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!