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.

Hello from Halloween Party Central! We are busily preparing the parlor and chapel for a spooktacular party tonight. I hope you will join us!

I’d like to take this moment to provide some helpful tips to grown-ups on this special holiday. We talk a lot about how to best nurture and care for our children, and Halloween provides us with an opportunity to steal their candy. So here are some tips for the sneakiest ways to steal their candy:

  1. Guide your trick-or-treaters to choose the best candy. “Brown wrappers mean chocolate.”
  2. Talk up the gross candies. “Oh, that Laffy Taffy looks so delicious! I hope you share that one with me and not this really disgusting peanut butter cup.”
  3. Teach your children good listening skills. “She said to take THREE pieces. Take THREE pieces. Grab that Kit-Kat.”
  4. Set low expectations, and justify them with health concerns. “Yeah, I will probably let you eat less than half of this collection. If you eat all of this your teeth will rot out. Too much sugar is bad for you.”
  5. Confiscate candy and place bag in an obscure, high, and unreachable location at home. “I’ll put this up in the cabinet for you. We wouldn’t want to attract rodents.”
  6. Put child to bed. As early as possible.
  7. Eat as much candy as you can. The good stuff.
  8. Slowly dispense the yucky candy, a couple per day, until the stash is forgotten.
  9. Happy Halloween, West End!  
Posted by Mandy Meisenheimer, Friday, October 31, 2014

This Sunday is All Saints Sunday. It is a day when we remember those who have died and honor their memories in the presence of God. It is a special service at West End when we will have the chance to name the people we miss and remember them with flowers and prayers. In preparing for this Sunday I found the following litany for more notable saints. Mary Lou Kownacki wrote this to help us remember their lasting legacies. I am reminded that the church is not just us today, but it is the people who have gone before us and it is the ones who will come after us. This Sunday we join the great cloud of witnesses as we are held together in the love of the Cosmic Christ. We remind ourselves of the legacies of loved ones and we wonder about what legacy we will leave.

O Cosmic Christ, 
in you 
     and through you 
     and for you, 
all things were created; 
in you 
     all things hold together 
     and have their being. 

Through Teilhard de Chardin, 
     scientist of the cosmos, 
you imagined a new heaven and a new earth. 
Through Teresa of Avila, 
     charismatic leader, 
you inspired a church of courage and wisdom. 
Through Mahatma Gandhi, 
     great soul, 
you became nonviolent in the struggle for justice. 
Through Catherine of Siena, 
     fearless visionary, 
you forged a new path for women. 
Through Meister Eckhart, 
     creative mystic, 
you refused to abandon the inner light. 
Through Hildegard of Bingen, 
     greenness of God, 
you poured out juicy, rich grace on all creation. 
Through Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 
     drum major of freedom, 
you shattered racial barriers 
     and freed dreamers to dream. 
Through Anne Frank, 
     writer and witness, 
you preserved goodness in the midst of great evil. 
Through Cesar Chavez, 
     noble farmworker, 
you transformed the dignity of human labor. 
Through Harriet Tubman, 
     prophet and pilgrim, 
you led the captives into freedom. 
Through Vincent Van Gogh, 
     artist of light, 
you revealed the sacredness 
     in sunflowers 
     and in starry nights. 
Through Thea Bowman, 
     healer songbird, 
you danced the African-American culture 
into the Church. 
Through Pope John XXIII, 
     window to the world, 
you awakened awareness to the signs of the times. 
Through Mother Teresa of Calcutta, 
     guardian of the unwanted, 
you enfleshed a reverence for all life. 
Through Thomas Merton, 
     universal monk, 
you explored the sanctity of every human search. 
Through Mary Magdalene, 
     apostle to the apostles, 
you ordained women to proclaim the good news. 
Through Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 
     musician of Holy Mystery, 
you bathed the world in beauty. 
Through Julian of Norwich, 
     anchoress and seer, 
you showed the Mother image of God. 
Through Dom Bede Griffiths, 
     marriage of East and West, 
you unveiled the divine face 
at the heart of the world. 
Through Joan of Arc, 
     defender and protector, 
you remained true to personal conscience 
over institutional law. 
Through Rumi, 
     poet in ecstasy, 
you illuminated friendship as mystical union. 
Through Maura Clarke and Companions, 
     martyrs of El Salvador, 
you rise again in the hopes of the dispossessed. 
Through Rabbi Abraham Heschel, 
     Hasidic sage, 
you answered our search for meaning 
with wonder, pathos for the poor, and Sabbath rest. 
Through Dorothy Day, 
     pillar of the poor, 
you recognized holiness as bread for the hungry. 

