Unite For Peace – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceUnite For Peace – Introduction

For thousands of years families, communities, and nations have been torn apart by differences of belief. These same conflicts exist today – Christian vs. Muslim, Christian vs. Jew, Muslim vs. Jew, Muslim vs. Muslim, Christian vs. Christian, and on and on. The time has come for us to put aside our differences and Unite for Peace.

Spiritual Quote

“Toward no crime have men shown themselves so cold-bloodedly cruel as in punishing differences of belief.”
~James Russell Lowell

Thoughts

As I was preparing for today’s message, I came across a sermon by Mark Braverman. Mr. Braverman is a Jewish scholar who had been invited to give the sermon at the First Presbyterian Church of St. Anselmo on the 3rd Sunday of Lent in 2010. I enjoyed his message very much, particularly the way he draws out the spiritual meaning behind the Scriptures from a Jewish perspective.

In his sermon, he recaps his thoughts on the messages of weeks 1 and 2 of Lent. I was amazed at how, though delivered four years ago, the messages tied extremely well to our own discussions over the previous two weeks, also weeks 1 and 2 of Lent.

Lent – Week 1 Recap

Their week 1 included a reading from Deuteronomy discussing making an offering in the temple of the First Fruits of the harvest. Here, the land and all it yields are symbols of the covenant between God and His people. The offering is an act of devotion, of thanksgiving, for all that God has provided. After making the offering, Deuteronomy 26:3 tells us the people were to say, “I declare today to the Lord your God that I have come to the country which the Lord swore to our fathers to give us.”

Tying to our messages over the last two weeks, the people were thankful for the blessings they had received, and were acting as Faithful Stewards – responsibly tending to the land and the crops, and making the physical offering commanded of them at the time. This was how the ancient Jews kept themselves separate, demonstrated their faith, and identified as God’s chosen.

To illustrate the impact of Jesus’ teaching and ministry we can turn to Paul. In Romans 10:10, Paul tells us, “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.””

Just as conflict exists today, at the time of Paul’s writing there was a lot of conflict, based largely on belief; conflict between Jews and Jewish Christians, Jews and Gentiles, Jews and Romans, etc., etc. Paul shows how Jesus’ teaching changed the belief from a separate, inheritance and possession, offering-based belief to a belief based on faith, confession, and inclusiveness. In the midst of conflict, Paul was trying to bring about unity.

Lent – Week 2 Recap

Week 2 of their Lenten season went on to further explore conflict and unity. In Mr. Braverman’s words:

“…we are again in the Pentateuch, in Genesis, chapter 15, God’s promise to Abram.  First, God promises progeny – count the stars, he says to Abram!  And then: “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.” (Genesis 15:18)

And alongside this, we have this account in Luke, chapter13.  Jesus is on his journey from Galilee to Jerusalem: Some Pharisees came and said to Jesus, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. (Luke 13:31-32)

Again, there is this tension:  The Genesis reading is about promise: I give you this land, this legacy of prosperity, security, and place — a place to build families, communities, a society based on my code of justice, compassion, and fairness.  God comes to man and says:  I am he, this is my name, and this is what we will create together.

When we arrive in Luke, we have fast forwarded to first century Judea, and we have what has happened in history:  Occupation.  Oppression. The project of empire to destroy family, community,  and compassion for our fellow human beings. And we have a prophet – in Christian belief, God’s gift of his only son — again, God coming to man, indeed in the form of man, and he is involved in history, sending a message to the temporal ruler, Rome’s client king:

“tell that fox that I have work to do.  Casting out demons is metaphor for confronting the ills that had afflicted the people of Judea. I am casting out the evil of empire, I am healing the sicknesses brought by poverty and oppression. I am repairing what has been damaged.”

The covenant is in conversation with history. For what is theology if not our attempt to understand our purpose in being here, and our very human effort to spell out what it is we must do in relationship with our fellow human beings and with the earth that has been given over to our stewardship? It is an effort that must be renewed in every generation, every historical period.  Such is the nature of repentance. In Genesis God comes to man, and thus begins the covenant. Be in covenant with me, God says to Abram, and I will give you progeny, sustenance, land.  In Genesis we have the vision, the metaphor for which is the good and broad land, a land which nurtures its people.  The fierce poetry of the Old Testament prophets tells the story of what happens when that vision meets history.  And in Luke we have the continuation of that tension between the vision and the reality: Kings. Client governments. The attempt to stamp out and silence resistance.

In this tension between Genesis and Luke, the space between the promise and the reality, the vision of wholeness and the work required to bring us closer to it — in this space is my personal journey.”

Again, we have a tie-back to our previous two weeks – remaining Faithful Stewards of all that we have been given. And, we have conflict. Most of all, we have Jesus’ teaching to bring about unity.

Lent – Week 3

So, now come to week 3 of Lent. To begin, we’ll go to Exodus 3:1-2: “Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he  led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the Mountain of God. And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed.”

Once again, God has come to man – Moses; and Moses came to the mountain of God, Horeb, which is also known as Mt. Sinai. The land is, again, part of the central theme of the covenant between God and the people. In Exodus 3:12, God tells Moses, “…when you have brought the people out of Egypt you shall serve God on this mountain.”

The burning bush is, still today, a symbol to the Jews of survival and restoration, of God’s promise and His covenant with the people. It is a symbol of “something miraculous, unexpected, (and) new.”

