Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sixth Day of Christmas Present

Happy 6th day of Christmas!  This is the Chrismon Tree in the United Methodist building on Capital Hill, next door to the Supreme Court.  To learn about gifts that the United Methodist Board of Church and Society is exericing on our behalf, pay a virtual visit to the United Methodist Board of Church and Society.

Fifth Day of Christmas present

Your 5th day of Christmas present is located at!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fourth Day of Christmas present

Chris Horner is friend and musician from Virginia. Just before Christmas, she shared this encounter with her grandchild.

Husband Colin added, "and this all goes on with four heading out the door to party, a hockey game on the TV, Christmas cards being stuffed and dinner being served to the late arrivers home. The application of faith must be powerful to overcome life's day to day."

Sammy invited me to a church service in the living room this evening. In attendance: two human; two dogs. The order of service was handwritten and is included verbatim below:

1. Entry with song
2 .Daily anonsments
3. prayr
4. song
5. personal silent prayr
6. song
7. hold hands and sing a song
8. exit with a song

Okay, the whole service took ~ 5 minutes. Cissy, who has learned to "shake", actually offered her paw during hand holding. Sam used recorded bits from the piano for the music, except when we sang "Jesus Loves Me". (Little dogs to Him belong) After the service, she handed me another piece of paper...
"need church organist".

I have accepted position and been prepaid 5 cents.
God is good.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Third Day of Christmas Present

"Listen to this!  Laments coming out of Ramah,
wild and bitter weeping.
It's Rachel weeping for her children,
Rachel refusing all solace.
Her children are gone,
gone--long gone into exile."
But God says, 
"Stop your incessant weeping,
hold back your tears. 
Collect wages from your grief work. " 
God's Decree.
"They'll be coming back home!
There's hope for your childre."  God's Decree.
      Jeremiah 31 excerpt, Eugene Petersen, The Message

...God's angel showed up again in Joseph's dream and commanded, "get up.
Take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt."
    Matthew 2 excerpt, The Message

His sorrow was a true as bread:
no liar looked him in the head;
if every friend became his foe
he'd laugh and build a world with snow.

My father moved through the theys of we,
singing each leaf out of each tree
(and every child was sure that spring
danced when she heard my father sing)

then let men kill which cannot share,
let blood and flesh be mud and mire,
scheming imagine, passion willed,
freedom a drug that's bought and sold

....and nothing quite so least as truth
--i say though hate were why men breathe--because my father lived his soul
love is the whole and more than all

(excerpts from e.e.cummings, 50 poems)

Second Day of Christmas Present

December 27, 2010

Second Day of Christmas present

Winter, and very cold,
and the night at 
its deepest.  The politicians,
as usual, double-tongued.
The town chaotic, teeming
with strangers.
And tonight, as often
in winter, in Bethlehem,
snow is falling.

I always love how each flake,
torn from the sky,
arrives separately,
without sound, almost
unnoticed in
a flurry of others. How
each one (on a clear 
night) lies there glittering
on the swelling breast
of snow, crisp
and intact, as wholly itself
as every radiant star
in a sky sparkling
with galaxies.

How many new 
babies tonight
in Judea, coming
like snowflakes?
But plucked,
dazzling, from the 
eternal heavens,
into time,
tonight is born
The One.

-Luci Shaw, Accompanied by Angels:  Poems of the Incarnation
snowflake photograph by Kenneth G. Libbrecht

(visit for a biblical reflection on this poem)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

On the First Day of Christmas

Last night as I was leaving the 7:00 pm service, I got in my car which was facing the Church building. It was a beautiful sight. Luminaries lighting up the walk way and the steps to the church. The lights inside the Church shinning out (one is stained glass). It would have made a perfect Christmas card. So I paused to ponder and enjoy this Christmas card from God. Then I noticed it. The night sky was all dark behind the Church except for one very bright star shinning just above the steeple. It was beautiful. I hung around a while so that I could point it out to the several people who were still lingering inside. It was my Christmas gift to them. The lesson is one that I've heard continually during the Advent season this year. Pause in the midst of the secular Christmas craziness and reflect on the real meaning for the season. And the star came to rest over where the child lay. Merry Christmas Cindy Rosen

