Proverbs…Day 4…considering Prov.10:11-13

Another Sunday and we gathered around the table exchanging smiles and good mornings, and breathing the smell of coffee.  Mid-smile we opened in prayer.  And then came the “homework” check — the weekly check-in.  Last week we looked to share a Proverb with someone, be it in a text message, through social media, in a face-to-face or phone conversation or even in a hand-written card.

There were a variety of experiences — from seeming silence to a Proverb offered over FB engaging the current congressional tax bill — to a perfectly timed opportunity to reach out to someone grieving a recent loss — to a perfect little note of encouragement to a friend struggling right now.  There was joy in being able to accomplish the homework early & honestly about not having the reminder soon enough to help success be possible!  And a note too that in the reading of Proverbs the ability to hear God’s wisdom for OTHER PEOPLE — and the humility of recognizing perhaps using our scripture in this way as chastising weaponry was not the aim nor spirit of the homework assignment (it was not!).

And then we read Proverbs 10:11-13,

The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.

On the lips of one who has understanding wisdom is found, but a rod is for the back of one who lacks sense.

First noticed was the consideration of the rod — is it real?  Metaphorical?  There was brief conversation on discipline/spanking/beating — mention of “spare the rod – spoil the child” and the named feeling that these are no longer appropriate topics — no longer socially acceptable.  (This would easily be another conversation as well as potentially an entire study to see what God has to say on discipline — what it looks like, how to do it….but that is for another day!)  Nevertheless there was conversation too about a judgement of sorts for those who are without sense/who act without understanding — and yet, who judges and does not Christ take that beating for us all in his journey to the cross?

As we heard the scripture in 3 different translations it was noticed how one of the translations had mentioned how violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked.  A striking (& useful) imagery.  And then the question came about verse 12 — but does love really cover all offenses?  And we briefly began this conversation — which THANKS BE TO GOD — came near the end because it opened our homework invitation!

(HOMEWORK)  This week the invitation is to consider one Proverb and if it is true or not.  THERE IS NO (1) RIGHT ANSWER that I expect everyone to find & believe.  And to be honest, if everyone says the exact same thing this will again be our homework the next week (yes I did say that yesterday!).  We are considering Proverbs 10:12 (Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.) And we are answering for ourselves — Does love cover all offences?  If NO — why not?  If YES — practically how?  

To give some warning — I think this will be a rich (though challenging) conversation both with ourselves, with God & with each other.  I am looking forward to hearing how God has been speaking to each of us though this one Proverb!  May there be space to breathe & hear from the Creator of the world & giver of life for each of us this week!

In love ~

Rev. Sabrina Slater 

Proverbs Day 3…considering Proverbs 3:5-8

After a week considering all of Proverbs 1 each day — we gathered & opened in prayer that included,

Gracious God, help us develop a love and regard for Your Wisdom Literature.  Grant that these days of search and exploring may result in a new understanding of what wisdom is all about and that new evidence of Your wisdom may be seen in our lives.  Amen.

And we checked in honestly.  Not all of us read Proverbs 1 daily — because, life.  And there were a variety of experiences when we did read though.  Experiences ranging from finding it (Proverbs) to be rather matter-of-fact, common sense & without surprise (our basic — yes, we can see/understand that) to noticing the rather jarring language that “wisdom” laughs at us after we ignore her — to wondering if those who are wise speak in riddles then how are we to hear wisdom literature (for ex. Proverbs) especially when we seem to understand it?  And this lead to a conversation about God as known & revealed in the Old Testament (or Hebrew Scripture/Bible) and the New Testament — a beginning to a conversation regarding the character of God and also the question of is God = wisdom?, or perhaps said another way is one of God’s names wisdom?  Don’t worry — we didn’t answer all of this in our check in — but the conversation did dance there.

And then we turned to more Scripture, more Proverbs, more wisdom.  We spent time with Proverbs 3:5-8:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil.  It will be a healing for your flesh and a refreshment for  your body.

