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.

I haven’t recognized any TV or movie actors on the street for a few months now. When I first moved here from Michigan, I saw people I recognized a couple of times per month. Last week I wondered if winter had just scared everyone inside, but that’s not it. The actor-per-capita ratio is not diminishing in Manhattan. The truth is, I’m just not seeing people anymore. After almost three years in the city, I have stopped looking at faces as I pass them. I don’t see people.

If you are an NYC-native, you might have always navigated your way down the street in anonymity, not recognizing or being recognized. This isn’t some kind of cold detachment; this is urban survival. “Do not engage” is rule number one in most scenarios, and the D.N.E. approach serves us well in the city. But everything is supposed to change on Sunday morning. We walk through the doors on 77th street, and our eyes meet the eyes of others for the first time all week. “Hello and welcome!”, we say to strangers and friends. We actually see the faces of those whom we would have dismissed on the sidewalk outside.

I may have rubbed shoulders with you silently on the subway, but I’ll speak to you now.

At least that’s the way it is supposed to be at church. But sometimes it’s hard to transition from commuting in the safety of anonymity and D.N.E. We may sit in the pew and gaze forward, just as if we were on a bench on the train. We may politely nod at others, but largely ignore the sea of people around us. We may grab our bite to eat at the Sunday luncheon and sit next to other people rather than with other people. That’s okay. West End is a refuge for all, and that includes people who would rather worship in anonymity. But maybe you find yourself having trouble transitioning from sidewalk to pew. If so, I encourage you to see people. Open your eyes, and recognize and be recognized. Let this community be a place where your soul comes through your eyes.

Engage.

Posted by Mandy Meisenheimer, Friday, March 27, 2015

Can you believe that we are nearing the end of Lent and Holy Week is fast approaching us? This Sunday Christians around the world join together to observe one of our most important weeks, Holy Week. It begins with the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and the people waving palm branches as they cry out “Hosanna!” which means “Save us!” The week continues with the observance of the Last Supper on Thursday night where we reflect on John 13 and Jesus’ love to the very end. On Friday, we observe the crucifixion of Jesus and we will hear the Seven Last Words of Jesus read in worship. The dynamic week concludes with Easter Sunday as we celebrate Resurrection hope!

There are many ways to observe Holy Week and you are invited to attend the prayerful services of reflection next week. 

Sunday, March 29  at 11 AM – Palm Sunday

Wednesday, April 1 at 7 PM – Taizé prayer and singing

Thursday, April 2 at 7 PM – Holy Thursday

Friday, April 3 at Noon – Good Friday Reflections

Sunday, April 5 at 11 AM – Easter Sunday Celebration

However you choose to observe Holy Week we pray it is a time that you experience the presence of God in the love of Christ.

 Palm Sunday

Triumphant Entry Into Jerusalem by He Qi

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Mandy reminded us on Sunday in her Children’s Message that Saint Patrick was a great man who befriended his enemies and loved those who once did him harm. Beyond the beer drinking, shamrock shakes, and wearing green, Saint Patrick can teach us a lot about a life lived in the love of Christ. Here is a portion of his prayer that has been memorized and passed down through the centuries. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,
Of Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord. Amen.

St Patrick

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Tuesday, March 17, 2015

I was coming home from a church Christmas party in 2013 when I heard the news that Beyoncé had released a surprise album complete with a music video for each track. I spent the night listening to each song carefully and watching the artistry of each music video. I love pop music and I’ve always loved Beyoncé, but with this album the queen stepped up her game!

Her feminist anthem ***flawless featuring Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie quickly became my favorite from the album. On this track Beyoncé fiercely stakes a claim in the pop culture feminist conversations (which there were quite a few in 2014!).

I still love the song, but as I think about Christian discipleship I wonder about the aspirations of desiring to be flawless. Jesus Christ, in whom we know and experience God’s love, didn’t come into the world when we were perfect and flawless. Instead God meets us in our flaws and imperfections. Christian discipleship isn’t about perfectionism and flawlessness, but it is about God’s grace and mercy in our flaw-full existence.

Through our failures and flaws we experience the transforming grace of God and get back up and try again. This Sunday we are continuing our series on where is God in our failures. My hope is that we will be people who don’t aim to be flawless, but instead be gracious and prayerful with each other as we grow together flaws and all!

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Friday, March 13, 2015

Many thanks to everyone who participated in our annual Talent Show fundraiser on Sunday! It was inspiring to see our church come together to support our youth service trip to Arizona this July. Someone wrote me afterward to say that the event reminded her of the shows that she would create with her cousins and perform for all the aunts and uncles at family gatherings. I cannot think of any greater image for this inter-generational event. Our performers, bakers, and donors ranged from five-years-old to, ahem, older. And in the chaos of that diversity, we showed what a church family looks like. Before the Talent Show, we celebrated Youth Sunday. The children and youth took on all the elements of the worship hour, from the Call to Worship to the Benediction. Our children’s choir sang and senior high school student, Derek Bishop preached. (You can find his sermon on our church website!) What a blessing these young people are to our community!

Posted by Mandy Meisenheimer, Wednesday, March 11, 2015

People often wonder what Chesterton meant by this. Was he advocating that poor performance is acceptable? He was not. Instead he was warning against the rise of professionalism in which there is no room for amateurs.