O Cosmic Christ, 
in your heart 
all history finds meaning and purpose. 
In the new millennium, 
     in the celebration of jubilee 
help us find that which we all seek: 
     a communion of love 
     with each other 
     and with you, the Alpha and Omega, 
          the first and last, 
          the yesterday, today, and tomorrow, 
          the beginning without end. 
          Amen.

 

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wasn’t Sunday a glorious day as all creatures of God lifted up our voices and sang? It was a privilege to meet many new furry friends and listen to stories of how animals have provided companionship in our lives.  A few people inquired about how they could obtain the prayer about animals so I have provided it here for you to pray whenever you desire. I love how this prayer reminds us to be prayerful for animals that are in vulnerable and abused positions. It reminds us to care for the animals entrusted to us and pray for ones that are suffering. (The prayer is attributed to Albert Schweitzer).  I hope you find it to be a nourishing addition in your prayers.

Hear our humble prayer, O God, for our friends the animals,
especially for animals who are suffering;
for animals that are overworked, underfed and cruelly treated;
for all wistful creatures in captivity that beat their wings against bars;
for any that are hunted or lost or deserted or frightened or hungry;
for all that must be put death.
We entreat for them all Thy mercy and pity,
and for those who deal with them we ask a heart of compassion
and gentle hands and kindly words.
Make us, ourselves, to be true friends to animals,
and so to share the blessings of the merciful.

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Wednesday, October 22, 2014

This Sunday, October 19, we’ll celebrate the holiness of all the creatures of the earth.  This is probably my favorite Sunday of the year - I just love to look out at all the pets sitting in the pews, with their sweet ears poking above the seats, their doting owners proudly introducing them to churchgoers and clergy, seeking a blessing on their furry heads. The dogs, cats, hamsters and snakes (yes, we have a snake - named “Dude”) are inherently blessed, just by their gentle beings. The choir will sing some special pieces for the occasion: a song for children called We Thank You God, for Animal Friends, the tune Bless the Beasts and the Children made famous by the Carpenters sung by young Mina Moore, and John Rutter’s setting of Cecil Frances Alexander’s poem, All Things Bright and Beautiful:  

All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all!

Cecil Frances Alexander began writing verse at a very young age. The story goes that she would hide her poetry under a rug, fearing that her father, a strict disciplinarian, would not approve. He noticed a bulge in the rug, though, and read them. Something about the childish lines touched him; he sent them to a member of the clergy at Oxford who pronounced the young author a born writer who should be encouraged! 

Some of her hymns our among our most treasured favorites: All Things Bright and Beautiful, There is a Green Hill Far Away, Jesus Calls Us O’er the Tumult, and the Christmas carol Once in Royal David's City.

Come to church this Sunday, and bring your creatures, great and small! 

Posted by Cynthia Powell, Friday, October 17, 2014

Have you ever read Scripture from the perspective of the animals? Have you ever wondered how many times an animal is the main character in a story in Scripture? It’s quite interesting to read Scripture highlighting animals. For instance, the first mention of animals is in Genesis 1:20 “And God said, 'Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let the birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.'” Job 35:11a is a particularly fitting verse as we head into The Blessing of the Animals this Sunday “Who teaches us more than the animals of the earth?” Anyone who has had a pet knows how much humankind learns from their animal friends!  In John 12:14 we see a donkey taking a large supporting character role as the donkey carries Jesus into Jerusalem. There are over 120 animal species named in the Bible from peacocks to mules to lions and gnats. Animals are important to God! Animals are important to us at West End Collegiate Church. The tradition of blessing animals dates back to Saint Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) who was known for having a special communion with animals. It is said that Francis would preach to the birds and after preaching he would make the sign of the cross to bless them. This is a joyous day of worship this Sunday and I hope to see you there. Consider joining us for Adult Education at 10:00 a.m. as we look more closely at Scripture from the perspective of animals before worship!

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Wednesday, October 15, 2014

For a blog, I was recently looking for an image of dogs being walked on the street, and so I Googled "dogs on street image." I was heartbroken by the photographs that resulted. There were starving dogs, suffering dogs, and abandoned dogs. I had to quickly leave the site.

Since little Gracie has come into our lives, my sensitivity around these issues has greatly increased. I think it's because through Gracie I experience the joy of a relationship with God's creatures—and an exceptionally cute one at that (had to include her picture!).


This Sunday we're celebrating the joy God's little (and not so little!) creatures bring to our lives. It is our annual Blessing of the Animals service, and we look forward to welcoming all of your pets into the sanctuary!

While our fuzzy pets are being blessed, I hope it stirs compassion within us for all of God's creatures. In Psalm 145:9 it says, "God's compassion is over all that God has made." May we be a community that embodies this compassion in ways that respond to the needs of God's creatures.  They are part of the beauty and miracle of creation that so enriches our lives.

Posted by Rev Michael Bos, Tuesday, October 14, 2014

This Sunday we reveal the top three beliefs that are difficult for West Enders. We’ve dedicated a lot of thought and time into preparing this series and I’m so excited about our collective conversation between Pastors/congregation/Scripture/tradition/experience/God.

I’m aware when we begin to “get honest” many emotions may arise. Yes, the truth shall set us free, but sometimes truth can be scary to address. The journey of faith for a Christian requires a commitment to self-reflection and prayerful attentiveness to God’s movements. When we begin to address beliefs that we’ve held onto for years and begin looking at them honestly, thinks shift in our soul. We may feel freedom, we may feel anxious, or we may feel a new awakening in our faith.

As we begin our series, I want to offer this hymn as a prayer for us to spiritually lean on. It is one of my favorite hymns that reminds me of the journey of faith can take us in directions we might not have originally expected and that in the midst of new directions, God is there always leading God’s people in grace and mercy.

The hymn is called In the Midst of New Directions written by Julian Rush (1985):

Verse 1
In the midst of new dimensions, in the face of changing ways, Who will lead the pilgrim peoples wandering in their separate ways?

Refrain
God of rainbow, fiery pillar, leading where the eagles soar, We your people, ours the journey now and ever, now and ever, now and evermore.

Verse 2
Through the flood of starving people, warring factions and despair, Who will lift the olive branches? Who will light the flame of care?

Verse 3
As we stand a world divided by our own self-seeking schemes, Grant that we, your global village, might envision wider dreams.

Verse 4
We are man and we are woman, all persuasions, old and young,
Each a gift in your creation, each a love song to be sung.

Verse 5
Should the threats of dire predictions cause us to withdraw in pain,
May your blazing phoenix spirit resurrect the church again.

 

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The survey results on “beliefs that bother you” are in, and we now know the top three beliefs with which you struggle. It was wonderful to see so many of you participate. It was also fascinating to read through your comments to better understand the areas that can be obstacles in your faith journey. Be sure to be at church on Sunday as we reveal the results and talk about these problematic beliefs.

Since we’re talking about beliefs, someone designed a questionnaire that matches your beliefs with a denomination. If you’re interested in seeing which Christian denomination it places you in, click here to take the quiz.

My results said I belong with the Lutherans, who I appreciate greatly. Supposedly, I’m “meant for a serious, traditional and intellectual Christianity.” It makes me sound a little stuffy, which I hope isn’t true of my faith! Which denomination does it say you be a part of?

Posted by Rev Michael Bos, Monday, October 6, 2014

One of my favorite spiritual writers of the 16th century is Saint Teresa of Avila. Teresa was a Spanish Christian mystic who was known for having a deep communion with Jesus. She reminds us that it is us who are the hands and feet of Christ now. It is us who are called to share the love of God with others. We are the vehicle through which God works in this world. She writes:

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

I love this poem and it surely stands alone. A colleague has taken Teresa’s prayer and made it applicable for the digital age. Meredith Gould reminds us that in the digital era, Christ has no online presence but ours. Take a peek at this video and let it inspire your interactions in the digital and physical world.

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Wednesday, October 1, 2014

We have always carried the notion that religious commitments shape our social and political views. But research shows the opposite may be true. We also change our religious identities to match our views.

Mark Chaves notes this phenomenon in American Religion: Contemporary Trends. This began when religion and politics became intertwined with one another, and the use of “Christian” became associated with those carrying a conservative political agenda. Chaves observes, “After 1990 more people thought that saying you were religious was tantamount to saying you were a conservative Republican.” When people began to feel that Christianity no longer represented their views, they began identifying as having no religion.

For millennials, this continues to impact their views of the church because they carry the perception that “Christians are primarily motivated by a political agenda and promote right-wing politics” (Kinnaman & Lyons in unchristian). Sadly, the legacy of mixing religion and conservative politics continues to shape religious identities as a new generation increasingly identifies as non-religious.

If congregations have any hope of engaging those who have left their religious identities behind, they need to communicate clearly that they’re interested in people’s lives, not their votes. It’s not that one’s faith can ever be divorced from one’s political views, or that at times people of faith need to seek political change. But when it seems the sole reason congregations exist is to support a political agenda, people have no problem leaving the church behind and self-identify in other ways.

For more blogs and trends by Pastor Michael, visit churchbeyondbelief.com

Posted by Rev Michael Bos, Tuesday, September 30, 2014