Fast forward now to the time of Jesus. Conflict is alive and well. Luke 12:1-3 tells us, “There were present at that season some who told Him (Jesus) about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

So, what’s Jesus saying? in Mr. Braverman’s words:

“Here, Jesus is teaching that an essential, perhaps necessary component of repentance is simply this:  don’t think you’re special.  And surely, this story is about repentance, in a very important, profound way.  Because repentance is often mistaken for its pale, easy substitute – a guilt offering, for example, or a facile apology or empty resolution to do better next time or sin no more. But true repentance is about self-knowledge, intense self examination.  And – and here we truly are in the preparation and build-up for Easter — it’s about hope, and it is about finding a new thing, and about knowing where to find it.”

Jesus goes on to tell the parable about a fig tree. In Luke 13:6-9, He says, “…A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, “Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?” “But he answered and said to him, “Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.””

Tending the tree and the earth – being a faithful steward of what God has given, will eventually bear fruit – even if that means we have to change what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. And, Jesus is teaching that to find the “new thing,” one must know where to look. We must examine if what we are doing, our work, is bearing fruit. If not, we must decide what we must leave behind so that we can move on to what is new and fruitful.

Returning again to Mr. Braverman’s words:

“These are prophetic times. As Walter Brueggemann tells us, the prophetic calls on us to acknowledge what has been broken, mourn for what has been lost, and yield ourselves up to the new thing that is being brought forth.

And that new thing is all humankind united in the fight for justice.  The image of the fig tree – the promise of the burning bush – is of that unexpected unity.  It is of a new thing shining forth, new growth growing out of what was barren.  Bear fruit worthy of repentance! Says John the Baptist in the account recorded in Matthew chapter 3 – do you presume you are special because you can claim lineage from Abraham? For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.

This is the fruit we must nurture – LOVE.

This is the prophetic that must unite us — Christian, Jew or Muslim is not important. It’s whether you are for triumphalism or community, for exploiting the poor or freeing them from poverty, for despoiling the earth or honoring and preserving it.

The churches in the U.S. are poised to fulfill this historic calling, as it has done before in recent history.

The words of Martin Luther King, writing from the Birmingham jail speak to us with an uncanny resonance today:

There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. The judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.

As do the words of that Jewish teacher and prophet of long ago, entering a Jerusalem that bears an uncanny resemblance to the troubled city of today:

As Jesus was approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heaven!”  Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.”  He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would shout out.” (Luke 19:37-40)

I find how Jesus expresses himself at that moment so powerful – whether praise or protest, you cannot suppress the cry of strong feeling.  And what was the praise about, after all?  It was the spontaneous response of an oppressed, occupied people – a cry of love, adoration, and sheer joy for the miracle of Jesus’ ministry – his power to heal, to inspire, to lead.  It’s a wonderful moment, and so captures Jesus in his idiom, his unstoppable response to the stifling, spirit-killing, life-denying voice of established authority.  “You can’t stop this!” he is saying.  “Nature itself, even these seeming inert stones, resonate with the joy and life force emanating from these people.”

It is time for us to do this shouting.  God loves this shouting.  This is the spirit that waters the tree of true repentance.  This is the life force, the patient, unstoppable spirit that strengthens our communities, our places of worship and our families, that nourishes our very souls.

Let us shout…Let us allow God’s Holy Spirit to so change us that, through Him, our own lives, our families, our places of worship, indeed, our communities are strengthened and united to His Glory.”

Closing Thoughts

There is no doubt that we live in a time of conflict. This is nothing new. As we have seen, conflict has been around since the dawn of man. And much of our conflict is rooted in differences in belief.

If we are to survive, and thrive, and live the lives that God intends – lives of Love and Peace – we must learn to put our differences aside. We must embrace Paul’s statement, “…there is no distinction between Jew and Greek…” People of all nations and of all faiths must Unite For Peace. As we who identify as Christians prepare to celebrate the cornerstone of our faith – Easter – we would do well to remember, embrace, and truly live the principles taught  us by He whose life, teaching, death, and resurrection we are celebrating – our Lord, Jesus Christ. May the Spirit of God give us the wisdom, patience, and courage necessary to Unite For Peace; in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Scripture

  • Deuteronomy 26:3
  • Romans 10:11-13
  • Genesis 15:18
  • Luke 13:31-32
  • Exodus 3:1-2
  • Luke 13:1-3
  • Luke 13:6-8
  • Luke 19:37-40

Acknowledgements

Mark Braverman’s Blog

Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to respectfully comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please fee free to share it.

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We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Unite For Peace – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceUnite For Peace – Introduction

For thousands of years, families, communities, and nations have been torn apart by differences of belief. These same conflicts exist today – Christian vs. Muslim, Christian vs. Jew, Muslim vs. Jew, Muslim vs. Muslim, Christian vs. Christian, and on and on and on. The time has come for us to put aside our differences and Unite For Peace.

Spiritual Quote

Toward no crime have men shown themselves so cold-bloodedly cruel as in punishing differences of belief.
~James Russell Lowell

Potential Scripture

  • Deuteronomy 26:3
  • Romans 10:11-13
  • Genesis 15:18
  • Luke 13:31-32
  • Exodus 3:1-2
  • Luke 13:1-3
  • Luke 13:6-8
  • Luke 19:37-40

Join Us

Join us each Sunday at 10:45 for worship and fellowship!

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

 

Moments of Judgement – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceMoments of Judgement – Introduction

We all find ourselves experiencing moments of judgement. Instead of judging others, use those moments to explore and find opportunities to share the message of God’s love.

Spiritual Quote

“You know you have inner peace when you lose interest in judging others and begin loving them.”
~Carole Johnson

Thoughts

Instead of a fully prepared message, today I’d simply like to talk about an experience I had this week. The experience, I’ve come to realize, has been a wonderful opportunity to turn Moments of Judgement into opportunities to experience and share God’s love.

