Imagine

Do you remember the first time your brain began to comprehend just how big the universe really is?  I was sitting in Mr. Streisel’s science class as he explained, one overwhelming detail at a time, how incomprehensibly big the universe is, how fast we’re hurtling on this beautiful planet, and just how tiny I am.  I couldn’t tell you a single word  he said or one specific detail he shared, but he captured the vastness in a way all the mobiles and posters, and pages and paragraphs of description I’d read simply hadn’t yet.

In that moment, I felt simultaneously awed, exhilarated, terrified, powerless and inconsequential.   And I loved it!  I wanted to laugh and cry and sing and scream all at the same time.  So with all the emotional maturity of a seventh grader, I put my hands up over my head like I was on a roller coaster and said, “Whee!”

Sometimes, if only for a moment, I get a similar feeling when I think what we, the people who call this planet home, are capable of doing for the good.  Yes, we’re capable of great hurt, but let’s save that conversation for another week.  Let’s pause the rhetoric, shush our inner cynic and if only for the day tear up our list of all that is wrong with the world.  For just a moment, lets consider our potential as a world community for good, for beauty, for love and compassion.

This Sunday, we’ll hear a reminder that God has given us each gifts for the common good.

Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful! -1 Corinthians 12: 7 (The Message)

Think about the sheer amount of gifts and talents scattered across our planet.  Or narrow it down to consider the skill and experience in our community.  Imagine what we could do, for the good of all, with your gifts and mine, your children’s’ creativity and courage, your neighbors’ ingenuity and practicality, your therapist’s compassion, your grocer’s wisdom, your physician’s insight, your contractor’s eye for detail, your bus drivers’ curiosity, your hair dressers’ wit, your coach’s encouragement and discipline.

Join me in a moment of holy dreaming.  Think what a difference we could make, what a beautiful impact we could create, if we all used our God given gifts to build up, to bless, to create, to heal and soothe and comfort.  How are you using the gifts God has given you to add beauty, love, and wonder to the world?  Or as Mary Oliver might ask, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Heather

Need a little inspiration?  Or wonderful rabbit trails to follow through the world of Ted Talks and YouTube (tomatoe/tamahtoh)

 

Broken hearts

I love my spouse.  I hope that’s not terribly surprising.  Among the things I love: a quirky sense of humor and a quick wit, a love of reading, and a deep compassion for animals and children.  Among other creatures, one of our cats is a rescue from a flower pot where he’d been abandoned.  We’ve agreed, as part of our informal marriage contract, to skip episodes of our favorite tv shows that show children being hurt, and our family doesn’t watch animal movies when I’m home.   I know, how will they grow up properly without watching “Old Yeller?”  They can watch it anytime they want, as long as I’m not around to see it.

Beyond depriving my children of animal movies, there’s something that connects us about what breaks our hearts.  A cause or event that breaks both our hearts, makes us more likely to show up to volunteer for a cause, attend a event, or find ways to share childcare so one of us can be present.  Heart break motivates us as a team.

I think the same must be true of our relationship with God.  When we see the world as God does, we just might find hunger, poverty, violence, and any kind of dehumanization breaking our hearts.  What must God feel seeing a child going to bed hungry?  What does God feel surveying creation and seeing strip-mined mountains, a plastic trash island in the oceans, and hurricane after devastating hurricane?

This week we’ll ask God to “Break my heart for what breaks yours.”  Not to stay in a place of hurt, but rather to be moved to respond to the pain with what else, but love.  Not a love of infatuation, easy words and little else.  No, a love that reaches out with food for the hungry, comfort for the sick, companionship for the lonely, and care for this beautiful planet we call home.

I’ll see you on Sunday,
Pastor Heather

Outside My Own Little World

This Sunday, Wendy Lithwin will be leading our worship, and sharing her gifts through preaching as we celebrate Laity Sunday.  She’ll be exploring the text in Matthew 22, where Jesus is asked, “What is the greatest commandment?”  You know the answer, Love.  Love God, Love each other.

The answer is easy.  We’ve heard it since before we knew we were hearing it.  But to live it, oh that’s the rub.

This week, I’ll be in San Antonio for a conference, “Do No Harm.”  We’ll be considering what it means to love God and each other as we encounter boundary violations in the church.  What does it really mean to create safe space or brave space in our faith community?  How do we walk alongside survivors with compassion and grace?  How do we provide safe space to share our truth, to be heard, to be loved?  And what does it really mean to love a perpetrator: accountability, safety, compassion, grace.  And how do we create space in our communities for all, every last one of us to experience God’s love?   Jesus gave the answer quickly, but the living of God’s love, that takes a life time to learn.

I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to Wendy’s gifted leadership and worshiping with you.

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

Outside my own little world

This Sunday is World Communion Sunday.  What better way to get outside ourselves than to consider our siblings around the world.  I love the idea of a world wide family table, with our neighbors near and far coming to feast.  It’s a family reunion, Sunday dinner, and neighborhood party all rolled into one.

Picture our friends in Sierra Leone coming to the table, as those we served alongside in South Carolina find their seats, and our collected family members all sitting as one.  Think of every church you’ve ever visited and attended finding room at the table.  And every church whose door you’d never darken, they’ll squeeze in too.  Ooh, imagine it, space at the table for everyone.  As the song we’ll sing tomorrow promises, “For everyone born, a place at the table, to live without fear, and simply to be, to work, to speak out, to witness and worship, for everyone born, the right to be free…”–A Place at the Table, Shirley Erena Murray

As our Marcia McFee series continues, our text from Matthew 22 and James 2 will invite us to look outside our own little world to welcome in the stranger, the poor, the lonely, the dispossessed.  We’ll wrestle together with God’s concept of hospitality at God’s table, in the church, and in our world.

I’ll see you tomorrow,

Pastor Heather

PS.  To make this day extra special, Brentwood Brass will be with us during 10am worship.  You’ll want to get here early.  They’ll begin playing the prelude at roughly 9:45am.    Here they are playing at the 400th anniversary celebration of  West Parish Church in West Barnstable on Cape Cod, MA. October 16, 2016.

Outside My Own Little World

Last week we made our transition to fall.  Sunday School began a new year of learning together.   Public schools welcomed back students.  And we began a new worship series by Marcia McFee, “Outside My Own Little World.”  As we move through the fall we’ll be exploring some of the big questions like “Why am I here?”  “What’s my purpose?”  “Why does the church exist?”

This Sunday, we’ll hear the story of Eutychus, a young man who falls asleep in church and falls to his death.  (And you thought ushers with feathers and poking sticks were bad.)  Spoiler alert: the story has a happy and miraculous ending as Paul revives him.  The story lets us laugh a little, and also consider our own sleepiness.  Have we fallen asleep to the needs of our neighbor?  Perhaps it’s time for us to wake up and notice the world around us.

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

Check out the song that inspire the series,  Outside My Own Little World by Matthew West.

End of the summer

For some, the end of the summer means back to school.  For others, Labor Day Weekend is a warning to avoid the terrible traffic trying to get off Cape Cod.  The change of the seasons can offer a return to the rhythm of fall or the whisper of cooler temperatures coming.  For us, it means the end of our Discipleship by the Sea series.

Throughout this summer, in Sunday worship and Bibles at the beach, we’ve delved deeply into the gospel of Mark, following Jesus from one seashore adventure to the next.  I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have.  Thanks to your questions and insight, special music, worship leadership and individual conversations I’ve read these familiar stories with new eyes.  It’s been challenging and fun for me.  I hope for you too.

This week, while so many leave our beautiful cape, we’ll leave the gospel of Mark, but not the sea. We’ll find Jesus once more by the sea of Galilee, but this time in the gospel of John.  We’ll watch as Jesus feeds his disciples breakfast and commissions Peter and the movement that will become the body of Christ.

Why fight the traffic?  Join us for worship.  Come and be fed by Jesus.

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

 

Every Sunday is Easter Sunday!

As a kid, I remember our church choir singing, “Every Sunday is Easter Sunday from now on!” I did not receive this news with joyful anticipation. Rather, at the time, I thought, “Does that mean I have to wear my Easter outfit, every Sunday?  Hat and tights too?!”

This Sunday, our journey through the gospel of Mark takes us to the end of the gospel.  We jump all the way to the end, or maybe it’s the beginning, of the story.  Jesus is not dead.  Jesus, the crucified is risen and has gone on to Galilee, just as he said.  It’s a powerful story, a story of hope and promises kept.

It feels out of season, to hear this story at the end of the summer.  No Easter lilies, no Easter dresses, no Holy Week observances.  But maybe, just maybe, hearing it at a new time of year will help us to hear it in a new light, or as if for the very first time.

