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Archive for December 2012

Howard Thurman was a Baptist minister, philosopher, educator, civil rights activist, and an internationally known theologian.  Born in the segregated South in 1899, he was raised by his grandmother, who had once been a slave.  He was a very influential religious leader, and he met and worked with Mohandes Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., among other world figures.  By any measurement, he was a man of stature whose life and work helped to shape the 20th century understanding of faith.  He wrote several books, but when it came to writing the story of his own life, he did not choose to dedicate it to any of the well-known people with whom he had worked.  Instead, he dedicated it to a man whose name he didn’t even know.

It seems that the segregated Florida schools where he lived only went to the seventh grade.  He was a good student, and his family managed to somehow find the money to send him away to Jacksonville, where he could attend high school.  When he got to the train station, he was told that though he had enough money to buy a ticket, he did not have enough to send along his trunk. Thinking his dreams for an education were over, he sat down on a curb and started to cry.  A stranger passed by, and noticing his tears, paid the baggage charge. Thurman never learned the stranger’s name, and his identity has passed into the shadows of history. However, we know that through his one act of kindness, a young man was able to go on, get an education, and live out his call.

Howard Thurman dedicated his autobiography to this unnamed man.  In a time when it seems that there is so little we can do to make the world a better place, it is heartening to know that small acts of kindness matter, and sometimes they matter a lot.  As we continue to celebrate the birth and life of Jesus, Ioffer you one of Thurman’s well-known poems:  The Work of Christmas.  May it call each of us into a deeper, more hopeful engagement in our world.  

Merry Christmas!


   When the star in the sky is gone,
When the Kings and Princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost
To heal the broken
To feed the hungry
To release the prisoner
To teach the nations
To bring Christ to all
To make music in the heart.

 — Howard Thurman

Click here for the 12-26-12 Newsletter


This Sunday , we will light the candle for Peace.  As you go through the remaining days before Christmas, may you know the peace that comes from being loved as you are.  May you experience the peace that transcends the worries of the day and takes root in your heart.  Jesus said, “I have come to bring you peace.”  Take some time this week to turn down the chatter, breathe deeply, and accept the gift.  It is there for you.  Peace.  May it be so.


I have come to bring you peace.
Not the peace of the season, for it is too fleeting,
Not the peace of the carol, for it is nostalgic,
Not the peace of the greeting card, for it is too slick,
Not the peace of the crib, for it is too wistful.
Rather, I have come to bring you peace,
Peace of the ordinary, the daily, the homely,
Peace for the worker, the driver, the student,
Peace in the office, the kitchen, the farm.
I have come to bring you peace,
The peace of accepting yourself as I fashioned you.
The peace of knowing yourself as I know you,
The peace of loving yourself as I love you,
The peace of being yourself as I am who I am.
I have come to bring you peace,
The peace that warms you at the completion of a task,
The peace that invades you at the close of the day,
The peace that sustains you at the beginning of the day,
The peace that reinforces you when you are reconciled
with one another.
The peace that touches you when your family is in order.
Without peace, my coming is unfulfilled.
Without peace, my birth is forgettable.
Without peace, Christmas is a contradiction.
I have come to bring you peace.
© Liguori Publications
Excerpt from Advent –
A Quality Storecupboard
The Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer


Merry Christmas ~ Enjoy the 12-19-12 Newsletter


We don’t know much about Joseph.  We see him in nativity plays looking solemn and protective, but we never actually get to hear his voice.  He listens to the angel, but he does not speak.  He surely must have talked with Mary during their journey to Bethlehem, but there is no trace of his words.  I have often wondered about Joseph,  relegated to the role of patient protector, a supporting part in the story of Jesus’ birth.  Who was he?  What was he like?  Was there more to him than the strong, but silent, man we see standing in the shadows of the story?

