Monday, December 17, 2018


Advent marks the four Sundays before Christmas.  Each Sunday we light a candle symbolizing our light, Jesus, coming into the world. Yesterday was the third Sunday of Advent, the Sunday of Joy. The first, second and fourth candle on the Advent wreath is purple, a color of repentance and waiting. The third candle is pink, representing the joy we find even in the midst of trials and questions.
We recognize that the holiday season is not as joyful for everyone as we like to pretend. Grief, loss, difficult family dynamics, financial burdens all affect how joyful someone feels. But when we focus on God we realize that we have reason to be joyful no matter what our circumstances may be. We cannot always change the situation we are in. But we can change how we respond to it. If we choose to respond with openness, with humility, acceptance, and gratitude, we can find joy even in the most difficult situations. If we recognize that God is in control and believe that ultimately, God knows better than we do, we can find joy. 
Our youth bell choir played a beautiful arrangement of "Silent Night." Our band sang "Light of the World" by Lauren Daigle: "He is the song for the suffering. He is messiah. The Prince of Peace has come.
He has come, Emmanuel.
Glory to the light of the world.
For all who wait, for all who hunger, for all who've prayed, for all who wonder.
Behold your King. Behold Messiah. Emmanuel, Emmanuel,
Glory to the light of the world."
Music touches us in places that words alone cannot get to. It brings us joy. And it makes us want to move!
We also played the video "Joy" by For King and Country - and we danced! (Watch it here if you need some joy in your day: The pews were rockin'. Joy is contagious. Love is contagious. Hope is contagious.
Advent stands for all of those gifts: God wants to bring them to us. And when we are open to receive them, willing to let them interrupt the busyness or our lives and the negativity around us, when we truly let them reach our hearts we cannot help but pass them on. The world needs more joy. The world needs more God. The world needs us to spread it all around. 
Wishing everyone who reads this a joyful, peaceful and hopeful Christmas, filled with the love of God! 

Monday, December 10, 2018


This is an emotional time of year. Extremely busy for many, sad and lonely for some. And sentimental for most of us. The music, the smells, the decorations, foods, and traditions remind us of times long gone, and of people, we love that are no longer with us to share these memories. 
It's also a bit sentimental because, at Christmas, we tend to romanticize things. Christmas movies, images of the rosy-cheeked Christ child, the hope for peace and that all might be well... And then we realize how much is not well: War, famine, political dissent, gun violence, extremism and hate, destructive changes in the climate.
When you really think about it it's hard not to lose hope. Where is the good news in all of this?
The romanticizing of Christmas shows how much we long for a world at peace, a world without suffering. We want to escape reality for a bit and believe (or pretend) that all is well. 
Denial is never a solution though. It's better to face reality and deal with it. 
Jesus did. He came into our world because it isn't peaceful or perfect. That's why we need him! He came to bring us the peace this world can never give. He came to call us as peacemakers.  
So the good news is, there's still you. And if you long for peace, you can work towards peace. If you open yourself up for the kind of peace God wants to give you, you will receive it. If you choose to live at peace with yourself and with those around you, you can. 
It's not going to be easy. If it were we wouldn't need God. But it is possible. Peace is possible. 
Jesus said so: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid." (John 14:27)

Monday, December 3, 2018


For many, this weekend was the kick-off to the Christmas season: Tree lightings, Christmas fairs, concerts and much more. 
My weekend was a little different. I attended an event about human trafficking and modern-day slavery. Even in this day and age, women and children are subject to unthinkable violence and abuse. Not only, but including sexual violence. Children are forced to do physical labor for 10 hours a day. Domestic workers here in the United States are exploited and basically held as prisoners. It's a business and a successful one. I couldn't wrap my mind around how human beings can inflict such pain on others, just to make a buck. 
If you are willing to expose yourself to this reality, watch the film "Not My Life" here:
Find out how you are supporting slavery in your daily shopping by taking the survey here:
What gives me hope is that there are things we can do: We can buy fairly traded items like coffee, tea, and chocolate in any grocery store. We can buy our clothing from companies that commit to supporting fair and safe working conditions. We can inform ourselves and inform others. I refuse to give up hope that we can make a difference.
In worship, we lit the first candle on our Advent wreath yesterday, the candle of hope. One small candle can give a lot of light and warmth, and it can light many other candles. This is a symbol of the hope we find in seemingly small and insignificant gestures. Even in ourselves. 
Yesterday afternoon, a group of kids and adults from Trinity went Christmas caroling in local nursing homes. To many of the residents, Christmas is an especially difficult time because it reminds them of what they have lost: family members, their home, their independence. To see a group of young people come in and sing for them was joyful and hopeful. I was deeply moved by the tears I saw in some of their faces, and the laughter. Some of them sang along and others danced! 
There is hope. As long as we still care, there is hope. As long as we believe in the good in people, there is hope. As long as we believe that God is with us, and God wants to build a better world with us, there is hope. Let's take that hope and light up the world with it.

Monday, November 26, 2018


That's what this season is all about! Call them hopes or wishes: Kids write their wish list, you may have hopes of a peaceful and festive family Christmas.

But what it really comes down to is expectations. And when our expectations are not met, we are disappointed. 

In the Christian tradition, the season before Christmas is called Advent, which means "coming" or "arrival." As Christians, we expect, we hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We expect we hope for him to change the world and make it better. We don't celebrate Christmas to commemorate something that happened a long time ago. We celebrate Christmas because of the hope it brings us: God came into this world as a human being! Small, frail, poor. God came to be with us, to be like us, and to show us how to live and how to love. 

The reason we still celebrate this is that we still have hope that the world can change. That we can change and live the way Jesus did. Even thousands of years later, we still have that hope. Without it, everything we do would be pointless and meaningless.

Not only do we have that hope, but we also have the expectation. Expectation is a little more certain than hope. 

Having expectations of our family or of ourselves may lead to disappointment.

Having expectations of God never will. In God's time, God will bring what we have every right and reason to expect of God: Peace, love, justice. 

I'm counting on it! 

Monday, November 19, 2018

Being Thankful

As we're getting closer to Thanksgiving I've seen people post something they are thankful for every day.

A friend and I have been exchanging our daily moments of gratitude via text message.

And every night before I go to sleep I try to think of three good things that happened to me that day. Because our brains tend to focus on the negative. They are like Velcro for negative experiences and like Teflon for positive ones. The negatives stick, the positives slide right off. It's an evolutionary trait: The brain needs to be alert and respond to threats quickly. This was from a time when every living being had to fight every day just to survive. 

As humankind, we have evolved from that (for those of us who are fortunate enough to live in safety), but our brains have not. So we need to be intentional about focusing on the positive. That's why it's good to acknowledge three good things that happened on any given day, to balance out the negative.

This doesn't mean denying that bad things are happening in the world and possibly in our own lives. It just means we look at them with a different attitude: An attitude of gratitude. What's my opportunity here? What can I learn from this, how can I grow? Is God trying to tell me something that I need to hear? 

In ancient Christian tradition, November is also the time to remember those who have passed on, and to face our own mortality: This life is not forever. Nobody will be around forever. Not to sound morbid, but this always helps me put things in perspective: What is really important? Where do I want to invest my energies? What do I want to work for, and what can I possibly let go because in the grand scheme of things it just doesn't matter? Who are the people that I want to surround myself with, and who do I need to distance myself from?

Thanksgiving is a chance to take an honest look at our lives, and to focus on the good. On the blessings that God pours out on us every single day. Especially in times like these. Look for the good. Look for kindness and compassion, and you will find it. Thanks be to God! 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Showing Up

Last Friday, a community group in Westborough (one town over from us) organized a friendship circle for their Jewish neighbors: They invited everyone to come and stand outside the doors of Congregation B'nai Shalom and greet worshipers as they were coming in for Shabbat services.

Originally I had not been planning to attend since we had a church event that evening. But something compelled me to go. Was it the pouring rain that made me think nobody else would show up? Was it my desire to do something, anything, after the horrible news of the shooting of 11 worshipers at the Tree of Life Synagogue outside Pittsburgh two weeks before? Was it the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the night when Jewish stores, synagogues, cemeteries and homes were burned to the ground in Nazi Germany?

In any case, I went. First I couldn't find parking at the school next to B'nai Shalom where we were meeting. Then I saw a long line of people walking. Hundreds of them. The rain didn't stop them from showing up!

We were invited inside and formed two lines in the hallway. Worshipers walked past us to their worship space as hand-written notes were handed to them. Some of them had tears in their eyes, others were seriously crying. They were all overwhelmed and deeply moved by the number of people who showed up. So was I.  

This is how much "showing up" means. And if I hadn't shown up, I would have missed out on a powerful experience of solidarity and hope. 

When did it ever matter to you that someone showed up? At the hospital bed? At a grave site? For your wedding or birthday party? For your kid's concert or game? Didn't it mean the world to you to see them take time out of their busy lives and be with you? 

And my next question is: Where can you show up and be present for someone else in their joy, or in their sorrow? Maybe you've done so recently and experienced how gratifying it is. Maybe you want to but something always got in the way.

In times like these, we need each other to show up. To be there. To show solidarity and support. It means the world, and quite possibly, it could save the world.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Investing in God's Future

In many churches, this is Stewardship Season: The time of year when members are asked to pledge what they plan to give to the church the following year.

We've been trying to call it "Pledge Season" instead, acknowledging the fact that every season is Stewardship Season! To be stewards means to take care of something that you do not own.

