Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Following Jesus

Yesterday, we read the Bible passage about Jesus calling his first disciples (Mark 1:14-20. Read it here: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/? search=Mark+1%3A14-20&version=NRSV)
I've read this passage many times but it always strikes me again: These people have only just met Jesus. He has been walking around Galilee, talking about the kingdom of God being near and inviting people to change their lives and believe in the good news. Then he sees a few men fishing and invites them to follow him. And they do. Immediately. No questions asked. They leave their livelihood, their homes and their families behind to follow an itinerant preacher. 
Jesus must have been pretty convincing! The question I ask myself is, what does that mean for us today who call ourselves Christians, followers of Jesus Christ? How far are we willing to follow Jesus and what are we willing to leave behind for him? There are lots of different ways of interpreting what "following Jesus" means. Many of us probably pick and choose what feels right for us and what we can manage. We have lots of reasons why we can't leave our homes and our families behind. But what can we do? What risks can we take in order to follow Jesus? Where is he calling us? 
Lots of questions for you today and no answers. Just an invitation for you to think about this: How far am I willing to follow Jesus? What risks am I willing to take, what am I willing to leave behind? Maybe not material goods so much as habits, behaviors, thought patterns? My personal attempt is not to judge. Jesus was a role model of accepting people for who they are and where they are in life. He corrected some of their behaviors but he never judged a person. It's so easy for our mind to go there, when we disagree with someone or we just don't get them. We judge. We shake our heads, we sneer or laugh. Even though we don't know what they're going through or what experiences may have shaped them. So instead of judging them, we could ask: "Why do you say that? Tell me more about that. What made you decide to do that?"
That's my personal attempt at following Jesus: Accepting people for who they are and where they are in life. This doesn't mean I agree with everything they say or condone everything they do. It just means I respect them as a person and leave the judging up to God. 

What is your attempt at following Jesus? 

Monday, January 22, 2018


Yesterday, we celebrated "Sonshine Sunday," referring to the SON, Jesus, who shines for us. We tried to create a summer feeling to bring some light and warmth in the midst of this cold, dark winter!
The theme was based on Psalm 119:105, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."
I explained how this Psalm was an intricately crafted work of art, a poem of praise about God's word. It celebrates the fact that God's word gives us guidance and wisdom, at any age. 
I also tried to encourage people to read the Bible, to take some time with it. There are passages that we will struggle with, because they seem boring, because we don't understand them, or because we are appalled by their brutality. 
And yet there is beauty and truth to be found in this dear, old book. Some passages we will only understand with background information about their cultural context. Others will jump right out at us and speak to us as if they directly were written for us.
What I enjoyed most was the conversations I had after worship. People had brought their own Bibles and shared their history with me: When they were given to them and by whom, what was written or marked in them. 
Others told me why one particular verse was meaningful to them, or asked for some more information. 
This, I believe, is what God's word is intended for: To inspire conversations between people of faith. To give us something to work with. Something to wrestle with at times, something to learn from, and something to talk about. 
Faith is a complicated matter! At the end of the day, we each need to figure it out for ourselves. But it is good to know that we are not alone. That others are on the same path: trying to get closer to God. Trying to tap into that sun that rises anew for us every morning, that shines for us even when we cannot see it. 
"God is my sunshine, my only sunshine. God makes me happy when skies are gray. You'll never know, dear, how much God loves you and won't take your sunshine away." (Original words by Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell, adapted by Valeria Schmidt.)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It will be 50 years this April that Dr. King was shot. 
Since then, a lot has changed. People of color are free by letter of the law. 
But they are still being held back in many other ways, subtle, and very overt.
Most people I've been speaking to were shocked to learn that Boston is known as one of the most racist cities in the United States. The Globe published a Spotlight series with extensive research on this subject. 
Boston, Massachusetts? One of the most liberal states in the country? Our capital is more racist than cities that have much smaller percentages of people of color?
Sadly, it's true. 
And it's good to know that there is still a lot of work to be done. Just because we're not living in the South, all is still not well here. 
It's also good to know that we can be the ones doing the work! We can have open and honest conversations about what makes us different, and what makes us the same. We can learn from each other and learn about ourselves. 
And, most importantly, in this day and age: We can come together. 
The Boston Children's Chorus gave their MLK Day Concert at Symphony Hall last night. Hundreds of kids from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds were singing together about Dr. King's Dream. It was powerful, moving, and inspiring. 
At the end, a room full of people (around 2,700 of them) stood together and sang: We shall overcome.
Deep in my heart I do believe, we shall overcome some day.