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.

Last year I wrote a newsletter article about our amazing five-year-old members. We have a population surge, all vintage 2009, and they are all entering kindergarten this year. With that in mind, here are some key things to know about our fantastic fives:

(Adapted from The Secret of Play: How to Raise Smart, Healthy, Caring Kids from Birth to Age 12 by Ann Pleshette Murphy)

  1. Kindergartners are still growing their internal moral compass. They are "preoccupied with rules, fairness, good guys, and bad guys”. Murphy notes that “Five-year-olds who ‘cheat’ at games are figuring out a moral code.”
  2. Kindergartners need times during the day to be bored. “Unstructured and unrushed time—plain old boredom—encourages your child to invent, create, and explore his/her interests at his/her own pace.” And Murphy gives this great tip that goes against our natural instincts: “Most importantly, leave your child alone when he is really engrossed in something. Experts call this ‘flow,’ being so totally wrapped up in what you’re doing that you lose track of time. This state of mind is a very satisfying place, so try not to interrupt, even if that occasionally means skipping a bath."
  3. In the fifth year of life, your child is beginning to make sense of family connections, studying other families, and noticing differences and similarities. You can help your child understand their support system by explaining links to the important adults in his/her life. These may not be biologically related family members, especially in our urban, transient culture, but Murphy notes that studies indicate that “the more caring adults your child has in her life, the better off she’ll be."
  4. Kindergarten is a common place to see self-soothing behaviors. Transitioning from pre-school to kindergarten can be a tough experience, and our five-year-olds often cope by nail-biting, thumb-sucking, nose-picking, and other habits.The Secret of Play recommends that we keep those little hands busy with small toys, modeling clay, and other fidgets. It is also important to deal with the underlying stresses that increase such behaviors. Kindergarten is a great age to teach basic yoga, breathing techniques, and other ways of managing anxiety.
  5. Five-year-olds walk. Unlike their younger siblings, five-year-olds don’t get the benefit of cruising in a stroller anymore and this brings new safety challenges to the forefront. Five-year-olds need constant reminders about street safety including cars, crossing intersections, strangers, subways, and simply getting lost. Murphy suggests playing games together that require the child to “freeze” on command. Attune your child to that word. Our children hear the word “stop” all day long and often ignore it. But if they “freeze" on command, then they may react more quickly in a real time of danger.

The Secret of Play is available in my office and offers some great ways to engage your child’s growing mind. For more tips, check it out!

Posted by Mandy Meisenheimer_2, Thursday, September 11, 2014

Yesterday, Pastor Michael wrote about being inspired by our Collegiate Church history from the recent New York Times article. It’s a great article that I encourage you to read on the topic of religious tolerance. It has inspired me to ponder what exactly we mean when we talk about religious tolerance in 2014? How does the life of Jesus speak to religious diversity? What does it mean to be a person of a particular faith in a City of many faiths? Does our Scripture illuminate stories of religious tolerance?

I know many of you have asked (are asking!) similar questions so I thought, “Hey, let’s get together at our Pub Theology next week and discuss this topic!” A week from today we will gather at the Dublin House Bar & Tap Room to talk about religious tolerance, our roots, and our hopes. If you’ve never been, consider coming. If you come each month, we look forward to seeing you, again. It’s an informal environment to talk about topics that matter to us, create community, and experience God’s presence. Hope to see you there.

Religious Tolerance: Returning to our roots!

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat_2, Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Kierkegaard said that “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” As we begin a new sermon series about find purpose in life, we must begin by taking stock of our past.

As a congregation we have an incredibly rich and long spiritual legacy in the city that goes back to 1628. Russell Shorto recently wrote a piece in The New York Times about our legacy. He says that  “In founding New Amsterdam in the 1620s, the Dutch planted the seeds for the city’s remarkable flowering.” Our congregation was founded by the Dutch during that time and helped create the DNA of what would become New York City.

While considering our past, it has me wondering how God is calling us to help the “flowering” of the city today. This inspires me to dream big. I doubt our founders had an inkling of what would become of their work, and who knows what God will do through ours!

As we enter a new year, let’s allow our past to inspire our future!

