Easter Breakfast “Club”

Saturday April 23, 2011

Uptown Chicago Grill (2nd & Maclay Streets)

9:30 am

Not actually a club, but St Paul’s members, families and friends meeting for good food and lively conversation.  No agendas – no meetings!  Bring your family and friends along – all are welcome.  Start out your busy Easter Weekend with a great breakfast in a friendly atmosphere.

Most Saturdays at 9:30 you’ll find two or three neighborhood St Paul’s members eating there so you are welcome to breakfast with us any time it fits in your schedule. Just tell the staff you are from St. Paul.  They’ve come to expect us.



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Published in: on April 13, 2011 at 1:46 pm  Comments (1)  

Church Events for May

2nd Annual Walk for St. Barnabas

Saturday May 14, 2011

9:00 am

Fund-raising walk to benefit St. Barnabas’ after-school and summer programs. For more information on how to be a participant or a sponsor please contact Linda Cummings 957-2629 or Mary Murphy 773-2806


Breakfast “Club”

Saturday May 14, 2011

Uptown Chicago Grill (2nd & Maclay Streets)

9:30 am

Not actually a club, but St Paul’s members, families and friends meeting for good food and lively conversation.  No agendas – no meetings!  Bring your family and friends along – all are welcome.  If you aren’t able to be in the St. Barnabas Walk consider joining us for breakfast OR stop by after the walk. Most Saturdays at 9:30 you’ll find two or three St Paul’s members there so you are welcome to breakfast with us any time it fits in your schedule.

Published in: on April 13, 2011 at 11:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Services for Holy Week and Easter

Palm Sunday- April 17

Beginning outside with Palm Branch Procession into the Sanctuary and dramatic reading of the Gospel

Coffee Hour follows Service

10:oo pm

 

Maundy Thursday – April 21

Service with foot washing and stripping of the Altar

7:00 pm

 

Good Friday – April 22

Good Friday Liturgy

12:00 noon

@St Andrews in the City (1854 Market Street, Harrisburg)

Stations of the Cross

7:00 pm

 

Easter Vigil – Saturday April 23

with baptisms

7:00 pm

 

Easter Sunday – April 24

10:00 am




 


Published in: on April 13, 2011 at 11:00 am  Leave a Comment  

New Mercies Part 3: There is Hope

Hope

Hope (Photo credit: bitzcelt)

 

New Mercies:

 

A Lenten Study of Lamentations

 

Session III – March 30, 2011

 

There is Hope

 


 

“Yet I call this to mind and therefore I have hope:

 

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions (mercies)  never fail.

 

They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

 

I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’

 

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, the one who seeks him;

 

It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord”

 

— Lamentations 3:21-26

 

A new character emerges in Chapter Three – “The One” or “The Man.”

 

  • Verse 1 – “I am the One (or in some translations as “the Man”) who has seen affliction…”

 

  • Hebrew word for this One or this Man is geber or gabar.  It is a strong word, a masculine word, meaning defender of the weak, women and children. It has Military connotations.
  • Word occurs again in Verses 27, 37 & 35
  • As if he rushes onto the scene to say “I’m fresh from the battle  – “I’ve seen it”
  • “To see” in Hebrew means the same thing as “to experience”

 

  • Verse 2-9

 

  • The geber begins to rant
  • Uses language of entanglement “He has walled me in….” “He has barred my way with blocks of stone…”

 

  • Verse 10-20

 

  • Rant continues
  • Here’s what God has done to me…
  • Geber says, “I’ve been to the scene of destruction and God is not there”
  • Seems to be blaming God – “…my splendor is gone and all that I hoped from the Lord.”

 

  • Verse 21-29

 

  • A change happens
  • I still have hope
  • “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him…”

 

What is going on here?  Is this a God who goes around making people’s lives miserable or is this a God of hope?  Which is it?

 

Some Questions to Consider:

 

  • What does this chapter say to you/us?
  • Which God do you see here – A God of horror or a God of hope?
  • How do you (or can you) relate to hope and horror standing side by side?
  • Can you have both doubt and hope?
  • Do you know a geber?  Have you ever been like the geber rushing onto the scene, having seen (or experienced) and then ranting (protesting/resisting/lamenting) for yourself or another?
  • Have you ever felt bereft or deprived of peace? How easy was it for you to wait quietly for God when you are in that place?

