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 

Proverbs_week 2 (daily wisdom)

Now, last Sunday I was not present but still the saints (that’s all y’all) gathered round the table.  You prayed.  And you checked in.  There had been two weeks of trying to live peaceably with others; two weeks of living in harmony.  And you brought the reports back.  It wasn’t easy.  The conversation flowed and a theme that emerged was that in intimate relationships (you know — those close relationships with people you see often, people who you love & who love you, people who you just can’t avoid because they are part of the daily routine — they make up a big part of life — yes, those intimate relationships) THIS IS HARD.  Like really hard.  Living in harmony with people we really live with (or are in very close proximity with) is not easy.  Now I was not there for this conversation (a HUGE thank you to Gina for facilitating Adult Study!) but please let me wonder aloud as I consider this challenging theme:

I wonder if we find it hard to be honest in the most intimate of relationships because there is so much history, and because the people are so important to us?  I wonder if often we might find ourselves in the extremes, either just saying “yes” to everything (except our needs) to keep the peace — or if we are those who are so demanding to get our way because it’s right & peaceful?  All because we don’t want to (or don’t think we can) disrupt the peace.  (Note: this is perhaps more appropriately considered either a fake peace or a peace of avoidance — which is no peace at all!)  And no — for the record, I do not believe that trying to live in this type of “peace” or “harmony” is not God-honoring.  So I wonder what this very hard place might look like if we were willing to pray in these spaces, God please help, God show me what harmony is in my most intimate relationships…in the ones that I hold dear….I wonder.  (OK pondering done). 

So we were challenged in the daily living in peace & harmony and then shifted to the daily routine we have been engaging (& will continue to engage all month) of reading Proverbs.  One Proverb each day.  Sunday was Oct. 7th, and so Proverbs 7 was the chapter of the day.  The chapter was read through 5 verses at a time and conversation flowed.  Noticing things that perhaps were not seen prior, hearing the wisdom of this book, this instruction, as not just about one type of morality, but about everything.  And talking about how do we avoid temptation, how do we deal with what we struggle with?

Proverbs 7 begins,

My child, keep my words and store up my commandments with you; keep my commandments and live, keep my teachings as the apple of your eye; bind them on your fingers, write them on the tablet of your heart.                                                                                  (Proverbs 7:1-3, New Revised Standard Version)

And I wonder as we continue in this book; as we try to read 1 Proverb each day of this month; is this how we bind these words on our fingers?  Is this how we write scripture on the table of our heart?  In going daily back, even when it’s hard, even when we know we do not understand in fullness, even when we are so tired and our minds so full (or whatever) that it seems the scripture – the living Word of God — has no room to enter; I wonder if it is in this practice, this going back, this daily seeking to hear something — if it is here that we do exactly what this wisdom literature bids us do?

And so we come to the homework that follows us all this month.  To be reading 1 Proverb a day.  To be open to hearing from God in this way.  To seeing what might happen as we turn to this wisdom (which may at times seem too much to understand, or so simple that we all know it) and humbly allow God to continue to work that has already begun in us — for it is not yet done.

In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater 

 

Reading through Proverbs…(still living in peace & harmony)

Greetings y’all.  Last Sunday we gathered in our typical fashion, and opened in prayer.  BUT we had a different day — we have a guest speaker & we had some of our sisters and brothers from N. Spencer gathered around the table with us.

And instead of checking-in with our homework we had the opportunity to slow down and read through (most of) the Sermon on the Mount (See Matthew 5-7) taking note of the fact that this was written/directed to the Pharisees, and trying to understand a bit more of the Jewish context that it comes out of.  It was a nice time of seeking to hear what Jesus was emphasizing to a group of people (the Pharisees) who in their desire to seek after God had made even more rules (traditions) to follow — something that we still often are doing (even with the best of intentions).  And I found it a special treat to slow down a bit and consider the beatitudes, slowing a bit on the words like meek and merciful and considering what it means to hunger and thirst for righteousness (coming to the point of realization that righteousness is God!).

So we had a blessed time in a different manner of study of the scriptures together.  Then, before we closed in prayer we reminded ourselves of our on-going homework: living in harmony with each other & being at peace, as much as it is in our control, with others.

And a 2ndary homework assignment was given too: Read 1 Proverb/day.  The month of October (which began on Monday!) has 31 days.  The book of Proverbs has 31 chapters.  We will be letting scripture speak to us and shape us but being in this one book daily, leaning into the invitation to read 1 chapter/day and knowing which chapter is assigned based on the date!