Come, hear the story again, of Jesus’ promise to return, and how he lives into that promise.  Come, encounter the Risen One, for every Sunday is Easter Sunday.

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

PS. Just for fun, here’s a church choir singing, “Every morning is easter morning from now on.”  I didn’t remember the words quite right, but it should get stuck in your head all the same.

 

When you pass through the waters…

This week is Vacation Bible School week for our church.  Each day we gather for the “Rolling River Rampage,” to sing, dance, craft, and learn about the love of God.  Each day, I call out to our children, “When you pass through the waters…” and they respond, “I will be with you.”  And “who is I?” I ask.  And all these young voices yell out, “God!”  “Jesus!”

Ah, but the cynic and the skeptic out there, and frankly, right within me, cries out, “they don’t know what that means.”  Maybe.  But each day, our children are hearing that God is with them, always.  That God loves them, always, no exceptions.  And they see this love lived out in the stories they hear, and the adults who lovingly lead them through the day.  To me, that’s beautiful and powerful.

Each night, I go home and the songs of the day are on a repeating loop.  I listen to anything else, just to hear something else.  But I hope, indeed I pray, that our children are hearing these same songs as they go home each night.  I hope they’re remembering the one where God says, “when you pass through the waters, I will be with you.”  I hope it gets stuck deep down in their memories so that when life is hard, painful, sad, awkward and embarrassing, some part of them remembers God is with them, right in that awful, awful moment.

Vacation Bible School is fun, silly, exhausting, humbling, funny, and so, so important.  We’re telling kids each and every day that they are loved, always and everywhere.  We’re telling them that whatever they face, they don’t face it alone.   And that’s good news.

Who hasn’t forgotten from time to time, how loved we are, or that we’re not alone?  Even the disciples forgot, in the middle of a storm, that God was with them.  That’s the story we’ll explore this Sunday as we continue our journey through Mark.  On the sea of Galilee, in the middle of a storm, we find the disciples freaking out, and Jesus asleep.  What happens next?  Come and find out.  Come and be reminded, “God loves you.  God is with you.  And there is nothing you can do about it.”

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

To the sea…

There is something special about being next to the water.  It reminds us that we are small, in the very best way, in the vast beauty of creation.  There is solace in the sounds of the waves and the feel of breeze.  And, this time of year, the feel of the water, soothing both body and soul.

When we were looking to purchase a home, our realtor wisely took us first to Dowses Beach, to see the water.  While I was anxious: to see what was available, to see what would become our new community, our realtor was calm and assured.  The first thing he did was pause.  He reminded us, no matter what we saw or didn’t see that day, to remember the sea.  “Remember this.  No matter where you live, this is here.”  As we drove away from the sand and water, we discussed the power of water to remind us who and whose we are.

Perhaps that is why Jesus spent so much time next to the sea.  Did it soothe his soul, as well as his disciples and the crowds that followed?  As people brought their deepest needs to him, they gathered in crowds.  Can you imagine the anxiety in waiting your turn, not knowing what to expect, what he would do, how he would be changed?   Can you imagine the depth of surprise as people found Jesus had so much more to offer?

This Sunday, we again meet Jesus by the sea.  This time, he’s surrounded by a crowd, hungry for healing.  What are you hungry for?   What are you seeking:  healing, inner peace, hope, comfort, answers?  Let’s join the crowd, bringing Jesus our deepest needs, and allow him to change our hearts, and live.

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

Looking for an excuse to spend time by the sea?  Join us Wednesdays at 6pm, at Dowses Beach, for Bibles at the Beach.  We’re working our way through the gospel of Mark.

Guess who’s coming to dinner!

Who do you want at your table?  You know the game.  If you could have dinner with any three people living or dead, who would they be?

Familiar friends and family? A new acquaintance?  A work colleague?  A neighbor?  Or, are you drawn to the exciting, the dangerous, the exotic?

Perhaps you yearn to sit with the saints.  Or maybe you want to hear from history.  Or it’s your table, perhaps you want to sit and hear from the notoriously sinful, who live so loudly everyone knows their colorful story.

This Sunday, we hear the story of Jesus, eating with tax collectors and the friends of tax collectors. An interesting table to be sure…  I imagine good food, better stories, and lots of laughter.

Our journey through the gospel of Mark continues as we, like Levi the tax collector, practice, “Discipleship by the Sea.”

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

So, tell me, if you could have dinner with three people living or dead, who would they be?