiced such things as cannibalism. Most of the Christians, however, did not recant and continued to profess faith in Jesus, despite these cruel conditions and punishments. One such Christian was Blandina. Blandina was a slave girl who, along with her owner, was arrested and imprisoned as a Christian. She was forced to undergo intense and horrid punishment. According to Eusebius, many of the Christians feared that Blandina would give in to the torture because of her frail state, yet she remained firm in faith, and the account of this torture given to us by Eusebius tells us that her torturers became exhausted trying to get her to renounce her faith. When these efforts failed, authorities used the remaining Christians (some died in prison or because of torture) as entertainment and spectacle in the local amphitheater. Some, including Blandina, were tied to stakes in the arena while wild beasts such as lions we released. According to Eusebius, when Blandina was bound to the stake, the animals did not harm her. The other Christians, witnessing Blandina’s loyalty to the faith as she was tied to the pole, saw her in relation to Jesus on the Cross, and were bolstered in their own faith. Further tortures followed, and finally, she was placed in a net and set in the arena, where a bull gored and trampled her. Still alive, she was killed by a dagger. Throughout her tortuous moments, as the authorities worked to get her to denounce Jesus and her faith, Blandina is quoted as saying, “I am a Christian- we do nothing to be ashamed of.” In this way of disputing those who gave in to the torture and who told lies about the Christians to save themselves, Blandina stood firm as a witness to the faith.
Blandina is among my favorite heroes of the Christian Church. Her faith never wavered, regardless of the horrors she faced. Knowing that God’s love and promises through Jesus were with her always, she held firm to the life she knew she had in Christ, even as the Roman authorities tortured her to death.
Pastor Jay Serafin

The Story of Job Lent Day 15
42 Then Job answered the LORD:
2 “I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
4 ‘Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you declare to me.’
5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
6 therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.”
One of the suggestions for Midweek Scripture study this year was the story of Job. Unfortunately, while I love the suggestion, having 42 chapters, the story is too long to do justice in one fifteen-minute study. However, I think the conclusion to the story, part of which is taken above from Chapter 42, gives us a summation that shares a deeper insight into our relationship with God. The story of Job is one which touches on theodicy, or the idea that there is so much about God that we cannot know, and even when we ask questions, may not receive answers.
Job is a righteous man, by all accounts, at the beginning of the story. He is wealthy and blessed with many possessions. In a heavenly conversation, God is challenged in a conversation by Satan, who by all appearances is a heavenly being in God’s court. God believes Job to be righteous and someone who will remain righteous always. Satan claims that Job is good simply because he has everything needed to make life a joy. So, God gives Satan permission to torment Job in any way Satan sees fit, except that he may not take Job’s life. In short succession, Job loses his herds, possessions, parts of his health and his family.
Several friends of Job come to visit, each trying to help Job make sense of his heartbreak. Their basic thought is that Job must not be righteous. God wouldn’t punish someone in such a way who was righteous. Yet Job maintains his decency and wonders why God would allow such calamity into his life. Here, the question “why?” takes center stage. Finally, Job finds the counsel of his friends to be useless and boldly questions God.
At this point, God enters to question Job. The questions are rhetorical, and center around acts of creation. God asks Job where he was when the foundations of the world were laid, when the stars were placed in the sky, when the oceans were formed and when the creatures were created. Finally, Job realizes that he cannot answer these questions and, as we see in the verses quoted above, repents of his anger toward God. God restores Job’s fortunes and wins the argument with Satan.
Such deep questions, however, continue to haunt us as we seek relationship with God and a deeper understanding of how God’s world functions. Martin Luther talked frequently about a hidden God, or the God whom we cannot see. The machinations of this God are beyond our comprehension, and we cannot know all things about God or about why God operates in certain ways. Luther’s point, though, is that we can know God in the ways God is revealed to us. Scripture is an aid, but only gets us so far. Beyond Scripture, there is so much more about God that we can’t know. Even so, Luther would claim that the most important things we can know about God we recognize in Jesus. Jesus is God’s greatest revelation to us and the clearest picture of what we can understand about God. The Jesus who heals, who feeds, who teaches, who walks the roads of Galilee, proclaiming a message of a kingdom of love and life breaking into the world in his presence, is the deepest image of God we know. As that love touches us and we share that love, we make the presence of Christ real and God is made known. That this Jesus bore the cross and then defeated death is crucial in our understanding of God and of God’s will to bring life and loving presence to all people. God will not let us go. No matter what difficult situations we face, God’s love and life will prevail. That is the message Jesus shares with us.
While Job helps us to see that there are many questions about God, many “why?” questions we cannot answer, the biggest issues have been determined. God’s will to give us life, God’s will to be in constant relationship with us, God’s will never to abandon us or let go of us shines as our understanding of the one who created us, redeems us and gives us a place in the kingdom. We may not know everything about God and about God’s ways, but we do know God’s love and God’s gift of life which comes to us in Jesus.

Prayer from the Psalms Lent Day 14
(These prayer petitions are written totally from verses from the Psalms and include some responses to certain petitions. The verse for each line of Psalm is noted in parenthesis.)
The Prayer
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. (107)
O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! (95)
I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. (9)
Lord, hear my prayer.
Let my supplication come before you; deliver me according to your promise. (119)
Lord, hear my prayer
O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker. (95)
Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts before him; God is a refuge for us. (62)
Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge. (16)
Lord, hear my prayer.
You are my lord; I have no good apart from you. (16)
Lord, hear my prayer.
The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned. (34)
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love. (51)
Lord, hear my prayer.
According to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. (51)
Lord, hear my prayer
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. (51)
Lord, hear my prayer.
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and rescues them from their troubles. (34)
And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you. (9)
Lord, hear my prayer.
Spread your protection over them, so that those who love your name may exult in you. (5)
Lord, hear my prayer.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. (34)
The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned. (34)
In you, O Lord, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame. (31)
Lord, hear my prayer.
Guard me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wing. (17)
Lord, hear my prayer.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (46)
Rise up, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand; do not forget the oppressed. (10)
Lord, hear my prayer.
O Lord, you will hear the desire of the meek; you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed. (10)
Lord, hear my prayer.
And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you. (9)
Lord, hear my prayer.
Spread your protection over them, so that those who love your name may exult in you. (5)
Lord, hear my prayer.
The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry. (34)
And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you. (9)
Lord, hear my prayer.
I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God. (17)
Lord, hear my prayer.
I am your servant; give me understanding, so that I may know your decrees. (119)
Lord, hear my prayer.
Let your steadfast love become my comfort according to the promise of your salvation. (119)
Lord, hear my prayer.
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. And let all the people say, “Amen.” Praise the Lord!
Pastor Jay Serafin

Lent Day 13
Whoever wants to follow after me
And a disciple be
Must bear the weight of their own cross
And put their ego at a loss
To go out and share my love full and free.
My call to you does not grant wealth and fame
Service is my true aim
And sharing love with everyone
In my kingdom begun
With promises God’s children can now claim.
My burden might feel heavy for a while
Yet it is not my style
To leave my friends feeling alone
Without a path that’s known
To ease their yoke and lighten times of trial
To bear the cross, though, is the call I make
And ask my friends to take
By lifting up those whom we find
With hurting heart or mind
For my love is enough to bear all ache.
So, when you look to call upon my name
And in my life lay claim
Know that I took the cross for you
So that you might pursue
A life like mine with service as your aim.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Lent Day 11
Who is this God who comes to us
In lowly human form
To live with pain and loneliness
And face our human norm?
A God of love, with full desire
To mend our deep, wide rift,
And act with purpose to inspire,
Bring healing and uplift.
This love is pure enough to bear
The cross and human pain,
And even take on death’s despair
To share with us the gain.
Yet even death is not the end,
God’s love will conquer all,
His light and life will work to mend,
Give us his kingdom hall.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Lent Day 10 Questions to ponder
As we continue through the season of Lent, I find it fascinating to pay attention to the people we meet along the way. Jesus, by this time in the Gospel of Mark, has set his face toward Jerusalem and is journeying there, already having announced his impending death. How do the disciples react to this announcement? What do they expect instead of the death of Jesus? Peter has called Jesus “Messiah.” What does this term mean for Peter? Who are the people Jesus ministers to on the way? What does it mean that the first shall be last and the last shall be first? Why do the religious leaders test Jesus? How do the stories of the rich man whom Jesus tells to sell all he has and the brothers, James and John, asking to be placed in seats of honor in the kingdom teach us more about the way of the cross? What is the triumphant entry into Jerusalem all about? What is the significance of Jesus turning over the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple courtyard? Why is the widow with a small offering held in esteem by Jesus? What is the end-time teaching about the destruction of the Temple really about? How can we measure the significance of the events of the last night Jesus spends with his disciples? What do we do with Judas and his betrayal? What is Jesus asking when he asks for the cup to be removed from him in the Garden of Gethsemane? What does Peter’s denying Jesus during the trial signify for us as people of faith? What does Jesus endure from his arrest to his trial to his punishment to his death? What can we make of the crowd’s choosing of Barabbas? What part do the criminals hanged with Jesus play in the saga? Why does Jesus say, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Why does the Temple curtain tear in two? How is it that the centurion can recognize the identity of Jesus?
These are a few of the questions we may ponder on our way to witness the cross. How do these episodes impact our faith and our understanding of Jesus and his mission? What is God doing through Jesus? The answer to each of these questions could make up a whole book. Still, the answers we give and the observations we make are important as we try to understand God’s acts of salvation and what it means for us. Happy journeying!
Pastor Jay Serafin

Lent Day 9 A Poem
Oh Lord, who took on human flesh
To step into our form
Thus, joining to divinity
Our vulnerable norm,
You rose from Jordan’s muddy banks
And, Spirit driven sent,
You entered into wilderness
For testing, then you went
To Galilean shores to find
Some brothers mending nets
And asked them to begin to fish
Now for human assets,
And thus began a journey which
Brought healing, hope and life
To ordinary people who
Lived lives beset by strife,
While at the same time angering
Many of high esteem
Who couldn’t fathom God’s new way,
Nor join your mission’s team,
And so, as palms honored your path
While entering into
Jerusalem’s historic streets
They kept close tabs on you
And noticed when you sought to clean
Your Father’s house from stain
Plotting to seek your quick demise,
With anger and disdain
They found one who would turn you in
For thirty coins, and so
When you took three friends off to pray
They timed their bitter blow,
Arresting you, as though a crook,
They placed you on trial,
And then arranged a conviction,
A sentence base and vile,
Condemning you to death by cross
Hanging you to a tree,
And there you breathed your final breath
For all the world to see,
Save that God had another plan
Which death could not remove,
A plan for all God’s dearest ones
Of life, wholeness and love,
Realized in ways we apprehend
By faith and not by sight,
God’s victory for you and me,
God’s gift of life and light.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Lent Day 7
Psalm 13
1 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I bear pain[a] in my soul,
and have sorrow in my heart all day long?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
3 Consider and answer me, O LORD my God!
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have prevailed”;
my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.
5 But I trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the LORD,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
For Martin Luther, the Psalms were the whole of Scripture in miniature. He perceived in the Psalms the entirety of the Scriptural witness to God’s relationship with God’s people. All of Scripture, for Luther, was summarized in the Psalms. Luther was a professor of Old Testament and Scripture at the University of Wittenberg where he taught courses on the Psalms. Spending so much time studying the Psalms, Luther came to regard them as insightful, wise and heartfelt poems dealing with the depths of human joy and sorrow. Psalm 13, while brief, asks some deep questions which, perhaps, we’ve entertained during this time of pandemic. “How long, O Lord?” We seek answers to this question, yet struggle day after day in the midst of the shadow which has overtaken us. In our need for answers, we are very much like the Psalmist who seeks the Lord to bring deliverance. Still, the Psalmist recognizes that God’s will is good and that God will deliver the Psalmist and the people from their time of trial. “I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me. In all of life’s struggles, whether with a virus or with all of the other complications which come our way, we may take this same question to God. “How long?” In the end, however, we trust in promise and find hope in a God whose love is so great that this God comes to us to bring us wholeness and salvation. Knowing this, we, too, sing to the Lord, knowing that the Lord has dealt bountifully with us.
Let us pray. Holy and merciful God, in the midst of our struggles we turn to you, seeking solace, comfort and peace. Make us whole again by your gracious will, take away all that hinders us, and grace us with a deeper understanding of your love, so that we may thrive in the midst of difficulty and exclaim to all the world how gracious and merciful you are, through the one who brought this grace and mercy to us, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Lent Day 6 (Prayer)
For inner peace
Which holds me through
Difficult times,
A peace from you
Merciful Lord,
Hear my prayer.
For healing balm
Which makes me whole
With body healed
And healthy soul
Merciful Lord,
Hear my prayer.
For purpose which
Gives direction
A sense of call
And connection,
Merciful Lord,
Hear my prayer.
For leaders who
Work hard to share
Your justice with
Folks everywhere,
Merciful Lord,
Hear my prayer.
For those who work
To care and heal,
That in their love
You are made real,
Merciful Lord,
Hear my prayer.
For wisdom that
Helps me to see
How your great love
May work through me,
Merciful Lord,
Hear my prayer.
For time to seek
Your cross-filled way
That I may serve
You day by day,
Merciful Lord,
Hear my prayer.
For insight to
Your kingdom’s goal
Which builds me up
And stirs my soul,
Merciful Lord,
Hear my prayer.
For this dear chance
To share with you
In Jesus’ name
All I hold true,
Merciful Lord,
Hear my prayer.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Lent Day 5
Lord, in you may I find
Peace of mind
Time to unwind
Hearts that are kind
Our wills aligned
My sins left behind.
Lord, in you may I know
Time used to grow
Your grace to flow
My fears to go
The Church full aglow
Full life to show.
Lord, in you may I see
What you made me to be
My spirit set free
Christ’s love’s guarantee
A true jubilee
Your working through me.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Lent Day 4
When darkness falls
We pray for light
When hope suspends
We pray for vision
When fear invades
We pray for strength.
When insight lags
We pray for wisdom
When illness comes
We pray for healing
When doubt begins
We pray for faith
When anger sharpens
We pray for peace
When left alone
We pray for presence
When angst arrives
We pray for poise
When ill will hits
We pray for love
When fibs abound
We pray for truth
When trials build
We pray for God
Pastor Jay Serafin

Lent Day 3
Psalm 63: 1-8
O God, you are my God, I seek you,
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
3 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
4 So I will bless you as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands and call on your name.
5 My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,[a]
and my mouth praises you with joyful lips
6 when I think of you on my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
7 for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.
8 My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.
Like the Psalmist, we, too, seek God. Our souls thirst for the love and power and presence of God to come into our lives and make us whole. Without God’s care and grace-filled support, we perish, as if left in a land where there is no water. We see what happens to a common houseplant which is removed from a source of water. It shrivels up and, eventually, dies. Without a consistent source of water, we cannot function. We perish.
In baptism’s flow we are regenerated. Washed in the waters of baptism we are cleansed by God’s promises. In the waters of baptism we are hydrated, made whole by the presence of a God who gifts us not only with life, but with a source, a reservoir, which blesses us with fullness of life which comes from the relationship God has formed with us “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Amen. It is a reservoir we can drink from daily, no matter what is happening around us.
Like the Psalmist, we long for the fullness of life we have when we see and know and feel God’s love as a part of our lives. Until we have this, our souls “thirst” for God’s presence, “faint” for God’s grace. “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.” (v.3) We know, as does the Psalmist, that God’s promises will not fail. Our creatureliness, our sinfulness, our separation from God give us plenty upon which we can meditate this whole season of Lent. But in our meditation we know the richness of these promises and cling to God to uphold us, no matter what difficulties we face, knowing that the final answer is in God’s hands, and that God’s heart is love and life. This Psalm is a good piece for our Lenten meditation this day. May we realize the truth, that we shrivel and die without God’s help, that our lives cannot be whole apart from God’s love and promises, and that, refreshed by God’s baptismal promises, we are redeemed, rejuvenated, regenerated to be the people God calls us to be.

