Notes on The Good Shepherd

Notes on The Good Shepherd

Arlene Bodge Preached on the Good Shepherd starting with the childrens’ sermon where she demonstrated that we don’t believe what people tell us unless their actions prove the truth of their words.  Jesus said he was the Good Shepherd, she said, and he proved it by going before, leading, his flock and by laying down his life to be true to his words and his followers.
She amplified on the qualities of a good shepherd in terms of the 23rd psalm: he leads, doesn’t drive; he knows his sheep well and they know his voice; he can take them to quiet , safe places to be nourished; his staff is a tool to guide and protect, not to punish; he can always be depended on.
David wrote the psalm in his “dark valley”, says tradition.   His son, Absalon,whom he loved and depended on, had betrayed him.   Things we come to depend on, jobs, leaders, friends, health, even family, fail us.  God is the only one who, like a good shepherd, can be depended upon to guide us and comfort us all our lives long.

April 5, 2009

So many of the congregation had studied the lessons before the service that there was lots of good discussion this Sunday.  We started with Paul’s letter to the  Philippians 2:5-11, but blended in ideas about Mark 11:1-11 as well.

MH explained that Paul’s letter consisted of an early Christian hymn except for the addition of “on a cross” in referring to Jesus’ death. The letter was written from prison, possibly house arrest, to the prosperous Roman colony in northern Greece, Philippi.  PG added that the Christian hymn also referenced  Isaiah 45:22-25, where the words were said by the prophet to describe the reign of God. That commentator added :”The ultimate goal is the glory of God the Father, the reclamation of God’s sovereignty, his power over, and presence in, the universe”. DC spoke about the Ups and Downs of the story of Holy week.  Jesus, as in Philippians, is humble, yet he arrives in Jerusalem as a King.  He’s exalted by the crowd then days later is doubted and crucified.   PG liked the phrase “Let the mind( “attitude” in some translations)  be in you which is also in Christ Jesus”.  Jesus as our teacher can inspire us to think and have his attitude.  MH concluded with the emphasis on humility in this early hymn.

Mark 11: 1-11

KU pointed out that a colt that had never been ridden before might have been a hand full.  DC said that this was one of several examples of Jesus’ supernatural powers in the story, others being his foreknowledge of the colt and the withering of the fig tree.  CB explained that in those days, a donkey was a symbol of peace.  The people were looking for David, for a return of his kingdom when they were blessed with peace for 40 years. “Hosanna” meant “Save us”.  She also pointed out how poor the people were who greeted Jesus.  They would only have had one cloak and this they lay down on the ground for him to ride over, which was a sacrifice.  No wonder the pharisees were offended.   PC  added further historical context remembering that Jesus had been preaching and teaching in the countryside to poor people, people on the fringes.  When he entered Jerusalem with this crowd plus the residents of Jerusalem, he attracted the attention of the Roman officials and Jewish leaders.  The acclamation of the crowds was threatening to the Romans, who had been content to let the Jewish community worship as long as it did not conflict with the Roman Rule.  The Pharisees also would have been threatened by Jesus, especially after his “cleansing of the temple”.

MH read from a letter from Rev.Geoffrey T. Smith, vicar of the Old North Church in which   he, in turn, quoted the Rev. Rob Voyle, whose work shop on “Appreciative inquiry” he attended.  “Appreciative Inquiry is an organizational behavior theory that assumes it is easier to change with a positive goal ahead of you than a negative push from behind. The Thin Bood of Appreciative Inquiry by Susan Hammond says:

1.In every society, organization or group, something works.

2. What we focus on becomes our reality.

3. The experience of reality is created in the moment, and there are multiple experiences of reality.

4. The act of asking questions of an organization or group influences the group in some way.

5. People have more confidence and comfort to journey to the future, the unknown, when they carry forward parts of the past with them.

6. If we carry parts of the past forward, it should be what is best about the past.

7. It is important to value differences.

8. The language we use creates our reality.

To this, Rev. Voyle added:

9. At any given moment people are doing the best they know how to do in that context at that time.

10. The deepest longing of the human heart is for acceptance.  The only change outcomes that will be sustainable are those that come from greater self acceptance.

MH briefly expanded these points as they might relate to the Easter story and to our churches in transition.

AB concluded the discussion relating her experience in Jerusalem.  She said that there were no sidewalks there.  Where are we in the story?  Since there are no sidewalks there, if you’re not part of the parade, you have to go inside.

March 22, 2009 – Dan Cabot




            The lectionary for this week includes John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” This is the reference you see held up on little yellow signs at football games. “John 3:16” is what University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, perhaps the best college player ever, had printed in the eye-black on his cheeks this season. John 3:16 is the most googled biblical reference. I want to talk a little about everlasting life.