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Fourth Advent Candle

 Candle of Joy
Fourth Sunday in Advent
December 19, 2010

Read from your bible: Luke 1: 46b-55

This week our candle is pink, symbolizing “Joy.”  Mary was full of joy when God told her she would be Jesus’ mother.  She knew her baby would bring joy with justice and compassion for all people.  Whether it is something God has already done or something God promises to do, we have so many reasons to be full of joy! 
Can you think of reasons for Joy that start each letter of the alphabet?  For example, “A” is for Aunt Susan who always makes me smile, “B” is for bread baking in the oven,  “C” is for Children International who help children all over the world have enough,…….
In worship we light the fourth advent candle in worship sing:

We pray that your Word may be born in our hearts, that we may shine bright with the joy it imparts.
We pray as we wait for Emmanuel’s birth,
The light of our hope may illumine the earth.


Third Advent Candle

The candle of Faith
Third Sunday in Advent
December 12, 2010

Read from your bible:  Psalm 80: 1-7, 17-19

The psalms are poems chanted by Jewish people as they worship.    Even in hard times, they celebrate God’s faithfulness and practice their own faithfulness to God. People sing these words so often they know them by heart.  Jesus grew up singing and knowing them.  Jesus is God’s song of faithfulness made flesh, as a real person.
The words of Psalm 80 may be hard to hear.  They are words of “repentance.”  The people knew they had not been faithful to God.  God still promised to be love and care for them.  That’s not easy when someone you love has hurt you. Can you remember a time when someone hurt you?  Can you remember a time when you did something hurtful to someone else?  We all do hurtful things, sometimes by accident.  Other times we know what we are doing, and do it anyway.  God sent Jesus to help us get past all the hurts between God and us, between us and each other.
We lit our third candle in worship this week with words you can sing or say together now.

As Mary prepares for new life to begin
we trust in your Promise still hidden within.                 
              Transfigure our hearts as from night into day,
that we by our faith may prepare you a way.

As you light the third candle together, say:
                        “Faithful Jesus, we are ready.” 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Second Sunday in Advent

The candle of Hope
Second Sunday in Advent
December 5, 2010

Read from your bible: Isaiah 11: 1-10

“Advent” means coming.  A long time ago, when the words you read were first spoken, God gave them to the prophet Isaiah as a word of hope.  The people of Israel were living in hard times.  They had to do what another nation’s king told them to.  They couldn’t praise God freely or live the way God had taught their grandmothers and grandfathers too.
     Isaiah said that God would keep the promises God had made. They would be “fulfilled.”  God wants to fill our lives with good things.  What are the very best things that God fills your life with?  What do you hope God will fill all of our lives with?  As we wait to celebrate Jesus’ birth, we hope to see God’s promises fulfilled in our world.
This morning in worship we lit the second candle as we sang together.  You can read or sing these words now.

Oh, hear us we pray, God for dark is the night,
and still we are waiting in hope for the light.
 Oh teach us to trust you, preparing the way,
until with rejoicing we enter the day.*

As you light the second advent candle, say together,
“Come, Jesus, come!”

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Advent Wreath Week One

The candle of Peace
First Sunday in Advent
November 28, 2010

Read from your bible:  Isaiah 2: 1-5

Today we light a purple candle.  Purple is a symbol for royalty.  It is special color because it is hard to get a truly bright and wonderful purple color to stay in cloth.  So it was expensive and saved for special people like kings and queens.  Many special people use their power to make life better for themselves and the people they like.
But the purple candle tells us that Jesus is a special person who uses his power for everybody, so that no one will have to fight for what they need. God’s creation is made so that there is plenty for everyone, if we use the power God gives us to share.  What do you have to share with others?
Here are the words we sang together in worship as we lit our church advent candle.  You can read them out loud or sing to the tune of “Away in the Manger.”

             Your advent, Emmanuel, now we embrace,
 your peace with all creatures,
your promise of grace. 
Your word is made flesh and your blessing you give,
that we too, in peace with all others may live.*

As you light the first advent candle, say together,

“Welcome Jesus, King of Peace!”