Lent Day 2
In silent moments of each day
I wonder, Lord, about your way
And long to figure out
What life is all about,
And ask deep questions when I kneel to pray.
Your hands have crafted everything,
From fish that swim to birds that sing
And when I see it all
I seek the wherewithal
To celebrate these gifts by worshiping.
Great Potter, you have molded me
And blessed me with your guarantee
That everlasting love
Will touch me from above
To never stop throughout eternity.
Each Lent we seek the cross again
Where Christ endured such bitter pain
Rejected and alone.
They rolled away the stone.
His resurrection power is our gain.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Ash Wednesday Poem
Dear Lord, I am, but broken down
By sin and creature’s form,
Still fully dependent upon
Your help in every storm.
I hear the words, that I am dust,
And to dust shall return,
Yet in the meantime I rely
On your care and concern.
Though I know I am set free by
Your love’s amazing grace,
Still every day I struggle some
To recognize your face.
So clouded by my worldly cares,
I do not recognize
The many times each day that you
Reach out to hush my cries.
And when greed rises up inside,
Or pride, hypocrisy,
I often fail to turn away,
Your servant cross to see.
Now as I feel the ashes touch
My forehead and I hear
The limitations that I face
Help me to keep you near.
Though I am just a creature made
From planetary dust
I know that in your grace and love
I should not fail to trust.
For, though I walk in brokenness
And am weighed down by sin,
I stand in faith, that through the cross
I’ll be set free within.
And when in your own righteousness,
Dear Lord, you call my name,
And set me free from earthly bonds
Your gift of life I’ll claim.
Yet in the meantime you have blessed
My life, with a call to
Serve in your name, and with your love,
Help others walk with you.
Give me the strength to face each day
Inspired by your love,
So that even when darkness comes
Your light shines from above.
And, though still broken, I may find
The joy of life in you,
Discerning that with the Son’s rise
I am fully made new.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Monday Prayer
In peace, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For the peace that comes from the promises of God, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For the light of Christ to shine in our lives, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For the joy that touches our lives through the care of others, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For health and healing and wholeness, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For time to repair what is broken in our lives and for God’s presence and Spirit to help it happen, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For leaders who lead with wisdom, grace and mercy, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For guidance during these difficult days which gives us insight, wisdom and hope, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For strength to meet any difficulty which comes our way, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For moments of productive labor, full joy and peaceful rest each day, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For all who work to promote peace, healing, sufficient supplies, learning, research, and good relationships, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
For our greatest needs to be met, our faith to be inspired and our prayers to be heard, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For our gracious God to hear our prayers in the name of our Lord Jesus.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Monday Prayer based on Psalm 23
Dear Lord, shepherd me through these uncertain days
And provide me with all that I need,
That I may find strength in your divine presence
Which helps all of my fears to recede.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear my prayer.
Dear Lord, let the waters of life remain still
And its pastures abundantly green,
That when cares may quicken, and concerns arise,
In your promises I walk serene.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear my prayer.
Dear Lord, my soul rests in restorative love,
May your righteousness grant this to me,
For in your name’s sake I am transformed anew
And my greatest anxieties flee.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear my prayer.
Dear Lord, you have taken on death to give life,
May its shadows retreat in your light,
That my fears for evils which may come my way
In your dear loving presence take flight.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear my prayer.
Dear Lord, may your staff provide comfort for me,
May your cross always help me to know
That nothing can separate me from your love
Promised to me in baptism’s flow.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear my prayer.
Dear Lord, may your banquet of love fill me still
Even when life’s cares pull me away,
Help me to share your abundant blessings with
All who look for your help when they pray.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear my prayer.
Dear Lord, let your goodness and mercy remain
Upon me every day as I strive,
Freed up by your grace, to go out in the world
Sharing your love and feeling alive.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear my prayer.
Dear Lord, may I dwell in your house every day
Feeling loved and protected by you,
And when I draw my final breath, on that day,
By your love and your grace make me new.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear my prayer.
Amen. Pastor Jay Serafin

Monday Prayer
For shelter from impending storm
For home and family
For all that helps to keep us warm
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For doctors, nurses and all staff
For medical know-how
For all that makes us sing and laugh
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For your great promise, life to give
For cross and empty tomb
For faith which give us strength to live
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For time to work and time to play
For moments of deep peace
For ways you bless us every day
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For talent and ability
For those who help us out
For all the ways, your love to see,
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For Hope which doesn’t disappoint
For Faith and Love also
For baptized promise to anoint
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For all who serve to meet our needs
For all essential staff
For those who build or plant the seeds
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For darkness-disappearing light
For hope on hopeless days
For always living in your sight
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For each new hour which comes our way
For memories we hold
For holy presence felt each day
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For promises of life anew
For peace and holy calm
For all the love received from you
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For cross and grave, salvation won
For gospel as a gift
For prayer given through your Son
We give you thanks, O Lord.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Alliterative Allegorical Articulation
As another Almighty act
Bears blessed, benevolent bliss,
Communicates Christ-centered calm,
Deific doings don’t dismiss
Especially elemental
Faith, forming fullest family,
Granted greatest grace, Godly gift,
Honestly hoping happily
In inspired ideals in
Jesus-justifying joyful
Kindness kindled, keeping Kingdom
Love, love lifting liturgical
Ministrations magnifying
Neighbors, never-ending, newfound
Opportunities offering
Promise, peace, perception profound.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Monday Prayer
In peace, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For the peace of holy presence throughout the day, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For opportunities to serve others according to our call, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For the wholeness and healing which comes from God, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For strength for all who strive to bring healing, who care for the ill and who are caretakers for people in need, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For a sense of purpose which aligns with our mission to take up our cross and follow Christ, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For stronger faith each day which helps us in life’s darkest moments, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For fitful sleep, honest work and renewing leisure, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For community which is directed to build up its members, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For the church, that it may remain true to its greatest mission of sharing the Gospel, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For each person we encounter, that we may see the light of Christ in his or her face, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For moments of joy which lift us to the presence of the Holy, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For patience to persevere during times which do not go according to plan, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For the light of Christ to shine through us for others, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For hope, joy and companionship to enter the lives of those who feel lost, lonely and afraid, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For holy grace, that our prayers, shared in the name of our Lord, may be heard and God’s love may touch our lives each day, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Epiphany Every Day
Currently, we are in the middle of the Season of Epiphany in the Church year calendar. The season began with the Day of Epiphany, commemorating the magi coming to find and celebrate the baby Jesus. The Season of Epiphany moves on from this event to celebrate the “epiphany” or manifestation of Jesus to the world. The word “epiphany” literally means “an appearance or manifestation, especially of a deity” ( During the season our gospel readings focus on ways Jesus makes himself known, from his baptism to his calling of the disciples to his ministry, concluding with the Transfiguration. The Season of Epiphany, then, becomes an important transitional season between the birth of the Messiah (Christmas) and the death and resurrection of Messiah (Lent and Easter).
It is important, however, that we don’t miss the significance of Epiphany as an everyday event. One of the other definitions for the word “epiphany” from is the following, “a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.” According to this definition, an epiphany can take place in the midst of something ordinary. If this is true, can Jesus be manifest in the ordinary moments of life? My answer is a resounding “yes!” We have statements by Jesus in the Gospels telling us that he becomes present for us in certain events or situations. “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:20) “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25: 40b) “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 19-20) We have plenty of evidence in the Scriptures that Jesus is made manifest (an epiphany occurs) when folks gather in his name, when we care for and love one another, when we are engaged in doing those things we are called to do by our commission in the waters of baptism. In those moments of life when we feel the soft touch of God’s love or grace or presence, we have an epiphany, a manifestation of our risen Lord Jesus with us in that moment. Maybe, then, our spiritual journey through the Season of Epiphany is meant to continue throughout the year, as we witness our risen Lord active in our lives again and again and again. Where is Christ present in our lives? Christ is present in a baby’s smile or a warm word of comfort, in the help a friend gives or the voice of a loved one on the telephone. Christ is present when we witness one person helping another person in need, whether in a hospital or nursing home, a grocery store or parking lot, in the neighborhood or in unfamiliar places. Christ is present whenever someone speaks words of hope, words of comfort, words of love or encouragement. Christ is manifest in human interaction which honors another, in moments when two or more people feel a connection which makes life better, which builds up, which makes a positive memory that can last beyond the event. Christ is manifest in countless ways in our lives. Using the second definition of “epiphany” from above, this sudden manifestation of Christ isn’t dependent upon amazing supernatural events which thunder down upon us, but comes in the gentle, common, normal interactions we share. So, if we take seriously the idea of epiphany, and witness with the church during this season the manifestation of the Christ in the Gospels, we also know that we find this same Christ in our daily lives. Epiphany happens every day, even in moments when we miss its significance. I’ll leave you, then, with and important question or two. Where does Christ manifest himself in your life? Where is the love of God made known to you? In those moments, Christ is present. In order to live “Epiphany” every day, then, how can we make ourselves more aware of the Christ who is with us, moment after moment, touching us with his love, his mercy, his life?
Pastor Jay Serafin

Monday Prayer
We give you thanks, dear Lord above,
For all the ways you send your love,
And ask that you consent to give
The basic things we need to live.
Please touch the hearts of those who strive
To heal and care and keep alive
All who, by illness, are constrained,
That health and wholeness are attained.
Please walk with us amidst our fear
So that we know you’re ever near,
And help us all by your dear grace
To see you in our neighbor’s face.
Give blessing to the things we do
That in our work all may know you,
And help us to find time to play
A little bit most every day.
But most of all, most gracious Lord,
Each prayer stands as its own reward,
For in your name we truly share
All of the things for which we care,
Knowing that each thought which we raise,
Joined with our everlasting praise,
Is lovingly noted by you
Who works to make the broken, new.
You did not spare your only Son
Who triumphed over death and won
Victory in which we rejoice
Certain that we can always voice
Our hope and dreams, our prayers, our fears
Which, heard by you throughout the years,
Are tenderly held in your hand,
Assured that you will understand
And in your loving care will send
Full blessings which will never end.
So, through your dear Son we will pray
Lifting our voice to you each day
And know that you will bless with care
All heartfelt things we raise in prayer.
Pastor Jay Serafin

On the Banks of the Jordan
Y-You walked the Galilean land,
O-On Jordan’s banks you stopped to stand
U-Under the morning sun, so bright,
A-And gazed upon the wondrous sight
R-Replaying right before your eyes
E-Each time John, driven to baptize,
M-Made reference to the promised king
Y-Yearned for by people still waiting
S-So long for God’s great gift to come,
O-Oppressed under the Roman thumb,
N-Never surrendering belief
T-That God would come to bring relief.
H-He said Messiah’s on the way,
E-Empowered to build a new day,
B-Baptizing all with Spirit’s might
E-Entering soon to bring God’s light.
L-Looking around, John saw your face,
O-Only to comprehend God’s grace
V-Vividly manifest in you,
E-Eternal promise now in view.
D-Down to the Jordan’s stream you came,
W-Without great fanfare or acclaim,
I-Inviting John to baptize you
T-That you may be commissioned to
H-Head out into this world so dark,
Y-Your purpose to provide the spark
O-Of light and life and hope and love
U-Unleashed for all, sent from above.
I-In your own sight the Spirit came
A-As God the Father made the claim
M-“My son, I am so pleased with you.”
W-Wholly empowered to pursue
E-Enlightened mission in God’s name,
L-Lighting the Holy Spirit’s flame,
L-Loving us with God’s love so we
P-Practice this love that all may see
L-Love as the greatest gift we bear
E-Each moment lived and everywhere,
A-As baptized children of the one
S-Sent to the world, God’s only Son,
E-Eternal Word, made flesh to give
D-Deific grace, that all may live.
Pastor Jay Serafin

For food and shelter, family, friends,
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For love from you which never ends,
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For those who work to heal the ill
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For growing knowledge, greater skill
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For those who supply what we need
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For ways we help your will succeed
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For those who care enough to serve
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For your full grace we don’t deserve
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For sunshine’s warmth and gentle rain
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For freedom from despair and pain
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For memories which bring a smile
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For those different in thought and style
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For busy days and fitful sleep
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For Easter life, its joy to keep
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For pets and all the cheer they bring
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For flower’s bloom and birds that sing
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For promise given by your Son
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For new life in his name begun
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For this prayer in your holy name
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For knowing that you hear our claim
We give you thanks, O Lord.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Darkness to Light
Deep Darkness
Churning Chaos
Festering Fear
Uncontrollable Uncertainty
Waxing Weakness
Destructive Despair
Lingering loneliness
Gloomy Grief
Devastating Death
Extraordinary Emmanuel
Liberating Life
Coruscating Celebration
Constant Community
Heartening Hope
Swelling Strength
Cool Confidence
Faithful Fortitude
Placid Peace
Life-giving Light
Enlightening Emmanuel
Pastor Jay Serafin

Children of the Light
Deep in the night I lay awake
And pondered how I might
Go forth into this broken world
Bearing Messiah’s light.
It seemed impossible to me,
Broken and touched by sin,
To think that I could share God’s love
While knowing that within
I carried my humanity,
Imperfect and impure.
So, how could I step forth to serve?
How could I know for sure?
I think of saints who built the church,
Who earned their haloed state,
And wonder how I could compare
Or even imitate
The faithful acts, the deep passion,
With which they served the Lord
And know that I will fall far short
Of their sublime record.
That moment, as I drowned in sin,
And lost hope that I might
Ever be good enough to bear
Messiah’s blazing light,
I heard a voice speak soft and sure
With words I recognized,
“I baptize you,” was all it said,
Dear Lord, was I surprised.
For in that moment I recalled
The promise that God made
As water streamed upon my head,
A life-giving cascade.
In those sweet words God raised me up
From sin’s tumultuous wave
To call me His own chosen child
And lift me from the grave,
To live each day as claimed and bound
By promise, bold and bright,
In which I walk each lovely day
To shine forth our Lord’s light.
For God the Spirit works in me,
And works in all of you,
To strengthen and empower us
As we are formed anew.
By water and the Word God gives
A promise and full life
To each and every one of us,
Which lifts us up from strife,
And in his name we serve each day,
Empowered by his might,
So that we really can live as
God’s children of the light.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Monday Prayer
For the peace which comes from you.
Lord be our light.
For a sense of your presence in our lives
Lord be our light
For the courage to live each day fully
Lord be our light
For a better understanding of your will in our lives
Lord be our light
For safety from the trouble which darkness brings
Lord be our light
For a place in this world where we feel free to live fully
Lord be our light
For a willingness to share your love and care for our neighbors
Lord be our light
For hearts guided by grace because you give grace
Lord be our light
For souls unburdened because of your forgiveness
Lord be our light
For your Word to spark in us a desire to take your presence into the world
Lord be our light
For our prayers lifted on behalf of those in need
Lord be our light
For those who work to heal and to make whole
Lord be our light
For a deeper understanding of servanthood
Lord be our light
For hope in a broken world
Lord be our light
For moments of joy, laughter and meaningful interaction
Lord be our light
For openness to see you in the face of others
Lord be our light
For humility in our encounters with those who disagree
Lord be our light
For patience, perseverance and perception
Lord be our light
For the ability to see the possibilities before us
Lord be our light
For the darkness to be overcome
Lord be our light
For your presence when we need it most
Lord be our light
For your blessings
Lord be our light
For your love to shine on us every moment
Lord be our light
For the peace which comes from you
Lord be our light
For this prayer, offered in your name
Lord be our light
Pastor Jay Serafin

The Gospel of John, Chapter 1
For the light shines in the darkness
The darkness could not win
For God has come to reclaim all
From brokenness and sin.
The Word has become flesh, John wrote,
To walk with humankind
And teach us how to serve and share
Leaving no one behind.
The prophet John came to baptize
And prepare the Lord’s way
Holding the people to account
At the dawn of Christ’s day.
The people, John said, knew him not
Nor could they recognize
The God at work in their presence
The God who dies to rise.
But those who believed in his name
Were empowered to be
God’s own born not of human will
But of God’s new decree
This Christ, the Word, predated time
God’s Word spoke creation
And now this same Word, taking flesh,
Becomes our salvation.
In him is life and light for all
Our broken human race
And from his fullness we receive
God’s love, grace upon grace.
A Christmas story, manger born,
In lowly, darkened place
Becomes the light for all to see
Redeeming time and space.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Monday Prayer
In peace, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For the peace of Christmas which lives in our hearts daily, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For the light of Christ to shine in our darkness, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For the love of God which comes to us as Emmanuel, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For our celebrations, that they may be joyful, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For those who travel that they may be safe, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For the Spirit of Christmas to live in each of us daily, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For God’s justice, mercy and peace to reign in our world, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For the lonely, the lost and the afraid, that they may have the gift of Emmanuel, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For the ill, the tired and the hurting, that the peace of the Christ may give them rest, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For those who work to share the burdens of others, that they may have renewed strength and commitment, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For the Church, that it may carry the Spirit of the Word made flesh to the world, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For all who read this prayer, that you may find joy, peace and wholeness in the gift God has given us through Christ, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For all who pray for others, that their prayers may be heard by our generous God, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For God’s mercy to be responsive to our prayers, which we pray in Christ’s holy name.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Merry Christmas “The night before Christmas”
‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the land
All God’s people were blessed by God’s generous hand
While they celebrated in their various ways
They longed for a return to more normal of days
Still they rejoiced by singing carols they knew
As the minutes and hours of the evening flew
And seated ‘round tables in homes far and near
They knew with God’s grace they had nothing to fear
Yet they craved to be with all their family and friends
To discuss Christmas joys and new holiday trends
But this sadness gave way to a much better joy
As they remembered God came as a baby boy
So they looked at the decorations all around
In their neighborhood where Christmas light could be found
And they smiled at their children and sat down to share
Their Christmas Eve meal after having a prayer
They talked on the phone to wish friends good noel
And laughed at the stories their comrades would tell
Later in the evening they watched on TV
The recorded service and worshipped with glee
Giving thanks to God who came to earth as a child
Who was laid in a manger so meek and so mild
They listened to Christmas hymns and sang along
Then suddenly felt God’s love present and strong
And when “Silent Night” played they each shed a tear
Yet were strengthened in faith and knew their God is near
With candles held high they heard John’s Gospel state
That the Word is among them, his light will be great
And remove the darkness and shine evermore
Granting new life and joy, peace and so much more
With blessings then given and God’s peace proclaimed
The people rejoiced and God’s great gift acclaimed
So renewed by promise and strengthened by love
They gave thanks to their God who came down from above
And late in the night they set off to their beds
As the song of the angels replayed in their heads
Then sharing this greeting to each dimmed the light
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”
Pastor Jay Serafin

In Ages Past (A Christmas poem)
In ages past the people cried
As darkness pushed away the light,
And justice trickled to a stop.
“When will God come to set things right?”
In ages past their hope wore thin
Amidst the sorrow and the pain,
As days flowed slowly into years.
“When will God act to ease the strain?”
In ages past the people hoped
For hearts of joy and souls of peace
Which lifted all above the toil.
“When will God make this torment cease?”
In ages past the people faced
Despair and sorrow, deepest fears,
While waiting for the promised day.
“When will God wipe away their tears?”
In ages past the people sang
Songs touched by sadness, longing, grief,
Lifting their voices heavenward.
“When will God grant promised relief?”
In ages past angels announced
The message of a child born
Who would bring peace to all on earth.
Is God’s promise fulfilled that morn?
In ages past the shepherds said
“Let’s go to see what’s taken place,”
And to the lowly stable walked.
Is this how God would show His face?
In ages past as Mary sat
To ponder what her God had done
She looked down at her sleeping child.
“Is God’s purpose found in my son?”
In ages past some people saw
Their God at work in Jesus’ love
While others nailed him to a tree.
Is this God’s plan sent from above?
In ages past the Gospels claimed
That Jesus leaped out from the grave
To give God’s fullest life to all.
Is this how God would work to save?
In ages past as people cried
For God to come and make things new
God’s love and grace came to the world.
Is God in Jesus born for you?
In ages past the people sang
A new song telling of a son
Born in a stable, who would save.
Is this God’s triumph for us won?
In ages past when darkness spread
God intervened to send His light
And Christmas answered all our fears.
Is God’s Son stronger than the night?
In ages past the Word enfleshed,
Born in lowly stable stall,
Became our Christmas gift of life.
Is God amazing, saving all?
Merry Christmas!
Pastor Jay Serafin

An Advent Prayer
For peace, let us pray for the Lord.
Come, Lord Jesus.
For light which shines forth in the darkness of this world, let us pray for the Lord.
Come, Lord Jesus.
For a deeper connection with the amazing love and grace God has for us all, let us pray for the Lord.
Come, Lord Jesus.
For moments to celebrate in this unique time, let us pray for the Lord.
Come, Lord Jesus.
For the opportunity to hear once again God’s great promise to be Emmanuel, God with us, let us pray for the Lord.
Come, Lord Jesus.
For the one who is to come to make what is broken whole again, let us pray for the Lord.
Come, Lord Jesus.
For the great good news heralded by angels and witnessed by shepherds, let us pray for the Lord.
Come, Lord Jesus.
For the reign of God to be made real in our lives, let us pray for the Lord.
Come, Lord Jesus.
For the holy presence of God to rest upon us during this season of celebration, let us pray for the Lord.
Come, Lord Jesus.
For the light of life to brighten our days now and forever, let us pray for the Lord.
Come, Lord Jesus.
For our greatest hopes and needs to meet God’s greatest promise and presence, let us pray to the Lord.
Come, Lord Jesus.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Advent Prayer
To bring peace in our hearts and bring us your light
Which lifts darkest shadows and takes away night,
Come, Lord Jesus.
To grant health and wholeness to all who are ill
And shape every day with your wonderful will,
Come, Lord Jesus.
To fulfill all our hopes and to take away fears
And bind up the broken and wipe away tears,
Come, Lord Jesus.
To make us aware of your presence each day
While at work or at school, at home or at play,
Come, Lord Jesus.
To watch over those who practice healing arts
With patience and strength and such warm, loving hearts,
Come, Lord Jesus.
To hold in your hand those in need of our prayers,
That your love dissolve all their fears and their cares,
Come, Lord Jesus.
To grant wisdom’s foresight to everyone who
Is leading us forward, empowered by you,
Come, Lord Jesus.
To fix what is broken by your mighty hand
And bring greater justice throughout our dear land,
Come, Lord Jesus.
To give us a rest which is calm, full and free,
Unburdened from worries so your peace we see,
Come, Lord Jesus.
To grant us, this Advent, our greatest needs filled,
Our deepest needs answered, our anxious hearts stilled,
Come, Lord Jesus.
To let our hope shine, one more candle we light,
And pray for your coming, frail child, with God’s might,
Come, Lord Jesus.
To enable us to prepare your straight way
To ready our hearts for you this Christmas Day,
Come, Lord Jesus.
Come, Lord Jesus. Come.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Say an extra prayer today…
Say an extra prayer today for our healthcare institutions and those who are working so hard right now in the midst of this terrible pandemic to provide caring, quality healthcare as hospitalizations rise and infection rates continue to climb. We have several members in our congregations in Ringtown and Brandonville, and many more in our community, who are working day after day to provide medical aid to those in need in a system that is struggling under the burden of this pandemic. From doctors and nurses and aids and cleaning staff and security and desk staff on the floors of hospitals/nursing homes to lab technicians and those collecting samples to administrators and clerical staff and those responsible for information technology and healthcare policy and supplies and all others who are part of the hospital healthcare team or nursing home or doctor’s office staffs, and others whom I’ve missed but who are so important to this effort, stress levels and workloads and effort and determination have increased in ways we could not have imagined one year ago. Those of us on the outside can appreciate but never fully know what this year has been like for those of you in the middle of our healthcare efforts, but for those of you who work day after day to bring healing and wholeness, please know that we greatly appreciate your effort, your care, your strength and your desire to help those who face all medical issues, including COVID. In the middle of this Advent season, as we ponder the mystery of a God whose love is so great that this God chooses to come to be with us in an extraordinary way, let us not miss the ways that God’s love touches us in the care we receive and the presence and effort made real by those who either practice the healing arts or are part of the team of healthcare workers whose mission is to work for health and wholeness. They help to provide a light in the midst of the darkness we all confront in this strange year of pandemic. So, to all of you who work to heal, who support and provide for those who work to heal and who touch those facing pain or illness or despair or grief with the loving hand of God, please know that our prayers are with you and that we give thanks to God for all you do. And, for those of us not directly involved in the efforts these institutions provide, please know that the power of prayer is real, and that through our heartfelt prayer we stand in solidarity with those for whom we pray. Even if we feel helpless, honest prayer is an act of hope. Hope is at the center of Advent. So, say an extra prayer today.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Light of Hope
We will light a candle to shine in the night
And bask in the glow of this tiny, bright light,
For, more than a lantern emitting a glow,
This light is a symbol for what God will show.
Although it seems quaint amidst darkness profound,
In this one single light God’s new blessings abound,
Wrapped in promise and prophecy, told through the years
Among people who held to this light amidst tears
Which flowed in their sorrow and streamed in their grief
As they held onto hope that God would bring relief.
Whenever it seemed that the darkness would win,
Feeling broken and powerless, caught in their sin,
The people of God would hold firm to the claim
That their God was coming, salvation his aim,
And so, in the promise of old they held tight,
Defying the darkness by sharing a light
Which shined forth in promise, in hope that God’s will
Would break through the brokenness soon to instill
New blessings God sought to create which brings life
To this world filled with enmity, fractured by strife.
This light is a symbol of what God will bring
To an expecting world that is waiting to sing
A new song proclaiming how God wants to be
A presence of love for all people to see.
This chorus begins as each holds up a light
As commitment to defy the darkness and night,
So, together our flames can share our fervent hope
In the promises God will bring in fullest scope
When Emmanuel, our God with us, is born
And God’s fullest presence makes real on that morn
How we’re loved as His child, we’re freed from our sin,
God’s reign in our lives, now, can truly begin.
With Advent upon us we join in the song
Of a God who through weakness will make us all strong,
And bring wholeness and joy, new life and full light
Through a cross and a tomb, and then Easter’s might.
Light one single candle and hold it up high
To proclaim the promise that our God is nigh,
My own flame I join with yours, and many more,
To share in our hope in what God has in store
For full restoration when Messiah brings
Fulfillment of prophecy, all of the things
God’s reign will establish for all creation
As Christmas becomes our hope’s celebration.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Monday Prayer
L: In peace, let us pray to the Lord.
R: Lord, have mercy.
L: For peace in our hearts and peace in our minds, let us pray to the Lord.
R: Lord, have mercy.
L: For the light of Christ to shine in the darkness of our lives, let us pray to the Lord.
R: Lord, have mercy.
L: For strength to meet the needs of the day, let us pray to the Lord.
R: Lord, have mercy.
L: For wisdom to make good decisions which enhance our lives and the lives of others, let us pray to the Lord.
R: Lord, have mercy.
L: For insight into God’s, so that we are made more aware of better ways of sharing God’s love, let us pray to the Lord.
R: Lord, have mercy.
L: For the coming days, that we may prepare with hope, joy, wonder and anticipation for the coming of Messiah, let us pray to the Lord.
R: Lord, have mercy.
L: For scientists and others who continue to work to bring forth vaccines and therapies which enhance healing and health, let us pray to the Lord.
R: Lord, in your mercy.
L: For doctors, nurses, health professionals, staff and all who work in our healing institutions, that they may be touched by divine strength and love and share it in their work, let us pray to the Lord.
R: Lord, have mercy.
L: For all who work in public places, that they may be graced by God’s hand and granted health, strength and peace, let us pray to the Lord.
R: Lord, have mercy.
L: For those who face loneliness, illness, depression, despair, and hopelessness, that the loving presence of God may be with them, let us pray to the Lord.
R: Lord, have mercy.
L: For those who face illness and health uncertainty, that they may by graced with informed medical staff and touched by God’s healing hand, let us pray to the Lord.
R: Lord, have mercy.
L: For the church, that it may continue to witness faithfully to Jesus as the true light which overcomes all darkness in this world, let us pray to the Lord.
R: Lord, have mercy.
L: For our journey through Advent, that the light of God may create a path through the darkness and that we may prepare ourselves faithfully for the coming of Messiah, let us pray to the Lord.
R: Lord, have mercy.
L: That these and all of our prayers may be blessed by our God as we pray in the name of our Lord.
R: Amen.
Pastor Jay

In the Gloaming…
In the gloaming, almost night,
We hold on to the candle’s light,
Keeping promise in our sight,
In the gloaming, almost night.
In the gloaming, we can pray,
Please God show us the brighter way
For us to travel day by day
In the gloaming, we can pray.
In the gloaming, end of day,
As the evening’s shadows play
God’s love remains our hope and stay
In the gloaming, end of day.
In the gloaming, Advent time,
As darkness over all will climb
We seek to hear God’s verses rhyme
In the gloaming, Advent time.
In the gloaming, calm and still,
We ponder God’s most gracious will
Which, alone, can our hopes fill
In the gloaming, calm and still.
In the gloaming, gentle breeze,
We lift to God our fervent pleas
To calm our hearts and grant us ease
In the gloaming, gentle breeze.
In the gloaming, shadows cast
Their growing darkness, cold and fast
Yet God’s own light is unsurpassed
In the gloaming, shadows cast.
In the gloaming, sunlight wanes,
Still hope in God’s great love remains
Which creates in his Son’s light gains
In the gloaming, sunlight wanes.
In the gloaming, Christmas nears,
Its hope an antidote to fears
For Christ will wipe away our tears
In the gloaming, Christmas nears.
In the gloaming, upper room,
Leads to cross and empty tomb
Which overcomes our sinful doom
In the gloaming, upper room.
In the gloaming, growing chill,
We live by faith and hope until
We are made new by God’s warm will
In the gloaming, growing chill.
In the gloaming, evermore,
God’s promise we can hold as sure
Until Christ comes as once before
In the gloaming, evermore.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Of Candles and Light
Cold Winter blows its chilling breath
As days grow short and dim,
Its frigid aspects chill the bone,
Its voice, a funeral hymn.
Cruel darkness lifts its shadowed face,
Victorious each day
In pushing back the sun’s attempt
To send a warming ray.
In shades of grey, full winter hue,
No one can interpose
To shorten winter’s icy hand
And hasten summer’s prose.
So, what can we, mere mortals, do
To journey forth and be
Unburdened by winter’s tight grasp
And from its darkness, free?
I’ll light a candle, filled with hope,
Ensured by promise made,
And gather courage in its light
To live life, unafraid.
My one, small light, seen by itself
May not seem much, I know,
Still I will light it to defy
The dark of Winter’s show.
And so, this light, when joined with yours,
Accompanied by more,
Proves antidote to Winter’s strength,
Its lifeless, icy hoar.
For in this spark, expectation
Is born in darkest stage,
Relying on the God of light
To bring a brand new age.
We light a candle born in hope,
In promise and in love,
Shared by the God who loves so much,
Who came down from above.
This God is presence, even though
The cold and darkness chills.
Emmanuel brings light and love
Which overcomes these ills.
Filled, even on the darkest day,
With hope from this one light,
My hope grows into certainty
When I see yours shine bright.
We light one candle now to watch
And wait Messiah’s birth,
Next week we light one candle more
To flicker on the earth.
A third one is the light of love,
Which melts the coldest heart
And then we light one candle more
To bid darkness depart.
Then suddenly the angels sing
The Word, enfleshed, is born,
Emmanuel brings warmth and light,
God’s blessed Christmas morn.
This darkness which has come our way,
Which lengthens every night,
Will soon give way to joyous days
Empowered by God’s light.
While Winter blows its frosty breath,
With darkness in high tide,
We shine a light to defy death,
Its power to elide.
And in the midst of Winter’s grasp
We hold on to the light,
Inspired by its radiance
To flourish in our plight.
For God is with us, even though
Dark moments come our way,
Emmanuel, who brings full life
To brighten each new day.
In each ray of the Son’s bright light
The darkness flies away,
And magnified by holy grace
Creates a brand new day.
A single spark creates a flame,
A flame can split the night,
So, light a candle this Advent
And glory in God’s light. Pastor Jay Serafin

P: Stir up your power, O Lord, and come.
C: Come, Lord Jesus.
P: To bring your light of love and life
C: Come, Lord Jesus.
P: To bring hope to the hopeless and light in darkness
C: Come, Lord Jesus.
P: To allow your Spirit to move among us
C: Come, Lord Jesus.
P: To make our joy complete
C: Come, Lord Jesus.
P: To keep us safe this night and every night
C: Come, Lord Jesus.
P: To wipe away our tears and destroy our fears
C: Come, Lord Jesus.
P: To enlighten and enliven us with your presence
C: Come, Lord Jesus.
P: To walk with us in our hills and valleys
C: Come, Lord Jesus.
P: To give us the comfort of your peace
C: Come, Lord Jesus.
P: To bend our human wills to your divine will
C: Come, Lord Jesus.
P: To strengthen us, by your presence, into better ways of serving.
C: Come, Lord Jesus.
P: To teach us true mercy and justice
C: Come, Lord Jesus.
P: To fill our lonely hearts with your joyful presence
C: Come, Lord Jesus.
P: To show us how to love as you love
C: Come, Lord Jesus.
P: To make us whole in body, mind and spirit
C: Come, Lord Jesus.
P: To show us the true joy of relationship in you
C: Come, Lord Jesus.
P: To be our hope, our joy and our life
C: Come, Lord Jesus.
P: To be our celebration
C: Come, Lord Jesus.
P: Stir up your power, O Lord, and come.
C: Come, Lord Jesus. Come.
P: As we pray in your name, dear Lord,
C: Come. Amen.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Happy Thanksgiving!
On this holiday we pause to give thanks to God for the many blessings God has sent our way and for all the ways God’s love is a part of our lives. As a way of preparing and celebrating this holiday, I’ve prepared a few ponderings which you can contemplate, and perhaps guide your thinking into discoveries of the richness of God’s blessings in your life.
How has God blessed you? Allow your mind to be open to the many possible answers these ponderings provoke and, perhaps, you will discover God at work in more ways than you realize. This exercise is meant for you to make individual discoveries or gain personal insights, so you needn’t share them here on Facebook. However, if you’d like to share a special insight, we would love to hear it.

