Amazing Worship last week (November 22) as we celebrated our 153rd Anniversary with Rev. Diane Weible (our new Conference Minister). Diane led us in a timely reflection based on Matthew 6:25-33 as we related this passage to our worries about recent events, illnesses and other life experiences.
Jazz Gorilla played before and after worship as well as accompanying hymns during the service. As you can see, their music was so upbeat and exciting that some of us just had to get up and dance!
And…best of all, Tyler and Sue Ann Yarbrough have officially joined us. What a blessing it was to officially welcome them “into the fold”.
All of this, of course, followed by some great conversations and a delicious turkey dinner and pumpkin pie cake!
A desperate, unwed, teen mother taught me the true meaning of the Cross.
Teresa grew up in the impoverished West Side of inner city Denver. Like many families in her community, her family is ensnared in generational poverty and generational abuse. She came to me to find housing after her child’s father abandoned her– but her needs far exceeded shelter.
Teresa poured out her life story to me, sobbing in grief, bewilderment and rage.
She had a tumultuous childhood, living with a mother who struggled with addiction. During her childhood, a cousin and her mother’s boyfriend sexually abused her repeatedly. When she was 11, her stepfather, her one source of emotional support and safety, left the family; she was devastated and plunged into self-destruction through drugs and alcohol.
She dropped out of high school when she got pregnant, but since the birth of her daughter, she has been struggling to turn her life around and to establish a stable foundation for her child. Teresa’s fierce love for her daughter is so remarkable. No, it’s mind-blowing—life-shaking.
Violence is woven into the fabric of life in Teresa’s community. Because that violence is unacknowledged, suppressed and untreated, it gets passed from generation to generation. Suffering people who were abused, knowing no other way to discharge their anguish and pain, become abusers.
The sins of the fathers are engrained in their children, and their children, and their children.
Teresa is the inheritor of that violent legacy and has suffered its effects in her body and being. But Teresa is determined that the transmission of violence will end with her. She cried out, over and over, “My daughter will not have the life that I had!” Teresa resolved that her daughter will not be abused, will not be abandoned, will not be mistreated—that she will be cherished, protected, believed in, and supported.
The depth and difficulty of Teresa’s resolution are staggering, as are its profound ramifications. Her body and being are battered by violence, and its effects tragically distort her life. But she is electing heroically not to transmit that violence to others. She absorbed the violence, and in the searing crucible of her suffering, she is turning it into love.
Teresa is, in her own life and body, halting the transmission of anger and trauma, by choosing to respond to violence with nonviolence. She is transmuting the deathly power of violence into the quickening power of new life and new ways of being together.
Isn’t that what Jesus did on the cross?
He took the terrible power of human violence and broke it. Broke it in through his own broken body and unbroken spirit. He suffered all of the horror and trauma that a violent, insecure, retributive world could wield. He took the terrible power of human violence and broke it. Broke it in through his own broken body and unbroken spirit. He suffered all of the horror and trauma that a violent, insecure, retributive world could wield.
But he did not return violence for violence, did not
reciprocate violence to the perpetrators or pass it on to others.
He met violence with nonviolence, vengeance with grace, blind reenactment with intentional new life. He endured the violence that was inflicted upon him, and through the redemptive power and love of God, he transfigured it into reconciliation and renewal.
A Christ figure walked into my office.
Her suffering, courage, passion and love shook me to my core, and shattered my superficial and complacent beliefs – (Or were they non-beliefs?) – about the harsh and transformative reality of the cross in today’s world.
I salute her in awe, heartbreak and gratitude.
Anne Kleinkopf works at Denver Inner City
Parish, a wonderful human services organization that serves some of Denver’s poorest communities. She is also a wife, mother, friend, community activist, and general life-seeker.
Welcome to Worship! I will again be with you in Spirit but not physically, as I continue my recovery at home. I want to share a few thoughts with you tonight as you gather:
On November 22nd, we celebrate our next Community Sunday, during which we will hear from our new Conference Minister, Rev. Diane Weible, AND welcome into membership Tyler and Sue Ann Yarbrough. We also will be celebrating our 153rd Anniversary. I hope to be back among you and hope that you will be with us if you can.
