Don’t miss these upcoming spring time events at THE BEND:

BOOK DISCUSSION:

This Thursday we will be discussing chapters 3 and 4 of Parker Palmer’s “Let Your Life Speak.” Let me know if you don’t have a book and would like one before our meeting. It is not necessary to read the chapters before you come, though you will probably get more out of the discussion if you do. But please don’t opt out just because you haven’t read! We will not put you in time out or send you to detention. I promise.

SERVICE PROJECT:

This Saturday at 2:30 we will be serving a meal at the St. Luke’s Methodist soup kitchen. We’ll meet at THE BEND at 2:25 and walk over to St.Luke’s together. I think we’ll be finished by 5:30 at the latest. Probably earlier.

REFLECTIONS ON HOMOSEXUALITY LECTURE:

This Sunday from 12:30-2:00 at Idlewild, I will be attending the third “Reflections on Homosexuality” lunch and lecture. Max and I have made it to two of these so far, and both have been wonderful. Join us if you’d like. The lunch is $5, and here is the description of the lecture:

“Sunday, March 25 | Ethical Perspectives This second presentation by Dr. Hotz will focus on setting forth a spectrum of Christian ethical perspectives on same-sex relationships building on the biblical texts and theological reflection from the previous session.”

INTERFAITH SEDER:

Finally, Thursday March 29th at 6 p.m.is the Interfaith Seder at the Jewish Student Union. In response to your request for collaboration with other faith communities (and because interfaith seders are really cool), THE BEND will attend the seder that evening as our program. This program will include a light meal, and I am working on having some additional food for you that evening to take with you when you leave or to eat together at THE BEND (depending on the length of the seder.) But for now, save the date and make plans to attend. Below is some info about why an interfaith seder might be of interest to Christians:

“In springtime both Christians and Jews observe rituals of freedom and rebirth. The Christian Holy Week, especially the Easter Triduum, and the modern Jewish Seder both have roots in the Passover traditions of biblical Israel . Both communities see themselves as experiencing the liberating power of God first manifest to the ancient Hebrews in the Exodus. “In every generation, each of us should feel as though we ourselves had gone forth from Egypt ” is a principle held by both faiths. By joining in this ritual meal, Jews can share one of their central festivals with Christians, whose own religious heritage predisposes them to appreciate the Seder’s deep spiritual significance.

In addition, Jesus ate a final meal with his friends at the time of Passover, and today’s Christian communion liturgies are partially understood as a commemoration of that meal. Many Christians can thus have a powerful experience of their shared roots in biblical Judaism by joining in a Seder meal with Jewish friends” (from http://www.ccjr.us/dialogika-resources/educational-and-liturgical-materials/liturgical-resources/passover/784-interfaith-seders).

OFFICE HOURS

Office hours this week are from 4:30-6:30 this Thursday, March 22nd.

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we’re off to a good start this semester! we’ve been to the mountains of montreat and are currently enjoying church visits, weekly studies of the gospels, and some great home-cooked dinners.

to accommodate class schedules, we are now meeting at THE BEND at 6:30 p.m. on thursdays instead of 6:00. join us this thursday. all are welcome!

we’ve also added weekly “open hours” to our schedule, which are posted at the beginning of each week on our facebook page. friend “presbyterian place” for more info on this, upcoming service projects, and the like.

come and see us! you never know what’s around the bend!

last night, the motley crew at THE BEND concluded our 2011 meetings by collectively writing an antiphon prayer. antiphons are simple supplications that have been part of the christian liturgical tradition since the early church, and they follow this formula:

line 1: “O (image/metaphor for god) god

line 2: description of the above mentioned attribute of god

line 3: cry for the particular kind of help that is provided by the above attribute of god.*

were the early church mothers and fathers rolling over in their graves last night? surely not! i think our prayer captured the true spirit of the old antiphons, which were designed to expand our ideas of the character and capabilities of god.

so, without further rambling, here is our prayer. may your advent season be blessed with hopeful longing. may your christmas bring renewed wonder at the newborn king.

antiphon prayer by THE BEND

dec. 8, 2011

     o artist god,

you provide the color for our life’s palette.

come, help us paint your perfect masterpiece.

     o bread from heaven,

you provide sustenance for our souls.

come, give life to our beings.