Why an Advent Wreath?

Can you imagine how it was in Europe in “the old days?”  Before there were furnaces to keep houses warm and electric lights to brighten dark days, winter seemed like a very long, very cold, very dark season. 
Families didn’t have refrigerators or canned food, or grocery stores, and so winter was also a time when people worried about whether what they had dried and stored would last until the days lengthened and warmed again.
People looked for signs of hope, bringing evergreen branches into their homes for the holidays, and lighting candles to symbolize the light of life, tenaciously burning in the dark and cold.
When people in Europe began to follow Jesus, they keep these traditions, knowing that Jesus, the Christ, is the source of life and hope.  They made advent wreathes in a circle to show that God’s love is with us all the time and everywhere.  “Emmanuel” is an old name (from Middle English) for Jesus that means, “with us is God.”
Christ followers named the candles for gifts that Jesus brings and lit them, one a week, as Christmas celebrations drew near, names like “Peace,” “Hope,” “Faith,” and” Joy.”
                 Your family can share this tradition too, lighting an advent candle each Sunday to celebrate Jesus’ presence in your home.  Remember to pray for all the other families in Jesus’ network of hope as they light the candles too!

*The words for our Advent songs were written by Rev. Steve Garnaas Holmes, Pastor of Bows Mills  United Methodist Church in Concord New Hampshire, and are used by permission.

These Advent wreath meditations were created by Rev. Karen L. Munson, Pastor of Readfield United Methodist Church © 2010 and may be copied with permission.  

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


UM Pastor Steve Garnass Holmes shares daily creative engagement with lectionary scripture via  Today's is an expecially perceptive view from the wee man's tree.  Did you ever meet Zacheus in Sunday School?  Check out his story and see if he's grown up!  (Luke 19).

You've got me treed,
held in the cross-hairs
of your sharpshooter grace
up here with all my complications,
trapped among these anxious limbs
(we hold each other nervously).
I just wanted to peek,
to keep my distance,
observe and play it safe—
but now you've named me,
nailed me
(I could just die)—
and there is no way to save myself
from this tree of my undoing
(I could just fall)
but through you,
through your grave command,
your invitation
to become the host
in breaking bread
(still clinging, white-knuckled)
where I will recognize myself at last,
at last let go,
and rise from the table
into a spacious place,
a future I can't imagine
until it cuts me loose.
- Steve Garnaas Holmes

(image by William Hole)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Happy anniversary!

You are invited to join the Readfield United Methodist Church for a very special celebration of the Torsey Church’s 175th anniversary on September 26, 2010. Bishop Peter Weaver, Episcopal leader of the New England United Methodists will be present as guest preacher.  Period hymns and refreshments will help bring history to life and Readfield UMC’s popular musicians are preparing to celebrate in song.

The Methodists on Kents Hill, the second oldest branch of five that form the congregation’s merged history, built the Torsey Church for worship in 1835.  It replaced an older sanctuary completed by Luther Sampson, founder of Kents Hill School, then the Maine Wesleyan Seminary.  During a later renovation supported by school alumni, the sanctuary was renamed to honor Dr. Henry P. Torsey, headmaster for 4o years, as well as a key figure in emancipation and reconstruction efforts in American History.   In more recent years, the site has become well known for generating many mission and outreach efforts as well as hosting popular community suppers.

Sunday, September 26, 10:00am.
For more information contact 207-685-4211,, or visit

Monday, May 3, 2010

Three Simple Rules to Change the World

Last Saturday teams from the church scattered around our area to change the world. It was part of the larger United Methodist movement ( for more stories). Here's some of the places that groups went, we know that there were many individuals making a difference on their own.
*May basket deliveries
*8 walkers on the Walk for Hunger (on the Augusta/Gardiner rail trail)

*6 Road clean up and recyclers.

*9 finishing Camp Mechuwana staff cabins.

*2 claening out the Camp Mechuwana Village.

       *Cub Scout Beach clean up and land restoration

*3 Readfield Community garden raised bed constructors

*24 supporters of the annual Sexual Assault and Crisis Counseling Center fundraiser.

All participants shared a challenge that you can too, wherever you find yourself today.
BE YEAST. The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.

John Wesley's 3 simple rules can help, as they guided our local mission teams:
*Do all the good you can. (For all the people you can, in as many places as you can).
*Do no harm.
*Stay in love with God.

Dear Jesus, as we follow you together today, may our hands be put to your work, our hearts be open to your love, and our fellowship be blessed by a spirit that rises to the occassion.  Amen.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Heifer Project update

Yesterday we watched the new Heifer Project International film in worship. It was fun to remember how our own ark project got started with three Sunday School students in 2002.  Instead of a carefully planned 5 year project, the ark raising went at break neck, community fueled speed. The Sunday School grew to 23 students.

Five years later, what difference might that local effort be making in a community far away? Watch this shorter version of "12 Stones" and let the Spirit guide your viewing! You can borrow the full (20 minute) video from the church office or order your own (free) from

There were some great conversations about the film during fellowship time after worship. Many notice that few men appeared in the film, and one woman talked about her father's alcohalism. Charles Piddock, who spent time working in this part of Nepal, said that the men would usually be working in the fields, farming. In his experience, alcohalism was not a wide spread problem.

Have you ever spent time in this part of the world?
Do you have a heifer project story?
Add your comments to the conversation!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Easter flower album

by Luci Shaw  
 (From Accompanied by Angels, 2006)

God dug his seed
into dry, dark earth.
After a sprouting up 
in hopeful birth
and healing bloom
and garland grace,
he buried it again
in a darker place.

Twice rudely planted seed,
root, rise in me
and grow your green again.
your fruited tree.

Joy Walters and Elizabeth Reinsborough send these favorite spring flowers.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Rosie's new friend, Paul

In I got to hang out with Paul ( a retired Middle School teacher from South Bend, Indiana) and we became great friends. At first we just started out as two regular old strangers and insulation partners. But the entire time we where were working on the first day, all we did was talk. We talked about hockey, his grandsons, and Tennesse. We became great friends in like three minutes!!!

At the end of the week we acted like we had known eachother for years!!! He even ended up giving me a book that he wrote and his girlfriend illustrated.
It was a great time meeting new people like Paul, and even getting to hear stories from other people about their experiences through hurricane Katrina. It was also very interesting how different things were from being outside the city, to going downtown. The damage that was done, and could be noticed, was completey different.
Over all I had a wonderful time,

-Rosie Guimaraes UMVIM team '10

P.S. Paul from South Bend is a member of the church my parents were married in.....God's small world! -Karen Munson

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

From Miles

I worked with our home owner and learned to respect everyone. She told us some crazy stories about how it's important to respect people and look past what you may have been taught. Through all that she had been through, losing her house, and some family members in hurricane Katrina, she still wanted to help others that were even worse off than herself. Seeing how she cared for others even after things most could never imagine happen in her life was really cool -Miles Carey Snow UMVIM '10

Jeff's rememberings

So many good stories to share about Louisiana.  Do I talk about the pleasure of getting to know Bob after being told that he may be a little difficult?  Should I share the pride I felt when Emma, Graham, and Karen B put up a wall all by themselves.  Or how cool it was to stand at the bayou and picture the speedboat chase from "Live and Let Die?"  Perhaps the sheer relief that Zexin did in fact escape the week with ten fingers, ten toes, his face, and other appendages still intact in spite of some questionable drywall cutting techniques.  These and so many more small things get added to the long list of memories that started five years ago when we first drove up Roberts Blvd.  Here are the two things that I think I will carry away the most from this trip:  The sense of frustration that the mission may be over when there is still clearly so much work left to do on the south side, and my complete and utter inability to articulate how much I missed not seeing Carl's trailer parked at the Aldersgate campus and having him as a valued member of the team.  - Jeff Munson, Slidell '06, '07, '08, '09, '10.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Sammy and Brittany work at Peggy's

Posted by Picasa

Sammy's Story

One day while we were working Peggy called us down and she had baked delicious chocolate cookies for us. She gathered everyone around while she gave us all cookies and she looked at each of us and thanked us. She explained that her house was better than all of her neighbors. We looked around and all of her neighbors houses were beautifully finished. So we looked back to her inquisitively. She told us that her house was made of love and thats what made it so special. She had groups of people for the past 6 weeks come and give their love and time to help her. She felt the love and caring nature of each person that came to meet and build her home. She explained to us that that feeling alone made everything worth it. She knew her house would get done soon, and that whenever she was inside it would remind her of all the people that love her. Her neighbors couldn't say that, and that made her proud and happy. After telling us all this, there was an immense feeling of purpose throughout us all. That was why we went on the trip, and for her to recognize that was wonderful. -Samantha Herrick UMVIM team '08, '10

Rocko's stories

Short Story #1. Wednesday night, sitting in the reflecting garden outside the bunkhouse, I hear a very friendly voice say "Excuse me, but are you from Maine?"  "Why, yes I am."  "Well, I saw the Maine license plates and I just had to meet someone from Maine.  I love your state."   That's how I met Monty, who had come for the community supper, and the five minutes we chatted reaffirmed how great a state we live in.

Short Story #2.  Will never forget watching Peggy, our homeowner, surprise Miles and O'Shea with a kite and a flying lesson.

-Rocko '10 UMVIM Team

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Randy's mission trip story (From the Top of the World)

Randy's Story:
      A story from the Mission trip - where to begin - perhaps with a series of  memories flashing from the road and our "rolling nest" - six souls in a tin can on wheels stuffed to the brim with pillows, sundries of food and entertainment, good will, and oddments of the lives we left behind, temporarily watching the occasional (were there three or four?) gigantic crosses beside the highway, boastful proclamations of faith and place, roll before us on the way south and behind us on the way north; and reading the billboards asking the clergy of Knoxville what they were doing about the "3000 abortions a year" in their hometown making us wonder if they were the ones responsible and what sort of guilt was being proffered; the cars and the trucks and the folks on the road with us, each with a personal mission, passing the land and creeping up on the Gulf coast until at last we arrived on the immaculate grounds of the place called Aldgate (did I remember it right?) in Slidell ; soon we were at work at Peggy’s; she told us stories of the flood and the wind and the fury of lives torn apart and left in the backwaters of places just off the road to wither in desiccated depression until someone suggested she direct her prayers making them manifest in words to that incarnation of faith - the church!  help was there already marshaled by those who tried to restore their brothers and sisters after the deluge; and five years later there I was (grateful to my daughter who insisted I come) happy to lift the drywall sheets to make the walls dry - 17 feet above the ground which was still a few feet less than that flood;  like working in a tree house the crew and I measured and plumbed and cut and lifted and screwed and sunk again screws then finally (how funny, how ironic) applied "mud" to the walls we hoped would never taste water again making them smooth sanding them smoother sealing them together with a promise of paint and trim and the finishing touches to be completed by others someday real soon - the last trickle of help restoring a place for Peggy, her daughters, and her sons, and her grandchildren, and a home for her husband, too, when he returns on those infrequent days from labor so far away.  At the end, we tour St. Bernard, flat and filled with busy life brimming with business and folks in a hurry to come and go (did water really cover it all?), and we wait on a bridge while a barge passes below before descending to the Ward - a 9th circle of hell then and still – now an opportunity lost … for us … to become a greater nation … lost when we did not mobilize - immediately - a simple, civic devotion to neighbors - fellow citizens; in every empty lot and broken house is a vision of what was, what might have been, what will be resurrected by those who call that place home;  and the melancholy, which seeps into me as we turn corner after corner after corner of work yet to be done,  is relieved by an echo of a youthful voice silenced too soon so long ago: "There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?"  Bobby Kennedy knew - as privileged as I – he knew and now I knew, watching the passing parade of unreasoning poverty and wondering why only a few had homes rebuilt - with innovation and a committed compassion rendered into action.  Now I knew Kennedy’s truth: “It is not enough to understand, or to see clearly. The future will be shaped in the arena of human activity, by those willing to commit their minds and their bodies to the task.  And the task is great – preserve the hope and serve the change begun in the last election … and remember his other words: “Ultimately, America's answer to the intolerant man is diversity, the very diversity which our heritage of religious freedom has inspired.  So, then we enjoyed the exuberance of the parade - the joyful kissing and carrying on – (the gift of love … loving and being loved … not a streetcar named Desire) - and then the exotic French Quarter – a reminder that Maine is a place far away – “Hey, man … Maine!  You gots to be joking!  That’s like … on top of the World!” he shouted … to us in the van … supporting his honest labor outside the bar …  on Bourbon Street … when we paused at the light … and as we passed on the green … he knew we high schoolers were “working tourists” … I am certain he could see our “shine”.  Then the road home past the same landscape in reverse; more billboards hectoring our eyes, some our sensibilities, telling us what we ought to believe and how we ought to behave … specifically; and I was not mistaken; it was a short wave radio station proclaiming its version of the Word into the electromagnetic spectrum for all the world to hear, if all the world had radios … and were tuned to its frequency.  For five years the word on our campus was an invitation … to do a little good.  A little good was done.  There is more to do – here and there – one day at a time.  Let’s choose our tools and continue.  -Randy '10 UMVIM team & KHS English teacher.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Meg's story.....

I remember one day, Miles and O'Shea were working with Peggy, our home owner, in one of the rooms. They were sanding, and as many of you know, sanding is not the most fun job in the world. I was in the other room doing my sanding when all of a sudden I hear laughter and singing coming from the other room. Miles and O'Shea were teaching Peggy how to "turn her swag on" and Peggy was teaching them dance moves from when she was a kid. It was amazing to me that two kids from the city were able to connect with a woman from the Southern countryside through music and dance. We all stopped and watched Peggy as she danced around her was a moment of pure joy and contentment - a simplicity of life - that I don't think I will ever forget.  -Meg Richardson UMVIM '08, '09, '10 and KHS Senior

Monday, March 22, 2010

Mission Team update

photo by Devon Huntley, KHS '09, American University '12, UMVIM team '08, '09,'10.

You missed a spot!

Team work is all about helping each other do good work.  And that's what this year's RUMC/Kents Hill School Volunters in Mission were all about.

Team members insulated, drywalled, primed, painted, mudded, sanded, sanded, sanded.....met some amazing people and brought back lots of stories and photos to share.  Watch for them at this site.  Meanwhile, we watched for developing "fruits of the spirit" as we created a community in Christ.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Walk Away ?

So I listen to this interesting economics Blog from Public Radio, it's called "Planet Money". A few weeks ago they had a story which was largely about the burst of the housing bubble and how it had changed the way people think about foreclosures. The woman they were interviewing was a lawyer in Arizona who helped people deal with foreclosure. She was explaining that when she started this work people were mostly looking for help in preventing the bank from taking their home, but now people were calling to see if banks could be forced to take their home. There's a lot of interesting economics behind all that, but it's this observation she made that really tweaked me -- we have, she explained, finally seen a shift in society such that there's no longer a social stigma associated with loosing your home to foreclosure. And she compared it to the change in the 60's when divorce became acceptable, when a failed marriage was something that people walked away from without a sense of guilt. And it struck me thus - how did society ever get to a place that it was socially more acceptable to walk away from another person then to walk away from a thing? When a marriage vow meant less then a signature on a loan? Listen to the podcast here:

Monday, February 22, 2010

Journey through Lent with Jonah

"Jonah" by Naomi Spears

Lord God Almighty can fix the thing.
Can fix hard head
Can fix weak back
Can fix crooked leg.
God can fix anything.

Hear how He fix Jonah.
        -Liberian folktale (recorded by Lorenz Graham)


Naomi Spear's woodcut is hardly the calm image I usually seek to guide me through the end of winter and season of Lent.  

But doesn't the sharp contrast of light and dark ring true if we're willing to own up to sin?  And the  Jonah figure, a crooked little guy with scrawny hair, is humble enough to say, this could be anybody.

Tonight the news is showing video of the Dalai Lama leaving the White House via the back door (as evidenced by the pile of trash bags).  There's a flurry of comments, ironic and indignant:  how discourteous, how dumb to think no one would notice; what an effort to avoid diplomatic meltdown.

I just keep thinking, what a great image for Lent.  Does anyone think it matters to the Dalai Lama what door he goes in or out?  With his sense of humor and humility it seems perfect.

Lent opens a backdoor and invites us into Jesus' salvation journey to the cross.

Jonah's story reminds me how strange that salvation journey can be.   After all, he's saved by a fish's gaping mouth, hmmm, wonder what the trash situation was in there....

May humble humor accompany you where-ever God provides space for grace this Lent.

Monday, January 18, 2010

hard to remember

Its hard for me to remember that students who are in high school now grew up with a different set of expectations. In the midwestern town where I went to Elementary school, it was a big controversy when a teacher ended up fired for putting down and roughing up the only black kid in our school. Its hard because somehow the state of the world we grow up in becomes "normal."

Its hard for me to remember the story one my preaching professor told, only once, about being shot on the way to a civil rights demonstration. He was in the hospital recovering when three little girls died in a church bombing. Its hard to remember because its hard to think of him or them hurt like that.

Its hard for me to remember how much further the world has to go in learning to let, (heck to help!) every human being flourish. Its hard because I have a pretty comfortable life, and my kids have all the options they need. ITs hard to remember because I have to slow down and widen my view.

Its hard, but its worth it. -Karen

Monday, January 11, 2010

George's Sunday Sermon: Anticipation

Amanda reminded me after Thursday’s choir practice that this morning, I would be preaching to the choir.

I got to thinking about that, because I use the term often. Preaching to the choir means that I am delivering a message to a group that is already well aware of the message.

The difficult part of delivering a sermon, for me, is this:  I’m always uncomfortable suggesting that I have any special scholarly insights for you. So please understand, this morning, that I know I am preaching to the choir.

In today’s Gospel reading, the multitudes are anticipating the arrival of Jesus Christ. John the Baptist tells them, “he who is mightier than I is coming.”

What are you anticipating as you sit in your pew this morning?

If you are anticipating a profound message from me, you are about to be sorely disappointed!

Let me ask a different question. When Pastor Munson tosses out an open-ended question and looks hopefully at you for a response, do you cringe?

Our faith is not for spectators. We’re not here to be entertained by the folks up front. We are expected to get onto the field, into the game. This is not a one hour every Sunday event. It’s an every minute every hour every day commitment.

Sure, it’s not always comfortable. Sometimes what we’re called to do is well outside our normal boundaries. But it is what is expected of us.

It took a long time for me to understand this, and even longer to act on the understanding. I’m still working at that, actually.

When I was a kid, every summer we attended Methodist Camp in Winthrop. Because I also lived in Winthrop, I would leave camp in the evening to play in my little league baseball games. I was on the field and in the game. But it was the wrong field and wrong game.

Even after Lin and I started attending church here in Readfield, I was still a spectator Christian, happy to deliver our kids into the care of Susan Baker, enjoy the service, and go home. I soon joined the choir, but I got more enjoyment out of the singing than I ever brought to anyone else by my singing. I was in the choir for me.

But then one year I participated in a small group learning about the power of prayer. That led, eventually, to joining the prayer tree. And then the church fair became an eagerly anticipated event in my life, a time for fellowship and service.

No one needs another committee meeting less than me, but I joined the SPRC, and found myself actually enjoying this opportunity to serve. The meetings are stimulating, full of fellowship, offering an opportunity to get onto the field and participate in God’s game.

And finally, after waiting a while for someone – anyone- to step up to chair our Finance Committee, I stepped onto that playing field this month. Of course, if I had known that it included an evening tutorial from our long-time Finance Chair Rocko, for which he brought the Gritty’s, I might have signed up a long time ago!

And believe it or not, this diversion leads us back to my original question: What are you anticipating this morning?

Let me start the confessions. In my pew on Sunday morning, I am often anticipating the writing of my newspaper column. It must be submitted no later than Monday morning and I often write it on Sunday afternoon. And there is many a Sunday morning, as I sit here in church that I have no clue what I’m going to write about. Karen bails me out quite a lot, by giving me an idea for a column subject as she presents her morning message.

Lin always knows when this happens because she’ll glance over and I will be writing feverishly on the back of my church bulletin.

In my pew, I am anticipating the game of volleyball that Robin will be leading from 4 pm to 6 pm this afternoon.

A lot of the things I anticipate as I sit in church are pleasurable, mostly things I do for myself. It’s still, regrettably, all about me.

Anyone here this morning anticipating some fun events in your own life? Maybe an upcoming vacation? The Patriots game on TV this afternoon? How many are eagerly anticipating that?

We drove by a church yesterday that displayed this message outside the church: Come visit our home Sunday before the game.

It is also possible that you are anticipating bad things in your life. Surgery. An unpleasant task at work.

We all bring our anticipations to church on Sunday morning.

And for me, the challenge is to change those anticipations from things for and about me to things for and about God.

You all know that I love to hunt and fish. In my world, God made nothing more beautiful that a brook trout – especially a trout attached to my line.

My favorite fishing quote is this: “the charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.”

Imagine applying this thought to every minute of your life, spending that life in the pursuit of what God has made attainable for you, a perpetual series of occasions for hope, realizing that God’s playing field may be elusive, but its always attainable, and anticipating those opportunities to play in God’s game. Those opportunities are available, and not just for an hour on Sunday morning.

They are attainable in everything this church offers and does, and in so many places, on so many fields, outside of this church.

I gaze around every Sunday and find occasions for hope supplied by members of this congregation who live their lives on God’s playing field, teaching Sunday school, serving at the food bank, going to Slidell or Cambodia to build houses, traveling all the way to Kaoma to teach children. I admire each of you who sit here this morning anticipating these things.

And I recognize that you spend more of your time on God’s playing field than I do. Most of my time is still spent in my own game, for my own pleasure.

But when I do get out of my own game and into God’s game, I am so richly rewarded as to wonder: why don’t I do this more often?

And then there is that greatest of anticipations: that when the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there. Ah, that elusive goal, but a goal that is attainable. I hope!

I was writing legislative testimony early Wednesday morning, anticipating a very busy day at the State House, and happened to look up from my laptop to see a beautiful sunrise.

Suddenly, the day’s anticipated events seemed far distant, and I marveled at the beauty that God puts in front of me every day. My day brightened, even before the sun rose over Bowen Hill to the east. And I wished I had more time to spend in God’s game. But I had to get that testimony done.

My prayer for you is that every one of your days may be brightened by all that you anticipate, that your feet may be placed down on God’s playing field every minute of every hour of every day. And for me, that once in a while, I will join you there.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

On the Tenth Day of Christmas

On the 10th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...
fluffy snow out as far as I can see!

Last night "church cancellations" started scrolling across TV screens.

We've only had to "cancel" worship twice here in ten years, that I can remember.
Mainers are a pretty hardy group, weather doesn't stop us. Its just gets us going with ingenuity. Common sense does sometimes divert our energy.

So this morning at 9:00 AM with a clear parking lot, but several feet of powder piled against the doors and up the Torsey stairs, I find myself contemplating what "cancel Church" means.

The Roman Empire tried pretty hard to cancel church permanently just as church was getting started.

If we really cancelled church now, what would the world lose?
(Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!)

Maybe we can re-think church to where we are today, moving it instead of "cancelling it."
 In fact, if we try using "church" as a verb rather than a noun,
we could be churching in any number of ways!

Maybe reading today's Gospel, John 1: 10-18, in front of a fire that echos the light of God filling our world.

Maybe humming "O Little Town of Bethlehem" as we clear the streets and sidewalks of our community for travelers. Maybe even thinking about others way to make our homes and world welcome source of God's loving light for all traveling life's journey. (I love the phrase in United Methodist Communication's recent mailing: ACT justly, LOVE mercy, WALK humbly.)

Maybe for those of us who'd really like to be imagining a warmer place, how about re-thinking church in a tropical theme? How would you worship on a light filled beach? hmmmmm.

Toay is the 10th day of Christmas, the end of the first ten years of the millenium. The news is full of dire descriptions of a difficult decade. But the light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it. 

We may not be worshipping the way we usually do (which is, after all, not the way "its always been done"), but that's no reason not to seek Christ's light today.  Or, to let that love light shine through our lives as we seek to serve him.