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.

Andrea Steinkamp is a West End congregation member who is a mom, accountant, and is exploring writing on her blog. She sent me this piece after worship yesterday because it reminded her of Pastor Michael's sermon. I like inviting voices from the congregation to share about their faith journey and today I am very happy to welcome Andrea's voice as she talks about slivers. Enjoy!

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Monday, November 25, 2013

Tonight is The Gathering at The Dublin House (225 West 79th Street/between Broadway and Amsterdam) at 7:00 PM.  The Gathering is our version of Pub Theology. We talk about God, pray, and connect with each other over beer, soda, or water. It’s an informal gathering where we discuss faith and life over a drinks. I bring the Christ candle and order pizza while you are responsible for the drink of your choice. Always a fun, authentic, and honest time. If you’ve never been before come and check it out! Tonight’s topic is: "Mercy and Justice: What does it look like?"  If you can’t be there then please comment on what mercy and justice mean to you so we can share stories from our virtual community!

Grace and Peace – Pastor Jes

The Dublin House

Posted by Michael Hajek, Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I’ve recently taken up the practice of Centering Prayer. It is a contemplative form of prayer that practices being present with God. For 20 minutes each day I sit in silence and let all emotions, thoughts, and worries bubble up and release them to God. It’s powerful to sit in silence and meet God, especially in the midst of the “Manhattan Madness.”

Psalm 46 says:

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

The interesting thing about this Psalm is that the psalmist expresses two present dangers, the sea and the nations. The sea threatened the earth’s security and the nations were a threat to corporate life. In the midst of danger one is called to return to God and trust God’s intimate and daily presence in our everyday life. The call to “be still” is not a call to turning a blind eye but instead it is a call to return to our God, maker of heaven and earth, Lord over any danger that is pressing in on us.

Centering Prayer has been a way for me to practice this Psalm. I find grace and I find God in the power of silence and being still. It’s counterintuitive to me -- I like to do things; I’m action oriented. There is a time and place to do and act.   Let our actions be taken from a strong trust in God’s hand in this world, not out of anxious worry. Be still my friends, God is present!

(If you are interested in learning more about Center Prayer I suggest checking out Cynthia Bourgeault’s book, Center Prayer and Inner Awakening. I turn to it often!)

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Tuesday, November 19, 2013

This has been a favorite prayer of mine for the past ten years. I find every time I share it that it resonates with so many. Perhaps it will nourish your soul this week as you look to God to guide you in your coming and goings. As you pray, know how dearly loved by God our creator you are. Grace of Christ is yours, I promise.

My Lord God,

I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. – Thomas Merton

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Monday, November 18, 2013

As we prepare for worship this Sunday let me offer a song and honor brevity in my words. We'll be looking at Isaiah 65 which is such a hopeful passage. I recently discovered Rob Leveridge. He writes worship music with a progressive and inclusive message. I hope you enjoy this and find hope and grace as well.

I also want to invite you to Adult Education every Sunday at 10 AM when we look at the passages that we read in worship more closely. I'm looking forward to diving into this passage with you all at 10 AM this Sunday!

Grace and Peace of Christ to each of you.

Isaiah 65 - Rob Leveridge

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Wednesday, November 13, 2013

In December 2000, a couple of teenagers decided to impress their girlfriends with unique Christmas gifts. They broke into the San Francisco Zoo and stole two koala bears. Police found the koalas when an anonymous tipster spoke up, fearing for the safety of the koalas. When the police found the koalas, they were surrounded by oranges, carrots and their own droppings. Koalas eat one thing: eucalyptus leaves. If there are no eucalyptus leaves, koalas will not eat. They will die.

These stolen koalas were hours away from death. When zoo veterinarians welcomed the koalas back into their habitat, the koalas began eating voraciously. Even though koalas are normally shy and secretive while eating, the koalas ate eucalyptus leaves right out of the hands of the zookeeper. After a day in the hands of ignorant captors, finally they were provided with the food they needed.

