April 2018

Walking, talking, breaking bread (Please read Luke 24:1-35) Two travelers are talking with each other as they walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus when another traveler comes along and asks what they’re talking about… “Are you the only one around who doesn’t know all the things that have been happening in Jerusalem?” they ask. “What things?” he asks. “Things about Jesus, of course,” they say – launching into telling the story of Jesus of Nazareth “a mighty prophet of God – the one we had hoped might be the Messiah of Israel – the one we had hoped would deliver us from captivity and oppression. The one in whom we had hoped all our highest hopes…” “But he was crucified and laid in the tomb. He had told us more than once he would be executed… We didn’t really believe that…. He had said he’d be raised from the dead on the third day…We had hoped so… We didn’t really believe that, but…We had hoped…. But now the third day’s almost over. And we had hoped… But now… all we have for all our hopes is just a strange report from some of the women of our group who went to the tomb early this morning and came back saying the tomb was empty – saying they’d seen a vision of angels who told them he was risen… And… We didn’t believe that…” “How very foolish…” the stranger walking with them says. “How very slow you are to remember all the prophets have said about the Messiah and how he must suffer…  before coming into his glory…” And the stranger talks with them… all the rest of the seven mile journey to Emmaus, opening the scriptures to them and teaching them what is written about the Messiah… And as they come near the village of Emmaus… the man walks a little faster, straight ahead, as if he’s going to walk on by himself. But they insist: “Stay with us, it’s getting dark, day’s almost done.” And he does. And now at table, it’s as if he, the stranger, is suddenly their host – as he takes bread, blesses, and breaks the bread… And they recognize him in the breaking of the bread…. **** Imagine – walking with your main teacher and guide in life – the one in whom you have put your hope and trust in – and as he’s talking about himself in the third person explaining all about himself – we’re not recognizing him for the whole seven miles we’re walking together… (I’m a relatively fast walker and it takes me more than two hours to walk seven miles.) But let’s cut these travelers some slack. Probably they were so deeply disappointed about Jesus being gone, and all their hopes unfulfilled… that even his presence up close and personal… doesn’t quite register… And perhaps Jesus had his hoodie-sweatshirt pulled over up his hair and his dark sunglasses on. Perhaps he was disguising his voice a little – having a little fun, messing with his friends minds – testing their memories and powers of recognition. I expect these travelers were plenty embarrassed when they finally recognized Jesus. But – doesn’t sound like they allowed embarrassment to get in the way of their joy… As once they recognize Jesus...

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March 2018

I’d just heard news of the high school murders in Parkland, Florida as our Ash Wednesday service began. Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! Lord, hear my voice!…The Psalmist’s lament began our worship, marking the beginning of Lent’s forty days in the wilderness with Jesus, mourning our sins and turning to God for new life. As we do each year, we read scriptures, sang hymns, took time in silence to pray. We wrote sins and broken places in our lives on slips of paper. Then burned them in candle flame, giving them over to God…We prayed again in silence. And received ashes in the sign of the cross on our brows… Lent is a season of preparation… The way to resurrection life begins in the darkness of winter, in the shadow of human sin and death. Lent is a time for recommitting ourselves to following Jesus… as he leads us out from death…in the way of the cross. Lent is a beginning… not an end. On the first Sunday in Lent each year we revisit Jesus’s forty days in the wilderness, where he’s tempted and tested by Satan. Our own wilderness is different from Jesus’ wilderness, but we too inevitably face testing and tempting. We draw strength on this journey from Jesus, learning from him as we do our best to follow… Sharing in the sufferings of Christ, as Christ takes on the sufferings of the world… Especially in Lent, Jesus reminds us – if we are to be his followers we too must take up our cross, deny ourselves, and follow him. Every year this can seem as daunting as ever. Yet as we persist in asking Jesus’ help, we learn again… Though the way is difficult… The cross of Jesus is far gentler than all the world has to offer. For it is only in the cross and resurrection of Jesus that the sins, the sufferings, the death of this world is transformed… into new creation Life. And even though forty days is really not long enough, at least not for me… to be really ready for all that lies ahead… Soon we arrive at Palm Sunday… with crowds waving palm branches and shouting hosannas…barely noticing the cross looming ahead… On Holy Thursday we will be with Jesus at his last supper as he’s breaking bread and washing feet and giving us last reminders…So soon, Good Friday – the darkest of days… Yet in Christ’s strange, paradoxical gospel…Here is the completion of his work…as Jesus says from the cross “It is finished.” Lent is a new beginning. Not the end. May we continue to walk with Him, trusting in his steadfast love, mercy, grace and hope. May His Presence bless us all the way…into his fullness of Life. -Pastor...

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July/August 2017 – Summer’s here and the time is right…

Summer’s here and the time is right… And even if I’m not quite as ready for dancing in the streets to Martha and the Vandellas as I once-upon-a-time was, I still like to sing the song, retrofitting words to fit the current activity – whether walking on the beach – visiting and being visited – watching birds – catching fish – being in the garden – or working the usual work at a bit slower pace… Taking a little more time, most of all, for listening for God. Summer’s here and the time is right… And the time is also short. Before we know it we’ll be back in many of our usual routines – our younger generations a year further along in school or career – others of us a year further along in work or retirement. For many of us, time really does go by so very quickly… And slowing down and listening longer for the still small voice of God’s Spirit is the one thing I know… that really consistently helps to cool the heat on the hot days, warm our hearts on the chillier nights. And when, thanks be to God, I have been able to slow down, even a little, I always seem to find myself more grateful… This summer I’m especially thankful for some new and expanding ministries in our parish. Thankful for a new prayer group that’s begun meeting in Bourne. All of us who’ve participated so far have shared our feelings of being very blessed in our time together. We’re presently meeting on the last Wednesday of the month (10 a.m. in downstairs nursery room). (We may adjust this schedule; please keep an eye out for announcements.) Thanks very much to Pastor Sandra Smith for starting and coordinating this ministry. I’m very thankful also for all our Thrift Shop volunteers and those who work on our children’s clothing exchange ministry. And for all who contribute items for the homeless and the Bourne Food Pantry. Early in July we hosted a community Yard Sale in Bourne, which gave us a chance to meet more neighbors. All these ministries of hospitality and outreach help us communicate some of our vision for ministry in the wider community. Please keep all in your prayers. I am always thankful for our children and their families, and for all who are part of our ministries with younger people. Once again we had Children’s Sunday in Bourne in June, with young people reading scripture and singing special music. This year we were also blessed by parents and grandparents who chose a passage of scripture that has special meaning for them, read the passage, and spoke about what it means for them. Thanks also for all the children who sang again the next Sunday in Cataumet. Our bible group is studying Genesis, using a short book, Genesis For Everyone by John Goldingay as a study help. Please let me know if you would like to join us when we re-start in early September. (I will be ordering volume two and would like to place one order for all.) Our New Members Group will also re-start in September. Let me know if you would like to join. We will be saying good-bye soon to Brittany Lord, our Administrative Secretary in...

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June 2017 – Garden variety parables

Our garden was in the ground and growing much earlier this year than last. Too early for some seeds, which never made it up through cold ground. A little early for others, who took their  time…waiting till ground warmed… before finally poking up above surface. Just right for collards, chard, kale, arugula – I’ve just harvested our first cut of greens. Some cukes, squash and beans are up… Tomatoes are in the ground, looking ok. The garden’s looking pretty good today. Although… I still sometimes wonder if time spent in the garden is worth it. So many other things that should also be done… are also crying out for my attention… But there is something about working with the soil that helps me connect more deeply with the biblical stories. Our bible group is reading and discussing Genesis, where we’ve been reminded the Hebrew word adam – meaning human – comes from the word adamah – meaning humus, earth, ground, or land. And in the beginning our first God-given work was simply gardening… In the gospels Jesus often speaks in parables using images and metaphors from agriculture. And in a recent session of our Bourne and Cataumet Worship Committees we heard suggestions for a sermon series on “contemporary parables.”  Which I’m contemplating now while close to the ground amidst seeds and weeds of the garden… Our lectionary reading schedule has us spending extended time in Matthew’s gospel this year, and chapter 13 of Matthew is one of the bible’s longest extended series of parables. The first and longest is often called “the parable of the sower” (though it seems more about soil than sower). The next and second-longest is the so-called parable of “wheat among weeds.” Followed then by a parable about mustard seed, another about buying a field, yet-another about baking bread with flour, the fruit of the field… (There’s also one about jewelry from shellfish – and yes, one about fishing… But I’m trying my best to not think about these till another day.) And all these parables, Jesus says, are about the kingdom of heaven. Go and figure. As I watch weeds starting to grow like topsy in our garden, I do catch myself liking the parable of the wheat and weeds growing together, where the owner of the field tells workers not to pull weeds till harvest, lest good wheat be pulled up with the weeds. It’s nice to feel like I’ve got heavenly permission to sit back and leave it to the harvest crew to sort out… Though I’m soon reminded… A parable is seldom intended to be taken literally. (Would it even be a parable if it was?) Remembering also I have a tendency to sometimes confuse gospel hope with wishful thinking…And remembering now the book on parables I read last winter – The Parables of The Kingdom, by Robert Farrar Capon, who writes: “Jesus spoke in strange, bizarre, disturbing ways. He balked at almost no comparison, however irreverent or unrefined. Apparently he found nothing odd about holding up, as a mirror to God’s ways, a mixed bag of questionable characters: an unjust judge, a savage king, a tipsy slave owner, an unfair employer, and even a man who gave help only to bona-fide pests. Furthermore, Jesus not only spoke in parables, he...

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May 2017 – The Art and the Artist of Creation

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.  And God said “Let there be light,” and there was light.  (Genesis 1:1-3, New International Version) In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was an empty waste, with darkness over the face of the deep, and God’s breath sweeping over the face of the water. But God said “Light!” And light came into being. (Genesis 1:1-3, Genesis for Everyone Translation) God has created all creation. And from the beginning, God’s grand work of creation is translated and interpreted. Much as bible translators must always make choices in the words they use to translate the original Hebrew words of Genesis into English (or into any other language), so we all make choices as we interpret creation. What do we see, hear, feel, smell and sense most in creation, any given moment, any given day? How do we interpret what we see and hear and feel? (Is this a miserable rainy cold day? Or a cool but welcome gentle Spring rain?) Close friends and family members can often interpret the same day’s weather differently… Bible translators generally attempt either word-by-word translation (called formal translation) or thought-by-thought translation (known as dynamic translation). Both approaches have merit. Most contemporary translations seek a balance between these two basic approaches, but judgement calls are always necessary. For example, the original Hebrew language of Genesis lacks punctuation – so every comma, question mark, period or exclamation point is always a translator’s judgement call. Excellent translators working within the same basic formal and/or dynamic translation approach will often translate the same Hebrew words differently (as we can see in the two translations of the first three verses of Genesis above). And most bible translators are comfortable using more than one good translation of the bible. And leaving aside for now consideration of scientific study of creation… Except to say science is a gift from God and science is a necessary part of life in this age and I can even picture God as the original Scientist of creation… But when I think of God and creation, I think mostly of God the Artist. God the Performance Artist, who sings forth creation, as vividly imagined by CS Lewis in his Narnia Chronicles. God, the Visual Artist, who sketches, paints, draws, and sculpts creation, day by day, aeon by aeon… Probably I’m thinking of God as Artist lately especially because our family visited Boston’s Museum of Fine Art last week. We saw a special exhibit of the work of the French artist Henri Matisse, famous for his creative mastery of color and form, well-known also for his working with  every day items – a vase, a pot, a pitcher, a bowl, a chair. Matisse would draw or paint these items surrounding a person or a view of nature seen through a window – using his collection of well-loved items to frame, reveal, or draw attention to a person or some aspect of a person or persons… Other times, humans appear to be more like the background, with these familiar objects of life as the foreground. Either way, Matisse...

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April 2017 – What makes Jesus weep? (What makes him smile?)

Jesus weeps with his close friends Mary and Martha of Bethany, as they weep over the death of their brother Lazarus. And here in one of the bible’s shortest verses – Jesus wept (John 11:35) we have one of the bible’s larger mysteries. The death and resurrection of Lazarus looks a lot like a rehearsal for Jesus’ own death and resurrection.  And Jesus knows he will raise Lazarus from the dead. Just as he knows he himself will rise from the dead. Why then, is he weeping? Most likely for much the same mix of reasons for which he weeps also in Luke’s account of his entry into Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-42), where Jesus weeps because of our age-old human habit of not recognizing what makes for peace. And the real mystery, perhaps, is not so much in why Jesus weeps, but in why we don’t weep more with him. As Pope Francis has said, “Jesus is weeping today, too, because we have preferred the path of war, the path of hatred, the path of enmity…” Francis gets the importance of Jesus’ weeping. As Catholic News Service reports: Pope Francis encourages people to pray for “the grace of tears” when pleading to God to help others, when recognizing their own sinfulness, when contemplating the greatness of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and when experiencing God’s mercy. Sometimes, he has said, tears are the only true response to the question of why the innocent suffer. In January 2015, the pope listened to a 14-year-old boy in Manila describe life on the streets as a struggle to find food, to fight the temptation of sniffing glue and to avoid adults looking for the young to exploit and abuse. A 12-year-old girl, rescued from the streets by the same foundation that helped the boy, covered her face with her hand as she wept in front of the pope. But she managed to ask him, “Why did God let this happen to us?” Pope Francis said a real answer was impossible, but the question itself was important and the tears that accompanied the question were even more eloquent than the words. “Certain realities of life,” he said, “are seen only with eyes that are cleansed by tears.” For people who are safe, comfortable and loved, he said, learning how to weep for others is part of following Jesus, who wept at the death of Lazarus and was moved with compassion at the suffering of countless others…. Still today many Mary’s and Martha’s are weeping for many, many lost brothers and sisters. Still today most of the world lacks knowledge of what makes for peace. And weeping is still one of our most basic and most often overlooked spiritual practices… *** Yet just as surely as Jesus weeps, so surely I believe he also smiles. I picture Jesus smiling whenever his people get it right. Many times, I’m pretty sure, I catch glimpses of Jesus smiling as he watches his people in worship, in prayer, in loving service… I picture Jesus smiling every Sunday in our worship, Sunday School, and after-worship-coffee-hour times, as we share joys and sorrows, hopes and needs… I’m sure Jesus is smiling even in some of even our most difficult and tedious moments, whenever we pause to consider “what would Jesus...

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