The United Baptist Church
Kairos Moments . . .
Reflections by Rev. Pamela Moyer
April 4, 2023
Happy Spring & almost Easter! I do hope you’re having a blessed Holy Week. On Palm Sunday, I surprised our congregation with a Shofar Call to Worship, thanks to David Evans’ skills. A “shofar” is an ancient musical horn typically made of a ram’s horn, used for Jewish public and religious occasions. In biblical times the shofar sounded the Sabbath, announced the New Moon, and proclaimed the anointing of a new king. This shofar and Jewish prayer shawl journeyed safely here from Jerusalem, Israel -- praise God for their beauty and sound!
The photos on page 1 are of the Garden Tomb, Golgotha (Aramaic: skull) or as we know it, Calvary (Latin: bald head/skull). Although we think of a hill with three crosses as seen in the movies, there are two possible locations of Christ’s tomb. Both I visited in Jerusalem, The Church of the Holy Sepulchre and The Garden Tomb. There is evidence for both, so the Biblical Archaeology Review 12:2, March/April 1986 article is worth reading. Both places have merit, and both are meaningful locations to be with God in meditation or contemplation. Our group read the crucifixion and resurrection accounts while celebrating the Lord’s Supper together.
As I pray and work through our church prayer list this season, I am moved by the fragility and awe of life itself. We celebrated Hazel Ball’s 101 years of life, family, and service and Sue Korcel’s 91 years of art, painting, children, grandchildren, and neighborhood evangelism. Both women of strong faith did not seem too fragile, yet our moments of memory do seem fleeting. We must be present to one another as we go! The Mid-Atlantic Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Clergy/Chaplain Retreat in February and MACBF Annual Meeting in March reminded me that caring for others requires humility, spiritual work, and physical care of self, and that the injustices of the world do need our attention, in small and big ways. Several national CBF staff came to speak and teach (we do support them financially). Peer support was evident and appreciated, especially during recent responses within the Southern Baptist Convention. There will be an attempt at the June meeting to de-fellowship any churches with women in leadership. Please know that although we are listed as SBC, it is a clerical error; we have not financially or theologically supported SBC in decades. It will easily be corrected, but sister churches need our prayers on this. I personally thank UBC for your affirmation and support of God’s calling and direction in my life. Good things are happening for our Mission Center, too, so plan to attend our next Membership Meeting on Sunday, May 7th! Blessings . . .
March 7, 2023
I’ve had a month to process my pilgrimage and it is just starting to sink in as I share more stories about the journey. In this season of Lent, many of us fast, eliminate things from life or diet, or add a new habit or routine to draw us closer to Jesus before he goes to the cross and rises at Easter. Even these 40 days can be a sort of pilgrimage if you are praying and reading Scripture with spiritual discipline and intentionality.
What is a pilgrimage? You will find many definitions; it “is a journey, often into an unknown or foreign place, where a person goes in search of new or expanded meaning about their self, others, nature, or a higher good through the experience. It can lead to a personal transformation, after which the pilgrim returns to their daily life [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pilgrimage].” According to Bruce Feiler, American writer and celebrity, there are specific elements to a pilgrimage of the call, the separation, the journey, the contemplation, the encounter, the completion, and the return. I would add sharing and processing.
For me, I was called to take this trip January 2019, but declined due to my candidacy for the Senior Minister role here at United. An invitation to preach in view of a call took a higher priority at that time, and I am glad I did not postpone my trial sermon! Then pandemic hit, and the next available NorthStar pastors’ trip was postponed. God’s will be done! I was not ready to embark until this year both personally and professionally. The separation part went smoothly because of the spiritual growth of our church leaders and the experience of our staff, especially our worship team who handled two Sundays, and our Administrative Assistant, Roudaina, who handled the office for my 2 weeks away. We prepared well together, and all completed their tasks with excellence and efficiency, even handling one or two unexpected issues. I am truly grateful to our speakers as well. The 11-hour+ flight wasn’t too bad, the bus driver friendly and competent, the numerous stops I shared last month made the journey a healthy challenge. Some contemplation was scheduled so that I could encounter the sites, their significance, and God’s presence. Completing the trip and returning proved the pilgrimage was necessary to my spirit and successful in the depths of my soul.
God’s presence is everywhere if we pay attention, so the sites themselves were “gravy” to what we can read in the Scriptures. Sharing my stories is helping me process what transformation is taking place because of this intense pilgrimage. It’s exciting to see the Scriptures come alive on the page and to share those insights in my preaching and teaching. Hope you’re not bored yet! More to come.
February 7, 2023
I’m baaaack! And so grateful for the opportunity to travel to Israel with 42 other pastors, spouses, parents, and NorthStar staff in January! It was truly a pilgrimage with 6 sites each day. Thank you, church, leadership, and staff, for your steadfastness and commitment to worship and activities while I was gone for 12 days. I had perfect peace knowing that you are competent and willing to serve in my absence. Also, let me thank you for your powerful prayers. I felt safe and strengthened the whole time. Let me share. . .
