Blowing In the Wind

On Sunday, June 21 the Hingham Singers came to Broad Bay. 2019.HinghamSingersAs they were just off a concert tour focused on the music of Peter, Paul and Mary, I focused on Bob Dylan’s song, “Blowin’ in the Wind.”  It was part of a series on Renouncing Violence.  What do we do when we feel surrounded by violence and in the desert of dry bones?   See sermon below.


Singer song writer Carrie Newcomer, said, “I am not part of the resistance.  I am part of creating a kinder and gentler world.”

Pete Seeger’s bango said, “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender.”

The music of Peter, Paul and Mary opened hearts in a time of national conflict, crisis and change.  Vietnam, civil rights, Kent State, the draft.  Churches were split. Families split.  Leaders assassinated.

Peter, Paul and Mary and many others sang.  They brought us together to sing.

Yes, ‘n’ how many years can a mountain exist
Before it’s washed to the sea?
Yes, ‘n’ how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, ‘n’ how many times can a man/woman turn his/her head
And pretend that he/she just doesn’t see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.  Bob Dylan

“How long, O lord?”  the psalmist cried.

“How long, O Lord?” the prophet cried.

“How long, O Lord?” the people cry.

“How long, O Lord?”

The answer is blowing in the wind.

So often the wind is where we glimpse God—in that which is felt but unseen, through the Holy Spirit the third person of the trinity.

Sailors learn to read the wind by looking at the waves on the water.  Their ability to arrive safely at their destination, is dependent of their ability to read the wind. We know God by the signs we see as the winds of the spirit blow, as the spirit does her playful and creative dance.

These days, as I read the paper (no, read my phone) and pay attention to the news, my heart breaks and I don’t know how to find the way forward. It is so tempting to rage.  There is no five point plan to bring love and justice and mercy.  There is showing up and looking for an answer in surprising places.

Jesus said, “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  John 3:8

We know the places of dry bones.   As churches decline and become less relevant in the wider culture, it can feel like we are surrounded by dry bones.  But we know we are a resurrection people.

We know the place of dry bones, a place of fear or helplessness from which there is no way out.  And yet… we are a resurrection people.

We know the place of dry bones—where violence is everywhere.  Where our rhetoric is disrespectful at best, and hate-filled and inflammatory at worst.

We know the place of dry bones and we are resurrection people.

Perhaps my greatest qualification to be your pastor in this time and place is that I spent two decades before I came here working with folks on the edge in the valley of dry bones: homeless women, psychiatric patients, families with a child at risk of removal.  At first I was green and had no idea of what to do.  Later, I still had no idea of what to do but learned to lean in to the unknown and look for the glimpses of hope. When anger or violence reigns, when tempers are high, when people are hurting and discouraged, when people have come to expect the worst, when trust is broken, ordinary resources do not work.

The only tool I had when a drunk angry woman was pushing another, was companionship.  A conversation, a joke, a cup of coffee.

Working with families at risk, problems were seldom solved by focusing on the problem.  Why is Johnny so upset with his parents?  Focusing on the misery of the situation, the precursors to the outburst, is important but often leads to more misery.  Instead it is more effective, or at least more rewarding, to throw caution to the wind and search for the times/moments when Johnny was calm.  What was happening?  Is there something to be learned from a day that went well?  Listen and watch for the sounds of laughter.  Listen and watch for times of cooperation.

It may feel like all sense of civility and decency has left our politics.  When tempers are this high and positions dug in this firmly, I despair.  When tempers are high and accusations running hard, it seems that violence or words with hard edges are the only way; And yet, does that help?

The non-violent civil rights movement found a way.

The arts lead us in other ways.

The Holy Spirit invites us to keep our eyes open for changing conditions, for a new way to our destinations.

Caring for a special needs child, an adult or elder with a chronic illness, resolving intractable societal problems, or any other challenge, demands that we follow the God who is in the winds.

There is an old hymn:

Give to the winds thy fears;
hope and be undismayed.
God hears thy sighs and counts thy tears,
God shall lift up thy head.   Paul Gerhardt, John Wesley, trans

Our fears of the unknown can paralyze us from seeing other options, other strengths, other paths.

Whenever we find ourselves in the place of dry bones: Watch. Wait. What is the wind doing?

Help or grace or comfort or God will appear from some unexpected place.

The answer is blowing in the wind.   Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Place at the Table

2018-11.18-Brdby-Simmons-Thanksgiving-Table-400dpi-Scan-1

There is a place at the table for everyone.  Whether your table is set for one or 25, may your table be filled with food, joy, and hope.

(Thanks to AJ Simmons for the art.)

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Come, You Thankful People Come

AJ Simmons drew the Broad Bay Church under the rainbow, the rainbow that scripture tells us was placed in the sky to remind God not to destroy the earth.   The rainbow is a reminder that God’s love shines on people some consider to be outcasts.

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AJ shows the people, almost larger than life.  I am grateful to be part of a church where the people stand outside the church looking outward.

For the last 6 months, we’ve raised money to maintain the church steeple and to make the building safe, flexible and accessible.   But like this picture, the focus is the people and the rainbow.   Happy Thanksgiving.

(For more information on the capital campaign visit:  Broadbaychurch.org)

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Kavannah/Ford: Children are Watching Us

For many, painful personal issues regarding assault, sexuality, alcohol and drugs have risen to the surface.  I pray for all who remember trauma this day.  There are plenty of youth who are witnessing or participating in parties with alcohol and drugs, who have or will experience sexual assault.   I assume those youth have or will show up in church or in our families.

Our response around kitchen tables, in schools, and in church will impact whether youth come forward in hard times.  Will youth involved in actions that hurt another, reach out and share his/her regret?   Will youth who were hurt, trust that adults will hear the story, and listen with love and wisdom?

How can we respond now, in ways that invite youth to reflect with us about the issues that trouble them?   The door is open.  Can we help one another acknowledge the pain we have caused and the pain we have endured?

 

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In praise of poetry and art

On Sunday, poet Elizabeth Meade, recited several of her poems in worship.  A hush fell upon the congregation as she shared these words.

Way of Small Warriors

I want to be like grass
growing through cracks in the concrete
reaching for the light,
even
when sitting in darkness.
by Elizabeth Meade

konni.elizabeth

Konni Wells illustrated the poem.

I weep with love for all the times we are like grass pushing up the concrete.

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Joy by Trudi Hodgkins

On Sunday, Trudi Hodgkins shared these words as she lit the candle of Joy.  I love that so many are creating their own art and poetry for worship.   Later she sent this photo taken from her deck as the sun rose over Clary Lake.

ClaryLakeTrudiHodgkins

It’s a joy to see the sunrise
With God’s colors draping the heavens
In glorious tones as they rush
To light the day.

It’s a joy to sing the songs of praise
Learned as a little girl in Sunday School ,
And later in ‘big girl’ choirs.

It’s a joy to enter this holy place,
To see and touch and feel the warmth,
To hear the heartbeat of a loving community.

It’s a joy to see the wizened old cat,
As she stretches and folds herself elegantly into my lap,
Purring her heart out with a melody of her own making.

It’s a joy to see my friends
Who give me the gift of their smiles,
Their constancy, their lovingness.

It’s a joy to assemble with my family,
The picnics, the gatherings, the sharing of life doings,
The soft – and loud – moments.

It’s a joy to have memories of kindly, good folk,
Related or not,
Now here with me only in my heart and mind,
But forever so.

It’s a joy to be in love
With my place here on earth, figuratively and literally,
Surrounded by God’s creatures
And all of the minutia of nature that
Inspires and enriches.

Sadnesses will ever come and go,
For such comes to her or him who has had much
While truly living, engaging with life
And those who swirl within it.

It’s a joy to love it all:
The good, the bad and the ugly teach us —
Teach us that the sorrows only manifest themselves
After we have tasted the delights.

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“Do I have to believe in Christianity to be a member of the church?”

Let’s turn the question around.  The church should be a place where the deepest spiritual yearnings of people are touched.  The church should be a home for our questions, our hurts, our yearnings, our tears, and our love; the church should be a place where we glimpse God in the midst of our day to day lives.   The church should be a sanctuary.

Rev. John Dorhauer, President and General Minister of the United Church of Christ affirmed the fact that people are seeking and melding a variety of spiritual paths–yoga, meditation, Jesus, Buddha, and church.   The melding of a variety of spiritual traditions is nothing new. In the southwest, Native American symbols made their way into Christian churches.  In Europe, pagan practices made their way into our Christmas traditions.  We’ve always merged sacred symbols and practices.

The church is a place where the stories of the Hebrew Bible and of Jesus are shared. The church is a place where we come together and try to live out the ancient commandment to love God with heart, soul, mind and strength and our neighbor as ourselves.

The church is a place where the stranger is welcomed, the child is loved, and our gifts are nurtured.

“Do I have to believe in Christianity to be a member of the church?”

If you have found a home in the Broad Bay Church, you can be a member.  If something good and holy and special happens to you as you participate in this place—in worship, in talking to others, in mission projects–and you want to be part of that in a deeper way, you can join this church. This is a church that welcomes your questions, your wisdom, your tears, and your laughter.  If Broad Bay is a place you want to be, join us.

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