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

A promise. Romans 8:28 (be a blessing…share the encouragement)

This morning (yes when it was snowing….sigh….April 29th…) we gathered around the table.  We opened in prayer — it may or may not have included some commentary on the weather, and a request for some warmer temperatures.  And then we began checking in; sharing times when we have received great hospitality.  Stories of people housing us when we had nowhere to go, people letting us stay rent free, restaurants serving youth who didn’t have the finances typical customers would have, restaurants who gave the meal when a wallet had been forgotten, people who fed us when we didn’t have the resources to really feed ourselves, people who opened doors to different experiences, those who made us feel like we were family.  And it seemed in all the stories was the theme of a reality that — this hospitality could have never been “paid” back — and this hospitality (received) shapes who we are.  The question was asked too about that 2nd part of the homework, the asking for forgiveness for the times when we have not offered hospitality (or not cheerfully, or not without complaining…).  One was honest enough to share when they were not able to open their home, and they felt bad — the follow-up question was however, how did it feel to ask for (& receive) the forgiveness of God?

(In that moment this went unanswered.  However, as we weekly in worship come to God in a time and a prayer of confession — we confess our mistakes, our failures, our sins — to a God who already put on flesh to walk among us, who already went to the cross & died for each of us & all of our sins, who has already been risen from the dead!  In our baptism we each have been grafted into the family of God — we have been baptized into the death & the resurrection of Christ — which is to say — by the blood of Christ, the gift of love, the amazingness of grace — WE HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN.  We are invited to cast our burdens unto Christ.  We are invited to live into the freedom from the sins of our past — including the time(s) when we have not offered hospitality.  And so — we ask forgiveness & we ask that God would continue to work in our own hearts so that we might be able to offer hospitality to others, hospitality that comforts those who mourn, helps heal those who are wounded, and allows the world to see the face of God — AMEN?!)

And we shifted.  We shifted toward scripture time, with a bit of a life introduction from the person who had named the scripture we would focus on.  And then we heard 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.  (New International Version)

And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans. (Living Bible Translation)

We talked about “all things,” about “all that happens” about perspective and time.  About how God can use things.  We talked about things working out for those “called” — for those fitting into God’s plans.  We recognized we don’t know God’s plans for other people.  We talked about the lives of others who we see as hopeless, challenging, things that we would not want in our own lives.  It was mentioned that trauma (change) invites us to either turn toward God or away from God.  We named how we can wrestle with this text because it’s hard — and it doesn’t always seem to be true.  And in response to someone’s frustration in not being able to see how this verse could possibly be true given what they see, one proclaimed “I know it because I have lived it.”

Scripture speaks & is alive.  But sometimes (perhaps all times) it takes a bit of life to bring scripture alive for us.  This week for the homework we are to write out this scripture — in a journal, on a card, somewhere.  And after writing — we are to be open to see if (who) God will bring into our lives this week who might benefit from this encouragement.  Maybe it will come in a passing conversation in person or on the phone, maybe the Holy Spirit will lay someone on your heart to send an email, a letter (yes the real kind with a stamp), a text, or a facebook message — I don’t know but God does.  So let us write (because writing can help us remember) and let us be open to share this promise to someone who needs to hear it.  I can’t wait to hear what happens when we come together round the table again.

Until then be blessed & live out that blessing in such a way that blesses the world!
~ Rev. Sabrina Slater 

Hospitality…without grumbling?! (1 Peter 4:8-9)

Last Sunday, as is our custom we gathered round the table.  We prayed — naming gratefulness for a lack of snow (AMEN) — and we began to check-in.  The homework had been to both daily meditate on, “The LORD is my helper, I will not be afraid.  What can anyone do to me?” (Heb. 13:6) — and to think of scripture (promises) that are formative/important for you.

Nearly all came ready with the scripture references (GREAT JOB) and were ready, dare I say anxious to speak more on the specific scriptures, however, all were invited to wait as these will be some of the scriptures we will use in the (near) future, of course with those who named them taking time to share with us what they have meant to them & perhaps helping facilitate the conversation/shape the homework too!  (SO EXCITING — right?!)

