Category Archives: Reflections

Flying in the Spirit!


You have likely heard people pray to be lifted up. Lifted out of their troubles, lifted to good health, lifted in prayer by others, up is the way to go! In fact one of my earliest posts on this blog was Up,up God

I want to share my experience from this past Sunday when I was preaching at one of my regular places to supply. I was up very late the night before and then up early because, of course, I had final touches to make on my sermon…if two more pages can be considered finishing touches. I was, by no means, perky as I drive the hour to church.

I would say that it was about half-way there when I started thinking about the congregation with whom I was about to worship. I have filled in there many times while they were without a minister. In fact, I was their summer student minister a couple of summers ago. It may not have been the best summer of my whole life, but is was the best in recent years!

I arrived and visited a bit with the early birds and joined in singing at the choir practise. The session members usually meet to pray before the service so we did that, and then we met again with the choir to pray. I am not great with extemporaneous prayer, but the practice I have gained through the spiritual life of this church has made a big difference. I took a deep cleansing breath, stretching my arms out (quite out of character for me) and I said…

“Dear God we thank you for this beautiful morning and this chance to worship together…”

At that point I found myself thinking how uninspired this prayer sounded. It isn’t that I don’t mean it with feeling, but it ends up being the start to almost all my prayers. I continued.

“…May we breathe in your Spirit today, and exhale your praise! Amen.”

With that we lined up and entered the sanctuary. Later, on my way home I felt that I had never before felt as I did in the pulpit that morning! Objectively, that probably isn’t totally accurate, but I barely felt that my feet were on the ground throughout the service. I don’t know if I seemed any different to the congregation, but I was so full of the Spirit that I couldn’t have contained it if I had tried! Even now, thinking about it makes me tear up a bit.

By the time I got home (an hour later) I was back in the ground and feeling heavy and tired. I wanted to tell my husband or someone about my experience, but being Presbyterian does not lend itself to expressions of this sort. Even as I type this, I feel a bit sheepish and like I should keep it to myself lest I come off as crazy.

I pray that each of you who reads this has had, or will have even a moment of this elation, that you may have your own flight with the Spirit!

Cathy Scott

@kolombe
Check out my blogs

Hymn Page Update


I posted hymn suggestions for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, July 29, 2018.

Hymn page


The suggestions for this Sunday, July 1, 2018, are up. Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Adoption for all!


trinity-sunday-clipart-1This is my sermon for Trinity Sunday2018.

Today marks the beginning of the second half of the Christian year when the focus changes over from Christ’s Career to our response to it. It is one of those Sundays which is more difficult for ministers if they use it as the one opportunity in the year to explain the doctrine of the Trinity. Since the doctrine took the early church a mere 400 years to settle on a doctrine which they could agree, I have decided to avoid trying to explain it in twenty minutes. As the year turns over to a focus on our response to Christ’s career, that will be our lens.

Romans 8: 12-17 is actually one of the main passages that was used in the development of the doctrine of the Trinity. While our Isaiah passage today spoke of the transformation of Isaiah from an observer to a prophet who, after he was cleansed of his sin, responded by voluntarily beginning an often dangerous life as God’s prophet; and the story of Nicodemus night-time visit to Christ was used by John to make clear the separation between flesh and spirit; Romans focuses on our transformations through the Spirit to members of God’s family, and from slave to child.(Achtemeier) So let’s begin looking at the transformation available to us. In Romans the writer talks about us being adopted as God’s children, and thus as brothers and sisters of Christ.

Family is the first and most central relationship of our lives. We start with the family into which we are born or adopted and then raised. As children in the family we begin as completely dependent on our parents for everything and move gradually to become independent. This gradual change in the balance of power is a constant push and pull between parents and children. For most of us, we then move out on our own and then create a new family with our own spouses and children.

When we try to explain our closest relationships with friends we often refer to them as being, “as close as family,” or “just like brothers or sisters,” or “our other parents.” That is not what is being spoken about in Romans. We read there that after our transformation from being led by the flesh to being led by the Spirit, we “are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption.

How do we respond to that adoption? Take a look back at Psalm 29 to see how God is described.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is majestic.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon leap like a calf,
Sirion[b] like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord strikes
with flashes of lightning.
The voice of the Lord shakes the desert;
the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord twists the oaks[c]
and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord is enthroned as King forever.
11 The Lord gives strength to his people;
the Lord blesses his people with peace.

That definitely describes someone to whom we will run, maybe climb into his lap, and say, “Daddy, daddy!” Well maybe not. Do you remember the first time a former teacher asked you to call them by their first name? It feels so strange to go from saying Mrs. Scott, or Professor Mark, to Cathy and Jamie. If that is difficult to call regular humans by a more familiar name, how much more difficult is it to imagine that it is ok to call God “father”, “dad.” But it is that very privilege which we gain through the Spirit. We aren’t “as close to God as family.” We, “are children of God, 17and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ”

Along with the privileges of family come responsibilities. We make commitments to our families, we make sacrifices for our families, we share our resources with our families. As members of God’s family we also have commitments to make and meet. This is our response, the topic of the rest of the Christian year. The rest of verse 17 says, “if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” Like Isaiah, in saying, “‘Here am I; send me!’” would live a life of being both honoured by the people, and running for his life and hiding in a cave to avoid the soldiers of the King; we have to accept the risks associated with being God’s family members.

Paul Achtemeier said, “The transformation wrought by God’s Spirit is such that one becomes a foreigner to the culture to which one once belonged.” This is a tough thing to see for many of us as we were raised in a time when Western society seemed to assume that people were Christian. To be a Christian at this time was to be on the inside, on the side of power. It seems like that was not actually the role intended for Christian life. With the secularization of Western societies, it is much easier to see the risk of being part of this family.

In his notes on Romans 8, Scott Hoezee writes about a story he read in a book by Richard Lischer called The End of Words. which illustrates why it is one of those stories we can never hear too often. It isn’t annoying like The Song That Never Ends.

“When the adopted child repeatedly asks her parents to recount the events surrounding her adoption, the story must remain the same.  And woe to the one who introduces omissions or changes in the sacred formula.  “And then out of all the babies in the orphanage you chose me, right?”  Could parents ever tire of telling that story?  Would they ever dare substitute another for it?  If telling God’s story strikes us as repetitious, that is because it is.  It is repetitious the way the Eucharist is repetitious, the way a favorite melody or gestures of love are repetitious, the way the mercies of God that come unbidden every day are repetitious . . . Such stories do not entertain, they do something far better.  They sustain.  They do not inform, they form those who share and hear them for a life of faithfulness.”

You know the song They’ll Know We Are Christians? According to this people would know that we are Christians by our love. I do not disagree with this, but as I hear over and over again from atheists and secularists, any good person can show love. So how do we show the difference? We are the ones who call God “Father.”

For some people the word “father” brings on unpleasant memories and connotations. We can choose any form to use. We can call God “Mother,” “Father,” or, as the man in the novel The Shack we can say, “Papa.” The point is that we accept that adoption and live our transformed lives as children of God.

 

Updates


The Hymns for Year B page has been updated with a list for June 3, 2018.

Kingsclear-20130411-00562

Following Jesus in a Stranger Danger World


Today at church we read from Matthew 2 about Jesus calling the tax collector named Levi son of Alphaeus. I actually went to the first and second service today, so I heard this twice. On second reading, I got thinking about doing a children’s story on the reading.

First, I thought I might just go up to the kids in the pews with their parents and say, Follow me.” In my own church, this wouldn’t help to make my point about how amazing it was that he did follow Jesus because the kids all know me and likely would be quick to follow me. They might stop at the door if I tried to lead them out or off the property.

My next thought was to suggest a number of scenarios with a stranger asking them to follow. Maybe a person coming up to them at the park, or at school. I might describe them as dressed in different types of things, black masked with dark clothes, a person all dressed up, a person in jeans and at shirt. Though they may be more inclined to go with someone in a police or fire department uniform, I realized that, perhaps more than ever, the kids would likely say no to anybody new who suggested they leave what they are doing and go along with them.

But in both Mark 1 and 2 there are stories of Jesus walking past people and just calling them to follow him…and they did! Fishermen followed, leaving their nets, boats, and families with seemingly not a second thought. Perhaps this seems less likely with a busy tax collector, both because of his activity, and because he would have be considered persona-non-gratis amongst the Jews of the time. Did he not wonder, “Can he be talking to me? I am a great sinner!”?

Jesus is still out there calling us to him, children and adults alike. The question that comes to my mind is, in such a troubled world in which we see daily footage of violence, kidnappings, and accidents, is it even less likely that we would pick up and follow without question? As a Christian, I would like to think that I would hop right up, but then maybe not.

Have you followed? What made you follow? Did you keep following? Do you think people would be likely to follow you to God?

Nightmares and Praises


I recently had a horrible dream. It was the night before a new treatment started and over a series of very odd events in which scenes were short, intense, and highly charged. In very quick succession I experienced paralyzingly fear, violent rage, crushing grief, and generally amounts of confusion. And then the strangest thing happened.

In the final part of the dream, there were dozens of people in hospital gowns awaiting radiation treatment. With each patient there were one or two family members or friends. Then we were in some sort of assembly. I was by myself, barely aware of what was happening as I was totally depleted and hopeless. And then one man began to sing a song of worship.

As the song began I wasn’t really aware of it, and the crowd began to join in. Then I found myself quietly joining in with a harmony line. As we sang I felt my spirit return, lifting me back up, and calming my emotional wounds. The worship reached a huge climax with the same man leading.

In the silence, I began to sing a simple prayer of hope. The very act of the worship had led me back to hope.


I often have very vivid memories of my dreams, and this day was no exception. The events and images from the first part of the dream continued over the next couple days, and yet as much as they were disturbing to me, the hope remained. This can be the power of worship and prayer in our real lives as well, and for that I am profoundly grateful to God!

Update


Hymn selections for October 8, 2017 are now up on the Year A page!

Chaos, Darkness and Wind


If I say these three transitions, what Bible story do they make you think of?Chaos – order

Darkness – light

Storm – breath/life
  

I was hoping you would say creation. There was chaos, there was darkness, there was water over the face of the Earth, and God divided the seas and made dry ground, turned on the light, and the winds breathed life into creation.

 

It is a bit hard to look at our world in the past months, and not think of these things. Darkness; caused by power outages, and smoke from forest fires. Chaos; from water covering the land as well as disappearing from the sea, and from displaced populations struggling to find safety and direction. Strong winds of storms; blowing houses down, pushing the waters to destructive force.

 

Last week our reading told of the first Passover and the institution of that shared meal as an act of remembrance for the sparing of the Israelite first born children. Now we meet the same people, now a on the move with all their families, the young and the old, all their property material as well as animals. Not only were they permitted to leave Egypt but they had been chased out.

 

We meet with them at the beginning of the story today after Pharaoh had changed his mind and sent his troops to bring them back. The Egyptian army was now close on their heels, and since they were riding and driving chariots, they were sure to be overtaken. To top that off, they found themselves on the banks of a large body of water with nowhere to go but forward to drown, or back to captivity.

 

It was nighttime, and dark. The cloud that had been leading the people moved behind them, between the Israelites and the Egyptians, it lit up the night and kept the two “armies” separated for the night. When he had Moses stretch his hand over the sea God whipped up a strong wind that blew all night and cleared the sea aside so that there was a dry path across to the other side. Just like the passage of hurricane Irma sucked up the ocean around the Bahamas and bays and beach areas in Florida, this was not a snap of the fingers magic trick but the work of the wind.

 

In the morning the Israelites, I’m sure with some major trepidation, stepped out to cross the now dry path, a path easy enough that even the elderly and the very young were able to pass without trouble. Having observed this, the Egyptian army followed them down onto the sea bed to catch them.

 

There was a difference between the two groups on the path that day. One was, though being chased, really going towards the promise of God, while the other was determined to thwart the escape and thus working against God’s purposes. The ground which had been dry for the Israelites, began to get boggy and the horses and the wheels began to sink and get stuck. The Egyptians began to panic. Our reading says that the Egyptians realized that, “…the Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.”

 

Once the Israelites were all safely on the other side God had Moses stretch out his hand again, and the water returned the sea, drowning the entire army.

The chaos in the Biblical narrative is represented by the sea, as it was in Genesis, but also in the panic people must have been feeling as their evacuation route became blocked and the rising flood, or flames, of the army were getting ever closer. The chaos became order for Israel, as the dry ground appeared and they were able to cross to safety. The darkness was in the night, and in the fear, and was broken by light coming out of a cloud. The wind of a storm so great as to sweep up the water from a sea became the breath of life for Israel.

 

Just as the Egyptians realized, too late, that God was fighting for Israel, the Israelites saw what he had done for them, and what he had done to the Egyptians. They were in awe of his power, relieved that he had saved them, and more than aware of what he could have done to them. These mighty acts would be one of the main points of reminder of God’s strength and work on behalf of Israel throughout history as used to draw the people back to God when they were straying.

 

On the far side of the sea, the Israelites took time to praise God. When we read from Exodus 15 in our responsive reading, we were repeating the words of worship led by Moses as well as the beginning of Miriam’s song of praise.

And what of our daily circumstances and struggles, our personal moments of chaos, darkness, and storm? We need to remember that God goes ahead of us to lead us to safety, but will also take up the rear guard to protect us. God has made a path for us to take. It doesn’t mean we won’t have fear, or that we won’t suffer along the way. We need to be brave in the face of those challenges with the memory of the power of the light, of order, and of the breath of life God brings.

 

Let us take up our tambourines like Miriam and sing,

“‘Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;

horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.’”

Hymn list updated 


Check the Year A page for hymn suggestions for Sunday, Sept 24.