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.

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

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?

apocalypse

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