Tuesday, June 28, 2011

All Are Welcome! By Pastor Bettye

June 26th, 2011
Matthew 10:40 – 42
“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me .Whoever welcomes the prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous and whoever gives a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple – truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”
Arriving at a Presbyterian church in Northern Ireland theologian Sioban Garrigan was pleased to be greeted at the door by two women, church members, who seemed to invite her into the conversation. Garrigan realized that these women were ushers of some sort, whose job it was to stand at the door of the church and interview newcomers as they arrived. They quietly asked her name and the first names of any other stranger approaching strangers who wished to join in the morning worship.
Then Garrigan figured out what was happening. Hearing those names, the ushers would draw conclusions about the cultural and religious identity of each. Those with protestant names were welcomed warmly and shown their seats. Those with apparently Catholic names were told that they were surely in the wrong church and sent on their way. It could be safely assumed that Garrigan must be referring to research done decades ago; surly no church would act in this way any longer. Unfortunately it was discovered that this “selection” process remains in current practice today.
This story might be considered as foreign to North Americans because it is about a faraway congregation of Irish Presbyterians, who are nothing like us at all, still fighting their Protestant-Catholic battles. Luckily we have no such issues. Our society has moved past such discriminatory behavior. We have elected an African American president, after all, and knocked down all the boundaries and walls. In our worshipping communities everyone is welcome.
“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me…”
Confronted with the unsettling image of that Protestant church on an Irish hillside, we want to immediately dismiss such boundary keeping as abhorrent to the gospel. Perhaps, however, it is more familiar then we want to admit; a barring of the door may not be as unknown to us as we like to pretend. The churches we know would never ask the name of a stranger in some covert attempt to find them out and send them off to where they belong.
Nevertheless, if we are to be honest about the church that we do know, we would have to confess that, though we define our borders differently, we define them still and more subtly.
Perhaps we are curious about education or profession. We may wonder what neighborhood a guest may live in, or what their life status is like – married, divorced, single, above age 55 or below age 55, retired or still actively employed, children at home or children away with children of their own, members of the Elks or the moose clubs, republican or democrat, gay or straight, locals or visitors, live in a hose or a trailer. While none will be turned away from our doors we will tell ourselves that we simply have more in common with those who are “like us”.
In the twinkling of an eye, during a brief “hello” and handshake what are we doing at our doors? Is there a dominant social or political perspective that one needs to present in order to be promptly welcomed? Is there clarity about the norm for sexual identity or family model that really must be established before the doors of the church are flung wide open in welcome? The Gospel lesson today invites us to ask all of these questions about the quality of the welcome that we offer one another within the body of Christ, the church.
“……whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous and whoever gives them a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple…”
Jesus tells us in today’s gospel that there exists through him a singular means by which we are all made equal. He uses the term “righteous” or “to be made right in the eyes of God”. Our equality as humans rests solely in his offering of himself in love as the great equalizer, a love that makes us “right in the eyes of God”. No person can ever boast of a greater status or be minimized by a lesser status since all have been made right or equal in the eyes of God through the love of Christ. Jesus says take the love for family that love of your closest community and extend it, extend it further then you thought possible and then extend it some more! Welcome all those who have been made righteous – and that would mean ALL humankind – including those you do not know or understand. We don’t have to make others “right” – Jesus did that. We are called to simply love as we have been loved. This is good news my friends; good news for those who have not felt worthy to be welcomed in the past and good news for the gatekeepers who can let go of their prejudices and rejoice in the equality of all in Jesus.
Are we brave enough to preach, teach and live the way of the righteous in the name of Jesus? Our work on this side of the cross is to welcome, to offer and give a cup of cool water. Or reward her promises us will be great.
Portions of this text come from Feasting on the Word, 2011, Westminster John Knox Press, William Goettler, commentarian.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dick Kauffman's Sermon at Cadbury

Our concept of God May be too Small

In the beginning GOD  Gen 1:1

On this Trinity Sunday we are invited to focus on the nature of God and in so doing I think we discover much about ourselves as well…for each one of us has been created in His image although admittedly that image in us has been tarnished by sin..

 We therefore need constantly to guard against the predisposition of our sinful nature to try to make God in our image and instead concentrate on becoming to the best of our ability and God’s Grace on making ourselves over in His image.

 J.B Phillips once wrote a book entitled “Your God is too Small”.  That title flashes into my mind on many occasions.

1. It is there when I find myself making decisions about dealing with other people, especially with those with whom I disagree.