And we were able to spend a bit of time also considering the piece of scripture we had meditated on.  Striking, was the mention and observation that while we can meditate, lean on and trust in this promise, that God is our helper ALWAYS, it is so stinking hard in the middle of circumstances to be totally encouraged with this.  I love this honesty, that the walk is not always easy, and while we might be alone — we can’t always see God at work.  And I love that many named how it was later, when there was a revelation and an understanding that even in the chaos, even through the darkness, and in those longest nights — God was faithful and active and brought us through — and it was this understanding, the observed faithfulness of God through the hard places of our real lives that can encourage us to lean on and trust in the promise that God is our helper and we have no need to be afraid — no matter what is going on around us.

So we turned, as we do to scripture.  To 1 Peter 4:8-9:

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  (New International Version) 

Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully.  (The Message)

Above everything, love one another earnestly, because love covers over many sins. Open your homes to each other without complaining.  (Good News Translation) 

8 Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.  (New Living Translation)

Two little verses, but with so much to say.  Love each other.  Love each other above all.  #LOVE.  And offer hospitality, but not only offer it — offer it without grumbling, without complaining — in fact offer it cheerfully!  (CHEERFULLY!)  We talked a bit about hospitality.  Two people were blessed to see GREAT, COSTLY, HUMBLE hospitality offered cheerfully from their parents: a bed, clothes, shelter in a garage for someone most people tried to ignore & avoid; the willing sharing of food even when someone rudely knocked on the door with expectation to receive.  We also recognized (or maybe it’s just me….) that cheerful hospitality is hard, hospitality when you’re already asleep, when you’ve already given, when you would really rather not….when you really don’t have anything to offer….

Hospitality is hard.  Hospitality is expected.  So we come to the homework.  A two-parter:

1st:  Think of the best hospitality you ever have received (or seen) — what made it so great?

2nd:  Think of the times you have not offered hospitality….or have offered hospitality with complaint, with grumbling, or not cheerfully…Ask forgiveness for these times & ask for God to change your heart.

Beloved looking forward to gather again.  Honored to be in this journey with the likes of each of you.  Peace & shalom as we remember ways we have sinned and ask forgiveness.

In Christ – the risen One who we follow ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater 

Don’t forget….the promises (Luke 11:5-8 & Heb. 13:1-6)

Last Sunday (how is it already Thursday?) we gathered around the table.  A robust group bringing the warmth and sunshine with the personalities in the group & we prayed.  And then the check-in, the conversation about harmony/unity & how we can grow into this harmony/unity.  And we talked for a long time because — as it turns out — we don’t find harmony/unity necessarily the easiest to live into.  We talked about base-line beliefs, a core that is necessary — perhaps the “Apostles Creed” — though one might arguably want to add in there the Presbyterian Brief “Statement of Faith.”  However, as mentioned around the table, the Church is open — Christ came for all — and while it seems rather appropriate & reasonable if someone is joining into the membership of (any) church to be able to profess the faith & the doctrine/tenets of faith deemed necessary in said church, to come to the Church that Christ establishes does not require this — for grace teaches us that God comes first, moves first, always invites.   And we spoke of those elusive ideals of unity in diversity, as well as how there is strength in unity — I mean when we talk about the strength of a cord of 3 strands together do we not speak to the power of unity?  And so we continued, making mention of humility, speaking to needing to have the capacity to look past or to have love be that which binds us — that which is most needed — that which is more important than being right (even when they are wrong!).

We discussed for longer than typical.  But this unity/harmony is hard.  It asks much of us.  We must consider, when to speak, when to be silent, when to gently offer different perspectives — etc.  We held imagery of a bag full of rocks bumping and rubbing against each other as a picture of community (not easy & not always feeling so nice).  We heard Bonhoeffer speak of community being only rooted in Christ but that reality also meaning we need to be in community with each other.  And so the reality is we continue to hold this topic going forth — because it is something that has challenged Christianity since the time of Christ (if not before!)  This question of unity/harmony….

Quickly (and with a brief mistake in which chapter selected!) we turned to Luke 11:5-8 & Hebrews 13:1-6.  There was not time to slowly engage them — they are offered as conversation partners….with a topic of hospitality to be considered…..(and the invitation to think about how we as individuals and as a church in life offer/consider/even receive hospitality).

