Thankful Thursday – Sister Sandra Makowski, SSMN

 

On this Thankful Thursday I am grateful for the gifts that Sister Sandra Makowski brings to my life. She is the chancellor of the Catholic Diocese of Charleston which covers all of South Carolina. She is a member of our Say Something Nice Sunday Steering Committee. She is the author of a wonderful book, The Side of Kindness, which is available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. She just completed conducting a three part program on kindness for the Adult Bible School at First Baptist Church of Charleston. She was an outstanding success and came away with many new friends. Her humility and charming sense of humor added to her reception. Sister Sandra is a pioneer in that she is the first woman admitted to study Cannon Law at the Catholic University in Washington, DC. Sister Sandra is a welcome addition to the Christian community in Charleston. I am grateful to God for sending Sister Sandra into my life.

Thankful Thursday is a day set aside to recognize those men and women who contribute to our lives and to let her or him know of our gratitude. Develop an attitude of gratitude. Say Something Nice; Be a Lifter. You will be glad that you did.

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“The Signposts on the Road to Freedom” – Mary Lee Talbot

“As some of you pointed out to me, I have run out of the Ten Commandments,” the Rev. M.

Craig Barnes said. “Today, we will look at Jesus’ summary of the law, an interpretation of

what was always at the heart of the law — to love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength and your

neighbor as yourself.” The pastor concluded his sermon series on “Ten Signposts on the Way to Freedom” at the

9:15 a.m. morning worship service Friday in the Amphitheater. Barnes’ title was

“Getting Close to the Kingdom” and the Scripture text was Mark 12:28-34.“We are commanded to love God,” he

said. “That is at the heart of the commandments. We don’t need to know about

God. We don’t need to know God’s opinions on social issues. We don’t have to go to seminary or be a professional

theologian. We have looked at both tablets of the law. The first is about how to love God — no other gods. Don’t

make idols. Don’t worship other gods. Don’t use the Lord’s name for things the Lord did not intend. Keep the

Sabbath. The second is how to love your neighbor. Then honor your

father and mother. Don’t murder. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t steal.

Don’t bear false witness. Don’t covet what your neighbor has.” Barnes then continued, “The order is important —

in order to love your neighbor you better be loving God. You must attend to the first before the second [tablet].

Everyone is talking about burnout, especially compassion burnout.

People say that they are doing all they can. They can’t give any more, and it does not seem to make any difference

anyway. They are not doing too much — they have not loved God first. The only way to give to your neighbor is to

love  God first; God’s love will pass through you to your neighbor. And for those of us with low self-esteem, to

love our neighbor as ourself is no blessing.”

Author Bruce Larson has written that people hear voices from the basement and voices from heaven, Barnes said.

The voices from the basement are those that say “you are not good enough.” “We can be haunted by those voices

all our lives if we choose,” the pastor said. “The voice from heaven is the voice

that people heard the day Jesus was baptized: ‘This is my beloved child, with whom I am pleased.’ This is what

God is saying about you; these words will guide you the rest of your life. You have to choose how you will

respond to God who says ‘I love you.’ ”Barnes used the example of people who have been dating

and “someone takes the risk to say ‘I love you’ first. Some people plan for this — tonight is the night — while

others stumble around but it is finally on the table. Now what occurs? The relationship has hit a crossroad, and

the future depends on what the other person says. “If the other person says, ‘Well, thanks for sharing,’ you

are done,” he continued. “It is over because you can’t just be friends with someone who is in love with you. If the

person says ‘I love you, too,’ then you can move ahead.” God, Barnes said, already took the risk in baptism, and is

holding holy breath waiting for a response. “You can’t just hang out with God or just be friends,” he

said. “The only way to say ‘I love you’ to God is to love your neighbor as yourself.”

He added that, in Luke’s Gospel, the clergy come back with a question for Jesus — who is my neighbor? — and

Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan. “To love the neighbor as yourself only works when it is an

expression of the love that flows down from heaven,” he said. Barnes said that he had two spectacular

grandmothers — a city grandmother and a country grandma. From his city grandmother he learned how to be a

gentleman. He learned etiquette. “We had linen on the table and china — even if it was chipped — and silver

candlesticks and more forks than I knew what to do with. [She taught me] to stand for women, and not

to eat before everyone was served. It was not much fun, but I learned about how to be careful [of things and

people].” With the country grandma, the family ate in the kitchen on a red and white checkered vinyl tablecloth

“which could absorb spilled milk,” he said. “There was one fork, and if you dropped it you had to pick it up fast

because there was always a dog around. People spoke loudly and you never knew who was going to be at the table

and there was a lot of laughter. My grandma used to tell a joke and then laugh and slap the table three times — a

Trinitarian laugh.” In most Protestant churches, when Communion is served, “it would make my city

grandmother proud,” he said. “We set the table with linen. The clergy are careful not

to spill the juice. It is orderly and decent. My theology is more closely aligned with my country grandma — a

joyful feast where anyone who confesses ‘Jesus is Lord’ is welcome and he is happy to have us.”

Barnes said he had grown to appreciate his city grandmother because he has been part of too many church

debates that had no civility. “We were not careful with each other,” he said. “We have not loved our neighbor in

church well. We have to train ourselves in civility — it is not just an emotion; it is a committedness

to receive the love of God and pass it on. “To be civil is to know what is right and to do what is

right,” Barnes added to conclude. “To take care of the person beside you. Choose to be a lover. Choose to care for

your neighbor. It is the way to say to God, “I love you too.”

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Singing Is the Only Sufficient Outlet for Praise and Worship – Chautauqua Daily

Morning Worship

Mary Lee Talbot

“When we decide that we are creatures of the lord, we allocate some of our words for praise. Worship is the practical name for this mouth-loosening activity.  Sometimes, the words come out in song as we discover god beyond the debates, thinking and discussion; singing is the only sufficient outlet for praise,” said the Rev. Peter Marty at Thurs- day’s 9:15 a.m. morning worship service. His sermon title “Singing With our last Breath,” and the Scripture text was Jeremiah 1: 4-10.  Marty told a story of a young couple, Ben and renee, who were in Haiti at the time of the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake. They were staying in a home for boys on the third floor with a cousin of Ben’s. After the earthquake hit, renee and the cousin were able to get out of the building. Ben was trapped on the third floor. Renee let him know she was safe and then she heard Ben singing, “god’s peace to us we pray,” a new composition he had written.  “Ben,” Marty said, “spent his last breath singing. “everyone who takes Jesus seriously must take words seriously,” he continued. “Jesus is the word made flesh. This is not a trivial claim; it is a tipoff for all of us as we navigate relationships that require words. We have non-verbal clues to attitudes, feelings and moods but words are critical to full relationships; they are the currency of living.” Marty said that words possess the power to do things. in a courtroom, the judge breaks the silence with the words “ ‘the jury has found the defendant guilty,’ and it changes lives. A lover looks at her mate and blurts out ‘i love you’ and sets off a ripple through the nervous system to the brain.” Words can soothe, inform, judge, encourage and love, he said. They can express ideas and experiences, yet words can express more than ideas. “god said ‘let there be light’ and there was light,” he said. “god spoke creation into existence. Words can func- tion like deeds, as the prophet isaiah said, ‘My words did not return empty to me’ but fulfilled their purpose. The Church defeated the roman empire by blanketing it with words, with the retelling of Scripture.” He continued, “They did not use guns or swords or cannons. The church opened its mouth and spoke. roman society was organized around classifications — race, class, family name. The Church formed a people based on words.” Words shape lives. “our paths are cut by swaths of words from the people who raised, encouraged and challenged us. But we are all capable of cheap words that treat life and people gracelessly. Words are the substructure of trustwor- thiness in relationships and once they are spoken they can never be unspoken,” Marty said. “Words,” he said, “are all i brought with me this week. They formed in my heart and mind and eventually are ex- pelled. They formed in my head and moved to your ears. As the Psalmist said, ‘May the words of my mouth and medita- tions of my heart be acceptable in your sight.’ ” Speech is a physiological event and every word has a physical substance, a puff of air through the lungs, esopha- gus, larynx, tongue, teeth and lips. He repeated his warning that words once spoken can never be pulled back. “We can apologize sometimes but the words are officially gone.” There are times when words will not come. The prophet isaiah could not speak the words of the lord until a seraph touched his lips with a coal and made his lips clean. Jeremiah was not capable of speaking for the lord until god touched his lips. “The beautiful dimension of the Christian life is that in life and death we sing. in living and dying, song is our strength. As the Psalmist says, ‘open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise,’ ” Marty said. The Rev. Scott Maxwell presided. Pat Brown, hostess at the Baptist House, read the Scripture.  The prelude was “Trio in G Major” by Marcel Gennaro, played by Barbara Hois, flute, Rebecca Scarnati, oboe, and Debbie Grohman, clarinet. The Motet Choir sang “Love” based on I Corinthians 13:1-13, with text by Chris- topher Wordsworth and music by Gerald Near. Jared Jacobsen, organist and worship coordinator, directed the choir. The Harold F. Reed Sr. Chaplaincy supports this week’s services. Singing is the only sufficient outlet for praise and worship

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God’s will is bigger than ‘theological narcissism.” Chautauqua Daily – 7-19-14

The Rev. Peter W. Marty, pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Davenport, Iowa

 

What do you say to a friend who tells you that your job loss is part of god’s special plan for your life? or, if it is stage three cervical can- cer that is causing you to lie awake worrying at night, how do you respond to that well-intentioned soul who wants you to believe that god has a reason for everything? Pious clichés that use God to explain away difficult or tragic circumstances are on the lips of vast numbers of Christians. Such expressions sound wonderfully holy. They also falsify human experience. They distort the majesty of god by twisting god into a distant and aloof sovereign. “god wanted it to happen, so it happened.” That’s a favorite. if your best friend is mugged and beaten, did God really send that suffering to teach your friend a lesson? if so, what sort of lesson was it? What are the odds that the lesson struck a helpful chord? Most of us would find a lot more reason to fear rather than love God, if the lord of heaven and earth was this morally ambivalent or malevolent. While visiting a city church a few years ago, i picked up a history of the congregation. From that booklet, i learned that the congregation’s previous sanctuary burned to the ground. “no doubt, to train His people for greater things,” the account read, “it pleased the lord to reduce this splendid edifice of worship to a gutted, smoldering ruin by a disas- trous fire on December 3, 1903.” Really? I’ll bet you didn’t know god delights in burning down churches. From where does this folly come? Several sources. god gets blamed for all kinds of outlandish things, mostly because we don’t like to feel out of control in a chaotic universe. if we position god to assume the blame or credit for an inexplicable situation, suddenly it sounds more rea- sonable. Many people don’t like the idea of no one being responsible for a perplexing event. Thus, god becomes the handy arranger when one needs a cause for that flat tire in the desert, or for that stillborn child that had been the

sparkle in a hope-filled couple’s eyes. There is another reason why seemingly intelligent people tend to make god responsible for all kinds of ridiculous circumstances. Such theology works extremely well when things turn out to benefit us. Egocentricity per- meates a lot of chatter about god having “a personal plan for my life.” Theological narcissism cleverly places “me” at the center of the universe. “Somebody was looking out for me. My prayers were answered.” This may offer all kinds of comfort after a frightening tornado just missed my house. But what about my faithful and prayer-inspired neighbors just blocks away? They are standing in the rubble of what was their house. it’s hard to picture them having prayed, “lord please direct the tornado our direction. We need one real bad.” Some believers will resort to language of god allow- ing certain events, even if god did not cause them. But that theological reasoning presents huge problems, usu- ally indicting rather than complimenting god. if my child drowns in a swimming accident, and you try to comfort me by suggesting god allowed the drowning for a reason, that means god failed me. it would be akin to having a strong lifeguard, with all the equipment and rescue skill

in the world, just standing by to watch my child go down. That would be gross dereliction of duty. never once did Jesus of nazareth counsel any person to accept their suffering as the Lord’s will. God may work in mysterious ways, but there is no evidence that god works in nonsensical ways. if god is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present, let us not forget that god is also — we might say, primarily! — all-loving. There are certain things love will not do, and territory where love will not tread. Unconditional love will not have you quitting on another person. one doesn’t throw in the towel when fidelity and steadfastness constitute the best forms of love. There are zones within friendship where love should not invade. love has no business, for example, intruding on subjects and places that induce unnecessary pain in another person. if god is love, then god responds to us only through means that are loving. The next time a friend of yours wants to suggest that god’s care for you amounts to god arranging the daily particulars of your life, gently remind her that you are not a helpless marionette puppet, or a passive believer. Share with her the biblical word that god’s will in this world is about much greater things than simply pulling different strings to create personal misery or blessing for you. According to the Bible, god’s plan is about great big things, not the little details that organize our daily circum- stances or control our decisions. getting malnourished kids around the world fed, melting AK-47s into a billion garden rakes, constructing preschools on the grounds of nursing homes, and rectifying scores of societal injustices all make the list for god’s holiness plan. Finding a park- ing space for you or me in the next congested city we visit, unfortunately, doesn’t make the cut.

Peter W. Marty serves as senior pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church, a 3,500-member congregation in Davenport, Iowa. He is the author of The Anatomy of grace. Since 2010, Marty has been the lead columnist for The Lutheran magazine.

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