The Myopia Club

Worship Time
10:00 AM
1 Church Street
East Harwich, MA 02645
Tel: 508-432-3734
harwichumc@gmail.com

Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures;

            he leads me beside still waters;

khe restores my soul.  

He leads me in the right paths for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,

            I fear no evil;

            for you are with me;

            your rod and your staff — they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

            you anoint my head with oil;

            my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,

            and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.

 

John 9: 1-41

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.

The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?”

He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.”

They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.” They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.”

Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided.

So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”

The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.”

He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?”

Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.”

The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.”

Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.”

He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him.

Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.”

Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?”

Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.

 

The Myopia Club
The Rev Dr  Dianne ES Carpenter
19 March 2023
John 9:1-41

For seven years in the nineties I served the United Methodist church in Hamilton, Massachusetts.  The historic building had been located on Railroad Avenue near the parsonage.  However in the sixties one of the classic A frame structures was erected on Main Street right beside the Myopia Hunt Club.  There were several historic notable claims to fame at this location.  Fred told me that he had to go next door to the myopia hunt club to borrow their silver tea service when the queen of England came to visit and had TEA at the United Methodist church fellowship hall.  Princess Anne and Phillip had participated in one of the Olympic trials held at the myopia hunt club in 1975 that my recollection says that it was a three day Dressage event on the Polo Fields.  Steve Mcqueen and Ryan O’neal  Christopher Reeves were involved in shooting a movie or eating at the horse trial food tents.

So one day I decided I should make a neighborly call on the Myopia Hunt club that had allowed us to purchase the property on which the United Methodist church had been constructed.  I drove down their long tree lined entry to the historic clubhouse which was the original structure on their lands and when I shared that I was the Methodist neighbor pastor I had a chance to talk to the riding instructor, the cook and some other person who made the whole place run.  I left my greetings with them and never had a reason to interact with the Myopia Hunt club again.

If you look them up on line you discover that The Myopia Club originally started as a gentleman’s sporting club in Winchester, Massachusetts, in 1875-several of the founding members were short-sighted and wore glasses, which led to lighthearted banter and the official name of the club-but it soon needed more open space as the fox hunting division of the club expanded.

Because I have some pretty poor eyesight, I have a pretty significant prescription.  In my left eye -5 ½ in my right eye closer to -5 and people start to be considered legally blind at minus six.  If I take off my glasses for any reason, I am quite blind.  However, once I put my glasses on, everything comes into view! I can once again see the details of faces, read words, and distinguish colors, shapes, and pictures.

The man in our gospel today was born blind.  Day after day he sat and begged. They looked. They walked by. They wondered. But they never saw. He had never seen their faces until today. He had never seen his own face, his parents’ faces, a sunrise, the stars, his home, a smile until today. Before today, for the community, it was as if he didn’t even exist. He was a life waiting to be born, a light waiting to shine, a word waiting to be spoken. Today he became a new creation, he was enlightened, he became a living testimony to the Son of Man but they still don’t see him. For some reason they are unable to see him.

The disciples look at him and ask a theological question, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Their vision is distorted by the popular belief that suffering is caused by sin and you get what you deserve.

The neighbors looked but couldn’t see past the image of the way things had always been, a blind man sitting and begging. It’s all he had ever known. It’s all they had ever known. Blinded by disbelief they keep asking him, “How were your eyes opened?”

Two times the religious leaders call him in. Two times they interrogate him. Two times he gives glory to God. They cannot see the prophet, the man from God, that this formerly blind man now sees. They cannot see the new life, the new man, the new creation that bears testimony to the man from God. Two times they turn a blind eye to this man and his God. No one, as the saying goes, is more blind than he or she who chooses not to see. They have chosen power, rules, and boundaries over the reality before them.  RESEMBLANCE Pharisees – Myopia members

I wonder if Jesus longed to give the Pharisees spiritual glasses. How sad He must have been to see them being legalistic, asking wrong questions, and settling for less. I wonder if He is just as sad when we do the same.

When Jesus healed the blind man he gave him more than sight, he allowed him to experience what he had never experienced before—connection to the world around him and those he held dear. Can you imagine what that must have been like?

This healing is cause for great celebration, but the Pharisees can only find fault. They wonder who is this Jesus man who heals, under what authority is He healing, and how it is that this blind man came to be healed on the Sabbath. In doing so, they miss the point—a man was restored and God was glorified!

Jesus mourns their spiritual blindness. These individuals who spent so much time studying the law of God couldn’t see the forest for the trees. These ones who so self-righteously proclaimed their togetherness, couldn’t seem to put 2 and 2 together.

Even this man’s own parents distance themselves from him. They can talk about their blind son but not about their seeing son. To see him, the enlightened son, meant they would have to tell the story. “We do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” They deny what is right before their eyes. Fear does that. Fear keeps us from seeing a larger reality, from living with a larger vision. So we live with tunnel vision only seeing that one thing that we most fear.

They all looked but none saw him. If they saw him they would have to confront their own blindness. This man blind from birth is not just a single individual, he is every man, every woman. The only difference between him and all the others in today’s gospel is that he knows he is blind. Until we know we are blind we can never see with new eyes. “Surely we are not blind, are we?”

Blindness is not about the quality of our vision or the condition of our eyes. It is not about the darkness around us but, rather, the darkness within us. How we see others, what we see in the world, the way we see life is less about the objects of our seeing and more about ourselves. We do not see God, people, things, or circumstances as they are but as we are. Until our eyes are opened by Christ our seeing is really just a projection of ourselves onto the world. What we see and how we see manifest our inner world. They describe and point to the fears, attachments, and beliefs within us.

If we wish to see God, life, and others as they really are then we must attend to what is going on within us. True seeing begins in the heart not the eyes. We must begin to acknowledge the fears, attachments, and beliefs that live within us and how they have impaired our vision.

Think about a time when you were scared, really scared. Maybe it was about your marriage, your job, the illness of loved one. That fear had a way of blinding you. Fear rivets our attention on that thing we fear to the exclusion of everything else around us. That one thing is all we can think about, all that we can see. Fear narrows our world view and our vision becomes myopic, nearsighted to the point of exclusion.

Attachments are those things or people we think we must have to be happy. We can’t imagine life without them. We have convinced ourselves that our very existence in some way depends on them. The Bible calls them idols. Modern society calls them addictions. Regardless, we will inevitably look for and see only that which fosters and affirms our attachments and will turn a blind eye toward anything that threatens them. Our vision becomes selective.

We have probably all met someone who is so fanatical in his or her beliefs that he or she cannot see another point of view. He cannot look at any other possibility. She refuses to see other ways but her own. Not only have we met these people -too often we are these people. We all have certain beliefs to which we cling. They offer the illusion of stability and security. So we no longer live in the real world, God’s world, but a world that we have created in our head.

The inner darkness of our fears, attachments, and beliefs is what keeps us from seeing. They cover our eyes like the mud on the eyes of the man born blind. In placing mud on the blind man’s eyes Jesus is holding before him the reality of his blindness. He wears thick black lenses of fear, attachments, and beliefs. We all do. Those who know this are sent to wash in the pool, to be re-created, and to see with new eyes. Once they were darkness but now in the Lord they are light. The rest will continue looking but never see, their faces caked with mud.

Don’t just look around. Look within. What do you see? How do you see? Where is the mud of darkness in your life? Name that reality. Acknowledge it and then go wash. The mud of darkness always gives way to the light of Christ.

It would be easy to think of Myopia as an ivory tower, devoid of social conscience, but nothing could be further from the truth. Conservation and land preservation have been two of the club’s raisons d’être since its inception, and today’s membership is no less passionate about those important causes. A century ago, Myopia members needed grounds to fox hunt, but in recent years the hunt, polo, and equestrian disciplines of the club have all made great efforts to champion open space for the wider community, supporting local organizations such as the Essex County Trail Association, Essex County Greenbelt Association, and Trustees of Reservation.

The founding fathers of Myopia might have been lampooned for being near-sighted, but their far-sighted approach to creating an exclusive private country club with a heartfelt community spirit was nothing short of visionary.

Myopia’s Historic Club House

NORTHSHORE MAGAZINE  

Incorporated as the Myopia Hunt Club in 1892, the building dates to 1772. It was commissioned by Colonel Robert Dodge, whose family lived there until 1886.

Myopia’s historic Club House has borne witness to 120 years of hunting, golf, and polo history, as well as created a few sporting legends of its own. By Andrew Conway

1 Church St, Harwich, MA 02645
508 432-3734
harwichumc@gmail.com

 

Wells in the Desert

Worship Time
10:00 AM
1 Church Street
East Harwich, MA 02645
Tel: 508-432-3734
harwichumc@gmail.com

Exodus 17: 1-7

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.

The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?”

But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?”

So Moses cried out to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

The LORD said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.

He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?

John 4: 5-42

So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?”

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.”

The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!”

The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.”

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.”

Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?”

Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people,

“Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”

They left the city and were on their way to him. Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?”

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”

In Arizona we’re at a high altitude and one of the things that Nicole kept saying to me was take a picture there’s nothing out there.  Deserts have many different appearances deserted places are deserts.lent commemorates jesus’ time in the wilderness a deserted place.

Sahara Desert.

A somewhat predictable oldie but amusing nevertheless.

A guy was lost in the Sahara Desert, desperate for water, when he saw something far off in the distance. Hoping to find water, he walked towards the image only to find a little old man sitting at a card table with a bunch of neckties laid out on it.

The guy asked, “Please, I’m dying of thirst, can I have some water?”

The old man replied, “I don’t have any water, but why don’t you buy a tie?. Here’s one that goes nicely with your shirt.”

The guy shouted, “I don’t want a tie, you idiot! I need water!”

“OK, don’t buy a tie, but to show you what a nice guy I am, I’ll tell you that over that dune there, about five miles down, there is a nice restaurant my brother runs. Go over that way, they’ll give you all the water you want.” The guy thanked him and walked away towards the dune and eventually disappeared.

Three hours later the guy came crawling back to where the old man was sitting behind his card table. The old man said, “I told you, about five miles over that dune. Couldn’t you find it?”

The guy rasped, “I found it, they wouldn’t let me in without a tie.”

Wells in the Desert
12  March  2023
The Rev. Dr. Dianne Carpenter
John 4: 5-42

During the Season of Lent, we’re working our way through a series of stories in the Gospel of John. Each of them describes Jesus’s encounter with a different person: Nicodemus the Pharisee, the woman at the well, the man born blind, and Lazarus of Bethany. These are stories of people that we usually think of as marginal to the Jesus story.  None of them are one of the twelve, for example. But in the Gospel of John, it is these encounters that reveal who Jesus really is.

With large stretches of sand in the area, water is a precious necessity of life.  The River Litani and the River Jordan are the only rivers of any size in the vicinity of the land of Canaan. Wadis…flash flood areas.  Sandy area  is hilly and the road winds thru these hills. Ben Sira, in 2nd-century BCE Jewish wisdom book,  also called Ecclesiasticus (its Latin name). twice enumerates water as the first among the “principal things necessary for the life of man.”

