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Celebration of Christian Life - Five Reflections

Preacher: 
Brandon & Stephanie Spurlock, Mirabelle Reinhardt Berman, Erin Hasselberg, David Duong, Jan Monsma
Date: 
Sep 13 2015
Scripture: 

Transcript

Liesel Krohne, Jazz Worship

I’ve learned most of the songs that are a part of this service because my Mom practices so much during the week for Thursday nights. That is a good thing!

One time, she sang these words with Kate.

I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining.
I believe in love, even when I don’t feel it.
I believe in God, even when he is silent.
I love this song and I sing it at home a lot.

It makes me feel like even though I have a lot of food allergies, I am never alone and God is always near.

Even when I feel alone or different and I think He isn’t there, He always is. 

Sometimes people look at me when I’m eating my rice cracker at Communion and walking to the candle lighting station. That makes me feel sad and lonely. I don’t like to be thought of as different or strange.

But, even when I feel like no one really understands about my allergies, I know that I am not alone because the song says:

I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining.
I believe in love, even when I don’t feel it.
I believe in God, even when He is silent.

You know that He is always there. You realize that there is no place that He isn’t. There is no spot where God is not.  

If my parents weren’t there to help me, I probably wouldn’t even be here. Thanks Mom and Dad!

 

Anna Yoder, Jazz Worship

How did I get here? Meaning, how am I in my eighth decade of life (notice I said decade, not my eighties!) and still enjoying life so much? Sure, many days my body feels its age with my genetically endowed osteoarthritis suggesting I stay in bed in the morning rather than deal with  the pains and discomfort of movement, but that would only defeat my purpose of living life to the fullest until I die. God has given me many gifts that enable me in this purpose: 1) a faith that assures me God walks with me daily; 2) a family who, although they don’t understand this farm girl’s love of this city with its noise and diversity, accept me for who I have become; 3) a continuing love of life-long learning, (currently I’m learning to play bridge) with opportunities for multiple enrollments in formal education programs that afforded me a very satisfying career and help me, as well, to know how to care for my body and maintain my independence; and 4) friends, several of whom are younger than I, who both challenge and support me.  

Those of us who have reached my age generally live with one or more chronic illness. Knowing our problems are chronic means the greatest gift we can give ourselves is to learn to manage their nagging symptoms while also learning to live peacefully and well with them at whatever level of independence is possible. To the extent that I have any success in living well and at peace, it is the God-given gifts outlined earlier that enable this success. And it is especially gratifying when others recognize my joy and acceptance of life as it is, as when a friend who is a decade younger than I recently shared her daughter’s comment made after a 4th of July Fireworks party at my house. She said to her mother, ‘I hope when you’re Anna’s age you will enjoy life as much as she does’… I call that one of the most important compliments I’ve recently received.

 

Laura Spooner-Fleming on behalf of Henry Spooner-Fleming, First Worship

Hi, I’m Henry and I’m new here. Each day I see, feel, taste, smell and hear so many of God’s amazing creations. I wake up ready to play: I like to rub cloth on my face, make all the sounds go off in my exersaucer at once, chew on books, and see how many fingers I can stuff in my mouth. The other thing I like to do is hang out with people. In the past couple months, I have noticed that there is something really special that happens when I'm with other people. It is like a loving spirit passing between us, and this is how I'm getting to know God. Kisses from my family. Smiles and coos from strangers. With my other baby friends, that loving spirit moves between us as we stare at each other and reach out to grab each other's ears and noses. I see them. And the really cool thing is they see me. I am here. I am something. I am becoming someone. Another one of God's amazing creations. 

 

Quinn Grant, First Worship

Hello, everybody! My name is Quinn Grant and I’m in 4th Grade at A.M. Barrows School. I’m here to tell you about what faith and God means to me and where I find it.

First off, I have faith in God when I listen to my ministers talk about God and Jesus’ last day and breaking bread with his followers. I find that fun to listen to and think about.

I sometimes see faces in the clouds and think that God is looking down on us.

I think that hurricanes and twisters are God’s way of saying Hi!! (And after the storm people rebuild with God’s help.)

Sometimes when I’m up high I feel like I can touch God and feel his love.

Sometimes when I’m praying, I think about how good God is and what he’s done for us.

Finally, when I see Mom with a baby in her belly, 2 days later it’s out! It’s like seeing the work of God! 

That is how I find faith and God in the world around me.

 

Katie Maliel, First Worship 

The way I see my role and duty as a Christian is to do what I can to help and support others. At this point in my life, I mainly help and support three of God’s needy creatures. You see, I am a stay at home mom of three young children. I have been either pregnant or nursing a baby continuously for the past five and a half years. It’s a busy time, for sure, with good days and bad days, but overall, I would say that this is an incredibly joyful season of my life and for this I am so grateful.

As much as I am enjoying this stage, I know that the days of intense all-day caretaking of my children will come to an end. Someday soon, I will be able to spend time attending to the needs of those outside of my immediate family. Last year, Reverend John Edgerton invited me to join a group of us here going to participate in a Good Friday service at the Women’s Correctional Facility in Framingham. At the end of the service, the women came to us and asked for prayers. Woman after woman prayed for their children that they missed so dearly. Praying with these incarcerated mothers, with my first trimester morning sickness and knowing that I was going home to my babies in time for supper, I was overcome with distress and inspired to help these families in some way. What that will entail, I’m honestly not sure, but I’m thankful I have a community at Old South that can introduce me to new experiences and help me figure out where I fit into God’s plan today and tomorrow.

 

Mirabelle Berman Reinhardt, Festival Worship

Last week I played in a tennis tournament. I’m the only one on my side of the court but it felt like I was not alone. I could tell God was listening to my prayers.  

He couldn’t make me play better nor the other person double fault, but just provide encouragement. My prayers couldn’t control the other player but they could control me and how 

I felt about how I was playing, and that’s what I felt God wanted.  

God didn’t really care about the trophy but wanted me to be happy with how I played. And in the end, I felt the happiness God wanted, and after every point I thanked God for all he provided.

 

Deb Washington, Festival Worship

When I think about my faith, its meaning comes to me in phrases.

Phrases like…“God’s will”, “I am forgiven”, “I've been redeemed”, or "Had it not been for love, then, what?". 

And most particularly, phrases from Psalm 118. “O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: because his mercy endureth forever.” 

I like to give God credit. That makes Him personally involved with me. “I called upon the LORD in distress: the LORD answered me, and set me in a large place.”

When, for whatever reason.... too embarrassed, too shy, not trusting enough to go to someone of flesh and bone…I say my prayers.

And my favorite part of that Psalm is, “The LORD is my strength and song, and is become my salvation.”  

A perhaps small… but noticeable spark of the Holy Spirit… makes Joy a part of my faith. That Spirit is accessible to me and makes my joy real. It gives me a ready laugh and an honest love for others. For you.

I believe Old South, my chosen place of worship, nourishes two aspects of my faith. Peace of Christ and the Love of Christ. Each Sunday we bestow upon each other the peace of Christ. This Sunday I'd like you to support my faith, by also bestowing upon each other, the Love of Christ.  

Now say thee one to another: I freely give to you... as a gift... the Love of Christ... who knew no exceptions. 

In ways such as this, my faith rests in the vocabulary of the Bible and the way I try to live my life. Which means that my faith gives me confidence in others, makes me humbled by others, admirers of others, gives me joy in others, enables me to see the sacrifices made by others and gives me witness to the doings of faith by others. 

I consciously stretch myself to model such faith. Often, in order to do this for real, I have to overcome myself and my nature through what I read and understand about the word of God. 

Because for me that word may be grinder or filter... and may require stops and changes... but it helps me live and build a particular kind of life in this very complex world. My faith comes in moments.

The degree to which I have faith stirs feelings in me.

I mindfully try to make my faith known to others. I speak it out loud. I don't want it to be abstract, but, rather, concrete. I don't want it to just exist in my mind, but have it embodied in the way you experience me… in the way we relate to one another.   

Why? Because I am enamored and smitten by this congregation.

So here's the bottom line. The ultimate question about faith, for me…is this.

If I offer you my faith can you strengthen it and return it to me by way of yours? 

 

Jan Monsma, Festival Worship

I was asked to talk about the twilight phase as it relates to the Christian life. Twilight. I like that metaphor. It helps me convey the positive aspects of being in ones eighties. As in the twilight setting of a 24 hour day, there is quiet, time for rest, peacefulness… a sense of leaving struggles behind and heading home. 

What does faith offer in the twilight stage? And, what does God ask? Require? Demand?

After more than eight decades of living with a fairly acute sense of God’s presence and grace in my day to day living, I trust the God of grace. I trust God to see the journey through with me no matter what the future brings as God has been my guide and comfort through every stage here- to-fore.

That does not mean that life has always been comfortable or easy. It does mean that I have always felt accompanied and bolstered by God’s loving presence and care. That assurance knows no phases.

It would surely indicate a state of denial, however, to expect the twilight years, however many or few they be, to be rocking toward a glorious sunset. The years ahead will be characterized by loss, by losses plural, of many kinds. Disability, loss of health, loss of life itself will come. Even now stamina wanes as strength is slowly lost. Right now the loss felt most acutely by me is the loss of loved ones: contemporaries: those with whom I once worked, beloved neighbors, long-time, close friends, siblings… so many of them have died.

Their departures not only deprive me of their familiar companionship, but my own history and sense of identity is partially lost. My world shrinks.

What does God require of me at this time of gathering losses? Surely that I live with a sense of purpose, that of showing and sharing God’s love in all my encounters with others. Also, that I live with gratitude and an ethos of joy.

Aware of the losses to come, I made a decision on my 80th birthday to begin an additional spiritual practice with a two-fold purpose: (1) to show extra thanks and praise to God, and (2) to avoid falling into an emotional slump.

Each morning first thing, I give thanks to God for something or someone I don’t recall giving thanks for ever before. It’s a creative exercise that pops me out of bed on an eager, happy note. I give thanks for the mundane or the profound. Examples: Last February as the temperature slid down to zero, I gave thanks for being able to wash up with hot water at the touch of a tap. This week, after a night of poor sleep, I expressed gratitude for the hymns that sing in my head whenever I lie awake. Those beloved hymns both shape and express my faith. The whole exercise is challenging, exciting, even fun. More importantly it sets a positive perspective on each day even in this twilight season.

 

Tomorrow my expression of gratitude will list this opportunity I’ve had to hear the faith stories of all those who spoke before me. They remind me once again of God’s steadfast faithfulness to us, inviting us to accept, acknowledge and share God’s love so lavishly bestowed on all of us in every season our whole life long.