 

In our discussion we were struck by some of the language.  Verse 15, “He has filled me with bitter herbs and sated me with gall” reminded some of what Christ was given on the cross during his crucifixion.  Others were struck by the picture painted in the next verse “He has broken my teeth with gravel; he has trampled me in the dust.”  Being forced to eat gravel or having your face pushed into the dirt is certainly not pleasant.  Several of us had the experience of eating a sandwich at the beach that might have gotten some sand in it.  We shivered at the thought.  When I was in training as a VISTA volunteer in the 1980’s I remember one of the trainers sharing some of her Peace Corps stories.  She had been in Africa, I no longer remember what country, and her village always received bags of rice with stones in it.  Despite their best efforts to pick out all the gravel occasionally some would make it into the food.  It was the cause of much of the dental problems of the village and she had to have a tooth or two repaired when she returned to the United States.

 

Kathleen O’Connor in her book Lamentations and the Tears of the World calls this third chapter the theological heart of Lamentations.  When we meet the gebar we are meeting someone with something called an “entangled theology.” Hope and horror stand side by side. Hope and honesty stand side by side. Hope and contradiction stand side by side.

 

We can read it this way:

 

  • God has pierced my heart (verse 13) – God has great love (verse 22)
  • God has filled me with bitter herbs (verse 15) – God’s compassions (mercies) never fail (verse 22)
  • God has broken my teeth (verse 16) – God is good (verse 25).

 

There is ranting and fist shaking and the geber says “it is good to wait quietly…”

 

Can you relate to this?  I can.  I know what this feels like because I’ve lain awake at night crying silent tears, thinking that I’m not a very good Christian, not a very “hope-full” Christian because I’m also feeling humiliation, terror, and deprivation. I have felt “hope-less” because my hope doesn’t measure up. In Lamentations the gebar steps forward and says “I think there might be a God and this God might be good despite all this devastation.”

 

It seems in the modern world we are taught to see hope as the absence of these other emotions – “bitterness and hardship” (verse 5), “bereft” or “deprived of peace” (verse 17), grief, terror, weeping, ranting and fist shaking.  It’s either you have hope or you don’t, You have either have hope or  you have all these other things.  However, in the entangled theology of the gabar hope sits alongside humiliation, bitterness, and deprivation. How do we get to that hope? Is it like being optimistic that things will get better?

 

“Hope and optimism are different,” according to Hope on a Tightrope, a new book by American philosopher Cornel West.  “Optimism tends to be based on the notion that there’s enough evidence out there to believe things are gonna be better, much more rational, deeply secular, whereas hope looks at the evidence and says, ‘It doesn’t look good at all. Doesn’t look good at all. Gonna go beyond the evidence to create new possibilities based on visions that become contagious to allow people to engage in heroic actions always against the odds, no guarantee whatsoever.’ That’s hope. I’m a prisoner of hope, though. Gonna die a prisoner of hope.”  Our group discussion worked with this a bit and while I sided with West, several disagreed with me.  In their opinion hope, especially in the context that West uses it was a little too passive.  Some thought West’s type of hope doesn’t require that we do anything to better or change our situation and that didn’t seem to be what God required in light of Lamentations. A man in our group who serves as a hospice chaplain talked about families who “hope” for a miracle for the one who is dying.  They are not optimistic that great change will happen, but they remain “hopeful” until the end.  What do you think?  Where does the geber fit in that story?

 

Perhaps there is more than one definition of hope.  In Lamentations, in the words of the geber it is possible to have questions and doubts AND have hope. Is that still possible for us today?  A couple of weeks ago a friend and I joined a prayer vigil on the steps of the Capitol the day the Pennsylvania budget was introduced.  Our prayer was interrupted by what sounded like a shofar.  We turned and looked down the step to see several large vans painted with the words “The End of the World is Coming”. The shofar sounds were blaring from the loudspeakers mounted on top.  A short time later Wendi and I were approached by a man handing out tracts about the end of the world which predicted “The Rapture” to happen next month.  We spoke with him for a while asking about his predictions. He expected to be raptured up into heaven on the appointed date and felt sorry for the majority of us who would be left behind.  We explained why we were at the Capitol and asked if he wanted to join us in prayer for the poor.  He muttered that he knew why we were there and turned on his heel and left us.  I read the tracts.  I was urged to throw myself at God’s feet in prayer, beg for mercy and MAYBE, just MAYBE,  God might be merciful to me.  There was little hope in those pages.

 

This man was sure he knew the date of the end of the world.  He insisted that Noah knew, Jonah knew, and now he knew.  It was all so certain. No questions, no doubts, but no hope either, and certainly no waiting “quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”  I wondered aloud to Wendi, “What happens when it doesn’t happen?”  Some churches seem to make a God out of certainty and then what happens when that God gets crushed? What do I/we do now? This doesn’t have to be as radical as predicting the end of the world, but maybe it’s like “I’ll give you a meal, a place to sleep or shoes to wear if you come to chapel and accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior.”   Can I/we/the church give someone the answers if they haven’t yet formed the questions?

 

Are we always defined by our failures, our short-comings, or our sins? Do our sins determine who we are?  Can we move beyond feelings of unworthiness and shame?  Can we move beyond addictions, violence, or bad relationships?   We are reminded in verses 31-32 that we are not cast off by the Lord forever, “Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.” The geber speaks of hope to the Woman, to us “…because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his mercies never fail…there may yet be hope.”  This is a word that can be spoken to anyone.  It is new every morning.  This is a word that a hospice chaplain shared with a family last week.

 

Much of Lamentations is messy, chaotic, entangled, and “doesn’t look good.”  This is a lot like life which is messy, chaotic, entangled and sometimes “doesn’t look good.”  What if healing begins when someone shows up, like the geber and says, “I am the one who has seen affliction?”  Each of us can remember how if feels when some says to us, “I see your pain. I’ve experienced pain.  I know you are hurting.”  Perhaps the journey to peace begins when we show up to be with another saying, “I have SEEN.  I have HEARD.”

 

In Lamentations, similar to Job, God is on trial.  There is much ranting, but unlike Job, God does not speak. There is no happy ending. This book never says “There is going to be a Jesus party at the end.”  In Chapter Three is the most hopeful moment. God’s mercies never fail.  They are new every morning.  God is good to those to those whose hope is in God. There are no explanations or answers.  There are only questions.  I think, on some level, humans want large theological answers.  We want the HERE IS GOD, because that is easier.  Waiting quietly for God’s salvation is harder.  Sitting with the questions, our own or those of others, is uncomfortable.

 

In our gathered group we talked about living in a “fix-it” society.  When we are confronted with pain and suffering our first response is, “How can I fix it?” There is a subtle pressure that to be a Christian is to have all the answers. Spiritual people are able quote just the right bible verse and then are able to fix what is wrong.  This requires a Fix-It God, too.  The group acknowledged that what we are confronted with in Lamentations is the questions – the HOW. Sometimes the FIX IT God doesn’t show up.  Sometimes God is not the God of the faraway “up there heavens” as portrayed in the song God is Watching Us. Instead God is down here buried in the ruble with the rest of us.  What if, sometimes God was more like the God that Joan Osborne sings about, “What if God was one of us…just a stranger on the bus?”  What if we remember this when our souls are downcast and therefore we can have hope? What if we have to be reminded of this by another? Can we accept the divine around us and that God is within us? What if together we find comfort, if together we find God?  Never underestimate the power of presence, the power of our presence with others.

 

Sometimes there is nothing to do, nothing we can do.  All we can do is BE with another.  Nothing will really fix it.  Many years ago I was lamenting (yes lamenting) to my friend Steward about the AIDS virus that would eventually take his life and how we all needed to be working harder to find a cure.  He took me by shoulders and said, “But what I really need is for you to BE HERE with me NOW. If you focus on something else you will miss the time I AM here.  You cannot fix this.”  He wasn’t suggesting that I shouldn’t raise money for AIDS research, but rather than I wasn’t being fully present to him at that moment.  Never underestimate the power of presence.

 

This also calls to mind the Foods Not Bombs people who feed the homeless and hungry on Market Square.  It’s only sandwiches, but they are fully present to those who are hungry.  It doesn’t fix it, but does say, “I have seen.”  I think too of the police officer who was the first responder to Matthew Shepherd, the young gay college student in Wyoming who was beaten, tied to a fence and left for dead. When she arrived she knew that there was little she could do for Matthew, but she sat with him, spoke to him, and was present to him in his great pain. Later, when the Westboro Baptist Church planned to picket Matthew’s funeral, his friend Romaine Patterson organized people to wear white robes and large angel wings.  They surrounded the protesters and shielded Matthew’s family from them.  Neither act was able to “fix-it,” but both were powerful in their presence.  My friend Bob, a retired college psychology professor, now volunteers for the American Red Cross.  He has listened to voices of the 9-11 fire fighters and cleanup workers in New York.  He has listened to the pain of families who have lost everything to wild fires. Bob is not able to fix-it, but he is a man who has seen affliction. Never underestimate the power of presence.

