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.

Yesterday we celebrated Recognition Sunday which was a way to thank you for the many ways you serve and volunteer. From Scripture Readers, to servers at soup kitchen, to consistory members, to ushers, to Sunday School teachers, to helping clean up, and the countless many other ways you serve we say THANK YOU!!

Church Thank you

Thank You cake

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Monday, June 8, 2015

I’m always on the lookout for prayers that are new to me. Old prayers that have been said in cathedrals around the world, new prayers freshly written by a devoted believer, and prayers pieced together trying to make sense of the greater reality of life. I recently discovered this prayer written by a sister in the Dominican order and I want to share it with you today.
Grace and Peace – Pastor Jes

A Blessing For You

May the God of the poor be with you, emptying you over and over again of all pretension, violence, or greed. May you come to recognize and reverence your empty spaces as dwelling places for God. Into the simplicity of your life may God pour all the riches of love and Divine Presence so that you in turn may be love and presence to those you meet. May the God of the poor, the God of Dependence, be with you. Written by -- ©Maxine Shonk, OP

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Last Sunday morning I told a story about spilling coffee on my son. I was a new parent with this breathtaking, precious child, and I had hurt him.  That day I was horrified with myself. I wish it were the last time I had done something stupid as a parent, but it was just the beginning of all the goof-ups, lost tempers, forgotten lunches, miss-matched socks, unreasonable expectations, and some (okay, plenty of) yelling. And my oldest is nine, so there will be more ways to mess up as my kids approach adolescence. I will mess up in ways that I haven’t even imagined yet. I have lots more “I’m sorry”s to say. 

When I told this story to the children on Sunday, my point was that we take care of those who have less power or control or strength. I was the mother, so my job was to take care of that baby. Today I bring you this story to talk to you, grown-ups. Yes, our job is to love and tend to our children. But we will fail again and again. We will lose our tempers. We will react selfishly, or out of fear, or embarrassment. We will have a harsh answer when a kind word would suffice. We will judge our children’s friends unfairly, or compare our children to others. We will leave hot coffee on a table within reach of a crawling ten-month-old baby.

But In the awareness of our collective propensity to fail, we find solace in knowing that no one has ever done it all right. We do what we can with the resources we have and we commit ourselves to growing ever more loving, but there will always be more “I’m sorry”s to say. And that’s the way it works.

Jesus brought a message of repentance when he first stepped onto the public scene in Israel. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This was not a voice of condemnation. This was good news. And if you have ever caused pain to a loved one, this is a salvation message. The burden of shame and guilt is too much to bear, but Jesus offers this simple expression, “Repent.” Just saying it out loud helps. 

"God, I yelled. I yelled AGAIN. I lost my temper and I hated what I saw in my child’s eyes."

And in repentance, Jesus is not calling us to hate ourselves, to grovel, to roll in the muck of our guilt and feel bad. He calls us to repent, to turn it around. 

"God, your mercies are new every morning. I will stand up and try again. Your kingdom is here in me."

And for a grown-up who makes fails regularly, that is good news.

Posted by Mandy Meisenheimer, Wednesday, May 20, 2015

I sometimes craft as a form of prayer. I know the Knitting Circle at West End understands the meditative quality of crafting. What’s alive in my spirit sometimes comes out in gluing, cutting, and of course, glitter. This was true for me a couple months ago when I bought a book that had hundreds of pictures of Jesus from many different cultures. In some pictures Jesus was wearing bright clothes, in some pictures Jesus was black, in some pictures Jesus was laughing, in some pictures Jesus was surrounded by people, and other pictures of Jesus were more abstract. When we say that Jesus is our guide in Christianity that might conjure up different pictures of who Jesus is. Is it the Jesus on the cross? Is it the Jesus who was angry in the temple and flipped the tables? Or is it the Jesus who said to the woman “I do not condemn”? Jesus, like us, was multifaceted.

Here is the product of my spiritual crafting I did. You can see the different images of Jesus (with my outlining in glitter!). Often I return to this little image to refocus me.

Jesus by Jes

This week, take a moment to ask yourself “Who is Jesus?” What images come to your mind? What stories from Scripture come to the surface? Who is Jesus to you?

Prayer: Dear God, help me to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Though I have many questions, by faith I will trust your leading. Through the love of Jesus, Amen.

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Wednesday, May 13, 2015

I have spent the past two months working through the Sermon on the Mount with our youth group on Sundays. The Sermon on the Mount is a concentrated collection of Jesus’s teachings, from the Golden Rule to turning the other cheek to removing the log in your own eye. If you want to get to know the preaching of Jesus, read Matthew 5-7. It’s great. It’s wonderful. It may change the way you live.

