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Tuesday, November 30, 2010


There is a habit of mind that locates God's speaking phase in the deep past.  We may surprise people, and ourselves, with the claim that God is Still Speaking.  In our sharing during worship we share stories of how we have encountered God, caught a glimpse, felt a leading.  We also share how God has been silent in our lives when we longed for a word of presence.  We move closer and then away from the holy in our lives.  It seems that the holy is also moving, sometimes closer and sometimes away.
I invite you consider the coming and going of the holy in your life.  How about you make a point of listening and watching for the one who is both here and not here?  Consider that you are part of a conversation, which requires that you speak and then, with a generous heart and concentration, that you listen.
Perhaps you are weary of exhortations to listen for the voice of God?

Well, suppose we think of our lives as a dance that we follow, pausing until our turn comes and then turning our figure to find the beat and our next position.  How might we use the image of a dance to help us participate more deeply in our relationship with God?

I have a request, a wish.  Would you dance?  

Here's an example of what I have in mind.  In a room, by yourself, dance.  You can have music playing or you can be singing to yourself or you can be in silence.  Be alone.  Hold onto something if you think you might get dizzy!  Dance poorly, please.  No perfection allowed.  Dance as long as you can, even if it is just for a minute.  You might dance a little jig.  You might sweep through a ballroom figure.  You might follow a pattern you have already learned.
There is no obvious pragmatic purpose in dancing by yourself, is there?  So why do it?  Dancing is mostly or completely about you and your human body.  You are "incarnate" and dancing can make you aware of that.  Dancing accomplishes no task, so when you are dancing that's all you're doing with your body.  Dancing alone is a time when you can dance with the holy as your only partner.  Like a dance partner, the holy will come closer and then move away.  If you dance, you will be opening yourself to the holy, the one who has always been your partner. 
We ought to dance with rapture that we might be alive... and part of the living, incarnate cosmos.  ~D.H. Lawrence

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

He Comes

For he comes; like snow in a New England winter that we know is on
its way, like the passing of the years, like the passing of our
lives. He comes as a child, as a teacher, and as the one who carried
his own cross. He comes to you with eagerness and hope like a child
on Christmas morning, unable to contain himself with the anticipation
of what you have done with your precious life.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Five Historic Commitments

* Welcome and Call to Worship

One:             Let us say who is welcome here!

All:            No matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome at Grace Congregational United Church of Christ!

Men:            Shine, God's People!

Women:            We join others in Christ.

All:            We are a united and uniting church.

Women:            Shine, God's People!

Men:            We are of all races, cultures, and nations.

All:            We are a multiracial and multicultural church.

Men:            Shine, God's People!

Women:            We are differently gifted in mind and body.

All:            We are a church accessible to all.

Women:            Shine, God's People!

Men:            We are whole and Holy, loving faithfully.

All:            We are an open an affirming church.

Men:            Shine, God's People!

Women:            We are struggling for justice and peace.

All:            We are a peace with justice church.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Molly, who is fighting through chemo, said:

But I'm blogging and letting you in ... so you can see that I am entirely human, and so, when it's your turn, you can be entirely human, and be unashamed to tell the truth about your life. 

Friday, August 06, 2010

"Sudden" - a benediction

A voice may speak in your ear. You may feel the wind give you a
steadying, sustaining hand on your back. A bolt of lighting may
blind you on the road.
Be ready.
The magic of Moses and the encounter he had at the burning bush is
not so much that God spoke to a person there. God is always
sustaining and calling to you. That voice is there right now. The
extraordinary thing about that moment for all of us is that Moses
turned aside to listen to what God had to say. So, be ready!
And may the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord's face shine upon you and give you strength to be ready.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

There’s a land that I heard of once in a lullaby.

