Dec 4 Dec 10, 2017
Dear Advent People,
I found this prayer which so beautifully calls us into that intimate relationship with our Beloved and reminds who we are and to whom we belong. I hope find it as inspiring as I have.
Nov 27 – Dec 3, 2017
Good Morning Dear People,
I hope that you continue to bask in the successes we discussed during worship yesterday. If you missed it, I shared some of the dramatic numbers of ‘in kind services’ and financial support we were able to offer this past year to our missions and church. It’s always good to hear about where we are making an impact in the communities in which we participate. Your investment in our vision and mission is remarkable and should be celebrated.
And at the same time, we need to prepare, literally, for a new year. We celebrate what we have done and we look to what more we can do as we begin the season of Advent. Yesterday was the Eve of the new church year. Next Sunday, with the lighting of the first Advent candle, begins a new year, a time for preparing, and an anticipation, once again, of a life shared with us. A life shared, so that we could be active participants in the creation of a world imagined by our Beloved. This time of year challenges us to be fully present to the miracle that finds us waiting in wonder and expectation of Possibilities. The birth of the Christ child reminds us, year after year, so much is possible, even when we are wondering how we will make it through the sludge and drudgery that can spill into our lives. We remind one another of who we are, to whom we belong and what we have been able to accomplish for the good of this world. And then we move into a time of preparation, of wondering, of wandering, of questioning, of discovering, of anticipating…what comes next.
I am as excited as a child on the eve of Christmas, wondering in all the delights I will find under the tree! You are those delights! Know that you bring joy and hope to our God, whose desire it is for us to embrace those Divine dreams of what can be. As we begins this sacred season, just imagine what can be!
Nov 20 – 26, 2017
Good Morning Grateful People,
This was sent to me this morning by a woman who attended yesterday’s service.
“Gratitude goes beyond the ‘mine’ and ‘thine’ and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift. In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received. But now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have, has been given to me as a gift of love, as a gift to be celebrated with joy” Henri J.M. Nouwen
Last year we began see the act of Stewardship, not as a month long campaign to raise enough money to pay bills and make our budget, but as a spiritual practice which engages us at all times. The above quote sums this ideal up beautifully. Our giving and sharing of all that we are and all that we have should come from a place of gratitude and a desire to share what we have with great joy. I imagine that our Beloved smiles each time we embrace our gifts, recognizing that our lives are a precious part of the Divine, shared without resentment or disappointment, but from a place of extravagant love. And I also imagine that our Beloved jumps for joy when we increase our gifts by sharing with others, thus demonstrating the same lavish love we have received.
Next Sunday, you will get very specific details on how your gifts have been shared and multiplied throughout the year. I think you’re going to be amazed!
Nov 13 – 20, 2017
Dear Compassionate People,
Sometimes trying to take care of ourselves in the midst of our busy, emotional lives seems overwhelming. There is always something else to get in the way of recognizing our own needs. It maybe that we have too much to do; or that we are someone who over functions; or feels overly responsible for others; or we think we have to prove our worth or worthiness; or some variety of all these. If we truly hold to the belief that we are precious in the sight of our Beloved, then we must also realize that God desires for us to take care of ourselves. If we trust that God loves us, then we must do the same and love ourselves.
One of the most commonly asked questions of seminary students and clergy is, “what do you do for self-care”? I promise you, most of us either circumvent the question or offer a myriad of excuses. I am guilty of both. But I am also well aware that if we are to remain a vibrant sustainable individuals and community we must at least try to commit ourselves to taking care.
The following information and resource is offered by the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project. I hope this at least offers you some ideas and permission to begin a much needed path for self-care. Peace to you all.
The Path to Wellness
Once you realize that you are a candidate for compassion fatigue, or are already suffering its effects, exploring this new awareness can lead to insights concerning past traumas, pain, and defeating behaviors. A common and understandable coping mechanism in care giving is to simply stuff the overwhelming emotions that surface repeatedly in your work. How else can you keep going? Eventually, those emotions refuse to be ignored. All too often, psychological and physical crisis occurs.
With support, insightful information, and authentic self-care, you can begin to understand the complexity of the emotions you’ve been juggling and, most likely, suppressing. Most people never take the time to understand how their jobs affect them emotionally. Give yourself credit for moving forward and affecting change. Your hard work will pay off.
Authentic and Sustainable Self Care Begins With You:
- Be kind to yourself.
- Enhance your awareness with education.
- Accept where you are on your path at all times.
- Understand that those close to you may not be there when you need them most.
- Exchange information and feelings with people who can validate you.
- Listen to others who are suffering.
- Clarify your personal boundaries. What works for you; what doesn’t.
- Express your needs verbally.
- Take positive action to change your environment.
Nov 6 – 12, 2017
Hello Dear Ones,
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Once again we are met with tragedy as yet another mass shooting fills our media feeds. This time a church which, at this point, appears random. There will be news snippets all day as the media attempts to figure out a motive and maintain their ratings. Investigators will pick through the rubble of the lives affected and the history of the shooter in order to make sense of the event–as if any explanation can be satisfactory. The gun debate will, no doubt loom, in the background as we blame every other possible reason except the ease of access to firearms. And we will probably ‘get over’ it faster than the shooting(s) that happened last week, or the week before , or the week before that…
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Repetitive tragedies tend to cause us to become numb, a way to protect ourselves from emotional stress overload. But at some point we need to address the effects that events such as these have on our individual and corporate psyches.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Mental health, ease of accessing weapons, degradation of our culture’s disregard for those in need, etc., all play a part in this devastation. We who are left in the detritus must allow ourselves to be sad and devastated by this. We must remember to gather together to cry, get angry, comfort and act in a way that takes our broken hearts and holds them with tenderness and care.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
This evening there will be a brief service at Vista Grande at 6pm. We will gather to hold all those, including one another, affected by the seeming endless pain, suffering and violence. Healing begins only after we honor our hurts. Please join us for a quiet time of gentle silenced prayer.
Oct 23 – Nov 2, 2017
Dear Children loving People,
How fortunate are we to have such thoughtful, and compassionate kids in our congregation! Yesterday, as we celebrated Children’s Sabbath, we were able to hear some of the thoughts and insights our children have with regard to the needs of children in our immediate community and worldwide. Children Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman offers “For more than 25 years, people of faith across the religious spectrum have been uniting through the Children’s Sabbath in shared concern for the problems children and families endure and shared conviction that each of our great religious traditions calls us to acts of love and justice.”
The question inevitably arises “but how are we supposed to help so many children??” Our children shared their insights yesterday by suggesting that we only need to ask and be aware of what all might be going on in the lives of our kids in order that they may know how much they are loved and cared for. On a more global level, we can also help those children whom we may never know personally but whose quality of life may be directly affected by our actions. Again, Ms. Edelman states, “We know that children don’t come in pieces, and that we must work together to ensure that children have the comprehensive support that they need to thrive. There are many ways that children’s well-being is jeopardized at this time. Children need a Healthy Start, but with the threatened repeal of the Affordable Care Act the number of uninsured children will soar. Children need a Head Start, but it will require our loud, persistent voices to ensure that our nation makes the needed investments in Head Start, Early Head Start, and affordable, accessible child care for children of employed parents. Children need a Fair Start, so we must be vigilant to guard against tax cuts that advantage the wealthy and give crumbs to low- and middle-income families, and protect important safety net programs while also advocating for needed increases in the living wage. Children need a Safe Start that includes curtailing the proliferation of guns with common sense gun safety measures, and also dismantling the Cradle to Prison Pipeline® that criminalizes Black and Brown children at alarming rates through zero tolerance discipline policies, racial profiling, mass incarceration, and more. And now more than ever, our children need a Moral Start which begins with seeing the adults in their homes, communities, and places of worship living out the values of our great religious traditions including love, justice, respect, and welcome — most especially for those who are young, impoverished, and marginalized.”
It is a gift to be able to have the power to elicit change that will help those in need. We must never underestimate this power and responsibility we have to be a blessing to those whose well-being may literally be in our hands. What trust our Beloved has in us to be the support and guiding force our children need in order to thrive! And what trust our own Vista Grande children have in us to be willing to share those thoughts and concerns they have for themselves and all children. I am so grateful to them for being a thoughtful, compassionate and joyful part of our community!
Oct 9 – 16, 2017
Dear Beloved People,
Please forgive my delay in responding to last week’s worship service. (The cold I had been dodging finally got the better of me and I was toast all week.)
I think it’s important to reflect for a moment on the sacredness of last Sunday’s service. First of all, I’d like to thank the panel and congregation members who had participated in the White Privilege class and were willing to facilitate discussion. I am amazed and humbled at the many stories shared by so many of you in the congregation. It takes courage to be so vulnerable, sharing often intimate and painful experiences, especially in a large group. I am equally grateful for those of you who were willing to be a compassionate, listening presence during an unexpectedly longer than usual service. Your patience and kindness allowed for a spontaneous opportunity for us as a congregation to embrace one another in a sacred, non-judgmental space. I want you to realize how much trust clearly exists in our church. This is what makes this a holy and sacred space, a space that speaks to the radical hospitality we exude. This just simply choosing to be welcoming and inclusive. This extends to being a presence that demonstrates the compassion and love of the Divine.
Now, I’m not suggesting that we always have a 2 hour service ;), however, I do hope that we recognize how important it is to listen to the stories we all hold. Humans are made to be connected to one another and often times we fear being vulnerable. Yet, this vulnerability allows us to be more connected to one another and to be more accessible to those with whom we are in relationship. Once again, thank you for your grace in a world that cries out for an experience of God’s embrace. You truly are a sacred people.
Oct 9 – 16, 2017
THANK YOU!! to everyone who worked and donated to make our Silent Auction a success. With gratitude, a special acknowledgment to our Fund-raising group: Jeannie Harrington, Kelli Baptist, Dana Zimmerman, Kayan Cross, Jon Forshee, Erica Borboa and Kathy Romberg. They donated quite a bit of their time and talents to ensure a wonderful time for all!
Sept 28 and Oct 5, 2017
“When Jesus used the term ‘kingdom of God’ it expressed a vision of the kind of government God desired for God’s people. What would life be like if God and not Herod or Caesar ruled this land? Biblical scholar Walter Wink says that the teachings of Jesus, particularly his vision of the kingdom of God, were a prescriptive remedy to the domination system. Jesus declared that this new form of government was rapidly coming into being. However, it would not come from violent revolution. Instead, it would be the result of subversive noncompliance with the domination system by a people committed to nonviolent resistance. He urgently cried out to his contemporaries, “The kingdom of God is at hand!”’ (Kurk Struckmeyer)
Dear Jesus Followers,
Robin Meyer is an UCC minister from OK who in 2009, published a book called “Saving Jesus From the Church: How to stop believing in Christ and start following Jesus”. The title really says it all. His book, just as the quote above, requires an active participation in the realization of God’s kin-dom. It requires ‘subversive noncompliance with the domination system’. And as many of you returned home yesterday from worship, plopping down comfortably on the couch to watch football, we were greeted by the controversial conversations surrounding kneeling during this nation’s anthem. This my friends, was an example of non-violent, subversive non-compliance standing up to a power structure which is complicit in forming and maintaining systems which exploit and oppress. Sounds about like Jesus’ first century, Roman occupied home land.
We can become distracted by hyperbole that focuses on ‘disrespect’ for country or soldiers, or be afraid that we will be labeled unpatriotic or unappreciative of what we have or of who ‘died for our freedom. But remember, kneeling for the anthem isn’t about disrespecting the military, it’s about calling out the disparity in this country: racial, economic, gender etc. and calling out the complicity we have in maintaining these systems. I do not agree with war AND I value and support our military. I do see that this country has a major issue regarding racism and oppression AND I support our soldiers and appreciate what they are willing to sacrifice. I agree that we have a problem with homeless and poverty AND I still love my country. And I would kneel every game if I could to hold everyone accountable. We need to be aware of the attempts to further separate us from one another and instead see the real issues. We can be pro-American and still want us to do better. And if we chose to follow Jesus, we will insist on it.
Peace to you all.
Sept 18-25, 2017
“Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time: the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. [Man] must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.” (MLK 1964)
Good Morning Dear Ones,
A great resource available to all of us, in addition to the UCC website, is the Progressive Christianity website. I find the most inspiring topics, challenging ideas and comforting words there. This morning I found the following as a poetic summary of what it means to seek justice and a great reminder of our call to be a Just Peace Church. I hope you find this as inspiring as I did.
Wage Peace! Richard Holdsworth
- Wage peace!
- to acknowledge faith
- declare love
- confess failure
- expose injustice
- admit mistakes
to relinquish control
to make amends
let go blame
to stop fighting
May living peace inspire us
resting peace refresh us
growing peace support us
abiding peace relieve us
quietness reveal us
harmony restore us
to wage incessant peace
Peace to you all.
Sep 11 – 18, 2017
“Because while the gospels instruct followers of Christ to help the poor, oppressed, maligned, mistreated, sick, and those most in need of help, Christians in America have largely supported measures that have rejected refugees, refused aid to immigrants, cut social services to the poor, diminished help for the sick, fueled xenophobia, reinforced misogyny, ignored racism, stoked hatred, reinforced corruption, and largely increased inequality, prejudice, and fear. If Christians refuse to help and actually use their political advocacy and opinions to further hurt refugees, immigrants, women, foreigners, minorities, the poor, the oppressed, the persecuted, the sick, the LGBTQ community — and aren’t abiding by the golden rule of loving their neighbors as themselves, then who exactly are Christians supposedly loving?”
(Steven Mattson, Sojourner Magazine. Jan. 2017)
Greetings Dear One,
Fr. Richard Rohr once posed the question, “If your church were to close their doors tomorrow, would anyone in your community notice?” Or another way to ask the question, “If our doors were to close tomorrow, how would we be remembered?”
Many churches, of all denominations, have at one point or another, struggled with the question of their mortality. Everywhere there are churches closing, or losing people, or reconciling that they are no longer attracting new folks through the doors. The anxiety that surrounds such struggles can actually work to sabotage a community if the focus becomes one of survival vs. service.
Let’s be real for a moment: everything “dies”: people, animals, ideas, relationships, ways of doing things, ideologies, laws, churches…It may be a literal death or it may be an evolution, an opportunity to emerge as something greater than before.
We, as a church community, have been very fortunate these past couple of years as new folks join us, and as we challenge ourselves to live into the teachings and life of Jesus. And while I sense very little anxiety with regard to our ‘survival’ I do want us to ask the above questions: “How do we want to be remembered?” “Would we be missed?” And by extension, “How have we been the embodiment of Jesus in the world”
You see, it’s not enough that we are currently ‘save’ from extinction if we don’t use the privilege of our lives to bring life to others. This is our faith, our call, our responsibility. Our world needs us. St. Augustine offered “We can do nothing without God and God will do nothing without us”. Just think of the faith our Beloved must have in us if we are to be the presence of the Divine in this world.
Peace to you all.
Aug 28 – Sept 4, 2017
Our gifts, for the sake of others–Rev. Katheryn Matthews
“Again, Paul calls us to a profound appreciation for the beauty and workings of a body whose parts function together, each with its own role and importance. In the same way, we are all part of the Body of Christ, each bringing our own gifts and abilities to the larger Body, each playing our own important role in the unfolding of the Realm of God. John Dominic Crossan has written extensively about Paul’s contrast between the Roman Empire and the Realm of God, the former staking its glory on peace through victory, the latter holding out the dream of peace through justice.
Instead of being consumed with one’s own interests and needs, as one pastor has said, “Put yourself out there for the sake of something else and someone else, and lay your gifts on the altar of justice.” It is a different way of thinking of sacrifice than the ancient cultures had, but Paul is urging his readers, then and today, not to conform to the thoughts and ways around them.”
Good Morning Dear One’s,
I love the poetic metaphor of all of us being ‘one body’. It reminds us that we are indeed an interdependent species whose purpose is to assure the health and vitality of the whole. However, it is sometimes very difficult to see ourselves as a necessary part of a living, and beautiful creation when we fail to see the beauty each one of us embodies.
Paul speaks of not conforming to the ways around us because when we do, this has often resulted in our being influenced by the ridiculous expectations our culture, media, even theologies, have dumped on us. ‘Barbie’ type body images that are held as ‘normative’ diminish the beauty of diverse body types. Our media, movies, etc., foster unrealistic expectations of beauty, while historically our churches have often preached theologies of shame. We strive to meet the unrealistic constructed images for beauty and chastity at the risk of trashing our self-esteem thus making it nearly impossible to embrace the idea that we are created by a God who looks at us and sees consummate beauty. How can we, then, see the beauty and divinity in the other if we have not recognized God’s splendor in ourselves??
In the earliest writings of the story of Jesus, Paul, in Romans, lifts up our humanity as being necessary in the creation of the Body of God. DO you realize that this is saying?? It is saying that as part of the Divine Body, we are critical, necessary, and relevant, to the realization of God’s vision for our world. I doubt many of us would ever think, let alone articulate that God’s creation is ugly or insignificant. By Paul’s account, we are the Body, the creation of our Beloved and our hope for God’s creation. Embrace your beauty, your necessary part, your relevant connection to the Body of God!! In that embrace, you will gladly bring all of your gifts forward to be used for the betterment of this world. Peace to you all
Aug 21-28, 2017
Dear Peaceful People,
Well I don’t know about you, but I thoroughly enjoyed our time together yesterday at Fox Run. For those of you who couldn’t make it , please know you were missed. I realize it was a fun and goofy service. We can’t always take ourselves too seriously and need to laugh in order to deal with the complexities of our lives. I have no doubt that Jesus used humor in order to help his followers deal with the chaos of their world. It has been said the ‘Laughter is the weapon of the revolutionary’ and that couldn’t be more true today.
Yesterday, a number of folks from VG attended the Rally downtown against racism. It was greatly attended, the number totaling over 1000! While this was a good thing, it was often a contentious gathering as various rally protesters vied for positioning on whose method of combating racism should be primary. At one point, when things seemed to be deteriorating, a black woman grabbed the mic and gave an impassioned plea to the crowd to stop the infighting. She made clear that nothing gets accomplished when we fight with each other and fail to gather in a place of unity and compassion.
Her truth reminded us of why we were there, though it was difficult for some to embrace that.
When we get caught up in our own importance, we tend to stop listening to those around us. Our agendas become paramount, our voices need to be the loudest, and our heated emotions tend to direct our actions. However, being humble in our relationships gives us the freedom to laugh at ourselves, listen to others with intention, and reign in those emotions using them for good rather and to incite.
So laugh! Get reinvigorated! Be humble! And keep showing up where you are needed!
Aug 14-21, 2017
Dear Peaceful People,
This past weekend has offered us an opportunity to wake up to the insidiousness and dangerousness of white supremacy in this country. I saw a video this morning which had been put out in the 1940’s by the war department to counter what was happening in Nazi Germany. It offered a reminder that we have been here before and calls us to be bigger than the horrendous rhetoric and violence that is becoming more and more familiar. It reminds us that we are better than this. On the other hand, it is a reminder that we have been here before…and we are here again.
It can seem hopeless at times especially when we think we have come so far. The bottom line is, we have come so far though there are vestiges of bigotry by hate groups who wish to instill fear and “cleanse” this nation of its diversity. And make no mistake, while there have been small steps towards the danger still exists. The difference for us, is we chose to follow in the footsteps of Jesus whose life was informed and directed by working towards justice for all God’s people. And so we are called to also work towards justice.
Peace, Pastor Clare
Aug 7-14, 2017
From Rev. Kathryn Mathews: “And that gets to the deeper reality of abundance under the appearances of “not enough.” Barbara Brown Taylor says that where the disciples saw scarcity, ‘Jesus operated under a different set of assumptions….Jesus knew beyond a shadow of a doubt…that wherever there was plenty of God there would be plenty of everything else'”(The Seeds of Heaven).
Good Day Sacred People,
I think that sometimes this black and white thinking between scarcity and abundance is further amplified by how we think about what it means to have and what it means to be without. Certainly, without the basic needs of food, shelter and safety we are sure to grasp the understanding of scarcity. But many of us believe that we are all affected by, at least, the fear of scarcity. We think that if we do not hold onto what we have then we might be without at some point. Basic survival responses kick in, even when the threat is not based in any firm reality. We hoard, and justify our actions with an ideology which teaches that everyone has access to the same resources and opportunities and they could be at the very least, have shelter with food and water and safety if they tried.
And yet, walking down any street in Colorado Springs demonstrates that we have an abundance of neighbors who lack in the basic resources to live a life in which they can flourish.
Isn’t it ironic that most of us humans, probably, share the fear of scarcity, even though our experience or perception of it is quite different? Perhaps this fear is what can actually work to bond us rather than keep us apart.
The above quote can sound like a platitude to those who are suffering with scarcity. It can sound as what is being offered is a tired cliché of “God will provide”. And this is true, just not as we might expect. God does provide, provided we show up as God’s hand and feet and voice in this world. God’s abundant love is not a noun but a verb which calls us into action. That can look like feeding those without food; clothing those without clothes; visiting the sick; rallying for those who have been attacked by hateful words or actions; participating in the life of a church whose mission is to be the presence of God on this planet.
I challenged you yesterday to think of ways in which you would demonstrate abundance this week. Today, I provide you with options and a mandate to live into the gospel reading. In that reading the miracle performed was by those who had gathered in God’s name and followed the example of Jesus. The hungry were fed because the crowd created abundance out of scarcity, by their compassion and their desire to trust in the example of Jesus.
We will continue to hear in our national rhetoric that there is a scarcity of resources: time, food, money, homes, health care, justice, jobs, wages, etc. But we are a people who believe that “beyond a shadow of a doubt…that wherever there was plenty of God there would be plenty of everything else! ” It is our job to make sure there is plenty of God. Get busy holy ones, and demonstrate God’s Abundance!
Peace, Pastor Clare
July 31 – Aug 7, 2017
Dear Offensive and Irritating Nuisances!
Speaking Truth to Power is what being offending, irritating, and a nuisance is really all about.
In our White Privilege class yesterday we were, once again, challenged by the realization that we live in a system in which those of us who are white, benefit greatly. But privilege isn’t just about race. It is about being free of any situations, feelings, or fears that those of an oppressed group must consider every day. If you are straight you don’t have to worry about neo-Nazis threatening you at a trans rally; if you are white you don’t have to worry about being pulled over for driving while black; if you are fully-abled, you don’t need to worry about entering an environment not accessible to anyone with hearing, vision, or walking issues; if you are a white citizen, you don’t have to worry about your citizenship being challenged; if you are Christian, you don’t have to worry about being identified as a threat or a terrorist; if you are male you don’t have to worry about whether or not you are getting equal pay for equal work; etc., etc., etc.
This is not a litany of why anyone should feel guilty of having randomly found themselves in a privileged group. Quite the contrary, this is a reality check to remind us that we can to ally ourselves with those whom are targeted by oppressive systems. Yesterday I asked, How will you manifest the kin-dom of God? Using our privilege to stand with those who suffer from power systems is a beginning. Using our privilege to challenge these systems is what will produce change. It may be educating ourselves on what judges we vote for; voting for those who are sensitive to the economic challenges many in our community may face; showing up for public rallies, and protests; standing up to friends and family members whose attitudes are hostile towards a vulnerable group; and perhaps the simple task of pointing out jokes which make fun of another.
Speaking Truth to Power is not as easy as it sounds. But remember, we have in our history, the example of a person who devoted his life to just that. And so, we are in good company when we follow the life and teachings of Jesus. This is, after all, who we say we wish to emulate in order to manifest the Kin-dom. And so, ‘Go and do the same’.
July 24 – 31, 2017
Good Monday Dear Ones,
We are heading towards what has been traditionally been viewed in the global church as the beginning of the church year. While the actual church year begins in Advent, typically, churches have planned their worship agendas, Faith Formation, Youth activities, etc. to begin a new year around the time that school begins. And we will follow this tradition to a certain extent. In light of this, it makes sense that we begin where our Synod gathering left off: embracing the campaign, Love of Neighbor; Love of Children; Love of Creation. As such, I want to offer you a chance to read the active Purpose, Vision and Mission statements adopted by the UCC. It is my intention that we adopt these statements as our own. In this way we, remain intimately connected with the UCC and we embrace encouragement and accountability as we go forward as followers of the gospel. Enjoy! More to come in dialogue and action!
Vision of a just world underscores clearer UCC purpose, mission
Vision of a just world underscores clearer UCC purpose, mission
Written by Anthony Moujaes
A vision of a just world for all people will guide and shape the future work of the United Church of Christ. It’s a vision that the denomination’s General Minister and President and unified Board of Directors are prepared to own as part of a refreshed set of Purpose, Vision and Mission statements.
“I can’t even begin to express how proud I am of our beloved United Church of Christ for articulating not just a purpose, vision and mission — but this purpose, vision and mission,” said the Rev. John Dorhauer, UCC general minister and president.
The UCC purpose statement comes from the Gospel of Matthew: To love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves.
The vision: United in Christ’s love, a just world for all.
And the Mission statement: United in Spirit and inspired by God’s grace, we welcome all, love all, and seek justice for all.
“Every week I travel the globe witnessing what it looks like when the United Church of Christ commits itself to love and justice,” Dorhauer said. “I call upon every covenant partner to embrace fully this call to love and justice; and to share with leaders in the church what that expression of love looks like in their ministry setting.”
The Rev. Sue Artt, conference minister of the Rocky Mountain Conference UCC and moderator of General Synod 2017, believes the statements resonate with the hearts of progressive Christians and offer a renewed sense of unity to the church. “As spiritual beings created by God to be God’s hands in the world, hearing this purpose, visioning mission really articulates our sense of calling as God’s servants,” Artt said. “It’s a deeply satisfying way in which we are called into action.”
To craft these statements, the national setting has brought together dialogue partners from the UCC board, national staff, the UCC Historical Council, the Council of Conference Ministers, and youth representatives over the last year, and included survey results from thousands of voices across the life of the denomination. What emerged was a clear focus on the love of God and love of neighbors.
“That love in action envisions a just world for all,” Dorhauer said.
Board members overwhelmingly affirmed the statements during their fall business meeting from Oct. 20-22. Said board member Kevin Peterson, “I really appreciate that there is no insider language, and no acronyms. It says a lot to the outside church because it communicates to the wider church. It has God and spirit language that specifically identifies us as Christians.”
Pacific Northwest Conference (PNC) Minister the Rev. Mike Denton was enthusiastic about the statements: “I’m considering bringing these to PNC to adopt as their own,” he said. “This matches up with much of what we’ve been discussing, and adopting these would give us the opportunity for a unique sort of alignment. It might be worth more conversation to see if others want to do the same in other settings. I think this could be a way to display heathy covenant and healthy autonomy.”
I liked the way that — in just five words — our vision conveys what we believe so succinctly,” said Board member the Rev. Kevin Omi. “I can talk about it in an inclusive manner because the language is inclusive of everyone.”
Dorhauer named the Purpose, Vision and Mission statements as one of the most significant pieces of work to date in his call as general minister and president.
“We all bear responsibility for living out our shared mission. We will not achieve our full potential — nor maintain our full capacity for health, vitality, and relevance — without a clear sense of missional purpose and calling. This effort to identify that was a critical step in the direction of our future health and vitality — but it will only matter if we can all find common cause in this and commit fully, with passion, and without reserve to its undertaking.”
July 17 – 24, 2017
Reflections on Esau and Jacob offered by Karen Georgia Thompson
“Themes of greed and exploitation should cause us to take pause. This is by no means a happy story. It is the making of tragedy: loss of humanity robs one of his human dignity, and broken relationships within the family abound. Both brothers provide case studies for the human condition and beg reflection on the ways in which we live in relationship with one another.
Issues of justice and care for community are highlighted in this exchange. Are we willing to give to each other in times of need or do we find ways to promote personal gain? Who are the exploited within the community? Who are the people who lose what they have to eat and what they need to live?”
Dear God Infused People,
The above reflections can act as either a reminder of how we are to act in the world, or as an indictment for when we haven’t acted in Godly ways. To be clear, sometimes it is difficult for us to determine how we are to act when we are literally faced with the injustice and the needs of the ‘least of these’ in our daily encounters. Case in point, VG currently has a young homeless man who has been nesting in out garden and sleeping on our bench outside our front doors.
The initial response to this young man is: What can we do?
A number of folks have offered food, information on recourses, and conversation. Due to some obvious disconnect with the world around him, it is clear he is in need of some serious help. And as is often the case, he has refused such assistance.
This leaves us, as it leaves many whose hearts are pulled in the direction of compassion, to wrestle with what to do next. The UCC and VG has, after all, embraced the notion that “No matter who you are, you are welcome here”. However, how do we address this ethos of radical hospitality when we are faced with the reality of someone who needs more than we can offer? My response has always been, get out of the way so that someone else can help.
We do not live in a black and white world where answers are easily attained, although that would be nice. Sometimes it is more important to recognize that we can’t do it all. When that is the case, we are called to take a back seat and make room for those who can help. It Is just as important to recognize our limitations as it is to above and beyond to help those in need.
To be clear, even as I write these words, I am aware of my own struggle to determine the course that will offer our visitor a compassionate response to his need. And in these times, I make the attempt to pray for direction rather than to act on my own ego to try to fix things! This journey of answering call and responding to the ways of Jesus can be quite difficult for sure…
And now for something completely different and just plain fun!
Offered by Carolyn Gunning
A Church goer wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper and complained that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday. He wrote: “I’ve gone for 30 years now, and in that time I have heard something like 3,000 sermons, but for the life of me, I can’t remember a single one of them. So, I think I’m wasting my time,
the preachers and priests are wasting theirs by giving sermons at all”.
This started a real controversy in the “Letters to the Editor” column.
Much to the delight of the editor, it went on for weeks until someone wrote this clincher:
“I’ve been married for almost 30 years now. In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals. But, for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a single one of those meals. But I do know this: They all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me these meals, I would be physically dead today. Likewise, if I had not gone to church for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today!”
When you are DOWN to nothing, God is UP to something! Faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible & receives the impossible!”
Dear Powerful People,
Wow! I missed you! My wife and I had a wonderful vacation in Baltimore which allowed us to reconnect with some friends and family and the city of the best sport’s teams ever! We did a lot of walking, ate lots of sea food, and enjoyed, thoroughly, the heat and humidity. We got tickets to an Orioles game and got to see the second one from our hotel as it overlooked the yard. Life is good!
And of course, as the UCC had their General Synod half a block away, I got to be a God Geek and attend some very powerful events (balancing work and play of course).
I will warn you that both vacation and Synod were energizing and I plan on sharing that rest-filled energy with you. One way will be to introduce two of my new favorite people: Rev. Traci Blackmon–elected at Synod as the Executive Director of Justice and Witness Ministries of the UCC and Rev. William Barber, Pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsborough, NC. I will give you a proper introduction to these two prophets in the next few weeks but suffice it to say for now, that they are leading those who are willing to follow, into a justice oriented, hope-filled future. They are my new superheroes and in time, they will no doubt be yours too!!
There are times when our cups feel so empty, when we thirst for hope and the reassurance that we are not alone in the work of the Gospel. I promise you that we are not! There is a growing movement afoot which speaks to the strengths and gifts of our congregation. I promise you lots of energizing and God filled moments to come!
Sunday was the annual Pride March. Vista Grande gathered with High Plains in VG’s sanctuary to celebrate how far we’ve come and to acknowledge the work that still needs to be done with regard to LGBTQ justice. Clare was joined at the pulpit with Pastor Dana from High Plains, and Carla Vogel, Jewish story teller extraordinaire and one of our interfaith partners. After a delightful and filling spread, many folks made their way down town to march together in the parade. Once again, our churches collaborated to be a voice of justice and support for the LGBTQ community. This support is especially needed these days as many of our neighbors are feeling threatened and afraid during these uncertain times. A great big thank you to all who participated and all of you who support with prayers and good thoughts.
Jun 19-25, 2017
“A religion that doesn’t have the courage to speak out for human beings doesn’t have the right to speak out for God.” Luis Espinal (Jesuit poet who was killed in Bolivia), 20th century
Dear Sacred People,
We have all heard the adage that desperate times call for desperate measures. And to be sure this is often how we respond to critical, bind mending and heart wrenching events. This isn’t always a bad thing. This type of response and reaction often propels folks into action after a natural disaster or a community tragedy. We as humans are often at our best when we jump right in to help alleviate the suffering of others. Where we tend to fail is in the long haul, when the suffering of the world, both local and global, becomes more of an inconvenience and discomfort than a call for compassionate action.
Katheryn Matthews reminds us, “It’s tempting for us in the church to see its “reason for being” in meeting the needs of those (of us) who “pay their way,” perhaps like members of a private club. And yet the gospel impels us to interact with the world beyond our walls, right in our own neighborhood, or in places far away, places which our compassion can reach even though we may never physically go there ourselves.”
If we are to strive to “Be the Church”, then our response to the needs of our world must be constant. This doesn’t mean that we are to solve all the problems of the world, or that we, as individuals, are supposed to burn ourselves out trying to take care of every soul that crosses our path, But it does mean that as members of the Body of Christ we make sacrifices of inconvenience: of time, of talents of resources to do what we can. Our community has such potential to illicit transformation in our local world. We are a community of radical hospitality, of compassion and of love.
Rev. Matthews asks “What is the good news that God is still speaking today? It is about more than just proper religious beliefs: right beliefs are just the beginning point, or, perhaps we find our way toward those right beliefs (not just saying what we have been taught, but experiencing its truth) through faithful practices of mercy and compassion, and the lessons we learn along the way. Perhaps right beliefs are really the realizations that arise from our experience of God’s love, as we offer that love and receive it as well.
I invite you, Dear ones, to ask yourselves how you can Be the Church? How can you be disciples of our Beloved teacher? Imagine what we can do as a Beloved Community of Christ. Peace to you all.
June 12-19, 2017
Good Morning Beloved Community,
There is such energy and vitality that fills the space when folks from our Conference come together for renewal and celebration of our common call to Be the Church. While I only had one day with this community, it was a time of hopeful reminders that while the world, locally and globally , may present challenges every day, we are not in this thing called life and love alone. Included in the worship materials that we used yesterday was this great story. I offer it to you today so that you can also be reminded of the power of community.
Here is another retelling of the Creation story by Rabbi Marc Gelman in the book Does God Have a Big Toe:
Before there was anything there was God, a few angels, and a huge whirling swirling glob of rocks and water, in no particular order.
The angels asked God,
“Why don’t you clean up this mess?”
So God collected rocks from the huge whirling swirling glob and put them together in clumps and said,
“Some of these clumps will be planets, and some will be stars, and some of these rocks will be… just rocks.”
Then God collected water from the huge whirling swirling glob and put it together in pools of water and said,
“Some of these pools of water will be oceans, and some will be clouds, and some these pools of water will be… just water.”
The angels said,
“Well, God… it’s neater now. But is it done yet?”
On some of the rocks God placed growing things and creeping things, and things only God knows what they are. And when God had finished doing all this, the angels asked,
“Is it done yet?”
God made some animals for the rocks and some swimming things for the water and then some humans by combing some water and stardust and told the humans,
“I’m done. Please finish up the world for me. Really, it’s almost done.”
But the humans protested: “You have the plans. We can’t do this alone.”
“Yes, you can,” said God, “but I’ll agree to this. You keep working on it and I’ll be your partner.”
The humans asked,
“What’s a partner?”
“A partner is someone you work with on a big thing that neither of you can do alone. If you have a partner, it means you can never give up because your partner is depending on you. On the days you think I’m not doing enough and on the days I think you’re not doing enough, we keep working together. That’s my offer. And they all agreed to the deal.
The angels asked God, “Is it done yet?”
God answered, “I don’t know. Go ask my partners.”
June 5-12, 2017
Dear Spirit Filled People,
A gentle reminder or two…
“When was the last time
that we heard the wind of your Spirit
roar through this place?
When was the last time
your fire lit up this room?
When was the last time
we took you at your word
and met together in expectation
of your Spirit filling this place,
and these lives with the power of your Presence?
Divine Mystery, you challenge us with Pentecost.
Do we believe that this
was a once in eternity experience,
never to be repeated?
That the Holy Spirit was poured out
on your followers for a single purpose,
and ended Her work at that instant?
If so, then maybe that is why the Church
seems so powerless in this age,
helpless when faced with the needs
both spiritual and physical,
that we see in the world.
God of Mercy, as we meet together,
and celebrate once again
the memory of that first Pentecost,
may it be for us as it was then
a moment of empowerment,
an awareness of your Kin-dom in this dark world,
a life changing experience.” (Anonymous)
“When We Breathe Together”, JanRichardson
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. —Acts 2: 1
“This is the blessing we cannot speak by ourselves. This is the blessing we cannot summon by our own devices, cannot shape to our own purposes, cannot bend to our own will. This is the blessing that comes when we leave behind our aloneness, when we gather together, when we turn toward one another. This is the blessing that blazes among us when we speak the words strange to our ears, when we finally listen into the chaos, when we breathe together at last.”
May 30 – June 5, 2017
Dear Spirit Filled People,
I don’t refer to you as ‘Spirit filled’ lightly. This coming Sunday we will once again celebrate the ‘birthday of the church’, Pentecost. The time when the promise of Jesus to his friends, that he would not leave them without comfort and connection, comes to be. Every year we celebrate this holy day of the church. But do we really understand what this day is about?
In the reading this past Sunday, the author of John had Jesus praying for his friends, that they would recognize that they had been invited into an intimate relationship with the Divine. His prayer for them was that they would comprehend how deeply God desired them and by extension, desires us. Do we realize just how much we are wanted? And Loved? And needed? And desired by our God?
We often push aside this invitation however, here’s the thing: We are already infused with the Spirit of our God. We can pretend, or ignore, or deliberately chose not to be aware, but the truth persists. God wants us. So, how will we proceed???
We’ll talk more on Sunday…
May 22 – 29, 2017
Good Monday Sacred People,
I missed you all yesterday! While I certainly enjoyed spending time with the crew at High Plains, it was good to come back for fellowship and the afternoon class. I will tell you that the congregation of High Plains expressed how excited they are about our collaborative efforts to become an interfaith community. They do have similar concerns to ours: a strong desire to maintain our denominational identities; having time and space to continue our own evolution as a UCC and UU community; budgetary concerns; parking; etc. But the overall consensus, is the desire to be a sacred entity that is inclusive of religious diversity in a world that frowns on such things.
This is a huge vision. It is one that requires lots of conversation and patience as we move forward with each other. And I have no doubt of Vista Grande’s ability to do this as I have witnessed the definition of radical hospitality each week when I see all of you! Imagine the transformations which are possible as we extend that extravagance beyond our walls. Thank you for your courage and vision as we demonstrate what it means to Be The Church in this world.
Peace to you all, Clare
May Divine Wisdom give guidance to all people.
May Divine Wisdom bless all people with peace.
May we go forth remembering that all people—women, men, and children of all races, religions, and cultures in all nations—are created equally in the divine image.
May we join hands as sisters and brothers in this community and around the world to heal divisions and to build bridges of respect and understanding.
Go forth with wisdom and grace to join our Creator’s work of making peace on earth as we continue to become all we are created to be.
“From Jann Aldredge-Clanton, Progressive Christianity”
May 15-21, 2017
Dear Wonderful people,
Yesterday, we completed class 2 of our White Privilege curriculum. For so many of us, this is a difficult notion to grasp without feeling defensive or guilt ridden. As such, we tend to avoid these difficult conversations and instead, talk ourselves into believing that this isn’t a concern for me because “I am not racist”, or prejudice, or ” I have black friends”. The problem is, when we close our eyes to one form of injustice we tend to close our eyes to another form. We do this even if that injustice affects us directly. You remember the poem from pastor Martin Niemöller,
First they came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me,
and by that time there was no one
left to speak up for me.
We see this happening in our own public discourse and policies: folks choosing a path or politician without realizing that they are, in effect, choosing some policy or person who will inevitably hurt them. Closer to home, the Gazette this morning had this to say: “Study: Pay gap between men and women in Colorado Springs among nation’s largest”. (I encourage you to read the article). Pay discrepancies are an injustice and this particular injustice affects a large part of our working families. It is an arduous task to keep up on all justice issues but it is an imperative that we do so. Martin Luther King once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
The point is, we, as followers of ‘the way’ need to stay open to the difficult conversations so that we might be the instruments of God’s loving justice and peace. This is our call as a community of inclusivity and radical hospitality–to seek justice for all of God’s creation.
Stay alert and attentive dear ones, the kin-dom of God is indeed at hand.
May 1 – 8, 2017
Dear Sacred People,
Next week we begin a very critical conversation concerning the notion of privilege as it relates to specific racial relationships in our world. President of the UCC, John Dorhauer, notes that while the initial focus of privilege focuses on Black/White relations, the concept of privilege permeates many areas of our lives. As such, the UCC plans to continue these conversations in future dialogues.
Let’s face it, when we hear White Privilege, and if we are white, we tend to react emotionally and defensively: “I’m not racist!”, I’m not privileged–I had to work very hard for what I have”, “Those folks have more than I do-how is that privilege?”, “Aren’t we finished with this stuff yet?”, etc. etc. etc. And then we avoid the topic altogether believing that we are either above it or it doesn’t pertain to us.
I think the best way to explain how we miss the boat on privilege is to share a story of my own ignorance. My first year in seminary, first quarter, first exam, and needless to say many of us were nervous. I tried breaking the tension with a few of my classmates by telling a joke that a good friend from Louisiana told me. It began: “Two rednecks walk into a bar…” One of my classmates immediately walked away, clearly annoyed. I asked her what the problem was, as my joke was not offensive in my view. It wasn’t attacking gender or orientation or race nor culture. So what was the problem? She calmly and patiently but also definitively told me that she was from West Virginia coal country. She explained that her people had been mis-understood, stereotyped, and discriminated against for far too long and that my joke was indeed offensive because it perpetuated the stereotype of poor and uneducated people. It was a wakeup call for me. I never even considered this offensive or misdirected and this was because of my privilege. My privilege of never living in that culture or environment. My privilege of never having to defend my coal mine job, my accent or my inability to access resources which were made available to me because of my family, where I was born and my family’s financial status. My privilege that allowed me to laugh at another’s misfortune without even knowing I was doing it. My initial response was to defend myself, tell her she was over re-acting, and even feel victimized by her assertion that I had offended ‘her people’. Thank God, I kept my mouth shut. Because in that silence I was able to realize that all my good intentions mean nothing if I fail to listen to another’s experience.
This is what this curriculum is designed to do. To listen. To actually hear. To appropriately empathize. To humbly recognize our own complicity and lack of understanding. To become aware of our own privilege. And to embrace one another in the spirit of acceptance and love. This is not a lesson in guilt and shame but rather one of expanding our vision of living into our diversity. I invite all of you to participate in this Sacred Conversation.
