Past the Pulpit & Around Town (thinking about The Sound of Music)

This week (March 16, 17 & yes today too the 18th) the Spencer-Van Etten High School proudly presented “The Sound of Music.”  Thanks to the reminder especially during weekly church announcements as well as around town I was able to make it out on opening night.  While there was the added treat of getting to watch this production with folks who make me smile and feel welcome — it was by far the superb production in its totality that stole the show.

The props were perfect, the painted mountains were a spot on depiction, the singing was delightful, the pit orchestra was sublime, the casting — including of course all those volunteers behind the scenes making make-up, costumes, lighting, stage switches, and practicing at home too — could not have been better.  Every single person who made “The Sound of Music” possible this weekend, brought the show to life.

I am grateful for the opportunity to absolutely enjoy the gifts of so many people.  And I hope to meet and learn more about each and every person involved — because I get excited when I recognize the names — when I get to see people sharing their gifts with the world.  And while I might be biased (I mean I am a Pastor!) the themes of identity, the uncertainties of love, seeking God’s desire and will for your life, and standing up for what you believe (sometimes at great personal cost), are timeless — they are some of the questions often engaged in a church service.

And as I sat back and enjoyed the story, beaming as though all those performing were my family — knowing we are part of the same community — I was moved by the sincerity of faith each character had.  I was moved by the difference each individual voice in the musical had.  I was moved by the wisdom offered by Mother Abbess in her encouragement of (instead of fear of!) Maria’s voice, in her encouragement for Maria to not hide from love or from God (even when scary), and to invite us all to “Climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every rainbow – ’til you find your dream.”

I was moved because in a place outside of the institutional church “The Sound of Music” took us all to church in speaking to the liberative and saving power of love and inviting us to watch as one young woman seeking to love and serve God with all of who she is found that indeed the gifts God had given her (her spirit — her voice — her love of children) while not the ideal fit in the abbey where she thought she could best serve God — were perfect for where God was leading her to live, love, and thrive!

May each of us in the gift that we know as our own lives — follow the spiritual guidance of those nuns, and “climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every rainbow – ’til you find your dream,” realizing that the way is not easy but the rainbows we follow are some of the signs of the promises of God — and even in the storm(s) of life, God has always planned for the rainbow to come!

As the show comes to a close…it’s technically too late say “break a leg” — so instead blessings to all who made this possible & thank you for sharing your gifts with us all.  I can’t wait for the next one!

Blessings ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater 

Sitting at Jesus’ feet (Luke 10:38-42)

1 or 2 — or is it 3 — storms ago we gathered around the table Sunday morning.  Although it was Daylight Savings Sunday and we’d jumped ahead an hour no one was an hour late, it was impressive I must say.  So we began as we do, gathering, praying and of course — checking in.

Our homework during the prior week had been to reflect on when we have been able to really bless God in loss and/or bless God after loss.  This reflection included if we realized we had been able to do this, how did we get there, and if we had not to ponder what stands in the way?

Every single person checked in.  Some shared they felt they had a rather blessed life, and individually had not found it hard to bless God — however, when then consider the devastation and oppression and violence and war in the world this becomes much much harder.  There was the perspective of losing not life but an identity — a job.  Another named that when first going through a devastating loss they were not able to bless God, it was more going though additional losses and knowing God had brought them through (including through on their own journey with God) that they were able to bless God because God had been faithful in the past.  Other voices named that it was and it is hard.  Some still have questions of loss that is heavy/deep and relatively recent.  There was insight given in a poem that had proven comforting over the years with language of God leading us through circumstances, understanding there is not avoidance but there is One with us through it all.