  1. Think of five people who have been special in your life.
  2. Think of two people who have challenged you in positive ways.
  3. Think of one person who has touched you with the love of God.
  4. Think of three people who have made you laugh, especially when feeling sad.
  5. Think of one person who has helped you understand something important.
  6. Think of someone you have loved.
  7. Think of someone you have helped to smile or laugh.
  8. Think of someone with whom you’ve shared God’s love.
  9. Think of the three most beautiful places you have been.
  10. Think of your special, personal favorite place to be.
  11. Think of the clearest nighttime sky you’ve ever seen.
  12. Think of the cutest baby you’ve ever laid eyes on.
  13. Think of the four most special moments of your life.
  14. Think of the single, most special holiday moment you’ve celebrated.
  15. Think of the most special meal you’ve ever had.
  16. Think of a hope you had which came true.
  17. Think of three especially fun moments you’ve enjoyed.
  18. Think of when you were a child, playing your favorite game.
  19. Think of your grandparents.
  20. Think of your parents.
  21. Think of something you enjoy doing and do very well.
  22. Think of the best smell in the world.
  23. Think of a time when you recovered from illness and felt strong again.
  24. Think of three moments that have made you happy.
  25. Think of the single most important thing for which you give thanks.
    Each answer is an example of God at work, blessing your life. We have much to celebrate this Thanksgiving, even in the midst of a strange year. May you find God’s grace and love active in your life today as you recall the many ways that grace and love have touched you and blessed you over the course of your life.
    Happy Thanksgiving!
    Pastor Jay

The Reign of Christ
“Christ is King!”
That is what we will proclaim on Sunday.
“The reign of Christ is upon us!”
This is our joyful cry,
Even though we know
This reign is, for us,
As far as we humans can sense it.
“Now, I know only in part.”
Saint Paul knew the limits, too,
Of human understanding.
We proclaim with the body of Christ,
The Church in heaven and on earth,
“Christ has died. Christ is risen!”
And so, the victory is won.
We look around us,
In our homes,
In our communities,
In our world,
And see the pain,
The darkness,
The uncertainty,
The grief,
The anger,
The disillusionment,
The suffering,
Only to know
We cannot claim fully,
As far as we can perceive it,
The abundant life
Jesus came to give.
As we struggle to understand,
To honor God’s blessings,
To trust in promise,
We hear the words of Christ,
Spoken again and again in the Gospels,
“The reign of God has come near to you.”
And we wonder
Where are you, Lord?
Then we read the words,
“As you did it to the least of these
You did it to me.”
Promised presence.
And we understand better
Along with Saint Francis,
“For it is in serving
That we are served.
It is in pardoning
That we are pardoned.
It is in dying to ourselves
That we are born into abundant life.”
And with Paul,
“Love is patient
And kind.
Love is not jealous
Or boastful
Or arrogant
Or rude.
Love does not insist on its own way.
Love bears all things.
Love believes all things.
Love hopes all things.
Love endures all things.
Love never ends.”
And with Jesus,
“For I was hungry
And you gave me something to eat,
I was thirsty
And you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger
And you invited me in,
I was naked
And you clothed me,
I was sick
And you cared for me,
I was imprisoned
And you came to me.”
The truth is
We know,
As did Paul,
That, now, we see “in a mirror dimly.”
That, now, we know “only the partial.”
But we do know enough
To understand,
And believe,
That the Reign of Christ
Becomes real
In acts of love,
And service,
And self-giving,
And dying to ourselves
For the sake of another.
In acts of serving
And love
We are transformed
And realize that the Reign of Christ
Becomes real
As we see Christ
In the person before us.
The Reign of Christ
Becomes real
When we serve another,
When we share God’s love,
When we commit acts of kindness,
When we feed another,
When we care for another,
When we listen to another,
When we honor another
As if Christ were before us.
For Christ does stand in front of us
In the form of another
Whose wholeness
Makes us whole.
So, we celebrate “The Reign of Christ,”
Knowing that by our limited vision,
Our limited understanding,
This reign seems fragmented.
But in the presence of Christ
We are made whole.
“For now, I see in a mirror dimly,
Then I will see face to face.
Now, I know only in part,
Then I shall understand fully,
Even as I have been understood fully.
And these three things remain:
And the greatest of these is love.”
For it is in loving that we find love,
In serving that we see Christ,
In dying to ourselves that we are reborn,
And in the midst of all of this,
We are enveloped by the Reign of Christ.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Reflecting on Psalm 23
The Lord is my Shepherd and I shall not need,
For He gives me pastures so green
In which I can rest in his comfort each day
And trust in His loving routine,
Which, so like a lake which is placid and still,
Reflects the Son’s light so to shine
That even in darkness, the pit of the night,
I know fully God’s love is mine,
And perceive my soul is refreshed by His grace
As He opens new pathways for me
So I may now walk in true confidence and
Face the future unbound and free
From shadows which limit my acuity,
Which fill me with fear and with dread,
And daily conspire to dampen my hope
In a future abundantly fed
By a promise which nourishes both heart and soul
At the table prepared by my Lord
In whose presence I will fear no evil assault,
My safety is won by His Word,
Which no enemy can defeat or undo,
My cup overflows by God’s grace,
Certainly, I know the Lord’s goodness and love
Will hold me tight in His embrace
And never let go, for the Lord knows my name,
His unending life he gives me
To dwell in the house of the Lord by and by
And know His love eternally.
Pastor Jay Serafin

We give you thanks, most gracious God
For sunshine and for rain,
For soft, warm breezes, starry nights,
This world, which you maintain.
We thank you for familial love,
For friends to share each day,
For all who help to make you known
At home, at work, at play.
We thank you for your blessed church
In which your Gospel song
Is shared to make your promise known,
To keep the faithful strong.
We thank you for each chance to serve
Another soul in need
And so, in doing, mimic Christ
By following his lead.
We thank you for community,
A place where we can share
The joys and toils of each day
Within each other’s care.
We thank you that, in darkest days,
You walk beside us still
With promised presence, future joys,
Your never-failing will.
We thank you, Lord, that on this day
Your love flows endlessly
Into our lives in ways we know
And ways we cannot see.
We give you thanks, our gracious God,
That we can lift in prayer
Our joys, our sorrows and our hopes
And leave them in your care.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Abundant life
God’s abundant life
By God’s abundant life
Graced by God’s abundant life
Fully graced by God’s abundant life
Live fully graced by God’s abundant life
We live fully graced by God’s abundant life
Daily we live fully graced by God’s abundant life
We live fully graced by God’s abundant life
Live fully graced by God’s abundant life
Fully graced by God’s abundant life
Graced by God’s abundant life
By God’s abundant life
God’s abundant life
Abundant life
God’s promise
By God’s promise
Blessed by God’s promise
Be blessed by God’s promise
To be blessed by God’s promise
Always to be blessed by God’s promise
Are always to be blessed by God’s promise
We are always to be blessed by God’s promise
Are always to be blessed by God’s promise
Always to be blessed by God’s promise
To be blessed by God’s promise
Be blessed by God’s promise
Blessed by God’s promise
By God’s promise
God’s promise
Celebrate today
To celebrate today
Time to celebrate today
Take time to celebrate today
Faithfully take time to celebrate today
We faithfully take time to celebrate today
Together we faithfully take time to celebrate today
Bound together we faithfully take time to celebrate today
Together we faithfully take time to celebrate today
We faithfully take time to celebrate today
Faithfully take time to celebrate today
Take time to celebrate today
Time to celebrate today
To celebrate today
Celebrate today
Pastor Jay Serafin

A Monday Prayer
Amidst the storms which come our way
And bring us low by night,
We pray for strength and courage to
Step forward in your light.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
As creatures of your gracious hand
Give us the wisdom to
See joy in each and every day
Which comes as gift from you.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
Help us to choose the wiser way
In things we can control,
And know that in your loving care
You make what’s broken whole.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
We know your love shines brighter when
We share it with a friend,
So please empower us to care
For others without end.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
In places where your presence seems
Unable to be found
Inspire us to share your grace
To help your love redound.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
For all the lonely, lost, afraid,
Who cry to you this day,
We ask that you may hold them tight
And love their fears away.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
In all our brokenness and pain,
Our discord and our strife,
We place our trust in your desire
To grant abundant life.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
Uplift us, Lord, and calm our hearts
And guide us through each day
That we may walk safely with you
Along life’s bumpy way.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
In Jesus’ name.
Pastor Jay Serafin

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
We can recall how through them we’ve been blessed,
And know that they were gifts you sent our way
Whom we can hold inside our hearts each day.

For all the saints, who touched us with your love,
We send our thanks and praise to you above
Dear Lord, our Father, you called each by name
Who at your throne, your majesty proclaim.

For all the saints, who faced hardship and strife
And remained faithful to you in this life,
Who inspire us when we face darkest night
To hold your promise as our guiding light.

For all the saints, whose names are known to you,
Whom we’ve not met, who held you in their view,
We give you thanks and share their life’s mission
To tell the world the truth about your Son.

For all the saints, who bless our lives this day,
Family and friends, at church, at work, at play,
Who, on this journey, lift us with your grace,
We give you thanks, and in them see your face.

Alleluia! Alleluia!

Pastor Jay Serafin

Prayer at the End of the Week
For sunny days, a warming breeze
And rain enough to grow
Enough for us to fill our needs
From what, in Spring, we sow
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For guidance from your Spirit sent
To lead us every day
Into decisions made to share
Your love, which is your way
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For health and safety through the night
As you bless our welfare,
That when we wake to face the dawn
We rejoice in your care
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For inspiration and wisdom
That help our leaders know
The choicest path in future days
Through which your blessings flow
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For ways your hope beats hopelessness
And love ends loneliness,
That in your hand your grace may move
To heal, make whole and bless
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For beauty in surprising form
Which moves our souls to cheer
Its creativity unleashed
And bear your grace more near
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For those who live each day to serve
Another person’s need
That they will know, in sharing love,
They’ve planted holy seed
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For times to celebrate and share,
Moments to praise your name,
For joys in life and simple peace,
Each blessing we acclaim,
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For certainty in promise shared
By Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who came to give us salvation,
The hope and life he’s won
We give you thanks, O Lord.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Recently, I read the following on a sign outside of a business in Bloomsburg and I liked it, so I think I will use it for a reflection.
“Count your blessings, not your problems.”
Count your blessings, not your problems
Each and every day
Knowing that your blessings lift you
All along life’s way.
Count your blessings, not your problems
Even when you’re down,
For your blessings bring a smile
Flipping up your frown.
Count your blessings, not your problems
So that you may see,
Blessing bring us strength of purpose
And can set us free.
Count your blessings, not your problems
When all things look dark.
Light and joy are soon created
By a blessing’s spark.
Count your blessings, not your problems
Lifting all around,
Giving hope that comes from blessings,
Where God’s grace is found.
Count your blessings, not your problems
With family and friends,
Knowing that you’re really sharing
Love which never ends.
Count your blessings, not your problems
Even when you’re bored,
For in each and every blessing
True delight is stored.
Count your blessings, not your problems
And you will design
Memories which last forever,
Days which truly shine.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Dear Lord,
We pray for prudence in these days
And wisdom from above,
So what we choose to say and do
Is guided by your love.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
We pray for doctors, nurses, staff,
Who practice healing arts,
And ask that you may help them know
We keep them in our hearts.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
We pray for leaders near and far
That they may find a way
To guide their people in safety
Through this and every day.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
We pray that, as the season morphs
From Summer into Fall,
Your Spirit leads us into hope
Within your love’s enthrall.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
We pray that you may know our hearts
Are filled with thanks and praise
For all the blessings which you send
This moment, and always.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
We pray for those now touched by grief,
Or loneliness, or pain,
That in your presence they may find
Relief and joy again.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
We pray for strength in times of fear
And patience in our strife,
Convinced that in your loving hands
You transform death to life.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
We pray for hearts which mimic yours
In generosity
So that inspired to live your love
It’s you the world will see.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
These things we pray through your dear Son,
Who taught us how to pray,
And how to serve our neighbor’s need
Our true mission each day.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Theological Word for the Day

Perhaps my favorite theological word of all is “grace.” It seems like such a simple, common word on the surface, but its implications for our understanding of God and of our relationship with God and each other are profoundly impacted by our understanding of grace and its place in our theology. In order to unpack this word, it might be good to begin with some common understandings so we are on the same page. Here is the background.
If God indeed exists, here are some propositions about God and us that seem, to me, to be important.

  1. God is God. As such, God is very different from you and me and all humans.
  2. I am not God. You are not God. We are humans. We are not God.
  3. The God who created the universe is vastly beyond our understanding. We don’t know much about God. What we can know is the information God reveals to us about God’s self.
  4. We are creatures, created by God. God knows us more deeply and intimately than we know ourselves.
  5. How, why, where and what God reveals to us helps us to understand our relationship with God better as we come to understand God better.
  6. The Scriptures, showcasing the experiences of believers over many centuries in their encounters with God, are a window into better understanding God.
  7. Jesus is the greatest, most authentic and fullest revelation we have from God. Through Jesus we have the clearest picture of who God is and how God interacts with us in relationship.
    So, based upon these propositions, we Christians come to see God most truly through the lens of Jesus. Here is where grace enters to equation. If God exists, and the fullness God is so far beyond our understanding and reach so that our relationship with that God is always, to some extent, uncertain, then the fact that this God chooses to come to us in human form, manifesting physically in time and space what is so much beyond time and space, shows how strongly this God wants to be in relationship with us. The God of creation, who knows all, understands that we are broken and incapable of having pure relationships with God and with each other. In the midst of our inability as creatures to make things right, God decides to come to us to restore our relationship with God and show us the way to restore relationship with each other. That this Jesus would live by resoundingly acting in love even in the midst of the abuse and scorn he faced shows us the tenor of God’s own desire to be in relationship with us, and that this relationship is one based upon care and love. That this Jesus would take on the power structures of the world, both political and religious, points to God’s viewing of our situation as one of brokenness even in our own relationships. The ultimate example of this brokenness is shown when the powers that be, with the assent of the crowd, nail Jesus to the cross and execute him for the crimes of insurrection and blasphemy. God, then, vindicates the mission of Jesus by raising him from the dead, showing that the hardest we can work to fracture our relationship with God is to no avail. We try to kill our relationship with God and God will not have it be so. God will be victorious in having God’s will done. We can’t open a fissure wide enough, even by doing our worst, that places us outside of the redeeming and atoning acts of God. Jesus gives the mission of telling the story of this loving, redeeming God to his followers, who become the church, the people who have heard the story and recognize the God who came/comes to us in Jesus. Our relationship with God is restored.
    That the God who created everything, who is beyond our creatureliness, with whom we have caused broken relationship, decides to come to us to restore community with us is the very idea of grace itself. In our own condition we are broken and incapable of fixing our relationship with God. Yet God’s love is so great that this God does the work necessary to consider forever the relationship whole again. Yes, we will fail again and again. We will do things or not do things, think things or not think things, say things or not say things which will fracture relationship with God and with each other. But the mega-story has been written. God’s love, God’s resurrection love, perseveres and claims us completely, giving us a relationship to which we can turn again and again for comfort, promise, hope and life. Inside of this relationship we, then, can focus on re-creating, re-imagining our relationships with each other, understanding that the best we can do is emulate the one sent to restore our relationships so many years ago. When we fail, when we fall short, we try again, knowing that God’s promise of love and life are true. In these promises we are made whole again.
    What is grace? Grace is the whole story. It is the understanding that God’s love for us supersedes everything and is overarching. This love, this life, is given freely, as a gift. We can not earn it. We can not pay for it. We simply accept it and allow it to work its wonders in our lives and in our renewed relationship with God as we build and renew relationship with each other. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world may be saved through him.” (John 3: 16-17) “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
    Pastor Jay Serafin

IS Dead Dead?
“Dead is dead,” so Pilate thought,
The temple priests agreed,
The one they hanged upon the cross
Was very dead, indeed.
His lifeless, breathless body wrapped,
Was placed inside a tomb.
The place of endings, death and loss
God changed into a womb.
For on the first day of the week,
Which followed hanging day,
A miracle full well took place,
The stone was rolled away.
And in that moment hope was born,
As from the tomb arose
The one whom death had overcome
Springing from the shadows.
Our Easter life was birthed that day
When death’s dark powers fell,
Creating new reality,
A story we will tell.
In faith we have received new birth,
Paul says we’ve died with Christ,
Only to be born from above.
For this Christ sacrificed.
Now each new day provides us with
An opportunity
To re-imagine what it means
Living in Christ, death free.
Empowered fully by God’s gift
Which broke the chains of death,
We now are free to speak Christ’s love
With every grateful breath.
Amidst the storms which come our way
And cause our hearts to fear
We know these shadows will not last
When Easter joy is near.
Each morning as we wake from sleep
To greet the brand-new day
We are renewed by empty tomb
And stone now rolled away.
Our true birthday is Easter morn
With God’s promise revealed.
We live, we live through God’s great grace,
The death of death is sealed.
Live fully even when the storms
Of life rage all around,
Do not allow your fears to win
While Easter joys abound
“Dead is dead,” so Pilate thought,
But our God disagreed
And in the empty tomb he birthed
Our hope, from death we’re freed.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Children of the light
Each day elicits hope renewed
As darkness turns to light,
Inspired by the rising sun
Which overcomes the night.
As children of the light we walk,
Guided along the way
By God’s command to live by love
So that we may display
The peace of God surpassing all
Our minds may contemplate,
For in God’s peace we are renewed,
And fully celebrate
The wonder of the here and now
Each breath, each moment shared,
Each gift of grace which we receive
Because our dear Lord dared
To take upon himself our flesh
And feel despair and pain
In order to exchange with us
The hope of heaven’s gain.
Still as we live this hope each day
With trust in God’s great grace,
We still find darkness creeping in
To show its ugly face
In sinful actions, deeds undone,
In illness and despair
As often we refuse to show
God’s uncompromised care.
We know we stray from God’s command
To love each one as He
Modeled for us in Christ our Lord,
For in this love we see
Our future born and hope arise
And darkness turn to light,
For in each act of kindness shared
We introduce God’s might
To transform this world’s brokenness,
Each scrap and bit and piece,
Into the whole which God perceives
As His great masterpiece.
When each day as the sun’s light fades
And shadows filter in,
While darkness seems to win the day
For brokenness and sin,
We light a lamp, a candle burn,
To fight that darkest night,
And somewhere in light’s shining rays
We quietly invite
The brightness of the morning sun
To fully sweep away
Darkness and the power of sin
Destroyed by the new day.
For in the morning Mary came
To honor death’s new claim,
Only to see her risen Lord,
Who softly spoke her name,
And in that moment, darkness gone,
She ran to tell the tale
Of how God’s great salvation plan
Had come now to prevail.
So, every morning re-enacts
In miniature form
God’s gift of resurrection life
Defeating death’s dark storm.
Each day elicits hope renewed
As darkness turns to light,
Inspired by the rising Son
Which overcomes the night.
Pastor Jay Serafin

We Thank You, Lord
For blue sky, sunshine, gentle rain,
For fruited trees and growing grain,
For bees that buzz and birds that sing,
We thank you, Lord, for everything.
For mother’s love and father’s care
And friends with whom we get to share
The joys of life we’re blessed to live,
We thank you, Lord, for all you give.
For all that lifts our hearts above
The cares of life to show your love,
That upon you we can depend,
We thank you, Lord, for all you send.
For those who follow your dear Son,
Through whom our victory is won,
By speaking your good news to all,
We thank you, Lord, for baptism’s call.
For those you’ve gifted with such skill,
Who glorify your gracious will
By lifting others from despair,
We thank you, Lord, for their great care.
For your dear presence each new day,
Which guides us all along the way,
For hope and peace which reduce fear,
We thank you, Lord, for being near.
For smiles which can warm the heart
When friendly conversations start,
Which help us feel we’re not alone,
We thank you, Lord, that we are known.
For your Church, our true foundation,
Where we share in celebration
Your son’s presence in our meeting,
We thank you, Lord, for this greeting.
For prayers which we can lift to you
With fervent hopes and feelings true,
And know that they will find your ear,
We thank you, Lord, you hold us dear.
For hope and life and salvation,
The gifts you give through your dear Son,
For all the many ways you love
We thank you, Lord, our God above.
Pastor Jay Serafin

King David
From strength in weakness to weakness in strength,
My journey has been up and down,
Begun when the prophet Samuel said
That one day I would wear the crown.
When I was a young lad I tended the sheep,
Keeping lions and bears at bay,
I learned how to persevere each day although
I didn’t bring much to the fray.
And yet destiny had its designs on me,
From God I received a call,
First spoken by Samuel when he beheld
My presence still so weak and small.
When Saul was the king such depression arose,
Which brought him to anger and tears.
I’d play on my lyre a soft, soothing tune
That calmed all his cares and fears.
When still a young lad I relied on the Lord
To provide my every need
And strengthen my purpose and to give me all
I ever would need to succeed.
So when the day came and the Philistines neared,
The king called all men to the fight.
When they formed lines for the battle, there stood
A man of great stature and might.
Goliath called out to the army of Saul,
“Send forth your best soldier to fight.
A one-on-one battle will settle this all.
The victor will be known by night.”
The army of Saul was now so filled with fear,
Not one soldier went forth to the fray.
The giant kept chiding, “You all are so weak,
To beat you will be child’s play.”
With no one to step forth and answer the call
I learned of this ominous plight.
If we are defeated our nation will fall,
I knew as I entered the fight.
Five stones in my pocket, a sling in my hand,
A sword in its sheath at my side,
No armor upon me I walked toward the foe
Knowing God would, the victor, decide.
The giant, Goliath, then let out a roar
And laughed at my weakened estate.
He chortled how he would defeat me that day
For he was so strong and so great.
My simple reply was that God would reveal
The one who was chosen to win.
The giant depended on strength from his hand
And I on the strength from within.
I picked out a rock, which I set in the sling,
And whirled it around at my head,
Then flung it to smash in between his wide eyes.
He crashed to the ground nearly dead.
So quickly I took out the sword to finish
The giant who now silent laid,
I severed his head which I held to the sky
The Philistines scattered, afraid.
That’s how I showed weakness in God’s hand is strength,
While our nation proclaimed with glee,
That David, the victor, was hero to all.
I knew it was God and not me.
Now Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to me,
And we became best friends that day.
No matter what intrigues would come from the king,
This friendship would not go away.
I became a general, quite loyal at first,
To my king on Israel’s throne,
When jealousy caused Saul to cast me away
And so make my future unknown.
Except God had spoken through Samuel’s words,
Who anointed me when still a youth.
Uncertainty may have been felt in my heart,
But God would soon unveil the truth.
King Saul fell in battle and so lost his life,
And Jonathan, died that day, too.
With no heir to put on the crown I was set
With destiny to rendezvous.
As king I was powerful, wealthy and loved
By the people, both young and old.
In vanity I let this power prevail
Through what was about to unfold.
By God’s love and grace, I was given a gift.
I had everything that I could need,
But deep in my pride, almost threw all away
When I gave in to lust and to greed.
Bathsheba was beautiful, I wanted to
Have her for my own as my wife,
But she was the wife of another man.
This fact would soon cost him his life.
When I heard Uriah was killed in the war
I knew that my plan would succeed.
Bathsheba his widow was now free to wed.
Our secret? She carried my seed.
Soon Nathan, God’s prophet, came looking for me,
A parable he spoke to share,
About a rich man who stole a poor man’s sheep
Without even seeming to care.
The prophet then told me I was the rich man
And I saw the truth of the tale,
My pride and my greed and my lust gained control,
Which caused me to utterly fail.
Yet God has great mercy, He listened to me
As I spoke lament for my wrong.
When I felt the strongest my weakness was shown,
When weakest, God has made me strong.
God’s grace came once more, and he gave me a son
Named Solomon, so blessed and wise,
He grew up to carry my name on the throne
And was acclaimed in the people’s eyes.
As for me I was blessed by the Lord more and more,
And reigned each day knowing that He
Was my strength in all things as He stood by my side
To empower the weakness in me.
So when people tell of my wealth and power
And success, when of me they speak,
Please know to give accolades only to God,
For He gives us strength when we’re weak.
Pastor Jay Serafin

A Prayer for Today
We pray to you, most gracious God,
For strength to meet the day
With energy and thoughtful faith
And wisdom by your sway.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
We give you thanks, most Holy One,
For all who share your love,
May we be blessed to feel from them
Your presence from above.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
We pray that war and violence cease
And peace may reign supreme,
That guided by your graceful hand
We’ll prosper your regime.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
When touched by sorrow, fear or pain,
Please make your presence known
Which grants us true relief and hope
To know we’re not alone.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
Please bless our families, friends, loved ones
With days of joy and peace
That lifts them to the fullest life
And bids trouble to cease.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
Dear Lord, with love so generous
You give us what we need,
Inspire our benevolence
That with your grace is keyed.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
Lord, help us to appreciate
The work of those who give
Their effort to supply the things
Which we all need to live.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
O God of Life, we pray that you
Will bless your Church to see
With inspiration in these times
What you wish it to be.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
Please take our brokenness, our fear
Our pain, illness, despair,
To re-create and make anew
All which we lift in prayer.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
Please bless these thoughts and prayers we raise
And add that which we miss
So that your love and grace renew
Our lives to know your bliss.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
These things we lift to you this day
Through Jesus Christ, our king,
Your praise and your adoration
Forever will we sing.
Pastor Jay Serafin

A Poem just for fun and to stir some memories:
(I edited the next to the last stanza)
Such “Happy Days” now have returned once again
With “Cheers” that lift both you and me
“The Facts of Life” will be so plain to you
And to “All in the Family.”
“I Spy” a theme now beginning to grow
So please don’t get “Lost” on the way
Do “Curb Your Enthusiasm” if you must
Just “Gimme a Break” when I say
“To Tell the Truth” often in TV Land
Where “Your Show of Shows” makes you smile
And you remember “Good Times” shared by all
To build “Family Ties” for a while.
“Bewitched” and excited by classic TV
You can “Laugh In” each memory
That comes to “S.W.A.T” away all of your blues
“Dark Shadows” that suddenly flee.
“Different Strokes” for different folks
Is true, an “Odd Couple” could see,
Still “Father Knows Best” what to watch on the tube
“I Remember Mama” agree.
“That Girl” in “The Office” likes sitcoms at night
While the “Madmen” watch sports every day
“The Mothers-in-Law” keep the “Soap” operas on
“The Americans” love TV’s sway.
Still I’m “Lost in Space” when I cannot view
My preference at “12 O’ Clock High.”
Should I “Make Room for Daddy” to pick what he wants
In this “Family Affair” by and by.
“I Have a Secret” to share with you now,
As the “Roots” of this saga unfold
“The Wonder Years” of my youth are long gone
My “Friends,” these great shows, have grown old.
Whether “Three’s a Crowd” or “Eight is Enough”
Or you’re watching with your “Family”
You leave “The Real World” when dial up your show
In your “House,” and you’re totally free.
So “I Dream of Jeannie” and “I Love Lucy”
“Everybody Loves Raymond,” too
“One Day at a Time,” “The Good Wife” at my side
“This is us.” So how about you?
And barring “Emergency” I’ll “Beat the Clock”
To know at that time I’m “Born Free”
And “Adventures in Paradise” I will pursue
It’s “Fantasy Island” for me
Pastor Jay Serafin

Summer Riddler Answers
Here are the answers to the most recent Summer riddles. All of the answers are Biblical characters. We hope you had fun trying to solve these riddles.
I was his bestie friend before,
He ever took the throne,
My father was the king before
He made the crown his own.
(Jonathan, who was David’s best friend and son of King Saul)
So seasoned by the things I saw
While running from the fray
I came to lose my lot in life
On that auspicious day.
(Lot’s wife, who was turned into a pillar of salt.)
In seven years of faithfulness
I worked, to be surprised,
For seven more I labored on
To gain my dearest prize.
(Jacob, who worked for a total of 14 years to “earn” his 2 wives.)
In Joppa I was much beloved
For help I gave the poor.
Saint Peter was a help for me
Who raised me from death’s door.
(Dorcas, also known as Tabitha, whom Peter raised from death.)

  1. I grew a vineyard when I was
    Rescued from violent storm
    The bow was my security
    To fashion a new norm.
    (Noah, who planted the first vineyard after he left the ark.)
    I laughed to hear the words that day
    Of how God would bless me,
    He laughs and so the promise was
    Fulfilled through progeny.
    (Sarah, who laughed when she heard she would have a baby. When she had the baby, she named him Isaac, which means, “He laughs.”)

God’s Bounty at Harvest
The sun’s light fades much earlier now
As Summer wanes toward Fall,
While gardens lift full bounty forth
To be enjoyed by all.
Such blessings as God gives to us
From seed to full fruit grown
Produce the harvest’s rich array,
Pure joy from what was sown.
The mystery of soil and sun,
Of nitrogen and rain,
Of bees and birds and butterflies
That bring the garden’s gain,
All work together in God’s sight
To produce in due time
The glorious peas and beets and corn,
The mint and dill and thyme,
The golden squash, the tomatoes
The carrots and the leeks,
The cucumbers and potatoes
That fill our hungry cheeks.
The apple tree that bears its fruit,
The cherry, pear and peach,
All bring forth promise from God’s hand
To ripen in our reach.
God takes our sweat-filled labor, then
Supplies the spark of life
That transforms hardened seed to green,
To bear fruit through the strife
Of insect pests, mold and mildew
Which bring us such alarm
We wonder if it’s possible
To mitigate such harm.
Then God combines the sun’s pure light
And soil’s nutrition,
The falling rain, the pollen’s touch,
To bring to fruition
The gardener’s efforts fairly spent
To till and plant and weed,
When suddenly the shoots burst forth
From what seemed lifeless seed,
And growing ever toward the sun
The plant begins to bloom
With flowers buzzed by eager bees
Enticed by their perfume.
The flower then gives way to fruit,
So green and hard at first,
But given time and sun and rain,
And by the gardener nursed,
This hard, green fruit is soon transformed,
By nature’s sweetness kissed,
To yield its given pulp and seed
With God’s gracious assist.
Which brings us to this moment now,
In summer’s waning days,
With God’s abundance on display
We pause to give him praise
For all that’s ripened on the vine
Or underneath the ground
Upon the stalk or on the tree
Wherever bounty’s found.
We thank you, Lord, that you provide
This fruit in season due,
And lift our voices in full praise
For all received from you
Much more, we pray, that we may be
Good stewards now of all
Which you have placed in our own hands
As now we near the Fall.
Help us to know that this great gift
Which we receive from you
Is but a portion of your love
And help us take the cue
To be as generous as you
In ways we find to share
The bounty of the world’s harvest,
Please hear our fervent prayer,
That you, the God who gives enough,
Will help us fully see
The many ways, with generous heart,
We may share your bounty
With people near and people far,
The children of your love,
So that your blessings flow through us
And point to you above.
Bless now, dear Lord, this hallowed time
When seed sown grows to bear
The full fruit you, by gracious love,
Have placed into our care.
Whenever we sit down to eat
May we, with wisdom, see
Your loving hand has blessed us much
And may we lovingly
Give thanks for all the blessings sent
To us from you above,
And may we never fail to see
The bounty of your love.
Pastor Jay Serafin

At the beginning of the summer we wrote about giving you information about saving seeds for planting next year, and encouraged you to plant heirloom variety plants if you wished to try to save seeds. Bob Llewellyn has put together the following information about saving seeds for planting. We hope you are successful with saving your seeds this year and that your garden has produced abundantly. The following is from Bob.
Saving Seeds
“The seeds that gardeners hold in their hands at planting time are living links in an unbroken chain reaching back into antiquity. Today’s gardeners cannot possibly comprehend the amount of history contained in their seeds, both what has come before and what may potentially come after their brief involvement. Our Stone Age ancestors began identifying and domesticating food plants thousands of years ago, with the simple act of selecting seeds for replanting. Whenever gardeners begin to save their own seeds, they also become part of this ancient tradition.” (Seed to Seed, Suzanne Ashworth)
Remember that only seeds from heirloom or open pollinated plants can be saved. There are two processes depending on the type of veggie. They are a wet process and a dry process.
The wet process is used for seeds that are imbedded in a fleshy body, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, or squash. The dry process is reserved for seeds that come from pods or husks and dry on the vine such as peas, beans, and corn.
The wet process involves three steps. First is removal of the seeds, second is washing the seeds and lastly, drying the seeds. Prior to removing the seeds from a particular vegetable, choose a good-looking representative sample that is slightly past its peak. If you are saving tomato seeds, you simply choose a tomato, slice it open and scrape out the seeds or squeeze out the seeds into a labeled glass jar. Add a little water, cap, shake, and place in a warm area (not direct sunlight). The gelatinous mass covering the seeds will begin to ferment (and smell). Shake the container once or twice a day and after 3 days or so, there should be a mold layer covering the seeds. Add additional water and stir or swirl the water in the container. Good seeds settle to the bottom of the container while the bad seeds, mold and other debris will float. Pour these off, add more water, swirl and continue until only good seeds remain.
Place the seeds in a strainer and while rinsing with running water, use your fingers to rub off any remaining flesh. When cleaned, use a towel to dry off the bottom of the strainer. Do not use paper towels to dry the seeds because they will stick to the paper and will be difficult to remove. You can place the seeds on a non-porous surface such as glass, a window screen, cookie sheet or wax paper. Spread out the seeds as thinly as possible, and place them in a warm area that has good air flow. Move them around twice daily to ensure even drying. Do not place them in direct sunlight and keep the temperature below 95o. The first year I saved seeds I had them on wax paper and sitting on the peninsula in the kitchen. I decided to open the screen on the back door and when I did a gust of wind scattered my tomato seeds all over the kitchen floor. Needless to say, I no longer use the peninsula to dry my seeds.
Seeds should be stored in an air-tight and moisture proof container. Glass is ideal as long as it has a good rubber seal. Store in a cool, dry dark location.
Seeds can be frozen if the moisture level is below 8%. If the seed breaks when flexed, moistures are below 8% and can be safely frozen. If the moisture levels exceed 8%, the seed will freeze and the cell walls will rupture. This may be hard to do with smaller seeds, however.
If you are saving seeds from members of the squash family or cucumbers, these must remain on the plant until past the edible phase. Cucumbers will get soft and pliable. Squash, on the other hand, will get very hard and when the skin cannot be broken with your fingernail, it is ready.
Process and store like tomatoes. The seeds of these plants are much larger than tomato seeds and can be subjected to the bend/break test. If they break instead of bed, they may be frozen.
The dry process is fairly simple. Let the peas or beans dry on the plant. They will turn brown and rattle when shaken. Remove from the pods and air dry. The seeds can be placed in paper bags that have holes in the bags so air flow is ensured. When the seeds are hard, they are dry. Place seeds in an air-tight container and store in a cool, dry dark location.
Peppers are somewhere in between the wet and dry process. Harvest the pepper about two weeks past the edible stage. Cut around the top of the pepper and pull out the core. Knock the seeds off the core, rinse, dry and store. Sometimes peppers can cross pollinate so you might get something the following year you were not expecting.
You can goggle “seed saving” for additional information. I like to seek information from land grant universities, so I add the word extension to my search.

A Prayer for This Evening
In solemn prayer we raise voices
To you, dear Lord above.
We ask for patience, peace and strength
And, most of all, for love.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
We pray for sunshine, rain and warmth,
A cooling breeze at night,
And all, with wisdom, which you send
To aid us in our plight.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
Please bless the doctors, nurses, staff,
Who work to heal and calm,
That they are strengthened in their tasks
To bring life-giving balm.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
Be with the lonely, lost, afraid,
The sad, confused and weak,
That they may know your loving hand,
The words of life you speak.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
Inspire leaders near and far
With wise and soothing grace,
So that we move toward brighter days
Which safeguard hope in place.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
Upon us may your blessings flow
So we find strength to be
Your messengers of life and love
For all around to see.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
Through all our days, or greatest wish
Is that your will be done,
For in the comfort of your love
Our truest hope is won.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Theological Word for the Day

Of all the words we humans can use to describe our relationship with God, or attempt to describe God or Jesus or salvation or any other aspect of Christian thought, “grace” is my favorite. In order to begin to unpack what this word means for me, let me first turn to Scripture to set the tone.

“You were dead through the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. 3 All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ[a]—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” (Ephesians 2: 1-10)

These verses share with us a very strong sense of the God who is at work to redeem us and to make us whole, and they provide us with a clear description of what grace is and how grace works. St. Paul reminds us that we are dead through trespass and sin (verse 1), in other words, we have no chance at winning our way into heaven because sin constantly makes clear our separation from God. We are children of wrath, children of sin. But God, “who is rich in mercy,” intercedes and creates the solution to our “sin” problem. We have been raised up with Christ because of grace (by grace you have been saved) and so for all time God will “show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Wow! The beginning of our hope, our life, our future place with God is God’s grace. It does not begin with our trying to do better. It does not begin with a decision we make. It begins with God’s overwhelming love for us that God’s grace provides restoration, and we see this process unfold through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Grace comes first. Grace always comes first. Even though we don’t deserve it, grace comes first. Then comes one of my absolute favorite pair of verses in all of Scripture. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God- not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2: 8-9) Salvation comes to us as a gift. We are saved because God loves us so much God chooses to save us. Even though we live in sin, God’s overwhelming love prevails and God, through grace, chooses us. Chooses me. Chooses you. This grace makes us whole in God’s eyes. Faith comes next. When we hear the story of God’s love, when that love is made known to us and becomes reality for us through the work of the Holy Spirit in us, we apprehend that love, that grace. This acknowledgement of God’s grace choosing us is our faith. Faith is a response to God’s love, to God’s having chosen us. Upon apprehending God’s grace, we see through eyes of faith God’s love and God’s hope for us, and we say “yes” to this God who loves us so much. God, through the work of the Holy Spirit in us, works faith in us and we become “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” (Ephesians 2: 10) Faith is our response to God’s grace at work upon us, and our faith, then, leads us into a way of life that is called discipleship, living with Jesus as our guide. Our good works, our acts of love and charity, flow from this faith, which in turn flows from God’s grace.

To put it more simply, I know that, without God’s grace, I am lost. As a sinful human being I am separated from God. I cannot do the things I know I should do (to paraphrase St. Paul). I have no hope of being “good enough” to restore proper relationship with God, or to put it another way, to earn my way into heaven. In this void of separation, God steps in and does the work necessary to bridge the gap. In the person of Jesus, God shows us that his grace is given to us and his choice is to bring us into his love and life. God’s grace is sufficient. God embraces us through Christ. When I see this as true for me, I am understanding God’s actions through faith. This faith steers me to acts of love, to caring for others and for sharing God’s good news of grace through Jesus. Without God’s grace I have no hope. I can believe in God and have all kinds of faith that God exists, but I am still a sinner separated from God. Until God acts through grace, which God does in Jesus, I am lost, because I cannot follow the Law, I cannot be the person I should be. I am human. So, God becomes human and, through Jesus, gifts us a place with him- by grace. It is all “by grace.” God works by grace to make me whole and to bring me to him. When I understand this, my only response can be, “Thank you.” As we hear in Ephesians, by grace we are saved, not by works. My works may fail, but God’s grace will not. Ever. Thanks be to God!

Pastor Jay Serafin

Theological Word for the Day

I thought it might be fun and/or interesting to share some words from time to time which play a prominent role in Christian theology or which inform or shape our understanding of the Christian faith. One of these words, which has been central to Christian thought from the beginning, is the Greek word Kairos. When translated into English, the word simply means “time.” However, there are two Greek words which, translated into English, mean “time,” and the difference between the two is important when we read the New Testament or consider the significance of this word in the early, Greek-speaking Church. The other word for time in Greek is Chronos, which translates best as time in a linear sense, time which is made up of seconds, minutes, hours, days, etc. Kairos, on the other hand, speaks of time in its connection to fulfillment. This type of time, Kairos, denotes the appropriate time or the right time for an event to happen. So, for instance, we may think of time (Chronos) in answering the question, “What time was the baby born?” The answer might be 1:15pm, which is time in the linear sense. However, we might also think of a birth in a way that aligns more with Kairos. “The time came for her to deliver her child…” (Luke 2). This sense of time leads us to think about fulfillment, about the appropriate or necessary time for something to happen. This is the heart of Kairos.

With this understanding, we can see how this word (Kairos) would be at the center of Christian thinking and writing from the beginning of the Church. The early Christians had a deep understanding that God sent the Messiah into the world at the right time, at the appropriate time, at the necessary time. The Messiah had been promised from ancient times, and the people waited and waited for God to send Messiah into the world, and that happened when God knew that the time (Kairos) was right. Many in the early Church saw history as a series of ages (Aeons) which were broken down into the time before Messiah, the time during the life of Messiah and the time of the Church. We can see early theologians describing God’s actions regarding Messiah as Kairos in action. In the Gospel of John we read, “And the Word became flesh.” The Word, which existed from the beginning, at the appropriate time entered into linear time (Chronos) and became human. This happened at the moment of Kairos, when the time was right. The idea of Kairos is especially important in the writings of Paul. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6) “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law.” (Galatians 4:4) This understanding of Kairos isn’t reserved simply for the birth of Jesus or his ministry in Galilee. It also denotes the understanding that, at the right time, Christ will come again and will usher in the fullness of God’s kingdom. “I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short,” (1 Corinthians 7: 29) In other places, Paul doesn’t use the word Kairos, but holds the moment of Kairos in tension with the present age. “ Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15: 51-52) This change will take place at the precise, appropriate time. So, the concept of Kairos, of the right or appropriate or necessary time, is a major theme in the New Testament and in the understanding of God’s actions found in early Church thought.

Early Christian thinkers and writers were doing their best to make sense of Jesus, and of God’s actions through Jesus for the sake of the world. In putting together a timeline of God’s actions in history, from Old Testament stories through the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, they were forced to deal with the concept of Kairos, of God acting again and again at the precisely necessary moment to touch the world with grace and love and life, and to bring the Word into the world in the flesh. They also had to reconcile the understanding that God had acted in Jesus, and that God was continuing to act in the Church, but also that the fullness of God’s plan of salvation was left to some future time, some future Kairos, that was beyond their control and knowledge. Jesus even famously said about that time that no one knows, except the Father in Heaven. (Kairos was an important aspect in the teachings of Jesus, too. The harvest theme that Jesus uses again and again is really a way of communicating the concept of Kairos. So, too, is the turning of Jesus toward Jerusalem and his crucifixion a moment of Kairos.) As we read the New Testament, or as we study the early Church or as we gather for worship and encounter some of these Scripture readings, it helps us to have a bit of background on the concept of Kairos. Ultimately, it helps us to understand a key concept of Christian thought, that all of time is held in the hand of God, and that this God who holds time also fashions time to fulfill God’s purposes. At the right time, the appropriate time, the necessary time, this God acts. In these actions we find the story of our redemption and salvation, and the promise of future, that at the right time, God will hold each of us in God’s hands, just as God holds all of time in God’s hands, and the fullness of life, like the fullness of time, will be ours forever.

Pastor Jay Serafin

Top Ten List of Biblical Characters
#1 Mary Magdalene

The risen Lord called out your name,
When suddenly you knew
That Christ had risen from the dead
And stood before your view.
The one whom you had witnessed hanged
Upon the rugged cross,
Left there to die that fateful day
When all your hope was loss,
Now spoke your name and suddenly
What once was lost is found,
The Jesus whom you called your Lord
Could not, by death, be bound.
You witnessed as they laid him here
Inside this tomb that day
But now the tomb lay empty and
His body gone away.
So, in your fear and trembling you,
At full speed, ran to share
With other followers of him
What seemed a true nightmare.
Then Peter came to look inside
The tomb, and saw as true
The emptiness of that cold cave
As told to him by you.
Only some linen cloths were there,
Where once the body lay,
So, sad, dejected, Peter left
Without a word to say.
Once more you looked inside the crypt,
And, to your great surprise,
Two figures fully dressed in white
Appeared before your eyes.
“Why are you weeping,” asked the one
As tears flowed down your face,
“My Lord’s not here, his body gone
Vanished without a trace.
If you have taken him from here
Please tell me where he lay
So that I may bring him back again
And homage to him pay.”
Then Mary turned around and saw
A figure standing near,
Supposing him the gardener
She shared her deepest fear.
“The body of my Lord is gone,
Please tell me where he is
So I may go and bring him back.”
And then her eyes met his.
He voiced to her one simple word,
A name, in fact, he spoke,
As “Mary” filled the morning air
Her sleeping faith awoke.
“My teacher!” Mary cried with glee
As Easter filled her heart
And suddenly she knew the truth
In fullness, not in part.
Her Lord, alive, bade her to take
This Easter joy to share
With the disciples straight away
So that they were aware
Of how the Father changed the world
In Christ, His only Son,
Who through the cross, death, empty tomb,
Salvation now has won.
This Mary, then, became the first
To share the Gospel claim
That resurrection life for all
Is given in Christ’s name.
Her witness has become for us
The chorus of our song,
Who also claim the risen Lord,
And to this faith belong.
We do not know her life’s details,
Who saw her Lord alive,
Luke tells of demons cast from her
And other tales contrive
To paint a picture, never proved,
Of Mary, great with sin,
Yet one thing we can know for sure
And here we must begin,
To tell the tale of Magdalene
We seek with faithful eyes
A figure standing near a tomb
Who came to recognize
Her risen Lord, who destroyed death,
He spoke her name that day
And Mary was the first to walk
The resurrection way.
Her firm devotion to her Lord
Compelled her to the tomb
To witness God’s great miracle
The first of Life’s new bloom.
Now every time I read this tale
Of Mary, Easter Day,
I glory in that moment when
She heard her dear Lord say,
Her name, “Mary,” a single word
And in its speaking knew
That God was calling her to live
A life redeemed anew.
Then I recall baptism’s seal
And recognize the claim
That God, through Christ, has called me, too
And spoken my dear name.
Please know, my friend, that your name, too
Was spoken, called and claimed,
When in baptism’s waters you
Were, just like Mary, named.
For in that naming there is life
And promise for each day,
Full opportunity to walk
In resurrection’s way.

Pastor Jay Serafin

Top Ten List of Biblical Characters
#2 Paul

When we first meet Paul in the Scriptures, he is a fervent enemy of the emerging Christian movement. At this point in time his name is Saul, and we see him present at the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:58). Given the name Saul at birth, he was educated by the best thinkers in Judaism at the time, and had what might be comparable to a Harvard education in the Scriptures, Laws and Customs of Judaism. In fact, Paul describes himself as very zealous for the faith, someone who knew the Law better than practically all of his peers and unflagging in his support and passion for the faith. This all changed, however, on a roadside as Paul journeyed to the Syrian city of Damascus. Along the way, Paul was blinded by a light and heard a heavenly voice question him, “Saul, Saul why do you persecute me?” From that moment on, Paul (his name was changed) understood that he had an encounter with the risen Jesus, and instead of persecuting Christians became one of the leading figures in the first generation of the Church. In fact, many Christian scholars express the view that, outside of Jesus, Paul had the greatest influence on Christianity. What was it that Paul did that this claim about him might be made? What did he do to influence the early Church?

Paul was an evangelist. He travelled from city to city speaking to people about the risen Christ, and about how God was gifting salvation to the world through him. He visited synagogues and spoke in town centers, often meeting the derision, scorn and violence from those who didn’t want to hear his message. He developed leaders in local congregations and taught them what he knew about God’s work through Jesus. He offered the faith to the gentile world. And he wrote. My, did he write. Paul is the most prolific writer of books which we now call the New Testament. Each of these was a letter to a local Christian congregation offering guidance, support, demands, concerns and teachings regarding what Paul considered the proper faith and life of the Christian. Beyond the volume of writing we have from Paul in the New Testament, we also find his teaching on God and Jesus to have had a major impact on the development of the Church and of Christian theology. As a student of the Law Paul understood fully the major issues associated with following the Law. In his encounter with Jesus, his time spent with some Apostles of Jesus and other early Church leaders and in his own introspective thought on what new thing God was doing through Jesus, Paul developed an understanding of Christian theology which centered around the ideas of faith and grace. Paul could see that no one could follow the Law according to its exacting standards, and that attempting to follow the Law placed a burden on the believer. If the Law saves, the believer was bound to follow the Law exactly or risk missing the mark. This led to an inward focus in which the believer, zealous for keeping the standards, was ever more introspective, concerned about his/her own position regarding the Law. Paul knew that if the Law saved, the Law must be followed. But what, then, about Jesus? Why would God send Jesus if the Law was a capable Savior? Here is where Paul’s great theological training and capable mind went to work, as he reasoned through Scripture and what he knew of the teachings and life of Jesus in order to come to an understanding that God was doing something new in Christ. God’s love is preeminent. That love is so great that God comes to us in Jesus, and through Jesus the Father shares this love for the salvation of all. Because of this love, salvation is offered as a gift. This is called grace. The gift is given, and when the good news of this gift is shared, people come to believe the truth of this message. This belief is faith. So, through Jesus, God does for us what we can’t do for ourselves. God gives us forgiveness, salvation and life as a gift, simply because God loves us so much. Jesus was the bearer of this gift and set this grace in motion. Still, and here is the genius of Paul, the Law remains important, but not as a way to salvation, but as an aid for the believer in living life in this world. We live as moral people, we do good deeds and help each other, as a response to God’s love, not to receive God’s love. The Law helps us to understand better how to live our relationship with God and with each other. The Law remains important, but has no power to save us. Freed by God’s grace and love, apprehending this grace and love through faith, we are unleashed upon the world to be bearers of God’s good news for the sake of the world.

In some ways it is very human to discount Paul’s theology of grace and faith. Deep down, we want to know what we “have to do” to earn our way into heaven. We find ourselves leaning this way when we see others as such good people that they must have a place with God. Paul’s understanding begins with our sinful human situation. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3). “All” means every single person. With that as the starting point for everyone, Paul places salvation in God’s hands, and trusts in the overwhelming love of God through Jesus to grace us with this gift. With this gift given, the Spirit works in us, producing good fruit, guiding us and enlightening us in our faith so that we live more fully as the people God intends us to be.

This is why Paul is so important for me. I know that I fall short of being the person God would like me to be. I have no hope of being “good enough” to earn my salvation, so I must rely on God’s grace and love. Through Jesus God has given this grace and love, and through it, life for you and me. This idea of grace understood by faith is the only way God and Jesus can make sense to me. Without Paul and his teachings, I fail because of my own brokenness. Yet God through Jesus has graced us, loved us, and given us life, a gift so wonderful we can share it with the world. Paul saw this. Because of his teachings, I can see it, too.

Pastor Jay Serafin

Top Ten List of Biblical Characters
#3 Mary, mother of Jesus

There are many attributes, each one taken alone, which would place Mary high on my list of favorite Biblical characters. The single fact that she is the mother of Jesus, chosen by God to bear God’s creative and redeeming Word for all the world, would place her on the list. Just imagine, a young woman (in that time and place and according to her situation, it would be reasonable to guess her age at perhaps 14 or 15) recently engaged, who is visited by an angel telling her she is to bear the Messiah. Not only does she have the poise to take this visit in stride, after a bit of early nervousness, but by the end of the conversation she sees herself the handmaid of the Lord, and assents to allowing God to use her for God’s great plan of salvation. Not only will this change her life but will place her at the center of a shame storm that will come when her pregnancy becomes noticed. She leaves her village and visits her cousin Elizabeth, whom we know is past child-bearing age, yet is pregnant with a son, who will come to be known as John the Baptist. When Mary greets Elizabeth, the child in Elizabeth’s womb leaps for joy, and Elizabeth becomes aware that Mary is the bearer of Messiah. Then Mary provides the next reason why she is included on my list. The Magnificat. Mary’s poem of God’ vindication of God’s people, of God’s work to lift up the lowly and bring down the power structures we humans have created which stand in the way of God’s plan, is one of my favorite pieces of Scripture anywhere. I invite you to read it again and think of these words on the lips of an unwed, pregnant teenager living in a society where her condition could mean her instant death by stoning. Her courage and tenacity are on display fully and she beautifully speaks as a prophet God’s word of hope and life which, as the angel is about to say a few verses later, “shall be for all people.” Not long after this, she has the courage to return to her hometown and meet the scorn of the villagers, her extended family and friends, when they see her condition. Even beyond that, she will have to encounter Joseph, her intended, as well. None of this would be easy. But Mary is filled with faith and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who then works in Joseph as well as his dream of a conversation with an angel convinces him that Mary’s story, that she is carrying Messiah, is true.

