January 27, 2013

A Good Side to Be On

Our pastor, Judy White, recently told the story of a man who was both blind and deaf who insisted on attending church every Sunday. People wondered why he came to church when he could neither see nor hear the service, but  he had a good reason. He said, “I want people to know which side I’m on.”

We all recognize "sides" in our lives as in the known and the unknown, prosperity and famine, and profits and losses, but what side is represented by the man in Judy's story? Label that side anyway you want to, studies reveal that only 20% of Americans attend church regularly.

What happens when the latter gather in community each weekend?

In his farewell to his disciples, Jesus said “I give you a new commandment: love one another; as I have loved you, so you are to love one another.” 

Corporate worship brings together teachers, builders, speakers, musicians,  organizers, administrators and others from all walks of life. Then, as a congregation and in a spirit of love, they become a powerful and dramatic force for good in their communities and throughout the world. They become . . . one body in Christ.

Worshiping together provides an opportunity for everyone to use his or her talents, experience and resources in response to Jesus’ commandment to love each other.

I believe that’s a good side to be on.

January 18, 2013

A Prayer Shawl Ministry

The most recent Parable, Starlight Within Us, began with the first line of a song children learn in church camp: “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.” That phrase introduced the fact that we are all made of stardust.

The lyrics are also about letting your talents and enthusiasm for your faith show in your personality and your actions. People of faith show their love and depth of commitment in many ways including their gifts of time, energy and service.

One of the most creative and unique ways for demonstrating faith in action is through the Prayer Shawl Ministries. At the Bluff Point United Methodist Church that Nancy and I attend, shawls are made of soft washable yarn and are crocheted by our members.  Once completed, a shawl is presented to our congregation in behalf of someone who is in need of comfort and support for any one of many reasons. The possibilities are endless. 

At a Sunday morning worship service, our pastor, Judy White, offers a prayer for the recipient, then each member present, while holding the shawl, also prays silently for the person needing encouragement and strength. Ultimately, the shawl is given to the person in need.  

While the comforting shawl is symbolic of the presence and unconditional love of God, it is also a beautiful representation of the Church at large. People of faith come from many races and ethnic backgrounds  with various ways for worshipping. But we are all stitched together in one loving shawl that covers the world and represents our faith and trust in a Divine Creator.

January 8, 2013

Starlight within Us

In the summer of 1945, I worked at a church camp for children on the west side of the Housatonic River in Connecticut. One of the songs the young campers sang included these lyrics: "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine."

Sixty-five years later, in June of 2010, the Christian alternative pop/rock band Addison Road from Dallas, Texas recorded a song with similar lyrics titled This Little Light of Mine.

Is there really a light within us? The fact is we are made of light, the light of a star.

In an article titled The Star in You, Peter Tyson, former editor in chief of NOVA On Line, made the following observation: 
“Every single atom in your body—the calcium in your bones, the carbon in your genes, the iron in your blood, the gold in your filling—was created in a star billions of years ago. ...All except atoms of hydrogen and one or two of the next lightest elements. They were formed even earlier, shortly after the Big Bang began 13.7 billion years ago.” 
Astronomers estimate there are about 100 thousand million stars in our galaxy alone, and there are millions upon millions of other galaxies. Astronomer, astrophysicist and author Carl Sagan defines the vastness of space in this phrase: 
"The total number of stars in the Universe is larger than all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the planet Earth." 
The fact is the heavens above are aglow with the light of countless numbers of stars, yet we need look no farther than ourselves for starlight within us. He who created the majestic light that fills the heavens above took that light and created you and me.  As Sagan wrote: 
"Our planet, our society, and we ourselves are built of star stuff." 

January 1, 2013

Healing the Broken Hearted

When my granddaughter Lindsey Albertson was two or three years old, the red balloon she was holding suddenly burst. Moments later, she came to me with the limp piece of rubber in her hand and said, “Here, Grandpa. Fix it.” 

I could not explain why her balloon burst, and I could not “fix it,” but I could comfort her. 

Like so many others, I have struggled to understand why precious children and adults in Newtown, Connecticut and Webster, New York were suddenly and tragically taken from their loved ones and friends by demented and deranged madmen. Even if we could explain it, nothing will bring them back. Nothing we say or do will “fix it.” 

But people in both communities and around the nation are providing comfort and support in overwhelming numbers to those who mourn. They are giving of their time and resources and reaching out in a spirit of unconditional love to heal the broken hearted and bind up their wounds.

In his first letter to believers, John the Apostle writes:
“Though God has never been seen by any man, God himself dwells in us if we love one another; his love is brought to perfection within us.”
While some people who comfort those who mourn may not think of themselves as servants of the Lord, their acts of love suggest a presence of God and a goodness that comes from the heart, where God resides in each one of us.   
 "Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted."   Matthew 5:4