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Wednesday Words, November 25, 2020

Wednesday Words

November 25, 2020

Those Who Dream 

Restore us, O Lord God of hosts;
  let your face shine upon us, and we shall be saved. 

-Psalm 8:19

Happy Thanksgiving! I know, I know it’s not the same and it’s going to be a hard day for many because of the pandemic. But I do believe that we can still live in gratitude for what we have been given. The theme of the FaithBridge 14th Annual Interfaith Celebration on Sunday was “A Season of Love and Gratitude.” 

During the service we talked about two questions, which I thought were helpful for me to  recenter myself as I too have been caught up in feeling a bit sad about the holidays not being the same this year. The questions were: 

  • In this time of challenges, what gives you hope?
  • Do you find a connection in your life between love and gratitude? 

I was asked to read quotes of love and gratitude toward justice in the service. I read quotes from a variety of leaders and texts: Mother Teresa, the Bhagavad Gita, Albert Einstein, Nouman Ali Khan, Anguttara Nikaya Sutta, Rabbi Rami Shapiro, and Helen Keller. As I read these quotes during the service, I couldn’t help but think that these words were from people who dreamed and saw the world from a new perspective, a hopeful perspective.

Our theme for Advent which starts this Sunday, November 29 is “Those Who Dream.” This theme is for the dreamers in all of us, those who dream of a deeper connection with God and those who dream for a better world. It’s for those who dream of comfort and for those who have given up on their dreams. It’s for those whose dreams have been crushed and for those who show us that dreams take time. Join us as we seek and spread God’s dreams for our world. 

Here are some guiding questions and a poem to prepare you for this Sunday: 

  • What are God’s dreams for our world? 
  • Where and how do we glimpse God’s dreams unfolding in our lives? 
  • What does it mean to be a faithful dreamer-immersing ourselves in God’s holy imagination and taking action to make change?
  • In this season of Advent, how is God luring us toward wonder and awe? 

A Peace Dream
I dream
Of a loving world
Where we see each other
With God's eyes;

I dream
Of a resourceful world
Where we cherish the unique gift
Of each other.
I dream
Of a hopeful world
Where we recognize the power of God's grace
To transform and make new;

I dream of peace.

— Claire Smith, Guyana

My prayer for you this week, even in this pandemic, is that you find love and gratitude in this season and dare to dream. 

In Christ’s peace and hope, 

Pr. Cathy

Wednesday Words, November 18, 2020

Wednesday Words – Christ the King

November 18, 2020

Pr. Paul Cannon

 

40And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family you did it to me.’

- Matthew 25:40

This Sunday is a special day!  It’s everybody’s favorite church festival: Christ the King Sunday!  Okay … maybe it’s not your favorite church holiday. Christmas and Easter probably take the cake, and maybe you like the pageantry of Reformation Sunday or the reflectiveness of All Saints better. 

But Christ the King does have special importance in the church year.  To begin with, it falls on the last Sunday of the church calendar (that means the following week is Advent … that snuck up on us fast).  And as the final Sunday, it’s a time for us to reflect on the life of Christ – a life lived in service to the poor, the outcast and the needy.

So it’s fitting, that this is also a day we remember “the least of these” because that’s the kind of King Jesus is. 

Jesus is not the kind of King the world was (or is) used to.  In fact, Jesus is the opposite of all the expectations that the world has for kings and rulers. 

Rulers are favored because of their power, wealth and connections.  They rule with the sword.  They rule with fear.  Contrast that with Jesus – a poor, powerless carpenter who ruled with love, associated himself with the bottom dregs of society and ultimately died by the sword (though not conquered by it).

We are reminded that this king will judge us by how we treat the hungry, the poor, the stranger, and the imprisoned.  And so Christ the King is a day to remember the kind of King we follow, and how he turns our notion of rule upside down, calling us to live our lives in service to the least of these. 

Wednesday Words, November 11, 2020

“There is nothing I can contribute to God’s Work, Our Hands Sunday,” said Pr. Len, a retired pastor in my congregation in Iowa. 

We were planning an elaborate Sunday of doing service projects in our church. We planned to tie quilts, create cards for those who were homebound, put school kits together, and create layettes. Outside of church, we had lined up projects at the local elementary school, cleaning up at the cemetery, delivering care packages, and planting trees in the park down the street. 

Pr. Len was over 90 and his body was slowing down. He struggled to walk, and it was hard for him to do any fine-motor skill activities. He would often say, “Getting old ain’t for sissies.” 