            You and I yearn for the place we remember, the place we remember hearing about once in a lullaby.  What is the place for which you yearn?  What is it like?
            For some of you lucky ones, the place for which you are yearning is the place where you go on vacation.  In vacation places, there are specific things that will be the same each year.  Maybe it's the feel and smell of the pine needles in the woods at the sandy pond where you went swimming.  Summer places might be the only time in the year when you buy a clam roll or perhaps you visit someone who makes a kind of pie that you like.  There is a certain feel to places that are special to us.  It gets cold in Framingham but that's different from the cold stillness that listens for your heart beat when you stop partway down the ski slope on the first run of the day, a cold that we all might like to visit in the midst of a humid July.
            It's not just outdoorsy or rural places for which we yearn.  Perhaps you are someone for whom that first glimpse of the ball field as you come to the ballgame is what calls to you.  Maybe the golden memory is deep in the stacks of a library, where the air is a little thick – brimful of potential worlds.  Perhaps, for you, it's the city of light, Paris, where I, for one, have never been.
            You may feel the pull of places you've never been.  That's a mystery, is it not?  You may never have walked on a beach where the south Pacific pounds in the sun and yet there is part of you that can conjure up the sound, feel the sand under your feet, sense the warm, southern breeze on your cheek, …
            I have cherished the notion that the sum of all our yearnings defines an open space within us.  In each of us, that open space is different because we yearn for somewhat different things.  The shape of that space within us is the shape of God, the one who is both always with us and never with us.  That is why our yearning for the essence of life and love is poised between the wonderfulness of that for which we yearn and the sadness of longing for it.
            Many Christian hymns sing longingly for the day when we'll "fly away," when "we shall overcome," when God "will make all things new," when Christ will come again.  I believe that we misuse these longings when they lead us to hope for heaven.  These longings exist in this world; a world of pine needles, breezes, pies, music, mountains, seas, and city streets.  I believe that we access the power of these longings when we acknowledge that each person we meet has them too.  
Do you believe that we all want deep, wonderful things?  
In that common desire for the wonderful, we can find each other.   In that common desire for God, we can find each other.  Look for me, won't you?
Where troubles melt like lemon drops away above the chimney tops that's where you'll find me!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Let Us Match Your Will

Collect for June 13, 2010

O God of busy days and deep plans, hear our prayers for worthiness.  O God of never-finishing and always-becoming, hear our praise for the partnership of co-creating this world.  O God of focus and determination, we offer our energies for witness and sacrifice, witness and sacrifice being lenses for understanding how what we do strives to match your will for the world.  O God of the long perspective, grant us your peace.  Amen.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Through a Broken Heart

excerpt from "The Ballad of Reading Gaol," Paris, 1897, Oscar Wilde

…And thus we rust Life's iron chain
Degraded and alone:
And some men curse, and some men weep,
And some men make no moan:
But God's eternal Laws are kind
And break the heart of stone.

And every human heart that breaks,
In prison-cell or yard,
Is as that broken box that gave
Its treasure to the Lord,
And filled the unclean leper's house
With the scent of costliest nard.

Ah! happy those whose hearts can break
And peace of pardon win!
How else may man make straight his plan
And cleanse his soul from Sin?
How else but through a broken heart
May Lord Christ enter in?

Friday, May 14, 2010

I Name You

You are the rock, the solid ground.
You are the mountain rock, impossible to comprehend up close.
From a distance, you are unmoving; the same, present, reference point.
I name you God, the rock solid mountain.

I promise that I will try to find you, the solid ground,
     and place my feet,
     my weight,
     my trust
     on you.

I promise that I will look for you in the distance
     to know always where I am by
     where I am in relation to you.

You are the one who walks, the one who laughs, and weeps.
You are the deep soul of shared meals, of sacrifice, of a new day, a new song.
You tell the stories. The stories shape the day.
I name you Christ, the laughable, laughing, singer of this life.

I promise that when I tell a story I will try to tell it as you hope
     I'll tell it.

I promise
     I will listen into the story they tell.

I promise to laugh and be laughable, to cry,
     and to walk.

You are mover and change-lover. You are knitter and sitter.
You shield us from the wind, you are the wind.
I name you Holy Spirit.

I promise that I will open the windows and let you blow through the room of me.
I promise to follow you through the doorways you open.

June 14, 2003

Monday, May 03, 2010

Collect for May 9 - Mother's Day

Mother God, you are full of grace! Women, like our ancestor in faith
Mary, the mother of Jesus, have moments of grace to share with the
world. You always have been with your servants, women and men. As
we have borne fruit in the form of compassion, wisdom, justice, and
creativity, we are a blessing to other people and to all creation.
In those moments, we are ourselves blessed. Remember, we humbly
request, this prayer of joy and fear that we pray this Mother's Day.
We pray that you will be as welcoming as a mother to each of us now
and in the hour of our death.
In the name of the sons and daughters of Grace, amen.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Collect for April 25, 2010

Dear God, your steadfast love! 

People have sought your steadfast love,
feared the loss of your steadfast love,
basked in the warmth of your steadfast love,
felt confused by your steadfast love,
emulated your steadfast love,
grieved because they could not in themselves find a way to trust in your steadfast love,

and trembled and wept at how the world changes when they glimpse your steadfast love!

