From James Cones’ The Cross and The Lynching Tree: “The cross and the lynching tree are separated by nearly 2,000 years. One is the universal symbol of Christian faith; the other is the quintessential symbol of black oppression in America. Though both are symbols of death, one represents a message of hope and salvation, while the other signifies the negation of that message by white supremacy. Despite the obvious similarities between Jesus’ death on a cross and the death of thousands of black men and women strung up to die on a lamppost or tree, relatively few people, apart from black poets, novelists, and other reality-seeing artists, have explored the symbolic connections. Yet, I believe this is a challenge we must face. What is at stake is the credibility and promise of the Christian gospel and the hope that we may heal the wounds of racial violence that continue to divide our churches and our society.”
From Allan Boesak and Curtiss DeYoung’s Radical Reconciliation: “This book is a call for reconciliation in society that is radical, that goes to the roots. We believe that unless we remove injustice at the roots, the weeds of alienation and fragmentation will return and choke the hope for reconciliation. Far too many initiatives for reconciliation and social justice stop short of completing the work required. In our work and engagement with reconciliation, we have discovered how often reconciliation is used merely to reach some political accommodation that did not address the critical questions of justice, equality, and dignity that are so prominent in the biblical understanding of reconciliation. Such political arrangements invariably favor the rich and powerful but deprive the powerless of justice and dignity. Yet more often than not, this “reconciliation” is presented as if it does respond to the needs for genuine reconciliation and employs a language that sounds like the truth but is, in fact, deceitful. This we call “political pietism.” Christians measure these matters with the yardstick of the gospel and therefore know better. When we discover that what is happening, is in fact, not reconciliation, and yet for reasons of self-protection, fear, or a desire for acceptance by the powers that govern our world seek to accommodate this situation, justify it, refuse to run the risk of challenge and prophetic truth telling, we become complicit in deceitful reconciliation. We deny the demands of the gospel and refuse solidarity with the powerless and oppressed. This we call “Christian quietism.” Therefore, reconciliation must be radical.”
From Sleeping with Bread by Dennis, Sheila and Matthew Linn: “I (Matt) need the [daily] examen because of my pessimistic outlook. I am one of those who feels bad when he feels good for fear he will feel worse when he feels better. (In Africa I did manage to find a more pessimistic person. When I told him that we should change our pessimism because optimists live longer, he replied, “It serves them right!”) I am also a perfectionist. At a workshop, ten people might compliment me while only one person might tell me something that could be improved. I forget get the ten compliments and remember only what could be improved. I need the examen to help me notice not only what goes wrong but especially what goes right. Each night I first get in touch with what I am grateful for from the day and I give thanks. Then I ask what I am not so grateful for. When I discover something I am not grateful for, I name it, feel it, and appreciate that I am not denying it and God is with me in it. Healing occurs to the degree I welcome all my feelings and let myself be loved in them. In this way I honestly acknowledge pain and I take in love. Then I can usually fall asleep with a grateful heart.”
From Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart: “In practicing meditation, we’re not trying to live up to some kind of ideal—quite the opposite. We’re just being with our experience, whatever it is. If our experience is that sometimes we have some kind of perspective, and sometimes we have none, then that’s our experience. If sometimes we can approach what scares us, and sometimes we absolutely can’t, then that’s our experience. “This very moment is the perfect teacher, and it’s always with us” is really a most profound instruction. Just seeing what’s going on—that’s the teaching right there. We can be with what’s happening and not dissociate. Awakeness is found in our pleasure and our pain, our confusion and our wisdom, available in each moment of our weird, unfathomable, ordinary everyday lives.”
And from Paul (Philippians 4:6-7): “… in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
For gathering time on 4/24, we will focus on Earth Day: Our question for the day is: As a disciple of Jesus Christ, how can you help heal the world?(On band-aid cut-outs, we’ll hang our ideas and visions up on a map.)
Yea for Sunday School! Here’s what we’ll do:
PreK: Balaam the talking donkey!
K-4: The Prodigal Son from Luke 15
Middle and High School: We will start planning for YOUTH SUNDAY, which is June 19th. (single 10 am service.)
