Blog: Random Thoughts on Sunday's Sermon

Below are some random thoughts on this coming Sunday's message.  We hope they create a little time in your day to reflect on the journey of faith and life.  If they spur any thoughts, quotes, or experiences, please share them.  God moves among us as we share with each other.

In yesterday’s sermon, we explored the first question Jesus asked his disciples: “What are you looking for?” As it turns out, it’s a question we must all ask and answer. In doing so, we begin to discover the purpose and passion that God has placed within us.

Too many of us cruise through life without a sense of purpose, and because of this, we wake up each morning just trying to survive another day. The bottom line: it’s hard to be happy and fulfilled without a sense of purpose.

To help us get in touch with our purpose and what matters most, I “assigned” homework in the form of two questions:

Question #1: If you were on your deathbed but given the opportunity to do one more thing or have one more experience, what would it be? The answer to this question has a way of cutting through all that clutters our lives to get to what matters most. (For more thoughts on this, see Daniel Haybron’s Happiness: A Very Short Introduction)

Question #2: Put aside your current job title, and ask yourself, “What would your customers and coworkers call your job title if they described it by the impact you have on their lives?” Sometimes we overlook the difference we’re already making, and the purpose we seek is in the midst of what we’re already doing. (This question is courtesy of Chip Conley, the hotelier and innovative leader.)

When we know what matters most, when we know the ways we can positively impact others, we know how to live with purpose.

Do you live with a sense of purpose? A snow day is coming, giving us all time to do our homework. In wrestling with the answers to these questions, we begin to discover how to live with more intentionality toward that which matters most!

Posted by Rev Michael Bos, Monday, January 26, 2015

This week at Pub Theology we had a full house as we discussed forgiveness. We looked at passages from Scripture, quotes, and shared our own stories on what forgiveness means to us. It was an incredible time. One of the reasons I love Pub Theology is that it gives us a chance to explore topics in a relaxed environment. We all have the opportunity to become theologians at the pub.

Here are a couple quotes that stuck with us from the other night:

From the Lord's Prayer:
"Forgive us our sins as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us" 

From bell hooks:​

"For me, forgiveness and compassion are always
linked: how do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing
and yet at the same time remain in touch with
their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to
be transformed?"

I hope to see you all next month on the 18th at 8:00 p.m. as we discuss "Do we really need Lent?"

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Friday, January 23, 2015

Andy and I are reading through some of our favorite children’s novels with our kids, this year. We are reading Beverly Cleary, Roald Dahl, C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling, and Madeleine L’Engle. But we have both noticed a phenomenon, a gap, between what we remember reading as children and what is actually happening on the page. We find ourselves editing things as we read aloud and skipping through paragraphs and explaining things, much more than we anticipated. The magic is different than we remember. Each book is just slightly off from our glowing childhood memories.

Sometimes the kids love a book, and we feel exhilarated that we have shared a piece of our history and culture with them. And sometimes they fall asleep in the middle of the chapter and wake up in the morning saying, “That book was weird, Dad.”

Our children are young. But this is the beginning of what will be a lifelong gap between our experiences and perspectives. We have a few choices — We can cling to the memories of the past and the traditions of our youth; We can insist that our cherished childhood highlights are superior to theirs; We can snub new books, new ideas, and new methods.

But what if we took the opportunity to discover the world again with our kids? To use this gap to keep growing?

Isaiah prophesies in chapter 43, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

Is human progress just a series of big events? Does God make these things happen and then sit back and watch us react? Within our families and the generation gap that exists in our homes, we can witness the progress and the movement of the Spirit just by interacting with our children. What will they teach us? What books will they bring into our lives? What truth will spring from their hearts?

Maybe my memory of the The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis is cloudy. It certainly isn’t as good as I remember. But that’s okay — there’s more magic out there to be discovered!

Posted by Mandy Meisenheimer, Wednesday, January 21, 2015

​My imagination is in full gear this Epiphany season! This past Sunday we celebrated the visitation of the Magi as they traveled to see Jesus (Matthew 2:1-12). I've been thinking about who these tenacious travelers were.  They were people on the pursuit of truth, guided by the natural world (a star!), and believed God was up to something new. Sometimes we overlook the amazing interfaith experience of the Magi visiting Jesus. Our Christian roots begin with interfaith respect and wonder! 

The Magi can teach us something about wonder. Wonder allows us to experience something with fresh new eyes. Wonder opens our capacity for compassion. Wonder helps us see old things in new ways. Wonder welcomes us deeper into the mysteries of faith. Like the Magi, may we wonder what God is up to in our lives and in our community. Like the Magi, may we trust our experience and travel the great distance of faith to experience the living Christ in our midst.  

(Nativtity, James B. Janknegt 2002)

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Christmas is one of my favorite holidays. From its religious significance to the times shared as family, it kindles within me memories of many great Christmases past.

Apparently I'm not alone. Nine in ten Americans will put up Christmas trees, exchange gifts, and celebrate with family and friends.

What do we most look forward to about Christmas? According to a Pew survey, here are the top four. At number four is the Christmas spirit of joy, peace, and love. At number three is the joy and happiness people show during the season. At number two is the time it provides for religious reflection and attending church. And at number one (by far!) is that we are able to spend time with family and friends.

I'm heartened by the reasons that people love Christmas. If we think about it, we realize that they are all a matter of choice and what we choose to focus on, which need not be confined to one month a year!