I will try today to open myself to your steadfast love.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

By Sunday Morning, It's Normal


When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.


But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.


But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.


…he said to them, 'Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.'


On Friday afternoon, we are all on the same page.  Jesus has just been killed.  Jesus is dead.

By Sunday morning, we recognize this as normal.  This is the way it happens in the only world we've ever known.

As the days go by, we shrug and sound wise to each other.  We note that human brutality in the name of justice, keeping the peace, sustaining traditional power, responding to societal threats, appeasing the crowd, and silencing the voices of dissent has so frequently led to arrest, incarceration, torture, and death.

We all accept that flowers die.

As soon as we can, we scatter.


On Sunday, some of us see the empty tomb, listen to an angel, and know that Jesus is resurrected from death.  Others of us want to reject that thought at first but we find our way to a place of acceptance soon enough.  Still others of us need the evidence to mount a little higher.  With more witnesses, more encounters with the risen Christ, and more breakfasts on the beach, we begin to get it, to see it.  There are those of us, and maybe some part of each of us, that will only believe when we place our fingers in the wounds of the living hands of Jesus himself.

It takes more than a morning of trumpets for resurrection to sink in.

So, we live our lives between Good Friday and … when?  Easter?  Maybe between Good Friday and Pentecost.  For on Pentecost, to which we trace the founding of our churches as the Spirit descends on the disciples, we begin to see something concrete again, something we can touch.  We begin to see the church.


The church is like Jesus in that it is capable of death, capable of being killed.  It is also like Jesus in that it is capable of being reborn.  It is also capable of being the place where a soul can find that which will prove to be new life, renewal, and salvation.  It is capable of being that kind of home.

If you have doubts, let them be holy doubts, sacred doubts.  If you doubt the risen Christ do not allow that doubt to compromise your hope for the kingdom to be found among us.  Do not allow your uncertainty to let you settle for a church that is a building and good friends.  Hold to the integrity of the church as the embodiment of Christ still among us.  Let no one dissuade you from your struggle to show extravagant kindness, to practice radical welcome, to experience surprising joy in the only life we have, to stand against oppression, and to disrupt any moments when one human being tries to diminish another.

Oh Holy One, we pray for an everyday Pentecost.  We pray for the Spirit to inspire our hearts in the divine song.  We pray, thy kingdom come.  Amen.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Collect for April 18, 2010

Dear God, your steadfast love has been sung by people for ages.  Your love is what we see in our best moments.  Your love is what we explore in metaphors of life eternal, creation stories, deep sacrifice, and the observation in the creed that you so loved the world that you gave your only begotten son that all who believe in him should not perish but have everlasting life.  Bind me today to a love that strong!  Let it free me from my smallness of heart.  Let the love I feel for people, for this wonderful earth, and for you expand like a rising wind in March, so that I love more deeply and widely.  …so that my life is changed today!   Amen.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Morning Has Broken

     In my part of New England, spring comes in three parts.  There is the first glimpse of crocuses and similar small bulbs (snowdrops?) which happened in early March.  Then there is the daffodil time.   Finally, there's a long wait until, as the song says, "June is bustin' out all over."
     This past weekend, April 11, 2010, I drove west through the Boston suburbs to Framingham.  All of a sudden I noticed that the daffodil time had arrived.  Daffodils, forsythia, and tulips!  Andromeda, cherry trees, magnolias!  I passed a large lawn that was carpeted with blue from a million little flowers that would take your breath away like it took mine.  As spring does every year, it seemed to have happened overnight.
    I was on my way to the final of three days of training in how to lead the curriculum "Our Whole LivesSexuality and Our Faith" <>
   Our group of 17, including two master instructors, was an unusually open, trusting, bold, caring, wise, experienced, non-anxious gathering.  Mostly strangers to each other, we found gentleness and confidence, both of which grew.  The adjectives just want to keep coming with a group like this!  Beautiful (did I say beautiful yet?), strong, funny, eager for the real information to be shared, ...
   So it is not surprising, perhaps, that as I drove through spring, I remembered that all the profusion of blossoms was there to invite and facilitate the sexual life in the gardens, yards, and malls of Metrowest Boston.  While evolution shows us how the incremental changes of millennia oh-so-slowly move toward diversity and niche-finding, we live today, in this very moment.  Will you then excuse us if, knowing all that I know (and you knowing all that you know) we look upon the miracle that is a daffodil and see it as a gift to "this very moment."  ...and once known to be a gift, if we overflow with thanks?
   Life utters a word.  The word is "be!"  The word is "now!"  The word gives all life agency.  We shall not take that away.  Not this morning!  For it has been gazed upon with love and out of that love comes the next word, "It is good!"

