200 Years and Counting!

This year, our church is celebrating 200 years of Methodist mission and ministry in the town of Barnstable. Just like the founders of the Methodist movement, Methodists began gathering in homes in Marstons Mills and Osterville, and soon those gatherings led to the building of a place for worship, learning, and mutual support and accountability.

Ours is a movement of small groups, be it John Wesley and his brother Charles meeting in a dorm room in Oxford in the 1720s or Lewis Hamblin and Eldred Baker, Sr., who lived in a part of Marstons Mills known as Hamblin’s Plain, gathering in 1819. From small groups, the churches in Marstons Mills and Osterville were built. In 1968, those churches would merge, at the same time our global church was merging with other denominations, forming the United Methodist Church at 57 Pond Street in Osterville, part of the global denomination, The United Methodist Church.

Looking back on our history, our living story gives us the opportunity to notice what has changed, and what remains the same. It invites us to look closely at who we are and how our faith and traditions shape us. It reminds us to tell the stories of our community and our faith, to share what we’ve learned from mistakes and failure as well as celebrating successes.

It’s fun to imagine the changes our churches have seen in the last 200 years. Almost none of our members come to worship on horse anymore, and as a pastor in the 21st century, I have never been paid with fresh produce nor livestock. The changes in technology alone are staggering to consider. And certainly, the villages and town of Barnstable have grown in ways I wonder if our forebears could imagine.

One of the questions I hear from time to time is, “Is there any place for the church in the 21st Century?” Throughout our history, the church both locally and globally as a denomination has found itself too often on the wrong side of history. We’ve known too much our share of racism, sexism, classism, elitism, heterosexism, and more. And yet, you’ll also find us hard at work, living our call to “Seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.” We don’t always get it right, but we rely on grace to learn from our mistakes and grow in our depth and width of compassion.

I see this growth in grace and compassion in the courage and resilience of our congregation, the people who gather at 57 Pond Street, to rise after each challenge and struggle. In times of grief, suffering, division and fear and uncertainty, our church has sought to be faithful. We have weathered much, and still, we are reaching out into the community, to feed the hungry, offer hope to the hopeless, and to live the love of Jesus.

I see this growth in grace and compassion in the 1992 congregational decision to become a Reconciling Congregation, to publicly declare that all God’s children: gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender are welcomed here. We continue to live into that witness, grieving the decision of our global denomination earlier this year. We stand, as we did in 1992, in opposition to exclusion of anyone based on identity. We stand on the side of God’s wide-open welcome and limitless love and compassion for all God’s people, GLBTQIA +.

200 years after our founding, I would argue the church is still needed, for similar reasons that led to our founding. We offer a place where people can gather to experience love, community support, and accountability. We offer a group of people who will surround you care and compassion when life is really hard, and celebrate with you life’s victories large and small and share the warmth whenever joy is yours. At 57 Pond Street, we offer a safe place to explore faith and doubt, to discover and rediscover who and whose you are. We offer a weekly reminder, that you are loved, just as you are called to love. We believe this love makes a difference in our church, in the community we serve, and through the work of our connectional church, around the world. Together in Christ, we are committed to serve.

Join us as we celebrate, this Sunday, September 15 at 11am!

*This blog post was also submitted to the Cape Cod Times.

Drawn In: Hover

Luke 4:1-13

“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “One does not live by bread alone.”’ Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, ‘To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.”’ Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,” and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.”’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”’ When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.”

May these words ignite our holy curiosity and creativity. Amen.

Message: Hover (preached August 18, 2019)

So often we hear this story at the beginning of Lent, and it offers a jumping-off place into our own Lenten practices. How will we fast from something, or pick up some new habit for the season that will bring us closer to God? Or, on hearing this text, we focus on the temptations of Jesus, and in the introspective tradition of the season that leads us to examine our own temptations and how we will resist them.

But this morning, I wonder. Could we pause to look at the story just a little differently?

Jesus is launching his public ministry. We don’t really know what he’s been doing for 30 years. We have a glimpse that at around age 12 (give or take) he spends some time in the temple, leaving his parent terrified on the way home, only to find him “in his father’s house.”

