First Congregational Church
January 28, 2017
4th Sunday after Epiphany, Annual Meeting Sunday
“Our Authority and Witness”
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
Halfway between New York City and Washington, D.C., the train's engine fell silent.
"I've got good news and bad news," the conductor announced. "The bad news is we lost power." The passengers groaned. "The good news," he added, "is we weren't cruising at 30,000 feet."
Lew Schneider says that his family uses a really strong sunblock when they go to the beach with the kids. It’s SPF 80: You squeeze the tube, and a sweater comes out.
In an all-too-probable reality, Lena couldn't decide whether to go to Salt Lake City or Denver for vacation, so she called the airlines to get prices. "Airfare to Denver is $300," the cheery salesperson replied. "And what about Salt Lake City?” "We have a really great rate to Salt Lake—$99," she said "But there is a stopover.” “Where?" "In Denver," she said.
The scripture passage for this morning finds Jesus traveling, or having traveled. From Nazareth to Capernaum, Google Maps says it’s just 48 miles by car. Since Jesus was hoofing it, it would have taken somewhere in the vicinity of 9 hours. Saturday came and it was time for Jesus and the crew to go to the synagogue, just like any other Saturday, just like any other synagogue in that part of the world, back nearly 2,000 years ago.
21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, 24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.
27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.
Thank you, Denis. It was an ordinary Sabbath day, in an ordinary synagogue, and one of my nightmares happened: someone from the congregation yelled out something that was more than edgy, and more than rude - a cry for help that was really and truly beyond any there that day.
(Yes, I have really played out such scenarios more than once in my mind, because I am convinced that someone named Murphy’s Law lives in the white house to the west of the parsonage. "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong” is not about the people that live in that house, but about how life can sometimes be. From a fire to a person with a gun to a person actually dying, I’ve tried to think about how I - and we - might react vs. how we could react. Not that I’m paranoid, mind you, but I think of those times as boy scout and girl scout mental fire drills - always being prepared.)
Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, Dean, President and Professor of New Testament at Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas said, “The cultural distance between the world of this text and contemporary society presents challenges for interpretation.” I beg to differ.
Whether it’s a synagogue, church, temple, mosque, school, shopping mall or playground, there are people possessed with “impure spirits,” as the scripture says. Some of those possessed wave and shoot guns and bombs, but I have a feeling that there are a good many other folks, that come to our church home that are working to suppress such spirits that seek to serve as stumbling blocks. Not all those who suffer from such impure spirits are at such high levels of violence. In fact, I think those instances are more rare. But those with spirits that are grieving, sad, lost, searching, lonely are far more abundant than we may realize. And I applaud Britain’s appointment of a Minister of Loneliness in their realization of such an invasive malady.
Ms. Kittredge went on to say, “To attribute symptoms of shouting and convulsing with possession by an unclean spirit is not consonant with our understanding of the causes of mental or physical illness.” I think a good many of us can agree with that statement. Mental illness, as we find out more about it, is not a crime, except in our ability to label it and our non-treatment of it.
More often than most any of us realize, there are people who come into our circles that are struggling with issues and individuals that are keeping them at arms length from healing and being whole. And while it may seem like an odd topic for a day in which we will hold our annual church meeting, it is somewhat appropriate, in that for the last 150 years or so, this church family has been the place of respite for souls that are troubled, pained, broken and needing rest. Week after week, the people sitting next to you, or to the person who sat in your spot last week, or the week before that, have needed our prayers and embrace and acceptance. So we begin another Frankfort Congregational Church year, reminded that simply showing up on a Sunday morning is a much bigger deal than merely getting out of bed.
I find it interesting that the impure spirit refers to itself in the plural and the singular. Its even more interesting when we remember that in the very first chapter of the very first book of the Bible, that God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness.” I’m sure there are probably books and doctoral papers written about the plurality of spirits in the religious world, and perhaps God will put it on the schedule for preaching one day down the road. But for today, it is also about voice.
