(Video is back online for those who wanted to share it or watch it again!)
Our Lenten Journeys Begin!
Thank you all for your patience in uploading today’s worship video. Rural internet is indeed my Lenten wilderness to deal with. Vowing to find the God moments amid the frustrations. What can I learn from this? Hmmm…perhaps to trust in God’s timing?
I will search and grapple to find a solution to high speed internet, but for now, that can wait. What deserves my attention (not just now, but always) is praising God. So join me here at the farm on this the first Sunday in Lent.
Scripture Lesson: Mark 1:9-15
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
Today’s worship, Feb. 21, will be delayed. I am experiencing internet glitches here at Old Stone Well Farm (ah, life in rural America). But that is not going to stop us from worshiping!
Let us embrace this time of waiting as a Lenten spiritual practice. Light a candle and meditate on the words from Psalm 25:4, “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.”
Then turn to Mark 1:9-15, our Scripture for today, and think about the wild beasts you confront in the wilderness and how reassuring it is that there are angels in the wilderness to wait on us. Spend some time reflecting on this picture below which is an outtake from the worshi that is still only 45% loaded even though it’s been loading from more than 13 hours. 🙂 Who have been the angels by your side?
(On a side note, while frustrated that the video loading process is slower than molasses, I do have to admit that this could be a God moment about trust, patience and slowing down. Stay tuned.)
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved;with you I am well pleased.”And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
Today is Ash Wednesday. Our Lenten journey begins. I invite you to find some quiet time today to join me from my 18th century farm in Vermont and reflect on this day.
Reflect on our need for forgiveness. Reflect on just how fleeting this life is and how much time we spend wasting the precious time we have been given.
Reflect on God’s great love for you. There is a time to impose the ashes as well. If you don’t have ashes, find some dirt (that is, if you aren’t in an area covered with snow or ice!). Or even get a little bowl of water or oil to make the sign of the cross on your hand. If you don’t have anything, simply tracing the sign of the cross on your hand is powerful in itself.
Share with others as it is my hope that many will truly enter into this Lenten season, searching more deeply for God and drawing every closer to Him. Blessings!
Scripture Reading: Psalm 51
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment. Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me. You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness, let the bones that you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right[b] spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing[c] spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. Deliver me from bloodshed, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, then you will delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar.
It’s Valentine’s Day at here at Old Stone Well Farm in Vermont, and in a world lacking in love and lacking in hope, we find our hearts renewed by remembering God is always giving us something to hold on to as we see in the Scripture lesson of Jesus’ transfiguration — a divine spectacle that confused and dazzled his friends. Little did they know it was the very thing they would need to keep the faith when walking the valley of life’s challenges and strife.
So, pour yourself a cup of coffee or brew some tea and spend this special day with me. And for those who like trivia, we begin with how Valentine’s Day came to be. And keep on the lookout because Rev. (my cat) also makes an appearance.
Blessings, Pastor Donna
Mark 9:2-9 NRSV
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one[a] on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings,[b] one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
The season of Lent has traditionally been a time to give up something, to deny ourselves that which gives us pleasure, such as chocolate or binging watching TV. In my time in ministry, I have seen the 40-day penitential season, that invites us to walk with Jesus to the Good Friday cross, focus less on denying and more on “giving” of our time, treasures and talents to others.
This year, though, as the season I have so often embraced approaches — it has always been a time for me to go deeper into my soul searching and listen more attentively to the Holy Spirit’s hopeful whispers in my ear — I find myself just wanting to give up. Not chocolate. Not binge-watching TV. Not on anything that can be labeled a gluttonous sin. Just GIVE UP. Period. I don’t even want to do the painful soul searching that has always led to new life come Easter morning.
Before anyone suggests that I call a suicide hotline, I am not talking about giving up on life. Well, maybe I am — in a way. I am ready to give up on the life that I see so many being sucked into — including me. It is a life that has me concerned. It is a life where even brothers and sisters in Christ are so quick to spew forth their opinions without concern if they are valid or not. It is a life where we seem to take pleasure in accusing others of cheap grace while all the while throwing around unmerited condemnation.
If someone disagrees with someone there seems to be no space for grace for that differing viewpoint. If someone is deemed as not doing enough to dismantle racism or address system poverty or dares to remain silent when it comes to a controversial issue, they are all too quickly labeled as part of the problem in society.
I am not saying that there isn’t any work that needs to be done. There is a ton of work to do when it comes to building a beloved community where there is a place at the table for all and where everyone has a chance to speak and be listened to. But in working towards that beautiful never-ending banquet table, something is going awry. And I wonder?
Does anyone else see what I am seeing? Am I the only who is noticing that the never-ending banquet table where all are invited to pull up a chair is becoming the very table that we say we are trying to dismantle? Don’t sit near me if you disagree with me or worst yet take your chair and go create another table of like-minded people.
Voices are being silenced out of fear of retribution or out of fear of being misunderstood or out of fear of being mislabeled. I hesitate to name some of those labels for fear of the very thing I write — fear of being slammed or shunned. Is this fear healthy? No. It isn’t. It makes me wonder how many people with good hearts are deciding to opt out of the fight for justice all because the lack of grace and mercy we are seeing at that very table of grace and mercy we say we want?
As Lent approaches I find myself feeling like I just want to give up. And Sunday’s Super Bowl’s almost made me do just that. I will admit, I didn’t watch it. It’s just not the thing in my household. But the next morning, when I saw on social media outlets of those who are Christian leaders slamming Bruce Springsteen and the Jeep commercial as an example of white supremacy, I thought more seriously about a cabin in the woods and off the grid. I am not defending the commercial. Not at all. After watching it, there was many things that could have been done differently and many things that should have been edited out, like the cross and flag mingling together. (Don’t get me going with why the American flag has no place in our sanctuaries. I will be more than happy to engage in a healthy conversation about that another time.)
What rattled me the most, though, were not the creative decisions from some ad agency trying to sell more Jeeps. What rattled me were that the critiques from Christians on social media had an edge to them. The critiques seemed laced with judgment. One such writer mentioned how the very use of the phrases “common ground” and “meeting in the middle” were white supremist codes.
Really? Because I still believe in trying to find our commonality. I still have hope of not exactly meeting in the middle, but in at least trying to walk towards one another so that we find that point of connection. What I read didn’t lead us in walking toward the other. Rather it made the distance between us even greater.
Social media critiques have become dangerously toxic, doing the very thing we say we don’t want done: Keeping us divided. As one openly evangelical blogger who weighed in on the Jeep Super Bowl debacle said: The commercial revealed the most disturbing thing, that is even our divisiveness is divisive.
I guess what bothered me was that there wasn’t anything constructive in the criticisms flooding social media outlets. It was simply bringing up all that was wrong with the commercial and how Jeep failed and how Springsteen needed to repent, etc. (By the way, the need for repentance is constructive, but not when it is done with a finger pointing at someone.)
This Lent was beginning to look like one in which I just wanted to give up. I was ready to tell my husband when he came home from work that we would be moving into the woods and off the grid because civilization has lost its civility. It was Diana Butler Bass, a writer on American religion and society, though, who saved my husband from a life without Netflix.
It was Bass who restored my faltering heart. And she did so with a thoughtful and constructive critique on the Jeep ad. It didn’t condone the choices Jeep made, but it didn’t attack the company either. It brought up the many marks the company missed and did so in a way that wasn’t laced with venom. It was edifying. It is an example of how to dialog — and disagree — with grace and mercy.
Grace and mercy. Hmmm. Perhaps grace and mercy are the very things we have lost, the very things we have chosen to give up somewhere along the way on our faith journeys? Perhaps they are what we need to restore in our lives this Lenten season. Grace, yes. And especially mercy.
Ann Lamott defines mercy in her book, “Hallelujah Anyway” as compassion, empathy, a heart for someone’s troubles. She also writes that mercy is something we find in the most unlikely places, “never where we first look.” If we keep looking for mercy among those in the church, I am afraid, by the things I see on social media, that we might not find it right now. We might have to look elsewhere.
For those who are interested, here is the link to Diana Butler Bass’ Jeep ad rebuttal.
I’ve started to plan my garden here at Old Stone Well Farm. It gives me hope to think about new life bursting forth from the ground while my garden beds are still covered with snow.
But as I was planning, I thought about Paul’s words to the church in Corinth and began thinking about a thing call “companion planting” where some plants grouped together actually help one another thrive. What would happen if we really were companions to one another, really helping to bolster each other rather than tear down? What was Paul really saying when he said he can be all things to all people? And why does it matter to hear his words today? After the week I have had (many weeks in fact) I found Paul’s words so revealing.
Today’s message is straight from the heart and I share some of the struggles I have been going through. I share some thoughts about how we treat one another, especially on social media, and how we can move forward in this world being companions to one another so that we can flourish rather than wilt and wither away.
Today’s Reading: 1 Corinthians 9:19-23
For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law.To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.
Today we observe the church celebration known as Candlemas. Candlemas, observed on Feb. 2, was traditionally the end of the Christmas season. It marks the 40 days after Jesus’ birth, when Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple to be presented as according to Jewish customs. Thus, this day is also known as the Presentation of the Lord.
Since Candlemas was also a time when folks would bring their candles to the pastor to be blessed, I spend the day here at Old Stone Well Farm trying my hand at making candles. It’s not easy — and it takes a lot of patience. As I made the candles, I thought about the patience of Simeon and Anna who waited in the temple patiently for many, many years, praying and praising God, hoping to see for themselves, with their own eyes, God’s salvation.
How patient are you? Especially when waiting for God to reveal the hope and the light you are seeking? Let us worship together!
Our Scripture lesson for today is from:
When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon;[a] this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon[c] came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant[e] in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
Oatmeal cookies and a basket of love … join me today as I remember an amazing woman of faith who reminded me always of what really mattered in this life. Pour a cup of coffee, brew some tea or add some marshmallows to a mug of hot coco and let us be in the present of God, together, on a cold January day in Vermont.
And remember to have a bowl of water handy as we begin our time by remembering our baptisms.
Today’s Scripture Lessons
Psalm 62:5-12 NRSV
For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him.He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is in God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Those of low estate are but a breath, those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath.Put no confidence in extortion, and set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, do not set your heart on them. Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God,and steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord. For you repay to all according to their work.
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.
I have been thinking a lot about trees lately. And so when I read John’s Gospel for this time of worship together, I couldn’t help but to wonder what was the significance of the fig tree that Jesus saw Nathanael sitting under? So let’s explore together — and even spend some time contemplating God’s ways underneath my apple tree here in Vermont. There is also a special announcement about Ash Wednesday, which is Feb. 17, at the end of the video. So, stay tuned…
Let us begin our time of worship!
Blessings, Pastor Donna
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you,you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
NOTE:Before we worship together, have a bowl of water ready so that you can dip your hands in it for our reaffirmation of baptismal vows at the end of the video.
While many observe Epiphany as a one-day celebration, I observe this day on the church calendar as a season, starting on Jan. 6 and running till Ash Wednesday.
In these weeks, I like to challenge us to see Christ among us — where do we see the light of revealing God’s work? I was reminded, though, this past Wednesday, that the light that shines reveals the very things we want to remain hidden.
This past week truly was an Epiphany — a sad, startling epiphany moment — revealing our sins. The story of the Magi, a crazy diabolical leader fearing the loss of power, the need to go another route, became all-too real. That Scripture coupled with today’s readings from Genesis, reminding us that the first thing God did when bringing order to the cosmic chaos was to say “Let there be light.”
And then we go to Mark’s Gospel and hear about Jesus’ baptism and are reminded that in order to emerge from the water as a new creation, one must first confess their sins. The light is shining. The light is revealing what we have long tried to keep hidden. The light, if allowed to shine, will bring order to chaos. The light from heaven wants to shine upon us, but only if we dare to reaffirm our baptismal vows, renouncing evil and to commit to the work of light shining.
Please share today’s time together at the farm with all those you feel will be blessed by it.
Our readings are:
Genesis 1:1-4 (NRSV)
In the beginning when God created[a] the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.
Mark 1:4-11 (NRSV)
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals.I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with[c] the Holy Spirit.” In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”