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.

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

Room for All is an organization that is compelled by the inclusive love of God revealed in Jesus Christ and empowered by the Spirit, with a commitment to welcome and affirm lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies, while pursuing grace-filled dialogue with those who believe differently. I’m also happy to say that RfA is an organization which our Benevolence Committee supports.

Last week, I along with a WECC parishioner, made our way to Michigan to attend the Room for All National Gathering. We met LGBTQ Christians and allies that live across the USA and are connected with the Reformed Church in America. We worshipped together, we broke bread together, and we attended workshops that encouraged our soul. The conference was filled with story telling of what it looks like to be an LGBTQ Christian. I overheard someone say the conference was “soul food” – I like that!

On a regular basis I have conversations with people seeking spiritual guidance as they desire to integrate their sexual/gender identity with their faith commitment. Some of these conversations are hard as people express how their families and/or churches have turned their back on them. When I hear this heartbreaking news I am reminded how thankful to God that Room for All exists. I’m proud that West End Collegiate Church is a house of worship where people of diverse sexual identities and gender expressions can worship and love God. Praise be to our good God!

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Wednesday, October 30, 2013

This week in the book of Matthew, Jesus has some vivid language about the kingdom of heaven and the coming of the Son of Man. Eschatological (end times) passages can be bizarre and even frightening. We imagine our favorite apocalyptic movie with cities burning and people screaming. With this picture of chaos and madness in our minds, it is easy to miss the message in the text. John Dominic Crossan explains,

"Eschatology is not about the destruction of the earth but about its transfiguration, not about the end of the world but about the end of evil, injustice, violence—and imperialism." The Historical Jesus: Five Views

When we pray the Lord's Prayer saying, "Thy will be done", we are asking for this kind of eschatology. We are praying that evil will fail, justice will be accomplished, and violence will cease. What are we doing today to bring the "end times" into our lives today?


Posted by Mandy Meisenheimer, Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Psalms are a wild ride of emotion. Although they have ordered poetic structure, at times they read like the diary of an comic book villain. The writer wants his enemies to burn in a fiery furnace (Psalm 21), he wants their children to die (21), and he wants God to make his enemies watch him eat (Psalm 23).

Because Jesus taught us to love our enemies, this may be a good day to reflect upon some scriptures that offer us some hopeful alternatives to vengeance. One specific passage has been haunting my soul lately:

For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  Ephesians 6:12

I used to see the enemies in this passage in the forms of demons and Satan himself, but I believe that the darkness described here includes systemic racism, sexism, homophobia, and child abuse, hate, rage, anger, and fear. These are our enemies, and our human brothers and sisters are slaves to or victims of these forces. We do not fight people. We fight evil, wherever it may be found.

Now I sound like a comic book character!

This week as you read the innermost rage of the psalmist, don't forget who our enemies truly are.

Posted by Mandy Meisenheimer, Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Psalms have two identities. They are Scripture and they are ancient liturgy. Imagine that we are glancing at ancient bulletins from the people of God; these are the words they would say together. Today’s Psalm is of the liturgical mindset of praying for rulers. James Luther Mays in his commentary on the Psalms says that “These prayers express the deep awareness of a people that their destiny is bound up with the success of the one who has been invested with power for the sake of the whole.” I think it’s interesting to read this Psalm in an age that is skeptical of institutional leadership, questions the integrity of elected leaders, and doubts that each official is divinely appointed by God. So how do 21st Century people read this Psalm? We can take the essence of this and let it inspire us to pray for the people we’ve elected. Pray for those who govern us that they may seek what is good, what is just, what is merciful and that they may walk humbly while leading. Let the Psalms direct our prayers today.

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Wednesday, October 23, 2013

On Day 23 we read a parable of Jesus that is a message against spiritual pride. The parable is bookended by two stern warnings to the self-righteous: "But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first." The straightforward point? God's grace covers latecomers. Who are we to judge? But it is easy to judge, especially when we are doing all the work!

Hard work is a classic American value. We expect people to work and we expect to be compensated fairly for that work. Labor is also a value in the scriptures, both old and new. Humans need to be active and productive for our health and our survival. So when Jesus describes the idle people in verse 7, we know that there is a problem:

"And about five o'clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, 'Why are you standing here idle all day?' They said to him, 'Because no one has hired us.'"  

Commentary-writer Frederick Dale Bruner does not see a group of lazy people in this parable. Bruner sees the brokenness of the world. "Uselessness, unemployment, not having rewarding work—these de-humanize." In this vignette, people who had no work, find work. Bruner compares this parable to the story of Jesus calling his disciples, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people!" (Matthew 4:19).

Part of the restoration that God brings when we open up our lives to the Spirit is a purposeful life, a task, a call. This call reminds us that- in contrast to Bruner's description - we are useful. We are fisher-people.

Posted by Mandy Meisenheimer, Tuesday, October 22, 2013

I’m curious by the anxiety of Moses in Exodus 4-6. Did you notice why he was reluctant to respond to what God was calling him to do? In Exodus 4:10-17 Moses told God, “Oh my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” Moses is nervous that his speech is insufficient. I have two observations  to note about this.  The first is that God (being who God is) knew about Moses’ speech impediment and God still called Moses to lead a giant revolution. God calls unlikely people to do God’s work. Secondly, Moses is not alone in these chapters. Did you notice how Aaron helped Moses lead the meeting with the elders of Israel (Exodus 4:27-31)? When God calls you, God equips you. I find this incredibly encouraging!

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Monday, October 21, 2013