Tuesday – July 7, 2020
Colossians 3:13 NRSV
Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Words of Hope
If you spend any time on social media, you have no doubt seen people taking out their personal grievances in that public forum, “calling out” individuals for statements or posts they made and then “piling-on” in the comments section. I have been guilty of this behavior as well and though it might make me feel like I am taking some kind of action for justice, in the end it usually accomplishes nothing.
So, what do we do? Well, Jesus would have us take a deep breath and then offer forgiveness.
What? How can I forgive someone who (insert offense here)?
It’s not easy, and it is a big part of what being a Christian is about. That whole following Jesus thing is sometimes difficult.
Next time you consider “calling out” someone, maybe you can instead “call them in”
“Calling in” someone opens a dialogue and reflection rather than reaction. Though it is important to rebuff unacceptable behavior, it is also important to make sure the person doing that behavior understands why it is unacceptable. That means we have to start with forgiveness so we can move toward communication and understanding.
Many times that person had no bad intentions, but was merely forwarding a meme or post that struck a chord in them. Letting them know why that was offensive at a personal level goes further than just attacking them. It is sometimes the beginning of a difficult conversation, but often it leads to real understanding for both parties.
Occasionally, it will not have a happy outcome, but forgiveness will allow you to release that person with love and not anger, and that leaves the door open should things change. It allows us to call out the behavior without condemning the person.
God, may I seek to first find forgiveness just as you forgive me.
Monday – July 6, 2020
2 Corinthians 13:12
“Greet one another with a holy kiss”
A Word of Hope
There are lots of places where scripture says to greet one another with a holy kiss. Today is National Kiss Day! And here we are stuck at home and wearing masks and social distancing when we go out only for necessities. We cannot get near people; except those we live with.
The social distancing has taken a toll on us all. We do not have personal interaction with each other. That is one of the things that keeps us healthy! I am grateful for Facebook that allows me to have online contact with my friends. But that only partly fills the need to actually be with people.
I have enjoyed zoom meetings with small church groups and family and friends. But still that is just a substitute for real interaction.
Often when we are together in church, I feel touched by God through the interaction of my fellow church members. It does not have to be inside the church building, but that is where I usually see most of my fellow church family.
On the Sundays when we have collected the Thanks Bags and Change for Change it was great to see some of you! We could not share hugs or kisses, but our spirits were connected in the joy of being together and united in the mission of doing something good!
We are still the family of God. No matter how often we get to gather or whether we do not get to meet. It feels wonderful to be together, but our relationship is still strong when we cannot be physically in each other’s presence.
Please reach out by phone, or text or Facebook to your family of choice as well as your biological families during this time of physical separation. Many people really need your individual contact to them. I am throwing a virtual holy kiss to all of you!
Holy God, we cry out for an end to this pandemic that separates us from those we love! Help us find creative ways of connection to those who need to know of our care and concern. Prayers of healing for all who are suffering physical and emotional challenges at this time.
Friday – July 3, 2020
John 10:10 (The Message)
I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. John 10:10
A Word of Hope
It was like a punch to the stomach that took my breath away. I was in a boutique neighborhood store that carries a large selection of greeting cards. They are not your standard Hallmark cards. They are unique, some little works of art, and I always find the right special one.
I was looking for a card for my boss who had just lost his father after a brief non-Covid-related illness. I rounded the corner and faced row after row of empty slots where the sympathy cards were supposed to be. The entire wall empty. Not a single sympathy card remained.
Every day I see the numbers of deaths tick up. Now, it is only the milestones that catch my attention. And is it not just the virus. The media only reports a mass shooting if there is a high number of victims. The names of those killed by bigotry and hatred are not remembered. Those killed by the government in a death chamber are barely noticed anymore. Death seems commonplace.
The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II recently gave the homily at the National Cathedral (watch the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eviTAayTGT4). He titled his sermon “Accepting Death Is Not an Option Anymore.” He recounts the millions of deaths this country is built upon: indigenous peoples, enslaved peoples, immigrants. Throughout our history we have become too comfortable with death, too accepting of death.
And so the deaths continue. Today, right now, our choices and policies are killing us. We are killing ourselves by destroying our planet. We are killing ourselves by denying health care to millions. We are killing ourselves by trapping generations in poverty. We are killing ourselves by a justice system that is anything but just.
And yet, the truth is, we are bound together. A single death diminishes me. By accepting the deaths of others I contribute to my own death. If I silently accept a culture of death I perpetuate it.
But I am a child of the God of life. I don’t have to accept death. I can fight against a culture of death. Jesus demonstrated that life, an abundant life, comes from love, mercy, grace and justice. I can fight for a society and politics that values each life. I am called to proclaim life’s power over death.
God of my being. God of abundant life. Make me uncomfortable with death. Uncomfortable enough to impel me to join with others to stop us from killing ourselves.
Thursday – July 2, 2020
Be still and know that I am God. Be still and know that I am. Be still and know. Be still. Be. Breath Prayer based on Psalm 46:10
A Word of Hope
Most days, they are upon you before you even notice, so silent is their footfall. But this day one beautiful doe leaves the well-worn path and walks to the edge of the deck, her grayish tan head tilted upward, as if she had something to tell me, if I could but hear. Whether she is prompted by animal curiosity or something else, communion is what I feel: a welcome.
Her eyes hold me with their gentle depths. Gazing on this sacred icon, the dark-bright mystery draws me deeper into union.
Mary Oliver speaks of such a dream-moment in her poem “The Faces of Deer:”
When for too long I don’t go deep enough
into the woods to see them, they begin to
enter my dreams. Yes, there they are, in the
pinewoods of my inner life. I want to live a life
full of modesty and praise. Each hoof of each
animal makes the sign of a heart as it touches
then lifts away from the ground. Unless you
believe that heaven is very near, how will you
find it? Their eyes are pools in which one
would be content, on any summer afternoon,
to swim away through the door of the world.
Then, love and its blessings. Then: heaven.
She leaves me with the fullness of gratitude for such moments of wordless beauty—abounding, but not always seen. And I pray that I too leave a sign of the heart where my life touches.
May moments of quiet beauty heal and restore us, O God, that we may set the seal of your love upon the world. Amen.
Dr. Pat Saxon
Wednesday – July 1, 2020
“Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.”
Psalm 46:10 NRSV
Words of Hope
After being in semi-isolation due to the current COVID 10 pandemic, staying home except to shop for groceries and occasionally get take-out meals, the idea of being still is really a difficult one for me. I am still, at least stuck in one place, and stillness is just something I have trouble with.
What I believe the psalm is talking about in my case is to still my thoughts. My brain has been like a runaway train, unable to concentrate on much and every bit as stir crazy as my body.
If I listen to the Psalmist and hear God speaking, I realize I need to coax my thoughts into stillness, to slow the spinning of my brain and find an inner peace where I can clear my thoughts and center on just listening. It is a call to meditation and calm, rather than a motivation to do things. Sometimes doing nothing can accomplish more than a frantic attempt to do something.
I majored in philosophy for the short time I attended Baylor University. It was a tumultuous time in my life; my father had died, I had just come out as gay, and I was the only Jew at Baylor that year. I felt a lot of pressure especially from the Theology Department. What I found solace in was my study of philosophy and particularly Eastern thinkers like Lao Tsu. The great Taoist writer emphasized Wu wei which translates as “non-action” and the practice of emptying the mind and sitting in a state of simply being one with reality. It was the Chinese version of “being still”. In that stillness I found life became clearer and more simple. And not surprisingly I still practice it today.
When I stop spinning and fighting against whatever it is that is troubling me, often the path forward becomes clearer. When I wonder what God is trying to do with my life and what path I am supposed to follow, I remember to just be still for a bit. With my eyes closed in a quiet place, I find my vision and hearing become much clearer and God is present. God was present all along, but my mind was too cluttered with worries and fears that I was unable to see.
God, may I find a quiet place in my life to just sit and be still, for there I will find your presence revealed.
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