A Season of Transformation

butterflyThis year for Easter, I am focusing on the theme of transformation. The symbol for this is the butterfly. During children’s moments, Chelsea has shown the children caterpillars that have reached their chrysalis state. They will be beautifully transformed into butterflies by Easter Day. This kind of transformation is what we recall when we remember the resurrection of Christ.

In the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) Jesus was a man who had a connection with God. He was the anointed one, the Messiah foretold in the Hebrew Scriptures, the Messiah of the Jew and the Gentiles, and/or as a human who in his obedience even to death, and was raised from the dead. In Mark, it was his resurrection that proclaimed his true nature as the Messiah. In all gospels, Jesus was transformed. This is why butterflies are so symbolic this time of year. They are ordinary caterpillars that enter in to a state where they are entirely entombed to emerge as something much more spectacular.

It isn’t only Jesus and butterflies who undergo this transformation. We, who are disciples of Jesus, in our obedience and following undergo a marvelous transformation. Unlike Jesus and the butterflies, it takes longer than three days or a couple of weeks. It takes our entire lives to truly be transformed, and that’s if we are actually working on it. Jesus, as with his disciples in the first century, calls disciples today offering an invitation to transformation.

In the upcoming sermon series beginning April 19, 2015, we will begin looking at the Invitations of Jesus—which invite us to life to the fullest, to intimacy, to discipleship, to solitude, to mission, and to mystery. All of these are invitations that carry us deeper into relationship with God through Christ.

April 19, 2015 is the 20-year anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing. I was downtown in 1995, and I remember in detail the devastation that was so great my mind and my heart could not process it all at once. At 9:00 am in the sanctuary, I would like to have a time of remembrance and prayer. You are invited to join with me.

I hope you will respond to the invitation of Jesus to a deeper relationship and transformation this Easter season. I hope your answer is an enthusiastic “yes!”

Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed!

Rev. Sonja


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Patrick’s Wisdom

During March we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Of course, this day has turned into an occasion to wear green, pinch others, dye things green, and of course there are the shamrocks. It is the one day that suddenly everyone is descendant from the
Emerald Isle.
However, we forget the life of the patron saint of Ireland for whom we celebrate this day. Patrick was born in Roman Britain, but was kidnapped when he was sixteen and carried off to be a slave in Ireland. Patrick came from a family of faith, his father was a deacon and his grandfather was a priest. During his captivity his faith continued to grow, and he says it was God who showed him how to flee his captors. After six years in captivity he escaped and returned to his home where he followed the path of his father and grandfather into ministry.
It is unlikely we would celebrate much on March 17 if Patrick had remained in his homeland; however, he had a vision a few years later in which he felt called to return to Ireland. He returned to the land of his captors and shared the message of God’s love through Christ. What great love of God and other’s Patrick demonstrates! The following is an excerpt from St. Patrick’s burial breastplate. I believe it is a prayer we can hold fast to during this month we celebrate the patron saint of Ireland.
I arise today, through the strength of Heaven; light of Sun, brilliance of Moon, splendor of Fire, speed of Lightning, swiftness of Wind, depth of Sea, stability of Earth, firmness of Rock.
I arise today, through God’s strength to pilot me: God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me, God’s eye to look before me, God’s ear to hear me, God’s word to speak for me, God’s hand to guard me, God’s way to lie before me, God’s shield to protect me, God’s host to secure me: against snares of devils, against temptations of vices, against inclinations of nature, against everyone who shall wish me ill, afar and anear, alone and in a crowd.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ in breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.
                                                           Excerpted from The Deer’s Cry (St. Patrick’s Breastplate)
During the month of March and the season of Lent, let us center ourselves in Christ, looking not to our own desires, but the desire of Christ.
Grace and peace,
Rev. Sonja

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Ending One, Beginning Another

