To view last year’s prose click here
Apr 23-30, 2018
“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”
Good Morning “Green” People,
I know many of you have heard me say that one of my favorite, old school bumper stickers is “Think Globally, Act Locally”. Hearing about all the needs and yearnings our world has can, indeed, be daunting. While it is critical that we are informed and moved by the needs which exist, we cannot solve all the issues nor can we assuage everyone’s suffering. But we can do something.
As far as creating a green space here at church, we are limited because of our uncertain future regarding where we may be after 2019. However, we do have some things we can take care of now. There are things that need our attention with regard to the stewardship of our building and grounds which can also be applied to our homes and daily living.
- Make sure all light s are turned off when leaving the church or home. Everyone needs to take this on as their responsibility.
- Make sure the doors to the fellowship hall are closed especially during the cold months. The difference in the utility bill is drastic when either one of these is forgotten even for a day.
- Make sure the water is turned off in the bathrooms and that the toilets aren’t running–again everyone’s responsibility.
- Use only organic, non-environmentally toxic products for eliminating weeds, cleaning, dusting, etc. This means that we may be choosing more time consuming work than using toxic chemicals.
- Car pool every opportunity.
- Be intentional about how much water we are using to rinse dishes before they go in the dish washer. This may mean filling the sink to dip and rinse instead of running water for each plate.
- Recycle, recycle, recycle. And ask how to help with regard to taking items to be recycled.
- Reuse plastic containers to store food instead of plastic bags and wrap.
- Purchase biodegradable dishes and cups when an event calls for disposable ware. We did this at the Seder with our cups. It is more expensive but more responsible.
These are just a few choices we can make at church and at home. And I’m sure there are plenty more.
Yesterday, after fellowship I took home, some of the delicious dessert Maggie had made. I was uncomfortably aware that I was using plastic wrap to take it home after I had just preached about our need to be more intentional about out Love of Creation. This is an ongoing conversation that will fit in perfectly with our quest to be a Just Peace Church. And it is a commitment we need to make together, more than just one day a year…
Stay Green my Friends
Apr 16-23, 2018
Good Morning Dear Ones,
I was reading a few more things this morning on the sacred act of eating and I have found so much! It’s one thing to talk about how it is that food and meals are sacramental and another to have actual ‘action items’, if you will, on how to regain the sacred when we are preparing, sharing and eating together. I have included a part of an article I found this morning which speaks to the sacred nature of food. And I’ve included the link to the entire article and encourage you to read it in its entirety.
From, The “Sanctity Of Food: Conscious Eating As A Spiritual Practice”, By Carolyn Baker
The sacred within us instinctively resonates with the sanctity of food. Therefore, the growing, transporting, distribution, and consumption of food are sacred acts that deserve ritual and reverence from the moment the seed is planted in the earth to the moment we have washed and put away the plate on which our food was served.
How then specifically do we respond when we return to the reality of food as sacred?
Peter Bolland in his article “The Sacrament Of Food,” says that “Maybe the most sacred space in your home is not the yoga room, or the altar with the candle, or the chair by the window where you meditate and pray. Maybe the most sacred room in your house is the kitchen.” But our interaction with food begins far in advance of preparing it in the kitchen. Here are some suggestions for cultivating more mindful reverence in our relationship with food:
- Know exactly where your food comes from. Read labels, ask questions, and research sources for whole, organic foods in your region.
- Consider becoming a community supported agriculture (CSA) member which allows you to buy directly from the farmer or grower.
- Give thanks when you shop—thank the food you purchase, thank market staff, and give thanks that you can afford to shop.
- Commit to purchasing 10% or more of food that is grown locally.
- Mindfully plan your meals. Perhaps it won’t be possible for you to eat at home today or tomorrow or the next day because you are traveling or because of time constraints. Plan a strategy for eating in places where nourishing food is served or plan to bring healthy snacks with you.
- Take a moment or two to stop before eating and give thanks for your food. Remember to thank the people who grew, harvested, transported, and distributed your food. Thank plants and animals for their lives and the sacrifice they made with their lives so that you can be fed.
- Regularly enjoy food with family and friends. Cook and eat meals together. Share the sacrament of food with each other in potlucks or other gatherings.
- Occasionally share extra food or leftovers with neighbors or people who are not in your family or circle of friends. In a world of skyrocketing food prices and climate change, food “security” may become increasingly “insecure,” and sharing food with others communicates a subtle message that you are concerned about their well-being in hard times. Reaching out in this way encourages reciprocity around food so that when someone has little or no food, others are more motivated to share.
While eating is a political and an economic act, it is also a sacrament. How we eat matters not only to ourselves but to everyone else, or in the words of Peter Bolland, “The way we eat is the way we live. How we eat is who we are. Let us affirm that which is best in us and in each other through the sacrament of food.”
Apr 9-16, 2018
Good Morning Curious People,
I’ve been thinking that in the midst of the celebration that is Easter, we often overlook the grief that permeates the season. Yesterday’s conversation about Thomas’ courage and questioning originates from the place of disbelief and disillusionment amidst the grief of losing his closest friend and mentor. While we can appreciate his transformative experience and be encouraged by his willingness to seek some kind of understanding, we have to also recognize that grief is still part of this story and experience.
We are invited to doubt, to question, to seek understanding especially when it comes to our spiritual journeys and explorations. After all we are desiring that intimate relationship that brings us closer to our Beloved. New understanding and discovery can be exhilarating and promising, but we have to also tend to the fact that as we discover news ways of being we are often called to let go of the old.
Those ‘old’ ways of thinking, of understanding, of ‘knowing’ God have been with some of us for a long time. It is reasonable, therefore, to expect some fear in letting go of those ways of thinking and being as they have offered a familiar way of understanding God. Letting go of what is familiar and what we think is expected of us to “believe” is difficult and can be painful. And leaves us with another set of questions: Will I find another way? Will I be accepted if I question? Will God still love me if I argue? Letting go of old ways requires that we grieve. Thomas may have recognized that the presence of Jesus and the love of God would forever be with him, but he still had to mourn the loss of his expectations, of what he thought he understood and of his friend as he knew him. During this time of Resurrection don’t be surprised if you find yourself a bit off center. A bit sad. A bit disillusioned. It’s to be expected that we struggle and grieve before we are transformed. Just look around! This is happening to every tree and flower, coming back from the ‘dead’, pushing through the soil, leaving the comfort of the dirt and seed. And the results are magnificent!
Stay by Jan Richardson
“I know how your mind rushes ahead, trying to fathom what could follow this.
What will you do, where will you go, how will you live?
You will want to outrun the grief.
You will want to keep turning toward the horizon,
watching for what was lost to come back,
to return to you and never leave again.
For now, hear me when I say all you need to do is to still yourself,
is to turn toward one another, is to stay.
Wait and see what comes to fill the gaping hole in your chest.
Wait with your hands open to receive what could never come except to what is empty and hollow.
You cannot know it now, cannot even imagine what lies ahead,
but I tell you the day is coming when breath will fill your lungs as it never has before,
and with your own ears you will hear words coming to you new and startling.
You will dream dreams
and you will see the world ablaze with blessing.
Wait for it.
Apr 2-9, 2018
A few years ago I was spending Easter at another UCC church. The pastor took great pleasure in greeting every person in his congregation with the salutation, “He is Risen!” on Easter morning. It sounds innocuous enough, except if the person being greeted failed to respond in the way he expected, “He is Risen, indeed!” If one did not respond with these words they would get a brief reprimand and lesson on how to respond accordingly.
I was put off by this ritual as demanding a specific response seemed contrary to the message of Easter: the love offered by one who would go to the cross in the pursuit of justice for all. Shouldn’t we be kind and gentle in our interactions with one another, especially on this day?
While I still would argue that his punitive-like response to those who didn’t do what he wanted was inappropriate, I can’t help but reflect on the idea of being “risen indeed”. The oxford definition for ‘indeed’ best fitting its use here would be: “indeed- used to emphasize a statement or response confirming something already suggested”. In other words, a way to make the obvious more apparent! But after further refection, it dawned on me: wouldn’t a more accurate response to this salutation, (either out loud or to oneself) be ” He has Risen, In Deed!” ?
Truly, resurrection isn’t realized by just because we acknowledge the day, or a belief or because we share a specific response. It is realized when we, WE, respond, not in words but ‘in deed’. As someone stated yesterday during worship, ‘resurrection means that there is so much more work to be done’. In other words, the Lenten journey was just the prologue to the story, and Resurrection then not a nice, happily ever after ending. Rather, we called back to where it all began, and we are to begin, again, the work of the risen Christ.
An Easter Sunday Prayer by Roger Cortney
I’m a scientific kind of guy and to tell you the truth
I find the stories of the empty tomb hard to take in
The gospels don’t help much because each of them tells
A very different story, with very contradictory details.
Which should I believe?
If any…Can we really know for certain what happened?
What we do know is that a frightened & demoralized
group of disciples of Jesus of Nazareth
Who had just been brutally executed
experienced something so momentous that they realized
That Jesus was still in their lives and hearts –That it was now up to them
To carry on the work that Jesus had started
So convinced were they of the essential truth of this experience
That many of them, in their turn,
Were prepared to go to their death rather than deny
their commitment to Jesus as their risen Lord.
Help me to experience The living presence of Jesus and to follow in his footsteps. Amen
Mar 26 – Apr 2, 2018
Dear Protesters and Marchers,
There is actually a third category of those who showed up for Jesus’ procession into Jerusalem: Watchers, all along the parade route. They may have been watching the Roman version: Pilate and his minions, showing their might and daring anyone to cross the empire. They would have cowered in the crowd, perhaps both entranced with the pomp and circumstance and infuriated by Roman occupation and oppression. Perhaps they were equally frustrated by the complicity by those in their community who could actually work toward changing things for the better but, instead, chose to benefit from staying quiet and being rewarded for their loyalty and complacency. The watchers at this parade probably seethed with anger, plotting how they could lash out at a symbol of the oppressors. Maybe they would attack a small contingent of soldiers or seek a leader in their midst who would try to organize a revolt. Or perhaps they would sink into a hopeless depression, believing that there wasn’t a thing they could do that would make a difference.
Then there were the Watchers who were at the other gate, watching as Jesus rode in without the pomp but sitting on the back of a donkey. It may have even looked comical, this grown man on such a small animal. There were no horns or streamers, adorned horses or the imposing presence of military might– just the available accouterments: palm branches and pieces of clothing to welcome his entry into the holy city. Perhaps they watched in awe as this holy man made his way into the city, grateful that there was someone who demonstrated love and acceptance for them. Someone who would stand up for them against the bullies of the world. Maybe he wasn’t what they were hoping for in terms of a messiah, but at least there was someone to do what needed to be done. They could get behind a kind man of God since attacking the enemy wasn’t really their cup of tea.
I think we like to believe that we would have chosen the second parade. Obviously, as followers of Jesus, we would emphatically say ‘yes’ to parade number 2! But, no matter which parade they (we) watch the truth remained: they were Watchers. No matter which parade they attended the outcome was the same, Jesus would be abandoned, be arrested and executed alone. Except for the few that had remained with him from the beginning, his mother, a few women and one disciple at the foot of the cross, he would be abandoned by all Watchers.
The call to protest Holy Week is a call to watchers. Watchers are just that: those who stand on the sidelines with opinions and attitudes, suggestions and loose plans of change, gratitude that there is someone to do the work. And then when the parade is over, they go home. We are not supposed to be watchers. We are supposed to literally follow and march with him, even if that means to the cross. That’s a heck of a parade to attend. We should protest the potential ambivalent nature Holy Week can take on. It is a time of quiet introspection and, of course, we want to be silent and pray, and be introspective and repentant. And come Easter we will want to rejoice! But that’s only a part of it. Remember, when the parade is over we don’t get to simply go home. Rather, we get up the next day and the next and we march. We march against injustice, against oppression of the marginalized, for those who have no voice. We march because our savior, the man who would show us what it means to be God’s presence in this world, has called us to march with him. And our marching assures that Resurrection will indeed happen over and over again.
Mar 19 – 26, 2018
“Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning and purpose to our lives.” (Brene Brown)
Dear God Infused People,
Well, we did it! We got through a full sermon series on a very difficult topic. And for many of us, we realize that the work we need to do to free ourselves form the shame we carry, continues. Sermons may be great (I’m optimistic!), but the work that follows can be challenging and overwhelming. We are a community of God and as such we have chosen to be in relationship with each other. Authentic relationships imply that we seek to be courageous enough to be vulnerable and empathetic with and towards each other. Today’s note is simply to remind you that my door is always open.
”The simplest spiritual discipline is some degree of solitude and silence. But it’s the hardest, because none of us want to be with someone we don’t love. Besides that, we invariably feel bored withourselves, and all of our loneliness comes to the surface.
We won’t have the courage to go into that terrifying place without Love to protect us and lead us, without the light and love of God overriding our own self-doubt. Such silence is the most spacious and empowering technique in the world, yet it’s not a technique at all. It’s precisely the refusal of all technique.”(Richard Rohr)
Mar 12 – 19, 2018
Dear Joy-filled People,
“If part of being human includes having a sense of humor, and if Jesus was “fully human,” as Christians believe, he must have had a fully developed sense of humor. Indeed, his sense of humor may be one unexamined reason for his ability to draw so many disciples around him with ease. It’s time to set aside the notion that Jesus was a humorless, grim-faced, dour, unsmiling prude. Let’s begin to recover his humor and, in the process, his humanity.” James Martin, S.J.
