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Wednesday Words, June 16, 2021

Wednesday Words

June 16, 2021

Pr. Cathy Daharsh

“He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” - Mark 4:39 

A few years ago, I was asked by Bishop Clements to attend a system training program with other leaders in the greater church. This is where I learned the phrase “non-anxious presence.” Psychologist and Rabbi Edwin Friedman uses this phrase to describe people who can stand in the midst of anxiety that is all around them and not be drawn into it. 
 
Friedman teaches the most effective leaders are those who can be the non-anxious presence in an anxious system (organization or situation). He emphasizes that all systems are, to one degree or another, anxious. A volleyball or softball team, a family, a classroom, a workplace, or a church will experience anxiety. That’s just the way systems are. Anxiety is in their DNA. 
 
Healthy leaders are not those who don’t care about the cause of the anxiety, but they are those who have figured out their own anxiety and processed it in a healthy way so that it doesn’t subject them to inappropriate responses. Healthy leaders don’t “buy into” or allow themselves to be caught up in other peoples’ anxiety. 
 
Friedman also describes the key to this kind of leadership as “presence,” that sense of confidence, calmness, focus, and energy which effective leaders brings to any place they enter.  Non-anxious leaders are often faithful and effective but they are not immune to the criticism that can come from anxious people around them. 
 
The gospel reading this week hints to us that the church is called to be a non-anxious presence in the world. The world is also full of anxiety, fear, doubt, and hopelessness. It needs a non-anxious presence. Our mission is to “Reflect Christ in Message and Actions.” Being a non-anxious presence is a way of reflecting Christ.  

The good news for us is that Jesus endures that far from ordinary storm with the disciples, and he stays with them as they travel to the other side. This is a reminder that we too can trust Jesus to be with us, especially now! Amen.  

Wednesday Words, June 9, 2021

Wednesday Words

June 9, 2021

Pr. Cathy Daharsh

“The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how.” – Mark 4:26

In this week’s gospel Jesus tells us about the kingdom of God through parables. Jesus is calling us to a very different way of being with ourselves, with one another, and with God by asking us to recognize that spiritual growth and our relationship with God happens like seeds growing.

Henry Thoreau once wrote, “…I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonder.” 

Before you see growth of a seed, it grows underground. It takes time, and it’s hard to be patient. We often need the collaboration of others to plant, nurture and harvest. 

Last Sunday I participated in the Interfaith Earth Festival, which was formed two years ago out of a need to provide a space where people of all ages and backgrounds could honor the sacred within ourselves, our communities, and the earth. This event was anything but ordinary. During the first festival, many participants, created seeds made of pottery. The seeds were created in memory of individuals unjustly murdered in faith communities since 2015. Participants came from a variety of cultural backgrounds, and faith backgrounds including Jewish, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, and Baha’i. There is an African proverb that was inscribed on one of the seeds, “if you want to go quickly go alone, if you want to go far go together.” 

On Sunday, those seeds were placed around a beautiful birch tree that was planted by youth campers from the inner city of Chicago years ago. The seeds that were planted around the tree were an act of prayer, as 71 names were read of those who died in their sacred spaces. 

These seeds will slowly but surely be absorbed by the earth. This will take patience, which is just what we need as we continue the conversation of racism and working at building relationships with people of a variety of backgrounds. 

I can’t help but think that the gathering on Sunday was like the kingdom of God, such a diverse group coming together carrying many different emotions and challenges but holding onto hope. This was a small beginning, just like a seed. We are sometimes unimpressed by or even discouraged by small beginnings, but that’s exactly the pattern of God’s kingdom. Amen.  

Wednesday Words, June 2, 2021

Wednesday Words – Family of God

June 2, 2021

Pr. Paul Cannon

And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 

Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

- Mark 3:35

Family is a funny thing isn’t it? 

Kirstin and I just came back with the kids from an impromptu trip to Minnesota.  Britany, Kirstin’s best friend from high school, recently lost her step-father, Orlin, to COVID. We wanted to be there for the funeral. 

I almost hesitated writing the word “step” in front of the word “step-father” though, because in truth, Orlin was a father to Britany in all the ways that count.  That was so much the case, that even Kirstin would refer to Orlin as a “second-dad” from time to time.  Blood and biology aside, Orlin was Britany’s dad.

