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July 14, 2019, 12:00 AM

My Two Cents

Anyone remember June of 2017? That was when our congregation  approved the welcome statement now printed each week in our order of worship and proudly displayed on our website. We were and are “An Open and Affirming Congregation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)”.


Which is great! But up until this week there was one more thing left to do. We needed to send information to the Disciples LGBTQ Alliance so we could be included on the registry of Open and Affirming Congregations. Inclusion in this registry would ensure that folks looking for both a Disciples congregation AND one that is Open and Affirming would find US! We had everything we needed...with the exception of one policy document- an Equal Employment Opportunity statement indicating we are willing to put our money where our mouth is when it comes to inclusion. Last January this statement was adopted by our board:


“Christian Temple, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Catonsville, Maryland embraces its commitment to being an equal opportunity employer in its history and continued practice of non-discrimination on any basis, including race, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, and marital status. We find our strength to be in our diverse makeup. We apply this approach and belief in all that we do, including the support, supervision and evaluation of our staff.”


So, there you have it folks. We did it! Or did we?


Some would say that we are never "there" when it comes to inclusion. In fact, the minute we think we are there our welcome begins to suffer. Being Open and Affirming means more than just saying we are welcoming of all people. It also means that we see the work of deepening our welcome as a constant priority.


And so, on this Sunday, when we get to hear again Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan, we have the blessed opportunity to imagine what it feels like to be that man who fell among the robbers, beaten down and cast aside. That man will always be laying on the side of some road in our lives. And we are called to be the ones to see him, offer healing to her, and then go the extra mile to welcome them into our lives. 


Speaking of welcome, WELCOME TO WORSHIP!


June 30, 2019, 12:00 AM

My Two Cents

This week all around the country our dinners were rudely interrupted by the sickening image of Oscar Martinez and his daughter Angie, laying face down on the shores of the Rio Grande river near Brownsville, TX. After seeing the image we heard bits and pieces of the story.


The two had already made it safely to the Texas side of the river when Oscar went back to get his wife. But as Angie saw her father swimming away she jumped in after him. The two weren't able keep up with the current and drowned while mom watched from the other side of the river.


Just awful.


On Wednesday when we saw the photograph on the news, the story followed one about how many of the swimming pools in Baltimore City are closed due to maintenance issues leaving hundreds of   children with no swimming options during this first summer heat wave, while kids in more well-to-do neighborhoods get to pick and choose which pool they want to swim in.


Injustice comes in wide varieties doesn't it. But it all boils down to the same thing. Some of us get more than others not because we deserve it but simply by accident of birth. Most of us reading these words are among these people. And it's not fair.

My guess is that we are all over the map in our opinions about a  political solution to the crisis at our southern border. But those of us who follow Jesus have a very clear mandate when it comes to     immigrants. We are called to welcome the stranger. We are called to extend hospitality to those who have no place to live. We are called to be horrified by images like the one we've seen so often this week. And we are called to admit that this happened in our country. It  wasn't somewhere over there. These two drowned while we were making our grocery lists for the week.


When it comes to water, sometimes the injustice is that there is too much to manage. Other times it is because there is too little. Either way, God asks those of us who have so much, to be troubled enough to ask ourselves, "What more can I do?"


Welcome  to worship.


June 16, 2019, 12:00 AM

My Two Cents

If I had known how dear my childhood teachers in church would   become to me, I would have treated them so much better. Or at least I hope so.

If I had known that I was going to become an avid reader I wouldn’t have rolled my eyes at Birdie Law that morning she brought enough copies of C.S. Lewis’ “Screwtape Letters” into our 7th grade Sunday school class for everyone to have their own. Or at least I hope so.

If I had known John Garver would have taught me the importance of personally welcoming everyone who walks through the doors of the church, I wouldn’t have made a game out of avoiding his Sunday morning handshakes. Or at least I hope so.

If I had known how Sharon Boice’s uncomfortably long and way-too-close hugs were eventually going to teach me how important it is for the church to create a safe place for those who live with mental     illness, I wouldn’t have made fun of her cat eye glasses so often with my friends. Or at least I hope so.

If I had known that Peggy Kost would become one of my mom’s most trusted friends through years of sitting next to each other in the alto section of the choir, I might not have commented so often on her sometimes wobbly alto voice. Or at least I hope so.

If I had known that Laura Katsiftis was going to call me of all people that summer when I worked as the church custodian, to come and  visit her husband who had just been told he “got the cancer”, I wouldn’t have winced through middle school every time she called me “Ricky Boy”. Or at least I hope so.

Adults, listen up! Every time we come to church, we also become teachers. Our students who zip in and out of the gathering space may not realize they’ve joined our class. They probably won’t show us their appreciation for the lessons we teach. But, one of these days they will remember us well. Or at least we hope so.