Based on his stories told about his ministry, we’re told he attends sabbath gatherings “as was his custom.” So, we assume that he’s spent these thirty years, learning in the temple, sitting at the feet of rabbis, taking in all that he can about God, himself, the world, the people around him.

We know he’s been baptized by his cousin John. Announced and affirmed by the voice of God. Now is the moment, the moment to begin the public ministry as the son of God. What does he do? Does he head into the streets of the cities to announce his arrival?

No. He goes into the wilderness. “Led by the Spirit,” said Luke and Matthew. Mark tells us Jesus was driven. John says nothing about this particular story.

The time has come to begin to change the world, and Jesus retreats it seems, to fast and pray in the wilderness. What is going on? He’s had thirty years, why isn’t he ready?

We’re not told, only that the spirit leads him into the desert, to a place he will meet with the opposition, and face testing and temptation.

Jesus will have just three years to invite his disciples to follow him, to invite people into a new way of living, to challenge the status quo, the religious leaders of the day, to be a new kind of king, for an entirely different kind of Kingdom. Three years to change the world, with his life, his love, his death, and resurrection.

And he begins that powerful, world-changing three years, by taking a 40-day retreat in the retreat. A 40 day time of temptation and trial that will help him focus on who he is and what he is about.

He is the son of God, fed and fueled by the word of God, not a bread-making magician.

He is love incarnate, not a valentine hearts and flowers kind of love, but a love that is more powerful than all things, a love that is more powerful than death, he is love and he worships at the feet of no one and nothing but God.

He is the Christ, and there is no need to test God, to prove anything, he knows who and whose he is.

Not only does Jesus know who and whose he is, he knows what he is about, he has been sent, not to end hunger for a short time, but to teach his disciples how to feed sheep.

He has been sent, not to rule over a few cities and nations for a time, but to teach his disciples how to build a new kindom, here and now, where all are fed, safe, loved, called.

He has been sent, not to prove his identity, his worthiness, but to invite others to experience the life-changing, healing power, of love, to experience not just wellness but wholeness.

Jesus takes time, alone in the desert, to focus on who and whose he is, and what he about. He has three years…

As our creativity series draws to an end, this is not an end, but rather a beginning, a time to spend some time with the spirit, rediscovering, reclaiming, who and whose we are and what we are about. It is a time to refocus, to see to what mission, ministry, project or person God is calling us.

As the news is filled with mass shootings, violence, and children separated from their families by war, famine, violence, and our own governments, I want answers. I want to know how to end the violence, how to stop the separations. I want God to appear, and more than that I want God to give us three easy steps to stop gun violence, three easy steps to rectify the immigration system, three easy steps to solve the global refugee crisis. I want answers. I want to know how to make a difference.

But I don’t know.

What I do know is God is already at work in the midst of detention centers, refugee camps. I trust God is in the midst of every act of violence. And I trust the wisdom and creativity of God to have solutions, but we must listen. I trust the Spirit has wisdom bigger than any party, bigger than any divide or division between us.

Pay attention to how God may be speaking to you. It won’t always be a voice from the heavens. Sometimes it is the headlines that awake within us a deep compassion and a holy, righteous answer, on behalf of God’s children.

Sometimes it is an inner nudge, a stirring that leads us gently, yet firmly.

Sometimes it is an urge that just won’t go away, a desire to do something.

Is God calling you to start something new?

Is God calling you to follow someone else’s lead for a while?

Is God calling you to teach or to learn, to stretch or to rest?

Is God calling you to forgive, to mend a relationship, to focus on just one person?

God calls each of us, at different times, in different ways.

Sometimes the call is to rest.

Sometimes it is to play.

Sometimes it is to serve, to create, to lead.

Sometimes it is to listen, to absorb the pain of another, to walk with the suffering.

To what is God calling you?

