There was a good crowd Tuesday. Soccer on the terrace. Bananagrams for the die hards and lots of conversation.
April 1, 2014
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
As we continue to journey in the Lenten season, particularly as we enter the Holy Week, I am sure that all of us reflect on many aspects of Jesus’s ministry and mission! Of course, each one of them is very important and vital.
One of the images I am reflecting on is Jesus washing the feet of His disciples. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that in my recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land, someone presented me with a beautiful olive wood carving of Jesus washing the feet of a disciple. As I ponder on this image, one of the things that crosses my mind is Peter’s statement to Jesus, “You will never wash my feet” (John 13:6).
We may never know what prompted Peter to react in this way, or what was going on in his mind as Jesus approached to wash his feet. Perhaps this was a shock to Peter because in that culture washing one’s feet was not a task of a leader but of a subordinate.
Perhaps Peter was not able to understand and accept the symbolism of someone washing his feet.
Perhaps Peter was uncomfortable with someone touching his feet.
Perhaps Peter was not ready to be humbled by someone washing his feet.
But as one reflects upon this holy act on the part of Jesus, as one reflects upon the dialogue between Jesus and Peter around this issue, it becomes very clear that Christ is offering a model to all of his followers of His ministry and mission. Jesus makes it abundantly clear by saying, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord-and you are right, for that is what I am. So, if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” (John 13:13-15).
May I prayerfully suggest you ponder this thought as we continue our journey as disciples of Jesus Christ? Where is God calling us to wash someone’s feet at this hour in our homes, neighborhoods, nation and world?
Today, the opportunity may not be there to necessarily physically touch someone’s feet and wash them … but what about spiritually, emotionally, and financially?
More importantly, how do we react or respond to this dialogue between Jesus and Peter, as we journey as disciples of Jesus in the twenty-first century? Perhaps one of the reasons Peter was reluctant to accept Christ’s offer was he believed doing so might be seen as a weakness or lack of leadership. A few years ago, a wise mentor reminded me that accepting someone’s help in our journey is not a weakness, but a strength indeed! Many a time we fail in our ministry because we are too confident of ourselves and we refuse to take someone else’s help.
As we journey as disciples of Jesus Christ, the context of our ministry is much different from years ago! As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are constantly pushed into the margins of our society, where the ministry of a towel and basin is a blessing! It is not a ministry where we have all the answers as individuals, but a ministry where we constantly need to hear one another, learn from one another, and understand one another. In that context our mentors and teachers might be fellow pilgrims who are younger or older than us, pilgrims who may have a different accent or different lifestyle, BUT they too are the children of God who have the same quest as ours.
May God grant you and me the wisdom, courage, peace, and direction filled with the love of Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, so that we may resemble our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, our guru, who taught us the importance of the ministry of the towel and basin.
May the power and courage of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be our strength in the forthcoming Holy Week and always!
In Christ’s love,
Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar
In Yonder Meadows
In these fields I’ve wandered, I’ve pondered, I have grown
And my heart grows fonder, with each pasture I have known
And in yonder woods, I have followed the mossy banks
Of a trickling brook where I’ve knelt down to give thanks
These fields taught me compassion They taught me to forgive
And with mercy unrationed They taught me how to live
As a soul that’s fallen I’ve pounded my fists and wept
God must have heard me calling – For something in my spirit leapt
There’s a fog rolls in Each evening from the coast
It creeps across the landscapes like a phantom or ghost
It rolls across the meadow, the sorrells and the dales
Continues to drift even as dawn lifts Like a burka or veil
Through the mist I’m running Heart pounding against my chest
To the spirit that is coming In whose presence I feel blessed
Yes Each moment hastens toward me Impatient to impart
All that my soul craves All that saves the wounded heart
With their verdant splendor
These fields taught me to believe
And persuaded me to surrender
In order that I might receive
No matter how far I wander
Or the qualities I lack
Or the years I have squandered
These fields, they always take me back
Mike Gilman from Aquinnah Baptist Church was our guest of honor as we celebrated Labor Day weekend at Chilmark Community Church.
We’re hoping Mike will return this winter for those of you who missed him.
Summer is winding down. We thanked Ann Deitrich for her labor running the Flea Market which ended yesterday. We had 10 kids in Sunday School with summer friends lingering and back to school kids returning.
We said goodbye to all the kids from Shirley, MA.
And goodbye to Noah, visiting his grand parents, Connie and Preston:
We had a lot to celebrate this morning with Ted Mayhew back with us. We’re keeping him in our prayers. Just 2 or 3 Lobster Roll Tuesdays to go.
November 20, 2012
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
I greet you in and through the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
First and foremost, let me express my sincere thanks and appreciation for the significant response and the generous contributions you have made in response to the devastating effects of Super Storm “Sandy.” In fact a team from the New England Annual Conference is already in ministry in Crisfield, Maryland. Once again, the connection of our Church is a wonderful gift in the midst of tragedy and loss. Your contributions are truly appreciated.
On behalf of the Northeastern College of Bishops, I am writing to provide you with an update and to make an additional appeal for your consideration. Our United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has done their initial assessment of the situation and has determined that the recovery from this disaster will take approximately 3-4 years to complete. This means that our response will be ongoing as we provide a helping hand to those in need.
At a recent meeting of the Northeastern Jurisdictional College of Bishops, we determined that the focus of our efforts will be centered on the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference. The devastation there is significant and, after nearly a month, is still being assessed. We know already that there are critical needs that must be addressed.
For that reason, we are initiating a special offering for the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference from their sister Annual Conferences in the Northeastern Jurisdiction. This offering will be put together into one gift from the Annual Conferences of the Northeastern Jurisdiction and presented directly to the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference. When a disaster of this magnitude strikes, UMCOR suggests that an Annual Conference set up their own special fund in addition to gifts provided to the ADVANCE. This offering will be sent from the NEJ Annual Conferences to that fund.
May I request you consider taking a special offering on either December 2 or 9, earmarked for “Greater New Jersey Hurricane Relief.” These offerings are to be sent directly to the New England Annual Conference Office.
Thank you once again for your spirit and your willingness to respond to our sisters and brothers in need. My prayer is that we will come together to provide a truly significant offering as a demonstration of our support.
I look forward to partnering with you in the months ahead to provide a significant and compassionate response.
With Great Appreciation for Your Ministry and In Christ’s Love,
Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar
He added, in another email, the following:
Some may question why, if we just collected offerings for the victims of Sandy, we are sending a second offering, specifically for the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference. Personally, as your Episcopal leader, it is a sensitive issue for me since I just came to serve among you and with you, the Saints of the New England Annual Conference, after serving among and with the Saints of the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference for eight years. While it is true that we are giving through UMCOR, we also need to realize that there are restrictions on the use of UMCOR funds. Only limited UMCOR funds can be used for repairs of the church buildings, parsonages and replacement of clergy personal belongings and many of the churches do not have flood insurance coverage.
This is an email from Helen sent when her power came on Friday.
Not sure when i will be able to send this to you, as i have no internet service – nor telephone reception, nor electricity for that matter. If you have watched the news, which, trust me, none of those most affected by the hurricane have been able to do, you may have taken note that lower manhattan was severely handicapped by the surges associated with the recent weather system…The east river, which is a few blocks away, overflowed its banks – and a five foot wall of water flooded con edison, causing one of its transformers to blow up. The explosion was deafening, and rattled and reverberated throughout the area, knocking out power…Everything has been closed down and the east village has been transformed into a ghost town. Nothing is open, no street lights, no flower vendors, no stores, no coffee stands. Nothing. It is very eerie and desolate – and dark…There is also no cell phone reception or internet so it is impossible to reach anyone – or go anywhere. There is no subways service and although busses have started running, they are so dangerously overcrowded and delayed, that it is very crude – and – sorry to say this – rattling. I would easily compare it to India…And keep in mind there are no traffic lights and hundreds, if not thousands, of people strung along a ten block distance, hoping to cram into a bus…a lot of jabbing and jostling and jeers. its definitely hardcore…
i have an appointment at the hospital tomorrow – and since there was no way anyone could get in touch with me – nor could i call the hospital, i took the bus up today – just to find out if indeed the appointment was still to be honored. NYU medical center, just a few blocks away, had massive flooding the night of the storm, its generator failed, and all the patients had to be evacuated (without elevators, mind you…) When i arrived at Bellevue, the scenario was not much different. The hospital was in the dark, and though there was some generator capacity, they were not sure how much longer it would last, and there was a convoy of ambulances, and the national guard, assisting in moving the patients. No telephones there, no electricity, and no way for much of the staff to get there. Pretty grim. Needless to say all appointments have been cancelled…I am hoping that a few important upcoming procedures will not have to be rescheduled, and that things will be back to normal…I am hoping that the flooding did not do irreparable damage – as things are already shoddy in terms of medical care – the wait involved and then the bureaucracy…its a bit dour.
i also went further uptown to recharge my cell phone – though i was unable to get enough reception to make calls or receive whatever messages have accumulated. uptown is totally normal. all the businesses are open, all the traffic lights are working, and women are walking around with shopping bags. i found a whole foods with a cafe and plugged my phone in. most every one there was from down town, doing the same thing. we all look a little weathered, as its been impossible to shower or bathe…
i am happy i don’t live in a high rise. i can’t imagine what it would be like to have to walk up eleven or twenty one flights of stairs.
fortunately the temperatures are descending – so whatever food stuffs i bought can go out on the fire escape.
the trip on the bus to stop at the hospital and then to whole foods required six hours of my day. only to return to the east village to find that i can’t really make any calls anyway.
strange because there are no news stands, no bars, no televisions so we have no idea what is going on…or what the rest of the eastern seaboard experienced.
its halloween and its a little spooky…once darkness descends, no one is out on the street. it just feels too dangerous.
i am not sure where to go or what to do about getting “on line.” i need to make some inquiries. perhaps since i don’t have to go to the doctor’s tomorrow i will brave the decrepit bus service again and find a way to get this email off.
The Bread Also Rises
A Sermon For The Chilmark Community Church
Rev. Dr. Rebecca Pugh, Clergy
August 5, 2012
We are going to be reading John’s Gospel: the story of a time when the people followed Jesus, asking him to whip up more miracles for them. He has already turned the loaves and fishes into a feast for 5,000, and they want him to do it again. But he says, watch yourselves; be careful; keep track of your hungers and see them for what they are.
I have a story for you, told to me by a member of our church in Ipswich this week. It seems that a lady had a parakeet, and it died. She took it to the vet, and the vet, without needing much analysis, told her that the parakeet was indeed dead, and she should bury it. But she said, “No, it’s been my pet for a long time. I really like it. Can’t you do anything?” And the vet said, “No, not now; it’s dead.” But the lady begged him for more work to be done on the parakeet. So the vet finally agreed. He opened the door to the back room, and a technician came out, with a silver tabby cat on a leash. The cat walked up to the parakeet, sniffed it, pushed it to the other end of the desk, and then walked away. Then, out of the same back room door, another technician came out, with a Labrador retriever on a leash. The Labrador bounded up to the parakeet, sniffed its feet, sniffed its head, and then lay down and panted. The vet turned back to the lady. “Sorry lady. Your bird is dead.” “Ok,” she said. “How much do I owe you?” “Five hundred dollars.” “Five hundred dollars to tell me that my bird is dead?” “Well,” said the vet, “It was going to be fifty for the office visit. But with the cat scan and the lab report, it’s five hundred.”
Sometimes we start with a simple problem, and we make it really complicated. Like the lady with the dead bird, sometimes we do not need a lot of help to understand a situation, but we want it to stay complicated, so we go looking in strange places. This is a similar situation to what Jesus is talking about in John’s Gospel. Sometimes we get all mixed up, he says. Sometimes we feel sad, but we think we are hungry. Sometimes we feel lonely, but we think we are thirsty. It gets all jumbled in our brains, and we go out looking for the wrong cures, when the answer is straightforward. What we really want is comfort, and love, and food in our body just when it’s hungry.
Sermon for All Ages:
John 6: 25 ff
The next day the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there. They also saw that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Then some boats from Tiberius came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set the seal.
This is a sermon about hope. I would like to thank your minister Arlene for inviting me to fill in for her while she is away. It is an honor to be here.
The Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch (1450 – 1516) has a painting hanging in the Prado in Madrid called “seven deadly sins” and he depicts a man, sitting in a tidy room, on a chair with a pillow in his painting segment called “sloth”. He has a fire in the fireplace, a dog at his feet, music playing outside his window, even a nun, coming to his doorstep to pray the Rosary with him. But he sleeps. He has 100 beautiful things waiting. But he sleeps and waits. Alas, he is sleeping still, 500 years later.
Sometimes I think we get stuck waiting for happiness, or fullness, and we do not realize the joy that is around us. We can get so distracted that we miss our chance to be free.
In a similar way, in Dante’s Inferno, the people who suffer from spiritual hunger are depicted by Dante as stuck under the surface of a large stinking swamp. They explain, “We were sad in the sweet air which the sun made cheerful, for within us was morose smoke.”1
Jesus says, as John’s Gospel remembers it, “Don’t do that. Don’t get stuck in appetites or moods or resentments. Don’t look in all the wrong places for joy. Rather, look right where you are. You don’t need new possessions, new purchases, and new foods. All you need, to borrow Dante’s words, is the sweet air, which the sun made cheerful.
The context of this verse is this: Jesus has fed the 5,000, and the people are looking for more. They realize that he is a man of miracles, and they follow him tenaciously. Jesus, then, as John presents him, draws a line for them. Be careful, John describes Jesus saying. Don’t mix up your belly and your brain. Don’t mix up your short-term longing with your long-term trust.
John’s Gospel is rich with these distinctions between the material body and the spiritual plane. John presents Jesus as the holy golden man, never hungry after the resurrection as he is in Luke’s Gospel, never crying in fear or pain on the cross as he is in Matthew’s Gospel, but rather so pure and powerful that he needs nothing, transcends everything, and perfectly manages his life. John even quotes Jesus from the cross as saying, ‘It is accomplished’, his salvation is worked out, rather than the “why have you forsaken me” that we hear from the other Gospel writers.
I have been working with a manuscript from Krister Stendahl, who was the Lutheran Bishop of Stockholm in the 1980’s and spent every summer right across the bay here on Nantucket, who talks about the Jesus of John’s Gospel. According to John, Jesus is powerful beyond measure. He’s not afraid of anything. He’s never tempted. He never asks for help. He never blows up or knocks over a table. The Jesus of John’s Gospel, in other words, is far away from the human man that we find in the other gospels. He’s powerful and strong and shielded, by his holiness, from the mutability of human emotion.
And so it is no wonder that John describes Jesus here, reminding the people to turn away from the perishable thoughts and hungers, and towards the imperishable. The Jesus of John’s Gospel is great at that model of aiming for perfection, without coddling the human frailty. He wants us to be great at turning toward the joy.
In this perfection that John’s Gospel points us to try for, Jesus says there are really two kinds of food: the kind that perishes, that is the sort that nourishes our bodies. And there is the kind that doesn’t perish. That is the sort that nourishes our souls. He says sometimes, we go looking for the perishable foods, even when it’s our souls that are hungry. Be careful about that, he says. Keep a good boundary. Know when your body is hungry, and know what the other signals come from, and mean.
Sometimes we get mixed up, we feel hungry when we are really sad; we feel thirsty when we are tired. And we make bad decisions.
I titled this sermon, “The Bread Also Rises”, thinking of Ernest Hemmingway’s novel, “The Sun Also Rises”; a good Paris novel to consider while your minister is away in Paris. Hemmingway writes his novel beginning in the gay city of France, and then moving to the bull fights in Spain. The characters are unhappy. Jake Barnes longs for love, and can’t have it. His body is injured in the war, and though he can do sports and many things, he cannot physically love another person. Brett Ashley, on the other hand, has so much physical love that she is cynical from it, and also unhappy. The two of them long for each other, but live isolated. Hemmingway borrows a passage from Ecclesiastes to title his book: “The earth abiedeth forever; the sun also ariseth, and goeth down, and hasteneth to the place where he arose”. Hemmingway told his publisher that he intended the novel to be about the earth abiding forever. The characters are lonely, but not lost. They are hungry, but they yet have a chance at fullness.
It is like the figures from Dante’s inferno: the sweet air is just above them, and they can’t quite smell it, because of the filmy swamp surface that they are just beneath. But they remember the sweet air. They long to have just one day again, up there breathing in the sunlight.
It is like the man in the Bosch painting: he is sound asleep, even though there are many happy things waiting to cheer him if he would just wake up: a fire, a dog, music, even a friend with whom to pray.
In other words, you may not need a cat scan, a lab report, but a simple turning toward joy. In that sense we may find that the bread, though it falls some of the time, also rises up to cheer us. And that rising bread takes forms ordinary and extraordinary; forms we might never expect.
In conclusion, I would like to sing a song that our youth group at home is fond of. Sometimes they sing it for the church. It is called, “Now I walk in Beauty”, and it is a song from the Native American community.
Now I walk in Beauty.
Beauty is before me.
Beauty is behind me, above, and below me.
Thanks be to God.
1 Described by Norris, Kathleen. “Plain Old Sloth”. Christian Century, January 11, 2003.