The scope was bigger than I realized, so processing this trip will take me months of additional study and reflection. You may hear more around Easter and Christmas, since we followed Jesus from birth to resurrection, as well as Old Testament familiar locations. After a week home, it is helpful to share the context and atmosphere, because although a modern country, the culture, language, and people were so different. Hebrew, Arabic, then English was spoken and on signs most places, and we had an amazing guide, Reuben Nevo (www.Israeliswaitingforyou.com), who spoke five languages, was a certified tour guide for the Ministry of Tourism in Israel and has an advanced degree in Jewish history. It was like a seminary course!
The logistics and strenuous hill and stair hiking were distracting at first until my knees adjusted! Did you know that Israel is built on stone, and has had earthquakes, wars, and rebuilding to the point that where Jesus walked is well over 20 feet below today’s paths? I also learned that early builders used what was available, with irregular steps and stones to slow people down so they could pause to reflect on God or greet members of the community. The hotel buffets were abundant with healthy mediterranean dishes: local fruits (citrus, mango, bananas, dates, figs), many salads, the best hummus, babaganoush, luscious cheeses, fish, beef, lamb, chicken, and a few American options (french fries, pizza, hot dogs) for the timid.
There are a few pics on page 3, but I took hundreds! We felt safe as we travelled from Tel Aviv north to the Sea of Galilee, then to Bethlehem, Nazareth, Capernaum, the Dead Sea, the Judean Desert, Jerusalem (both old and new cities) and finally Golgotha with communion at the Garden Tomb area. Our guide changed the itinerary for safety; there was violence while we were there (3 incidents plus protests). The highlights for me were sailing and worship on the Sea of Galilee, worship and reflection in the Garden of Gesthemane, and visting the Yad Vashem, or Museum of Shoah (the Holocaust Museum). Two adventures were hiking through a wet Hezekiah’s Tunnel and off-roading in the desert (Samaria & where Jesus was tempted). Drivers were skilled and hospitable (ask for more details about it). Networking with other pastors built friendships to strengthen us as a church. My trip was like the huge red pomegranates grown in Israel: they smell delicious when cut, and have juicy edible seeds (my stories); but you cannot eat it like an apple all in one sitting. More later!
January 4, 2023
Happy New Year! Our staff and I thank you for the year-long gifts of your loyal participation in church life and the recognition of our work to support the mission and vision of the United Baptist Church. We do our work out of love, faith, and a personal passion to nurture the disciples and apostles among us. Thank you also to New Beginning Missionary Baptist Church for hosting the “Love Potluck” in December. Thank you to all who brought appetizers, salads, side dishes, or desserts. The food and conversations were all so delicious and rich, re-connecting the two churches post-pandemic!
These wild temperature fluctuations between 8° and 68° have been challenging, but help to remind me that life, like weather is changeable and unpredictable. Just like our health and this year’s market, we may influence the outcome, but cannot control it. We are all praying for the Buffalo Bills safety, Damar Hamlin, only 24 years old, who is fighting for his life after suffering cardiac arrest on Monday night during the football game with the Cincinatti Bengals (did you see the 2 crosses on his cheeks before the game?) Having been through such an ICU vigil with my brother Joel in 2010, I understand the pain and anxiety his family is experiencing. We ask God for healing and comfort for him and many others on our prayer list. Prayer is a good way to begin the year!
One topic of Advent preparation was “emptying: an intentional decision to let go of distractions, busy-ness, self-centeredness, sin, hurt, anger, cynicism, or fear.” If we kept or keep on adding things to our lives and schedules, there is a good chance of burnout. Ask God to bear some of the burdens. When we make New Year’s Resolutions, they are often an additional habit or practice, like exercising, reading the Bible, or starting a new diet on top of everything else. Remember that Jesus modeled rest and prayer for us in several passages: Matthew 14:13; Mark 1:35; 4:36; 6:31, 46; Luke 5:16; 6:12; and John 4:6. That’s your homework to look these up and calendar periods of rest and prayer for yourselves. Leaving unhealthy behaviors at the altar will make new space in mind and heart for you to add in a spiritual or physical discipline this year. I did this “emptying” for myself so that I would have room to absorb and learn all I could experience from the upcoming Israel pilgrimmage with NorthStar Church Network pastors, spouses, and staff. My brain and heart were so full of Christmas preparations! But I am ready now. You blessed our staff with days off so we could have time with God and family, resting and renewing. It was a fruitful time of visioning and preparation for me. This trip will be a study and reflection journey rather than a tourist trip, and I plan to bring back lots of stories and visuals for the year of Divine Experiments ahead!
Kairos (καιρός) is Greek for “opportune time,” where God may break in to our circumstances, and we then can reflect on the purpose of His in-breaking. I think of it as the Holy Spirit nudging me toward an “AHA!” moment. “Kairos Moments” will be the title of this regular article, so that observations, reflections, questions and theology can be examined for action.
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