Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Mystery of Miracles

One of the Lectionary texts for this Sunday is from the Gospel of John, the story of Jesus feeding the multitude and then walking on water. While we won't read this one in worship on Sunday, it's worth reading John 6:1-21 on your own.

In September, we'll be starting up our "Spirit:Uncorked" gatherings again at Corks & More. For those who have not joined us before, we often reflect on some quotes and/or questions about a particular topic and talk in pairs or small groups. This week, I invite you to find a friend or family member (or maybe even someone you don't know!) to reflect on these quotes and questions about miracles. Comment on this post to share your thoughts!

Focus Scripture
John 6:1-21

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, "Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?" He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, "Six months' wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little." One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?" Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost." So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, "This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world."

When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid." Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.

Focus Questions

1. How would you define a "miracle"?

2. What are your expectations of God?

3. What is the difference between abundance and excess?

4. What is the "success" we hope for in our life of faith, as individuals and as congregations?

5. What makes a person, or a church, "great"?

For further reflection

C.S. Lewis, 20th century
Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.

Chinese Proverb
The miracle is not to fly in the air, or to walk on the water; but to walk on the earth.

Augustine, 5th century
Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature.

Sue Monk Kidd, 21st century
I realized it for the first time in my life: there is nothing but mystery in the world, how it hides behind the fabric of our poor, browbeat days, shining brightly, and we don't even know it.

Frederick Buechner, 21st century
A miracle is when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. A miracle is when one plus one equals a thousand.

These come from "Weekly Seeds": Weekly Seeds is a United Church of Christ resource for Bible study based on the readings of the "Lectionary," a plan for weekly Bible readings in public worship used in Protestant, Anglican and Roman Catholic churches throughout the world. When we pray with and study the Bible using the Lectionary, we are praying and studying with millions of others. Click here to read the whole Weekly Seeds reflection.

Blessings and peace - looking forward to seeing you soon!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

In Our Ending Is Our Beginning

These words from one of the most ancient communion liturgies and are often used at FCC. Christ is our ending and our beginning. The communion table is a place where we can end our pain and suffering and begin a new life. Worship is the same: both the ending and the beginning of our week.

Every milestone in our lives represents both an ending and a beginning. Developmental stages. Dating to marriage to family. Education to training to working to retirement. None of these paths are ever clear or very smooth, but we do know when things have "shifted."

This is also the case in our relationships. When we learn things about each other, a relationship can begin to deepen - ending an acquaintanceship and beginning a friendship. And, when we end an argument with someone we love, it can be a beginning of deeper understanding and new ways to be in relationship.

Alpha and Omega, copyright Chantal Pare

Last Sunday, Steve Gray shared a wonderful song by Susan Ashton, "Agree to Disagree" [Click here to listen to the song, and here to read the lyrics] and led some of us in a discussion at a cookout for the Men's Breakfast Group and their spouses. As I listened, I realized that coming to a place of 'agreeing to disagree' can certainly be the end of an argument, but more importantly, it can be the beginning of deeper understandings, more creative solutions and unimagined paths forward. For, once we move to this place, instead of being right we want to be in relationship. I think this is what the communion table is really all about, isn't it?

Hoping to see all of you on Sunday and Blessings for the days ahead - Laura Lee

Texts for Sunday:

Thursday, July 12, 2012

How do you prepare for worship?

This week, I invite you to read "Preparing Ourselves for Worship" on the Alban Institute website. Here is an excerpt:
          "Few of us give much thought to entering worship. On most Sundays, we consider ourselves fortunate to get out of bed, locate suitable clothing, swallow some coffee, and glance at the newspaper before scrambling out the door, driving to church, and sliding into the pew in time for the prelude. Add children, a partner, a spouse, or out-of-town guests to the mix, and the minimal goal of arriving in time for the first hymn may be the best one can do. At this pace, we might finally feel centered enough to "enter" worship toward the end of the sermon, or maybe not until the final hymn....

          Preparing for worship entails three steps: slowing down, making a transition, and warming up. If we play an instrument, we set aside time before we perform for playing scales or other preparatory exercises. If we play a sport, dance, or practice yoga, we take time to warm up, elevate our heart rate, and stretch properly. These preparations help us make the most of our practice or performance because they help us move our focus from other parts of life to the activity at hand so that we can engage in it more fully. Worship demands this same preparation."

Click here to read the whole article...I hope to worship with you on Sunday!


Thursday, July 5, 2012

How Did They Do It?
It is hard to imagine two people more different than Ted Kennedy & Orrin Hatch. Certainly they were diametrically opposed politically. And, they came from different parts of the country, different faiths, different backgrounds....had different personality styles... the list is probably endless. BUT, they were friends -  close, supportive, trusted, loving friends. Amazing in this day of polarization, partisanship and conflict as a way of life. Ted Kennedy & Orrin Hatch were friends....

I think it's because they broke bread together. Every week in Washington, they had supper alone together and often lunches in between. They shared family meals at Hyannis in the summer and in Utah during the ski season. They grabbed a quick hot dog during a recess and had emergency breakfasts together. No matter what, they kept coming to the table, breaking bread and finding the common ground. Amazing, when you think that John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell probably never even have a cup of coffee together.

Last week, Cyndi Slothower shared an amazing sermon with the Church Council. It was preached by the Rev. Dr. Renita Weems at the National Cathedral last Martin Luther King Sunday. She preaches into our broken world, broken churches, broken families and broken lives with the Gospel call to "Keep Coming to the Table.” This seems to be something Kennedy & Hatch knew. It is certainly something Jesus knew when he called such diverse people to follow him. He knew that we could and would work through anything, if we just keep coming to the table.

I encourage you to listen to the sermon (click here). If it doesn't show up, look for a link on the right to watch it in Windows Media Player.

And, think a bit about your own life, our church and our nation. Think about the Christ, who longs for us to be one and who calls us to the table.....keep on coming....

Blessings, Laura Lee

Mark 6:1-13