Drawn In–Rest

Exodus 20:8–11
“Remember the sabbath day,
and keep it holy.
Six days you shall labor and do all your work.
But the seventh day
is a sabbath to the Lord your God;
you shall not do any work—
you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.
For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
but rested the seventh day;
therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day
and consecrated it.”

May these words ignite our holy curiosity and creativity. Amen.

Message: Rest
Our son Charlie was just over a year old. It was an ordinary afternoon, I don’t even know what day of the week it was. We were all busy doing something…cooking, cleaning, playing, just normal afternoon stuff, and Charlie disappeared. One minute he was there playing with his toys and the next…he was just…gone.

We asked Ellie, “Where’s your brother?”

“I don’t know.”

We searched high and low and under and over. We searched inside closets, and in the bathtub, and under our bed, and under the sink. We checked the basement (had he fallen down the stairs?). We checked the backyard, though I’m pretty sure he didn’t know how to open the door yet. We searched everywhere (we thought) and were just beginning to really panic.

We searched everywhere (we thought) again, and finally checked…his crib. And there he was, sound asleep, having put himself to bed for a nap.

Just over a year old—it never occurred to us that he would be sleeping, in his own bed, put there voluntarily.

What is it about rest, that we learn to fight it as babies, and never stop trying to defeat it? How many of us have held crying babies, who desperately need sleep, but who fight it with every fiber of their being as we rock, and sway, and sing and pray, and rub their tired brows, fighting—to the very last—the thing they need most.
What is it about rest, something we spend at least a third of our lives doing, that we try to act like it’s something we don’t need, and something we can live without?
What is it about rest, that when searching for a one-year-old, his own bed was the very last place we thought to check?

What do we have against rest?

Ours is a society that values work, productivity, energy and “get-up and go.”
We value doing rather than being and it goes back generations. Consider the Yankee work ethic, built on the shoulders of the puritan work ethic. Idle hands are the devil’s playthings….

This might sound really obvious to you, but it was in college that my spouse, Sam, pointed out that sleep and rest are often used as signs of weakness in the movies. (Hunger and eating often are too.) The hero stays awake, while the one in need of saving, sleeps. Somehow, Hollywood has convinced us that basic human needs are a sign of weakness.

And yet…

And yet, God rested. God, creator of all things and everything, God rested. God took a moment to reflect, to consider what God had made…all the things God called good…God took a moment and what’s more…God invited, commanded us to do the same. To stop. To ponder. To reflect. To notice.

To rest….and God invites…even commands us to the same.

When was the last time you rested with God? When was the last time you played with God, enjoying creation, enjoying yourself, enjoying God?

So often, too often, we fill our calendars to overflowing…with tasks, and appointments, and responsibilities, and obligations, that we forget, or overlook, or undervalue resting…stopping, simply being.

We know that rest, play, downtime are good for us…it changes our brain chemistry, it reduces the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. Rest is good for our brains, our bodies, our souls. Rest strengthens our creativity. Naps are proven to help us perform better on tests. Productivity in offices increases when there’s time for daydreaming and play.

We know this and yet we fight it.

The to-do list of our lives and our world is never-ending. There is always something to do and something to be done. What if you added sabbath keeping to your to-do list?

What if you treated it as sacred as any other appointment on your calendar?

You wouldn’t stand up a doctor, so why would you stand up God?

This week, how will you practice sabbath?
Will you walk along the beach with God?
Will you wake early and take in the sunrise?
Will you lay in the grass and ponder?
Will you play board games with your family, or enjoy a special meal?
How will you take a sacred pause, take in the beauty of God’s creation, the wonder of the world, and give thanks to God?

Drawn In: Listen

Acts 16:6-15

They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. When they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them; so, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleasing with him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them. We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. On the sabbath day we went outside the city gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.’ And she prevailed upon us.”

Message:  Listen (Sunday, July 28, 2019)

Sometimes the answer is no.

Somehow no has gotten a bad rep…but it’s really quite a wonderful and powerful word.
It signals our desires.

Do you want a cup of coffee? Yes, please.

Do you want sugar in it? No, thank you.

“No” signals clearly, and really quite simply, our wants and desires.

Onto this little tiny word…we pile all kinds of stuff. We create stories of what it might mean…rather than hearing it as it is.

Brene Brown in a number of her books explores the stories we tell or create to explain someone else’s words and actions.  I commend any of her books to you.  The concept is pretty simple. I ask you if you want to go to the movies with me. You say no. I hear that no, and immediately tell myself that its because “You don’t like me. You’ve never liked me. Not ever since the time, I suggested Old Yeller. Clearly, you hate me, and you hate movies, and you hate dogs.” That kind of thing.

Or, to insert your own illustration.  How many arguments have you had with your spouse, child, friend, or anyone you’re in a relationship with that was not about the thing we’re arguing about, but rather, about the stories we’re telling ourselves…it’s not about the toothpaste.

It’s human nature to create stories, to tell ourselves stories to explain the world.  Telling ourselves stories can be helpful, life-saving even.  I see a snake. The story I tell myself, “There is a poisonous snake.  It will bite me.  I will die.”  It’s a short story, but effective.  I avoid the snake.  Stories can be helpful, but they can also get in the way of clear, direct communication.

Sometimes no means just that…no. We can ask why, but we won’t always get the answer. We can imagine the why…but this can land us in deep, troubling water of our own creation.
Which brings us back to the Holy Spirit?


I’m glad you asked.

Our lesson today, from the gospel of Acts, shows the disciples traveling to spread the news, the stories of Jesus. And sometimes the Spirit intercedes, not this time with sighs too deep for words, but this time, with a big, bold no. The disciples were forbidden by the spirit to go to Asia. We don’t know why…we could imagine why—danger awaiting them, terrible weather, people out to kill them…or maybe it was that the spirit had other plans…plans like getting Paul to Lydia.

Sometimes the answer is no…because it’s leading to a great big yes.

The key…is to listen. Really listen. To spend time in prayer and meditation, to spend time not just giving God our to-do list…but listening for the wants and desires of God.

So often with creativity, we think the creative part is the work part: the painting, writing, etc and so on. But part of creativity is the unseen part: the preparing, listening, wondering,  what if’ing, imagining, and so on.

To listen, really listen is to allow God to partner with us, in such a profound way, that at each step in the process, we’re open to the holy saying, “No,” not yet, not that way.

When we’re really listening, we’re more open to making changes. More open to heading in a different direction.

Without this openness, we begin to rely to heavily on our own wisdom and we begin to believe that we, not God, have all the answers.

If we remain open to the Spirit, we can hear nos for what they are: not failure or rejection, but rather the opportunity to move, learn, grow in a different ways.

To remain open, to listen deeply and prayerfully to the voice of the spirit, is a lot less exhausting then trying to have all the answers ourselves, or control the whole process. When we let go, when we listen deeply, God can energize us and our creativity..and the possibilities are endless.

Isn’t it time for us, as individuals, as a community of faith, and even our denomination as as whole to let go of the idea of control, and listen deeply for the wisdom and leadership of the Holy.  To heed the holy no, and listen for what’s next.

Drawn In: Risk

**Ever a work in progress, we’re trying to find a new way to share weekly sermons.  Until we do, I’ll be posting them here.

Matthew 25:14-3

For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

“Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

May these words ignite our holy curiosity and creativity. Amen.

Message: Risk (July 21, 2019)

Anybody a fan of karaoke? May I confess to you that while I speak in front of people at least once a week, and have done so for 17 years now, I find singing in front of people really, really scary. Especially, karaoke…

It seems that those who excel are not necessarily the best singers, who know the tune and can find the pitch (that helps of course). No, the best karaoke singers are the ones who hold nothing back. Those who sing from the pit of their stomachs, from the tips of their toes. As far as I can tell, what makes karaoke fun, at least from the perspective of the audience is less about skill or even knowing the song, but so much more about singing with all that you are…throwing your whole self into it. Risking vulnerability and yes, even ridicule.  Better to watch a tone-deaf four-year-old singing with wild abandon, then a professional singing half-heartedly.

