Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Reflections- On Being Clueless

I've said before that I love the Gospel of  Mark - and here is why. Throughout this book of the Bible the disciples are following Jesus around faithfully - but they never seem to "get it." They ask questions and stumble and bumble around. They doubt and argue amongst themselves and I think in this book they come off as always being...well - a little bit clueless.

 Which means, there is hope for me. And there is hope for all of us.

I mean, they had Jesus right there in front of them teaching, healing, and performing miracles, and they still struggled to understand the mystery of God's love and what Jesus was doing.

And Jesus keeps answering their questions, teaching them, guiding them, and including them in on his journey on earth and to the cross.

Peter, for example, has his moments where he reacts completely human and in ways in which I can completely relate.  Remember the story of the Transfiguration? Jesus takes Peter and friends up on the mountain and is seen there with the glowing images of Moses and Elijah - trying to show them who he is and how he is transformed by God. Peter is terrified and too afraid to just stand there and let it all soak in. He responds by focusing on is own agenda. He is planning, organizing, offering to make shelters because he doesn't know what else to do. I totally get that. I am a planner and a list maker, too. When I am overwhelmed, anxious, and scared I over function and forget to just stop and listen - to take it all in.

In this week's passage, Peter is at it again.

Read Mark 8: 31-38 

Jesus for the first time in the Gospel predicts his death. He starts to talk about how he would die and come alive again. And Peter freaks out and tells Jesus he's not buying it. Jesus tells Peter to step off. Actually, he says "Get behind me, Satan." 
Get behind me. Follow me.
 Stop thinking about your own plan or expectations. This is God's plan. 
The next part of the passage is all the scary language about denying one's self and taking up the cross.  “If you want to follow me, you have to think about God’s plan and not your own ideas,” is what I think he's saying. 
Jesus tells Peter and the disciples that he will undergo suffering, that he will have to sacrifice and show courage, and that his disciples, too, will also have to show courage of their own. 
It takes a lot of courage for us to do what God wants us to do. We are all Peter at times and we want things to be how we want them. We are clueless,  like disciples in Mark. And we often don't have the faintest idea of what God wants us to do with our lives. 
But there is hope for us. Remember that Jesus taught the most important things are to love God and love our neighbors. That’s God’s plan and I think it sounds like a pretty good one. We can keep following like the disciples -  learning, asking, and doubting. I think God will wait for us. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Reflections - Baptism, Temptation, and Beginnings

The time of Lent has arrived! We welcome in the beginning of this church season with Ash Wednesday. It is a time when we are called as followers of Christ to repent, spend time examining our lives, and thinking about our relationships with God.
Our Scripture this week is from Mark - which I admit is my favorite. It seems to me that there is an urgency in the way Mark tells the stories of Jesus. Remember that there are many versions of the same stories throughout the four Gospels. The same stories told by different authors intended for different audiences.
Mark jumps right in telling the story of Jesus - skipping the birth narrative and starting with the story of Jesus’ baptism. And the story is told with very few words.
John was baptizing in the Jordan river and Jesus came from Nazareth to the river and John baptized him. After the baptism, Jesus saw the Holy Spirit in the shape of a dove and a voice from above said: “You are my son, I love you and you make me very happy,”
That’s it—that’s the way Mark tells it.
The next part of the story is also important for us to hear during the first week of Lent.
Mark reports that after the baptism—right away the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert wilderness and that Jesus was there for forty days.
(How my other stories from the Bible you recall that involve the number 40? Noah was on the ark for forty days. The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years. And there is more...)
For Jesus in the desert - this wasn’t like a vacation or a camping trip. Jesus had no food and there wasn't a Sheetz just around the corner. The versions of this story in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke tell about the devil tempting Jesus three times and how Jesus answered the Devil.
But in Mark’s scripture, it just says that Satan tempted Jesus. That’s it.
Wild animals lived in this wilderness and Jesus lived among them. Mark also says that the angels took care of Jesus.
It’s as if Mark is in a hurry to get to the parts about what Jesus taught and did.
But first, Mark wants us to know that Jesus was ready to do this. Jesus went through all these things— his baptism and the time alone in the wilderness. Jesus was blessed by God at his baptism and watched over by God’ angels in the wilderness. After this, Jesus began the work that God sent him to do.
During Lent God is calling us to do what Jesus did during his forty days in the desert. Pray, Listen to God, and prepare ourselves for what is next in our lives.
People from different religious traditions often think of something to give up during Lent - something they want to challenge themselves to sacrifice. Other people take on new things, do things for others, start a new adventure, or create a new habit.
What kinds of things can you do this Lent to help you refocus your hearts with God?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Acolytes and Water Pouring at Sixth Church

Serving as an acolyte or water pourer each week is a very important part of worship for our children here at Sixth Church. 

It's a chance for them to participate in worship and feel like they are part of the service and our church community. 

Each week, two children come forward to during the choir's Introit to light the Christ Candle and pour water into the baptismal font.  Interested kids in first grade or older are trained by members of our worship committee.  Anyone interested in serving as an acolyte or a water pouring can contact Pam Bowers or Verna Robinson. There is a sign up sheet in the back of the sanctuary! 

The Vestments that our acolytes and water pourers
wear were designed and made by Sixth member Joan Markert 

Here are some related articles about Acolytes in Worship

What we are Reading - February 2018

Here are February favorites -
all available 
through the Carnegie Library.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Reflections - Transformations

This week I had one of those "duh" moments. One of those moments when you figure out what something really means - something you never gave a second thought to before but now it makes sense. There's a song I learned at summer camp as a kid. Here are the words: 
"Climb, climb up sunshine mountainHeavenly breezes blowClimb, climb up sunshine mountainFaces all aglowTurn, turn from sin and sorrowLook to God on highClimb, climb up sunshine mountainYou and I" 
 I never had a clue what the song meant or was talking about and I don't think I ever gave it a second thought. But it hit me this week - the Transfiguration. The Transfiguration is a story about Jesus that is in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  This week's lectionary passage features Mark's version.

Read Mark 9:2-9

Disciples Peter, James, and John were are climbing a mountain with Jesus. When they get to the top they see  Jesus' face and clothes shining bright like the sun.  They see Moses and the prophet Elijah were standing with Jesus talking about God's promise to save the world.  
Peter offers to make shelters for the three.  The disciples are terrified, the Bible says. 
Then a cloud covered the mountain. And a voice - God - says "This is my son. Listen to him."  They cover their faces and then see that everything the same as before. On the way back down the mountain, Jesus tells them not to tell anyone what they saw "until the one from God is raised from the dead."  

A curious  story for sure. Jesus, Moses and Elijah.  What does it mean? Elijah was a great prophet who foreshadowed the Messiah, while Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and received the Law from God. Together, they represent the Old Testament and the Jewish faith.  And Jesus, the beloved son of God, is leading the disciples to a mountaintop experience where they will see him transformed - showing them who he is.  I don't know why the disciples are told not to share what they have seen. Perhaps its because God wants people to decide for themselves who Jesus is.  Peter, James, and John have certainly had an experience where Jesus shows them about the love and presence of God in the world. Maybe they, too are transformed. 

Heavenly breezes, blow.
Faces all aglow. 
I wonder - the next time you are looking at the sky - imaging hearing God's voice coming from it. I wonder what God is saying to you? 

Friday, February 2, 2018

Reflections - Want to get Away?

This is the view from the the main house at El Porvenir coffee cooperative in Nicaragua.
This is one of my favorite quiet places to think and pray (except for the roosters - ha ha.)

I read a tweet this week that said:
So many people could benefit by just sitting in the quiet and asking themselves "Why do I believe what I believe?"
This has got me thinking this week about prayer and the amount of time I actually take each day to be alone, be quiet, and listen to God.  Scripture tells us this is definitely a "What Would Jesus Do" things.  There are certain things we see Jesus doing through the Gospels that are non-negotiable for him.  Welcoming and loving the outcast, feeding the poor, and going off to a quiet place alone to pray. 

Read Mark 1: 29-29   

After teaching in the Synagogue and healing a very sick man,  Jesus went with James and John to Simon and Andrew’s house.  Simon’s mother-in law was very sick with a fever and Jesus went to her and he healed her and made her better.  And when the Sun began to set and the Sabbath day was over, people from all around brought sick friends and family members to Simon and Andrew’s house. They crowded around the door. Can you picture that? Sooo0000 many people. And Jesus healed them all, the scripture says. 
Early the next morning, before the sun even came up—while everyone was still asleep, Jesus left that house and went to a quiet place where he could be alone to pray.  Simon and the others wake up and panic. They search for Jesus, find him and tell him that EVERYONE is looking for him.  We can relate- right?  Jesus is tired, maybe a little overwhelmed by the amount of people and attention that everyone is needing from him - so he goes off to a quiet place to pray and listen to God. 
Sometimes we feel like Jesus and need to get away from all people around us. We need time to pray, talk to God, to listen, and to ask ourselves why we believe what we believe and feel what we feel. 
Jesus emerges from his time alone seemingly refreshed and ready to go - clearer about his purpose.  “Let’s go! Let’s go to the other villages. I was sent to preach to them." My goal this weekend is to purposely carve out some time to disappear - to hide. To find a quiet place and pray and listen. Will you try it, too? 

What we are Learning - About Worship!

Our Office Administrator and Sunday school teacher Amy spent time with our children in the sanctuary teaching them all about the church bulletin we use each in worship. They learned about all the parts of the worship, their meanings, and practiced what we do during different times of the service. 

Starting Sunday, we will be making a special children's bulletin each week! We will pass them out to the kids as they transition from Sunday school to church and have a few at each entrance for visitors. 
If you are sitting with or near children during worship please help us encourage them to follow along! 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Reflections - The Best Teacher

Who has been the best teacher in your life so far? 
That's what I am thinking about this week. I have been remembering all the teachers, professors, youth leaders, and camp counselors that I have liked the best and have learned from the most.  I think a good teachers is someone that knows a whole lot about the things they are teaching people.  Good teachers are people that like to teach others about the things that they love. I also think good teachers are the ones that listen, learn, and care about the people they are teaching. 

I've also been thinking about those people that are not teachers in a professional capacity - but have taught me valuable lessons because they are good at life. 
Who are those people in your life?

This week in our Gospel lesson we see Jesus recognized as an authoritative teacher.  

Jesus invited disciples and people to travel with him.  He was teaching in the Synagogue and he shows his authority by healing and making well a man that seems to be sick and filled with "evil spirits." The other people in the worship space didn't seem to care about the man who was shouting, yelling and making a scene.  But Jesus did. Jesus stopped teaching. He wanted the man to be well.
“Be still,”  said to the man. “Be well.”
And the sick man became peaceful and quiet and quit shaking. The people were amazed and the scripture says that the news of Jesus teaching and healing began to spread from person to person and town to town, all over Galilee. 

Can you imagine what it would have been like to have Jesus as your teacher?

Jesus taught people about the love of God. They could see by the things he did and the things he said that he was an authority. They watched as Jesus healed a man who was sick.  They saw the power of God’s love. The best teachers are the ones who really know what they are talking about - and Jesus is the best teacher to teach us about love.

Some things to think about:
What would it have been like to have Jesus as a teacher?
What can you tell others about Jesus with the most assurance?
What is the most important thing you would like others to know about Jesus? How will you show or tell them, or teach them about Jesus?
Who are the "teachers" in your life that you should pay more attention to?
What is something that you know a lot about that you can teach others?

Stuff I Like - Lent 2018 books a Devotionals

Here are my suggestions for books and devotionals for this Lent season. Also, see below for links to post with recommendations for all ages and from previous years.  Enjoy!

"A Way Other Than Out Own" by Walter Bruggemann
Bruggemann's Lent reflections invite readers to consider the challenging life that comes with walking the way of grace. God has always called people out of their safe, walled cities into uncomfortable places, revealing paths they would never have chosen. Despite our culture of self-indulgence, we too are called to walk an alternative path one of humility, justice, and peace.

"Holy Solitude" By Heidi Haverkamp
These Lent Reflections follow people such as, Hagar, Hebrew prophets, Jesus in the wilderness, t Francis of Assisi, and Catherine of Siena.  Readers will see how escape from the toil and temptations of daily life can open their eyes, ears, minds, and hearts to the still, small voice of God. 

" Lent for Everyone: Mark, Year B"  by N.T. Wright
This book provides readers with a guide through the Lenten season using the Gospel of Mark. Wright provides his own Scripture translation, brief reflection, and a prayer for each of the days of the season.

"Jesus and the Prophets" Presbyterians Today 2018 Lenten Devotional
This annual Lent devotional explores the connection between Jesus and the prophets. The prophets communicated the word of God; Jesus is the Word of God. The prophets predicted the coming of the prince of peace; Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Not only did Jesus continue the prophetic ministry, he is the fulfillment of the prophetic mission.  (Copies of this devotional will be available in the Chapel. Pick one up!)

Friday, January 19, 2018