 

My young friend Rachel is very passionate about her faith. She is a talented artist who recently had a show at a local venue. She has spent a lot of time there talking with people about her artwork and what inspires her.  The shop owner, who was a “preacher’s kid,” has fallen away from the church and is not sure if he believes.  This breaks Rachel’s heart.  She wants to bring him back to the church, back to God.  So she talks with him, she brings her guitar and sits in with his band.  Rachel wants to “fix-it.”  While is it hard for her to wait quietly for God to work in this situation, it just may be the power of her presence that God will use here.  There is something truly divine about being fully present to another. Never underestimate the power of that moment. Not just for what it does for another person, but also for how it transforms us.  It is about God being with us and showing us how to be human.

 

Next Week:  The Day After

 

 

Published in: on April 7, 2011 at 12:51 pm  Comments (1)  
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New Mercies Part 2: Who Can Heal Us?

New Mercies

A Lenten Study of Lamentations

Session II – March 23, 2011

Who Can Heal Us?

“What can I say for you?  With what can I compare you, O Daughter of Jerusalem? To what can I liken you, that I may comfort you, O Virgin Daughter of Zion?  Your wound is as deep as the sea. Who can heal you?”

Lamentations 2:13

The conversation by the two characters from Chapter one continues in the second Chapter of Lamentations:

§  Verses 1-15a

  • Narrator – objective reporter describing the scene until verse 11 when he loses his objectivity.  “My eyes fail from weeping; I am in torment within…”
  • At verse 13 this changes again as the Narrator turns and speaks directly to Daughter of Zion.

§  Verse 15b

  • The Crowd is quoted – “Is this the city that was called the perfection of beauty…”

§  Verse 16a

  • The Narrator – continues to speak to Daughter of  Zion

§  Verse 16b

  • The Narrator quotes the gloating Enemy – “…This is the day we have waited for…”

§  Verse 17-19

  • The Narrator – speaks to Daughter of Zion imploring her to throw herself on the mercy of God if not for her own sake then for her children’s sake
  • “…pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord. Lift up your hands to him for the lives of your children…”

§  Verse 20-22

  • The Woman, the Daughter of Zion  – morns that everyone and everything she loved is gone – “…no one escaped or survived; those I cared for and reared, my enemy has destroyed.”

Again, as in the first chapter, God does not speak here.  This chapter speaks of unrelenting pain, suffering, and abandonment:  “swallowed up all buildings,” “flaming fire that consumes everything,” “laid waste his dwelling,” “rejected his altar and abandoned his sanctuary,” Even others who walk by make fun of Daughter of Zion’s suffering.

Some questions to consider:

  • What does this chapter say to me/us?
  • Was there a time when you felt that you’ve lost everything you ever cared about?
  • Do you ever feel that you have “a wound as deep as the sea?”
  • Have you ever, like the Daughter of Zion, looked to God and said “Why me?”  (“Whom have you ever treated like this?)
  • Was there a time when you experienced others making fun of your suffering?  Or making light of another’s suffering or grief?
  • What do you see as the essential question in this chapter?

In our group discussion of the chapter, several things came up for us.  One person noted that in knowing now that the Book of Lamentations is recited at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem he was in awe that a person could/would say this to God.  The language seemed so harsh and not something he ever thought or learned about in his faith tradition.  Another reflected upon 2:15 “…Is this the city that was called the perfection of beauty, the joy of the whole earth?”  This reminded him of those mocking Jesus such as in Matthew 27:40 “…’come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!’”

We were in agreement that the essential question of Chapter Two is found in 2:13, “…Your wound is deep as the sea.  Who can heal you?”  This is THE question that needs to be answered.  Who can heal you? Who can heal me?  Who can heal us?  This question is STILL being asked, everyday and everywhere. In the midst of the ruble in Japan, “Who can heal us?”  In the midst of a refuge camp in Darfur, “Who can heal us?” In the midst of broken relationships, “Who can heal us?”  In the midst of addiction, “Who can heal us?”  In the midst of a health crisis, “Who can heal us?”  We ask, in the middle of all the brokenness in our lives and in the world, whether it is our fault or something over which we have no control, “Who can heal us?” Who can heal me?” “Who can heal you?”  It is the question of the ages.

It is the question we wrestle with as we walk through Lent to the resurrection.  Jesus is the answer to Lamentations.  The Gospels are filled with accounts of the healing power of Jesus, even healing, as Lamentations would describe it, “wounds as deep as the sea.”  However, this raised several other questions for us.

Is there a relationship between the healing we long for and our willingness to step into the presence of God?  Sometimes, in our deepest pain, all we can do is simply give it all up to God.  There is nothing WE can do.  It is all in God’s hands.  There are times when we can’t even ASK, because our “wound is as deep as the sea,” but God knows our hearts.  We have all been there. Several in the group related these times, complete with gestures of raised arms to God. We reminded each other that there is no one on this earth who is too broken, too fragmented, too sinful or too empty to be healed. No one is without value to God.

Is there a relationship between the healing we need, in whatever form that takes, and the community that we belong to?   Is there a connection between the longing for healing and the longing for community?  Often those in need of healing are brought by others to Jesus as in Mark 1:32-34.  Throughout the Gospels crowds surround Jesus and most of the time the healing happens in the presence of others.  The paralytic man in Mark (2:1-5) had to be lowered through the synagogue ceiling by four men in order to be in the presence of Jesus for healing.  While we usually focus on the healed person, I would urge us to also remember the friends or family who went to great lengths to bring them to Jesus.

In the Old Testament in Exodus, as long as Moses held up his arms, Joshua’s fight with the Amalekites went favorably.  When Moses tired and lower his hands the battle turned in favor of the enemy. Aaron and Hur brought a stone for Moses to sit on and then they held up his arms until the battle was won.  He couldn’t do it alone so others came to his rescue.

Several of us had similar experiences.  When I lost a dear friend to AIDS many years ago I felt bereft.  He had been a co-worker and somewhat estranged from his family so he lived with my husband and I until his death.  We missed him terribly and I often felt as if I was sleep-walking.  Even going to church was difficult because there, like at work, I was often faced with “aren’t you over this yet?”  My friends Dody and Becky gently and lovingly urged me to go to church, even when it felt like I was going through the motions of worship.  They were my Aaron and Hur.  They held my arms up until I had the strength to so on my own.  Recently, Becky lost her father, and although she is living in another city now, I am trying to hold up her arms as she navigates through seminary despite her grief.

Another in the group shared the story of having a miscarriage and then a few days later, when she did not attend Sunday worship, was visited by the priest who insisted that, “You should be in church!”  She was in church the following Sunday, but was a bit overwhelmed. It was not so quit a gentle urging. We might need to tread carefully to ensure that we do not push a grieving person before they are ready, remembering that we need to allow them the space to be with the questions.

And a final question arose in light of Lamentations.  Is there a relationship between the healing we long for and our honesty before God?  Does repentance have a role here? Martin Luther, in his first thesis reminded the church that when Jesus said repent “…he willed that the whole of Christian Life should be marked by repentance.”  We struggled a bit with this, noting that sometimes things happen to us because of our sin, but other times the cause of our suffering is beyond our control.  There is a certain segment of the church sends often sends messages that bad things happen because we are bad people worthy only of divine punishment by God.  Such messages can be as wounding as the original traumatic event itself. Sometimes houses burn down, family members die, natural disasters occur, and relationships end, most of which is beyond our control.   Pastor Kate reminded those gathered who had experienced the death of a family member or sexual violence that neither had anything to do with “fault.”  These events were not the result of our personal sins.  As a community we have an opportunity to surround the grieving with a loving buffer against those that would continue to wound the already devastated.  Recently, we have witnessed that locally when the community surrounded the Clouse family to protect them from the vitriol of the Westboro Baptist Church that threatened to picket the funeral of their seven children.

Can Lamentations and the question “Who can heal us?” shape our church community into the kind of church we want to become?  When there are others around us who feel unable to make the trip alone will we be there to bring them to the feet of Jesus to be healed?  Will we be their Aaron and Hur, holding up their arms for victory?  We need each other.  We cannot do it alone.  We are in this together.  Poet Maya Angelou puts it this way:

Lying, thinking
Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don’t believe I’m wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Galatians 6:2 puts it another way, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Thinking of this I turned to the person next to me and said, “I may not have lost a spouse or a child, but we are in this together.  I am here with you.”  She did not experience a sexual assault, but she was there with me.  There is a relationship between our longing to be healed and our living in community.  Thanks be to God!

Next week – There is Hope.

 

Published in: on April 2, 2011 at 3:20 pm  Comments (1)  
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