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...
August 6 Sermon by Rev. Dr. Galen Schwarz

August 6 Sermon by Rev. Dr. Galen Schwarz

Mourning to Dance Psalm 30   For about five years back in the mid two thousands I strummed my guitar as part of the praise band at my last church.  We certainly were not as good at the Dawn Band as none of us were professional musician.  We were what I called “Basement Bangers”: just a bunch of guys who liked to play and sing, all except for Jeff who was a very gifted classical guitarist who could make your heart sing when he picked the string.  Never the less we could hold our own in the praise music area. Jeff’s wife was the unofficial manager of our little group.  She and I used to joke that when I retired we were going to write a book titled:”Why can’t Presbyterians sing and clap at the same time?”   You need to know of course that both she and I grew up in a Presbyterian tradition that was much different from what it is today.  The thought of clapping during music or dancing in joy was a sin right up there with snoring in church. In our upbringing, whatever experiences of joy and elation one might have during a worship service were to be enjoyed rather cerebrally.  This was a time before the birth of Christian music, as we know it today.  What was considered appropriate as church music then was composed by the classic composers like Beethoven or Bach. My clergy-collar-wearing father and my musically-trained-in-Paris-church organist mother would have come unglued if I had raised myself from the pew and started to clap during a song, let alone shout out...
July 30 Sermon by Rev. Dr. Galen Schwarz

July 30 Sermon by Rev. Dr. Galen Schwarz

My Light and My Salvation Psalm 27 Sunday July 30, 2017 One of the great profound insights of the 27th Psalm is that so much of our faith can be summarized by the first verse: “The Lord is my light and my Salvation, of whom shall I fear.” Fear appears three times in the opening verses: one in each of the first three verses.  I am not sure if it is an accurate saying or not, but it seems to me that fear and love are the two great themes of the Bible that can be summed up in the words of John from his first letter: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”  In fact fear seems to be mentioned so frequently in the Bible that I decided to check out a list of things that people are afraid of, and boy was that ever a shocker. Would you be surprised to learn that Arachnophobia or the fear of spiders tops the list of fears? Or that Cynophobia, the fear of dogs comes in 5th? Or that Trypophobia, the fear of holes ranks above the fear of death? Or that the fear of death out polled the fear of public speaking by only one? One summer night during a severe thunderstorm a mother was tucking her small son into bed. She was about to turn the light off when he asked in a trembling voice, “Mommy, will you stay with me all night?” Smiling, the mother gave him a warm, reassuring hug and said tenderly, “I can’t dear. I have to sleep in Daddy’s room.” A long silence followed. At last it...
July 23 Sermon by Rev. Dr. Galen Schwarz

July 23 Sermon by Rev. Dr. Galen Schwarz

The Key to Patience Psalm 13 Sunday July 23, 2017 When I was in seminary I used to read a lot of books that I called, “Waiting books”.  A waiting book was a book that I could pick up and put down at a moment’s notice because I was doing a lot of waiting.  In my first two years as a student in New York City, I would have to ride the subway 45 minutes to an hour to get to my field education position or to my job as a Coffee House Coordinator.  There was a lot of waiting to do in those commutes.  One had to wait for the subway to come. One had to wait to see if you could find a seat or wait longer if you had bad timing on your transfer. Then you had to wait out the actual commute itself. I usually liked small paperback books that I could slip in my back pocket. They were the best because I didn’t have to worry about leaving them on the seat of the subway car or the commuter train. Back then I came across an author by the name of John Jakes who became a prolific writer.  But in the 70’s he wrote stories of the American Frontier and the Civil War.  What made his books of that time so convenient as a “Waiting book” was that each chapter had a new beginning and the action came to a resolution by the end of that chapter.  And even better each chapter took 15 to 20 minutes to read.  So they were perfect waiting...