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  

Proverbs day 9…Discipline & a Rod?

Last Sunday Adult Study met and while I missed it — thanks be to God — the conversation continued in Proverbs!  A huge thanks to Gina & Gene for co-facilitating Adult Study while I was traveling!  So after opening in prayer there was the opportunity to check-in.  The check-in of course discussed the homework of daily praying for our enemies.

It seems that many of us are a bit uncomfortable with the language of “enemy.”  Who is an enemy anyway, right?  Often I think many would not think they have enemies — and honestly I wonder how that word felt and sounded to the original hearers of the Bible?  Does someone who has served in the military have a fuller understanding of an “enemy?”  Do we have the ability to be our own enemy with the internal dialogue we have with ourselves?  Is our enemy evil?  The devil?  Those trying to destroy us physically/emotionally/spiritually?  And, how many of us act & treat folks as though they are enemies?  In a culture & context where we struggle with enemy language, I wonder if the invitation to pray for our enemies is a method of inviting us to pray for others with intentionality?  What do I mean?  Well, it can be easy for me to forget to pray for my friends & those I love, but that person who is annoying me/opposing me/causing some conflict, they I think about easily and often, so what if that was how God was laying a person on our heart who needs prayer?  And when we do pray for those who are our “enemies” how do we change, does the very act of holding them in prayer unite us more in grace, does the prayer affect us more than them?

And then there was the pivot to scripture:

Where we read about discipline, children, the rod, and foolishness (to name some of the themes).  And y’all started talking about the rod — considering if it is something to actually inflict physical punishment or perhaps if it is a metaphor used to discuss discipline, or the guidance that parents are to offer their children.  There was the mention of those who might have the challenge of ADD, ADHD, and/or other specific needs.  Also a mention of if consequences are involved as well…

And then eventually came the homework assigning time.  And this week there are a few connected pieces (questions) to be considering.  We are all to consider, what can or should discipline include/look like in children/youth/adults … in church?  So think about this question and come back with thoughts and ideas.  Though, perhaps some will push a little bit with such a question (which is fine) asking a bit appropriately — WHY? — why, would we need to even consider such a question?  And I offer, when we take vows to nurture those baptized in the faith (and yes, at every baptism this is part of the liturgy — part of the questions asked of the gathered congregation!) it means we need to be thinking and asking, as we vow “to guide and nurture the newly baptized by word and deed, with love and prayer, encouraging them to know and follow Christ and to be faithful members of his church,if discipline is supposed to be included?  And if discipline is to be included, how can or should that look exactly?  

Discipline is a challenging topic and these scriptures are challenging scriptures.  And yet, we are called to be disciples of Jesus Christ, followers of the One who came to serve, the One who washed feet.  This is not easy, and in fact doesn’t the very identity we profess as Christians, as those who follow Christ require that we be disciplined by the very One we follow?  Do we not in saying we are disciples of Jesus, say we are disciplined by Jesus/God/Holy Spirit?

Looking forward to Sunday morning y’all!

In Christ ~

Rev. Sabrina Slater  

 

Proverbs day 8…Pray for your Enemies…

Last Sunday, we gathered.  On the day before our country recognizes and celebrates the birth of Martin Luther King Jr. (the Rev.Dr.) we considered a challenging text (though, perhaps many if not ALL the texts are HARD), Proverbs 24:17-22

First, however, as is our custom.  We opened in prayer and then had our check-in time.  It was a brisk morning (ie COLD & some needed to essentially dig out their cars…) we began a little late & grew in number over the course of the conversation.  And the check-in was about a week of not lying.  It was a robust conversation, with sincere questions about lying to self, about lies of omission, about even asking, “what is a lie?,” naming even that a lie repeated enough becomes the truth (well, not really…but many of us live this way & it is a truism.) In a way there seemed to be a mild consensus that lying for the sake of making others comfortable might be alright (or at least the motivation of many) & yet there was challenge to this asking, who exactly do we make comfortable with our lies?– the other person, or ourselves?

Spoiler alert, we did not plumb the depths of these questions — how ever could we within a 45 time frame?  And yet, we do gather to engage these questions, to bring ourselves to the ongoing (alive) conversation that scripture has with us — seeking to hear from God in the conversation & the discerning.  It is important to think deeply about what we believe (& even – gasp! — to question our beliefs at times, through hearing the insight of others, and engaging life — which can be challenging!).  How do we grow if we do not have questions?  And so may these conversations & homework too invite us all to be growing in Christ & drawing nearer to God! 