     o artistic drawer,

you create beauty in our world.

make us beautiful expressions of your love.

     o comforter,

you keep our hearts warm with your love.

come, be a soft pillow to lay our weary heads.

     o fertile farmer,

you bless our crops and provide for us.

help us trust in your provision.

     o goodness,

you continually forgive us.

come teach us your goodness, that we may forgive others.

     o holy one,

you are reverent in nature

stop us from destroying the beauty you have created.

     o joyful one,

you fill the world with happiness.

keep our hearts warm and open.

     o keeper of kids,

you show us the way.

come show the kids of the world your way.

     o love,

you always love us unconditionally.

come love us for we are not worthy.

     o magical god,

you act in ways that we don’t understand.

come, help us to understand.

     o nature,

you speak to us in turning leaves and falling snow.

come, show us your beauty.

     o omniscient god,

you knew us even when we were in our mothers’ wombs.

come, give us knowledge.

     o patient leader,

you lovingly show us the way.

come, show us the way in our deepest times of need.

     o quotient,

you are the answer to all of my longings.

come, help us with our problems.

     o wise one,

you do what is best for us, even though we may not know it in the moment.

help us to understand your reason.

     o holistic x-ray,

you see all that ails us.

meet us, even in our most vulnerable places.

     o zookeeper god,

you keep all animals and know them by name.

protect their habitats and keep them from extinction.

AMEN.

 

*trust me. this is easier than it seems.

INCARNATION by Penelope Duckworth

When the Holy One stepped from endless order
into the chaos of our days, it was winter.
Weather blew everywhere.  Time itself was dying.
The squirrel, with a tail soft as breath,
curled inside the maple trunk.

The cold stayed.  Five-fingered leaves pressed the ground,
their stems perpendicular, thin wrists above each flame-tipped palm.
Cataclysm scanned the days; like any future, like our own.
The Holy One took face and voice, beginning with an infant cry,
took food and sleep, nestled in arms not unlike yours.

He listened to the dropping rain, watched it bead the naked twigs,
saw it polish stones and faces, stood once under this lift of sky
and still, in a word, understands.

last week at THE BEND, as we discussed the wonder of small things (and the connection with god that can result when we embrace it), we found ourselves pondering a question:

are we making our god too small?

isn’t god supposed to be grand, all-powerful, and far beyond the limits of our perception? if we narrow our scope on a starfish, for example, are we setting our sights too low?

poet patricia campbell carlson writes:

Down in the gutter by Immaculate Conception school, I discover a tan, two-inch, plastic figurine of Jesus.

“Jesus-of-the-car-tire,” i call him:

His pedestal and fancy mantle,
chipped and flecked with grime,
clearly aren’t in the pristine condition
some Christian toymaker intended.


His right forefinger still points to heaven,
though, and his left hand rests just below
a brightly shining sacred heart.

Don’t think he earned either gesture until he dropped from some pupil’s pocket, got stepped on, ignored, and eventually run over.

Yet that child tearfully searched
hours for him, combed the whole route
from home to school:

not because the Lord looks regal in His heavenly robes and sovereign stance but because he’s light and small enough to nestle in someone’s pocket.

perhaps there is some element of grandeur that is lost when we look for a jesus who is light and small enough to fit in our pockets.

(or is there?)

it seems that it would be worse to risk missing the face of god here:

or here:

or here:

or here:

or even here:

there are places we go expecting to see god…

and then there are the places we would never dream of looking:

but the point is for us to “comb the whole route from home to school.”

perhaps by doing this, we will see that jesus is not so small at all. the world is full of bright shining signs of god’s presence. these signs are the big things. and somewhere along the way we’ve forgotten.

a humble country landscape, a leaf not yet bagged and hauled to the curb, the cold metal of a church sign or silent bell, instructions for constructing good chili, and the reason-for-the-season (in a word)…

…these are just a few of the places god manages to find us. just like the splintered stable, they bear the divine. and like the baby’s family did so long ago, we huddle together in the dark and watch.

here are some of the moments we’ve experienced “god with us” since we met last thursday at THE BEND:

Advent is a time when we anticipate the coming of the Christ child. Our ancestors of the faith anticipated a mighty king who would bring military force to bear upon their enemies.