As you know, over the last six weeks or so, we’ve had the opportunity to reach out to our community and open our doors to the homeless – providing warmth, shelter, food and drink; and even supplies such as jackets, sweaters, socks, scarves, gloves, and blankets. Our regular hours for this outreach are Wednesday through Sunday, from noon to 5:00 PM.

This last Monday, when the church was closed, a lady came in while a class was in session, interrupted the class, and proceeded to help herself to food – filling a shopping bag.

I wasn’t here – I was at the Point in Time Homeless Count. The events were relayed to me by the class instructor.

I admit that I, too, am human – and fall prey to feelings of judgement. My first thoughts were: she was greedy and selfish…

  • she thought only of herself
  • she was oblivious to the fact that we weren’t open and that she had interrupted a class
  • she gave no thought to leaving food for others

I knew who the lady was because she stopped by our table at the Homeless Count and mentioned she had stopped by the church on her way to the count. At the time, of course, I had no idea what had transpired.

Yesterday, the same lady came back into the church during Warming Center hours…this time with a friend. They greeted me, and went straight to the food table. This time, however, they were very careful about how much they took…but…

After they left, I was cleaning up and took a few bags of trash to the dumpster. On my way across the parking lot I noticed a trail of littered trash down the side entrance to our parking lot – wrappers from the food they had taken.

All sorts of thoughts began running through my head…

  • rude
  • thoughtless
  • this is how they repay our kindness – littering our parking lot
  • no respect for our neighbors

After dumping the trash, I came back into my office and started going through my desk. I had already decided on a topic for today, but was searching for inspiration. That’s when I came across Carole’s quote. And a new message came clearly into my mind. So, the message I had been working on will have to wait for another day.

In reading Carole’s quote I realized we all fall prey to judgement…and it can happen without warning. So, I went into “prayer mode,” began reflecting on my feelings, and asked for guidance from the Holy Spirit. And, in that quiet reflection, the Holy Spirit gave me two insights…

  • I came to understand I don’t know this lady, or her friend. I haven’t had the opportunity to talk with them, or to get to know them. I have no idea what their stories are. And, until I do, I need to release my judgements and simply extend God’s love to them both.
  • If and when we have the opportunity to talk, I can gently and calmly discuss the events, and hopefully use them as teaching moments in order to spread the Gospel.

Closing Thoughts

After my time of prayer and reflection, I was able to let go of my judgements. I began to fill my heart and mind with loving thoughts. And, true to Carole’s quote, I was, indeed, at peace.

And so it is, when those moments of judgement invade, take time in prayer and reflection, ask God for the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit and look for opportunities to express love. When you do, you, too, will experience inner peace.

Scripture

None

Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please feel free to share it.

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We are a very small church doing wonderful things within our community. In order to continue doing the work God has put before us, we need your help. Please consider making a donation, or sign up as a monthly pledge donor. All gifts large and small are greatly appreciated. Simply click the Donate link in the upper menu. Thank you, and may God bless your generosity.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Moments of Judgement – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceMoments of Judgement – Introduction

We all find ourselves experiencing moments of judgement. Instead of judging others, use those moments to explore and find opportunities to share the message of God’s love.

Spiritual Quote

You know you have inner peace when you lose interest in judging others and begin loving them.
~Carole Johnson

Planned Scripture

None

Join Us

Join us Sunday for worship and fellowship!

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Agents for Change – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceAgents For Change – Introduction

Tomorrow is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – a national holiday set aside to remember one of the greatest agents for peace in our nation’s history. Today I’d like to examine a few of Dr. King’s quotes, some of their ties to Scripture, and, in remembering him, we’ll discuss how they might apply to us today.

Spiritual Quote

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?'”
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thoughts

Most, if not all of us are familiar with the life and work of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Today, I thought we might spend just a little time remembering his work as an Agent For Change. And, with tomorrow being Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I thought we might discuss ways in which we can celebrate this holiday beyond what is for some, just having an excuse for a day off.

To begin, I’d like to share a little history that I found on History.com:

Martin Luther King Jr. and the Montgomery Bus Boycott

The King family had been living in Montgomery for less than a year when the highly segregated city became the epicenter of the burgeoning struggle for civil rights in America, galvanized by the landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision of 1954. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks (1913-2005), secretary of the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chapter, refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery bus and was arrested. Activists coordinated a bus boycott that would continue for 381 days, placing a severe economic strain on the public transit system and downtown business owners. They chose Martin Luther King Jr. as the protest’s leader and official spokesman.

By the time the Supreme Court ruled segregated seating on public buses unconstitutional in November 1956, King, heavily influenced by Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) and the activist Bayard Rustin (1912-1987), had entered the national spotlight as an inspirational proponent of organized, nonviolent resistance. (He had also become a target for white supremacists, who firebombed his family home that January.) Emboldened by the boycott’s success, in 1957 he and other civil rights activists–most of them fellow ministers–founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), a group committed to achieving full equality for African Americans through nonviolence. (Its motto was “Not one hair of one head of one person should be harmed.”) He would remain at the helm of this influential organization until his death.

King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference

In his role as SCLC president, Martin Luther King Jr. traveled across the country and around the world, giving lectures on nonviolent protest and civil rights as well as meeting with religious figures, activists and political leaders. (During a month-long trip to India in 1959, he had the opportunity to meet Gandhi, the man he described in his autobiography as “the guiding light of our technique of nonviolent social change.”) King also authored several books and articles during this time.