2. It is in my mind when I  often ponder how somehow our nation gets on the wrong side of human history too often, sometimes supporting dictators who enslave and abuse their people and we engage in seemingly endless wars that destroy the lives of millions of God’s creatures - if not His creation itself.

3. It is on my mind when I try to interpret the meaning of Scriptures and I realize that God is the creator of all human beings and He calls upon us his chosen people to reach out in love to all persons helping them to experience His love because He calls us  not to judge others, but to see them as He sees them, the sinners that both we and they are. who are objects of His love.. But we have been called to a Special Covenantal relationship with Him to love others as God loves us ….with compassion, forgiveness and to be conduits of his grace into the world that He has created in love and continues to seek to love through us..

There is a Hasidic tale from Judaism that a friend shared with me of a Conversation between a Rabbi and his students:

Rabbi:  “How can we determine the hour of the dawn, when the night ends and the day begins?”

 “When from a distance you can distinguish between a dog and a sheep” suggested one of the students.

“No” was the answer of the rabbi,

“Is it when on can distinguish between a fig tree and a grapevine?” asked a second student,


“Please tell us the answer then,” said the students.

Then said the wise teacher, “It is when you can look into the face of any human being and you have enough light to recognize in that person your brother, your sister.  Up until then it is night and darkness is still with us.”

                                                            Hasidic tale

We are reminded in our first lesson today that in the Creation Darkness covered the face of the earth, but then God choose light!

 Let there be light be light!. God choose Light….we so often choose darkness. God is a God of light …not darkness.

Our First lesson proclaims not science or history but God’s revelation of Himself and His intent for His creation that Light should overcome the darkness and He created human beings as caretakers of all he created…He crowned his creation with us. And indeed when He had finished He affirmed the Goodness of it all.

I suspect many remember what the earth looked like from space in those marvelous pictures taken on Christmas Eve  1968.  We saw planet earth as God must have seen it in the moment of creation…a place of beauty and the home of all his creatures.  So infinitesimal in the vast expansive universe, but the epitome of His handiwork, but only if we would choose to live in love and peace could his handiwork remain Good.

  On that Christmas Eve the Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman, Bill Anders and Jim Lovell celebrated humanity's first orbit around the moon by reading the words we have just read "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." and the nine verses that followed.  In that moment human beings saw the earth’s beauty, its mystery but also its fragility. We saw the home of us all and how life on earth required that we reaffirm our oneness We saw that we must either find a way to live together on this tiny spinning globe or perish together here. We are one or we are none.

But God is a God of LIGHT not darkness. He is also a God of LOVE, who created us all in His image with the capacity to love.!

However, when in the freedom he gave us that choice that true love requires, mankind choose to reject that loving relationship with Himself and with one another. But God never gave up on the Goodness of His creation or his Love for humankind.. 

In sundry ways God has sought throughout human history and continues to seek today to overcome the sin and death that resulted from mankind’s falling for the temptations of the devil, deciding he knew better how to go about life on earth than God, his Creator.

 We only need to see the evening news or perhaps look into our own hearts to see the results of what our theologians call original sin, separation, and alienation — from God, from ourselves, from each other, and even from the earth..  But God is not only a God of Light but a God of unfathomable love for all his human creatures. And he never ceases to reach out to make his creation whole again.

 I teach Applied Ethic and World Religions and I have researched versions of the Golden Rule, I was surprised to find that at least some basic form of this teaching of Jesus echoed from indigenous tribes throughout the globe, from the hieroglyphics in the Pyramids, the tombs of one of the most ancient of advanced human civilizations a few thousand years before Christ, from the Buddha and Confucius 500 years before Christ, and indeed from the teachings of all major religions of the world.  Was this mere quoincidence or was the God we worship in the Judeo Christian tradition reaching out to all humankind in love with a message of survival for the whole human race????

I personally believe that God not only reaches out to those of the Judeo Christian Faith, but indeed to all human beings in an effort to show his love for all of us who were created in His image, and that the very survival of man and of perhaps the earth itself is dependent on we and all our brothers and sisters heading his call to love as we are loved by Him.

This is not to say that, as we believe, God has not chosen us, the people of his covenant for special responsibility in this regard. I believe we are a very unique part of Gods plan for restoration. I believe he entered into a covenant with those of the Judeo Christian faith for special responsibility in this regard. Early in the tribal history of the Middle East I believe he called forth His special people through the Family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the tribes of Israel commissioning them to bring Shalom, peace, unbrokeness, wholeness to the world. I believe through Moses he sought to reveal the Ten Commandments as basic structure for relationship with Himself and the human race.  Again, this I believe he did  not do as a God of wrath and judgment but as a loving God, once again trying to assist his human creatures in knowing where true blessedness of light and love were to be found in a vital relationship with Himself and one another in the family of man.  Especially through the prophets we hear his call for us to reach out to the least among us in the family of man with compassion and love so that His peace and wholeness might prevail in all levels of the economic and social lives of His people.

Finally, of course I believe He so loved this world that he made the ultimate sacrifice of coming into it in human flesh in the person of Jesus Christ to show that he was not only a God of light and love but of grace and hope for all mankind. In the Covenant promised by Jeremiah he had revealed that his love was love that essentially said….I love you not because you deserve it, not because you earned it, but because you are made in my own image and you are called to eternal salvation. .I will remember your sins no more. Jeremiah 31:34 But no cheap grace here but a cross . In our baptism we have been marked with the sign of that crosss…We have been called by that cross to unity with Christ to bring to the world not only in words but in deeds… Shalom.

That Hebrew word is usually translated as “peace” in English but in other languages it has even deeper meaning of wholeness.. Lutheran Scholar Walter Bruggemann presents such meaning in his book “LIVING TOWARD A VISION” Bruggemann notes:

“The central vision of world history in the Bible is that all of creation is one, every creature in community with every other, living in harmony and security toward the joy and well-being of every other creature.”


         Martin Luther King Jr. gave his life in the pursuit of that vision.  He noted that…

“All life is interrelated. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny, Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality.”


.  Thus in our Gospel lesson today we hear Jesus say to his disciples:

 All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

 19Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

 20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Matthew 28:18 20.

Only where that light and love, compassion, forgiveness and peace of God prevails in the human family can there ultimately be peace and wholeness on earth and Goodwill among human beings that was proclaimed by the messengers from God long ago on that Holy Night and by whoever those messengers have been or will be.  This is God’s intention for His creation.

I think our astronauts had a special revelation of the earth and the oneness of the human race from their vantage point and this is why they choose to read those verses from the Creation story on that historic Christmas eve.  Less well known is a prayer subsequently offered by Astronaut Frank Borman to "people everywhere.” After completing their scientific work, he took a breath, and then prayed for God's good creation and every human being created in God’s image: “Give us, O God, the vision which can see thy love in the world, in spite of human failure. Give us the faith to trust the goodness in spite of our ignorance and weakness. Give us the knowledge that we may continue to pray with understanding hearts, and show us what each one of us can do to set forth the coming of the day of universal peace. Amen."

May this be our earnest prayer for which we are willing to offer ourselves?  Only if it comes to fruition will the blessing of St. Paul to the people of Corinth from our Epistle lesson be truly ours. The international translation of that blessing is:

11 Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. Amen   2nd Corinthians: 13:11

Dick Kauffman

Monday, June 20, 2011

Words from a Journal - #12

Words from a journal of a student of Spiritual Discipline

It is now June 20, 2011 - I just discovered that this writing had never been posted! A bit out of season, but I am sure the meaning is still the same. Wow! a voice from the past! R. Jeremiah

"February 10, 2010 - In reading "Better Prayers" this morning I opened right to page 43 and read a strong affirmation of yesterdays call to be humble. "Your work for Christ must be Christ's work in you or else it will be good for nothing" Wow! Sophia, you surprised me so early this morning. I don't know why I am surprised, you are working in me all the time. It is I who am intermittent! ... I was going to pray for no more snow today, but snow is a part of winter so why should I be so presumptuous as to not understand the value of snow. Yes, snow has value. The moisture it returns to the soil is necessary - a redistribution of water from one place to another. Look at the value to painters and other artists - at the recreation associated with snow. Oh! Sophia, where are you taking me? What is it about church that is so necessary, but yet we avoid it and even may pray against it? Could it be the work required to operate the church; the work required for ministry! Is the concept of cheap Grace being driven home? Maybe it's not "work" in the classical sense, but the time and dedication and DISCIPLINE that is really required to be in Christ. Yes, we know we are saved through Christ, but to grow closer to Christ, to truely abide in him, takes time and effort! Significant discipline is required. As snow is beautiful, so is God's grace! Coping with snow - receiving the value from it, is the same as receiving the bountiful love of God by coping with the disciplines of Spiritual Growth. Look beyond the inconvenience of the snow or of keeping the disciplines to the beauty which lays beyond. Salvation is free, but pleasing God more and more each day requires growing in him. The disciplines are extremely demanding; perhaps if I had had real instruction as a young man I would have had the time to grow more into them. My growth has been spurty at best - a lot 30 plus years ago and then very little. But in the past year - WOW! Sophia was hiding behind a tree for many years. Every once in awhile she would jump out and say peek-a-boo! But now she is right in front of me, gesturing for me to hurry up and follow her up the trail to yet another vista of Gods creation and our role in pleasing him - it takes my breath away - it is work, but oh, such good work!"

Talk to your Pastor as to how to grow more into Christ. Which Discipline is the right one for you? Pray earnestly for guidance from Sophia. the Holy Spirit.

R. Jeremiah

Words from a Journal - #15

Words from a journal of a student of Spiritual Discipline

June 15, 2011 Jeremiah has been on a sabbatical so to speak! The last "Words from a Journal" that were posted on the blog were on September 21, 2010. This does not mean that journaling has not been taking place – it certainly has! Satan really got to working on me – throwing doubt into my mind. Perhaps a better word would be “Reluctance” to share with others or even to question my “calling” to share words given to me by the Holy Spirit with others.

This has been crystallizing in my mind over the past several months, but has finally been confirmed by several events over the past several weeks. A number of “coincidences” occurred which have certainly clarified a direction for me. Several weeks ago Pastor Bettye mentioned during her sermon that new procedures have been established by The Order of St. Stephan Deacon to train Deacons. She then presented me with a copy of the literature saying that she just wanted me to be aware of the program. Well my wife and I read the literature and discussed what it all meant. Between my age and our family health issues, it seemed to be a physical impossibility for me to even consider. But the real issue is that the ministry of the Deacons is one of Word and Service that we both know is not my calling. So what is my calling? A week or so previously I had journaled that my wife was probably afraid that I would get back on council again. (as it turns out just the opposite is true!) I wrote that I must pray real hard about this one. In one sense it would seem that church administration is a calling of mine, but Jeremiah has a calling also and that has been slipping away. But the crowning coincidence was Pastor Tim’s sermon on June 14, Pentacost Sunday, when he preached on "What is it that I am to do?" The Holy Spirit will tell us if we but listen.

Listening is usually pretty easy, once the Holy Spirit has our attention. Well it seems that I needed a 2X4 to the side of my head to get my attention. Ok God I hear you. I will put some discipline back into my spirituality! Stay tuned.

R. Jeremiah

Norman's Writings


Summer is here, the heat is on!

So many can't wait until it's gone.

 When it was cold and snow cover the ground,

Travel was dangerous when you were home bound.

 Wintertime blues, how you did complain!

Summertime heat, and you do the same.

The weather is an important part of life.

Some only consider it additional strife.

Enjoy every year, every day, every season.

Be thankful for all, for each has a reason.

Life is like the weather, a change everyday.

Make a life change, be thankful and pray.


                                                                     Norman 2011

Norman's Writings

How I See Jesus

How do I see Jesus?  I see Jesus everywhere in numerous ways.  In the faces of the people of the world.  I especially see Jesus in the faces of children, the elderly, those that are deprived.  All faces show promise and the love of Jesus!  I see Jesus in all of nature in every concept of life.  I see Jesus in music, the soothing language the world understands.  I see Jesus in family and friends, in life and in death.  How I see Jesus is overwhelming everyday.  I see Jesus and he sees me!  Jesus surely would not be even slightly overwhelmed in seeing me, but I pray he may be at least slightly pleased.

          Thank you Jesus for my life.  Amen


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Remembering Ascension by Pastor Bettye

June 5, 2011
Acts 1: 1 – 11
Remembering the Ascension

It all comes down or up to this…..
……the single most important act which rivals the resurrection.
As it is occurring Jesus is promising another will come; one with whom the followers of the Way will have direct experience…but let’s leave that story for Pentecost .
For this moment, the Ascension is the culmination of Jesus Life and Ministry.
Jesus who came from God is now returning to God and the people of the Way, the disciples and followers of Jesus are left with challenge:
· To keep their lives centered on God
· To keep their lives rooted and grounded in God
· Allowing God to be the one in whom they “live and move and have their being”
That is the hard part….
The followers of Jesus, the people of the Way had a difficult time understanding and trusting this message.
They had a hard enough time understanding Jesus purpose and now……. his ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit?!?!?
The followers of the Way wanted to run back to their old lives, back to Galilee with bags packed just in case this plan with Jesus doesn’t work out.
The followers of the Way are also looking forward to the return of Jesus and cannot quite grasp that there is work to be done for the Kingdom, harvests to gather, vines to prune in the waiting time.
They cannot grasp that another is coming to empower their mission and ministry …on the Way.
Jesus really does take his followers along the Way one step at a time.
The people of the Way are to be his witnesses, spreading the Good News to the end of the earth.
They bear and understand only so much – hasn’t the past 3 years gone by fast enough with miracle after miracle?
The followers of the Way may have just wanted it all to slow down so that they could take a breath….
Before they can even ask the next question, they are left standing dumbfounded, necks craning to see beyond the clouds – hardly believing this next miracle which would leave them….alone. (Wizard of OZ)
Suddenly voices cry out assuring them of the promise of Jesus return but…….in the meantime there is work to be done with the Comforter.
The Way begins and excitement is at hand! With the Ascension of Christ a new thorough fare or “THROUGH WAY” has been lined up and Jesus was the first to travel it.
The followers of the WAY become the bearers of the story…they will be showing others THE WAY.
God did not use the temple elite, the rich, the politically powerful to open up people’s hearts to the Way.
God used simple folk, peasants, outcasts, thick skulled, hard headed, frightened people…..
People like you and me have been called to Jesus’ radical message of hope, a heavenly home, and God’s love for us in Christ and our love for one another.
Jesus stays with them long enough to break down the barrier to the Way with his cross and them to nudge them to the edge of this new country, this new promise and then passes them off to the Holy Spirit who will continue the work of the Way he has formed.
The followers of the Way are about to find their voices for this message of truth and Good News which will be carried to the ends of the earth and into our time.
The challenge for the hearers of this Gospel Message is to go and do likewise. Those with ears to listen can be assured in the words of Jesus;
I will not leave you orphaned….you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you….you will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth.
The bearers of the message, the new people of the Way have found that traveling IN COMMUNITY is the best Way to handle this call, this journey.

Song of the Builders

"On a summer morning I sat down  on a hillside to think about God , a worthy pastime.
 Near me, I saw  a single cricket;  it was moving the grains of the hillside  this way and that way.
 How great was its energy,  how humble its effort.
 Let us hope  it will always be like this,  each of us going on  in our inexplicable ways  building the universe."

-  Mary Oliver, "Song of the Builders"

Poem for Pentecost

Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179)

Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit, bestowing life unto life,
moving in All.
You are the root of all creatures,
washing away all impurity,
scouring guilt,
and anointing wounds.
Thus you are luminous and praiseworthy, Life,
awakening, and re-awakening all that is.

In an age when life expectancy was somewhere around forty, Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179) lived a life that was remarkably long and incredibly productive. Carmen Butcher described Hildegard as an "Über-multitasking Frau" and authentic "polymath." The description fits. The Benedictine abbess founded two convents, conducted four preaching tours, penned at least 400 letters, wrote music and a morality play, supervised illuminated manuscripts, cared for her fellow sisters, and wrote three major theological tomes based upon her famous visions. All this despite her pronounced feelings of self-doubt, the lack of formal schooling, chronic illnesses that probably included depression and migraine headaches, and the subservient roles assigned to women by a male-dominated church and culture.
Hildegard was born the youngest of ten children to an aristocratic family that lived near Mainz. She started having what she later concluded were divine visions as earlier as age three. When she was eight her parents dedicated her to the religious life, and at age fourteen she entered the St. Disibod Abbey at Disibodenberg. Until her death almost seventy years later, she devoted herself to the life of a Benedictine nun. After keeping her visions to herself for decades, when she was forty-two Hildegard says that God told her to write what she had seen and heard: "So now you must give others an intelligible account of what you see with your inner eye and what you hear with your inner ear. Your testimony will help them. As a result, others will learn how to know their Creator. They'll no longer refuse to adore God."

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Walking by AEK

The telephone company tells us
"Let your fingers do the walking"
in their telephone book.
If your house needs repairs do not despair.
"Let your fingers do the walking".
Needing a number to call a friend
"Let your fingers do the walking".
Better yet the Bible book.
go now and take a look.
The Bible has better ways,
use your finger to turn the page.
It tells the way to repair our life.
God sent His son to right the wrong
In His great love we belong.
Eternal life is promised us.
What more is there to discuss?
No numbers are needed to talk with Him;
ask forgiveness - be rid of sin.
Walking, walking in faith with Him.
Alleluia, Alleluia!