Cynthia Kittredge was writing mainly to preachers, but her point is easier is for all of us. “A preacher might play with the motif of voice in the opening scenes of Mark: the voice of the prophet crying in the empty wilderness, the voice from heaven speaking at the baptism, and here the voice of the man, which is at the same time, the voice of the unclean spirit, who shouts and cries out the name of Jesus, not with admiration but with fear. Is the cry with a loud voice with which he comes out, a death rattle, or a curse? As the story proceeds the opposing forces will gather strength, will do more damage, and will seem to silence Jesus himself (Mark 14:61). Jesus commands the spirit to “be silent” with the same word as he commands the sea to “be still” “be silent” (Mark 4:39). He rebukes the unclean spirit, the sea (Mark 4:30) and even Peter (Mark 8:33).
I think Ms. Kittredge’s point is important in understanding the next sentences of our passage for this morning - the part about Jesus teaching with authority. It was an ordinary sabbath in an ordinary synagogue, and on top of a man calling out, challenging and identifying Jesus, there was something different.
There was once a time when two men recited the twenty-third psalm. One was a well-known actor, the other an old and rather unsophisticated minister. The actor’s rendering of the psalm was beautiful and commanding. Everyone enjoyed hearing the rich words of the beloved psalm spoken in his clear baritone. All the inflections and pauses were perfect.
Then the old minister spoke. He stumbled a bit and the words were broken with unnatural punctuations of silence. But when he finished there were tears in the eyes of the listeners. Something had happened and it was the actor who gave the interpretation: “I know the psalm,” he said, “but this man knows the shepherd.” That is the difference authority makes.
In a comforting way, some things don’t change, in that Jesus is still our shepherd and part of our job is getting out of the way so that those who sit among us - we, too - can hear his voice. He is still our authority and witness. It isn’t brought up too often, but as Congregationalists, one of the very first things we tout is that 1. “Christ alone is the head of the church.”
As Congregationalists, we don’t adhere to any particular confessions of faith or creeds, but we do embrace the ideas that 2. All church members are spiritually equal and called to the work of ministry. 3. Every local church is autonomous and complete. 4. Each local church is called into wider associations of fellowship. 5. Believers are bound to one another in voluntary covenant. 6. Every Christian possesses full liberty of conscience in interpreting the Gospel and 7. The Bible is fully sufficient as our guide in matters of faith and practice and will inspire individuals and direct the church with fresh light and truth for every generation. - or “More light yet to come,” as it were.
As a last word to preachers - and ultimately to all of us, Ms. Kittredge said this: “There are risks in identifying the forces of evil and of God in contemporary struggles too, specifically, particularly if one assumes oneself and ones’ own “people” to be on the side of God. Contemporary preaching in communities with political and economic power should be cautious about this. However, the community that performed and heard Mark’s gospel, was powerless and poor in a country occupied by a powerful empire. The theological imagination of the victory of God’s power over illness, disability, and danger was for them, lifesaving good news.”
Regardless of who runs these United States, no matter our personal rank in the economy, despite the woes and “impure” spirits that cause people to stumble, our call is to continue to witness to the authority of Christ to lead us, guide us and enable us to lead others in our collective challenge to be great people after God’s heart. To that end, let us pray.
Holy God and Gracious Spirit, thank you for sending your Son, that we might better understand not only your love for us, but our ability to respond to your love, in our callings and witnessing. Help us to be strong when we feel weak, to be humble when it would be self-righteous to gloat, and merciful when we could be vengeful. Remind us of our call to be witnesses to your authority in our lives, to the authority of your name and the power you have to teach us your ways. For the blessing we all have in being called your children, all your people say, Amen.
First Congregational Church
January 21, 2017
3rd Sunday after Epiphany
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
I think one of the great things about this particular church family is the number of readers among us. Some like biographies, some like non-fiction, and some of us like fiction - even historic fiction. There are, however, a few books that will not ever be found, such as “Saltwater Fishing,” by Barry Cuda. Or “How to Fish,” by Willy Ketchum.
