“Packing for the Journey” 1/1/17

Packing For The Journey”

Ecclesiastes 3:1-13

Matthew 2: 13-15; 19-23

Chilmark Community Church

January 1, 2017

Rev. Vicky Hanjian

Over the last couple of months, I have been reading Scott Peck’s book IN SEARCH OF STONES. The theme of the book is built around his travels in Scotland with his wife, Lily, searching out pre-historic stone structures and monuments that dot the landscape of Scotland. A man after my own heart! While I was reading his chapter on Pilgrimage I happened to also listen in on one of Rick Steves’ travel programs where he was talking about pilgrims on the Santiago de Campostela – a popular pilgrimage route that crosses northwestern Spain. In the same program, Rick shifted his focus to how to pack wisely for traveling in Europe. Travel, pilgrimage, journey, packing – – images for thinking about a year ending and a new year beginning.

Given the state of massive and disruptive movements of whole populations, particularly in Syria, as a result of the unceasing war and violence there, it is easy to make the emotional connections with the story of Joseph and Mary fleeing with their newborn son to escape the terrorist reign of Herod – a king who was threatening a house to house search in order to kill every male child under the age of two.

I can’t help asking (as I do when I see the multitudes of refugees in transit) – what did they pack? If they had to move quickly, what belongings did they choose for the journey? When we see artistic renderings of what has come to be called “The Flight Into Egypt” – Mary is seated on a donkey holding the infant Jesus close while Joseph walks alongside the donkey carrying nothing but a staff in his hand. What did they pack? What did they leave behind?

Spending a few moments with the story of the journey into Egypt seems appropriate as we enter a new year. For Mary and Joseph, leaving everything that was familiar behind them in order to keep their small family safe represented the beginning of a new epic.

As 2017 begins, we too, necessarily begin a new chapter in our own lives – as individuals – – as a community – – and as a nation. Another year is stretching out in front of us. In some ways it is like a fresh canvas waiting for the brush strokes that will create the image of life in the next 12 months before another transition to another new year begins again a year from now. In other ways it carries the anxiety producing threat of the unpredictability. We are at the metaphorical beginning of a journey into 2017 – into an unknown country.

Embarking on a journey inevitably means making choices about what we will take with us and what we will leave behind. Rick Steves showed some amusing footage of travelers juggling huge, unwieldy suitcases on and off trains and buses. No matter how cleverly engineered the roller bags are, when they are large and over stuffed, they are cumbersome and can make traveling strenuous at best.

Rick‘s advice is to “travel light!” And that means making choices about what to pack and what to leave behind. The images of Mary and Joseph on the journey into Egypt show them traveling with nothing in their possession except the clothes on their backs. Pretty radical!!

When we went to Scotland, we made some choices. The first one was that we would only take as much as would fit in two carry-on bags and one day pack so that we wouldn’t have to contend with checking luggage, waiting at baggage carousels, risking loss in transit, not having what we needed when we needed it. The choice of the size of our bags forced us to make other choices – how many pairs of shoes??? What kind of outer wear??? How many changes of clothing and underwear??? And – of course -how many books could I take???

Making choices about what to take for a journey also means making choices about what to leave behind. In reality these were not serious existential choices for us as we prepared for Scotland. We would only be gone for 10 days and we were traveling in comfort and there were plenty of places to do laundry and to purchase what we needed if an emergency arose.

These were options not available to that little family on their way out of town.

The journey into 2017, confronts us with similar choices. There is much that we will want to take with us – – and there is much that will be cumbersome – that will weigh us down as we explore the unknown land that stretches out before us.

The passage we heard from Ecclesiastes invites us to consider the possibility of life as a process of continual emptying – – continual impermanence – – constant change. What has most frequently been translated as “vanity, vanity, all is vanity”…or “futility – all is futility” – – takes on a whole new meaning when the Hebrew word hevel is more accurately translated as “emptying”. The book begins with the lines : “Emptying upon emptying! Everything is emptying.”

(Ecclesiastes.1:2). Life is not in vain – – and life is not an exercise in futility.

It is far more accurate to affirm that life is a continual process of emptying – of impermanence and change. Our day to day discomfort with life comes with expecting things to be fixed, secure and permanent. We experience anxiety, frustration, anger and fear when this turns out not to be the case. The wisdom of Ecclesiastes escapes us.

Mary and Joseph’s middle of the night departure at the behest of an angelic messenger epitomizes the impermanence that keeps us on edge as life unfolds.

Their journey into Egypt – into the unknown – is what the nature of life is all about. Maybe the story it can help us set a course as we anticipate the coming year.

Setting out, it is a given that we cannot take everything with us. There is much that we must leave behind. Scott Peck suggests some of what we must leave out of our figurative luggage – things that have to be emptied if we want to be able to move on in a less encumbered way: things like fixed agendas and rigid expectations; things like prejudices or simplistic and instant likes and dislikes ; things like quick answers to difficult dilemmas -arrived at without careful listening; needs for certainty and control; the need to convert or “fix” others; the desire for peace at any price.

Imagine Mary and Joseph carrying any of these into Egypt with them. Imagine them having fixed ideas about where they were going to stay or what they were going to eat. Imagine them needing to have certainty and control over their days on the road. Imagine them seeking easy answers to all the questions they must have had as they followed the commands of an angelic dream; Imagine them saying they didn’t like the food that was offered to them because they didn’t like the way it was seasoned.

Mary and Joseph are our guides for what the process of emptying is all about. Mary certainly becomes a figure of emptying when she says “Here I am” in response to the angel’s announcement that she will bear a child. Imagine her choosing safety and predictability and saying to the angel “no -I don’t think so –not at this time!” Joseph is in the process of continual emptying when he says “Yes” to marrying Mary – to becoming the father and protector of the much anticipated infant – – to being the guarantor of the child’s safety as the terrorist king breathes down his neck.

They had to empty – – everything – – and depart from all that they knew to journey to an unknown country.

The story is an apt metaphor for the threshold of a new year. A story that challenges us to think about what we need to carry with us and what we need to leave behind as we begin our own the journey into an unknown country.

