Learning to Pray Again

 Luke 11: 1-12 New Revised Standard Version

He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:

Father,[a] hallowed be your name.

    Your kingdom come.[b]

Give us each day our daily bread.[c]

 And forgive us our sins,

        for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.

    And do not bring us to the time of trial.’[d]

Perseverance in Prayer

 And he said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread;  for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.” 

And he answers from within, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.” I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.  For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 

Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for[e] a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit[f] to those who ask him!’

I am learning how to pray again.

I am learning how to pray again, in the same way that I am learning how to play the guitar again, an instrument I have been playing for about 15 years.

It is easy to feel like I am okay when I stick to the neighborhood of notes and chords I am most familiar with. But when it comes to a song I have never played, filled with chords I rarely use or have never come across, the instrument feels foreign to me.

I am learning how to pray again, and it feels like learning how to play a new instrument because, in this season of life, I am praying in ways I’ve never prayed before. 

Which makes me wonder what it was like for the disciples to turn to Jesus and say

“Teach us how to pray,”

then to hear the Lord’s Prayer offered for the first time. I wonder what words stood out to them. Have you ever heard someone pray and wonder to yourself,

“Wait…I can say that to God? I can pray about that?” 

Many believers know The Lord’s Prayer “by heart,” and I think about what that phrase means when recitation can feel easy as breathing. Isn’t it a wonder how often something we once strained to learn moves through us with a fluency that makes it easy to take for granted? It makes me wonder…what is the point? Of remembering these words, but feeling and doing nothing to respond to them? What does it really mean to know something by heart?

As a young believer, I had a stack of index cards with scriptures on them. Soon I developed the ability to remember and recite these scriptures, a skill that helped as I began to write poems and memorize them. I performed these spoken word poems in churches. I remember performing a piece for a church event that was basically a 20 minute sermon that rhymed. After performing it, people came up to share their responses to it. Sadly, the memorization piece ended up being the most discussed part.

Wow, that was long. How did you memorize all that?”

I remember being upset by this question and sad as I thought the message was missed. 

I wondered if there was something wrong with me as a communicator. I looked at my Bible and said, “the words are right there…why isn’t it clicking?” I was also beginning to see this desperate call from scripture for justice and action. When I could relay its immediacy, I thought I had failed. In many ways, the convictions that led me to write that poem and offer it up in a performance through my body, led me to seminary. I wanted to do what I felt called to do better: relay God’s message to God’s people with whatever tools I had. 

I don’t remember that 20 minute poem anymore. Most of the poems I memorized during that season of life no longer resonate with the way my faith has changed in this season. They have since slipped away…I can no longer recall the words I once knew by heart. All I have left is their impressions, and the confused feelings of that last poem that still lingers with me and the theme of the event that inspired it: Kingdom Come.

I wrote that poem before I became a student of theology, where the Bible I felt I knew a little bit about became unfamiliar as I was learning how to read it differently. Words I thought I knew by heart were reintroduced to my mind clothed in layers of meaning and questioning. In the face of confronting more unknowns, I could no longer put my convictions into poetry, the language I used to speak most confidently to the world. 

It was not just that the Bible was unlocked in new ways, but the new tools of interpretation unlocked my self understanding in new ways. I became unfamiliar to myself, so did God…so did poetry. I became someone who was afraid to say anything with certainty and authority. What if I learned something new that would prove me wrong…again? 

In the years since, I’ve resolved to affirm that I am a communicator. Because I know how it feels to be distraught when I am misunderstood. Because I know how to find a story I think is worth sharing. Because I know this because I crave the answers and when I find them, I cannot wait for the opportunity to save someone else a trip — if I have already been there…I hope to save your breath. 

I truly believe some prayers are written to help us save our breath as much as they are reminders that we need to take one.

I am a communicator because I have worked for years to be able to speak some kind of truth today. So what I tell you, this is how I know a truth by heart—in the fight not to be disheartened. 

The work of recollection looks a lot different these days. There are prayers I pray, poems I read as prayers, and prose I return to time to time to recall the truth of light and abundance over darkness and scarcity.

In this way, every prayer I embrace as my own, whether I said/wrote it or not—is answered, with the sweet clarification that I am beloved. I am understanding now..it was never about the words I said, but in the impressions they left behind. 

