LOVE is passionate! (Song of Solomon 7:6-9 & 8:6-7)

As usual last week on Sunday we gathered round the table, making room for all who come and we prayed.  And then we had check-in time.  The homework of being the MOST LOVING disciples ever the week prior and to create a 3-point (or step) plan on how to be(come) better lovers (more loving — if you prefer!).  There were stories of how being loving, taking the time to appreciate or notice someone, made such a difference — observations on how trying to love others returned love to ourselves!  And the honesty too that there were times when we were not as loving, times we failed as being good lovers too.  One offered the reflection too of being the recipient of great loving — taking a moment to name how being able to receive love is one element of loving others.  While others made mention of being present, being available to offer help/care to someone.  Some themes that rose included being present, being open to where people are, being in reciprocal relationships (ie being able to give and receive love), being open and able to listen.  One theme that I didn’t hear but I do think is useful (required perhaps!) is one of forgiveness — that part of being loving necessarily involves forgiveness.

After hearing some of the plans, including introducing ourselves to our neighbors, we turned to the scripture selection of the day.  Which did create a bit of a stir….we turned to Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs) 7:6-9 & 8:6-7.  It’s a selection of poetry in the Bible — and it can be uncomfortable, or avoided with it’s language of passionate love between a lover & beloved!  (The Bible has SO much in it!)  And there are so many ways that this book and these passages can and have been interpreted, and while getting some chuckles especially with 7:6-9 — these selections (and the whole book) invite us to appreciate the beauty of love, the transformative nature of love, the strength and power of love — and that PASSIONATE nature of love.  Love is not something “ho-hum” — it is strong, stronger than death!  This is how God loves us, passionately!  This is how God invites us to love others!  (And no not only romantically, but it provides a useful frame from which to more fully understand how God loves each of us!)

So we continue with this journey of love.  Talking through these verses.  Talking through how passionately God loves us.  Talking about what could that mean for each of us, for the church, for the whole body of Christ.  And we come to the homework assignment of course.  Which has 2 parts:

  1. Part one: pray.  Pray for our community — for relationships, marriages, partnerships — for their protection, their thriving, for grace to be present in them.  Pray for relationships that our children and youth can see — healthy, nurturing — life-affirming relationships — honest relationships.  Pray over relationships in our community.
  2. Considering the 3-point plans that were mentioned for how we as individuals can be(come) better lovers, create a 3-point plan for how we AS A CHURCH can be(come) better lovers (of each other, of our community, of our world, of God!)

This assignment is special in a different way, you have 2 weeks to be doing this.  2 weeks to be praying over the relational thriving in our community, for healing over hurts, for forgiveness, for growth and 2 weeks to be thinking seriously on how we as a church can be(come) better lovers.  There will be NO ADULT STUDY this coming Sunday (yes, in 2 days @ 9AM — no class) — so the homework will be due for conversation on the 22nd of July.

See you on the 22nd — and happy Loving!

In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater 

A new commandment…LOVE one another (John 13:34-35)

Last week we gathered, some were missing (we missed you & travel safely) and there were new faces too!  Introductions were offered as we arrived and we began in prayer.  And then we jumped right in with our homework, we heard the prayers that had been written — prayers for those in authority.  Some focused on individuals we can name.  Some focused on those who serve on a national level.  Some included authority and leadership globally.  Some were shorter others longer.  One borrowed pertinent words from a movie.  One offered a song (side note: it has been said that a song is like a prayer offered twice which I find rather beautiful).  In all I heard a humility in the prayers created, an honestly and an earnestness — to be faithful even when we might not know which words are most faithful, even when the situations might seem challenging, even if perhaps we don’t understand why God chooses (or allows) who God does.  Each prayer was so beautiful.  It one blessed those who had gathered — all of us, and invited us to join in your voice (the one sharing their prayer).  One prayer that began with “Oh God….HELP!” ended with, “Please Lord, let Your voice be heard in a mighty way — guiding the paths of those in authority in the way of peace and justice.”  Other prayers asked that those serving in authority would seek You, and would come to receive grace!  It was powerful to sit around the table, and to hear how we are praying for those in authority, how we are seeking to be faithful to God and loving to neighbor in our daily lives.  Thank you all for these prayers, and for how listening to the prayer of another might even influence your own prayer voice!

After hearing from nearly all we turned to the Scripture du jour (of the day), John 13:34-35

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Hearing this three times, allowing these words to wash over us was a gift.  It is all about love.  Christ calls us to love.  Someone mentioned how easy this is — so simple (yes, of course we know it’s hard….but in essence it’s so simple and beautiful isn’t it?)  One noticed how in all their reading of these verses they never had noticed, how we love points to Christ — our love (of each other) invites people to see Christ.  One pointed out this is for the Christian community, how we (we gathered round the table for example) love each other reveals Christ to others….so that means how I love someone on my best day (& WORST day) & on someone else’s best/worst….how I love people who are not the same (insert identity….political party, profession, personality, gender, race, ethnicity, ability, age, sexuality…essentially someone who is not you!) reveals Christ to others, to the world who doesn’t know Him.

And so, after observing and hearing insights around the table for a bit we turned to the homework of the week…a two-fold assignment to,

  • First, be the best and most loving disciples ever this week!  (Love your socks off!)  And observe, does anything change?
  • Second — make a 3-point (or a 3-step) plan to become a better lover — or to become more loving.  (Be ready to share your plan!)

There was a question about if our loving is for our fellow Christians, or everyone to which I said — “yes!”  And I also added that no it was not an option to just avoid people at all costs so as not to have the opportunity to be as loving as possible all week!  So — it’s Friday but guess what, everyday we have opportunities to love each other — so feel free to get to loving!  I’m excited to hear the plans and see how we might grow together to be better lovers so that Christ might be seen clearly though our loving!

In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater 

Hard Text, week 2 (penning a Prayer!)

Goodness me — it’s Thursday again!  Last Sunday we gathered @ 9AM — well done for all of us.  We opened in prayer (perhaps after some kindhearted banter about how old different folks were!)  and then because we were staying with the same (challenging) text from last week, we read & heard our scripture: Romans 13:1-10.

Of course the words of the scripture from the week prior did not change (though the translation we heard read might have!).  Yet we had been sitting with, considering, and asking the Holy Spirit to speak with us about these verses.  At least a third of us gathered around the table did not share.  Others apologised for emotion they thought would be rejected — which (and this makes my heart so full of joy) was immediately responded with we love you!  And the important insight and distinction about what God allows (permissive will) as compared with God’s perfect will.  An example that was not named last Sunday might be useful, prophets vs. kings.  God’s perfect will in the Old Testament was to raise up various prophets and leaders for the people, compared with the desire (they whined) of the people to have a king, God’s permissive will allowed for kings.

Here, I pray you allow me a(n extended) moment.  We did something different, atypical from our usual rhythm.  We discussed the same 10 verses two weeks in a row.  Some made comments to me that this text is hard.  Others made comments about the challenge of speaking about “political” things.  Scripture is one of the ways that God speaks to us, to each of us willing to open God’s word and allow the Holy Spirit to give us understanding as to what is being said.  And the texts (MANY of them!) are not easy.  If we read closely what Jesus said and did — we find he is challenging!  (Seriously, who wants to invite Jesus over for dinner?!)  The world we live in is fallen and broken, and yes God is still moving in the chaos of our lives….BUT, life is hard.  And scripture (and GOD) does not try to ignore this.  The folks who were the religious authorities when Jesus was walking the earth (and they were sincerely faithful folks) quoted the Old Testament to Christ (to the Word made flesh!) — think on how absurd that is….quoting scripture to Jesus…I mention that to say, folks have been using the Word of God to make points or to highlight certain agendas since we’ve had scripture.  And this is still true.  When we gather, when we consider the (always!) challenging Word of God together, I encourage us to wrestle with our own understanding(s), to wrestle with God (or to let the Holy Spirit wrestle with us!), to wrestle to allow this living Word to speak to us & be written in our hearts & transform us! — not to wrestle with each other.  Each person — each voice — around the table is a beloved child of God, is our sibling in Christ, is just as beautiful and loved and flawed and sinful as each of us.

Our homework this week is to pen a prayer for the authorities — a prayer that is faithful to our own voice and to God.  And the hope is that some will be willing to share these prayers.  Some might pray for our government (locally and or nationally).  Some might pray for God’s divine law to prevail.  Some might pray for the church (ecclesial) authorities in place in the PC(USA) or in ecumenical bodies.  I took a moment to remind us all that when we pray we too become changed (and didn’t we think about praying for our enemies a couple of months back? — so even if some consider those in authority to be an enemy, alas we are still to pray!).

But I will end today with a prayer for us all — that we would have courage to come to the table, knowing God calls us to come as we are — and that God calls EACH OF US to come.  May we have the courage to listen to each other, especially when we do not agree or do not understand.  May we listen well and seek to understand before seeking to be understood.  May we be open to sharing humbly, and discerning together what God is saying.  And all God’s people said, “Amen.”

In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater 

A challenging text…submit? (Romans 13:1-10)

Happy longest day of the year!  And it is a beautiful one out there, so perhaps while you enjoy the weather you might continue thinking about our weekly homework ;).

Last Sunday — on Father’s Day Sunday — we gathered around the table (to many being told “Happy Father’s Day”) — we opened in prayer — and we checked in answering why does God care about the welfare of the city, as well as answering what seeking the welfare of our community looks like (for individuals and for us as a church).  There was mention that God’s care for the welfare of the city is being concerned about everyone’s welfare, that (even if we are individuals in exile) our thriving is often connected to the community we find ourselves part of.  We thought of prayer — all forms (including prayer with hands and feet!) as one of the ways that we seek the welfare of our community both as individuals and as a church.  And we also found ourselves for a bit considering how even if we are individuals in some form of exile (or oppression) that God might be using us — speaking to us — in order to bless the community we are a part of, naming how we might be the only ones in the community listening to God, and so God seeks to speak (& to bless!) through us — which is of course beautiful & annoying too, but how many of us on a daily basis think we are offering to the world, to all those who see us a picture of who Christ is (with our smile, or lack, with our generosity (or not), how we see people (or ignore), how we cheerfully serve & love….)?

As perhaps a most ideal (though challenging) follow-up to this invitation and expectation to seek the welfare of the city/community.  We turned to a scripture selection which had been in the recent news, Romans 13:1-10,

13 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. …10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

And we sat, we held these 10 verses.  We started sharing how we do not like all of it.  Some like some parts, some verses, others appreciate others.  Of course the question came, but what about when one verse is fighting with another?  What then?  What are we to do?  What does faithfulness look like then?  There was some discussion about different types of government playing a bit of a role in how we can faithfully engage (a) government, there was talk about engaging and challenging that which one finds opposed to God’s desires and being ok with the consequences that come….

We began the conversation.  And while it’s can be easy to allow the current political climate, issue, and cause to dictate a conversation — here that is not exactly what we are seeking to do.  (For unfortunately, often doing so mires us in confrontational & oppositional camps that are not necessarily useful in seeking to hear the faithfulness that the “other” is pursuing.)  Instead, how do we hear this (and ANY challenging) scripture, for which there can be more than one interpretation?  And how do we allow it to shape who we are as faithful lovers of God?

So….we began the conversation, but we did not end it and we will return to these verses again this coming Sunday.  After we’ve allowed the Holy Spirit to be speaking to each of us.  Which of course is what the homework is for the week, to sit with these verses and to allow the Holy Spirit to speak, to convict, to open each of us to what God is speaking to us here.  Where does God desire us to grow?  How does God want to shape us in faithfulness?  Prayers as each of us listen, for this work is not easy work, to be open to listening to God can feel as though the ground is crumbling under us….as it crumbles with in grace may we find God is inviting us not only to walk with Christ but to move (and even fly!) with the Holy Spirit!

In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater

*and food for thought as I heard more than one comment about the challenging scriptures we engaged last Sunday…if life were 75 and sunny each day we’d likely believe we didn’t need God…but life is not always 75 & sunny…and so we find that we need a God who is not afraid of the mess of life — of our lives — we need a God who doesn’t disappear in the dark — we need a God when the world is chaotic and falling apart in our hands!  Challenging scriptures allow us to be honest with ourselves, and open with God — and in the struggle with these selections, in the wrestling to find where the Good News (grace) can be found — we often learn something with substance that helps feed us in the hardest times of our lives….*

Pray for the welfare of the city! (Jeremiah 29:4-14)

It is beautiful outside, something about the sun just makes me smile.  And it’s hard to believe that it’s already been days since we last gathered around the table as is our custom at 10AM on Sunday mornings.  It was a lively crowd, with some still coming while we opened in prayer.  After prayer of course we checked in, considering how to hold a scripture that was so hopeful (Rom. 10:8-11) with one that is so sad (Matthew 7:21-23).  Much of the conversation seemed to hinge on “belief” — that perhaps those in the sad text (Matthew 7:21-23) were choosing to try and earn/justify their salvation rather than believing in their heart who Christ is, that they need Christ, that the only way to God is through the gift of grace of Christ.  These considerations of course engage much — ideas of doctrines (like predestination, double predestination, free will, and more!) and spoiler alert — no, we did not plumb the depths of all these doctrines — however, we did hold onto the hope of Romans 10 & consider our neediness of grace, that it is a gift, one we cannot earn, one offered, and one that we are invited to believe so that we will never hear Christ tell us, “I never knew you….”

And then we turned to scripture, Jeremiah 29:4-14 (it’s after Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, & Isaiah).  There is SO much in this text.  Many are perhaps familiar with this,

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

However, we were invited to hear more than just this one verse.  We were invited to hear a bit of the context it comes out of.  Jeremiah a prophet, is speaking to the Israelites who are in exile, and this verse speaks to a time AFTER the exile (after 70 years of exile).  Furthermore, more than one person noticed the following verse,

  And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.

Wait, what?!  Work for the peace & prosperity of the city?  Pray to God while you are in the place of captivity for the welfare of where you are in exile?!  This seems a bit outrageous doesn’t it?  We mentioned that in this text, this time of exile it’s a little bit like God put the Israelites into (maybe the first official) time-out (there may or may not have been a comment that exile is a step up from a flood…. 🙂 ) but who while in timeout wants to pray for those who are keeping us in timeout?  This is hard.  In fact, while this text is beautiful, reminding us to bloom exactly where we are, to live life, even while we are living in exile, to seek the welfare of the community we are in (even if we don’t want to be there!), and reminding us how interconnected we all are — it is an incredibly challenging text.  A text that when we considered Abraham in the sermon later we might have remembered — Abraham taking the time to boldly pray for the welfare of a city that was not his own.  And so perhaps our homework makes great sense, we are to ask & answer for ourselves,

  1. “Why does God care about the welfare of the city (of [our] exile)?”
  2. What does seeking the welfare of our community (S-VE) look life?  (as an individual, as a church?)

As usual, I am excited to hear what answers emerge from the wisdom and creativity in each of you when we gather round that table again on Sunday.

Blessings in Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater  

How do these fit? (Matthew 7:21-23 & Romans 10:8-11)

Last Sunday we gathered round the table.  We prayed.  And we checked in, getting to hear what it means to walk humbly with God.  It was insightful.  The first comment might have been that examples come to mind of when we have not done this well (which of course brought a knowing chuckle from most of us).  There also was question, what is it to walk with God — you know what do we mean exactly…to live our lives in a way that God desires….a helpful word mentioned was to obey God…  We talked about how we were raised, how we saw humility modeled; we discussed how the key might be that in walking humbly with God we are comparing (ourselves) with God — not with others — which IS a rather humbling experience, and is a most necessary perspective shift.  We also discussed that if you try to “win” at being humble, well — you’ve missed the mark (the heart) of humility.  We also touched upon how humility is not false modesty — a denial of gifts and talents — but perhaps a true understanding of identity in Christ, a honest awareness of what God has given (gifted) each of us with.

And with many round the table we turned to Scripture, specifically to Matthew 7:21-23:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’   (New International Version)

21 “Not all who sound religious are really godly people. They may refer to me as ‘Lord,’ but still won’t get to heaven. For the decisive question is whether they obey my Father in heaven.22 At the Judgment many will tell me, ‘Lord, Lord, we told others about you and used your name to cast out demons and to do many other great miracles.’23 But I will reply, ‘You have never been mine. Go away, for your deeds are evil.’     (The Living Bible) 

We sat with this scripture for some time.  It was quickly named that this text is sad.  To imagine being turned away by God, to imagine the weight of such a thing.  Someone around the table mentioned it is more sad than “Jesus wept.”  Imagine hearing God say, “Go away, you evildoer” or “I never knew you — go away your deeds are evil!”  It is an interesting Scripture to read after focusing on walking humbly with God.  This text however, was offered in conjunction with a second, Romans 10:8-11,

This is what the Scripture says: “God’s teaching is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart.”  That is the teaching of faith that we tell. If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and if you believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from death, then you will be saved. 10 We believe with our hearts, and so we are made right with God. And we declare with our mouths to say that we believe, and so we are saved. 11 As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disappointed.” (International Children’s Bible) 

This Scripture is more hopeful, and simple — believe and be saved.  And in the (possible) tension of the two perhaps we hear the fullness of the gospel message both the deep sadness of being told by God we never belonged & hearing the simple gift of the fullness of the love of God understood in the gift of grace offered in Christ that in believing/trusting/accepting Jesus as Lord — Jesus as raised from death — that we have been reconciled with God forever!  And we talked a little bit about the idea of God knowing all (the doctrines of predestination & double predestination) — HUGE topics (of which I’ll mention how only God knows who belong to God, who walk humbly with God, who profess & believe — only God — we don’t see with God’s eyes or know with God’s Spirit….meaning we don’t know who belongs to God, who walks with God, who is part of large “C” Church and who is nt….).

And so we came to homework time, which is this — reconcile these two scriptures (if needed).  Asked differently, what do these two selections of Scripture mean together?  How do you understand them?

Looking forward to the next time we gather round the table y’all.

In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater 

Walk (humbly) with God? (Micah 6:8)

Last week was a long weekend.  It was the Memorial Day weekend, a weekend indeed where many might be able to slow down or to spend some extra time with family and friends, but it is a time when we might also remember the many who have sacrificed so that we can enjoy the blessings, the lives, and the things that we do.  It’s of course a great time too, to say “thank you” to the many who have actively served in our military, who currently serve in the military, and also to pause and gratefully remember those who sacrificed their very lives for the ideals of freedom that we hold dear.  While a time when we might enjoy the moment of pause, we take a moment (even here and now) to remember that the long weekend has come at the steepest cost for some…

So last Sunday many of you gathered round the table which has become familiar.  And (thanks be to God!) Kerm & Sharon facilitated the study (THANK YOU!).   You began in prayer.  And then was the check-in, the homework of course was to be praying life all week and to see what happens.  I hear that many examples were shared, that praying life was something that was a constant opportunity — something that we are called to ALWAYS be doing.  This of course does not make it necessarily easy (how often is that the case, we know what we are to do….but we find it rather difficult….didn’t Paul have something to say about this? 🙂 ) And it also seems that there was a rich conversation about if it is better to pray aloud or silently?  The consensus seemed to offer that ANY prayer is good, though the observation was made that praying aloud is often more focused and on-task….seems when we’re silent prayers we also can wander to the mental to-do list and such.

And as is custom we made the turn to scripture — the focus last Sunday being 1 verse, Micah 6:8

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.  (New International Version) 

And the discussion from this scripture noticed that this seems to call for a continual living in God’s presence.  A continual living and walking in God’s presence.  But of course what does it mean to walk with God?  To walk humbly with God?  What does it mean to act justly and to love mercy?  Can we walk with God if we do not act justly?  Can we walk with God if we don’t love mercy?  And what about when we don’t, won’t, can’t?  And what about when we want to RUN with God in this way?

Lucky of course for us all the homework invites us to consider this!  So — the homework is to answer, what does it me to “walk humbly with your God?”  And the extra credit (which I hope many are encouraged to do….) is to be ready to share an example from your own life of what walking humbly with God looks like!

Prayers of favor and covering — prayers of LIFE over you until we gather again!

~ Rev. Sabrina Slater 

Pray LIFE! (Ezekiel 37:1-14…a Pentecost text)

Last Sunday we gathered around the table — all 15 of us (me included) — and after some gathering conversation we began in prayer before opening with our check in, sharing about some of the victories God has already brought us through and sharing some of the current struggles we are waiting to be victorious through/over.  While not everyone was super eager to share, and I did (as is custom!) shift us to considering scripture at the appropriate time — there were two things I observed.

First, and I did mention this on Sunday — was how encouraging it can be for us to remember what God has already done for us.  Often we can be hard on ourselves, we can focus on the struggles before us in the moment, and we can easily forget how much God has already done for us — remembering can give some perspective and can encourage us.

And second, the willingness to be able to share a struggle, to be the first voice willing to engage vulnerability publically opens the way for others to be able to share too — and in that sharing there was this beautiful time and ability to encourage, to have people willing to pray specifically, and to have those who might be accountability partners in that struggle for victory!  This is some of the beauty of the body of Christ, of being able to live and walk alongside our sisters & brothers on the journey we know as life — and in which none (no not one) of us is done/perfect (just) yet!

But on to scripture, Ezekiel 37:1-14.  This text is known as “The Valley of Dry Bones” and it is an alternative text to be used and preached on for Pentecost Sunday (which was last Sunday!).  We heard these verses read, and sat in silence, seeking to hear God speaking to us all.  There was some talk about context, talk about prophets speaking up, noticing that God is able to do anything.  We considered a seeming duality of body/spirit when with bones and flesh Ezekiel still had to speak life to breath to come into the bodies that had just come together.  And we even discussed how in a sense it seemed the death was brought on by decisions that had been made (opposing God) and continuous faithfulness of God too.

And, we wondered if God reached out and grabbed us & showed us a vision like this — an impossible vision of death (like for real, totally dead!) — and told us to speak life (again and again speak (prophesy) life) would we do it?  Which leads a bit to our homework…we are all to spend the week praying LIFE, praying LIFE over relationships, people, gardens, communities, our church — EVERYTHING.  This is a week to pray LIFE & to see what happens.  If you’ve forgotten — go ahead and start now — let us together pray LIFE and see what God does!

Excited to hear the stories…

Rev. Sabrina Slater 

No Hiding (Psalm 139)

It was Mother’s Day Sunday.  Which meant that we knew folks would be missing (because people mentioned it during homework assignment time the Sunday before!  And because thanks be to God there was a baptism which a few folks were attending at another church) –but thanks be to God — 10 of us gathered round the table seeking to hear God together!  We opened in prayer.  As it was a bit of a non-typical Sunday flow for our Adult Study we reviewed the Scripture from last week (1 John 5:1-5) and reminded ourselves of the homework:  to think of the victories that God has already helped you win in life & also to think about the struggles you are waiting for God (or even asking if God can & will) to make you victorious in/over.  That is the homework we will be checking in with this coming Sunday! 

But then we turned to Scripture (turns out no one was bursting at the seams to give an early homework check in!).  And we considered Psalm 139 in its entirety.  Reading through it twice with four volunteers reading each time.  I had been led to the Psalm based especially on verses 13-15

13 For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.   (English Standard Version) 

Finding it striking to consider such a Psalm on Mother’s Day.  And when mentioned, this opened a conversation centering on verse 14: what does it mean that “I” am fearfully & wonderfully made?  There was commentary on how perhaps it is based on knowing what the world is like….any who bring forth life do so “fearfully.”  But there was a question too about the word, “fearfully” as applied to us.  One had a translation which made the issue go away — ascribing the fearfully & wonderfully more to God and less to us — but that was a lone translation.

However — the initial observance of this Psalm were actually two contrasting feelings — one of comfort knowing there is no where we can go away from God — and one of frustration that there is no where we can go away from God.  I found that contrast to be necessary, important, powerful.  How many of us if we are honest have felt both of these truths?  The frustration that we would like a moment on our own, without God bothering us; the gratitude we have in the midst of overwhelming life chaos or deep darkness that we are not alone, God is there?  To hold both of those feelings, observations, revelations is vast — possibly so vast that we actually can’t hold it on our own (part of why we gather together because together as a body of believers, as the body of Christ, we can hold & know more of who God is — the vastness of who the I AM is).

And as always, the time ran out, the conversation was halted to remind of homework (victories in God already, struggles looking for the victory over) and to pray.

In a few days we’ll gather again — around the table to continue to conversation and to listen to God together.  I’m looking forward to all of it.  See you soon.

In Christ – the RISEN Saviour ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater 

Victory is mine…isn’t it? (1 John 5:1-5)

We gathered.  We prayed.  We started to check-in…the homework had been to write out Romans 8:28, and then to be open to seeing who God might bring into our lives during the week who might need the encouragement.  It turns out it was a slightly mixed bag.  Some forgot…some didn’t do it…some found that the person needing the encouragement of Romans 8:28 ( And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.) was them (their own self).  And then too there was a very important question, can we offer this verse as an encouragement to those who do not love God?  Or what about when we really can’t see the good?  Or maybe our idea of what is “good” might be different from God….or even different from the person?  And so — we named too, that there is wisdom & discernment necessary (as always?) when offering something or some encouragement to anyone — there was a reminder of how Job’s friends (see the book of Job) did best when they remained silent.  And so there is that complication of letting the Holy Spirit lead each of us when to speak & when to be silent & what to share.  HOWEVER, we also do not know people’s hearts, we do not know the whole picture, and we trust scripture when it says that God’s Word will not return void — so when the Holy Spirit moves us to speak and to encourage (even if we do not know what exactly someone else believes) let us with humility and courage offer it.

And then we pivoted as we do to our scripture for the day, 1 John 5:1-5,

1Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. 2By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. 3For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. 4For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

5Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

This was another passage that is well loved.  That has come alive to one of us because of it’s promises — promises of victory in and through Jesus Christ.  There was the observation of “our faith” — what is that exactly?  Is it “our faith” that overcomes the world?  Is it our faith IN CHRIST?  Is it Christ who overcomes the world?  And does how (if) we love the children of God prove that we love God?  And does how we love God prove that we love the children of God? — or is it just one o these?

In the discussion these verses were well received.  In the closing moments I observed that none had mentioned the bit about verse 3…”For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.”  Was I the only one listening?  Am I the only one who might bristle or at least hesitate in saying that the commandments of God are not burdensome?  (There might have been some smirks here….) Because if following, and if loving God is so NOT-burdensome — why does it seem so challenging, and why do we need to be reminded?….

Yet there is of course the encouragement that comes in verses 4 and 5.  And this is where we derive our homework from.  First — what are some battles/victories that God has ALREADY helped you win in life?  Second — what struggles are you still working on, and how do you imagine God will (or can?) help you win them?  Yes, this might be a bit more vulnerable, and I pray we hold it tenderly — and considering how many will be traveling this coming Sunday due to spending (thanks be to God) time with family — we will check in with this homework not on this Sunday (May 13th) but on next Sunday (May 20th).  So keep on thinking y’all….and I can’t wait to be seated around the table yet again to listen to God through scripture & through each of you!

In Christ,
Rev. Sabrina Slater