Reference to Dr.  Beck [green areas in the desert] [modern wells- Spencer  100’ down here septic bearly clears water table] All springs, wells and fountains were landmarks in the topography of Israel. Abraham dug wells near Gerar. Abraham’s Well is a historical water well in BeershebaIsrael, associated with the biblical narrative of Abraham– Abraham’s well was seized by Abimelech’s men (Genesis 21:25), and Isaac’s servants also dug a well at Beersheba (Genesis 26:25).

 An angel found Hagar at a well in the Sinai, Beer Lahai Roi (Genesis 16:7).

Life is saved in the prospects of death  are near…

To own a well and to possess the surrounding country were synonymous terms (Proverbs 5:15-17). On the other hand, so serious might be the disputes arising out of the use or claim of a well that violent conflicts occurred (Genesis 26:21; Exodus 2:17; Numbers 20:17). If the approach of an enemy was feared, his progress might be seriously hampered, if not altogether frustrated, by stopping or destroying the wells along his route (2 Chronicles 32:3).

“Wells of water” speak of access and supply, and much more in the Bible.  When Israel traveled to a place where God had miraculously provided water in the past, they sang, “Spring up, O well! All of you sing to it…” (see Numbers 21:16-17) God’s people recognized that He was the One who had provided the water before, and that He would do so again.  ie Exodus…

McFee points out that:  “Wells are a literary device in scripture, often the site of betrothal. Isaac finds Rebekah at a well. Jacob meets Rachel at a well. Moses’ marriage to Zipphorah is connected to a well.”  So it is not a casual thing for Jesus to meet this Samaritan woman- who has had several husbands- at a well in the fourth chapter of John’s gospel.

As necessary as water is for life, loving and being loved is  also necessary for fullness of life.  Our Lenten theme is the human search for love.  We thirst after wholeness – we look for love in many places – What wells are we drinking from to quench the thirst for wholeness only to realize that power, reknown, beauty, status symbols, popularity, wealth, cars, technology, experiences, relationships…….Does not satisfy and the search goes on.

In our desperation for real connection we keep chasing after shallow connections like foreign pen pals and today on things like social media,[expand] and consistently drinking from a well that only will lead to us being thirsty again. [secret identity]

What wells are we drinking from as communities [abutters to housing for the economically challenged work forces in exclusive communities] to quench the thirst for wholeness only to realize that love of property values, are not saving?

What wells are we drinking from as a nation where gun ownership is more of a sacred right than our children and human beings?  What will it take to realize that mental health and sanity will thrive only in the context of radical love? [expand]

The Samaritan woman had no reason to trust a Jew who was hanging out at her well in the middle of the day.  She was there because she was an outsider to her own community where most of the women would draw water early in the coolness of the morning.  But this Jew, Jesus of Nazareth, gave her reason to trust him.  He showed her that he knew who she was and he loved her with THE love of the God that they each worshiped, tho’ in different ways.

Life is full of desert places where we cannot thrive: depression, loss, disappointment…we need wells of living water

People at odds over philosophical differences within our country cannot communicate until they find radical respect for one another.  Name calling and avoidance contributes only to further the disagreement and the fractured society we live in and our more fractured global community  [China/Russia vs usa.]

 Jesus reminds us that there is a deeper well–a spring of water “gushing up to eternal life.” There are deep wells of spirit and of truth that we can drink from that will perpetually slake a deep human thirst we share! 

And Jesus offers this across lines of exclusion.  There is no exclusive club that has sole access to this kind of deep well of eternal life. We have to remember to seek out deep relationships and not shy away from ones that might cross over arbitrary social taboos such as race, age or sexual identity. That is what is modeled for us in the fourth chapter of John. [Mcfee]

The reading from Exodus also reminds us that the deepest well, the most important source of nourishment, is from God. The one who can even draw water from a rock–from Massah and Meribah which, in Hebrew, literally translates to mean “Test” and “Quarrel.” Only God can draw water from impossible places! Which means we can trust that even in the midst of our own quarrels and tribulations that the real source is always present with us when our faith is tested or life is unbelievably difficult?

1 Church St, Harwich, MA 02645
508 432-3734
harwichumc@gmail.com

Sacred Space – Advent 3

Worship Time
10:00 AM
1 Church Street
East Harwich, MA 02645
Tel: 508-432-3734
harwichumc@gmail.com

First Reading   Isaiah 35: 1-10 (NRSVUE)

Reader: The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly
and rejoice with joy and shouting.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
“Be strong, do not fear!  Here is your God.
He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense.
He will come and save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf shall be opened;

then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert;

the burning sand shall become a pool
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp;
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way;
the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for Gods people;
no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray.

No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Second Reading   Luke 1: 46b-55 (NRSVUE)|
Reader:  And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowly state of his servant.
Surely from now on all generations will call me blessed,

for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.

indeed, his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.

He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

He has brought down the powerful from their thrones
and lifted the lowly.

he has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty.

He has come to the aid of his child Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,

according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Advent 3: Sacred Space
11 December 2022
The Rev Dr Dianne ES Carpenter
Luke 1: 46b-55

The pregnancy of Mary is connected to the promise of justice and joy in the readings this week. Mary’s womb becomes a sacred space for the gestation of grace that moves into, and is transforming, the world. We will ponder the spaces we inhabit at home, work, and community, asking whether they are feeding, nurturing, and reflecting the freedom and joy that is so desperately needed.

When my daughter and I were in seminary in the early 80s I was the music director at Watertown UMC.  Nicole was in elementary school, and she was Mary in the Nativity pageant one year.  The unique costume for Mary is the blue head scarf.  While purple for Royalty and repentance  has been the color of Advent and Lent traditionally.  In some churches Advent has been changed to the blue of Mary. One of those churches was Franklin where I served before retiring in 2018 and my worship director made me this blue stole.

The Sarum Rite was the original basis for the liturgy of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer and where blue was used for the color of Advent.  It was often specified that it be an indigo to represent the darkness before the birth.  Early art shows church leaders in ornately decorated blue robes.  Shades of blue symbolize royalty, the coming of the King, hope, the night sky before the dawn, the sea before creation, and Mary.  Remember early dyes were made from nature.  Some historians suggest that northern European dyes were made from berries that produced blue while southern Europe was able to make purple dyes.

Tradition puts the rose-colored candle in the Advent wreath—not to symbolize Mary, but to reflect the lessening emphasis on penitence, the nearing of the end of the fast, the pending birth, and the second coming. Rose or pink represents joy.  The 3rd Sunday in Advent marks the halfway point, and we are allowed to be excited for the coming event.  In the Roman Catholic tradition, it is called Gaudete Sunday, from the Latin for “rejoice.”  It takes its name from one of the traditional readings from Philippians which begins, “Rejoice in the Lord always.”

Justice – depicted as a blindfolded woman is cause to rejoice and so the symbols and the colors of the day come together during the 3rd week of Advent.  Making a place for the growth of justice and joy–deep and abiding goodness–is the archetypal feminine divine presence in this Advent faith story.

Mary so completely embodies the victims of her age –a member of a conquered people, caught up in a census to extract tribute for the invading culture rather than a safety net or representation for the impoverished and disinherited.  Mary was not a “person” in the legal sense.  She was dependent on the promises of her God and the largess of her husband.

Mary’s Magnificat is a staple of Advent, often on this third Sunday in which we highlight joy. The song is a “power ballad” in the terminology of musical theater. Power ballads are songs in shows that hold so much emotion, and can fill the theater with amazing energy, bringing the joyful, now-convicted audience to their feet. They are often found just before intermission or at the end of the show. I would say that Mary’s power ballad is the former, coming before the birth, sung with a full belly pregnant with possibility. She “brings it,” as we say, and her “yes” to providing a Sacred Place for the holy inspires us to our own “yes” to adore, create, and nurture places where goodness is born.

Mary magnifies the Lord, proclaiming God’s greatness and rejoicing in God as Savior. She begins with God’s actions in her own life, for in choosing her to be the mother of the Messiah, the Mighty One has indeed “done great things for” her. Now she recognizes with awe that all generations will call her blessed.

In our culture #blessed has become a meme, and “feeling blessed” makes regular appearances in Facebook posts. People tweet images or post pictures of themselves enjoying a delicious meal or an exotic vacation or a shopping spree at their favorite store. “Blessed” has come to mean living a life of privilege and comfort. Using the term has become a way of celebrating those moments when everything is going well and all seems right with the world — or at least one’s own little corner of it.

The blessedness that Mary celebrates stands in stark contrast to our culture’s attitude. By our standards she does not look at all blessed. As she will soon learn from Simeon if she hasn’t perceived it already, being the mother of the messiah is scarcely an unmixed blessing. She will bear the unspeakable grief of watching as her son is rejected, shamed, and crucified: “This child is destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel … and a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:34–35). Despite all this, Mary praises God for honoring her.

Mary sings about the God who saves not just souls, but embodied people. The God she celebrates is not content merely to point people toward heaven; God’s redemptive work begins here on earth. God fills the hungry not only with hope, but with food. Rather than being satisfied with comforting the lowly, Mary’s Lord lifts them up, granting them dignity and honor, a seat at the table and a voice in the conversation. At the same time, God shows strength by disrupting the world’s power structures, dethroning rulers, and humbling the mighty.

Both in Mary’s song and in Jesus’ ministry we see the God who loves us as we are but does not leave us as we are.  He heals the lepers and unites them with their community.   Zacchaeus, especially, shows us God’s saving love in action. Jesus brings Zacchaeus down from his wealth and up from his shame as a tax collector. In the process he frees him. Salvation has come to his house (Luke 19:9).

Mary’s song magnifies the Savior who loves the whole world with a love that makes creation whole. God’s saving judgment is for all of us, bringing us down from the pride that fills us with ourselves until we can’t see either God or neighbor, bringing us up from the shame that distorts our worldview and convinces us that no one — not even God — could love us. The mother of the Messiah has experienced God’s blessing. She is not #blessed. Her blessing, like ours, is a cross-shaped blessing,

This week’s focus on Sacred Places points us to the places within ourselves as well as places in our homes and organizations, not to mention Mother Earth as needing our recognition of sacrality and justice.  Concern for the planet and for our social fabric.  This is not so much about gender, but about the capacity to create something and to nurture it to fullness.

Rohr says that “creation is the First Bible, and it existed for 13.7 billion years before the second Bible was written” (page 12, Universal Christ). I invite us to look closely at their surroundings and to see the sacred reflected there. Rohr’s theology is a form of panentheism. This is different from pantheism in that he does not say all things are God. But God is in all things. This is a really important distinction!

[All of creation] is Real Presence.” We could call it the primordial Christification” or anointing of the universe at Creation. This is not pantheism (God is everything), but panentheism (God is in everything!). Such a central message of cosmic incarnation was never seriously taught in the Western, overly individualistic church, except by a few like Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), Francis of Assisi (1181-1226), and Bonaventure (1221-1274). It was much more common in the Eastern Church, especially in early scholars and mystics like Maximus the Confessor, Gregory of Nyssa, and Symeon the New Theologian.

Inspired by the more contemporary mystic scientist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Franciscan sister and scientist Ilia Delio writes: “Christ invests himself organically within all creation, immersing himself in things, in the heart of matter, and thus unifying the world. The universe is physically impregnated to the very core of its matter by the influence of his superhuman nature. Everything is physically ‘Christified,’ gathered up by the incarnate Word as nourishment that assimilates, transforms, and divinizes. [Ilia Delio,

The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution, and the Power of Love (Orbis Books: 2013), 2] the 14th century German mystic Meister Eckhart asked a rather provocative question for his time when he wrote what is the good of Mary giving birth to the son of God all those years ago if I do not give birth to God today. We are all mothers of God he writes, or God is always needing to be born. we are all mothers of God where God is always needing to be born more recently grace Jansen wrote in her book Becoming Divine that maybe we should think about shifting our focus in our theology from being preoccupied with violence and sacrifice and death and built upon mortality and instead be preoccupied with birth and the wonder and the hope and possibility that comes with that. She asked a similar question what Christianity would look like if the focus were birth not death, human flourishing not suffering, and this world not the next.

Advent is a time for pondering those kinds of questions as you and I prepare for Jesus to be born anew in our hearts.  Can we make Mary’s song our song and live like we believe that God can turn the world around? are we willing to partner with God to help that happen?  Are we willing to walk away empty so that the hungry may be filled and you and focus on birthing God into the world each day by the choices that we make?

I believe the answer to all those questions is yes but like Mary we must have courage we must have the confidence of our faith my soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for the Mighty One has done great things for me and holy is his the name.

Perhaps the shiny decorations on our Christmas tree will remind us that the universe is physically impregnated to the very core of its matter. It is anointed from its beginning “Christified.” May our community and its surroundings shine with the reflection of the sacred, and may our own eyes be anointed to see it.

1 Church St, Harwich, MA 02645
508 432-3734
harwichumc@gmail.com

 

Sacred Time – Advent 2

Worship Time
10:00 AM
1 Church Street
East Harwich, MA 02645
Tel: 508-432-3734
harwichumc@gmail.com

First Reading – Romans 13: 11-14 (The Message)

Reader: Make sure that you dont get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed. We cant afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. Get out of bed and get dressed! Dont loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!

Second Reading – Matthew 24: 36-44 (NRSVUE)

Reader:
But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in the days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so, too, will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken, and one will be left. Keep awake, therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

 

Sacred Time
27 November 2022
The Rev Dr Dianne ES Carpenter
Mathew 24:36-44, Romans 13:11-14

What is time?  According to Einstein, Time is the 4th dimension.  To describe anything you need a location in space [length, width, height] or [latitude, longitude and altitude] and in time.  With these 4 pieces of information, we can identify an “Event.”  Jesus was born [became incarnate: i.e. human] in Bethlehem when a star appeared in the sky ….  An event!  We are a little unsure about the date, but the Magi understood they had to get moving if they were to be part of the Christ “event”.   

Human beings can only occupy one location at any time.  Jesus was completely human – for 33 years our Biblical account never says that he was seen in 2 places at the same moment.  However, Jesus was completely divine and has been present throughout time beginning with creation and will be in time until the end of time!  Christ Jesus is present with us even now.  Time is an interesting concept.

What will you do with time this week?

Yesterday at 2:50 I ran up the stairs here at church and my Fitbit digital watch was doing the jig on my wrist to signify it had recorded 10,000 steps!  I had been using time since 8 in the morning to get here and prepare the sanctuary for our worship event!

The busy-ness of the holiday season can overrun the sense of the sacred. Will you be BUSY this week…. The irony is that setting apart time for connection with the sacred gets pushed aside in order to create the trappings of what is supposed to be the season of celebrating the incarnation of the Holy!

Advent as a liturgical season has taken on the concept of “waiting” as a predominant theological idea. It is as if we get to the first Sunday of Advent and all of a sudden, we are back to a time when Jesus is not present “yet.”

This Advent we will journey toward Christmas by emphasizing the gift of being awake to the “now” … the gift of sacred time with God, with each other, and with those in need of Hope.

“Sacred” means “set apart” Thus “Sacred time” is time “set apart” for our relationship with God: the one who is “omni-temporal”.

Before the Christ “event” in Jerusalem… God’s people awaited the establishment of the Kingdom – they got bored, they misunderstood, they chose lesser Gods – so Jesus – the “Christ event” was God’s act of reconciliation – a wake-up call, an invitation to continue to be creators in relationship with God.  God who was in creation from the beginning of time poured God-self into Jesus to rescue creation.

Richard Rohr, in a work called The Universal Christ invites us to see the unique “Christ event” as the fullness of everything, always and already present.  Into this “Christ-soaked” world Jesus was born.

Perhaps what we really wait for is ourselves–to fully know the presence of the sacred reflected in everything and in us. So in a sense, we can say that we “wait,” but the waiting is an active revealing if we will only say yes to the invitation to an “archetypal spiritual journey” into the idea that we are all “en Cristo,” moving from what we thought we always knew to what we now fully recognize (page 40, Universal Christ).

The time of reflection/contemplation at the beginning of each worship experience this year may feel welcome for some and a bit fidgety for others.  Sometimes we feel discomfort when we slow down or try to relax, empty, and just “be.” We more easily translate being “awake” as doing something. What if “attentiveness” and “keeping awake” was less about hyper-vigilance and more about allowing a non-anxious stance for this season where awe and wonder take the lead? A time in which our attentiveness is geared to recognizing the reflected light of Christ (“the day is near”)?

In this time before Christmas, we are not “waiting” for Jesus, but we are practicing “attentiveness” to the Holy reflected in the people and nature around us.  We can let things be mysterious, we can wonder, we can open our hearts to Christ present in our lifetime.  This Sunday we celebration Jesus: The Hope of the World.  As mystics have known in every faith practice: contemplation allows us to approach the “Sacred”.

The scriptures for this week can conjure up anxiety or confident hope.  Perhaps you were aware of the “Left Behind” series from the 1990s and early 21st Century [1995-2007] that focuses on the Matthew passages at v.39 and following… This apocalyptical, doomsday drama can cloud the confidence that is described beautifully in Rohr’s Advent reflections:

The theological virtue of hope is the patient and trustful willingness to live without closure, without resolution, and still be content and even happy because our Satisfaction is now at another level, and our Source is beyond ourselves.”  [repeat]

How will we engage the idea that all of time is “pregnant” and full of the possibility for reflecting the sacred?

We must stop in a moment and notice it- time is “pregnant” and full of the possibility for reflecting the sacred.

What does it mean to be pregnant:  to be full of possibilities.
Sacred time is full of possibilities that we haven’t seen ….

We can Marvel at something.
Take a deep breath. Light a candle. Listen to favorite music.

Speak of the deepest things we know with a friend.
“Spend” a bit of time to make life better for someone or some place. Any of these activities are the way we turn what is often a busy season into a journey toward deeper connection to the universal Christ. 

Rohr reminds us, we are never actually separated from the presence of God–from the sacred–except in our mind’s incessant activity.

“I have never been separated from God, nor can I be, except in my mind.” (Page 44, The Universal Christ)

1 Church St, Harwich, MA 02645
508 432-3734
harwichumc@gmail.com

 

Sacred Time

Worship Time
10:00 AM
1 Church Street
East Harwich, MA 02645
Tel: 508-432-3734
harwichumc@gmail.com

First Reading – Romans 13: 11-14 (The Message)

Reader: Make sure that you dont get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed. We cant afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. Get out of bed and get dressed! Dont loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!

Second Reading – Matthew 24: 36-44 (NRSVUE)


Reader: But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in the days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so, too, will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken, and one will be left. Keep awake, therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

 

Sacred Time
27 November 2022
The Rev Dr Dianne ES Carpenter
Mathew 24:36-44, Romans 13:11-14

 

What is time?  According to Einstein, Time is the 4th dimension.  To describe anything you need a location in space [length, width, height] or [latitude, longitude and altitude] and in time.  With these 4 pieces of information, we can identify an “Event.”  Jesus was born [became incarnate: i.e. human] in Bethlehem when a star appeared in the sky ….  An event!  We are a little unsure about the date, but the Magi understood they had to get moving if they were to be part of the Christ “event”.   

Human beings can only occupy one location at any time.  Jesus was completely human – for 33 years our Biblical account never says that he was seen in 2 places at the same moment.  However, Jesus was completely divine and has been present throughout time beginning with creation and will be in time until the end of time!  Christ Jesus is present with us even now.  Time is an interesting concept.

What will you do with time this week?

Yesterday at 2:50 I ran up the stairs here at church and my Fitbit digital watch was doing the jig on my wrist to signify it had recorded 10,000 steps!  I had been using time since 8 in the morning to get here and prepare the sanctuary for our worship event!

The busy-ness of the holiday season can overrun the sense of the sacred. Will you be BUSY this week…. The irony is that setting apart time for connection with the sacred gets pushed aside in order to create the trappings of what is supposed to be the season of celebrating the incarnation of the Holy!

Advent as a liturgical season has taken on the concept of “waiting” as a predominant theological idea. It is as if we get to the first Sunday of Advent and all of a sudden, we are back to a time when Jesus is not present “yet.”

This Advent we will journey toward Christmas by emphasizing the gift of being awake to the “now” … the gift of sacred time with God, with each other, and with those in need of Hope.

“Sacred” means “set apart” Thus “Sacred time” is time “set apart” for our relationship with God: the one who is “omni-temporal”.

Before the Christ “event” in Jerusalem… God’s people awaited the establishment of the Kingdom – they got bored, they misunderstood, they chose lesser Gods – so Jesus – the “Christ event” was God’s act of reconciliation – a wake-up call, an invitation to continue to be creators in relationship with God.  God who was in creation from the beginning of time poured God-self into Jesus to rescue creation.

Richard Rohr, in a work called The Universal Christ invites us to see the unique “Christ event” as the fullness of everything, always and already present.  Into this “Christ-soaked” world Jesus was born.

Perhaps what we really wait for is ourselves–to fully know the presence of the sacred reflected in everything and in us. So in a sense, we can say that we “wait,” but the waiting is an active revealing if we will only say yes to the invitation to an “archetypal spiritual journey” into the idea that we are all “en Cristo,” moving from what we thought we always knew to what we now fully recognize (page 40, Universal Christ).

The time of reflection/contemplation at the beginning of each worship experience this year may feel welcome for some and a bit fidgety for others.  Sometimes we feel discomfort when we slow down or try to relax, empty, and just “be.” We more easily translate being “awake” as doing something. What if “attentiveness” and “keeping awake” was less about hyper-vigilance and more about allowing a non-anxious stance for this season where awe and wonder take the lead? A time in which our attentiveness is geared to recognizing the reflected light of Christ (“the day is near”)?

In this time before Christmas, we are not “waiting” for Jesus, but we are practicing “attentiveness” to the Holy reflected in the people and nature around us.  We can let things be mysterious, we can wonder, we can open our hearts to Christ present in our lifetime.  This Sunday we celebration Jesus: The Hope of the World.  As mystics have known in every faith practice: contemplation allows us to approach the “Sacred”.

The scriptures for this week can conjure up anxiety or confident hope.  Perhaps you were aware of the “Left Behind” series from the 1990s and early 21st Century [1995-2007] that focuses on the Matthew passages at v.39 and following… This apocalyptical, doomsday drama can cloud the confidence that is described beautifully in Rohr’s Advent reflections:

The theological virtue of hope is the patient and trustful willingness to live without closure, without resolution, and still be content and even happy because our Satisfaction is now at another level, and our Source is beyond ourselves.”  [repeat]

How will we engage the idea that all of time is “pregnant” and full of the possibility for reflecting the sacred?

We must stop in a moment and notice it- time is “pregnant” and full of the possibility for reflecting the sacred.

What does it mean to be pregnant:  to be full of possibilities.
Sacred time is full of possibilities that we haven’t seen ….

We can Marvel at something.
Take a deep breath. Light a candle. Listen to favorite music.

Speak of the deepest things we know with a friend.
“Spend” a bit of time to make life better for someone or some place. Any of these activities are the way we turn what is often a busy season into a journey toward deeper connection to the universal Christ. 

Rohr reminds us, we are never actually separated from the presence of God–from the sacred–except in our mind’s incessant activity.

“I have never been separated from God, nor can I be, except in my mind.” (Page 44, The Universal Christ)

1 Church St, Harwich, MA 02645
508 432-3734
harwichumc@gmail.com

 

Standing at the Edge

Worship Time
10:00 AM
1 Church Street
East Harwich, MA 02645
Tel: 508-432-3734
harwichumc@gmail.com

Joel 2:23-32 New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

23 O children of Zion, be glad,
    and rejoice in the Lord your God,
for he has given the early rain[a] for your vindication;
    he has poured down for you abundant rain,
    the early and the later rain, as before.
24 The threshing floors shall be full of grain;
    the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.

25 I will repay you for the years
    that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
    my great army that I sent against you.

26 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied
    and praise the name of the Lord your God,
    who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
27 You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel
    and that I, the Lord, am your God and there is no other.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.

God’s Spirit Poured Out

28 [b]Then afterward     I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    your old men shall dream dreams,
    and your young men shall see visions.
29 Even on the male and female slaves,
    in those days I will pour out my spirit.

30 I will show portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. 32 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved, for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.

2 Timothy 4:6-8 New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

2 Timothy 4:16-18  New Revised Standard Version Updated Ed

16 At my first defense no one came to my support, but all deserted me. May it not be counted against them! 17 But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and save me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Luke 18:9-14 New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other, for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

 

 Standing at the Edge
Joel 2:23-32; Psalm 65; 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18:9-14

23 October 2022
The Rev Dr. Dianne ES Carpenter

 

A tourist came too close to the edge of the Grand Canyon, lost his footing and  plunged over the side, clawing and scratching to save himself. After he went out of sight and just before he fell into space, he encountered a scrubby bush which he desperately grabbed with both hands. Filled with terror, he called out toward heaven, “Is there anyone up there?”

A calm, powerful voice came out of the sky, “Yes, there is.”

The tourist pleaded, “Can you help me? Can you help me?”

The calm voice replied, “Yes, I can. What is your problem?”

“I fell over the cliff and am dangling in space holding to a bush that is about to let go. Please help me.”

“The voice from above said, “I’ll try. Do you believe?”

“Yes, yes, I believe.”

“Do you have faith?”

“Yes, yes. I have strong faith.”

The calm voice said, “Well, in that case, simply let loose of the bush and everything will turn out fine.”

There was a tense pause, then the tourist yelled, “Is there anyone else up there?”               

Here on Cape Cod it is very likely that you have stood at the edge of the water at the seashore on a summer day, at the very edge with the cold water before you and the hot sand behind you.  Or maybe you were on a roof or high river bank, right out at the very edge so that your toes hung out into space.  Standing on the edge gives life a whole new meaning.  You either desperately want the assurance of solid ground under your feet, or you have the impulse to charge into the unknown. 

Standing on the edge gives one a very important and different perspective on life.  A famous theologian of last century used to speak of finding truth at the boundaries where opposites meet.  The truth is found at the boundary of love and hate, of peace and war, of life and death. 

In Paul’s letter to Timothy, Paul was “standing at the edge”—of life.  He is able to say “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”  What a good feeling!  Looking back, I’m OK.  And looking ahead, I’m OK.  “There is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the lord will award me…”  Paul is in prison about to be put to death, and he can say—“I’m OK, it’s OK.”

Most of us hope that we will be ready to let go when we come to the natural end of our lives.  But the edge is not a “natural” place.  Paul was in the grip of a political vise: to follow Caesar or God… to worship Caesar or the God who had approached him on the Damascus Road.   

We will all stand at the edge of life, some of us for a brief time and some for long years of physical and emotional illness.  Are you “standing at the edge “ today?  How does that feel?  Are you OK?

We might ask where our nation or our world is today.  Are we “at the edge” of extinction or renewal…. Are we OK?

We have choices: We can either desperately want the assurance of solid ground under our feet – which for many people means a revival of traditional realities- status quo, or we have the impulse to charge into the unknown possibilities of the future. 

The quote by Kurt Vonnegut Jr votes for creative possibilities:

“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over.

Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center.

Possibilities for Environmental sustainability

Possibilities for social justice

Possibilities for Shalom: Peace with justice

But can we do that alone? 

 

The sense of standing at the edge, all alone comes to each of us in times of defenselessness.  Aloneness, in a world full of people, feels like being abandoned.  And at that moment, we pray for a sense of God with us.  We pray to be rescued.  Nothing is OK until God is with us.  Yet, many alone and struggling people are trying to get in touch with a sense of God’s presence.  They are immigrants fleeing dangerous regimes, they are people who are food insecure, and they are people who cannot afford housing.    It used to be that many joined churches to have that sense of God with them.

The church was to be a microcosm – an inbreaking experience of the Kingdom of God…a safe place of creative possibilities.  The fulfillment of the promises in Joel this morning…

And my people shall never again be put to shame.
27 You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel
    and that I, the Lord, am your God and there is no other.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.

28 [b]Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    your old men shall dream dreams,
    and your young men shall see visions.
29 Even on the male and female slaves,
    in those days I will pour out my spirit.

However, the church has turned the Gospel message inside out and upside down at times in its theological history so that the church is deeply divided  — like the human race – But the missional edge is where we meet each other and actually follow God’s plan for Prophesy, dreams, and visions.

The gospel today says to us beware.  “Beware of approaching God like the Pharisees.‘’  Beware of the presumption of standing boldly in the presence of God and praying with yourself: “God, I thank you that I’m not like other people, extortionists, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.”  The gospel says to beware of being too sure of your righteousness because truth may be more evident when you are at the boundary of social acceptability.  This is not the threat “pride, cometh before a fall.”  This is a simple proclamation that pride, or certainty that we are right in the sight of God is sin.  Life is full of uncertainty and that’s OK.  But to uncritically say we ourselves are OK, that we stand in judgment of everyone who is aware of their own broken and fallen condition, is sin.

In a world where conformity is praised and earthly rewards like money and recognition are commonly accepted as signs of God’s favor, fewer and fewer people can live with uncertainty. 

Teen suicide and dependency on drugs and alcohol are signs that even tragic oblivion seems better than the uncertainty and feeling alone, “standing at the edge.”  A vision of what God wants us to be and how far we fall short may be clearer when we are alone, or we have nothing to lose and everything to lose, when we finally pray to God instead of to ourselves, we pray for strength to live with emotional and physical pain and uncertainty.

While most of us are comfortably situated within the mainstream of life with its not-so-major decisions, many individuals and eventually even we ourselves will come to a moment in which we are “standing at the edge.”  The prisoner about to face sentencing, the sinner who is humbled before God, and maybe even one of our neighbors or friends who is in the midst of a marriage crisis, sudden illness or loss of life have a lot to teach us when they are the most unacceptable to us.

This is the essence of the realization that, “There but for the grace of God go I.”  Without the realization of our common humanity and vulnerability, mainstream people cannot act with compassionate concern for others.  The tragedy of short memory, when we have struggled and lived through difficult times only to say, “I did it, so can they” is all too common today.  [crippling student loans]  True grace and true acceptance of the saving grace of God has a long memory which bears the fruit of compassion, while good fortune and cheap grace has little understanding and less fruits. 

Compassion costs, because at the very least it means grappling with the frustration and pain of standing at the edge with someone else, standing at the edge when we believe we are safe in the crowd.  The conviction of God’s way of peace and love costs even more, because we have to face uncertainty and setbacks at every step in a world ruled by fear.

God knows that if we can get beyond our own shortsightedness we will find Him ready to run this race we call life with us.  God also calls us to run with each other here in this church and this town– God calls us to run with people throughout the world, with immigrants and displaced persons.  But sometimes, too often, we get in each other’s way, rather than running with each other.  We condemn when we could encourage, we run ahead when we could have slowed our pace.

There are some in this room or just outside our doors who are standing on the edge, or have made only the beginning steps of feeling solid ground under their feet.  Maybe the solid ground has been a lifetime pursuit or maybe it is a great temporary desire after depression and loss. Someone here today or in the places we will go today and this week desperately needs the people in this room to be God with them.  The responsibility that people who are feeling OK have is the responsibility to join hands with those who sorrow.  The responsibility we have to each other is to build one another up, not to tear one another or anyone down.  If a juvenile Court offender was given alternative service in this place, could we encourage them to finish this task and move ahead, proclaiming we are with them as they attempt to move away from the edge where they are standing? 

If a single parent came here, sometimes afraid and sometimes angry at the difficulties and facing a world where they are pushed to the edge because they have not yet got both feet on the ground; if he or she came could we minister to that person?

At the November ballot box there will be questions concerning people and issues which will demand standing at the edge of our current comfort zone so that we can affirm that God’s vision is our vision and We are OK with that.

A builder works with God’s creation instead of thanking God that he or she is not like the rest of God’s creation.  Sometimes working with people is a slow business.  A priest or a pastor counsels people over months, not days.  A person who has made a wrong choice lives with the consequences for years.  God knew that working with people is a slow business God knew it as God, on a cross between two thieves.  But because God hung there for sinners who would not understand, because God was willing to stand at the edge of life itself, God showed us that there is a greater life through turning to him than through praying to ourselves. 

May the assurance of God’s presence be with you as you stand at the edge, today or tomorrow.  May you grasp the challenge to stand at the edge, to tarry with those who have no defense and have been abandoned.  And may we all see the Glory of the lord in the Kingdom come, together.

1 Church St, Harwich, MA 02645
508 432-3734
harwichumc@gmail.com