I have had some experiences during this recovery time in which our community has been very close to me. I want to assure you that your prayers have been a palpable part of my healing. This experience reinforces my belief that we actually can connect with one another, and the world, in a direct way through God and prayer.
The Quakers often speak of ‘LEADINGS.’ These are invitations from the Holy Spirit to stop and consider a new idea. I have experienced three such occasions involving the ministry at First Church during this time at home and look forward to sharing them with you when I return.
As you begin your worship tonight, know that I am taking the same hour to hold you all in prayer, and I thank you again for your love and faith.
How do we make our walk match our talk? How do we live out all the promises we have made to God?
I heard about this guy named Jerry from the mountains of North Carolina who went with a group to Alaska to hunt grizzly bears. Jerry seemed supremely confident, so, that night, as they sat around the fire in their rented cabin, Jerry bragged about how, back in North Carolina, he learned how to hunt bear without a weapon. His fellow hunters laughed at him, knowing that the grizzly was one of the fiercest animals on earth. After a good night’s sleep, they were in the kitchen fixing breakfast when Jerry walked through, stretching. He said, “While you guys are fixing breakfast, I think I’m gonna go catch me a bear.” They all warned him to wait, or at least take a gun, but Jerry insisted that he knew what he was doing.
He had been gone only 15 or 20 minutes when they heard an awful racket outside. They went to the window and saw Jerry tearing through the woods with the biggest bear they had ever seen right on his tail. They ran to the door and held it open for Jerry, but, when he got there, he just stepped aside and let the bear run in. Then he slammed the door and yelled, “Y’all skin that one while I hunt for another one.”
Every now and then you actually encounter a person whose actions match their words, a person who walks their talk. We often call them heroes or saints, those women and men whose lifestyles match their values and who answer the call of God with integrity.
Jesus was one of those rare people. That is why, two decades after his death, the Apostle Paul wrote of the example that Jesus left behind:
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, though in the image of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped, but instead became completely empty and took on the image of oppressed humankind and became obedient even unto death.
Jesus became truly human. Jesus became all that humans were created to be. He didn’t grasp at being God, but lived out all that it meant to be a child of God. Jesus showed us what being human could be. There have been other rare souls who sought to follow Jesus’ example, to walk the talk of a Christian, a true daughter or son of God.
Mother Teresa was changing the bandages of a leper when someone said, “I wouldn’t do that for all the money in the world,” and the small woman of God replied, “Neither would I; neither would I.”
So, what would you do for Jesus that you wouldn’t do for money?
President, Hope for Peace & Justice
In my travels around the country, I visit lots of churches. These days, most of them are part of the United Church of Christ. Since one strand of the UCC traces its heritage to the New England-based Congregationalist Church, there are a large number of churches named Plymouth, or Mayflower, or Pilgrim.
Although when we hear the word “pilgrim” many of us think of Thanksgiving, and Plymouth Rock, and things of the past, it seems that there is a new use for the word. Progressive people of faith would do well to see themselves as modern day pilgrims.
Author, teacher and Cistercian monk Father Basil Pennington wrote:
We are all the Pilgrim People. We have passed through the sea and received the Divine directives; we must continue on the journey. Each of us as an individual longs to reach the Promised Land and to enjoy the fullness of the promise, yet it is only as a People, the human family that we can hope to successfully negotiate the journey with all its demands and do it joyfully in our shared love and celebration of who we are as a Pilgrim People.
How different would religion be today if we saw ourselves as people on a journey together rather than as people who have arrived? What if we lived as a people seeking truth, rather than as people who knew truth and were determined to persuade others to our way of viewing life? What would life be like if we traveled lightly rather than encumbered by so many things that we think we “need”?
Christians first were called “People of the Way.” It seems that it might be time to resume that approach to life. Maybe if we lived in the Way and walked together seeking the sacred/divine/holy we people of the Pilgrim Way might find others wanting to join us. Who knows; we might even begin to encounter more of the holy if we became active seekers.