The conversation was rich.  Honest.  We spent a bit more time listening to the stories of who we are.  And in what can only properly be understood of how the Holy Spirit moves in delightful ways, the final voice checking-in shared how God had been faithful through a trying time in their life & had given comfort through the passage of Mary & Martha….the very passage we were considering for the day — Look at God!  So we turned to the passage and read,

Jesus Visits Martha and Mary

38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42 there is need of only one thing.[a] Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”                    (New Revised Standard Version) 

We hear the scripture twice.  And it is worth nothing the tender way that the second reader rendered the “Martha, Martha,” that Jesus spoke.  The conversation I anticipate will continue this Sunday, but we did engage how some love and some distinctly do not like this passage.  There are so many (gender) expectations engaged here.  Martha doing what she needed — the expected preparations, the preparations that allowed Jesus to come.  Mary doing the unexpected — and likely the unwelcome — putting herself in a man’s place — as a disciple at Jesus feet (the audacity!  THANKS BE TO GOD!).  And yet, let us think about who we are typically as Christians….(Martha).  But even when this was observed using the very stories that had been told in the check-in, calling out our collective Martha-like tendencies, the observation was met with an immediate — “NOT ME!  I’m a Mary!”

So we were lively — which is delightful — and we were honest too that there are elements of Martha and Mary within each of us (like it or not!).  And all too soon of course, we arrived at homework time.  The homework is to engage more of our Mary.  To each day this week sit at the feet of Jesus.  If it helps you can try to figure out what the one necessary thing — the only thing — the better part — that Jesus invites us to know, to enjoy, to follow — and to do that.  To sit at Jesus feet, to find the necessary thing and do it and to see what happens in the sitting and in the doing.

Excited for the coming check-in & praying shalom in the process ~

Rev. Sabrina Slater 

Blessed be the name of the LORD? (Job 1:20-21)

Nearly a whole week ago we gathered around the table (before gathering around the table in communion during worship!).  We prayed.  We checked-in.  The homework had been to put energy into being quick to listen and slow to speak.  While some found they really hadn’t had time to invest in doing that during the week, someone else found they were able to listen immediately — while still at church!  And someone else named how in three very different circumstances they found that the opportunity to listen was presented to them.

As the conversation developed with the insights being offered, I will highlight two themes to hold.  First, when we were willing to wait it out, to really be quick to listen and slow to speak, people were willing to open up and to share.  Their openness in these moments were unexpected gifts, and gifts that led at least one to consider, “What am I missing by talking (too soon)?,” it is a question we might want to ask ourselves…And second, in the listening, really listening, some recognized that they will not know what to say, or an answer for what is being shared.  This is true, and often people are not looking for answers in that sense, they are not looking for advise.  Yet what we have to offer is so much more than advice, we are invited to witness to how God sees, hears, and loves (them) in the midst of the darkness, chaos, messiness, sorrow, and pain of life.  It has been called, a ministry of presence, and it is just that, being present or being with people — where they are.  I know, often it sounds like nothing, but isn’t that exactly what we profess is the core of our faith?  That God walked with us?  Isn’t the entire life of Christ one of a ministry of presence?  And, well…turns out that ministry, that #love with flesh on, that Christ changed everything — changed each of us (praise God!)…so maybe there is something powerful, something that we cannot quite grasp that happens when we are open to being present, when we are truly quick to listen and slow to speak.

Thinking of how our listening can communicate the love of God is both powerful and humbling.  Isn’t God good to give us simple tasks that we can do?  And yet, aren’t we also so grateful for the grace for all those times when we forget to be quick to listen, and slow to speak?

In the shift that happens weekly, the turn to trying to hear God speak to us in listening to scripture,  we heard,

20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”  (Job 1:20-21, English Standard Version)

And we considered Job, we considered blessing God, we considered loss.  In a wilderness time (Lent), in the day following the funeral of a beloved member of the church family, we let the words of Job breathe and speak to us.  Many I think enjoy the book of Job, find comfort in the book.  We noticed how (later in the book) the friends of Job were truly friends, while they kept silent and just sat with him.  We wondered if it was worth it — all the trials — to bless God?  There was a mention of the humility inherent in these two verses; everything we have is a gift from God — EVERYTHING — and we will take none of the “things” we have when we meet death, and yet, would we be able to understand and to offer that we are naked before God and all that we have is from God?

So what is the homework?  It is a reflective exercise.  Meditate on these verses, and think if you have been able to really bless God in loss, to bless God after loss.  If not — what has been in the way.  If yes — how did you get to the space where you could bless God, through tears, through heartache, through it all?