There are many legends that grew up around Joseph.  But there is one clue in the Bible that shines a light on him better than anything I have ever read.   Three times in the scriptures, Jesus refers to God as Abba. This affectionate word, best translated as “papa” or “daddy”, gave new meaning to the intimacy and closeness Jesus felt with God.  It is a word that could never be use for a cold or cruel father.  It stands in stark contrast to the stern, judgmental image so often projected on God.  Jesus must’ve learned the meaning of the word Abba somewhere in his growing up, and Joseph must’ve been his teacher.  

Children learn about love from those who are closest to them.  They learn about forgiveness and compassion and home from those who raise them.   When I think of Joseph, I think of  other fathers who inhabit Jesus’ teachings:   the father of the prodigal son, who showed his child that nothing he did could ever be bad enough that he couldn’t come back; or Jairus, the grieving father who went to Jesus for help when his daughter was sick.  These men mirrored what Jesus must’ve experienced in his growing up with Joseph: fathers unafraid to show their love in profound ways.

This week we will light the candle for Love.  As we light it, let us think of Joseph, who is the consummate example of what it means to walk the walk of love.   Let us bask in the light of those people who cared for us, who forgave us when we needed it, and who showed us how to walk the sometimes difficult path of our lives with strength and kindness.  May each of us, in whatever ways we can, embody that kind of love — intimate, constant, and unconditional — for those in our lives.  We may not know much about Joseph, but we know he loved well. Through God’s grace, may that same thing be said about us one day.


Love was meant to be also a sign, a symbol, a messenger, a telltale of the Divine…. Love is a messenger from God saying that every human affection and every ecstasy of love are sparks from the great flame of love that is God. 

— Fulton J. Sheen in From the Angel’s Blackboard 

Newsletter for





To find joy in another’s joy– 

that is the secret of happiness. 

— George Bernanos quoted in Joy by Beverly Elaine Eanes

The angels came announcing “tidings of great joy that will be for all the people.”   It was a promise and an invitation that Jesus’ birth was a gift for the whole world, a gift that would unite individuals and bring them together.  The angels may have spoken to a few individual shepherds scattered across the hillsides, but they were ultimately speaking to all of us who would hear their voices ring through the ages.  Joy!

As we have discovered in our common life, joy is deepened when we share it.  We celebrated that at our 150th anniversary party last month.  To meet new people and hear the stories of so much wonderful work going on around us was a blessing, and it was wonderful to be a part of that work through our gifts and support.  One of the partnership we highlighted was with the Hoover Learning Community.  I hope you got to meet Angie Ibarra and Nubia Reyes, and Nubia’s children Kely and Molina from Hoover.  They represented the staff and families who partner together to provide programs and services for the Hoover neighborhood.  In addition to our initial financial gift, we are committed to working with them as they grow their exciting new program, and learning from them as they create a community of mutual respect and service.

They are in the midst of a Mutual Winter Support Initiative that is in need of some help.  Families at Hoover do many crucial tasks to make the school run more efficiently:  classroom volunteering, office support, policy making, and parent education, to name just a few.  In return, the school tries to provide extra assistance to those families most in need during the holiday season.  They are currently collecting the following and could use our help:

Gift cards ~ (around $25) from Target, Kmart, CVS, or Safeway

Unwrapped toys ~ for children, ages 4 to 14

Warm clothing ~ (no red, please) new or gently used, for ages 4  to 14

(Hats, mittens, rubber boots, coats…)

Food ~ non-perishable items such as canned food, small bags of rice or beans, oil, flour, sugar…

We have only 2 weeks to collect what we can.  We hope that you can share your joy this season by purchasing items listed above and then bringing them by the church office.  We would like to have everything here by Sunday, Dec. 16th. 

In addition, we have been invited to be guests at their Winter Festival on Tuesday, Dec. 18th, from 5:30 to 7:30.  If you would like to carpool with someone from church, just call the office and we will set you up!

Joy — what we have, what we share, what we receive when we come together with others, in love and fellowship.  This Sunday we light the candle for Joy, and we give thanks for all the people who help us live more joyful, connected lives.  Thanks be to God!   


December 5th Newsletter