But if you want to get to know the ministry and love of Jesus, read the next three verses:

When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. (Matthew 8: 1-3)

Jesus wraps up this lofty, glorious teaching on the mountaintop. Then he descends to the valley. Here he encounters a leper – an outcast, an unclean person, someone that no rabbi would touch, and in this encounter we see the words of the Sermon on the Mount turned into real action. Jesus reaches out and touches this man. Frederick Dale Bruner says, “The gospel is in that grasp.” The words “Be made clean” may have pronounced the healing, but the miracle was in the touch. Jesus came down from the mountaintop and brought heaven to earth.

This week we continue our series, “Living the Questions” with a look at the Jesus of the gospels. As we remember his words and ministry on earth, may we be challenged by the way Jesus left the mountaintop and touched his fellow humans. The Jesus of scripture was accessible, inclusive, present, and covered in the dust of humankind.  That is why the masses followed him and why I choose to follow him today.

Posted by Mandy Meisenheimer, Thursday, May 7, 2015

Play dough is so fun! You can imagine a whole new world into being with play dough. I think of play dough when I read the creation stories in Genesis: God moving the holy play dough of the world into existence, having fun as new animals and plants come into being.

This God is creative! The writers of scripture provide us with two creation stories in Genesis 1-2 that capture the imagination. The oldest creation story can be found in the poetry of Psalm 104. And the first chapter of the Gospel of John weaves the story of creation into the incarnation of God’s living Word.

It invigorates my Spirit to know we join a long line of people of faith who told stories about God and how this world came into being; people like us who wonder what our meaning in life is and how we fit into the entire cosmos. What a playful and creative God this is. And if we are made in the image of God, then we too are people of creativity and imagination.

As we dream of building a world of justice, peace, and love, we join God in bringing forth life and abundance. May we encourage each other on in our creativity and holy imagination! Prayer: God, help me dare to dream creative new possibilities. Help me to try out new ideas and be okay when they don’t go as exactly I want them to go. Help me to join your Spirit in creating the world we desire, a world of love.


Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Wednesday, May 6, 2015

In worship yesterday, we reflected on the creation account in Psalm 104. Too often we read creation accounts in the Bible as information about how God created the world. However, these texts have been passed down and treasured, not because they answer how creation happened. They help answer the pressing question we all have: what’s my place in all of this?

Interestingly, in the Eastern Orthodox tradition this Psalm is viewed as the song of Adam. He is reciting it as he stands on the edge of the Garden of Eden, having just been banished from paradise. Adam is on the brink of entering the real world, with all its struggles and challenges, and before moving into it, he recounts creation, contemplating his place in all.

Today, I encourage you to read Psalm 104:1-24, and then read Mary Oliver’s poem “Wild Geese,” which is found below. For me, her poem captures the spirit and soul of the Psalm as we seek to find our place in this world.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Posted by Rev Michael Bos, Monday, May 4, 2015

This year we have started a monthly Writing Circle with our soup kitchen. After we have prayed in worship and after we have eaten our meal together a few of us go to one of our classrooms to write and share our stories. We write for about 15 minutes in silence and then we all have the opportunity to share what we have written. This has been a place of healing, justice, love, and connection. Here are a few pictures of our time together.

Writing Circle 1Writing Circle 2Writing Circle 3

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Wednesday, April 29, 2015

I find it usually happens if I wait too long to eat lunch. Sometimes it happens when I come home late from work and there isn’t dinner ready. When I’m tired and prolonged hunger sets in I get hangry, hungry and angry. These are the moments that I’m not pleasant to be around. Perhaps the hangry pains happen to you, too.

In today’s passage in Mark 11 we see Jesus also experiencing hanger. After his triumphant entry into Jerusalem he spends the night in Bethany. After waking up he and the disciples head back to Jerusalem. It says that he was hungry (as I imagine anyone would be traveling) and he goes to the fig tree to find food, but instead curses it because there is only leaves! With the pains of hunger, Jesus enters the temple with intensified emotions. It is in the temple that Jesus is angry at the money changers for making God’s house a place of merchants instead of prayer. So he flips the tables in his irritation and cleanses the temple.

I love Holy Week because we see a very real and authentic Jesus, a very human Jesus. He has needs like we do (hunger!) and gets upset like we do (flipping the tables) and expresses to God that if there is any other way for this week to end that God make it happen and prays “But not my will, but yours be done.”

Holy Week challenges our impulses of a sentimental Jesus and instead we are welcomed to experience this Divine/human full of a range of emotions. Our savior knows what’s it’s like to be human and to be in need and upset and I find that incredibly comforting.

As we observe Holy Week this year, I invite you to join us this Thursday at 7:00 PM as we reflect on the Last Supper and Jesus focused love until the very end of his death.

Traveling the road of Holy Week with you – Pastor Jes

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Tuesday, March 31, 2015

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.


Posted by Mandy Meisenheimer, Friday, March 27, 2015