Reflecting on this, I realized that Kirstin’s brother Jake plays the exact same role to his son Morgan, who he adopted and raised as his son.  And my mother-in-law Pam had the same relationship with her step-father. Her biological father died at a young age, but like Britany and Morgan, her father raised her as his own daughter.

All this is to say, that it’s been on my mind this week that family is much more than blood and biology. Family can also be by choice and action. And when it comes to God’s family, we call ourselves children not by blood, but by choice.

The Gospel this week talks about family in the same way.  “Who is my mother and brothers?” Jesus asks?  The answer is simple, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” 

When it comes to God’s family, we all find ourselves brothers and sisters not by blood and biology, but by choice and action.  It’s true on a church-wide level (I can’t say how many of you refer to Bethany as your “church family”), and it’s true of your relationship with God as well. 

The choice of course belongs to God and to us.  God chooses us in baptism first, but of course we too choose to participate in God’s family by doing God’s will. Working together to bring God’s kingdom to earth (preaching the Gospel, bringing good news to the poor, etc), is how we choose to participate in that family. 

That is what makes us brothers and sisters – children of God. 

Wednesday Words, May 26, 2021

Wednesday Words

May 26, 2021

Pr. Cathy Daharsh

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. ~ Romans 8:14 

 

This Sunday is Holy Trinity Sunday. We believe in a triune God. Three in One. The Father. The Son. And, the Holy Glue. Right!?! Well, usually we say, Holy Spirit or in the olden days some might have said the Holy Ghost, but today I am thinking of the Holy Spirit being like glue.  

The Holy Spirit is often the expression of God that is the hardest to explain. We know God, the Father as the creator from the Apostle’s Creed and God the Son, is Jesus fully divine and fully human. But, a dove, doesn’t quite give us the best image to understand the Spirit. This is always the hardest question for our Confirmation students to answer: Who is the Holy Spirit?  

I think that the Holy Spirit is like glue. The Holy Spirit is the connector piece of the puzzle, the glue that pulls it all together and makes sense of everything.  Jesus often says the Holy Spirit is a big deal. The Holy Spirit is the working force behind all those who say that they believe in Christ and try to live their lives in him. We cannot do it alone. We need the Holy Spirit’s guidance. The Holy Spirit is there every step of the way with us, giving us confidence to speak up for others, leading us to live our lives in faith, and allowing us to love others with the compassion of Christ. 

The Holy Spirit fills the gaps, the emptiness and the spaces in my life that I don’t even know and could not even try to begin to fill. The spaces I do not understand, the confusion, the anger, the doubt; the Holy Spirit fills that space. When I do not know how to pray, or even want to pray, the Holy Spirit fills that space. 

If I am paying attention and open to the Holy Spirit, gradually it fills that emptiness and those cracks in my life, and brings me to a greater focus on Christ. The Holy Spirit is the glue and will connect everything that is scattered and make it whole again. 

My prayer, especially, on those days when I don’t know what to pray is simply. Come, Holy Spirit, Come. Let the Holy Spirit, the Holy Glue do her thing to fill in those cracks and bring us together. Amen.  

Wednesday Words, May 19, 2021

Wednesday Words

May 19, 2021

Pr. Paul Cannon

“How is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?”

Acts 2:8

I wish I were fluent in another language.  I took Spanish in high school.  I can still recognize a few words and say a few phrases if you twisted my arm.  I should have continued it in college, but I had the brilliant idea to instead take two semesters of Norwegian– not that it’s such a bad thing, but it’s not like I’m bumping into many Norwegian speakers on the street these days.

All this is to say that I would be totally and completely lost in any non-English context.  I’ve been to foreign countries, and so to an extent, I know what that feels like.   It can be lonely, exhausting and isolating; it can be confusing and even a little scary at times. 

On that day of Pentecost so many years ago, I can imagine how it must have been a relief for the foreigners in Jerusalem then to hear the Gospel their own language – like water in the desert. 

It’s a small detail, but we should note here that when the Holy Spirit came, everybody was able to hear the Gospel spoken in their own language.  The miracle wasn’t that they could suddenly speak (or at least comprehend) a new language.  No.  God spoke to them in the language that they could already comprehend. 

