You are not Alone: A Prayer

God, as a I sit in the weak winter sun of upstate New York, breathing in the stillness of my house on an (extremely) rare day where everyone else is out. It’s comforting.

Yet, in the solitude, I know that what has kept me going all of this time is the deep knowledge that you are not alone.

As my tiny church struggles with a smattering of people, some older and some with young children: to stay connected, we tell each other with cards and phone calls and zooms and socially distant visits: you are not alone.

When I walk with my eldest and he worries if he ever gets to see his friends again, I echo he promise you are not alone.

As I read stories about baby animals and bunnies who want to run away from their mothers, I hear the subtext of the story: You are not alone.

As people supported black lives matter marches, and black individuals and as February brings knowledge of what has been done and what has been undone, and as people of color look for opportunities for a vaccine–I try to sound out the call, you are not alone.

And as institutions struggle: great nonprofits, huge church governmental structures, civic infrastructure and the congress itself–I struggle too to remember, you are not alone.

And when Southern states get caught in vortexes and power outages, when great wrongs are done to profit at the expense of the poor: then mutual aide, food banks and phone banks, tweets and emails and other communications all reach out to tell those who are suffering: you are not alone.

God, I am grateful that in the midst of a half a million deaths, that we do not mourn alone. I am grateful that when fascism and bigotry rears its nasty head, we are able to take one another’s hand and tell each and every dreamer, immigrant, person without home, black and brown person, LGBTQUIA individuals, those who live with disabilities and more–that every time we help one another, we are proclaiming the truth. You are not alone.

God is with us, and if God is for us, who can be against us. And God coaxes us, with this truth, to live out the gospel as it should be: one where no one is alone.

Let us continue to preach the good news. And maybe, when its a hard day you can whisper it in my ear God, or put it on a billboard, or reflect it in my friend’s eyes so that I remember that the good news is mine too, and we are not alone.

Make your presence known to us we pray, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

May be a cartoon of text that says ''m too tired to do anything except fall straight into bed i had a bad day dinos $ comics and tell me about it i'm here as long as you need'

Loneliness & Church

Churches feel like lonely places. It is clear to me that one of the reasons that big churches do so well is because they don’t feel lonely, at least not immediately

•I have no doubt there are many reasons to explore about why churches are having trouble…therefore I am only tackling this one

But walking into an empty-ish church of mostly older age feels…lonely….

The loneliness is everywhere; and worse its palpable.

Here is the thing, pastors talk about this a lot…pastors tend to be lonely but little is talked about the layperson’s loneliness. The feeling that “we aren’t in this religion thing together” any more–we are in it alone.

Perhaps that is why the Spiritual but not religious label hits so hard….What do you mean you can do your religious thing by yourself? Where does that leave us…and me?

Religion can be a lonely place to be right now

I just watched Breuggeman’s Prophetic Preaching on the Old Testament which is wonderful

And he talks about how Prophetic Preaching is the breaking of the totalism (or hegemony), which is a SILENCE that leads to VIOLENCE with an outside voice

Good News is so important

Hope is so important

God is not a God who wants us to have to live and die and do everything alone.

Don’t let the emptiness of the church trick you.

Aren’t we the people of the empty tomb?

Aren’t we the people of the empty cross?

Didn’t God make the world out of the emptiness?

Didn’t God create space within God’s very self to give birth to us?

Didn’t God empty out her very self in the personhood of Jesus Christ to give us new and better life?
Churches don’t have to be lonely…don’t buy into it. The lie of death, the lie of not changing, the lie of security and worries about looks and judgements…..don’t believe these lies

God creates…we are called to create and be CREATIVE with God

To me that work is fulfilling, not lonely at all…

Behold I make all things new!

Partnerships

One thing that frustrates me about church is when people grudgingly take on tasks.

I don’t know, for me its more fun to be involved and DO things, don’t you want to be a part of whatever is happening?

This week I got the chance to talk to a wonderful lady. Together we planned an arts project in 2 parts: 1 a Family Friendly Art Show 2. A Kids Theater Program (that is very accessible monetarily and hopefully schedulewise).

It was a good hour.

Don’t get me wrong, there will be prep involved, but mostly it just took a spark, an idea.

There will be setup and hosting and taking down.

There will be more planning for part 2

But the way I look at it; it will be LOADS of fun, as most ministry is.

So I’m confused…..do we really begrudge the time & energy that is spent in ministry….or are we just afraid that we are going to have to do it alone!

And for me it took a partnership. So often people don’t want to lead in the church, because they feel like they have to do it alone.

Good News! We don’t have to. God is with us, we are never alone, and God sent us partners! From the gecko, God realized that we work better in Tandem.

That’s What Christmas is All About…

In a devious plan to do ministry, I convinced my session to put forth the money to sponsor a performance of “Charlie Brown Christmas.” Although we are not the first church to do it as a show, we may be the first ones to do it as a Food Drive (maybe laying the groundwork for years to come?). We are taking in cans and donations for a food pantry

After much agonizing over the casting (ie I don’t know where the theater people live yet) we finally have a cast! Anyway we read through the play and are now working on character development (which is so totally THEOLOGY disguised as analysis HA)

We explored Charlie Brown’s search for the meaning of Christmas. Its not that he doesn’t know what Christmas is about, but that he can’t feel it alone…and in the lack of all his companions feeling it (ie commercialism) means that he has nowhere to grasp onto it.

For 3 years in seminary I worked at a Psychiatric Hospital. When I was there I did assessments, and during these assessments we would ask if the patient had hope (since hope helps recovery). Many patients said that they didn’t have hope….but they were hoping for it. Hoping for Hope! That is, what I think Charlie Brown is doing.

In fact, I believe that is why we need the church, to be a placeholder for those times we don’t feel hope or love or faith. If we don’t have the wherewithall to do it, the community does it for us until we are ready!

Anyway, if you notice, Charlie Brown is looking for that feeling. Watch Charlie Brown Christmas, where is the first place he goes after he confesses to his depression? That’s right smart people, his mailbox. He is searching for some kind of connection.

In fact, I think the reason why Charlie Brown agrees to direct the play is because Lucy tells him she would help him giving him some sense of direction…the problem being that even in the midst of the crowd, Charlie Brown is ignored, unnoticed and worst of all lonely

In fact, anyone who struggles with depression or is dealing with a loss knows that there is this kind of loneliness that can be felt in the crowd. Some churches are starting to hold “quiet Christmas” or “Blue Christmas” services for those people who don’t in fact enjoy the holidays, but want some place to be emotionally present in the season.

This is not just a problem for people who are in sad circumstances…In fact, in this day and age loneliness often looks like business–between social media and work running around like crazy we are all too busy for Christmas. This loneliness, however, is part of what Christ came to deal with. Christ came to be Emmanuel–God with us–so we would never have to be alone again.

It is only thru a personal connection fasciliated by the love of Christ (yes I’m talking about the famous “That’s what Christmas is all about speech”) followed by some quiet time of real contemplation (one might even call it prayer) that Charlie Brown is able to realize the meaning of Christmas.

The meaning of which was meaningless, until all of his friends connected with him as well!

And that, my friends, is what Christmas is all about

So if you are in the Albany, NY area Dec 14 & 15 @6pm and Dec 16 @4pm come down to New Covenant Presbyterian at 916 Western Ave–and share with us the true meaning of Christmas!

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