Friday, November 27, 2020

How do you take your coffee?


Matthew 12:30

30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

It seems to me that some folks take this particular verse out of context and use it to create division and turmoil where none needs to exist. 

A case in point.  A young man who was arrested and arraigned on homicide charges was bailed out by a group of people with particular political views.   A few days later a photo of that young man was published, in which he was wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the name of a coffee company.  Immediately, the internet exploded with people either praising or chastising that coffee company for supporting the young man and his actions.  The coffee company released a statement in which they said they had no comment on an ongoing legal matter.  In effect they said, “Look folks.  We make coffee.  We support veterans.  We support law enforcement and the legal system. We advertise on conservative media outlets. That is who we are and what we do, and all we have to say.” 

The internet exploded again.   People on both ends of the political spectrum called them cowards and insisted they must take a stand.  Many threatened to stop buying their coffee.   A few said, “Hey people.  They make coffee.  That’s what they do.  They don’t have to weigh in on political issues.  All they have to do is make coffee.”

They do make good coffee.  I mean, they make REALLY GOOD coffee.  I got some for Christmas last year and immediately subscribed to get coffee from them every month.  I worried a bit for a minute because their roasts are named for weapons and have pictures of guns and grenades and such on them, but so far as I can tell - they are veterans, they do a great deal to help veterans, they like guns, and they make good coffee.  That’s it.  

But to all those others on both extremes of the political spectrum it was all about “if you are not with me, you are against me.”  None of them seem to realize that there is a whole nation of people who do not fall into either extreme, which is a very good thing.  Because Jesus was saying is

“no house divided against itself will stand.” Not “everyone who disagrees with me is my enemy.”  

Lord of unity, it is frustrating and upsetting to see people so angry over everything.  May we remember that you sent Jesus to heal the world.  May the peace of Christ prevail over the anger.  Amen

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

What’s next?

Matthew 24:36

But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

(Warning: I am going to take this verse completely out of context as it actually refers to the End of Days and I’m talking about the near future.)

This morning I am working on sermons and music responding to sermons and am being really frustrated by the whole “about that day and hour no one knows” when we will get back to in-person worship thing.  

IF we are still going to be worshipping online at the end of December THEN I can choose music we can sing as loudly and joyfully as we wish in our own homes.

BUT if we are going to be worshipping in person, then I must choose music we will not be tempted to bellow out because there will be no congregational singing or other verbal responses allowed.

I really like knowing what I am supposed to be planning for.  When we return to the sanctuary our worship service will be different in many ways than what we are used to, but that’s to be expected.  The difficulty I am running into is not knowing when that is going to happen.  We don’t know how long the current surge in coronavirus cases will last, so we don’t know when we will return to our sanctuary.  I really dislike not knowing.

And that’s kind of funny because I really don’t have any way of knowing for sure what’s going to happen tomorrow, or even later today.  The future is unknown.  I have to just deal with what I have in front of me right this minute.  Oh, I can plan for what I think might happen tomorrow, with the assumption that tomorrow will be about the same as today.  But I have to be ready to make changes if things go differently than I anticipate.  

About that day and hour, no one knows.  I certainly don’t.

Patient God, I know that the future is in your hands, not mine, but I’m really not good at not being able to plan.  Help me to be more accepting of the possibility of sudden radical change in what I expect for tomorrow, and better at trusting that when you are in charge all will be well.  Amen.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Lost and Found

James 4:8 NRSV. 

Draw near to God, and God will draw near to you.

I hear people say things like, “I found God!”  My immediate response is “God is not the one who was lost.”  I do usually keep that thought to myself, as snark is not always appreciated. 

Also, I kind of know what they are talking about.

In my case, it wasn’t so much that I “found” God. Rather, I discovered that God was not who I thought God was.  I had never stopped believing in God, or God’s omnipresence or omnipotence.  I just refused to allow God into my heart.  I refused to worship that God, or even hang out with people who believed in a God who was so hateful and angry that humans would be condemned to the flames because they worshipped differently or loved differently or enjoyed sexual relations or used birth control or . . .  If God only loved people who worshipped perfectly and were perfectly obedient, and even then set tests to trap them into wrongdoing, then I wanted nothing to do with God.  