We noticed this invitation to humility, to not rely on our own insight nor to be wise in our own eyes.  SUCH A TALL ORDER!  And if that were not challenging enough — the invitation to trust in the LORD with all our heart?  We had a moment of laughter confession — this is HARD — this idea of truly trusting.  And someone named how that trust is hard and they (we probably could all say “WE”) often turn to our own patterns/practices when life comes at us — they mentioned wanting to put these verses on their refrigerator to be able to read about the healing & refreshment for our body!  The conversation was rich and there was insight & an image that these Proverbs seem like  a gift from an ageing father on his deathbed with his last breaths instructing a child.  The imagery is beautiful, moving & allows Proverbs to breathe in our own lives in a more tender way.

And so what could possibly be homework out of this?  We have heard & been discussing how this wisdom — these Proverbs — are for everyone, and to help us all live a better life — to be blessed by God — to flourish & succeed — & so the invitation was to use a Proverb to encourage someone, to speak a word that someone might need.  This could be done in a conversation, or in a text message — or on social media — or even in a hand written note.  And to help out the cause cards (blank ones!) were offered to any who might want to send someone a note that way.

Looking forward to hearing how the Word has gone out & what difference it made (in us) on Sunday @ 10AM!

In expectation to see Christ!

~ Rev. Sabrina Slater 

Proverbs…day 2

Well — today (Sunday Dec. 3rd) we met.  And we opened in prayer and then we started into our check-in.  Check-ins from those who were able to join last week & check-ins too from those who were unaware of the homework.  And the homework was to write and/or find a Proverb to share.

Some proverbs were short & others long — some found online — others from scripture — others were written by ourselves or in a note from someone else.  It was fun hearing the different proverbs shared for they also share a bit about ourselves (of course) — we heard about if we want a mountain to move, well start picking up stones today — invitations to put on love & carry it with us — that fruit takes time to grow — to get up from our laziness — and that all you need is love (to name only some).  We observed the writing being directed toward men (ah ancient context) — and wisdom itself often being personified as a woman.  And before turning to Proverbs 1:1-7 (again) we heard from Selwyn Hughes,

I shall never forget my pastor taking me aside…and saying, “I’m going to teach you to steal, to drink, to lie and to swear…I want to teach you how to steal time out of every day to read something from the book of Proverbs.  And then I want to teach you how to drink from its clear, refreshing waters, to lie on your bed at night and meditate on its great themes and to swear that by the grace of God you will put into practice its wonderful teaching.” …This then is what Proverbs is all about — wisdom for living…

And then we turned to scripture – hearing Proverbs in our 3 times read w/silence in between before hearing what God was inviting us to consider.  A very insightful point was the importance of listening, and the invitation that the more wise we are the more we oft listen.  And in the quasi meditative silence considering Proverbs specifically as guide a question was asked, what about verse 6?  Someone else named, well both 5-6.  The word of possible contention being “riddles” — and we discovered not every translation used “riddles” some seemed to remove that line entirely — the King James version made reference to dark sayings.  And we considered this for awhile, even (possibly) equating parables as riddles.  This was a rich dialogue that invited us to consider perhaps riddles (and/or parables) are important because they invite us to be a bit more critical (perhaps similar to the sermon theme of “Stay Woke”) of the situation/problem/life in front of us because we are not able to see the same, the beauty (& challenge) of the riddle (and/or parable) is to look again and with new perspective and this perhaps of course is an invitation to listen more intently.  And that seems rather timely in this season of Advent as we keep watch (“Stay Woke”) looking for God being born (again) among us.

And we have homework (who doesn’t want homework!?!)  To read Proverbs 1 EACH DAY this week.  Yes — to spend some time with this wisdom literature, and with this chapter in particular.  To hear God speak to us through these verses, to prayerfully be surprised by what God might reveal in a week of journeying with these 33 verses.  And we will check in with what God did — with how God spoke — with what God might have even said do (or not do).

I am excited to be blessed by what God will be revealing to each of us and can hardly wait until we get to check in next week.  Until then — strength, energy & courage in the reading and in the listening to God in this Holy conversation where we learn to listen more intently.

In expectation to see Christ,

~ Rev. Sabrina Slater 

Proverbs…Day 1

Last week we gathered — a smaller group than typical and a bit cosier with the undecorated tree in the corner.  And we checked in, it had been a bit challenging to remember for 2 whole weeks what the homework was (to Bless (and/or) Praise the Lord!).  But after opening in prayer it turns out there was much to check-in with.