And we transitioned to the scripture before us for the day.  Proverbs 24:17-22.  And we did not even get to verses 21 & 22, which speak to fearing/respecting both God & king — which in the political climate (really, of ANY day & age) should be a challenging set of verses, for those who love God first & above all else, to consider.  And of course a rich conversation to be had as well on the eve of MLK Day.  But we didn’t make it to those conversations.  Instead we spoke of the challenge in verses 17-20; to not take pleasure (rejoice) out loud or in your heart when your enemy falls; to not be envious of the wicked prospering; to not fret (because of evildoers).  Short story this is hard.  Honest story, we cannot do it without God’s help.

So we arrived at the homework time.  And this one I’m excited about…pray for your enemies — each day this week.  Each day pray for your enemies.  So we need to think, who are our enemies, what exactly is an enemy?  And then we need to pray for them — daily.  I really am interested in hearing what happens with our desire and commitment to pray for our enemies — and hey, if needs help — well just ask.  While no this is not an invitation to share with others who our “enemies” are — we might need someone to pray alongside us or for us as we lift our enemies in prayer — and that is part of the blessing of the Church, the breathing body of Christ — we are not alone, and we do not walk alone — thanks be to God!  So for us all — prayers for strength and courage as we all pray for our enemies each day this week.

In Christ ~

Rev. Sabrina Slater    

Proverbs day 7…”Tell the truth (aka no lying!)” …considering Prov. 12:17-28

We gathered.  As we do — in many ways the Church is those who gather and who are sent.  And if you think about it, that is especially what we have been doing with each of our Adult Studies, we have gathered, looking into Scripture to hear what God is inviting us (instructing us) to do, and we have left the physical building with “homework” (lifework) to live out what we read, to live out our faith.

As we gathered last week, I was unsure what the feedback would be.  An assignment to bless the community can sound like a big ask.  And yet, as we opened up after prayer, during our “check-in,” people named the little things, the everyday things, the taking time to read someone’s name & use it when they are checking out, taking the time to smile, to see people & to hopefully make the day better, easier, or lighter in some way.  And as people named the ways that they bless it opened others to see how they might be blessing the community too.  Now — there was mention of blessing the community through the offering of hospitality and also we named the challenge of when we  seek to “bless” and it is not received as a blessing (we did not dwell long on this — which is a worthy topic of its own!)

Being one who can think in the extravagant way it was encouraging to hear how so many could identify how daily they (we) bless our community.

And then we turned to scripture — specifically to Proverbs 12:17-28.  And we discussed.  Some voiced that these Proverbs can be a best case scenario (for example, that “no ill befalls the righteous” see Proverbs 12:21a.  While others named that these Proverbs also ask us to think differently, as in if we have been reconciled to God (through Christ) then what possible ill could befall us?  (In other words, if God is for us who (or what) can be against us?)

The conversation engaged some other scriptures and perhaps in some ways became more philosophical in nature as we considered the tongue of the wise bringing healing and those who plan for peace have joy.  However, the homework for this week was “simple.”  Based on more than one of the scriptures but we’ll highlight Proverbs 12:22

Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who act faithfully are his delight.

our homework is to not lie.  To tell the truth.  But the homework specifically is to not lie.  In a society where lies seem to be a way of life, this might be challenging.  Or it might not.  Someone had shared how they instructed their children to always tell the truth!  (Older children said thank you — it makes life easier!)  For those who find the invitation “easy” let us also consider not lying to ourselves.

Looking forward to being gathered together on Sunday (@10AM)!

Until then — may we be encouraged in & delighted by Christ!

~ Rev. Sabrina Slater 

 

Proverbs day 6…An invitation to BLESS….looking @ Proverbs 11:10-14

It was the morning of New Year’s Eve and we gathered (about 11 of us with a few within earshot too) on this final day of 2017 to discern what God might be speaking to us through scripture.  Not a bad way to end a year and to prepare for the beginning of a new one.

As is our custom after opening in prayer (in which naming the blessing of warmth was not forgotten) it was homework check-in time.  A variety of scriptures (long & short) were mentioned.  The honesty of naming a scripture that became what comforted following the death of a loved one immediately made me think of the quote from the week before — with placing scripture on our hearts so that when our heart breaks the scripture falls in.  It sounded as though there are some scriptures we are drawn too, and those are what we named as written on the tablets of our hearts.  A question near the end of our time actually, asked if we actually (practically speaking) understand what & how it is that we write scripture on the tablet of our heart?  The question went unanswered (due to time) but it is one worth asking & pondering — just how do we write scripture on the tablet of our heart?

Our scripture focus was Proverbs 11:10-14.  And after hearing the scripture read (lectio divina style as we do) with space for silence following the reading we had a rich conversation.  Noticing the need for guidance & (wise) counselor(s) and also spending quite a bit of time wrestling with the idea that when the wicked perish there is joy/jubilation.  We thought about a person perishing who might not know Christ, who might not be reconciled — and had compassion — while holding in tension even an example of knowing when someone who had engaged in wicked/evil/destructive behavior dying there being relief and celebration that that wickedness/evil/destructive behavior had ended.  We talked about how we can maybe hear this proverbs individually alright — and considered too though, our context (extreme individualism within the United States of America in 2017) is distinctly not the much more collective/communal/familial context that the proverbs were birthed in.

In the complexity of this tension it was also noticed how verses 12 & 13 had not been mentioned at all,

Whoever belittles another lacks sense, but an intelligent person remains silent.  A gossip goes about telling secrets, but one who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a confidence.

And it was asked, “Why?”  Do we in a smaller community just get this right?  We spoke briefly about the humanness of making mistakes even if one is a confidential person.  And we also mentioned too, that possibly we could seek to be more discerning in how & why we share — noting that often the insight is what might be helpful & not the details of a thing — perhaps a growth point for all.

And then it was time for homework.  And as we read in verse 11, “By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted” our charge for this week is to BLESS OUR COMMUNITY.  No specifics were given, a question as to what this might be/look like was asked and left unanswered.  And as we begin the new year, 2018 — we begin seeking to BLESS OUR COMMUNITY.  I both wonder with anticipation as to how this might look & honestly too — I wonder how this might shape our community for throughout whole of 2018?  What would we look like if we were seeking continually to bless our community?

In Christ & walking into the unknown beside you with a smile ~

Rev. Sabrina Slater 

Proverbs…day 5…”tablet writing” a look at Proverbs 7:1-3

It was December 24th last Sunday, the day of Christmas Eve, and we gathered in the morning before worship (the morning worship was Advent themed).  For many gathered it was the beginning of a couple services held on Christmas Eve!  And as the conversation nearly immediately turned to the check-in we opened with prayer.

And then we talked.  The homework had been to consider if love does indeed cover all offenses or if it does not.  There was talk about individual or collective forgiveness, forgiving children, forgiving those who hurt or harm children.  There was the reading of the text (Proverbs 10:12) out of the Message paraphrase,

Hatred starts fights, but love pulls a quilt over the bickering.

And there was the honesty that the assignment was hard — or perhaps more than the assignment itself, to believe that love covers all was hard.  The confession we don’t always get it right — and the reality that we cannot do this (forgive, believe love covers all) on our own.  There were the mentions of people who forgave for acts that were unforgivable.  There was the desire that people would repent before the forgiveness — and the challenge that Christ never waited for our own repentance before being born or heading to the cross.  We even were honest about the often daily need of love (God) to help us look past (or forgive) offenses that can come weekly (or daily) from those we continue to be in relationship with!

Then we turned (as we do!) to a selection of scripture, Proverbs 7:1-3.  We sat seeking to listen to what the Holy Spirit was highlighting.  There were some questions about Jewish practices of dress and affixing Scripture to their body, and there was the observation that in the keeping of God’s commandments life is found — which is HARD!  And as we listened to writing that was nearly touchable in the way the words painted pictures to engage we heard this quote from Anne Lamott (from Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith)

There’s a lovely Hasidic story of a rabbi who always told his people that if they studied the Torah, it would put Scripture on their hearts.  One of them asked, “Why on our hearts, and not in them?”  The rabbi answered, “Only God can put scripture inside.  But reading sacred text can put it on your heart, and then when your hearts break, the holy words will fall inside.

What beautiful imagery!  And a perfect way to frame the homework for this week — to write scripture on the tablet of our own hearts.  The question was asked if the scripture must be from Proverbs, and the answer is no it does not have to be.  The invitation is to write scripture on the tablet of our hearts and see what happens (and see how exactly we do that!)  So — Merry Christmas & happy writing!

In the joy of Christmastime!

~ Rev. Sabrina Slater