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Thoughts from Pastor Dan

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

Today’s devotional originally appeared in Saturday’s “Faith & Values” section of The Eagle: http://www.theeagle.com/news/faith_and_values/fight-hostility-by-resisting-personal-insecurities/article_0ea07b31-1e10-59b6-b18d-7636a68bd1e8.html.

 

In anticipation of Juneteenth, celebrating the abolition of slavery announced in Texas on June 19, 1865, I picked up a collection of sermons written from a Black perspective. In Afrocentric Sermons: The Beauty of Blackness in the Bible, the author, Kenneth Waters, writes, “While African Americans have won a measure of freedom for our bodies, too many of our minds remain enslaved.” Waters unpacks the term “white” as “a mindset that would preserve privilege for descendants of Europeans at the expense of descendants of Africans and others,” clarifying that his sermons are not anti-white people, but certainly anti-racist. Providing this context he continues, “Within the wider community, the white assault upon the African American psyche has yielded the spoiled fruit of gang violence, homicide, drug trafficking, drug use, idleness, despair, domestic violence, crime, alcoholism, suicide, and mental breakdown. These are the symptoms of a people who have been taught self-hate.”

 

Hate inflicted on a person or people and internalized can become something even more insidious.

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

This week’s devotional is written by Rhoda Bertsch, a longtime honorary guest of Friends Church who insists that “every Christian church needs a little Jewish mothering.” Rhoda coordinates greeters for Sunday mornings, and recently served on the Ad Hoc Nominating Committee.

 

Oh beautiful for specious skies, for amber waves of grain. For purple mountain’s majesty above the fruited plains.

 

For some one born and living in New York City as a youngster those were beautiful words, but what exactly were those things. The words that spoke to me and my family were the ones written on the statue of Liberty—“Give me your tired, your poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

My parents were first generation Americans. Their parents were Jews coming from Hungary and Russia. They left their homes because of persecution and lack of opportunity. They arrived in New York City as thousands of others before them with little more than the clothes on their backs and their faith. Their faith in G_d that in this land they could live and work and practice their beliefs without the fear that they would be punished or put to death. They lived as most immigrants do, hand to mouth, working hard for long hours for low pay. This was over one hundred years ago. Why does all this sound the same as yesterday’s news? For my family, years went by and they prospered because they had the opportunities to do so and their faith to sustain them.

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

He said many things to them in parables: “A farmer went out to scatter seed. As he was scattering seed, some fell on the path, and birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on rocky ground where the soil was shallow. They sprouted immediately because the soil wasn’t deep. But when the sun came up, it scorched the plants, and they dried up because they had no roots. Other seed fell among thorny plants. The thorny plants grew and choked them. Other seed fell on good soil and bore fruit, in one case a yield of one hundred to one, in another case a yield of sixty to one, and in another case a yield of thirty to one. Everyone who has ears should pay attention.”Matthew 13:3-9, CEB

 

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 Dear Friends Church Family,

This week’s devotional is written by Mark Thomas. Mark currently serves as Church Council Moderator at Friends Church. This summer, he will be moving with his family back to Lexington, Kentucky, and will enroll in seminary this fall.



“The Path Turns”

Our faith tradition is overflowing with stories of journeys. From Abram and Sarai uprooting to move to the land of Canaan, to Jesus’ mystical walk to Emmaus with two of the apostles, and many more in-between and beyond, it is in a journey that one often encounters God. And a journey is often more than that, symbolic of our ultimate pilgrimage, from birth to death to life beyond.

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

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. –John 15:5

 

This morning, in a not atypical conversation under the roof of this pastor’s family, our daughter asked, “Daddy, when you get me married, if you’re still my daddy, will you walk me down the aisle, too?”  Never mind the sweetness of her nine-year-old verbiage about me serving as her wedding officiant (“get me married”), and try to brush aside the snort laughter about whether I’ll still be her dad (“if you’re still my daddy”); what I’m reflecting on is that picture of one person walking their child down the aisle, then changing positions to stand as the minister. In other words, I’m picturing one person trying to do it all.

 

News flash: we can’t do it all. I can’t. You can’t. And we’re not meant to. Jesus reminds us of this when he says, “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.” In the African American tradition of Christianity, prayers often begin with that acknowledgement, “Heavenly Father, we know that you are God, and we can do nothing apart from you.” It’s not a prayer reducing the one praying to wretched wormwood; it’s an empowering prayer that recognizes one’s own humble place in the divine scheme of things: God is the source of all life-giving energy, and we are rooted in that sustenance of abundant love.

 

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Today’s devotional is written by Associate Pastor Trent Williams.

 

This past weekend I was privileged to be part of the annual Friends Church retreat at Slumber Falls, our South Central Conference camp in New Braunfels. As I shared with the folks at the retreat, the first time I visited Slumber Falls was exactly 25 years ago this spring, when I attended the confirmation retreat with my pastor and the 4 members of my confirmation class from Waco. I don't remember all that much from that retreat, but when I arrived back at Slumber Falls earlier this year for the first time since then, I was amazed at some of the memories that came back to me. And this weekend, when I arrived with John and began to unpack in our cabin, I was struck by a sense of familiarity. The layout and the furniture was different, but I felt almost certain that I had stayed in that cabin, or one exactly like it, all those years before as a 14 year old. The door, the shape of the room, all came back to me and I felt transported back to that time in my life.

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

This week’s devotional is written by Friends Church member Sandy Roegner.  Sandy is a regular attendee of the Midweek Faith Formation Services and recently sang in the Taizé music provided for the Longest Night Service.  Sandy loves to write prayers and contemporary versions of traditional prayers.

 

I love music. I don’t play an instrument nor can I read it. I do listen to it all the time, and in those moments of listening to the music, words, voices or instruments I hear playing, I am peaceful, focused and heart-centered. Plato said this about music: “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and everything.”

 

Music speaks to our souls; especially to our hearts. Music has been known to heal us, both spiritually and physically. Since the beginning of time music has been a part of every society and used in many rituals and gatherings. The earthy sounds of the early instruments used by man are the very indication of the importance of music in our lives today. Need I even mention the variety of music available to us today from Bach to rock to the Beatles to jazz to rap? It tells us there is something for everyone’s heart, and for every feeling and emotion we experience from our hearts.

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

The sermon from Sunday, “The Dull Mind Interrupted,” shared some lengthy but important quotes from theologians and spiritual writers about the transformative effect of hospitality. For those key points to sink in, I’m taking snippets from Sunday’s message and offering them for today’s devotional.

 

The first quote is from Kate Matthews, the retired Dean of Amistad Chapel in Cleveland.  Rev. Matthews writes: “Hospitality isn't a condescending or begrudging sharing (preferably from our excess, not our substance—that way, we won't feel it so much): it’s an openness to change and a welcoming of the new learning change brings (however uncomfortable and perhaps even painful that change may be).  Hospitality and openness make transformation possible, especially when brought to us from the most unexpected places by the most unlikely people, particularly by ‘strangers,’ especially those considered ‘other.’”

 

Hospitality requires humility, openness, a sacrifice of self where we give of ourselves to someone else by just being present and listening.  Hospitality is required for transformation, and the gospel message of Jesus Christ is all about transformation; so without hospitality, the gospel of Jesus Christ becomes stagnant.

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

This week’s devotional is written by Linda Fitzwater. Linda is the Chair of the Spiritual Development Committee, sings in the Chancel Choir, and is a regular attendee of and occasional lay leader for the Midweek Faith Formation Service (6pm, Wednesday nights). She is also the proud Confirmation mentor for Juliana Avila, a 6th grader in the Friends Church youth group.

 

It has now been a few days since our church’s beautiful Easter celebrations and I have been wondering what does it mean when we say that we are an Easter or Resurrection People? I have been especially thinking about the idea of rising. Rising seems to be a popular word lately both in the pop/activist culture as well as in our religious/ spiritual lives.

 

As we celebrated Easter we read the Resurrection story that is found in all of the gospels. From the JB Phillips paraphrased New Testament it goes like this:

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

Today’s midweek message comes to you a day early to remind you of tonight’s “Theology Unplugged” gathering at C&J’s Barbecue, 6pm. Details below.

 

This week’s devotional, written by Pastor Dan, first appeared in the “Faith & Values” section of Saturday’s The Eagle: http://www.theeagle.com/news/faith_and_values/love-manifests-itself-in-apologies/article_95555138-c7a0-5a1a-a0f9-b78265d1a392.html.

 

An 11-year-old boy on his knees poured water over his mother’s feet. Drying them with a towel, he said to her, “As Christ served you, now go and serve others.” The woman then took the place of her son. Crouching down where he had been, she faced another boy, this one not her son. She took his feet in her hands, held them over the basin, washed them, dried them, and said to the child, “As Christ served you, now go and serve others.” That young man turned around and washed his father’s feet. I asked him later, “Have you ever washed your dad’s feet?” “Um, no,” he said with a sheepish grin.