So blessed peace-making & reading!

In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater  

Live in Harmony (Romans 12:14-21)

Last Sunday we had the delight of being able to gather around the table again.  We opened with prayer.  And then we began to check-in with each other.  We tried to identify the part of the body that we are, and we found that to be challenging.  Challenging in multiple ways, because so many of us do so many different types of things — what one part could we be?  Challenging because some of the body parts that we think we are sound too showy — as though we were being proud.  Challenging because for many it is very hard to see or to consider that indeed God has gifted and shaped us in certain ways (so it’s a lot easier for someone else to see us and notice our shape rather than for us to be able to think soberly about what God has gifted us with!).  Challenging because are we talking about gifts, about skills, about talent — and is it just in a spiritual way, just something we do in the church — or maybe something else?  So challenging to think about where we fit and how we work.  And yet, even in the midst of struggle we were able to identify some parts of the body that we are; hands, the bottom of feet, the heart, the ear, a finger (index), the mouth, and the eye.  Likely, not all the body parts referenced what someone else would have imagined that part of the body to do; an index finger that captures the call on one to teach, a mouth to speak for issues of justice; a part of the mind to remind people of their faith; an eye to represent the gift of empathy to feel to the point of deeply seeing into the soul of another.

This idea of who we are, of how we are shaped, of what gifts we have is not an easy one.  Many pondered often about the question, engaging spouses who might not be present around the table in their consideration of the question.  Some shared insights outside of the time we were gathered together.  There was reflection of how gifts might work in allowing us to live into the part of the body that we are, how we might fully live into the design that God has for us to fill, and the honesty as to how God will use those of us who are willing (regardless of what our gifts/shape are!), as well as how being gifted or shaped does not mean that we don’t need to continue to develop said gifts/talents — nor does wanting/working hard on developing skills mean we can (on our own) anoint ourselves to do the work (or have the gift(s)) we desire most.

And something important was named.  Love.  That Love is the greatest gift.  That all of us — as we are shaped and gifted, all of us as different members of the body are called to love, expected to love.  And love is hard, and perhaps a word that has lost meaning in some sense (for many) and a word that we struggle to understand and know — but we are to love, to share love, to be lovers — lovers of God and lovers of each other.  Love is the greatest gift.  Love is offered to all.  And in my opinion, because of Christ we can all be great lovers — we each moment of each day are invited to grow in how we can love well (amen!) — because God is love, and God is patient, and God is full of grace!

So we continued in Romans, and read verses 14-21:

 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

And we quickly named our homework, to consider Romans 12:16a & 18.  To “Live in harmony with one another” and, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”  Everyone was THRILLED for this assignment, as of course this is exactly what we do all the days of our lives, right?  So for the next 2 weeks (now a little more than a week more) we will be living in harmony and peaceably with one another.  So — with some laughter we turned to prayer to close another time of gathering together — a time of seeking to hear from God together through scripture and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

Y’all today, in our context and moment in time, think about the possible implications of living in this way, in harmony and peacefully as much as it depends on us with each other.  What a gift we could be offering and opening together…

In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater  

What body part are you? (Romans 12:3-8)

Y’all last Sunday we gathered..and some were early (sorry about that) — just as a friendly reminder here at least — Adult Study is at 10AM now!  So we gathered and opened in prayer.

Then we began checking in.  Talking about how we live Romans 12:2 — being not conformed to the world; having our minds be transformed; discerning the will (the good & acceptable & perfect will of God!).  So much richness and passion came from this discussion.  Conversation about what is the way of the world, insight as to what Paul was calling his audience to when he tells them not to be conformed to the ways of the world (of Roman Empire and such).  Points lifted how the way of the world can be to appease people, to be impatient, to not be kind…that to be Christlike — to be one who follows what Christ said and did is to be different than the world that is around us; that if something like the sermon on the mount is what shapes us (ideas of forgiveness, of meekness, of seeking peace) all the while recognizing the cost of loving in this way for Christ — the One whom we follow — is death on a cross — then we should look different, be different — dare we offer, this is what it is to be in the world while not conforming to it?  And there was insight too as to how do we have transformed minds?  Though the grace and the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit who can and will convict and lead us as is necessary; through reading the Word of God with the prayer that the Holy Spirit will speak to us through God’s Word; through gathering round a table with people (who we do not always agree with!) looking to Christ & searching the scriptures for what God is saying to us today!  The conversation was rich…and I wonder, if we all are willing to bring our full selves to the table open to each other & open to the voice of God speaking — how will God change us?  Transform us?  And what will the other people around the table say when they see who God has transformed us to be?  It’s exciting y’all — because the thing is, God’s not finished with ANY of us yet — and at least for me, I’m grateful with that truth!

