Friday, March 27, 2020

Music Meditation


There are lots of lovely items being offered in cyberspace right now to share the talents of wonderful artists for meditation. Please consider this daily offering by my friend David Chaves of Sunapee.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Connected

There's lots of good advice out there right now, not just for the pandemic, but in the times beyond. Wash your hands. Stay home.

Stay home?! This advice minimizes our carbon footprint. There are some satellite images from China that show improvement in the smog that hangs over that country and we're not far behind in the western hemisphere as our planet tries to heal from the damage humanity has caused. It would be a wonderful thing if the habits we develop during this time last beyond it and into the future. Washing our hands more regularly. Walking to get out and get exercise instead of driving. Enjoying a slower pace and more time with our family members. Staying home.

Staying home?! How can we stay home and stay connected. We are human beings who crave contact! One of the characteristics of the United Methodist denomination is our connectional nature. Where other churches stand alone in their polity, making decisions, owning property and in the ways that they reach out in mission to the community, United Methodists are connected. We have support systems where we are connected to the others within our conference, jurisdiction and the world. This enables outreach programs on a grand scale like the work that UMCOR does in the case of natural disasters and like we were able to do with Nothing but Nets to prevent malaria.

That connection exists within our church, as well. It is based on John 15:1-9 where Jesus describes himself:

‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. ...Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. ...My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.'

We need each other to survive. We are connected in obvious ways, as well as ways we cannot comprehend. We breathe each other's breath. We are sustained by one another's love. Most of all, we need Jesus' love to sustain and nourish us. We need to hear his words of assurance, that as God has loved Jesus, so Jesus loves us. In this time of physical distancing, we can know, as we always have, that Jesus is as close as our breath. In this time of avoiding each other's breath in the form of contagious sneezes or coughs, we know that the Holy Spirit breathes in and through us in gentle life-sustaining rhythm.

At Wesley United Methodist Church in Concord NH, we have an intentional network where we connect on a regular basis. Much of this connection helps the church to run its programs and ministry through Ad Board and committee meetings and Bible studies, as well as rehearsals for musicians, singers, dancers and bell ringers. Some of our connections are intentional and spiritual in the form of our NESTs, groups that gather for Nurture, Enrichment, Service and Transformation.

We've activated these groups, not only to disseminate information down the line, but to share information and caring across the groups and back to Pastor Cheryl. This patterns the bands and class meetings of John Wesley's movement when Christians would meet for support and accountability. They would meet in groups of about a dozen and share their joys and concerns, asking one another, "Is it well with your soul?" Check out this video of my friend Yunki Kim who pastors the Trinity UMC in Montpelier VT singing Psalm 23 to the tune of It is Well with my Soul, adapted by another friend Evie Doyon who pastors the Northfield UMC VT. 

We are called together during this time to connect with each other. It is not only for our physical and emotional well-being, but also for our spiritual state that we crave human contact. Not only to ask, "Are you okay?" "Do you have enough groceries?" "Are you going stir crazy?" but also, "How is it with your soul?" We need to step up to care for each other during this very anxious time. When we ask "What is God doing?" The answer is that God is loving us, right through the midst of this crisis. When we ask "What does God want us to do?" Jesus reminds us,

‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.'

We are called, more than anything else to love one another. During this unprecedented time, we are cultivating new ways to do just that. My prayer is that our connections become stronger as a result and that they continue even when this crisis is long past.

Jesus concludes this section of the chapter in John with a beautiful phrase,

'I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.'

Pastor Cheryl

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Eagles' Wings

Image result for eagles wings

Psalm 91
Assurance of God’s Protection

You who live in the shelter of the Most High,
  who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
  will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress;
  my God, in whom I trust.’
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
  and from the deadly pestilence;
  he will cover you with his pinions,
  and under his wings you will find refuge;
  his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
  or the arrow that flies by day,
  or the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
  or the destruction that wastes at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side,
  ten thousand at your right hand,
  but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
  and see the punishment of the wicked.

Because you have made the Lord your refuge,
  the Most High your dwelling-place,
  no evil shall befall you,
  no scourge come near your tent.

For he will command his angels concerning you
  to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
  so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the adder,
  the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.

Those who love me, I will deliver;
  I will protect those who know my name.
When they call to me, I will answer them;
  I will be with them in trouble,
  I will rescue them and honour them.
With long life I will satisfy them,
  and show them my salvation.

Monday, March 23, 2020

What a Morning it Will Be

Image result for signs of spring


Holy God,
     infinite and eternal,
     constant and patient,
     everlasting, and the beginning and ending of all things …

This is a season of waiting …
     for the fast to end,
     for signs of spring to unfold,
     for palm branches and foot washings and worship at dawn.

This year, we are focused on different things – more things – in this season of waiting …
     for the time when distance and isolation will no longer be required,
          for the rescheduling of things that must be done in person,
               for life to return to normal,
                    though we know we even trust – it will never be the same.

This year, we wait with a kind of desperation …
     for paychecks that may not come,
     for test results,
     for the cure.

This year, we wait for gifts of the soul we find ourselves in aching need of …
     forbearance,
     courage,
     hope.

In our waiting …
     You accompany us,
     You are with us,
     You are always with us.

Your Spirit calls down through the ages in the voice of your Beloved who beckons to us …
     to sit and wait while he prays,
     to stay awake and remain and pray with him,
     to wait and watch and wait some more.

And it is enough. It is enough …
     to be this vulnerable,
     to re-learn what it is to be church and love neighbor,
     to wait and watch and pray with Jesus
     for the morning.

What a morning it will be. Amen.

By Rev. Jill Colley Robinson, Vermont District Superintendent
Scripture: Psalm 130.5-6

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Lament







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It occurs to me that not everyone sees hope and joy in the midst of this time. Today's blog post is a psalm of lament, crying out to God to see the writer in the midst of her pain and hardship. Are you feeling like this today? Consider writing your own lament to God. 

Get it all out. God can take it.

If you'd like to share it in the comments below or with me privately via email, please do.


Lament Psalm Four
by Ann Weems

O Holy One, I can no
longer see.
Blinded by tears
that will not cease,
I can only cry out to you
and listen
for your footsteps.

Are you, too, O God,
blinded by tears?
Have you watched this
world
pile its hate
onto the faces
of your little ones
until your eyes are so
filled with tears
that you cannot see me
waiting for you?
Are you, O God,
deafened by the
expletives
of destruction and death?

Have you heard
so many obscenities
that you cannot hear my moaning?
O God, if you are blind,
can’t you hold out
your hand to me?
If you’re deaf,
can’t you call my name?

How long, O God,
am I to sit
on the plain of blindness?
How long am I to listen
to the profanity
of my enemies
who mock:
“Where is your God
now?”

Show them, O my God,
that you remember.
Reach out your hand
and dry my eyes
that I might see
a new beginning.
Open your mouth
and call me by name
that I might know
you remember me.
Claim me that I might
announce in the
marketplace
that my God is here.

O my heart,
give thanks!
My God is here even
in the midst of destruction.

Weems, Ann. Psalms of Lament (Kindle Locations 289-316). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.







Join us at Wesley UMC for worship Sunday mornings at 10:30 am.








Saturday, March 21, 2020

All the Things Your Mom Taught You

I suspect that your mom, like mine, taught you to wash your hands.

Image result for wash hands

Now, in a time of contagion, we're learning anew how important it is to wash our hands thoroughly and often and we're being encouraged to sing this song or that to ensure we are doing it long enough. I hope the song that has come to you is one filled with joy, maybe even a giggle. The doxology works well, as do a number of silly songs.

What constantly comes to my mind is that joy is contagious. When that happens for me, Divine Love casts out fear. Giggles and silliness are a relief in this time that can be marked by anxiety over contagion. For those of you on Facebook, I posted a hilarious video of a British pastor whose shirt caught on fire during his livestream from the candles that he had carefully placed around for ambiance. It's hilarious because it's something I might do, clumsy as I am. (My dad called me "Grace Magoo!") I laughed like a fool when I saw that video and it felt good. It was a release of tension--an opportunity to laugh at myself.

I'm finding joy in quieter places too. I'm hopeful that we're finding stillness and opportunities to be with family members and also that so many are out walking and riding bikes. We're praying for our healthcare workers at the front of the crisis. We're caring for the members of our community by staying home.
Bill Graham Photography
Not only washing our hands, but resting and exercising more, keeping in touch, doing kind things, planning ahead, these are all things our moms taught us for a healthy, happy lifestyle. These are all things that are coming to the forefront as ways to address the coronavirus by flattening the curve. Outside my window right now a mom and daughter just encountered a man walking his dog and they stopped for a friendly pat and "hello". A jogger ran by and a family rode their bikes along the street. Goodness abounds and we're healthier for it. 

Thanks mom.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

And the people stayed home...

And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.
And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.
And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.
Kitty O'Meara

Hope

All throughout my house, plants are blooming! African violets, shamrocks, basil, Christmas cactus and this wonderful Streptocarpus saxorum.


For me, these blooms are signs of hope, that even in this anxious time, life is moving forward in beauty and vitality. 

It reminds me of one of my very favorite quotes: 

Spirit, God, gathers unformed thoughts into their proper channels, and unfolds these thoughts, even as He opens the petals of a holy purpose in order that the purpose may appear. Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, p. 506:18

In this, I hear Spirit, God at work, active in creation, continually guiding and opening us so that we glorify God, fulfilling our purpose. Mrs. Eddy writes this quote as part of her interpretation of Genesis:

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters (like a bird brooding). Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. Genesis 1:1-5 NRSV

I added the parenthetical phrase about a mother bird since it is present in some translations. The image of God like a mother bird brooding over creation is deeply comforting. There is a sense of safety and nurture. You could imagine this brooding coming in the midst of chaos as God brought order to creation or you could imagine creation occurring out of stillness, bringing activity and life. Whether in silence or in chaos, God is present. God is walking beside us whether we are calm in the midst of the present chaos surrounding Covid-19 or whether we are deeply anxious. 

God is not only present, God is sustaining, nurturing and creating something new. I find hope in our deep care for one another by taking precautions against contagion like staying home and good hygiene. I find hope in our increased opportunities to enter the silence of God's presence. I find hope in the fact that by being still, we are reducing our carbon footprint. I find hope in the fact that we are seeking out new ways to connect and helping our friends to use social media and other ways to stay in touch. 

The blooms will blossom, friends. At the end of all this, God will still be with us and we will have been guided to our purpose of glorifying God, of sharing God's love and grace with each other in new, vibrant and beautiful ways.

Pastor Cheryl

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Sing

We are separated during this time of social distancing but we need not be isolated from each other. This blog is meant to provide encouragement and connection. I will try to write daily and you are welcome to drop in as often as you want, to subscribe to receive notice of new posts by email and to comment, entering into conversation with others.

Sometimes I, Pastor Cheryl, will write myself, other times I will share inspiration from others. Here is something Rev. Jim Batten shared with me that was written by Fr. Richard Hendrick, OFM.

Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
But,
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.

They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
Sing.

Expectant, Joyful

In the Christian tradition, we know that patience is a spiritual gift and that times of waiting are often followed by deep blessings. At Wes...