In 1960 King and his family moved to Atlanta, his native city, where he joined his father as co-pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church. This new position did not stop King and his SCLC colleagues from becoming key players in many of the most significant civil rights battles of the 1960s. Their philosophy of nonviolence was put to a particularly severe test during the Birmingham campaign of 1963, in which activists used a boycott, sit-ins and marches to protest segregation, unfair hiring practices and other injustices in one of America’s most racially divided cities. Arrested for his involvement on April 12, King penned the civil rights manifesto known as the “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” an eloquent defense of civil disobedience addressed to a group of white clergymen who had criticized his tactics.

King Marches for Freedom

Later that year, Martin Luther King Jr. worked with a number of civil rights and religious groups to organize the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, a peaceful political rally designed to shed light on the injustices African Americans continued to face across the country. Held on August 28 and attended by some 200,000 to 300,000 participants, the event is widely regarded as a watershed moment in the history of the American civil rights movement and a factor in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The march culminated in King’s most famous address, known as the “I Have a Dream” speech, a spirited call for peace and equality that many consider a masterpiece of rhetoric.

Standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial–a monument to the president who a century earlier had brought down the institution of slavery in the United States—he shared his vision of a future in which “this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'” The speech and march cemented King’s reputation at home and abroad; later that year he was named Man of the Year by TIME magazine and in 1964 became the youngest person ever awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In the spring of 1965, King’s elevated profile drew international attention to the violence that erupted between white segregationists and peaceful demonstrators in Selma, Alabama, where the SCLC and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) had organized a voter registration campaign. Captured on television, the brutal scene outraged many Americans and inspired supporters from across the country to gather in Selma and take part in a march to Montgomery led by King and supported by President Lyndon Johnson (1908-1973), who sent in federal troops to keep the peace. That August, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, which guaranteed the right to vote–first awarded by the 15th Amendment–to all African Americans.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Years and Assassination

The events in Selma deepened a growing rift between Martin Luther King Jr. and young radicals who repudiated his nonviolent methods and commitment to working within the established political framework. As more militant black leaders such as Stokely Carmichael (1941-1998) rose to prominence, King broadened the scope of his activism to address issues such as the Vietnam War and poverty among Americans of all races. In 1967, King and the SCLC embarked on an ambitious program known as the Poor People’s Campaign, which was to include a massive march on the capital.

On the evening of April 4, 1968, King was fatally shot while standing on the balcony of a motel in Memphis, where he had traveled to support a sanitation workers’ strike. In the wake of his death, a wave of riots swept major cities across the country, while President Johnson declared a national day of mourning.

James Earl Ray (1928-1998), an escaped convict and known racist, pleaded guilty to the murder and was sentenced to 99 years in prison. (He later recanted his confession and gained some unlikely advocates, including members of the King family, before his death in 1998.)

After years of campaigning by activists, members of Congress and Coretta Scott King, among others, in 1983 President Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) signed a bill creating a U.S. federal holiday in honor of King. Observed on the third Monday of January, it was first celebrated in 1986.

Agents For Change

Rev. Dr. King was one of the greatest agents for change in American history. And his ideals were deeply rooted in Scripture. I’d like to share a few of his quotes, and some Scripture that not only supports his statements, but can be used by us today so that we, too, can be Agents For Change.

  • John 13:34 – “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
  • MLK – “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”
  • Matthew 7:12 – “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
  • MLK – Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others.'”
  • 1 John 2:9 – “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.”
  • MLK – “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
  • Romans 10:12 – “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him,”
  • MLK – “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
  • Romans 2:11 – “For God does not show favoritism.”
  • MLK – “Red and Yellow, Black and White…We’re all precious in His sight.”

National Day of Service

Rev. Dr. King truly lived by the principles taught by Scripture. So can we. We just have to set our minds to it. If we simply remember these few Scriptures, and apply them in our lives every day, we too will be Agents For Change. One of the ways we can do this is by commemorating Martin Luther King Day as a Day of Service. How many of us here today even knew that there is a National Day of Service in honor of Martin Luther King Day? Well, there is. In answer to the question posed in our opening quote – What are you doing for others? –  Americans across the country come together each year on the King Holiday to serve their neighbors and communities. The MLK Day of Service is a part of United We Serve, the President’s national call to service initiative. It calls for Americans from all walks of life to work together to provide solutions to our most pressing national problems. It’s a chance to start the year off right by making an impact in your community. (Note – you can read more here.)

Conclusion

As a church, we already do a lot – and I commend you all. Let me share just some of the ways we already serve our community:

  • First and foremost, our worship services are open to everyone – red, yellow, white, black, brown, straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, those who are housed, those who are houseless, those who are dressed up and those who are dressed down, believers and non-believers alike.
  • Our monthly drum circle provides an opportunity for our community to come together and celebrate this wonderful life God has given us, regardless of our particular faith traditions.
  • Our monthly LGBTQ Coffee Social and Game night provides an opportunity for members of the LGBTQ community to gather and socialize in a safe, welcoming, and supportive atmosphere.
  • Our movie night provides the opportunity to bring the community together, to break down barriers, and to examine topical issues from a God-centered perspective.
  • Our Military Family Readiness Group provides support to the families of our military who are, or who will be, deployed.
  • By opening our doors as a warming center, we have provided warmth, shelter, and food to over 125 people in just the past four weeks.
  • And finally, through our Community Give-back Program we will be sending out over $2,500.00; providing assistance and services to paralyzed veterans, food for the hungry and needy, education of our youth, funding children’s cancer research, and providing assistance to Christian ministers worldwide in times of trouble or disaster.

As we gather for fellowship after our service, I’d like us to talk about even more ways in which we can be of service to others, individually and collectively, tomorrow and in the days, weeks, and months to come. Will it always be easy? No. It wasn’t for Dr. King, either. But, if we walk close to Jesus, as Philippians 4:13 tells us, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”

I truly believe it is when we answer Rev. Dr. King’s question that we live our lives as examples of Christ’s love shining through us, and we, too, will be Agents For Change.

Scripture

  • John 13:34
  • Matthew 7:12
  • 1 John 2:9
  • Romans 10:12
  • Romans 2:11
  • Philippians 4:13

Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please feel free to share it.

Support Our Ministry

We are a very small church doing wonderful things within our community. In order to continue doing the work God has put before us, we need your help. Please consider making a donation, or sign up as a monthly pledge donor. All gifts large and small are greatly appreciated. Simply click the Donate link in the upper menu. Thank you, and may God bless your generosity.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Agents for Change – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceAgents For Change – Introduction

Tomorrow is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – a national holiday set aside to remember one of the greatest agents for change in our nation’s history. This week, we’ll examine a few of Dr. King’s quotes, some of their ties to Scripture, and, in remembering him, we’ll discuss how they might apply to us today.

Spiritual Quote

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?'”
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Planned Scripture

  • John 13:34
  • Matthew 7:12
  • 1 John 2:9
  • Romans 10:12
  • Romans 2:11
  • Philippians 4:13

Join Us!

Join us for worship and fellowship on Sunday at 10:45 AM.

We Are A Community of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Key to Peace – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceKey to Peace – Introduction

We speak a lot about Peace – especially Inner Peace. But, what does it really mean? With all that’s going on in our lives, and in our world, how can we possibly find peace? And, what is the Key to Peace?

Spiritual Quote

“What lies behind us, and what lies before us,
are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson, Criminal Minds Episode

Thoughts

Promises of Scripture

Let’s take a look at a few promises and assurances made in Scripture:

  • Psalm 29:11 – The Lord gives strength to His people; the Lord blesses His people with peace.
  • John 14:27 – Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
  • John 16:33 – I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:16 – Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way.
  • Philippians 4:7 – And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Notice all of these passages refer to an inner peace. They speak about “the world” – tangible, material, physical – and how we will definitely have troubles in this world. But, Jesus overcame the things of the physical world and lived life completely and fully spiritual. The peace referred to is something that can only be found deep within ourselves, within our very spirit. It is a peace so deep and so profound our words can’t come close to describing or explaining it – it literally “transcends all understanding.”

Barriers to Peace

Unwittingly, we tend to create our own barriers to peace. One such barrier is not letting go of the past. We tend to hold onto past hurts, past events, past “wrongs”; and, in so doing, we give them power over our present. We hold onto these things of the past and they create a barrier to enjoying peace now, today, in this present moment.

Let me share a couple of stories by Eckhart Tolle from his book, “A New Earth, Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose”:

The Duck With a Human Mind

“In The Power of Now, I mentioned my observation that after two ducks get into a fight, which never lasts long, they will separate and float off in opposite directions.

Then each duck will flap its wings vigorously a few times, thus releasing the surplus energy that built up during the fight. After they flap their wings, they float on peacefully, as if nothing ever happened.

If the duck had a human mind, it would keep the fight alive by thinking, by story-making. This would probably be the duck’s story: “I don’t believe what he just did. He came to within five inches of me. He thinks he owns this pond. He has no consideration for my private space. I’ll never trust him again. Next time he’ll try something else just to annoy me. I’m sure he’s plotting something already. But I’m not going to stand for this. I’ll teach him a lesson he won’t forget.” And on and on the mind spins its tales, still thinking and talking about it days, months, or years later. As far as the body is concerned, the fight is still continuing, and the energy it generates in response to all those thoughts is emotion, which in turn generates more thinking. This becomes the emotional thinking of the ego. You can see how problematic the duck’s life would become if it had a human mind. But this is how most humans live all the time. No situation or event is ever really finished. The mind and the mind-made “me and my story” keep it going.”

Carrying the Past

“The inability or rather unwillingness of the human mind to let go of the past is beautifully illustrated in the story of two Zen monks, Tanzan and Ekido, who were walking along a country road that had become extremely muddy after heavy rains. Near a village, they came upon a young woman who was trying to cross the road, but the mud was so deep it would have ruined the silk kimono she was wearing. Tanzan at once picked her up and carried her to the other side.

The monks walked on in silence. Five hours later, as they were approaching the lodging temple, Ekido couldn’t restrain himself any longer. “Why did you carry that girl across the road?” he asked. “We monks are not supposed to do things like that.”

“I put the girl down hours ago,” said Tanzan. “Are you still carrying her?”

Now imagine what life would be like for someone who lived like Ekido all the time, unable or unwilling to let go internally of situations, accumulating more and more “stuff” inside, and you get a sense of what life is like for the majority of people on our planet. What a heavy burden of past they carry around with them in their minds.”

The Moral of the Story

Mr. Tolle goes on to say:

“The past lives in you as memories, but memories in themselves are not a problem. In fact, it is through memory that we learn from the past and from past mistakes.

It is only when memories, that is to say, thoughts about the past, take you over completely that they turn into a burden, turn problematic, and become part of your sense of self…Your story, however, consists not only of mental but also of emotional memory – old emotion that is being revived continuously. As in the case of the monk who carried the burden of his resentment for five hours by feeding it with his thoughts, most people carry a large amount of unnecessary baggage, both mental and emotional, throughout their lives. They limit themselves through grievances, regret, hostility, guilt.”

The Barrier of Ego

Another barrier to deep, inner peace is our own ego. Our ego loves to be built up. We build our ego whenever we claim someone else to be wrong in order for us to be right, or when we make ourselves “better” by making someone else “less.” This is what’s going on when a driver cuts you off and your holler and scream obscenities.

It’s also what’s going on when we attach judgmental labels to others, e.g. “he’s so _____,” or “she’s such a _____” – constantly strengthening our own sense of self at the expense of others. When we behave in this way, our words and actions are guided and influenced by our sense of self. We certainly don’t behave in a way that is guided by love, by the Spirit of God within us. In fact, I’ve seen ego used as an acronym for “Edging God Out.”

When we live life based on our ego, we are living in the ways of the world rather than in the ways of Spirit. Our own ego, and carrying the past, which also stems from ego, create some of the biggest barriers to living a live filled and fueled by peace.

Breaking Down the Barriers

So, how do we begin to break down the barriers? Mr. Tolle advises, “We can learn to break the habit of accumulating and perpetuating old emotion by flapping our wings, metaphorically speaking, and refrain from mentally dwelling on the past, regardless of whether something happened yesterday or thirty years ago. We can learn not to keep situations or events alive in our minds, but to return our attention continuously to the pristine, timeless present moment rather than be caught up in mental movie-making…Nothing ever happened in the past that can prevent you from being present now; and if the past cannot prevent you from being present now, what power does it have?”

Another way we can break down the barriers is to diminish our ego – that is to say, quit Edging God Out. Again, Mr. Tolle puts it this way:

“A powerful spiritual practice is consciously to allow the diminishment of ego when it happens without attempting to restore it. I recommend that you experiment with this from time to time. For example, when someone criticizes you, blames you, or calls you names, instead of immediately retaliating or defending yourself – do nothing. Allow the self-image to remain diminished and become alert to what that feels like deep inside you. For a few seconds, it may feel uncomfortable, as if you had shrunk in size. Then you may sense an inner spaciousness that feels intensely alive. You haven’t been diminished at all.

In fact, you have expanded. You may then come to an amazing realization: When you are seemingly diminished in some way and remain in absolute nonreaction, not just externally but also internally, you realize that nothing real has been diminished, that through becoming “less,” you become more…Through becoming less (in ego’s perception), you in fact undergo an expansion and make room for Being to come forward…This is what Jesus means when He says, “Deny yourself.” [Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, & Luke 9:23 – brackets mine.]

This does not mean, of course, that you invite abuse or turn yourself into a victim of unconscious people. Sometimes a situation may demand that you tell someone to “back off” in no uncertain terms. Without egoic defensiveness, there will be power behind your words, yet no reactive force. If necessary, you can also say no to someone firmly and clearly, and it will be what I call a “high-quality no” that is free of all negativity.

If you are content with being nobody in particular, content not to stand out, you align yourself with the power of the universe. What looks like weakness to the ego is in fact the only true strength. This spiritual truth is diametrically opposed to the values of our contemporary culture and the way it conditions people to behave…Jesus, in one of his parables, teaches that “When you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place so that when your hose comes, he may say to you, friend, move up higher. Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” [Luke 14:10 & 11, brackets mine.]

An Easy Exercise

In the Old Testament, who does God say He is? I AM. That’s it…no qualifiers such as “I am God,” or “I am All Powerful.” Simply, I AM. One way to find inner peace is, as Mr. Tolle puts it:

“Become conscious of being conscious. Say or think “I AM” and add nothing to it. Be aware of the stillness that follows the I AM. Sense your presence, the naked, unveiled, unclothed beingness. It is untouched by young or old, rich or poor, good or bad, or any other attributes…”

I particularly like this little exercise because it can be done virtually anywhere, anytime. It only takes a moment to close our eyes, get still, and say to ourselves, “I AM.”

The Breath of Life

Scripture also refers to the Spirit of God being the Breath of Life. In Hebrew, the word “ruach” is used to convey wind, breath, mind, and spirit; and it is often combined with other words to convey the Spirit of God.  Notice how breath is used in the following scriptures:

  • Genesis 2:7 – “…breathed into his nostrils the breath of life…”
  • Genesis 7:2 – “…in whose nostrils was the breath of life…”
  • Job 33:4 – “the breath of the Almighty has given me life…”

The Spirit of God is the breath of life. All too often we ignore the deep spiritual connection the simple and automatic act of breathing can create. Mr. Tolle offers us another exercise for breaking down barriers and creating a sense of inner peace:

“Be aware of your breathing. Notice the sensation of the breath. Feel the air moving in and out of your body. Notice how the chest and abdomen expand and contract slightly with the in- and outbreath…One conscious breath (two or three would be even better), taken many times a day, is an excellent way of bringing space into your life. Even if you meditated on your breathing for two hours or more, which some people do, one breath is all you ever need to be aware of, indeed ever can be aware of. The rest is memory or anticipation, which is to say, thought. Breathing isn’t really something that you do but something that you witness as it happens. Breathing happens by itself. The intelligence within the body is doing it. All you have to do is watch it happening. There is no strain or effort involved. Also, notice the brief cessation of the breath, particularly the still point at the end of the outbreath, before you start breathing again…Being aware of your breath forces you into the present moment – the key to all inner transformation.

Whenever you are conscious of the breath, you are absolutely present. You may also notice that you cannot think and be aware of your breathing.”

What do we often hear when someone is getting themselves all worked up? “Breathe”… or “Take a few breaths before you respond.” We even begin our worship by taking a few deep breaths and focusing on God. Why? Because it’s impossible to think about anything else when you focus on your breathing. This simple act alleviates overactive thought, brings about a sense of calm and peace, and literally fills us with the Spirit of God. Give it try now, if you like. Close your eyes and focus only on your breathing – focus on your inbreath, focus on your outbreath…focus on your chest and abdomen rising and falling with each breath…focus on how each part of your body feels with each breath. Now, open your eyes. Were you able to think of anything else while you were solely focused on your breathing?

Conclusion

Remember back to our opening today. Scripture assures us of God’s peace. The peace referred to is something that can only be found deep within ourselves, within our very spirit. It is a peace so deep and so profound our words can’t come close to describing or explaining it – it literally “transcends all understanding.” Barriers to that Inner Peace include our carrying around our past like a set of Louis Vuitton luggage, worrying about our future (which we’ve talked about before), and our own ego. We have access to the Key to Peace anytime we want. All we have to do is take a few moments every day to focus on “I AM” without attaching any qualifiers, take a few minutes to focus solely on our breathing, and practice minimizing our ego, or Edging God Out.

As our quote tells us…our past and our future are tiny matters, of little importance, compared to what lies within us – right here, right now. Being present in this moment and letting the Spirit of God breathe life into us is our Key to Peace.

Scripture

  • Psalm 29:11
  • John 14:27
  • John 16:33
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:16
  • Philippians 4:7
  • Matthew 16:24
  • Luke 9:23
  • Mark 8:34
  • Genesis 2:7
  • Genesis 7:2
  • Job 33:4
  • Luke 14:10 & 11

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Eternal Peace – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceEternal Peace – Introduction

This week, our service will take a little different tack. I left the topic open, and Carole and Marsha selected Eternal Peace. Instead of a regular message, we will have an open message – each person being given the opportunity to describe what Eternal Peace means to them. I have my own thoughts – which I’ll be sharing, too.

The term “Eternal Peace” can mean a lot of different things to different people. I look forward to hearing what it means to you.

Spiritual Quote

After a time, you may find that having a thing is not as pleasing as wanting it.
It is not logical, but it is often true.
~Mr. Spock, Star Trek Episode

Thoughts

As I mentioned, the term “Eternal Peace” can have different meanings to different people. Some think of it as something that we will have or experience once we die. Others feel it’s something we can experience now, in this life. Before I share my thoughts, I’d like to hear yours. What does the term Everlasting Peace mean to you, and why?

– Sharing Time –

Here are some ideas that were put forth by the congregants…

  • The way to achieve Eternal Peace is for the people of the world to stop fighting over religion.
  • Eternal Peace, for me, is Peace Within. With so much turmoil and depression in the world, I turn within to find peace…It’s up to me, and it’s how I choose to respond to the world around me. Do we succumb to the world around us; or do we turn inward and let the Lord guide us?
  • Eternal Peace is a spiritual state. When desiring things of the material world, everything must come at the right time and for the right purpose. If it comes too quickly we don’t enjoy it. At the same time, if it comes too late, we realize we don’t really want it any more.
  • Eternal Peace comes from within; it’s not something that comes after we die.
  • Peace is an inner calmness. Turmoil, frustration, chaos, anguish, anxiety, etc. are opposites. Sometimes it’s a matter of turning within and just being “ok with it.”
  • So, what is Eternal Peace? Well, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 3rd, 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the first Eternal Light Peace Memorial for the American Civil War and the Battle of Gettysburg.
    But, does Eternal Peace mean the end of all things? A common expression is “Rest in Eternal Peace.” Does it solely mean that all human souls come from the divinity and are ultimately reabsorbed into it, for the sole reason that men might yet have someplace in which to finally enjoy eternal rest? Is that what Eternal Peace means to you?
    Can the world be in turmoil, and you be at peace within yourself? Sure you can…it’s sometimes difficult, but you can find Eternal Peace.
    When you are at peace you can then focus on the needs of your soul, the eternal you…the spiritual part of a person, often regarded as immortal…Living Forever.
    For me, having Eternal Peace is as simple as seeing a silhouetted tree against a magnificent sunset or walking the roads of life hand in hand with the person I love; or maybe it’s seeing a single flower flourishing in a bed of rocks; or, maybe, it’s just sitting at the edge of a lake with pole in hand and looking at beauty beyond my imagination.
    I sometimes think of my life as a blob of light brown clay, and I am going to allow my teacher, God, to help guide my hands and thoughts to create something magnificent. Then, year after year of molding, I can see the once blob of clay starting to form into something I can be proud of, and the finished product? Well, that’s still in the molding stage. But the classes are great! When I do graduate, I will turn to my teacher and say, “Thank you for helping me to be the best that I can, and to feel good about myself.”
    One thing that I have learned in these classes is that life does leave marks, but it’s how you mold the unwanted marks away that leave you with Eternal Peace.
  • “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” ~ Vivian Greene

My Thoughts

For me, Everlasting Peace is, indeed, something we can experience here, now, in this lifetime. It comes from having such a strong bond with God, with Jesus, and with the Holy Spirit that we are literally filled with a spirit of peace. It comes from being content.

The dictionary defines content as, “Desiring no more than what one has; satisfied.”

Unfortunately, we’ve become a society full of discontentment. Everywhere we look, TV, radio, magazines, catalogs – the whole idea of advertising is to make us aware of what we don’t have; and to make us dissatisfied with what we do have. It fosters an attitude of “keeping up with the Jones’.” I think of Erma Bombeck’s quote – “The grass is always greener on the other side of the septic tank.” We tend to always be trying to obtain what we don’t have instead of being satisfied with what we do.

