After Sunday Thought…

As a pastor, I find myself pondering yesterday’s sermon on what is supposed to be my sabbath — Monday. The sabbath rest never seems to come as there’s always something needing to be done, among them, planning for next Sunday’s worship.

But before I can even be opened to what God is preparing me to say, I need to stop replaying yesterday’s sermon in my head. Yes, I do that.

I have a pastor friend who once told me after said she preaches, it is completely out of her mind. She doesn’t fixate on the perfect quote she wanted to share that she left out. She doesn’t harp on the words she tripped over or the moment she lost her train of thought. She doesn’t even replay the rare and glorious moment when the most heavenly prose comes from her mouth. She prepares. She prays. She proclaims. And when it’s over, she proceeds to her much-need Sunday afternoon nap. By Monday, she is ready to move on.

Ah, to be like her. But I am not. So I invite you to join me for today’s “after Sunday” thought that has been on my mind. Here it is:

While preaching on the woman who pushed through the crowds to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe in order to be made whole, I got to thinking.

We are all that woman in the crowd, aren’t we? We all want to be healed of something, be it physical or emotional. We want to have hope for tomorrow. We want to stop feeling defeated, left out or unloved.

 

Yes, I’m in the crowd trying to hold on to a faith that urges me on with a beautiful realization that even if I am able to touch just a thread of Jesus’ hem, that would sufficient. I don’t need the whole hem.

I’m in the crowd. You’re in the crowd. So are your friends. And the one you love to hate. She’s next to the one who betrayed you.

The immigrant is there, too, holding the hand of a child who is crying. Both are scared. It’s an uncertain future, who wouldn’t be crying? Yet, there is a thread of a holy hem to touch. It’s so close. Reach. Stretch. Do whatever you can to get to it, but please don’t give up.

The person who doesn’t look like you, yep, he is standing right next to you in the crowd. Don’t sigh and get annoyed. He has every right to be there. The one who doesn’t speak English is pressing in as well. The gay, the lesbian, the transgender — they are all there with that woman Scripture tells us about. The woman society deems not worthy of being called by name. The woman Jesus sees as worthy and, as such, claims her name. “Daughter.”

So since we are all in that crowd reaching for the holy hem, let us not trip one another up. Let us not shove one another aside because we think them not worthy. Let us not elbow the other out of the way, because we want Jesus all to ourselves.

Rather, let us lock arms with one another and push toward a better life — a beloved community — together. For there is enough grace, love, help, support, healing — there’s enough Jesus — for all.

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I come to the garden…just one of the many places on Old Stone Well Farm where I can be still and ponder my many ‘after Sunday’ thoughts. 

 

Town Meeting Day in Vermont

It’s Town Meeting day here in Vermont. That time in early March where residents in sleepy hamlets and frozen-in-time villages throw on their barn boots and plod through the mud to get to schools and village offices to speak for against proposed budgets and prospective incoming clerks and supervisors, etc.

I have always been intrigued with Town Meeting day. Why call it a meeting when no one is “meeting” to discuss proposals? Those meetings have taken place—formally and informally—mainly informally in country general stores and of course, in post offices.

Still, Vermonters are meeting.

As I ran errands today that took me on windy back roads, I smiled at the official “Vote for…” signs. Signs written in marker on poster board stapled to a wooden stick. No glossy professional signs like I would see in Maryland where I spent some much-needed time in exile, learning better how to listen and trust God.

Simple signs, but not simple issues.

This year’s Town Meeting day is one that has the potential of changing a way of life so many seek out and desire for their families.

This year’s vote is about school choice in rural communities…well, more like, taking away school choice and merging into larger districts to save money and resources because as “officials” say (not quite sure who these officials are or think they are) rural communities can’t keep going the way they are going with numbers and money shrinking.

I saw the signs today, also written with a black marker on poster board, telling folks to vote no to mergers.

I wonder when the polls close tonight at 10 p.m. what tomorrow will bring?

While I am not able to predict the future, I have a feeling tomorrow will bring a change that many do not want.

So, I sit here as the sun goes down on Town Meeting day in Vermont and think about change—good change and not so good change. Change that challenges us to grow. Change that leads us on. Change that invites us to see just how God can indeed make all things new—whether we like it or not.

God can take dashed dreams, failed attempts, deflated hope and make something wonderful out of it all.

What we must do is trust God in all of life’s changes. Trust God when all seems lost. Trust that whether we win or lose, God is still working in redeeming our lives and our communities.

The other day as I moonlighted at the local paper, I got to interview a woman in one of Vermont’s picturesque hamlets that has been dotted with “No to school merger” signs.imgres

She is planning a pie for breakfast event this weekend. It’s a fundraiser for the library she oversees. After I asked her about what kind of pies would be served and how she came up with this novel idea, she added some very important information that I didn’t think to ask.

She said she schedules this event after the Town Meeting to bring the community together after a contentious vote.

She said it is a reminder that no matter what side folks are on, we are still to be a neighbor to one another. And what better way to remember that and to have fun than while gathering over homemade pies for breakfast?

In a way that Vermont hamlet captures the hope and redemption that I witness in the breaking of the Eucharist bread.

When I as a pastor say the words to all that this is Christ’s body broken for them, take, eat, remember…I am inviting all to remember how Jesus came to show us a better way, a different way forward, a way of loving even when disagreements arise.

No, there won’t be any Eucharist bread being broken at that event. But those Vermonters will still be doing something holy when they break apart the flaky pie crusts with their forks.  For in the breaking of the pie crusts, they are in fact inviting the spirit of unity to fill the room. And, I believe, the Spirit of God will be with them in a powerful and healing way.

It’s Town Meeting day in Vermont. A reminder that change can be hard, but why fear?

We serve a God who changes not. God’s love is steadfast. So is God’s promises for bright hope for tomorrow.

I think I will have some pie for breakfast this Saturday.

 

 

 

Day 6—The Gift of a Silent Night

A Little White Church Advent

Come on an Advent journey and walk the rural roads and snow covered paths with Donna Frischknecht as she shares stories of God’s promises being fulfilled in the most amazing ways. These stories of “Emmanuel”—God with us—were gathered during her time serving as minister in a historic white clapboard church in upstate New York, right on the border of Vermont, from 2007-2013.

4_silentnight_jackdornothingDecember 6

Bible study had wrapped up for the night and as I walked out the church parking lot with the others I couldn’t help but to notice how beautiful the night was. The stars were bright and hung so low it seemed you could actually reach out and grab one. The wintery air, while brutally cold, was still refreshing and I made sure to take a few extra breaths before getting into the car.

Winter was always my favorite season and this, my first winter up north, was indeed one amazing blessing to me. Everything from the bright stars to the crisp air to the crunch of the snow beneath my feet just seemed to be special presents from above.

Once in the car, I turned on the heat and then the radio before pulling out of the church driveway to head home.

As I drove the desolate country roads home, the magic of the night continued when I noticed the sight of some stray cows making their way across the field to join the rest of their bovine family who were already in the barn settling in for the night.

Suddenly “silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright” which was now playing on the radio, took on a new and deeper meaning for me.

As a little girl the words to this Christmas hymn were just that: words. Words that told of some elusive night that one could really only sing about, but very rarely would be able to fully experience.

Silent night, holy night was a fantasy. I grew up in a less than silent suburb where the New York City skyline was in our backyard. Streetlights dimmed the starlight and traffic whizzing by made nights far from holy. And so this dear-to-my-heart Christmas hymn that my father used to sing in his native Swiss German while we lit our family Advent wreath, was right up there with my favorite fairytale—nice to hear, but don’t expect it to come true.

That is, until now. For on my drive home from Bible study I was the recipient of a silent and holy night. The realization was too great for me to comprehend, and an overwhelming sense of God’s grace filled me with awe.

When I finally pulled up to my 18th century Saltbox with only candles flickering in the windows to greet me, all I could do was turn off the car engine, the lights, the heat and the radio and sit in the driver’s seat. I couldn’t get out of the car. I didn’t want to. I wanted to hold on ever so tightly to the silence and holiness that had engulfed me. For all was a beautiful calm and all was brilliantly bright. God’s confirmation that I was right where I was supposed to be was filling my heart.

Earlier that night at Bible study we talked about the gifts God wants to give to us in this holy season. Gifts that are not store bought but rather gifts that come from a heavenly storehouse. The gifts from God to us, God’s beloved, that are meant to bless us and to fill our hearts with joy. Gifts of grace to the one who stands in need of a second chance. Gifts of forgiveness to the one who has crossed a line and who has hurt someone they love. Gifts of healing to the body riddled with disease. Gifts of hugs to the one who is lonely. Gifts of smiles to the one who can’t seem to find anything to smile about. Gifts of a silent and holy night to the one who needed to know God was indeed with her.

I knew I had to eventually get out of the car. But before doing so, I whispered my “thank you” to God and then I made a promise. I promised to always keep my heart opened to receiving the real gifts of Christmas.

And so may this Advent you promise to do the same. Be alert to the real gifts being given to you that are not from a store, but rather come from God’s divine storehouse. And may you find yourself discovering the beauty of a silent and holy night. For it does exist. It is not some fairytale. God is always with us.