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.

I’m in seminary for a lot of reasons, and here is a picture of two of those reasons.

Mandy and her friends at Seminary

In 2008 I had quit the teaching job I loved and I was lonely and bored.

How bored?

So bored, I was writing American Idol recap blogs every week for my friends. Pitiful.

Although I cherished my new life as a mother, something was missing. Our family had just moved to Michigan and I needed something else to do and someplace to be so I googled some options and found myself in a group of women at a local church, trying to find faith and community together. After a few months of soaking in the peace and quiet of two hours in a room of adults, I took a deep breath and asked the leaders of this group if I could help out. I asked if I could teach.

These two faithful women heard my request and within two more months and after a bit of “Who-is-this?” vetting, I was on the schedule.

Last week when I was in Michigan attending Western Theological Seminary, I thanked these two women for giving me a chance. In the midst of my lonely wandering, they gave me an opportunity to find my voice. This week as I return from seminary, where my voice is being refined and shaped, I look back and say ‘thank you’ to the ones who gave me my first grown-up platform.

My questions for you today:

Who can you empower? Whose life can you change by extending your trust, just a little bit?

Or, are you bored? Do you need to be stretched into a new role in your life? What brave step can you take into using your gifts and talents to serve others?

Posted by Mandy Meisenheimer, Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Every third Wednesday of the month we explore our faith at a local pub. We pray together, we converse about spiritual topics that mean something in our everyday lives, and we share a pint (a beverage of your choice). This is a place of authentic, honest, and fun community. Tonight we are meeting and we will be exploring the legacy of Doctor King.

I remember the first time I traveled to Washington D.C. and explored the Lincoln Memorial. I remember standing on the steps where Doctor King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech and as I looked out over the Reflecting Pool I had tears in my eyes imagining what it was like to be Doctor King on August 28, 1963 calling for an end to racism. I've always been inspired by the way Doctor King's activism was rooted in his faith. Doctor King was also The Reverend King.

Tonight we will reflect on Doctor King's legacy as an activist and preacher. In preparation for tonight I encourage you to watch and listen to Doctor King's "I Have a Dream" speech.

If you haven't attended before, or if you have attended every time, I hope to see you tonight at 7:00 PM at The Dublin House on West 79th Street!

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Praising God and giving thanks is part of our spiritual practice as Christians. God has been gracious to us so we offer our songs of gratitude and lift our voice in hallelujahs.

But let us be real for a moment, life is not a box of chocolates. Our hallelujahs are often times muted by the reality of difficult circumstances in our lives. Sometimes our song of praise is tempered by a present sadness that things are not as we had expected them to be. So we sing our song of broken hallelujahs and we can trust that God sees the heart of each of our desires.

Leonard Cohen reminds us that there are many types of hallelujahs. Sometimes our praise is bathed in a baptism of glitter and shouts of joy. And sometimes our praise is cold and broken. These are the types of hallelujahs that sing forth from our mouths this Advent season. Some of us are dancing and some of us are crying. Some of us are rejoicing and some of us are barely hanging on.

These are our broken hallelujahs and they all belong. The beauty of the Christian faith is that you don’t have to offer a hallelujah that isn’t honest. God meets us where we are. So whatever type of hallelujah is on your tongue today, Jesus is with you. That’s the story of Christmas, God with us.

Leonard Cohen: Hallelujah

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Though I carry “The Reverend” in front of my name, I can be just as materialistic as the next person. Therefore it would be easy for me to generate a long list of things one could purchase for me. So if you’re looking to buy your pastor a nice gift, just let me know!

But I’ve been thinking about what I really want for Christmas. What I really want is to spend the day with people I care about and those who care about me. I want a day that I know that those I love the most are happy and joyful. I want a day in which the peace of God is overwhelming, within me and around me. I want to stroll the streets in our neighborhood and know that no one is homeless or hungry. I want every child to wake up in a home where they are safe, secure, and loved. These are just some of the things I really want this Christmas.

Since Advent is the season of preparation for Christmas, I’ve been asking myself the question, “What are you doing to prepare so that such a day is possible?” It’s one thing to want something, but it is quite another to take actions that help you fulfill your deepest desires.

When I contemplate the birth of Christ and all that it represents, it reminds me of what matters most. Thankfully, Advent gives me the sacred space to consider what I will change so that together we can realize those things in our lives.

 

 

Posted by Rev Michael Bos, Monday, December 9, 2013

Last week West End Collegiate Church provided a Thanksgiving meal through our soup kitchen ministry. While our patrons ate turkey, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce, Cynthia Powell and I provided some Christmas background music. As I sang the songs that have given me so much joy through the years, I felt a new kind of tension this year. Some of the lyrics that we sing so robustly during the holiday season seemed oddly cruel to sing to a group of people who may not have had a place to sleep after completing their meals:

Oh the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
And since we've no place to go
Let is snow, let it know, let it snow.

Or

Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more

Every time we sang a song from the last sixty years, I felt a pain in my heart. Shopping? Decorating? Chestnuts roasting on an open fire? Many lovely distractions that probably mean very little to a person who is in a desperate situation.

But when we sang about the Story, the tragic, cold, miserable story of a young woman giving birth in a stable, it felt right to me. These songs are about hope, peace, justice, and light. These songs, with their mournful melodies, reflect the tension of darkness and light in our world today. These songs are timeless.

The lovely people who came to eat at our soup kitchen appreciated all the music. I am sure they were not as fixated upon the lyrics as I was. But if they heard one line from one song, I hope it was not about silver bells and street lights. I hope they heard about a lonely family with no place to stay, finding peace and comfort and joy.

 

 

Posted by Mandy Meisenheimer, Thursday, December 5, 2013

"In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” - Matthew 3:1-3

The anticipation for a big event is thrilling. I love the process of picking out what I want to wear, imagining who I will get to talk with, and the general feeling that something wonderful is going to happen. While we wait for an event we prepare for what is about to happen. Some of you may head to the dry cleaners, some of you may be in the kitchen making some delicious cuisine, and some of you may need to welcome the calm and simply sit in silence with a cup of coffee. We prepare in different ways when we are getting ready for something big.

In Sunday's text we are reminded of the spiritual preparation we are to partake in during Advent. We are invited to prepare the way of the Lord during this season of anticipation. Spiritual preparation might be going to worship each week, praying, yoga, reading Scripture, or it may mean writing in a journal. During the hustle of the holidays don't forget to take a moment to spiritually prepare for Christmas. Perhaps that may even mean just stopping and breathing.

Sometimes I need music for my preparation for Christmas. This piece from Godspell is helping me prepare today. We anticipate Christmas by preparing our hearts and minds during the season of Advent. May your hope be renewed this week! 

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Anne Lamott, a masterful storyteller and bestselling author, tells her grandson hypnotizing boring stories about Sleepy Beach and Sleepy Planet at bedtime:

"First, you have to drone: 'one day, Daddy and Jax and Nana decided to go for a walk on a long beach called Sleepy Beach. The sun made them tired. They’d walk and walk and walk and stop for a while for some shade and then walk and walk.' … In Sleepy Planet, 'me and Jax and Daddy are going to really sleepy planets, and they’re warm from the sun so that makes everyone doubly sleepy.'"

Genius! I have started telling stories about Sleepy Beach to my kids. Sometimes they ask for stories about super heroes and somehow those super heroes end up falling asleep on Sleepy Beach. It's a magical routine, and they don't even protest because it makes them feel warm and safe inside.

In our God Squad class of 2nd through 4th graders, we have instituted a routine of our own. We start our worship hour with this Call to Worship every week this fall:

Come now, all who thirst, and drink the water of life
Come now, all who hunger, and be filled with good things.
Come now, all who seek, and be warmed by the fire of love.

I say the first phrase, and the kids say the second. They are starting to memorize it, and I know that because some of them say it and roll their eyes instead of reading the sheet. I call this a win. Routine is worshipful. They may roll their eyes, but they are comforted that they know what to expect when we start our time together.

For the season of Advent, I will include the extended version:

In Christ, the God of heaven has made his home on earth.
Christ dwells among us and is one of us.
Highest of all creation, he lives among the least.
He journeys with the rejected and welcomes the weary.
Come now, all who thirst, and drink the water of life
Come now, all who hunger, and be filled with good things.
Come now, all who seek, and be warmed by the fire of love.

Do those words make you feel warm and safe inside?

See Some Assembly Required

Posted by Mandy Meisenheimer, Wednesday, November 27, 2013

This past Sunday was the last day in our liturgical calendar year and it is called Reign of Christ Sunday. In 1925 Pope Pious XI noticed a rise in secularism and nationalism and he commenced this day to remind Christians that Christ's reign has authority over everything. In the 1970s many Protestant traditions adopted this feast day and it is now part of our liturgical calendar.

I've been thinking about the reign of Christ as I walk around New York City. Early Christians would say "Jesus is Lord" to remind themselves that Caesar was not God and that Jesus showed us the way of God. It was a profoundly spiritual as well as political statement to declare all authority in heaven and earth was in Jesus. When I walked through Central Park on Sunday I stopped and looked around and whispered "Jesus is Lord." When I went to Brooklyn and was at a bar with a few friends I said, "Jesus is Lord." On the subway, when my patience was being tried this morning, I said "Jesus is Lord." I gain perspective when I utter these words and practice my faith in our good God.

As we end our liturgical year let us take comfort in Christ's reign. As we see Christmas lights and candles starting to decorate our city, remember the light of Christ shines still. God's reign is one of love, reconciliation, compassion, and hope. Jesus is Lord!

Posted by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Tuesday, November 26, 2013

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