With the help of some very loving people, I began to change my understanding of God.  I began to tentatively reach out in God’s general direction.  My heart began to expand to include this God I was beginning to trust.  If I were to describe God’s role in that time in my life, I would have to liken it to the way one gently attracts a feral cat in the back yard, quietly waiting for it to try the food and come back for more, until it is willing to come sniff your fingers and eventually allow itself to be petted.  I was like that cat, wanting to trust but not being entirely certain this God person was safe.   It took time, but eventually I was willing to trust God with my life.  

Draw near to God . . . just as that feral cat in my back yard slowly came closer to me, so did I slowly draw near to God.  The closer I got the more I noticed that I could feel God’s presence around me.  I no longer understood God’s omnipresence only as an intellectual exercise.  Now I knew for sure that God is always where ever I was, always near, always watching as a shepherd watches the flock.  

Holy God, today I know that you are close to me in every situation, and I am grateful for that.  I thank you for allowing me to come to you, for your patience in waiting until I was ready, and for your loving care over my life even when I wasn’t willing to come to you.  Through Jesus Christ, Amen.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Endure Joyfully

Colossians 1:11-12. NRSV

May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.

Lately we have been hearing a lot about something called “Covid Fatigue.” This is not to be confused with the fatigue that is one of the symptoms of Covid19.  Covid Fatigue is more like cabin fever.  After 8 months of lock downs and restrictions and statistics and arguments over masks and all of that, we are just tired of it all.  But . . . I live in Fresno County in California.  Our positivity rate and rate of hospitalizations has been increasing so we have just been put back in the most restrictive tier with no clue when the numbers will come back down.  They have even instituted mandatory mask wearing outdoors (if you are near humans) and a curfew from 10pm to 5am.  

The change in our tier status means among other things, there is to be no in-person, indoor worship. And we were this close to coming back to worship in our sanctuary.  We were planning to gather in person on November 29th, the First Sunday of Advent.  We had it all planned.  *sigh*   

Some people have had enough.  They have decided they are done with all that staying home stuff.  They are going to family Thanksgivings anyway. They are going to gather indoors for worship anyway.   They justify these decisions by saying things like, “You can’t hide from the virus.  Everyone is going to catch it anyway so you might as well get it over with.” And my personal favorite, “The Sheriff announced they would not be enforcing these restrictions.” 

I get being impatient, I really do.  Paul did, too.  So he suggests that we endure with patience, upheld by God’s strength.  He says that we should give thanks to God joyfully for being there to strengthen us, for being our rock when we are unsteady.

I really would like to get a pedicure and go shopping for myself and go to church in person and hug my friends.  But it’s not time for those things yet.  So I need to do this shelter in place thing a little longer - one more day, at least.  I will be patient, and give thanks to God for that patience and the strength to endure one more day . . .until finally the restrictions are dropped, the danger is lessened, and the time is right. 

Holy God, I am so tired of being in the house.  I miss driving my cute little car, and getting my nails done, and eating in restaurants. I miss being with my church family. I miss being able to worship in our beautiful sanctuary.  Strengthen me, I pray, to endure the loss of these things for another day, and remind me that where ever I am, there you are also.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

The day everything changed


Psalm 100:4 NRSV

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

    and his courts with praise.

    Give thanks to him, bless his name.

I have been in the practice of making a daily gratitude list for most of the last 31 years.   I started this practice when a 12 Step sponsor directed me to do this early in my recovery and have continued - with some interruptions - from then until now.  Some days it is easy to come up with 10 things that I am grateful for, and some days it is a struggle to get past “I woke up clean today.”

Today was one of the really easy days. 

Thirty one years ago today I woke up in the rehab to which I had admitted myself the day before.  Well, I say woke up, but I had actually sat on my bed most of the night reading the books they had given me.  Those two books, the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text,  were my introduction to the Twelve Steps.  The Twelve Steps were my introduction to the God that the Psalmist proclaims.  That introduction (eventually) led me to return to Church, and then to college and seminary and the ordained ministry.  I have heard it said that the Twelve Steps lead to the back door of the Church, and I believe that is true.   At least, it was true for me.

