Blog: Random Thoughts on Sunday's Sermon

Below are some random thoughts on this coming Sunday's message.  We hope they create a little time in your day to reflect on the journey of faith and life.  If they spur any thoughts, quotes, or experiences, please share them.  God moves among us as we share with each other.

When I first had an inkling to read the Bible, I asked a friend how best to approach it. She said that first she prayed to God and asked to be directed to what she needed for the day. Then she would randomly open the Bible and begin to read. While this worked for her, it proved a miserable approach for me. I couldn’t make sense of anything!

What I’ve learned over the years is that it is difficult to make sense of the Bible without help. Therefore as we begin The Bible Challenge on September 30 (click here for more information), I highly recommend the following:

  • Use a Bible with commentary and supplemental information. I recommend the Harper Collins Study Bible in the New Revised Standard Version. It is a great aid in helping make sense of what one is reading.
  • Incorporate a devotional based on your daily Bible readings. I encourage you to use The Bible Challenge: Read the Bible in a Year. It provides a short devotional, as well as questions to consider and a short prayer for the day.
  • Attend the special lectures we are hosting on different aspects of the Bible. And talk to others about what you’re reading and thinking.
  • Finally, it’s not a race. If you need to go slower to engage the readings in a meaningful way, that’s ok.  Instead of reading all the texts for the day, focus on one section of the Bible for the year. Some decide to read only the Old Testament readings for the year, while others would rather focus on the New Testament.

The bottom line: you don’t need to do this alone. Make use of the wonderful resources available so that this is a spiritually energizing experience!

 

Posted by Rev Michael Bos, Friday, September 27, 2013

I am really good at starting things and sometimes I struggle to finish the goal I had in mind. Anyone relate? So as we are on the brink of a Bible in a year I am approaching this year with mixed feelings. On one hand I love it! What an incredible spiritual practice we are doing as a community of faith. Think about what we can learn from each other, the questions we will raise, and the possibility for more meaningful faith interactions. On the other hand, have you seen the Bible? That book is bigger than Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix! A small voice in my head keeps saying, “Oh Jes, you’re the pastor, you can’t get behind on the readings. What will that communicate?” After I get done anxiously shaming myself (a practice I don’t recommend) I then answer myself, "What will that communicate? That will communicate that this is a big challenge and even one of the pastors will be struggling to finish all the readings and what grace that will be for the entire community to know that! So what if I get behind on a day, I can pick it up the next day"! The plan is there to guide us but not restrict us. I, like many of you, will be reading the Bible in a year and I am so grateful for the grace we will give each other. Let’s not be ashamed if we fall behind in our reading. How about we read with grace and we encourage each other this year. I will make it through the entire Bible, you will make it through the entire Bible, and we will do this together. May this be an opportunity for us to grow in grace with each other!

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Jeff Foxworthy, of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour fame, hosts a game show called “The American Bible Challenge.” According to the producers, it is “a fun, spirited game show that celebrates the Bible, its teachings, relevance and place in American culture.” I’ve watched the show several times, and it is amazing to see so many people have so much fun exploring the content of the Bible.

Many of us not only want to learn of the Bible’s relevance in American culture; we want to understand its relevance in our daily lives. We want to know how we can make the stories of our spiritual ancestors part of our story so that our lives can be shaped and transformed by God.

To help us do this, we are beginning our own Bible Challenge. It is a program developed within the Episcopal Church. It divides the Bible into daily readings, which includes a passage from the Old Testament, New Testament, and a Psalm for the day. For a schedule of the readings, click on this link .

There is a devotional that one can use for the day’s readings. It is called The Bible Challenge: Read the Bible in a Year, and is available on Amazon. It also includes questions to consider and a prayer for the day.

Throughout the year we will have special guests and lectures, and periodically, staff and members will give their take on the readings. It is going to be a great year as we engage the Bible together.

We invite you to join us as we begin this journey on Monday, September 30. Watch our blogs this week as we share how to prepare for the Bible Challenge.

Posted by Rev Michael Bos, Monday, September 23, 2013

Last week our choir sang with LYRA, a Russian vocal quartet on tour in the United States. We met on Sunday morning around 10:00 and after a brief rehearsal, we sang three pieces together in the service, one in English and two in Russian. It was very beautiful, moving and exquisite.