April 24 – May 1, 2017
Good Morning Dear Ones,
Yesterday afternoon I witnessed 2 beautiful events in the life of our local churches. Both instilled a sense of joy and hope when measured against the sometimes overwhelmingly, troubled times we are experiencing in our world. The first was the showing of the National Geographic documentary, “Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric,” at Vista Grande. This was attended by 21 folks and was followed by a very poignant discussion. I was touched by the willingness of some of our members to share their very personal and, sometimes, painful journeys with the group. There was an open and honest exchange which just reminded me of the profound safe and loving space Vista Grande has created and allowed to flourish. This sacred space has made it possible for all of us to be ourselves, bringing every part of our lives, without fear, to a community of radical hospitality and acceptance. How healing we can be for one another.
The second event was the Installation of Anne Cubbage as Broadmoor Community Church’s settled pastor. Anne And her wife moved recently from the East Coast to join BCC as that community ventures into being yet another prophetic voice in the desert. Besides being a huge step for Broadmoor, this celebration comes during the season on Easter to remind us that God is truly still speaking, and has many more ideas for this world than, perhaps, we thought possible. Easter reminds us that death: death of compassion, kindness, justice, has been defeated as long as we choose to live into what it means to be the Resurrection–what it means to be The Church. This, my friends, is truly Good News!. Thank-you for being the presence of our Beloved in this world! You make so many things possible.
April 17 – 24, 2017
Good Morning Easter people!
I began my morning like most, coffee and the morning’s news. After a wonderful day like yesterday. I want to just hold onto the softness, the joy, the laughter of children and the love most felt in the company of so many wonderful people. This is not always easy to do in the midst of the world’s troubles. Yet another colleague of mine (Jerry Herships) who works with the homeless in Denver offered this:
At least some people are asking, “Where is God?”
Yeah, we know “He has risen”, but that can seem to be a tough sell in Syria…
and North Korea…
and the U.S.
I think so many are tired of pat answers and rose colored glasses theology when we see so much hurt around us.
I think Peter Rollins put it well when he said, “God is not found in the running away from brokenness. God is found in the midst of brokenness.”
When we stop seeing God as a magician who can take it all away in the wave of a wand, we find a different God…one that is present with us in the middle of our pain and our brokenness.
I know I saw God yesterday when I saw 100’s turn out for a memorial service of a beautiful mom, wife and friend on a holiday weekend.
I know I saw God in the park today in the words of a child who asked me “Can I help do communion?” And then handed out Jesus to the homeless today while saying, “This is a reminder of how much God loves you.”
And I know God is in all those places I mentioned above.
I saw God in the midst of pain and suffering.
Christ didn’t rise for Easter Flowers and Peeps.
Christ rose so he could continue to be with us in the middle of our deepest pains and hurts. Now and from this point forward.
And I think, however we can, we should do our damnedest to be there right alongside. As Augustine said, “God without us will not, as we without God cannot.” Be there for each other…
…and he will have risen indeed.”
But you know all this already–you pretty much shared this yesterday. So as a reminder, you are the resurrection! When you recognize the Divine in another and show up for the other, you are living in the light and spirit of the risen Jesus. You are the love and the life of our God! Be the Resurrection in all you do, dear ones, and no one will ask, “Where is god?”
April 10 – 17, 2017
Good Morning Dear People,
Yesterday we began, once again, the sacred time of Holy Week. In our busy lives it can become so easy to jump directly from Palm Sunday to Easter without immersing and engaging ourselves in the life of Jesus. Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan in “The Last Week” offer a brilliant day by day, hour by hour, immersion into Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem. (I encourage you to indulge in this book if you get a chance).
The point is that Holy Week calls to us to walk with Jesus beginning with his entrance into Jerusalem. Since most of us will not be in church again until Easter, we can miss the intimacy and yes, passion, that occurs between Jesus and his followers and friends, the community in which he lives and in the realization of what it means to live into God’s desire for this world. On Maundy Thursday, quite frankly my favorite holy day in the life of the church, we remember and experience that emotional connection, the passion, Jesus had with God and God’s creation. We are reminded of what it means and the risks involved in being true disciples. And we, once again, re-affirm our call and response to be the instruments of God’s peace and love in a world often chaotic and violent.
Won’t you join me on this most sacred of days and experience the journey of love and passion that was our beloved brother’s passion for God’s kin-dom?
Peace to you all this week, Clare
April 3 – 10, 2017
Dear Sacred People,
I was thinking of the couple of times I took my kids to the planetarium in Denver when they were younger. My son and I listened to the soft comfortable voice of Liam Neeson as he described the origins and properties of Black Holes. My son seemed to grasp the concepts faster than I, not having been corrupted by the imitations of thinking that the earth is the primary focal point of the universe. He was fascinated. I was terrified. Oh sure, I found my science mind was very curious, and I was spellbound by the beauty that the Hubble Telescope had projected back to earth. But, I also found that I was questioning my very existence and importance and, in so doing, questioning all I thought I knew about the Divine. After all, I was in seminary at the time and pretty assured of my theology and its brilliance. I did not need to be challenged in this way while feeling so certain about my understanding of God, thank you very much!
And yet, I went back, each time pushing the boundaries: of my comfort, of my understanding of my world around me, of my arrogant comprehension of the Divine. Each time scared me. Each time increased my anxiety as I was expected to think beyond any box I could imagine. Each time challenged me to understand that I can’t understand the enormity of the universe let alone the enormity and the mystery of God.
And paradoxically, each time left me more in awe and more secure (eventually!) in the presence and unfathomable mystery that is the Divine. This is what we are ultimately invited to do. Jesus was such a spirit person who had already been stretched beyond any theological convention, and understood what he didn’t understand and therefore understood even better! And he used his life to invite us into that mystery, knowing that once we allowed ourselves into that Mystery we would have no other choice but to embrace the heart and will of God.
This can be a frightening journey. One that pushes and pulls and tests and challenges way beyond any comfort zone in which we dwell. But the experience of the embrace of our Beloved is what we crave and what we are called into. As we move into these final days of Lent and closer to the sacred time of Holy week, I would invite you to step into that place where you can respond to this call, to be held and to “know” your God. Peace to you all.
Mar 27 – April 3, 2017
Dear Sacred People,
“Never put a period where God has put a comma. God is Still Speaking” This quote, which has become the hallmark of the UCC, is a quote from comedian Gracie Allen in her last letter to her husband George Burns.
We get used to hearing the phrase, “God is still speaking”, and like, anything else we hear a lot, it can either lose meaning or we just don’t give it much thought. But this profound statement reminds us that there is so much more to the mind of the Divine than we can ever comprehend. For centuries and then some, the universal church has spent an incredulous amount of time trying to nail down a specific theological stance on the nature of God, never truly understanding that our evolution is intimately connected with our minuscule understanding of the Divine. Historically, the global church has desperately tried to answer all questions pertaining to God’s nature and in so doing has contributed to dogmas and doctrines that are antithetical to the God we say we worship: a God of love and compassion. The result has often been a theology that excludes, intimidates and hurts.
What do we do then with our desire to know the Divine, and to have answers that alleviate us of the anxiety associated with uncertainty?
It helps if we tweak our understanding of theology and for our purposes, true religion. As Christians we embrace the life of Jesus as an example of what it means to live in a broken world and have some sort of responsibility towards its healing. Episcopal priest and theologian Carter Hayward suggests that how we experience God and Jesus is a truth that is ever evolving. As such she suggests that “we who currently constitute the Christian Church are the temporary authors and guardians of Christian truth. So the theologian’s task involves ‘a capacity to discern God’s presence here and now and to reflect on what this means, and is part of a communal effort and struggle to enable the flourishing of love and justice in a world where the potential for relationality is broken, often violently. The project of…relationality, then, is an alternative to an authoritarian understanding of social/relational power, both inside and outside the church. Mutual relationship entails a willingness to participate in healing a broken world, and so is not a private or individualistic task.”
There is so much more to this notion of being temporary authors and guardians and we will follow up on Sunday! See you then!
March 20-27, 2017
Dear Sacred people,
We are at the half way point of our Lenten journey and I hope you have had some time to reflect and experience some peaceful quiet time with our Beloved. It can be so difficult to find time and space that is free from the distractions and worries of the world. Living in the in between space is challenging. I am reminded of what we spoke about a few weeks ago: that every day invites us to experience a re-birth, a transformation, an experience of being made aware of the presence of the Divine. In other words, there is always time. There is always opportunity. There is always invitation, to meet with our God. All we have to do is show up.
