Monthly Archives: May 2014

Remembering Maya Angelou

Remembering Maya Angelou maya angelou

I have been listening to a rebroadcast of a 2013 Diane Rehm show with Maya Angelou today.  Earlier this week, author, poet, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou died at the age of 86.  Why is it that so often we don’t fully treasure someone until after they’ve died? That ‘s the case for me with Ms. Angelou.

As I listen to her sonorous and soothing voice today, I am struck by the sheer wisdom she possessed.  It was a wisdom that did not come from books or journals (or even Google!), but the wisdom born of life – and a difficult life at that.

Love is healing…

In this interview with Diane Rehm, Angelou discusses her last autobiographical book, “Mom & Me & Mom.”  She had a complicated relationship with her mother – at three years old, she was sent away to live with her grandmother, and without explanation returned back at age 7 to be raped by her mother’s boyfriend. Wow…

Angelou says that she had thought about writing a book about her mother 20 years ago, but she wasn’t ready; she hadn’t learned enough.  She says that she still hadn’t learned that love is healing – not sentimentality or romance.

When she was sent to live with her grandmother, Angelou says, she learned that it was not an act of rejection by her mother, but an act of love. “Love allowed her to send her children away,” she says, and as a result, Angelou was given a gift to be raised by a tall, strong, devout woman who cared for her, was proud of her, and passed along her Christian faith.

There’s so much more I’ve been learning from Maya Angelou this week. But for now I’m savoring her words, “love is healing” and giving thanks for this wise woman.

In Christ,

Pastor Jen


Searching For God

charlieEaster 6A: Searching For God

Acts 17:16-31

May 25,2014


Today’s reading from Acts certainly hits home with me!

It deals with questions like the meaning of life

and our search for God,

and our choosing of other gods.


The reason I’ve always like Charlie Brown, I think, is that he had the same sort of existential questions.

There’s a series of cartoons with Charlie Brown lying in bed and asking the hard questions of life:


  • “Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, ‘Where have I gone wrong?’ Then a voice says to me, ‘This is going to take more than one night.’”
  • “Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, ‘is life a multiple choice test or is it a true or false test?’ Then a voice comes out of the dark, and says: ‘We hate to tell you this, but life is a thousand word essay.’”
  • “Sometimes I lie awake at night in bed and I ask, Is it all worth it?’ And then a voice says, ‘Who are you talking to?’ And another voice says, ‘You mean: to whom are you talking?’ And I say, ‘No wonder I lie awake at night.’”
  • “Sometimes I lie awake at night and I ask, ‘Why me?’ And the voice says, ‘Nothing personal your name just happened to come up.’”


Haven’t we all had nights like these?!

Continue reading

Tale of Two Men

twomenEaster 5A – A Tale of Two Men

May 18, 2014

Acts 7:55-60


Stephen looks at Saul


Stephen: Why it’s you!


Saul: I’m sorry – have we met?


Stephen:  Don’t you remember me?


Saul:  I’m afraid I don’t.


Stephen:  Well I certainly couldn’t forget you!  You’re Saul!


Saul:  Wow!  I haven’t answered to that name in a long time.  Yes, Saul was my birth name – but that was ages ago.  So much has changed since then – including my name!  Now I’m Paul (not Saul) – and life has been so much better, so much fuller than I ever could imagine!  (Saul laughs)  I can laugh; I found that life has meaning and I have a purpose.   I never want to go back to my old life of Saul again!


Stephen: What made the difference?


Saul: I saw Jesus .


Stephen: (laughs himself)  You?  You had an encounter with Jesus?! I can’t believe it!  Now you must remember me…don’t you?


Saul: Can’t say that I do…was it in Corinth? Or Ephesus perhaps?


Stephen:  We met long before that…in Jerusalem.  I saw Jesus too – but at the time you didn’t want to hear about it at all!  In fact when I met you you (how can I put this delicately?) – you ordered me to be killed because of my beliefs in Jesus.


Saul: (quietly) I’m ashamed to say that I had so many of Jesus’ followers killed that I cannot remember them all…  Please don’t call me Saul any longer – that was my old name, for my old life.  By the grace of God, I’ve changed.  I’ve been transformed!  I am Paul.


Stephen:  Okay Paul…I heard that you became one of us!  I could scarcely believe it!  How did it happen?


Paul: Well I was on my way south to Damascus, to try and capture some of his followers who had left Jerusalem.  You know there was a price on their heads and at that time the only thing I was thinking about was how I could make more money. I had developed a reputation – a reputation for being ruthless.


Stephen:  That too is hard to believe.  How did you do it?


Paul:  I know I don’t look very ruthless – I mean I know I was short and not a very good speaker – sometimes I stuttered.  As they said later, maybe I had a Napoleon complex (but of course I didn’t know who Napoleon was!)


Stephen:  I think he was someone who became famous for a dessert of some kind.


Paul:  Well, in any case, I built my reputation on fear.  And the Roman and Jewish leaders loved me for it!  I had paperwork directly from the hands of the high priest himself giving me permission to bring back to Jerusalem anyone – man or woman – who were followers of the Way.  And I had every intention of bringing back everyone I could find!


Stephen:  So how many did you find?


Paul: By the grace of God, he stopped me….just as I was reaching Damascus, suddenly there was a light flashing all around me!  I fell to the ground as I heard a voice saying to me, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”


Stephen:  Did you know the voice?


Paul:  I asked,  “Who are you, Lord?”  And the voice said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.”


Stephen: Wow! You heard Jesus himself!


Paul: Yes – and he said more to me.  He told me to go into the city and I would be told what to do.  The guys with me were speechless!  They heard it too!  I got off the ground and discovered I was blind – completely blind!  For three whole days!  All I could do was pray – I couldn’t even eat or drink.


Stephen: Did you get your instructions about what to do?


Paul: I didn’t…but The Lord appeared to a disciple named Ananias. Ananias was told to find me and lay hands on me and I would get my sight back.


Stephen:  If I were Ananias, I’m not so sure I would’ve wanted to get that close to you!


Paul:  You’re right – Ananias didn’t!  He knew about my reputation and of course he didn’t know anything about my transformation! Ahhh…dear courageous Ananias.  He did just as The Lord asked.  Ananias came to me and placed his hands on me….and immediately it was as if scales fell from my eyes! I could see!  The first thing I did was to be baptized – even before I had anything to eat!


Stephen: What do you think gave Ananias such courage?


Paul: Well, The Lord told Ananias that he had a plan for me –  a plan to bring the Word of God to Gentiles and Jews, kings and rulers.  And Ananias had enough faith to trust that plan I guess!  It was pretty amazing!


Stephen: I’ll say!


Paul: Enough about me… I’m a bit hesitant to know, but I think I need to know…tell me about yourself.


Stephen: Well you know how it was in those early days…first there were just a handful of us, and then there were 3000 and then 5000!  There were so many people asking for baptism and teaching that some things frankly were being neglected…important things.


Paul:  Like what?


Stephen: Like caring for the widows – they weren’t getting their food allotments.  Of course the disciples, they were so busy preaching and teaching and praying, that they couldn’t stop what they were doing, so they chose 7 of us to take over providing for the widows’ food. Ah yes…those were good days…Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, Nicolaus and myself…(wistfully)  Who would have thought that being a waiter could be so dangerous?


Paul: Why? What happened? Some of the widows get food poisoning or something?


Stephen: Not exactly.  You see, Jesus always said that to follow him, we would follow him with our whole lives…not just on the Sabbath, not just in the synagogue…but all the time and everywhere.  And I took that seriously.  I was part of the Way (that’s we called ourselves) – and that meant that Jesus changed our whole way of life!  I couldn’t “just” wait on tables – I needed everyone to hear about Jesus!  I needed to tell his story!


Paul:  Let me guess..not everyone wanted you to tell his story?


Stephen: That’s right!  I confess, I wasn’t very delicate in my sermonizing…


Paul: What did you say?


Stephen:  Well, I kind of said…I mean I think they heard…well to be absolutely honest, I told them that by refusing to follow Jesus they were just like the Israelites wandering in the desert and were rejecting God.


Paul:  You said what???!!!


Stephen:  Yeah…I said the Jewish leaders were not really Jewish – they weren’t following God.


Paul: I’m guessing you didn’t make many friends there.


Stephen: Not at all…they were certainly angry!  But just then, something miraculous happened…I saw the heavens open and Jesus was standing at the right hand of God.


Paul: (wonderingly) You saw him too?  What did it feel like?


Stephen:  It was like a peace settled over me.  I knew then that no matter what happened next, everything would be okay.


Paul:  And was it okay?


Stephen:  Yes it was…but not in the way most people would think.  They were even more angry when I said I saw him. They covered their ears and dragged me out of the city.


Paul: (ashamed, quiet) I think I remember now.  They gave me their coats didn’t they?


Stephen: Yes they did.  They put their coats at your feet and then they stoned me.


Paul:  Words are so inadequate…but I am sorry.  I was wrong – so wrong.


Stephen: I’ve forgiven you and the rest a long time ago.  Even as I was dying I prayed that God would not hold this sin against you.


Paul: What different lives we’ve led…


Stephen: Yes…I wonder what these people might learn from us (gestures to congregation)?


Paul:  I hope they learn that people can change.  I was a murderer of the worst kind – and God changed me.


Stephen:  I hope they learn that following Jesus means making a commitment with everything you’ve got.


Paul:  I hope they understand the peace that comes from Jesus…over and over again I felt that same peace that you felt – even when I was beaten and jailed – I had that deep peace knowing that God had chosen me.


Stephen:  I hope they learn that everyone has a purpose – that there’s meaning in life.  I was called to wait on tables and served God there.

Paul: And God called me to share his story with the people I would meet – everyone from Jews and Gentiles, kings and rulers.


Stephen:  And I hope they remember Ananias…that disciple who trusted God enough to reach out to you.


Paul:  And I hope they remember you  and your willingness to acknowledge Jesus even when it was difficult.


Stephen:  I give thanks to God for you Paul.


Paul: I give thanks to God for you Stephen.


Both: Amen


Life in Community

steepleEaster 4A – Life in Community

Acts 2:42-47

May 11, 2014


As you turn to your Bibles we move to Acts 2:42-47.

When we last left our disciples, Peter had preached an amazing sermon,

And 3000 people were baptized!


What happens next?

It’s interesting to me what they don’t do…


They don’t build a megachurch

So they can all get together at once.

They don’t build anything it seems.


Without skipping a beat,

they begin meeting in small groups – in homes.


And in verse 42 we see that when those small groups meet,

they do 4 things together;

(actually it says they devoted themselves to these activities);


Circle these four:

–          Teaching

–          Fellowship

–          Breaking of Bread

–          Prayers

Continue reading

Longing for Gospel

streetEaster 3A: Longing for Gospel

Acts 2:14a,36-41

May 4, 2014


While you’re opening up your Bibles to the book of Acts…

Let’s begin with a little introduction as to the context of Acts.


Context is important…

And I would say for any piece of media – book, film, even status update!


Context tells us who is speaking and for what kind of audience…

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,”

could have been just a novel…

but put it into the context of the segregated south

and publish it in the north

and it becomes an abolitionist tract that supports an anti-slavery movement.

Continue reading