Lincoln’s Log 8-9-2020

Jesus and the Storm

“‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him [Jesus] homage, saying, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God.’”
Mt. 14:31b-33

It feels like our world is going through a storm.

Our scriptures give us examples of many ways Jesus deals with storms in the life of his disciples. In this weekend’s Gospel from Mt. 14:

  • Jesus appears to his disciples in the storm. Even though they don’t recognize him and are still terrified, he is present in the midst of the storm (v. 25).
  • Even more, Jesus invites his disciple (Peter) to come to him in the storm by walking on the water (v.29).
  • When his disciples’ faith falters, Jesus saves them in the storm (v. 31).
  • Jesus teaches his disciples about faith in the storm (“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” v. 31)

But these aren’t the only ways Jesus deals with storms in his disciples’ lives. In Mark 6:

  • He sends his disciples into the storm (v. 45)..
  • He speaks with them in the storm (v. 50).
  • He gives them courage in the storm (v.50).
  • He stays with them in the storm (v. 51).

In John 6:

  • He gets them through the storm (v. 21).

In Mk. 4:

  • He remains with them peacefully asleep in the storm (v. 38).
  • He calms the storm (v. 39).

Jesus knows how to deal with storms. He is the Lord of all creation and no storm is beyond his power. He brings his disciples through every storm and through them he reveals his presence, love, and power.

What is Jesus’ invitation to you in the midst of today’s storms?

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln
Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 8-2-2020

Amazing Grace

“I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present thing, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Rm. 8:39

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come,
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.
                                                                                 Amazing Grace

Every once in a while I get a crazy/fun idea. The last few weeks was one of those times. I decided that I would try to find the “best” version of the song Amazing Grace. I sat down with my phone and our streaming service and started listening. I wasn’t alone, my son, Benedict helped out and the rest of the house tolerated my quirky quest.

First, we narrowed it down to 100 songs, then down to a top 20 and then we put that top 20 in order. It was a fun process and I learned, there are a lot of great versions of this popular song. I also learned about music and style through comparing different versions of the same song. Believe it or not, I’m still not sick of it.

Here are my top 10 in order from #10 to #1. All of these are great and worth listening to over and over again. I also have three instrumental versions that are favorites that I list below as well.

10. Andrea Boccelli, Live in Central Park 2011 (effortless singing)
9. Ralph Stanley (Traditional Bluegrass)
8. Alan Jackson (beautiful bass)
7. Reba McEntire (Powerful female country vocals sung simply)
6. Judy Collins and the Global Virtual Choir (amazing soprano)
5. The Statler Brothers (Christian Barbershop with amazing vocals)
4. Selah (Incredible Gospel and Blues style)
3. LeAnn Rimes (solo acapella – fantastic)
2. Gaither Vocal Band (powerful harmonies, each verses with a unique interpretation)
1. BYU Noteworthy (Wow!)

Incredible instrumental versions
3. Grace Kelly (jazz saxophone)
2. Bow and Ivory (violin and piano duet)
1. Joshua Bell and Friends (Double Wow!)

I’m considering a quest for the best Ave Maria next… any other suggestions?

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln
Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 7-26-2020

Deep Listening 3: Meaningful Relationships

“We know that all things work for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.”
Rm. 8:28

What is God asking St. Thomas More to do today and in the months to come?

One of the themes that has emerged from our first listening session on July 12 is the importance and value of meaningful relationships. A sense of hospitality, community, and connection is a core part of who we are as St. Thomas More. A year ago, when I was assigned here, one thing I kept hearing was the hospitality of St. Thomas More. That description has proven to be true. The people of St. Thomas More place a very high value on our relationships and connections with one another. We work to build community by reaching out to each other beyond a friendly nod at Mass. We care for each other. We take the time to make our relationships a priority, even when it is difficult to do.

Relationships are complex, but I think that at St. Thomas More, meaningful relationships have the following characteristics:

  • They are rooted in a shared faith in Jesus Christ and a desire to follow him as his disciple.
  • They recognize the needs of others and strive to meet them in the best way possible.
  • They create intimacy through sharing life and stories.
  • They are built up over time.
  • They are a priority.