Did we bless God?  Did we praise God?  Was it easier with good news & things happening, or was it easier in the challenges of the day?  We asked what exactly does it mean to bless God — including considering, isn’t it God who blesses us & we who praise God?  Does our blessing of God actually mean an attempt to bless others out of our gratefulness for God?  It was a rich conversation and while some might have forgotten the homework — it did seem that folks had sat with Psalm 103 throughout those weeks and so even if they thought they’d not done the homework, they had sat with the scripture & that scripture had marinated in them (which I’d say is NEVER a bad thing!)

And we made a turn to Proverbs — reading Proverbs 1:1-7

The proverbs of Solomon son of David, King of Israel:   For learning about wisdom and instruction, for understanding words of insight, for gaining instruction in wise dealings, righteousness, justice, and equity; to teach shrewdness to the simple, knowledge and prudence to the young — let the wise also hear and gain in learning, and the discerning acquire skill, to understand a proverb and a figure, the words of the wise and their riddles.  The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

We heard “fear” make another appearance in this reading (The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge) — and we considered if the book of Proverbs still speaks to us today.  One could perhaps argue that these are for Solomon, and not us (but honestly, I doubt how many would hold to such a reading of Proverbs!), however it seems that this book, one of the wisdom books of the Bible might have something rich, meaningful & instructive to offer each of us today in our lives & even as we begin the season of Advent — the time of waiting & looking for Christ (God with us) to be born among us — the time of longing for our Savior to come again!

As we begin a season in Proverbs — our first homework was to create or to find a Proverb that speaks to you — and to come with that Proverb to share with us who gather around the table tomorrow!  Looking forward to hear the Proverbs God is guiding each of us to!

Blessings!
~ Rev. Sabrina Slater 

2 African proverbs:

When you pray, move your feet.”

& (mentioned in the sermon last week)If you want to know the end look at the beginning.”

 

Psalm 103…

Well…I know it was almost 2 whole weeks ago, but who could forget the time we spent in Psalm 103?  (Or the homework that we agreed to work on?).

Two Sundays ago, we altered our rhythm a little.  We had a little bit more silence to what we’ve become used too (about 1 minute after each reading of scripture).  After hearing Psalm 103 read aloud once, we were silent for a longer period of time.  During the silence there was the invitation to look (& listen) on our own to the scripture, using your own Bible, the Bible in front of you, or perhaps the print out of the scripture.  The invitation was especially open to use the print out of the scripture so that as we continued to look/listen/be open to what the Holy Spirit was highlighting in Psalm 103 we could highlight words or phrases, or underline verses — using a print out (especially for some people who would never imagine writing in a Bible!) allows us to look closely at the scripture before us, to see what words might be repeated, to focus in on the verbs or the nouns in the passage and to ask questions — printing out a section of scripture (or writing it out!) invites us to slow down with scripture and to possible see what it has to say to us with eyes open — instead of knowing exactly what it says (ahhh — this passage, easy I’ve memorized it I’ve read it so much!) — this slowing down, invites us into an intimate space with the Holy Spirit guiding us to just what God might be highlighting.  While we stayed silent for only a few minutes, this is a practice (a way) of reading scripture or meditating on scripture that you can do for much longer too!  In fact, if you do sit with some scripture I would love to hear what God speaks to you about whatever passage you might sit with — so please don’t be shy!

And after the silence we opened up to discussion.  The first to share was someone for whom this scripture has a deep meaning for them — someone they loved once offered they read it during a challenging time and so they have walked with it ever since.  It was interesting that the person offered it but did not necessarily say why they had offered it to this other person, instead they allowed God & the scripture to do & be what was needed.  What faith!  Do we have that type of faith — to trust that God will show up in the scriptures & speak, offer comfort — transformation & healing?  Often I think we find we need to be more “hands-on” — offering an introduction to the life-giving (Word, God, Christ, Holy Spirit) — perhaps a topic for another time, but what would we (life/church/world?) look like it we really did trust God?  

Someone else offered their translation which read, “Praise the LORD” instead of what the translation we had heard (“Bless the LORD.”)  And of course, that brought up a question, what exactly is it to bless the Lord?  And there was a challenge in the text too — this idea of “fearing” the Lord?  What is that?!  And we had a discussion, mentioning earthly Fathers who were loving (and perhaps stern too) — some who wanted the best for us, but who also instilled a bit of fear — in the sense that if we did not do what was expected….errr well, because the Father was consistent we knew what would be coming!  And yet, this conversation regarding what it is to “fear” God, an understanding of reverence or awe — something else? — a good type of fear — is an ongoing conversation.  Language changes over the years and through translations, so to understand what the original author was trying to convey will prove challenging!  And yet, it serves us well as we seek to hear from God & take scripture seriously — what does it mean to fear God?, do we still find that need in the New Testament?, what is lost if we functionally ignore this fear? Psalm 103:17a reads,

But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him…

We did not answer the question of fear and that likely is an invitation for us all to continue pondering this in our life (our faith journey, our walking daily with God).  But we did leave with a “homework” assignment – a 2-week one!  We were sent out to “Bless the LORD!”  Psalm 103 begins as it ends,

Bless the LORD, O my soul!

Ok — if you look closely the opening ends with a “.” and the ending closes with a “!”  I like that — it’s almost as though the beginning Blessing (or Praising) is more tentative than the ending…as though we grow in strength in the Blessing & the Praising through the practice of doing so, through the living of doing so.  And so, 2 weeks ago, before the community ecumentical Thanksgiving service, and before families (and friends too) gathered to share a meal and time on the 4th Thursday in November — we received the homework to go out and to Bless the LORD!  And to come back in two weeks with the stories of what exactly that turned out to be & looked like!  And well…tomorrow is the day when we will check in.  So — there’s still time (because perhaps the invitation is for at all times to Bless & Praise the LORD!)

Love ya & See y’all tomorrow @ 10AM!

~ Rev. Sabrina Slater 

 

Looking back #love….and moving forward & a look at Psalm 46…

We finished #love (well, finished sort of — finished in the sense that #love is not the “study” for right now….but let’s be honest, #love is how we live life — it’s not something we just visit and then forget about it — Jesus doesn’t cease to be Jesus if we forget about him, the call to love — to recognize ourselves as loved — does not disappear just because we choose not to #love).

We took some time to talk about what worked & what didn’t.  While there were a variety of responses, and of course the necessary comment of “there’s always one” to the one person who named liking the homework assignments — we determined that the structure of the study (including prayer, checking-in, scripture, silence, dialogue & homework) worked for us.  Overall — we observed together that we appreciated how everyone engaged how they could, how everyone’s voice and insight was important – and how we all did try to do (& remember to do) the homework.

But what’s next right?  Well, I posed the question and folks had a lot of thoughts, books of the Bible (naming Daniel, Ephesians, Romans, Isaiah, and specifically Psalm 103) and topics too (naming Sabbath, Solitude, Victory, and “Engage” – rethinking church Mission).  MANY topics — and all important topics (plus of course there are more which your loving Pastor might be considering too!)

So — not knowing though what would be coming next (tomorrow now!) — we did have homework.  After sitting with all of Psalm 46 — all of it!  And it was a rich conversation, there was a pointed question — why this Psalm?  Why Psalm 46?  And my answer was — I felt led to the scripture, and the anchor verse which captured me was Psalm 46:10a

Be still, and know that I am God!

And so the homework assigned for the week was to think on that — to think on, “Be still, and know that I am God!”  To consider what exactly does that mean, look like, happen? — in our daily lives.  And y’all — then we went home — and after getting home we heard news of Sutherland Springs, TX — and it’s not fair — and I don’t know how to “Be still,” how to “know that I am God!” Because it’s too much, too much evil, too much pain, too much death.  And yet I am grateful that the homework and the invitation would be to “Be still, and know that I am God.” — because the reality is there is too much evil, and too much pain, and too much death EVERY SINGLE DAY — it’s just some days it really hits us, some days we get a sliver of the understanding of how through sin death entered creation…and so there is a grace that as we mourn with those who mourn (and we are mourning — this is part of our family who went to church last week and did not walk out) God would gift us with this living Word, this reminder and invitation when perhaps some of us are paralysed that what has been offered is, “Be still, and know that I am God!”  And y’all, even though I don’t know all the things, I am so grateful that the One Who we trust has been proved faithful and loving and so even now, even in the midst of all this (all life), let us together,

Be still, and know that I am God!

Love always & see you in the AM ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater 

 

Past the Pulpit…(Domestic & Gender-based violence)

National Domestic Violence Hotline:

1-800-799-SAFE

www.TheHotline.org


“Past the Pulpit” is a space where I hope to be able to share some thoughts and to continue the conversation(s) we are having as a congregation.  Sometimes these conversations might be uncomfortable for us.  I pray and hope though that we can commit to honestly engage with each other respectfully and with open hearts to listen.  I pray and hope too that we foster a community where we can hold space for challenging and difficult conversations — with a deep commitment to the unity that we have because Jesus loves us.

A few weeks ago, on Oct. 15th, we started a HARD conversation.  A conversation some of us might never have had before in church — or at least not in church above a whisper.  We read a really challenging (REALLY challenging) scripture selection.  Judges 19:22-30 and we NAMED (some of) the violence that is in the text.  We NAMED violence in the month of October because October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  And in a moment in time when we know of many instances of sexual assault & harassment in high profile cases it is important to NAME some of the realities of our context.

There are so many statistics that can be named & on that Sunday we began by sharing that 1 in 3 women will experience intimate partner violence.  1 in 3.  Think about that for a minute — think about all the women you know.  Divide that number by 3 and (number of women/3 = ?) that is the number of survivors you likely know right now.¹  After this Sunday — after this sermon — something happened in the following week — were surprised to read this HORRIFIC scripture selection and then people kept on talking, wrestled with what to do, asked questions and were challenged by this evil and this sin!  This wrestling we are doing is life giving — this NAMING we are doing is important.  The scripture said,

Consider it, take counsel, and speak out.

As Halloween — a night when some might get scared– comes to a close and we look to welcome November — we can’t forget the things that are scary & that literally keep some of our sisters & brothers up all the time — the violence that is around us, the violence that is domestic violence.  So, what are we to do?  Let’s keep on wrestling.  One way we wrestle is learning some of the facts & statistics.  Here are some FACTs.  Maybe you’d like to learn some of what Presbyterians Against Domestic Violence are doing — check them out HERE.  Or maybe you’d like to participate in “Thursdays in Black” where as an act of solidarity you choose to wear black on Thursdays naming your desire and commitment to a world without rape or violence.  Perhaps most important for us all is we continue to conversation, that we prayerfully listen (& believe) those who share the stories of violence that they live.  And let us never be satisfied with a world where the sin of domestic violence and gender-based violence is a reality.

And let us join again in this prayer (& may it be our prayer not only on Domestic Violence Awareness Day & not only in October — but may it be our prayer until thanks be to God we need it no longer!):

We are the church.  We offer ourselves to you, O God, our creator.  We offer our hands.
May we use them to extend a healing touch to comfort sisters and brothers and children, youth and seniors who are afraid.  We offer our eyes and ears.
May we see and hear the signs and stories of violence so that all may have someone with them in their pain and confusion.  We offer our hearts and our tears.
May the hurt and sorrow of the abused echo within us. We offer our own stories of violence.
May we be healed, as we embrace each other. We offer our anger.
Make it a passion for justice. We offer all our skills.
Use our gifts to end violence. We offer our faith, our hope, our love.
May our encounters with violence bring us closer to you and to each other. In every congregation of every faith, victims, survivors and abusers sit in our pews.
Some are listening for words of recognition, understanding, comfort and healing, hoping to hear that the church stands with them in their suffering. All need to hear a clear message that violence in our homes is against the will of God.
Our silence makes us complicit to the suffering. This Domestic Violence Awareness Day, let us make our churches places where the gospel of wholeness is heard and lived out. We offer our prayers and our peace in that journey.
All this we ask through Jesus Christ, who knows the pain of violence. Amen.²


¹From Presbyterians Against Domestic Violence (& also) Sojourners email, “Tell Your Faith Leaders: Speak Out For Survivors of Violence” sent on Sept. 19, 2017.

²Prayer offered at Service of Awareness about domestic violence (SEE HERE)

#love…week 5…(looking at 1 John 3:16-18 & 1 Corinthians 16:14 & Matthew 25:35-36, 40)

How did we already get here?  Week 5 of our 6 week #love series?  So journaling was for some easy & for others hard for us as we tried to track and measure just how much God loves us (and in what ways).  However, whether we found it easier or a bit more challenging everyone was really thinking about just how much God loves us.  And anyone present might have observed that in general there was some discomfort in considering God’s act of love toward us…

As a note — this I believe is something many of us struggle with — perhaps because we want to be independent, perhaps because we are uncomfortable getting something for nothing — perhaps because we really want to earn our grace, or not to need grace at all — and that is in so many ways the essence of grace…We can’t earn grace, God gives it.  And if we didn’t need grace, well then God would not have bankrupted heaven to offer the world Jesus Christ — God with us (in flesh!).  

Moving through discomfort we turned to hearing some scriptures which we might be more comfortable with.  Might being an operative word because well, the scripture selections did tell us what to do — and it was in so many ways love understood as a verb, a verb with an object other than us — and yet these scriptures are challenging. Consider 1 Corinthians 16:14 (only 1 verse),

Let all you do be done in love.

Let that sink in for a moment, “Let all you do be done in love.”  Really; really God?  Everything?  And we talked about if we could do this out of duty, we talked about if we could do it in our own strength, we talked about those who are easier to love — and considered too those who are harder to love!  There was mention of loving enemies and praying for those who persecute us; a confession that often it is easier to love those who are not so near to us (neighbors, family…); and the offering that we can really only do this through God — because of God — that to love is a gift God gives us because we can’t really do it on our own.

The conversation was sincere and rich.  And thankfully one person had named earlier in the conversation that when they feel most loved by God is when they can be used by God/useful to others.  Some others agree & I find this sentiment an important one to consider — that we might feel very loved by God as we are able to use the gifts/skills/talents/intellect/experiences…God has blessed us with to bless others.  <– There are HUGE implications to this, inviting us perhaps to think differently about so many things (just one example being can we feel loved by God in the work we do whether we consider it a career or a job — even perhaps a job we don’t particularly enjoy?).  And our homework for this past week might allow us to think through some of those things/some of those implications.  Because our homework invites us to look out & to look to love.

The Homework:

  • We are looking “OUT” this week – so last week we journaled how much GOD loves us.  This week our task is to LOVE others to the best of our ability (maybe even better than ever before!).  We are to measure how loving we are to others….Let’s see how GREAT we can love!!!
  • And of course, the perpetual invitation is to sit in your own belovedness because well — YOU ARE LOVED of God — and God delights in you!

So….I’m excited to see y’all on Sunday & I’ll finish with a quote from St. Vincent de Paul which we heard last week,

We must love God, but let it be in the work of our bodies, in the sweat of our brows. For very often many acts of love for God, of kindness, of good will, and other similar inclinations and interior practices of a tender heart, although good and very desirable, are yet very suspect when they do not lead to the practice of effective love.

Blessings!
~ Rev. Sabrina Slater 

#love…week 4 (looking at Ephesians 3:14-21)

Last week (Sunday Sept. 15th) we met again.  I was back & after gathering & opening in prayer we opened the space to share.  It turns out that an invitation to meditate on any of the scriptures we had considered already in #love was challenging for most.  And it sounded like the challenges included not knowing how much time was needed to meditate, or needing to focus just on that which we were meditating on.  And some of that insight was shared also naming that when we focus exclusively on #love (on LOVE, choosing LOVE, seeing in LOVE, thinking of GOD as LOVE — when we focus on LOVE) — all that distracts us quits distracting us.  One of the wise voices gathered at the table shared when they are completely focused on love then distractions (like say, fear, jealousy, frustration…etc.) pass away — as though if we have our focus on love we cannot be distracted, just because we don’t have time.

It seems getting to that focus — that #love focus is hard though.  It was named that — we need practice, and with practice we can get better at the focus.  (Help us Jesus!)  And perhaps — perhaps that is part of why we study the Bible in community — perhaps that is part of why we #love (together).

And we moved into scripture, looking at Ephesians 3:14-21, with an emphasis on verse 18-19:

18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

And after hearing the selection read three times we listened to each other, hearing the highlights God emphasized to each of us.  One person named the collective nature of this scripture — how collectively we have power, how collectively we can know just how much God loves us.  Another person shared how the word “power” in the scripture kept sticking out to them — and considered what that word means here though.

The conversation wanted to go further and there were some questions (IMPORTANT questions!) like is it enough if we are just grateful — do we need to move from gratefulness to love — at the end as we were about to pray.  The questions were heard though not answered — though these are questions that shape us as we strive to follow Jesus and to #love in our lives.

And before prayer we did get the homework — and yes — there is still time!  Considering verses 18-19 we are invited to try and think about just how much God loves us.  To know the breadth and length and height and depth of God’s love for us — to be able to name & measure that love.  And so the homework was:

  • Thinking of Eph. 3:18-19 — think about & JOURNAL (pen to paper — or fingers to keyboard!) how much God loves you.  The specific ways — how much does God love you?
  • And (as always) there is the invitation to sit in your belovedness!  And this week though, because we also heard a story that had been shared in a Daily Bread devotional — we had an image of a niece almost crying & refusing to take a nap because her Aunt had not yet held her that day — she required 5 minutes of holding to be ready for nap time — so, the invitation is to ask God — please hold me!

Blessings & prayerfully see y’all Sunday!
~ Rev. Sabrina Slater 

 

#love… * … (looking at Colossians 3:12-14)

Last week…I wasn’t there (I missed y’all!) but I know that the guest facilitators were AMAZING — many thanks to Gene & Gina for being so kind as to do this while I was away (THANK YOU BOTH!!!).

So last week we checked in — the homework had been thinking about putting on love and the scripture that was considered and focused on was the scripture that had shaped the homework, Colossians 3:12-14

12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord[a] has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.                                                                            (New Revised Standard Version)


12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.                                                                                          (New International Version)  

I imagine (& have heard) the conversation was rich.  That y’all seemed to know what it is to put on love — which by the way, I think is pretty amazing & so (spoiler alert) — I might want to hear a little bit of this wisdom tomorrow!  And while it seems all knew the “how-to” of putting on love, the authenticity, the consistency, and the why we practice it might have proved more elusive.

And I wonder if this elusiveness might be connected to our discomfort in understanding LOVE in its noun (as compared with verb) form, or even why sitting in our own belovedness (the understanding that GOD is the first lover, that how much GOD loves & delights in us does not change no matter what we do or do not do, that grace is a free gift — defined by being unearned — GOD just loves us — it’s the character of who GOD is — whether we like it or not!) feels a bit uncomfortable?

Now, just as a reminder what exactly was the homework from last Sunday?

  • Meditate on any of the scriptures we have considered thus far:
  • As you meditate on (one) of these scriptures, consider if anything “new” jumps out at you.  How do you hear the text (scripture) now?  Has your understanding of “love” changed at all?  (Is the invitation to #love harder or easier today?)
  • And finally, as/after you meditate — try to sit again in your (our) belovedness — our identity of beloved of GOD.  Has this (sitting in belovedness) become easier or more challenging?  We are wondering outloud together if it is easier or harder to consider our (first) identity as beloved of GOD?

So for tomorrow, perhaps we will lean into some of this discomfort in our journey with our #love series to think about, why exactly do we practice putting on love & how exactly does that connect with our own experience of our belovedness, our own understanding of how God loves us?  Maybe we’ll reflect on a song I at least know from my childhood,

We love.  Because God first loved us.  We love.  Because God first loved us.                                                    We love.  We love.  We love.  Because God first loved us!

That is our prayer — may we love (#love) because beloved, God first loved us.  Amen.

Blessings y’all & see you tomorrow!
~ Rev. Sabrina Slater