While I was looking up other “fishing books never written,” I stumbled across an article from the Smithsonian magazine that talks about a book called “The Compleat Angler.” The interesting thing about that book is that it was written in the 1600s, and is one of the most reprinted books in the English language. It’s supposedly a Walden-like meditation on nature and friendship. And some of you might have thought you wouldn’t be learning anything new today!
For those of you here last week, I don’t know why the lectionary committee chose the early passage from John and then an early passage from Mark for today. But there we are. Last week it was the calling of Nathaniel and Philip, this week it’s Simon, Andrew, James and John. Last week, the environmental background was a fig tree, this week it’s the Sea of Galilee. In both passages, Jesus is building his band of brothers.
14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
Jesus Calls His First Disciples
16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.
19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
Thank you, Liz. For the academic portion of today, I’ve included a graph in the bulletin insert. Sometimes I think things can make more sense if you can compare and contrast them. The chart came, in part, from a Wikpedia article on the Book of Kells. The Book of Kells is housed in Dublin, Ireland, and is a beautifully illustrated version of the four Gospels, written around 800 AD, with intricate and extravagant artwork, considered Ireland’s finest national treasure.
Whoever did them, there are pictures of the Gospels using winged images. In Matthew it’s a winged man or angel, in Mark it’s a winged lion, Luke is a winged ox and John is a winged eagle. (It’s interesting that the creators didn’t choose a winged fish - relating this to our scripture passage, but anyway.) While you can read more about the distinctions of the Gospels after this incredibly stunning sermon, it would be interesting to find out if the Book of Kells had any part in C.S. Lewis’ created The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
From Lewis’ book, “when the children first hear about the lion, named Aslan, one of the characters, Susan, asks, “Is he — quite safe?” Mr. Beaver replies, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
One might expect a king or queen to do a little razzle-dazzle in the beginning of his or her reign. Jesus, however, begins by gathering a circle of people to accompany him, because community matters. In our modern world, phones and technology are important to the living of our lives, and we may even excuse ourselves to take a call in another room, but we have to be careful not to let excuses - of any reasoning - get in the way of being in community. If anything has been reinforced for me this week, it’s just how important it is to invest in our communities - family or no. And I’m not talking just about Frankfort, Beulah or Benzonia, but of this church family, your neighborhood family or those people around you, whom you consider family.
Jesus calls us into communities of relationships. Most of the time, I don’t know that we have thunder and lightening and rumblings that precede the creation of our callings. But we still get callings from God to do God’s work, regardless of what we can or can’t actually do.
Maybe it’s the idea to call someone, not just to check on them, but reconnect with them, no matter how long it’s been since we last spoke with them. Maybe it’s the inclination to visit someone in a nursing home or care facility, because you know, in paying it forward, there will perhaps come a time when any one of us might really appreciate someone giving us a visit.
Or maybe it’s the reminder in the bulletin that there’s free coffee at Petals and Perks again this Tuesday, and what better way to reconnect with the community - catching up on what’s happening or sharing relevant information? Maybe it’s a calling to encourage someone you don’t know well, or a compliment for a stranger.
God’s callings are interesting, because they aren’t always about doing something, but sometimes it’s about how we might feel. Just this week I had someone in the office who spoke about the feeling that came over them - God calling - in that it’s okay to let a loved one “go.” It could be God calling you to make an appointment with a doctor or your car mechanic or any number of things that seem innocuous enough, but in hindsight we clearly see God “calling” us to do something that wasn’t necessarily in the “normal” column.
As Scott Hoezee said, “It is at once striking and quite probably revealing that Mark’s version of the gospel story gets off to such a humble, modest start. Matthew has his mysterious star in the east and the Magi who follow it. Luke gives us layer upon layer of drama surrounding the birth and later appearance of Jesus. John brings us to the rim of the galaxies and the beginning of all things with that all-creating Word of God who was with God in the beginning.