Welcome to worship!


May 1, 2019, 12:00 AM

My Two Cents

“My daughter is on the brink of everything.”

This is how Courtney Martin described her sixteen month old daughter in her essay “Reuniting with Awe”. Everything her little girl experiences ushers in a whole new world- a daisy, an M&M, being swung by her hands- “do it again, mommy!”

This is also the title for Parker Palmer’s newest book- “On the Brink of Everything”. Palmer is about to turn 80 and has been writing for most of those years. This book is his reflection on “Grace, Gravity, and Getting Old”. After acknowledging that his body is showing plenty of the effects of having lived eighty years, he boldly claims that he likes being old, especially when he is able to live in the moment and savor the little things each new day brings- a good night’s sleep, the way the sun lights up the frost on his bedroom window at sunrise, and the first sip of his morning coffee.

Each day to which he awakens is another day to be on the brink of everything. Which is also how I like to think of the life of this 115 year old congregation. Sure, we are old! But, we are also on the brink of everything!

Consider our recent life:

We are on the brink of living into our call to welcome all of God’s people- not only to give everyone a place at the table but to ask everyone to help us design the menu! What a delight it is as your pastor to look around and find members of the LGBTQ+ being warmly and enthusiastically drawn into the bonds of this community. And how cool is it that we have a growing number of people in our faith community for whom English isn’t their first language. All means all!

We are on the brink of becoming a neighborhood congregation with a metropolitan draw. Most of our newest members have come to us from right around the neighborhood while dozens of people we never see in Sunday morning worship (but are here during the week for school or maybe a little support) think of this as their church! Meanwhile our history, our denominational identity and our vibrant music and worship lures people of faith to worship here from far and wide.

We are on the brink of a new generation of children growing up in our midst while taking seriously our ministry to individuals and families without kids. Maybe you’ve noticed the growing number of kids here on Sunday morning learning the stories of Jesus and developing a love of worship AND community service. Meanwhile things like study groups, women’s retreats and Theology on Tap give the adults around here a precious opportunity to open up with one another.

And, dare I say it, we are on the brink of a new kind of Christianity, a kind of Christianity that seeks to take the life-affirming practices of the secular world like Yoga, gardening, book clubs, meditation, play groups and volunteering; and center them in the life of Jesus Christ.

This is an exciting time to be part of the church. This is an exciting time to be a member of the faith community we call Christian Temple. At such a time as this, we call upon all the members of this congregation to consider making a financial pledge that will help us take the thrilling steps that will carry us from “on the brink” into “a brand new world”!




April 1, 2019, 12:00 AM

My Two Cents

Last week’s lectionary text was Jesus’ story of the Loving Father, also known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Who can forget the last line of that great story which calls us all to the party of forgiveness, where those we thought were dead are alive again, and dad is urging the righteous to let it go and take a turn on the dance floor.

Sometimes those we had given up for dead come wandering back into our fields again. Sometimes the tumor begins to shrink. Sometimes the brakes stop us just before impact.

Other times not. Other times the loss happens. We are devastated and left to scrounge around for the pieces of what formed our lives, like the family returning to the concrete slab where their home used to be, searching for something, anything, that might bring them the comfort of the familiar.

The season of Lent may not be for everyone.  But it is especially designed for anyone who has felt the full force of a loss that feels beyond     redemption. Without saying too soon that everything will be all right, Lent provides the stillness we need to look at those broken pieces that used to fit so well together and begin- just begin- to wonder about how they might be rearranged and put back into a new place.

Having experienced only a small fraction of the loss others around me have endured this year, I am still reminded of the very first steps in that process of piecing things back together. The Bible tells us that after Satan had finished tempting Jesus, the angels came and ministered to him. I think this is what happens with us too.

We may or may not have known someone who has had a miracle cure delivered just in the nick of time. But, I’ll bet we have witnessed the astounding miracle of the power of angels, gathered to offer healing. Some of those angels fly in from across the country at a moment’s    notice. Others spend the whole day before the funeral dinner slaving away in the kitchen. Look at that one angel braving rush hour traffic to    deliver half a dozen meals-for-one to a home still fresh with grief. And I may be mistaken, but I could swear that the room in the restaurant- the one reserved for the grieving family- is somehow filled with so much laughter it’s hard to make yourself heard.

Lent isn’t always sad. But it does take loss seriously. And what it lacks in easy assurances it more than makes up for in faithful angels who hear the call to gather around us, who minister to us and who promise to stay for as long as it takes, maybe even until  the first glimmers of Easter  begin to slice through the darkness.





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