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August 11, 2019, 12:00 AM

My Two Cents


Back in June our Christian Temple Pastoral Relations Committee distributed a survey designed to give our congregation an opportunity to share their thoughts about the weekly sermon. The Pastoral Relations Committee is a group of six  people who meet throughout the year to provide support to the minister and to offer a conduit for communication between the pastor and the congregation. Our meetings are typically informal opportunities to check in with each other. But occasionally I have asked this group to gather information from the congregation in a more formal way. Thus the survey.

 

We had a nice response to the survey which indicated to me first that the sermon, while often maligned as a form of communication, is an important part of our worship service. For many of us the sermon is our only opportunity to reflect on that mysterious and sometimes unapproachable book we call the Bible. The sermon also offers us a chance to consider what we believe about God and Jesus, in the context of what is actually happening in the world around us. And, maybe  as important as anything, the sermon allows us to see the world- and our faith tradition- from another person's perspective, and decide what we think about the words we hear.

 

The specific feedback from the surveys was very interesting. It's clear that we have a hunger for learning about Jesus- what he did, the stories he told, and the lessons he taught. Some of us are very curious about the Old Testament- the Hebrew scriptures- especially those passages which are filled with violence and the image of a violent God. More than one person shared an interest in hearing more about the book of Revelation. A few of us mentioned an interest in hearing about what the three Abrahamic faith traditions have in common. And several are interested in hearing calls to offer justice, mercy and compassion in ways that transcend the political divisions.

 

Many of us used this survey to make very specific suggestions. Some of the topics that came up were mental illness and addiction, communication between marriage partners and exploring the particular meanings and translations of the words we find in scripture. These topics are all fascinating and probably just scratch the surface of things we'd like to hear explored during this part of our corporate worship.

 

Which reminds me, please consider this survey only the beginning of what might be an ongoing conversation designed to make the sermon as relevant and challenging and helpful as possible. Each Sunday I begin the sermon with a short prayer more for myself than anyone else, that goes: "May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable to you, O God, our rock and our redeemer." Please know that as I select the "words of my mouth" I'm always very curious about "the meditations of your hearts" and how both of those things might please our God, who is our rock and our redeemer!

 

Welcome to worship!

 

Rick

 




August 4, 2019, 1:00 PM

My Two Cents


As you are out and about this summer, make sure to bring a good book and wear your sun screen. And while you are sitting in your beach chair or careening down the rapids, here are some relatively easy ways to include prayer.

 

PRAYER TIPS

 

1. Don't worry about the words. If prayer is "experiencing the presence of something larger than ourselves (my favorite definition) then all we really have to do is go to a place where we feel accompanied- or at least less alone. Where is your prayer place? Sitting behind the mower, or kneeling in the middle of the  garden? Watching the surf or looking out at the Blue Ridge from a scenic overlook? Or maybe it's closer to home. Sitting at the kitchen table with both hands wrapped around your favorite coffee mug. Don't make prayer too hard, just find your place and stay there for a while.

 

2. If you do use words, try using short phrases that have stood the test of time. For me there's been nothing quite like the first two verses of the 23rd Psalm to quiet my spirit. "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want." Those might work for you, too, when life gets worrisome or frightening. Others have found great comfort in "Be still and know that I am God." “Do not let your hearts be         troubled." Repeating words like these is a great way to pray.

 

3. And for those moments when you need to count to ten in order to refrain from saying or doing something you will very soon regret, three prayers from our tradition might be helpful. Take the Lord’s Prayer on the road with you. It takes about twenty second to pray (okay, 25 if you use trespasses, and those who trespass against us). That should be plenty of time to cool down after being cut off in traffic or told that they just ran out of your favorite ice cream flavor.

 

4. One thing about summer? Lines. Lots of lines. While you’re waiting scroll through the contacts on your phone and create a mental picture of the names you see. That is prayer.

 

5. And finally even though we like to think of summer as a time for relaxation and good things, it ain't always the case, is it? We aren't immune to bad news just  because the beaches up and down the east coast are full. Sometimes life sneaks up on us and our vacation plans have to change. For those times, please, PLEASE be honest to God. Don't sugarcoat it. Let whomever you picture as God have it. Scream, shout, cuss, and carry on if that is what your spirit is calling you to do. Or don't. Just know that when it comes to prayer God is much more interested in our authentic selves than our church selves. And sometimes our angry prayers to a God who has really broad shoulders can be the first step toward healing.

 

So there you have it, a very incomplete list designed to do something all of us find very difficult- weave prayer into the ordinary of our lives. Safe travels!

 

Rick

 




July 21, 2019, 12:00 AM

My Two Cents


Did you know...

 

...that Christian Temple is part of a protestant denomination called the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)?, And...

 

...that the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) meets in what we call a General Assembly every two years for worship, workshops, fellowship, and conducting the business of the church? And...

 

...that this year the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is holding its General Assembly in Des Moines, Iowa? And...

 

...that Rick and Jayna Powell are away from worship today because they are in Des Moines attending the General Assembly which started Saturday and will close on Wednesday? And...

 

......that among many other opportunities available at the General Assembly will be our opportunity to receive a certificate from the Disciples LGBTQ Alliance congratulating us on our standing as an "Open and Affirming Congregation" of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) which we will bring home and share? And...

 

...that we will be eager to share with our friends and colleagues the good news of all the ways Christian Temple is bearing witness to our God of joy and love and justice, and to learn from them new ideas and programs? And...

 

...that it's supposed to be as hot or hotter in Des Moines as it is right here in Baltimore while we are away?! And...

 

...if you find yourself with some free time tonight, tomorrow, or Tuesday, you are  welcome to live stream the worship services that will happen each evening in Des Moines beginning around 8:15 PM local time? (Also on Wednesday morning!)

 

It is sometimes said that the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), or just 'the Disciples', is one of the best kept secrets of the American church. We don't keep this secret intentionally! We just try- maybe too hard- to let our actions do the talking. But rest assured, if you are reading these words you have stumbled onto a faith tradition that seeks to "do church" in ways that welcome everyone to the table and proudly proclaim that following Jesus is more about sharing our lives honestly with one another than about subscribing to a specific way of believing; more about proclaiming justice than winning converts.

 

Please keep us in your prayers this morning and this week as we meet with others to tell our story and sharpen our focus for ministry.

 

Welcome to worship!

 

Rick

 

P.S. Worship Livestream Link! Participate in worship Saturday through Tuesday at 8:15 pm EDT and Wednesday morning at 10:00 am EDT the live feed will be activated.  Go to https://ga.disciples.org/     This link will take you to the General Assembly page.  Click on Worship Streaming at the top right corner of the page.

 




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.

 


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