We consider ourselves to be stewards of God's creation, of God's people, and of everything that God has blessed us with: our bodies, our minds, our talents, our education, our families. We are also stewards of God's church. We do not own the church, we get to be part of it and "use" it for whatever we may need: spiritual nourishment, a supportive community, to learn about our faith, an opportunity to serve others, and a place where we are accepted and loved for who we really are. But, even if many of us say, lovingly and proudly, "my church...," it is not ours. It is God's. It was here long before we ever came and will be here long after we're gone. 
That's a bit of a relief: We don't have to save the church! We don't have to fix it, or make it grow. God will do all of that. 

But it's also a big responsibility: While we are here and have chosen to be part of the church, we are called to take care of it, and to represent Jesus to the wider community.  God will give us everything we need in order to do that. 

In church speak, we talk about the three "T"s: Time, Talents, and Treasure. Those are the gifts we have to share, and how we can contribute to the work of God in this world. 

How do we use our TIME to do God's work, and to love our neighbor?
How do we use our TALENTS to be followers of Jesus and help build the kind of world he envisioned?
And how do we use our TREASURE, our money, to manifest our values and beliefs? 

Yesterday we asked the worshiping community to think about this: How much of my time, talents and treasure am I willing and able to give to God. 

I invite you to do the same: Think about your "T"s and how you will use them. The world needs you. The world needs good people who will not adhere to the standards of this world (work, wealth, beauty, youth, athleticism...), but the standards of God in whose eyes every living being is beautiful, is valuable, and has a purpose and a place in God's plan. 

How much of your "T"s are you willing to give? 

May God bless each and every one of you, and your "T"s, so they may grow and bear fruit and fill the world with God's love. 

Monday, October 22, 2018


Last week I mentioned how many people are looking for a community, and a place where they can make a difference in the world.

I'm always amazed at how much good people do even in their busy lives: Young moms who work and lead Girl scout troops. Retired folks who babysit their grandchildren, volunteer at the food pantry, Senior Center, library, Historical Society and all sorts of other places! At church, too. I sometimes hesitate to invite them to church because I know they are already doing so much. Maybe they just need a day to sleep in or not have to rush to get their kids dressed and out of the house in time. And, church is so often associated with guilt: "I know I should be going to church but..." That's the last thing I want to do: Make someone feel guilty!

But then I think about what we have to offer as a church... A community. A place where you come together with people of different ages and backgrounds to pray and sing. A place where you can laugh and cry, where you can talk about your struggles and your joys. Where we learn and grow in our faith together because none of us have it all figured out. Where we are inspired to make this world a better place. And I think about times when members of the church had surgery and others did not hesitate to offer meals, rides, and other ways of lending a helping hand and showing that they care.

That's what people miss out on if they're not part of a church.

I was at a conference last weekend and heard a shocking statistic about loneliness: 25% of those surveyed have no one in their lives that they can talk to about meaningful things. Only 8% have a neighbor they can turn to in a time of need. Can you imagine? Loneliness is a sad, painful experience.

Our world is getting more and more connected on a technical and global level, and more and more isolated on an interpersonal level.

That's why I invite people to Trinity Church. We're a good place to start if you're feeling lonely, or if the people you have in your lives are not willing or able to have the kind of deep, meaningful conversations that you long for. We're a good place to talk about your faith, and your questions and your doubts. We're a good place to experience that you are not alone.

If you have found this, whether at Trinity Church or somewhere else (this blog is out there for all the world to read, after all) - please invite your co-workers, your neighbors, your or your kids' friends. It may be exactly what they are longing for, without even knowing it. It doesn't hurt to ask. If they say "no," that is their right. If they say "maybe," ask again later. If they say "yes," you may have given them the best gift they have received in a long time: a community.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Being a Christian

As I am preparing a group of people for membership here at Trinity, I'm thinking about how best to explain to them who we are and what we stand for. And I don't have ten hours! 

Last night I attended an interfaith where a brief overview of Christianity was given, from one particular denomination's perspective. There are so many theological and structural differences between the various Christian churches. It must be very confusing to people of others faiths - and to people who adhere to the Christian faith as well! 

A decline in denominational identity was mentioned: People don't care so much what particular "brand" of Christianity a local congregation belongs to. They want to be part of a community that helps them make a difference in the world. I've seen and heard this myself.

While some may find this trend regrettable I celebrate it. We don't need Baptists or Congregationalists or Presbyterians. We need disciples of Jesus Christ! How and where they affiliate should be an individual's free choice.

So that's one thing that we as Trinity Church stand for: That each individual has a right to their own set of beliefs. We read the Bible, we teach what Jesus taught, and we try to live the way Jesus tells us to. But we don't make anyone go through a checklist of theological concepts and ask them to sign off on them. For example:
- the virgin birth
- the healing and feeding miracles
- the resurrection
- the Trinity

Some of these are theological constructs created by human beings to try to make sense of a mysterious God. Some are interpretations of a text that was originally written in Greek or Hebrew, in a very different cultural context. And all of them are stories told about God or Jesus by human beings

None of us know for sure. None of us believe everything that is in the Bible. I certainly don't! At least not literally. And that's okay. I can be a disciple of Jesus and interpret Biblical stories and church traditions in my own way. 
So can you. You don't need to be a Biblical scholar or theologian to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. All you need to be is yourself: a person who longs for a connection with God and with other people. A person who wants to live a deep and meaningful life. A person who wants to have a purpose and make a difference.

