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Morning Worship: Chautauqua’s compass set on paradise, Holmes says

by MARY LEE TALBOT on   The Chautauqua Daily

There were many problems in the church in Corinth, but there was one in particular that Paul kept coming back to, said the Rev. J. Peter Holmes at the 9:15 a.m. Thursday morning worship service. His sermon title was “Island Life,” and the Scripture readings were Psalm 133 and 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a.

In 1 Corinthians 1, 3 and 12, Paul comes back to the problem of divisions in the church. Some said “I belong to Paul,” others to Apollos, others to Cephas (Peter), and others to Christ.

“Imagine, the church had these incredible pastors, what a blessing — and they were not getting along,” Holmes said.

Similarly, there are divisions in our world today.

“I did not have to cross the border to learn about the divisions in your country; the whole world knows,” Holmes said. “The world sees our religious divisions and there is a whole generation who sees the bad mouthing among us and has said ‘Enough.’ ”

Holmes told the congregation that we have to be honest about who we are, but that we have much to learn from other religions without compromising who we are. He described a conversation he had with Rabbi Arthur Waskow about a gospel text and how he came away with a whole new perspective.

The squabbles in our own churches do damage to what faith in Jesus Christ is all about, Holmes said. There are divisions about theology, leadership, money and music.

“Paul called the Corinthians back to something,” he said. “Paul said that he had done the planting, Apollos had done the watering, but it was God’s one purpose and Spirit that made the church grow.”

We are here to do God’s work, he told the congregation; faith always comes back to God because God so loved the world. Paul used the metaphor of a team, but in 1 Corinthians 12 in the letter to the Corinthians, he used the metaphor of the body of Christ.

“It was brilliant,” Holmes said. “We are to be the body of Christ, empowered by the Spirit to carry on Christ’s work in the world. That is why unity is important; if we don’t have unity then we are not doing the work of Christ.”

Holmes thought that the Corinthians read Paul’s metaphor as something humorous. Paul wrote that the foot cannot say to itself that it is not a hand, therefore it was not part of the body. The ear could not say it was not an eye, therefore it was not part of the body.

How ridiculous it would be if the body were all eyes — where would the sense of smell be?

“It is a reminder to us how much we need each other and how ridiculous it is if we think we can do it all on our own,” Holmes said.

Holmes is a great fan of “Doc Martin” star Martin Clunes. Clunes does documentaries for the BBC and one of Holmes’ favorites is about the islands that surround the British Isles, the little islands around the big islands.

One of the islands Clunes featured was Forewick Holm in the Shetland Islands, whose one inhabitant, Stuart Hill, declared it the “Sovereign State of Forvik.” The island is only 2½ acres, and when Clunes landed on the island, Hill asked for his passport.

“I think Paul was holding up a mirror to all those who allow divisions to rest in the heart,” Holmes said. “They can end up looking silly. Paul reminds us that we need each other. We have a high calling to be Christ in the world. We need God and God’s Spirit to always draw us together.”

Paul wrote at the end of 1 Corinthians 12 that he had a “more excellent way.” Holmes said Paul was still speaking to the divisions as he named them clanging symbols or noisy gongs. He was calling them back to love because Christ came in love. Paul called the Corinthians to be “re-membered,” to be put back together with love and patience and kindness, he said.

Clunes visited another island in the Outer Hebrides, Barra, home of Clan MacNeil. It has a population of 1,200; everyone knows everyone and is known by everyone. Yet it is a warm, welcoming place and even outsiders feel cared for. For Clunes, it was a kind of paradise on earth.

“Oh, Chautauqua, you have got your compass and navigation system set on paradise,” Holmes said. “Stay close to the love that enfolds you. Wherever you go, take it with you, and together may we know paradise in our cities, churches, places of worship, homes and hearts.”

The Rev. Dan McKee presided. Shelby Frank, a scholarship student with the International Order of the King’s Daughters and sons, who is pursuing a bachelor’s in education in public Health at the University of North Texas, read the Scripture. Joseph Musser, piano, Barbara Hois, flute, and Rebecca Scarnati, oboe, played J. S. Bach’s “Trio Sonata in D Minor” for the prelude. The Motet Choir sang “Psalm 133,” by Richard Proulx under the direction of Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music. The Alison and Craig Marthinsen Endowment for the Department of Religion and the John William Tyrell Endowment for Religion provide support for this week’s services.

TAGS : 9:15 AMISLAND LIFEMORNING WORSHIPTHE REV. J. PETER HOLMESWEEK TWO

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Morning Worship: Jones Offers Five Pillars For Christian Practice

by MARY LEE TALBOT on JUNE 27, 2017  : The Chautauqua Daily

“In our challenge to recover and reinvent the human, in living with radical individuality and radical communion, we have to face anger and resentment as people reject the idea of shared humanity. That makes telling stories very important,” the Very Rev. Alan Jones said at the 9:15 a.m. Tuesday morning worship service. As Garrison Keillor said, “There are no answers, just stories.”

His sermon title was “Telling Stories: The Invention of God! And the Invention of Humanity!” The Scripture reading was John 3:1-8, the story of Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus.

Trying to live in the Spirit, to float where the Spirit wills is hard, Jones said, because we are stuck with ourselves. He reminded the congregation that the good news is “life’s not about you. There is another story going on — that God is madly in love with us.” That knowledge doesn’t take away the pain, but it puts the pain in context.

Our identity politics means we have a small view of ourselves. Jones cited a book written in the 1920s whose author said Jesus was the greatest salesman, a business organizer who welded 12 inefficient men into an effective machine. But the author forgot that part of Jesus’ job description was “must get crucified.”

Are humans more than our desire for economic growth?

“What is our raison d’être? There is more to life than the promise of material wealth,” Jones said.  “Society is held together by force or moral order, by the police or respect and common law.”

That is why religion is important; it puts the sacred at the center of life.

“To say God is dead means we are dead and society has no center,” Jones said. “In the West we spend a long time looking at our mortality. We want a long, lively life and a quick painless death.”

The reality is that death is rarely quick or painless. Even though the average life span worldwide has increased from 32 years to 70 years in four generations, in the Western world, most people will endure a slow, progressive deterioration preceded by pointless treatment. By 2040, Jones said 40 percent of the population will die alone in nursing homes.

“Life is a school and Chautauqua is a school for training the inventive imagination,” he said. “The marks of educated people are large sympathies, intelligence and the magnificence of soul.”

He noted that of the Five Pillars of Islam, one is about belief and four are about the practice of the faith. The first, faith, is what Muslims believe: there is one God and Muhammad is his prophet. The other four are about practice, he said: prayer, charity, fasting or participating in Ramadan, and the Hajj to Mecca.

The weakness of Christian creeds is that they contain no practices, Jones said. He suggested five possible pillars for Christians. The first is telling the truth, about reality and about who we are. The second is courtesy, a way of speaking that recognizes that what we say and how we say it matters.

“We have to pluralize, apologize and ecologize how we talk to one another or we will die,” he said.

The third pillar is a sense of the sacred. Jones shared a story from an essay by Salman Rushdie, who grew up kissing the books or chapatis that he dropped as a way of apologizing for his clumsiness.

“The act was a reminder that there is food for the body and food for the soul,” he said.

The fourth pillar is the recognition that what we tell are stories, not objective facts.

“Storytelling binds people together,” Jones said. “The lesser truth of our ethnic identity gives way to knowing there is one human heart.”

The last pillar is to treat everyone as a neighbor.

“This is discipleship,” he said. “We have to travel light and be subversive to help our neighbor.”

Jones said many people have to cope with being “W.E.I.R.D.” — Western, educated, industrialized, rich and demonic.

“As this is the time for reinvention, we have a need for self-restraint and civil discourse,” he said. “Because many of us are W.E.I.R.D., we can render other people invisible.”

As a college chaplain said, hell is filling up a resume with wonderful accomplishments to justify your existence.

The world pays a heavy price for the absence of soul. Relief comes in knowing that there is another story, larger than our own drama, he said.

“Don’t sell yourself short,” Jones said. “The way we are in the world can make a difference; we need to hold hands and reinvent the world together.”

The Rev. George Wirth presided. The Rev. Kent Groff, an ordained Presbyterian minister and the founder of Oasis Ministries in Pennsylvania, a writer and poet, conference speaker, and spiritual guide living in Denver, read the Scripture. Joseph Musser, piano, and George Wolfe, soprano saxophone, performed David Stern’s “The Inner Call” as the prelude. The Motet Choir sang “Set me as a seal upon your heart” by David N. Childs. Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music, directed the choir. The Samuel M. and Mary E. Hazlett Memorial Fund and the J. Everett Hall Memorial Chaplaincy support this week’s services.

 

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Welcome Anaheim California and Mayor Tait

Mayor Tom Tait of Anaheim and the City Council issued a proclamation declaring Say Something Nice Day on June 1. Mayor Tecklenburg of Charleston sent him a copy of my book, Say Something Nice; Be a Lifter at Work. They had met at the National Mayor’s Conference.

Mayor Tait campaigned on a platform of kindness. He declared Anaheim the City of Kindness. Say Something Nice Day fit beautifully with that theme. When I met with Mayor Tecklenburg and Mrs. Tecklenburg they were both enthusiastic about that idea. Michelle Hill in Mayor Tecklenburg’s office and Loretta Day in Mayor Tait’s office were both extremely helpful. I received a beautifully executed proclamation from Anaheim signed by Mayor Tait and all of the council members.

Little by little, we are making progress. The harsh rhetoric that is so prevalent in our national discourse is taking a toll on our national character and the lives of individuals.

We would welcome your help in persuading your city to endorse Say Something Nice Day on June 1 each year and/or your church to celebrate Say Something Nice Sunday on the first Sunday in June.

Words matter. In Charleston we have witnessed firsthand the power of words to heal.

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Never criticize.  Always Encourage.

My second grade teacher, Mrs. Workman, said to me, “You are a polite young man.” One of our children’s directors at Northside Baptist Church said to me, “I am surprised at your behavior. I expected better from you.” Two very different statements about my behavior at about the same time. It is a vivid example of our ability to make choices about what side of ourselves we choose to share. We are in control of us.

Each of us has the power within us for good or evil. We can choose to be truthful or to lie. We can choose to be kind or unkind. We can choose to be polite or rude. We can choose to build other people up or tear them down. Our words reveal what is in our hearts.

The temptation is to blame others when we show our more unattractive side. “The devil made me do it,” is an easy out. I was being attacked or I had to defend myself are often cited as reasons. for revealing our darker sides. In today’s toxic climate it is easy to fall into the victim role or to lash out. It takes determination to stay the course. That does not mean that we will get it right every time. There are no pills to take that will insure lifelong success. We can only try each time the opportunity to show our better side presents itself. The more we succeed increases our chances of success next time.

We are all works in progress. We are under construction. Finding the right words never becomes easy; however, it does become easier with practice. Words are powerful instruments for good or evil. “Loose lips sink ships.” “I no longer call you servants, but friends.” “We the people.” “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.” “Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy.” “You lie.”

Words are powerful. Use them wisely.

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