Peace to all in the challenging work of reflection.  May the Holy Spirit stir what needs to be stirred in this Lenten moment.

Praying God speaks through the stillness,

~Rev. Sabrina Slater

Shhhhh! Quick to Listen (James 1:19-20)

A more intimate group than typical (read – less folks literally around the table) gathered & prayed.  And while I was not one of those gathered round the table (yes, even Pastors need to miss a Sunday here and there — it’s honestly pretty important for the health of the pastor & the congregation!) I was blessed to have Gina & Gene be able to co-facilitate our Adult Study.

It began with the check-in.  Now, the homework to write a Lenten prayer was not easy.  It’s not easy because it invites us to listen to God, in order to hear who/what God is prompting us to be/do and humbly seeking the strength, courage, capacity, and will to obey.  And that is vulnerable; vulnerable before God in a way that often makes us squirmish.   While no prayers per say were shared aloud, it had been contemplated over the week — perhaps allowing that question, “What is my Lenten prayer, what is God speaking?,” to breathe and to shift how we listen to God in our daily (prayer)life.  And it feels like, while a specific “prayer” was not shared, the conversation of the check-in uncovers the unsaid Lenten prayers.  Prayers to leave fear & worry nailed to the cross.  Prayers to walk in the freedom that Christ has promised us.  Prayers to allow the sacrifice of love (Good Friday) to continue to shape who we are.  Prayers that God would show us the way.  Powerful prayers all of them, ones that will help us to walk what often is the lonesome valley of our lives.

Then was the turn to scripture.  We considered one which dare I say if we are honest, challenges each of us?

19 Understand this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Let everyone be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak [a speaker of carefully chosen words and], slow to anger [patient, reflective, forgiving]; 20 for the [resentful, deep-seated] anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God [that standard of behavior which He requires from us].  Amplified Bible (AMP) 

After some silence, some stillness sitting with scripture and trying to discern where the Holy Spirit might be leading, there seems to have been a fruitful conversation.  People thought of the issue of control, when we are angry who is in control?  Arguably not us.  Possible elements and components of listening were mentioned, including tolerance, understanding, and even the gift of asking clarifying questions.  It seems as though the listening part is hardest for us.  But seriously, is that surprising?  Who likes to be told what to do or what to believe?  And isn’t that how we speak, trying to control someone or something?  It makes sense not wanting to listen, because if they’re anything like us — well, they will have opinions and thoughts — and who has time for that?  Especially when I’m right?!  Or is it just me?  To be fair, we essentially do that with God…it might be part of why we often are uncomfortable in prayer, or in silence — if we are silent too long, and if we pray too much — what if God really speaks and we hear it?  What then?

The thing is God has & is speaking.  And God at times is (annoyingly clear).  Listen, be quick to listen.  Be slow to speak.  Be slow to anger.  And don’t mistake your own anger as though it was the righteous anger of God, because it is not.

So while, we could stay and talk awhile about this I will take the liberty now to remind us of the homework we have for this week.  If there is a Lenten Prayer on your heart continue praying it.  If there are Lenten practices God has invited you to do — do them.  And, put energy into being “quick to listen and slow to speak.”  Really think about listening, and observe what happens as you make the decision to openly listen to what the person is saying — whether they are a stranger or someone you’ve known forever, family or an enemy — listen to what they are saying, be quick to listen.  (Notice this might mean you are listening across difference!)

Blessed listening ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater     

Hard Conversations…and Lent (Joel 2:12-13)

We gathered around the table, and we prayed.  But this last Sunday felt & was a little different than usual.  The week had been heavy.  The day in which we celebrated Valentine’s Day & Ash Wednesday (a rather beautiful pairing considering God is love) — after many had received the imposition of ashes in a noontime service, we heard the news of (yet another) school shooting.  And that thrusts us into an understanding of wilderness and mortality that we’d prefer not have.  So instead of the typical checking-in of the homework assignment (which last week was to consider what God might be leading you to do – or not do – during Lent, considering seriously what your Lenten practice will be) after a few comments from me — comments that included naming the hard week, not doing the typical frame, and that we’d open for larger discussion to consider — scripture, the week, and possibly Lent — realizing the conversation might not necessarily go there — we turned to scripture,

“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.”  Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.  Joel 2:12-13 (English Standard Version)

And what struck me the most in a conversation that engaged much — including guns, gun control, safety, society, culture, and more — was that many heard REND, and many even said that part 1 of rending was easy but that part 2 was hard — the action element (solving element perhaps).  I silently wondered then, and ask in writing now, do we know what it is to rend our hearts?  I know what it is to rend my garments, to rip them apart in lament — but must I rend my very heart?  How do I do that, how do I violently tear my heart into at least 2 pieces?  Does it mean I am honest with how the brokenness of our world, breaks me?  Does it mean I force myself to not ignore that which I would prefer to ignore – injustice, oppression, hunger, corruption, violence, war, abuse, bullying, gossip…?  Does it mean I choose to #love knowing it will break my heart, knowing that when I #love only God will ever be able to repair the damage done by (well-meaning) people in this world – this side of heaven?

I don’t think rending is quite so simple…but maybe that’s just me (I can own that — it’s ok).  But this theme of rending and returning is important.  And as the brokenness of our world breaks us (and it does) the invitation is to rend and return — and it is there I believe we’ll find God speaking.  The invitation of the wilderness might be to better identify the (LYING) voice of the accuser/Satan/tempter in order to recognize God’s voice — to hear God speaking.  Don’t you find it’s in the wilderness, where we discover our ears, our eyes, our spirits, our minds, and even our literal hands are open?  Wilderness is a season of preparation, and that is to say Lent is a season of preparation for what is yet to come — a season that requires us to let go of some things, to add some things, and to be (more) alert & aware of the surroundings around us.

The homework for this week (in addition I would say to continuing to ponder Lent…and following our Lenten resource HERE ) is to write a Lenten prayer (for you).  An example could be, God please help me to live with hands open that I might receive what You give and I might give others from what You have given me.  It might be, Help.  Perhaps it is breathing, and offering Be Still.  Prayer is where we talk, it’s also where we listen to God, let the prayer perhaps lead you (and us) to a posture of being able to better hear God speaking — wouldn’t that be beautiful, and worth a wilderness walk?

Praying through the wilderness,
Rev. Sabrina Slater 

Happy Valentine’s Day

Last Sunday — known as “Transfiguration Sunday” — a few Valentine’s were handed out — to all of us in the church — but they weren’t for us — they were for others — to give out some love!  Because, we love — because God first loved us (as the song & the Bible teaches us).

And some of the Valentine’s looked like this (see picture below).  The front said, “What’s sweeter than candy?  … How much JESUS LOVES You!”  and the inside said: “Join us as we open our hearts & lives (or minds) to God!” followed by — details of when:  Sundays @ 10AM (Sunday School) @ 11AM (Worship) & on Wednesdays @ 12noon (Prayer).  With our name — our website & our address (75 N. Main Street, Spencer NY) — and on the back it had #love & a chocolate heart.  Now…I know we didn’t have enough for each person in our community to receive one — but we would love to give everyone one — knowing the best gift of love we know to give is the love of God that has already been given to us in Christ.

So — from us to you — Happy Valentine’s Day!

We love you & know God loves you perfectly & desires great things for you!    

Looking toward Lent…considering Mt. 4:1-11, Mk. 1:12-13, & Lk. 4:1-13

Through weather that was a bit treacherous & slick!  We gathered.  We prayed.  And we began checking-in.  The homework from the prior week, as we considered, “How do we listen? How do we hear?  How do we create space for conversation across difference?,” was to do just that — to listen across difference and to see what happens.

Folks asked if it counts when considering talking with their spouses — which of brought grins and laughter.  And yet, that indeed is an important question, and one which might prove & provide a useful (though challenging!) model for us to consider.  If we can be in the most intimate relationships we know with folks very different than us and still love them dearly, how can we do the same with people whom we do not share so much space?  An interesting insight and question too was, do we need to respect (or accept) people’s ideas, or just the people?  Important and possibly a nuanced query — however, importantly it was raised how for some (if not all) the opinions and ideas they hold dear are very connected to who they are as people.  And there was also an important voice naming how important it is to be able to listen to people, how vitally important it is to allow people to be heard — that listening in and of itself is a great gift (a healing gift) that can be offered.

And we cut some of the conversation off short — as we shifted to turn toward scripture.  And there was a caveat stated, the topic of listening across difference, of engaging challenging topics (yikes — dare I say — potentially divisive topics!) is not one that has been satisfied and doubtfully will be this side of “thy kingdom come.”  And so we hold these thoughts and we encourage each other to listen well — and to especially listen well across difference (working to create spaces to listen & hear others!) — recognizing perhaps because we are deeply rooted in Christ, we have freedom to sincerely listen and intentionally hear others with great love and compassion (as God listens so lovingly to us!).

And we turned to scripture.  This time — listening to the same story from three different perspectives, as offered in each of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, & Luke).  Before reading the Holy Scripture, I invited us all to consider — what is Lent?, what is Lent to you? — as we heard the Word of God read.

In the listening, we found different elements of the story highlighted.  We noticed how Mark is (always) direct and to the point.  We wondered about just how the angels ministered to Jesus, and when.  We pondered if Christ was tempted for all the 40 days or just in the end.  We noticed all three persons involved in the story of the temptation narrative.  We heard Christ’s understanding & knowledge of scripture more than the tempter.  We saw how big of a question “IF” can be, and how Christ was solidly rooted in his identity.  And we wondered too about what it means for us as those who have the opportunity annually to remember Lent and to observe Lent (this side of the cross).

Lent is a time when spiritual disciplines — especially fasting — often are engaged.  Some add practices like a moment of meditation, time with scripture, or even new movement (like a walk) into their lives looking to seek God more intentionally and opening space in their lives so God might have the space to move & speak; others remove things in the same way looking to make more space for God choosing to fast from foods, or social media, negative thoughts, or even TV (things that likely are distracting us from listening to God).  And while the goal of a spiritual discipline is not the actual discipline, but God (seeking God to find God — to be in the presence of God — to be as near to God as is possible!) it might prove useful to also understand that often these spiritual disciplines were understood in community.  Think, maybe spending less money on groceries during the next 40 days & donating that money to a cause that feeds people or works to eliminate poverty, or if adding an additional prayer time thinking of praying for someone, a community, a region of the world that you would not typically pray about.

Our homework this week is all about what our own practices will be for Lent.  Will you be adding something?  Subtracting something?  Praying something?  How will you be seeking God in these next 40 days — beginning today on Ash Wednesday — and culminating on Easter/Resurrection Sunday?  As we prayerfully consider how the Holy Spirit is guiding us this year & this Lenten season, may we all remember that indeed it was the Holy Spirit who lead (drove) Christ still dripping wet from his baptism and hearing the affirmation from God — “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased!” — into the desert, the time of temptation, the time of semi-solitude and consecration before the next season was to begin — it was never a punishment, rather it is a time of preparation — I wonder what God is preparing us for…As we listen, we will be using a resource which can be found CLICKING HERE.

Excited about where God leads ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater 

How do we Listen? How do we Hear?

Last Sunday we gathered.  We prayed.  We started checking in with the homework to be “shiny.”  And we had all thought about it.  Some asked — in different words, and building off the on-going conversation — what does it mean to be “shiny?”  Some articulated we have the opportunity in all that we do, a smile, being kind, others offered grander moments.  The group named also, being shiny includes when folks see/noticed you (your works/behavior) and because of that are pointed to God & give God glory & praise; some discussed the challenge of this — that being shiny can be off-putting, and also asked how people will know (why) you are being shiny.  As usual it was an insightful, though not comprehensive discussion.

As we continue in shining (for God is shiny — and with Transfiguration Sunday where we remember Jesus shining like nothing we’d ever seen before, and with brilliant newly fallen snow outside inviting us to consider how beauty does invite us to praise God!) I must share how delighted I was to enjoy the Superbowl and to see an example of shining in the post game speeches/awards.  Sure, there could be a conversation about sports, about health, about idolatry, but what I want to lift is how there were multiple voices (coach & player) who when rewarded for their work & play gave glory & honor to God — they were shiny in what they do (football) and that shine allowed them also to give thanks to God above — we won’t always have platforms so big & flashy, but our shining brings the light of Christ into dark places, and if we make even one dark corner brighter the impact — even if we can’t see — is life-changing, because the love of God is transformative!  AMEN! 

And then we shifted, we considered scripture (Galatians 3:27-28, Revelation 7:9-10, Romans 12:4-8).  We also heard the article “Malcolm X and the Christian Ethic of Violence” quickly read.  And then began our discussion.  There was so much to say as the scripture selections and the article speak to so much.  There was a question naming a need to (try to) define Christian Ethics.  It also became apparent that each of us gathered at the table (& those who were not there too) bring such a variety and diversity of lived experiences to the conversation.  We touched upon stories and insights, because I think as we open the door to have honest conversations, to listen across difference (perceived & actual!) we find an ability to discuss things that are core to us or memories that have formed us…we didn’t start a fight, we didn’t name our deepest differences either, we started the conversation.

And we continue the conversation for our homework this week, to in our own lives listen across difference.  To engage in conversation with someone who believes differently than you & to listen.  And then of course to come back and share!  Some said, they do this all the time & that is a gift!  And yet, I think the invitation is to ALWAYS be doing this.  God did not create us to be the same, or even to believe all the same things/details — God invites us to relationship and it is through Christ, through the saving blood that covers us — that we are united — it’s all about Christ, he is who unites us with each other and with God!  And so listening across difference is part of who we are designed to be — those in community.

One way we #love is through really listening.  If a personal conversation does not avail itself, there is also TV, radio, youtube, and social media.  Let us listen well across difference this week.  Let us continue asking of ourselves (and our church), “How do we listen?  How do we hear?  How do we create space for conversation across difference?” 

In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater  

Pre-reading…Galatians 3:27-28, Revelation 7:9-10, Romans 12:4-8 (& an article too)

Recently, an article (a highlight from an interview) was brought to my attention.  And, as we are in February 2018 (already!) the month known as Black History Month, and 50 years after the end of the Civil Rights Movement, I found reading this article (see article below) allows us an entry point into asking important questions like, “How do we listen?  How do we hear?  How do we even create space for conversation across difference?”    


Of course there are MANY topics we could discuss, the Civil Rights Movement, other current movements — #MeToo — BlackLivesMatter — SayHerName, violence in the Bible, just war, and (fill in the blank – so many others), I invite us to slow down and enter into this conversation that really is a (first) step in allowing us to engage (any) challenging topic — topics on which we have different opinions/thoughts/experiences/emotions.  “How do we listen?  How do we hear?  How do we even create space for conversation across difference?”  These are important questions, necessary questions — questions that as we discern & answer speak volumes to the world.  If the Church (if we!) cannot come together, cannot be united in our own diversity, cannot listen across difference — cannot hear each other, what chance does the world have?  Whether new or ancient, we live in a context & culture that seem/are very divisive and one in which often we’d prefer to keep company with those who hold the same beliefs as ourselves — but is this the fullness of who Jesus invited us to be?  It seems that Christ modeled a different way, taught a different way, and invited (commanded?/expected) us — those who know & follow Christ — to be light in the darkness of dissention.  And so, I ask, inviting us to consider, “How do we listen?  How do we hear?  How do we even create space for conversation across difference?” 
First, the Scriptures to consider:


For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, their is neither slave nor free, theiere is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  (Galatians 3:27-28)
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”  (Revelation 7:9-10)
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.  Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.  (Romans 12:4-8)
Second, the article:
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Episode 055: Malcolm X and the Christian Ethic of Violence

Malcolm X is arguably one of the most important people in African American religious and political thought. He was a man heavily influenced by his own personal experiences and the historic moment into which he was born. Along with the societal hardships that accompanied being Black in America when Jim Crow discrimination was enforced by law, Malcolm’s family endured racial violence. His life trajectory began to be characterized by his rejection of the society that had rejected him. This landed him in prison, where he was converted to the Nation of Islam.

