Pastor Matthew Finney
Pastor Matthew Finney was unanimously installed at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church of Sassamansville on Aug. 7 as the 21st pastor. Before receiving the call at St. Paul’s, Pastor Finney served a two-point parish in Western Pennsylvania known as Holy Shepherd Lutheran Parish which was a combination of Holy Trinity Parish in Lanse and Shepherd of the Hills Parish in Karthaus.
Pastor Finney brings many gifts to St. Paul’s. He received his master of divinity at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2010. He also has a master of science degree in 2003 from North Carolina State University and a bachelor of science degree in 2000 from Purdue University both in agricultural science.
Pastor’s December Message
We encounter the story of the nativity over and over again through many different methods, nativity sets in the yard, or under the tree, the children’s books telling the story, and even at church on Christmas Eve, hearing the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke year after year. The repetition makes the story part of us, we can’t help but carry it with us, even if we only think of it for a few weeks in late December every year. This is a good thing, to be formed and shaped by the story of God breaking into the world in the Christ Child. I worry, however, that our familiarity with the story can reduce its’ impact on us. It is difficult to be surprised by the Christmas story, yet it is one of the most surprising, unexpected tales ever known.
In the Christmas story we know what to expect, but that familiarity can cause us to miss the unexpected turns in the story. The Nativity story should remind us of the common and lowly circumstances of Christ’s birth. It’s all so ordinary so earthy, complete with all manner of dirt and stink. But that is precisely the point. Those un-pleasantries of an animal stall are signs of life. God is the creator of it all. In an act of love, God created the world and saw that it was good.
Our faith is not about escaping life in this world, but about God’s creative and redeeming work for us and for the whole world. God created us to live in the world, and in love, God came to live with us in that same world, a world that is messy, complicated, and full of life. God in Christ Jesus lived among us, suffered with us, and for us, to redeem all of His creation.
God has compassion for us because in Christ he experienced the ups and downs, joys and sorrows of life. Christ shared in the range of human experience, joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain, birth and death. The sadness we experience, the trials and temptations we face, in Jesus the Christ God has been through that as well, and in his life, in his death he has redeemed it. Nothing we face in this messy world is outside of God’s reach, even death itself.
None of it, from lowly birth, to humble life, to humiliating death is what we would expect of a great King, and it is certainly not what we would expect from the all-powerful God of the universe. It is an unexpected way of working in the world. Jesus’ life is not what human beings would naturally consider worthy of glory, honor, and praise, but in spite of God’s unexpected way of doing things, or because of God’s unexpected ways we do give that child born in a barn glory, honor, praise, and our lives.
In the texts of Advent and Christmas we hear stories of God using ordinary people to accomplish his extraordinary purposes for this world. God works through them in ways that are unexpected and surprising for us and for them. God continues to use everyday people to do his work in this messy, confusing, and life-filled world. You are those people, be ready for the unexpected, be ready for God’s surprises. This Child’s unexpected, surprising Kingdom is at hand.