These relationships have been tested during the ongoing pandemic. We have not been able to gather in the ways we used to (e.g. limited Mass attendance, no large gatherings, etc… ). The ways we connect with one another have been challenged but these connections make up the heart of our community.

As we listen to our need for meaningful relationships dwelling at the center of our community how are we being called to respond?

There are no simple answers. Relationships take work and time. Jesus spent years with the disciples building relationships with them and bringing them into meaningful relationships with each other.

Looking ahead, the challenges the pandemic presents to our ability to form meaningful relationships are not going away. It is going to take hard work to overcome these challenges. The Reconnect groups are an initial step to help us renew these relationships, but we need to do more. As we plan for the coming months, we are developing ways to help us all grow in having deeper connections and meaningful relationships.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln

Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 7-19-2020

Deep Listening Part 2

“Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
Mt. 13:43

What is God asking St. Thomas More to do today and in the months to come?

Last weekend we had our first listening session. We had 29 participants (6 in church and 23 online). It was a spirit filled time. Here are a few of many comments made by parishioners about what each person heard as we listened to God and one another.

“A continuing online presence moving forward is important to many people.”

“I struck by the need for our parish to be open to the changing world. Maybe we need to be open to how technology can improve our faith and participation.”

“I heard and felt a deep longing for a means to stay connected to the Mass, to the sacraments, and to fellow parishioners.”

“The strong sense of community of STM and the desire to build on that.”

“what I heard was the openness to new ideas and the feeling that we are working together to do the best we can in this troubled time and the future. I am pleased to be a member of this caring parish.”

“The importance of expanding our capacity to gather, in some manifestation, in the virtual world.”

“I heard that virtual connections are important to help people feel connected – and I think that goes beyond the situation of the pandemic. People to be connected and to feel involved in their parish and in their faith.”

“I heard from all the questions and responses….. All of us want to keep Christ alive in ourselves and our world.”

“Relationships and connectedness are very important for our community and that needs to be a central focus on what we do moving forward.”

Thanks to everyone who participated in this first listening session. We will be holding another listening session next month on Wednesday, August 19 at 6:30 pm. Keep praying and listening!

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln

Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 7-12-2020

Deep Listening

“Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
Mt. 13:9

What is God asking St. Thomas More to do today and in the months to come?

The world is changing. If you turn on the news it is clear that we are living through a time of intense, deep, and unpredictable change. As disciples of Jesus, we need to respond to this changing reality with bold faith. In order to respond, we need to clearly hear the call of Jesus in the midst of the events happening around us. Jesus is still speaking to His people. He is still directing us to continue His mission in the world to provide hope and healing. The voice of the Lord can be hard to hear in the midst of social upheavals and pandemics, but he is still speaking. But we need to listen extra carefully during times like this. “Whoever has ears ought to hear” (Mt. 13:9).

This weekend (Sunday, July 12 at 11:30 am) we will be holding our first listening session. You can participate in person or online at the STM Facebook page. We will be listening to the voice of God speaking through our community and the events around us. We will be listening for how God is calling us forward in faith.

The process will be simple. We will gather in prayer and ask for God’s guidance and the presence of the Holy Spirit among us. We will then share our responses to the following questions:

  1. What do you love about STM?
  1. What is needed now and in the future at STM?
  1. What would make STM more effective in continuing the mission of Jesus in making disciples?

Everyone will have some time to pray about these questions and then share their responses. There will be other, clarifying questions, if needed to prompt our reflection, but the focus will be on listening to God speaking in our own heart and in the voice of those who are gathered (in person or virtually).

Listening is a spiritual practice. It needs to be ongoing. It is not easy. It is not magic. It will not provide easy answers. But deep listening will allow us to stretch our hearts and minds to hear God’s voice. “Whoever has ears ought to hear” (Mt. 13:9).

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln

Parish Pastoral Leader

P.S. If you can’t make this listening session, we will be holding another one next month on Wednesday, August 19 at 6:30 pm. You can sign up for either listening session by calling the office or at: https://stmparish.flocknote.com/signup/5488

Lincoln’s Log 7-5-2020

Rebooting and Listening

“My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
Jn. 10:27

What is God asking St. Thomas More to do today and in the months to come?

Are we willing to follow where God is leading us?

The Gospel this weekend challenges us to put nothing before our call as disciples: “Whoever loves father and mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” These words can seem harsh, but they point out that discipleship is not a part of who we are, it is the core of who we are. We follow Jesus. He is the Lord of history and the Lord of our lives. His call to discipleship affects all that we do. That is why hearing and following the Lord’s call are central disciplines of our faith and the life of our community.

Over the summer months we continue to work to follow the Lord’s call in rebooting our parish. Our mission hasn’t changed. We still exist to continue the mission of Jesus. But the world has changed and is changing rapidly. At times like this, we are called to dig deep and uncover what is of real value. Right now, the future is not clear. Our “standard operating procedures” were not designed for this type of rapid change.

So what do we do?

We do what people of faith have always done. We follow the Lord. We cry out to God and we listen carefully for God’s voice. We look for the prophets around and among us. We support those who are hurting. We proclaim to one another how God has been with us. We weep. We pray. We heal. We dream. We proclaim. We listen. And we wait for God to act.

As we continue to reboot, and to help us discern God’s call, I am hosting two listening sessions. I encourage everyone to attend one or the other of these sessions. There is no specific agenda for these listening sessions but we will use a simple process to help us hear God’s voice speaking among us and help us focus on what is most important right now. What are the beginning steps we are to take now in response to our changing world?

For the past several weeks (and months with parish leadership), I have been asking us to pray with the question: What is God asking St. Thomas More to do today and in the months to come? I am working to focus that question even more. It is a heavy question, but it is the only question that matters. We will be digging deep in our listening sessions. You can come in person (up to 180 people with masks and social distancing) or participate on our facebook page. Please join a listening session:

11:30 am Sunday, July 12 or 6:30 pm Wednesday, August 19

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln

Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 6-28-2020

For The Interim Time

A few weeks ago, I preached and wrote about the four temptations of the present moment of transition. The situation hasn’t changed. We are still “in the middle of things” and our church, nation, and world are undergoing profound change. For guidance, I drew on William Bridges article “Getting Them Through the Wilderness.” One of the temptations I have seen all around me this past week is the temptation to “Fast Forward” as we rush to establish a new normal for ourselves and our community. This impulse is perfectly understandable. I share in it myself and want to get out of this desert. But I think this desire misses the invitation to look deeply within our hearts and to welcome the new movements of the Spirit. What was, is no more. One day is dying, and another is being born. It is a time of twilight.

This twilight time reminded me of a blessing by one of my favorite spiritual writers, John, O’Donohue called, “For the Interim Time.” I would encourage you to read the entire blessing because I believe it captures the reality of the current moment very well.

He writes,

The path you took, to get here has washed out;
The way forward is still concealed from you.

“The old is not old enough to have died away;
The new is still too young to be born.”

We are in between what has been and what is yet to be born. We cannot go back to the way things were, but we don’t know what the way forward holds. This unknown can be frightening. We can feel lost. But we are not abandoned. What are we to do?

As far as you can, hold your confidence.
Do not allow your confusion to squander
This call which is loosening
Your roots in false ground,
That you might come free
From all you have outgrown.

All we can do is allow God to work in unknown and mysterious ways. We can trust that God is preparing us for the next step we are to take. We can grow in faith, hope and love, letting go of everything that we used to give our hearts to that is not God. This is the path of renewal in crisis. It avoids the temptations of the desert.

What is being transfigured here is your mind,
And it is difficult and slow to become new.
The more faithfully you can endure here,
The more refined your heart will become
For your arrival in the new dawn.

If we can allow the crisis of the present moment to transfigure our hearts, we will be prepared for whatever is coming next. The unknown does not need to be frightening, but can be a new beginning filled with hope. If we can faithfully endure here, the light of the new dawn will be the light of Christ shining in our hearts.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln

Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 6-21-2020

Four Temptations of The Desert

“Remember how for these forty years the LORD your God, has directed all your journeying in the wilderness, so as to test you by affliction, to know what was in your heart: to keep his commandments, or not. He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger, and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your ancestors, so you might know that it is not by bread alone that people live, but by all that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord.”
(Dt. 8:2-3 emphasis added)

Last weekend in preaching I drew heavily on the article “Getting Them Through the Wilderness” by William Bridges. In this article, Bridges outlines the major characteristics of change and transition. He takes an enlightening look at what he calls the “Neutral Zone” which is that time between having left something behind but before the new emerges. It is a time like we are in now.