To pray is to impress what can often be suppressed–the truth of who and whose we are…and what we are worthy of. 

As a spoken word poet, I stood in front of crowds and recited words that I had mastered–in memory and in a body I performed and played the meaning of the words that came out of my mouth. But I am learning how to remember again. 

Letting myself be guided by tenderness over tenacity with memorization as the goal. I am learning how to pray again, remembering the God who approaches me tenderly. 

When I remember I am beloved, God does not respond to my prayers with rejection…And in prayer I train my ability to sense, however subtle, light and the divinity it reflects my belovedness. 

Now I want to share with you a poem I have been using in my prayer time. But I ask that you focus on this moment and the impressions that linger for you. They will be the ones that matter when you recall this moment. Think of your impression as work of art on the wall in your mind. You choose the medium and design it as you’d like–it’s your imagination and this is not being graded: make whatever you want. 

I will give you a minute to capture your impressions and save a copy of it to review later, and I will end with some of mine.

If you want to follow along, the link is in the description

A Litany for Survival BY AUDRE LORDE

For those of us who live at the shoreline

standing upon the constant edges of decision

crucial and alone

for those of us who cannot indulge

the passing dreams of choice

who love in doorways coming and going

in the hours between dawns

looking inward and outward

at once before and after

seeking a now that can breed

futures

like bread in our children’s mouths

so their dreams will not reflect

the death of ours;

 

For those of us

who were imprinted with fear

like a faint line in the center of our foreheads

learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk

for by this weapon

this illusion of some safety to be found

the heavy-footed hoped to silence us

For all of us

this instant and this triumph

We were never meant to survive.

 

And when the sun rises we are afraid

it might not remain

when the sun sets we are afraid

it might not rise in the morning

when our stomachs are full we are afraid

of indigestion

when our stomachs are empty we are afraid

we may never eat again

when we are loved we are afraid

love will vanish

when we are alone we are afraid

love will never return

and when we speak we are afraid

our words will not be heard

nor welcomed

but when we are silent

we are still afraid

 

So it is better to speak

remembering

we were never meant to survive.

 

I am left with the impression that as I live, I will be learning how to pray, in the same breath that I am learning to

“speak, remembering I was never meant to survive.”

I am learning how to navigate a world built on inequities. But this is not the only way—it doesn’t have to be. Our imaginations tell us there are alternative ways to live….

Despite systems of inequality, and death-dealing narratives scarcity and hopelessness…I am left with a truth that lingers when this heart sways—in God there is enough. And something in me knows it by heart, and when I need help to recall … .I am surrounded by community that reflects the truth of my belovedness because God has made sure I’m not the only one who knows it.

…..in the work of re-assembling or retelling the stories that shape core beliefs about who I am…My body remembers the sweet feeling of satisfaction and refuses to accept the conditions that robs us of our futures and leave us hungry. 

I am left with the impression that freedom…and the advocacy for that freedom go naturally together…from the mouth of the one who “speak(s), remembering (they) was never meant to survive.” 

I am learning how to pray again, holding the hope that God’s daily bread can satiate the hunger for the reminder that I am beloved. 

 

Benediction:

Henri Nouwen 

Let nothing disturb you

Let nothing frighten you. 

Those who cling to God 

will lack nothing

Let nothing disturb you 

Let nothing frighten you

God is enough

 

Next Level Happiness

Hey, my friends, I have missed you all. I had what felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity to join a study tour in Israel and Palestine. And it turned out to be both an amazing and an awful experience. 

The awful mostly had to do with getting COVID and feeling miserable and missing my family and some other very important things happening here. But there was plenty of amazing as well, some of which I hope to share in the weeks to come.

One part of the amazing was seeing the names and places of the Bible come alive. I’ve been reading the Bible close to daily for over 30 years, and so to travel amid its cities and valleys and seas and all that was pretty cool. 

And to walk where Jesus walked – swimming in the Sea of Galilee, dipping our feet in the Jordan River, praying in places Jesus prayed, standing next to the Temple Mount and looking at the exact spot where Jesus showed up in Court of the Gentiles there and started flipping tables – you just imagine all the stories more clearly.

Even more than the actions of Jesus, though, on this trip to the places Jesus lived and taught, I found the words of Jesus resonating anew… and none more than these words, which I’ve been reading and praying through every day. They’re the start of Jesus’ long discourse on what it means to follow him as a disciple, the teaching we call the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew’s memoirs of the life of Jesus. 

Matthew 5:1b-12 (Common English Bible)

Jesus sat down and his disciples came to him. 2 He taught them, saying:

3 “Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

If you know this passage well, maybe you find this translation jarring. We’re used to hearing the words: Blessed are the poor in spirit… but these translators go with


“Happy are people who are hopeless….”

We’ll talk more about it, but notice your reaction…

“Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.”

4 “Happy are people who grieve, because they will be made glad.

5 “Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth.

They will inherit the land….

6 “Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because they will be fed until they are full.

A quick note here on one other word… pretty much anytime you read the word “righteousness” in the New Testament, you can also substitute the word “justice.” This was eye opening for me, when I learned about this…. “Righteous” in English implies personal, private morality and piety, like you’re righteous if you never lie, or you’re righteous if you pray enough. And sometimes that word evokes “self-righteousness” to us, like you’re a better person than others if you live this way. 

But this word Jesus and the New Testament writers use is much bigger. It has to do with things being rightly ordered in the world, more along the lines of “right relationships.” So that can include being in right relationship with the divine or your neighbor in how you pray and tell the truth, but it also includes everything we call “justice” as well – things being fair and right in the world. So here we could better say – Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for justice, because they will get what they’re longing for, they will be fed until they are full. Let’s finish…

7 “Happy are people who show mercy, because they will receive mercy.

8 “Happy are people who have pure hearts (clean hearts), because they will see God.

9 “Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children.

10 “Happy are people whose lives are harassed because they are righteous, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

11 “Happy are you when people insult you and harass you and speak all kinds of bad and false things about you, all because of me.

12 Be full of joy and be glad, because you have a great reward in heaven. In the same way, people harassed the prophets who came before you.

Alright, this word “happy” or “blessed”makarios. 

I was taught in my early days of Bible reading to scorn this word “happy.” The idea is, Jesus doesn’t care if you’re happy or not. Feelings come and go, you can’t trust them, or as we said in the 80s and 90s, feelings aren’t facts. 

Blessed must mean something deeper, something more lasting, more heavenly than just our emotions. 

But the word “makarios” doesn’t carry these super-religious, anti-happiness, scorning of our emotions connotations at all. 

Sure, emotions can come and go, and they can be more or less grounded in reality and helpful and all, but isn’t that true of everything? 

“Makarios,” this standing that Jesus proclaims for the hopeless, the grieving, and the humble, for the peacemakers and the pure hearted and the persecuted, for the merciful and the justice hungry, this means favored. It means you’re on the winning team now. Things will be well for you.

It’s maybe deeper and less fleeting than some kinds of happiness, but it’s not not happiness, if you know what I mean. It’s something like “next level happiness,” like a sense of well being and joy that settles in and won’t let go. Like you know that God’s in your corner and you’ve got God’s favor and smile. It’s good. You’re blessed. You’re well. You’re happy, like next level happiness. 

Who’s this for, according to Jesus? Who’s got this next level happiness? 

What do these hopeless, grieving, and humble, these peacemakers and pure-hearted and persecuted, these merciful and justice hungry have in common? 

Well, let’s start with a quick word on who first heard these words from Jesus.

I spent a few days the other week around the Sea of Galilee. It’s beautiful – in this very dry, brown, hilly region, you have in this deep valley surrounded by hills an enormous, turquoise-hued freshwater lake. People have fished and swam there for millenia – it’s beautiful. 

But it’s also remote. It’s far from the big city of Jerusalem, and far from the coastal cities along the Mediterranean as well. And in Jesus’ time, that meant that it was mostly kind of backwater, rural, not a center of culture or learning or pretty much anything else. 

It was also mostly really, really poor. One of the seaside villages in Jesus’ life was his adopted hometown of Capernaum. Jesus we’re told had been born in his parents’ ancestral village of Bethlehem, a ways south. And then he was raised in the town of Nazareth, then a tiny village, now a large Arab city, half way between Galilee and the ocean. But as he began his rabbinic ministry, he moved to Capernaum, along the Sea of Galilee.

And when you visit there today, you can see the ruins of the first century village of Capernaum, the ruins of the synagogue of the small town, the restored ruins of a first century fishing boat like one that Jesus and his disciples would have used, and the ruins of the village people like Jesus and his fishermen disciples lived in.

The village is a series of one room hovels with shared stone walls, each room the place where a family of five or six or seven or eight ate, slept, spoke, and did everything else that happens in the life of a household. 

The only villages I’ve ever seen that look anything like this are the urban slums of New Delhi, India, where our partners do their community development work. Tiny, crowded, not very sanitary and desperately poor living conditions. 

This was the environment where most of Jesus’ first followers lived, where most of those who heard his teachings in and around Galilee lived. These were Jesus’ people, people who in the small nation of Israel and in the enormous empire of Rome would have been made to think that they are on the losing end of life.

The poor, the marginalized, the overtaxed, the underemployed, the underfed, the unseen and devalued and unrecognized, Jesus is saying you are blessed, you are the happy ones. 

When Jesus talked about the poor in Spirit (Matthew) or the poor (Luke), saying happy are the hopeless, it wouldn’t have been abstract for Jesus’ audience. They’d think, holy moly, he’s talking about us. We’re favored.

And why, according to Jesus? 

Because theirs is the basileia tou theou. 

Usually this is translated the “kingdom of God,” or as Matthew says “the kingdom of heaven.” 

But the word kingdom doesn’t really get it right. It’s more like a commonwealth, where people or any other parts of creation organize under the reign or rule of God revealed in Christ, the God Jesus called Abba.

Many people in recent years have been using the phrase kindom instead of kingdom, to evoke the family feel of this community Jesus talks about. 

Theologian Tripp Fuller says

when you say kindom instead of kingdom, you drop the “g” and you get rid of the cock and the crown.

You lose the associations with patriarchy and dominant, oppressive power. Because God’s family, Jesus’ kindom or commonwealth isn’t a place where just men are in charge and it isn’t a place where powerful people or a powerful God rule over and extract things from everyone else.

At Reservoir, we’ve been following the great US civil rights leaders in calling this place, this righteous, just community Jesus spoke of the Beloved Community. 

Happy are the hopeless, Jesus says, because yours is the Beloved Community – that place of justice and inclusion, that community of peace and goodness under God. 

Who gets it? Who’s first into the doors of the Beloved Community?

People who aren’t full already get it. People who are incomplete. People who are willing to listen to, learn from, be guided by God. 

Jesus said:

I haven’t come for the righteous, for the well. I’m here for the sick.

People who are willing to be dependent, who are in touch with their ache for something different, something more. The hopeless, the humble, the hungry and the grieving. These are the citizens of the Beloved Community.

What’s this mean? 

Well, one it means that if you find yourself at the end of your rope, back up against the wall, you’re in a great place for God’s next level happiness. 

Loss, need, problems, poverty are not an indictment on your worth. They can be a pathway into a deeper experience of Beloved Community. More on this in a second.

One the other hand, if we find ourselves already blessed on the usual terms of the world, if basically we’re like: I’m good, I’m all set. Nothing wrong with that, but it means we’re not in Jesus’ front row. To be close with God, we’ll likely need more work to get in touch with our hunger and need. 

You see, the good news of Jesus is good news not just of radical inclusion but of radical inversion. It’s a turning of the tables on the usual status game of the world. The first will be last, and the last will be first. That’s just the way it is. 

Let’s talk about these beatitudes as a path, though, how our hunger and thirst and hopelessness – whether it comes naturally or whether we’ve got to dig a little to find it – how that can be a path forward to our experience of the next level happiness of Beloved Community. 

Mark Scandrette, Danielle Welch and others have done great work on embracing the Beatitudes as a way of being in Beloved Community, as a way of Christ we can follow in the world. They call it the Ninefold path… trust, lament, humility, justice, compassion, right motive, peacemaking, surrender, and radical love as ways into a deeper walk with Jesus. I highly recommend their work. 

Let’s explore just one of these that was on my mind throughout my tour, which is the peacemakers. 

Our hosts for our tour, Boston’s Jewish Community Relations Council, maintain relationships with a number of people and organizations they call Partners for Peace – folks who are doing innovative work to foster dignified, humane relationships between Palestianians and Israelis in the service of a lasting and just peace in their shared land. 

We met a number of these partners for peace on our tour, none more moving to me than the members of The Parents’ Circle . These are Palestinian and Israeli parents who have had children killed as a result of the conflict. 

One afternoon we sat in a circle with __ and ___. They each told us the story of the murder of their daughter, one by a Palestianian suicide bomber, the other by rubber bullets fired by an Israeli soldier. 

They also told us of their choice to participate in relationship with members of the ethnic group of their daughter’s killers. It started in conversation circles with fellow parents whose children had been killed, to grieve together their shared losses. From there it expanded to include more of their families, like the summer camps where Palestianian and Israeli children whose siblings have been killed play together and learn together. 

In time, these men have become dear friends to one another, and they speak to whoever will listen about the paths toward peace in their land.  They’ve come to believe that any just peace between Israelis and Palestianians is going to have political solutions, to be sure, but those are going to require that these enemies learn to see the humanity and dignity of the other, such that they can find ways to share power and share space, or at least to validate the other’s existence and stop trying to kill each other. 

Of all the holy moments in this holy land, meeting with __ and __ was among the holiest moments of the trip for me. When I tried to ask them a question, I began by introducing myself, and I said before anything else,

I too am a father, a father of three children, and I’m so sorry for your loss,

and I couldn’t help but speak through tears. 

But as we asked them more about what they did and why they did it, they said that one,

they want to work for a world where no more parents have their children killed from this conflict.

They like to say

they are the only organization in their society that does not want to add any members. 

But beyond this core purpose, they and their families have also had the joy of friendship and community where they would have least expected it. It’s one thing to make a friend amongst your own affinity group, where you share most things in common. It’s quite another experience to make friends with your enemy, to experience safety and trust and belonging where you once experienced only hostility and danger. 

Both men made it clear that they would give up all this work to have their daughter back again. That would be their first choice of course. But since they can’t change the past, like none can, it’s its own blessing now to be in this parent’s circle of beloved community and to encounter their enemies as fellow children of God.

At the end of our time, I thanked them again and said to __ and ___ that my teacher, Jesus, says

happy are those who grieve, for they will be comforted. And happy are the peacemakers, because they will be called children of God.

I said

I pray you know that comfort and I pray you know just how much you are God’s children. 

And they said thank you, and __, the Palestinian father added:

he also said, didn’t he, “Father, forgive them, because they don’t know what they’re doing.” 

And I was speechless as I smiled at my Muslim brother and silently thanked him for showing me the way of Jesus. 

Happy are those who grieve because they will be comforted. And happy are those who make peace, because they will be called children of God. So it is. I heard it with my own two ears, saw it with my own two eyes. 

Now of course the work of the Parents’ Circle is critical for the places the world knows as Israel and Palestine. It’s an existential need for the people of that land, that they discover one another’s shared humanity and find peace together. I’ll be praying for them. I invite you to as well.

Is this relevant for us, though, in the US? 

I sure think so. How many of us have friendships or families or workplaces torn apart by conflict, gossip, and unresolved wounds? Most of us, I expect. 

And are we not in our own way in the US now a nation that is at war with itself? I think we are. 

Who will be the peacemakers among us, not the people who smooth over or minimize conflict or injustice? That’s not peacemaking. But the people who see the humanity of their enemy and ask:

how is it that we can start to share space again, how is it that we can not destroy one another, and maybe eventually learn to love one another?

Jesus’ beatitudes aren’t just a pathway to next level happiness, they’re a pathway toward the survival and flourishing of the human race. 

I encourage you to pray these beatitudes daily for a while if you will and pay attention,

where am I included in the blessing?

Where does Jesus see my hunger, loss, and hopelessness,

and

where is Jesus meeting me with next level happiness? 

And

where is Jesus calling me on a path to follow him into the blessing of Beloved Community? 

Let me close by reading Jesus’ words one more time.

Matthew 5:1b-12 (Common English Bible)

Jesus sat down and his disciples came to him. 2 He taught them, saying:

3 “Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

4 “Happy are people who grieve, because they will be made glad.

5 “Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth.

6 “Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for (justice), because they will be fed until they are full.

7 “Happy are people who show mercy, because they will receive mercy.

8 “Happy are people who have pure hearts, because they will see God.

9 “Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children.

10 “Happy are people whose lives are harassed because they are righteous, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

11 “Happy are you when people insult you and harass you and speak all kinds of bad and false things about you, all because of me.

12 Be full of joy and be glad, because you have a great reward in heaven. In the same way, people harassed the prophets who came before you.

Church Community

For this week’s Events and Happenings, click “Download PDF.”

For this week’s spiritual practice on God of Community and Friendship, click HERE.

To view this week’s worship service, or “Virch,” click the YouTube link above.

 

You may notice that I’m in the Reservoir Church Sanctuary.  It’s a little wild to be in here – to be honest.  It reminds me a bit of this “story” I learned when I was little… “Here’s the church, here’s the steeple… open the doors “where are all people?”  A story that conveyed to me at a young age that people should show up where the building of church was – at the designated time – on a Sunday.   It took me a little longer to see that Jesus’ message to us – is actually to recognize Church as wherever people are gathered. 

 

Church, of course, has never been about the building.  It’s been about a way of being in the world. An invitation God hands to us – to live fully, remembering that God’s presence is everywhere,  in our world.

 

I’ve got to confess though what a beautiful building this is – the stained glass, the architecture… the memories of bagels  – this great sound system.. (Ha!)  It’s amazing to sit in this space in some ways… and it’s also a little weird. 

 

It’s so disruptive to sit here – because I can get in touch with the grief that I feel – how much I want to be able to join with all of you and listen to our voices singing together, greeting one another, taking communion – laughing, crying, praying…. and I can get mad, that we had no choice in this.  That a tiny virus has wreaked havoc on our way of connecting and being in community with one another.

 

And as I sit in the echo of my own voice this morning – the stillness and the Spirit gently reminds me that this is the way it is .. this is how it will be for a bit – that we won’t gather in person here….  and that I can choose disconnection, and pull away, or just sit back and enter a “holding pattern” waiting for this all to be over and return to “normal”….     OR I can re-up on Jesus’ invitation to see that we are the church, we are the temple. 

To see that we are living breathing sanctuaries… AND that when two or three of us are gathered together in God’s name (Matthew)– God’s presence is there also!  

 

Connection to one another, in this time IS vital, it is necessary for yes our survival – but also a means by which we can still flourish! 

God gives us a model for this, how we can flourish – live! –  Gather. Eat. Share. Remember me.  He doesn’t say “where” or how… – he just says “gather”

 

He gathered with people in fields, and in boats, and on shore-sides, in gardens, lounging in chairs, on hills, at tables,  and in deserts, and in the bustle of crowds, on mountaintops, and in the valleys…. early in the morning, at midnight …. Anywhere and everywhere.  Connection, community, faith, spirituality it’s all possible when we gather together. 

 

We are in deep time my friends… depths of grief, depths of unknowing, depths of anxiety, depths of frustration…. AND WE ARE in deep need of community.   And I could preach a pretty good sermon on community, (I think)… but much like this Sanctuary – it would feel pretty empty….. If it wasn’t given voice by so many of you – the church, the community.

 

So this morning I invite you to listen to a sermon, one that is preached over and over again every time we gather together.  A sermon given across towns, through masks and via virtual platforms – in our community groups… where the necessary ingredients for church it turns out – is you/us and the presence of God.  Here are some voices from the Reservoir community:  

 

Video: Stories from Community Groups

 

Ending:
If these stories show us anything they show us that the heart of the church is in us.  Not WHERE we gather – but AS WE gather.  Maybe not all of us will find this in a labor and delivery room – like Rose – but the potential is there!  And it is there that we EXPERIENCE that we are not alone – that we are held by the love of the Spirit – yes, even through ZOOM  – and the love of one another. 

 

Jesus says, “Gather. Eat. Share. Remember me.” – this is to truly live.

 

I don’t know how you are feeling this morning?  But if you – for even just a second – have had a fleeting thought of, “I wonder how long I can hold on through these months to come?”… I would say….don’t hesitate!  I invite you to actively protest the tug of these days to isolate – and check out a community group! You’ll see a link to a Google form in your chat and on youtube… you can quickly fill this out to let me know some of your preferences and information.  We have 30 or so community groups that offer a variety of ages, makeup and focus, meet on a variety of days and times – and it is where you’ll find other human beings – living breathing sanctuaries – who will offer you welcome, without exception just as you are.