We've just returned from our triennial MCC General Conference held this year in Chicago. Our ministry in Second Life continues with every other week meetings during the summer months.
Visit us in Second Life, (http://www.secondlife.com) and search for Sunshine Cathedral.
Call to Worship
Based on Isaiah 66
One: "Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her,
all you who love her;
All: rejoice with her in joy,
all you who mourn over her--
One: As a mother comforts her child,
so I will comfort you;
All: you shall be comforted
One: You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice;
All: you shall flourish like the grass
Source of all life, we give you thanks that you are with us in our mourning and in our dancing. For every breath, we give you thanks. For every new day, we give you thanks. For the love of friends and family, we give you thanks. Let us feel your loving presence in those times when trials come. For your faithfulness to us we give you thanks.
Let us say together our prayer of affirmation:
ALL: (respond in local chat using the words that follow)
Today I take responsibility for my life. I know that I am a beloved child of the Creator. I know that I come from the Eternal, that I rest in the arms of a loving Presence, and that one day I shall return to the Source.
There is enough. There is enough love, enough goodness, enough compassion for everyone. I deserve to have security.
I am loved and I am free to love. My life has meaning. I give thanks for every experience in life and look to the future with hope, in peace, anticipating joy.
Psalm 30.1-2, 4-5, 11-12
I will exalt you, Holy One, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. 2 My God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. 4 Sing the praises of the Infinite, you faithful people; praise God’s holy names. 5 Hardships last only so long, but divine favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. 11 God turned my wailing into dancing and removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,12 that my heart might sing praises to the Divine and not be silent. My God, I will praise you forever.
The Wisdom of Frank Richelieu
“Opportunity is knocking everywhere, but we must open the door of life in order for life to flow, fulfilling every need…Say to yourself, ‘There is only one door I am going to open today and that is the door of my mind, my heart, the door of life itself. I am going to open the door that leads to life more abundant and reap the benefits of life.’”
Luke 10.1, 17-20
…Jesus appointed seventy…and sent them out…the seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Teacher, in your name even the demons submit to us!’ Jesus said to them, ‘I watched the Deceiver fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in the cosmos.’”
Reflection by Rev. Dr. BK Hipsher
"Knock Knock! Who’s There?"
Click on the audio bar below to hear the recording. Text follows.
In business and personal development circles we often talk about opportunity knocking. We speak of problems as challenges and challenges as opportunities. I admit that even I get a little tired of referring to annoying and sometimes expensive or uncertain things that happen as opportunities. Nevertheless I know in my heart that everything that happens in my life, good or bad, is an opportunity to grow in faith and build relationships with others and with God.
When my mother died in 1990 I became very impatient with people who, in good faith and thinking they were being helpful, told me that God needed my mother, that it was her time, that it was God’s will. I was angry and could not understand how anyone could think that saying something like that would be helpful. I was 33 years old on they day she died. I could not imagine my life without her.
Many years later I realized that they were just saying whatever had been said to them when something terrible had happened to them. That it was God’s will that they suffer, that pain and loss is part of God’s plan. But our gospel lesson today seems to contradict this idea. And I for one am very happy to hear it! That’s very good news to me.
But wait a minute… things did hurt these people who Jesus was talking with. They lost members of their family. Some of them, no doubt, became ill and suffered. I feel very confident in saying that some of them may have been treated badly, hurt, perhaps even murdered. At the very least, they all eventually died. So what does this mean? “I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you.”
Let’s go back to our reading from Psalm 30 to see what we can make of this. The Psalmist is clear that God is not responsible for bad things happening. The reading concedes that there will be weeping in our lives, things that cause us to feel grief, things that cause our hearts to ache in pain. But our reading from Psalms reminds us that this too shall pass. And our second reading helps us understand that we have a choice in how quickly or how slowly we move through pain.
Our reading from Frank Richelieu gives us a glimpse of what life might be like if we were able to understand who and whose we are. He says that “opportunity is knocking everywhere” but he points out that it is our task to recognize it. And more than that, it is our choice to open ourselves to it.
At those times in life when it seems like the darkness will never end it is our vulnerability in those times of uncertainty that allows us to connect with others in our lives. If we shut down and determine that we’re going to just hold it in and not let our sorrow show, no one will have the opportunity to be with us, to really participate in a relationship of love and support.
But if we are able to see ourselves in relation to others and understand that what our Creator wants for us is peace, love, and security, then we can more easily open ourselves to how the people we love and trust can companion us through the darkest days, turning challenges into opportunities to connect and deepen relationships.
I experienced something like this during this past week. I attended our international triennial conference in Chicago. There I had some experiences that caused me emotional and spiritual pain. I spent one nearly sleepless night, tossing and turning as I wrestled with decisions I had made and questioned my own motives. I could have stewed about it all week.
Instead I looked around me for trusted friends and colleagues with whom I could discuss enough detail to get their advice and counsel. I allowed myself to be vulnerable enough to process the situations and seek advice and counsel. In the process of those conversations relationships that had been proven over years were deepened. I was able to be emotionally vulnerable, available for an emotional and spiritual intimacy that only deepened my friendship with those with whom I spoke.
And mind you I didn’t choose someone who was likely to tell me what I wanted to hear. I chose those whom I could trust to tell me the truth no matter what. I came to terms with the fact that perhaps I hadn’t made the best choice, and then I went to work to try to repair whatever damage I had caused however unintentionally.
I think this is what Jesus is talking about in our gospel lesson. It’s not that bad things will not happen, it’s that when we trust the intimacy of human relationship, and the assurance of God’s spirit with us in our trouble, we will not only prevail but we will learn from whatever happens and find value in the experience no matter how stressful it might be.
Maybe that’s what those folks were trying to tell me at my mother’s funeral. They just didn’t have the words for it. And it’s absolutely true that the experience of losing my mother to cancer when I was a young adult made me more able to be with people who had experienced severe loss, it gave me experience, strength, and hope to share with them.
Jesus says that when we do prevail over our difficulties we should not revel in our victories. Rather we can be glad that our names are known, that we have people in our lives who are able to be with us, that God cares about us, that we are never alone. Opportunity is always knocking no matter what happens in our lives. Relationships are always there for us to enjoy. Just sharing a smile as we walk down a city street or through and airport can give us a chance to connect to someone else.
The comfort of those we love transmits the love of God to us in our times of need. And although we may feel pain or loss, our mourning will only last a short time and God will change our mourning into dancing. For this too shall pass.
Mourning Into Dancing by Debbie Friedman on One People
My Shepherd Will Supply My Need (arr. Albert Travis) by The Chancel Choir, The Chapel Choir, Broadway Baptist Church and The Oratorio Chorus, Southwestern Baptist Seminary, The Festival Brass on Alleluia! Amen!: A Festival of Hymns
Who I Was Born to Be by Susan Boyle on I Dreamed a Dream