But the homework…..the homework for this week is to (first) daily say/pray/mediate on Hebrews 13:6:

So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can anyone do to me?

Think on this and see what happens.  Repeat it.  Live into it.  And secondly — think of 1 or 2 promises from Scripture that encourage and shape you.  Please prepare to share what this Scripture is (and where it is!)

Excited to hear how God has been moving since last week!
~ Rev. Sabrina Slater 


Living Together…in unity? (Psalm 133)

Last Sunday we gathered.  (Well, y’all gathered — and praise God Gene & Gina were willing to facilitate & hold the space while I was away — and thank y’all for supporting me being away & for of course having a delightful time with God & scripture even if I missed it!)  There was prayer.

And then the check in.  Getting oriented, you went back to the text — to John 13:1-20 — where we see our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ, naked and serving us by washing the very dirt off of us…the homework had been to consider what does it mean, foot washing, and are we called to literal foot washing today — or is it more symbolic, and if symbolic then what is our modern-day equivalent?  There were questions posed and observations offered — famous foot washers like Mother Teresa and maybe even Pope Francis in a way — but if some do wash feet how can we individually/as a church?  Locally?  And does Christ still wash us?  It seems that the engaging conversation might have left all thinking, it’s the heart (the humility) of the service, the washing of the feet, and the intimacy of such humility/serving that might unnerve us and be uncomfortable….who wants to be “naked” with their dirty feet (sins/past) in such close proximity…who wants to wash feet that have been places we don’t know of and we are more ready to judge rather than lovingly hold?  This is not easy, and we find it in scripture for a reason, I’d offer perhaps our discomfort with foot washing — how odd & awkward it is — perhaps should be how we consider love, grace, life…think about what love (God) in action does — think about the cross — think about how we live as a forgiven & a resurrection people…ALL of this is odd & awkward, maybe the foot washing reminds us in a way that all the other words & stories have become (too) commonplace to allow for the mystery & the absurdity of this active love to be considered, maybe the humility of the foot washing puts us in a posture to understand who (& whose) we are — and that makes us a little uncomfortable…

In appropriate fashion though, y’all turned to scripture — this time to Psalm 133

How good and pleasant it is
    when God’s people live together in unity!

It is like precious oil poured on the head,
    running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
    down on the collar of his robe.
It is as if the dew of Hermon
    were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
    even life forevermore.    (New International Version) 

And in the reading there was the translation of living in “unity” as well as living in “harmony.”  And there was a helpful musical insight differentiating unity and harmony, think of having one part (a soprano, alto, tenor, or bass) or a type of instrument all singing/playing the same notes/music/rhythm — this can be unity.  Compare that with singing in parts, or an full orchestra playing — the music and the notes and the rhythms dance around each other — they push against each other — sometimes it’s tense, sometimes it’s smooth, it changes, moves has dissonance (challenges) and resolutions (and sometimes it doesn’t resolve quite like you want or expect!) but it offers something bigger and vaster than arguably unity can, this is harmony.  However I would like to note (haha — did you catch that?) one thing — the idea of unity and harmony seems/sounds/are different — however, the reality is even in “unity” if you take all the voices in a given choir and have all sing an “A” the voices do not all sound the very same, if you take an orchestra and have them play the same note — it does not all sound the same, if you have the voices and instruments sing and play the same “A” it is different, so even in unity — even in a commitment to a singular note the idea of unity is not really “sameness” in all facets, even in unity there is difference/diversity/differentiation…tone/voice/pitch/sound…..

So homework.  With such a short Psalm and a vibrant conversation — the homework must be easy right?  And it is! 🙂  How do we live together in unity (harmony)?  And a follow-up question as important as the first — how do we grow into this unity (harmony)?

*It might be worth noting the obvious right, we are all different people.  Even while we profess faith in the risen Christ, even while we trust that we are forgiven, that God is in control, that we are blessed who trust in the Lord, that our names are engraved on God’s palms, that the Creator of the world, the Triune God — loves us, sees us, cares for us — we have not gotten along well whether inside or outside the church…there is brokenness all around us.  SO, the homework while direct & straightforward is challenging, “How to we live in unity/harmony?  How do we grow into this unity/harmony?”

Excited to see y’all Sunday in the AM!
~ Rev. Sabrina Slater