Tonight after Mass we will have a potluck for food and fellowship. The theme is one pot comfort food. Even if you can’t bring a dish, bring your appetite. There will be plenty of food to share!
The Life Alert ads remind us, “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”
Most of us tend to think of the second half of life as largely about getting old, dealing with health issues, and letting go of life. Franciscan Priest and spiritual guide, Fr. Richard Rohr, will help us understand the tasks of the two halves of life and show that those who have fallen, failed, or “gone down” are the only ones who understand the richness of “up.”
What looks like falling down can largely be experienced as “falling upward.” In fact, it is not a loss but somehow actually a gain, as we have all seen with elders who have come to their fullness of wisdom.
Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life
Paul tells us in first Corinthians 11, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became older, I put away childish things.”
Before anyone can make that leap, we need to be able to identify what it means to spiritually be a “child” and how that relates to Carl Jung’s two halves of life.
We’ll gather at Holy Family from 6:30-8:00 on five of the Wednesday evenings of lent to break open Fr. Richard’s teachings on this subject. (February 21, 28, & March 7, 14, 21)
With the help of Fr. Richard’s videos, we’ll explore the counterintuitive message that we grow spiritually much more by doing wrong than by doing right–a fresh way of thinking about spirituality that grows throughout life.
- Offers a new view of how spiritual growth happens? Loss as gain.
- Explains why the second half of life can and should be full of spiritual richness.
- How modern society and structures are stacked against those in that second half of their journey.
Hope to see you there!
Remember the dates, February 21, 28, & March 7, 14, 21
This is the clip art we used on the flyer to announce our Keep Them Warm coat drive for the children at Southern View School. What you see below are the real pictures of the results so far of our efforts!
Our drive is only three weeks old and in that time we have collected and delivered twenty coats, over 200 pairs of socks, 200 pair of gloves, countless hats plus the shoes and boots you see in the picture and we are still going strong. While the numbers of gloves and socks sound like a lot, we all know how children lose things! We are going to keep up our drive throughout the winter to replace lost gloves. Full confession: I never spend more than $2.00 on a pair of gloves because I always lose them. Always. I have every sympathy in the world for the child who loses his or her gloves!
If you are not a member of Holy Family you can still donate to our drive. Simply give your donation to a member or –better yet!—drop it by Holy Family before 4:30 p.m. Mass on any Saturday. We will gratefully accept your donation on behalf of the children.
On another note, I would like to wish you a Happy New Liturgical Year! And Happy Advent. I love the deep blues and violets of this season. I love the candlelight, I love singing “O Come O Come Emmanuel” and I love how the Scripture builds leading us into Christmas. I hope you, too, celebrate the things you love about Advent as you go about making your preparations for Christmas. Come celebrate Advent with us at Holy Family, we would love to have you be part of our family!
Dachau, Treblinka, Buchenwald, Bergen-Belsen, Auschwitz. I have found it puzzling how an entire world could not have known what was happening to the Jews during WWII. Years ago, I asked my mother-in-law, Maud, “Did people in Europe really not know what was happening to the Jews during the war?” She and my father-in-law Raymond, were Belgian citizens, lived in Belgium during the war and lived through the devastation and horror of it all. There were rumors of work camps for Jews, she said, and even some camps where Jews were killed, but no one believed those rumors because they were too fantastical. She did mention her father who in later years told them of a train he saw rumbling through the Belgian countryside with arms sticking out of the barred windows on boxcars. She was silent for a moment and then went on to tell of more stories that affected our family during those dark times.
My father-in-law was a college student in Germany before the war and while walking by a park, noticed Adolf Hitler giving a speech. He stopped to watch for a while, foregoing giving the infamous salute when the crowd did. He said he noticed police officers watching him and instantly became uneasy. He started to walk again to get away from that park.
After Raymond and Maud were married, WWII broke out. As Hitler moved across the continent, he needed a bigger army. The Nazis conscripted Raymond to join their army. Not wanting any part of Hitler, Raymond and Maud bought a tandem bicycle and fled to France, pedaling over 500 miles to escape the Nazis. Maud said they cycled along with many men on bicycles doing the same thing. They pedaled and stayed just head of the German advances until they reached the Mediterranean Sea. There was no place left to go. The Nazis seized them and their bicycle and sent them and other refugees back to Belgium by way of train, one for the women, and one for the men. Not wanting to be separated from Maud and figuring either the men were going to a work camp or the army, Raymond snuck on to the women’s train. The women on the train helped Maud hide Raymond from the Nazi guards. They arrived back in Belgium and for whatever reason; the Nazis didn’t bother with Raymond anymore.
Maud and Raymond had their first child during the war. Maud talked of how she would be going about caring for the baby, caring for the house or going to the market when the air raid sirens would suddenly sound. She said she could tell if the planes flying overhead were going to drop bombs or if they were just flying over by the sound of the whine from the plane’s engines. If a bombing raid were imminent, all would flee to their basements to wait out the bombs. One day Maud and Raymond were having a picnic in their back yard. The baby was in her high chair. The air raid siren went off and after ascertaining it was a bombing raid, Raymond picked up the baby, high chair and all, and he and Maud ran to take cover in their basement. After the raid they came upstairs to assess the damage and found shrapnel from a bomb in their backyard exactly in the place where the high chair had been.
One more story. Maud’s brother, George was a captain in the Belgian Army fighting Hitler’s army. George was captured and became a prisoner of war of the Germans and was placed in a prisoner of war camp for officers. Toward the end of the war, the Germans were running out of money and sent half of George’s camp home for two weeks with the understanding they were to return in two weeks. Before one thinks, “Who would ever go back?” the commandant gave them a warning. If they didn’t return their bunkmate would be shot and killed. George was the one who was being allowed to go home to his wife and three young children. George’s bunkmate told George not to return. He explained that he was a single man and George had a family. Don’t come back, the bunkmate said, don’t come back. George went home, went into hiding, and didn’t return to camp. George, while grateful to be with his family, was forever haunted by his decision.
I, along with the rest of the world have watched the horror that unfolded in Charlottesville over the weekend. I saw the young men, seethingwith hate and misplaced pride in an evil ideology march defiantly through the town square. The men are about the same age my parents-in-law were when they were fleeing the Nazis on a tandem bicycle. They are about the same age as George when he had to make the life and death decision about whether to return to a prisoner of war camp. They are about the same age as the man who sacrificed his life for George and his family. I would like to ask them if they have ever tasted the metallic taste of fear in their mouths as George had. Have they ever experienced the bone numbing fear of Raymond as he hid from the Nazis? Have they ever had to cower in a basement praying a bomb wouldn’t hit their house while trying to soothe anxious children? No. The members of these groups are ignorant people, ignorant of history, ignorant of the abject terror and horror the Nazis perpetrated on a world not so long ago They have had the luxury of passing time, of living in a land of paved streets and reliable power grids, not in bombed-out cities and ration books. They gleefully march and spew their hate-filled rhetoric, all the while knowing there are police officers to help quell the violence and protect them from harm. They are despicable human beings.
People aren’t born to hate like that, what in their lives flipped that switch to make them so devoid of human feelings or to misunderstand history? It’s not up to us to help save them from themselves. We have to raise the alarm to stop them and their ilk from spreading their hate and poison. But how?
Heather Heyer’s mom knows how. In her unimaginable grief, she is standing up to the Neo-Nazis. I look for her to lead the way, to become the face of the battle to this very dire threat to our nation. People have marched in peace and held candlelight vigils all across America all in unanimity against the scourge of these warped white supremacists. Marches are still being planned, resistance groups are being formed in many cities to bring citizens of our beloved country together to show solidarity in the face of these hate groups.
I find I am answering the question I asked my mother-in-law of how evil could have happened right in front everyone. I am living in those times. Evil sneaks in while one isn’t looking. With the benefit of history, we have seen how insidiously hate and resentment are stoked until it is too late to stem the evil. We must call on our politicians not only of our country but also of other countries if necessary to help us keep the promise the world made to future generations “Never again.” We citizens have to stay focused, to demand action. This is our moment to make our mark on history. This is the moment our children will tell their children about when they ask, “What did our family do to stop the Neo-Nazis?” What will future American’s think about us at this time in history? Maud and Raymond would tell us: “Don’t stay silent. Shout it from the rooftops. Remember. Never again!”
I found a Christmas quiz on the Internet that may challenge some of our beliefs about that night in Bethlehem. Here are a few of the questions, see how many you can answer correctly! Answers follow the quiz.
- According to the Bible, how did Mary and Joseph get to Bethlehem?
D. Joseph walked, Mary rode a donkey
E. horse-drawn chariot
F. Who knows?
- What does the Bible say that the innkeeper said to Mary and Joseph? (Luke 2:7)
A. “There is no room in the inn.”
B. “I have a stable you can use.”
C. “Come back later and I should have some vacancies.”
D. Both A and B
E. None of the above
- Baby Jesus was born in a
- We don’t know.
- What animals were present at Jesus’s birth?
- cows, sheep and camels
- cows, chickens and donkeys
- lions, tigers, and bears
- the Bible does not say
- When did baby Jesus cry?
- when he saw the Wise Men
- whenever babies usually cry
- when the cattle started lowing
- no crying he makes
- How many wise men (or magi) came to see Jesus?
- the Bible doesn’t say
Answers: 1. F, the Bible doesn’t say. 2. E, the bible doesn’t even mention an innkeeper 3. D, we don’t know, the Bible only says Jesus was laid in a manager after he was born. 4. D. 5. B, he was a regular baby boy after all! 6. D. (are you sensing a pattern here?!) Magi is plural so there was more than one, but the Bible doesn’t say. Three gifts were mention in the gospel of Matthew so that is probably where we get the number three.
None of this really matters, does it? They exaggerated the story, we exaggerated the story, but none of this negates the fact that Jesus was born. We love thinking of that little baby asleep in the hay.
What is incontrovertible is that that little baby grew into a man who showed us how to live, how to love. For 2,000 years parents have been teaching their children of Jesus’s message of love and peace.
I think it would be safe to say Jesus had a message that withstood the test of time!
Fast forward to today. We have just experienced an unconventional campaign for President that has divided the nation. Your side, my side, his side, her side, families divided, political parties divided. There are many feelings swirling about, grief, fear, satisfaction, excitement as the new administration takes shape. How are we to sing of heavenly peace, how can we say “Merry Christmas” in the face of so much anxiety and uncertainty?
We don’t have to look any further than the baby asleep in the hay for our answer. We just have to look at Jesus’s life, look at his ups and downs and look at the conviction in which he preached his message of love and peace. He didn’t back down from that message even when faced with ridicule, even when faced with death.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you,” Jesus says.
If we believe Jesus, we have the gift of peace with us, within us, right here, right now.
We already possess his gift of peace, his rock steady, don’t back down peace.
The gift of Christmas this year then, is the reminder that we own this great gift of peace and that we can and should use this great gift to tame the clutter and anxiety of these times, to remind ourselves that we are God’s beloved, created right from God’s own heart. And when we need a reminder of that peace, (and we will) let’s think back on tonight, when we were together, when we celebrated the realization of the gift of peace together. Let this night, this night of Jesus’s birth be our touchstone when we need to be reminded of that peace.
I’d like to read to you now; a poem about peace written by Dr. Maya Angelou entitled “Amazing Peace”:
Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
and lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await in our avenues.
The earth quivers and swallows entire villages.
Snow falls upon snow falls upon snow to avalanche
over unprotected hamlets.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.
We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We interrogate and worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?
Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters
streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
come the way of friendship.
It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence.
Lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
The quiet earth reminds us of Peace.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
as we make our way to higher ground.
Hope is born again in the faces of our children.
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth brightening all things
even hate, which crouches breeding in dark corridors.
In our joy, we think we hear “a whisper”.
At first it is too soft.
Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear – a sweetness.
The word is – Peace.
It is loud now.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.
We tremble at the sound.
We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war.
But true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies
security for our beloved and for their beloved.
It is Christmastime.
It is the glad season.
We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait awhile with us.
We Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim say “Come, Peace.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.”
We the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, peace, stay awhile with us
so that we may learn by your shimmering light
how to look beyond complexion and see community.
It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.
On this platform of peace, we can create a language
to translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.
At this Holy Instant we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout, with glorious tongues “the coming of hope”.
All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices
to celebrate the promise of Peace.
We, Angels and Mortal’s, Believers and Non-Believers,
look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
We look at each other and into ourselves
and say without shyness – or apology -or hesitation.
Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.
A sister priest, Reverend Bev Bingle from Toledo, Ohio wrote this homily for her community about the Ascension of the Lord. I thought it too good to sit in my computer and gather dust and so am passing it on to you. Spend some time with it, especially when you come to the part of the homily that asks what Jesus is asking of us, today, right here, right now.
Blessings and laughter,
Today, as we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord,
we hear scriptures about Jesus ascending into heaven that are obviously not literal. We know that it’s another one of those stories that is true but didn’t actually happen, an experience of Divine Presence that the followers of Jesus tried to express in language and story that fit the world view of their time.
There are some obvious clues that lead us to see these as expressions of faith experience instead of historical fact. Among other scripture scholars, Fr. Raymond Brown points to the developed theology of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, written between 60 and 63 AD, about 30 years after the disciples experienced the resurrection and ascension. Paul uses metaphors of his time and place—metaphors familiar to the Greco-Roman socio-political culture—to express the truth that Jesus has been lifted up and lives in God for ever. He describes Jesus as above all earthly powers, head of the church, Lord of creation. Those are images that fit his time.
Twenty to forty years after Ephesians, an unknown author wrote the two pieces of scripture that we know as Luke’s Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Our New American Bible has a footnote showing that they can’t be historical because the ascension happens on Easter Sunday night in the Gospel, then forty days later in the Acts of the Apostles. So, while the Bible is true, these stories are not factual recordings of historical events. Another way we know that the ascension stories are attempts to tell about Jesus’ meaning rather than relate history comes in that there are three forms of the final commission that Jesus is shown as giving to his disciples. One is found in Matthew (28:18-20), one in John (20:22-23), and one in Luke (24:44-48) and Acts (1:8). Scholars make other observations that point to the evolution of thinking about Jesus as the Christian community grew. For example, Luke has Jesus say,
These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.
Scholars say that Luke wrote those words as a basic summary of the early Christian idea that the Torah and the prophets foretold Jesus’ life, teaching, death, and resurrection. They were trying to reconcile what they thought about Jesus while he was alive and preaching with what had happened to him and with their continuing experience of his presence with them.
Another example is that the commissioning in Luke, telling the disciples to preach the good news to all the nations, expresses the goals of the early Christian community as they ponder the significance of Jesus for them. Those disciples, as the scriptures tell us, mistakenly thought Jesus was a Messiah who would take charge of the state, set up a government, reign as king… like David. But then he was crucified, and they began to understand that his kingdom was not a worldly one. They met and broke bread and remembered, re-telling their memories and continuing to experience his ongoing presence with them.
Imagine them getting together and talking.
What did Jesus do?
What did he say we should do?
What does that mean for us now?
And they recognized him in the breaking of the bread.
That’s what we do, still, today.
We listen to the scriptures.
We ask ourselves what they mean.
We ponder our own experiences of the Spirit among us in light of the experiences recorded by our ancestors in faith. We express our own experiences of the Spirit of God in ways that make sense to us, given our understanding of science and humanity.
One of the messages we hear in today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles is that Jesus lives in God.
Another message that we hear is that, as followers of the way of Jesus, we are commissioned to spread the good news throughout the world. That good news is that all of creation— including Jesus, including us—lives with God and in God, eternally.
Thanks be to God!
Rev. Bev Bingle
In our Scripture today we have three pretty big names in Biblical history, Isaiah, Paul and Peter each having been called, each of them proclaiming their unworthiness.
“Woe is me! I am lost! I am a man of unclean lips, I live among a people of unclean lips, yet my eyes have seen the King,” Isaiah said.
“I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle,” Paul said.
“Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man, “said Peter.
Not as well-known but nonetheless as important, you know who else confesses unworthiness? Us. All of us have. In a fit of imposed piety, the church has given us those words to say.
“Lord, I am not worthy to receive you,
but only say the word and I shall be healed.”
In a throwback to Latin moment, the church rewrote those words to “Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof…” which makes for a very strange mental picture.
Where did this unworthy business come from? From God?
God doesn’t mention a thing about who is worthy and who isn’t.
In fact, go back to Genesis and remember how God created everything and saw that it was good. Reread our scripture today. God didn’t say “Hey Isaiah, you piece of unworthy garbage”, Jesus didn’t say “Simon Peter, you’re the best I can get, come along.” We don’t talk that way to one another, certainly God doesn’t.
I came to believe in my worthiness when I was doing the work of figuring out who God was in my life. I found my childhood image of God didn’t serve me as I became an adult, I had too many questions, too many experiences of God that didn’t fit the description of God I had been given.
Either I had to figure out an image of God or give up God altogether because the God that was being born in me wasn’t a judge,
wasn’t keeping track of my mistakes, didn’t decide how to answer prayers based on the formulas I used or with the repetition of them.
I can pinpoint an instance when my image of God grew exponentially.
It was when I was holding our fourth child soon after he was born.
I was overcome with this wave of love for him. Then I thought, “This is how my mom felt about me when I was born.” And then, my thoughts went on to, as much as I love my son, as much as my mom loved me, God loved me even more that.
In fact, at that moment I felt that God and I were co- creators in that God created life and so did my husband and I. I came to understand God’s love for me as the same as the love I had for my kids. God loves as a parent loves.
Fast forward to the early 2,000’s. Unworthiness started to be a reoccurring theme in preaching in this diocese. It was with my adult faith, my adult image of God that got me thinking about this unworthy business. If I asked a child of mine to do a special task and they said to me, “I am unworthy, thanks for asking me to do this, but I am unworthy,” I would be kind and reassuring the first time but if my kid said it again I would say “Knock it off.” Plus a lot more than that. Don’t you think God would get tired of hearing us proclaim our unworthiness, too? Geez Louise I think God would say, “Knock it off.”
Let’s think of it another way. Say you have a friend that you visited on a regular basis. Before that person would let you in the house you had to say “I’m unworthy, but you can make me whole.”
The person says “Ok, come on in.”
If you didn’t turn around and refuse to visit, you might go in a total of 1 time.
And hopefully you would have the self-esteem to erase that person from your address book. Then why do we put that burden on God?
God who is love, who created us and called us good, why do we make God that gatekeeper? Nowhere, nowhere, nowhere does God ever call us unworthy.
Now we have a whole season of Lent coming up.
I’ll talk more about that on, Ash Wednesday, February 10 here at Abraham Lincoln Unitarian Universalist Congregation at 7:00, or read my column on our website. Suffice it to say, Lent is not a 40 day guilt trip about Jesus dying on the cross. Lent is a time, much like Advent to do a little introspection and see where we can grow in our lives.
It is a quieter time. If you have any vestiges of unworthiness, for God’s sake, give it up for Lent. And on Easter morning? Leave the unworthiness in the tomb where it belongs. Amen!
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Blessings and laughter,
When I first read the readings I was wondering how in the world I was going to pull this homily together. I started to procrastinate; I started to prepare our Mass in a Box for today, I checked our minister schedule to see who was lecturing. I put the bottle of wine in the box and exchanged the white and gold altar furnishings for green. I checked our candles and made sure the candle holders were in the box.
And then, an image popped into my head. Ezra from the first reading was lectoring at a liturgy. He was standing on a wooden platform made for that purpose and was reading from the Law or the Torah. Then the Levites interpreted the Scripture for the people in what we would call a homily.
In the gospel we heard about Jesus who had returned to his hometown of Nazareth. He went to the synagogue and was handed a scroll to read. He lectored from the book of the prophet Isaiah. The thought came to me that, today, at our liturgy, right here, right now we have continued the tradition of our spiritual ancestors when our lector lectored from our sacred Scripture.
All of us from ancient times, through the middle ages, right up through we baby boomers have deemed it necessary and life giving to read Scripture in the midst of our gatherings. We are following a well-worn path, thousands of years in the making, of listening and figuring out how that Scripture speaks to us today.
Well, now, thoughts were flowing like crazy. My procrastination had stopped!
Jesus read and said in that synagogue “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captive and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” Then he said, “Today, the Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Now, people have interpreted this passage in that Jesus was announcing he was the messiah, he was who the people were waiting for. Well, ok. But think with me here. Jesus read “The Spirit of the Lord is up on me because he has anointed me.”
Who else in this room has been anointed? The answer is every single one of us. We were anointed with chrism at our baptism, and confirmation if we were confirmed.
We have been anointed just as Jesus was. No it doesn’t make us the messiah, but it does make us like Christ, it makes us part of the body of Christ as St. Paul wrote about. We were anointed to do the same things that Jesus was anointed for, to ring good news to the poor, to release the captives, to restore sight to the blind and to let the oppressed go free. Who are those people? I think of the homeless, or the people from Mexico who are vilified for coming across the border so they can feed their families, those people who suffer in natural disasters, the elderly who have no family, just to name a few.
Let’s zero in even closer to home. What is this gospel saying to those of us at Holy Family this afternoon? We are going to share our soup supper in a little while, and yes we are satisfying our hunger, but more importantly we are getting to know one another. We are finding out who we are, what our gifts are. We have talked about knitting prayer shawls for people. I encourage all who want to knit or crochet to do the same in any pattern, in any color. Once they are finished we will bless them and have them on hand for anyone who would benefit from having this shawl, to wrap themselves up not only for warmth, but to know there is a community of people praying for them.
We have talked of getting a group together to read one of Bishop John Selby Spong’s books before he comes to speak in April. Bishop Spong looks at Christianity with an adult faith, not through the “straight jacket of religion” as he says. He isn’t afraid to challenge long held dogmas or doctrines. He doesn’t do this to be a pain in the neck, but so he can authentically experience God in himself and in his surroundings. That sounds like a pretty good thing.
We have a minister schedule now where those of you want to use your gifts to minister to our community as lector, choir member, usher, gift bearer, bread baker (I have the recipe) may do so.
We, we who are the body of Christ we who are Holy family are shaping the Church that we have prayed about and talked about and yearned for. We aren’t sitting back any longer to wait for someone to bring about that Church for us! We are leaving our footprints on that centuries old well-trod path for the Body of Christ to follow after us. Pretty exciting time, wouldn’t you say?
Mass is cancelled today due to the weather.
I have been checking the radar and listening to the weather reports and it looks as if we are in for some wet/cold/freezing weather right at the time we are gathering for Mass. Let’s not risk life and limb by going out in the snow, rather, let’s hold one another in prayer in the safety and warmth of our homes. Our next Mass will be on Jan. 23 in Jacksonville at Congregational United Church of Christ at 4:30p.m. Stay warm! Rev. Mary