Supporting Structures

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Community Builder, whose authority comes through love,
Use the silence of this morning to refresh our sense of your Presence. Our hearts are grateful every time we recognize your sustaining power is found both within and outside our lives. Restructure our sense of individualism into a willingness to lean upon one another. Remind us that the reinforcement that gives us strength is sometimes hidden from our sight. Inspire us to offer simple acts of kindness, today, encouraging the best in one another and turning us into a community of friends. Amen.

10574270_10202801335499873_4907267922306108397_nGod of Re-Creativity, whose constancy is an open invitation,
Bring us toward Your attentive Presence in these silent moments. Use each breath to saturate us with peace. As we take on the challenges of this day, increase our humility for the sake of right relationship. Guide us with an openness to see things from another’s perspective. Sustain us with gratitude for your blessed creatures reminding us to take time to rest in the pleasures of the earth. Deliver us to new places of well-being and hope. Amen.

Sampson of Wentworth Cove

 

Space for Slowing

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Author of Our Story, who invites us into deep mystery,
As this night falls and a stillness fills the air, we remember how often we are interrupted by storms, fearful and frustrated. Guide us gently into this space of slowing, this time of darkness. As we connect more closely to your Presence, diminish the distance we keep from others. Build in our hearts, fires where others can come to gather for warmth. Give us opportunities to bring hope to neighbors, working alongside one another to clear away paths that are impassable. Persist in us until all paths to wholeness are open. Amen.

Warmth of Assurance

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Giver of Goodness, who refreshes our lives with grace and mercy,
Steady our souls in this stillness. With each morning dawn your Presence enfolds us in layers of loving-kindness and the chill of our separation is replaced with the warmth of assurance. Fill us with compassion and increase our courage to take down the walls that keep others frozen and left out. Open the doors that make our true dwelling place in you. Amen.

Christ is King

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Almost 99 percent of all species ever are now extinct. And according to some scientists, about half of the species now alive may be extinct by 2100.  The human relationship with creation may or may not have significant impact on why this is so. We could theorize that our presence on earth has a cause and effect relationship on some species. Or we could say that the extinction of species, like dinosaurs was random. Did you know there is a general decrease in amphibians world-wide, the Golden toad, a rainforest creature, was last seen in 1989.  I think I told you that I rescued a snake from this very floor a couple of weeks ago, “Save the snakes,” we could form a ministry around this. Is extinction, the cessation of species , a  part of God’s plan for the earth?

Today is Christ the King Sunday! Some people don’t like the suggestion that Christian’s  live under a monarchy,  that using the term king for God is not helpful, but Christ is not similar in any way to any form of democratic government, God is not up for re-election every four years, God does not rule under a system of checks and balances. And there is no similarity under the current democracy, where the result of the work being done by the government is increasing division rather than unity.

God’s plan is to move from death to resurrection. God can be trusted completely, to take us beyond where we have experienced love, mercy and peace. Our vision for Christ the King is so limited, we see the things that are becoming extinct, including wondering if the church will be extinct, instead of seeing all that is coming alive in the world. Even though the church is in transition, we are at an important time in history, never before have there been so many people who don’t claim to practice any faith, and yet clearly, God has set this sanctuary in the middle of community, God who holds all things in unity. God is not domesticated by us, not managed or manipulated, Christ brings us to live outside ourselves, to go beyond where we have gone before, sounds like star trek, but really do you trust God to take you beyond where you have experienced love before? Anyone who has had a taste of the love of God knows this is a scary thing to accept, because when you get a taste of God’s love, you don’t stay the same, everything changes. Yes, your whole life changes, what you do, who you spend time with, how you spend money, where you go, God’s love moves you to places and people you have never been to before. God’s love moves us from death to resurrection.

Do you trust God to take you beyond where you have experienced mercy before? There is no mistake, no transgression large enough for God to turn his back on you, God suffers your sin. God takes it into himself so you can be whole. Are you ready to let go of the sin, are you ready to let go of the behavior, of anything that holds you back from living fully in the face of God’s mercy, not just once but everyday. Have you thought that God might call you to forgive another’s transgression so they can have fullness of life? Has God given you that gift, that opportunity to experience that kind of mercy? God’s mercy moves us from death to resurrection.

Do you trust God to take the church beyond any experience the church had in the 1950’s? Are you getting what I am driving at? We don’t want God to work for us, domesticated by us, we don’t need God to take us where we have already been, we can do that ourselves. Christ is King, Christ alone is righteous and his kingdom extends beyond our experience. The pattern of our faith, is death and resurrection, are you ready to follow that pattern? Are you willing to receive the resurrection here? Listen up my friends, this is important: The resurrection is going to happen whether you are willing or not.

In the early part of the gospel of Mark, Jesus is teaching and he goes home, it was impossible for them to even eat because of the crowds gathering, and his family go out to seize him and they say, “He is out of his mind.”  The church should be dreaming for the day when we follow Christ so closely that we too, are accused of looking crazy.

Scott Harrison, a young affluent man who lived and worked in NYC in the 90’s living the kind of life he describes as having it all. He was a rep for alcoholic beverages,  he was paid to drink, he went from bar to bar being served by others, he spent all of his time in nightclubs, and even  his girlfriend was seen on billboards. He was up there in the ranks of those who live the NYC highlife. Eventually he found his outwardly successful life felt inwardly spiritually bankrupt. He started reading scripture. He decided to go do something worthy of serving others. When he first applied to work for a nonprofit, he was rejected by every one. His friends thought he was out of his mind. Finally one nonprofit told him that if he could pay them five hundred dollars a month, he could come on board their medical ship. They treated people in Africa who had facial tumors because of the poor quality water they drink. Scott Harrison is the man who began an organization called Charity water. Since 2006, they have funded 9, 458 water projects in 20 countries. He was willing to go beyond where his life experience had taken him.

A friend of mine lost her son to a brain cancer, he was 21. This coming week of Thanksgiving, her family is running a blood drive, to save the lives of other children dealing with the same illness. She is willing to go where her own life experience did not take her, she is going beyond to watch for relief in other families, because you know what, these other families, she will tell you that they are her family, too.  

I don’t for a minute believe that extinction is God’s plan for humankind. I don’t believe for a minute that extinction is God’s plan for the church, I believe that resurrection is. Resurrection was not just something that happened to Jesus, my good friends, resurrection is the transformation of life in all its forms, in all its need, bringing it beyond our current experience. It is not what we ourselves do, it is what God does in us. God alone gives us life. God alone is making us one. God alone will bring us to unity. Here these words from the prophet Ezekiel, “God alone will put the sanctuary among them  forever. “  Christ our King, is our God and we are blessed to be his people.

Classifieds for Christ

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My mom was a crafter of words, for twenty years, she worked at the local newspaper and wrote all the classified ads.  When she retired, it wasnt the number of sales she made that her co-workers remembered but it was my mothers way with words. Mom had a way of speaking about things that exposed the interest point. My mom spent her time exposing in ads;
that one mans junk was anothers treasure,
that  a good deal  could always be found and
that a new life could always be given to someones throw aways.

That sounds kind of like the gospel to me. The differences are that the object that may be considered junk for one and treasure to another is the cross of Jesus Christ. The throw aways that are given new life in the church are usually human beings and the good deal you get in church is always free, the love and grace of God is free for everyone.

Think about the classified ad that you might write that would invite others toward a relationship with God and your community of faith.  When you come up with yours, please share them here in comments.

Neighborhood Landscapes

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I love driving into our neighborhood. The road passes over a creek, trees stretch their arms to the sky, and sometimes a hawk flies into view or deer stand still in the landscape. I have a sense of communion with each of our neighbors who are shaped and formed by this same landscape. We see one other daily while walking our dogs, driving to work, attending to our lawns and caring for our children. When the wildness of creation tosses a snowstorm our way, we shovel and share eggs and milk as needed. At times, the landscape becomes still and invites us to do the same. We share a common and connected life with our neighbors.

My active role in the church has given me another neighborhood to dwell in. We are clergy and laity, women and men who are shaped and formed by the particular landscape of tradition. The common life we share is under tremendous strain. We cross bridges and climb over fences in order to reach others cut off by social and cultural divides hoping to share the landscape of God’s love which we confess is so deep and so vast that even we cannot fully grasp it.

I am fully convinced that what the church needs, in fact, what the global neighborhood needs, is to practice resting silently in the One who shapes and forms us by grace, forgiveness and mercy. As we become part of that landscape, we might find our connected, common life is already here.

Welcoming in the New

How did you welcome in a New Year? Many of us attended a party with friends, family, food and music and waited until the Big Apple in Times Square dropped.. Did you enter this New Year concerned about whether your work will create more stress than benefit? Are you concerned for how you will make ends meet? Are you concerned about the side effects and efficacy for the health care treatment that you receive? Or were you able to welcome in this New Year excited for what lies ahead, for how God will shine light into your days, and wonder for how God will use you?

Perhaps we can do both. Perhaps we can enter this New Year with an appreciation of the difficulties of navigating our faith in this broken world. Perhaps this New Year will call us to make ends meet through life giving relationships that make all the difference for how we manage our families, our lifework and our recreation. Perhaps we can enter this New Year, knowing that in the midst of our illness, God will use us for someone or something beyond our understanding.

Welcoming in a new year for me always means welcoming in new people. Each year I am blessed by making new friends. Do you have a plan for welcoming new people in your life this year? Those at work? In your neighborhood? At the bus or on the metro? At your church?

Jesus made friends with everyone, the disciples and the lost, children in the family and those outside the family, the rich and the poor, the healthy and the ill. He sent the disciples instructing them, “ Therefore, be as shrewd and snakes and as innocent as doves.” Even in the time of Jesus, making friends and sharing the love of God was a risk taking mission. Jesus instructed the twelve in Matthew 10, “Go to find the lost sheep, preach this message, the kingdom of God is near.” Jesus instructed them to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy and drive out the demons. He warned them about the difficulties they would encounter, saying “Do not be afraid, the very hairs on your head are numbered.”

We make friends in the knowledge that God is with us, that our truest form of sharing Christ comes through friendship, journeying alongside one another to encourage, keep one another accountable and strengthen our faith. It’s time to welcome in the new! Let’s look forward to all the Holy Spirit will send in our midst in the year ahead. I am sure we will find Christ revealed in each of our new friends.