So after this grace and passion filled conversation we pivoted back into Romans 12 and read verses 3-8 (New Living Translation below):

Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

Another challenging selection of scripture.  Don’t think too much of yourself.  Be sober in your judgement.  Be careful in comparing.  We discussed how people are given (gifted) different skills, talents, abilities; and naming how also we are the same in the sense that all have sinned & fallen short, all are not worthy of the gift of grace & the gift of faith — and so to compare ourselves to each other….well in that sense (or for pride) why?  The scripture calls us to honor & respect & be honest in assessment perhaps holding simultaneously the truth that grace is offered to all, that we all are called to the perfection of God (and none of us is there), and that we are gifted differently too.  Perhaps all easier said (or typed) than done.

Thus we come to the homework time.  An invitation to think soberly about ourselves and to ask that the Holy Spirit reveals — what part of the body are you?  (and why?!)  Then once you know what part of the body you are (yes you can be creative!) & why — imagine the body part you are is getting a check-up — how are you doing?  How are you functioning?

Y’all I’m excited to hear what God has been revealing & to see what members of that body will be gathered around the table this coming Sunday!  As I mentioned before we prayed out last week, one Christian I know named herself as the bile in the body — not everyone wants to be there, it’s smelly, it’s not pretty, but it’s agitates and it is necessary & without it the body is not healthy!  So….what part of the body are you?

In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater 

Not conforming & being transformed? (Romans 12:1-2)

Last Sunday we gathered.  We prayed.  We began checking in with each other.  Talking about what we found to the be hardest for us from the “list” we could hear as we read Romans 12:1,9-13.  One person named that they felt they had no zeal nor spiritual fervor (which by the way interestingly enough was immediately challenged by another sitting at the table!), while another after hearing many speak shared that they must be surrounded by a bunch of saints (hehehe) since they found the hating what is evil & holding to what is good to be rather challenging.

Yet most of our time centered around hospitality.  Hospitality and sincere/genuine love.  There was this understanding of how we might be able to offer the actions involved with hospitality while our hearts might not be sincere.  Also, there were questions to about what exactly hospitality is?  Does it look the same always?  Is there only one way to possibly offer hospitality?  Is hospitality offered differently when we are thinking of individuals (or a family) as compared with a church?  In all the ideas of hospitality discussed there was a commitment to centering the other person, to making space for them in the midst of our (busy) lives.  Hospitality seems to include an element of recognizing someone else (perhaps at great cost & (mild) frustration to us) as a priority.  Part of the conversation mentioned more than once was the idea/practice of “fake it ’til you make it” the concept of doing the hospitality until your heart does become sincere…this is something that has worked for some well in the past but which is challenging to others.  I wonder if in a very real sense though this is part of our walk with God?  That as we learn to (and live into) love there is this element of faking it until we make it — this sense of trusting God along the way until we get it (a little more!) and by that I might mean that God can love through us a little better (or that we don’t get in God’s way of loving through us so much!)

We could have stopped here, observing the invitation to offer hospitality and seeing how it is a challenging growth point for us….I wonder how the Holy Spirit might be wanting us all to grow in hospitality?  As individuals as well as a church?  Isn’t it great we have our annual brunch this weekend?  But we continued with scripture, Romans 12:1-2:

12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters,[a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual[b] worship. Do not be conformed to this world,[c] but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.[d]

We focused on verse 2.  And asked some questions like…What does it mean to NOT be conformed to this world?  What does it mean to have a transformed mind?  And can we know (discern) the will of God?  (A specific (to us) will of God?, a general (for all) will of God?)  Some started the conversation of how the world has different expectations than God, how most have worked “in the world” and that perhaps was a challenge.  So the homework for this week and next stems from this idea of non-conformity & transformation as we try to figure out how exactly do we live verse 2?  And in living verse 2, what exactly is the point of discerning what is “good and acceptable and perfect” if we know what the will of God is?

I can’t wait to hear what will be shared when we gather round the table next (on 9/16)!

In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater