Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Power of the People

I was just in Germany for two weeks. On November 9, Germany celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Berlin wall coming down. Since 1961, citizens of East Germany (the German Democratic Republic) were not able to leave the country without a visa and passport. They couldn't even visit West Berlin where many of them had family members. They were basically held captive by their government. After many months of demonstrations and protests, the government gave in on November 9, 1989, and the people were free to go where they pleased.

Back in 1989, I remember watching images on TV of people dancing on top of the wall where there used to be snipers, ready to shoot. They walked across borders that arbitrarily cut a city in half, and they hugged complete strangers in the street. They were celebrating a freedom they hadn't known in 28 years.
And it was all peaceful. No violence, no weapons, no destruction of property. More and more people gathered in the streets until the forces of state, police and border patrol could no longer resist.
Every time I read or see something about this I am deeply moved: People have power. Peaceful demonstrations have impact. Good always wins over evil. But it takes time.
As Christians, we are called to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). As Christians, we are free from the powers of this world. Jesus protested the Roman government and the religious rule of his time. Jesus spoke up and acted up against injustice and discrimination.
He's the one I choose to follow.
Let's be faithful to him, and be brave!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

American History

This week, most U.S. states celebrated Columbus Day. 
At Trinity Church (as in more and more communities and states), we celebrated Indigenous Peoples Day. Two of our native American members shared some of their culture with us.
We acknowledged the sins that our European ancestors committed by stealing land, culture, religion, language, and dignity from thousands of native tribes. The Christian church proclaimed that America was their promised land, that they had the right to take it and enslave the native population.
As Christians, we need to repent from the sins of our ancestors. We need to speak the truth about the past so we can learn from it, so we can heal, and so we can prevent anything like this from ever happening again.
"Discovered? Or Stolen" is the title of a video created by the United Church of Christ, summarizing the church's role in this dark time of our nation's history:

To celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day in worship we read prayers from different native tribes. We read a letter from a member of the Wakka Wakka nation in Australia:
"I recently had the privilege to visit your ancient lands. In this visit I was honored and shown hospitality on a scale I have never received in Australia. I say thank you.
As I stood barefoot and connected with your land, I was troubled. I felt the same disturbance pulse from the land as when I do this in Australia. I could feel the land was unsettled. I could hear the land weeping and screaming. I could see the land was tired. These are the deep wounds of colonization, dispossession, racism—a true history that has not been dealt with.
While I was in the U.S., I found that your Indigenous peoples, just like Indigenous peoples in Australia, somehow become invisible. How is this possible when we are not invisible to the Creator? Creator has always seen us, created in the image of God, as Creator’s appointed custodians. Invisibility is another deep wound.
The healing of deep wounds requires humbleness, prayer, and action. Are Australia and the U.S. ready to humble themselves? Ready to walk in truth, friendship, and prayer with their Indigenous brothers and sisters? Ready to challenge the “American story?"
Friends, the time is now! Too many centuries have passed; let us not let one more day pass! Our lands, waters, and all peoples need healing. Let us sit in ceremony together on these ancient lands with the healing smoke—the smoke of the burning sage that rises from your lands to the smoke of the burning (eucalyptus) gum leaves that rises from mine.
My prayer and hope for the nation of Australia is that we the peoples will build an Australia on truth, justice, love, and hope. It’s my same prayer for the world. The church in the U.S. is part of that prayer and hope."
(Source:  https://sojo.net/magazine/august-2019/letters-american-church-dear-sisters-brothers)
When we face these deep wounds that are still festering in our nation, that are now showing up in the shape of white supremacy and hatred, when we talk about them and address them openly, we can heal. We can learn, and we can grow closer together as children of God.
God says, "If my people, who are called by my name, humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
May we humble ourselves and seek the face of God. 
God, forgive our sins and heal our land.

Monday, September 9, 2019

A Celebration of Love

This weekend a group of us attended Worcester Pride: We marched in the parade, wearing colorful rainbow garb, waving rainbow flags and carrying our church banner to let everyone know that we believe God loves all people. Along the route people were waving and cheering us on, we waved and cheered back. It was a beautiful celebration of love, of friendship and community. One of our marchers was wearing a T-shirt saying "Free Mom Hugs" and people took her up on it! We actually saw a lot of moms and dads wearing those T-shirts. What an important message, but also how sad that it is necessary: That people need to be reminded they are loved and accepted the way they are. If not by their own family, then by our human family. 
How sad that it is necessary for us as a church to proclaim loudly and boldly that God loves everyone. But what a privilege it is that we get to be the ones to share this message.
It sounds so simple: God loves everyone. Love God, and love your neighbor.
But it is so profound and so incredibly difficult to really open our hearts and our doors for all of God's children.
I believe this is what we are called to do. And I believe it will change the world.
In the end, love will win.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

What Is Priceless?

What is priceless to you? What is worth more than money can buy? 
Where do you invest most of your time, energy, your thoughts?
If the two line up, if you invest most of your time and energy into what is priceless and valuable to you, you can consider yourself blessed.
If you invest your time and energy into things that are not priceless to you, this may be an opportunity for you to re-evaluate your priorities. Jesus says, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:21.) I interpret this to mean: that which you value the most, that is where your heart is, your true self. That is where you feel love, that is where you are most connected to yourself and to God.
We all lose our way sometimes. We get caught up in emotions or values that lead us away from who we truly are, and from the life God wants us to lead. But we can always find our way back. We can invest our time and energy and resources into people, causes and projects that we value.
Life is priceless, and life is short. A life well lived is a life that we follow our heart.
May Jesus lead the way! 

Monday, June 24, 2019

Faith as a Muscle

"If it don't kill ya, it just makes you stronger."
"The struggle you're in today is developing the strength you need for tomorrow."
The letter of James even describes difficult times as times of joy because they test our faith and thereby make it stronger.
Faith is like any other muscle: if you don't use it it gets weaker. If you use your muscles regularly, and challenge them by adding weights or running/walking/cycling/swimming faster, your muscles will get stronger. They will be sore. You will be tired. But your body will only get stronger.
It's the same way with faith. If you challenge it by dealing with struggles in your life and accepting them, your faith will grow stronger. I know it's a stretch but what if God gave us those struggles to help us exercise our faith? To help our faith grow stronger?
We can't see that in the moment. When we feel discouraged, stressed, downtrodden, worried, exhausted. In that moment we can only hold on and try to keep going. But looking back we realize how much we have learned during that time, and how God has carried us through.
I've experienced that and I've heard people tell me about their own experiences.
Just like working out your body, it takes effort, and determination, and practice.
It also takes a certain openness to want to see God in all of it. God is not one to force Godself on us. God offers us unconditional love and unlimited grace. But we will only receive that if we are willing to let God in. Which also requires effort, and determination, and practice.
But oh, how good it feels when you realize how strong you are. How strong God is. 

Monday, June 17, 2019

How We Experience God

Yesterday, many churches celebrated Trinity Sunday: God is Creator, God is in Jesus Christ, and God is Spirit. God gives life, God shows us how to live, and God inspires us. 
Generations of scholars have tried to figure this out: How can God be experienced in three different ways, and yet be one and the same God?
I'm not going to try to figure that out, and I don't think we need to. God is beyond our comprehension. A God that we can figure out wouldn't be God. We need a power that is greater than our own, and greater than our minds. We need a power that can blow us away!
Some people experience God in nature, in the created world.
Others see God in the face of the person on the side of the street, asking for help.
And yet others feel closest to God when they hear music.
These are three random examples of how we experience God. There are a billion more. That's the amazing thing about God: God comes to each of us in the way that we need it. God speaks to us individually in a way that only we can understand.
So instead of trying to figure God out, let's just be open to God speaking to us.
Because God is speaking, to me and to you!
Praise God! 

Monday, June 10, 2019

God's Spirit

Yesterday, we celebrated Pentecost: The festival of the Holy Spirit. As Christians we believe that God's Spirit is poured out on all of God's children, gifting us, inspiring us, empowering us to speak and share the good news about Jesus Christ. 
The Book of Acts tells us that people from all over the world had come to Jerusalem, and suddenly they heard their own language being spoken. They understood the message about Jesus because God gifted Jesus' disciples to speak in other languages!
If only it were that easy for us today: If only we could suddenly, effortlessly speak Spanish or Mandarin.
Are there ways that we can speak the languages of other people? Can we learn the language of another generation, another culture, another ethnicity, even another political view?
Listening is the first step to understanding others. Before we can speak to them we need to listen. Listen to their stories, listen to their experience and to their needs. When we truly listen, and truly want to understand, we will learn to speak their language. We will be able to share with them the gifts God has given us.
Language isn't only words. Music can be language, as can art, or dance. Your facial expression and your body can communicate openness and kindness, or fear and judgment. Everything you do (or don't do) communicates a message.
Let that message be love.
God, let our message be love. Send your Spirit on us that we may listen and speak in love.

Monday, June 3, 2019


Last night I had the privilege of speaking at an interfaith event held at the Islamic Society of Greater Worcester. A Rabbi, a representative of the Sikhi faith, a Muslim, and I spoke about the concept of forgiveness in our faith tradition. We were all amazed by how much our faiths had in common: As human beings we are all sinners, no matter how hard we try to live a good life. We make mistakes, we hurt other people, we hurt ourselves and we act or speak against God's will. We are all in need of forgiveness. We know how difficult it is to forgive, and how freeing it can be. We know that we can't control what others do, we can only control our own decisions and actions. And we all believe that God is merciful and that it is not up to us to judge others.
Our Muslim brothers and sisters had their prayers at sunset, and we feasted on a wonderful meal, continuing our conversations. It was a time of learning, of laughter, of hospitality, and of hope: Hope that together, we can make this world better. We can learn to understand each other and don't have to fear one another. We all want a better world, where everyone can live in freedom and safety. We all want to reach our young people with the message of faith and hope, and we want to bring comfort to those who are struggling.
I had to officiate at the funeral for a child last week. It helped me put things in perspective. Life can be over so quickly. It's too short to be holding on to grudges or past hurts, to blame, or guilt. Life is too short for us not to forgive.
May God help us live in peace, and bring healing to our hurting hearts.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019


Christians all around the world are observing what we call Holy Week: the last week of Jesus' life. We remember how he entered the city of Jerusalem, had a last meal with his closest friends (known as the Last Supper or Communion), was arrested, tortured, and crucified. On Friday we observe the last hours of his life, and his painful death. 
Jesus was faithful to the end. He was scared, he was alone, he pleaded with God, he even shouted, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" But he believed this was God's will, and "he loved them to the end." (John 13:1) He loved the world to the end of his life.
But, it was not the end. It turned out to be a new beginning: Three days later, Jesus was raised from the dead to a new, eternal life. God used Jesus' death to show the world that God is stronger than fear, violence and even death. In the end, love won.
A couple of weeks ago we hosted a Faith Fair at Trinity: 7 different religions introduced their traditions and beliefs to kids and adults in a creative, playful way, with games, snacks, and crafts. Close to 100 people came to learn. Because they realized that if we want to live in peace, we need to learn about each other so we can break down the walls of fear and misunderstandings. It was a joyful, beautiful event and it made me appreciate the depth and wisdom found in other cultures and faith traditions. Nobody was trying to promote their faith. They were just happy to share what they believe and how they live. 
To me that was another example how love overcomes fear. 
For us as Christians, Easter is the epitome of that. As we celebrate, we pray that God may bring peace, love and hope to all people.
"We give thanks to the Creator and we pray that in the battle between love and fear, which is always raging in the human heart, love will triumph. Love will win. In the end, love always wins."
Henry Meloux, Mide (an Anishinaabe healer).

Tuesday, April 9, 2019


As we're making our way through Lent and getting closer to observing the last few days of Jesus' life I've been thinking a lot about reconciliation and forgiveness.
We all know how hard it is to forgive. And even though we know that forgiveness does not mean we're condoning someone else's hurtful behavior, even though we know that we're punishing ourselves more than the other person, it is still so much harder to forgive than to hold on to a grudge. 
Jesus was betrayed, denied, and deserted by his best friends. He was innocently tried, tortured and executed in the most excruciating way. But he had dinner with those friends who would let him down. He served them bread and wine and said, "this is me, for you. And one day I will have dinner with you again in God's kingdom." And on the cross he prayed for those who got him there: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."
Jesus is all about forgiveness. What that means is that we are forgiven, too. No matter what we have or haven't done, Jesus forgives us. This is not a free pass, thinking that we will get away with murder and still be forgiven. This is just God's way of saying, "No matter what you may have done or thought, no matter how guilty you may be, it will not stop me from loving you as a person."
Knowing that can inspire us to do better. We will want to live a life of compassion and forgiveness because we experienced it first. We live a more faithful life not out of fear of punishment or to earn a reward, but because that's what God calls us to do, and that's how we fully live into the person God intended us to be. 

You are forgiven. You are loved. 
Go and do likewise. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

How Jesus Treats People

There's a famous story about a woman who was caught in adultery and people brought her to Jesus, saying that according to religious law she should be stoned to death. "What do you say?" they asked him. (Read the full story in the Gospel of John 8:1-11.)
Maybe they wanted to trap him. If he responded with "yes" or "now" he would be breaking either religious law, or the law of the Roman government. Maybe they didn't want to make the decision and wanted to load it off on him. He didn't take the bait. He didn't give them the answer they wanted. He took his time to think about it, and then he said, "Whoever among you is without sin may throw the first stone."
That was not the answer they were expecting. And one by one, they walked away.
Jesus doesn't condemn. Not even women who were always harshly judged, and considered their closest male relative's property. (As a sidenote, this woman may have been raped. Even non-consensual sex was considered adultery if the woman was married.) Jesus breaks the laws and customs of his time and treats people as a a person, not an object. All people. Even those who were considered second-class humans: women, people with disabilities, mental illnesses or diseases. People of other faiths and ethnicities. Jesus treated them all equal: As a person with dignity. A child of God.
Oh, Jesus, if only we treated people the way you did.
If only we stopped judging others and recognized that we are no better than they are.
If only we treated ALL people with dignity and respect.
What would our world look like if we did?

Monday, March 25, 2019


March 21 is World Down Syndrome Day. We decided to celebrate this in worship:
Several people wore mismatched socks because chromosomes look like socks, and because we are all different and yet all needed and important.
We also had kids of all ages lead worship: they greeted people as they were coming in, they read prayers, Bible passages, and collected the offering. They also showed a "wall" of hurtful words and then passionately tore it down, to reveal a sheet of affirming, positive words behind it.
This was based on Ephesians 2:14-18. "Jesus tore down the wall we used to keep each other at a distance. He came and preached peace to outsiders and to insiders. He treated us as equals, and so made us equals."
A young adult member of our church who has Down Syndrome spoke about his life and his plans for the future. 
As our closing song we sang Bryan Sirchio's "Stand with You:" If you find that you're locked out just because of who you are, or because of how you look or who you're with, well I may not have the power to unlock the doors myself, but I do believe God wants you to know this: You won't have to stand there alone. I know this because, I'll stand with you whenever you're excluded. I'll stand with you when you can't stand on your own. I'll stand with you when you're put down or wounded, 'cause that's what I know that Jesus would do."
In our world, many are still excluded because of who they are or how they look or who they're with. In our society, all are still not treated as equals. As the church of Jesus, we want to be a place where we practice what we preach. We want to welcome and include everybody, regardless of the boxes that society may put them in. We're not perfect. We still have lots of work to do to learn about racism, bigotry, inequality. But we want to learn. We want to do better. We want to do what Jesus would do. 

And this is why I love Trinity Church!

Monday, March 18, 2019

What's Right with the World

Last week I was at a conference and we watched a video by Dewitt Jones, a photographer for National Geographic: "Celebrate What's Right with the World." 
On his website he states,  "I spent 20 years as a photographer for National Geographic. Every time they sent me out, they would ask me to Celebrate What's Right with the World. I did, and it changed my life. Every day I see images that make me want to celebrate, and have discovered that there is far more right with the world than there is wrong with it." 
He also refers to people saying "I need to see it to believe it." His experience is the opposite: If you believe it, you will see it. And indeed, he saw the most spectacular, awe-inspiring moments and captured them on film.
I don't know if he is a religious person. He doesn't speak about that. But to me, it sounded like something a person of faith would say: I believe, and therefore I see. I believe in God and I see God at work in the world. I believe in love and I see love all around me. I believe in the good in people and I see people doing good things.
To me, that's what's right with the world: What God created, and still creates.
And that is something to celebrate every single day. Not denying that suffering and pain and lots of other bad things exist. But when we celebrate what is right we will find the strength to address what is wrong.
So, celebrate what's right with the world! When you look for it you will find it.
I celebrate sunshine, laughter, music, the first signs of spring, friendship, compassion, courage, honesty, commitment... I celebrate life. I celebrate God.
What do you celebrate?

Monday, March 11, 2019


Lent is an old Christian practice of praying, fasting and giving that many Christians observe for 40 days before Easter. Jesus went to the desert to pray and fast for 40 days, to find strength and solace by spending time alone with God. 
None of us can "get away" for 40 days. We have jobs, families, lives! But we can "get away" in the midst of those lives. Some members of Trinity Church shared what their Lenten practice is this year, as a way to connect with God every day and not just on Sunday mornings:
Some read a devotional. Some use coloring pages or guided meditations to take a time out for themselves and for God. Some pray at certain times every day. Some give up foods. I've given up sugar as a way to push the reset button on my habits. I don't want to consume thoughtlessly. I want to be deliberate and mindful in my choices every day, to slow down instead of grabbing a quick snack. And when I feel a craving I think about Jesus. 
I know someone who gave up coffee, others give up meat or alcohol. Oh, how good all of that will taste come Easter Sunday!
We are creatures of habit. And we need God's presence in our lives. In order for us to notice that presence it is helpful to break some of our old habits, or incorporate new ones. 
Other old habits to give up for Lent might be guilt, self-doubt, blame or judgment. You know yourself best, so you choose what works for you.
Finally, giving is also a spiritual practice. If you consume less, you have more to give. And by fasting, you remind yourself of those who go hungry involuntarily.
What might you give up this Lent, or what might you take on? The object is not to burden yourself with yet another responsibility. The object is to free yourself, to become lighter and more devoted to Jesus.
Imagine a world where we all pray more, consume less, and give more. We would all be better for it.

Monday, March 4, 2019

God's Plans and My Plans

We welcomed three new members to Trinity Church during worship, and they spoke about how God called them to Trinity. I have to agree! It's amazing what God can do if we let God; where God will lead us, if we are willing to follow.
Looking back at the events of last year, I recognize that God's plans are often different from mine, and always better. I would have preferred some things to have gone differently at the time. But looking back, I believe they prepared me for greater things.
We often have strong feelings, good or bad. We judge instantly. And then we reflect. We understand. We learn. We let God's spirit guide us. And when we do, it opens us up for God's plan.
Our fabulous music director, Mike Westberry, spoke about a passage from Jeremiah:  "For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me." (Jeremiah 29:11-14.)
God has plans for our welfare, to give us a future with hope. Mike pointed out that there is an action required on our end: IF you seek God with all your heart, God will let you find God.
God wants to be found. God wants to give us nothing but good. But God also respects our free will. If we are open for God's will for us, it will be done.
It all comes down to trusting that God knows better than we do. And remaining open for God's guidance. Actively asking, "God, what do you want me to do? Where are you nudging me to go?" And often it requires a lot of patience. We may not get an answer right away. But we will always get an answer.
In all the evil around us, the hatred, the violence: God has a plan for our world, too. I believe God wants to use us for good.
God has plans for you, and they are good!

Monday, February 25, 2019

Being Blessed

We read Jesus' Beatitudes ("Blessings") two Sundays in a row: Once the way they are told in the Gospel of Matthew (5:3-12) and then as they are told by Luke (6:20-26). Both versions have similarities and yet they are quite different. 
Matthew's Jesus blesses those who are "poor in spirit." Luke's blesses "you who are poor." Matthew's Jesus only extends blessings, Luke's also incorporates "woes:" "Woe to you who are rich, woe to you who are full now, woe to you who are laughing now." Fascinating stuff! But also challenging. My interpretation is that Jesus is saying, as long as others are poor and weeping, you cannot be rich and be laughing and still be part of the kingdom of God. That's not God's vision for the world: for some to be well off and others to suffer.
"Woe" to you who are rich and happy means, get on board with the kingdom of God! Become a part of the new world that God wants to build where there is no more poverty and injustice!
It's up to us where we place ourselves in those categories: do we consider ourselves to be poor, or rich? Hungry, or full? Laughing, or weeping? It's also up to us how we respond to these words of comfort that are calls to action at the same time.
Jesus healed people who had all kinds of diseases and were troubled with unclean spirits BEFORE he ever said a word to them. He made them well, and then he spoke. Because he knew they wouldn't be able to hear anything until their suffering had been alleviated.
Jesus wasn't all talk. He walked the walk and talked the talk.
That is my inspiration, my challenge, and my blessing.
However you may interpret the words of the Beatitudes, know that you are blessed. Know that you are loved. Know that you are a blessing. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2019


We just celebrated Valentine's Day and I hope you got to enjoy time with someone you love.
I did, and I'm incredibly grateful for the people I have in my life that love me and support me.

Valentine's Day is one of those holidays that can be exclusive. It's only for people who have a date, a lover, a romantic connection. Or at least someone, anyone who loves them!
But for those who don't, it hurts. It hurts to see hearts and roses and chocolate and happy faces. It hurts to be lonely, to feel left out, to not be acknowledged or appreciated. It hurts not to have anyone say to you, "I love you. You are special to me."
I struggle with that: How to acknowledge that this is a special day for a lot of people, how to share their joy, and still not make it even more painful for those for whom it is already a difficult day. The same is true for Christmas: a time most celebrate with family and friends. But for those who just buried their husband, or lost their daughter to suicide, or haven't spoken to their brother in years - for them, Christmas is hard and painful.
How do we celebrate the special occasions in the life of the church without pouring salt in the wounds of those who are hurting? 
When we plan events for people of all ages because we want everyone to come together: We want to be a place where people from different generations connect and grow and have fun. How do we invite families and couples without making those who live alone feel excluded? 

You may be rolling your eyes and thinking, well, you just can't make everybody happy.
I know that. I experience that all the time. But isn't it our calling as the church, not so much to make everybody happy, but at least not to hurt those who are already hurt? To be a little more compassionate towards those that we may think are "too sensitive?" 
We just read the Beatitudes in worship on Sunday, from Matthew 5:2-12: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." 
As the church of Jesus Christ, we are called to comfort those who mourn. We are called to be merciful, and pure in heart, and to make peace. None of this is possible without compassion. (Which, if you ask me, is just another way of saying LOVE.)

So at the risk of making things complicated or difficult for those who just want to celebrate their favorite holiday, I will err on the side of love. I will include in my celebrations, in my preaching, my writing, and my prayers, those who cannot celebrate. 
It's what Jesus taught me to do. 

Monday, February 11, 2019


There's a passage in the Bible where Jesus preaches in his hometown Nazareth. People are happy to see him, they are proud of him. But then, after he tells them what God really sent him to do, they chase him out of town and almost drive him off a cliff. (Read the story in Luke 4:16-30.)
They don't want to hear what he has to say. Because he tells them that sometimes God chooses foreigners over the ones who consider themselves to be God's favorites. God chooses the poor over the rich, the oppressed over the oppressors. And while that is good news for the poor and the oppressed, it is bad news for the rich and the oppressors. 
It's been almost 2000 years since Jesus preached that sermon. Millions and millions of Christians all over the world claim to follow his teachings. And yet... A small percentage of people (many of them self-proclaimed Christians!) own the majority of wealth in our world, while a large number can't afford nutritious food, healthcare or education. The wealthy benefit from certain parts of the population remaining oppressed and poor (depending on what country you're looking at this could be immigrants, refugees, indigenous peoples, people of color, women, children, LGBTQ folk, and many others.) 
Really? 2000 years we've been supposedly following this Jesus and we've only moved further away from the good news he came to proclaim. How did we miss this message of his that is so abundantly clear?

Honestly, if people had taken Jesus' message seriously and actually tried to live by it, Christianity would still be a small minority. Maybe it wouldn't even exist anymore. Because who would want to give up their wealth, their freedom, their privilege just because some carpenter's son said so? 
And yet we call that carpenter's son our Savior. 
Which he is. But his mission was not to save us from hell and eternal damnation. That was an instrument used by the religious institution, the church, to instill fear in people and keep them under control. What Jesus really came to save us from was greed, power, bigotry, and selfishness. 
And we need that salvation today more than ever before.
What can you do? Do what Jesus did. Speak uncomfortable, even provocative truths about the injustices of our society. Educate yourself about the life of marginalized people. Share what you have learned. Don't be afraid to offend. Jesus wasn't! 
Maybe things had to go from bad to worse so we would finally see that something needs to change. And it needs to begin with us. It's time we really started to follow Jesus. 
What will you do?

Monday, February 4, 2019


Yesterday we celebrated "Sonshine Sunday," appreciating the light that Jesus, the Son of God, brings into our lives. We wore bright colors, sang songs about light and had ice cream. Because as the winter drags on, the cold and lack of light can get our spirits down.We thought about the Maori proverb: "Turn your face toward the sun and the shadows fall behind you." The light of Jesus, the light of God is there, even when we cannot see it or feel it.
I'm not denying that shadows exist. We have reason for grave concern. One that came to my mind as I was thinking about the sun and its powers to warm, give light, but also to destroy, was climate change. We're witnessing extremes like we never have before: severe cold in some parts of the world while others are experiencing extreme drought or flooding. Thousands of people are losing their homes, their sources of income, their lives. The effects of climate change will lead to mass migration of people from parts of the world that are no longer habitable.
While I did not mention this during worship yesterday it has been on my mind and we can't afford to remain silent about it. This is a real threat to all life on this planet. If we keep living the way we have been it is certain that life on this planet will be very different 50 years from now.
I don't have a solution but I cannot pretend this problem isn't real.
When people come into my office they comment on how I am all bundled up wearing wrist warmers, a scarf, two sweaters. I refuse to turn the heat up because I don't want to add to the amount of harmful carbon dioxides we are emitting into our atmosphere. I avoid short trips in my car for the same reason. If I have somewhere to go I try to combine it with an errand I need to run. I take reusable cups and water bottles everywhere I go. I always get my drink without a straw and bring my own container for my leftovers. And I never accept a plastic bag when shopping. Sound inconvenient? Yes. Do other people sometimes look at me like I'm from outer space? Yes. But it's worth it to me. Recycling is no longer enough. The amounts of energy needed to recycle plastic add to our carbon dioxide emissions and the warming of the planet (not to mention the large amounts of plastic that are non-recyclable and end up in the ocean, destroying sea life).
These are all just small things but they remind me every day that I don't want to pollute this planet. I don't want to leave behind a mountain of trash and death and destruction for those who come after me.
What will you do?
The Son, Jesus, said, "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12). What that means to me is he gives hope and he wants life. He also said, "You are the light of the world" (Matthew 5:14). The world needs you, the world needs us. Life is so fragile. Life is a gift from God. Someone's got to protect it. What will you do?

Monday, January 28, 2019

What Is God Up to?

We celebrated Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in worship yesterday. Some of us attended an interfaith event held in Westborough last week, a day of inspiration, service, and connection. 300 people, kids, and adults came together to celebrate the legacy of Dr. King, and to consider how we can keep his dream of a just an equitable society alive.
In worship, we read Paul's Letter to the Galatians 3:23-29. Paul writes about distinctions of society at his time and how they no longer apply: we are all one, and we are all free. 
How do we live into that, today, with a society that has become even more diverse since the days of Dr. King? It is no longer only "black and white." There are differences in religion, ethnic background, sexual orientation, intellectual and physical ability, income, education, age, political affiliation...  More and more boxes that we place each other in, and judge each other from. 
How do we overcome them? 
One big step, I think, is to realize that these boxes exist in our heads and nowhere else. And they exist in our heads because they were placed there, not because we were born with them. Nobody is born with any kind of bias. Bias is taught and learned. So is fear of those who are different. When you put babies of different racial backgrounds together they will interact without any reservation. Do the same exercise with older kids who have not been exposed to people of other races, and they will be curious. As they grow older still they will become skeptical, even fearful or hostile. Because they hear statements of prejudice and bias, and they internalize them. 
We can't go back and change the way we were raised. But we can try to overcome the boxes that were put in our heads. 
And we can learn from and with our kids. 

One of the questions I asked during my sermon yesterday (quoting Rev. Jeffrey Jones) was, "What is God up to?" Because I fully believe that I am not in control of this congregation, or anything for that matter. None of us are. Do we have influence? Yes. Responsibility? Absolutely. Power? To varying degrees. But we are not in control. God is in control. Instead of praying, "God, please do this or that," we might pray, "God, what are you up to? And how do I get on board?" 
What does God want for this world? How does God want us to treat each other, and our planet? How can we play a role in God's plan?

We won't know unless we ask. 

Monday, January 21, 2019

Being a United States Citizen

I am sharing a personal pledge that I want to make publicly so I can be held accountable. This is my personal opinion and does not represent Trinity Church. 
I am now a citizen of the United States of America. (Also, still, of Germany.)
It is humbling to recognize the circumstances of privilege I came under: I was living in safety and freedom. I chose to search for a job in the U.S. and moved here after I found one. I could move back to Germany any time I want to, and I travel there to visit regularly.

So I think of the many who came here under very different circumstances: Fleeing persecution, discrimination, war and poverty - most likely never to return to the place they call home.

This is my pledge to you, all immigrants, documented and undocumented, and all refugees: As a citizen, I will use my voice and my vote to fight for your rights and your safety. I will never forget your plight and your pain. And I will do everything in my power to educate about basic human rights.

This is also my pledge to other marginalized groups who face discrimination every day: People of color, the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities, people of non-Christian faiths, people with criminal records, and all others: I will fight for you, too.

Life has been easy for me. I‘ve been very fortunate and blessed but I don‘t deserve this any more than you do. I am not worth more than you are. I admire you and you will always have an ally in me! So help me God.

Monday, January 7, 2019

A New Year

At the end of each year, I like to read through my journal and do a personal "year in review." It's always surprising how much I forget, and how I still get upset about things that I thought I had learned to handle better. It's also an opportunity to give thanks: for time spent with people I love, for experiences I enjoyed, for relaxation and excitement, and for lessons learned. 
And then I look ahead at the new year and all the potential it holds. I don't usually make new year's resolutions but I do think about what I want to focus my time and energy on, what I want to work on, what I want to let go of. 
And I realize time and time again that what shapes my life the most is not what happens to me, but how I respond. So many circumstances are beyond our control: health, decisions made at our workplace, how other people treat us. The only thing we can control is how we respond: With anger, despair, withdrawal...
Or with compassion, openness, courage.
We can accept the things that are beyond our control, and change what only we can: our own attitude.
This year, 2019, I choose an attitude of gratitude, of calm, and of compassion.
Ask me again next year how it went! With God's grace, I believe I will be one step closer to becoming the person God created me to be. Thankfully, God has more patience than I do.
Here's to a peaceful 2019!