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.

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

I’ve recently discovered this prayer by Marianne Williamson and I have found it to be a helpful prayer to start my morning in the church office. I'm passing it on to you as we begin again, new and fresh, each day. God’s mercy is close to you. – Reverend Jes Kast-Keat

Dear God,
Thank you for this new day, its beauty and its light.
Thank you for my chance to begin again.
Free me from the limitations of yesterday.
Today may I be reborn.
May I become fully a reflection of Your radiance.
Give me strength and compassion and courage and wisdom.
Show me the light in myself and others.
May I recognize the good that is available everywhere.
May I be, this day, and instrument of love and healing.
Lead me to gentle pastures.
Give me deep peace that I might serve You most deeply. Amen

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Wednesday, February 4, 2015

It’s happened to me before. Perhaps it has happened to you, too. I’m hanging out with some people that are in the acquaintance category of friends. We might be in the middle of wine and one of them asks me “Okay, Jes, you’re a minister. I mean that’s super cool, but really, you’re into that Christian thing…why?” I’ve had this happen in the middle of my hair being cut, at a wine bar, and in the middle of a tattoo being finished (which was a little terrifying and I asked if that would hinder his artistry. Happy to report it’s a beautiful tattoo!).

Maybe you’ve had someone ask you that question, too “Why are you a Christian?” Maybe you’ve asked that of yourself!

It’s a great question that can be responded to in a variety of ways. This September I've been invited to speak at the national conference Why Christian? curated by NY Times Best Seller Nadia Bolz-Weber and popular Christian blogger Rachel Held Evans on this very topic. Along with 11 other diverse storytellers we will explore what attracts us to Christianity, what keeps us Christian, and what questions we have in a changing Christian culture.

For me, participating in the life and ministry of Jesus is my short response to Why Christian. Jesus disrupts, comforts, forgives, challenges, heals and shows us what it means to participate in the communion of God’s grace. I look forward to expanding these thoughts at the conference September 18-20 in Minneapolis!

What about you? How might you respond to the question Why Christian? 

If you are interested in attending this event you can find the details here. I welcome the West End Collegiate Church family to consider attending this great conference. Although the event is eight months away, half of the tickets are already sold so I encourage you to check it out soon!

If you can't come to the event and are interested in participating in this conversation consider joining us for Adult Education each Sunday at 10:00 a.m. and at our monthly Faith Forum after worship, where we look at this question from a variety of angles!

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat_2, Wednesday, January 28, 2015

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_2, 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_2, 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_2, 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_2, Wednesday, January 7, 2015