Harwich Soundings – May 1, 2018

Harwich Soundings – May 2018

Ed shares the following from ‘What We do Best,’ the April 25th daily reflection from Eugene Peterson’s Living the Message:

He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives,
robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way,
producing with us great praise to God.           2 Corinthians 9:11-12

Giving is what we do best. It is the air into which we were born. It is the action that was designed into us before our birth. Giving is the way the world is. He makes no exceptions for any of us. We are given away to our families, to our neighbors, to our friends, to our enemies – to the nations. Our life is for others. That is the way creation works. Some of us try desperately to hold on to   ourselves, to live for ourselves. We look so bedraggled and pathetic doing it, hanging on to the dead branch of a bank account for dear life, afraid to risk ourselves on the untried wings of giving. We don’t think we can live generously because we have never tried. But the sooner we start the better, for we are going to have to give up our lives finally, and the longer we wait the less time we have for the soaring and swooping life of grace.



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Harwich Soundings – February 8, 2018

Harwich Soundings – February 8, 2018

Dear friends,

Maybe it’s these media saturated times, or perhaps my inspiration well is dry, but I haven’t been moved to send a Harwich Soundings in awhile.   I still read daily.  But frankly its tiresome to read anything with ‘Trump’ in it, because that name is one inspiration for so much that divides us, to say nothing of raising my blood pressure.

Last week I wrote down this quote from David Woods:  In this information age never has it been more possible to live in a bubble of one’s own making.”  A great temptation facing us all is to screen out all opposing perspectives, discounting them as wrong.  It’s so easy to just imbibe opinions that reinforce our own opinions and biases.  Believe me, this is a temptation I struggle with.

There is a way beyond this societal stuckness, but it requires hard, intentional work and it often isn’t all that obvious.  We have to engage each other, share our perspectives, and listen—humbly listen—to another’s take on the world.  I think we have to seek each other out…which, I’ll be honest, I don’t do very often.  Mutual respect, civility, and real dialogue are fruits of humble listening…and affirmation that the ‘other’ is created in the image of the same God I worship and is just as much beloved.

The following piece by Amy Butler speaks this truth:

Courageous conversations are no longer optional. It’s time to cross boundaries.
February 6, 2018    Rev. Amy Butler

I hosted a conversation last Thursday at my church in which Brené Brown and DeRay McKesson engaged in a public dialog about race and vulnerability. While the conversation they had that night is no longer available to view, the idea to host such a conversation came from a Twitter exchange they had about the same topics a few months before.

My job as host last Thursday was not to contribute any deep wisdom to the conversation; if you saw the event you already know that their exchange was so deep and intense that there was very little possibility I would succeed at even interrupting them. Rather, I was there to prod the conversation along if needed, to offer questions from the viewing audience, and to listen intently … which was what I was doing when Brown responded to a comment by McKesson: “There’s not enough preaching in the world that can make people change their hearts.”

I was startled when I heard it. I am a preacher, after all.

“There’s not enough preaching in the world that can make people change their hearts.”

This is a jarring comment for a preacher to hear, especially when we’re engaging issues that are so deep and raw that nobody is sure their best efforts at anything — protesting, policy change or even preaching — can make even a dent in the scar that America’s original sin has left on our individual and corporate psyches.

But here’s the strange thing: I’m a preacher … and I agree with Brené.

There is not enough preaching in the world that can make people change their hearts, and preachers who are under the illusion that theirs might have a bigger problem on their hands. We live in a country where rhetoric of any kind is not doing the work of changing peoples’ hearts, but instead serving to more deeply entrench us in opinions we already hold and to polarize us in positions even further away from each other than we imagined.

We’re going to have to do more, to move past talking (even preaching!) and into the messy and painful work of deep conversation held together by real relationship. In fact, it’s increasingly my conviction that this may be the heart of the faith community’s work in this moment: building authentic relationships upon which these difficult conversations can rest.

In our world we’re brokering conversations between pastors and online gun dealers; Harlem rappers and Palm Beach retirees; and, last Thursday, Black Lives Matter activists and university professors. I think the work ahead of us involves finding more boundaries that need crossing and crossing them with a boldness that is undergirded with deep faith. After all, what else would give us the courage to cross those lines and engage the people we wouldn’t engage otherwise?

A few weeks ago I had the gift of visiting Israel and Palestine as part of a group of women clergy from the United States. While there we met with many people — mostly women — working to broker peace in a region so torn and divided. One of the things I found so striking about my time in the area was this: Israelis and Palestinians do not interact with each other in many of the ways we would expect. They do not travel together, live together, eat together, worship together, go to school together. And when you don’t do the work of life together, it’s so very easy to demonize each other, to be sure that the other is the antithesis of everything good.

I’m more and more convinced that this approach to life won’t work if we want to live into a vital future together. We’re living in a time when courageous conversations are not optional; we have to do the hard work to cross the boundaries that divide us or we won’t ever be able to find our way back to each other.

What are the boundaries in your world that seem impossible to cross? Let’s cross them and show the world that there is nothing that can’t be overcome if we’re willing to try.  (from Baptist News Global, included on Faith and Leadership, 2/7/18)

We’ve got work to do.  May the courageous spirit of Jesus, our Master, guide and empower us to seek to live out Matthew 5:9.

Blessings,  Ed

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Harwich Soundings – December 20, 2017

Harwich Soundings – December 20, 2017

Dear friends,
It’s been awhile since the muse moved me, but the blessing below comes just in time for tomorrow’s Winter Solstice.  The promise of light will literally be fulfilled, both in lengthening daylight and in spirit light from the Christ.  Both kinds are vital to human well-being, but Emmanuel’s Light is most enduring.

Be blessed this Christmas and in the New Year,

This week, in addition to preparing for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services, many congregations will offer a “Longest Night” or “Blue Christmas” service. Usually held on or near the Winter Solstice, this gathering provides a space for those who are having a difficult time during the holidays or simply need to acknowledge some pain or loss they are carrying in the midst of this season of celebration. For you who are offering or participating in such a service, and for all who struggle in this season, I wish you many blessings and pray for the presence of Christ our Light, who goes with us in the darkness and in the day.

Blessing for the Longest Night
All throughout these months
as the shadows
have lengthened,
this blessing has been
gathering itself,
making ready,
preparing for
this night.

It has practiced
walking in the dark,
traveling with
its eyes closed,
feeling its way
by memory
by touch
by the pull of the moon
even as it wanes.

So believe me
when I tell you
this blessing will
reach you
even if you
have not light enough
to read it;
it will find you
even though you cannot
see it coming.

You will know
the moment of its
by your release
of the breath
you have held
so long;
a loosening
of the clenching
in your hands,
of the clutch
around your heart;
a thinning
of the darkness
that had drawn itself
around you.

This blessing
does not mean
to take the night away
but it knows
its hidden roads,
knows the resting spots
along the path,
knows what it means
to travel
in the company
of a friend.

So when
this blessing comes,
take its hand.
Get up.
Set out on the road
you cannot see.

This is the night
when you can trust
that any direction
you go,
you will be walking
toward the dawn.

—Jan Richardson
from The Cure for Sorrow


Image: Longest Night © Jan Richardson

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Harwich Soundings – October 20, 2017

Harwich Soundings – October 3, 2017

Dear friends,

I share a disturbing yet truthful assessment of where we are in our society today.  Tim Suttle’s and Stanley Hauerwas’ hyperbole may not be comfortable to hear or bear, yet such speech is necessary if we are to alertly resist the dark forces we face in these fractured times….if we are to model alternative ways of relating more akin to Jesus’ vision for humanity.  We are created by God to be better, larger, more true and compassionate persons than much we witness on the public stage today.  Give an ear, and may our hearts be open.

Stanley Hauerwas: A Prayer for Our Enemies As We Are All Learning How to Hate
By Tim Suttles’ blog “Paterback Theology” on Patheos Progressive Christian, October 19, 2017

We are all learning how to hate. That is to say, we are all being taught everyday how to hate.