Many of the most important things we do in life we do as amateurs. Our roles as parents, siblings, friends and neighbors are all things we do as amateurs. The many hobbies we pursue are done as amateurs. These are all things worth doing, but not for any financial reward or public praise. We do them because of our love for the people involved and the passion we have for these things. We don’t always do these things well, but we know that it is important that we’re the ones doing them.

The Apostle Paul wrestled with his shortcomings and failures, and he begged God to remove them and wipe the slate clean. In the end, God told him “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

What Paul learned from this is that sometimes it is more important to faithfully pursue what matters most than it is to be seen as a success. We may struggle and stumble along the way, but that’s ok. God is still at work. God is at work when we devote ourselves to doing what matters most, even the times we do it badly!

Chesterton

Posted by Rev Michael Bos, Monday, March 2, 2015

What comes to your mind when you think of home? I think of a place that loves me and where I can let me guard down. I think of good food, good company, and a place where I can be comfortable. I think of laughter and a space to share stories.

We work hard to create a home for those who receive food from and those who volunteer at our Soup Kitchen on Tuesday evening. From the hands that prepare the delicious food, to the hands that serve it, to the hands that eat the food - we are making a home together. It is a collective effort of many hands and hearts who come together because our faith inspires us to serve the most vulnerable.

Last night we had a full house in our home. Many hungry people and thirsty souls are seeking to pray together. As one woman was sitting down with her food she caught my attention and whispered to me, "Pastor Jes, I am home here." I smiled gently and told her "Yes, this is your home. You are loved here."

With tears in my eyes I thanked God from the bottom of my heart for what happens at our Tuesday night soup kitchen and worship. It is a vision of love, respect, and joy; home!

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Today is Ash Wednesday. It is a day marked by prayer, confession, and smudges of black crosses on people’s foreheads. The black smudge of ash is a sign of our mortality and that we live and die in the care of God’s mercy. When the black ash is crossed on the forehead the words from Ecclesiastes 3:20 are spoken “from dust you came to dust you will return.” I love Ash Wednesday. It is one of my favorite liturgical days of the year. It is a chance for us to contemplate what it means to belong to God, body and soul, in life and death. It is a chance to loosen our tight grip on life as we attempt to rest in the care of God’s love. Tonight at 7:00 p.m. you are invited to pray and worship at our Ash Wednesday service. We will serve communion and you will have the opportunity to receive ashes. We’ll be looking at the practice of confession and how confession is a catalyst for freedom. Lenten blessings of God’s rich love to you all.

Ash Wednesday Cross

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Wednesday, February 18, 2015

As we’ve explored the spirituality of happiness, we’ve covered many themes, but none is more powerful than the importance of our relationships.

1 John 3:14 expresses it well: “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another.”

As a reflection on this passage, I offer the words of Paul Tillich, a towering intellect and one of the most influential theologians of the past century. These words did not come in a theological tome, but in a short sermon based on this text.  

“For love is stronger than death. Every death means parting, separation, isolation, opposition and not participation. So it is, too, with the death of nations, the end of generations, and the atrophy of souls. Our souls become poor and disintegrate insofar as we want to be alone, insofar as we bemoan our misfortunes, nurse our despair and enjoy our bitterness, and yet turn coldly away from the physical and spiritual need of others. Love overcomes separation and creates participation in which there is more than that which the individuals involved can bring to it. Love is the infinite which is given to the finite. Therefore we love in others, for we do not merely love others, but we love the Love that is in them and which is more than their or our love.”

Posted by Rev Michael Bos, Wednesday, February 11, 2015

During youth worship hour two weeks ago, I asked my students to call out some temptations that students might face in middle school. Their list ranged from laziness to chocolate to social media to suicide, demonstrating the full range of the adolescent experience. As we compared their temptations to the temptation of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, we discussed Jesus’ ability to resist temptation. Jesus knew who he was as a Jew, as a child of God, and as the one with whom the Father was “well pleased” in Matthew 3. When faced with an opportunity to do something against his identity, Jesus refused. So how does an adolescent, a person who is still establishing her/his identity, resist the temptation to do things that are not healthy or safe or wise?

As Gen Xers and Millenials are raising today’s teenagers, we know better than to tell a young person what to wear or what kind of music to prefer. We leave wide spaces for our children to pursue their unique interests, careers, hobbies, and affiliations. We would never be caught telling our child what instrument to play or what book to read or what person to love. But as we create a safe environment for our children to cultivate their own identities, we must not stop telling our children who they are:

You care about people.
You care about yourself.
You care about learning.
You are a kind person.
You are generous with those in need.
You are good with animals and all of creation.
You respect people.
You are healthy.
You are safe.
You are wise.

Of course this feels like wishful thinking. We would rather say, “You are a selfish, spoiled teenager!” and it would be totally true. But when we affirm these statements we are calling into being the identity that is often drowned by all of the other messages that our teenagers hear. We are being prophetic parents, who look past the pimply present and see a future of wisdom and kindness. If you tell your child that she is kind, then in that moment of temptation, in that moment when she must choose between bullying or stealing or glaring or belittling, she may say in her mind, “That’s not me. That’s not who I am. I am kind.”

Posted by Mandy Meisenheimer, Friday, February 6, 2015

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