We, here at Trinity Church, believe Jesus is the way to that life. But we know and fully respect that there are other ways. 

If you want to know more about Jesus and how you can follow him, you are welcome with us. If you have all kinds of doubts and questions, you are welcome with us. If you've had a negative experience with church and are not sure if you even want to be part of any organized religion, you are welcome with us. 

We will not judge you. We will not tell you what to believe or what to think. We will talk to you and listen to you, we will pray with you and do hands-on ministry with you, if you so choose. 

Please contact me if you'd like to talk about about any of this, whether you are considering membership or have been a member for a long time. We are all still on a journey, and it is more rewarding and more fun if we walk it together. 

I know God has gifted you in many ways. The world needs gifted people. Be yourself (God's beloved child), and allow the world to see God through you. 

Monday, September 24, 2018

Talking to Each Other

Whenever there's a problem between human beings, whenever feelings are hurt, things are tense or there's an outright conflict, it's usually about communication. In families, friendships, between colleagues,  teachers and students - you name it. If something is off, it's because communication is off. Once communication has broken down completely it's very hard to fix. 
Needless to say, as a pastor I deal with that a lot. I know how hard it can be, and how vital to any healthy relationship. 
I attended a mediation training earlier this year and have been reading about healthy communication quite a bit. It's fascinating how quickly things can go bad, and how it all comes down to the same issue: misunderstandings and things that were left unsaid. 
It's hard to be honest when someone hurt you or you're upset about something they did. 
It's easier to try to forget about it. At least it seems easier in the moment. In the long run, it will catch up with you. That pain or anger is not going away unless it's expressed. It will fester. And it will come out one way or another. 
Instead, let your emotions come down to a legal level. Really think through what happened. Try to see both sides of the story. And then sit down with the other person and tell them how you feel. Don't attack them with a laundry list of things they did or didn't to. Just tell them how you feel. "I feel hurt. I feel betrayed. I feel disrespected. I feel angry." Speak your truth. Allow the other person to ask questions so they can truly understand you. You may even want to ask them to repeat what they heard you say to make sure they understood. 
If the other person is willing to listen to you - give them time to calm down first, too, and make sure they are ready - then healing is possible. You'll be amazed. 
I'm not saying this is easy. It's not. And depending on the individual situation it may not always accomplish what you had hoped. But expressing your feelings, speaking from your own experience and being honest with yourself and with the other person, will allow for you to process the whole situation, and help you to move on. 
Give it a try. What have you got to lose?

Tuesday, September 18, 2018


This past weekend was Applefest in Northborough. There were lots of activities going on all over town, hosted by local businesses and community organizations. It was wonderful to see the town come together. Northborough is a drivers' town. I am one of the few people you see walking or riding a bike for transportation. But during Applefest weekend, crowds of people were walking up and down Route 20, from the library to the farmer's market at the future Town Common, to the Unitarian Church and the Church of the Nativity, to the street fair on Blake Street, the fire station, and to Trinity Church. 
They enjoyed food, games, music, arts and crafts, and connecting with others in the community. Long lost friends and former neighbors were reunited. Two beautiful, hot and busy days for our town!
I cannot imagine the work that went into pulling this off. I only know a little of what went on here at Trinity to get ready and offer two full days of fun and hospitality. It was also an opportunity to raise funds for the ministry of Trinity Church. But first and foremost, it was a way of showing the community that we are here, that we want to be an active part of their lives, and that we are good people.
Then the following verse from Hebrews 13:2 popped into my mind: "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it."

We showed hospitality by offering food, cold drinks, shade, a place to sit and rest, music, restrooms... And by connecting with people. Having a conversation, offering support and a kind word. I spoke to a young couple who had just moved to Northborough, and to a woman who is struggling with some issues in her life. I know many others had conversations as well. 
We may have entertained angels without knowing it. And we may have been angels to them. 

What sets us apart from local businesses and community organizations is that we are doing this because of Jesus! Because Jesus calls us to go out and bring good news to the people. That can start small, by offering food and drink, but it can grow much deeper. Jesus was here at Trinity Church this weekend, speaking and acting through us, as we showed hospitality to strangers. 

May Jesus help us to do this not only when we are here at the church building, but everywhere we go and in everything we do. Offer hospitality. Be welcoming and accepting. Be an angel. God knows the world needs them! 

Monday, September 10, 2018

Beautiful Feet

"How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace." Classical music lovers will recognize this as an aria from Handel's Messiah. Watch it here, sung like an angel by a boy soprano:

Rev. Mary Miller, Executive Minister of The American Baptist Churches of Massachusetts, was our guest preacher yesterday. She spoke about Paul's letter to the Romans, chapter 10, verses 13-17, and reminded us how important it is for us as followers of Jesus to use our feet and go out into the world, preaching good news. Jesus sent his disciples from house to house and village to village, with nothing but the clothes on their backs, to offer good news to them. If people reject you, he said, move on to the next village. (Luke 10:1-11.) Jesus never told anybody to build a church and wait for people to come. But that's what Christians have been doing for decades, even centuries: They built a church, they held worship services, offered Sunday school classes for children and adults, and people came. In droves.

They don't anymore. The reasons for that are complex: people's lives are much busier. There are lots of other (more fun) things to do on Sundays. Stores and entertainment centers are open, many people have to work and school activities now happen on Sundays. And then there's the fact that people are getting along just fine without the church. They often disagree with what they think our message is. Many assume we are judgmental hypocrites and think we are "holier than thou." And for some churches that is true. 

We at Trinity Church are trying to send a different message, and people are starting to hear it: That God loves everyone, and therefore we welcome and accept everyone the way they are. This, I believe wholeheartedly, is the message our world today needs to hear, loud and clear, over and over again: God loves EVERYONE. Because God created every single human being in love. And God will not drop them from that love. Ever. 
We need to use our feet and walk into our community, spreading that unconditional love. Words are not enough. As Francis of Assisi is supposed to have said: "Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words." 

The world needs us. Let's go preach!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Thinking Before You Speak

One of my favorite Bible verses is Psalm 46:10: "Be still, and know that I am God."
I opened my Bible app this morning and this popped up as the verse of the day. 
I've usually seen it quoted out of context and it's been meaningful to me: Be still. Be calm. Let God be God. 

But when you read the Psalm in its entirety, this verse has a different meaning: 
"Come, behold the works of the Lord; see what desolation he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth." (Psalm 46:8-11)
"Be still" actually means: "Stop! Put down your weapons." 
God makes wars cease. Got wants us to stop fighting. 

While I wish we would take this literally in the political realm I also think it is powerful in our personal lives. "Stop! Put down your weapons." Before you blame someone for something. Before you make assumptions about their intentions. Before you criticize them for their actions: Stop. Take a moment to think. Cool down. Don't let your feelings get the best of you. We've all seen situations escalate and get ugly because people tried to solve them while they were angry. Step away. Get some perspective. Look at your own part in the situation. And then come back, calmly, openly, with compassion, and say what you need to say. 

The same is true for social media: Think before you type. Reflect before you rant. Once it's out there it cannot be taken back. 

And, before you say anything, here's a helpful acronym:
T - is it True?
H - is it Helpful?
I - is it Inspiring?
N - is it Necessary?
K - is it Kind? 

If the answer to any of them is "no" you might be wiser not to speak. 

May God help us to stop and think. May God help us to be peacemakers in this war torn world.

Monday, June 4, 2018

With You Always

Our little town of Northborough was shaken by some serious events this week: A threat of a shooting at the local high school, and a fire in the center of town.
We give thanks to God that nobody was injured and further damage was prevented.
But the effects on people's sense of safety cannot yet be measured.
What do we do to keep our children safe, and everyone who works in schools: the teachers, staff and administration? 
I think of students who graduated high school and college. They have every reason to celebrate but they also look ahead to the next, big and somewhat intimidating step. 
Families are getting ready to move, people growing older are thinking of downsizing from their beloved home to a smaller place. 

Jesus says, "Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20)
Jesus also says, "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today." (Matthew 6:34)
God will take care of tomorrow. While this doesn't free us from responsibility - we still need to work towards becoming a safe community. We still need to protect those who are most vulnerable and care for those who need us. But we don't need to succumb to anxiety, worry and fear. God is with us always. God will carry us through. 
It's hard to trust that in the face of everything that's been happening in our world. But what have we got to lose? 
May Jesus' promise make your breathing a little easier and your day a little brighter: "I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Monday, May 21, 2018

God's Spirit

"In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit." (Acts 2:17-18)

Yesterday, many churches celebrated Pentecost, the festival of the Holy Spirit. After Jesus had been raised from the dead and was taken up into heaven, God sent the Spirit upon Jesus' disciples. A man of flesh and blood could not be with them forever. But God's Spirit can. Some call this the birthday of the church because a small, Jewish movement broke wide open and included everyone of any nationality or religion. God's Spirit knows no boundaries. 

Peter quoted the above passage from the Prophet Joel 2:28: God will pour out God's Spirit on all people, young and old, male and female, slave and free, and they shall dream dreams and have visions. That gives me hope for the future. Dreams and visions are indicators that something better is yet to come! This world is not all there is. When we get caught up in the hopelessness of violence and terror, the despair of poverty and natural disasters, the suffering of those affected by addiction or mental illnesses... That's when we need God's Spirit to give us the dreams and visions of a better world. 

What are your dreams and visions for this world? 

Come, Spirit, come,
Inspire us, encourage us, fill us with your presence, fill us with your love, 
Come, Spirit, come, 
Be a breath of fresh air in our hearts and our minds, give us dreams and visions and help us build a better world.
Come, Spirit, come. 

