August 27 Sermon by Rev. Dr. Galen Schwarz

August 27 Sermon by Rev. Dr. Galen Schwarz

What a Gift,   Ephesians 4:1-16 It is a bit difficult for me to put into words the struggle that I had this past week with this particular passage of Paul, for some of it seems to fly right in the face of all that we know about the theology of Paul.  Sure there are common themes here that we have heard before, and there is the introduction of a new element of  the graciousness of God when it comes to our faith, but to use the word “Worthy” and say that Paul hopes that we lead a life that is “Worthy” of the call to which you have been called, seems to take us down the road of throwing off the balance between work and faith. In one sense to say that we should be worthy of the calling to which we have been given seems to imply that if we work hard enough and we practice the characteristics of humility, gentlenesss, patience, forebearance and love then these behaviors will make us worthy of God’s love and God’s calling.  And that if we do not show those characteristics then we are not worthy of God’s calling.  For someone who believes that God calls all people to faithfulness, obedience and witness, this is a very difficult statement. But then perhaps I was over pondering this particular predicament.  Perhaps it was being taken out of context and I was thinking about it as if it were a single statement, not connected to the words that follow.  So let’s start by working backwards, and looking at the people in our lives who...
August 20, 2017 Sermon by Rev. Dr. Galen Schwarz

August 20, 2017 Sermon by Rev. Dr. Galen Schwarz

The Ingroup  –  Ephesians 2:11-22 A couple of years ago I had to make one of those dreaded calls to our medical insurance provider to find out if a certain medical procedure was covered.  I don’t know about you, but I always have some resistance to those kinds of calls.  They always start out with the warning that says that they may be tape recording the call for training purposes.  That alerts me because I know that they are really trying to tape what the caller is saying.   So I start right away to think about exactly what I am going to say and how I am going to say it, to make sure that it is as friendly as possible, but still communicates what I really want to know. But this time the “friendly warming message” ended and the customer service agent answered and identified herself, rather than moving into questions that would identify who I was,  the first things she said was, “I see you are from Indianapolis”, reading the caller ID, “How about those Colts. I think Andrew Luck is so cute!” Talk about knocking you off balance! We shared a few pleasantries about our hometown team and then she mentioned how much she admired our entire organization, and how difficult it was to be a Colts fans since the answering office of my insurance company was in Pittsburgh.  And we know what team plays there. By the time the conversation was over I had discovered what I needed to know and had a nice chat with a stranger who had become somewhat of a friend. ...
postcards from sabbatical – week 11

postcards from sabbatical – week 11

Dear Faith Friends, Trail Ridge Road runs straight through Rocky Mountain National Park.  It gets you high and it gets you high quickly.  Before you even reach the Continental Divide a sign tells you that you are two miles above sea level.  You haven’t gotten out of the car and you are already out of breath. Trail Ridge Road will take you even higher.  You can walk straight out of your car onto Alpine Tundra.  They say that driving the three hours from the high plains of Colorado to the top of Trail Ridge Road is like driving from Mexico to the Arctic Circle.  The tundra is a desert, where – despite large snow falls – only small amounts of moisture seep into the ground.  Plants and animals have evolved and adapted to the treacherous temperatures and wind speeds.  It has made flora and fauna creative, hardy and fragile.  A plant may bloom only once a decade.  Animals have about two months to gather food or get off the mountain. The air is thin.  I must hike slowly.  I must take my time.  I must be prepared with water, nourishment and adequate safety measures. I must watch ever step over boulders and stones, across tender plants. I am rewarded.  With astounding views.  With animals who are as curious about me as I am of them.  With delicate plants in bloom.  With bright sunshine. With enormous billowing clouds.  With occasional friendly human companions.  With the presence of God.  With time in God’s time. This is truly a thin place for me. My soul is being restored in places I did not...
Pastor Schwarz Response to Charlottesville, VA

Pastor Schwarz Response to Charlottesville, VA

The events in Charlottesville, Virginia a week ago serve to illustrate that the Church of Jesus Christ has a long way to go in proclaiming the justice and love of our Lord.  Once again we have seen the ugly head of hatred and racism raise about the words and actions of welcome and inclusion. Let it be said clearly that slavery was and is a sin that robs a person of the dignity and self-worth that God bestowed on all of creation.  Let us also as people of faith admit that even the Church failed to recognize this reality in the past, and used the message of love and reconciliation to hold other prisoners. But white-Supremacy, anti-Semitism, and neo-Nazism have no place in our society.  They insult the people with whom we share God’s creation and those who fought and died to defend the equality of humanity. Two of the highly valued principles of our country are the freedom of speech and the right to assemble, but there are limits to both.  And while one must be careful in applying universal condemnations, in this case, it can be said that “Just because it is legal that does not make it right.”  And what was said in Charlottesville was not only wrong but it was also evil. At the 222nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in 2016, the Belhar Confession was adopted as a document to add to our Book of Confessions.  The Belhar Confession comes out of the experience of Apartheid in South Africa and serves as a Call to Christians to practice Unity, Justice, and Reconciliation.  Part...
postcards from sabbatical – week 10

postcards from sabbatical – week 10

Dear Faith Friends, What a gift it is to be in the high mountains.  I love the rolling hills of Indianapolis and the flat, sprawling plains of the Midwest.  But, oh, what a delight it is to be where the air is thin, the sky is vast, and even the trees fall away to make way for the wind! My daughters and I had time to hike.  We went on familiar paths that are ancient and new every time. (Husband and dog stayed back at the cabin.) Then one daughter flew off to Seattle for a five-week internship, and the other took my husband back to Indianapolis to prepare for her senior year of high school and final year of basketball. Now, I am alone. It is surprising how disorienting it is.  I make so many decisions in response to others: when I wake up, so my devotions are in quietness; where we eat; what I cook; which hike to take; how fast and far to go. Then, I become aware of other expectations and perceptions which skew my decisions and mood.  Am I hiking as high as another hiker?  Does the church expect me to be working harder? Why are my pictures not as amazing as someone else’s? Apparently, I need this time to be alone with God.  I need to shed what is false, to be unencumbered of expectations which are not divine, to let go of presumptions and find my soul.  I want my focus to be what God wants me to do with my time and where God wants my effort to be.  I want God’s expectations alone to...