But not Mark. Mark allows Jesus merely to appear from out of nowhere, emerging humbly from the heat vapors emanating from the desert floor to be baptized by John. And then at the very moment when we do expect the curtain to rise on the drama to come, we end up in Galilee even as Jesus starts to cobble together a set of followers that can be described only (and perhaps at best) as rag-tag.
It would be fascinating to hear other stories of “callings.” There’s the calling I had to go into ministry, which started as a feeling to go back to school. There are “callings” to stop drinking or to change the way we respond to those who annoy us and callings to fish on the right side of the sand bar verses the left side of the sand bar. (Just checking….)
Our passage points out that there are “leavings” that happen with callings, too. For James and John, it was leaving their father and the certainty of a job they had known their whole life. St. Francis was sued and then spat upon by his father for abandoning the family business and embarrassing him by living as a pauper. Martin Luther disappointed his father who demanded he go into law. For me, it was leaving the safety of a teaching job to go to school with only the meager funds from my teacher retirement. When we stop one thing to do another, we leave the security in which we felt safe and secure. And yet, when we follow God’s callings, our lives will be changed in ways that might not have otherwise ever have happened.
Fisherman Andrew ended up in western Greece, Spain and Scotland. John ended up living to a ripe old age on the Greek island of Patmos. Philip was a missionary to Asia and traveled to Egypt. Bartholomew even ended up traveling to India.
It can be, at times, difficult to differentiate between God’s calling and the calling of our favorite chair or couch. But when we, like the disciples, leave our comfort zones, we can find ourselves in some really amazing places - literally and figuratively.
Preaching professor, Tom Long, believes we find Jesus in Galilee, when he utters his very first words in Mark, because these are the humble beginnings that match the gospel ministry Jesus is launching. “Galilee” is the place where most of us live. Most of us live - not in the citadels of power or in the glare of the bright lights of history. We, tend to live in the Galilees of the world, on the margins, in those places where the powers-that-be do not visit and that they more often than not - do not know much about.
Knowing what we know about Jesus, it would make all the sense in the world, that if one of the disciples had been a construction worker, Jesus would have invited that person to become a builder of human hearts. Or if he - or she - had been in another part of the world - had been a real estate agent, Jesus would probably have invited him or her to become a seller of kingdom turf.
It’s not always so plain to see that God uses our passions and talents to bring other fisherfolk into the kingdom, or to help disciple people as we travel our own paths. And yet, we can see it so often if we think about it. People with skills and numbers sometimes become volunteers at a local charity to help other folks with taxes or budgeting. The get-well cards and sympathy and birthday cards that some folks are so good at sending out reel in those that aren’t feeling so perfectly on their game and those who are celebrating another trip around the sun.
Near the beginning of today’s passage, Jesus says, “The time has come.” I can’t help but think that it is a way of God saying to each one of us, “the time has come” to do something or say something or pray something - to not only help another person in this band of followers, but even our own selves.
Philosopher and spiritual formation guy, Dallas Willard, tells the story of when he was a boy and rural electrification was just happening and power lines were being strung throughout the countryside. He said, “But suppose even after the lines were up and running, you ran across a house where the weary family still used only candles and kerosene lanterns for light, used scrub boards, ice chests, and rug beaters. A better life was waiting for them right outside their door if only they would let themselves be hooked into the power lines. “My friends,” you could proclaim, “electricity is at hand!” But suppose they just didn’t trust it, thought it was too much of a hassle, and anyway didn’t believe the promises that things might be easier with this newfangled juice running into their house. “If it’s all the same to you, we’ll stick with the old ways.”
Whether we’re thinking about the week ahead or even of the coming seasons, God is calling us to be a part of the kingdom that is at hand. With such an important call, we best start by prayin’!