“This magnificent refuge is inside you. Enter. Shatter the darkness that shrouds the doorway. Step around the poisonous vipers that slither at your feet, attempting to throw you off your course. Be bold. Be humble. Put away the incense and forget the incantations they taught you. Ask no permission from the authorities. Slip way. Close your eyes and follow your breath to the still place that leads to the invisible path that leads you home.”(Mirabai Starr)
March 13-20, 2017
Good Monday Dear People,
I woke this morning to more posts by colleagues and friends pointing to the many ways those who are marginalized will be impacted by impending policies, and disturbing attitudes, towards the “other”. I find it is easy to get caught up in the anger, anxiety and uncertainty about the direction things are going in our land. I am aware that I, myself, fit into a few of the ‘marginalized’ categories that may ultimately be affected by the changes proposed. I may not have to worry about being arrested, torn from my family and deported; or concerned about our church being vandalized because of our beliefs; or my deceased relatives’ headstones being turned over; or the chance that I will not be admitted into a country I call home. But I am a woman over 50, who will most likely lose my affordable insurance; and I am part of a minority group that some of our leaders believe can be ‘healed’, and who claim my marriage is illegitimate; and I have family members who will be affected by cuts in education and mental health.
I don’t offer this for sympathy or attention. I offer it because we all know someone who will be affected by any actions, implemented by those who do not take the welfare of all God’s creation into consideration, when making sweeping and greedy decisions.
We, therefore, are called, to respond as followers of Jesus. We are called to be the voice of the voiceless. We are called to be the comfort to those who suffer. We are called to act in ways that bring justice to all people. And we are called to do this with grace and compassion. Not easy tasks, for sure.
I invite you to follow the direction of Richard Rohr during these troubled times. Take the time to re/connect with our Beloved. Allow yourselves the comfort of contemplation, of immersing yourself in the embrace of our God. Feel and accept how much you are loved. And then, go forward and act. Remember, “The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better. Oppositional energy only creates more of the same.” (Rohr) If we can embrace this, then we can truly move in this world with compassion and love towards all.
Take care of yourselves Dear Ones. Remember you are loved. Remember you are in a community of support and acceptance. And remember who you are and to whom you belong.
March 6-13, 2017
Dear Faithful People,
When we declare ourselves to be followers of Jesus, Christians, we are stating that we stand with him, his teachings, and his call to be in this world in such a way that reflects the presence of God. For so long, our organized churches, for good or for naught, have focused on the depravity of humanity whose sin is a cause for great shame and deprecation. Who can possibly believe that they the reflection of the Divine if what they have heard from their religious leaders is that they are unworthy of God’s Love? Or, trust they are cherished if led down the path of believing that our only salvation lies in the blood sacrifice of Jesus? I’m not sure how to reconcile an all loving God who cherishes God’s creation and yet couldn’t come up with another way for redemption than the calculated execution of Jesus. It makes no sense. There must have been another way. Turns out there is…
This is a huge theological conversation but one we need to have if we are to claim our identities as Christians. And one of the first places is to start to have an understanding of sin that keeps us in the decision making process rather than identifies us as persons marked by ‘sin’ from our inceptions.
Richard Rohr offers a perspective of ‘sin’ in chapter one of his ‘Eight Core Principles’ (the book I’m using for our Lenten series). More importantly to identifying sin, he points to ways that Jesus invites us to overcome sin, keeping us in the equation by actively being involved in our own redemption. Paradoxically, this offers both a greater challenge to us in terms of standing with Jesus, but it also offers greater comfort. It speaks to the point that our God is a loving God who doesn’t demand sacrifice and who truly loves unconditionally. Below is an excerpt from his book. I hope it offers some illumination on your Lenten journey.
“Brilliantly, Jesus names “sin” in a totally new way, which most Christians are still largely resisting. Sin, for Jesus, is not found in any kind of localization of evil outside or over there, where I can point to it, punish it, and try to change it. That is too easy, and thus it is religion’s constant temptation. Without denying sin or making light of evil, he shows us the one way of actually overcoming it. Sin, for Jesus, is the very act of accusing itself — whenever you try to expel and accuse evil groups, nations, religions, or people, and somehow leave yourself out of the equation, you end up “sinning.” It is rather shocking that Jesus is never actually upset at sinners, as we are, but he is only upset at people who do not think they are sinners.
Jesus himself accuses. Jesus would never deny objective evil, but he knows that if any human attempts to conquer it, or control it, that can only be done according to the pattern of the crucifixion itself. There he teaches us how to hold it, carry it ourselves, and finally transform it — by recognizing our own complicity in evil but our eagerness to attack it elsewhere (see Romans 8:3, Galatians 3:13). Until this dualistic illusion is suffered, we are never prepared to attack evil ourselves, which is revealed in Jesus’ first facing the three temptations to power himself (Matthew 4:1–11) before he begins his ministry. Until we face our own power demons, none of us are prepared to fight evil. That is the humiliating position of Jesus where few choose to stand.
It is rather obvious that Jesus spends most of his ministry standing with the accused, the excluded, the unworthy, the so-called bad people, the demonized. It is actually rather scandalous how the only way he tries to change them is by loving and healing them, never accusing anybody but the accusers themselves. His social program is primarily solidarity. Jesus stands with the demonized until the demonizing stops. This is Jesus’ primary form of justice work, which is why Jesus’ “strategy” is always so hard to pinpoint and name. His justice strategy is solidarity with suffering itself, wherever it is.
(Rohr, Richard. The Eight Core Principles (Kindle Locations 109-120). Franciscan Media. Kindle Edition).
Feb 27 – March 6, 2017
Dear Sacred People,
And so after an amazing celebration of music and talents yesterday, we find ourselves on the cusp of the next liturgical season, Lent. I have never been one to embrace the ritual of ashes on the forehead. Growing up and attending my neighborhood Catholic school (which was, of course, attached to our church) it was pounded into us that this was a season of penitence. A season where God demanded our obedience by means of sacrifice and fasting. I mean, it wasn’t too much to ask given our status as worthless humans whose only means of redemption for God to have ‘his’ only child killed, right? Ugh. When as a kid I couldn’t reconcile this theology with my experience and understanding of an all loving, even all powerful deity. If the former were true why was this kind of sacrifice necessary?? In my young mind it made no sense.
Needless to say, I believe this one of the primary reasons folks leave ‘the church’. This theological presentation into the ‘mind and motivations’ of God is too difficult to reconcile with a loving Deity. Lent becomes a reminder for some that God is an unpredictable God, demanding painful sacrifice of us because we are unworthy.
I remember part of the demands of Lent in my early days as an amateur theologian in elementary school, was the expectation that one would sacrifice something for 40 days or do something special. The ‘something to do’, which was encouraged by the nuns, was to attend daily mass. To make it easy, mass was offered at 6 am, 12:10 pm, and 5 pm. And, if one should choose to go to the 12:10 mass one would receive a dispensation from our principal which allowed us to be 20 minutes late for afternoon classes. Hmmmmmm, guess which ritual I chose.??
But, our Beloved truly has a sense of humor, or at the very least enjoys having the last word. What started out, for me, as being an easy out for lent with a bonus of missing school, turned into something greater than I could have imagined. You see, during those half hour masses, I found myself enjoying the time. It was quiet, and comfortable and there was a sense of being held and embraced. It may have simply been that there was no sermon and therefore no reinforcement of a demanding, sacrificial God. There was just the space in which the Sacred dwelled and I was immersed in an unexpected experience of meeting the Divine.
It was these times that I had an awakening, of sorts, as to who God might be. In the silence and prayer, God was not demanding, or desiring of humiliating penitence or vengeful. The Beloved was simply there, as a gentle and non-judging presence.
I began, over the years, to look forward to those 40 days, craving the silent time, when only a handful of people would show up and Be. I find it ironic that those moments, those experiences, those encounters, would eventually take me from my original religions tradition so as to return to my God.
This is the purpose of Lent. To find our beloved again, to let ourselves be free of distractions and untenable expectations and rather succumb to the embrace of our Beloved. I wish for each of you the experience of knowing you are loved and cherished and that God is waiting for you in the silence, in the sacred space, in the dwelling place that is you.
Feb 20 – 27, 2017
“Since my Beloved is for me and I am for my Beloved, who will be able to separate and extinguish two fires so enkindled? It would amount to laboring in vain, for the two fires have become one.” Teresa of Avila
Good Morning Dear Ones,
Teresa of Avila is my all-time favorite mystic. She lived in the 16th century and her writings speak of the rich and intimate relationship she sought and experienced with the Beloved. Her writings have been translated by author Mirabai Starr in a style that makes her so accessible to us. Below is an excerpt from Starr’s book “Passionate Mystic”. Starr extends the invitation offered in Teresa’a writings to fall in love with God, to allow ourselves to be loved wholly and completely by our Creator, and in so doing we are compelled to live fully our call to be the presence of our Beloved in this world.
