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Archive for July, 2015

_DAE2689On my way to our annual joint worship service with the Episcopal Church in town, I stopped by my local coffee shop, as I do every Sunday morning, for some caffeine and conversation with a group of locals who can be found hanging out there most mornings. When I told them of my excitement about our ecumenical service going “inter-faith” this year since a rabbi from the Reform tradition was preaching, one of them went off on a tirade against Muslims– there’s just no other way to describe it. He “went off” spouting such fear and misinformation that it shook me to my core to hear such hate. I want to believe it was also incredibly disturbing and uncomfortable for others in the circle, at least one of whom tried, in vain, to change the subject.

I have been troubled this week by his diatribe and what more I could’ve said beyond my disagreeing with him and stating my value of followers of Islam. And then I was asked by the press to reflect and comment on the joint service. How could our little moment of interfaith worship in a small town be newsworthy? And I realized just how important our actions are in overcoming the kind of irrational fear of others with whom we have little or no contact. Building relationships among those of other denominations and faiths is critical because it impacts how we see the world and how we interact with others. So here’s what I told the reporter:

Rabbi Shapiro preached on paying attention to the unremarkable moments of life as the way of holiness. Trivial moments may be small instances, he said, but they are hugely significant in terms of how we conduct our lives. Even in the Talmud, two rabbis discuss how to lace up one’s shoes to make the point that everything was important, therefore nothing was trivial.

Well, in a world filled with turmoil and injustice, an ecumenical service in a small town in Western Massachusetts at which three congregations came together in worship with a rabbi preaching may seem like a small moment on a summer Sunday, but it has consequences for how we interact with others of various denominations and faiths. It is significant for how we conduct ourselves at a time when there is so much religious hatred and fear of difference.

As clergy in the community, we have worked together over the years in addressing gun violence, opposing casino gambling, resisting racism and discrimination, but this annual joint service has become a lovely, small moment for our congregations to come together in solidarity to show that while our differences matter, so does our unity.

The service ended with a litany of unity: with an acknowledgement that acts of racism have once again breached the walls of God’s church, with a cry for peace and justice, with a commitment to “lay down our own privileges” and “act together in solidarity.” And then we collected money for the Rebuild the Churches Fund to assist those predominantly Black churches recently destroyed by arson.

Because there is nothing trivial about fear and hate.

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Years ago there was a television commercial that shoved a bowl of questionable cereal off on the unsuspecting younger brother, “Let’s get’s Mikey.” Presumably Mikey would taste what no-one else would dare to try and let us know if it was worth trying ourselves. Well, for preachers staring at an unpalatable Biblical text, that person is Barbara Lundblad. She’s a perennial favorite at the Festival of Homiletics, daring to address tough truths like racisms and the context in Ferguson that contributed to the riots, immigration policy, sharing power with minority populations, discrimination of gay people– all those subjects that some preachers shy away from calling them “political.” But she calls them relevant, necessary, Biblical.

So when the gospel lesson this week turned out to be the beheading of John the Baptist, it was a classic case of pushing away the bowl containing that story and passing it off…. “Let’s get Barbara” to taste it….and tell us what we need to know. And indeed she has:

This is a story we don’t want to hear. But we heard it because the lectionary handed it to us. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of the lectionary. It’s enough to know that in many churches, the Sunday readings follow a three-year cycle. So the last time we heard this story was in 2012. We didn’t want to hear the story then either, but this year it sounds even more ominous. When we last heard this story, beheading someone seemed a thing of the past. But now the past is present. We’ve seen pictures of men in orange jumpsuits, kneeling before they were beheaded. We have felt the anguish of families whose sons were beheaded–aid workers, journalists, 21 Coptic Christians. And there are other people whose names we’ll never know, including Iraqi Muslims. Their stories are not in our news.

John’s brutal death did make the news–at least, the biblical news. Mark gives a lot of space to this gruesome story. That’s quite remarkable because Mark usually doesn’t elaborate. Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness gets only two verses in chapter one. Immediately after that story Mark tells us this, “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.'” Jesus’ ministry began after John’s arrest. Mark wants us to see that John and Jesus are deeply connected….

You can listen or read the rest of the sermon here day1.org

The truth is always worth a taste.

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I love the July summer services in a circle when our prayer time becomes the word of God sharing in the community of faith, where our gathering in intention to welcome the spirit shapes us into the body of Christ, where we share those childhood spiritual experiences and habits that strengthened us and help us still to strength families–all families.

I wanted to share the blog entry from one of our prayers on Sunday—the joyful marrying of two of our friends who inspired us some 20+ years ago with the intentional work to form family in a new mold and raise two wonderful boys.

Holding On and Letting Go

This next Sunday we celebrate the family of faith across denomination and faith as our annual joint service with St. Mark’s Episcopal is joined by the UCC church in town, representatives from St. Michael’s RCC, and the rabbi from Temple Sinai brings us the word. Join us at St Mark’s on Porter Road @10 Sunday to strengthen our family

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