To view last year’s prose click here
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!