Holy and Constant God, we thank you for the continual call you have for us and on us - that we are never left without a task to do. Help us, when the days are dreary and dark, to help someone else’s day to be a little lighter. Encourage us when you need us to step into a ministry that’s a little different, that we can do so not fearfully, but with the security that we do it with you. Remind us to pray for those who seem least worthy of our prayers, because sometimes our own voices of pain or inconsideration or self-righteousness can drown out their humanity cries. Forgive us when we deliberately turn away from your calling, and help us to move beyond the regret of missed opportunities. And for those times when we’ve heeded your calling, and you’ve used our passions and talents for the beauty of your kingdom, we are most certainly grateful. For these and all your blessings, all your people say, Amen.
First Congregational Church
January 14, 2017
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
Did you hear about the Italian chef that died? He pasta way. We cannoli do so much. His legacy will become a pizza history.
Today’s scripture passage falls near the beginning of the Gospel of John, the one that does not start with details about Jesus’ birth, but before that - “In the beginning was the Word.” There was a book published in 1844, by a Charles Spear, entitled Names and Titles of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Of the 80 different names that Spear explored, Jesus as Word was the 79th. The internet site bibleresources.org mentions 100 names for Jesus, but numbers aren’t the issue as much as the fact that there are a great many names for Jesus Christ.
Anyway, the writer of John’s Gospel goes from that eternal time of “In the beginning” right to John the Baptist proclaiming the coming Messiah and then Jesus calling Peter to follow him. It’s a lot of action in a short bit of time, and we are suddenly arrive this morning’s passage.
There is a detail that I’d like to prep up front, so that you hopefully don’t get stuck in the reading of it, at least how I’ve usually been stuck. There will be mention of Jesus seeing Nathaniel under a fig tree. Most of the time, when such a detail is pointed out, there is a reason. Fig trees were one of the most important trees in Israel. Its fruit was a staple food and it is very rich in symbolism throughout Scripture. It was a barometer of the health of the nation - taken away as punishment, and flourishing in times of restoration. Who know, maybe Jesus mentioned the fig tree with a little smile on his face. Maybe this fig tree thing doesn’t have any huge impact in this morning’s passage, except as Jesus reminding Nathaniel of a particular day and time.
Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael
43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
Thank you, Rosemary. I think one of the interesting aspects of this passage is that Nathaniel moves so quickly from nay-sayer to advocate. First it’s all, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” and then a few short sentences later, it’s “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Without trying to read anything into the verses between those proclamations, and dismissing any thoughts of trickery, I’d say that it’s quite possible that Nathaniel had an epiphany. Sometimes God comes to us as an epiphany and sometimes we know more about God through other epiphanies. And epiphanies transform us.
Martin Luther King, Jr wrote a book, Stride Toward Freedom, that described a point in which he was ready to give up. “With my cup of coffee sitting untouched before me, I tried to think of a way to move out of the picture without appearing a coward. In this state of exhaustion, when my courage had all but gone, I decided to take my problem to God. With my head in my hands, I bowed over the kitchen table and prayed aloud.
The words I spoke to God that midnight are still vivid in my memory. "I am here taking a stand for what I believe is right. But now I am afraid. The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they too will falter. I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I've come to the point where I can't face it alone.
At that moment, I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never experienced God before. It seemed as though I could hear the quiet assurance of an inner voice saying: "Stand up for justice, stand up for truth; and God will be at your side forever." Almost at once my fears began to go. My uncertainty disappeared. I was ready to face anything.”
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have such epiphanies in our own lives? I don’t know about anyone else, but there have been times in my life that I would have given most anything for a mere post-it note on the bathroom mirror - from God, of course. Actually, there have been times I would have welcomed a 2x4 upside the head, but I like to think that we all mature a little as we age.
But, it’s also interesting that we don’t know the length of time between Jesus reminding Nathaniel of the fig tree incident and Nathaniel proclaiming Jesus to be the Son of God - his epiphany. Maybe it was a really pregnant pause, a nano-second, maybe it was thirty seconds. But there was a space of time in which Nathaniel was able to comprehend what was actually going on.
We also don’t know if it was a pregnant pause, a nano-second or thirty seconds that lapsed when Martin Luther King, Jr. realized the presence of the Divine. But there was a piece of time in which he wasn’t talking as much as he was listening.
I wonder if we think that spiritual or divine epiphanies are for someone “more religious” than we think we are. Or maybe we think that there is some sort of formula we are supposed to follow, a certain place in which we need to be.
Calvin Seminary professor, Scott Hoezee mentioned his gratitude for Jesus choosing the disciples that he did. “The disciples were not, … from among society’s upper echelons. They were not highly educated, well-dressed, or outwardly impressive. The odds are that if you could have met up with Jesus’ band of followers, the first thing that would have struck you would have been their commonness. You would perhaps notice their dirty fingernails, the callous on Philip’s big toe, the missing teeth that were on such obvious display every time James grinned. You might be surprised at how short and stubby a couple of them were and would note the poor grammar that they often employed.” And, I might add, that if this was a somewhat adequate picture of the disciples, then don’t forget that there were perhaps some smells that would fit into those scenes with which we are familiar.
And why not a kitchen table for Martin Luther King, Jr’s epiphany? Or your favorite table, chair, or even your favorite coffee shop, waiting at a stop light, or sitting in the barber chair?
There are a good number of people who really come alive in the winter season, and I say bully for them - truly. But so many others regret this season of grey and continual shuffle-walking. Yet it’s also a time when we can snuggle in, play a fire on your tv with Netflix or sit in front of your own, and just be, to ask yourself, what you think God say to you at this very moment.
Some of us have been in church services for donkey’s years, and others of us are rather new to this idea of intentional family building with people you don’t really know. Regardless of the length of our pew sitting days, if we aren’t taking what we learn and applying it into our own situations, then we’re actually short-changing ourselves.
I remember, a number of years back now, when Dr. Phil Deloria gave a morning message on the cycle of life, or something like that. But I really remember him making the analogy of us and plants in winter, needing that time to rest before the next season of birthing and growing, in seeming absence of life, providing space - time - for life to happen.
God isn’t apt to have such big jobs for us like that of Martin Luther King, Jr. But God still needs each of us to stand for what is right, to listen to God’s still small voice - especially in those moments that seem most unlikely for God speak. God has need of us to review how we act and react to situations and people, so that if repairs or changes need to be made, we can make them on our own, rather than people needing to point them out to us.
I’m sure it’s been on other Facebook pages, but the timing was perfect when I read it off the MacKenzie’s page yesterday morning. It was a little micro-story, indicating that “you are holding a cup of coffee when someone comes along and bumps into you or shakes your arm, making you spill your coffee everywhere.
Why did you spill the coffee? "Well because someone bumped into me, of course!” Wrong answer. You spilled the coffee because there was coffee in your cup. Had there been tea in the cup, you would have spilled tea. Whatever is inside the cup, is what will spill out. Therefore, when life comes along and shakes you (which WILL happen), whatever is inside you will come out. It's easy to fake it, until you get rattled. So we have to ask ourselves... “what's in my cup?” When life gets tough or annoying, what spills over? Joy, gratefulness, peace and humility? Or anger, bitterness, harsh words and reactions?
And lest we think it’s only about us, it’s not. I’m guessing there are ___ vessels here today, and how we react - as a group - as a family - is also an indicator of the epiphanies that God gives us when we are willing to listen and pause and reflect in those moments God gives us. So let us pray.
Gracious God of all our days, in these that are grey and cold and seemingly dismal in so many ways, help us to listen for your epiphanies. Help us to reflect on who we are - as your people - that we can put down that which is not helpful to take up that which is helpful - forgiveness, patience, second chances, and faith - that all things will work for our good, even if we may not see it in the moment. Help all of us to fill our cups with what you need to overflow into the world, that we can be all that you’ve seen us to be. And thank you, for those epiphanies that have helped us to be where we are today. For these and all your gifts, all your people say, Amen.
Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.