Perhaps we can imagine an open suitcase lying on the bed waiting to be packed for the trip into 2017. To one side, awaiting a decision about whether to take or leave may be a significant pile of things that need to be forgiven. There may be a neatly folded stack of resentments – take them along or leave them behind? There may be outgrown commitments that have lost their vitality in our lives -that keep us from living with joy – maybe they make the discard pile. Perhaps there is a small pile of fear and uncertainty begging to be packed in a side pocket – does it make the cut? And what about the nagging need to judge the motives and behaviors of the annoying people in our lives. Judgment weighs a lot and isn’t particularly useful. Maybe it can be left behind.

When Rick Steves makes his packing suggestions, he does not intend for people to travel in the discomfort and frustration that come with not having what is necessary for a pleasant trip – he simply recommends emptying the bag of things we don’t need.

Every journey requires making choices. Entering the foreign terrain of a new year is no different. By emptying ourselves of what is no longer useful, of the things that needlessly weigh us down, we create space for what is needed – what is necessary for a safe and happy – perhaps even joyful journey – – we can tuck greater measures of patience into those side pockets. Perhaps the main section of the bag will hold a lot more creativity and expectation when we are able to leave behind rigidity and predictability. And Oh – – all those lovely extra zippered spaces on the outside of the bag can carry far more compassion and joy and excitement when we leave behind the stacks of resentment and fear – – allowing us the freedom to easily reach the positive gifts we can offer to those we meet along the way – – making their journey easier and our own journey more meaningful.

When we read the words of Ecclesiastes from the perspective of life as a continual process of emptying, we realize that, indeed, every moment is a beginning – and every moment empties into the next moment of beginning. Nothing is fixed. Nothing is permanent. We are always on the threshold of something new. Like Mary and Joseph – our spiritual task is to be about the work of emptying ourselves enough so that the flow of Grace can flood in where we have cleared the inner space to receive it.

This means always working at the idea of packing our traveling bags with care – keeping them small enough to carry easily – – choosing what we will take with us carefully – – leaving behind whatever it is that would weigh us down as we travel together. Today, January 1st, 2017, we embark. Before we leave this place, we’ll share a simple meal together – – bread for the journey. May God grant us the grace we need as the way of the journey unfolds before us.

Bishop’s New Year Message

Together in Christ

Image

Dec. 31, 2016

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

As we start our journey as Christians in the new year, I want to reflect on one thing that always fascinates me – the journey of the Magi as they travelled to find their anticipated newborn king. This trip was initiated in response to a star they had observed. It was a response perhaps stimulated by their astrological curiosity.

Though I have preached many sermons on this great biblical story in Matthew 2: 1-12, it was only last year when someone challenged me to look at the works of biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann that I learned something new and fascinating.

My sister in Christ was correct! Looking at it again, I was reminded of the new light on this passage he offered in his sermon “Missing by Nine Miles.” I shared his analysis of the familiar story of the Magi during my General Conference sermon last May. Brueggemann determined that the Magi were off course by nine miles, and would have missed their visit with the Messiah altogether had they not heeded the advice of Herod’s biblical scholars.

As I discussed in my 2016 sermon, Matthew describes the visit of the Magi, replete with gifts and their question, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2).

Herod, disturbed by the arrival of a new king, asks his scholars to explain the prophecy. Their view is that this new ruler will not be a typical ruler, but someone who will rule like a shepherd over his sheep. Instead of referring to Isaiah 60 as many scholars had done, they referenced Micah 5, which says the Messiah will be born in the village of Bethlehem – nine miles to the south of Jerusalem.

Herod shares this with the wise men from the East; they make the journey to Bethlehem and find their king. Then, having been warned in a dream, they change their plans and route, and do not return to Jerusalem.

The wise men needed to listen to scholars to find the baby Jesus, but they also needed to listen to the voice of God to avoid returning to Herod. Because of this wisdom, they were able to share the Good News of a Savior with the world.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we start our journey in this new year, the world is in a state of confusion, pain, and uncertainty. Yet, as baptized Christians and followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to bring Epiphany movements to the world around us! These are very challenging times for the Church, but it is also a time to be God’s hopeful messengers.

We cannot do it on our own; we need the grace of God, the love of Christ, and our constant dependence on the power of the Holy Spirit.
When we depend upon the grace, wisdom, and knowledge of God, we, like the Magi, become open to the Word of God, even if the source of our knowledge is a place or person we may think is unworthy of consideration.

Perhaps God constantly challenges us to go the extra nine miles to the south or the north or the east or the west. In these moments, we have to set aside our personal GPSs and depend only on God’s GPS.

It is my prayer that in 2017 and beyond that we will all take a second look at our own Christian pilgrimages and learn from the Magi to listen to what God has to tell us, so we may become a powerful movement of God, filled with the compassionate love of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Prema joins me in wishing you and your loved ones a happy and blessed New Year.

In Christ’s love,


Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar


 

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Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar

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Transformed by the Holy Spirit, united in trust,
we will boldly proclaim Christ to the world.

“Open Sesame” December 18/16

OPEN SESAME

ISAIAH 9:1-7; MATT. 4:12-17 CHILMARK COMMUNITY CHURCH DEC. 18, 2016 Armen Hanjian, Pastor

The passage from Isaiah 9 has become for Christians one of the major Hebrew scripture references picturing Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah. I see two reasons for this. Matthew quotes the first two verses of Isaiah 9 and suggests that Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy. Secondly, Handel’s Messiah has solidified that connection: “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders….”

Scholars are not in agreement as to whether Isaiah had in mind a king who would rule in Isaiah’s time, that is, that Isaiah wrote this to celebrate an actual Judean king or whether Isaiah had a far-off divine event in mind.

The government shall be upon his shoulders “ -that is Isaiah’s image of just what Israel needed. The one to fulfill that hope the people called the messiah. “Messiah” comes from the Hebrew word mashiach. “Christ” comes from the Greek word christos. Both titles mean “the anointed.” Jewish expectations looked for a divinely sent ruler to recue the Israelites from their troubles and lead them in serving God. Christians called Jesus the Christ or the Messiah because they believed,

they saw that God had anointed him, set him apart, to fulfill this hope of God’s people.

The fact of the matter is that Isaiah didn’t have to know in advance, he didn’t have to prophesy his coming in order to make Jesus who he was.

Isaiah doesn’t prove Jesus to be the Christ. Those who come to know Jesus, who are open to him, who let his mind and teachings saturate and yes, take charge – those are the ones who know Jesus is the Christ, know him to be the “Wonderful Counselor”, the “Mighty God” with us, A father that will never die- “everlasting” , the best source of peace, “The Prince of Peace.”