He struggled as he had gotten older to find a purpose in his life and in the church. Pr. Len had this deep voice, loved to talk with people, and the congregation had much respect for him. He made people laugh, was a good listener, and he was genuinely concerned for the well-being of people. But he didn’t see the value in those talents. Yes, his talents had changed over time, but they were still worth much in the congregation and the community. 

After Pr. Len said that he had nothing to contribute to God’s Work, Our Hands Sunday, I said, “That’s not true. You have a gift to keep the energy and the conversation going in the room.  Not everyone has that skill.”

I asked him if he could do that during the event. He was skeptical, but he did it anyway. On that day, he thanked everyone for volunteering, kept the conversation going, and complimented children. It was so great. I am not sure if Pr. Len agreed with me, but he sure did contribute to the spirit of God’s Work, Our Hands. 

This Sunday, we will hear another parable from Jesus. The story begins, “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.”

Interestingly enough, it is from this very parable that our English word "talent," meaning "a natural gift," has come from. The parable acknowledges that all humans do have some kind of gifts. And some people’s gifts are enhanced because they have received their gifts all in one area of expertise, like a famous artist, musician, or athlete. 

When we see people so gifted in specific areas, it’s tempting to question “What can I do? I have hardly any talent.” But the truth is, every gift from God is needed in this world to work together for the good. 

Remember the children's story "Stone Soup"? Some hungry soldiers came into a town looking for food. Everyone in the town was afraid to share, and they claimed to have no food, so the soldiers get a huge kettle, filled it with water, threw a large stone in the pot, built a fire under the kettle, and began to stir. When the curious townspeople asked them what they were doing, they answered that they were making stone soup. "This soup is delicious," said one soldier, tasting the soup. "What it needs is a little cabbage." One villager said, "Well, I can provide a cabbage," which she did. Item by item the soldiers told the curious villagers what would make the soup better: a few carrots, some celery, turnips, potatoes, onion, salt, parsley. One by one the items were plopped in the soup. Finally, the soldiers announced that a piece of meat would make the soup perfect, and a family brought the valuable addition. All had overcome their fear, invested the one thing they had, and there was plenty for all. Amen.

Wednesday Words, November 4, 2020

Wednesday Words

November 4, 2020

Pr. Paul Cannon

 

But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

-Joshua 24:15

 

We decided to have a bonfire Tuesday night – a little family time before we put the kids to bed. It was a beautiful night, clear and warm for November.  We told stories, while Elin, Isaac and I “hid” under the blankets from Kirstin.  And while sitting around the flames, Isaac declared “This is the best night ever!”

It didn’t feel that way to me.  To me, it felt tense.  I was stressed and anxious about the election.  As I’m writing this on Tuesday night we don’t have the results yet and at this point I’m just hoping to get a good nights sleep before I find out the results in the morning.

But I still can’t get Isaac’s words out of my head, “best night ever.” Would his perspective change if he knew about the election?  What if we had the results?  What then?  Isaac’s not a slave to a political party.  He was just excited about a fun night around a bonfire with family. 

Maybe that’s what we need more of. 

No, I don’t mean bonfires (though it probably wouldn’t hurt).  I think we need more people, like Isaac who don’t belong to a red tribe or a blue tribe.  We need more people who can have the “best night ever” as long as they are surrounded by people who love them, regardless of whether their candidate wins or loses. 

It’s what God gives us – belonging.  It’s a belonging that supersedes all others.  And so I am trying to keep that perspective heading into tomorrow that no matter who wins, I am surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, the family of God. As such, I don’t belong to a party or a candidate or a political ideology.  I belong to God.

Accept one another with love, Bethany Lutheran, and remember to whom you belong.

Wednesday Words, October 28, 2020

Wednesday Words

Pastor Cathy Daharsh

1When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: 

  3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

  4“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 

  5“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 

  6“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 

  7“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. 

  8“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 

  9“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 

  10“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

  11“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” – Matthew 5:1-12

Into a world of blaming and complaints, we hear Jesus in our Gospel reading this week speak the opposite word: “blessed.” Surrounded by hate, we hear his words of comfort and support. As Election Day approaches, commercials, debates, and rallies are filled with insults and interruptions, and confusion of what to believe. All of us are carrying a layer of stress and dread about the election next week.

Jesus says that there are blessings in being poor in spirit, or in being hungry, or in grieving. It goes against every impulse we have in an election season, where we want to win. We don’t want to mourn. We want to have a victory dance.  So, it seems, there’s no room for meekness in politics.

