Showing posts from November, 2018


Hold: A Poem
By Gowri Koneswaran

we’re taught to hold hands
when we cross the street
or walk with our mothers in parking lots or
navigate crowds with a friend and
don’t want to end up alone

hold hands with whomever is closest
when the power goes out
when the sirens scream near
when the moving of men marches
silences into the corner

hold hands when
they come calling,
when they threaten,
“this is necessary to
teach you a lesson” or
“this is necessary
to protect you”

hold hands when we stand still,
when we walk, when
we run
when they tell us to
when they tell us
to do anything

hold hands when we
fall from the sky,
with or without parachute
when we leap from tall buildings,
with or without
the ability to fly

hold hands with the ones who
look like us,
talk like us,
believe like us

hands like fragile boxes or bombs,
things that could break or explode

each finger a troop in the human army
each gesture a shield

Isaiah Prophet, Poet, and Pastor for the Present Moment

Isaiah was the prophet, poet, and pastor before, during and after exile.

Exile is that time of fear lodged in the back of your throat and anxiety hovering/hanging in the air.
Exile is that time the person you frustrates you winning elected office or getting the promotion at work or posting on Facebook the vacation you've always wanted to take.
Exile is that moment you are pushed to the fringes - feel lost and left behind.

We don't have to live in the time of Isaiah to know Exile...we know Exile in our own lives...we have lived in Babylon even if we never had mail delivered to us there.  We have been to Babylon even though it no longer really exists on a map.  We know Isaiah because his story is found in our stories.

During Exile, Isaiah starts with a word of comfort/care/compassion.  But in verse 6 of chapter 40, we get this great dialogue -
A voice says, “Cry out!”
    And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All people are grass,
    their constancy is like the flower of the field.


Isaiah Prophet, Poet, and Pastor for the Present Moment

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her. Isaiah 40:1
Yesterday, as we were driving along, my wife and I witnessed the above photograph - credit to my wife for capturing the image on her phone.  The small, slight rainbow amid the gloomy gray clouds.  Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I believe the above photo could summarize the whole book of Isaiah.  Isaiah holds in tension the beauty and brokenness of life.  He doesn't deny or dismiss the existence of the gloomy, gray threatening clouds of life.  But he also poetically and prophetically says, "God is not finished with us yet."  Isaiah's ministry before, during, and after the Babylonian exile.

Exile is an important spiritual image.  Exile is that time you feel like a stranger in a strange land (perhaps that the Thanksgiving table this last week with family or at a new job or been shunned because of your sexuality or gender identification.)  Exile is any time y…


The leftover turkey sits in ziplock bags in the refrigerator,
Pie tins half full (or empty) of pumpkin and apple call your name,
The china waits patiently to be put back in the cupboard,
And the crumbs of the great feast yesterday are scattered around.

What makes for Thanksgiving?  What recipe can be followed to fill our hearts with gratitude?
Is it food?
Is it family or friends?
Is it the anticipation and expectation of a day set apart?
Is it the preparation that tells our hearts something is about to happen?
Is it the sharing around the table, each naming a gratitude and thanks?
Is it, in class multiple guess quiz style, "All the above"?

And if we agree that it is all and more than what we can name,
Why not practice these things more than just one day?
See the food as an amazing gift from the good earth and the hands that have helped prepare it.
Invite friends and family over for meals more often.
See every day with audacious and indescribable Mary Oliver says i…

Thanksgiving Take Two

Today...on Thanksgiving Eve...with company occupying the guest bedroom, the turkey thawing (hopefully) in a bath of water in the kitchen sink...pies cooling on the counter...and the hope that tomorrow will be a day overflowing with gratitude ~ hear this wonderful invitation not just for today but for every day.

Three Gratitudes by Carrie Newcomer

Every night before I go to sleep
I say out loud
Three things that I’m grateful for,
All the significant, insignificant
Extraordinary, ordinary stuff of my life.
It’s a small practice and humble,
And yet, I find I sleep better
Holding what lightens and softens my life
Ever so briefly at the end of the day.
Sunlight, and blueberries,
Good dogs and wool socks,
A fine rain,
A good friend,
Fresh basil and wild phlox,
My father’s good health,
My daughter’s new job,
The song that always makes me cry,
Always at the same part,
No matter how many times I hear it.
Decent coffee at the airport,
And your quiet breathing,
The stories you told me,
The frost…

Thanksgiving Take One

This we prepare for Thanksgiving on Thursday...a few random thoughts.  I preached this sermon below at an Interfaith Service in our community last week.

As a pastor within the United Church of Christ, we celebrate and claim a historical tie to the Pilgrims.  If you drive around New England, almost every town will have a white clapboard church sitting in the center some of which date back to the Pilgrims arriving in this country.  Many of the church signs out front of those buildings will be say, "First Congregational UCC"; "Mayflower UCC"; "Pilgrim" or "Plymouth UCC".  You could say that Thanksgiving is a very Congregational holiday.  You are welcome.  But it is important to acknowledge that our Congregational forefathers and mothers had a complicated relationship with the Native Americans.  Beyond the moment of breaking bread together, which we symbolically we recall on Thanksgiving Thursday, there were moments we, as Congregationalis…


What does it mean to be a prophet, pastor, and poet?
Does it mean we afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted?
As if we can decide or decipher who falls in which category.

