Pastor Barb’s Weekly Message 2/19/17

I say to you…if anyone strikes you on the right cheek,

turn the other also.     I say to you, love your enemies.

Matthew 5:39.44

When the crowds asked Jesus for the most important commandment, he replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.”  The commandments that Jesus gives in this Sunday’s reading – to turn the other cheek, to love our enemies – are really nothing more than extensions of this most important command to love God and neighbor and self.

But what hard extensions! Two thousand years after Jesus first uttered these words, these two commands are still startling, still counter-cultural.  “Turn the other cheek” and “Love your enemies” continue to challenge us to love more deeply than we might wish.  They are the bedrock on which the non-violent movements for civil rights, in our own country and around the world, have been founded.  Indeed, Dr. King felt these commands were an “absolute necessity for the survival of our civilization.”

So how do we follow these commandments?  I’ll offer some reflections on this in my sermon on Sunday.  For now, I’m mindful of another phrase of scripture, the words from the angel Gabriel to Mary as he spoke of her becoming the mother of the Messiah:  “For nothing will be impossible with God.”  We can’t do this on our own power, but with God and with each other, we can be part of a miracle: the healing of all that is broken, in our own spirits and in the world around us.  And so I echo Mary’s response:  May it be!

Pastor Barb’s Weekly Msg 2/12/17

Grace and peace to you all!

Again this week, I share this prayer from Steve Garnaas-Holmes on Sunday’s lectionary readings.  May these words nurture your life, in body and soul.

 I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.

—Deuteronomy 30.19
You have heard, “You shall not murder,” but I say if you are angry you are out of tune with God’s mercy.
—Matthew 5.20-21

God help me to truly love:
to let go of getting my way,
to let go of being right,
let go of my agenda
even to be just and righteous,
to satisfy you…
and instead to love people,
to choose life— not for me
but for them.
Share with me your love
that I may live for others’ sake
and all my choices be
for the sake of their life,
their deep and free and abundant life,
trusting that you have already chosen life for me.

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Pastor Barb’s Message Week 1/27/17

Pastor Barb’s Weekly Message 

Grace and peace to you all!

 

This Sunday’s gospel reading is the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:1-12.  They are the beginning verses of the Sermon on the Mount, a three-chapter sermon on how to live as God’s people, that Jesus gives at the start of his ministry.  As I have been putting together thoughts for the sermon, I came across this quote from Roland Walls, the founder of a Scottish monastic community:

 

“To follow Jesus is to walk, step-by-step, not knowing what may be asked of you in the next quarter of an hour.  There is no book — (not even) the Sermon on the Mount will tell you exactly what you must do at any given moment.  You have to keep your eyes wide open to discern that somehow the way before you is a way of love …  That is an exciting and exacting and exhausting way to live … God’s will for you in the next moment comes each time as a gift.”

 

“Keep your eyes open … that the way before you is a way of love.”  Those words have caught my heart, this week.  In the midst of political news that feels like the opposite of love – and in the midst of the ordinary joys and frustrations of work and life and relationships, these words are a guidepost for me: keep seeking to walk the Way of Love.

 

How does that Way of Love work out, exactly?  I can’t tell you precisely what it will look like today.  In my life, or in yours.  And yet, as we move forward one step at a time, in prayer and in hope, sharing our journey together, the Way of Love is revealed.  We are each given a part in the tending and the healing of our world.  No matter what situations and forces rage around us, we can always choose the Way of Love.  And as we do, God is made visible and tangible in our own lives, and the lives around us.

~~~~~~~

Pastor Barb’s Message 1/20/17

Grace and peace!

Today is the inauguration of a new president.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes takes this opportunity to ponder a different inauguration: our commitment to live a faithful life, focused on loving God and others and self, dedicated to serving Jesus in the least among us, offering the Spirit of Grace and Justice to the world.  May these words help to center us in our faith, even in complicated and uncertain times.  May they help us be true to our deepest citizenship: members of the body of Christ.

Today, God, you create me anew;
today I inaugurate a new life.
By the power invested in me by the Holy Spirit
I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute
your call in my life, and will to the best of my ability
uphold your commandments.
I will act with love and gentleness,
with reverence and forgiveness toward all people.
I will practice humility, generosity and truthfulness.
I will honor and delight in the diversity of the human family,
respecting the true unity of all people
and the oneness and sacred worth of all living things.
I pledge to live, speak and act for justice and peace.
I accept the power you give me
to resist evil, injustice and oppression
in whatever forms they present themselves.
I will stand against all violence, disrespect and bullying.
I will speak out against meanness,
give voice to those who are silenced,
and include those who are outcast.
I acknowledge that I shine with your light, O God,
that my life is not mine but yours.
This day I pledge to do your will, not mine,
for your sake and the sake of the healing of the world.
I understand that this pledge
will often set me against my culture,
and that the culture will resist me.
With your help and those of like mind and heart,
I will persevere.
I give you thanks. I ask your blessing. I trust your grace.
Amen.