MENU

Pinnacle Presbyterian Church

Echoes Blog

Depositphotos_93451772_smaller.jpg

I have been reflecting on Dr. Avram’s most recent sermon on hospitality given this past Sunday (if you missed it you can listen to it HERE). Hospitality is a difficult thing. It is held in a paradox between the ordinary activities of serving a meal to the complexities of mysterious and fragile relationships. Hospitality requires crossing boundaries, seeing from another person’s perspective, and the gift of time. This type of ministry and lifestyle requires making room in our schedules, our lives, and our homes. Sometimes when it is planned and other time when it is completely unexpected.

Hospitality doesn’t just happen in one place. In fact, if you let it, it begins to permeate every area of our lives. It happens in the grocery store, at school and work, in the airport, on mission trips and at home. Hospitality isn’t cookie cutter either, we are hospitable in times of need and in times of plenty. I want to tell you about a few places that I have seen hospitality recently.

It doesn’t just happen when you have folks over for dinner. It happens at the soup kitchen. Our local soup kitchen is called Andre House and it is an amazing ministry of hospitality and community. We serve three times a month, with teams gathering in the kitchen to chop, stir, prepare and finally serve those who are less fortunate that we are. The hospitality begins with the team cooking as we share our lives together over fruit, veggies and a cutting board. It isn’t hard work, instead it is about seeing people and not just circumstances. There are a lot of interesting people who show up at Andre House. Many who live on streets, families who just can’t get by and people who are in their dress cloths searching for a job or working, but still can’t afford to feed themselves or their family on their wage. When we serve them, we look them in the eye and say, “welcome, come and find a seat at the table.”

Hospitality doesn’t just happen around food either, it occurs when you invite someone to join you in your pew at church. If you are like me, you have a habitual place in the pews where you sit. (I know many of you are like me because when I look out into the congregation on Sunday I see many sitting in “their pew.”) It is good to find your spot. It is good to have a holy place that is familiar in worship where you know your pew mates and enjoy catching up each week on each other’s lives. Hospitality asks us to invite new people into our holy place. To try out a new seat and meet other people. It is hard, but hospitality requires us to be flexible.

The other part of hospitality isn’t just about hosting hospitality but also receiving. This is one of the hardest parts of hospitality because often we want to be the givers and not receivers. Being the receivers calls us to a vulnerability that we don’t always want someone else to see. It calls us to not have control of the whole situation. That is difficult. Whenever we go on mission we become the receivers of hospitality. Whether it is on a disaster relief trip, in Haiti or on the Border, when people who have little invite us, who have much, into their homes. Serve us their best in well-worn kitchens, on cracked dishes and tables set with pride. We eat together, sometimes with food we have never had and are unsure about, sometimes not even being able to speak the same language—forks and knifes in our hands, laughing, talking with our hands and enjoying food made with abundant love. This is hospitality.

Interestingly one of the most difficult places to receive hospitality is when we are the ones who are in need of help. Whether it is a crisis that hits home and we need someone to bring in a meal for our family, when we lose a job and we need to ask for help, or when we have a bad day and we just need someone to listen and give us a hug. Somehow our culture has said that in these moments we have to be strong and pretend like we don’t need help. But we all need some help.

In the church, we are family and that means that at some moment in our lives we are going to be in all of these places. There are moments when we will be giving and there are moments when we will be receiving. That is hospitality. It happens every day. Enjoy it, try it and live into it! For more information about how you can provide hospitality at Pinnacle, visit us online at pinnaclepres.org/serve.

Depositphotos_71629229_web.jpg

There’s an old joke about a vendor who refuses to give someone their change when buying a pack of gum with a five-dollar bill.  “May I have my change?” the buyer asks.  “Change comes from within,” says the vendor who wants to pocket the five-spot.  Maybe.  

As I write this, I’m at a meeting of twenty-five Presbyterian pastors I meet with twice each year.  Each of us take turns hosting the group at our church and providing the program.   This time we’re in Princeton, New Jersey, centered at the Nassau Presbyterian Church.  With a few minutes free this afternoon, I walked onto the campus of my seminary alma mater, Princeton Theological Seminary, just down the street from that church.  I graduated PTS 34 years ago this month.  As I sit on a bench, right where I used to sit when I was a student here, I look around and see a campus that looks pretty much the same as it did then—with buildings dating to the nineteenth century all around.  Oh, one can spy a handful of newer buildings, including one for Speech/Communication training, a worship annex, and a new library.  But all in all, not much has changed.  Except, I also know that several of these still old looking buildings have actually been almost entirely repurposed on the inside—with new housing facilities, new “smart” classrooms, an entirely redesigned chapel space, and more.  Things look pretty similar from the outside, but are actually very different on the inside. 

