Musing: World Communion

Leftovers, World Communion Sunday, October 6, 2019.

It’s been a week and a half since the observance of World Communion Sunday. Not all that long ago according to the calendar. But it feels ever so much longer. One of the days between then and now was set aside so my beloved could have an outpatient procedure. Complications meant spending the following five days in the hospital. Thankfully we’re home; John’s doing well; and I’ve had a chance to sleep and nap and sleep some more.

I thought I’d write about the communion part of World Communion when I took the pictures for this blog post. Maybe say something about remembering Christians around the globe, connected in the one body of Christ.

But since the six days at the hospital I’ve been thinking about the the world part. The medical school at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics attracts smart, kind, thoughtful people from across planet Earth. John and I delight in meeting, however briefly, persons with difficult (for us) to pronounce names. We are grateful beyond words for their expertise, their care, their commitment. Their presence reminds us that we are all connected in the precious journey of life.

Thanks be to God for the diversity and the gifts of the world’s peoples.

World Communion Sunday, Urbandale United Church of Christ, Urbandale, Iowa, October 6, 2019.

Photo Challenge: Groceries

Groceries. Who takes pictures when grocery shopping?!! I did today! Just because Frank issued a groceries photo challenge on Tuesday. My husband John agreed to be photographed as we did the weekly shopping. Come along to the store with us.

First, a list!

John adding to the grocery list. Photo: TLClark, 10/3/19.

Next, decide on a grocery store. John had a prescription ready for pick-up at the Hy-Vee Pharmacy so the decision was easy. Our other choice is Fareway – it’s closer to where we live. Fareway stores are smaller than Hy-Vee stores. If you want lots of choices and don’t mind adding a lot of steps to your pedometer, go to Hy-Vee. If you just want to get the basics and prefer to be done sooner rather than later, go to Fareway. (There are other choices, but it’s Fareway or Hy-Vee for us.)

Hy-Vee, North Ankeny Blvd, Ankeny, Iowa. Photo: TLClark, 10/3/19.

We almost always start on the end with the produce section. I was going to take a picture of the Honey Crisp apples but as I pulled out my camera three other shoppers appeared. What you can’t see is the Starbucks stand behind me and a salad bar and a Hy-Vee Market Grill to my left (less restaurant than it used to be but still a place to sit down to eat).

Pears and Apples. Photo: TLClark, 10/3/19.

The bakery – or, more precisely, the bread – is one reason I like shopping in this store.

Bread in the Bakery. Photo: TLClark, 10/3/19.

Since having all of his teeth extracted this summer, we’ve been supplementing John’s diet. Here he is trying to decide on which flavor of protein shakes to buy.

Supplemental Nutrition Aisle. Photo: TLClark, 10/3/19.

It’s the cereal aisle! Did you know you can know get peanut butter and honey flavored instant oatmeal?

Cereal Aisle. Photo: TLClark, 10/3/19.

Ah, yogurt. So many choices.

Yogurt Choices. Photo: TLClark, 10/3/19.

Always glad to walk by the in-store florist shop. Flowers make me smile. Just because.

Flowers…Just Because. Photo: TLClark, 10/3/19.

John picked-up his prescription while I paid for the groceries before we headed out the door.

Grocerie Bagged. Photo: TLClark, 10/3/19.

Musing: Refuge in God

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
    though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble with its tumult. Selah

Psalm 46:1-3, NRSV
Window, St. John United Church of Christ, Melbourne, Iowa. Photo: TLClark, 9/29/19.

We were singing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” by Martin Luther Sunday morning when I looked across the front of the sanctuary and saw the window pictured above. Too bad I hadn’t seen it earlier – I would have pointed it out while preaching! Did you know Luther based the hymn on Psalm 46?

I quoted Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen more than once in the sermon. Here’s my favorite quote:

“Taking refuge does not mean hiding from life.  It means finding a place of strength, the capacity to live the life we have been given with greater courage and sometimes even with gratitude.”

Rachel Naomi Remen, M D., My Grandfather’s Blessings:  Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging, p.165.

Four or five years ago I lead a series of one-day retreats centered on themes from the Psalms. The first focused on God as a refuge/fortress/dwelling place/shelter and used the last line of Psalm 2:13 as the starting point: “Happy are all who take refuge in the Lord.”

Before the end of the day, I invited participants to reflect on questions that moved from being sheltered by God to being agents who join in God’s effort to provide shelter for others. Here are the questions as preserved in my notes:

  • Where have you found a refuge in the midst of life’s storms?
  • Who has modeled God’s loving care in your life?
  • How or when have you provided shelter for others?
  • Who in your local community is in need of shelter today?  How might you respond?
  • What organizations or agencies provide refuge in places around the world?  How might you join their efforts?

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.”

Psalm 91:1-2, NRSV

Photo Challenge: Stone

Stone Fountain and Bridge, Krueger Park, Bethany United Church of Christ, Baxter, Iowa. Photo: TLClark.

Only after going out with camera in hand in search of a picture of a stone for this week’s Tuesday photo challenge did I remember these stone structures in a park attached to a church I once served as an Interim Minister. I found pictures in my digital files so the post I had in mind will have to wait!

Krueger Park, established in the 1930s, is just behind Bethany United Church of Christ, a country congregation two miles east of the small town of Baxter, Iowa. The church and park are surrounded by farmland.

Detail of Bowl of Stone Fountain, Krueger Park, Bethany United Church of Christ, Baxter, Iowa. Photo: TLClark.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
    All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
    and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
    in your light we see light.

Psalm 36:7-9, NRSV
Detail of Base of Stone Fountain, Krueger Park, Bethany United Church of Christ, Baxter, Iowa. Photo: TLClark.

Some time in the past there was a pump so water could flow into a little stream from the fountain, under the bridge and into a small pond below.

Next to the pond is a lighthouse.

Stone Lighthouse, Krueger Park, Bethany United Church of Christ, Baxter, Iowa. Photo: TLCLark.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” 

John 8:12, NRSV
Back of Stone Lighthouse, Krueger Park, Bethany United Church of Christ, Baxter, Iowa. Photo: TLCLark.

The congregation holds worship services in the park on the first Sunday of summer months. The grounds are perfect for games during Vacation Bible School at the end of July. There’s a fire pit that is used for roasting hot dogs and marshmallows after the annual hay rack ride in October.

Violin Music

Grandma Marion’s Violin (an unplayable keepsake). Photo: TLClark, 9/24/19.

Sunday afternoon’s Des Moines Symphony Orchestra (DSMO) concert was the highlight of our weekend. An all Tchaikovsky concert. Familiar (especially to my beloved), beautiful music. Melodies and harmonies, rhythms and silence done well, really well. It was soothing and invigorating and healing.

The day began as planned – up early enough to take my beloved to a pick-up choir rehearsal before church. But by the end of worship, he was struggling to stand and in more pain than usual – a result of living with metastatic cancer for more than eight years. Extra strength acetaminophen, a little heat and some rest at home helped.

The music helped more.

Before the performance I figured the Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35 (1881) would be the least enjoyable piece on the program. I’m not usually a big fan of the violin. I could not have been more wrong. It was AMAZING.

Gil Shaham, the solo violinist, was AMAZING.

The piece, according to the program notes, was considered “unplayable” by the violinist Tchaikovsky hoped would premiere it. Watching Mr. Shaham play, I could see why – the fingers of his left hand skipped rapidly up and down the fingerboard on the neck, the bow in his right hand danced across the the strings, his whole body moved with the music. The sound was AMAZING.

I now like violin music. At least when it’s Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto played by Gil Shaham.

Grandma’s Old Violin. Photo: TLClark, 9/24/19.

Sing to [the Lord] a new song;
    play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.

Psalm 33:3 NRSV

Photo Challenge: Fuzzy

Fuzzy Spider Web. Photo: TLClark, 9/21/19.

I left the camera at home when heading out the door for a walk this morning. It looked like it could rain and I wasn’t very hopeful about finding anything fuzzy for Frank’s Tuesday photo challenge. After noticing cattails and milkweed and a few other potentially fuzzy subjects I circled back home, grabbed the camera, and headed out again.

Spider in Fuzzy Web. Photo: TLClark, 9/21/19.

Spiderwebs were the surprise of the day! I definitely did not see them until getting off the path. With prey as big as the predator the spider web in the next photo caught my eye first. Just beyond it was a web that had caught all sorts of fluffy, fuzzy stuff (top two pictures)!

A Spider with Breakfast. Photo: TLClark, 9/21/19.

Neither the cattails nor the milkweed were particularly fuzzy. But here are two other plants ready to spread their white fuzzy seeds.

Photo: TLClark, 9/21/19.
Photo: TLClark, 9/21/19.

Musing: Be Merciful

Shadows on Path. Photo: TLClark, 9/15/19.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”

“Happy the kind — because they shall find kindness.”

– Matthew 5:7 New Revised Standard Version (merciful/mercy) and Young’s Literal Translation (kind/kindness)

I’ve been humming a song off and on since worship Sunday morning. Every once in awhile I sing a few words of the refrain: “So be merciful, just as our God is merciful.” It’s a newish hymn – published in 2015 – by Ed Bolduc. The tune is new and the refrain is new. But the verses are from a hymn first published in 1854: “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy” by Frederick W. Faber.

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy, Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in [God’s] justice, Which is more than liberty.

For the love of God is broader Than the measure of our mind;
And the heart of the Eternal Is most wonderfully kind.

– Frederick W. Faber, “There’s A Wideness in God’s Mercy,” stanzas 1, 5

According to Hymnary.org, one version or another of Faber’s hymn has been published in at least 757 hymnals. Faber’s other famous hymn – “Faith of Our Fathers” – shows up in at least 728.

From what I can see there were at 12 stanzas in the original “There’s a Wideness to God’s Mercy.” Different folks mix and match the stanzas into verses (typically two per verse), usually leaving out a few. There are, of course, several different tunes to which it can be sung – which is exactly the sort of thing that can lead to my confusion when leading worship in a new (to me) place!

I began this blogpost thinking about mercy – hence the beatitude at the top – and was delighted to discover Young’s Literal Translation of kindness. The dictionary at the back of my Greek New Testament lists both mercy and compassion as suitable translations. Whatever word we use, we are called to be merciful / kind / compassionate in response to God’s mercy / kindness / compassion.

So be merciful, just as our God is merciful.
Be merciful, just as our God is merciful to us.
Let there be a wideness in our mercy.
Let there be a kindness in our hearts.
Oh, may our lives be merciful.

Ed Bolduc, “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy / Be Merciful,” Refrain (c) 2015. World Library Publications.

My you know mercy, compassion and kindness.
May you be merciful, compassionate, kind.
Teressa

p.s. There is a YouTube video of Bolduc’s version.