Readings for August 30th, 2017

Reading 1: From It’s Okay To Not Be Okay by Ashley Detar Birt, Director of Christian Education, Rutgers Presbyterian Church

 On July 8th, I wanted to scream at a little kid on the subway. Usually, I love kids.  …

My problem wasn’t with the kid. The kid was, for all intents and purposes, just being a kid. My problem was that this is too much. It is too much to deal with so much violence in such a short amount of time. It is too much to be constantly angry at the justice that is never served. It is too much to think that your friends, that your family, that you have to fear your own existence because you could easily become the next hashtag. None of these things happened directly to me, but it is still too much.

Maybe it’s too much for you, too. Maybe you’ve been watching all that’s been happening and are scared, too, that you might be next. Maybe the pain has been building up inside you and you don’t know when or how to release it. Maybe you’ve seen your friends around you hurting and you don’t know what to do.

In times like this, I remember the message of 1 John 4: 11-12: “Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and God’s love is perfected in us.”

The thing that kept me from screaming, that has kept me from breaking down, is love.

When friends, many of whom I have not seen in person in a while, contacted me just to ask how I was doing, they showed me love. When my white partner sat with me in quiet until I was ready to tell her how I was feeling, she showed me love. When I gave myself some time and space to not be okay, to be angry, to cry, to grieve, and to feel, I showed myself love. And in those moments, though they were imperfect and incomplete, I felt God. I remembered that God is still here.

Check in on your friends, especially the LGBTQ ones and those of color. Sit, listen, be present.  Check in on yourself and let yourself feel. March if you can but also rest if you need to.

Show love. Show God. Be well.

Reading 2: From Then Let the Servant Church Arise by Rev. Chris Wogaman

Has there never been a “potent” time for the Church of Christ to speak a word of challenge and solace to its society? …

I hear the cries of those across the nation, for justice from racial prejudice, religious persecution, sexual assault, financial peril, and those who are causing these conditions to happen.  I hear the fear in the voices of those for whom the prospects of nuclear war grow more real, and then sink away again, and then rise again….

I hear also the questions of what our path of ministry will be for the future, after a long and wonderful past here…  All churches are asking these questions, not just ours—questions of how to reach out, how to connect more with our neighbors—which often turn into questions of how we can “attract more members.”

The attractional model of church growth still has its day in some churches. Ours is not one of them. …. I long to be in a church that cares about people who are not cared for, and that rises up with Jesus for the sake of a world in need. That listens to the voice of the Holy Spirit and follows it in the path of Jesus. ..

What is the Spirit saying to you in these days?

A reading from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 16, verses 13-20:

 [You are allowed to read the scriptures critically, reverently, skeptically, angrily, lovingly, resentfully, suspiciously and/or hopefully. You may feel all or none of the above.. You may disagree with others’ interpretations, and all will be treated with respect. No matter how you approach the text, you have a place here.]

When Jesus came to the neighborhood of Caesarea Philippi, he asked the disciples this question: “What do people say about who the Chosen One is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptizer, others say Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

“And you,” he said, “who do you say that I am?”

“You are the Messiah,” Simon Peter answered, “the Firstborn of the Living God!”

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon ben-Jonah! No mere mortal has revealed this to you, but my Abba God in heaven. I also tell you this: your name now is ‘Rock’ and on bedrock like this I will build my community, and the jaws of death will not prevail against it.  Here – I’ll give you the keys to the reign of heaven: whatever you declare bound on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you declare loosed on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Then Jesus strictly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.