A prayer for this day.

the pain is so immense.  so deep.  so rooted.  so ingrained in the fabric, the DNA of our existence as a people, a culture, a city, a community, a system, a nation … that it seems to be (for some of us) tearing us apart from the very inside of ourselves.  for others of us, this pain is simply being brought forth, out into the open … and in that … there is a freedom to its expression, a liberation to its sounding, and a relief to its airing out that i cannot speak to from my experience.

but i do feel the pain; i hear the cries; i see the wounds.

all i have this day is a prayer.  tomorrow, perhaps, i will have something else.

but, now, i offer this prayer for this day.

Holy and living God,

  • In you “we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:28)
  • In you we find our shelter and strength,
  • In you our hearts are being filled with joy each morning, 
  • In you we sing praises with a new song,
  • In you we trust that your promises are the way.
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Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Like those early disciples experiencing time in between a life known with Jesus the man and a life in the days of Pentecost with the Risen Christ alive in collected hearts;  

like those early disciples experiencing the time in between the grief of deep loss and the anxiety of the unknown; 

in between the loss of what was and the anticipation of a new way of being God’s people:

    • We wait with hope for you are the source of every hope,
    • We wait with patience for your timing is always perfect,
    • We wait with prayer for you are listening intently,
    • We wait with praise for you take all our anxieties as we cast them on you.

Like those early disciples experiencing time in between a life known with Jesus the man and a life in the days of Pentecost with the Risen Christ alive in collected hearts;  

like those early disciples experiencing the time in between the grief of deep loss and the anxiety of the unknown; 

in between the loss of what was and the anticipation of a new way of being God’s people, we lift to you:

    • Those who graduating with uncertainty hindering their future, 
    • Those who lost their jobs and are finding ways to meet their financial needs,
    • Those who lost their loved ones, and their funeral services are limited or postponed,
    • Those who are fighting against addiction and are unable to meet with their recovery groups,
    • Those who feel fear as hate crimes and incidents rise forth from the very ground.

Like those early disciples experiencing time in between a life known with Jesus the man and a life in the days of Pentecost with the Risen Christ alive in collected hearts;  

like those early disciples experiencing the time in between the grief of deep loss and the anxiety of the unknown; 

in between the loss of what was and the anticipation of a new way of being God’s people:

    • We mourn for the loss of “normal” while we hear the cries and the anger and the pain that what was normal was unjust, hurtful, and murderous to so many of your flock.
    • We pray forgiveness for our own sin of racism, our racist ways, our racist system.
    • We pray for relief from pain and for the safe space to cry — whether silent or aloud in the streets.  
    • We pray for your people, your children — one and all — because as followers of Christ, we know that we are to see all your people as people we too love, because you first loved us. 

During this time, O God,

  • Enter into our sorrows, worries, addictions, financial burdens, fears, and injustices, 
  • Fill us with your grace, hope, and joy abundantly, 
  • Turn each home into a place of peace, unity, and love for each other,
  • Renew our hearts and minds to seek the knowledge of your mercy and love,
  • Help our souls to be united in incessant prayer.

Like those early disciples experiencing time in between a life known with Jesus the man and a life in the days of Pentecost with the Risen Christ alive in collected hearts;  

like those early disciples experiencing the time in between the grief of deep loss and the anxiety of the unknown; 

in between the loss of what was and the anticipation of a new way of being God’s people:

Let us also receive this prayer of Apostle Paul:

“I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make us intelligent and discerning in knowing [God] personally, our eyes focused and clear, so that we can see exactly what it is [God] is calling us to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life [God] has for [us], oh, the utter extravagance of [God’s] work in us who trust [the Lord]—endless energy, boundless strength!”

Let it be so. Amen.

By Rev. Taesung Kang, MSG Translation, edited by the Rev. Melinda Teter Dodge.  

Hope in the form of a text message or two…

My family has an almost daily practice of sharing highs and lows around the dinner table.  Sometimes, it’s more just a rote thing that we do, the benefit being more in the consistency of doing it than in the deep reflections shared.  LOL.

But, then there are those times when something surprising arises.  

This past Tuesday night, I surprised even myself when I didn’t share that my day’s joy was good health.  These days, good health is an increasing and ongoing joy.  Surrounded by startling statistics of the spread and death rate of COVID-19 around the world and locally both, my joy often is good health.  It is a joy.  Now and evermore.

However, the other night, my articulated joy was something different.  I’ve been working on the plans for our summer day camp.  As with many summer events, we aren’t sure what, if, how or when camp will happen.  There are so many, many more questions than answers.  There is so much to sift through, to think over, to read, learn, consider and communicate.

  • Will we be able to hold camp?
    • If so, how?  Will we do some portions virtually?
    • What will group sizes be?
  • How might we manage lunch?
  • What is the best sanitizer and where do we get it?
  • What can we possibly do for recreation??
  • Jeez … the questions never end!

However, in sorting through the bog of questions, it came to me that I needn’t try to answer them all on my own.  I had already assembled a strong staff and volunteer team before the pandemic reared its ugly head.  So, my next step was to have the hard conversation with each of these good folks about whether they wished to continue on staff this summer — given all the unknowns of camp.

And?  Each one of our camp staff confirmed their participation.  But, their confirmations went much further than that.  Each of them wants to do the hard work of helping to make camp happen.  In whatever way or ways that we can.

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I heard things like:

  • “We just have to have camp.  Our campers love it so much, and we ALL need this.”
  • “I am thrilled to hear that you want to continue with camp. I would definitely still be interested!”
  • “Whatever we need to do, I’m in!”
  • “Well, I can tell you right now whatever you decide?  I’m 100% on board with. I think the kids deserve a great summer now more than ever and I want to help make that happen (:”

I felt hope in listening to the passion of our camp staff and volunteers to make Groundlings Camp happen.  And this hope? these messages? reminded me of why God gave us the gift of church and why gathering is so intrinsic to the Christian tradition.

We gather hope from one another.  We gain insight and wisdom; we offer and receive, grace from one another.  What we cannot do alone?  we can often do with the help of others.

These conversations and replies and “we can do this!” spirit kept coming through via texts throughout the day.  As I thought about these replies, I started to understand a different portrait of church in these times … one that is ancient and new … spoken of in the Book of Acts (conveniently enough just read this past Sunday in our lectionary cycle!)

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46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”  ~ Acts 2:46-47

While we cannot meet together in person, we can still be and still are … God’s church.  The hope we have in the new day, the resurrection — this hope remains very much intact, and very much alive.

So my joy around the dinner table that evening was “the hope I received in text messages all day about Groundlings Camp this summer!”

The Holy Spirit coming through in those messages continue to give me hope this day.

Blessings and peace to you,

Pastor Melinda

Good Shepherd, indeed!

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“Young Shepherd”

By Ed Brambley from Cambridge, UK [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

This week, I have been preparing to lead our church’s Sunday morning “worship dialogue” virtually on Zoom.*  In some ways, it’s difficult to believe that less than two months ago, most of us had never heard of online gathering tools such as Zoom.  And now?  I am using it multiple times daily, and as you know, I do find it tedious as some days I’m zooming for hours on end!

But, I am also deeply thankful for the technology that will allow us to gather in dialogue on Sunday as the church of God.  Thanks be to God.  We will hear live music from Derek Gordon and Dr. Josh Palkki.  We will pray together.  And, we will read and discuss two scriptural texts from the morning’s lectionary:

  • Psalm 23
  • Acts 2: 42-47

Now, I am going to be honest with you.  When I first saw the readings, I wasn’t sure what to do!  I mean …  Psalm 23:  what more can possibly be shared about these particular verses in our tradition?  What more could we possibly learn, discern, or discuss?

But then, as I thought some more and pushed back on my initial reaction (I’ve learned!), I thought: this is the perfect Psalm to read and discuss right now.  It is so deeply meaningful to so many.  It brings memories, images, comfort, and peace.  It recalls ages and stages of life, people, times — to each of us — recent and long-time followers of Christ.  So, I look forward to hearing and sharing together this beautiful song of David.

As you prepare to join me, please take a few minutes to review Psalm 23 with these questions in mind:

  • What does this Psalm mean to you?  What is one memory that you could share about Psalm 23?
  • If you were to share Psalm 23 with someone who had never heard it before, how would you introduce it?

We will also be taking a look at Luke’s depiction of the early church in the Book of Acts 2:42-47. Personally, in my church leadership practice, I have been led by these exact verses for many years.  I have returned to them again and again.  They are as meaningful to me as Psalm 23.   And?  I’ve been utterly stymied by them, too.  I’ve been brought to frustrated tears by them, wondering: where have we fallen short as the church of Christ?  Why aren’t our churches today reflective of this idyllic, early church in the Book of Acts?  If these disciples could do it: why do we fall so short?

But, reading these verses again — through the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic — I’ve begun to see this early church not as a litmus test for our successes or failures … but as a vision to live into; as the Rev. Robb McCoy reflects on the Pulpit Fiction podcast:

“These verses depict what it looks like when it all works, when we are all listening to the shepherd’s voice.”

Here’s another pro-tip!

Looking so much to seeing and being church with you all,

Pastor Melinda

  • If you would like to join this Sunday, contact Pastor Mark to receive the Zoom Call login information.  Things start at 10am!
  • E: MSturgess@LosAltosUMC.org