And that says something about how God values diversity.  On this pivotal day in the history of the Christian church – a day that announced the Gospel was truly for the world – the Holy Spirit didn’t ask the people to conform to one language.  The Holy Spirit spoke right to them. 

It’s something we should take note of in the church.  The Holy Spirit’s approach to ministry is to meet people where they are at – not try to force our own language and customs on others. 

That could mean a lot of things in different contexts, but no matter what, it requires us to ask, “How can we speak the Gospel in languages other people understand better?” I of course mean that not just linguistically, but culturally as well.  How can we preach the gospel in the “language” of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters? How can we preach in the language of our teens?  How can we preach in the language of a foreigner to our sanctuary? 

A familiar language can go a long way.

Wednesday Words, May, 12, 2021

Wednesday Words

May 12, 2021

Pr. Cathy Daharsh

And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. 

Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given

me, so that they may be one, as we are one. ~John 17:11

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This month is important to me as I have walked with many who have struggled with mental health issues. It’s also personal. A year ago, Easter, my husband Tom’s brother died of suicide. I also had a brother over 20 years ago that died of suicide. 

In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, we are listening into Jesus’ praying for us. Jesus is praying for you and me. Praying for the community. We need those prayers, especially, in the days that we are feeling fatigued and worn out by the pandemic.  Jesus heartfelt prayer is for your protection as you are sent out into the world to share his love. 

Alec Campbell, the Executive Director of NAMI MC (National Alliance for Mental Illness of McHenry County), noted in his newsletter, “These last 13 months have been the most challenging of our lifetimes. We’ve persevered, and while there finally appears to be light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, there’s never been a greater need to take care of our mental health. Millions of people are affected by mental illness each year: one in 25 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness, and 17 percent of youth ages 6 - 17 experience a mental health disorder[1]. The pandemic has exacerbated these rates. The data shows that more people are seeking mental health services now compared to before COVID-19. Consider these statistics: 

  • After a COVID diagnosis, nearly one in five people are diagnosed with a mental disorder. [2]
  • 74 percent of psychologist said they were treating more patients for anxiety disorders than before the pandemic. [3]
  • Americans experienced symptoms of depression from April through June 2020 at a rate four times that of the same time period in 2019. Symptoms of anxiety saw a threefold increase, as well.[4]

Christ’s love is needed in the world more than ever. We will know Christ’s love through praying and caring for one another. When we take time to pray for one another and lift up challenges and concerns, we open a space for God to work and be in relationship with us, to care for us, and to help us to see the needs around us. 

May you take time to pray daily as Jesus prays for you. Please do reach out if you need help and always know that you are loved. Amen. 
 


[1] nami.org

[2] npr.org

[3] aarp.org

[4] npr.org

Wednesday Words, May 5, 2021

Wednesday Word – Conquer the World

May 5, 2021

Pr. Paul Cannon

For whatever is born of God conquers the world. 

And this is the victory that conquers the world: our faith.

- 1 John 5:4

Some might call this nerdy, but I’ve always loved the classic board game, RISK (okay … I’ll confess … I own the far nerdier version, Lord of the Rings Risk). The goal of the game (classic or LOTR) is simple: conquer the world (or middle earth … if you’re nerdy enough). 

To accomplish that, you raise armies and attack your opponents, while trying to defend your own territories.  At the end of the game, if you’ve won, you’re left with four hours of your life that you’ll never get back and a map littered with little plastic pieces demonstrating that you have “conquered” the world.

Usually when we use that word “conquer” we are talking about conquering through sheer power and military might, like in Risk.  But what if I told you there was another way to conquer the world?  What if I told you that faith could do it?

Our reading from 1 John says, “for whatever is born of God, conquers the world” and the mechanism that accomplishes this goal is the opposite of military might.  It is faith rooted in love. 

Faith conquers the world. 

If that sounds pollyannish to you, I might direct your attention to the early days of the Christian church.  Persecuted by the Roman Empire during certain stretches of its history, the church not only persevered, but eventually conquered Rome itself.

It was a church that through faith in Christ and love towards the neighbor, worked its way into the hearts and minds of an empire that thought of conquest only in military terms.  But it was the church that eventually conquered the empire through love of God and neighbor.

When you express your faith in love, then yes, your faith can conquer the world.  Amen!

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