For worship play, we will read the 1st reading from the service from Revelation 21. We will read the “Promise of a New Earth” from Desmond Tutu’s Children of God Storybook Bible. Here’s the text:
When the disciple John was very old, God send him dreams and visions. He saw that there would be wars and famine and floods and terrible disasters. But God told John, “Soon I will make a new heaven and new earth. Then every tear will be wiped away. I will be with my people, and they will be with me. Everyone will live in peace and joy.”
God showed John a vision of this holy place. It glittered with gold and previous tones, and the sky was so bright there was no need for the sun or moon to give light.
“From this place,” God said, “will flow the river of life, and from it I will give the water of life to everyone who is thirsty. On either side of the river will be the tree of life, and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. You are my children. You are all brothers and sisters together, my family. Come and drink, my beloved children, from the water that gives you life, love and joy!”
Prayer: Dear God, help me to make your dram of a new earth come true.
From there, we will ask: What do we LOVE most about God’s creation?(I love all things that have to do with water; I’ll always choose the ocean first, but then I will also take a lake, stream, river, pool and even a water table + hose or shower in a pinch..)
Then we will talk about how we can make a BIG difference for God’s earth.
From Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart: “So right from the beginning it’s helpful to always remind yourself that meditation is about opening and relaxing with whatever arises, without picking and choosing. It’s definitely not meant to repress anything, and it’s not intended to encourage grasping, either. Allen Ginsberg uses the expression “surprise mind.” You sit down and—wham!—a rather nasty surprise arises. Okay. So be it. This part is not to be rejected but compassionately acknowledged as “thinking” and let go. Then—wow!—a very delicious surprise appears. Okay. So be it. This part is not to be clung to but compassionately acknowledged as “thinking” and let go. These surprises are, we find, endless. Milarepa, the twelfth-century Tibetan yogi, sang wonderful songs about the proper way to meditate. In one song he says that mind has more projections than there are dust motes in a sunbeam and that even hundreds of spears couldn’t put an end to that. So as meditators we might as well stop struggling against our thoughts and realize that honesty and humor are far more inspiring and helpful than any kind of solemn religious striving for or against anything.”
From Wendy Farley’s The Thirst for God (speaking of the 13th century women’s contemplative movement known as the “beguines”): “The compassion of biblical characters [like Jesus and the disciples] would be internalized as compassion for people in the beguine’s own community. Contemplation and action, Christ’s love for humanity, and the contemplative’s love for those around her percolated together. Through meditation, this love would flow into a single river in which desire, will, and action became grounded in the divine love. …
The beguines’ love for those they served was in a sense the same love with which God loved humanity…Through their practices they became, as Teresa of Avila would say a few centuries later, the hands and feet making God’s love present in the world….
The beguine way of life produced a great flowering of spirituality in which women and men shared their insights and deepened their understanding of divine love. But this way of life was a stark challenge to an increasingly authoritarian church, which used both violence and ideology to make sure that religious symbols reinforced its authority. Official theology portrayed the anger of God punishing humanity with never-ending fire…
The poverty and simplicity of beguines and other contemplatives embodied an alternative the church. Their devotion to divine Lady Love contrasted a wrathful sovereign with a feminine image of gracious love. It is not that the beguines rejected the church and its sacraments, but their theology attested to a different understanding of who God is. Their very existence threw into question the exclusive authority of male clerics to determine Christian thought and practice. The mixture of rich and poor, clergy and laity, literate and illiterate in beguine communities challenged the rigid structuring of society. Their status as neither married laywomen nor enclosed nuns blurred the clear alternatives that defined true womanhood.”
As a reminder, you are invited to PARK-PLAY Saturday, April 16 from 10:00-11:30 am at Bluemont Park in Arlington. The Tewells will bring the eats. Hope to see you! (If you would RSVP to me (alice) if you haven’t already, that would be great.)
Hello! This week we continue to think and talk about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. For gathering time, we will continue with the great math problem the upper elementary kiddos started last week. We will talk about discipleship and JOY, particularly the connection of discipleship to the things we love. I talk about this idea (and the math) more here.
For worship play, the kiddos will read the story about Tabitha-Dorcus from Acts 9:32-43. I’m preaching on this text this week. The take away for the kiddos is to think about Tabitha’s amazing care and generous acts toward those who needed help the most. (The widows). We should remember Tabitha as a great disciple who served people by making clothes for them. Clothes making, especially back then was really hard work! She might even had to shear the sheep, spin the wool, and then weave it on the loom before even sewing it together. How has someone shown God’s love to you by making you something? How can the kiddos show God’s love by making something with their hands for others?
If there is enough time, the children will read Miss Fannie’s Hat by Jan Karon and other related books.
During children’s time in worship Marilyn Seiber will be sharing pictures the children at the First Reformed Church of Havana, Cuba made on gratefulness. Our children will be invited to draw pictures on what gratefulness means for them. In the context of the Tabitha story, they might think of the feelings of gratefulness the widows felt when making the hand-spun-sewn clothes. Without Tabitha, they might not clothes to wear! Tabitha’s hand-made clothes for them were literally life-giving.
For Sunday School, here’s what’s coming up:
PreK: Class 2 of 2 on NOAH!
K-4: Mary and Martha
Middle School/ High School: Statements of Faith Part 2!
From Pema Chodron’s The Places that Scare You: “We know that all is impermanent; we know that everything wears out. Although we can buy this truth intellectually, emotionally we have a deep-rooted aversion to it. We want permanence; we expect permanence. Our natural tendency is to seek security; we believe we can find it. We experience impermanence at the everyday level as frustration. We use our daily activity as a shield against the fundamental ambiguity of our situation, expending tremendous energy trying to ward off impermanence and death. We don’t like it that our bodies change shape. We don’t like it that we age. We are afraid of wrinkles and sagging skin. We use health products as if we actually believe that our skin, our hair, our eyes and teeth, might somehow miraculously escape the truth of impermanence. The Buddhist teachings aspire to set us free from this limited way of relating. They encourage us to relax gradually and wholeheartedly into the ordinary and obvious truth of change. Acknowledging this truth doesn’t mean that we’re looking on the dark side. What it means is that we begin to understand that we’re not the only one who can’t keep it all together. We no longer believe that there are people who have managed to avoid uncertainty.”
From Jesus (Matthew 6:25-34): “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
Last week some of the upper elementary kiddos did a great math problem. We were talking about what it means to be a disciple (a follower of Jesus Christ).
Days in the week (7) multiply by hours per day (24) = 168 hours
They figured they spend about 3 hours a week at church. So, 168-3 = 165 hours.
Then they figured they sleep about 8 hours a night. S0 8 X 7 = 56
165 total not-in-the-church building hours minus 56 hours of sleep = 109 hours
109 hours is the number of hours each week that we are to be active disciples in the world.
So, what do you DO with your 109 hours? How do you ACT in your 109 hours? What do you THINK about? How do you EXPERIENCE this time?
We’ll be considering this question for the next few weeks.
We might think 109 hours –that’s a lot. That’s a lot of time serving others — and frankly a lot of time being actively loving and kind and … perhaps that might sound a bit tiring.
And it should sound like A LOT because it is. But is also shouldn’t sound like an impossible to accomplish number.
Being a disciple is all about serving God. And serving God should be about JOY.
What brings you JOY?
So the math problem for this week is:
X = One thing that representing the thing that brings you joy; X will always be 1 for this problem…
Y = the number of hours you do that thing in the a week
Z = total number of hours to think about how that thing that brings YOU joy is growing you as a disciple of Christ
(X)(Y) = Z
For example, for me,
X = running outside; Y = 3 hours a week
so (1)(3) = 3
So for my mighty 3 hours, my faith is strengthened through outside running. My senses are cleared. I’m grounded to the land through the strike of my foot on the pavement and the passing scenery. I’m connected to those around me by just witnessing who also uses the path. When I run, I give thanks for the strength to do just that, to live in a place where I feel safe and secure, and to be able to have the freedom in my day to spend working on my mental and physical health. In these 3 hours, I hope I’m renewed a bit to be a disciple in the world.
So, what brings you JOY? How does this JOY help you be a disciple of Christ?
Here’s the challenge:
Figure out what brings you joy! It can be lots of things. Take a picture of each thing. Then, think about how that thing helps your faith grow. When your faith is growing, you are growing as a disciple of Christ. Write a caption on the photo and email it to me or post it to the church Facebook page.
Here’s my example:
(And I’m clearly not a math teacher/ leader/ guide, so I hope the kiddos (or anyone) can help me come up with a more complex math problem)