Let’s face it, Scripture can be dry and boring. We have heard the stories so many times that we hardly listen when they are presented again. After a while, the various sermons and interpretations we have heard through the years, get mushed together to the extent we think that they are part of the original story. While we have an entire library in our grasp which can draw us into exciting, funny and provocative stories, we tend to take it all too seriously. How can we trust that God has a sense of humor if we read/hear our texts as if Alexa or Siri are reading them!?! Can you name any stoic, dry, serious, boring, personality who has had a profound effect on your life? Why would we think that Jesus was as dull as we make him out to be when we read the gospels? How could he have been so compelling to so many if he didn’t have a sense of humor or could laugh at himself at times. What kind of story teller keeps the interest of their audience if they aren’t dynamic and invitational?
This lent we have spent a lot of time examining difficult topics and how the shame we carry can literally weigh us down. And this coming Sunday we will further explore ways to set ourselves free of those things that keep us from ourselves, one another and our Beloved. AND, yesterday we were reminded that even in the most difficult times, we can be surprised and delighted even with what we think is familiar and dull. Lisa and Chad Siebert offered entertaining and theologically sound interpretations of how it may have been that Jesus shared his message. We laughed. We cried. We were refreshed. We were moved and comforted. And this is the point of the ‘Good News’. Thank you Sieberts!!
So why not re-visit that book collecting dust on your shelf. Allow yourself to ‘hear’ it again for the first time. Be entertained, delighted and surprised. Laugh. Cry. Be refreshed. Be moved. Be comforted.
Mar 5-12, 2018
I’ve come to this belief that, if you show me a woman who can sit with a man in real vulnerability, in deep fear, and be with him in it, I will show you a woman who, A, has done her work and, B, does not derive her power from that man. And if you show me a man who can sit with a woman in deep struggle and vulnerability and not try to fix it, but just hear her and be with her and hold space for it, I’ll show you a guy who’s done his work and a man who doesn’t derive his power from controlling and fixing everything. (Brene Brown)
Dear Beloved People,
Whew. Shame. Tough topic and conversations these past few Sundays. You are probably thinking “I know the Lent is a time for introspection but really Clare, enough is enough!” I agree this is a difficult and prolonged conversation. And I know a break is in order. It would be nice if we would could just bring up a topic, wave a magic wand and have it be done. Yet, we all know this isn’t the case and, more often than not, while awareness is half the battle when dealing with important issues, the rest of the work comes in fits and starts and usually takes an unmeasurable amount of time.
This can sound overwhelming, and if we attempt to deal with our hurts and shame alone it can bury us. During this season of introspection, it is vital that we remember that the story ends with Resurrection. Resurrection is not an obscure topic or myth that happened some 2000 years with little or no direct connection to who we are today. Rather, Resurrection offers us an opportunity to see, understand and experience, that all of us, while subject to the struggles and pain of the human condition, are offered a profound invitation to be lifted up! Salvation comes in the form of hard work, introspection, ‘death’ of those ways that have entrapped us, and ‘new life’, a life that calls us into being closer to our full humanity.
It sounds strange to be invited to embrace our struggles and yet, in so doing, we are compelled into understanding the struggles of others. Our empathy and compassion is born out of our vulnerability and willingness to share our stories. Sharing inevitably causes us to become light to those around us. We become, quite simply, Resurrection incarnate.
And a break is a good thing! So next Sunday be prepared for a wonderful foray into scripture in a way you have probably not experienced. I promise fun and laughter and the remarkable talents of Chad and Lisa Siebert– wonderful balms for the difficult sermons we’ve had. I hope you will join us!
Feb 26 – Mar 5, 2018
Dear Loving People,
Yesterday, Judy offered a poignant story regarding how we can make a difference in a world in need. Throwing one small seahorse back in the ocean makes a huge difference to that creature. If often is the culmination of small acts of love that inevitably make a difference. However, we are often overwhelmed by the enormity of all that this aching world needs to the extent that we ignore our own needs or become frozen, thinking that what we have to offer is either too little or unimportant.
It is not uncommon for us to think that what we do is insignificant because we think we are insignificant.
We can fall victim to the notion that we are somehow not able–either because of our limitations or because of how we view who we are. Shame is often the obstacle that keeps us from realizing who we are and who we are meant to be. It can, at best, keep us from action or, at worst, have us working from an operating system of obligation, fear, and the feeling of being unworthy. We get caught up in the cycle of shame: believing our ‘dirty little secrets’ are true; that if anyone really knew us they would reject us; that we are the only ones feeling as we do; that our fear and shame are so excruciating and debilitating that no one could ever understand; that our overwhelming desire to belong is in constant battle with our fear of being found out.
Just like the one small act of taking care of one seahorse makes a difference (especially if others witness the act and join in !), one small act of taking care of our own pain can begin a cascade of self-care and understanding. Taking care means sharing the narrative, the pain that has bound us to this silent hell of isolation. In the sharing, another is set free. And so the work of empathy and compassion is extended beyond ourselves.
Dear Ones, I hope for you the opportunity to share your beautiful, sacred story; that you find and become a compassionate listener for one another; and that you know the peace that comes from recognizing you are cherished and beloved.
Feb 19 – 26, 2018
Dear Holy Ones,
Rev. Jane Vennard, (author, mystic, professor) once told a group of us attending one of her classes, that she was teaching a group of seminary students when they heard about the shooting at Columbine. She said no one knew what to do or say so they joined hands and recited the Lord’s Prayer together, over and over. It was in this common prayer, which has been said throughout the millennia, that this group found some comfort. They found some way to feel united with all who were experiencing the same sense of grief and helplessness. It seems so small and yet sharing in a common exhortation to our Beloved binds us together in ways inexplicable.
We say this prayer every week and, no doubt for many of us, its comfort is in the familiarity as we often become numb or distant from the meaning(s) it carries. Bottom line, whether we are fully intentionally in listening to the words or completely disconnected, we still join as a blessed community through our recitation.
As we go forward in our discussions on shame, and as we are constantly bombarded with the perpetual chaos that seems to swirl around us, I offer another translation of the Lord’s Prayer. Neil Douglas-Klotz is World renowned scholar in religious studies, spirituality and psychology, Sufi Founder of the worldwide network of the Dances of Universal Peace and Co-chair of the Mysticism Group of the American Academy of Religion. He has researched and translated the Lord’s Prayer for the original Aramaic, the language Jesus would have spoken. This translation offer richness and depth to the original meaning that we sometimes don’t always grasp. It is not my intention to replace that which provides you comfort and familiarity, but to offer additional possibilities and meaning to our understanding of the power of this payer. I hope it wraps itself around you and holds in you a loving embrace.
Aramaic Lord’s Prayer:
(Transliteration from the Syriac-Aramaic version by Neil Douglas-Klotz,
personalized by Virginia Melroy.)
O Thou, The Breathing Life of all,
In the roar and whisper, in the breeze and the whirlwind, we hear your name.
Help us let go, clear the space inside,
Creating a holy place within for your light to shine.
Unite our “I can” to yours,
So that we walk as kings and queens with every creature.
Nehwey tzevyanach aykanna d’bwashmaya aph b’arha.
Your heart’s fervent desire then acts with ours.
As in all sound and light, so in all creatures on the earth.
Havlan lachma d’sunganan yaomana.
Give us the food we need to grow through each new day.
Produce in us the wisdom and understanding we need at each new stage of our lives.
Washboglan khaubayn (wakhtahayn) ayakana daph khnan shbwogan l’khayyabayn.
Help us to let go of our past, the hidden guilt of our failures,
Just as we consistently release others of the knots of their guilt.
Wela tahlan l’nesyuna
Ela patzen min bisha.
Let us not become lost in busyness, in the surface appearance of things.
But free us from what holds us back.
Metol dilakhie malkutha wateshbukhta I’ahlam almin. Ameyn.
May abundance, fertile power, and glorious harmony return again and again, in each new age. May this be the ground from which all our actions grow. Amen.
Feb 12 – 19, 2018
Dear Joyful People,
WOW! What a soul lifting celebration yesterday was! David Hudson organized a wonderful event which left me quite speechless (don’t say it!) and with a joyful heart! And our choir, once again, demonstrated the breadth and depth of their talents as they invited us into the song! It is amazing how music can lift us out of the deepest places and connect us with something bigger than ourselves. Sometimes I honestly forget that music, which is everywhere, is right here! Right here in front of me, ready to lift me away from the intensity of the world to a place a peace, calm and joy. And what a very appropriate way to usher in the season of Lent.
“The Christian life is not about pleasing God the finger-shaker and judge. It is not about believing now or being good now for the sake of heaven later. It is about entering a relationship in the present that begins to change everything now. Spirituality is about this process: the opening of the heart to the God who is already here.” (Marcus Borg)
As I’ve mentioned before, this upcoming season has often carried the insistence, thanks to really bad theology that we see ourselves as less than, as needing salvation in the form of a blood sacrifice because of our sinfulness. The notion that God’s only way out for us was to allow a child of God’s to be executed in our name and because of our depravity is a set up for all of us. How can we ever believe that we are loved unconditionally with that guilt and shame hanging over our heads?! It speaks of a very limited deity whose only choice was to send a loved one to his death. It does speak of not ‘love’ but rather a repugnance for God’s own creation. This doesn’t make sense if we hold that our Beloved, our BELOVED, loves and cherishes us.
So what is this season about? Well it is about redemption for sure. But like music that is always available to us, ready to lift us up and holds us in the midst of all of our everythings, Lent is about recognizing that God is before us always, ready to do the same: Lift us up in the midst of all our ‘everythings’. It’s about remembering and returning to the Love of our lives.
For those of us who have been raised with a theology which demands that we feel so deeply ashamed of our humanity, its’ difficult to think believe and feel any other way. But there is another way…
This Lent, the theme is “The Sin of Shame”. During this time, sermons will examine how it is that shame keeps us bound and from truly experiencing our Beloved. It is my hope that we can all experience this season as it was meant to be: a freeing of all that keeps us from the embrace of our God.
Feb 5 – 12, 2018
Yes, it’s complicated–Rev Kathyrn Matthews
“Complicated, and moving quickly, moving right along: Deborah Krause says, “The spirit of God is on the loose, and Jesus and those who follow him are awash in its promise and demands” (New Proclamation Year B 2006). Jesus, with his reputation–and followers–growing, was surrounded by those who were undoubtedly in need, in pain, hungry for his healing touch…
Mark goes on, though, to show the other side, to paint a fuller picture. This Jesus was no celebrity-of-the-moment, any more than he was a magician (like some) or a rebel leader (like others). And, to him if not to the crowds or even to his closest followers, his purpose was clear. He was not about being a “sensation,” or a success, or even popular. What he “came out to do”–his whole purpose–was to proclaim a message, the Message: The Reign of God at hand. Jesus will push his disciples, then as now, taking them in new and unexpected directions, moving on in ministry to do what he came out to do, even if it’s not the most popular thing to do, even if it’s the very thing that will lead to his death.”
Dear Holy People,
This time of year often seems like an opportunity for some down time. Holidays are over, annual meeting behind us, football done, and according to Punxsutawney Phil, we have 6 more weeks of winter. Of course, I’m not so sure that winter has shown itself yet! Yesterday’s reading from Mark, with its frenetic presentation of the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, seems counter to the slow, potentially restful opportunities this time of year may offer. “The spirit of God is on the loose, and Jesus and those who follow him are awash in its promise and demands”. So do we actually get a rest, a time to regroup and prepare for the work at hand?
The simple answer is yes. The reading in Mark, prior to what we explored yesterday, shows Jesus taking a retreat of sorts, in the desert. A time to discern the life to which he was being called. During this ‘down’ time he was being called into the story of working towards the kin-dom at hand. So, while there was no doubt some rest before the undeniable fast pace ministry that was forthcoming, there was also some thoughtful, difficult, and even painful decisions to make for him. Theologian Paul Tillich offers, “Being religious means asking passionately the question of the meaning of our existence and being willing to receive answers, even if the answers hurt.” I think this describes what Jesus’ experience must have been like in the desert. Before saying yes to a call to service, he struggle with what that could mean in the long run. And we all know what he chose…
We are about to enter the season of Lent. One could argue that it is our invitation to enter the story in the exact place Mark has Jesus doing the same. This invitation, this upcoming forty days, gives us an opportunity as individuals and a community to discern and recommit ourselves to the purpose of our lives. So get some rest. Wrestle with some questions. Identify your purpose and call. Figure out what stirs you to love’. And then enter the story.
Peace in your hearts and souls dear ones.
Jan 29 – Feb 5, 2018
“In essentials unity, in non-essentials diversity, in all things charity.”
Hello Sacred People,
‘Unity is hard work–Are we sure we want it?’ Where have we heard this before??
A few years ago I served in a church where the congregation was so afraid of conflict that they were frozen in their ability to engage with the world in productive, God driven way. All of their energy was focused on ‘keeping the peace’ in their community and as such they were, ironically, detached from each other and the community at large. They avoided all conversations that could be potentially contentious, thus stifling their relationships with one another and creating an atmosphere of fear of each other within their beloved community. After years of living in this ‘make believe’ concept of unity, they were faced with a conflict that almost cost them their church. It did cost some the loss of relationship with those with whom they had gathered and worshiped for years, simply because they didn’t know how to really talk with one another. They had lived in fear of authentic relationship with one another and when faced with a crisis, they came close to imploding.
We do not have this problem!
I know that folks left with a myriad of emotions yesterday. I know some of you had much more to offer with no time to do so. I know that this process was new and frustrating to some of you. I know that for a lot of us, we don’t feel satisfied until the solution reflects our specific ideas. I know that the presentation of a perfect, finished product allows for more confidence in our decision making. All of these offer legitimate concerns and ways we can strive to do better. But at the end of the day, I want you to recognize that, while not perfect, yesterday was brilliant!
Truth be told, we will never have enough time to have all the discussions we want to have about anything of substance. We will never all walk away feeling satisfied by a particular process, regardless of how ‘perfect’ that process is. We will not all feel heard or understood, though this should be a definite growing edge for us if this happens. All solutions will demand compromise, give and take. And unanimous decisions about anything tend to be exception rather than the rule.
All this being said, yesterday was a beautiful example of authentic relationship in an equally authentic community. Many of you were very open with your thoughts and feelings about major and minor points in our by-laws. Differing ideas were shared with passion but also with respect. While we may not have always agreed, we listened and requested clarification from each other. And in the end, we came to a consensus which will allow us to go forward while still recognizing that, as Jud suggested, our by-laws and our church itself, is a living entity–always open to change, necessary alterations, and input from those who make up this beautiful mess we call church!
I stand in awe of your passions and engagement in the life of this community. I request that you stay involved, and even get more involved with this, and every other conversation pertaining to the life of this church. I ask that you stay authentic and remain fearless in our relationships with one another and the world at large.
And it is with immense gratitude that I thank you for your willingness to engage with one another respectfully, lovingly, and authentically yesterday. This is what unity looks like.
Peace to you all.
Jan 22 – 29, 2018
“[Dietrich] Bonhoeffer says that to be disciples of Christ, to follow after Christ, we are called to act vicariously on behalf of others. This idea has both a theological component and a moral one. In other words, it is not limited to the work of a Christian in the church community but refers to a way of being and acting in the world that is applicable to all people; it is a way of living that defines one’s humanity. In a beautiful twist on the classical theological dictum that God became human so that humans might become divine, Bonhoeffer argues that God became human so that humans could become truly human, and humane.” (Lori Brand Hale, Reggie L. Williams Sojo magazine)
Good morning Dear Ones,
I am so grateful that we could enjoy the prophetic preaching of Rev. Dr. Stephany Rose in yesterday’s worship! Besides the obvious, of having an ecumenical voice at Vista Grande, I find it particularly hopeful that her words speak to the same concerns and passions we have as people who are called to do the work of our God. Often, we can feel isolated when we are overwhelmed by all that has to be down in the name of justice. We forget, like in many other areas of our lives that we do not have to do anything on our own. The beauty of being a part of the human family is that we are bound together by the nature of our creation. Our Beloved may call us to difficult work, but never expect us to act alone.
Yesterday’s Women March is a perfect example. So many people, so many signs, so many issues. There were chants that focused on women’s rights and to end abuses against women. There were calls to support DACA. There were songs of resistance and chants of Black Lives Matter, Trans Lives Matter, Immigrant rights and on and on and on. These chants were never in competition with one another, but rather in solidarity. We shared common desire for equality and justice and we did so with love and a basic understanding that we are in this together.
This was the joy of resistance. We enjoyed each other while marching in freezing cold weather. We laughed with each other while recognizing that the neo-Nazis who tried to silence us had no power, and their signs were trivial in the face of our resilience. We sang with each other, giggling that we didn’t always know what the crowd in front of us was chanting about. We marched with solidarity knowing full well this was the beginning of great possibilities. We marched with a desire to be fully human and to call for humane conditions for all God’s people.
We all march in different ways but keep marching with joy, Sacred People. Let us remind one another of our common purpose so that justice might roll down like a river for all.
Jan 15 – 22, 2018
Hello Dear People,
I’ve just gotten back from the MLK All People’s Breakfast this morning and it was a blessing to be with a sold out crowd, gathered in solidarity, for the purpose of remembering the life and work of Martin Luther King. It was also a great reminder that we still have much to do with regard to ensuring equality for all God’s children. As I’m sure you can hear, I’m about to break out into another sermon! But instead, let me give you a break and offer this from the man himself. This speech pertains to a specific time on our nation’s history, yet its parallels are disturbingly familiar. Yet his words continue to be just what we need to inspire and remember who we are and to whom we belong…
From “Beyond Vietnam” April 4, 1967
“These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. We in the West must support these revolutions.
It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has a revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgement against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions that we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores, and thereby speed the day when “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; [Audience:] (Yes) the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.”
A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to [Humankind] as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.
This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft misunderstood, this oft misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man [and woman]. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I’m not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: “Let us love one another, (Yes) for love is God. (Yes) And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. [He] that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love.” “If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and [his] love is perfected in us.” Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day.
We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says: “Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.”
We are now faced with the fact, my friends that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men [and women] does not remain at flood it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, “Too late.” There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. Omar Khayyam is right: “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on.”
We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.
Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers [and sisters] wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men [and women], and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message: of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history…
…And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace. If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood [and sisterhood]. If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
Jan 8 – 15, 2018
Dear Sacred People,
I miss you! It feels as if I haven’t been there in weeks–oh right, I haven’t!
Yesterday, three of us, from the Southeastern Association, made the trip to Creede Community Church (CCC) to install their settled pastor, Sarah Linn. What began, for me, as a ‘part of the job’ function, became a reminder of how critical the mission of the church is in a world where hope and love and radical justice seems fleeting or elusive. I was humbled by the outpouring of love and support for Sarah from the community at large. A good two-thirds of folks who celebrated her installation, are not members of CCC. They included firefighters and search and rescue people; theatre and community choir folk who offered their talents; members of other faith communities; and the executive director of the chamber of commerce! It was the perfect example of a modern day epiphany showing up to celebrate a world of possibility.
The Magi, who represented other cultures and theologies, experienced some kind of transformational awareness and arrived up at the stable, recognizing the unexpected brilliance of extravagant love embodied in the Christ child. My own Epiphanic moment reminded me of how critical the church community is for the extended community of Creede. The Church provides space and support for many community events and groups. It is a progressive voice and safe haven for those who are seeking unbridled and radical hospitality and acceptance. It also reminded me of how critical Vista Grande is in our community at large.
The season of Epiphany is like that. It is an opportunity for those ‘ah ha’ moments. It calls on us to be aware of where insights and revelations show up, reminding us of our individual and congregational responsibilities to our neighbors and one another. The Magi were as likely recipients of the message of the manger as the shepherds. Both were outsiders, neither considered to be part of the in-crowd. And yet, they are the ones we point to as those who were invited to the revelation of God’s incarnation. If we are to keep the spirit of Christmas alive; if we are to be the manifestation of God’s love and radical inclusion; if we are to be a relevant and vital representation of Jesus’ life and message in our world, then we must stay awake for those moments that reveal themselves to us. Those God moments. Those moments of invitation to be part of the miracle of Christmas. This is what it means to Be the Church, to be love for all, in a broken, hungry world.
When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart. (Howard Thurman)
Jan 1 – 8, 2018
Dear Sacred People,
A Happy New Year to you all! Even as I say these words I cannot believe I’m saying them! But then I say that every year as I recover from the letdown of the holiday season. It seems that while this time of year is often cold and gloomy, there is at least the excitement and fervor of Christmas and New Year’s to ‘distract’ us from the shorter days and colder nights. And then we land here, somewhere between relief and disappointment, trying to discern whether we had a good time, or ‘got the season for the season’, or survived or recovered from the stress and emotional upheaval the past 5-6 weeks may have brought. It’s ironic, isn’t it, that we wait for something for an extended period of time and then, a lot of the time, can’t wait until it’s over?! I suppose that giving birth can be equated to that.
My son just turned 23 years old this week and I remember that the week before he was born, (not to mention the labor that went on forever!) I was so ready to be finished with this thing called pregnancy. Yet, when I look at him now, I am reminded of the complete joy I had holding him and wondered what the neat part of the adventure might be. In that moment, and everyone since, all things are possible for him. His birth was just the beginning and every turn has been a surprise–sometimes exhilarating and at other times devastating. And isn’t this also the miracle of Christmas?
We wait for the coming of the promise of love and liberation from all things which deaden us and which leave us in a place of despair and hopelessness. And when the season is over, we treat it as such, as if we cannot hold onto the promise until next year. We rob ourselves of wanting and longing, celebrating and grieving, labor and delivery, often waiting for another year to pass before we embrace the meaning of Christmas.
I have never been one to set forth resolutions at this time of year. For many the notion usually starts out with a bang and then fizzles in a month or two, leaving a sense of failure or whatever. This year, however, I am suggesting that we all resolve something. I am suggesting that we allow ourselves to sit in that suspended state of longing and receiving, of waiting and arriving, of labor and delivery. It is in that place that every possibility exists. That place of desire and exhaustion. The place of joy and grief. All hope and potential comes from the recognition that from a meager place of unlikely grandeur, God made all things possible I with the birth of one child. Hold onto that my dear ones as we make our way into a New Year where everything is possible!