Belonging to a church

Pastoral Messages | December 7, 2017

While in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a few years ago, my wife and I stepped into a small church for Sunday worship. With thirty or so other people there also to praise the Lord, we sat together beneath the hum of ceiling fans, sneaking occasional peeks at the Teton mountains. The woman at the upright piano played the notes fine, though her tempos didn’t exactly communicate a feel for the music. She has played in churches, we learned later, for over 60 years.

The assisting minister didn’t fit his robe, or the robe didn’t fit him – I’m not sure which. The pastor preached a fine sermon on mercy. When an experience mutually satisfies, my wife and I tend to lean into each other, or discreetly elbow affirmation. This sermon did that. I remember being struck by the sharing of the Lord’s peace that lasted a good five minutes. These people loved each other.

I noticed that the burgundy carpet matched the color of the communion wine, perhaps intentionally so to disguise the occasional spill. It’s funny what things one contemplates in an unfamiliar space.

Announcements happened at the end of the service when anybody may share a prayer concern or raise a matter for the community. One of the “Circle of Care” women stood up to request a volunteer for driving an elderly man of the congregation over and back to Idaho Falls twice a week. Ernie gets treatments for cancer in his eye at the hospital there. She indicated that she needed some temporary relief. With autumn snows coming on, and the treacherous traverse of Teton Pass looming as part of the 180-mile round trip, one could tell she was nervous yet hopeful for assistance.

When nobody in the congregation raised their hand, she did what we all might do – she added some more words of encouragement and invitation. There was awkward silence. She spoke further. Still no hands. That’s when she concluded with a graceful smile, “Well, if any of you feel the impulse, or you want to speak with me personally about what’s involved, I’m glad to be available.”

I noticed a number of people surrounding this woman after church. It looked like the friendliest bunch. I don’t know if they were commiserating with her or actually inquiring about how they might help meet her request. Two things struck me as we walked to our car. First, I wish we had the luxury of being more than one-Sunday guests in this community. We met Ernie who seemed like the neatest guy; I would have liked to be his personal driver. Second, something told me that this church would figure out how to get Ernie over Teton Pass twice a week.

One way or another, I had a strong hunch they would figure it out. That’s what a congregation does that’s warm, hospitable, and committed to inconveniencing itself for the sake of loving others.

Peter W. Marty, senior pastor

4 Comments on “Belonging to a church”

  • Jules Irish

    December 8, 2017 at 8:49 am

    I, too, have experienced the camaraderie and love envelops me when I visit small community churches on our annual Western adventures. It is always one of the highlights of my trips.

  • Bill wittkamp

    December 7, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    Always look forward to and appreciate these little messages from Pastor Peter.

  • Marcia Jensen

    December 7, 2017 at 2:39 pm

    Spoken like a working pastor aware of the details😊 Thank you for the little things that matter so much.

  • Marv Taylor

    December 7, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    Pastor Peter,
    I trust that this year has provided many opportunities for growth. I enjoy and am stimulated by many of your writings as we receive the communications from St. Paul. I look forward to reading about your new members with their varied age, education, jobs, and reasons for calling St. Paul home.
    Jan and I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas. God bless. Marv

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Isaiah 53:4-12

4Surely our griefs He Himself bore,

And our sorrows He carried;

Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,

Smitten of God, and afflicted.

5But He was pierced through for our transgressions,

He was crushed for our iniquities;

The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,

And by His scourging we are healed.

6All of us like sheep have gone astray,

Each of us has turned to his own way;

But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all

To fall on Him.

7He was oppressed and He was afflicted,

Yet He did not open His mouth;

Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,

And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,

So He did not open His mouth.

8By oppression and judgment He was taken away;

And as for His generation, who considered

That He was cut off out of the land of the living

For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?

9His grave was assigned with wicked men,

Yet He was with a rich man in His death,

Because He had done no violence,

Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.

10But the LORD was pleased

To crush Him, putting Him to grief;

If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,

He will see His offspring,

He will prolong His days,

And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.

11As a result of the anguish of His soul,

He will see it and be satisfied;

By His knowledge the Righteous One,

My Servant, will justify the many,

As He will bear their iniquities.

12Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,

And He will divide the booty with the strong;

Because He poured out Himself to death,

And was numbered with the transgressors;

Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,

And interceded for the transgressors.

Psalm 91:9-16

9For you have made the LORD, my refuge,

Even the Most High, your dwelling place.

10No evil will befall you,

Nor will any plague come near your tent.

11For He will give His angels charge concerning you,

To guard you in all your ways.

12They will bear you up in their hands,

That you do not strike your foot against a stone.

13You will tread upon the lion and cobra,

The young lion and the serpent you will trample down.

14“Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;

I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.

15“He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;

I will be with him in trouble;

I will rescue him and honor him.

16“With a long life I will satisfy him

And let him see My salvation.”

Hebrews 5:1-10

The Perfect High Priest

1For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of men in things pertaining to God, in order to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins;2he can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided, since he himself also is beset with weakness;3and because of it he is obligated to offer sacrifices for sins, as for the people, so also for himself.4And no one takes the honor to himself, but receives it when he is called by God, even as Aaron was.

5So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him,



6just as He says also in another passage,



7In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety.8Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.9And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation,10being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Mark 10:35-45

35James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, *came up to Jesus, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.”36And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?”37They said to Him, “Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.”38But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”39They said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized.40“But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

41Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John.42Calling them to Himself, Jesus *said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them.43“But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant;44and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.45“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Bartimaeus Receives His Sight