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Lydia

Lydia

Sermon at Westfield for Sunday, May 1st. Based on Acts 16: 9-15. Today, I want to talk about Acts—the book that follows John in our New Testament writings. You could think of Acts at Luke, part 2. It was written by the same guy, Luke, who was an historian who prided himself on his ability to retell events thoroughly. And it’s Luke who, through Acts, gives us a picture of what it was like to be in the early church. It’s the first attempt to offer some insight into a simple question: Now what? Jesus has died. Jesus rose. Jesus lives again. Now What? What does it mean to believe? Who is this faith for? Where should the faith go next? All of those questions and dozens of others boil down to that simple one: now what? And it’s in Acts that we witness Peter and Paul wrestling with just that question—now what? And every story we read provides a clearer perspective. It’s like the lens is being twisted and the image slowly comes into focus. One of the ways the answer to that question is revealed, bit by bit, is by encounters and visions. In the time of Peter and Paul, visions weren’t delusions as we tend to think of them. They were seen as prophetic. I suspect the people who encountered visions thought of them the same way we might: wild and unruly, uncertain and uneasy. Yet, we allow those notions—wild and unruly and uncertain and uneasy to be markers of danger we assume is insanity. In ancient days, visions weren’t insane—they were revelatory. At the beginning of... read more

Intentionally

Scriptures: John 13: 31-35, Revelation 21: 1-6 “Love one another.” Three little words from the middle of the Gospel of John, yet those three words changed everything for us in the Christian tradition.  They fundamentally and seismically shifted what faith and religion were about. You see historic Judaism championed the Law. Found in the first five books of the Hebrew Bible (aka Old Testament) the law dictates how to live a good and right life so that people are treated (and treat each other!) justly and so that Israel as a people would flourish. Now remember the earliest Christians weren’t really Christians. They were Jews who believed the prophecies had been fulfilled, that Jesus was the Messiah. And so for them, there was no question about whether or not the law still applied—of course it did. And you’ll notice that Jesus doesn’t repeal the law. But what he says fundamentally and seismically shifts the point. No longer is faith or religion about checking off a series of boxes or accomplishing tasks that create a good life. No, Jesus boils it down for us, Jesus simplified it: “Love on another,” he says in John. And just to make his point clear, he adds, “Just as I have loved you, you should love one another.” It’s called the new commandment. And you know, there’s a day on our liturgical calendar when we specifically remember those words—the words of the new commandment or in Latin, mandatum. Which day? Maundy Thursday. What a wonderful summation of what it’s all about: loving one another.  It kinda leaves me with a warm, fuzzy feeling—until I... read more

Poofs, Confetti, and the Resurrection

A little over six weeks ago, I told you all about our latest Lenten installation that featured giant, vertical words that represented the six sermon themes for the season. They were striking. Particularly on Maundy Thursday, when their silhouettes loomed over our commemoration of the darkest days of the season. It was a powerful transformation when, by Easter Sunday, those words pointing to the gloomiest bits of humanity bloomed into something beautiful. I had toyed with all sorts of ideas for what to hang from our ceiling this Easter. For the last three years, we suspended ribbons of coral fabric that radiated from the cross on the pipes. They soared into the ceiling and seemed to lift the whole building. But after three years, it was time for something new. Amazon Prime to the rescue. My administrator/lifesaver, Carrie, found these tissue paper poofs online. We ordered 120 of them. Our women’s group helped to make them as did patient, faithful church members who sat and fluffed graciously. Once they were all fluffed out, we put a binding clip on each one then strung them with floral binding wire. Once everything was strung together, we carried them into the sanctuary and began to hang them on our fishing line cross wires. We used a T-connection by wrapping the floral binding wire (which was cut at varying lengths) around the fishing line one direction, then back across the other way. This keeps the poof from sliding as we pull the cross wire into position. The end result was stunning. Seeing as though it was my fourth Easter at Westfield, I was desperate... read more

Words for the Journey: A Lenten Installation

Well, we made it to Lent, earlier this year than in years past it seems. And like most things church year related, it snuck up on me.  Since I’ve been at Westfield, we’ve hung giant swaths of fabric across the sanctuary, effectively cutting it in half. It makes the usually huge, airy room feel small and dark and uncomfortable. It created a physical reaction, mostly because it physically changed the shape and the size of the room. Then when Easter finally arrives, there’s always such relief to have the room and light and space back. This year though, after 3 years of purple fabric, it was time to try something new (I’ve a hunch the peach fabric might be back–it’s just so majestic, isn’t it?). An Advent or two ago, my colleague and friend, the Rev. Jeanne Murawski of Immanuel UCC, posted a picture on Facebook of her church in Illinois. They’ve got a similar balcony to Westfield’s, and for the season of Advent, they hung big letters that spelled out the themes of the each week of the season: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love. Side note: Don’t you just love that pulpit? You better believe I’d preach from that! My intent was to do something like that for our Lenten themes this year. Except, there’s one big difference between Jeanne’s church and mine. Westfield’s sanctuary is HUGE.  So, letters as big as an 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of card stock, just wouldn’t do because they’d get lost. Not to mention, we need them to hang for six weeks during a season that goes from wet and cold to dry and cold... read more

Sermons

Lydia

Lydia

Sermon at Westfield for Sunday, May 1st. Based on Acts 16: 9-15. Today, I want to talk about Acts—the book that follows John in our New Testament writings. You could think of Acts at Luke, part 2. It was written by the same guy, Luke, who was an historian who prided himself on his ability to retell events thoroughly. And it’s Luke who, through Acts, gives us a picture of what it was like to be in the early church. It’s the first attempt to offer some insight into a simple question: Now what? Jesus has died. Jesus rose. Jesus lives again. Now What? What does it mean to believe? Who is this faith for? Where should the faith go next? All of those questions and dozens of others boil down to that simple one: now what? And it’s in Acts that we witness Peter and Paul wrestling with just that question—now what? And every story we read provides a clearer perspective. It’s like the lens is being twisted and the image slowly comes into focus. One of the ways the answer to that question is revealed, bit by bit, is by encounters and visions. In the time of Peter and Paul, visions weren’t delusions as we tend to think of them. They were seen as prophetic. I suspect the people who encountered visions thought of them the same way we might: wild and unruly, uncertain and uneasy. Yet, we allow those notions—wild and unruly and uncertain and uneasy to be markers of danger we assume is insanity. In ancient days, visions weren’t insane—they were revelatory. At the beginning of... read more

Visual Worship

Poofs, Confetti, and the Resurrection

Poofs, Confetti, and the Resurrection

A little over six weeks ago, I told you all about our latest Lenten installation that featured giant, vertical words that represented the six sermon themes for the season. They were striking. Particularly on Maundy Thursday, when their silhouettes loomed over our commemoration of the darkest days of the season. It was a powerful transformation when, by Easter Sunday, those words pointing to the gloomiest bits of humanity bloomed into something beautiful. I had toyed with all sorts of ideas for what to hang from our ceiling this Easter. For the last three years, we suspended ribbons of coral fabric that radiated from the cross on the pipes. They soared into the ceiling and seemed to lift the whole building. But after three years, it was time for something new. Amazon Prime to the rescue. My administrator/lifesaver, Carrie, found these tissue paper poofs online. We ordered 120 of them. Our women’s group helped to make them as did patient, faithful church members who sat and fluffed graciously. Once they were all fluffed out, we put a binding clip on each one then strung them with floral binding wire. Once everything was strung together, we carried them into the sanctuary and began to hang them on our fishing line cross wires. We used a T-connection by wrapping the floral binding wire (which was cut at varying lengths) around the fishing line one direction, then back across the other way. This keeps the poof from sliding as we pull the cross wire into position. The end result was stunning. Seeing as though it was my fourth Easter at Westfield, I was desperate...

Stoles

New Stole Sunday: How Greg Won Christmas

New Stole Sunday: How Greg Won Christmas

I’ve a confession to make: I LOVE STOLES. I have lots of them–nearly fifty. (I know. I’ve got a problem.) My dear husband, Greg, doesn’t help.  For every gift-giving holiday, he’s got a new, custom stole up his sleeves. In fact, there are over 10 waiting in the wings since I last posted a New Stole Sunday in March of 2014! But this one took the cake. In May of 2015, Greg and I went on a 2 week adventure of a honeymoon in Rome.  And of course, while we were there, we looked up a clergy vestment shop (like you do) to see what we could find. Turns out their vestments were super expensive (or we’re REALLY cheap). In any case, all we decided to take home was some fabric from the discount rack. (Y’all know how I am about fabric!) I’d all but forgotten it, when we opened Christmas presents after Westfield’s 9pm Christmas Eve service. Side note: Everyone knows Christmas gifts aren’t a competition. And EVERYONE hopes they give the best gift. This year was no different for us. The lights on the tree were on and our late suppers from Grill 37 reheated. Greg handed me two packages. “Open this one first,” he said. I ripped through the wrapping to find a canvas print of this: “This is one of my favorites…” he began, a little bashfully. Side note: Greg has so many wonderful traits–he’s tall and talented and loving and supportive. But Greg is not a complimenter. I knew it when I met him; I knew it when we got married. And that’s fine (most days! 😉) So,...

The Way I See It