During this time with valued colleagues we experienced even more of this.  We saw enormous changes on the inside of the historic church where we met—to enhance and update programs and mission in exciting ways.  Looking the same from the outside, but different on the inside.  We shared in new jazz and gospel settings for using the Psalms of the Old Testament in worship, and explored new hymn forms.  We were taught how to read the ancient texts of the New Testament in new ways.  And we told each other stories of transformations, challenges, delights, resistance, enthusiasm, and the Holy Spirit at work in our congregations.

And the lesson became clear. 

Some say that change can only come from the inside.  I’m not so sure of that, but I do believe that we can be almost entirely transformed by God’s Spirit on the inside before anyone really notices.  We can be born from within.  I also know that the converse can be true, that one can change many things on the surface of oneself and still be rotting from within.  God seeks congruence: a beauty on the outside of our lives that matches the transforming and changing work of God’s Spirit inside us—which, in turn, helps us change more on the outside.  God works within, to work without, to work within some more.  And it grows.  

How do we think about this for the church?  We’re always changing.  Every form of life does.  And those changes can be big.  Even if on the outside nothing looks that much different than it has, God can be doing a remarkable work of change in the core—to prepare us for a new future that might be surprising, and that might be God-filled.  And congruence will come, sometimes slowly and sometimes quickly.  All will be changed, all will be new, and God’s future will indeed come.  We shouldn’t resist it.  

Opening Our Doors

Unknown.jpeg

Today marks a full week that Pinnacle has provided Childcare Camp for those parents with needs while the Education Walkout continues. We have hosted 60 kids, within 40 families; many of whom are new to Pinnacle, and what fun it has been!

Camp is from 8:30 am - 3:30 pm and we have children ages 18 months to 12 years old.  Each day Pastor Frank and I welcome families that are so grateful for this safe, fun camp so they can continue to work and keep appointments while the kids have fun with many of their school friends.  We offer Bible Study, play lots of games, have time for art, enjoy a current movie on either of our projector screens in the Fellowship Hall or Teen Center and have had many special guests stop by and share their love. 

Ethan Mackowski was our first guest, sharing his love of being on a football team and showing us some of his skills.  We talked about patience and encouraged the campers to remember the importance of working alongside one another when we have to wait for what we want. 

On Friday, Jenna England, part of our Teen Leadership Team, shared a science experiment with the children…they LOVED this!  And Jenna helped us make Slime – a crowd favorite!

On Monday, Pastor Kelsy and Calvin Brown came to visit and shared his tricks, love and acceptance.  Calvin was a huge hit and was exhausted after having 35 children petting him! 

On Tuesday, David Allen, Director of Ministries in Music & Arts came and taught the kids how to use the Chimes and encouraged them to join our Children’s Chime Choir. 43 Kids rang the chimes and learned “I’ve Got Peace Like A River.”  So fantastic!

Pinnacle Opened Our Doors and the community is so grateful.  We cannot thank our volunteers enough; Grant, Tyler, Peyton, Ava, Jenna, Jordan, Caroline, Nick, Elaine, Jan, Nancy, Beth, Paul, Nate, Christine, Pam and Dorothy providing us with lots of snacks.  We are blessed to provide Jesus’ love thru our arms.

Depositphotos_159794870_web.jpg

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21

Thursday, April 26, 2018, a day that lives will be changed!  A day when years of hard work and dedication will finally get noticed.  It is a day that people around the country will be watching in anticipation of what will happen…

Depending on where your thoughts are, April 26 is either the day that the 2018 NFL draft will happen or the day the teachers of Arizona walkout.  A day where college football players, who have worked hard, on and off the field, will get an opportunity to make millions of dollars playing football in the NFL.  For others, April 26 is the day that Arizona teachers will walk out of their schools in an attempt to get a 20% pay increase, without depriving any other organization for all of the hard work and dedication, in and out of the school, they have given to our students over the years. 

I have two boys who are both involved in sports. We work hard, and practice and talk about what it takes to be a college and even professional athlete.  Education is also a high priority in our house.  All three of my kids do well in school and in our house, school sits second behind God, but before sports.  Despite our importance on education, I have never had my children aspire to be a teacher.  My oldest has expressed interest in being a pastor, but I have never said to my children “Someday if you work really hard and are dedicated you might even get to be a teacher!”   It isn’t because we don’t value teachers, we do, my wife works in education, but when we talk about things we want to be, we typically set our goals on things that will make a lot of money and teaching simply doesn’t.

Typically when we read from Matthew “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”, we tie that into our faith.  If we give of our time and efforts to God, that will show that we value God, right?  But doesn’t scripture apply to all aspects of life?  This notion of treasures and hearts also permeates into the secular world.

It is ironic to me that on Thursday night millions of American’s will be sitting around their Televisions watching to see what teams 21 and 22 year old college football players will be drafted to.  The NFL draft has become such a big business that it is not just one day, but three days.  We watch in anticipation to see teams make picks that they hope will make their football team better. Meanwhile, teachers will be out fighting to make a livable wage, and students will be without their teachers.

