Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Gonna Lay Down My Sword and Shield

I hope you all had a good weekend, and a special congratulations to all who have graduated from Cornell and IC and elsewhere recently! I've been reflecting a bit this week on Memorial Day, which began as a way to honor Union soldiers and, over time, has been expanded to be a day of remembrance for all who have served this nation and lost their lives. Many also use it as an opportunity to honor and remember all who have died.

50 years ago, our nation went to war in Vietnam. I was not yet alive, but I know that the Vietnam War had an indelible impact on our country. I remember my dad's stories about his two best friends in high school - one of whom died in Vietnam, and the other came back with debilitating PTSD.

My grandfather, who died recently, was a World War II veteran. He served in the Army Air Corps, now the Air Force. While he was proud of his service, there were also stories he could never tell, because they were too painful.

And now our nation has been at war in the Middle East for longer than some of the children in our church have been alive. Thousands of US soldiers have lost their lives in combat, not to mention the civilians of various nations who have died. And hundreds of soldiers have committed suicide after returning home.

War is a painful, violent reality in our world. As we honor the sacrifices of women and men who willingly gave their lives, we must also commit to one another and to God that we will work to bring about a world of peace. Not only on a global level but also in our own lives, homes, relationships, churches, schools, and communities.

The call to be peacemakers has been a challenge for human beings in every time and place. Isaiah had a vision of a world in which people would "beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Isaiah 2:4).

I'd like to share with you this prayer from the late Rev. William Sloane Coffin.
"Gracious God, whose own Son's term of service to humanity was so full that its brevity was no distress, we call to mind on this Memorial Sunday those who will not grow old as we are left to grow old, those whose lives were too brief for us but long enough, perhaps, for thee. Forgive us that they died so young because we were too unimaginative, too imperious, too indifferent, or just too late to think of better ways than warfare to conduct the business of the world. Gratefully, we remember the generosity that prompted them to share the last of their rations, the last pair of dry socks, to share in the course of one hour in the foxhole more than most of us care to share with one another in a lifetime. And we recall the courage that made more than one of them fall on the grenade there was no time to throw back.

Grant, O God, that they may not have died in vain. May we draw new vigor from past tragedy. Buttress our instincts for peace, sorely beleaguered. Save us from justifications invented to make us look noble, grand and righteous and from blanket solutions to messy, detailed problems. Give us the vision to see that those nations that gave the most to their generals and least to their poor were, throughout all history, the first to fall. Most of all, give us the vision to see that the world is now too dangerous for anything but truth, too small for anything but love. Through Jesus Christ our Savior, who became what we are to make us what he is. Amen."

Blessings and peace to you,

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Gift of the Enemy

On May 10, renowned theologian and biblical scholar Walter Wink died. His theology played a large role in shaping my own. I've noticed, with dismay, that human beings commonly name those who are different, those who don't agree with them, or even those who are actively opposed to them as "enemies." To remember him, I was reading again some of Walter Wink's writings. This great man will continue to influence others through his words and witness - and so today I share with you these words from the chapter "The Gift of the Enemy" in The Powers that Be--

"The gift our enemy brings us (is) to see aspects of ourselves that we cannot discover any other way. Our friends are not good sources of information about these things; they often overlook or ignore these parts of us. The enemy is not merely a hurdle to be leapt on the way to God. The enemy can be the way to God. We cannot come to terms with our shadow except through our enemy, for we have no better access to those unacceptable parts of ourselves that need redeeming than through the mirror that our enemies hold up to us. This, then, is another, more intimate reason for loving our enemies: we are dependent on our enemies for our very individuation. We cannot be whole people without them.

How wonderfully humiliating: we not only may have a role in transforming our enemies, but our enemies can have a role in transforming us!...

In the final analysis, loving enemies is a way of living in expectation of miracles....If God can forgive, redeem, and transform me, I must also believe that God can work such wonders with anyone. Love of enemies is seeing one's oppressors through the prism of the reign of God--not only as they now are but also as they can become: transformed by the power of God."
- Walter Wink, The Powers that Be: Theology for a New Millenium (New York: Galilee, 1998. pp. 170-71, 178-79).

I hope you find these words as thought-provoking and spiritually challenging as I do. I'd love to hear your thoughts. Wishing you a blessed week, Manda

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Attending to Our Dreams

Ah, the beauty of springtime! The songbirds have returned, deer are nibbling on our plants, and the magnolia tree outside our dining room window is about to blossom. It's also a time of graduations and promotions, retirements and vacation planning. All around us, things and people are growing and changing.

In my previous work in Boston and in my seminary studies, I focused on pastoral counseling, particularly from a narrative therapy perspective. According to narrative theory, our individual, communal, and cultural stories create and sustain our reality. We make meaning through the ways we tell stories. And, our lives and communities are multistoried. Those of you who participated in the work of the Gathering Team and in last year's "Leapership" event helped bring out some of the many stories of this congregation. And Women's Ministries spent the day sharing stories and dreams at their gathering in March.

I've also learned that whatever you give attention to is what grows. Jane, our Church Secretary, can tell you that though I love plants, I'm not very good at keeping them alive. Thankfully, she lovingly tends the plants in my office, making sure they get enough water and sunlight. Without her attention, my plants would probably not survive, and they most definitely would not thrive.

Last week, you should have received an invitation from the Church Council to a special worship experience this Sunday. That email includes the Core Values identified by our Church Council - and really, those values come out of the work that the Gathering Team did before I came here. I can affirm that I see all of these values in our congregation: Welcoming, Caring, Serving, Growing. Click here if you haven't seen the invitation.

This Sunday, we will worship together and dream together - we will give attention to our core values and figuratively give them the water and sunlight they need to blossom. I would say that our only limitations are our imaginations - but I believe that if we are open to the Spirit's creative power, God can move our church beyond our wildest dreams and imaginings.

So come, whether you are a new visitor or an old friend, whether you drop in now and then, come every week, or are returning after a long absence. Bring a friend, bring your imagination, bring your wildest dreams. Come, let's shape our future together.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A child shall lead them...

I want to take some time to celebrate the ways that our children and youth are leading the way in creative fundraising for Feed My Starving Children. There are lots of exciting things going on, from the amazing multi-congregational choir concert last Sunday to the Outreach-sponsored soup supper last week, to the strawberry festival planned for June 16.

But our children and youth really "take the cake" for their creativity and enthusiasm! The first of several cake raffles raised $77, and the children's lemonade stand after worship raised $182. Then, Gigi and Clare Weislogel set up a stand on their block to sell more lemonade, and they raised $35 themselves!

Sophie and Cesca Bosworth-Viscuso raised several hundred dollars through pledges for their commitment to practice their violins every day.

And this Friday night, our Youth Group will join with other youth in the community to host a pasta supper at St. John's Episcopal Church from 5-7pm. Click here for more information.

So let the children and youth lead you...what can YOU do to support our fundraising and organizing efforts for Feed My Starving Children? Check out this great video by a 17-year-old who was inspired by his participation in Feed My Starving Children.

And have a wonderful week!
- Manda

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

"I LOVE a Parade!"

In Columbus, GA in the 1950's The Christmas Parade was IT! The high school bands, pretty girls waving from the backs of convertibles, clowns and, of course, Santa at the end. For my daughter, it was the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade - a different and more national expression of a community. And then, in college it was Mardi Gras - parades for a whole month.

Here it is the Ithaca Festival Parade. Where else would you see marching monks, the La Leche League, the No Frack Group, the He Man Band, the Save the Deer Group, the Diaper Derby, the Volvo Ballet and, of course, the Chain Saw Band? Like my childhood Christmas Parade, this parade presents and represents our hometown like nothing else.
Last year, Feed My Starving Children had a group in the parade. Marching was fun and we were very well received! It was good to be part of the parade and it was even better to become part of the fabric of this community!

This year, Feed My Starving Children will march again - t-shirts, cheers and all. This year, we want to have a really BIG group. This year, FCC is hosting the 300,000 meal mobile pack. One way you can all support our leadership is to get a t-shirt - show up and march. This year, we can make a difference in the lives of hungry children and we can strengthen a community that truly cares about others!

So, Get a T-Shirt (and wear it around town) AND, sign up to march, AND, get a friend or two to march with us! After all, we all love a parade!

Blessings - Laura Lee