The Lord IS near & happy new year (Psalm 80:1-7)

It was 2 Sundays ago, back in 2018 — back before Christmas (on Sunday the 23rd) when we gathered round the table together.  We arrived, some later than others and after some banter opened in prayer.  And then we began checking-in; talking about whether the Lord is near, talking about what is hardest in Philippians 4:4-7 (rejoicing always, letting your gentleness be made known, not worrying/anxious, praying for your desires), talking about if we follow these verses will joy be guaranteed to come?

There were mixed responses.  God can feel so very far, maybe not from us specifically but from all those suffering.  God is also inside each of us — so God is near, always…but it doesn’t always feel quite that way.  And then all the invitations — to rejoice always, to be gentle, to not worry, to (know & then) pray your desires are each challenging, with some being more challenging than others to each of us (likely some even being more or less challenging depending on whatever season of life we might be in!).  And while we didn’t necessarily consider following these 3 verses to guarantee joy would come, it seems that we did agree that following these verses (and seeking God in general), but in seeking to live into these invitations, to rejoice always, to be gentle, to not worry, to pray your desires did make a difference in our lives.  From experience, when we have done these — when we have rejoiced even when our heart might be full of sorrow, when we have been gentle even when taken advantage of, when we have been able to pray our desires to God — it allows joy to be present, it has allowed us to breathe easier knowing that God holds us tenderly.  So while not a guarantee, we did agree that trusting and living this “guide” has proven reliable, and as we enter into the new year perhaps we can hold onto these verses!

And then (I think) we turned briefly to scripture — and if memory serves…we didn’t read the whole scripture selection for the day (Psalm 80:1-7) but instead I named it, and highlighted verse 3 & 7 (nearly same language):

Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us,that we may be saved.

Restore us, God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.

There wasn’t time to discuss.  But instead the announcement of no Adult Study on Dec. 30th & an invitation to optional homework, for the next 2 weeks — the ending of 2018 and beginning of 2019 — to be praying for hope, peace, joy, and love to come to our community — right now & next year (this year!) in new & unexpected ways.   It’s a homework assignment of course we can be doing (praying, living) at all times.

I pray God is in-breaking in new ways right now and I cannot wait to sit around the table with you again, for the first of many times in 2019!  See y’all Sunday!

In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater

The Lord is near…REJOICE! (Philippians 4:4-7)

We gathered around the table.  People made a few comments about the windows (they are back).  There was laughter – esp. because more folks than usual were early/on-time.  We opened in prayer.

Then we checked-in, how was bringing peace during the week?  Some felt like some peace was brought to them, an unexpected gift received.  One prayed peace over their home/space and found that things that could have not been peaceful — were fine (AMEN!).  Someone helped create a space where someone else who was having a hard time could find peace.  We wondered about if we were talking about our own (a type of internal peace) was being discussed, a type of peace between people or in families, as well as what about the larger communities/nations; can we really influence a peace in the world?  And of course at some point we wondered, what exactly is peace?  Can we even agree on if/when peace has arrived or been brought?

As is the case, (always), we did not exhaust all the answers; in fact, we didn’t even name all the questions — and yet, we are called to be those who bring peace — and perhaps those who know peace too — may God be so gracious to equip us to know and offer peace — a peace that is rooted in Christ!  But we did shift from a conversation centered on peace to consider Scripture, Philippians 4:4-7

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (New International Version) 

It seems the feeling when hearing these verses is to breathe easier, to feel comforted by God.  People knew the truth of these verses, how indeed when we pray about what is heavy, when we lift it to God –we do breathe easier.  And yet, this is also a challenging invitation (how often do we resist doing what the verses say), we are asked much here and so — like the scripture, we have been asked much in the 3-part homework assignment:

  1. The scripture says “the Lord is near” — in Advent we are waiting for Christ to come again (for the in-breaking of God into our lives!) — so do you agree that the Lord is near?  What does that even mean?  And — how do you know the Lord is near?
  2. What is hardest in these verses?  (Rejoice always?  Letting your gentleness be known?  Not worrying/being anxious?  Praying your desires/requests?)
  3. On this 3rd Sunday of Advent, when we light the “joy” candle — does doing exactly what these verses say lead to & bring forth Joy?  (Yes or No and why?)

Y’all we are almost at Christmas, the time when we remember and celebrate the coming of God to us, in the most unexpected way — so I’m excited to hear your thoughts (as always!) this coming Sunday on these questions — to be blessed by the wisdom gathered around the table, to grow in Christ together.

In Christ & waiting ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater 

Bringing Peace (Luke 3:1-6 & lighting the candle of peace)

It was Sunday (days ago) and we gathered (as we do) around the table.  The coffee was hot for those who wanted & the lights were on especially because there was less natural light streaming in (since the windows re-installation had begun & cardboard filled a large window).  We opened in prayer.

And then of course was that delightful time of the homework check-in.  Not all had necessarily understood it.  There were mixed thoughts.  Are we there yet, at this time where creation (the creation without “voice” — sun, moon, stars) is giving us signs and we — humanity, from all over — are confused; are we at the time when Christ is coming again to us — returning to earth (as we know it) in the way that he left it after the resurrection — in a cloud & this time in the pomp & circumstance that was expected the first time?  Well…yes, in the sense that we are confused, and there are things (say like climate change…or if you prefer the fires, earthquakes, mudslides, tsunamis, etc.)…and also no, in the sense that there has always been storms, and climate change, and no one is shouting that they’ve spotted Jesus on a cloud.  And what about the second question, are we ready?  Are we prepared for Christ to come back?  Yes — in that exasperated space of — God is so much better, there’s so much brokenness, pain, death — yes we are ready.  And, yes — in that hopeful space of we can’t wait for Christ to come back — to get to really know him — to be living in “Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” — to be there!  And yes too — in the sense that by grace, as far as we are able we’ve been doing what we believe God has called & equipped us to do — we are ready!  And no, no in the sense that if we were ready Christ would be here; and no in the sense that not all who will come to the saving knowledge of Christ are there; and so no — because we are still lighting the advent candles and we are still praying and we are still here…

So the questions, are we there yet & are we ready, are useful to invite us to think and to pray and to reflect.  But it seems the answers might always be a “both-and” and a “yes and no.”  Which of course can be frustrating, but y’all that can happen as we read scripture — especially when the Holy Spirit gives further revelation and the Word speaks powerfully into our lives in new & different & unexpected ways (which is something God has always been in the business of doing).  And we turned to a new text to consider in our Advent season, Luke 3:1-6.

We noticed how the story is situated in a specific time, a specific social & political context.  It was named how John the Baptist was doing something that was not new, he was baptizing the people — doing a faith ritual that was familiar, and God was using that in a new & different way — God was breathing new life into an old practice.  And we saw that the seeing of salvation of God was for everyone — not just some, but all.  While unsaid specifically (I think) it is worth noting how the proclamation & the practice of baptism roots John & Jesus too in the faith practice & tradition of Judaism — this is not something new, but something old with new life — this is God using what is known to bring more life — this is the faith of the ancestors in fullness and something they could speak to but not fully know (using the voice of prophets that came before them like Isaiah) — this is a type of fulfillment.

Our homework this week connects a bit with the idea of joining into the (already) movement of God to bring a fulfillment now even as we wait for Christ to come again!  It also coincides with the candle we lit during worship, the candle of Peace, in which we prayed,

Dear God, we pray for the peace that only You can bring through Your Son, Jesus the Christ.  May we walk in the paths of peace.  Amen.

Thus the homework is this: bring peace in at least one way this week.

I know…perhaps not an easy task, but we indeed are called to be peacemakers, and indeed we are called to be the hands and feet of Christ — who is the Prince of Peace; so while hard it seems rather appropriate that we would seek in this season especially (but really for at all times!) — to be those seeking to bring peace!

As always — looking forward to when we gather getting to hear the stories of peace & be blessed by what God is up too through each of you who will gather round the table.

Waiting for Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater

Are we there yet?…Are we ready? (Luke 21:25-36)

It was December 2nd.  The first Sunday of December.  The 1st Sunday in Advent (the 4 Sundays before Christmas is celebrated, a distinct time of waiting, expectation and preparation — for God’s in-breaking into our lives in new & unexpected ways).  And we gathered around the table, and prayed — while expecting some more would join before we finished.

After “Amen” we began checking-in.  Sharing if we had done the homework (a few folks said no) — but some had read, and some had thought a little about it and so we still were able to check in with this idea of “enough” — and we were able to have honest conversation.  Conversation that engaged how disappointing and vulnerable it is to consider the places where we feel we are not enough; conversation which asked who gets to decide “enough” — is it God, or is it us?; conversation that named the need for us to let go of our own ideals and expectations of enough and to accept God’s instead.  And in only the briefest moment we mentioned (or was it just me?) how the story goes that we give what (little – insufficient – not enough) we have, offering it to God & God takes it, breaks it, blesses it and uses it for exactly what it shouldn’t be able to do.  That’s grace — that’s God — that’s powerful!  But let’s be honest, do we really want God to take and to break that which we offer (especially when that which we offer is our very selves)?  That seems to be the deal, that there is a breaking involved in the blessing…it’s what Christ has (always) showed us & every time we celebrate communion we remember this in the breaking of the bread (in the sharing of Christ’s body — broken for us!).

And following this we turned to scripture, we turned to Luke 21:25-36 (one of the lectionary selections for the day).  We heard the scripture read aloud only once, held silence and then began speaking.  We spoke of this being a more apocalyptic text, and speaking more of spiritual than physical realities.  We spoke of the ability of this text to seemingly reference realities in every age — wars and violence.  We spoke about the need to be watchful/aware.  But we didn’t have too much time to think about the text, to talk about the text, to notice where the Holy Spirit was inviting us to look and listen harder.  This is one of the texts that begins the Advent Season this year, this idea of the whole world knowing and seeing the coming of the Son of Man; this idea that all creation is in total understanding of when God is coming.  So I find the homework to be a rather fitting two questions for us to consider:

  1. First, are we there yet?  Are we at the time for which this text is speaking?  Are the signs present?  Is the Son of Man coming – right now?  So — are we there yet? (take another look at verses 25-27)
  2. And second, how do we wait for the time to come?  How are we preparing?  How are we watching?  (take another look at verses 34-36).

Y’all we are in the season of preparation, the season of expectation, the season of waiting — all for the in-breaking of Hope — of Peace — of Joy — of Love — of God!  It will not be expected but we are called to be waiting, to be preparing — to be excited about what God is up to and how God will show up (and change everything!).  Are we there yet?  Are we ready?  I for one can’t wait to hear what all y’all think; I can’t wait to be blessed by what the Holy Spirit will speak through each of y’all during this week.

In Christ & waiting ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater  

Gratitude & the idea of “enough.” (Mark 6:30-44)

Just a little more than 48 hours ago we gathered round the table.  Some familiar faces were missing while others who we had missed for awhile were back.  The coffee (one pot of regular & one of decaf) were hot & ready.  And with some delightful chatting & connecting already beginning we opened in prayer.

As folk continued to join we began sharing how the last 2 weeks of taking the time to reflect upon at least 1 thing we are grateful for went, how it influenced us.  One shared how there is so much they are grateful for, including health & family — that it was nearly overwhelming considering the blessings, considering how blessed they are.  Another shared how even as they slowed and considered the many things they are thankful for, they also struggle a bit with a type of survivors guilt — wondering aloud, why me? (why us?) — why do I have the blessings that I have when so many others do not?  (Though it was also noted, that our idea of blessing is also culturally shaped…that not everyone in the world would choose to live like us or to have the blessings that we enjoy…)  And someone else found research naming how saying “thank you” and being grateful has health benefits — sharing they personally found sleep to be more restorative in this season of being mindful in thinking & giving thanks — and they found in noticing their blessings, they were more able to handle whatever God brought their way.

Today — and during the Holiday Season especially — it can be challenging to take the time to breathe, to reflect upon life as we know it, the blessings in our lives, and what we are thankful for.  It can be hard because it’s so easy for us to see what we don’t have (and want), it can be so easy for us to want (more), and it seems so much harder to see all that we (already) do have.  And this of course is part of what drives our economy right?  Those desires for more — for that “shiny” thing which somehow affirms us & makes us more shiny and more new?  Beloved — only God does that, only Christ offers us a new life — a new beginning — a joy that is beyond all circumstances — and it is a gift freely given, never bought by us because it’s already be bought by Christ!  So as we enter the Advent Season (a season often forgotten in the excitement of Christmas) — may we remember that even as we wait for what is to come next (God bursting into our lives in unexpected & often uncomfortable ways!) we give thanks for the blessing of the waiting time too…I know not easy, but it seems that giving thanks even in the not-so-easy times will help us to be able to endure a bit better.

But we turned from talking of being grateful to scripture, specifically Mark 6:30-44.

This section of scripture is known as “Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand.”  A time when the disciples (appropriately) asked Jesus to send all the people he (& they) were teaching away so that they could get dinner & Jesus (incredulously) told them — nah, you feed them.  And the miracle happened, while they were hungry & after Jesus gave thanks (for what they did have — 5 loaves & 2 fish) all the people were fed & satisfied.

This scripture gave us much to chew on (see what I did there?).  Was this a spiritual feeding or a physical one?  Yes.  Were they really satisfied?  Yes, the scripture says so.  Does it matter that they just say 5000 men were fed, yes, because the number is greater when you think about the women and children (some say it perhaps was more like 20,000).  Was the miracle more of the feeding, or the gathering & teaching of so many?  (Think about how HUNGRY & what type of hunger they people gathered were & had.)  Is it less of a miracle if the people shared what they had — so much so that there was more than enough to satisfy all who were gathered?  What are the implications for us, today — as individuals, as a church, as a church, as part of a national community?  What exactly would Jesus do today with all the things/events/wars/migration going on, what would Jesus do?

Our conversation could have gone on — of course — but it drew past time to close.  The homework was handed out — though if you missed it — or misplaced it — it can be found HERE.  Specifically, please consider the “Spiritual Exercise”

A Spiritual Exercise
Read Mark 6:30–44. The disciples’ response to the needs of the crowd was, “send them away.” Are there any people with needs in your life that you sometimes wish would go away? How do you find your patience and energy being stretched by these people? What circumstances tend to make you feel “it’s not enough” or “I’m not enough?”

Pick one of these situations of need. In prayer, ask the Holy Spirit to show you the five loaves and two fish that you have to offer there. In your imagination, take those things and put them into the hands of Jesus for his use. Ask Jesus to take, bless, break, and use what you have to meet the need in this situation. Thank God for what God is going to do. Try to develop the habit of letting anxiety and irritation function as a call to prayer.

Y’all I’m looking forward to seeing what the Holy Spirit speaks through this scripture during the week.  This idea of enough & not enough – something that we mentioned briefly on Sunday — how what (little) was offered, what they had, with God was enough.  I wonder — is that the thing, that who we are — with God is enough?

Until we gather next may all be held in the tender arms of God.

In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater 

Giving Thanks & Wrapping up Wisdom

On Sunday last, we gathered round the table.  It was Veteran’s Day — though a prayer offered for the day & thanks for the service people have rendered would come later in our collective worship.  It was light out (brightly — thanks to the gift of daylight savings of course!) and the coffee (regular & decaf) was piping hot.  We opened with prayer, asking that God would be gracious enough to show up in the reading of God’s Word & in the sharing of our own thoughts and experiences.

Then we began in the check-in.  The sharing of the homework assignment we had lived with the week prior.  It had been a choose-your-own-adventure type of assignment with three options:

  • summarize the entire book of Proverbs (a cliff notes version if you will)
  • create a Proverb that is missing
  • put into your own language/words a Proverb that already exists

Now some folks didn’t have the opportunity to do the homework, some were a little intimidated to try and use their voice to in some way improve upon the Word of God we have (we of course are not trying really to add any verses or chapters to the Bible…at least not right now :)!!), and at least one shared they enjoyed the homework & wished they had done all 3 of the options.  No fear y’all — you can always revisit these “assignments” as they are documented here and if the Holy Spirit is moving or tugging on you …well the best advice I think any could offer would be to heed the voice of God (even if scary & hard!).

And others did spend some time trying to find the words for any of the 3 options.  One essentially shared a summary of what the book of Proverbs is, a guide for living.  Another offered an interpretation of the golden rule with instead of “do unto others…” saying BE to others who you would have them BE to you — placing the emphasis that what we do is really who we become.  Someone offered an elaboration on disciplining children adding more emphasis to not do so in anger but to address the child with compassion.  We spoke on not judging others (taking time to delineate the difference between judging an action/behavior as compared with judging a person (including their motivations) and named that we do not know people’s heart, nor are we God (the ultimate judge).  *This is something to give God praise about!!!*  We also spoke to how God is so good to be revealed in all of creation — something we are invited to delight & be awed about!  And how nothing is too difficult for God (to use to reveal Godself & God’s glory to us!).  A comment made near the end was an invitation to hear (or add) in/to Proverbs the challenge & expectation to “be kind.”

Following this delightful conversation we turned to scripture, specifically Psalm 100:

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!  Serve the LORD with gladness!  Come into his presence with singing!  Know that the LORD, he is God!  It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.  Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!  Give thanks to him; bless his name!  For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.  (English Standard Version)

We listened.  And we noticed too how vastly different different translations can be & took the time to quickly name how different denominations have different books in the Bible (canon).  {for more info on this check THIS LINK OUT}  And after silence we shared what the Holy Spirit was lifting.  Noticing the word “worship” in some translations & “serve” in others — noting that our service, our serving — can (& is) worship (this too by the way is-or can be- true in our work & career — it doesn’t just mean what we do in/for church).  Being excited that the invitation is to make a JOYFUL noise & that this glorifies God — that this joyful noise is what we are to offer!  We talked too about both the comfort in the promise that the steadfast love of God is not only good but endures forever to all generations — and wondered about our role in this passing along of God’s good and steadfast love.

And before taking a turn that would open such a rich discussion, we turned (well I turned us!) to the homework for this week (& next) — to be daily taking the time to notice what we are thankful or grateful for.  This might be just one thing.  Or it might be many things.  BUT — we are to either journal, type, think, speak (or some combination of these) at least one thing daily that we are grateful/thankful for.  AND give God praise — give God thanks — for this (what we are thankful for).  I’m pretty excited to see what happens, what is noticed & I can’t wait until the next time we gather (which will be Nov. 25th!!! — don’t forget this coming Sunday we will gather @ 10:30AM at the Spencer Federated Church for worship followed by a dish to pass!)

Blessings in Christ y’all ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater

Proverbs_week 6 (All the way to the end!)

On Sunday we gathered.  The lights were on, but the sun was shining brightly outside too!  We were wide awake and we opened in prayer.  Then we started talking.  We’d made it through Proverbs during the month of October, reading one chapter a day (and if we forgot or got lost the date helped us know which chapter we were focusing on!)  And so we spoke about what had stood out to people in this last set of days reading through Proverbs.

Some noted how we moved quickly through this book, while others noted how it seemed we have been spending LOTS of time with this book full of wisdom.  Some felt that men got the proverbial short end of the stick as far as being named as foolish in this book, while others had noticed begrudgingly how often women had been named as quarrelsome or as a type of adultress.  Perhaps the point in some respect is not so much the gendering of such behavior as much as that all genders (that is all of us) are able to find ourselves acting foolishly and also in a way that draws others away from God and into sin (forgive us please God!).

We looked closely at the invitation to engage discipline (considering the parent child relationship while also understanding God as parent & we as child); at the idea that when the wicked are in charge the righteous go into hiding; at the understanding charm and beauty are fleeting attributes.  We considered how Proverbs, whether we find the book to be long-winded and repetitive, too short, or just right, offers us a perspective and framework for all of life (even — gasp! — including politics — & I do hope y’all are getting to the polls today).  The beauty (& annoyance) of Proverbs (and Scripture, and Jesus with his parabolic speech & teaching!) is that we are to be actively engaged, we are to be seeking the Holy Spirit to enlighten us — and we must (on our best & aptly humble days) realize that the framework will not always lead us to the same conclusions on every topic…this is that challenge of being in community of course (& knowing that “I’m” always right…).  While one around the table aptly recognized so much of Proverbs instructs us to be those who are peace-makers, those who do not stir up dissension among others, it does not instruct us with what that looks likes at all times, and this can be FRUSTRATING.  It’s part of why we need Jesus, part of why we keep coming to read Scripture together, part of why we are part of the unified & diverse body of Christ, part of why we continue coming together to worship, part of why we confess our sins and ask for forgiveness!

And someone mentioned Proverbs 30:8-9,

And then he prayed, “God, I’m asking for two things before I die; don’t refuse me— Banish lies from my lips and liars from my presence.  Give me enough food to live on, neither too much nor too little.  If I’m too full, I might get independent, saying, ‘God? Who needs him?’  If I’m poor, I might steal and dishonor the name of my God.” (The Message, Proverbs 30:7-9) 

Make me absolutely honest and don’t let me be too poor or too rich.  Give me just what I need.  If I have too much to eat, I might forget about you; if I don’t have enough, I might steal and disgrace your name. (Contemporary English Version) 

Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.  Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’  Or I may become  poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.  (New International Version)

Which is beautiful, a prayer for “enough” a prayer for our “daily bread” — however, it does not specify what is “enough.”  So we have Scripture, and we have this wisdom book, Proverbs, and we have just read it through.  SO — while it is very helpful, while we learn & notice new things (truths!) each and every time we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit in the reading of Scripture — maybe there is something we think is missing, a Proverb yet to be written, or maybe we think there is something that really needs to be articulated in our own language, or maybe we found Proverbs to be too verbose and really a short version/summary/cliff notes version is in order….well — indeed — THIS is our homework assignment!  Choose one of these:

  • Write a Proverb of your own which is missing from the book of Proverbs.
  • Write a Proverb in your own words (personalize it!).
  • Write a cliff notes version/summary of the book of Proverbs!

And of course y’all, come ready please to share this work!  I’m excited to get to hear how God moves in this assignment and look forward to being blessed in the sharing round the table next Sunday.  And for this — and so much more I am grateful.  Until next time…

In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater 

Proverbs_week 5 (wrapping up advice)

It was Sunday just two days ago.  The day we come to the place we worship, to the table we are familiar gathering around, when we open in prayer & start talking about Scripture, about life, about God.  We did that.  With a challenging week, and devastating news of violence on-going in our world we gathered, prayed, and discerned together.  It was Oct. 28th, 28 days into the month of October during which we have been trying to read 1 chapter of Proverbs each day.  Some days I think are easier than others for all of us as we try to intently read & listen to the wisdom of this book.

Again it was mentioned just how full this book is, how often it seems to repeat what has been said, and also how it seems to contains a bunch of pointers and points which really are just common sense!  And yet, we also asked the question that if we (or anyone) is not oriented to belief in God, or if someone was not raised reading Proverbs or being taught Proverbs from a loved one, their family, and (or) the Church family, would these things, these expectations of living, be common sense for us?  If we have not been taught that stealing is wrong, would we actually think that stealing is wrong?  While there was conversation on this (some fun conversation that included a bit of confession over youthful stealing!), it did seem that the general consensus was that without teaching, without reading, without an orientation toward God what Proverbs gives us is not common sense.  Furthermore, even with teaching and reading we also named that it seems, we sure seem to need a lot of reminders to do what we (on our best days!) think is the common sense right thing to do!

As we continue with Proverbs what struck me the most in the conversation & the reading was how taking time to go back to Proverbs and hear what God is saying to us through them this week is how in this practice, of all of us reading through the same book — and a FULL book of life thoughts, and pointers, and how-tos — has actually invited us to talk about much; has gifted us with a bit of a frame from which to engage a fullness of life and what is going on around us.  It’s not easy conversations, and we don’t all agree.  And yet, there are many things that we do agree with.  And this of course is challenging to name, however, we agree that God calls us to more, and that God too mourns with us (more deeply!) the death that we know when Christ has offered all of us (new) life.

Each week we have an opportunity to do something rare; we have the opportunity to gather with people who have deeply held convictions and thoughts which might not be the same as our own, and to listen.  To create a space not necessarily where we attempt to change someone’s mind (through debate) but to foster the capacity to hear where our sibling in Christ is coming from, to listen to each other’s’ hearts in order to see & hear more of God’s heart — even, or perhaps especially when we do not agree.  It’s a privilege to gather with others who are (also) the hands & feet of God today and listen deeply to what they have to say, to hear the revelations that God has given them throughout their life to this point.  Each week it again surprises me, and when weekly there are opportunities to become overwhelmed with life and with the brokenness that we have lived in and with for so long, it delights me to gather round this table where we can engage that which is rare, where we can be encouraged by what someone else says, where we can be honest even when hard, where we can by the grace of God be transformed through the renewing of our mind, and where we can humbly pray together knowing it is Christ alone who keeps us together and it is Christ alone who enables us with confidence to trust, “All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” (Julian of Norwich).

Y’all — tomorrow is the 31st.  This is the day we will finish our 1 chapter of Proverbs/day homework.  Perhaps in the time after tomorrow and before Sunday we might re-read some of the Proverbs (maybe even the whole book!); or perhaps we will meditate on one that was troubling to us for some reason; or maybe we will read through a verse or a chapter with someone else and hear how they hear God speaking through it.  Regardless, I look forward to the conversation that is sure to come this coming Sunday & I am grateful for the opportunity yet again to gather and lean into a reality that is rare — thank you.

In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater

Proverbs_week 4(still hanging in there?)

Last Sunday we gathered around the table.  We chatted with each other, said hi, might have grabbed some coffee to sip on, and we opened in prayer.

Following prayer was the time to check-in.  The time when we offer the insights and observations (and revelations from God!) that have come in the prior week and considering the prior homework assignment.  This entire month of course, the homework has been to be reading a chapter of Proverbs daily.  Some have found it to be helpful in remembering what day it is, some have found it to be rich/dense/much especially as it can feel more instructional and disconnected (as compared with narrative).  More than one shared the repetition of the book is clear, especially when reading 1 chapter/day.  (There was the mention that for example the rules for Boy Scouts seem to include the character of Proverbs without using so many words; someone (this might have been me!) might have offered that even with the repetition it seems we don’t retain the wisdom shared!)

Reading Proverbs in this way seems to be a good grounding/rooting for us.  Offering some insight that we might well know, or might have very much forgotten.  Some of the Proverbs of course lend themselves to laughter & smirks (at least around the table we gather at — I’m thinking specifically of all the verses speaking to what type of a house is best to live in! — let’s just say contentment & peace is to be sought above all else!).  And it seems as a verse sticks with us — we find ourselves around the table talking about the bigger questions that we have; questions without easy answers (even if we find Proverbs to be an “easy” book.).  Questions that this last week included grace, salvation, heaven, hell, who Jesus is….questions that leave some of us up at night, some of us in tears, many of us in prayer (& grateful that indeed we are not God).  These are questions we are blessed to be working though and considering together in community.  Questions that some perhaps never think about while others only think about them.  And so with Christ as the center, and Scripture as a guide we continue the conversation.

Then we turned to chapter 21 — because it was the 21st!  And we read verses and considered their meaning.  And the conversation continued.  It will continue this Sunday & I invite all y’all to join — maybe it’s selfish, but I enjoy being gathered at the table with y’all — it is a blessing.  Until then prayers that God keeps you all and surprises you with grace that makes you smile & laugh!

In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater 

Proverbs_week 3 (1 chapter/day)

On Sunday we gathered around the table as is our custom.  We opened in prayer.  And we started checking in with each other.  Sharing about how reading 1 chapter of Proverbs a day is going, and getting clarity on the goal to be reading one entire chapter of Proverbs daily matching the date of the month with the chapter we are reading.  Some named the contextual nature of the Proverbs, most ascribed to King Solomon, perhaps giving more credence to the well known oral proverbs of the time.  We discussed a bit the observation as to how wisdom is defined as a woman, as well as how also the woman is depicted as one who leads the way to sin and death (we took a moment to notice how often the foolish one is a man!).  But we returned to the scripture, and a few observations — one mentioned that at their age (and at most of our ages) we should be familiar, we should know what wisdom is — we’ve lived long enough to have the proverbs prove themselves as true — whether at times in a very literal sense — but often with their metaphorical truisms revealing themselves again and again in our lives.  And while this point is well stated and important to consider, we also took a moment to notice in Chapter 9 how similar the call of Lady Wisdom & Lady Folly can be — so even in our age, even in what we know it behooves us to go back to wisdom, to seek wisdom, to pray for clarity, discernment, and for the will of God to be like a burning bush in our daily lives.  Because as one among us mentioned, in often trying to follow wisdom & wise council, they find at times the way followed was not wise at all.

So with these thoughts we turned to the Proverb for the day, Proverbs Chapter 14.  We read until verse 15 (with a mention of verse 16).  But took some time wondering about if we can know the depth of bitterness in our own souls, if the presence of bitterness is what disallows us from being able to share joy with a stranger (see verse 10).  And also we spoke a bit about verse 13 how “Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief.” (English Standard Version)  Taking a moment to consider the proverb in reverse.

As we take time with this book of Proverbs, noticing that trying to consider a Chapter a day can seem fast! questions come to mind, what and who is wisdom?  The helpful offering to consider wisdom to be Christ has been given.  Or related, do we find a more (what we consider) feminine quality to God in considering wisdom?  And Proverbs writes from a perspective of an ordered world, they make sense both in the allotment of the good & bad things as consequences; however we have lived long enough to push at times against the wise council of these proverbs which seem not so true occasionally.

Let us continue this journey of seeking God — seeking wisdom through the daily reading of Proverbs, and growing in revelations that the Holy Spirit might breathe into us!  Happy reading y’all & see you soon!  (Homework remains 1 chapter of Proverbs/day).

In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater