What do you really, really need?

The Lord is my shepherd…

So often when we hear the 23rd psalm we are mentally transported to funerals and death vigils where we’ve heard this psalm.  Powerful memories of comfort, often in the midst of deep pain, grief, and loss.

Once upon a time, during worship, in an effort to help us hear beyond our memories of this familiar and often funereal text, I invited the congregation to “play madlibs” as we re-translated this familiar psalm together.  It was a child’s interpretation that has stuck with me.  Forgive my faulty memory, but it went something like this,  “God is my daddy.   He holds me on his lap…He feeds me chocolate cake.”

It was the chocolate cake that sparked something in me.  Her image of God wasn’t a distant patriarch on a magnificent and untouchable throne.  Her image of God was close, present, protective, safe, affectionate, and shared the most decadent of desserts.  Her reverent re-imagining opened up something in me.  It invited me to hear beyond the still waters, green pastures, and over-flowing cup.  What did I really, really need from God?  What did soul-filling rest, restoration and joyful celebration look like to and for me?

This Sunday, we’ll hear the traditional psalm together, as we consider together what it means to pause, to rest, and reconnect with one another, and with God.  What does it mean to sit with God awhile beside still waters or to sit with God at a sumptuous dinner party?

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

 

Are you tired? Worn out? Come and rest.

I was a new, young pastor participating in the “First Parish Project,” a Lily Foundation program.  The idea was to bring young, new pastors together across denominational and geographic boundaries.  From New York, Illinois, Oregon and California and other far off places we made our weary way to a retreat center in western North Carolina.  In our opening session the convener gave the most beautiful invitation, “This week is for you.  Find what you need.  If you need rest, go take a nap.  If you need peace, go sit on the porch in the rocking chairs and stair at the mountains and the lake.  Go for a walk.  Join us for worship.  Sit in on the sessions.  This time is for you.”

It’s not a bad image for the season of Lent.  What if instead of focusing on what we’re going to give up, how we’re going to suffer, we instead thought deeply and intentionally about what we need as disciples of Jesus?  Are you tired, worn out?  Are you lost and directionless?  Are you heartsick and grief stricken?  Are you comfortable?  What do you need to follow Jesus faithfully: energy, courage, discernment, wisdom, faith, compassion, and on and on?

What if instead of rushing around trying to prove our goodness or faithfulness, we simply sat for awhile with Jesus?  Imagine, giving yourself the gift of ten precious minutes each day, to sit in the presence of the Holy, and consider together what it means to follow.  This Sunday, we’ll kick off the season of Lent not with the story of Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness, but rather an invitation from Jesus, “Come to me, all who are weary, and I will give you rest.”

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

 

My response to General Conference

February 27, 2019
Dear Ones,
Yesterday at the Special Session of General Conference the body voted to uphold the exclusionary language of the Discipline of the United Methodist Church rather than widen our welcome. It was painful to watch. Rather than choosing one of the more inclusive plans, 53% voted to continue to exclude our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered siblings from full participation in the life of the church.
As a Reconciling Congregation, we have committed to do just the opposite: open wide the doors to all God’s beloved children. This isn’t going to change. All are welcome to full participation in the life of our church without exception. All are welcome to worship, receive communion, serve God and neighbor and experience the grace and love of God. Tell your friends, your neighbors, your families. No matter what you hear on the news, our church is open to all.
I don’t know what the future will bring for our denomination or our Annual Conference. The Traditionalist Plan will be reviewed for constitutionality. The global church might divide, unite in new ways, or continue as we are. There are conversations happening now and there will be more in the days to come about how we move forward. May the Spirit blow, inspiring the people called Methodist to creatively and courageously choose compassion, welcome, and inclusion.
Whatever happens, Methodists right here in Osterville will continue to live out the mission and ministry of our church. We will gather for weekly worship and lift our voices in song and prayer. We will feed the hungry by stocking our food pantry and serving meals at the Miracle Kitchen, Faith Family Kitchen and Days of Hospitality. We will teach our children about the grace and love of God in Sunday School and by our witness. Human as we are, we will mess up and fall short, and seek, give, and receive forgiveness over and over and over again. We will care for one another, pray for one another, and seek to bear witness to the love of God in all that we do. We will follow Jesus, day by day, learning to love as he did.
If you have questions or concerns about what happened at General Conference, I’m here to listen. Stop by the office, or set up an appointment. We can meet for coffee or go for a walk. Join me next Thursday for Courageous Conversation with others from our district in Lincoln, RI. I’ll even give you a ride.
Whatever happens next for our denomination, choose love today. Let us reach out to our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered siblings with compassion and gentle welcome. Let’s listen for the Spirit and faithfully follow Jesus, love incarnate.
Remember, God loves you, and so do I.
Pastor Heather

This Sunday, come and receive.

This Sunday we have very special guests, Bishop Yambasu and his wife Millicent from Sierra Leone.  Bishop Yambasu will be preaching and his text for the day is the story of the transfiguration.  This is the story of Jesus going up on a mountain to pray.  And as he is praying, Peter, James and John notice he is being visibly changed, lit from the inside, seeming to glow.  As if that’s not enough, Moses and Elijah appear too.  And then, the voice of God speaks, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”  And after all of that, Jesus goes down the mountain, followed by Peter, James, and John, and back to the work of ministry.

Sometimes following Jesus takes us to the mountaintops, to rich experiences of joy, light and holy transformation.  Sometimes it takes us into the darkness, to the depths of despair and even into the valley of the shadow of death.  And sometimes, it takes us right back to the ordinary, to the sick waiting to be healed, the hungry waiting to be fed, the poor waiting for a word of hope.

After General Conference and the countless responses and uncertainty that lies ahead, I think there is something particular meaningful in Bishop Yambasu’s visit and especially in the opportunity for he and I to serve communion together.  In the story of transfiguration we are reminded the power of God to name us, claim us, change us and send us back to the work at hand.  And at the communion table, we are reminded of the precious gift of grace, Jesus himself saying, “This is my body, my blood, my life and love, given for you.”  This gift is offered to all, conservatives, progressives, young, seasoned, spiritual seekers, wise mentors, faithful disciples.  This feast is for the curious, the certain, the doubtful, the down-right cynical, the hurting, the hopeless, the joyful, the lost and the found.  This feast, this holy gift of love and grace is for you and for me.  “Given for you…”

Whatever you’re feeling about General Conference, your week, your life, your faith, your church, come and feast together.  Come and sing the songs of our faith.  Come receive the gift of grace, given freely for you.  Come and pour your heart out in prayer and be surrounded by fellow wanders on the way, disciples of Jesus.  Come hear Bishop Yambasu and meet his wife Millicent.  Come and worship.

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

 

Turn towards the light

It’s almost here.  Our delegates are preparing for the work of the Special Session of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church which begins on Saturday.  The energy leading into this gathering, not surprisingly ranges from hopeful and energetic to fearful and preemptively disappointed.  How will the Spirit blow through our delegates to shape our global United Methodist Church?  Will we choose inclusion, exclusion, or will we be paralyzed, unable to move in any direction?

I hope and I pray that the creative wisdom of God will blow in such a way that will reinvigorate our church.  I pray the love of God will be so tangibly felt and experienced our whole denomination will turn towards wider expressions of that love.  I pray that this is the time when our church will choose wide-open inclusion of all God’s children.

This Sunday, our series “Choose the Light,” continues as we choose to think together.  Ronald Kessel will be preaching, and I’ll be with you in the pews, enjoying the rare treat of hearing someone else preach and teach.  It seems wholly and holy fitting that Ronald invites us to wrestle with our beliefs and our doubts, our hearts and our minds, as our global church wrestles with our beliefs and doubts, our hearts and minds.

As we draw closer to the start of the Special Session, will you hold our whole global church in your prayers.  Whatever happens, God will be with us, guiding, holding, comforting and calling.  May God’s love prevail.

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

Choose to Move

Four days a week, our church hosts yoga groups in our building.  People enter, rushing, late, sometimes hurried and harried.  But, as they leave, they move a little slower, taking time to talk with one another, smiling more.  I know it sounds cheesy, but they enter with the weight of the world on their shoulders, and they leave lighter.  Week after week, the before and after transformation amazes me.

I dance in my kitchen, alone, with my children, with my spouse. And few things lift the spirit like dancing in the kitchen.  Somewhere in the twirling and whirling, bopping and bouncing, the stuff of the world falls away.  Suddenly, I am present in a different way to love and laughter, the people I love, the light and love of God.

So many of our spiritual practices focus on the head and heart, but how do we engage our bodies?  This Sunday we explore what it means to walk with God and not just figuratively.

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

 

Choose the place

I love libraries.  They’re warm and inviting, safe and cozy, and celebrate and cherish some of my favorite things:  books, poetry, people, learning, reading, community and more. When I visit other places, I love to see their libraries.  When I’m working in new towns and need a place to check email, or do some work, it’s either coffee shop or a library.  Libraries welcome me in, inviting me to find a cozy spot, to sit and read, learn, discover, explore.  And they’re free, open to anyone and everyone.