Remember that movie duets…or maybe that episode of Gilmore Girls where Lorelai professes her love in a song? Karaoke requires courage, the ability to take a risk, to lay it all on the line…and hold nothing back.

Perhaps our servant in today’s story should have tried karaoke.

In our gospel lesson today Jesus tells a story about a man who calls his servants to him and gives them money. To one he gives 10 Talents—worth more than 80 years worth of wages.

To another—5 talents. And to the last, just one talent, which remember is 16 years wages…or so that we can wrap our head around it…in today’s market, someone working in Massachusetts for minimum wage, and spending none of it, could make ½ million dollars in 16 years.

Ok…so the master gives them a lot of money. One begins to trade…and he doubles the money.  So too does the next one.  And the third…he picks up a shovel, digs a hole, and buries it.

Now it’s worth noting, as one scholar I read did, that this burying would have actually required more physical energy than simply taking it to a banker. A banker would not have been hard to find. It would not have been at all difficult for the servant to invest the money with a banker. It would not have been at all strange or unusual. The servant invests more energy into digging a hole.

And what happens when you put your money in a hole? The same thing that happens when you stuff it in a mattress or a coffee can…nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Now the boss comes back, not surprisingly delighted by the fact that the first two servants have doubled his money. And the third, he opens his response by insulting his employer. When is that ever a good idea? And when he reveals that he has done absolutely nothing…the manager is not surprisingly angry.

Which brings us to you and me.  Each of us has been given, by the ultimate creator, gifts, and talents, for the sake of the world. How often do we bury them? How often do we expend more effort pretending we don’t have them, or they’re not good enough, rather than developing them, sharing them, shaping them, using them?

It’s only when we put ourselves out there that God can bless and multiply our gifts. It’s only when we take a risk, when we are courageous and vulnerable, that God can truly double our talents for the sake of others.

Our church is turning 200 this year. And we have risk-taking in our DNA.

Two communities independently took the risk to invest in a building, one in Marstons Mills, another in Osterville.  Two separate groups of people stepped out in faith to offer the community, the village, a place to gather and worship and learn and serve. What if no one came? What if no one gave? What if the effort failed?

In 1968, those same communities would risk merging, joining two communities into one, building a new building where their mission and ministries could become one.  What if it didn’t work? What if the two communities couldn’t work together? What if too many people left and found other places to worship, grow and learn?

This church has taken risks. Think about the first-ever Holiday Fair…someone had to say “Let’s try it!” And could they have possibly imagined what it would become, a community event, welcoming people from all over the Cape and beyond not just to come and buy crafts, but to experience warm hospitality and joy, in church!

This church has risk-taking in our DNA.  Twenty-six years ago, our church became the first Reconciling Congregation in the New England Annual Conference.  The first to publicly stand in non-conformity with the Discipline of the United Methodist Church to proclaim that all God’s children are sacred, without exception, and that all are welcome here. A risk we continue to take in the name of sacred hospitality.

This church has taken risks, stepping out in courage to add the addition, to add staff, to bridge financial gaps. Individual leaders have taken risks to try a new project, learn a new skill, invite a friend to worship.  Just in the last year, this church took a risk, to invest in and install solar panels, for the good of the planet, our children and grandchildren, our church.

How many times has this particular community of faith, as a community or as individuals chosen to lead. Each fundraiser, each mission project, each time someone chose to join the choir, or teach Sunday School for the first time…each new idea, project, ministry a risk, an opportunity to succeed beyond imagining or to learn from failure. All requiring courage, determination, and a willingness to trust in God.

How many times has this community been willing to risk for the sake of the gospel, for the sake of building god’s kingdom in the world?

And how many times have we chosen to bury our talent, taking not just the safe route, but stopping growth, and possibility?

In this season of sabbath rest, of laying by the beach and walking by the water.  In this season of gardening and growing, may we ponder and pray, may we wonder with God while we weed and water.

Consider this: When it comes to your gifts and graces—where are you fully invested in risking failure and foolishness for the sake of the kindom? Where are you playing it safe, trying to hide your talent from yourself, from your neighbor, even trying, (however unsuccessfully) to hide them from the one who gave them?