For a teacher who makes $40,000 a year, a 20% pay increase means they will make $48,000.  Yet the player that gets picked first on Thursday night…he is expected to sign a $30 million dollar contract, (that is equal to the yearly salary of 750 teachers) and the person picked last in the first round will make $9 million (equal to the yearly salary of 225 teachers).  These players, won’t really help our children be better people, they won’t teach the child who will later find the cure for cancer or write our favorite novel.  However, they might help bring a championship home for our team.  A team that we don’t own or receive any profits if they win or lose.  A team that charges $65 a ticket to watch them play and $8 for a drink when I am thirsty. 

My son informed me on Tuesday that it is all about money.  If we just give them more money, it will solve the problem.  I told him that money will help, but that the problem is more than just money, it is where our society places its treasures.  The reality is adding 20%, or even 30% won’t fix the problem overnight, it won’t fix the problem even within the next year because there are fewer and fewer people who are teaching.  They aren’t teaching because a teacher’s salary can no longer support them.  They aren’t teaching because 35 students in a classroom are too many kids for one teacher to oversee.  It is too many kids because they don’t have enough teachers to make the classes smaller. They aren’t teaching, because what was once a highly respected position in our society, has become nothing more than someone to blame when a child doesn’t do their assigned work and fails a test or our state doesn’t rank up to the national standards.

Will money fix the problem?  It can’t hurt, but simply giving a 20% pay increase doesn’t fix the problem it just shifts it.  If Arizona teachers start making more than teachers in New Mexico or Utah, then the best teachers from those states will come here to teach.  Yes that will make Arizona better, but what about those other states?  Essentially that is what is happening to Arizona right now.  The problem isn’t solved, it just makes it someone else’s problem.  Meanwhile, that guy, who got drafted first, oh you remember his name,  umm….wait we have already forgotten it, is still making millions of dollars from a guaranteed deal in his contract and he hasn’t worked in 4 years. 

My dad always tells a story about one of his teachers who turned down a professional baseball deal, so that he could teach.  It wasn’t because he loved teaching so much, it was because as a teacher in the 40's and 50's, he would make about the same teaching as playing professional baseball, and he loved teaching.  Could you imagine?  What would it look like if teachers were celebrated as much as the NFL draft?  What if we followed teachers leaving schools like we do when professional athletes get traded?  What if there were jerseys made of our favorite teachers that we wore around or Under Armour sponsored teachers?  What if instead of signing our kids up for every travel team, and sports camp and telling them that with hard work and dedication they might be a professional athlete; we told our kids with hard work and dedication you might get into the right school; and with that kind of education, you might be able to teach 4th-grade math? 

So where is our treasure?  And where is our heart?  My heart is for educating children not only to know the Lord but to find the cure for a disease, to fight world hunger, to invent the next Instagram.  As Christians, we have to stop pointing fingers and blaming others because we are part of the problem.  James writes “Faith without works is dead.  I will show you my faith, by what I do.  Saying you have faith and doing nothing does not constitute having faith.” As Christians, we are called to move mountains, and not just sit around and talk about it. 

Where is your treasure?  My title says it all.

Frank Harmon
Associate Pastor for YOUTH, CHILDREN, and THEIR FAMILIES  

An Easter Life in a Good Friday World

Depositphotos_51926417_original.jpg

Churches were jam-packed all over the world on Easter Sunday.  Why do they (and we) come?  The answer may not be hard to find in a Good Friday world where many feel anxious or troubled, where the unrelenting news can leave its hearers frightened or hopeless.

Easter is festivity!  It is JOY!  It is VICTORY!  It is a time to celebrate that death and despair are not the last words.  Good Friday and silent Saturday seemed to be the end of hope.  But as Tony Campolo put it: “it was Friday.  The cynics were lookin’ at the world and sayin’, ‘as things have been so they shall be.  You can’t change anything in this world, you can’t change anything’.  But those cynics didn’t know that it was only Friday, Sunday’s comin'!”

In a world often resembling Good Friday, Christians no longer need to live in fear and dread.  Easter Sunday has come, the stone was rolled away and God’s people were set free, no longer held in bondage by the curse of the broken covenant.  In a world filled with so much injustice and tragedy, Easter breaks out like the dawn, dispelling the darkness and declaring victory over evil.  And no matter how often love and faithfulness, peace and justice are bullied and seemingly defeated in our time, they rise again.

So, during this time of Eastertide….and always, let us not side with the cynics or the hopeless.  Let us shout from the rooftops “He is risen!” and celebrate the new life that is ours eternally in Jesus Christ.  Remember, Easter is more than a day or a season of the year, it is a way of life, indeed a NEW LIFE is ours! Thanks be to God and to Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior!!!