On release from prison, Malcolm rose in the ranks of the Nation of Islam and spread the message of Elijah Muhammad across America. His ministry developed in the context of the civil rights movement and was characterized as the violent alternative to the peaceful solutions that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. offered the nation.

Many who have rejected Malcolm’s social philosophy unfairly have interpreted him as a preacher of wanton violence against White people. However, this has left them susceptible to the charge of hypocrisy because there are elements within his ethic of violence that many Christians would defend if applied to their own lives.

Malcolm’s ethic of violence has at least three essential parts: self-defense, revolutionary, and retaliatory. A full theological examination of each of these exceeds the limitations of this article. However, one can conclude that Christian ethics allows for violence in the act of self-defense. Contrarily, Malcolm’s advocacy of retaliatory violence conflicts with biblical Christianity. Rather than softening the critique of Malcolm, I believe that this strengthens the argument against his philosophy because its precision protects the apologist from condemning what God allows. Therefore, African Americans should reject Malcolm’s teaching on retaliation because it conflicts with biblical Christian ethics.

This Postmodern Realities Podcast episode is a JOURNAL author conversation with Jimmy Butts about his Volume 40 #6 feature article “Malcolm X and the Christian Ethic of Violence.”

Nurturing faith & shining…considering Matthew 5:14-16 & a poem

It seems so long ago now in some ways…we’ve had worship, the annual congregational meeting, sun and snow since we gathered for our last Adult Study.  Beginning fairly promptly at 10AM after opening with prayer we heard thoughts on the check-in, the question of (if) & what/how discipline can (should?) look like in church for children/youth/adults.

This is not an easy conversation.  When considering children & youth, what about their parents?  Isn’t there the possibility of overstepping?  We are excited to have families worshipping with us — if there is discipline, won’t the families just leave?  If the church disciplined you — wouldn’t you just leave?  And the conversation on discipline opened up a larger conversation, what exactly does it mean to commit to nurturing people in faith?  Do we just offer Sunday School, or is there more?  Interestingly enough this also became a theme of the annual congregational meeting in the nursery/Sunday School report — talking about meeting the needs of the children who are part of our fellowship.  What does it mean to nurture those in the faith, at any age?  What responsibilities do we have to each other, even if the conversations feel awkward?  How do we approach each other in love?  Perhaps taking care to make sure that we are approaching in love, approaching because we sincerely believe God has more for the person to experience, and approaching knowing that we ourselves also need to grow for perhaps it is well to remember,

God who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.  (Philippians 1:6b)

And that means we are not done — we are not perfect — God has begun a good work in us & is faithful to continue that work until it is completed in a time to come — God’s still working on each of us AMEN — and that includes through walking out our faith in community.  It is not a mistake we are in this family of God together, it is not a mistake that we see the world differently & God gifts us with this community — this diverse community — so that we might be able to see God more clearly!  (And spoiler alert — learning how to see God more fully — is not always comfortable!)

So we talked about some things…and then we considered scripture, Matthew 5:14-16

“You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”  Jesus speaking  (English Standard Version)

And heard a poem, “Our Greatest Fear” by Marianne Williamson.  It was a good conversation with both those who enjoyed the poem, found it to be a “shoe that fits” and those who disagreed with the poem for different reasons.  And this (thanks be to God!) allowed for us to consider the Scripture & the poem on a deeper level thinking of the conversation they had with each other.  What does it mean to shine?  To be light in the world, in our community?  And that question leads to the homework (the lifework) of the week — to be shiny!  If we are to let our light shine before others (Scripture) or if we are in the words of Williamson to make manifest the glory of God that is within us — what does that look like?  Well…I do believe that by the grace of God and through the power of the Holy Spirit we have light to offer to the world and in the specifics of our lives and our community contexts!  So – I am looking forward to the stories yet to come about a week of being “shiny” a week of sharing light!

Until Sunday (when we we likely will again allow scripture to dialogue with us & another piece of writing!  Get excited!) be blessed & keep on shining!

~ Rev. Sabrina Slater