Saturday, August 13, 2022

Welcome the Stranger by Lavera Wade

Research shows there are no less than ten scriptures that speak of welcoming the stranger.

My favorites are Matthew 25:37 those who welcome a stranger welcome Christ.

Hebrews 13:1-2 - Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels, unaware.

There is much written about welcoming strangers and showing hospitality.  Today I am writing of the angels who have shown me hospitality and welcomed me a stranger.

A long time ago my husband and I found ourselves lost in Helsinki, Finland.  I saw a woman coming out of a church and I went to her and asked her if she could direct us to the Art Museum.  She replied “you are very lost, take the trolley that way toward town.”  I advised I had no euros for the trolley could I buy some from her?  She reached in her purse took out 4 euros waived away our money, and said “hurry or you will miss the trolley”. So, we ran as we called over our shoulder our thanks.  We were so grateful for her kindness we walked home from the museum so we could save the euros as a reminder of her kindness, and example of how to treat others on our way.  The euros sit in a prominent place on our book shelf, and as I dust, I often ask a blessing of the angel that showed us such hospitality in a strange land. 

My husband and I recently moved to a new town and it has been a joy to get to know my neighbors, a couple of them are leaving for work very early in the morning when I am often found working in my garden. We exchange waves quietly so as not to disturb still sleeping others.

Again, I was am the stranger who is welcomed. 

We are blessed when we are given the opportunity to show the face of Christ to others by helping them in some small way.  We are likewise blessed when we recognize the angels who touch our lives with a friendly wave, even if we do not know their name.


Thursday, June 16, 2022

God’s Spirit Whooshed Through the Pines by Brad Martell

It was a couple of days before the Community of Christ Cromberg, California Family Camp.  Lori and I flew into Sacramento earlier to spend time with our friends Ruth and Mike Seagraves and their family, before we all packed into the cars and headed off to camp together.

Ruth was the director and had asked Lori and I to be guest ministry for the week.  Lori and I were excited to experience a new campground and family camp, spend time with cousins who would be there, and share in ministry.

As we were sitting around talking and laughing, Mike told us that their middle daughter was going to be baptized during camp by her grandma (Mike’s mom).  This just added to the anticipation and joy of the coming week.  For the baptize Mike was going to play guitar and sing, but was not finding the right song.  Lori asked if he knew the song “O Sun” by Peter Mayer (https://nam04.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.petermayer.net%2F&data=05%7C01%7Csdecker%40cofchrist.org%7C24a578d8b0104c9e147108da4e36288a%7C8afd0cc8f92c4ae0a7e2e6d4b8382b4e%7C0%7C0%7C637908291766263451%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C3000%7C%7C%7C&sdata=KUWOIfjD9ldlSwl%2BVlJb7RzBLXT6ROXNl1ymBsmi7gM%3D&reserved=0).  Mike loved it and began writing out the music and learning to play it.  Now the house was filled with Mike strumming a few chords, the scratch of his pencil on the paper, more strumming, humming . . . by the end of the day he could play it by heart.

At Cromberg campground they have an outside baptism fount.  It is up the hill from the cabins and tucked underneath towering pine trees.

When the time came for the baptism service the camp made its way up the hill gathering around the fount.  Warm sunlight filtered down through the still pines.  Bird song and twitters gave welcome to the sacred moment.  Beginning with hymns we joined our voices with the avian choir in that church of pines.

As granddaughter and grandma descended into the pool of water, Mike began to play “O Sun.”  The song is about being filled by the sun, wine, and wind.  The lyrics express sacramental language of asking to be filled by life, strength, and breathe.  And to help us shine, to be opened-wide, and to pour forth the same life and love we receive from God through blessings of community, unity in diverse, sacredness of creation, and worth of all persons.

During the second verse of the song that asks “O wind, come fill me” a gust of wind whoosh through the pines surprising us all.  At the end of the verse the wind was gone.  As Mike finished the song, I looked at him and his face was just radiating with the huge bewildered smile that seemed to ask the same question I was pondering: “Did that really happen?”

When the service was over some of us practically sprinted down the hill to download the video that was taken of the baptism onto a laptop.  We hit “play” in wonder and anticipation.  “Did that really happen?”  It did!  That gift of gusting wind filled the pines, filled Mike’s and Ruth’s daughter, filled all of us with God’s Spirit in that sacramental moment.

This was a baptism experience I will not forget as God’s Spirit whooshed through the pines!

Monday, April 18, 2022

Easter Sunday by Seventy Gil Martell

After the other women left, Mary was alone.   She wept for her dead beloved friend.  They had found the tomb empty.  Mary was crushed even further in her anger, disappointment, emptiness, and hopelessness.  She tried being strong, offering comforting to the others.  She hadn’t known her dear friend as long as them, being a new comer to his circle of friends.  She felt forsaken, fearing of what was to become of her now.

She hadn’t slept or eaten for days.  When she tried to eat, to satisfy the other women’s wishes, she became sick.  She was exhausted ready to collapse to the ground.  Her eyes were red and swollen, cheeks raw, and mouth dry with cracked lips.  She forced herself to breathe.   

She and the other women came to the burial site to finish burial anointing.  Discovering tomb open, body missing, and burial linens laying in the dirt, they feared grave-robbers had come in the night.  Mary shivered in the morning air and wrapped her shawl tighter, finding neither comfort nor warmth.  Horrified, broken, and distrait, Mary lost all sense of her surroundings.  Her pain pierced her, as if, it had been her body nails were driven into.  Sorrow and anger tangled in her mind as she tried understanding why her dear, kind, caring companion was so brutally killed - crucified.  

She wished her dear friend was still alive.  He accepted her for who she was and never judged her past.  He invited her into his intimate circle of friends and followers.  Many who had betrayed him, denied him, abandoned him, and hidden in fear.  She had hidden in fear, too.  Could she have done something to prevent his death?  Maybe she was the blame, for what she had been, that brought about the crucifixion.  Had she betrayed, denied, and abandoned him? 

He, yes he had accepted her.  Do the others truly accept her or do they just tolerate her, now to abandon her?  She had not always felt welcomed or approved by the community, especially the men.  She felt the others’ resentment as their teacher invited her on errands or to talk and pray together.  What was she to do?  She could not return to her old way of life.  Confusion and devastation rang loudly through her mind. Mary thought of her own death.

Deep in thoughts of despair, Mary was oblivious to the presence of someone with her.  But something within nudged her to look up.  Through her glazy-unfocused eyes she assumed it was the gardener.  “Do you know where they took him?”  Unsure if she spoke aloud or just thought it?

Then she heard her name. “Mary.  Mary it is I, Jesus, your beloved friend. I live, and now, I also live within you.

Mary’s mournful tears turned to tears of hope, being filled with the Spirit of Peace.  Bright morning sunlight comforted and warmed Mary.  Before her was a banquet of beautiful colors, sweet bird song, and her beloved friend, Jesus.  She wept tears of joy, rushing to tell the others that Jesus was alive. 

The biblical story of Jesus’ resurrection reminds us that Easter is also the celebration of OUR RESURRECTION in Christ’s Mission of justice and peace.  Jesus calls us to gratefully receive and generously share God’s blessings of joy, hope, love, and peace. 

Our lives, communities, country, and world are experiencing great exhaustion and fear from pandemics, the economy, civil unrest, violence, war, and the Climate Crisis.  And yet, we are called out of the pain and suffering to be filled with the Spirit of Peace.

Let truly celebrate Easter as Mary did, rushing forth, restored with peace, joy, and hope to share that CHRIST LIVES -- experiencing fuller God’s loving reign even now. 

Amen.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

*Joy*, Because of Him by Lavera Wade

A friend gave me a card a few days ago, it said “Joy, because of Him”, as we celebrate the Easter season, and spring is in the air this card was certainly appropriate for the time.  But what is joy?

I recently read the difference between pleasure, and joy can be described as, pleasure is when something happens to you, it is all about you. Maybe an ice cream cone on a summer day, a walk near the river, the laughter of a child.  Joy is when something happens to you that is so wonderful, you feel you must share it with others.  A celebration, a wedding, a promotion, the birth of a child, a new puppy.

At Easter we celebrate Jesus’ sacrifice, and that he was risen.  The story of Jesus tells that he came to share the good news that God loves us.  Jesus also told us that we must love one another.  As disciples we try to live as best we can, in the example that Jesus lived.

“Be kind” seems to be the best we can strive for, as we go about our daily lives.  There is so much need in the world, one could feel overwhelmed and unable to think of what to do to help others.

On my way home every day, I come to an intersection where two roads merge, it would be almost impossible for those coming from the left to merge, if those on the right did not open up space by slowing or stopping.  Without exception, they do.  It is like a dance, who are these people who show such kindness?  Unknown strangers, who let others into traffic every day.  Kindness is the result of small, simple, actions.  We are all given the opportunity to show kindness to strangers, as we go about our lives.  Most often it takes a moment to move out of our busy minds, and notice what’s happening around us. Share a smile, or let someone in line.

We know joy because of Him, we share that joy by simple kindness shown to others.

Friday, March 4, 2022

Giving up Judgement for Lent by Lavera Wade

I grew up in the Methodist church and was not raised to practice abstinence as a part of the Lenten season.  After I was baptized in Community of Christ, I felt called to engage in a Lenten practice. 

Giving up chocolate did not speak me, so for that first year I gave up “the need to be right”.  As I told everyone. This is not forever, it is 6 weeks, with Sundays off.  It may not be perfect, but I will try.  It was an amazing experience, and when I tell the story I find many relate to my struggle with the need to be right.

It is many years later, and last year I chose to give up judgement.  This year I find I wish to complete more work on judgement.  It is not a topic you can explore in six weeks.  In fact, much of this last year has been learning about the topic.

Last year included a great deal of time and study that spoke of “it’s not all about me” and other studies such as white privilege and social justice.

I have not been spending a lot of time thinking about how judgmental I may be.  But how many of us can honestly say we are not, and where did the beliefs come from that result in judgmental attitudes.

I am reading and amazing book titled “Beguiled by Beauty, by Wendy Farley.”  The chapter on non judgement is what spoke to me about Lent this year.

In the book she speaks of being open to gentleness, patient with others who may be struggling and acting out.

Looking at the world with curiosity, as in” I wonder what that is all about.”  Rather than diving into prefabricated assumptions about what is happening around us.  Even if we are right, and others are wrong, contempt for others is damaging to the Spirit. 

And first and foremost, stop judging myself.

To quote Julian of Norwich (an ancient mystic) “Our Beloved Mother God does not condemn what she has made, and neither should we."

And so, a little abstinence during Lent, is an opportunity for introspection.  After all it is only six weeks with Sundays off, and does not have to completed perfectly, if one at least tries.

Or there is always chocolate.   

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Meditation on Hymn “We Shall Overcome” By Roberta Tilden

 We shall overcome – I remember fervently singing this song when I was in high school.

I remember watching innocent people being beaten with clubs and attacked by dogs just because they wanted equal rights.  Been there done that.  I thought we had overcome fear and prejudice permanently. Wrong, wrong, wrong.  Here racism is rearing its ugly head again.

What is a person to do?

Fortunately those of us who belong to Community of Christ have a real vehicle for change at our disposal.  We have been encouraged to proclaim Christ and create communities of Joy, Hope Love, and Peace.

I do believe that we SHALL overcome one person at a time.

Walking hand in hand to create communities where people truly respect each other, and love diversity is our calling and our hope.

We can pray for peace but we must also work for peace.

Will we live in peace someday?  Perhaps that is up to you and me. 

Violence and racism can be catching, but so can Joy, Hope, Love, and Peace.  Live your commitment to the Christ and someday we will live in Peace.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Hope of a New Year by John VanDerWalker

 As 2021 comes to an end most of us are probably looking forward to 2022 with anticipation.  When we closed out 2020 a year ago most were quite optimistic about 21 thinking that we had been through the worst of the upheavals.  Well as we head into wave 5 of the pandemic, we look at 2022 with guarded hope.

Advent season, the time of waiting, is over.  Jesus is born!  The story of a baby born under questionable circumstances into a family in poverty under a brutal political regime and an unforgiving religious realm is a poignant reminder of how extraordinary God’s choice was with Mary and in the that place and that season of history.

Unlike Jesus, I am a part of the dominant culture in my society.  I have been employed my entire adult life and have always lived in a home, and while there have been times when things were a little tight, I have always been well fed and warm.  While my faith community at one time used questionable tactics to help me modify my behavior, I have never been oppressed in anyway by my religion, and the government I live under is in a constant state of reinvention, some of which I am thankful for and some—not so much.

The point I am trying to make is that the coming of Jesus means something different to me than it would to a teenager in Central America, a child in India or an Adult in Russia.  Yet, Jesus’ coming is universal in its promise of Joy, Hope, Love and Peace.  There can always be more Joy, more Love, more Hope and certainly more Peace.

The message of the angel to Mary and Joseph was to “Fear not.”  We may have much to fear because of how things are right now, but really most of us have enough and we are very blessed to have each other.  In the story of Jesus’ birth, we are reminded that Joseph and Mary faced the coming of their son alone and when they asked for help, there was no room for them.  But God provided community by calling shepherds to attend the family and men of means to help provide for the future. 

May the God who put the hope for humanity in the womb of a teenage Palestinian girl place the hope of a bright future for you, your family and congregation, in your heart as you celebrate the coming of Jesus.  Enjoy your time of celebration and as you spread the cheer of the season always remember, God is with us, around us, in us and binding us to each other and to creation.  What kind of love is that?