Posted by Rev Michael Bos_2, Tuesday, September 9, 2014

William Longstaff (1822-1894) penned a poem after hearing a sermon on the subject of holiness. The preacher emphasized that one actually needs to take time to be holy or more spiritually evolved. While we may long to become so and pray for that with all our hearts, it is not something that just happens all of a sudden - ‘Zap! - you’re holy.’ It requires a consistency of time - thinking, meditating, reading, reflecting, and doing through the daily application of what we learn.

Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.
Make friends of God’s children, help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.

Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret, with Jesus alone.
By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.

Sounds good! What about walking the walk of this poem? The commentary on the hymn’s second verse by Gordon MacDonald, chancellor of the Denver Seminary, resonated with me:

"Take time …" But I don't have time.
"The world rushes on …" And I am busy rushing with it.
"With Jesus alone …" Huh? And turn off my iPod and text messaging?
"Thy friends in thy conduct his likeness shall see …" Don't expect me to be that kind of example.

Longstaff’s poem was published in a Christian newspaper, and years later the composer George Stebbins set it to music.  It has been a favorite now for more than a century. We’ll sing it this Sunday, September 7th, after the sermon which is on this topic. Another old-timer, full of good old truths!

Posted by Cynthia Powell_2, Friday, September 5, 2014

My Facebook newsfeed is peppered with pictures of kids going back to school. The pictures are usually accompanied by the parent expressing one of two sentiments. Option 1: A teary post with nostalgia about how fast their child is growing up and having a hard time letting go. Or, a slightly more comical post in Option 2: Praise God summer vacation is over and they are out of the house!

Whatever the emotion is I am praying for our kids who will be entering new schools, returning to friend groups, and learning in their classrooms. May God bless them, keep them safe, and grant them wisdom as they grow into who God is calling them to be. I am praying for all of the parents, as well. May God grant you wisdom, joy, and patience in the year ahead as you parent.

I discovered this prayer and offer it to our parents as you pray for your children this year. Never underestimate the power in praying for your children!

Thank you, God, for your Spirit growing in (name of child).
Thank you for their curiosity and creativity,
for their energy and imagination,
for their ability to make friends and work and play with others.
As I send them to school,
give me grace to let go,
making room for this year’s new teachers and new friends.
Help me to trust that you will always be close to them.
Keep them safe.
Stretch their spirit
and feed their mind
with everything that is wise and good and holy,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat_2, Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Typically I would blog about the coming sermon, but I just finished reading an article (http://www.christiancentury.org/article/2014-08/persecuted-pakistan)  by a friend, Titus Presler, who is the principal of Edwardes College in Peshawar, Pakistan. After reflecting on his experience (he was recently beaten by those who oppose a Christian presence in the country), I felt compelled to focus on this instead.

What struck me most about his article was that while addressing the problems within Pakistan and with Muslim extremists, which includes his own beating, he did so without demonizing or maligning Islam. In fact, amid the tensions he found sanctuary in the home of a Muslim friend.

I’m inspired by this, because the words from Sunday’s congregational prayer still echo within me: “O God the Creator, we pray for all nations and peoples. Take away the mistrust and lack of understanding that divide your creatures; increase in us the recognition that we are all your children.”

This is one of those things that is easy to pray but difficult to practice. I’m great at recognizing someone as a child of God when he or she is volunteering at the senior center. But when someone threatens the lives of others in the name of religion, it’s not so easy!

To be honest, I’m not sure how we reflect this toward those who demonize and provoke us. But I’m convinced that we must strive to do so if there is any hope for humanity. A good place to begin is to continue to pray that God will take away the mistrust and lack of understanding that divide us, and increase in us all the recognition that we are all God’s children.

Titus offered a prayer as he drove away from his attackers. Before reading it, I encourage you first to imagine what you would have prayed in such circumstances. 

Posted by Rev Michael Bos_2, Monday, August 25, 2014

A ministry team selfie! Pastor Michael, Pastor Jes, Mandy, and Cynthia are busy planning worship and Christian Education for the year!

mega selfie

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat_2, Wednesday, August 6, 2014

West End Collegiate Church is hosting a “Workshop of Wonders” on August 25-29 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. for children going into kindergarten through 5th grade. If you would like to register your child for VBS, please RSVP to mandy@westendchurch.org by August 10.

About the Workshop of Wonders:

At the Workshop of Wonders (WOW) VBS, discover how the ordinary becomes extraordinary with God! Meet people from the Bible including Esther, Ezra, and a young boy, who used what he had to produce something amazing with God. We will spark their creativity and originality to build their faith at activity centers including interactive Bible storytelling, crafts, science, recreation, music and snack. Workshop of Wonders VBS engages kids' hearts, minds, and imaginations to participate in the creative life of God, the one who works wonders!

So join us for a fun-filled week! But don’t forget to RSVP so we can save your child’s space.

Vacation Bible School

Posted by Mandy Meisenheimer_2, Friday, August 1, 2014

Over 10,000 sandwiches have been made by your hands to feed the hungry and homeless since last August. Hundreds of people have come through our doors and we have been able to serve food to people in need. Not only food, but we have prayed with people searching for solace from God our Creator. You have provided sleeping bags and clothing to those in need, as well. So many of you have helped prepare the food as well as serve it.  Your smiles and warmth have communicated God’s love to hundreds of people each Tuesday. This picture represents just a few people who have recognized the joy of service.

Soup Kitchen helpers

Thank you for not forgetting the poor. Thank you for recognizing that Jesus had a special focus for caring for the poor. Thank you for sharing the love of God in countless ways. I think of this poem by Teresa of Avila when I think of all the service that you have participated in this year. God bless you and may we always know the joy of service even with our very busy schedules.

 

Christ Has No Body --- Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)

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.

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat_2, Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I was talking to a teenager here in the city and he was telling me about some of his older friends who had already graduated from high school.

“They all turned out okay. Except one.”

“What happened to that one?” I asked.

“He didn’t get into the college he wanted to go to. He had to go somewhere else.”

“And?”

“That’s it. He had to go to the other school.”

New York City is a thrilling and competitive and exciting place to grow up. With access to world-class museums, libraries, and cultural experiences, students in the city lack for no educational stimuli. There is competition for each classroom placement from preschool to college and it is based upon many factors, both within and without a parent’s control. By the time a student is in high school, the pressure is a familiar friend.

As an outsider and educator trying to get accustomed to the educational systems of New York I see an interconnecting web of opportunity, resources, and excellence. But as a minister, talking to a kid on the street about success, I also see some things that we can do as a church community to support our young people through this process, a rigorous gauntlet that hopefully drops them off at the doorstep of their preferred university or trade school or web start-up.

We must convey to our young people that success in life is not defined by or confined to access to your chosen educational institution. There is life after college. There is life outside of college. There is life at a college that wasn’t your first choice. There is life in staying home with your parents for a year to save money. There is life finding an unconventional, non-accredited education through connections and apprenticeships. How can we convey our unconditional support and pride for our young people in our church community? Here are two ideas:

  1. Are you tempted to ask the big three questions? (What college are you going to? What is your major? What do you plan to do with that degree?) Try some alternative questions. What are you passionate about right now? What kind of person would you like to be become? Where are you interested in living someday? What kinds of connections are you looking for?
  2. Celebrate the achievements, no matter how mundane. There is popular wisdom out there with regard to the self-centered millennial generation. This wisdom says that when we give all the kids a trophy and tell them all that they are special, they grow up lazy and entitled. I would like to suggest the very opposite. When I graduated from high school and college, I thought the fanfare was absurd. I did not even invite my parents to my college graduation. Graduation was just a formality for me. But looking back, I realize that no matter how assumed it was that I would graduate (or pass AP tests, or play in the orchestra, etc. etc.), it is in celebrating these mechanical successes that I could learn a major life lesson: Life and success are found in the mundane.

When we only celebrate our students when they accomplish something unexpected or unique or special, we teach our students that very misguided value that they must perform well to make life worth living; we teach our students to be dissatisfied with the mediocrity of daily life. And the truth is, most of life is a series of mundane, expected tasks.

If my son or daughter were talking to someone on the street about the successes of their friends someday, I would hope the conversation would go something like this:

“They all turned out okay. Except one.”

“What happened to that one?” I asked.

“He is miserable because none of his ideas are succeeding yet. He just can’t find a way to be happy in the struggle.”

“And the rest?”

“They are working hard, finding satisfaction in relationships and community, and pursuing their goals one step at a time.”

I know. 18-year-olds don’t usually talk that way. But if we can train them to see success in the everyday breaths of life, they may learn, years before we did, that success is not found in an acceptance letter.

Posted by Mandy Meisenheimer_2, Friday, July 25, 2014

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