I love churches too.  No really, I do.  I love to sit in a new (to me) sanctuary, to see how the light falls from stain glass windows.  I’m curious to see how different communities serve their neighbors.  I read every piece of paper in the pews.  Even more than that, I want to see every nook and cranny, small hidden stairs, and “secret” passageways.  I’m fascinated by design choices made hundreds of years ago to help with sound projection and how history shows up in large and small ways.  I enjoy seeing how other churches utilize technology.  I love how churches can feel like community centers, museums, art galleries, sacred worship space, schools, and mission HQ, sometimes all at the same time.

What are your safe and sacred places:  the places where you feel most yourself and the places where God feels close, present, almost touchable.

Space and place can change our energy, our moods, our intentions.  When I walk into a library, I immediately begin to whisper and to ask “What am I going to read next?”  When I walk into a grocery store, I’m almost always immediately hungry.  And when I walk into a church, I am mindful of the presence of God, the call to serve God’s people, and the invitation to prayer and worship.

How can we carry this mindfulness and invitation beyond Sunday morning, and into our homes?  How can we use the power of place to connect and reconnect us to the Holy?  This Sunday, we’ll explore the power of place to draw us into God’s presence and help us turn towards the light.

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

 

Acts of Kindness…change the world

Remember last winter, when two storms in a row came through and many of us went without power.  For my family, the first few hours of the first outage were fun, like camping: candlelight and storytelling, lots of blankets and cuddling.  It wasn’t so bad.  But, the fun lessened as the days passed by, and we went without tv, computer, hot water, and glorious heat.

By the third day of the second storm, all the charm had worn off.  We decided to escape the dark and cold for a few hours, and we went out to lunch.  Ah, the wonder of a warm space and hot food.  And it was fun to be out in the community, and hear people sharing stories and comparing their particular struggles in the power outage.  And then, the waitress brought us our bill.  “Your meal has been paid for.”

Surprise! Wonder!  Warmth (inside and out)!  A gift, a treat, a treasure! In the midst of the dark and cold, a glimpse of light! On our ride home, we were transformed. A gift of generosity that warmed us, fed us, sustained us.  Now when our family remembers those storms, one after another, what first comes to mind isn’t the deprivation, but the gift of a hot meal.

Acts of kindness are powerful and transformational.  They can surprise and delight, uplift and restore.  This Sunday, we’ll explore how offering kindness to others isn’t just nice or biblical, it’s life and even world changing.  Offering kindness is just one more way we choose the light, and lift our spirits.large_buscaglia_quote

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

Change the station

If I am tired and cranky (it happens), and a certain child of mine begins to whine or complain, my response is less than gracious.  But if that same dear child of mine asks to play a song, and if that song is fun and festive, well then, we dance in the kitchen.  Not well, and certainly not gracefully (ask my kids, they’ll tell you it’s not pretty), but oh there is joy and laughter.  In the singing and the dancing, I am transformed, saved you might say, by the power of rhythm, music, and a child’s loving laughter.  A cranky exhausted beast becomes a child again.

Music is powerful.  It can get deep within us to the places logic and reason just don’t reach.  It can make us laugh and cry and tap our toes.  It can inspire and move and comfort and provoke.

This Sunday, as we continue to choose practices that turn us toward the light, we consider the power of music to soothe our soul, change our mood and direction.  We ponder what it might mean to ask God to give us a new song.

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

What are the songs that stir your soul, quiet your mind, lighten your spirit, draw you into the presence of God, fill you with joy?  Here are just a few of mine…

Or check out a play list of songs of light in darkness here.  What songs would you add?

Flip the Switch

After the hustle and bustle of Christmas, January can feel a little glum.

With gray skies, and short days, the sun can seem cold and distant.

While it’s a season of new beginnings, it is also a season between, not-quite, not yet…and our spirits can feel lost, beleaguered, dry, weary, and more.  Is it Seasonal Affective Disorder or Spiritual Affective Disorder that leaves us feeling less, less full, less joyful, less connected, less inspired.  Don’t you wish you could flip the switch to brighten the sun and your soul?

I’d love to offer you a solution to the seasonal blues, “in just three easy steps,” but it wouldn’t be true.  Instead, we can find together, practices that turn us toward the light and perhaps reinvigorate our souls.  We can choose practices that bring us joy, peace, grace, and time in the presence of God.  Each week, we’ll remember together practices new and familiar to help us reorient ourselves and our spirits, toward the light.  We focus not on our own efforts, goodness, or stamina, but rather on an openness to God’s love.

This week, we celebrate the gift of God’s light to brighten our lives, communities and the world.

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather