Category Archives: Bible

Related to Scripture

Musing: Sing

“O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!” – Psalm 95:1 NRSV

One of the best parts of leading worship last Sunday was being in a congregation that knows how to sing!  It was a small group (just eleven not counting the guest pianist, her family, my husband and me), but they knew how to make beautiful, joyful noise.

“O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.”  – Psalm 96:1 NRSV

This week I provide Pulpit Supply (lead worship and preach) in another small congregation.  Having been there before I know they have amazing instrumental musicians and solid singers among their membership.  It’s too bad their numbers have dwindled and the choir has been disbanded.  But we’ll still make joyful music!

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Kitchen Table as Makeshift Desk.  Photo: TLClark, 7/15/19.

On an entirely different note (pun not intended but noticed), here’s part of a paragraph from the book I’m currently reading.

“This is our role: To weave together those disparate energies.  To manipulate and mitigate and, through the prism of our awareness, produce a singular force that cannot be denied.  To make of cacophony, symphony. …”

– N. K. Jemisin, The Stone Sky (Series: The Broken Earth, Book Three), http://www.orbitbooks.net, 2017.

Our role:  “to make of cacophony, symphony.”  Such a rich image!  Especially since Jemisin is not writing about musicians.

Whatever the cacophony of your life, may you discover a joyful noise, a song, a symphony.  May you sing.

 

Substitute Pastor

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“Carry each other’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:2 CEB

Pastor S called late Tuesday afternoon.  “My son’s been in a bad motorcycle accident.  Can you cover for me this Sunday?”

Yes.  Of course.  I’m available.  And that’s what I do: lead worship and preach when one of my colleagues will be away.  We call it pulpit supply in the United Church of Christ.

“Oh,” one of my husband’s relatives said once she understood what I do, “you’re a substitute pastor!”   I’ve been called worse.

Pastor J called Wednesday morning.  “Is there any chance you could do some pulpit supply?”  She was asking for a congregation down the road.  They and their (now former) pastor have had a parting of ways.

Yes.  Of course.  Just not this Sunday or the 21st because I’m already committed.  But that’s also what I do:  step in as a stable presence to lead worship and preach, to love the people through an unexpected difficult time, to remind them they are not forgotten by God.

When colleagues are headed for a conference or taking a vacation, they ask early.  When there’s a family emergency, they call as soon as they realize they may need to be gone on Sunday.   When a church and a pastor have parted ways, Pastor J or someone in her position will call.

So today I’m looking at a bulletin that was handed to me, writing prayers, thinking of a children’s message, and trying to figure out where Pastor S might have been going with the sermon.  I’ve pretty much decided to ignore her sermon title.  But we won’t know the details until Sunday morning.

If you’re looking for a substitute pastor, I may or may not be available the 14th and 28th.  But I should know by Monday.

Blessings,
Pastor Teressa

Children: The Ring of Life

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I noticed the pool before I really saw the figures as I walked around the campus of Iowa State University this morning.  Real children playing tend to capture my attention – especially  when I have no where else I have to be at the moment.  These kids caught in stone deserved a closer look.

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The words on the rim of the pool are from a poem by James Whitcomb Riley.

The Hired Man’s Faith in Children
by James Whitcomb Riley

I believe all children’s good,
Ef they’re only understood,
Even bad ones, ‘pears to me,
‘S jes’ as good as they kin be!

Of course they are “as good as they kin be!”  These children are playing with a water lily and a turtle; there are a couple of frogs behind them.

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Titled “The Marriage Ring” and also known as “The Ring of Life,” the original sculpture was done by Christian Petersen (Danish-American, 1885-1961) during his tenure as professor and artist-in-residence at ISU.   Because of vandalism, the sculpture was recast in reinforced concrete in the early 1990s.

“The circular basin of the pool represents a wedding ring and the valuable gems of the ring are symbolized by the three children, which Petersen considered the jewels of a marriage.”

– Iowa State University, University Museums, http://umsm003.its.iastate.edu/view/objects/asitem/326/542/title-asc?t:state:flow=86c383ec-25f2-47ba-b6ff-8609eb50a7c3

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As is often the case, the pastor/teacher in me was reminded of a few words of scripture.

“Allow the children to come to me,” Jesus said. “Don’t forbid them, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to people like these children.”  Then he blessed the children.  – Matthew 19:14-15a, CEB

Whether with a child, a friend or on your own, may you have time to play today.

Musing: Pentecost

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.  And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” – Acts 2:1-4 NRSV

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Pentecost Sunday, Trinity UCC, Quincy, IL.  Photo: TLClark, 6/9/19.

Noise.  Like Wind.
Light.  As of Fire.
Thunder and Lightning?

I don’t remember ever thinking of the Christian Pentecost event as being accompanied by thunder and lightening.  But something the preacher said Sunday caused me to wonder … why hadn’t I thought of it before?  could there have been a wild storm?

Whatever happened, it transformed about 120 of Jesus’ first followers.
Fear flew out.  Courage blew in.
Timidity dissipated.  Boldness gathered.

Easter is the central event of the Christian faith.  But without the Spirit’s work at Pentecost, I’m not so sure the good news of resurrection would have spread very far.

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Glass Wall.  Photo:  TLClark, 6/9/19.

If you haven’t guessed from the pictures, RED is the color of Pentecost.  Actually, red is the color most often associated with the Holy Spirit.  Since Pentecost is a celebration of the giving of the Spirit, red is assigned.  The sanctuary at Trinity UCC had dozens and dozens of potted geraniums with red blooms throughout the chancel (front of the church); they will be planted on the church grounds as a reminder of the Spirit’s work.

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Centerpiece for Confirmation Breakfast.  Photo: TLClark, 6/9/19.

My youngest niece was confirmed on Sunday.  Since I’m not currently serving a local congregation we took the opportunity to be there.  Bonus: we were included as part of the family for the Confirmation Breakfast – a long standing tradition in that congregation where confirmands, their families, and their mentors are served a sit down breakfast before worship.  Added bonus:  just getting to spend time with family!


Note (because I know not every knows what “being confirmed” means): Confirmation is always associated with Baptism – a fact we sometimes forget when children are baptized as infants and confirmed as teenagers.  A confirmand/confirmation student usually goes through a season of education that lasts from a few months to a year to two years depending on local tradition.  Typically lead by a pastor, the class looks at key Bible stories and learns a little church history.  Sometimes they do mission or outreach projects.  Often there is a mentor who spends time with the student exploring questions of faith.  The process culminates in the Rite of Confirmation when the young people 1) affirm the baptismal vows that were made for them at their baptisms and 2) are welcomed as full members in the life of the church. 

Monday Musing: Ascension

Then [Jesus] led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hand, he blessed them.  While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.  – Luke 24:50-51 NRSV

Ascension.  Another weird story in Christian scriptures that I’d rather ignore.  Jesus – the risen Christ – carried into heaven.  Forty days after Easter.  A Christian holy day.  My guess is many Protestants don’t realize it’s come and gone.

So when looking up a quilt fabric store on the internet the other day I was surprised to discover the following announcement in large, yellow letters at their top of their web page:

Store is CLOSED Thur. May 30th for Ascension Day  

Really?  Here in Iowa?!!  I’ll try to remember to ask about it when (if) I get there.

Ascension was not acknowledged in any way, shape, or form by my home congregation this year.  If I’d been preaching last week, I probably wouldn’t have mentioned it either.

But our local Roman Catholic church marked the day at weekend masses.
And the priest did something I like to do when preaching.
He quoted from a contemporary text.
Not a commentary.  Not an overtly Christian or specifically religious book.
A work of fiction published in my lifetime:
Jonathan Livingston Seagull: a story by Richard Bach.

They came in the evening, then, and found Jonathan gliding peaceful and alone through his beloved sky.  The two gulls that appeared at his wings were pure as starlight, and the glow from them was gentle and friendly in the high night air.  But most lovely of all was the skill with which they flew, their wingtips moving a precise and constant inch from his own.

Without a word, Jonathan put them to his test a test that no gull had ever passed.  He twisted his wings, slowed to a single mile per hour above stall.  The two radiant birds slowed with him, smoothly, locked in position.  They knew about slow flying.

He folded his wings, rolled and dropped in a dive to a hundred ninety miles per hour.  They dropped with him, streaking down in flawless formation.

At last he turned that speed straight up into a long vertical slow-roll.  They rolled with him, smiling.

He recovered to level flight and was quiet for a time before he spoke. “Very well,” he said, “who are you?

“We’re from your Flock, Jonathan. We are your brothers.”  The words were strong and calm.  “We’ve come to take you higher, to take you home.”

Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull: a story, (c) 1970

Do you know the story?  Jonathan, a seagull, had been cast off from the flock.  He didn’t fly simply to find food and eat.  He flew for the shear joy of flying.  And that was unthinkable, unacceptable, intolerable.  So he was alone.

And now he is not.

That’s not where the priest went with the story.  But it is what has caught my imagination after re-reading the book on Sunday.  Though physically alone in a particular time and place, Jonathan was not alone in pursuing a dream of perfect flight.  He had kindred out there somewhere.  One day, they found him.

When you’re feeling cast off from the crowd (whether a little or lot),
may you know you are not alone.
May your kindred find you – or you find them –
and together pursue a dream that brings beauty and joy into the world.

Monday Musing: Gift

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you;
but the kind of peace I give you is not like the world’s peace.
Don’t let your hearts be distressed; don’t be fearful.

– John 14:27 The Inclusive Bible

Peace, it seemed to me, would be the theme of the sermon Sunday morning.  It wasn’t.  The theme was gift.  I always like it when the preacher take a text a direction I hadn’t considered!  While I don’t remember much of the sermon, I do remember it began with this video.

Gift.
Freely given.
No strings attached.
No expectation of reciprocity.
For you to do with as you see fit.

It’s hard, giving freely.  I want the recipient to smile, to be happy or pleased, to be grateful.  I hope the gift will be used, appreciated, maybe even cherished.

And there’s a risk.  What is given might offend.  It could be ignored or re-gifted or simply tossed out.

Gift.
Because we don’t want people to stay sad.

Monday Musing: Joyful Noise

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.”
– Psalm 100:1 NRSV

John (my husband) sings with the Magnificat Choir of Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart Catholic parish.  They led the music at the 10:30 a.m. Mass yesterday, so I worshiped there.  The music was beautiful, joyful noise unto the Lord.

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My favorite hymn of the day was Ubi Caritas.  Here are the refrain and the first two (of five) verses.

Refrain:
*Ubi caritas est vera, est vera;
Deus ibi est, Deus ibi est.

1.
The love of Christ joins us together.
Let us rejoice in him,
and in our love and care for all
now love God in return.

2.
In true communion let us gather.
May all divisions cease
and in their place be Christ the Lord,
our risen Prince of Peace.

*Where there is true charity, God is present.

Text and Music by Bob Hurd, based on Ubi Caritas, 9th century.

But that wasn’t the only music of the day!

The joy culminated with The Pines of Rome by Respighi played by the Des Moines Symphony Orchestra.  They let out all the stops; it seemed every member of the orchestra was on stage.  (Except the regular Concertmaster.  I’m guessing he had a family obligation not be missed, something like a college graduation.)

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In the final movement, six additional musicians appeared.  They were at the edge of the audience, 25 rows up, each juggling an instrument, music, and a music stand with its own miniature light.  Though they were as unobtrusive as possible, those of us above the 25th row couldn’t help but notice.  The three on the right turned on their lights.  As they lifted their instruments – a trombone and two trumpets – the three on the left – another trombone and two more trumpets – turned on their lights.  Soon all had joined the orchestra in playing grand, glorious music.

May you have a song in your heart,
a smile on your lips,
and nothing but joy at your fingertips!
– Irish Blessing