The other place where Mary captures my attention and respect is in the birth of Jesus. As the shepherds visit the baby, Mary listens to their stories of angelic visitors, and “pondered these things in her heart.” Imagine all that she handled in those brief few weeks. Imagine all the things she had to ponder, from the angel’s announcement to her visit with Elizabeth to her return home, to the scorn of those around her, to Joseph’s acceptance to the trip to Bethlehem to the birth and finally to the visit by these Shepherds, with all of this taking place in a matter of months. In our world, she would probably be a freshman or sophomore in high school. Yet here she is, receiving a mission from God and standing strong until she is able to bear the child God gave her. We see Mary briefly in other places in the Gospels, notably at the foot of the cross as she witnesses the death of her son, and all of these events help us to flesh out a deeper understanding of who she was. For me, however, it is her deep and abiding faith and her quick agreement to do what God asks her to do which lift her up as a very crucial actor in God’s work of salvation. Willing to place herself in jeopardy to do what God asks, Mary stands strong in the midst of adversity and is, in my eyes, one of the strongest individuals we find in all of Scripture. That strength enables her to bear the Word of God for the sake of the world.

Pastor Jay

Top Ten List of Biblical Characters
#4 Ruth

The Book of Ruth certainly is one of the shortest books in the Bible, containing only four chapters. Those chapters, however, are filled with a rich story about a woman of amazing loyalty who stands by the side of another in a time of trial and loss, and in the end finds her life blessed beyond measure. Ruth was a Moabite. The story begins with a man of Israel, Elimelech, and his wife Naomi, taking their two sons to the region of Moab during a time of famine so that they would have enough to eat. They stayed in Moab for quite some time, and eventually, Elimelech died, leaving Naomi a widow. Her two sons eventually married wives from Moab, one of whom was named Ruth. Unfortunately, both sons of Naomi died as well, leaving her with the two daughters-in-law. As a foreign woman not living in her native land, Naomi decided to go back to Israel. Both daughters-in-law wanted to go with her, but Naomi entreated them to stay in their home country to find husbands for themselves. One daughter-in-law decided to stay in Moab, but the other, Ruth, could not be convinced to leave her mother-in-law. Ruth’s devotion to Naomi is beautifully rendered in her promise, which is one of the most beloved sections of Scripture for many.
“Do not press me to leave you
or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.
17 Where you die, I will die—
there will I be buried.
May the LORD do thus and so to me,
and more as well,
if even death parts me from you!” (Ruth 1: 16-17)

Thus, committed to Naomi, Ruth followed her back to Israel, to the community where Naomi’s husband’s kinsmen lived. Devoted to Naomi, and because the women had no one to provide for them, Ruth went out into the fields to glean grain from the harvest which was taking place. According to Old Testament law, fields after harvest were open for those who were poor to glean, so that they may find food left behind after the harvest took place. Naomi instructed Ruth to glean from the fields of a certain wealthy kinsman of her husband named Boaz. While gleaning the barley fields, Ruth was spotted by Boaz, who questioned who she was. Upon learning of her story, and of her devotion to the widow of his kinsman, Boaz instructed his workers to protect Ruth, and even to provide a bit of extra grain for her to glean. When Naomi heard of Boaz’s generosity, she instructed Ruth to get close to Boaz. Through a series of events, Boaz, because of the law instructing kinsmen to marry widows of their relatives, made a deal to take Ruth as his wife. After they were married, Ruth was able to have a son with Boaz and to have a full life restored to her through this marriage and partnership.

Ruth’s loyalty to her mother-in-law Naomi is noteworthy because it meant leaving her own family and heritage behind. This was a very uncommon step to take in that time and place, where family and clan and tribe gave you your identity and place in the community. By going back to Israel with Naomi, the probability was that Ruth would be considered an outsider and would be unable to gain place and status until she was able to marry, if that ever happened at all. Still, her love for Naomi compelled her to stay with her mother-in-law and to devote herself to this household, whatever came their way. Capturing Boaz’s imagination when he heard of her devotion, Ruth was able to receive the love and care of one of the most prominent members of Israelite society. This sounds like a happy ending, doesn’t it? But Ruth’s story doesn’t end there. The son born to Boaz and Ruth was named Obed. He grew up to be the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David, who became king of Israel and ancestor of Jesus. As an act of faith, Ruth’s devotion to Naomi and following her home opened her up to an uncertain future. This act of faith paid off tremendously, as Ruth and Naomi not only thrived, but Ruth became the great-grandmother of a king and ancestor of Messiah. This woman of faith and perseverance easily makes my list of top 10 Biblical characters.

Pastor Jay

Top Ten List of Biblical Characters
#5 Jacob

One of the alternate Old Testament readings for this coming Sunday is from Genesis 32. This was the Scripture reading we looked at for our Zoom Prayer Chat last night, and I included it there because it is one of my favorite stories in all of Scripture. In this story, Joshua is being chased by his brother, Esau. If you remember, Jacob and his mother conspired to have Jacob receive his father Isaac’s blessing instead of Esau, who, being the older son, should have had that privilege. Jacob had duped Esau out of both his birthright and father’s blessing, thereby gaining the status of the first-born son. Esau was enraged by this, and because Jacob was weaker in stature than Esau, Jacob fled for his life. After spending many years with his uncle, Laban, and gaining two wives and many children, Jacob was told by God to return to the land promised to Abraham and his offspring. Sending word ahead that he was coming home, Jacob took care to send gifts to his brother and divided his livestock and servants into groups, which he separated so that the entire company would not be destroyed if Esau attacked. Jacob thought his brother was coming to make war with him. As Esau approached, Jacob feared confrontation was inevitable, so he secured his family safely on one side of the Jabbok River and he crossed to the other side by himself. That night, Jacob wrestled with a stranger. The stranger put Jacob’s hip out of its socket and would not reveal his name to Jacob, but the stranger did not prevail against Jacob. The stranger said to Jacob, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” When the stranger left, Jacob named the place Peniel, which means “the face of God,” saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” Imagine that, wrestling with God and living to tell the tale. Yet, in reality, who among us, even as people of faith, do not wrestle with God? I’m not talking about scrapping physically with God, but about the mental and emotional wrestling which takes place as we live lives of faith. Who among us does not ask questions of God, deep, pleading, heartfelt questions where answers seem to come back to us at a glacial pace? Who among us does not wrestle with God emotionally when our lives are in turmoil or when we face situations which leave us feeling lost or confused or alone or insignificant of afraid? In the deepest foundation of my faith this story inspires me, because I believe it gives me permission to lift my questions and my complaints and my observations to God- to wrestle with God in the midst of my human weakness. I believe that I can ask my deepest questions and share my deepest pain with God, even when tinged with anger or frustration or despair, and that God will encounter me, wrestle with me. I may not like the outcome, and things may not go my way, and I may not receive the answers I seek, but at the least I can engage God in the arena of life- and wrestle. What a privilege that is. Jacob has showed me that this is possible.

The other reason I enjoy the Jacob saga is that he is a bit of a scoundrel. One of the fathers of the faith in the Old Testament is deceptive and playful and a bit of a nix nootz. He gets himself into trouble with his impulsiveness and shows that he is fully human, sinful yet loveable at the same time. Jacob is a rascal. His story makes me smile, but also brings me hope. If God could choose someone with Jacob’s proclivities to love, God can love me, too. We often place the greatest figures of our faith on a pedestal, but many of these stories share with us the image of humans who, like us, are trying to figure out along the way what it means to be a child of God. Often, they stray from the straight and narrow, often they fail, often we can see that they are imperfect beings, yet God loves them dearly and has a place and a mission for them in God’s ever evolving story. I love that Jacob is a rascal. I love that Jacob wrestled with God. I love even more that God never gave up on Jacob, and the God used Jacob to make God’s will known and bring God’s future into reality.

Pastor Jay

Top Ten List of Biblical Characters
#6 The Apostle Peter

One might wonder why the Apostle Peter is so low on this list. After all, wasn’t he the one with whom Jesus seems to have the most interaction, the one who is singled out as the leader of the Apostles, one of the few whom Jesus takes aside to witness special events, such as the Transfiguration? Peter is called “the Rock” and Jesus says that the very church itself will be built upon Peter’s statement of faith when he claims Jesus to be “the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” Isn’t that deserving of a higher place? If this list were to signify the most important figures of the Bible, no doubt Peter would be near the top, along with many other characters whom I’ve omitted from my list such as Moses and Abraham and Isaiah and David. However, because this list is made up of my favorite Biblical Characters, the ones I find most personally meaningful, Peter takes his place at number six. And he finds himself there, not because of his statement of faith when he calls Jesus the Messiah, nor for his great speech at Pentecost. Rather, he finds himself here on the list because I see him as someone with whom I can identify. Peter fails. Then Peter fails some more. Peter makes bold statements and then doesn’t fully act as if those statements are true. Peter believes and doubts at the same time. Peter even denies Jesus. Yet, in the end, Peter is redeemed by his Lord and goes into the world with the Gospel message, still bumbling some along the way. But he will not be deterred. His faith is strong and his courage is restored and he is compelled to tell the world about Jesus.

We can make a list of some of Peter’s missteps. He is beckoned by Jesus to walk to him on the water, but loses faith and sinks. After he proclaims Jesus to be the Messiah and Jesus talks about the crucifixion, Peter rebukes Jesus and says this will not happen, whereupon Jesus must dismiss Peter’s statement with the famous words, “Get behind me Satan.” Peter misses the full implication of the Transfiguration when he wishes to build tents for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. And, famously, Peter denies Jesus when Jesus is on trial. Even on the Day of Resurrection it seems obvious to me that Peter does not, at first, believe the truth of the resurrection until a personal encounter with Jesus shows him this truth. All of these failures might lead us to believe that Peter is incapable of being an advocate for Jesus. Jesus, however, knows Peter, and uses Peter for the creation of the Church. Even after Pentecost Peter is not pristine. He has a falling out with Paul over the issue of dietary law, and Paul wins the argument, calling Peter, basically, a hypocrite. How, then, could a man so tainted be a figure to be honored or find himself on a list of favorites? How could such a man become one of the greatest leaders of the early Church?

Truthfully, Peter knows he is broken. He understands his sins and weaknesses. He also understands that, except for the grace of God through Christ he has no hope. But because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Peter knows that God loves him, forgives him and invites him into a life of mission and ministry, into the sharing of the love of Christ for the sake of the world. I am no St. Peter. However, I can relate to failure, to a faith that isn’t always perfect, to moments of doubt and despair, and to confusion about what God really is doing in my life and in the world. So, if God can use someone like Peter, who failed and failed again, to lead the Church and take responsibility for sharing the Gospel message with the world, I guess God can use me, too. And God can use you. In the final analysis, Peter comes across as completely human, just like you and me. Yet God through Jesus uses Peter to build the church. God uses you and me as well to build the church, to share the love of Christ and to make God’s promises of life and salvation known. I guess Peter is one of my favorites because I see a little of Peter in all of us.

Pastor Jay Serafin

Top Ten List of Biblical Characters
#7 Tamar (Genesis 38)

Of all the characters of the Bible, none, in my opinion showed more resolve than Tamar. Tamar was denied her rights and, through very creative means, found justice. Justice, in Biblical understanding, does not mean arresting guilty people or having court trials or throwing guilty people in jail. In the Scriptures the word “justice” has a much deeper, richer meaning. Justice is the fundamental right of each person to have access to resources, livelihood and relationships which lead to the abundant life God intends for each person. It does not mean that everyone becomes rich or that prohibitions against stealing no longer apply, but does mean that society is to be ordered so that everyone has an opportunity to have those things which lead to abundant living… meaningful employment with just wages, a place to live and an adequate standing in society so that each person has recourse to claim the rights justice affords. The Scriptures, especially through the prophets and Jesus, are very harsh on those who would deny this type of justice. Yet, for those on the margins of society, often it is difficult to have this justice granted when it is lacking. This leads us to the story of Tamar. Please know before we begin that if this story were made into a movie it would be rated PG-13 or R. Yes, the Bible does deal with very mature themes from time to time.

Tamar was married to Er, the firstborn son of Judah, who himself was the son of Jacob. Some time after their wedding, Er died. According to the law given to Israel, if a man dies before his wife bears a son, his brother is legally obligated to marry the widow of his brother. The firstborn son of this marriage is considered to be the son of the dead brother. This is called a Levirate marriage. This law upholds the name of the first, deceased brother so that it may be carried into future generations, and also gives the widow a continued place in the family, along with the resources and future offspring this provides. So, now that Tamar’s husband, Er, has died, according to the law she is to be given to the next son in line for marriage. This took place and Er’s brother, Onan, married Tamar. Onan, however, didn’t, shall we say, fully fulfill his husbandly duties to Tamar and she was, therefore, unable to bear a child. Apparently, God disapproved of Onan, because he died as well. Now widowed for the second time, according to the law Tamar was to marry the next brother in line, Shelah. Unfortunately for Tamar, Shelah still was too young to marry. Judah then sent Tamar back to her father’s house with the promise that she would marry Shelah when he was of age. However, Judah did not seem very intent on fulfilling this promise, probably because he thought Tamar was bad luck and that his third son would be in peril if the marriage took place. Even when Shelah reached marrying age Judah did not call for the wedding to take place. Justice, for Tamar, was denied.

Here is where things get even dicier. Tamar learned that her father in law, Judah, who was now a widower, was on his way to the town of Timnah to shear his sheep. Taking off her widow’s clothing, Tamar dressed in flashy clothes and wore a veil, and sat outside the town of Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah, knowing Judah would pass by. When he did, he saw Tamar by the entrance to the town, posing as a prostitute, and asked for her services. When Tamar asked for payment, Judah promised a sheep from his flock, which was at Timnah. Tamar then asked for Judah’s signet ring and staff as collateral until payment could be made. Judah agreed and everything proceeded as agreed. (I told you this was at least PG-13) Judah left to go to his sheep and Tamar went back to her father’s house, putting back on the widow’s garments. When Judah sent the sheep to the prostitute to pay for the services, it was learned that she wasn’t there, and that there never was a prostitute who frequented the area. Judah, realizing his ring and staff were gone, figured payment was made and forgot about the matter.

When it soon became obvious that Tamar was pregnant without a husband, word filtered back to Judah. Judah’s response, upon hearing the news, was “Bring her out and let her be burned.” The penalty for the offense was death, and Judah meant to exact the proper punishment. However, Tamar sent back to Judah with the messenger a signet ring and a staff, telling the messenger to reveal, “It was the owner of these who made me pregnant.” Revealed as the father, Judah could do nothing more than accept that the children (Tamar would bear twins) were his. By her cunning and resolve Tamar was restored to her rightful place. Although we learn no more about Tamar in Genesis, her story doesn’t end here. In the Gospel of Matthew, we find the genealogy of Jesus going back to Abraham. Among the ancestors of Jesus, we read the following, “…Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar…” According to Matthew, Tamar is the many times great-grandmother of Jesus.

Tamar remains a story of the hope and need for justice for those who live on the margins of society and whose rights and humanity are not honored. The story of God, told in the Bible, honors her as a hero who champions the seeking of justice. Her story is a no holds barred telling of the human need for dignity, for place, for the opportunity to live the fulness of life which God intends for all God’s people. It is a story which has captured me.

Pastor Jay

Top 10 List of Biblical Characters
#8 Samaritan Woman at the Well

Imagine that you live in an area where there is no plumbing. In fact, in order to secure water for your household you need to take containers to a well some distance away, draw water from the well and carry it back to your house. Also imagine, in this scenario, that it is summer and that the weather climate is Mediterranean, which means very, very hot afternoons followed by cool temperatures from evening through morning. When would you choose to go to the well? If you are like most people you probably would choose to make this trip early in the morning and again in the cooler evening. However, when Jesus rests near the well in John 4, a woman comes at noon to fill her jugs with water. She is alone. She doesn’t do this difficult chore in the company of other woman, sharing stories to lighten the mood and the burden of the task. She is alone. Except that Jesus is there as well.

Jesus asks her for a drink. She is amazed because Jesus, a Jew, is asking her, a woman of Samaria for a drink. That he is talking to her at all is stunning, as these two groups of people didn’t associate with each other. Besides that, she is a woman. In that time and place a man and woman from different families who were strangers would not converse. It broke every social norm to do so. Stunned by the request, the woman asks Jesus how it is that he can ask a drink from her. The Gospel writer even makes a parenthetical comment revealing that Jews and Samaritans did not share things in common. When she questions the request, Jesus responds that if she knew who he was she could ask, and he would give her living water. Noticing that he has no bucket or vessel, she questions how he could give her any water. His response is that if she were to drink this living water she would never thirst again. “Sir, give me this water so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” Her response expresses her hope not to have to struggle the indignity of showing up alone at this well ever again. Jesus then asks her to go and bring her husband. She replies that she has no husband. Jesus tells her details about her life which he should not know, including the fact that she has had five husbands and the man in whose house she currently lives is not her husband. After a brief conversation Jesus reveals to her that he is the Messiah. She hurries back to the village to proclaim to the people that she has met someone who knows all the details of her life, a true person of God, causing the villagers to come and meet this prophet.