Will you sing with me?

Morning has broken like the first morning!
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird!
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning,
Praise for the springing fresh from the word!

Peace and Blessing,

Monday, April 05, 2010

Prayer for Haiti

O Voice of the thunder, O fist that shakes the land, hear our cry.  We know that there is no God who brings earthquake and storm.  Yet we call to you now because we come very close to you at times of cataclysm.  We cry in anger and grief at our Haitian brothers and sisters who have died, been injured, who struggle now, who mourn.  We despair as do some of them at the impossible task before them: to rescue, to heal, to clear, to repair, to live.  I feel helpless and afraid; helpless to do more than send helpful dollars and other things, afraid that if you call me to do more, I might shiver and hide.  So it is with some fear that I ask you to show me my duty to my neighbor in Haiti, in Framingham, on my street, and in this room.  Still, I do ask.  What shall I do today to do your will for those whom you love?  In this time before worship, teach me your ways, O Lord.  I seek your paths.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

...with a sheep's eye and a lickerish tooth

Sheep's Eye
From a blog somewhere:
"Okay - as my mother explained to me many moons ago - 'sheep's eye and the licorice tooth' are like a young kid making 'calve's eyes' at a girl he likes (sort of mooning over her, as it were) and licorice tooth refers to the sweet tooth. She was old enough to remember Damon Runyon when he was alive, and was raised in the Bronx, so she basically knew that area of NYC."
Lickerish Tooth
From program notes somewhere:
"In the original Frank Loesser score, the expression is "sheep's eye and the LICKERISH tooth." Loesser explained how he arrived at it in a letter that's printed in his daughter's fine biography of him, A MOST REMARKABLE FELLA (page 109). The short of it is that he wanted a companion word that meant "covetous", fearing "sheep's eye" did not completely convey the exact thoughts of the guy who would be gazing at her. He went to Roget's and found that "lecherous" was a sort of synonym for covetous, but didn't quite like the way it sounded, so he consulted the Oxford English Dictionary and found that two archaic spellings of "lecherous" were "licorice" and "lickerish." He chose the latter.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Collect for March 28 2010

Dearest One, we greet you with contrite hearts.  I have learned to keep doors of my awareness so tightly closed that I may not remember where they are, let alone how to find the key.  You must open the door from the other side.  I promise: well, I will try, anyway, to notice when you do what I ask.  I will try to pay attention when you open for me the way to know the truth that is you.  Amen.

Monday, March 15, 2010

March 14 2010 Collect

Dear God, the wheels of time and fate turn and we sense movement, energy, and a season of change.  I sense that change will require from me that I change, that I claim a new me.  I am both frightened and excited by this challenge.  Keep my path true, keep my instruments of navigation tuned, and keep me filled with your lovingkindness.  Amen.

March 21 Collect

Dear God, we call from our short lives to you who are the beginning and the end.  O hear me now in my fear of what will come at the end, at the end of my life.  For I know that my life will end and so too the lives of all whom I have loved.  I don't ask that you do anything about this fate.  I know how the story ends.  I only ask to live this wonderful life more vividly, more deeply, more compassionately, more for others than for myself, that my life may therefore have meaning, and be a gift to all whose lives I touch.  …and be delightful and surprising to you, my heart, my home, my God.  Amen.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Creation Stories

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, ...
-- Genesis 1:1
In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, ...
-- Genesis 2:4b
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
-- Job 38:4
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
--John 1
Our sacred texts tell a number of creation stories.  The poetic power of the scripture reveals a world beginning.  Why do we love these scriptures, songs, and epics? 
Religion finds a way to experience phenomena as seen in the light of the divine.  We find deep beauty, words to express our wonder, and the sense that someone else stands with us, seeing it all, and finding that it is good!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Nunc Dimittis

Are you familiar with this passage?

'Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.'

It comes from the second chapter of Luke and, since Luke is such a
good read, you might pull out your Bible and read the whole chapter
to get the context. They are the words, a song really, from an old
man. His name is Simeon.

When Simeon sang his song, he had just held a baby in his arms. It
is the only moment of his life we know about at all and the reason we
know is because the baby was Jesus. What happened to Simeon after
this moment is anybody's guess. I'd like to think that he lived on
for some years, long enough, perhaps, for Mary or Joseph or even
Jesus to catch a glimpse of him moving through the streets the way
old men move, shining through the daylight the way one shines who has
seen God at work in his own life.