But Jesus or “Emmanuel,” which means “God with us,” was not what the people expected.

His entrance into the world was ordinary and humble. He did not spring from the head of a god, as did the son of Zeus. Nor did he rise to power in the way that was customary of ancient kings.

From the very beginning, Christianity has been about the power and love of God shining through the most insignificant objects, substances, events, people, and circumstances. A stable, a baby, bread, wine, loaves, fish, water, a murderer-turned-prophet, blood, darkness, and light. These are just a few of the commonplace vehicles in our midst and in our sacred story that carry signs of hope and transformation.

So…

As we anticipate the coming of the Christ child, as we seek Emmanuel, or God with us, perhaps we might do well to broaden our scope beyond what is expected and what is customary.

Is it possible to see evidence of the divine in a warm cup of coffee, sun streaming through fall trees, a friend laughing uncontrollably, or a note from a friend?

In the coming weeks, I invite you to look for “God with us” in life’s little details. And when you catch a glimpse of the divine in an ordinary setting, snap a picture. You may then text it to me (901.481.0103) or email it (presbyplace@gmail.com), and I will post it on THE BEND blog (https://presbyplace.wordpress.com) for the group to enjoy. You may include an explanation or let the shot speak for itself. You can submit photos anonymously or let us know that they are yours. Submit as many pictures as you like!

If this works, if we train ourselves to pay divine attention to what’s around us, we will be bombarded with reminders that God is always present. The Christ child may be born anywhere where hope contends with fear, light contends with darkness, creativity contends with boredom, joy contends with sorrow, order contends with chaos, and beauty contends with busy-ness.

 Phrases to Inspire:

“For me, the Incarnation is the place, if you will, where hope contends with fear.” –Kathleen Norris, Amazing Grace

 “Each little flower that opens, each little bird that sings, God made their glowing colors, and made their tiny wings.” – Cecil Frances Alexander, All Things Bright and Beautiful

“majestic words in an unlikely setting…” – Norris

“The purple-headed mountains, the river running by, the sunset and the morning, that brightens up the sky.” — Alexander

“The Holy One took face and voice, beginning with an infant cry, took food and sleep, nestled in arms not unlike yours.” – Penelope Duckworth

“majestic words to an unlikely person…” – Norris

“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down” – Isaiah 64:1a

“He listened to the dropping rain, watched it bead the naked twigs…” – Penelope Duckworth

“The cold wind in the winter, the pleasant summer sun, the ripe fruits in the garden:  God made them every one.” — Alexander

“as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil– to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence!” – Isaiah 64:2

The beauty of small things…

“A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness shall not overcome it” – John 1:5

“O Star of wonder, star of night; Star with royal beauty bright; Westward leading, still proceeding; Guide us to thy Perfect Light.” – John Henry Hopkins, We Three Kings

“I lift up my eyes to the hills—  from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” – Psalm 121: 1-2

come by THE BEND (corner of patterson and midland) tomorrow (friday the 26th) from 11-1 for a free cookout in the side yard. we’ll also be around before and after the lunch hour offering free temporary parking, cold water, restrooms, etc. come see us!

For God didn’t give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control. — 2 Timothy 1:7

The late William Sloan Coffin, peace activist and chaplain atYaleUniversity, was known for saying that “the opposite of love is not hate but fear.”

There are normal, useful, fears, of course, which prompt us to do things such as escape from danger, pay our bills, and even study for exams. But these fears and others, when allowed to grow out of proportion, begin to act as shackles that prevent us from fully living life and expressing love. When we are enslaved by fear and the compulsions fear generates, we can no longer live in service to God.

As evidenced by the scripture above, even our ancestors of the faith struggled with what to do with fear. They were not rehearsing abysmal scenarios in their heads of failed classes, angry parents, or repeated semesters, but they knew something of legitimate fear and also of debilitating, disproportionate fear.

So perhaps Paul’s words to them can apply to us as well; perhaps we too can find our way out of fear with power, love, and self-control.

As exam week drags on, ask yourself what power you have to steer you away from poor performance. What measures of self-control could you take to ensure that you are ready, in mind, body, and soul, for the challenges set before you? Use your sense of agency to escape from the spirit of fear and its compulsions. Then, even in exam week, you can be free to live life fully and express love.

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