Jesus is clear, which is opposite of the dark and gloomy news around us as politicians try to divide us. Jesus roots himself in reality, and finds God’s presence there. And when the election is over, and some of us are bitterly disappointed, the wisdom of Jesus will be even more clear. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” he says. 

Here are a few questions for you to ponder this week: 

  • How will we carry Jesus’ words into this election season, and beyond?
  • Where will we find the peacemakers we need?
  • Who among us will be able to set aside our disappointment or our happiness to reach out to the other side in peace?
  • Who among us will be able to set aside politics, and receive a gesture of peace from someone who has been our political enemy?

The election season calls us to be citizens, and it also calls us back to the world Jesus announces is possible. Everything Jesus says feels completely opposite to the reality around us, and in these words, he calls us back to our work of building up the kingdom of God in our world. Blessed, blessed are the pure in heart, and those willing to be peacemakers. Amen.

Wednesday Words, October 21, 2020

Wednesday Words

October 21, 2020

Pr. Paul Cannon

 

For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 3:22-23

 

There is two weeks to go, and the tension is so thick you could cut it with a knife.  I don’t even have to say it and you know what I mean. There’s an election coming up during a time where we are already inundated with anxiety from COVID.  It’ll be nonstop 

The next two weeks aren’t going to get any better.  You will be hearing non-stop about left versus right, Democrat versus Republican, blue versus red.  There will be neighbor against neighbor, father against son and mother against daughter. If all you knew was what you heard on the news, you would think there is only two kinds of people in this world – and you better pick a side. 

Resist it.  Resist the anxiety.  Resist the side choosing and the finger pointing. Resist because there’s only one opinion that matters, and in Christ, there are no sides.

To be clear, you should still vote (please vote), because choosing our elected representatives is important.  Those decisions will affect people’s lives in real and meaningful ways. 

But what we all have to resist, is the temptation to make somebody “other” – to draw lines in the sand – because in Christ there is no “other.”  In Christ, we are one body, though made up of many members (to quote from 1 Corinthians). 

This Sunday is Reformation Sunday, where we will remember that we are all (emphasis all) justified by God’s grace as a gift.  And the reason we have this gift, is because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” to quote Romans.

We are in it together. We should have each other’s backs.

So resist it. Resist the name calling.  Resist making somebody an “other.”  Because in Christ, we are one body, one people; all flawed and all forgiven.

Wednesday Words, October 14, 2020

Wednesdays Word

Pr. Cathy Daharsh

"The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son" - Matthew 22:2

Can you imagine those invitations? Gold-edged, hand-addressed, and each having the king's own seal. What an honor to be on that guest list! 

The big day arrives. The kitchen staff has been working all night preparing a meal. The air is full of delicious smells of baking bread and roasted meat.  The tired night shift has gone home, and the day crew have arrived and are excited for the party. Thousands of bouquets of flowers have been delivered. Dozens of long tables are set up with white tablecloths and silver. The wine is poured, the candles are lit, and the servers are ready for their guests in their spotless uniforms, waiting in anticipation. Finally, the trumpets sound and the castle doors open ceremoniously for the invited guests. But, oh no!  No one is there! Something is wrong.

The invited guests have "made light" (Matthew 22:5) of their invitations and have thrown them to the side. No one is planning to come. What could be so much more important than a royal wedding banquet? 

But the banquet is still ready and God, the host, won't give up until the seats are filled. The new call is out, and everybody's in. The slaves are sent out to gather anyone they can find, "both good and bad" (Matthew 22:10). This has become a "come-as-you-are" banquet.

With no entrance requirements, what a diverse list ends up in God's guest book. Here's the picture: business executives seated next to street people; criminals served the same feast as judges; gays and lesbians breaking bread with their straight neighbors; callused hands stand in line with well-manicured fingertips at the cake table.

As in the parable, the same call is out for us, and everybody's still in. God's guest list continues to be inclusive and diverse. And, we are all seated at the same table, feasting on the same meal, guests of the same host, God. The differences in race, power, and social status, which seemed so important in our "old" lives, become less visible as God's grace embraces us.

This is a "come-as-you-are-but-don't-stay-that-way" party. When we are given this invitation of new life and fed the bread and wine of God's grace, we are changed. God's love transforms our lives, even as God sends us out to invite others to the celebration. At God's banquet there is a place marked with each of our names, with all names. The invitation is meant for everyone. 

This Sunday is Commitment Sunday, an invitation to you and everyone to prayerfully consider where we are called to share our time and resources out of gratitude for the invitation from a generous God who invites and welcomes everyone to the wedding feast, the kingdom of heaven. Amen. 

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