Today I am grateful for so many things that I could keep naming them all day long and not reach the end of the list.  But the thing I am most grateful for is having come to believe in God the way I understand God today.  Unlike the God I was taught about growing up, this God didn’t punish me by making me go through all the bad things, but had to allow me to exercise the gift of free will and then watch as I made one bad choice after another and suffer the consequences of those choices.  This God stood ready to embrace me as soon as I was ready to turn toward the right way of living. This God stood ready to forgive the minute I asked to be forgiven.  This God loved me no matter what I did, and still does, and always will.  And I am so grateful.

Every day I give thanks to God, and praise God’s name.  Every day I am grateful for the gifts and blessings God has poured out upon me.  But today I am extra grateful, because today is the anniversary of the day I started to let God guide my life, even though I didn’t yet believe.

Loving and forgiving God, I thank you for the gift of life, the gift of recovery, and the gift of coming to believe in you, who is all good and deserving of all my thanks and praise.  In the name of Jesus, the Christ.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Unity, not uniformity


Psalm 133:1

How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!


Sometimes I hear people speak of Unity in such a way that I am tempted to quote Inigo Montoya in Princess Bride: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”. Some people seem to think unity means everyone agrees on everything.  That is unanimity.  Unity is altogether different. Unity means we agree on our purpose.  

Members of 12 Step programs know that our primary purpose is to carry the message of recovery to those still suffering.  There are a lot of things we disagree on, like how meetings should run, what readings we should use and how to celebrate recovery birthdays.  But we all agree that the most important thing we do is tell others that they don’t have to suffer any more, and that there is a place where they will be welcomed and loved.

Members of Christian congregations know that our primary purpose is to carry the Good News to all the world.  We may not agree on lots of things, like what worship should look like, how baptism works, how to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, and whether women can be ministers.  But we all agree that Jesus told us to go out to care for everyone who needs to be cared for, tell everyone in the world about salvation through Jesus Christ, and invite them into a place where they will be welcomed and loved.  

One of the best real life examples of Christian Unity I have ever witnessed is the Bringing Neighbors Together program in Selma.  A lot of local congregations come together to plan and run Block Parties in underserved neighborhoods in cooperation with the Selma PD and various social service agencies.  We have widely different understandings of theology and practice, but none of that is important when we are working to make life better for the people who come to the Block Parties.  It is very good and pleasant to work together in Unity of purpose despite our many differences. 

Unity should be simple.  And it is. It just is not easy.  Being willing to work together even though we disagree on some issues can be really difficult.  But if we are to accomplish our purpose, then we need to put aside personal prejudices and resentments so we can come together to do the necessary work - whatever that work might be.

God of all persons, we know we are to strive for unity, but it is not easy to get past differences and disagreements.   May we receive the willingness to put aside our differences so we may work together to do the work of reconciling all the people of the earth with you and with each other.  Amen

Tuesday, November 17, 2020



John 8:36   (First Egalitarian Translation) 

So if the heir — The Only Begotten — makes you free, you will be free indeed.


Freedom is a big deal.  

In the US we have a great many freedoms that are not enjoyed in some other parts of the world.  We are free to practice whatever religious tradition we adhere to or none at all.  We are free to speak our mind about any subject, even criticize our government.  We are free to gather to celebrate or protest pretty much anything.  We are free to dress as we please.  To a certain extent, we are free to choose our career path.  We are free to have as many children as we choose.  

There are other kinds of freedom as well.  This week I will be celebrating 31 years of freedom from active addiction.  The air we breathe is free.  We may freely enjoy the beauty of the earth and sky.  We are all blessed with the gift of free will.  I have the freedom to read and use lots of different translations of the Bible.  (Today I am using one I just purchased last week - determinedly non-gender specific.) 