“Teresa of Avila promises us that if we commit to loving one another when it is most difficult, our Beloved will make it up to us. Islamic wisdom emphasizes the holiness of desert hospitality welcoming everyone we encounter with a cup of tea, without checking to determine what religion or political party or nation they identify with. Christ taught that whenever we turn toward the other instead of running away or striking out, the Holy One melts the edges from our hardened hearts and invites us into a greater love. In Jewish mysticism we learn that the more graciously we yield to the chilling shadow of the human condition, the more the Shekinah— the indwelling Face of the Divine will blow on the coals of our heart, filling us with desire for her Presence. When you have the urge to pull in or push away, try softening, surrendering, saying yes to the One who hides behind the masks of the many.”
Peace to you all
Feb 13-20, 2017
“There is a laundry list of justice issues that demand our energies and time to addressing from the pulpit and the pews. These issues require that we engage in critical self-examination before we can lend ourselves to the task of bringing about equality. It is hard to overlook the many who have no place to sleep or food to eat and are left begging in the streets. Our nightly newscasts are filled with story after story of individuals who are dehumanized and rendered victims of a society that no longer values relationships and has ceased loving neighbor as self.” Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson
Happy Monday Dear Ones,
We all have opinions, have you noticed?! And this is not a bad thing. Our thoughts and opinions allow us to think freely and to engage in dialogue with one another. Unfortunately, opinions alone can be toxic. It’s easier to align with those who have the same or similar thoughts and opinions about various ‘things’. While this is and of itself isn’t a problem, if we never allow ourselves to be stretched, then conversing with those with whom we don’t agree or understand can become daunting and confrontational. Our opinions can become judgements further alienating us from others, compounding the divisiveness that exists in our world.
The one thing that can keep us from becoming only issue oriented people, is to remain in relationship with one another. Issues define social, justice, and equality problems that require our attention. Relationships are the only way we can accomplish breaking down the barriers which allow social problems to run rampant.
The challenge, then, is to engage one another with respect and a listening presence. Of course, this is not always possible. Sometimes, we can find it too painful to participate in conversations with those whom we disagree–and this can be for many reasons. This is ok. However, as we walk away from that conversation we can do it with an attitude of peace recognizing that stepping away may be the best way to participate. Knowing our strengths and limitations is critical in difficult dialogue. The goals are to try and do no harm.
“The primary importance of human relationships seems to be lost as individuals are rendered less-than because of race, gender, and sexual orientation. In the first-century church, would anyone dare admit that they were contributing to the problems Matthew(5:21-37) wrote to address? It is easy to look at the problems and name them as the fault of others but the bigger challenge comes when we dare to find ourselves in the midst and ask how am I contributing to the problem? Or, how can I bring difference to what I observe around me?” Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson.
And again, this is where community remains paramount in the work we do. We offer different gifts, voices, support and challenges to one another. Oh the places we can go!!!
Feb 6-13, 2017
Dear Faith-filled People,
A wise man recently said, “…God is a part of us, we are called to live the kind of life that becomes the embodiment of love and grace. Our world is desperate for such witness and that is what is significant about the life of Jesus Christ. He has open arms for all the people he met. The contemporary church also exists to give that witness. Its purpose is not to be a settling place for people so they can feel safe, but a source of inspiration for people to live the gospel and be the presence of God in our world.”
When you think about it, it is a profound message or better yet, invitation that has been extended to us by our Creator. We talk about having faith in God but do we ever really understand the amount of faith our God has in us?!
Jesus’ message compares us to ‘salt’ and ‘light’– two very powerful comparisons which compel us to be co-creators in the Kin-dom of our Beloved. Do you realize the trust that God has in our abilities to be partners in this endeavor? This is the message of the gospel, to be partners in the life of Jesus; to be salty and flavorful in a world gone flat; to be light in a world that seems to prefer darkness; to be love and grace in a world that can lean towards hatred, injustice and greed. As God has faith in us, I have faith in you, in our community, in our church, to be light, and grace, and love. Peace to you all this week and always. And by the way, that wise man? is one of our own, Jim Price.
Jan 30 – Feb 5, 2017
“Living in a transitional age is scary: It’s falling apart; it’s unknowable; it doesn’t cohere; it doesn’t make sense; it’s all mystery again; we can’t put order in it. This is the postmodern panic. It lies beneath most of our cynicism, our anxiety, our pandemic violence. Yet, there is little in the bible revelation that ever promised us an ordered universe. The whole Bible is about God in the actual, in the incarnate moment, in the scandal of particularity, and not in the educated theories–so much that it is rather amazing that we ever tried to codify and control the whole thing. The Bible seems to always be saying that this journey is indeed a journey, a journey always initiated and concluded by God, and a journey of transformation much more than mere education about anything.” (Richard Rohr, ‘Hope Against Darkness’)
“A human being is part of a whole called by us “the universe” a part limited in time and space. [He] experiences himself, [his] thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of consciousness” (Albert Einstein)
Greetings Dear Ones,
We are indeed in the midst of troubled and uncertain times. I am reminded of watching ants as it begins to rain and they start to scatter in a myriad of directions vs. following along in their ‘predetermined’ straight line. They seek to get back to the comfort of the seemingly ordered and predictable life of following the one in front, all for the sake of unity and security.
The irony is that this order is, this unity, is an illusion based on nothing more than a sense of survival rather than relationship. We are, by definition, relational beings whose call in life is much greater than that of pure survival. Being relational means that we add compassion and love to the larger mix of personal, emotional and physical comfort. Paradoxically, it means that the chaos of our world is not diminished by stepping back into line to avoid discomfort, and for the sake or order. Rather, the chaos calls us to move in the direction of love and compassion, lifting our face into the rain knowing that God resides in the reality of the world and not in the illusion of order. It sounds frightening and yet knowing that our Beloved is already in the mix should be the consummate invitation to enter the fray. It is a constant reminder that the Divine is with us always. And in this paradox, lies all hope and vision for our world. All we have to do is show up! And the possibilities are endless. Peace to you all.
Jan 23 – 30, 2017
Greetings Dear People,
Please forgive the delay in getting to you this week. This has been moving week and has been a combination of pure exhaustion and pure excitement. I was thinking about Sunday service and about the wonderful enthusiasm and willingness to participate that folks had. I am constantly amazed that in the midst of any kind of upset or anxiety or worry that we are able to come together as a community of celebration. Without a doubt you have heard me say this many times and yet it remains true: Hope resides in our willingness to come together as a community of love, compassion, hospitality, and inclusion. Week after week you prove that this is your identity. We can week after week prove that your spirit continues to grow and refuses to be dampened regardless of any circumstances. Week after week you show up with the willingness to embrace one another and to embrace those that we have not yet even met. This is where Hope resides. This is where Hope thrives. And this is how we remain a beacon of Hope in a world that sometimes challenges us to work our very core. Dear people, please know how much you are loved and what a wonderful example of Christ’s presence you are in the world.
Jan 16-23, 2017
Hello Dear Ones and Happy MLK day.
It sounds a bit contradictory, perhaps, to wish you a happy MLK day in light of sharing the excerpt from his last speech made the night before he was assassinated. And yet, even though he knew of the imminent danger to his life he, like Jesus, persisted in following the path of non-violence in order to pursue justice for all people. Each year, we remember his life and legacy. However, unless we also recognize that we are also called to a life which seeks justice, then we risk minimizing this to just another day off. I invite you to read the brief excerpt below and then find time to read the entire speech or any other of his words. I promise you, you will be inspired!
“…And you know, it’s possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it’s possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking. And he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt, in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the Levite asked was, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”…
…Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man.
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
Jan 3 – 9, 2017
Dear Beautiful People,
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
I don’t know how many of you listen to NPR, specifically Car Talk, but at the end of the program each week they say “Well, you’ve wasted another perfectly good hour listening to car talk!”…It is obviously just playful self -deprecation, but I know that sometimes we get to the end of another year and, not so playfully, give ourselves a hard time for what we think we haven’t accomplished. Then, of course, come the resolutions. While good in theory, they can set us up for further perceived failure if we think we have to accomplish goals to prove we are not wasting our time! And we go round and round and round…
This year I have a simple invitation for you. Revisit those experiences you’ve had over the past year, only do it with gratitude rather than judgment. Maybe a relationship didn’t go the way you wanted, or a job, or an exercise program, etc. But, rather than judging yourself for what didn’t happen, try being grateful that the experience did happen. We tend to shy away from those things that we view as painful or failures or embarrassments. Yet, just the fact that we are able to experience all of life’s intricacies, is really quite a profound gift from our Beloved. If we let ourselves embrace all we have experienced, chances are we will be less judgmental of ourselves and more compassionate when constructing our future goals and endeavors.
Lest you forget, you are a very special groups of folks with great hearts, willingness to think and feel outside your comfort zones, and a huge propensity for hospitality. I begin here. With immense gratitude for knowing you all. Thank you for the Blessing that is you.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity” (Melody Beattie)
“The real gift of gratitude is the more grateful you are, the more present you become” (Robert Holden)