The government shall be upon his shoulder.” Governing or ruling does not come from outside authority in the final analysis. We have a 45 mile an hour speed limit on the island. Is our speed limit governed by the sign that declares the law to us? Not for most people. How fast can I drive without being caught? What will my car be able to do safely? What is the best fuel economy? How late am I? The decision as to our speed comes from within us.

The governing of the Messiah, the Christ is also an internal matter. We may call him Lord and Master, King, Ruler of my Life, etc. ; we may make a public declaration of our commitment to his lordship, but it’s what we believe in our hearts rather than what we’ve accepted in our minds that is operative.

If I believe with all my heart Christ is the best direction setter for my life, I will really work at listening for his direction thru scripture, prayer, worship and study. If in my heart of hearts, I have not yet surrendered to Him and I am wanting to keep control, then I will avoid listening, avoid study groups, avoid applying the lessons to me and apply them to others.

When the Messiah comes, the government shall be upon his shoulders.

The Messiah has come,” proclaims the Christian community. To the extent I let him rule over my life, to that extent the Kingdom of God has come to me. To the extent our systems of laws and caring reflect justice and compassion, to that extent the Kingdom of God has come to our community.

The type of kingdom is determined by the character of the king. Isaiah, you will note, makes no mention of enlarged borders, increased trade or invincible armies. The glory of the Messiah’s reign will reflect justice and righteousness according to Isaiah.

Two topics dominated Jesus teachings: money and the kingdom of God.

No wonder – both have to do with that to which we are most committed.

There are periods in life when it is appropriate to withdraw – to withdraw and not feel guilty about it – to say I just can’t be available to almost everyone the way I have been. Having said that, I say that by and large, Martin Luther was correct when he said, “So this is now the mark by which we all shall certainly know whether the birth of our Lord Christ is effective in us: if we take upon ourselves the need of our neighbor.”

George Bowen, a brilliant man, a missionary to India a century ago knew something of meeting the needs of his neighbors and how that interfaced with what he believed in his heart of hearts. In a letter to his sister he confessed: “I told the Lord that I was content to be everlastingly insignificant.” This admission to the Lord was in stark contrast to earlier entries in his diary in which he aims to become a second Paul or to move about the bazaars of Bombay as “Christ himself.” While he was to himself a failure, his devotional writings circulated with marked effect on several continents. (The Interpreter’s Bible 5:421)

The kingdom of God in you means the government, the direction setting, shall be upon his shoulders.

LeComte du Nouy has written in Human Destiny some words that indicate the nature and affect of His government: “The Roman patricians of the year 33, the philosophers and the intellectuals would have been highly amused if they had been told that the unknown Jew, tried by the procurator of a distant colony…would play an infinitely greater role than Caesar, would dominate the history of the Occident, and become the purest symbol of all humanity.”

Hall Luccock reminded me of a movie I saw in my childhood – the fascinating story of “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” – one of the tales of the Arabian Nights and how we see a truth about Christ there.

The forty thieves lived in a vast cave, the door of which opened and shut at the words, “Open sesame!” and “Close sesame!” Ali Baba tried saying, “Open wheat!” and “Open Barley!” but there was no movement of the door. Then one day he accidently discovered the magic words, “Open sesame!” And the door swung wide open. The word which opens to us life’s treasures is – Jesus Christ.

As I share with you how Christ has opened life’s treasures for me, be aware of how he has done that for you.

The affect of Christ on us can work strikingly, but in my experience he has been working quietly and effectively.

Because of Him:

I work with joy. My burdens are manageable. I am energized.

Because of Him:

I met my wife. My marriage has continued to be enriched.

Because of Him:

-My parents and myself and my children have been loved.

-I have come to know you, value you, care about you and be cared for by you.

-I have overcome distance between myself and others.

-I have been healed of much of my past pain which blocked me and misdirected me.

-Jesus Christ has connected me with the best friends I have and they are many.

Because of Him: I have a life to which I can look forward.

Because of Him: My world has meaning.

Unto me and unto you a child is born, a son is given and the government shall be upon his shoulders.

Sing for Joy December 11, 2016

Sing For Joy!”

Luke 1:57-80; Luke 1:26-56

Luke 2:8-15; Luke 2:25-36

December 11, 2016

3rd Sunday in Advent

Chilmark Community Church

Rev. Vicky Hanjian

A lot of the focus of Advent has to do with anticipation of the coming of a messiah -an anointed one – who will liberate God’s people from whatever it is that binds them. Historically, the Messiah was anticipated as a great military leader who would help Israel throw off the yoke of oppression. That expectation grew out of anguish and suffering over the many centuries of Israel’s difficult history. Throughout the readings for Advent we read about and acknowledge the darkness in the world – – we hear the prophetic voice of Isaiah calling the children of God to turn around – to repent, to reclaim their rightful identity as the children of God. We hear the prophets speaking truth to power, warning of the dire consequences that will come to leaders and to the people if they neglect the works of justice and mercy and compassion. The prophetic message is heavy today because there is a lot of heaviness in the world, differing only in degree from what the great prophets witnessed. But we need to be confronted with the darkness of the world – we need to acknowledge how pervasive it is and how helpless we feel at times when we realize the enormity of it. If we are to have minds and hearts that are fully open to the great light of the coming of Jesus we must first come to terms with the weight of the world. If we want to be able to fully enjoy all the goodness of God that enters life with the birth of this beautiful Anticipated One, we need first to recognize all the ways in which we need this birth to happen. That is the spiritual work of Advent.

But today is the day we light the candle of Joy. We shift our attention to the stories of those most intimately associated with the Holy Birth – – faith stories imbedded with powerful metaphors that point the way to understanding the truth of the Incarnation; stories of the birth that signifies that The Holy One draws near, and indeed, decides to pitch a tent among us – to dwell with us – becoming as we are – – Human – – A Fleshy, Happy, Sad, Rejoicing, Suffering, Living and Dying Human Being.

Joy is the theme of the day. In the order of worship, we first encountered the joy of Zechariah – – father of John the Baptizer – – who became quite mute after the terrifying encounter with an angel who announced to him that his aging wife Elizabeth would have a child. At the beginning of Luke’s gospel (Luke 1:3 – 23) there is an account of the event. Zechariah questions the truth of the angel’s promise that the couple will have a son in their old age. The angel causes a muteness to fall upon Zechariah until the events come to pass. It is at the circumcision and naming of his son, John, that Zechariah’s voice returns – and in a state of ecstatic joy, he sings the song we used for our call to worship this morning. Imagine, if you can, what it would be like to be the parent of the child would be the one who would prepare the way for the Expected One! It is customary to bestow a blessing on a child at the time of circumcision. Zechariah’s song contains a blessing (Luke 1:68-79) for his son, John:

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break in upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet in the way of peace.

There is no greater joy than to know what the direction and purpose of our life might be in the service of Highest One and to be able to live it out. The story tells us that from the moment of his conception, it was clear what the service of John would be. A forerunner – – an opener of the way – a preparer of the path – – a bringer of knowledge to the people who waited. The blessing of being the forerunner of the Expected One illuminated his whole family – – and Zechariah sang for joy.

Zechariah’s beloved wife, Elizabeth, comes into the foreground of the story not long after Mary discovers she is pregnant. Elizabeth is Mary’s cousin – perhaps the wise elder woman in Mary’s life. She is 6 months pregnant when she and Mary greet each other – – and the infant in her womb leaps for joy as Elizabeth greets Mary – the two unborn infants are connected not just by bloodlines – they will carry out a holy mission together – and their initial meeting is one of great joy and recognition. Elizabeth gives Mary a blessing (Luke 1:41-45):

Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me – that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

When the recognition and the validation of Elizabeth’s joy and blessing reach Mary’s ears, she too bursts into song (Luke 1:46-56) :

My soul Magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me and holy is his name.”

With each recognition of the truth of what is about to happen, the joy in the story takes another leap. The anticipation goes on for the rest of Elizabeth’s pregnancy – – continues through the circumcision of her son and gets amplified exponentially in the story of the angelic visitation to the shepherds in the fields at the time of the birth of Jesus. With the announcement of the birth of Jesus, the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven burst into joyous song:

Glory to God in the highest heaven,

and on earth peace among those whom God favors.

We don’t talk a whole lot about angels in our very staid Protestant traditions – who they might be – – what they might mean as we encounter them in the scriptures – – but here in this story, they seem to signify a great opening between the invisible realm of the Holy and the concrete and fleshy realm of humanity – – and they sing their “glorias” throughout the heavens and on the earth. And, indeed, is that not who Jesus is? – – the great opening between humankind and the Holy realms that exist beyond our sight? Isn’t that what the story of the birth and life and death of Jesus eventually come to mean? Does he not become for us “the bridge over troubled waters” that helps us make the connecting link between our human lives and the Divine Life? The angels in scripture are almost universally messengers – -beings who traffic between heaven and earth – making glimpses of the Holy real in the midst of our lives. And here they break through with joy to a group of shepherds on a hillside – possibly scaring them silly – – Ecstatic joy sometimes really terrifies people. But those hearty souls recover and run “to Bethlehem to see this thing that has happened.”

The last song that we find in the story is sung on the 8th day after the birth of Jesus when he is brought to the temple by his parents to be circumcised in keeping with Jewish tradition. We will use it as our closing hymn today. Simeon, a faithful Jew, who spends every spare moment in the temple praying, has been waiting for a long time for the promise of God’s Anointed One to be fulfilled. God had promised

Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Simeon takes the infant Jesus into his arms and sings for joy (Luke 2:29-32):

Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a Light for revelation to the Gentiles and for the glory of your people Israel.

Simeon then gives a blessing to the parents and to their infant son.

Our faith stories are filled with songs of joy – – joy at promises given and received; joy at promises kept; joy at the revelations of Divine Glory that occasionally break through to our worldly lives – illuminating us with truth that far surpasses the words on the written page. In each instance of joy a blessing is either given or received – – and lives unfold in a dramatically new way.

When we spend time with the stories and let the metaphors point us toward the truth they contain, we may find that even in the midst of the mundane and sometimes even tragic and hopeless events of our lives, there is reason for joy beyond our human understanding. It breaks through in unexpected places at unanticipated times – challenging us – surprising us – bringing lightness and well being with it. And with all that comes an unexpected opening where the Life of a New Born King enters in and makes its home with us.

The rose candle, the third one lighted on the wreath today, reminds us to stop and take time to recognize and acknowledge and celebrate and even sing for the joy in our lives. May joy abound. AMEN

December 9 and 10, WOW

1-dscf0015Friday evening.  Making centerpieces for the Holiday Flea Market.

2-dscf0009Kim inspires!

3-dscf0017Meanwhile Julie and Jen were busy in the Sanctuary decorating for Christmas.

DECEMBER 10..Ready and Waiting for lunch customers.

1-dscf0019In the lunch room….

4-dscf0024And then the orchestra started playing!!  What a job Annette, Katy and Kathy did organizing the day!  They set the course, steered the ship and put their oars in when needed..A great team effort!

7-dscf0026Claire and Angie sell a centerpiece.

5-dscf0023The church at rest.  All decorated.  Wreaths hung by Ann.

6-dscf0028It’s Advent and we’re getting prepared.  Now, all take a breath and, as Arlene used to say,  “O, Holy Babe of Bethlehem,  Come, take birth in our hearts.”

THE FORESTER Dec.3,2016

THE FORESTER

Isaiah 11:1-10

Matthew 3:1-12

Chilmark Community Church

December 4, 2016

Rev. Vicky Hanjian

Our sacred texts are full of physical metaphors for our use during Advent. This week, Isaiah offers us the image of the tree as a figure through which to understand God’s work in bringing about new life out of what seems to be utter hopelessness. Just before the verses we heard from today’s text Isaiah wrote these words about the destruction of the Assyrian army that was advancing on Israel:

Look, the Sovereign, the Lord of hosts, will lop the boughs with terrifying power; the tallest trees will be cut down, and the lofty will be brought low. He will hack down the thickets of the forest with an axe, and Lebanon with its majestic cedars will fall.” This is an image of forestry management writ large.

As the Assyrian army advanced with their spears erect, they, indeed, looked like a forest, like the cedars of Lebanon. But, in one night they were decimated. According to Isaiah, God acted in Israel’s be half, much as a forester might act when managing the woodland resources – God removed the advancing overgrowth that threatened what was left of Israel.

With barely a breath between the lines, we read next “a shoot shall come forth from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.”

Armen and I have had many occasions to house sit for friends in Chilmark over the last 10 years or so. There are a lot of plants in the house and it has been my responsibility to keep them watered. Near one window in the living room there is a bare branch in a large flowerpot. It is strung with little white lights and is quite lovely when it is turned on after dark. That bare branch has been there for a long time. For a number of years I thought the branch was just an interesting foil for little white lights in the winter time. There was never any sign of life on it. Nevertheless, I dutifully watered it along with the other plants surrounding it – – just in case.

Then, one year, for the first time, I noticed tiny green buds at the ends of the branches. Over the two months that we were house sitting that year, the buds grew into large dramatic and beautiful, healthy green leaves. It was such a living image for the possibility of something new and alive growing out of something that seemed to be dead. I later learned that the branch is, indeed, a fig tree. But that will lend itself to another sermon at another time.

Last year, we decided a couple of the oaks in our back yard had to come down. They had been attacked by borer wasps and there was almost no foliage on them. A sure sign that they were dying – or dead already. All around our neighborhood oaks were dying and needing to be removed. So Armen took down the dead trees. This summer, barely year later, there is lush green growth coming out of the stumps.

Isaiah prophesied that a shoot would grow out of the stump of Jesse. Out of the humble beginnings of Jesse, the grandson of Ruth and Boaz and the father of the shepherd boy who would become King David would come yet another king who would rule a kingdom of peace and wisdom and justice. Isaiah prophesied that new life would emerge out of an Israel that was almost dead, decimated by war and violence, deceit and corruption.

Isaiah preached a message of profound hope to Israel for a new way of life under a new kind of king – a king who would be filled with the spirit of God – the Ruach Hakodesh – the spirit of holiness. This new king would be full of wisdom and understanding – he would be strong and wise. He would know God and would lead the people to know God.

Our faith ancestors envisioned the growth of the human family as “treelike” – hence the term “family tree.” These familial “trees of life” provided safe shelter as well as life-sustaining nourishment for all creatures, great and small dwelling in and under their protective branches. But the family tree of Israel had been seriously damaged by war and exile. Loyalty to God was fraying at the edges. Ineffective leadership was the frosting on the proverbial cake. Israel had been cut down to nothing more than a stump.

Into this time of near death, Isaiah brings a word of hope. “A shoot will spring up from the root of Jesse……” A few chapters later, God says “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing: now it springs forth. It shall spring up as the grass does from the earth; or it shall bud forth like the opening leaves and flowers – beautiful images that hint at the way in which God’s purposes come to pass.

As we know, at the time of the writing of Matthew’s Gospel, Israel is struggling again under the heel of the foreign domination – this time it is Rome. And again, the people are faltering in their faithfulness. The religious community is fractured. Fear abounds.

Into that mix, Matthew gives us a vivid image of John The Baptizer calling Israel to repentance. Camel hair and leather, locusts and wild honey – – kind of a wild man – – but people were listening. John was the “awakener” – – calling Israel to prepare for the new thing that God would do next to save and to heal God’s people –to bring new life out of oppression and tyranny, out of fear and sorrow. Calling the people to watch for that shoot that was promised.

The imagery of God, the forester, laying an axe to the root of the tree was a powerful one because it carried with it the memory of God’s decimation of the Assyrian armies in Israel’s behalf centuries before. But this time, the tree to be destroyed was the tree of internal corruption among religious and political leaders who collaborated with Rome.

John’s rant was aimed at people who should know better – – at people who ought to have been responsible for the bearing of good fruit – for leading Israel in the ways of God. John’s call to repentance brought with it dire warnings that reflect the violence of the time. “The axe is at the foot of the tree – – every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

The time was ripe for the appearance of a messiah and it is no wonder, then, that the early church embraced Jesus as the shoot that would spring from the stump of Jesse.

The hope for a messiah has been part of Jewish and Christian thought for centuries as people of faith have yearned for the kind of leadership that would take us to a place of wholeness and well-being – – to a time when the earth would be in such harmony that the unthinkable could happen – – that wolves and lambs and leopards and young goats, and cows and bears could all lay down together and the goats and the lambs and the cows would live to tell about it!

As our celebration of the Incarnation draws near, we, too, look with hope for the One who will satisfy our yearning for wholeness and peace and well being.

The real world is a messy and complicated place, and getting messier every day. There are many hard questions and no easy answers. The gap between rich and poor grows wider daily. Like lambs and wolves, we have a very uneasy dynamic between the “haves” and the “have-nots”. Migrant workers who harvest the food we find at the Stop and Shop cannot put healthy meals on the table for their own families. Violence in the streets and our current prison system attest to the venal racism that continues to infect our society. No matter how hard we try we cannot seem to create an economy and a health care system that will care well for human beings in every walk of life Fear and anxiety and mistrust threaten the fabric of life as we try to anticipate what lies ahead in 2017. It would be so easy to join our ancestors in their drift away from the center of all Life.

But it is Advent. The great promise of the coming of Jesus is that through his willingness to be fully human, he shows us we all have the capacity to live up to the potential given to us as human beings created in God’s image. The hope for a messiah stays alive because inside each one of us is the desire for the healing of the world. We deeply want to be made whole – to throw off all that seduces us into being cruel or indifferent or uncaring – – we deeply want a world made whole.

With the birth of Jesus comes the hope that we can be liberated from whatever it is that binds us to the dubious comfort of the status quo. When the power of his life and teachings reaches into the inner places in our deepest being, our energy becomes infectious. Little by little we find the power and the direction to do and be the large and small things that make the world a better place. We find in Jesus’ life and teachings what we need to become healers for the world. And this is how the messiah comes – – through all the large and small ways that Jesus inspires us to be in the world – – through our willingness to be vulnerable to his life and teaching – to do justice – – to love mercy – – to walk humbly and courageously with God. Indeed, the messiah is always coming into being – – a new thing springing forth – rich, newly green, alive – – emerging into this time and this place out of what might appear to be frustratingly dangerous, ineffective, lifeless and dead. We are challenged and invited to have eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to welcome a messiah who is always coming into being.

This morning, we are given a symbolic meal to remind us of where our center of gravity is – where our promise of abundant life resides. Now, more than ever, we need to keep returning to that center for guidance, for comfort and for strength for the days ahead.

Last week we lighted the candle of hope. The reality of Jesus is our hope. This week we have lighted the candle of peace. Peace comes when we live out the reality of Jesus in our lives. Peace is knowing that God is at work everywhere at all times and in all places and in each one of us – – May we be a rich, green, dense, grove of trees in which God can take great pleasure from the good fruit we produce – – may we be the new thing that God is bringing forth in this Advent season. May we be living proof that, indeed, the messiah we yearn for is already at work in the world.

Fall Work Day a success

Gutters on Fellowship Hall cleaned:  Pam and Clark Goff and Julie Flanders

Terrace shrubs pruned: Katy Upson

Terrace raked:  Kathie Carroll and Pam

Leaves Blown off driveway and handicapped ramp:  Tim Carroll

N.E. boundary walls weed whacked: Clark

MORE LEAVES TO HANDLE.  “One Day at a Time”.

Thoughts for Sunday, the 4th

A TIME TO BLESS

The first verse of Chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes declares: “To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.”

David Spangler asks: When is the time to bless? (p. 79)

For reflection: Think about all the times you encounter some form of blessing ie public occasions, worship, ceremonies etc.

When are the times you are most likely to encounter a formal blessing?

Blessings are asked at beginnings and endings, and at many points in between. Indeed, any time we feel a situation or a person needs the benefit of divine providence we ask for a blessing. This is how we normally understand a blessing in our culture. It’s an invocation of the presence and the power of the sacred upon a person’s life or upon the function of an object.”

BUT as much as a blessing is an invocation, it is also an act of discovering the part of us that moves in harmony on the dance floor of creation. In fact,

the art of blessing is not only about the act of blessing, but about an attitude towards the world, a way of seeing things that go beyond our ordinary perceptions.”

On Sunday we talked about somehow being in harmony with the greater mystery. We had difficulty naming it (which is as it should be!). Spangler uses the metaphorical language of flowing energy, of obstruction, and of openness.

Our tradition might use the term “grace” – the continual flowing of divine energy in our behalf.

Here are a couple of questions to ponder: Can you identify a time when you have felt yourself in “the flow” of blessing? of unexpected grace? (be careful not to censor your insight or understanding when something comes to mind).

As you recall, were you able to be in a state of openness – receptivity?

Did anything in you “obstruct” the flow? or were you able to receive and let it pass on through you in some way to its next “destination?” ie: can you identify a time when you were “blessed in order to be a blessing?’

The real power of blessing is that it awakens us to the power of spirit. A blessing is an energizing of our sense of the sacred: the more we attune ourselves to that presence, the more we live in its midst.”

BE PREPARED ( Armen) Nov. 27, 2015

BE PREPARED”

Matthew 25:1-13

Chilmark Community Church

November 27, 2016

Rev. Armen Hanjian

Perhaps you noticed the sermon title, “Be Prepared,” as the motto of the Boy Scouts. Today is the first Sunday in Advent – that season when Christians start preparing to celebrate the coming of Christ. Advent means “the coming of the Savior.” As far as we know, Advent formally began in the 6th century when the cycle of the Christian year was being established. It implies both anticipation and preparation. I thought it was important for me and you to take seriously the phrase we sing: “Let every heart prepare him room.”

First thing to ask is, did Jesus have anything to say about being prepared? The answer is yes, specifically in his parable of the 10 maidens. He couches the parable of the coming of the kingdom, or better, the coming of the King, in terms of a wedding. The Interpreters Bible tells us that a wedding party was the greatest of all festivities in Palestine. Everything was put aside for the occasion, even the study of the sacred law. Naturally, the neighboring maidens, like all girls, would want to be present. The high point of the wedding was when the bridegroom took the bride from her father’s house to her new home, usually in a litter, and her attendants and guests would escort her there.

They had receptions in those days too. There were 10 maidens whose task it was to welcome the bridegroom when he arrived at the marriage feast. Usually it is the bride that’s late, but not in this case. He came at midnight. Jesus points out the 5 foolish maidens who did not prepare, who did not have foresight, who did not bring any extra oil for their lamps. He compared them to the 5 wise maidens who made preparation and brought extra oil that there might be light for the marriage feast. The fault was not in the fact that all the maidens fell asleep, but that the foolish just feel asleep, while the wise slept only after they made due preparations.

Some of you might feel that the wise maidens were not very Christ-like for refusing to share their extra oil. Parable usually have one major thrust and preparation was the thrust of this parable; however, how true it is that spiritual preparedness just cannot be shared. Christian courage cannot be given on demand to someone who all his days has led a life of a coward. Insight from years of prayer cannot be shared with someone who has been careless toward God all her life.

Jesus pointed to preparedness, too, when he told of the man who built his house upon a rock. Just as we can prepare for the storms and stresses of our physical life, there is value in preparation for our spiritual life – for those inevitable delays when we long for a manifestation of God. The Christian must learn to build up reserves of strength so that in all circumstances, favorable or unfavorable, one may cause his or her light to shine and thereby find a life of joy.

To prepare for the coming of the God-sent redeemer I ask myself the question, “How do I prepare in other areas of my life?”

For one thing, I am always making lists. I make lists of things I have to buy, things I have to do. I make lists for meetings. I make lists at my desk. My appointments I list on my calendars. Lists keep me from racking my brains to remember. Lists are constant reminders. Why not do some listing in your advent preparation -Persons you wish to visit, persons you could bless by calling on the phone, persons or situations for which to pray.

If you care about preparing, you will set time aside in your daily schedule, your weekly schedule. Most of us would like to have God revealed to us in more ways; are we willing to pay the cost of setting the time aside?

The same person who knows to learn mathematics knows he must study, seems to be ignorant that the life of the spirit demands preparation as well. Whether you are painting a house, rebuilding a basement or seeking connection with God, the successful outcome depends on time consuming, effort demanding preparation. I hope Santa Claus won’t be the only one who is “making a list and checking it twice.”

Another way I prepare in life is how I prepare for a sermon. As thoughts come to me that excite me, that I really connect with, I will write them down and place them in a file. When I am ready to prepare another sermon, I review the file, and if its apropos and I am still energized and connected with the words, I will read, pray, think and if all seems right, I will create a sermon to share. No one has the right to such a captive audience as you, unless he or she has tapped the best resources available. So you can see that for a long period of time, I keep in mind that for which I prepare.