It wasn't until Monday, though, that I realized what had just happened. Here were about 15 people who did not speak the same language and who did not know each another. But miracle of miracles, we created beautiful music together. What was especially astounding was that we created this in spite of the current tensions between our two countries. Music is truly a universal language!

Posted by Cynthia Powell, Friday, September 20, 2013

Route 66

As we begin “Route 66: a Biblical Journey,” I need to confess that nearly twenty years ago I publically declared that I don’t believe in the Bible. During a sermon, I posed the question, “How many of you believe in the Bible?” And as expected, all those present raised their hands. Then I looked at the congregation and said boldly, “I don’t.” There were audible gasps.

After a long pause I said, “I don’t believe in the Bible. I believe in the God to whom the Bible points.” This little pulpit stunt led to several difficult conversations with parishioners, but it allowed a discussion about our loyalties. Is it to the Bible or a creed? Or is it to God, revealed to us in and through Christ?

People do not show up at the church’s doorstep to develop a relationship with a book. They want to experience God.

This is important to remember as we begin reading through the Bible in a year. We are not doing it to learn religious information or to develop belief in the Bible. We are doing it so that we can know and experience God.

Join us as we begin the Bible challenge and read through the Bible in a year. It starts on September 30!

 

 

Posted by Rev Michael Bos, Thursday, September 19, 2013

Here are some biblical bloopers that people have given in answering questions about the Bible:

•  “The Egyptians were all drowned in the dessert. Afterwards, Moses went up to Mount Cyanide to get the Ten Commandments.”

•  “Moses died before reaching Canada. Then Joshua led the Hebrews in the Battle of Geritol.”

•  “Jesus enunciated the Golden Rule, which says to do one to others before they do one to you. He also explained, ‘A man doth not live by sweat alone.’”

•  “The epistles were the wives of the apostles.”

Our knowledge of the Bible is not what it used to be, and this is to our own detriment. The Bible holds the possibility of being a source of faith and hope, an instrument that directs us toward God. While it is true that it can be a frustrating book to read, full of antiquated stories that sometimes offend our modern sensibilities, it is this historical distance that jars our senses and helps us examine faith and life anew.

This year we want to open up the world of the Bible to you. To do so we are launching “Route 66: a Biblical Journey.” At the center of this stands “The Bible Challenge,” which is to read through the Bible in a year. Along the way we’ll provide resources to help you grow in your understanding of the Bible. So watch our blogs for the next two weeks as we help you prepare to make the most of this journey. On Monday, September 30, we will begin the daily readings.

Posted by Rev Michael Bos, Tuesday, September 17, 2013

One of my favorite things about New York is the subway.Full disclosure: I am a huge supporter of any and all sorts of public transportation, but especially when it is as extensive and regular as this city’s 656 mile transport line.

A few facts to make you proud:

-It is the most extensive public transportation system in the world by number of stations, with 468 stations in operation

-One of the world's oldest public transit systems--the first underground line of the subway opened on October 27, 1904

-By annual ridership, it is the busiest rapid transit rail system in the United States and 7th in the world.

Yes, there are some disadvantages to riding the subway, privacy being among them, and perhaps I am romanticizing living in NYC a bit, but I love pretty much everything about the subway.  The satisfaction of swiping my card and being given admission to ride as far north as the Bronx and as far south as Coney Island for only $2.50. The independance of being car-less but having access to all five boroughs almost 24 hours a day. A car full of people from just about every walk of life heading to dozens of different destinations.

At the beginning of the summer, I would often bring a book before heading out the door, but now instead, I mostly look around and observe. I see the father with his young daughter reassuring her on her first subway ride, “It’s ok, it gets really full sometimes, just hold onto me.” The women holding two dozen balloons, going to a birthday party (?) or the two incredible loud British teenagers telling the whole car what they did this weekend or the amazing rockabilly band cheerfully and expertly playing  classic rock-and-roll, all these people and their lives somehow intersecting with mine, even if its only for one stop.

