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.

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

I want to borrow from the greater Christian tradition today and write on the Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene.

Different canonized saints have their particular days when we reflect upon their legacy and life of faith. They are people of faith, like you and me, who sought the path of Christ. A saint is not a perfect person, but their life of faith has the possibility to inspire us in new ways. Canonized saints, though, have special feast days because something particularly striking in their faith journey has the potential to help illuminate our path with Christ.

I have a particular joy for the Feast Day of Saint Mary Magdalene (July 22). In John 20:11-18 we see Mary as the first disciple of Jesus to whom the resurrected Christ appears. She, a first century woman, is the first person Christ calls to tells others about the resurrection. She became the apostle to the apostles. For many female ministers she provides a source of strength and confirmation of our calls. For all people, we learn about the courage she had to trust that Christ had called her name and the courage she had to share with others about her experience with the resurrection.

Mary Magdalene is a complex character like so many of us. She has the possibility to teach us about courage and that God calls all sorts of people to share about the resurrection. 

How does Mary Magdalene inspire and challenge your faith?

Mary

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat_2, Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I was recently riding the subway where we were packed into the train. There was very little breathing room and people's attitudes were impatient and vocally upset. I was in the middle of the train car doing gymnastics just to hold onto the pole. This was a very anxious situation. I felt stuck. I hate feeling stuck in tight spaces. I began to breathe heavily. The guy next to me noticed that I was not doing well. He looked at me and kindly said, "Are you claustrophobic?" I nodded as I focused on my breathing. I said to him "Distract me." Much to my surprise he warmly reminded me to breathe deeply. He then told me a story about biking around Manhattan that even produced a laugh from me. Before I knew it the car had emptied out and my anxiety calmed down.

Total strangers and yet he was God's presence of peace in my life.

The next day I was walking down Amsterdam and a guy yelled out to me "Hey!" I turned around and it was the subway guy, who I now endearingly refer to as my subway yoga instructor. I was able to thank him because he was the one that assured me that everything was going to be okay and the train wasn't going to crash, and we weren't going to be stuck under the subway, and rats weren't going to come walk over us, and (well you get the picture what anxiety does). He reassured me of peace.

As I preached this past Sunday, peace is not the absence of anxiety, but peace is the assurance of God's presence in the midst of anxiety. My subway yoga instructor, a complete stranger, was God's peace in the midst of a very anxious situation for me.

When have you experienced God's peace in the midst of anxious situations?

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat_2, Wednesday, July 16, 2014

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