As we move into the final rush of the Christmas season, with last minute gifts to buy and packing to do, remember this: keep calm and love Christmas! In doing so we don’t allow the tasks of Christmas to eclipse the spirit of Christmas.  May the peace and joy that radiate from the celebration of the birth of Jesus be yours this Christmas!

Posted by Rev Michael Bos, Monday, December 22, 2014

Consider joining us tonight for Taizé style prayer and music. You are welcome to enjoy the peace of a candlelit sanctuary and the opportunity to connect with God this evening at 7:00 - 7:45. After Taizé, you are welcome to join us at the Dublin House at 8:00 p.m. for Pub Theology. Hope to see you tonight as we pray and engage our faith this Advent.

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Wednesday, December 17, 2014

There are so many lovely parts of this season that I wish I could stop time and enjoy it. But there is at least one part that I will be happy to leave behind in January: the Naughty list. Just this morning before we boarded the elevator in our building, a neighbor asked my children the dreaded questions: Have you been naughty or nice this year? Will Santa be bringing you any gifts this Christmas? At this point, my children look at me awkwardly, not knowing what to say. They have heard a different message from us for the past few years: Christmas is about love. We give gifts to the people we love. There is nothing you can do that will cause you to lose Christmas.

You cannot lose Christmas.
You cannot lose Christmas.

You cannot lose Christmas.

Psychologically speaking, in our household, anxiety creates problems. Less anxiety about losing presents equates to less bad behavior. But spiritually speaking, the naughty/nice dichotomy is missing the point of the gospel message for which Jesus came: We are all naughty. We are all given a great gift. In spite of ourselves.

Now the silly question about naughty and nice may not be as triggering for your family. It may be a fun exercise that doesn’t make your children nervous or anxious. That’s the beauty of grace. Rejoice that your children are so secure in your love and in their place in the family that you can be playful in this way. But when you sit down to open gifts together on Christmas morning, you might consider taking a moment to remind your kids that these moments represent love, not a reward for good behavior.

Posted by Mandy Meisenheimer, Monday, December 15, 2014

This past Sunday we had a special moment in our worship service. A family was leading the lighting of the second candle of the Advent wreath, which signifies peace. One of the little boys in the family wanted to share what he thought peace was. His mother held the microphone in front of him and he said, “Peace is when we do things to help and don’t do anything to hurt people.” This was completely uncoached!

These simple words melted our hearts and spoke truth into our lives. Too often we think of peace as the state of things. We say that we have an inner peace—a state of inner calm and tranquility.  Or we say that we want world peace—a state when war and violence cease. But this little boy thinks peace is something we do, not just a state we experience.

His meaning of peace meshes well with our sacred scriptures. In Psalm 34:14 it says, “Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.” As we think about what’s going on in our city and in the world, we need to be reminded that we will not experience peace unless we make a commitment to pursue it.

There is much that could be said about this, but sometimes the simple, unsolicited words of a boy are all that are needed!

Posted by Rev Michael Bos, Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Every Advent I return to Mary the mother of Jesus.

I read the annunciation in Luke 1:26-38 and I reflect on artistic ways people have interpreted her role in the Christian story. I read poetry (I suggest Denise Levertov's The Annunciation) and I wonder about this woman and her spirituality.

When Gabriel first shows up he offers her a greeting and then the text says she was perplexed (who wouldn't be perplexed!). Then the angel says, "Fear not, Mary!" The divine call to "fear not" happens many times throughout Scripture. When something is about to change, God often reminds us "fear not!"

I think it's normal to be afraid, or perplexed, when something new is about to happen. We may wonder about our security and recognize our lack of control over a situation. The words "fear not" are not only true for Mary, but they are true for us today.

Whether you find yourself in a changing family structure, or questions of job stability arise, or you are experiencing declining health…fear not. Let Mary's courage grant you courage and ease your anxious heart for God is with you, fear not.

(From the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth)

 

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Wednesday, December 3, 2014

West End Collegiate Church is "A neighborhood church for all people." When I read that I usually find my energy gravitating to the "all" in the sentence, but today I find myself gravitating to "neighborhood."  Who is in our neighborhood in the Upper West Side? It's a perfectly understandable question that the lawyer asks Jesus in Luke 10 "Who is my neighbor, Jesus?" Our neighborhood is home to many different kinds of people. Some of the wealthiest and well known and some of the poorest and often overlooked live on the Upper West Side. In one block you can run into someone you saw on TV last night and you can also run into a homeless person who sleeps in a storefront. This is our neighborhood and West End welcomes both to experience the love of God.

Last night at our Tuesday Soup Kitchen congregation I received the sad news that someone from our neighborhood passed away. Eric lived between 79th and 80th street. His home was newspapers, a box he would sit on, and cardboard boxes that covered him up at night. He was a sweet and quiet man. If locals asked him questions he would respond with kindness. You may remember him for his big black beard and shiny baldhead. Every time I walked to Zabar's I could guarantee Eric would be there. It is unknown why Eric was homeless, but we do know he did have a wife and two kids. Somewhere on the journey of life the concrete became his bed.

Today's post is dedicated to Eric and all the homeless who have called the Upper West Side streets their neighborhood and passed into glory. Beloved child of God, Eric, we speak your name and acknowledge your presence in our neighborhood. May you rest in peace and rise in the power of God's love. You will not be forgotten, you were our neighbor.

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Wednesday, November 19, 2014