On Blessing..June 16 by Armen Hanjian

INCOMPLETE UNTIL….

CHILMARK COMMUNITY CHURCH       June 16, 2019

PSALM 104 AND  LUKE 6:27-28             ARMEN HANJIAN

I have just the prayer for you in case people have started eating before the prayer: “Bless the Lord , O my soul, and all that is within me bless God’s holy name.”

In many places in our Bible we are called to bless the Lord.  We have some tasks to attend to then.  One is to identify the many benefits God gives us – to recall them, to remember them.  That’s not sufficient.  Many say “I am thankful for peace and for health and for my good looks – at least I look better than so and so.”  That is a very limited step.  That step is just a matter of making a list, a matter of rationally knowing  I have a debt.  What is missing is the feeling component.

In so much of our lives, we have had squelched that feeling part of life.    When we started out in  life as infants, we came packaged with good balance: with ability to reason and being in touch with and able to express our feelings.  For many in the world, society has found a way to squeeze the feelings out of our awareness.

We are told, “Cool it; we don’t want to know about your feelings and especially about any negative feelings.  And if you have any positive feelings of rejoicing – that’s o.k. but only so much.  Don’t over do it.”

So the amount of feelings we are allowed to express are very limited in scope.  We can have a little bit of positive and even less of negative.  The overall message that we have gotten is “Stuff it.”

Yet God has given us the ability to have deep, deep feelings – feelings of despair, of hopelessness, of pain, of being in touch with our times of deprivation and at the other end of the spectrum feelings of joy and exhilaration and excitement.  But for most, we have been limited  to a very narrow range, a narrow world of feelings.

And what people have had to do is to take drugs, to drink, to force a party in order to push past those limits.  And you know there are healthier ways to get past them.  The healthiest thing of course is not to dampen and limit feelings in our children.  When they get out into the world they will get limited there  so our task is to give permission to others and to our selves to take the time to be aware of feelings and welcome them.

So, in order to bless the Lord we must not only remember all God benefits.  We also need to express the feeling they have the ability to stir up in us.  That is what the blessing part is, that is what the praising part is.   When we get in touch with our feelings and usually when it is in the area of thanksgiving –  they are feelings of gratitude, of pleasure, of satisfaction, of having been attended to – when we are in touch with those feelings – then we are moved to action.  Because feelings are not just for the moment, for the experiencing; they are energy  which is given to us to prompt us to action perhaps to sing, to praise, to dance, to share or some other move.

Notice the many places where praising or blessing perk up; it is happening in a myriad of places.  C.S. Lewis in his book, The Joyful Christian (p.118) noted, “The most obvious fact about praise – whether of God or anything else strangely escaped me.  I thought of it in terms of a compliment, approval or the giving of honor.  I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously… overflows into praise unless(sometimes even if) shyness or the fear of boring others is brought in to check it. The world rings with praise – lovers praising their mistresses, readers praising their favorite poets, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game, praise of weather, wine, dishes, actors,… horses, colleges,  countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars.”

Lewis said, “I had noticed that the humblest, and at the same time the most balanced minds,…praised most, while the cranks, misfits and malcontents praised least….Except where intolerably adverse circumstances interfere, praise almost seems to be inner health made audible.”

“All that is within me bless God’s holy name.”  What is within a person?  Love the Lord our God with all your mind and heart and soul and strength.  With your voice, your singing, with your hands, with your feet, with your talents, with your work, with your life. The Psalmist says, Let everything that breathes praise the Lord.”

Many other things praise the Lord just by being – the earth, the sky, the sea.  We humans who breath have a choice.  It is not that God has this need to be praised.  It I rather that we need to praise.  There are rules, laws in the Hebrew scriptures, saying on the Sabbath we should worship as a community of the faithful.  We could translate that:  “You need to go to Church every week to praise God.” And that sounds like a dull, difficult requirement to many.  At least that is how it is for those who don’t go every week.  Those who go every week don’t see it as a dull requirement; they see it as a source of strength, as a way of expressing, as a way of being in touch with the truths inside and the truth outside and the Source of all truth.