If you know me very well personally, you will know that I am a great beginner.  I love to begin things, such as a garden—working the soil, planting the seeds, watering and watching the first few weeks until shoots begin to appear.  Then, just about the time the garden needs the most work, I am off to another project.  I love to begin projects and I have learned over the years to only start small projects that might have half a chance to get finished.  I have a number of “hobbies” that I like to do for a little while and then lay down again—sometimes for years.  Among these are drawing and painting, sewing, crocheting, cross-stitch, archery, music, crafting, and the list could probably continue with a little bit of everything.  I hate answering the question “do you have a hobby” because the honest answer is “it depends.”  I guess I just get bored with one and start another.
Much of my distraction has to do with my work—there is always something to do with work, so I lay aside whatever my latest hobby is to move to the next ministry project.  I believe God knows me well, and I can honestly say I have never become bored with ministry.  There are a lot of other things I have felt, but ‘bored’ isn’t one of them.  Things are never the same.  Appointments change, yes; but also the seasons, the people, the situations, the needs, they are constantly ever-changing.  Add to the mix of ministry my schooling and then you really have a full plate.  (This would be why my hobbies keep getting disrupted.)  And furthering education for a pastor is part of ministry.  Churches want their pastor to be on top of their education.  It is beneficial to both the pastor and the church.
I guess I am always in a state of “ending one—beginning another.”  Ending one appointment, beginning another.  Ending a liturgical year and beginning another.  Ending one class, one paper, one project, beginning another. This year (by the grace of God) I will finish my doctorate degree and then I’ll…who knows.  And weekly I end one sermon, only to immediately turn around to begin another.
As we end this year and begin another, let us look back and reflect on 2014.  We have said goodbye to some dear friends in our community, and we have said hello and made new friends who have come to our church.  We have added new ministries and expanded others. We have also let things go that are no longer effective or what we are called to do at this time.  As a congregation we go through quite a bit of life together, and I am thrilled to say that I am the pastor of this community of faith.  Vinita is a great place to be.  I am looking forward to the exciting things God is calling us to do.
May God’s grace be upon you and yours as we end the old year and begin again fresh and new.
Rev. Sonja Tobey

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The God we Know

     Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch Christian who, along with her father and other family members, offered shelter for the Jews during the Nazi Holocaust. It was their faith and convictions as Christians that caused them to put themselves at risk and pay such high price for the sake of strangers. We can read about her and her family’s story in The Hiding Place. This must have been a terrifying time for them, as whether they desired it or not, things were changing around them. How they responded to that change was a testimony to their faith.
     It is undisputed that the church—both the local church and the larger church—is undergoing change. Cultural, economic, missional change. There are many ways people are responding to the change that is happening for all churches, and many different avenues that are both successful and fruitless. There is no ‘one right answer’ or ‘magic bullet’ that will be the fix for every congregation. Discerning the future of the congregation—and where God is at work already in our community—takes prayer, faith, and commitment on the part of the people who are the members of the church. How we respond to the change is a testimony of our faith.
     In her writings, Corrie ten Boom writes: “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” I think sometimes this is difficult for us. We are fearful about the future. We are fearful of the unknown and change. But we know the God who holds the future, so we can trust that if we are faithful rather than reactionary and fearful, God is already there, we just join in. However, if on the other hand, we do not truly know the God of the future, then we will respond in fear and unwillingness to try new things rather than step out in faith. How we respond to change is a testimony of our faith—or lack of faith.
     Perhaps we are fearful that we are so far off course, that it is hopeless. The faith of the ten Boom’s speak to that as well. Betsie ten Boom told her sister, Corrie, before she died in Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, “There is no pit so deep that He [God] is not deeper still.” There is no place where we can be that God is not, even if sometimes it seems that way.
     October 5th, the Ad Hoc Committee, who has been charged with doing research and prayerful consideration of our needs as we move forward, will bring their report. It has been a long six months but they have been faithful. Let us listening with open hearts to their presentation and prayerfully consider where God is leading us into the future.

Grace and peace,

Rev. Sonja


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