Sociologists will say our freedom of will is limited, as our choices are determined in large part by a whole slew of factors we might not have any control over - race, gender, age, other people’s choices, etc.   And that is totally correct.  However, we can make the choices between right and wrong, or God’s will and my will regardless of those factors so long as we are sane.  In Jesus’ time a person who was not sane was generally considered to be possessed by a demon or an evil spirit.  Even back then it was clear that the insane person was not operating of their own free will, but by the direction of that evil spirit.  Sanity returned when the demon or spirit was sent out of the body. (We rarely have to chase evil spirits or demons from persons or cleanse them from places these days.  It does happen, but not as often.)

Jesus told his disciples that whoever sinned was a slave to sin, and whoever chose to follow him would know freedom from sin.  Just as I make the choice daily to continue in my recovery, so too the choice to follow Jesus is a choice that is made every day, and every time a decision has to be made.  I have the choice between right and wrong, my will and God’s will.  Choosing to follow Jesus each day makes discerning God’s will easier, and that makes choosing the right easier.  

Holy God, help me to always choose Jesus and freedom whenever a decision has to be made.  Amen.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Stress and Joy

Psalm 119:143. CEB

Stress and strain have caught up with me, but your commandments are my joy!

^This ^  This is exactly right on point today. 

In COVID time, everyone is dealing with stress and strain.  We are all living in an artificial environment, one where physical closeness is discouraged, social events also.  In addition to remembering our keys and wallet when we go out, now we also have to remember our mask.  We have to be careful about where we go and who we spend time with and even how much time we spend with people who are not part of our “bubble.”.   Our usual schedules and routines have been trashed.  People who are accustomed to going out to work every day now sit at home, and may or may not have work to do.  People who are accustomed to having their children go out to school every day now not only have to keep the children home, but have to be their school teachers as well!  We are seeing more and more notices on FaceBook and Twitter from friends who are sick, or whose families are sick, or have lost loved ones.  It is no wonder that depression is running rampant.

“...your commandments are my joy”.  

The one thing that keeps me going is God’s commandment to love.  Love God, love the neighbor, love self.  I try to focus on how (or whether) each thing that I do is loving one or more of those.  Writing blog posts, answering emails and prayer requests, sending cards to friends and church members, studying and preaching are ways I love others.  Writing gratitude lists, doing household tasks, maintaining a routine, cuddling my cats, spending time in prayer and meditation and “attending” worship on YouTube are ways I love myself. And all of these are ways I love God, because demonstrating love for the other and myself are how we love God. 

Mind you, there are plenty of days when I am not very loving of anyone, when I can’t seem to put two words together on paper, or wash the dishes, or find anything to be grateful for, when I am more focused on what is wrong than what is good.  There are even days when I don’t want to get up to feed the Cats.  Those are the days when I lean even more heavily on those commandments, because no matter what I want to at least try to be obedient to God.   My daily morning prayer is a request that God take my will and my life and guide me through the day.  (Also, that the Cat standing on my neck will get off so I can go feed them.)

I have no idea when life will change back to something more like what we were used to in the Before Time.  But until it does, I will keep trying to do as God would have me do - love God and self and others - one day at a time.

Loving God, this is a strange time to be living.  Everything we are accustomed to has been shaken up and moved around and made barely recognizable.  We talk about a “new normal” but that doesn’t even really exist yet because everything keeps changing.  Help us, we pray, to do the things that are demonstrations of our love for you, for our neighbor and for ourselves, that we might come through the other side strengthened by the challenge.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Judges 4:1-3

The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, after Ehud died. So the Lord sold them into the hand of King Jabin of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; the commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-ha-goiim. Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help;

Seven times.  Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord SEVEN times!  After they did the evil thing (more often than not, worshipping some other god) the Lord put them into the hands of some conqueror or other, and they cried out for help.  And then not only did God forgive them, but sent a Judge to save them! 

I find this repeated willingness of God to forgive Israel so comforting.  Yes, they paid consequences for their actions, but when that was done and they asked God for help, the help was forthcoming.  They were forgiven over and over again. 

I find it comforting because it tells me that I, too, will be forgiven.  I will face consequences. I will need to own up to what I have done, and ask forgiveness.  But when those things have taken place, I, too, will be forgiven.

So in Matthew 18:21 when Peter came to Jesus and said, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” the reply had to be Yes. Even seven times seven times.  Because if God could forgive Israel seven times, who chased after other gods forgetting all that the Lord had done for her, then surely I can forgive some much lesser sin against me at least that often.

Forgiveness may be the greatest of all the blessings the Lord showers upon us.  Forgiveness is love wrapped up in grace and mercy, poured out by a compassionate God.  It is a healing balm, the water of reconciliation, washing away our guilt and fear.  And for this, I am so grateful.

Forgiving God, just as you forgave Israel every time she wandered away from you, so too you have forgiven me.  And so too I must forgive those who sin against me.  May I keep in mind the depth of your love for me and all your people whenever I am asked to forgive.  Amen

Friday, November 13, 2020

Who do you love?

 1 John 4:11 NIV

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Matthew 22:39. And the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself.

Leviticus 19:18 Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

Today’s reading was the one from 1st John*.  Love one another.  I like that one, a lot.  I preach on that a lot.  I tend to focus primarily on “Love your neighbor” because loving someone else, even someone I don’t like very much, is the easy part.  It’s loving myself that’s hard.  

I can do “treat others as I want to be treated” pretty easily.  But loving myself. . . that’s a whole different story.  There are a gazillion reasons I have trouble loving myself.  Some result from the PTSD I live with from being a rape survivor and a domestic violence survivor, but I have been fairly successful at using coping mechanisms to improve those particular symptoms.   Most, however, are not what some people would consider valid reasons, but have been deeply seated in my self image from childhood.  

Thirty years ago my sponsor directed me to write “I love you, Maria” in lipstick on a full length mirror, and say that to myself every day while looking into my own eyes in the mirror.  She had me do that for a year and it did help.  Some.  The next year she had me write “You are worthy of good things” on that mirror.  The following year it was “God loves you just the way you are today.”  

Knowing that God loves me just as I am today helps so much.  That means that God loves me even when I am criticizing myself and listening to those negative voices in my head and having a panic attack (or asthma attack) in situations where I feel unsafe. God loves me on my good days and my bad days, on the days when I accomplish everything I wanted to do and days when I barely managed to dress myself, on the days when I feel really creative and days when I can’t put two words together.  

Since God so loves us, we also ought to love ourselves.  Even though that might be hard to do.

Loving God, knowing that you love me really helps.  Knowing that you love me just as I am on any given day, even though some days I am better than other days - more spiritual, more loving, more focused on you - helps.  May I learn to love myself better and more fully, in Jesus’ name.  Amen

* this was actually yesterday’s reading, but I found this really hard to write.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Going forward in hope


1 Timothy 4:10 NIV

10 That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.


I have decorative items all over my house that say “Hope.” Candle holders and wall hangings and carved wooden letters that sit on the piano.  Hope is one of the first spiritual principles that I knowingly practiced when I was coming to understand my relationship with God.  I had hope that I could come to believe that God was the loving, forgiving, justice-seeking, compassionate God my friends knew.

I never really had a problem with Jesus.  I knew Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, sent to save the world.  I knew Jesus loved me.   It was the Father I had trouble with.  In my head I knew that the problems I had with God weren’t really about God, but about the people who taught me about God.  But I had a hard time getting my heart on board.  It is said that the longest journey is from the head to the heart, and I can attest to that truth.

When I said I wasn’t sure that I believed all the good stuff people were telling me about God, someone said to me, “Can you believe that I believe?” Well, yes.  I could do that.  She was one of the most loving people I had ever met.  She was convinced that prayer made a difference, and taught me what it meant to really pray.  She taught me that instead of just reciting words that I had memorized I could simply speak to God as if God was a person sitting in front of me. I tried that, even though I wasn’t sure I believed.  I had hope that what she told me would work.  It wasn’t all that long before I started feeling as if someone was listening, and in a little while I began to believe.

No longer was God some old guy on a throne waiting for me to do something wrong.  In my heart God was now someone who is real and involved in my life, willing to listen, helping me to make decisions, helping me to grow as a spiritual being.  A living God, in whom I have placed my hope.

God of hope, thank you for putting the people in my life who taught me to know you as a loving and merciful God.  Thank you for your patience with me as I came to believe in your forgiveness and compassion.  May the hope I have for the transformation of our world into your beloved community stay with me for all of my days.  Amen.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Hasten to me, O God.


Psalm 70:4-5

4 Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you. Let those who love your salvation say evermore, "God is great!"

5 But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay!

There were 43 new cases of Covid19 in Selma this past week.

This whole pandemic thing has me way too stressed out today.  I was in a meeting where we were discussing going back to in-person worship and in-person committee meetings and the entire time I was freaking out.  I’ve still only been out of the house a few times since mid-March - 3 times for church stuff and once to the doctor.  The doctor is happy I am staying home and sending someone to the store for me because she knows what shape my lungs are in.  I want to go back to in-person worship - and sing! - as much as anyone, but I don’t want to be in danger and I don’t want anyone else to be endangered.  I am quite sure that the people who are most vulnerable will be the first ones in the door, even though they are the last ones who should show up.

I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God!  You are my help and my deliverer.”

I know all the sayings about worrying and faith.  And truly, if I could just stay inside - if ALL of the people at most risk would just stay inside and follow the guidelines we have been given by the California Department of Health and Dr. Fauci I would be fine.  I would not have any worries.  But it is so hard not to worship in community, and not to be the person leading that worship.  

People say, “Well, it seems like it should be safe if we do thus and so.” Perhaps.  But I think that if we have to ask whether something is safe it probably is not.  

I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God!  You are my help and my deliverer.”

So we will worship in person during Advent and thereafter, God willing and the Covid cases in Fresno County don’t rise.  I will continue to attend meetings by Zoom or Facetime.  I will work on my worries and fears, knowing that God is great.  And knowing that no matter what, we will be ok.  

God, you are great and worthy of all praise.  You are my help and my deliverer, my fortress and my rock.  May my fears be eased through the touch of your hand, and may my heart know peace through your son, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Hi Family.


Mark 3:32-35. NRSV

A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” 33 And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

My first reaction when I read these verses this morning was, “But Mary did the will of God, or you wouldn’t be here.  How can you say she isn’t your mother?”.  I mean, Mary is pretty much the poster child for doing God’s will.  Then I realized Jesus didn’t say anything like that.  He wasn’t rejecting his blood relatives. He was teaching a lesson expanding the definition of family.  But I heard rejection.  My first reaction was to jump to conclusions and get defensive on Mary’s behalf.  

I wonder if Mary and Jesus’ brothers heard the same thing I did.  There’s no way to know, of course.  Mark and the other Gospel writers didn’t record their response to Jesus’ words.  For all we know, Jesus come over and gave them all hugs, then had dinner with them while they all discussed the family of God as an expansion on the family of Joseph.  Or the other way, the family of Joseph as a microcosm of the family of God.  

When I started attending 12 Step meetings I heard people begin their sharing with “Hi Family.”  It took a while for me to understand why they said that but eventually I came to realize that I often felt closer to these people than to some of my blood relations.  We had a common purpose.  We were dedicated to helping each other heal and grow.  We shared a set of beliefs that revolved around a loving God.  Over a period of time this group became family, and that family was so extended that where ever I traveled from then on, I could find family members who would accept me just as I was.  This doesn’t mean that my family of birth wasn’t still my family.  It just means that my family had gotten much larger.

I think that’s kind of the point Jesus was making that day.  Not that Mary and his brothers were no longer family, but that the family had grown to include everyone whose desire it was to obey God’s will.  We might not all agree on tradition or practice or even what God’s will is on any given topic. We might even fight as siblings often do.  But we are all siblings, God’s beloved children, one family in Christ.

God our Father, thank for this family you have welcomed us into.  May we always remember that even in our differences we are all your children.  Let us reject no one who follows you, but welcome all into that same family of Christ.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Love and Patience


Romans 8:25 NIV

But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Proverbs 16:32 NIV

Better a patient person than a warrior,

    one with self-control than one who takes a city.

Just For Today: November 4

“...we give love because it was given so freely to us.  New frontiers are open to us as we learn how to love.  Love can be the flow of life energy from one person to another.”

