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Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Wednesday Words

Pr. Cathy Daharsh

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. ~2 Corinthians 13:13


Posts have flooded my social media about the best way for white people to be allies with and advocates for our black brothers and sisters. Some say we need to speak up; some say we need to stay quiet for the black voices to be heard. Some say we need to make phone calls to public figures; some say we need to focus on our own family. While the advice can be confusing it highlights that we do not know exactly what to do because no one has figured out how to do this yet.

Maybe some of the words from 2 Corinthians 13:13 can give us some inspiration and guidance: love, grace, and communion. It’s interesting to think about these three words and how they lead to the other.

We could start with love. Learning the stories of the “other” and finding ways to love them for who they are and the experiences they have had. Even someone who has very little racial diversity around them can attempt to find something to learn and love about a community different from their own.

We could start with grace. There may be a hurt we have experienced by the hands of the “other” and we need to offer grace to heal. Just like we should not assume everyone of a group is bad we can acknowledge there may be some real hurts people have suffered at their hands. It is our job and the work of Jesus to offer grace and begin healing those hurts.

Or maybe the hurt is too deep. Maybe the lessons about the “other” make the doors of love and grace too narrow to walk through just yet. We could start with communion. Simply sharing space and being present with the “other” can break down walls. It is hard to hang on to anger or hurt when you make connections, when you begin to understand someone after you have looked in their eyes, exchanged a story or two, and connected in some way.

It seems the Trinity has modeled for us that there is more than one way to be unified with another. Once we have one of the three, love or grace or communion, the other two are easier to get at. We may still be working toward getting this right, but the goal is still worthy of our effort, and I believe is needed more than ever. Amen.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Wednesday Words – Fire and Wind

May 27, 2020

Pr. Paul Cannon

2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.

Acts 2:2-3

I was reading a commentary from one of seminary professors, Dr. Kathryn Shifferdecker, who commented that fire and wind tend to show up in the Bible when God is in the act of making something new. The burning bush, the pillar of fire leading the Israelites through the wilderness, and now here on Pentecost it shows up again.

Their appearance together in the Bible is rare, precisely because fire and wind are a dangerous combination, capable of leaving unfathomable amounts of destruction in its wake (remember the wildfires in Australia earlier this year?).

But sometimes it’s needed. Sometimes the only way for new life to begin is for something else to go.

There are things in our lives that we hope can be left behind. Some things we just need to burn down to leave room for other things to grow up in its place.

I was grieved this week to see two more African American men senselessly killed, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. One was out for a jog, and the other was suffocated to death while handcuffed on the ground.

Together, we all should pray for the day when the divisions of race, racism (personal and institutional), and prejudice will be burned to the ground.

One of the miracles of Pentecost, is that the Holy Spirit does precisely that.

Through fire and wind, the Holy Spirit brought all people together, “Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs …” All hearing the same proclamation of the Gospel message.

This Pentecost, may we live into that same Spirit - a spirit of wind and fire - that burns down those walls so the message of God’s love might be heard by all.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Wednesday Words

Pr. Cathy Daharsh

“…Why do you stand looking up toward heaven?”  - Acts 1:11

When our boys, Aaron and Mitchell, were very young I would take them to swim class. They were so young that I got in the pool with them. The swim instructor taught the parents to help their children to swim. After showing the children how to move their arms and legs, we would hold our children up with a hand under their back or belly while they practiced their swim strokes. Holding them up prevented them from sinking below the surface triggering a panic response that would cause them to lose concentration and confidence. By giving them support with our hand, they could practice their swimming without fear knowing that we would catch them if they started to sink. Over time they learned to relax because they trusted that we would keep them safe.

Then one day, we’d let go. They could swim all on their own. That was an exciting and memorable moment. The boys would finally understand that it was not actually me who was holding them up and keeping them from sinking, it was their own ability that was allowing them to swim. Their trust evolved and became a new kind of trust. It changed from believing that I would keep them from sinking to they could keep themselves from sinking.

In the beginning of the book of Acts, the disciples watched Jesus ascend into heaven, until “a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going, and they were looking up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’” - Acts 1:9-11

The disciples had walked with Jesus as he taught them. He had always been there for them. When he was crucified they thought they had lost him, but he returned through the resurrection. By seeing him resurrected, their faith had evolved. Now, in the Act story, he was leaving them again this time after he had risen. There was just one last thing that needed to be done.  Jesus needed to let the disciples go. The two men in white robes reassured the disciples that though Jesus had been taken up into heaven, through the work of the Holy Spirit, Jesus presence was still with them.

Like in those swim classes when parents carefully remove their hands from holding their children up, the disciples were ready to take their faith into their community. They now had the confidence and courage to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

I hope you know that Jesus has given you the ability to make it through this pandemic. Through the work of the Holy Spirit YOU are given courage and strength. You are stronger than you know. We have made it 61 days already in Shelter in Place. It’s not easy, but you are doing it. Hang in there! Trust in God’s work. Amen.

Wednesday Words, May 13, 2020

Wednesday Words 

May 13, 2020 

Pr. Paul Cannon 

 

This is the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him.  You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. 

- John 14:17 

 I asked Isaac this morning, “What do you want to do today?” He paused and thought about it for a second, and then gave me a melancholy one-word answer, “Nora” he said.  That’s his best friend that he’s grown up with since they started daycare together in the fall of 2015.  He knows he can’t see her, and he’s a little sad about it. 

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about how the COVID lockdown has affected us all in different ways. I’ve said numerous times now, that people’s busyness during lockdown seems to correlate with the number of children you have in your house. It’s doubled for Kirstin and me. We are constantly scrambling around, taking turns watching the kids while the other jumps on the computer and furiously tries to get a little bit of work done.   

But even in our busyness we are deeply missing the presence of friends and family.  For others, sheltering in place means loneliness and isolation while you wait around in a quiet house.  If that sounds like you, you’ve been in my thoughts and prayers this week.  

And it’s why I’m glad for the gospel message for Sunday – you’re not alone.  The Spirit abides with you. 

 Imagine Jesus saying, “You long to be with me, but we can’t be together, but we will always be together.”  If that sounds like it might speak to your present context, then you might want to pick up a Bible and ready John 14. 

 As Jesus is talking about the future where he might no longer be present to his disciples, he tells them, “I will not leave you orphaned.”  Don’t worry, you will not be alone.  “I might be gone,” Jesus seems to say, “But God is with you! Things will never go back to the way they were, but I will send you my Spirit.” 

 Humans are social creatures.  Yes, even you introverts.  We were created to be in community, and to be separated from it feels painful.  But you are not alone.  Jesus sent the Spirit to be with you.   

 And on top of that, you have us.  You have your church.  Being a part of the Body of Christ means that whether we are twenty feet or twenty miles apart (as we have been saying during our online communion), that we are always together. 

 We are abiding in this together, and the Spirit abides with you. 

Wednesday Words, May 6, 2020

Pr. Cathy Daharsh

“Do not let your hearts be troubles.”

What if not letting our hearts be troubled begins with looking into our hearts and seeing and naming what troubles us? That means facing ourselves, our lives, our world, which may be the first and most difficult thing Jesus asks of us in this Sunday’s Gospel.

I don’t know about you but sometimes I don’t want to see. I don’t want to name. It’s too difficult and too painful. It takes me too close to the edge of the things I may not want to think about and acknowledge about myself or even the world.

When I was coaching high school volleyball there was a season when girls on my team kept spraining their ankles and we were losing games. As a coach of a 4A school there was a lot of pressure and question on what was throwing this talented team off. Something had to change in their focus as well as mine. I had to take a critical look at how I was coaching this team. I was the leader and it was my job to bring out the best in the team.  I was troubled.

What I realized was that this team had great volleyball skills, but they did not get along with each other or with me. There were friendship issues, jealousy among players, and family issues that had nothing to do with volleyball. The team needed to re-center and so did I. To get centered again, I did not let the girls touch a volleyball for a week and we did teamwork activities, talked about personal issues, and did conditioning. The team didn’t win every game after that, but the team played together, supported one another, and played to the best of their ability. The team was self-centered including myself, and the girls and I discovered that teamwork started with strengthening our relationship with each other.

God doesn’t purposely throw our lives off to teach us a lesson. Losing our balance happens. It’s a part of life. Sometimes it comes out of circumstances we didn’t create or choose. Other times it is a consequence of our choices or actions. Regardless, Jesus says that is not a place to stay.

If your heart is troubled then it’s time to re-center. Re-centering doesn’t mean our hearts won’t be troubled. It doesn’t necessarily fix the problem, whatever it might be. It means that our lives are connected to something greater than ourselves. Jesus in this Sunday’s Gospel is reminding us that there is a center and it is not us. It is not our success, accomplishments, position, or power. The center, however, is within. Christ is within us. Whatever you face, there is the center. Whoever you are, there is the center, Regardless of what troubles, there is the center. Not because you are the center, but because Christ is within you. Amen.

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