I’m not saying that having a desire for something more is necessarily bad. It’s whether those desires cause us to make unwise decisions, and basing our happiness on whether or not we get them. We tend to think, “if I had “x,” I’d be happy.”

Whether “x” is a new car, a new house, new counter tops, new clothes, a different body, a spouse, a new job, etc., etc. Then, when we get what we have been hoping for, the happiness is temporary and we quickly find something else that we lack and that, if we had, we’d be happy. Wanting and working for the basics – shelter, food, clothing – is appropriate. Letting ourselves get so wrapped up in trying to get more that we miss the opportunities the life is presenting us on a daily basis separates us from our inner peace. Will Rogers said, “We spend money we don’t have, to buy things we don’t need, to impress people we don’t even like.”

One Scripture that always helps me is Philippians 4:11. This is where Paul is sitting in prison; beaten and chained, not knowing whether he will live or die. Yet, he wrote, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content…” And a Scripture that reminds me to be satisfied with the basics is 1 Timothy 6:8, “And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.”

Did Paul enjoy being chained up in prison. No – I’m sure he didn’t. But he didn’t let his circumstance rob him of the inner peace he found in Christ. He knew, no matter the circumstance, it was temporary, but the love of God is eternal.

Now, I’m not saying we should just go along and accept our circumstances to the point of being complacent. When we become hopeless, we begin thinking, “it’s never going to get better so why even try,” and we give up. Complacent means, “contented to a fault, unconcerned.” When we become so content with our circumstances that we become unconcerned, this is contentment to a fault. With an attitude of complacency, we don’t even try.

Yoga Teacher Donna Farhi has said…

“Contentment also should not be confused with complacency, in which we allow ourselves to stagnate in our growth. Rather it is is a sign that we are at peace with whatever stage of growth we are in and the circumstances we find ourselves in.  This doesn’t mean that we accept or tolerate unhealthy relationships or working conditions. But it may mean that we practice patience and attempt to live as best we can within our situation until we are able to better our conditions.”

Eternal Peace for me is found through contentment. Not contentment in things – possessions, activities, or even other people. These things can disappear. Eternal Peace is a contentment that comes from a strong relationship with God, with Jesus, and with the Holy Spirit. This is a contentment that can never be taken away.

A Personal Story

My sister has been suffering with multiple health issues that have left her frequently hospitalized. Her brain is shrinking faster than it should (all people’s brains shrink with age); various blood vessels throughout her body are shutting down; she’s hyper-sensitive to light and sound; she has trouble thinking clearly, speaking, talking, breathing, and moving; she is 49 years old and requires a walker or a wheelchair; she suffers from involuntary muscle spasms; and she has involuntary emotional reactions – crying one minute, laughing the next. Her brain can think “call ____” and yet her brain can’t make her fingers dial the number. She has suffered for months and months and months; and has almost died several times. Through it all, she maintains the most incredible attitude – one of true Eternal Peace. She doesn’t sit around an play the pity party, she doesn’t complain, she doesn’t get angry at her circumstance. Instead, she says, “Most people say to live day by day – take it one day at a time. I’ve learned to take life moment by moment. When I’m having a ‘good moment’ I enjoy it as much as I possible can. When I’m having a ‘bad moment’ I allow myself to have the moment, without guilt or anger, knowing that it will pass in just a moment, and then another ‘good moment’ will come along.”

My sister doesn’t discuss her spiritual/religious views. But, to me, she is a living example of Paul – finding contentment in even the worst of circumstances.

Closing Thoughts

Discontentment comes from negative thinking. We think about ourselves, our problems, what we lack, how we’ve been mistreated or abused, how everybody is doing something to us, we don’t have this, we don’t have that, our spouse doesn’t understand us, and on, and on. This mindset leads to depression, and leads to complacency.

Contentment comes from a mindset that is positive. Focusing on the things of the Spirit, what happens is this world is of little consequence. And, when we struggle, Psalm 37:7 reminds us to “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.”

Discontentment, too, is a form of greed. When our lives are filled with wanting more it becomes a vicious cycle. We want more, we get more, we’re still not satisfied, and we want yet more. There will always be something else we want. To become content with what we have, we must stop comparing ourselves to others. Think about this for a moment…when we compare ourselves to others, do we compare up or do we compare down? I think we tend to compare up. We feel our lives are lacking because we don’t have more money, that new car, the bigger house, the newest gadgets. If we stopped and compared down sometimes, we’d realize how much we actually have.

Contentment comes from the Spirit of God dwelling within us. Like Paul, we can’t always choose our circumstances, but we can choose how we respond to them. And, like my sister, we can choose to see every situation as temporary. We can be grateful for the good moments; and we can remind ourselves that the bad moments are just that – moments; they will pass and soon a good moment will come again.

Scripture

  • Philippians 4:11
  • 1 Timothy 6:8
  • Psalm 37:7

Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please feel free to share it.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Eternal Peace – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceEternal Peace – Introduction

This week, our service will take a little different tack. I left the topic open, and church members selected Eternal Peace. Instead of a regular message, we will have an open message – each person being given the opportunity to describe what Eternal Peace means to them. I have my own thoughts – which I’ll be sharing, too.

Spiritual Quote

“After a time, you may find that having a thing is not as pleasing as wanting it.
It is not logical, but it is often true.”
~Mr. Spock, Star Trek Episode

Potential Scripture

  • Philippians 4:11
  • 1 Timothy 6:8
  • Psalm 37:7

Join Us

Join us Sunday for worship and fellowship!

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!