These are three of my daily readings this morning - two on patience, one on loving one another.   This seems to me to be a really good combination of readings for today.  It is even better when I remember that none of these were chosen with the actual events of yesterday and today, as all of these were scheduled for November 4th decades ago.  Patience and love do seem to fit together.

Paul said, “Love is patient. Love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”  1 Corinthians 13:4

Every so often a day comes along when both patience and love are needed even more than usual and on a much larger scale than usual.  Today, I think, is one of those days.  Today, I think, is one of those days when my best choice will be to pray and meditate, at least for a few hours, with or without a cat on my lap.  Candles burning, music playing, salt lamp lit . . . purifying the air and my spirit so that patience and love will come more easily.

Perhaps you will join me, if you are so inclined. Pray for our nation, pray for the Church, pray for peace.  

Loving God, may patience and love be intertwined in my spirit this day.  May the peace of Christ pour out upon all persons this day.  May hatred be washed away and may all persons  be reconciled to you and to each other.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Give Peace a chance


Zechariah 7:9-10. NIV

 “This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’

Today is Election Day.  I keep reading that this is potentially the most important election of our lives.  Of course, I have heard that before, most recently in 2008 when Barak Obama was elected, receiving 69.5 million votes, more than any other president has ever received.  This year the sheer number of voters participating in the election looks like it may very well be the largest ever voter turnout.  

Whoever wins - and we probably won’t know for sure for at least a few days, possibly weeks if any of the states require a re-count as Florida did in 2000 - it is pretty certain that the results will upset a lot of folks.  Some people are seriously frightened about the aftermath of this election.  A friend of a friend purchased a handgun the other day for self protection “when the civil war begins the day after the election”.  This person has never owned or even fired a weapon before, so I find this a bit disturbing and yes, even frightening, in a couple of ways.  One - a person without any training at all in firearm safety is not someone I would want to have walking around with a handgun in her purse.  Two - civil war?   People seriously believe there will be a civil war no matter who wins!?! 

I don’t get it.  What part of “love one another” do we have so much trouble with?  How is it possible to have this much anger?  Why is it we cannot stop yelling long enough to actually listen to each other?  

“. . .show mercy and compassion to one another. . . Do not plot evil against each other.” 

God of mercy, we are in a frightening place right now. We seem to disagree about everything.  Violence and threats of violence by ordinary citizens have become common in our news reporting.  May we cultivate patience when things seem to take too long to come to resolution, willingness to listen to one another, and a desire for peace. Amen. 

Sunday, November 1, 2020

In the Cloud

Hebrews 12:1-2a (NRSV) 

Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. 

Today is All Saints Day.  This morning as I read All Saints Day meditations and sermons written by other pastors I realized anew just how blessed we have been here at FCC Selma. Unlike so many colleagues, I don’t have a list of people lost to the coronavirus who will be mourned today.  I only have a very short list of people who continue to wait until it is safe to gather for a loved one’s memorial service.

Only a few of our folks have tested positive for Covid19, and they remained symptom free until their tests came back negative two weeks later.  One older member was hospitalized with Covid, and just a few days later was sent to recover at the nursing home where he lives.  To the best of my knowledge, there has been only one death due to Covid in an extended  family connected with First Christian, and one hospitalization.  

Mind you, we are a fairly small group of people - only around 100 people in a city of 25,000.  And that city has had only 1,600 people test positive for the virus as of Thursday. Not that everyone in the city has been tested, of course.  Most of the people who have been tested did so because they have symptoms, they have been exposed, or they are required to test for their jobs.  Most of the rest of us have not.  

On this All Saints Day, let us pray earnestly for all of the congregations who have lost saints to this pandemic.  Let us continue running the race strengthened with hope, and unburdened with the sins that would weigh us down in this particular time - the sins of  despair, frustration, anger, self-pity, and fear.  Let us take our example from that great cloud of witnesses surrounding us, looking to Jesus in faith.

Loving God, on this All Saints Day we give you thanks for the saints you have put into our lives, for those who have gone before and those who are still with us.  May we follow in their footsteps as we continue to run the race of life, and keep as our goal life in your kingdom on earth.  Amen