Does it mean we let love fuel and feed our lives?
But what about those who we struggle to love?
You know, the one in the quiet moments when no one else is around except the emptiness of your own thoughts you even see as unloveable or unworthy of such sacred love.

Does it mean we escape into a world of words where we might build a place where we rule and make all the laws?
After all, what are these words of mine but an attempt to construct with nouns and verbs a vision of the house where I want to dwell?

Perhaps the problem is classification and categorization.
Perhaps the problem is that we think we have to choose which role to take.
You can proclaim to be a prophet and pound the pulpit pointing out all the injustice in the world.
You can decide your path is the pastor, the one who tries to be with and amo…

Isaiah: Prophet, poet, and pastor for the present moment

So, here we are several weeks into listening to Isaiah.

Here we are holding his visions for the world that is re-created, re-crafted, re-formed and re-fashioned with people from all nations welcomed/embraced at God's mountain to be led by a child who establishes justice/mercy/love as the rule of the day and where human relationships reorders the whole of the earth.

I get that Isaiah seems fanciful and fictional and like a farce.

I get that it is easy to shrug our shoulders as if to say, "Yeah, that will be the day, Isaiah.  I am sure pigs will magically fly and unicorns suddenly appear."

Our cynicism comes from the painful, harsh realities of life.

Part of the reason why I think Isaiah, the prophet and poet, turned to poetry. 

The poets words are always trying to call our attention to the miss-able moments of life.  Those that go by in a blur of busyness.  The poets words draw us to the details (I recently read a beautiful poem about eating a grapefruit...but you could …

Isaiah: Pastor, Poet, and Prophet for the Present Moment

Take a look at the painting from Edward Hicks from around 1833.

Perhaps you notice all the animals congregated peaceable together.  The cattle and lion...the lamb and the lower right corner a bear and ram nosh on a piece of wheat.

Hicks was inspired by the pastor, poet, and prophet for the present moment ~ Isaiah chapter 11.  He was taken by this vision of a re-creation of what we know as the natural order of things.  Isaiah talks and tells about a time when the way the world works is interrupted and disrupted by God's presence.  Isaiah preached and proclaims God Spirit will swirl over the chaos not only undoing the violence we have come to know, but re-ordering life.  It is, to quote the REM song from my youth, "Its the end of the world as we know it...and I feel fine." the back ground...perhaps not noticed at first, Hicks includes the image of William Penn signing a treaty with the First Nation/Native Americans. 

Hicks is proclaiming and preachi…

Isaiah Prophet, Poet, and Pastor for the Present Moment

Since I referenced these wise words in the last seemed appropriate to share the whole poem with you on this Friday:

Our Deepest Fear
By Marianne Williamson

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.

We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
We were born to make manifest
The glory of God that is within us.

It's not just in some of us;
It's in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we're liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

Isaiah Prophet, Poet, and Pastor for the Present Moment

For a child has been born for us,     a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulder Isaiah 9 pause your inner Handel's Messiah soundtrack that started to play the moment you read the above verse.  And for a moment...don't rush across the bridge that connects Isaiah to Jesus... because chances are this passage wasn't about Jesus and our Jewish brothers and sisters certainly don't read Isaiah 9 with that connection.  And for a moment just sit in the paradox of this verse.
A child born...authority rests upon his shoulders. A infant - vulnerable and yet powerful. Authority given not because of might or knowledge or some fancy framed degree hanging on the wall, but by virtue of the fact that the one before us is blessed by God.
That is NOT how the world works.  We don't let children vote or ask them to run companies...we still make jokes about twenty-somethings who start tech business still being "babies" - which shows our generational bias a…

Learning to Drive

I interrupt my normally scheduled posts on Isaiah for this important message from life.

Two weeks ago, our son got his learners permit.  In our marriage, where my wife and I value equality, since I was the one to drive him to the DMV; walk into the DMV; wait for at least five minutes (I might be rounding up here by the way); pay for his licenses; and then...just a second here I have to catch my breath because of all I have done so him back home ~ I figured I had really done my part.  So, my wife graciously and generously has been doing most of the instruction.

The surreal experience has reminded us just how complex these cars we drive are.  There was the moment when my wife told him to turn on his turn signal when pulling out of the parking lot where he was initially practicing, to which the response was, "Um, where is that?!"  Why should he know where the turn signal is?  It is easy to forget how many buttons and gizmos there are staring back at you in a car.  …

For Such a Time as This...

In honor of Halloween this last week, I was inspired to write a poem.

Compared to the other pumpkins at the patch,
When you see the one I picked it will make your head scratch.

Your mind will reel and your puzzler will work over time,
You will look at it and think, "That isn't worth a dime."

But to me, the bumps aren't ugly nor is pattern too strange,
To my way of thinking there is beauty, don't think me deranged.

Beautiful because my life too has misshaped and not always smooth.
Beautiful because my life has warts and worries and out of a groove.
Beautiful because each bump and un-smooth places has made me who I am.
Beautiful because I look at this fruit and see the story of a life that isn't a sham.

So have your smooth, perfect pumpkin to crave a face for this week.
I'll take this one that others passed over because it wasn't sleek.
I'll take it like Charlie Brown took at poor little Christmas tree.
I'll take it and hold it and admire it be…