Monday, May 14, 2018


I am currently in the process of applying for U.S. citizenship. I have been a legal resident for over five years and am eligible, but I still have to go through some administrative steps and an interview. I will then also have to take an oath of allegiance.
I look forward to being a full citizen with all rights and privileges.
But this process made me think about what "citizenship" means, and what country I am willing to pledge my loyalty to. I am keeping my German citizenship because I still feel connected to my country of origin, its people and its culture. And I know how privileged I am that I will soon be a citizen of two democratic nations that protect each individual's dignity. Not everyone is so privileged. Not every nation respects freedom of speech and religion, or other basic human rights. And even those nations who do, do so first and foremost for their own citizens. Those who are not a citizen or a legal resident have no rights and privileges. They live in constant fear of being caught and shipped back to a country where there are no guarantees for a life in freedom and safety.

Shouldn't we all be global citizens? Shouldn't our freedom and dignity be respected and protected no matter where we are? 

God says so, in Leviticus 19:34:
"The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God." 
"Aliens" and citizens should be treated the same. 

Paul writes, in Ephesians 2:19:
"So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God."

In the eyes of God there are no strangers or aliens, there are only citizens of the household of God. In the eyes of God we all have the same rights and privileges: to be loved, and to love. To be welcome, to be safe - and to welcome others and make them feel safe.

No matter what passport I carry, that's the kind of community that I want to be a citizen of!

May God help us to live this way. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

Mental Health

I had a friend who would sometimes say, "I need a mental health day!" and would take a day off from work. I commend her for recognizing when she needs to take time for herself. Not everyone has the privilege of being able to do that, but for those who can it's a good practice.
I'm not saying this will cure mental illnesses. Of course it won't. In many cases, medication and/or therapy will be necessary. But for those who do not have a diagnosed mental illness, taking time for yourself is a good preventative measure. 
Here at Trinity we've just started reading "Blessed Are the Crazy" by Sarah Griffith Lund. Many were put off by the title because it seems to support the stigma that people with mental illnesses are "crazy." We all agreed they are not. They have a physical illness like cancer or diabetes. But mental illnesses are very complex and they affect people's mood and demeanor. That's why it's so hard NOT to label them as "crazy" or "weird."
But they are not. They are God's children and they have an illness which means they need help, and they need compassion. 
I was impressed and deeply moved by how bravely several individuals shared their own history with mental illnesses. This I believe is where we need to begin: by talking about it. By learning about people's experiences and recognizing the immense suffering they go through. The shame that's associated with it. How it can be incredibly isolating when you feel misunderstood. 
We talked about what helped them through it, and the support of family and friends was mentioned. 
That's where we as people of faith come in: we can support individuals with mental illnesses by listening, being patient and compassionate.
More and more people are dealing with anxiety and depression. More and more young people! This is an epidemic that we cannot ignore. 
There's so much more to this: Our mental health care system, for example. Anyone who has had to deal with it could tell story after story about how frustrating it is to find help. 
But for now, let's start talking about mental illnesses. Let's start talking about our own struggles and where we find hope and healing. 
For more information on mental illnesses, check out this link:

Monday, April 23, 2018

Created in God's Image

On Earth Day we read the story of how God created humankind: Genesis 1:26-31.
"God created humankind in God's image; male and female God created them. [...] God saw everything that God had made, and indeed, it was very good."
When you look at yourself in the mirror, do you see "very good?" 
If not, let me remind you that you are. Because God said so.
We talked a little bit about what that means, being created in God's image. Some said it means we are different than the animals, we have a special role. We are supposed to be like God, as much as humanly possible. We were created pure. 
Do you have an image of God in your mind? Do you imagine God looking a certain way? Is it the "old man upstairs?"
But if God created male and female in God's image that means God is as much female as male.
To me, God is neither. God doesn't really have a face. God is love and spirit, creativity and presence. God is good. And God created us the same way: to love, to be creative, to be good and do good. And to be connected to God, to the Great Spirit. We are material beings: We have bodies that get hurt and that age and that eventually will die. But we are also spiritual beings. We have a spirit that connects directly to God's spirit, and to all life. 
In Genesis 1:28, God tells humankind to rule over the earth. There's that special role that we were given.
To rule also means to have responsibility. To take care of. That's what God calls us to do: To be God's presence in this world, and to care for all living beings. 
I said yesterday: That's a big responsibility we didn't ask for. But God thinks we can do it or God wouldn't have given it to us. 
We are very good. We are not bad or evil or ugly. And the world needs us.
God help us! 

Monday, April 9, 2018

My Body, A Temple

"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?"  1 Corinthians 6:19

Jesus was raised from the dead in his physical body. He was changed somehow. His closest friends did not recognize him. But according to the Gospel of John, chapter 20, his disciples knew him when he showed them the wounds in his hands and side. 
Jesus' body was maimed and injured. The resurrection did not take that away. Those injuries made him who he was: The beloved of God, and the victim of humanity's hatred and violence.
Some of the wounds we acquire in this lifetime stay with us, and make us who we are.

