Following Jesus…

This Sunday we begin another Marcia McFee worship series, Discipleship by the Sea.  Throughout the summer, we’ll work our way through the gospel of Mark.  Mark is the shortest of the four gospels and the story moves quickly.  We’ll follow Jesus from his baptism and as he travels from town to town.  We’ll watch as he performs healings and miracles.  We’ll eavesdrop as he preaches to crowds and explains himself and his ministry to the faithful twelve.  We’ll watch his triumphant entrance to Jerusalem and stay with him through the crucifixion.  We’ll even scratch our heads with the mysterious way Mark ends his story of good news.

This Sunday, we witness the baptism of Jesus and his calling of the first four disciples.  What made them drop everything and follow?  We’ve had thousands of years to heed his call, and still, we struggle.  These four fishermen just left their lives behind to follow.  Why?  What was it about Jesus that created such urgency and immediacy of response? Let’s discover that together, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, again and again.

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

PS.  Dive deeper into the gospel of Mark.  As we work through the gospel, we’re also offering a Wednesday night 6pm, Bibles on the Beach. Each week we’ll explore one thing about Mark: one word, one verse, one chapter, one parable, one character and so on, though not necessarily in that order.  Bring your Bible and something to sit on to Dowses Beach, in Osterville.  We’ll be within sight of the big red umbrella.

 

Happy New Year!

July 1 is the start of the new year in the United Methodist Church.  New pastors begin their relationship with a new community July 1.  And those of us being reappointed begin another year of shared ministry.

I don’t know about you, but I love having multiple new years: Jan 1, July 1, the start of the school year, the start of the liturgical year.  Each one it seems provides an opportunity for reflection and self-examination, and an invitation to try again to live as our very best selves.

As we begin another year as United Methodists, we have the opportunity to consider our vows of baptism and membership in the United Methodist church.  Are we living into them, or are they words long forgotten?

Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?

Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?

Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has  opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?

As members of this congregation, will you faithfully participate in its ministries
by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service and your witness?

United Methodist New Year is another opportunity to resolve to live differently, to follow Jesus more faithfully, to pay attention to our lives of discipleship. It’s an invitation, not to immediate perfection, but rather to try again, to draw closer to God, and one another.

July 1 is also very close to another new year in our shared lives.  July 4th we celebrate the birthday of our nation.  More than picnics and fireworks, this important holiday invites us to reflect on our commitment to our neighbors and our country.  How are we living as citizens? Are there ways in which we need to get more involved in our local, state, or national community?

So what will you resolve in the New Year?  Will you make time to spend with God?  Will you regularly volunteer?  Will you find creative ways to live generously?  Will you vow to vote this year, or engage with your representatives?  Will you renew practices of personal or social holiness?  (Among other things, I’m resolved to get back on track with a weekly blog post.)

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

To read or not to read…

Earlier this month, GQ published an article, describing the Bible as “repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned.”  Not surprisingly, there have been some reactions from Christian organizations and publishing. Pastors, scholars, and theologians have rushed to defend the Bible, protecting God and God’s word from the editors of GQ.  I’m not sure either needs defending.

In fairness, the Bible can be all of those things.  The Bible is made up of sixty-six different books.  Some of the stories contained within are deeply disturbing, painful, heartbreaking, and frankly, some are boring.  But, it can also be beautiful, powerful, comforting, challenging, and provoking.  The reading of scripture can be revealing, showing me something new in the world, God’s dreams and visions, and my own heart.

Each week, when we gather to worship together we turn to one or two texts from the Bible.  I believe this text has something to say about what God intends for our lives, our community, our world.  I believe the Word speaks to our unique experiences as individuals and to us as a community of faith.   I believe that one hundred people can hear the same text, but experience it differently, depending on where they are in their lives and circumstance.

This week our lesson is the story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch or the story of life-changing Bible study.  The editors of GQ may feel that the Bible isn’t worth reading anymore, but I beg to differ.  In my reading of scripture, I am challenged, comforted, and changed.  I won’t be done studying this living word until it’s done with me.

 

Finding Your Power: Listening for Healing

Is there anything that leaves you feeling more helpless than being really, really sick?  The only thing worse is when your children are really, really sick or in pain that you cannot ease.  Ok, maybe ranking our moments of despair isn’t all that helpful.   But, consider for just a moment the times you’ve felt helpless, hopeless, alone.  No matter the cause, in times like that, my prayers become simple, direct, and often, mono-syllabic, “Please? Please! Please…”

What does it mean when we pray, and we don’t get better?  Is it lack of faith?  Is it lack of quantity or quality of prayer?  Why do some get the miracles and others just wait, as if no one is listening?  I don’t know.  I don’t know why some are apparently cured while others suffer.  I don’t know, but I trust.  I trust that miracle or not,  God is right there in the midst.  In the suffering, in the pain, in the yearning, in the pleading, in the disappointment, grief and anger, God is there.

This week we ask,what does it mean to say “prayer works”?  Or for that matter, how can we know we’re being heard?

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

 

Finding a Word…Listening to the text

Our Lenten Journey continues.  We’re using Marcia McFee’s series, “Listen: Hearing that still, small voice and finding your own.”   I don’t know about you, but this series has invited me to slow down, pay attention, breathe, and really, really listen.

And in listening, I’m noticing stuff… and not all of it am I glad to find.

I’m noticing the pace of my life, my work, my mind, my words.  We’re beginning our worship with quiet reflection, before the start of our liturgy.  As I sit, I’m noticing how prone I am to let my mind, and my body, race, here and there in those last precious moments.  While silence is often a meaningful practice for me, on Sunday, it feels more complicated.

I’m noticing the tension between my desire to greet God and to greet God’s people.  My natural inclination is to be at the door to sanctuary offering greetings.  It’s fun!  Lent has offered me the opportunity to ponder.  Is hospitality always so extraverted?  Can we create warmth and welcome with silent invitation?   What does it mean to create welcome for quiet reflection and contemplation?

I’m noticing my reliance on words.  My unintentional model has somehow become there’s no problem that more words can’t help.  Instructions, explanations, invitations, justifications, apologies, excuses, rationalizations, for me all rely on words.  If I want to learn something new, I read about it first, or let someone explain it to me, and then I try it.  For me, it’s words first, then actions.   To understand myself, I turn to journaling, more words on the page.  I even turn to words for fun and beauty (a good novel, movie, poetry).  I don’t know if this is good, bad, or just the way it is.  I’m noticing…

This Sunday we’ll ponder together God’s word, “Finding a Word: Listening to the Texts.”    The Bible is full of words.  One source suggested the King James has 783,137 words.  You can count if you want, I’m going to take their word for it.  How can we determine which words are meaningful?  How do we listen for God’s word in the midst of so many words?  Let’s wrestle with that as we listen together, this Sunday.

I’ll see you on Sunday,
Pastor Heather

Finding Your Cave: Listening Spaces

I love to listen to audiobooks in the car.  It makes the miles fly by as my mind is occupied with a good story.  All is well, until I’m in a new place, and I need to find my way.  Then, I have to turn the story off.  It’s hard to listen when I’m trying not to get lost.

I enjoy listening to podcasts while I’m making dinner or doing the dishes.  It makes the mundane an adventure.  All is well until I try a new recipe.  If I don’t want to forget a key ingredient, I have to turn the podcast off.  It’s hard to listen to another voice when I’m following someone’s directions.

And few things are better than dancing in the kitchen with my kids, with the music up loud, and the shades down low.  Ask my dance partners, they’ll tell you, my dancing is kitchen dancing, not fit for anyone else’s eyes.  All is well until one of them has a question or a story to tell.  If I want to know what they’re saying, I have to turn the music off.  It’s hard to listen to the question when my ears are filled with rhythm.

How do you prepare to listen?  Are there spaces and places more conducive to listening?  Tomorrow, we’ll turn down the music, and shut off the podcasts, and set down the phones.  And in the quiet, we’ll listen together, for the still small voice of God.

I’ll see you tomorrow,

Pastor Heather

PS.  Listen: Hearing that Still Small Voice and Finding Your Own is a our Lenten Sermon Series, designed by Marcia McFee.

 

What do you need?

“I’m well!  I’m well!”  After two weeks with the flu, I’m back.  If you’ve seen me this week, it’s pretty likely I’ve bored you some version of how good it feels to feel good again.  It’s nothing spectacular, it’s just nice to get back to the ordinary.  Oh, the joy of going to the dump and not needing a nap to recover.   For two weeks, I needed rest and fluids.  Now, I need to do laundry (and lots of it) and pick up the tasks left undone as I return to the usual routine.

Our gospel lesson this week is the story of Jesus healing Simon’s mother-in-law, who immediately gets up to fix dinner. Scholars, preachers, and teachers have imagined many stories to explain why her response to a healing miracle is dinner.  Is she getting up to serve because she needs to or because she wants to?  Can it be both?  What does she need?  Does she need to fulfill an obligation, or simply to give what she can to the one who has healed her?

As fun as it might be to imagine why she responded as she did, we’re going to take a look at Jesus’ response to the healing.  What does Jesus need after the healing?  It appears he needs alone time with God.  He goes off to be by himself, to pray.  What does Jesus need to do all the things he does in his ministry?  He needs time with God and finds the strength, stamina, courage, and compassion to carry on.

What do you need from God: healing, rest, renewal, wisdom, peace?  This Sunday, we’ll look inward to see the needs of our heart.  And we’ll look to God, to meet those needs.

I’ll see you on Sunday.

Pastor Heather

Epiphany continued…

The magi went home another way, and we don’t hear any more of their story.  With their departure, we take down the decorations, declaring this Christmas “done” until next year.   But, just like Christmas is more than one 24 hour day, the season of Ephipany continues beyond January 6.  It is a season of paying attention to the light while noticing the darkness and following God’s lead into the unknown.  Week by week, until we hear the story of Jesus’ transfiguration, we’ll ponder with the wise ones of so long ago, where and to what is God calling.

This Sunday, we observe Human Relations Sunday, one of six special Sundays in the United Methodist Church.  We do this on the eve of Martin Luther King, Jr Day a time to consider the work that has been done and is still yet to do.  Still early in the year, it’s time for an internal audit.  How are we treating one another?  How are we living the light and love of God in the darkness of hatred, violence, and oppression? How do our actions contribute to and ‘resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves’?

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

And now… a little James Taylor 

Shield the joyous

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give thine angels charge over those who sleep.
Tend the sick, Lord; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for thy love’s sake. Amen.

–The Book of Common Prayer

This simple prayer is a favorite of mine, because it covers so much, with so few words.  I am curious about the line, shield the joyous.  I find myself wondering, from who or what do the joyous need to be shielded:  cynicism, despair, worry, fear, all of the above, or more?

This Sunday, as our Angels Among Us series continues we’ll hear the story of the visit of Gabriel to Joseph.  Usually, we connect joy with Mary’s visit from a heavenly messenger.  It seems as if Joseph might have been experiencing the opposite of joy.  To become the father of the son of God, in uncertain times, would indeed be anxiety producing.  In our own uncertain times, in a week of wildfires, elections, scandal, and violence, can we, like Joseph, find joy in the midst of anxiety?

Come hear the story again, and sing the songs of joy and hope!  Hear our choir offer their voices raised in joyful song!  Find joy in the midst of hustle, bustle, grief, violence, and chaos.

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

 

Let it be…#morepeace

As our “Angels Among Us” advent series continues, this week, we hear the story of Mary discovering her life is about to change.  In one of the strangest call stories I’ve ever heard, the angel tells her, she’ll become pregnant and give birth to the son of God.  And her answer is astounding, “Let it be with me according to your word.”

Let it be…not why? or why me?

Let it be…not any of the colorful, less than pastoral responses I might imagine.

Let it be.

It’s enough to make one sing the Beatles.  (Yes, I know Paul wrote it about his mother, not the mother of Jesus, but he also said we listeners can interpret it however we want.) 

What inner qualities did Mary possess that allowed her to answer in such a powerful way?  Strength, courage, faith, curiosity, resiliency, compassion, humility, and more.  She must have been terrified.  And yet scripture describes her response as “perplexed,” by what the angel suggests.  Let’s study the story again, together, this Sunday, “Nothing is impossible: #morepeace.”

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather