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
or

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”

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.

In the Company of Strangers

“In my view, the mission of the church is not to enlarge membership, not to bring outsiders to accept its terms, but simply to love the world in every possible way—to love the world as God did and does.
The body of Christ is a network of organic connections between people,  connections  which make one’s joy another’s joy, one’s suffering another’s suffering. In this sense,  everyone, Christian or otherwise, is included in the body of Christ—included not within an organizational framework or theological point of view, but included within a community of compassion. I do not believe the church enters into the public realm to aggrandize itself, but to glorify God; and God is glorified as we manifest the unity in which we were created without dishonoring the diversity we have become. If we are able to love the world,  that will be the best demonstration of the truth which the church has been given.”

“If the church is to serve as a school of the Spirit, and as a bridge between the private and the public realms, it must find ways of extending hospitality to the stranger. I do not mean coffee hours designed to recruit new members to the church, for these are aimed at making the stranger “one of us.” The essence of hospitality—and of the public life—is that we let our differences, our mutual strangeness, be as they are, while still acknowledging the unity which lies beneath them.”

From THE COMPANY OF STRANGERS by Parker Palmer

Sunday, Feb. 8, 2009

Isaiah 40:21-31

This poetic admonition was written to the Jews in Exile in Babylon .  We talked about what it meant to “wait on (or upon) the Lord”.   DC spoke about the ancient concept that gods inhabit certain geographical spaces and that, being in Exile, the Jews needed to be reminded that their God was with them even in Exile.  Like Jonah, they couldn’t escape him if they wanted.

Waiting implied patience and time spent giving attention to God.  The poem contrasts the vastness and order of the heavens and the “grasshopper” mortality of man.   Isaiah has God scold those in exile who feel abandoned.

AD added tha the promise to renew the strength of those who wait upon the Lord speaks to us to wait upon, or serve,  God by waiting, being patient, letting the Holy  be in our lives on God’s terms and time table.

Corinthians 9:16-23

We asked ourselves “What is it about our experience with Jesus that like Paul,  we simply must share with others.”   PC  recalled Paul’s circumstances, preaching to Jesus followers in small groups, Jews in synagogues, people in homes and in a wide spread territory and that his letters were written not to explain Jesus comprehensively but to answer certain questions and deal with a variety of events.   DC  remarked how “Being all things to all people” now has a negative connotation, as if there were no substance to an argument if it can be altered by circumstance.  But Paul’s message was a deep enough constant that telling it in different ways was not a weakness.  PG  referred to the commentary that suggested that we were called to “walk beside” people in faith rather than try to tell them answers.  Perhaps just being in the spiritual company of others communicates what is Holy.

Mark 1:29-39

AD referred to a commentary she’d read that suggested that Peter’s mother in law may not have been “serving” a meal after her healing, but serving Jesus as an emissary.   If she had been sick, she would have been “unclean”, said another commentary.  That Jesus and the others kept her company exemplifies how they set aside the letter of the law for higher purposes of the law.  PC remarked about healing being the driving out of “unclean spirits” and what that might mean in contemporary times.  We wondered why Jesus chose to stop healing to go pray and then to move on to preach to new neighborhoods when there was healing left.  Perhaps, we concluded, his message of God’s proximity and accessibility, was more important to him than the individuals who benefited from his message.  We also remarked that even the most perfect and holy of human beings needs to pray, to renew his spirit and his direction with Holy guidance. SC tied it all together with the Isaiah passage: “those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

February 8, 2009 Order of Worship

Chilmark Community Church

February 8, 2009

Prelude: Invention #8 J.S.Bach

Gathering and Announcements

Call to worship: Isaiah 40:21-31

Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning?Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in; who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.

Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows upon them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

To whom then will you compare me,or who is my equal: says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these?

He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing.

Why do you say, O Jacob,and speak, O Israel,”My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God? Have you not known? Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

*Hymn: 139 Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

Peace

Confession
Presider: Let us confess our sin and faithlessness to God and to each other:

All: God, our creator and redeemer,
you never grow weary or faint
but we have doubted your will or ability to care for us.
We have said, “My way is hidden from the LORD,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?
We have let anxiety to consume us
and we have let fear paralyze love for the poor and lonely.
Forgive us for holding to our doubt.
Free us to walk in faith
and the strength of your mercy, Amen

(silent reflection)

Presider to the people:
Hear the good news:
“Those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.”

Through God’s love, you are forgiven.

Proclamation and PraisePsalm: 147:1-11;20c

New Testament: 1 Corinthians 9:16-23

Mark 1:29-39

Response to the Word:

May our words and thoughts and reflections be acceptable, O Lord. AMEN

(background of passages and open discussion.)

*Hymn: 265 O Christ, the Healer

Concerns and Prayers

pastoral prayer; We ask that your healing love come into our world which is in great need. We pray that it reach the victims of storms and wars, and the victims of loneliness or pain. We pray that your love touch people in all corners of the earth, people whose names we do not know, but whose lives are precious to you.We pray for our parents, children, spouses and friends. Fill them with your love. Silent prayer

Lord’s Prayer

Offering

*Hymn 94

Prayer of Dedication: Holy One, whose heart abounds with gifts, receive this offering as a sign of our intention to live surrounded by your mercy, inspired by your Spirit, open to the joy of your presence, hospitable to one another, and generous toward your world. AMEN

*Hymn: 670 Go Forth in Peace

Benediction: 1 Thessalonians 5:14-23

Encourage the faint hearted; help the weak; be patient with all; seek to do good; rejoice always; pray without ceasing; give thanks in all circumstances;” and so may God keep us till we meet again. AMEN

Postlude: Andante by Maurice Greene

Next Week’s Scripture

2 Kings 5:1-14; Psalm 30; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 ; Mark 1:40-45

Organist: Carol Loud

Lay Leader: Ann Deitrich

Reader:

Arlene Bodge Feb 1

Arlene spoke without notes, so this is a report of some of her remarks by a witness.  She preached from Mark1:21-28 about Jesus’ teaching with authority, a new kind of teaching. 

She gave examples of people with authority and emphasized that they had experienced what they taught.  She told two stories to illustrate her remarks.  The first involved a teacher who was approached by a distraught mother who wanted the teacher to lecture her son about his bad eating habits, especially his sugar intake.  The teacher met her on three occasions and told her to return in a week.  Finally he spoke to the boy and the mother, frustrated and angry, asked him what had taken him so long.  He replied that it had taken him three weeks to give up sugar.

The next story involved two rebellious boys who thought their teacher was a know it all and wanted to stump her.  One caught a small bird and held it cupped between his hands.  He and his buddy planned to ask the teacher if the bird they held was dead or alive.  If she said DEAD they would release the bird to fly away.  If she said ALIVE, they would crush it and produce a dead bird.  They brought the test to the teacher and asked her to guess.  She looked into the boys’ eyes for a long time and answered:’The fate of the bird is in your hands.    The congregation was encouraged to nourish the BIRD  in our hands and to step out in authority from our experience of God’s presence and promises in our lives.

January 25

This week was open discussion again.(next week will have an actual sermon).
We had more to say about Jonah than about Corinthians and Mark..It is an appealing story, a parable, as PC pointed out, that resonates with a sea-going community. She pointed out that there are two lessons from this parable: that you can’t hide from God or ignore God’s message to you and that you can’t control God; God will forgive whomever God chooses.

PG referred to a commentary that excused Jonah’s reluctance somewhat, considering that Nineveh was the capital of Assyria who had been a brutal, occupying force for over one hundred years. It was like asking one of us to go to the camp of Bin Laden.

DC spoke about Jonah’s attempt to flee from God and that God is with you, you can’t escape God. He drew the parallel between Jonah’s dismay at the forgiveness of Nineveh and the anger of the good brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. He also reminded us of the opening of Moby Dick and the sermon there.

As for Mark1:14-20, PG spoke of the calling of the fishermen as being a calling from one life to another. This often implies “repentance” for later followers. One commentator defined repentance as ” aligning one’s values and way of life with God’s ways”. Sin has sometimes been defined as “separation from God”. In Hebrew one translation is ” missing the mark” as in archery. The conclusion was that we should be turning to a life whose moments are informed by an awareness of God’s presence and direction.

AD referred to the book SAY TO THIS MOUNTAIN: MARK’S STORY OF DISCIPLESHIP. The calling from the men at their nets and families exemplified the tension between the Temple and the Wilderness, the center and the margins, the power structure and the outsiders.