But we are more than that. We are more than physical bodies, injured, ailing, aging, imperfect. 
We are God's temple. We are not our own. We are God's. 

I believe everything we have was given us by God, and it was given with a purpose and a responsibility. Our bodies deserve care and reverence, as any sacred space. Our bodies are God's way of being present in this world. They are vessels of God's love and temples of the holy Spirit. God wants us to use them to build God's reign in this world. 

How would you live if you believed that? 

Monday, March 26, 2018

Were You There?

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

This is an African-American spiritual about the crucifixion and death of Jesus, and our part in it. 
Watch a powerful version sung by Marion Williams here: v=xu_GW2osRVA

There's some real emotion behind her singing it. "Oh! It causes me to tremble." It shakes me up in the core of my being that the one we call the Son of God was so brutally murdered. That his best friends deserted and betrayed him and an angry mob screamed for him to be executed. 

Were you there?
Were you there when innocent lives were ended much too soon? When God's children screamed for help and no one came to their rescue? Were you there when they bled to death? Were you there when God's children were kidnapped, tortured, beaten and left for dead? Were you there when those who were supposed to protect them became their oppressors?

Or have you become numb against the pain because of all the news of violence and shootings? Just one more statistic. 

It would do us good to tremble though. It would make us more compassionate and, possibly, more angry. It would give us the passion to work against violence and for justice. And it would help us appreciate how much Jesus really does love us. 

And then, on Easter Sunday, may we all tremble as we shout: Halleluiah! The Lord is risen! 
May we tremble for joy that love is stronger than death, love stronger than hate, and God stronger than all evil. 

Were you there? 

Monday, March 19, 2018

Personal Freedom

"For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1

I can think of a lot of "yokes" that we submit to, or are submitted to. What are yours? No matter what it is that holds you down, keeps you captive: I believe Jesus Christ has freed you from it. Living in freedom is something most people strive for. But it's also pretty scary! It means leaving behind what we know, what feels safe, and growing into the freedom that we are given. Yesterday we talked about the book "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz. These are the four agreements that he calls "A practical guide to personal freedom":

Be Impeccable with Your Word.

Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love. 

2 Don't Take Anything Personally.

Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

3 Don't Make Assumptions.

Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life. 

4 Always Do Your Best

Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse, and regret. 

Most people found this some very powerful advice. But we also realized how hard it is to live that way! All we can do is keep working on it and acknowledge that we are often held captive by our own thoughts and feelings. That's where true freedom lies: in ourselves.

As we approach Good Friday, the day that Jesus died to free us from all human bondage, it is a helpful reminder that we are only unfree as long we allow ourselves to be. Freedom is possible. It needs to be worked at and practiced. But it is possible.

"For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery."  

Monday, March 12, 2018


Yesterday we talked about when it's okay and necessary to say "no." We talked about trusting your own gut and setting boundaries about what you are and are not comfortable with. If someone touches you, even to shake your hand or give you a well-intended hug and that makes you uncomfortable, it's okay to say "no, I don't like that." We also told our kids how important that is. We teach them to be polite and do what adults ask them to. But if it makes them uncomfortable or just feels wrong, they need to know that they have the right to refuse. 
Thousands and thousands of women have been coming forward and said: "Me too. I have been assaulted or sexually harassed." And there are thousands more who have not come forward. Something basic in our society needs to change. We need to teach our children (boys and girls) that it's okay to say "no" and that "no" means "no." We need to ask permission before we touch someone, and not be offended by the response. We don't know what our touch might trigger in them. It most likely has nothing to do with us but with a past experience. This will take a major shift in our thinking as a society. But we need to start somewhere. And we need to start now. 
Jesus protected the dignity and safety of every person he encountered: men, women and children. He didn't make any assumptions on what they wanted or needed. Instead he asked them, "What do you want me to do for you?" (Mark 10:36 and 10:51.) I think that should be our model. 
I pray for healing for all who have suffered, and are currently suffering, sexual abuse or harassment. I pray for those who seem to know no healthy and respectful way of getting their needs met and use their power to threaten and intimidate. I pray for our children that they may grow up with confidence, loving themselves enough to speak up. And I pray for all of us, that we may take the lead on this, to set clear boundaries and respect the boundaries of others. 

