Are You Listening?

Our task in the coming season: listen for the Spirit to teach us about how to be faithful followers of Jesus in the ordinary, but difficult times in which we live.

The challenging days in which we live are nothing new: listen to this prayer from The Dark Ages (7th century).

Hear us O never-failing Light, Lord our God, our only light, the fountain of light…May our souls be lamps of yours, sparked and illuminated by you. May our souls shine and burn with the truth, and never go out in darkness and ashes. May we be shining from your light, may our lamps be burning and not be extinguished. Being filled with the splendor of our Lord Jesus Christ, may we shine forth inwardly; may the gloom of sins be cleared away, and the light of perpetual faith abide with us.

Listen to the associated sermon.  Click here.

Blessing The Arrival of a New Year

Dear Church Family!

One of my favorite times of the year is the week between Christmas and New Years. I love the slower days, the rest, time to reflect, and play with friends! I enjoy blessing God for the year that passed while simultaneously welcoming the new one coming in. Each day I spend a few moments with God scanning my memory of people, events, and work done and not yet completed as I receive the goodness, learn from heartache and review my spiritual progress in God. I attempt to process areas where I noticed weakness and struggles, or stumbled in sin and stinginess. As I do, I bless God for being “with me” in and through it all. I practice the art of saying “good-bye” and of “mourning losses.” I welcome the grace of forgiveness and bless those who listened well, embraced me and encouraged with wisdom. I often journal so I can develop an awareness of every gift, even the ones wrapped in darkness and hurt.

At this time I also welcome the uncertainty of the new year. Most don’t like uncertainty, I struggle with it a lot! However, this is precisely where I lean into the practice of abandoning outcomes, and renounce my desire to safe-guard, control, predict or manipulate in order to secure myself. As I do, it seems to help me trust God: his love, his capacity to keep me from this moment and forever more (Ps.121). In these days of reflection and prayer, I receive this truth more deeply: God is with me. God was with me. I trust God will be with me in the days to come – The One Who is, Who was, Who is to come!

These practices of blessing what’s passed and what’s to come: saying good-bye, mourning loss, reflection, and welcome often helps to tend the soul in wisdom, discernment, and expansive faith. I fumble around mostly…but I give it a go each year. I’m not a goal-setter, and generally I don’t naturally like to “plan” too far ahead. However, I do try to cultivate my spiritual “sight” by envisioning a life in God and developing my imagination to explore the vastness of God’s grace and truth in concrete ways in my life!

I value our past year together! We’ve experienced a lot this year, both in our church community and in our individual lives! Many struggles, changes, hurts, losses and celebrations with great joys! And all those new babies too! Wow…what a year! I embrace the many ways we’ve grown in God and together in friendship.  I’m grateful for each way I could serve you and how you thoroughly supported and encouraged me! I hold you in my heart with deep admiration for the many ways you’ve radiated the love of Christ to me and within our community. Bless you!

My encouragement and prayer for our church family comes out of Philippians 4:

Therefore my friends, whom I love…my joy and crown,
stand firm in the Lord, my beloved…
Rejoice in the Lord always…Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.
The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer ans supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will
guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I close with a blessing for the coming New Year by John O’ Donohue. May it nurture your New Year’s celebrations as it has mine!

Grace and peace to you in Jesus!
Elizabeth Khorey

The particular mind of the ocean
filling the coastlines’s longing
with such brief harvest
of elegant, vanishing waves
is like the mind of time
opening us shapes of days.

As this year draws to its end,
we give thanks for the gifts it brought
and how they became inlaid within
where neither time nor tide can touch them.

The days when the veil lifted
and the soul could see delight;
when a quiver caressed the heart
in the sheer exuberance of being here.

Surprises that came awake
in forgotten corners of old fields
where expectation seemed to have quenched.

The slow, brooding times
when all was awkward
and the wave in the mind
pierced every sore with salt.

The darkened days that stopped
the confidence of the dawn.

Days when beloved faces shone brighter
with light from beyond themselves;
and from the granite of some secret sorrow
a stream of buried tears loosened.

We bless this year for all we learned,
for all we loved and lost
and for the quiet way it brought us
nearer to our invisible destination.

Table Blessing

To your table
you bid us come.
You have set the places,
you have poured the wine,
and there is always room,
you say,
for one more.

And so we come.
From the streets
and from the alleys
we come.

From the deserts
and from the hills
we come.

From the ravages of poverty
and from the palaces of privilege
we come.

we come.

We are bloodied with our wars,
we are wearied with our wounds,
we carry our dead within us,
and we reckon with their ghosts.

We hold the seeds of healing,
we dream of a new creation,
we know the things
that make for peace,
and we struggle to give them wings.

And yet, to your table
we come.
Hungering for your bread,
we come;
thirsting for your wine,
we come;
singing your song
in every language,
speaking your name
in every tongue,
in conflict and in communion,
in discord and in desire,
we come,
O God of Wisdom,
we come

© Jan L. Richardson.

One Vocation – Serving Others

Most Protestant look back to the Reformation as their theological touchstone. But we often wrongly think that the Reformation was only about doctrine, primarily justification by faith through grace.

Actually, the Reformers were looking for a new kind of Christian life. They were disappointed by much of medieval spirituality and church life. They were looking for a version of the gospel that would produce sincere holiness and be a blessing to every village.  Speaking of the English reformation, historian Stephen Neill explains, “They were convinced that the new understanding of the Gospel, with it’s appeal to the whole man, mind, and conscience and will, could bring about that inner reformation that to them was more important than any change in ritual or in the organization of the church.” The Reformers were looking for a change that benefited others. They thought that Christians had one vocation, to be a saint for the sake of serving others.

The layman also is called to be a saint. [T]he place in which he must work out his saintliness is the home, the bank, the factory, the dock, the field, . . . and if he has understood his vocation, he can be sure that God will be as much with him there and he is with the priest saying [the benediction] in church. ~ Anglicanism by Stephen Neill

Excerpted: Giving Church Another Chance – Todd Hunter, p.149