I would encourage you to read the entire article, but my takeaway was the four temptations that we face today as we walk through our current Neutral Zone. We are emerging from what was before the Pandemic into an unknown future. These temptations are the same ones that faced the people of God as they wandered in the desert, leaving Egypt behind but not yet at the promised land.

These four temptation are:

  1. “A return to Egypt. The pull of nostalgia is very strong when everything is up for grabs. Even after the Red Sea Experience cut off literal retreat, Moses had to contend constantly with the people who undermined morale by pining for the Good Old Days on the Nile. And so it is with today’s transitions, as every transition leader quickly discovers.
  2. A flight into Weird. Moses found that while he was visiting with God atop Mt. Sinai, some of his people began to worship golden idols made from their melted down Egyptian jewelry. Symbolically you might say that they were vulnerable to strange new symbols fashioned from the remnants of their old values. A similar thing happens today when a demagogue appeals to people in the neutral zone, using scraps of familiar traditions. Hitler is a notable example of that.
  3. An exit to Greener Fields. Moses had to contend with this one, too. His people looked longingly at some of the tribes that they passed along the route, and more than a few people left to join a group that promised respite from neutral zone stress. (Today, we call this “turnover,” and it always rises when an organization is in the wilderness.)
  4. An impulse to Fast Forward. Again, Moses knew all about the problem. He had people who didn’t see why they couldn’t enter the Promised Land much sooner, and early on they even sent a group in to look around. But the people weren’t inwardly ready, and they were overcome with doubts. So it was back to the wilderness for “years and years.””

The reason these are temptations is because they lead us to miss the way God is with us right now, in the desert. The good news, that these temptations distract us from, is that God is giving us manna right now. He is coming to us in new and unknown ways. If we give in to any of these temptations, we will miss God’s gift to us right now. The testing that we are experiencing is taking us somewhere. It is preparing our hearts for the promised land. We are not there yet. This is not the “new normal” but it is the desert where we can encounter God’s love and mercy when everything that used to sustain us has been stripped away.

Testing is never easy, but it is where we are now. We are not alone. We have one another and God is with us, giving us manna to feed us during this time. We walk together in hope, trusting in God’s provision and his guidance. Do not give in to the temptations of the desert!

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln

Parish Pastoral Leader

Deacon Lincoln’s Log 6-14-2020

 

Rebooting the Parish in Phases

“Jesus said, ‘This is how it is with the kingdom of God: it is as if a man went to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once for the harvest has come.”
Mk. 4:26-29

““To live is to change, and to change often is to become more perfect.”
Cardinal Newman

The church is a living thing. It is easy to forget that fact. Right now, the church is experiencing profound change. Like a plant that has been re-potted, the church finds itself in a radically changed and changing world. Nearly five years ago, Pope Francis said that the church needed to realize that, “We are not living an era of change but a change of era.”

This insight from our Pope is clear today. Our pastoral and finance councils continue to pray and reflect on the next step we should take to continue the mission that Jesus has given us to make disciples of all nations (Mt. 28:19-20). We are all reflecting on the question, “What is God asking St. Thomas More to do today and in the months to come?” This moment is important. Please join us in prayer and reflection as we move forward. Share your prayerful insights with me and other parish leadership.

One of the insights our Bishop has given us is to move forward with bold faith and prudent safety, using a phased approach based deeply rooted in the reality of our current situation. Along with other parishes in the diocese we are preparing to enter Phase 2 soon.

Rebooting Phase 1

This past weekend we began Phase 1 of the St. Thomas More reboot of our sacramental life.We were offered the opportunity to encounter Jesus in Holy Communion Outside of Mass. We served about 100 people the Body of the Lord (see the May 28 Lincoln’s Log for what to expect during Phase 1). Things went very smoothly and we could easily serve more people if you are called to attend. Right now, the projections are that we will be in Phase 1 until June 14, one more weekend. We continue to have limited office staff and hours. The church remains open from 7:30 am to 4 pm.

Phase 2 is coming

As early as June 14, we may begin Phase 2 and will be celebrating Mass with extra precautions taken to mitigate the spread of COVID 19. These precautions include continued social distancing and the use of masks during the liturgy. Our singing will be limited and we will not have our choirs. We will be allowing 25% of the occupancy limit for our worship space (and may live stream to other rooms in the building to allow more people to attend). We are optimistic that we will not need to turn many people away. Right now we believe that we will be able to safely celebrate Mass with 219 people in attendance spaced throughout the worship space, the gathering space, and the fellowship hall. Stay tuned for further details. You can view the diocesan guidelines attached as well.

There is the chance that if the virus projections change, we could remain in phase 1 or return to it in the future if prudent safety dictates, but we hope we will continue through phase 2 towards a full, safe gathering of the community.

Along with our sacramental life, other elements of our parish life are rebooting. Stay tuned as we live into this new era and discover God’s call to form disciples in new ways.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln

Parish Pastoral Leader

Phase 1 – What to expect when you come for communion outside of Mass

If you are called to receive communion this weekend (remember, the obligation to attend Mass on Sunday has been suspended during the pandemic), things will look very different than a normal Mass. The Diocese of Green Bay is taking a phased approach. The current phase is phase 1. This phase allows for the reception of Communion Outside of Mass. This short Rite allows Jesus’ disciples to receive communion in a way that is safe and responsibly prevents the spread of the virus. This phase will last at least until June 13.

Things that are new or different can be challenging. Knowing what to expect when you arrive will help you to encounter the peace of love of Jesus in Holy Communion. If you read this article and look at the attached map carefully, it will help put you at ease as you have a clearer idea of what to expect. Continue to be gentle with yourself and others as we walk through phase 1 of rebooting our sacramental life.

As disciples of Jesus, we trust in His promise to be with us always. Jesus promises, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you” (Jn. 14:18).

If you come to receive Holy Communion Outside of Mass during phase 1 here is what you can expect:

  • First, prepare yourself to receive communion before you come to church by watching a live streamed Mass or reading the scriptures for the day or praying a rosary or some other way to prepare to encounter Jesus in Holy Communion.
  • Holy Communion will be available at St. Thomas More from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm.
  • Wear a mask when you are at church.
  • When you arrive at church, you will be waiting outside, social distanced, until it is your turn to enter the church building. Please be prepared to wait outside if needed and follow the markings on the ground to keep proper social distance (households that live together can stay together outside). There will be greeters to help make this a smooth process.
  • Your temperature will be taken before you enter church to ensure that you do not have a fever.
  • There will be two entrances used
    • If you have mobility issues, you are encouraged to use Door 1 (school entrance). At Door 1 you will enter and exit from opposite sides of this entrance.
    • If you enter from Door 2 (Church entrance), you will exit the church on the back (East) side and will need to walk around the church to the parking lot.
  • You will use hand sanitizer as you enter and leave the church building.
  • As your group of 8 or fewer enters the church, they will follow the paths marked out to their communion station (one in the fellowship hall, one in the gathering space, and one in the church near the altar). Please do not touch anything while you are in the church building.
  • Once you are at your communion station, there will be a short Rite of Reception of Holy Communion (about 5 minutes). You will stand around the deacon distributing communion on spots that are marked for you during the service to preserve social distancing.
    • The short liturgy of Communion Outside of Mass includes a greeting, the Lord’s prayer, communion, and a closing prayer
    • The deacon presiding will be wearing a mask
    • We are asking you to receive communion in the hand
    • You will remove your mask to receive communion and no one will be allowed to receive Holy Communion wearing gloves
    • No one will be allowed to take Holy Communion from the church for another person. If there is a need for this, please call the office.
  • After the Rite you will follow the marked path and return outside. You can then return to the parking lot. Please do not gather anywhere on the church grounds after receiving Holy Communion.

Many people have worked to make this safe process possible and have been involved in preparing and executing this plan, including medical personnel, law enforcement, and other experts. Be sure to thank them for all their dedication to this process and be kind to our volunteers.

As we travel this new territory of Phase 1 it is important to remember that we are encountering the Lord in Holy Communion. The Lord is walking with us through these phases of rebooting. He is revealing Himself to us in new ways and inviting us to deeper patience and love for one another. God is still God and we are His people.

My prayer is that we are called to be together soon. May God continue to bless us abundantly as we journey to the kingdom.

Peace,

Deacon Lincoln

Pastoral Leader