It reminds me of Sunday morning worship. A place where no matter where we call home, what labels we or others give us, or however long we stay, has the potential to bring us into communication with people we never would have thought we would meet. It also brings our life story with the stories of our faith ancestors: carpenters, kings and queens, and a little boy who gives up his lunch to help feed a crowd. It’s pretty amazing what can happen in one hour.

Posted by gcipriano, Wednesday, August 21, 2013

“Sampling” in the music industry is taking a portion of a sound recording and reusing it as an “instrument” in another song. Hip Hop music was based around this art, then largely done by DJs, now done mostly by computer programs. Albeit, legally and even artistically, sampling is considered controversial by some, especially, when you sample without giving credit and royalties where it is due, it remains in use. At its best, it pays tribute to the past by incorporating new beats into the original rhythms that got everything started.

So it seems that DJs and the people of God have something in common: we dip often into the well of the best songs pieces.

                         turntable

Christianity has a really good track record of doing some sampling. Jesus stood up in the synagogue to read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  He concluded by saying, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

He sampled the words that his community had been hearing for generations and remixed it by including himself into the song--he was the culmination of past and new beats. New rhythms were playing in the well-known chords of a song as told in C.S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew that Aslan the lion first sung, creating the land of Narnia, the world as we know it. This song continues to be sung today each time we read, study, and hear the scriptures of the Old and New Testament.

The Holy Spirit binds these holy words into our hearts, blending it with the ordinary and extraordinary happenings in our day, making a new beat in that old, old song so it reverberates in our ears, so that we reach again and can’t wait to hit repeat.

Posted by gcipriano, Wednesday, August 7, 2013

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.

Galatians 5:22-23

When this passage was written, the church in Galatia was in trouble. They had been misled to believe something about the church that wasn’t true. They believed that a person must be circumcised in order to belong to the Christian community, and Paul wrote a letter to them to straighten them out.

But people like rules and standards. Rules are straightforward and objective. Perhaps, circumcision appealed to the Galatians because it is a deliberate practice that could be used to designate who is in and who is out. It is simple and simple answers can be deceptively appealing. Without a simple answer, we get nervous.

The letter to the Galatians says "No". Following Jesus is to be transformed by the Spirit. Plus nothing.

Describing Paul’s agenda in the letter to the Galatians, Mark Allen Powell writes, “The Spirit produces what the law cannot effect.” Following rules cannot transform us. Redemptive power is unleashed in us when we are transformed by the Holy Spirit.

Paul grasps the Galatians by the collar and says, be free! And ‘be free’ is a much more complicated, foggy idea. Foggy ideas make us nervous. How will we know who’s in and who’s out?! I love Galatians 5:22-23 because it gives the simple/complex, beautiful/horrifying truth:

This is how you know.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

 

Posted by Mandy Meisenheimer, Thursday, August 1, 2013

On day one of seminary orientation I sat in a classroom listening to the Dean talk about the inclusive language policy. I sat listening to her and found myself misty-eyed. I was coming to seminary with so much hurt from patriarchy and a male image of God that was not up for discussion in my undergrad. Listening to our Dean talk about the care we use when we talk about God compassionately began healing wounds of patriarchy in my life. We were told about the importance of using “God” and not just “He” every time we talked about God. We were told about the importance of using “She” for God at different times as well. If God is Sprit (John 4:24) then it is important that we not use one specific pronoun to refer to God as that communicates one particular image of God. This isn’t about political correctness this is about theological faithfulness.

In my personal devotional life I often turn to the Psalms. I have a version of the Psalms called “Rejoice, Beloved Woman! The Psalms Revisioned” that reveals a feminine image of God that embodies the strong and nurturing feminine persona. It has been incredibly enriching to my soul to read these Psalms revised. Here is a portion of Psalm 90 for us to meditate on today:

Mother, you have been our sanctuary. Before the earth and the cosmos were born, you were God.

You renew everything and everyone. Thousands of years are like one day for you. Life shoots up in the morning  and withers at night. Your power can sweep us away. Torn from all and laid naked we call to you. Our souls are transparent to your glance. Our future can vanish like breath. Shaddai, your loveliness wraps us. You caressed our hands, and our labor is filled with your grace.

Grace and Peace - Jes

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Wednesday, July 31, 2013