            The atheist’s position is simple. There isn’t an afterlife. When electrical activity in the brain permanently ceases, I (what I mean when I say “I”) will become as dead as a computer without electricity. Shortly the circuits themselves decay, and no new electrical power could make them function again. Memory, personality, intellect, imagination, sensation, integration – all gone. There is no soul to survive death, says the atheist.


            The agnostic position is almost as simple. There is no way to know, one way or the other, what happens after death.  This was Socrates’ view. He said it might be nothing at all (like a dreamless sleep), or it might be the greatest adventure one could imagine.  However, this didn’t stop Socrates from speculating about life after death. Why should it stop me?


            The third position is based on the religious hypothesis. The soul is immortal and travels or is transformed to a new existence after the body dies.  Logically difficult, this is a much more attractive arena for imaginative speculation. It has given rise to some beautiful ideas:


                        When we’ve been there ten thousand years.

                        Bright shining as the sun,

                        We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise

                        Than when we first begun.


            Or the old Gospel tune

                        Will the circle be unbroken?
                        By and by, Lord, by and by,
                        There’s a better home a-waitin’
                        In the sky, Lord, in the sky.


            How about this song by June Carter Cash?

                        I’ll be waiting on the far-side banks of Jordan,

                        I’ll be sitting drawing pictures in the sand,

                        And when I see you coming, I will rise up with a shout

                        And come runnin’ through the shallow waters,

                             Reaching for your hand.

            What a lovely sentiment. Really.


            One would think that the religious hypothesis would find ammunition in the Bible, but the Bible is almost silent on the details of Heaven. It seems clear in the Bible that there is such a place, and that God is there on a throne, and Jesus is there, but beyond that, not much specific. The few descriptions of Heaven in the Bible, from Daniel to Revelations, talk about God’s throne and about a collection of strange beasts there. The traditional views of heaven (wings and harps) don’t come from the Bible. They come from the Apocrypha, from commentaries, or just from ordinary speculation, like mine. Even Jesus’ comment, “In my Father’s house are many mansions,” only widens the field of speculation without being particularly helpful. And why did Jesus add, “If it were not so, I would have told you”? Does that mean there is nothing that is not true about Heaven?


The Greeks imagined a section of the underworld called the Elysian Fields, where heroes went to live a delightful afterlife, spent mostly in contests of strength and warfare – sort of a perpetual Olympic Games. While that doesn’t do it for me, I have always been a competitive person, and the pastimes I enjoy on Earth have often involved testing myself against puzzles or others. I’m not sure Heaven needs to be “fun” in the earthly sense, but if it is, I guess I’d like to play games, solve puzzles – just as others imagine going fishing in Heaven. Will there be crossword puzzles in Heaven? Duplicate bridge? What would a heavenly golf game be? A hole-in-one every time?  Would a heavenly bridge game be one in which I won every hand? Something’s wrong here with the idea of “heavenly.” Winning all the time would be not heavenly but boring. For winning at golf or bridge (or even fishing) to be “perfect,” there would paradoxically have to be at least the possibility of something less than perfect. We perhaps should conclude that non-perfect things must exist in Heaven because Jesus never told us that they don’t.


            Well, Jesus said, “ With God, all things are possible.” (Matthew19:25-27; Mark10:26-28). But this is a tautology. God is by definition supernatural. It’s like saying, “With magic, all things are possible.” Magic, by definition, is making something impossible happen.  If the thing wasn’t impossible (or didn’t seem to be impossible), it wouldn’t be magic.

 But “anything is possible” doesn’t suit me any more than “there’s no such thing.”  It does seem that some ideas are far less likely than others, and so while I can’t absolutely rule anything out, I can speculatively rule many things out as just plain unlikely.  For example, when I once assigned an essay on Heaven to a senior English class, one 19-year-old star football player wrote that Heaven would be a continuous, never-ending, eternal ejaculation. (It would be nice to think that he meant it as a metaphor, but he did not.)  Now, Jesus never told us that this is not so. If  “anything is possible,” then I can’t say that that young man’s view of Heaven is any better than my own, but to me, his seems even more unlikely than wings and harps.

Another student, reacting to the same assignment, speculated that Heaven will be whatever a person believes it will be. If you are an atheist, you have no soul, there is no Heaven – you’re just worm food. If you’re a follower of Islam, then Heaven is what the Koran says it is, houris and all. If you believe in reincarnation, then you will be reincarnated. And so on. If she is correct, Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash are at this moment seeing paradise together.

More important to me: if she is correct, I have a pressing responsibility to find a Heaven I can believe in. But I have two problems.


My first problem is Memory. Even if I conclude that I have a soul which is immortal (immortality is not by itself an impossible idea), I have a hard time seeing how my soul could carry my memories with it. Memories, it seems clear, are contained in the brain. Even while people are still alive, if the brain is diseased or is injured, they can lose their memories. When electrical activity in the brain ceases at death, those circuits must be erased as surely as a computer memory is erased when the power is shut off. But so much of how I think about myself is connected with my memory. Who-I-am does not exist only in the present. Everything I’ve ever done is trailing invisibly behind me. If I can’t take memory with me, I wouldn’t be the same soul I am now, nor would I recognize loved ones in Heaven. Without earthly memories, there would be no reunion, as Heaven is popularly represented in songs. If that circle is to be unbroken, qualities such as memory and recognition, if they exist in Heaven at all, must be completely different there.


            The second problem is Time.    My mother once said to me, “Oh, I don’t believe in Heaven. It sounds boring.” This was a surprise to me, because my mother did believe in God and in the divinity of Jesus. I surprised myself by answering, “Well, if God’s as smart as he’s supposed to be, then he ought to make Heaven not boring.” God could, because He’s supernatural, make singing “Amazing Grace” for 10,000 years NOT be boring — even though on earth five minutes is my outside limit.

However like my mother (and Huck Finn, you may remember), I’ve always found the traditional view of Heaven boring in the extreme. Sitting on a cloud, strumming on a harp, and singing hymns would be fine for an hour or two, but for eternity . . . ? Assembling at the Throne would be exciting, but for eternity .  . . ?  Even the “cloudless skies” Willie Nelson sings about would shortly become tiresome, and the angels would yearn for a crackling good thunderstorm. Whether I imagine rainbows and elders wearing crowns, or whether I imagine racing across a beautiful spring meadow with my wife and the best dog I ever owned, all of us restored to the health and vigor we shared when he was alive, I keep stumbling on the specter of eternity. Nothing that has delighted me on earth is likely to delight me for eternity.

Most organized Christian religions talk about the end of time, at least of historical time. Logically, it seems that one way for God to insure that Heaven isn’t boring is to remove time as we know it. And if I imaginatively remove time as we know it from Heaven, it also solves some other troubling paradoxes, such as what happens to the widow who remarries and then meets both husbands in Heaven? But what would an afterlife be like outside of Time? How could I be me in a place with no time? There, my imagination fails. Duration is an implied part of all my experience. If an object exists for me, it exists in a framework of time. How could you observe a rose if it had no duration? If it had infinite duration, how could you observe anything else? With no time, there could be no “next” event, and so existence would be an unbroken whole. It might not be so very different from being reunited with all the atoms and molecules of all the earth, which will happen to my body literally, whether or not I have a soul. Time, like Memory, must also be very different in Heaven.


In conclusion, John 3:16 and hymns and gospel songs are to me only metaphors, indications of what Heaven might feel like, not what it will actually be. Metaphor, I understand. Heaven, if it exists at all, must be a place where Time and Memory, if they exist there, exist in ways that are beyond the scope of my imagination to conceptualize. And so I come back to Socrates’ “great adventure.” If death is not, after all, the end of everything, I’ll be going to an existence that is so very different that I can’t even imagine it.  Now that sounds interesting.


Homily on Mark 8:31-38 Rev. C.W.Bowman

Homily on Mark 8:31 – 38

“If any want to become my follower, let them deny themselves, and take up their cross
and follow me.”

Jesus’ words are familiar; familiar, but still challenging. By definition, a disciple is a follower, and so a follower of Jesus is a disciple of Jesus.

We gathered here are inclined to want to follow Jesus – We appreciate his example, we admire his teachings, and in some way and in various ways  we want that example, and we want those teachings, to shape our lives. So, yes, we would be followers of Jesus, disciples of Jesus.  When Jesus says “Follow me,” we would say, “Yes.”

Here in this pivotal text in Mark, Jesus is telling us how to follow.  In this passage and throughout the central part of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is defining and describing Christian discipleship.

To the would-be follower, Jesus first calls out, “deny yourself.”   And I suspect that this congregation, this group of UpIslanders, this gathering of Chilmarkers, understands and responds to Jesus’ call to “deny themselves.”

You know what it has meant and still means to “drop everything” to respond, to drop your own concerns, your own needs, and your own desires to respond to the needs of others, to the needs of the community.  This is a community of volunteer firefighters and paramedics, members of town boards and church committees, neighbors who lend a hand, deep hearts who care for the victims, the sick, and the destitute, here and afar.  This is a community in which many have selflessly given of themselves, denying themselves the peace and comforts and time that they might, you might, deserve.

So, we resonate both with following Jesus and denying ourselves.

But in the middle of Jesus’ great call is the image of the cross – and that gives me pause and may give you pause as well. There is something deeper here.

Of course, when we are given the image of the cross to consider, we today think of Jesus’ death. But when Jesus spoke this startling image, he had not suffered crucifixion, and those who heard his call to “pick up your cross” didn’t associate it with Jesus at all.

But in the Roman empire of Jesus’ time, crucifixion was indeed cruelly common, and to take up the cross was  “to put oneself in the position of a condemned man on his way to execution,  a prisoner and a criminal.”  (Swete)

If we had lived in Roman-occupied Palestine in those days, and if we had seen a man carrying a crossbar, we would not need to ask “What on earth is he doing?”  No, we would have recognized him at once as a condemned criminal, because the Romans compelled those they condemned to death to carry their own cross to the place of crucifixion.

This was the imagery that Jesus chose to illustrate the meaning of self-denial; this was the imagery that accompanied Jesus’ call to follow him.
As much as this community and this church live out some depth of the meaning of denying oneself, the image of the cross that Jesus uses pushes us deeper.

Jesus    ’ words certainly don’t permit us to imagine that self-denial involves simply giving up chocolate or small luxuries during Lent, or even that “my cross” is some personal and painful trial.  No, if we take the image of the cross seriously, then following Jesus, that is, becoming and being a Christian, involves a change so radical that no imagery can do it justice except death and resurrection – dying to the old life of self-centeredness and rising to a new life of holiness and love.

You may recall the Apostle Paul’s words, which mirror Jesus’ image and echo his vocabulary: “I have been crucified with Christ” (Gal 2:20) and“those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with it passions and desires” (Gal 5:24).

So, we are given reason to pause as we consider Jesus’ words about the cross –
our crosses to carry, and his cross on which to die.

But if we are given pause,the Apostle Peter runs head-long into new teaching from Jesus, words of the suffering, rejection and death that, in time will be associated with Jesus’ own crucifixion. And Peter brashly opposes Jesus for what he says.  His encounter with Jesus is astonishing and powerful.  Can you imagine this scene?
“And Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him.”

In turn, Peter is, strangely and strikingly, rebuked by Jesus – strong and unexpected words: “Get behind me Satan!”

What was it in Peter’s response that Jesus is compelled to rebuke it so firmly? Why would Jesus find Peter’s protest so wrong as to conflate it with Satanic deception?

Immediately before this morning’s passage, we have Jesus’ great question to his disciples:  “But who do you say I am?”  In response, Peter had intuitively blurted his belief that Jesus was the Messiah, but he clearly did not have the full idea.

Following Peter’s identification of Jesus as the Messiah, an understanding still emerging, but incomplete,Jesus determines that the disciples were ready to learn more about the sufferings of the Messiah: “Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things …………and be killed”

This was a new set of instruction by Jesus for the disciples, and it clashed with the apocalyptic notions held by many Jews of the time that there would come a military Messiah who would destroy Israel’s enemies in violent and bloody conflict.

While we don’t know exactly what Peter anticipated of the Messiah or what he expected of Jesus whom he had followed for three years, we can see him standing aghast at what he now is hearing from Jesus, and then bursting out in explosive exclamation: “Never Lord!  This shall never happen to you!” as the Gospel of Matthew offers it.

Jesus, turning to face his disciples, then rebukes Peter; “Get behind me Satan!” he says, “For you are setting your mind not on divine things, but on human.”  The same Peter who had recognized with divine revelation that Jesus was the Messiahhas now become complicit in not only a wrong-headed belief, but Satanic deception.

The presence of the other disciples,     who surely shared Peter’s conviction that Jesus was wrong –  the Messiah could not be rejected! –  forced a sharp and open rebuke by Jesus.  Jesus called them to witness that he resolutely refused the temptation represented in Peter’s word.

For what Jesus had just set forth, that the Messiah, the Son of Man, must suffer and die, he would repeat two additional times in this Gospel’s account, and the emphasis becomes central to his ministry, but the disciples never fully comprehended it while Jesus lived.

By his repetition, Jesus underlines the importance and centrality of his suffering and death.  And his rebuke of Peter only draws the lines more heavily on the Messianic portrait he is drawing.

Still, today, the voice of Peter sometimes drowns the voice of Christ.  For like Peter, many people deny the necessity of the cross. For the necessity of the cross is a stumbling block to human pride.

Our response to the rebuke of Peter is a mirror of our own understanding of Jesus’ words:  “For the Son of Man must undergo great suffering……. and be killed.”

As we gather ‘round this communion table on this Lenten Sunday to take the elements representing Jesus’ broken body and shed blood, we can ask ourselves,
Is this necessary?  And what does this necessity say about me, about my own sin and my own self-centeredness, and about the path I must walk?

And if we find that Peter’s words of rebuke to Jesus come to our lips, may we also hear the voice of Christ echoing into our own time and life.  Amen.

The Rev. Charles W. Bowman
March 8, 2009

Notes: Material drawn and adapted from R.Alan Cole, Mark; William L. Lane, Commentary on the Gospel of Mark; John Stott, Through the Bible Through the Year;  Wenham, Motyer, Carson, France, eds. The New Bible Commentary

March 1 Discussion

Genesis 9:8-17

We started with remarking on the number of  40 day periods in Bible stories. The Flood and Jesus’ temptation were the ones in today’s lectionary but we recalled also Moses’ 40 day trial  after the golden calf incident,Elija’s 40 days on Mt. Sinai, the Jew’s 40 years in the wilderness. SC made the point that the trial, as in the flood, was a period to be endured but there was a promise at it’s end.  We discussed what was the new covenant between God and the people after the Flood as represented by the rainbow.  It was not unlike other ancient gods’ symbols in the sky.  The bow was a warrior’s bow. The arrows were lightening. God was already becoming a more loving, less judgmental, figure in this story.  PG cited a commentary that compared the promise at Creation to the promise after the Flood.  God had Created the earth by separating the elements, containing the waters and the heavens to their own realms.  At the flood, the boundaries of the elements were dissolved and there was chaos again.  When God set the rainbow in the sky,it was to show the elements were back in their places. God promised never to destroy the earth and all its creatures again.  God promised to stay in the people’s lives.

We went on to Mark 19-15

Jesus’ baptism and temptation, AD commented, had the same water and time elements as the Flood story.  She’d read a commentary that spun out the water allegory, describing how water both bathed and was tranquil and ran over objects (rocks) over time wearing them down.  We discussed how trial or temptation was part of the process of being faithful, waiting through the bad times trusting in the outcome.  PG mentioned a commentary that described Lent as a time to open ourselves to letting God have God’s way with us.  God’s forgiveness after the Flood, like baptism, made things “good” as in Creation, “and it was good”. (Wesley called it sanctification, to become holy in heart and life).  The testing or wilderness is where we sort out our paths, learning to find  God’s direction for our lives, and, like Jesus, the third step in faith  is mission or service.

We ended by going back to the image of the rainbow and how perfect a symbol of our perception of God’s covenant it is.  We see it only briefly and occasionally. The cycle of our moments of sanctification, wilderness and mission is constant and various and reflected in the church year.

The View From The Mountaintop

This is a sermon given in my sister’s church in Port Townsend Washington.   I thought it would be appreciated by those who followed the discussion on Sunday, the 22nd.  (Pam Goff)

2 Kings 2:1-12                                                                       Elizabeth Bloch
Psalm 50:1-6                                                                          2/22/09
2 Corinthians 4:3-6                                                                 Last Epiphany
Mark 9:2-9                                                                             Year B

The View from the Mountaintop

In the Light of Christ, on a clear day, you can see Forever – that’s Forever with a capital F, the whole of Forever, all that there is, with all the pieces working together in perfect harmony with one another. In the Light of Christ, on a clear day, you can see Forever.

Chances are that, if you were not a music major or a physics major or an acoustical engineer, you may not have spent much time learning about the Overtone Series.   So – just in case – I want to tell you a very little bit about its wonders.

When you strike and hold, for example, middle C on a piano keyboard, as it continues to sound, to vibrate against the sounding board and into our ears, if you listen with all your attention, you can actually begin to hear other pitches that are contained within that C.  And the first and most recurrent pitches that you hear are the G an octave and a half above middle C, and then the next C and then the E in the octave after that; and that pattern of Cs and Gs and Es continues to sympathetically vibrate into the virtually infinite harmonics far beyond human hearing – all of them contained in that first middle C.   And the intervals of these three pitches, resounding within any tone that is sounded, are the notes that form a major triad, the chord upon which we base our western understanding of harmony – the word that refers to the first and strongest natural harmonics created by any tone on any scale: the root, the fifth, and the third are the sweetest resonance to our ear because of that series of overtones that is their origin.

The thing is, unless you really listen for the overtone series, you have no idea of the power and scope of that whole resonance that is wondrously all there all the time, and yet closed to us without that awareness.

A Transfiguration moment is a moment of awareness – spiritual awareness – that seems to me something like the growing and infinitely amazing awareness of harmonic overtones.  Spiritual awareness is an awareness of the harmony of all that is, seen and unseen, like a musical chord that we experience with our whole body and soul, whether we know the overtones are there or not.  In that moment of grace-filled spiritual awareness, we can grasp the wholeness of all creation as the kingdom of God, where the fear and isolation that seem to dominate our lives do not have the last word after all; and we sense – in that moment – that all things really can and will work together for good 1in the light of God’s glory.

It happened for Peter and James and John that day when Jesus led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves.   All at once they were enveloped by the glory of God, the Shekinah2 – the cloud of God’s presence – and they could see Forever.  They could see Moses and Elijah and Jesus, the Law and the Prophets being fulfilledmade into harmony with all creation in Jesus.  They could see it all before they heard any words from the cloud to explain it.

They knew it was the Jesus they knew, their friend who got hot and tired just as they did, whose feet hurt at the end of a long day on the road just the way theirs did.  They knew he had a mother and brothers who didn’t always agree with him, just as they did.  But, that day in the light of the glory of God, they knew something much more.  It was like suddenly being able to hear all the overtone notes ringing together inside the one .  The light of God was shining so brightly through the man they thought they had known, it almost blinded them.  There, on that mountaintop, for those moments, they were aware of the wholeness that had always held them, without their even knowing it; of the kingdom of God that was the real reality always there, beyond their everyday awareness.  And later, when they looked back at that day, they could see Forever – a web of glory light that no crucifixion was able to suppress.

The mount of Transfiguration was a thin place, as the Irish would say, a place where the veil between heaven and earth is somehow permeable, and the light that shines through that veil drenches us for a moment, and we ordinary humans can see Forever, see that Forever is real and present and always there for us.   We can see, for a moment, that beyond shining in our midst; and we can see that all of it resounds in harmony with itself, with us, and with all that is beyond this world, whether we’re looking and listening for it or not.

I wish we could have taken all of you with us on the Vestry Retreat last weekend; for God gave us some Forever views from our mountaintop experience together.  There was joy and hilarity and room for such vision in the light of the glory of God – of ministry to the community in need around us that knew no bounds, of children and every generation of family knowing St.Paul’s as home, of God’s provision for the loving and growing of this Body of Christ already in the works in Kingdom chronology.  We could see Forever, held in the light of the glory of God, like Peter and James and John.  One Vestry member said in our shared homily time at the Sunday Eucharist that the thing that moved her the most was the sense all around us of such faith in the ministry and potential of St.Paul’s through all the weekend.  That radiant faith held us, like a cloud of glory or the ringing of infinite overtones all in harmony with the kingdom of God.

For Jesus and the disciples, the road down that led down the mountain of Transfiguration led to the cross – and beyond it – to Easter.  Peter and James and John came down the mountain with Jesus knowing that the transformation they had felt and seen was moving them, in the light of God, into a very different time, moving them toward Jerusalem and new demands that would be made on their love and faith, demands they were not at all sure they would be able to bear.

When Elisha asked to receive a double portion of the Spirit’s presence that was in Elijah  – the inheritance of a first-born – it first had to be proven that he was able to see into the spiritual realm, to see the Forever, the wildly unpredictable wind and fire of the Holy Spirit, the glory of God’s own self.  Elijah disappears in a cloud of God’s glory, leaving Elisha with a changed perspective, with a new awareness of the truth of Forever.  This will be true for the disciples, too.

Elisha will grow to fit the mantle of Elijah, and the disciples will grow to fit the mantle of Jesus.  They, in their turn, were being transformed by the Holy Spirit to reflect the glory of God.

The light of Christ shining this Sunday for us on the mount of Transfiguration, as we turn to Jerusalem and our Lenten journey with Jesus and the disciples at St.Paul’s, will shine again with the lighting of the new fire at our Easter Vigil:  The glory of God revealed to us that we might see Forever with a capital F just as this journey is about to begin.   The Easter promise is that that blazing light will be ours whenever a transforming awareness of the Resurrection drenches us in a cloud of glory light that no crucifixion will ever be able to suppress.

Because God longs for us – every one of us here at St.Paul’s in Port Townsend – to reflect the glory of God and to be continually transformed by grace-filled moments into Jesus’ own image.  And those transfiguring moments can happen any time, because they’re really happening all the time, just like the millions of overtones sounding from every note that’s ever played or sung, whether we’re listening for them or not.

You and I can grow, as did Elisha and those first disciples, into the mantle of Jesus.  You and I can reflect the glory of God and come to know, with them, the amazing perfect wholeness and harmony of all there is – and believe that all things really do work together for good in the light of God’s glory.

You and I can see Forever.

22nd Discussion

2 Kings 2:1-12

Rev. Dr.P.W. spoke about how the Old Testament was different  when read from the Christian perspective.  The taking up of Elijah in the whirlwind at the end of his life looked forward to Jesus’ embodiment of the spirit and his transfiguration and subsequent death and resurrection.

There were parts of this reading that many of us had forgotten.  That Elijah parted the waters, like Moses and, like Moses at the end of his life, Elisha  stood across the river looking at the Promised land as he  inherited Elijah’s spirit and mission.

Dr. C.W. remarked on the passing on of spiritual gifts from one generation to another.  In our challenged economy we could reconsider what we felt was important to hand down to our children in as much as many of us would have less material wealth to give.  In our society too, she continued, we may have had our goals misplaced and would do well to consider our spiritual gifts and the importance of sharing them.

Psalm 50, like 2 Kings’ chariots of fire and whirlwind, had  God appearing as Devouring Fire and mighty tempest and a judge.  P.C. pointed out how often in the early scriptures God was depicted in terms of fire and tempest, overwhelming and uncontrollable events.  Natural disasters were explained as acts of God.  Now we see wild fires in Australia and think of arsonists.  Dr. CW said that the idea of God being uncontrollable was expressed in these events.  We need to realize how much of our lives and the world are not within our control.

2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Paul explains how the good news that “God has shone in our hearts to give the light of knowledge of the  Glory of God in the face of Jesus” can be veiled to some but the light is stronger than the veil.  PG said that this is the same light of the world, the Word in John, that cannot be overcome by darkness.  PC described Paul’s teaching in the synagogues to Jews and non Jews. Some were not believers. In this passage he is careful to say that Jesus is the messenger, not him.

Mark 9:2-9

We considered how Mark wrote to reflect the Hebrew scriptures in his account of Jesus’ transfiguration.  Dr.PC pointed out that the lectionary was assembled by the church to tell the Christian story over the year.  The Mark passage was foremost important to the beginning of Lent this week.In other words it reflected forward not back into history.

DC wondered how the disciples recognized Moses and Elijah.  What were the images of them at the time Mark wrote?  AD referred to a commentary which pointed out, among other things, that the followers’ impulse to build a stone “dwelling” for each of the apparitions was human nature: to rush to do something concrete when perhaps the better response would be quiet contemplation until a clear plan of action presents itself.  We are left with an image of light, shining from Jesus’ face and clothing, and the spirit that Elijah passed to Elisha being of the same light, a light which is the glory of God, as  Paul said, “shone  in our hearts”

Feb 22,2009

Chilmark Community Church, United Methodist
February 22, 2009

Gathering and Announcements
Prelude :  From the First Partita, JS Bach
Call to Worship
God is our strength and our song.  God has become our salvation.
Hear the glad songs of God’s victory! We shall proclaim the deeds of our God!
God has not given us over to death.  Open are the gates of life.
We shall enter the gates of life and give thanks to God!
all: God has answered us and has become our salvation. We have been given light and love.  Hear the glad songs of God’s victory!  ( from psalm 118:14-15,17-19, 21,27. ) Jan Cather Weaver

*Hymn: # 454 “Open My Eyes”

Psalm: 50:1-6    p.783

Holy Happiness, Forgive our forgetting!  How often we’ve left shore in a boat, leaving the oars of your direction in the sand, or kept our sails furled to the wind of your love.  How often we’ve been stranded in a sea that was you and still not seen you!   AMEN   Ingrid Goff-Maidoff
(silent reflection)
Words of Assurance
Gof of compassion, we thank you that you forgive our sins, and blot out our transgressions.  Renew our hearts, O God, and teach us wisdom.  Grant us the joy of your salvation, and keep us steadfast in your service.  AMEN psalm 51:1, 10, 12-13. Ruth C. Duck

Proclamation and Praise

Hebrew Scriptures: 2Kings 2:1-12
New Testament: 2 Corinthians 4:3-6; Mark 9:2-9

Response to the Word:
May the words from our lips and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord.  AMEN
( background of passages and open discussion.)

*Hymn: 258 O Wondrous Sight! O Vision Fair

Concerns and Prayers
Let us bring those for whom we pray into God’s presence in our hearts.
Silent prayer
Pastoral prayer
O thou Fount of Life, from whom flows springs of vitality and health: As we celebrate our worship, may our sorrows be lifted, our joys engaged, our hopes energized; that our living may reflect the beauties of freshness, wholeness and love divine.  AMEN Terence Elwyn Johnson

Lord’s Prayer

Offering *Hymn 94

Prayer of Dedication:
O God, yesterday is memory. Tomorrow is the unknown.  We have only today to open our hearts to others.  May they find with us what we’ve found with you. AMEN  Anton K. Jacobs

*Hymn: 451 Be Thou My Vision

Love all beings:  every flower, every cloud, every pebbled in the road.  Love each other and the world, and one day the light in your hearts will join the Divine Radiance of things, and each will be without beginning, without end.  AMEN Ingrid Goff-Maidoff

Postlude:  Trumpet Tune Vivaldi

Next Week’s Scripture: Genesis 9:8-17; Psalm 25: 1-10; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:9-15
Organist: Carol Loud
Lay Leader: Ann Deitrich


Sunday 15 Feb.

Most of the readings this Sunday  referenced healing.While Psalm 30 appears to be in the voice of one recently healed , giving praise,  it may have been used metaphorically at the dedication of the temple in 146 bc , as the voice of the restored Hebrew people.  Some of the commentaries for this day draw the parallel between physical healing and restoration to community which would work in the psalm also.   The narrator tells God that he’s better off with a living person to praise Him than a shadow-being under the earth.  As A.B. says, what is life for but to praise the divine. Isn’t the divine better off with a religious people and a temple than not?

2 Kings 5:1-14 PC pointed out the irony of the Syrian leader going to Israel to be cured.  She also remarked on the thousands of years that there had been a tense relationship between the two countries.  Naaman considered his Syrian rivers to be equal to any in Israel, and in fact they were probably cleaner.  CB pointed out that the Syrian didn’t like being told what to do by a messenger and not the prophet himself.  Which brought us to the idea of status standing between healing and illness.  AD said that the lowly  Hebrew servant girl who lived in Syria  suggested that Naaman go to the Hebrew God to cure his leprosy .  There might be a lesson here about healing coming from unexpected places, dirty rivers and people of low status in       the community.

1Corinthians9:24-27 deviates from the healing theme though it does raise the idea of the physical vs spiritual bodies.  We wished DC had been present to talk about the Greek “Isthmian Games” which were held in Corinth and which Paul was referencing in this letter.  We discussed how we, on a spiritual quest, need to be in training to achieve the ” imperishable wreath”. One commentary on this reading refers to Gladwell’s Outliers about outstanding people.  All of their achievement, he says, are due to two facts: an opportunity opened up to them that they were committed to take, and at least 10,000 hours of practice in the kinds of skills that would enable them to take that opportunity.  All of us who listen and think about spiritual matters and how God would shape our lives have been in training for the daily opportunities to do “great things’.

Mark 1:40-45  Jesus heals the leper and tells him to keep it a secret.  CB suggested that Jesus must have known someone cured of such a terrible disease would have told everyone he met.  PG had read that Jesus may have been considered unclean because he touched the leper.  Becoming ineligible to teach in the synagogues, he resorted to teaching in the open countryside.  In that way he became more accessible to a larger range of people, and people of less status.  We talked about the need to go to the priests  to be declared clean.  CB pointed out that John Wesley was like Jesus in that he preached in the fields (or mills or market places) but then sent people back to the Church of England.  Jesus didn’t break from  Judaism any more than Wesley left the C of E.  They just took the message where it might be heard.  We also remembered that in last week’s healing story Jesus chose to go off alone and travel on.  Healing was only an indication of the presence of the Kingdom of God.  Jesus was not just a wonder worker but had more to teach and show.

February 15, 2009 Order of Worship


Chilmark Community Church

February 15, 2009

Gathering and Announcements


Call to Worship

Sing Praises to God, O you saints, and give thanks to God’s holy name!

We exalt you , O God, for you have restored us to life!

We may cry through the night, but your joy comes with the morning.

You hear us, O God, and you are gracious in our distress.

You turn our mourning into dancing!

Our souls cannot be silent! O God, our Savior, we give thanks to you for ever!

*Hymn: # 140 “ Great is Thy Faithfulness”


p.890 in Hymnal(silent reflection)

Words of Assurance

God is even now giving us the gift of repentance.  God is at work in the world.  It is not we who hope, but God who hopes in us. (WUMC)


Proclamation and Praise

Psalm: 30 p.762

Hebrew Scriptures

2 Kings 5:1-14

New Testament:

1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Mark 1:40-45


Response to the Word:

May the words from our lips and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer.   AMEN

( background of passages and open discussion.)


*Hymn: # 66 Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven (2Kings, Mark)


Concerns and Prayers    

Unison prayer

Eternal Light, shine into our hearts.

Eternal Goodness, deliver us from evil.

Eternal Power, be our support.

Eternal Wisdom, scatter the darkness of our ignorance.

Eternal Pity, have mercy upon us.

That with all our heart and mind and soul and strength we may seek your face and be brought by your infinite mercy to your holy presence; in the spirit of Jesus.  AMEN

Silent prayer

Lord’s Prayer


Offering *Hymn 95

Prayer of Dedication:

Almighty God, giver of every good and perfect gift, teach us to render to you all that we have and all that we are, that we may praise you, not with our lips only, but with our whole lives.   AMEN


*Hymn: #707 Hymn of Promise



May the blessing of God, fountain of living water, flow within us as a river of life.  May we drink deep of her wisdom.  May we never thirst again.  May we go through life refreshing many, as a sign of healing for all; through the One who is Life eternal.  AMEN




Next Week’s Scripture :2 Kings 2:1-12; Psalm 50:1-6; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6; Mark 9:2-9

Organist:Carol Loud

Lay Leader: Ann Deitrich