Texts: Matthew 1:18-25; Romans 1:1-7
“Of the Father’s Love Begotten,” one of my favorite childhood hymns, would always move me deeply. “Begotten,” what is begot? I actually looked it up: it’s bringing into being, birthing, it’s creating. The participle form is begetting. We do a lot of begetting in this congregation, a lot of creating of new things. Love—if we’re thinking about love today—may be the Presence, the beginning, middle & end to our entire Christian Story. So, where does an experience of God’s love, as this chant evokes, from the 4th Century, come from? Can we grow in understanding the origin and essence of God’s love in us, in and among us?
The kind of awe, mystery and opening of my heart that that particular chant evokes is something I felt as a child—not even understanding the words entirely. I still feel chills every year, up and down my spine, whenever we sing that. I don’t understand why.
December 15, 2019
Texts: Isaiah 35
Psalm 146: 5-10
Hope, Peace, Joy and Love: the Advent themes are ones that invite us to reflect and go deeper. They are threads that move through our lives as followers of Jesus. Three of them are what Paul names as the fruit of the Spirit: love, peace and joy (Galatians 5:22-23). They invite us into the reign of God, into God’s tapestry. We are to take up our needles and threads and weave our lives as people of God, hard and never-ending work. Our scriptures for today call us to Joy, but we can’t honestly reflect on joy without naming its opposite--suffering & tragedy.
December 8, 2019
Psalm 85: 8-13
Romans 15: 4-13
We are in the Second Sunday of Advent. Advent is all about watching and waiting; imagining and dreaming. The colors for Advent are purple or deep blue. For some these colors reflects the color of the autumn's night lit by moon and stars. The days are short, and the nights are long. The moon is called traditionally Cold Moon. The Old English/Anglo-Saxon name is the Moon Before Yule.
These long nights are fertile ground for dreaming and imagining the advent themes of hope, peace, joy, and love. Last Sunday, Ann Barnet taught about Hope with its emphasis of keeping awake and living in expectation. Next week we explore the theme of Joy with Marcia. This Sunday, the theme is Peace with its dream of harmony as a Peaceable Kingdom.
In today's scripture reading, Isaiah announces the coming of the Prince of Peace to the Hebrew people:
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse... The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge.... He shall judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor and decide with equity for the meek of the earth. (NRIV).
December 1, 2019
This grey and rainy Sunday is a good one to reflect on what causes us to hope. We’ve lost a pillar of our community, Fred Taylor. My faithful co-mission group member, Joe Collier, died a few weeks ago. My foster-son Arthur died unexpectedly on November 12th. Maria just lost her mother. Eleanor is grieving over the death of her niece. And so it goes.
A few weeks ago Fred Taylor and I talked by phone about this teaching. He said that he hoped he could attend in person. That was not to be, but I truly believe he is here in spirit. Fred was a person of radiant inspiring hope. He found hope in this community.
November 17, 2019
One day at a time, sweet Jesus
That's all I ask of You
Just give me the strength to do
What I have to do
Yesterday's gone, sweet Jesus
And tomorrow is a vision of happiness
Lord, help me today, show me the way
One day at a time
When reading through today's scriptures, what really leapt out to me is their focus on covenant renewal — on relationship renewal. Since we know that God is always pursuing and reaching out and longing for relationship with us, it's only common sense that cultivating renewed relationship with God is really up to us. It's our decision to extend our hands, our lives and our hearts to God. This is what is meant in Mark 1:15, "“The time has come,” … “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent (originally metanoeo, meaning change one's mind or think differently) and believe the good news!”
November 12, 2019
‘You could have knocked me over with a feather!”
“You have led me down the primrose path!”
“The evil plan he proposed ‘stinks to high heaven’!
Hey, you understand what I’ve just said; but if you were an Aramaic Jew, a Semite, of Jesus time, it would be nonsense to you.
Coming from another direction, many years ago I did community organizing for the Church of the Saviour. We had a group of concerned people gather at the Potters House to plan for a day care center. As I remember, nothing had been said about teaching children the Bible, but one of the outspoken women declared that, when it is taught, it will be literally taught word for word! None of this messing around with interpretations.
November 3, 2019
Good Morning 8th Day Friends! I was asked by the Servants Group to do one of this Fall’s first Sunday teachings on “CALL” for this month. As you recall, David Hilfiker gave the first one last month. I will share some of my personal experiences with call, but I also think we need to think of call in the context of community and even a corporate “community call.” In the C of S, call has been received in general by individuals who then call a group together to work out and fulfill that call. We also speak often of “my call” or “her call” to a specific vocation or ministry. However, both in the Bible and historically in Church of the Saviour, communities are called to act together.
In the story of Exodus, for instance, the Hebrew people were called by God, and led by Moses as a community, to leave the land of Pharaoh and go into the desert and eventual freedom. When Gordon led the way into the “New Land” of the Church of the Savior in 1975-76, communities were encouraged to form around a corporate community call. For instance, Seekers was formed around the call of FLOC and I believe that 8th Day was focused strongly on the Polycultural Institute, and later became involved with the Sanctuary movement. These calls were specific responses to a critical time in both the Hebrew nation and our nation’s history. I believe we have such a critical time now in our country, and that it would be well for us to think about what our corporate call is for 8th Day. Perhaps we are to rally around the call to Bridges to Democracy which was issued recently. Perhaps we need to consider that as a community we address the ultimate existential crisis of climate change or combat racism which seems to be especially visible and vitriolic in our country now. I have some specific thoughts about this which I will share later.
October 27, 2019
What does a life of prayer without ceasing look like?
The hymn we just sang was originally a poem called ‘Pray Without Ceasing.’ It was written by Joseph Scriven who was born in Ireland in 1820 to wealthy parents. At 25 he was to be married but his fiancé drowned the night before their wedding. Comforted and allured by the theology, he joined the Brethren church and as a result, had conflicts with his parents who were probably Catholic, maybe Anglican. Subsequently he emigrated to Canada. At the age of 35, he learned of his mother dying back in Ireland and wrote the poem ‘Pray without Ceasing’ for his mother and sent it to her in Ireland. At the age of 40, he fell in love again and was due to be married until his fiancé died unexpectedly of pneumonia. At the age of 66, depressed and being watched around the clock by friends, he snuck out of his room at night and they found his drowned body on the edge of the lake nearby.
Charles Converse, born 1834 in Massachusetts, wrote the music for the poem which became the hymn "What a Friend We Have in Jesus.'