In this story Jesus touches the life of someone who lives on the margins of society. Her trip to the well alone and the facts of her living situation reveal a life that has been difficult. In all probability she daily faced the scorn of those around her. She had no social status. Through this encounter her life is transformed. What I find appealing in this woman is her pluck. Most people in her situation probably would have slipped away and walked back home at the beginning of this encounter. She stays and engages fully in the conversation. In this encounter God’s grace and love are made known to her, and she begins to see that, to God, she matters. Not only that, but she becomes a messenger of God’s working for salvation through Jesus. Through her the whole village is introduced to the Messiah. At the well, she draws upon her sense of dignity in order to converse with this stranger, and in this encounter, Messiah is revealed to her. Keeping with convention she should have left. Had she done so she would have missed the chance for God’s love to touch her through the Messiah. In an act of courage and dignity, she stays and is blessed by the God who loves her with the gift of living water.

Pastor Jay

Top 10 List of Biblical Characters
#9 The Apostle Thomas

Thomas gets a bad rap. The book on Thomas is that his faith is shallow, that it vacillates in intensity and is found wanting during the crucial moment when the proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus first is spoken. We call him “doubting Thomas” because when, after the disciples see the risen Lord, he is told about the resurrection Thomas tells his friends that he will not believe unless he sees that marks from the nails. Shouldn’t he just believe because the others told him what they witnessed? After all, they have come to faith in the resurrected Christ, why shouldn’t Thomas? In this episode during which his doubt is highlighted we find the Apostle Thomas lacking. Why doesn’t he just believe?

Hindsight is 20/20. We have the privilege of being able to read this story from the comfort of a tradition which celebrates the resurrection and has done so for centuries. Thomas was in the middle of these life-shattering events. By every bit of evidence available to him, Jesus was dead. Dead people just don’t come back to life. If that were to be believed, Thomas would need proof-clear, incontrovertible proof. Thomas needed more than hearsay. He needed to be shown. In Thomas’ defense, so did the other disciples. If you remember your Easter stories from the Gospels, the disciples were locked in the room out of fear that they, too, would be arrested and executed just as Jesus was. Even more, when the other disciples, excluding Thomas, heard the first report of the resurrection from the women, they, too, did not believe it. “While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5 The women[b] were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men[c] said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.[d] 6 Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” 8 Then they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” (Luke 24: 4-11) Thomas was not better nor was he worse than the other disciples, who also needed physical proof of the resurrection. Unfortunately, because he is singled out in the Gospel of John, his doubt, which is no different from the doubt of the others, is highlighted so that we tend to see him as the one who lacks faith. If this is all we know of Thomas, we’ve missed a man of great faith and of strong purpose. In John 11, the story of the resurrection of Lazarus, Jesus announces to his disciples that they must go to Judea once again to assess the situation. The last time Jesus and his disciples were in that area the crowd tried to stone him. When Jesus announces the return to this dangerous location, Thomas is the disciple who speaks up. “Let us also go, that we may die with him (Jesus). (John 11: 16) The other disciples try to convince Jesus not to return to Judea, but Thomas is willing to die following him. This does not sound like a person who is weak in faith.

There is a good bit of Thomas in each of us, especially in a world which is so much more scientifically advanced than First Century Israel. Generally, we too demand evidence or corroboration when determining what we believe. That’s all that Thomas was asking for. If Jesus is alive, I want to see him, too. When he does, he speaks quickly and boldly some of the greatest words of faith, “My Lord and my God!” The response of Jesus is such good news for all of us. “Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’” (John 20: 29)

I see Thomas as a person of great conviction and loyalty. He is willing to die, if that’s what it takes to fully follow Jesus. His doubt does not flow from a lack of faith, but from a lack of evidence. Once the evidence is made known, his faith is as strong as anyone’s. Thrust forward by this great faith, legend tells us that Thomas became a missionary to India and was martyred for his faith. For Thomas, doubting was not so much a lack of faith, but a searching for a faith that makes sense in the light of life in this world. Once received, this faith can change the world. Perhaps in this light, his doubt turned to faith can make sense to and be celebrated by us.

Pastor Jay

Top 10 List of Biblical Characters
#10 Mary of Bethany

Most of us think of her as the sister of Martha and of Lazarus. In fact, it is in this context where we meet her several times in the Gospels (Luke 10 and John 11 and 12. The central theme in each of these encounters, I think, is relationship. An understanding of relationship is presented in each appearance in Scripture by the Gospel writer’s describing of Mary as the sister of Martha or the sister of Lazarus. In fact, it is the understanding or “relationship” which I believe is at the heart of the character whom we call Mary of Bethany found in the Gospels. In the first instance, Jesus, we are told, comes to the house of Martha, located in a certain village. This Martha has a sister named Mary. While Martha tends to the tasks societal convention have placed upon her (cooking, serving, ensuring the comfort of the guests) Mary has chosen another course. Casting off traditional roles, Mary sits at the feet of Jesus and listens to his teaching. Martha becomes upset with this arrangement and complains to Jesus about her sister’s lack of social etiquette. The reply of Jesus is stunning. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” This scene, which occupies an honored spot in the Gospel of Luke (Chapter 10), taking place between the Parable of the Good Samaritan and Jesus’ teaching his disciples the Lord’s Prayer, upsets the norms of society of that time. Living in a “shame-based” society, which meant that those who broke with norms and customs would face the scorn of neighbors and bring shame upon the family, limited what was permissible and set heavy expectations upon individuals. One such custom was that disciples of a great teacher had the privilege of sitting at the teacher’s feet. Also, such disciple must be male. For a woman to sit at the feet of Jesus in order to learn would be a major breach of etiquette and would draw the approbation of those in attendance, both toward Mary for daring to sit there and for Jesus for allowing this to happen. Yet Mary seems oblivious to the social norms which everyone thought should be guiding her actions, including her sister, and has been caught up in what, for her, truly is important- relationship. At the feet of Jesus, she learns of God’s unfailing love. Access to this honored spot at the feet of Jesus is directly related to this limitless love which is all inclusive and which surpasses even the constraints of societal norms. Mary is welcomed. Her impetuousness and glee at having the opportunity to come to know Jesus and learn from the teacher opens for her the joy of relationship with him, and this supersedes custom and tradition. This relationship with her Lord bears dividends later when she mourns the death of her brother Lazarus, as Jesus gives her the comfort and joy of her brother’s life back and, with it, the grand promise of resurrection. It is this joy which compels her, later in the Gospel of John, to break open a costly bottle of perfume, and to the dismay of those in attendance, using it to anoint the feet of Jesus and wiping it with her hair, an act of great love. Whether she knew or not, this act was a foreshadowing of the death and burial of Jesus which would take place shortly.

Mary of Bethany is a compelling character for me because of her uncompromising pursuit of relationship. Nothing will stop her from love for her Lord and, through him, love for the God whom Jesus called “Father,” whose own love for her knew no bounds. She is impulsive, and her commitment to honor Jesus, and in doing so, honor her own faith lives as a testament to the character we find in the pages of the Gospel. She is described by the Gospel writers of Luke and John by the family relationships she holds in life, but what her story reveals and helps us to understand is her dedication to the one who came to give her abundant life, regardless of what might stand in the way. This, for me, is the true joy of her story.

Pastor Jay

Pastor Jay’s Top Ten List
Hi everyone. I thought we might have some fun thinking about the Bible as we move through the summer season. I took some time to compile a few “Top Ten” lists which I will share with you, hopefully to spark some thought or consideration on your part. My first Top Ten is a list of my ten favorite characters from the Bible (leaving Jesus out of consideration for now). This list merely represents my thinking right now, and is subject to change at any time, particularly as I come across new information or simply gain new insights or opinions. Your mileage may vary. Your list may contain some or none of the names I share, and that is perfectly OK. This is meant for fun and to inspire some personal thought as to which Biblical characters are significant for you and why. Today, I will give my list, and over the next two weeks or so will share my thoughts on each of these individual characters and give some background for why this character has made my list. So, without further commentary, here is my Top Ten list of Favorite Biblical Characters (minus Jesus).

10. Mary of Bethany
9. the Apostle Thomas
8. Samaritan Woman at the Well
7. Tamar
6. the Apostle Peter
5. Joshua
4. Ruth
3. Mary, mother of Jesus
2. Paul
1. Mary Magdalene

Feel free to share your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below. I will do a brief synopsis in the coming days regarding this list and my reasons for this ordering.
Pastor Jay

The Summer Riddler #3 Answers

My eye is meant to focus in
And capture what I see
I’ll fixate on some chosen things
And share my memory.
A: A Camera

“Just keep your shirt on,” you could say
When pressed, it suits me fine
So hook me up or dress me down
Or hang me on the line.
A: A clothes hanger

When yesterday becomes today
And then tomorrow, too
I’ll hold them all together so
You’ll keep them all in view.
A: A calendar

When down, I’m here to bring you up
When up, I’ll bring you low
But I won’t move you either way
Propel yourself, you know.
A: Stairs

You smile when, with dimples shown,
You put me in the cup
But you must not drink me, instead
You bend and pick me up.
A: A golf ball

When I turn left the result is
Undone when I turn right
And with a chain I’m often bound
My bitting teeth won’t bite.
A: A key

How did you do?

Christmas in July!

That God, beyond eternity,
Surpassing time and space,
Would enter into human form
And join the human race
To strengthen our relationship
By this great act of grace
So that ubiquity display
Itself in just one face,
Is far beyond my faculty
To understand and claim
An argument that can make sense
Of this God’s gracious aim.
From Mary’s womb to Calvary
God incarnate so came
To share our human condition
And take a human name.
Astounding act of loving will,
God’s purpose perfectly
Distilled upon a manger bed
A child destined to be
The one who will enact God’s plan
So all may come to see
A God who loves this world so much
He’d join humanity,
To show us all that this God is
Closer than we’d suppose
And through this incarnation would
Salvation’s way disclose
To every heart that yearns to live
A life that fully knows
The joy that comes from God’s great gift
The incarnate logos.

Pastor Jay Serafin



In your name

We pray for peace

And skill to proclaim

The love you freely give

Shown to us upon the cross

Where your Son took on death

That we might gain from your loss

So, strengthened by this great victory

We may feel empowered to share your love

Inviting those around us to be touched

By the grace sent by you from above

That they also might find strength

In the hope we have in you

And then joined together

We may promise anew

To endeavor to be

A light in dark

Your arms

A spark


Pastor Jay Serafin


What shall we say each day as morning dawns
In golden hues of pinkish golden bronze
While certainty seems oh so far away
Yet though we often pause to pray
The answers that we dearly seek
Within this time that is unique
Seem out of reach somehow
What can we do right now
To manage in the storm
Creating a new norm
To bring us peace
And a new lease
In fretful days
To now raise
A new song
So strong
As we
It starts
When love
From above
Fills our souls
And sets our goals
Then kindness leads
When we meet needs
In service without fear
To neighbors far and near
Our dear Lord paved the way
And called on us without delay
To share the burden of each other
When we make bold to love another
Lifting up each child of God we meet
Throughout this effort we will not retreat
Thus, guided by the Lord, his loving ways
Will guide us with the truth during these days

Pastor Jay Serafin

Summer Dreams

Dear God we lift our voice to you
In prayer and thanks and praise
And ask that you, within your will,
Will bless the hopes we raise.

You bless us with the fresh, clean air
And sunshine from above,
You bless us more through your dear Son
Who brought to us your love.

If only we could praise you Lord
As lovely as do birds
Who lift their voices high in song
To thank you without words,

Or share our hearts with wagging tail,
Or purr, or neigh or moo,
Still we will praise you as we can
And lift our thanks to you.

For you have formed this world we share,
Its beauty plain to see,
And given us a steward’s job
To work toward jubilee

When all the world shall live in peace
And shelter ‘neath your wing,
That in the comfort of your love
A joyous song we’ll sing.

So, when the gentle rain falls down
Or skies turn blue and bright,
May we know that your loving hand
Has put these things in sight.

And so, encouraged by your grace,
We firmly step into
The future in which we will find
True joy which comes from you.

Pastor Jay Serafin

I Pray
I pray for the neighbor who lives down the street
That he will have comfort and plenty to eat.
I pray for the mother who just crossed the road
With two tiny children that God ease her load.
I pray for the families of patients so ill
Whose hope is now centered in God’s gracious will.
I pray for the business now locked up so tight
To keep workers safe through this unnerving plight.
I pray for the doctor so tired and worn
For rest that renews as she greets the new morn.
I pray for the person whose job is to lead
A people uncertain with how to proceed.
I pray for store workers who fill up the shelves
May God give them health as they care for themselves.
I pray for the churches that sit very still
Yet find ways to manage in doing God’s will.
I pray for the scientist seeking insight
For ridding the world of this terrible blight.
I pray for the nurse who has answered the call
To bring care and comfort and healing to all.
I pray for the worker who’s now unemployed
May resources flow that can fill any void.
I pray for delivery folk on the way
With packages, that they may have a safe day.
I pray for the people alone and in fear
That God’s loving presence may bring them some cheer.
I pray for those grieving the loss of a friend
May God give them peace and a strength without end.
I pray for the prayerful who pray every day
For God to bring mercy and not to delay.
I pray for a hope that will keep us inspired
To pray for the sick, the fearing, the tired.
I pray for a world that is so much in need
Of prayers to be answered with life-saving speed.
I pray for a day when our prayers answered give
All people God’s full peace in which we can live.
Pastor Jay Serafin

Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!

“Come unto to me,” our dear Lord says,
His promise is for rest.
Resolved to follow this command,
In his hands we are blessed.
Secure we journey fully loved
Through darkness, doubt and fear,
Inspired by the faith we hold
So closely and so dear.
Reminded that we have new life
In all that Easter shows,
Sufficient is your grace, O God,
Each moment as it flows,
Never to fail us in our need,
Hope fills us each new day,
Emmanuel is with us now
Inviting us to stay
Safely within his healing arms,
Renewed and energized,
Incapable of feeling lost,
Scared, helpless or despised.
Easter is promise, gift of love,
New life for you and me,
Impossible though it may sound
Now Christ has set us free.
Death could not hold him, from the grave
Emerging, life he gave,
Establishing the victory
Dear friend, for us to save.

Pastor Jay Serafin
(There is a second message hidden in the poem’s text. Can you find it?)

Here is another poem. I hope you find something meaningful in the words. Once again, there is a message in the poem that can be found using the same methodology of one of my previous poems. Please don’t share it outright so that others may try to figure it out, too. I will reveal the code for all next week.

The Word

Infinite God who made us all,
Nurturing us by grace,
Time eternal belongs to you
How can we know thy face?
Except that you have come to us
Born of a Virgin mild,
Eternal Word in human flesh,
God as a human child.
Is he, the way, the truth, the life,
Near us whenever we pray,
Never to leave us all alone
In this our darkened day?
Now as we face this viral test
Grace us with peace anew,
Waking in us a fervent hope,
A future firm in you.
Sufficient is your love alone
To guide us on our way,
Holding us safely in your hand
Each moment through the day.
Word of God, the Eternal Son,
Open our eyes to see
Revealed to us, from God, full life
Destined for you and me.

Pastor Jay Serafin          


The Cross
In the Cross
Glory in the Cross
God’s glory in the Cross
Find God’s glory in the Cross
We find God’s glory in the Cross
Wonderfully we find God’s glory in the Cross
So wonderfully we find God’s glory in the Cross
Wonderfully we find God’s glory in the Cross
We find God’s glory in the Cross
Find God’s glory in the Cross
God’s glory in the Cross
Glory in the Cross
In the Cross
The Cross

Our salvation
Celebrate our salvation
Joyfully celebrate our salvation
We joyfully celebrate our salvation
As we joyfully celebrate our salvation
Love as we joyfully celebrate our salvation
Give love as we joyfully celebrate our salvation
We give love as we joyfully celebrate our salvation
Give love as we joyfully celebrate our salvation
Love as we joyfully celebrate our salvation
As we joyfully celebrate our salvation
We joyfully celebrate our salvation
Joyfully celebrate our salvation
Celebrate our salvation
Our salvation

Our brokenness
In our brokenness
Hope in our brokenness
Giving hope in our brokenness
Love giving hope in our brokenness
God’s love giving hope in our brokenness
Is God’s love giving hope in our brokenness
Faith is God’s love giving hope in our brokenness
Is God’s love giving hope in our brokenness
God’s love giving hope in our brokenness
Love giving hope in our brokenness
Giving hope in our brokenness
Hope in our brokenness
In our brokenness
Our brokenness

Pastor Jay Serafin

Until we reach the proper time
That life resumes its pace
We lift our hopes to you, dear God,
For all the human race.

Until, in safety, we can meet,
Soon may that fine day be,
We cherish thoughts, and prayers we lift,
For friends and family.

Until we worship side-by-side
We praise you, Lord above,
Though separate we still bless your name
Dear God of life and love.

Until this pestilence is gone
And normal ways return
May we serve others as you did
With faith, care and concern

Until we are a shining light
That turns the dark to day
May you supply your Spirit’s torch
To help reveal your way

Until we have your wisdom, Lord,
And know your plan and will
Give us humility to keep
Our Spirits calm and still

Pastor Jay Serafin


Abundant Life.
The Good News.
So that we know
Even in the shadows
Places filled with pain
And despair
And fear
And hopelessness
And sin
Christ is present.
The Jesus who entered the shadows
To be with us
Where we really live
Is the Jesus who took on death
Then was vindicated by the Father
On Easter morning
To bring God’s love
And hope
And justice
And peace
And life
And light
Into the shadows
Through you
And me
And the God who walks with us
Every moment of every day
Until the tears are no more.

Pastor Jay Serafin