Did you ever notice that just as we spontaneously praise whatever we value, we also try to get others to join us in praising it?  “Wasn’t that a great day?”  “Isn’t she a beautiful person?”  So when the Psalmist writes to us, “Bless the Lord…,”  he is doing what everyone else does when they speak about what they care about.

We  delight in praising what we enjoy because it completes the enjoyment.  C.S. Lewis adds, “It is not out of compliment that lovers keep telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete until it is expressed.”

Isn’t it frustrating seeing a beautiful sunrise and everyone else in the house is asleep?  Or worse, wanting to point out a truth but the one alongside you doesn’t care a stich about it?

Our feelings seldom get full expression.  Sometimes they get out in poetry or music or art or dance where we almost burst with the fullness of vitality.

What does it mean to bless?  The meanings include: to make holy, to baptize, to dedicate; to endow, to benefit; to guard, to protect, to watch over, to support.  The Hebrew Scriptures are full of directives to bless.  Only one place do we have Jesus saying we should bless.  Luke 6:27-28 “But I say to you who  listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”

And we also can glean insights into Jesus when he expressed feelings. 1) When Jesus was angry, he turned over the tables of the money changers and drove out the sellers of unblemished sheep for sacrificial offerings in the Temple. 2)Upon hearing of the death of his friend John the Baptist,  in sadness, Jesus wept.  It is o.k. to cry. Then he went about teaching and modeling the Kingdom of God about which John preached. 3)When Jesus felt compassion for the sick, the lame, the blind, he healed them. 4)When he felt the lostness of the people who were like sheep without a shepherd, he engaged people with a ministry of teaching such that they connected with God’s leadership and God’s purposes.

5)When Jesus felt respect for children, he acted by welcoming them amongst his hearers; removing the barrier he said, “Let the children come.” 6)When he felt frustrated with the slowness of the disciples to catch on to his way, he expressed it verbally.  7) When Jesus felt unjustly accused, he had a variety of responses:  One time he responded with a counter question, another time with intentional silence and once with “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.”

The beautiful thing about letting feelings prompt the action is that the action is usually the most appropriate action to take.

We don’t write letters of thanks to all, but we do to some.  We don’t visit everyone who has blessed us, but there may be a few. We don’t give gift to all who have been kind to us, but it may be fitting for this person.  The feeling may prompt a hug offered to a child or even to another man.  I find it best to ask, “Are you open to a hug?”  Your response may be a creative piece of art or cooking or poetry that is just suited to the feeling and to the person.  And, the feeling may spontaneously overflow in joyous, even extravagant action.

It doesn’t take much time at all to stop and be aware of God’s benefits and then take the next step and be in touch with your feelings.  Then your soul will truly bless the Lord  and will overflow in benefits to others and to yourself.

“Bless the Lord O my soul, and forget not all God’s benefits.”

2019 Children’s Fair

June 15 was a perfect day.  Everett and his grandmother, Kim, were the first arrivals (and helpers).DSCF0009The games were prepared: Oscar, the GrouchDSCF0347 (2)Face Painting: DSCF0348cup cakes and badminton and  bean bag toss and ducklings to be netted from a pool..and the bounce house.DSCF0359 (2)And the people came and sweet children, all well behaved.DSCF0358 The cup cakes to decorate beneath the tree are a hit.DSCF0355Thanks to all the helpers and Julie for organizing!DSCF0350 (2)

“off the Beaten Path” , June 1,2019

Off The Beaten Path

(or The Spiritual Practice of Getting Lost)

Chilmark Community Church

June 2, 2019

                  Genesis 12:1         Numbers 10:11-12               Luke 4: 1-14

Rev. Vicky Hanjian

                             

Armen and I recently spent a week visiting  the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

We traveled in unfamiliar territory on roads we had never seen before, slept in strange places and ate in untried cafes and restaurants – on at least two occasions experiencing some pretty dicey results.  Traveling “off season” sometimes had me  wondering when we would find the next gas station, or the next place to eat.  Most of the businesses were still closed.  From time to time, in the misty remoteness I really felt like a stranger in a strange land.

As we drove through dense forests of Jack Pine and birch rising steeply on either side of the road, covering miles and miles without seeing another car or human being , Barbara Brown Taylor’s reflections on the idea of getting lost as a spiritual practice were very much with me.

Taylor writes about how we humans get into stable patterns that help us to move through our daily lives in an orderly way – patterns that become automatic and almost unconscious.  She compares this to the way cows follow well trod paths day in and day out without having to think about where they are going or what they are doing.   She writes “I am convinced that this is normal human behavior, which means that something extra is needed to override it.  Why override it? Because once you leave the cow path, the unpredictable territory is full of life. True, you cannot always see where you are putting your feet.   This means you can no longer stay unconscious. You can no longer count on the beaten down red dirt path making all of your choices for you.  Leaving it, you  agree to make your own choices for a spell.  You agree to become aware of each step you take, tuning all of your senses to exactly where  you are and exactly what you are doing.

This was my  experience, traveling along hairpin turns high above the ocean, not being able to see whether other vehicles were approaching  on the road ahead, keeping conscious watch for obstacles in the road where the signs indicate the danger of falling rocks.  The play of light on the ocean; the softness of the mist shrouding the trees;  ribbons of water falling from hidden places in the rocky cliffs all stood out with greater clarity.  On those occasions when the GPS device occasionally couldn’t  “find us” we did get to have the experience of being lost.  All of a sudden, it is just us in the car in the wilderness, unable to even sense direction because of the fog and the lack of an appearance by the sun.

Being of a theological mindset, I found myself connected in a new way to  Abram and Sarai being called out to “a land I will show you” – not really knowing where they were going, but answering the call with a willingness to get lost;  then Jacob running to escape his brother’s murderous rage and getting lost in holy space;  Moses and his band of wanderers finding their way through wilderness to a place of promise;  Jesus spending time in the wilderness – – all willing to be “lost” – – all on  their way to finding new ways of being conscious of  God, all on the way to discovering who they were to be in the Divine unfolding of God’s people. 

In the off season wilderness , we spent a number of mealtimes sitting at the dinner table in small out of the way restaurants and diners enjoying the company of wait staff and local people as well as others who were traveling the off the beaten path.  Places with unlikely names like “The Yello Cello” and “The Farmer’s Daughter”, the “Foggy Skipper” – even visited a place called “Proud To be Hookers” (It turned out to  be a rug hooking co-op).  We encountered gentleness, kindness, generosity, trust, interest, hospitality, grace and delightful humor in strangers wherever we landed.

Last week we heard the guest preacher at the Congregational Church in West Tisbury name and confirm the emotional and spiritual stress that is in our country today – that we are all, regardless of our politics, having the experience of being in the wilderness – “off the beaten path” – lost.  We are traveling in a wilderness where the familiar patterns of civility and  the traditional values of honor and respect, honesty and integrity, trust and truth telling are barely holding on like battered prayer flags in a strong wind.  Whether we have chosen it or not, we are enduring an experience of the spiritual practice of being lost.

In a climate of fear and name – calling and distrust, we are reluctant to talk to one another about what is important to us – afraid to be with one another in our differing opinions about what we understand to be  right or wrong.  Many of the trail markers of civility and honesty that have guided us have rotted and faded by the trailside.  Alongside  all the other crises we are in – humanitarian, constitutional, environmental – we are also in a spiritual crisis.    The holy impulse of God desires holiness – – wholeness and unity in our immense diversity of belief and understanding and political orientation.  But we live in a time of being fractured and divided – and therefore vulnerable to exploitation and abuse by powers beyond our control.

I’d like  suggest that, as uncomfortable as this is for many of us, it may be an invitation from the Author of All Life to engage in the spiritual practice of being lost – to confess that this is where we are -to trust that in the wildness  in which we may find ourselves, that there is, indeed, a guiding principle – the same One who guided Abraham and Sarah and Jacob and Moses and Jesus through their wild and lost times.   Wherever a sense of being lost  has happened in our ancestral stories, it has resulted in a new and heightened consciousness of the movement of the holy One  – – guiding the narrative if you will.   

Life in this country and, indeed, in this world, today literally calls us to take the risk of getting off our beaten paths – to join our faith ancestors in the discomfort of the journey into wilderness territory – to find and encounter one another -to encounter the stranger – to have the difficult conversations, to have the experience of entering unfamiliar terrain, of being lost, as we try to reach out to each other in our differences.  Barbara Brown Taylor suggests that we all may carry the “wilderness gene” – – that we have a propensity as God’s people to be wanderers, sometimes lost in strange and unfamiliar places.  She also affirms that the practice of getting lost is a way of awakening to God.

The very act of sharing together today in communion at the table Jesus has prepared for us is, indeed, an invitation into that place of being lost – – being in the wilderness – – being in the wild and unruly presence of God’s dynamic and ongoing creating as we travel in this strange and stressful time together.  May it be so.

    

May 26 Blessing of the Fleet/Memorial Day

DSCF0325 vicky and armenBlessing of the Fleet

May 26,2019

Memorial Day Weekend

Menemsha Harbor

Chilmark Community Church

Rev. Vicky Hanjian

This is perhaps the 3rd time I have been involved with a service of Blessing The Fleet. Each time I prepare for this ritual, I become aware of the gift of grace of living in an environment where we are surrounded and embraced and occasionally battered by the sea. And I am quite mindful that a service like this could not happen in Montana or Nebraska or Arizona with quite the same meaning or sense of immediacy.

Being a landlubber at heart, I am quite content to just stand in the sand or on the jetty – maybe get my feet wet – – and marvel at the ever changing and beautiful and sometimes challenging and frightening mystery of the ocean. But I am also blessed to live surrounded by so many people who love to be in and on the water – – who may even have a bit of the briny deep running in their veins. And it is for these human beings and their various vessels that we offer our prayers and blessings this morning. The love of the oceans, the need to never be far from the water, the joy and adventure of being out of sight of the land are all so old in us. Whether we draw on the ancient witness of the early chapters of the book of Genesis or we defer to the science of evolution – -or whether we harmonize them in our understanding – -the ocean seems to be where it all began.

So – we gather to bless the fleet. It might be well to pause for a moment and ask ourselves why we do this? What good does it do to leave our comfort zones early on a Sunday morning to come to the water’s edge – to spend some time together in the wind and fog and the dampness and go through this ritual that happens on the sea coast and at river edge harbors at different times of the year all around the world?

Do we bless the fleet because that’s something we’re supposed to do? Because it has become something habitual we do every year? Or does it have meaning beyond tradition? What does it mean when we bless something anyway? What are we doing when we invoke God’s blessing on someone or something?

Hear these words from the Book of Genesis: Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and the one who curses I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.

These verses tell us what blessing is about. Most obviously, blessing is the opposite of cursing. While cursing someone or something invokes energies and emotions that separate people from one another, blessing sets in motion the energy of relationship. Blessing puts in place the foundation upon which love and concern, friendship and compassion can be built.

Abraham and his clan traveled on land. The tempests and storms they faced had more to do with encountering other people, other clans, strangers, and potential enemies, than they did with encountering storms or enemies on the seas. Still – -the challenge of blessing fell upon him and his family. Essentially, God said “ I will bless you….so that you will be a blessing.

So the act of blessing is a divine and human thing. We receive the blessing of God so that we might become a source of blessing for others – – a force for good, a force for healing, a force for reconciliation and well being.

On this Memorial Day weekend, we honor and remember lives spent and lost in the service of protecting all that we are privileged to enjoy in this country. We also take time to remember all the ways we are served and blessed by the women and men who spend much of their lives on the water. On this occasion of blessing the myriad vessels that sail in our waters, it is well for us to remember the power that we have to unleash goodness – to affect relationships in a positive way – to create a more harmonious and loving world.

To invoke a blessing is essentially an act of gratitude. When we bless it is hard to carry forward grudging or negative feelings toward the object of our blessing. To bless opens the way for the flow of lovingkindness, compassion, hospitality and grace. In the ancient story, our ancestors are called not only to bless – – but to BE a blessing. The very way they carry themselves in the world is to BE a blessing.

So why do we bless the fleet? Surely to invite the safety and well being of all who make their living on the water; definitely to honor all who serve to protect our shores and our air space; and certainly to care for all who find rest and relaxation and re-creation on the water.

But invoking blessing does more than that. When we bless, we open channels of grace – – we become channels of grace – -and our own lives become larger and more generous. We actually are on the way to becoming the blessing we are called to be in our own persons.

So may we offer our prayers and our songs together this morning in the service of the ancient affirmation that we are indeed blessed in order to be a blessing to others and may grace flow in abundance toward all whom we bless this day.

DSCF0333coast guard and piperJamie Douglas, bag pipe with Coast Guard .

May 19, 2019 Farewell

This was Rev. Dr. Charlotte Wright’s last Sunday in our pulpit.May 19 sanctuary57996546536__37BC1CEC-9886-40A1-BB43-86B0ABCF2245After our formal farewell in the sanctuary, there was a bountiful reception in the Hall with every great cook in the church contributing fabulous food. DSCF0286Charlotte got somethings to remember us by:  a tree planted in a national forest,  a doggy Thank You card and, she guessed it,  a ukulele. DSCF0287She looked at Emily in the kitchen as she told her story of borrowing the ukulele from the W.Tisbury library to play with Thursday Strings at the church.  DSCF0289Everyone had a chance to say goodbye and wish her well. She did so much for Chilmark Community Church.  We’ll be forever grateful.

Confirmation

Gabriella Faith Carr was confirmed this morning, May 12, 2019.  20190512_091923Gabby confirmationAsking and answering The Questions…Congregation responded too..WE love her and appreciate her joining the church as an adult.20190512_092431 (1)Rev. Charlotte Wright blessing her.confirmationEmily Broderick, lay leader gives gifts from the church.20190512_092809confimationWe’re so lucky to have this young woman as part of the church family!

Easter 2019

6:30 a.m. sunrise service at Menemsha. (photo by Kim Tharp)
0421190657c-1-1_2Sanctuary ready for 9 o’clock.0421190755a-1IMG_5359IMG_5360Easter message ” In the Garden”..

Special music by Thursday Stings and Jeff Nelson.

“Ave Maria” by Bella.DSCF0266Rain letting up..eggs ready to be found..DSCF0267The hunt begins.0421191014-20421191014e-1Coffee hour.DSCF0273
DSCF0278Bella and Carol (musicians)Organist Carol Loud and soloist Bella.
DSCF0275
DSCF0277Sorting eggs..

Thanks to all who made the morning a success!

Prodigal Parent

synonyms for “Prodigal”..generous, lavish, liberal, unstinting,unsparing , bountiful… Also , as with the ” prodigal son”  ..wastefully extravagant.

Rev. Charlotte shared this poem written by her friend,..Maren Tirabassi

Prayer for a parent when a prodigal departs
(Somehow, I thought I knew all the turns and twists of this parable, but God always has one more perspective to teach me Luke 15)

God, help me love
this one who is walking away —
without imagining the worse,
anticipating a sweet, “I told you so,”
or curling up tight
around my own hurt feelings.

Let me to paint encouragement
across my worried face,
wave even when no one looks back,
send letters and emails
that don’t ask pointed questions,
keep tears out of my texts,
and whine out of my heart.

Let me set aside the robe, ring, shoes
and celebration dinner menu
to be prepared
whether the return is in triumph,
or disillusion and shame.

Welcoming is not something
that happens at the last moment.
Getting my love ready
for that road dust kicked up in the distance
may be the most important
work in my life.

I may never know what is going on
between here and a pig farm.

It’s not really my business,
and if it helps for the story to be told,
it will help more
if I never repeat it.

God, help me love these children
out the door,
love them while they are missing,
love them maybe home again,

because I know what it is
to be loved.