Keeping in Touch in These Challenging times

Daily Greetings to Beloved Community

Saturday 30 May

A rainy Saturday with the poss

ibility of thunder showers — that was the forecast last night and I got rather excited.  I’m kind of fond of thunder and lightning even though I’m a native Californian and haven’t got to experience them too much.  I remember summers in Delaware though when the lighting displays were phenomenal and the thunder so loud at times that windows shook. Even though it looks like the thunder storm may have passed us by, it was fun anticipating and remembering for a bit.  

This morning I want to share with you a lovely prayer of examen that I have had tucked away (with no idea where I found it or who wrote it).  I encourage you to try praying this prayer in the evening before retiring, letting your mind drift back over the day that has just passed and breathe in and out this prayer.   

I pause (breathe in and out) and thank you for this day. 

For the challenges, the emotions, the struggle. 

For in all this, I grow closer to you.

I pause (breathe in and out) and ask that in the darkness, 

I see your light and in my fear, I feel your strength.

I pause (breathe in and out) and remember that today, 

As in days before, I have survived. 

When I’ve wanted to run, I’ve stayed. 

When I wanted to hide, I’ve faced the day.

I pause (breathe in and out) and ask for forgiveness 

for the days I falter and the disease takes over. 

I ask for compassion and love when I’m unable to give those to myself.

I pause (breathe in and out) and resolve to love myself more tomorrow. 

And always feel your spirit surround me in safety.

I pause (breathe in and out) and rest.

I’m also sending you the invitation to worship tomorrow.  It’s Pentecost tomorrow so as Mark reminded us last week, wear redorange or yellow work too as colors of fire — and join us.  Remember your candle to light as a reminder that God’s Light shines even in the midst of the darkness of these times and your worry stones.  This week I’m also inviting you to bring another candle to light in response to the hearing of scripture and to symbolize what your heart is on fire for.  We’re also invited, along with communities of faith around our nation, to lift up, remember and grieve the loss of life to COVID-19 and then to join in honoring a Day of Mourning and Lament on Monday, June 1, with people across our nation. I encourage you to click on the link below and watch a video created for this remembrance.

Day of Mourning and Lament video:

https://sojo.net/media/national-day-mourning-and-lament

Scripture for tomorrow:  “On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and exclaimed, “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture says:  ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him.’””  ~John 7:37-38

Let us pray that rivers —  flowing, bursting, gushing, cascading — of living water will flow from our innermost hearts out into the world as the Spirit quenches our thirst and empowers us to be Christ’s church of love and grace, healing and welcome, in and for the world. 

Friday 29 May

This morning I sit in the peace and quiet of a new day and feel the weight of the world in my body and soul as I turn to God in prayer.  So much death, so much violence, so much racism and hatred that my heart aches and cries out.  A song by Carrie Newcomer speaks to me this day and encourages, and challenges, me to “be the change I want to see in the world.” If not now, then when O God?  And if not me, then who?  If not us, then who?   I share her song and pray it speaks to your heart as well. 

I also share this prayer by Rev. Dr. Jean Hawxhurst

 “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen… By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.” ~Hebrews 11:1 and 3

Holy and generous God, blessed are you, who created the whole universe out of pure love and joy. We come before you again today with all that we are, both beautiful and frail. We are thankful for another day, for breath in our lungs and the warmth of sunshine in the air. We know all we have is blessing, and all we are is designed to witness to you. Still, we confess, after so many weeks sheltering at home, we are weary. We are tired of sitting in front of a computer; we miss hugs and handshakes; and we want to go back to what used to be normal. All that wanting tempts us to despair, anger and fear. We confess, knowing apart from you and your strength and grace, we are weak. So, we ask you to send your Spirit to us anew today. Pour out your peace on each of your children, all over your world. Fill us again with strength, and courage, and commitment. Burn away the fear, and replace it only with you. Because only in you do we find real hope and the real joy of your creation. We open ourselves again today to you, with trust and confidence. 

That is our prayer, and we offer it to you in the name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.

May we be the change we want to see and that God created us to be in and for the world that God loves.

Susan

If Not Now ~Carrie Newcomer

Chorus: If not now, tell me when If not now, tell me when.

We may never see this moment

Or place in time again

If not now, if not now, tell me when.

I see sorrow and trouble in this land

I see sorrow and trouble in this land

Although there will be struggle we’ll make the change we can. If not now, tell me when.

Chorus

I may never see the Promised Land. 

I may never see the Promised Land. 

And yet we’ll take the journey

And walk it hand in hand

If not now, tell me when.

Chorus

Bridge: So we‘ll work it ‘til it’s done

Every daughter every son,

Every soul that ever longed for something better, 

Something brighter.

It will take a change of heart for this to mend.

It will take a change of heart for this to mend.

But miracles do happen every shining now and then If not now, if not now, tell me when?

Chorus

And miracles do happen every shining now and then. If not now tell me when.

If not now, if not now, tell me when. 

If not now, if not now, tell me when. 

Thursday 28 May

I find myself turning more and more to poetry these days, yearning to find words that speak to my soul and break open my heart even when it feels like all around is fear, uncertainty and anxiety.  My heart aches at the pain and loss that so many are experiencing.  It’s hard to believe that over 100,000 people have died here in the United States because of COVID-19 and so many more around the world.  My heart aches as we hear and see how our black and brown brothers and sisters are targeted with violence, even by those charged with our protection.  I ache for Georgre Floyd and Ahmaud Amery’s families as they grieve senseless and violent deaths. And I grieve for our nation.   I miss too being in the physical presence of my companions on the way, my church family, and yearn for the time when we can gather together again. I miss our conversations around our tables in the fellowship hall as we shared coffee, and tea, cheese and crackers and the coffee cake that Ricardo always supplied us with.  I miss hanging out, and waking freely, and not worrying about getting “too close” to others.  My hands are getting so dry from repeated washing that even lotions aren’t working much these days.  I miss going to stores when I want and getting what I need, and often what I don’t, without standing in lines or worrying about there being too many people around me.  I miss so much!  And my heart aches and my mind worries and my soul longs and so I turn to poetry to inspire, console, bring meaning, challenge, and invite me to ponder the mystery that lies at the heart of all things.   

Yes, the life that is around us these days seems filled with heartache, anxiety, fear and death, and yet …and yet, there is beauty and there is joy and there is love.  There are loved ones, family and friends and companions on the ways — compañeros as our Latino brothers and sisters would say — to encourage, support, love and walk with us through these challenging times.  The poem that I’m sharing this morning invites me to stand still in the midst of what is and pay attention to the life that is around me and to remember that my work is to love the world, this beautiful and yet broken world with all that I am and have and do.  And to be grateful! 

Please know this:  I am grateful for all of you!  Grateful  for your presence in my life and ministry, for your encouragement and patience, for your laughter and your wisdom, for your faithfulness and generosity.  Thank you for sharing your life with me and with each other.  And you know what?  love knowing that my work is loving you!  

And please join us this afternoon at 1:00 as we ReConnect with one another on Zoom.  Invitation is below this morning’s poem.

Blessings and joy,

Susan    

Messenger

My work is loving the world.

Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird – 

equal seekers of sweetness.

Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.

Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?

Am I no longer young and still not half-perfect? Let me

keep my mind on what matters,

which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.

The phoebe, the delphinium.

The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.

Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

Which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart

and these body-clothes,

a mouth with which to give shouts of joy

to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,

telling them all, over and over, how it is

that we live forever.

~Mary Olivier

Wednesday 28 May

Woke up this morning and discovered we were all out of coffee!   Oh no😟 — my head was pounding from allergies and much in need of my morning cup so off we headed to Peets.  What a blessing it turned out to be.  Beans and complimentary cups of coffee in hand, we headed out to Lands End to take in the view from something other than our apartment windows.  The air was fresh, the birds busy singing and cooing, pelicans flying by, beautiful sunshine and soft air — what a blessing our lack of coffee turned out to be!  I wonder how often the inconveniences of our lives, and sometimes even the larger challenges, turn out to be blessings?  Bruce and I spent some dear and precious time enjoying the peace and beauty of Land’s End all for want of coffee, and his great idea to take a little drive.  I pray we can use this time of more than just inconvenience for our world as an opportunity to explore new possibilities for a kinder and more just world.  I hope our congregation can begin to imagine new and different ways of being church because of the things we’ve experienced and learned during this time of physical distancing.  I pray that others may be blessed by the church we are becoming as we respond to the realities of our world and this pandemic. Our visioning committee meets weekly to explore the possibilities and the opportunities that lie before us.  Be on the lookout for an email from Ralph telling you a bit about our work.  

I hope you have the chance for a little outing, either literally with a little drive or in your imagination.  It’s remarkable how much better I feel after ours.  The cup of coffee didn’t hurt either😉

I’m sharing a poem that really speaks to me about the ways our days just sort of blend into each other and yet, and yet, what an opportunity we have to slow down and match our breathing to a new pace, listen to a different voice, and feel the Presence of the Holy One in our lives.

Blessings,

Susan

Counting Time

When life has slowed,
And days run into days run into days
I count my time in dog walks and cups of coffee.
I watch the plants,
Reaching toward the sun
Offering beauty …
Blooming, fading, dying away.

When life has slowed,
I count my interactions in phone calls and Zoom windows.
I imagine seeing you,
Our arms thrown around each other in love.
How long until that day?

When life has slowed,
And loss builds upon loss.
We grieve in isolation
Far from comforting rituals.
Wakes and potlucks,
Shared tears and handkerchiefs.
The quiet words of a familiar reading, a favorite song.
The gathering of the family from far and near. 

When life has slowed,
And days run into days run into days.
We count the time in sunrises and sunsets,
Breaths in and breaths out.

When life has slowed,
Breathe. Listen. Trust. Love.
We are not alone.

~Beth Richardson

Tuesday 26 May

Blessings on this new day, a day filled with so many possibilities and so many opportunities to love.  We are officially nearing the end of the Easter season — although I would argue that we are always in the season of new life, new hope, new possibilities — and so I thought I’d share one of my favorite authors with you this morning.  Wendell Berry is an American poet, novelist, farmer and environmentalist.  If you haven’t spent some time with him, I suggest you do.  

Some of my go to quotes of his: 

“We have lived our lives by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption, that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and learn what is good for it.”   

and this one:  

“There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places.”  

This one that speaks powerfully to me of this time in which we are living from his poem The Real Work (another favorite of mine:-): 

“It may be that when we no longer know what to do, 

we have come to our real work 

and when we no longer know which way to go, 

we have begun our real journey. 

But the poem I really want to share with you this morning is one that challenges us to “practice resurrection” daily and with intention, to live in radically different ways that our society encourages, just like Easter!  In a sermon I preached a long time ago now, I said “Easter invites us to remove the grave clothes that bind us, to walk out of the tombs in which we live and from which we only see the way of death, and to begin to move into the world in new and profound ways.  Easter challenges us to walk in the way of resurrection that empowers us to walk through doors that had previously been locked and barred through fear and despair.  Easter invites us to start living, and living fully, and living fully for others rather than living for ourselves and our own security.”

Yes, Easter is past and the Easter season is drawing to a close, but the season of new life, new hope, and new possibilities continues, even as we stay sheltered in our homes and away, physically, from our beloved community.   Today, let’s practice resurrection and begin to imagine the world as God dreams it could be and I believe as God created it to be!  Let’s commit to living in the world today as if Christ is risen and alive with us, calling us to shape the world in the ways of love and grace — because it’s true. Thanks be to God, Christ is risen!  Alleluia! Amen

MANIFESTO: THE MAD FARMER LIBERATION FRONT

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

~Wendell Berry

Monday 25 May

Good morning Church and blessings on this Memorial Day

“Here then is my charge: First, supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings should be made on behalf of all men: for kings and rulers in positions of responsibility, so that our common life may be lived in peace and quiet, with a proper sense of God and of our responsibility to [God] for what we do with our lives.” 1 Timothy 2: 1-2 (Phillips)

And so we pray: 

Dear Gracious God,

On this day of remembrance for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we enjoy every day, we lift our prayers of gratitude and blessing. 

Please hold our servicemen and women and all who serve on our behalf around the world in your loving and strong arms.  Cover them with your sheltering grace and your presence as they stand in the gap for our security and protection.

We also remember the families of all who serve.  We ask for your blessings to fill their homes and hearts with your peace, provision, hope and strength.

May the members of our armed forces be supplied with the courage to face each day and may they trust in your power to accomplish each task. Let out military brothers and sisters feel our love and support.

Sovereign God and Lord of all nations, may we take time to reflect on the blessings we share as a nation and as a people.  Our blessing have come at a high cost to others. May we remember those sacrifices with deep gratitude.

We ask that you would grant wisdom to the leaders of all nations.  Guide and direct them in their decisions.  May they be led by your will and your heart as they pursue peace and justice for all of your children.  

And as we continue to shelter in place for our sake and for the sake of others, we ask for patience and a renewed commitment to be your church of grace, love and peace.  May your kingdom come on earth in us, O God, as it is in heaven.  Amen 

Sunday 24 May

Good morning Church,

Another gorgeous day filled with sunshine and possibilities!  I hope you can get out safely for a bit—remember your mask, snap a photo and send to me, please — and feel the sun on your face and the breeze in your hair. I hope also to see many of you this afternoon as we gather for worship on Zoom.  What a joy it has been to “meet” each week and share communion and prayer — don’t forget your “bread and wine” and your worry stones — music, scripture and conversation.  The invitation to worship is below.  If you’re having difficulties connecting on Zoom, please let us know so we can help you figure it out.

While we have no way of knowing as yet when it will be safe for our church buildings to open again, our President has been calling for churches to be reopened saying they are essential services.  We may agree that churches are essential but I know I for one disagree with his call to open up our buildings for gathering.  Here is one of the best responses I’ve read to Donald Trump’s urging that the Churches open “right away, this weekend” from the Bishop-elect of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Missouri, Deon K. Johnson:

“The work of the church is essential. 

The work of caring for the lonely, the marginalized, and the oppressed is essential. 

The work of speaking truth to power and seeking justice is essential. 

The work of being a loving, liberating, and life giving presence in the world is essential. 

The work of welcoming the stranger, the refugee and the undocumented is essential. 

The work of reconciliation and healing and caring is essential. 

The church does not need to “open” because the church never “closed”. We who make up the Body of Christ, the church, love God and our neighbors and ourselves so much that we will stay away from our buildings until it is safe. We are the church.”

We are the church and we’re gathering this afternoon, despite our building being closed, for worship.  Join us at  12:30 PM 

Saturday May 23

Wow! It is surely a beautiful day.  Bruce, Javi and I enjoyed a little walk and the sun felt divine, birds were singing and the street traffic was non-existent.  There truly are some blessings to be found even in the midst of hard times.  I pray you will keep the eyes and ears of your hearts open to see and hear the marvels that God has created and with which we are truly blessed.  May we today “Devote [ourselves] to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:2

It’s important too for us to remember that even though our building is locked up the church is not closed.  I’m not sure I really understand why some congregations and their leaders are adamantly insisting that their people be allowed back into their buildings for worship, willing to risk the health and even the lives of their people, and consequently to risk the lives too of others they may come in contact with.  The church is not closed because we aren’t able to gather in the building, oh no!  The church is the people of God loving and serving, worshiping and praying, giving and sharing, zooming and calling, texting, writing letters and sending emails, smiling through masks to keep others safe, working from home or hardly working but keeping the faith, giving thanks for creation and caring about all of God’s beloved. . .  Church is happening all over the place and I pray it is touching your life in new and life-giving ways even while we are unable to gather physically in our sanctuary.  We can still gather in the sanctuary of our hearts and we can reach out to one another with prayers and gratitude!     

But we need your help to keep the ministries of our congregation going.  We ask you to remember your tithes and offerings and as you do so I offer this scripture from Paul’s second letter to the Church in Corinth:  

“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 

~2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV) 

I encourage you to pray and ask God how much God wants you to give to your congregation. No amount is too small and we know God can work miracles through your faith and your faithfulness.

You can give online via PayPal here Forest Hill or you can mail a check to 250 Laguna Honda Blvd, San Francisco CA 94116. 

Thank you so much for being the church in these challenging times.

Blessings, 

Susan

And Zoom Worship is tomorrow at 12:30.  Hope you can join us!  Bring along your lunch, or at least elements to share for communion.  

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