Drawn In: Dream

**Ever a work in progress, we’re trying to find a new way to share weekly sermons.  Until we do, I’ll be posting them here.

Luke 4:13-21

Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news about him spread throughout the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been raised. On the Sabbath, he went to the synagogue as he normally did and stood up to read. The synagogue assistant gave him the scroll from the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners, and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the synagogue assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the synagogue was fixed on him. He began to explain to them, ‘Today, this scripture has been fulfilled just as you heard it.’”

Message: Dream (July 7, 2019)

In the beginning….before life, earth, even light and dark…

God had a dream…a vision of what might be…and God spoke…and there was light.

And it was good.

Oh, to be divine…

to get it right every time…

and to find it good.

How many of us when we try to create…something, anything, find ourselves saying not, “It is good.” but rather asking, “is it good enough,” and finding ourselves saying, no, no, and once again no.

How many of us find our imagination limited by our insecurities, before we even pick up a pen, paper, paintbrush, measuring cup?

How many of us when considering our creativity, think of it in the past tense?

I used to draw, I used to color, I used to be creative…

We treat creativity, and imagination, even dreaming as if it is something for childhood, something we grow out of.

Barbara Brown Taylor, a master storyteller, and preacher,  tells a story of the loss of imagination

A friend of mine clearly remembers the summer he lost his imagination. He was eleven years old, a distracted fifth-grader who yearned for the last days of school so he could return full-time to the fields of play. Memories of the previous summer spurred him in, long days spent lying on his belly in the backyard, racing miniature cars and trucks with his friends. When the last bell of the school year rang, he ran home to get everything ready, and the next morning he hauled it all outside. With the early sun heating up behind his back, he sat down in his special place surrounded by special toys and waited for the delicious feeling to creep over him, but nothing happened. He picked up his favorite truck and ran its wheels over the ground. “Rrrrrr!” he roared, as he had done so many times before, but it was not the sound of an engine this time. It was the sound of a boy’s voice pretending to be an engine, he was suddenly self-conscious. One by one he tried all of his old tricks, but none of them worked. The bridge to his old world was gone. He no longer had access to it, and the lost opened up a hollow place inside of him. He looked at his toys and saw what he had never seen before: they were small and cheap, a child’s toys. It had all been a silly game. Standing up, he dusted himself off and left the fossils of his dream lying in the yard (Taylor, The Preaching Life. pg.38).

Have we lost our imaginations, left them behind in the dust of childhood?

What would it take to unearth them, dust them off, clean them up, oil them, and use them?

What would it take to set free again, your holy imagination, your ability to see what is not yet, but might be? To see the realities of this world and the possibilities of God’s kindom?

Think of Jesus, a carpenter, standing before his neighbors, his family, inviting them to see not Jesus, the carpenter, the son of Mary and Joseph, the brother of James, the eldest of six or more, but rather to see Jesus, the son of God, divinity embodied. To see Jesus, filled with the holy spirit, sent to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners, and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

His neighbors…couldn’t see it…they saw only the carpenters son, and they tried to drive him off a cliff. It’s part of the story we didn’t read this morning. No one said creativity, holy imagination was safe.

The disciples had the imagination to see that Jesus was different…for he saw them differently. Instead of fishermen…he saw fishers of people.

Instead of tax collectors and cheats…he saw children of God.

Instead of political zealots, outcasts, and misfits…Jesus saw men (and women) who would follow, who would change the world with love.

Have we lost our imaginations for what the kingdom of God might be?

Have we lost our imaginations for what we might have to give?


Drawn In…Creativity celebrated!

When I was a kid, on a free Saturday, our parents would take us to Alexandria, VA.  The day would be filled with wandering around the Torpedo Factory, used bookstores, new coffee shops, and hole-in-the-wall, quirky, often international restaurants.

The Torpedo Factory is “home to the nation’s largest collection of working-artists’ open studios under one roof.”   Once a munitions plant, it is now home to the work of creativity.  Wander around and you’ll see all kinds of galleries.  More exciting, you’ll see artists creating right in front of you: painting, sculpting, blowing glass, making jewelry, and any number of things I had never, ever seen before.  To wander from studio to studio is an exploration of the joy, beauty, frustration and work of creativity.  In fact, I think those tours of Alexandria were in themselves a celebration of creativity: art, books, a beautiful and delicious cappuccinos, and food from around the world.  Those days left my head and heart filled, my feet tired, and warm, rosy memories!

This Summer, our new worship series, Drawn In, will be a celebration and exploration of creativity both divine and human.  For those of you paying attention to such things, it’s another Marcia McFee series.  I pray it will spark your creativity and your openness to the creative spirit of God.

This Sunday, we’ll ponder together God’s dream for the world, as Jesus launches his ministry from his home church.  Could any of his neighbors have dreamed of what Jesus would become, how he would change the world?  Did Mary?

I’ll see you on Sunday.


Pastor Heather

PS.  This Sunday we begin our outdoor worship at 8:30.  Celebrating the gift of creativity, in the midst of God’s beautiful creation.  Doesn’t get much better than that!  Except maybe worship at 10am, when we’ll be giving thanks for Willis Carrier, the inventor of air conditioning.  Whatever time you choose to worship with us, we’ll give thanks for creativity in it’s many forms!


The Heart of the Matter

This week the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church is meeting to discern the constitutionality of the Traditionalist Plan.  Next month, multiple groups will meet to discern where they think God is leading the United Methodist Church in the United States.  One group, the Judicial Council, works within the confines of what was and is legally binding for our denomination.  The others consider what might be, would could be, and what will define the people called Methodists as we move into 2020 and beyond.

I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to compare this to the time after that first Easter as the disciples tried to figure out what it meant to follow Jesus after his death and resurrection.  Jesus appeared time and again to assure and reassure them, offering peace, his presence, and some glimpse of the direction ahead.  At the core of it all, love.  In his words and actions, in his very presence he reminded his disciples, then and now, that his mission, and ours hasn’t changed.  Love one another.  That is the heart of the matter.

This Sunday, as the Chimes ring out, we’ll begin a new worship series from Marcia McFee and the Worship Design Studio, “The Heart of the Matter.”  We’ll hear the story of Jesus appearing to the disciples, breathing his peace.  We’ll remember honest Thomas, who wanted more than words, but a holy touch.  We explore our own yearning for proof and our willingness to lean into faith.  Come hear the chimes play and a familiar story.  I’ll see you on Sunday.

Peace be with you,

Pastor Heather

A Time for Every Matter

When my daughter was very young, we enjoyed how easily she could remember and repeat any variety of prompts.  We taught her to say, “This is Just to Say” by William Carlos Williams, sing any number or songs, and this particular gem:

  We’d ask her, “What time is it?”  to which she would answer joyfully, “4:30.”

“It’s not late,” we’d prompt.  Her response, “No, no.  Just early, early, early.”  Ah, fun with the Spin Doctors…

What time is it?  Is it time for working, resting, playing, discerning?  It is time for doing or being?  Is it time to run, or maybe sit awhile?  Is it time for planning, implementing, starting over?

This week as we wrap up our Busy series, we consider the classic written by Pete Seeger made famous by the Birds, “Turn, Turn, Turn,” or rather Ecclesiastes 3, ” For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”  As you consider your calendar and daily schedule, is your time set by your responsibility to others, your desire for success or worthiness, or is it set to allow time for rest, growth, loved ones, soul tending?

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather


Living Light

Are you a keeper of stuff, a collector, a saver, a magpie of memories, tokens and treasures?

If Marie Kondo came to visit, would you welcome her in or bar the door?  Is your home full of things that “spark joy” or is it just full of things?

Are you a keeper of stuff, or does your stuff keep you?

This Sunday, we explore the power of our stuff to hold us under and to set us free.  This Sunday we’re invited by Jesus, to let go, and live lightly.

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather