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Prayers, scriptures, mantras, favorite phrases, and lines from songs can bring us peace and help alleviate some of the anxiety of the day. Whatever is happening in your world just now, remember that you are a beloved child of God.
A couple of weeks ago I taught you a mantra that has been a favorite of mine, especially in times of worry. This comes from the Book of Hours and is called so many different things, but at its core it is simple and centering.
Christ be in my mind and in my thinking,
Christ be in my eyes, in everything I see,
Christ be in my ears and in my hearing,
Christ be in my mouth, in ev'ry word I speak,
Christ be in my heart and in my loving,
Christ be in my life, each moment that I live.
May you sense the presence of Christ today,
In the Piatt house we have 4 cats. They are all pet rescues, and they are family to us. We have Cutie (Caleb’s cat), who sucks a blanket and sleeps on a second pillow on his bed nightly. There are the sisters, Honey, who sleeps on Cam’s legs every night, and Cocoa, who loves to bring us prizes in the middle of the night. Finally, Pumpkin, who is both very naughty and very funny.
I know many of our church family have fur babies in your homes. I also know that some are allergic and appreciate animals from afar. This week I have prayed for families that have lost their precious pets, those who are working on bringing home new ones, and have prayed for healing for those who are visiting the vet.
I am excited to share with you that this Fall we will share together in the Blessing of the Animals. We continue to work on the details of this service, but I want you to be aware that it will be in the near future. As a matter of fact, ever since talking about it this week I have been humming this lovely Anglican Hymn:
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.
Thanks be to God,
The term self-care has been used so much It’s become a bit of a cliché. However, the idea of not only taking care of our neighbors but also taking care of ourselves is not a new one. The Scriptures have always been clear that we are called to love one another, but we are also called to care for ourselves. Jesus took time to be alone to pray. We also hear of being in community with one another, sharing joys and sorrows as part of caring for our souls.
What form of self-care will you practice today? Each person has their own version of what self-care might be. Going to bed on time? Taking time to relax with a good book? Sharing a glass of your favorite drink as you chat with a friend? Take time to be kind to yourself. Memorizing scripture? A dear friend of mine told me years ago that I needed to be gentle with myself. Those words continue to be sage advice on my journey.
My days off are typically Fridays and Saturdays. On Fridays I do my best to schedule something that is good for me. As I write this “musing” I am happy to report that I just returned from one of my Friday self-care appointments. My new mani-pedi looks wonderful, but more important, my soul feels rested and I have done something that helps me feel lovely and relaxed.
I hope that you are able to do something good for you today.
Pastor Becky's Musings 7/1/21
When I received the news that I was being appointed to King Ave effective June 27th, I realized that it would be a good time to take some time off in between churches. Ministry during the pandemic was challenging and exhausting. I wanted to come to our church with new energy and well rested.
During my time “in between” as I have come to think of it, I had a stack of books to read that included a variety of genres. I completed a few but became fond of one in particular that fed my soul. It’s a compilation of prayers entitled “A Rhythm of Prayer: Meditations for Renewal,” written by various authors and edited by Sarah Bessey. Below is one of my favorites. I pray that it may nourish your soul in this day.
Teach Us to Love the World Again by Sarah Bessey
God of herons and heartbreak, teach us to love the world again. Teach us to love extravagantly knowing it may (it will) break our hearts and teach us that it is worth it. God of pandemics and suffering ones, teach us to love the world again. God of loneliness and longing, of bushfires and wilderness, of soup kitchens and border towns, of snow fall and children, teach us to love the world again.
Dear King Avenue Friends,
When I announced my retirement in late September, I concluded with this paragraph,
King Avenue has been the best suited appointment for me. You are the congregation I dreamed of serving when I was in seminary. You are a sanctuary of grace, inclusion, and acceptance. You are the body of Christ representing God’s love in fellowship and mission. You are a place of joy and hope for all people. You also take joy and hope beyond this place to the community and world. You offer God’s grace and peace to all. You share the gift. King Avenue is the high note on which all ministers should be privileged to retire.
I believed that then, and I believe it now.
I celebrate the spirit of King Avenue. I first experienced this spirit during an Inclusive Weekend in 2005. There was an energy here that I had not experienced in other churches. I wanted to bottle it and take it to the churches in my district. It was palpable. People just enjoyed being here. It was infectious.
I celebrate the authenticity of King Avenue. I set to figuring the cause of this spirit. I realized that much spirit is wasted because people spend their energy suppressing who they are. The devote their work and words to pretending they are someone they are not. This inauthenticity kills spirit. Authenticity is being who you are. It rechannels energy creatively. We experience it as spirit. King Avenue gives persons permission to be who they are and who God means them to be. It is very liberating.
I celebrate the diversity of gifts of King Avenue. Since people are allowed to be authentic, they are free to use their gifts without fear. This generates an amazing multiplication of ministries. Art, music, drama, tutoring, prayer, gardening, sewing, visitation, driving, cooking, sorting, storytelling, Godly play, nursery, mission trips, serving, hospitality, humor, vision.
I celebrate the acceptance of King Avenue. The church has a reputation for hospitality and acceptance. You accepted me. When I came here, I feared that my tenure would be short. In essence, I would be a de facto interim pastor. As a former district superintendent, I had seen enough new appointments not work out because the church could not let go of the beloved former pastor and/or the former pastor could not let go of the church. The new pastor would not be accepted. Grayson Atha, the former pastor here at King Avenue, was a very beloved pastor and had been here a long time. In fact, after 15 years, I still encounter people who say, “King Avenue? Isn’t that where Grayson Atha is the pastor?”!
The failure of a church and/or former pastor to let go can be disastrous for that church. Grayson was willing to let go. He graciously made my acceptance by King Avenue much easier. He made it clear that he was no longer the senior pastor and that I would be responsible for baptisms, funerals, weddings, blessings, classes, counseling, calls, and pastoral care. So too shall I follow the same course.
You accepted me as your senior pastor and permitted me to be who I am. You gave me the opportunity to show who I am. I leave with every confidence that you will accept Becky Piatt and Andy Burns as the pastors of King Avenue and allow them to be who they are. They bring rich and different gifts. With you they will lead King Avenue to a bright future of spreading the love of Christ.
I have been incredibly blessed by your spirit, authenticity, gifts, and acceptance. It has been a joyful privilege to have been in transforming ministry with you. It has made me new and alive. I am so grateful.
Then Jesus took them out as far as the outskirts of Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them, he withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven. They worshipped him and then went back to Jerusalem full of joy; and they were continually in the Temple praising God. Luke 24:50-53
This past Thursday, May 13, was Ascension Day. It is observed 40 days after Easter. Since the date of Easter varies, so does that of Ascension Day. Without a permanent date, it is easy to overlook. It is kind of homeless on the calendar. My United Methodist calendar noted it; my Amnesty International and local realtor’s calendars did not. It is more observed than celebrated. There are no special sales, and nothing is closed. Mail will be delivered and parking meters cost. There is little to call our attention to it.
In a world of slow job growth, shootings, pipeline hacking, fears of inflation, worldwide COVID, political party turmoil, graduations, retirements, and moves; does the Ascension of Jesus merit attention? The Ascension is about the Lordship of Jesus. The gospel writers are not making a literal statement; they are making a theological one. Jesus is Lord. Who our lord is always makes a difference. Our lord tells us what the truth is, who we love, how we love. Our lord is the authority in our lives. Power moves us externally; authority moves us internally. Our lord determines the quality of our lives.
That Jesus “goes” up is a statement of authority. We talk of authority as above us. We go up to the statehouse, up to the boss, up to the principal, up to the judge. Those we look up to, are the ones we tend to listen to. We take their word for it; we trust them. If Jesus is Lord, his word and teaching matter. The Sermon on the Mount matters. “Love one another as I have loved you” matters. (John 13:34). We trust him – “and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:20).
That Jesus goes up is a statement of universality. It means he is not limited to any particular people or place. He is not restricted to any one nation. No one can claim him as exclusively theirs. He is not an American, or a Mexican, or Indian, or white, or black, or gay, or straight. He is up; he is over all. He can claim all are his. This means everyone are brothers and sisters. This means we are one. This tells us who we love and how we love. We love all, and we love them as members of our family. Jesus’ talk of reconciliation, affirmation, and forgiveness grows from this universality of lordship. This universality includes the universe too. It means that Christ’s authority is over the land and air and water. They are included in what the lord tells us we love and care for.
That Jesus goes up is a statement of quality. “Up” and words related to elevation tend to connote quality. “Moving up,” “upper percentile,” “higher ranking,” “top 10,” “#1.” Hospitals, schools, teams, businesses, churches, restaurants, cities are proud of their high rankings. No one boasts of being #452. The high rankings are seen as indicators of quality. They are seen as places that improve the quality life. The eternal life Jesus offers has to do with not only the quantity of life, but also the quality of life. What is the point of living forever if one’s life is absolutely hell? Jesus has also to do with the quality of life. Eternal life is what happens not when life ends, but when life begins. Being born again is about the quality of life. The gift of the Spirt is about the quality of life. Persons are qualitatively transformed as new creations, persons of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22). In short, Jesus fills the God-shaped hole in our lives.
In the midst of the events going on this week in May, it is a good and right thing to be reminded of the Ascension. It is uplifting to acknowledge Jesus’ authority which is above all authority. That Jesus goes up, lifts us up. It transforms the quality of our lives.
Be safe and healthy.
Several times this year Bobbie Boucher asked if I had Heather McGhee’s The Sum of Us on my reading list. While the waiting list is long, I was fortunate to find it as a Quick Pick at the Northside Library. I am so glad that Bobbie persisted. In a sentence, the book lays out how racism costs everyone – black and white. The vivid opening example describes how in the 50s and 60s white officials across the country chose to drain their public swimming pools rather than integrate. Whites opted to hurt themselves instead of sharing a good.
McGhee comes at “sum” in a variety of ways. One use of the word is as “zero sum.” It is the belief that, if you are given something, I am deprived of that thing. If you are given a job, I am deprived of one. If you are admitted into a school, I am deprived a place in the entering class. This belief is based on a view that resources are scarce, and I am more deserving than you. Further, it encourages a person to define him/herself as the sum of what she/he has. If I lack, I am less. This can slide into “I have to have more in order to be somebody.” If we have the same, I cannot feel special. Zero sum thinking is integral to racism.
More than that it spawns envy, jealousy, insecurity, injustice, inequality, and inequity in our relationships. Sometimes we want to drain the pool.
The error is zero sum thinking is that is pits the wrong entities against each other. We do not create scarcity for each other. McGhee maintains that the races do better to unite against the causes of scarcity. Blacks and whites must work together for better housing, better schools, better healthcare because both races are hurt by poor schools, poor housing, poor healthcare.
While McGhee does not address religious thinking, zero sum influences it. Can God love both of us the same? If God loves me, God doesn’t love you. God must love me more and love you less. Think of parents and children. If Mom loves you, she doesn’t love me. Somehow Mom’s loving both of us doesn’t make me special. She must love me more or you less for her love to have an impact. If Dad praises you, he must not like me. There is only so much praise to go around. We think Mom’s love, Dad’s praise, God’s grace, are scarce. We don’t see its abundance. This notion of scarcity is the backbone of Jesus’ parable of the Workers in the Vineyard who were paid equally for unequal work. The vineyard owner was abundant and graciously generous. The long-term workers thought they had to be paid more, or the short-term workers less. Otherwise, life was unfair. That all could benefit was not seen as an option.
Another use of “sum” is as addition. We are more because of what and who we add. Sometimes we don’t want to add to the group because we think the extra person(s) will drain our resources or impair the group in some way. We fail to see the resources they bring to the group. McGhee cites numerous examples of how the inclusion of persons of color improves the thinking, social skills, and perspective of a group and the individuals in it. Racism’s exclusion is a group’s hurting itself. White segregation fails to realize that the addition is an enhancement which adds to the sum of who the group is. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is “the sum of us.”
I have long thought that groups become inclusive when they realize that the “outsider” has something of value to offer. This was the genius of the early Church. The mission to the Gentiles increased the sum of the Church. When Paul writes of the parts of the body of Christ, he deals in sums. As the body adds persons, it adds parts and gifts. It completes itself. Each part is necessary. The body could not function without each part. It damages itself when it excludes. The tragedy is that it does not know it damages itself. It doesn’t think it is missing anything. It doesn’t know what it is missing.
Think of King Avenue’s “sum of us.” We are very rich and blessed in the parts of our body. I cannot imagine being church without our recently confirmed youth, our retirees, our homeless, our transgender siblings, our gays and lesbians, our bisexual and queers, our Blacks, our Hispanics, our Asian Americans Pacific Islanders, our musicians, our healers, our pray-ers, our students, our infants, our teachers, our frontline workers, our families, our homebound members. We understand that love is not scarce. It is not zero sum. We grasp God’s abundant grace. We celebrate that God’s love adds and make us more than we are individually. The good of God’s grace is shared. The pool is full. Jump in!
Be safe and healthy.
The following prayer "Children on Mother's Day" is taken from Walter Brueggemann's Prayers for a Privileged People.
We are children today of many mothers,
some of us grateful and glad
some of us cynical and defeated,
all of us living lives that are pure gift
from you and for you.
As we give thanks for our mothers,
so we think of children whom you treasure
and invite close in.
For newborn babies arriving in these restless days,
for children loved and lost awhile -
Joshua, Charles, Michael, Sophie, and world of others,
for children born [weak] and troubled
and loved in their need,
for children infused with napalm and
shrapnel and hate and fire,
for children who know the sharp edge of Pharaoh and Herod,
and a thousand other uneasy men of force.
In the midst of this parade of innocence,
we submit all the treasured children of the world to you,
that they may prosper, and that we may become more fully
your daughters and sons,
children of your commandments,
recipients of your gifts,
bearers of your hope.
You have said, "Let the little children come."
Here we are - yours...
that we may receive your nurture
and your discipline.
This Sunday at the 11am service, we shall celebrate the baptism of our grandson Maddox Marko Keeny. Maddox is the grandson who was born in September. As I proofread the bulletin for the service, my eye moved quickly from the line with his name to the next line with the title of the Baptism Hymn, “Child of Blessing, Child of Promise.” I read it as Maddox Marko Keeny, Child of Blessing, Child of Promise, as if that were his title. I thought, “Yes, that is what Maddox is; he is a child of blessing and a child of promise.
I pulled out the hymn. The words by Ronald S. Cole-Turner are so meaningful and so full of hope.
Child of blessing, child of promise,
baptized with the Spirit’s sign;
with this water God has sealed you
unto love and grace divine.
Child of love, our love’s expression,
love’s creation, loved indeed!
Fresh from God, refresh our spirits,
into joy and laughter lead.
Child of joy, our dearest treasure,
God's you are, from God you came.
Back to God we humbly give you;
live as one who bears Christ's name.
Child of God your loving Parent,
learn to know whose child you are.
Grow to laugh and sing and worship,
trust and love God more than all.
This hymn expresses what I want for Maddox. I want him to be a child of joy and laughter and song and worship. I want him to know that he is God’s child. I want him to trust and love God. I want him to know that he is love’s creation and love’s expression. I want him to love the gift of his life and treasure it. I want him to love what God loves.
Of course, I want that for more children than Maddox. I want that for his sisters Clementine and Penelope, and his cousin Arlo. I want that for his parents and their families. I want it for my family. Don’t we want it for ourselves and those we love?
I have been watching the coverage of the tragic shootings in Columbus and around our country, and the immigration crisis at the border with this hymn in mind. I wonder what hymn was sung at their births. I am sure someone wanted them to be children of joy and laughter, wanted them to know they were love’s creation, love’s expression. I wonder if they knew they were God’s children. I hope so.
I do know this hymn sung at our baptisms calls us to cherish our lives. It calls us to cherish life. It calls us to cherish the lives of all people. It calls us to hope for all people. This hymn is meant for everyone. We are to sing it for everyone so that everyone knows the truth of its words for them. All have the title, “Child of Blessing, Child of Promise.” Wouldn’t the world be better if we saw everyone as children of blessing, children of promise.
Be safe and healthy.
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