I’m serious. Maybe more than at any other time in my lifetime members of our society are fully engaged learners in the art of hating our neighbor.

We live in an era of enemies. Every day powerful forces in our society attempt to stoke our innate fear and anger, and they offer us someone to blame—someone to hate. I’m sorry to say that it appears those powerful forces are getting really good at their jobs.

We are all being manipulated by craven political, media, and financial titans who use fear and anger to move us around like chess pieces. They are playing a high stakes game of king-of-the-hill and their winning strategy has been to stoke any division they can until we hate each other, and blame each other.

So, our society has chosen up sides—mostly left and right. This powerful tribalism is decimating our previously strong social connections, ones that weren’t built on politics at all. Where we used to see quirky friends, we now see sinister enemies. For many of us, our closest connections—families, friends, churches, neighbors—have been inexorably altered, especially over the past 12 months. Riven by opportunistic evangelists of partisan hatred and political division we have been pitted against one another. We are all learning how to hate.

Let me say it as plainly as I can: Your political party wants to teach you how to hate those on the other side. The Liberal Media wants to feed your insecurity and anger until you despise any and everyone who voted for and continues to enable Donald Trump. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and the massive conservative media complex are very effectively shaping your every thought for an ideological war against liberal elites. Whites are pitted against blacks. Everyone is pitted against immigrants and refugees. God help you if you are a Muslim American.

We are being manipulated. We are being poked and prodded toward hatred.

The problem, of course, is that politicians today don’t really want to make things better. They wouldn’t mind a political victory. But the real objective is effectively dividing us and teaching us to hate one another. That way we will never consider leaving their camp. Our political leaders declare victory not when their side wins, but when you and I see former friends, brothers, and sisters as our enemies and begin to creep toward hatred for them. When that happens we have formally become part of their reliable “base.”

We are all learning how to hate, and we have very good teachers whose livelihood depends upon our education.

I keep wondering why we all fall for it.

We fall for it because we are tired, bored, affluent and hopeless. We have nothing worthwhile to live for and pretty much everything we need. We fall for it because we have short attention spans and don’t want to study deeply—especially not the arguments from the other side. We have a tendency to blame others, and excuse ourselves. We fall for it because we are all hell-bent on the undisciplined pursuit of more, more, more. And the disciplined pursuit of less seems to go against powerful internal drives.

The surest way to resist the lure of hatred is to desire something else even more—something like love, vulnerability, forgiveness, justice, peace, and the kingdom of God. Only the disciplined pursuit of these kinds of humanizing virtues can controvert the onslaught of hate-training that now saturates our culture.

Another powerful tool of resistance is prayer… hear me out. I think its important for us to spend focused parts of our day processing our lives in the presence of God–voicing our concerns, letting ourselves ruminate on the world with God in the room. Time spent in silence. Listening.

Toward that end I’ve been spending time in Stanley Hauerwas’ Prayers Plainly Spoken. It’s a short book that was marketed more like devotional reading than like the all-out cultural subversion it self-consciously is. Hauerwas brings all of his theological and philosophical means to bear in a set of colloquial, occasional, humorous, and insightful prayers for just about any occasion you could think of. Turns out he has a perfect prayer for this cultural moment. I hope this will serve us all well today:

Forgiving Lord, I do not want my enemies forgiven. I want you to kill them (as sometimes prays the psalmist!)

Actually, I would prefer to pray that you punish them rather than kill them, since I would like to watch them suffer. Also, I fear losing my enemies, since my hates are more precious to me than my loves. If I lost my hates, my enemies, how would I know who I am?

Yet you have bent us toward reconciliation, that we may be able to pass one another Christ’s peace. It is a terrible thing to ask of us. I am sure I cannot do it, but you are a wily God able to accomplish miracles. May we be struck alive with the miracle of your grace, even to being reconciled with ourselves.  Amen.

May God mercifully bless us to be persons who reflect the image of God in love, Ed


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Harwich Soundings – October 3, 2017

Harwich Soundings – October 3, 2017

Dear friends,
We live in a time when the unfathomable takes place…again and again.  Now in Las Vegas…senseless violence and death.  Who are we at war with?  Ourselves?  Who is the enemy who compels a man to take sixteen high powered weapons to his motel room, with another eighteen in his home?  Something is loose in our society, in our national psyche, that aims for destruction.

The following from our Bishop and Conference leaders:
Oct. 2, 2017 – “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” – Isaiah 40:1

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We greet you all in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Like many of you, we awoke this morning to hear the horrible and sickening news of the mass shooting in Las Vegas where at least 50 people have been killed and more than 200 were injured.

As Conference leaders gathered for our regular Cabinet meeting this morning, we came together to write the prayer below.

We are encouraging all of you to say this prayer at some time during the day – silently or aloud. May the abundant love and strength of God reach all those affected by this senseless violence and bring solace.

All of us will be spending this evening in fasting prayer. The money we would have spent on our meals will be given to a ministry of the church that is on our hearts today. We humbly ask you to join us as you are able.

Oh, Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers.

Our hearts cry out for those killed and injured in Las Vegas; for family and friends, for doctors and nurses, for emergency responders, for the family of the shooter, for those who escaped but are traumatized. Our hearts cry out.

So help us, God of grace. Give us the courage to stand up and do something about the chaos that reigns in this world. Help us be the peace people crave in the midst of this evil we call division and war. Help us be the love people need to feel and hear when hate abounds.

Take away the roots of violence in each of us and in this land. Let our prayers for non-violence and healing be turned to actions that confront all means of violence with the means of your peace and justice.

Give us comfort that rises up out of your infinite grace with strength to breathe deep, reach wide, and transform broken human shards into redemptive community.

Show us again how to rise, how to forgive, how to heal, how to be set free.

We pray to you, the God of all comfort, to grant overwhelming peace. Shalom. Shalom. Shalom.

In Christ’s love,
Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar & Rene Wilbur, Conference Lay Leader

For everything there is a time to grieve and a time to say “No”.  Guide us, Lord, in how to say “No”….to the insane proliferation of guns in our society…to the insane proliferation of hatred and bigotry in our society.  Hold all the victims in your mercy.
Amen,  Ed

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Harwich Soundings – September 28, 2017

Harwich Soundings – September 28, 2017

Dear friends,

There’s not much ‘gentleness’ in our public discourse these days.  Despite the fact that Paul names ‘gentleness’ as one of the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5, the quality seems in short supply…with some notable exceptions.  Each of us knows someone to whom we’d attach this attractive characteristic.

Maybe we carry some misconceptions about ‘gentleness.’   I was stuck by a piece that came around in my early morning devotions this week.  Marilyn Chandler McEntyre writes:  “But gentleness has more to do with vigor, conviction, and even, sometimes, with knowing how to make trouble, than we commonly think.  It is as related to clarity as it is to caring, and has more to do with discernment than with deference.  I think of Jesus and the rich young man—how gentle must have been the knowing look with which Jesus greeted him (see Mark 10:17-22).  ‘And Jesus looked at him and loved him.’  Yet Jesus’ next step was a radical challenge to all the young man held dear.  No sermon.  No blame.  Not even an admonition.  Just an invitation, but one so demanding it turned him away.  I like to think it did not turn him away forever.  As I read the story, it leaves a door wide open to reconsider and return.  The young man had a lot to think over.  And Jesus could afford to give him the freedom and the time to do that.

Real gentleness, in fact, comes from a place of spiritual abundance—because we who are poor are rich in Christ.  We can only afford to be gentle when we are secure enough to lay aside our instincts for self-protection, defensiveness, or aggression—when we know that we have what we need.”  (“A Gentle Word”, Weavings, July –August 2004)

Gentleness leaves a door open wide enough to allow for the other to reconsider and grow.  It can be one of the most powerful postures we take with one another.  Without coercion or insistence on ‘the right way’, true gentleness bears fruit in transformed relationships.  Let us consider being ‘gentle’ in our going out and coming in as this troubled world God so loves turns.

Blessings,  Ed

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