For some animals, carrots are life-sustaining. For koalas, they were useless. What does the Good News look like to a koala? It looks like eucalyptus leaves and a constant temperature of 65 degrees. What does the Good News look like on Tuesdays at West End Church? It looks like a hearty meal and some fresh warm clothes. What does the Good News look like on Friday Nights during Youth Group? It looks like shooting hoops with friends and laughing about TV shows.

When we share the Good News, we bring hope, love and joy in their infinite forms. As you encounter God’s creation today, what can you do to bring Good News to others? Who needs some eucalyptus today, and people keep serving carrots? We can do better than that.

Zookeeper Nancy Rumsey embraced Leanne, one of the koalas stolen in San Francisco

Posted by Mandy Meisenheimer, Thursday, November 7, 2013

We are grateful to host Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber on her national book tour this evening. She will be reading excerpts from her book "Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint". Now a New York Times bestseller, Nadia Bolz-Weber takes no prisoners as she reclaims the term "pastrix" (pronounced "pas-triks," a term used by some Christians who refuse to recognize female pastors) in her messy, beautiful, prayer-and-profanity laden narrative about an unconventional life of faith.

Heavily tattooed and loud-mouthed, Nadia, a former stand-up comic, sure as hell didn't consider herself to be religious leader material, until the day she ended up leading a friend's funeral in a smoky downtown comedy club. Surrounded by fellow alcoholics, depressives, and cynics, she realized: These were her people. Maybe she was meant to be their pastor. 

Using life stories, from living in a hopeful-but-haggard commune of slackers to surviving the wobbly chairs and war stories of a group for recovering alcoholics, from her unusual but undeniable spiritual calling to pastoring a notorious con artist, Nadia uses stunning narrative and poignant honesty to portray a woman who is both deeply faithful and deeply flawed, giving hope to the rest of us along the way. 

Wildly entertaining and deeply resonant, this is the book for people who hunger for a bit of hope that doesn't come from vapid consumerism or navel-gazing; for women who talk too loud, and guys who love chick flicks; for the gay man who loves Jesus and won't allow himself to be shunned by the church. In short, this book is for every thinking misfit suspicious of institutionalized religion, but who is still seeking transcendence and mystery. 

See you tonight at 7:00!

Bolz-Weber Banner


Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Wednesday, November 6, 2013

I have a small (3) collection of old devotional books. One hundred years ago, people were reflecting upon scripture and thinking big thoughts about a big God, just like we are today. But one hundred years ago, people liked to use the most fancy language that they could muster. I find this highly entertaining and enlightening. Instead of saying, “Be loving to everyone”, my copy of Daily Strength for Daily Needs (1928) quotes William Law:

Let every creature have your love. Love, with its fruits of meekness, patience, and humility, is all that we can wish for to ourselves, and our fellow-creatures; for this is to live in God, united to God, both for time and eternity. To desire to communicate good to every creature, in the degree we can, and it is capable of receiving from us, is a divine temper; for thus God stands unchangeably disposed towards the whole creation.”

However you express your innermost thoughts, whether in poetry or frankness, may we all love each other more deeply today.

Posted by Mandy Meisenheimer, Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Yesterday we remembered all the saints who have gone before us into glory. Each flower represents saints who we miss and honor. The lyrics from the hymn For All the Saints was a wonderful meditation with our service yesterday. People of God, take hope, death does not separate the communion of saints!

For all the saints, who from their labours rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

All Saints Day flowers

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Monday, November 4, 2013

A couple of weeks ago, this interactive map of the United States went viral.

Using TIME Magazine’s personality quiz, you can determine which state of the United States reflects you the most. The state of New York ranks high for openness and neuroticism. Surprised? Probably not.

But after living in New York City for a little over a year, some aspects of the personality of the city do surprise me. I find beauty in strange places. One of those places is space itself.

In the city,
      There is always room for one more person in the elevator.
      There is no such thing as a table for one.
      There is always an open seat for an elderly person, a toddler, or a pregnant woman.
      There is no need to push in line. We’re all getting on the bus eventually.

I used to require more personal space than I do now. New York has taught me that there is enough for everybody. We just have to share.

p.s. I took the quiz: California. But I think I’ll stick around the East Coast for a while!

Posted by Mandy Meisenheimer, Thursday, October 31, 2013