Monday, March 5, 2018

Thoughts and Prayers

This has almost become a sarcastic term. Innocent children are massacred and people respond with thoughts and prayers. Earthquakes, floods, political turmoil, hundreds of thousands of refugees with no place to go, and churches respond with thoughts and prayers. 
Yes, of course we think about all those people. Of course we pray for them. And we believe that God will hear our prayers and something will happen. But many now are saying, thoughts and prayers are not enough. We need to do more. And people are starting to. High school students are speaking up and calling out those in power. Consumers are boycotting businesses whose practices they don't agree with. Plans for school walk-outs and marches are underway. 
We are in the midst of the season of Lent, the time when we focus on Jesus' innocent suffering and death on the cross. Jesus didn't fight back. He was making a statement. He believed this was God's will, that he die. He prayed that God would deliver him but he didn't fight his enemies. He gave his life into God's hands. Some believe his death was a sacrificial death for our sins. Others, that he died to show us God was stronger than death. And still others, that he died to show the absurdity of violence. To show that it leads nowhere, only to death. Personally, I focus on the latter two. I don't believe God needed to see innocent blood shed before God could forgive us. I believe this is how some people interpreted Jesus' death, and I give them every freedom and respect to do so. But for me, Jesus' death means that God knows what suffering feels like. God knows physical and emotional pain. God knows weakness, fear, loneliness. That's the kind of God that I need. I believe God hates suffering and God hates violence. 
And this is why I will march on March 24. I will march for the lives that ended much too soon, I will march for the lost souls who pick up weapons of mass destruction to feel heard and seen, and I will march for the many lives that we cannot afford to lose. 

I'm not saying: Don't pray. Please, pray! But also, march. Speak. Boycott. Write postcards. Call your representatives. Organize. If not for this cause, then for any other that is important for you. It's time God's people stood up for what they believe in. 

 Psalm 13

Prayer for Deliverance from Enemies

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I bear pain in my soul,
    and have sorrow in my heart all day long?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God!
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
and my enemy will say, “I have prevailed”;
    my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.

But I trusted in your steadfast love;
    my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
    because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Monday, February 12, 2018

God's Love, My Sins, and Death

This Wednesday, February 14, the world will be celebrating LOVE, and Christians will be observing Ash Wednesday, a day to remind us of our mortality and sinfulness. 
Pink hearts, roses and chocolate, a romantic candlelit dinner - or a somber worship service, the pastor marking your forehead with ashes in the sign of a cross. 
Which would you choose? Tough call!
And what about those who don't have a special someone in their lives, who may not even have family? Valentine's Day rubs it in their faces in a very painful way. 

Ash Wednesday marks the season of Lent, the 40 days before Easter when Christians all around the world try to focus on Jesus' suffering and death. For some, it is a season of fasting. Others try to be more deliberate in their study of the Bible, their prayer life, or their giving to charitable organizations. It is an opportunity to press the reset button on your spiritual life: Do I have time for Jesus every day? Is there room for him in my life?

Lent is a chance to think about those questions and consider how Jesus might become a more important part of your life, everyday. Because that's when we need him the most: in our daily tasks. 

Lent is also a time to remember those who are hungry, who are persecuted, and all victims of physical and emotional abuse. During Lent we face life in its full brutality. We even face death. No denial, no sugarcoating. While this is uncomfortable, it helps us to realize why we really need God: Because every day is not Valentine's Day! Our love for others is often tested, as is their love for us. God's love never fails. God's love is not conditional on our behavior or our qualities. God's love is generous and never ending. 

However you celebrate Ash Valentine Wednesday, may the season of Lent remind you of God's love for you! 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Power of Jesus

Jesus does amazing things. He heals people, feeds crowds with just a few loaves and fishes, even raises the dead. 
In some ways, he is a superhuman with superpowers. But then he is also very human: He gets overwhelmed, stressed, angry and sad. In those moments, he retreats to a deserted place to pray. Just him and God. He needs that quiet time with God. That's where he finds his superpowers.  
In Mark 1:29-39, Jesus heals a woman who was gravely ill. He takes her by the hand and raises her up and she is well. The next thing she does is serve her family and her guests. 

Typical! Instead of those men taking care of a woman who just recovered from an illness, they let her serve them! She did was what was expected of her. What this encounter shows though is that Jesus uses his power not to make other humans into superhumans. The woman was not suddenly able to perform miracles or do something she had never done before. She was given the strength to do her daily tasks. 
Isn't that where we need Jesus' healing powers the most? In doing our daily tasks, whatever they may be? Sure, we'd love to save the world and find a cure for cancer. But first, we have to feed our family and go to work and take care of our own health. That's where we need Jesus to give us strength, and he does.

Where do we find that strength? Some may find it in coming to worship, singing and praying as a community of faith. Some find it in serving the underserved, or in small group discussions. And some find it in the quiet. I think quiet is much underrated in this day and age. Our brain needs time to process all the information and impressions it takes in during the day. Some of that happens during sleep, but the brain also needs time when it is alert and awake, and yet at rest. You could call it meditation, or prayer. Just sit and breathe and be with Jesus. Give yourself a chance to hear him and feel him. There's a reason why this is an ancient practice in all faith traditions. And it's also scientifically proven to be effective in reducing stress and anxiety. 

It may require some superpowers on your end to find that time each day. But when you make it part of your daily routine, you will discover a calm and a strength you didn't know you had.

That's the power of Jesus!