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September 1, 2019, 12:00 AM

My Two Cents


In his song “Buffalo River Home” John Hiatt uses the line, “Now, there’s only two things in life, but I forget what they are”. I love that!

Oh how we long for the wise to make things simple for us. We are hungry to hear about the seven habits of highly effective people. We can’t wait to try out the six rules for tidying. And what about the first five people we are going to meet in heaven.

Anyone remember the Prayer of Jabez? So simple. Almost as simple as “Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”.

Lists and “steps” have been around for as long as we have. And they have their place. We can do a lot worse than to live our lives by the Ten      Commandments or the eight beatitudes. For decades the Twelve Step    program has, as another song says, “made men out of monsters”.

Keeping things simple can keep us on the right track. Those who have the gift of making things simple also make the world a better place. One     definition of a prophet is that she says something that has never been said before, in such a way that it sounds compellingly simple. Simple can be very good.

But we are also wise to remember that sometimes things just aren’t that simple. Simple has its limits. And, when we’re in the middle of a mess, the last thing we may need is for someone to reduce our situation down to an easy fix by saying something like, “Well, in my experience there are only two things in life.”

The thirteenth chapter of Hebrews gives us this first century list of six “things in life” we should remember:

- Let mutual love continue

- Do not neglect to show hospitality

- Remember those who are in prison

- Let marriage be held in honor by all

- Keep your lives free from the love of money, and,

- Remember your leaders

Okay. It’s an odd collection to be sure. I’m not sure it touches all the bases or solves all the problems of the world. I can certainly imagine forgetting it when the chips are down.

But it’s not bad. And it makes me wonder. If each of us had to make our own list of the most important things in life, what would the top six be?

Welcome to worship!

 




August 25, 2019, 12:00 AM

My Two Cents


“This is the life!”

Ever heard that phrase? Ever said it? Maybe just after stepping onto the balcony of your hotel room and looking out at the view? Or standing at the summit after the long ascent”

“This is the life!”

This week I discovered that “the life” isn’t always a good thing. In a Baltimore Sun article from July “the life” is the way women who are trafficked as sexual slaves refer to their existence. The article follows the story of Alex, the daughter of successful, strict parents whose “life” began when she was fourteen. She was stalked on the internet and caught by a man who preyed on her vulnerabilities and took her on what was to be a short road trip out west. It was six years before she was able to escape. Now, Alex has been free from “the life” for three years, is a community college junior with a 4.0 GPA and manages a small Baltimore bakery.

None of this would have happened without the services provided by The Samaritan Women, a very local twelve year old non-profit organization providing restorative care for victims of trafficking. The Samaritan Women was the first organization of its kind in Maryland and is one of very few places in the country offering its unique array of services. The southwest Baltimore campus is the home of a fourteen bed shelter, a large community garden, a commercial grade kitchen and a variety of healing spaces. To date it has served over 200 women.

This afternoon, Music on the Hill will offer all of us an opportunity to support the work of The Samaritan Women, as well as the life-saving work of Catonsville Emergency Assistance. While The Samaritan Women is offering its services to women in crisis, CEA is busy providing emergency food, eviction prevention and utility cut-off assistance. And today we all get to support both by wandering over to the ball field behind the church, listening to great music, enjoying a bite to eat, petting the animals, painting our faces, buying a cake or two and, along with our neighbors making a small donation to help those for whom “the life” has been anything but enjoyable.

Our text for worship today is all about Jesus healing a woman who had been bent over for eighteen years. While Alex was bent over for only six, we can be sure that Jesus is still very interested in her well-being. And this afternoon the body of Christ has an opportunity to see her and reach out.

Welcome to worship!




August 18, 2019, 12:00 AM

My Two Cents


One of my most unique adventures this summer happened up at Camp MaryMac in Sharpsburg, MD, where I was a counselor for what our region calls Pioneer Camp. On a fine weekend in June I had the lovely opportunity to hang out with fifteen of my closest first, second and third grade friends- six of whom were from Christian Temple!

 

For three  days we took turns on the tire swing, crossed back and forth over the old rickety bridge spanning the swollen creek, played with the parachute, did yoga(!), roasted s’mores on the fire AND learned about how we are all part of ‘Team Jesus’.

 

It was great. Except for one thing.  Unless I miss my mark, I think that over the course of our weekend, I got to witness a bully in the making. And I was surprised at how it sounded and looked.

 

One of the kids in our group (NOT from Christian Temple!) related well to the adults, was extremely smart and seemed at first to get along with everyone. In fact, for whatever reasons, the other kids really wanted to be among this guy’s buddies. But not too long after the camp began, this little boy began doing this strange thing. He started giving nicknames to all the other boys.

 

This naming could have been harmless enough, right? Except that each one was demeaning in one way or another. One referred to something embarrassing that had happened at camp a year earlier. A few others had to do with size and shape. After a while the nicknames began to catch on. The other boys were using them. And before you know it, there were tears. “That’s NOT my name!” And there was a sideways smile from the one who had started it all- a smile I have seen way too often over the past three years.

 

Bullies aren’t brave. They are afraid like everyone else- maybe more so. And the way they deal with their insecurity is to name the world in a way that diminishes others and makes them feel superior. It’s so easy to see- in children and adults.

 

And so, in a world full of bullies and other things that can make us feel diminished, one small thing we can promise ourselves to do? Call people by their names. Say those names often. And speak them with the reverence they deserve.

 

Welcome to worship Christian Temple!

 




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

 


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