A young man tells of a time his church had an outdoor nativity pageant including shepherds, wise men and animals. At the close of the first scene, before starting again, an intermission was held during which the cast would leave the stable to be warmed and have refreshments. After that first showing, a mother sent a note to the boy with this request: “Please don’t allow them to leave Baby Jesus out in the cold alone like that.” It seems, that during the intermission, no one thought to take the doll from the manger. That mother, caught in the drama of the narration, rebelled at leaving Jesus out in the cold. At first, said the young man, it caused us to chuckle, but on after thought, are we not often guilty of becoming so involved with the mechanics of religion and life that we leave Christ out in the cold? The how of it I leave to your ingenuity, but do your best to keep Christ in your thoughts every day.

A third way all of us prepare in life is when we expect guests. You know what you do. Listen to what Christians in Iceland do as they prepare to welcome the King of Heaven. Charles W. Koller describes the peculiar customs in his book Tents Toward the Sunrise. “First of all, everything must be clean for Christmas. Every corner of the house and every bit of clothing must be immaculate. All necessary repairs must be made, however inconspicuous the need. All of this is symbolic and preliminary. The greater preparation is that of the heart. All differences must be reconciled. Then there are gifts, family reunions and fellowship with friends. And over all, there hovers the sweet consciousness of the coming of Christ into the world and into the hearts of men.”(and women)

When you prepare for company what do you do? You make lists. You keep the coming visitors in mind. You clean house. How important all these steps are. One year when Life magazine was preparing its Christmas issue, A photographer was sent to the School of San Roco in Italy to get pictures of the wonderful Tintoretto murals of the nativity. With every conceivable kind of light, the photographer attempted to capture the natural colors of the paintings, but he could not. Upon close examination, it was revealed that these murals of the nativity had been overlaid with 4 centuries of varnish, dust and the accumulation of dirt through which the radiant of colors of the paintings could not shine. Only when polaroid light was used could the authentic colors get through to the camera.

And has this not been the case with Christmas in our day? The real meaning has been overlaid with what Robert E. Luccock calls “….centuries of sentimental varnish and commercial dust until millions see Christmas only the sweet story of a baby shuffled off to a manger for whom we are moved to pity, or the occasion for an organized, commercialized, vulgarized carnival of gaudy splendor.”

An unknown poet in the 17th century has written some lines which, for me, perfectly capture the reaction of such humans as we. He describes in old English what our response would be if our nation’s President, in his case it was a king, should come to visit our home. Then he compares that with the-coming-toward-us of the God-sent Redeemer.

Yet if his majesty, our sovereign lord,

Should of his own accord

Friendly himself invite,

And say, “I’ll be your quest to-morrow night,”

How we should stir ourselves, call and command

All hands to work! “Let no man idle stand!”

Set me fine Spanish tables in the hall,

See they be fitted all;

Let there be room to eat,

And order taken that there want no meat.

See every sconce and candlestick made bright,

That without tapper they may give a light.

Look to the presence: are the carpets spread,

The dazie o’er the head,

The cushions in the chairs,

And all the candles lighted on the stairs?

Perfume the chambers, and in any case

Let each man give attendance in his place.”

Thus if the King were coming would we do,

And ‘twere good reason too;

For ‘tis a duteous thing

to show all honour to an earthly king,

And after all our travail and our cost,

So he be pleased, to think no labour lost.

But at the coming of the King of Heaven

All’s set at six and seven:

We wallow in our sin,

Christ cannot find a chamber in the inn.

We entertain Him always like a stranger,

And, as at first, still lodge Him in a manger.

If we would entertain the God who befriends us, let us

Be Prepared.”

“Walking the Psalms with Walter” Nov. 20, 2016

Walking The Psalms With Walter”

Chilmark Community Church

November 20, 2016

Rev. Vicky Hanjian

Well – – we are at Thanksgiving Sunday – – preparing to celebrate a national day of gratitude. More than at any other time of the year, the Psalms give us the words that fit the occasion. We don’t often turn to them outside of their occasional use in the liturgy and aside from the best known ones, we may not really know what is in this beautiful prayer book that is almost always right at our finger tips. I have been especially drawn to these ancient poems over the past week.

I’d like to introduce you to another of my “walking buddies” – Walter Brueggemann – – not an actual, physical walking buddy – I met him only once, years ago, but he’s a dear friend and spiritual mentor and companion, nonetheless. He is about my height, and a bit on the stocky side. When I last saw him he was graying and sporting a full beard that did nothing to hide his piercing, energetic black eyes. I have been walking all week with Walter as my guide in my exploration of the Psalms – – these amazing poetic glimpses of human life and anguish and celebration.

In his little book THE MESSAGE OF THE PSALMS Walter identifies three major themes in the Psalms. He calls them poems of orientation, poems of disorientation, and poems of new orientation. He invites us to recognize that The Psalms are a beautiful witness to the fact that “human life consists in satisfied seasons of well being that evoke gratitude for the constancy of blessing… the “Psalms of Orientation” give us words for affirming God’s goodness and reliability and consistency – they bubble with joy, and happiness and delight in well-being.1 Listen to a few verses from Psalm 93:

God acts within every moment

and creates the world with each breath.

God speaks from the center of the universe,

in the silence beyond all thought.

Mightier than the crash of a thunderstorm,

mightier than the roar of the sea,

is God’s voice silently speaking

in the depths of the listening heart.2

Psalms of “orientation” celebrate the daily order of life – the regularities that we experience as reliable and dependable. They often celebrate the created order. These Psalms give thanks to God for ordering and sustaining creation and indeed our very lives. They remind us to give prayers and songs of thanksgiving to God out of sheer gratitude for creation and for everything in life that we enjoy. Listen to these lovely words of gratitude for creation from Psalm 104:

The mountains shelter the wild goats;

rock squirrels dwell in the cliffs.

You created the moon to count the months;

the sun knows when it must set.

You make darkness, it is night,

the forest animals emerge.

The young lions roar for their prey,

seeking their food from God.

The sun rises, they withdraw

and lie down together in their dens.

Humans go out to their labor

and work until it is evening.

How manifold are your creatures, Lord!

With wisdom you made them all;

The whole earth is filled with your riches.

I will sing to you every moment;

I will praise you with every breath.

May all selfishness disappear from me,

and may you always shine from my heart. 3

We sing songs of praise when life is good, ordered, balanced, whole. Our orientation is toward the goodness of God. Joy, well-being, dependability, security, the connections of healthy relationships, enough food on the table, shelter over our heads, the safety of our kids and grandkids, our health….

all of this brings the words “Thank God!” up out of our hearts and to our lips just as they did for the Psalmist.

But, as Walter reminds us: “life also has its seasons of confusion and anguish and hurt and alienation – – suffering and death. These times can evoke feelings of sorrow, fear, rage, self pity, resentment – and for these times the psalmist gives us the psalms of “disorientation” – – poems that match the “ragged disarray”. Psalms of “disorientation” are full of extravagant lament, and abrasiveness – – poetry that helps us to give expression to the sorrow and suffering and anxiety and pain that we endure from time to time….Life is not all equilibrium, coherence and symmetry. Life is also sometimes savagely marked by disequilibrium, incoherence, and asymmetry.4 Life is marked by unwanted surprises like serious illness, the loss of a friend’s child to drug overdose, a costly, leaky roof, the unanticipated pain that follows surgery, the devastation of a nation after a hurricane, the disorienting confusion and anxiety following a national election.

The Psalms give us words to pray when life falls apart. From Psalm 13:

How long will this pain go on, Lord,

this grief I can hardly bear?

How long will anguish grip me

and agony wring my mind?

Light up my eyes with your presence;

let me feel your love in my bones.

Keep me from losing myself

in ignorance and despair.

Teach me to be patient ,Lord;

teach me to be endlessly patient.

Let me trust that your love enfolds me

when my heart feels desolate and dry.

I will sing to the Lord at all times,

even from the depths of pain.5

Walter observes that our hymns most often focus on equilibrium, coherence and symmetry – – all the positive things we attribute to God’s grace and creative goodness. But he also reminds us that “our dependence on the hymns of orientation may deceive and cover over or, worse, ignore, that life in our time is tumultuous, out of balance, and sometimes crazily incoherent.” 6 Psalm 13 that we just heard is a personal lament, but the Psalms also include the lament of the people as they mourn public events of loss. When Israel was in exile, there was tremendous grief. I expect it was not unlike what millions of refugees and immigrants are feeling today as they are uprooted from their homes and their countries by forces far beyond their abilities to change.

Psalm 137 is a lament of an entire people as they mourn a catastrophic public event – their exile in a foreign land:

By the rivers of Babylon –

there we sat down and wept

when we remembered Zion.

On the willows there

we hung up our harps.

For there our captors

asked us for songs

and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,

Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

How could we sing the Lord’s song

in a foreign land?

If I forget you O Jerusalem,

let my right hand wither!

Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth,

if I do not remember you.

Perhaps the most familiar personal lament Psalm of disorientation is the one we hear from the lips of Jesus on the cross – the opening words of Psalm 22:

My God, my God, why have you

forsaken me?

Why are you so far from helping me, from the

words of my groaning?

O my God, I cry by day but

you do not answer;

by night, but find no rest.

Walter finds it odd “that the church has continued to sing songs of orientation in a world increasingly experienced as disorienting.” He writes:” I think the serious religious use of the lament Psalms has been minimal because we have believed that faith does not mean to acknowledge and embrace negativity. We have thought that acknowledgement of negativity is an act of unfaith, as though the very speech about it conceded too much about God’s “loss of control.” 7 But if we are going to live authentic lives, there are times when we absolutely need to name our sorrows, our fears, our disabling events – -and we need safe places in which to do that – – and we need compassionate and receptive ears to receive our complaint. Healers of every stripe affirm that healing begins with naming what hurts. The lament Psalms of disorientation help us to do that – sometimes with dramatic words and images that aren’t even in our prayer vocabularies. Consider these words, also from Psalm 22:

I am poured out like water,

and all of my bones are out of

joint;

my heart is like wax;

it is melted within my breast;

my mouth is dried up like a

potsherd,

and my tongue sticks to my jaws;

you lay me in the dust of death.8

But, as Walter reminds us, the Psalms also attest to the reality that “we don’t take up permanent residence in anguish and alienation. Human life consists in turns of surprise when we are overwhelmed with the new gifts of God, when joy breaks through the despair. Where there has only been darkness, there is light.”9

And so the Psalmist gives us the songs of a new orientation – the songs that we sing when we realize that, indeed, God has heard our cries from the depths of our disorientation. Psalm 30 is perhaps the best example of a song of the new orientation. It tells the narrative of the passage into and out of a time of disorientation – of going into the trouble and coming out of the trouble – whatever it may be:

I thank you and praise you, Lord,

for saving me from disaster.

I cried out, “Help me, dear God;

I’m frightened and have lost my way.”

You came to me in the darkness;

You breathed life into my bones,

You plucked me from the abyss;

You made me whole.

You rescued me from despair;

you turned my lament into dancing.

You lifted me up; you took off

my mourning, and you clothed me with joy.10

We need Psalms with all three themes to help us experience all of life as cut from a whole piece of cloth. We need to affirm the goodness of the order of our lives in the midst of the good times. We need to be able to give a clear loud voice to all the range of negative emotions we feel when life spins out of control; and we need to recognize the new and greater gifts that come from God when we emerge from wherever the stress of disorientation takes us – we need to recognize and give thanks that God does not leave us there. Indeed, we may find ourselves praising God for the gifts that began to take shape even in the midst of the darkest times. Only then do our songs of thanksgiving rise with authenticity and integrity.

I want to close with words from Psalm 149:

Sing to the Lord a new song;

praise him with words and silence.

Praise god through all your actions;

Praise him in sorrow and joy.

Praise God with music and dancing,

with bodies moving in delight.

Let the wise sing out in their freedom;

let the whole earth echo their song.

Let all creatures be peaceful

and walk in the path of true life.

Thanks for letting me share a little of my walk with Walter this week and may you come to the day of Thanksgiving with full hearts wherever you find yourself in the continuum of orientation -disorientation and new orientation. If the truth were known, we occupy these multiple worlds simultaneously most of the time – and God dwells with us wherever we are. Thanks be to God.

1Walter Brueggemann THE MESSAGE OF THE PSALMS A Theological Commentary Augsburg Press, Minneapolis 1984 p. 19

2 Stephen Mitchell A BOOK OF PSALMS Selected and Adapted From the Hebrew; First Harper Perennial Edition, New York, 1994. p.42.

3 Stephen Mitchell, A BOOK OF PSALMS Selected and Adapted from the Hebrew First Harper Perennial Edition, New York, 1994 p. 54

4 Brueggemann p.19

5 Mitchell p. 6

6 Brueggemann p.

7 Brueggemann p.52

8 Psalm 22:14-15 NRSV

9 Brueggemann p. 19

10 Mitchell p.16